Saturday, 31 December 2011

Washing It Old School

It seems I've got a few more days at the parents' than originally planned. The car is gone to Montreal with my sibs over New Year's - Joe went in to visit friends, and Andrea and her BF Eric will be leaving for the Yukon in 2 weeks, and have to pack and plan what comes, goes in storage, gets sold...they will bring the first load back in a couple days, with the car.

Now I have no objection to staying here, generally. Only it's hard water. Lovely for drinking, but even with a vinegar rinse, it tends to leave a buildup and make my hair feel sticky after washing. So if I'm home longer than a week or so, I do wash it old-school, heating soft water on the stove.

In the summer I can use rain water, or distilled from the dehumidifier. It's winter now, though, so I have to melt snow. Last night you might have seen me making multiple trips outside to get snow to add to the spaghetti pot on the woodstove. Snow melts down to a lot less water than you think. And I had to skim out some leaves and things that snuck in, since there's only a few inches of snow on the ground. But I finally had a pot of warm water, and with the aid of a tub to catch the rinse water, and a measuring cup as a scoop, I did my shampoo and condition over the bathtub.

My hair feels a lot better today. But every time I do this, it certainly underscores why you used to traditionally take a bath only once a week, and even re-use the bathwater for the next person, the way my mother remembers doing it. Think of hauling in and melting 5 or 10 bushels of snow to get enough water for one small bathtub!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

New, Pretty, and Educational

It's probably not surprising that a few of the gifts I received for Christmas are fiber-related. It's going to be a fun winter.
Mom always makes something for each of us - a tradition dating back as far as I can remember, with items ranging from cross-stitched ornaments, to pajamas, to kitbags. This year the others got hand-knit socks. I make my own socks, so I got a handwoven scarf. Creamy and drapey and lovely.

There were cotton cards, and some books from Schoolhouse Press I wanted - things with historical interest and patterns and pictures for inspiration.

I've read through them all already, and can't wait to play. May use a pattern from the Haapsalu Shawl book for some knitting later this year - Joanne loved the cria, and wants it turned into some lace, so I get to do that.
At the moment, though, I have another project in progress. A shawl in a drop-stitch bee pattern, which I should hopefully get done and written up for the lace book competition.
 Now that I've finished reading my Christmas books, and we've had our turkey dinner, it stands a chance of getting done today or tomorrow...

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Cookie Countdown

Although some members of the family have little to do except doze by the stove, some of us have work to do.

Since I came down Monday night, it’s been a whirl of pine and cinnamon scents. I’m counting down to Christmas not in days left but in baking and decorating things each day.
Tuesday was butter tarts and mint-chip shortbreads, and decorating around the house Рfresh greens, stockings and cr̬che and lit village, a choir of mice, and a collection of snowmen on a cupboard, and crocheted snowflakes in the windows, mocked by the green grass outside.

Wednesday was cutting the tree, and decorating same – a process that takes 4 hours and I don’t know how many boxes of ornaments. In between we had a break by stopping by two friends who wanted extra hands for setting up looms.
Thursday – back to baking. Cherry thumprints, fruit bars, and gingerbread.

Friday: Holiday oatmeal cookies with cherries and raisins and coconut in them, and speculaas cookies, our version being crisp thin cutouts, lightly spiced. There will be lots of those, since at least half will go as gifts, and not just for our eating.  And mince tarts, and the housecleaning has to get done, and remaining gift wrapping, since people arrive the next day.
And it snowed! The lovely kind that coats everything and makes a winter wonderland.

Tomorrow the baking should be almost done, finally, only the breads to do: marzipan-filled stollen and cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning.
It always looks like so much baking, but it all gets eaten or given, every year. A sweet season indeed.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Time To Quit When...

Only a couple days left until I head to the parents' for Christmas. I've been knitting on the scarf I want finished and blocked before then, and I figure it's about 80% done. Sadly, even lace gets boring, it seems, and I started packing clothes and fiber projects for the holidays whenever I started to nod off over the knitting.

I was planning to stay up a bit later and work some more. However, I'm not only nodding off, I'm starting to get dream fragments or something. You know how sometimes you wake up from a dream and think, 'Wow, that was weird. Where did that come from?'... I was knitting along, and suddenly woke up from a brief nod with this phrase in my head: 'He seems to be under the impression that watermelons come in herds.'

No idea where that came from. But the brain that could produce that should probably not be trusted with lace anymore tonight.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Joy To The World, The Cria's Done...

I feel like this has been a terribly productive day, really. The blocked scarf from yesterday is wrapped. I went out this morning and got my Christmas cards stamped and mailed, and picked up a few things I needed. Came home and finished spinning the last of the cria, had lunch, and went into baking mode (there's a cookie exchange this week).
At 4 o'clock my kitchen table looked like this.

By 5 o'clock, it was this.

I had to wait for the icing to dry on the first round before I could make room to do the second round. So I did some plying. Give you one guess what this is.

All the cria in one lovely pile. Spun and plied. 574 grams according to my scale. A little number crunching yielded an approximate total of 2200 yards. Which means that hopefully I should have enough to do the shawl I wanted with my share. The yarn still needs a final wash, but the spinning is DONE.
Next up - something that doesn't require carding. But not today. I still have Christmas knitting to do, and cookies to clean up after.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A Tale of Fudge and Other Updates

My Christmas tree is not up. I suspect it will not get done this year. That's all right, this time next week I will be trudging through the fields with Mom and the dog, in search of the perfect tree for our family Christmas, and enjoying the smell of fresh pine.
There are other things to do here, mostly involving fiber and/or food.

Friday was spinning and food at our last Fleece Spa day before the holidays. Saturday was the Metcalfe Christmas farmer's market, which yielded locally roasted coffee beans for a stocking stuffer, lavender body butter for me, and a slice of almond cranberry fudge. Sadly, the fudge was so heavy on the almond extract that a small piece gave me a sore throat, and had me checking in the bathroom mirror for signs of cyanosis (a concern largely due to excessive reading of early 20th C detective novels).
I still wanted fudge though, so I made a batch of sucre a la creme, the excuse being that I promised to bring dessert for a get-together Sunday evening. No-one complained - highly unlikely when you bring fudge that is essentially 2 parts brown sugar to 1 part whipping cream, with some nuts and things thrown in.

The cria continues to progress. I think I can fit what is left on 2 bobbins...2-3 skeins plied. The end is in sight. In between that, however, I have been knitting frantically on the first of two scarves for Christmas gifts. That got cast off last night and blocked this morning after breakfast. Forty minutes on the bedroom floor, 6 blocking wires, and some intense feline supervision later, it is drying quietly and looks pretty good.

After 40 minutes of threading blocking wires along the scarf edges while kneeling, though, I think yoga for lace knitters might be an idea whose time has come.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

O Christmas Tree

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, wherever shall I put you?

No, seriously. I've got my wreaths up on the doors, and the lights in the window, but I'm debating whether to put my tree up, and if so, where? It's not big, really. A grapevine cone formed on a tomato cage, maybe 3 feet high. Normally it goes on the sewing machine desk. However, that has become the computer desk, and not only is it short on space, but the outlet is occupied.

The coffee table trunk is out, since putting the tree there would block my view of the TV, necessitate moving WIPs, and be short on outlet space also.

There's a little table beside the couch, but that's in the cat's flightpath - I've already lost a pot and a lamp chimney that were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So far, the best possibility is the dining area bookshelf, once I clear various items off it.

I'll give it another day's thought.
In the meantime, I started seriously thinking about Christmas knitting and stuff. Whipped up a little gift certificate bag/ipod cozy for someone who's getting a gift certificate and is into science and coffee. Just to make it a little more interesting for me and them both.

Used the caffeine molecule structure from the Heterocyclic Hat pattern, but did it in straight stitches, as there wasn't space to do duplicate stitch.
Tonight I need to pick up yarn. I decided I would make lace scarves for a couple people, but there is nothing suitable in stash. Darn.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Be it Resolved

That I am going to finish spinning Joanne's cria before Christmas.

I have no excuse, none at all, not to sit down and spin for an hour or more every day, now that I'm between jobs again. And I've been slowly working on that cria since last winter. It's lovely and all, but I'm tired of it! So I have made up my mind that I will spin that and only that, do some every day, and get the stuff done, and be able to finally give Joanne her share of the yarn when I'm out there at Christmas.

Then and only then will I start spinning something else. I can look forward to that, and to having a nice pile of cria yarn for myself.

The wheel is out and I've done at least half a bobbin since yesterday. It's encouraging. Hopefully all that's required is a bit of determination.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Just Another Day in Paradise

Saturday I got to spend the day spinning at a craft fair, and then headed for the parents' for a few days, with the lovely thought that I didn't have to be back to go to work on Monday. Spent a few days just living the good life. Not that we didn't get things done, though!

There was laundry, and taking the dog for a walk (otherwise he would sleep by the fire all day). We chopped the fruit for the fruitcake - sure sign of the Christmas season.

The next day we got the brandy-soaking and the baking done, and there are now some mini-fruitcakes in my fridge.

Mom and I both finished knitting projects. I finally got my blue sweater in handspun polished off, and she finished a Christmas stocking for the dog of a little girl we know (she had been fascinated by the fact that we have stockings for all the animals as well as the people in the family).

Dad cut some trees that needed to go, Mom mulched the gardens, and did some weaving, I picked a chicken carcass and made soup, and worked on the next project - crochet this time, and started writing another pattern I want to get out soon. The chickens wandered about the yard looking for snacks and gossiping. And the cats went in and out and in and out despite the damp weather, and left noticeable traces of their presence in the mud and beggars' lice on my bed cover (the cover is there for a reason) and the steadily shrinking bag of cat treats.

Life doesn't get much better, as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, 24 November 2011


Tomorrow is the last day of work for us in the Census of Agriculture call center. It feels a lot like school the week before holidays, or the last days of summer camp. On the one hand, most of us are happy to be finished the job. On the other hand, the group - co-workers and supervisors - have by and large been terrific, and we'll miss them.

Most cases are closed now, so there's less and less work that can be done, and more chatting going on in the lulls. People are exchanging e-mail addresses, and making plans to keep in touch. Most of our desks have been cleaned out, and the posters and info taken off the walls, so it looks bare. Some of the cleaners are a little enthusiastic - more than one person arrived for shift today to find they had not even pen and paper in their desks anymore! I brought my personal stuff home tonight, just in case...

And remember the last few days of school, there'd be extra recess time, and people would bring treats in for the class? We've got that too. Extra lunch time yesterday and today (and the supervisor didn't even blink when we came back a bit late because we went to the pub for supper), and got to leave early because there was nothing else to be done tonight. A lot of sweets turning up too. In the last two days I've had chocolates, a cheesecake brownie, cookies, cupcake, and a square of something termed 'sex in a pan' which appears to involve pudding and dream whip and shortbread. Usually I only get this oversugared at Christmas!

Pizza lunch tomorrow. And final cleanup, and then we'll say goodbye. And I'm sure I won't be the only one a bit misty-eyed. But underneath, the soundtrack is running, 'School's out for summer! School's out for ever!'

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


I know we're only a little over a month from Christmas, but it's been hard to get in the mood, as it were. Not like everyone hasn't been trying. Lights are up in the neighborhood, carols are playing (or blasting, in the case of the car that zoomed by me last week with Feliz Navidad at top volume), and the craft fairs are in full swing.

I splurged just a tad at the Glebe Center craft fair last weekend, but I can justify the results as Christmas presents. Look, aren't they gorgeous?

Pysanky ornaments, from Myrosia Humeniuk . All hand-drawn and her own designs. She had some of the gorgeous traditional pysanky also, works of art but out of my budget, sadly.

Now it looks like Christmas outside, though. Toronto may have gotten freezing rain, but Ottawa woke up to snow!

(And to the inevitable traffic problems caused by the fact that for some reason, every year, people forget how to drive in snow. First day of snow always means traffic issues and accidents all over.)

It's supposed to melt off in the next few days again, but for today I will make myself a hot cider and enjoy the view.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

One Down...

Jen's sweater is done. Sewn up, buttons selected and sewn on. Now I just have to wait until she gets home for the holidays to see if it fits!

Next WIP to polish off - MY sweater! Or one of them...the February Fitted Pullover in my handspun . I polished of the first sleeve this afternoon at knitting. One sleeve and the collar to go!

Friday, 18 November 2011

In Praise of Handkerchiefs

I felt well enough to go to work Tuesday, so I did, well stocked with handkerchiefs. And as I was fishing one out between calls, my neighbor remarked that they were something you don't see often anymore.

That's true. I only got into them a few years ago, but I'm hooked. It was my brother who started it actually. He started bringing them when he needed them while haying for a neighbor one summer. Easier to carry on the field than a box of kleenex, and doesn't shred getting stuffed in pockets. But he said he noticed that his nose hurt less also, after a day of blowing it. Mom and I took up handkerchiefs shortly afterwards, and haven't left off.

I know some people will think it's kind of gross, and why not use kleenex you can use and toss? As far as I'm concerned, just about every aspect of the handkerchief function outweighs kleenex.

Less mess: Handkerchiefs don't have a risk of giving way when damp and leaking all over your hand.

Less waste: I remember a cold used to mean the bedroom garbage filled with soggy kleenex. And worrying about whether the box would last the day, and the possibility of having to hunt up toilet paper as a substitute. Or hunting frantically in your bag only to find the only kleenex left are half shredded and useless. Now a cold means a few more squares of cotton or linen in the wash. I have 4 or 5 and they will last me for years, and can be stuffed in my bag with impunity. And they won't be ending up in a landfill anytime soon.

Less pain: What my brother noticed, that the handkerchiefs are easier on the nose than kleenex, seems to be true for me as well. Used to be the routine during a cold, to paint my sore red nose with Ihle's paste at night, which was sticky but helps a lot. I haven't needed to do that lately.

And I can make and even decorate my own handkerchiefs if I want. Think of all the old patterns for lace trim and embroidery, and stories where monogrammed handkerchiefs play a part. No one would ever wax romantic over a dainty kleenex!


Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Long weekend due to Remembrance Day, and a lot got done.
I finished Jen's sweater; the pieces are blocking on my bedroom floor, and I've sent a few possibilities for buttons off to get her opinion.

I boiled up a pot of onion skins for dye and got some lovely colors. (The pinky-red isn't onion, it's a strong batch of poke.) Orange is strong onion, yellow and blue-green, exhaust from the dyebath on white and indigo-blue, olive green, exhaust plus a 10 min simmer with a bit of iron added.

I did 5 loads of laundry and 2 batches handwashing of woolies, mended my cousin's wedding dress and her mother's braided rug, made a batch of lotion, and helped move stuff of my brother's that was in storage back home, since there's space from rearranging and redoing the shed. He gets to do the final sort when he comes home for Christmas.

And then Sunday night my nose started running. Don't know who gave it to me, but I've got a lovely cold - runny nose, itchy throat, headache, nausea, the works. At least I got to enjoy the weekend. Skipped work yesterday, though, because I wasn't up to moving, and I figured better to rest, even if I hate to break my perfect record with only a couple weeks left of the contract. Today is better - all the symptoms still there, but more energy - so I will drag myself off to work later and try not to cough on anyone.    

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Daffynitions From the StatsCan Basement

I know at one point I saw an article somewhere, and picked up the notion of daffynitions as a word used for strange or silly (daffy) definitions.

Whether it's due to cleverness or simply mis-spelling or mispronouncing words, my workmates have coined a few new words that are just crying for daffynition status.

Clarification became clarifiction. It sounds like it ought to be something politicians do. Probably a lie told to explain something.

Answer became answear. Given that we are calling people to get Census data, and so are very little above telemarketing and phone surveys, I suspect this would be an appropriate term if some exasperated person replies to your greeting with profanity.

Refusal became refusual. This must be the word to describe what you get when hang-ups or unco-operative people become the norm.

My personal favorite, however, was a verbal rather than a written error. My neighbor was trying to say insecticide, and came out with insexticide. That could go a few ways, but my mental picture was a sort of situation where an insect commits incest and commits suicide by poison. Ancient Greek tragedy as written by don marquis' archy the cockroach.

Yes, my brain does come up with things like that.

In the Whirl

I was talking with a friend this morning, and she was asking what was new, saying last time she talked to me it sounded like I was being a social butterfly. Now, that's about the last designation most people would probably apply to me, so I assume it was used in a comparative sense...However, it does seem as if there has been a minor whirl of activity lately. A dyepot party last Saturday, the Guild Exhibition and Sale this past weekend, and the charity KAL stuff due. Happily the get-together for the latter was at the same location as the Ex and Sale, and everything that needed to be done got done.

If there's one thing exciting for most people with hobbies, it has to be the prospect of spending a couple days with other people with the same obsessions. So the Ex and Sale proved to be a lovely weekend for me. I managed to sell a few things (and resisted buying more to replace them), spend hours spinning, chat with people I hadn't seen in a while, and see what people had been creating, plus picked up a request for a project.

Having planned to finish my Pastoral pattern in time for the Ex and Sale, that got done also, and after a few minor modifications from my tester's comments, I got that up for sale on Ravelry and my Etsy this week. Next pattern has been started.

One of the items I did for the charity KAL was a tam, chosen with the aim of testing my pattern-in-progress. Reversible, with a bit of lace, and offering lots of possibilities for takeoffs on the idea. I'm calling it "Slice". I originally planned the right side, and it looks good.

But then I noticed the wrong side is pretty nice too.

So with careful weaving of ends, voila, reversible tam. Pattern writing in progress, and with any luck I should have it up in a week or so as a free download from Ravelry.

I've been taking advantage of the weather too and getting the garden cleanup for winter done. Glad it's been busy. We've had a few sad events, and I prefer to have things to do so I don't have to think about them. Otherwise I would likely be crying in public, and that's just not good - it's awkward and my nose gets red when I get emotional. One of our cats died fairly recently, it was expected, he was old and sick. He was mine though, I found him as a kitten and rescued him, and he is missed. And then only the last week we lost one of the dogs also to a tragic accident. Her foot slipped when she was racing the truck down the lane, and she went under the wheels. It is hard to think of her as gone, still, she was so much a part of the place. Doubtless it will seem more real when I go to the parents' this weekend and she isn't there to greet me. Keeping busy has been good for everyone in the family, I think.

With which reflection I shall get back to being busy and take care of lunch and chores and errands remaining before work tonight.    

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Redwork and Other Needlework

A friend e-mailed me the other week to let me know that the museum in Smith's Falls was putting on an exhibit of redwork embroidery, if I was interested, although she wouldn't have time to go. Interested? Heck, yeah! I didn't actually know Smith's Falls had a museum, even. The website, when I took a look, described it as a house with period Victorian furnishings, and a two-storey privy. Since my mother is also a fan of old houses and furniture and needlework, I passed the info on to her, and we decided we had to take a look.

The museum turned out to be a very nice house. Only one staff member there at the time, so we got to poke about on our own, which is the most fun way to do it anyhow. Generally I don't want a speech on who lived there, and we know how people lived already. For us, it's a little more like a showroom, a place for ideas and comments. "I've got some redwork pillow shams in that exact pattern.""Look at the sampler on that wall. I need to make one like that sometime.""Come take a picture of the pantry. That's what I want mine to look like."

They had turned the space above the summer kitchen and shed into a gallery space, and part of that was more redwork, both new and old, from the collections of two friends. And didn't we have fun looking!  Unfortunate that I didn't manage to take better pictures.

My fingers are itching to do some embroidery. Redwork napkins maybe - I loved the ones we saw there, even though I use napkins once in a blue moon. Maybe handkerchiefs would be more useful.
And I want to graph the sampler we saw.

And try rickrack/crochet edging.
And I wish my pic of the needlepoint fireplace screen had come out. But I think I have enough ideas to deal with for a while.
We did see the two-storey privy as well. Separate shafts for each floor. Doubtless very convenient. And in the gift shop there was a reprint of Catharine Parr Traill's "Pearls and Pebbles" which I hadn't seen before, so that was a nice find that came home with us. Definitely a worthwhile trip.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Coming soon - Pastoral

I've been working on the pattern for the mitts I designed last year for my fleece donor, Kim - the ones with sheep and flowers on them.

A second pair was done later for someone else in a larger gauge but a smaller size. So the pattern will have two different graphs, and combined with adjusting gauge, should make it possible to get a wide range of sizes. I knit a 3rd pair as a sample/test, just finished the other day. Large graph and small needles means these mitts are too small for me, but I'm sure they will find a home at some point.

I've got a friend testing the pattern also, so hopefully that will catch any major errors or lack of clarity, and I will be able to get the pattern up within the next few weeks. Looking forward to seeing her version. I've been doing all green backgrounds, but she said she may try one with navy blue. And now I'm thinking it could be interesting in natural undyed shades too - well, maybe someone will try that at some point. Right now, cute as they are, I'm not sure I want to make a fourth pair just to try playing with the colors...

Sunday, 16 October 2011

In Which There Is Dye. And Pizza.

Saturday proved to be a rather unpredictable day weatherwise - sun, rain, cloud, wind, and many combinations thereof. However, if you are having a dyepot party in a friend's garage, with potluck pizza and pumpkin pie, the weather is less of a concern.
We boiled up a pot of black walnut hulls, some cochineal, a cochineal-madder blend, and a slow cooker of pokeberries. The black walnut hulls, even boiled, are a potent squirrel lure, it seems. At one point, Deb P went out to check on wool in the walnut bath, and we heard exclamations coming from the garage. I worried that the pot had boiled over or something, but turns out that the excitement was due to a squirrel having snuck into the garage who was busy searching (and scattering) our discarded hulls to see if we had left a nut in there. Seems Deb T's squirrel T-shirt was a better choice for the day than expected.

The pokeberries produce a deep reddish-magenta dyebath, but the colors on fiber can vary between peach and magenta. Wool in poke last year produced a melon in standard dyebath and deep magenta in a cold ferment in a pumpkin. This time the slow cooker, with alum and CoT mordant produced a bright red orange on wool the first go, and a peach in the exhaust. Silk and cotton picked up more of a pink - once it was rinsed, the cotton was pale pink, and the silk more of an old rose. Although the color proved a little fugitive on some fibers, it seems to be sticking quite well on my drying rack.

For some reason, the cochineal came out purple. Quite an astounding shade, actually. And mixed with madder, the shift was more towards burgundy.

The cotton, happily, did better in the cochineal and walnut baths than in the poke.

This is some of the results straight out of the dyebath, before rinsing. The bright red/orange lower right is the poke on wool I mentioned (Deb T's sample, not mine. Happily, I have more poke in the freezer, so I am aiming to get some red for myself.)

After rinsing at home, my results are, left to right: Walnut on wool, silk and cotton. Cochineal purple on cotton and wool. Cochineal and madder on wool. Poke on cotton, silk, and wool.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Postmortem

We were fortunate in having a gorgeous Thanksgiving long weekend, warm and sunny. Made everyone want to get out and do stuff.
Mom and I got back home Saturday afternoon, which left just enough daylight, after a snack, for me to pick about 3 cups of pokeberries and put them in the freezer, sort laundry, and get the first load washed and hung up. We planned out Sunday after supper, while the pumpkin for the pie cooked. It needed planning - my sister and her boyfriend arriving, Mom working at an auction, Dad working on the shed,  me planning wool washing and dyebaths, Thanksgiving dinner...It's amazing what you can do when you need to, though.  By lunchtime Sunday, everything was under control.
Three pies were cooling on the woodstove, (scratch lemon, homegrown pumpkin, and mixed berry from the summer's harvest) beside a thawing ham and a homegrown chicken. Mom and I tag-teamed the pies before the auction, and she got the coleslaw and the stuffing made as well.

The clothesline was full of clothes, taking advantage of the breeze and the sun, and the first bag of fleece I had from Kim this spring was found and soaking in wash water.

Four jars of Japanese indigo leaves were harvested and simmering.

And the porch had some ornamental piles of squash with apples from one of our trees for contrast.

By the time we sat down to dinner, I had a pile of fleece drying on the lawn, and some of it was blue from the indigo. A batch of walnut dye was in progress, and yielded 5 skeins of warm brown wool for Mom. Most of the laundry was washed, and some was dried and folded. Andrea and Erik, when they arrived, had time to do some homework, go on a beer run, pick flowers for the table, and help with dinner - Erik got volunteered to peel the squash. And Dad got the mudroom section walled, and started on the pantry-to-be Monday.

It was a good thing we got everything done before supper. Because after Thanksgiving dinner, no-one really wanted to move much. It's always a good meal when most of it's homegrown and homemade.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Expanding Heisenberg's Idea

For those who haven't been introduced to him, Heisenberg is the guy whose name is attached to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, stating something like the idea that you can determine where something is or how fast it's moving, but not both at the same time.

In the same way that the original Murphy's Law has a ton of corollaries, addenda, etc., I suspect we may be able to add to Heisenberg's findings.

I propose, for starters, one for blogging/calling/other forms of communication. Something along the lines of  "The amount of time available to communicate with others is inversely proportional to the amount of things happening that you want to communicate." Or, more simply, you either have things going on or you have time to talk about them, but not both.  

That's kind of how I feel this week. Between work gardening and work at Statscan, and keeping up at home, and preparing for the long weekend, somehow, the week disappeared. However, work is done for a few days, e-mail is caught up, and Saturday morning I head out of town for a long weekend, and it's supposed to be gorgeous weather. Thanksgiving dinner, some washing of fleece, dyeing, laundry, cleaning out the dye garden...plenty to do but it will all be fun stuff.

Now I just have to finish packing, check the place I'm house-sitting, change the bed, and do dishes before I leave. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Gardener's Horror Movie?

Picture this: You're driving along across the Prairies on a lovely day, admiring the miles of crops spread out around you. Wheatfields in 'amber waves of grain'. Canola in sulfur yellow blossom. And what's that green field coming up? Not corn, or soybean, it's....( duh duh dum) spearmint! And the soft green down the road is dill! Hundreds of acres of mint and dill!

Not seeing where the horror comes in? Mint (and a number of it's relatives) are very good at spreading via runners. On the ground, under the ground...most gardeners who have experience with it either put it away by itself somewhere, or put it in pots. Dill doesn't do the runners, but it reseeds very easily. At my parent's, the dill has not had to be deliberately replanted in years. Mostly the idea is to simply remove it from all but a small fraction of the garden every spring, using the removed plants for fresh dillweed, and let some of the stalks grow for dillseed in the remaining patch. Always, some of the seedheads drop seeds, and we're ready to start over the next year.

Don't worry, I don't think they're taking over the world yet. But these huge field of herbs do exist. I was talking to someone who grows them, they go for things like essential oils - and you know mint is in a lot of things as flavoring! So I suppose if I had ever thought about it, I would have realized that there must be equivalents of the picturesque fields of lavender for other herbs grown for scent and flavor. But quite frankly, the idea of hundreds of acres of mint was novel. And scary. And I shall be remembering it every time I open the toothpaste tube. I raise my toothpaste in a salute to the growers, people brave enough to wrangle and control that green tide of herbs, that we may have flavoring.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Meeting of (Creative) Minds

After the frost scare the other week, the weather has returned to bright, warm, and summery. Which made it a great day last Sunday to get out and take in a bit of the West End Studio Tour going on last weekend.

Meredith was the one who told me about it. She's been a friend of the family for eons - her son is the same age as my brother - and she not only has a lovely beading store , she has the same cooking/gardening/creative itch Mom and I have, and has been doing some fiber art in recent years. Turns out a friend of hers, Wendy , who's also a fiber artist, was taking part in the studio tour, and since Wendy has been getting into natural dyeing, and I do some natural dyeing...well, what a perfect excuse to get together, have lunch, catch up, meet Wendy (and her husband, who does metalwork), take in a few other studios, and generally make an afternoon of it! So we did.

We saw the studio of a wood-block printer, took in the works of a doll-maker, a painter, and a jewelry maker. Meredith also got to see the works of a few other artists who were in the same space as Wendy and her husband, which I didn't, because we were discussing dyes. Turns out what she and I have done is almost completely complementary - I've been doing mostly immersion dyeing on wool and a bit of cotton, whereas she has been doing eco-prints on silk and linen, and getting some stunning results. She has some photos on her blog , but they don't do the colors justice. I've been a little dubious about the eco-printing, but now I'm inspired.

We were tearing ourselves away, and I was thinking how Deb P would have enjoyed it, being as she's a printmaker artist and is part of our fleece spa spinning and dyeing group, and the one who ordered and researched the Japanese indigo we tried this year...when lo and behold, she and her husband came in. So hopefully she had as good a time talking with Wendy as I did. Meredith and I headed off after the introductions to make our other stops.

It was a lovely full afternoon, enough that although I could have caught part of my usual Sunday afternoon knitting group, I was happy enough to go home instead, have a cuppa, and let impressions percolate.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

That Voice in Your Head

You know, the one that says things like, "Maybe you should take an umbrella today" or "Better check so-and-so's plans first" or "It's a bit chilly, should I cover the tomatoes?". And then if you don't obey it, it will rain, or your plans will get otherwise messed up...

I had the felted slippers I made and was planning to use for a baby shower gift sitting in plain view for months. And a few times I looked at them and thought, "I really should measure those, they look a little big." You know where this is going, right?

I got around to measuring 3 days before the shower. 5 inches long. I dug out the pattern and checked dimensions. 3.5-4 inches long for the larger size. Why on earth had I not checked this, oh, say, when I was doing the felting? And how did I manage to get a degree in science without learning to check things like this?

Ensuing activities as follows: Hunt through baby patterns in binder, select bootie pattern. Rummage frantically in stash for yarn, maybe a bit larger than called for, as pattern was for newborn. Knit half a bootie and rip out after discovering that it was coming out almost as big as the slippers. Drop down to the needle and yarn size in the pattern (yes, people put information like needle and yarn size in patterns for a reason, apparently). Knit frantically on now properly sized booties in spare time, on work breaks, etc. Finish, photograph, and wrap booties the morning of the shower.

And now back to the regularly scheduled knitting.

Oh, and the shower was lovely. A small group, as several people came down sick and couldn't come, but good food, good company, knitting time, and a couple of cats coming out to say hello. Can't ask for better, really, and sure beats playing odd games involving clothespins or diapers and melted chocolate bars.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A Farewell

I remember one the old names for asters was 'farewell-summers'. Of a sudden, they are out in all their glory, and the bees are scrambling all over them, and over the Autumn Joy sedum, and any other flowers they can find, storing up a last bit of their harvest before the cold.

And cold it is getting. Not today, it was beautiful. But more than once the past week the wind has been decidedly chill, even on a sunny day. It was sufficiently cold to see my breath one night, so I covered the tomatoes, to be on the safe side. More covering required for the human also - my duvet has been unfolded and in use for a few nights.

I am sure that there are many nice days ahead before winter, crisp fall days with bright sun, scented with fallen apples and dried leaves. But the asters have hit the mark. Farewell summer - not good-bye, but au revoir, until we see you next year.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Weekend Fiber Fun

I managed to get to the Metcalfe market Saturday to participate in the spinning demo, thanks to a ride from Karen. Really couldn't have asked for a better time. A sunny day, not too hot. A range of vendors selling everything from soap to vegetables to tea cozies to coffee in the booths outside and inside the hall.

Karen's husband got distracted before we got to our location, and purchased us home-baked pastries from one vendor, which made a lovely snack. We found our corner, on a bit of a platform next to a bit of a cafe, so there was coffee to go with the pastries. Merilyn and Elisabeth, two of the Guild members who have booths at the market, had set up an accompanying display of fiber, with an adorable wheel, just my age.

And Merilyn left us a batch of homemade salsa and pita chips for snacking.

 Three more spinners arrived in short order, and the morning went faster than our wheels, between chatting, talking to people, and taking turns to slip off and peruse the vendors. I made one sole purchase, a jar of Merilyn's ground cherry chutney, which I had sampled last year.

Home to the parents' Saturday night, and Sunday was wash day. I got probably a couple sheep's worth of fleece washed and spread to dry. Kiki was obliging enough to help keep it from blowing away.

Black and grey fleece is from a neighbor, Anouk. Not sure what breed it is, but I had three fleeces from her, two grey and a black, not very fine, but decent wool. Wanting to do a couple dyebaths, I washed some white I picked out of a Jacob fleece as well. The yellow in the pic is from coreopsis I had in the freezer. I seem to lose the orange when I use the frozen flowers, but it does give a lovely gold. It was more intense on the yarn I dyed at the same time.

The other two skeins are from Japanese indigo, and buckthorn berries. Gorgeous together, no? I was so happy the japanese indigo worked this time (got the instructions, in writing, from DebP, who ordered the seeds originally, and followed it as close as I could), and I got a paler sky-blue with it on some fleece as well. The berries didn't come out as dark as I hoped, but Mom is already planning a project with the results...