altivo: Horsie cupcakes (cupcake)
Today is the Day of the Rock, an archaic term for the first day of ordinary time after the Christmas holiday of 12 days' length. "Rock" in this case being an old word used to refer to a spindle, the primitive tool used for spinning wool or linen into thread that can be woven or knitted into garments. Some of you may recall a puzzling song lyric: "I sold my rock, I sold my reel, I sold my only spinning wheel..." which in fact uses the word in that context.

In more generic terms, today is the first day on which ordinary household tasks, such as spinning, weaving, sewing, and laundry, are resumed after the Christmas break.

So. Did I do any spinning today? Alas, no, my spinning wheels (3 of them) and my spindles (many) remained idle. However, I did do some knitting and may get some more done before going to bed. We cooked and washed dishes and cared for our animals too, but those things never stop for any holiday. Well, neither does knitting.

We did celebrate the Day of the Rock by going to two stores that were having yarn sales, though. We bought nothing at Michael's, but did get some yarn and tools at Joann Fabrics. I have at least three knitting projects going at the moment and I'm buying more yarn? It was a "bargain." But I'll be honest, it's also a kind of addiction. At least it's not harmful to one's health. I have other addictions too: reading, buying books, a lifelong attraction and attachment to animals of all sorts, playing keyboard instruments (sometimes badly) and so forth. Love me, love my flaws I guess. Fortunately my husband shares many of these to some degree, so we have few problems with it.

As I type this, one of those animals is snuggled up with me on the sofa. Yes, even though I yelled at him yesterday for eating my mittens. I shouldn't have left them within his reach, of course, even though he has rarely done anything like that in the nine or so months he has been with us. He sheds fur, drools water on the floor, and barks too much; but Laddie is a first class cuddler and that gets him a pass on most of his flaws.

Happy Day of the Rock to one and all.


Aug. 30th, 2012 08:48 pm
altivo: Wet Altivo (wet altivo)
I shouldn't really be writing this, as the lies and false rhetoric of politics are making me violently ill.

However, on other topics. Call sign change is starting to roll now. A number of web sites and directories have picked up the change automatically. A couple implemented it only in part, and needed a nudge from me to put the pieces together. Still waiting on one, where I happen to have a radio-related web page that needs and alias changed. Volunteer administrators, so it probably will take until the weekend to get fixed.

NOAA predicts some rain for us out of the last gasp of the hurricane, but I'm not really anticipating much. We could use some, but it's really too late to save much. The big trees are dropping their leaves at an alarming rate now. I just hope we aren't going to have more dead ones come next year. The burst of grass growth that followed the rains a couple of weeks ago has dropped off when nothing but occasional dew followed. We really need more hay for the winter, and I can't afford to pay the prices being asked, This is not good.

Guild show coming up in a little more than two weeks, and we have only a handful of entries promised. I think this is the last year I will put my energy into that. If they want a show, someone else is going to have to do the arm twisting and organizing. On a brighter note, Gary and I finished the rehabilitation of an antique spinning wheel for friend and ex-boss Harriet, who is pleased to have it back. It now can actually be used for spinning again. We estimate the age of the wheel at something like 150 years. As you might expect, parts had to be fabricated, others were repaired or reinforced. We made no changes that can't be reversed, following the practices of good museum conservators. The whole thing took two years, but obviously we weren't working on it full time.
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
No, not because it's Gay Pride. No, not because it's Amateur Radio Field Day. Because it's the Midwest Fiber and Folk Fest AND the Day at Petersen Farm.

Gary had a musical commitment at Midwest yesterday afternoon, so I agreed to staff the spinning guild booth in that time slot. Thinking, silly me, that it would be like the equivalent slot last year, which was pretty quiet. Not so. I was swamped with people who wanted to buy our hand spindle starter kits and then get free lessons in how to use them. The fest is held in a county fair building, one of those steel barn affairs. Fortunately it is air conditioned sort of, unfortunately the acoustics are horrible. It's one echoing massive burst of white noise that pounds on the ears continuously. Since people interested in fiber arts are often older and don't have the best hearing, and that is compounded by the bad background noise, I shouted myself hoarse (not "horse") and came home with a sore throat and throbbing headache. We did, however, take in a nice lump of cash for the guild treasury.

Today was the Petersen Farm, a sort of farm history re-enactment. They have groups demonstrating all sorts of farm skills from the 19th century, and of course spinning, weaving, sewing, quilting are among them. Fortunately I sweet-talked a friend into helping me this year, since last year I did it alone because everyone else was at the Midwest event. The bribe was a picnic lunch, which succeeded beyond expectations.

Friend is a vegetarian, so I promised home baked pita pockets, home made hummus, and a green salad from the garden. Well, the garden pretty much bolted in the heat last week, so most of the greens came from a local produce market but the salad was still a success: romaine, bronze leaf lettuce, arugula, cilantro, snow peas, tomatoes, vidalia onion, and fennel (packed with ice in a zip lock bag to keep it crisp, which worked perfectly.) Whole wheat pita pockets baked last night, two flavors of hummus (roasted red pepper, garlic) and diced tomato and onion with vinegar and olive oil. California merlot disguised in a thermos bottle that held it at exactly 67F, and a cute picnic set in a backpack that included plaid tablecloth and cloth napkins, wine goblets, retro plastic handled flatware, plates, bowls, corkscrew, breadknife and cutting board. We got a great laugh out of it all and lunch was delicious too.

Still have a sore throat, wondering if it's seasonal allergies kicking in or a cold coming on. Today's headache is from being in the bright sun for seven hours. And tomorrow the sheep shearer cometh...

No rain

Jun. 21st, 2012 10:22 pm
altivo: Blinking Altivo (altivo blink)
Again. It's getting very dry here, grass is starting to turn brown. Rain was predicted for last night and this morning, but nothing happened. There were a few clouds, but it cleared up. The temperature dropped, though. Highs around 90F the last couple of days dropped back to 70 or so today.

Busy weekend on the horizon, with handspinning demos both days, one at a fair on Saturday and the other a sort of historical recreation at a heritage farm on Sunday.

Pulled out a stalled project (Tom Baker's Dr Who scarf) that was in my closet for years. Fortunately it was acrylic washable yarn, so no moths. Unfortunately, mice had chewed a couple of small holes at some point. Started wondering when and... By my calculation, this project was started between 27 and 28 years ago. It was about 75% complete and got interrupted. I think the interruption was our move from an apartment building where we had two apartments facing each other across the hall to our first house. That was 1985. Anyway, the mouse damage is repairable, and the scarf will be done soon as I'm a much faster knitter than I was in 1985. It's based on a pattern distributed by the BBC back in 1982, so it's the same huge long colorful thing that Baker used to wear. It was supposed to be for Gary, and will be. I'm just going to borrow it for a couple of days to use at IFC in August. :D
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Here is the first of a series of photos that cover the flax processing yesterday morning.

Flax Processing 1

To view the whole series, click the image above and on the resulting screen use the "next" link to proceed through the entire group of 14 images. Note that they are in no special order. We were doing all the steps at once after thing got started, as individuals rotated from one tool to another.

After that, I went directly to the Illinois Railway Museum for the Rails 'n' Tails picnic. Gary's group, Kishwaukee Ramblers, were providing some music for us and they allowed me to sit in with them for a bit. Here I am (left) with Gary (center) and Neal (right.) Amy was to the right of Neal and didn't fit into the picture.

Today we kept a lazy low profile for the most part, trying to recharge from yesterday. Both of us got some sunburn and have been running on short sleep for several days.
altivo: (rocking horse)
And it was fun, but exhausting.

Flax processing did yield some usable fiber, enough to demonstrate how it works, and I was able to show others how to do it. Yay.

Got to the railway museum in time for the picnic lunch and music. Weather was a bit warm but the day was fun and pleasant. Because it has been quite dry, mosquitoes were not in evidence.

Came home and took care of the animals, then watched The Secret Life of Arietty which is recently released to DVD. As always with Studio Ghibli productions, I found it disorienting and disturbing. Gary liked the music, but he wasn't familiar with the original book from 1952. Ghibli Japanified the story, not just in art and music, but going so far as showing Japanese text on some written signs and other parts of the imagery, though they also showed English in others. It distorted Mary Norton's original with Japanese traditions and concepts, making it all very strange and hallucinatory to my mind.

I have some photos still in two cameras, will post tomorrow perhaps. Meanwhile, bedtime.


Mar. 10th, 2012 09:41 pm
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Maybe, at last. Into the 50s and sunny again today.

Yet another solar flare with attendant CME took place. This one is supposed to hit tomorrow sometime. I think we're expecting clouds and rain, but at least the temperatures will hold up.

Guild meeting this morning with an exploration of wool from different sheep breeds. Interesting stuff, samples passed out to play with, as if I had enough time... But I did take a couple that interested me.

Finished a birthday gift, a knit cap for a friend. We made an embroidered patch with a picture (sort of like a badge) and I sewed it on this evening. Now just need to wrap it and get it in the mail on Monday. Remaining tasks for tomorrow: laundry, and fursuit repairs and updates.

I've been up since 4 am this morning. Time for sleep, I think. Gary is off at a Civil War Ball and wont be back until late.


Jan. 8th, 2012 09:20 pm
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
Another day, another egg.

Guild newsletter finished, and that's enough accomplishment for today.


No Snow day

Dec. 4th, 2011 08:57 pm
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
Fairly productive day in spite of the urge to drowse off all the time. Sleep deficit is catching up, will try to reform tonight by going to bed early.

Animal chores, check. Edit and post guild newsletter, check. Bake apple pie, check. Make pizza and spinach salad for supper, check. Wind all the 8-day clocks, check. ;p

Did not get as far as working on illustrations for Rollng Stock which had been on my list of intentions for the weekend. Taking a nap became a pressing priority today but I managed to stave it off too.

Sky was gray and threatening all day, with occasional gusty winds and falling temperatures. The rain from yesterday and overnight stopped though. Temperature when I got up at 5:30 am was 51F. By sunset it was 34F, after dropping slowly from dawn to dusk. .


Oct. 8th, 2011 08:43 pm
altivo: 'Tivo as a plush toy (Miktar's plushie)
Continuous 7 hours of fiber art demos and gallery duty (explaining things over and over, showing how a loom works, etc.) means most of it on my feet and moving. And tomorrow a new load of hay is coming in. Gonna be sore by Monday, I fear.

Gary's hand is improving, slowly but the evidence is clear now.

There's a street festival in nearby Marengo tonight, so we're getting drunks and fireworks all the way out here in the next township. I guess country roads are too much of a tempation, and wild driving (noisy too) follows. Hope no one kills deer or foxes. If they hit a skunk they get what they deserve.

We were going to do a fancy dinner but we're both too worn, so we pulled a container of homemade pasta sauce out of the freezer and had spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad. Dog approves, he likes garlic bread.

For tomorrow: unload hay, groceries, perhaps apple picking if there's time. No more gallery duty until October 30 when we break the show down. (Though I see a so far unfilled shift on the 29th and might pick that up if necessary.)
altivo: (rocking horse)
Even though I have a full day of gallery watching ahead of me tomorrow (and then I'll be done until the show closes on the 30th.) This has been a week full of side trips and distractions.

Gary did go to his doctor's office today and saw the nurse practitioner. $100 (cha-ching) and she prescribed an antibiotic. Price of 20 pills: $120 (cha-cha-ching.) Fortunately he did get an AARP discount on the prescription at Walgreen's, so that only cost $22. Finger still swollen and feverish, but he only started the antibiotic this evening.

I finally looked over the result list for the show judging. I had 12 entries (13 actually, but I withheld one from the judge) and received 11 awards. That sounds better than it really is, though, since the competition was thin. In many cases I had the only entries in a category. For instance, I got all three ribbons in cotton spinning, but I was the only one to submit cotton yarns. Total take (the awards are only symbolic, no actual prizes involved) was 4 first place, 4 second, and 3 third.

Got home too late to change water on the flax, will do it in the morning.

Weather is delightful now, probably our last pleasant spell before the winter. Sunny skies, daytime highs around 80F, nighttime lows mid-50s. You folks in EU should watch for the Draconid meteor shower tomorrow evening (peak around 2000-2100 UTC) which may reach a rate as high as 1000 per hour. In spite of our clear skies, the whole thing will be mostly over before dark here. The waxing moon may cause some interference in viewing even if you have an otherwise clear sky, though.

Gallery ho!

Oct. 6th, 2011 09:47 pm
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Highlight photos of the spinning show are now online.

Best in show sweater

To see all 16 photos, click on the thumbnail above, and then use the "newer" button at the top right corner of each image.

I changed the water on the flax I started soaking yesterday. My instructions say to replace all the water after 24 hours, then half of it each 24 hours following until the retting process is complete. Telling when the process is complete seems to be tricky.

Another experimenter reported that her flax (soaking in a rain barrel) smelled very bad today. This surprises me a bit, as I could detect no odor as I poured off the old water. It was the color of strong green tea, but had no odor at all. The flax is certainly wet now, but not ready to shed its bark. We shall see what happens.

Gary got bitten by the cat this morning. Now he has a red and swollen fingertip. He went off to the urgent care center in Woodstock after dinner but they had already closed. Hospital emergency room is just too expensive to even consider, so he's waiting until tomorrow morning.
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Object: Starting with three bundles of dried flax plants, end up with clean linen fiber ready to spin.

The whole plants are pulled up, roots and all, and hung in bundles until they become perfectly dry. Then the round seed pods are removed, in a process called "rippling." A handful at a time, the flax stems are pulled through a coarse comb that pops the seedheads off so they fall into a tub or other container. I didn't have a rippling comb, and suspect that seeds would fly all over. Instead I just used my hands. It worked adequately.

The linen fiber is the phloem tubules found under the outer bark of the flax plant. To separate these tiny capillary fibers from the rest of the bark and pith, we immerse the dried plant in water for a few days. Bacterial action does the separation for us. That's as far as I got with the process today. The plants are under water now. Tomorrow I have t4o drain the pool entirely and refill it. After that, half the water is replaced each day as needed. ending when the bark peels easily and the fibers separate to some extent on their own.

That's what is in progress here. The middle bundle still needs to be weighted down so that all the stems are under water.

Almost ready

While I sat out on the deck cross-legged, pulling seed pods off and collecting them, it occurred to me that anyone watching me would probably assume that I was cleaning marijuana. I assure you, this stuff is flax. And what I did with it probably proves that it is not some illegal drug.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Gallery show in Woodstock is now hanging. (Old Courthouse Arts Center, 101 N. Johnson St. on the Square, October 6 – 30. Thu – Sat 11 am – 5 pm, Sun 1 &ndash 5 pm) Show opens on Thursday at 11 am. Free admission, if you're in the area come see us.

Challenge scarves

Above is a close-up view of the spinning guild challenge submissions. These scarves were all made entirely from yarn spun with hand spindles. My scarf, about which you've seen me complaining for some time, was completed in time and is the rainbow colored lacy one at center.
altivo: (rocking horse)
At least I'm pleased with the results, now that all the colors are together. Must end it sometime yet tonight, one way or another, but knitting furiously to achieve a balanced proportion in the last green.

New plush arrived today. Photos tomorrow of both scarf and plush, I guess.
altivo: (rocking horse)
At least a little. Things seem to be slowing down a bit, though it will take until Sunday to get past all the fuddle and flurry.

That load of hay finally came in this morning. The big wagon, but fortunately we can take the whole weekend to unload it.

Service guy came to look at the heat pump, too. This time we got the guy out from the place that installed it, though they are much more expensive and not always helpful. He says a circuit board needs replacement ($250) and found the pressure in the underground loop was down again after just being pumped back up a month ago. That worries me a lot more.

Sent off my entries for the show in Woodstock, in spite of my doubts about the validity and security of our month long lease on the show space. Booked my gallery sitting hours. So that's taken care of. Scheduled October 4 off to help put up the show display.

Car goes in for service in the morning, but should get it back by 5 pm. With any luck this time they'll find and fix the slow leak in one tire. Gary and Rob are scheduled to play in Belvidere at the Pioneer Festival Saturday mid-day, so Rob is coming out by train and will stay over Friday night. And by Saturday evening, all the fuss should be over. Maybe I can even go pick apples on Sunday.

Oh, and we had a "technology" meeting with the trust board committee on Wednesday evening. It seems my new boss is backing down on her previous desire to get rid of Linux and put Windows on all the public access machines. She has recognized the clear cost savings we get from Linux, and also that it isn't as "alien" as she first thought it was. She used to be sure that people couldn't use OpenOffice, but now she has seen that they do so every day without complaint or difficulty. The actual cost of our Linux installations, including hardware and software maintenance, comes to just more than half what it would be to equip the same number of seats with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office. It also saves on electricity since we drive the equivalent of six workstations from one multiheaded server, something that Windows can't do. With Linux we get 18 working seats from three machines, where Windows would require 18 separate PCs, all of them with extra ram, newer CPU, more disk space, and half a dozen management and security programs added (all with annual license fees.)
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
Spinning demonstration went quite well, better than I expected. I was prepared for lots of young children, and instead we had all adults, most of them of "senior" age groups. There were three men, none of whom actually tried spinning but all of whom asked intelligent questions about the process and equipment. One came because he has an old spinning wheel and wants to rebuild it to make it work as it should.

There were perhaps a dozen women, most of whom did try spinning, and made their own spindle to do it with. Several took the spindle and a yard or so of wool roving I sent with them for practice purposes. Overall, it was fun and not too stressful. I worried that I had taken too much equipment and too many samples, but at one time or other I used everything. We ran overtime, and I ended up leaving all the stuff in the meeting room, locked up. I'll have to clear it out early tomorrow morning because they're cleaning the carpet in there at 9 am. Overall, it was a success and reasonably fun.

Now I'm tired and have to get up early, though.
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
Split shift definitely makes it more exhausting.

Today the blood drive people were in the library. They are the most inconsiderate users of library space, loud,thoughtless, rude, and often demanding. This time they extended their usual hours by 30 minutes to 6:30. You'd think that they'd still be out well before 8 pm but no, we had to literally chase them out.

Library book club finally met to discuss Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court which they had originally scheduled for last May and kept putting off because none of them had finished the book. I don't think most of them ever did. They all hated it. I can only guess that 19th century writing was too much for them, though generally I find Twain pretty easy, and I thought that book was fairly clever and full of political commentary on modern culture.

Got all the stuff for tomorrow night's spinning demo hauled up there and piled in the staffroom to be ready. That way I don't have to rush to get it packed and up there tomorrow.

Gary made chicken porkolt for supper. That's a Hungarian dish with chicken, onions, and tomatoes and a load of paprika, served with noodles or gnocchi. We had the gnocchi, which I really like. So that made up for the long day kind of, but now I need to sleep. Meeting all the way up in Rockton tomorrow morning.

Oh, and it's 45F outside headed down to a possible 32F before the night is over. It's too early for frost, but not far north of here they've already got a hard freeze alert. And our hay guy called to say he has two loads for us. So we'll be unloading hay soon and I'll be griping about the cost no doubt.
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
So the weaving is done for the moment and set aside. But instead I am spinning like mad to catch up to another deadline. Finished a skein of very finely spun domestic yak down (don't ask) this morning. Now working on Corriedale wool so I can complete the knitting of a small scarf that must be done by next week Thursday latest. It's workable, just tight.

Today was a smoke-filled day. Much of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin was blanketed by smoke from the Pagami Creek Fire in northern Minnesota, about 500 miles from here. That fire has been burning since August 18 when it was started by lightning, and has now consumed 60,000 acres in the Boundary Waters area. The smoke even penetrated our ventilation system at the library for a couple of hours this afternoon, but seems to have changed paths since sunset. Police and Fire emergency calling centers were swamped with calls to report unidentified fires in some areas, with callers in some instances refusing to believe that the actual fire was two states away and completely outside local jurisdictions.

I've seen this sort of thing before, but not often enough to consider the possibility when I first notice the odor of woodsmoke. It didn't help that little or no publicity about the Minnesota fire had reached us here in Illinois. Texas we've heard about until we are tired of it, but Minnesota has been keeping things quiet.

In other news, our bizarre Brit neighbors are apparently heading back to England soon. At least, that's what the lady of the house told Gary yesterday. Apparently they've been on visitors' visa all these years and finally ran out of renewal options. Their application for green card status has been hung up somewhere and they have to leave. While I'd expect that as land owners and apparently business owners they'd be planning to come back once the legal papers are resolved, they are taking their horses and dogs with them. This is no small expense and quite a complex paperwork maze in itself, one that implies to me that they don't expect to be back any time soon. They can't sell their property for what they paid for it, let alone the added cost of fences, barn, and improvements they've put into it, so they plan to rent it out. (Just what we need, next door renters with an absentee landlord in another hemisphere.) With my luck, they'll rent to a biker gang or a brothel. Or drug dealers. Sigh.
altivo: From a con badge (studious)
At least, sometimes. You can get results that seem to have nothing to do with what the recipe or book instructions tell you to expect.

We have a lot of elderberries this year, which is unusual. Normally it gets too dry during August and the berries mummify. Not this time. Yesterday I went out and gathered about a pound of them for a dyeing experiment. My books say that elderberries produce a lavender blue color when used with an alum mordant and simmered for a long time. So I mordanted about 2.5 ounces of Wensleydale yarn with alum and cream of tartar, cooked up my berries with vinegar and water, and tried dyeing the yarn.

Step 4: Dyeing the yarn

Above you see the dyepot filled with strained off elderberry solution and my yarn. I simmered this for about 90 minutes, then covered it and let it stand until completely cool. This morning I rinsed out the yarn and put it out to dry.

Step 6: Results

And there are the results. The color is pleasant enough, something like a warm rose tan. Not a hint of blue or purple, though. The berries may be affected by the fact that our soil is quite alkaline. Many blue-purple colored flowers and berries lose their blue in alkaline soil and intensify it in acid soil. Blueberries show similar effects, and ours are much more red in color though they taste the same as the true blue berries from elsewhere.

August 2017



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