Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fort Ord

Historic photo from the Fort Ord Reuse Athority
When I came to the Monterey Peninsula in the 1970's, Fort Ord was a very active military base and training center.  It is located just north or Monterey, and bounded by the cities of Marina and Sand City (which were developed in response to the needs of Ft Ord).  Along with the Defense Language Institute (DLI) and the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), Ft Ord gave a distinctly military presence on the Montery Peninsula.

Fort Ord began its life during the Mexican-American War in 1846.  But it was most active, and named Fort Ord from 1940-1976.  My step brother trained there in the 1960's.  He was a most unlikely soldier, spending most of his time there in the infirmary with pneumonia.  I think they finally gave up trying to make him into a fighter and assigned him to drive for an officer.

Maybe this is what did my step brother in!  (source FORA)

The facility was closed by the military in 1994.  Now there is a California State University on a smll part of the base.  Some of us hoped that it would be named the University of Fort Ord, or UFO.  Instead, it has the unweildy name of California State University at Monterey Bay (CSUMB).  There is also an area for an extension campus of Monterey Peninsula College, where I taught for almost 30 years.  (I still teach an online class twice a year.)  I believe there is also a training area for police and fire fighters.

In the 90's, most of the base was still off limits to civilians as they were trying to clear the area of unexploded ordinance.  I used to walk there occasionally on open areas with my standard poodle, Keisha.  But now there are miles and miles of hiking trails, dirt and paved roads open to the public.  If you would like to see a map of the area with trails marked and a warning about unexploded ordinace at the bottom, click

So, on the day before Christmas, Daphne and I took our first hike on Fort Ord land since I have been back.  The trail head was well marked, with parking on both sides of the street just before it is barricaded.  People were biking, riding horses and hiking.  And yet, within a few minutes you could be completely alone on one of the many trails.

As we moved higher up the hills, I saw that I would have an opportunity to show the Salinas Valley (produce capital of the US).  As I drive from my inland home in Gonzales toward the Monterey Bay, I drive on River Road.  I assume the river is the Salinas River, though it is not visible from River Road.  Instead, River Road runs along the edge of the Salinas Valley.  One side is the flat, ridged fields of the valley.  The other side is the lovely hills leading up to the  Santa Lucia Mountains, complete with livestock and my beloved Coastal Live Oaks.
This shows the valley looking toward Salinas, with the farmland in between.  Click on any of my photos to see more detail.

This view is toward the bay. 
The shiny spots are not water.  They are the plastic that is laid over the ground for growing strawberries.
This is the country I find so beautiful.

When we got back to the car, I at first thought that this horse was tied to a fence.  But there was a little holding pen.  His folks were putting other horses in the trailer.  He was not happy about being left here.  He had clearly had a good workout as he was all sweaty.  Interesting colouring, don't you think?

Here he is showing his frustration by calling to his friends/owners.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Last year on the island, I arrived to walk dogs at the Duncan SPCA.  It was just a couple of days before the wonderful "garage sale" that Gail organizes every year as a fund raiser.  I spied an old Singer sewing machine in a pile of newly donated items.  When I asked Gail about it, she told me to make an offer.  I started pretty high and she would not accept the offers, countering with a much lower one which I happily accepted.

There was a note pinned to a piece of fabric under the presser foot saying that the machine worked.  It is not a Featherlite, a very popular machine even now.  Quite the contrary, it is very heavy.

It was sitting on top of its cabinet which was in very bad shape.  You can see where it attached to the cabinet by these hinges on the back of the machine:

But until I get my own Featherlite, I thought I could take this to California and have a machine that would do straight stitching.  My idea was that I would find a small quilting project to use to try it out. 

I did that, and it sews very nicely.  I was proud of myself for being able to thread it, both top and bobbin (only one bobbin came with the machine).  However I soon realized that there was something wrong with the lovely simple mechanism for winding the bobbin.  It appeard to be frozen - wouldn't turn.  I was about to give up on it when my wonderful husband took an interest.  He freed it up and fiddled with putting it back together.  We had no manual, and neither of us could remember exactly how it had looked.  But, in spite of this, he got it working.  It is not like it was before, but it works!

So I started planning a project from another of the books I had ordered to read in California.

Most of my friends will understand why this title appealed to me.  I like to improvise.  Long ago as a dance major at UCLA, I spent my whole junior year improvising.  I am not too fond of following the rules.  None of my weaving friends would call me meticulous.  The few quilts that I have made were either very simple or made up as I went along.  I decided to make twelve six-inch blocks, enough for two placemats, with Christmas colours.  The first block I made was a "liberated star".  Then I made a very liberated log cabin block.  I thought that more of these would be too busy, so made some simpler blocks.  This is the result:

Of course, they were not exactly the same size.  So when I started to sew them together, the seams didn't match!  I was almost ready to give up, but my great husband came to the rescue again, saying that he thought they looked "just fine".  "Who says the seams have to line up?"  So I will give them a border and backing of the green fabric on the left.

Meanwhile, the instruction booklet I ordered from Singer came.  Imagine my surprise when I read that there is a way to drop the feed dogs so that one can freehand quilt with this lovely old machine.  Stay tuned!

Brother and sister

Our two cats, Chloe (black) and Jones (Siamese), like most siblings don't get along all the time.  Jones likes to pick fights with Chloe, especially in the morning.  And, like Linus with the football, Chloe usually falls for his ruse  He comes to her while she is resting or sleeping and begins to wash her forehead.  She likes this, so accepts it even though it always ends the same way.  After a bit of that welcomed licking, he begins to bite her neck harder and harder until she screams and then the fight is on!

If I am in the room, I will stand close and watch Jones as he does this.  I have broken up so many fights now that he just looks up at me and walks away without biting.  So, it is unusual to see them sleeping together.  But it does happen now and then.  This is a rare moment:

Cause for celebration!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Second Cotton "Scarf"

Well, I discovered not far into my Saori experiment that the warp was not long enough to make a second scarf.  Must have miscalculated in my hurry to get started.  The finished size of this piece is only 32 inches!  However I really like the look.  This type of Saori weaving is my favorite.
I have learned quite a bit from this "sample".  Of course there is the lesson - check and double check any calculations involving numbers!  I am number/math challenged, I admit it.

And, this is organic naturally coloured cotton.  This type of cotton is known to change colour when washed in hot water or even boiled (often done with plied yarn before use).  The first scarf (see earlier post) did not appear to change much, so I didn't think too much about possible changes when using another colour of the roving.  However, the light one did change more.

This one went from a light tan to a much greener shade.  What fun!

Also, I had to figure how to do this technique with charkha-spun singles.  Ordinarily one does this with a regular shuttle on the right (if right-handed) and a ball of yarn or a bobbin on the left.  I clearly could not just let a spindle of singles roll around on the floor under my loom, so I had to devise some method, like a lazy kate, to allow the spindle to unwind under control.  This is what I came up with, and it worked quite well.

I poked a hole in either side of this plastic food storage container.  Because it was flexible, I could bend it to insert the spindle into the holes.  Then I tried several placements of the little "lazy kate" and ended up with this one.  It is attached to the side of the added cloth tray to hold weaving implements that Schacht calls the "Wolf Trap".  From there it was easy to pull off as needed.

Because I like my Saori "sample" and want to find a way to use it, I was drawn to one of the books I ordered to read while here: Make Your Own Japanese Clothes, Patterns and Ideas for Modern Wear by John Marshall.  If you have not seen the gorgeous work of this artist, check his gallery here.

I am sure I can use this bit of weaving in a garment.  I am not sure that I am ready to take on weaving a whole garment from charkha-spun singles.  More thought and exploration is needed.

In order to use the patterns in Marshall's book, I need to take lots of measurements of my own body.  And I will need some help from my husband.  Not looking forward to that!  Then I will need to make a sample garment to test the measurements and fit.  Maybe I can find a nice Japanese print at my favorite quilt shop, Back Porch Quilts in Pacific Grove.  Nothing like an excuse to go there...

PS:  Do you like the sunset above?  It was taken from the back yard about a week ago.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The last few days

Yesterday I walked dogs at the Monterey County SPCA for the first time as an official dog walker.  I got a great orientation from Elizabeth who has been volunteering there for eight years.  I looked for dogs who had not been walked in the last two days.  This shelter has between 70 and 90 dogs at any one time.  I am not sure if this counts the dogs that are being held hoping the owners will come for them.  A lot of dogs, in any case.

Elizabeth told me that she has never seen as many small dogs there.  She believes that this is an indication of people in dire financial straits because the little dogs don't eat much.  Her experience is that some people will go without food themselves rather than give up their dog.  Read more about the MCSPCA here:

Since the volunteers come in all through the day, they use a board to keep track of who has been walked.  Even though there are lots of volunteers, not every dog may get walked every day.  They do have a play day for the dogs once a week.  They alternate weeks for large and small dogs.  Of course this will only work for the dogs that are social.

I still haven't worked out taking pictures of the dogs I walk.  You would soon be bored with seeing all the doggie pictures anyway, at least most of you.

Today Daphne and I ventured farther down the road, into another section of the subdivision and down to the strip mall.

Looks like English is the second language at this establishment!
 Everyone that we meet is friendly, whether they speak English or not.  Some are clearly wary of Daph, which she finds silly I think.  We get some practice heeling when passing people on the sidewalk.

As with most dogs, Daph puts her nose in lots of places, sniffing under bushes, etc.  Today she came away with a particularly flattering bit of a bush:
Can you see the little blue flower?  She looked like she was in Hawaii!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

SFB Morse Botanical Reserve

I have only now learned the name of this area that I hiked hundreds of times when I lived here before.  Here is a description of the area from

The S.F.B. Morse Botanical Reserve is an 86-acre woodland oasis in the hills of the Del Monte Forest in Pebble Beach. This undulating loop trail winds across the ancient marine terraces of Huckleberry Hill, the highest point in Pebble Beach. The trail passes through groves of coastal live oaks, Bishop pine, Monterey pine, Monterey cypress, a pygmy forest of Gowen cypress and creekside redwoods.

I was drawn to it years ago because it is just outside Pacific Grove, where I lived for about 20 years.  PG is a wonderful little town self-named Butterfly Town USA.  But that is another post.

It was a beautiful sunny day with a bit of a breeze. Daphne and I started out at the entrance point on Holman Highway.  Here we are.
I kept D on leash until we were well away from the highway.  As some of you know, D is a hunter.  Her instincts can take over and she dashes off after whatever prey she smells/sees/hears.  I have an e collar that I use when I let her off leash in new or particularly interesting places.  I don't have to use it much any more, but it gives me the confidence to let her off leash.  Every dog we met (three little dogs, one German Shephard and two beautiful red Dobermans) was also off leash.
I was hoping that I would find a plant I remember.  I thought the name was Chinquapin, but was unable to find it online today using several spellings.  This plant has beautiful gold undersides to its leaves:
It also makes lovely, fuzzy "berries":

When I move back here, I will attempt to grow this great plant from seed.  It is, I understand, difficult to propagate, but I will give it a try.

There are many interesting plants in this reserve.  We were at the top part of the trails, where the primary forest is Monterey Pine.  About 15 years ago, there was a large forest fire that began in this area and moved up the hill destroying many homes in Pebble Beach.  In the following years, there was thick new growth.

However, it has not turned out to be a healthy forest, perhaps because all the trees germinated at the same time.  There is also a disease called pitch canker that has decimated the Monterey Pines.  But I think the unhealthy forest pictured below is more a result of the fire:

Notice that the trees are all about the same size and the lack of undergrowth.  Compare this to the top picture which shows a more typical forest with differing sized trees. 

At one time it was thought that we might lose the Monterey Pine forest all together from the pitch canker disease.  But the Pebble Beach Company and others have done lots of work with trees that are resistant.

On a happier note, here is a nice example of a local mushroom.  I believe these are edible, but I won't be trying them any time soon.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Just a glimpse

Here is a brief look at the beginning of my second charkha spun weft scarf.  I decided to try Saori weaving with two colours of the handspun cotton.  It is quite a bit slower than Saori weaving with commercial weft because of the twist in the singles.  I will show you my method in a later post.  But for now, here is the beginning:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Charkha spun scarf

Well, the first scarf using charkha spun weft singles is off the loom.  I am quite pleased with it.  Here is a close-up:
Don't ask me how I got that photo so large; I have no idea.  But I left it because it really does show the close up I was after.  I forgot to bring my fringe twister, so will have to try doing these the old fashioned way, with my fingers.  I'll let you know how that goes.

In cutting off this scarf, I tried a new (to me) way to secure the rest of the warp.  I have never liked using glue as my friend/teacher Alison does.  I just don't like using sticky stuff around my weaving.  So I tried this method.  I wove a generous 1/2 inch with waste yarn.  Then opened the next shed and inserted a dowel that I had from another project.  Then wove another 1/2 inch.  Like this:
Next, I cut the woven scarf off close to the first 1/2 inch of weaving.  Then, after removing the woven scarf, I lashed the dowel to the apron rod.

It seems quite sturdy.  I will report further as I start the second scarf, which I want to weave with two different colours of cotton.  Haven't decided whether I will still just use plain weave or if I will use the icicle technique from Saori.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Toro Park

The other day I took Daphne for a short hike at Toro Park.  I found that I am out of shape for uphill climbing.  Both Daph and I obviously need more of this kind of exercise.  As I described Toro Park in the last entry, I will get right to the pictures.

Toro Park has the type of scenery and trees that I love about this part of California.  The Coast Live Oak is an evergreen tree that can be shrubby or quite large with interesting, contorted multiple trunks.
They are great climbing trees for kids or cats.  I do think my cats have missed their oak trees while they have been in Canada.  They never tried to climb the tall cedars or firs.  Here is a close up of the trunk.

One of my "requirements" for the house we eventually buy here is that it have at least one of these great trees.

California has its own native bush/tree with Christmas colours (oops, a Canadian spelling - I love it!).  This tree is a Toyon.  It is really more of a bush than a tree, but what great berries!

On the dead branches in the front of this picture, I saw wonderful orange lichens:

Interesting colour combination, yes?  Next time I need to get a shot of an older tree with what I call Spanish Moss hanging from it.  You would think you were in the deep south.

We are still in the dry part of the year here on the Central Coast.  Soon the rains will come and all of this will turn green again.  It took me a long time to appreciate the hills with this dry look, coming from Vermont.  But now I love it.  Here are a couple of samples:

The lovely, rounded shape of these live oaks is typical.

The tall trees on the right are Eucalyptus, long ago imported from Australia.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monterey Woodpeckers

Daphne and I went for a short hike today in Toro Park.  Toro Park is just south of Salinas, on Highway 68.  It is the closest wild place for us to hike (that I have found).  I will post more about the hike later.

Toward the end of the hike, when we were again down on the main part of the park, I came upon a tree riddled with holes.  In each hole was an acorn.  There were red-headed Acorn Woodpeckers in the tree, so I looked them up.

At a website by Don Roberson, a great bird photographer from the Monterey area, I found a really good picture:   The Acorn is the third photo down.  Here is the tree I saw:

And the whole tree:

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Bruce and I joined a two other couples from a local car club for a drive down to Nepenthe in Big Sur today.  It is 26 miles from Carmel to Big Sur, some breathtaking views along the way.  The coast highway hugs the sides of mountains with steep drops down to the crashing waves below.

Some of these were taken from the car.  We drove down in Bruce's 1991 Nissan 300 ZX Turbo, a lovely car that likes to drive fast as much as Bruce does.  There is not much opportunity to drive fast along this road as there is usually at least one car in front, gawking at the scenery.  Tourists!

The colours in the water and lichens on the rocks were lovely.

We had lunch at Nepenthe.
Nepenthe (Ancient Greek: Νηπενθές), is a medicine for sorrow, literally, an anti-depressant – a "drug of forgetfulness" mentioned in ancient Greek literature and Greek mythology, depicted as originating in Egypt.

It is indeed a place to forget one's sorrows.  Opened in 1949 by Lolly and Bill Fassett (relatives of Kaffe Fassett the knitting/quilting/embroidery designer), Nepenthe's setting is gorgeous.  Most of the year patrons can sit outside on the  sunny sheltered deck area and share their lunch with the birds.

The Stellars Jays (not pictured here) are very partial to the Nepenthe french fries.  The fries come in a basket.  The jays will walk right up and take a fry from the basket and fly away with it.  They fly with fries...hmmm.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weaving with cotton singles

I was excited to get to my loom today as I was going to begin weaving a scarf with my cotton singles spun on my book charkha.  This is natural coloured cotton, not sure of the source.  I got it from KBN.

Yesterday I wound a little warp, only six inches wide and long enough for two scarves, from 2/8 bamboo.  This is not the weight system I am used to for bamboo. Jane Stafford, one of my weaving gurus, lists her Bambu yarn in 7 gauge and 12 gauge.  But I got this from Knotty By Nature (KBN) in Victoria, BC and it is tagged as 2/8.  One more weaving mystery...

By the way, when I looked up Jane's site I found that she is now stocking variagated bamboo in both gauges - very tempting!

Anyway, the lovely woman from KBN said she had used this yarn for the warp when she wove her first scarves with her charkha spun singles, so I got some in two colours.

To get back on track:  I threaded a 4,3,2,1 plain weave on my 4 shaft Baby Wolf and sleyed it at 16 epi.  I am a bad girl who does not always sample.  I chose 16 epi because I wanted a fairly open sett and found 15-22 as a recommended sett for 2/8 cotton.  My first scarf will be my sample (bad weaver; slap those hands!)

So, this morning I was ready to start.  I had already spread the warp with some cotton yarn.  I had decided that I would have fringe with the bamboo warp.  I did not want to try hemstitching with my cotton singles, so wove a pic of bamboo, a pic of cotton and another pic of bamboo.  Then I was ready to hemstitch.  Oh heck!  I forgot to bring an embroidery needle. 

I pawed through the little sewing kit I had made up for Bruce and took the needle with the largest eye.  I was able to thread the bamboo using a needle threader.  Being careful not to split threads with the sharp point of the needle, I did the hemstitching.  Here is a picture of the needle and hemstitching.  Doesn't the colour of the bamboo and the cotton match nicely?

And here is a picture of the lovely shuttle, also from KBN, designed to hold the spindles from the charkha.  I love it!  No steps in between spinning and weaving!

The weaving is slow but steady.  I don't want to beat too hard and I need to angle the weft as I lay it in.  Also, the singles wants to twist a bit.  But I am thrilled with the look of the weaving and that the cotton is holding together (so far - don't want to jinx things).  Here it is after a bit more weaving.

I used a shoelace that Bruce didn't want to lash the warp on, but don't think I did it right.  It is working, so I won't question it too much now.  Will look up someone else's blog for a review before doing it again.  Now I need to get back to weaving.

Frost - that's all!

While my friends on Vancouver Island are "enjoying" snow, we are having cold weather for California.  The highs have been in the 50's F, but most days the sun warms us up more than one would expect.  Today we have quite a bit of wind, which is very common in this valley.  I came scurrying back from a very short walk with Daphne because I was so cold.  The wind made it seem much colder and I had no gloves on.

It is mostly cloudy with brief light showers, so the sun is not as helpful as usual.  Here is a frosty roof from a few days ago.
Nothing compared to snow!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Spinning on a charkha

For my birthday this year, I told Bruce that I wanted a charkha.  He said "A what?"  I explained that a book charkha is what is used to spin cotton in India, and that it was developed for Mahatma Gandhi.

This description of the charkha is from Mark Shepard's website:

"Charkha, literally meaning “wheel,” is India’s generic term for any spinning wheel or hand-cranked spinning machine. The type of charkha available in the U.S. is more strictly identified as the box charkha. The various models of box charkha have been designed and then manufactured by Gandhi’s co-workers and followers as part of his “khadi movement,” to promote self-sufficiency in cloth-making. The double-wheel drive, which allows greater speed and control as well as portability, is Gandhi’s own innovation.
The box charkha is commonly available in two sizes: “briefcase” and “book.” The smaller book charkha is more portable but tricker to adjust and use, so the briefcase charkha is usually the best first choice."

I did find the book charkha a bit difficult to set up, even though I had guidance from Eileen Hallman's DVD Spinning Cotton on the Charkha.  However, I am getting the hang of it. 

Here is a closeup of the charkha in action.  As you can see, it has two drive wheels.  I think this is what gives it such a high ratio.

And here I am spinning. 
Notice the orange furry object behind me?  That's Daphne.  She has always seemed to respect my spinning and weaving as important work.  She just settles down nearby.  She does not feel the same about knitting (maybe because I am sitting on the couch).

You turn the handle very slowly as you are drafting the fibre.  Ms. Hallman suggests holding the fibre as though it was a baby bird that you wanted to contain but not crush.  That is really loose!  The whole process seems like magic, even to an experienced spinner like me.

Then you pinch off the drafted fibre and turn the wheel faster (about 1.5 turns) to add twist before backing off slightly and winding on.

I went all out and also purchased a shuttle that will hold the spindle so that I can weave with the singles.  I got all this from Knotty By Nature in Victoria  I think her name is Stephanie, but I am awful at remembering names.  She was most helpful and included lots of organic coloured cotton roving to my stash.  She also mentioned that she had used commercial bamboo (2/8) for the warp in the scarf she had woven with her charkha spun singles.  It looked great, so I got some of that too. (It was my birthday, after all.  Birthdays are not as welcome as they used to be, but at least they are a good excuse to buy some more fibery stuff.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The back yard

Bruce did a good job of keeping the front yard looking nice in my absence.  I am the designated gardener.
Your typical subdivision front yard.

However, the back yard (which had not had any help since we bought the house two years ago) is another story.  As awful as this picture is, it doesn't show the worst of the problems.

BURRS!  Everywhere!

In case you have not seen Daphne, my dog, she has long hair, a beautiful bushy tail and even tufts of fur between her toes.

Here she is napping on the futon.  We have taken the cover off to wash, but that doesn't stop her!  You can see the lovely tail.  Because of the awful state of the back yard, I have to brush the burrs out of her tail and toes every time she goes into the back yard. 

This yard is her bathroom as well as where I practice Qigong.

Here is a link to my sifu, Lee Masters, website:  In Canada, we practice outside as long as the weather permits.  Well, the weather permits here in California.  But the ambiance of the back yard leaves something to be desired.  So, I will post pictures of my progress as I work on this mess.

Today, after Qigong practice, I pulled weeds and raked up burrs with the metal rake followed by the broom rake.  Luckily Gonzales picks up garden waste because I would not want to try and compost those burrs!  Perhaps if I spend an hour a day after practice I can have a lovely bare dirt back yard. Then maybe we can bring in someone to help make it nice.  One thing at a time.