ursulas_alcove: J is for jelly baby (pamper thyself)
Last night was difficult. A bat got into the furnace register system and made its escape into the house at 4:15 in the morning. Problem was, I was laying on the floor in front of the fan. Temperatures had reached 95° during the day. We have no AC. It was hot in the house. The bat emerged a couple feet from my head out of the cold air return, startling me something fierce. Everybody got up and soon all the doors were closed so that only the first floor was available to it. Bats are fast. Chronographia tried to block it from the living room with a blanket. No luck. The doorway was too wide. It got up into the rafters of the open ceiling. Since it was so close to dawn by now, we all went to bed with doors closed. Fortunately it had cooled down.

Today was another hot day. I used the solar oven to cook corn outside. The roaster holds 5 ears. Although I slept in, I managed to wind more yarn to restock while it was still cool. Bookkeeping followed on the attic computer. A walk to the post office with orders and bills at noon got me a good dose of Vitamin D. Lunch was simple fair, cheese, bread, pickles and carrots. Then off to town to get groceries. The parkway was open and no sports games were scheduled for here. Groceries successfully obtained, we headed home to make dinner. Tonight featured a recipe by Smitten Kitchen, flatbread with onions, goat cheese, corn and swiss chard, right from the garden. It was delicious. https://smittenkitchen.com/2012/08/leek-chard-and-corn-flatbread/

I have been trying to plant fall crops. Most of the Mizuna was planted in the shade under the upper mulberry. It's suppose to like shade. Tonight I planted beets in a couple locations. Fingers crossed. I am hoping the pumpkin will protect it from the rabbits. I made a slaw out of carrots, bok choi, and radishes for tomorrow. The window box continues to produce beans. Tomatoes will be coming in soon. We ended up with several San Marzanos sprouting from tomatoes we purchased. There are not many but we will supplement with ones from the farmer's market. I bought more Leek seeds today. Hopefully, they germinate better than the ones did this spring. I need more leeks on my flatbread. Apparently, I went around all day with parsnip seeds in my hair. Hanging carrot seeds to dry along with parsnips on the porch will net you wrens and a mess.

The acorn squash were attacked by something. The plants withered. We pulled out three baby acorns that still need to mature a bit. The sweet potatoes look good. The long island cheese pumpkin vine has taken over the back yard. The neighbor threw out some useful furniture on Friday which I turned very quickly into a tomato cage. We have a very stylish backyard. The maple tree in the front yard needs to be cut back badly. Lots of dead limbs. I don't have a motorized saw. It would make good firewood.

So we sit quietly waiting. FB reminded me that I have done this before on the same day in years past, an anniversary of sorts. Doors and windows ready to be opened, brooms and towels at the ready. Now if we could just get my husband to sit still. . . .

End of August, an aerial view
ursulas_alcove: Pink petal hat (Peeking flower faery)
One of the items on my 2016 list of goals was to get some red wigglers and set up a small vermiculture tub. I have watched a University of North Carolina class on why worm castings, how many worm castings to add and how to feed, maintain and house your worms. Let's start with why. Adding worm castings to your soil causes plants to react as if you gave them a growth hormone. Add between 5 and 30 % worm castings to your soil or potting mix. Less than 5% has no effect. More than 30 % is a waste and can actually have a negative effect on your plants. Seeing as my plants seem to have some issues, this is a good idea. Delphiniums should grow about four feet tall, normally.

Really tall Delphinium

So I found a sale and a place that accepts paypal. They are in the same state and the temperature outside wasn't too hot this week. So I ordered my worms from Uncle Jims. Service was good. Explanations and instructions were good. Worms arrived on time alive and well.

Setting up Vermiculture

I happen to have three useless totes that nest. I bought them for the business but the sides are too angled to pack merchandise in them. They have lived a full life and are now being repurposed. The bottom bin is to catch excess water, otherwise known as compost tea. The liquid can be added to water to give your houseplants nutrition, every couple of weeks. The flower pots are to keep the second bin up out of the liquid.

Setting up Vermiculture

The second bin needs drainage holes and air holes for the worms.

Second Tote - Vermiculture

This is how they stack. There is a third tote that will be used later when the worms need to migrate so I can use the worm castings. What are worm castings? Simply put, it is worm poop. I drilled holes in the third tote so it is identical to the second tote. When I need them to migrate, I set the third tub on top of the open second tub and put kitchen scraps and bedding (damp shredded paper) into the third tub. Since there is no more food in the second tub, they move upward to the new food. Then I remove the second tub and use the castings in the garden or in my potting mix.

Setting up the worm's new home

Preparing the second tub: To start with, I placed a window screen over the bottom holes. This keeps the worms from falling out into the compost tea down below. I cut an old screen to size with tin snips. Then I wet shredded paper and laid it down on the window mesh. On top of that, came a mix of coffee grounds and old wood shavings. Then dirt and the worms which were packaged in peat moss. The instructions said to add a half cup of water and cover with damp newspaper. I added a quilted set of towels (3) to act as a barrier to fruit flies. Youtube has some great videos.

Setting up the worm's new home

Setting up the worm's new home

The worms should be active in 3 to 4 days. I did see a few moving around so I know they are alright. Fingers crossed. They do not eat fresh kitchen scraps. Some people freeze the scraps to help the plant cells break down. Others toss the kitchen scraps into a blender. I like this idea better. I never remember to thaw my own dinner a head of time so I'm not likely to remember theirs. But coffee grounds can go directly into the bin and I get those daily so no food issues. The worms get fed every couple of days. They double their numbers in 90 days so in theory I can add more bins. They never overpopulate a bin. Apparently, worms are self-regulating in that regard. They don't need much attention, just temperatures between 50 and 80 °F.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
And for the pantry. I watched a lecture by permaculturist, Peter Bane.


Yes. Our world is in bad shape. Most Americans don't know what food is outside a grocery store or restaurant. Nor could they identify which wild berries are edible and which are not. Should the grid go down or another climate disaster hit, could we survive? How much food does one need? Peter answers these questions in a straight forward manner without the prepper hype. Storing food isn't enough. He covers growing edibles, storing food, saving seeds, energy usage, water and gray water usage, and more. Sadly without funding, I can implement very few of his strategies. Nor do we have a network of local people to tap into.

So I am starting to squirrel things away. The garden yield was relatively low this year. This is the second year where late season frosts wiped a lot of stuff out. Fungus gnats and poor potting soil screwed up my seedlings. My lovely blue cherokee tomatoes were planted in March. They have reached a height of 2" this week and may finally be big enough to put into the ground. Still waiting on the second set of leaves to show. Ya, right. I'll have tomatoes in December. Not without a cold frame. A random tomato plant showed up in my upper tier. It's growing fast but no flowers yet. Once the leaves drop off the mulberry, it'll have a lot of sun. Hmm.

I picked up fair trade sugar for the pantry as well as cocoa and honey. The pantry is not the same as the kitchen. It's for longer term storage. At the farmer's market, I found some yellow heirlooms from the organic farmers. I'm making tomato preserves with them from the Joy of Cooking. It's more like jelly. I also picked up black cherry tomatoes for drying. The seed is soaking on the window sill in jars currently. We use Alton Brown's drying method for now. There is a fan going with 2 furnace filters. Inside those on food grade plastic grid sheets are my sliced tomatoes. (I see a solar food dehydrator in my future, https://youtu.be/U-Gyr4dMbH0 )

So each person in a household needs 150 pounds of food per month. Divide by 30 days and it's roughly 5 pounds a day. Today's garden yield was 3 blackberries, 0.038 pounds and two radishes, 0.121 pounds. That ends up being 3 % of one person's daily food. Not good. We are keeping a log for better accuracy. After the pumpkins and squash come in, the average will be better. I'm shooting for 15 %. Stay tuned. The garden was mostly growing parsnip, carrot, and sunflower seed this year. The sunflowers I planted are for sprouting. Sunflower sprouts go great with the tomato preserves on a sandwich, gouda cheese and turkey on freshly baked bread. I had it at a swanky restaurant once. It's good. And yes, I can make that.

So on the last day of Pennsic teardown, these adult ladies walk by with a child's wagon full of beer bottles that they were giving away. The home brew was amazing. We had a nut brown ale, and a sour wheat. The last bottle is an American brew which I was thinking of making beer bread with. Here's the recipe I was looking at: https://smittenkitchen.com/2012/02/cheddar-beer-and-mustard-pull-apart-bread/

It was a long day, mostly driving. You could say I go a long way for my garden. I drove to Columbus to pickup an entire truck full of woodshavings from Egill. I left at 9:18 am. The highway was closed due to an accident. Eventually I got there, got my shavings and headed back to PA. I reached the bank around 4:30 to get cash for the farmer's market. Got to the market at 5. It runs from 3 to 6 pm. Many vendors were already out of things on my shopping list. Got home at 5:35. Unpacked and left for Starbucks to get my coffee grounds at 6 pm. Then pulled together dinner. I turned yesterday's pork roast into BBQ and added a fresh tomato and my potato onions. Also had corn on the cob from the farmer's market, a pickle and fried potatoes. It went real well with the Sour Wheat beer. Lord William, whoever you are, thank you. The beer was wonderful! Dishes are done. Garbage is on the curb. And that's enough for today. I shall fall asleep under a full moon listening to the brown bats and crickets.
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
Two less than optimal days. It's easy to get caught up in Facebook and other social media. Add in my husband and the entire day is shot. He has a traumatic brain injury. I was gone to Pennsic for two weeks. My daughter was home at that time. Now she is off to WorldCon. It's my turn at husband care. I made sure he was bathed and hair washed. I got him involved in activities like putting away silverware, folding clothes, and minor chores where he can participate without losing his balance. We are working on stretching his muscle-bound legs so he can bend. It is a wonder that his legs aren't breaking with muscles that tight. I get to play physical therapist until medicare is reinstated. Hopefully, soon. So two loads of laundry, mowing, unpacking the truck, washing a backlog of dishes, grocery shopping, cooking, vacuuming, and so much more awaited me upon my return to civilization. No work has been done for my business at all. Today that changes.

I had to train my husband not to interupt when I am working. This is hard since he needs human contact. I still need to process orders, give customer service, and register for shows. Some yarn did get wound. New product was added to the website. I managed the post office. The coffee ground bucket went back to Starbucks after a hiatus. Weeding, bill-paying, and straightening still need to happen too. I rearranged the garage as I unpacked the truck from Pennsic. That was a start. As clothes are cleaned, I am re-evaluating the garb trunk. Some need to find new homes. Others are worn out or never really fit. It is nice to see a neatly folded pile of clean, dry clothes in the trunk.

Currently, walnut rum granola is being made. It smells wonderful. Then on to knitting another hat. I need 50 by Arisia (January) It takes 3 to 4 days to finish one knitted felted hat. If I knit too long at one stretch, I injure myself and cannot work for 6 weeks, so slowly it goes. The pile of not-quite-right hats is waiting for design embellishments to fix them and make them sale-able. First I have to find them all. Hemp and linen need to be skeined and dyed. Orders compiled for the next show in September, which is PA Fiber Fest. The webpage needs an overhaul. So much to do! Now if I could just find the battery charger for the digital camera . . .

Solar Cooking
ursulas_alcove: Woodcut from Robin Hood (Spock's Raised Eyebrow)
It was a hot and humid war with a few heavy rains, where upon we discovered the tent seams all leak. Kettles and buckets were strategically placed. We did survive to tell the tale. It was good to see everyone again. After SCA 50 Year and WW, I suspect my market was truly saturated. With regard to SCA 50 Year "not affecting Pennsic in any way", I beg to differ. With folks travelling to two colossal events scheduled so close to one another, they had no money at all to buy the usual fiber supplies or other trinkets. Ask any merchant or musician, sales were way down. In the case of musicians, tips were almost nonexistant. It will be a tough month without money to pay the bills or buy food for many of us.

After a brief lull in July, the second half of gardening season has begun. I spent the day reacquainting myself with the yard. Much looked weedy because plants went to seed. I started tidying up. It's going to take a while. The deer found the corn. The ants move in after the deer take a bite. There are baby acorn squash, Long Island Cheese Pumpkins, a butternut, and a few undecideds. The cuke climbed a sunflower. Still waiting on the cuke to flower. There are a few of the Russian paste tomatoes, still green, on the vine. I cleared the weeds out of the back porch bricks. I dug potatoes in the rain. And don't ask me about bindweed. The neighbor's fence had two rails rot out. I wonder if she is just going to let it go. It's purely decorative. And they do not use their yard in any way. I was thinking of moving the skirret along the fence to make a hedge. I think it'd make a nice border. Skirret thinks it's a bush anyway. It is so good to have dirt under my nails again.

I am catching up on my Youtube channels and Podcasts. I learned how to interpret the harvest weight data I have been collecting on the garden from Stacey Murphy's garden hacks. My numbers look so sad. But you can tell which week things came into harvest and have a basis for comparison for next year. My potatoes were shaded by the skirret and they hit an impenetrable layer of clay underneath. The strawberries crowded out the blueberries. The berry patch needs a bird net for protection. No money for the garden this year. The chop and drop strategy to create free mulch is working well. It helped cut back on watering and has created richer soil. The Garden Hacks said 2" of new compost is needed per year. My woodworker friend has provided me with shavings to add to the garden. The newer sawdust kills plants as it sucks nitrogen from the soil. Later, after it has decomposed a bit, it helps the soil hold moisture and releases the nitrogen. So I apply the new stuff to to garden paths after I rake up the older stuff and move it into this horrible clay. The paths stay clear of weeds. The garden benefits from the partially decomposed sawdust.

Where the sawdust ends

Stacey's tips https://youtu.be/cvImVYsw-5s

My favorite German gardeners https://youtu.be/yyI_AYYh3xI have been busy doing amazing work. I am interested in the bean pole for scarlet runner bean which is a perrenial. The marigold and swiss chard complete the circle. I also am going to put boards under the squash because the slugs are annoying.

Today I dyed a blue jean jacket pure black for a display. The new black has a purple undertone. I hope the linen and hemp pick up that highlight once I start that process again. My Pennsic linen is totally gone as in sold out. I'm eager to see what people make out of it.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Pennsic begins. Rain is probable. Going to take it slow loading in on Saturday and Sunday. Costumes by Loren's is at Confluence. She will load in Monday after the convention. Monday, I have more doctors to coordinate and a meeting about the new property tax assessment. The car went through state inspection. Going to cost a small mint. She needs two new tires and has a cracked fog light deflector. Parts won't be in until Monday. Great. So I get to drive a car with expired tags. The fine for this is $375. Yes, I have paperwork to prove I am waiting for parts. The parts for the car are over $500. Ouch.

I found a doctor in network who can deal with my husband's shunt. His staff knows what questions to ask. I got release forms to his Oregon doctor so we have the original shunt setting. Now to make sure information is received on this end. Then I have to check back with social security to make sure they reinstate Medicare. Still no idea why the system canceled him. It appears to be an internal thing. Then Xray, MRI, and another Xray to be scheduled after Pennsic. There is more bloodwork required too. Hopefully someone can figure out why he is having balance issues.

Today linen and hemp hit the dyebath. Experiencing color shift issues. A jar of dye will do two batches of yarn. The first dyebath gives great colors. Yay! Now just try and repeat with the same yarn and the same dye. Nope. Not a snowball's chance in hell of duplication. Today Golden Oak gave me a nice orange. It's really close to the nice orange I got from Butterscotch. Apparently we are having a hard time creating yellow. But trying to duplicate Loden, a nice solid green, I got this pukey looking green with way to much yellow gray. I color corrected by adding navy to it and now have a forest green instead. But I just did a forest green. I wanted more of a grass green. So I have two really close oranges and two really close forest greens, but no yellow or Midrealm green. You never know what you are going to get out of a dyebath. That's why I like it. It's a mystery.

And then the custom hat was finished and one of the previous hats was ripped to fix the crown depth. The van was loaded. Rhubarb wine was racked. Bunches of yarn wound. Lists compiled so I don't forget important things like ropes. Oh yes and dinner was cooked. All in all a productive day. Rest before the madness begins.
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
The rubber seal on the freezer is broken. It tends to ice up a bit. Accidentally, the door didn't close while I was away. All the frozen fruit on the door thawed. Oops! So after a long day with very little sleep, I pulled the necessary items together and put up two gallons of rhubarb wine. Ten cups of sugar gone just like that. Need to buy more sugar next time I'm at the co-op. I hope to get mulberry started soon too. This year it will be wine instead of melomel. The black ants have discovered our honey jar. Hundreds died so that their brethren could climb on the backs of the dead to obtain the ambrosia. It was not a pretty sight. Gotta get the DE (diatomaceous earth) out and dust where the ants are sneaking in.

Looking at establishing a worm bin. Need to drill some holes in a tub and we should be set. My soil needs help beyond coffee grounds. Worm castings will help. Today, we head to the woodworkers to pickup sawdust. My garden paths need to be defined again. I've been raking the old sawdust and adding it to new beds as compost. It's mostly decomposed at this point. The woodworker says he has 14 garbage sacks of it.

The mega shipment of yarn came in for Pennsic. I will be winding my arm off over the next week. I miss my electric ball winder. Everything I sell is hand wound on a simple ball winder. More naturally dyed wool should also be skeined. The tarragon turned out nice. I've lemon balm dyed wool in the sink now. It needs a quick wash and then re-skeining before it gets a photo opportunity.

Russian Tarragon

A quick garden update so I can remember what to do next year. While I was away, so much happened in the garden. I lost most of my coreopsis during SCA 50 Year. It bloomed early. I tried drying it. It turned brown and went to seed. It freezes better but I needed to try drying to learn. Next year . . .

Drying parsnip and carrot seed

There has been a brief rainstorm almost daily. The rhubarb became enormous. I shall have to run another dye bath with rhubarb. Skirret turned into bushes that were trimmed back, making sure it doesn't flower. I may just move them in fall along the fence line. I think they'd make a nice border. Garlic was harvest before SCA 50 Yr. Potato Onions and Brussels Sprout seed were harvested before WW though I have one more patch of onions to go. Parsnip seed, Daikon radish seed, pea seed, carrot seed and bean seed were harvested for next year's planting and are currently drying. Black dahlia flowers were also snipped and frozen for a dye bath. As I write my homestead report, I am nibbling on anise basil biscotti ice cream. Yum! Thai basil provided the anise taste. Lots growing in the herb spiral. Other herbs were chopped and harvested while I was away. Instead of drying all the herbs, some are minced and placed into the ice cube tray. Once they are frozen into a block, the herb cubes are removed, bagged and labeled. Parsley, basil and thyme cubes await winter cooking to remind us of what fresh tasted like.

Mulberry Currant Jelly

While I was away, peas and beans were harvested. These were frozen for later use. We didn't get that great a yield. The rabbits ate any beans and beets that poked up. We resorted to planting beans in the window box. The peas were fine and are growing all over the yard. They are such great nitrogen fixers. I missed the entire black raspberry and strawberry harvest. They ripened over SCA 50 Year. SCA 50 Year was too long an event for my garden. Ten days plus travel time and setup. I missed too much and harvesting. My daughter bore the brunt of caretaking and harvest. I think there are two containers, 2 cups each of black raspberries in the freezer. Not enough for wine or jelly. Probably will combine those with other fruit to make something later. Strawberries were eaten outright. Nothing to store for winter. Mulberry Currant jelly was made before my travels.

Methinks it twar a good year for horseradish

There will be horseradish this year. Got to look up recipes. I harvested more onions this morning. They need a couple of weeks to dry out before I weigh them. Once the green tops are totally dry, they will be chopped off. The final product will look like this:

ursulas_alcove: Blakes 7 (kicking ass)
I've been attempting to help a friend move. I say attempting because she experienced a series of unfortunate events. Her buyer renigged twice. She had a new house all lined up to move in to, contingent on the sale of her existing house. Her buyer committed fraud because it was a cash sale to a developer. He provided a bank letter, proving he had the cash. He used the cash on a different purchase. This is illegal. Another investor of his was killed and that guy's money is tied up in probate. Not our problem. There will be a lawsuit. I won't say more. Twice she brought me down to Texas to drive her moving van. The first time, the developer waited until the last minute and asked to reschedule. Furious, she asked for money to insure he was serious. That money was to cover her expenses she incured as a result of his rescheduling the closing. I took Amtrak from Sturtevant to Dallas. She housed me in a hotel and flew me home again. There were many other costs as well. I also lost three days of prep time for Pennsic.

Train Trip

The second time: My friend rented two 26' vans each with a tow dolly for her cars. Her mother just passed so there was one truck for her stuff and the other for her mother's better possessions, as well as plants. Lots of plants. A loading crew was hired, vans rented, utilities cancelled, mail forwarded, guys to build a fence at her new house, unloading crew, you get the idea. The second time, the vans were already loaded when the buyer cancelled the closing, less than an hour beforehand. There was a second buyer waiting for the chance. That buyer is reputable. The bid was less but okay. New closing scheduled for August 5th. Despite pleading with the owners of her dream home, they refused to allow her to rent the house before buying it. Two weeks would have netted them a thousand bucks. But no. They may cancel the sale. We still don't know. She has a backup property in mind if they cancel the sale. I drove one 26' truck plus the car tow dolly behind from Dallas to Wisconsin. It was exhausting. It took two long days to get there. She drove the other truck. The next day, cars were unloaded. Dollys returned. Storage rented for the 2 full trucks. The plants will die except for the prickly pear cacti, unless they cook inside the trucks in this heat. It saddens me.

Train Trip

My friend then turned around to head back to Dallas with her three large dogs in a Honda CRV as she had to borrow money to store the vans. What a royal pain! She had to be there for the new closing anyway. For my part, I flew home from Milwaukee. I met folks from Wisconsin and New Orleans and had great conversations! Nice way to pass the morning. We talked about rail and the transportation industry, climate change, human cloning and mapping the genome, robotics, self driving cars, family, and so much more! Glad to be back.

Fraley's Robot Repair

Fraley's Robot Repair
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
I finally got the courage up to open the instant indigo dye and try it. I used rain water, not tap water so no chlorine. It dissolved in the water and was not anything like what was described. I did not have the characteristic grey/green water with blue at the top. It was blue all the way through. When dyeing, all the color washed away. This is the third time I've tried indigo. Each time was a disaster. Thank goodness for Youtube. After poking at instructions and videoes, the conclusion was that I needed to heat the bath on low heat and add sodium hyposulfite, ie RIT color remover. Then I needed courage to go to the grocery store. I wasn't sure if the parade was Sunday or Monday. The road to get there is closed for the parade. Guess they will hold festivities Monday although fireworks were Saturday. Confusing. Anyway, I took my meager cash from my business cashbox. The RIT was only $2. Score!

It worked well. I did multiple dips. The green I got from overdyeing rhubarb is nice. I may play with it some more tomorrow. We picked a lot of coreopsis today. I should probably dye with that before it fades. Rain is headed our way and I need to pack for WW. So much to do!
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
SCA 50 Year was an adventure. All the kingdoms had their own history displayed. The armor through time was my favorite, from milk bucket helms and freon cans to Master Valerius's beautiful hand crafted helms that are used today. The original Iron Maidenform worn by Aramanthra the Vicious was in attendance as made by Master Einar Lutemaker. The wall of the dead brought tears to my eyes, each kingdom displaying banners or shields of those who have gone before us. Elashava bas Riva pulled the display together and more names were added as not everyone was listed. Well done! Horses of all sorts paraded down the prominade with the Great Court upon their backs. I've not seen such pagentry in a long while. There are no videos yet as it happen the last day. Opening ceremonies are up and many other videos. https://youtu.be/AazF1B-5fjU

Ominous sky

The heat was hot and the storms fierce but we survived to tell the tale. The finery as worn by many made me swoon with more than just the heat of the day. The merchants of the Known World provided the trappings to continue the dream. Music was routinely performed in the marketplace. Many food vendors were also on hand from our favorite, The Goode Bakery to local fare, like PI_Indy with a mobil brick pizza oven. The site appears to have been choosen as the best for the horses involved. Classes and demonstrations happened throughout the ten day event. It was an event to remember and boast that you were there.

Amazing embroidery

With more threat of rain expected Saturday night, we pulled down dry canvas after the market closed at 6 pm. Packing was completed with help by 8 pm. I arrived home by 3:30 am. Many other merchants were gone as well. Vivat to the gentle lady whose name I did not get. She carried many items over to my van and helped speed me on my way.

My garden was glad of my return. I spent time today in the shade weeding. More squash (kumi kumi) was planted as well as carrots and parsnips. The same rain that chased me home will be here by morning. The deer have walked through the carrots going to seed, knocking them over, but I will have an abundance of seed for next year. The black hollyhock is well over 8 feet tall. I think the sunchoke will overtake it next month. Another tiny bunny was hiding in the oregano. Last year's eggplant reseeded so we now have 5 plants. And the pink Shasta daisy is very similar to the Echinacea. The santolina is blooming and the coreopsis is almost done. Strange noises at dusk indicate a bat living under my front porch awning. Could have been another animal. Hard to say as I only heard it. I am drying the brussel sprout seed for next year. Columbine seed heads and French sorrel were added to the upper shade tier garden. Subsidance occurred in the bed as the soil settled around the hugel twigs from heavy rains. I shall have to video tape a tour at some point. The buckeye thinks its autumn and started dropping leaves. It's a very confused tree.

It's good to be home.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Black Raspberries

Strawberries trying to ripen

Black Hollyhocks

Parsnips going to seed

Sweet Potatoes

natural dyes
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
Now wishing I had another week to prepare for the SCA 50 year. I started by streamlining my displays. I am in a borrowed space and cannot spreadout. This is good. I have been jealous of Carol at River's Edge who streamlined her whole business. She got rid of merchandise that didn't move quickly, was cumbersome and made one really coherent 10' x 10' booth. Her displays rock. I have had a hard time putting this into practise because each event has some of everything that sells. My only constraint is that it must all fit into my VW van. And it does. So how to cull the herd?

So for this event only, the magazines were cut. The Folkwear patterns were cut. White Wolf and Phoenix will have 5/2 cotton. Egill will have shuttles and tools. So that leaves me with:

* bone fiber tools
* weaving DVDs
* fiber arts books
* period hats
* Yarn -Cotton, linen, hemp, alpaca, wool, Mongolian camel
* shawls and ruanas

Odd books were cut. 10/2 cotton was restocked. And now the latest brain storm, hand dyed wool sewing thread. So I am winding 12 skeins a day. I mordanted 12 each in alum and tin. Tomorrow I mordant with iron and then copper. Forty-eight colors in all. I cooked coreopsis today. There is coffee, rhubarb, and onion skin. Alkanet and madder. Maybe indigo if I'm brave. There will also be naturally dyed sock yarn too.

For the Great Lakes, I finished a crate of hand dyed 10/6 hemp which is great for wash clothes, shopping bags, and even tank tops. It gets softer the more its washed. So that will be new. This morning I woke up and realized I had not packed fleece. So I weighed out corriedale and polworth. I may have more hemp roving by Pennsic but not yet.

The check list goes on. After the scorching sun had receded tonight, I mowed. Wanda's cardwoven belts need to be checked and boxed. She needs them for a Viking Festival. So they will go into the mail before I leave. This morning the Social Security case worker called. More delays. We need to redo the application from scratch. It makes no sense. Don't ask, but in the end will be a bigger check.

Rain didn't come but it was breezy. When I went to nibble on the mulberries, they were mostly sour/tart. The sweet ripe ones are in the next county. They blew off the tree. Only one black raspberry bush is ripening. Today's yield: 8 berries weighing in at .009 pounds. Yes, they were on the dry side. Not much nutrition in the yard today. I think Chronographia found some strawberries. Mostly, the strawberries rotted before ripening. They need pine needles. The slugs like the berries, followed by ants. Chive cuttings are suppose to be good too. Our chives are anemic this year, barely alive. Basil is loving this weather though. Basil from seed in the herb spiral (direct sow) is overtaking the seedlings from February. Dill replanted itself. The sweet potatoes are not sure about living or dying. Some turned yellow. The pumpkin turned yellow too and is dying just like last year's squash. I have a melon transplanted under the Buckeye, so far so good. Cucumbers are in the front yard as well as in the backyard brick raised bed. We planted eggplant from the farmer's market as well as parsley. Just transplanted the butternut squash into the front yard. Praying it doesn't turn yellow too. Wonder if it is a bug doing it?

The front yard looks like a jungle. After the first wave of tulips came columbine and violets, and now coreopsis (a month early). Parsley from last year is being allowed to go to seed as are three different species of carrot. They are huge. There are also nasturtiums still green, calendula, tons of coreopsis, and bringing up the rear, sunflowers that the birds spread, a sunchoke, and black hollyhocks. Sandwiched in between are fingerling potatoes, garlic, skirret, and potato onions. A butterbur lettuce planted itself in the path. The bok choi bolted very early. I left one for seed. I've two tiny asperagus under the hollyhock. Hoping to plant more each year. Our Czech potato-leafed tomatoes got put in the back. We'll see how they do.

Green and purple beans were planted in the window box. They like it. No rabbits up there. Peas are growing on the wire fencing around the Asian Pear tree. The seed was free from a garden center near my cousin's house. Those peas are as tall as the tree. When they said "giant", they weren't kidding. Legumes are such great nitrogen fixers. We were also blessed with some San Marzano tomatoes. Bought for pizza, the seeds decided to grow by themselves. I planted them around the plum tree. It has the old portable animal cage fence around it and they will be easy to stake.

Still growing in containers are leeks, florence fennel, swiss chard, and blue cherokee tomatoes. Lovage and Alexanders will need homes soon. Many can be transplanted for fall gardening. Leeks will be ready to eat next spring. And I scored some ramps at the Farmer's Market. They like wet shade. They are happy under the lilac at the bottom of the drainpipe.

The last small section under the buckeye has a Russian black icicle tomato, two onions from the store that started growing, that golden melon, two giant brussel sprouts going to seed, and one lonely Welsh onion. The horse radish is big. The comfrey keeps getting cut back for mulch. That's the progress report so far. The way back tier is still decomposing. A few peas grew and radishes are struggling. The garlic around the cherry is a hard neck variety. It has shoots that will go into hummus. There is one lonely black raspberry back there too. It is very shady in that section. Eventually I hope to have gooseberries back there.

So far, no sign of the black plum tomato volunteers. I have seed but I had hopes. I love drying them for pizza later in winter. Oh well. Off to bed, perhaps it's finally cool enough to sleep.
ursulas_alcove: Paul Darrow at his best (severely annoyed)
Just this: Anyone can own your soul in America. If you get into debt, be prepared for a rocky, rocky road. John Oliver proves he is better than Oprah by buying 15 Million dollars of medical debt in Texas and providing debt forgiveness.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
It's finally cool enough to go into the attic. Going through bin after bin of fabric, I spent a lovely time reminiscing clothing of the past. Searching for fabrics for art. The old made new again. The perfect fabric to print on. Chronographia will be doing a night market on June 18th. Her best sellers include her prints on fabric as shown on etsy: https://www.etsy.com/listing/277613214/luna-4x4-solar-printed-sew-on-art-patch?ref=ss_listing

So the search was on. Finding gems in the right palette and texture, smooth for printing and reducing the amount hidden away in the attic closet. Great fun! Then I got her to play with me to pull colors for my next scarf. It helps to have someone push you into other colors, outside your comfort zone. Hint, there will be coral and red tones next on the loom.

ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (drop spindle girl)
Sometimes it's not enough. The winningas are still on the loom. I wove 18' so far, representing at least 19 hours of time. Soon I will run out of weft. Then I'll stop. The loom is supposed to be dressed with linen for a first Friday at the gallery in two days. Gaugh! Instead, I have bathed my husband and taken him to medical appointments. I battled with hospital billing to correct errors. I have cooked and scraped as much money out of the bottom of the barrel to pay bills. It may not be enough. There is no unemployment. It was denied. Michigan does not know how to process out of state workers. The state pocketed that money. That leaves us without an income again. All the profits from the weekend show went to pay bills. All the money from the mail orders too. Despite appearances, I as a business, do not make enough money to support two adults with credit card payments, a mortgage, and a car payment. Today's meals cleaned out the larder as well as a good bit of the garden. This is where Miracle Max needs to step in.

In case you are reading this Max, I need a husband who can walk and think. I need incoming money to equal outgoing money, possibly exceed it but I'm not picky. I need hospital billing people to type in data correctly so benefits can be paid. I need the weather to cooperate a bit so the garden can feed us. Thanks for your consideration. I know there's true love in there somewhere, otherwise I wouldn't be here.

I have been working hard to leverage time and materials to create a good selection on the webpage. I have some great events coming up which could go a long way to getting us back in the black. I have people who want to help me help myself. Time is what I don't have. The neurologist is next week. SCA 50 year is in 2 weeks. Now I just need a clone to weave on three looms, wind balls of yarn, dye wool, put my garden in, mow, and cook n clean, make hats, do customer service, etc, etc. Sleep, I miss you.
ursulas_alcove: blakes 7 (We're all gonna die!)
I worked really hard on two commissions. One was a hat. Sometimes hats take a couple of tries to get to the right size. The fellow wants it long enough to go over his ears. The first try in April yielded a hat the right size but not long enough. The second hat I played with colorwork and it became a smaller size which is still sellable but not big enough for him. Sigh. Ever get tired of looking at the same color over and over?

Today I worked on a triangle scarf. The client supplied the yarn. She wanted an airy summer scarf. The yarn is worsted (as in spinning tip-to-tail, not thickness) alpaca in a bulky weight. A blanket I could make with it. A scarf, no. So I thought bulky yarn on the triangle loom might make a nice scarf. It could be a loose weave. I spent five to six hours on it. I took it off the loom this morning. The yarn was so stinking slippery. I washed and blocked it. It slid so there are holes everywhere and then locked into place as it fulled. It's horrible. The twill pattern is ruined. The scarf/shawlette is not something I would show to anyone least they think I'm a lousy craftsmen. Someone with patience and extra ribbon might be able to needle weave embellishments into it to salvage it. Right now, I am not that person. I'm disgusted. Inappropriate materials! Lost production time! No immediate renumeration!

So I have lost time and have no products to sell to my clients desiring a bespoke piece of art. The rain moved in. My body is in pain from what I put it through today plus the weather. To make matters worse, other yarn started talking to me today, telling me what it wants to be. I started on a new project to get the taste of a bad project out of my system. I wove half of a new shawl. I have crates to dress and yarn to wind for next weekend's show. Why am I playing around on the loom? At least the 5/2 cotton is wound and the crates dressed nice and pretty. I have an entire crate of 10/6 hemp to skein, dye, wash, wind, and label. Over 10 pounds! Well, nothing makes you as productive as the last minute.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
The loom was rewarped very quickly. No tangle fairies or messes to fix. The original weaving is still on the loom because I tied the warp ends together. I started over by weaving a header with scrap fabric. A nice flat, straight edge was established by doing this. And off I go! With a toggle based loom, it's very hard to get into a rhythm. I tried classical music, pop music, folk, and classic rock. So far, there is only one group that lends itself to this strange scenario. Chicago's very first album, Chicago Transit Authority is the only music that comes close to establishing a beat to weave by. Mostly though, I've been catching up on podcasts.

Timing my project in an effort to gage the price, it takes about an hour to weave 12". This makes a pair of leg wraps run about $600 a pair, assuming 15' for each one, a rather large-ish size. I can't do this! Standing on concrete, I can only weave about a foot a day before agony sets in. The lack of rhythm, no tie up or foot peddles, makes it go so slowly. Currently I have it set as an even weave, using the same yarn for both warrp and weft. This is not going well. Here we have 12 feet on the loom in this picture:

So my conclusion is that I still don't have the right loom or the right yarn. I need the 4 harness jack loom. Not sure if only using 4" out of 46" will work out okay on the jack loom. I know enough to center my work, but the beater is much heavier. I'm afraid of packing it too tightly. Pedals will go faster and allow me to get into a rhythm. I will finish the first leg wraps already in progress but future ones must be done on another loom with luck.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
So now I have the correct pattern, I start weaving. It takes a bit to get used to standing at the loom on concrete and following the toggling sequence. I have an anti-fatigue mat which helps but I hurt my foot standing on concrete for hours on end in April at a temp job. They didn't allow me to move or sit. I won't do that again. My health is worth more than what they paid. Anyway, I start this project with some good music and good thoughts and ready to work. I have the sequence down pat. I work for about an hour and still haven't even woven more than a few inches. The weaving is all compacted. I'm not beating very hard. The weaving is giving me a weft-face design but these leg wraps will take me a lot more yarn and time to make than I can afford and they will be way too thick. Shoot!


Not as easy as everyone would have you think. The project has an aspect ratio of warp thread thickness to weft thread thickness. The documentation even mentions this. I thought that using the thinner dark gray wool/silk blend would be good with the fluffier Maine Line 3/8 wool as weft. Two things though. First, and most important, silk stretches. It elongated while I was working on it. I didn't need to advance the warp when I filled up the working area. I simply tightened the ratchet to advance the warp. The yarn stretched and stretched even though it was tightly spun and did not appear to be stretchy like a knitting yarn. Anyone who has even made a silk tunic knows it will get longer and longer over time. Second problem, the gray warp was too thin with regard to the wool weft. Conventional wisdom-Always swatch first!

compact weft

Now what to do? What are my options? I can change the warp yarn thickness to a 3/8 warp twist which yields the 10 epi which the loom is threaded for. I don't have any but I can order some. Or I can use the 2/8 which I have on hand but it involves jury rigging the loom to give 12 epi and I would have to make the piece wider which means changing a lot. Warping takes so much time! I elected to buy the 3/8 yarn which will take another five days to arrive.

Happy warp

While I wait, I cut my warp off and leave dog ends to tie on to when the new yarn arrives. I don't have to rethread the entire loom from scratch. I chained the wool/silk warp leftovers, about 10 yards. I may make a shawl with it later. I also have the four and a half on the rigid heddle plus a bunch more cones of it I bought on closeout.

Weaving Woes or Rewarping

A week went by. The yarn came in. And off we go! Now comes the next question, how long will it take to make a pair of leg wraps? Stay tuned.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
The right loom?

I have tried converting my rigid heddle into a multi-harness loom with string heddles. I was convinced that if I just followed "Fear Not the String Heddles" that I could do it. She makes it look easy. http://youtu.be/Uz_iSP3hjBc

So I chose a warp in a strong, tightly spun yarn that I have lots of. And decided to try a red thicker weft. Scarlet and gray are very fetching colors. 4.5 yds of thread were warped onto the loom. String heddles were made and bound in easy-to-pull loops. The manufacturer recommends a maximum yardage of 4.5 or else the back slips off the loom. And then I mis-threaded one thread. So it sat for a year in the corner. Not my best effort.

Fear Not the String Heddles?

I was fussing over which loom to use for a while. I have a 16 harness out in the garage on a desktop that is the right size for it. Unfortunately, it only has a 20 thread per inch beater. I mentioned this to a weaving friend who suggested I warp every other slot and get 10 ends per inch. Duh. Sure, why not? The dark gray thread is a strong wool/silk blend which will hold up to necking inwards without breaking. I was afraid the thicker thread would chafe and end up breaking the warp, especially on the edges.

Now on to drafting-

I picked up Marguerite Davidson's book and reviewed the broken herringbone. I tried to convert it for the sixteen harness. I decided on just threading eight. Leg wraps are narrow and the stripes don't need to be that wide. I threaded the loom just fine. Now on this loom, there are toggles, not a tie up per se. Following the book's tie up and allowing for it having eight, not four harnesses, hmmm. Again, an absolute mess. So I tried sketching the book's pattern on grid paper. Visually, it made no sense at all. No wonder I wasn't getting it. So, I worked backwards. I have my threading and then my pattern. Now it's easy to figure which toggles to lift.


Figuring out the Draft

Levers 1 and 4, 5 and 8.
Levers 1 and 2, 5 and 6.
Levers 2 and 3, 6 and 7.
Levers 3 and 4, 7 and 8.

All this took a bit of time. I think three days to figure out where it all went wrong. So I established a pattern. Yay! But wait, there's another problem. This is not as easy as it sounds. You can't just sit down and whip up a pair of leg wraps. Now we come to aspect ratio and choosing the right yarn. Sigh.
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
Before there were stockings, before there was knitting, there were leg wraps or winingas. The Old English word "winingas", with various creative spellings, simply means "winding" as they were wound around the leg. In German, they call it Wickelband, or wrap. In the early middle ages, we are in the cold north of Europe. Franks and Saxons wore these for leg coverings as did many people from Dublin almost all the way to Novgorod. Muscles need to flex in order for the leg to move. How do you achieve this without knitting? Plain weave does not stretch. Enter the warp weighted loom and wool yarn woven into a twill or herringbone pattern. A narrow band is woven specifically for this purpose, not cut from wider cloth. Think of the biblical lepers' bandages. Now add fashion and wrap up with fancy bright colors about your legs and problem solved! Stylish, warm and functional.

Now other than being asked repeatedly to make these items for historical reenactors, why would I care? That is complex. Simply put, I had a loom doing nothing and an incentive to fill this niche. I do not have enough income to pay all my bills. Also I put in for a show in less than two months time with this item as part of my inventory. Now to create that inventory.

Are you curious about early period fashion and archeology? Check out the following article:

For more information on how to wrap your legs in early period style, Mistress Elsbeth cut a video, http://youtu.be/9o5B7kE0SYs

Keep following along as Ursula gets warped and discovers something called a learning curve. Stay tuned.
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