Putting the garden to bed

It was time.  Perhaps a bit past time.  The frost came a couple of weeks ago.  My zinnas had just started blooming.  They bloomed for about a month.  Then from one day to the next zap!  Luckily my mom came and helped me to move my iris to a new bed in the back yard and plant all the new tulip and snowdrops we ordered.  We are trying safron crocus this year.  We planted 50 of them in my garden.  Which makes my veggie bed way smaller for next year.

imag1469.jpgI got all the tomatoes pulled out and the cages stacked.  I need to make a place for them on the side of the house.  I picked up the thousand pear tomatoes that had fallen into the garden in an attempt to keep them from coming up volunteer next spring.  I am pretty sure I am just going to have pear tomatoes everywhere.

I dug up the carrots.  Can I tell you that it takes a VERY long time for them to grow?  A very long time.  This is all my crop this year.  imag1464.jpgI don’t remember sowing the short fat ones… but that’s what we got.  I think between the sunflowers and the tomato plants they just did not get enough sun.  I think I will need to rethink them next year.

I also am trying my hand at harvesting seeds this year.  So when I made soup today I cut some of my last cherokee purple tomatoes and scooped out some seeds. imag1468.jpg

I loved having all the tomato plants this year. But I feel like all I had was tomato plants.  So next year I only want maybe 4-5 plants…. one row by the fence.  Then I will still have room for potatoes and greens and my squash…. I may have to have a container garden.

I dug up the fennel.  It was not a plant that gave me bulbs.  I was growing it for bulbs.  It became larger than the sunflowers… I moved the sage to give both it and the oregano more room.  The chives will probably also move in.  So my herb garden got larger and my veggie bed becomes smaller… Definitely, some pots.

Rabbit Bush

Recently I have gotten the bug to do some natural dyeing.  In the past I have just not really felt the “dyeing” need that many of my fellow fiber artists do.  I LOVE natural colors.  However, I decided that this fall with all the white CVM I have been combing I should look into it.  The first natural dye of choice was a no brainer as it’s blooming EVERYWHERE around me at the moment.  imag1447.jpgRabbit Bush, also know as Chamisa.

I didn’t even have to go very far to find it.  About 100 yards outside my front door it’s growing in the drainage.  It’s also being used in my neighbor’s landscape, but I decided that public domain was better than pruning my neighbor’s shrubbery.

The standard recipe for dyestuffs is an equal weight of dyestuffs to your dry weight of yarn.  I ended up dyeing about 150g of wool.  Both as scoured locks and hand combed top.  Each were placed in mesh bags.  They were put in a bucket to soak.

This Rabbit Bush experiment ended up being a bit of a comedy of sorts.  Most of the dye books suggest that you mordant your wool overnight.  Mordants help the dye molecules bond to the fiber.  In this case I used Alum and cream of tartar.  The recipe called for 8% of alum and 7% cream of tartar per dry weight.  I could not seem to remember to get over to the studio and put the fiber into mordant.

Then My parents called me and they were going to be at my house on Wed evening instead of Friday evening…. The studio needed to become guest space.  So I emailed my friend Ric who advised me to do an all in one dye bath.  I just needed to cook the Rabbit Bush and then add the mordant and yarn to that and I would be set.

I did not take into account just how long this big pot of Rabbit bush would take to come to a simmer.  imag1449.jpgWay longer than I had available in fact.  So I had to turn it off and take my daughter to piano and then swim, etc… you get the idea.  Later that evening, I was finally able to get it to simmer for an hour.  The color seemed weak to me.  But I was out of time.  So I added the mordant and fiber and simmered that for an hour.

Again, the fiber did not seem very dark.  It seemed barely yellow.  But it was late and I was out of time.  I decided to pull it and let it dry and revisit it and see if it needed another bath.  20161007_143001.jpg

When I pulled it out of the bags, after it had cooled and dried a bit, I was pleasantly pleased with the color.  It’s not a super strong yellow.  More lemony.  But I kind of like it.

I spun up the combed top.  Other than playing with the CVM at the skills gathering, which does not count, I had not spun it.  I spun it up on my Matchless.  It is soo beautiful.  I can not wait to do some more of it.


I am not a huge yellow fan.  But it is a lovely yellow.  So I have no idea what I am going to do with 160 yard of it.  It might be nice as colorwork in a larger piece.  Or I may experiment with an iron assist with some of the dyed locks to see if I get a nice green.


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.