Monday, April 30, 2012

Yoga Still

I was thinking as I published my last post about my yoga practice that I have been saying that my pain continues to improve.  But I haven't really shared what that means.

When I re-started my yoga practice at the beginning of February, I had continual pain in my shoulder, wrist, thumb, hip, back and knee... all on the right side.  As I began this month, I only had occasional pain in my hip/back as well as an aching in my wrist/thumb and ankle.

The wrist/thumb is due primarily to my excessive computer use and a fondness for knitting.  The ankle is due to old recreational basketball and soccer injuries.  The back/hip is due to a work-related injury when I was in high school.  As my flexibility and strength continue to improve, I expect these will too.

It's only been a few months and a compound of injuries plus too many hours of being crammed in an airplane and driving a computer is just going to take more time to repair.  That being said, I had an amazing transition earlier this month... I somehow went from feeling fatigued as class neared the end to feeling more energized.  It's really quite an amazing feeling.  :-)

I also realized when I was doing all of my garden preparations this last month that while my back and hip still hurt after a full day of physical labor, I am recovering much more quickly.  I think that must mean I am becoming more fit.  :-)

Yay for yoga!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Ready for Shearing

It's that time of year.  Time for our annual harvest of yummy alpaca fleece... tomorrow!

I've been making preparations over the last several weekends to get ready for this day.

The combs and cutters have been cleaned and sharpened.  The barn swept and rearranged.  The mats are scrubbed and set up.  The collection bags are labeled.  The checklist has been prepared and supplies all set out.

And the house?  It's (nearly) sparkling clean too.  :-)

I roasted a turkey earlier this week and started baked beans.  I will finish preparing the food today as well as the rest of the last-minute items.

A group of wonderful family and friends are coming out.  There is no way that we could do this day without their help.  So I want to make sure they are all well fed and cared for.

It's a little damp right now but the weather forecast looks good for shearing.

Now for a bunch of gratuitous photos of our alpacas... who will all be looking a lot different tomorrow.  :-)

Kocoa and Daisy

Keyla, Frieda and Apple

Keyla decided it was a good time for a nap.

Clementine and Big Thompson

Gus and Yoda

and Noodle and Wonton because...
Noodle can find something interesting nearly anywhere

I hope you have a great Fiber Arts Friday.  :-)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Food Security: Access

I didn't really expect this to become a series... but sometimes topics choose you. ;-)

When I wrote about my thoughts on Food Security yesterday, both Voie de Vie and AC mentioned they thought I would be talking about access to food, not safety of food.  It's interesting how one word can mean different things.

In the US, we like to think we are a wealthy country and that everyone has access to what ever they want, as long as they work hard enough.

In some ways that's true and certainly we are a very wealthy country.  But in no way are all of us wealthy and in no way do all of us have access to what we want or even need... no matter how hard we work.

We have large groups of poor people, of extremely poor people and of homeless people.  Perhaps they aren't obviously sleeping on the streets or in slums as I saw when I visited India years ago.  But that reality does exist in the US... check out Skid Row in Los Angeles next time you're there... or visit one of the pueblos in New Mexico... or just walk around the student ghetto near your favorite university.  It's easy to see that poverty is a big problem in the US and with that, access to quality food.

As I see it, this food scarcity manifests in two ways... ability to pay for it and ability to find it.  Often times it's a combination of both.

There are what has become known as food deserts here in the US... as in, the food is just not available, whether or not one has the ability to pay for it.  I was under the impression that these were primarily in poor, urban areas.  But this searchable map prepared by the USDA shows a very different story.  The pink areas are considered Food Deserts.

Food Desert Map source:

I find the picture quite striking.  That's a lot of pink.  Which means there are huge areas of population that have no or limited access to quality food.
On a news program last night they said that the US throws away about 40% of the food it generates.  That's staggering especially since they also said that ~50 million Americans (~16%) have food scarcity issues.

I don't know what the answer is, but I do think that quantifying the problem is a good first step.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Food Security

Food Security is an idea I've just started to spend some time with.  Mostly because the idea is prevalent in some of the gardening blogs I read.

Professionally, I've always preferred the idea of being vertically integrated over significant outsourcing.  But I'm not sure if that came from my first professional job or if self-sustainment has just been an important idea for me for ages.

Anyway I find it interesting that this idea has been rolling around in my head recently since a new case of Mad Cow Disease was found in the US this month.

They're saying not to worry, the surveillance process is working... that the meat was not destined for human consumption.  Of course the video they show is of a cow falling all over itself and a kid suffering from eating tainted meat... So the words say don't worry, but the video says panic.

Last year there was a big issue with Listeria and Cantaloupe that was traced to a farm in my state and before that it was E-Coli and Spinach, Salmonella and Peanuts and then there's the whole pink slime thing... and so maybe the meat wasn't destined to become human food, but a rendering plant produces things like soap and ingredients for animal feed so maybe your dog could become infected.... and... well, it would be pretty easy to take this in a very alarmist direction.  So yeah, it's pretty difficult not to be concerned about the safety of our food supply.

Certainly the less distributed the source of the food, the more likely issues will cause a bigger problem with the population.  So I'm very happy that buying local and organic has been enjoying a resurgence lately.

I started buying organic foods when I was in college.  I learned as a kid that you are what you eat and I did not like the idea of eating pesticides.  When I learned about Farmer's Markets I started shopping there because it meant less transportation and pollution... and supporting local businesses is a good thing... and more plants mean more oxygen and less carbon dioxide.  Finally when I had my own house, I planted my first vegetable garden because I like to watch things grow and home-grown always tastes better than store-bought.

Now, a few years later we've acquired a freezer and I've learned about canning foods.  I still very much enjoy the process of growing plants but now my garden is much more about feeding us than it is just about something fun to do.

We're a long, long way from being fully self-sustaining.  And the idea becomes daunting when you start to think about the meat you raise and the food you need to support that.  So I am doing my best to trust that the government surveillance programs are working and that the food producers are making intelligent, long-term decisions while I continue to build my own farm.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Repaired: Clothesline

Filed under the category, "I have no idea what they were thinking" is the clothesline at our house.

First, the location is weird... right in the middle of the yard and set on a sidewalk that goes nowhere.

Second there was a plastic-coated wire for the line which was rusted and broken.

But since the posts are not easily moved, I decided to at least make it useful.

I found some cotton cord at the hardware store and Hubba helped me tighten the line.

I'm not certain how often we will use the line since we have livestock, some of our neighbors have livestock and we're very close to a dairy.  So sometimes the aromas are not what you want on freshly laundered clothing, but at least we now have a place to hang our stinky work-out clothes outside.  ;-)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Knitting is Good

Over the last few weeks, I've been suffering from Fiber-y Mojo-itis.

As frustrating as that can be, I have decided to just let it be and focused on a few other things like fiber collectionspinning some alpaca and began ripping out my Old Awesome Sweater.  These were all productive fiber-y tasks but not really creative tasks and certainly they're not mind-intensive tasks.

They were the sort of tasks that allowed my mind to be free.  Which created space to allow for inspiration.  I now have a couple of ideas rolling around, but I am keeping my expectations low.

Spring is a busy time with getting the garden ready for planting, preparing for shearing our own alpacas as well as client alpacas.  So there isn't much time for fiber-y creation anyway.

That being said, I have cast on (for the 3rd time) my first Challah Sock.

Thank you all for your encouraging words after the huge rip last month.

I have only been working on it at Knit Night. So this is the result of a few weeks, of a few hours, of non-focused knitting time.  Be sure to notice that it already has a life-line.  :-)

Right now I'm happy.  I have a good balance of productive fiber-y time and mental space to allow some things to percolate.

Many of you said the sock would go faster.  Which it seems to be.  Some of you said that knitting is good and it's more time with the yarn, so enjoy it.  Which I am.  :-)

Happy Fiber Arts Friday!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An Afternoon in Estes Park

I had plans to meet one of my favorite friends in Estes Park on Saturday.  It's one of my favorite places.  Clearly, since I've written about it more than a few times.  It's certainly one of the most beautiful places I've been.... Quintessential Colorado, in my opinion.  :-)

I arrived late for lunch, but had a good reason.

We ate at the Stanley Hotel,

took a walk around the lake,

saw wildlife,

and took photos.

The elk were shedding.  I did not find any dropped fiber so I thought about asking the pretty lady below if she would give me some, but I didn't.  ;-)

It rained, it snowed and it hailed.  We laughed until our cheeks hurt.  It was a perfect day.  :-)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wide Open Spaces

I bought space for my photos... because I think photos are important to this blog.  :-)

I finally found out where to see how much space I am using.  But it means that I somehow have a Picasa account that I did not know I had.  Clearly it's system generated since the photo albums aren't in any grouping that I would have chosen.  And now that I've purchased memory, it's shown on my account page.

It took me 3 1/2 years to fill up 1GB, hopefully it will take that at least that long to fill up 20GB more.  :-)

Photo Limit :-(

Apparently I've reached my limit to upload photos to Blogger.  :-/

It runs through the motions of uploading a photo, then "Whoops! You're out of space."

1GB is allowed for free.  I can buy more, but then have to wait 24 hours to ensure the memory has been applied to my account.  What I can not find is how much memory I've actually used.

Does anyone know how to look up how much memory has actually been used on a blogger account?

Thanks for your help.  :-)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Spinning Via Verde Alpaca

In December I was gifted 2 ounces of Alpaca-Tussah Silk from Tamara of Via Verde Farm.

After the VM-filled batt of Llama that I finished up in January, this pencil roving was especially wonderful to put on my wheel.

Have I mentioned how much I love spinning alpaca?  Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy... I really, really do.

I love the medium fawn color and the silk gives it a beautiful sheen.

If you're still wondering about how important the preparation is to yielding a nice yarn... the above photo shows the yarn straight off the wheel.  I have not set the twist yet... and as a bonus, there was not one spot of over-spun yarn.  That tells me that a good preparation helped me become a significantly better spinner.  :-)

It's even prettier after the twist has been set, even though it was a cloudy day.

If you have the opportunity to put your hands on some of Via Verde's roving (80% alpaca, 20% tussah silk), do it.  Your fingers will thank you.  :-)

Happy Fiber Arts Friday everyone!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Random Thought

It bugs me when I have a post pretty much ready to go, but (1) have no suitable photos available and (2) taking said photos has been on my to do list for more than a week.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Vegetable Garden 2.0

Last year's garden was all about experimentation.  With my travel schedule, barely amended soil and having never grown anything in Colorado before, I was pretty excited just to get anything edible out of the garden.

This year's garden will be with more purpose.  Seriously though, who am I kidding?  Gardening always has an element of experimentation with it.  Right?

Anyway, the purpose is to grow food for us to eat.  Plus a little more so we can share, can or freeze but not so much that we end up hating the thing that is in over abundance.  :-)
  • I won't plant as much summer squash.  We had so much last year that Hubba finally refused to eat any more and started using them for target practice.
  • I will plant about the same number of Roma tomatoes, but put them in a different location.  I think they need a bit more water than they got last year.  The tomato sauce I made and canned last year was quite tasty, so perhaps with a different configuration we can yield more and prevent the need to buy any commercially canned tomato sauce in the future.
tomatoes and zucchini from last year's harvest
  • I think I will add a couple of grape or pear tomatoes as well a few more heirlooms for sandwiches.
  • Of course I will try chiles again, but this time plant them in the whiskey barrels on the porch.  They got too much water in the garden last year and the porch can provide the hot, dry environment that chiles love.
  • Root Vegetables.  Root Vegetables.  Root Vegetables.  I will make a lot more space for root vegetables: beets, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and perhaps parsnips and turnips.  Yumm.
  • I will try corn again.  Since corn is technically a grass, I'm certain it needed a lot more water than it got last year.
  • I will also try melons and cucumbers again as well as a few peas and beans for the first time.
  • We are planning to put in a few berry bushes.  I'm pretty sure we've decided where, but that means planting won't be until later in the summer because we need to do some serious soil improvement in that location.
thyme that survived the winter and rosemary that did not
  • Finally, Herbs!  I still can't quite get used to the fact that Rosemary is an annual here.  But the thyme came back which was a nice surprise.  Of course that means I either need to move it or get another whiskey barrel since I was planning to put chiles there this year.
plum blossoms

So far it's been a mild spring without any hard freezes or hail.  I'm hoping that it continues since most of our fruit trees are blooming now and we greatly missed the applesauce over last winter.

I've got my plant list together and the basic layout.  There are a few more wheelbarrows of alpaca manure to move and a structure to build for the beans and peas.  Then I'll be ready to see if my adjustments were good or bad.  :-)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Awesome Sweater Remake, part 1

My fiber-y mojo continues to be in a lull, so I began the disassemblage of my old Awesome Sweater.

A big improvement over the last time I disassembled a sweater is that I have a head-lamp now.  Which made it a whole lot easier to see which was the sewing thread and which was the yarn.  I was hoping this would allow me to get longer pieces of yarn than before...

but it turns out that it didn't matter.  Because the whole thing was steeked!  So all of my balls of yarn are going to be short.  *angry face*

At least the yarn is in good condition and the bag of tiny balls looks really pretty.  See how I am looking at the bright side?  Besides, weaving in ends is a pretty fun conversation starter for airplane rides. ;-)

Although I'm also kinda of thinking about the Russian Join that Its_Lily suggested a while back.  It seems like this might result in a better finished fabric.

I'm just not sure which would be more tedious.  I have some time to figure that one out though, since I've only ripped out about 2/3 of the first sleeve.

Meanwhile, my top choices for the New Awesome Sweater are:
81-14 Pullover by Drops Design - I like the shape of this one, but it may just be the model and a creative placement of color.
22-23-16 Striped Pullover by Pierrot - I really, really like this one, except it's written in Japanese and I don't read Japanese.  :-(
Honey by Amy Miller - I like that this is top-down with raglan sleeves but I do not like the pockets.
Pipit by Heidi Kirrmaier - this looks to be of simple construction with the design elements built into the structure.  This one is probably the leading contender right now.
I hope you all are having a great Fiber Arts Friday.  .  ;-)

Be sure to check in with everyone else over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder and have a Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

New Tool

I acquired a new tool.

It helped me turn this

into this on Sunday afternoon.

I have a little more work to do before I'm really ready to plant, but in true Colorado fashion, it looked like this yesterday morning.

It never really got below freezing, so the snow melted quickly and our plum blossoms appear to be ok this morning.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wheelchair Racing Video

The Lisbon Half-Marathon was last week.  Roger Puigbo of Spain was kind enough to take and post this video on YouTube.

This is the best wheelchair race video I've seen.  If you're up for it, see if you can count how many times these guys take a push before resting.  ;-)

Hubba is not in this race, but this is what he does for a living.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Slow Living: March 2012

Today I share my second installment for the Slow Living Project.  :-)

NOURISH: Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch overpackaged, overprocessed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. Share favourite links/recipes/tips from the month here.

Aside from the regular meal preparation, we roasted our first turkey since Thanksgiving (November 24th).  I had plans for turning the turkey into some new and interesting dishes, but since it had been so long we simply enjoyed it in several sandwiches, quesadillas, omelets and lettuce wraps.

I also continued my new yoga practice.

PREPARE: Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season. Aim to reduce dependency on store bought items especially those known to contain BPA and other suspect additives. Stocking up on dry goods when prices are low counts too.

With shearing season approaching, I have started to make sure everything is ready to go.  The used combs and cutters have been cleaned and sent out for sharpening, tools have been checked and the go-bag inventoried.  I have my largest client booked and am scheduling a few volunteers for our own shearing day at the end of April.

I need a better storage method for my used combs and cutters

I also bought our very first locker lamb and picked it up from the butcher this earlier week.  I'm so excited.  Lamb is one of my favorite meats, and it's ridiculously expensive at the grocery store.  I'm thrilled to be able to buy it directly from the farmer.

Finally, I have been buying wood pellets.  Now that winter is over, people aren't using them to heat their houses so the price goes way down.  We use the Wood Pellets along with Diatomaceous Earth on the manure piles after mucking.  It helps to keep both the flies and aroma in check during the summer.

100% compressed sawdust.  No wax so it's safe for the garden.

REDUCE: Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. A ladder into a strawberry planter? A sheet into a dress? Share ideas and project links here, allowing others to be inspired.

Different dog bowls means we're buying less dog food and I found a few things that are way better than new.  :-)

GREEN: up our lives. Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.

At some point over the last year we got out of the habit of bringing our reusable shopping bags to the store.  We now have a box stuffed with plastic grocery sacks.  I use them to collect dog poo, but that does not keep them out of the landfill.  So I put a few reusable bags in each of our cars and plan to ensure they stay there.

I need to think more about the Dog Loo/Composter that I wrote about last year.

GROW: plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden? Herbs in a pot, sprouts on a windowsill or and entire fruit/vegetable garden -opt for what fits space and time constraints. Don't have a backyard? Ask a friendly neighbour or relative for a small patch of theirs in return for some home grown produce, they may surprise you!

The grass has turned mostly green in the last few weeks and the trees have started to leaf out ... including our pears!  Yay Spring!

Our vet came out and performed ultra-sounds on our "pregnant" alpacas... he confirmed that three are pregnant.  Which means we will have cria in early October.  WooHoo!

Alpacamundo's Apple is not pregnant, but she's way too pretty not to share.

I have barely started to prepare our garden for spring planting.  It's time to start digging in manure, if I could just find the time.  ;-)

CREATE: to fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others. Create something as simple as a handmade gift tag or something as extravagant as a fine knit shawl. Share project details and any new skills learnt here.

While I have been knitting, spinning and writing a little,  I've only been posting about thinkingfrogging and collecting.

DISCOVER: Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests. Trawl libraries, second hand shops or local book shops to find titles that fill the need. Share titles/authors of what is being read this month.

I discovered (again) that life lines really are an important tool for use in complex knitting projects. :-/

Hubba and I had a night on the town and found a local book store and new-to-us restaurant.

I also learned that my small town has both a Luthier and a Harp shop.  Too bad I don't play any stringed instruments.

ENHANCE: community: Possibilities include supporting local growers and producers, help out at a local school/kindergarten, barter or foodswap, joining a playgroup or forming a walking or craft group. Car pooling where possible and biking/walking instead of driving. Even start up a blog if you haven't already - online communities count too! Or maybe just help out someone trying to cross the street! The rewards for your time are often returned tenfold.


Fiber Arts Friday is one of my favorite online communities.  I've been participating for a couple years now and have made a few friends, I think.  :-)  I first joined up in July 2009, and have been posting weekly since January 2010.  It's definitely one of my favorite parts of each week.

We also signed a petition to put a neighborhood road improvement project on the ballot for November elections.

ENJOY: Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment. Share a moment to be remembered from the month here.

March means we are celebrating birthdays and one year with two Livestock Guardian Dogs.

Noodle and Wonton posing for photos

It's spring now!  So really, what's not to enjoy about days that look like this?