Monday, May 30, 2011

Birds Do It. Bees Do It. What About Pond Fish?

Yes, they do it, too. I am elated to announce that I am going to be a grandma. Lenny and Squiggy are in a family way. I have always known they were very affectionate towards each other. Sure, they are the only two fish in the pond. But still. They are always side by side. And this year I noticed that their bodies were shaped differently from one another. Lenny is short and squat while Squiggy is longer and leaner. And recently Lenny has been looking very bloated. I remember asking my friend, Kristine (who knows a lot about fish, having worked in a fish store) whether my fish would spawn and if so, at what age? She didn't seem hopeful, since my pond does not have a shallow area. It is a wine barrel with a plastic insert. But it DOES have a potted pygmy water lily, and apparently that was good enough for this amorous pair. Today I noticed that Squiggy was pestering poor Lenny more than usual. He is following her like a shadow, and at one point he almost pushed her up out of the water.

After I filmed this, I looked closer and saw the evidence of their love. Little eggs all over the side of the pond, and also all over the top of the water lily's pot.

The bees are having a busy weekend, too. They are bringing in pollen like nobody's business. It's hard to see, because they move so fast, but pay attention to the one bee that lands on the cinder block, near the end of the video. Look at her hind legs. See the pollen?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How Cold Is It?

It's so cold, even the baby spiders are cuddling up for warmth.

Today I resumed organizing my studio.
First I cleared this space along the back wall.

Then the husbeast and I lugged these two Ikea
Expidit shelves across the alley and up the stairs.

I promptly made a huge mess of them. I'm not going to show a picture until I get them nice and tidy. Reggie was helping me sort out my treasures when he stole this, one of the felted wool catnip "mice" I make.

I'll leave you with a photo of today's lunch. Ramen
with egg and chives from my urban homestead.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Yarn Tree In Bloom

My yarn tree has sprouted foliage. Now it doesn't look quite so pitiful. Most of this is 8/2 cotton, destined to become dishtowels. I have also ordered up a bit more, navy, dusty rose and pewter. I can see that I'll need to find a source for LOTS more white. With yarn prices going up this next month, I'm trying to get ahead of the game and stock up.

My fiber studio is still a chaotic mess. The husbeast has promised to help me bring some more shelving over, from the yarn shop, this Sunday. That should be a massive help. I've got so much stuff and no good place to store it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Whatever Happened To Spring!?!!!

It is May 25th, so why does it feel like winter? It is so damn cold in my house, but I absolutely refuse to turn on the heat. We usually turn off the furnace on April 1st. But this year we had it running until the middle of May. And, honestly, we could use it today. But I'm stubborn (and cheap) and will just put on a sweater. This was the storm that passed through, late this afternoon. The view is from my computer desk, looking out over my backyard and into the yarn shop parking lot.

June is less than a week away. Can we have some sun, please? Pretty please? I'm asking nicely. Our April showers brought...May showers. But also some May flowers. These are some of the blossoms currently decorating my yard.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I'm A Baby Murderer

Today, after work, Kristine and I went back into the hive to see what was going on. We were specifically looking for brood, which would mean the queen is doing her job. Once we opened the top box we saw that the bees were building some crazy comb structures. They had a comb ladder built to easily access the sugar syrup that I have placed over the hole in the inner cover. I decided not to use the front feeder as I already have enough problems with sugar ants in the backyard. Don't want to be advertising free meals. Kristine said we might as well leave the ladder because if we removed it, the bees would just build another. This top box was filled with bees and comb and lots of pollen. The bee girls are doing a bang up job of storing food. When I glanced through the top box, to where it met the second box, there was a big wad of comb with something glistening on it. It looked to me like they were making macaroni (they ARE Italians, after all). Kristine informed me those were the larva. Man, those are some fat, ugly babies. Unfortunately the queen had chosen a very bad spot to lay those eggs. We needed to pry off the top box, to look into that center box, and in doing so we sealed those poor babies' fates. Sorry babies. With the top box off we could look into the center box and see that the bees were choosing to use this as their brood chamber. When we moved this top box from the bottom box, we were puzzled to see that box was not really being used, except as a ladder. Kristine decided we should move that box into the middle, and put the brood box on the bottom. We moved a couple of the brood filled frames into that nearly empty box, so the bees would get the idea to fill it up. Then we put the top box back in place.

Oh, I almost forgot. I had my husband build some dummy frames, to fill the odd gaps in my boxes. They are supposed to be 8 frame boxes but there is almost enough room for a 9th frame. This left an awkward gap on one side. Now there are nice dummy frames filling those gaps. Thanks, husbeast!

Once we got the hive reassembled we went over to look at the chickens. When I glanced back at the hive entrance I noticed the bees were already chucking the dead bee baby carcasses out the front door.

So sorry, bees, but you shouldn't have had them in that spot. After I took this photo I scooped the baby bodies into a container and gave them to the chickens. I didn't want to leave them on the front porch to attract ants. And the poor bees were having a tough time grabbing their chubby bodies and trying to toss them off the bottom board and onto the dirt. There really isn't a good place to grab onto the larva to lift them.

A huge thanks to my mentor, Kristine. She makes it all look so easy and I couldn't do it without her help.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Laverne, The Wonder Chicken

That's her new name. Why? Because she's kept me wondering for nearly a month. Wondering if she's going to die....or get well? Wondering what the hell's the matter with her? Wondering if it's possible for a chicken to be a hypochondriac? She's a wonder chicken. If you've ever raised birds, you know that once they show signs of illness they are pretty much goners. So back when Laverne first showed symptoms I was extremely concerned. She acts like she's egg bound (which is supposed to be a dire emergency). I tried to help her with warm soaks in the tub and even a couple of mineral oil enemas (which she did not appreciate). Those measures didn't seem to do much, other than make her afraid of my approach, so I let her be and was allowing nature to take it's course. That was way back in the last week of April. I'm STILL waiting. She has managed to push out a couple of weird, soft shelled eggs. But nothing now for over 2 weeks. She still acts egg bound. Occasionally. And at other times she's her old energetic self. These videos were taken 2 days ago. She's the red hen. Does she look sick to you?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My "Work In Progress" Noro Sweater

For the first time, in a very long time, I am excited about a sweater I am knitting. In the past I have had to knit with the goal of being able to sell that particular yarn or pattern. I found that very restrictive. Especially having to knit in absolute accordance with the pattern. But this project is all about me. And I like to improvise. My sweater will be quite different from the one shown in the pattern's photo. I have altered the stitch gauge, to make the sweater longer, and added more rows to make it wider. Here are the back and 2 front pieces. I love that it is knit vertically, as I am getting quite pudgy in my old age.

I did not have enough of the Noro Kureyon yarn to knit the sweater with long sleeves, and I like 3/4 sleeves, anyway. Since the sleeves were supposed to be knit from the cuff to the shoulder I had to reverse engineer them to be knit from the shoulder down. When I ran out of yarn, that would determine the length of my sleeves. The sleeves are knit horizontally and I was able to manipulate the stripe sequence in order to make the sleeves identical (spit splicing is our friend).

I have barely enough of the Noro yarn left to seam up the pieces. I will use the solid color yarn (at the top of the first picture) to knit the trim and button bands. I may also add a little bit of crochet to the edges. We'll see. I chose brass colored buttons that have a woven pattern, in honor of my new weaving adventures.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Another Vintage Pendleton

Being an aspiring weaver and a lover of all things wool, I was intrigued to see this vintage Pendleton wool coat, offered on Craigslist, for a mere $7. The problem? It was way up north in Marysville, WA. I emailed the seller, anyway, and told them to let me know if they were ever passing through Tacoma. I forgot all about it until a couple of weeks later. I got an email letting me know their daughter was going to be participating in a sports tournament in University Place. Unfortunately this was right smack in the middle of my retirement sale, and there was no way I could leave the shop in order to drive over there. But the sellers were willing to deliver the coat to me, if I was willing to pay $10 for it. DONE! And it fits perfectly. The weather is too warm to wear it right now, but I'll wear the heck out of it next winter. It is in surprisingly good shape, for its age, and the fit and finish on the older Pendletons is superb.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Getting Ready To Weave

Closing a business is just as much work as starting one. The first few weeks of the sale were very hectic. Things have slowed down now. We are at our usual slow pre-summer pace. We still have quite a bit of yarn left so it looks like I will be keeping the shop open for 3 or 4 more weeks. I am closing on June 21st, no matter what. We have switched over to our summer hours, Tuesday through Saturday, 11am until 4pm, which gives me a little more time to try to whip my home back into shape.

I haven't made any more progress on my studio. I did acquire another loom (photos to come in a later post). It is a Schacht Wolf Pup which I bought used for $250 (mine is the one on the left). It came with a 12 dpi reed. I have ordered 3 more reeds for it, 8, 10 & 15 dpi. I also ordered a Wolf Trap to hold my shuttles and such. It's a good thing I got such a deal on the loom because it's cost me an additional $200 for the reeds and trap. It's difficult to find those used. I ordered the above mentioned supplies from The Woolery, in Kentucky. They had all the items I needed, in stock, and offer free shipping. I love free shipping. Oh, I almost forgot, they also had a special on 8/2 bleached cotton so I added a cone of that to my order.

Speaking of yarn orders, I ordered up 10 cones of colorful 8/2 cotton from Georgia Yarn Company. Michael was running a special, through May 22nd. I bought 10 cones and got a free cone of natural colored 8/2 cotton. He was all out of white, which was why I ordered that through the Woolery. I want to have lots of colors to play with so I can weave dish towels.

And where am I going to store all these cones of yarn? I found this awesome yarn tree on Craigslist for $15. It will hold 32 cones. This is just what I need to help get my studio in order. Here is a picture of the yarn tree, in my living room, holding my current pitiful assortment of weaving yarns (which came free with my looms).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My "New to Me" Loom

12 years ago, before I began my career as a yarn shop owner, I had 2 floor looms. A large Herald Loom (given to me) and a smaller width floor loom that was handmade (purchased, along with a spinning wheel, from an estate sale). I never got a chance to weave on either of them. One thing led to another and I soon found myself working full-time. The looms sat in my garage until 5 years ago when we moved to our current residence. At that time my husband convinced me to sell them. He wasn't overjoyed at the prospect of moving two heavy looms, and I conceded that I would never have time to weave until I retired. Well, guess what? I'm retiring. And the first thing I did was look for a loom. I was searching for a folding loom because my fiber studio is located in the upper level of my home. But an opportunity presented itself and I took it. Here is the newest addition to my studio, a J-Made 4 harness, 6 treadle loom.

This is actually a table loom that is converted to a floor loom by adding the bottom stand and treadles. It doesn't fold but it does separate into 2 pieces. To bring it home we put the actual loom (top half) inside my husband's Subaru and bungeed the stand (bottom half) to his roof rack. The loom came with the cute little bench, some shuttles, weaving books and some awesome weaving magazines from the 1950's. I got it all for $175, which was an amazing deal. I purchased it from a longtime customer who inherited it when her mom passed away. The daughter has absolutely no interest in weaving and her husband really, really wanted it out of his garage. They were both thrilled to know it was going to a good home. And I am thrilled to have a nice little loom to learn on.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Books & Magazines Are Sorted

This was my task for the day. And I worked hard at it. I told the husbeast, as he was leaving for work, "You're going to be shocked when you see how much I get done." Now I'm wondering if he'll even notice the difference. But I do, and I suppose that's what counts. At least now I'll be able to find the books and magazines when I need them. They are all sorted by craft: knitting, spinning, weaving, machine knitting, dyeing, felting, crocheting, etc....Sadly, this isn't even ALL of my collection. Some of it is still in boxes. But this is the majority of it. These shelves are flanking either side of my huge work table. Next up? Clearing off the work table. Then, if I can get all my spinning fiber under control, I just may have a tidy studio.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Borders Books Bargains

The local Borders Books is closing. Probably thanks to and the new e-book craze. This is a huge loss for Tacoma. A customer had stopped in, during my own clearance sale, and told me she had seen a book on dairy goats at Borders, and had thought of me. I couldn't get over there until this past Monday and was shocked at how bare the place looked. I wandered around, trying to find books on livestock or farming. I wandered upstairs, downstairs, and back upstairs again. I was just about to give up when I spied a row of books on "dogs". I was getting warmer. On the opposite side of this row I finally found books on livestock. I grabbed up 4 books on bees, 2 on goats and 2 on hobby farming.

I also found a couple of interesting gardening books. One on compost and one on gardening year round in unheated green houses.

I regret I didn't look through this one before bringing it home. I bought it based solely on the title. But when I got home and actually leafed through it I discovered it should really be titled "Off Grid Mansions".

These aren't any kinds of homes I'd be likely to afford. They are pretty to look at, though. And I'm sure we can glean a little useful information from it. But I wish I'd left it and brought home that book on ducks, instead.

This last book was my unexpected treasure of the day. I used to stock it in my shop and had sold the last copy thinking I could reorder. But then I made the decision to retire at this time and never had a chance to get the book back in. I was crouching low to the ground, searching the titles for farm type books when I spied this out of the corner of my eye.

Hurray! The one knitting book I was lusting after, and there it was. For 50% off. Why did I want this particular book?

It contains the knitting charts for making this baby sweater. I can take those charts and plug them into an adult pattern and have my very own bee sweater. I ended up spending over $130 for 12 books, but they were all half price.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Queen Has Emerged...

...long live the queen.

Yesterday I finally got a chance to open my hive and see how they were doing. I wanted to do it Wednesday, when the weather was nicer, but I was waiting for my bee mentor to have a free moment to be present. I was terrified to get in there on my own. NOT because I'm afraid of the bees. But I'm afraid of doing something stupid and hurting them. My mentor is like my security blanket. She stands by while I work the hive and offers helpful advice. We got a perfectly timed break in the drizzle, and in we went. How exciting to see that first lovely white comb being drawn out. My girls had been very busy. I didn't search for the queen, but made sure the cage was empty. We added another hive box and will check them again in 2 weeks and look for brood. I noticed that they've been bringing in lots of pollen. Go bees!

This is a bit of comb that they were building in a wonky shape. Kristine had me cut it out. Isn't it gorgeous? I think so.

Singha and Reggie have been very well behaved and don't seem to bother the bees at all. Sometimes Singha will sit in front of the hive and watch the activity. We call it kitty TV. He did the same thing when I had my fish tank set up. I found him his very own bee to play with. He seems to enjoy it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Gorgeous Sunday

The weather couldn't be nicer. Sunny and warm with just a bit of a breeze. My favorite kind of day and it's even better when it falls on one of my days off. The past 2 weeks have been incredibly busy. I have hardly had time to think, let alone get much accomplished. I have so much work to catch up on, but I also want to relax a bit and recharge my batteries. I took advantage of the sunshine and got a couple loads of laundry on the lines. And I intend to pull some weeds, but right now I am going to relax and write this blog post.

The bees have been enjoying our current nice weather. They are coming and going from the hive all day long. The apple tree is right next to the hive and I'd hoped to catch a picture of one of the girls on an open apple blossom. I stood still, camera ready. I stood, and I stood. There are literally thousands of bees, not 6 feet from the tree. You'd think one of them would land on a flower. Nope. That's not to say they weren't landing on the tree. But they seem much more interested in the leaves than the blossoms. I had to settle for the picture, above. Here's one of her sisters, near a blossom. That's the best they would do.

They have finally drained the sugar water from the entrance feeder. I'll refill it this evening, and add another jar feeder to the inside of the hive. I want to make sure they have plenty of energy for pulling out comb. Here's a gratuitous hive shot.

Some of you know that one of my chickens, the lovely Laverne, has been feeling under the weather. I suspect she may be egg bound. I have done everything I can for her. Warm sitz baths in the tub, with soothing back rubs. Mineral oil enemas (which she really didn't appreciate). She seems to be feeling a little better, so I am cautiously optimistic. Only time will tell. I've seen chickens bounce back from worse but I won't breath easy until a little brown egg comes down the chute. She's been going in and out of the coop all day, acting like she wants to lay. She even did her celebratory "I'm gonna lay an egg" clucking. Still no egg, though.

What else do I have to share? Oh, I know. The husbeast took me out for lunch to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Vien Dong. I had some shrimp fried rice and, since it was such a warm day, I decided to try one of their juice drinks. It was a Chin Chin Peach Juice Drink and it was A-maz-ing!!! I am not a soda drinker, and I find water quite boring. Drinking more than a couple of beers a day isn't good for me (or my bladder) so most of the time I am dehydrated. I think I found my refreshing drink of choice, today. After lunch we ran across the street to the East Asian Market, found someone who spoke English, and had them direct us to where the boxes of Chin Chin could be found. I am the proud owner of a 24 can (23 left) case of Peach Juice Drink. The ingredients? Water, peach juice, cane sugar and citric acid. That's it. Yum!

I also forgot to share one of the gifts I received from a customer as a retirement present. She had bought the fiber and dyes from me, and this is what she produced. Doesn't it remind you of spring flowers? I'll spin it up once I get a bit of spare time.

And finally, I had the husbeast tote 2 of the tall Billy Bookcases home, today, and I will commence to filling them up. I better get off this computer and get a move on.