Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Women's work -- Not!

Ever since Elizabeth Barber published her work, "Women's Work, the first 20,000 years" in 1995 -- fiberistas have been decrying the low value of their "art" to society and blaming the fact that it is "women's work" and so has little value.

Pash-sha! First of all, to relegate the production of cloth to the realm of women's occupation flies in the face of fact and evidence. I submit that the production of cloth within the family has always been a household occupation -- one that demanded the skills of all family members.

I present to you the coat of many colours that Jacob wove for Joseph. I present to you the generations of scottish peasants that worked in the fields during the growing season and wove at their looms in the winter -- linen weavers all -- our own ancester John Brown of Carpow for example. I present to you the British navy, where every recruit was issued knitting needles and yarn and expected to knit his own socks to keep his uniform in good repair. I submit to you the children -- male and female -- who carded the wool and walked the muckle wheel in Scotia, Ireland, and Wales for centuries -- until the Industrial revolution removed them from the land. Then there were the shepherd boys and girls who spun on their spindles as they lead the sheep, to knit their own clothing in the evening hours. I present to you our Scottish forebears who knitted with greater complexity than their wives -- Alexander Crum Brown of Edinborough our Great Grand Uncle, perhaps the best known, knit complicated mathematical models using dpn's and wool.

Every male in our family line learned to knit as a child and taught his skills to his wife, if she knew them not. Knitting was such an essential skill for the comfort of the family that no child could sit idle while he could be knitting (or carving, or carding, or spinning and all the other many tasks necessary for comfort and survival). That is, until our own children -- where the notion that knitting was a feminine occupation overroad common sense, to our own loss.

I submit to you the weavers, knitters, and dyers of the middle ages -- guild members and men all, although home production also occurred.

Look to the Americas -- the mexican and andean men are as involved as the women in textile production, as in many other cultures. In some, but not all, cultures spinning is considered women's work, while men weave. In some cultures dyeing is only done by menopausal women because of the mystery of the dye vat. In other cultures men are the wardens of this great art.

In the middle east, women care for the goats, spin the yarn, take it to a dyer and then weave the beautiful, and valuable carpets -- part of the family's wealth. Men also weave carpets in workshops -- but they are not the same, and have less value, produced as they are for the tourist market.

This false belief that fiber arts are the realm of women has robbed a generation of men of the beauty and satisfaction of producing thread, cloth and clothing by hand -- while at the same time robbing women of the same satisfaction -- as they strive to be feminist.

What has truly devalued textiles is our access to abundant throw away textiles.

  • Cheap synthetic yarn that pills, attracts grease, and doesn't wear well in proportion to the hours spent in knitting the sweater.

  • Mass produced cloth towels that wear out in a year -- due to the nature of the weak cotton threads used to make them.

  • Blue jeans that are pre abused to wear out in 6 months or less.

  • Fashion styles that are dictated by the runways and the corporate culture far removed from real life needs.

  • Synthetic cloth that can not keep a body warm and attracts grease so that cleaning becomes impossible and the garments are disposed of and replaced frequently.

  • Industry access to cheap labour, at home and abroad, cheap materials, and expensive marketing that convinces the consumer to part with their cash for disposable clothing.

These industry ideals fuel a consumer driven economy -- unsustainably.

Clothing has value as a basic human need. Slow clothing -- whether created as a one off by an artisan or made by hand at home, has value and will stand the test of time if created with quality materials. Slow clothes made from natural fibers are also sustainable and renewable -- dyed with natural dyes, they are "green"-- ethical. Created from a fibre friend they have a story.

Hand spinning, weaving, knitting and dyeing also have value as they work within an economy that values real warmth, quality materials, enduring wearablility, and natural aesthetics. Not everyone can afford this value and so some must buy their textiles over and over again each year -- and discard the worn out purchases of the previous season. But this is not because textile production is "women's work" but rather because their budget is disposable. Isn't that why its called "disposable income"?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lambs and Kids

We had a weekend of lambs and kids being born. Only one birth so far needing help. That lamb is still weak and in the house getting tube fed. He may not make it but we always try. He's still not standing on day 3. And has no suck. Has had selenium twice since birth, so now we care for him and wait... (update: Lamb on day 4 is standing and walking but still doesn't want to suck. Sarah is dribbling the milk in with a syringe -- it looks more hopeful for the lamb now)

We had a beautiful set of coloured angora doelings born to Taffeta. Taffy is a white angora goat with no colour in her back ground, but she give us coloured babies whenever she is bred to a coloured buck. What a treasure she is. Also she has a high percentage of does.

We're less than half way and have about 27 babies on the ground. And finally pure raw goat's milk to drink, make yoghurt from and ice cream. Yummy! We haven't had milk since December so its a wonderful blessing. By the end of the month I will be able to make cheese again.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Beauty for Ashes

The world has become an ugly place. The things that brought joy, hope, friendship and community a mere 70 years ago, have been destroyed and the phoenix that has risen out of the ashes is ugly, cruel and destructive. What caused this devastation to society? Was it the Industrial revolution? Patriarchy? Conservative Christianity? Multinational Corporations? Hollywood? The Internet? No. It was the Frankfurt Conspiracy in 1924 in Frankfurt, Germany.

What am a talking about? In 1924 a group of Marxist-socialist scholars formed a group dedicated to undermining the social fabric of society in the west, in order to bring about a "peaceful" revolution for a socialist-Marxist world, with an elite ruling class made up of intellectuals. Their goals were to remove beauty; destroy family relationships; decrease the population to more controllable numbers through widespread use of contraception, abortion and licentiousness; destroy Christianity and Judaism and replace it with a materialist atheism, abolish logic, reason and entrepreneurship, to create a cultural revolution.

Their mode of attack was through public education, universities, and the media -- television, the press, and music. I went to university in the late 70s and their views were rampant both at SFU and at Trinity Western University. In fact the only difference between TWU and SFU was that students could pray together without censorship and there was no pro life club at TWU. Both were blatantly Marxist in their ideals and leanings. The Frankfurt conspiracy was never mentioned but the names of those influenced by the Frankfurt group were the very people that I studied and wrote papers about.

Wow, the Frankfurt conspiracy been very successful. When I listen to CBC 1 -- the only radio station available to me -- I find that the beautiful classical music that they used to play is gone and in its place is ugly, atonal noise. The news stories are full of violence, sensationalism, and Marxist propaganda. Especially propaganda against conservatives -- against the nuclear family or even the extended family, against children, against Christianity, and especially against legislative authority -- like the democratically elected conservative government of Canada or the RCMP.

Even my daughters favorite novel series, Redwall, is full of these socialist ideas, violent class struggles, and the victory of the proletariat under the rule of Gaia.

So why care?
Ugliness promotes hopelessness, despair, and destroys our families, our friendships and our faith -- even our very lives. Its interesting that western beauty and western culture, based as it is in Judea-Christian history and religion is rejected. One human rights tribunal in Canada even went so far as to declare that western culture was not a culture. But it is politically correct to adapt a culture or religion from Eastern pantheism -- Buddist simplicity, or Feng Shui, for instance.

Even much of the art in galleries is full of despair and hopelessness -- death, murder, atrocities or just banal chemical colours and geometic shapes. The beauty that was called art in previous generations is limited to feminist ideals today. Our homes are boxes. Our neighborhoods are plastic and bland. We've lost the beauty of the flower garden, the solace of music and singing -- making our own music to lift up our spirits. We've lost the joy of new birth, and the holiness of aged wisdom. We've lost the ability to beautify our surroundings with our own hands.

But we can redeem beauty for ourselves and for our families. We can fill our homes with art again. One piece of beauty at a time -- a piece of pottery to eat our simple soup in, or drink our peppermint tea, a package of flower seeds to add to the vegetable seed order, natural dyes to dye our yarns, natural fibers to form our clothing. Wool rugs for our floors, towels, cushions and toys created with our own hands will fight the ugliness of this "new world order". And renew our hope in God, who created the natural beauty.

We can fill our homes with music again. Sing a lullaby to a child, play a musical instrument, learn the songs of your childhood again and share them with your children or grand children. Listen to Bach, Handel or Mozart and learn to play the recorder again. Find a friend and play a duet. Music feeds hope or destroys it. Find the song that feeds your hope.

If your home feels ugly to you, begin to change it one room at a time. Add a wild flower bouquet to the dining room table. Force some pussy willows, sew some curtains. Overdye a faded table cloth. Beauty gives the gift of hope. Fight the despair that has permeated this world through art practice.

To be successful you may need to reject what they taught you in school.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Peace Banner

We were at the Grand Forks Art Gallery and Courthouse Musuem on Thursday gathered around the floor loom which holds the warp for the Peace Banner.

A basket of rags sat beside the loom, water proof markers and excited weavers. Ramona went in every day since last week to weave the header on the warp -- a rainbow plaid -- 30 ends in each colour beginning with red. It was beautiful. Thanks, Ramona for your dedicated work.

The banner is now ready to share with the public. And the public was there on Thursday to begin the weaving. About 15 people shared in the weaving of the first 2 ft. of rag strips into the warp -- some guild members, some visitors to the museum, and some volunteers.

Then I noticed the mistake!

In threading the reed I had skipped a dent. Its right in the centre of the warp. Oh, my. Well it will be a unique artistic legacy with my mistake -- yes, it was me -- the guild president -- and I made the mistake. It will go into the permanent art gallery collection for my grand children and my great grand children to see.

But it is truly a beautiful thing -- aesthetically pleasing to see the rainbow colours lined up ready to receive the recycled fabric strips with messages from the weavers written in. "Toil and a Peaceful Life" is woven into it already, in honour of our Doukhobor friends. And spiritually beautiful as each person weaves their own thoughts, prayers and hopes for peace into the fabric of our tapestry.

Our guest book is already being filled with healing comments from the weavers.

Oh, and the Grand Forks Gazette published a photograph of the guild members warping the loom for the banner with a lovely short write up. Thank you, Shella Gardezi, editor.

Friday, March 20, 2009


“There is no house possessing a goat but a blessing abideth wherein.” -- Middle Eastern Proverb

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Imagine a world without plastic bags, where every person could gather materials from the wood lot or garden and weave their own shopping basket. And that same plot of ground would provide a laundry basket, a basket for picking strawberries or apples, and a trug for carrying the potatoes in from the field and storing them for the winter. Each basket as unique and beautiful as the human hands that wove them.
That plot would also provide early fodder for bees -- before the wild flowers came out of dormancy, in Spring. It would offer the materials to build a chair, make a bench or a bed. It would give the materials to build a play ground, a tunnel, a cave, or a chair -- A playground that grew again into a living playground, with leaves and branches.
It would give foliage for feeding rabbits or goats. It would offer medicine for fever, joint pain or headache, a medicine without side effects. And rooting hormone for starting other plants would be gained from soaking its cut twigs. It would give a natural dye for wool or silk in yellow, green and bronze, with its leaves and bark.
That plot of ground would provide a wind break and snow fence in the winter and a buffer zone near creeks or water courses. It would absorb toxins from the air and the soil and purify nearby water ways. Its leaves would take carbon from the air and store it in its roots, while giving off pure oxygen from its leaves, increasing air quality.
It would provide browse for deer, moose, elk and grow right back after grazing. Birds would nest in the older branches. The rythm of the wind in the swaying stalks would be as beautful as a ballet--so beautiful it would inspire stories and works of art.
And over a few years this plot of ground would provide fuel to heat a home, bake bread or heat water and still grow, to be harvested again another year . A willow planting provides all these things over many years. A well maintained plot will last 30 years or more -- and the new growth can be used to begin another plantation.
It all begins by pushing a few sticks in the ground, watering and weeding them until they grow into willow trees -- coppicing them annually or leaving them to grow a few seasons -- and then harvesting them by cutting them off at ground level -- coppicing.

The Joybilee Farm willows will be ready to harvest soon for basket weaving and for garden sculptures. I've wanted to create a living willow bench for our dye garden area. I have the book, Living Willow Sculpture and I've browsed the wonderful UK websites and blogs where people are doing it. Two Springs ago I tried to make a dome but only two of the willow sticks actually lived -- out of 30 -- so I'm a bit wary of trying again. I think the problem was waiting till June before I started making the dome. Many of the rods had already budded. This year I'll try it in April.

The season for willow sculptures here is really short. The snow comes when the willows are still in leaf before they are completely dormant. The snow is gone mid April and the willow is budding by May 1st, so there's a two week window to build the sculpture.

Maybe this Spring there will be time during lambing to be successful.

We grow 20 different willow varieties -- 6 ornamentals that can be used for basketry but are slower growing and very attractive garden plants, plus 14 that are tall, straight, fast growing and perfect for baskets. My favorite wilow for its unusual growth and beauty is... ok I have more than one favorite... Sekka for its faciated stems and snake like twisting, Hakuro-nishiki, a korean willow, for its stunning foliage that looks like pink flowers at the end of newly growing stalks, and Black pussy willow for its stunning catkins in Spring. These all grow very slowly in my zone 3 summers but they are still alive. I've learned not to coppice these the way we do the basket willows. They are just too slow growing to make a full recovery.

This one's Hakuro-nishiki. The pink leaves on the new growth last all summer until the autumn leaves turn colour.

But the basket willows are amazing. Even with our very cold 2008 summer, we still had 8 ft. rods from Salix viminalis (Common Osier). Black Maul was more tame at 5ft rods and the purpureas gave good straight fine rods, too. I love to use them together as their stem colours are lovely in contrast in a basket.

This one is Black Maul (Salix triandra) a very good basket weaving willow for its flexible, fine, straight stems.
S. Viminalis is great for living willow sculptures and grows 7 to 8 feet in my colder summers. The goats and rabbits like it, too. Sometimes the goats open the garden gate and I find this one munched down to goat eye level. Then the stem branches or forks, and I use it for planting new beds. The purpureas are bitter and the goats, and deer leave them alone.

My goal this spring is to spend some time playing with willow rods. I might even make a garden bench.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Angels behind the wheel

I was reminded today by a conversation with my daughter of the time we were looking for our homestead property -- 8 years ago -- December 2001. It was Christmas vacation. It was snowing a lot -- but not in Mission, B.C. -- there it was raining. The kids were looking forward to playing in the snow.

We made reservations in Turtle Valley to spend a few days with our kids in a cabin, exploring the area. We weren't sure yet where God wanted us to establish our homestead and we were exploring all parts of B.C. within an 8 hour drive of Mission. Open to the possibilities and looking for divine guidance.

We drove up to Turtle Valley, along the Coquihalla Hwy, in snow on Boxing Day, Dec. 26. It was slippery and treacherous and we watched vehicles sliding out of control behind us. Just after we got on the hwy at Hope, the snow started to fall heavier and the wind blew up. But we made it safely to Kamloops just as the RCMP closed the highway. We learned later there had been 2 fatal accidents. Our hosts in Turtle Valley said we were fortunate to get through safely.

We had a peaceful time in the Turtle Valley watching videos (Braveheart, Gone With the Wind), playing in the snow, and exploring properties for sale. We were surprised to find a vineyard and winery tucked away in this North-South Valley. The snow was deep and we found a sheep farm with coloured Romneys. There were lots of properties for sale, but it didn't feel like this was the right place for us.

We headed for home after exploring the area one last time on the 30th of December -- a Sunday night. The snow started as we drove into Kamloops and it was falling thick as the darkness enveloped us. We decided to avoid the Coquihalla Highway, after the fatalities over the week, and instead headed South via Hwy. 1 -- a narrow, winding highway through the Fraser Canyon.

Our 3 children were in the back seat. Robin was driving our Toyota Corolla Station wagon -- with all season radials -- no chains. There wasn't much traffic on the road. With the heavy snow, the darkness and the twisting highway it was difficult to drive more than just a few kilometers an hour. It was an unfamiliar highway. We didn't know where the road went and we couldn't see very far past our front bumper in the swirling snow.

Our knuckles were white and the air was tense as we prayed for guidance. That's when the first angel appeared at our rear -- a big Overwaitea truck heading to the coast. He passed us and pulled in front and led us through the canyon. The kind driver stayed right in front and didn't pull too fast ahead so that we could keep up, finding our way by following his tail lights.

About 15 minutes later another truck shone its headlights in our rear view mirror. The lead truck pulled away and flashed his lights at us. The one in the rear passed us and took the lead -- staying just ahead of us to guide us through the twisting canyon in the snow. It was another Overwaitea truck.

Ten minutes later another semi appeared in our rear view mirror. The first truck flashed his lights and drove on, pulling away from us. The truck behind us, passed us and took the lead. It was another Overwaitea truck. He, too, stayed just ahead of us allowing us to follow his lights and keep up through the narrow, twisting highway, past Hell's Gate.

We had 12 Overwaitea trucks in all pass us and lead us through the Fraser Canyon until we arrived at the Highway intersection in Hope. The last angel flashed his lights to say goodbye and sped away along the number 1 hwy toward Vancouver, where the highway widened into a 6 lane freeway.

But we were good after that -- the snow had slowed, the highway was well lit and mostly straight and we knew our way.

That was the Christmas that the angel was driving an Overwaitea truck.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Naked Sheep

Spring Shearing at Joybilee Farm

Ian travelled from Agassiz to Greenwood on Tuesday to shear our 55 animals -- wool sheep with 7inch fleece and Angora goats with 5 inch Mohair. It was just in time, too. We had 3 babies born during the shearing in the warm winter sun.

Ian is a professional shearer with training from Canadian Cooperative Wool growers and Olds College. The sheep trust him and that makes the shearing go well for Ian and the sheep.

Ian is our son.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Peace Banner

I spent 3 days last week threading the reed, and the heddles and beaming on the rainbow warp for the peace banner at the Grand Forks Art Gallery and Courthouse Musuem. The Gallery and the Museum share the heritage courthouse building on Hwy. 3 in downtown Grand Forks.

The Peace Banner will be set up on the loom from now until Sept. 21. Everyone is invited to come and weave a few pics or a lot of pics to add their sentiment to the project. A guest book is beside the loom for participants to record their name, where they live and their thoughts about the project.

As individual actions of justice and mercy are needed to build a community of peace, so individual threads woven into our peace banner will create a lasting tapestry of peace and a cultural legacy for our community.

On Saturday members of our guild, The Boundary Spinner and Weaver guild, worked together to beam on the warp. Robin did most of the knots and it is a good tight warp. The photographer from the Grand Forks gazette and the writer for Route 3 magazine were on hand to record this historical moment.

On Monday Ramona went in to the museum and hemstitched the beginning side of the warp. Tomorrow is our guild meeting and we will all weave one colour of the rainbow into the beginning of the banner.

Then the rag rug weaving will begin. We chose a rag rug motif for two reasons. One is that it is a common textile that was woven by most ethic groups in Canada, recycling worn clothing to give it a fresh purpose. Secondly, the weavers (that's everyone that wants to weave a strip or ten) will be able to write on the strips their thoughts, hopes, dreams, quotes about peace and participate in a tangible way in the creating of this banner.

I still need to create a sign that can be posted near the banner to explain how to weave and what is expected of the public at large.

Come weave with us a banner for peace.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to stay warm in the Cold

Its March and its -18C this morning. We were planning on shearing the angora goats today. We had our first goat kids yesterday -- 3 kids from 3 moms. One kid had trouble finding the udder -- the mom's fiber is looooong. So Ian came up from the coast to shear this lot and we wake up to -18C. BRRRR.

The house is cold -- our only source of heat is a Regency Close Clearance wood stove in the downstairs. So normally this would be enough -- it is only -18C. But it hasn't been that cold lately so we hadn't been using it on full. The log house heats up and gives off heat at night -- when we use the wood stove all day.

So how do you keep warm in the cold? First of all wool really helps. We have a thrift store wool blanket under the bottom sheet, like a mattress pad, and that keeps our body heat close to us. I even use it in summer as the wool wicks moisture away and keeps us just the right temperature.

Also wool doesn't absorb body odors the way cotton and synthetic fibres do so it stays fresh and clean.

Then we put 2 more wool blankets on top of the bed (from the thrift store again) and top that with a pretty handmade quilt. More wool blankets on top of that if it gets to -30C.

The window is covered with a wool blanket, too, and sealed around the edges with clothes pegs -- not pretty but it is comfortable.

Then for personal comfort there are wool throws (real wool -- not acrylic) on all the chairs and couches. We dress in wool and mohair sweaters with a silk shirt underneath. The silk protects from static shocks and the wool and silk insultate. A hat goes on the head -- even indoors and if its really cold its an angora hat since angora is 8 times warmer than wool.

Then if it is still chilly, like first thing in the morning before the woodstove has a chance to heat the house, I heat up a flax bag in the microwave and lay it on my neck to stay warm -- great at the foot of the bed to preheat the blankets, or laid across the stomach while sitting at the computer.

What's a flax bag? Here's how I make one:

I cut a 12 x 15 strip of fabric and folded it right sides together. I stitched on the two long sides -- leaving the short side open. I turned it right side out and sewed up the middle to create 3 channels in the bag. Using a funnel I filled the channels with whole flax seed. Then turned under and stitched up the top of the bag. Then I sewed a pillow case for the bag so that the case can be washed separately.

The bag is heated in the microwave for 1 min. and 30 seconds -- becomes hot and then gives off this heat for about an hour. Its a simple comfort that helps relieve the stress of cold.

Don't have time to make a bag or lack sewing skills -- I use an old cotton sock --one without holes -- one of the mismatched ones in the laundry hamper that's lost its mate. Fill half full of flax seed (or dried beans, or whole wheat kernals -- don't use pop corn!). Tie the top in a knot to hold in the filling. Microwave on high for 90 seconds -- more or less depending on your microwave's power. An almost instant comfort -- though not pretty, it is warm.

So we'll be putting bales of hay all around the goat barn today to keep them warm and postpone shearing until after 2pm when it has a chance to warm a bit -- its supposed to warm up tomorrow to -9C. And then we are on a warming trend.

Looking forward to Spring. I hear that the sun spots are beginning their cycle again so we may even have a moderately warm summer. Last year we were so cold during the summer that the beans couldn't set fruit. And the zucchini failed. But a gardener is ever optimistic.

Think Spring! Stay warm.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Puppy Update -- The Great Pyranees and her flock

The puppies are almost 3 weeks old and all fat little creatures. Mom has slimmed down incredibly. She's now getting 5 meals a day -- hard boiled eggs, raw meat with bones, oatmeal, granola and soup with potatoes. Donder is spending some time away from her puppies now, each day. What a good mom she is!

3 of the girls and 4 of the boys are for sale. They'll be ready to leave their mom on April 15th -- born on February 15th. Donder is a pb Great Pyranees. Dad is a pb Maremma. Both are working dogs, guarding our sheep, angora and saanan goats and helping the llamas with their job. The puppies are living in the barn.

We are keeping one of the females.

Our oldest Great Pyranees -- Missy -- a spayed female and unrelated to these puppies -- died on Thursday of a stroke. She was 6 years old.

Missy was one of the loyalist dogs I've ever met. She would rather have our approval and petting than eat. She was a fierce protector of our flock and us. And she loved it when we had visitors to the farm -- especially children. She would sit at their feet bobbing their hands with her head to be stroked. And the smaller the child the more Missy would sit by them -- not wanting them to be afraid of her.

Once, when Missy was only a year old, Robin and Ian were building a fence in the pasture. Ian came across a new born fawn laying in the long grass. The men tiptoed around the baby fawn and continued to lay the fence. A few hours later, Missy and Emma (the smooth collie) came down to the pasture. Robin thought that the doe would come and move her fawn, but she didn't. In only a few minutes the dogs found the fawn. Missy sniffed it and immediately sat with her back to it -- facing the direction that danger would come. She didn't leave the fawn's side for over an hour.

That summer, Missy allowed the doe and her fawn to graze our whole acreage, including my garden -- and every summer after that. Other deer are barked at as intruders but that doe has the protection of the guardian of the farm.

Another story of Missy -- In the summer of 2007 there was a fire on the mountain side directly above us. The forestry people sent a water bomber and a helicopter to put out the fire. In the middle of the confusion, a bear came out of the woods and killed one of our chickens. Missy went after it and chased it away from her territory. It came back a few hours later and Missy again chased it. Robin went with Missy this second time -- afraid that she would get too close to the bear and be harmed.

She was amazing to watch -- she barked at the bear and followed it a few paces, out of reach of its powerful claws. She ran back when it turned toward her, but followed it when it retreated -- so that she convinced it to leave her territory. Once the bear was safely away, she came home. After that, the bear, skirted around our farm on his nightly rounds and visited the neighbors instead.

On another occassion my daughter was picking wild strawberries with a baby goat at her side. This goat was born with a heart defect and was less than 10 inches tall. Tiny Tim was a bottle baby and followed my daughter around all day long. On this particular day, Tiny Tim was grazing beside my daughter -- and about 8 feet away. A coyote came out of the woods, aiming for Tiny Tim. Suddenly Missy was there, barking and chasing the coyote right up the mountain. Tiny Tim lived out his life without having to worry about predators.

The Great Pyranees is an amazing dog - bred to work and to bark if there is anything out of place. Quiet and intensely loyal if all is as it should be. They are not "obedient" like a collie and will not "come" if there is any danger in its territory. Don't ask your Great Pyr to be quiet and go to sleep if there are coyotes or bears near the barn. They are bred to make life and death decisions to protect livestock. And they do their job in an incredible way.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Threads of our Heritage -- Museum Show

In Celebration of the International Year of Natural Fibre, the Boundary Spinners and Weaver Guild, and Joybilee Farm are partnering with the Courthouse Museum in Grand Forks to put on a show of natural fiber textiles and Doukhobor Heritage.

The textiles displayed in this show are amazing, never before displayed, works of fibre art. The show is displayed so that you can reach out and touch the fibers -- feel the difference between linen and hemp clothing -- hemp is a lot scratchier -- linen has a sheen that hemp lacks.

The Doukhobors grew linen in the Grand Forks area up until the 1950s. They harvested the stalks for fiber and the seeds for oil. They retted the flax (linen) in the steams flowing near their settlements, dried it in bundles and then broke it over hollowed logs to release the fine fibers from them. This flax was combed with wooden combs which also acted as a distaff for spinning.

The seeds of the flax were pressed for oil and there is a horse hair basket, single crochet, that was used for straining the oil from the seeds after pressing. This oil was used for cooking. Did the Doukhobors also use hemp seed oil for cooking? I will have to ask.

The Doukhobor flax spinning is impeccable -- fine, even and tightly spun. They used singles yarn for weaving, so most of the balls of yarn in the display are singles yarn. The most common weaving was a broken twill and this fabric was used for garments -- baby clothes, children's tunics, men's shirts, womens blouses -- as well as household linens. It was firm and long wearing, but softened with wear and washing.

The hemp was processed in the same way as linen-- although linen would be preferred for its comfort -- Hemp was used for sacking, clothing, men's pants. It was stiffer than linen, and scratchy -- a coarser fiber. The women show ingenuity in creating beautiful garments from this plant that was commonly used for rope. After WWII, it became illegal to grow hemp fibers in Canada and the growing of hemp stopped in the Doukhobor communities.

The dress in the front of this display is a broken twill weave woven of handspun hemp fiber. The men's shirt directly behind it is of linen and is much softer and has a soft sheen. The two fabrics to the left, on the sewing machine are both in broken twill. The top fabric is hemp and the bottom fabric is linen. A casual observer would think they were the same fiber -- but touching them you can feel the difference. Hemp is coaser and more scratchy.

Although the activists would have us believe that the world will be saved if we all wore hemp, in reality bringing back natural fibers for all textile needs would support rural communities -- like Grand Forks, B.C. -- support family farms, increase sustainability and reduce our carbon footprint. Natural fibers are good for humans, wild life and the environment. Natural fibers are renewable resources, and go back to the earth when their use ends. Turning off the television and working together to grow and create our own clothing brings families closer together, passes on culture to the next generation, promotes health and well being and sustains a community and creates wealth -- individually and corporately.

The Show at the courthouse museum includes a natural fiber learning centre, a hemp display, as well as Doukhobor textiles and tools for spinning and fiber preparation. The show runs from March 7th to May 30th. Open Tuesday to Saturday -- 10am to 4 pm. Be sure and come by and see this amazing work of "Toil and a Peaceful Life".

Friday, March 06, 2009

Museum show "Thread of our Heritage"

The Boundary Spinner and Weaver Guild's Art Gallery show, "Our Daily Thread" and the simultaneous museum show, "The Thread of our Heritage" open tomorrow. Lots of people have been working behind the scenes to make it successful. I was in the museum yesterday while 6 ladies were setting up the Doukhobor textile display. Wow!

The Doukhobors are a religious sect of Russian immigrants that came to Canada in the 1890s to escape religious persecution in Russia. They settled first in Saskatchewan and then bought land in BC, and built a communal lifestyle. Grand Forks, about 20 minutes East of Joybilee Farm, was one of their settlement areas.

Their communal lifestyle was one of toil, like all immigrants to Canada in those years. They grew flax in Grand Forks, and helped to shear sheep in Saskatchewan for a portion of the wool clip. They wore clothing from wool, flax, and hemp that they hand spun and dyed themselves, and then wove into yardage on large 4 shaft floor looms, with overhead beaters, and linen string heddles.

Each family had a bedroom in the communal housing and the textiles in the bedrooms belonged to the family and the women that produced them. These textiles are rare treasures that have been passed down to daughters and grand daughters, kept in trunks in the basement. The museum show has opened these trunks to showcase the work of these grand mothers.

I had the privilege of touching these garments as they were being catalogued. Wow! That's Amazing! Look at how fine and even this yarn is! What skilled work! These were my exclamations over and over again.

I want to tell you about some remarkable items in this never before seen collection. There are 4 styles of rugs in the display, with several examples of each. First there are humble rag rugs. Many of them were made from the fabric of flour sacking used at the Grist Mill in Grand Forks. Others from commercial cottons that were available as the community became more prosperous.

They are woven in both plain weave and twill. The rag strips are pressed and the frayed edges have been turned under before weaving. The colours are white, lime green, navy, yellow and evergreen. This example is woven in a chevron twill.

Secondly, there is a kilim style rug, woven from hard twisted wool. The warp threads are completely covered in this rug. It is woven tapestry style with slits where two colours intersect in the design. The colours are bold chemical colours in emerald green, ruby red, and violet. The pictorial pattern is a series of diagonal steps to minimize the length of the slits between colours.

Thirdly there are 3 knotted pile rugs woven on the horizontal looms. This technique, like the tartar combs that were used for wool preparation, was borrowed from the Caucus Mountains -- the last European residence of the group before they immigrated to Canada. These rugs are masterpieces of skill and beauty.

The knotted pile rugs are made with chemically dyed yarns in purple, blue, green, and pink. The wool has been tightly and finely spun. The carpets have motifs of flowers. Each row of knotted pile is put between rows of hard beaten tabby woven wool so that the rugs are very firm and well wearing. The rugs are about the length of a bed and would be used in the bedroom for warmth and beauty.

There are several handspun flax and hemp garments in this collection, too. The flax is spun finely, to sewing thread grist (6,000 yds per lb.) It is balled into singles yarn and ready for warping. The finished woven yardage is both in tabby and broken twill. It was used for garments -- men's Russian style shirts, trousers with button fly, children's tunics, and table cloths. The linen was undyed -- so the chemical dyes that they used must be made for protein fibers. The old linen still has a sheen and is very soft and drapey to the touch. Funny, it doesn't have the creases that you see in modern linen garments -- even after being stored in trunks for over 50 years.
There is even one spun horse hair basket. It is very wiry feeling and tight. It was used to strain the flax seed oil to get out the seeds.

I'm going to take pictures at the opening reception tomorrow and I'll let you see the amazing textiles at the "Thread of our Heritage" show. I have so much admiration for these ancestors of our friends, the Doukhobors.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Eco-friendly Shampoo for beautiful, healthy hair

Commercial shampoo is detergent based -- made from Sodium Laural Sulphate and Sodium Laureth Sulphate, along with other ingredients to increase lather, prolong shelf life, colour or perfume the bottle. As mentioned in the previous blog entry, detergents denature protein and break down the protective barrier of the skin -- causing cell collapse. Commercial shampoo actually causes split ends and hair loss by denaturing the protein of your hair and scalp.

Joybilee Farm developed a natural shampoo bar that is goat's milk soap based -- using special vegetable oils that increase lathering properties, as well as herbal decoctions that enhance shine, colour and vitality. This is unlike any other shampoo bar available -- most are just solid detergent bars. Our uncommon shampoo bar is moisturizing, full of natural herbs and essential oils like tea tree, rosemary, lavendar, peppermint, and chamomile.

Our shampoo bar is a healthy alternative to commercial shampoo. It is river friendly and biodegradable. It is moisturizing and superfatted so there is no need to use an additional hair conditioner, after use. It cleanses your hair and scalp even in most hard water and requires only a mild rinse, with water to which 1 tbsp of vinegar as been added, after shampooing.

You should rinse with vinegar after shampooing, even if you use commercial shampoo. It keeps the acid balance of your hair and will enhance the shine. Human hair is naturally acidic, like all protein.

Our shampoo bar is also concentrated since it is a solid shampoo without added water. Less plastic packaging. Less weight, with the same cleansing power as 4 bottles of commerical shampoo. That's good for the wallet and good for the environment. But most of all its good for you and your hair.

Our shampoo bar is a great travel bar. It can be used for hair washing, showering and shaving. It is acceptable in air line carry-on luggage -- since its not a liquid. Its light weight -- only 5oz. (120 gms.) And great for back packing or camping trips. It is river-friendly and won't harm fish or streams.

But the best part is how it makes your hair feel -- full, clean, soft and smooth -- with no oil build up. Other shampoos require you to change products every few months -- as the chemicals build up on your hair and refuse to be rinsed off. That doesn't happen with Joybilee Farm Goat Milk shampoo bars. There are no chemicals to build up on your hair -- just totally natural Goat's Milk soap.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Soap for Sensitive Skin -- Goat's Milk Soap is my first Choice

Goat's milk soap is mild, gentle soap -- perfect for people with sensitive skin. It contains vitamins A, D, and E as well as protein, minerals like calcium, phosphorous, and potassium and alpha hydroxy acids. It is also super fatted and moisturizing so that your skin feels refreshed and smooth after washing -- not dry and tight like detergent bars or coconut oil soaps make you feel.

Washing with goat's milk soap is as effective as anti bacterial soap and better for your body. Your skin is the largest organ of your body and the first layer of protection against harmful bacteria, and viruses. Detergent bars and liquid detergents formulated for hand washing are surfactants. Their purpose is to remove the surface barrier that prevents water (and harmful chemicals) from penetrating the skin. Detergents are "super wetting" agents because they break down the surface resistance of your skin. This is why detergent is an important ingredient in DNA extraction experiments -- it denatures the cell structure of proteins. Your skin is composed of protein.

Anti bacterial soap goes further and kills 98% of the bacteria and viruses on your skin surface -- including the benign bacteria that is beneficial to your well being. Only 2 % of all bacteria is actually harmful. 98% of bacteria is essential to life and well being -- boosting immune function and health. Once the easily destroyed bacteria is gone from your skin surface the other 2 % can thrive and colonize -- becoming resistant to the antibacterial soap.

Natural soap does not break down the surface resistance of your skin but does remove harmful bacteria and viruses, while allowing benign bacteria to flourish. This is important since benign bacteria actually inhibits colonies of harmful bacteria from forming. Natural goat's milk soap is also nourishing to your skin and moisturizing. So even when you need to wash your hands frequently, using natural goat's milk soap will be beneficial.

Hand washing is the first level of defence against viruses like the common cold or the flu. Splashing your hands with plain water -- even hot water -- is not as effective as using a bar of natural soap in combination with water. The soap combines with the water to capture and flush away dirt, bacteria and viruses. The pH change that soap accomplishes is one of its benefits since the slight alkalinity changes the environment of harmful bacteria -- inhibiting its life cycle. Since it doesn't kill the bacteria but instead disrupts its life cycle and flushes it away, washing with natural soap is helpful to your immune system, while cleansing away dirt, viruses and harmful bacteria.

Robin makes 4 goat's milk soaps especially for those of you with sensitive skins -- Joybilee Farm's Goat's Milk and Honey soap is moisturizing, mild and scent free. It has silk protein for extra smooth lather and moisturizing benefits.

Hemp seed oil Soap is formulated for mature skin. Hemp seed oil fights free radical damage, inhibiting the aging process. Its has extra moisturizing capacity and this soap is also scent free.

Oats and Honey is our complexion bar for dry, itchy skin -- with colloidal oatmeal, goat's milk and moisturizing honey and silk. Scent free.

For those who want fresh scent but need a gentle soap, our lavender and goat's milk soap is ideal. Lavender essential oil is anti bacterial and anti viral and uplifts the mind and body, balancing the emotions. Lavender soap is my favorite, but it sells so fast ....

Do you know the story of the Cobbler's son who had no shoes? That's what we say at Joybilee Farm when Chris goes looking for a bar of her favorite soap in the on-farm studio.

But not for long. Robin made two batches of lavender and goat's milk soap yesterday. It looks perfect in the mold this morning. In 3 weeks we'll have a fresh inventory.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Goat's Milk Soap -- The Gentle, sustainable alternative to Detergent bars

Today is a soap making day here at Joybilee Farm. Our inventory is down to a single bar of lavender soap after I filled a 20 bar order of soap on Saturday. So today Robin will be making lavender soap.

Lavender is my absolute favorite. Well, maybe Anise or was that Peppermint? Actually, I like them all and that's why I developed our special recipe for goat's milk soap.

People tell us our soap lasts much longer than commercial soap and longer than other home made soaps that they have tried. It is our special recipe that makes a hard, lasting bar of soap that is still moisturizing, nourishing and gentle for even sensitive skin.

Some people ask us if we use lye (sodium hydroxide) in our Goat's Milk soap and I wanted to answer that question today.

All soap – 100% -- must use sodium or potassium hydroxide in order to transform the fats and oils into soap. Soap is made by a chemical reaction called saponification, through the reaction of lye with fats and oils. Once the saponification is complete and the aging process has been fulfilled – 4 to 6 weeks in our case – there is no sodium hydroxide left in the soap. It has all been transformed into natural soap. The goat’s milk that we use superfats our soap so that it is moisturizing as well as cleansing. Our soaps also contain all the naturally occurring glycerin, which protects your skin from drying out.

Our most mild soap is our Milk and Honey soap which contains no essential oils. This is the one we recommend for infants and those with sensitive skin. It is more mild than commercial detergents – which denature DNA and cause your cells to collapse.

More information to help you make an informed choice when you are searching the internet:

Potassium hydroxide is used to make liquid soap and Sodium hydroxide is used to make solid soap – both are “lye”. Sodium hydroxide is the product of the electrolysis of salt (aka sodium chloride) and water (aka dihydrogen oxide – H2O) – the byproduct of this electrolosis is bleach (aka chlorine). Potassium hydroxide comes from water and wood ashes. Most commercial “soap” sold in stores today is actually formed from detergents and has had all the natural glycerin removed – glycerin is more valuable than the bar of “soap”.

The choice of oils that are used to make the soap are what determines if a soap is mild or drying. Any soap that is heavy on coconut oil is a very drying soap. When you are shopping for soap for yourself, you want to avoid a soap that lists coconut oil as the first ingredient. The coconut oil adds lathering, sudsing properties and the best homemade soap will contain some, but mild soap should have no more than 1/3 to ½ coconut oil.

The best soap for cleansing and moisturizing is a soap that has a liquid oil as the first ingredient – olive oil, canola oil, caster oil, jojoba oil, hemp seed oil, flax seed oil, for example – there are many options.

Then there will be at least one solid oil mentioned either coconut oil, palm oil, or tallow. These are added to increase lathering properties and to make the bar of soap last longer. A person with sensitive skin should read the ingredients and ensure that one of these oils are not the first ingredient on the bar. If it’s the second or third ingredient, the soap should be mild enough.