Archive for April, 2013

Andean plying tool from Straddle Creek Spins.

Andean plying tool from Straddle Creek Spins.

It has been almost two weeks since Smoky left us to cross the Bridge, and we’re all still trying to deal with the change. There have been some bad moments, such as the night I needed to run to the bank. After dark, normally Smoky was the one I would take with me on such an errand. She was the watchful one, unlike the other three, who are far too friendly – or submissive, in Mac’s case – to guard anything. The realization that I’d lost my girl hit again and resulted in crying in my hubby’s arms while standing at the front door, ready to leave. I went alone that night, and thought about Smoky the whole way to the bank and back.

The other moment was a typical, everyday moment: the fire department across the street  sent trucks screaming, and all the dogs, both inside and out, started howling. Mac and Thor were in the backyard, so their howling wasn’t as ear-shattering, but Bandit, inside because her Houdini-like ways are not to be trusted, about exploded my head. She sounded so much like her sister that it was an easy, knee-jerk response to yell, “Shut up, Smok–” and then break off mid-name because I had just realized I was yelling at someone who was no longer there to make the noise I was yelling about. Of course, this meant more tears while hiding from the kids in the laundry room. The transition from four dogs to three is not proving to be easy.

But life doesn’t stop. There is still homework to be done, children to feed, dogs to groom, a house to clean, and so on. While I can’t bring myself to do much with it yet, even during the few minutes I give myself between assignments and housework, it has been a good month for fiber arts.

The Black Pearl

The Black Pearl

The Saturday before Smoky’s departure (sorry, right now life is divided into Before Smoky Left and After Smoky Left), I scored a beautiful Schacht Mighty Wolf floor loom from a very nice lady who is no longer weaving. The loom, now christened the Black Pearl, is fifteen years old and has barely had any use. Other treasures included an entire library of weaving books, some of which I already had;  a bobbin winder, extra heddles and shuttles, and a drum carder. I also scored a 14″ triangle loom from Hazel Rose Looms, and the Andean plying tool and Mayan spinner arrived this morning from Straddle Creek Spins.

The drum carder, the plying tool, and the spinner did get tried out. During one of my breaks, I made a batt of Sibe fur with the drum carder. I’m told it looks right, although I didn’t expect it to be as big as it is. I love the Mayan spinner, though I’m still trying to get the hang of it even though the actual use is really easy. As in, “the kids will love this” easy. And the Andean plying tool is a work-in-progress, as I haven’t yet finished winding on the yarn from the spindle. That may take some time. But I love them both and many thanks to John for the beautiful work!

I also forgot to mention the naalbinding needles I got from a friend of mine in the Netherlands. He does awesome and arcane things with ivory. I bought two needles from him, carved from mammoth ivory that is 15,000 years old. Holding them gives me a chill, in a good way. I’d love to post a link for him, but when I last spoke to him, business was brisk and very nearly overwhelming, so I will leave it up to him to post a link in comments if he’d like to!

Sibe fur batt

Sibe fur batt

Mayan spinner from Straddle Creek Spins

Mayan spinner from Straddle Creek Spins

Drum carder

Drum carder

14" triangle loom from Hazel Rose Looms

14″ triangle loom from Hazel Rose Looms

Naalbinding needles, made of 15,000 year old mammoth ivory, made by a friend in the Netherlands.

Naalbinding needles, made of 15,000 year old mammoth ivory, made by a friend in the Netherlands.


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Smoky 8/29/03 - 4/15/13

8/29/03 – 4/15/13

I have been trying to write this for four days, and finding it far too difficult to put words to the feelings my heart wants to convey. I hope that what I have written does justice to the one who inspired it.

On August 29th, 2003, we lost two dogs: Smoky I and Bandit I. On that day, two other dogs were born, two Labrador mixes, one chocolate and one black, in a house in Arizona City, Arizona. Seven weeks later, the lady who owned them gave them to us. The chocolate, I named Lakota. Hubby named the black one Bandit. They couldn’t have been more different from each other. Bandit was calm and quiet. Lakota was all over the place and into everything. But by the time they were a month old, they had switched personalities. Bandit had become hyper, and Lakota had calmed down somewhat. Those were the personalities they kept through till adulthood.

When they were four months old, Lakota suddenly stopped answering to her name. Nothing we did could make her respond to it. My husband suggested, as an experiment, that I try calling her Smoky. After all, other than a change of color and the fact that she was proportionately larger (Smoky was the runt of her litter), Lakota looked exactly like her. Shrugging, thinking he was crazy, I tried it. And she responded to it, to my surprise. From that day on, it was the only name she would answer to. Hubby said that maybe Smoky I had wanted to stay with me as much as I had wanted her to. So Lakota became Smoky II, the reincarnation puppy.

Over the years, other dogs joined and left our little pack, but Smoky II and Bandit II were the constants. Smoky was generally too on her dignity to play, unless it involved a ball, a stuffed toy with a squeaker, or her favorite back then, a laser pointer. Like a cat, she would chase that point of light anywhere and everywhere and pounce on it. One day, hubby had the bright idea of taping the switch into the “on” position, then taped it to the ceiling fan and turned it on. Smoky lost her mind. She chased that light for a solid hour before finally giving up in exhaustion.

When she was a bit over a year old, I got pregnant with Aneira. I didn’t know it yet, but Smoky did. She had a habit of getting on the bed and standing with her two forelegs on my stomach, but on this particular day, something stopped her. Instead, she dropped her head and sniffed my stomach all over, then very carefully stretched out across it, distributing her weight evenly. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, and several days later, we found out about the pregnancy. She continued to lie on my stomach until I was too big to do so comfortably, for either of us, but she loved to feel the baby kick her.

The day we brought Aneira home from the hospital, neither of the dogs could wait to meet her. Hubby had brought home baby blankets two days before, so they would have her scent. They were so excited! We spread a blanket on the floor and put the baby down, and both dogs shot from opposite corners of the room like rockets, but slowed down at our yells and gently sniffed this new creature all over.

Smoky turned out to be the maternal one. She would get very upset when we would take the baby out of the house without her, and had to sniff her all over when we brought her back. Only after a thorough inspection were we allowed to take Aneira out of the car seat.

Smoky was always a very laid-back dog, and could adapt to anything. She tolerated everything equally, and my children could do anything with her. She never met a stranger that she wasn’t willing to convert into a friend. Of course, there was always the warning bark to indicate that she wouldn’t tolerate any messing around, but to her, that meant she had done her duty and it was now time for her to receive the petting she deserved.

A guard dog, she was not. Often, when hubby and I would roughhouse with each other and he would tickle me, I would screech, which Smoky took as a sign that she needed to playfully defend him, and would jump on me to wrestle.

She didn’t like water, unlike most Labradors. She tolerated baths with a long-suffering expression of woe, but loved when we would get out the hose so that she could jump up after the stream of water and try to bite it. It never occurred to her that this was the same substance she hated, and she loved nothing more than the wetting down she got from chasing the water. It was one of her favorite activities, and she would indulge in it for as long as hubby’s arm could hold out, with a big, panting smile. She was the only one of our pack who enjoyed playing in the water this way.

Of all of our dogs, Smoky was the best-behaved. It is not that the others are complete hooligans, but there are pranks that each one is prone to pulling that will get them into trouble: counter-surfing, begging at the dinner table…little things. Smoky was rarely on the receiving end  of the human yelling “Stop that!!!!” She just didn’t do the things that would result in that.

Smoky was also the softest dog I have ever touched. Petting her was like petting a mink coat, but warmer. Not even the oh-so-fluffy Thor could compete in that department. Everyone who ever met her commented on the softness of her fur. I loved to lie on the bed, curled up with her, with my face against the back of her neck.

A bit over a month ago, Smoky had surgery to remove a mass on her right foreleg. As with everything else, she took it like a trooper. She came home with a splint to keep her leg straight while it healed, and had to be re-bandaged every three days. Never once did she cry or nip. Never once did we have to do more than say “Stay” to ensure that we could remove the old bandage and put the new into place. Never once did we need to hold anything other than the leg we were working with to keep her there. And until this year, never once had she been to the vet for anything other than well visits and spaying.

The escape from the yard last week was the beginning of the end. At some point during their adventure, Smoky got into something, most likely antifreeze. Not enough to kill her immediately, just enough to shut down her kidneys and drag things out. We did everything we could. We overdrew our bank accounts by several hundred dollars to try and save her. We steam-cleaned carpet at three am without complaint, carried her up and down stairs, in and out of cars, made as many trips to the vet as were needed, and through it all, in true Smoky fashion, she never made a sound to indicate she was in pain. She didn’t want to eat, and wasn’t allowed anything by mouth anyway, but she managed to wag her tail every time we looked at her, and do it with her normal enthusiasm. We thought we had a chance. But by Sunday night, we knew it was all in vain. Smoky was ready to go. She was tired of being in pain, tired of the constant vomiting, tired of the fluid treatments, tired of all of it. She looked at us, and we knew.

On Monday, April 15,2013, the children said their goodbyes, and Smoky took her last car ride to the veterinarian’s office. Hubby and I both lay on the floor with her, crying and telling her what a good dog she was, how wonderful it would be where she was going, that we would see her again one day, and how very, very much we loved her, and she started her new journey to the Rainbow Bridge, leaving us behind.

Smoky, I know you are so much happier now that you are young and healthy again, you have plenty of playmates in those that have gone before you, and please tell them we still love them too, but you have left behind a hole that can never be filled, as it is uniquely yours, and always will be. There will be other dogs, eventually, because I wouldn’t know what to do in a house not covered in fur, but there will never be another Smoky. No one can take your place, sweetheart, and I wouldn’t allow it even if it was possible. You are so very, very loved, and so very, very missed. Enjoy the Bridge, baby girl; you have earned your place in the sun there, and Thor insists that you have also earned an honorary Siberian silver harness, so wear it proudly. We will see you again one day. I love you.

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This has not been a good week thus far in our house, and I’m really hoping that status improves in the very near future! What happened, you ask? Well, remember, you asked (meaning, if you continue reading from here, you wanted to know)!

On Monday, school restarted. This, in itself, does not constitute a bad thing. I actually like school. (Wherever she is, I swear I just heard my mom choke on that one.) I like my teachers and my classmates, and I miss the ones that have left the program, although I understand their various reasons. No, school itself is not the problem. The problem is in juggling the workload, which seems to have doubled this quarter. Not really unexpected, as the further you go in anything, the more complicated it’s going to get, like transportation. First you crawl, then walk, then run. Then it gets more complicated: the tricycle. Now you have to pedal, and learn how to use your handlebars to turn. But you have three wheels, so you’re still level. As you move forward, it’s a bicycle. You may have training wheels, but you’re not as level as you were because those wheels are pretty tiny, so now you have to lean into the turn a bit, and learn to use your pedals as brakes. Your next bicycle has hand brakes. Next, the most complicated, is learning to drive. Now, you have a steering wheel, foot brakes, a gas pedal, mirrors, a lot more speed, and a lot of other cars around you. There’s a lot more to juggle, but you like the idea of getting from home to point A in less than the hour it took you on your bike, so you learn it. Well, school is kind of the same way. Unfortunately, I haven’t found my groove yet. I’ve got more work, but no additional hours in which to do it, and still have two kids, four dogs, a husband, and a house to keep clean. Looked at right now, it seems like I’m never going to find that groove. Maybe later in the quarter, it’ll click for me, and I hope that “later” comes soon! So: 20 or so pages of homework, most of which is due tomorrow. I am slowly slogging through it.

We got a blizzard warning on Monday afternoon, initially set to expire at 6 pm, indicating high winds and a ton of snow. We got the high winds, oh, yes, we did. We walked around the house, looking sideways at walls, windows, and doors as the wind quite literally howled around the house, hoping that we weren’t going to re-enact the story of the three pigs.

At about midnight, the dogs decided that they really wanted to go outside, so we let them, lest they perform their business indoors. They never go immediately to that chore. They have to play a bit first, so we generally give them about a half hour before bringing them in again, no more than that, especially if it’s cold. And when I went upstairs to bring them in, only Bandit, our normal Houdini-like escape artist, answered my call. The other three were gone. The wind had blown the gate in, and they took advantage of this unexpected largesse to go exploring.

We got almost nothing in the way of snow, so there were no pawprints to tell us what direction they had taken, we had no way of knowing how long they’d been gone, and there was no movement in the streets immediately closest to us that might have been a dog. I drove around the neighborhood for a bit looking for them, then went home and let my husband take over. My vehicle is very top heavy, where his is not, and his is also a four-by-four with every bell and whistle he could stick in it, including a PA system that allows him to call the dogs without freezing to death. I’m quite certain the people living in the neighborhood are not very fond of him right now, as he drove around until four in the morning, calling them with no success.

Without either dogs or husband in the house, I knew I wasn’t going to sleep, although for some reason he thought I would. But the dogs are as much my children as my children, just furrier! So I knew I wouldn’t sleep until everyone was safely home, and I was counting on them showing up with him. They didn’t. Full-blown panic ensued. With the Sibe, I only had to worry about him getting hit by a car, which is bad enough, but no matter how cold it gets here, it will never get as cold as it does in Alaska, and he’s bred to handle those temperatures. He wasn’t going to freeze to death, but for Smoky and Mac, the Lab mix and the Shepherd mix, they have short hair and significantly less undercoat, so freezing, at least in my mind, was a good possibility. I wasn’t going anywhere until my babies were safely home. Period. This caused some tension when I didn’t go to school on Tuesday morning. It bothered me too, since it was the first day of the one class that I had failed and am now repeating, Introduction to Veterinary Technology, but the furballs are more important to me. I managed, heroically, not to rip off my husband’s head when I overheard him muttering about how females fall apart in an emergency. I think I deserve a medal for not skewering him on the spot.

I spent Tuesday contacting the microchip company and filling out lost reports there, then made a trip to the Humane Society to search for them there. The lady at the information desk let me know that dozens of pets ran off on Monday night. The wind had taken down a lot more fences than just ours. Three people had already been in that morning and been reunited with their pets. I chose to take that as a good sign, and didn’t ask about the dozens of others.

The dogs weren’t there, and I fell apart right there in the lobby, although I managed not to flat out bawl until I was in my car. I went back to my neighborhood and resumed cruising the streets, talking to everyone I saw, including the UPS driver and a mailman, my reasoning being that if they were running the streets, these would be the people most likely to see them. Then I went back home to the computer, and lo and behold, Thor’s picture had just shown up on the Humane Society website as a stray. Back to the car with a big smile on my face, and drove back to the Humane Society while trying to restrain myself from speeding and weaving in an out of traffic like the leadfoot I have been since I learned to drive as a teenager. (No, I have never gotten a speeding ticket, and I don’t plan on breaking that record anytime soon. I’m a mommy now, so I stick mostly to the speed limit, although the term is sort of fluid to me. If the sign says 45, my brain says 50.)

Before doing the reclaim on Thor, an employee escorted me through the non-public areas to see if either Smoky or Mac had turned up also. They hadn’t, but the tour took me to the kennel Thor was in, and we were ecstatic to see each other, although he was less than enthused when I didn’t immediately get him out of his kennel to go home. In fact, if his mouth was capable of forming words, I’m pretty certain we could say I got cussed out for leaving him there.

I was told I had to see an officer before filling out the reclaim form for Thor, so that I could be issued a summons. I was stunned, as I hadn’t done anything wrong. The wind blowing down the fence falls into the category of “act of God”, I thought, thereby relieving me of fault. So I got a $50 ticket for letting my dog run without a leash. Apparently, the animal control officers had the brilliant idea of chasing a Siberian Husky in order to catch him, meaning it took them nearly three hours to do so. I think that’s why I was cited, personally.

After dutifully taking my summons, I proceeded to wait in the lobby for the next person available to process Thor’s paperwork. There was another lady there, and we struck up a conversation. It eventually came out that she was there to turn in two “German Shepherd dogs”, a male and a female, and mentioned that she had picked them up at an intersection fairly close to my neighborhood. I froze. Smoky has been mistaken for a GSD before, because her ears are erect, rather than floppy like Labrador ears usually are. I asked if one was dark, and she said it was black, which is something else  people say about Smoky until they see her next to her sister, who actually is black. I asked if I could see them, she said sure, and sure enough, it was my remaining pair of dogs!!

Needless to say, I was ecstatic. All my pups were back with me and going home. I called the hubby and let him know I had all of them, loaded them up and got them home, where Smoky promptly horka’d all over the living room carpet. Not pretty. Since then, she has refused all food, vomited a bit more, and is now curled up on the sofa, even refusing boiled chicken, which means we now need to make a trip to the vet if things are no better tomorrow. Please, please, let this week improve!!

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First attempt at spinning on a kick spindle. Could have been worse.

First attempt at spinning on a kick spindle. Could have been worse.

The title of this post covers two different things: the kick spindle and school. As I mentioned last time, the replacement kick spindle arrived, and it has a helluva spin when I spin it by hand. The problem is, it’s a kick spindle, which means I’m supposed to use my foot. All well and good, but it’s not like treadling my wheel, so it’s a matter of really learning to keep the spin going at a good clip without kicking over the spindle itself, which I’ve already done once. Ideally, in hindsight, I should have just practiced kicking it before I ever tried to spin on it, but I’m an Aries, which translates as “impatient”. I had to try.

I did manage to spin a few yards of yarn on it, but it was difficult to keep the spin going. This is definitely no fault of the spindle, but my own. It’s truly a cross between a drop spindle, a supported spindle, and a wheel. It has a hook like a drop spindle, sits in a bearing the way a supported spindle sits in a bowl, and you use your foot like you do with a wheel. You have to figure out how to make the three work together to get the results you want. One of my problems, other than the whole foot thing, is keeping tension without pulling the spindle out of the bearing, which I have done repeatedly while spinning the little bit of yardage I did today.

It’s amazing to me that these three types of spinning are all so different from each other, yet produce the same thing: yarn. By far, the easiest for me is the wheel. Because Anansi is a double treadle wheel, it’s like pedaling a bicycle to me. Keep him oiled, and the treadles are easy as pie. I didn’t have to practice that for long before I was spinning decent yarn. Learning the drop spindle took a lot longer, but I’m getting better at it. I’m almost done with the merino-tussah blend now. The supported spindles didn’t take as long as I expected to get the hang of, I think because they are still spun manually, by essentially “flicking” the spindles, and I was already used to that with the drop spindles. The kick spindle is going to take some practice, but hubby told me the other night that one of the things he loves about me is that I always keep trying. Honestly, I hadn’t realized that about myself. Who knew?

Yesterday, I went and visited a floor loom for sale, a beautiful Schacht Mighty Wolf. It’s fifteen years old and in beautiful shape. It’s had two owners, neither of whom used it often. The first owner, I’m told, used it maybe four times. The second owner, maybe twice in fifteen years. And, I’m told, I would be better off with the older looms, as the wood then was a better quality than wood now. The loom certainly looked fantastic. And the lady that owns her is willing to take payments on her. Money is tight right now, so I don’t know if I can even manage it, but I had to go look. Yeah, I know, masochistic of me. But it has a 36″ weaving width and is four shafts, with seven treadles, and it folds to a depth footprint of 18″ when not in use, even with a warp on it, which means it would only take up a huge amount of space when I’m using it. At this point, I’m hoping for a miracle!

School starts up again on Monday. I passed everything but Introduction to Veterinary Technology, which I got a D in. Technically, in any other school, that would still be a pass, but not at CAVT, so I repeat the class this quarter. I managed an A in English, a B in algebra, and a C in both biology and chemistry. So while I wasn’t a stellar student, I do get to move forward. Yay! So I went out and bought school supplies the other night, and was stunned when a college-ruled, 5 subject spiral notebook rang up at $10!!!! Holy @#$%!! When did notebooks become so expensive?! The cashier told me that they have other Mead notebooks, roughly the same size, that are priced at $15! Wow!! You need your degree so you can get that great job just to pay for a notebook to continue your education! Unbelievable! Hey, Mead, that is highway robbery!

This next quarter, in addition to repeating Intro, I’ll also be taking anatomy and physiology, medical math, and medical terminology. Our terminology teacher has informed us that whatever life we had last quarter is now over. That terrifies me a bit (okay, maybe more than just a bit)! Previous students of hers said they were studying 150 – 400 medical terms per week. That’s a lot!! I’m hoping the fact that I usually excel in English, spelling, and languages will help me out here. Fingers crossed. But I’ll be heading over to WalMart to buy a ton of index cards to make myself some flash cards, yes, indeedy-indeed!!

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Mother Marion Little Meggie Celtic Cross kick spindle from Heavenly Handspinning.

Mother Marion Little Meggie Celtic Cross kick spindle from Heavenly Handspinning.

Yesterday was a good day. My replacement kick spindle arrived, is gorgeous, and has a great spin…all I have to do is figure it out! So I played with that until it was time to pick up Aneira from school, and then we went up to Table Rock Llamas in Black Forest, just the two of us.

My kids love Black Forest as much as I do. It takes about thirty minutes to drive out there, and it’s worth the drive. It’s a pine forest that stretches for several miles, with cabins dotted throughout the trees. Mind you, when I say “cabin”, I am using the term loosely. I should probably say log homes instead, because homes in that area are not cheap. The trees are everywhere and stunning, much taller than I’m used to seeing after so many years of Arizona’s mesquites and palo verdes, which natives to the area refer to as trees, and I refer to as oversized bushes.

I had taken a bunch of pictures, but my camera decided to have a mind of its own yesterday,  so I didn’t really get a good look at the pictures until I transferred them to the computer this morning, and they looked like watercolor drawings. I don’t know what happened, but tech support informed me that there is no way to fix the pictures. However irritating it might be, I know it’s not the last time I’m ever going to go to Black Forest, since

Well, you can see what happened with my camera...

Well, you can see what happened with my camera…

I’m up there at every single opportunity, and I’ll just take the pictures again.

Table Rock Llamas actually consists of two buildings that look very at-home surrounded by pines, and they’re connected by a deck and walkway. The first building houses the yarn. Lots and lots of yarn. The second building houses the fiber, the classroom, and the dyeing room. The deck between the two is the perfect place – when it’s much warmer – to hang out with your wheel or loom or whatever. Aneira can’t decide if she prefers the deck or the class building, so she spends an equal amount of time running from one to the other and back again. Yesterday, her interest was caught by an Ashford Traveler wheel that also caught mine, since it was so easy to treadle, and she loved just sitting there and treadling the wheel, keeping it going. She seems to really like the idea of spinning, and seems happy that I’m giving her a spindle of her own.

We spent a fun couple of hours together, playing with fiber and yarn and spinning wheels, before driving home to chores and homework. It was a nice break from the mundane, everyday stuff we do. No yelling and screaming, just smiles and laughter.

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