Tuesday, 12 May 2015

3 Days of goodies

Saturday was clean up day at Westfield.  We used the opportunity of the site being open on an off day, to have a bread day.   We talked about bread and 19th century cooking.  Then we headed out to the bake oven and put in some bread.   The oven was too hot, so we didn't have time to cook the Plum Cake from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.   Next time I am at the bake oven, I will slip it in.  All the ingredients are measured out, so it will be an easy project.

On Sunday my son borrowed the truck and a while later he came home, shouted through the door to ask where I wanted this.   It took a bit of thought to decide between the nice spot beside the pond or on the deck.   The deck won out though because we can put the table under it for al fresco dining but mainly because I can use it as a spinning shelter.  I love to spin outside, but often, the ground is soft, muddy or the grass wet from dew for a good part of the day.   It has stopped me from taking the wheel out before.  Now though, this is a lovely, shady area for spinning as well.

I ate my lunch out there on Monday and spent an hour reading.  While the deck was clear on Sunday, all day Monday, little red Maple tree flowers were raining down.  My lunch was safe though as the shelter protected it.  Yay!

Today a big dump truck dropped off this huge pile of wood.  It will take a few weeks to split, I am sure, not that I can claim to do any of the splitting.  I make kindling sometimes, but don't wield the axe for splitting.  I do a lot of stacking wood though.  This is spare wood.  We still get 20 face cord in as our main wood supply.   With the bitter winters, we've needed more.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

May Garden Update

Some sort of double daffodils I think - but maybe not.
It has been more than a little bit hectic around here.  My son's car decided to not work, leaving us with 1 vehicle and 3 drivers, one of whom commutes 35 minutes each way to work.  We had people coming and going and driving others to work until someone got smart and rented a car for a few days.  It was a weird car, with a very low front passenger seat.  It was so low that I could barely see out the window and it made me horribly car sick every time I went for a ride.  What fun that was!

The weather was nice enough that I have been able to get out and do yard work.  I have weeded the garlic, which now needs it again.  The flower beds in front of the house are almost done.  I've gotten rid of almost all the thistles growing in the lawn.
The rhubarb will be soon ready to harvest.
  These are things I haven't been able to do for several years, so it's been fun and exhausting to do them again.  There is a big bread celebration day at Westfield on June 14th and I've been researching information for that and to present a bread and bake oven workshop.  The workshop was yesterday and I came home exhausted.  The good thing is that I can do way more than I could, but the track back to normalcy does seem frustratingly slow at times.

The garden still needs to be tilled.   On the bright side, I realized that I have 5 year old Madder to harvest and there are flowers and fruits doing what they are supposed to do at this time of year. 

The garlic needs weeding again!
The trees are covered with little green leaves.  Last weekend there was barely a haze of green on a few early shrubs and trees like Lilacs and Willows.   Now everything is dressed in green, spring finery.

I noticed today that there are flowering trees in the neighbours bush lot. They looked delightful and full of promise.   I'm pretty sure they are just sort of pin cherry tree or buckthorns, but they are still pretty.

I was able to get out and prune the Black Currant bush this spring.  The remaining stalks are full of flowers this year.   Unfortunately it is a variety that is susceptible to blossom drop when we get a bit of cold weather.  We have a deep dip in temps forecast for the middle of next week.  I hope I remember to cover it up .  I have harvested a whole 2 berries in the past 3 years because of the blossom drop issue.   I have researched cultivars and I am hoping to find a hardier variety this year.

 The strawberry patch might just give us a few more berries this year.  We have lots of flowers, a good number of plants and this year I should have the mobility to make sure the bird netting is on in time and the little dishes of beer get set out for the slugs.

The best tasting strawberries are those fresh and still warmed by the sun.
I planted these Haskaps late last summer.  They were deeply discounted at a hardware/department store's garden centre.  There were lots of plants and nobody knew what they were.  I came home, looked them up and went back and purchased one.  I came home, researched a bit moret and then went back into town to get a second one, in a second variety, because you need two different types to cross pollinate.

Haskaps are edible Honeysuckle berries.  They are supposed to be incredibly hardy, with a lower rating of gardening zone 3!   They are blue and are described as having a blueberry/raspberry taste if they are quality plants.   A bad variety might taste like tonic water though.  If I have one of those, it is going to be replaced rather quickly!    They bloom and produce fruit in their second year.   The fruit is supposed to ripen 3 weeks before Strawberries, making them a really good short season fruit.  

With the late planting, thus a shorter time to develop a root system and the harsh, long winter, I worried that they might not have survived.  But here they are, with little flowers.   Hopefully they will give fruit, since I noticed that the second bush has finished flowering already, but this one still has some blossoms on it.

Yesterday the Bleeding Hearts were just little mounds of greenery.  Today this one and only this one, has burst forth with multiple stalks of pink blooms for Mother's Day.   It was a rather sweet gift to find this morning.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Catching up

Master Spinner level 5 homework is in the mail, winging it's way to the instructor for marking.   It took all my energy and time for a couple of weeks in order to get it finished  before the deadline.   I had to retrain myself to sit and spin for long periods, practice stairs so I could get down to the warping board (it is permanently attached to the basement wall).  I hadn't woven anything since last year's level 4 final project and had to relearn all those leg movements.  It seemed to take forever!

The weather has been on and off again.  One day it felt like spring and the next we had 2 inches of snow, which stayed for almost 2 days.  But all through the wind, rain and snow, the Maple trees still flowered.  The daffodils and tulips pushed up through the mucky ground and the crocuses bloomed for  their normal 2 minutes before the weather changed and the blossoms faded.  I planted some new crocus bulbs last fall, but they didn't come up.  I will try again this fall.

The little blue flowers which decorate the flower beds started blooming.  There are 2 or 3 different varieties but they are an awesome blue, which I have rarely seen in flowers.  They bloom early and quite profusely.  By ignoring them, they are starting to spread, popping up with dots of colour on the lawn.  Hubby isn't so thrilled, but I am!
 I was at Westfield on Sunday, in the Inn.   I brought my dutch oven, some carrots, parsnips, onions and a chicken. They roasted nicely in the hearth.  I was going to do the recipe Chicken a la Turque from the Cook's Own Book (1832) but forgot to bring the rice for stuffing and someone ate the bacon, which was to be wrapped around the bird before roasting.   It was plain old roast chicken instead.   The other pot holds Apple Compote from the above cookbook.  The recipe calls for 6 apples and 1/2 lb of sugar, some lemon juice and peel.   The apples became quite clear but held their shape.  The texture was a bit odd and the taste was not quite what I was expecting.  The lemon did cut the sweetness a bit but it was still a bit cloying and very syrupy.  Mainly though, there was an odd after taste.   Since I still have most of them left, and my boys would have gobbled them down if they tasted good, I won't be making this particular recipe again.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Laundry and huge projects

 On April 1st, it was nice enough outside that I was able to hand the laundry out for the first time this year!  A bit of an April Fool's joke by Mother Nature though as it snowed on April 5th and left us a couple of inches of the white stuff, which is still melting off today. 

I do love hanging out the laundry though.  It smells so fresh when you bring it in.   I don't even mind that linens get a bit crunchy and stiff sometimes.  
 The grass is starting to green up.  The ground is still soft and mucky though, so there is much yard work yet to be done.  I did get the currants pruned, which is a good thing.  I should prune the raspberries as well.   I left the ancient gooseberry bush alone.  I couldn't tell which branches were old growth and which were new.  Only one looked like it might be newer growth.  I'm trying to decide whether it should be dug up and replaced, or if I should try to rejuvinate it.  It really doesn't produce well any more.  The fruit is also really sour, even for a gooseberry.
 Other than that, I've been pushing through my Master Spinner level 5 homework.   I think I have all the book work done and am ploughing through the 50 hour project.  This year we are required to use cellulose fibre.  I really should have used cotton as I think I could have done with that much cotton practice but the thought of making that many punis was a bit daunting.  Instead, I started spinning hemp.  I knew I didn't have enough fibre on hand and was pretty sure that I could get more.   Unfortunately, I didn't actually check before I started spinning.   As I was finishing up the 100 g bag of hemp fibre, I went to order more and there was none available.   Egads!

Luckily, I guess, I had some flax fibre left from last year.   As this is hopefully going to be a woven project, I am hoping I have enough hemp for the weft and can use the linen thread as the warp.   I really hope that Keven is over his linen thread chewing stage, since he ruined my last linen project, by chewing on the warp threads.

I'm not horribly happy with the flax.   It isn't a strick, but rather a processed flax top or sliver.  It is supposed to be longer fibres , but not as long a a strick.  Instead, what I am finding is that it is a mix of long and short fibres, mixed with lots and lots of tow cruddy bits, tangles and neps.   Some of the fibres spin smoothly until you get to the shorter bits.  Then it is stop and start, picking out the garbage.   Sometimes I get lazy and just try to spin some of the smaller bits in.   Once in a while it gets a bit slubby and I have to start picking it out again.  

Monday, 30 March 2015

Padding Bobbins

Hills, valleys and loose tension on unpadded bobbin
A few people I know who spin fine yarns, and some flax spinners use padded bobbins.  In The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs, Sarah Anderson says it is to reduce draw in or bobbin pull, making it easier to spin a fine, even yarn.   I don't really have an issue with draw in.  I spin on all of my wheels with the least amount of brake and band tension that I need for a particular purpose.  To spin fine, I can set them up with minimal draw in.  What I didn't like though,was the way the fine hemp or linen yarns would wind on the skinny bobbin core.  It would bunch up in narrow bands and as I spun more, the tension of the thread would loosen in places as it wound on.   This would sometimes create a bit of a mess when winding off the bobbin, plying etc and if my thread broke,it could bury itself in the loose bits, sometimes creating a bit of a nightmare when retrieving it.

 Sooooo... last time I went to town, I stopped in at the hardware store and picked up a length of grey pipe insulation.   We only had a used bit at home,which I could have used, but it was ancient, compacted and dirty.  I spent .79c plus tax on a brand new piece, dedicated to my bobbins.   I worried about the threads on the end bits, sliding between the padding and the wooden bobbin ends so I cut the pipe insulation, just a tad longer than the bobbin core and squished it on, so there was no space possible.   This stuff cuts easily with kiddy scissors!
It worked a treat!   The dark line is a small gap in the foam.  One size was a bit large and this was a bit small.  The tiny gap doesn't seem to cause a problem and it nicely allowed the blue leader thread to feed up, without having to remove and retie it.  This means if I want to use an unaltered bobbin, I just have to slip off the centre core.   The downside of this of course, is that the bobbin doesn't hold as much.   Not sure a big issue with fine threads though as you can get a lot of yardage on even the partial bobbin.

This sign is on our only bathing facility right now.   My sweet pulled off all the not so old, but peeling caulking and re-applied it, with a different brand, in hopes that it would be more durable.  To make sure it dried completely, he declared the 3 hour cure time as stated on the tube of silicone would be upped to 24 hrs, just to be sure.    I'm counting down the hours.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A spinning exercise

Trying again since I managed to do a whole blog update and forgot to save it.  I got distracted by Maple Syrup.

First, take a photo of some sort of interesting outdoor scene.   I had to go outside at dusk to get the lighting right for this one.  It did take a few tries to get the drip just right.

 Define the colours in the photo, find suitable fibres and blend them into batts.  I used the drum carder for this.

 Spin the batts into singles on two bobbins.  

 Hunt through the bead stash to find the clear glass beads.  I really thought the dark amber beads would look nice but to look like the photo, I needed clear ones.  These are dollar store glass beads because there is no bead store within an hour drive of here.  They are not horribly uniform in shape, but they work nicely and it isn't noticeable.  I used a dental floss tool designed for braces for threading the beads onto the single.  

Ply the two singles together, dropping a bead off at fairly regular intervals.  I kept them fairly far apart as the sap was dripping rather slowly at the time.   Okay, I'd have kept them fairly far apart anyway as I prefer yarns like this to have less frequent beads.  I think it looks classier when knitted up into something, rather than heavy with frequent beads.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Guild Dye Day

painted warps for scarves
About once a year, our guild hosts a dye day at a negligible cost of $5 per 100g.  This isn't a math oriented, carefully calculated, reproducible effects dye day.  Rather, it's an experimental dye day using acid dyes for wool, silk or nylon.   Depending on who can come that day, there may be many long warps for multiple projects and weft yarns to match or coordinate.  Sometimes people wind crazy long skeins of sock yarn to do self striping yarn, bring fibre for spinning and this year we even had a gal bring multiple skeins to do a gradient coloured knitting project. 

We have an array of the basic colours and with syringes, squirt out a bit of this colour and a bit of that, getting some interesting and one of a kind results.  Invariably, the finished projects are absolutely breathtaking or at least beautiful.

 Just a few days before hand, I realised that I could actually attend the dye day.  ( I drove myself too!  Yay!)   While I have plenty of white fibre and a bit of white roving, I had no real projects in mind for it or it needs re-washing (Thanks Kevin!)   I did find this skein of Blue Faced Leicester superwash and nylon blend that I had spun up ages ago.   It weighs about 85 g, so I dug through some stash and found a huge bag of white icicle, which is a sparkly nylon additive.    I weighed out 15 g of the icicle and separated it into 3 g lots to make up the rest of the 100g.

The skein was just wound normally on my 61in niddy noddy.   I started painting it with the blue, which was a strong concentration of the turquoise blue colour.  For the green, I used a bit of the leftover blue, with a small percentage of yellow and watered it all down a fair bit.   The pink was a dilute mixture of straight fuchsia.   I'm not sure what I'll make with this skein, but I think the colours are really pretty.

Nylon takes acid dyes readily.  The nylon Icicle fibre is strong, sparkles and not a really soft fibre.  It tends to be used in small quantities to add sparkle to more modern or arty type yarns.  It is too rough for my liking to add to strengthen sock yarns.  I use fake Cashmere nylon for that purpose as it is soft as well as strong.   But the Icicle dyes beautifully.  I did a lighter concentration of the same blue left from the yarn skein.  The pink was some very diluted leftover fuchsia.   I added the last few drops of blue to the mix afterwards to get the purply pink.  I mixed a bit of yellow into the now empty blue container, for the pale green.  The orange was made from adding yellow to an empty red container that I found in the discard area.   Everything went into my dye steamer when I got home.  In all, I think I captured spring colours rather nicely.  None of the colours are easily reproduced as no measurements were taken, but even if I never find a use for it, it was a fun experiment and a great morning out!