Sunday, December 26, 2010

Big Bag of Raw Fleece

I got a HUGE bag of raw sheep's fleece for Christmas!:


I'm so excited! I've already begun washing it a little at a time. Can't wait to comb it and dye it and spin it...

And I still have alpaca yet to process. I'll be busy for awhile!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!


May you find joy today and everyday throughout the coming new year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Okay, one more little clip... Jingle Bells! With animals!

I don't usually post lots of video clips, but this one also (see previous post) brought a smile to my face, and it's in keeping with the season!


Monday, December 6, 2010

I love the holidays!

My daughter and her boyfriend made this gingerbread Christmas tree:

The house smelled sooo good when the gingerbread was baking.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Three things that start with C

Cat:


Cake (made by my daughter):

Crappy cotton yarn, spun by me:

That's my first attempt at spinning cotton. I know you can't tell from this skein, but I'm starting to get the knack of it : )


Friday, November 26, 2010

Sometimes I'm a little slow...

I just found out that the Kindleboards forums over at Amazon.com have created profile pages for all of the kindleboards authors' books.

I have to say that the pages look really nice and I'm flabbergasted. They contain information about the book, a large cover photo, a link to the regular Amazon page where you can buy the book, and even an excerpt - all without the clutter that's usually found on the regular Amazon.com page.

Here are the links to the pages for my 2 books available through the Kindle store - downloadable not only to Kindle e-readers, but, with free Kindle apps, to your computer, iPhone, iPad, Droid, Blackberry, etc. :

My Twelfth Christmas

The Witch of Starmont

As the holidays approach, My Twelfth Christmas has begun to receive some notice. It's often ranked in the top 10 bestsellers for children's Christmas books, and it's often in the top 25 bestsellers for holiday/Christmas books in general. The rankings fluctuate a lot, but it's fun to watch. It's exciting to see that people are buying my book.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dyeing with Natural Dyes

I tried my hand at dyeing with natural dyes the other day. I had a few skeins of handspun on which to try it. What I had on hand were two hanks of corriedale cross yarn, one hank of merino, one small hank and knitted swatch of superwash Bluefaced Leicester, and one knitted swatch of a superwash wool + nylon blend sockyarn that I had spun.

For the dye, I used a mix of dried goldenrod, dried calendula, onion skins, dried yarrow, and fresh marjoram.

I mordanted the yarn with alum and cream of tartar while the dyebath was being prepared. When the yarn was mordanted, I plunked it in the dyebath and let it simmer for about 45 minutes or so.

The lightest-colored yarn below is the merino. It was actually an afterthought and I put it in the dyebath after other yarns had been taken out, and I only left it in for about 20 minutes.


The corriedale cross yarn came out with a nice yellow coloring, although not what I'd call vibrant:

The superwash yarns were the surprise. They came out colored with a glowing, golden-brown which I really like:


I was really pleased. I talked with a lady I know who dyes using natural dyes. She said that the superwash yarns usually do take up the dye really well. Here's the sock yarn:

I'm planning on using superwash BFL to make a sweater for my daughter. I found a really cute pattern in a book. I'll be spinning the yarn before I dye the fiber. I won't be using natural dyes for the sweater, though, I'll be using acid dyes for the colors she wants. I wouldn't mind having a sweater in that luscious golden-brown, though. Or even just socks : )

I can't wait until the next growing season when I can gather more plants with which to dye. Some of the plants I already have in my medicinal herb garden are also dye plants. Yea!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stalking the wild asparagus - plus processing my alpaca fleece

Many years ago a friend recommended I read Stalking the Wild Asparagus, by Euell Gibbons. I actually never got around to it, but ever since, I've somehow been enthralled by the idea of finding wild asparagus.

Decades later, I've done it. By accident. While 'stalking' another wild plant, I came across a patch of wild asparagus! Wow. I feel as though I have accomplished one of my life's secret goals (another of which is to climb Mt. Everest - but that, I'm sure, will never come to fruition, so a thing like this is made all the more meaningful :-)

Here is the wild asparagus:

I can't tell you what a thrill came over me when I practically ran into it. I'll wait with great anticipation until next spring when I'll return to this remote spot and gather a few of the early shoots for a yummy treat. It will tide me over unil my own asparagus, planted this past spring, begins to produce.

And now for the alpaca. I got my hands on a raw alpaca fleece:

Here it is after two or three days of sorting:


And here are some of the bags of sorted fiber:


I've been washing it a few ounces at a time in some salad spinners. I let it soak a couple of times in hot, soapy water. Let it sit through a couple of rinse baths, and then spin the excess water out of it:


I let it dry on a screen in my garage. Here is some scoured fleece:


And here it is in the 'planking' stage of the combing process with my four-pitch wool combs:


Here it is after it's been pulled off of the combs through a diz. This is combed top, ready to spin:


The stuff that's left on the combs after I pull off the sliver is put away to be carded later. Why is it in baggies? I don't know. Just thought it was neater that way:

I've spun about 150 yards of double-ply yarn already. I'm anxious to see how much yarn I'll get out of one fleece, and how much out of each quality of sorted fiber.

It's a long process, but I don't mind it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ferns

On our bog walk, we also saw some interesting ferns:





Saturday, September 18, 2010

Spider

My husband and I went for a walk today at a nearby bog. I found a spider in its web:

There are probably lots of creepy crawly things for it to eat in the bog:

Click on the pictures to make them larger (if you're not squeamish).

Monday, September 6, 2010

How goes the spinning?

Great! I've been able to spin everyday (except today) since I got my Kromski Fantasia wheel two weeks ago. During the first week I made lots of crappy yarn. I used it to knit this bag:

- which I then proceeded to felt. Each of the colors is a different type of wool, so they all felted differently, some more thoroughly than others. I keep my roving and other spinning paraphernalia in it now. It's pretty big:


I've since made lots of other yarn:


On the wheel right now is what I'm producing with the last of my roving. I have only a few ounces left of two types of roving, an unknown purple sheep's wool, and gray Suffolk, which is kind of coarse :


That's not plied yarn on the bobbin. I'm just putting the two fibers together and drafting them out together to spin. I've put it on hold, though, until I can get back to it:


But I did ply a dyed merino yarn that I made, with an undyed blue faced Leicester (the white) yarn that I made, and it created what I refer to as 'candy cane' yarn. I'm in the middle of knitting what I've termed 'peppermint mittens' with it:

I'm having lots of fun and my yarn is improving little by little each time I spin.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hand-grown/made things are wonderful

Along with some other gifts, my son presented me with this wonderful-smelling bouquet for my birthday. The roses are from two of the three rose bushes which he and I planted last spring and which he has been faithfully tending all summer. They're growing gangbusters and keep producing the most beautiful flowers:


And my daughter designed and built (with some help from her boyfriend) an herb-drying rack for me. I've already put it to use with some hyssop, parsley, calendula, oregano, lemon balm, thyme, and peppermint :


This is what I've been using, rigged precariously from an old freezer rack. It's done the trick, but space has always been a problem:


Now, with this new rack, I have loads more space. I hang most of my herbs to dry in the warm, dark garage in the summer. A few I'll pop into a barely-warm oven, but most recieve the hanging treatment:

What a great day I had. It was made even more special knowing that my kids (who are both no longer 'kids', but young adults) are so thoughtful.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Enjoying the harvest

Such as it is. I mean, my gardens weren't huge successes this year, but even saying that, we've been enjoyng several things from them lately.

We've had roasted beets in salads; spaghetti sauce made with tomatoes, herbs, and garlic from our garden; potatoes mashed, roasted and fried; carrots with roasts, salads, and more; fresh sweet corn cooked and eaten just after picking (yum!); green beans; and okra and lima beans coming in slowly (the first few I've frozen), but they'll begin produce in larger quantities soon.

Any day now we'll have enough poblano peppers to make a meal of chile rellenos.

So even if gardening this year has presented some challenges (flooding, weeds, pests), we've still been able to enjoy the modest fruits of all of that work and worry.

And tucked away in our freezer are things to remind us of summer when the weather begins to chill - hand-picked strawberries frozen fresh, green beans, peppers and chilies, okra, and lima beans.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fragrant herbs...

... are scenting my kitchen.

I've been gathering culinary herbs from the garden and hanging them to dry: sweet basil, sage, and sweet marjoram. As they've passed through my kitchen in the process, they've left behind their wonderful aromas.

And I have some other herbs drying in a barely-warm oven. These are medicinal herbs, but just as fragrant: tulsi (holy basil) and chamomile.

And I've begun the maceration process on two herbal tinctures, one fragrant, the other not: lavender (Provence) and plantain.

There are wonderful scents wafting around my kitchen, so sad they'll soon fade.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Been thinking...

... of getting a spinning wheel. If this calming video doesn't sway me, I don't know what will.




If you want to know what the beautiful music is that's playing, it's "Waltz of the White Lilies," by the traditional Irish music band, Déanta.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Half Broke Horses

I haven't even finished this book yet, but I'm definitely recommending it. Maybe it's because my forbears lived lives like this out west, maybe because I've lived out there myself, or maybe because we've just driven through many parts of the country where this book plays out, but the narration seems so immediate and real that I'm drawn deeper and deeper into the scenery and situations as each page is turned.

Half Broke Horses is by Jeannette Walls, author of the acclaimed memoir The Glass Castle, which I haven't read but will right after this. While The Glass Castle is a memoir, Half Broke Horses is the story of Jeannette Walls' grandmother, told in a captivating first person voice.

I've just come to a part where Lily, the subject of the book, has gone to teach school in a little Mormon polygamist town in northern Arizona. She's got her two children, Rosemary and Little Jim, with her. Lily is describing the town and its people:

The houses they lived in, I came to see, were essentially breeding factories where as many as seven wives were expected to churn out a baby a year... The girls were raised to be docile and submissive. In the first few months I was there, a couple of my thirteen-year-old girls disappeared, vanishing into their arranged marriages.

Rosemary was fascinated by these kids with all their multitudes of moms, and these dads with all their sets of wives, and she kept asking me to explain it. She was particularly intrigued with Mormon underwear and wondered if it really gave the Mormons special powers.

"That's what they believe," I told her, "but that doesn't mean it's true."

"Then why do they believe it?"

"America is a free country," I said. "And that means people are free to believe whatever cockamamie thing they want to believe."

"So they don't have to believe it if they don't want to?" Rosemary asked.

"No they don't"

"But do they know that?"

Smart kid.

Oh golly, I love this book. If its not on your bookshelf, go rustle it up. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The new banner photo...

...was taken during our vacation out west. It's of stormy, late-July, evening skies over Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

Been enjoying a bit of garden harvest

Last night I threw some things from the garden together in a pan, cooked them up, added some ground turkey, and we had it for dinner. I don't have any pictures of garden produce because my camera is acting up, but here's a list of what went into dinner:

Not from the garden:
ground turkey
onion
one small can tomato sauce

From the garden:
garlic
tomatoes
potatoes
carrots
three varieties of bush beans

It's a lazy, but yummy, way of enjoying what comes out of the garden.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I love my herbal tea

I've been feeling a little under the weather, but luckily I have a tea for that. Yesterday I woke up feeling horrible with a cold or something coming on. I made my 'Stave-Off' tea and drank it throughout the day and today I feel much better. Not 100% yet, but gettiing there.

I love making teas with the things that I grow. And this year I'll be able to make my 'Stave-Off' tea completely with things that I've grown. For the past two years I've had to use mail-order elecampane, but this year I'll have some from my own garden, as well as some gathered from the wild.

My Stave-Off tea is made with elecampane root, holy basil leaves and flowers, lemon balm leaves, and calendula petals. I drink it when I feel like I'm coming down with something. It hasn't disappointed me yet. It gets me feeling tip-top within one or two days.

I always feel a little guilty when I hear people complaining about how lousy a cold is making them feel. It's like having a little, magic secret as to how they can feel better. But I don't push my tea on anyone. I mean, how would you react if you said, "Gosh, this cold is whipping my butt," and an acquaintance announced, "Oh! I make an herbal tea that will help you feel better!" Yeah. Right.

I've tried to grow quantities enough to offer perhaps a few of my teas for sale through my Etsy shop come fall. It'll be interesting to see if there will be any takers - people who are looking for that kind of thing.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Can a public service message about seat belts be thought of as beautiful?

Yes:


The last of the vacation pics (hurrah!)

Here's the last set of pictures from our excursion out west.

What's a western themed vacation without cacti? We drove through Saguaro National Park in Arizona on the way to see my mom. Here's a close-up view of a saguaro cactus:



This particular one was busy reaching for the sky and didn't pay me any mind as I snapped its picture:

There were lots of other cactus accounted for in Saguaro National Park, like ocotillo, cholla, prickly pear, barrel etc.:

The skies were beautiful, storms all around us in the distance and in the mountains:


I've forgotten where along the way I took this picture. I think it was past Phoenix on our way toward Petrified Forest National Park. Anyway, it was a beautiful canyon in some mountains that we were driving through. Maybe it's the Salt River. It was red with sediment:


At the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert National Park, the trees aren't standing upright as in a real forest. They're lying down, scattered all over the place. They're the remains of trees which fell into a huge river eons ago and were covered by sediment. The organic material eventually was replaced by minerals, preserving the trees so that they look as though they've just been felled and cut up. If you click on the picture below, you can see a bit of a rainbow in the right 1/4 of the sky:

The skies wherever we went were fascinating. Storms in can be seen miles away when there aren't any real trees in the way:


Doesn't this look like a fallen tree that's been cut up to clear a hiking path? Amazing that it's now stone:


Still looks like wood:


Here's my son wandering along one of the trails through the park:


In the painted desert, the earth sometimes mimics the colors of the sky:


As the sun set, a storm was approaching. My husband and son are watching and photographing. What you can't see is the wind and the dust blowing in the plains below:


The dark, distant mass between the clouds and the land is the rain pouring down from the heavens. That's my husband trying to capture the lighting bolts on (digital) film. He did catch a beautiful shot, click here to see it. Below you can see him steadying his tripod in the strong winds:

And finally, a little video clip of the storm:

video

We had lots of adventures on our trip, but it's awfully nice to be home again. Have you had any adventures this summer?