Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WWOOFers Learn to Spin and Weave

So far this year we've had 6 WWOOFers come to help us at Joybilee Farm. All but one of them learned to spin their own yarn from our wool -- first on a drop spindle and then on the wheel. All of them went from lumpy, bumpy singles to beautifully consistent yarn in 2 or 3 days. And then on to ply their yarn on the wheel. Some stayed long enough to learn to dye with natural dyes and Michelle, from Red Deer, left on Sunday, having woven her new yarn into a scarf, on an Ashford Knitters Loom (a rigid heddle loom).

I am so proud of our WWOOFers and their accomplishments. Not only did they help us immensely with our workload as we get ready for winter, but they also took away from Joybilee Farm a new skill or two, that will give them much pleasure throughout their lives.

Not all our WWOOFers were interested in learning to spin at first, but after watching us spin for a few days, the urge to learn becomes iresistable. Right, Kati?

Ideally, to go from not spinning to spinning, natural dyeing and weaving or knitting a finished project takes about 2 weeks, working on their new skills in their spare time at the farm. Those who stayed for a shorter period of time, or spent their off hours sleeping or surfing, only got part way on the journey -- completing their 2 ply skein of yarn. But I have confidence that they will be able to go further on their own.

Jessica came to us from New Brunswick. Her ambition was to go from sheep to yarn and someday to have her own handspinner's flock. Jessica learned to skirt a fleece, wash a fleece and spin her own yarn for knitting. Her help with weeding the vegetable garden and the willow beds was an immense help to us in May, allowing us to have a successful garden this year. Thank you Jessica for your help and for the things you taught us -- including helping Sarah understand what happens chemically during an indigo reduction vat.

Kati came fresh from completing a degree at Emily Carr School of Arts -- an award winning fiber artist in her own right and currently living in Mexico. She dyed with natural indigo and learned to spin her own yarn. She helped with the weeding of the willow beds and then the weeding of the linen field. Thanks Kati. We had a successful linen harvest in August thanks to your diligent weeding in June.

Ruth came to us from Israel and is a professional chef. She helped us get ready for the linen festival and was an immense help in organizing the house. (Ruth, the wood cook stove is in now!) Ruth learned to spin and took away a 2 ply skein of yarn. Unfortunately, we didn't get to knitting, but Ruth has enough skills to continue with her fiber arts journey on her own. Ruth taught us how to make chapatis and enriched our lives with her stories about life in the Middle East.

Helen came to us from Grand Forks. A retired teacher, she was an immense help in canning our tomato sauce and filling the dehydrator and freezer with fruit for the winter. Helen was our only WWOOFer who didn't learn to spin, but she helped with the golden rod harvest for natural dyeing. Thanks, Helen.

Beth came to us from San Diego. I didn't get a picture of Beth's spinning. She came just as we were coping with Robin's brother's accident and in our grief, it was difficult to connect with Beth. She helped us clean up the goat yard of branches from a winter of feeding spruce and pine boughs to the animals. Wow, does it look better now. Thanks, Beth. Beth learned to spin and 2 ply her yarn just before she left. Since Beth spent most of her afternoons in town surfing the internet, we didn't get to teach her as much fiberarts skills as we would have liked. But she still took away her own yarn.

Michelle came to us from Red Deer. She came in time to help us at the Rock Creek Fair. What a big help she was in bringing in wood for the winter, cleaning up the felled trees, and gathering herbs for the winter. Thanks, Michelle. Michelle learned to spin, dye with golden rod, and while she was here she dreamed that she was weaving. So Michelle used her newly spun and dyed yarn to weave a scarf on the Ashford knitters loom. What a gorgeous scarf!

To our WWOOFers: We are grateful for all that you taught us this summer and for all the help you gave us at Joybilee Farm. Our lives are richer for the time you spent with us.

Joybilee Farm accepts WWOOFers year round and we have recently acquired a larger trailer to house those WWOOFers who wish to spend a week or two at the farm and learn to care for fiber animals, and to process their wool/mohair/angora into yarn or completed textiles.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Silk from Spiders

I have heard rumours of people gathering spider silk and spinning it into yarn. Here's a group that produced just such a textile today. Wow! The golden colour is the natural colour of the silk. The brocade weaving is 11 feet long by 4 feet wide and is made from the silk of 1 million spiders.

These spiders bite. And they are huge! Each spider donated 80 feet of silk to the textile, which is on display at the Museum of Natural History in NYC.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Genetically Engineered Crops and Flax

iI received some links from Brian John of UK's GM Free Cymru regarding the GE Flax fiasco happening right now in the Canadian Flax industry.

In 2000 the GE Flax "CDC Triffid" was pulled off the registration list and banned from being grown in Canada. Apparently Alan McHughen developed this flax at the U. of Saskatchewan as an oil seed crop for industrial and plastic production -- not as a food crop. Flax was thought to be impervious to x pollination. However, apparently there is significant insect pollination of the flax crop which can lead to spread of the GE gene in non GE flax crops.

The flax farmers of Saskatchewan, concerned that their European markets would be compromised, lobbied the Canadian government in 2000 to ban GE Flax from being grown in Canada. GE Flax has not been approved for growing commercially in Canada. Now the inevitable has happened. GE flax has contaminated the Canadian flax crop. Europe has closed its doors. The contaminated "Triffid" flax was found in bakery goods in Germany. The flax arrived in Germany via Belgium.

Like the Evolution vs. Creation debate that was highlighted in the recent film, "Expelled, no intelligence allowed", so the GE vs. non GE food debate goes. Scientists that are opposed to GE food crops based on their research into the harmful effects of GE food, are discredited in peer reviewed journals while those scientists in the pay of Monsanto or with a conflict of interest are upheld.

Science has lost its credibility through corruption. It is no longer the trusted authority of reason and inquiry. Truth is ignored for the sake of convenience or financial gain. The scientific method is useful only as an exercise for science fair competitions. It is no longer used in real adult science--where research funding is more important than truth.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gather ye rose hips while ye may: Homestead Herbal

Fall is rosehip season. We gather the rosehips from the abundant wild rose plants that are scattered around our 140 acres. Then we dry them for winter tea. They taste citrus-y like lemons and add vitamin C to our diets -- a good antioxidant and useful for cold or flu symptoms.

A recent case of Swine Flu in New Zealand was treated successfully with IV vitamin C, after all other therapies had failed. Vitamin C works by combating free-radical damage caused by oxidization of our cells -- adding fresh electrons to our body system for cell regeneration.

Rosehips contain tannins, vitamin C, pectin, caratene, fruit acids and fatty oils. A syrup can be made from the fresh hips after the blossom end and seeds are removed from the fruit. Add honey to a strong decoction made with fresh hips. Keep refrigerated.

We prefer to make a rosehip tea and sweeten the tea with honey when ever needed, at the first sign of cold or flu symptoms.

To dry rosehips, remove the blossom end from fresh hips and put on the lowest shelf of a dehydrator when you are drying other fruits. Stir once a day until very dry and hard. Store in a glass jar away from light. Crush hips in a mortar and fill a tea ball to make a strong decoction.

To treat cold or flu symptoms add peppermint leaves, juniper berries, wild strawberry leaves, golden rod leaves, oregano, or willow bark.

Other plants that are rich vitimin C -- spruce or pine needles -- gather from the wild as needed year round.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chimney repairs

The wood stove/chimney inspector was at Joybilee Farm today to inspect the wood stove -- both the new cook stove that we newly put in and the other heater stove in the studio. The good news was that the new stove passed with flying colours. The bad news was that the chimney for the heater stove in the studio has a crack in the masonry.

I'm so glad that the inspector caught it. What if we had a chimney fire? Possibly we did and that's what cracked the chimney. We don't know. So the heater stove is out of commission for a while and the inspector is coming back in a week or so to repair the chimney and pass its inspection.

Good, too, that it is fall and we don't need the heater yet.

So Robin was on the roof tonight hitting chimney bricks with a sledge hammer and tossing the broken brick pieces over the peak of the roof onto the ground below. They landed with a huge thud, while I cringed. Michelle, the WWOOFer helped immensely, by running clean up for the demolition.

Tonight Michelle is going to graduate to the spinning wheel. She spun her first yarn last night on a CD spindle. The goal is a two ply yarn by Friday night.

Rearranging the Studio

We got home from the Rock Creek Fair on Sunday night completely exhausted. The fair was good. In spite of a lower attendance, we sold more than ever before.

The people were very excited about linen and flax. Many of the Fair visitors remembered seeing their mothers and grandmothers growing flax and processing it into linen during "the war" in Germany, and other parts of Europe. Most people didn't know that linen came from the flax plant. Even as I was breaking it and combing it, people asked me what kind of animal gave that hair. One man was so excited that he wanted to see every step, even the spinning. He wanted to know how strong it was so I spun his piece of line linen into a yard or two of singles yarn and then asked him to break it off my previous thread. He couldn't. Then he got more excited. It was wonderful to see the growing appreciation for linen in the audience.

I had an audience of about 45 people on Saturday and more than that on Sunday. People hung around after the talk to break some flax and take home their linen fibers. I think we could have sold a couple of flax breaks if we had them to sell. The only drawback was that the handle broke off of the flax break. So a repair is needed before we use it again.

I have a handspun, handwoven table cloth of singles linen that I've washed numerous times. I displayed it unironed, but it doesn't have noticeable wrinkles. It is so soft now, it feels like velvet.
I gave away a few boxes of information about flax and linen that Randy Cowan left here after the linen festival. All the cookbooks went on Saturday. And we sold one package of Hermes Fiberflax seed.

Monday we started unpacking boxes to put the studio back together, but got interrupted by a trip to town to clean the church.

We took on cleaning the church this Fall. 10 hours a week with 3 of us working together, with the goal of being able to afford Sarah's music lessons for the year. It will take two afternoons each week of running into town -- Mondays and then an hour on Thursday or Friday to tidy up before the Sunday Service.

We resumed setting the studio back up yesterday. I thought we'd be ready to be open by 10am, but I was wrong. At 5pm Michelle, our current WWOOFer, and Robin were still putting out product on the shelves. The studio looks better, more open and organized a bit differently.

There is now room in the studio to bring home the floor loom from the Grand Forks Heritage Gallery. Its been on loan to them with the Peace Banner. But the loom is now empty and ready to return home. I have a blanket warp of Shepherd's Pride Yarn in natural grey, white and woad blue ready to go on it when things calm down around here.

The Peace Banner was finished last Thursday by Ramona and Mary and then taken off the loom. There are some finishing touches to make it ready for hanging and then next week it will be presented to the Art Gallery as part of their permanent collection. I'll take pictures once its finished.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Aware Knits hits the stand with Joybilee Farm Yarn

Aware Knits by Vickie Howell and Adrienne Armstrong (2009, Lark Books)has just been released.

The book features eco-friendly yarns and ethical fibers in all its patterns.

Joybilee Farm is honored to have one of our naturally dyed yarns featured in this book.Joybilee Farm's "Kick-A-Dee Sock Yarn" is one of the featured yarns with a boot sock pattern in cochineal pink and walnut brown, naturally dyed yarn. This yarn is custom mill spun, semiworsted for strength, from Joybilee Farm's yearling mohair, Joybilee Farm's soft merino crossbred lamb and tussah silk. Then its hand dyed with eco-friendly natural dyes using only an alum mordant. Its a gorgeously soft yarn, spun with extra twist and with just enough strength for socks. Knit the sock bottoms tightly, with a smaller needle to ensure good durability.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Rock Creek Fair

We are attending the Rock Creek Fair this weekend. Its our favorite weekend of the year. The Joybilee Farm booth is across from the Livestock barns. Our bottle babies get to come with us and engage the public. Kiwi will be going. He will be in lamb heaven with all the kids coming to pet him.

Our studio at the farm will be moved for the weekend to the fair. Sarah and I will stay in the trailer on the fair grounds. Robin, and our new WWOOFer, Michelle will keep the farm going, while we're gone.

I'll be demoing linen this year -- talking about flax, handing out pamphlets, inviting the public to break some retted flax, spinning and weaving flax. I didn't get all my fair entries done this year. I feel bad about that. Next year, maybe.

See you at the fair.

Genetically Engineered Crops and Homesteading

Last evening, Robin and I attended a lecture by Percy Schmeiser, the Saskatchewan farmer who was taken to court by Monsanto for the contamination of his Canola crop by GE genes. He talked about the imminent danger of sustainable and organic agriculture by contamination with GE genes.

According to patent law, the patent holder -- in this case Monsanto -- owns everything with its genetically modified gene in it. This would include other species of plants, and animals, plus their products, that have been contaminated with the GE gene.

What surprised me was that GE Canola, can cross pollinate into other varieties of plants within the brassica family, such as mustard, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, even into organically grown crops. In fact the cross contamination is so probable that European scientists deem that there can be no certified organic seed grown in North America that is not already contaminated with Genetically Altered genes.

The solution for organic farmers in North America seems to be a change in the tolerance level for GE seed, rather than the official designation of GE - free zones which could then be seed growing areas. I find this alarming.

Another surprising fact was the research that shows that the GE gene continues in the muscle tissue of animals that ingest the GE plants, grains or seeds. That milk from animals fed GE corn and soybeans is contaminated with the GE gene. That meat from animals fed GE corn and soybeans is also contaminated. That eggs from poultry fed GE grains is also contaminated. The logical extension is that if I eat eggs, milk, meat or vegetables contaminated with GE genes my own body also becomes contaminated with the GE genes.

But the danger is more imminent. In canola the GE gene is two fold -- a bacteria that is used as an antibiotic is the gene that is inserted into the plant's germ plasm, and the vector used is a cauliflower mosaic virus, a known mammalian toxin. Rural residents living on the prairies, who breath in the antibiotic laden pollen from GE Canola, have developed antibiotic resistant infections -- superbugs. The Canadian prairies are windy and pollen travels a great distance. Think of the implications.

While the media sells us the imminent, fictional dangers of the pandemic swine flu, they are silent to the real impending dangers of antibiotic resistant infections breeding in our plants due to GE. Wow, I had no idea that genetically engineered crops were so dangerous environmentally, socially and in terms of human health.

What about livestock health? Well, it appears that what isn't fit for human consumption is fed to our chickens, sheep, cattle and goats. The farmer isn't even told the extent of GE contamination that is in a bag of feed. No wonder BSE, Johnnes, and other autoimmune diseases are rampant in the livestock in North America.

At Joybilee Farm we feed a diet of whole wheat and whole oats, mixed, along with loose minerals, kelp meal and free choice grass and hay. To our knowledge there is no GE contamination in the food that is given to our livestock. But since no labeling of GE food is required in Canada, we can't really be sure.

Percy said that 80% of all food in the grocery store is GE food. If it contains milk ingredients (whey, milk, milk solids, lactic acid, lactose), canola, cotton (fiber, seed meal, seed oil)(MacDonald's french fries are fried in a combination of cottonseed oil and tallow), or corn products (starch, oil, meal, or syrup)(Most soft drinks,cookies, desserts, and candies contain corn syrup) then it is in all probability contaminated with GE genes. Growing all ones own food and ensuring, as far as possible, that the sources are nonGE may be the only way to avoid GE foods in Canada.

Even buying certified organic products are no longer a guarantee that you are avoiding GE foods. Organic has to do with the way a plant is grown and not the genetic information in the seed stocks used. Check out the tortilla chips that you make your nachos from. If it says "organically grown corn" instead of "certified organic corn" you are consuming GE corn when you eat them. In all probability there is no GEfree corn left in North America, including Mexico, where the indigenous diet is maize based.

Its a crime against the people of Canada, the US and Mexico, that Monsanto has been allowed to do this with the support of the courts. There is no law that protects the people of Canada from the dangers of GE food. Labeling is not even required. And farmers found to be growing a GE crop, (where the GE crop has contaminated their nonGE fields) have been forced to pay extortion fees to Monsanto, to avoid expensive court battles that could jeopardize their livelihoods. Monsanto is protected by patent law while their victims are forced to pay.

Further, plants have been genetically altered to produce drugs -- contraceptives, blood thinners, blood coagulants, and heart medications are all now being grown in the fields. Its cheaper to grow it than to produce it synthetically in the lab. Contamination of our vegetable crops by cross pollination is a real danger. Will that broccoli on the table cause a pregnant woman to miscarry or a recent surgery recipient to hemorrhage?

The most likely crops to be genetically engineered are maize, canola, soybeans, and cotton and milk (in the US). However, pineapples, papayas, kiwis, bananas, flax, and a GE wheat has been developed and is awaiting approval.

Should GE wheat be released into the environment it would be the end of all grass farming. GE wheat would contaminate not just wheat but oats, barley, spelt and even rice and wild grasses in North America. A very scary probability. I will be writing my MP to ask him to help pass legislation that will prohibit the growing of GE wheat in Canada.

Last week, GE flax was inadvertently found in a shipment of Canadian flax seed destined for the EU. GE flax has not been approved to be grown in Canada since 2001. How did the GE flax get into a shipment for export? Canada is the world's largest exporter of flax seed, with 70% of the Canadian crop destined for Europe. This has terrible financial repercussions to the flax industry. The shipment was rejected and Canadian flax has been banned from the EU. The price per bushel dropped $4 last week -- just as the harvest is being brought in.

Flax is self pollinating, 98% of the seed is fertilized before the flower opens, making cross pollination unlikely. But contamination can happen when the crop is combined, or at the place where the seed is stored. But it remains that the GE flax has not been approved for planting in Canada, so we wonder how it got there? A professor at the university of Saskatchewan, Alan McHughen, was working under contract to Monsanto to develop GE flax. He gave the seed, without authorization, to some students and asked them to have their parents plant the new variety of flax seed, without releasing the information that it was a GE crop. Although the seed was recalled, not all of it was returned. Once a GE seed is released into the environment it is impossible to contain it. Seed is a living entity.

Health Canada recently approved Monsanto's eight-trait GE 'SmartStax' corn without any health safety assessment. The danger is imminent to the environment, the future of seed safety, and our food sovereignty. It may already be too late.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Dangers of a Comfortable Life

It is easy, when pursuing a life of simplicity on the homestead, to pursue a comfortable life. We become complacent in the many jars of food put by for the winter, and the hay and wood stacked securely against the coming cold months. There seems to be a rush to beat the cold in these annual chores but the ultimate goal is comfort. However, we are called to greater pursuits than mere comfort and herein lies the danger.

Pursuit of personal comfort leads to sleepiness of spirit. We become immune to the needs of others. We become complacent to the cries of the broken or the needs of the poor. As homesteaders, we work so hard for what we have – we are more poor, or more broken than they. “Let someone else with greater resources meet the need”, we say. We fail to hear the voice of the Holy One prompting our charity or pushing us to a more challenging walk. We miss untold blessings as we lie down, like Christian, in Pilgrim’s Progress, at the resting place, and instead of mere resting, we sleep.

A second danger of pursuing the goal of personal comfort is a personal and spiritual blindness. We cannot see our own goal as a pursuit of personal comfort. Instead, we think we are living a simple life for the sake of the environment, or to create an ethical, eco-friendly livelihood or to serve our fellowman. When in reality, our every day decisions are based on what would give me the most comfort today. Thus we are willing to meet the needs of others when their needs make us uncomfortable. And I am willing to work hard for a few hours to put wood or food by for the coming discomfort of winter. But when this discomfort is abated I will change my effort of work, even if it makes those around me uncomfortable, all the while believing my true motivation is altruistic and not selfish. And in this blindness, we are satisfied and fail to pursue a greater purpose beyond the daily discomfort. We don’t set long term goals. We don’t act on principles. We don’t even mind increasing the discomfort of others to ensure our own comfort.

A third danger in pursuing the goal of personal comfort is mediocrity. It takes self discipline to practice a new skill every day until it is perfected and becomes “natural”. It is uncomfortable at first – even frustrating – as new neuropathways are forged in our brains and a body memory is gained, making the skill easy. Those who devote time, practice and patience to pursuing excellence will not be satisfied with a life devoted to personal comfort. The two are mutually exclusive. To become excellent at any skill we must first become uncomfortable.

God has called us to a higher standard than a comfortable life. As an artist, excellence is my standard and to pursue excellence I must first make many uncomfortable mistakes – in short – I must practice excellence. As a homesteader, my goal is to live in a way that God is glorified in the every day stacking of the wood against winter, in the treatment and care of my livestock, in the beauty and comfort of my home and in the pursuit of justice, mercy, piety, and excellence.

Is there room for personal comfort in this? Yes, but not as a goal, rather as a byproduct, all the while acknowledging that discomfort is part of growth and the way to maturity. We are called to live dangerously, self sacrificing lives, to promote justice, mercy and worship of the Most High God – in short, to glorify God and to love him forever. In fact, the mark of God’s grace in our lives is discomfort that sends us to our knees in prayer and leads us in the pursuit of knowing Him in a deeper way. Growing in knowing God is a goal worthy of the cost of discomfort.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Homestead Skills: Making Hard Cheese

Now that the garden has been blasted with frost, I have time to make cheese. Our pure bred Saanan milk goats give us two gallons of milk every morning. We milk only in the mornings and let the Saanans feed their babies (plus any other goats that find the udder) during the day. We are milking 4 goats. I make cheese 3 times a week, on alternate days. 2 gallons (8 litres) of milk makes about 1 lb. (500 to 700 grams) of hard cheese. We go through a lb. of cheese each week so that leaves two lbs. each week, for putting by for the winter.

Robin made a cheese press so that I could create hard cheeses like cheddar, brick, and Monterrey jack cheese. Here's what it looks like:

The container is a plastic food safe jar, top cut off, that I punched with a heated knitting needle to create drainage holes. I line it with a curity gauze diaper (purchased just for cheese making). Place the drained curds in and press with an oak follower, turned by Robin on his lathe, from recycled pallet wood. The stand is a piece of plywood, sized to fit into a kitchen sink. The holders are a recycled broom handle.

The weights are created from new, clean, building bricks. Each brick weighs 5lbs. and 4 are needed to press a hard cheese.

My cheese recipe book is The Cheesemaker's Manual by Margaret P. Morris
This manual combines both the scientific and practical aspects of small scale cheesemaking. For both the home and on-farm cheesemaker!
Over 50 different recipes for fresh, soft, hard and washed rind cheeses. I like the fact that it does present scientific explanations and not just recipes. That makes it possible to do your own trouble shooting.

Another book I use is Mary Toth's, "Goats Produce, Too" which has recipes and is much more basic, but a good starting point.

Both are available from Glengarry Cheesemaking Supplies in Ontario. Glengarry is also where I get my rennet, and cheese cultures from. When kept refrigerated a supply of rennet and cheese culture lasts for two to three years.

Here's the curd in the mold ready for pressing:

Here's the cheese follower over the curds ready for pressing:

Here's the cheese press assembled in the kitchen sink, with the curds beginning to drain.

Here's the press with 10 lbs. pressure on the cheese. We put 10 lbs. pressure for the first 30 minutes of pressing. Then turn the cheese over and put 20 lbs. pressure for another 30 minutes. Turn the cheese over again and redress it in a fresh pressing cloth, then apply 20 lbs. pressure for 2 hours. Then finally turn the cheese again and press it at 20 lbs. pressure for a final 12 hours or overnight.

Remove cheese and brine in a saturated salt solultion (1/2 lb. of kosher or pickling salt to 1 litre of water.) Leave the cheese in the brine solution for 6 to 8 hours. Remove. Drain and Dry. Now its ready for waxing and aging for 2 to 6 weeks, up to 3 months before eating.

An Amazing Textile Show in Abbotsford, B.C.

I just heard about this amazing show at the museum in Abbotsford -- a joining of textiles: weaving from the Sto:lo nation, quilts from the Mennonite Community, and weaving from Asia, (sponsored by Maiwa) There will also be free lectures. This installation explores the similarities between weaving and quilting between Sto:lo, Asian and Mennonite traditions.

This is a time when I envy my two sons -- living close to the action. They won't even partake of the riches of this show.

A Common Thread: Textiles from Stó:lō, South Asian and Mennonite Communities
September 24 – January 3
The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford
32388 Veterans Way

Opening Reception September 24 at 7 pm

The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford, working in collaboration with the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) Faculty of Arts, The UFV Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies, the Mennonite Central Committee BC(MCC), Stó:lō First Nations educators and artisans and the Maiwa Foundation, opens A Common Thread: Textiles from Stó:lō, South Asian and Mennonite Communities on September 24 at 7 pm. A Common Thread explores a tapestry of cultural traditions from weaving to quilting to the story-telling that embroiders each piece of work.

The Stó:lō weaving tradition, which was almost lost until the 1960’s, is now a part of an international cultural renaissance of Salish weaving. One of the last examples of a traditional Salish woven blanket (circa 1830) will be in the exhibition courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives along with a spinning wheel. Other artefacts from both the Chilliwack Museum and Archives and the MSA Museum Society will be on display.

The MCC has contributed quilts from contemporary quilters that incorporate a range of traditional and contemporary motifs. The Mennonite quilts are both functional and emotional providers of family connections; while the quilts literally keep people warm they are also layered with social and symbolic warmth.

The Ralli quilts from the India Pakistan region are made from fragments of other fabrics and are an integral part of the cultures from which they originate. The Ralli quilting tradition goes back thousands of years. Maiwa Foundation’s Charllotte Kwon says, “Ralli quilts tell the stories of women and the strength of tradition, history and community.” The Maiwa Foundation, established in 1997 by Maiwa Handprints Limited of Vancouver, is contributing these artefacts that attest to the great creative talents of their makers.

Artist Lois Klassen’s Comforter Art-Action: Princess City installation will also be part of the exhibition. Since 2001 Klassen has hosted Comforter Art-Action, an ongoing material response to human displacement that has involved over 200 individuals and groups from over 20 countries and was recently featured at The Glenbow Museum’s Sew City exhibition in Calgary.

On September 26 from 1 to 5 pm the Reach will host A Common Thread Forum. Speakers include:

Princess Urmila Devi - India - Treasured Textiles from Private Collections

Gordon Mohs - Stó:lō Weaving Traditions
Lois Klassen - Comforter Art-Action and other Bedtime stories
Val Pankratz - Quilt Trunk Show

Two lecturers from Maiwa’s bi-annual symposium will also be presenting at The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford. Tuesday, October 20 at 7 pm author Stephen Huyler will discuss his book Daughters of India: Art and Identity. In this lecture he will present individual profiles and place them in context of broader Indian textile arts and the development of women’s creativity as a part of their own personal empowerment.

Dr. Elizabeth Wayland Barber speaks on her book Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times on Thursday, October 29 at 7 pm. Dr. Barber illustrates how the economic engine of the ancient and early modern worlds was the fabric of industry and almost the exclusive province of women. Dr. Barber is Professor of Archaeology and Linguistics and co-chair of the Classics Program at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

A Common Thread opens September 24 with a reception with wine and hors d’oeuvres from 7 to 9 pm and opening remarks from 7:30 to 8 pm. Also opening on September 24, Stories to pass on … by Deanna Bowen, September 24 to November 8 in The Great Hall and Passions in Abstract by Myrtle-Anne Rempel, SFCA, CSPWC, September 24 to November 1 in The Grotto and South Gallery. The Reach is located at 32388 Veteran’s Way (corner of Trethewey and South Fraser Way) in Abbotsford.

Admission to the exhibitions, talks and forum is free. For more information please visit thereach.ca or call 604-864-8087.

If you are going to be in Vancouver between now and Newsyear's Day -- Abbotsford is just an hour East of the City. Its 3 hours from Kamloops and 3 hours from Seattle, WA. Don't let the "free" admission charge deter you -- this will be a worthwhile showing of textiles.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Inspiration for weaving

I have resigned as president of our local weaving guild in order to lighten the load this year. Being president means casting the vision for the year and organizing projects and workshops in our guild. Since its a very small guild -- just 15 people -- the Joybilee Farm clan makes up 20% of the guild membership. And does more than 20% of the work.

I noticed that I am not getting any time to weave nor much time to spin, in the two years since I've been president. So I'm hoping that by bowing out for just a year, I will have more time to actually weave. I have two warps wound and hanging over the loom ready to wind on. Its actually the warping time that I'm lacking. I know that once the warps are on, the weaving will be fast.

Another aspect that I'm looking forward to this year is the student's final year of high school. She is actually in grade 11 by age, but we sat down at the beginning of summer to organize her curriculum and realized that she will be short only two courses -- English 12 and Advance Biology 12 after June. So rather than go through another year of school at home, she will be tackling her course work more aggressively in order to complete her graduation program by June. That means giving her more time to study and cutting back her schedule for other things -- like guild meetings and barn clean up.

Since homeeducation is "self education" that will allow more weaving time for me. I need to be available to answer her questions and help her with problems but essentially she "teaches" herself by doing, making mistakes, learning from the mistakes and moving on. I need to be close by -- my floor loom is just around the corner from her desk -- so we both win. I get to weave or spin and she has mom available if she needs a question answered. I think this will be a wonderful and inspiring year for both of us.

I'm sure we'll both be weaving more, too. She can't resist a tight but empty warp on the loom, nor a soft, colourful roving begging to be spun, nor a stark white skein of yarn begging to be dyed with natural dyes.

For weaving inspiration I often go to the online weaving resource weavezine. It is full of great ideas, interesting teaching articles, and projects that can be done quickly on small looms -- like bookmarks, and washcloths woven on the rigid heddle loom. We love weaving on the Ashford knitters loom and have both widths. I may try weaving with the handspun linen using two heddles instead of one. I hadn't thought of that until I saw the bookmark pattern on weavezine designed by Syne Mitchell.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


We said goodbye to Beth, our wwoofer from California, this morning. I made a large pot of borcht, destined for the pressure canner in the morning. While the borcht was simmering, I finally had a chance to sit and spin for a longer time than just a few minutes. A 250gram skein of linen -- one strand of burgundy and one strand of natural beige, plied together -- is waiting for the boiling water bath to soften and set it. I think it will be tea towels.

Another two ply skein of grey and natural is in process of plying.

I am enjoying spinning our linen harvest this year. I want to get a few skeins spun and plied for the natural dye bath before the woad is lost to frost. I envision a set of tea towels with natural beige, golden rod yellow and woad indigo blue but first I have to spin the linen into skeins.

I'm not sure that you can dye linen in the fiber stage. It seems that that would mess up all the careful work of hackling the line, if you did.

Sorry I haven't posted many pictures lately. At harvest time its hard to get the time to sit at the computer while the pictures load. I'll try to post some pictures on Friday.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The skunk came back

I never got to the borcht today. The skunk came back this afternoon and hit Iris, the puppy, right in the eye. Ouch! and stinky!

A quick internet search revealed that skunk spray is made up of an acidic sulfur compound. We gave first aid to the eye by mixing a weak baking soda solution with warm water (2 tbsp. baking soda in 1 cup H2O)and gently irrigating the eye with a 30 cc. syringe (no needle). Within 5 minutes she could open her eye again and the swelling is now barely perceptible.

Then she had a bath with a fresh mixture of:
* One quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide
* one quarter cup of baking soda
* one teaspoon of dish detergent

Bath the animal in this being careful not to get it into eyes or nose. Rinse and allow to air dry. We couldn't get the smell fully out of her eye but the rest of her smells much better. She won't be sleeping with the lambs tonight, as she will need a rest for a few days.

(update: by morning Iris was no longer feeling any discomfort and her eyes look normal. Gelato, the Maremma dad of Iris, took care of the skunk last night. Boy, he sure needs a bath with peroxide and baking soda today, but we used it all up yesterday. We'll need to pick up another gallon at the feed store this week and make Gelato sweet smelling again.)

Recipe: Borcht and a story

When Robin was in Vancouver visiting his brother, John, last week, I made some borcht from gifts of garden abundance that friends passed along. Borcht is a traditional food of the Doukhobor culture. Although I'm not of Doukhobor heritage, I like to have some put by for the winter. It uses up the prolific garden abundance from our own garden and that passed along by friends. It is also convenient in the winter and is a comfort food in the long,cold days.

I canned the borscht in the pressure canner and had it sitting on the counter cooling by the time I went to bed on Tuesday night. Generally I don’t like the smell of cabbage and onions cooking. It is sulfur-odoriferous. It gets on your clothing and kind of hangs in the air for a few days. But I persevered because I like the convenience of being able to open a jar for lunch instead of starting each meal from scratch.

During the night the sulfur smell intensified. It was so bad that I developed a headache and nausea in my sleep. I started to wonder why I was so dumb as to spend my whole day making borcht. The smell was unbearable. It permeated the whole house from the kitchen.

At 4am it was so intense that I couldn’t handle it any more. I fumbled in the dark to find the window on Robin’s side of the bed and opened it. I took one very deep breath. I closed it immediately. A skunk was passing by right under the bedroom window. That was the smell.

I went outside about 2 hours later and the smell still hung in the air. Gelato, our male Maremma, rolled over in a submissive position when he saw me. I thought he had been skunked. (Thankfully he hadn’t). He came over and started talking to me – “Ra, ra, ra, ra”. Complaining, as if to say, “Mom I really like you, but there is no way I am going to chase that skunk away from your window. You’ll just have to wait until he goes away on his own. Sorry.”

The skunk did go away. And since Gelato hadn’t been skunked, the intense smell disappeared, too. But my headache and nausea lasted until the afternoon. I’m making more borscht today. Hopefully, the skunk won’t be attracted back.

Recipe for Borscht
1 head of cabbage sliced very thinly
3 medium onions, sliced very thinly
Fry together in 1/4 cup of butter

In a separate pot boil 8 - 10 medium potatoes, peeled, until soft. Drain and reserve liquid. Mash.

Put cabbage mixture, mashed potatoes and cooking liquid, in stock pot and fill pot half full with water.
Add one beet, peeled and grated coarsely

Add seasonal vegetables, finely chopped, such as:
Bok Choy

Add fresh dill and salt to taste. Simmer for 3 hours.
Fill clean quart/litre glass canning jars, leaving a 2 inch head space. Seal with two part lids according to manufacturers directions. Process in a pressure canner for 45 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure (15 lbs pressure at high altitude).

To serve, empty jar into saucepan, reheat to boiling, serve with cream, sour cream or yogurt -- a generous spoonful in each bowl. Serve with warm bread, homemade crackers or chapatis and butter.

It tastes better than the smell of cabbage and onions frying in butter. And the smell does go away after the pot is simmering on the stove.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Recipe: Harvest Granola with flax

Today I made a batch of harvest granola. Way better than store bought granola and super easy to make. You can have a batch on the table in less time than it takes to run to the store and for less money than store bought cereal.

8 cups of old fashioned oatmeal, dry
1 cup of freshly ground flax seed
1 cup of coarsely chopped almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or other nuts
1 cup of honey
1/2 cup olive oil or other cold pressed oil
1 cup of dried fruit, like cranberries, apples, blueberries, pears, raisins

Mix the oatmeal, flax seed and nuts in a large mixing bowl. Heat the honey and olive oil together until they are liquid. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well with a spoon. Spread evenly on to greased baking sheet. Bake in 300F oven for 20 minutes. Stir the granola, moving the browned outer edges to the middle and the lesser browned parts to the outside. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven.

Stir in dried fruit while granola is still warm. Allow to cool without further stirring. Store in air tight container after it has cooled.

Yield: 20 servings
Serving size is 1/2 cup of granola.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Preparing for winter

Its an intense effort to prepare for our 5 months of winter at Joybilee Farm.

Robin is bringing home the hay this week. We need more than 1000 bales to make it through the winter. We don't make our own hay -- although we have enough land to do so. It would take too much time that we devote to the fiber arts, and add another learning curve to the mix. Our friend Al at PaVa Ranch grows hay for us. We buy second cut grass/alfalfa mix to feed our sheep, goats, rabbits, and llamas, as this is highly nutritious and the stems are finer than first cut, so there is less waste.

We are also slowing getting our firewood in the shed. It is taking longer this year, as we cleared some land of trees in our fenced orchard area. Each tree needs the branches cut off, then cut into stove wood lengths and then split to make drying faster. We need about 8 cords of wood to get through. So far there is less than 1 cord in the shed and about 2 months left before the first snowfall.

The garden continues to grow -- mostly chard, carrots, kale and bok choy, as well as dye plants. Peas are finished. Chinese radishes are abundant -- not sure what to do with them but when cooked they taste like turnips. I've been freezing most of the garden produce this year.

I've also been canning tomato sauce, salsa, and whole tomatoes, purchased in Oliver. We can't grow tomatoes and peppers nor most fruits so I buy it at local farms. I've been drying fruit and freezing some for fruit smoothies in the winter.

My rennet arrived in the mail yesterday so we are back to making cheese from our goats milk. The first mozzarella of the season was put by yesterday.

A few weeks ago a friend invited us to come and pick transparent apples at her farm. We brought home 60 lbs of apples. Some we dried as apple slices. The sweet/tart flavour intensifies when they are dried. The rest we cooked and put through the fruit mill to make apple sauce. Then we spread the apple sauce on the trays of the dehydrator (covered in plastic wrap)and dried it for fruit leather. The sheets of fruit leather are then rolled up and cut with scissors into 1 inch pieces and individually wrapped in waxed paper for winter snacks. Each sheet makes 10 pieces.

Fruit leather ingredients:
Applesauce sweetened to taste
Cover dehydrator trays with plastic wrap or other nonstick cover.
Dehydrate according to manufacturers directions, turning over once during drying process. This takes about 12 hours with my dehydrator.

You can also make fruit leather in the oven using a low heat.

Each farmer's market Robin brings home 6 heads of cauliflower and broccoli for me to freeze for the winter. As well as 2 doz ears of corn. These get blanched in boiling water, chilled quickly in cold water and frozen on baking sheets in the freezer overnight. Then I bag them into medium bags for winter use. We are so cold here that even if the power goes out in winter, our food will stay frozen.

One of the challenges that I faced in moving to this zone 3 growing area was the inability to grow so many of the vegetables and fruit that we like and have grown accustomed to. We are learning to eat what we can grow or what grows nearby -- rather than looking for exotic foods, out of season at the super market.

"Godliness with contentment is great gain."