Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Home Again

It's a bit hard to believe that it's finally over!  All 6 levels done and just the final in depth study to do.  While I won't miss the homework, I will miss the camaraderie and the learning opportunities.   The homework is a good way of making sure you have at least a bit of the basics down for every fibre and technique we studied though.  That is useful but by year 5, I was so ready for the sample skeins to be done with.

Level 6 had only a few directed learning opportunities.  Mainly it was testing.  From the moment we got in the classroom to the final day, requirements for sample skeins were listed on the white board and we had to produce.   We had 2 dye afternoons, which were long.   The fibre reactive dye on protein fibres was a bit hectic and the Indigo dye afternoon was a little less so.

I did a depth of shade study on two colours to create two sets of gradient coloured skeins.  The Indigo dyed cotton skeins really are skinny and don't look like much.  I am thinking about spinning a bunch more cotton and using them as warp stripes.
We reeled silk, using about 25 cocoons to make a filament.  We then divided up our filament into 4 and spun 4 filaments together to make a single.    We learned how to calculate denier as well.  Let me say that even the 4 filaments spun together don't really amount to very much.   Silk is a very labour intensive fibre, even when the procedure is mechanized.  Really, crazy labour intensive.   We worked in pairs and we were the last pair to get our cocoons ready to go, due to not quite enough pots and hot plates.  However, Michael Cook of Worm Spit had been teaching and he very nicely left not only an amazing booklet for our class but also left his extremely nice silk reel for our class to use, which happened to be on our work bench.   It reeled so smoothly that we pretty much caught up to the rest of the class.   Thank you Michael for that opportunity!   Our instructor had to send it back to him after the class though.

Now to finalize my ideas for my in-depth study and get that on the go.  I will have to say though that the Olds College Master Spinner course was an awesome experience and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to take part.  I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to understand the technical aspects of spinning, to learn many techniques, experience many fibres and learn to control and hone their spinning skills

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

I so lost the bet!

It's a good thing I didn't actually bet on it. I thought I could live with the slight over ply in the wool skeins I had for dyeing.  I mean, it is a nice yarn.  The only way I could make that yarn soft enough was to under spin it and then ply it to make a nice yarn, which meant that stupid over ply twist.   I even already had the wheel in use for that cotton exercise.    But I couldn't live with it.  I had to try to spin another 200 yards of plied yarn before I left.  

I will say that I'm not a horribly fast spinner.  I opt for slower spinning to increase chances for consistency.  It's also a bit more relaxing, although I will admit that I don't easily get the yardages for big projects quite as easily.  However, I just finished tying up and labelling the last skein for the dye exercise.  It was a bit too close for my comfort zone though.  I leave the day after tomorrow!

 I ended up deciding to try to spin enough cotton to use for the indigo.   I wanted to use it for warp stripes in a towel.   I realized that carding all those punis would take up way too much time though.   I knew I had a package of Egyptian cotton top in my stash.   The thing about Egyptian cotton though is that it is longer than regular cotton.  Also, because it is processed into top, it is slippery fibre processed to be even more slippery.  But you know, I have found that the best way to learn to do spin something is to just grab some fibre and start spinning. 

 The first thing I realized is that I had to change the whorl to a much higher ratio.   Then it was just a matter of practice.  400 yards is a good amount to start getting a bit of proficiency though.  While I was winding my skeins up today, I realized you could tell which yarn I spun near the beginning of this exercise and which yarn was spun up later, when I was more comfortable with spinning the cotton top.   It's not brilliant yarn.  It's not as nice looking at first glance as the wool yarn was, but I am so much happier with this yarn.  Not only is it balanced, but despite it's inconsistencies, I learned a lot from spinning the cotton and it is generally a nice yarn. It  will definitely weave up nicely, although I will need to spin more for the weft.  I really hope that I will be much more proficient when I get finished spinning the cotton for this project.

Lots of shrill trills and croaks coming from the pond this year.   I found this little guy sunning himself a couple of weeks ago.  He's twice the size now!  His warm, sunny ledge is gone too as we've had so much rain, the pond is full again.  Now he hangs out on or near the lily pads.  So far he seems to be alone in his little paradise.  We had two a few years back, which meant lots of baby frogs.     Even the one is a nice addition to the sound scape around the house.  Now, if the weather will get warm enough to see the lightning bugs or fire flies, it will really feel like summer.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Yarn and more yarn and strawberries

My yarn for the level 6 dye day is finished.  I hadn't realized how grey the grey yarn actually is.  When on it's own, it looks quite pale and silvery.  However, when side by side with the very white Merino, it looks quite grey and dark.  I'm a little ticked off at myself because a few bits of the grey are under plied.   The full skeins hung straight, but when divided into 20 yard skeins, a couple have a slight twist.   I'm trying to ignore it as running a 20 yard skein through the wheel to add a tiny bit of twist, is just a total pain.  We'll see if I can actually ignore it and use a not as perfect as I can get it product to take with me.   I'm not sure I'd bet on my accomplishing it though as it took me 3 tries to get 200 yards of yarn I was truly happy with.

The white yarn is a 3 ply Merino/nylon blend.  I had planned to use it for socks but it's just a tad thicker than I'd wanted.  I'm used to using Blue Faced Leicester for sock yarn, and had totally neglected to take the sproing factor of Merino fibre into account.

 I've figured out how I'm going to transport my wheel to Olds.  I will need to purchase a new suitcase, which kind of sucks, as it's really not going to be used for much else.  I'll have to also be dinged for oversized luggage, sigh.   One of the reasons that the Kromski Sonata is a good all purpose wheel, not just a travel wheel, is that it has a 19 in.  drive wheel.   This makes the finished wheel 19.5 in wide, which means I need a 20 in. internal measurement in a suitcase.  My current suitcase is only 19 in inside.   So, a new, hardsided suitcase will have to be purchased.

While I was taking a break from the garden, I looked at the Sonata and realized that I'd not spun cotton on it, like ever!  That is definitely something that we'll be asked to produce, is a cotton yarn.  So I dragged out the ginned cotton fluff and carded up some punis.   It turns out that it really isn't any different to spin cotton on the Sonata as it is on the Minstrel.  The ratios are different on the Sonata though and that makes me have to think twice about some of the math.
The strawberry patch is about 4' x 8' this year.   I got the bird netting on before they started eating the fruit!  Being able to walk really does allow one to accomplish things :).   Anyway, I harvested the first strawberry yesterday.  It was small but very sweet.   I know this because after showing it off, I ate it.  I mean, you can't really share a strawberry which is smaller than a quarter, right?

My sweetie has been having fun with a rototiller.   Both gardens were tilled up.  The 1st one is half planted with beans.  We'll plant a second crop in a few weeks.   The newer garden has the strawberries and garlic, salad greens, onions, beets, asian radishes which I'm hoping are like a daikon, cucumbers, zucchini.  I also found some old woad seed and some Dyer's Knotweed from a couple of years ago.  I've planted the seed which will hopefully be viable.    When I wouldn't let my sweetie till up the flower bed, you know the one with all the daffodil and hyacinths in it, he moved up the the sunny side yard and put in a whole new garden bed.  He then informed me that we needed to go out to get corn seed.  With a 20' x 20', a 20' x 30', a 10' x 20' garden beds and a 4'x4' raised bed, I think my entire summer will be spent weeding!

Monday, 25 May 2015

During the past 9 days

 Two weekends ago, on the Victoria Day long weekend, FOOL, or Fruits of Our Labours was held.   It is an SCA event with 2 days of classes.   Mostly the classes are hands on, but we have roundtables and once in a while when an exceptional lecture class comes about, we will host it as well.    The campsite we use has indoor space and an amazing amount of outdoor space for camping, hiking and marshal activities.    

The upside of the name is that FOOL is easy to remember.  The downside is that when we ask people to design t-shirts for us, there is a trend to want to go with the Court Fool, jester etc, which unfortunately has absolutely nothing to do with this event, especially since FOOL is an acronym, not the real name.  This year's t-shirt was kind of cool.  The design on the back said Fruits of our Labours 8 and then reading down, starting from the 8, it said (infinity) ∞ things to do.    

This year I was mobile and the weather was perfect.  I had great intentions to take photos but I kept getting distracted!  I missed the trillium photos.  I missed the awesome looking campground photos  and missed photos of classes.    The only photos I took were quick snaps of my results from the batik class, which I only took to send off to my sweetie.  It was an awesome event even though I don't have photos to show.

Last week my sweetie texted me to see if I wanted to run into the city mid-day, during his lunch hour.    It seems he found a log splitter which was in our price range and the store had them in stock.    While he was dealing with the log splitter, I wandered around the store.   It is filled with machinery, tools, bits and bobs and some really cool stuff.   On the camping shelf there was an array of cast iron.   It was half the price of any I'd seen elsewhere.   I've been looking for a smaller hanging pot.   This one probably holds about 3 litres total and the small little melting pot was a whim.  I'm not sure if it will be useful, but it is cute.    The larger pot was only $25 and the small one was $8.    At another on-line area store, that little pot was $17, so I'm pretty happy about the price I paid.  If the pot had a lid, it would have been better, but this is still useful.

On Sunday at Westfield, the Inn hearth was a cooking bonanza.   In the back corner, Jamie made corn bread.  His daughter Paige made rusks,which aren't dried but a rich pancake like bread.  I stewed a bunch of rhubarb.  If you can't find rhubarb recipes in 1830's recipe books, check for "spring fruit" recipes.  It seems that rhubarb was considered an ugly name so there was a push on to change it.  Rhubarb is way easier to say than spring fruit and at least points to a specific fruit.

Lots of this happening.  I need 400 yards of plied yarn for Olds Master Spinner level 6, which is in just less than a month.   This is a 52 micron mixed breed sliver, which has a little bit of black in it, making it a silvery white, rather than pure white.

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.