Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Treating the senses


Yesterday was one of those perfect Indian summer days: warm, breezy, killer blue sky with lots of beautiful clouds, some fall color coming from our oak bushes that abound, and the aroma of banana bread wafting from the oven.


First I treated myself to some small blueberry muffins.  I couldn't resist the urge to photograph them with the oaks screaming fall in the fact, I did one of my little iPhone things and quickly sent it off to a dear friend in India that I am hoping to entice into coming back to live with us.  Then, while these were cooling, I brought out the big guns...nine rather large, semi-smooshy bananas, and into the Kitchen Aid they went, emerging from our oven a couple hours later in the form of three loaves of fresh banana bread. 

For those of you coming to Wool Festival this coming weekend, the weather reports are predicting beautiful weather for your weekend.  Be sure to remember it can be quite cold in the mornings and evenings, so bring a jacket or heavy sweater.  The fall color on the surrounding peaks is beautiful, and if the predicted cold snap tomorrow doesn't freeze them out, you should be treated to glorious color, as well.

I am leaving tomorrow for a five day retreat.  I'm packing my sketch books, a little knitting, my cameras, and a book or two.  If I'm missing seeing you this weekend while you're in Taos, I apologize.  I hope you have a wonderful weekend in Taos!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Awwww...those adorable little creatures...

Squirrel photo crasher

In mid August, a couple vacationing near Banff, Canada, set the timer on their camera for a self portrait, only to be joined at the last moment by one of the locals.  Yes, it is funny, and even cute...especially if you don't live with the little varmints.

We seem to have two types of squirrels here at our house...ground squirrels and tree squirrels.  The ground squirrels look like regulation issue brown creatures and are really a lot of fun to watch.  The tree squirrels (which I have been told are named Thompson's Squirrels) are equally charming.  They are grey and white, and have long, lacy tails and little tufts on their ears.  When they zoom from one spot to the next, it's almost like they have little jet packs on their backs.

Last week I was sitting here, enjoying the peace, listening to that peaceful sound of beach rocks rolling on the
beach as the tide comes in.  I was blissing out over this when it
occurred to me that the ocean is about 1,000 miles away.  Upon closer
inspection, it turns out our adorable little rodents had decided to
bunk under our house for winter.  Mr. Sunflower went out this morning
and found approximately 3-4 buckets full of gravel, dirty, and rocks
displaced by the little fellers.  Those babies sure can move dirt.

Recently Mr. Sunflower took my little Ford Escape in to have an oil change.  While there, they told him they found some slight damage to the wiring from these adorable little guys (mostly likely the ground squirrels or chipmunks).  About a week later, when he was telling me about it, we decided to go have a little look-see for ourselves.

I wish I had had my camera with me, or thought to have gotten it, to take a photo.

All the insulation stuff from behind my dashboard had been removed and a rather large and cozy nest was seated on top of my engine.  We couldn't find any more wire damage, at least, and we promptly removed the stuffing that abounded.  Next (this is where it gets ugly):  the recommended solution is to hang either a bag of moth balls in the engine compartment or strategically stuff dryer sheets all around.  Not loving the idea of breathing moth balls, I opted for the latter.  I always thought Bounce had a nasty smell, and this confirms it.  Now, when I drive my little car, I think of it as the Bounce Mobile...that smell follows me everywhere.  I haven't checked to see if it's working...I can't face it yet.

This is not, as it turns out, an unusual occurrence in this part of the woods.  I've had several friends have uninvited guests chow on their wiring and wreck their cars over night...another thing to put on the list of things they don't tell you about when you move out of the city, I guess!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Unsung artists

Horses on Ledoux

I was in town yesterday for my weekly attempt at formal exercise, and driving on historic Ledoux Street, I found this piece of wonderment.  It made me remember being a kid and watching endless hours of westerns (the really old ones, as it turns out) on television and wishing more than anything on earth that I could own a horse (not practical in an East Los Angeles neighborhood).  I spent lots of time attempting to draw horses...and never had a success.  They always ended up looking sort of pre-historic.  OK, worse than that.  Even the cave painters did a better job.

My exercise teacher told me some adorable young hippie girl painted these horses.  I wish I could have been there to meet her and watch her work.  Her happiness shows in these beautiful creatures.  There are so many incredibly talented people in this town who may not get the recognition they deserve.  Come to think of it...that's the story of our world, isn't it. 

If you're a horse lover, I hope you enjoy this...sorry the photo is a little bit dark, I took it with my iPhone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

First freeze?

Bob relaxing

Today was one of those gorgeous, picture perfect, fall days.  I can start to see groups of aspen turning color up on the mountains above us, and last evening as I drove into town I saw the sides of the mountains that run along town and on the pueblo land have big ribbons of gold on them already.  If you're coming to Taos Wool Festival, you should probably be sure to bring some warm clothes, from the way things look right now.

I have moved the unplanted foxglove and lilac plants into the greenhouse for tonight...I'm guessing we could have our first freeze tonight...just a hunch, haven't seen the weather report.  I just walked the dogs (at about 6:30 p.m.) and it was both windy and brisk.  I love how invigorating it feels at this time of the year.

Larry & Bob

Today I found Bob working on one of his stress reduction techniques, then later I caught a photo of him practicing along side Larry.  What a life.

TUESDAY MORNING, 7:00 A.M.:  It's 26F.  Good call on the plants!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Always on my mind

In 2000, my friend Leslie and I traveled to the Handweavers Guild of America conference in Cincinnati.  We purposely scheduled a few extra days to explore Amish country afterward.  Leaving the big city behind, off to Millersburg we went.  It was a magical couple of days, full of eye openers and a study in contrasts.

We were specifically looking for weavers and spinners, but found none.  We took a tour of an old Amish farm, and while there was an old spinning wheel on display in the living room, no one I quizzed seemed to recall anyone in their local memory who had been spinning.  I came home determined to make this a study project, but never did.  If you know of any history of spinning in the Amish communities, I would love to know. 


What we did find, of course, was quilters.  I so admire their work.  I love the idea of spending hours upon hours making tiny stitches.  I love that these women, who don't have all the amenities we do, can find time for such past times.  I've long thought that our lives are far more complicated for all the conveniences we have to make our lives easier.  That trip pretty much reinforced my theory.

We found meals at local Amish owned restaurants to be delicious and simply priced.  I remember asking someone one morning, after consuming a large breakfast for only a few dollars, how they managed.  The response:  we only charge what we need.  Now there's a concept.  Imagine if more people felt that way.  I see this as an inspiration for a grass roots movement...similar in spirit to groups like the Slow Money Alliance.

One day,  in a gift shop full of little things made by local Amish,  I found this little sign, which has since become a national offering in many country type catalogs (or the same sentiment in a different design).  I brought it home and hung it in a prominent spot in my big farm kitchen.  I try to hold this sentiment near my heart, but some days, I just get too busy to guess what that says about my life. 

Like everyone else, I'm a work in progress.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A brief word on books

You've now ascertained that along with all the other compulsions I seem to have, owning and reading books is on the top of my list.  I love them all, new, used, hard back, paper back, musty, well worn and well traveled.  I long ago gave myself the permission to not feel guilty if I ever get to read them all.  Our bedroom looks more like the public library with a king sized bed.  I've run out of shelf space, so piles of books are lying on their sides, in stacks, in front of those that are neatly shelved.

I consider this a form of wealth, just like having lots of fibers, yarns, patterns, needles, and unfinished projects. 

Last weekend my daughter told me about her new, favorite book hangout:  Paper Back Swap.  It's a free, on line library of sorts.  You sign up and list books you have that you're willing to pass on to someone else (if you list ten when you enroll, they'll give you two free credits).  If someone wants one of your books, you get a notice, complete with a printable shipping label.  You ship the book, at your cost, to the person who wants to give it a new home.  When it's received, you are given a credit.  Each book, paperback or hardback, is valued at one books are two credits.  I signed up and listed 10 books and by the end of the first week, 7 of them had gone on to new, appreciative homes (they were mostly knitting related, BTW).  With my two "free" credits, I received a six disc unabridged audio book, like new, from a person in California.  It's way fun!  You can purchase credits, also...around $3.00 each if I recall correctly.  Isn't this a great way to keep books moving around? 

Speaking of books...I was talking with my friend Kay earlier this week and she has also decided to let go of some pretty valuable fiber arts books...two are about the history of woven coverlets, and one is the much sought after tome on the history of great tapestries that we all coveted back in the mid-90s when a group of us were studying French tapestry techniques.  If you or anyone you know is interested in these topics, I urge you to check them out.  We've decided it's better to get these books into the hands of those who'll appreciate them vs. having them end up in some thrift store some day when our kids are cleaning out our homes!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My bad

 When I was in California last month, I got so inspired by my friend Liz' sketch and watercolor journal of her recent trip to Australia that I've been busy supporting the local art store again.  First:  my friend Kay sent me two beautiful water color journals.  Next:  I hit the art store for water color brushes.  Then, another trip to the art store for more water color pads for bigger sheets, smaller sheets, and at least one purse sized pad (so I could be prepared for anything).  Today:  a portfolio to store my new works of art (she says, smiling) safely.  

MyBad Along the way, I stopped at the local grocery store for supplies.  Ooops...look what made it into the car.  When things like this happen, I immediately photograph them and e-mail them to Kay to confess my transgressions.  Her words of comfort?  "Wish I had them...banana chips not cutting it."

I simply should not be allowed to buy cookies.  The end.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Preparing to dye

IMG_0645 The last two days have been spent putting the finishing touches on getting ready to start dyeing for this fall and winter.  Those of you who dye can appreciate how much work this can be.  Yesterday Monte came and together we inventoried what colors were already in solution, then checked the quality as well as the quantity.  All dye powders were inventoried and a new order will be placed this week.  New bottles of solutions were mixed yesterday and today, so I'll have plenty on hand once I start.  It's really a bummer to have to stop when you're on a roll because you've run out of your favorite color.

This will be my first winter to have an official dye studio.  Prior to this, we had to haul water hoses from the house to the garage (through snow, often) to fill buckets for mixing dyes, soaking wool, washing utensils, etc.  What a pain, not to mention horribly cold.  The hose had to be emptied and rolled up and stored inside each night so it didn't freeze.  This is going to be super deluxe this year.  I even got a great sink from Lehman's so I can, if I choose, fill the tubs or as you can see in this picture, when I'm doing smaller jobs, I just use them to hold buckets of smaller quantities of water.  There's no wasting water in this part of the world!

IMG_0647 For those of you who have never dyed but would like to give it a try, I always suggest starting with Kool Aid dyeing first, just to get a snapshot of the process.  There are lots of places on the internet to help you with this information.  It's fairly inexpensive for small quantities of dyeing and since it's non-toxic, you can do it in your kitchen.  Bonuses:  your kids can help you and your wool smells fruity when it's dry.  Colors can be blended as with paints, so don't hold back!

Dyeing with chemical dyes is another story.  I err on the side of caution and always wear apron, gloves, and a mask or respirator when mixing dye powders into solution.  The reason you don't want to do this in your house is because those micro particles of dye solution can disperse onto your food surfaces without you even being aware of them.  I also prefer not to smell the vapors when pots are going; I don't know what's in those fumes but I don't want to find out the hard way. 

If you're thinking it's time to get started with your own dyeing, two places I heartily recommend for both supplies and lots of information are ProChem and Dharma Trading Company.  They both have websites and lots of juicy information to get you started.   A great book is called "Hands on Dyeing".   Have fun, and remember to be safe!

Friday, September 11, 2009

A sad anniversary

Thethirdtower_title I know it is said that all of us will forever remember where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001, when the attacks happened and it all hit the news.  I remember it was a beautiful, sunny, early fall morning here in the forest.  I rarely turn on the TV in the morning, but that day, I did.  Then I called Mr. Sunflower, who was in San Diego, and woke him up to tell him the news. It was as so surreal.  (It would take him weeks to find a rental car to get home after that day.)

I called my friend Margaret, and together with a friend of hers, they drove the 20 miles to come up and watch it on my TV set (many of my friends don't own them).  We sat for several hours, watching those same images of the tower getting hit, over and over and over.  It felt so much better than being alone.  I stayed up most of that night,  glued to the TV.  Like everyone else, I had a sick feeling in my heart and stomach that I'd not known before.  I so wanted to be closer to help someone in some way. 

EZ Then, the next day, I made a pot of tea and put Elizabeth Zimmerman's VHS tapes in and sat and watched her, knitting and sipping my tea.  I learned later from one of the on line knitting groups that I wasn't the only one to do that.  She soothes me so.  She is the grandmother I wish I'd had.  She makes me remember not to take too much too seriously.  If you don't own her tapes (or now on DVD), I highly recommend can purchase them from her daughter, Meg Swansen, on School House  Even if they're not techniques you need to learn, there's just something so warming about them.

And now, eight years and two wars later, I'm knitting a baby blanket to send to the war zone.  LIke many others, I have sent things to help our soldiers to feel more loved.  At home, our rescue workers are suffering illnesses from cleaning up ground zero.  Children are growing up without parents. I started having nightmares, and then I remember having a dream that I could move to Ireland and feel safe there.  It was, for me anyway, the end of an innocence. 

Sorry to be such a downer, I'm just so sad today.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A studio afternoon


I hauled myself out to the dye studio today to get lots of roving weighed out for the dyeing this weekend.  I decided to play my new CDS:  Puccini Without Words & Opera Without Words, both by Andre Kostelanetz...oh, and the Best of the Ventures (love that old time surf music).   While I was there, the clouds dropped low over the mountains and there was lots of thunder, but no rain.  It was all very cozy. 

There are only three more openings and two more days left to subscribe to the next Roving Art club.  This has my head spinning with ideas of paintings to use for my inspiration.  I so admire people who have that talent.  Several years ago I took about 4 months' worth of beginning oil painting classes.  Boy, was that a humbling experience.  I have only two paintings I will let anyone see as a result of those classes.  This is one of them.  Believe me when I say that the others are not ever going to be seen by human eyes again.PearPainting

 And here's the baby blanket I was talking about yesterday when I posted.  I'm using up odd balls of Manos del Uruguay from about 2004.  I love knitting the log cabin square and decided to make the entire blanket one big square.  I love donation knitting.  I have about 8 scarves stashed already for donation to the homeless shelter.  They're what I knit at night when I don't know what I really want to knit.  Good for the head, the hands, and the soul.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why can't we get along?

I've spent a lot of time today being so sad about all the partisan bickering over the health care issues, and why it became such a big issue that our president wanted to speak to our school kids, like George Bush Sr. did during his term.

Last night I started to knit a baby blanket to donate to new babies born in Afghanistan through the Afghans for Afghans project. Imagine giving birth while we're bombing their villages and killing civilians we say we don't want to kill.  Women to women...politics or's a rotten deal.

Then, this afternoon, my friend Annie sent this to me.  It was just what I needed.  Why can't humans manage what these babies did?

The Jesusita Fire in Santa Barbara, CA caused these two to take shelter together. The fawn is about 3 days old and the bobcat about 3 weeks old.


They immediately bonded and snuggled together under a desk in the Santa Barbara County Dispatch Office for several hours.

Animal Planet reported that the bobcat kitten was rescued near

Arnold Schwarzenegger's ranch, where it was dehydrated and near death.


They rescued the fawn during the wildfire.

Although wild animals, especially of separate species, are never placed together due to regulations, in this emergency situation, they had no choice. During the mayhem of the fire, they were forced to put animals anywhere they could, since they had run out of crates large enough for the fawn. The kitten ran to the fawn, and it was instant bonding.