Now We Are Six

When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly new

When I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more

When I was five I was just alive
But now I am six, I’m as clever as clever;

So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

-A.A. Milne


All the kids: Blow the candles out, O!

O: Let’s blow them out together!

That’s my boy.

And I love him to the moon and back.

I don’t mind that we are late to everything, always rushing, rushing because the early Spring light wakes him before me and he crawls into my bed for nuggles. Only too soon, morning cuddle sessions will be something I miss, something I ache for when he inevitably begins to see himself as a self apart from me. Until then, most everything takes a back seat to nuggling.

This is the morning through our bedroom window these days. It makes me feel Ready For Anything.

And this is what I do with my arms these days. I make piles of leaves. Many, many piles of leaves.

And this is our ferment-focus these days. Kombucha. There has been some serious flavor experimentation going on with fabulous results, for the most part. Most successful ideas thus far:

Mango-Apricot-Ginger (MAG): Apricot-Ginger black tea and dried mango (yum yum yum)

Ginger, Straight-up: Black tea and sliced fresh ginger (simple and perfect)

Cherry-Ginger: Black tea, dried cherries and fresh ginger slices (my favorite)

Citron: Citrus-lemongrass oolong tea (refreshing)

Chai: oddly enough! I was skeptical, but this was quite delicious. Black tea and chai spices with ginger slices.

The pretty-good-but-not-as-good-as-the-above:

Pomegranate White: Pomegranate-flavored white tea. Kinda tasted like fruity soap from one of those mall bath and body stores. But not in an awful way…does that make sense? It was more an aftertaste thing…The Boy says, “can I have some of the kombucha that tastes like soap?”

Mango Ginger: Really nice, but just not as awesome as the Mango Apricot Ginger. Btw, the tea we used for the latter is the organic Apricot Ginger Tea from Good Earth. We didn’t purchase it locally and now we can’t find it. Boo!

So, the way it works now is that we have one gallon going of a tried-and-true recipe and another going of something kinda weird. So, a little chai brewing now and…I’m not sure how I feel about this…one brewing with dong ding tea and candy cap mushrooms. Sounds disgusting to me, but C thinks the flavors are going to balance nicely. Hmmm…will report back from that one in two weeks or so. We brew for about ten days and then bottle condition for a few more.

Next round will be straight-up black tea just to give the kombucha mothers a break from all the heavy flavors.

What’s brewing in your world today?


Almost as Quickly as it Came…

20 or so inches of it…

…it fades away.

This past summer I realized just how much I need this place. I wake up every morning to a world transformed, be it by a blizzard, a thaw, a trick of the mid-winter light, a thousand icicles on a warm morning and the next they are gone…I am reminded always of impermanence, our ability to adapt to an ever-changing landscape, the thrilling need to be keenly aware…back home it was so easy to slip into complacency and a routine that made me feel like I was dragging, dragging…and missing something.

I ended 2010 with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. We are where we belong…among friends, among maple trees, among rabbit tracks in the snow. We have a full freezer, a full woodshed, warm clothes and a cat who catches mice. We’ve certainly had some challenges and deeply stressful moments since we arrived, but when we stop to take inventory, all we can feel is thankful.

I will leave “won’t”s out of my goals for 2011. There simply isn’t room enough for the clutter of what I shouldn’t be doing. If I focus on what I really want to create, then the other junk will fall away. Such is my theory, anyway, and I plan to test it. And so:

I will *be realistic with my time when making commitments*make lists because I’m going to do the things on my lists, not just because I like to make lists*write more letters*call my grandfather every week*create more projects for The Boy and I to work on together*spend less time in front of this screen*spend more time with my partner*cultivate patience with myself and others*give, give, give*seize opportunities to do something alone*seize opportunities to do something together*be okay with however long it takes me to get the studio up and running*ask for help when I need it*plan ahead*explore alternatives to gluten that are less refined, like sprouting and grinding my own flours*become a member of a museum*organize a neighborhood craft night*make make make*read read read*enjoy afternoon tea with The Boy*allow my heart to grow*learn some new tricks*join the women’s chorus*make snow angels*register for a class at the circus school*slow down*

I could go on and on, but probably just because I like to make lists.

The Boy likes to make bunnies.

They cover the walls…bunnies, bunnies, bunnies. The living, breathing bunnies are coming soon, so perhaps The Boy is mentally preparing for it. Two gigantic, ridiculously soft french angoras. I hope they sit on the kitten so he’ll stop pulling things off the drying rack and spilling his water.

So, we’ll kick it off with a smile. Well, that’s what he gives me when I ask for one, anyway.

2010 began with heartbreak and sadness for me, with the loss of a loved one, the feeling of loss that comes of longing for a sense of home, for a place to spread our wings, our feet so heavy with trudging…and so we ended the year coming full circle, preparing to set down some roots and grounding ourselves for the continuation of our journey.

So, goodbye 2010…it was nice to know you, but I’m glad we’re moving on. 2011 holds a lot of promise and I’m looking forward to what this brand-spanking new year will bring. I have more spring in a lighter step and a lot of buoying hope.

TSM has started off right with a few shop updates, btw…go play.


Happy New Year, all…better late than never, eh? Notice I did not add that I will be more punctual because that would only be setting myself up. I’m a late-bird in so many ways, it would be darn-near impossible to change that now.


Pillowcases, Fig Jam and the Volvalution

Someone told him that snakes should be transported in pillowcases.

In the five-year-old brain, this quickly translated to all animals should be transported in pillowcases. Fortunately, for the pointy-eared friends in the house, the term animals so far refers only to the stuffed plush variety. Monkeys, dragons and bears are now sacked up for travel or for bedtime or just for…sitting around. In a pillowcase.

Some evidence I have been busy:

The figs are ripening, and fig jam makes for amazing end-of-summer pizza. Goat cheese, I love you.

60+ skeins arrived at Purl Jam and were warmly received (with wine and chocolate!). I am still glowing from all the amazing feedback…seriously, Califoners, you guys are awesome!

This week, I am busy replenishing for the Art, Wine and Chocolate festival in Suisun City, CA. There will be lots of new felt pieces, handspun and oodles of spinning supplies. I’m holding off on any Etsy updates until after the festival, but expect some sizable ones in the coming weeks. I will be giving my blog readers a heads-up…

Yes, I made watermelon leather.

I get a lot of raised eyebrows for this one, but it’s like…candy. I sliced a yellow watermelon into 1/2″ thick slabs. They shriveled down into your standard fruit leather thickness, with the sugar ridiculously concentrated. So, so good.

Up for preserving this week are about twenty or so pounds of quinces from a neighbor’s tree. Stocking Up has an awesome-looking quince marmalade recipe and I’ll probably also cook up and can some quince applesauce and make a small batch of membrillo for fresh eating. C has requested a crumble instead of cake for his birthday next week, so I’m thinking quince for that, as well. As they ripen, the kitchen is filling with a delicious aroma of pineapple. Oh my, I love me some quince. And our dear neighbor. Thanks, John!

C’s been busy, too…

Volva is stripped and mostly sanded, getting ready for her makeover. We’ve settled on one of the three original ’65 colors that were paired with the red interior: Graphite Grey. She will be HOT.


Impromptu Terrarium, The Extent of His Tomato-Hating and Some Fiber Things

Every week there is a lovely selection of caterpillars in the corn: bright green, ochre, mocha, burgundy…their fate, generally, is to become dinner for the chickens. I admire them, and then they’re tossed into the coop with the husks. The birds aren’t allowed to range much in suburbia, so they need all the fresh protein we can provide.

This weekend, as I shucked, I plucked out a particularly robust lime-green caterpillar and showed it to The Boy. He grabbed a step stool and I placed this new friend on the cutting board for a walk around. Pretty soon, there were seven caterpillars curling up, stretching out, or strolling around on the board amongst the corn trimmings.

When it came time to bring all the trimmings and husks out to the birds, including the caterpillars, The Boy grabbed my wrist and said, “But Mama, I LOVE THEM!”

And so we’ve had some pets for a few days, munching away and getting fatter in a glass jar, their impromptu terrarium. The Boy marvels at their sticky feet and their mandibles and Mr. Lime Green’s massiveness, especially.

We’ll let them go for Equinox, to fulfill whatever their destiny…an autumn feast for some other birds in the garden, perhaps.

Finally, as the first day of Autumn approaches, we are seeing some tomatoes ripening…still not enough for preserving…just enough for a salad here and there, so I’ll be acquiring some bruised heirlooms from the farmer’s market next weekend for a canning fest. As I was asking about them, The Boy could be seen stomping fallen tomatoes into oblivion on the pavement. They were already smashed from their fall, but it wasn’t enough for him to see tomatoes the way he would prefer them: inedible and NOT on his dinner plate. No, they had to be completely obliterated…deliberately, with malice and spite.

I admit they are on my long List of Foods I’d Prefer Not to Eat Fresh (just wait until I show you what’s happening in the dehydrator), but I don’t take pleasure in their destruction. I led him away. Quickly.

And then I finished this:

Some old handspun from Way Back. Before the Lendrum, even. I suddenly felt the need to knit up some comfort with it instead of letting it languish in a box. Must be the changing seasons…oh, and the impending garage sale. Anyway, I will really appreciate this thing for two days every month, at least, so definitely worth the effort.

To add to the randomness of this post, I have been listing lots of carded batts and dyed locks to the shop…yarns are on hold until I finish up the fresh order for Purl Jam, which I should be shipping out tomorrow. Helen will be holding a Spun Monkey Preview Night at the shop, so if you’re local, keep an eye on the Upcoming Events listings or pop in to get the skinny. There may be wine involved.

Lots of Autumn-y colors and such.

Happy Tuesday!

Coming and Going…

I’ve been hiding behind a Cloak of Busy. It’s not the same kind of late summer busy I had grown accustomed to in VT…prepping food for winter storage, stacking wood, making sure the chimneys get cleaned and the oil tank is filled, jamming, soup-making, kraut pounding…and as much as I am aching for all of those things, I will not complain about the other kind of busy that is doing it’s best to fill the void. This year, I am swamped in preparing my little fiber biz for the fall/winter season with orders to fill, shows lining up and commissions a-plenty, for which I am very grateful. There will be updates soon, but here’s what I’ve got so far:

Saturday, October 2nd: The 5th Annual Art, Wine and Chocolate Festival from 11am-5pm at the historic waterfront in Suisun City, CA.

October 28 -31st: Stitches East at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, CT at the Indie Spun booth, the only all-indie artist handspun booth! So far, returning vendors this year include Traveling Rhinos, Crafty Scientist and myself.

Shop updates will be minimal for a while, but I’ll do what I can…


In otherness, yesterday we had a little Monday Project, The Boy and I.

A dear friend has a babe on the way and we were asked to contribute something that could be hung on a mobile. So, we busted out our Mad Finger-Knitting Skillz and came up with this cutie. The chenille stems were The Boy’s idea, and provided a little extra stability and shape to the body.

Here’s my half-ass tutorial: finger-knit a short length, 6 inches maybe (we used bulky handspun for this). Curl one end over on itself and stitch it down for the head. Run a chenille stem through the body with ends out for antennae, and stitch it up. Finger-knit another length that, when spiraled on itself makes a nice-sized shell. Stitch it together as you would for a rag rug and then stitch it to the body.

The rest of the week looks like this:

And this:

I work outside this time of year, and The Boy occupies himself by making a Long Line of Everybody, coming and going, coming and going all day long. Unless, of course, there’s some construction work to do in the mulch pile.

Happy Tuesday!

Throw the crib door wide…

The Big Pile? Done. Fini. In the mail.

Bound for sweaterhood.

New projects are consuming me at the moment…more on those later…but I did manage to send a wee mountain of yarn and hand dyed top to Urban Fauna Studio in SF and have started setting aside some things for a new shipment to Purl Jam next month. Thank you so much, NJ knitters, for sharing all your wonderful projects on Ravelry!

Speaking of projects by New Jersey knitters, Lelah has created a wonderful pattern with my plied yarn, the Califon Cowl. If you are on Ravelry, you can download the pattern for free, or find it here, on Lelah’s blog.

I stole these photos from her, btw. Thanks, Lelah!

In other news, The Boy was put in quite a quandary over why in the world someone, let alone everyone, would want a fake forehead on their real head. Perhaps we’ve had a little too much TMBG in the car lately.

Oh, and we made art.

Not a Freight Plane.

Happy Wednesday!

Another One Bites the Dust


We really thought we’d found it this time.

And now I feel like a deflated balloon. As much as we want to pursue cooperative farming, the timing is just all wrong for us. For now, we just need to be our own little family in our own little nest with our own little garden. Regroup. For a year, maybe two or three.

Emotionally, this past week was a roller coaster and I still feel a wee off kilter. There was a fabulous dip in the American River…that was good. I was productive once we got home, and that was good, too. There were bike rides and a transmission installed (but the clutch fork broke. drat and bother.)…all in all, the goodness outweighed the one crippling sucker punch and I’m entering this new, sparkly week with fresh plans and renewed hope.

The Boy has a morning summer camp this week (his first one!) and so I am working very hard, as you can see. I intend to finish up some commission work, get started on some more goodies for Purl Jam and eat a lot of comfort food (read: hot chocolate and toast with apple butter.). One of the teenagers is also away all week, and so I may even have some quiet moments to sort out the many jumbled piles of ideas cluttering up my brainspace. So, what am I doing here?

I dunno, but I’ll pretend I’m working by letting you know I’ve brought down The Beast from the attic and we’ve been making these together:

And I might be letting go of some falklands, too. Dyepots are firing this week. Just sayin’. Oh, and the picture will take you to the shop.

Off to the quiet. Enjoy your Monday.

*** Daisies help.

Third Time’s the Charm

“You feel so heavy,” I said, pretending effort. “Like lead. I can’t lift you right now.”

“Mama, you need to close your eyes.”

“How will that help?”

“When you close your eyes, you can stretch your mind.”

And then I lifted my little sack of lead as if he were so many feathers.


So, for the last month I have been playing with blue and green, trying to recreate a colorway that was a “mistake” for a customer who would like a sweater’s worth of it.

The first attempt was exactly what I had wanted when I dyed this colorway the first time. A little white, some green and an overall sense of blue.

The second try featured a little white, some blue and an overall sense of green. Really far off here, folks.

So, I closed my eyes, stretched my mind and the last of my yellow dye powder, and finally, seven pounds of falklands later, I have a winner. A little green, a little blue and an overall sense of white. Phew! Why is it so much more difficult to use less dye?

Now I spin up ten more skeins of this 3-ply and hope I still feel up to spinning just as much of the too-blue and too-green Gaia for sweater kits, because, yes, I did dye over two pounds of each colorway before I test-spun it. Wheeeee!

Summer Things

Remember the skep?

C took a peek the other day to see what’s been happening inside of it…

You can see the clipped end of the branch that held the clump of bees…in a few short months they turned the empty space of the woven basket into a home. Some holes have been drilled in the top of the skep and a super placed above it so the bees can move up. We’ll leave them alone for a week or so and then check to see if they are using the drilled holes as a passageway or just filling them up.

In between the third and fourth attempts at getting the colors right on a custom order (and, by golly, the fourth time was a charm! Phew!), Nonna took The Boy and I to the Knowland Park Zoo. I have mixed feelings about the concept of the zoo, in general, but this particular zoo has made tremendous improvements since I used to visit it when I was a kid, for the animals as well as the visitors. The elephants were playing, the meerkats were wrestling and the male chimp was showing his bravado for the two new males who were introduced the same day we visited the park. It was all rather exciting and I didn’t leave with that awful feeling that the animals in captivity were miserable. Later, I read up on their conservation efforts, both globally and on the zoo property, and felt pretty decent about the whole experience.

The Boy had hoped the tiger would see him and want to be friends. I hadn’t thought to mention, when penciling up his face, that tigers don’t tend to run in social groups. Maybe he would have wanted a meerkat face instead. It was a moot point, anyway, as the tiger was resting in some shady grass and doing his best to ignore the humans.

Outside the zoo there’s a wee amusement park, where The Boy experienced his first roller coaster ride. It was painted up like a tiger, too. Anyway, now he says he wants to do more things that are “fun and scary at the same time.” So I invited him to accompany me to yesterday’s dental appointment, where all kinds of exciting things happened involving numbing needles and syringes full of goo and strange tools for taking things on and off the implant screw…it was fun and scary at the same time. In two weeks I will finally have a real fake tooth. Three years in the making, and just in time for corn on the cob to hit the farmer’s market.

Oh, and somebody please tell me how I could possibly have forgotten to tell you lovely people that you can now find The Spun Monkey handspun yarns and handmade felt at the shiny new Purl Jam yarn shop in Califon, NJ? I’m terrible at self-promotion, that’s how. But, there you have it…now GO and check it out!