Saturday, August 29, 2009

Two pictures, by request.

Here are the blankets that sit at the foot of our bed, - handwoven many years ago (thirty five or forty) and woven from pure wool. The wool was dyed with Rabbit Brush and Golden Rod,plants that naturally produce yellow, but with the use of mordants can achieve lovely greens and tans and browns.

Here are the two plants that were used to dye these old blankets. Both the Rabbit Brush and the Goldenrod grow profusely in this valley, and what fun I had collecting them when I was young and agile.

Goldenrod – All goldenrod will produce a beautiful bright yellow, but it is necessary to use a mordant to make the colour 'take'. The safest and easiest mordant to use is alum and tartaric acid (cream of tartar purchased from the grocery store). The alum must be purchased from a craft store, - drug store alum won't do the trick.

The yellow in the border of the blanket on the left was dyed with goldenrod, and I wish I could remember for sure what I used to obtain the brown but it was probably walnut hulls. When I had this blanket on the loom I was doing quite a bit of demonstrating and teaching, and the blanket grew longer and longer. When I eventually cut it from the loom it was (and still is) long enough to make two cot sized blankets. It is lovely and warm.

Rabbit brush also yields golden dyes. Climate, seasons and plant maturity factor into the colour any given dye plant will produce and this applies to Rabbit Brush particularly. This randomness in color is part of the excitement in dyeing. In this semi-desert country the amount of rainfall, or lack of it, will affect the depth of colour.

Mordants also affect dye colors. A mordant is usually a mineral salt such as alum, tin or copper which is added to a dye bath to assist the bonding between dye molecules and the protein fibers of sheep's wool'.

The blanket on the right was woven exclusively with wool dyed from Rabbit Brush and various mordants, - the addition of copper produces green, chrome and tin both brighten (chrome is toxic and requires the use of rubber gloves) and iron saddens the colours.

If you are interested in dyeing wool with natural plants here is a good place to start.

And Barb, here is a picture of the Sweet Autumn Clematis that grew in our old garden - it looks so delicate, but was strong and hardy and bloomed right until frost - even until November.

Friday, August 28, 2009

We were on the road again early this morning. The slight morning haze and the dry hillsides bespoke of fall and coming glories. I watched for signs of yellow rabbit brush, which at one time would have made my heart leap and my clippers click, as I gathered it to make a natural dye for wool. The blanket that sits on the chest at the bottom of the bed is handwoven with mellowed shades of rabbit brush from various mordants, - tin, iron, alum, copper and chrome. I caught just a small clump of yellow rabbit brush with the camera as the car went whizzing along.

We passed the waters of Yellow Lake, and those of the Skaha, glittering in the sunlight.

The campgrounds along the lake were full to overflowing. We passed people leaving them, heading for the last warm, lazy days at the beach. Along the highway serious contenders for the Ironman race which is to be held on Sunday were wheeling along the side of the road, familiarizing themselves with the long miles they will cycle on race day.

While Charles visited the optometrist I moved the car into the shade and had a lovely hour to sit and read Agatha Christie's "Come, Tell me How You Live". I can't remember who it was in Blogland who recommended this book but I am finding it wonderfully entertaining.

On the way home we climbed the hill out of Penticton and far off in the distance were five shades of hazy blue mountains, but I think I only caught three or four of them.

Definitely signs that Summer is slipping away, and this evening I went out into the garden and took pictures of the tangled wild Clematis and the apple trees, growing heavy and fragrant with the smell of ripe fruit.

There is a magic in September that awakens all kinds of energy and enthusiasm, and I can hardly wait....

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Skywatch Friday

I opened my eyes tentatively this morning. Beyond the window the sky was pink, delicately pink.

It wasn't even six o'clock, and so my eyes closed lazily, but my mind said 'pink sky, pink sky'.....

And so I got up and here are the lovely pictures that were my reward.

The Sunflowers and I, nodding with wonderment at the early morning painters who make the dawn glow so beautifully...

For more lovely skies click the Skywatch label on the sidebar.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ABC Wednesday

F is for Fintry and for Fire

Fintry is an historical part of British Columbia which is now a beautiful Provincial Park on the west shores of Okanagan Lake, half way between Kelowna and Vernon.

Captain Thomas Shorts first settled on this delta, preempting in 1882 what was soon called "Shorts' Point" but unfortunately the Captain was more interested in transportation on the lake than in fulfilling the terms of the official agreement that required him to improve the land. He had a thriving business, transporting freight and passengers from Vernon to the Penticton, but the arrival of CPR sternwheelers in 1893 put Shorts out of business.

He sold the delta, and eventually it ended up in the hands of James Cameron Dun-Waters, who renamed the property "Fintry" after his home in Scotland.

From the "history of Fintry" comes this description of the "Laird of Fintry"...

"He was a fascinating man of contrasts. He was a frugal Scot but generous, too. He revered tradition but was both innovative and inventive. Dun-Waters was an aristocrat but often dressed so casually he'd be mistaken for a tramp. He was a gracious host, passionate about his beliefs and a stern but fair employer. He would accept nothing but the best in himself, his staff or his projects".

James Dun-Waters built a Manor House for his first wife, Alice, from the Granite cliffs located on the property.

In 1924 Dun-Waters decided to add an impressive trophy room to the house, containing a stone grotto built to showcase a Kodiak bear he had shot and had mounted. While construction was underway Alice died and a month and a half later this version of the Manor House burned to the stone foundations. It was immediately rebuilt on the same foundations, and Dun-Waters lived there for the rest of his life.

Before he died he sold Fintry for one dollar to an English philanthropic organization that 'sent orphans from the streets to the 'Colonies" where they could learn to be farmers and earn a living for themselves'.

Fintry Falls, located on the property, was of immense help to Dun-Waters, but it took his ingenious mind to capture the creek's power in a system of wood stave, wire wrapped pipes. The harnessed water made it possible for the Laird to have spray irrigation for orchards and gardens plus running water in houses and barns and hydro power to grind grain and run a sawmill. 'By tying a Pelton wheel into the system he generated electricity. He even had his own telephone network linking the main buildings'.

You can read more about Fintry Estates here and the pleasures it provides for campers, hikers, birdwatchers and nature lovers.

This summer the Park was in dire danger from a voracious wild forest Fire that ravaged Terrace Mountain during parts of July and August, but all evacuees are now back in their homes and the Fire has left these parts and sprung up in other areas of the Province.

ABC Wednesday has "F" stories from all over the world, and you can click here to enjoy them, thanks to Mrs. Nesbitt.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Now that I am no longer playing hymns or practicing church music I have been indulging myself by digging through baskets and boxes of old music and the memories that these old books arouse.

In 'The Lives of a Cell' Lewis Thomas has a chapter headed Autonomy, and he begins it with these words;

'Working a typewriter by touch, like riding a bicycles or strolling on a path, is best done by not giving it a glancing thought. Once you do, your fingers fumble and hit the wrong keys. To do things involving practiced skills you need to turn loose the systems of muscles and nerves responsible for each maneuver, place them on their own, and stay out of it'.

He goes on to speak of autonomy and the possibility of visceral organs being taught to do various things by the reward system, but this is not the theme I want to follow.

I am more interested in the idea of enduring skills, accomplished by teaching the muscles in various parts of the body to do certain things, and then leaving them to it.

Wonder of wonders - somehow they retain these skills throughout a lifetime. Everyone knows that once you learn to ride a bicycle you never forget, and I have found that once your fingers learn to play a piece of music that skill might grow a little rusty, but it never leaves.

Amongst the music I have unearthed is Beethoven's Pathetique, - music that I once played passably well, but today the score looks familiar, but slightly beyond one with all its accidentals and complex chords.

That is until you start to play.

If you are wise enough to let the fingers have their way they proceed with great confidence, but once you grow self conscious, or look too closely at the notes, you are lost. And when you are playing by memory and you hit a cliff and tumble off, then you must start again from the beginning so that the fingers can follow the progression of their memory.

Fascinating stuff.

I am just doing the first three pages so far, - start off with all those lovely chords, then the crescendo's and the sf's and the chromatic runs. At one time Caspar used to sit by the piano and listen to me play, but now, with his deafness, it must be all a cacophony of sound to him and he pads off into another room and comparative quietness. I tell him about Beethoven and his lack of hearing, and the wonderment of hearing the music in his mind, but Caspar, poor dear, pays me no mind.

Here is Glenn Gould Playing Part 1 of the Sonata...

I love the Gould performance, but the Horowitz is excellent too.

My fingers curl up and sigh, - they never had this marvelous dexterity to begin with!