Monday, January 27, 2014

Still Life With Lemons

Rob and Jeff's meyer lemon tree was quite prolific this year (they got something like 250 lemons).  Aren't they pretty?

They have since gone under the knife and are now a few jars of delicious marmalade.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fine Spinning and Wild Weaving

I've been able to play with fibery things for the last couple of weeks.   Last weekend I got to take a two-day spinning class.  Now I taught myself to spin almost 30 years ago,  and I'm pretty good at turning fluff into yarn.   But I like to take classes when I can--I like getting together with other spinners, and I usually don't let myself just sit and spin for two days.   This class was on spinning flax (linen) which I have little experience with  (the English major in me thinks that should be "with which I have little experience.).  What I like about spinning is the tactile experience--the soft fibers slipping through my fingers.  Flax feels a little coarse.  And it's tricky to spin because the fibers are so long--a couple of feet, as opposed to the inches of wool or the fractions of an inch of cotton (that's why you have to fasten it to a distaff).

I don't know if I'll really get into linen (it's not a nice soft yarn to knit or weave with) but I rather enjoyed spinning from the distaff.  And I really liked just sitting and spinning--because that's been more than a week ago, and have a spun any at all since then?  Nope.  Good intentions . . .

But I have been waving.  Next month the School of Theatre will be putting on "Spamalot"--the musical based on Monty Pythons "Search for the Holy Grail."  The costume designer is really going overboard (note to self--take camera to costume shop).  I overheard him ordering jock cups--to be covered in rhinestones.  One set of costumes that I'm helping to build are for the Knights Who Say "Ni!".  Matt wanted heavily textured shaggy shoulder mantles and wondered if I could weave them.

Of course, I say.  It's 8 panels only 2 feet long.  Piece of cake.  I've always said that if I ever figured out how long some projects will take before I decide to start, I'd say forget about it.   If I'm weaving a 24" long dishtowel, I'll allow about an hour per towel.  These shoulder pieces--about three hours each.

Matt wanted texture--he's getting texture.  Normally for weaving, the weft is put onto nice tidy little bobbins and you just put them in a shuttle and toss it back and forth.  For this project, I'm using random pieces of yarn, torn strips of fabric, and raffia.  Each piece is put individually into the warp--and a rough estimate is that I have about 500 individual pieces put into each panel.  It takes quite a bit of time just to cut up the pieces of yarn and rip the fabric into strips.  Instead of my tidy bobbins, I'm weaving from this:
I've got a dozen different types of yarn, and about 8 difference pieces of fabric (plus black and beige raffia).  Here's the end result (and a closeup):

Now the *real* trick is that all 8 have to look about the same--matching randomness?  While it seems random, I'm actually measuring and weighing an equal quantity of each element.

Sheesh!  At the moment, four down and four to go.  All for something that will be on stage for 15 minutes.  But Matt is ecstatic--and I'll even get a special mention in the program.

But for now--have been typing this during the last episode of "Sleepy Hollow" (I have to wait until fall for the new season?), and it's time for bed.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I posted a few pictures of ice yesterday.  Bob pointed out that I hadn't noticed that he had put one of his Halloween Howl dolls under the faucet of the outdoor sink (set to drip)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


I  know I'm not going to impress anybody north of Florida--but it's cold here!  Water rarely spontaneously hardens here.

It was 22 degrees (wind chill 15) when I went out to feed the critters this morning--taking jugs of warm water and having to break that mysteriously hardened stuff out of their bowls.  The peacocks, unfortunately, are on their own--we wouldn't even be able to talk them into the barn.  All of the penned critters have heat lambs, and Timmy the Squirrel has been brought inside.   I got everyone fed, and all the dripping faucets turned off, and was going to hurry to get back inside--when I decided to just take a walk and enjoy the strange sensation of being . . . warm.

"Warm" is an emotional connotation as well as a temperature.  We do plenty of "hot" around here.  We do unbearable hot, really hot, just plain hot, and sometimes "comfortable."   But to have the sensation of warmth, you really need some cold.  Think about it--snuggly sweatshirts, wooly socks, mugs of hot cocoa, sitting in front of a fire.  All of this just doesn't work if there's not some cold around.

So I took a walk (short one--have to get to work sometime).  Cold air on my face--it has a strange brittle quality when you breath it.   Dry air--not used to that either.  All of the humidity turned to frost and sat on the ground.  Somehow, when it's cold, your inner thermostat kicks on.  It's not at all the same as being "chilled."  I get miserably chilled  when it's in the mid to high 40's--maybe it's because the humidity is still in the air instead of on the ground, but it just soaks into your bones (and if you bundle up, you sweat because it's not that cold).

It feels wonderful.  Pity that we just came off Christmas break so I really can't skip work just to enjoy it.   I know that if I lived anywhere north of here the novelty would soon wear off (just as Northerners visiting here are briefly fascinated by the fact that the thermometer needs three digits but quickly learn to head for the air conditioning).

My sympathies for those who have to endure this for weeks on end--but I'm off to find my alpaca socks, and my scarves, and some hot tea . . .warmth!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Disappointing but Lovely Day

We are on the last weekend of our break--Monday we return to work :-(

So *of course* we set the alarm to a little after 5:00 (a.m.!), get up to face temps in the 20s (well . . . 29), drove into town to pick up  Rob and Jeff and headed to St. Marks.  At the park there we joined a large crowd of about 1500 people and some impressive camera equipment.

Bob and Jeff practiced seeing something exciting.

Why were we all out there in the cold post-dawn morning?  Because we would have a chance of seeing this.
That's an ultralight leading a small flock of young whooping cranes on an almost 1100 mile flight from Wisconsin to their winter refuge at St. Marks.  As of this morning, they had 28 miles to go, and would be flying over the park.
It didn't happen  :-(   The flyover originally was supposed to be on New Year's Day--but it was raining.  The second and third were too windy.  Today almost seemed perfect.  Almost.  Put a capital "A" on that.  The winds aloft were too variable and the birds couldn't line up alongside the plane and kept going back down. 
I can't help but feel sorry for their escorts.  The flight has taken 95 days so far--and there's only 28 miles to go.  The next 3 days don't look likely.  Me?  I'd be shoving them in the back of a van, drive them to the refuge and call the job done.
So what does one do when you've gotten up before the crack of dawn and The Event doesn't happen?  Well--you enjoy the gift of a beautiful (if chilly) morning with friends.
First things first--hit a local Southern restaurant for the breakfast buffet.  Fortified with cheese grits,  eggs, biscuits, gravy and hot coffee, we were ready to go to Wakulla Springs for a morning boat ride.
Uh--turns out they don't even sell tickets for the rides unless the temperature is at least 40.  That's usually not a problem here--but it was only 34.  That meant killing an hour or more so we wandered out to the boat dock and eventually over to the two-story diving platform.
Where we watched the manatees--at least 20 of them.  I don't know what it is about these big gray blobby creatures that just makes people go weak in the knees.  They certainly don't win any beauty contests.  Any sailor who thought that one was a mermaid must have been looking through the bottom of the rum barrel.  But they're adorable--especially if you have a mother and baby.

We were happy to be watching them from the tower.  But one young couple braved the cold waters of the spring to go swimming with them (this is allowed as long as you don't try to touch them).  Granted, the water was warm relative to the outside air temperature.  But relativity be damned--the springs run 68 degrees year round, and that's *cold* water.  We weren't the only ones wondering what the heck they were doing--at one point they were surrounded by seven manatees, who did not know about the "no touching" rule.  I hope it was worth the hypothermia.

It was finally warm enough to go out on the boat.  The morning light was beautiful.

Despite the chill, we saw a good number of birds and several alligators.

We dropped the guys off at home and went to the Museum so that I could work with the hawk for awhile.  Judith--the woman who cooks on the wood-burning stove in the old farmhouse--had made homemade peach cobbler so we visiting there post-hawk.

All in all, we had a completely beautiful day.  And, with any luck, there will be another flock of whooping cranes next year.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year!

2013 is finished.  I know this, because this is also finished:

That's my 2013 year in temperatures scarf.  It's ruffled because I knit it in wedges, one wedge per day (with the dark green ones to mark the months).  The color was determined by the high temperature for that day (one color for every five degree difference).  It's about 9 feet long.
It was an easy project, in terms of the knitting--it only takes about five minutes to do a wedge.  But I had to take a whole year to do it, waiting to see which each day would be.  Now that it's done, I realize I'm going to miss it--because it wasn't about having a finished scarf, but rather the process of making it (don't miss it enough to do another one--between this and the Dr. Who scarf I have enough super-long scarves).
Bob and I both had two weeks off between terms.  We had plans--we were going to do hiking, a kayaking, and work on projects, and I was going to get the house clean.  Uh . . .  best laid schemes?   Some of it wasn't our fault--it rained almost every day.  Some . . .well, me and housekeeping really don't see eye to eye.  I mean, you can clean house, or you can just sit in a messy room on a gray day and enjoy being with the cats.  (Not sure where Pookha was for this one.)
We did get to check out the new indoor shooting range in town--the rain didn't matter there.  I couldn't resist getting this zombie target.  Although it does show that we need to get in some more shooting practice--we managed to hit everywhere *except* the head and heart target spots.  If zombies are picky about where they're shot, we're doomed!
I have gotten some other things done.  This piece has been on the loom since about May--I wanted to learn a new technique for weaving that random shaded look.  I was inspired to finish it by the fact that I need the loom to weave some shaggy shoulder mantles for the Knights of Ni in the upcoming production of Spamalot at the School of Theatre.    If you're knitting something, and feel like knitting something else, it's no big deal to go get another set of knitting needles.  Looms aren't quite like that, so I have to finish this piece.   I really like the way it turned out--it's destined to become a tote bag some day.   I almost have the warp on for the new project.
Also for Spamalot is some knitting of faux chain mail.  Although it's done with big needles and thick nylon cord, it's rather "muscular" knitting and it takes awhile to finish a piece.  I've done two shoulder pieces and three sleeves--one sleeve to go.  This will look better after it's dyed and gilded.       
Another "muscular" project is the expansion of the garden.   This so far has been Bob's project.  We've had a sink outside of the fenced-in garden, but it's tricky to use in the peacock breeding season because one of the boys can be pretty aggressive.  Bob also wanted to have the little greenhouse inside the fenced area to make it easier to carry things back and fourth.  He had moved the fence, and we were off to get some flagstones to pave in the sink area.  One the way we visited a friend, and upon hearing about our project, pointed to a huge pile of flagstones in a corner of her yard and offered them to us.  She has a friend who's a contractor and he had pulled them up on a job and taken them to her place in case she ever wanted to pave in her patio.  After four years that hadn't happened, so they were ours for the taking.  They were of two different shapes--some squares, and some of a house shape.  Bob was just going to put them in rows (the house shapes could be interlocked) but I thought we should do something more interesting.  Of course, this meant that I had to be the one to figure out the "more interesting" pattern, and then put them in place.  Oh, well--I need the exercise.  We got another load yesterday.  It will take a couple more to finish the project--there's a limit on how much weight the truck can take at a time (or my back and legs, for that matter).
This morning we *finally* got some bright clear weather so decided to go hike at St. Marks.  Sheesh!!!  Bright, clear, windy, and COLD!!.  OK--so my relatives and friends in areas like Boston, Kansas, Alaska, and Belgium won't offer any sympathy, but to us thin-blooded Floridians, temps in the 30's with wind is freezing!  Here we are, actually bundled up.

We weren't the only wimps.  St. Marks is a wildlife refuge, and usually lives up to that name.  Today all the wildlife was apparently hunkered down somewhere--we saw only a few birds, no alligators, and not even any fiddler crabs (usually the ground is moving with them).    But afterwards we went for lunch at a little redneck dive for oysters, shrimp, and smoked mullet--yum!  I had to laugh--I talked a little in my last post about the "real food" movement.  Another "new" movement is called locavore--the idea of eating food produced in the area, not shipped in.  People act like it's a new idea--but little shacks like this have been serving locally-harvested food for generations.  Maybe the place just doesn't have that yuppie/hipster vibe.

Past my bedtime now--Happy New Year to all!