Thursday, September 8, 2016

Harvest Time Recipe

Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 T olive oil
1 lb hamburger 
1 ripe Acorn Squash, washed, cut in half, seeds removed from center cavity
1 onion, chopped
4 small carrots, washed and sliced 
1 small zucchini squash, remove blossom and stem ends and slice 
1 small green pepper, washed, seeded, chopped
2 T fresh basil, chopped
1 T fresh oregano, chopped 
1 c rice, brown or white 
2 c water

Pour olive oil into heated skillet. Allow to heat a minute, then add chopped onion and stir until translucent. Crumble hamburger over the onions and use spatula to stir and cook while adding other vegetables. Once the pink is gone from the hamburger, add water and stir in uncooked rice. Place halves of squash on top of mix, cut halves down. Bring water to boil then turn to low, cover and cook for 20-40 minutes over low heat. Test skin of squash to see if soft and squash cooked through and check the rice to see that it is done. Then turn heat off, remove the skillet lid, place acorn squash half, cut side up on plate, and spoon rice mixture onto the squash. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Serves 2-4.

Happy Chickens But Not Exactly Cage Free

Growing up on a farm and running a farm are two very different things. There is so much to learn. This summer is the first year I have had chickens. We purchased 7 chicks in the spring and put the old chicken house in the end of the garden shed back into use. A heat lamp and a backyard cardboard brooder box was useful for a couple of weeks, then we used the heat lamp and a smaller area of chicken wire inside the larger coop as the chicks continued to grow. After the weather moderated and the chicks were about half their adult size, we wanted to allow the chicks outside yet control their location in our garden. My husband built a hardware cloth and bent PVC pipe-frame cage with a door in one end and a "slinky" tunnel to attach to the door of the coop and clamp to the end of the cage with the door. Over time, 2 more "slinkys" were added so now we have a run that can be adjusted to many garden locations and the chickens can enjoy lots of variety in their environment, plus keep weeds and insects down in our garden and fertilize the soil while enjoying some sun and the outdoors.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ancient Threads - Flax, Hemp, Ramie, Cotton

A textile is any flexible network of threads or yarns. From ancient times humans have made textiles using various fibers from plants, animals, and even metals (such as metallic embroidery threads). Textiles include clothing, baskets, shelters, and cords.

Ancient natural plant fibers used in the creation of thread have been flax, hemp, ramie, and cotton.

Flax and fiber results
Dyed flax fibers dated by archeologists to 34,000 years ago have been found in caves in the Republic of Georgia.

Cave in the Republic of Georgia where flax fibers were discovered

Microscopic dyed flax fiber found in this area of the world that lies at the border between Asia and Europe and which has been inhabited since Paleolithic times suggest that textile technologies were known even in prehistoric times.  Elizabeth Barber, retired professor from Occidental University says, "plain old string was a powerful technology, which helped people weather the last ice age." Today flax fibers are used to make the type of cloth called linen.

Hemp is a plant which like ramie contains "bast" fiber in the stalks. Hemp is a plant of multiple uses. Again originating in the Far East and in use for thousands of years, this plant has been very important for not only textiles, but also for oil for burning in lamps, medicines, paper, ropes, and a multitude of other products. Now banned to be grown in the U.S., the major source of hemp is from China.

China supplies much hemp.

Hemp plants are illegal to grow in the U.S.

Hemp fibers

Textile made of hemp

And here's an interesting fiber used in ancient times that is making its way back into use - Ramie

Another name for the Ramie plant suggests its region of origin - China Grass
Ramie stalk fibers
                   The Ramie plant has extremely long fibers contained in it's stalk.

Ramie fibers

Ramie yarn ready for use
Textile made from ramie

Ramie is similar to linen, but more lustrous like silk and much stronger than cotton.

Historical information has been discovered which indicates the use of this fiber began in Eastern Asia in prehistoric times and its use spread into Europe by the time of the Middle Ages.

Egyptian mummy

From 5000-3000 B.C., ramie was used in Egypt as a wrapping for mummies.

In Asia, Ramie was woven into cloth for nobility while Hemp was common for the peasant class. Today, Ramie is not readily available in the U.S. Most ramie is consumed by the countries where it is produced, China, Thailand, other countries in East Asia with some exports to Europe.

Cotton on the plant

More than 5000 years ago, cotton was grown in the Indus Valley which is now in modern day Pakistan. Cotton was also grown and used to make clothing in ancient Egypt. Cotton was imported into the southern United States in the 17th century.

Cotton comes from bushes that produce seed pods filled with ball-shaped clumps of white fiber. Sometimes called vegetable wool, the balls contain sticky seeds. The seeds are removed mechanically from the fiber after picking the fiber "bolls" from the plant. Threads are spun from the white fiber that remains.

Modern day cotton fabric with ancient Egyptian replica print

Once a yarn or thread is available, techniques used to make a textile include weaving, knitting, crocheting, knotting, or the process called felting which uses pressure and heat to anneal fibers together.

A textile can become something as utilitarian as a grain or flour bag, or as luxurious and rich as a wedding gown or Persian rug,

Persian rug

or even be used in the tech industry in such space age items as bullet proof vests or nano wire circuitry.

Nano circuit from a Berkeley project in 2008.

This blog post sources:
NPR Article - These Vintage Threads are 30,000 Years Old
Fiber Watch: An Ancient Textile is Making its Way Back
Extract in Science Magazine - 30,000 year old wild flax fibers 
Berkeley Nano Circuitry Project

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Basic Mending and Travel Kit

Traveling? What to pack for repairing minor wardrobe malfunctions or needlework......

Except for the dental floss and a larger eye needle, this little kit was purchased complete at JoAnns Fabric Store.

Of course, you could purchase all of the bits and pieces at a sewing store like JoAnns to put your own kit together, but often a little cost effective kit like this one can be purchased at a grocery, department store, or pharmacy where such kits are carried in the travel size toiletries department, socks and underwear area, or crafts area near the hardware.

Look for a kit that contains at least 2 hand sewing needles (it's so easy to lose a needle) and try to find a kit that has needles with a little larger eye for the thread to go through. Some needles are so fine and it is often hard to thread the needle if you are trying to make a repair in the poor light of a plane or hotel. Note the difference in eye size in the needles above. 

It is not essential but some straight pins can be helpful,
a safety pin or two is of great use,

extra buttons like those commonly used on a shirt in white, clear or black, snaps, too are beneficial

and of course a small amount of some thread of different colors, especially white, black and grey. 
A needle threader is also a great help for threading the eye of the needle in poor light or without glasses

and a tweezer is handy for removing tiny thread ends, or helping to hold needle or thread steady, etc.

Although very cute the  little scissors that came in this set will not even cut thread, so another cutter is needed.

If traveling by air, the most difficult piece to take with you are scissors. Your scissors may fit the rules which are that scissors must be blunt tipped and have blades less than 4" long. However, airport staff vary in what is accepted. Sometimes they will not allow any scissors through. Recently my sister in law wasn't able to take her Clover cutter (a round cutter with small protected blades within a case) through either. It is possible to ask for a supervisor in such a case, but perhaps it's not worth it to you to take the time or aggravation for this.  
Clover Pendant is 1.5 diamet
It is often the case that the little kit scissors do not cut so a possible alternative is to use the toiletry you probably already have with you for the trip - a box of dental floss. The little floss cutter will cut thread too and the floss itself makes a great thread - very strong - for sewing on a button or hook or tacking up a hem.

It's a little thick to go through fabric and if the thread will show on your garment, not the best choice for a repair for other than emergency fixes. Just make sure that your needle eyes in your kit are large enough to take the floss.

A couple of nice things to add to the sewing kit group are:

A flexible dressmaker's measure tape can be packed in anywhere and is very useful for many things besides mending.
and if you can find it, airplane safe scissors that will pass muster and will actually cut.
This pair of airport friendly scissors were purchased at a the Phoenix Sewing and Craft Show last year. They easily have gone through the airport in my purse along with my bamboo knitting needles several times. I use them for sewing and knitting. However, they will only cut thread and the little blade is only 1/2" long, which is good for the airport but not the best for sewing and needlework. For more stories about scissors and air travel check out this link from Fodor's Travel.
These scissors can be pricey, however, and depending on the air checkpoint you might lose them. My daughter uses childrens' craft scissors purchased at the dollar store. They cut both thread and fabric and are blunt tipped and less than 4" blade lengths. Definite possibility for travel.

There is a second use advantage to preparing a travel sewing kit  --- the same kit can be used at home for mending repairs too.  More about that next time. Until then - happy travelling. :-)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Computer Crash, Oh My!

It's A Brick
Bad news for a blogger for sure. Opened the computer and pressed the on switch but no green lights and joyful hum from the machine. I think it's become a brick. It looks fine doesn't it. But the real condition doesn't show on the outside. So this post is coming from my new smart phone.
For sure not easy typing on the little keyboard but better than nothing I hope. Certainly is amazing technology in a little box. Now to publish and see if Blogger is amazing too.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Threads on the Road

Pleasant Street Inn, Prescott, AZ

This week my husband and I are on a road trip. I had morning coffee on the porch of the Pleasant Street Inn. Our first stay ever in a B and B was delightful. The quiet atmosphere really took us away from the harried, technical routine of daily life. It was so relaxing. I highly recommend the experience.

I packed my knitting bag full to take along with me and finished a little baby sweater and hat in between lots of fun on the trail.

On Sunday, our treat was to visit the annual Indian Art Market at the Sharlot Hall Museum Site. Sharlot Hall Museum itself is pure Old West with 9 buildings full of Arizona Territory history and artifacts. And the Art Market was delicious frosting on the cake. It was a fantastic juried show of over 80 Native American artists. Featured were both traditional and contemporary works of art, Navaho weaving, Katsina carving, silversmithing, and baskets. It was simply a beautiful show. I have a pair of turquoise and silver earrings purchased from the fine Navajo artist, Martha Jackson from Chinle, Arizona. 

Within walking range of the Bed and Breakfast, we naturally took a jaunt to one of my favorite yarn shops to check out the goodies. A find was this Shawl Kit of plied silk, tencel and a little bling. 

Next week the road trip moves to Sedona, Arizona for a family reunion. Perhaps a little more randomness in the next post. :-)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hopes and Dreams Featured

This week's featured artist is a loving wife and mother of two and an avid artisan. Her Artfire studio Hopes and Dreams is a lovely shop full of a wonderful selection of handmade gifts.

One of my favorites is this beautiful Turquoise Queen of Sea Necklace with a silver mermaid on turquoise gemstone and a pearl dangle.

Camera Necklace

Or how about this cute little camera charm necklace as a gift for someone who loves to take pictures.  Camera Necklace

These glass bead earrings are another gorgeous piece. 

Red and Black Swirls and Pearls

Chocolate Pearl Necklace.

And here's a non-caloric chocolate to gift - a lovely
antiqued chain supports chocolate colored pearls.

Hopes and Dreams has a dream of being able to sustain a living from her handmade items and she hopes this for all of us who love to create. Therefore, she has a special blogspot featuring a place to post handmade objects. As a handmade artisan myself, I have taken advantage of this blog and since some of these lists are "blog hops" have even added them to my own blog to share with my readers. You will love viewing these collections at her Hopes and Dreams blogspot.

So I encourage you to stop by her shop. Viewing her work can't help but inspire you to pursue some of your own Hopes and Dreams.