Friday, April 27, 2012

Every Day is Friday

Sean and Bobbie from Ross Creek Ranch delivered our quarter share of a steer this morning and it all has to go in that chest freezer. Ian was in town so I just had Sean leave it right there. The center box is all hamburger - 36 1 1/2 pound packages. The steer was 900 pounds on the hoof and has been curing for 28 days. With shrinkage and waste, we figure we have close to 200 pounds of meat. It was raised in Sierra Valley, grass-fed, grass-finished, no grown hormones or antibiotics. It's going to last us a long time. And yes, it all fit in the freezer.

I've gone back to the pond colors but I played with the threading on WeaveDesign. I'm starting to get more comfortable with the program, thanks to Amanda's tutorial. I'm really getting low on my 8/2 cottons so ordered nine more cones today from Webs. I can't say that their Valley Cotton is the finest, but the price is certainly right, and by ordering $120, I got their 25% discount.

I'm really antsy to see if it will make a change in the interplay of the color. I won't have much weaving time over the next four days. Sometimes I'm home for several days in a row and then I have to go to town for several days in a row, and a trip to town is a lost day, given the two hours of driving.

I learned this trick from Becky this morning and wanted to pass it along to anyone who has a drum carder and prepares their own fiber. I can't get to it right away, but when I'm ready to process the bins of alpaca in the garage, I'm going to give this a try. For now I'll continue to work on already prepared roving, and there's a lot of it to work on.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

More Tea Towels

The rabbitbrush dyed yarn is ready to weave and I simply cannot get an accurate photo of the color which I think of as gentle gold. You can probably only tell that it's no longer gray. It'll be several more weeks before I get started weaving with it, but I did want to show my results.

The dye bath is brassy gold and another dye bath later in a few months with green plants will be a brighter gold, and then when they're in bloom in September, it will be National Geographic yellow. I'll do it again.
I really need to place an order for more yarns but for now I need inspiration for the colors I do have, which are a lot of purples, yellows and greens. When I was trying to decide how to use them together, I thought of hyacinths, which are blooming now. I found this through Google images.

I was trying to use wefts that were in the warp, but after playing with Weave-Design for a couple hours to plan the next colors, I realized that there's no reason I should be limited to wefts that are in the stripes on my warp. I made that up!

For the last towel, I threw on Prussian blue and got a really interesting teal effect, but then after all, yellow and blue make green. The purples all but disappear. I sold all the Desert Pond towels on the same day I posted them on Facebook. I just put the last three in the mail today.
I finished the Hyacinth series towels today and have started winding more "desert pond" colors - can't argue with success. Kerry made me realize that these are great gifts for Mothers Day so I wanted to get a couple sets in the Artists Co-op for the May show. I had planned to call Cherilyn, the gallery manager, and ask to show them to her, when she called me yesterday. She is taking some sheets to the Goodwill, do I want them to weave with? Yes!!! She's thrilled to have my towels in the show, sight unseen, so in they go on Monday.
Everything has to have a label and be priced to be in the gallery, so I made up these in Publisher today, using the "label's template. I have to increase my price to compensate for the gallery's commission. Ian says tea towels have a nice ring than dish towels, so now they're tea towels.

I have another craft fair May 12th and then again June 2nd. I need to get a few more sets under my belt to feel like I have something to sell, and selling is just an excuse to make more.
I picked up our first CSA box, which stands for commun-
ity supported agricul-
ture, on Tuesday afternoon, which means I'm back to swimming every Tuesday - double win for me. The pool and the pickup are at the same facility.

I am astounded and thrilled at the bounty in our first box, double that of last year, and since we split with another family (Harry, Carol and Kerry), it's fantastic. The carrots were wintered in hoop houses so they could treat us with a surprise in our first box. They were like candy. Carol thought it was last week and was so disappointed. We have been counting the days. Our half of the subscription is $417 and for that Ian and I will get organic produce every week for the next six months. The high desert is such a hostile growing environment and our Fallon farmers are wizards at coaxing this wealth from unwilling earth. We love them!!!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Natural Dye Day

I finished spinning the light gray Romney/
cross fleece from my brother's flock - actually I have a little more fleece left but this is what I calculate I'll need to weave a lap robe. I had this fleece processed quite a while ago, and since it's not a particularly interesting color or soft for that matter, I haven't been inspired to spin it. And now I have, 1 1/2 pounds of it - here are both warp chains and weft skeins.
I decided to overdye this yarn with rabbit-
brush before weaving with it. The gold over gray should give me a brassy color, or even better, a military green. The bushes with the light fluffy tips are rabbitbrush. It's just starting to green up but won't bloom until September, but the dye is in the plant more than the blossoms. The green plant in the foreground is Brown's Peony.
This peony is a shy plant. It's flower heads droop and never show unless you lift them to to view them. They're prevalent in the south end of the valley but this is the only one we have and it comes back every year. Livestock don't eat it so it's not particularly popular. Hmm, I wonder what color it would be in a dye pot.
Collecting the dye stuff took about 45 minutes and it was intense work, cutting and snipping into pieces. It takes a lot of bending and stooping to get 1 1/2 pounds of rabbitbrush. And I wondered why I was so sore tonight!
I checked the dye liquor after cooking the brew for a little over an hour. This is the last of our nice days and the weather was already starting to turn and I was starting to feel rushed.
The challenge in changing weather is the wind, and after the wind blew out my burners a couple of times near the end, I realized I needed to call it good. It didn't quite get the hour it needed, but I've set it all in the garage and will leave it for the next several days where the color should intensify. I'm pleased with the color as it is and know it will look great in our living room. I had planned to gift this lap robe but I think it has parts of both my brother and me, and so it will stay here.
Ian helped me with the whole thing, lifting the heavy pot, straining the liquor and babysitting the burners. He helped me get that pot in the garage and took apart and stored the burners for me and not a moment too soon. We had barely finished when the storm ripped though here, mixed hail and heavy rain.

Storms come through here in bands which is very typical. We were getting drenched and our neighbors to the south of us were not. I'm not complaining - rain is welcome - but it was a close call for my project. The spring weather we've had for the past three days has thusly concluded.
This is my new and current spinning project, the last fleece from my brother's flock. He said the ewe was a Churo/Corriedale cross. I have no idea what it is - not sure of his assessement - but it's easy to spin, has no crimp and is actually quite soft. It was make a great lap robe. I'm making a dent in that massive stash - even better!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Craft Fair

Today was my first craft fair of 2012. The occasion was the spring Hunter Pace event at Red Rock Hounds. They ride in teams of 2-5, using mostly English saddle, and this team is getting ready to ride out to the staging area.
We set up right in the heart of the activities, and the beautiful day, the hilarity of the riders and fantastic songbirds made this probably my most favorite craft fair ever. We were the only crafters - Carol and Kerry decided to do it and invited me. It's Carol's sister's ranch~
The teams either ride for time or for fun. This fun team is three genera-
tions of women, ala Pancho Villa. There are five check points on the cross-country trail and they collect a playing card at each station. One of the awards is for the best poker hand.

Angela and Preston were the first team through for time and I could hear Angela whooping long before I could see her. Almost all the speed riders cross the finish whooping, and some ride back to jump across the coop just because they can and they're high from the rush.
Angela is fishing in her boot for her poker cards. She kept stuffing them in at every stop and they had been sliding down ever since. Her 13-year-old daughter Audrey came in the closest finish time behind her. Look out Angela!
And for the non-riding children there are the quads. There is a whole hierarchy involved in who gets to drive and who gets to ride.
My neighbor Nancy came over to watch. She rides Western but riders are riders, and good company is good company. This is Angela's pup, Granite, who is giving lap dog a try. Check out his rear end.
To give you an idea what Granite looks like "on the hoof," here he is, invest-
igating our strange doings during set-up. He's actually not full grown yet.

We wrapped up right after lunch but sales were good and we had the best time. People popped in and sat around to shoot the breeze, and I think that's the charm of this particular event. These are people who ride here or live here, and we've met before so conversation is natural. I have no idea why I'm so tired tonight when all I did was sit and talk. We do it again in October and got lucky with the weather today - crossing fingers for the fall.

Friday, April 20, 2012


I drove over to Mim's today on this fantas-
tically beautiful afternoon. I had actually emailed her a couple of days ago when it was still unrelentingly gray. We sat on the front porch and just shot the breeze. This is the view I first experienced in my visit to the valley and the view that convinced me that I needed to live in the valley too.
She has a new shed to replace the one the metal one that blew two parcels away. Juan, her fence guy, and his crew poured a concrete foundation, built the shed and then bolted it to the concrete. I have sheep shed envy. Notice her first twins with their mom in the shade.
I walked with her as she moved sprinklers. The more grass she can grow, the less hay she has to buy. This is the first truly lovely day we've had and I can't think of a better way to spend the afternoon.
I brought up a large box that was left at the gate. It was her electric fence that she's going to use to let her sheep browse through that grass, organic mowing!
I stopped and got out of the car to catch this because I think the pinnacles are so pretty - they're partially in the first photo I took. And the clouds are nice window dressing.

I came home with these beautiful little gems. How lucky am I to have a friend who lives in my valley and sells these farm fresh eggs at $3.00 a dozen?!! Shush - don't tell Mim. The organic eggs cost a heck of a lot more in the grocery store and they're not nearly as fresh.
And look what else I came home with. I lost complete self control when I saw this hogget fleece. It's such an unusual fleece and, well, I don't know what else to say.
Look at this unusual lock - from red-brown tips, to morrit color, to white at the shearing. I've never seen such dramatic color change in one growth and haven't decided how I want to treat the preparation - I'll do it myself but not sure how.
After dinner I was surprised that it was still in the 70s outside so took my book and my dogs and sat on the front porch for a while.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


BC - before cutting. I finished the towels early this afternoon and pulled off my cloth onto the floor, and realized that really - this is just yardage. I could do yardage. My sewing machine gave me fits on the last set of towels, after I let the spool run empty. It got caught in a loop looking for that tension and I had to reset it constantly. It's been sitting for a couple of weeks and today it worked fine. Sometimes I wish I hadn't given away my mechanical sewing machine.
I found the photo of the pond that was my inspiration for these colors. It is in the greenbelt where the foot of our property sets and how thankful I am that the early planners preserved this for all of us. It's hidden - I'd have to show it to you.

I hope you can see the reflections in my towels. I called this series Desert Pond. I kept thinking I could catch Tide Pool, but I know I was missing some colors. I didn't have reference pictures from our visit to Strawberry Point, and it just this minute occurred to me that Amy would have some - shoot. We went there together and she takes a gillion pictures. I'm selling these at a small venue craft fair for the Red Rocks Hounds Hunter Pace on Saturday - must be set-up by 7:00. Ouch.
These are the colors I've chosen for my next set, the Hyacinth series. I started winding the bouts this afternoon because this is my least favorite part of weaving - I wanted to get a head start. Ian got up from his nap and asked if I knew Devon was here.
Even the dogs didn't know. I came racing down the stairs and grabbed the camera. He was on our last wether when I got there. He told me he'd be here the 18th or the 19th and he shears if we're here or not. Ian had kept them penned in today, in case and also left fleece bags.
I adore Devon and for those of you who know his mom, Helen McFarland, she's now 82 and has been experiencing back pain for degenerative spine. She recently received an epidural which has eliminated the pain. Her husband Jim suffered a stoke last year and is recovering very well. They're still in Topaz on Walker Forks Sheep Ranch. Oh, and another piece of news - Devon's vegetable-oil truck is no more, sad to say.
We have nekid sheep! Devon said that Oliver was starting to roo and his fleece is pretty gummy, just a heads up when I get to skirting. I'm a little disappointed since he has started getting darker, after a spell of getting white - shaking head.
It has been blustery and gray forever. The only thing growing here are the rabbits. Ian came in the house after Devon left with three loaves of bread from Village Baker in Ashland, Oregon. He said they call him to pick up stale bread so he got a 100 loaves this time. I put them ours in the freezer for toast. He says he uses what he can and feeds the rest to his fowl. I love my community.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bad First Impressions

There it is, my 20 bins of fleece. Absent are three large cardboard boxes and another plastic bin. The left five bins are all Merino and the tallest stack is all Alpaca. Almost everything is processed except the Alpaca. I'm spinning the last couple of bumps of a Romney/cross from my brother's flock and was thinking this morning that I need to call Laura and get some advice on using the natural dye extracts I have. I swear two hours hadn't passed before she called to say she'd like to come down in May, could she stay here - eerie! And cool.
I wanted to weave the last towel on this warp with the end-feed shuttle and then decide if I was going to return it -give it another chance. The pirn was dangling. The instructions said that on top of almost never needing tension adjustment, the pirn adjustment was factory set and would be good for years, but over time if I needed to adjust it, here's now. My pirn was hanging out the bottom! Once I gave myself permission to plug my ears to their admonishments, I got the tension and pirn adjustments set and started the last towel.
My biggest struggle the last time I tried this shuttle was having the shovel-
nose scoop the warp threads. Valerie commented that she throws her shuttle sideways to eliminate that. Ingrid emailed me this morning to say that she has the same trouble with her Schacht if she weaves too close to the reed. So taking those those thoughts in toe, and with the newly adjusted shuttle, I embarked on the last towel. Oh my goodness. It's like I've been driving a noisy Volkswagon Bug and suddenly now I'm driving a Lexus. Even Ian noticed the difference in the noise. There's no rattling bobbin as it unwinds before the next toss. It's completely silent and it uses so much less shoulder motion that it's even faster. It slides silently across the shuttle race, change shed and back it goes. A small thing, but I appreciated that there isn't a dangling loop of yarn to catch on things underneath. There's no way I'm sending this thing back!

The next warp is going to use five sets of colors, the good ol' Fibonacci way. I used four sets and it's an eye clunker. You can see it, right? Annoying.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For

I was thrilled when my new end-feed Schacht shuttle came and had already watched a video on winding pirns. I'm surprised at how much yarn a pirn holds. The instructions said that the tension set when the shuttle is received is usually adequate and cautioned against loosening the tension too much as the springs would fall out. It wasn't letting the yarn pass so it was clear to me that I had to loosen the tension, but the cautions made me very nervous so I'm not sure I'd let off enough tension before I threw in the towel, no pun intended. Plus the shuttle is huge and the shovel-nose was scooping the warp threads.
I had to unweave a couple of times so went back to my favorite, a LeClerc shuttle. This used to belong to Jean, Laura's mother, and she gave it to me after Jean passed away. It's so light in my hands - it just flies across the shuttle race, I catch it and then toss it back. I've gotten the rhythm that Laura Fry says must come before good selvedges. It just ironically occurred right after I ordered the new shuttle, or I wouldn't have made that purchase. Nevertheless, the weavers I respect all are happy with their end-feed shuttles, so I've decided to weave the last towel on this warp with it.
I had to make a quick trip into town this morning to see our financial advisor. We had to make an accommodation for our taxes and it had to be done before tomorrow, so I treated myself to a 40-minute swim. Driving home I was in love with this sky!
It has been gray and blustery for so long that I had a hard time concen-
trating on my driving and not the clouds. Talk about a sight for sore eyes.

In going to town this morning, I forgot my phone so was at the place of the first sky shot when I had to turn around to go home for it. I called and said I'd be a half hour late. I'm an aging driver with an aging car, and I'm not a risk taker - I have a long drive on isolated roads. I decided to take the highway instead, since I could speed - but I came to a complete halt in the canyon before the highway. I herd of muletail deer were crossing. I was so awestruck that I completely forgot my camera - shoot.

I've been thinking about the white fleece that Alexia and I were drum carding, speaking of clouds. It really was like a brillo pad after I spun it up. I decided when I got home that I'd pitch that fleece and also take inventory of all the fleeces in the garage, which I have now accomplished. I am shy five fleeces and the remaining are all labeled and arranged by what I have. That still leaves 20 bins of fleece. At least now I know my inventory and I'm spinning my way through it for lap blankets. I'm probably overly optimistic, but it would certainly be nice to make a dent in that stash. I've realize I've spent a fortune in processing.

I gave our candidate, Xio Rodriguez, the lap blanket that I had finished to use in a future silent auction and I'm getting ready to weave the next one. I took Valerie's comment to heart, about not being a yellow person. I realized that I've struggled to use the yellow yarn I've gotten from rabbitbrush, so that bristly white fleece and the two skeins I'd already spun from it are in the trash. It looked like fluff, but it wasn't. I have really good stuff to spin and a surprising number of alpaca fleeces - not sure how that happened - and also merino - not sure how that happened either. In spite of being overwhelmed, I'm also excited to know what I have in my inventory.