Wednesday, November 16, 2011

T-day Frenzy Withdrawal

It is getting closer and I am getting nervous. Getting the house cleaned up, setting out the best service ware, preparing the menu, shopping, cooking, invitation, family conflicts... except this year, it is not going to happen. I am not going to have Thanksgiving at my house. I am nervous out of habit.
I am going to my daughter's house because she and her dear husband have taken the baton and are running the next lap. I am making "appetizers and side dishes". I am still searching for ingredients and special recipes, delicacies and fun ideas. And I have found some very special things.
While out and about last week, my darling and I discovered a new SPICE store in Newport, Ca. Amazing selection, ability to sample and sniff, can buy in small quantities for single use or in bulk. And some very unusual things- like meat cure for making sausages that need to age before cooking. And powdered blue cheese, which can turn that Ranch dressing into something special.
While we wandered around in Newport, we found a cheese store, Vin Goat, and tasted several different goat cheeses along with a smoky blue. These were very tasty and unusual. Made me want to add a few ideas to my cheese making adventure.
And there was the coffee class at Sur La Table. Very enlightening. My coupon expires today and I have decided to use it one last time for a special treat. Like I need another gadget or thing in the cupboard that goes unused for many years.
I promise my children that I will have removed the bulk of this stuff so they don't have to have a giant garage sale after I am gone. But, it is so cute. No honey, not the $300 thing, but the $60 thing.
Then as I was wandering though the recipe ideas, I read something really weird. California has banned the sale of fattened Goose and Duck Livers- Foie Gras. This is so reminiscent of the junk food ban of the 80's. The theory is that ducks and geese are "force fed" to get fat livers for the production of Pate Fat Liver (Foie Gras). Most people who can eat pate are buying pork liver flavored with tiny amounts of other meats because Goose and Duck are sooo expensive here. The duck produces lots of fat around it's skin (same for goose) so making the duck extra fat so that the liver is really fatty seems unnecessary, but some politicians (who can't balance the budget) have at least decided to protect the ducks and geese from the absurdly rich. What about regular duck liver? Like the chicken parts in a whole chicken, can you still get a regular duck liver with your duck? I don't know. Maybe the Pate Patrol will individually remove all duck liver from the frozen birds. I have two lovely ducks in the freezer. One for the after Tday weekend, and one for the xmas day dinner. I am hoping there are livers in the cavity with the heart, neck and "parts". The Pate Patrol doesn't start until Jan. 1, 2012. My ducks should be all there.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Taking Back the Life

There has been a swirl around me for the last few years. The Chaos has been building to dysfunction level. And now, I am striking back, forcing the clutter into submission, tossing and sorting, and... where did this stuff come from?
I was looking at some things in the dining room and found a box full to the top with jars of every size and sort. None of them looked familiar and I had no idea where the box came from. And inside this box was a collection of lid rims and tops to odd size jars. I had been searching for these and assumed that I had tossed them in a cleaning frenzy. Tossed? Surely not me! I have to admit that occasionally a useful item gets tossed, but not a rim to a jar, unless it is rusted beyond use.
As I sorted honey pots, moved the general debris to the trash, I started to see the floor and realized- I haven't mopped this part of the floor in two years. Made me want to cover it right back up.
Eduard and I grabbed a shelving unit from his mom's house and made a place for his coffee stash- roaster, power cord, green bean collection, aging jars, and coffee miscellany. I stole back the bottom shelf for the honey collection- a two year supply just in case of a bee failure. As I studied this new arrangement, I realized that we have covered a wall that was waiting for "repair". It needed wall patching and paint, and my time has been sucked into the black hole for the last two years, so it never got done. And it won't get done now either. I will have to do it when I can move all the stuff out of the way, which may never happen. At least it is covered with lovely and interesting stuff, so I hope no one notices.
The Wyrmberg towers, tube homes for spinning silk worms, have all been cleaned out now and taken to the garage for storage. The boxes are getting flattened for the recycle bin. The floor is getting swept. The wool processing... well, it may have to stay a little longer. The dining room has been the overflow work room, since the woolyroom is rather a bit too full. I have had looms and drum carders occupying the dining room for months. The woolyroom is still way out of control. Even with things getting sold and moving on, it is way too full. And I still have raw fleece to wash. It can't go into the woolyroom until it is clean.
My spinning wheel collection is taking over the living room. Right now there are three in there. The guest room has a loom and the cotton collection. I haven't had time to weave or spin. I have been making socks for a client, socks for myself and some presents. I am just running everywhere and getting nothing done- except socks.
So back to the dining room- I may actually get that room under control this week. I have repackaged jars, sorted things to get rid of, taken out trash, and cleaned off the table. I have put away the cheese tools, toasted lots of cocoons, and am ready to wash off part of the kitchen counter. I suspect that I may even get a chance to vacuum.
It is beginning to feel a little bit better in there, not so confusing and disorienting from the clutter. I just hope I can find things now. The new "arrangement" with actual floor showing is a bit dizzying. The room looks so much larger.

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Finale

I have too many projects. We know this. The Eduard and I we, the world who know me we, and the world who don't know me we- We all know I have too many projects. I can't find time to blog about all of them. I can barely find time to do some of them.
This month, I was (and still am) raising silk worms, had a booth at the fiber festival, organized the spin group at the same festival, went to the Palomar Apple festival and did spin demonstrations there, made goat's milk cheese, cleaned up the mess from the festival, made new friends, found old friends, continued helping Eduard and his mom, spent time as a volunteer at UCSD and did laundry. I took a cooking class- first in 30 years. I feel it was a really full month and now it is over. Today is the last day. Halloween and I have no candy.
I do have silk worm cocoons, a silk project to write about, items coming from ASHFORD for my clients, a pile of clean laundry, and most of my kitchen back.
The silk worms are almost done now. I am down to one active box of worms who are not yet spinning cocoons but are close. I have enough leaves to finish the silk worms (I hope, because they pruned the tree). And I am ready to move to the next project- cheese, bread, and Thanksgiving.
I also ordered a new wheel- an electric wheel- just in time for the Power Co. to give us notice of an all day shut down. Well, I can still use the other ones. But I have been really busy with all these different tasks and projects. Now for Thanksgiving, I am trying some new and exciting food ideas. I got these ideas from my cooking class and added some of my own ideas, plus some new equipment. And Presto!- I need to make a list of ingredients and try the ideas before I make other people eat them. One of the items involves a duck- part of a duck anyway. Another item is orange colored. One has marshmallows but is not new. I am very excited to be making these treats and treasures for my family. I haven't been particularly excited about cooking for a long time and this class has gotten me excited again. Enough to take another class- in November, with Eduard. This is a class in Newport on making coffee drinks- barrista style. Macchiatto, frappachino, and that kind of stuff. We don't have an espresso machine. We use the coffee pot for our stuff. But it is possible to make these drinks with regular coffee. I know this and hope that the class addresses this issue.
But now I have to go grate some lemon zest. It is time to make dinner.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Setting Limits

Some of us enter into things with blind naivety. Like having children. We take it on faith that it is a reasonable thing to do and it has a limited time frame, say 18-20 years. But afterward, we discover that it could actually be 30+ years, or suck up out entire life so that we are chronically sleep deprived. And it is expensive.
Even after doing considerable research, we often fail to consider obvious facts or base our decisions on hope for the outcome. This sometimes leads us to have to compromise during the activity and to the "setting of limits".
This is where I am today. Setting limits. Some of the activities are those I chose and some have been thrust upon me, but whatever caused the start of it, today I am setting some limits.
I do not speak of my wool collection, wheel collection or fiber frenzy. These activities know no limits. What I am speaking of is...worms.
I entered into an experiment on raising silk worms with considerable research and some expense. The anticipated time limit seemed reasonable and the space required seems tolerable. The food was a bit expensive, but convenient as I don't have a Mulberry tree. There was not much information out "there" on this type of food plan, but I knew I could wing it and make it work. And it was only for 4 weeks. This, I could do.
The first failed observation was time. The research suggested that you feed them 3 times a day for a couple of minutes. Clean their waste every three or four days. But with the new feeding system, this didn't turn out to be the case. I feed them once a day and spend about 1 1/2 hours cleaning out the trays of waste. Even with the worm herding system working, it takes more time than I had expected. AND the biggest issue was the 4 week commitment. It is really longer because the eggs have to be out of the refrigerator for a couple of weeks before they start to hatch. Already we are looking at 6 weeks. AND the little buggers don't all hatch at the same time. They can take weeks to hatch. Now we are looking at 8-10 weeks of commitment.
My second failed observation was that those eggs are really small, and the little bit I put on the tray turned into 300+ worms. Not a problem while they are small. I have sufficient room and trays, but they get bigger and the trays will fill the dining room and every flat surface in it. Then the little guys will want to cocoon somewhere and I have gathered less than 50 tubes. I will spend hours rolling paper into little tubes and taping them together to make cocoon condos for the worms. A massive complex for my little dining room.
I think I have enough food, but I am only mixing up a little at a time. I don't have enough room in my fridge for all the food for the worms and food for us people, too. This experiment has "bloomed" into a worm boom.
So that part about setting limits. Well, today I made a decision. I was cleaning the worm trays and decided that any eggs that had not hatched as of that morning cleaning, would go to the composter. I am committed to the babies I have, but after this morning- no more babies. That way, I will at least be somewhat certain that the existing worms will have 4 more weeks to get to adulthood and that there will be enough food and space. I probably tossed 50 eggs with little worms inside screaming, "Wait! I am almost ready!" But since they didn't waive their little heads at me, I didn't listen.
Vermicide? Or setting limits to my commitments. You can judge me if you want but I feel better all ready.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Settling into Summer

It is really here! Summer, for the first time in two years. I have real peaches and they are ripe and sweet. So it is time to do some canning. I am looking forward to it. It has been difficult to get the garden under control. The weeds are hard to work on in the drizzle and chill wind. It is much nicer when the evenings are dry and lightly cool/warm. Tonight I will mow the lawn, pick some weeds and work lightly in the garden beds. It is pleasant work after the hustle and bustle of the last two weeks.
I have been to Oregon to the fiber festival. Driving, working, shopping, playing, driving, driving, and more driving. Whew! I was glad to get home. Then taking the car to the shop, getting the house cleaned up and stocking in the food and beer for Eduard's party. Plus my other work. I feel like I came home in a dead run and have been running for another week.
Finally, on Monday, July 4th, I collapsed in a heap and could barely get out of bed. The party went on without me, mercifully. I was able to be lazy and drift for most of the day. I have so much to do still and so little energy left. I spent Tuesday cleaning up the kitchen, refrigerator, and cooking the last foods that the party missed. I have a packed week and need to get some control over the chaos. Again, a long nap in the afternoon, helped restore the energy for the evening.
I am pleased with the fleece I bought and all the fibers and toys. And as usual, after running wild for a week, I just want to stay home and play with my new stuff. Hopefully, I will get the work done and have a chance to play this weekend. I need a slow, lazy, warm summer to take some of the hustle out of my bustle.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Strangely Silent

For several days, I watched in silent fascinated horror as Tsunami waves washed over Japan and people picked through the wreckage for parts of the life they had known. Then the awful truth about the nuclear meltdowns started to drift over, slowly and insidiously, first as full on lies then part truths. Finally, when the initial interest faded, the real truth slipped into the back pages of the news. It was leaked out like the leaking radioactive water. It floated by like a radioactive steam cloud.
In the recent days, I have searched the news for follow up information. There is none, but an occasional paragraph on some world conference on nuclear safety. There is some discussion by world leaders that maybe we should be looking into safer technologies.
The real truth is that the Japanese nuclear reactors are still melting down, releasing outrageous amounts of radiated water and waste into the environment and nothing is really being done to stop it. When Chernobyl went, the US rushed to help dump concrete on the facility to stop the release of radiation. Last I heard, it was marginally successful, but the area is still seriously contaminated and uninhabitable. At least there was a stop. Well, that is what we were led to believe, anyway.
But now, the world has lost interest in this event in Japan. We are poisoning the Pacific ocean, our food, water and air. We are not even watching in fascinated horror as our planet becomes uninhabitable. We are watching baseball, politician's exposing themselves, and a rather messy trial on the death of one baby. Not one person I have spoken to in the last month is aware that this meltdown is still happening.
I am nearing the end of my time on earth. I have had my children, played on the beach, eaten fish, and breathed somewhat clean air. But this is not available for my children and grandchildren. I am so sorry for them I can hardly speak it. And I am helpless to make any difference or changes. I can not make it stop. I am strangely silent and pensive.
As I get ready to go to Oregon, I think about the poisoned salmon in the rivers- they have swum in the poisoned ocean. I think about the poisoned rain that falls from the radioactive mist over the poisoned ocean. There is no safe place on the planet.
This year I will spin wool, knit socks, be with my friends, grow vegetables and fruits in my garden and be silent. The disaster will spread over the world in silence as contaminated products move from one place to another. I cannot knit a big enough blanket to hide under or enough socks to protect my family from the terrors that will come.
So I will continue on, mourning in my depths, for the loss of the future. Silently.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Grandmother Said

That there were "benefits" to being deaf.
We were driving down to Mississippi from Missouri to visit my cousin, Leigh. My children were small then, and this grandmother would be their great grandmother. So Great Granny Inez was in the front seat. Little people 8 and under were in the backseat. I got to drive and listen to the whining and bickering behind me.
My grandmother looked at me, askance, and said, "There are benefits to being deaf." Then she removed her hearing aids and took a nap.
I have just finished, again, the painting in the guest room. I did the touch up on the wall where the painter's tape ripped the paint off. And I did the touch up in the oil base window casing, with a small artist's brush no less. As I did the little details, cleaned the brushes, hammered the lids down, I was reminded of my grandmother's words. I now believe that if there are any remaining flaws in the window paint job (and I know there are), I will just remove my glasses and slip into fuzzy vision. I won't see them close or far, due to that age of bifocalizm. And if anyone complains, they won't be invited to stay ever again.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Paint, then paint again

This was a great weekend for almost getting done with stuff. We worked on the yard and got some trees cut down and the weeds removed, but the pile of wood for the fire wood stack still sits in the yard. And I painted the window frame in the guest room (around the new window). But as I peeled off the masking tape (yes that blue painter's tape) a bunch of wall paint came with it. So now I have to "touch up" before I put stuff back into the room.
We have a phrase, we borrowed from another person, who borrowed it from another person-
"It is done, but not finished." So the painting is done, but the job is not finished. Touch up, clean up, re-arranged. There are many details left to finish. The project will go on for years. Even the living room which is 99% done is not finished. Project started 2008. There are two cabinet doors looking for me and I have the hardware sitting in a box. The dinning room has wall holes to patch and paint. Project started in 2003.
Things seem to get to a "functional" place and rest there for an indefinite period of time while they ripen. The bookcase (2010) is still not filled and organized. The garage boxes (2001), let's just don't go there.
Stuff keeps leaving but the pile doesn't get smaller. Things are checked off the list, but the list doesn't get shorter. Things seem to get done, but there are always some little details left to finish that linger.
Socks on the other hand- get done, get worn, get mended, get washed. I think that is why I love knitting. Something actually gets done.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 26, and alls well

Today, another step in the never ending battle against natural forces has moved us forward. The "fix" of the new windows is done. My last post was 2 months back and I was ready to do a happy dance about getting the windows done. Hmmm. A bit premature, I think. I have finished the wall in the guest room, repaired and painted the baseboards, and moved in all the furniture. BUT, and its a cute butt, I have yet to paint the window frame. I need some warm weather so that I can open all the windows and have "adequate ventilation" so that I don't get stoned from the fumes. It looks like this is the weekend for such weather and activity.
I am still trying to organize the "wooly room". Most of the stuff is in it, but in boxes. I have inventoried my Wool collection and still have 8 pounds to put away. I was thinking today about my wool collection and realized that there is no wool shortage here. Maybe there is for other people, but in my house, I have enough wool to spin for the rest of my life. And that would make enough yarn to knit, weave, crochet and felt for the rest of my life also.
I like to knit socks. There is about 4 ounces of fiber in each pair of socks. My wooly room contains the raw ingredients for 1000 pairs of socks. Well, that is an exaggeration. It is more like 500 pairs. But that is just the processed wool. That doesn't include the silk, the fleeces, the alpaca, and the cotton. Or the commercial yarns. As much as I hate to say it, I may have reached the limit.
I am going to buy another fleece at Black Sheep Gathering this year. I can't help myself. The fumes overwhelm my judgment. But I have limited myself to one- one lovely, gray, fine wool, fleece. And of course, the one that is for my students. So that is actually two fleeces, but one doesn't count. And I did sell some stuff this year so I do in fact let some of it go. There may be a little bit of room left in the corner of the closet by the end of the summer.
So back to the remodel issue. The chair for the guest room is too big and will go into Eduard's room (when Sara moves into her apartment). And I will find a nice, rustic chair for the guest room that is a more appropriate size. Then I will finish painting the laundry room which is still 80% painted, but fully functional.
Then I will replace the dishwasher and drinking water system (again). There is the yard- which is a mess and not getting better at any speed. And the new shed. In truth, I think that the "fix it" obsession is a life style rather than a need driven experience. It doesn't seem to matter how much gets done, the list is never shorter. I can think of new things to do faster than I can get them done. Faster than I can save money to do them. Faster than I can organize the last one or clean up its mess. Like buying more fruit trees for the fruit we don't eat, I am acquiring more and more stuff to take care of and have less energy to take care of it.
But the rest that comes with age will at some point end all this. I will sell off everything and move to the senior home. I will play cards all day and let someone else cook and repair stuff. Frankly, I am not looking forward to that. I think I like the constant activity, work, planning and mess. I will post pictures in June of the Guest room when the window is painted and the last picture frame is hung. It is so close, I can feel it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

End of Things

It is time to post about things that are winding to an end. Some of this has been a long time coming. I will start with the major house (inside) remodeling. We started working on this house the day we bought it. From roof to floors, walls and windows, we have been slowly making it worthy of the next 25 years. Well, after 10 years, we are finally getting the last of the windows done.
We bought the house in 2001 and did the absolute necessities right away- roof, carpet, paint. We did the kitchen window and sliding door, then the dining room window in 2003/04 along with a total kitchen remodel and tile flooring. Most of that work has held up well and still looks great, although the carpet is showing wear. But the roof is good and sound. The kitchen is a dream. And the windows are terrific.
Next we started the living room- 2008. It took a long time to financially recover from the kitchen. In there were cars and other projects that got to the front of the line, but 2008 started the living room. It also was the summer that my mom got sick enough to need lots of attention for awhile. We managed to get the windows done and the fireplace, but the rest of the room got stuck in time. We finished it in 2010.
2011 is the year of the windows and patio. We are doing the guest room window and the remaining bedroom windows in a couple of weeks. That will be the end of the major indoor remodel stuff. Kind of hard to believe. I will actually get the rooms set up and organized and have nothing to do be clean them afterward. The thought is rather shocking. We will have window coverings, and functioning windows. We will have fully painted and clean walls, cleaned rugs, no more tile work.
Wait, what's this I see?... left over wall paper in the bathroom... broken cabinet in the other bathroom... skylight decay.... garage door falling apart.... wait! I thought I was getting to the end of the list. I thought I was going to be done and have some princess time. Will this mess never end?
I am going to go take a nap.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What to do? Rav is down.

I know that many of you have your favorite sites to chat or check things. News, sports, entertainment, hobbies. I spin yarn and knit/crochet, so I am a part of My favorite gathering place for spinny/crafty stuff and I visit daily. I contribute often. So today, it is broken and suddenly I feel a bit lost.
I check the different forums once or twice a day. Sometimes I get caught up in a thread and play for a longer period of time. I was going to have work done on the house today and would be staying home to do things. I just knew I would have some time to play on Except, today, it seems to be broken. I can sometimes get to the log on page and sometimes log on, but I can't go anywhere else. Boohoohoo.
Stuck at home with no one to play with. Well, I could spin or knit or work on cleaning up the kitchen or weed in the garden, fertilize fruit trees, saw up old wood, train vines, plant vegetables, mow the lawn... I mean, it is a long list of work I should be doing. And it is not awful work. Still, for some reason, I feel like I am missing my buddies and friends and favorite chatty circles.
I know that Rav will get better and be working by tonight. They always manage to fix whatever server is on the fritz. But that de-railed feeling, like all is not well in the world, has broken my concentration.
So I resolve to work in the garden to take my mind off of That way, I can feel productive, get vitamine D, and wait patiently until they return. Sniff.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Microwave experiments

This is not, I repeat not, about dying yarn. This is about cooking food.
I have never learned how to properly use a microwave oven. I heat water, melt butter, warm leftovers, thaw last minute meats but I have never really maximized the Microwave Oven. So to that fact, we have the smallest microwave they make, hidden in the pantry.
But, a couple of weeks ago, a knitting friend told me about something remarkable that you can make in a microwave and I have been wanting to try it since she mentioned it. I just was having difficulty finding all the ingredients and making the time. I needed $2 worth of stuff and 2 1/2 minutes. Well, actually, the first time takes a little longer, but after that 4 minutes will do it.
This is what it is - Microwave Chocolate Cake. Really, a cake. And it is a single, low fat, low calorie serving.
It starts with a box of Angel Food cake mix. And a box of Devil's food cake mix. Put them together is a large mixing bowl and whisk them with a dry whisk until they are well blended. I am unable to leave a good recipe alone so I added 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
Measure out 1/2 cup of the dry ingredients into a microwave safe bowl that can hold about 1 1/2 cups. Add 1/3 cup of water and stir with a fork until really smooth- about a minute. Remove the fork- don't cover the top- stick the bowl in the microwave for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes (depends on how powerful your machine is). Cake is done. Don't burn yourself eating it.
Put the rest of the mix in a zipper bag for later.
This is great, really. I like a piece of cake once and awhile, but not a whole cake. Not 24 cup cakes. Not a store bought piece of cake for $3 with 4 ounces of frosting. Just a plain and simple piece of cake. Now I can have my cake and eat it, too. And make a new piece next week or next month.
So why did it take so long? Well, I had to find an Angel food cake mix. My local store was down to three boxes and they were $4 each. I didn't want to pay that much, because I believed it was a rip off for a cake mix. So I eventually went to a different store and they had them for $1- I bought 3. One mix was for a party I was going to so it didn't count. The other 2 were for this experiment.
You see, my friend was a bit lax on the details of this cake thing. She said. " You mix them together, then measure out some, and mix it with some water and cook it in the microwave." So, like, well, how much cake mix, how much water, and how long? She is one of those cook by sight and feel people. She doesn't measure stuff, or time stuff, she just knows. I, on the other hand, am clueless about mixes and microwaves. I cook almost everything from scratch and measure most of it. I like details. SO, I had to wing it, and mixed this based on a rough estimate of what the box measures would have been in the smaller quantities. Then I had to cook it based on pure luck and the spring back test. At two minutes in my machine, I tested and it was a bit sticky on the top, so I added 15 seconds and tested again. Then one more time and it looked and felt right. So on my low watt, weak and underpowered little tiny microwave- 2 1/2 minutes. IF you have one of the big, honken, power guzzling microwaves- maybe 1 1/2 minutes. You will need to test for yourself.
Well, so much for my kitchen fun. Not much mess to clean up. Not lots of cake to hide or freeze. Just time to make some dinner. At this house, cake is uncertain so we eat dessert first.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Experiment 3- fail

Today was dye day with the Lichen and puff ball brew. The lichen in one jar and the puff ball in another, were each soaked and brewed for 30 days in ammonia water. They each created a pale russet to pink colored fluid. I performed the dye ritual at low heat on a selection of pre-mordanted yarns and I got- zip. Nada. No color- not even pale yellow. A total waste of good ammonia- well not total waste as it went to the compost heap to be fertilizer, but a total waste of time. The lichen remaining in the collection bag was then simmered in plain water for about an hour (low heat) and the dye ritual was repeated on fresh yarn- golden-ish color across the board. We have wash fast, and there is a chance of light fast. Definitely more compost material. Puff ball was the same as the lichen in ammonia- nothing.
So a recap of the experiment to date suggests that Tea Tree is a winner, yellow mushroom was very golden and kind of stinky, the eucalyptus bark was very rust colored, and all the others were pale and washed out looking.
Then there was the Indigo dye class- blue, very blue, very messy, very expensive. A good education in social misfits and antiquated colorants.
Sometimes you need to do things you know are not what you want to re-enforce your understanding of why you want what you want in the first place. I want simple, easy, predictable, permanent, convenient, reasonably priced dye products that don't stink, pollute the water ways, or dye my hands blue when I rinse them out. Yo! I am un-natural.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kitchen Experiment- 2

The first kitchen experiment dealt with Mordanting and some yellow mushrooms from Jack in The Box. There was also some interesting play with my Tea Tree bush and the Macadamia nut tree.
Now that I have some yarn pre-mordanted, I am ready to play again. Eduard and I went on a field trip and collected- Pussy willow flowers, dried wild buckwheat, bark from eucalyptus trees, puff ball fungus, shelf fungus, and lichen.
Today, in the kitchen, I brewed some pussywillow by boiling/simmering it for 1 hour, straining the broth, then simmering a collection of pre-mordanted yarns for 30 minutes. Nice outcome. Didn't smell awful. Not hard to do. Washfast. I will check for light fast when we get some sunshine.
Next, some wild buckwheat. It is brewing as we speak. But I have also started some other brews. Some of the lichen is soaking in a jar with ammonia added. Same for some of the puff balls. Different brewing techniques create different results, just like different mordants. Now some of the buckwheat is also brewing in ammonia.
I haven't decided what to do with the shelf fungus. It needs to be pounded to break it up, soaked in something, and probably boiled outside. Some of these things are a bit stinky to work with. So I thought I would see if ammonia works with the puff balls before I try another fungus.
This is the type of play I like to do when I am at home sorting through papers and feeling crushed by the weight of "stuff".
But in my defense, I will say that last night I spent two hours tossing and sorting. A full paper grocery bag of paper trash went out, and an equal size one is by the fire place waiting to burn. Two boxes of Office supply stuff got sorted, more things got into the donation box, and 10 inches of stuff got put into the file cabinet. I vacuumed more of the room and can actually see that the moving of the file cabinets will in fact happen this week.
So that is why I allowed myself a bit of time in the kitchen to play. I have tagged all my sample yarns from my experiments and am proceeding to write up my notes.
Unfortunately, the house does not look any better for all the sorting and tossing. Except for the shower, which I cleaned yesterday.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Catharsis- It just may not be all it is cracked up to be. There is supposed to be some sense of purification, cleanliness, and new found freedom associated with Catharsis. But that is not what I am feeling. Maybe I will feel it later, when the process is completed, but at the moment it is a gut wrenching, fatiguing, time consuming, exhausting feeliing.
We are cleaning out the "office". And since the garage is full, most of it is getting burned, tossed, donated, recycled, and composted. Eduard has moved the bulk of his large pieces into his new, separate office. I have moved my computer and chair. We are wired and functioning. But the stuff still in the room is daunting. I have tossed or burned about a two foot tall stack of papers this last week. I have gathered another foot tall stack to donate to a school. Eduard has been sorting and tossing also. So far, the amount of stuff coming out of the closet piles up faster than we can dispose of it. Where did all this shit come from before it went into the closet?
And every piece has to be examined and judged- trash or burn, keep and file or toss, is this picture really worth saving? Will I miss it in 10 years? Will I just let my children dispose of everything? (I know you are out there breathing a sigh of relief right now, knowing that I am doing this so that you don't have to.)
Eduard and I have not yet had a fight over any of the work or the speed with which we approach this job. We are both committed to this project. Yet,..pause.. I feel like this purging process is making my entire body react. The dust is making me sneeze and cough. The lifting is fatiguing. The sorting is dredging up old memories and stirring old emotions. And there is a little bit of fear because I actually can't remember where I got some of this stuff. AND worst of all, there is so much stuff I would rather be doing. I feel that I am missing out on lots of fun because I am busy filling the landfill.
I am sure, when the purging is done, I will feel better, cleaner, and worthy of the new organization. But the process is ugly and time consuming. So there is some history here that can be contributed to this process.
In my childhood, we never moved from the house my parents bought in 1956. And things would accumulate, like at all houses. We had an annual cleaning that involved moving the furniture around in the room to try new positions and to clean the old spots. In this process, all old stuff was tossed or packaged to be stored. I did something similar with my children's rooms right before Christmas every year. But the biggest purge came when we moved. There was the moving truck and the donation truck and often they both got full. I have done this several times.
Eduard and I don't want to move, but we never really got moved in when we married. The moving van came to his house, but not the donation truck. He also does not have the annual purge history so things pile up for years. I have been trying to continue the annual cleaning/sorting thing, but I have been lax. More comes in than goes out. I have been cleaning out my closet and drawers regularly. I got rid of books when the new bookcase was done. I have also come to know that I am not going to sit around and wait for Ebay sales or garage sales to get rid of stuff- it is the donation truck for me. This year we purged the Christmas stuff from the garage (all my stuff). We purged books (mostly mine). I have worked down stuff from the kitchen (mostly my stuff). We got Sara moved into the dorm and had her sort out all her stuff. I have cleaned out old towels and sheets, kitchen linens, table linens. I have sawed up most of the wood around the house that we wanted to burn.
We have been purging for a really long time and it seems that it will go on forever. The office purge is not the end, either. We still have to approach the garage.
As I clean and clear, I am developing a resolve to avoid shopping. I know this does not bode well for the economic recovery, but I just don't think I want to do this again- and I definitely don't want my children to have to deal with my mess. No more buying in bulk. No more saving something because it might be useful some day. No more stockpile, hoard, and re-purpose. I want to do the projects I already have and not start a bunch of new ones.
There! I am beaten down by the purging process. I only want to plod through the rest of the job to the end and collapse in a pile on the clean floor of an empty room. Stuff 1- Jeri 0

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


CAMOFLage- This is what we are getting- Camo Yarn. So far the Mushrooms have developed a deep golden color on all mordants except the chrome which is a pale yellow/gold. The Macadamia is soft beige; the Tea Tree is deep green or rosey brown. And the copper mordant by itself makes a soft turqouise. With yarn like this, we could hide in the forest forever. Well, maybe not deep winter when some of the trees lose their leaves, but most of the year.
I have found that the mordants, while making things grab the color quickly, have not had much affect on color or washfast/lightfast ability. The real change came in the Tea Tree when the Alum and Copper grabbed the green. The un-mordant yarn took a rosey brown.
All things considered, this has been a good experiment. And there will be many more. I am creating mordanted swatch pieces so that I can test small quantities of colorant material in all the mordants at one time. I still need to get some iron and tin samples made, but life moves at its own pace- these are not close to the top of the list of things to do yet.
I have pretty much decided that the professional chemicals are still my favorite- as I have yet to go get the cochineal bugs. But it is good to know what is in my yard and what it can do for me.
I also have come to realize that as a society we are so spoiled. The yarn I am using was spun on a machine. I do make my own yarn, but to make this much just for test swatches would have been really hard. The chemicals are already reduced and in their simple form I need. I could go get some copper and vinegar, but hey! I didn't have to steep the plants for days in wood ashes, either.
This is a fun thing, and I don't have to do it for a living every day. None of us do. We all have lovely, colorful clothing and fabrics at our fingertips, with great ease and variety. As I spin the next fleece, plan the next sweater, knit the next socks- I am so glad that I am not making every piece of textile my family needs. I would be out of my mind sewing, weaving, spinning, knitting, dying, and collecting bugs. In fact- I am going to take a nap today, again, because I can.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Color from my Garden

My current thing, well there are many things that are current, but this one is about wool and dying. Not death dying, but getting color into the wool by some complicated, unnatural process. There is also cheese, bread, garden, spinning, knitting... the Things going on here are numerous. Any time I can combine things makes life simpler and more rewarding.
So back to my current thing- dying wool with natural plant materials found around my home. Yesterday, I dyed some yarn with Macadamia nut hulls. Since I have a macadamia tree, it seemed to me a good idea. Walnut hulls are the tried and true plan, but I don't have a walnut tree. SO- Macadamia it was, and it created a lovely, soft, yellowy beige with no mordants. It is wash fast, but I haven't completed the light fast test.
Then I cut some of the flowers from the New Zealand Tea Tree/bush and it made a beautiful red water. I added some vinegar and the red nearly disappeared. The wool dyed a soft, reddish brown and is washfast- still working on the lightfast test. So that brings us to the current pot of stuff.
I am mordanting the current yarn in Alum/Tartar. This process involves simmering the yarn for an hour in a solution of Alum (aluminum salts) and Cream of Tartar (tartaric acid). After the yarn is mordanted, it will be simmered in the red water bath from the second collection of Tea Tree/bush flowers to see if the pre-mordanted wool keeps the color better.
I also have a collection of mushrooms that I harvested from a nearby location. I am hoping to extract whatever color possibilities the mushrooms may have this week and dye some wool with it. After wandering around the house looking for mushrooms, I am sorely dissappointed in my landscape. Last year, mushrooms were abundant. This year, zippo. But I have other plants that offer possibilities.
Leaves, twigs, flowers, roots- I am looking for plants with color chemicals that will grow in my yard. As I am not a serious botanist and my yard is not a scientific laboratory, I am doing what I can with what is "natural" here. I suspect that I will have an abundance of - earthy brown, lazy yellow, and mild beigish pink. But when white becomes tiresome even that little selection is delightful.
Some of my friends are taking classes in dying with indigo. I am relatively certain that it is not growing in my yard, yet. Nor madder, for that matter. But the things that I do have are exciting. There is a cactus down the street, positively covered with cochineal bugs. I am planning on scraping them off into a pot soon. And I am going to explore other mordant chemicals- chrome, copper, tin, iron. Eventually, there will be some color variety that I can say is natural to my surroundings.
But right now, we are looking at some serious brown conditions.