Today was the last full day of the Harley Davidson 5 State Rally in Roanoke and the third ride that Jim was the ride Captain. Grandson had his last day of school and I picked him up at 11 and we drove to the covered bridge in our community and sat for a few minutes until the 15 or so bikes rode by us on the way up to Mountain Lake Lodge to see the Dirty Dancing display, it was filmed there, and to have lunch. We hurried in to town, picked up granddaughter from Preschool and back up the mountain where we joined the big group on the porch for lunch. They were a really nice group of folks and the kids were well behaved and hungry.
Back home, my ride, the tractor was brought out and the yard mowed, showing the clear demarcation between the lawn and the hay.
It was such a nice afternoon that the new wheel and I adjourned to the front porch and a funky skein of yarn was plyed. Daughter named it “Seussical” as soon as she saw it. I am now spinning a yellow and orange skein that will be used with “Seussical” to make a hat and mitts for the Holiday Markets in the fall and winter.
While sitting there, the distinctive buzz of a hummingbird was heard and soon, the little emerald green hummer was feeding right in front of me. I have tried for years to get a photo of one and if I sat still and stopped spinning, it returned repeatedly to the feeder.
While I was prepping tacos for dinner, the haying team arrived and the area where the photo of the short grass and the tall hay along with most of the rest of the area in front of the house were mowed with a sickle bar to be raked and baled tomorrow or Sunday. The big 15′ mower will arrive tomorrow and take on the big fields that have fewer obstacles and longer straighter runs. The sickle bar will go around the rock piles and along the edges of the fields. Soon the farm will be neat and mowed. Farmer Jeff is right on schedule, he always gets to us in the second or third week of June. The grands will be glad to have more area to play once the hay is all in.
The morning came with light rain after the torrents of overnight. The morning was dense with fog, but by noon, the sun began to come out and the garden and chicken run fencing called. The posts were set yesterday for more than half of the second fence. The first photo shows part of the run fences, but there wasn’t enough extra fencing to finish the job. A roll of fencing will be purchased and the run completed.
Before leaving for the Spinning Retreat on Thursday morning, the teenage chicks will be moved into the big coop and left cooped up with food and water while I am gone. The family will just have to make sure that their containers are filled daily, but the chicks will stay inside so that when I return on Saturday night or Sunday, they will be accustomed to their new abode.
Since the fencing job could not be completed and as the days of rain have caused the weeds to thrive, granddaughter and I tackled the garden beds again and weeded them, harvested the first radishes of the season, thinned the turnips. Still having some energy, the rest of the corn and pumpkin patch, the three sister’s garden was dug in. It has been pretty thoroughly weeded, but will still need a good raking to get the rest of the weeds and a few more rocks and then the hills made to plant the corn. Tomorrow looks very rainy, but perhaps there will be a window of decent weather to get that done prior to my departure.
At the community open house on Saturday, I plied 350 yards of sport weight natural colored Leicester Longwool and began spinning the 8 ounces of Romeldale that I had purchased recently. The fiber is very soft, but has such a short staple that it is spinning into an extremely thin single. That is a dime under the strand. Because of the short staple, it doesn’t feel very soft spun. It may bloom after it is plyed and washed, we will see, but 8 ounces is going to make a lot of thin yarn.
Spring in the mountains brings 80ºf days with or without rain, followed by dull, gloomy 53º days with rain like today. By the time the garden is dry enough to be worked, the unfilled beds will need major weeding. This morning, another package of the heritage peas were purchased. They are going to soak overnight in a bowl of water and be planted in all the empty spaces tomorrow with hopes that we will indeed have peas this year. Perhaps a tunnel of plastic poultry net will be suspended over the top and sides in case it is critters getting them.
Before the threatened storms last night, I realized that the ten year old peonies finally decided to bloom this year. The two open blooms were cut and brought inside in case we really got the threatened hail (we didn’t).
One benefit of the cool wet weather is that the planters of herbs on deck are thriving.
Some of these will go in the ground as a permanent herb garden if the bed ever gets prepared. There are two more of the barrels with sage, flat leaf parsley, basil, and cilantro started from seed on another part of the deck. I sure haven’t had to water this spring. The Iris blooms are beautiful. Two of the ones added from our neighbor last year began to bloom this year, the third one, a reddish color didn’t come up. I’m sure another start of it can be obtained once his are blooming and we can see which one to dig. Most of mine and the daylilies will need to be divided this summer. Perhaps the divisions can be used to naturalize the driveway bank along with some more Forsythia rootings.
Yesterday was a delightful day. Smithfield Plantation House had 3 classes of 4th graders scheduled for tour and I was asked to come spin if available. As my location is in the summer kitchen/slave cottage, the opportunity to be part of the tour excited me. With one of my antique wheels there, carders to demonstrate fiber prep, several different heritage wools to show off and pulling from the never dying teaching skills, the classes got a lesson in where the food came from, how it was prepared, where the fiber came from and how it was used.
With a class at a time, sitting on the floor around me, engaged groups of 10 year olds were questioned, shown equipment, handled wool and yarn, saw two types of spinning wheels, the Appalachian Rocker Loom, old style shears, and a 150+ year old spinning wheel in use, and the iron pots and storage crockery of an 18th century summer kitchen. A teacher may retire, but the desire to teach stays on.
A busy summer is approaching with fiber retreats for me, HOG rally for Jim, a music weekend for both of us, and ending with a cruise in the fall. In the mean time, garden work is scheduled if it will ever dry out.
The coop got cleaned out between storms, but straw hasn’t been purchased to put clean bedding down, and with the rain, the chicks are still crowding on the perches in Huck’s coop each night. The double fence idea is still lurking if the weather will break to allow a better assessment of the situation.
The painful knee has behaved for the past couple of days. Hopefully to stay calm and allow the hike with son’s family in mid June.
On the ark, I think. It has been so wet. Too wet to weed, too wet to plant seeds, too wet to make the flower beds and get the herbs and perennials planted. And the wet isn’t over. Rain today, heavy rain Thursday and Friday with more creek, stream, and river flood warnings.
Tomorrow is moderate, we just missed an end of season frost night before last. Some of our region got frost and I feared for the tender tomato, pepper, and basil plants, but they did fine. For some reason, peas just aren’t happening this year. There have been two plantings, two different brands of the same organic heritage pea and there are only about a dozen pea plants. There is no evidence that anything is digging them up, nor eating them off, but no peas. This is a first. It is time to get the beans and three sisters garden planted. Maybe it will not rain and be dry enough tomorrow to get the vegetable seed planted and perhaps at least one of the flower beds.
Of late, the idea to use some of the chicken run fencing to create a second row of fencing 4 feet out from the garden to thwart the deer and make a square run that the chickens can use and keep the weeds from encroaching on the garden has been debated. The issue is the second gate to actually get in the garden from the run. There is a sturdy wood post that holds the solar charger that perhaps could hold that one, but to enter the garden would require entering the run and walking around to the other side of the run to get in the garden. That is doable except for taking the garden cart in with me, Perhaps the second fence could stop on each side of the gate not making a complete loop around the vegetable garden. By the time I finally get all the beds, runs, and gardens the way I want, I will be too feeble to work them.
This would be the idea with the chickens between the fences, the coop at one corner and flower beds outside the second fence.
Three of the early blueberry bushes are heavy with berries.
The two garden comfrey plants love the cool wet weather.
The chicklets are 9 weeks old and are in need of more space. It would be a hassle, but if the rain will stop long enough for the main coop to be thoroughly cleaned, sanitized, and dry out, new straw will be placed inside and the young ones will be transferred at night from Huck’s coop where they now reside to the main coop and the culls will be moved to Huck’s coop as there are only 8 of them. They are amusing as they fly and flap around their small run beginning to establish pecking order by charging up to each other, bumping chests, and staring each other down. It looks like all 16 are indeed pullets, so there should be plenty of eggs come fall and enough for winter even when their laying slows. There won’t be a break for molting this year as they will not be a year old. They all come running to the fence when I go over to their run and many will let me touch their chest or back as they leave the coop in the mornings.
The knee exercises were started in preparation for the hike and one of them has causedIliotibial band syndrome, pain on the outer side of the knee joint, especially when going down stairs. Most of the exercises have been stopped, a compression sleeve usually used when skiing is being worn on my knee, joint support tincture and tea along with Turmeric, Ginger, and Fish Oil taken to try to calm it back down. I still have 5 weeks til the hike and hopefully will be okay by then.
Like most folks, we rely on cell phones instead of a land line these days. Jim’s phone is 5 years old and it quit this weekend. Mine is two and has a cracked screen. Yesterday we drove to the nearest city to purchase a new battery for his. The battery was 4 times the price of the one that had been ordered online for mine and it didn’t solve the problem. His charging jack is corroded and the phone won’t take a charge. Eldest had told us about Project Fi, Google’s WiFi cell service that allows them service in the deep hollow in which they live. When visiting, my communication with the world is via Messenger, email, or their landline. Instead of committing to our carrier for a new phone for Jim, we too are going the Project Fi route. Our service should be broader, we both will have new phones, and our bill will be slashed by a third even with paying for the phones on installment. Win/Win. If their site is correct, they also work overseas in many countries without changing SIM card and without paying international rate.
Thursday, a normal spinning group day, will find me instead in costume at Smithfield House doing spinning demos for school groups scheduled for visits. It is a good thing that the old Saxony is single treadle with the right foot, I don’t think my left knee would be happy. Since it is going to be raining, only the one wheel will accompany me, leaving the much larger Walking wheel at home.
Life is good, I just want back in my garden before the weeds take over.
Today was the official season opening of the Smithfield Plantation House, the historic home of William Preston in Blacksburg, Virginia. This is the site where I have been demonstrating spinning for the past year when there is a special event. For a while, I will be going in and spinning in different rooms of the house itself while I learn the history to become an interpreter and give tours. Last November for their final event, I sat in the dining room and learned the information for the school room/office of the house and that part of the house, but there are 4 other rooms that I have only toured once and not an official tour, so that information must be learned.
Today, being opening day, spinning was in the summer kitchen. The site excavation showed that the slave cabin was erected on the summer kitchen area and until this year, it has been the Weaver’s Cottage with old wheels, weasels, winders, and a huge Appalachian Rocker Loom. All of that has been removed except for the loom and a small work table and set up with crocks, pots, and tools of an 18th century kitchen.
Today, I was in this cottage/summer kitchen spinning on one of my antique wheels in full costume. Because it was opening day, just inside the gate was a Civil War re-enactors encampment, they spent the night there last night and will again tonight. It smelled so good with bacon cooking on their open fire when I arrived this morning.
As you can see from the lack of leaves on the trees, we are still in early spring and today was an early spring day, very breezy and cool. The cottage is drafty and by the end of the day I was pretty chilled through. One of the hazards of the cottage is the very low doorways to the outside and to the lean-to addition. This is the warning on the inside of the door as you prepare to exit. It is at the bridge of my nose. The door opening is only about 5 feet.
During one of the sunny periods, I was sitting on the steps in the sun to warm and two horses were lead through the property. They were lead down to the cottage to graze while the owner and her friend went to use the facilities, I got to hold and provide some attention to the two beauties during that time.
The turnout today was not very heavy, there were lots of other activities on campus and around the area and the day was chilly and mostly overcast, but it is so enjoyable to have this opportunity to participate in teaching and demonstrating this ancient art, to spread out my Scottish spindle, hand carders, fiber in various stages of preparation and get to talk about something that I have come to love. Each visit provides me with some education too.
It seems that after a day of toil in the garden, this senior citizen needs a rest day. Yesterday was basically a nice day, mostly cloudy, but warm, but the body said no more.
The spring cover crop seed has arrived and it needs to be planted, but the area in which it is to go must be cultivated, sown, then raked. We don’t own a tiller, nor can either of us manhandle more than a small one at this point and the only other option is to take the 3 prong cultivator and do it by hand. It is a large area and the tractor drove back and forth over it while clearing it and moving soil for the boxes, so it is fairly compacted. Instead of tackling it yesterday, I opted to stay in and craft. There is a good supply of Leister Longwool fiber from Sunrise Valley Farm locally and a plan still in place to spin enough to make me a sweater from it. The first attempt was just too heavy trying to do Fair Isle with yarn that was at least light worsted weight. One bobbin was full of a very fine singles and another was started. By last night, the second bobbin had been spun and the two plyed into 405.33 yards if fingering to sport weight yarn. If knit on slightly larger needles than that weight would normally call for, I think it will be a nice draping fabric for a sweater. There is a lot more of the fiber to go and more from this year’s shearing reserved for me. More must be spun, about 3 or more skeins that size, a pattern selected, and a decision about whether to add color, keep it natural, or dye the completed sweater.
In the midst of the spinning, grand daughter announced that she was old enough to learn to knit and wanted to learn to spin. The first knitting lesson was given with her sitting between my legs and me doing the wrap while she held both ends of the circular needle, picked up the next stitch, criss-crossed the ends in the right position, let me wrap, then over the top and off the needle. She did a row and a half before her brother came home and she wanted to go outside and play. She is in no way ready to knit on her own, but she is eager and understands what she has to do.
Also breaking up the spinning on the Louët, making the yarn for the sweater, continued practice occurs on the great wheel. There are still a couple of issues that a solution evades me. The post that holds the wheel if fully set causes the wheel to drag at one point. If it is shimmed enough to allow the clearance, it tends to pivot slightly causing the drive band to walk off. This requires fairly constant readjustment to prevent the drive band from falling. The mother of all that holds the quill is slightly loose in it’s mounting and even the light tension required to draft the fiber causes it to pivot slightly which can also cause the drive band to walk off. Both of these problems need to be solved, though the process of long draw spinning and winding onto the quill is getting more consistent.
Last night the wind howled and at first light when taking grandson to the bus stop, it revealed that both row cover domes had blown off the beds. Once both kids were dispatched to bus and preschool, a bit of repair work was done, hopefully to stay in place during today’s continued cold wind. Tonight is supposed to drop to 24ºf (-4.44c) and though there are no sprouts yet, the beds need protection.
The plum trees still need to be planted. Maybe after lunch.
Old skills applied to old new to me toys make me feel like I’m learning all over again.
The little ancient Saxony wheel is up and running, or plodding. The effort to keep it going wears my right hip out, but it will be authentic to the period when spinning in costume. The first skein of yarn off of it is only marginally better than the first skein that I ever spun.
I have to admit, since I only had two bobbins and they were full of the singles, it was plyed on the Louet. Now there are 3 bobbins.
The quill for the Great Wheel came and it was just an ornament for a few days while videos were watched and study of why the 49″ diameter wheel seemed to tilt inward at the top, causing the drive band to walk off. It is difficult enough to learn a new technique when the equipment if functioning correctly. It appears that the axle that holds the wheel on was not at right angle to the post holding the axle. Upon close examination, it looked like a not very good repair had been made at some point and with much effort, half a dozen or so old square headed nails were removed from around it, allowing it to be removed and reset at the correct angle.
A bit more effort and the wheel was remounted, but touched the supporting table. More is being learned about antique wheel maintenance than I believed was possible. The upright that holds the wheel had to be removed and shimmed so that the wheel cleared the table. Tonight some singles have been spun on that wheel. Not really the prettiest, but a beginning.
The other new fiber toy that came home the same weekend as the Great Wheel is the supported spindle. That is another learning curve. A drop spindle was the first spinning that I did and began doing it about 7 ot 8 years ago, but the support spindle is a different technique, so three new techniques to learn in just a couple of months.
There can be no more. There is no more room to store and use the wheels and spindles, no room for other crafts in “my space,” a corner of the loft with my chair, three spinning wheels, Lazy Kate, Swift, spinning stool, bookcase of spindles and fiber books, and crates of Cabin Crafted stock.
This is my cozy corner to learn, relax, read, spin, and knit. Back to honing my skills so I don’t look like a total novice on April 1, the first day back at Smithfield Plantation.
It is March, the most changeable month of our seasons. Three days ago it was in the 70’s, then the rain came, the wind blew, trees around the region fell and with them the temperature. Today it is barely at freezing and this. . .
Yes, that is snow folks. Only a light dusting, but this is what we expect this time of year, not 70+ºf. Tonight it drops into the teens. If the sun comes out, the garlic will get another blanket of hay or a piece of row cover to keep the 9 inch shoots from burning to the ground. In town, the flowering almonds, daffodils, and forsythia are blooming. We have a young maple with flowers and tiny leaves. It is weeks too soon.
The chickens fled back into their coop as soon as the flurries began this morning. Those birds just don’t like snow. The dozen new chicks get picked up in 10 days. Their abode needs to be set up this weekend so that the warming table can get the environment right for them when they come home. So far, Tractor Supply has done a great job of keeping me from buying a few Welsummers as the two times we have gone down, the bins have been empty. It wouldn’t work out too well to have 4 chicks almost 2 weeks older than the tiny Buff’s coming home with us soon. The brooder coop sides that remained plastic last year still need to be enclosed within the next 6 weeks.
Mother Earth News alerted me that the onion sets can be put out under cover. To do that, another day of moving compost is in order. There is still a big pile and 2 empty boxes to fill.
Over the winter, steps were taken to make spinning at the Smithfield Plantation House a bit more authentic. Two antique wheels entered our home, both have had parts made or repaired by Bobbin Boy and returned. The little Saxony style wheel, the older of the two spins. The effort to spin on her is much greater than on the contemporary wheel, but yarn has been made.
It is a bit rougher than yarn generally spun by me, but it is yarn! Yesterday an attempt to spin on the great wheel was made. Something isn’t aligned quite right and the drive band walks off the back edge. The wheel does not have a groove and it was suggested that a beeswax paste be thinly smeared down the center to help hold it, but it still moves off the back. It is hard to learn properly when so much attention is given to keeping the drive band string in place. Also during the winter, additions were made to the costume that is worn while spinning at the plantation. A Dormeuse/Mob cap, Apron, and Fichu/kerchief were added to improve the look. A gown should also be worn, but that is not in the budget right now, plus it gets terribly hot in the weaver’s cottage during the summer months. Here is the new look.
One of the issues with the petticoat (skirt) was that it was one long panel with a single seam and a drawstring of ribbon. It was awkward and bulky at the waist. Some of the re-enactors and seamstresses on Ravelry, the social network for fiber artists, gave me some pointers on how to deal with that issue. Yesterday, the drawstring was removed, the single panel split into two, hidden pockets added to the front panel and the side seams resewn to the bottom of the pockets. Cotton twill tape was added to the tops of the two panels distributing the fullness and stitched in place. The back twill is tied in the front, then the front overlaps the back a few inches on each side and ties in the back. It is so much more comfortable and now I have pockets for my very nontraditional keys needed to get there and for my Hussif, a small needle book, that has needles, pins, thread, and my tiny scissors.
The Hussif, a contraction of the word housewife, was carried my many people, women of the house, pages, soldiers, and sailors. It is a small rolled sewing kit. Mine doubles as both a small sewing kit and a tiny knitting notions kit with the addition of a cable needle, a few stitch markers, needle gauge, and a tape measure.
Traditionally, each pocket was made of a different fabric and was used to contain the necessary tools of a sewing repair kit.
Participation as a historical spinner is encouraging me to learn more of the period, customs, and terms. The location is beautiful, though earlier this week, a very old, maybe 300 year old maple tree on the property fell. Not during the storm, which is probably a good thing, as with little wind, it fell away from the forge shop into the yard. During the storm, it might have taken a different path down. The lead blacksmith rallied a group and the trunk and larger branches have been salvaged and once dried, will be made into tables, benches, handles for tools and knives. Saving a bit of the area’s old history.
The garden box per month purchase idea got sidelined this winter somehow. Today some catch up was in order. Home Depot had 4 complete boxes of the 4×4′ ones and several 4×8′ ones that though they were made of the same parts minus 4 slats as two of the smaller ones, cost more than twice as much. The price was higher than the 2 purchased in the fall. We came home with the 4 and with what is in the garden already will allow me to combine sets and end up with an extra 4×4 once corner posts of some sort are found.
Tomorrow the rain will be gone and an attempt to put the new ones in place with more paths mulched will occur. It is almost onion set and pea seed planting time. Home Depot already had cabbage, lettuce, and broccoli starts.
Tractor supply got some chicks in today. We live halfway between two stores so both were called. One only had meat chicks, the other got Welsummers and Americaunas. Oh the temptation to add some Welsummers with their dark reddish brown eggs, but saner heads prevailed. New Country Organics, 2 hours from us will be getting several heritage breeds of chicks in early March but you had to reserve them. A dozen straight run Buff Orpington chicks were reserved today and a day trip in a few weeks is in order with a tub to haul them home. That store has been on my agenda for a while so this will be an opportunity to visit and get some garden supplements in time to make the seed starter mix.
The cowl out of my handspun silk is dry, soft, and beautiful. Because I don’t care for tight things around my neck, I added one pattern repeat. Lovely pattern, Pretty Thing by Stephanie Pearl McFee aka The Yarn Harlot.
This week has been an emotional wreck. The grandson that lives with us is with his Mom, Sister, and “Dad.” His biological father lived in Florida and without sharing details, passed away on Wednesday afternoon. Grandson had been told about a week before that he wasn’t doing well and couldn’t talk on the phone on the scheduled day, but it was still very hard news for him to take and for daughter to have to deliver to him. They are awaiting information on the service so they can go down and let the young man be there. It is hard, he is 10, and as my sister reminded me, children his age are still too young to fear death, though I’m sure he will have his share of tough moments over the next few weeks. I still do over my Dad’s passing and it has been 14 months.
The week has been up and down with the weather as well, and the changes are causing allergy symptoms for some in the house, weather related headaches for others, and confusion for the animals as they go out to freezing wind one day and temperatures that invite playing in the creek the next. Each day is a debate of what to wear, the uniform has become a short sleeve t shirt with a sweatshirt or fleece over it, a parka added if necessary. Gloves stay in pockets when needed. Some days, the layers stay on, some days peel down to the t shirt.
If we hadn’t had to cancel our ski trip, we would have arrived home late last night from a week in Colorado. We missed not only the skiing, but also the company of our cousins who are wonderful hosts when we visit them. Instead of sharing our anniversary dinner with them as we did 4 years ago, we just enjoyed each other’s company at one of the finer restaurants in town, a great 4 course meal that was delicious.
Last night, the cowl that was being knit from the silk that I had spun was finished. It is beautiful and is blocked and drying.
The weekend approaches, our usual breakfast and Farmers Market Saturday, tomorrow and more vendors are beginning to return with early greens, so good food will be had next week.
My spinning is improving on my little antique spinning wheel.
Generally it doesn’t throw the drive band, but the upright nearest the spinner still moves some and causes the wheel to skew and throw the band. The next time it jumps off, the upright is going to be wrapped in a few rounds of waxed hemp thread to see if that will tighten it enough to hold its position. The peg under the table also needs to be forced in tighter to help. The missing part for the new antique walking wheel is being made and when it returns, another learning curve for me as a spinner. Also improvement is noted with the support spindle that we got last weekend.
Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family