Sunday, August 28, 2011

Taking a Little Break

I'm going to take a little time away from the blog, but I'll be back in a few days with photos of the fiber projects that I am working on.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Paradise Lost, for Skywatch

Desert Bird of Paradise

I find our desert bird of paradise to be very decorative, even when the flowers are about to lose their petals. I especially like the flowers with the skies of the Mesilla Valley in the background. 

When I looked around for some nice quotes about paradise, or paradise lost, I found this one by Doug Larson:  Utility is when you have one telephone, luxury is when you have two, opulence is when you have three - and paradise is when you have none...

... but my chickens liked this one better: If one cannot catch the bird of paradise, better take a wet hen.  (Nikita Khrushchev).

For skies from everywhere, be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Spinning Wheel

While we're waiting for me to tease the rest of Kai Llama's fiber (see Spinning Kai: Teasing) and get it ready to spin, I thought you might like to see my spinning wheel.  It's an Ashford Traditional Single-Drive kit wheel, made in New Zealand.

Although I specify "single-drive," I believe that was the only kind of drive available back when I ordered it in 1975 or so. Now there are lots more choices, and even the traditional wheel that is sold today looks a bit different in design.

I assembled this wheel completely by myself, and that made me feel very proud, as it was the first time I had ever attempted such a project. You can see the assembly directions here. By putting it together, I handled every piece and understood its function, and how it was connected to the next piece. That knowledge came in handy when I later needed to adjust or tune up the wheel.

Way back then, the kit cost $95.00 delivered to the closest spinning and weaving shop, which was in Puyallup, Washington. I see that unfinished wheels cost between four and five hundred dollars now!

One of the things I have always loved about spinning is how the names of the parts of the wheel hearken back to another long-ago time: The maidens, the mother-of-all, and the footman. You can see a diagram of a wheel and its parts here.

If you are thinking of getting a wheel, I would recommend that you buy a kit and put the wheel together yourself. Another suggestion: Don't store the wheel out in a hot, dry garage like I did. It's been a real job to get it back into working order after it was exposed to such extreme temperatures! Never again...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Spinning Kai: Teasing

Once Kai Llama's beautiful fiber was washed (see Spinning Kai: Washing the Fiber) and had dried nicely in our hot New Mexico sunshine, it was time for some teasing. 

Teasing any kind of animal fiber by hand is slow business. As you can see in the photo above, a lock of fiber is grasped and the single fibers are pulled away from the lock, several at a time. When done correctly, most of the inevitable bits of dirt and vegetable matter will fall out and you will be left with a lovely pile of fiber that is ready to card.

My sister (aka Auntie Bucksnort) is both patient and meticulous, and her fiber teasing is next to perfection. I'm afraid that I am impatient and eager to get on to the next steps, so my pile of teased fibers always has some "stuff" still in it.

Never fear, there will be other chances to get the last little bits out--first, when carding; and then again when doing the actual spinning of fiber into yarn.

You can tell Gracie is concentrating on doing the best job possible
Gracie came along to help out. She is kneading the clean unteased fibers; the teased mass of airy stuff in the basket in the background is ready for the next step that I will be showing you: The Carding.  Give me a few days to finish the teasing, and I'll be glad to show you how that is done.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Who snacked on this piece of unfriendly cactus?

While Beez and I were out riding our bikes across the big Las Cruces flood control dam, I noticed this prickly pear (Opuntia) with a great big bite taken out of it. Now, if you've ever dealt with this plant, as I have in my garden, you will know that it is full of tiny, threadlike prickly awful things right where those cute little polka dots are on the pads.

I'm not talking about the big obvious thorns, but the all-but invisible "hair-like prickles called glochids," that get stuck in your fingers and other places. I know this all too well from carrying a heavy pot with a prickly pear planted in it. The pot shifted unexpectedly and I lived with glochids stuck in my mid-section for a while until I figured out how to remove them.

Knowing these things about prickly pears, I was surprised to find that someone out there in the wild used them to snack on. However, I just googled around for a bit and found that livestock, javelinas, and coyotes will take a bite of the juicy pads. As a matter of fact, the young pads (nopales) can be peeled and eaten by people, and the fruits (tunas) can be used to make jelly. A friend of mine just made a batch of cactus fruit jelly and I admire her for it.

As for me, I have a glochid stuck in my thumb again. A year ago I wouldn't have even known its name.

For more information:

Prickly Pear Cactus, DesertUSA

Opuntia; article from Wikipedia: Includes information about prickly pears as food, medication, and as a source of cochineal for dye (made from a scale insect that makes the plant its home).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Storm Over the Tularosa, for Skywatch

When we drive through the Tularosa Basin on our way from Alamogordo to Las Cruces, New Mexico, we always marvel at the amazing skies. Something is always happening, something that makes me put down my knitting (imagine that!) and gaze up at the miraculousness of it all.

One tends to think big thoughts in the Tularosa.

For more skies and the thoughts they inspire, please be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.


Klaus Peter, 1960-2011
 Today's Skywatch is dedicated to the memory of Klaus Peter. According to the Skywatch site, "he was an active participant, supporter, and eventually owner/maintainer of Skywatch and the founder of That's My World." He will be missed by so many, although we may not have met him in person.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Spinning Kai: Washing the Fiber

This is Kai after her haircut. I swiped this photo from Danni's blog here.

A couple of weeks ago I showed you the luscious chocolate-colored Kai Llama fiber from Danni's place in Oregon (see Getting Ready to Spin). I've been working away, preparing the fleece for spinning. It's so nice to be able to work on it outside, because it can be a messy job.

Here is the fleece, just as it came from Kai.
Danni offered to sort the fleece, but I said to just send the whole thing.

On our hot summer days the water straight from the hose is nice and warm.
The fiber got a short soaking.

This mesh chair was a handy place to dry the fiber, since it could drip on the patio

The next step, hand picking or teasing, takes patience and a lot of time. I will show you what that looks like in a few days.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Take a Look Around

Sunset from our porch
It's no secret: New Mexico is a photogenic place. Photographers love the early morning and the evening light; and the mountains, skies, rivers, and the desert all provide amazing scenery.

I hope you will check out New Mexico Magazine's online photo tours. They are featuring some delicious chile photos from the harvest that is taking place right now (I can see the local pickers across the road as I type this), the winners from their annual photo contest; and tours of Native American ruins and petroglyphs, historical spots like El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, and ranches that will give you a glimpse at modern-day cowboy life. The show starts here. Prepare to spend some time clicking and oohing and aahing!

Sun, silence, and adobe - that is New Mexico in three words.
~Charles F. Lummis, in The Land of Poco Tiempo, 1928

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bright Socks for Happy Feet

I'm still knitting socks, although I won't show you any more for a while because I'm starting on some stocking gifts for Christmas. 

This pair is for me, though, and they are nice and bright!

The yarn is Knit One Crochet Too Ty Dy Sock Yarn in the Tropicale colorway, and I bought it online through Jimmy Beans Wool, my favorite.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August Morning in the Desert, for Skywatch

More cloud shadows fall:

rainfall promises not kept
Tears salt the parched land


For sky views from the world over, please visit Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Socks: Violets Rainbow

More Mini Mochi yarn from Jimmy Beans Wool, this time in the colorway Violets Rainbow

I'm getting better at this sock knitting business. I believe I knit each of these socks only once. No do-overs at all!

They are very soft and will feel great in cold weather. I know, that's pretty hard to imagine in this steamy summer of broken heat records. I'm making plans for some Christmas gift sock knitting now.

The nice thing about ordering from Jimmy Beans is that I can dream up a project on a Friday night, order online, and have the yarn in my mailbox Monday afternoon. Can't beat that!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Colorful Neighborhood

There is a colorful little neighborhood in Las Cruces. I don't know its name, but it is close to downtown and to the Alameda-Depot Historic District.

Unfinished wall with window reflections

The houses are oldish, but not old enough to be called historic. Not yet, anyway. In the meantime, the neighborhood is slowly being "discovered" by artists and by folks who want a cool home to fix up at a good price.

You'll want to click twice to enlarge this one 

I have a friend who bought a home near this artist's cottage. She is happy to report that her place only cost around $70,000 a few years ago and is coming along nicely as she installs tile and cupboards that she has built herself.

Some of the homes just stop you in your tracks. And some are painted a little more conservatively, but they still have spunky touches of color.

Sometimes you can only see a hint of the wild colors beyond.

I've actually been inside this last house for a party.

Colorful inside and out
The colors in the rooms are absolutely inspirational, and there are freehand murals painted throughout. I (secretly) wanted to take notes, and I (secretly) wanted to take photos--but the people I met there were so interesting that I couldn't decide what to do first.

Here there was a painted bird sitting on a painted tree branch above a window with bright turquoise trim against an orange wall; 

and over there an artist wearing gorgeous handmade jewelry and a zebra-striped vintage hat 
(was there a veil on the hat, and did she hold a long cigarette holder, or is my memory 
playing tricks?); 

just beyond her was a french door leading to a beckoning enchanted garden 
filled with bright benches and birdsong and flower-covered arbors, 

but next to the door was a professor who could talk firsthand about discoveries of prehistoric dinosaur tracks in the nearby mountains. 

It was the best kind of gathering, colorful in every way. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

This Will Make You Smile!

What if every child learned that helping others is an important part of life? 
I want to share a story with you today about a wonderful girl named Willow and her ongoing mission to give to others. Willow lives in New Hampshire, and I know her mom from the school where I worked before retirement. I think that you'll agree that her parents are pretty special, too.

Willow, age 10, got together with a group of friends and raised money for the Susan J. Komen for the Cure Foundation, a leader in the fight against breast cancer. However, this wasn't the first time Willow has raised money for charities. 

I'm going to let Willow's proud mom, Heatha, take the story from there. 
Willow's first donation to Locks of Love
All photos are from Heatha's Facebook page, and are used with permission

Heatha: Willow raises money every summer and donates it to a charity... (Animal Shelter, Family Shelter, Food Pantry, Cancer Foundation). We have been doing this "project" for the past 4 summers. 

Her charity givings started when she was 4 years old. Her hair laid 4 inches on the ground when she sat because it was so long. We decided it was time to cut it and decided we should "go big" if we were going to cut it. To her she was known for her hair and it was like another limb! So, we decided to make it so we wouldn't regret cutting it, we would donate it to Locks Of Love... this way we'd have no regrets. She did that and donated 17 inches and raised and donated some of her own money to go with the hair ($208). I thought it would be a one time thing, but she had told my mom she planned on doing it over and over again every time it was long enough. Sure enough, 2 years later she donated it a second time. AND 2 years later she donated it a third time and 2 years later donated it a fourth time! (donated at age 4, 6,8 and now at age 10) She plans to continue donating it for as long as she can! 

Willow (right) and her friend, Lilly
Donation to Locks of Love again: Lilly's 3rd time, Willow's 4th
She knows the pain cancer causes. My dad (her Grampa Bob) died of Mesothelioma (cancer from Asbestos, he worked in the shipyards when he was 20. Died at 46.) before Willow was born. We tell her all about him. Our cat, Inny died of breast cancer when Willow was 5 even after 2 surgeries to try to save her. And my mom (Grammie) had stage 3 breast cancer which had spread to the lympnodes when Willow was 3. So, Willow had seen Grammie lose her hair due to treatment. Grammie is now a 7 year survivor! And more recently Willow's Nana had breast cancer and is also a survivor. 
Each summer she also raises money for charities. We started this as a way to make sure she gives to others and knows that she is lucky for what she has. She LOVES earning money for charity and doing her part. She does bake sales, chores for family and friends, Mother's Helper, gardening, etc..... She always sets a goal to earn by the end of the summer... in the past it has been $100, $150 and this summer it was $200. 
She decided to donate the money to the Susan G. Komen 3 -Day (a 60 mile walk in 3 days to raise money and awareness for breast cancer). She picked this one because four of her dance teachers were going to be participating in the walk and they each had to raise $2300 to do the walk. Some of them were having trouble raising the money and therefore were not going to be able to participate. So, Willow started earning her money. 

It is hard to come up with ways a 10 year old can truly earn the money themselves. While thinking of ideas, I thought of a kid 3 day event, but doing maybe a kid 30 minute walk where they would register for $5.00. I spoke to Willow about the idea. and it grew from there. She got 5 other dancer friends involved and they went to stores asking for donations and to people and businesses asking for other donations. 

Baking cookies for the big event

They made tee shirts so people would know who to go to for help during the walk. They named themselves THE SODA POPS (SODA stands for Steppin' Out Dance Academy). It turned out adults wanted to walk too. So, we opened it up to everyone. 

The girls asked grocery stores for donations of watermelons that we could cut up and give out free to our walkers. Moms bought water bottles to give out free. The girls asked a rental place for helium tanks to blow up balloons for walkers to write the names of people they were walking in memory or honor of (any type of cancer). We started the walk with the girls each holding a bunch of the balloons and did a balloon release.
We even had about 20 items and gift certificates donated (hair salons, dance studio, themed baskets). We did 2 raffle tables.

Willow drawing raffle tickets; her mom, Heatha, is to the right
The girls were Willow Normandin (age 10), Lilly Farah (age 10), Sarah Hughes (age 10), Megan Lineham (age 10), Brianna Burke (age 9) and Rosie McKeen (age 7).  Brianna, Megan and Rosie are all cousins and their Nana is a breast cancer survivor too and is one of the women who walked in the 3 day event. The kids are from 4 different towns.
On the day of the event, the girls set up and ran all the tables. They had the registration table ($5.00 per walker), two girls running the raffle tables, one girl at the baked goods table and two girls leading people in stretches. 

The girls ran the tables
Since they are all dancers, they also kicked off the event with a short dance to get everyone pumped up...LOL..... We had 65 plus people come and walk at the event! People donated $5.00 to walk, bought lots of baked goods and raffle tickets, which were sold by donation. People who were unable to come to the event sent the girls money ahead of time or days after the walk!

Walkers at the event--a BIG turnout!
Willow had raised $240 on her own through chores, Mother's Helper, gardening for people on vacation, etc., and then the walk made another $800+ dollars. The total these girls raised and donated to Susan G. Komen was over $1000! They were very excited and had gotten together several times to make this event a big success!!!! 
It turns out the money helped the dance teachers earn their registration for the 3 Day and they walked  during our heatwave in the event! They were very thankful to the girls and wrote them thank you cards!

For the other girls it was their first time doing any kind of charity and they were totally into it and loved it. Their parents and grandparents were very thankful and proud of them. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cloud Shadows, for Skywatch

Taken near sundown on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in South Central New Mexico

I never tire of the skies in New Mexico. While I've seen our mountains here casting their shadows against clouds, this is the first time I've captured cloud shadows in the sky.

For scenes of skies everywhere, be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Old Man Kicks

If I didn't give you any information to go with these photos, wouldn't you think that Beez was sliding in snow?

The old man kicks!

Faking it

Resting up for another climb
Even though we live just a couple of hours from a great ski mountain here in southern New Mexico, we'd have a hard time finding any snow this time of the year. Beez is sliding on the pure white gypsum sands at White Sands National Monument, just 45 minutes from our home in Las Cruces.

While we were there with our kids who were visiting from California and New York, we met and chatted with tourists from Switzerland and France. The Monument was recently named one of the best family-friendly parks by Open Road Guides. The dunes offer hiking, nature watching, sliding (of course), and lots of solitude. 

This little guy is called the Bleached Earless Lizard (click twice to enlarge the photo).
He is perfectly camouflaged against the white, white sands

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Getting Ready to Spin

When Danni at Critter Farm in Oregon said she was looking for someone who might like to spin some fiber from her llama, Kai, I jumped right in to say that I would love to try.

I am a spinner from way back--I used to be co-owner of a spinning and weaving shop in Washington state. I've been dragging my spinning wheel around with me as we've moved from state to state, but I haven't used it much in recent years.

Now that I have a bunch of lovely fibers, it's time to dust off the wheel and get to work.

From Kai, the llama
The first two photos show Kai's fiber (it isn't actually called wool, as I understand it), straight from the llama. Lots of things will happen to it before it gets spun, and I will document the process in upcoming posts. As you can see, the fiber is made up of longer hairs and a soft undercoat. 

Kai's fiber from underneath
Some time back, Beez brought me some wool and some alpaca from a customer of his whose business was processing wool. The bags he rescued had been tossed aside and were going to be thrown out. I'm sure this was because they didn't match up with the large batch of wool that was being run through the mill. Although they were rejected by the wool mill, they are perfect for a hand spinner.

The alpaca is a lovely toasty shade, a little lighter in color than the Kai fiber. 

White wool

The wool is fine, long fibered, and clean. Of course, "clean" is relative with all newly-shorn animal fibers, and the first step will be to pick through and remove vegetable matter, dirt, and other goodies. Then the fibers will be sorted, washed, teased, and carded before they can be spun. I'll be glad to share the experience with you. 

All three together

Monday, August 1, 2011

Socks: Bodega Bay

A few weeks ago, I showed you this yarn, the Bodega Bay colorway of Mini Mochi, which I got from Jimmy Beans Wool. I cannot say enough good things about Jimmy Beans--the orders come promptly and in perfect condition--and, they give free shipping coupons, too. 

Here are the socks I knit, my second pair now. I tried out a little lace pattern, but I must have lost my place a few times, as the lace wanders a bit.

In my knitting group, we discuss whether socks should match exactly when multicolored, or if they should be spontaneous and random. I guess you can see which side I am on!