Category Archives: spinning

Preparing for First R I Christmas

 

Chr cookies & Dirk

Here comes Santa

Dec. 19, 2015

Today my daughter in Raleigh gains another year. She has chosen not to be with us most of the past 10 years, which feels like a sad ache in my heart. Her son, our only grandchild, is now 11, and we cherished the visit we had together just before we moved away, the first time we’d seen him for five years. At Christmas it’s hard, focusing on today and the here and now, with the awareness of our missing family, but not allowing it to overcome our joyful “todays.”

Our daughter in Connecticut is near-by, and a regular part of our lives in Rhode Island.  She gained a year on Thanksgiving, and I’m amazed that my children are adults! We’ll be with her for Christmas, and are looking forward to that visit. Her m-i-l is in the hospital, mending a broken bone, so our Christmas will now take a different shape, because she will be in rehab, getting her walking back to a secure place before she can go home.

We had hosted Thanksgiving here for my daughter and her husband and his parents. I’m glad we shared the long visit before his mother was hospitalized. That was the second Thanksgiving dinner, the first, shared it with a friend from church who is also in choir. Now I use turkey a couple times a week in various creative ways! I think I won’t do turkey for Christmas this year…

I’ve baked gingerbread men for the third time, plus PA Dutch sand tarts this week, and they will quickly disappear, as we share them with friends and neighbors. As I cut them out, Dirk decorates them, so it doesn’t take as long. I remember the cookie-baking get-togethers we used to have with my NC daughter and friends, a separate table set up for decorations so the small children could decorate cookies while one mother watched the oven, and all of us cut out cookies and brushed them with Dirk’s “egg wash,” so the colored sugar stays put. I think they ate as many decorations as we used on the cookies, but that’s part of the fun. I missed my CT daughter on those occasions, but choosing a job in a distant place brings that sort of sadness.

I sit here in our new home in Rhode Island, listening to the traffic out front on Route 1, smelling the bayberry candle, enjoying the glimmer of the candles in the windows, the lights that wind up the bannister to the upstairs, the stockings hanging under the mantle, the reflection of the tree lights, and enjoying the taste of the gingerbread cookies with almonds as decorations, nicely roasted in the oven.

I gave hand-spun knitted mittens to my gardening neighbor across the street, and hat and mittens to my cousin out west. Dirk has hand-spun socks from a sheep we both knew and nurtured for about 15 years, and I have two new pairs of socks, one from Leah, the white Romney on our business card, and one partly her fleece, partly mohair from Cindy the goat. I’ve since returned to spinning, to replace what I’m using.

Dirk on the horn

The past month has been bursting with music, as I attended about eight concerts between Dirk’s two community bands: LaFayette and Wakefield Concert bands; and we both sing in the church choir, which also has instrumental music at this time of year. The choir director was glad to have us join her, with Dirk and his French Horn, too.  I love every minute of it! My quilting friend, whose husband is also in the two bands, comes to most of the concerts, but she leaves her quilting at home for these inside concerts. In summer, I spun with the drop spindle, and she hemmed her quilted lap blankets for charity as we listened to the music at two outside concerts a week, sitting by the two harbors.

At church, I learned to make a wreath. The call went out for women to gather bringing greens. I trimmed the holly and rhododendron away from the house, bundled it in a bed sheet, as I used to do for the sweet treats for the sheep—sweet gum, tulip poplar and honeysuckle. Never before had the old sheet contained poisonous branches. But the sheep are no longer here. I kept them away from such noxious bushes when we had the flock. I also helped a neighbor saw off a bayberry branch and a holly, so her pathways in her large garden were open again. The tips of the branches came to the church for the wreaths, along with a bundle of red berries from another of her bushes. The doors at church all have wreaths or sprays, and we had a later meeting to create arrangements of greens with the left-overs to bring home. I’ve knitted tiny socks to hang on such an arrangement or the tree, and given some to our neighbors and some friends. Those hang sefely low down on our tree, for the cats to enjoy the tree in their own way.

The newest cats, the two strays who appeared in our neighborhood in NC about four years ago, are no longer kittens, so for the first time are not pulling down the tinsel and knocking the unbreakable ornaments around the room. The older cats gaze at the tree, then take their usual nap in a chair. The dogs investigated the tree, wondering what it was doing inside the house, then went back to ignoring it, also. A kitten does make Christmas more fun.

I had completed hand-spun socks for my husband (don’t tell him—I’ve tucked them away until Christmas), and needed a next project. When I cleaned out my three-drawer small plastic file in which I store samples for class, as well as “exotics”—silk, bamboo/corn/soy synthetic silk, angora from Elaina at Avillon Farms and from Sheryl Wicklund, from their fluffy bunnies, “Angelina” which sparkles in various hues, and makes an interesting addition when spinning wool. I even found some cotton, my least favorite to spin, but I need to demonstrate when I teach a workshop; the takli spindle has never been unwound, after at least 10 years!. In the process of tidying, I found some Wensleydale wool combed top, and started to spin it so as to decrease my stash. After the first day, I learned my daughter’s mother-in-law had fallen and was in the hospital, so I set aside spinning, and went to get some washable acrylic for a lap robe for her. In our Twisted Theads Book Club meeting at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh a couple years ago, the featured book was Yuhas’ Knitting from the Inside Out. The dahlia lap robe/baby blanket from that book is lovely, and I’ve nearly finished it in less than a week, even with cookies and cards to do. I’ll take a picture when it’s done.

Pat's lap robe

Some women have been coming over to knit on Tuesday mornings. A neighbor had put a sock in her closet eight years ago because she forgot what to do next. She’s now finished the pair and bought yarn for another. Another lady, a waitress nearby, saw me knitting a baby sweater when we were eating there, and wanted to know how to do that. She comes when work allows. I’d hoped to gather a near-by circle of fiber crafters, and it’s beginning—I’m happy! Another woman who plays in the So. County band, has started gathering spinners from the near-by area to join her at the new yarn shop in Wakefield: Two Dots. We’ll meet there again soon.

Santa arrived in Wickford by boat, just like in Holland! I shouldn’t be surprised, with all this water around, and a great many boats. The police boat must be one of the only ones, except the regular fishing boats, that aren’t already “shrink-wrapped” for winter in dry dock—well, and the flotilla of kayacks escorting Santa and the harbormaster! Driving by the harbor, all those dry-docked, shrink-wrapped, boats look like huge, angular snowballs, all in a row, sleeping through the winter.

I just finished a tapestry-weaving class with Jan Austin from our Rhode Island Weaving Guild. I’ll spend more time practicing the craft after the holidays are over. My Dutch rigid-heddle loom is a good size for tapestry, and I made a couple neat bits of art during the class.

I’m moving my Eastern Star membership to a lodge near our new home. My daughter is also in Eastern Star, and is Mother Advisor to the Rainbow Girls in eastern CT. I’ve been able to help her with some of the activities, sewing days being one. I’d sewn for my daughters when they were small, and have continued to sew. Two of the mothers made dresses for themselves for formal occasions, and plan to continue sewing for their daughters now they know how to read a pattern, lay it out, measure, etc. It was rewarding to watch the women learn techniques needed to made a dress fit properly. I’m also amazed and proud at how quickly my daughter has learned a leadership role in both organizations.

The sun is nearly at the horizon, and I realze the shortest day of the year is only a couple days away. I am getting tired of it being nearly dark at four p.m., and look forward to warmer weather and long sunny days again. I’m not complaining—it’s been in the 60’s for a good part of December! Paperwhites are blooming inside now, and daffodils and hycinths are shooting up on my plant shelf in a west window. These fragrant blooms make the winter a great deal more pleasant inside. Two people have given me amyrillis plants. One is blooming, and the other will be when this one fades. What beautiful blooms to brighten winter days. We’ve listened to three versions of “A Christmas Carol” on TV already (Jean-Luc — Patrick Stewart, is my favorite Scrooge) and have saved some other favorite programs to watch at a later time. I’m listening to Mitch Albon’s The First Phone Call from Heaven. Just finished his The Timekeeper  on library books on CD—delightful way to spend a cold and windy afternoon. The fall weather has been like in NC—in the 60’s—until today, when we’ve suddenly entered winter. The deck had an ice slick over it this morning, making putting out bird seed a chancy business! And now, back to knitting…

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Filed under Birds, cats, climate, community, Dutch loom, Family, Friendship, gardening, Homespun yarn, knitting, music, sheep, spinning, Weather, Weaving

First six months without sheep; preparing to move north

When we had sheep, they kept the fences clear. Now the birds enjoy the shelter.

When we had sheep, they kept the fences clear. Now the birds enjoy the shelter.

June, 2014 to Jan., 2015

Long walk in the woods, 1 1/2 mi.

Long walk in the woods, 1 1/2 mi.

This morning I captured a chipping sparrow away from Boots and Liam, and released it to the suet block. It shook itself and flew off, thank goodness. The two rescued stray cats run between my legs, or walk under Emily, the Pyr’s stomach, and move out the door with her. If I haven’t succeeded in re-homing them before we move, they may die on RI Rt. 1, which runs right in front of our home there.

Those who keep carnivores as pets need to be prepared to deal with carcasses of helpless small creatures pets consider their rightful prey. Last week it was a possum in the garage, probably after dog food—the 20-pound bags were tossed all around but not spilled…The dogs got the poor thing. Liam the cat had slipped out at midnight when I took the dogs out for their last walk, so I left the garage door ajar. Fortunately the possum didn’t come through the doggie door into the house! Life seems so complicated sometimes. Was the possum dead, or playing possum? I waited an hour to pick it up, then left it in the hole uncovered the rest of the day, dogs inside, to be sure it wasn’t going to just walk away, which I have seen them do. Not this time. A couple days before that I opened the back door to feed the birds and found remains of a squirrel on the rug, and a mouse a couple days later.

Woke this am. to find a raccoon “treed” in the firethorn on the back deck. Two dogs in the yard provides high risk for the night visitors… Maeve, our Aussie, has killed two raccoons this past summer, and is the best-rabies-immunized dog in the neighborhood. When I called for help, hoping NC Wildlife would come and trap the raccoons and take them somewhere, the employee advised me to take in the bird seed at night to discourage their coming here, and after two weeks, that did work. They don’t move raccoons, since they might be incubating rabies. I, of all people, should know that. I did a Masters’ paper on wildlife rabies, costs to NC when it got here, and oral rabies vaccine for wild things to control rabies exposures to pets and people. Nights are quieter in the house, too, since Emily barks with great volume and enthusiasm at possums or raccoons on the deck in the night. She’s shut in, but we have doors with windows to the floor, and she keeps watch. It’s her job, in her mind, to protect us from wild things who invade her territory. She’s done a great job of it over the years, also. We’ve never had coyotes in our pasture, killing our lambs or sheep, as many of my friends have suffered. Large farms require multiple Great Pyrenees or similar guardian dogs, to keep predators out.

Jan., 2015
A New Year, and still recovering from the surgical repair of damage done in the accident last April. I guess healing always takes longer than they lead you to expect.

We’ll move to RI in the summer, so we’re going through cupboards and closets, as well as boxes in the garage, to see what we’ve stashed, and wondering why we kept these things! I’m donating a great many things to friends who will use them, or organizations who will—for example wallpaper rolls from houses dating back 45 years—perfectly fine to use on a loom to keep the threads from tangling. I’m keeping a little of each to remember, and I’ll use it in weaving in the future, also. Common Thread in Sanford is a weaving workshop with many women volunteering to spend some mornings at donated looms, making rugs, tote bags, dish towels, table runners, place mats, etc., for sale both in the shop and at craft shows far and wide. Proceeds go to womens’ support organizations, such as Interact. They also compete in the Lee County Fair, have a wall full of prize ribbons, and the prize money also goes back into the organization. My box of old wallpaper will go there, since each loom requires a roll of wallpaper, and it wears out eventually, of course.

I’m spinning up great amounts of wool that is not from my best fleeces, just to condense the amount of bulk somewhat. Yarn takes much less space than wool. I’ve started an afghan for us to keep this time, which will have sheep and Australian Shepherd dogs (in their own fur) knitted in with the design. I’m still hoping to find a Great Pyrenees dog pattern to knit in, but so far, no luck. There is no hurry with this project. If we were not moving, I’d be aiming to have it ready to compete in the Carolina FiberFest in early April, but we’ll probably be very busy then, as moving time will be getting near, so I don’t plan to enter anything this year. I will be there to watch the sheep dog herding demonstration, and sit and spin with my friends in the Twisted Threads Fiber Arts Guild circle, however.

The pasture seems so empty and still, the fences covered with stilt grass, sheltering birds over winter. Emily, the Pyr, goes out to the back pasture every day on patrol, as she always has, keeping an eye on what predators may be threatening her acres. We miss the sheep, but our arthritic joints do not. Each year it got harder to clear gutters so water could run away from the barn, to trim hooves, move hay and grain down the hill to the barn, and keep things down there relatively tidy. It was great exercise, and that we do miss. Walking the dogs a mile up the road has to do now as a substitute, and the dogs enjoy it as much as we do. Emily used to live in the pasture only, unless the sheep were up grazing in the yard, when she came, also. Now she can explore the neighborhood, on a leash of course, but she loves reading the signs night critters have left along the road and on the woods trails we walk with them. We’re wondering where in RI we’ll find the same opportunity to walk with the dogs in the woods—we’ll have time later to look, but it will be much colder in winter there.

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Filed under Aging, Birds, cats, community, Compromises, dogs, dogs and cats, Family, Friendship, gardening, Grief, Healing, Health, Homespun yarn, sheep, spinning, Weather, wildlife

Winter surprises, frozen dyed wool, and kitty entertainment

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I’m working on a curtain for our new home, and needed some bright green yarn. I went looking through my dye pot-stash with various colors of dye, late last evening. After I’d plied the mohair I intended to dye it spring green. But I had none 😦  I measured enough of the color green I did have into the hot water, dipped in the Bombyx silk I’ll use to wrap some of the yellow yarn as the green begins, but the color appeared to be too dark for my design. Plan B: I picked up about 1/4 lb. of white Shetland from Vanity Fair’s shearing last spring, put that in the dye pot, added some vinegar and let it simmer, almost, for about a half-hour. Since it was 11 p.m., so I just turned off the heat and the vent fan, left the pot covered, and this morning, continued the process, rinsing out the soapy, dirty water, since I washed the fleece in the same operation, and put cream rinse in the last rinse, when the water was clear. Then, on auto-pilot, I took the wet wool outside and spread it out flat on an old window screen where it could dry, where the sun will hit it pretty soon. As I rinsed my equipment and cleaned up the sink, I found a little more green wool, so brought it out to dry with the rest. When it touched the screen it immediately froze to it!! I forgot–it’s 20 degrees out there! This is one of the delightful winter days when it is brisk and snappy. Note the ice on the screen where the wool had been before I picked up the end and rolled it up. Maybe it will dry faster open to the air in a large donut… It’s wet, so even in the wind it won’t blow away. My pretty green wool is a big ice cube! The ice is still on the deck from our freezing rain of two nights ago, the birdbath has to be tipped over and the ice knocked free to put water in it again at least twice a day. The pansies have shriveled up to little dark-green humps, the lovely kale which I should have harvested at Christmas, is in about the same shape. The onions are visible, but only about two inches is peeking up straight–the rest of the leaves are flat on the garden dirt, partly covered by autumn leaves. Spring onion omelets will just have to wait. However, in NC, when it gets warmer again, in a week or two, the crocuses will bloom as will the pansies, and my garden will come back to life.

Time to shift gears–that wool won’t be available to spin for some time, and I’m still searching for the right dye color.

The next task today is to warp my loom to start a throw rug in the log cabin pattern. I haven’t done this pattern before, but a good friend, also a weaver, assures me it’s not difficult. I looked it up in two of my books last evening, and it looks possible. I turned on the little robo-vacuum to pick up the fluff from the spinning I’d been doing the past two days, preparing the mohair to dye. In the meantime, the robot-vacuum buzzed around tidying, while I pulled out the card table, loom, shuttles, and other necessary bits of equipment to warp my rigid heddle loom. While I was setting up my work space, Boots, our charming two year-old rescued stray cat, was entertaining himself chasing the robo-vac around, cuffing at it, leaping in the air when it came to his toes, crawling under the cedar chest to see what the machine was finding under there that he might have missed. I appreciate the little machine picking up some of the fuzzies for me while I do other things, but it had not occurred to me what a very entertaining bit of hardware it would be for my cats!

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Filed under Birds, cats, Dutch loom, Dying wool, gardening, Homespun yarn, knitting, sheep, spinning, Weather, Weaving

Spinning workshop in May

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May 18-19, 2013

Another workshop, and three more spinners out in the world to enjoy creating with wool, alpaca, silk, or dog/cat hair. Add a little sparkle, some colorful mohair and your skein has some personality! I’ll put in a couple pictures for you, but you’d have to be here to really enjoy it. When someone said they were used to having music on all the time, I pulled out my iPhone and played music from some of my favorite Gaelic musicians from Nova Scotia, great for keeping the rhythm of a spinning wheel. You can see from the expressions of success and a skein of lovely fiber the products of the weekend: competence in an old skill which can be very relaxing, and a way to create lovely things no one has ever thought of before. They have an entry category at the NC State Fair for new spinners, a year or less. Maybe some of my new spinners will have skeins to enter in that competition this year. It would not be the first time 🙂 And all those handfuls of fluff that were blowing around the floor on Sunday evening, many of those will become birds’ nesting material, or mulch for flowers that need to have cool roots in spite of the steamy summers.

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Filed under Birds, community, dogs and cats, Friendship, Gaelic music, gardening, Homespun yarn, Life is a cycle, Satisfaction, sheep, spinning, spinning workshops, State Fair

Spinning workshop preparation; Nova Scotia tartan off the loom

May 14, 2013

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If you were on my list for taking a spinning workshop this weekend, this is the email I’d be sending to you. It occurred to me, that you might want to be included in the communication about our activities on a spinning weekend coming up. It is a pleasure to share this art with others,  and the weekend of spinning is fun for each of us.

<I’m thinking ahead to the weekend and getting things ready for you.  A few items…

If you have any spinning or fiber prep. equipment, by all means bring them: spinning wheel, drop spindle, or whatever. That includes fiber you may have saved from brushing your fluffy dog or cat, or roving from anywhere.

If you have any special food preferences, let us know, so we can be ready. Dirk enjoys baking challenges–such as a gluten-free weekend, which we’ve needed to do a couple times. He’s learned a couple new recipes just for that eventuality.

If there is any particular goal you have for the weekend, let me know Sat. at breakfast, so I can plan to cover that with you.

If you want to take a field trip to a farm where there’s roving available, and many lambs, let me know. Lynn Michaels’ farm is only about 5 min. away, and if she knows we’re coming, she’ll be glad to have us. Another neat farm to visit is Elaina Kenyon’s in Efland, which is an hour away…  I’ve done this once on a workshop weekend, but it does clip a couple hr. from Sat. afternoon. She has around 50 angora rabbits, Angora goats and kids, and Shetland sheep and lambs–really neat place to visit. She has roving from all those animals, also, of course.

If you’re available, this Thurs. is our 3rd Thurs. guild meeting in Raleigh at the Thompson Crafts Center on the NCSU campus. If you’d like info. about this meeting, you can either go to Yahoo Groups and join “Twisted Threads Fiber Arts Guild” and check the recent emails, or ask me, and I’ll gladly send you the summary Jane sent out–a talk about spinning wheels and their challenges, and how to tinker with and fix them. She’s asked people to bring their wheels, so you may get to try several if you ask nicely 🙂  It’s a “bonding thing,” people and their wheels. Everyone likes their certain one(s) for whatever reason, but it just comes down to personal preference. People are usually fine with letting you spin on their wheel for a few minutes. Later in the year we’ll have our “round robin,” where there will be at least a dozen wheels, and everyone goes around, 5 min. for each wheel–that’s fun!

I’ll look forward to meeting you on Sat. morning at 8:30 for breakfast. We finish up about 4 p.m. both days. I’ll have the dye pot on while we eat breakfast, so we’ll be ready for the dying demo early, then get to spinning more challenging fibers Sunday, and hopefully you’ll rotate to different wheels to try them on Sunday.

If you have any questions, let me know, and until then, enjoy this lovely weather,>

By the way, I finished the table runner in the Nova Scotia tartan that I started on a rainy night last week. Here’s a picture of it, not yet blocked, but fresh off the loom. I need the space for spinning wheels this weekend, so wanted to complete this project. Each time I look at the tartan, it reminds me of lovely vacations on Cape Breton Highlands, Cheticamp, Mabou, Badeck on the Bras d’Or Lake, Antigonish… ah, summer!

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Filed under community, Dutch loom, Friendship, Homespun yarn, Netherlands, Nova Scotia tartan, sheep, spinning, spinning workshops, Weaving

Terri on Kromski, Deborah on Lendrum, Regan on Majacraft, spinning

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Feb. 8, 2013

We just hosted another enjoyable weekend spinning workshop. The weather was lovely, so we had good drying weather for fleeces and dyed fiber to dry outside. One of the new spinners brought along lots of Kool-Aid to use for dying wool, and created some lovely hand-painted creations which she later spun into designer yarn on her drop spindle. Each spinner designed a colorful batt (note the yarn they’re spinning in the picture) with an assortment of fibers and colors, and some angelina to add sparkle. They went home with a small skein spun on the drop spindle, and a much larger skein they spun on various spinning wheels during the weekend, including wool, alpaca, silk, and mohair, plus a little cotton, which is short and always a challenge at the very end of the weekend, so they can use their experience to work with it effectively. I consider the weekend a success when people find something they enjoy, whether it’s a certain wheel, or dying fiber with Kool-Aid, or learning how to make a puni of the cat or dog hair they bring along, and spin it into yarn. 

This week I bundled up and mailed two projects I just finished for friends in cold places. A good friend in PA will receive the shawl, and a cousin with recent health issues will receive the afghan. I enjoy having colorful and warm wool, mohair and (white shawl trim) Great Pyrenees fur to make yarn that will be cozy for friends and family. The weather will continue to be cold for a while (Punxsutawney Phil, the Groundhog, said so during our workshop) so I’ll continue to enjoy knitting warm woolies for my special family and friends.

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Asthma related to spinning wool?

Jan. 14, 2013

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Heidi with Biden; Judy with Obama, back seat of the Honda van; Border Leicester/Blue Faced Leicester crosses, about 6 mo. old, wethers

About 4 years ago we bought 2 lambs from a neighbor with Border Leicester/Blue Faced Leicesters to add to our aging flock–not a wise choice, and we later regretted it for several reasons. It was Obama’s first election year, we had one black and one white sheep, so obviously they were named Obama and Biden.

I just found a bag of seconds I forgot I had from about 3-4 yr. ago, and had more of Obama’s hogget fleece to deal with. It’s carded in with the rest of the seconds for an afghan for a cousin in MI who had heart surgery followed by stroke and a pacemker last month. It’ll take a month at least to complete the project, and I’m glad Obama’s fleece will have been well-used in it. I’ll smile giving it to my cousin, since his sensitivities politically are opposite mine, and I wouldn’t want to let it be known to him that Obama was keeping him warm 🙂

I’ve had one virus after an other the last month, so will disappear for a while until the flu and other viruses have made their rounds without me to catch them–I hope. Came back from my Dr. check up with a rotavirus. There’s just no mercy!! And now Dirk is coming down with it.

And then the ongoing nagging comment of my doctor that my spinning is making my asthma worse. Since I don’t get a flare unless I’ve been exposed to infection, or in one case to a heavy load of dust and pollen when helping a friend clear some tall weeds from a corner of her pasture, I’m not seeing the connection. I’m getting older each year, and she made no mention of a mask when I’m carding and spinning. When I complained that masks fogged my glasses, she threw up her hands and said, “Then it’s not keeping dust out, if air comes out around it!” Logical. So stopped at the drugstore on the way home and bought a different style which does not leak around the edges. My husband will soon forget what my face looks like, since I’m wearing it nearly all the time. Hope it helps. I do most of the wool preparation outside–pulling grass out of the fleece, and later carding it after it’s washed in shampoo. Where can I find journal articles to share with my doctor to indicate relationships between wool and asthma in a home situation, rather than in industry? I don’t know that anyone does research in that. I’m listening…

Since Dirk now has my latest virus, I just came up from the barn chores. It’s 69 outside, and so muggy I’m soaked. Winter in the piedmont of NC. Want to know what summer’s like? Add about 30 degrees to the temp and keep the humidity, and you’ll have it: a hostile environment to shelter from for about 5 months of the year!

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