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Showing posts from November, 2011

Dyeing to Know

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... Lately, I've been thinking a lot about dyeing yarn. Specifically, I've been thinking and reading about dyeing wool with natural dyes. As it turns out, there are all sorts of plants growing in my area -- most of them unwanted weeds -- that produce vibrant dyes. The problem is that I'm not sure how to collect them. Collecting plant material -- even unwanted weedy plant material -- is strictly forbidden in all East Bay Regional Parks. Oakland City parks are a bit more lenient, as far as I can tell. But I'm not sure I want to have the conversation with the nice ranger or police officer, explaining why I have a couple of grocery bags full of eucalyptus leaves. So, I'm asking blog readers if they can suggest any places where I might be able to collect large quantities of the following. (Most plant-based dyes need to be at least double the weight of the wool that's being dyed.) black walnut hulls (the outer green husks) blackberry leaves broom dodder

Black Friday This-n-That

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... I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. I was still feeling sick with my head cold, so we stayed home. Please don't feel sorry for us. We had a beautiful dinner, including a delicious persimmon-frangiapani tart, made with persimmons from our tree. Now as for Black Friday? Long-time blog readers know that Robb and I would rather poke hot needles in our eyes than venture into any shop on the day after Thanksgiving. Neither of us possess the Recreational Shopping Gene, and we both have a deep suspicion of religiously-mandated consumerism. We stayed home, and worked on small but gratifying projects. I'll spare you my annual rant on this subject, and only note that the shooting in the Walmart parking lot was one town over from us. I'll also spare you my thoughts about the woman who pepper-sprayed her fellow shoppers at a Wal-Mart in Los Angeles . Is this how good Christians observe the birth of Christ? What's wrong with people? As I said, we staye

Thankful

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... Here's wishing everyone a happy day. I do hope we all take a moment -- between gorging on pie -- to consider all that we're thankful for.

Waxing Poetic (or something like that)

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... There hasn't been much blog activity of late, because 1. I suck and, I've been indulging in my new favorite hobby of having tenacious head-colds. Seriously, this is the third bad cold since the beginning of October. The physical sickness is bad enough, but the abject stupidity is driving me insane. Let's not dwell on that, okay? Instead, I wanted to talk about harvesting our beehives. So, look again at that top photograph. On the left side of the frame of comb, you'll see closed-over cells, containing developing female worker bees. During the colder months of the year, we understand that the queen lays almost no male drone eggs. We can tell the difference in the developing bees' gender by the size of the wax cells. We do not use factory produced wax foundation in our hives, but allow the bees to build whatever types of structures suit their needs. On the left of the frame, you'll see smaller comb, and on the right you'll see that the wax ce

The Feral Boys

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... When we bought our little house, we did not realize that it came with a backyard filled with rusty nails, shards of glass, small animal skulls, and a couple of feral kitties. The cats are funny. Despite all the kindness and food we give them, they are still suspicious of us. Sleeves is a real mystery. I'm convinced that he has some kind of problem with partial vision. I'll be standing right next to him, petting him, he'll be purring his head off, and then SUDDENLY (EGADS!) he'll notice me, and run away in terror. But the big news is that if I approach him just right, he will allow me to pet him. He's incredibly affectionate, but his fear over-rides everything else. I can't imagine what happened to this cat to make him so afraid. If we move too quickly, he panics and runs off, as if his life were at stake. He also cries piteously when he can't find his brother Cardigan. Sometimes Cardigan is off tom-catting, but more often than not, Sleev

Julia

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Lately we've been enjoying watching the first season of "The French Chef", Julia Child's seminal cooking show from 1963. It's fascinating to watch the birth of a TV genre and, as always, delightful to watch Julia. If you're curious, Amazon's Instant Video service is streaming about 12 years worth of "The French Chef."

Fresh Fruit, Over a Hundred Years Old!

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... how often does one get to taste hundred-year-old apples? Today I went to a meeting of the local chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers, where the topic of conversation was Felix Gillet, one of the very first nurserymen in the state of California. Monsieur Gillet established Barren Hills nursery in California's Gold Country in 1871, where he sold hundreds of varieties of fruit and nut trees, imported from all over the world. Current research suggests that Monsieur Gillet may have introduced many, many of the fruits that we still eat today in the United States. The speaker, Amigo Cantisano, stumbled across Monsier Gillet about thirty years ago. Since that time has been exploring the counties around the site of the original Nevada City nursery, locating old fruit trees that would have been purchased and planted over a hundred years ago. He's working with the original catalogs from the Barren Hills nursery, and from Gillet's writings, and has made it a missi

Windfall

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... Cold weather seems to have settled into the Bay Area. Last week, we had a huge windstorm that ripped several branches off of our persimmon tree. We now have a huge amount of not-quite-ripe persimmons, that I have no idea how to use. I'm thinking of treating them like apples, and trying to make a cake. Does anyone have any suggestions? I'd hate for all this fruit to go to waste. These are "Fuyu" persimmons (I think). They are the non-astringent type that can be eaten while still firm.

Friends, Imaginary and Otherwise.

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... knitter meets sea anemone Today I had a day off from classes at the Interweave Labs conference . I convinced one of my Imaginary Friends* knitting goddess Mary Jane Mucklestone to leave the business-park environs of the conference center while the sun was shining and go to the beach. (How's that for a run-on sentence?) I know I use this word too much but, Mary Jane is amazing . Click any of these words to see her work . Also: knitted eyeballs . The federally protected harbor seals were hanging out near the entrance to the beach, so we weren't able to roam very far. (All marine mammals have protected status in the United States, and humans are not supposed to approach closer than 100 yards.) We met up with Mary Jane's in-laws and had a lovely time clambering over the rocks, and peering at the creatures who inhabit the tidepools. Robb talked brewing and distilling with Mary Jane's ( lady distiller, how cool is that? ) sister in-law, and I demons

Meanwhile ... Back at the Lab

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... As a treat to myself, I signed up to participate in the yarnapalooza known as Interweave Labs. This is a four-day textile symposium, with classes taught by a pantheon of designers and historians. I spent the last day on the southwestern coast of Sweden, some time before the 21st Century. I studied Bohus knitting techniques (beautiful garments, great teacher, infuriating process), as well as the knitting culture of the Halland region of Sweden. As part of the class, we knit mittens on teeny-tiny kitting needles. Toothpicks, really. Halfway through morning session of the class, we were joined by Eunny Jang , editor of Interweave Knits, and Undisputed Knitting Goddess. She stayed for the morning, and part of the afternoon session. The class was fascinating. Carol Rhoades who taught was well-informed, engaging, and really fun. We all chugged away on our little knitting swatches. About halfway into the afternoon session, Eunny excused herself. She had a conference to at