I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A day of spinning wheels, chickens, baby goats and friends

We had our SCAT meeting at a home in the "up country" foothills yesterday. I drove myself and three friends up above Mace Meadows on highway 88 to a place called Sherwood Forest. It's a subdivision that makes you wonder if you're ever going to find the right road or the right house. It goes on forever. Then, just when you think you've gone too far and that the road is never going to end, you get to a beautiful home, with beautiful gardens...
and lovely flowers... and artichokes growing on long stems...
and clothes drying an a line in the sun...
and chickens going every which way...
We were here for our once a month art meeting, but we had also been invited to lunch.
This is "J's" house and we came to have some homemade squash soup and learn to use a spinning wheel.
The living room was filled with spinning wheels, carders, fleece and yarn. This was going to be such fun.

We (four woman and one chicken) arrived on one of those iconic days that California is famous for....blue sky, big fluffy clouds, a little breeze and ... wait, did I say we arrived with a chicken? Yes, I did. This is the kind of world I live in. You pick someone up and they say... "You don't mind, do you, if I bring my chicken with me?" and, of course, I say, "No problem." So, she hops into the car with her little chicken carrier and a little baby Sizzle in it. What's a Sizzle, you ask?
This is a baby Sizzle..
.The Sizzle Chicken is a cross between a Silky and a Frizzled Cochin. Frizzles are the divas of the chicken world. The term frizzle refers to a gene that produces funky feathering. Any breed can be bred to created frizzled chickens.
This little chicken was tired when we got to "J's " house and was a little bit frazzled, so her momma wrapped her little baby in the sweatshirt she was wearing and little Sizzle hunkered down and settled in for the visit.
Then she ate and took a nap, like all good little babies.

We walked out back to the goat fort...
Where we met the new baby goats, Lily and Lulu.
"J" showed us how they have learned to bow for a cracker...
and bring her their food dish...
And look as cute...
as cute...
can be. You will have to give me a moment here... you know how I miss my goats.


We had a great lunch and some dessert... then settled in for a lesson in spinning.
I have to say that this is a lot harder than it looks. I have decided that I'm hand/eye/ foot challenged. This take a certain brain alliance and coordination that my body wasn't getting. I was encouraged with "It takes practice." and "You'll get it." ... to "Oops, the wheel is going the wrong direction again." and "You don't have to hold the wool so tight."
First we all picked out some wool roving and some pretty sparkly stuff and ran it through a carder. Roving is a long and narrow bundle of wool fiber that's made from wool fleece, which is fiber that is clipped from an animal. A drum carder is a contraption that blends, cleans and aligns the individual fibers with each other in preparation for spinning. This part was fun. We added different colors and little bits of thread and silk. One of us turned the crank and we ended up with beautiful roving that was ready to make into yarn.
Then the spinning began. "J" demonstrated and I, foolishly, offered to be first. Some of us were better at this than others. I think some of us had done this before... but not I. This seemed like a truly foreign and awkward task. I think that I will not be buying a spinning wheel. I think that I will probably be buying another lens for my camera. Cest la vie.
This is a sample of the yarn that we all wove.
If anyone laughs, I will haunt you forever. It's too skinny in places, too fat in others, too twisted and can only be used for unique knitting situations. I think I will call it designer yarn if anyone asks.

 I don't know how to get the twists out of it so they are going to stay that way.
I pulled on "the yarn" and when I let go, it snapped back into tight little twists again.
 I may be able to use this yarn as a bungee cord...just put some hooks on the ends of it and there you go... pretty and practical.
This was a day of humble admission of my limits as a diverse artist. I can use a sewing machine, knit, crochet, felt, collage, paint, create ornaments out of eggs and gourds and photograph anything... but that spinning wheel brought me to my knees. I finally handed over the reins to the Sizzle chicken's mom. She seems to have a better understanding of this roving to yarn process.
In my defense, I didn't give up. I went over to another wheel that had only one small foot pedal and did some plying (putting two yarns together). This was easier and the wheel, that I was suppose to turn in a clockwise direction (on the first wheel), had to go counter clockwise for plying... so I was finally going in the "right" direction on this one. That's a confusing sentence but I know what I'm talking about and it doesn't make any difference anyway, because that other wheel will never see me struggle again. I don't think it liked me. I think there might have been something strange going on. Maybe something magic.
Yeah... that's it.
 I read Rumplestiltskin.
 I know about these things.





 



Monday, May 18, 2015

Quick Trip to the Moon

Driving up over Tioga Pass in California is beautiful and intimidating... especially when you drop down on the East side. This is when you ask yourself, "Why in the world would anyone even think to build a road up here?" After you drive through Tuolumne Meadows and climb up to the pass and then down past Tioga and Ellery Lake the landscape starts to change. You start down a very steep grade and into the Mono Basin. You finally reach highway 395.
We turned north and drove through the town of Lee Vining, to the Mono Basin Visitor Center.
It's a good overview of the lake but quite a distance from the shore. I remembered, on another trip years ago, that the Prospector and I had driven out on a long road to the south shore of the lake where you could walk among the Tufa.  So, inside the center, we asked someone behind a desk and he gave us directions to the South Tufa area. It's about 10 miles off the freeway and now has parking, a small information center and board walks out the the lake. Now, you also pay a $3.00 fee.
The lake level has dropped considerably in the years since I had been there.
The reason visitors see so much tufa around Mono Lake today is because the lake level fell dramatically after water diversions began in 1941.

Let me tell you a little about this Tufa. Geologists call this tufa (too'-fah... not Tofu). Tufa is common limestone.

 Underwater springs rich in calcium  mix with the lakewater that is rich with carbonates.
  As the calcium comes in contact with carbonates in the lake,a chemical reaction occurs resulting in calcium carbonate--limestone. The calcium carbonate settles out of  as a solid around the spring, and over the centuries, a tufa tower grows.
 Tufa towers grow exclusively underwater, and some grow to over 30 feet tall.

 Tufa is essentially common limestone. Dead plants, dead birds and anything that ends up in the lake will become fossilized with this calcium mix and basically turn to stone in this lake. Interesting stuff? Beer cans will be found millions of years from now and geologists will theorize about the origin of these small pumice boulders. But, by then, the lake will likely be gone. At the end of the last ice age it was five times bigger than it is today! So, I'm thinking that there won't be any lake left in 1.8 million years, if the planet lasts that long.

We had a great time crawling all over this place. "D" looked very professional in this shot...
She's bracing the camera against the wind. It was blowing from the south and never stopped.
I turned and took this shot toward the west and the Sierra Mountains from which we had come...
It truly was like being in another world... but interesting and not without its own beauty.
Nearly 2,000,000 waterbirds, including 35 species of shorebirds, use Mono Lake to rest and eat for at least part of the year.
One small Audubon's Warbler peered at us from the top of a tufa.
And a few squirrels were sunning themselves, and looking out at the mountains.
They did not seem bothered by the people coming and going on the trail. Again... the wildlife seems surprisingly at ease with humans.
We walked back to the car against a cold wind.

 The place took on a different feel. 

Probably because we were cold, tired and hungry.
We drove the 10 miles back to the highway and then into Lee Vining to eat an early dinner. We had not eaten since the cafe in Coulterville that morning... except for some crackers and a coke. Yeah... I know. It was time for some real food. We found a restaurant and got some hot tea and BIG Chinese Chicken salad. Salad never tasted so good. 
As we passed this motel, walking to the car,
  I kind of wished that I could just pay for an hour's worth of sleep. Just a short  nap... but it was 4:00 p.m. and we still had to drive back into the park, over the pass and into Yosemite Valley before dark. "D" drove. We said goodbye to Mono Basin and climbed up the grade toward the east entrance to the park.


We wanted some "good light" and we got it at Olmsted Point. This was the "Golden hour" in  photography terms. The sun was setting in the Valley and I was in the right place and the it was the right time. 
I got the "money " shot. 
It was magical. Being there was magical...
The light was perfect. This is what Yosemite is all about. This is Half Dome as the sun was setting. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. 
The wind had died down and the light was perfect. 
What more could I ask for?
Sometimes life gives you a moment that stays with you forever. This was one of them. 

Next time... The Valley of Yosemite.