Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Part 4: In The Desert

Whilst I still have wifi available I figured I had better whip up another post for you. Who knows when I’ll have the opportunity again?

When last I wrote we were still in Big Sur. Did I mention that after days of glorious sunshine, it clouded over and rained during our last night there? On Day 8 we woke up to sporadic rain showers and the trip back up the coast to Monterey was crazy with wind and rain and even hail or sleet or whatever that white stuff was! And then it cleared up for the rest of our long day travelling south and then east through some of the major food growing areas of California. We saw huge fields of tiny baby lettuce, broccoli, artichokes and other green plants unidentifiable at highway speeds. Further south there were groves and groves of nut trees, almonds in gorgeous bloom, pistachios and walnuts. We stopped for gas and bought some nuts and chocolate drizzled nut bark at the nearby outlet store. Yum. There were hillsides covered in sleeping grapevines and offers of wine tasting, most of which were closed for the season. Further on we came to orange and lemon groves too. Now we know where a lot of our fruit and veggies come from and how they’re grown. It’s amazing how much land it takes.

Our goal that night was Red Rock Canyon State Park in the eastern part of the state and on our way to Death Valley. The wind when we arrived was terrible and really cold! It turned out a cold front was headed in and it was freezing overnight. Temperature was -7C (19F) and we liberally used our propane Mr. Heater to warm up the interior of the van and melt the frost that had formed on the inside of all the windows! We are always warm enough at night since we sleep under several layers including my Stashbuster Blanket which has been wonderfully useful on this trip. So much for running away to warmer climes though apparently it was actually snowing back home too! At least we’ve had plenty of sunshine.

So here we are on Day 9. The boringly named Red Rock Canyon (couldn’t they have come up with something more original?) is very scenic. Now that the wind is stopped we can actually see it and after the cold night it has warmed up quite a lot so we can explore. It’s like a mini version of the badlands that we’ve seen in Alberta and also in South Dakota.

The campground is pretty rustic and tucked up beside the hoodoos. There are some well-marked trails to explore. This one is called (obviously) Window Rock:

I took a whole lot of photos but it’s really hard to get the depth and colours right. This area is volcanic:

You can’t really tell but it goes down a very long way to the wash below. I’m also learning about the plants and animals here. We’ve seen the cutest bunnies and a much larger black-tailed hare. Also hummingbirds sipping from the creosote bushes that are the only plants that are flowering. I especially liked the Joshua trees:

And the beavertail cactuses:

Prickly hearts! Thom likes the even more prickly cholla (pronounced “choy-ya”):

This one has a cactus wren nest in it. Can you see it?

Tomorrow it’s off a few hours north and east to Death Valley. It’s reported to be even colder there! Who knew? Wish us luck. Maybe we can find a campsite with electricity! Whatever, we’ll be fine. Anyway, I’m not expecting to find wifi again for awhile. But you never know. More posts when I can!

Monday, February 19, 2018


So with Part 3 you’re nearly caught up with our perambulations. We still have Internet - from our campsite, no less - and another day tomorrow. Hopefully more soon!

Part 3: More Scenic Coast

It was still surprisingly chilly at night in Marin County and we could see some frost when we got up really early to beat the traffic over the Golden Gate Bridge and through San Francisco on Day 5.

It’s hard to take a good picture through a dirty windshield while moving at speed, just sayin’.

We were a little concerned about finding a campsite at Big Sur since they weren’t taking reservations ahead. So we didn’t stop at any of the pull-offs above the spectacular coastline on our way down. However, we needn’t have worried. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park had plenty of room at noon although it filled up nearly full by suppertime. We got three nights so we would have plenty of time to explore. It’s unfortunate but it helps that Highway 1 to the south is blocked because of a mud slide so that traffic from the Los Angeles area has to come around from the north by Monterey. It also means we won’t be able to see the whole Big Sur coast down to San Simeon but we did spend a short while driving through Carmel-by-the-Sea which is adorable though rather full of tourists. Oh, that would be us!

There was also time on Day 6 to go further south to visit Limekiln State Park for the day. The views were pretty spectacular from the road and this time we stopped:

We were even lucky enough to see gray whales spouting! No condors though we kept a weather eye out for them. Just turkey vultures instead.

At Limekiln we paid the day fee ($10! Yikes!) and squeezed into the narrow park. The trail to the waterfall through the redwood forest had us crossing the creek over logs and rocks at least 4 times. It was worth it for the 100-foot straight fall of water:

Then we went back to the main trail and continued up to the old abandoned limekilns that were only active for a short while in the late 19th century:

The purified lime was used in the concrete and morter for building in cities like San Francisco. The limestone ran out in three years so the site was abandoned. Back down the trail and through the campground we sat and enjoyed the sunshine on the little beach. This is one of the only beach accesses along the Big Sur coast.

Day 7 was our last day at Big Sur. We didn’t get a chance to check out Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park the day before because the parking lot was full so after breakfast we packed up and drove the 10 miles south again. Of course we wanted to see the waterfall!

It drops straight down onto the tiny beach below. We also checked out the site of Waterfall House that had been built in 1940 for the original owners of this property:

Nothing like viewing that waterfall from your bedroom window! Quite a bit different from the homesteaders who lived in this wee cabin, huh?

It’s been fun exploring Big Sur after hearing so much about the beauty of this part of the Pacific Coast:

But tomorrow we’re off again away from the ocean and into the desert.

Part 2: Coasting On

Well, I spoke too soon about the weather when we woke up at Washburne to rain on Day 3. Always a pain to get packed up while dodging large raindrops! All the way down the coast we played peek-a-boo with the sun alternating with the rain and sometimes both at the same time.

We stopped for lunch at Arch Rock:

The water is so much more clear this time of year! And showing all the different shades of turquoise. Pretty. We also saw four large herds of elk on the way, mostly in the redwoods just after we crossed into California. They look kind of different too when the boys haven’t grown their antlers yet.

There was quite a lot of road construction along the highway in the northern California redwood forests so it took a little longer to get to Patricks Point State Park than we expected. But we still had time to check out the trails and see some of the viewpoints. We climbed up Wedding Rock, here seen from Patricks Point itself:

And the point from Wedding Rock:

Plus we investigated Ceremonial Rock (above). There was a lot more climbing than what you can see here! The top was a little disappointing since it just looks down on the forest or on a field with the ocean farther away. We definitely got our exercise climbing back down again:

Today (Day 4) we woke up to frost overnight and clear skies. We continued down in and out of fog patches to Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Marin County just north of San Francisco. We’re staying tonight among the redwoods. It’s already early spring here. There are daffodils out and on the way we’ve seen flowering pink and white cherry trees, yellow wattles and some magnolias. There are a lot of California bay laurel here, some very large and many-trunked but they have delicate little yellow flowers:

Tomorrow we’re off south again, across the Golden Gate Bridge and down the coast some more for a last few days before heading inland.

Part 1: The Odyssey Begins

Or maybe it’s the Odd-Essey! Everyone thought we were nuts to go camping in the winter. I kept saying we were going far enough south that it was at least spring down there. We only had to get there first. Who knew we’d be lucky enough to have solid glorious sunshine as we headed off? It’s still cold, especially at night, but it’s very tolerable. And our first few campsites happily had electricity so we could use our electric heater which definitely makes the frosty mornings much easier to bear.

On Day 1 we camped at Seaquest State Park in Washington State about an hour north of Portland. A walk along the boardwalk on the marshy edge of Silver Lake gave us clear views of snowy Mount St. Helens:

The air was very clear and I think this was the best we’ve ever seen the volcano who blew her top, at least from this location. It’s interesting that travelling this time of year you can see different views than usual because the leaves are still off a lot of the trees and shrubs and the understory plants haven’t grown up yet.

Day 2 found us struggling through morning rush hour traffic on the I-5 through downtown Portland. We didn’t get up early enough to avoid it! Eventually we made it past the worst of it and headed diagonally southwest through the fruit and nut growing area around McMinnville. Lots of wineries too although it’s the wrong time of year for wine tasting.

We finally hit the Oregon Coast just north of Lincoln City and were delighted to see the tide was in and the waves were spraying high. We pitstopped at Boiler Bay for a look at the pretty ocean views:

Lunchtime found us at Cape Perpetua so we stopped at the Devil’s Churn. I couldn’t get a very good photo of the churn (it was in the deep shade and I couldn’t catch the big wave splash) so we walked down the trail:

Wish you could hear (and feel) the pounding of the waves! Much refreshed we continued on to Carl G. Washburne State Park. Another walk, this time on the windy and rather chilly beach:

And through the twisted and mossy forest:

And back to camp. Next stop tomorrow will be in California. We’re having a very good time so far (the good weather doesn’t hurt) even though the distances are rather long. It’s the only way to get there and back again in the month that we’ve allowed for this trip. Anyway Thom and I figured out how to travel without discomfort after crossing the continent not once but twice. Home Sweet Van!


I will begin by saying we have been away for more than a week now. This is the first time I’ve had wifi since we left home and I’m not terribly confident about it. However I have been dilligently writing up our experiences for you! Let’s just try one and see, shall we? Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Tuesday, February 06, 2018


Seems like my issue is fixed!

So, here have another one. My garlic is growing. It’s bigger than his now.

Yet Another Test

Hello! It seems like an age, doesn’t it? I was super busy after I finished the blanket. I was concentrating on the sweater I’ve been making for Thom. I have most of the body done now, minus the sleeves and collar, but I found that I likely need another ball of yarn. This thing eats yarn for breakfast! So I’m back to spinning a last bobbin of 3-ply Coopworth yarn - #8! Whew. That will bring the total up to nearly 2 lbs. of wool. Warm sweater! Hope he will still get a chance to wear it when it’s finally done.

The other news I have is that we’re plotting another trip in the old VW Westie. South to California and Nevada to get some sunshine and warmth! You can’t blame us. It’s rained nearly every day since forever around here. However we need to be back before I have to start planting seedlings in mid-March so we’re leaving next week. Whee! Much packing still to do. No idea how often I’ll be able to post from the road since we’ll be mostly thoroughly bushed. My sister is staying here while we’re away so the house won’t be neglected.

So here’s the test. Still having trouble posting photos so trying a differnt method. You may get 2 posts. Hopefully one will have a picture of the kale I picked from my garden.

Friday, February 02, 2018

We Have Blanket!

A little wonky. OK, a LOT wonky! A little seersuckery. A little bouclé-ish. But it’s soft and warm and light. The Stashbuster Blanket will make a great addition to the winter wool pile on our bed and then transition to a lightweight summer cover. Wool is the very best fibre to sleep in. It breathes and wicks moisture and is self-adjusting to the ambient temperature. Works fine for the sheep, doesn’t it? Works for me too.

I’m quite interested in what people sleep on and under. It seems as if our little homemade bed would be too small for most people these days. It’s a standard full/double bed size but somehow Thom and I don’t seem to clash in the middle of the night. (Maybe nearly 47 years of practice? And we aren’t particularly large or tall.) Also unlike most people, I like my blankets heavy and tucked in tightly, a cool room and a window open. And obviously we both like lots of pillows! The top ones do end up on the floor at bedtime.

So this was yet another one of my slow projects. I actually started way back in November 2016 but stopped winding the warp after just one of the six 50-strand sections. Finally took it up again last fall absolutely determined to finish. To recap, the yarns were all various ancient balls and skeins that had been lurking around the studio for eons. Some are actual blanket yarns, a lot were leftovers from other projects or spinning samples. I used the heavier plied yarns for warp, winding no more than one or two ends before switching to a different one. The weft yarns are singles and all of the yarns except the accent ones were overdyed in a dark green acid dye to meld all the disparate colours into something more harmonious. That used up some old dyes too.

The warp was 300 ends 11 yards long and sett at 8 ends per inch and the weft was beaten in at (mostly) 10 picks per inch. Except the accent stripes which I beat in much harder so they would show up better. After the piece came off the loom I cut three 120” sections and pressed and pinned 3/4” hems in the ends right away before they had a chance to unravel. The sections were laced together through the selvedges to attach them and I think it makes a very flat and nearly invisible join. The hems were slip-stitched with the weft yarn.

To finish the blanket I put them in the washing machine with hot water and lots of Orvus and let it agitate for awhile, checking often to make sure I hadn’t gone too far. You can always full a cloth some more but you can’t reverse the process! Then I spun it out, rinsed in lukewarm water, spun it out again and hung it up in the basement to dry. It shrunk quite a lot: a full 21% in the weft direction and a more normal 15% in the warp direction. The final measurements are 88”W X 98”L (223.5 cm X 249 cm). Luckily that still fits our regular-sized double bed with enough to tuck in. Because the fabric is still pretty lumpy, I then decided to steam press it to even it out as much as possible. Which wasn’t much!

Perfection wasn’t really my goal anyhow. I just wanted to reduce the bags of random balls of really elderly wool and have another bed cover. It will probably spend most of its time layered between other blankets anyhow so nobody will see it then but me when I make the bed. Did I mention that this project only used up maybe 2/3 of that heap of yarns? Not quite the perfect stashbuster either. But the stash is a full 5-1/2 lbs lighter than it was. And today I vacuumed up the most amazing collection of green dust bunnies in my studio. Or maybe that was Dust Godzillas! They were huge! They were everywhere.  But I conquered them with a secret weapon - the Dyson. Yay!

Now onto the next project.

Sunday, January 28, 2018


Well, we must be on a similar wavelength or something. Felicia of the Craft Sessions gives a very thoughtful post on what I was attempting to articulate from the perspective of a maker and a mother of three young children. And naturally she says it better than I ever could. Go read it if you haven’t already. You’re welcome.

A Little Reflection

I recently came upon this quote attributed to Caroline Caldwell:

In a society that profits from your self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.

As a bona fide Little Old Lady, I’ve learned over the years that most of the advertising world is negative and if you’re taking those messages as truth you are going to be endlessly disappointed. First they make you feel insecure/ugly/guilty/wanting and then they supply you with the “cure”. I’ve always said, if there’s one thing they should teach in school along with the 3R’s it should be a course in Media Savvy. It could save so much heartache.

For my part, I have totally become “not the target market” for nearly everything out there in Consumer Land. Not really consciously - at least at first - but more by the fact that there seems to be not much that I want. Mostly it’s all just not particularly relevant to my current life. Otherwise I probably already own it. Or if I want it, can I afford it? Or if I can afford it, can I justify its purchase to myself? And I haven’t even mentioned the shoddy crap that seems to be ubiquitous these days. I shudder whenever an appliance breaks or I need new sheets and towels (my latest fruitless search for half-decent quality). Doesn’t anybody expect anything to last more than a year or two these days? Or a single laundering? But I digress.

One thing that makes me very happy is that I finally have a handle on making clothes for the body I have. Ad you might have noticed, I am getting much closer to a personal style that I love and that also works for my leisurely lifestyle. I certainly couldn’t do that if I was restricted to buying from the ladies’ dress shops! Or even like many lovely people I know, stalking the thrift stores for second-hand. Nothing fits me the way I like, comes in colours I like, or is sewn properly in good quality fabrics. If I had an unlimited clothes budget (which of course I don’t!) and couldn’t sew I would still be wearing ill-fitting clothes or taking everything to a dressmaker to fix.

It’s true that every time I say that nothing fits (or whine, sniffle, growl and complain) I get funny looks from those who just pop into a store and find clothes they can wear. This was driven home to me when I was visiting my sister in Haida Gwaii and she had the models for a charity fashion show come to try on the mostly second-hand/vintage garments that had been donated. Regular women of differing ages and body types were just popping things on and often looking amazing while doing it. Not that I was going to be there during the show, I nevertheless tried on a couple of things just for fun. And...the usual issues. If I could do up a jacket the sleeves covered my hands and the shoulders looked like refugees from the 1980’s. If it fit my shoulders I couldn’t get it around my middle. Or I couldn’t get it on at all. And long sleeves were still too long. Sigh. Nothing is made for an elderly potato with stick arms and legs. Unless I make it myself.

That ability has become my salvation! My super-power. I’m free of the dictates of current fashions, cheap fabrics, bad cutting, sloppy sewing, limited colours and lack of choices. I can make anything I want - within reason. And mostly what I want is pretty simple: T-shirts, leggings, stretch pants, tunics/jumpers, a couple of easy dresses, some shirts and jackets and maybe a vest. Layering pieces. Garments that fit under or over other garments. Not too tight or restrictive. Not too much volume. Interesting hems and collars. Pockets!

When I can wear garments that fit and feel good, it really gives my self-esteem a big boost. I can appreciate my body instead of cursing it for not being “right”. I don’t have to be young or slim or pretty. I can just be much more “me”. Definitely not the Target Market! But an individual who is comfortable and happy with herself. Even if she is an elderly potato. Heh.

So I’m still working on the Blanket. Not woven to the end yet! I can hardly wait to finish it so I can concentrate on reviewing my sewing queue. It’s been so long since I’ve even looked at the piles waiting for me. It’s ok though. Things happen in their own time. It’s my Year of the Slug, right?

Saturday, January 27, 2018


We drove out to Langley yesterday to Voyageur Soap & Candle. You know how much I love a shop with supplies for making things, don’t you? They do mostly mail-order business but although the bricks-and-mortar store is kind of hidden in an industrial strip mall, they are very welcoming to walk-in shoppers. Since I much prefer the hands-on experience if I can get it, I beg a ride out there at least once or twice a year. No, it’s not all soap and candles either. If you’ve ever had a hankering to formulate your own shampoo, make-up, nail polish, lip balm, bath bombs, skin care creams and lotions, diffuser oils or the like - this is the place to get the ingredients. And the packaging to put it in too. It’s amazing. If you have no idea where to start, they also offer classes.

So what was I after, you might ask? Apart from my usual pound of organic refined shea butter, I got some Turkey red oil to use perhaps sometime this summer in a Turkey red dye experiment. (I finally found a hopefully functional recipe so more on that when it happens.) Plus I picked up some essential oils to try to formulate a refill for my Saje reed diffuser. The original is their Rain Forest scent and really pricey at $28.95 for 30ml. Helpfully they give you all the ingredients but of course not the proportions! That will be fun to experiment with, huh? I managed to find all the essential oils on the list and (even with the vetiver by far the most expensive at $12.15 for a tiny bottle) it was a lot cheaper for a much larger volume. Now I can play mad scientist. Mwaa-ha-ha!

However, the real reason I wanted to go to Voyageur was to pick up some more jojoba oil and organic beeswax pastilles to combine with the pine rosin I ordered from another company (Voyageur doesn’t carry it) to make some waxed cloth wraps to use to cover containers in the fridge instead of plastic wrap. I experimented a little already:

It works pretty well to stick to the bowl especially if you hold it for awhile with warm hands. The waxing was a bit more fiddly than I expected so I have some more experimenting to do before I pass on the how-to’s. I think maybe slightly lighter fabric would mound better around the bowl too. We’ll see. The cool thing about this is that you can make sizes to fit every container you have. You can also sew little bags and packets for non-wet snacks. You can wash the cloths gently in mild detergent and cool water. If the wax wears off over time you can always re-apply. This is another one of those things where the pre-made store-bought version is much more expensive. I’ve seen them for $18 for a flat set of 3 squares in different sizes.

And now for the OOTD:

Still hanging out with the loom! That’s my Seagreen Seamus Tunic that I just finished last November with a vintage purchased black turtleneck underneath. The pants are my TNT bootcut stretchies in a really nice French terry. They’re actually closer in shade to the naturally-dyed wool sweater than they look in the photo. I wove some more on the blanket today but still the end is not yet nigh. Darn.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Beat Goes On

It’s currently raining mixed with a goodly amount of snowflakes outside so what’s a girl gonna do? Weave!

All the bright lights are so I can perhaps see what I’m doing. BTW, Thom made that Tiffany style stained glass lamp above me about 25 years ago. And he also made my oak weaving bench sometime in the 1980’s. It’s older than this loom. I remember Woolhouse’s John Low wondering why I didn’t also want him to make me a bench for Gertrude. Because I already had a nice one!

Well, I can almost see the warp beam back there now so only about 2 or 3 yards to go! I haven’t been keeping careful track at all. Just thumping away on it hoping to see the end eventually. I seem to have plenty of weft yarn still. The biggest grandbeastie, my Wildling, wound me a bunch of bobbins when she was over last weekend. Handy. Almost like having an automatic bobbin winder. Heh.

I’m wearing the same pants and T-shirt as yesterday. Here’s the slogan in turquoise blue that you can just see on my left sleeve:

It says: IMAGINE CREATE BELIEVE. The company was called Creo (“create” in Latin) before Kodak sadly bought it out in 2005. Anyway, the T-shirt has longevity!

I’m also wearing my Licorice Tunic Vest:

Knitted a year ago with handspun yarn and the pattern “Ebony” by Cristina Ghirlanda. I love this warm sweater and it’s been getting a lot of wear this winter.

Gee, I go for ages without Me-Photos and now you get a bunch in a row! That’s what you get for encouraging me. Hah.