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Archive for December, 2015

VABFConferencePosterI will be speaking about making the jump from being a home gardener to a market gardener at the upcoming VABF Conference. The following is a news release about the scholarship opportunities that are available.

The VA Biological Farming conference is coming up at the end of January. There are a number of volunteer opportunities available for folks which in turn provides a reduced registration rate. It’s a wonderful opportunity for those interested in the sustainable ag / local food movement. The conference is a great networking and educational experience. The volunteer option provides a way for those who may not other wise be able to afford the entire conference registration.

The deadline for volunteer/financial aid applications has been extended until Jan 1. Please share this opportunity with any network and listserv you have access to to help spread the word.

Thanks so much for helping share this message and help folks attend this amazing conference.

 VABF conference info: http://vabf.org/conference/
Conference volunteer/financial aid info: http://vabf.org/conference/volunteering-financial-aid/

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home economics--BLOGAfter many years of rarely hearing the term, I have seen “home economics” pop up recently here and there. That might be due to the DIY movement going on. It catches my attention because that was my major at Ohio State University. In 1975 I received a degree in Home Economics Education. When I started on that path my intention was to be a cooperative extension agent and help people be more productive at home. However, by the time I graduated I had already married my college sweetheart and our first child was two. It had been an eventful six years since high school graduation.

My husband and I chose to start our family early and live on one income. When our first child was born I stayed home and put everything I learned in my college classes to good use. We had to watch our pennies carefully. Home economics education involved classes in clothing and textiles, food and nutrition, housing and home furnishings, family and child development, and education. At Ohio State I attended the School of Home Economics within the College of Agriculture. By the time I graduated classes in consumerism were being added. Now if I wanted to be an extension agent, rather than a Home Economics agent, I would be Family and Consumer Sciences agent and would attend the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State.

I did end up becoming active with extension as a volunteer. I was a 4-H leader with my children for many years and the county office gave my number out frequently when people called in with questions about organic gardening, school gardens, composting with worms, and hatching baby chicks. That helped prompt me to become a teacher at the local community college, since there was a need for adult education. Gardening was not part of my curriculum at Ohio State, but was a natural extension of providing my family with good nutrition. I had studied everything I could find about organic gardening and put it to use, just like my other education.

No matter what education we have, we can make the life we want. I learned to sew as a young 4-Her, so by the time I was in college I already had skills and even made my wedding dress. My arms and legs are longer than most. Learning to sew was a way for me to have clothes that fit—also, I don’t like to shop. I made our children’s clothes while they were growing up, saving the fabric scraps, which eventually led me to take up quilting. When we make the life we want, we have the opportunity to do things and to have things that we can’t get elsewhere. You could even make your own blue jeans, which is what I’ve been doing for well over thirty years now.

Cindy's jeans-front-BLOGWhen I first started to make my own jeans I altered a store-bought pants pattern to fit like my favorite pair of store-bought jeans. If you have a favorite garment, wear it out, then cut it apart and use it as a pattern, allowing for seam allowances, of course. From patching my own jeans and those of my children, I realized that if pants were looser, the knees wouldn’t wear out so quickly. Also, if the back pockets were larger, like the ones on bib overalls, in addition to fitting more things in them, they provided an extra layer on my behind and the seat of the pants wouldn’t wear as much. Cindy's jeans-back-BLOGI began changing my pattern, eventually adding pleats in the front so I would have more room in my front pockets. (I really like pockets.) The front pockets are lined with the same denim as the pants. Even if I put screws in them, the pockets don’t wear out. The only problem I have with making my own jeans is finding heavy 14 oz. denim (14 oz. per square yard). I generally make two pair every two years and have to search the Internet each time, usually finding denim at Syfabrics.com. Once you know how to do something, you can change it anyway you want, and that goes for much more than clothes.

Money can’t buy a pair of jeans like this that fit me. When we hear the word economics we usually think in terms of dollars; however, home economics involves so much more than $. Even if you don’t sew, there are so many other things to do yourself in a household and on your homestead that will bring you more pleasure than anything you could buy. Any skill you can add is a plus. Learn to cook and feed your family as close to farm-to-table as you can; growing your own makes it even better. Learn to troubleshoot problems that occur and fix them yourself. Acquire tools and learn to use them.

It helps if there is more than one adult in the household. I leave the electricity and plumbing work, plus the major building projects to my husband. Some people yearn for a home theater. Not us, we have a library and a workshop. A home library may start out as a bookshelf in the living room and find a room of its own after the kids are grown, such as in our case. You can start your library by making your own bookcase, sized to fit your space.

outside sewing kit (2)Speaking of making your own, if you are looking to make a simple homemade gift for someone, make them a sewing kit. It can be sewn entirely by hand and you could even use pieces from your old shirts to make it. In the first photo you can see one opened up. It has buttons and a safety pin for emergency repairs. The pins and needles attach to the outside of the fabric pockets. The thimble, scissors, and a card with thread wrapped around it are stored in the pockets. The whole thing folds in half. I show the outside opened up here. If you’ve always wanted to make a quilt, this could be your start. Make two small quilt squares together, fold fabric for the pockets on the other side and add binding on the edges. I gave one as a gift to someone going off to college. She told me later how handy it was when she needed to make a repair. The scissors you see in the top photo are inexpensive fold-up ones. You could jazz up yours with some fancy embroidery scissors. It is fun to make, fun to give, and fun to use.

Tools and books are usually on the wish lists we make up at this time of year. If you have someone on your gift list who is just beginning home projects, quality hand tools and a toolbox to put them in are good gifts. If they already have some, maybe they need an upgrade. As for power tools, a drill and a circular saw are good places to start. A sewing machine and sewing classes at a fabric store are my suggestions for someone learning to sew. For the kitchen, canning jars, a water bath canner, or a pressure canner might be appropriate. My books and DVDs are great suggestions for the gardeners on your gift list. Doing things for yourself is empowering. Things might not turn out as you expect the first few times you try something new, but that’s part of the journey.

The winter solstice is coming up. I always find wonder in the change from the shortest day to the slightest bit longer. My chickens even notice. In January I’ll write about garden reports. Until then, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a peace filled New Year.homeplace earth

 

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In Nfolk school signovember I had the wonderful opportunity to take the Flax to Linen class at the John C. Campbell Folk School  in Brasstown, North Carolina. I don’t remember when I first heard about the Folk School, but it was many years ago. Whenever I met someone, most often broom makers and blacksmiths, who had taken a class there, they always recommended it. I came across the Folk School’s listing for their Flax to Linen class this summer. It was a busy time and I still had two major trips ahead for the Mother Earth News Fairs, so I put the thought of attending aside but kept it in the back of my mind. By the time I had returned from Pennsylvania where my flax experiences included the Stahlstown Flax Scutching Festival and the Landis Valley Farm and Museum, in addition to the MEN Fair, I was ready to consider the flax class. It was full, however, and I was put on the waiting list. I thought that if I was meant to be in that class, a space would open up. A couple of weeks before the class was to start I got the call that I was in.

There were eight students in the class that was taught by Cassie Dickson and her assistant Peggy Patrick. Cassie was a great instructor and was backed by much experience. She grew some of the flax we were working with. Peggy makes her own shoes, among other things, and has taught classes at the Folk School about that. I was pleased to see that Jan Thomas, a fellow member of Clothos Handspinners, was there. Although Jan and I were there because we intend to grow flax and make linen for ourselves, not everyone aspired to be producers. They were there to learn the process because they thought it was interesting, to learn more about their heritage, or to learn enough to encourage the museum they volunteered at to add flax-to-linen as a program.

flax to linen classAmong the students there was a wide range of skills and previous experience with flax or any other fiber. I had acquired a spinning wheel in August, but delayed getting started with it until I could replace a couple parts. I was an experienced spindle spinner, but spinning on the wheel was something else and took getting used to. I kept at it so I would be comfortable with the wheel before I attended the class. For me, spinning flax was important. For some of the others, the exposure of what was involved was all they were after. I was able to take my wheel, but if you didn’t have one there were wheels available to use. Everyone was spinning before the first day ended. After having just gone through my learning process with the wheel, I had great respect for those who were learning to use the wheel in class for the first time. We learned about distaffs and how to put line flax on one, which I found helpful

breaking flax-ronThe second day we worked outside breaking, scutching, and hackling flax. How well the flax is retted before you work with it is important. We had the opportunity to work with flax from more than one harvest and retting. Since the processing can be dusty, we were advised to wear a mask while we worked, which explains why Ron was wearing a handkerchief over his face while he was breaking flax, as you can see in this photo. Ron is a Folk School regular, taking a new class every couple months or so.

The focus at the John C. Campbell Folk School is to help people develop skills in a non-competitive environment. Everyone learned at his/her own speed and could concentrate on the aspects of the craft they were most interested in. To quote from their 2015 catalog, “…the Folk School seeks to bring people toward two kinds of development: inner growth as creative, thoughtful individuals, and social development as tolerant, caring members of a community.” I enjoyed being in the class and couldn’t help but think of the students who took my classes in the past at the community college. They, too, arrived with different skills and ambitions and it was fun seeing them work toward their own goals. Unfortunately, they also had to work toward my goals and I was required to give them a grade. There are no grades at the Folk School, just learning.

dyeing linen--yellows and madderThe third day we were into dyeing, although processing and spinning continued. Cassie prepared dyepots of marigold, osage orange, broom sedge, onion skins, madder, butternut, and butternut with iron added, plus two indigo pots. She had already prepared the linen samples by mordanting with alum, tannin, then alum again. The marigold, osage orange, broom sedge, and onion skin dyes yielded yellow colors. Samples of each yellow were put in the indigo to produce green, each expressing a different shade. The madder was dug from the Folk School garden the day before to make the red dye.

dyed linenPlant fibers take up dyes differently than animal fibers. In this photo you can see a sample of wool yarn that came out a deeper red than the linen dyed with the madder. The photo also shows four green samples from the yellows overdyed with indigo. Cassie plans on teaching this flax class next year, but dyeing won’t be part of it. Instead, silk will be added. Yes, she has her own silk worms and knows what to do with them. The next day we had the opportunity to try our hand at weaving patterns on three small table looms that were warped and ready to go. We each prepared a book of samples of the flax straw, processing at each stage, and our own spinning and weaving. The books included linen swatches from each color dyed.

Besides this class there was so much more going on around us. I stayed on the grounds, as did many others and we all ate together in the dining hall. That was a wonderful opportunity to meet others and learn about the classes they were taking. In the evenings there were other activities to participate in. It happened to be Shaker Week, so much was centered around that. Our class finished each day by 4:30, allowing us time to take advantage of these activities. However, that was not so for some of the other classes. The weavers, woodworkers, and basket and broom makers tended to return to their studios in the evening. The last afternoon everyone gathered in the main hall with each class displaying their work. It was fun to see what we had been hearing about all week.

homeplace earthIf you want to meet interesting people and learn something new, check out the John C. Campbell Folk School. I am happy I had the experience.

As the holidays approach, remember that Homeplace Earth now offers free shipping on books and DVDs. In addition to the ones we have written or produced, there some other great books that are available at a discount while supplies last.

 

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