Monday, May 31, 2010

Soap, Soap and More Soap

I have been a soap making machine this week, trying to get caught up after a winter that was consistently too cold to let me work in the garage. Half my work is done there, with pretty much only the heating and mixing done in the kitchen. I burned out my electric stick. It was on its last legs anyway, and I had a upscale replacement in the wings - thanks Costco. I have one more batch to go before we leave on vacation which is why I'm trying to get everything done. It takes a month to cure and it would be convenient to have everything all cured at one.
Yesterday was another of those all-day in town things, so to sweeten the pot, I stopped by my daughter's for a visit on my way home. Lexy-Lu wanted to show me how she had cleaned her room - open for interpretation. We went to the local park after, so she could show me how she goes up the climbing wall, and in all of this conversation, I ask how Auntie Athena's pregnancy is going - due in August, right? Mother! Ever hear that? Mother!! She's about to pop! So how did I confuse August with June - I plead retirement. That baby blanket that I had planned to weave by August was frantically thrown at the loom today. It's so much faster than knitting a baby present, but still.
And if you can believe it, this is how the sun set in May. We know that sun will come with June, but is has been an astounding month and winter.

I finished my book today, a romp by William Boyd, shortlisted for the Booker Award. Who knew a literary author could also spin a complex tale of suspense. I've read several of his books and was completely entertained - suspect there might be a sequel and certainly hope so. It was Ordinary Thunderstorms and I enjoyed it totally. I was almost put off by the Amazon comments and am glad that I trusted my instincts. It was a blast.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Colors of May from Big Sky Country

Desert Peach is the first to bloom here. It's part of the prune family, attracts bees and is wonder-
fully fragrant. Whole banks explode in pink as this bush struts its stuff.

The color ranges from a light pastel to a hot bubble gum pink - don't know if it's a matter of different soils or different plants. It's showy and short lived, about two weeks, and after the blooms fade, little peach-like fruits start to appear. They must not taste good -the birds don't touch them.
The plants are covered in long spikes that are wicked sharp. Click for big. They'll tear your clothes and you too. That said, the sheep and llamas think they're delectable.
Just as the pink begins to fade, the Bitter-
brush, a member of the rose family, begins to bloom and sometimes, alongside a lingering peach. It's always a treat to see them in bloom together. I don't know where bitterbrush got its name, as our sheep and llamas love it too.
The blossoms are tiny and the brilliant color is from the mass of them. These shrubs also bloom for about two weeks and then they return to ignominy.
Mormon Tea (ephedra) produces beige as a dye plant - blah.
Lupine, Indian Paintbrush and wild phlox.

Brown's peony, the only peony native to the Western US.

The blossom which hangs down and does not display.

And this is my favorite pink, any month of the year! For more colors of the month, checkout Sue's blog

Thursday, May 27, 2010


This is Zaria. Last night just before total darkness, I looked out the French doors and saw her looking right back in at me. She knew the grass was greener on the other side of the pasture and jumped the fence. Ian kept telling me that he read that llamas doen't jump their own fences. Ian stands corrected.

I keep saying we live in the arid high desert and then I keep telling you that it is raining, but it rained all night last night. It was too dark to catch her, let alone see her. It was a wrenching night as her cria cried and cried for her mother. She sounds like Chewbacca the Wookie, plaintive. Zaria is about ten and her cria is probably eight. They have always been together and I think the reason we were able to finally nab Zaria this morning is because, while she wanted the green eats, she wanted her cria more. We roped off an area and while Ian hung onto the ropes and I moved toward her, she just jumped right back over the fence from where she was standing, like a deer. We were stunned. Poof. Okay, that's not exactly nab.
So this morning was all about mending fences. Ian was angry at himself for not addressing the weak places before now and I'm happy that, if this was going to happen, it's when we're home and not on vacation for a house sitter to deal with. Catching an unsocialized llama is not high on my entertainment list.

Meanwhile, I have entered into the realm of rug weavers - rugdom! Gold star. I got to spend the afternoon in my studio and have thrown the last of the rag weft here - this rug is just about done. I still need two more inches of double warp threads to end - I've decided to hem and not fringe. I have loved every inch of this project and am already cutting new strips. This isn't rug weaving - this is an addiction.

I was dropping my floating selvedge for the last few inches when I noticed my apron bar. Oh my goodness - look at that bow. In the future, I see that I need to tie it in multiple places. I just assumed that because it was steel it would be rigid. Sharon stands corrected - a day of Campbell corrections.
It's a runner - not sure where it needs to run. We desperately need runners so we're holding an election - which area is the most desperate. These two don't get to vote. It's raining again. We live in the arid high desert and it feels like an alien species has invaded - wait. Did I already say that? Honest. It's dry here and we have water wars because of it.

Meanwhile, Ian dashed out to cover the tomatoes in their walls of water. We have snow predicted tonight. What part of organic are you seeing? This is the realm of plastic farming, but originally a working ranch. They had a garden which was only mentioned in the oral history in passing. I would love to know what they knew. I am exhausted tonight.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Walking the Dogs

I stuck my camera in my sweatshirt pocket this morning when I took the dogs for their walk. We are still in an unusual wet/cold cycle so there's not much color to see here yet. Our garden is struggling - hard since we already have a very short growing season.
It's just days away from June but it doesn't feel like it. We had more rain this afternoon. I wish I could show you wildflowers but what's overwhelming is the weeds. This is taken looking toward Mim's end of the valley.

And this is shot looking at the Sierras. Mim came over for a while this afternoon and brought her wheel. She spun some of her own Shetland that she had prepared and I spun more of the neppy silk. I am done plying with the brown Merino and am very short in yardage - gleep. I hadn't intended to include this photo of us coming back home since I had one already of the Sierras, but when I went to close down my computer, I found that I had accidentally set it as my wallpaper, and I decided it's not such a bad picture after all. Of course I'm going to reset my wallpaper back to grandchildren.

Somewhere in this day of laundry and sundry other things I managed to make a batch of soap. I have never been so close to completely out of soap that even we just have a few bars left. I don't like to make if I can't open the garage door to ventilate the lye, and it's been so cold this winter that I haven't been able to. It's not safe to mix a lye solution without adequate ventilation and even in my entire garage, if I can't open the door, I can feel it in my lungs. The house smells like soap tonight - so lovely.
On the knitting front, I'm still trying to finish the second raffle prize scarf for my niece's Walk for the Cure fund raiser. The other day I reached for my knitting and just seized up, and this has never happened before. I have knitted four scarves and two pair of socks in Falling Leaf lace and I just couldn't knit one more stitch. I had close to 16" completed and tore it out. I'm knitting this scarf from the Vogue Knitting Spring Summer 2010 issue. I see the picture looks purple. The scarf is pink.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday is not a Museum Day

I removed my hats and soap from the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City about a week ago. I've had things on consignment there for about ten years, but it was time for us to part ways. I took these hats and some more soap into Eco Reno today. I'm going to start with this sampler and see how it goes. After we got home I saw that Morgan has already promoted them Facebook.

Ian and I planned an in-town day, starting with Eco Reno, then lunch with Chris and Alexia, followed by the Nevada Museum of Art, but they're closed on Tuesdays so we finished up with Costco and a new pair of sunglasses for me instead. The coolest part of our mistake of not checking museum hours online is that young son Matty wants to see the exhibit with us. Mistakes are new opportunities.

I am getting a tour from the four kindergartners responsible for this construction. I cannot begin to explain what they told me, but it was obviously clear to them. I have come to this school for the last nine years, starting with preschool for grandson Kiernan, ending now with Alexia and kindergarten.

Picking up Alexia for lunch today was bitter-sweet. School ends soon and our ties here will end also. Lex moves to public school near her home. This private school has been such an exceptional opportunity. As part of the university, the class sizes are very small and the ratio of studio aids per student is high. I'm anxious for next year. Nevada is #50 out of 50 in spending on education, and while that doesn't diminish the dedication of the teachers, I do have reason to be concerned. What family can afford private education? These past nine years have been hard for our little family, and if the program continued past kindergarten, they would have continued to struggle for the tuition. Her new school is rural and small - hope that's good.
I need to pick up where I left off. I've finished cutting the legs from the pants that Mim gave me for my next rug. I don't know how Charlie finds perches, but he had anointed the denim legs. Tomorrow is not a weaving day. Laundry has staked a claim. Weaving commences Thursday and I hope to be walking on a rug by the end of that day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spindle Camp

The first annual Trans-Sierra Spindle Camp kicked off late Friday afternoon at Lake Francis, as we straggled in from all over the region. The setting was a gamble because we knew so little about it, but we have wanted to do this for a such a long time and decided to stick our necks out and give it a try - it's a winner, with qualifiers, not included.

Amy is a queen spindler and also collector of spindles, so we coaxed her into a show-and-tell. The absolute favorite of the whole group is the Golding ring spindles - want one. Ken Lendbetter's were also popular, followed by a mixed smattering of Greensleeves and Hatchtown.
We ate potluck while mega-
visiting and then stood around a nice wood fire with dessert and glasses, camp mugs, or canning jelly jar of red wine. The end of a work week for many, we folded early and the day trippers returned home. Day One.
The neat thing about the open space and camping is that little groups formed spontan-
eously and morphed continuously. It was like round-robin friends and fiber - they go together so well. Barbara Sue has her back to me and I'm sorry I didn't catch her marvelous hat with giant braids that mimic her own thick dark ones.
The subtitle, and I can't think of a clever one, would have been foodies. The table is a gathering point of adoration, and it was so laden that a secondary table was called into service. Notice the giant Easy-Up - very important.

Here's another group of spinning and visiting. I didn't manage to catch anyone drop spindling and there was plenty of it - asleep at the switch. I was one of those who spindled, and it was part of what made the groups so easy to change up, walkabout. The afternoon was lovely and most of us walked to the camp resort restaurant for dinner at 6:00 rather than cook.
And while we were eating a stupen-
dous dinner (the cold leftover part was my breakfast today), the rain began to fall, and fall, and fall. We knew we couldn't get dry and warm if we walked back, and so we waited, and every diner that left the restaurant Barbara Sue asked- excuse me. Is that your van? All were sympathetic but one lady offered to help and took Jan back to camp and to her car. Jan then ferried us back in stints - no small deal since the campground is a labyrinth of paths, so much that even we were afraid of straying too far and not finding our way back.

Meanwhile, those few who remained back at the camp gathered all the scattered equipment, chairs and personal items under that blessed salvation called Easy-Up - it was a huge task and they were wonderful. It was like someone poked a knife into a sky bladder. Remember, I live in the high desert and that's what I know. Maybe this rain is normal elsewhere. We profusely thanked those who took care of our precious items. Day two.

Virva and I bookend this morning grouping with Sarah and Marty. Virvia is Finnish and a slip of a thing, but man, oh man, can she camp.

We ended up being the only tent campers the second night - other others opted to rent a resort cabin and a good idea in a drenching torrent. We awoke to find ourselves alone - kinda surreal. Virva built a fire and we set about making caffeine. She might be the smallest, but you want her on your team, at least I do. I dibs Virva.

This is just about half the frosh alumi. Rain, heck. We will be back next year and we spent the morning today looking for the sites we want next year. The resort is awesome because they offer a mix of tent sites and cabins. It might not rain next year, and even if it does, we'll just bring more Easy-Ups.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Still Not a Rug

After several email exchanges yesterday, I ended up talking to Hilary last night. She was confused by my long warp floats, but one in particular was begging trouble. Do you see the error? There's an area where the warp floats over five wefts. She felt that once removed from the warp tension, this would buckle up and be a trip hazard.

I work up this morning, knowing that she was right. It didn't take long to pull out the weft to that point, and while I was at it, I removed everything, even the header. I had used a single shot of the 8/4 cotton for the header. She said she preferred two shots of the 8/4 cotton warp yarn, and she's made a convert here. What a difference it made. I knew the other would draw in and I was miserable. I am very pleased though I can't show you because I forgot to take a picture.
I've opted out of fringe and am hemming instead. I've read several places that knotted fringe wears terribly, and within a short time, there's no fringe at all. I know this to be true since our Mexican rug lost quite a bit of its fringe in one year on the floor. One day I came into my studio to find that Ian had thumb-tacked it to the wall.

I have a shuttle that holds two bobbins so trotted over the guest room to get it from that weaving bench and found this interloper on my drying Shetland locks. Note to self - bag locks when cat awakes.
I woefully under-
estimated the strips I would need, so instead of finishing today with a rug, I finished today with sewing more strips. I'd love to get enough out of this warp for a runner behind the sofa.

Exsqueeze me. Am I bothering you? You are bothering me!
Here's where I am now and I think I have another yard of warp left yet. You weavers who keep records, I wish I were you because then I'd know where I am. Even so, I cannot begin to tell you how much fun this project has been, in spite of ripping out to the beginning and all my angst. I'm so happy that we need at least five more rugs in our house.
I sewed strips while I waited for quiche to bake and I wound them into balls while we watched a tivoed session of Treme tonight (HBO).

I'm leaving in the morning for a camping spindle retreat and the quiche is for the potluck tomorrow night. We're sure to get rained on. I have lists and piles everywhere. I'm meeting our guild president Virva in Truckee, and Diane Soucy is hosting my car for the weekend. If I forget something, I'm outta luck. It's a weird feeling to have no car and no computer. Retreat.