Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Long overdue

Like a library book, I'm long overdue. At blogging, that is.

No excuses here, I've just been busy resembling a vegetable. The garden - she doesn't need me so much as she did when I started her. It's mostly perennials, and we've laid down some serious mulch to keep the weeds under control.

There's still some fussing and fiddling, some weeding, some planting, much learning.... but by and large, it's not so consuming this year. On weekends, I sometimes have trouble getting started, for all the lack of pressing garden needs.

I should make a list of all of the projects I have planned. Maybe that would make me feel needed again.

I have a hard time just enjoying things, apparently. Even the picture taking is getting kind of same-old...

Ah well, here's the latest crop of pics.

Maybe I just need to learn to appreciate subtlety. This lupin, for example, was new last year and produced just one small stalk. This year, it and it's neighbouring white lupin, are flowering in abundance. I liked them so much, I went out and bought two new ones - a red and a yellow. Had to put the new ones on the other side of the yard because I'm running out of space where these are.

Actually, that's quickly becoming a problem. Space. I'm starting to run out of space to put new things in.

These painted daisies were new last year as well and the plant almost didn't make it. In fact, I had so completely convinced myself that it died, that I couldn't remember what this was when it started flowering.

It's a rather stunning colour, isn't it?

The foxglove continues to impress me. I bought 3 new ones in different colours this spring. Last year's is flowering but the new ones aren't yet. It's a biennial.

This calendula is also new this year. It has a slightly different colouring then last year's calendula. Calendula is supposed to be an annual, but it looks like it self seeds quite hardily - at least the spot where I planted it last year is quite full of foliage that looks like it belongs to the calendula but no flowers there. Only on the new ones. Quite strange. I'm letting the space where it was planted last year be undisturbed so I can see what happens.

The tigerlillies are in trouble this year. They're out on the front of the fence that faces the sidewalk. It's a very small town, but apparently there are still troublemakers or the just plain thoughtless. Someone has been pulling them out and throwing them on the ground nearby.

Neil thinks it's a kid riding by on his bike, grabbing at it, and discarding.

I don't care who or what the excuse is - it's just plain rude. I want to put up a big sign in the post office and shame the offender into an apology. *sigh* I wish the world worked that way.

A few years ago, we found the shasta daises out on the fenceline were being cut. We decided it was a kid taking flowers to his mom. Also annoying, and they could readily have obtained permission if they had bothered to ask.... but cute. Not random destruction like the tiger lillies are suffering.

This is called a japanese wonderflower. We bought the bulbs from the big show - Canada Blooms - last year. We had six of them in flower last summer, and now we're apparently down to 2 plants. I just looked them up on the web, and apparently 'Japanese Wonderflower' is a madeup name to sell Mirabilis jalapa (aka 'Wonder of Peru' and 4 O'Clocks) at garden shows. Fascinating.

And it's not particularily frost hardy in zone 5. Which explains why we lost 4 of the 6. It's one of those tubers I'll have to dig up every year if I want it.

I hate that. It's contrary to my philosophy of gardening, in that if it can't survive in my zone, I don't want it. I tend to only buy annuals for window boxes, vegetables, and to fill in empty space where I've overcrowded it with spring bulbs that are gone too early (and I'm working on that problem).

St.John's Wort. I have two of them. One from an ordinary commercial nursery, and one from the famed Richter's Herbs. Strangely, it's the one from the ordinary commercial nursery that is giving these wonderful flowers. The one from Richter's is straggly, and not flowering at all. I'm assuming that the Richter's plant is a slightly different variety, and better for medicinal use, so I'm not ready to axe it just yet.

Even if I'm also not ready to use herbs medicinally yet myself. It's on the list of things to do with my life. In the meantime, I just plant them.

But it is puzzling.

Well, that's it. I guess I had more to say then I thought.



Thursday, June 22, 2006

It's my birthday!

And I'll blog when I have a free moment. Sorry folks!

Hope y'all had a happy solstice!


Monday, June 12, 2006

DARC weekend

The Dark Ages Recreation Company is a group of friends who recreate the Viking Era, sometimes for money, and sometimes for research, and sometimes just for fun.

This weekend was fun. :)

Darrell and the boys were doing The Smelt. The big one of the year. Academics and Museum people and professional blacksmiths were invited to watch.

And I hardly saw any of it. :) Finally.

It's been getting on my nerves because it seems to have taken over the life of the group. So this weekend, I did something about it.

I pushed. I suggested that the rest of the group might like to set up an encampment on the other side of the property, and do some of that other stuff about the Viking Era that we like.

I warped a loom (or started to until the yarn knotted crazily).

Bera and Kadja cooked.

Rig worked on his soapstone bowl.

Stevegrimr (it's not his right name in either time period, but it's how I know him) was carving bone, and later cherry.

Neil and I slept in our viking bed, in our viking tent, with a million sheepskins piled on the bed because it was frigging cold at night.

We sat around the campfire at night with the blacksmiths and academics and friends and ate of the the wonderful food that Bera and Kadja cooked and talked and laughed.

I have so missed that community thing. I am full now, and happy, and I want more of it! :)

In the garden today:
I took the day off to unpack and do laundry and get my darned peppers planted.

So far....I've done some mulching (mostly because I had to empty the wheelbarrow to use it), and weeding.

Deadheaded the irises and have kept the dead flowers aside to perhaps use in a dye bath.

Weeded more.

Threw the ball for the puppy.

Planted some of the peppers, and one poor lonely tomato that I had thought was going to die but didn't.

Dug up some overcrowded tulips.

Did some dishes and laundry, and I'm still working on the yarn mess I made!

Threw the ball for the puppy. He's tired now, he must be happy and content as well. But no doubt, he's dreaming of more balls as well. :)

Pictures in a day or two.

Cheers, Karen

Tuesday, June 6, 2006


I'll admit that I wasn't listening very closely. We're encouraged to not engage in political discussion with the patrons while at the service desk. It too easily trips over polite lines and annoys the management.

But this one patron was talking about how frustrating her most recent essay on abortion has been for her. I was nodding politely and just signing out her books...

And she said "did you know that Ireland has a law against abortion but they allow women to leave the country to get abortions in England?"

I couldn't help it.

I replied with surprise. She seemed so annoyed. "So? it's not like they can stop all pregnant women at the border _just in case_ they might go and get an abortion."

"Damn straight they can!"


Wow, was that ever time to shut down the conversation.

"Your books are due in two weeks".

Do you think she seriously meant that all pregnant women should be locked inside their country for the duration of the pregnancy just in case they might have an abortion? What about all those pregnant women who actually want to be pregnant? And, how would they know? Is it time to start issuing pregnancy tests to women who want to take a weekend trip out of country?

I'm appalled.


Thursday, June 1, 2006

Smelting Fleece, or Fleecing the Smelt, or...

Okay, so it's a weird title for a post, but it works for me.

We didn't actually do any smelting, just prep work for it. The actual smelt is still a week and a half away.

For those of you who haven't been following me around for the past year, or haven't wandered anally retentively through each and every last post in the archives... I have this weird hobby where I sometimes get to dress like a woman who might have lived in the Viking Era, and do things that Vikings might have done, and get paid for it too. When I'm not getting paid, I do research.

For me, that research has turned me into a fibre junkie. You know - natural dyeing, spinning, weaving, etc. No, I don't knit. *gasp* It just isn't my thing.

For Darrell and the boys, it's iron smelting. Originally, I think he wanted to smelt iron the way the Vikings would have done it. Lots of serious research on archaeological remains and all. Now I think he's just obsessed.

Not necessarily a bad thing. After all, I'm obsessed about fibre. Or fiber, depending on your country of origin or spelling preferences. Despite being fiercely Canadian in so many other spelling matters, I must confess - I prefer 'fiber'.

So where was I?

Right - last weekend. Last weekend, the hubby and I went up to the Wareham Forge homestead and the fun ensued.

First, let me talk about the weather - both days had temperatures in the 30's with a humidex that pushed it into the 40's. Now, let's set the scene on the ground. The Wareham Forge homestead has something called an esker running through it - picture lots and lots of annoying stones with a sprinkling of topsoil.

So Saturday morning dawns and we sit around drinking coffee, until the urge to move hits us - the boys go outside to sweat and toil, and Vandy and I make good our escape.

We went off to a little bit of fiber heaven - also known as a sheep farm.

We got there just as the last sheep was being shorn, so unfortunately I have no 'before' pictures.... just the naked sheep. Their eyes reflect strangely when a flash is used.

We did get there in time to watch the farm's doggie getting sheared...

And we met Elvis...

Don't ask. I don't know why this rooster was named after the king of rock and roll.

Vandy and I both came home with fleeces. Mine is from a sheep named Ely, and she's a moorit (reddish chocolate brown). Vandy's sheep was named Greta, who is a musket (light greyish-brown). Yup, that's right. Sheep grow themselves in colour. It's not all white.

Sorry, no pics of the fleece. I just wasn't thinking. If you want to see coloured sheep fleece, you can go back to February's archives and watch me playing with a black Icelandic fleece.

Anyway, I'm all keen to send my fleece off to a fiber mill to get turned into commercial roving. That experience with the black Icelandic was enough to teach me that I really just don't like the processing parts of preparing the fleece for spinning and that someone else with big modern machines can do it for me with much gratitude. See? This is where researching the Viking methods and the fiber junkie go their separate ways.

It's okay, it happens to the best of us. The key is to not pretend or deny that we're substituting a modern method. And to not use the modern method when the museum is paying you. It's an important detail.

Which brings me to the smelt preparations.

When we got back from the sheep farm, we were stunned (okay, I was - I'm not sure about Vandy) to see four large wooden posts sticking out of the ground near the pond. And the ground had been flattened, and railway ties added to make for a firm edge to the pond. That's the part that relates back to the obscene temperatures and the rock infested ground. It was the beginning of this....

.... which actually got roofed the next day. Imagine doing all the physical labour involved to dig out holes for the posts, and carving the riverbank with that heat, and rocks a'plenty. I would have played the girl card if I'd been there.

The next day 'though, I did help out...

... by mixing up the clay cobb with Selena, so that Kevin (the bent over guy) could make the smelter itself. Kevin took our cobb in handfuls and deposited them between two metal forms ....

... and then Ken took a big stick and tamped it all down nice and tight.

Now of course, the Vikings wouldn't have had nice flat metal sheets to help make a smelter, or newspaper so the clay releases cleanly. But that's some of those modern methods that make our life easier thing that we don't pretend about.

The guys who've done the research theorize that the Vikings _might_ have used wooden forms to make the smelter and then just burned them down around the smelter since the wood will burn at a lower temperature then the clay. There's no archaeological evidence about the _method_ of building a smelter. There's very little archaeological evidence about how it was _used_ in this era.

That's where we get the concept of experimental archaeology. Take what we do know, and try to make it work.

But I digress.... here's Kevin putting the finishing touches on the smelter building.

Darrell's got some good shots in his temp folder, taken the day after we all left.

There'll be all kinds of pictures and words about this most recent project on the DARC website eventually, in the Iron section. Neil's slower to write those up then the bloggers amongst us are.

*sigh* Now, I'm doing it. I'm actually getting quite tired of the way the group is getting taken over by the iron smelting, but here I am blathering on way more about it then the fiber stuff, and showing y'all lots of pics.

So.... anyway, when we got home from that excitement there were a few more flowers out in the garden. Here's one to tide us all over til the next post. It's the very last tulip picture of the year.