Peanut Butter Pancakes… and early mornings.

imag1441.jpgMy children, well the older two, now have morning swim practices…. My son has to be at the pool at 5:30 am two days a week.. I live 15 to 20 min away.  So we have to be awake at 4:45 to get him there.. Ok, we could wake up at 5:00 but then he would be swimming without food.  My daughter wants to swim for the High School girls team…  That practice is at 5:00 am M-F so we are now practicing getting up early..  I woke her up at 6:00 am yesterday.  Her response “What time is it and why am I awake?”  She thinks 6:00 is early wait until it’s 4:30.  Did I mention they practice in DIFFERENT pools!

So I have started waking up early… in some ways it’s nice.  I get the whole house to myself.  I can work out early.  Blog, check email, drink coffee, feed the sourdough.  Which is when I realize we need to make some pancakes.  Luckily, this is a day where they are getting up and I don’t actually have to take them anywhere.  We are just getting our bodies used to it.  Anyway, back to sourdough… Also on the counter is Peanut Butter powder….hmmm peanut butter pancakes???

I wake up daughter.  How about Peanut butter pancakes? “Yum she says..” Son stumbles out of his room… “Peanut butter pancakes?” I ask…. “Yum he says on the way to the shower.”  So far, they don’t have enough peanut butter powder… So I am adding more.

Peanut Butter Pancakes

2 cups sourdough starter

2TBS honey or sugar

2TBS oil

1 egg

2 large scoops  approx 4 T (or more of Peanut Butter powder – one scoop was not enough)

1 scoop of plain whey protein (this is optional… I sneak it in where I can)

1tsp salt

1tsp soda

After the second scoop of Peanut Butter powder we got a mild peanut flavor.  It probably needs more.  It will have to experiment with it further…. but it wasn’t a bust.  The older two are scarfing them down…



I have been wanting to make pickles for a while, but cucumbers have not been my friend in my garden and I can never seem to get to the farmer’s market.  Well, this weekend, after finding out for a fact that there were cucumbers to be found, my youngest and I headed to the market after dropping her siblings at swim practice.  Saturday practice is early, not as early as Tuesday and Thursday… but more on my sleep deprivation later.  Anyway, we ended up with imag1434.jpg

15 pounds of cucumbers.  For several years I have been wanting to try the Paleo Mom’s green tea refrigerator pickles from the paleo approach cookbook.  Which are made in a fermentation vat.  wp-1473549126540.jpgSo I decided that several pounds of the cucs would go to that.

After slicing20160910_155503.jpg

And Jarring20160910_163928.jpg

And water bath canning I should have around 16 pints!  Yay!  And that doesn’t include whatever comes out of the fermentation vat which after a few hours is happily bubbling away!


I should note that I just used the standard dill pickle recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Canning issue.  It’s the same recipe from both the 2014 and 2011 magazine’s.


img_3110Where to begin?   So this year much of my homework is working with man made fibers.  It doesn’t get more man made than nylon.  Nylon was introduced to the United States as nylon stockings in 1940 and was developed in 1939 by the Du Pont company.

Nylon has many characteristics.  It is very strong and does not deteriorate with age.  I am guessing this also means it won’t break down in a land fill.  It is very elastic and will return to shape after stretching.  This is a great property for knitwear.  It can wrinkle easily but will return to it’s original shape which helps keeping carpets to look new.  It can be used in products for both summer and winter wear depending on how it is used and woven.  It drapes really well.  It washes easily and does not shrink and it holds it’s shape when wet.  It will melt if heated to high and it is not very absorbent.

I won’t say I have never worked with it before, because I have knit with acrylic yarns over the years.  While I am a lover of natural fibers, I also do believe there is a place for synthetic fibers in this world.  One of my favorite scarves I spun and knit is a blend of superwash wool, bamboo and nylon.  It’s a pretty great and easy care blend.

There are several different types of nylon available to the hand spinner to be used in blending or for solo knitting.  The one that most people have probably run across in the spinning world is Icicle fiber or “firestar” I have also seen it called “angelica”. img_3107 It is not used alone.  It is always blended in small amounts with another fiber, usually wool.  People refer to it as “sparkle” or “bling”.  It does add a bit of flash but it is very coarse.  A small amount of it goes a LONG way.  It has a staple similar to a long wool.

The next fiber is blending nylon which has a staple of between 1.5 inches and 2 inches. img_3108 It has a little faux crimp and it’s name says it all.  It’s for blending. It is considered to be fine to medium fine.

The last type of nylon is faux cashmere.  img_3109Its staple is around 1 inch and the fiber is considered to be fine.  It is bright white and amazingly soft.  I chose the faux cashmere to be the nylon I used in my exercises.

The first one was to spin a 10 yard sample from 100% nylon. img_3113 Thinking in my mind that faux cashmere would behave like cashmere and has a short staple I decided to try “English Long Draw” to spin it.  Can I just tell you.  WOW.  It was amazing.  I think because of it’s elasticity, It spun out so very beautifully.  When I washed and hung it dry it only got better.  It is squishy and fluffy and I can not believe how much I really, really LOVE it.  Really! I think if I knit a lace scarf out of it people would be insane for it and then be really upset to find out it was nylon.

Next I needed to blend 50% nylon with 50% wool.  I had some nice Polworth top in my stash and so I decided to see what a blend of the two would be like. img_3114 First I checked my staple length to see if I needed to cut the fibers to get them to be alike.  They were almost the same length so I left both as they were and blended them on my hand cards to make some sliver and then I spun them short forward draw.  The resulting yarn had about half the TPI as the 100% nylon yarn.  It has a nice drape, but not as much of the bounce and softness as the first yarn.  The swatch knit up quite a bit larger as well although they both have the same WPI.  I feel the 50/50 blend has a bit more drape.  The question is if that is due to the lower twist or the actual yarn.  Based on the properties of both yarns.  This yarn should have a nice drape, good elasticity, and good durability.  Wool will add warmth to it, where as the nylon should allow for an easier washability.  The wool fibers will still have a tendency to felt, but at 50% nylon, I would have to experiment to see how easily that might happen.

The final yarn was 20% nylon and 80% wool.  imag1429.jpgAgain I used the faux cashmere and the Polworth top.  I again blended on my handcards into carded sliver which I then spun short forward draw.  The resulting yarn has a definite “wool” feel to it.  By feel I would not be able to tell that there is nylon in the yarn.  This yarn has a lower WPI at 16 but a TPI at 7 which is almost the same as the 100% nylon yarn.  It has a similar bounce as the 100% yarn as well.  I am thinking this is a TPI issue, not a blend issue.  But that is another post entirely.  It did knit up with a gauge more similair to the 50/50 blend than the 100% yarn.  This yarn should have more of the properties of wool; warmth, elasticity, and moisture wicking.  However, it will loose it’s flame retarding properties I would think.  As nylon is prone to melting when heated.  The nylon should also add a bit more elasticity to the final yarn as well as some drape.


Left to right: 100% nylon, 50/50 Nylon/wool, 80/20 Nylon/wool

Getting back to normal…

The summer has flown…. It is gone.  School is starting.  My kids are half started.  Since we homeschool I have never been in a hurry to start before Labor day.  That has helped me this year with trying to catch up after my whirlwind summer, fair and the gathering.  The oldest two have started an online shared school program for three classes and the other two start in a few weeks.  my youngest and I will start next week.  This week has been for catching up, working on lists.  Random stuff.

My tomatoes are coming in like crazy.  More every day.  imag1403.jpg

What, not into Roma’s and Pears?


There are Cherokee purple and Branywines as well.  Weirdly I ended up with one yellow pear tomato plant and one yellow Brandywine plant.  All the Brandywines were from the same seed packet…. same with the pears, all the seeds came from the same packet.  So why yellow? I am loving them none the less.

We have now made several batches of “fresh” tomato sauce.  Just chopped up hodgepodge of tomatoes, some garlic, a diced zucchini and some fresh basil.  Yum!!!  When they are gone next month, I will be sad.

Tonight I started my MSP level 5 homework.  Assignment 1 was to spin 100% nylon. It was way more fun than I thought… But that is for another post.

I am also working on a fun project.  I am spinning up some of my “A Verb for Keeping Warm” Color ways from her long ago luxury fiber club. imag1418.jpg The first is baby camel/silk, then some Cashmere/merino and finally just some yak.  I plan to use the 3 yarns in one project.  Not sure what yet. I need the final yardage.  It is such a pleasure to spin.

A week in the woods

This post will have almost no pictures. The reason is that my week in the woods was part of an event that was screen free.  Which in some ways was amazing, and I didn’t have cell signal anyway.  In some ways it was frustrating because I really wanted some pictures of my kids working and interacting with some amazing people.

So a week in the woods…. I was geographically only about 10 min from my house.  Which is actually what allowed for me to be able to do this event.  This was the primitive skills gathering (4corners skills gathering) I have been talking about and combing wool for.  It was the first year for this event which is similar to events like Wintercount and Rabbit Stick.  Unlike most of the participants and instructors, this was my first introduction to the world of primitive skills gatherings.  I had no idea what to expect, or if I would be able to teach spinning to this group of people.

Because I was very close to home it allowed for me to come to the opening circle and firelighting.  Set up my camp and go home for the night to do things like grocery shop and pack for a week in the woods.  So Monday afternoon I was all set to teach.  Since my kids were so excited to get there, we ended up at the gathering a couple of hours before I actually had to do any teaching and so I got to learn how to make pine needle baskets.imag1405.jpg  I have to admit that I am now totally addicted and will have to do some more hiking this fall to collect some more needles so I can do a bigger one before winter.

On the first evening I met a woman who was interested in some help with her cotton spinning.  She had been to another primitive skills class and had made her own cotton support spindles and was trying to spin cotton lint that had just been picked off the bowl.  she was supper frustrated with it.  I told her I would bring my cotton stuff (as I was heading home anyway) and we could sit and do some cotton.  So my first class, I taught several people park and draft and she showed up with her cotton spindle.  It was all very organic, people dropping in and out.  I showed my new friend how to card cotton punis.  She was so excited.  She carded all afternoon.  Then her friend who happens to live in my area and had taken the same class she had stopped by and the three of us spent all afternoon spinning cotton together.  The next day she stopped procrastinating and spun off a puni.  It was magical.  Still park and draft on cotton, but I think as she practices she will see it get better and better.

The rest of my actual wool spinning classes went super well.  I was able to get almost everyone making string.  Several people really took off with it.  I did not have spindles I could give out to take it home, so I started saving the spindles for people to come and spin on as the week went on.  At the end of the week, I had 3 people that I taught to Andean ply before they went home.  Two of them had more than 10 yards.  One of those lives close by and wants a fiber animal.

Much of the week was counseling people about how to wash wool, card wool, and spin wool.  I did not teach an actual class on washing fiber, but next year I need to.  I also spent a lot of time encouraging people to check out the wider spinning and fiber world.  People really wanted felting.  I am not a felter. However, there is a woman who lives in the next small town who teaches felting out of her studio.  I encouraged the locals to look her up.  I encouraged those who wanted an animal to go to the local fiber festivals and talk to growers and vendors and see what’s what.  I get self reliance, I understand getting back to nature.  However, I don’t get overlooking a real resource because it’s not part of the primitive skills world.

Over the course of the week, people started to notice than I had some pretty amazing skills with fiber.  Which of course I do, but I am not the most amazing fiber person out there.  I know this because I am plugged in to the fiber world.  However, in this world I am pretty cool.  imag1406.jpgBecause of that I was able to trade some of my yarn for some pretty awesome things like an Anasazi style clay bowl that was made by one of the other instructors, some amazing hand polished turquoise, a neat Navajo made bracelet, and a bunch of homemade elderberry syrup for my medicine chest.  It was pretty neat to trade with people who understand the level of skill and time involved in what you do.

My kids ran wild in the woods for a week, mostly under the supervision of a very knowledgeable outdoor instructor.  She is also local and my youngest loves her.  So this enabled me to focus on teaching and learning for the week.  My oldest and middle got to take a few classes.  They forged their own copper bracelets.  They learned to sleep in tents, pee in the woods, ignore the bugs, and play in rivers.  By the time the week was over, they were exhausted, dirty and can’t wait for next year.

I am unfortunately a bit busy.  Level 5 homework needs doing and then I still have to get through my level 6 class and in depth study.  However, this has opened my mind.  I would not mind bridging the gap so to speak in teaching this group fibery things and showing them the path.  I will do this event again next year and perhaps add a natural dye day and a class that is titled “so you want a fiber animal…” (I would talk about the fiber processing not the raising. )

Now onto starting school and the new fall schedule.



Observations from county fair

I need to say that we are a smallish county.  Our entire fair fits in a very small space.  I kind of like that.  I can let my kids even my 9 year old wander about and have freedom.  Mostly that is because they are 4-Hers and they know al lot of other 4H kids.  My middle daughter is on County Council this year and so she knows a lot of people.  She also just knows a lot of people… she’s friendly and a talker.  Anyway, because I am a superintendent I end up spending 12 hour days at fair.  Luckily, my kids don’t have to be with me the whole time because we do general projects not livestock.  So they take the bus home and/or into the fairgrounds as they need to.  Which is good because in my small world of Handspun/Handmade, and weaving I do not get a lot of help.

This year we have had a record amount of entries in hand spun/ hand made as well as in weaving.  I should say especially in weaving.  Last year we had 2.  this year 18.  It was crazy and it’s great to see.  Our grand champion in handspun/handmade is this Llama shawl. IMAG1395 She started from raw wool and then combed it and spun it.  It’s amazing!  People wander through and have no idea what they are looking at.

Every year I spin.  I love this part, because now that judging is over It’s pretty much 12 hours of spinning and visiting with people who come by.  Yesterday, I was connected to a new fiber friend.  She is a rabbit judge who lives on the front range and had been raising Lincoln.  We had a great talk about sheep and fiber and uses.  I got to see pics of her sheep which she is crosses with some CVM.  Crazy beautiful long staples.  She also has some BFL.  She’s going to bring me a small bag to play with when she comes back in Sept.

What always amazes me is that the people who are most interested in my wheel and my spinning are men.  It’s true.  Women will comment, but men will sit down and ask questions.  How does the wheel work?  Why do you have tape with inches on your leg?   What do you do with your product. And they are genuine about their interest and want to understand how it all works.  Now, I did have a 5 year old girl who looked at my wheel for a few minutes and looked and me and explained to me exactly how my wheel worked.  But she is a daughter and grand daughter of weavers.  So even though they spin, she gets stuff.

Oh and ribbons.  Because fair is about competition and winning, or not.  I always encourage my kids to enter into open class.  Not just in 4H.  They all did well in 4H.  My oldest won grand champion in photography, my middle got champion for her quilt (she was the only one) and lost grand champion to a girl who made a macrame hammock chair.  We are both ok with that.  It’s an amazing project.  Her quilt still goes to state fair for judging.  My youngest had her first year as a full 4Her and she only did a county project.  She got a champion in her age group and she had competition.  She also got a reserve grand overall.  When she saw those purple ribbons she was so excited.  It’s been her goal for 3 years.

In open, my son won a first place for a photograph.  My youngest won first, and champion in her group for her blueberry jam, she also ended up with a merit award.  My middle opted out this year.  It’s ok.  We were busy.  I took some of my pear tomatoes in and they won 3rd or 4th as did my sprigs of sage.  I am hoping they give feedback.  All the sage looked the same to me.  (which is why I am not a judge) My yarn came in 2nd.  I won 1st in fiber to fabric (no competition) however, my brown sweater got reserve grand champion second to the amazing llama shawl.  I find myself ok with that also.   Overall a great year so far.  Now is time for spinning and on Saturday the 4H barbecue.

Combing vs Carding

This is not an official face off.  More of musings whilst processing a fleece.  While at Olds, once of my class member brought in his motorized drum carder.  He made blending wool especially from commercial top look dreamy.  My drum carder has been collecting dust for the pat 4ish years.  I was carding heavily while I was still working with all of the Alpaca down in NM.  Since moved, it has had no love.

This is largely due to the fact that most of my largish projects have been on my hand carders for my final projects or on my new love, my combs.  I recently (June) purchased a fleece for this class I will be teaching.  My original idea was that we would wash the fleece in the first day and then work on it in the subsequent classes.  This thing being a week long event.  I have since revised that plan with input from the sponsor and organizer of the event.  I should just teach the same class each of the 5 days and let people float in and out as they have interest.  This idea has a lot of merit because I want to get people drop spindling and one, four hour class is simply not enough.  So now I need to process a fleece in about 3 weeks.

After Olds, I was convinced that Drum carding was the way.  I pulled out my fleece and skirted it.  Then I washed up a batch.  I have learned so much since the first time I washed a fleece! Anyway, when I wash a fleece I take care to keep my locks in formation.  No matter what method you choose after that, everything is smoother if the locks are still intact.  Just take my word on this…. Really.  I place my locks into little packets of window screen and pin them.  20160726_142001.jpgHere they are all ready to go into the first bath of HOT (usually around 140 ish) water and some wool wash.  My current favorite is Unicorn Power Scour as I found a bunch of samples I was given ages ago and have been using them up.  imag1376.jpgFirst wash…. YUCK!!!! you can see how dirty this fleece was!  I then put the fleece into two other hot water rinses.  They stay in the wash and rinse waters for somewhere between 30-60 min ish…. Really it depends on how distracted I get and if I forget that I am washing wool…

imag1377.jpgWashed locks on window screen to dry.  Usually, where I live this takes 24 hours ish or less.  Because it is summer and there is very little humidity here.  You can see the VM (veggie matter) in the pic above.  Much of this fleece is a bit full of it.  I have to admit it makes me cringe….

Which is where the combing vs carding thing comes in.  First, as I said, I was determined to comb this stuff up on my drum.  My drum should theoretically process wool faster than my combs.  imag1360.jpgThis made tons of sense in my head.  Until I actually pulled it out and tried it.  First of all, it took me hours to card the whole batch, which was just one batch.  Secondly, the VM was pretty imbedded in the batt when it came off the drum.  Thirdly, even when I attempted to “diz” the fiber off of my bat, it was really hard to make neat little rovings that would be helpful to new spinners.  imag1361.jpgI was sort of surprised that it took so long.  I felt that it should have taken me less time.  I am thinking that part of my problem is that I have been combing for the past year exclusively unless using my hand cards for a project.

The VM is the problem. imag1359.jpg If the fleece were clean with no VM I think carding would be the way to go, even if initially it took me longer.  I really probably could process more in a shorter time once I got the hang of it.  Also time is a factor.  I need to get this done.  In the next two weeks before fair.

So I decided to see what would happen if I combed it. It turns out that I can comb some sliver in about 5 min… with less VM than if I card it.  Now that’s 5 min per batch…. So It probably takes me around an hour-ish to comb the fleece I wash the previous day.  However, the result…. AMAZING!!!

In the pictures above, I decided to load my combs with the worst of the VM fleece I had washed.  Stuff I really wanted to just throw out.  The second pic is what the fiber looked like after 4 passes through the combs.  Not perfect, but much better.  The final pic is of the wool dizzed off the coms into top.  You can see that there is still some VM in it, but not like there was.  Much if the VM falls out while combing and the rest gets stuck in the waste on the combs.

See that is the real problem with the drum, there is no place for the VM to fall out to.  It just gets trapped and then makes the whole bat riddled with VM.   Most of my little nests are not even as VM filled as the pic above.  Because I can pick and choose which fleece I comb.  I can do that with the carder too, but again the VM mostly falls out of the combs, to which my floor can attest.


Aren’t they dreamy?

I tell you, I am so in love with this fiber.  It is a CVM fleece from the same grower that I bought Tipsy from last year. Just looking at those little fiber bundles makes me want to spin them into something divine.