Monday, January 28, 2008

Snow in the Pacific Northwest - Day 2

Llamas like to frolic in the snow just as much as we do!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Snow in the Pacific Northwest

Today we had a snow storm. Big deal, right? Most areas of the country have snow this time of year. We don't usually get snow where we live, though. The outlying foothills will definitely have dustings from time to time, but we live down at sea level, so when it snows here, it is a very big deal. So being Californians not used to seeing the snow fall, we all jumped in the car to go search for photos and maybe some sledding. Our quiet, restful Sunday afternoon quickly became an eventful snowball fighting afternoon. We really had a fun time. I know, you're thinking cheap thrills. Well, yes, cheap thrills they may be, but we enjoyed every minute of it. I love unexpected surprises like this. The mundane quickly becomes the exceptional in a matter of moments. After frolicking for an hour or so, we hurried back home to return to our vigil around the woodstove! Good times.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Humboldt "rasta" knitting

Here is the photo of my first major knitting project. The pattern is for beginners and it's called a prayer shawl. I feel such a sense of accomplishment! My DIL helped me get started on it and from there I went for it by myself. I have knitted hats and scarves before, but this was a bigger project. Of course there are mistakes in it. It won't be winning any ribbons at the Humboldt County fair or anything like that! For me, though, it is just what I wanted. Gus gave me a ball winder and a swift for Christmas, so now I am all set to do many more projects. My next endeavor is to make socks for s-2's birthday. Below is a photo of what not to look for when searching for a nice fleece. These are wild sheep on the Ranch on Salmon Creek. This is not where I got my fleece for my projects. These wooly mammoth sheep have been roaming around TJ & M's ranch for years without getting sheared!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The art of spinning

I like to spin. No, not like the Shakers used to do in church meetings, but with an Ashford spinning wheel. I have a passion to see the ordinary transformed into the extraordinary. Every year I purchase what's called a "fleece" (like the one Gideon used in the Bible to collect or not collect dew), from a shepherd in our area that specifically raises sheep in order to sell their curly locks. Throughout the year, Mr. Van der Naak carefully watches over his ewes, blanketing them to keep dirt off of their wool, preparing them for shearing in the early spring. At the Fiber Faire each fall I sift through the piles of fleeces to select just the one I want, then I bring it home to begin the transformation. While the blanket on the sheep keeps redwood fronds, hay and the occasional poo from anchoring deep within its rastafarian locks, it still a sheep. Baaaaaaa..... Nearly dripping with lanolin and reeking of the barnyard, the fleece comes home with me to begin its makeover. This new look will include washing, drying, carding, spinning, plying, setting, knitting and blocking the fibers into a beautiful, warm garment. Proverbs 31:13 ...she spins wool and flax and works with her hands in delight.
I have to wash it, then rinse it (several times ) in my bathtub with hot water and Dawn liquid detergent,(see photo). Yes, it smells. But we all know, beauty has a price. Gently, gently I soak it clean. If I mess with it too much it will "felt"( really bad -I did this with my first fleece). Felting is when you agitate it too much and the wool fibers meld together into a tight wad henceforth making it unsuitable for much of anything let alone spinning into yarn. (I'm sure most of us have ruined a wool sweater in our lifetime. Same principle). Next it must be thoroughly dried. To do this, early in the autumn while the sun is still very warm and hot, I lay the fleece on a towel on a large table in front of a south facing window in my house. In a couple of weeks it is completely dried and ready for its new look.
At this point, it smells, looks and feels a lot better than a few weeks ago. So now I can begin to card it. I have what's called a drum carder (photo of my DIL) to expedite this process. The carder is very old, but it works quite well for what I need. The wool goes in curly and ragged and comes out soft and fluffy. The tedious work is done, now it's time for spinning. This of course is the end that justifies all the work mentioned above. Sitting in front of a warm fire on a cold winter day with the gentle swishing sound of the wheel spinning 'round and 'round is my idea of a good day. (My cat, Rye-Rye, also likes it.)
After enough fiber has been spun, it's time for plying and setting the twist of the yarn.
At this point, the yarn can be made into what's called a skein, wound into a ball ready for knitting or crocheting into something lovely. My first project from my own handspun yarn is a shawl. I wanted one that was lacey and light, but warm. I didn't dye the wool, I left it it's natural color. (I will post a photo later). The weather is still cold outside, so I will have plenty of time to wear my beautiful artwork. I hope I don't sound like a braggart here, but I am just so amazed and excited that with some diligence and fortitude, one can actually make a wearable piece of clothing out of something that once graced the back of a barnyard lamb. (without hurting the animal). Once again I am awed and amazed that God has orchestrated such a beautiful symphony of events that allow us to fulfill our natural inclination to "be in His image" by being creative.

Friday, January 11, 2008

More than an afternoon's worth

The intense winter weather took a rest today. The sun actually came out this morning and it was warm. For about 30 minutes....then the clouds began to form again. So, being from Humboldt County, I rally the children and the dogs and holler, "Let's go out to the beach!" Since our nice days are drastically numbered this time of year, this is what we Humboldters must do. The errands get postponed, the chores are left undone and the school work gets left behind even if only for an hour or two. Faces that were moments ago sullen and downcast are now glowing with the anticipation of fun! It's amazing how quickly all of our attitudes improve just by getting out in the fresh air for a short time. Cabin fever can run into the critical stage this time of year.
Once here, screams of delight fill the air as the kids jump out of the truck with arms and legs flying. Hide and go seek in the tall dune grass is always a favorite, (No matter how old you are!).
The dogs hit the sand running before we can even get our coats on. The cabin fever affects them too, I guess. The sound of the ocean waves again, soothes my soul. I feel a rush of peace come over me as I allow the creation of God to wash away my anxieties and stresses. Mmmm. Nice.
I love the way Our Heavenly Father provides such sweet delights for us in the simplest ways. When the days are sometimes difficult to get through, He offers a subtle suggestion that will lift our hearts and our spirits. He is a wonderful God. Often times we may think that we are alone in our difficulties while everyone else around us is doing just fine. I am continually reminded that God our Father truly does give us the desires of our hearts if we would just turn our minds and ears toward Him so that we may receive it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Year, old me

Though the year is new, the self same me is still just that...the same. I really don't get the whole new year, new outlook concept anyway. After all, this month of Sundays is no different than the 31 days of last month. The diversity of this particular month of January is what intrigues me. I have discovered over the course of the last few days that January is a fantastic month. At a time when most of the country is swirling in a flurry of unpredictable, uncomfortable weather, parts of the Southwest are basking in generously warm, sunny days. I discovered this on a recent trip to San Diego.
I grew up in S. D. County, but have spent the last 25 yrs. in Northern California. My family and I caravaned our way down the interstate with our traveling trailer home and a couple of friends to find our spot in the sun. We landed at a campground right on the sandy beaches of Oceanside, north of the Oceanside Harbor. Now like I said, I grew up near here, made my childhood memories here, and still have many relatives here, but coming back during the off season days of January took me by surprise. Not only did I find sunshine, I also found weather warm enough to actually penetrate this thick winter- white Northern California skin. The days were wintry indeed, though not at all like the wintry days of the town I now call home. Mornings were welcomed with the brilliant sun rising over the eastern foothills. Yoga on the sand with gentle ocean breezes enhancing each pose, the sounds of shorebreaks performing their rhythmical dance along the water's edge, the sun pressing into my skin to remind me of its ability to regenerate my soul. I found myself in a state of carnal intoxication. Could this be possible? Did I not just days before endure inches of rain under perpetually cloudy skies, days that go by without knowing what time it is without looking at a clock because the sun never comes out? Unbelievable. Now I know why so many people live down here.
I am amazed at the diversity of the climate of this vast state of California. How upon traveling from one end to the other on any given day one can experience such dramatic changes in surroundings. And not only in surroundings, but actually experience dramatic changes in attitude as well. The long, gray days of winter are only as gray as we allow them to be. I marvel at the human ability to transform our minds to a place where we find peace and balance. Sometimes a little change in environment, only a short distance away can do exceedingly more for our outlook than we might otherwise think. January is still January, but depending on where your place in the sun is,(or Son) determines how easy or how difficult it is to endure. Knowing that February, March and April all press into May, then quickly into June, July and August keeps me anticipating a warmer day.