Monday, March 27, 2017

Late Spring

The weird weather system that dumped feet of snow on people in the Northeast merely brought us some gorgeous (perhaps a bit chilly) weather.  Which I found *really* frustrating, as I managed to catch a cold and breathing outside made my chest hurt.  But I was given a reprieve--after a couple of hottish days it cooled off again.  And we managed to take advantage.

Friday was work-related.  Because normally we wouldn't drive 75 miles south and eventually down a dirt road to an obscure boat dock on the Fenholloway River (officially described as a "small, blackwater stream).  But a bunch of students were having a field trip where they were learning how to take water quality samples, and Bob and I were to meet them at one point and talk about native animals.

After we got on that dirt road, it was beautiful, in that wild way that Bob called "quintessential North Florida."  It's wetlands and marshes and palmettos and wildflowers and just plain mysterious.  We got there early so had time to admire.  In a month or two, when the weather will be in the 90's and the air alive with mosquitoes and biting flies, I might not find it so admirable--but Friday was perfect.  Bob commented that it looked like it could be a computer screensaver.  I thought--"needs an alligator."  Then, right on cue, he appeared.  Perfect.

Wild Dixie Irist
Look closely--he's that double-dot floating in the water
The next day was a Archaeology Day at Wakulla Springs, when they open up the dig areas to the public and you can talk to the archeologists. While I'm fascinated by archeology, I could never, never work in that field.  It's far to precise and fussy for me.  At the Wakulla site, it consists of marking off precise squares, cutting them perfectly (I am amazed they can get straight walls in this sand, making it all level, then gently scraping off about 1/4 inch at a time to be sifted.  Their current excitement is over a *lot* of tiny stone chips, meaning that they found a spot where someone, or several someones, had been making arrowheads and spear points.  Even those chips carry information--if, for instance, they're from a rock that isn't found here, it can show that trading occurred.  But I wouldn't be able to do it--I'd be wanting to grab a shovel and just start digging.

We did the riverboat tour afterwards--because I'd never go to the Springs without going out.  It's been kept wild and untouched except for the boats, and the animals have gotten to the point that they ignore them.  Like Friday, it was almost cool, and clear, and the colors of the sky and water and trees looked almost artificial, like Disney World at it's finest.  I rested my head on my arms and watched it all slip past, and realized that I do love this primitive beauty where I've made my home.

And I need to remember these moments and store them for the months ahead when stepping outside into air that feels like hot moldy syrup and all the greens are the color of overboiled spinach.

Another sign of spring--for a few weeks we couldn't handle the hawk at the museum because even though she doesn't have a mate she still built a nest and laid eggs--and guarded them.  Trust me--you don't go near a broody hawk if you don't want to get those 3-inch talons in you.  On the other hand--it was pointed out that she looks like an angry muppet.


Finished Woven into the Earth but am reading the companion book that gives details on the clothing construction.  These were every day clothes, but the craftsmanship on them is exquisite.

"Sourcery" by Terry Pratchett.  Anything by Pratchett is fun--he plays with words like a cat with a toy mouse.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

All. The. Projects.

I had decided in January that this was going to be the year of the "project" blog--but haven't talked about many of them.  That's because when I think about writing about them I get overwhelmed and then wander off and start another one.  So I'm just going to list things that have been started (some finished) that haven't been mentioned yet.  Details will come later.

And now it's a few hours since I wrote that first paragraph and I don't even want to list everything at once.  So I'll just start and quit when I get tired (because it's midnight)

So--some ongoing, some finished.

1)  Scarf for Margo.  Some years ago I made an elegant charcoal gray angora Mobius cowl for Margo (the cowl is a circle with a half twist so you just toss it over your head and it snuggles around your neck).  During my visit in December she got it out--and while I truly appreciate that it's obviously been much loved over the last decade or so, time has not been kind and it rather resembles a drowned rat.  So I got some beautiful yak/silk fiber, spun it up, and knitted a replacement.  I think it's lovely . . . but the reaction was sort of like when a mother tries to get a new fluffy stuffed toy to replace her little girl's long-loved, threadbare, stuffing-coming-out, one-eyed bunny.  I don't think the gray one is going anywhere.

2)  My tushie cushion.  Bob looked over while I was doing this and said "uh--this isn't your usual knitting."  Very observant.  My usual knitting is of fine handspun, lovely colors, a bit fancy, using small needles.  This--I had a ball of cheap acrylic and was using it doubled on large needles and knitting a plain garter stitch square.  This is purely practical.  My back and I are often not on speaking terms, so I like to take hot soaking baths.  But when one is in the bath, the part that you want to pamper happens to be the part that is sitting on the hard tub.  You have to keep sort of bouncing up and down to get the warm water where you need it.  So I've made a quick-drying little cushion that keeps my tushie happy.  I'm really tempted to emulate a knitting designer's "bath-gan" which is a blanket you can use in the tub to cover all the parts that stick out of the water warm.  Maybe next winter.

3)  Big shawl.  I've mentioned before that I like to spin while walking.  This habit has gotten me several random skeins of yarn with no particular purpose.  I decided a couple of months ago to do a big project, one that would keep me inspired to keep spinning (and hence, continue the daily or sometimes twice-daily walk).  This shawl will eventually have 9 leaf-shaped panels--I just finished panel #3.  No rush--it will be at least November before it's cool enough to wear it.  I love the way the colors flow in this pattern.

4.  Warp-weighted loom model.  All this going and hanging around model conferences with Bob made me sort of want to enter a model.  But of what?  Tanks and jeeps aren't my thing.  Maybe dinosaurs--but there are a lot of people who do really good ones (including Bob).  The science fiction/fantasy category is usually under-represented--there's a thought.  But my world isn't plastic--mine is fiber.  Where will the worlds meet?  Well--they don't say *when* the fiction had to be written.  One of the books I've been reading is Njall's saga, which is definitely fiction, written sometime in the 13th century.  There is a loom in it which has intrigued me ever since I first heard about it some 15 years ago--the loom of the Valkyries, on which they weave the fates of men in battle.  The loom is made of weapons and body parts.  So far I've made the spears for the loom frames, and modeled and painted 10 decapitated heads to use as warp weights. I'm inordinately pleased with my little heads.  I thought about buying dolls at the dollar store and popping their heads off, but it would have been too cookie-cutter and I would have felt compelled to keep the headless bodies to "do something with." I was wondering what I could use, because "I can't sculpt."  But I was out there alone with no one to see me messing around with the clay, so I started sculpting.  And I like my little dudes--each one is different.  The have personalities.  They've been "corpsed" with a bit of toilet paper, painted, and had real silk hair added (the silk that I had of the right color and texture is actually a rather rare wild silk, but you use what you must).   I still need to make a sword to beat the weaving, some skeleton arms and hands to hold a heddle rod, and do a weaving that looks like it's done with intestines (although I might substitute blood veins--creative license).  This model should confuse people--if there's a WTF? award, I'm going for it.

OK--4 is enough for right now.  There's a half-dozen other things happening, and more in the pipeline, but it's a start.

And the Reading:

Finished Njal's saga!  My, that was a high body count.  But the textilian in me loves that sometime the attonment fine (the "man payment") often included a suit of clothes or a cloak.  The amazing one was when someone was bribing a lawyer and gave him a gold bracelet worth 1200 ells (!) of russet cloth.  Somehow it's hard today to think of going to pay someone off with a few bolts of cloth.

Still on "Woven into the Earth"--down to reading details of the structure of the clothing

"Respect the Spindle"--a book that not only discusses different spindles and techniques, but goes into detail of the physics involved.

"Mama Makes Up Her Mind, and other dangers of living in the South."  By Maude Bailey (I wrote of her "Quite a Year for Plums" a few posts back.  This was a collection of essays mostly centering around the author's eccentric and very Southern mother.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Bob is Secure In His Masculinity

Bob is once again updating his work room.  It's like a massive game of Tetris, seeing what he can fit in there (someday that corner of the house will come crashing down.  Maybe we should reinforce the foundation)   But he wants everything accessible as well.

Thus, the hunt for a set of drawers to put on his shelves.  What he wanted was a set of shallow drawers for his paints and scale-model stuff--shallow so things wouldn't get buried, and the type that pull out all the way (without falling out) so he could get to the back.  What he wanted was a set of tool drawers, like the top part of this set.

The problem was that the top lifts up--which wouldn't do any good on a shelf, and he would lose storage space.  There were some online, but sometimes you want to see something before you buy it--what if it ends up being cheaply made or with stuck drawers?  The search was on.

While doing an errand run, we decided to go into Sears.  No luck--all the small ones had the lift-up lids.  What he needed was the middle section of a three-piece set, but they're sold only in sets (because who else would buy the other two pieces missing the middle?).  So we wandered a bit--and there they were.  In the middle of an aisle, glowing.  There may have been a small chorus of angels trumpeting.  A stack of middle sections, on a very deep discount because (according to the salesman) for some reason the company had shipped too many middle sections.

So we looked.  And we laughed a bit.  And we looked around a bit more, just in case.  And we stared at them.  65% off the usual price.  Good construction.  Right size.  We laughed some more.  Finally I turned to Bob and said "could you live with those?"

Remember I said that they were glowing in the aisle? I meant that literally.

Yep.  Hot pink.  Made by a company called "Pink Box" (behave yourself--don't go there).  Tool chests for the "handyma'am"--someone who needs decent tool storage but still wants to show her femininity (I personally got over my hot pink stage by age 17)

But they were otherwise perfect--and on sale.  He decided that he was manly enough to deal with hot pink tool drawers.

Almost.  As well as the two sets of drawers, he picked up two rolls of digital camouflage duct tape.  Where there's a will . . .

(he also had to get some black drawer liners--that blast of hot pink every time he opened the drawers was just too much).


Woven into the Earth--this one will take awhile because it's basically an archaeology textbook.

Njall's saga.  Almost through with this--and it's getting to be a bit of a slog.  There's a certain formula--some new characters are introduced, then either they kill someone or get killed, and it has to be decided if it was done in a proper and manly way or a cowardly way, and then they have to decide if there will be a retaliatory killing or if an attonment can be paid.  Rinse and repeat.  Every now and then someone will get married, and then the wife has her husband, brother, or house servant go kill someone.

But I seem to be leading a trend.  Both this month's National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines had articles on the Vikings.

Respect the Spindle--because I was tired of the Vikings.  A somewhat technical book about handspinning with spindles (including a discussion of the physics involved)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

New Displays

There's something about the spring that makes one want to do, well, spring cleaning.  Maybe it's the clear skies, the longer days, or just all the flowers blooming that makes freshening up seem like a good idea.

I started with my closet.  I actually don't have that many clothes so it didn't take long.  I just pulled everything out one by one, checked to see if it fit, and if it didn't, into the Goodwill bag it went.  Well, almost.  I did keep a couple of "5 pound" skirts that I really like, and will be able to wear again if I lose maybe five pounds.  But just two of them.  Otherwise having a closet of clothes that you need to lose weight to wear is just depressing.

Then came my handspindles (the ones I use for spinning yarn).  They have lived in a basket on a side table.  Sort of all jumbled together so I have to dig for the ones I want.  And sometimes the cats knock it over.  We were in an outlet store and I spotted a quarter-round wire bathroom rack--so I bought two of them, put them together with zip ties, and hung them on the wall.  My less-interesting spindles (the ones I use for teaching) went into storage and my nice ones went into the rack.  Done.

The project for the last two days was slightly more involved.  There's a hallway in the house where we hang pictures.  I was sort of tired of some of them, but moving and rehanging seems like a bit of a bother.  There's a display system that I've seen from time to time and really liked, and we decided to put it in.  Basically, you make a shelf with a lip and rest your pictures on it.  You can even stack them--a look I rather like.  And rearranging them is easy.  Here's where we started:

It seemed simple enough.  Build a couple of shelves with lips.  Take down the pictures.  Put up the shelves.  Put back pictures.

Shelve building--check.  Take down pictures . . . . wow.  The reason we didn't have much problems with the pictures going askew was that many generations of spiders have glued them to the wall with webs.  So I had to evict the living spiders and clean out the webs.  The wall looked a little grungy so I had to wash it. Then the baseboards looked grungy so out came the steam cleaner and toothbrush.  And when you live with something day to day, you don't really see it any more--so I had never noticed the little pyramids of dust on each picture frame, so they all had to be cleaned.

And now that this wall was clean, the other side of the hallway looked grungy--so those pictures came off and were dusted and those walls and baseboards washed.

I have often mentioned that I lack the "clean gene."  Some people can clean their houses and they have, well, a clean house.  Anytime I clean I just uncover more dirt.

But at last, the shelves went up and the pictures (with some changing) went on, and yes, indeed, it is a look that we like.  There are a few more pictures to go up as soon as I print and frame them.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Winter is [not] Coming

Living in Florida as we do, we love winter.  Granted, we don't have "winter" the way a lot of people have WINTER.  Winter to us is the season where we don't sweat quite so much and can be outside without getting drippy and bug chewed.

The rest of the year we use the magical and wistful term "come winter."  Come winter--we'll hike and kayak more.  Come winter, I'll cook soups and stews.  Come winter, we'll sit in front of the fire and drink cocoa and read.  Come winter we'll finish cutting down that fallen tree and burn the branches and cook hot dogs over the fire.  Come winter I can drag out all those handspun scarves and hats and wear them.  Come winter . . .

Winter is that long-lost love that shows up in town for a few short weeks every year.  You relish your time together before it is gone.

Come winter  . . .

Only we find that we are still saying that when it looks like this outside.

You know those old romance movies where the two lovers meet every year--and then one year one of them doesn't show up?  We're feeling jilted.  We had a couple of cold snaps (and one really cold day) and that was pretty much it.  I got out *one* sweatsuit.  One scarf.  Never wore my gloves.  I'm not sure that we ever had a whole week that the temperature didn't reach 80.

It's the winter that didn't happen.  We feel cheated.

It's supposed to hit 85 degrees tomorrow.  Sigh . . . .

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Three Busy Weekends

For stay-at-homes, we've been doing *way* too much driving lately, especially on weekends.

At the end of January was a gun show--at least that was local.  Guns are Bob's thing, so I usually don't go.  But this time he asked me to go along.  I eventually figured it out--there are 4-5 gun shows a year, and he goes to all of them, and every time he comes home and says "I almost bought a new .45--but they're really expensive.  It sure was nice."  What he wanted was for someone to say "So go ahead and buy the damned thing."  So I did, and he did.  He has a couple of .45s, but they're old--as in nudging 100 years old.

But watching it be sold to him was interesting.  He was looking at one of the tables of guns--the guns are covered with a large piece of nylon net, which allows customers to see them without being able to casually pick them up.  It was a family-owned business, and a little girl of about 8 or 9 years old came over to him, and in her lisping little-girl voice said "May I help you sir?"  Bob said that he was looking for a .45 acp (and there was some other stuff but it's so much wah wah wah) to me.  She listened carefully, reached under the net, and handed one to him, explaining the features.  She showed him a couple of others, shooing off her sister who came over to help.  The wee munchkin really knew her stuff and successfully made the sale.  (no pictures--I'm no sure how I feel about posting a picture of someone's little girl holding a honkin' big gun).  But I did compliment the mother on her daughters (turns out that the 13-year-old is a licensed shooting instructor).  But *that's* how to raise kids--to be competent, confident, and contributing members to the family.

I did buy myself a little gift--for some reason I was taken with this small hand-forged knife (it's about 4" long).  The blade was made from a recycled coil spring from a car.  What I like is what might be considered a flaw--the rough inclusions at the top of the blade.  But to me it's like the sculptors who leave a bit of unhewn stone in their statues--something that shows the history of the piece.  (it lives in the kitchen now as a super-sharp paring knife)

Last weekend was a drive to Gainesville to go to the Renaissance Faire (again--I wrote about it last year).  I don't know why Tallahassee doesn't have anything like this.  We did, years ago, (a Celtic festival, a Colonial Faire) but they've all faded away so now it takes a 3 hour road trip.  Ren Faires are fun--lots of people in costume, some amazing, others--well, the people enjoy wearing them, but it makes you think of a kid wearing a bathtowel for a cape and thinking he looks like superman).  Lots of shows and acts.  One amazing one that culminated with the acrobat bouncing on a huge pogo stick, then doing a backflip off of it over a fireball (which he blew from his mouth as he jumped).  Pretty impressive.  Made me think of a ren fair a few decades back, when Bob and I sat on similar benches in front of a similar small stage, watching two young juggler/magicians.  One was tall and loud and obnoxious, the other completely silent.  They were quite good.  Wonder if now, all these years later, I could get a front row seat at a Penn and Teller show for a dollar tip?
And, of course, where else could you buy a wench costume or a suit of armor, or watch someone make glass figures (which didn't really interest me, but I loved his dragon blowtorch), or get a hug from a sweaty knight?

Finally, yesterday we went to Jacksonville (another 3 hours away) for Jax Con, a scale-model making conference.  We wanted to be there by a bit after 9 so Bob could submit his models (in addition to his usual tanks and jeeps he had a Triceratops and a scratch built spaceship) and go shopping before things got picked over.  He also took a bunch of model kits (that he knew he would never build) to sell.  I have to admit to having a bit of a sinking sensation after getting up that early and driving that far and helping him carry stuff in when by 11:00 he had submitted and shopped and was pretty well finished.  Problem is--the judging wouldn't be over and the winners announced until 5:00.  I smiled bravely, pulled out my knitting, and manned his sales table.  After all, he puts up with my stuff . . . .

(Besides, his model-making friends are a nice group and I enjoyed chatting with them)

Reading:  (yes, I usually  have 2-3 books going.  Depends on my mood)

Finished "Prehistoric Textiles" and am now on "Woven Into The Earth" about early Norse textiles.  The poetic title refers to the tree roots that have grown into the graves and woven the grave goods and remains into the earth.

Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonder.  A collection of essays.  I've read a couple of her books (she writes about self-sufficiency and living lightly on the earth) and I like her writing style, but this one has been a bit of a slog.  A lot of the essays are about social consciousness (yes, good, but not particularly light reading) and the ones on the beauties of the natural world have a bit of doom-and-gloom to them because so much is being destroyed.  Sort of like showing a picture of a cute puppy but reminding us that it will get old and die in a dozen years.

Njal's Saga.  As long as I'm reading about Norse textiles, I might as well enjoy some ripping yarns about the Norsemen (and women) who wore them.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Much Socializing

Bob and I don't socialize much.  We seem to be content here in the swamp, working on our projects.  But this last week made up for it.

Got a call from a friend we hadn't seen in awhile ("awhile" meaning 17 years, since she left Tallahassee).  As it's starting to happen at our age, an old friend of her had passed away and she was coming into town for the funeral, as was another friend (and we hadn't seen her for 20 years).  Sad reason for flying in, but it gave us a chance to get together.

As I usually do when people come to town, we went to the Museum.  We were fortunate--there were some wicked storms in the area, but they circled around us and we just had a bit of a drizzle.  I love taking people out there because we can do the behind-the-scenes, like getting within a couple of feet of the panthers.  Wandering around also avoids those gaps that can happen in any conversation--when one topic peters out and you haven't quite hit the next one yet and you sit there and smile and go "uh . . ."    We also got to go visit the new guest animals, short clawed Asian otters, which are so stinkin' cute that they ought to be outlawed.  They're little, they look and sound like furry wind-up toys, and they have articulate little hands that will grab anything in sight.  Alas--cameras aren't allowed behind scenes, but there is an official video.
Asian Otters

Then we headed down to the coast for some seafood.  Outz's is a bit of a biker dive, but the food is so good.  As was the conversation.  Sometimes when you get together with friends you haven't seen for a long time, you go over the "good old days" and then you sort of don't know where to go from there.  Other times you just feel like no time at all has passed (except when they show you pictures of grown-up adult people that you remember as toddlers).  You find out where they've been, and where they're going.  And we even got the prize--it turns out that Diane has taken up making pottery.

So pretty!

After we parted we were going to run the week's errands, but the storm was moving in and we opted to keep out of traffic. That meant that Monday was the runaround day (when you work you can run an errand or two after work.  Post retirement, you tend to do 6-8 in a day.  That's a lot of running around).  We got home, put stuff away, put up our feet and had a cup of coffee, when the phone rang.  Diane had misread the time of her flight and was stuck in town for another day.  So  we got a bonus visit)

Tuesday it was down to the coast again.  We had a date with our friend Kim to go kayaking on the Wakulla river.

After the storms of Saturday, Tuesday was almost surrealistically beautiful.  Look at that sky!

That's Kim in her red kayak.

Possibly because of the rain, the current was *really* strong and paddling upstream was rather like swimming in a lap pool.  The reward came after a couple of hours (with sightings of a couple of alligators, lots of birds, and one manatee nose sticking out of the water) when it was time to turn around and we just gathered together, hung onto each other's boats, and drifted back to the landing site.

Off for more seafood, this time as Posey's (another dive).  I was thrilled to see that they had a Jenny Haniver on the wall.  A Jenny Haniver is made by taking a skate (similar to a stingray), making some cuts in it (after it has met it's demise--or at least I really hope so) and drying it to make a sea monster.  I was so excited that I forgot to take a picture, but here's one from the web.

I've wanted one of these things for a very long time (though not enough to buy one sight unseen off the internet) and I've never seen one in real life.   Alas--the owners were not interested in selling.

Kim had brought some yard-sale treasures with her for us--a large (fake) jack-o-lantern for me, and an army helmet for Bob.  She had to pose with the latter in a group selfie (which I believe is called an "usie")

As the saying goes, one picture = one thousand words.  She's just fun to be around.
I'd like to say that we just cocooned after that, but in the middle of all this Bob cracked a tooth and we had to go into town *yet again* to get started on the crown.  And all the cats needed their annual trip to the vet.  Much time in the car this week.
Reading:  Still on "Prehistoric Textiles."  It's a 600 page dissertation so it will take awhile
"Quite a Year for Plums" by Bailey White, loaned to me by a co-worker.  It's of the Southern Gothic genre (once an English major, always an English major) which is characterized by having eccentric characters.  This one had, among others, a man specializing in peanut diseases, an artist who tended to take things from her house to the dumpster (leaving them beside the dumpster with notes on them) when she got stuck on her work, and a women who thought the space aliens would come if she could lay out junk and random stuff in the right positions.  Really a fun read.