Thursday, September 22, 2011

Brittle spring

The days of brittle spring have come down to these:
The days of light and grass and fallen flowers.
Leaves unfurling and polished in the sun

I am struggling for words lately. It seems like every time I open my mouth, or open myself up, I am shut up again. So many things have gone wrong lately - there seems barely a day that hasn't contained some new kick in the teeth. I was struck by the vision of a person in a fight. Taking punches, going down and getting back up again, taking kicks, and getting up again slowly, and even more slowly. Today something happened that put me on my knees, and I'm starting to wonder what the hell I keep getting up for. Surely it is an act of insanity.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tour de Fleece 2011

I am taking part in the Tour de Fleece this year for the first time. Started in 2006, the TdF is a spinning challenge that runs for the length of the Tour de France. You are encouraged to spin every day that the Tour rides, so Saturday July 2nd till Sunday July 24th, with rest days on the 11th and the 18th. My goals for the Tour de Fleece are:
  • To spin for at least 15 minutes every day
  • To start spinning the fleece that I started prepping way back in January here
  • Friday July 22nd is the Tour’s toughest mountain stage for the riders, and in the TdF you are encouraged to spin something challenging. I will be trying to do some spinning from the fold with some silk fibre that I have in the stash.

For part of the TdF I will be away from home, visiting the Bendigo Sheep and Wool show. I'll be spinning on a drop spindle on those days, because my Rosie will be staying home, looking after the cats.
I am massively excited to be going to Bendi. I've been once before, in '09, but I only had time to see the woolcraft vendors and exhibits. This year I've booked a hotel room for 2 nights, and I'll be able to go along to the Ravelry dinner on the Friday night. My friend Rachel, a very accomplished knitter and rookie spinner, is travelling and staying with me, so I will have a fellow knit-nerd to witter away with. I am determined to get around the show a bit more and see all the animals and the 'behind-the-fleece' part of the fibre I spin. Plus, I'm always grateful for the chance to expand my animal husbandry knowledge. I have a secret dream to have some fibrey animals of my own one day, so I will be asking lots of questions.
I've been doing a lot of spinning lately - I think I've spun around 8 skeins of yarn in about 10 days. I took a look at the fibre I have in my stash, so many beautiful braids and bundles of soft, smooth and colourful fibre, and gave myself a good talking to. 'What good is it just sitting here?' I asked myself. So I picked a packet and started spinning. So far, I've done some arty looking thick singles from a mini-batt I won at Bendigo '09, some squishy barberpole merino, and a whole heap of others which I will take a picture of as soon as the weather stops being so dark and dismal. I've had a couple of tries at spinning thick and thin singles, and I'm not 100% happy with the results as yet, but I shall keep trying :-)

Monday, June 20, 2011

End of autumn 2

Recently I wrote how I think of autumn as a time of taking stock, which it definitely has been for me, not only in the garden, but in my life as well.
I have decided to give up on the internet dating thing, actually, to give up on finding a mate at all.
I've invested a lot of myself in this search, which has brought me a dear friend in the shape of D, but little else apart from disillusionment and disappointment. My friends have been well-meaningly upbeat, but I find it increasingly hard to have any faith in the idea that there is someone for everyone. In moments when I am honest with myself, I wonder whether I have the emotional and psychological tools to have a relationship anyway.
All of this has the tendency to sound terribly self-pitying and maudlin, but I am trying to look at it in another way. In lieu of the search for a mate, I am embarking on the search for a good life. It seems a bit like cleaning out an old shed. Pulling things out into the light and examining them - to stay or go? What is broken or decayed? What can be repaired? What needs TLC? What is that eating away at the windowsills?
I'm trying to shift my focus to making my life a place I want to live in, because I'm going to be in it for a long time. If someone comes along to share it, then great, but it is silly to try and build a house on imaginary foundations.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Misty breath morning

I walked through the crunching grass,
And kicked diamonds with my gumboots.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The end of autumn

To me, autumn has always seemed to be a season of renewal. A time to take stock, to finally stop and let the cool air fill you lungs after the hammering heat of summer.
It is a time of literal regeneration too, with autumn rains greening the hills, followed by little red and white calves popping their pink noses above the dry grass.
In the garden, I've been evaluating the successes and failures of the last few months. With a few exceptions, the vegie garden was almost a complete failure. Once the weather kicked into high gear in January, it took all of my energy just to keep myself fed and clothed and work, and the weeds took over. My seedlings died, fruit lay rotting on the ground, and not one corner of my garden was a peaceful haven where I could recharge my batteries. Much as I am ashamed to admit it, there were even blackberry canes climbing on the roof.
So in the past week, I have started making improvements to my front garden. A front garden might seem a strange choice for a peaceful spot, but surrounded by paddocks as I am, it is not so odd. It is on the south side of the house, and in summer, the coolest place in the garden. Between milkings I've been pottering around, doing a little weeding, a little pruning, and a lot of planning. This weekend, a dear friend, D, came to stay and helped me make huge progress. (Although, if I had allowed him to help more I probably wouldn't have such a painful neck and shoulder now, but I digress)
D took up arms against the blackberries which had self-seeded among the hydrangeas and azaleas, clambered up through the rhododendrons and camellia and were heading skyward on the roof of the house. I laid newspaper and straw on the weeded garden beds and spread Dynamic Lifter around. Together we made the most perfect little seat in the world, modelled after a picture I saw on the internet and made out of a plank of wood and some bricks. It is positioned in front of a sasanqua camellia that marks the grave of my family's black labrador, Sooty. She was a loving, gentle soul, and there is a real sense of peace in that spot. D and I also raked up the fallen leaves from the big magnolia tree and put them on the garden to add some organic matter.
Today I pruned the hydrangeas, and I removed two limbs from the smaller, lily-flowered magnolia. It had been pruned badly some years ago by A Person Of Very Little Brain, and this has encouraged long floppy branches. The limbs I removed had become dangerous to anyone mowing, but taking them out has had the lovely side effect of making the hellebores underneath visible, and hopefully they will flower well this year with the extra sunshine.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Slack blogger returns...

I can't believe time has slipped away so fast that I haven't written a post in over a month. It's been a little crazy here on the hillside, a little fraught, a bit tense, and more than a little cold without a working heater. So please be patient while I process it in my brain enough to get it down in words to put here. In the meantime, I hope to bribe you with pictures of kitties. I have six feline overlords at the moment. Two were my grandmother's which I inherited when I came to live here, and four of my own that came along in the past six years. Here are some of them (Bella is the tabby and white, Hector is the ginger and Addie is the tortoiseshell):

And I have some sad news for those who have met my chooks in real life - two were killed and one badly injured this week. I'm not sure by what yet, but I think a feral cat is responsible.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Love is enough - William Morris (and you thought he was just a designer)

Song 1 - Though the world be a-waning

Love is enough: though the World be a-waning
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder,
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder,
And this day draw a veil over all deeds passed over,
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Comfort soup

I'm making soup today. My nan always had a pot of vegetable soup in the fridge, or on the side of the wood stove. She called it vegetable soup, but actually it had meat in it as well, so not really vegetarian friendly. She used to bulk it out with barley as well. I have so many memories of sitting at the kitchen table, blowing noisily on the spoon to cool the hot soup. Today I'm trying to make something like I remember from those days. I took the remains of a lamb roast, some onion, carrot, celery, garlic and thyme. Nan wouldn't have put garlic in there, but I love garlic, so I have. I've added the beef stock and now I wait for the simmering to work its magic.
Yesterday evening a man died in the valley where I live. I didn't know him, but his death has me making soup to comfort myself.
He had been working on his tractor, dragging a dead cow away, and something happened and the tractor rolled on him. It's so hard because I can see it happening. I've seen my dad, my brother, my boss do the same thing. Such an everyday job. Loop the big drag chain around the neck, or around a leg, hook it up to the drag bar, and away you go. Who knows what went wrong, that everyday turned to never again.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

To smile

I recently put up my profile on an internet dating site. I have come to a few realisations in the 2 weeks since then. The first was about myself - I am more naive than I thought I was. I expect others to tell the truth because I do. Sadly not true.
The second was that most people have little to no idea of spelling, punctuation or grammar. One of my bad points is being a slight spelling nazi, and every time I see 'getting to no you' it is like fingernails on a blackboard.
The third was that I still have no idea what makes two people form a relationship.
The headline I chose for my profile was 'looking for someone who makes me smile'. At this point, the process has probably brought me more frowns than smiles.
Someone told me it is essential to hold the things we wish for lightly. To hold them like a baby bird. If we hold on too tight, we crush the life out of it and we lose what we wish for. It becomes cold and lifeless - killed by our fear of losing what we never had.
I realised that that was what I had been doing. Clinging so tightly to the dream of togetherness that I squeezed every drop of colour from my life and all I had left was strangers on the other side of the computer screen.
But luckily the valley is always there when I need her to bring me home, back into myself. The weather lately has been much more human. Each day seems less like a barrage, and more like the river, flowing past. The mornings seem more like autumn, with heavy mist dampening my hair when I'm on the motorbike. The cows have started calving at work too, and while I was washing out the yard the other day, a poem came to me.

The newborn calf
I smiled today
My face creased
My lips cracked
It felt foreign;
Of a country not my own

It was born
Not of words
Or wit
Or songs

But of life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Years Resolutions

I made two lots of resolutions this year - life resolutions, and fibre resolutions.
In the life resolution category, I resolved to make a budget, and stick to it, so I can get out of debt and start saving. So far, that is going very well.
In the fibre resolution category, I made a couple of resolutions:
1. Learn to wash and prep fleece - As you see in the previous post, I've started already! I've done one fleece, and I have another (a Corriedale) to do. This resolution was partly driven by the fact that I have about 5 fleeces coming to me from my cousin’s sheep (Merino and Texel) that I need to make room for.
2. Reduce The Stash - This means No Buying Of Yarn Or Fibre. None. This kind of works in with my life resolution because I am very bad at the impulse buying of fibrey goodness. Etsy, in particular, has been my downfall on many occasions. I am, however, granting myself an exception to the stash diet for the Bendigo Sheep and Wool show in July, but only to the limit of what I can save in cash till then. No credit cards!
My last fibrey purchase was 5 braids of roving from Stitches and Rows on the 19th December. Nearly a month, and no purchases! I give myself a pat on the back for that. I got a fibre fix in the mail today though - a gorgeous WC Mercantile merino, silk and sparkle batt which I won over at Phat Fiber. Free fibre - woo-hoo! It is so wonderfully soft, and the blue sparkles set off the browns perfectly - like the shimmer in the scales of a trout.

Pretty, no? And it was very nice to come home after a humid, sweaty afternoon in the dairy to something so beautiful.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fleecey goodness

I overdid it with the Christmas knitting this year (again), so at the moment I am having a small holiday from knitting/spinning/crocheting to rest my wrist and forearm. Which perhaps accounts for the rather cranky and maudlin last few posts. The people around me know I am a much calmer and nicer person when I can knit.
But I couldn't abandon the fibrey world completely, so I have made a start on washing some fleeces that I had in my yarn room. The first was a mystery fleece, gifted by a friend who discovered the sheepy smell of raw fleece made her extremely nauseous. It is coloured a mid brown, with the tips bleached to a dark gold. So after some googling I ventured into the world of fleece washing.
Here's a play by play on how I did it
  • I spread the fleece out on the kitchen table and went through it, pulling out as much VM (vegetable matter) as I could, as well as feathers and beetles and poo. I have to say, my opinion of sheep's cleanliness went down a lot. I present this photo of the dregs at the bottom of the first wash bath as Exhibit A:
  • Then I put 20 litres of hot, hot water in a plastic tub (later I used the kitchen sink, because it was easier than lifting the tub up and down), and added about half a cup of dishwashing detergent and swirled it around with a mixing spoon so it mixed with the water but didn't froth at all.
  • Then I put some fleece in a net bag and put it in the water. I pushed it under the water, but resisted the urge to swish it around, so I didn't felt it. I let it sit there for 15 minutes, then lifted out the bag and let it drain a little while I refilled. I made up another lot of hot water and detergent, and put the fleece in for another 15 minutes.
  • I repeated this process 2 more times with no soap. So, two washes, then two rinses. It was very hard to resist the urge to fiddle around with it, so I had to go and do other things and set a timer to tell me when to go back to it.
  • When the final rinse was done, I let the bag drain for about 30-45 minutes, then took the fleece out to my enclosed front verandah, where I had a very high-tech drying rack set up (an old screen door resting between an old washing machine and the edge of a table). I spread the fleece out as much as I could without breaking up the locks too much, and left the hot weather to do its thing. It took a few days to dry, which I was surprised about. I thought it would take maybe a day at the most, but it took the better part of three.
So now I have a large quantity of clean fleece, just waiting to be prepped ready to spin. After consulting the spinning goddesses over at LSG (Lazy, Stupid and Godless) on Ravelry, I started combing the fleece with my mini combs I got from Petlyn Fibre products at Bendigo '09.

Mostly I decided to comb the fleece because I had the combs already, but it was also pointed out to me that the kind of yarn, and even the knitted item that I wanted it to be, determined the way I would prepare the fleece. It is the first time I have felt that flow between all parts of the fleece's journey, and felt that I was in control of all the choices that could be made. It was a new feeling, but I like it!

Before:After:It is very slow going though. These mini combs are good, but I am imagining how much faster I would get through the fleece if I had some decent size ones. Unfortunately, these are well beyond the budget right now, so I'll just have to go with the mini ones.

Good news on the craft room front! My uncle, who will be doing the building, gave everything the once-over, and gave me a price, which I've started saving towards. I'll try to do a rough drawing soon to show you what will be happening. (EDIT: See my dodgy efforts below. You should be able to click on it and then zoom in to get a closer look) I'm very excited to have discovered that all the floorboards are Redgum! I can't wait for the work to begin. Depending on my uncle's other work, it may be as soon as Spring.
So much to look forward to this year.

All I had

When all I had
Was you and I
I cooked your food
I washed your clothes
I cried when you went away

Though you weren't here to know it

I filled my life
With you and my
Dreams became all you
I sewed my mouth
And bit my tongue
And mile by mile myself fell behind

But in that loss
I lost you too
The lies grew from the cracks in the road

One day you were mine
The next, hers
And the hills caved in around me

I don't wish you back - I've passed that by
I've gone back along the road
And I found I was just where I'd left me