Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Winter skies

We had a frost last night.   It's almost the middle of November and it's the first real frost this year.  When I went to let the chickens out, it was raining leaves and the ground was a sea of yellow, orange and red.   With the blue sky, it was a perfect autumn day.   Yesterday however, the skies were restless, with churning clouds in every shade of grey. 

When I went out to help my man switch out the tires on the cute little car, as it really does need snow tires, I had to run back in and grab my camera.  The light was interesting to say the least.   Since my job was to label the bags for the tires, so we knew where they were on the car when they came off, I had lots of time to wander about, up and down the road, playing with camera settings.

 The beans have been off for weeks, but the corn is still in the fields.   When a stray beam of sunlight hits the drying stalks, it lights up like gold.   Sometime in the next few weeks, if the weather is cooperative, the corn will soon be gone too.  The autumn colours will then be much more subdued and wintery.  I suppose that is appropriately seasonal, but it's been such an awesome autumn that I'm loath for it to end.

The hay growing so lush and green against the backdrop of the corn is an interesting contrast.   There is winter wheat starting to sprout around here as well, but this was a hay field this year and hasn't been plowed under since, so hay it is.   I keep thinking that it would be a good place for a few sheep to graze, but since the farmer raises beef cattle, that isn't likely to happen.

 That green does bring about hope for a far distant spring . First though, we have to muddle through dismally short days, grey wintery skies and winds blowing snow across the landscape, into boot tops when slogging out to the barn . 

I love the colours of the weathered wood on this fence.   It blends in beautifully with the landscape, but yet has purpose as it keeps the neighbour's  horses safely in their fields.   And somehow, NEIGHbour's and horses side by side, seems like it should be a pun, but it's not.. sigh.. just one of those days I guess.


Monday, 6 November 2017

Bits and pieces of finishing up

 It has been a busy and odd few weeks.   It has been odd that we've had to get back into the routine of lugging in armloads of wood and loading up the woodstove.   I'm pretty lucky as my menfolk do most of the lugging.   I usually clean out the ashes properly during the day though.   We've had some sort of evil virus run through the family, which was not so much fun.  I managed to avoid it mainly, for which I was thankful.
I spun up the rest of the grey BFL and got it plied.  It's a nice yarn although not quite as soft as some BFL that I've spun.   There is 225 g of plied yarn in total, so at least enough to do something with.   

I've been washing up the two toned Shetland fleece.   I almost tossed it a while back, because it had been sitting around and I'm getting a bit lazy and cranky, preferring to spin commercially prepped fibre when possible.  However, I just couldn't do it.  So I'm washing it up and will probably drum card it into batts for spinning, to blend that lovely colour nicely.

 Dion is one of our feral rescues.   I took him to the vet for a check up before we let him in the house.   The vet said he had an eye infection, so we dutifully gave him eye drops - that was a wild activity.   It took 2 of us, at stupid early because it never occurred to us to move the time to later in the afternoon.   Hubby held the poor boy down, while I dripped in the drops which weren't drops nor were they ointment.  Not enough pressure on the tube and the gunk wouldn't come out.  Too much pressure though, and the gunk spurted everywhere!  They helped a little bit, but his eyes were still weepy.  The vet said it looked like he had Entropion or turned in eye lids, which apparently isn't horribly common.  So they checked when he was getting his dangly bits removed and then cut slits in his eye lids, removing a bit of tissue and stitching them back together.    Poor baby looked scary for almost 2 weeks after the surgery.   His cone is off now and his eyes look better, although the stitches in one eye were loose at the check up and that eye is still a bit drippy.   We've got 2 weeks with a true ointment for that eye, to see if it is a real issue or if it is just inflamation.  I hope he doesn't need that eye redone, as  all this kitty stuff has already blown our budget way out of whack!   He has gotten to love his cuddles and patting sessions though this whole ordeal and is such a sweet, gentle kitty.  I can't imagine him not being a part of our family.

I have the rest of a lb of white merino that I'd purchased for one of the later levels of my Master Spinner homework.   I'm spinning it up in a quest to get rid of some of the partial bags of fibre left.    It dawned on me that I might want to blend this with some alpaca or even camel that I have sitting around as well, so I stopped after 1 bobbin full.  I'd bought myself 2 oz of camel down as a treat after I sent my Master Spinner in depth study off - so maybe this is a good time to blend and spin it up.

Way too much real life stuff happening, which is getting in the way of the fun stuff though.   I'm still practicing the banjo though.   It's a daily time out for me, which I've come to rely on .

Monday, 23 October 2017

Small projects, shawl and pumpkiny stuff

This morning, there was a barn fire on the next block, up the road.   All morning and half the afternoon, fire trucks and emergency vehicles have been streaming by, sirens and lights going.    The news says it was a straw barn, and no animals or people were hurt, so that is a good thing.    My chooks were hunkered down on the back deck most of the day and I don't blame them.  The noise and lights were quite unusual for around here.   They are already a bit unsettled as I moved 3 new rescue chooks into a pen in the barn last night.    They are quite well socialized, being the Westfield demo chooks.  They don't really have the means to keep the girls over the winter, so one volunteer or another gives them a home in the fall.

 I've been making tiny knitting needles by the dozen.   They aren't difficult, but you need to get them just the right size for the intended purpose, which is ornaments.

I've been making tons of tiny skeins of yarn as well.  A bit is handspun, but mostly it is leftover bits of sock yarn.
I've also been knitting tiny swatches on size 0 or 1 needles and transferring the partially finished swatch onto the tiny home made needles.   Hopefully soon I'll have some of the ornaments assembled.  

My son bought a dremel tool this summer, and tried it out with carving this pumpkin.  He told me it was a simple design, meaning no shading or anything.    It doesn't look simple to me!   There is a huge pumpkin sitting in my hallway, waiting for his attention.  He doesn't think that this pumpkin will last with our weather being what it's been... mild or even warm.   

It was an amazing weekend and I wish I'd taken photos of all the baking I did at Westfield, in the Misener house yesterday.  It was Pumpkin Sunday, a pumpkin themed day and of course along with the pumpkin games and decor, all of us cooks, cooked pumpkin themed goodies.    It was so busy though that I didn't have time to cook everything I'd hoped to make, nor did I have drag out a camera to take photos of the goodies.  The photo montage up on the Westfield FB page shows what we were baking and what a great day it was, both for fun and weatherwise.

I finished the Godey's Ladies Book shawl a couple of weeks ago.  It took 2 days to cut and tie the fringe on.  It probably could have been done in 1 day,  but who wants to sit still cutting and tieing for that long.   It took almost a whole skein of yarn to make the fringe!  It's long and covers my back and hips, which is what I'd wanted.  I'd wanted it to be more of a wrap than a shawl.   I'm not sure how to photograph the whole thing, so here it is folded up.  It is warm and cozy.   The only thing is that the cats like it and I'm finding one or the other asleep on it, all the time.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Weaving rugs, spinning and a bit of cattiness

The Bluefaced Leicester is plied and skeined.  There are 2 skeins of it and some sliver left to spin.   The plying went super quickly.  I was listening to some Bela Fleck and those singles just flew out from my fingers.   Seriously though, if you've never heard of Bela Fleck, check him out on YouTube.  The guy is amazing!  Sometimes a bit weird I'll give you, but none the less amazing.

I had this white sheet with roses on it.   It was making a lovely rug.   Then I realized that I was running out of weft.  It turns out my double sheet was a twin sized sheet.   I worked the rest of the yardage out and I was definitely short.  My rug would have been lucky to be square and definitely not the rectangle mat I was aiming for.   I wished I'd had some green to add to it, but only could find red or beige with large black figures.  The beige wouldn't have worked at all, a way icky combo but the red didn't look awful.  The white became stripes and I finished the rug off quickly, thankfully unweaving went really fast.

This is the finished rug.  It looks pretty good finished and the red is a deeper tone of the pink used, so it fits together.

4 cats are a lot of cats!  I've finally gotten a morning feeding routine.  We've had to change up a few things as we can't demand feed anymore or Dion who has gained 3 lbs in short order, just keeps eating.   He is so happy to have food, he just scarfs it down like he may never be fed again.   I've had to leave a bowl of the cheaper food that they don't like as much out, just so that he always has food but only put the good stuff out at regular feeding times.   The first time I did this, he dug through the cheaper food, looking for tidbits of the good stuff.    What a mess, with those little nuggets flying around as he was mining for treasures in this tiny little bowl... lol.
Phil looking regal, sweet and calm, hiding his inner crazy cat!

Phil spends his mornings flying around the house, bouncing off furniture and playing with everything from plastic bottles to his tail.  I've had to hide all my pony tail elastics for fear he'll swallow one.   He spent over an hour yesterday playing with a plastic bottle top  - big enough for him not to eat, but light enough for him to bat  around the house.   He has a lot of crazy cat in him.   Then he settles down for a nap and is so sweet, with his little sighs and mews.
 Our old cat isn't quite so happy and accepting yet.   Last night he chased Phil off my lap and then chased Dion, who was sleeping quietly on a chair.  It happened to be the chair I normally use.   We figured the old guy was just making sure that they both knew he had claimed me first.   It was kind of amusing, except for the hissing and swatting which took place on my lap.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Shawl Progress

I've been knitting away at the Godey's Ladies Book Shawl (Nov 1864 issue).  The border calls for 2 colours, contrasting to the main colour.   I've seen the whole shawl elegantly done in just 2 colours, but the original was described s the main part being violet and black varigated, with a gold and black border.   I wasn't sure I had enough blue to do the border and the fringe, which is tied on after the shawl is finished.   I have 600 g of the blue, 400 of which were used for the main body.   I had 250 g of the brown and I had 300 g of the white tweed that I could dye up for the third colour and 200 g of a grey marl, which I'd tried first and it was pretty wishy washy and unattractive.   I saw a photo using the deep blue, brown and gold, which was spectactular, so I chose that as a colour scheme.   To say the least, it is indeed a bold choice.  The gold was dyed with weak acid dyes, using warm yellow, black and a little bit of magenta.

Instructions state to use a safety pin to mark increase row 

I used 4 skeins for the blue.  It wasn't as long as I'd done the math for, but draping it on myself showed it was going to be long enough.   The border is 4 rows colour A, 6 rows colour B, 4 rows colour A, 6 rows colour B, 10 rows colour A, 6 rows colour B, 4 rows colour A, 6 rows colour B, 4 rows colour A.   I almost stopped halfway through the border.  

Not only was it plenty big enough, but each 2 rows increase the total stitches by 4.   It is taking me about 1/2 hour to knit one row.   I'm quite ready to cast off.    However, by the time I'd finished the centre section of the border, I realized that I was now on the count down, so I kept going.   I have 14 rows left to knit.

The gold and brown border is  bright and hardly subtle.  I think it is a good choice for the time period and  it is well within the colour suggestions of the original pattern.

This baby is going to be warm.   It already weighs close to 600 g.  I'll need to use part of the second skein of both gold and brown for the rest of the border.  There are 2 skeins of the blue left, which will be used for the fringe.   I don't know how much I'll need for that.

When I start getting a bit overwhelmed with the knitting, I choose to knit 4 or 5 stitches.   Then another 4 or 5 and so on.   Usually it's just 4 stitches, and by doing that, in no time, I've completed a row.  I've only had to resort to that trick a couple of times though.

I am already thinking about my next project, which will likely be a) smaller and b) incorporate a stitch pattern other than garter stitch.  The only thing good about that much garter stitch, is that I don't have to look at it very often while I'm knitting, so I can talk, read, entertain the cat etc..

Monday, 18 September 2017

Colours of the end of Summer

Fall Aster
Fall Crocus
The leafy show of colour increases each day
A huge red sun each evening, instead of a sunset.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Gooseberry Jam

This year I actually got to the gooseberries before the Orioles and the Red Winged Blackbirds ate them all.   I've had the gooseberry bush full of berries, just starting to ripen one day and the next morning, the bush has been stripped clean.  These are green gooseberries, from an ancient bush which probably needs to be replaced.   They are quite small and the the bush quite prickly.    I'd like to replace it with a modern hybrid with those big, fat, juicy berries!     However, I was able to pick 932 g of berries, just starting to ripen, with a few of them even deep red and quite ripe.

 I topped and tailed them, cleaning the blossom and stem ends from them, rinsed and tossed them in the freezer for future use.    This past Sunday at Westfield, I made gooseberry jam on the Happy Thoughts Range, wood cookstove in the Misener house.    I found an old advertisement for the Happy Thought Range model, similar to the one in the Misener house.   The stove in the Misener house is from 1890.   It has beautiful scroll work and details on it.   This model with the water reservoir sold for between $65 and $90, depending on what sort of details you wanted.  

Victorian Gooseberry jam recipes call for anywhere from 3/4 lb of sugar per lb of fruit to 1 1/2 lbs of sugar per lb of fruit.   I pre-measured 932 g of sugar and then in a separate bag, had another 415 g of sugar, in case it was needed.    The instructions say to cook the fruit with a little water for about 15 minutes.  Then add the sugar (stirring to dissolve it completely) and cook until when a few drops on a cold plate leave a trail when your finger runs through it.   

Since gooseberries, like currants, contain a lot of natural pectin, this was a fairly fast process.   I made sure the stove was loaded up with wood before I put the jam pot on.   The berries were added to the pot with 500 mls of water and cooked for about 15 minutes, coming to a boil.   They softened and were easily mashed, releasing the little black seeds and crushing most of the berries.   A few berries remained whole, which looks lovely in the jar.
The sugar was added, stirred well.  Adding the sugar not only increases volume but draws out liquid from the fruit, reducing the pulpy look to the jam.   The jam was brought back to a boil and after another 10 minutes or so, I did the cold plate test and it was almost ready.   The next check was 5 minutes later, and the jam was perfect. 

I let it cool for a few minutes because if you bottle the jam too hot, the fruit will rise to the top rather than be suspended.  From start to finish, it took about 45 minutes to have lovely, bottled jam.  

Results:   This is amazing jam.   It has a great texture and it is so very tasty.   It is slightly tart and very fruity.   It is also a very pretty jam.  I can imagine how lovely it would look if I had more fully ripe berries.

  I highly advise people to plant a gooseberry bush in their yard.  They require little care other than occasional feeding and pruning.   It's not like you can run out to the market and pick up a basket of gooseberries around here, so it's the only way to get your own supply.