Sunday, 15 November 2020

Spin, Spin, Spin

Trying again...   I managed to delete my whole post just as I was finishing up the final proof reading.   Sheesh, twice now I've done this.   The third time's a charm, right?

I've been spinning a lot the past few weeks.   I don't normally watch the telly, but I tend to spin, knit or do some sort of handwork at the same time, if I do indulge.  I have a bit of a love for British period dramas, regular dramas, panel and comedy shows.    We ended up subscribing to the streaming service Brit Box, which has meant that I've accomplished a lot of spinning. 

This is merino.  It's a two ply.  I used a commercial sliver from The Fibre Garden.   It drafted like a dream and was so easy to spin.   I could spin well prepped fibre like this all the time!  I almost didn't ply it, but left it as singles for weaving.  There was a lot of it, but since it is mitten and toque season, I thought it could be  better purposed for warm woollies.

I had about 150g of flax sliver which I spun up as singles.   The sliver is a commercial tow preparation, with some very short bits and a lot of much longer ones.   It spins quite easily.   I have found that drafting and adding the twist works a bit more efficiently if my working hand has wet fingers.   I have a cute little flax water pot which I got from a talented potter one year when I was doing my Master Spinner at Olds College.  I like having the opportunity to use it.   It was also nice spinning the flax.  It's fun to spin and different than wool.  It makes a really nice change up.

I've also been spinning up the rest of some blue cotton.   It doesn't have the lustre that this photo suggests.  It's just plain cotton.   However, my plans for an outdoor photo shoot were scuppered today when I woke up to heavy rains and wickedly blustery winds.   Instead, I just took snaps with my phone.   It is so dull and grey outside, that even by a window, I needed to use a flash.   

I will ply the cotton and pop the finished skein into my container of cottons yarns, destined to become a garment.    I've been spinning up random skeins of cotton yarns and saving them for several years now.   The aim is to have enough to make some yardage for a shirt or jacket.   I should probably take some time to see how much I've actually spun.   It would be disappointing though, to find out that I wasn't even close to the yardage I might need. I think that's why, I never actually check.

With no Fleece Festival this year, I didn't stock up on winter spinning fibres.  Since I didn't purchase much last year either, I suddenly realized that my stash is starting to dwindle!  Egads!   I'm not buying anything right now though because we needed some electrical work done in the early summer.  We also just got the roof done and that was fun.  It cost $1000 over the estimate because once again we found the previous repairs had been done in a somewhat dubious manner, although likely the least expensive way possible.  

 When they removed the shingles, they found that there was no decking or sheathing on the roof. So they had to add a layer of plywood to seal up the structure and give something to nail into.  Of course wood is almost double in price these days.   But I will have to say that the roofers were very fast and efficient.   They showed up at 7 am on the dot.  They were finished, cleaned up and out of here by 3:30 pm.   We now have a roof which will not leak and it looks great.  As a plus, I can say they did the job the proper way.   We're happy about that.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Friday morning hike

Today's weather has been amazing.  With a high of 19C and sunshine, it felt almost summery, instead of November!  This morning we took the time to take a short walk on a trail we hadn't done in a couple of years.   All the paths have been groomed and made accessible.  It made for an easy ramble. 

  However, the number of trees which have been removed made it feel like a whole new area.   I'm guessing they had to remove all the dead and dying Ash trees.  It's quite open now and much less like walking through the bush.  It's still a pretty walk though since much of the trail follows a winding river. 

 Being a weekday morning, there were few people on the trail.  We did follow the markings of what turned out to be a little 2 year old toting a huge stick, all around the trails, with his mom and a gigantic Newfoundland puppy, which weighed more than the two of them put together.


There was a lovely grassy area; a green oasis in a forest of browns.

A little pond with lots of algae and growth, looked so pretty.

   It was nice and relaxing to watch the river flow by.

There were ducks on the river.  They were in small groups here and there, rather than one large flock.  However, I didn't have my big girl camera with a good lens, only my phone, so I was too far away to get reasonable photos of the ducks.  Still, I have to say I'm happy to have an alternate camera for when I'm in unexpected situations, so I can at least still take snap shots.


Sunday, 25 October 2020

Hot Air Balloon Excitement

 This morning had a tad bit of excitement.   We heard a strange  rumbling  noise and a huge shadow in the sky, flying  low and close to the house.   From the window you could see it was a very low flying hot air balloon.  I've seen hot air balloons take off up the road, but I've rarely seen them flying overhead.  One of the few times they were visible, the balloon flew right over us.  They were low enough that they ran the burner, with a definite loud whoosh and rumble.  The poor chickens  who were out, freaked and ran to the trees to hide.   

This balloon was loosing altitude quickly and was very obviously coming in for a landing.  I'm guessing it was unexpected as the field they were landing in, is still full of standing corn.

Then there was more noise and this second balloon was floating by.  It was a bit higher than the first balloon, at least in the distance.  It's difficult to tell how high they actually are from down on the ground though.   As it was approaching our house, it seemed to be dropping in altitude.  The burner made an awful racket, however, you could still hear their conversation!  That was unexpected.




The balloon ran it's burner just before it came to the big maple tree in our yard.  It was pretty spectacular to watch.  I really was hoping they knew what they were doing, and that they were higher up than it appeared from my vantage point.


This is what the hot air balloon looked like as it passed by the maple tree on the other side of the yard. As it floated by, I hoped that it wouldn't  have to land on the farm next door, as they have horses.  That would be a bigger panic issue than a few chickens and likely cause more damage than crushing a bit of field corn.

I didn't walk up the road to see what happened next.  I did watch to see if they gained altitude.   It didn't seem like it. The first balloon was packed with people.  The second one seemed to have only a couple of people on board.   I hope they had smooth landings and didn't cause too much damage though, to themselves or the fields.  


Saturday, 17 October 2020

Marble Cake from 1898


Cake! Yum.  I found a copy of The Galt Cookbook, published in 1898 by Margaret Taylor and Frances
McNaught from the Department of Agriculture, Ottawa. It is a Canadian cookery book. Many if not all of the recipes are from what was the Galt area of Ontario, now Cambridge, and surrounding communities.

I found this simple recipe for marble cake, using actual chocolate. Most earlier recipes for marble cake that I've found use some other colourant, like cochineal for the secondary colours, not necessarily other flavours.  I'd been checking books as I went through them, to find a marble cake which used chocolate or another flavour, rather than colours.   Finding chocolate marbled cake was definitely a bonus.

I mixed the try ingredients in one bowl, and the wet in another.  I used a pretty standard method for making the batter.  I added the flour, cream of tarter, soda, salt in one bowl and stirred it with a wisk to mix it well.   I creamed the butter and sugar, added the egg and beat it until light coloured.   I then added the milk and vanilla.   I added the dry ingredients in several portions, mixing well between additions.

I separated out approximately half of the batter into another bowl.  I found a box of bakers chocolate, did a quick search to find the size of chocolate blocks in 1898, and ended up using two, although in hindsight, it was unnecessary.   It would have been tasty and fine with a single modern block of baking chocolate.   I stirred the melted chocolate into one half of the batter.  

I had buttered and floured two 8 inch cake tins.  I only used one.   I think that my batter was a little thick and it blobbed rather than delicately spooned into the tin.  In the end, I realized that not only would I not be able to spread this gloppy goop into two pans, but they would be very thin layers if I did
so.  I scraped the batter into the pan, best I could, first using a spoon, then a spoon and spatula and finally, just the spatula.   I had to run a knife through to try to get the two batters to settle, and then I dropped the pan lightly on the counter several times to try to eliminate any possible remaining air bubbles.

It took about 30 minutes to bake in a 350 F oven 

The finished cake is a lovely cake.   While I was worried it would be dense, it has a lovely texture.  It has a soft crumb and a flavour which shows off the butter, vanilla and chocolate perfectly.   It didn't need an icing to help it along.   It is perfect as is, although for a birthday, I'd definitely ice it

I am putting this recipe into my repeat file because it is worthy of being baked again.

Next time I would sift the flour first.  I think that would help keep the cups of flour be less compacted, helping with the too thick batter.  Or I'd add another 1/4 c of milk.

The cake is likely pretty accurate though.   I have no idea what the cost was because I had all the ingredients on hand.  Not horribly expensive though as it's a single layer cake without any large amounts of ingredients

Friday, 9 October 2020

Processing Nettles Experiment

Here are the samples of nettles processed three different ways.  The green, thicker fibre was fresh nettles, peeled and scraped with an old butter knife.  By old, I mean , I found an antique butter knife at the thrift store for 50cents and used it, as they have a straight, dull edge.  Modern butter knives, or table knives, have a bit of a taper to them, and often have a bit of a serrated edge at the tip.   That made it much more difficult to scrape the nettles, hence the antique knife use.

The whiter fibre was from the nettles that were dew retted.  I bundled them up and layed them on the ground, flipping them every couple of days.  Depending on what you read, it can take anywhere from two days to a couple of weeks to be fully retted.  I left the bundles for two weeks before I tried to process these.    The fibres didn't easily peel off of the bark, or the centre core, so I thought they may be under retted.  The colour was nice though.  

The darker fibres had been retted for several weeks more.  I'd actually sort of forgotten about them as I was busy with canning.  My sweetie asked me when I was going to use them as he needed the space where they were sitting, to stack wood.  The outer bark had totally disappeared in some places and there were fibres actually showing.   They were quite easy to peel off, however they were breaking at some of the nodes on the stems.  Rather than a creamy colour, they are grey.

I don't have any proper processing equipment, like a flax break or hackles, which would have made this a lot easier and more useful.   I had a mallet, some wool combs and medium carders.

The under retted nettles and I call them under retted because the outer bark was difficult to remove in a lot of places.   I lightly bashed them to break the pieces up, pulled out some by hand and them combed them.   Many pieces still stuck.  I combed the fibres to remove more of the trashy bits and after getting a bit frustrated, just spun them and hoped for the best.  They were fairly long, spun quite nicely, but some of the bits were stuck fairly firmly.  

The over retted nettles were very soft.  The outer bark released quite easily when combed, but there were still some fibres with bits out outer bark stuck to them.  I ended up carding these as the fibres were shorter after combing, maybe 3-6 inches long.   I spun them from the end of the rolag, with a semi-worsted forward draw.

The green fibres should have been spun before they dried out.   I had to twine and ply by hand, which is an acceptable way to make a strong cordage, rather than yarn.  If I had a spray bottle, I think spritzing them with a bit of water, covering them and letting them sit for a couple of hours would have made this much easier.  But the sample I made suggests that this would make a strong rope.  I think it would make a lovely addition to a basket making project.


Monday, 21 September 2020

Colours of September

 I dressed the loom with the Kool-aid dyed warp using the Wall of Troy pattern from Margarite Davison's green book.  It's a fairly striking pattern but still an easy pattern to both thread and weave.   I'm done the first scarf and there is another left to weave.   Progress has been interrupted by helping my son-in-law build garage doors, canning, teaching a socially distanced rug hooking class at the park, hydro issues which mean the whole electrical panel needs to be replaced and a scary and irritating trip to the car dealer for a simple service on my cute little car, where they made all the motions of masking and social distancing, except for the part where they actually did it.  

The new hens have settled in nicely.  It only took them a couple of days to fully integrate.   After months of waiting for new birds, the feed store was able to get ready to lay hens delivered two weeks in a row.   Yay, to him finding independent breeders to supply us with hens!

 These ones are laying little pullet eggs.  Pullets are young layers.  They should start off laying tiny eggs like these, and gradually their eggs should increase in size.   Sadly, some of the hybrids we've had start off laying huge eggs and it can't be healthy for them.

I found prune plums in the stores, although not at the market. They were wonderfully ripe and two containers came home with me.   They make a wonderful jam or preserve.  I didn't chop them up, so my jam has chunks of peel and fruit in it.  Normally I chop the plum halves up a bit, and then the skins seem to just dissolve completely.  Still, the jam this year is pretty awesome.  It finished to a deep reddish purple colour, from the skins.  It's so pretty.

I dragged out the blending board.  I played with some colours of commercial corriedale.   They're not quite felted and they look fine, but they were just not quite easy enough to pull off the rolags, so slightly compacted perhaps, from sitting in a drawer for however long it's been.  Still it was fun to do.  

Blogger has been switched over to the new version, which I didn't want to use whenver they first introduced it.  I liked the old Blogger format and it was easy to use.  Now I'm finding a new learning curve and having to figure out new glitches.  It doesn't seem as easy to drop photos where I want them amongst a few other things I need to figure out.   This means that my layouts and formatting may be a little off until I muddle through it all.  I'm sure it will all come together at some point.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Tomahto, Tomayto, Tomato

Over the past few years, our garden tomatoes haven't done well.   We've had droughts, blight, more blight and one year the birds and bugs got to virtually every tomato before I did.   I almost didn't plant tomatoes this year and hubby had said why bother since we rarely get to harvest any.  However, I planted 4 plants.   There was hardly any choice of varieties at the garden centres and at one place, they already looked like they were stressed and diseased. 

 Our local feed store always carries a few starter plants, with very limited varieties since they are a small store.  I was told they purchase from a local grower.  I picked up a pot of 4 paste tomato plants.  They were 90 days until harvesting, so late at ripening.   Then we had the drought and a huge issue with blossom end rot.   I dedicated my watering to the now 3 tomato plants.  I don't know where the 4th one went.  One morning it was just not there! 

some of the tomatoes harvested from this year's garden
The watering got rid of the blossom end rot.  The skies opened up and we've had enough rain to make the garden and weeds grow.  A couple of weeks ago I harvested enough tomatoes to hot water bath can 3 jars.   Thinking that the rest of the green fruit would possibly not ripen, I picked up a box of tomatoes on sale at the grocery store.  Then I harvested what I thought was a few tomatoes in the garden.   It turned out there was over 1/4 bushel of ripe tomatoes to add to my store bought bounty.

I'd purchased 3 boxes of lids last fall when they were on sale.  I hadn't realized that I'd used most of them on jams, relishes and for the little canning jar bottles of milk that end up in the guys lunch bags when they want cereal for breakfast at work. I had popped out the the local hardware store, where I regularly purchase my supplies because they are a Canadian owned store, with great service.  I had two of the employees tell me that so many people decided to take up canning and preserving this year they had no supplies left, and no idea when they'd get more in.   Hubby came to my rescue by sourcing some at another store and picked them up on his way home from a meeting.  They were expensive though at some like $4.19 a package and he brought me home 4 packages!

Tomatoes are a borderline acid food and thus with a little lemon juice added to make them safe, they can be hot water bath processed.   I've never had luck with cold pack method for tomatoes, so I use the hot pack method.  This requires heating up the tomatoes first and boiling them for 5 minutes to heat them through.  The downside is that heat and chopping start to break down the tomato pectins.  This causes the juices to release and that separation of fruit and liquid in the jars.  It's safe, just looks a bit odd in the jar.

Over 2 days, I processed 30 pint jars (500 mls) of chopped tomatoes.   Yay!

1- Scald, peel and chop the tomatoes.  Put them in a large pot and slowly bring to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes.

2- Using a canning funnel, ladle the tomatoes into clean, heated jars.

3- Follow the modern directions for hot water bath processing.  This meant for me, adding 1 tbsn lemon juice to each 500 ml jar and hot water bath processing for 35 minutes, timed after the canning kettle came back to a boil after adding the jars.

4-  Let cool over night, remove the bands, wipe down the jars to make sure there is no residual bits of tomato and they aren't sticky.  Write the date either on the jars or lids.  Some people use sticky labels, but I find they are really difficult to remove when you want to reuse the jars.   I write the date on the lid so that I know that the lid has already been used.   Tomatoes don't need an identifier as well because they look like tomatoes, unlike miscellaneous purple jams and jellies :)

5- Store with the ring part of the lids removed  because moisture gets under the rings and can rust the lids on the inside, making them difficult to remove.   Also, if a seal isn't perfect, it will pop and you'll find it before you use that jar.   Without that seal, the contents will go mouldy and toxins may develop.  Nobody wants botulism from their pasta sauce!