Road Trip to Washington – Day 1

Our deadlines of the summer were over. We finished (almost) our kitchen renovation. The house was clean (at least the part we had been working on). I had delivered sheep to the butcher and had people lined up for chores. I set up the pasture fences to make managing the ewes as easy as possible. I even made a barricade so that the ewes wouldn’t be near the rams because I didn’t want to risk the rams bashing the fence and each other.

We packed as if we were going on safari. We hadn’t been out of shorts and t-shirts for months and now we were going to the North where it is said to be Cold and Wet. Better grab another pair of pants, another sweatshirt, rain-pants. Oh, you’re bringing two pillows? Then I’ll bring two pillows…and a yoga mat and my sheepskin for under my sleeping bag.

We got away on Tuesday, September 11 at 10 a.m., only about an hour behind schedule. IMG_9620Here we go!DSC_3536All of these photos are “drive-by”, taken with my camera or my phone while in a moving car. They are hazy and the sky is ugly. But that’s how it looked as we drove up the valley. We have been living for most of the summer with smoke-filled skies. Now we were smelling smoke too. This is Shasta Lake and it is evident how low the water level is. A reservoir can be an ugly place when the water is low (in my opinion).DSC_3540 We began to see signs of the Carr Fire which had caused the closure of I-5 in both directions for 5 or 6 days just the week before we left.DSC_3534One of my son’s manages a USFS helicopter and his crew was on this fire, but that wasn’t the his helicopter. DSC_3541The fire had burned right up to the road and had actually burned vehicles that couldn’t get away in time. DSC_3545IMG_9622


IMG_9626 Trees that are near the highway are being removed for miles.IMG_9625And it’s not over yet!DSC_3550There were active smokes along several miles. IMG_9630My two sons and a daughter-in-law all fight wildland forest fires. This is a scary year.DSC_3553As we drove further north the skies cleared and the forest again hugged the sides of the freeway.DSC_3554This isn’t a great photo, but I am usually driving when I see this dragon.There is a metal cow and calf a few miles back that  missed. But I got at least one photo of the dragon.DSC_3556Heading to the Shasta Valley in northern California.IMG_9631Somewhere in Oregon. It seems like a long time since we’ve had rain here.

It was dusk as we got to our destination for the night in northern Oregon. More about that in the next post.



Every Weaving Project is an Experiment

I always tell students that unless you are using the exact same yarn in the exact same way that you have used it before, then your project is an experiment. Call it a full-size sample if you want to.

I’m OK with that. Who wants to do the same thing over and over?IMG_9540This is my latest warp. I wound 13 yards of mixed Solano County wool yarns. These are yarns that I have had spun in the last few years from the Timm Ranch, Anderson Ranch, and my own flock. Most were dyed with black walnuts–it’s amazing the range of colors you can get when you use a black walnut dye pot over and over…and over. It keeps on giving color.  Look at the range of browns in the photo below.IMG_9541The other thing to notice about this photo is that the last piece woven on it is so much narrower than the others. This was the fourth shawl on the warp. The one before this one is a different weave structure (advancing twill treadling), but the first two are the same structure as the fourth one. The only difference is the weft yarn. The first three shawls were woven with 2015 Timm Ranch yarn on cones. The weft for the fourth shawl is 2016 Timm Ranch yarn that has been dyed. This is a perfect example of the difference that “finishing” yarn can make. Shawl 1049-3This is one of the previous batch of shawls. It is mostly Jacob yarn but the weft is last year’s Timm Ranch/Jacob blend used from a cone without washing. In this case the width of the warp in the reed was 30″ with a sett of 6 epi. That is very open but when wet finished the shawl is lightweight and has great drape. However, the finished width is only about 20″ (33% draw-in and shrinkage).  So I sett the brown warp the same at 6 epi but started with a 39″ wide warp.

DSC_3486Here are the shawls from the brown warp after wet finishing. That one that was so much narrower on the cloth beam? That is the one that is a little wider here. It is now 27″ wide (30% draw-in and shrinkage). The shawl in the same pattern but woven with the white weft is 26″ wide (33% draw-in and shrinkage). The difference between width in the reed and the finished piece isn’t much, but the photos show the dramatic difference in how the yarn behaves while it is woven. DSC_3494Here is a before and after photo. The bottom shawl has been wet finished. The top one is the same weft yarn and same pattern, but has not been washed. Look at the very first photo in this post. You can see how wide open the yarns are. Off the loom they are a little closer, but that looks nothing like it will when finished. DSC_3493An example of trying to take product photos with the help of a Border Collie.Shawl 1059-1-1Here is one of the final product photos. I noticed a surprise. I started to see a purple cast to one of the warp yarns. At first I thought that I just hadn’t noticed that shade inside while I was weaving. I tried to convince myself that it was still brown.DSC_3491Do you see it here? DSC_3497Another photo of one not washed (no purple) and one washed. I lined up the same warp threads in these two pieces. DSC_3501Depending on the light setting in the photo (and maybe your monitor) you may see it more clearly in one of these other photos.DSC_3502 In person it is clearly visible, although it doesn’t stand out.

The answer…that was a yarn dyed with mushrooms from a friend. It must have been rhe soap that caused the shift in color. I love it. Lisa, what is the name of that?


More Eco-Printing and Oak Tree Trivia

After the first try at eco-printing I wanted to do it again. I also wanted to investigate the technique a little more. As I read blog after blog by people who are eco-printing I got thinking that, as in much of the “fiber arts” there are few rules, some guidelines, and a lot of trial and error. You have to sift the known facts from all the other information that has probably just been passed from person to person. “We do it this way because…that’s just how you do it.” I always think of the story of the housewife (sorry, an old story) who cut the rear end off the turkey before she put it in the oven. Someone asked her why and that was the way her mother did it. It turns out that her mother did it because the only roasting pan wasn’t big enough to hold the turkey. I digress…

Eco-printing, 2nd try:

I had a plan. I wanted to try as many different trees and bushes from our property as I could and print them all on one piece of fabric and use it for a curtain in front of the open closet in my newly painted office. I bought four yards of cotton fabric and cut it in half. I scoured both pieces and then mordanted one in alum. More internet perusal. I read many instructions about mordanting cotton and it seems that the most recommended mordant is aluminum acetate.  I had aluminum potassium sulfate so that’s what I used. You’re supposed to follow it up with calcium carbonate or wheat bran. I threw in some CaC03 just in case.

Some friends were here to experiment also. I found that I was running around gathering stuff, trying to figure out how to print on a 45″ wide piece of fabric when the maximum pan size would allow 16″,  etc.  and I didn’t get any photos of the process.IMG_9512Before you print with plants you soak the mordanted (or not) fabric in iron or tannin (or not). Then you apply the plant material (possibly dipped in iron or not). You cover it with a “blanket” of cotton fabric and then roll the whole thing up with plastic  on a dowel or in my case,  2″ PVC pipe and tie it tightly. Then you steam for 90 minutes. Why 90 minutes? That’s just because that is how long everyone else says to do it. APC_0001I started with a map because I wanted my two fabrics to have the same plants in the same positions. I started with the top row of this map and covered it with the blanket material and plastic. Then I placed more blanket material (old cotton sheets), placed the plants on that (upside down from how I wanted them to appear) and folded over the middle third of the fabric. I placed more plastic to separate the middle and outer third layers and applied more plants. At this point I started to think of other plants I wanted to add so some of these were thrown on in between the others or tucked into the middle layer. The photo above the map is the second piece of fabric with part of it’s blanket fabrics, which by this time were any scraps that I could make work. You can see in the blanket fabric on the left the mirror image that was created. IMG_9515Here are the two fabrics I printed. Both were dipped in the iron solution before using them. The one on the left was the first one that I did. I think it looks a little less messy because I took more time with it. By the time I got to the second one  everyone else was taking theirs out of the steamer and I wanted to hurry…and add more plants that I thought of. Differences: The one on the left was not mordanted and the one on the right was. I don’t know that it made any difference at all in how the plant material reacted with the fabric. Both were dipped in iron. Reasons for the difference? The first project (on the left) took me a lot longer because I was running around finding things like matches and hot pads, cutting PVC pipe, etc. I could see the fabric darkening as it sat out. By the time I got to the second one the iron bath had been mixed longer and I hear that the effectiveness is quickly reduced after it has been mixed. So was it the time the iron bath had been mixed? The time between dipping and steaming? The alum mordant on the right?IMG_9513Maple leaves. When you see the spots that look like bulbs–those are the tannins leaking out of the stems in plant material with plenty of tannin. (At least that’s he explanation I’ve heard.)DSC_3446Oak branch.

I decided to do one more. One person had brought silk scarves for people to use.IMG_9509I dipped the silk (right) in tannin and the blanket material (large piece of cotton that I didn’t cut and instead just folded over) in iron. I used three plants on the silk.IMG_9510We were loving the effect of the sheoak (Casuarina sp) on some of the other pieces. That’s that wispy one that you see better on the silk. I had added Chinese pistache and oak leaves. Wow. Way too much tannin effect. The outline of the pistache on the blanket fabric is pretty but it doesn’t look so good on the silk. Note to self–use one leaf, not a branch, and maybe even that would be too much. I lost the definition in the oak leaves as well.IMG_9508Here are those three plant materials after dyeing.IMG_9506Another view of the oak leaf and the Chinese pistache.DSC_3466I went out back to photograph the trees. Oak on the left with a palm in front of it. The sheoak is the tall feathery looking one and the smaller tree turning yellow is the pistache.DSC_3473I brought some of the oak leaves in to check ID because I wasn’t sure which oak this was (Valley Oak). Look at what a community of other things is on the underside of the leaf. There are two different spiders there as well as…DSC_3475…these growths that were described appropriately enough on-line as “miniature chocolate kisses covered with red foil”. These are the response of the tree to the Red cone gall wasp, a tiny (fruit-fly size) wasp that “lays her eggs inside the leaves of the host tree. They hatch and start eating the leaf, which causes the plant to form a hard structure in order to wall off the irritant. This gall is just what the insect needs, though: more plant tissues to eat. The larva pupates and develops into an adult wasp before it emerges.” This oak has plenty of the big round oak galls too. I think that I may have to take some photos and write another post about the dozens of things living in this tree.

Hiking at Stebbins Cold Canyon

Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve is managed by the University of California. The website says: “The UC Davis Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve is set in a steep inland canyon of the California Coast Range. Extreme topography gives the reserve a mix of habitats, high species diversity, and beautiful views.  An intense wildfire burned the entire reserve in summer of 2015; University of California researchers are studying the recovery in the area.” 

The canyon is only about 25 minutes away and we try to go hiking there a couple times a year. Here are photos of a hike there during the spring when everything is green. This time of year it is dry and hot. In fact whoever is in charge is doing their best to warn us away from this hike.IMG_9481Falling trees, high heat, fires, snakes, poison oak, ticks, mountain lions, high water (that would be a different season). Maybe we should just go back home to the couch. DSC_3353After the 2015 fire the area was rebuilt to accommodate needed parking. Now we park below the Reserve instead of on the side of the road and walk under the road through these huge culverts. This is also where storm water will go in the winter. What’s with the graffiti? I am not a fan.DSC_3355Leaving the culvert.CA Bay LaurelWe headed out on the Blue Ridge trail, a five mile round trip. This is three years after the fire. That bush on the right is a CA Bay Laurel growing from the base of the burned tree (it can take on the form of a bush or tree).DSC_3361

DSC_3366Our first hazard, poison oak.DSC_3368Maybe the next time I go hiking here I’ll count the steps. The trail starts in the canyon and eventually you have to get to the top of the ridge. There may be a million stairs–at least it seems that way when you are half way up. DSC_3377-PanoTaking scenic photos is a good excuse to stop. This is a panorama looking southeast. DSC_3389Our trail continued to the ridgeline. This is the bluest sky that I’ve seen since the fires started in June. We’re up above the smoke and haze here. DSC_3390

DSC_3391View to the east. That little line on the ridge is our trail.DSC_3398


DSC_3403From the top you can look down to Lake Berryessa. Except for the foreground most of the land was burned this summer.DSC_3405

DSC_3407More of the trail. Keep walking.California CudweedCalifornia Cudweed.DSC_3416Toyon berries.DSC_3419Burned oak.DSC_3420Fall colors (more poison oak).




I’ve been dyeing with plants that grow on the farm, but the other day I learned about Eco Printing and now I’ll look at all these plants in a new way. A few friends and I went to Lafayette for a lesson.IMG_0078Here are some examples from the friend who showed us how to do this.IMG_9386We went out to the backyard to get started. There was a supervisor already on duty to make sure that we didn’t mix up the buckets. One says Iron Sulphate and the other says Tannin.IMG_9383We dipped our fabric in one or the other depending on if it was silk or cotton and then laid it out on the table.IMG_9384I brought weeping willow fronds, oak and eucalyptus leaves, and zinnia and dahlia flowers. I started with silk dipped in tannin solution and then covered this with cotton soaked in the iron solutionIMG_9387After rolling everything up and tying it snugly the fabric rolls were steamed for an hour and a half.IMG_0090While the first batch was steaming we all worked on another project. We were limited by the pot size to a 12″ roll. To print a wider fabric it needed to be folded. So that’s what I did with this one. This piece is 36″ wide. I laid leaves on the center strip and folded one side over. The design would be symmetrical on those two panels. Then I spread plastic on that fabric and placed leaves on the plastic to be printed on the third layer to be folded over. IMG_0094Here are the first ones being unveiled.IMG_0095The plant material leaves an outline as it resists the iron on the cotton layer that was applied to it. The iron turns the silk varying shades depending on the strength and freshness of the iron solution.IMG_0107Interestingly the cotton “blanket” that was rolled up with the silk is sometimes just as appealing as the silk piece.IMG_0110This is a cotton pillowcase in which the design is not from a resist but from the plant material itself.IMG_0099Here is the project that I did first. I like the printed cotton as much as I do the silk. The willow is the most striking feature. The color spots at the bottom and top are from the flower heads.

The purple blotch at the base of the leaves on the right is a result of the amount of tannin in those leaves. It leaks out during this process. One way to deal with that is to put the stems to the edge of the fabric.

IMG_0113Here is the larger piece that I did. IMG_0126You can see the symmetry of the folded cloth on the right. The third layer has a different look. I think those splotchy parts has something to do with the plant material being rolled right onto the plastic. The tannin “leakage” from the oak leaves is also apparent on this piece.IMG_9393The pieces on the right were a silk scarf that started out a rusty red and the mirror image is the blanket cloth for that scarf. Both are beautiful.IMG_9392I went there planning to make some wool samples. However I had not mordanted my wool so I decided to save most of it. This piece was dipped in iron (left side) and tannin (right side) and the middle was not treated. I laid out black walnut leaves and did the steaming later at home.IMG_9428This is the finished sample. Next step will be to wash all of these and see how they hold up. I’m excited to do more of this for sure. … Like I need another thing to distract me right now.


I selected three ram lambs to keep–not that I need all three, but these are the ones that I have selected to see how they turn out as they get bigger.   With Jacob sheep it’s frustrating because you may have a ram with nice fleece and good conformation but, if the horns don’t grow correctly, he can’t be registered. With two horn rams it is important to select a lamb with horns that are growing away from the head.  With a four horn ram there needs to be space between the upper and lower, but not too much, and the lower horns should not grow into the jaw, or the neck. Too much to ask? It seems like it. I had a lot of nice two horn lambs this year, but not so many four horn ones. I sold some nice ones and some of the ones I was keeping my eye on have finally been culled due to horns fusing. There are a few left on the website.

I moved the three lambs into the big ram pen figuring that they would not be old enough to get into trouble with the adult rams. It’s true that the young rams didn’t confront the older ones but there was a lot of chasing on the part of the adults.

DSC_3186The three big rams come to see what’s going on.DSC_3165The 2-year old 4-horn is Buster and the yearling 2-horn next to him is Cayenne. DSC_3166 The lambs aren’t named yet but this one is a full brother to the yearling ram that I took to Maryland this spring and who now lives in Pennsylvania.DSC_3163Since the young rams can’t find the older rams they will fight among themselves. That two horn lamb is a full brother to Cayenne in the photos above.DSC_3164

DSC_3162 Buster again and that two horn yearling is Gotham (for sale, by the way). DSC_3167Gotham chasing the lambs.DSC_3168This is the other two-horn lamb that I’m keeping for now.DSC_3177Gotham in pursuit.18062This young guy has got moves!