Friday, May 11, 2018

A plea ...

If you've been reading my posts for any time now, you know that I am involved as a student at an exciting enterprise known as The Upper Valley Music Center. It is a music school in Lebanon, NH which currently provides music instruction for over 900 students. I am immensely proud that this is happening in the area I grew up in (even more so that Lebanon is my mother's home town), especially in these times when music (and art) instruction have all but disappeared from public schools.

The music school purchased a new facility last year: A splendid mansion (built in 1815) on Colburn Park in Lebanon. It's a dream come true for the school. Through enormous generosity, they have been able to retire a good portion of the mortgage and the push is on to get it fully paid so that resources can go into music instruction for today's youth.

The new UVMC

In an effort to retire the mortage, the school is producing a fund raiser going by the name "Sing and Play 50K" which will take place on May 19th in Colburn Park, the music school's facility, and other locations in Lebanon. Students and faculty from the school will perform 50,000 seconds of music on May 19th starting at 7:04 am and ending at 9:00 pm. This music will be free to any and all who wish to attend.

I, myself, am participating via the Upper Valley Chamber Orchestra (which is a program of UVMC), the cello choir (an adult course I have enrolled in for a number of semesters already), and playing part of Schubert's Fantasy for 1 piano, 4 hands.

As if all of this were not exciting enough, we, the orchestra are performing Terry Riley's 1964 masterpiece "In C". I cannot tell you what a thrill it is to perform this piece, it is epic. The cello choir I am part of will play 6 or 7 shorter pieces, and the Schubert speaks for itself. If you care to listen to either "In C" or the Schubert, here are some videos:

Terry Riley's "In C":



Schubert Fantasy, 4 hands, 1 piano:



So what is this plea? I am asking for donations to sponsor me in these performances. The really great part of this is that the amount donated is not as important as the number of donations, you see, because we currently have a challenge grant of $17,000 if we can get 1000 new donors!

As sincerely as is possible, I'm asking if you can spare $10, $20, or more. It would go towards an invaluable resource. Bringing music into the lives of today's toddlers, children, adolescents, teens, and adults working to fulfill their musical dreams.

I have a page where you can make a donation in my name. I can't thank you enough in advance for considering this. Thank you.

My fundraising page where you can contribute: Sponsor me

and the Sing & Play 50k main page: We have 8 days to acquire 213 new donors


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Spring is here! ...

And it feels wonderful!

Fiber works are slightly on hold while I tackle the page full of outdoor chores. The only work that got done this past week was warping the loom upstairs for some mug rugs and a bit of a start on the weaving. These are double weave with pickup--to create a pattern. Dressing the loom was quick, the actual weaving not so much as certain warps need to be lifted manually on each pick. This first mug rug is a tester while I learn the actual layout of the warp. There are some mistakes in the pickup and I need to clarify for myself exactly which thread is the first to be picked up in each row.



But my energy is focused on the out of doors right now. I planted some peas, lettuce, mesclun, radishes, and swiss chard this week--all in the ground.

Then I decided I had to renovate the 2 front flower beds. From somewhere, a ground cover crept in and was overtaking everything! I dug out half the first bed today, removing the perennials to other beds--beds I dug last year. As I was working on it, I decided that I would not refill these 2 beds with flowers, but with more vegetables! I am going to need the space, as you can see from my seedlings!

I have potted on many of the seedlings now, but there are still 3 trays to prick out and pot on. I am placing the larger seedlings outside during the day and bringing them in at night now that the temps are well above 50. I'm well pleased with their progress so far.



Top picture, top row, left to right: Hyacinth Bean, Sun Flowers, and Buttercup Squash.
Top picture, bottom row, left to right: Nasturtiums and Sweet Peas, Courgettes (Zucchini; I've taken a liking to the European name)
Bottom picture, under the lights in the bathroom, left to right: Romaine Lettuce, Corn Flowers (in front), Petunias, Carrots, Celery, and Parsnips. These last four need to be pricked out this week!

The Crocuses came and went, and the Daffodils are currently in bloom. So refreshing and joyful:



The excavator arrived today to start work on my driveway. It's going to get a renovation. He'll be taking the top layer of muddy, sandy soil away, filling it with coarse gravel and finishing it with blue stone. But before he finishes it, he'll install a culvert and dig drainage trenches to alleviate the spring flooding of the drive. At the same time, I'm having the "official" driveway shortened from 150' to 75'. The part of the driveway nearest the house will be removed and a couple inches of new loam will be put in. I want to seed it as lawn. Eventually, I will lay 2 brick paths through this lawn to accommodate utility vehicles and such.



I got a new bird!! A big one, made out of scrap metal. It was made by a sculptor in Rumney. A fine addition to the garden:



Speaking of birds, I saw a Northern Flicker this week for the first time ever. It came down to find sustenance in my lawn and garden. Very pretty bird. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me and I was afraid I would scare it off if I got up.

First bear sighting of the year this week... also on my lawn. It was dark and I didn't bother to snap a pic. Saw a moose on my neighbor's lawn last week. Tall. I love seeing moose; it's exciting.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

What a difference a week makes ...

The mercury was at 70F this afternoon! The front door open! The sun bright and beautiful! Much of the snow gone! Who'd a thunk it just over a week ago? Not me. Oh, didn't it feel wonderful having the front door open and warm fresh air pouring in to rinse away the months of closed doors. And the birds were out in song and the brook was rushing with melted winter; and the crocuses are in bloom!

Ah. Spring has sprung. It's always bound to happen sooner or later. I'm here 5 years in just a week and I've learned that April habitually lingers on making winter seem interminable. But it's just a tease and none of us take the shenanigans too seriously.

I took a walk around the property this afternoon with notebook in hand. The list of tasks to be done fills an entire page! I may have to hire some help. From removing rotten stumps to fixing a retaining wall, from clearing brambles to consolidating the burn pile. I will certainly need help moving the cold frame and small shed which are down in the woodland area up closer to the garden. The shed will become a house for tools and the cold frame--which I have never utilized--will help harden off my crop of seedlings. I planted several seeds a week ago and it's exciting to see much of it sprouting already.

The seed beds are in the downstairs tub--which I don't use, preferring the shower stall in the upstairs lavatory. I will pot them on in a few weeks and sometime in May will like to place them in the cold frame for hardening off. I'll be building a new raised bed this year due to one of the original beds being taken over by my strawberry plants. I can't complain about having too many strawberry plants, and what's one more bed?

I'm visualizing picket fences and garden gates lately. Wonder if I can make that work for my garden? I want an arbor for the climbing roses, one that has seats on both sides. Wouldn't that be romantic? Sitting amongst the roses reading Oscar Wilde, what could be grander?

The seeds I sowed last week are: Romaine lettuce, Buttercup squash, parsnip, carrot, celery, zucchini, petunia, sweet pea, hyacinth bean, and nasturtium. These germination pictures were taken 2 days ago and more has sprouted since:



The driveway is utter chaos at the moment. There is one section in particular that floods over and is slow to drain. I think a culvert needs to go in at the spot. I made arrangements today to obtain a quote for fixing it up.

The scarf I was weaving for the small kitchen table is completed. I'm quite pleased with the result; it is what I imagined and what I desired for this table. The 'summer and winter' weave structure is reversible and I like this particular side the best:



I received some cotton in the mail today for some mug rugs which I will weave on the upstairs loom and I expect to hear from my neighbor any day now that she's received the cottolin for the towels which we will jointly weave.

Yesterday (Sunday) was sunny, if tepid, and I took the spinning wheel out on the deck to do some alfresco spinning. Although I had to don my coat, it was very soothing and deep soul refreshing to spin in the sunshine and fresh air.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

It's beginning to look a lot like winter ...

All over again! Woke up to a new coating of white on the ground, temperature of 21F, and freezing rain. Rather dreary.

I'm pining for the gardens! Purchased this week in hopes of starting much of it indoors:



I'm just so ready to get in the dirt again! I dug several new beds last summer and I can't wait to start filling them up. All in good time, I know, but today's weather was not expected (I hardly ever check the forecasts), and apparently we have a few more days of this coming.

To make up for spring's delay, I've been watching (binge watching!) a wonderful YouTube channel I found called "Sean James Cameron's Diary of a UK Gardener" about a southeast Londoner and his allotment garden. It's a wonderful channel and I highly recommend it. Here's one video from his series; I post it for when you find yourself needing a little lift (you really must watch it):



I've been weaving on a new project: A scarf for my kitchen table. It might be done this week. Kitchen towels will follow. I made yardage calculations this evening for 8 towels in a pinwheel pattern. My neighbor will weave 4 and I will weave 4. My table scarf in progress:



The weave structure is "summer and winter" as it's called. It's reversible and it's one of my favorite weaves.

My epiphyllum put out a blossom a few weeks ago. Such a spectacle!



Off to watch a few more episodes from a UK allotment gardener ...

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Krokbragd rug ...

Well, so... I think it was way back in November when my neighbors and I warped my 4 shaft loom for some Krokbragd rugs. We put on enough warp so that she could weave a 6' rug and I, myself, wanted about a 4' rug. She wove and completed her rug--it came out beautifully and she's using it for yoga:



About a week after hers came off the loom I went upstairs and retied the warp to the breast beam and started in on mine. I had a spurt of weaving and the rug was done in a couple weeks. Unfortunately, my lumbar back went bezerk during that time, and near the very end of weaving I stood up from the loom's bench and could barely stand! I've never felt like such an old man!! The pain lasted a few weeks and has finally died down. I think it may be related to the fall I took last year and it's on my mind to have the doctor poke around to make sure everything is where it's supposed to be. It was very, very bad for a good 2 weeks. Also, at the same time I sometimes felt a little under the weather, and funny thing is I usually felt down when the pain was less which makes me think it was cold and when the cold shifted out of those muscles, I felt a tad bad. Anyway, that's past and the rug, as I say, is complete. I am thrilled with it! Perhaps I should have used brighter colors? More color?



Like Kaffe Fassett says, when in doubt add 20 more colors! I love this rug very much, it is definitely me. It currently sits in front of the hutch in the dining room.

I'm in the process of warping the 8-shaft loom--now in the kitchen (hutch moved to dining room)--for a summer-and-winter scarf for the kitchen table. I'm weaving it in 2 shades of green; cotton tabby and wool pattern. Pics when done.

Loom is now in the kitchen corner. I'm getting a new wood stove this spring so the loom had to come off the hearth (which has been empty since I gave the original wood stove to my neighbor (who used to own this house) because her's was not faring well and I wasn't using mine.):



The hutch which was displaced by the loom, is now in the dining room. Seems a right and proper location for it! And there is the rug!



After the table scarf is woven, my neighbor and I will be weaving kitchen towels in a pinwheel pattern. These will be on the 8-shaft in the kitchen. It's quite nice to have someone coming in to weave for a few hours at a time. We'll share the towels.

Now that the 4-shaft loom is, as they say, 'naked', I will warp it for a double-width blanket. I'm getting a small refund from the government this spring and I'm going to use a bit to buy enough yarn to make a blanket that is at least 80" wide. Although my 4-shaft loom is only about 42" wide, there is a weaving technique called "double weave" in which one weaves two layers of cloth at the same time, one above the other--and if one edge is woven together the cloth can be unfolded at the end of weaving and will be twice the width of the weaving! Very clever. The trick--I have learned from reading--is to weave the fold in way that does not draw in when unfolded. That will be the challenge. I want to weave it in Harrisville "New England Highland" wool, and I'm thinking of weaving a plaid.

... Bought several bundles of fabric at the thrift store recently and I'm making simple, everyday placemats from it. I'll be making 3 more like the 1st photo.



Our orchestral concert is tomorrow. My latest poster for the event. It is a fantastic program; we had dress rehearsal Wednesday evening and it was fabulous! It's going to be good.



A photographer was at dress rehearsal and took many pictures. Here is our group picture. Photo by Rob Klein. (As always, click photos to enlarge.)



I think that's it for now. Except... waiting:



We had more snow overnight! And it was really starting to feel a bit spring like in air quality. Soon. Very soon I think. I'm itching to get in the dirt again and I'm dreaming about all the beautiful flowers and delicious food to come.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Status update ... what's new

Tons of projects in the works, some sewing, some knitting, some spinning, some orchids, some music ...

I've been practicing hand quilting to see if I want to forge ahead and hand quilt the wool applique that I did. My current impression: No. At least not the whole quilt. It's a slow process and I still haven't found the groove of it. My suspicion is it's something one needs to work at for years. So I will probably use the Singer treadle machine to do straight lines around each block, and perhaps do some free-motion quilting within the blocks. I purchased an embroidery foot for the machine, a silicon matt to cover the feed dogs and sewing area--the feed dogs on the 66 don't go down, so I have set the stitch length to 0 which stops them from moving, albeit they are still raised. But with the silicon matt over them, they don't interfere. I also purchased some special gloves that help grip the fabric. So far, free-motion on the treadle seems like a possibility... something that could actually be doable. There is no hurry; in the meantime I've got the top hanging in the studio room and it makes fab wall art.

This, which I'm currently sewing on my modern machine, will be an insulated casserole carrier:




I've had the pattern over a year and just got around to doing something with it yesterday. I'm making 2, the other one will be in these two fabrics:



Pretty, pretty!

I enjoyed hand stitching the wool applique quilt so much that I immediately started in on a new applique project. A bit smaller this time around; it will be a table scarf. In this picture the pieces are all laid out in place, a few pieces are stitched down. The stems will eventually be embroidered. Currently, they are just sketched in with chalk. Since I took the photo, I've made some progress on stitching. Again, no hurry. It's getting shuffled with the other projects.



Two more orchids blossomed this week! Well G-o-l-l-y-! The Lycaste which I bought last summer in bloom, put out a new bud and blossomed this week:



This flower does not last as long, as say, cattleya orchids, but it should be in bloom for at least a few weeks I think. One of my Phals also put out a new spike and is now opening it's blossoms. I love the deep color:



And, I was in the supermarket week before last and saw this Phalaenopsis amongst the others. It stood out to me immediately; I've read of these so-called peloric Phals and golly me, there was one waiting for me to pick it up! Peloric means it has a genetic mutation that, in this case, causes the upper petals to take on a shape similar to the lip. Normally, the top 2 petals are flat and wide open; on this one they, along with the lip, form a cup. How neat is that! Well! I couldn't leave it in the store, could I? No. It came home with me. :)



I'm noticing a definite color trend. Deep reds and reddish purples seem to be the couleur de jour.

Speaking of things following me home, I was in a local thrift store--one of my faves: Boomerang in downtown Plymouth last week and before I knew it, this was following me around. It ended up at my place as well:



It's an old Underwood No. 5 in working condition. Wow. I haven't spent much time at it yet, but the 5 minutes I spent testing out the 'action' immediately put all my modern digital electronics in perspective. I was amazed at the effect it had on my psyche, and it was, as I say, immediate. No plugging it in, no need for it to boot up, no need to hook up to the internet, no turning on the printer, no making sure the printer was on the wireless network, no hassle whatsoever! Feed it a sheet of paper, hit the keys and the end product is there. I love it! It feels good to be reminded that life needn't be so complicated. Having said that, I'm very grateful for the internet, what a resource! WoW!

Speaking of sewing, I made these little 'snap shut' purses a few weeks ago. I'm thinking of making more for our guild's sale table at this summer's Rumney Old Home Day. The closure is a clever bit... pieces of old carpenter's tape (the retractable, metal type). When enclosed a certain way, they cause the pouches to snap shut. Very clever indeed:



In other matters, we were spared the rather wicked storm that lashed out on the eastern seaboard last week. I woke up to about 4" of new snow the morning after and we had light, intermittent rain that day. Nothing like the high winds south of here. We did lose power, but only for about 40 minutes. Don't know why. A storm expected Wednesday night into Thursday this week, though, and it appears we will receive it.




Monday, February 19, 2018

My orchids ...

It's been a good winter for my orchids. I have been elated more than once to see blossoms on plants that either blasted their buds, or simply didn't produce any blooms, last year.

The sweet, sweet Phragmipedium ended up putting out two more blossoms following the one it was sporting when I purchased it last fall. All told, it was in bloom for at least 3 months after I brought it home.



I have 2 plants from the Cattleya Alliance and they both produced blooms this year. It takes forever for the buds to develop, grow, and mature. I mean forever. Really. I think it was 3 months--at least--from the time I first noticed a sheath developing on one, to when a blossom finally opened. The purple colored one has no id: I don't know what hybrid it is. It does not produce a sheath, the buds extend directly. It produced one, very pretty flower. The nice thing about these blooms is they also last a very long time. This one flower lasted almost 2 months:



The yellow/orange one produced 4 blossoms this year and I'm really chuffed about that because it did not produce any blossoms last year. These buds spent at least a month within a sheath (an envelope that looks at first like a new leaf forming, but sunlight shining through it reveals buds within; eventually the buds burst forth from the sheath.) and another month or two developing before opening up. This Cattleya just opened it's flowers last week; I expect to enjoy them through the whole month of March, no doubt.



In between the time the purple Cattleya and the orange Cattleya blossomed, my Dendrochilum Cobbianum blossomed. It was very exciting to witness the development of the inflorescences, each one eventually home to a multitude of minute blossoms. It has the scent of mowed hay! Ever so elegant:



I am ever so grateful for all this beauty.

Last Saturday I went down to Nashua, NH for the NH Orchid Society's annual orchid show. It was splendid! Oh my word, the profusion of flowers! I had little choice but to limit my purchases because of my current limited space to accommodate more plants. (But if things go as planned, I'll have more room in the not too distant future. :) ) I bought one species Phalaenopsis (Phalaenopsis Violacea) and a Cattleya Aurantiaca. Can't wait to see them in bloom.

Here are a few pictures from the orchid show:



There's also some very nice video footage of the show here (I did not take the video):