Tag Archives: cats

Cozy Cozy Snow

Yesterday we had a beautiful day of snow.  I didn’t have to be anywhere, our neighbor across the street who helps us had his plow blade thing on his truck, the wood stove was going- so I thoughtsnow-jan-8-2017– let it snow! It did and we have 12″ of beautiful fluffy snow.

I never think much about January until the holidays are over. So now that I realize it is 2017 I decided that yesterday was a good day to organize my thinking about the various places we as Eagle Lake Fibers are teaching through April. Each place has its uniqueness and I enjoy thinking about uniqueness (run of the mill is so dull) so here are my impressions:

Jan. 14th we are teaching natural dyeing at the Northeast Organic Farming Association Winter Conference in Worcester MA. This is the 10th year we have taught a fiber spinning related workshop there. NOFA conferences are always a breath of fresh air for me. They are full of idealistic young people full of ideas about self reliance and sustainability and – ok, I will say it,  people with some gray hair who continue to believe in it despite decades of real life. I had no gray when I started teaching there 10 years ago.   🙂   NOFAMASS.org

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Marigolds and onion skins for natural dyeing at NOFA.

January 21st shows life on a different plane when I go to the Cabot Bradley  Estate in Canton MA to give an overview of the Sheep to Shawl Process and then allow people to try their hands at carding and combing wool. This is an estate that was given to the Trustees of Reservations in the 1990’s by Mrs. Bradley, of Cabot lineage which anyone anywhere near Boston recognizes was sort of royalty, who had enjoyed having farming on the estate including sheep. The Trustees are working to have more events and workshops on the estate such as one our friend Jenny Hauf of Muddy River Herbals gave last fall about herbs she grows, mine on spinning wool and many others.  It is a beautiful oasis of 90 acres and a mansion not far from Boston. Thetrustees.org     Muddyriverherbals.com

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Guard llama and sheep – little and to the right- at Bradley Estate Canton MA Sept 2016

Then on February 5th I am teaching a drop spindling workshop at Auntie Zaza’s Fiber Works in North Easton. Elizabeth has created such a cozy little shop and it has become a happy thriving fiber loving community.  I don’t know what I would have done without it when we moved here. auntiezaza.com

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This student will not be present at the drop spindling workshop because she is now proficient with the drop spindle

Our scary fiber tools and some not so scary will be put into use on March 5th at The Fiber Loft in Harvard MA when we teach a class on carding and combing. The Fiber Loft fills a much needed void for the sale of spinning wheels, looms, hand cards and combs in this area. I bought two spinning wheels and my little rigid heddle loom there. Harvard is a beautiful little New England town with a great General Store where you can get coffee or have lunch.     thefiberloft.com

tools fibers for Jan workshop

The drum carder which made these batts is my second favorite fiber processing tool. The combs on the left are the first.

Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School’s adult ed program Assabet After Dark has asked us to teach the Sheep to Shawl workshops we taught last fall again in the fall of 2017. Before that however we will be teaching intensive wool combing and carding classes in April. These classes teach students how to take clean, sometimes dyed, wool and get it ready to spin. assabetafterdark.com

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Rolags from blending fibers on the right using the blending board behind

These workshops start soon but for today I will enjoy watching the birds at the feeder and watching my cat Pippi watch the birds at the feeder. I will enjoy hearing children nearby sledding and screaming with fun. At least I think it is fun screaming, not screaming because our bold coyote is coming around and I sit here hearing them and doing nothing to scare it away.

Me with Boone

Me with Gulf Coast lamb Boone on Cape Cod

I bet you could spin coyote- but that doesn’t grab my interest right now. Ugh. Back to thinking about sweet little lambs!

Always New Experiences

I started spinning wool on a spinning wheel 20 years ago. I knew 3 spinners- the person who was spinning at a Heifer International Festival in Rutland MA who I didn’t previously know but whom I went up to and asked who could teach me, my teacher who was the person she directed me to, and me. There were so many exciting things to learn.

Both my individual spinning world and the international spinning world have expanded rapidly since then. But I still have so many new experiences with it and there are more skills to learn. It is all so much fun. It is a good hobby also in that when spinners meet for the first time there is a bond of kindred spirits because the rest of the world doesn’t understand us and we don’t care. 🙂

This fall gave me three new opportunities. As part of our fiber business, Eagle Lake Fibers, we were able to teach a five week hands on class covering all the steps that it takes to create yarn from sheep to shawl. We taught 8 eager learners at the adult education program called Assabet After Dark at Assabet Valley Regional Technical School in Marlborough MA. We have been asked to present it again next fall and will also do a two week workshop in April that focuses only on carding and combing. Some of our students this fall told us they will take that also and it will be fun to see them again.

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Part of the fun is getting the chance to comb fiber on scary tools. Only this minute did I realize I can see half of my cat on the floor.

Then here at Auntie Zaza’s Fiberworks in North Easton three women asked if they could be taught the drop spindle. I have always preferred the spinning wheel to the drop spindle so teaching it at Assabet and in North Easton prompted me to tighten up those skills. I find myself kind of attached to my little drop spindle now. Who knew that could happen?

Another more unusual request came to the yarn shop this time in the form of a woman wanting her dear departed husky’s fur spun. I had never spun much dog but figured at this point I can figure out how to spin anything. Those skills were tested because the fibers were about an inch and a half long and full of guard hairs. Huskys, like many dogs and the more primitive sheep are dual coated with soft short warm fur against their skin and outer guard hairs that are longer, coarse and wiry to keep the rain, snow and cold away from their skin.

I washed it so no, it no longer smelled like a wet dog, and was able to keep at the spinning of it because I loved a dog, a sheltie, for 15 years.

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Spirit our sweet sheltie and Growlbert our alpha cat whose motto seemed to be that what Growlbert wants Growlbert gets. They both came with those names which was good because we tend to be abysmal at naming our pets. They both lived to ripe old ages but not long enough for me.

After it was spun she asked if I would take it, and a skein someone else spun a few years  ago (who wisely spun only the longer fibers) and knit something that she could wear over her shoulders.  Having something made from his fur was very meaningful for her. I find that the veil between this world and the next seems thinner the older I grow and although our dog died 8 years ago I still feel her presence with me. As I do my grandparents. I don’t have an explanation of how I  feel this but I just know I do and that is comfort enough.

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Husky scarf and detail of paw pattern.

So, after 20 years the opportunities to have new fresh spinning experiences keep finding me. There is never a lack of spinning and spinning related  things to do. I am so fortunate to have a passion in my life which gives me so much enjoyment. This picture of my fiber room that I took today belies my statements that I don’t like clutter or the chaos of too many things in my house. You won’t find either in most of the rooms. Except here. Chaos is just so much fun here. fiber-on-new-table-nov-2017

 

 

The Land Breakers

Currently I am reading a book, The Land Breakers, by John Ehle. It was one of the book orders I placed with my family for Christmas and luckily they complied. 🙂  The book was published in 1964 and is a novel about the first white settlers in Appalachia set in 1779.

I was reading it the other day as I rode the bike at the gym.  I came upon 2 lines on page 107 that caused me to stop breathing for a few seconds because they put into words something deep inside me that I have always known and could never find the words to explain.

I imagine most would read them here or in the book and leave scratching their heads about why this would be interesting. These words don’t describe a choice of feelings.They do describe an undeniable and good force that won’t leave some of us alone. We don’t even want it to.

“The family and the clearing and the crops and the stock and the tools were part of the same thing. The family and the place were the same thing and could not be separated one from the other.”

They describe something inside some of us since birth I think. A feeling of deep connection, working cooperatively with living things around us, that although we are part of the picture on our property,  humans are not IMG_0920 the whole picture. It is a wonderful feeling.

permaculture beginnings

Me with Boone

Not my lamb but I enjoy them when I get the chance!

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My little sweetheart helping me spin

I still can’t explain it. It does help to explain why one of my favorite things is to be home working on things, why I only want to travel if it means spending the bulk of time with family and friends, why even on those trips I have in the back of my mind the number of days until I can get back to New England and these things.

Cape Sunset

A Cape Cod winter sunset

It just is.

wool dyed with marigolds

Dyed with my marigolds

sourdough breads

My sourdough concoctions

Project Day

Today is a day of luxury for me. I don’t have to go anywhere at all. I have the time to do whatever I want.  What do I choose to do when I get such a day? None of you who have read this blog will be surprised.  I decided to celebrate by making it a fun project day. How many already started projects can I complete? If I add some new ones will they get done?  I will list them now and check in at 1:00 and 5:00 at which time I will complete my completing projects day.

So,  I know I am tempting the fates when I claim I will complete these things and so far the fates have:

  1. caused the dishwasher to start pouring water into it rather than spraying and washing. I have stopped it and will deal with it later which means Steve will deal with it later. 🙂   Washing those dishes by hand after 5 today doesn’t bother me. Had it been the clothes washer that would have been different. I don’t want to scrub clothes on a washboard like Loretta Lynn’s mother. I will listen to many of her songs as I do these things. More on LL later.

2) suddenly only letting me enter items on this blog post from the top. hmmm. I will not be pushed off my path to fix it right now!

hemming project

Pippi precariously trying to join in my every activity as usual. Yes, I pulled her off right away. No cats were harmed in the writing of this blog. This is material my friend gave me that was woven on historic looms in an old textile mill in Lowell MA. I want to use it as a table cover and don’t have a sewing machine so will hem it by hand. It has only sat around for 2 years waiting to be completed!

Only the bread and the wool washing have to be completed once I start and I am doing this for fun. No pressures or deadlines. Once I finish this post I will be off and running. I have 7 hours. Except for time to eat lunch and 45 minutes to put my feet up, eat some cookies and drink tea, and read. I am not driven enough to forgo caffeine and chocolate. Ever.

On my list are:

alpaca and BFL to spin

Alpaca and Bluefaced Leicester Locks whose fleeces I washed and dyed. I’d like to start spinning them today.

bobbin for teaching

Get everything in order for the class we are teaching on Sunday including hoping this newly glued bobbin will cooperate.

Finn and silk yarn to ply

Finish chain plying this Finn and silk yarn

 

sourdough to knead

Make this sourdough sponge into bread. I started it last night because I add no yeast and it needs more time to rise. It rises by using the yeast it collects from the air. Aren’t those bubbles great considering the magic?

 

Wensleydale to wash

Wash this gorgeous Wensleydale wool from Ramona (the sheep, not her owner)

January Joys

Here are some things that I am enjoying and appreciating as January  so quickly draws to a close.

Luxurious home made soap given to me by a friend. These are way beyond anything I have made or probably could make.

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Luxurious hand made soap

A gorgeous winter sunset we happened upon as we left Tractor Supply with chicken feed.

Jan sunset

January sunset in Taunton MA

 

The fun of getting ready to teach our second workshop this month which means our second opportunity early in 2016 to get unsuspecting people addicted to spinning and fiber. Sure, they know they are coming to an introductory spinning workshop. They don’t know it is about to captivate them and take over their lives.

tools fibers for Jan workshop

Let the magic begin!

Sourdough bread taking over my kitchen since I can’t stop making it. Talk about magic!

sourdough breads

Sourdough waffles, rolls, bread and bubbling yeasty smelling starter to make more.

The cutest sheep hat in the world made just for me.

sheep hat

Ewes and lambs

A typically nervy cat. She has learned that  she isn’t to eat our food as we eat it much as she wants to. But apparently she isn’t against pushing the boundaries with my water and this time getting away with it using the element of quiet surprise. Of course she has a bowl of her own! What she is doing maybe isn’t a joy but the amusement, companionship and love she provides is.

cat drinking my water

Thankfully we have a dishwasher.

Here is hoping everyone has many of their own joys this month.

 

It’s All About the Solstice

I have never understand the hoopla around a new year arriving on Jan. 1. It is just another date on the calendar to me.

What does attract and motivate me are the solstices. As I have mentioned before, in the winter the snow and cold don’t bother me and I am happy to put up with them because I love New England and I don’t want to live anywhere else. But I don’t like the early darkness.  I look forward to the winter solstice, the day with the least light, almost as much as a former co-worker did when she said it is better than Christmas.  After that it will get lighter. I have coping strategies which help.  One of our rooms gets the last light of the day and beautiful sunsets.

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Gentle pink sunset today

 

The morning sun floods our kitchen so I work there when I can be home then. I am not the only one who uses morning sunshine for contentment.

cat in winter sun

A warm Pippi dozing

Ancient people kept track of time passing by the phases of the moon and notching wood. They knew when to celebrate the solstice and the light that was chasing away darkness. Even more ancient people must have felt they needed to stay in favor with a god so that the light would increase. I would do both if I was around then! Can’t be too sure.  I wouldn’t forget to do the notching chore if it was mine in fact I would demand to be the one who made the notches so I would know it was accurate. If I wasn’t allowed to do it I would keep my own record secretly. Furtively. Stealthily.

Some people must have used the darkness as a time to spin by the fire. Thank God for electricity and central heating in 2016. I can do those things whenever I want. I am back in a batt making frenzy and have pulled out the fiber I put away before Christmas to make the house neater. It does distract from darkness. Here are the makings and some results:

locks for batts

A creative mess

 

batt

Loveliness that rises out of the mess

We have 2 workshops coming up to teach this month so getting ready to create new addicts- giving free stuff first really does help- also dispels darkness.

The chickens are happy to stay out a little longer too. They are back to laying after the molting ended. Sometimes in winter we literally get up before the chickens and find them still perched up high and looking at us with the “what are you doing here so early?” look in their eyes. Yes, chickens have  moods too.

chickens in winter

Chickens ready for winter with a snow fence and the cord from the electric water heater

I am looking at the FEDCO catalog and dreaming about spring planting. We have an excellent farmers market a mile away that comes twice a week during the growing season so I am idly thinking about planting asparagus and a perennial kale and getting the rest there. We have no snow so I could put down newspapers covered by a tarp to kill the grass in the areas needed. But at the moment just winter day dreaming is fun.

I am reading these three books I received for Christmas. Actually I told the givers to get them for me so I suppose I sort of ordered them.

books

Books for any momentary whim

So, the days are slowly getting longer. I do like to feed the wild birds, light candles, and can appreciate not needing to go out and weed but instead can read or spin. I do like to settle in with these activities for awhile. Since I know the darkness won’t last.

 

 

Harvest and Permaculture

I have been thinking about fall being a time of harvest in colder climates such as ours in New England. I do believe we see effects of climate change here because twenty years ago we would have a hard frost by the end of September and it would have stayed cold until we had a few days of warmth called an Indian summer. Our first frost now comes well into October and we no longer have an Indian summer because it doesn’t follow the pattern of getting really cold and then warming up for a few days. It stays warmer longer and just gets colder over time. We get frosts at night but the days remain warm so it isn’t the same. Today it was 63 degrees.

The Harvest Moon is the name of the full moon that occurs in September. I am sure most know that this year it was a super moon which meant it was full when it was closest to the earth and so it looked really big. The lunar eclipse added to the excitement.  It is called the Harvest Moon since that was, and still is despite warmth, the time when most crop harvests were brought in for the winter. I harvest some typical things but I began to wonder what more I could harvest.

The chickens helped me with this little challenge. They recently began molting for the first time since they were not old enough last fall. It is a little ghastly and we still aren’t used to how they look. Next year maybe we will take it in stride. It is a natural process by which they lose their feathers in spots at a time. Which means we see areas of bare skin that do begin to fill in with new feathers but the chickens look as though they are abused and neglected rather than being cherished as all our pets are/have been. They don’t peck each other so we have never seen their skin bare. Their necks look especially ugly. They don’t seem to mind it and get enough warmth from other feathered areas as they only come off in little spots at a time. I look them over each day to be sure they are healthy so I have to look at those areas too. Quickly. I won’t take any pictures of them now!

But it was molting that got me to thinking about harvest and history. Their outer feathers have the purpose of keeping rain and dirt away from the body much as a dual coated dog or sheep get with their coarser outer coat. The expression “madder than a wet hen” comes from the fact that if they get wet they are at a greater risk of developing a respiratory disease. Chickens easily succumb to respiratory diseases. So they don’t like wet. The undercoat is soft, downy and keeps them warm. As I saw these feathers around I began to think of what people did in the old days when they were used  everything that came their way and wasted nothing. What could I do with feathers that have come my way?

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Buff Orpington chicken molted feathers

I don’t need to use the quills for a pen. As a left handed person it would just mean that I would get ink on side of my hand that was on the paper since my hand goes over the writing, not before it. So it’s good I don’t need that. But then I realized I could bind together the long outer feathers for a feather duster. So I am gathering them and gently soaking them to be sure they are clean. I don’t know how well it will work or if it would have been the soft undercoat that was used. I am not motivated to gather the undercoat this time because it seems dirtier and more work to clean. I could use them to stuff a pillow I weave. Maybe next year.

So I am harvesting the feathers for me and our kitten. She likes this new toy. She is so very fierce.

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Pippi’s feather encounter

 

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I have always harvested other more typical things. I froze our tomatoes and dried our herbs. I had many green tomatoes which I brought in before the frost and let them redden up inside.  My grandmother would put her geraniums near a sunny window in their huge Victorian attic to overwinter and I have done that also. I put them in my fiber studio upstairs as my attic window is small. They get a bit leggy for lack of the full outdoor light they want but it works out.

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Geraniums over wintering

margolds to over winter

Marigolds for natural dyeing

! have brought in marigolds that I will eventually use for a natural dye.  I add onion skins to the dye pot and a bright yellow results. The tint of it varies from pot to pot each year which also makes it interesting. I am also drying some of their seeds for next year. More on that risky possibly scary outcome next time.

The continued warmth means I can continue to harvest the sun to dry my clothes. The compost heap can still be fed because it isn’t all frozen yet.  Next spring the chicken’s composted manure, bedding, and all the vegetable and other scraps that they don’t eat will provide a rich nutritious compost to help my plants grow like weeds.

The smaller feathers in the coop get buried in their bedding with their manure. I  harness/harvest their manure during cold weather to provide a little warmth for them. Odd as it may sound to non chicken people, and it sure did to me, a neat nick, there is a method to use their manure to help them overwinter in cold climates. My first criteria for a breed was one that was winter hardy but we still make changes to help them stay warm. Deep bedding means I don’t put the manure in the compost heap now as I do in warm weather. I bury it deep into the bedding and keep the bedding layer deeper in the winter. The idea is that the manure breaks down and provides some warmth just as a compost heap is warm internally in the summer. Being buried every day or so the books told me meant it didn’t smell. I was skeptical but it really did work. They never had behavioral changes that indicated they were cold.

We do not lack for fallen leaves and much of them are composted. I take others to put in the back of the hen house for bedding. My husband doesn’t want them in the front area where he walks because he can’t tell what may be camouflaged that he wouldn’t want to step on. I can respect that.

I have found on our one acre that there is plenty to harvest. There is a term called permaculture which suggests we should look at patterns in nature on our properties whether a farm or a tiny lot and apply those patterns to our management of our property. Following permaculture even to a small degree enables us to be more ecologically responsible because we will waste less, work with nature and be more resilient and more self sufficient. It is a holistic approach and its application varies depending on each person’s location and resources. As with any idea I pick and choose what to use. For example, a more dedicated permaculturist than I would eat those chickens when they stop laying eggs. Not me. But I think it is a fun challenge to see what parts of it fit me and then to try them. I figure every bit helps.