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Friday Night Fever

The Connecticut trip was partly unproductive. I wanted to locate some old research notes, but apparently they no longer exist. I found all sorts of tangential information, but not what I was looking for: the letter from 1967 that accompanied the data sheets, other data and research notes from the same time period, and even the original cut and paste (literally) figures from the paper on the field sites that I wanted to revisit. (And thank goodness for computers!) Everything you could think of except the actual research notes was there in those file cabinets.

I also wanted to take a look at the small natural area that was my dissertation research site. This tiny chunk of forest was hit by the hemlock woolly adelgid in the late 1980s, and most of the hemlocks were in poor shape when I did my work. Now they look more like this:

Fallen hemlocks

It was sad to see the grand old trees reduced to bare branches, but the new sassafras and other hardwoods were coming eagerly in to take their place. Ecologically, very interesting to see, and the next survey of the area should be fascinating.

We saw a few other interesting things in the natural area, including Indian pipe

Indian pipe

and many other attractive sights, most of which I won’t inflict on you.

Tree root

Grendel was so excited he could hardly stand still long enough to shoot a picture.

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<p>Back in Pennsylvania it is farmer’s market season. This week, I scored a quart of fresh peas. I shucked them myself. A bowlful is nothing like the bushels we used to do, and they taste so much better than even the high-quality frozen peas. I also acquired rhubarb and strawberries, which should become cobbler or maybe pie this weekend. </p>
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Bringing the topic back around to string, since that’s what I’m supposed to be discussing, I made some progress on the interminable second sock. I’m so close, really I am, but then why does it feel like forever?

Unfinished sock

I’ve been spinning wool for a very long time, but I’ve never been all that good at it. I’m better with a drop spindle than with a wheel, although I can produce usable yarn with either. One thing I’ve never mastered is the long draw, and I’d like to. Why? Go take a look, and tell me you don’t want to be able to do this, just like Abby. So I hauled out my wheel, an Ashford Traveler that has never forgiven me for moving to New Mexico, and cleaned it all up. Dust, fur and dog drool… the coating of my life.

Spinning wheel

After some experimentation, and quite a lot of ugly-looking yarn, I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. I never realized that not only can you go fast, you must go fast or the twist spreads into the drafting zone faster than you are drafting, and makes a big mess. Draft out fast with just enough twist to keep the new thin proto-yarn together, then add more twist, then let the yarn wind on. There’s a quicky description of drafting techniques here, by someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

I’m practicing because I want to do something good with my Gotland top. I spun a bit with a drop spindle last weekend, and it is coming out very nicely. I think I can make decent warp yarn with this, but if I only spin it on a spindle, I will never, ever get done.

Gotland

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