ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Yes, it's that time of year. Time to review everything, accomplishments, failures, and things that just didn't get done. We were able to meet our financial goals, mostly. To be totally debt free will take another 5 years. We might get there in 2024 with luck. In the short term, it's really hard. Repairs have been few and far between because we can't afford them. We've stopped using credit cards and are no longer borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. I'll count that as a win. I've made a chart in my log book to keep me on track.

Also in my log book, I am tracking average temperatures per the gas company. In 2015, November was much warmer than 2018, 52° versus 44°F. Overall, this year has been 2° colder each month than in previous years. Global warming means that Greenland's glaciers are melting, cooling a lot of the east coast region. It's showing up in my gas bill. A woodstove is out of our price range. With leaky faucets everywhere, my water usage is up and so is the bill. I want to get back to 2100 gallons or less a month. Next month I'll be off because the toilet ran for two hours last week before I caught it. Looking for affordable rain barrels as a 2019 goal. It should help water usage in the garden during the dry season. And our electric bill seems to be totally dependant on the dehumidifier. When it's very rainy, we have no choice. It needs to run. I use the water it collects to run dye baths and to water the potted plants. But electricity, that I can't control. We did replace the freezer with an energy efficient model. That should save us $95 a year. The stove and refridgerator also need to be replaced but that is out of the question this year. Also our ceiling fans could be replaced with more energy efficient models but that too will have to wait. That covers the utility wishlist.

I have another sheet of garden expenditures. I spent way too much this year on things that didn't pan out because of timing. If you can't afford berry bushes until the end of April, they will die because the weather changed. They needed to be ordered two weeks sooner. I made a list of what I need and when I need it for 2019. Grow lights, seedling soil, early seed potatoes, grow bags, trays, etc. Most of the seed I wanted, I already bought from the MIGardener. He sells heirloom seed for 99¢ a pack. Hopefully the growing season will go smoother. With a good layout of the backyard, I now have a better handle on the available garden area. We only have 1/16th of an acre for growing on. If I can get more potatoes growing in grow bags, I can utilize some paved areas too. I also put pantry expenditures on the list. I need a pressure cooker. In fall, when canning equipment goes on sale, I pick up all my mason jar lids for the following year.

Today I educated myself on growing with phases of the moon. I have a plan of what to plant and when. We have a Proxigee on February 19th. The earth and moon will pass really close together. It's a super super-moon, 356,761 km apart. My list tells me I'll be planting celery in pots indoors and swiss chard, probably lettuce too.

I still have more work to do on my garden plans for 2019 (what is going where) but I have my goals set, number of plants, space they need, etc. In 2017, we grew 200 pounds of produce. In 2018, we grew 250 pounds of produce. In 2019, I hope to surpass 300 pounds of produce, more if our fruit trees start producing. We started drying medicinal herbs for tea this year. I hope to make more soothing oils and salves in the next year as well. The focus for 2019 is shifting to growing more of the crops we use instead of trying strange new vegetables. Turns out kale doesn't agree with us. No one likes collards except my neighbor. So more tomatoes and onions, cabbage too. Fermentation jars with weights are a stretch goal. I am tired of jury-rigging jars to keep the vegetation under the vinegar line.

I have a wishlist of appliances that need repair as well -the vacuum cleaner, sewing machine, computer, etc. The back porch roof needs to be repaired; a panel blew off. The chimney flashing is leaking in the attic; the roof is over 25 years old. All of these are goals. We may not reach them but at least we have a focus and direction to head toward. Now to have another good sit down and apply the same strategies to my business!
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
I went out to map our hill. The problem is the survey of our property is measured in the horizontal plane but the property is more vertical, topographical. So tape measurements aren't accurate to what's on paper. Part of permaculture is mapping out your property. I've done any number of shade studies on the equinoxes and solstices with a camera but never any mapping. It's hard on a hill. There has to be a better way to create more habitat and food out of our yard. The front terrace is made from pressure treated wood which is starting to give off arsenic. It's not bad levels yet but I'd rather not grow my food there. Dyestuffs are more appropriate for that area, at least in the immediate areas around the wood.

Autumn in the garden

Here's my best attempt at mapping. I sketched in some ideas for new areas as well but wasn't satisfied with them. Four feet is too hard to reach across on our hill, especially if ground hornets move in. That was the case with the bookcase garden. Also the potatoes near the bottom got too much water and near the top, no water at all. Narrowing the bed to 2 ft should help with that problem.

Mapping the Backyard

I woke up the other morning and was poking through my social media feeds. And I saw this picture. It haunted me throughout the day. But do you think I could find it agan? It resonated with my soul. I needed to find it. After wasting an hour searching, I gave up. So a big thanks to Faun for reposting it! Glad it resonated with you too. Here's the picture: https://m.facebook.com/greenrenaissance/photos/a.210721328945659/2605224736161961/?type=3&source=57&ref=m_notif¬if_t=feedback_reaction_generic

This! It's what I want. So to adapt it to my yard, I thought cinderblocks. It steps up the hill nicely, prevents erosion, and marks paths clearly. Using a two foot spacing, I can plant intensely using square foot garden methods (see The Square Foot Garden by Bartholomew). I can plant strawberries inside the cinderblock holes along the lower edge and garlic along the upper edge. I have to work the lines on contour and allow for paths to my clothesline and spacing around trees but I think it will work. Maybe some ground cherries too. So now for the cinderblock quest. I figure 52 would be good. Thirteen maximum a row, four rows is 52 blocks. It would be a good start. This will allow me to increase my growing space, look nice, and hopefully give a bigger yield than 250 pounds of food. I will have to look at ways to create low tunnels to extend the season, but I think its achievable. I may have to give up some of the openings in the cinderblocks for PVC tubing. It will help with pests as well. The tule experiment on the greens worked wonders and even kept out a groundhog.


No digging/ no tilling is involved in this project. The book case garden is going away. It's starting to fall apart. The dirt is in the right place so a rake will do to move it where I want it. Right now, the cardboard from all the empty attic boxes is going down as a barrier. It will kill off grass and weeds. I can't get a mower in there. The pitch of the hill also makes it dangerous to mow. Then I will place the cinderblocks on contour. Next, cover the paths with sawdust. The garden bed will get coffee grounds, dried leaves, compost and dirt between the two rows. I will start with two rows. Cinderblocks are 8" x 8" x 18". I'm excited to get things started. Construction Junction just got in a shipment of used blocks. With tax, they are $0.80 each. I got 2 today to start. There are strawberry plants in my currant patch that need to be moved. I am really looking forward to this project. I want wine cap mushrooms too.

The next phase is to propagate more of the fruit bushes I already have. One gooseberry bush isn't enough to make jam with. Same with the two lingonberries. I am also hoping to add some minerals to the soil for better nutrition and healthier plants. It will take a while for the new soil to create tilth. Coffee grounds take a year to break down. The Amish straw worked the best but I couldn't afford any this year. The trees need to be trimmed to let in more light. So many things to do! No chainsaw either nor a ladder. A chipper shredder would be nice too. Sigh. My goal is to someday grow 2000 pounds of organic food on this lot. I'll settle for 300 next year. I've plans for more tomatoes but we got hit with hornworm this year so I may need to give the soil a rest. Gotta look for red clover seed to fallow that spot.

Time for bed. May your dreams be filled with fresh, tasty organic produce!
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
When I was little, the day after Thanksgiving was the beginning of cookie baking season. I was hoping to find various pictures of relatives and recipes they were renown for. Each aunt had a specialty. Grandma’s specialty was Date Nut Bread. Aunt Lucille’s was Russian Teacakes. Since we really didn’t have leftovers from Thanksgiving, other than making broth, I made some Russian Teacakes in honor of Aunt Lucille who has passed on. Currently our attic, where all the pictures are, is an absolute mess. That’s a blog for another day. So pretend Aunt Lucille’s picture is here. Okay, so the little girl with the striped dress on this picture is her but not obviously how I remember her.


Russian Teacakes

Russian Teacakes

Russian Teacakes

Russian Teacakes

Now it turns out that along with recipes, my family DNA has passed down some addional traits. One of these is Celiac’s gene, HLA-DQ. While that means I only have a 30% chance of developing Celiacs, I am watching my gluten intake closely over the next year. Gluten can cause inflammation and leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut leads to a whole host of problems. In my sister, it caused thyroid issues. In me, allergies. My brother, like my dad cannot drink beer. So although I’m making a few batches of cookies, I will be working toward a detox program. That involves eating greens as half of every meal. Since the garden isn’t producing much right now, it will have to wait until spring. I can’t afford fresh salad at every meal. Nor is the variety available at organic stores right now. Detox involves dumping wheat (and some other starches), sugar, and dairy for a certain time frame. It purges bad gut bacteria. Then I must also do a parasite purge. It involves using cloves to kill off any potential parasites. Mimosa pudica seed can also be used. Parasites can have a two week cycle. Then a heavy metal detox. Certain trace minerals will help with this. I've been exposed to a lot of mercury over the years, from broken flourescents to teeth fillings. With weaving, the lint produced has chemicals especially in cotton (pesticides and herbicides) and its dyestuffs, including cadmium. It will probably be six weeks of this. It’s something I’ve been putting off. After my cousin developed diabetes and then my best friend did too, I’ve come to the conclusion I can’t wait much longer. This is going to cost a bit for supplements. It will cost more if I don’t do it. Your health is one thing to definitely be Thankful for.

Northern Homestead has some info on cookbooks for healthy eating and a great article about what they grow versus buy. https://northernhomestead.com/our-plant-based-pantry/
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
It's already Wednesday? I started cleaning the attic. Too many papers in boxes. Too much stuff. Too cluttered to work. I've a giant bag of recycling and more to go through. I put some of the fleece away. Not going to get to it. I wanted to send it to a processor but cash is going to be short this winter. Etsy sales have tanked since they redid their search algorithm. My etsy sales covered the family's food budget. It hit me unexpectedly. Time to find a budget work around. There are still a few sales but an order of magnitude less. Business is very unpredictable. Next year inflation will hit. Uncertainty due to tariffs and lousy trade deals are starting to affect my business. I thought I was in control. Boy, was that an illusion! I guess, expect the unexpected. My crystal ball needs glasses but her healthcare didn't cover it. Maybe I'll find a new crystal as I clean the attic. Think I need one.

I decided to stick with etsy as a platform regardless. I need an online presence and it does give me that. Eventually they will change the algorithm again. They want free and reduced shipping so they can be like Amazon, but at my expense. Free shipping doesn't work for my business. I do not offer high end items with shipping priced in. A one-of-a-kind hand-dyed yarn that ships first class mail and not priority should be okay but somehow isn't. It arrives quickly and the shipping is lower in price. Etsy's search algorithm is based on shipping costs. No one I spoke with is actually finding the items they searched for. I am sorry about this but it's out of my control. No one told Etsy stockholders that Amazon doesn't actually make much money. Amazon drove a lot of people out-of-business. They can also control selection and choices, which is what etsy is now doing. If you are looking for something specific, email me at ursulasalcove'at'gmail.com or convo me through etsy, ursulasyarn.etsy.com

I've been taking suggestions. I could offer a yarn club but haven't figured out how to do that on Etsy. Buy one skein a month and get a thirteenth skein free, something like that. First, I need to find out from the mill how much yarn is going up next year. They are saying some yarns have doubled in price but I don't know which yarns yet. So much is changing. It's hard to keep up. I'm not used to such a rapidly changing business landscape. Give me a bit to figure it out. The first week in January I should know more. Your suggestions are welcome.

Blue Jean Quilt

The attic has a lot of abandoned projects in it. Time to work on finishing those. This is within my control. I found some quilts and piecework projects I started long ago. I'm starting with a quilt. I need to make 80 of these squares. I've 16 made so far. The cat and I head up every morning before the household wakes up. I don't have a serger but zigzag works. I'm looking forward to seeing a completed quilt. I've an old blue acrylic blanket. I think that'll be the backing. A simple tie-type quilt should do. The rectangle measurements were based on an old Clinique box for face cleanser. So not exactly round numbers, but it made a great template. I have a lot of random spools of thread kicking around. So many people destashed sewing gear as their eyesight deteriorated with age. Before my sight goes, this is getting done. Free thread is a plus. I'm using the Kenmore because the Pfaff needs a new belt. Night and day. The Kenmore is so clunky compared to the precision of the Pfaff. I mean it works, but the feeder dogs don't do as good a job. The thread tension could use one more guide to steer it. The stitches per inch are longer. So many corners were cut from an engineering perspective. Maybe it was just 1970 instead of 1950. Expectations were different. It's not as much fun to use. But then I do prefer a stick shift to an automatic too. Maybe I'm just a snob? Follow along with my sewing progress. There is garb to make and mundane clothes too. With this much sewing, I have inquiries to make too on a new belt for the Pfaff. Hopefully my repair guy is still in business. Wish me luck!

pfaff sewing machine
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
There is this ToDo list with one item that never gets done. Today is the day I conquered it! I have wine that needs to be processed. Bottle Mango Wine has been on that list every time I write a list. Today I pulled it all together. I have two wines that I am clarifying, Orange and Honeysuckle. I cleaned all the mulberries out of the freezer and started a new batch fermenting. I bottled that Mango wine! There are only 7 bottles but it has the makings of an excellent vintage. Very tasty upon bottling. So I was thinking of calling it “Mango only pawn in game of life”. https://goo.gl/images/eTNnc4

Mango Wine

Also a long time on the list, “register as a merchant for Gulf Wars”. Done. Now to send in the check. Bills need to go out Monday anyway. And then on to cleaning the attic. That’s going to take a while. I have some quilts I started long ago and far away. The pile of scraps in a heap in the corner is getting cut and stitched. The only problem is a belt started slipping on the sewing machine. Taking it slow. My list of broken items that need repair is incredibly long, much more so than my todo list. “When funds become available” looks to be a long way off. But I have a list so that’s a start.

Pumpkin bread has been made. Pumpkin pie is in the oven. Dishes are done. Strained and bottled my homegrown echinacea tincture. Cat food has been acquired. Living room carpet has been swept with a broom. Yes, two vacuums need repair. Doing good so far on adulting.

Long Island Cheese Pumpkin

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Pie

Next on the docket:
Once the attic has a bit of workspace, then on to computer repair. My Dell Win 98 blew a power supply. It has all the business records on it. I will attempt to turn the drive into a slave on a Windows 2000 machine if I can find the Computers for Dummies book. The goal is to finish record keeping for 2018. Then move on to another machine.
ursulas_alcove: Pink petal hat (Peeking flower faery)
FaerieCon is this weekend. It's the 25th anniversary of The Dark Crystal. Wendy and Toby Froud will be there. Brian was not cleared by his doctors to fly. I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Dark Crystal. We got ours from the public library. The making of the movie is quite spectacular. It's included in the DVD. And since they did a reboot of The Dark Crystal, there will be lots of puppeteers and workshops at FaerieCon. Highly recommend attending if you are in the Baltimore area this weekend. Meet famous people; learn a new skill.

Chronographia will be vending. I will be home caretaking. However, my hats will be there. Vikings, Chico's, a petal hat and a Camoflauge witch hat are being setup as I write. Look for Strange Hours Atelier at the bottom of the escalator.

Fall Viking Hats

Chico's-I also did some in brown and gray for mundane wear.
Hats are drying before heading to FaerieCon
Hats are drying before heading to FaerieCon
Day 4 The Chico

Petal Hat
Hats are drying before heading to FaerieCon

Witch Hat in Progress
Bree's hat in progress

If you are interested in custom work please contact me to find out when I can fit you into the schedule. StrangeHours is doing the Handmade Arcade in December 2018.

2019 Shows
Arisia- Boston, MA (StrangeHours)
Convocation- Dearborn, MI (Strange Hours)
Gulf Wars-Poplarsville, MS (Ursula's Alcove)
CostumeCon- Danvers, MA (Strange Hours) http://costumecon37.com
Ashville Viking Festival- Ohio (Ursula's Alcove)
Great Lakes Fiber- Wooster, Ohio (Ursula's Alcove)

More will be added as time goes on. Already booked for SVFF and SAFF in fall. Pennsic applications come out in February. Strange Hours plans to return to FaerieCon and Leaf. Looking forward to applying to some local shows. Fingers crossed to see if I get in.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I did get some spinning done today. I finished all the apricot-colored fleece. There are three balls of it now. Another kettle of fleece got washed from the Gotland. Yesterday I finished knitting a hat. I want to rest my shoulder today.

Spinning Sunday

I started the day with dishes and then a shower. John got up late again. We had the time change this morning. I looked over the food situation. We need bread. We have flour. I have time. So I made bread. This time I used the base recipe from Confessions of a French Baker. I added Amaranth to the boiling water. Waited until it was cooler before adding yeast. The amaranth did not plump. The dough was pink, the bread was not. There were issues with the oven over heating and then not heating enough. I flipped the bread over to cook the other side. Yes, the oven is on a long list of items we need to replace.

Sunday baking

I looked at the fridge and realized we have a small quantity of a lot of different kinds of vegetables. Time for fritters. I baked squash, rutabaga, potatoes, and sweet potatoes in the oven with olive oil and salt. I cleaned some muddy carrots and skirret. They are all prepped for making supper. We also have a sweet onion and apples.

Skirret waiting to be turned into fritters
Roast Veg

When Chrono was ready for a break, we headed to the store for chicken apple gouda sausages. That was all just supper prep. When the bread was down, we had lunch. Lunch was simple. Crackers, fresh bread, cheese, nut butter, and honey butter. Leftover baked plums too. Very tasty!

Fritters and sausage -best with sour cream or yogurt

Recently we learned about canola going GMO. Even though we buy organic, I worry about cross pollination. So we switched to safflower oil which the co-op sells in bulk. I also use coconut oil on occaision. Bacon fat works too. We don't buy any bacon with nitrates. They are carcinogenic. Let food be thy medicine. We try to eat healthy.

Today's high was 60°. Tomorrow's will be 64°. I am happy I got a walk in tonight. Tomorrow will be another busy day. There's already a list.


31 Oct 2018 09:20 pm
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
My day started at 8 am. I wanted to get out and clean up the front yard to make it safe for hundreds of children, BEFORE the rain started. Originally it was to rain at 10 am. Not much time. I started chopping down the 12 foot sunchokes that were tied to my trellis and had tipped over the trellis. They were heavy. Then I took down the entire trellis, chopping wood into kindling as I went. Mulberry isn't the best firewood but its what I have. Sunflowers got chopped up and left to compost in place. Don't want to disturb butterfly eggs/cocoons? The sticks got hauled to the back and stacked in a dry location.

Front yard SW

Trellis down

Tired and hungry, I went inside to deal with the camode, dirty dishes, and breakfast. Yesterday I'd made banana bread. Hubby had his shower and about 1/4 of the bread with butter. I had a short rest with a cup of tea and headed back outside. The rain held off. I chopped any plants that overgrew the sidewalk. They were left to compost in the garden. I also dumped coffee grounds from yesterday's Starbucks run. I smoothed those out so that the paper filters were buried and not an eye sore. Chronographia headed in to lab. She already lost several days due to the shooting. Lab had been closed because it's too close to the crime scene on Saturday. FaerieCon is coming fast so product must be made.

Chrono has a lot on her plate but to get to her studio, she must go past the Tree of Life synagogue. The intersection is still cordoned off. Vigils are continuing. Flowers are being placed everywhere. It is quite an emotional ordeal. Traffic was intense too. Meanwhile, people are pestering her about Arisia politics and hotel rooms via text. They don't get that we are in a city in mourning. It is also a high holiday plus she has to get work done. Yes, the issues that Arisia faces are serious but if you Boycott, only women business owners are hurt, not the perp. Think about that. Women are the artisans that help you cosplay, provide you with costumes, etc. The vendors are locked in to a contract. They must attend. Yes, the shit hit the fan but boycotting the show does not help other women. They are stuck whether you attend or not. Chrono's usual roomies want to bail. Somehow there is more going on, like a hotel worker's strike. Too much to deal with today. She must also get groceries. I've given her a shopping list. The Co-op is matching funds today for Tree of Life. We need groceries anyway. Might as well make it count. They call it round-up register. They ask if you'd like to round up to the nearest dollar amount. They will match the donation, up to $5,000.

While she is at print lab, I must get more yardwork done. I was having a hard time figuring out lunch too. Oops, I started laundry and forgot about it. It smells nasty now. Things aren't going smoothly. Hunger will do that to you. I can't eat the banana bread; it has eggs in it. We are out of my go-to bread and cheese. Hmm. Tough call. I got potatoes frying for John. I ate some too. It was a start. Got him scrambled eggs and fried potatoes with a banana. I noticed clouds coming in. Gotta attack the barberry bush. It overgrew the front steps. Wearing my welding gloves, I grabbed a bucket and clipper. One well-groomed bush later, I have a pile of thorn branches composting way out back, under the big mulberry.

Bushes trimmed

I had a eureka moment. My windowsill tomatoes are ripe and I have pita bread in the freezer. Flatbread pizza, here I come! I saw mozzarella in the drawer and a clove of garlic on the table. Food, glorious food. Then I thought I'd get to empty out the van. Ha, ha-ha. There are empty planters and pots all over the porch. Dirt too. I bussed all the pots down to the basement. I keep them in the coal cellar, my version of a potting shed. After sweeping up the dirt/soil, I rearrange the layout of the porch to accommodate groups of excited children. The excess soil was given to the strawberries in the cinderblocks. Lanterns are hung, planters with growing plants are put onto an empty plant rack, off to the side. Chair is placed. Now to see to the van?

I put a few things into the garage. I have a few things to go into the house. The rain will wait no longer. Sigh. Closing everything up. I'm on a deadline. Trick-or-treat starts at 6 pm. I have to pickup coffee grounds before the streets are clogged with children and fire trucks. Dinner must be planned too. Hmmmm. We have a lot of squash. Google is my friend. I find a recipe that we have every ingredient. Jamie Oliver did a lovely squash. https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/butternut-squash-recipes/baked-squash/
75 g is about a half a cup. I weighed it.

Happy Samhain !

Chrono gets home and finishes carving the pumpkins. The church chimes 6 pm. The neighbor started a playlist with Witchy Woman. Halloween is better with music. The fire truck roars by, tooting his horn as he goes. The fire trucks slow down drivers. They also remind people to change the smoke detector batteries and hand out candy to children from the truck. The police cars are doing likewise. The kids love it. One little boy, barely old enough to talk, was dressed as a police man. He was so excited to meet the officer. Our neighbors are all sitting on their porches. It is only drizzling now. My first trick-or-treater was dressed as an astronaut, very well done. Once the pumpkins are carved, Chrono takes over. I run in to start dinner. Got rice cooking first. I cut the squash, chopped all the onions and tomatoes, pulled all the ingredients together. As the revellers finish up, she comes into pull the rest together. Fresh sage and pan-frying are started. We modified the recipe. Bacon is fried. Walnuts instead of chestnuts.

Jamie Oliver’s recipe

About 150 children with parents in tow climbed our hill, and graced our porch. Our neighborhood takes Halloween seriously. And now we wait for the damn dinner to finish in our pathetic, broken oven. Sigh. We have salad and squash medallions. When dinner is over, we watch Practical Magic. Tradition. A plate of food is set aside for the dead as we remember our friends and ancestors. A toast, Skol!

Second squash
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
So many stories! Let me back track. I left for SAFF on Wednesday instead of the normal Thursday. Our start time, open-to-the-public, was Friday at 9 am. If it takes nine hours drive time to get there, I don't get enough time to fully setup Thursday night if I leave Thursday morning. So by leaving Wednesday night around 5 pm, I get there by noon on Thursday with plenty of time and no pressure to rush. It was 26° in the mountains at the rest area Wednesday night. I was toasty, wrapped in wool. After that, every subsequent night felt warm!


I was across the aisle from where they put me in past years. I like being on the end of a row. It gives me more frontage for displays. I laid out the booth on paper before I left home. Only one idea failed when setting up. It worked out much better without running two boards between two tables like a table extension. Instead, I stacked two empty plastic tubs and covered them with a tablecloth. The Folkwear patterns rested on top. Perfect fit! The wire rack with linen thread faced the back aisle. This allowed me to utilize the space without my chair and checkout area blocking people from the merchandise.


It felt like there were a lot more attendees, even on Friday in the pouring rain. Yet at the same time, not too many that you couldn't hold a conversation and finish it before waiting on a new customer. Every customer had a story. My head is full of stories which will soon disappear like last night's dreams. I heard about classes at other fiber shows. Carol James, whose Sprang books I carry, is making a lecture/teaching tour of the US. Several folks bought her book ahead of time to study it before a class in Utah, and probably other locations as well. I met Carol at Pennsic, where she gave a lecture on archeological sprang finds. John Mularky has recommended my bone shuttles in all his classes around the US. So naturally, I am almost out of stock. I really appreciate the publicity! He didn't make SAFF this year but has in years past.

So many SCAdians showed up to say howdy! More and more mundane matters prevent them from attending their usual SCA events. So it was very good to see them. I also got to see my regulars from SAFF. I was a little concerned because there were so many weather disasters that hit North Carolina. I was afraid it would keep people away. Last week there was a micro-burst at LEAF and many patrons and artists bailed. Their tents were gone. Hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, what a year!


I had a gentleman come into the booth wearing a brown plaid flannel jacket that was every shade of wool yarn I had dyed with natural dyes. I commented on his color choices. Apparently, he came into the booth to be camoflauged. We had a laugh.


The hemp display was a hit. Next year I need to write up simple washcloth patterns based on what you can knit with one ball. Maybe even display some as gift ideas. The displays sparked many conversations with other dyers. I especially am eager to remember and try an early 1800s recipe to get a colorfast pink from pokeweed. Apparantly there is a memory poem about wool in a pumpkin with pokeberries hidden in a raspberry patch. If I understood it correctly, you cut the top off a big halloween style pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds. Put in the wool and cover it with pokeberries. Put the lid back on. I suppose the raspberry is either the color or where you keep the pumpkin so critters don't get at it. The fermenting pumpkin sets the dye. Keep the wool there until you can no longer stand the smell. Ta-da, colorfast raspberry pink.

Another conversation, we were talking about the difference between hemp and cotton. A cotton farmer came in and joined the conversation. We got to learn about growing permits in NC so that your species of cotton doesn't interfere with someone else's. So if you put the effort into getting a pristine white cotton, you don't want your neighbor growing green, lavender or pink cotton and cross pollinating with yours. They need to be grown over a mile apart. This is where the county extension office steps in and issues permits. It was fascinating.

Likewise I have lots of speculation to later research for US grown hemp. Hemp is processed like linen. US linen is typically chopped up into 2" bits and is processed dry in cotton spinning equipment. They take beautiful long staple and destroy it, creating tow. That's why all my linen comes from Europe. Europe developed equipment to wet spin flax with its beautiful long, strong staple length (24"). My hemp comes from Romania. It has a 10" to 12" staple length, not quite as long as linen, but they wet spin it without chopping it up. The wet versus dry also makes a big difference. Dry processing makes it look like the yarn is having a bad hair day, very frizzy. Wet processing smoothes it all out so the yarn has no split ends or fuzzy bits hanging out. So when the woman from Colorado came through, we had a nice chat about legally growing industrial hemp and where the harvest is going. I wonder if they'll have to permit that so the industrial and medicinal hemp doesn't cross.

I also had a great chat about medicinal herbs. The lady from Texas recommended learning and working with five herbs a year to have their properties really sink-in to your memory. I work with lavender, calendula, plantain, and comfrey. She also had mullein. It doesn't always like our soil. I've seen some growing near the industrial park but not lately. We ended up with a lot of coltsfoot this year. My daughter is working with hyssop, anise hyssop, lemon balm, and sage. I may work on an anti-mold cleaner for the basement with oregano next year. Also had discussions on hemp oil, CBD, THC, arthirtus, turmeric, black pepper, and so many others. Have to send a lady a copy of our turmeric gummy recipe.

I also talked to other vendors who've gone on Linda Cortwright's fiber tours. She had a fiber center built in the Himalayas in India. I learned you can get a prescription, originally intended for glaucoma, which will offset the altitude sickness. I shared my favorite Instagram account Mongolia_Live. I wouldn't mind doing fiber tourism there. I met a potential supplier for Sprang looms and also someone who may have parts for my old computer. I need a power supply. I also found a gentleman who can repair the walking wheel I have in the garage. And best of all, I got the fixings to make alum acetate for hemp natural dyeing. I want to give it a try. It might just be ecoprinting on fabric to start but depending on the dye plant may work out to dye hemp yarn. My assignment is to read up on it at Earthguild's website.

Shh! Don't tell anyone, I splurged. Yes I did. My ball winders have been having a lot of issues lately. They are old and worn out. I wind thousands of balls of yarn a year. My original three winders are almost dead. The electric was such a pain! It cost me over $280 15 years ago. The belt was forever stretching out of shape. You had to take the whole thing apart to replace the belt. New belts were $5 for a 2" diameter black o-ring? I'm pretty sure a center pull ball of yarn shouldn't be tetrahedron-shaped. The plastic hand winder is from Knitting Notions. I really used that one to death! The gears are plastic and totally stripped. Every ball of yarn I sell is wound by hand. My backup plastic ball winder still works in theory, but the guide hook needs to be bent to produce a ball of yarn that is not top heavy. I just didn't have time to tinker with it. So I bought a Strauch "large cake" ball winder. I am to watch his three videos on the care and feeding of it as well as what to do when winding a fussy fiber like silk. My only other purchase was cochineal. Which is incredibly expensive! Hillcreek was there with more helpers in the booth. She also had dried safflower petals to dye with. That's an idea for another growing season.

Today I get to rest. Tomorrow stuff goes up on etsy as the van gets unloaded. Whirlwind. Home and safe.
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I covered three garden beds and part of the herb spiral with greenhouse fabric and plastic. I found two more pumpkins. One was in the neighbor's yard. I spent much of the day harvesting carrots. After I cleaned the bed, I hauled two cement blocks down to mark the edge of the pressure-treated wood terrace. The goal is to plant ornamentals and dyeplants in the terrace and food further back. The arsenic is not leeching significantly but I have been exposed to a lot of toxins in my life already. I don't need anymore. Anyway, I lined all the coreopsis in a row so it will look nice come spring. I think marigolds should go in front of it. They don't bloom at the same time but the overall effect is nice.

I pulled so many weeds. The ground hornets prevented me from touching this section of yard all summer. I made a giant compost pile on top of their area. I found three onions underneath the crabgrass. I also trimmed the overgrowth onto the walkway. Halloween is coming soon. There needs to be a clear path to the door. More amaranth got harvested. Three buckets of coffee grounds were added to the compost and sawdust on top in the carrot bed. It looks groomed now. I planted a few cloves of garlic along the arch. I am letting one cosmic carrot grow for seed next year. It was a free seed packet from Bakers Creek. They are now charging a mint for that seed. I'll grow my own, thank you. They produce a reddish carrot.

Putting the garden to bed for winter

I have two brown paper grocery sacks of carrot seed that I harvested this year. One of the winter gardens has some of it growing. Originally, it came from Botanical Interests Caliope carrots. They are white, orange and purple. We picked up cabbage from the farmer's market. I see coleslaw in my future. I also got apples finally. Lots of amaranth bread grill cheese and apple sandwiches with a side of slaw and fried potatoes for lunch this week. After tonight's frost, sweet potatoes will need to be dug. There may also be potatoes near the onions in front. Guess I should look for a shovel.

After trimming the nasturtiums way back and composting them, I called it a day. We'll see what dies back after the frost. I have to trim around the rose bushes so we can set a trap for the ground hog. The compost piles are growing. I'm happy about that.
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When we first moved here, the temperature in summer never went above 88° F. When it went above 82°, there were air quality alerts. The air quality is still poor here. Now most of the steel mills are shut down or have a cleaner process. There used to be ash fallout on any outside table or chair every night. Not any more. Last year they shut down the coke plant too. Unfortunately, new chemical plants (exane) are being built as well as reopening the coke plant. There also used to be 7 year severe autumn droughts. I haven't seen one since the late 1990s. So I'm reminiscing because it's too hot to sleep. It's October. It was 97° when I left to run errands mid-afternoon. By 3:00 pm, the clouds moved in and the temperature dropped. Rain moved in and the house is hot and humid. Can't leave the windows open with the threat of rain. And then the weather will shift to very cold. I am trying to hold off as long as I can before turning on the furnace. It's funny that I didn't feel overheated today but I wasn't in direct sun either.

Pumpkin vine takes over

So much to do in the garden with the end of the growing season. The pumpkins took over the entire yard. I went out and trimmed them back. Good thing too, there was another pumpkin hiding that we missed. I discovered horn worms in the tomatoes. It was very hot and dry. And then it was very moist and humid. The plants were stressed. The pumpkins grew over the top of the tomatoes, cutting off sun for ripening. All the tomato leaves were brown. (Cue music: All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey)


Dodging the ground hornets, I trimmed and mulched as much as I could. In return, the mosquitoes ate me alive. It feels good to look at the food sitting on the shelves. I am working on mulching the section we call the Kuiper belt. It borders the alley. I moved three trellises back there. At some point I'll have enough to block the deer. Coffee grounds and plant trimmings are being added this month. I moved some strawberry plants. We'll see if they survive. The deer ate almost all the strawberry plants last year. Only one out of 25 survived.

Last call

I reckon we have 20 weeks of squash and pumpkins to eat. It makes me quite happy to see a fuller larder. Next year I have plans to fill jars of dried herbs, lots of herbs. We only recently got a food dehydrator. Got a late start but absolutely necessary with the moist air. I made lavender oil infusion from our plants. Still haven't started on the calendula oil. Comfrey is drying. Basil and parsley have been chopped and frozen into cubes. I'd like to create my own herbal first aid kit to have on hand. Often the herbs don't get harvested at all. We snip what we need to make dinner but none are dried for winter use. Savory, thyme, and rosemary were neglected this year.

Just the beginning

Other plans for next year, expand the dyeplants. I'd like to grow more black hollyhocks. I'd like to buy madder and get it into the terrace. It can take over a section. Japanese indigo would be nice too. I didn't get a chance to dye with tansy yet. I think I'll try the mint too. Since our terrace is all pressure treated wood, avoiding food plants would be best. The pressure treated wood leeches arsenic into the soil. It doesn't have a huge concerntration but it would be best to grow non-food related plants. I think thee barbery plants can go. Yes, I've dyed with them. No, I'm not impressed. Also very tired of pulling thorns out of my palm.

ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
You know it is hard to sell wool when it's ninety degrees. We count on the cooler temps to help sell our goods. This time every year, we do St. James Court Art show. Last year was wet, with the remains of a hurricane wiping out our tent. Other years its been typical fall weather, damp and cool. This year, it should hit 90°. Ouzzer! Chrono is doing the show alone this year. She got a late start, but everything fit into her tiny car. All set up by 9 pm. Show opens tomorrow at 10 am on Friday.

Art booth in the Honda Fit

Art booth in the Honda Fit

Show link: https://stjamescourtartshow.com

St. James Court Art Show

I am at home making trouble. I plan to take over the universe. I just got 48 pounds of hemp to dye. Mawhahaha! There is a new tangle that needs to be wound on the umbrella swift before I can engage my evil plots. The tangle fairies were working overtime. Once the onion-dyed skein is sorted, out comes the hemp to be wound and dyed into a rainbow. I have both lace weight and fingering weight. Also unpacking the van and adding things to UrsulasYarn.etsy.com Never slow around here.

Before today's storm, I picked one tomato plant clean and added the vine to the compost pile. I picked beans, celery, and carrots for dinner. I have one more potato plant to dig up. And there's a watermelon in the backyard. There are at least three pumpkins out there to watch too. Today was a Farmers Market day. I picked up meat for the freezer. There is a lot of meat competition at the Farmer's Market. Herbold Farm has pork and beef, organically raised. Ross Farm has lamb and pork. Kern's Farm has chicken, duck, and pork. And a new farm with grass-fed beef. I did a Chinese stir-fry for dinner. Also made cookies. I ran out of energy before dishes were complete. I had to leave some tasks for tomorrow. Wouldn't want to get bored!
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
It’s full of pumpkins! The wet weather has prompted the pumpkins to become pre-maturely soft. So much rain! We try to shove bricks or boards under the pumpkins to prevent slugs. A couple of bugs had bore into the bottoms of the pumpkins. The marrows have not quite finished hardening off. They need two weeks to harden off, both pumpkins and winter squash in order to develop a thick skin for storage.

Just the beginning

So after I got back from SVFF, I started cutting pumpkins and scooping seeds. The seeds are drying for next year. The cooked pumpkin is getting frozen for now. I still have two more to bake that are discoloring. I tallied the produce weights. Pumpkins harvested so far, account for 46 pounds of food. There are still more in the garden. Another female flower was pollinated today. We have another mini watermelon too. The wet weather has made all the tomatoes split. Then they get buggy. The ground hog is gnawing on tomatoes as well. So the tomatoes don’t look especially well. Sweet potatoes won’t be harvested until first frost. Though I’m trying to harvest all the basil before it gets cold. I also picked dried beans today.

We have surpassed last year’s total. We are at 221 pounds of food and we are not done yet. Last year’s total was around 210 lbs. Seed saving is also underway. Once it turns cold, I will make more tomato sauce, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, and look for new recipes. The dehydrator has been such a blessing. With such high humidity, we’d never get the herbs to dry! Still to do, harvest chard for the freezer and roast some pumpkin seeds and pull carrots.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I need to explore fabulous opulence as it relates to home decor. Looking at non-neutral tones, no grey or taupe. Natural fibers preferred. High end designer sites at a Nieman-Marcus level. Suggestions? Magazine titles okay. This is an exercise to expand my horizons. Thanks.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Defined by Webster as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” I’m not very good at resilience and I doubt highly that most Americans are. Yet it is what allows us to survive as a species.

For me, it all started with a little webinar, self-guided free online classes with the Regenerative Institute. It lead me to an overwhelming amount of information and youtube videoes. As Odin said, “From a word to a word, I was led to a word, from a deed to another deed.” And so down the rabbit hole I went. After seeing “Years of Living Dangerously” with Harrison Ford on Showtime, I was in such despair as to what mankind has done to this planet. So depressing. I wanted to do something, anything to stop the destruction. I found direction in Permaculture. I drank the kook-aid. I am not a touchy, feely, community-oriented person. I am not a joiner. I’m not a prepper. I am a fiercely independent loner. And I am not rich. So how does that work then?

With limited resources, I started growing my own food. I live in the city. My yard is not fenced in. The yard is on an incline because, well, hills. I observed my site and just started. If something doesn’t work, try something different next year. It’s all an experiment. The soil didn’t really exist. Yes, there is dirt but not a functioning soil biome. My understanding is that it takes 5 years of no-dig for the soil to recover. With our heavy clay, the best thing for it is Daikon radishes and comfrey. Daikon go deep and then you let them rot in place. Comfrey also has deep roots., taking minerals buried deep in the ground and bringing them to the surface. So a mulch with comfrey leaves is a great benefit. There are entire books on the subject. Gaia’s Garden is a good place to start.

So year one, I covered a lot of the yard with cardboard, coffee grounds and sawdust from my favorite woodworker. I bought comfrey at a garden club sale, and heirloom seeds from a place called Restoration Seeds. I created the Mandala garden under the Japanese Maple and quit digging in my front yard garden. I was already farming it. I put in swales for water retention. And started collecting fruit bushes, a few more each year. The point is to plant more perennials and have fewer annuals. Also to add biodiversity and stack function.

Year Two: we looked at energy and water usage. We cut back on our water usage. We analyzed electric appliances and established a list of what needs to be replaced first. We know where our biggest drafts are in the 90 year old house. We can’t afford the repairs we need. But we know what they are.

Year Three: Our focus shifted to getting out of debt. Almost every dime has gone into paying down credit cards, paying off the car, paying off the mortgage, paying off medical bills, etc. It will take 5 years to get out from under this debt burden. And it isn’t easy. It’s a delicate balance. We have aging vehicles. I am trying very hard not to buy into the rat race which requires getting into more debt. Yesterday a new report was issued by Bloomberg that more Americans are taking out a Home Equity Line of Credit or HELOC to make ends meet. This is how we got in trouble last time along with predatory lending. Anyway, for us, the car is paid for. The first mortgage will be paid off by April. The medical bills will be paid off in June. Three major credit cards will take much longer unless I can negotiate rates down. And in order to place most of our income into debt reduction, that means we are not consumers. We don’t buy anything that isn’t food or related to growing food. I can’t tell you how tough that is. It’s everything from “Do I really need to drive there? to I haven’t bought new underclothes in years.” Yes, my best bra was purchased in 1998. That bites. Funds from my Etsy sales were allowing us to buy food. They changed their algorithm and now I have no sales at all. I can’t begin to tell you how that hurts.

Getting back to resilience, the wishlist is long. It doesn’t start with clothes. A recent conversation made me realize how different our approach is to the world we live in. A friend was positive that one could not live without a crockpot. She wanted to send me one. I told her I wouldn’t use it. One, it runs on electric that I can’t afford, two, it’s not how I make meals. Three, I have a solar oven for slow cooking as well as several clay pots for a fire pit or oven scenario. To be fair, it’s because my oven is dying. You see, I bake. I’m not making bread in a crockpot. But I can in a solar oven. Her recipe repertoire is very different than mine. I make everything from scratch. She buys cans of things to throw together.

On the top of on my list would be a Pressure Cooker to can low acid things like beans or meat. Followed by new storm doors to quell the draft. Back porch needs to be replaced and gutters rerouted to reduced basement moisture. One drainpipe is still going into the cistern which was filled in. It now leaks directly into a bucket I have in the basement through the cystern water pipes. Then the basement can be treated for mold. After that’s repaired, the back window wood is rotting out so the house needs a window and frame replacement. It’s a 10’ long window. None of this stuff is cheap. We were also looking at ceiling fans which are more energy efficient. There are two brands that meet EPA guidelines. The EPA has a cool appliance efficiency page. https://www.energystar.gov/most-efficient/me-certified-ceiling-fans/details/2322221
The two brands who have better products are Haiku and Fanimation. Getting back to my wishlist, I think I want a flushing upstairs toilet before I want a crockpot. I also have eight broken light fixtures. Not bulbs, whole fixtures. Hence, the ceiling fans but also I’d just like to see in the basement without using a flashlight. Yes, I think I need a lot of repairs. So I think year four of this permaculture journey is going focus on maintenance for zone zero, the house. So we’ll look at ladders and plumbing tools and hope CCAC, the community college, offers the electrical wiring class again.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
By the time the rain got here, I think the hurricane was mostly spent. It rained all day , but lightly and no wind or thunder. The pumpkin vines are happy. The tomatoes are splitting from all the moisture. The ground hog's been chewing on some of the big tomatoes.

Mostly working on hats for Jen's shows. I need to start working on things for my show too. I started a few dyebaths. Osage orange is soaking as well as coffee grounds. I might also do some onion peels. I did tarragon yesterday. It yielded a nice autumn tannish yellow. I have a lot of worsted weight wool that needs to be dyed. At least I got the tarragon under control!

Russian Tarragon

Russian Tarragon

Russian Tarragon

We identified the mushrooms out back as definitely being turkey tails. Time to harvest and dry them.
And now for something completely different

I added the new heather yarn shipment to the webpage as well as some shuttles. Still a few more items to go. https://www.etsy.com/shop/ursulasyarn

Sunday spinning included another batch of the pink, white and blue. I've spun four out of six ounces. Once I finish, I'll move on to blue. I have a lot of fleece to card. I'm making an effort to get through some of it. With thirty pounds, spinning only 2 ounces a week, should take me seven years. So a concerted effort is needed. It's theraputic but time consuming. Chronographia will knit it up into splendid pixie hats for sale. Watch for them at upcoming shows, St. James Court, LEAF, and FaerieCon. Since I cannot tag along to help, I can at least work behind the scenes.
Today’s spinning project
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Trying to get the house ready for winter. Cemented the cracks in the front porch steps. I kind of had to. Water from Gordon got into the basement through the cracks. The porch awning put a lot of water onto the steps. Record rainfall, 3 to 4"! They closed Interstate 376 because it became part of the Monongahela River for several days, With Florence following close behind, time is short. Next up: trimming tree branches. There's a lot of deadwood that needs to come down. I'd rather be the one bringing it down than the storm doing it. Wood needs to be cut into firewood too.

But wait, there’s more!

Crops to harvest. A pumpkin, too close to a down spot, got very sad this week. We are watching them more closely now. My neighbor stopped by with radishes. I let her pick as many collard greens as she wanted. Good radishes! I dug potatoes. The tomatoes are all splitting because first there was drought and now too much water. Beans could use another picking too.

Planting: Working carefully around the two wasp nests, I put in some fall seeds. The wooden frame garden got planted a few weeks ago. It's sparse. The cinderblock garden has some carrots coming up. I threw in more seed this week. I also made a new garden around the aronia bush. After sheet mulching over the top of the weeds, I put down a couple inches of coffee grounds and compost. Then added the strawberry runners. Maybe they'll take. It was 88° today. The strawberries looked very sad.

It keeps on going, and going!

I guess I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough pumpkins!

We are trying to coordinate two business show schedules for 2019. Spent tonight making a wall calendar so we don't miss deadlines. Then ran into internet issues. Grrr. Many pages aren't loading. I have to wonder, who is using servers based in NC, where Florence is coming in? It will have to wait.


9 Sep 2018 05:09 pm
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
A huge storm system is over us causing flooding and giving my garden much needed rain, but all at once. Gardening is out of the question for at least three days, maybe more. So, here's what I'm working on:

1. Seed saving
I have beans picked and drying for next year's seed. Purple Queen Beans, Scarlet Runner Beans, and Yard Long Beans. There are also some type of black bean but those are already shelled. The dried pods look very different than the fresh beans shown below.

Purple Queen and "yard-long" beans

Other seeds that I'm saving inclue four different kinds of tomato, watermelon, dill, carrot, and parsnip. There will be others but that is what I am working on drying and packaging right now.

Tomato seeds ready to dry

2. Drying herbs and vegetables for winter. Hubby chopped all the celery and laid out the leaves ever so neatly to dry. The celery stalks got frozen.

Homegrown celery

Dehydrating celery leaves

I ran the amaranth through an old-fashioned flour sieve to filtered out stems and flower debris. It's spending 2 days in the freezer in case its harboring pantry moths. Then I ground and packaged all the basil that was already in the dehydrator. A small batch of tomatoes was dried and put away as well. Here's an older photo. That Snackmaster Jr was a poor dehydrator because it lacked temperature control. It's been dead a while now. The trays are still useful.

Drying Tomatoes

3. Cooking and baking
I am the Baker in the family. I made carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I love baking but sadly anything with eggs in it doesn't love me. Since our oven is in bad shape, I went for a thin but large pan so that it cooked evenly. By cutting two pieces and stacking them, it gives you the same effect as a layer cake.

Carrot cake

Most nights, Chronographia cooks, when she's home that is. She turned our tomatoes into dinner. There used to be a show called Bitchin Kitchen on the Food Network. She learned how to make this pasta. We call it Nadia's pasta, after the host of the food show. It goes great with asparagus or zuchini. We have zuchini.

Volunteer large cherry tomatoes

Nadia’s Pasta (Bitchin’ Kitchen)

Chronographia is also in the process of making sherbert for the next heat wave. Right now its cool out, about 65° which is quite a switch from the 100° days. Within a week, the temperature is supposed to go up again, maybe upper eighties. We are watching the upcoming tropical storms carefully. There is a reason we don't do outdoor September shows. From Allison to Nate, we've lost a lot of merchandise and equipment over the years. Last year, we lost a tent and bent two displays. Artists all over are having a rough weekend. Renegade in Chicago had wind gusts, destroying tents; A Fair in the Park as well as the Pittsburgh Renaissaince Faire closed due to flooding this weekend. So be careful out there folks!

I'm sure I can find more things to do tomorrow while it rains. We have movies from the library to watch while we knit if nothing else.
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
Fall events are coming up fast. First, Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, St. James Court Art Show, LEAF, SAFF and FaerieCon. Three of which require a minimum of 50 hats each. So off to the races! Supplies are low. It's almost to the point where you can have any hat you like as long as its gray.

Today we had adventures in supply chain issues. A firm I have been doing business with for 20 years decided, out of the blue, that everything must be in writing. I lost a day getting the internet to work. The computer goes on strike when its over 90° because it no longer has a functioning fan. Email sent. Two days later, "oh, by the way, we need your FEIN number". I email the number as requested. Nope. "We want all your paperwork with personal information sent by unsecured email". Nope. I won't do that. You can have a copy mailed to you, no problem. So another 4 days will go by. I am a week behind now. And I am no longer your loyal customer. Chuck, Denise, why did you have to retire and leave me with this new person who is so full of herself? Obviously, they no longer want my business. But all my hat shrinkage rates are based on their yarn! Breathe. It hurts because another supplier started out this way and now refuses to sell to smaller companies. I have PTSD. Not my first rodeo with this modern approach to marketing. I really hate whatever school is teaching this crap. You don't gain customers unless you entice small shops and rural areas to like your product. That starts with shop owners. If you can convince them that your product is the best, then they will in turn sell your product to the rest of the world. Okay, the old lady will stop grumbling now. Hopefully it will all work out.

Meanwhile, I started with what I have. First, the lack of Viking hats must be addressed. It still amazes me that I can knit five hats identically and each will be a different size when finished. Looking forward to a complete color wheel of hats. Black yarn comes in with the delayed yarn order. Yellow/gold is next on the needles. Brown needs to be carded and spun. So burgundy, orange, gold, green, blue, lilac, black and maybe brown.

Hats in progress

Knitted with hand dyed fleece

They are all washed now. Five more than there were before. (Almost none) The lilac one needs to be shrunk one more time because its huge! Here's how they turned out:

Fall Viking Hats

So on to fall bookkeeping and show planning for next year. Working with spreadsheets. Not much to show. Also happening: Natural dyeing is ongoing while yarn lasts. Spinning to make up for not being able to buy as much yarn as I need to make hats. Spinning happens when my arms get tired of knitting. Once I have a full rainbow of Viking hats, I will move on to what we call Chico hats. A basic peasant hat with a brim, named after Chico Marx. Since most of those in stock are very small, its time to upsize them. I also have a client wanting a custom version, so these will happen soon. Then I start on classic bowlers. Each hat can take four to five days to make without causing repetitive muscle strain. Deadline is looming, October 4th/5th ish. Wish me luck!

Today’s spinning project

The dye baths will be a separate post. I am experimenting mad scientist style. Wait and see what happens. Another garden post should be along shortly as well.

Mustard yarn


3 Sep 2018 01:53 pm
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I am still in search of how many tomatoes to plant each year. Let's start with usage. We make spagetti or sloppy joes at least once every week to ten days. We use about 6 bottles of ketchup a year. We like sun-dried tomatoes on pizza. Yes, if we could, we'd eat that every week. Fresh tomatoes, not so much. It's funny that because "I love a good mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich where the mutton is nice and lean. . . " so assume 50 to 60 pints of tomato sauce, paste, or chutney. Also at least a gallon of dried tomatoes. Two gallons would be better.

How to preserve your harvest. Courtesy of the Public Library.

Now let's look at yield. According to literature found at the public library, about 25 pounds yields 6 quarts of sauce. Yield varies by variety of tomato, soil nutrients and weather or growing season. The first year I grew Blue Cherokees, I got two tomatoes per plant. Each weighed a half pound. Literature says I should get between 20 and 30 pounds per plant. Big disconnect! What gives? Let's start with growing season. This plagued me for a long time. No matter how early I started my seedlings, volunteers that started naturally outside always did better. I almost gave up. Our tomatoes routinely got ripe at the end of September or well into October. You could always tell the first frost date by when I shot these types of pictures. October 19th. Notice all those green tomatoes?

15 Pounds of Volunteers

Soil nutrients - our soil is horrible. Urban landscape, clay with loam, but no humous. Nightshade grows well here so tomatoes should too. Heinz is based here so tomatoes should have no problem. Well, that's an ongoing issue. I've added sand, peat, and various amendments but after one season, they were gone and we'd start all over again. Then, I started composting and vermiculture. The vermiculture was like a secret ingredient that no one would share as part of the recipe. I noticed last year even the anaerobic worm poo made a big difference in my yield. This year I added worm castings to the seed starter soil and rich compost to the bed. What a difference!

Sept 5, 2017
No clue tomatoes

September 3, 2018
Middle Earth

If I'd have staked them properly and gotten rid of some of the leaves, they would be riper. However, I've already made spagetti sauce once, BLTs, and have 4 pounds of tomatoes in a one gallon freezer bag. I'd say that we are about two weeks in growth ahead of schedule. So how many plants did I put in?

Grocery Store tomatoes

Middle Earth

I had 4 - 5 of the grocery store unknown tomato which tastes like beefsteak and 3 to 4 blue Cherokees, see above. Some of them didn't survive transplant.

Brand new straw garden for tomatoes

Tomato Cage

Then the old seed experiment of black plum tomatoes went into straw. Interesting that. I got three different kinds of tomatoes from that experiment. One is a blue cherokee, another is a large cherry tomato which grows like those vine-ripened six packs from the store. My label for it was stupice but the leaves are wrong for stupice.

Going back to the literature, I should plant 6 juice/sauce varieties per adult in the house and 2 each for drying tomatoes like the black plum. Also 2 each of sandwich tomato varieties. So 18 juicies and 6 drying tomatoes in total. Volunteers, we did get a large cherry in the compost pile and a weird bunch in the front yard. I staked them. They tipped over and are sprawled all over. Not sure what they'll yield as they are in shade. And also in our path, getting stepped on.

The year won't be over until you see me posting a giant bowl of green tomatoes. I'll have final weights at that time. Currently it's hitting 90° daily and there has been no rain.
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