Sunday, 30 October 2011


Sign at Tolga Bat Hospital
At Halloween we get to indulge in fear - of ghosts, goblins, bats and witches. Let's remember to release those fearful thoughts once Halloween is over. Bats get bad PR all year long. How many people know about the importance of bats in the environment or know about the problems of habitat loss?

Rehab for Spectacled Flying Foxes

Check out The Tolga Bat Hospital for information on conservation of bats and their habitat, and on the work being done in rescue, rehabilitation and release of hundreds of bats each year.

Besides admiring our native Australian fauna, I stay busy handspinning – tussah silk, Melanian wool from West Australia and cotton. I became aware of a need for storage for my growing collection of support spindles (with laser cut whorls), designed by J. He's produced this beta version storage rack:

Storage rack for spindles

Slowly, a number of my spindles began to fill with cotton cops. I wanted to use my Ashford wheel to ply the yarn. I knew it would be easier if I had a lazy kate to hold at lease two spindles. Using a sturdy cardboard box, J set up a simple lazy kate which works very well. A piece of iron (panel beater's form) placed on top keeps the lazy kate from shifting as I pull yarn off the spindles during the plying process. A bit of plastic foam glued to the bottom  holds each pointed spindle tip in place. I can tell J is considering modifications.

Lazy kate for support spindles

It's gratifying to solve problems using materials close at hand.

Bat pix by J.
Craft pix and post by M.

Monday, 24 October 2011


Unusual downpours took us by surprise this month as we normally get very little rain in October. Rainfall records got broken. Lightning blew holes in concrete walls in some offices in nearby town. No one injured but damage occurred to wiring and equipment. Some close strikes near our home made my heart skip a beat or two. We unplug the telephone, computer and such, sometimes all day long, but we had no real problems unless you count a very nervous dog shedding at high rate.

The rain drenched all the bushfires and cleaned the air of smoke. Now, there's a blessing. Within hours of the downpour, we started seeing a tinge of green sprouting across the formerly dry bushland. Our waterhole likely won't go dry this year.

The mine blasting has not disturbed us as much as we feared. Keeping fingers crossed that this remains the case. The mine's 24-hour work schedule does result in illuminated southern sky at night, looking much like the aliens have landed.


Kookaburras like to perch on top of this unused pipe which is leaned against a tree near the house. From there he can patiently scan the surrounding cleared ground for unwary skinks and bugs. He sometimes catches an unwary snake.

Kookaburra with snake

Spinning, like knitting and weaving, soothes my soul. My husband designed and presented me with a set of support spindles. I'm giving each spindle a trail run with cotton. The one below has an acrylic whorl with a laser cut out design and weighs around 22gm (about 3/4 oz). I'm lovin' it!


photos by J and post by M in JaM

Monday, 17 October 2011

My Auntie Ediee

Belle, Edith and me; 1948

Words come with difficulty as I puzzle over how to express my recollections of Auntie Ediee. My mother's younger sister, Auntie Ediee is there in my earliest memories, she's one of my mothers. And always, there are children and family around her. She knew how to knit the fabric of family together.

My earliest memory of her: I am a less than six years old and I play with my cousins inside, noisily, enthusiastically, several families together for a time, a tribe sharing a common space. The only adults in the room: Auntie Ediee sitting at a table and Uncle Roy standing beside her. I push a doll buggy past them, I realise she is crying, silently, tears rolling down her cheeks. I feel stunned. I want Uncle Roy to stop making her cry. But I know she doesn't want anyone to notice. She was probably 19 or 20.

A few years later, on Easter, our tribe went to the California foothills which were ablaze in golden poppies, for an egghunt. Cousin Roy Lee found a tiny bird's nest full of little eggs. What a glorious day. Years later I felt sure I had found that nest, but my sister said, no, Roy Lee found it. It took me a moment to readjust my memory and figure out what had happened - that Roy Lee seemed so much a part of me, that it had happened to me, too, when he found the nest.

When my parents moved to Oregon in 1951, Highway 101 was a two lane highway. Two cars pulling U-Haul trailers leapfrogged northward, one driven by Uncle Roy, the other by my Dad, hauling all our belongings, us kids plus the dog, to the dairy farm on the Winchuck River. Uncle Roy returned to his home in Southern California and with Aunt Ediee and the kids began making weekend visits to our place, leaving Southern California on Friday, helping Dad over the weekend, playing Canasta with my folks until late into the night, and returning south in time for work on Monday morning. Eventually they, too, packed up and moved in with us for a wonderful while. I loved having my younger cousins around, Roy Lee and I rode horses bareback until his pony's boney spine rubbed Roy Lee raw in an unfortunate place, and I know my Mom loved having her little sister for company.

Belle, Edith; 1953

Then one summer we moved in with Auntie Ediee and Uncle Roy after they had moved back to Petersburg, Virginia. Life in Virginia proved very different to me. Sheet lightning on humid summer afternoons left me awed. I had never encountered separate public drinking fountains for whites and blacks and I didn't want to drink at either. We had arrived in Virginia just in time for Debbie's birth. I don't know how we all fit in that house. Some afternoons we got treats from the ice cream truck that came through the neighbourhood and you had to eat it fast or Uncle Roy would attempt a raid on your cone. In those days before TV, he entertained us with fantastic ghost stories that left us deliciously frightened. Some days we ran outside when we heard the call: "Watermelon! Waaatermelon!" and stopped the man pushing a cart loaded with watermelon down the street. I learned to weave pot holders from a neighbor girl. She and I went from house to house, selling them as well as crocheted and starched, minature high heels that her mom made.  I remember Donna as a littlie with incredible, curly, red hair. Donna's most powerful threat when pushed to the limit: "I won't let you brush my hair anymore!" I remember Cheryl's big grin most of all. She usually had a twinkle in her eye.... but that sure didn't make her a pushover!

Both families ended up back on the West Coast, mainly in California, but the roving gene remained active. Roy Lee joined the Navy, Debbie ventured off to live in Africa for a while. Back in Northern California, Debbie encouraged Jerry and me to accompany her to see an incredible outdoor performance by a drama group traveling entirely by horse drawn wagons, down the West Coast, from Canada to Mexico. After the performance, we chatted with some of the performers. Someone exclaimed: "Oh, I'd love to do what you're doing, but....!" The performer replied, "You can do it. You just have to decide to do it." Bless your heart, Debbie, for taking us there.

Carrying the roving gene, I've moved halfway around the world to Australia, and I miss gathering with our family, our tribe, in memory of my beloved Auntie Ediee. I grapple with the loss of one of foundation stones of my life's beginnings. And that is how the cycle of Life and Death works.

Aunt Ediee continued to travel back and forth her whole life, spending time with her loved ones, and that special family circle continued to grow, to include grandchildren and great grandchildren as well as more distant cousins . She had to travel this last trip alone, surrounded by loved ones at the outset and surely surrounded by love on her arrival at Heaven's Gate.

Edith, 2002, Scotland (photo by Debbie)
Love and Peace to you all.

by M in JaM

Monday, 10 October 2011

Ready for a Spin?

Rainbow lorikeets in the grevilleas outside our bedroom (in September) make a lively contrast to the white cotton I've been spinning.

I've learned to spin cotton, thanks to the generousity of strangers. Last year a fellow found one of our old websites and emailed to ask if I'd be interested in having his mother's long stored spinning equipment and fibres. She was going into a nursing home. Amongst the supplies he passed along to me, I found cotton top (processed fibres aligned for spinning), a homemade support spindle and a series of printed lessons on handspinning from a Flying Arts correspondence course available in the '80s. This year I had the opportunity to give cotton spinning a go.

I already knew how to spin wool, silk and alpaca. But I had never used a support spindle nor spun cotton. My first efforts left me feeling very frustrated, I just couldn't get the hang of it. The booklet's instructions regarding support spindles and cotton were... brief.

I turned to YouTube and Ravelry to see how others managed. Total strangers provided useful videos and the best advice: practice 15 minutes a day for a month.

Though I improved over the month, I continued to have trouble drafting the fibres. One problem: long term storage had compacted the cotton top. But there was something else. Whenever I ran into drafting difficulties, I began examining the fibres with a magnifier. I discovered a prickly vegetal bit at the centre of each clumpy section. Fragments of seed hull? Since this cotton top came from the '80s, it was almost surely not intended for a handspinner, but instead meant for use in a spinning mill where inclusion of small vegetal bits would not be a big problem. For this handspinner, those vegetal bits made spinning laborious and slow.

I searched for any website relevant to cotton handspinning and finally discovered Cotton Spinning with Joan Ruane. What a treasure! Joan has developed Easy To Spin Pima Cotton, a vegetal-free form of pima cotton top, specifically for handspinners. I ordered a pound from Cotton Clouds, one of the retailers that carry Joan's product. My cotton spinning went from being a chore to being a pleasure! I'm now spinning this cotton on a support spindle and on my Ashford Traditional wheel with no problems.

What shall I do with my skeins of handspun cotton yarn? Wash and weave.

M in JaM

Monday, 3 October 2011


The past two years have whipped past, leaving major changes in their wake.

Sadly, amongst the changes – Bear, my daughter's father, died. This unique man saw me through radical changes over many years and remained one of my oldest friends. There are no words to fully express the enormous gap his absence leaves in many lives.

Lyricist Robert Hunter says it best in the closing lines of “An Anthem for the Bear”:

“No bucolic Heaven for such as Bear,
rather a Rock of Ages from where
an eagle in full flight might dare
a sudden detour into endless dawn.
Sail on, dear brother Bear, sail on.”
Robert Hunter
March 20, 2011

Life has a way of taking away with one hand and giving with the other. Just to keep some balance in life and to remind us of the joy in living: four grandchildren appeared! Three grandsons (including a pair of twins) and one granddaughter. Am I stretching the term grandchildren? as strictly speaking, we don't all share genetic relationships? In matters of the heart and family, yes, I do claim them all as grandchildren and count myself very lucky.


I could wish for the extra energy that flows in younger grandmothers, but instead I'm learning to recognise my physical limits and appreciate whatever time I get to spend with the grands. Two of them live on another continent. And that limits our involvement in their lives. Internet helps bridge the gap.

Even our home is undergoing changes. We now live with the sound of blasting at the newly reopened mine three kilometres (1-1/2 miles) behind us. Already the sky glows all night long in that direction as they work round the clock, although mine management assured us at a public meeting that the mine would only run between 6am and 10pm. Likewise, the blasting was to start in mid October. Their first blast occurred 26 September. They said they would only blast at 2pm. The most recent blast occurred at 4pm.

Between grandchildren and mining, our quiet solitude and dark night skies may be a thing of the past. We remind ourselves to count our blessings.

by M in JaM