Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Our weekend away was very productive in the sense that we found a block of land that is a) suitable in size and conformation, b) convenient to our rural town of choice, and c) we can afford. This photo will do nothing to reveal its location but shows the grove of mature gums where there is a perfect house site. It is not far off sealed road, 15 minutes to shops, etc., has a robust tenancy by kangaroos and lots of birds and no water, but then nobody has water these days. I see lots of rainwater tanks and electrified fencing in my future to keep garden, roos and potential cashmere goats from interacting in any undesirable way. It was so quiet and peaceful there. Now we have to do all the paperwork involved in buying land.

Last night Canberra had a storm which we noted as "we're having another thunderstorm, it seems." When I ventured out this morning I found drifts of hail still lying around, half a hillside had attempted to move down the slope, and there was extensive damage in the city and to the university so there is no weaving class tonight. Rats. We were going to actually start weaving tonight having completed warping the looms last week despite being interrupted by another thunderstorm when lightning hit the Art School building and set off the fire alarm. This stretch of repeated summer evening thunderstorms is not the norm for Canberra and it makes the next day steamy which is also not usual. It makes zucchinis turn into blimps overnight and I finally made what I am convinced is my last batch of sweet zucchini pickle relish yesterday but I haven't made the pear jam yet. I was just too tired before we left to do it. The pear are cooling their heels in the fridge, so maybe Friday.

I spun enough silk in the car going to Victoria that I had to wind it off onto my nostepinne and I was surprised at how much there was on a Bosworth featherweight. I am down to the toe of the second summer sock. We went to Bendigo Woolen Mills and I got a huge cone of neutral coloured wool for weaving and they had bags of singles in various colours for prices like 50 cents which might be fun to experiment with. I also bought a cone of 3-ply fuchsia for weaving. As soon as I can convince the Bear to assemble my warping board I want to warp my loom while the experience is fresh in my mind. I think my project once we have done the learning part of the course is going to be a red and white twill wool scarf. I have a standard issue fan scarf, but I'd like something a little more dressy that I can wear every day. I am hoping my newly svelte body now fits into my leather coat since my lovely lambswool tailor-made dress coat seem to have been attacked by moths despite being bedded down to moth balls.

While we were away we missed the first round of the pre-season competition which the Swans promised to lose (to the Bulldogs) and they did. This week they are playing Richmond here on Saturday so we shall have to think about that. I have so much stuff going through my head regarding work (I have been volunteered to do a test of doing authority work on two different systems and time taken), the land purchase, various household tasks that need addressing (ironing), the garden and its needs, and all the textile/fibre stuff that is always running through my head. In addition it is getting ready to storm again so I better sign off.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I'm going to say some heretical things about some people who have reached cult status in the online knitting community. I am speaking of Lime & Violet who are among The Most Linked To podcasters around (I used to have one of their buttons on my page). *WARNING* This is a personal opinion only and should not encourage anyone to flame me. I find their podcasts inane. I sometimes find myself far into their chatter and there is no knitting content at all. They seem to find whatever the other says as hilarious and dissolve into fits of giggles, and I'm sorry I don't see what's so funny. You had to be there? I really don't care about the husband's out of tune ukulele or the creepy sales person. It's supposed to be about knitting. I know one of them has breast cancer. You know, I know an awful lot of women who are much closer to me that have breast cancer (or worse) and I don't feel the need to go into gorey detail. My mother died of breast cancer so you cannot say I don't care. Brenda has so far the only knitting podcast that I find worth the effort. You can tell she's thought seriously about the content of her podcast and doesn't sit in front of a microphone gabbling and giggling. She's gone through her own health issues but has kept the background info out of the podcast and on her blog (which has lots in it as well). I have my health issues as well, but then I have a semi-unusual condition and I am not here to toot any horn, but to communicate with people I know. Any others who are interested are welcome but I try to keep the private information away from fibre talk which is supposed to be the main topic here.

Therefore, I will not go into details about where I will be going on Thursday through Sunday except it involves our potential tree-change to country Victoria. My main concern is getting the Bear to actually make a decision about anything. Two Libras are a bad combination for making big decisions! I am taking sock wool and my silk spindle. There has been so much going on here that I am really tired and need a re-group. Having waited till the last minute to decide to actually go hasn't helped. I made blackberry jam last night and even indulged in a bowl of berries and cream. Before we leave I have another batch of pickles and some spiced pear jam to create before the fruit goes soggy.

A note on what passes for a LYS. I went to it to buy buttons for J's cardigan. It is the local branch of one of the major chain of fabric and general sewing and craft items. They added knitting materials not too long ago but their range is limited, and aside from their own labelled yarns, they usually carry Katia. On this trip, as usual, half of their bins were empty, a lot of yarn was on sale and every single bit was acrylic. There is also some yarn at the back of a local (very small) department store which carries both the basics (Patons, Cleckheaton, etc.) and some fascinating Italian yarns at fantastic (i.e., yikes!) prices. I try to regularly trawl their sale bins to pick up bargains, but I am not buying yarn. Read the button.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

It was neat to look at my weather pixie under an umbrella with lightning in the background and she's exactly right at this moment. It is actually raining, although not hard, and the thunder woke me from a nap. The Bear of course can sleep through anything. I have been so tired and, aside from laundry, house and garden work, I haven't really done much to speak about. I finished one of my cotton blend socks and cast on the second. I bought buttons for the cardigan. I have almost finish filling a bobbin with BFL but am worried that I didn't put enough twist in it because of its long fibre length and that when I ply it it will not be as firm as I want it.

My weaving class was great but it goes so quickly. I was totally surprised when it was 9PM as it didn't feel like it had been that long. There are 3 of us as beginners and two others doing ikat. We each have a loom and are warping a 6" wide warp in 3 colours (mine is predominantly red, surprise, surprise). The instructor, Monique, walked us through measuring the warp on each warping board, then showed us our to put it on the loom back to front. We all worked together and by the time we got to my loom, the three beginners did it all by ourselves. We were threading the heddles when time ran out. One of the ikat students who had already done the course said we were way ahead of where her class was. I think it's a case of repetition will make the process second nature and you won't have to think about where to put the warp, but right now there's a lot to take in. I've also looked at some of my weaving books and there is some variation in how you do some of it, and it's the principles I want to learn so I can take them back to my loom. I have already started thinking about what I want to do for my class project and have ideas for placements, scarves and other things running through my head. I have decided that the filthy fleece is no longer worth the effort and what I haven't carded and washed is going into mulch. I've got loads of beautiful spinnable wool, so why waste time on this?

We went blackberrying again this morning and got a much better haul, although I fell twice. Neither fall was a bad one altho I dropped berries on the first one and the ants beat me to them. However, it did make me feel increasingly unsteady. My vertigo has been bad lately and that doesn't help when you are foraging around on the side of a hill sourrounded by prickly bushes. If you step in a hole or on a branch that breaks, you have no resilience to correct your balance and you go down. But we got enough to make jam with some to spare so I won't complain. We may go back in a fortnight to do some more. I think The Bear is agreeing to go to Bendigo this Thursday but he still hasn't committed. It's our best chance yet to get some land that looks good at a price we can afford, but all I can do is nag.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I spoke too soon about the rain passing. We did have a downpour and I got very nervous about not hearing gurgling in the downspout behind my bed and The Bear nobly went out in the rain up a ladder (which he hates) to make sure the gutters were clear. The tree surgeon comes next Tues and I'll arrange a roofer to clean things up after that. I had horrible visions of our new ceiling disappearing from water damage again.

On the fibre front, I have only spun BFL and knit socks. I figure if I continue the cotton blend socks at my current rate I will get wearable socks before it turns cold. I was briefly tempted by an ad in one of the fibre lists for cut price llama fleeces (somebody with 150 llama and alpaca fleeces to offload!!) because I can't find a processor who will make the transaction possible. I have been unable to raise Wooly Knob for quite some time about the state of my fleeces that they are supposedly processing so I am hardly going to send them more. In spite of my vow not to buy more fibre I had to console myself with some llama roving instead. I think I will take some of the hanks of handspun in natural coloured wool and knit a jumper for the bear. It is chunkier than the usual 8-ply which means those oceans of stocking stitch will go faster. I think I am going to knit the red tweed into something for me but I haven't decided on a pattern. Is this the time to try a top down? Side to side?

There was an article in last week's Bulletin about the wool industry and (among the other things mentioned below) about the bounce back of the wool industry in some parts, the picture was painted that farmers are hedging their bets with sheep these days and breeding sheep that can be sold as reasonable meat sheep as well as producing wool. Dual purpose sheep have a better chance of turning a profit than wool only. Interesting sites I found were the Australian Wool Testing Authority and The Australian Stud Sheep Breeders Association which has some breed photos, a history of wool in Australia and other such stuff.

Speaking of the land, we are heating up on the search for our future farmlet/nature preserve/market garden. We may take off to Bendigo soon avoiding Weds nights! Because.....

Tonight (!!) is my first session in the learning to weave course at the ANU School of Art and I am simultaneously very excited and more than a little nervous. What if I'm hopeless? What if I can't see well enough to actually do anything? What if I'm just not up to a 3 hour class? I intend taking a nap this afternoon and have done nothing more taxing today than cleaning the bathroom, doing 2 loads of laundry and changing sheets.

I have gotten some encouraged emails about my blog and I thank all of you who read it. It was never really intended as being an authoritative source on anything but I'm glad some of you find it at least interesting.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Here we had all the signs of a good rain. Lots of thunder, dark clouds, a heavy rainfall cell on the radar a few clicks away and we got 5 minutes of rain and now the sun is out. There's still distant thunder so here's hoping it turns into more than a sprinkle.

I woke up this AM with a leg (the left of course, my "problem" leg that is an inch longer than my right) in agony. I thought it was all joint but as I lay there and tried relaxing and analyzing it, I felt muscle tightness as well. Too much standing yesterday when I cup up veggies for another batch of pickles? Whatever, I am not going to make pickles today. They can sit in brine another day without any problems.

I thought I'd take the opportunity to sit on the bed and get my spinning logbook up to date. I bought a lever arch binder, page protectors, and card stock at Officeworks and had put a few entries in. Today I dumped out the bag of locks of fibre and started trying to recognize them. Hmm. Went to the yarn stash to take samples of finished wool. Gosh, I have a lot of handspun and boy have I improved. There is plenty for another 2 jumpers for the Bear and I also am looking at yarn with different eyes regarding blending yarns. Turns out the 3 skeins of Noro match my 2 skeins of Dragon Hair and another I can't remember now. I cut samples of spun yarn and matched them to baggies of fibre. Some I have the spun yarn and the original fibre but I am totally lost about where and when I bought it. Probably the majority came from Bendigo or online but from whom I can't say. I must get better at documenting things because there really is a progression in my spinning and now that I'm spindle spinning and doing exotic fibers it's even more important. BTW, wound off another cop of camel down last night. Am busy knitting socks while deciding whether to try and squeeze in another summer thing for me or start the Bear's next jumper. The socks are a Regia cotton/wool mix in cream with stripes of yellow, green, and rust.

The cleanup yesterday involved getting more pamphlet boxes sorted out, and covered in holographic red book covering paper. They make kids here buy their own books at school and therefore they can put sticky Contac-paper like stuff on them. Most of what was available in Officeworks was Bratz and other kids' stuff so I was stuck with red and silver holographic. After years of doing pamphlets at the NLA, I have LOTS of pam boxes.

The sweet young lady across the street seems to have moved out and the guys are in cleaning it up. I will not miss her, her screaming at her kids, her kids crying all the time, her various men in their hoonish cars with loud stereos. The turnover is really fast over there. I don't think anybody has been there over 6 months.

I finally finished the door-stop sci-fi I was reading (Kevin Anderson', Saga of the Seven Suns) and have started Peter Corris's latest Cliff Hardy which will then be mailed off to a friend in the US. BBB is still His Majesty's Spanish Flock.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Finally, the fabled cardigan for J is finished (except for buttons). It was knit from a wool/acrylic blend called Volcano, and I had no idea what would happen when I knitted it because in the ball, you can't tell that these colour changes are going to happen. The changes are made by changing the colour of the second ply of the main colour, not variegating the whole yarn. It was knit from Very Easy Very Vogue and is called the seed stitch ribbed cardigan. The ribs do a few funky things along the way but otherwise it went pretty quickly and I have it done long before cold weather arrives. Unfortunately J's schedule is tied up in baby-sitting for grandchildren right now so I haven't seen her in a while. She specifically wanted pockets and these were a cinch. I may use the same technique sometime else. Nothing dramatic about it, just that you knit the first stitch of the back of the pocket and the first stitch of the pocket opening together so there are no gaps or sags.

After all the doom and gloom regarding the Australian wool industry some good news at last. There has been rain in some of the woolgrowing areas of Australia (not around here but somewhere!) and wool prices are up. The medium wool is selling better than the superfine. I was astonished to find that 75% of the superfine wool clip goes to Japan mostly for men's suits. The cold weather in the Northern hemisphere doesn't hurt either. Apparently the figure quoted by me and many others of a farmer committing suicide every 4 days is an old one and is no longer true, although there is still an issue with depression. We have had a few very high profile men admit to depression (the W.A. premiere (i.e., governor) resigned citing depression) so the message seems to be going out that it's OK to admit you are depressed and there is help available.
I Here is what I have been spinning on the Roberta: a pound of Blue Faced Leicester and I absolutely love it. It's amazing how what is technically a longwool Can be so soft. It also has that longwool luster to it. I can't anticipate how it will bloom when plied and washed but I am hoping for sock weight (as if I needed another sock yarn). My sock yarn box is overflowing and I can't even get the lid on. I neglected to mention that seamstress extra-ordinaire C made me a DPN storage roll that is long (tall?) enough to store my DPNs in their containers. I had bought one that looked snazzy and it was, but it also assumed you would remove all your needles from their packets and put them naked into the slots. I have like 4 pairs of no. 1, 2, 0, etc bamboo, wood, and casein DPNs and I'm not going to shove them all in one pocket and hope I don't lose one or mix them up. On on Bossie featherweight I am still spinning camel, the one at work is spinning coral coloured tussah silk, I am spinning green something wool on my Reeves spindle which I really wish had a shepherd's hook. I just bought a Viking Santa spindle on eBay after rave reviews in the spinning community. It looks cool because the shaft is a corkscrew. The Reeves spindle really has problems with the cop slipping down the shaft. Too slippery I think.

My dear Bear bought me the first 3 seasons of Gilmore Girls on DVD. I am watching season 2 on cable most nights but even tho I've seen them all I just love the series. Wish I had a mum like Lorelei. And I gave in and bought the 2 seasons of Dead like me which I only discovered on cable almost at the end of its viewing cycle and it was gone. When I was in the bookstore yesterday I saw a book on Seagrove pottery and jumped back 30 years to the days of trips from Chapel Hill to Seagrove to buy pottery. I still have and use some of it on a regular basis. I must be the only person in Canberra who would know what this stuff is. But I bought it on Amazon for half of what the store was selling it for. I don't have any of the salt glaze anymore; I don't even know which ex-husband has it. Apparently it's collectible now. Had I known that I would have treated it more kindly. But I had a lot of ash trays which I certainly didn't keep.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

I do some of my best thinking while doing things like ironing, brushing my teeth, etc. I have been thinking about the whole issue that has popped up in my various groups under the guise of wool vs acrylic, allergies, organic wool, etc. There was a brief article in one of the papers this weekend about the illegal logging industry in Indonesia, a lot of which ends up in Australia. I had already wondered how that much teak could be produced to end up in outdoor furniture at "bargain prices" in Sydney. Chances are it was illegally harvested by a logging company who offered cold hard cash to subsistence farmers who didn't particularly care what the strangers did, at least not until their woodlands were gone.

I know we are supposed to "think globally, act locally" but there are so many issues at play here in so many different environments that acting at all seems counter-productive. How were the sheets on my bed dyed and what happened to the wastewater? Was my semi-antique Moroccan carpet made with child labour? Am I contributing to pollution by eating watermelon that was grown on irrigated and over-fertilized land? What happens to the drugs I take once they pass through my body (one of the one I pop like candy for pain is not metabolized at all) and go into the sewage system? Those Christmas ornaments I bought were made in China with labour that was not paid what we would call a living wage. Do we in the first world have the right to tell anybody else how they should live? So much of my life revolves around computers, the one I'm typing on, the one the Bear is using which also is the network hub, the one I use at work that produces data which is then available to people around the world. I live a digital life with digital friends and look for land to buy and books to read and music to load onto my iPod through this package of chips and discs and displays.

Consumerism drives our economy and in some cases makes it possible for those Chinese labourers to get a better quality of life than they originally might have been sentenced to. The Indonesian farmer may now buy a TV and either be lulled into stupidity by the dren we (first world) feed to the airwaves, or they might have their minds opened to the simple knowledge about a world other than their own and who know may spark an impressionable youth to act on what he/she perceives as injustice and the need to make us know the things he sees. If we are lucky he won't become a potential Islamic terrorist, but will "merely" take on the Indonesian loggers or the government (goodbye now!) in an effort to tell the world about what has happened to his corner of the world. Will people stop buying teak furniture in Sydney or even ask if the timber was obtained legally? Will we ask about child labour and fair trade and pollution when we make purchasing decisions? I didn't when I bought sheets recently but all of this puts an incredible load and responsibility on each consumer that I wager even Peter Garrett doesn't exercise every day. Those of us suffering chronic illness, or worse, a potentially fatal illness, know how hard it is to get through a single day without adding asking all these questions at every turn.

Even if I could produce all our food, our clothes, get off the grid for power and water, live without computers (not in this household), read books from the library instead of buying them online, would it make a difference? Even if my entire city (350,000) could do that (not possible in this landscape) would that have a impact on what we are all collectively doing to our planet? Now that the major powers have finally admitted that climate change is real, is it too late to make a significant difference? Some say yes; some say no.

There seem to be an awful lot of question marks in the preceding paragraphs. That's because I have no answers. I can comfort myself in knowing that I have skills in growing things and making things that truly twenty-first century folks do now. But that isn't going to matter at all if the system completely implodes. If I lose my pharmaceutical supply, I might as well be dead because, even if I make through withdrawal, I will be useless physically. The kind they used to leave out on the ice to die. Just some cheery thoughts for your Sunday sermon. But do think; it's the only advantage we primates have over the rest of life. We got us into this mess, maybe we can think our way out.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

I have made a rather rash promise to the Bear that aside from the fleeces currently being processed (I hope) at Wooly Knob I will buy no more fiber this year. Oh. Does that mean I can't got the wool show in Bendigo? Hmm. Some negotiation will be called for. The declaration was prompted by the postie bringing me a package consisting of 8 oz of CVM (California Variegated Mutant). See photo at right. It feels middling in softness and is sort of milky tea coloured. He was fascinated with the idea of mutant sheep but they look pretty normal to me. I started spinning on the Roberta again last night after picking up the gazillion stitches needed for the button band on the cardigan (I am being naughty and doing it before sewing the sleeves in so it won't be so hot and/or heavy in my lap). I have no buttons yet but hope to remedy that tomorrow. What I started spinning was Blue Faced Leicester and I think I'm in love. I'm so glad I have 2 pounds of undyed roving, plus some hand-dyed, in the stash and a whole fleece being processed because this is seriously yummy fibre. Long staple with a slight sheen to it and so very soft. Not at all what I have come to expect from something with "Leicester" in its name. Given the length of the staple I am able to spin it finer than other things, or maybe all that practice on spindles has helped. I don't know and don't care because I am in love.

Since we are now in Feb., I started re-visited the real estate agents for the Bendigo region and I found a few potential blocks of land, but I stress few. Most of the vacant land was lots in new subdivisions with town water (which is not such a good thing in Bendigo as I think they are on level 7 water restrictions). We need to go over the atlas and find the names of towns in the areas we are interested in and not hope to fall on them through a Bendigo based real estate agent. I have been saying at least once a day to the immovable object that this year is not too early to buy land if we find some that fills the bill.

My wasp-stung finger is better (not very red or hot) but still somewhat swollen. There is thunder but we had thinder all day yesterday and no rain.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Knitter's review (link to the right) has a news article this week about a new show at New York's Museum of art and design (another thing to add to my list of places to visit) called "Radical lace & Subversive knitting" This show apparently includes the knitting done on telephone poles (by Dave Cole) with heavy machinery which was illustrated in one of the back issues of either Knitters or Knits. I would love to see the whole show and I hope somebody out there in blogland goes and reviews it further. I found the KR review interesting because of the interaction between knitters and non-knitters. Some of this stuff is very mind opening and some is just why? to me. The miniature mittens are a rare feat but why? This all goes back to me traditionalist, pragmatic side.

I am at a distinct disadvantage today and should get off this machine immediately because of the wasp sting. I got bit right on the knuckle of my right index finger and it is quite swollen and sore. Better than it was yesterday, but I react badly to insect bites in general. Not allergic-type reactions, but more swelling and pain than most people; insects who can bite find me instantly and bite me. Since I have been exhausted all week, I should take a nap anyway. I have a painted ceiling and a cleaned rug so now all I have to do is pack up my bits and pieces and get the carpet people in to measure for new.

I finished the Bear's grey striped socks (they are so boring I won't take a picture) and have cast on some Regia cotton for me that is cream with stripes of yellow, green and red. I hope I get them finished before winter sets in. If anyone cares, I have healed my iPod and submitted to the automatic update feature of the latest version of iTunes which I'm not sure I like (I am a control freak in disguise). Said automatic update feature gave me no option to update stuff that had been added via the main computer and therefore I lost all the old stuff. I have been gradually reloading it but be warned out there iPods can die or get seriously ill causing wiping of their memories. Be prepared.