Saturday, February 28, 2009

Studio Work

I've been busy doing carving in the studio this week. I've carved a couple of utensils for my kitchen, received an order for another tie clip from one of PeterC's coworkers, and carved a new utensil to put up for sale. In addition to that we've managed to get the apple trees pruned, saving several pieces for carving later.

Name: Sourdough Wand
Wood: White Pine
Finish: Watco Butcher Block Sealer

You can't use metal to stir sourdough starter, due to chemical reactions, so up to now I have been using the end of a wooden spoon or a bamboo screwer. I decided I needed something a little more practical and this is what I came up with. I've carved one of these for myself and one to sell.

Name: Coffee Scoop
Wood: Basswood
Finish: Walnut Oil and oil from coffee grounds

The picture here is of the scoop freshly finished with oil. Over time and with use the oils found in coffee grounds will stain the wood a rich brown, hopefully bringing out the details of the chip carved handle.

Here is the tie clip I have created in response to the special order placed through PeterC. The main body is cherry while the inlay is wenge end grain and basswood strips. The overall length is almost 3 inches. I suspect it will be to wide and I'll have to cut a 1/4 inch off each end to make it smaller. This has not been oiled yet so you are seeing the bare wood here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Spring and Weasel Kits

This has been one of those weeks where the Sun is warm enough to melt everything it touches but the air is cold and the temperatures have been hovering around -9ยบ C. If that wasn't enough to tell me spring is on its way then the mating squabbles of the Downy Woodpeckers and the Cardinals definitely was.

Another sure sign Spring is on its way is the explorations of weasel kits. I looked out the window Monday to find what I originally thought was baby Red Squirrels exploring the area around the Crabapple tree. It was only when I noticed that they had short tails that I realized they were young weasels. I haven't decided whether they were Least Weasels or Short tailed Weasels. I think they were Least Weasels, but I need to see them again before I am sure.

It was fun to watch them chase each other around the tree, diving from one mouse tunnel to the next in a wild game of hide and seek. Occasionally one of the kits would dart up to the first branch of the Crabapple tree and back down again, only to dive head first into a mouse tunnel. A family of weasels in the yard may explain why we have had fewer mice this year than normal.

A family of weasels could also spell trouble for the nesting song birds this year. I had already decided I was going to be putting nest boxes up around the property and find out we have young, voracious weasels makes it doubly important to provide safe and secure nesting places for this year's bird families. I'll have to do some investigating into ways to keep the weasels from climbing the poles and fences and raiding the nest boxes but I'm sure it can be done.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Life and Death

I am the first to admit that I root for the runt of any litter, clutch, or herd. I've always felt the little guy needs a hand up and a little extra feed every once in a while. My house and paycheck are far to small for all the foundlings that I see who need a little extra care and love. I do what I can for them and pray they do well.

This past summer we had a tiny, little runt of a Chickadee fluttering around from feeder to feeder trying desperately to pull seeds are to large for himself through the mesh. The other birds chased him from the feeders and he was definitely the worse for wear. His feathers were bedraggled and he had rather large bald spots where the other birds chased and pecked at him.

As much as I would have loved to catch him and bring him inside to be pampered, I had to let nature take her course. If he survived in the wild, he and his offspring would be the better for it. Sure enough, as the summer grew into fall, Scruffy started filling out and growing his feathers back. He still was tiny compared to the other Chickadees and he still looked a tad bedraggled but he was doing well for himself. I smiled every time I saw him because he was quite the cheeky little fellow, though still not able to stand up physically to the larger birds.

Saturday, when I went out do the weekly bird feeder filling, I found Scruffy dead under the Crabapple tree. His favourite place to roost and feed. He was laying under the platform feeder that the Red Squirrel has claimed as his own, chasing any and all intruders from it when he sees them. I can only assume that is what happened to Scruffy. He was bullied by either the Red Squirrel or one of the other larger birds and couldn't get away quick enough. His cheeky little calls and daring flybys will be missed.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Shadows of Spring

Monday the groundhog saw his shadow which means another six weeks of winter. Today the temperature outside is above zero and there is a warm wind blowing out of the Southwest. The snow is melting in the sun and the birds are basking in the warmth. Tomorrow we can expect snow and another cold front to swing through on its way out East.

We almost always get a brief thaw in January though this year it waited until February. This, more than the groundhog seeing his shadow, tells me that spring is still more than a month away. Unfortunately, the thaw is when I really start getting twitchy to go dig around in the soil and this year is no different. This is especially so this year, since my seed orders have started coming in and I have virgin packs of seeds sitting on my desk calling my name.

I opted for a few early season vegetables but mostly I opted for some mid and late season crops. If everything grows like I hope then we will be eating good from April until November and have some winter squash and root crops to store for our winter vegetable needs. Now if we can get the apple trees growing strong and fruiting properly we will have our winter fruit needs taken care of, too.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Tablet Weaving Excersise

I've taken a bit of a break from carving this week and instead spent some time practising tablet weaving. It is painstaking to set up with each thread having to be attached to the loom and threaded through the cards in the right direction, but once set up is complete the weaving itself is easy. Turn the cards in the correct direction, pass the weft through the warp, and tap it into place. That is pretty much it.

I chose a very simple knotwork pattern to be made from black and white crochet thread. The white thread has a metallic thread that wraps around it giving it a bit of a glitter. Instead of using both the fore and back spindles, like I did with the scarf, I decided to use S hooks and 1 oz. lead fishing weights on each thread to keep them tight. My pattern is using 16 cards with 4 thread per card so needless to say the whole thing weighs a great deal more than it would if I had chosen to use the spindles alone. However, with each thread on a separate hook the warp threads can be untangled and untwisted when they get twisted to tight because of the turning cards.

The hardest part about the weaving is keeping track of where in the pattern you are and making sure the cards get turned in the right direction. I can say, from experience, if you lose track of where you are working the pattern is soon a mess and you have to back it off until you get to the last known location and direction. With my current project it takes less than an hour to complete one pattern. To back it off until you get to a known location can take several hours and many false starts.

I am still getting used to the whole process. With the last project I figured out you need to allow 2 or 2.5 times the finished length of your project when setting up. This time I learned that you have to allow double the width as well. With 16 cards I was expecting the finished strap to be about 1.5 inches wide. Instead, the strap is only 3/4 inch wide. To make a 1.5 inch belt using the crochet thread I would have to make the pattern using 32 cards. Luckily this project isn't going to be used for a belt so the width isn't very important.

I'm actually enjoying weaving and am looking forward to trying a more complicated pattern. Maybe next time I will try three colour weaving and see how well I can do with that. But first I have to finish this strap and maybe do some more carving, too. I also need to practise my knitting stitches and hopefully get a headband/ earmuff done before the winter if over.