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:http://creagrus.home.montereybay.com/woodpeckers.html.   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: http://www.markshep.com/nonviolence/Charkha.html

"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 http://www.kbnfibres.ca/.  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:  http://wildgooseqigongcentre.com/index.shtml.  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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monterey County SPCA

Today I went on a hike with other dog walkers at the Monterey County SPCA.  I was only allowed to participate because I have experience walking dogs at the Duncan SPCA on Vancouver Island.  The next training is not until Dec. 10 and I did not want to wait that long.

I chose a dog named Jill.  Her brother, Jack, also came on the walk.  It was Jill's first time out in two weeks.  She got spayed and their rules are that after spaying the dog must remain in her kennel or the visiting room (more later) for two weeks after surgery.  Here is a picture of Jill.  It is not great as she was so interested in the other dogs that I could not get her to face me.

They (SPCA) are trying out new no-pull harnesses.  They seem quite effective.  The leash is special and attached in two places: in the front under the chin and on the back between the shoulder blades.  You pull more on the one in the front if they are forging ahead.  When they are not pulling, you just use the one from the shoulders.  With it I was able to control Jill quite well, even going down a steep part of the trail.

This is quite a change from the SPCA I know and love in Duncan.  Below are some pictures of:
The new barn/farm animal center

The new spay/neuter building

The entrance to the main office

and inside the main office

They are beginning a new construction project to include a new/updated kennel area.

some of the new construction underway.

Inside the kennel area it is not too different from Duncan, just a lot bigger.  They have separate areas for small dogs and larger dogs, each with an outside run.  However they do not have any pens like Duncan to allow the dogs to run and play.  They do have several other organized "events" for the dogs on different days.  Besides the hike that I went on today, they have a day for basic obedience training and a playday (not sure how these operate; will report later).  These events are overseen by Amanda, the resident animal behaviorist. 

Apparently, in the US, there is no one organization for SPCA's.  The ASPCA is not an umbrella organization, but rather a specific shelter/organization in New York.  Each SPCA is independent and raises its own funds.  Luckily there is quite a bit of money on the greater Monterey Peninsula.

like the philosophy!

Each month, one dog and cat is featured and offered at half-price.  I am told these are usually animals that have been at the shelter for some time.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It is warmer in Calfornia!

Last year when I came to Gonzales from Vancouver Island, I found rainy, chilly weather here.  This year I am having better luck.  The weather today was sunny and in the mid 70's with a slight breeze. 

I was motivated by the weather (as well as my husband who hates yard work) to mow the grass in the front yard and prune the foundation plantings in the front as well.  In exchange for me doing the yard work, hubby will wash my car twice a month.  I feel good about the deal because he is doing something I don't enjoy (washing the car) giving me something I do enjoy (having a clean car).

The back and side yards are something else all together!  They are hard dirt with a moderate sprinkling of burrs and mostly dead weeds.  The side yards also appear to be the low spots between the houses (which are very close).  Therefore they are damp in good weather and muck in wet weather.  They will be quite a challenge.

This is my first post to this new blog.  I promise more pictures in the future.  Next post will be about an old cemetary Daphne and I found in Albany, Oregon.