ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
So everyone was recommending Eliot Coleman's books on gardening in all four seasons. I can see myself doing just that. Not this year, but maybe next year. He lives in Maine and knows cold weather. The last book I read, Miraculous Abundance recommended him. Justin Rhodes does too. Eliot has developed some unique gardening methods. Johnny's Seeds carries tools he designed. So I picked up a couple of his books. There are cold season crops I could be growing right now. For those of you who know me, this will sound strange but I need more leeks and brassicas in my life. There are many other crops as well. Fresh greens are not to be turned down this time of year.


My soil needs to be improved a bit more first. A couple of cold frames wouldn't hurt either. Hoops for the garden would also be good. I wonder if old curtain rods could be bent into shape? Then I'd only need plastic sheeting. We do have a few micro-climates here and there. I didn't plan them but they are here. The Japanese maple does not lose its leaves until the first week of December. Plants growing underneath it are protected from frost. The sun has a longer angle and reaches through to some spots in the afternoon, warming the ground. Coffee grounds and mulch start decomposing and heating things up as well. This is why I currently have three strawberries ripening on the windowsill.


So I snagged the neighbor's leaves for the compost. Here's a great video on composting. https://youtu.be/n9OhxKlrWwc
We have a hot compost pile with coffee grounds and sawdust. I put shredded junk mail underneath it all. Save your kitchen scraps for the Wormies. One thing I did learn about my worms is that coffee grounds heat up their bin too hot. The worms try to get far away from the heat. So save the grounds for the compost. Nothing worse than finding runaway worms. My first bin is full of castings or black gold. I have the worms mostly in the second bin now but there are baby worms still in the first bin. It's been three months since we got them. Eventually they'll migrate.


Back to my winter scheme, I have a greenhouse design in mind. The polycarbonate will run about $100 so it cannot be built until I have an income again, but I can dream. I found some folks giving away 2 year old laying chickens. Wow. Not setup for that right now but will definetely watch Craigslist -free section with interest from now on. While I was at FaerieCon, I got tons of advise on raising chickens. Who knew that Faeries raised chickens? At the moment, I have not found an organic feed mill nor could I afford food. I figure the folks with the ad probably had a coop I could have used. Meanwhile, I keep watching Construction Junction for scrap wood. I can usually get boards for 50¢. Once the new micro-brewery opens, it may be possible to get mash for the chickens there. It won't be organic but it will be taking stuff out of the waste stream.

Well, I am still waiting for abundance. This year's garden total was only 112 pounds of food, not counting herbs. I'll let you know if abundance ever happens.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (drop spindle girl)
I awoke way too early. Additional items got wound and put up onto the website. A mountain of dishes greeted me. That took a while. Much cooking was done yesterday. Lunch was light. So light and unmemorable that when my stomach started growling at 4:30, I had to think hard to remember, it was a grilled cheese with homade tomato jam. It was missing sprouts so I had to start some for later this week.

Spinning a Shawl

I sat down to spin and couldn't stop. So addicting, reassuring, calming, I finished my second ball of this. I measured it to figure out my yield for the tri-loom; .206 lbs yields 106 yards. Probably need four balls for a shawl, definitely an Aran weight. Geoff Lawton kept me company on Youtube followed by Justin Rhodes. I spun a long time and then plied on the drop spindle. I have a large number of projects lined up for a show in February. I don't have nearly enough stuff to sell. Therefore I have a production schedule.

Kumi kumi reverting to parent

Yesterday we pulled together a tentative show schedule for 2017. I'm happy with it and hope it works out. Meanwhile, yesterday's cooking went into the crockpot for beef barley stew. Then on to cooking up the pumpkin. My chocolate chip bag ripped in half. Before I ate the whole thing, they had to go into something. Pumpkin bread! I have fond memories of some full moon harvest festival in Madison or else Black Earth. I complemented a lady on her bread. She took my name and address and sent me the recipe. I have treasured it for thirty years.

Pumpkin Bread

Bake at 350°F until a toothpick comes out clean and the loaf pulls away from the edges of the pan. Our oven is missing a coil and the thermostat has seen better days so your results may vary. Guessing somewhere between 40 minutes and an hour? Depends on the pan you use.

Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips

This is the last week before winter temps set in. Last Friday was the killing overnight cold, upper twenties. Eggplants and nasturiums are all gone now. Sunflower dead. The yarrow and swiss chard are still happy as are the strawberry plants. Prepping new areas for spring. Geoff Lawton says you cannot possibly take enough "before" pictures. I didn't take any but hope to get some work-in-progress shots soon.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Every so slowly it seems, the Folkwear patterns are getting listed onto the etsy site. This week I added the Schoolmistress pattern, circa 1907, the Traveling Suit from 1915 and the Saroulles (Turkish/Indian/Afrikan pants). These are all available at UrsulasAlcove.etsy.com. Here's a link: https://www.etsy.com/listing/491186213/traveling-suit-folkwear-508?ref=ss_listing

Also on that website are some tablecloths from the 1950s. This is part of an attic destash. Yes, the tablecloths are used but you can't get fabric like that anymore. They are great for that extra card table at Thanksgiving. https://www.etsy.com/listing/486343561/vintage-1950s-square-fruit-tablecloth?ref=related-1

On the yarn front, I am also adding my one-of-a-kind, hand dyed with natural dyes, soft, superwash wool to the website at UrsulasYarn.etsy.com. Photos are dependent on weather so additions are slower than I would like. The bright sun makes for lousy pictures. And it will be clear and dry all week.

oregano 2016

Other things I'm working on are getting backstock from the traveling tubs onto the website. I have no more shows until March. So please stop back often and take a look at what I have to offer. Remember to shop at smaller artisanal shops this holiday season. It makes a big difference. We enjoy being able to pay our bills.

At the end of November, I will be accepting new custom hat commissions. I am finishing up some viking hats. Then I will be available to start on any style hat or cap for folks wanting their very own bespoke piece to go with their garb (or even mundane wear!) If interested, drop me an email. Servers went down on the business account so I'm asking you contact me at lmlisting at yahoo.

This style is called the Tarboosh:
Custom Hats

Viking Style
Viking Hats

The Chico style
Chico Hat

The ever popular 1400s peasant
Today's Hattitude

And the flatcap
Elizabethan flatcap
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Some hats and stockings may still be available. Drop me an email if interested.

The many faces at FaerieCon

The many faces at FaerieCon

The many faces at FaerieCon

Maenads be tearin' it up!    #maenad #bachanal #nymph #mythology #greekmythology #costuming #FaerieCon #faeriecon2016 #faerieconeast #faeriefestival #renfaire #renaissancefestival

The Chamberlain surveys FaerieCon, decides not to destroy us, yay.    #BEST #SQUEE #skeksis #costuming #cosplay #thedarkcrystal #henson #froud #puppetry #FaerieCon #faeriecon2016 #faerieconeast #faeriefestival #faelife #renfaire #renaissancefestival #equa

Hats for woodland sprites, only at #FaerieCon! The vendor hall is open today from 1-7pm, come play!   #StrangeHoursAtelier #curiousmillinery #hats #felt #wool #leaf #oak #greenman #faerieconeast #faeriecon2016 #faeriefestival #renfaire #renaissancefestiva
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I watched the presentors for the Mother Earth News Food Summit today. There were some good discussions, some books I definitely need to read over the winter, and other topics I will be looking forward to over the next couple of days. Let me back track a bit.

I was at SAFF over the weekend. I ran into a lady I had talked to before but at a much different location. She lives here in PA and is by training an environmental toxicologist. She is doing sustainable agriculture. She has a few acres and is interested in developing a learning center. Her other passion is fiber arts. She is looking at ways to integrate the two. We had a lovely chat. I am interested in natural dyes. Maybe things will work out, maybe not. I offered to teach. Only bad part is PA is a very large state. Her center is roughly an 8 hour drive from here, which coincidentally is the length of the drive to Asheville for the fiber show. She also teaches. We talked about cheese making which I'd like to learn. Maybe in June after her lambing season.

I got in at dawn today from the fiber show and then slept a good long time. I had orders to process and then had to prepare for Halloween. We picked up a carving pumpkin and dropped off my bucket at Starbucks for coffee grounds. We found pretzel packs and popcorn balls to give out tonight. The pumpkin got carved, lights setup outside, my fallen sunflowers and sunchokes got cut back. All were done just in time before the kids came out at 6 pm. There had to have been well over 120 kids. Numbers are up much higher than they were 20 years ago. We ran out of goodies 15 minutes early. I got so many complements on the garden, despite its sad neglected state. Many parents came up the steps to get a better look. The nasturtiums were in full glory. Borage and a second crop of sunflowers were making headway and a couple of tomatoes decided to flower again. Chronographia even found a small eggplant. I have yet to pull the pumpkin vines. Lots of people thought the kumi kumi's were adorable. I put them out as decoration for tonight but they will be food for my table soon.

So back to the Homegrown Food Summit or Homesteading or whatever, I like the idea of planting a flour corn. I enjoyed Hank Will's discussion. I want to know more about flour mills. We also want to grow chickpeas for hummus. Flour mills and processing, please? Seed saving was another lecture by Bill McDorman. So I looked up seed libraries. We have some! Carnegie Public Library in Lawrenceville started it. In 2014, the department of "making you sad" tried to shut down seed libraries. They did establish Rules which go against the principles discussed in the summit lecture. But the library was allowed to continue. It expanded to the Oakland library as well. You don't need a library card to participate. The idea is to swap and perpetuate seed that is adapted to your local climate and soil conditions. I have a lot of seed that I've bought over the years that just couldn't cope here. Our air pollution was so obvious coming home from our trip. Breathing did become more difficult after crossing the state line. Add to that our lousy coal ridden soil, it's a tough environment for seed all the way from Portland.

If I had a disposible income, I'd be working on a covered hoop garden for winter, fencing, and a greenhouse. As it is, I am limited to free coffee grounds, sawdust, worm castings, and urine to improve soil. I can't afford the aronia bush (Viking berries) I want or the madder plants. We are still watching for locust pods around the neighborhood to start a nitrogen fixing tree. Watering systems require pipe. And since my asphalt roof is leaching zinc, I won't catch runoff water until I can afford a metal one. I have a rather long wishlist. I guess I will start with a free energy audit from the gas company. Well, if you'd like to follow along with the free summit, you do have to sign up. The link is http://homesteadingsummit.com
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I woke up thinking about dehydrators. I gutted a pumpkin the other day. The seed was too wet. At the time, it was over 80° outside. Then came days of rain. So needless to say, the seed did not dry well. I wanted to be able to plant it, not oven toast it. So maybe a food dehydrated was on my mind. Ours broke down a while ago. When I trolled Youtube for a video, I ran across an inspirational homestead. I had seen it before but got more out of it the second time around. It takes place in LA. https://youtu.be/lyteA1jYLno

And with one thing leading to another, I followed up looking for a website when the guy makes bread. The bucket says root simple. So here is their blog chocked full of bread recipes and lots of useful book titles. So I'm looking at making German Rye Bread today. I wish I had a brick oven. http://www.rootsimple.com/2012/12/how-to-bake-a-traditional-german-rye-bread/

This is actually the original video I was in search of on food dehydrators https://youtu.be/U-Gyr4dMbH0
I need to get at my wood working projects. Today is cold though. I don't have a shop, just a back porch. I have soda cans. Removing the bottoms is not as easy as he makes it out. I am going to try rubbing the cans on brick or concrete to remove the bottoms. Sanding them off makes your arms numb and takes forever. Other projects on the back porch include a bat house and a 6' shelving unit.

So bread then sanding? Covered in flour and then sawdust? But what about SAFF? Will I find time to play with dye? I leave on Thursday for Asheville. I have much to do. And it is now cold outside. 80 and then 40 is a cruel thing to do to an old lady. Brrrr! Bread first I think. I'll let it warm up a bit. Stay tuned.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
It is immensely more helpful to have charged your batteries BEFORE the power grid goes down. Sitting in the dark. Second outage today. Theoretically it will be fixed by 3 am. To the east, all lights are on. To the west, it's pitch black. G'night folks! There will not be a soft electrical hum tonight.

Oh deer!

15 Oct 2016 08:21 pm
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I have been busy working odd jobs to make ends meet. I get up, shower, dress, setup the solar oven, pack my lunch and leave for six or so hours. It was so sunny this weekend. On Friday, I roasted organic honey butternut squash, which I carefully saved seeds from. My family keep an eye on the solar oven and kept it in the sun and at the correct angle. Today we had a glut of small juicy Czech tomatoes. I cut them up, tossed any excess seed into an area of the garden where we hope they will grow next year, and put the tray into the oven with some EVOO and a clove of garlic to cook in the brilliant sunshine. When I came home to put away the table and oven, there was a huge pile of deer doodoo right next to my clothes post. Right in broad daylight! Come on guys, just cuz I have no dog, doesn't mean you can hang out in my yard. Broad daylight, geez. That pile was not there when I left for work. They have no shame!
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
It is that time of year. Time to cover what's worthwhile in the garden, harvest what you can (green tomatoes), and give up on the rest. The carrots and Swiss chard got a cover. The Cherokee tomato got a cloche. The pumpkins and sunchokes have to fend for themselves. I am looking forward to the frost. Once the vines die back, I can harvest the sweet potatoes, regular late season potatoes, sunchokes, and pumpkins. We weighed all the produce this year. The yield was really low. The crops that did well were rhubarb, eggplant, sunflowers, and pumpkin. I need to run another soil test to see how the coffee grounds are impacting the garden. We did get an abundance of Brussel Sprout seed, carrot seed and parsnip seed. Unfortunately I do know know which type of carrot that the seed is from. We had Dragon, Caliopy and Danvers. Email me if you'd like some.

Harvest Bounty

I have been watching and learning from other folks on youtube. To stabilize my backyard terraces or hugel beds, I should grow brassicas in front of them. At the season's end, bend them over and bury the tops. The stalk becomes a post to hold up the logs. I really like that idea. I also learned that while the wood is still rather solid, vining crops like melons, cucumbers and squash work really well. The fellow who grew them was based in SanFransisco. They also know hills but his yard was flat.

Unknown seed

I picked up another book at the library, called Miraculous Abundance by Perrine and Charles Hervé-Gruyer. It is a permaculture farm on one quarter acre. They have proven that working by hand can indeed produce as much as conventional chemical farming. Permaculture gives you the toolbox you need with polycultures to produce in large quantity. A movie was made of their journey, Demain, making its debut at COP21 in Paris. Their farm is called La Ferme du Bec Hellouin. I hope to learn even more. At the present time, it takes 10 to 12 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of food. This is not a sustainable situation. We need 10 earths to support the existing population. Since the population is expanding and the arable land mass is shrinking, we got us a serious problem. Food is going to have to come from city rooftops, backyard gardens, and small scale farmers. Predictions vary greatly as to when we will be in crisis. By 2050 though, push will definitely have come to shove. This is why so many are looking to colonize Mars by 2030. We definitely have a problem.

Kumi kumi reverting to parent

I was inspired by Eric Toensmeier who wrote Carbon Farming, http://carbonfarmingsolution.com/bio It gives hope for the future. Also, it looks like Geoff Lawton is back in Jordan with another go of Greening the Desert, the sequel. If you haven't seen the first one, you really should! Here's the link https://youtu.be/2xcZS7arcgk
There is an orgaanization focusing exclusively on climate change. They also had an article which gives hope, http://www.joboneforhumanity.org/ask_a_macarthur_genius_could_elusive_deep_sea_microbes_help_fight_climate_change We still need to curb our appetite for fossil fuels, but at least some people are working on a solution. It is so easy to focus on the negative. I prefer the positive and enjoy learning new techniques and hearing from people who make a difference.

Long Island Cheese Pumpkin

So I can't help notice all my neighbor's decorations. I pulled corn stalks out of the garden. They purchased corn stalks for decor. I have sheets covering plants from frost. They have sheets on bushes for ghostly decoration. I have squash and pumpkins on my porch curing for winter storage. The skins need to get thick to store long term. The neighbors bought pumpkins for decoration. Is Halloween just an echo of farming except in the city, forgetting its roots?
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
(In Autumn). St. James Court started out rainy and cold. Setting up an EZ up on a slope is tricky but I remembered to check Construction Junction, our resale building supply store. I snagged two cement blocks for 75¢ each. What a difference! Our neighbors were jealous. Next year we need to use sand bags to keep the tent down. Staking is no longer an option because they laid in gas lines for old fashioned street lamps. Friday we arrived to find our tent roof had blown partially off, soaking all our chairs and table cloths. We finally got everything back together and composed ourselves about an hour after opening. Nothing quite like a disaster to start out a show.

With the weather bad, attendance was down as well as sales. Since Friday is usually our busiest day, our spirits were discouraged. Add to that empty bank accounts and all sales via credit cards. Our bank accounts would be full on Monday but no cash right now to buy dinner with. This was a problem I did not anticipate. We did bring a cash reserve with so dinner was had. It wasn't the best on the menu but The Exchange in New Albany offers great food at many different price levels. Our waiter was a delight and cheered us up. Food always changes your mood too. We booked a very resonable Air B'n'B nearby the show. The Victorian house was lovely. There were many extra personal touches. We setup a workshop on the huge dining room table. We made felt flower and leaf pins each evening. I hand carded and wet felted the material and then cut out the designs. Chronographia beaded and embroidered each pin. During the show, she stitched the pin backs on each one. With the weather, her arthritus prevented her from doing her normal needle felting on mushroom berets.

We met our sales goal for Saturday. Huzzah! We even had one cash sale, so yay, cash for dinner! The weather got better and Sunday was great. Sunny and warm. People came out and tried on hats. There are six or seven hatters throughout the fair. Because, you know, Derby hats. Yes, the Kentucky derby keeps hatters employed. Our neighbor at the show is also a hatter, different style, but great product. Our other neighbor, the jeweler, is from Atlanta. Her helper volunteers at Dragon Con. We like our peers! So what we learned is that to have a good show we need a great selection of hats. Fifty is bare minimum. Sizes can run to the large, 7 1/2 or better. And at least a quarter need to be suitable for men. And for some very strange reason, only blondes come to the show on Friday. So choose colors accordingly. Who knew? Sunday's crowd was much more diverse. We met interesting people and a few characters. The ladies who arrived after the show ended were still able to score hats and daisy pins to go with their bell bottoms and definitely were in the flower power groove. David, our volunteer host, did a splendid job organizing take-down. We all have to fit in a narrow alley to load out. It's so tight that our vehicle mirrors need to be folded in. We waited our turn and got out about the same time as last year. All-in-all, a good experience.

Driving home exhausted, we got as far as we could and slept at a rest area only 75 minutes from home. Then came laundry, and cleaning, yard work, unpacking, grocery shopping, etc. Having two big events in a row is a little hard on the body, but mostly I just wanted a shower and clean clothes. This week I also had to do training for some events that I am working at this weekend and next weekend. I will be at Dollar General on Saturday, handing out Downey coupons. It's in walking distance of my house. And also training for a Wellness event at Walmart. I haven't had time to work on my own business at all. I still need to catch up on accounting before quarterly sales tax is due this month. The house needs some work before winter too. Yikes! Time's running out.

Sleep. Then to tackle the ToDo list.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Winter is coming.
The goose is getting fat.
Please to take a look at our fine, warm, winter hats.

If you haven't got a penny,
A ha'penny will do.
If you haven't got a ha'penny,
We take Master Card and Visa too!

I haven't fully unloaded yet, but must put away everything and reload the van. Thursday, Chronographia and I will be headed to St. James Court in Louisville for the art show. Look for us on Belgravia as Strange Hour Atelier. The show runs Friday through Sunday. We've been working hard and should have a great selection.

Booth shot for show apps
ursulas_alcove: Blakes 7 (scared)
It started out with sales being down more than normal. Each event so far has had some drop, some more than others. After discussions with several other vendors, the bottom line is that the media in an election year scares people to increase viewership. "The other side might win, OMG, the end of the world!" This is part of the 24/7 news cycle. It is killing my business because I didn't expect it. Scared people save their pennies. So far I have heard economic fears, "we could become another Greece, you need to stash cash at home" to "there's another derivative bubble and the big banks will fail". Then there is a very real heroin problem locally. Violence is up. Then there's the presidential race, the terrorist threat, North Korea, and a few other loose cannons in the world. Somehow, immigration is the least of our worries, but that doesn't matter to the media. No compassion there.

So I get an email from a gardening leader that I follow. She says one in 80 Americans is now a prepper. Some may call that hitting mainstream. Her advise is something that hits a lot closer to home. Where you live is the most important thing for surviving a system collapse. If the grid goes down, nuclear reactors will overheat. How close you live to a nuclear power plant is very important. The east coast is especially dense in these plants.

Just out of curiosity, I looked it up. An old national map from 1998 shows three in our area. Afterall, Westinghouse built the dang things and they are based here. But I thought Beaver was decommissioned. It is right at the end of the Pgh Airport runways. If a plane misses, kaboom! Yes, not well thought out. So I looked it up. Turns out, one out of three was decommissioned. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaver_Valley_Nuclear_Generating_Station

And our cash strapped government gave permission to frack at the airport, see http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/12/business/energy-environment/frackers-trove-under-airport-in-pittsburgh.html?_r=0

We don't have an injection well anywhere near there at least. No earthquakes. Oh wait, there is a Class II injection well. It's location? South Beaver. Does this sound like a recipe for disaster? So you can now watch my blood pressure go up. We are about 35 to 45 miles away. There are still sirens along some of the roads around here. So of course my government is going to protect me. Here is what they have listed for evacuation http://www.pema.pa.gov/planningandpreparedness/Documents/Beaver%20Valley%20Power%20Station%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

It turns out that we are where the people in Beaver will evacuate to when things fall apart. Our county has two schools that will turn into decontamination centers and folks will stay at the county fairgrounds. Interesting. I would still feel a whole lot better if they shut Beaver down entirely. Those are very old reactors. They are still too close to the airport and fracking operations. I think a bugout bag is a good idea but where would I go that wouldn't be in worse shape? Well, there's nothing like fear to sell a product. Hmm. Now how can I apply that to yarn? Be afraid! Be very afraid! Buy yarn now! It could save your life! Why? I don't know, but it could save your life! Visit http://UrsulasYarn.etsy.com
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Seems like there is never enough time. The website needs an overhaul. I need to code and write copy. I need to dye yarn while I still have plants to dye with. Then there's winding balls of yarn, reordering product, accounting, unloading the van, repacking displays, and on and on.


I did get a few things done this week. Starting with oregano, how to explain? I live on a steep hill. The front terrace keeps my yard from sliding into the street. Snow and weather detriorate the wood. I need to seal the wood against weather. I do not want to use nasty chemicals near my food plants. There was a recipe I saw for a natural seal using beeswax and oil, linseed or something. Can't find the recipe so I made up my own. I tried it out on my windows. Worked ok. Needed more oil. So back to the oregano.

oregano kettle

Oregano really likes my yard. All it took was one seed which I planted years ago. Eventually the oregano took over the grass. Adding to that an herbal class I took where we were sent home with garlic chives, well I don't mow grass, I mow pizza. Anything I have in that adbundance gets tried for natural dyes. The oregano was blocking my work on the terrace. It was time for a haircut. I've used oregano for many years now. It gives a nice colorfast dye.

Oregano dyebath

I recently redid the yard into a food forest. I gave oregano the nasty strip next to the driveway. It has its own country now where it can thrive for dyebaths only. The food stuff is under the lilac and the original plant is still in the garden. Rabbits built a warren in the oregano earlier this spring so I didn't harvested it. It stunk of bunny. The dyebath was a success. Today there could be lemon balm. Lemon balm country lives under the mulberry and the buckeye tree. It tried taking over the tarragon and had to be cut back. I did tarragon last week. It's color is not as strong and tends to fade a little over time. If I had infinite yarn and more time, I'd trim back the black raspberry canes and dye with those too. The yarn tends to be light gray when done, high tannin in that one.

I'm pleased with the oregano. I used Pennsic water. Yes, I know I'm weird. I refilled all my empty water bottles with Pennsic water to take home for dye experiments. Pennsic water has a high mineral content that gives some amazing colors when dyeing. Yes, it has iron in it but something else too. The colors really pop. I donated my yarn and some dyestuffs to the fiber tent last year. Fiadnata graciously gave me some samples afterwards. I was really struck by how different they were. I had mordanted them myself at home. The only difference was the water. Wow. So here we go, oregano:

oregano 2016

Back to work. The accounting won't do itself.

I'm baack

14 Sep 2016 01:28 am
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Always lots to do after a show. I enlisted my husband's help to evaluate the website and figure out what needs to be done to improve it. There is a lot. I was disappointed with my service provider too. They changed their billing setup twice this year. It's not user-friendly nor is their customer service helpful. Plus I need a shopping cart feature. Hard to do with Windows 98 and dialup. My husband is mapping the links first. He has a real computer. I have too big a learning curve to catch up with Windows version 10. I prefer an apple but cannot afford one. We are looking at Shopify and a few other programs.

Next comes restocking displays. More yarn to be wound. Unpacking the van is also on the agenda. I have to go through publishers next. Too many publishers got sold or just plain went out of business. My supply of how-to books is way down. Today I paid bills but tomorrow I need to restock/reorder after running to the bank and hardware store. The dye cook stove is out of propane. I have oregano soaking in a kettle. I have several skeins to dye before Shennandoah Valley Fiber Festival.

On the weaving front, I finished the Neopolitan Ice Cream scarf and am starting on a similar colorway, but more in the chocolate malted milk color range. Neopolitan is a Saori style warp, randomly pulled colors and textures in the yarn. Malted milk will be a set pattern of stripes. I got to play with my colored pencils this morning to design it. Pictures soon!

As I was out trimming back the oregano for the dye pot, a gentleman stopped to tell me about his recent experience at the bottom of my driveway. He was walking along the sidewalk, texting. When he looked up there was a young buck blocking his path. It was eating my garden from the bottom of the driveway. The buck was just starting to grow antlers. Seems the deer felt threatened and reared to scare the man off. I think the deer won. The poor guy knew there were deer in the park but had never seen one quite so close before, especially in a residential area. I told him our buck has ten points on his antlers and a harem of three does. Sounds like there will be another group before long. Think I'll be planning fences soon. As the garden is mostly weeds and a barberry bush at that point, no damage was sustained. The young man confirmed my suspicions that the deer are tormenting the poor yipe dog up the hill. When it barks, I should have stones to throw since I can't shoot in the city. (Add gravel to the shopping list).

Well, to bed. Tomorrow's chore list is already long enough. At some point, yardwork and winterizing the house need to be done. There is never enough time in fall.

French Bread
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
This coming weekend I will be headed to PA Endless Mountains Fiber Festival or as I like to call it, the endless fiber festival. Information is on the website. http://www.endlessmountainsfiberfest.com

I am still desperately winding balls of Zephyr yarn to restock in time for the festival. I have some great fall colors that just came in from Jaggerspun in the Green Line organic wool. More are on the way as well later this week. Unfortunately, the hemp couldn't ship in time. So I will be busy working on my displays this week. The weather is forcast to be perfect. Hope you'll join me!

I also worked on show applications for next year. To that end, a lot of time was devoted to photographing. I decided to take Grace's advise and go for a February art event called Better Than Bling. That means building up inventory of what I do best. So the looms are being warped. I have six works in progress. (Or is it seven?) I need to reorder yarn to finish a purple scarf. Brown just went onto the other 10" loom. A shawl is in progress on the 24" loom. Another spring themed shawl is on the triangle loom, Columbine. And a blanket is being warped on the 46" loom. A purse strap is on the card loom. I need to find and then finish lining a sadle bag. A failed dress may be reworked into a shawl and matching bag. So much to do! I need to figure out if the local Holiday show is worthwhile. It's been a while since I've done it.

Besides showing my work, I had to do some additional photos which I didn't have before, like showing my design process.

Starting with stash

Current weaving
Who wants ice cream?

Proving I do my own work

Booth Shot
Booth shot for show apps

Glad one application is on its way. One more to go! Chronographia has been busy too. She will be at the Pittsburgh Night Market and the PCA Open House during A Fair in the Park. Combined, the two of us finished six hats this week. Those are felted and on the hats blocks, drying. Also coming up is the Shennandoah Valley Fiber Festival, followed by St. James Court in Louieville, KY. Look for the hats on Belgravia. Autumn is a busy time.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
coral bells

kumi kumi squash

happy worms

pumpkin takeover

movable cage

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
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