Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Fox attacks and new kitty!

The other evening we found a pile of feathers and were missing a chook.   It was under the treed area, but I'd seen the eagle hanging out there in the early summer, so I thought it might be a hawk strike.  A little odd for under the trees though.   The next evening, my son yelled and ran outside.   Two red foxes had a chicken and were trying to run off with it.  This was the mess they left behind.  The chook was saved though she's missing most of her tail feathers and a few more besides.    The foxes tried twice more that evening and we managed to stop them all.  Finally I was able to round up the girls and get them into their coop.  I kept them there for 3 days in hopes of getting the foxes to move on.  So far it seems to have worked.   We thought we were down 2 chickens in all, but we heard one who was hiding in a hedgerow and she came home shortly after we called to her.

The orange cat who was lurking about for the past couple of weeks turned out to be two tiny cats, obviously siblings.  One day, the cat on the right came up the the back door and started crying loudly, trying to get in.   He turned out to be quite friendly and he let me give him a quick once over.  He was super skinny.  You could clearly feel the vertebrae and his sides were hollow.   His coat was strawlike and very coarse.   Of course I fed him.  The next day, he came with his brother and I fed the two of them for a couple of weeks.   They started to look healthier or at least less starving.  The one on the right, who let me pet him started staying around here but the second cat, came and went.   Then the brother just disappeared, leaving his brother here, alone.  Our orange deck kitty would sit on our laps and purr and purr for as long as you'd let him.  He'd cry at the door when he wanted food, water or just for some company.  He'd sit on the windowsill all evening until it was too dark to see.   

Phil outside
One evening we were around the campfire and there was some animal making weird noises in the nearby bushes.  It was unsettling enough that we cut our campfire time short and moved inside.   Our orange deck kitty started crying at the door and them moved to any window he could find and cried at those too.   I guess you can see where this is going....   We scooped up the orange kitty and moved him into the garage for a couple of days, until I could get him to a vet.   He was happy  as anything in the garage, not panicking to get out and loved having people visit him.   We figured he was just about 5 or 6 months old, due to his size, but after a thorough check up, where he was vaccinated and declared not likely to be a risk to our own house kitties, he's moved inside.   The vet said he's just a tiny cat, about a year old, who has had a bit of a rough life.   He's going back in a couple of weeks to get those dangley bits removed.   

Phil is another kitty who likes to sleep on wool blankets
  Al named our little orange kitty Phil.  Phil seems to have adjusted quite nicely to being a house cat.  He's gained a bit of weight and his fur is getting soft and silky.

  We never did figure out what animal was making the odd noises but it was just before the fox attacks, but we'll never know for sure.   Phil's brother comes back once in a while but he is much more feral than our new baby.    I guess in all this was a lucky week.  Lucky in that so far we only seemed to have lost one chook in the fox attacks and lucky that a sweet, feral kitty chose us to save him.




Monday, 7 August 2017

Loons, rugs and mindless knitting

This rug has taken forever to weave off.   It is made from multiple wool yarns, plied together and wool fabric, cut into strips, in the Shaker rug tradition.   I'd cut half the fabric into strips, divided the strips into equal piles and set the second pile aside.   This was so that I'd know the half way mark and be able to end on the same pattern, so that the rug would be symmetrical.   However, I set the still whole piece of wool fabric aside and started questioning myself when I realized that I wouldn't have enough of the rag strips.   It took me a while to weigh options and decide on how to finish it.  I was almost halfway done when I found the remaining fabric, sigh.. I made some changes that are fine, but I'd have preferred my original design.  None the less, it is finally done.

I threaded the loom in a diamond twill pattern, knowing that I'd have several viable treadling options.  The Shaker style rug was done in a tabby weave.   This one, with a recycled duvet cover is the diamond twill.  The multi-coloured warp shows nicely on the nearly solid rags.

2 rugs down on the 11 1/2 yard warp.  I forgot to write down the length of the first rug, so I've only got a vague idea of what is left to weave off.  I'm thinking 3 more rugs at most.     I'm weaving hems for all these rugs.   It's easy to hem them up on the machine and  I think they are more durable than fringed rugs.
We were on a day trip to visit more of the Lake Erie towns.   This is the harbour in Port Rowan.  It's  a lovely little town, much bigger than we'd anticipated.     This loon was bobbing about in the lake, ignoring the fishermen and tourists enjoying the somewhat grey, breezy but very comfortable day.

The other day the skies opened up with once again, another torrential downpour, with lightning and thunder booming around us.  I was in the store filled with fabrics, yarn and craft supplies.  While I was there only for some thread and piping cord, a couple of skeins of cotton yarn jumped into my arms as I waited out the storm.  

I knew that with the day trips we'd be taking, that a mindless knitting project would come in handy while I was in the passenger seat.   I've been knitting dishcloths and I learned something interesting.   I can knit the first 3/4 of the dishcloth without any issues.  I hardly even have to look down while knitting, except for the decreases on the last half.   But, when I get half the decreases done, I need to stop because suddenly I'm looking down too much and I instantly get horribly car sick - as in pull over if I holler.   So I've been knitting 3/4 in the car and tucking it away until I get home to finish.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Two weeks crammed into one post!

 I've been making jam.   In the middle of July, I brought home  container of strawberries, my son brought some and so did hubby.  In the end there were 4 lbs of strawberries in the fridge.   After my son made cheesecake and we gorged on a bunch, I still had enough left to make a batch of jam. 

I'd looked at our market, but the vendor from Niagara with all the baskets of fruit, isn't there this year.   We were going to do a run down to the area to get apricots, but my sweetie found some locally.  I was thrilled to be able to make a batch of apricot jam.   I used pectin and was checking out recipes.  To my surprise, the recipe on the Canadian Certo packet insert is different than the U.S. recipe on their website.  Not just a little different either.  There was more fruit and a smaller fruit to sugar ratio for the same amount of pectin in the U.S. recipe.     Presuming the product is the same, I mean it's pectin, then that means the info about making sure you keep the fruit and sugar amounts exact isn't actually that important.  Obviously you need enough pectin for it to gel with the lesser cooking time and you need enough sugar to keep the beasties away, but there must be some flexibility.   I tried the U.S. recipe.  It's fruitier, not as sweet and way better than my previous apricot jam which was good to begin with.

There is also cherry jam - so yummy.   I found some frozen cherries in the back of the freezer.  I tossed them into the food processor a bit at a time and pulsed them until they were chopped up finely.   Jam is a great use for that bit of uneaten frozen fruit.  This batch is pretty and so tasty.   The bread is gluten free from the freezer section.  It's by Little Northern Bakery and it is really pretty decent for a gluten free bread.  So much so that the two little sections in the store freezer are often nearly empty or empty of the loaves.  It is so much better than the big name gluten free bread - really so much better.

We took a day trip on Saturday.  We went to Port Stanley but just kept on driving.  It was a little too touristy for us.  Just down the road though was Port Bruce.  We parked the car and took a trip over the sand dune to the lake.   I'd taken my shoes off and ouch, the heat off the sand was unbelievable.  The sand is  quite dark in colour.   It was absorbing the heat something fierce.   I had to put my shoes back on or walk in the water, which was a little too pebbly for my tender tootsies.   However, with a pair of water safe shoes, the beach would be great.   It wasn't crowded at all, despite it being a gazillion degrees out side - hmm, maybe 30° with a humidex of something more.   It was pretty and picturesque.  The water seemed clean and I'd definitely go there for a picnic and some beach play.   The town is tiny though.  I think it had only a cafe and an ice cream stand.  

We ended up in Port Burwell where we toured the HMCS Ojibwa, a retired diesel submarine.  Most of the inside of the submarine is controlled, so despite the fact that the technology is very old, we could look but no photos were allowed.  I'm standing at the back of the boat, looking toward the front.   It was an hour long tour, which was really interesting and well done.   The tour guide had the coolest Doc Marten boots on as well.

Today, at almost stupid early, the guys came from the eco metal recycling place in Hamilton to remove our oil tank.   They were here at about 7:30 am and were gone by 9 am, along with our old oil tank.   I hardly saw them, though there was a bit of grunting and gentle cussing when they had to haul it out of our basement.   At noon, the tree service dumped a chook playground in the driveway.  There were 4 of them sitting in various spots on or in the pile of logs only 10 minutes later.  

I've been hunting around for something called Gum Tragacanth - used in candy making.  So far I haven't found any locally or reasonably close.  This will take more research...





Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Projects and Kevin update

This is a 238  skein of white Egyptian Cotton, 2 ply.   It took forever to spin, mainly because sitting still for hours at this time of year just doesn't happen.   It's a nice skein and will go into my stash of handspun cotton skeins for a future project.   I only spun 1 bobbin full, then I wound about half onto another bobbin for plying.
The cotton is a commercial sliver.  When I first started spinning cotton, I had to card this sliver into punis before I could spin it.  I realized half way through this bobbin, that I had started spinning from the sliver, with no thought about it.  Really, it's all about practice, practice, practice..

I had a bit of an idea pop into my head and decided that I would weave up some inkle bands.  My inkle loom is very pretty, and is beautifully hand crafted.  Unfortunately, it has a little bit of an issue with the placement of the pegs, making for a very small shed.  It made the whole project take much longer than I'd expected and it was frustrating at times.  I used 4/8 cotton, so it should have been pretty nice to weave with, but it seemed like I was wrestling with the warp the whole length, and it wasn't horribly fun.    However, I need to weave off another 6 or so lengths, so I'm going to have to figure something out to make this work better.   I had suggested my sweetie might want to make me a new inkle loom, with some small adjustments to the pattern, but the roof needs reshingling first and apparently that comes before fibery activities.  ;)

I did make this little narrow wares width guide for my next project.  It's just a strip of plastic, folded in half.  I used the plastic from a 10 litre water jug that I found in a recycling bin.   I think a juice or milk jug,  would be easier to work with.  This was pretty tough cutting.   It may still be too long as I put on both 2 inch and 2.5 inch markings.

My sweetie woke me up this morning at 6 am, to tell me that a chair had tipped over and there was a pile of green yarn on the floor.   Sitting nearby was Kevin, just looking around as if nothing was wrong.   While he normally isn't a playful kitty, when he does play, he goes all out.   This was a freshly dyed skein of 4/8 cotton.   While I can see some of the figure 8 ties, the rest of it is so tangled up that I'm not sure I'll be able to use it.    And my husband wonders why I call Kevin the" Bad Kitty".






Monday, 10 July 2017

Rodeo Fun

Who knew there was a rodeo circuit in our province, let alone what seems to be two different sets of events?  Looking for a fairly close road trip, I did a bit of research and found a couple of localish rodeos which looked like they might be a good day out.   This event was a charity fundraiser.    We slapped on the sunscreen and our sunhats and we headed out.   It turned out to be too windy for my hat to stay on my head, so I just kept putting on sunscreen.   Except for the couple of places that I missed, it worked amazingly well -
This was a small event, so there were only a few classes.   The saddle broncos had amazing muscles and were all powerfully built and gorgeous looking horses.

 
Just love the buckskin or dun coloured horses!  So pretty.


 Barrel racing was fun to watch.  The juniors had a little boy on a tiny pony whose legs just went a mile a minute trying its best.   So cute!
 Intermission had an exhibition of moto-cross bikes doing tricks.  The too young child just riding around after mom, with neither of them doing anything much, was sort of lame, but these guys, with their crazy tricks, in a gusty wind, were totally wild.
It was a bit surprising to see that the bulls didn't get far from the chutes.  I'd expected them to have a bit more forward movement.  Mainly it was up and down, and sometimes around in circles.   They did show that 8 seconds is a very long time.

 This is the only rider who made it the full 8 seconds on a bull really didn't want him on his back.  Yay him! 
Sooooo Much Fun!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Spring berries and blues

The red currants have started ripening.  Usually they all ripen at once and I simply have to strip each little hanging bunch off the branches.  It's fast and easy.  You don't have to take the berries off the stem to make jelly.  This year however, the berries are ripening at different times.   I have to get out there and get them before the Orioles and the Red Wing Blackbirds eat them.  They can strip a bush of it's berries in a day.  So, I've gone out picking individual currants.   Two days of picking has netted a whole 340 g of currants.   I skipped today in hopes that I'll be able to get a larger amount tomorrow.   I'd love  to get a kilo of currants, but I'm not counting on it this year.  The bushes seem to have far fewer berries than other years.  A kilo will make a decent sized batch of currant jelly.

This past winter I started some Dyer's Knotweed seeds much earlier than normal, in hopes of getting seed to set this year.   Usually it blooms in September and there isn't time for the seed to set.   The seed that I started in February germinated nicely.  I transplanted it into large pots and again into planters, though the last one went into the garden.     I noticed that it's starting to flower!   Yay!    However I decided to snip off the stems that weren't flowering in hopes of a) encouraging more growth and b) to see if there was viable pigment in the leaves. 

  I harvested 14 oz or just under 400 g of leaves, which  I weighed once I'd stripped them from the stems.  Although I don't think it's a necessity to do so, it takes less space in the container to cook the leaves without the stems.  I stuffed them into a glass jar, set a trivet in the bottom of a large pot filled with warm water, and set the jar into that pot, making a double boiler.  I cooked the leaves at 160° F for about 2 hours.   As I was lifting out the jar, the bottom sheared off the jar, which was startling to say the least.  Luckily, the entire mixture dumped into the large pot, saving an enormous mess.  I would have added more water to the dye vat anyway, so it was all fine in the end.

I did have photos of the entire process, but some how I managed to lose them when I transferred them to the computer and deleted them from my camera.  Normally I check to make sure they are where I want them before I hit the delete button, but for whatever reason, I convinced myself it was all good today.


At any rate, there was a reasonable amount of pigment.   I don't know if I aerated the mixture long enough though, so it might have been a little more.  I didn't weigh my fibres before I tossed them into the pot, as I was just playing around.   There is Blue Faced Leicester, a Cashmere/Merino/Silk blend and both cotton sliver and spun cotton in there.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Plying, and weaving and raccoons, oh my!

I've finished spinning the Blue Faced Leicester.  I plied it, wet finished it and it's ready to go into the stash for a future project.   I like BFL because it's both sturdy and soft.  The staple length makes it easy to spin.  It dyes nicely and is just an all around good general purpose sort of yarn.  I use it for things like mittens, socks and hats when knitting and for scarves, shawls etc when weaving.   This commercially prepared roving  was easiest to spin with a short forward draw, although I'm pretty sure I did a bit of point of contact long draw when I was just spinning but not really paying a lot of attention... oops...



 I also plied together several different yarns to put into this rug, as in shaker rug techniques.   I realized after I'd started that I don't have enough of the blue wool yardage to make enough rags to weave a rug, as long as I'd thought.   So, I've been staring at it, trying to decide what to do.  I could rip it out and start again, keep going to make a small mat, or add larger areas of the plied yarns.  Hmmmm, what to do, what to do?



The first mitt is finished.  It still needs to be blocked and it looks much nicer when being worn than in the photo.   I had it nearly finished and ripped it back to redo the thumb as I didn't like the way is sort of sticks out nor how really small it was.   I ended up not being able to figure out a better way to do it, so I just added a few rows of ribbing on top to both keep it from splaying out and to make it longer.  I also added a few rows after the pattern and more ribbing rows to make the mitt longer.   This is the 4th try at the 2nd cuff.   First couple of tries were my mistakes and then I was half way done when I realized that there were some errors that I'd not caught when reading it over.  I think I've got it figured out this time.  The cuffs are opposite though so if it gives me any more issues, I'll just redo the right cuff and forgo the difference in patterns since I already know that there is only 1 mistake in the right cuff and I've already fixed it.

My son was grilling dinner on the deck when he called us out.    It seems that the rather yummy smells emanating from the BBQ, woke this guy up.   Until the last year or so, that knot in the big Maple tree was sealed.   Obviously though, when it broke open, this little guy moved in.   It's too bad that their cuteness doesn't make raccoons such cute little animals.   We're making sure the barn is locked up tight by dusk and being careful to put the compost out early, while the chooks will still go through it and pick out the goodies.  I really don't want him to feel too welcome around here.  I don't want him eating my chooks or causing any other issues.

  We've had a pretty orange kitty hanging around.   It's not terribly afraid of people, so I'm thinking it might be a dropped off kitty, rather than a feral barn cat.   Sadly, it's getting skinny, which means it's hunting skills aren't up to par, also why I think it might have been toss out of a vehicle, and isn't a barn cat.  Barn cats are usually pretty well fed.  It's  now got a hurt leg.   I'm hoping it stays out of the way of the raccoon and maybe I can figure out some way to slip it some food.  So far the chooks have eaten everything I've tried to set out for it.