Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Finishing Up

I finally had a weekend where I wasn't running around like a head-challenged barnyard fowl, so I took some time and finished up some projects I had in the works.  I finished spinning, washing, drying, skeining and labeling yarn from the Heartland Farm animals. The 5 skeins of grey are little Teddy's (miniature Shetland) entire fleece. The white is from Bert (white sheep with black face) and the brown is a combination of Bert and Mick (the brown llama). I would have like to do more, but ran out of time. I turn it over Wednesday night for the gala on Saturday. It took me about 8 hours per skein and I had to work it in around my normal hectic life. I have more roving, so once I get the feeling in my hands and wrists back, there will be more Heartland yarn in the future.
This is Ella Phant. I knit her eleventy hundred pieces right up quick and then realized I had to sew them all together so she sat in my knitting back for a bit while I sucked up my courage. Finally her whimpering got me me so I put her together. Please pardon her nakedness. She is destined to have some kind of outfit soon.

(Inserted later) Here is Ella all dressed up and ready to dance.

 Finally finished the second set of Finorkin Fiddlehead mittens. There was enough yarn left over from the grey set that I just added a skein of white and reversed the color order for the second set. They are supposed to be lined but jury's still out on that. I have the baby alpaca to do it, but they seem plenty warm they way they are. We'll see.
 And in my ongoing quest to try and incorporate negative space into my doodles, I whipped this up:
It's by no means my favorite, but at least I did leave some space in there.  And it isn't square.  And I got to try out the new 'Knitting' tangle, which I love, so it wasn't a total wash. 

So that was my weekend. How was yours?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dane County Fair 2012

I loves me the County Fair! I haven't missed it once since moving to Madison 22 years ago. I'm not a ride
goer-on-er person but I love to visit the show animal barns, all of the kids' 4H displays, the business expo, petting zoo, and to just watch the folks in general.

This year, I fulfilled my dream of becoming a carnie and actually worked at the fair! Heartland Farm had a public awareness booth in the Expo center and I signed up for a couple of shifts; one on Thursday afternoon and one on Saturday afternoon.  The Thursday afternoon one was pretty much a bust, attendance at the fair was pretty low but there were still enough folks around to make the people-watching interesting. Saturday was busy and I made quite a bit in donations to the farm which is always greatly appreciated. My favorite conversation was with a lady who, upon learning that the Heartland takes in farm animals (remember that because it's going to be important in a minute), insisted that we were going to take her cockatiels because there was something wrong with them. Seems they 'don't got no fur'. I'm thinking that may not have been their only problem. It took some fancy talking to get out of that one!

After my Thursday shift, I met friends and we perused the carnival for supper. I had cheese curds, nutritious, I know. My friends had a blooming onion (vegetable alert!)  and cream puffs. There were the usual assortment of deep- fried-things-on-a-stick.  This is the one I found most disturbing.  On a lot of levels. 

There were some neat and clean booths and there was also a generous helping of  booths with questionably sanitation run by nefarious looking help. I DO NOT even want to speculate what was in the 'Special' hot dogs at this booth!

The best part of Thursday night was attending a thrill show where a young husband and wife team, raced around the inside of a small metal cage on their dirt bikes. All the while their toddler watched from about 30 feet away where they'd parked his stroller facing the spectacle.  I don't even want to think about his therapy bills should Mommy and Daddy have an 'off day at work'!

After my shift on Saturday I made my barn rounds before meeting up with more friends. I took a million pictures, but  here are some of my favs.

Blue Eyed Goat

Sweet Piggy Dreams
 Peacock cake at the 4 -H Cake decorating competition. Amazing, no?

And this girl told this llama to DO stuff (like go through a tire maze and over a fence)....and he did it.  This was a jaw-dropping feat to me considering I had to work for 20 minutes, using reverse psychology, bribes and a fair amount of out-and-out trickery just to get Thor to come down off the manure pile the other day when he escaped. Just trying to get him into this ensemble wouldn't be worth the trauma. Should, by some quirky freak of nature, I be able to get it on him and grab the reins, I predict a jolly ride, face down, all over the back forty for my troubles...but a girl can dream can't she?

Anyway, the fair is over for another year and my fair fix has been fulfilled until next summer. Do you still go to the fair?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Negative Space

I am trying my dangest to get out of drawing a square and completely tangling the inside of it. I look at others' designs and love the airy look of the negative space they've used.  I decided to start with baby steps and just draw a string with no border and try that. The result was 'Dragon Wings and Things'.
Well...It's not square, but it's approaching it and it's very densely filled. Still looks clunky to me. Next step, way less square with some areas in the middle not filled in at all....EEEEEKKK!

Monday, July 23, 2012

At Long Last! My Etsy Shop Is Live

I am so excited, you guys! I have been working at getting this shop up for so long! It's still a work is progress.  You know my history as a horrible picture taker.  I'm working on better photos, but for now there are 7 items posted, jewelry and note cards, to get my feet wet in the Etsy pool!

If I see interest, I am planning on adding more types of items to my shop; knit goods, original art, pine needle baskets, handspun yarn...who knows!

You can either click on the link  Molly Bee's Attic Etsy Shop or click on the widget on the left side of this blog to go check it out. I am looking for constructive criticism and ideas for making my shop great, so a comment would be greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Diva Challenge: GO TEAM USA!

This week's challenge over on the Diva's site was provided by guest challenger, Rho Densmore.  The challenge is to use the Olympic Rings in a design.  For whatever reason, this was a difficult challenge for me so I decided to make it more difficult by using tangles that I have rarely or never used before. In for a penny, in for a pound I say!  The result was a design with more substance than style, I'm afraid, but I still had fun.  All of the patterns I used behind the rings begin with the letter U, S, or A.
 Go Team USA! Bring us home some Olympic Gold!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gettin' Schooled!

I've learned many new things over the past few days. I learned how to draw 'Auraknot' the new Zentangle pattern and theme of this week's Diva Challenge...
Auraknot is the star in the middle of the design. I like how it looks woven.

I also learned how to make Butterfinger cake.  I made it for friends and it received two thumbs up.

(Photo by the great wonderful, FANTASTIC, couldn't get any better, friend Joseph "The Great" Tremain. Description of photo written by the same.)

Butter Finger Cake
Bake a yellow cake (mix or from scratch in a 9x13 pan).
When it comes out of the oven, poke holes in it with a straw or a fork.
Mix a can of sweetened condensed milk and a jar of Smucker's Caramel Ice Cream Topping together.
Pour all over the top (and in the holes) of the still warm cake.
Cool completely.
Once it's cool, sprinkle two crushed Butter Fingers candy bars over the top.
Cover all of that with a container of Cool Whip
Sprinkle two more crushed Butterfingers on top of that. 
(If you freeze the candy bars, you can smash them in their wrapper and then sprinkle them).

I also learned a fast-paced, wildly flamboyant  version  of the hokey pokey last  night when I stepped out onto the patio and a thirteen lined ground squirrel ran up my pant leg. He only got at far as my knee before my frenetic gyrations dislodged him.  Thank goodness there is no photographic evidence...that I know about anyway, but you can bet I'm keeping a close eye on my neighbor's You Tube account just in case.  Here is a picture of a relative of the culprit so you can imagine why I was so ...uh... enthusiastic.
Normally, I'd be chasing him around the lawn, trying to scoop him up and smooch him, but he kind of surprised me, making a mad dash for my lady parts and all, so he was out of my pant leg and had scurried away (did I hear him snickering a little squirrely snicker?) to tell his little friends of his adventure before I had a chance to think about it, grab and snuggle him. Next time, Mr. Thirteen Lined Ground Squirrel...next time.

What did you learn this week?

Monday, July 09, 2012

Hallelujah! The Heat Has Broken

The past week or so has been hot here in Wisconsin.  And not just annoyingly so...face-meltingly so. All the grass is dead, the water in our ponds and lakes is at the lowest I've ever seen. The crops are dying. We are in the middle of a drought. On Saturday afternoon the 100°+ temps that we'd endured for days scooted over for a little bit of cool air and I, for one, was ECSTATIC.  One more day of swimming from the air-conditioned car to air-conditioned buildings, and back and I was apt to climb the bell-tower with my sling shot.

Mr. Ben was happy too. We went for several walks Saturday night and Sunday. He'd been cooped up in the house for so long, he had LOTS of news to read on the area trees and hydrants. Consequently, we didn't get very far, distance-wise, but one of us got a lot of reading done!

The crew at the barn was much happier yesterday too. I can't imagine how it was for them last week, sweltering in their furry coats in the blazing meadow and non-air conditioned barn. The staff did everything in their power to keep them cool including keeping them in out of the sun,  providing swimming pools, freezing water in plastic containers for them to lie against and running the industrial fan to move the air  in the barn around. [Aside: last summer, I watched two roosters stroll into the path of the fan and get blown down the barn like feathery tumbleweeds. I was worried for a minute that they might be hurt...until I watched them run back up and jump into the jet stream again. They had their own little chicken amusement park ride!]When I got there yesterday, it was in the middle seventies and all of the animals were almost giddy. It's supposed to be reasonable this week so they'll be comfortable and safe.  Now if we could just get some rain....

 I took advantage of the cooler weather yesterday and actually cooked! I made an excellent chicken filling for tacos, enchiladas, burritos or even taco salad. I found the recipe on Pinterest and it was uber-easy.
 Crockpot Salsa Chicken
Put 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in crock pot.
Sprinkle with one packet of taco seasoning.
Mix 1 can cream of chicken soup* and 1 cup of salsa and pour over chicken.
Cook 4 hours on high.
Shred chicken with two forks (it pulls apart easily).
Add 1/2 c sour cream*

*I used 98% fat free soup and fat free sour cream and couldn't tell the difference.

The salsa I used had corn in it and I really liked the result. You could add corn, black beans and/or sliced olives to jazz it up.  I had some in a burrito with some shredded lettuce last night and will have it on lettuce as with crushed taco chips for a salad today. I froze some as well. Try it! It's YUM!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Diva Challenge# 77: UMT Fiore de Pietro

This week's diva challenge was a Use My Tangle one. The tangle is Fiore de Pietro that Rho Densmore designed in honor of her late brother-in-law.  Participants (the challenged? :-)) are asked to use her design in a piece and then allow her to use it in memory books that she will be making for family members. I think that's a beautiful tribute.  She mentions in her request that her BIL's death again reminded her of how everything can change in a heartbeat. I've been thinking a lot about that lately too.  We let our family and loved ones 'get to us' over little (and sometimes big) things, despite all of the wonderful moments we've spent with them. But at the end of the day, if they should happen to no longer be with us, we'd pay money for one more moment with them, even at their most frustrating.  Hold your loved tight and tell them you love them.  Tomorrow isn't a done deal. It can all be done in a blink.
Fiore de Pietro

Monday, July 02, 2012

Spinning 101

Lots of folks have been asking me about the spinning I'm doing right now. Now I know a lot of you are spinners already, so just talk amongst yourselves while I school the newbies!

The farrier that trims the animals hooves at Heartland came this spring and sheared the llamas and sheep. As I understand it, he doesn't usually shear for spinning, he shears just to get the heavy coats off the animals for summer. If you're an official shearer, you cut the wool or fleece(sheep)/ hair (alpacas and llamas) in a certain way to get the very best parts in the longest lengths possible. First it's skirted, which essentially cuts off the poo and other nasty bits that have to be removed before it can be washed. Sometimes you see sheep with coats on. This is done in an effort to keep the fleece clean so you don't have to do so much picking, or lose so much wool, due to all the yuckiness. This wasn't skirted so what I got was 5 trash bags of  fleece/hair with everything under the sun in it; poo, urine, vegetable matter, wood chips...and in copious quantities.  A hardier soul than me could have probably hand washed and processed it all, but you'd need a stronger stomach and a bigger work space that I have.

I called several carding mills in the area to see if anyone would be able to clean it all for me. This was right in the middle of the time of year when all of the area farmers that produce wool were dropping off their hundreds of fleeces at the mills for processing, so a couple of mills couldn't get to it for a few months (and I needed as much time as humanly possible to hand spin it) or in one case, the mill didn't have machines that could take hair the length of the llama....it would gum up their machines.  Finally I found Rainbow Farm Carding Company in New Glarus. Patti, one of the owners was so nice.  She agreed to pick, wash and card  it (which means to run the washed wool/hair through big brushes over and over until it's just blended fluff)  for me and did so in 1 month!   I am eternally grateful to her for that.

What I got back was 18# (4 chock-a-block full Rubbermaid totes and then some) of cantaloupe-sized balls of carded 'roving'.  Here is a photo of one ball that I have in a bowl so it doesn't roll around when I spin it. Looks like of like polyester fiberfill.

Because it was so full of junk when I gave it to Patti, it came back with a lot of vegetable matter in it. As I spin I pick out little bits of hay and wood chips.  These have all been cleaned, but just got stuck in the wool.  Some of the bits make it into the finished yarn.  I like it that way and have knit several things with 'rustic' wool, but if one doesn't like it, it can be picked out as you knit with the finished yarn. 
Next I take the roving (above) and spin it into 'singles' on my spinning wheel, Mabel. The wheel just twists the roving around into a spun 'string'. You can see two bobbins with leader strings hanging off them on the front of the wheel. These are spares.  The one that is 'working' is the one at the very top of this photo.  Once a bobbin is full, I put it on the front of the wheel, put an empty bobbin on top and ply the singles into yarn. If you want a fine yarn, you can ply (or twist) two strands together to make a thinner yarn. In the interest of time, I'm Navaho plying this yarn into three ply.  Essential I am 'crocheting' a long string of singles to make a hardy yarn three stranded yarn, out of one stand of singles. 

Once I make two bobbins full of yarn, I wind it up into skeins. Each of the skeins so far has been 110-120 yards each and weighs about 3-5oz.  It takes me about 8 hours to process a skein.  I expect to get faster as time goes on. Then I hand wash the skein and dry it, the roll it up and put a label on it. Each label has the yardage, weight, content (some is wool and some is a wool/llama blend) and the name and picture of the animal(s) who donated their locks to the cause. 

The two left-hand skeins are from Bert the sheep.  You can see, it's a pretty heavy duty yarn. It will make really warm knit goods.  The one on the right is courtesy of our miniature Shetland, Teddy's, wool. It is soft as duck's down and a little bit lighter  weight than Bert's.

 I took this one so that you can see the awesome color range of the wools.  The far right is Bert and Mick, the brown llama. (They needed to be blended, because llama's hair doesn't spin as well on it's own.)  They are all natural colors, I didn't dye any of it, but the buyer could definitely color the lighter skeins of he/she desired.  There are no chemicals on the yarn so it should take dye well.
So there you have, a quick and dirty lesson in hand spinning from 'wool on the hoof' to 'wool on the skein'!

Cooper and The Garden Guest

I discovered earlier this summer that finches aren't the only thing that like my thistle seeds. Even though there is a plethora of seeds...