December 14, 2017

Quick project update

 The nice thing about having a few extra bobbins for your spinning wheel is that you can switch up a project with ease.   I decided that I didn't want to spin up the cotton that was the current project.  I'd been rooting through some stored bags of fibre and found this unlabeled braid of fibre I'd previously dyed.  I'm presuming it's some sort of superwash BFL, as I remember dyeing a bunch of sliver in different colour combinations and in slightly larger than 100 g increments.  This braid fits that criteria, so I'm spinning it fairly fine, possibly for socks.  It's fun to spin a bit of colour sometimes.  This is definitely colourful.

One of the cats was eyeing the red needle felted gnome.  Since it is a gift, I decided to make a second one, just in case a cat had it's way with the first one.    I'd hate to have to make one in a rush just before I needed it, because a cat had turned it into a cat toy.  I'm not sure I like this little guys puffy cheeks.    They were supposed to be part of a big nose, but obviously, I didn't get them quite properly positioned.  They would have been too big for a nose anyway, so it's probably for the best.

I made awesome gluten-free ginger cookies.  They were all eaten, so no photo but thankfully I have the recipe stuck to the fridge, so all is good for future cookie making.
I'd planned to make guitar straps for all my musician kids, their spouses, a friend and us as Christmas gifts.  Between all of us it would be a total of 8 guitar straps, 2 mandolin straps and 1 banjo strap.   I'd envisioned a big basket with the various straps, labelled with sizes and instrument for the kids to choose from.  I thought it was a smart move to buy natural cotton and dye it all the colours I wanted, in the amounts needed and whip them up on my inkle loom... Wrong!   Dyeing cotton isn't difficult, but it is time consuming.  The dark colours take lots of dye and it takes forever to rinse the colours out.  The dyes bind with the water as well as the fibre so it takes twice as much dye and I ended up rinsing for 2 days.  That was after the process of setting the dyes which is either hours in the pot with the dye, or simmering for 2 hours.   Next time I will buy the yarns predyed.  As far as I'm concerned, it is only worth the process to do spectacular multi coloured effects or if you can't get the colour you want. 

  Even then it isn't for sure.   The pretty blue was supposed to be purple.  I followed all the steps for a 50-50 red/blue blend purple, but most of the red just didn't take.  It was fine when I used it for the pink, which looked like it was going to come out hot pink, but rinsed to the colour I'd been looking for.
So how many of those straps are done for?   Part of only one!   My inkle loom is pretty but the sizing is slightly off, making the heddles, when made the way is suggested by tying over two specific pegs, too big.  This means the shed is really tiny and awkward to use.  I should have measured everything and made a little heddle frame to size once I realized this but it was in the middle of a project.   Then the fussing keeps causing the weaving to slide to the end of the pegs, so you have to keep pushing it back.  I don't know if it is a function of the loom or the width that I need to weave.  So I have 1 ugly strap made, but haven't found enough hardware locally and the piece of leather I thought I had for the end taps isn't actually there anymore.  Needless to say, I think the guitar straps, while a good idea, are for next year.   I'm thinking of trying to weave some of them up as a rep weave on the big loom.

December 04, 2017

The horses and needle felting

 It was dusk and I was collecting eggs and feeding the chooks when I realized the neighbour's horses were close to our fence.   They are a little skittish, but pretty good about me being outside, as long as I don't make any sudden moves.   There are a lot of trees along the fence line, so I imagine that if I move to quickly, it could startle them.   This time of year though, without all the leaves, they can see me coming, so they were curious and not running away.

The young ones are in their own pen.   I think these were the babies born this spring. There are three foals and this one has such a pretty face and is inquisitive.
The mares are in the field behind us.  Two came right up to see what I was doing.   Their field is full of burrs and goldenrod, so keeping our gardens free of those two plants is nigh impossible.   I was sad to see all the burrs on their forelocks.   It couldn't be comfortable for them.   This gal also had burrs on her mane and her tail.   It would take a while to comb those out, for sure!

 There was an interesting moon out that evening.  It was huge in the sky.   I figured if I ran inside for the tripod, that it would be gone before I got a photo taken, so this is it - unsteady hands and all.  It was a bit creepy, with the sky darkening to a blue grey colour, and that big moon, which was a yellowy pink colour in the sky.

I've got some cotton on the wheel.  It was unlabled and dyed with indigo.  When I grabbed it, I thought it was a cashmere blend, until I started spinning and it was definitely cotton..  I don't mind because I like spinning cotton but I had actually planned for a different project.

I spent ages looking for my felting needles.  Sadly, they were exactly where I'd put them, only the packet they were in disappeared and they were scatted about the box.  I ended up having to empty out the box to find them.

Using some bits of dyed sliver and raw locks, I made this little guy as a Christmas ornament.  He's not quite done, but I like him a lot. 

I was going to spend a couple of weeks learning some Christmas carols on my banjo, but instead I started learning another Bluegrass song.... oh well,  this song will have a longer useful playing time than the carols.  I've definitely advanced past the rank beginner level, although I'm still a beginner.   

ARgh, the washer died, hubby fixed it for the moment because we surely don't need an appliance we use regularly, crapping out right now.   Because it filled up, when I'd turned it off, I have to unplug it after every use, just as a precaution.   At least I can fill it to a large load now, so clothes are getting clean again.  When all we could do was a small load, nothing got clean.   We'd looked at replacing it and the ancient dryer, but nope, not in the budget at the moment.  It was fun looking though, at the amazingly efficient top loaders out there these days.

November 29, 2017

Christmas Preparations and frustrations

 I made a dozen ornaments, 6 of each kind.  They were fun and crafty, although each skein ornament has 8 little skeins in them, and they got to be a bit of a pain to wind, although they were fairly quick to do.  It was just a lot of them.    The knitted swatch ornament was pretty easy, once you got the trick to a) knitting them on those tiny toothpick knitting needles, and b) getting them into the round ornament and getting them to hang nicely.
 I also crocheted a huge hat, to felt down.  This is the second time I've tried that pattern and the second time it didn't work in a spectacular way, albeit it was a bit better this time.   I ripped that hat out 4 times and redid it trying to get the shape right, but in the end, it just didn't work for me.   No photo of that one because I'm pretty ticked at the waste of materials and the iffy instructions which I was assured work.  They do, but they don't seem to make a hat which is wearable when I follow them to a "T".

My son asked me to make stockings for him and his girlfriend.   This is the first one which is half finished.  I wanted to make sure he liked it enough before I sewed on the bells.  Next time I'd make the dagged cuff longer though as I think the proportions would be better.   I'm not sure if I'll do them both the same style or choose a different cuff for the second one.   Pattern is one I drew myself.

I'm also making myself a new stocking this year.  I have the pattern drawn out, but need to find the right materials.

I tried to take one of the feral kitties, Dion, to the vet on Friday.  He totally freaked out and in the end I had to cancel the appointment.   Monday I went to get him some happy, calming meds which will hopefully make today's trip easier.  Hubby is coming home from work early to help me catch and crate him too.

I've spent what seems like hours on the phone to Amazon trying to figure out why the parcels they send, get stuck at the courier office and don't get delivered.   The address is correct, so I can only guess that since they switched to a smaller courier with contract drivers, they don't actually want to drive out the extra 10 minutes to the rural areas.   There are several of us waiting for parcels which are well past the delivery date, with nothing happening at all.  While the customer service people in India try to help, the best they've been able to do is say to wait another week and hopefully it will get there.   It is frustrating and I can't find any other contact info for service/complaints etc.    When they delivered with UPS or Can. Post, parcels arrived quickly and on time.  Now I don't know if the ordered presents will arrive at all?   From what I've read on various forums, I'm not the only one with issues with the new courier service.     So very frustrated with this.

November 20, 2017

Playing with Overshot

The rest of the 4/8 rug warp has been sitting on the loom waiting for inspiration.   I'd started another rug, but although they are quite fast to weave, there is all that cutting into strips and then making sure the weft is beaten down really well.   I'd put a fairly high price on the Shaker Rug, but it sold.  With all the spinning required for the specifically plied yarns, as well as the fabric strips, they are a fair bit of work.   If I'd known it would sell, I would have made another couple.  However I'd already rethreaded the heddles for an overshot project since there isn't a huge market for rag rugs.   Even using recycled materials for the weft, I can't compete with imports or even some of the guilds who, we were told, charge dramatically less than we do, so that our prices were too high.   I was told they sell tea towels for $9 and Queen size coverlets for $125, with the implication that so should we.

So, I'd rethreaded for an overshot patter from Davison's Green book - snowballs I think it's called.  The warp is handpainted in a variety of colours.   The tabby weft, could either have been white or dark.  I had some purple, which made the colours pop quite nicely.   I thought with the dark tabby weft and the bright colours, that white would pull things together.  I was very wrong with that.  The first sample with white wool was too thin.   I thought then that the white was too light, but I tried a slightly thicker white wool, which was also too thin.    I was at a store which sells regular old knitting yarns and picked up a jumbo ball of black acrylic worsted weight, to see what that would look like.    It was perfect - except of course it was cheap acrylic yarn - but it looks and feels right.

There are a couple of issues that I noticed after I'd gotten a good sized sample woven.   I'd neglected to reverse the selvedge border threading, so they are both facing the same direction.  As well, I'd neglected to consider that little connecting block and should have either eliminated it at the end or added it at the beginning of the pattern threads.    However, it is pretty stunning regardless of those errors.    I'm not sure what I'll do with this.  I have tons of warp left.   There are two different treadlings suggested for this threading.    If I weave it all off,  will either have lots of yardage or need to weave specific lengths for specific projects.    I'm just not sure what those would be.  The floats are just a little long to be really durable.  It is pretty though.

November 08, 2017

Winter skies

We had a frost last night.   It's almost the middle of November and it's the first real frost this year.  When I went to let the chickens out, it was raining leaves and the ground was a sea of yellow, orange and red.   With the blue sky, it was a perfect autumn day.   Yesterday however, the skies were restless, with churning clouds in every shade of grey. 

When I went out to help my man switch out the tires on the cute little car, as it really does need snow tires, I had to run back in and grab my camera.  The light was interesting to say the least.   Since my job was to label the bags for the tires, so we knew where they were on the car when they came off, I had lots of time to wander about, up and down the road, playing with camera settings.

 The beans have been off for weeks, but the corn is still in the fields.   When a stray beam of sunlight hits the drying stalks, it lights up like gold.   Sometime in the next few weeks, if the weather is cooperative, the corn will soon be gone too.  The autumn colours will then be much more subdued and wintery.  I suppose that is appropriately seasonal, but it's been such an awesome autumn that I'm loath for it to end.

The hay growing so lush and green against the backdrop of the corn is an interesting contrast.   There is winter wheat starting to sprout around here as well, but this was a hay field this year and hasn't been plowed under since, so hay it is.   I keep thinking that it would be a good place for a few sheep to graze, but since the farmer raises beef cattle, that isn't likely to happen.

 That green does bring about hope for a far distant spring . First though, we have to muddle through dismally short days, grey wintery skies and winds blowing snow across the landscape, into boot tops when slogging out to the barn . 

I love the colours of the weathered wood on this fence.   It blends in beautifully with the landscape, but yet has purpose as it keeps the neighbour's  horses safely in their fields.   And somehow, NEIGHbour's and horses side by side, seems like it should be a pun, but it's not.. sigh.. just one of those days I guess.


November 06, 2017

Bits and pieces of finishing up

 It has been a busy and odd few weeks.   It has been odd that we've had to get back into the routine of lugging in armloads of wood and loading up the woodstove.   I'm pretty lucky as my menfolk do most of the lugging.   I usually clean out the ashes properly during the day though.   We've had some sort of evil virus run through the family, which was not so much fun.  I managed to avoid it mainly, for which I was thankful.
I spun up the rest of the grey BFL and got it plied.  It's a nice yarn although not quite as soft as some BFL that I've spun.   There is 225 g of plied yarn in total, so at least enough to do something with.   

I've been washing up the two toned Shetland fleece.   I almost tossed it a while back, because it had been sitting around and I'm getting a bit lazy and cranky, preferring to spin commercially prepped fibre when possible.  However, I just couldn't do it.  So I'm washing it up and will probably drum card it into batts for spinning, to blend that lovely colour nicely.

 Dion is one of our feral rescues.   I took him to the vet for a check up before we let him in the house.   The vet said he had an eye infection, so we dutifully gave him eye drops - that was a wild activity.   It took 2 of us, at stupid early because it never occurred to us to move the time to later in the afternoon.   Hubby held the poor boy down, while I dripped in the drops which weren't drops nor were they ointment.  Not enough pressure on the tube and the gunk wouldn't come out.  Too much pressure though, and the gunk spurted everywhere!  They helped a little bit, but his eyes were still weepy.  The vet said it looked like he had Entropion or turned in eye lids, which apparently isn't horribly common.  So they checked when he was getting his dangly bits removed and then cut slits in his eye lids, removing a bit of tissue and stitching them back together.    Poor baby looked scary for almost 2 weeks after the surgery.   His cone is off now and his eyes look better, although the stitches in one eye were loose at the check up and that eye is still a bit drippy.   We've got 2 weeks with a true ointment for that eye, to see if it is a real issue or if it is just inflamation.  I hope he doesn't need that eye redone, as  all this kitty stuff has already blown our budget way out of whack!   He has gotten to love his cuddles and patting sessions though this whole ordeal and is such a sweet, gentle kitty.  I can't imagine him not being a part of our family.

I have the rest of a lb of white merino that I'd purchased for one of the later levels of my Master Spinner homework.   I'm spinning it up in a quest to get rid of some of the partial bags of fibre left.    It dawned on me that I might want to blend this with some alpaca or even camel that I have sitting around as well, so I stopped after 1 bobbin full.  I'd bought myself 2 oz of camel down as a treat after I sent my Master Spinner in depth study off - so maybe this is a good time to blend and spin it up.

Way too much real life stuff happening, which is getting in the way of the fun stuff though.   I'm still practicing the banjo though.   It's a daily time out for me, which I've come to rely on .

October 23, 2017

Small projects, shawl and pumpkiny stuff

This morning, there was a barn fire on the next block, up the road.   All morning and half the afternoon, fire trucks and emergency vehicles have been streaming by, sirens and lights going.    The news says it was a straw barn, and no animals or people were hurt, so that is a good thing.    My chooks were hunkered down on the back deck most of the day and I don't blame them.  The noise and lights were quite unusual for around here.   They are already a bit unsettled as I moved 3 new rescue chooks into a pen in the barn last night.    They are quite well socialized, being the Westfield demo chooks.  They don't really have the means to keep the girls over the winter, so one volunteer or another gives them a home in the fall.

 I've been making tiny knitting needles by the dozen.   They aren't difficult, but you need to get them just the right size for the intended purpose, which is ornaments.

I've been making tons of tiny skeins of yarn as well.  A bit is handspun, but mostly it is leftover bits of sock yarn.
I've also been knitting tiny swatches on size 0 or 1 needles and transferring the partially finished swatch onto the tiny home made needles.   Hopefully soon I'll have some of the ornaments assembled.  

My son bought a dremel tool this summer, and tried it out with carving this pumpkin.  He told me it was a simple design, meaning no shading or anything.    It doesn't look simple to me!   There is a huge pumpkin sitting in my hallway, waiting for his attention.  He doesn't think that this pumpkin will last with our weather being what it's been... mild or even warm.   

It was an amazing weekend and I wish I'd taken photos of all the baking I did at Westfield, in the Misener house yesterday.  It was Pumpkin Sunday, a pumpkin themed day and of course along with the pumpkin games and decor, all of us cooks, cooked pumpkin themed goodies.    It was so busy though that I didn't have time to cook everything I'd hoped to make, nor did I have drag out a camera to take photos of the goodies.  The photo montage up on the Westfield FB page shows what we were baking and what a great day it was, both for fun and weatherwise.

I finished the Godey's Ladies Book shawl a couple of weeks ago.  It took 2 days to cut and tie the fringe on.  It probably could have been done in 1 day,  but who wants to sit still cutting and tieing for that long.   It took almost a whole skein of yarn to make the fringe!  It's long and covers my back and hips, which is what I'd wanted.  I'd wanted it to be more of a wrap than a shawl.   I'm not sure how to photograph the whole thing, so here it is folded up.  It is warm and cozy.   The only thing is that the cats like it and I'm finding one or the other asleep on it, all the time.

October 13, 2017

Weaving rugs, spinning and a bit of cattiness

The Bluefaced Leicester is plied and skeined.  There are 2 skeins of it and some sliver left to spin.   The plying went super quickly.  I was listening to some Bela Fleck and those singles just flew out from my fingers.   Seriously though, if you've never heard of Bela Fleck, check him out on YouTube.  The guy is amazing!  Sometimes a bit weird I'll give you, but none the less amazing.

I had this white sheet with roses on it.   It was making a lovely rug.   Then I realized that I was running out of weft.  It turns out my double sheet was a twin sized sheet.   I worked the rest of the yardage out and I was definitely short.  My rug would have been lucky to be square and definitely not the rectangle mat I was aiming for.   I wished I'd had some green to add to it, but only could find red or beige with large black figures.  The beige wouldn't have worked at all, a way icky combo but the red didn't look awful.  The white became stripes and I finished the rug off quickly, thankfully unweaving went really fast.

This is the finished rug.  It looks pretty good finished and the red is a deeper tone of the pink used, so it fits together.

4 cats are a lot of cats!  I've finally gotten a morning feeding routine.  We've had to change up a few things as we can't demand feed anymore or Dion who has gained 3 lbs in short order, just keeps eating.   He is so happy to have food, he just scarfs it down like he may never be fed again.   I've had to leave a bowl of the cheaper food that they don't like as much out, just so that he always has food but only put the good stuff out at regular feeding times.   The first time I did this, he dug through the cheaper food, looking for tidbits of the good stuff.    What a mess, with those little nuggets flying around as he was mining for treasures in this tiny little bowl... lol.
Phil looking regal, sweet and calm, hiding his inner crazy cat!

Phil spends his mornings flying around the house, bouncing off furniture and playing with everything from plastic bottles to his tail.  I've had to hide all my pony tail elastics for fear he'll swallow one.   He spent over an hour yesterday playing with a plastic bottle top  - big enough for him not to eat, but light enough for him to bat  around the house.   He has a lot of crazy cat in him.   Then he settles down for a nap and is so sweet, with his little sighs and mews.
 Our old cat isn't quite so happy and accepting yet.   Last night he chased Phil off my lap and then chased Dion, who was sleeping quietly on a chair.  It happened to be the chair I normally use.   We figured the old guy was just making sure that they both knew he had claimed me first.   It was kind of amusing, except for the hissing and swatting which took place on my lap.

October 02, 2017

Shawl Progress

I've been knitting away at the Godey's Ladies Book Shawl (Nov 1864 issue).  The border calls for 2 colours, contrasting to the main colour.   I've seen the whole shawl elegantly done in just 2 colours, but the original was described s the main part being violet and black varigated, with a gold and black border.   I wasn't sure I had enough blue to do the border and the fringe, which is tied on after the shawl is finished.   I have 600 g of the blue, 400 of which were used for the main body.   I had 250 g of the brown and I had 300 g of the white tweed that I could dye up for the third colour and 200 g of a grey marl, which I'd tried first and it was pretty wishy washy and unattractive.   I saw a photo using the deep blue, brown and gold, which was spectactular, so I chose that as a colour scheme.   To say the least, it is indeed a bold choice.  The gold was dyed with weak acid dyes, using warm yellow, black and a little bit of magenta.

Instructions state to use a safety pin to mark increase row 

I used 4 skeins for the blue.  It wasn't as long as I'd done the math for, but draping it on myself showed it was going to be long enough.   The border is 4 rows colour A, 6 rows colour B, 4 rows colour A, 6 rows colour B, 10 rows colour A, 6 rows colour B, 4 rows colour A, 6 rows colour B, 4 rows colour A.   I almost stopped halfway through the border.  

Not only was it plenty big enough, but each 2 rows increase the total stitches by 4.   It is taking me about 1/2 hour to knit one row.   I'm quite ready to cast off.    However, by the time I'd finished the centre section of the border, I realized that I was now on the count down, so I kept going.   I have 14 rows left to knit.

The gold and brown border is  bright and hardly subtle.  I think it is a good choice for the time period and  it is well within the colour suggestions of the original pattern.

This baby is going to be warm.   It already weighs close to 600 g.  I'll need to use part of the second skein of both gold and brown for the rest of the border.  There are 2 skeins of the blue left, which will be used for the fringe.   I don't know how much I'll need for that.

When I start getting a bit overwhelmed with the knitting, I choose to knit 4 or 5 stitches.   Then another 4 or 5 and so on.   Usually it's just 4 stitches, and by doing that, in no time, I've completed a row.  I've only had to resort to that trick a couple of times though.

I am already thinking about my next project, which will likely be a) smaller and b) incorporate a stitch pattern other than garter stitch.  The only thing good about that much garter stitch, is that I don't have to look at it very often while I'm knitting, so I can talk, read, entertain the cat etc..

September 18, 2017

Colours of the end of Summer

Fall Aster
Fall Crocus
The leafy show of colour increases each day
A huge red sun each evening, instead of a sunset.

September 12, 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.

September 05, 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?

September 02, 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.

August 27, 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. 

August 21, 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.