30 March 2013


Apparently, I can still overdo it without realizing it.

I spent most of yesterday weaving – trying out different ways of working with a point twill draft. I made a bunch of squares – sort of napkin or large coaster kind of shapes, all different. I think I might sew them together into a little bag, actually.

I finished off the warp this morning, got it in the wash and started winding on for the next project – tea towels. Well, that’s the intent, we’ll see what happens when I start weaving.

(If you’ve read any of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion books, you may be able to identify the colour scheme. I hope to do all five.)

I got a little over halfway and had to quit – my back was aching and I was very, very tired. I lay down on the couch for awhile, then we had supper and I went outside to close down the Cow Buffet (i.e. put Sasha and George back in, they’ve been out eating down the hay bales now that I have a tie-out for George) and feed Izzy the Bottle Lamb again. She’s loud, but cute.

And then I got back on the couch and realized … yeah, I’m absolutely knackered. Can’t breathe properly, and I’m so tired. It’s like when I was first off work, that kind of feeling. I expect it’ll pass soon enough, but for the moment I’m resting with the laptop and surfing weaving designs.

I hope you have a restful day!

26 March 2013

Today was an awesome day

It didn’t start out as an awesome day, though. It started out at 2:30 am with me waking up from a nightmare in which I was being held down, choked, and mocked as I struggled to free myself, unable to close my jaws on my attacker’s arm, unable to scream for help, panicked and terrified. It took three hours, two doses of sleep tincture, and Caleb sleeping next to my bed (he normally isn’t allowed in the bedroom at all) to finally get back under.

But then, as I sat at the kitchen table finishing my coffee, I got a call from my friend Jack, the same Jack who saw an antique wheel at auction and  when nobody bid on it he “thought I might like it” so he brought it to me, and the same Jack I wove the horse blanket for. He has been teaching his small horse to pull a cart and wondered if I’d like to go for a ride! Perfect! Yes, that was just what I needed today.

I headed over to their place and found the horse all ready to go, with the horse blanket folded up on her back under the harness to keep it from pressing on her skin. Jack said that it was when he went to get the blanket that he thought of calling me, and I am so glad he listened to that idea … this was just the perfect thing for me after a hard night of terror: sunshine, a horse, a cart (hand made from an old trailer we’d given him long ago, it had outlived it’s span as a camper but had perfectly good axles that he thought could be put to use … as they have been!), and a good friend.

Going for a ride in the cart is like sitting on a park bench, Jack says, only the park goes past you at this lovely slow walking pace. :) It’s true, too!

Photo 2013-03-26 1 09 49 PM

Yep, those are my boots. See? I even got to drive the pony and brush her down afterwards and I had a lovely cup of tea with my friend.

Then I hustled to do my one afternoon errand (taking the dog and cat to the vet), and checked the mail on my way home.

And in the mail was a wonderful, fabulously generous parcel from an online friend and fellow spinner. Some time back she’d mentioned that she’d made a pair of socks in a class that turned out too small for her, but they’d fit me so she offered to send them on. Then she decided to add to the parcel and this is what came!

Photo 2013-03-26 6 21 28 PM

The socks (which I put on my feet the moment I pulled them out of the box, I LOVE THEM!), a pattern for coloured mittens that is probably within my skill range (i.e. it’s not stranded!), a ball of gloriously bright sock yarn in my favourite brand (Regia), a little medallion with a guardian angel that says hope faith believe on the back (exactly what I needed today), and … a stunningly beautiful, finely turned spindle (with the thinnest flicking point ever) and a gorgeous dish!

I am gobsmacked.

I am surrounded by love and kindness and support and friendship and I feel so blessed.

Being the recipient of such generosity not only reminds me that I really do have a place in this world (sometimes, because of the scars I bear, I don’t feel like I really belong anywhere) … but not only that, I am inspired all over again to reach out and brighten someone else’s day, too.

We all matter, even when we don’t feel like it … and we all need a boost now and then, so if it’s within our power to cheer someone up with a word or a deed, we should just go ahead and do it.

It’s been a lovely day.

24 March 2013

Thoughts on the Steubenville Event

This is a serious and somewhat difficult post for me to write, but I’ve felt compelled to say something about the event that occurred in Steubenville, Ohio – which I actually didn’t know about until I saw the news story about the conviction of the young men involved.

The short story, in case you haven’t seen the synopsis anywhere, is that there was a big party going on with high school football players and their assorted hangers-on, plenty of drinking and all the usual things one would expect from a bunch of teenagers out for a good time. At one point, a girl who’d had way too much to drink was carried bodily away and assaulted while she was passed out (or nearly so). The two high school players who were directly involved in the assault were found guilty … but there were a lot of bystanders who saw what was happening and *did nothing*.

Now, here’s the thing. One of those bystanders, earlier in the evening, realized that his buddy (one of the two convicted) was about to drive after having had too much to drink. He managed to get the keys away from him and drove him home – yay for responsibility. Good job, we’ve all (finally) figured out that drunk driving is really not okay.

However … just a little while later, this same responsible young man walked in on the assault as it was happening and simply turned around and walked back out. The girl was passed out on the floor, being molested by two boys … and it didn’t seem to occur to this otherwise apparently responsible (and sober) young man that this was also a situation that called for his intervention. That he should say, “guys, she’s way out of it … leave her alone, that’s just nasty.” To scoop her up off the floor and take her home. Anything. Anything besides turning around and walking away.

Now of course we say “how awful” and “that’s terrible” … but you know what? These kids live in a culture that tells them that this is the kind of thing that happens at parties, that this is to be expected, that this is no big deal. They took photos and video and shared it with each other, texted one another bragging about what they had done, laughing about what they’d seen … they had no clue that what they were doing was abhorrent. So she was drunk and passed out, big deal, just makes it easier to get what you want from her, eh? And if she’s stupid enough to get pissed, well, she shouldn’t be surprised to wake up in the morning in a strange place with her clothes missing and only realizing what happened the night before when she sees herself on Facebook. Ha ha, how funny, look at that, they got you good.


That wasn’t a funny joke or a simple prank. They violated her bodily integrity and treated her like a blow up doll. Unconscious or not, she was their classmate. A member of their community. Someone’s daughter, someone’s friend. Not just a piece of flesh to be used for their entertainment.

But you see, they’d never been taught that. Somehow, the majority of these kids didn’t register the basic concept that you should treat others the way you’d want to be treated, that we don’t take sexual services from someone, that sex isn’t something we do to another person … it is something we do with another person, and only when they are willing. Enthusiastically willing, in fact, not reluctantly acquiescent. Anything other than YES (preferably “yes, yes, yes!”) is NO. Plain and simple. No gray area. No “I wasn’t sure”. Well, if you weren’t sure why didn’t you ask? And if you couldn’t ask because she wasn’t in a state to give you an answer, well, then, there’s your answer. It isn’t a resounding yes. So zip your pants back up and be a gentleman.

We have to start teaching our kids about this. It’s not just for teens at parties either, and not just for boys. Girls need to know this too.

I was assaulted by my own husband (not The Reluctant Farmer, my first husband, the one who died of a brain tumour), when I was stone cold sober and at home. I was in my own bedroom. I didn’t scream and kick and fight … but I sure as heck did not say yes. I was not in any way enthusiastic. And he should’ve known to back off. He didn’t, and I’m still dealing with the consequences … blaming myself, feeling stupid, feeling guilty for my feelings. I mean, no stranger leapt out of the bushes and grabbed me, it was my husband. What right do I have to my wounds, to be suffering the consequences of a sexual assault that most people would define as anything but? I never fought, never even shouted at him, how could it be assault?

Well, it was against my will for one thing, and it was entirely about power and control, not sex, for another.

I didn’t argue or fight with him. Of course I didn’t, I was too scared, too scared of the consequences of resisting – I wasn’t scared that he’d beat me, I’d absorbed enough of the lessons about domestic violence that if he’d ever actually hit me, I’d have run (at least I think I would have). I was afraid that the subtler emotional punishment would go on and on and on for weeks. He could be so cruel, yet always with this perfect plausible deniability – he had excuses and reasons for everything he said and did, but all of it hurt me. I was too weary from months and months of that kind of emotional abuse to tolerate it for one more day, and so I figured if he saw the pain on my face, saw how horrible this was for me, if he could just see the NO in my body that he would relent, back off, be sorry.

I was wrong. I gambled, and I lost.

And the pain of this unheard no still makes me crazy. Because it wasn’t yes, therefore it was no.

But even I doubt this, in my own mind. The lessons I learned were all about “no means no”, and “go along to get along” and “it’s your job to keep him happy and satisfied". if I don’t really get it, is it any wonder that drunken teens at a party might not get it, either?

We have to change the way we think about sex: it’s not a prize women withhold from men, and it’s not a measure of your manliness if you can trick a girl out of her knickers. If you aren’t hearing that enthusiastic yes, then back off – no matter who you are, how much anyone’s had to drink, whether you’re married to them, or what.

And if you aren’t giving an enthusiastic yes – then expect your no to be heard. If it isn’t, shout louder if you possibly can. And if you can’t, if you’re too scared, or you’re just not in a place where that is a choice for you … well, do what you have to do to get through and then get help afterwards. Whatever you do is the best you can do at the time – something I keep telling myself. The healing journey is a long one, but I have hope that it’s not an impossible one.

21 March 2013

A farmer kind of day

Go outside for morning chores – it’s a bit windy, but not too bad. Put hay in all the feeders, chase a couple of sheep back to where they belong, and notice twin lambs have just (JUST) arrived.

Get mama Cherub into the barn with her babies, and get her some hay and water.

Go check on Mackenzie the guardian dog who has been limping badly for three days. Notice that today there’s a small wound on the sore leg – didn’t see that earlier, maybe he’s been licking at it. Worry more because bone cancer is very common in these big dogs, and that’s a prime location for the tumours to start. Trim the fur off the area, put some antibiotics on it, and ponder.

Notice that the smaller of the twins is shivering and doesn’t seem to have been dried off very well yet. Take him inside to towel him off and let him warm up a little, let the cats take turns licking his fleece.

Photo 2013-03-21 10 56 45 AM

Return him in a little lamb coat to his mama – but the lamb coat must smell of whoever wore it last because mama doesn’t like him wearing it. Take it off and hope mama’s mood improves. Remember that she is usually cranky right after delivery but smartens up over the next day or so. Lecture her a little while trimming fleece off around the udder so the babies can find what they need.

Head inside and call the vet. Yes, they can see Mackie today. Well, the last time Mackie went to the vet he busted out of the crate he was in, then had to be dragged in the back door of the clinic because he refused to go inside. The Boy and I get the van ready, and drag Mac out of the dog house where he is hunkered down. He doesn’t want to walk. We drag him partway to the van and he figures out what we want, and trots along beside us in his three legged way. I get in the van and haul on the leash while the boy hefts the dog’s rear end up and in, and we are off to the vet. Mackie actually relaxes and lays down.

Photo 2013-03-21 12 35 31 PM

A blizzard has started. Visibility is awful, the ruts in the road are grabbing the tires, and there’s ice underneath. We make it to the vet’s office.

We let Mac out of the van and he actually *walks into the vet clinic*. No fuss, nothing. He even gets on the scale (143 lbs, he is a BIG DOG). Doctor Sarah looks closely at the wound and sees that there are, in fact, two tiny puncture wounds – one very deep (the one I had noticed this morning) which is bleeding fairly well now that Mackie has had a chance to warm up, and a shallower one about a centimeter away: she figures maybe a weasel or a stoat got him. Defending the sheep from weasels? The Reluctant Farmer thinks it must’ve been one of those dangerous vampire gophers, but whatever it is, it’s just an injury not bone cancer and I am tremendously relieved. Mackie gets his vaccinations while he is there (I am still shocked that he cooperated with the whole trip, I think it must reflect how much pain he is in for one thing, and also that he’s come to trust us more, for another). Antibiotics are prepared for us and we head home in the snow.

By the time we reach the house, the snow has let up, though it looks like we have more on the way. We bring Mackie inside and feed him warm dog food, brush is matted fur a little, and give him his meds, then let him outside as he is panting in anxiety – he hates being in closed spaces and has been known to dig his way out of the barn. I feed everyone, check on the animals again and see the baby lamb still looks chilly. I put the coat back on him, which Cherub isn’t thrilled about, but he’s cold and she needs to deal with it. I also get her up and help him get a bit of milk – if she rejects him I need to know for sure he got some colostrum in his first day, and he needs a boost of energy. He seems all right, so perhaps he’s getting some milk but best to be sure.

Finally, I can sit down with a mug of coffee and get warmed up and ponder what I intended to get done today … oh yeah, weaving. Well, animals first. Now that I’m in though, maybe I can head up to the loom.

That’s life on a farm. I love it.

13 March 2013

Windowfarm, Version 2.0

We've upgraded to Version 3.0... find out more here!
So, remember the Windowfarm I started last year?
Well, it had some issues. Keeping the water flowing was just not happening without a pump, and I don’t want to have to listen to a pump going every so often … I hate mechanical noises.
So I did some more reading, and found out more about passive hydroculture – basically, growing plants in liquid. Now, if you just put plants in water the roots will drown, they do need air. This is where hydroton comes in: those expanded clay pellets hold water and make it available to the plants, but they also hold air, so the roots don’t get waterlogged. Basically, you put a bare-rooted plant in a dish of hydroton pellets, water it (with liquid fertilizer so it has nutrients to grow), and that’s it. No flushing, pumping, or anything.
I’ve got a couple of house plants that have successfully survived in hydroculture for over six months now, so I figured maybe I’ve got the hang of this.
I started my seedlings in rockwool cubes: handy little bricks of finely packed threads of something that works like hydroton but is smaller. Soak them, put the seed in the hole, label the cube (a cut up yogourt container makes nice little tabs that slide easily between the rock wool and the plastic wrapper for the cube) and set the cubes in a turkey roaster with a plastic domed lid. The turkey roaster sits on top of my gas stove, where the heat from the pilot lights keeps the whole thing nice and warm, encouraging the seedlings to sprout. The lid keeps the moisture in, and I just pour a bit of water in the bottom of the pan every so often to make sure the cubes don’t dry out.
When the seeds sprout, I take the cube over to the windowfarm, which is still mounted in the south facing window. For those just joining in, the windowfarm consists of plastic eavestroughing with the ends capped, suspended from that metal shelf support stuff with the holes in it (which you would normally hook a little shelf arm into, but for this purpose, a loop of metal from a set of old window blinds is wired through the holes, it’s nice and strong and holds the weight of the full trough just fine). The rockwool cube with it’s new seedling gets nestled into the hydroton that fills the trough, and the trough is then watered generously.
Photo 2013-03-13 11 36 56 AM
I do have drain holes in the ends of my troughs (from the previous attempt at an ebb and flow kind of set up) but I just hook the tubing up over the edge and clip it in place so that the water doesn’t drain out.
The window faces directly south and gets a lot of bright light. I’ve been keeping the drapes closed, which traps the plants between the glass and the curtains, and the light bouncing off the light beige curtains seems to be helping the plants to stand mostly upright, rather than leaning drunkenly towards the glass like they usually do. It would be ideal to have a little fan blowing on these seedlings to help them get stronger, but I haven’t got anything suitable (I’m keeping an eye out for a solar powered fan that might work in this application).
Photo 2013-03-13 11 36 39 AM
As you can see, the tomato plants are quite happy in this location. Today they got their first drink of hydroponic-nutrient-enhanced water … up until now they’ve just been watered with plain, out of the tap stuff, but they are big enough I figure they would benefit from some extra nutrition.
So far, so good. We’ll see how they hold up as they get bigger … I am going to attempt a few pepper plants, I think – they won’t make it outside in our climate (or not very well anyway), ‘cause they  like more heat than we get, so I think perhaps the window will be warm enough to get some good pepper growth. Worth a shot, anyway!

11 March 2013

The Field Guide to Supported Spinning: paperback edition

Final arrangements are underway for the paperback version of the Rookie’s Field Guide to Supported Spinning … and we are ready to take preorders!

Books should be ready for mailing sometime in April, possibly sooner, depending mostly on how many preorders we get. So, if you want to help things along, well, follow the link and buy a copy for yourself … and one for a friend … and one for your local library … and one for the spinning guild …

Here’s where you can order however many you need for your little corner of the fibre world.

03 March 2013

The Rookie’s Field Guide to Supported Spinning

Those of you who’ve been around the blog for a while know that I discovered supported spinning last year, and have been extremely pleased to find that I can make lovely yarn while sitting comfortably in my recliner or propped on pillows in my bed. When the fatigue overwhelms me and my body won’t stay upright and my brain’s too muddied to concentrate on knitting, it’s wonderful to be able to sit in my big comfy chair with a dish on my lap and a spindle in my hand and make pretty string.

I have made a lot of pretty string this way – most of what I spun for the Tour de Fleece last year was done on spindles. I have some lovely tools – including my much loved Bristlecone spindles and a hand carved phang made for me by a friend. I also have hand made spindles, like these:

Which, as you can see, also make pretty string.

I love spinning supported. It’s so restful, so easy on the body. Right now, as I battle the flu, there’s no way I could work on a wheel or even hold up a drop spindle, but I can spin in bed, propped up on pillows with a spindle, some lovely fibre, and a dish nestled into the covers piled on my lap.

I’ve met people who had to give up spinning for one reason or another – knees that won’t tolerate treadling any more, or injured shoulders that prevent the kind of arm movements needed for suspending a drop spindle. For some of these spinners, supported spindles might be workable – a way to still make yarn, even with physical limitations.

It’s not just that it’s easy on the body … I can take my spindles with me in the car or when I have to sit somewhere and wait, much the same way I take my knitting. Most of the time, it’s knitting that travels with me, but sometimes I just don’t feel like counting or focusing on a pattern and then I pick up a spindle and settle into the lovely rhythm of drafting and winding on, drafting and winding on. Because the spindle sits in your lap or beside you on the chair, you don’t need a lot of room – I can spin with someone sitting right beside me and not whack them with my arm or get in their space.

Besides, there’s something inherently amazing about taking a weighted wooden stick, a dish, and a handful of fibre and ending up with yarn. It’s some alchemical trick or other, and it’s just … cool.

Now, you’d think that an art form as ancient as spinning supported (I do have a spindle made from a Roman-era lead spindle whorl, which, you have to admit, is pretty old) would be well documented in the  literature.

It isn’t.

I’ve checked out every book the library has on spinning, and only a couple of them even mentioned supported spindles. Drop spindles, yes. Wheels, definitely. Supported spindles? Not so much.

There are actually a few books out there that are dedicated specifically to spinning supported, excellent resources written by experts who have done a lot of research. Impressive stuff, really, all you could ever want to know, from the history of the spindles themselves to the ways different fibres behave when spun this way to reviews of the types of spindles currently available.

When I was just starting out, though, I was hoping for a quick introduction, a book that covered the basics and gave me just enough to get started. A book that didn’t cost too much, either, since I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to continue with this style of spinning. I couldn’t find a book like that.

So, I wrote it.

The Rookie’s Field Guide to Supported Spinning is for anyone who’s curious about spinning yarn with supported spindles but doesn't quite know where to begin.

Not an exhaustive history of spinning (supported or otherwise), nor a description of The One Right Way to Spin Supported nor a definition of The Best Kind of Spindle ... the Field Guide includes instructions for making your own supported spindles from inexpensive and easily obtained materials, and provides guidelines for scavenging your cupboards or local thrift store for spinning bowls. To make sure you are off on the right foot, the Field Guide also contains instructions on Spindle Quality Assurance: how to tell if the spindle you've made (or acquired) will be good enough to learn on. (I did have a career in QA in my Other Life.)

Then, since the whole point of this adventure is to produce yarn, the book includes suggestions for selecting and preparing fibre, several methods for spinning one handed (one hand is busy turning the spindle, so you need to figure out how to spin with only one hand on the fibre, a strategy quite different from most other styles of spinning), clues to help you wind neatly onto the spindle shaft (so you don’t make a tangled mess), and some techniques for plying and dealing with your finished yarn. Like all of the fibre arts, the real learning happens when you hold the tools and fibre in your hands and practice the skills in real life. The Field Guide will suggest possible routes you might take on your journey, but each spinner’s path will be unique.

It is, after all, a Guide, not a Rulebook. :)

So, the book is currently available in eBook format (ePub, Kindle, Sony, PDF), and I am in the process of arranging a print run as well – I will probably be setting up to take preorders for printed copies in the next couple of weeks. I’d love to gauge the interest in printed copies … if you think you might like one, would you be so kind as to leave a comment here  (or send me an email or a message through Ravelry) so that I can get an idea how many I might want to order?


And see? I promised my next book would be more cheerful . ;)

Okay, THAT’s not what I expected…

Yesterday morning I dragged my aching self out of bed to help unload a few more bales of hay that were delivered. The farmer said he’d gotten on the road early so as to miss the bad weather, and I thought “what bad weather?”

It’s sunny, melting, everything is all drippy … well, maybe the temperature is gonna drop and things will get icy. That happens a lot this time of year.

I went back inside and crawled back into bed. The Boy did afternoon chores for me as I couldn’t drag myself upright for longer than it took to get a drink and use the loo and collapse back into bed.

This morning, I looked out and saw this:

OH! That’s what he meant!