Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hrmph! ...

The first panel of the blanket is done ... "Houston, we have a slight problem." I don't know how but I managed to beat the last square (the moose) much tighter than the others and it has turned out 1" shorter. That's a problem because this is the first of three panels (plus 2 dividing panels and 2 border panels) that makes up the blanket. The height of the squares in all the panels needs to match up or they won't go together correctly. Well!

I have a few options. 1) When I weave the subsequent panels, beat each of the last squares tighter so it matches this panel; 2) re-weave the moose and patch it in. The blanket will be constructed anyway and I'm pretty sure I can drop a new moose in without the patch being horribly obvious. I'm not going to make a decision right now. It will take some time to weave the remaining panels. There's plenty of time to think about it.

This is all very funny because as the panel was winding onto the cloth beam it seemed to me that the ostrich square came out way too long, as if I hadn't beat it hard enough. Taking a ruler to each square shows that the squares are all close to being the same height, except for the moose. How in the world did I manage to beat so differently on that one? Am I harboring some pent up aggression? Hm. Maybe it was the weather the past few days.

Yes, that could very well explain it indeed. It's been disheartening to have it so cool--downright cold last night. I worried all night that the power would cut out. The lights went in and out a few times during the evening and there was a time when I really thought they were going to be gonners. Luckily the power stayed on. The temps were in the 30s and without heat the birds would have suffered. I spent a good share of the wee hours coming up with ways to keep the place warm enough to tide them through the misery if need be ... boiling pots of water, lighting the oven, foraging the yard for scrap wood to light the wood stove. (I haven't any wood for burning yet--who'd have thought I'd need it at the end of May!!?)

At any rate, a few warps and wefts that need reworking is no big deal, and like I say, I have months of work left on this blanket so there's plenty of time to get in the mood! Heehee.

There's 2 shots of it here, one taken from each end... I like it. It's hard to see the ostrich in the picture. Much clearer in real life.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

According to plan...

Or not.

We had considerable rain earlier this week and I discovered over 1" of water on the basement floor when I went down to look for something the day after the big storm. It's not totally surprising. The house is in need of gutters for one thing, and the land behind the house slopes down to the house and is very wet at the moment. I will need some run-off work done to get the water diverted around the house. That, and gutters should help considerably. I hope. In the meantime I went to the hardware store and bought a pump which did a pretty good job of removing most of the water from the basement.

I had two contractors over this week for estimates on building the bird house. The house which was originally going to be the re-built shed but evolved into a new shed using the old shed's re-purposed wood, which has evolved into an addition built on the south end of the house. Yes, the new aviary will be attached to the house. I like this idea. It will be easier to keep an eye on things and it means I can attend to the birds in the dead of winter without trekking outside. It will also be easier to heat. It was brought to my attention by one of the contractors that fisher cats, weasels, hawks and what not could be a problem with an outdoor flight. Securing such a structure against these predators would be a daunting task. Therefore the outdoor flight idea is on hold until I come up with a good plan.

I put a hummingbird feeder out and the dear little things are visiting regularly. They went through a whole bottle of nectar this week. I just refilled it today. One that I saw yesterday was ruby throated. I don't know if there are other kinds around.

Been keeping a watchful eye out for bears. I haven't seen it return since I started bringing the seed in at night, though that's not to say it's not out there! Must be careful. I'm noticing some seed being left on the grass which is impossible to pick up so starting tomorrow I will put the plate of seed on a wooden platform. That should help keep the surrounding area clear of stray seed. I would hate to have to stop feeding the birds; I do so very much enjoy seeing them eating there. As long as the bear stays away.

Tuesday will be my first trip back to NY since the move. I wonder how it will be? I have a feeling it's going to confirm--in a strong way--that I made the right move! I'll be going down Tuesday morning and coming back Wednesday evening. I hope the weather is cleared up by the time I return. It's been cool-ish and rainy-ish all week.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Moving on...

Some situations to assess...

The missing bird feeder

Do you remember how the bird feeder had disappeared over night, last week? I believe I discovered the culprit last night while finishing up cello practice. I thought I heard noises outside--thump, thump heartbeat--so I went into the kitchen and turned on the entryway lights then walked into the music room to look out. It was dark in the room and it took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust, but bit-by-bit a moving shadow became clearer and clearer until the big hulk of a black bear was well discernable. It was over by the stump where I've been leaving bird seed since the feeder disappeared. Alrighty then! I was glad to be inside while it was out there. Though from what I could tell it seemed to be in a good mood.

I went online to do some research and uncovered interesting facts about black bears, the only species of bear to live in NH. The state's Fish & Game Department has some pages dedicated to this rather beautiful animal. It's a relief to read that there hasn't been a death by bear in the state since the year 1784. Good. The odds are slim. It explains that black bears are timid and do not like to be around humans. Good. It describes a behavior that might be interpreted as aggressive but isn't, what they call a "bluff charge". It means the bear is nervous so puts on a show of strength. The given advice is to not run, to keep looking at the bear, to make noise and slowly back away. I'm fine with the backing away bit! They can run faster, swim faster, and climb faster than humans so running is not a good idea and it might excite the bear. The recommended strategy if you are actually attacked--a rare occurrence--is to put up a fight with the bear. Fight back aggressively they say. OK, hope I never have to actually engage this recommendation.

The upshot to this story is that I will sweep up the day's remains at the tree stump every evening before dark falls. It would be bad for the bear(s) to learn that food is available near the house.

One final little tidbit... my name "Bernard" means "bold as a bear". Ha! I've known it for years and I like that I can squeeze that little bit of trivia into a post.

The dandelion dye results

I'm very happy with the color. Best of all the absorption of dye wasn't splotchy like I worried about, but came out nice and even. Now I'm emboldened (bear that I am!). Can't wait to do more natural dyeing. One quite essential bit of missing info is the pH of my tap water. I haven't a clue! Must get some pH strips this weekend and test it. My well water is definitely "harder" than NYC water, no question. It is flavorful and satisfying. Mineral content? Good question. Must find out as it will have an effect on dye results.


Swoon! This picture says it all. I snapped it this foggy morning. The air was refreshing and dewey, the temperature warm, the birds in song, and the lilacs in bloom. Bliss.

A beautiful misty morning, back of the house.

My first bobbin full in NH, very exciting. I think my dandelion dyed fiber is similar in color to this top I've been spinning, don't you think so?

Another turkey sighting
Gobbly, gobble, gobble!

Last Saturday I made a trip west on Rte. 25 up to Wentworth and Warren. It's ever so lovely a drive and there are several wonderful antique stores and craft stores on the way. I found this old end-feed shuttle in one of them, now sitting happily on my sewing table (another thrift shop find!):

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dandelion Dye...

I spent some time with the buzzing busy bees in the dandelions this morning. The area what's supposed to be front lawn looked like a yellow carpet from the amount of sunny flowers dancing their spring joy. So I harvested 8 oz. of blossoms and set about dyeing 4 oz. of Bluefaced Leicester top. It's an experiment, being my first time coloring with natural plant material.

Just after I started boiling the blossoms, 2 crab spiders made an appearance at the top of the cauldron. I was able to remove them before they became part of the dye bath. It's their lucky day. I like the smell of the boiling blossoms; there's a trace of honey in it. At the end of the cooking I strained the liquid and set the dye bath aside.

The inside of the dye pot picked up a good dose of color!

The BFL is mordanted with alum. It was pre-mordanted by sitting in a simmering bath with a tablespoon of alum for over an hour. Unfortunately I don't own a big enough pot. I hope the color will distribute somewhat evenly given that the wool was crowded. I did not stir it for fear of felting, but I did gently turn it a few times with the care I would give to an egg yolk.

This is the wool just before getting dunked for a good long soak. And no, this is not the dye pot, it did have a bit more room than this, but still, not enough I'm afraid.

The heat was just now turned off under the dye pot and the wool will sit in the bath until tomorrow morning. I know I will get some color. The concerns are clarity and good distribution. As I was looking at the blossoms boiling I wondered if a clearer yellow would be obtained if the calyx were removed from the flower? Something to try in the future.

Dandelions, poor under rated things, are a wonder. Besides their medicinal and dyeing value they are quite an awesome spectacle. There is no better proof of intelligence in nature than a dandelion blossom, it seems to me. There is insight to be had by pondering them. I've wondered over them on many occasions and it never ceases to amaze me: When a dandelion blossom matures, each seed is attached to a parachute--a lighter-than-air conveyance. This is astounding. It means the dandelion plant is informed about the wind. And it always boggles my mind. The plant knows about the wind! If the plant didn't know that the wind would carry it's seeds afar if they were light enough, it wouldn't spend energy crafting paragliders for them all. Ah, the beautiful awesomeness and wonder of life.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


It's all happening around here! Do you remember the picture of the sweet red squirrel pulled up by the bird feeder having a snack? Well that bird feeder has disappeared! I awoke a few days ago to discover that it had been hauled away--by man or beast. Beast, I hope. I can't imagine someone would steal it. Still, what kind of beast would walk off with a bird feeder? Something large and black or brown perhaps? Mama, Papa, or baby? At any rate I'm simply putting my Lovebird's leftovers on the ground now. The birds are still coming so all's well and that makes me happy.

The weather has taken a turn these past few days with the temps dipping quite low. Brrrr. It doesn't seem to be delaying the Lilacs though. With the temps expected to rise by end of week I'm expecting to see--and smell!!--some blossoms this weekend. Oh how intoxicating it will be.

Shortly after rising this morning I spotted a turkey in the back yard. I was very excited and happy to see it. So lovely it was, leisurely strolling the grounds. I'm sure it considers itself the master of these parts. I snapped this picture through the window so there's a bit of glare.

The rhubarb has been pushing up, up, up so today I harvested enough to assemble "Rhubarb Crunch", a recipe I found in an Amish cookbook. Luckily my fortitude was able to overcome the temptation to devour the entire dish at one sitting. I'm sure that would have given me a tummy ache! Oh, but it's good! Not too sweet, not too tart.

Rhubarb Crunch
3 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1.5 cups flour
.5 cup butter

Combine rhubarb, sugar and flour; place in greased 9x13 baking dish. Mix brown sugar, oats, flour and butter until crumbly. Sprinkle crumbs over fruit. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

Very easy and exceedingly delicious!

Inside, I've got the loom area set up...

And the area that will eventually become my dining room. I don't have a dining room table so in the meantime, seeing how the birds are in the spare room which will double as my office, the dining room is my office!

I'm going back and forth on housing for the birds. One option is to leave the existing shed where it is and simply have it fixed up. I'd rather have it moved though. Don't think it can be moved without tearing it down, so a new shed would have to be built with the recycled lumber. But seeing how time is of the essence I'm quite tempted to leave the shed where it is for a few years. This could very well be what I end up doing. We'll see...

Monday, May 13, 2013

NH Sheep & Wool Festival...

How different was my experience of attending the S&W in NH vs. NY? Let me count the ways...

For starters, I didn't have to get up nearly as early. And that's a big deal! I drove to the festival which is held in Deerfield, NH--a beautifully picturesque area. Classic New England. The driving aspect of the trip is a mixed bag. It is luxurious to sit back on a bus or train and read or knit or crochet, whatever. On the other hand, on public transportation one never knows who is going to end up sitting in the next seat. In that regard it's a toss-up. I've had great travelling companions, and some less comfortable. And still, driving affords complete freedom of schedule.

I enjoyed the drive very much. I-93 between Plymouth and Concord is quite beautiful, something many interstates struggle with. Very picturesque. One way took about hour and half. I missed my exit due to construction and a confusing sign so I went on to the next exit ramp and back tracked.

My friend from MA met me at the fairgrounds and we spent a lovely afternoon perusing the vendor's goods, checking in on the sheep, and ended our stay with a 45 minute viewing by the sheep dog trials. It was most enjoyable to watch. Very very exciting and fun. Lovely dogs they be and they love their work. They're so fast!

It was far less crowded than the NY festival and that made for relaxation. Not as big as Rhinebeck, but it had everything I needed, and more!--the wallet is under strick observation until finances settle down a bit around here. Still, I managed to come home with about 2 pounds of fiber and a beautiful woven basket which is perfect for the afghan project, as you will see.

There is something deeply satisfying in attending these shows. Being around the sheep and the dogs. Getting to see the younger ones showing their sheep. The commonality and shared love of sheep and all things wool. The craft, husbandry, utility. I love it, love it, love it!

Very glad I went and plan to visit again next year... (as usual, click to enlarge the pics)

Hm. Dump your manure somewhere else!

Just beautiful!




Oh so sweet!

A bit of attitude!

Showing their work.

"A kiss is still a kiss..."

My new shaggy.

"And who does your hair?"

An alpaca.

Sheep dog trials.

My afghan project before my purchase.

My afghan project after I got home with my new basket, handmade in Vietnam.

A pound of gorgeously colored fiber (56% wool, 44% mohair) from Gurdy Run Woolen Mill in PA. The color is named "Into The Woods". The owner told me the wool came from a sheep named Molly. I'm glad to know that.

About a pound of what I'm calling mongrel! It's a blend. Very bargain basement price and I love it. It's going to make something nice.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sinking in...

We had a bit of rain yesterday and I stood by the open front door looking out the summer screen. The sound of each drop had a lightening effect on my being, and the smell of the earth and grass and trees was prominent as they soaked up the water. The sound and scent of the woods was very calming and I was soothed by the hypnotic rhythm of nature's shower. Soul refreshment.

Because I lived across the street from a park in NYC I would get a hint (just a hint) of this heady organic smell when it rained there, but it doesn't compare with the undiluted experience up in here in the country.

And the stars at night! Praise be, what a wondrous spectacle. The awesome beauty of the Milky Way is so utterly enchanting and trance inducing it makes me want to stay up all night just to stare. In the very darkness of these country nights our galaxy is luminescent beyond imagination. This is one of the things I missed most while living in the city. The stars at night. All that beautiful star dust.

Daylight these past few days has illuminated this glory out in the front yard:

And this sighting:

Isn't s/he just gorgeous in his/her red coat!

On the fiber front I'm crocheting a square every morning while I have my coffee on the front "porch" and will have another row to add to the afghan this weekend. After that it will be down to 2 rows to completion. Golly! That's exciting.

I'm back at the loom on a regular basis now and it feels so good. I'm undecided whether I should share the project as I proceed or wait until it's all finished? Hm...

I was excited to spy this out front (and there's more of it on the other side of the stump):

I will try to identify it on the web and see what color it may produce. There's a range of color to be got from mushrooms and fungi. This could get very exciting! The NH Sheep & Wool Festival is this weekend and I'm driving down tomorrow. I may come back with some fleece in need of coloring! :happyhappy:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Yesterday was a day of adjustment and not so easy. Probably the most difficult day of the whole move. Not entirely a surprise, I had been expecting it: a necessary sorting out of dreams, expectations, realities, highs, and lows. The pros and cons of a new and very different location and logistics. The pros win, in a big way. At the end of the day--or more accurately: From the start of today I feel like I am coming back down to earth, I have arrived and feel like I'm here. The questions and doubts (not strong to begin with) have been answered.

The whole upheaval from last October to now seemed, in some ways, like a dream (come true!). There's been a misty haze of questions about whether the transition would be successful. Today the fog is lifted and I'm starting to feel my old self again, free from the whirlwinds, eddies, and unknowns of the journey.

I am getting familiar with the placement of my things in the house and they can now start to fade into the background where they belong. Routines are taking shape in pleasing and enjoyable ways. Yesterday's birth pangs are dissolving, and today I'm on with this new wonderful life! It feels like putting on a new pair of gloves, a pair that fits very well I'm discovering.

It was another hot and sunny day today. A short walk this afternoon after crochet and piano took me to some delicate and beautiful wild flowers out back. A few pics:

Being in the foothills of the White Mountains, there are natural geological sites of interest nearby. Monday I stopped by "Sculptured Rocks", a small gorge which is explained in this sign. (Yes, it's not surprising someone would have a bit of fun with the name of the river which flows through town: Cockermouth. It's predictable, and inevitable.)

These rocks are right near the road and are free to view and explore. There's free parking across the road.

Also, just 5 miles away is a destination known as Polar Caves. Sometime this summer I'll have to go exploring!

For dinner this evening I feasted on some beans I baked up this afternoon using maple syrup. How very New England is that!? They were scrumptious and I have a big pot of them!!