How I acquired a large amount of fiber in one hour

I met someone while chicken harvesting who has sheep and alpacas. She was set to bring me some fiber to start working with as I am starting to use my drop spindle. After I arrived at the gathering someone handed me some wool to start with and then after a quick lesson or two or three I was spinning. I also was gifted a half a pound of Merino super soft wool. The only problem was that my spindle cracked and I was supposed to wait to spin but it’s so easy to sit there with it in your hand and just start doing it with your fingers. The woman in charge of the group is going to bring me a Turkish spindle next week which has four feet on the bottom of it and is easier to use than the one I have. The one I have I like except for it’s cracked so I tried to glue it together. It’s still not really together so I am trying to wait till Wednesday till I can get the other one.

ImageI knew I wanted a spinning wheel before this but now I really want one. They are like a meditation, calming tool and crafting creating tool all in one. They are a piece of furniture and entertainment and watching the yarn being spun all around me was really amazing.

There is another spinning group that is just hand spinners so I will have to check into that as well. I am told there’s a meeting for every day of the week for spinners in the area.


Making natural dye

I have always had a fascination with natural dyes and so I made some with plants in my neighborhood and plan to use them for yarn. I have to buy some dye-able yarn and am also excited to start spinning this week since a local woman that I volunteer at a farm with is bringing alpaca and sheep wool for me to try out. I had two different yarns in small amounts that I have hand dyed. I got the yarn from the thrift store in a big bag and so it was really $1 per yarn I dyed. The brown is from oak gall balls as I call them from the oak trees in back of our house. The purple is from Oregon grape berries, lavender and a hibiscus raspberry tea bag. I was hoping it would be more blue but ended up dying one ball with a commercial blue mixed with the Oregon grape berries. It didn’t take on the purple color or keep it but it was blue which is what my youngest daughter wanted. I sort of tie dyed the yarn by wrapping rubber bands around it then taking them off and re-soaking in the blue dye bath. My daughters picked the berries and used a mortar and pestle to crush them before I simmered them in some water on the stove. This was messy but they really liked helping.

The green dye is from kale and carrot tops. I haven’t tried this one yet but hope to get some yarn this weekend or this week if I spin some to test it on. It looks like some of the juice I have been drinking lately but that’s another post. 😉

Distilling lavender

I went to a lavender distilling workshop this weekend and it was so fun. I wanted to go to pick lavender and see how they use their still. It was a beautiful day out and we picked lavender first and put it into laundry baskets. I had an alpaca helper who ran through the lavender like a dog.

After we packed the still full of more than 10 pounds of lavender it took about an hour and a half or two hours total to finish. There are two products from this-the hydrosol water and the oil itself. The teacher had a separator that was perfect to separate oil from water. I think we got close to an ounce or more of oil after we were done. The oil and water smelled like honey lavender and we were told that’s from the copper. Copper is better to distill lavender and other herbs with over any other metal. We type of lavender we used was augustofolia. It is the therapeutic variety which grows best at elevations above 700 feet but I am at 500 where we live and have wonderful full plants too. This is the kind you need to use for calming and healing properties as the other varieties can actually have a stimulating effect instead. I learned so much about lavender and distilling and herbs!

My friend has a copper still and wanted to know how to use it and so the following day we were able to use her stove top still for distilling my lavender from my garden. I have two augustofolia plants that are 7 years old now.  We sealed the still with a rye flour paste. You are supposed to use rye as it doesn’t crack and expand if it heats up. I thought it was really cool and it peeled off fairly well when we were done.












The random harvesting is still saving a little money here and there. If it weren’t for the eggs I would be in bad shape though. The meat birds have 1-2 weeks more to go so then we will have chicken. I volunteered at the farm Friday and got two chickens in return again which was awesome. We had our own potatoes and these multi color beans with one of them last night. Fortunately the girls like cucumbers too since we have quite a few. I decided to put what I have canned this year on one shelf so I see what I have. I keep the canned goods in the hallway closet with candles and other random things and I can’t tell what I have done or what we are out of very well by looking into the pantry closet. It now looks like I could open a store.


I let the Cornish Cross meat birds have the run of the backyard until their D-day. They love getting out of their pen in the morning and eating breakfast and then being lazy for most of the afternoon an nestling into the green grass and shade in the yard. I never would have thought I would raise my own meat or have 30 chickens in city limits even though there’s no limit. And we have the country alarm clock that is Big Daddy the Rooster.

Sure there is chicken poop in the grass but I wear flip flops.Every day I come out to check on the bean and cucumber plants and tomatoes. I know that we will actually have tomatoes this year which is exciting! Our summers are really hit and miss and I get really grumpy if we don’t have a real summer when you can get in a pool or have lemonade and turn on the a.c.

Big Daddy eats a lot and it’s not at all profitable to keep him except for he sort of could protect the ladies in the event of a raccoon attack. That and the issue of I would miss hearing him crow and his girlfriend, named girlfriend, would miss him. Chickens have a social structure and it’s always interesting to watch.

In the start of the Summer i put an ad on craig’s list for selling eggs but no one contacted me so I have been giving them to my parents and neighbors and we have been eating them for breakfast. I will also always bring deviled eggs if invited to a party!

I have remembered to dry herbs and actually use them this summer which is good. In the past I wouldn’t snip them until fall and then not get as much as I could have had I been harvesting all along. I dried some of the herbs and then hung the lavender boughs to dry in the garage. I have been doing well with picking the comfrey leaves as I hope to use them in some salves I make this fall. I made two salad dressings and one herbal vinegar yesterday and also bottled the first 5 bottles of May Day Mead. It is called such as I  could made it on May 1 or 2. On Sunday I started a batch of honey ale with my friend and it looks great and was really easy so I hope it tastes good. We had leftover yeast and hops in the fridge so we used those plus honey and a small grain bill as it’s called. When I was at the brewing store I also noticed how many different grains there are and how fun it will be to make up our own recipes. We have already done this before but not starting from the idea to the brew. The meat birds ate and loved the extra spent grain from brewing and then I used the rest in bread and froze another pack for later. Everyone in the family liked the bread too so that was good.

There are U-pick blueberries and raspberries that we have been picking. I think we picked 18 pounds of blueberries over one week (two different places) and then 10 pounds of raspberries at two different places on different days. I have my first choice for blueberries and first choice for raspberries even though we tried picking at another place when the other was closed for ripening. I get set in my ways which is kind of annoying.

The last 4-H meeting we didn’t go to as my allergies were really bad and I was tired. It’s the first one we have missed and I am hoping to do some poultry ed. at home in the next week too. The chicken that Melody will be handling for showmanship is a very sweet bird and lets her do all kinds of things to her without too much protest. I still haven’t gotten used to the tiny size of the bantam eggs!

I am still planning on having someone else process the meat birds one time and then use the small earnings in profit to buy an incubator. We have fertile eggs but no one to sit on them. It’s kind of frustrating because I want to buy an incubator and “save” the eggs so we have meat chicks but on the other hand I have to pay to have the first round processed and then the eggs hatch at 21 days so I would have another round of meat birds before fall sort of. I could sell eggs and use the money for an incubator too but I have to post an ad again I guess. My neighbors pay $3 a dozen and my friend pays $4 instead of getting them at the store which is great. My parents served the eggs to friends from out of town and they raved about them and my Grandma who is 92 wants more of my eggs to eat when my Mom goes to visit. When my neighbor’s mother was that age and in failing health they would take my eggs to her house and cook them for her as that was one of the only things she would eat. That always made me feel good.

Foraging wise we are in between right now. I forage for tons of apples and blackberries but not till end of August and the apples are September October. I learned my lesson last year with putting the apple cider in plastic bottles instead of glass though. I need to find out how best to keep cider if it’s ok to keep them in the old plastic soda bottles or if I should get new ones so there’s a fresh seal or?

Make mead or wine from leftover jam making

I have been making wine with some of the jam-making leftovers. After you fill all the jars and you have some syrup especially left in the pot you can use it to make a small batch of wine.

I guess what is more popular is using the leftover fruit from making wine to make a jam or salad dressing or syrup, etc. I don’t tend to have extra wine left either which is the most popular. You can make wine jams or sangria jam with the leftover wine. I might do that some time later but it’s not do-able right now.

So back to what I have been doing. When I have the leftovers from jam in the pot I pour in water and more sugar and mix till it’s dissolved. I then add more fruit via a blender and sieve straining. I then pour the wine into a one-gallon carboy and then wait till it’s about 70 degrees and then add yeast. To reuse things even further I am reusing the yeast from another blackberry strawberry mead by pouring about 1/4 cup into the “new” wine from the one that’s fermenting actively.

So here is my recipe that is fermenting away and hopefully will taste good in a few months.

Strawberry wine

Two cups of leftover jam

Two cups of crushed, pureed, strained strawberries

Water to fill the rest of the one-gallon carboy

Pack of wine or mead yeast or if you have a carboy actively fermenting pour about 1/4 cup from it into your “new” wine.

Two cups of sugar

Affix an airlock on top of the carboy and rack at about a month. Let it sit for about 2-3 more months before bottling.