Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A new idea to consume my time

So recently I decided that I really needed to understand more about spinning. Much more than the person who taught me was able to help me with. I have long wanted to take some "advanced" spinning classes to pick brains (so to speak) and get answers to all the questions I have and a bit of direction too. Unfortunately---they think we don't like to spin in the South and there are not many classes to choose from (that I could find anyways).
One program I thought I might do is the master spinner program through Olds College in Ontario Canada. I do have family near there but no matter that---it is far away. They also periodically have one in Oklahoma---again a distance for me.
So when I stumbled on the Handweaver's Guild of America and their Certificate of Excellence in spinning (or weaving or a number of other things) I sent off for the guide book to peruse and see if it would work for me. The study and work involved is very similar in scope and style to the Olds College program. Most of the work is done at home---in your own time---then sent off to be evaluated. Eventually you pass (I assume anyways :-D) and receive your certificate.
My reason for doing this is that I would like to teach spinning. However---I do not want to be the type of teacher I had who would say "you will get into that later" or "I am not sure" or "it should be in the book I had you purchase from me". I want to be able to "teach" not just offer some mediocre instruction. I like to learn from books and have always had good luck with it but I do understand that not all people favor that style of learning. So..if I say "well look in the book" or "I don't know" basically I have failed them in their quest to better understand this "skill". I mean really--some people learn better by watching than reading. So as a teacher you should both be able to direct them to good manuals and books and also give visual instruction too.
Anyways, besides defining some terms related to a number of things involving spinning wheels, dying, plying and spinning there is a lot of actual spinning of fibers (surprise surprise aye!). Just for the wool section alone I have to have five different breeds of sheep wool supposedly trying to have different "aspects" for each one: A fine wool (I chose merino) a luster wool (wensleydale) a carpet wool (navajo churro) etc. I am also supposed to start with raw wool and wash, card and prep it for spinning myself.
Of course I will use some of my own Icelandic but studying other breeds enables me to understand the different reasons you would choose them over Icelandic because lets face it---no one fiber is perfect for every project. It also helps me understand more about my own fleeces so when I sell them I can help people choose the right one for their project.
Of course wool isn't the only thing to spin. I have to spin cotton, flax, synthetics and some protein fibers that are not wool (think Alpaca or angora bunnies here).
There are also sections to show different styles you can get either through plying techniques or also dying (or both together).
Should be fun---though I think it will probably take a while which must be why they give you a two year period to accomplish it in. are some pictures of my fleeces that came today.
There is a cotswald lamb to the left, a very crimpy merino on the top right and a pound of wensleydale lamb in my kitchen sink soaking. I will try and keep up with pictures of my progress though I do forget sometimes in my "glee" to be finished with something.
By the way---we have stalled totally on our house as all extra income goes into stockpiling hay for the next year--which is not cheap right now. Eventually we will have more pictures of some progress on the house (hopefully! since it seems never ending sometimes.)

Sort of finished

Here is the shawl I posted about so so so so so so long ago made from one of my Icelandic sheep's fleece.
The problem, and hence the delay in finishing was the lack of yarn to finish the project with. I underestimated the amount needed (oops!) and so I could not figure out how to end it. Should I change color? Try and spin the daughter's fleece to match since the ewe has changed color slightly? Should I try and substitute a different pattern that would require less yarn......finally I just decided to cast off. Fortunately it really doesn't look as if I abruptly ended---though it would have been nicer if it had the whole pattern on it. However, I am glad it is no longer sitting in the room reminding me that: "hey! I am still unfinished over here!"
So now it is blocking and will be finished by tomorrow. The size is actually nice and will still be very functional for me. Overall---I like it. However, I will be more careful about gauging yarn needs in the future. Of course a sweater is always easier since you can make the sleeves a different color and it looks as if you intended it to be that way. A different color border on this type of shawl would have looked...well....a bit out of place I think :-)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Summer door

Finally something to take a picture of that isn't dry and brown looking.
My chickens---with a pictures of a few hens and a number of the roosters above----are now starting to lay eggs. Itty bitty teeny tiny eggs right now. I forgot how small "new" eggs are when a hen first lays--very small. It has been a while since we had young hens so, though we remembered that it worked that way---we were still surprised at the size of them (or lack actually).
Anyways---this weekend they got a new door to their coop. We had realized that the ventilation we provided wasn't working quite as well as it could so we got another salvage door, cut out the glass and panels, and added hardware cloth. Voila! New screened door for improved ventilation. Their "winter door" is stored inside their coop right now and will go back on about the end of October. Lucky chickens---two doors for their house. What more could they ask for? Well, maybe some bugs.
We have noticed that there are a few "pluses" to this drought. Well, I mean if you want to look at it optimistically that is. There are really no Japanese beetles and the ones we do find are very very small---not those jumbo whopper ones. Not many grass hopper or caterpillars to eat our plants. We have absolutely no mosquitoes. I mean---with no rain, no dew and our pond now dusty dusty dry at the bottom (yes, it is completely gone)---there is no place for them to breed. Always a plus not to have mosquitoes right? I also believe based on what I have seen that with the late Easter frost we got--then the drought---that some of the pest cycles are being broken. So next year might be a great agricultural year. Fingers,toes crossed. Prayers sent on their way to heaven. Salt over the shoulder etc etc. Oh yes---rain dances commenced. Anything that might help.
One more thing before I go---our mystery chick from so long ago is actually a Rooster. Yes, the crowing gave him away. AND though he is very attractive he is also mean as a snake----and one of these days when we have more than a minute of time he is going into the smoker. Nasty bird. He follows me sometimes along the fence "talking" to me. I know what he saying too----"come over here and I will kick your behind" That is until I get in there---then he tries to get me from the back. Nasty rooster. We only had one other mean rooster---but the raccoon got him.
By the way a really nice lady named Diana emailed me recently and she too received the same "mystery chick" from murray mcmurray as we did. Here is her web site. They also raise Irish Dexters.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Finally some rain

Finally we got rain! For about an hour and a half it rained here. Not hard, but not one of those paltry little drizzly affairs that leave you with nothing but humid air.
Oh it wasn't enough that's for sure, but who can complain at this point? So far---depending on the exact location of monitoring we are approximately down 16" of rain for the year. With only about 9" overall having fallen on our area. I know---it really doesn't seem like that much but imagine your lawn or garden needs approximately one inch per week. You can get it as say...2 inches one week, skip a week then get some more but however it is it needs to average out to about one inch. So far we have had 24 weeks in this year to split amongst that 9 inches --which does seem to leave us a bit shy of the mark especially when you consider most of our 9 inches was back in the beginning of the year.
We personally haven't had more than 2 separate 5 minute rains in 8 weeks here on our property. That is absolutely not an exaggeration either (unfortunately). Also, to give you an understanding of what we are lacking, the average rainfall for our area is considered to be about 53 inches. Which works out to--you guessed it---about an inch per week.
Now lets consider where our family is in the Dallas/Ft Worth area of Texas and also East Texas. Now East Texas gets a little bit more than DFW which has an annual average of 33 inches. They had in the month of May 20 inches of rain. Yes, almost their entire years worth of rain fell in one month over the coarse of 21 days during that month. AND to make it even more of a spit in the face to us (had to make the water connection here) they have since then received about 6 inches just last week. How dare they? (As if they had a choice right?)
Well, it just goes to show you that no matter where you live or decide to move---the weather can get you every time, any place, any year.

Which leaves us to wonder? Will we be raising animals next year? That is a question I can not answer yet. Fortunately for us we have a great family and our cows now reside in Texas---eating their way through all that grass, waiting for a better year to come back to us. However that doesn't help our grass grow here for our sheep---it just relieves the amount of hay we have to purchase and feed each day. (which by the way Maggie are doing fine thanks for asking) Can one raise animals in an area that perpetually seems to be in a drought? Yes, I know we could cut down to two or three sheep however our pastures are so dried out that we would still need hay and we wouldn't get enough lambs to make the work involved, time and trouble worth it. So soon---we will work very hard to finish our house, sell and find more acreage somewhere else. Enough to buffer us and our animals even in times of extreme drought as we are seeing now. Even if I didn't raise animals the question of whether it is even worth raising veggies begs to be asked. Because really---we all think that when there is a drought that "oh well, city water folks can't water their lawn however we are o.k because we have a well" Wells go dry people---especially in extreme droughts. Lakes, rivers and streams do also--just consider Lake Chad in Africa. It's a pittance of what it was in the 60's.
Wells dry up, lakes dry up, rivers and streams do too. How then do you store and control your water to make the best use of it? Sounds like Austin Texas has a better handle on it than some of the rest of us do. Rain water collection, grey water usage for orchards, xeriscaping, low flow toilets or composting toilets....many ideas to choose from. Now we just all need to get over the idea that we should, and can, turn on the tap, flush the toilet and water our garden whenever and however we want with no repercussions involved. Screw the neighbors---every man for himself right? I think I smell a water war in those lack of rain clouds.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Organic Grains

I came across this article on a family that grows organic grain in The New Farm newsletter (put out by the Rodale institue)

They are the Bluebird Grains Farm and grow organic emmer, hard red and soft white wheat, flax, rye. The article says that they before they even purchase their acreage to grow on they will test their soil for chemicals previously used. They pass by acreage that shows any trace of chemicals from the past ---so their grain must really be about as organic as you can get. So far---they don't make a full living on their farm, a second job is still a must. However---like many of us they hope to eventually turn it into a full time position.

I am going to order some of the emmer so I can try it out. I have never had it so it will be interesting to cook and eat some of it. I like to try different grains every now and then. This year I was to grow amaranth, however it became dry so quickly that I didn't plant all of the things I was going to plant. (Yes, we are still extremely dry---and even though it frequently looks promising for rain we get a 10 minutes soft shower about ever 10 days. Not very "thirst quenching" to say the least). Anyways--maybe some of you will try the emmer too.

Sorry about the lengthy hiatus----I am sure as we get closer to fall I will be more regular however there is much to do this summer and we find ourselves eating dinner regularly at 9 at night lately. Not my favorite time to eat but it does cut down on late night snacking! I will update everything as soon as I can with pictures. Don't go away---permanently anyways :-D

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Just Relaxing

Just thought this was a little funny. Excuse the color---my camera was set to "fluorescent" instead of daylight.
Still prayin' for rain here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A little change

For a while now I have had the following anonymous quote in the side bar of this blog site:

Quote " I have learned in my long marriage and even longer life of 88 years, that worrying is an exercise in futility and does not change a thing. I haven't worried since the Nazis arrested me in 1938 and shipped me off to a concentration camp. I had worried the night before but I decided afterward that worrying is a waste of time and no help at all. What will be will be."

I hate to take it down since I so completely like it (it even made Tim think I was a spry old lady)
However recently I read this one on Liberty Farm and feel that at this point in my life and in my countries history it more profoundly reflects my feelings on various situations that are occurring. So I will replace the above quote with the following one:

Wendell Berry on war:

As a father, I must look at my son, and I must ask if there is anything I possess – any right, any piece of property, any comfort, any joy – that I would ask him to die to permit me to keep. I must ask if I believe that it would be meaningful – after his mother and I have loved each other and begotten him and loved him – for him to die in a lump with a number hanging around his neck. I must ask if his life would have come to meaning or nobility or any usefulness if he should sit – with his human hands and head and eyes – in the cockpit of a bomber, dealing out pain and grief and death to people unknown to him. And my answer to all these questions is one that I must attempt to live by: No.

Funky yarn

So after seeing the Pluckyfluff web site the other day (I posted about it on May 30th) I decided to try my own hand at some extreme novelty yarn. In actuality this type of yarn was the reason I wanted to learn to spin---though I have not gone quite to the same "place" they had yet (call me a weenie). It's really fun though mixing the colors and wrapping others into it. I mean personally if I needed 10 skeins of exactly the same yarn (example: smooth two ply sport weight) to finish a project I would rather send my wool to the mill and have them do it. However if I need something with slubs, wraps, twists or other novelty things---it's kind of fun to do your own. Even when I first learned to spin and accidentally made all these thick then thin then thick spots----I was never discouraged. Why? Because I LIKED that type of yarn. Now that I have more experience---I can appreciate the difficulty of spinning consistently fine yarn--- however I still prefer the thick/thin/thick/thin "handspun" look. Add two colors to make it variegated or heathered looking and it is even nicer in my opinion.

This time however I decided to use colored and add wraps to it which I have never done. One reason I colored it is that this year I kept some of my white wool for myself. Usually we sell it and keep the natural colors (my preference actually). I don't know if I will use this yarn when its done but it should be neat. I will also spin some "regular white q tip sheep" roving I have--making the roving into a thick/thin/thick yarn--- then ply the two together leaving some twists hanging out and plying some areas more densely than others. Cool huh? I think when it is done it will make a great border for a kids winter hat. Fun and Funky. Perfect for those windy cloudy winter day---a snap of color coming down the sidewalk.

Also, I have been "saving up" for a new wheel for about a year and half and I will soon (hopefully) be ordering it. Part of the reason for not yet purchasing is that I did not know which one I would like---oh yes I tried a number of them but truthfully they are not THAT much different from each other so it came down to the extras or other small details. Anyways as I said---I was procrastinating UNTIL we went to the Middle Tennessee Fiber Festival and there was a lady with a majacraft suzie-pro. Yep---that's the one. It has some things that the slightly less expensive don't have and it is not too traditional looking either. I do after all live in a 1960's home and if you have seen some of the pictures of our house on the blog you will realize it is not traditional at all. So I didn't want a wheel that would look as if I were 1880's colonial for sure. I think this one fits the bill and though a bit more expensive than I wanted to spend it has some really nice features. Spinning wheels hold their value extremely well anyways so it's not like buying a new car :-D Drive it off the lot and boom! worth 3000 less than before. Oh yes---I can't finish my new yarn (though I am dying too!) until I get my new wheel. Why? Because the wheel I currently have does not have a large enough flyer to accomadate the bulk of such a yarn as I am making. Yes I could upgrade to a bigger flyer (I do believe I can with the Ashford I have) however---why bother when I am about to purchase another? I'd rather spend the money on extra's for the new wheel.

Anyways--hope all is well with everyone. Dry here still. We did get a very quick (5 minutes--seriously) shower yesterday. Just enough to flare the allergies, make it sticky and tease everyone with the idea of rain. To top it off---it had the audacity to send us a rainbow! Hah!---we don't want beauty---we want rain!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Corporations and Governement---good bedfellows?

This just makes a person sick to their stomach. Taken from a article.

While many people jumped all over presidential hopeful John McCain's
wrong-headed view on network neutrality, few noticed his infuriating
love for Microsoft. "The 70 year old presidential hopeful also said
that he would ask Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to serve on his cabinet to
deal with technology issues if elected. He did not however say what
position Ballmer might be hired in, but did joke that he might consider
him for a diplomatic position, such as ambassador to China."

Isn't that going a bit too far? Is this like asking the great robber baron Jay Gould to help the Government deal with the railroads here and abroad?
How about this little piece taken from another source that just goes to show the problems of corporations being tied to the government in some way:

Although their misbehaviors with the administration and Congress were exposed, the railroad barons of the era were successful in a coup against the Supreme Court. One of their own was the Reporter for the Supreme Court, and they courted Justice Stephen Field with, among other things, the possibility of support for a presidential run. In the National Archives, there are recently found letters from the railroads offering free trips and other benefits to the 1886 Court's Chief Justice, Morrison R. Waite.

Waite, however, didn't give in: he refused to rule the railroad corporations were persons in the same category as humans. Thus, the railroad barons resorted to plan B: they got human rights for corporations inserted in the Court Reporter's headnotes in the 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad case, even though the court itself (over Field's strong objections) had chosen not to rule on the constitutionality of the railroad's corporate claims to human rights.

And, based on the Reporter's headnotes (and ignoring the actual ruling), subsequent Courts have expanded those human rights for corporations. These now include the First Amendment human right of free speech (including corporate "speech" to influence politics - something that was a felony in most states prior to 1886), the Fourth Amendment human right to privacy (so a chemical company has successfully sued to prevent the EPA from performing surprise inspections - while retaining the right to perform surprise inspections of its own employees' bodily fluids and phone conversations), and the 14th Amendment right to live free of discrimination (using the free-the-slaves 14th Amendment, corporations have claimed discrimination to block local community efforts to pass "bad boy laws" or keep out predatory retailers).

Interestingly, unions don't have these human rights. Neither do churches, or smaller, unincorporated businesses. Nor do partnerships or civic groups. Nor, even, do governments, be they local, state, or federal.

And, from the founding of the United States, neither did corporations. Rights were the sole province of humans.

As the father of the Constitution, President James Madison, wrote, "There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by... corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses." It's one of the reasons why the word "corporation" doesn't exist in the constitution - they were to be chartered only by states, so local people could keep a close eye on them.

And so....what will we do?

Missed Me

Missed me missed me couldn't even .......well I wasn't hoping for a kiss that's for sure. Rain from Tropical Storm Barry would have been well...


But noooooooo it has to hit most of Georgia but not us. What gives here? I am becoming a frustrated feeder and waterer. Feeding hay in April May and June is NOT what I expected to ever have to do in Georgia. Maybe in Texas---but not here. Speaking of Texas----the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and most of East Texas (where we have family) received 20 inches of rain in the month of May alone. Can you believe it?!! Their yearly average for Dallas/Ft Worth is 30-35 inches per year. I'd be a bit annoyed with them however I know they didn't want all that in one month---just like we would like more than that in a whole year.
Well, for you viewing pleasure a few pics of my pasture and pond---well my almost gone pond. Think of us the next time you see moisture---and the next time you think : "Boy, wish it wasn't raining today".

The last picture without pond or cows is the view of my back pasture which has not had animals on it since about 6 or 7 weeks ago. That's how much it has grown. Pretty bad huh.

O.k---sorry about the whining and I do know it can't last forever (or at least that's my hope!).

Oh yeah--thanks everyone about chickens advice and comments----But I now know my culprit is an Opossum (bad little beastie) We just need to trap a relocate the little booger since he seems to have a regular schedule of stopping by our coop.