February 28, 2024

Syrup, Socks and Sad Jelly Moulds

We missed the first run of sap collecting and maple syrup making because it was a warm spell in early February.   We've found that there is only a small window of a couple of weeks for our spiles when we tap the trees, before they start healing up and the sap flow is diminished or stopped completely.  It was worse when we took advantage of an early warm spell a few years ago, so we waited.   Now people are saying that the maple sap season could end much earlier than expected.  Still, we got our first trees tapped a week ago and had over 100 litres to boil last weekend.   

With our set up, the old Franklin stove over the fire pit and 2 roasting pans, 1 to heat the sap and the other to reduce it, it's about the minimum we can do to have a reasonable batch of syrup to finish.   Hubby gets it most of the way and then I finish the syrup in the kitchen.  This way I can be more accurate with getting the syrup to the desired temperature - which is 219 F.  This is about 66% sugar content, and is very shelf stable.   Then I need to filter/strain the syrup to get out any ash and other icky things, re-heat it

to boiling, and put it into canning jars.   This takes a few hours.  It was a bit risky this time as not  one but both of my candy thermometers decided to not calibrate and wouldn't show a temperature above the boiling point.    I ended up sticking my meat thermometer in and figured out how to set it for the desired temperature and boy,  that instant read probe showed 217F.   It was only a few more minutes boiling until we got to the right temperature.  Once I'd done the filtering and canning, and cleaned up, and had my cup of celebratory tea, I tossed both of those uncooperative thermometers out.   We have just over 2.25 litres of syrup from this batch.

I spun some yarn with mill ends of a merino/cashmere/silk/nylon blend.  Most of them were fine but there were a bunch that needed to be re-processed by hand.   Mostly, the yarn was really nice, but a few of those re-processed bits were harder to spin, so there were a few uneven bits in the yarn.   However, it was between a sock weight and a sport weight after dyeing, so I tried it on the sock machine.  It was a little iffy in a couple of places, but mostly this was a really nice pair of socks to machine knit.   They are definitely a little heavier than I like, but next time I'll aim for a slightly skinnier yarn and I'll take more care to make sure that my roving or rolags are more carefully prepared.  Or  I'll just use commercially prepared wool and skip that first step completely :)

The kitchen is almost finished after 13 years.   The walls got painted 2 weeks ago.   I'm not sure I like the colour I chose.  If I'd gone with the first colour it would have been fine, but I switched last minute and it's a lot cooler of a colour than I thought.  It does go well with the cabinets though.   I had taken down m copper jelly mould collection to store it before painting.  This was 3 or 4 years ago...  I went to put them up and found 3 of them damaged.  Something had dripped on them and corroded the metal.  It was weird because there was a puddle of it in the rose mould which was gummy like a silicone or a weird dry wall compound, but we couldn't figure out how they would have come in contact with anything while stored in a box. 

  I'm pretty sad about the melon mould because that was one which makes very Victorian shaped deserts. That one and the one with the roses are designs I've not often seen so they'll be more difficult to replace.   The dots and lines one is a duplicate that I got because  a) it was $2  and b) was a very red copper rather than the gold copper that was already in the collection.  I've seen more of those around.   Most of our thrift stores have been shut down, which was my main places to find them.   I've seen a few in antique and vintage stalls, but they are much more expensive.

Otherwise -  I made 3 pair of socks for my daughter for her tiny, skinny feet and another pair for her husband who had dramatically larger feet.  I helped prep and run a craft session at the museum for a whack-load of kids.   We were told that there could be 150 kids or more.  Luckly there were just half that amount, which was plenty to do a craft with in the just under 4 hours we were allotted.  I saw a flock of swans overhead on my way home from Westfield, although I was unable to get a photo because they were flying so very quickly.  February has flown by.  While the weather hasn't been horridly cold or miserable, I'm looking forward to warmer temperatures and yearning a bit for my garden.

February 10, 2024

Springlike weather : blip or early spring?


I just took these springtime socks off the CSM.  I haven't had time to kitchener up the toes yet.  I saw this skein of yarn on sale for under $10.  They colours reminded me of spring, new growth and the end of winter so of course the yarn, especially being on sale, had to come home with me.

They worked up so quickly and easily that I am thrilled with that sock yarn.   It was nice because I made a pair of socks with some cotton/wool blend yarn that I received in a yarn swap some years ago and they are a bit harsh.  Maybe they'll be nicer after washing them a few times.

I'm way behind on getting the warp on the loom for my friend's apron.   It's been kind of crazy here.  First we had snowy and blizzard like weather so getting into town to get the sizing I needed didn't happen.  Finally I got it, then had to find the time to size the yarn.  It's been awhile and I realized that I didn't have a place to hand the skeins.  Not only had I always dried them outside in the past, but I'd put a light weight on them to keep the skeins in order.   Instead, I had to dry them inside, with no place to hang them - we don't have a bathtub with a shower rod - plus they weren't weighted at all,so they dried all krinkly and it took several days. I had to bring the skeins out and set them in front of the wood stove to dry in the end.   Then it took  days to actually wind the skeins into useable balls because of the kinky bits of yarn getting stuck to and caught under other bits.   It was a slow process.  Now Kevin seems to want to use the wound balls as a napping place.   Because Kevin doesn't like me disturbing him, and I don't want him to pee on my shoe or something like that, I've left him to his peace and quiet.  

The prognosticating rodents (groundhogs) in the area all predicted an early spring, but this has been a bit ridiculous and unexpected.  The weather has been so unseasonably warm the past week.  Some people have even started their syrup/ sap collecting.   We discussed it, but decided to wait.   The last time we put our spiles in early, we had a great start, but once the daytime temperatures drop to below freezing the tree starts to heal.  So instead of having to re-drill holes, we're waiting and hoping that we get some colder weather to stop the sap running for now.  Then we can tap our trees later in the season.

It was warm enough to hand out a laundry, albeit a small load.   That blanket is beloved by Dion kitty.  He wasn't impressed that it was shiny clean and smelled all fresh and outdoorsy.  He gave it a long stare and then had to be enticed on to it before he settled down for his nap.

February 03, 2024

Walking and Weaving

We had a lot of rain a little while back, which was on top of snow.   If the snow pack is deep enough,  it will absorb a lot of the rain and hold it.   It wasn't though, and the temperatures were unseasonably mild, so a bit of rain made the snow heavy with the extra moisture.  Then the excess rain started collecting and running in little streams on top of the frozen ground.   Then, because it's been above freezing the snow melted, creating more water running.   The water ran from the fields beside our house, through our back yard and into the chicken coop soaking their bedding and then out to the neighbour's fields on the other side.   This is now the second time this winter we've had to change out the wet  bedding.

  Usually we use a deep bedding process in the chicken coop, where the chook droppings mix with the bedding and slowly start to compost, giving off a bit of heat in the cold. We just toss in a bit of fresh shavings periodically to cover eveything.  Not this year though.  Luckily chooks are pretty hardy animals.   They don't like the winter, that's for sure.  I let them out to free range and if there is no snow on the ground, they run to the bird feeder to see if there is a snack for the on the ground.   If there is snow, they barely peek out of the barn and they won't leave the area to feed anywhere else while the ground is cold.   

We went for a walk down one of our favourite trails a few days ago.  All this rain has left the area rivers and streams running high and in low areas there has been flooding.  This part of the trail was impassible due to the flooding.   You can see that the water level has already started dropping by the dark, wet marks on the tree trunks.  The water is flowing quite quickly too.  

Today we were at another trail, which has a much higher elevation.  There were a few muddy bits and one shady area which was a bit icy because the sun hasn't reached there yet.   Mostly though, it was easy to traverse.  We had sunshine today (gasp!), which was lovely.  We don't get a lot of sunshine here during the winter, so the trail parking lot was full of people out enjoying the weather.  The little lake is still mostly frozen.   There is one area that is open and another where you can see it starting.   It's not safe to walk on or play on although it can look deceiving. 

 I bought some pretty yarn a few days ago.  It was on sale for a good price.  It was purples and blues, with a silver metallic sparkle running through it.   I got only 2 balls because I'm pretty sure this won't sell or be a hit, but I really wondered what it would look like woven up.  The yarn is good acrylic and has a lovely hand: soft and drapey.    I separated all the colours and did a stripe to make a checky pattern.  I think this might have been better served leaving it as it was and just having random stripes as the amounts of each yarn varied.  As well some had a clear demarcation between colours and others had a long transition with the colours blending.   There was only enough of the teal to do those thin stripes, while there is tons of paler purple left.   I'm doing random weft stripes of the light purple and the darker blues, with a couple of the purple/red colour in between.  You can't really see the purple red stripes in the busyness of the other colours and all that freaking sparkly silver.  There is so much of it.  It sure didn't look like that in the skein. I'd be all over this yarn if it didn't have the sparkly ply because it's so easy to weave with.  I think so much sparkle takes away from the lovely colours and how they work together, and the softness of the yarn.


January 29, 2024

Weird things and hat experiments

Weird things I've noticed lately -

I started to read a novel - just some random ebook to that was an obvious "story" and a work of fiction, only to find a notice at the beginning of the book that this was a work of fiction, and not true.  Is this a thing now, that we have to warn people that a story, which is obviously a made up story has to have a warning that this is fiction and not true?   I worry about humanity's future.

Kevin has been behaving nicely.  What's with that?

All the lemons on my little lemon tree house plant, ripened at once.   Now I have to figure out what to cook with 11 lemons over the next couple of weeks.

Many years ago, I subscribed to the only spinning magazine available.  In one issue was a felted hat made with handspun, and a pattern for it.   Not being a regular crocheter, I was careful about following the pattern.  I  ended up with this huge football shaped thing which would fit nobody's head.  I contacted the company concerned that there might have been a missing instruction or something, only to get  a rather curt and rude reply that there were no typos or missing instructions and the fault was my own. A few years later, I had learned  bit more about crochet, and I tried carefully to keep my gauge to same as they instructions suggested and follow the pattern.   Again, I ended up with something that didn't even resemble a hat.   

I decided that 3rd time was the charm.   I watched some crochet videos. I made sure I had the recommended hook.  I practiced until I new for sure I had the correct gauge.   I followed the instructions, knowing that I was ending on the correct stitch and had the right number of stitches on each row.  I ripped and remade any row which might not have been correct.  With much anticipation, I felted this new hat in the washer and put it through the drying cycle.  I took it out and did this whole felting routine 2 more times just to make sure...

This football shaped hat will fit nobody I know.  It was still huge, with something like a 28 inch head circumference and comes down past my nose in depth.  I have come to the conclusion that I'm missing something in those instructions.   It's too bad because I liked all the yarn that I used on those hats, some handspun and this one not, in order to try to keep it within the pattern parameters.  I will be looking for a new hat pattern. 

January 17, 2024

Lustreware bargain

bad photo of lovely tea set which was only $11

 Weird winter weather this year.  We had a mini blast of winter in November and then December was mild, wet and wetter.   One of those wet days, we wanted to go for a walk.   Instead of hitting a trail, DH suggested we go to the antique mall to get our walking in.   It's always fun.   I wasn't really looking for anything in particular, just getting in steps.  However, tucked back in a corner of a booth with almost no china, but lots of other odd things, was this little lustreware tea set.  It was very pretty and a design I didn't have.  Also, it was $14.  Now lustreware  isn't usually horribly expensive anyway, but a few of the booths had ridiculous prices on some of their lustreware, so that seeing this at an affordable price was very nice.  Then I looked up to see the big sign, that proclaimed that there was 25% off that day.   It had to come home with me.   With tax, the total was $11 for the teapot, creamer and sugar bowl.  I was smiling for the rest of the day.  Once in a while I actually make tea in my lustreware instead of the huge pottery mugs that I normally use.   It's pretty delicate though so I don't do it very often.

 We had a storm with "blizzard" conditions roll through.  It wasn't a true blizzard, but the crazy winds made for a couple of days of miserable weather.   The power grid has been so stable lately, since they came through and trimmed everything possible after the ice storm a few years ago, that we neglected to prepare properly when the power started flickering.   Usually we load up some buckets with water for flushing the toilets, and fill up some pots with potable water, just to supplement the jugs we keep on hand for power failures.  Being on a well, rather than town water, we don't have an operational well pump if we don't have hydro.  

 Sure enough, a few minutes after I popped supper in the oven, the power went out.   I had just enough time to get some candles lit so that I could suddenly switch up supper to a cold one.  It's been a while since I've cooked by candlelight, but it was doable.   I made a salad with white beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, red peppers and feta.   Then I laid out some cheese and bread.   By this time the generator was going to keep the stove fan and the sump pump going.   Of course as soon as everything was set up, the power popped back on.   It was a good reminder to keep emergency preparedness in mind, a little more often.

Here is a photo of the neighbour's Standardbred yearling or almost yearling anyway, to make up for the lack of photos.  I couldn't do a cat photo because there is a compatibility issue between some of the photos on my phone when I tried to transfer them to the computer - the the horse it is.   He's got a very pretty face though and was very brave to come right up to me to say hi!

And I just changed my settings to avoid the HEIC format, because it's suddenly corrupting more photos on transfer than not and that doesn't make me happy at all.

January 10, 2024

1924 Devil's Food Cake

 It looks rather modern with the gummy worms and cookie crumb dirt.   However, this is a modern  birthday cake made with a Devil's Food Cake from 1924, called Cake Secrets.  The booklet was produced by the Carnol Tonic and Restorative company.  Alternating pages have either recipes for cakes, frostings or fillings  and the opposite pages have testimonials for the tonics.   I noticed that some of the recipes seem to be from other cookery books.  As well, some recipes have suggested fillings or frostings, but the recipes aren't in the book! 

This recipe was chosen to fulfill a challenge using ingredients which you wouldn't normally use together.  In this recipe, it's the use of chocolate and potatoes, which I'd never, ever imagined would be ingredients that I'd put together.  Because I had no leftover mashed potatoes, I had to actually boil, mash and cool the potatoes before I made the cake.   I frosted the cake with a whipped ganache.  Usually this is a simple and nearly fool proof frosting.  Unfortunately the kitchen was cool and the chocolate seemed to start setting up before it was completely incorporated into the whipping cream.   It tasted superb though and wasn't noticeable when eating it.  Only that it was a little bit rough in looks.

I didn't add the nuts to the cake, though it would have made a nice addition.  I used one of the layers that this cake made to take to a pot luck luncheon and left the nuts out due to possible allergies.   

It says to bake in 3 layers, which I took to mean to bake in 3 separate pans.   I only had 2 the same size though and ended up overfilling the pans, which might have contributed to the denseness of the cakes.    I would definitely do  3 thinner layers next time.  Also, not having Swans Down Cake Flour, or any cake flour on hand, I just used scant cups of all purpose flour.  This may have made a difference as well

In all, it was a very rich and moist cake.    After 4 days, the cake was still moist and not showing any signs of stale crumbs at all.    In fact, when I tossed the remaining bits, they were as moist as when it was first baked.  This is definitely a good recipe to play with, plus it was very tasty.  Everyone who tried it liked the flavour and texture.

January 07, 2024

Weaving with Singles - a Viking apron dress

 I was going to update the blog background to a wintery photo, but instead am leaving it in it's autumnal glory.  We've had so much rain, fog and overcast skies that the bright flowers make me happy.  We had a couple of hours of sunshine today, which was glorious.  I'm not sure where Kevin was hiding, but Dion found a spot which was near enough the woodstove but was also a sun spot. That kitty surely lucked out on his timing for that nap!

I've been working on a simple viking apron dress panel for a friend.  She's getting an award and doesn't want a cloak which is one of the normal gifts.   It's one of the older, no longer thought to be historically correct apron designs.  However, since she is always working with metal and flame etc, this is a well thought out costuming piece on her part.   She asked me to weave it.  I decided that I will also spin the yarn for it because I didn't have a lighter weight wool yarn on hand, and this fabric really does need to be lighter than the commercial wool yarn that I have available.

I had a pound of merino roving in my stash, so pulled it out and started spinning.   This is going to be the requested diamond twill.   I'm spinning it to weave at about a sett of 15.  Because it's merino, it will full up nicely.  This is important because I'm passing the woven piece on to another friend who will embellish it with crazy beautiful embroidery.   

The yarn is spun, with adequate extra, hopefully for any possible
miscalculations.   I know someone who insisted that you only need to spin 10% extra yardage.  As nice as that sounds, I've found that if I do 30% more yardage, I have bases covered for any breakage or math errors.   ( or you know, naughty kitties)

As much as I wanted to dye the wool with indigo, I don't have the chemicals needed on hand and ordering it in would take too much time away from weaving.  Since I really didn't want to rush the weaving on this project, I used commercial weak acid dyes.   The warp is blue.  I added a bunch of black and thought it would grey out the colour a bit.  It did, but not as much as I expected.  Still it's a really attractive blue.  The photo isn't quite accurate.  The funny thing is is that I've some indigo sampling from past dye vats which are a very similar colour, so there is that.

The weft is spun but still needs to be dyed.   I've been waffling with what colour to dye it or if I should leave it white.  A pale blue would show up the weave structure less boldly than the white.  With the embroidery, I don't want the weave structure to compete with the pretty designs.   I do want the pattern to show up a bit more than doing it the same colour would.  Grey is another option.   

The warp needs to be sized.  I use a double strength gelatin for sizing  and it works very well.  This sizing adds some strength to the singles and helps protect against some of the abrasion from the beater.   I really means that weaving with singles is so much easier.   I usually size the yarn before I wind the warp.  This means I'll also have to wind the yarn into cakes before I wind the warp, just to make sure I don't tangle things up.

   In between all of this, I need to dye the weft.  The weft doesn't or at least shouldn't need to be sized.  I may weight it when I'm drying it to make the yarn a bit easier to work with.   Now I need to decide whether to put it on the table loom or the floor loom.  I think it will take a little bit longer to dress the floor loom, but will be a little bit faster to weave off.   I find that the table loom is faster to dress, but takes a tad longer to weave.   Because the process on each loom equals out, it is no help at all as to what loom I should use.   Oh the joy of 1st world problems :)