Saturday, April 10, 2010

Getting down to the dirt, lyeing and fleecing

Baby perennials

Tomatoes, sunflowers, cabbage, squash, etc.

I confess, I got spring fever early this year. With the snow disappearing and warm sunny days arriving well before the end of March, I first got out my seeds just to look and plan, then I acquired a little seedling hot-house, and before you knew it, I had sunflowers and tomatoes bursting forth. Then came the cabbage and squash. I knew I was just setting myself up for tall skinny plants but I told myself, "I'm just testing the seeds to see if they're good."  Scientific experimentation is always a handy rationalization. But the truth of the matter is that it really was good medicine for spring fever, and who knows, maybe some of these early bloomers will actually make it and produce a bumper crop!

After I got into the dirt, I guess I realized I needed to clean up my act so signed up for an Adult Ed class on Soapmaking. I'll tell you the ingredients, but the secret lyes in the potentially life-threatening process of mixing them in the correct order: Crisco vegetable shortening, coconut oil, olive oil, water, lye, wax crayon for color, fragrance. (Yes, drink the lye or start a kitchen fire with the oil and your life will be significantly altered! Other than that, just be careful and everything should be all right!) And what is that strange shape in the middle? A chicken shaped cookie cutter produced that little clucker! I learned that soap is easily carved after 24 hours and best left to air dry for three weeks so as to harden more.

All that did not keep me from getting into a lifestyle of fleecing. I was hanging around with others who were doing it, and before I knew it, I had (legally) aquired my own Shetland fleece (for $5). After a good washing, it was on to "carding" to separate the matted strands (normally using brushes, but a comb will do in a pinch), and finally, taking up that drop spindle, giving it a spin, and watching the wool turn into knittable yarn. Amazing.

This simple fleece, this wool as it comes sheared off the sheep, pretty much in one loose but matted piece of dirty fluff, also served to enhance my biblical understanding! The first story that vividly came to mind was that of Gideon.
Jdg 6:36 And Gideon said to God, If You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said,
Jdg 6:37 behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the grain-floor. And if the dew is on the fleece only, and dry upon all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.
Jdg 6:38 And it was so. For he rose up early in the morning and gathered the fleece together, and wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.

But the most meaningful thought came during carding - that extremely tedious yet strangely soothing process of transforming tangles into clouds of softness, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29)

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