Monday, 18 September 2017

Colours of the end of Summer

Echinacea
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.


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Spinning, weaving, crafty stuff and never ending cat sagas.

Two for one photo here!   The second blue rug with the painted warp!  I've about 1/4 of the rag strips left to weave.   This rug is really pretty.   This area of the warp is greens, yellows and blues which show up nicely.   The next rug will be in a  part of the warp which is mainly reds and purples.   I am considering what colour weft would look best with that combination.   I wish I had some grey to use, but I don't have anything remotely grey in enough yardage to work.

The skein is the merino I've been spinning.    It turned out quite nicely.  I've gotten two skeins plied and need to decide if I'm going to finish spinning this merino or set it aside for now.   It's a lovely, soft, slightly springy yarn which would be nice for a shawl or scarves.


I'd been looking for a inexpensive wreath form and couldn't find anything locally for a reasonable price.  Finally, I grabbed some clippers and went to town on some of the many vines growing around here.   I started with some Bittersweet vines.  They aren't actually thorny, but they have these little sharp bits that look like leaf or berry nodes.   After cutting and trimming two vines, and then pulling several of those sharp bits from my skin, I decided that the abundant Virginia creeper might be a better option.  

Indeed, it was much easier to work with.   I wound the vines into a circle and wired them together.   Lots of instructions on the interwebs suggest just winding the vines in and around themselves.  However most of the vines I was able to harvest were only 4 - 5 feet long, so wiring seemed to be more secure.   The vines are green and need to dry.   There is a risk of them warping somewhat as they dry.    I let the wreath dry a couple of days.  It started to warp just a bit, so I wired on the decorations.   I hung it inside for a few more days drying and then tossed it on the front door today.    It's maybe a little too early for autumnal decor, but Labour Day weekend has always felt like the end of summer to me.   I managed to accentuate the warp by loading too many silk leaves on the inside, instead of the outside, but still, for a crafty wreath which cost less than $10, I'm pretty happy with it.

My son built this cat tree for the boys.  Kevin loves being on the top, but he hasn't actually figured out how to get up there himself.   Phil climbs the scratching post and naps on the bottom two  platforms, so if I lift Kevin up to his perch, they are both happy.  The old cat who is about 13 years old, hasn't even sniffed it.  He's quite happy sleeping in a pile of wool blankets on the couch!

Phil's brother kitty, who we have been feeding and protecting on our porch, with a really nice kitty house, including a heated sleeping pad and heated water bowl is now in the garage.    I found the neighbour's grey cat attacking the poor guy and he was pushed up against the garden fence, with no way to escape.   The grey cat moved away a few feet when I tried to shoo him away, but wouldn't leave.   I scooped up the second ginger kitty and he's now stashed safely in the garage.     He is quite friendly, although not as people needy as Phil is.   He doesn't like to be picked up, cuddled, nor is he a lap kitty.  He does like to be petted though and loves to have people nearby to hang out with him.   I don't want another indoor cat.   I don't think we really have the space for another indoor kitty.  However, we really think these kitties were drop offs and were once someone's pets.   I can't honestly say that I'm happy to leave him out to be picked on by bully cats and eat by the coyotes or raccoons.  What to do?  What to do?

Saturday, 2 September 2017

1909 Carrot Cake






This recipe was a recent challenge on the Westfield Facebook page.  The recipe has been translated for modern usage as well, at about half size.   I used the modern recipe but just realized that the sugar was left at the full amount.  The cake was good, and was sweet enough that it didn't need an icing or sugar coating.  However, I was thinking that halving the sugar would probably make it more of a quick bread, rather than a cake - not necessarily a bad thing.   I will try this next time.

The modern recipe posted  calls for

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup grated carrot
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 cups flour
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup milk


I used vegan margarine instead of the butter.   I upped the spices a bit using a heaping tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp nutmeg.    I used just under 2 cups of gluten free flour mixture, omitted the raisins (didn't have any on hand), substituted almond milk for the regular milk.  I also added 1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum and 1 egg.

This cake was really delicious.   I've not been a huge fan of carrot cake, I think due to the heavily oil based modern cakes.     This cake was light and had a great texture.   It had a really good flavour as well.    It is definitely a keeper recipe.   The recipe is simple enough that there is a lot of room to play around with textures and flavours.  The sugar could be reduced a bit.   You could up the spices or leave them out completely as in the original recipe.   What about adding walnuts or almonds?  Yum!
I wonder if you could substitute zucchini for the carrots?  How about replacing 1/4 cup of flour with the same amount of cocoa for a chocolate carrot cake?

One of the things that I appreciated about this recipe is that it was really quick to make up.   The part that took the longest was grating a cup of carrots and that was no time at all.   I used standard quick bread/cake directions -  mixed the butter, sugar and egg.  Then added all the dry ingredients, carrot and milk.   I stirred it all together and poured it into a greased pan.    I used a loaf pan but an 8 or 9 inch pan would work too.    I baked it at 350° until it tested done.    I find that baked good without dairy products don't tend to brown as nicely, but the taste and texture are fine.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

A busy weekend and a full pantry


I'd planned to go to a local SCA demo called Middle Ages on the Green and life decided to intervene.   First, the menfolk decided to start shingling the garage.   I wasn't 100% comfortable about going off to play while they were slaving away on the roof and having to cook their own supper, but I thought I could toss something in the crock pot for them, or make sure I was home early enough to solve that problem.


 Then 50 lbs of tomatoes dropped into my lap on Friday.  I knew that my play day on Saturday was to be put on hold.   After running around doing errands in the morning, I spent the afternoon and part of the evening, canning.   That was blanching, chopping, heating, crushing, bottling and hot water processing all those tomatoes for hours and hours.   Thirty seven jars later, I considered that I didn't think I did quite so many tomatoes last year.    We'll be eating tomatoes all winter!

I also had some blue prune plums, the kind with the yellow flesh and dark purple skins.   I turned them into jam as they all ripened exactly at once.   I wish I had a photo of the before and after of this jam.  The before was this ugly yellow mush with dark flecks.   As it came to a boil though, the dark flecks of the peel, started to dissolve and the plum jam ended up a beautiful dark ruby red/purple colour.  Sooooo very pretty and incredibly tasty too.

I was at Westfield again today.  I was in the Misener house, which has an awesome wood cook stove.   I was going to make gooseberry jam but after all that canning, I was plumb tired of processing.  Instead, I dug up some carrots and beets from the Lockhart garden and tossed them in a pan with a piece of beef and some potatoes.  I brought them home for dinner so that the hardworking shingling menfolk had supper, but I still got to get out and play.   Those freshly dug carrots and beets were so delicious!  It was crazy busy today at the village though, with lots of interesting people out.  The day just flew by. 

Monday, 21 August 2017

Kitty update, Victorian knitting project

Kevin and Phil made friends fairly quickly.   After about 3 days of ignoring one another, there was a day of sniffs and growls, then a day of sniffs.  That night they were playing, chasing each other around the house and general wildness.   After a day or two of hard playing, Kevin's cranky leg gets sore and he starts limping again, so he takes it easy for a day or two until he's good to go again.   If I'm not around to provide Phil with a lap to sleep on, the two of them sleep on my bed.

I made some pickles last week at Westfield, in the Misener house.   The beets and cucumbers from the Lockhart garden were ripe.   The beet recipe was strait out of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, I had to adapt the pickle recipes somewhat as I didn't have a crock to store them in.  I didn't run them through a hot water bath, so they are refrigerator pickles.

 I decided to do start another knitting project as I wanted a shawl or wrap to wear in the cooler weather at Westfield.   This pattern is in the November, 1864 issue of Godey's Ladies Book (vol. 69).  I downloaded a facsimile and was able to print out the pattern instructions.  Someone has very nicely put the instructions on Ravelry as well.  The article in the magazine says the original was made with a varigated violet and black centre and fringe with black and gold contrasting stripes.   It says solid colour yarns are cheaper than the varigated colours and natural colours are the least expensive.  You can use any weight of yarn for this and the article points out that if you use strong yarns, it is suitable for charity knitting.   This is an easy to knit, utility shawl, but it isn't mindful, careful knitting.  It's garter stitch, garter stitch and more garter stitch, with a few increases tossed in.

I was originally thinking that a cream or light grey shawl with brown and grey stripes would work nicely.   However this white tweedy yarn was on sale - super sale really, with a packet of 5 skeins for a bit less than the price of 2 skeins.   That really made the choice of colour a moot point.   However when I knit it up, the white had no life to it.   It is a cold, dull white and the black bits just looked unappealing.    So into the dye pot it went.   I decided on blue though, in an attempt to minimize the black bits.    I was going to use woad or Japanese Indigo, as I have lots ready to use in the garden, but I didn't have enough time in one stretch available.  Instead I used acid dyes and I'm pretty happy with the way the colour turned out.   I have a lovely grey marl for at least one of the stripes. I might still go with the brown for the other.    I only dyed 6 of the 10 skeins I'd purchased for this project, so I have 4 left to dye another colour, if I need one for the stripe.

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.