31 January 2013

The first coat, underway

I got the loom threaded and sleyed today, and started weaving the first ‘body piece’ of the coat. It’s woven in two big pieces, left side and right side, then the hood, then the sleeves.

Here you can see the bottom edge of one of the body pieces: hemstitched to help it hold shape during fulling. The bottom is  woven in a dark gray on the medium gray warp.

About twelve inches up from the hem the weft switches to a light gray, and the rest of the body will be woven in the lighter gray. I’ve been going very slowly, as I have some knots in the warp that are giving me trouble so I’ve had to experiment with different ways to work around them. The fulling process will hide most of the spots where things have been sticky, so I’m not worried, it’s just one more skill to learn.

In about four hours I wove 3’ of fabric.

Tomorrow I should be able to finish this body piece and start on the second, at least that’s the plan so far.

30 January 2013

It’s not as complicated as it seems

The following opinion may be blasphemous but I'll say it anyway: I don't think there is anything particularly 'mysterious' about weaving. There are a zillion ways to thread the loom and make patterns, but the basic things are all the same.

To weave, you need to know these things:

  • how to get your warp ready and beamed on with even tension (and there are actually several ways to do this, so you should try them all and see what works best for you and your equipment)
  • how to thread your heddles and sley the reed (which is different for various types of looms, but essentially consists of poking a thread through a hole, sometimes with the aid of a little hook device, keeping track of where you are in the sequence as you go)
  • how to do tie ups (if you have treadles) (which means connecting two things together with a loop of string and/or  clips of some kind)
  • how to properly toss the shuttle / manage selvedges (keep the edges snug but allow extra thread on the weft toss so your edges don’t draw in too tightly, and do it evenly)
  • how to hemstitch (this keeps your fabric from unravelling, and there are several ways to do it – the one I like best is basically a loop around a group of warp threads followed by a blanket stitch into the woven fabric)
  • how to wet finish your fabric (because it ain't finished till it's wet finished: this means washing and possibly steaming or otherwise abusing your finished fabric so it ‘sets’, the specific technique varies with the fibres involved)

The rest is details and practice.

The equivalent for spinning would be to say you have to know how to prepare and select fibre, how to draft, how to insert twist with whatever equipment you have, and how to ply. I mean, yes, there's a lot of fine detail that isn't covered in that short list, but if you know how to do those basic things all the rest comes with practice and looking at what you are doing and saying to yourself "how could I do this more efficiently/effectively?"

For weaving, looking at different pattern drafts and skimming books about weaving is really interesting to me - like looking at knitting patterns and seeing different ways of constructing objects with sticks and string, or watching other spinners work with spindles and wheels and picking up little tricks from how they hold their hands or whatever. You figure things out as you do them: you realize “oh, if I thread the edges in basketweave, I don’t have to worry about the twill not catching on every pass” or “this fabric will collapse a lot as soon as I take it off the loom, so I need to be gentle with the beater so I don’t squash it too much now, it’ll snug up later on in the process”. Or, a really cool thing I learned from a library book recently, “If I skip a bunch of slots in the reed then do a bunch side by side, I get fabric with vertical stripes of solid fabric interspersed with more open sections”. (I want to make curtains like that.)

But, really, it's just not as hard as it looks. The basic steps are the same, whether you are working with 2 shafts or 12 - it's not that you thread heddles and tie up treadles differently, you just have more of them. Yes, designing your own patterns gets more complicated with more options but there are so many references out there, why wouldn't you start off by following what others have worked out, see how it works, and then go off on your own? That's how I learn, anyway.

And now, I’m off to wind a bunch of bobbins. Gotta start on a coat!

28 January 2013

It’s off the loom …

The wool blanket is off the loom and in the washer. I hate this part: waiting to see how well it fulls, how much it shrinks … gah! It’s spinning right now, so the Big Reveal shouldn’t be much longer.

While I wait, let me tell you what I have learned so far:

- beaming on the warp took me about 2 hours (this is a full 38" wide warp, so very wide)

- threading and sleying took another 3 hours

- tieup and lashing on was about 30 minutes, maybe a little more

- sampling is a good thing: I had originally used a non-standard twill tie up (it's threaded in regular 1/2/3/4 twill progression, and this tie up made sort of a basketweave kind of appearance in the twill) but the shed wasn't opening as wide as I needed, so I switched back to regular twill

- threading the edges in basketweave  makes nice selvedges, without having to fuss with a selvedge thread

- in an hour and a half I can weave about one foot of fabric on a warp this wide (it’s much faster on a narrower warp, as the shuttle doesn’t stall out partway across as often and I can go faster)

Oh, and one of the cool tips I learned from a library book on weaving has to do with how you tie up to the treadles.

When you treadle the pattern, you step on treadle 1, pass the shuttle, treadle 2, pass the shuttle, treadle 3, pass the shuttle, treadle 4, pass the shuttle. Normally, you tie up the treadles so they go left to right (or right to left, whichever) 1 2 3 4. However, that means that when you treadle you use the left foot twice in succession then the right twice in succession, or you have to scoot sideways and criss cross your feet. Simple solution to this: thread the treadles so that, left to right, they go 1 3 2 4. This way you go left foot (on the leftmost of the 2 left treadles), right foot (on the leftmost of the 2 right treadles), then left foot (on the rightmost of the 2 left treadles) and right foot (on the far right treadle). They called it 'dancing the loom'. It's really way more comfortable! Sometimes I hit the wrong treadle, so I'm working on getting used to where '2' is under my feet, but it's working pretty well.

Ooooh the washing machine just chirped the “all finished” noise!

: rushes off to check :


There’s a close up of the fabric. But what’s really awesome is the drape!

It’s got a lovely hand to it – it’s not dry yet, of course (we don’t own a dryer, Mother Nature takes care of that for us at no cost other than patience) but I held it up and let it move around and I can tell it’s just what I was after. Lighter than I expected, this might be more of a fall and ‘nice winter days’ kind of coat, but most of the world doesn’t hover around –25C all winter. (Come to think of it, we haven’t been hovering around –25C much this winter either, knock wood. We’ve had very strange weather.)

There’s a lot of shrinkage – which is expected with this much wool. About 10% in length and almost 30% in width (because there’s draw -n on the loom as well as the shrinkage from the washing). I should be able to ease up the draw-in a little by modifying my weaving technique.

The blanket started out at 38” in the reed, and was 34”x51” before washing (4” is too much draw in, I’ll have to work on that). After washing it measures 27.5”x44” … which is possibly too small to be used on an actual horse, I’m not sure (most saddle blankets are 32” square). If no horse wants it, it’ll be a fine ‘over your legs in the back seat’ kind of blanket, I’m sure!

Okay, off to do some math and figure out what I need to do for warping up the loom for the coats. But tonight is knitting: I have a sweater on the needles that needs finishing!

27 January 2013

Weaving with wool

The wool saddle blanket sample project is on the loom at long last: it took about two hours to wind on the warp, all 37” wide, then another 3 hours to thread the heddles and sley the reed, then another half hour to lash on to the front beam and fiddle with the tie up.

I puttered about for a few rows with a broken twill pattern, but I wasn’t getting the size of shed I wanted, not for a warp that wide: I really needed to be able to give the shuttle a toss and have it slide all the way over, but it kept snagging. So I changed the tie up and went to a plain twill: the heddles are threaded with basketweave at either edge, so it doesn’t end up having big gaps at the selvedges and I don’t need a floating selvedge thread.

So far, so good:

I put a stripe of darker yarn near each edge, just to see how the pattern looked with different colours.

Can you see the strong diagonal stripe in the fabric? That’s the identifying mark of a twill weave. Blue jeans are done in a twill weave, if you look closely, you should be able to see the diagonal lines in the weave on your pants. It makes for a strong fabric with good drape, and that’s what I’m after here, so that’s what we’re trying.

The sample is about the same size as I’ll be using for the coats – same width, within a couple of inches, and I need to see how it comes out of the washer. It’ll shrink, in both length and width, though probably different percentages in each direction, and I need to know how much so that when I set up for a coat, I can weave to the pre-shrinkage measurements and know what size it’ll end up after fulling in the machine.

So, that’s what I did today. Now, to spin and watch Star Trek TNG on Netflix. I had completely forgotten some parts of the episodes I’ve watched so far, but at the same time, I’ve found myself quoting dialogue in places! My brain stores the strangest things.

Yes, I am a geek who loves science fiction and all things fibery.

24 January 2013

In the arms of Morpheus: not always a comfortable place to rest

Morpheus is the god of dreams. He takes on the form of humans, not animals and birds (he has siblings who specialize in those), acting as a messenger of the gods, carrying their words to humans who have fallen under the spell of Hypnos, the god of sleep.

Hypnos has had little control over me of late. Last night I was awake until after one when I finally began to doze … only to wake quite completely at four. Two or three more hours of dozing and I finally dropped into full sleep, only to be met at the gates of dreamland by Morpheus in all his power.

It was a full-on trauma nightmare.

I was working in a job that carried a fair bit of responsibility, a hospital job of some kind, but I failed to do an important part of my job. My supervisor called my cell phone just after my shift ended, asking me what had happened and why I’d not done as I was supposed to do, and I had no good answer for her. I explained that I’d been distracted by some family troubles which I’d become aware of earlier in the day, I apologized profusely, and listened contritely to the “well, just don’t let it happen again” speech.

The whole time I was on the phone, I kept looking over my shoulder … I’d seen Allister earlier in the day, standing at a railing a couple of floors up, glaring down into the building’s atrium, his eyes burning holes in me where I stood. Somehow I knew that his anger had reached the boiling point and it wasn’t going to be pretty if he caught up with me: I had to run. I already knew where to go – clearly I’d been pondering this for awhile, at some level at least, and I went, constantly checking to see if I was being followed, down staircases, along brightly lit industrial hallways, through walkways and corridors. When I finally reached the door to sanctuary, I pressed the buzzer and peered through the reinforced glass, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the person who might let me through. She came to the door, recognized the look of panic on my face and hurried me in, quickly shutting the door behind me. She scanned my fingerprints so the computer could confirm that I wasn’t known to be a danger to those already in the shelter, and after the light blinked to clear me through security she led me down the hall, out of sight of the door. The office containing the person I needed to see first was already occupied, so I was directed to a spot around the corner where I sat on the floor in the hallway, waiting my turn. From there I could see a group of young people who worked with eight or ten children in some kind of water therapy in a waist-deep pool. The workers encouraged the children to float, to play, to feel safe in the water. I watched them for awhile, eventually realizing that the lady in charge of the shelter had appeared beside me. Apparently her meeting was over. She saw me glance nervously at my cell phone (which was the old black Motorola I carried all those years ago), the worry that it would beep with an incoming text message, or ring, or be used to locate me somehow clear on my face. “Don’t worry,” she said, “the signal in this area is blocked.” Just then, the phone showed three solid bars … then the display blinked back to no signal. Concerned, she went to see why the blocking had failed and my anxiety ramped up further. I knew he would find me. I knew he would be angry. I knew he would be violent. I knew I had to find another place to hide, somewhere he wouldn’t think to look, somewhere I could stay and be safe. I thought about going to a friend’s house, but he’d think to look for me there, and I couldn’t put them in the middle of the mess.

I had the clearest vision of his angry frown again, and I felt despair.

Mercifully, I woke up.

Now that I’m awake, I suppose it’s my job to figure out what message the good Morpheus was trying to convey.

Trauma memories are, it is believed, laid down differently than normal memory. It’s also said that PTSD is a form of ‘emotional indigestion’ – the emotions that go with the experience haven’t been fully processed, because they were too much to swallow all at once. This all makes sense to me. It is almost as though the memory of what happened and the emotions that go with that memory aren’t connected together in the brain’s storage system and neither is filed in the right spot so you can’t retrieve it when you want it, and bits and pieces of it show up randomly when you’re in your memory looking for something else. Until I did the work of writing the book and piecing the story back together, I had lots of missing spots in the narrative of my past. And it certainly seems that I have emotive content that’s still trying to find the way back to it’s origins. If I can get them connected back up again, live the experience and finally digest the feelings I’ve buried for so long, I can move forward.

From an excellent article I found just now:

Trauma nightmares are good.

What???  How could something so terrifying be good? 

Nightmares let you know your brain is working on the problem.  Our brains are marvelous things.  When we get hurt they act like big computers, replaying the event over and over, trying to make sense of it.  Our brains treat traumas as problems to be solved.  In replaying the event over and over your brain is trying to figure out how to avoid getting hurt that way again.  It is trying to make sense of what happened to you.  It can find resolution by pulling those painful memories out, experiencing them, and making sense of them.  Your  brain is also trying to accept what happened to you.  To get used to the idea that something horrible happened.  To get used to the feelings of powerlessness.

Instead of ignoring them, drowning them out with sedatives or alcohol or staying up all night to avoid sleep, treat them as vital information.  The brain remembers that you got hurt once and is trying to give you information about where, how and when that happened so you can avoid it in the future.  It is also trying to give you information about how the trauma affected you.  Dreams about family members getting hurt, or about you getting hurt in a different way let you know what fears you have developed as a result of the trauma.  Instead of viewing the brain as the enemy and trying to fight against it, treat it as an ally.  It is trying to tell you something.

Well, that makes sense.

Today has been declared an Official Recovery Day. I don’t HAVE to do anything except the farm chores and feed myself. Otherwise, my brain is free to wander and I don’t even have to get out of my pj’s (except, of course, to go outside, because getting hay in your jammies is not a good thing).

It’s awful to have to live through all this stuff, but I think it’s like the pain of physiotherapy after an injury: yeah, it hurts like hell, but it’s what you have to do to be able to walk again.

I wanna walk again.

22 January 2013

Unveiling the New Venture

I mentioned a new venture a little while back … some new equipment I acquired with an eye towards using it as a means of generating some revenue.

Curious what this equipment is? I bet some of you have guessed … it’s not much of a stretch, given my passion for all things fibre.

Allow me to introduce you to Mira, a four shaft counterbalance LeClerc loom. I found her on Kijiji: her previous owner had done some rug weaving a long time ago, but the loom was unused and needed a good scrub down, some new bolts and strings, and a new home. All of that I can provide!

A thorough washing with Murphy’s oil soap got the gunk off and a coat of lemon oil spruced up the wood the rest of the way. The strings in this picture have since been replaced with sturdier ropes (shoe laces, ribbon, and bias tape, actually) – I’ll order the proper strings from LeClerc at some point, but it’s working with what I have, and budgetary constraints are what they are.

The next step was to get it warped and threaded and do some test weaving. (Well, after moving it upstairs – I did the cleaning in the living room on New Year’s Eve, but the loom was up in the fibre loft by just after midnight.) LeClerc has excellent documentation on their website, so I was able to figure out how to get a couple of sample warps put on and some fabric woven … the fabric isn’t really useable for anything, it’s too thick to be used as a scarf or anything else I can think of … maybe a cat scratch pad?

Useable or not, it’s a great way to find out what the loom can do – different treadling patterns, different tie ups … and I am weaving with thrift store yarns so I don’t feel bad about ‘wasting fibre’. I can weave a lot of test fabric for the price of a class … this is weaving home school!

After a couple of skinny test warps, I got a wider warp put on and started weaving ‘for real’. The loom has a sectional warp beam, which means I can wind on the warp for two inches of width at a time. This is awesome, because I really hate dealing with the long chains of warp … I always get it tangled and make a mess. And I lose count when I’m winding. (If you aren’t a weaver, the translation of all this is “sectional warp beams are cool because they are much less hassle than the alternative methods”). (Also, the fact that the loom came with a sectional warp beam should have made it a lot more expensive than it was … the add-on price for the sectional beam alone is almost what I paid for the whole loom!)

There was one minor problem: I don’t have a tension box or a spool rack (translation: “the extra pieces you need to use a sectional warp beam effectively”). I also don’t have the $300 it would cost to acquire a tension box and a proper spool rack, so I looked at a lot of pictures online and pondered. Eventually, with the help of the Reluctant Farmer, we got something rigged up that works reasonably well: the finished contraption involves a picture frame filled with pegboard, some skinny boards with holes drilled in them at intervals, several knitting needles, duct tape bobbins, a very small rigid heddle and a c-clamp. Yeah, it’s pretty redneck, but hey, I can get a warp wound on with minimal hassle and pretty decent tension, and I didn’t have to buy anything!

I beamed a wider warp a few days ago using the new contraption and today I threaded and sleyed the loom (translation: “I did the first part of getting the loom ready a few days ago, and today I did all the fiddly stuff”). Once that was done, things went fast: two tea towels got woven today!

There are several treadling errors and a tie up mistake, but it’s something close to a broken twill, and the end result is, indeed, two functional pieces of fabric. Odd patterning doesn’t affect the ability of cotton cloth to dry dishes, after all.

The next test will be done in wool: probably a saddle blanket sized piece, as I know some horses who will wear a saddle blanket even if it has some mistakes in it, and I need to make a large piece of fabric in order to test how much the wool shrinks during fulling and how thick the finished fabric is. (More translation: fulling is when you take woven or knitted fabric and shrink it on purpose … if you have a wool coat, chances are it’s been fulled.)

I need to test how much the fabric shrinks during fulling because I intend to make this:

It’s a coat modeled on the Hudson’s Bay Blanket coats: fringed at the shoulders (to help shed water and add warmth), buttoned along the front overlap, with a big hood and some coloured stripes on the sleeves and hem.

In fact, I intend to make many of them. And sell them.

The prototype should be ready in a few weeks … once I get the saddle blanket done and tested, I’ll be ready to warp up the loom for the first coat. Once I have the prototype woven, I’ll be able to figure out costs and a retail price.

I’m excited about this. Weaving goes amazingly fast (compared to knitting) and it’s great to feel truly productive.

So, anybody want a coat? :)

19 January 2013

Toe up sock, upside down gusset heel

I like knitting toe up socks: make the foot, turn the heel, then knit the leg until you run out of yarn.

My socks develop holes on the underside of the heel, right in the centre. Most heels have no reinforcement there, so I have been pondering the best way to pad that spot without making the sock hard to knit or uncomfortable to wear.

I read that you could work an ordinary gusset heel on a toe up sock, with the reinforced flap on the bottom of the foot instead of at the back of the ankle.

It took a few tries (because I'm still fairly new to gusset heels) but it actually works!


You make it like any other toe up sock: start at the toe, knit the foot, smooth on the sole, patterned on the instep if you want (mine's ribbed). When you get to the spot on the foot where heel meets arch, you make the heel flap, turn the heel, pick up the side stitches, resume knitting in the round and decrease your gusset stitches away over the next few rounds. In other words, you do exactly what you'd do for a heel if you were working top down, and you end up with the padded bit on the bottom of the foot, with just a little bit of reinforced stitching up the back of the heel. I can't see any reason why you couldn't keep the slipped stitches coming up the back of the foot if you get wear there from your shoes, but since I mostly wear clogs or slippers or just my socks, it's not where I get holes in my socks so I don't bother. That's why I liked this: it puts the reinforcement where I need it, and doesn't require me to do any extra thinking or planning!

Things to think about

Lots to think about in the last few weeks.

As messy as things are right now, metaphorically speaking, I think it’s a sign of progress. I’m getting a little better at wrapping my words around my feelings and finding the courage to ask for the help I need from my family. It’s hard. It’s risky. It’s also necessary.

I attended a lecture hosted by the Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction this week. Dr. Candice Monson spoke about the importance of families, particularly significant others and spouses, in treating PTSD. We go to our counsellors for an hour or two every so often and then we go home … where our families have to live with our anger, our exaggerated startle responses, our nightmares, our flashbacks. They do what they can to help us, but some of the things that are helpful aren’t intuitively obvious, and much of the time, those of us living with PTSD don’t have the words to explain what it is we need our families to do for us, so we can’t even tell them what would be helpful. We may not even know.

I’ve been struggling to figure out what will be helpful for some time now. At first, it was the simple practical stuff: don’t sneak up on me, don’t make any sudden noises, let me sleep (because even if it’s 9:30 am, chances are I didn’t fall asleep until 5), do the chores because I am too tired. But after two years those aren’t the big things anymore: I don’t startle as easily as I used to (thank heavens), I sleep a lot better (though still not well), and I can finally do more in any given day. Balance is still elusive: I’m still not sure what ‘too much activity for one day’ looks like, or ‘not enough’, and not enough is almost as troublesome as too much. It’s the subtler things, now: what situations trigger me into overreactions? What phrases or words tend to push me over the edge? You’d think that would be easy to identify, but it isn’t. Simple, every day things, things that “don’t mean anything” to anybody else seem to pile up in my head, creating an icy snowdrift that eventually knocks me off balance. And by the time I slip and fall, I don’t remember what went into the making of the snowdrift, I’m just lying there in the cold, chastising myself for being so stupid as to have lost my balance. Getting back up again is harder than you’d think.

My emotional bones were broken in several places, and though they’ve healed pretty well, all things considered, I’m still not quite steady on my feet. I need to accept the helping hands that are held out to me. I need to be able to explain to those offering to hold me up what I need them to do, and I need to be grateful for their help instead of feeling guilty about needing it.

This, of course, means honestly admitting my vulnerability.

A friend posted a link to this the other day: it’s worth watching.

18 January 2013


Did you know you can work a regular gusset heel upside down on a toe up sock?

Apparently it works. And it puts the reinforcement on the underside of the heel, where I end up with holes.

So far so good. More details soon.

11 January 2013

Blech, stomach flu!

So I did get flattened … but by a stomach bug, which I probably picked up when I was out and about earlier in the week. A rather virulent norovirus is roaming the countryside at the moment, and I think I got off easy: lots of Gravol and Advil and other medications kept everything where it needed to stay, and helped me through the worst of the aches. I’m still not even THINKING about actual food, but I can sit up and knit now. For more than a day, I couldn’t bear to even hold the needles. Or a book. Thank goodness for audiobooks.

I need to knit now: a former coworker of mine suffered a terrible loss last week when her son was killed in an accident. I am knitting a little something for her, because, well, it’s all I can do.

Witnessing such overwhelming sorrow tends to put one’s troubles in perspective.

09 January 2013

Quick knits

Mittens knit up so fast.

Especially with a good audiobook to keep you occupied ... This is one evening's worth of knitting. A cuff, the wrist up to where the thumb goes (that white bit gets pulled out and a thumb inserted), and almost to the point of decreasing the top of the hand.

I started these last night because the lovely sweater I'm working on for a friend has gotten to the complicated cables at the hem, too much counting to do anything else at the same time, and I was really tired, so I doubted my counting skills.

Mittens are mindless knitting, which is exactly what I needed. I should do this more often.

08 January 2013

Well, I haven’t collapsed in a heap yet …

... but I’m not sleeping, even though I’m exhausted, and the chest pain is back. This is important, I know that: PTSD very often shows up in the physical symptoms (well, to be honest, there’s been no lack of emotional symptoms lately either, but that part is starting to feel a bit better).

I’m upset because I really, really don’t want this to mean that I’m doing too much and I need to cut back. That just can’t be what it means. I’m tired of being an unproductive lump. I need to be busy again. The rest of me just needs to get with the program.

Maybe I need to sit down with my body and have a good long talk.

Okay, what is it that you need from me? Can you please be specific? Short sentences. Clear directions.

No, no screaming and yelling, I need you to use your words. Look at me … use your words.

Oh, never mind. Hush, now, hush. Shhhhh. It’s okay. It’s all right.

My body has no words, only screaming and yelling. Trying to figure out what all this means is like trying to have an intelligent conversation with a colicky baby or a panic stricken toddler.

Hmm, maybe I need to spend more time in the rocking chair. That works with some colicky babies. No, I’ve been in the rocking chair for several hours each day for the last three days. That’s not working.


A swaddling cloth?

Gripe water?

I’m kind of low on ideas at the moment.

I guess it’s sleep tincture and my Healing Sleep audio for now.

05 January 2013

Keepin’ on keepin’ on

Well, I’ve managed to keep up with the new schedule for a few weeks now, and so far, I haven’t collapsed in a heap. This is a bit of a surprise, to be honest.

Once the initial backlog of housework was cleared, the daily indoor chore load lightened substantially, so that’s helped. Keeping up with things is much easier than dealing with a built up mess in intermittent spurts, something that we probably all know intellectually but don’t necessarily find inspiring enough to keep us doing the boring day to day stuff necessary to prevent the build up of the mess. I’ve been using the Reminders app on my iPhone to schedule the tasks on a recurring basis: there’s a task list for every day of the week, and they repeat weekly so my to-do list shows up automatically. Anything I don’t check off as ‘done’ will stay on the list until I dismiss it, too, so if I put something off for a day, I don’t forget about it completely. It’s handy, and because I always have my phone with me, it’s very convenient.

We got the tree taken down and all the Christmas stuff put away (The Reluctant Farmer and The Boy helped with that) and I was able to get all the pine needles swept up and the backlog of floor washing and so forth cleared in one day of hard work. A few days later, a three year old steer and a one and a half year old heifer were finally loaded into the trailer and taken off to the Big Pasture in the Sky, so we have fewer outside chores now as well – less hay and water are needed with those two gone, and in a couple of weeks we’ll have fresh beef in the freezer and available for sale, so yay for that!

My homeschooling adventure with the new equipment is proceeding nicely … I have often said that if you can read you can learn to do anything, because there are instructions written for pretty much anything you want to do. I once read an explanation online for how to unclog a badly plugged toilet, then went to the hardware store and bought what I needed and managed to clear the drains all by myself (yes, I was very proud of myself, and I still am). I’ve been reading and experimenting with the new gear, and have just ordered a bunch of books from the library. So far, things look promising in terms of me being able to accomplish what I intend … whether or not it can succeed as a business venture remains to be seen.

Today, though, I am tired and short of breath (no, it’s not physical, it’s just another of my psychosomatic symptoms, honest). I’ve spent most of the day, between chores and the bit of housework on todays’ list, in the rocking chair knitting a sweater, a commission job for a friend of mine. It is a glorious shade of violet and is turning out to be very pretty. I quit this evening when I got to the next section of cables … my brain power is not up to complicated cabling just now.

It’s odd how as the fury of my mental health flu episode ebbs away, my energy goes with it. I’ve run my whole life on the fumes of anger, self-hatred and frustration for years, I think. When I get really mad at myself, I can get all sorts of stuff accomplished … of course I’m beating myself up the whole time and I’m living in a horribly sad and lonely dark place while I’m at it, but hey, I get a lot done. When the anger finally drains off, though, I’m left exhausted and out of strength. So I just sit … which, after awhile, makes me mad at myself for doing so little and I start the cycle again, fuelled by a fresh burst of self-deprecation for being a lazy, no-good, unproductive lump.

This is no way to live.

There has to be a positive source for the energy to be productive and get through the days, and I need to find it. I don’t want to be addicted to anger anymore.

01 January 2013

New year, new strategies

What it all boils down to is that I’ve had it up to here with being unwell.

I’m not what most people would call “healthy” – my mental health is still quite fragile, and I am very easily triggered into The Darkness. I’ve gained weight, I don’t have much strength, and I have no stamina at all.

And I’m sick of it.

Resting and knitting has gotten me as far as it’s gonna get me. Time to try something else.

For the past couple of weeks, a new strategy has been put into place. Every day there is housework to be done: a schedule, like the old “Monday is for washing” kind of thing, each part of the house gets dealt with on a scheduled day of the week. It takes 30-60 minutes per day just to keep up with things around here (so you can imagine the disaster the house was in most of the time when it only got done ‘as we got to it’). This is a lot of work … and that doesn’t include the laundry, which is one to two loads almost every day (it’s a small machine, and we hang the clothes to dry, so you can only do one or two loads before running out of drying space). 'It is nice to have things cleaner, and now that the ‘backlog’ has been cleared, the daily work doesn’t take quite so long. Still, it feels like a big investment of time, though it really isn’t on the whole.

I’ve also taken on the outside chores again. The Boy hates doing them, always has, and when chores got rushed through too many days in a row, I decided enough was enough, I’d do it myself. It’s hard physical work: if I’d known I was going to be doing the chores during the winter there are some things I’d have done differently in the fall (The Boy uses different strategies than I do, but he’s younger and can hop over fences and carry more at once than I can). We’re halfway through winter feeding season, though, so I’ll just make do. So far, my arms and hands are very sore, but I haven’t done myself any harm so I’ll take that as a sign of building muscles!

Finally, I’ve put some plans into action for a new business venture. It might be a complete flop, I don’t know for sure, but it might work … won’t know until I try. I had to acquire some new equipment, and I’m in the process of homeschooling myself on it’s use. I hope to have a sample of the new product to show by the end of the month, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, best wishes to all of you for a better 2013. I’m ready for things to start getting brighter, aren’t you?