A World Without Spinning?

L’Oiseau and I recently watched Sleeping Beauty, and I remembered (with a jolt!) a small detail of the story: after the threat is made to the princess’s life, the king orders that every spinning wheel in the kingdom be destroyed.  In the Disney movie, there’s even a scene that shows a big pile of spinning wheels on fire.  Oh, my eyes!

It occurred to me that they neglected to show the scene years later when every person in the kingdom is either naked or dressed in tatters.

Where would we be without spinning?  Sure, knitting and weaving are important, but without spinning, those pursuits couldn’t have been possible–what would they have knitted or woven with?  I’m a knitter, and I very much want to begin spinning, partly because I realize that’s where it all begins.

It’s not often that I consider the immense history of this family of hobbies that I love so much, but it’s a long one.

Beyond the central necessity of spinning to pretty much every fiber-related pursuit, there is so much evidence that the act itself is extremely important to good and full human experience.  Some historians believe that the first drop spindles, which came around 5000 BC (!) may have been the inspiration that led to the invention of the wheel around 3500 BC.  And any discussion of spinning always brings to mind Mohandas Ghandi’s suggestion that all Indians spin for an hour each morning in order to realize the meditative effects of the practice.  I’ve been told that he once said that more people spinning would result in less violence in the world (but I haven’t been able to find the exact quote).

I know that technology has evolved so that the act of spinning is no longer necessary for creating fiber, and some would say it’s an arcane activity, but I have to wonder what the world would be like if that simple act hadn’t come about so many millenia ago.

Trying to keep calm and yarn along with the punches

So I want to join in Nicole of Frontier Dreams for her KCCO (Keep Calm, Craft On)  and also Ginney of Small Things for Yarn Along, but at the moment, I can’t use my home computer because a heinous person hacked L’Homme’s e-mail account.  We’re waiting to take the laptop to one of those businesses that can scrub this kind of poison from my beloved little machine.  I’m pretty frazzled, worrying about just how compromised our whole life on the computer could be from that one e-mail hack.

So, no pictures.  But I finished the Sheer Poncho, which I blogged about here, so I will hopefully post some photos as soon as the computer is out of the hospital.

And if you ever received an e-mail claiming that somebody is stuck in Cypress and needs $2,000, don’t believe it.

The Ladies Who Blog

So I was adding to this blog my list of Blogs I Read, and they include:

The Blog Maven

The Yarn Harlot


Frontier Dreams

A Year on the Farm

Now if I could just find blogs called The Kitchen Witch and The Schoolmarm, you would have a picture of 90% of my life through blog names alone.  (I’m intentionally leaving out The T.V. Junkie–my guiltiest pleasure.)

So I got to thinking about these ladies who blog–not just the 3 I named up there, but also Woolly Moss Roots, Bird and Little Bird, Small Things, and many others that I’m only just beginning to discover.  We’re all living and blogging about homesteading or, at the least, a “back to nature” approach to life.

Our subjects are centuries-old pursuits: knitting, sewing, spinning, writing, reading, gardening, farming, child-rearing, housekeeping, cooking.  But we’re talking about these things through this technologically advanced wonder-machine under my fingers.

My thoughts on this dichotomy were put to words well when I met a fellow teacher recently and told her about the blogs I like to read.  “They’re mostly earth-mama, back to the land types,” I said.  “And these people use computers?!!” she exclaimed.  “Yes, and quite well,” I told her.  (She had never even read a blog, so there!)

Our pursuits have been practiced and refined over millennia, but we learn about them and discuss them via a technology that’s just a few decades old.  What advances are ladies (and some men, I know, but primarily ladies) making in these pursuits by having such a fast and easy way to share our work and ideas?

In my home, there are no video games, no MP3 players, no iPods, no iPhones, no blue-ray disc player, no TiVO or other digital video recorder.  We get by just fine without all that fancy electronic gadgetry, but we could never give up this slim little rectangle and the wireless modem that connects it, and me through it, to all of you.

I know there are homesteading, organic-living women out there without even an Internet connection (or maybe even a computer) but I don’t know any of them.  How would I meet them?

Low tunnels for winter gardening

Here at Etc. Farms, we flip the seasons and grow most of our market produce during the cooler months.  L’Homme realized long ago that fall-winter-spring gardening is so much easier than fighting the bugs and drought of the summer months.  Plus, the markets are flooded with produce in the summer months, but it’s hard to find locally grown produce when it’s cold outside.

Winter veggies (beets) snug inside their warm low tunnel

Though a lot of vegetables grow easily in Georgia in the cold, the plants still need some protection–frost on leaves is more dangerous than the cold air, so we have to keep it from settling on the plants.  Thus we use low tunnels.  And here’s how we make them:

The basic design involves little arches covered with row cover.  We use concrete reinforcing wire to make the arches:

Arches made from concrete reinforcing wire

We space out the arches over a garden bed, then cover them with row cover.  Row cover is a translucent, water-permeable fabric that acts like a blanket over the beds.  Our preferred brand is Agri-Bon, but there are various brands carried by any serious garden supply catalog. (We get Agri-Bon from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.)

We also use short lengths of old garden hose to cover the edges of the wire arches, because we found that the rough metal snagged and ripped the row cover.  We just split the hose lengthwise and snug it onto the cut edges.

Once the beds are covered with the arches and “blankets,” we tuck the sides and ends of the long, low tunnel into the ground to provide a warm, snug little hut for the plants.  The finished tunnel looks like a gigantic white caterpillar resting in your garden; this is why the French call them “chenilles” the French word for caterpillar.  If you’re architecturally minded, the tunnels might remind you of Quonset huts.

Low tunnels or en francais, chenilles

You must do something to hold the sides and ends of the row cover down on the ground–many gardeners just pile up soil to weigh down the fabric at ground level.  We like to use some handy little pins that L’Homme cut from concrete reinforcing wire:

Pin for the row cover

They are bent at one end so they look like a 7 with a steep angle.  These little beauties hook over the edge of the row cover and easily push into the soil to keep the fabric tightly pinned to the ground.

Pins hold the sides of the row cover fabric nice and snug

We prefer using the pins, because it’s much easier to pull out a few and peek in at the vegetables inside the tunnel.  Peeking in on your little babies is very important — you don’t need to remove the covers to water and, of course, sunlight gets through, but just as the plants love the warm and cozy environment you created, so do bugs and weeds.  You need to check in periodically to be sure nobody is running rampant on your vegetables.  It might also be necessary to vent the ends of the tunnel on warm days.

Open the ends to peek at the little darlings and let them breathe on warm days.


Happy winter gardening!



Gratitude Monday

Joining Taryn of Woolly Moss Roots, here are some items from my gratitude journal this past week:

–I was able to fix the tight bind-off of the Sheer Poncho I knitted, and learned a new technique for an elastic bind-off in the process.

–L’Oiseau loves old 60s and 70s hits like “Georgie Girl” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” and I love singing them to her.

–The weather is getting cool and more fall-ish.

–We got some delicious apples and apple cider in Ellijay this weekend.

–We’re going to the Pumpkin Patch tomorrow on a field trip for L’Oiseau’s Montessori school.

–My dad had to go to the hospital in an ambulance Friday night because he was almost catatonic, but it turned out to be pneumonia, and he responded well to the antibiotics and is recovering well.

–I don’t have to teach this week, so I’ve had time to do a lot of other stuff.

–Although it all makes my head buzz and swim, I’m so thankful that I have so many good blogs to read and so many projects and writing topics to explore on my blog.  It’s great to have so many possibilities.

And that’s just a small sampling of all the wonderful things I have to be grateful for.  Life is good, indeed.

Saturday Garden Journal

My photos cannot come close to Ginny’s over at Small Things, but here’s my contribution to this weekend’s garden journal:

L’Homme has been planting, planting, planting, and watering and cultivating like a busy bee.  He says this weekend is the last one for planting.  He has put in collards, kale, turnips, salad mix, radishes, beets, carrots, arugula, green onions, broccoli, spinach, broccoli raab, mustard greens, chard, bok choy, endive, escarole, and cilantro.

L’Homme gets a little help from a garden intern and the intern’s faithful bodyguard, Perky.  Here she’s watering bok choy seedlings.

The garden intern dresses quite formally, like Sleeping Beauty

And the harvesting has begun!

L’Homme harvesting kale

We’ve been eating kale and arugula this weekend. Great crops of both, but this particular row of kale had lots of aphids, so L’Homme cut the whole row down to the base of the leaves (the growth point) to try to get those little buggers out of there and hopefully get a second growth on the plants that will be relatively aphid-free. The colder temps will probably help make that happen.

You might be saying, “Dang!  That’s a lot of green leafy vegetables for one small (2 adults, 1 munchkin) family.”  You’d be right.  We are market gardeners — the bulk of our harvests go to the lovely restaurant 61 Main in Jasper, Georgia.  And a lot goes to individual customers who come out to the farm to buy from us.  (If you ate at 61 Main this week and you had kale, arugula, tomatoes or basil, you ate our vegetables.)

In addition to these first fall vegetables coming in, we are still picking Juliet tomatoes and basil from the summer garden–enough of those to sell.  We have a few Celebrity tomatoes still hanging on, but just enough for our household, and we are enjoying them on bagels, grilled cheese, in salads.

Gotta love tomato plants that are still producing nice food in October