Saturday, November 14, 2020

Fluff Piece

Where to start? It's been awhile. So much has changed.

Keeping it light, let's talk about fluff, the sheepy kind. Wool, that is.

Earlier this year I learned a few things from playing with wool.

Remember my Sheep2Shawl Project that I started last year? All the fiber has been spun and the next step is to twist (ply) the singles together to make a 2-ply yarn. Stay tuned.

Anyway, here's what I learned. Remember that I washed the fleece in the kitchen sink? Well, the "rich with greasy lanolin" rinse water going down the kitchen drain was not a good idea.



In fact, it was a very bad idea. Very. Bad. Idea.

The greasy lanolin hardened up and clogged the septic tank filter "and up through the ground come a bubbling crude" . . . . Well, I think you get the idea. The septic system did not like the sheepy lanolin nor did The Man.

First lesson: Don't do that again.



Here's another one.

In early spring our neighbor across the street sent me a text:


I was excited to receive a bulging bag of freshly shorn sheep fleece. I weighed it, five pounds, Woohoo!

Then I unloosened the plastic ties, woohoooo. . . . 

Oh my.


Yes, Dolly's fleece had a lot of shavings. In fact, it looked like Dolly had been sheared on a bed of pine shavings - on top, underneath, and through.

The fleece smelled great - like a pine forest - and the shavings were white and clean. 

But still.



I spent several hours picking through the fleece.

The handful of fluff I managed to clean and separate wasn't great for handspinning. The locks were short and thick with coarse dense guard hairs, very little soft fluff. It wasn't fiber I would enjoy processing so I gave up.

Second lesson: Don't do that again.



Mostly, I have learned that I enjoy the process of spinning wool and other fibers and I've enjoyed learning how to become a Handspinner.

Third lesson: Keep doing it.


Fourth Lesson: Try to enjoy what you do.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Chicken Tender

As the days (weeks, months) lumbers along it's hard to keep track of the passage of time. It seems like the definition of time seems to have gotten all wonky and weird. That said, I can account for the last twenty days of my life. Twenty days of caring for Sophia.

Yes, Sophia, the chicken. Remember her and her wily ways?

At the beginning of the month I noticed raw egg on the floor of the coop. I mentioned to The Man that someone laid an egg without a shell. The next day Sophia pooped out the egg-like mess and then I noticed her hunchy posture, she didn't look well.

I asked The Man to set up the large wire kennel, a.k.a. the Chicken Hospital. I suspected that Sophia was egg bound and I started her treatment right away. First, I spoon-fed her Calcium (crushed Tums dissolved in water),  then I placed her in a warm water bath. It's supposed to help her relax and make it easier to pass the egg. I also checked her externally and internally for a stuck egg. She fell asleep.

The treatment plan changed after a few days of baths when I found a broken egg shell on her vent. Google Vet led me to suspect Egg Peritonitis (egg yolk in the abdominal cavity) as Sophia continued with her frequent watery "cooked egg" poops. I gave her a four-day course of injected Penicillin and changed her treatment plan to supportive.

She didn't eat her Layer pellets but she willingly took liquids as I fed her Pedialyte, Tums, beef broth (chicken broth seemed wrong), and chilled water. She swallowed whole grapes and pecked at the wild birds' seed. Her appetite waxed and waned as she sampled bits of apple, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, celery, corn on the cob, deli meat, dry cat food, kale, lettuce, plums, probiotic paste, sunflower seeds, and yogurt. I kept an eye on her comb to monitor her fluid balance, it seemed thinner but not floppy.

I was surprised that The Man was supportive of my efforts. He said, "She's your pet, do whatever it takes," as I fed Sophia another bite of Black Forest Ham.

After a few days of confinement in the garage I let her out after liquids and breakfast. In the late afternoon I brought her back into the garage. When it got dark she put herself to bed in the Chicken Hospital.

I could tell she was getting better by her poops and remember nothing makes nurses happier than healthy bowel movements. (July 3 top left, July 23 bottom right.)

Sophia has been back in the coop since Sunday. Her appetite has returned with gusto as she makes up for lost time.

This morning she flew up and took the seat next to me as I sat on the bench.

I'm not sure how long she'll be well she is eight years old after all. Yet this time I don't think she was ready to give up. Not without a good fight.

In memoriam to Ethel - Sandee's white chicken - she was a good girl.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Wishful Gardening

All these years and I'm still not much of a gardener but I have had a few successes, which is to say that I haven't killed all the plants. Well, okay, so it might be a stretch to say they're all thriving but hanging-in-there counts too.

Occasionally my indoor garden includes Mung bean sprouts growing on the kitchen counter. They only require a water rinse twice a day and seed to sprouts takes less than a week. (Tip: Soak the beans in water overnight before putting them in the sprouting trays.)

I've had luck with Yellow Pear tomatoes. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a bountiful crop but if I have enough to add to our summer salads that's plenty good. In the fall I save a few handfuls of these little heirloom tomatoes and replant them the following spring.

Perhaps it's our environment - large shady oaks with far-reaching thirsty roots - that stunts the growth of our plantings. We planted two bare root apple trees in the front yard and five years later they still look like the sticks we stuck in the ground - with just a few more branches.

So imagine our surprise when this spring the Gala apple tree (stick on the right) flowered heavily and now all the flowers are turning into wee apples. Yes, lots of wee apples. And then you can imagine how I felt to find a hairy creepy caterpillar taking bites out of my apples.

So far I have only found a single caterpillar on the apple tree but I've been seeing his friends on the rhubarb. The hairy critters get squished when I find them but in the meantime my baby apples needed extra protection.

I covered them with Organza bags.

I'm not sure if the bags will protect the wee apples - I hope they do - but the Organza bags and their ribbon ties sure make a lovely sight on a breezy day like today.

I think the birds volunteered seeds to one of the big planters because a mystery plant has taken root. The pot had been empty (the geranium died) so I'm leaving the mystery plant alone for now. Since it's green, it counts.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

One Month Ago: In the Desert

The first weekend in March (when it was still okay to travel) The Man and I drove to the western Mojave Desert for a tour of The Center of the Aerospace Testing Universe, a.k.a., Edwards Air Force Base. The tour was free but space was limited. I had made our reservations a year in advance.

It was a 4-hour road trip to Edwards AFB and since we needed to be at the Visitor Center at 0845 we decided to camp in nearby Rosamond. The Man found an area of BLM land on a map and noted that it was just a few miles out of town. Unfortunately when we got to the area it looked like folks used the Public Lands for dumping their household waste: rusty washing machine parts, mounds of concrete slabs, sad toys, and broken beer bottles.

The Man wasn't happy about our accommodations but I was okay with it. We had the whole place to ourselves and it was free camping after all. We managed to find a nice flat area clear of garbage in view of a Joshua tree.

The Man felt better about our surroundings after a motorcycle ride. Along the trail, away from the main road, we happened upon jackrabbits, coveys of quail, and only one rusty car carcass.

The following morning we arrived early at Edward's West Gate. While we waited for the bus to arrive everyone watched a lone animal trot down the middle of the road. The critter barely glanced our way as everyone gawked at it's boldness. Is that a dog ... is that a ... coyote? The Man noted that it was a healthy, well-fed coyote, "Life must be good at Edwards".

A few minutes later approximately 25 of us boarded the bus. We weren't allowed to bring any devices with a camera - top secret stuff, you know.

From Edwards AFB website: "The tours include the Air Force Flight Test Museum and a windshield tour of the main base and some of the flight line areas".

We spent a fair amount of time at the Flight Test Museum and a storage hangar where restorations are in progress. We walked under and around the various aircraft being restored. It was all very interesting, very Sam Shepard, I mean, er, Chuck Yeager, you know, very "Right Stuff".

But the best?

We took a drive on the Flight Line. Yup, right on the tarmac, up close and personal. The bus drove through the security gates and we all got sneak peeks at the various aircraft and the secret jets in darkened hangars. Very cool beans.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Blissfully Unaware

As the world changes,
our animals
their dailiness.

The Ladies patrol and keep a look out for tasty sprouts and wayward bugs.


Occasionally they lay an egg.

The cats deliver their gratitude in purrs, satisfied, they return to their heated bed.

The dogs wait for what comes next.

And the goats do what goats do.

 Whatever they want.

As our lives change
the natural world
- blissfully unaware -
continues on.

Spring is here.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Creating Spaces

Our big flooring project turned out beautifully. The Man did an amazing job and the downstairs glows with rustic warmth.

Ceramic tile surrounds the fireplace. Laying tile was a new experience for The Man and he said, "I hope I never have to do it again." That's too bad, he does excellent work.

The upstairs bedroom, the Swatch project - my Crafting room - well, it's everything I dreamed about. I love my beautiful space.

The view looking out the window in the morning,

and in the afternoon.

Although I'm still settling into the Crafting Room and figuring out how to arrange my things (the room changes daily), I'm currently trying out my new-to-me Swatch Maker 3-in-1 loom and weaving a little mug rug to match the room's area rug. I'm excited to be using my handspun wool for warp.

Woohoo, Navajo-Churro sheep wool makes a strong warp! That bit of cobweb yarn made me nervous but my spun singles are (so far) holding up to the weft-faced weaving.

Since I was in my Crafting Room I decided to ply the yarn I had spun the day before. It's an Alpaca Blend (60% Alpaca "Relay" and 40% Corriedale wool), grown by Teresa C.

Teresa C. with her lovely luscious Alpaca and Alpaca Blends

The fiber asked to be spun Supported Long Draw so I complied and spun ~ 0.5 oz on the wee wheel, Electric Eel Wheel Nano, my "travel wheel".

Yesterday I wound off the spun single onto my hand and - tada - an Andean Plying Bracelet.

Next both ends were held together and plied (twisted) on the Electric Eel Wheel 5.2, my "plying wheel". The two singles (usually) wind off of the wrist easily and smoothly.

I'm very happy with my 2-ply yarn sample. Less than half an ounce of fiber resulted in 14+ yards of soft, squishy, lofty yarn. I'm looking forward to spinning the rest of the 9 ounce bump of fiber.

Yes, I know I am very fortunate to have a special creative space as well as a (mostly) patient Handy Man to help me create my dreams.