Friday, February 27, 2009

Creating Kindness

How to Create Kindness.

I live on a farm, in the wilderness. I'm surrounded by forests, lakes, streams, beauty, animals, children, gardens, sunlight, and .......... violence. The hardest part of living out here is dealing with violence. Animals, they kill each other, sometimes just for fun. A weasel once came during broad daylight and killed every chicken, except one. One chicken survived. And the hailstorms, in half an hour, an entire crop of food was flattened, demolished. All that work and love, gone. The wind, blowing strongly from the southeast knocks the trees over. The sun burns the ground, the earth cracks and the soil is blown away. The children, they fight with meanness.

In a moment of anguish I sought kindness. Where can I be filled, how can kindness be found, and taught? And I was given this song. And a dance. And my own kindness was unbound. I created kindness, and around my spirit, something responded. As a spiritual being, have this ability that no element or animal has, though they lend their voices. And now I sing kindness all around.

Dear Light, shining round
Fill our hearts and warm the springs.

Dear Rain, gently fall,
Teach us with your balancing.

Dear Earth, warm and cool,
Shelter children, and feed us.

Dear wind, bring us seeds,
Blow into us a nourishing breeze.

Kindness and Love abound!
Surround Spiral, surround!

Kindness and Love abound!
Sing the Presence round!

Let your own voice be raised in song, let the earth be filled with glory!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How to Dye Cotton Warp in a Pot

My signature for many of my weavings is hand-dyed yarn. Playing with colors is my favourite thing about making cloth and it is so deceptively simple to create a kaleidoscope, creating movement and interest in the weaving warp yarns.

I order all my dyes from ProChemical in the States. I have only ever had a couple problems with the dyes, some colors, such as brown, will not take no matter what I do. Most of the other colors are great. I am still on the valiant search for the perfect red dye that will not wash out as fuschia or blank pink.

  • ProChemical Dyes

  • After winding a light coloured warp, I tie a bunch of loose choke ties to keep the warp from tangling in the pot. The warp then gets soaked in a pre-mixed soda ash solution. I have been dyeing cotton for long enough that I don't measure soda ash anymore, just close my eyes and pour till it feels about right. The soda ash FIXES the dye to the cotton, there will be no bright colours without it. After donning latex gloves, I squish and press the warp into the soda ash water until it is totally soaked and saturated. Some mercerized cotton yarns are infuriatingly water resistant so this step can take awhile, but it is very important for thorough dyeing. I have heard of pre-washing yarns in a detergent but I like to skip that step.

    After the yarn is nicely squished and soaking in the pot, I dump out the excess soda water so the warp is still soaking wet but not floating in water. Then the fun part begins. I sprinkle dyes on the warp somewhat haphazardly. The power just goes right into the pot. I usually flip the whole mess over a couple times and use my highly sophisticated plastic utensils to sprinkle the dye powders and work them into the yarn. Once there is enough dye has been worked into the warp, I force myself to forget about it completely for 8-12 hours. I've made the mistake a few times of prematurely washing out the dyes or messing around with it out of curiosity, but I find the best results are had with patience.

    After dyeing, the warp gets rinsed. There is a fine line between needlessly tangling the warp by over rinsing, and not rinsing enough. I tend to err on the side of not rinsing enough and walk around with coloured hands for a few days after dressing the loom.

    I wanted this particular warp to have subtle colours to match the accent beige yarns I had planned for the warp. That's fairly easy to obtain by reducing the amount of soda ash used before dyeing. For really brilliant colours, I use a shorter warp with lots of fixer. Trying to get brighter colors by adding more dye powder tends to create muddiness and for some reason, all the colours blend together to become purple! One of my least favourite colours next to pink. :)

    I used to try recording how I placed the warp in the pot and how I distributed the dyes over it, as if I could ever duplicate it again. I have tried and tried and tried to duplicate a particular warp that I dyed about 5 years ago and it has proven to be impossible. Rather than bash heads against the wall, I'm now content to accept all my weavings as unduplicat-able and I have found that omnipotent imagination never runs out of ideas.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    How to Become a Woof Host

    Woof is an acronym for World Wide Workers on Organic Farms. Also known as wwoof, woofing, farm travel, volunteer traveling, homestay, you get the general idea.

    I can't even count the number of people who have asked me "How do you get these workers?" "How can I do that?" "Do they really work for free????!" "You're organic?" Ok, ok ok!

    So, for starters, we live on a farm/ranch. We have 120 acres of mostly forested property that has never been "farmed" before. We have a small herd of llamas, a small flock of goats (a flock right?), and a small bundle of bunnies (I don't know what you call a group of bunnies) and miscellaneous chicken. We are not certified organic, I would say we are probably more "granola" than organic, meaning we have a healthy lifestyle, we strive towards sustainable living, we love the color green, we eat locally grown food as much as possible, and we love bugs.

    Having said all that, we also love to share our love for nature and healthy living with friends and family. When I first heard of wwoof canada, I knew it would be a perfect match for our farm and lifestyle, which leads me to the next step, becoming a farm host. Wwoof Canada has a lovely, user friendly website here:

  • Become a Host

  • If you have a farm and you support the organic industry, follow the steps on the wwoof host site, pay $50 yearly registration fee, and Da Da! Become a WWOOF Farm Host! It's as easy as that!

    Well, actually, it's not quite that easy cause the next step is getting woofers to come to your farm. I have a lovely little write up describing our highly desirable farm location that you can find here and you can also find "New Woof host guidelines" and "the ideal woof host/woofer" indicating what a woofer is expected to do and what a host is expected to provide:

  • Solstice Studios and Farm Woof Host

  • The above link is my write-up that woofers read and if they are interested in woofing. If they have paid their fee and got their woofer #, there is also contact information, email, phone #, address. Most woofers email me saying they are interested and do I have room? I respond to about 3 email a week. Last year I had 7 woofers stay with us for varying lengths of time. If you do the math, that's a whole lot of emailing and not a whole lot of turn-out. I find that many woofers end up changing their plans along the way, or get burnt out and go home before finishing their trip. Lots of woofers contact many hosts before committing to one, and very few woofers see a description and book ticket the next day. I have had woofers who phoned me, space was available, and they showed up the next week. I've also had woofers who planned months in advance. (Side note: woofers, plan to take breaks between farms so you don't get burnt out!)

    The last and probably most difficult step in becoming a woof host is flexibility and honesty. We are flexible enough to have rarely turned a short notice woofer away. I'm still learning how to be completely honest about communicating possible difficulties a woofer might face when staying at your farm, such as renovations in the only bathroom, noisy little kids in your face 24/7, small living quarters, and cold weather. Sometimes it's hard to see how your lifestyle might be difficult or uncomfortable for someone else. Domestic problems, illness, transition periods, inappropriate accomodation, and lack of work are all good reasons to NOT have woofers. I have turned woofers away in the past for all of the above reasons.

    Sometimes it is challenging for me as an individual to be a host cause I am accountable to keep it together and create a positive, uplifting environment for my woofers. I like having that accountability and that challenge. My kids love having woofers around to play with and boss around (or pretend to) Many of my woofers have said that the best things about staying here was the kids.

    This is a general overview of being a woof host. If anyone has anymore questions about becoming a woof host or a woofer, please feel free to contact me cause of course I am happy to answer questions. In fact, I might talk your ear off.

    (photos: looking out the front door, woofer summer accomodation bus, bus interior, humble *dumpy* home improving steadily, shared bathroom very very small)
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