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Archive for July, 2009

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I once read, that if growing hollyhocks was as difficult as growing roses, then they would be just as appreciated.  I think this is true. 

Hollyhocks have always been one of my favorite flowers.  Their tall stalks seem to rise effortlessly overhead and the flowers, bright and cheerful, are like rays of sunshine, smiling at the world.  They became even more significant to me when my great-aunt Beverly showed me how to make southern bells out of the flowers and buds.  We were visiting her at her home in South Sioux City, NE  when she showed my siblings and I how to stack   several open flowers on a toothpick to form the skirt of our Southern Bell, then add a bud for the head and another, smaller, open flower for a hat.   We covered her house in these glorious ladies, and still, there were more flowers to be had.

Here, I have them growing in front of my house, steadily creeping into the lawn.  When I moved in, there was three plants.  A white, a dark salmon and a light salmon.  The next year several pink ones made themselves known.  Now I have colors ranging from almost black, deep burgundy, pink, yellow, white, salmon and multi-colored ones.   Extras have been carefully transplanted to fill in areas of the landscaping that need more color and less weeds. 

I love the way these hardy plants will even crowd out the most aggressive grasses and weeds.  I love how their roots go deep, and how little water they need to survive.  I love that they are prone to thriving!

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just give ’em dirt

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Boy love their toys, and they love dirt.  I can’t seem to keep them out of the garden.  The other day, they tried to plow up the Egyptian onions that I had spent the day planting.  They felt, that I had ruined their roads, planting all those onions.

Now I have them reigned in to the edges and pathways.  They are learning where things grow, and where they don’t.

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If you knew…

…how many times I have planted cucumbers 

…how many times I have dreamed of jars of pickles

…how many times I’ve had not a single plant come up

…or all the times my plants have been eaten by grasshoppers the moment they are above ground…

Then you would understand my joy at finding not one, but three little flowers today!  The plants are only about 6″ tall, and it being almost August, I was afraid that once again I would have no cucumbers to pickle.

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dyeing wool

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With three bags of wool sitting around my house, I could no longer resist the temptation to try dyeing some.  Those of you who have been reading a while know my fascination with wool.  It is one of those natural fibers I don’t think I will ever cease to be awed by.

As I sat and carded, the boys kept asking me when I was going to make some of it colored and offering color suggestions.  They thought I should use food coloring, like I did last winter, when I introduce the concept of dyeing to them.  They thought I should have bunches of pink wool.  I disagreed, and decided to show them what natural products can do:  Turmeric, for instance, makes this wonderful yellow. 

I put about two teaspoons of Turmeric in about a gallon of water with some white vinegar, and followed the basic directions for dyeing wool.  I let it sit in the dye bath for close to an hour, as I wanted the color to be good and strong, knowing I could always tone it down, by carding it with white wool.

If I can get the colors I want, I plan to spin a variegated wool to weave into a rug for my bedroom.

It turned out so well that I dyed some more in coffee and tea.  I have back walnuts and onion skins to try, not to mention, all of the plants that grow wild around here.  A few years ago, the county tried to eradicate a yellow flower that was brought here by the pioneers, for making blue cloth.  I hope they failed, and that I can find some of it yet this summer.

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With the sun shining brightly and storm clouds in the West, the boys pitched their tent in the back yard Saturday evening.  We had planned to go camping, but sickness had changed our plans. 

Not to be defeated, they decided to camp at home, and really, I think they  enjoyed it just as much as a trip into the mountains.   All the elements were there:  We had a campfire, cooked in the dutch oven, ate burnt food, because no one wanted to wait for proper coals to cook on.  Caleb had a fish that he had caught earlier.  He cooked that over the fire himself, and the rest of us had steak, which was not burnt.  All in all, it was a good evening, and everyone was up on time to make Church and Sunday School, despite having camped out.

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carding wool

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This spring we butchered a lamb and had planned to tan the hide, but it was not in very good shape, so I sheared it, cleaned it, and tried to figure out how to card it, without purchasing carders or combs.  Likely dream!  Okay, so there are ways of doing it, but they are not all that satisfactory.  I looked for plastic dog brushes, but no place locally was selling them this year.  Last year they were all we could find.

So I finally broke down, when a friend found two bags of wool for me at a second hand store, and ordered some carders.  They came yesterday, and I have been getting acquainted with them. 

My first few rolags did not turn out so hot, but now that I have made about eight, I am getting the hang of it.  Separating the wool well before carding it seems to make the greatest difference.

I ordered these from Pacific Wool and Fiber, they are made here in the USA.

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While picking berries, we found this red mushroom.  I have no idea what kind of mushroom it is, but it reminded me to take time to find the hidden beauties in everyday life.  

It also reminded me of all the stories I have hear of the power of mushrooms to change things, like the little cap ones, that break through sidewalks and crack foundations.  Something so seemingly frail, and yet…  there is power.  It reminds me of prayer.  There is a true power in prayer, despite the fact that you can’t see it or feel it.

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