Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quiet time

At elevation 6300', I knit like a fiend while listening to vintage Clapton blues. A pot of beef curry simmered in the pressure cooker, and raita mellowed in the refrigerator. That night brought in a foot of snow that cloaks colors, deadens sound, and freezes creatures.

My brain reviews events and starts to consider "intentions" for self when there's "a little time". This list was started years ago when my children were born and I could not hold so many thoughts in my head, so I wrote them down and referred to them when I had 15 minutes for myself. This exercise of recording and thus freeing my mind has become useful to me over the years.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


A total lunar eclipse occured last night.  The last lunar eclipse on a solstice happened in the 1600s, and the next one will take place in another 400 years. The clouds parted long enough so that the lunar thumbnail disappeared, then glimmered, then went totally dark before the clouds closed in again.  From this darkness, during the eve of the longest night of the year, the earth continued on its path and the moon was once again revealed. "Remember, my friends, no matter how dark it is now, Solstice means the light is coming." [Stephanie Pearl-McPhee] ...And from the dark depths of the lunar eclipse on the solstice, the emergence and ever-increasing duration of light comes from a deeper source.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Shop local

The perennial question of "so what do you want for Christmas?" has been asked, and I have the luxury of having so much to live with and from, that I get to think about a response that can engage others around me.

The adage "think global, act local" has always been meaningful to me. So I return to this, especially as the general economy is depressed, and the action is to "shop local". This idea is described simply in the 3/50 Project: pick 3 local independent "brick and mortar" stores you couldn’t live without and if you spend $50 each month amongst the 3 then basically you are strengthening your own community.

It’s important to remember the repercussions our purchases have. For every $100 spent on local independent stores, $68 goes back into the community through payroll, taxes, and other expenditures. If you spend $100 on a national chain store, only $48 comes back; and if you buy from an online source, NONE of it comes back.

I want my friends and community to do well and to be well.  In turn, we will be better equipped to reach out and assist others - on a local AND global level.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When life gives you lemons...

...transform them into something grand.

Last week I received lots of homegrown Meyer lemons - tart, bitter, sweet, and very juicy. Thank you, K.

So I added salt to some, and preserved them thus.

Marmalade on L, Preserved on R.
And I added sugar to some more.
Specifically, I cut up one grapefruit and many lemons to make 12C, added 1.5Q water, soaked, cooked and added 1C+9C raw+white sugar to yield eight-12oz plus one-10oz jars marmalade.

Oh yeah, THAT's what I'm talkin' about!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Blue Whale

After a week, I finished and blocked "Blue Whale" designed by Stephen West and commissioned by A Verb for Keeping Warm (AVFKW)'s Proverbial Club. 75/25 bluefaced-leicester/tussah-silk "Luster" was indigo dyed by AVFKW and left its blue trails on my hands - a sign of work and accomplishment that washed off with soap and water after each session. As I blocked this shawl I marvelled at the design of the shape, in which I see the whale's fluke greeting me. There is comfort and satisfaction in this work.   Thank you, Kristine.

Diospyros update

Autumnal color.

This past weekend I received 12 beautiful Fuyu persimmons from the family tree and processed 7 of them into 5 pints of brandied persimmons.  Added my own mixture of flavors: star anise, cardamom and lemon.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Persimmons: Diospyros

Persimmons, aka "fruit of the gods", originated in Asia and are centuries old. I am fortunate to have access to homegrown and lovingly tended Fuyu persimmons from a family tree which produces a bumper crop of HUGE fruit every two years.

3 large crisp-ripe Fuyu persimmons yield three 12oz jars of brandied persimmons.
This post will be updated as production increases and images are developed.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Sacred Golden Apple: Quince

The quince is a very old fruit. It was cited around 600BC by the Greeks and Romans, and it is a component of middle eastern cuisine. The raw quince fruit is very fragrant, but the flesh is dry, astringent, and very hard. It is transformed with heat and becomes supple and edible. A little sugar doesn't hurt, either.
5 large quince is about 1kg gross and yields 6C quince and ginger.
6.75 large quince is about 800g net, and yields 5C quince, orange and cardamom.
1.25 large quince yields 2C quince jam.

Inspired by Christine Ferber and Claudia Roden.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Transformer: the Charkha

Spinnity's Book Charkha
Spinnity showed me a marvelous thing called a Charkha.

The charkha embodies the utility of industrial engineering design as a linchpin to global and local economics and social change.

During the turn of the century, India, which was under British colonial rule, produced cotton and exported it to Britian, who produced fabric and clothing and sold it back to India at a cost higher than India could afford. Gandhi saw that India could become more self-sufficient if they produced fabric from their own cotton.

Charkha: setting the spindle
In order to do so, spinning cotton fiber was essential. The charkha is a compact spinning device that rose in prominance when Gandhi promoted its use amongst the populace: anyone and everyone could spin fiber.

The charkha is a design marvel. It is compact, lightweight and very portable. Components are made of readily available, easily malleable and replaceable material. The drive-to-output ratio is extremely high, about 1:100; there is an efficient use of energy input to output.
Charkha: spinning
Charka: winding on

Charkha: poonis and setting the reel
Charkha: reel in motion

Spinnity's Book Charkha

The charkha contains a world in itself.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Confiture: Pumpkin (warm circles)

Modelled and inspired by Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber.  The kitchen scale is indispensible.  1-2/3 recipes yields 7 cups.

Peeled and finely diced pumpkin macerates overnight with sugar, lemon, and honey. Have you ever tried to peel a raw pumpkin without slitting your thumbs open?

Simmer - the sugar permeates the pumpkin. Then macerate overnight AGAIN.

Lemons are prepped and candied in caramelized sugar.

Tres cher.

Sugar, pumpkin, honey, sugar, lemon, sugar and time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Green Tomatoes

When a cool summer leaves you with green tomatoes in October, make pickles! 12 pints!

Throw the green ones into jars with vinegar, salt, garlic, bay, and some seeds.

And throw the ripe ones into a pot with some protein and cook them down.  Don't even cut them; smash them with a slotted spoon as they pop open from the heat.

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 23 moon

Let's take a moment to observe the harvest moon: the full moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox, typically September 22 or 23. This year the full moon and equinox nearly coincide, a truly remarkable and auspicious event.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New things, native and not

While on an island a month ago, I saw three new things. Because they were new to me, I assumed that they were native to the island, but I later learned that only one of them is.

Thing 1: I purchased this beautiful heavy fruit from a roadside stand. "Dragonfruit" came with no operating instructions so I cut it open and was amazed when I saw the beautiful seed speckles scattered in the cool white flesh. I peeled off the skin which separated easily from the fruit, then ate some, then ate it all - no one else would touch it. It's slightly sweet and tastes a little like kiwi. Later I learned that this is pitaya, the fruit of a cactus (just as prickly pear is also a cactus fruit) and originated in asia.

Thing 2: While traveling along on the east side of the island, I saw stands of tall trees with elegant top canopies. The trunks splayed from the center and were fairly straight, and looked like they would be useful as poles. Later I learned that these are albizia trees, which thrive in sub-tropical climates and can grow 15 feet in one year! They are not native to this island - indeed they could be invasive - we'd better find a use for them!

Thing 3: "What are Canadian geese doing on this island, thousands of miles away from Canada?" was the first comment we uttered when we saw these birds strolling. We soon learned that these are nene, Hawaii's endemic geese listed on the endangered species list. I am very fortunate to have seen these.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Summer - Forever

What happens when nature follows her own inclination? Rampant growth, with explosions of seed tufts that stick to nearby surfaces.

This is a horrific sight when the dandelion-type plants are nearly as tall as I am.

It's doubly horrific when the nearby patch of tomatoes growing in rich soil amended with "home-grown" compost is less than a fallen weed-stalk away. What we don't see are the weeds that were growing right next to these tomatoes; I pulled out those fluffy-seedy weeds about a month ago.

I pulled up the weeds we see in these images about two weeks ago. But the grey fuzz of sticky seed fluff is nearly impossible to hand-pick out of the soil and nearby plants. I considered using fire but could not think of an effective method that would not put the house and neighborhood at risk. I'm doomed to hyper-vigilant scrutiny for weed growth. Forever. All because I let these damn things metastasize.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nani 'a'a pulu niu

I was washed up onto an island a month ago and there were coconut palms everywhere.

Did I hear the roar of the ocean or the palm fronds rattling in the wind?

A walk along the beach yielded different parts of the plant, specifically the nuts at young and old stages, as well as fronds that fell from the tall trunks that swayed in the warm breeze.

The fibrous husks are fascinating.

These are the fibers in a young immature coconut.

These are the fibers in a large older husk that surrounds a coconut.

Layers of fibers that cross each other form a fabric that anchors the base of the palm frond to the trunk.

Hawaiians use coconut fiber. The fiber is spun and plied into cord. Thin cord is tied and knotted into nets used for fishing and nets used to carry items. Thicker cord is used to lash bamboo framework together for shelter. I need to learn more about this.

I'd love to see how this plant grows, especially how the fibers and the crossing layers develop. Slo-mo, please!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Point of view

I am in a time zone different from the usual and I see posts from other times that are posted later than my current time. From the future? I imagine. I also note that posts are naturally edited for the intended general audience because there's no point in putting in detail that which others need not be aware of. Be careful what you try to conceal to those who see.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Inspired by and fueled by the need for comfort, I rounded up all the apples in the fruit bowl and fridge and made applesauce. I prepped 6 pint jars but filled only 2. I guess putting up a quart is one outlet for me.

Looked at the tomatoes on the vine as I grazed on alpine strawbs growing underneath. Ate a handful of yellow tomatoes that burst like candy in my mouth. Almost wish the rest stay green because now I see them as pickles.

Anyone know how to prepare tomato plant leaves? Got a lot of them and working in the kitchen is an outlet for me: all the work kills my appetite as I prepare food for the future.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


On the way home this weekend from the Sierra foothills I stopped at a fruit stand and bought fruit with the intent to preserve it in jars. A flat of strawberries called to me. This summer is unusually cool, and the berries looked good this late in the season. I scoured the kitchen and pulled out all the jars I could find, which was a surprisingly large number, considering I'd given my sister more than a dozen that were sitting around for several years.

As I prepped the strawbs last night, I realized that a "full batch" recipe only used three plastic basketsful. And I had TWELVE in a flat. That's a lot of batches. And a lot of opportunity for experimenting in this new territory of preserving - I don't do this often. I think my first foray was putting up a dozen pints of brandied peaches in a previous life. I remember it was a lot of work and very rewarding. I also made blackberry jelly several years ago, and again more recently with two friends. We worked like a swiss watch and got a few dozen half-pints jars done in just a few hours. So of course I was primed to do this again.

I found a few recipes, studied them, and decided to go with a few variations of my own because I did not have all the ingredients, but I figured I had the critical ones.

(L to R) 2-Strawbs with Balsamic, 1-Strawbs with a hint of Lavender, 2-Strawbs and Peaches with a hint of C.

And this was the final lineup which includes 7 pint jars. I love hearing the ping of a vacuum seal.

It was a lot of work. It took a bit of time. And I used a ton of sugar. And there are still three baskets of strawbs in the fridge.
Yep, I went into machine-mode, moving along with everything in its place: dry separated from wet, each workstation in order.

Next time I'll either skim off the foam more diligently or fill the jars more quickly. I might try pickles next, or maybe something with a bunch of GREEN tomatoes because this unusually cool summer is going to end in just a few weeks, and that's all I'm going to get out of my garden.


This summer I am starting to explore another medium, watercolors. I have no formal training in this, I'm just goofing around. Here are a few.

"Where two worlds meet."

Some paintings are simply impressions of what's observed. (i.e. doesn't resemble the intended image at ALL - boo.)

"What are you painting?"
"The ground."

Saturday, August 7, 2010


What to take on a break? After the first selections are made, 2 edits yield the following:
•three unfinished knitting projects that are really close to completion
•traveling watercolor kit
•a book abt CA geology
•another bk abt the migration of thought btwn China and EU centuries ago
•go (4 in a row)

Of course the other requisite journals and some type of clothing come along too. The spindle and fluff have reluctantly been put aside. Maybe a musical instrument comes along?

Looks like too much stuff for a week. Time for another brutal cut.

Monday, August 2, 2010 in, what is?

ok, here's a question:
Why would I affirm a request to a meeting if it is clear that the requestor has no thing to gain from my presence: no transaction of information or goods, no invitation to travel, no advancement, no performance or entertainment, no fodder to work with, no springboard of an idea that could be acknowledged in public? Hmm perhaps I consider myself too much again.

On the other hand why would I affirm a request to a meeting if what I say is met with a counter-statement or snark, where I feel the need to either apologize or affirm myself in an assertive manner in response to what is stated to me?

Ok this is not one question but two, neither which is appealing or desired.

Go figure.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Point

When people see me spin fiber they ask what I'm going to make with the yarn I spin. I reply that the making I am doing is being done; I am making the yarn.

As I spin the yarn, what goes through my mind are so many possibilities for the yarn that there is no way I can definitively determine how the yarn will ultimately be used.

So for me, what happens with the yarn is not decided at this time. I focus on making the yarn.

Data and a trailer

I gather data, and I make lists.
So I weighed the little skeins I made during Tour de Fleece these past few weeks and I measured how much yardage I generated. Without listing all the detailed info I actually gleaned with my scale, tape measure, and calculator, here's the bottom line:

I plied 524yds from fluff. If I include the brown stuff I plied off the spindle at the beginning of TdF, that's 581yds total. And the skeins were 7g minimum, there were a few 8g and 9g in there - about 77g total from fluff.

Some perspective for me: 524y/77g is equivalent to 340y/50g (I think in terms of skein weights I see in the marketplace). Sock yarn is about 200y/50g, so I'm spinning finer than sock weight.

And here's the trailer, a pic of 7g of "Silver Lake" (Lisa Souza) fiber still in progress. It feels as lush as it looks. What a pleasure.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Spinning Question

Knitters say "let me finish this row".
What do spinners say?


End of Tour de Fleece today, and here's what I have.

But Wait! Last weekend I had to go to A Verb for Keeping Warm to engage in commerce. AVFKW is my local resource for spinning - they have wonderful fiber, yarn, spindles, wheels, combs, books and classes, as well as people who are very personal, engaging and warm themselves! Go check them out.

So I acquired and plunged into Pigeonroof Studios "Forest" - 50/50 SWmerino/silk, and spun & plied 7g.

And this is the lineup today, from L to R, each skein is 7g plied:
_dk brn plied
_"Sedona"x2(Lisa Souza),
_"Flame"x2 (Fiberfiend) really shows the varying colors in the fiber,
_"Ocean Rudeness"x1 (Out of Step Dyeworks),
_"At the Tank"x2 (Knitflix),
_"Silver Lake"x1 (Lisa Souza) plus 7g fiber,
_"Forest"x1 (PigeonRoof Studios),
_plus "Ocean Rudeness" in the tank.

What fun to move from one fiber to another, one color / element to another. This rookie lantern rouge is continuing to learn! Thanks very much to Knitflix, who got me going on this and also tries to help me with my blog posts.

Love the spindle and the "spontaneous generation" of strong cord from ethereal fluff.