Sunday, December 30, 2012

Crazy Christmas 2012

Been a crazy Christmas this year.  A friend's mother's neighbours  granddaughter got invited to stay at hour house by her aunt.  Admittedly this is a bit strange to us as we've never met our friend's mother's neighbour, her granddaughter or the granddaughter's aunt before... but differences in culture and langue means that we had a house guest.  Lucky for us, she turned out to be lovely and not some sort of psycho killing maniac after all.

One more dinner with a friend tonight and I can pack up the Holiday decorations.

I always try to put up the decorations as close to Christmas Eve as possible and fully intend to leave them up till 12th night.  But it never works out that way.  By New Years I'm more than ready to pack up the ornaments and call it the end of the festivities.

Oh, my friend just arrived at the door.  Got to go brush my teeth real quick.  Shouldn't have ate all that garlic for lunch.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday decoration

I'm not one to go all out for The Holidays; however, I do enjoy a good feast.  Now that my usual holiday gathering is full of kids as well as adults, I thought why not have a bit of fun decorating.

Fancy Mochi New Years thing,
plus fruit and nuts to help make the display a bit more festive.

A small toy or book for each kid, plus some small token for each adult.  That plus a feast is enough to make The Holidays special without too much stress.

Shiny star for the top of my tree
Usually for the holidays I gather green branches that got blown down in the wind and use them to make some decorations, and then cut some holly berries and bright yellow willow branches and maybe some bright red dogwood for colour.  But this year I found a myrtle tree at the nursery.  I couldn't resist.  Myrtle is associated with everlasting friendship and for keeping away the black death.   

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Ikebana - or at least a very close approximation of it.

Do you find you have a point in the night when you give up trying to sleep and just accept life as it comes, get up and make hot chocolate?  For me, it's 4am.  If I manage to get to sleep after 4, then I won't get a proper sleep cycle in and will end up more grumpy than with no sleep.

Right now I'm worried about my hen.  She has high spirits, but says her foot hurts ALOT!  She also doesn't like me squirting medicine down her gob twice a day.  All that, plus being locked inside with us humans instead of playing outside with her flock (who spends most of the day at the front door asking for her to come out and play) - all that, makes me feel like a big mean... um, thing.  Hey, it's 5am, I've been awake all night, forming words doesn't really work all that well right now.

In other news, during the summer we grew some cut flowers which were exchanged for Ikebana (Japanese traditional flower arranging) lessons.  I'm not very good, but I try hard, that must count for something.

This is my attempt at a holiday arrangement.  Holey in two forms (female berries and a male vertical sprout for fertility) to celibate the holiday season, some willow sprigs that are just starting to open their buds as a reminder that spring is just around the corner, and some sage to spice things up a bit.

Working with holey was a mistake.  It is really hard wood and does not like the spiky things.  I think it's jealous of them as I got poked more than once by the leaves.  But you know, it's sort-of festive looking even if I didn't get the traditional ikebana form correct.  I'll try again with something a bit less spiniferous next time. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Henny Penny home again

Henny Penny is home now, very dopey and not too happy.

I'm pretty certain Henny Penny understood 'scary thing make foot feel better', but she can't understand why we had to make her toe go away.  The flesh was dead and if we didn't amputate, it would basically creep up her foot and cause her a slow and very painful time until it reached her heart.  But explaining that to a hen, even a smart one like Henny Penny, can be a bit difficult at the best of times.

Two weeks in the house is not going to make for a happy hen, but some good medicine and lots of love... hopefully this will do the trick.

Where I have my first visit to the vet and talk about sad things.

Snow in Victoria a few years back

It's snowing, the first hint of a proper snow we have had all year.  It might even settle on the ground in an hour or two.  Usually I would be cheering on the snow, like a child in hope of a snow day.  But not tonight.  I have to go back to the vet in a few hours to pick up Henny Penny.

It's my first experience with a vet and I'm finding it very stressful 

Henny Penny

As much as I love farm life and working with the animals, they really do break your heart.

You do everything right, everything you can and more, and things still go wrong.

Last week we lost Herman and Major Brown to a cougar attack.  It was very unfortunate  this young cat had been killing livestock in the area since spring.  It had not only learned that farm animals are tastier and easier to kill than deer, it also had taken to killing for fun.  If in the past other farmers had acted better, either allowing the conservation officer to set traps, or at least knowing better than to disturb the kill, then the cougar would have been taken care of earlier.  As it is, the remains of our darling friend and rescue alpaca Major Brown helped capture and rid farmers of a cougar that had killed at least 30 sheep, 10 goats and two alpacas since spring.

Loosing an animal hits hard anyway, but these two were very close to our heart.  These two rescue boys that we welcomed into our homestead had issues, but we had gotten to a point where they trusted us and knew we looked out for them.  The cougar got into their pasture and well... I suppose anger is a natural part of the grieving process.  I'm angry at myself for going out to a Holiday dinner with friends and enjoying myself while the alpacas were .... and I feel angry at other farmers for not doing enough to stop the cougar when THEY had a chance.  I'll get over it, but right now it just hurts.

Tonight Henny Penny is having her toe amputated.  To be quite frank, no matter how much I love a chicken I wouldn't normally go to this much expense over them.  There is something very different about her, ever since she got in a fight with a raccoon and had a puncture to her brain and I nursed her back to health.  She's been smarter than your average bird.  Crowing for earthquakes (with about a 90% accuracy).  She nurses other injured animals back to health.  She just seems to understand so much, more than many humans I've met.

She's just special to me, so I swallowed my fear of the vet and took her there this evening.

I'm worried to all hell about it.  There is something about vets that I just don't trust.  The vets we have here are not farm vets, and although they are willing to move heaven and earth for kitties, doggies, and other wild things, they don't seem to be very interested in birds.  I have the feeling that this vet knows what she's doing, but I guess most people don't resonate with chickens like I do.

I'm off to pig out on hot chocolate while I wait for them to call me and tell me how the surgery went.  I have this gut-sinking feeling that I've killed her with good intentions, but if I hadn't taken her to the vet, her foot would slowly rot and kill her.  I'm sure they will take the best care of her they know how, but what if something goes wrong?  I really don't like waiting to find out if the news is good or not.  I really wish I had more faith in other people.

Friday, December 14, 2012

What's your favourite food blog?

An extra thank you to everyone who's helped out with the blogs over the last few weeks.

I've decided to try the Amazon Associates programme over on my food blog, Adventures of a Whole Wheat Pastafarian.

From what I can tell, basically I put a special link in the blog.  If people click that link than buy something, I may get a small percentage of that purchases.  Way more information than you ever needed to know, here.

I decided to go this way for a few different reasons.  First off, I already link to many Amazon products.  They have good stuff and good service, and they are available to most people in the world.  Second, it's more targeted to the readership than any other programme I've researched.  I really dislike going to a blog about yarn and seeing really ugly adverts for teeth.  I think if I'm going to start forcing advertising on people, it might as well stay relevant to the subject I'm writing about.  Third, I've been looking around at other sites I enjoy reading, and Amazon seems to be the most common.

I'm going to give it a shot, see if I like it.

It seems unlikely that I will ever make my fortune writing, but I do have my eye on a few little luxuries I would like to pick up.  If I can get better at my photo taking (you know it's really hard to take good photos of food if you aren't Japanese) and keep my writing on that blog focused and informative  maybe it will be successful.

Question for you all.  What's your favourite food blog?  What do you like best about it?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

RIP Herman, RIP Major Brown

Dear skittish Herman, the youngest of our rescue alpacas
Major Brown, beautiful suri rescue alpaca, just a tiny thing

I'm in a bad mood right now.  If you need to get in touch with us today, wait until tomorrow.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Haven't even put the wheels on yet (sad face)

Finally found a few moments to work on the vintage Traveleze project.  

My goal of having the floor installed by New Years (this upcoming New Years) has never seemed so far away. My biggest problem is that I cannot seem to muster up the necessary enthusiasm for this part of the project.  The chassis simply does not interest me.

But I'm plodding along (with a large amounts of help from my father who understands how it's suppose to go together).

This is apparently a spring.  It's just placed where it's going to go in this photo and not installed yet.  The fun thing about installing the springs is that the bolt like things that hold it in place are 1) heavier than they look, 2) fit really snug, and 3) have this fragile grease nipple (he, he nipple) on them that is easy to break.

Plodding away at it slowly, but it's difficult when you only have a few minutes here and there.  Now that I have most of my holiday chores finished, I can dedicate more time to it.  Been spending a lot of time researching what materials are strong but light, and different construction methods.  Also, looking at fabric swatches to remind myself what the finished trailer is going to look like.  Awesome!  That's what it's going to look like.  I just have to remind myself so I can get through the necessary drudgery.

Anyway, much more frequent blogging this time of year over on my WWFSM, my yummy food blog.  There is bread, bread pudding, and in the next day or two, a recipe for bread made from beer mash.  Also I have my photos almost ready for my first adventure in beer brewing.  Just need a spare moment to write it up.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Holidays are starting in two days

The next two weeks are going to be really busy with Holiday pot lucks, so I'm probably not going to be posting here as much as I would like.  However, expect lots of food related posts over on Whole Wheat Pastafarian.

Here's something cute for you.  My friend's son's first letter to Santa.

I helped a bit with the words, but he decided that it needed hand prints.  He sticks his hand down on the paper and then tells me to draw around it.  It's really cute.  I think he knows it's a way of saying, 'I did this, this is me'.

We even taught him to lick the envelope.  For some reason he loved it!  Kept licking it until it was a soggy mess.  Oh well, Santa won't mind.

I'm curious, is writing to Sanata (and having him write back) a Canadian thing, or do other countries do this too?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

How to clean a Vintage Singer Sewing Machine, Singer 127

December is a month of holiday celebration   It is also the month I like to give myself a treat and clean, clean, clean.  The goal is to have a tidy living space in time for the beginning of the new year.  I'm not all that fond of the process of cleaning, but I do like a tidy house, even if it never seems to last long.

I'm starting this month off by cleaning my main sewing machine, my Singer 127 treadle.  If I have a chance I might take apart the treadle base later, but for now I'm just giving the machine a check up and tidy.

Please keep in mind, the process to clean an active vintage sewing machine is a little bit different (and a lot easier) than cleaning one that has been in an attic for most of the century.

I'll walk you through my process for cleaning.  Different people do things differently and there is slight variation between machines, but generally any pre 1948 machine follows the same basic process.  Actually, it will work with most pre 1990 machines, but it's always good to check the manual before tampering with the newer machines.

Things you need to clean your vintage sewing machine

  • cotton swabs
  • good sewing machine oil
  • flat head screwdriver
  • a used sewing machine needle
  • paper towel
  • sewing machine
Start at the top and gently wipe any dust off the outside of the machine with a paper towel or tissue and a tiny bit of oil.

From here on in, at each step, check for any signs of wear or metal scraping on metal.  This will appear shinier than the surrounding metal.  Stop!  I said STOP!  A this point and find out why.  Fix it!  then keep going.  If you don't fix it, your machine will break, and then you can't sew on it until you undergo major repair.  

Also, please see the manual specific for your machine for the oil points.

Next, take off the face plate at the front end of the machine.  Remove any lint or excess oil that has gathered inside during the year (or longer).  Generously oil the needle post (the thing that goes up and down with the needle on the end) and any moving parts you can see.

Also oil at the top of the needle post thingy.

At the front of the machine there is a trapezoid plate.  Some machines have an opening at the back instead.  Some have both.

Open it up, remove any lint or visible puddles of oil.  Lubricate any moving parts and inside the grove (it's kind of hard to see, but if you turn the crank wheel slowly the same direction you would normally sew in, you can see it.

While we are at the front of the machine, clean any lint and oil your bobbin winder.

At the back of the machine is a circular plate, like everything else, clean any visible puddles of oil (there really shouldn't be any here as they only tend to form in the first two.  Oil where it says to oil in your manual (or anywhere things move).

Place a drop of oil in each of the holes at the top of the machine.

Now it's time to clean the bobbin area and the feed dogs.  This place tends to get linty fast.  I find that the used sewing machine needle tends to be excellent for fishing lint out of those hard to reach places.  Check your manual if your machine differs from mine.

Remove the plates, bobbin and if applicable bobbin casing  clean out any visible lint.  Make sure the feed dogs are happy and don't have any obvious damage.  Check to see if there are any needle marks in teh feed dog plate - this is a sign that you are doing something wrong (either using bent needles or tugging at the fabric) or that your machine is royally F-ed up.  Preferably the former.  

Do not oil or put this part back together yet.  Instead, disengage the treadle band and turn your machine on it's back so you can see underneath.

Clean all the lint you can find. Oil according to the manual (or one drop on each moving spot).

Put machine right way up and check again for lint (there is bound to be more that didn't show up the first time).

Oil the racier track and anywhere else that it tells you to in the manual.

Remove the bobbin from the shuttle and take the shuttle apart   Check for burs or anywhere that might snag the thread.  Clean and wipe down with a paper towel that has sewing machine oil on it.  Use a cotton swab to clean the inside of the shuttle, especially the bottom.  Place one very, very small drop of oil in the bottom of the shuttle and reassemble.  

Check for signs of wear on the outside of the shuttle - for example where the needle might be hitting it or it might be rubbing on the racer track too much.  This is a sign that things need adjusting.

Get some scrap fabric and thread.  Sew a whole bunch of stitches.  It will get the fabric oily, so make sure you use scrap.  Adjust the tension as necessary.

This takes me about 20 min if I don't keep stopping to snap photos for my blog ;) however, on a machine that isn't used very often or properly maintained, this task can take hours or even weeks to acomplish.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Vintage Auto Knitter goes back in the box, for now

I'm putting my Auto Knitter back in the box... for now.

I've almost got it working.  I took out every second hook and threaded it per instructed but alas...

Before putting it in the box I took out all the needles, gave them a generous helping of sewing machine oil, wrapped them in paper towel and stored in an air tight container.  Please Note, oily paper towels and cloth, when exposed to air over time, can spontaneously combust and burn down your house.  Keep them air tight and dispose of them properly when no longer needed.

My next step is to order some new needles.  I think that is where my major problem is at the moment.  Some of the needles are slightly bent and several of them have a latch that does not move smoothly.

  From there I will try again on my own.  When - ops I meant to say if - if that fails, then I will get in touch with one of the lovely mentors who have offered their services, and see if they would like to visit our fair town.  Maybe they could host a Get to Know your Circular Sock Machine and Troubleshooting class?

If anyone is actually interested in a course like that in Victoria, let me know.  I'll see if I can arrange one.  It would probably be late January or Fab.  2013.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Troubleshooting cast on for my Auto Knitter, vintage sock machine

Now that everything is cleaned and put back together, all that remains is to get this vintage sock knitting machine working.  

I've been reading forms, watching videos (like these ones which are for the modern version of this machine), and asking the good people on Ravelry for advice.  I've come to realize two important things: There are some really brilliant people on the internet, and the minuscule precision needed to make this machine work properly makes everything else I've repaired look like a block of wood.  From sewing machines, power tools, spinning wheels, and all the other mechanical goodies I've worked on aren't anywhere close to what this machine is like to work with.

But lucky for me, the first thing I mentioned: those brilliant people who are willing to talk me through this.

This post is basically a bunch of pictures of things I've tried to make the machine work and a summation of many of the helpful tips I've been given.  It doesn't have a happy ending ... yet.  But I'm not giving up.  

The V-cam:

I lowered the V-cam so that it is as low as it can go and not risk jamming.

I also switched the V-cam for the spare that came with the machine.  The one that was in the machine showed signs of wear in one spot where it seems to be rubbing against the cylinder 

The yarn guide:

I moved this closer to the needles so that it is almost but not quite touching.  I also lowered it.

And then I lowered again.  

The yarn:

The yarn needs to feed freely from the source to the machine.  So I took some off the spool and let it lay loose.  Later on, once I've fixed the spool winder, I'll use some cheep sock yarn from my stash and see if this works better.

The weights:

Am I using the proper amount of weight for this task?  I really don't know.  

Apparently the weight is very important for the correct formation of stitches.  Each of these disks weighs about a pound, so I thought I would try three pounds.  Maybe next time I'll put the fourth on and see if that works better.

Casting On:

It's often been said that threading every second needle makes casting on easier.  I think it makes it so the yarn does not get wound too tightly on the needles.  

As you can see, there is still something wrong.

My next steps in the trouble shooting process
  • try a different yarn
  • get new needles - Angora Valley Fibres has them for sale.
  • and as a final effort, find a mentor.  A few people have been in touch, but all of them live out of town.  But I suspect there are enough people in Victoria who are interested in learning about these machines. Some of them even have a machine or two in the basement waiting for guidance.  Maybe some sort of clinic or workshop is in order?