Farmer's Market Hat

We spent some time this weekend perusing our local farmer's market, in search of more honey.  The honey lady was gone until next week, but we did come home with a basket of stir fry veggies.  The vivid colors and scents of fresh veggies are irresistible.  One vendor had bunches of brilliantly hued flowers, and it reminded me of a hat I knit a few years ago, using left over bits of hand dyed yarn.  It's a little bit slouchy on my younger guys and fits like a beanie on the older ones.  If you'd like to knit your own hat inspired by your local farmer's market, you can download the pattern here for free!

Farmer's Market Hat

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Sticks and String

In a small, tranquil corner of the city, just below the rush of a hydroelectric dam, is a place where my almost 17 year old boy spends most of his non-winter days.  He almost always goes alone, but today he invited me to join along.  With our sticks and string, Jake and I spent one glorious evening casting {on} near the river's edge.  I can see why he likes it here so much.  When you're on the shore line, the whole city disappears above you, and the only sound, is the rapid current of the river.  

He ended up with a fish, and I ended up with a {sleeve}.  I hope he invites me again soon.

p.s.  This river also has snapping turtles.  Eek!

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Do you ever notice that it takes a while to transition back to a normal routine, after being away from home so long?  South Dakota was such a rush of a trip, constantly in go, go, going mode, that I find myself needing to be reminded to re-adjust and slow things down.  Being self employed and unschooling our kids, I often forget how normal it is to live in a culture where people's daily lives move at break neck speed.  It's a good reminder, though, of why we've made these choices to live at a more natural pace, where we have time to think, learn and create.

Here are a few moments from the week:  

::  Feeling so very grateful for a craigslist find (and for a borrowed van)...  Seven brand new windows for $100!  Except for two large patio doors, these are all the windows we'll need for the homestead.

::  Knitting outside in the cooler weather.  I'm still working on the new sweater design, getting it just right.  I really can't wait to share when it's finished. 

::  Watching one magnificent sunflower bloom in the front yard!  A seed must have fallen from the pinecone bird feeders we put out this winter.

::  Spending time in the studio, making upcycled felt journals for the shop.  We use these journals all the time here at home for everything from list making to nature journals, sketchbooks, stories, and more.  I have about a hundred of them filled with knitting pattern notes!

I hope you've had a lovely week, too.

{p.s. Joining in with Ginny}
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A Birthday Weekend

photo by Mike

photo by Mike

photo by Cole

photo by Cole

photo by Cole

photo by Cole

It's been a whirlwind of a week.  Mike came home last Thursday and said those irresistible words.... "How about a road trip?"  
My reply, "Ummmm.... what about Luke's birthday weekend?"  
His response, "How about the 1880 Train in South Dakota?"  
We asked Luke if he'd like to go.  
His response, "YES!"

Twelve hours later, with bags packed, a cooler full of food, the animals cared for, reservations in place, and a full tank of gas, we were on the road!  

Here are a few of the highlights from the trip...

:: Wild sunflowers, oh how I love thee.

:: Wide open prairies

:: Badlands National Forest

:: Rock climbing

:: Toads, Buffalo, and Wild Donkeys (Who like to steal your lunch!)

:: Black Hills National Forest

:: Wind Cave National Park

:: And of course, the train.  Luke whispered softly in my ear, as we chugged up the hillside, "Mom, this is awesome."  

Yes, indeed it was.  

Happy Birthday, my 8 year old boy.  

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Gone West

Mike came up with a crazy, last minute plan for Luke's birthday... ROAD TRIP!  We've been traveling out west, and I'll tell you all about it when we return home on Tuesday.  Until then, we're having a sale over in the shop!

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Discouragement on the Homestead

This was by far, our most discouraging trip north since we purchased our land, and our first major homesteading reality check; if you're going to live off the land, you have to be present and accountable, full time.  We thought that putting in all the fruit bearing plants, now, would put us ahead of the game.  We thought we did everything right; creating an acidic environment, watering every few days, and putting up a fence to keep the deer from nibbling on the stems.

They've looked healthy up until now.

To our dismay, all 18 of the plants look to be dying. The blueberry plants were covered in Rose Chafers, which are beetles that skeletonize the leaves.  The stems are all still green, though, so I'm hopeful (maybe naively) that the plant will go dormant and come back next year.  I'm having trouble finding any solid information about this, but I'm doing my research so that we can replant, if need be, and can stay on top of the beetles when we're living here next spring.

The yarrow and white daisies are covered with them, as well, and mostly destroyed by the ravenous creatures.

I guess I'm glad that we didn't buy the ten fruit trees we were planning to put in the ground next weekend.

On a more positive note... the little guys and I made a shade tent (inspired by this), so they wouldn't bake in the mid day sun.  Our only shade trees are in the woods, and the mosquitos are hungry right now!  I cut up a few dozen t'shirts that were headed for the thrift store and serged them into a giant king sized blanket.  We collected some downed limbs from the woods and with a few pieces of string, made a frame to drape the blanket over.  It created just enough shade for the boys to play with their toys and take a nap.  Now we just need something that we can all fit under!

If you have any advice or experiences with this beetle, we'd love for you to leave a comment!

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Natural Plant Dye Recipe

The number of plant dye recipes are as vast as the number of wild dye plants to choose from.  Factors such as fiber, hard/soft water, ph, brand of mordants, after baths, cooking times, temperature, type of pot, spoons, and many others can affect the finished outcome. Because of this, I can only share with you my recipes and experiences, and encourage you to try natural dyeing for yourself!

Materials I use:
1/2 gallon plant material
2 - 4 qt. enamelware pots
4 oz wool fiber
Alum (you can find this in the spice aisle of the grocery store)
Stainless Steel Strainer Spoon (It looks like this.)

Step 1: Harvesting plants
Pick a plant, any plant; from your own backyard, down a back country road, in an abandoned lot, road ditches, etc.  Please be conscientious, and not remove too many plants from one area; unless they're invasive, then it's a free for all!  Most plants will give a variation of yellow, orange, or green.  Kind of like nature, right!

Note: Want to know if your plant will release any color?  Pack a jar with plant material and fill it with water.  Put on a lid and set it in outside for 24 hours.  If your liquid is clear, it likely won't create a dye for your fiber.  You can add this to your dye bath in Step 3, if you decide to use it.

Step 2: Mordant
What's a mordant? It's a solution used to open up the fibers and allow the color to set.  In one of the pots, fill about 3/4 of the way with warm water.  Add 3/4 Tablespoon of Alum and stir until dissolved.  Submerge your fiber and simmer for 1 hour.  (I don't stir mine, but if you do, remember not to agitate wool, or you'll end up with felt.)  Let your fiber cool completely and leave it in the solution until you're ready to dye.  If it's going to be a few days before dyeing, you can take it out to dry, and then just soak it in water again.

Step 3:  Creating Dye Bath
While your fiber is mordanting, you can be making your dye bath.  If you're using petals or blossoms, just throw them all in the pot, as is.  If you're using the stems or large leaves, cut them into 1" pieces.   You should have enough to fill half the pot.  Pour clean water over the plant material until you've filled the pot almost to the top.  Let the plant material simmer for 1 hour.  Give it a stir once in a while.  Let it cool and sit overnight.

Step 4:  RemovePlant Materials
It's pretty self explanatory.  I use the strainer spoon and get out most of the big pieces.  If you're a little more picky, you could strain it through cheese cloth and remove all of the fine particles.

Step 5:  Dyeing
Now with the dye in the pot, add your wet fiber.  Make sure your fiber can move freely in the pot.  If not, add a little bit of water at a time.  Don't pour directly onto fiber or it may felt.  Let everything simmer for 1 hour, gently stirring, as needed.  Turn off the heat and let it cool.  For the best results, let it sit overnight.

Step 6:  Wash and Dry
Give it a gentle wash in luke warm water.  Rinse in clean water of the same temperature.  Keep rinsing until your water runs clear.  Again, don't agitate your wool, or you'll regret it.  Squish it in a towel to get the water out and hang dry in the shade.

Step 7: Be amazed at your awesomeness.

I value the serendipity of working with natural colors.  I don't use precise measurements or expect to achieve the same color twice.  Mostly, I just wing it.  If you'd like more precise, scientific information, here are a few of my favorite resources...

Harvesting Color (my personal favorite)
Wild Color
Eco Colour
A Dyer's Garden
Google:  Natural Plant Dye Recipes
Ravelry groups: Natural Dyeing or Plant Dyeing

If you have any questions or would just like to share one of your natural dyeing experiences,  please don't hesitate to leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!

p.s.  Luke wanted to me to tell you, he'll be 8 years old in four more days.  He's just a wee bit excited.

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This Moment

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see

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To all of you in the US...

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Natural Dye Results

Soft, subtle colors resulted from last week's dyeing.  Both were mordanted with alum and given a vinegar after bath.  The cotton was mordanted in a tannin solution of sumac leaves.

Top two photos:  Devil's Paint Brush yielded warmer, yellowish brown tones
100% wool yarn
100% wool sweater scraps
100% cotton muslin

Bottom two photos:  Yarrow leaves yielded a cooler shade of yellow, more towards the side of green.

100% wool yarn
100% wool sweater scrap
100% cotton muslin

I can't wait to try other plants!  What's your favorite plant dye to use?

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