Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Holiday Weekend Visit

My sister and one of my nieces with her finance came for a visit over Memorial Day weekend. I was so happy to have them, and so sad to drop them off at the airport yesterday when the visit ended.

We did a lot of things, but for some reason, I didn't get many photos. One day we went for a hike in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, along the Ledges trail. I like that hike a lot. There are sandstone cliffs, rock passageways to hike through, and lots of moss and ferns. 

It was a warm day, but thankfully cool hiking down through the cracks and crevasses of damp stone.

The holiday weekend is over, now, and real life takes over once again. Hope you had a nice weekend.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gardening, swamp-style

It's been extremely rainy here this spring. I guess 'wet' is how you could describe a large portion of the United States right now. We don't have the severe flooding of the Midwest here in northeast Ohio, but swamp would be an appropriate word to attach to our back yard at the moment. There was maybe a day and a half without rain, and a bit of sun thrown into the mix this past week. It was enough to dry out the garden plot to the point where I could get some things into the ground before the rain started again today.

I spent yesterday furiously planting everything that I could into my backyard vegetable and herb gardens. I'm so sore today!

I still have one garden to plant - my 10x10 plot in the community gardens, but as most of those plots are currently either underwater or pure, soupy mud, they haven't opened them up for planting yet. Here's hoping they dry out before it's too late to bother with anything but radishes (they're fairly quick between sowing and harvest). I don't like radishes. Or maybe we could plant rice? I have a packet of marshmallow seeds. They'd probably do well out there in all of that marshy muck.

It's been an interesting spring. I wonder what the summer will bring?

Friday, May 20, 2011

All of the sparkly vampires should move here.

Forget Forks. We've had clouds and rain for 37 out of the past 40 days. No one would be able to see them sparkle.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Getting two books ready for paperback release!

I've been hard at work getting My Twelfth Christmas and The Witch of Starmont ready for paperback release. I won't have my hands on the proofs until next week.

I'm excited about them becoming available in paperback for two reasons. One is that I'll be able to offer paperbacks of The Witch of Starmont for sale along with my herbal salves and teas and tinctures when I participate in an arts and crafts fair in early June. The Witch of Starmont is about a woman who runs her own herbal remedy and skin care business, but who also harbors a secret. There's a lot in the book about collecting and growing beneficial plants, so it will be a nice addition to everything I'm offering for sale at the craft fair. Those interested in my wares may also be interested in the book.

The other reason is because My Twelfth Christmas is my best seller and it might be the type of book that people want to have a hard copy of. It's small and will be very inexpensive, likely under $4.00. So when the Christmas season rolls around (although it sells pretty steadily all year round), the paperback version will be there, too, for those who may want it in that format.

You can read the first chapter of My Twelfth Christmas here, and you can read the first chapter of The Witch of Starmont here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Slowing it down, three-toed sloth style

If you ever feel that life is too hectic, just think about this three-toed sloth, and maybe it'll slow you down a bit. He (or she?) takes it nice and easy moving from one tree to the next. My husband shot the clip while in the jungles of Costa Rica last week:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dyeing wool with dandelions

On Mother's Day, I made my daughter come with me into the park next door to fill a plastic grocery sack with dandelion flowers. My son was happy that he had to work and couldn't join in the fun : )

I used the dandelions to dye a little over 4oz. of wool roving that I had combed up from my Christmas Fleece.

It came out a very nice yellow. I spun half of it into a skein of about 380 yards of two-ply - pictured above.

I only wish I had spun it a little better. It wasn't my best. My intentions were to add it to my slowly-growing inventory of handspuns that I'm going to offer for sale at the two vendor booths I have lined up this summer - one at a craft fair and one at a 'fiber fling' weekend. The quality of the spinning wasn't that great for this particular skein, though, so I might just keep this one for my personal stash.

I'm currently working on the other half of that roving. The first bobbin of what will eventually become a two-ply, is on my wheel right now:

I'm paying more attention as I spin this one. The problem with the last one, I think, was that I had just come off of spinning a four-ply of a different kind of wool and it took a while to adjust back to this type of wool. Hopefully I'll get a sellable skein out of it. We'll see...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Spider Silk

photo from this site
The picture at right is a traditional royal Madagascar weaving done in spider silk. That's right. Spider silk. The silk was milked by hand from golden orb spiders found in the wild in Madagascar. More information about the cloth and the process that went into its creation can be found here.

This is one of the most beautiful textiles I've ever seen, and I'm doubly interested in it because in my book, Rose of Par Kluhnd: A Fairy Tale, there is an area in the Lands of Shey which produces textiles made from spider silk. In fact, Rose, from time to time in the story, wears armor made from spider silk.

Spider silk ounce, for ounce, is stronger than steel, but my use of it as armor in the story is poetic license. It turns out that spider silk is extremely elastic, so although it might be able to stop a sword or a bullet, it would stretch so much in the process that the sword or the bullet would actually go right through you anyway. For a tad more information about spider silk, visit this post in my blog.

And here is a little clip featuring this amazing, golden cloth woven from the silk of spiders:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Woo hoo!

photo from this site
Sixteen ounces of Gotland sheep's wool just arrived in the mail. This is the same kind of wool that the elvish cloaks in The Lord of the Rings movies were made out of. They're New Zealand sheep. I can't wait to spin it up! I only wish I had a loom so that I could weave some cloth. I'll have to content myself with knitting things out of it. And, of course, I'll put some of the skeins up for sale at my vendor booths when I participate in craft fairs and fiber shows this summer. Maybe I'll make enough money to seriously put toward a loom. I can dream, can't I?

photo from this site

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My asparagus is coming up!

Last year I planted a couple of asparagus plants. They grew nicely into tall, feathery fronds. I worried that they would overwinter well. I've been checking on them every so often as spring has begun to come alive around us, but I hadn't seen any sign of life until yesterday. Two spears are starting to poke through the dirt! I'm so happy. These are my first asparaguses ever. I found some wild asparagus last summer, so now I guess it's time to go and see if I can gather some - I'm excited. Asparagus takes time to establish itself and my own plants won't really be ready to harvest from for at least another year, so I'm glad I found a little patch of the wild stuff to tide us over.

Safe planting time here is still a couple of weeks away. My sprouts are doing very well. I've got loads of heirloom tomatoes just waiting to go into the ground - I've got so many of the little plants that I'll have to give some away to friends. I don't think they'll mind : )

I have a plot in the community gardens again this year, my medicinal herb plot under the kitchen window, and the vegetable plot in the back of the yard. I've got a few other small places where I've tucked things like lavender, some culinary herbs, and wintergreen. And I have several pots of various sizes with herbs, flowers, and some large ones with blueberry plants. And my son has roses in the front yard. He added one more to the three we planted last year.

If it ever stops raining we can get out and start getting the beds ready.