Sunday, 31 July 2011

Wild and Wooly

Last time I did a library run, I found something I thought I really ought to read in the mystery section.

According to the synopsis on the jacket, it involves sheep who track down their shepherd's killer. And the sheep have names like Miss Maple (the flock leader) and Othello (a black ram). Somehow, it seems like something that ought to be animated a la Wallace and Gromit, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

And what's the book sitting on? A bag of wool that arrived on my doorstep this week. When a friend who knew I was a spinner mentioned she had a bag of fleece and would I like it, I said, sure, I could find a home for it, and she showed up unexpectedly the other morning. It's a bit on the coarse side, and it has some dark hairs mixed in, but it's washed and carded into roving, and I will find a use for it. It's really amazing how once people know you use/like whatever, a lot of it falls into your lap. I've got several random sheep fleeces and a llama one at the parents' waiting to be washed, and I didn't go looking for any of them. It was all, 'Oh, so-and-so mentioned that you spin. Do you want...' Maybe I should be surprised the stash isn't taking up more space than it does!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Blue Morning

...but not in a bad way. Just I noticed that dishes, breakfast, and placemat were all blue. Very co-ordinated for a Saturday morning. And it feels terribly decadent to have cake for breakfast at 10am.

The sky is also beautifully blue, so I put in a couple hours of gardening. Maybe I'll do a bit more later, get everything trimmed and tidied, and spend the evening in fiber-y pursuits with a clean conscience.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Random Notes From the StatsCan Basement

People will ask, 'how's the new job going?', and I'll say 'OK'. That doesn't really adequately describe it, though. In some ways, sitting and calling people all night isn't exactly the most interesting/stimulating job description. On the other hand, when you're actually talking to people and not just leaving messages on machines, it can range the gamut from tragic to comic to educational to...whatever.

There was the guy who described how his horse and his dog team up to hunt coons and rabbits, which was the best mental picture all night.

And the guy who is essentially out of business because he lost all his bees to the CCD or whatever that was going around, and can't afford to replace them.

And the people in the Prairies, who've had several years of drought and this year had all the backlog of rain, and fields so flooded that growing rice would be a better option than about anything else.

And the 90-year-old man who still works in the family greenhouse.

And the lady who has sheep and is also a spinner, who I would have loved to chat with, except I was working...

And the guy who commented that he figures about 150$ would be a good payment to him for the effort it takes to fill out the form. (Note it usually takes well under an hour to do the form on the phone, based on what I've been seeing. That means his hourly wage would be 10X mine.)

And the guy who manages his mother's farm, while living and working halfway across the country from her.

And the ones who refuse to participate, but who can be gotten around by calling back another time and speaking to their spouse.

It's a jungle out there. But the work is getting done. And I, for one, am looking forward to the weekend.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

A Glimpse of History

I don't watch much TV, which is how I missed this (60 Minutes showed it), but someone posted the link on Ravelry, and I had to share it, for anyone who hasn't seen it. Apparently a few weeks before the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, somebody made a film of the scene on Market Street, basically by strapping a camera to a cable car/trolley or whatever and letting it run as they covered the route. Seriously cool.

60 Minutes - 1906 San Francisco Trolley Film

Someone else on Rav did a nice job of hunting up further info, and she posted the following:

"Lots of extra historical info on this video that I found while looking this morning.
A high quality download option and great info in the comments, especially about why there seems to be so many cars in 1906:
A similar film made after the earthquake, although not from a cable car as those systems were damaged in the earthquake:
The CBS link posted has the best version of the film (with no rolling frames.)"

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Back to Work

Lovely weekend out in the country, but busy. I think we were on the go almost constantly, between berry-picking, and prep and performance of the washing/dyeing/carding/spinning session chez Johanne, and getting the incidental things done, like eating and laundry and sleeping. And getting a last bit of spinning in for the Tour de Fleece. So I did manage to spin every day, but I'm still not done the challenge fiber, so no new pics of that - I'll wait until it's plied up to show it off.
Left Monday morning, stopped to pick up fleece at a friend of Deb's and to have lunch, and got back to the city with an hour or two for me to start unpacking, pack food, and go to work. I only have one picture of the weekend, and that's Julia expressing her displeasure in the schedule and itinerary on Monday. Don't worry, she didn't spend the whole trip like that.

All the car travel, though, I did manage to finish the baby hat I was working on.

And I wound some of the yarn for Jen's sweater, cast on en route to work, so that's now officially on the needles.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Catching Up

The heat this past week or so has ripened the blueberries faster than expected, so tomorrow morning Deb T and I are off to my parents' for the weekend, in search of berries, and with a spinning/dyeing workshop thrown in for someone who wants to learn. Today before work, therefore, is getting ready to go and catching up on all the essential things that need to be done before the weekend.

The first thing I caught up with was sleep, though. Managed to sleep until 10 after getting up around 6:30 to feed the cat.

Caught up with dishes for the first time in a few days. It's too hot to cook, so at least they've been building up slowly...

Laundry packed up, check. Dyed roving drying, check. Plans for tomorrow made, check.
Need to make food, and then should have time to play with fiber before work...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Another New Project

I'm finally about ready to start the sweater I promised my friend Jen. First I had to get her onto Rav to look at options, and discuss choices and sizing, and whatnot. Yesterday I worked on getting the yarn ready to go. The yarn I have for the project is recycled cashmere yarn, courtesy of Julie's business, Fine Fiber Finds.
She had three skeins of burgundy, and a handful of white ones, so my aim was to dye the white burgundy. I picked up a couple packets of dye (commercial, sorry!) to that end.

I threw all the white skeins in the bathroom sink to soak, and set about making the dye.

Since it's commercial dye, I couldn't really use my spaghetti pot, like I do for food coloring. Or my mixing bowls. Garden buckets? The large one was in use for collecting shower water for my garden, and the cat drinks out of it. So I ended up scrubbing out and using the smaller bucket, and after a while, ended up with a spaghetti-like mass of colored yarn (and slightly pink hands - I did use gloves, but there was a leak issue).

Unfortunately, not as much dye stuck as I would have liked. Possible this may have been because I couldn't simmer the yarn as instructed, since the bucket was plastic. I used hot water, perhaps not hot enough/long enough. Still, the yarn is a nice sort of raspberry color.

And knit in a swatch with the burgundy, it's hopefully not too bad. The fabric texture is good also, so I will go from there.

I had plenty of color left in the bath, it seemed. So I threw in some merino/silk roving, which ended up soaking overnight, as I didn't really want to rinse it last night when I got home from work. That's a slightly redder shade than the yarn, and is currently dripping off in my bathtub, with the fan going to try to remove the extra humidity. Sticky outside and hot, sticky inside, but cooler, a good day to stay in and play with fiber.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Tour de Fleece Part 3 - Recalculating

For the Guild challenge, we were supposed to receive 150 grams of fiber. I didn't remember to weigh the whole mass at the start before I began spinning it, but I weighed 75 grams of the remainder and assumed that would make my halfway point. So here's my current progress. Bobbin 1, supposedly the half of my quantity.

Bobbin 2, after yesterday's spinning.

And the fiber I have left to spin.

Do you see where I'm questioning my calculations?
It looks at this point as if the 75 grams I weighed out was not half the quantity, but closer to 2/3. Which in turn suggests one of two things. Either my scale is off significantly, or my initial quantity was less than I thought. We shall see which it is when everything is spun and plied, and I weigh it again. Right now, I have simply split the remaining roving into 2 slightly unequal parts, to be divided between the two bobbins.
On the positive side, each bobbin will be fuller than I thought, so more total yardage, and a better chance of getting a good-sized shawl out of it. Silver lining to every cloud, etc. Although I'm not sure the people at Bluesfest are thinking that way today, after a stage collapsed in the storm last night. Fortunately nothing lost here, apart from a few shingles and branches.  

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A Productive Day

Saturday was my day of rest - I lounged around and read and didn't do much except spin. But I feel like today I made up for that. I only got up at 9, but by the time lunch rolled around, I had sorted the recycling, taken the cat out to walk, watered the tomatoes, spun several lengths of roving, changed the flowers in my vase, and gotten the first pans of a batch of bread in the oven.

Julia sulked for a while, though, because I told her I had other things to do than take her out again.

Having done my chores, I could go out to knit with a clear conscience. And I managed to acquire a few magazines one of the others was destashing.

Now there's a bit of a nasty black cloud rolling in, so tea and blogging are getting done while I've still got power, just in case. Hopefully we will get a good dose of rain, to clear the air and revive my poor plants.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Tour de Fleece Part 2

Still keeping up in terms of spinning every day, but I’m certainly not turning out the quantity of spinning that some people are. However, the roving for the guild challenge is over half spun. I divided my 150g in two at the start, just for an idea of what quantity I had and for plying it later. 75g looks like surprisingly little, though – it doesn’t fill a bobbin.

Now I’m going to worry about the yardage, and whether there’ll be enough to do what I want. Very fuzzy pictures today, sorry, don’t know what the cause is, maybe ‘cause I’m tired. But this, if you can see it, is the picture of the shawl I want to copy.

I’ve got a bit more time after lunch today, so I’ll get in more spinning. I really would like to see how this will look plied, and get my yardage totaled, so I can start planning the shawl!  

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Blackberry Picking as a Martial Art

I do tend to like old-fashioned activities, and on occasion, you get people asking why. Why do you spin/knit/make jam etc. when you don’t have to? What good is it? Some of us had a discussion on the transferable skills from knitting, such as dexterity, memory, math, creativity, and problem-solving, following a comment I heard that putting knitting down as a hobby on your resume was pointless.
It’s summer, and the blackberries are ripe. I spent a few hours picking them this weekend at the parents’. It’s a very meditative process, and one I’ve been doing for years – it was our job as kids, and I suspect one that was very good for us. Because thinking about it as I picked, I am declaring that maybe blackberry picking is worth more than it seems like also, in terms of skills and processes – and you get berries as a bonus! For example:

Dexterity, memory, spatial orientation: Blackberries have thorns. Lots of them. And the bushes frequently have layers, with some hidden underneath, or that you can only see from a particular angle. You need dexterity to get them out without ripping yourself to shreds, (and flexibility to duck and dodge the canes in the process), a good memory to keep track of where that cluster was you saw while you’re finishing the current section, and good spatial orientation and hand-eye coordination to get some of the berries underneath when your hand and eye are starting from different places and the action of aiming for them moves leaves and blocks your view of your target.

Planning, control of impulses and multitasking: Berry bushes have three things in quantity. Berries, thorns – and mosquitoes. We think they set the bushes as traps for humans. Be that as it may, you learn very quickly that it is necessary to pick in long sleeves and pants. Hands and face are still exposed, but your hands are usually occupied in holding canes back and picking berries. This means that automatically smacking a mosquito landing on your hands or face, or trying to flap away the ones buzzing in your ears, will usually lose you berries and/or get you caught in the thorns. You must, instead, carefully transfer your current berries to the bucket or detangle from the canes to free a hand, and then gently, deliberately, squash the mosquito(es) biting you. This will occur many times over the daily picking time, and you just have to allow for it, and pick as fast as you can while being thorough, to minimize the time you spend being bit and scratched. 

Patience: This is not a fast process. We have several berry patches you need to make the rounds of daily. These are wild blackberries, so the productivity and location of the patches can change from year to year. Picking takes about an hour per litre of berries, maybe a bit less. Last summer at peak it was 4 litres in 3 hours (raspberries and blackberries), and picking season lasted over two weeks. Some years there are less berries – but you still have to check all the bushes daily until they’re slowing down noticeably. Then you can pick less often – but by then it’s blueberry season too. And the work doesn’t end with picking. Berries have to be picked over every day to remove bits of leaves, bugs, etc that have snuck in, then either frozen or made into jam if they’re not to be eaten fresh.

Given all that, I say forget about all these toys and games designed to teach your kid whatever. Get thee a blackberry patch, a set of knitting needles, and all the rest of that old-fashioned stuff. It’s probably cheaper, and you get jam and socks as a bonus!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

21st Century, Here I Come

I am, for the first time, posting from my own living room. The tech came this morning to set up my internet. And I'm using the new computer I acquired this weekend, an Apple iBook G4 (my first Apple!). Not a new one, but free, and my father checked it over and put some fancy stuff on it, and I think it has wireless capability also, and a few hours battery life, so I could even go and play at the coffeeshop or something.

Anyway, it's all terribly exciting. The fact that I can check e-mail without going to the library or the old lab, or asking to borrow when I visit someone is...dizzying. Completely new idea. I may have to concentrate on not spending too much time surfing around! I never bothered to get it when I moved here, because I was in the lab 6 days of 7 anyway, and could always make time to do whatever I needed online there. But I'm using the 'net more than I used to (thanks, Ravelry!), between blogging and designing, and whatnot. And it's not really nice of me to keep using the lab stuff now I'm done school - besides, it takes a good 40 min to get there, so a lot of wasted time travelling.  No more. I can do this in PJs if I want. Look things up the moment I think of it, rather than writing it down and waiting for my next trip. Not miss job openings or important e-mails because I don't get on line for a couple days. I think I'm going to like this.

It doesn't mean I'm getting an iPOD or a microwave, though. I have to draw the line somewhere if I want to maintain my reputation!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Tour de Fleece Part 1

The Tour de France is almost a week old, and I’ve been managing to keep up with the spinning along with it. Not a lot each day, true, but some at least.
The first few days, I finished the bobbin of blue I had started, and did another one, spun and plied. So two more skeins of that, making a total of 14 blue skeins – and the bag isn’t done.

I decided I needed a change again. Even multicolored peacock blue can get boring.
And the fiber for the Guild challenge was sitting there. So guess what’s on the bobbin now?

Can you see the sheen on it?

It’s a really well prepared roving, easy to spin from. I’m spinning it fine and tight, I guess it’s probably semi-worsted.

You know how people talk about letting the yarn or fiber tell you what it wants to be? I think that’s exactly what happened here. As soon as I sampled spinning it, my previous idea for a ‘Crimson and Clover’ shawl went out the window. I’m not even sure I want to dye it. And if the plied yarn ends up the way I think it will…there’s a shawl on the cover of one of my Piecework magazines that would show it off perfectly. It’s a shawl the article’s author bought in Russia. The pattern (and even the stitch pattern) don’t seem to be out there on Rav, based on a quick search. So I may end up doing some reverse engineering (sure, make it difficult, eh?) Well, it is supposed to be a challenge!

Friday, 1 July 2011

What’s Next

Started at the new job this week. We have training for the first week or two, so it was back to class for me. Two whole binders' worth of reading for homework, talks on expectations, confidentiality, and harassment, forms galore, new people, new building…The job posting didn’t sound like call center, but it appears that’s what it is. Not my favorite pastime, but it will definitely expand the resume, and at least the people I talk to will be farmers. And most of the people in my group have some farm/rural background or interest, which is great - it's nice to have people who speak my language! Plus I'm listed as bilingual, and on night shift, and both of those give extra pay. That will justify getting internet chez moi - a necessity since I discovered that I can't upload on the library computers, and the nearest one to work is a 10 minute walk and busy enough in the afternoon to mean I waited 30 minutes for a 15 minute slot.

I was hoping that there would be something else new to report this week. I was out at the parents’last weekend, and one of the hens, Amy, is sitting on some eggs - our first broody hen. She’s been sitting for at least a couple weeks already, and they could hatch any time. We’re hoping the eggs are fertile and the rooster’s not shooting blanks. If effort counts, he shouldn’t be! Amy’s so funny, takes it so seriously. She sits on her nest very flat, trying to cover as much area as possible. If you talk to her she makes funny noises, and she won’t look at any treats you give her (although they do seem to get eaten later). And every day she gets up for a little while to stretch her legs, and goes and stands on the fence and talks to the other hens, giving them the daily report I guess. I think she’d be such a cute mother hen.

Anyway, things overall are going well (it's just the transition that's a bit wobbly), and it's Canada Day. I slipped over to the lab to do my internet stuff, but will not be pausing downtown on the way back, even though I now have a bus pass. Much as I'd like to see the Royal visitors and the concerts and the Snowbirds and all, it's a hot day and crowded on the Hill, and I really ought to plant a few neglected things and otherwise catch up on everything at home I haven't been doing this week. And warm up for the Tour de Fleece starting tomorrow!