Monday, May 25, 2009

Busy days!

May is coming to a close and the season is starting to pick up! Nothing heralds "Work, Get your Work here!" like the first truly warm time of the year. No, not the "point and laugh, thought it was goinig to warm up didn't you...fooled ya." warm, the nice "okay, summer is coming" warm. Yes, there's a difference.

Winter brings a lot of things, snow, crackling fires, crackling hands and an increase in coffee consumption. Of course, with that increase the coffee can population in the house sky rockets. There's nothing like a coffee can, a good tin coffee can. Their uses are endless and usually so is the supply. This year, however, either we drank more coffee or there are no more small tidbits to be stored in a trusty, rusty coffee can. It's possible they bred, the laundry and dirty dishes do, maybe they decided to join in the fun. In any case, my waiting to be used coffee can storage was bursting at the seams by the time Spring arrived. Hmmmm.......

I hate to throw them out, so there they sat, multiplying by the week. Well with Spring comes flowers, with flowers comes a need to plant them in something (can you see where I'm going?), with those needs comes my yearly hem'n haw session in the garden centers. Containers are spendy, I'm sure I could manage flower beds too.
Oh now just hold the phone there missy! Shall we revisit the not so distant past of last year??? Coming back to you is it?? I thought it might. Just for the record, last year.....everything died. Irrigation died, plants died, only the weeds survived . No, not right now, no time to manage flower beds unless they are artistically wild......they aren't, soon, but not just yet.

It came to me in an epiphany! I'm sure I saw something similar years ago, kind of a "duh" moment really. The equation is simple.

Coffee can + spray paint + plants + hanger = Cute, finished, retasking, clearing out some room and completely me.
Better yet, I can make more throughout the season and have my little planters barfed all over the place. No weeds. I wander around watering with the kids and I can have the pretty.

Yay! I are smart. ;)

End result? They're a little thin yet, there's nasturtiums planted in there so they'll fill out during the summer.

Nothing is safe from them. ;) The one above is by the chicken yard, the one below is on a fence post by the pasture. I have more of them up, more that are drying and more that will be made.

Anna and Malina helped plant, Lars helped pick out, Leif was busy chasing baby grasshoppers and Bruce, well.....he's 13 now, come on! He helped paint actually.

Lars and Anna helped get half the corn in yesturday. I'll put more in next week, got a little too much sun the last couple of days and I've been banned. It seems that I've developed something of a sun allergy, so I need to ease myself into the sun. Biig problem. By the time it shows up, I'm really ready for it. Too much all at once and I get a rash. Anyway, apparently I wasn't sneaky enough with the itchy, or it could have been that it was kind of hard to miss....but I've been banned. Argh! Ah well, I've been washing wool and planting on the back patio, hanging up the laundry, all things I can do with minimal exposure.

Justin has been busy working on the lawn irrigation today. It's going fairly well, the children are familiar with most of the words he's used so far. Upside (yeah me and that upside), when he's finished it will be automated, and the heads will sink down. No more snapped off irrigation, well atleast on the ones that have been replaced.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Color Yarn

Wonders will never cease! I made some time yesterday afternoon to ply up the extreme cotton candy dye job from the other day. It hasn't stopped me, I currently have a very vibrant green drying in the kitchen. On the upside, the vibrant colors are really helping to combat the weather! Today is really reminding me of my childhood and my Aunt's kitchen. Something about quiet rainy days, wood stoves and all the smells that go along with it.

This is a very interesting yarn. I could take pics of it all day and pick up the different colors in it, depending on what the light is doing out side. The riot of color has been tamed, but not broken. Still have more to spin up, but I'm thinking I'll have about 400-500 yds of this when I'm finished. I haven't mastered guesstimating this yet.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Some Color!

Au Naturale has it's place, but you really don't want to see it walking down Main street right? Same goes with yarn, while I love yarn in it's natural hues, there are those times when life needs a little color and sometimes you get a little more than you were prepared for.

Do you ever have those moments in life where Bob Ross goes floating by the edges of your consciousness saying "Remember, there are no mistakes, only happy accidents."??
Well I had one the other day and all because I thought I'd dye some wool. Keeping in mind I've played with Kool-Aid (people really drink this stuff???) and had wonderful results, but the spectrum is limited and they go and change them all the time. Off to the internet/web (depending on how much your inner geek is speaking up) I go. Food dye, frosting dye, oh joy. Due to the gregarious and curious nature of the young offspring roaming free about the house, I'm keeping the dye stuff to the semi-toxic at this time. Wonderful people in cyber land have provided instructions by the ton. Okay. How hard can this be? Just follow the directions. Check............oh wait..........directions?? Have you never watched me cook?

It's getting late (by mother of 5, farm wife, starting to feel on the ragged side of young terms), but I'd like to have something to play with the next day. I decide to e-x-p-e-r-i-m-e-n-t. This is how I trick my perfectionistic voice into keeping Soak the wool for about 20 minutes in a vinegar/water bath. Get the dye bath ready. Drain the wool and stuff in said dye bath. Now I'm thinking, some parts are going to be more saturated with the vinegar than others, more color variant, fun. I'm experimenting right????? So I let that stew away on the stove top, plenty in there for a project. Oh, color. I specified to my darling husband that I'm playing, what color should I choose??? Playing? Try violet. Sure.
Wool is simmering away. Yay? P-brain starts whispering.
"You did not soak for specified time."
"I know, I'm experimenting, either way as long as it's not mud colored (I'm sure I could find something to make with that anyway) it will be fine."
"The water is still blue, you didn't soak it long enough, you need more vinegar."
"It will be fine!!! Be quiet."

About this time of my self-arguing, my helpful husband came in and started stirring the wool. Did I over react? Yes, judging from how high everyone jumped. Oh dear.

Well, I get curious and gently scoop some out........uhhhh.......
"Told ya so."
"Shut up P-brain. Where did I put those paper bags?"

The night has worn on, P-brain is chirping in one ear and I keep my mantra up. "This is a learning experience. I'll be able to take something away from it, I'm learning and HAVING FUN!" It's entirely possible that I was foaming at the mouth slightly, maybe a little wild eyed. The rest of the family had evacuated to the living room and I think they may have even had an emergency exit strategy in place.
I'm tired now, officially tired. The last of my energy has seeped from the marrow of my bones and breathing has become akin to climbing Mt Everest. I drain the wool.....................

No one should underestimate the power of adrenaline.

That's not Violet. It looked like cotton candy from the 3rd dimension.

"Told ya so."
"Bite me."

Maybe it will look better in the morning. In any case, I'm tired and P-brain is happily chirping away. Ugh.

I get up the next morning and I'm greeted by the spawned wool. I need coffee.
Apparently P-brain and Bob don't. They both start in. Now there's two of them twittering and chirping away in there.


Now, apparently (said sarcastically) I'm a bit stubborn. IF and I say if, that's true I would prefer to think of it more as persistent. That has such a pleasant ring to it, don't you think? At this point in the game, you've already jumped off the metaphoric cliff. So there are two options, close your eyes and scream in terror....or......keep your eyes open and hope you spot the road you were looking for in the first place, may as well enjoy the view too. I'm persistent and an optimist. ;)

Well the caffeine hasn't quite woken me up and Mutt and Jeff are still chirping away. I start teasing it all out, noticing though (oooo this is where all that persistence and optimism starts to kick in) that not only has the whole batch been dyed in a wide variety of seemingly unnatural colors (if they are natural, Mother Nature is keeping them well hidden), but the locks themselves are sometimes multi-colored.

Well, well, well. This puts a new twist to things (oh dear, spinning and puns). So as I spin, I'll have a guaranteed variation because the locks hold different colors. This could be fun. Miss P just stammered a bit. Of course she quickly points to the blinding shade of magenta.
Sending it through the carder, set me back a little, but I'm still seeing promise. At least the heathering has toned some of the more obnoxious shades down a bit.
No time to give up, keep on going. What's the worst that's going to happen? It doesn't look nice? Live and learn, at least I'll have learned what NOT to do.
Time to get it on the wheel, within the first few drafts I can see that this is going to turn out well. Bob, sensing that his work here is finished, ambles off to find some happy flora, Miss P huffs off into silence with a trailing "I still told you so." and I keep filling the bobbin.

The end result is violet in appearance, in that I was successful....kind of. There are, however, shots of very vivid colors. I left the nubs in (oh, come on it's what I spin) and a bit larger than single than normal. I'm thinking a nice cool summer night wrap for one of the girls.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wool gathering isn't so bad after all

Oh, I know, ha ha.
I have a growing addiction to fiber and it all started so innocently! Firstly, I've been crocheting longer than I can remember, honestly. I've always crocheted. My great-grandma taught my mom, and in turn, she taught me. I do remember getting pointers from Great-grandma, "Keep your tension even, don't rush." Crochet doesn't always translate well into clothing however, so at about 10 I started my (unknown at the time) very long battle with knitting. At 13 spinning looked like something fun and my bought my wheel. An Ashford Traditional, unfinished, some practice fleece and a Jacob's coat fleece. I wanted the finish to age over time and with use, so I finished it with a linseed oil finish. I still remember the days I took doing that! To a 13 yr old, it seemed to take forever and I had wool to play with! You know, someone should have seen the signs right there and stopped me, for the sake of my future children and husband. Of course, little was known about the symptoms and signs back then, I guess they can be forgiven.
After what seemed an age, my wheel was dry and assembled (yep, did that all my own self too). Ha! Darn, you know spinners make it looks so easy. Time after time, the wheel just sucked the wool in. I don't think you could even classify my first attempts as super bulky, they made super bulky look like laceweight. Anyway, I hung in there and started to see some results. My mom signed me up for a beginners spinning class, she was probably tired of all the 13 yr old female weeping I was doing at the time. Over time I found my groove, then I found a husband. Mom had started spinning by that time and the wheel stayed with her for the next 15 yrs. The Jacob's coat sits in splendid heathered skeins she's made along with a couple that I did all those years ago.
This last winter, the wheel followed her over during one of her visits and has stayed. The last 15 years have witnessed my battle with knitting and my victory. My crochet has been allowed to park in the "fine" department, and has no other obligation than to create visual beauty for my home. In wanders the wheel. I love my wheel. I'd also like another wheel, I've had it picked out for almost 6 yrs now. ;) Of course with the arrival of the wheel, has come the arrival of the need for fiber to feed the wheel. Spinning Wheels seem to have large appitites, just a warning in case you were thinking of buying one. Luckily, Mom brought over some fiber she'd had kicking around for some years. It lasted about a month, it bought me a little bit of time at least. I did buy some roving to hold me over until the Spring shearing.
Spring arrived and I asked at the feed store if they knew of anyone in the area that sold fleece. That's how I met a very nice man. He did have fleece, lots of fleece actually, which he ended up giving to me. I filled the Suburban, and while entertaining the thought of a second trip...Justin, very nicely, told me no. I don't hear that very often from him either. I'm so glad he said that. I'm still processing it. There's enough here to feed that wheel for some time. I have enough to experiement with dyeing, which I've started already.
So for all those curious, I have pics. :) These are Targhee X Suffolk, Targhee or California Red. The fleece in the following is one of the "lesser grade" and a Targhee/Suffolk. I put quotes, because this wool drafts and spins like butter. It just melts into yarn, oh so wonderful!! Well now, onto what I've been playing with for the last month.

Not the best picture in the world, but this is the dirty just sheared fleece. At this point, little did I know.
I wash my fleece in Orvus, and weather permitting dry it outside, otherwise it dries in the kitchen, which my very wonderful husband is permitting.

I spent a couple of days washing and drying. It's been 15 yrs since I've done this and chose a culled fleece to practice on, the top fleeces are still waiting. Here, it's time to flick the locks. I use a dog brush, it works and is less expensive than official Flick carder. This helps seperate, fluff and get out any remaining matter in the fiber. This is one method, my mom usually teases, then there are combs, nasty claw looking things. Honestly, this is my least favorite step in the process.

So it's all flicked and picked, time to send it through the carder. This is a drum carder that my mom picked up, fairly soon after she started carding wool with the hand carders. ;) I really appriciate this device! The purpose to this step, get all the fibers pointing in one general direction. Usually any little bits that have survived will come out in this step also. I'll send the wool through at least twice or three times, depending on how it looks. This is also a fun step from the aspect of blending colors. There's all manor of things you can do once you enter into the world of colors, fiber and carding.

As I said in the beginning, this all started so innocently!

Oooo, yes, I've been having fun. The penny is for size reference, but these are fairly standard singles for me at this point. This is the bobbin that I have on at the moment, will be plying it as soon as I'm finished writing this up, chest cold permitting. I don't weigh my yarn, I probably should start, but I do measure. On average I get about 200-300 yards, plied. This bobbin took me a few days, Spring prep and all that. A cold has decided to vacation in my chest, so I spent yesterday filling up the last half. If I stay in the habit and spin an hour a day, my speed picks up and I can fill one up in a few hours. I'm still not a speedy spinner though. ;)

....and now it's yarn! Here it is, three ply. Okay I cheated, this is the last skein I finished, but the singles are similar. This one came out 320 yards. Again, penny reference. There's still a lot of twist left in this one, I'm working on getting that figured out. Right now, I let my yarn relax in the cupboard. I'm not washing them to relax them since I'm not sure what I'm dyeing and what I'm keeping natural. They do relax over time, so either way it works....for now.

Here's one of many ends. I made a mobius head scarf. It's a quick project, I love the twist and watching it knit up. This was out of a skein I did quickly and the yarn is slightly thicker than what I'm doing right now.

There you have it in all it's wooly goodness!
I do love this craft, more than I thought I would really. It's very practical, which appeals to my "multi-task, make the need feed the want" philosophy. Beyond that, oh there's so much. During the winter and the cold, the sound of the wheel going with the crackling fire in the background, they combine and create a very comforting atmosphere. It relieves the days stress and worries like nothing else, better than a hot bath some days. There's also the deep sense of satisfaction, of looking at something that I've taken from dirty, sticky fleece to (fill in the blank).
I will draw the line at raising sheep (if I didn't, Justin would!). I don't really care for sheep, okay I don't like sheep past the lamb stage. While I'm entertaining the idea of keeping an Angora goat or two, maybe some rabbits as well, they aren't sheep. There are sheep people in this world, who love to raise them. I'm perfectly comfortable with the fact that I'm not one of them.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Catching Up!

A pair of ducks that showed up and hung around the other day.
April proved to be a very busy month! We finished cross fencing the pasture for the cows, so Amy and the beefers have been happily munching on the new spring grass. Justin caught a break in the weather, work to fertilize the pastures as well. This has been sitting on the back burner since we moved, it feels good to have at least started on it!
This was also the month that I started getting some things in the ground. Yeah, I'm behind on my timeline, but I had an inkling this might happen so my pea variety has better tolerance for the weather here. Seriously, these guys were still trying until last Thanksgiving! I should have enough time to pull two crops out this year. Hopefully I can get caught up in this area soon, but I do have lots of help! Malina and I spent the whole day in the garden beds. She helped put the peas and strawberries in! She has since planted apple seeds in the backyard. We can always move them if they sprout. :)

Of apples, we have apple bloosoms this year!! Tip, spend the money and buy the older trees. :) We're all looking forward to apples of our own. Last year gave us one small pear, poor bee she traveled far to make that happen!

April is also the traditional chick month. I'd rather get mine earlier in the year so they aren't molting in the winter, but they were sold out of the Speckled Sussex until the end of April this year. So April 27th brought the arrival of these guys,
It was time to replace chickens and this past winter was hard on my flock. We decided to go with Speckled Sussex when the girls were free ranging, but I like their look and pullet size anyway so there didn't seem to be a reason to change. There are 25 of them right now, straight run, so not all will be around to see winter. I do have a reason for it, the last time I picked out chicks, there was one rooster out of almost 30! I also know that if I'd ordered hens I wouldn't have butchered them. This way is easier, and I'll get a rooster. LOL As a reward for spending so much money, we also recieved a free exotic. ;) It looks to be a White Crested Polish. Everyone is holding out for rabbits, but I think one of them will enter it in the fair this fall. Maybe once the feathers come in all the way, someone will change their mind.

Here's Bruce modeling the chicks for me. ;)

Speckled Sussex

White Crested Polish (????)

They are currently residing on the back porch, quickly out growing all the containers. I'll be moving them to a box on the floor soon. The cats are just waiting patiently. :)

Life has been interesting here to say the least. Plant starts in the windows, fleece drying in the Kitchen (the fleece more on that later), chicks on the back porch, buckets of beet pulp plumping for's a good thing I have a large kitchen! Depending on the time of day you catch us, it looks less like a room and more like a Mad Hatter processing plant. One more month and I can take a break...sort of.