Saturday, September 3, 2011

Therefore I will boast....



The pinhole camera failures


2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV) To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. {8} Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. {9} But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. {10} That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


Gee whiz.  If that ain't my verse of the week, I don't know what is.  Here's the deal.   I'm co-teaching a beginning digital photography classat the kids' school.  I remembered my 6th grade art teacher having us do pinhole cameras with oatmeal boxes and photo paper and absolutely loving the results.

 I had recently heard of people using Fuji Instax Polaroid style film for pinhole cameras, and thought it would be a great way to teach the kids how simple the concept of a camera really is.  It's just a light tight container, a hole to bend the rays of light, and something photosensitive inside.  If I knew that this silly idea would fruitlessly consume the spare moments of this past week, I think I might not have bought that Instax film.  


Digital cameras totally spoil me.  They allow my learning curve to go very wide with little cost to me financially.  I can take lots of terrible pictures, see my mistakes instantly in the histogram, and learn very rapidly how to improve my work.  With film, it's different.  This stuff was a dollar a sheet, and boy was I nervous.  After the first ten tries failed, I decided to pray.  That goes along with the verse up above.  


The exposures.  At least they are pretty in kind of an abstract, artsy way.  
As I progressed through 4 camera styles, 4 different sizes of pinholes, multiple exposure variations, 4 different film rolling methods and various focal lengths, I shot up a few more prayers.  I think they were mainly selfish.  I wanted to be done, so I could call my co-teacher, tell her how much fun the kids were going to have, blog about it so more people could try it too, then go to bed.  Not so much.  


I even put the pinhole in front of my dSLR lens to make sure light was getting through correctly.  This is in my bathroom at night.  It worked just dandy.
In the end, I went through 30 exposures throughout the week.  This is nothing in the digital world, but it's all I wanted to do in this realm.  There is a whole culture around pinhole cameras, with people cannibalizing old Polaroids for their rollers, putting pinholes in front of their dSLRs and building pinhole cameras from anything from paper to old Instax film boxes.  I thought it should be simple, but apparently there was more to it.  Giving up is not my style.  Usually, if I really care about something, I can figure it out if I'm stubborn enough, but this time I knew there was nothing else I could do.


Saraiah makes her own camera 
"To keep me from becoming conceited..."  I think I'll take this experience as a lesson in humility.  I'm reminded that the mind I have was designed by God.  It's a mind that has not been able to comprehend Calculus, keep track of time, or remember numbers, but it's mine.  It's just not the pinhole photography time of my life, I guess.  I'm humbled, and at least the kids have seen what perseverance looks like.  Eva even called me Thomas Edison the other day.  I guess I looked a little like a mad scientist, with my steak knife and black foam core madness.  

I'm glad I failed, because I can boast anyway.  I can boast about a God who designed light that can bend and be focused in such a way that photographs can be made.  He made a beautiful way to view an eclipse in the dappled images in the shade of trees, just because of that special way light bends through tiny spaces between leaves.  He made it possible for entire rooms to reflect the image of the outdoors (upside down) if that room is made entirely black, with just the tiniest prick allowing light in.  I am in awe of this grand design, even if I can't seem to capture it in a pinhole camera.  



On a happy note, however, my husband was able to remove the lens of an old digital camera, so that the image is blurry on the display screen, and when the pinhole is placed in front of it, the image becomes focused.  I can't wait to see the surprise in the eyes of those kids.  I can boast about the intelligence my husband was given with technical things, and I can look at him through a new lens  (har-de-har).


The deconstructed lens-less digital camera and my pie tin pinhole aperture


Sun through the pinhole in front of the digital camera
Our view through the pinhole
The tractor, pinhole-ified

Another thing to boast about.  The cabbages were insanely huge this year, in spite of my blatant neglect of the garden. Another reminder of how the world goes on just fine without me, especially when God's in charge.


Another thing I dare not boast about.  These are some natural dye examples I had prepared for the fair.  We decided to stick goat hair in them and allow the sun to dye it.  After my flop of a day, I decided I'd wait till tomorrow to see how the wool fares.
I can't help but boast about these beauties.  How do I have such amazing children? 


Sisterly love














525,600 Minutes

The annual skein sits happily plied on my bobbin
Today, my Levi asked me how many minutes were in a day.  I wasn't having the brain power for mental math, so I decided to impress him away from my lack of knowledge, and started singing that song from "Rent."  "....525,600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?"  He's a musical and mathematical kid, so that got him pretty distracted.  You could see him think as he wandered to bed.  

Then I started to think about the things that happen in a year.  It took me a year to finally finish spinning this silk on my wheel.  I average about one skein of yarn a year, with my crazy distracted life.  I rather like how it turned out.  It was worth the wait, I think.  The yellow color comes from nettles, and the grey from red cabbage.  Over this past year, we celebrated 7 birthdays in our immediate family.  We sold three animals and acquired three new ones.  Maia was officially potty trained, and our eldest became a vegetarian.  Lots of interesting milestones happened that I will recount later in my Christmas letter, I'm sure.

But the things that really are memorable seem to happen in minutes or even seconds.  They are the snapshots of our lives, the ones that we miss if we don't watch for them.  There is the unrestrained giggling of toddler cousins, just glad to be together, and the moment when I really realized my brothers and I are all actually grown ups.  There is the daily litany of the good-night tuck in prayer, and the drawing made just for me by 5 year old hands with sidewalk chalk outside.  There is the bouquet of wildflowers, and the joyful insistence of little ones, ordering me to "get your camera because there's a REALLY cool bee outside!"  

There is the walking arm in arm with my daughter who's nearly as tall as me, and the magnet-hugging my ten year old boy.  There are the big green, blue and brown eyes that look deep into mine, ever working to change my mind, and there is the strong and gentle hug of the man I love, just reminding me each day that he is there with me.  Those are the things that make my year.  There are many forgettable minutes that I'd rather leave that way: more than enough sad and tense  and angry moments.  It is the memorable minutes, however,  that make those hardest of moments worth pushing through, because you know more of them await you...some time soon. 


As you can see at the top of the skein, someone turned off the light in the living room, and i kept on spinning because I was nearly done, darn it! It looks a little goofy, but that's ok.

Only Levi would get a free motorcycle helmet at a garage sale and use it as a bike helmet. 

Portrait of our house as seen reflected in a helmet.

This sedum was alive with bees and little flying ant-type things.  The girls pulled me outside to see it.

I exclaimed over my first ripening Roma tomato on the plant, and of course Maia picked it for me.

Poor Dahlia.  It was not so productive this year.  I think it kept having baby blossoms plucked by small hands.


The post of our gate.  Sometimes I forget that wood used to be a tree.

Mom and dad's Walden

Our crazy animals, greeting us as we walk home from my in-laws.




Friday, September 2, 2011

Skirt that Fleece!

Cinnamon's (our 3 year old doe)  fleece before skirting.  Notice the coarse hairs at the front and rear?  Those should be removed because they are very poky.


What in the world is skirting a fleece?  Do you wrap wool around yourself and pretend to be America's Next Top Model?  Nope.  Skirting a fleece is a fancy way to say you're cleaning up hair or wool that's been shorn from an animal, so that the fleece can be sold, shown or used for felting or spinning yarn.

We have pygora goats, and skirting their fleeces is pretty simple.  The majority of the work is done before and during shearing time, in order to prevent minimal work once the fiber is off the animal.  When I shear my goats, I aways have 2 five gallon buckets: one lined with a garbage bag labeled with the date and the name of the animal.  This way I can identify which animals have better fleece.  My daughter takes the goats to fair for 4H and always needs to label the fleeces with the age, breed and gender of the animal, so she has to be careful to keep track of which fleece is which.  The other bucket is not lined, so that I remember it is the garbage bucket.  The garbage bucket gets all the grass and weed seed, poop, guard hair  (guard hair is the long, coarse protective fiber the animal grows), and second cuts .  Second cuts happen when you clip the hair, then notice your goat has an uneven haircut, and go back over an already shorn area.  These fibers are generally too short to spin and can cause yarn to be bumpy or prickly.  Some people still use them in felt, but I throw them away.  Kemp is another coarse fiber that occurs within the wool, and it should be removed when skirting or during shearing if you and your animal are very patient.  Kemp is hollow and resists dye, and is scratchy in garments, medulated fiber is similar, but is not fully hollow.  Both of these fibers look like hair in your fiber.  Once the fiber is shorn from the animal, you will skirt it again, either over a screen or some old fencing, or, like me, on your back deck.

The girls help with some early morning skirting

If your fleece is greasy enough, you can hold it up and simply shake it, and many of the second cuts will fall to the ground, making your skirting work simpler.

I'm not sure this is the best way to do this if you want your fleece to stay all in one piece, looking as if it were just a coat removed from your animal, but if you want that, you can skirt the fleece over a raised screen, allowing the second cuts to fall to the ground.  

I pick up the good big pieces that fall.  All the little prickly hairs that have fallen, i leave where they are.

This is guard hair.  Because pygoras are a breed descended from pygmies and angoras, they have inherited some of the pygmy guard hair.  This you will generally find along the ridge of their back.  Rather than pick it out from the finer fibers, i generally discard the hair from the entire ridge of the back. 

This is a close up of a second cut.  get rid of these!  they make your yarn lumpy and poky!  use them for mulch around your plants if you can't bear to throw them in the garbage.  

Unless you like the fresh-from-the field look, take the grass seed out of your fleece.  Even a beginning spinner would not enjoy picking these from fiber as they go.

Very important.  Thoroughly clean your work area before working with your next fleece, especially if it's a different color.  There is nothing more annoying than finding white hairs in a black fleece, or vise versa.

My simple labeling method for fleece bags.



This is coal's yearling wether fleece.  A wether is a castrated male goat.  Because they're not putting all that energy into reproduction, they generally have superior fleeces, at least in their younger years.  His fleece is dense, fine and long.  I love it, and I can't wait to spin it.  It won grand champion at the Evergreen State Fair.  

Eva, doing the shake down.

Yucky guard hairs.  That's the only hard part about coal's fleece, these are sprinkled rather liberally around it, particularly along the ridge.  If you are really meticulous, you will carefully hold onto the short, soft fibers and pull out the hairs.  







Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sleeping like a baby

Sweet little Maia Jo, resting in the way only a baby can.  This picture begged to be made, because just a few moments before, she was smiling in her sleep. 

Today, I slept.  For real, like the kind that makes you wake up and not require coffee to stay conscious.  I actually felt guilty that I was getting a good sleep.  At 6AM, I woke for a minute, wondering if I should be getting up...I was still tired after all!  When the headache that had followed me through each night till morning was no longer there, I realized at 7:30, that I was finally rested.  Do you ever do that...push yourself until you don't quite realize what it's like to not have to push?  

In church on Sunday, they talked about Sabbath, not like the one where you have to obey tons of strict rules, but Sabbath as our Creator did it...work a lot, but then rest, and see how good it is.  Taking the time to really rest and really sleep, lets me understand that I don't have to become a zombie and sacrifice every speck of my being to serve my family well.  When I do what I can, and leave the rest to someone else, I am saying that I realize I'm not divine, God is.   He knows what needs to be done, and I think He'll help me sort it out.  Now that's real rest.

Momma's baby child has a brand new tricycle!

The repaired tricycle

While on vacation, we watched a silly Disney show, and the mother was acting over dramatic.  It was her youngest child's birthday, and she had given her a trike. She said "Momma's baby child has a brand new tricycle!"  Oddly enough, that's where I got the idea for Maia's third birthday present.  Unfortunately, about 10 minutes after we gave it to her, her sister clipped off the streamers that are installed on the handles!  Her brother was sweet enough to try to tape the streamers back on, and Maia loved him for it.  The trike has been officially initiated into our household.  Yesterday, we had her party with her friends.  It was a good time.

Party decorations

Party gear

Science curriculum came in the mail

It was a dress up party, so we made wands

sparklies for the wands


Saraiah's wand.

peaches all for  me???

cleaned my fridge for this

ready to face the world



17 Kids total, I think.  I guess maia has a lot of friends!







Bouquet for mommy

Chamomile loveliness