On My Birthday

My birthday was several days ago.  We got home from New Jersey only a few days before that.  I was tired and needed to get back into a rhythm at home.  I decided the best gift I could give myself for my birthday was progress on personal projects.  I made progress on three projects: (1) Finishing a loom and spinning wheel; (2) Scouring fleece; and (3) Spinning a batt.

Finishing

In early January, I wrote about the problems I have with the finish on my rigid heddle loom and my spinning group’s wheel.  My mother-in-law passed away the day after I wrote that post.  When we left for New Jersey, I left all the pieces out on the workbench.  I was at a bit of a loss of how to proceed because after five passes with the mineral spirits, some of the pieces were still tacky.  On my birthday, I took the loom and the treadles to our local Woodcraft store and explained what I had done so far.  They said I probably put too much Danish Oil on, which is why it never dried.  They said that continuing with the mineral spirits was the correct approach but that if that doesn’t work then I will have to remove the entire finish and start over.  I was using paper towels to apply the mineral spirits.  They suggested that I use a shop towel because the paper towel might be too smooth.  Over the course of the last several days, I applied another 5 or 6 rounds of mineral spirits.  Some of the pieces are no longer tacky, some have parts that are tacky and some that are not, and some are still tacky all over but are not as tacky as they were before.  We continue to move in the right direction!

Scouring

In early January, I scoured some fleece and wrote a long post about it.  That day, I only scoured a fraction of the fleece I needed to scour.

The day my mother-in-law died, I was at a friend’s house, about to scour more fleece.  My spinning group was holding our third annual retreat (I posted about the first one).  This year, we decided to spend the day at the home of one of our members.  These retreats are usually low-key, bring a project and do your own thing affairs, but this year several of us had fleece to scour, others had never scoured and wanted to learn, and our hostess has excellent space for scouring, so we decided to do a scouring day.  I brought all the fleece I needed to scour and all my equipment.

Since several of us were processing fleece and since I had several 4 – 16 ounce samples, I put all my fleece into mesh laundry bags.  Inside each laundry bag, I wrote the name of the breed on a tyvek wrist band (Amazon affiliate link).  I used these wristbands when dyeing and scouring because they will not dissolve in water and you can write on them with a Sharpie.  I had just finished putting everything into bags and was about to start scouring when my husband called to tell me his mother had passed.  I immediately packed up all my fleece and drove home, leaving my equipment behind since everyone else was using it.  I picked up the equipment after we returned home.

I still wanted to get all that fleece, plus additional fleece I had at my house, scoured.  So I spent the afternoon of my birthday scouring fleece.  Here’s all the fleece I put into laundry bags while with my spinning group.

My friend Nancy told us that she and her sister now do cold soaks of fleece before scouring.  I decided that I would try that method.  We have a plethora of 5 gallon pails.  We use them for putting water into our hydroponics system, for toting around tools, and for storing things in the garage.  Last September, we bought several more to use for water storage as part of our Hurricane Irma preparations.

TANGENT/

We filled the bathtub after I took this picture. Total water storage: 35ish gallons in the tub, 50 gallons in buckets, 6 or 7 gallons in the frig, 50 gallons of non-potable water in the rain barrel.

Copious water storage was an excellent thing because we were without power for 6 days, without water for 24 hours due to a water main break on our street, and on severe water restrictions (no showers, no flushing the toilet if you only peed) for a week because 85% of the lift stations in our county were without power.  Lift stations move waste through the pipes to the treatment facility.  If they can’t do their job, somewhere that sewage will seep into someone’s home.

Six trees came down at this house, including two that came through the roof in the middle of the storm, nearly hitting one of the teenagers. The family fled to a friend’s house. The roots of two trees pulled up through the water main, breaking it in multiple places.

 

No running water, no showers, no electricity, high heat and high humidity. This is how we kept clean.

 

When our power went out, the dishwasher was full of dirty dishes. After a couple of days without power, they really needed to be washed. I did it in the backyard, using water from our buckets. I did the three bucket method, with the last being a chlorine bleach rinse which meant I didn’t have to heat water on the propane camp stove.

/TANGENT

Sorry about the tangent.  As I was saying, we have a plethora of 5 gallon buckets.  I used those for the cold water soak.

No soap, no hot water, and maybe 15 minutes in the bucket at this point.

I liked the cold water presoak a lot.  It is amazing how much comes out of the fleece, simply soaking it in cold water.  I put the fleece into the pails to presoak, then finished setting up the rest of the equipment for scouring.  When I took the fleeces out of presoak and put them into scour, I dumped the water out, filled the pail with clean water, and put more fleece in to soak.  All the fleeces were in the cold water for a minimum of 20 minutes.  Some were in there for an hour or more while I scoured others.  With cold water, I don’t have to worry about the water cooling and lanolin redepositing onto the fleece.  Anything that came out with just cool water should stay out!

I did only one scour with detergent on most of the fleece, followed by two plain water rinses.  This was effective for almost all the fleeces.  One particularly dirty alpaca fleece got two rounds with detergent and three plain water rinses.  One or two of the greasier fleeces needed more scouring and I will be doing another scour on them.  Stay tuned for more detailed blog posts on which ones needed more scouring and how I handled that.

I made one other change to the process I described in my previous post on scouring.  I added two more bins for scouring, so I had 6 going at one time.  When I was at the spinning group retreat, I discovered that my dish pans hold the same volume of water as the other containers I was using for scouring, so I set up two dish pans plus the containers!

With six bins going and the presoak doing a lot of work before scouring, I was able to scour 19.5 pounds of fleece in 4 hours.  I have one fleece left to scour, an 8.5 pound black Corriedale fleece that I intend to scour a lock at a time using Fels-naptha soap.  Stay tuned for a blog post on that when I get it done.

Spinning

My birthday was the day that NBC broadcast the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, so my parents came over and we watched that while I spun.  I worked on the SassyBee polwarth batt I’ve been spinning for a bit.

It was an awesome birthday!

Post Script

My parents wanted to spend a day with me and told me to pick what I’d like to do and that would be their gift.  The Tuesday after my birthday, we played an awesome escape game at Escape Effect

We had fabulous Indian food at a restaurant in the same plaza, then we went next door to Escape Effect and took the museum tour at the Chocolate Museum and Cafe.

Yes, this Taj Mahal is made out of chocolate!

 

74 Days

I’ve mentioned previously that I listen to a lot of podcasts (e.g. last February’s post of my Top Twenty Podcasts).  I don’t know that I’ve ever actually quantified “a lot.”

I am current — for varying definitions of current, as the rest of this post will discuss — on approximately 225 podcasts.  Current means I’ve listened to the entire back catalog, except for current news and politics podcasts.  For those, I listened to the 10 most recent episodes when I started subscribing and then listened to current episodes from there.

I am also subscribed to many podcasts on which I am not current.  I haven’t counted, but there’s at least 400 of them between several categories — Catching Up, In the Wings, Limited Release, Abandoned, and Podfaded.  Theoretically, Catching Up means I’m currently listening to the back catalog.  In the Wings means I want to listen to those podcasts and will listen through their back catalogs after I finish the Catching Up list.  Limited Release is a podcast that, when it was initially released, the intention was to do a specific number of episodes and no more.  An example of Limited Release is the Presidential Podcast, which did one episode for each U.S. President.  Abandoned is all the podcasts I listened to at one time but which I decided I no longer wish to do so.  Podfaded is podcasts that are no longer produced.  I move podcasts from the Current list to the podfaded list if they do not release episodes from more than 12 consecutive months or when the makers announce that they will not be releasing new episodes.

I do not unsubscribe from podcasts that I abandon or that are podfaded.  I used to unsubscribe, but a couple of times I resubscribed to previously abandoned podcasts and then remembered I had listened before and why I no longer do.  Sometimes podfaded podcasts come back.  If I remain subscribed, the episodes will drop into my feed automatically.  Either way, if I try to subscribe to something that is on my abandoned or podfaded list, I’ll get a pop up message from my app telling me I’m already subscribed.  I can then find it on my lists and remember why I haven’t been listening to it.

So here’s my dirty little secret: I’m a 74 days behind on listening to podcasts.  I know this because I am subscribed to two podcasts which release episodes every single day — each episode is under 5 minutes long, btw — and that’s how many episodes my app tells me I have queued from each of those podcasts.

I usually listen to podcasts when I drive, when doing housework, and sometimes when crafting.  Any given day, the number of podcasts I listen to is somewhere between 14 and 16 hours of content.  Since I set my app to listen at 2.5x speed as a default, and the app has a silence skipping feature that gives me an effective listening speed of 3.0x, it takes me 4-6 hours to actually listen to 14 – 16 hours of content.  I learn a lot from some podcasts and am highly entertained by others. I also listen to some that are just meh or are repetitious of others or that I subscribed to just to have something to fill up time.h

I started thinking about why I’m 74 days behind.  What happened on those 74 days?  Or is it just an accumulation of days where I only had 2 hours to listen to podcasts?  I realized that the 74 days represents some of the best and worst days of the my life over the last 9 months.  I offer this inventory:

  • 7 days visiting Stacy in Indiana in April 2017.  Ever since she moved, I’ve visited Stacy once a year and attended a fiber festival with her (See blog posts from 20142015, and 2016.)  This year, I was there for a week.  We went to the fiber festival, watched Star Gate, read, and crafted together.  It was awesome, and there was definitely no time for solitary time, cut off with earbuds in my ears.
  • 14 days, sick with a terrible upper respitory infection.  I was just starting to be sick when I left Indiana and it turned out that I was the sickest I’ve been in a long, long time.  My energy was zapped.  I slept in the recliner in the living room because I couldn’t breath laying flat.  You’d think 14 days sick would be an excellent opportunity for listening to podcasts.  However, since I was so congested and my ears were swollen, it was painful to put earbuds in my ears.
  • 4 days helping my sister move and organizing paperwork.  I spent more than 4 days working on these projects, but since several of those days she was working while I was packing or unpacking, I am guessing that only 4 were days when I did not listen to podcasts.
  • 7 days for Hurricane Irma.  This includes a day of preparations, the day of the storm, and the 5 days after the storm when we did not have electricity at our house.  We were able to keep our devices charged with batteries, but we limited our use of them so I didn’t listen to podcasts.
  • 30ish days visiting my mother-in-law.  We went to visit for long weekends in July, September, and October, a week at Thanksgiving, and I was there for 6 days at Christmas.  While there, I might listen to podcasts for a short time after I woke up and before bed, but other than that I was too busy visiting.
  • 6 days traveling to and from and attending SAFF.  This was the third year in a row I’ve rented a house with a bunch of friends.  This year, Fredi and I drove together and several other people met us there.  While there, we are all busy shopping or taking classes.  In the evenings, we eat dinner together then gather around the fireplace for Show and Tell.  It’s a fantastic time.
  • 15 days (so far) in New Jersey for my mother-in-law’s funeral.  The days I have been here are days I have needed to be present, not cut off by my headphones.  Making plans for the funeral, hanging out with family and friends, sorting through paperwork, all mean that I have listened to podcasts for less than an hour a day the entire time I’ve been here.

This adds up to 83 days.  In addition to these days, there have been many times when I haven’t been listening to podcasts at times I normally would.  For example, my friend Shellee has been having eye issues and has had a limited ability to drive as a result.  When we are going to events together, I pick her up and we drive together.  If we were driving separately, I would listen to podcasts, but I’d rather enjoy her company!  The day I was Scouring Fleece recently, I could have listened to podcasts while working.  Instead, I did not listen to anything.  I simply enjoyed the beautiful weather and the work I was doing and the sounds of birds singing and children playing in the neighborhood.

Obviously, I’ve been able to catch up on some of the podcasts since I am less than 83 days behind.  However, I haven’t been able to catch up on much.  When I first started listening to podcasts back in 2014, I easily had 4 – 6 hours a day filled with activities that I could do while simultaneously listening to podcasts.  The fact that I am now 74 days behind is an indication that my life has changed since then.

I want more days and times in my life like those represented by the 74 days.  On those 74 days I was present, whether for the good or the bad.  I was engaged.  I need more of that in my life.

Today I started abandoning podcasts.  I only want the best of the best, the ones that are truly adding to my life.  Here’s to greater presence and engagement.