Summer Dew Point

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The End Result

It’s early this morning. The sun is barely up. I can tell it will be a blue sky and the sunrise out my east window has all the colors of the rainbow. The birds are starting to sing. In fact, it was the constant call of the oriole right outside my bedroom window that woke me up at 5 am. But it’s hard to get angry with him when I get to hear the mourning doves and other birds waking up, and I get to see this beautiful sunrise. I’m going to miss this place.
May Morning
My sunrise this morning. Wouldn’t this make nice colors for spinning?

Oh, I probably haven’t told you that I am heading back to western South Dakota. I will be working with one of my best friends (who happens to be my former supervisor) for the month of June. She called last week, and since it’s hard to turn down seeing family and friends while earning a little money, I will be leaving tomorrow morning.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about today. I want to show you my first hand made roving. I am so excited about doing this. A couple of months ago, I learned how to do drum carding. Although I was pleased with my black Icelandic, it was not quite what I expected. I wondered how everyone got the beautiful roving that they spin. Did everyone send them off for processing? Now I told you that I was new to world of wool processing and I had not even heard of Combs, or Viking Combs or English Combs. So I was excited to try something new. And I want to show you the results.
Dyed Locks
The locks ready to comb.

These are the colors that came out of the dye pot. The blue is called Hubby’s Blue. He didn’t like any of the pure Cushing colors, so I mixed this one up for him. I figured if he had a hand in the processing, he would be more understanding about all the various stages of fleece sitting in bags and boxes all over the house. I was right; there has been very little grumbling.

Connie (who has all the tools needed for processing wool) told me she didn’t really care about combing, and lent me her set of English combs. But she didn’t really explain how to do it, and there were no instructions. So I went to You Tube. Have you been to that site? Just about anything you want to learn is on a video now days. And I was not disappointed. I found the instructional video done by Amanda Hannaford from England. She is considered one of the premier spinner/dyers of that country. Her videos are very good and are easy to follow. And Amanda is so very nice. She really helped me. I had a question about the ratio of oil to water used in prepping the locks. After looking on the web everywhere, and not finding an answer, I sent her an email. She answered very quickly and even complimented my yellow locks in the last blog. Aren’t fiber people wonderful?

After I got my answer, I put her videos back on and did my first combing while watching her. And here is my first batch of yellow. Thank you Amanda, it worked.
Ready for Planking
The yellow slivers, ready for planking.

Then I combed some of the blue. Since I had to start getting things ready to leave, I did not do any white. I’ll do that when I come home. But I couldn’t wait to do some blending, so I made a small roving from the yellow and blue I had done. It’s my first, and certainly not perfect. But I think it’s beautiful. And I hope it will spin well. Since I’m taking my drop spindle to Rapid, I’ll wait and try it there.
First Roving
My first roving.

I am really excited about these combs. I know some people think they are labor intensive. But I found it relaxing, like combing a small longhaired dog on my lap. So I will buy the combs from Connie for a very decent price. And when I get home, I will finish combing the Shalom Hills fleece. Once it is spun and knitted, I will be able to say, “I made that” and really mean it.

Well, the sun is up. Hubby and the dogs are still not stirring, but I’m ready for another cup of coffee. Then I need to start my day, cleaning and packing. Too bad I don’t have time to comb some more. Oh well, next month.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wool in Sheep's Clothing

It is amazing to me that when you see white sheep in the field, they really look white. White and curly and cute. And when you buy roving, it is so soft, white and clean. So when I started learning to deal with wool from shearing to roving, I got a big surprise.

Sheep Grazing, New Zealand by Mick Roessler

Shalom Hills, a Lutheran retreat and working farm, is only about 9 miles from here. My brother-in-law, Norm, is one of the hired hands there. He does a variety of jobs, but one of them is care of the animals. They have goats, sheep and now a llama. We don’t have any idea what kind of sheep these are, except they are part Corriedale. This year, Norm called Connie and me over when they were shearing the sheep. We had asked to buy a fleece and he wanted us to pick it out, on the hoof. Now I know absolutely nothing about how to pick good quality wool, though I am trying to learn. I am so inexperienced that I’m not even sure of the correct terminology. I was expecting course short wool and didn’t care. I really wanted this fleece to learn the process and to practice on. So the shearer picked out one of last year’s lambs for me. I was pleasantly surprised with the length and the crimp. But I was very dismayed to see the color, all the dirt and the straw and grass. The big yearling had looked so white in the corner of the barn.

My raw white wool. Yuck. Will it ever be white?

I definitely had second thoughts about spending any money on this dirty stuff. Do I really want to buy this? It looked like I would never be able to work with it. But then Margaret, co-owner of the farm told Connie and me that we could have the fleece, because Norm does so much work for them. She wouldn’t charge us anything (thank you, Norm). Well, for free, I’d try it. So I brought it home and put it in my shop to deal with later. I read articles and more articles on washing wool, picking and carding wool and combing wool. According to them, even the dirtiest wool will come clean and can be worked with. And after reading them, I realized this wool was not THAT bad (I hoped).

Well, later is here. I have been washing wool for 2 days. And since this was at no cost, I decided to experiment and have also been dyeing it. And look what I have now.
Canary yellow, ready to comb. Blue is in the dye pot right now.

I guess all the books and articles really do know what they are talking about. After washing, dyeing and sorting for the combs, it looks like I have some very nice wool. And the wool I left natural really does look white. Hubby is thrilled….no more smelly raw wool in the house.

So now on to the next step, combing the locks. I have decided to try combing, since I have already done the picking and carding thing. Connie lent me her English Combs (didn’t I tell she was good to me?) and I will try them in the next couple days. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Pond Story

Looking out my window it’s another gray, humid day. And with the gray, we hope the rain will come. The high heat and hot hard winds have dried out my beautiful green haven. So if the rain doesn’t come today, I’ll be out there with buckets of water, giving all my plants and the new trees a little help.

That reminds me of the garden I left in Piedmont. I had different flower gardens all over the yard. And it was a very big yard; a full quarter of a city block. I had the Iris Garden, the Shade Garden, the Pond Garden, the Butterfly Garden, the Bog Garden and various other themed ones. I had 52 rose bushes. It took all my free time just to maintain that yard, and when I got sick, poor Hubby had to take over. When we moved here, he pleaded with me to not do so many gardens. So I have tried to concentrate my flowers in 2 areas and mostly planted hardy perennials. I now have my Orchid House Garden, used for bringing out my house plants in the summer. That is planted with hostas, peonies and iris. I have peonies brought from Piedmont and slips of my mother’s peonies around the house. I have the day lily bed that was here when we moved in and a scattering of lily varieties in both areas. The last flower garden is my Shade Wildflower Garden tucked up against the house. And now I have my Pond Garden again. It also is planted with hostas, peonies and iris.

The Orchid House
The Orchid House and last fall’s new garden.

The pond garden has a long story. I have already told you about my second, or third, or fourth cousin Ester’s house with the cement pond in the back yard. That was when I was about 10. It took over 35 years to get my own pond. For years, garden ponds were out of vogue and you couldn’t find any information or supplies for them. Then about 10 years ago, they came back into popularity again. I lucked out when a coworker decided she didn’t want to deal with maintaining a pond in her yard. I got the pond and pump with all the fixings for nothing. So Hubby put it in for me, tucked away in the Shade Garden surrounded by hostas, ferns and lily of the valley. It was a wonderful haven after a day at work. I spent hours out there with my feet in the pond, my toes being nibbled on by the goldfish, and the wind chimes whispering in the breeze.

Piedmont Pond Garden
My Haven in Piedmont.

But we moved, and my pond, and in fact the gardens were a huge selling point. So it got left behind. Hubby promised me another pond which I finally got last summer. And we spend hours clearing trees and burdock to put it in. This one too was put in a shady area, cut into the grove, to protect it from the hard south winds. I planted hostas, lily of the valley and left the beautiful wild violets. I had the wind chimes going and again sat with my feet in the pond (no goldfish this time. I am afraid the raccoons will eat them). All were growing and my haven was complete.

Then last August, the septic system gave out and we had to put in a new one. Guess where? Yep. Right in the middle of my Pond Garden. So Hubby and I spend a horrible 10 hours, in high heat and humidity, scrambling to move my plants and pull the pond out. We cleared another area out of the grove, beside my Orchid House garden and planted all the plants. The pond would not work there, so we put it up in the barn and concentrated on making the new shade garden and hoping the poor plants would take the transplant in late August. And as of today, it looks like all the plants made it.

Starting the Pond Garden

The start of the Pond Garden this week.

So finally this week, we re-did the pond garden. I had been gradually clearing another area and had planted some bushes already. We dug the pond in and moved a lot of BIG rocks from all over the grove. We got the pump working yesterday and filled the pond. There is still a lot to do; like finishing the mulching, moving over wind chimes and defining edges. But I again have my pond, and I can again sit with my feet in the water and relax. It just doesn’t get much better for me than running water, flowers, wind chimes and the birds singing. And all this in a green haven.

The Pond is Running
The Pond up and running. Just a few things left to do.
(No, the swans aren't real).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Quiet Thank You

OK, I have been thinking about this for awhile and I decided to do it now. Then I don’t want to talk about it again.

While looking out my east window (the sunrises are incredible), I was trying to think of all the things I love about being here. One of the reasons is I have time to work with fibers. For years, I have loved working with fibers, learning about heirloom crafts, and working with wool. I started my wool journey with
Traditional Rug Hooking, and have evolved into spinning, weaving, knitting and crocheting with it. I now start with the raw fleece, and someday hope to have my own sheep to shear.

Still Night at Murphy's Landing
Still Night at Murphy’s Landing; a rug hooking of Connie’s home.

Hubby and I found this place while staying with my sister, Connie. Now Connie is older than I am, and growing up, I really didn’t know her. In fact, she was in a completely different generation. While I was a Hippie, Connie was already married and living in the responsible world. I never understood her, and I know she didn’t understand me. My other sister, Cara, and I were closer in age and closer in lifestyles. And we were good friends. But in 1999, all that changed. Cara died at age 50. Now they say that some people die for a reason or that because of a death, lives change forever. That is the case with Connie and me. Because of Cara’s death, we became closer, and we became friends. I finally started looking at the lifestyle she and her husband had chosen, and I liked it. A simple homestead way of life. They earned their money with Historical Interpretation; Connie as a spinner and weaver and Norman as a wood worker. So when we started looking for a place to retire, we looked around their neighborhood. And found Anniversary Grove, just 6 miles north of them.

Weaving at Murphy's LandingConnie weaving at Murphy’s Landing.

Since moving here, Connie has taught me to spin and lent me one of her wheels until I could get my own. She taught me to weave and lent me one of her looms until Hubby could build mine. She helped me hone my knitting skills, introduced me to all the fiber people she knows and shared her knowledge. And finally, she has supported my dreams and ideas; encouraging me to try them all.
Autumn under the Maple TreeMy first weaving, Autumn under the Maple Tree.

May MulberriesMay Mulberries; a weaving I did with roving I dyed myself.

I am good at expressing my emotions to some, and not so good expressing them to others. And I have a hard time doing so with Connie. Perhaps because we have only really known each other for a few years. So I want to thank Connie here, for everything she has done for me. A quiet, long distance THANK YOU.

And now, I don’t want to talk about it ever again.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Wonderful Weekend

Today, I was looking out my south window. It is humid and green, with a lot of branches on the ground. Tuesday’s wind was terrible. They said the gust were up in the 45 mph range. I will have to disagree. I think the sustained winds were at least that and the gust up in the 60. But it doesn’t really matter what the speed of the wind was, only that it did some damage again. The wind from the south is the one that hits us the hardest, and the poor trees take the brunt of it. So today I will have to go out and pick up branches AGAIN. And later, we will have to go through the grove and see if any trees got broken or blown over. But I still love it here.

While mentally cursing the wind I was also remembering this wonderful weekend. It was one filled with meeting new people and reconnecting with others. All that, and wonderful weather too. What’s not to like?

Saturday was the monthly meeting of Stitches in Time. My sister Connie, friend Jody and I started a group to try to bring together natural fiber crafters, with the emphasize on heirloom crafts. It’s a gathering of crafters who would share their talents and teach others. Between Connie, Jody and I, we can spin, weave, knit, crochet, embroider, tat, and do various other old time crafts. We now have a lady that does hardanger, a couple of women who do net darning, a woman that does Swedish or huck weaving and some who come to learn. Others bring their projects and just come to socialize. This was a great Saturday; nine women, including my daughter, who came to knit and relax.

Gab and Gossip

Making New Friends: Jody and daughter Brook.

Teaching Tatting

Tatting Lesson: Katie, Connie and LeAnn.

Then on Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, Connie and I headed to South Dakota. We meet our mother at the farm of her cousins. Actually they are children of her cousin, and we had never met them. Jerry and Ruth, brother and sister, are some of the nicest people I have met in a long time. We were greeted very warmly and welcomed into their home. Sunday was spent looking around the 4th generation farm and learning the history of their segment of our family. The house is built overlooking the north fork of the Yellowstone River in NE South Dakota. Ruth is an avid gardener and the flower gardens are beautiful. I would like someday to go back and see the rest of her flowers in bloom. Jerry takes care of all of the bird feeders, the chickens, and the guinea fowl. Monday we were taken on a tour of the towns that our grandfather knew. We saw the house of one of our great aunts; a house I remember visiting when I was young. I have always remembered that trip, because Cousin Ester had a cement pond in the yard and I helped her bring out the water lilies from her basement. I always wanted a garden pond after that. And yes, I have one now. That will be another day, another story.

Out Their Window
Looking from Jerry and Ruth’s deck to the river.

Ruth's Tulips
One of Ruth’s gardens.

One of the best discoveries was that Ruth has Great Aunt Millie’s spinning wheel. We didn’t even know she was a spinner. I guess it might be in the blood after all. Ruth gave Connie a box of wool that Great Aunt Millie had been spinning from. Now Millie was born in 1878 and died in 1963 so that’s some old wool. It is a beautiful wheel that the family has taken wonderful care of. Both Connie and I were drooling. Then we met Ruth’s son, who farms the place and raises Rambouillet/Targhee sheep. We missed the shearing this year, but I hope that next year Mark will let us get a couple of fleece to try out. And his wife may start spinning, so the wheel will be used again.

Aunt Millie's Wheel

Great Aunt Millie’s Spinning Wheel.


Tom Turkey across the River.

I saw two things this weekend that I have never seen in the wild; a beaver and a loon. Along with that were the many birds, the turkey across the river and deer. Their place is truly a haven. It was a lovely short trip, and I am so glad I went. Thank you Ruth and Jerry, take care until I see you again.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Birds, Birds and More Birds

Another nice day in SW Minnesota; nice if you like drizzle, which I do. We have planted so many new trees and hedges that I am grateful for the rain.

Today I was looking out my east window with a cup of tea, watching the drizzle and the birds at one of our feeding stations. And I remembered I wanted to tell you about our birds.

Anniversary Grove has 5 ½ acres, most of which is trees. So we get hundreds of birds. It helps that we have 2 feeding stations that we use year-round. Every year I keep a list of birds we have seen, and when they come in. Every year the list gets bigger. So we now have an idea of when some of the species will come in. This year the list is up to 39 different birds, so far.

We have the normal yearly residents like the goldfinch, the hairy and downy woodpeckers, both varieties of nuthatch and the black capped chickadees. The juncos come in the fall and leave around the middle of April to head north. We are in a migration flight path and see thousands of geese, swans and cranes going over our area starting in March. They do the return migration in late fall. We’ve seen the male cardinal twice, but cannot get him to stay. Hubby’s favorite visitor is what he calls “the yellow butts”. Yellow-rumped warblers come through in the middle of April and stay about a week. They are headed north too. The last visitors passing through came in last week, and are still here. The Lapland Longspur is a very pretty medium sized bird with a big appetite. They are supposed to be on their way to the arctic to breed. They’d better get going, or the short summer up there will pass them by.

Lapland Longspur
Lapland Longspur. Sorry it’s fuzzy. He would not hold still.

The summer residents started with the robins coming in on March 7 this year. Then on the 5th of April, hundreds of them showed up. I have never seen so many birds of one variety together, ever. Hubby and I lost count of them. After about 2 weeks of eating everything they could find, most of the robins moved on. We still have about 20 breeding pairs left that will stay all summer. We get most of the varieties of blackbirds, from grackles to yellow-headed ones. Cedar waxwings came in the middle of March and I think they are still here, down in the grove. I can hear them, but not see them. And of course, my favorite, the mourning dove shows up April. We have a large variety of sparrows, some wrens, warblers and flycatchers. The elusive veery and brown thrasher stay in the bottom of the grove and are mostly heard, but not seen. The yellow bellied sapsucker, flicker and red bellied woodpecker have joined our other woodpeckers. We have one very confused male hairy woodpecker that thinks he’ll find a mate by tapping on sheet metal; ALL DAY! I think he’ll be very disappointed this year. The rose-breasted grosbeak showed up a couple of days ago and this morning we finally saw our pair of wood ducks.

Rose-breasted grosbeak
Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. More beautiful than this picture shows.

OK, OK….Hubby keeps asking me, “Did you tell them?” So I’ll tell you. The hummers are here. They came in 2 days ago. For someone that claims to not care about “those stinking birds”, he is always letting me know what he has seen. And he spends hours in the summer, watching the birds with me. He is so excited to see the hummingbirds show up. He’d been pestering me to put up the feeders, so I did on Wednesday morning. And within an hour I saw a male ruby-throated eating.

As excited as I was about the hummingbird, I got a bigger surprise about an hour ago. While trying to get a photo of the Lapland Longspur for you, an indigo bunting showed up at the feeder. They are the most beautiful blue bird. So now I have proof that they actually come here.

Indigo Feeder
Indigo Bunting at the feeder.

We’re still waiting for a few late stragglers to show up. The Baltimore oriole, the orchard oriole and the sleek catbird should be here soon.

I hope this gives you an idea of the bird life here. I didn’t name all the species because this blog is getting really long. And yes, at times the noise is deafening. But most of the time it is like listening to a mystical choir sing.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Country Dream

Well, one day into this blogging and I think I may have made a mistake. I didn’t sleep well last night. I had so much going through my head, so many things I want to write about. I didn’t realize that I had so much to say. Will all these thoughts make me crazy? Or will the blog help me keep some sanity? This should be an interesting journey.

First, I’d like to thank everyone out there that welcomed me so warmly to Bloggerland. It’s nice to be part of such a friendly community.

Today, I’m looking out to the east. The day is warm and humid. I love this kind of day. Coming from western South Dakota, where humidity is scarce, this is so refreshing for me. When Hubby and I started looking for a place to move, I only asked for a couple of things; somewhere green and somewhere we could do the hobbies we enjoyed. We found all that here. Don’t you just love country living?

This brings me to the point of today’s blog. Why did we move to the country? Why did we move to SW Minnesota? Many people have asked me this. And I really don’t have a clear answer. Or a simple one. The pat answer that I give is we got tired of living in the Black Hills, which to us have gotten overcrowded, stressful and greedy. But that’s a rambling for another day. So we looked for something better. And we started looking by going to my sister’s place here in SW Minnesota. After coming over here a few times, we finally found Anniversary Grove. Hubby originally said, NO. He wanted in a town, close to hospitals, with city water and someone else to plow the roads. But it only took the 7 hour trip back to South Dakota to decide we wanted this place. So when we got home, he called the real estate agent. And things just clicked. You know it’s the right move if everything works; if there are no bumps in the road. And he loves it here as much as I do.

But I think the real answer is that I wanted out: out of the city, out of the hurried life there. And on to somewhere that I had dreamed about for years, in the back edges of my mind. Somewhere quiet, somewhere alone and especially, somewhere safe. Safe from what? I don’t know. I just know I feel safe here. And in finding my safe place, I also found what I want to be when I grow up. I want to have a couple of sheep and use my own wool to spin, weave, dye and sell. Unfortunately, I am growing up too late.

Storm's Coming
No Room for Sheep

Hubby says no to the sheep. He is supporting me in all other aspects of my dream. But to be fair to him, he is probably right about the sheep. There are several reasons why it is impractical. #1: MY HEALTH AND HIS HEALTH. We are both young retirees, but I have heart problems (triple bypass 6 years ago) and Hubby is physically disabled. He doesn’t want me out there in the middle of winter trying to care for animals and vice versa. #2: WE DON’T HAVE THE LAND TO SUPPORT SHEEP. Or we do have enough for a couple of sheep, but it’s not fenced (see reason #1) and most of it is wooded (see blog #1). And lastly, #3: WE DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT RAISING HERD ANIMALS. Our experience has been most dogs, and some cats. I mean, what exactly is scours?

Orkney Shetlands
Shetland Lambs (not my photo, but I can wish)

Where's the sheep?
Where's the Sheep?

So right now I am living vicariously through my sister, who has 2 sheep, and the many blogs that I read about women out there raising their own sheep. But I haven’t given up my dream. I may just have to take a different path to the same end.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

An Introduction

I am starting this blog with excitement and some trepidation. I have been reading my sister’s blog, Ash Lane Farm, for a few years and from there I have found others that I have really enjoyed. So I finally decided to join in the blog community.

I spent some time wondering, what will I write about? Will it be interesting enough for someone else to read, will I have enough to say? Then I decided to just write for myself. And hopefully you will enjoy reading about my life here at Anniversary Grove.

This is the photo of our house built in 1910. The photo was taken around 1920. You can see bushes and a fence with a shed to the north. But notice there are no trees. The second photo was taken yesterday.

Anniversary Grove

Original photo of our house built in 1910.


Our house today. A major work in progress.

Not only can you see all the work that it will take to fix up the house, but you can see trees. And more trees, some of which are very big. There is a large grove to the west and to the north of the house. It was not taken care of for years, so it is overgrown with buckthorn trees. And the mulberry trees are trying to take over the buckthorn. The original elms are dying of Dutch elm disease, so falling branches and dead trees are everywhere. But here are some very nice trees that we are trying to save; a huge scotch pine, a very large maple and some huge old black willow trees. Every year we get a little more dead wood burned and more of the nasty buckthorn and mulberry saplings cleared out. Hubby has made cleaning up the grove his new hobby.

Since the name of the blog is “The View out My Window”, I would like to describe to you the views that I see. Out my west window is the grove, with some areas cleared for my flower garden and a pond garden. Not all the trees are in full leaf yet, but the predominate color is green. The wildflowers are starting to bloom and the birds are everywhere. I’ll give you the varieties of birds on another day.


Wild Violets in the grove.

Out the north window you can see our north yard, our outbuildings, the old windmill frame, some more of the grove and then a field. The last 2 years the field was planted with corn, so I imagine that this year it will be soybeans.

Out the east window is a windbreak, then cornfields and CRP land. At least I hope it will be corn this year. Corn is much nicer to look at then soybeans, and it also serves as more of a windbreak. The photo at the top of the blog was taken looking east during a beautiful foggy sunrise.

Out the south window is our front yard, full of maple, ash, elm, and large mulberry trees. And beyond that is another field, which again, I hope will be corn. We have planted a hedgerow of lilacs, a hedgerow of red twig dogwood and a hedgerow of honeysuckle across the front. We are trying to slow down the horrible south winds that we get here. That predominate south wind blows most of the year now.

So that is what I see out my windows. Right now it’s green and beautiful. But in the winter, it is still wonderful. The closest neighbor is ½ a mile away. And normally, we only see 2-3 vehicles a day on the county road, which is a ¼ mile from the house. So it is calm, peaceful, and quiet. And I never want to leave. This is my forever home.

I hope that gives you an idea of my little slice of heaven. Please come by again. We’ll have a cup of tea and you can share the view out my window.