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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Adventures in Fiber Processing

I'm about to embark and a crazy adventure in processing LOTS, and I mean LOTS of fiber.

My friend Santha was lucky enough to go help shear alpaca on a farm last week. In return they gave her five huge garbage bags full of fiber!

I volunteered to process it for her and she's going to give me a bunch so I'm super psyched. But WOW it's a lot of fiber. I'll be posting the process as I go along. This week I've just been turning it around while in the bag to ensure some of the moisture is released. I'll start the actually scouring this weekend probably.

I'm not yet sure where I'm going to set up these scouring stations and drying stations. I'm sure I'll sort it out.

In the meantime, I got my two sheep future samples in the mail. Both are unprocessed and will need a lot of scouring to remove the dirt and much of the lanolin. Here are some pics of the first sample from a lovely little sheep called Godiva, a sweet little Navajo Churro.

As you can see, the locks are really pretty and so far as I can tell, I'll only have to snip off the bottom ends a little. The colors are really pretty and I'll be looking forward to spinning these up if I buy more.

Here are the samples from Nestor, a cutie pie and a lovely Navajo Churro sheep.

My main problem at this point is deciding whether or not I should order actual poundage of these fibers. Not because they aren't great but because it will be quite a while before I will have time to process them. They'll probably be sitting unwashed for weeks! And I'm not sure that's such a good idea. So time to do some research. I have to let her know in a few days whether or not I want a pound of each because they go fast.

I'm happy to hear any comments or suggestions from you folks out there!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Line Dried

There's something about line dried clothes that makes me happy. I love the process of hanging them. I love the smell the fresh air gives them. I love watching laundry flapping in the breeze. I love the lower energy bills.

My mom line dried most of our laundry on a square set up in our backyard. It was a permanent pole in the ground with a large square frame above it, parallel to the ground, with a series of lines running in smaller and smaller squares to the center. I loved sitting under it while my mom hung the laundry and I loved playing in between the sheets as they flapped on the lines.

Don't get me wrong, I use my dryer, A LOT. And I really don't enjoy the scratchy stiff feel of line dried towels, BUT, I do like line drying and have been doing it more and more on warm days. I originally set up the line to dry my dyed yarn fibers. It's very makeshift, just a line tied between our saucer magnolia tree and the back fence. But it serves just fine.

When I worked in Belize we line dried everything. We hand washed most things as well. Yes they came off the line stiff but with a bit of hand fluffing they were just fine. The sun and the wind just imparted such a great natural scent. And apparently I'm not the only one who thinks this.

Check out this article from Organic Gardening Magazine. More and more folks, celebrities included, are moving to line drying; at least some of the time.

It's a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and bring a little old fashioned homesteading manual labor back into your life. It makes laundry a little more fun for me. Maybe you'll find the same.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Gifts from a Run

I consider myself a runner. But I'm a LAZY runner. I have run three half marathons and a handful of 5Ks and 10Ks. I like what running does for me but often my body doesn't like running. Like many runners I have a history of chronic and sometimes extreme injuries.

I have a hard time getting motivated to go out and I'm slow so it takes a long time to run a decent 6 or 7 miles. I took a VERY long break over the winter and now I'm slowly getting back out there. I have registered for the Diva 5K in May. It's a race I did last year in the midst of half marathon training and it was super easy. But since I've not run in months, now even a mile is hard. 

So this morning I went out for my second run since my time off. The first was on Tuesday and didn't leave me too sore so I was ready. I'm in the usual run/walk ramp up period which I hate. I like being able to sustain my runs without walk breaks but I'm not there yet.

In any case, I really enjoyed the non running parts of my run this morning. It rained all day yesterday and so the scent of the spring flowers this morning was very fresh. I could smell jasmine, orange blossom, cherry blossom and plenty of others I couldn't identify as I ran by. The trees have suddenly leafed out. I love how that happens. One day you see buds and then suddenly, BOOM the leaves have unfurled. This early in the process they are so bright green. Our streets are now shady again and it's lovely.

I saw a pair of raccoons make their way back into the sewer after an undoubtedly debaucherous night. You know those raccoons, such party animals.

Running through the park on the final leg I saw birds busy at work gathering building stuffs for their nests, squirrels running around crazy burying things here and there, and the odd neighborhood cat squeezing under a fence.

When I got to our driveway to stretch I put my hands on one of the sycamore trees out front for balance. Then I noticed the best gift ever. Ladybug larvae! Everywhere on the tree! They are so cute. To me they've always made me think of tiny lion dragons. They look nothing at all like ladybug. 

I saw this as a reminder from God, the Goddess, Mother Nature, whatever your beliefs may be, that life goes on. There are beautiful things happening around us all the time, we just need to open our eyes and our hearts to see them. 

So my physically challenging two miles this morning was very much worth it. I was given a lot of gifts on the way.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sitting for the Common Good: Meditation Techniques for Kids

We've begun meditating with our children for five minutes every morning. Our boys are 5 and a 1/2 and 7 and a 1/2. Do they like this every morning. Not so much.

Does it benefit them? Incredibly so.

There are countless studies which show amazing benefits for children (as well as adults) ranging from increased focus and calm, to improved self esteem, improved eating and sleeping habits, stress reduction and more. There have been very impressive studies showing positive effects for kids in the autism/ADHD spectrum as well. More and more schools are finding ways to incorporate meditation into the classroom. Check out this article for more info on this.

I realized this morning, as my children sat mostly quietly but fidgety, that we have yet to really explain to them what meditation is and teach them some techniques. Even adults who've never sat (meditated) before in any formal way are apprehensive because they don't know any techniques. So I've decided to start a meditation technique series here. Hopefully, this will be helpful for folks and I love comments and ideas so feel free to participate.

When I taught meditation at a yoga studio many years ago, I noticed that people responded much better to guided meditations when they were just beginning to practice sitting. Listening to the sound of my voice and the picture I was painting for them helped to quiet their monkey mind. In Buddhist teaching "monkey mind" is the restless, distracting chatter that goes on in our brains so much of the time. When we learn to quiet monkey mind, calm settles over us and we experience the benefits of meditation.

So there are many techniques to quieting monkey mind and I now realize I need to teach a few of these to my children. I told them tonight I'd lead them through the rainbow meditation once they were tucked into bed and relaxing quietly. Feel free to try this meditation yourself or for your children or someone you love.

The Rainbow

Get comfortable, either in a seated position where the spine is nice and straight, or laying on your back, with limbs out and relaxed. Use a blanket if you need to. The point is to be physically comfortable so that you can focus more on the guided imagery.

Close your eyes and let your body relax as you begin to deepen your breathing. Take a slow, steady, deep breath and imagine it is filling your body from your feet all the way up to your head. Slowly release the breath, imagining that it is emptying from your head to your toes. Repeat this process two more times.

Open your mind's eye and see that you are sitting in very tall grass in a sunny field. You can see for miles over the grass and it sways in the light breeze, looking like waves on an ocean. The air is warm and comfortable, not too hot, not too cool. You can smell sweetgrass and the sun feels wonderful on your skin.

You stand up and notice the air ahead of you begin to shimmer. Before your eyes a complete rainbow appears. You can see the entire arc, from where it touches the grass near you to where it comes back to the earth farther afield.

You walk towards this amazing rainbow. Never have you seen one without rain nearby.

You step into the rainbow and magically you can see the colors! You stand in the red band of light. Everything is sparkling red and you feel warmth from this color. You let the color wash over you, breathing it in.

Next you step into the orange band of light. Everything you see is sparkly orange and it reminds you of fresh squeezed oranges. You take a moment to let this color wash over you and breathe it in.

The next color band is yellow. This bright glistening light draws you in with it's warmth and happiness.  Stand here and breathe in it's beautiful light and warmth.

Walking ahead now you enter a green band of light. Like brilliant emeralds, this light is crisp and energizing. You feel your heart beat with happiness and peace. Breathe in this healing light.

Move now to the next band of light, a brilliant blue, sparkling around you like the ocean on a sunny day. It's cool and comforting. Breathe it in, let the blue light fill your body.

A final color calls to you and you step forward into the vibrant indigo light. It's bright purple and just as sparkly as all the other light bands. You feel it's magical power, especially in your head. It sings to you and you feel comforted by it's vibrations.

You step out of the indigo light and now you are standing in brilliant white sparkling light. It's very bright but it doesn't hurt your eyes. You feel happy, peaceful, calm and like you never want to leave this place. You lay down under the white light feeling the warmth from the sun and hearing the breeze blow gently through the tall grass. Still smelling the sweetgrass on the wind you know you can come back to this calm and peaceful place whenever you want. All you need to do is close your eyes.

Take a nice deep breath, filling your body from your toes to the top of your head. Slowly let it out and feel it completely empty. Take two more deep cleansing breaths in this way.

Open your eyes. Remember now that you can return to this beautiful and healing rainbow whenever you need to.