Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book Review: The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. An intriguing, fun read that turned out to be an emotional roller coaster ride with action, science, magic, fantasy and a world war. The characters were well drawn and it was easy to suspend disbelief because of the thorough and sensible descriptions of why the magic worked. The plot was well written and I blazed through the book, wanting to know what happened next. I'll keep an eye out for further work from this author.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Book Review: The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin


 I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. This fictionalized account of the friendship between Mary Pickford and Frances Marion was both fascinating and informative. Frances Marion was a talented screenwriter who got her start with Mary Pickford during the early days of silent films in Hollywood. The story is interesting and I think the author captured the realities of a friendship between two strong women who struggled to balance careers, marriage and motherhood during a time when careers for women were rare. The novel is also a portrait of a century of change, following the beginnings of movies from the early and innocent days of creative art through the times when the industry became big business. I enjoyed the story, the setting, the characters and will look for other books by this author.

What I'm spinning: Plying merino singles with gorgeous hand dyed alpaca
What I'm knitting: This and that
What I'm crocheting: Slip stitiched bags
What I'm reading: See above
Current sounds & sights for spinning along: Six Feet Under

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Book Review - Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance

The young writer brought up some very interesting points about the economic and social situation in America's Rust Belt but very few answers as to how to deal with the enormous problems in the area. Like the author, I'm not sure there are any easy answers. One of the many points I found interesting was in the last chapter, where he acknowledges the enormous amount of help he received through his life from many people, especially the support of his grandparents. I often hear people that consider themselves self-made claim that they never received help from anyone. I suppose it depends on if you think help is only financial.  Branching out from this was the question of how to offer support to a social group that is isolated in poverty with few examples of success as inspiration and few mentors to show the way out of the crippling situation. Vance points out how little he knew about the world how to succeed, even after a stint in the military and four years of college. He also mentions how helpful knowing the right people can be in career and life choices.

The constant message that Vance received as a child was that he and his culture weren't good enough and that the choices of the white working class don't matter. His grandmother, an amazing woman who did her best despite struggling with an alcoholic husband and children with enormous issues,  tried to counteract this idea but was only partly successful. Vance's time in the Marine Corps did the most to change his attitude, although he constantly reinforces that he felt himself lucky to have had the support of his grandparents and I think he is right. Their support, along with the many other people that helped him throughout his life, helped him overcome a childhood of trauma due to an absent father and a mother who never overcame drug addiction.

This is not a book with answers to the problems of the working poor in America, but I think the book gives a fairly accurate portrayal of the complicated attitudes and issues. There are some valid criticisms of the book; some think he blames the poor for their own misfortunes and he does have a pessimistic view of how much the government can help. What stands out to me is the despair of the families and town, the struggles with addiction and hopelessness. At the end of the book things have deteriorated, both in the town and in his mother's personal life. To me, doing something to help has got to be better than standing by and doing nothing. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A little knitting going on.

Completed Quill Shawl
It took awhile but I finally completed the Quill Shawl, pattern by Jared Flood. I have to say that the finished shawl is as wonderful as I expected and I think it looks a bit like the shawl that inspired me to track down the pattern. I think I mentioned that I saw the shawl in a Hercule Poirot British TV adventure and had to stop everything to track down what the pattern might be. It's called a Hap shawl and is a traditional Shetland Island piece.

Poirot and his shawl
I plunged immediately into another shawl pattern (do I really need all these shawls?) that was showing up as popular on Ravelry and it was another pattern that well deserved the attention.

Reyna Shawl in Unplanned Peacock's Peacock Sock Yarn in Gummi Shark colorway
This was an easy lace knit and the yarn worked well with the pattern. It's a small shawl in the fingering weight sock yarn but I like little scarf-like triangles for winter wear.

Chinese Tile Scarf in Queensland Collection Uluru
My plan was to next make the beautiful Chinese Tile Scarf featured in the Summer, 2016, issue of Spin-Off. BUT --  this yarn was SO not the right one for this project. The colors change too often and the wavy texture of the yarn completely obscured the lace pattern. So back I went to my list of projects I want to do and the very pretty ZickZack scarf, with a simple ripple pattern, came up. I happen to have two balls of the Queensland Collection Uluru in two colorways, so I started the scarf and have been pleased with the results.

ZickZack Scarf
My version has subtle striping and color changes because the two colorways I am working have some similar colors. A more dramatic version with two contrasting colorways would be interesting. I still want to do the Chinese Tile scarf when the right yarn comes along.

What I'm spinning: hand dyed angora singles
What I'm knitting: ZickZack by Christy Kamm
What I'm crocheting: Still hibernating
What I'm reading: Murder and Moonshine by Carol Miller
Current sounds & sights for spinning along: Broadchurch on Netflix

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Time to Build a Bunny House

Painting the French doors
The angoras have been here since last September, living in a barricaded section of my carport. It was a busy spring and started into a busy summer, but I had to set aside time to build a more permanent facility for them. The barn I used back when I had 20 to 30 rabbits is in bad shape, so I decided to use some found materials to make a little barn for them here at the shop.

The French doors were stockpiled back when we were going to build a shop out in front of the old farmhouse. There is also some lumber left from that project and friends Peter and Kathleen gave me some corrugated plastic awhile back. Aside from some hinges and a little hardware, plus some paint, I had everything I needed to put up a little building.

The support for the back wall of the bunny house
This old grape vine fence is still sturdy, although the ancient vines have finally died off except for one at the far end. My cousin Amy helped me put boards across to support the three doors that made up the back wall of the shed.

Back wall

Side walls
By using hooks and eyes to attach the four doors used as the side walls to the back, I was able to put them up by myself, one at a time during a quiet day at the shop.

Front doors of the bunny house
The front doors are made of old shutters we used to use back when I did a lot of festivals. They made great, if heavy, displays. The center piece is an old folding door. I used hinges to put this part together, so friend Kathleen came over to help with that. Amy came again to give me a hand in putting up the long rafters for the roof.

The roof
I had to do a little fudging on the roof, as the plastic pieces weren't quite long enough. But an extra board, painted white, made up the difference at the back. I also painted the plastic to keep it a little cooler inside the rabbit house. If it gets too warm, I can paint the panes of glass, but so far putting a tarp on the sun side in the morning has kept the rabbits comfortable.

Rabbits in residence
The rabbits seem happy with the situation so far. I close the doors at night to make sure they are safe from dogs or foxes and open things up during the day.

Knightley visits with German Angora Quark
The exercise pen gives some extra protection and a place for the rabbits to get out and nibble green stuff and romp. They have been missing their exercise time because of the rain and all of my working time. Now that the rabbits are at the shop, I can let one out in the pen and he can spend the morning nibbling and hopping around, or just laying on the grass. After lunch I let the other one out. Two boys out together doesn't work very well, at least not with Quark. He's a pushy fellow.

Hen and her two chicks
The hen that was setting on her clutch of seven eggs managed to hatch out two of them. I don't know if the weather got too hot or if the rooster wasn't doing his job properly, but the other eggs weren't fertile. Mama hen has learned to be careful of cats and other predators and so far she has done well with them. She takes them around the yard, teaching them all the things they need to know about the big world.

Rose and baby Clara
Clara is getting big and is still a lot of fun. She has started grazing with her mama in the mornings and evenings but still finds plenty of time to play with us. Clara loves to climb and is found in high places all around the farm, including atop friend Peter's shoulders!

What I'm spinning: hand dyed angora from the rabbits
What I'm knitting: Finishing Reyna shawl and starting the Chinese Tile scarf
What I'm crocheting: Everything is still hibernating
What I'm reading: The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love by Beth Pattillo
Current sounds & sights for spinning along: Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries on Netflix

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

New Babies, Nesting and Spinning!

Goat Girls Just Want to Have Fun
The big excitement here on Squirrel Spur this past few weeks has been all about the goat girls and the impending births of their little ones. We were all counting the days and delighted when first Martha, then Rose, delivered healthy baby girls. Rose frolicked around like a kid herself until an hour before her little one arrived.

Martha and her little Jessie
Sweet Rose and baby Clara
The babies are beautiful and already little Jessie has a new home. So does Martha, as I wanted to keep Rose's kid and don't have the space or money to have too many mouths to feed. Martha now lives just over the hill and Jessie is not far down the road.

Little Clara, growing up fast
Everyone has fallen in love with little Clara and she's getting lots of attention from friends and customers. I'm told her color pattern is caramel and we love the little black belly and the black stripe down her back. Not to mention the white topknot.

Yarn Room at Greenberry House
I think I went a little crazy this weekend when I decided to move EVERYTHING in the shop so that all of the yarn and spinning fiber, along with the tools, were all in one place. Maybe I didn't move everything but it certainly feels that way. I'm pleased with the results, though, and I have a new room to expand the book selection as well as some space for some different consignments. Looking forward to working with some new people.

Helper dog Knightley
Knightley has been staying busy looking after me at the shop. After Emma staged a grand escape and nearly got herself kidnapped at a local store, she has been staying home while we are at work. Frankly, she's really happier at home as long as we can get in her daily walks. Knightley enjoys being with me in the shop and he supervises everything that is going on with the chickens and the goats. We lost one hen to a fox a few weeks ago; I think she had slipped off nesting under one of the buildings and I didn't notice she was gone. Another hen is setting but she chose the safety of the chicken house. She has seven eggs and I hope she's successful this time. Earlier in the year she hatched one chick but an invading cat killed it.

Spinning dyed angora fiber
Hand dyed carded angora fluff

It has been lovely to get back into spinning angora again and I dyed enough to spin singles to ply with some merino that I worked on last winter. I'm planning to start on a new bunny house this weekend and maybe then I can get some good pictures of the lovely rabbits from Woolybuns up in Connecticut.

Spring is heading into summer and there are warm and busy days ahead. With so many projects I've not done my usual flower beds and pots, but maybe I can get it done later. My peonies haven't bloomed yet but some of the irises are trying to fight their way through the weeds. I really need more hours in a day!
A sweet picture of Emma, just because.
What I'm spinning: hand dyed angora
What I'm knitting: the final rows of the Quill shawl by Jared Flood
What I'm crocheting: everything is hibernating
What I'm reading: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Current sounds & sights for spinning along: The Gifted by Ann H. Gabhart (for book club)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Festivals, the Shop and Keeping Things Going

Rhododendron blooming at Greenberry House 
We've been having a typical mountain spring this year. Early in the season it was warm but we've had several cold and rainy days since. People have been getting out, though, after the long winter and it has been fun seeing everyone at the shop. This past week four of our local spinners brought beautiful yarn to add to the shop shelves; I'll be posting pictures as soon as I get a chance!

Greenberry House at Olde Liberty Fibre Faire
Knightley and I had a wonderful time at the festival back in April. Olde Liberty Fibre Faire has changed venues and it's a lovely location. A Goode View Alpaca Farm in Goode, Virginia, made for a wonderful setting for lots of delightful fibery goodness. The hosts and volunteers did a terrific job and made the day very special.

I didn't get pictures but this past weekend I attended Maryland Sheep and Wool, for the first time in several years. Knightley found the whole thing overwhelming on Saturday and when the sun came out we left to keep the boy and some rabbits transported by Chris from over at Woolybuns safe from overheating. We went back for a short time on Sunday before it got very crowded and Knightley handled the situation much better. As my hearing aid dog, he really needs to deal with lots of different situations and we have been tied down because of work and Dad too much lately. I need to make more effort with him. I did buy a beautiful Shetland fleece at the wool sale; more about it in future posts. Also more about the rabbits as well! I had a wonderful visit with Chris, and that was my main reason for the trip.

Goat girls waiting for babies
Back on the farm, we're anxiously waiting to see if the goat girls are going to have little ones. They both look very pregnant. Either that or I'm feeding them WAY too much. The little shed is all clean and ready for them, just in case, and I'm excited to think that there will be little ones. Rose, the one at the front, is really getting big.

All the traveling was fun, but it's nice to be home and get back into our routines. I've been busy with customers and the animals, plus putting books up on the Scraps of American History web site. I've been busy spinning some glorious angora that I sheared from the rabbits here and I occasionally have a few minutes to work on the Quill shawl. I'm about halfway through the final border and it has been a pleasure to knit. The pattern is well-written and I love that it's a traditional piece.

What I'm spinning: hand dyed angora for plying with merino
What I'm knittingQuill shawl by Jared Flood
What I'm crocheting: Everything is hibernating
What I'm reading: The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh
Current sounds and sights for spinning along: Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
How the diet is going: Let's not talk about it.