Whilst the winds blow…


Planning a vegetable garden,a flower garden, perhaps an herb garden? If you have fiber animals, or are a fiber fanatic like me; your thoughts may also lead you to planning a garden for color…fiber color. There is no need to have an entire garden devoted to natural dyes…just add some plants that will grow in your area (zone); take rhubarb for instance, anyone can grow rhubarb- heck you may already have some in your yard. A much unappreciated plant, (unless you make rhubarb jelly, crumble or pie) It thrives in almost any garden. The tuberous, fibrous tissue at the base of the leaf-stalks feels sticky and soapy when skinned and sliced, but when boiled for an hour so, and strained, yields a lovely color – a serious pastel-yellow. Approximately 90% of all plants yield some shade of yellow…

Dye plants may interest the gardener who is also a spinner or fiber artist. Nature has its own palette of colors with dozens of dye possibilities, which even include some nuts, fruits, vegetables and other common foods and fungus (yup, fungus).Natural dyes are everywhere, colors can even come from tree leaves ; berries ; herbs, nuts and shells,and barks.

Growing the dye plants is easy, and can be fun project. But getting the most vivid colors from plant pigments and making more permanent dyes involves mordanting, or treating the fiber before you dye it with a metallic compound, such as alum.
Mordanting is a process..so more on that in another post. I will also post on needed equipment.

Different parts of the plants yield different colors…

Plants yield these colors most commonly, yellows and tans, blues, and reds; believe it or not, green is the most difficult color to achieve – seems odd doesn’t it.
Some plants you might consider:
Woad for true blues(a very, very invasive weed-take good care with this one)
Madder for intense orange, scarlet and plum
Saint John’s wort for gold, maroon and green
Sunflowers for deep olive greens
Hollyhocks for yellow, mahogany and reddish black
Purple loose strife for gold, brown and black (another invasive plant)
Weld for strong clear yellow
Coreopsis for deep yellows, oranges, browns and maroon
Lady’s bedstraw for orange, gold and pinky red

Well, I have to get back to ordering seeds and chicks…I will try not to be too over-zealous in my pursuit of both…

Speaking of pursuits, pictures from our December barn rescue(partial rescue):
winter weeds

barn old

winter barn

winter closed

winter doors

barn 029.1

winter saving

Be Well,
Jess

September, slightly wordy Wednesday.


“Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.”
– William Wordsworth, September


“The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-


Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.


The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.


Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze. “
– John Updike, September


“By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.”
– Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885


“Happily we bask in this warm September sun,
Which illuminates all creatures…”
– Henry David Thoreau

Be well,
Jess

Once Upon a Time, there was a tiny little cottage~that wanted to be a Farm


Dreaming up the happy ending… after all, some of its bones were made of trees (actual tree trunks).
Originally built in 1840, with balloon construction technique; a style of wood-house building that uses long, vertical studs for the exterior walls. These long “studs” extend uninterrupted, from the sill on top of the foundation, all the way up to the roof. It first came into use, well before the mid-nineteenth century, there certainly are many, many balloon-framed structures, between 75 and 175 years old, that haven’t floated away.( not very funny, huh?) Most balloon framed buildings were rather plain and simple. The original structure of our little cottage was a mere 800 square, only feet 18 feet wide. The family that lived here for the previous 50 years before us, raised 6 children here. The only addition they made was a small attached kitchen structure. We found out as we were re-modeling; the timbers for that portion of the house were tree trunks. We figure it must have been an old wood shed attached to the house for convenience in the winter months.

Although the tiny quarters posed many space and storage challenges, it has a very charming and warm feel to it. It was home. The pastures were perfect for llamas; though many outbuildings needed to be constructed and fences built. We installed a very inexpensive fence, as it had to go up rather quickly and with little money as we had so much reno work inside the house. Permanent and safer fencing is our next big project, but that is another story all together[ and a previous post]. We lived out behind the house in our 28′ travel trailer for the first spring and summer we were here; mind you there were still 5 of us living here, with a dog and a cat to boot. I remember, as summer of that year was coming to a close; my youngest daughter had a fair (and llama show) to attend. The usual course of events would have been to pack the camper with needed items, trailer the animals and head to the fair for the week….not this particular time, you see we were still “technically living in it”, so as it was, we packed up our home and went to the fair. How’s that for classy living? Long about the end of October we were finally installing the last wall of the addition, (Howie and I did the entire reno ourselves, with found items, recycled and reused materials). After relocating a stairway, bathroom , laundry room and building 2 new bedrooms ~the sky spitting snow, finally we could move into the house! It has been a long road, we still have projects to finish…
the cabinets(handmade by a local cabinet maker long,long ago) that I refinished, going on 6 six years ago are in need of touch ups, the living room was painted again this past month, old barn flooring was used for the stairs, and barn boards now cozy up a wall(all salvaged from a 200 year old barn, last summer…again a different post)…The “scenery” I change often…curtains, pillows, and re-arranged furnishings character-etched, and well loved, relaxed and worry free, we live here…and so do our-much too large -dogs. And that is just how I like it.

The outbuildings are a coming along…

So hey come let’s look around…a walk through the seasons, dismantled barns, [in no particular order] at Misty Maples: 52 weeks, 52 pictures…oops

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Be well. Enjoy your day. We are having extraordinary weather here in upstate NY near 60!
Yipee.
Jess

Everything Old Is New Again.


When my husband and I first set out to reclaim old barns I never thought it would become a staircase and focal wall.

But, then again, does anything follow the exact route intended? Think back,did you intend to be where you are? Are you doing what you truly wish to be doing, or what you feel you must do now…to care for family, and the responsibilities associated? Do you ever question your calling? Some folks are lucky, I suppose; to be so sure, so early in their lives…but, it took a long time become me. I thought that studying to become a nurse was the right thing to do with my life, despite the fact that I’m too thin-skinned for the work. Later, I attained a degree in legal studies..again not the best fit. (desks and I don’t get along)
I found a position with some creative and independent latitude; and it focused on a worthwhile cause..Domestic Violence. I believed this work would really matter; if I could just reach, or find justice for one child, one woman.
For 4 years, I forged ahead…a grass roots type initiative. I heard many say, it can’t be done, it doesn’t work…those with whom this project clashed throwing obstacles in my way…this only firmed my resolve. In the end, I was proud of what the was created, from nearly nothing. I learned early on, water flowed in the direction of least resistance; and connected with the “right” people…(with a fairly progressive,forward thinking Judge forging this new road), this new way of adjudicating cases was showing promise; recidivism was lower. The State was looking to use this as a model for the Judicial System. Yet, I was still fighting the same battles, to make it work, bucking the status-quo…change was not easy for this unit (court). I grew weary and had little fight left in me…there were too many wrongs to make right. It was good work, I was glad to have helped and perhaps eased the pain and burden of some…it was time for me to go. To refill my glass, I had lost myself along the way. I had given so much of myself, for something I believed in (and still do).

Knowing specifically what you want is much different than knowing what you don’t want; I know, now, what I don’t want. Knowing specifically what I want is much different than knowing what I don’t want. Reality is complicated, isn’t it? But, for me, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I am not out to become wealthy, if that was my only goal, that would have been an easier path, I think. I definitely wouldn’t have made me happy.
But, then again, maybe life isn’t a race, and maybe the most interesting people follow a path all their own..and perhaps, now..I am right where I need to be.

As we were clearing the back pasture, for the new/old fence..a maple tree fell into their pasture..sweet nibbles in January, a treat.

Barn boards, stairs,and critters to be fenced..

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A poem of sorts…from “Free to Be Me and You”… Marlo Thomas

When we grow up, will I be pretty?
Will you be big and strong?
Will I wear dresses that show off my knees?
Will you wear trousers twice as long?
Well, I don’t care if I’m pretty at all.
And I don’t care if you never get tall.
I like what I look like, and you’re nice small.
We don’t have to change at all.

Hey!
When we grow up, will I be a lady?
Will you be an engineer?
Will I have to wear things like perfume and gloves?
I can still pull the whistle while you steer.
Well, I don’t care if I’m pretty at all.
And I don’t care if you never get tall.
I like what I look like, and you’re nice small.
We don’t have to change at all.

When I grow up, I’m gonna be happy and do what I like to do,
Like making noise and making faces and making friends like you.
And when we grow up, do you think we’ll see
That I’m still like you and you’re still like me?
I might be pretty; you might grow tall.
But we don’t have to change at all.

I don’t want to change, see, ’cause I still want to be your friend, forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.

Be well,
Jess

Happy Halloween


Funny holiday…Halloween. I decided to research a bit; how and why did Halloween become a holiday?? To keep it short and sweet…’cuz Pope Gregory III said so..well, not exactly.

Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. Originating with an ancient Celtic festival, Samhain. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.(uggh) In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs. All Saints’ Day, which incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter…Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.
american Halloween traditions began slowly; celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems. As the beliefs and customs meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge; public events were held to celebrate the harvest, neighbors would share creepy stories of the dead (ghost stories), tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing, and make mischief of all kinds. As time went by, annual autumn festivities became common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country…As America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Halloween thus became a holiday more about community and neighbors partying than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. Parties focused on games, food, and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived; families gave out treats to help thwart the “trick” part of the Halloween celebration… and new American tradition was born, fulfilling every child’s dream of having so much candy, you have absolutely no idea how you will ever eat it all; then when you do, you have absolutely no idea how you will ever sit still again.

Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen,
Voices whisper in the trees, “Tonight is Halloween!”
~ Dexter Kozen


On Hallowe’en the thing you must do
Is pretend that nothing can frighten you
And if somethin’ scares you and you want to run
Just let on like it’s Hallowe’en fun


It’s Halloween! It’s Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can’t be seen
On any other night.
Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms
In masks and gown we haunt the street
And knock on doors for trick or treat
Tonight we are the king and queen,
For oh tonight it’s Halloween!
~ Jack Prelutsky


Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth
boil and bubble
Shakespeare “Macbeth”

From ghoulish and ghosties and long leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
Scottish saying

The Legend of Sleep Hollow
What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path, amidst the dim and ghastly glare of a snowy
night! With what wistful look did he eye every trembling ray of light streaming across the
waste fields from some distant window! How often was he appalled by some shrub covered with
snow, which, like a sheeted specter, beset his very path! How often did he shrink with
curdling awe at the sound of his own steps on the frosty crust beneath his feet; and dread
to look over his shoulder, lest he should behold some uncouth being tramping close behind
him! and how often was he thrown into complete dismay by some rushing blast, howling among
the trees, in the idea that it was the Galloping Hessian on one of his nightly scouring!

Be wary then; best safety lies in fear,
Jess

Autumn barns…and leaves.


I don’t recall a more beautiful Columbus Day weekend; the weather has been incredible. Although the leaves are not “prime” color yet, they are still glorious against the azure blue of the Autumn sky.

As much as I yearn for the color of spring blooms, and the blush of my first rose; Fall colors are akin to a second spring (if you think about it…too much..perhaps). This year it seems as though all of the rain has washed away the grime of summer, and the winds swept the haze from the sky…and the fields and trees on Upstate New York stand in stark relief. A new painting around every bend in the road; as we drove home yesterday from my daughter’s near Schenectady…I was awestruck by the beauty that surrounds us in this area of the Country. I could travel the world;(if I had money) and I may find such pastoral beauty, but until then I will be glad to be where I am…on my little farm in Upstate, NY.

“The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools.”
– Henry Beston, Northern Farm

“The hazy, cloudless skies of Indian Summer. Leaves scurrying down the street
before the wind. The cold shiver from an arctic blast. Indian Summer. The last
warmth of the sun. Chilly mornings and glorious warm afternoons. The Harvest
Moon. The Hunter’s Moon. The Rainy Season. Dry corn stalks clattering in the
wind. The touch of frost on grass and window pane. The smell of burning leaves.”
– Keith C. Heidorn

I hope that you enjoy all that this season has to offer. What’s your favorite Fall tradition? I tell you mine next blog.
Be Well,
Jessica

Changing Seasons…


I recently wrote about summer coming to an end, I think it may be a good segue now…my youngest child is now a senior in high school. I’m not sure where the time went…somewhere between, can we get llamas Mom?, and can I borrow the car?…she has grown into an amazing young woman. As I was shooting some photos of her ~ this fact hit me like a ton of bricks! Andrew ( our neighbor) was sitting watching our photo shoot; what a juxtaposition. He will just be beginning his school years, entering pre-k; this will be the last year of high school for Jenni. Where did the time go…? Softball games, field hockey practice, swimming competitions, County fair llama shows… shopping trips to NYC, emergency room visits with broken arms, proms, and homecoming games…
As we visit colleges, and prepare applications; I will be finding comfort in these memories.

I’ll be keeping the llamas; who are now feasting on hay…protected by a shed Howie built using the reclaimed wood of the old barn [we are still disassembling]. We think it looks a bit like a covered bridge; what do you think?

from old barn to hay shed...

Lala...doesn't leave the hay often, as you may be able to tell...she's a bit deep in the groceries.

Andy and KatDoll resting nearby; KatDoll brought Andy to her side when his Mom passed a month ago ~ they haven't separated since...who ever said animals don't recognize death and parting...have never met these two.

Andy and Jenni; this is how our llama adventure began.

Jenni <3

Andrew's "pre-k" photo...what a sweet little man.

Be well, and enjoy every moment of every day!
Jessica

County Fairs…a celebration of agriculture…


All summer, I look forward to fair season. Llama shows! Fair food! Barns full of, sheep, cows, chickens, horses, and goats! 4H displays; works of art proudly displaying the 4Her’s hard work and agricultural interests…the 4H animal competitions are a favorite…the kids are so proud, excited,and anxious to see how there hard work may pay off in ribbons, trophies, and premiums.

As a kid, I never had enough ride tickets, now just looking at the rides spinning makes me dizzy. So, I don’t spend much tome in the Midway…though, I do like the pretty lights on the ferris wheel….

At the fair, I look forward to reconnecting with friends who share a common interest, and in my case, a shared love of llamas and fiber art. I always wish for more time with these friends. Maybe this is what makes fair time so special to me…friends and human connection. Gosh, I’m sappy!

County fairs; historically were established to promote agriculture, education and science through exhibitions, displays, live stock judging competitions and demonstrations…Fairs quickly became highly anticipated events across the country. Many farm families adjusted their work schedules as far as a month in advance of the big events in order to earn a few work-free days at the fair.
Farmers came to share their farming techniques. Rural families went to view the very best in agricultural products and livestock, and to experience programs and events that they will not experience anywhere except at the fair; games, racing, horse demonstrations, crafts, a variety of foods and special programs for Mothers, Fathers, and kids.
For many people, the fair would mark the first time they saw electric lights and airplanes! My husband,s favorite parts of the fair are the new equipment (think.. tractors) and the antique engines on display.
Even today, I think fairgoers attend to celebrate agricultural, exhibitions, food, the midway’s carnival rides, entertainment, competitions, and the always popular concerts.


How could anyone resist that face?


Fair buddies.


Such a cute goat face!


Best in show…(wondering if his owner has to arm himself/herself when collecting eggs from the hens)


Miss Lily’s ribbons…a years hard work pays off!


Polled Hereford…


Lily and her Hereford.


Lights of the ferris wheel!

I hope you get to visit a County Fair near you. If you do go; what do you like to see?
Be Well,
Jessica

Old Barns…Romantic?


This summer we decided to locate, dismantle, restore, and re-erect an old hand-hewn timber frame barn,I have been attempting to chronicle our adventure as we go along. (see earlier posts) This summer the weather hasn’t really been cooperating; it has been way too hot and humid to be out in the sun pulling, tugging, hammering, and hauling. We were able to dismantle a smaller barn on the property, salvaging tin for the roof of a “new” llama shelter, old, weathered barn siding, and beautiful barn flooring; all to be re-purposed at our farm. This past weekend we started to dismantle the larger of the two old barns. Howie is going to re-use a bit of the timber,siding and barn boards to fashion a new kitchen island for us! I can hardly contain myself!

Folks who may have walked, or driven past these old barns first thought may not have been…”oh,I can re-use most of this”…some would have thought…”just tear it down”; not us! We were pretty darned excited about our find! These old farm buildings have been here for generations, and with a little help they could last another 100 years. We immediately envisioned some extra storage space, a workshop/studio,and a small llama barn…the llamas of course being our first priority. These old barns will add personality to our rural farm…and oh the stories they will tell.

I don’t know why, but I think old barns are almost romantic. Sometimes pretty, sometimes creepy, always interesting. If barns could talk, imagine the history and stories these barns could tell, it is neat to think about. I imagine barns speak of simpler times… farm life in days gone by…of the rural America of the past.

What a journey ~ finding what is really important, and how to enjoy the simple things in life. Speaking of simple; In 2 of the next photos is Finnegan, I told him to get off the sofa(photo #1) He laughed at me (photo #2)!

Enjoy the last of summer. Go. Before the days get short and the nights get long, take a drive out in the country, or just take a summer stroll ~ relax awhile, just let the world go by…

Be Well,
Jessica