Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Llama and the Lion

I decided to do some fiber processing today since we finally got some sunshine and above freezing temperatures. I had a llama fleece that I had sheared from one of the boys last summer but I hadn't got around to washing. So I loaded it into the top-loader. I wash it in hot water with a 2in1 shampoo and conditioner. I fill the washer and let it soak. It cannot agitate or that fluffy fiber will felt into an unusable blob. After it has soaked for a while, I put it into spin. I repeat this process as often as is needed to get the fleece clean.
Kylie very patiently posed as a lion.

Then finally as Samuel Pepys.  She is very patient with me.
Once the fleece is clean it will be dried and then carded, and I will try my hand at spinning it. I'm not a very practised spinner, I need to work on it a bit and this fleece will be perfect.  This is my little Polish Kromski Mazurka spinning wheel.

I will have to hand card it with carding boards since my crank carder is buried in the barn at the moment.  Well, I can't spin very quickly anyhow. Here we are living in the 18th century all over again. But it has its joys -- one is the smell of llamas -- they have a sweet goatlike smell, a bit like chevre.
Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What It's Like Here

I took these pictures today. You can see how much snow we have. We have just emerged from a month of minus 20 temperatures, about 20 degrees below the norm for this time of year. Today it was -20 in the morning, and went up to zero at 6 pm.

Here's a herd of deer in the back, soaking up the sun.

A nearby country church at Crooked Lake

Hay bales in the valley early in the morning

Windrows of snow so high they bury the signs

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Last week I overheard a radio host ask a question to the audience, namely, if you could bring something back from the past to our modern lives, what would it be?

One caller said “old car chassis” – I agree, if a car manufacturer could create replicas of old cars but with modern technology, they would make a lot of money. Who wouldn’t like to ride in an antique car that had better fuel economy? The designs were fabulous, the cars were solidly built and roomy, with things like bench seats and dials and art deco handles, and vent windows, corduroy upholstery, more ashtrays than cupholders, radios with knobs.

Old films are a unique document about contemporary design and morals. If you watch them, you will see many vanished habits and customs that cannot be conveyed by words alone. I was watching an old episode of Perry Mason, the TV show starring Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, and William Hopper. I noticed that almost all of the actors were over the age of 40, frequently extras were in their 60’s and 70’s. That’s something you do not see in modern television, which is populated by dramas about high school and teenage mutants (snore), or so many forensic procedurals that the entire population of New York must have been murdered or otherwise been done wrong by now, or abysmal “reality” programs about moral incompetents, nary a mature person in sight. It’s as if our population is entirely pubescent, whereas in Perry’s world, everyone was mature and it seems the world was all grown-up and proud of it. It seemed normal to be older than 29.

Secondly, I noticed that there were charming customs in the late 50’s early 60’s such as wearing clothes in public, and dressing for special occasions. Nowadays people think it’s acceptable to venture out dressed as asylum inmates, who cares? I’m not an elitist, but when I’m in a public place, I don’t want to see someone in stained sleepwear with “juicy” written on their ass. I don’t expect vintage Dior and pearls, but leave the wife-beater and Mustang ranch downdressing at home in the trash where it belongs. If you don’t believe me, check out any of the websites that offer “the People of Walmart” photo docs.

Thirdly, there is the design. The farther we get from any time the more antiquated everything looks. Rotary phones are entering the realm of the unknown now, whole generations have grown up without having seen one, never mind using one. Those big old Bakelite phones, with their loud tch tch tch as you dialled the number are unimaginable now – how could a forensic program even survive without the technology available to put a trace on the line, how could a spy silently dial a number in the next room to upload a picture? What happened before digital?

Watching these programs tells you. There was a lot of face to face meetings, walking around, driving in cars the size of yachts, telephone answering, message taking with pencils on paper, deduction, sloppy police work (all of the characters routinely waltz around with evidence without having preserved it in any way), smoking in any situation even in libraries,
women were never in pants unless they were ”sporty”, alcohol consumption in the office (mostly of fast-lane high-flyers), and a refreshing absence of children in adult situations -- they were where they were supposed to be, not mouthing off like precocious idiot savants, or crooning over bloodsucking classmates.

I’m not saying all was well in the old days, or that we should return to them. But maybe we could have kept some of the good stuff, like civility, manners and politeness. We could all live with a little less public profanity too. The roughest lingo they got up to was quaint and goofy by comparison with what is heard regularly today. Sometime in the 90's it became necessary in the film industry to include a scene of male urination in every film. Why? I don't want to see the inside of the men's room. Is that where men go to think? Do they need their willy in their hand in order to come to a conclusion?  Can't we put that back in the closet, and trade "realism" for decency?  Human physiology is grotesque enough without having to be reminded of it. Sometimes I wish they’d put the lid back on the collective unconscious, or the id of the sixties, or whatever that pandora’s box of rude vocabulary was that barfed itself all over public decorum.

Think about it, what do you like about the past that you would keep? Can you bring it back in any way? Maybe by wearing a dress (women), or a hat,or a suit (men). Women love men in uniform, not just because it means they have a job, but also because they are usually more handsome when they shave and wear clean pressed clothes that don’t make them look like they are intending to spend the day under the car in the garage. Or maybe you could revive some of that rat-pack lingo the next time something doesn’t go your way, it might make you laugh if nothing else, and that’s always good.