Episode 9

This week’s episode features the highlights of 36 hours spent in Vermont, plus an interview sure to boost your understanding of the term “post-apocalyptic skill set.”


36 Hours in Vermont

Our little road trip to the Green Mountains included several stops and lots of driving around to admire the fall foliage.  We tasted cheese and made some purchases at Plymouth Artisan Cheese.  I highly recommend the Hunter, which is aged two years.  In addition to cheese, the shop offers a variety of Vermont-made wines and beers, as well as maple syrup and other handmade souvenirs.  In the evening, we took a drive out to Ripton Community Coffeehouse to hear a Quebec-based group called Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

The performers were enthusiastic young musicians who played fiddle in a variety of styles from traditional reels to classical pieces.  Several of the pieces featured French songs.  Coffee and delicious desserts were on sale.  Proceeds from the evening go to a local charity.  Finally, on our drive home, we stopped by the Dorset Farmer’s Market.  In a charming little valley, this market features locally-grown produce and handmade items.  A lovely little Sunday afternoon market.  Unfortunately, there had just been a downpour before we arrived, so many people were shopping in ankle-deep water.


stringbandOn the Needles

I took three projects on the trip, but worked only on two of them.  I’m nearly halfway through the striped garter stitch main portion of Stringband, a hat/cowl design by Stephen West.  And I’ve begun 22 Little Clouds, a narrow shawl by Martina Behm.  The Lavender & Sage color of Frolicking Feet DK is so pretty and makes knitting go quickly.


carrotsHomesteading: An Interview with Jessica

Much of the weekend was spent visiting with my sister and her partner on their homestead.  This year, for the first time, they plan to spend the winter on their farm, and there are many preparations necessary over the next few weeks.  Snow can come early to Vermont, and it’s not fun to be taken by surprise.  In this interview, Jessica discusses the natural beauty of Vermont, her philosophy on bee keeping, her recent harvest of root vegetables, and butter making.  In the top photograph, Jessica shows off some of her 18 ounce carrots.  In the lower photo, she poses next to tomatoes grown and canned on the farm.  Thoreau almost posed for his picture, but saw something interesting and darted away at the last moment.


jessiejars

“Bees are somewhere between insects and God.” — I don’t know who said it first, but Jessica quoted it in our interview.

“Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make longitudes and latitudes.” — Henry David Thoreau 

Episode 8

This week’s episode includes the following segments: The Back Porch, Yarn Lover at Large, Ever-expanding Skill Set, The Front Porch, and Gratitude Journal.


batad4The Back Porch

My Batad is complete.  I’m calling it Acid & Autumn.  The colors are appropriate for this time of year when the leaves have started to turn many colors, yet some of them remain a bright, vibrant green.  New skills I acquired in completing this project are: spinning with intention, selecting colors for high contrast, knitting in short rows, forming welts, weighing yarn to determine if there’s enough remaining for a pattern repeat, and using an I-cord bind off. I was concerned that the colors would be difficult to photograph, but Samuel has captured them without any trouble.


booth

Yarn Lover at Large

Last weekend I discovered the wonderful artists of Simpatico Fiber Collective when I attended the Highlands Festival at Waterloo Village in Stanhope, New Jersey to watch Bovine Social Club perform.  Julianne and Rebecca were selling luxurious garments, accessories and yarn at very reasonable prices.  Even more interesting was their comfort in demonstrating their crafts and taking questions from everyone who wandered by. Pictured here is Julianne with a needle felting project and Rebecca spinning on her Louet.


goldenrodEver-expanding Skill Set

My naturally-dyed fiber is all dry and a pretty color yellow.  I am eager to begin spinning it.  The color is very difficult to photograph with accuracy.  When I eventually get around to putting it on my wheel, I would like to pair it with some naturally grey wool.


swatchThe Front Porch

Now on the needles is my first-ever project for Samuel, Stringband.  Yes, it’s another Stephen West design.  We selected alpaca from Strawberry Hill Alpacas.  It’s beautiful, but incredibly fine.  After doing the first swatch of my knitting career, I determined that I should hold the yarn double.  Working on the project has been a challenge in the evenings because I’m not used to such dark yarn.  I’m still a beginning knitter.


Don’t Forget to Enter the Teacher Tribute Challenge

To enter the contest, think of a meaningful teacher in your life.  It may be someone who taught you in a classroom, or someone from whom you learned in a less formal environment.  Write a letter to that teacher and mail it.  Finally, post a tribute to that teacher on the Ravelry thread, or leave a comment by clicking the reply link on Episode 7.  You have until October 31st to post your tribute in a comment or reply.  In early November, I will select two prize winners, one drawn at random from the comments on Episode 7 on my website, and one from the Ravelry thread. I’ll tell you more about the prizes and post photos once I purchase them. I have some priority prize shopping to do at Rhinebeck this year.  Ravelry members can also double-dip by posting on the Ewe University forum.

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”   –Henry David Thoreau

Episode 7

 

porchToday’s segments include contest details, Ever-expanding Skill Set, and A Little Bit of Learning.

Teacher Tribute Challenge

To enter the contest, think of a meaningful teacher in your life.  It may be someone who taught you in a classroom, or someone from whom you learned in a less formal environment.  Write a letter to that teacher and mail it.   Finally, post a tribute to that teacher by clicking the leave a reply button above to add a comment. You have until October 31st to enter.  A specially-made purchase at Rhinebeck will be awarded in a random prize drawing at the beginning of November.  This contest is a joint venture with Dr. Kelly of Ewe University.  Check out her podcast for additional ways to enter. Ravelry members can also enter by joining the Yarns at Yin Hoo group and posting to the contest thread.

fiberEver-expanding Skill Set

Today was Day 2 of dyeing fiber.  I selected about 100 grams of Shetland from Spinner’s End Farm and another 100 grams of Falkland from Feederbrook Farm.  I’d like to see if there’s any difference in how two fibers take on the same natural dye.  After enhancing the dye I made last week with the addition of more goldenrod flowers, I formulated a mordant for the fiber.  The word mordant comes from the French mordre, meaning “to bite.”  So, a mordant helps the fiber absorb the dye when you introduce it.

dyepotFollowing the directions on Echoes of a Dream blog, I used 40 grams of alum and 35 grams of cream of tartar for each 100 grams of fiber.  I dissolved each powder into boiling water and created a mordant “bath.” After simmering pre-soaked fiber in the mordant solution for about an hour, I gently smushed most of the liquid out of the fiber and introduced it to the dye.  The fiber simmered in its dye bath for about an hour.  Here it is, cooling in the dye pot.

A Little Bit of Learning

After mentioning metaphor briefly last week, in a discussion of Clara Parkes’ The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting, I decided to include a little more investigation of metaphor in this episode.  My resource is I Is an Other by James Geary.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”  — G. K. Chesterton

Episode 6

 This episode features segments titled: A Little Bit of Learning, Off the Shelf, Yarn Lover at Large, and Ever-expanding Skill Set.

batad.5A Little Bit of Learning

The word welt comes to us from Middle English; the first known use was during the 15th century.  At first, the term was used to refer to a strip (of leather) sewn into other material as a technique for reinforcement.  Or, a tape or cord sewn into a seam.  Later, the definition expanded to refer to raised or swollen bumps on the skin or other surface.  Stephen West’s Batad capelet includes bands of garter stitch with welts in stockinette stitch.  The welts lend visual interest and texture to the garment, which is reminiscent of the rice terraces in the Ifugao region of the Phillipines. Though the welts in this pattern have been giving me fits, knitting them is teaching me how to read my knitting.


Off the Shelf

I’ve begun reading The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting by Clara Parkes.  In this memoir, Parkes makes extensive use of metaphor and builds connections between her life events and techniques in knitting.  She is the creator and editor of The Knitter’s Review, a free, weekly, online magazine that reviews everything from knitting needles to retreats.  Parkes’ writing is genuine and often beautiful.  She knows and knows how to draw the reader in to her very personal story.


9620976_origYarn Lover at Large

On Saturday, Samuel and I took an afternoon drive to Emmaus, PA, where we visited Conversational Threads, a yarn shop with great selection and a friendly staff.  Sue coached me as I selected a yarn for the Hitchhiker shawl and Cindy wound all of my purchases while we had a nice Thai lunch down the street.  I was pleased to meet some folks from the shop, as I will be joining them for the bus tour to Rhinebeck in October.  This will be my first time visiting the New York Sheep & Wool Festival, so podcast listeners will be hearing more about it in coming episodes.


Ever-expanding Skill Set

meezSweet & Spicy Skillet Stir Fry

Combine equal parts brown sugar, balsamic vinegar (or soy sauce), and chili sauce or chili paste.  Marinate pork chops or any other protein for at least 6 hours.

Prepare a variety of seasonal vegetables for sautéing.  Some excellent choices are sliced onions, corn kernels, bell peppers, broccoli, French cut string beans, and baby eggplant.

sauceChop a big bunch of kale and place in a large bowl.  Sauté the vegetables in a cast iron skillet or wok, using a small amount of olive oil or other fat, and a sprinkle of salt.  Work in small batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.  Empty sautéed vegetables into the bowl, on top of the kale.  Keep the bowl covered so that the kale wilts and vegetables stay warm.

Sear the pork chops on each side and cook through.  Remove to a plate.  Pour marinade into the pan and bring to a simmer.  Allow the sauce to thicken slightly, then pour (when very hot) over the sautéed vegetables and kale.  Toss to coat vegetables with a sweet and spicy sauce.

sweetandspicyServe pork and vegetables with a drizzle of remaining sauce and a side of rice pilaf.

For more information on improvisational cooking, check out The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider.


gold5Natural Dyeing with Goldenrod

After harvesting five bunches of goldenrod from a nearby field, I snipped off all the blossoms into a bowl.  After starting a hot fire in our Big Green Egg charcoal grill, I submerged the blossoms in one gallon of filtered water.  The mixture came to a boil – which took awhile – then simmered for about an hour.  I let the liquid cool completely before straining, which is supposed to help the dye intensify in color.  More on this next week, after I do a bit more research on mordants.

“Silence makes the real conversations between friends.  It’s not the saying, but the never needing to say that counts.”   — Margaret Lee Runbeck

            

Episode 5

This week’s episode includes the following segments: Double Happiness, Yarn Lover at Large, The Back Porch and The Front Porch.

sockheadDouble Happiness

Knitting and listening to jazz while sipping wine and nibbling cheese and sopressata on a sunny September afternoon is really the best life has to offer.  This weekend, I took advantage of the time to work on a few projects while visiting with friends on the hill at the Delaware Water Gap Jazz Festival.  If you ever visit the Poconos the weekend after Labor Day, put the jazz fest on your list.  Here’s a photograph of the ambience, with my Sockhead Hat by Kelly McClure on my lap.  I used the very stretchy cast on method in Tillybuddy’s YouTube tutorial.


nelkinYarn Lover at Large

Laura Nelkin is well-known for her knitted and beaded jewelry designs.  I was lucky to take her class on knitting the mudra cuff at my local yarn shop, Mountain Knits and Pearls in East Stroudsburg, PA.  My skill set expanded as I cufflearned to string beads before knitting, use double-pointed needles, and anchor I-cord onto a ringed clasp.  Check out Laura’s blog for more details about her whirlwind weekend of teaching in Pennsylvania.  And if you ever get a chance to take one of her classes — sign up without hesitation.


batad1The Back Porch

After two weeks of intentional spinning, I completed my handspun from mixed Blueface Leicester in the Country Cottage color.  This fiber, from Beesybee, spun up very nicely into 447 yards of sport weight, 2-ply yarn for the Batad capelet by Stephen West.  I had a lot of fun wringing the water out by hand — becoming a human salad spinner and spraying water all over the leaves of the hostas in my garden.

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”  —  Albert Camus

Episode 4

This week’s episode features the following segments: Backstory, A Little Bit of Learning, Ever-expanding Skill Set, and Gratitude Journal.

1185220_210157899150365_281953376_nSince Episode 3, I have been working on intentional spinning. Here is half of my mixed BFL (bluefaced leicester) from Beesybee Fibers.  Hopefully next week I can report on yardage.  This fiber certainly has been a joy to spin.  The colors are lovely earth tones.  I’ve been spinning on the porch of Yin Hoo, watching the first orange leaves come floating down from the canopy.  When I need a break from spinning, I look for the heron’s elegant form at the edge of the creek.  We’ve seen  as many as nine female Merganser swimming together and we have seen a few different bears walking along the path along the water’s edge.


k3Ever-Expanding Skill Set

As promised in Episode 1, I’ve recorded a segment with my steps for making kombucha.  In June, I received a scoby from my friend Gwen, and have been practicing all summer.  Finally, I have a refreshing, effervescent, not-too-sweet fermented tea.  Instructions for kombucha begin at twelve and a half minutes into the podcast.

k2Begin by pouring off and straining kombucha.  Always leave a small amount of tea in the fermentation container with the scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). I’ve been fermenting mine for 10 to 14 days before preparing a new batch.  I store the brew in swing top bottles in the fridge.  Be sure to use food-grade glass for both fermentation and storage.  Make a new batch of tea by boiling one gallon of filtered water.

k6Add about 3/4 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve.  Remove the pan from heat and add 6-10 bags of black tea, or 6-10 tablespoons of loose black tea.  Allow to steep for 5 minutes and then remove the tea bags or strain the tea.  I put loose tea into a small cloth bag that acts as a tea bag.  When tea has completely cooled, pour it into the container with the scoby.  Sometimes this disturbs the scoby.  I handle my scoby with clean hands.   Keep the smooth, white surface of the scoby facing upwards.  Cover the fermentation container with cheesecloth and store in a cool, dark place.  Those who praise the benefits of kombucha usually mention its probiotic properties.  I’d love to hear from you if you make kombucha at home or have a great recipe to try.

 “What is a teacher? 

I’ll tell you; it isn’t someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give her best in order to discover what she already knows.”  — Paulo Coelho

a podcast about the fiber arts and other post apocalyptic skills