Thursday, December 11, 2008

fluffy obsession

I have fluffy obsession. All things fluffy. Feathers, fur, light thoughts, whipped egg white, soft bread, dust bunnies. The first year of spinning I didn't do this. I had one fleece and a drop spindle. Then there was the roving from Julie and a bit of Wensleydale and a gift of Alpaca. I didn't really spin much unless I had something I wanted to make with the yarn.
Then there came a Fleece opportunity- Shetland for $5 each fleece. Well, who could pass that up. And Ebay had Alpaca for $5 a fleece and no one else bid. I received a gift of Mohair fleece. Suddenly I had a world of fleece in my garage.
I thought I had enough, but I really wanted to have just a bit more- a Merino, so soft. So I went to Black Sheep Gathering 2008. And bought more Wensleydale, ALpaca, and 2 Merino. I couldn't wait to get them ready for spinning. I didn't even have a plan for what they would become. I just assumed they would be socks, eventually.
But fluffy thoughts took over. I was washing and spinning Shetland and the end of the fleece was nowhere in sight. The fleece goes on forever. And then some dying happened- that's color by the way. And more spinning. More washing, and carding. Then the carding machine, and a portable wheel, and a loom..... !!! All this fluffy-ness is starting to get heavy. I have an entire room devoted to fluffy-ness and I have no place in it to work. I use the dining room for that, or the living room. My fluffy-ness is spreading like St. Augustine grass- creeping into every crack and crevasse. Every room has little fluffy fuzz bunnies on the floor. They stick to my clothes like weed seeds and follow me around. They are in my hair, and food, and rough spots on my hands.
But I have finished processing (wash, pick, card) One whole Alpaca fleece, one whole Merino fleece, and one whole Shetland. I have a wall of yarn, a bed full of yarn, and lots of bags full of carded fluff. I have knitted all the projects for the Holidays- and still I have yarn and fleece.
The obsession part (oh I know you think we already covered that when I bought all that fleece to start with). Well, the obsession part is that now that I have completed processing three fleeces- not spinning mind you- I am thinking about the next fleece. What color or type of wool? How many? When is Black Sheep again? How much can my room really hold? Can my vacuum cleaner withstand all the work? Argggh. Why can't I be happy with the mass I have. Certainly it is fluffy enough.
So I will wear my award winning socks and think on this (while I spin). I truly have enough fleece to last at least 4 years. I can spin, weave, knit, crochet until Sara graduates from College. If I can just keep the fluffy thoughts confined to my one room, I will be ok. Until June.

Friday, December 5, 2008

December Babies

A Baby was born on December 2, 2008. He is related to me, distantly, but still has a large impact on my family. My parents are now Great Grand Parents. In my world that is a rare thing.
Many of the children I know, don't know their grand parents. Great grandparents had been long dead before the children came. Grandparents died while the kids were young. This is because many of my friends chose not to have children until they were in their late 30's. And so had their parents. So a grandparent started at age 60something or later.
My husband's sister waited until she was 40ish. Now her parents are quite ill and the children will never really know them or much about them. Great Grand parents you say, "Ha, it doesn't happen now."
But somewhere down the line, a glitch, a misfire, a bit of genetic throwback- and, Lahren had a baby when she was 20 and my parents outlived the survival curve.
Good news, though. I can pretend it didn't happen and my younger brother is a grandpa. Serves him right. My exhusb is a grandpa, too. Ha. And I am in no hurry to babysit.
So you, my children, don't hurry. I have a few years until I am 60ish. I can wait. I have no need to become a Great Grandparent somewhere down the line.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Not fast enough

Sometimes, you have to act fast, on impulse; she who hesitates is lost. But, for us chronic procrastinators things sometimes work well, too.
I didn't kill the Pettingill Apple tree. There was one small apple left on it and I waited until Max was here. We picked it together and sampled it cautiously. This was November 10th-ish. And to my great surprise, this apple had sweetness. This means that the apple blooms in May and takes 6 months to mature. It is now losing leaves, 15 days later.
I have decided to let it have one more year and I will sample the apples in November. It still doesn't have the texture I would like, but it isn't a complete failure. I would not recommend this apple type to anyone because of its long maturation period and the fact that there are so many better choices now. But I may not cut it down. It is an heirloom after all. Or so I am told.
But there are other things one usually does on impulse, too much thought causes emotional problems. So, we had a couple of new chickens- bantams. One turned out to be a rooster, a white silky roo. He was beautiful with black skin, burgundy chops and comb, blue ears and a blackpearl beak. Silkies can't fly (wings too small). I found myself kind of liking him, even though I had sworn "no roosters". So he started crowing at almost 6mo old and at first it was only occasionally. Then he started attacking the other chickens and asserting himself and crowing all the time.
Well, rather impulsively, I decided (with help from my sweet husband) that the Roo had to go.
This was the first chicken we slaughtered- ever- and we did it well, according to the book. I took the meat that I wanted and froze it, but I am not sure I can eat him yet. Too much though causes emotional problems.
And that (with all the other chaos of family, friends, and work) was November. Now I am going to settle down to some fine cooking and house cleaning. There are some squashes calling my name and a few pies on the list. I don't want to hesitate. Growling tummies are pacing at the feed door.
Enjoy a great meal, be cozy with loving family, and show thanks by driving safely and being gracious for a whole day. It is good for you.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pettingill Apple Review- Bad news

I always have great hopes for the different trees I plant. It is a commitment of time, money, space and energy (not to mention water and fertilizer). And, if you make a bad choice, you have to start over and wait for the new choice to see if it is better.
SO, I researched the low chill apple trees. I read reviews and advertisements and planting guides. And the first apple tree I planted was the Golden Dorsett. This tree is incredible for the coastal San Diego area. It fruits 2 or 3 times a year. It has large abundant crops. It is ready June 1 but keeps on the tree for a whole month. Then there is another crop for Thanksgiving and it blooms again (but I don't let that one fruit because we both need a rest).
The only draw back for the Golden Dorsett is that it turns to sauce when cooked. It doesn't have any structure left- so it doesn't really work for Pie.
I was hoping that the second apple tree- the Pettingill- would be the fall pie apple for me
The Pettingill was advertised as a coastal low chill apple. The fruit would be ready in Late summer to early fall. It is redish with some green in the skin, shaped like a Granny Smith.
OK- now for the reality. The tree grew like crazy- long straight branches, no fruit spikes or buds. I pruned heavily. More growth, late dormancy, long dormancy, wouldn't bloom for 3 years. Finally, it bloomed and set 1, that's right just one, apple. It fell off in August- sour as can be. This year it bloomed well, for a long time and set about 12 fruits. One fell off in early August. The others grew large and turned very red. So, at the end of August - first week of September really, I pick 4 to make a "test Pie".
The "test pie" was very sour even with lots of sugar- it was almost too sour to get down- we tossed 1/2 the pie. And to make it worse, NO TEXTURE. Again we had a sauce apple. Not juicy either. We waited on the other apples to see if we had just been too early.
Late September, I picked one very large, very red apple. It was light so I was certain there was little sugar or water. And I was right. It was too sour to eat. I sliced it thinly and nibbled a few bites, but it just couldn't be eaten raw. I tossed it.
Now it is October and there is one apple left to taste. But I already know the answer for this tree- Applewood smoked bacon and sausage. I am not talking about turkey stuffing, I am talking about killing a tree. For me, this is one of the hardest things I can do. I have 5 years invested in this tree and it is a complete disappointment.
SO- this is my review. This Pettingill Apple tree is not what it is claimed to be. It has a higher chill factor than is listed in the advertisements. It flowers irregularly, sparsely and sets very little fruit in the San Diego Coastal climate. The fruit it does make is not edible. On the good side, it makes excellent long straight branches for wands and kindling. There is abundant wood for applewood smoking of smoked meats and fish. The leaves are glossy and large and the birds don't want the fruit either.
I recommend saving your money for something better and passing on this tree. It isn't even good as a pollinator for other trees.
Ok. There I have said it. Now, where is the chainsaw? I have a job to do.

Friday, July 25, 2008

June, July, August blur

Well, uh, um... It has been some time now hasn't it. Let's see. Oh, yes. June 18, a Wednesday, I left at 5:30am for Eugene, Oregon. We (Julie and I) drove for 18 1/2 hours and stayed over night with Ona in Cottage Grove. We got to bed about 12:30am and I don't remember breathing in the night or anything else, but we woke up about 8:30. After showers, breakfast, a romp with the turkeys, and some porch time, we went on to Eugene to set up camp.
It was great to get the tent up and get a feel for things like showers, bathrooms, and various venues before dark. It got dark about 10pm so we had lots of time to wander and see everyone setting up their booths. Then we had all day Friday to find stuff and watch judging, and goof off. We met wonderful people, saw exciting demonstrations, and generally loved the day- including the cold/hot shower that afternoon. It was a pretty hot day and the cold shower part felt really good to me. Eventually, we found the hot spot on the knob and continued with warm/hot showers.
I found a place in Oregon selling wonderful raw honey and bought 2 gallons for my sweetie. And a bunch of fleeces, and silk cocoons, and bamboo and flax and.... uh, I ran out of money and had to stop. I took some wonderful classes, though. And my socks won 3rd place. They were touched by Judith McKenzie, the goddess of all things spinning and knitting. And they were deemed worthy. She hand wrote a note about how to improve things and I don't think I will ever remove it. The socks go into the shrine.
Then we drove home- 18+ hours with a hotel in Redding and fires all over California- Hot, hot, hot. And a bunch of good looking forrestry fire personnel, too.
At home life hit the fast lane- Spin group, Sara week, unpack, get house ready for new windows, get Scott back to China, Bills, wash car, recover from drive, visit mom, Eduard's car service, and 4th of July. Apples! Oh did I make applesauce and dried apples, then the peaches started. There has been so much work and cleaning, people to take care of and visit, stuff to put away and move to new places. I can't really even remember all that we have done and are doing. Life is just too busy.
So today, I am still canning and drying peaches. This is the last weekend, I hope. Mom went to the hospital July 15-22, with a near stroke experience and stayed there a week- I spent almost all week with her. Then she went home and has to relearn how to take care of herself with a walker. I am still trying to catch up from the week in the hospital. Taylor's getting married, Lahren is having a Boy! The month is ending and I haven't had time to call or schedule my cabinet maker for the living room. Plans on hold for now.
But I can mark some progress- I have washed all of the Wenslydale fleeces, the Moorit Merino, and the Black Merino. That leaves the 4 Alpacas and 3 Shetlands. My guest room is full of washed fleeces and I am spinning every night for at least an hour. Much cheaper than therapy. I am going to the gym. I am canning and dehydrating. I dyed some Locks and sold some. I am keeping up with my email and friends and home family. Two rooms of the house are pretty clean and we can park in the garage again (one car).
I am going to make a new year's resolution this year, that I don't want to do so much for other people. I want to focus on my own health and needs. I want to exercise more and lose some weight. I want to sell some of my handspun yarn and go to another fiber festival. I may give up my Renfaire activities and focus on other events for awhile. I am just getting more selfish with my time and energy. I want more time with my sweetie, real time, time-off time, vacation time, hammock time. I want to slow the wheel down.
But for today- the last of the black merino is getting washed and there are peaches waiting for me.
Cobbler to you, my friends.

Cobbler Recipe: Oven at 425f
This can be made with the cake part under the peached or over the peaches. Under gives a soft, moist cake part and over gives a crusty top.
4 cups fresh sliced peaches
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/2 up to 1 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon corn starch

Put the water, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and peaches in a large sauce pan. Stir and heat until sugar is dissolved and comes to a boil. Turn off heat.

1 1/2 cups flour
6 tablespoons butter or shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup milk

Mix flour, salt, sugar and baking powder together in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter in with a pastry tool, a knife, or a fork, like for pie dough. Stir in the milk until a medium soft dough forms. Kneed the dough for just a little while (two or three pushes with the heel of the hand). Spray a deep baking dish with non-stick spray or rub with butter.
Maked little rounds or cakes (about 1 inch high) and lay them in the pan. Cover with hot peaches and syrup. Bake 30 minutes.
Put peaches into the baking dish and roll dough out gently to form a cover for the peaches (like a thich crust). Prick or cut holes for the steam to escape. Bake 30 min.

You can spice the peaches with cinnamon or use 3 drops of vanilla. Some people serve it hot with ice cream. Yum!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

So Much to be Happy About

Life is good. The Guest room is clean and my guest, Son, is arriving on this Saturday from China. I am very excited and happy.
I leave on the 18th for Oregon, and I am almost packed. Camping items- check, clothing items- check, food items- check, spinning items- check, money- write a check? Well, there will be some cash and visa along the way as well. But I am gathering my great pile in the living room and will be starting to pack the Van on Friday. If life got any busier or more exciting I would have to stay in bed and hide.
Everyday, I check the BSG forum on Ravelry for more info about Oregon, foods, restaurants, weather, friends meet ups, fiber processors. I have toys to share, a book for samples, a camera (digital) and one with film. I have my tools, my toys, and my stuff almost organized.
So why so much excitement? This is my thing. Gardens, wool, cooking. Well, knitting, crocheting and sewing, too. And maybe chickens, and remodeling the house. Uh, did I mention refinishing some furniture? And the lathe of course. Um, I think I have too many projects. I should scale back a bit. Like, maybe I won't clean house any more...
Ok, I will just spin less often and leave the chickens alone.
When I get back for BSG, I will have pictures to post.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why isn't there more time?

This is not a real question. It is one of those ones you throw out when you are frustrated or just can't think of what to say. I have been spending lots of time on Ravelry, in forums, and searching for patterns, and learning new things, and meeting people, and selling fleeces, and PMing, and playing silly word games, and planning my trip to BSG (Black Sheep Gathering). I have also been washing fleeces, spinning wool, knitting socks, cleaning the guest room, buying a new car, working on taxes, doing spinning demonstrations, getting ready to work the election, helping friends, running errands, fielding relatives, and generally splitting my time into small fragments trying to get everything done. The list grows daily instead of getting smaller.
Electrical work on Monday, start Scott's car, pick up rental car, lunch with Eduard, haircut, gas, money, RX pickup, and laundry, collapse at 8pm. 5am up and out for election- until midnight. Wednesday, DMV paperwork with Julie, drop off rental car, 99 ranch, boxes from Stef, and collapse - maybe knit/maybe spin, work on guest room.
E and I have been creating a display place in the guest room so I can hang my skeins of yarn and start getting some control over my stash of fleece and yarns. I can spin much more than I can knit, and I can wash much more than I can spin, and I can buy much more than I can.... well, let's not go that far, but we can say that I have to live another 50 years so that I can finish spinning all my wool. So something this simple takes quite a lot of time. Buying stuff, cutting , sanding, drilling, painting, and mounting
on the wall. Then cleaning off the stuff on the bed in bags and finding all the skeins and hanging them. Each handing hook represents about 2 pairs of socks. After all that work, it is good to show off some of it.
I am about 1/2 way done cleaning up the room. There will be a place of Scott to stay when he comes on June 14th. I am also trying to get my stuff together for BSG as I leave on June 18th. When I get back, I get a bit more time with Scott, then I get to tear the Living Room apart for the new windows (which is why there is electrical on Monday). No matter how hard I try to get organized and clean things, I am really just moving it from one place to another until the construction is over. I expect a mess until after the winter holidays. But in the meantime, my wool will be happy, I will be making socks and presents.
I want to take this moment to thank my loving husband for all the help he has been giving me lately. He has been weeding, building things, and cleaning stuff. He has been lifting and sorting and chasing chickens. He has built this wonderful rack for me and been very patient with my fiber addiction. He is a darling sweetheart and I love him very much.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Time to plant, time to sew

Well, I have been planting peas and lettuces and carrots and all that spring stuff. I have been chasing gophers and chickens and all the wild stuff. I have been making fences, gates and repairing sprinkler things. And today, I wanted to clean house (did I really say that?). But instead I redid some tax stuff for my son and washed the patio. There is so much to do I am in a spin. I am not even sure I can make a list. You see, Friday starts the RenFair madness. People are staying here during the week, I am spending all weekend in the booth, and there is so much still to do. I feel over whelmed. Prioritize keeps hitting me in the head and bouncing off. I am having difficulty seeing which things are "first things first".
So I am going to start with me- I need a Dr. Appt for next week. My annual thing. And then Eduard- socks and granola and enough food in the fridge that he can get by without my cooking. Tax extension for us.
Then chickens- gotta get the gate up and the bird cloth over the top of their yard.
Then garden. Always the garden seems to get left behind now and even the house is behind that.
My garden hopes have been to plant the potted pomegranate, move some soil away from the window and into a box, weed and mow, and fertilize. It will be next week I hope.
I am not sure what has happened to my days. They are going so quickly and so little gets done, yet I feel so tired and busy. Something should have gotten done but I am too tired to even look back at what. SIGH. I want more days, more energy, more time ( or maybe just less to do). I am thinking of a gardener to help get this stuff under control.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fluff, Wooly Fluff

Lately I have been in the garden repairing sprinkler and drip parts, re-routing watering hoses, and getting ready for some major home remodeling of the house and yard. We are getting new windows in the living room. We also got a new fireplace insert. We will be having custom built bookcases and new carpet. This will take up the rest of the year. After I am done painting the whole living room again, we will consider a new front door. Another room down and done. There will be a side patio leading to the hammock arbor. (Smiling face with a bit of smirk).
That said, it means that Fluffy will spend lots of time outside relaxing and indoors working. But I hope to keep up with my garden, too.
My lovely daughter just bought a "fixer" house. We will work hard at her house for about three weeks solid, then collapse in exhaustion. She will move into a clean and pretty home, mostly functional. And I will be working on her garden too. She has trees. Trees in need of love and attention. But I will make her post her garden news on her own site.
I haven't yet corralled the chickens, but they are getting a fenced yard soon. I want my patio back without the poop.
Then there is the fluff. I have acquired 5 lovely Shetland fleeces. That means I am washing wool and hanging it to dry on the patio. Little bits of fluff get left for the birds to build nests. There are little fluff puffs all over the yard where the birds pull it apart and drop some. My little birds have Thrummed nests (a knitting term).
Food- oh yeah, I am supposed to grow some. Well, I have found that E and I don't eat as much as we used to eat. There are fewer people, smaller portions, and my garden is actually working for the two of us. Peas and beans, carrots and celery, fennel and potatoes. It is very warm here right now, but we will cool off again soon. All my seeds are sprouting like crazy and the advanced plants are growing well without the chicken attacks. Looks like Kohlrabi in about two weeks and lettuce this weekend.
Fluffy is happy.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Spin Friendly

Garden time! I have planted Fava (broad) beans and Snow peas, lettuce, cabage, potatoes, carrots, radishs, Kohlrabi and spinach. I have netted some of the beds with bird net to keep the chickens out. My asparagus is coming up and I have started moving some of the old beds to make way for a window remodel project.
It has been very cold and rainy, but I have found time to do some gardening.

AND I have been making saurkraut. This is a German word for pickled cabbage. But is it not just cabbage you can pickle. Any Kohl vege - broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, greens, brusselsprouts. So I mixed red and green cabbage for my first batch and got pink Kraut. It is very tasty. Recipe will follow.
Kimchi is also a Kraut, with other stuff in it- like hot peppers, daikon radish, chinese cabbage, mustard greens. Hmmmm. good.

I am still spinning and knitting socks, remodeling the house, chasing chickens and working for the election as a Trouble Shooter. But now I am getting into the dirt a bit too.
I will be giving spinning demonstrations at my Local Yarn Store (LYS) Common Threads on the 15th with Julie of Natasha's Hand dyed Roving. I will have my wheel and some of my hand washed fleece there as show-n-tell. There will be an announcement in their newsletter and email system. It would be fun to play with others. I don't meet many other spinners. It is a stay home sport.

But back to the Kraut recipe. This starts with equipment.
Equpment- glass, ceramic (no lead) and stainless steel will work. I have a soup tureen with a lid and a stainless pot with a lid and a plate that fits inside the pot. Zipper bag full of salt water. Plastic wrap.

Shred, chop, slice, dice. It all works. For Brusselsprouts just take off the outer leaves and cut in half.
In a large bowl, mix 5 lbs . shredded or chopped cabbage ( or combo of stuff) with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Put about a pound in a pot and tamp it down (potato masher works great). Add next layer, tamp, layer, tamp until you are out of stuff or pot is full to 1 inch of top.
Make a brine solution of 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 2 quarts water. Pour some onto cabbage until cabbage mix is under brine. Push down with masher to make sure cabbage is submerged. Cover with plastic wrap- push down to touch water. Place a plate ontop of plastic wrap or a zipper bag ful of left over brine. This forces the cabbage to stay under water. Cover with a lid or towel (to keep out bugs and air).
Place in a cool (50-65 degree F) area. It will take 4-6 weeks to make the kraut ferment.
You must check it every couple of days to make sure the Kraut is still wet and under water. If air touches the brine it makes a skummy stuff. Spoon it off and keep going.

After about two weeks the kraut is starting to get sour- lactic acid from fermentation. Hmmm good.
You can eat it at any time. Rinse off some of the salt and eat it fresh or cook it with apples and onions. As the pot gets low, mix up more cabbage and salt. Take old kraut out of container with juice. Layer new stuff and put old kraut and juice on top- like a starter. Second batch should take less time to ferment. As the weather gets warmer, the Kraut ferments faster (which is why Kimchi is fermented under ground).

I keep mine in the garage because it is a bit aromatic. Eduard's car doesn't complain, much.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Being home is expensive

Some people may think that staying home is a low expense entertainment, but I know otherwise. Staying at home gives you time to see all the stuff that needs to get done. And some of that stuff costs lots of money.
This weekend we did some "home improvement" shopping. We had talked about it for a year, but the time had come as we sat in our cold house, rain tumbling outside. We went shopping for a fuel efficient fireplace insert.
Background is important here. We have a regular furnace in the attic. It is the forced air type. But I can't stand the smell and dust it blows about. So it has never been turned on. I don't see any point in trying to cut off rooms with inefficient vents, then heating the ceiling. Most SoCal housing it not designed for fuel efficiency or effective heat and cool control. The weather is mild and utilities used to be cheap.
The weather is still mild.
So, we decided (or I did) that an efficient fireplace would make the living area warm and friendly for three months a year, and the other rooms could be heated with small electric space heaters. Then we could sleep in the coolness I like. I am still working on warming up Eduard in the mornings. I may put a small electric heater on a timer so that he can get dressed without shivering.
So for the living room fireplace we bought a wood burning fireplace insert- which is a free standing firebox that is fuel efficient and meets the epa standards for emissions. It has a blower to warm the room and seals off the draft from the chimney. The door closes so there is no CO2/Co or smell blowback. It is recessed into the fireplace so that little hands have a harder time touching it (even though we don't have any little hands). It recycles its exhaust until it is thoroughly burned so there is no smoke blowing out the chimney. It costs $3000 installed. Ow.
And that's not all.
We agreed on new windows- double pane. One side is a bay window with seating, and the other is a sliding door into the garden. Fluffy approves of quick access to the garden.
But that is not all.
Books cases. Yes, built in bookcases and entertainment unit. All around the window will be bookcases and the entertainment unit so that we can sit on the couch and see the fire, window, and TV. The other wall will be floor to 12ft ceiling bookcases with a rolling ladder.
But that is not all.
Carpet. We may finally get new carpet in that room. It was the only carpet we saved from the original purchase of the house. Coarse and bumpy stuff that wears like steel. Much of the house is tile floor, but the floors we crawl around on are carpeted. I like to crawl around in front of the fire.
And one more thing, the old brick around the fireplace might have to go- we are still thinking about this. I kind of like the brick, but not the plaster facade that goes with it. There is no mantel either. I have always wanted a mantel, but I don't know why.
At this point I have identified about $25,000 worth of work- on one room.
Did I mention we also went car shopping?
Fluffy needs the spring now! I must get back to the dirt so that I quit spending money. Seeds are cheap compared to staying home.