Sunday, 27 November 2011

What? No news?

I find it easier to play with images than to write. I have no riveting news to offer. Most days I engage with one other person, J, plus the dog. I do not feel isolated. I love our lifestyle. Radio, tv, telephone and internet work to keep us embedded in the current culture.

But, my quandary returns. What shall I write when I have little news? Shall I follow the common lead of media and write to stir the emotion of fear?

During the middle of the night, the dog panicked and woke us. J got up and set about calming her. We both heard the next gunshot. A few more followed, paced, not hurried. Likely, it was the neighbours, who have a herd of goats, and they were shooting at wandering dogs. Their practice has made me uneasy since a guest heard a bullet whip past our balcony during the day. Said guest had worked as paramedic in Oakland and San Francisco and said he knew the sound of flying bullets. Later, our neighbours admitted that they had been shooting at birds in their orchard. They seemed surprised that a bullet would go that far.

But, I'd rather write about my craftwork which leaves me feeling productive and virtuous.

I've finished darning some hand-knit, wool socks and now they're ready to be packed away until next winter. I've learned to knit AND darn socks in the last few years. I used handspun yarn for these repairs. Its light colour contrasts with the dark sock yarn and made it easier to see what I was doing while darning. A pair of magnifiers also helped. J's pair was originally knit with handspun 2 ply wool. It showed wear under the ball of his foot. His heels looked fine, thanks to me reinforcing the heel with mohair when I knitted them. My heels were not reinforced and showed wear. Darn, I'm glad I got that chore done and boy, did it make me feel good.

Reflecting on the idea of how we are embedded in our culture, I realise that I am also reminded of my present moment in the world by the changing seasons and the appearance of specific flowers, insects, birds and reptiles.

A few years ago our friend Isabelle gave us a collection of plants for our shaderoom. A couple of days ago, for the first time, one plant* flowered, for a few hours (photo above). The blossom closed at the end of the day and hasn't re-opened. The shaderoom protects our house from the hot afternoon sun. It contains a variety of ferns, bromelliads and such, plus a fish pond in a very large pot. J rigged a misting system that doesn't use much water but keeps the plants happy and that daily misting helps keep the house cool.

Fads help us feel in tune with the times, consumer-wise. But they run their course and then sometimes turn into icons of past eras. We're getting rid of our teflon/nonstick cookware. It always seemed to stick eventually and then require replacing. (Perhaps something to do with the way we cook.) We dug out two old skillets (fortunately I hadn't gotten rid of them even though they are almost 40 years old), gave them a good clean and re-seasoned them. One is enamel, inside and out. The other is enamel on the outside except for the bottom which is stamped: Coussance Made in France. The inside bottom is ground iron and quite flat. We are having such good results in cooking with them that we wonder why we ever stopped using them! A teflon veil has fallen from our eyes....

Now J wants to find a spatula, but not just any spatula, to use with these skillets. He wants a flexible, stainless steel spatula that is flat across the end with rounded corners. No luck with his search, so far. He can find lots of teflon coated spatulas out there.

*Isabelle, please remind me of the name of this plant.
ETA: Isabelle says it's some sort of philodendron

post by M in JaM

Monday, 21 November 2011


This beautiful baby boy demonstrated the family gene for impatience, like his twin cousins, and arrived a bit early. He's doing well. What is it about these boys that make them so determined to arrive early? Don't they know about the family tradition of being late?? I suspect this little one will continue to surprise us. And that's a good thing, right? I find my heart smiling.

You can see I've continued to play with GIMP, the image editor. I know, my announcement uses non-traditional colours for a baby boy, but he is a Scorpio, after all. And somehow, I'm pretty sure he's going to be non-traditional....

J has designed a new, you beaut, spindle holder for me and I love it.

Laser cut out of translucent grey acrylic and wood, it provides a variety of places to set numerous spindles.

I have ample space below to store support spindle dishes and extra whorls.

Warm weather has led to the expected arrival of skinks in our house. Inside, we humans and the dog tolerate these little critters. We rescue them when they accidently slip into the sink and can't escape. Safer inside than outside for them. It's a jungle out there. This skink contemplates the option of living on a knife's edge.

post by M in JaM

Monday, 14 November 2011

Wasps, Learning and Celebrations

Paper wasp nest

Our (almost) daily walk takes us past a good sized paper wasp nest fastened to a barbed wire fence. We made a little detour to avoid disturbing the wasps as I had no desire to repeat a previous experience of being stung repeatedly while desperately running as fast as I could while my husband yelled: Keep Running!

Something got the wasp nest. It's completely gone. What hungry night predator managed to pluck that nest off the barbed wire? Always a shock when things disappear from one's life, even when it's something like a wasp nest.

Since we switched our computer to a Linux type operating system called Ubuntu (thanks to a helpful son-in-law), I've had to start learning to use an image editor called GIMP. Actually, I grizzled and resisted learning for a long time. But wouldn't you know, I found some good tutorials on YouTube. I followed one of GIMPtricks' tutorials to make this image:

We celebrated J's birthday. Every year he says, No Party! I know he's happy staying home and working on projects or learning about new things via the internet. He's currently taking a free online course from Stanford University on Artificial Intelligence. No worries about him exercising his brain. You can find out more about some of his projects at

As his birthday approached this year, he repeated his mantra: No Party! It took some doing, but seeing as this was a decade birthday, I managed to cajole him into getting together to celebrate with a handful of people in town, the youngest being one year old twins and the eldest being a new friend who just turned 96. I have to admit I liked the part about no baking, no cooking, no clean-up. Just visiting and enjoying ourselves.

Remember to enjoy yourselves, readers, to laugh and appreciate those around you. And allow others to appreciate you.   

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Jacaranda Time

Jacaranda and Flame Trees in blossom

We're having a colourful Spring season on the Atherton Tablelands with jacaranda, flame trees, silky oaks and bougainvillea erupting in masses of blossoms.

Bougainvillea Entry
The weekend included some thunder. The dog wanted me sitting in an armchair and wanted her bed shoved as close as possible. Confined to the chair, I kept myself busy by wrangling wool into a form that's easier to spin.

This wool has given me a bucketload of frustration even though I love the colours of this hand-dyed wool top from an independent dyer. In my first forays at spinning it on the wheel, it stubbornly resisted any attempts to draft it. (Could this be some sort of '60s karma?) I wrote an angry letter to the source... and didn't send it. I wanted to better understand what was happening. And that took time.

Persevering, I produced a couple of sample skeins which revealed the two main problems with the top: 1.) second cuts and slubby bits, and 2.) remnants of sticky dye chemicals (though little or no bleeding during wash of handspun). I do really like the dyer's colourway.

With some hours of extra work I've wrangled* most of that wool until it drafts well enough that I can produce the yarn I want. I can't say it's a pleasure to spin. I'm just glad I'm not a beginning spinner. Did I mention that I do like the colours?

Here is more local colour and it makes me feel happy:

Bougainvillea at hillside home

*wrangled: if you're interested, here are details about the wrangling:
I split my wool top lengthwise into seven strips. Doing my best to avoid disrupting the parallel arrangement of the fibres, I widened each strip and carefully plucked out slubby bits. I gently worked to separate sticky fibres in the most intense colour areas. I softly rolled up each strip, with tail to inside, to maintain colour order. This preparation enabled me to spin semi-worsted yarn with grist of 4000m/kg.

NOTE: wool top is a "rope-like" arrangement of parallel wool fibres

NOTE2: some spinners do not believe in splitting top lengthwise. My belief system is pragmatic, craftwise: I do what works for me.

photos by J in JaM
post by m in JaM