Hidden Beauty in the Desert


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ETA All of these pictures will open in Flickr and embiggen if you click on them.

This is on public land near my house.  Once, you could literally drive down into the creek bottom and to the other side; the state put up steel fencing and a sort of gate system that one can only walk through and the site has recovered in the years since.  The water runs year round, an unusual thing in the desert – this is not as low as it gets, but it’s lower than it was when we were getting storms daily.

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The roots of one of the Arizona Walnut trees near the water line.  You can see the erosion from when the water gets high in the spring.  All of the trees have fruit this year; I plan to come back and do some harvesting for our own stores soon.

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Branches:  you lose some, you grow some more.  Lightning is a thing here in the desert, as I’ll show you.

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If you look closely at the top half of this limb you can see the black from the fire the lightning started.

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The remains of a honeycomb that fell out after being burned.  The entire creekbed had a low hum from the thousands of bees busily gathering pollen and nectar from the riot of flowers everywhere.  The sunchokes were taller than we are, and the peppery smell of the nitrogen fixing plants’ blooms permeated the air.  ETA One was vetch, a desert variety that seeds everywhere it can get a little moisture.

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A lovely flash of color among the greens

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Mr. TF for comparison of some of the trees’ size.  I love our desert home.  Unlike the Midwest, our greens are mainly subtle, and oases like this are hidden unless you know they are there.  It’s a truly magical place filled with life of all sorts.

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Community, Personal Responsibility, The World Isn’t Fair, Gods.


Atheist alert: this has a lot to do with spirituality and yes, religion. Deal. In my mind science and ‘woo’ co-exist in a dynamic relationship that causes occasional cognitive dissonance, but forces me to continually re-evaluate my worldview. In my view this is healthy and necessary.

Pagan alert: Not Politically Correct Commentary on our community. Deal. If it angers you, perhaps you need to take a good hard look in the mirror.

I’ve been through the wringer for the past six months. In that time I have been places that boggle the imagination. I’ve been a specimen under a microscope. I’ve been betrayed on a fundamental level by those closest to me, and by some of the very systems our society is predicated on as well. And. The truck was stolen, trashed, totaled, rebuilt. I lost a job. I spent money I didn’t have (thanks FIL for the help, more grateful than you’ll ever know) and am in debt to the tune of thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it. I have a degree for a career I can’t work in. And I’m becoming more and more convinced I don’t want to work in it anyway, the way things are moving (see going places one doesn’t want to go, or my previous post). I have discovered, the hard way, that standing up for right doesn’t always mean you will be protected, or that things will work out. Sometimes you will be punished in the worst ways imaginable, and evil WILL prevail in spite of an individual’s or a community’s best efforts.

I’ve maintained a minimal level of spiritual practice through this, even if it has been nothing more than a simple acknowledgement of Deity and thanks for getting through another day. It has been nothing approaching the level of an actual devotional practice though, and I’ve felt that lack ever more keenly as I approached the end of my degree program. Once I finished, and had nothing else to occupy my mind but the drama and tragedies of life, it became a yawning chasm that contributed to my ennui and depression.  I literally couldn’t summon the energy to pray, let alone believe it would work.  I felt as though I just wasn’t worth it, that the Gods had better things to do than deal with me.

I believe in synchronicity. I believe in the fractal nature of the universe – As Above, So Below. I do believe that there are other entities, other dimensions, other realities than our own see/taste/touch/hear/smell reality, and that sometimes we reach out to those other entities/realities – and other times they reach out to us. I believe that things often happen for a reason, and that reason sometimes isn’t readily apparent for a very long time, if ever.  This faith was seriously shaken as a result of the happenings since January.

My children are fundamentalist Christians. Two, at least, were Pagan/anarchists earlier in teenaged life. I believe that they became Christians not because of the actual religion, but because of the structure and community it offers. This is something that very little of modern NeoPaganism offers, and I have seen that over and over and over again in the nearly 20 years I’ve been a Pagan.

In nearly 20 years as a Pagan, I’ve met more people who are trying to get on disability than I ever thought possible. I’ve met people ON disability who constantly cried about how poor they were, and who were no more disabled than I am, who ran side businesses based on cash to augment their disability payments and who actually had nicer things than Mr. TF and I do. I’ve met people who can’t keep a job, who can’t keep a relationship, who can’t keep an apartment, who can’t keep a car, who are using/abusing illegal drugs – and I’m not talking about marijuana here people – or who are abusing prescription drugs. When I worked in the ER I saw more than one person – significantly more than one – I knew from the local Pagan community come into the ER for problems directly related to prescription or illegal drug abuse or as “seekers.” It made for uncomfortable questions from fellow staff members, at the very least.

Many people who are drawn to the Pagan path often tend, in my experience, to be less than reliable on a personal level and tend to make very bad choices. These bad choices are ones for which they tend to not take responsibility. They misuse magick, in my opinion, as a tool to overcome lack of personal responsibility for bad choices rather than as a tool for self-development. Or they use it as a substitute for an actual spiritual relationship with Deity. Magick does NOT substitute for spirituality. And one does NOT need to do magick to enter into a relationship with Deity. Magick is a tool, it can sometimes be a vehicle, but it’s not the object (unless you are a Ceremonial Magician which is another conversation entirely). It’s as though they are drawn to Paganism because they perceive it as the one religion/practice for which they have to take no responsibility, and they can espouse beliefs that NO ONE can tell them are wrong. Cuz personal gnosis, you know.

Because of my experience (and that of my husband as well, I am writing this as an individual but we have shared this conversation many times between ourselves) we have mostly withdrawn from participation in and organization of Pagan events, particularly events like Pagan Pride, public Pagan holidays, Pagan meetups….you get the idea. The embarrassment of being associated with the crazies just simply began to outweigh the benefits of the participation.

And yes, I know there are those in the Christian community as well. However, they tend to be reined in by those who are around them, and either drawn into the fold or shunned. They are self-selecting in their long term participation.

As a side effect of withdrawing from public gatherings, my own spiritual practice has suffered – it’s not just the business of life/school/work/stressors, it’s been that I no longer go to events where I can get my spiritual batteries somewhat recharged because I’m participating in a community of believers. The very thing my children currently have. The thing I envy, even though I do not think a patriarchal herding religion from a desert region from 2000 years ago has any relevance for them – or for me, for that matter. I do ‘get’ why they turned away from a religious practice that *did* and *does* have relevance for them (and me). Because community. It’s important.

I have suspected for quite some time that the Pagans who were serious about their practice, at least in our area, were very secretive, or at the least insular, mainly because of the above. They are responsible adults and take their religion and spirituality very seriously, and they don’t want to associate with people who don’t. So, while believing firmly they’re out there, it also makes it very hard to find or connect with them. Friends of course excepted, but because of school/work commitments it’s made it hard for us to connect with them as well. When we’re all on different schedules and none of them coincide for all of us….you get the idea.

So why am I going on and on about this? Because I am going to a Pagan event for the first time in nearly a decade next month. I’m terrified. And excited. I don’t know if Mr. TF will come or not. He’s much more laid back about his spirituality, and doesn’t feel the need to actually connect the way I do – at least to hear him tell it.  And the way I found out about this event is nothing less than synchronicity.  It’s a Rube Goldberg nest of interconnected coincidences that defy logical explanation.

It’s not just any event though. It’s a Heathen event. I’ve shied away from heathenry for my entire time as a Pagan due to bad press about skin heads and racists who identify as heathen. I didn’t, and don’t, want to be associated with those who think the color of one’s skin denotes one’s worthiness to worship the Old Gods. When I first became a Pagan (or more realistically, realized that my spiritual beliefs were Pagan and I just didn’t know it) I was strongly advised against my interest in Norse spirituality by a Pagan friend who had recently spent 10 years in prison. His experiences there didn’t encourage me to try to follow up.

But recently I’ve been forced to rethink my blanket painting of this community thanks to blogs and websites devoted to heathens, as well as books I’ve had (and read previously) in my library. A recent re-reading of them revealed nothing that actually allows for this view, regardless of the views of a certain vocal percentage of heathens. And as far as I’ve read (which isn’t a lot, but also not nothing), there’s nothing in the lore that allows for this view either. As I stated earlier, I believe in synchronicity. And I believe the Gods call who They call. Regardless of skin color.

What I do know, is that the values Heathens espouse:

Nine Noble Virtues

are the same values I live my life by, and I want to associate with people who share my spiritual outlook as well as my ethics.  ETA:  because it doesn’t embiggen:  Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Self Reliance, Industriousness, Perserverance.

Illustration courtesy of   My Journey into Midgardr

I am hopeful that I can find a group of people with which to share community and spirituality. Gods know I’m ready after the half year I’ve had.

Population medicine


Obamacare treats not for the patient in particular, but for the patient on average, globally, or in the abstract

This isn’t a problem specific to the ACA; it’s endemic in national health systems all over the world, all of which are more or less in the thrall of pharmaceutical companies who control and produce most of the research that determines population medicine.

The problem with the pharmaceutical companies sponsoring research however is twofold:  1, they control who gets into the study and define the outliers; and 2, most of these studies are not appropriate for population generalizations because they are small in size or short in length.  Oh, and I guess this makes it threefold:  any results that are not favorable to their drug will never see the light of day.

Now controlling who gets into the study is related to the outliers in that, if in the pretrial part of the study, people who have adverse reactions right away will be eliminated from the study.  So people who might give a truer picture of the drug’s ill effects will have been eliminated right off the bat.  And outliers are defined as people who have reactions that are supposedly really rare and do not give a true picture of the overall study results.  For instance, take Celebrex.  It’s a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, in the same class as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.  Pfizer, the manufacturer, said its drug was better than those others because it didn’t hurt the stomach.  Well, as it turns out, that was not the case at all.  The reason they were able to claim that is because, if you read the link above, you will find that they only released the first six months of a year’s worth of data.  Most of the stomach problems developed in the second half of the study; because of this they were able to deceive regulators, medical providers, and the public at large into believing this drug was safer.  They altered the study’s parameters to hide crucial data related to side effects, and they explained “poor results as the result of ‘statistical glitches.'”  ***statistical glitches is researcher speak for outlier***

Perhaps the worst offender in this is Merck.  Their drug, Vioxx was taken off the market because of the substantially increased risk of a heart attack while taking it.  This was defined as an outlier in their results – which means they knew there was an increased risk before this drug ever went on the market.  Yet they chose to define a statistically increased risk as an outlier, dump all the data related to the people who had had a heart attack during the course of the study, and publish results that were very positive toward their drug.  Of course, they also paid for a study to be published that was favorable to their product without disclosing their financial relationship and were subsequently sued.  Multiple times, in multiple countries.

Regarding study length:  In the case of Celebrex, they released results related to only six months of what ended up being a six year long study.  How can one make a decision about a medication’s safety or efficacy when the study hasn’t even been completed?  Where are the critical thinking skills for those who are in charge of approving a drug?  Where are the critical thinking skills for those prescribing the drug?  The public doesn’t have the general ability to decide if a study is good or not, they rely on the government to determine a drug’s safety and effectiveness, and they rely on their providers to prescribe drugs that have benefits that outweigh the risks.  They are being seriously failed on both accounts.

Unfavorable results are related to both of the above drugs.  Data that showed there was substantial risk for certain groups of people in both cases was simply hidden.  In many cases, studies are never published at all – their data is simply buried and never sees the light of day.

So why is any of this relevant?  Well, guidelines are created based on the cumulative results of published studies.  And guidelines are what are forced on providers in order to make sure they are adhering to the standard of care.  Standards of care are based on population medicine, not on individual people.  They don’t allow for individual preferences, variability in response to a drug, differences in financial circumstances or lifestyles, religious prohibitions, or any other individual determinants of a person’s ability (or desire) to adhere to a given regimen.

If we can’t rely on the results of studies, we can’t rely on guidelines that are created from them.  And this is a big problem when reimbursement, and even licensing is predicated on adhering to guidelines.  In a local to me case, an Arizona cardiologist is under investigation because he advocates non-guideline based recommendations for his patients.  This is a huge problem.  If a physician can’t read research and make decisions for his practice, but is expected to blindly follow guidelines or face having his license revoked, how can one trust one’s medical provider that they are doing the right thing for you, the patient?

In an even more insidious fashion, the powers that be (government in collusion with the pharmaceutical and insurance companies) are requiring (here in the States anyway) that a provider have an NPI.  That’s a national provider number.  And it has to be printed on all prescriptions or the pharmacist will not be required to fill them.  So what?  Well, if you don’t follow the guidelines, and you don’t accept the insurances the government wants you to — because you prefer to offer your patients advice that you feel is healthier and safer for them as an individual — you can have your provider number yanked even if your license is not revoked.  Either way you can’t fully care for patients and are out of business.  I wish I had links for you for this one, but I don’t.  I don’t even remember where I read this, but trust me when I say this is indeed going on.

Population medicine.  Peak medicine.  Grasping for financial straws.  And you, and I, the little people suffer.

Makkin Belt


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In the Shetland Islands, knitting is known as ‘makkin.’  Hence the name for my belt.  You see, most production knitting used ergonomic methods that allowed women (and men, and children) to knit quite quickly, with even tension, and allow knitting while walking or caring for family tasks.  In the Shetlands, this involved a knitting, or makkin belt.  It’s worn with the large part on the side, and a double pointed knitting needle (pin, as they’re known in the UK) is inserted into the belt at an angle that allows the needle to remain stationary and enables the hands to maintain a more ergonomic position for a longer period of time.  It also keeps the wrists more or less out of the motion of knitting, which greatly reduces the risk of over use injury.

I purchased the leather, the awl set, the leather needle, and rivets at my local leather shop.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I could only get one of the rivets to stay and “grab” the belt so it’s sewn at the other end.  It was a lesson for next time.  The belt was already made, purchased at the thrift store for something like 50 cents.  It’s stuffed with a surprisingly large amount of tulle, as horsehair – the traditional stuffing, while available – was extremely expensive.  I know, it’s not especially pretty, but I’m hoping it will be functional.  ETA:  I used graph paper to sketch out the basic shape and traced it onto the leather.  It’s approximately 8″ long, and 3″ wide.  I used the 1/8″ diameter awl bit to make the holes for the lacing.  I ‘eyeballed’ the holes both for the lacing and for the needles; I didn’t have a tiny awl for small diameter needles so I used a T pin and made those holes; the larger ones are made with a hand punch awl of an unknown diameter.  They are randomly placed on the surface.

I have noticed lately that knitting causes me to have pain at the base of my thumb near where it joins the wrist whenever I knit for more than an hour or two – even if I am a good doobee and get up and stretch every hour.  I currently have a very large collection of circular needles that I’ve accumulated, because I find they are easier to carry around and use wherever I go. The alteration in my style when I use them, however, causes the pain due to my wrists turning more to flick off the stitches.

I have decided that if I am ever going to be a production knitter I need to become MUCH faster than I am.  I’m no slouch right now, but I really want speed without sacrificing quality.  When I knit with single point needles, I have always naturally braced one against the crease of my thigh or into a pillow next to me, which allows me to knit faster and more ergonomically.  I have no idea where I first learned this, but my paternal grandparents were from Ireland so I may have seen Irish style knitting at a very young age and simply copied my grandmother without realizing it (she passed away a long time ago, I have no real memory of her other than her asking me if I understood – in Gaelic).  Using a knitting belt is a natural extension of my instinct, that will allow me to knit in other places than my couch – and to take it with me anywhere I go.  I did try lever knitting, where the needle is held under the arm, and that hurt my wrists very badly very quickly.

This is a video of Isolda Teague using a knitting belt.  It is probably the most clear in the placement of the belt and the use of the needles that I have seen.

I haven’t tried it out yet, but I am anxious to do so on some sort of project that can be appropriately hidden (like socks) until I get the hang of it.

I suspect that in times to come, when hand made becomes a necessity once again, this will be a good skill to know and to pass along.  And I have enough leather left over to make another belt as well.

Peak Music


I was sitting outside during my lunch break last week.  There was one of the housekeeping staff also outside on lunch; he was listening to music.  As I sat there, I heard songs from the Velvet Underground, Suicidal Tendencies, Def Leopard, and more.  Now, this wouldn’t be surprising except that this young man was just that – maybe 24 or 25.  I was stunned, and after hearing a bit of this, I commented on it.  I said something to the effect that he wasn’t even alive when most of that was popular and I was amazed that he listened to ‘oldies.’  He replied that it was what he grew up listening to, and he likes it better than what passes for music on the radio anyway.  We had a (from my point of view anyway) good talk and even discussed the Ramones and how, as a former punker, my kids were exposed to the same sort of music and one of my sons has the complete collection of the Ramones’ music.  He laughed and said he has it too.

Then, I was at the grocery store yesterday, walking back to my borrowed truck with my bag of purchases.  A young man who couldn’t have been more than 17 was cruising slowly past the front of the store with the windows rolled down, obviously driving his parents’ car, and equally obviously looking for someone.

THIS was blasting out the open window.  I started laughing.  For the second time in just over 8 days I heard music that I grew up listening to, coming from not middle aged listeners like myself, but from young people who *theoretically* should have their own music to listen to and identify with.  I turned to the middle aged man sitting smoking a cigarette at the table on the sidewalk and remarked on it.  I said something to the effect that this kid isn’t much older than I was when this came out!  The man laughed and agreed, and shook his head.

Having listened to some of the newer stuff on the radio I have thought that I was the problem – that I just couldn’t relate to this new stuff because I’m old and I don’t get the references or something.  I remember my mom getting that way, and Mr. TF has shared a story about driving his father somewhere as a teen – dear FIL finally turned to Mr. TF and asked “who ARE these screaming a$$holes?” when forced to listen to some 80’s hair band for too long.

I’m now thinking that maybe young people, particularly those who play an instrument even a little, just don’t care for the modern stuff any more than I do.  I can’t think of more than one or two people I know under the age of 30 who even listen to the radio – they are all either listening to 70’s era punk, or 80’s or 90’s era stuff.  Or they are listening to indie music that defies being stuffed into a single genre.

Have we come to peak music too?  I suspect we may have, if these young people are any gauge.  More than anything it tells me we are on the downslide of our current civilization. (and off topic, I want to know why spelling civiliSation is wrong).

What do two wrongs make?


Every religion has its behavioral standards. Some of these include behaviors of the mind; the Ten Commandments for instance include physical behaviors – thou shalt not steal – as well as mental behaviors – thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s … Buddhism has its Eight fold Noble Path, Asatru has its Nine Noble Virtues, Wicca has its Rede; all deal in part with making sure motivations and actions are for the betterment of oneself and/or one’s community. Of course, some of these also deal with rules for approaching ones’ God(s) and with proper worship and sacrifice, it IS religion after all, but in the main these, to me at least, deal with proper mental orientation producing proper physical behavior.

I’ve been thinking about this recently and trying to examine motivations vs. actions in whether an action can be wrong in the lens of religion, morality/ethics or the law even when the motivation was pure. Is it in fact possible to act from pure motivations and still err in behavior? Meaning, can one do the ‘wrong’ thing for the ‘right’ reasons? And is it acceptable to be punished for one’s wrong action even when the motivation was pure? If one does act from pure motivation and commits a wrong action, is the punishment that ensues just? Or is it always that wrong actions come from mixed or impure motivations? Is it error that produces the wrong action, or lack of knowledge?

And what about the other person(s) who were involved and the fact that they were committing wrong (and possibly illegal) actions with patently wrong motivations: does this person deserve karmic retribution? Justice? Punishment? Or is their wrong action ‘cancelled out’ by the wrong action of another?

Consider for instance telling a lie. In Christianity, this is always considered wrong. I was brought up not as a Christian, but I was involved in it when I was younger. I was brought up in a family that valued honesty for the simple reason that even poor people can possess honesty as a form of wealth that cannot be taken away. In Asatru however, this doesn’t necessarily apply, if another person has lied (and been caught in it) to you. There’s a standard of behavior one is expected to uphold, as a general rule, but if the other person violates it, one can choose to behave honorably or not based on one’s own assessment of one’s situation. Now, I’m not Asatru, but this is how I interpret it.  And I believe that telling the truth, being honest, is a value that is central to my life.  I may be many unpleasant things, but a habitual liar is not one of them.

Take Thor for instance. He dressed up as a woman, as a bride, to be wed to a giant. He went through with the ceremony. This is a pretty big lie!! But he did it to get his hammer back, and to prevent a larger wrong. His wrong actions were in response to another’s wrong actions, and the motivation was at least in part pure: to save another from a bad marriage, and to get back what was his and wrongly kept from him. Does that mean two wrongs make a right? Or have they cancelled each other out? Does the fact that Thor is a God mean the same rules do not apply? Or is this to be taken as an example for the people of Asatru in dealing with others who do not have the same standards?

I know there are many questions in this post. I have recently been through a great deal due to a ‘wrong’ action that arose from pure motivation. My motives, I believe, were pure, but I let my frustration with the other person’s illegal and unethical behavior, and apparent immunity from consequences get the better of me. Not only that, but I acted from incomplete knowledge and this in itself was critical to what followed. Does allowing emotions to be involved mean I did not have pure motivation? Or was it that I had incomplete knowledge and therefore could *not* have pure motivation? How does one go about making sure motivation is pure before acting?

I have been punished physically, mentally, legally, financially. The punishment continues for a currently unknown amount of time; it may be up to a year before my punishment will end. All of this because someone stuffed a ballot box, repeatedly denied the right to free speech at public meetings, and intimidated people. The back story is that this same person cost a neighborhood association their non-profit status from illegal activities and has a pattern of rights violating behavior. In addition, there have been irregularities in the financial accounting, the potential use of the association for illegal land transfers or zoning changes, and more. Nevertheless, this person and this board remain in power to do what they will, and I remain the one punished. I have been questioning my motivation as a result and have spent a lot of time pondering these questions.

This is a poor way to end a post, but I welcome thoughts on this subject.

Pack your bags and f*ck off


ETA: What if we think why it happened is wrong?

I think it must be hard to live in the modern world when trying very seriously to practice a religion from the first millenium. And I think modern radical Muslims have lost sight of the fact that many people converted from other religions to Islam purely because they had more freedoms and more opportunities under the new religion. I say this, that they have forgotten, because they appear to want to turn the world into a repeat of the Catholic empire of the first millenium – overarching, all powerful, controlling every. single. detail. of one’s life including WHEN and HOW you may have sex with your spouse. And, not least, to once again relegate women to a position little better than that of animals. After all, you’re not supposed to have sex with animals. I think if it were not for that prohibition there would be absolutely no differentiating women from animals in the radical Muslim’s mind at all. Why on earth women willingly participate in this – abomination – I really do not understand. This contrasts sharply with Islam from the Middle Ages, when it was the most progressive, science oriented, education promoting, opportunity laden, powerful religion on earth. What happened to THAT Islam? I’ve said before, and I mean it quite seriously, that if I were to go back in time I would want to live in an Islamic country like Turkey, and I would want to be Muslim. There simply were too many opportunities for women in that time to be anything other, at least for me. As compared to the Church in that time I think it would be much better.

I mean, I get that they (both men and women) want to be part of a cause. I get that they want their lives to mean something. I get that they feel cheated of the American Dream (TM) and they want to lash out. But really? To participate willingly in a – not sect, they are most definitely NOT that – transmogrification of a once progressive religion and be relegated to less than fully human (3/5ths to be exact) boggles the mind.

I have said for years, since the 9/11 attacks and controversy, that when peaceful Muslims start speaking out frankly, and shouting down and denouncing their radical baggage, that things will begin to change. When peaceful clerics start condemning radicals and their methods, things will change. The Islamic world has not done so until now because they have felt it is important to be seen as a monolith, that all Muslims are united in religion. The reality is something quite different; since humans practice religion, there will always be differences of opinion on interpretation and practice. There are sects and radicals in Christianity as well, but Christianity is not afraid to disown and denounce radicals whenever and wherever they dare to speak openly.

Which is why, when I saw this news story yesterday, it gave me hope:

Mayer of Rotterdam speaking to fellow Muslims

You go dude. Pack your bags and f*ck off indeed. The tide, one can only hope, is turning.

8 knitting days until Christmas…


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That is a cat. Really. Four Knitted Cats by Kath Dalmeny
I lost interest when it got to the seaming part. For a weaver I surely do hate sewing. BUT. It MUST BE DONE by 9am Christmas Eve, so I can wrap it, because it is being given later in the morning!

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Gratuitous photo of Shetland singles for weaving. Not enough to make anything but a scarf, so it shall sit in my stash until I buy another Shetland fleece and spin more. I read in a Starmore book that Shetland is too fragile for weaving; I plan to challenge that statement and report back.

ETA: click on the photos for a better look.

Obamacare just might be going away after all.


http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/supreme-court-just-took-case-could-gut-obamacare-heres-how-states-can-save-it

So there you have it folks – it’s from a liberal perspective, so they’re all about saving it, but facts are facts.

How do you feel, if you live in a ‘red’  state, about having/not having this?

I’m concerned from the perspective that people won’t just go back on what they had before, if they had Medicaid or in Arizona’s case, AHCCCS (pronounced access).  They won’t have anything at all.  And I can tell you, from dealing with Obamacare in residents who were on AHCCCS and are now on ACA, it’s a poorer insurance with fewer choices, higher costs, and less coverage.  This is fine for those who should really be having some skin in the game, but for the elderly who were on some form of state sponsored long term insurance under medicare/medicaid, it’s really pretty paltry, and denies them access to the medicines they need unless they want to spend far more than half their monthly income on insurance premiums and medications.

I agree in principle that ACA must go.  It’s an insurance company bailout, and a gift to the pharmaceutical and hospital industries, nothing more.  But we really need to be having discussions about what will take its place.  When I get my license, I can provide visits for a quite reasonable fee, or barter for things we both benefit from, but that doesn’t help when the person needs to be hospitalized, or if the medicine they really need costs $249 per month.  By the time they’re at a place where they need a medicine that expensive, there are not many herbs I can prescribe that will do nearly so good a job of controlling symptoms.

Once again, we really need to be having discussions about alternative ways of care delivery.  And about medication costs.  And about hospital costs.  And about the elderly’s idea that medicare should be free for them.  And about the younger people’s idea that Obamacare should be free for them.  We STILL don’t have insurance.  Why?  Because it was too expensive even with the subsidies.  For a $12,700 deductible, we’ll just take our chances.   The penalty is significantly cheaper than buying the insurance would have been.

The system is broken.  We need to look at alternatives.  When can we begin this conversation?  Without having to talk about concierge care type systems that only benefit the wealthy, or subscription systems that still don’t address medications or acute care, or the idea that some should just go without or die?

I hate living at the twilight of empire sometimes.  Hobson’s choice indeed.

Wool has to be soft…?


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This is hand spun, hand dyed wool from local sheep. It’s reasonably soft, being a Jacob/Merino mix, but not the softest thing I’ve ever felt by a long shot. Who cares, right?

Well, this yarn is for sale on consignment at a local yarn shop. When I was last in there, several women were feeling it and commenting that it wasn’t very soft. Then they asked me why the alpaca yarn was so much softer. I never got the chance to answer, because then they realized it *was* alpaca.

Now, I’m not a fan of really scratchy wool. I don’t know anyone who is, except perhaps people who weave carpets. But because I buy raw fleece from a variety of breeds, and process it myself or send it to my friend Rita at Arizona Fiber Mill, it is not processed by using chemicals to burn the vegetable matter out of the fleece. This preserves the inherent softness. It gets plain old soap and really hot water, just as it’s basically been done for hundreds – thousands – of years. Though to be fair in some regions urine was boiled to wash the wool. Urine actually is a pretty powerful antimicrobial cleaner, believe it or not. The active ingredient is ammonia.

But back to the title of the post.

As a hand spinner, I spend a lot of time with fiber. I want my finished product to be beautiful, functional, and above all durable. There are many types of sheep who produce many types of wool. ALL of these sheep were developed for specific purposes. And until recently, those purposes had to include not only meat, but fiber as well.

Want a durable carpet? Don’t use merino wool! Use the outer coat of an Icelandic, or Lincoln, or a primitive fat tailed sheep variety such as is found in carpet producing regions like Pakistan or Turkey, or Iran.

Want great long lasting socks that stay up? Again, don’t use merino! Use Dorset down, which in my opinion is far and away the springiest and most resilient wool and excellent for socks.

Want a blanket or a jacket? Use Cotswold. Spun worsted, it makes the ideal weaving yarn.

Want a really soft yarn for a scarf or a hat? OK, now use merino. But be aware that it probably won’t last for years and years, not if it’s spun to current standards. Industrially spun yarns are not very tightly spun nor plied. It give a softer hand to the yarn, but it will pill and make your hard work look quite bad in not a very long time. It’s even worse in a sweater unless it’s spun with something like silk.

I’m not anti-merino. It’s a wonderful type of crimpy fleece that is pleasurable to spin. BUT. Because I can spin my own, I choose to spin a slightly ‘harder’ yarn with more twist than you will see in commercial yarns. This is because I want my yarn to pill less and last longer in good condition.

The above Jacob/merino cross is a perfect example of what people don’t understand about wool yarn now days, because our mass produced industrial society encourages overconsumption and throw away items. This apparently includes hand knit items, because the only thing most knitters I know who don’t spin look for is “soft wool.” OOH, it’s so soft!! When I hear how soft a yarn is I automatically picture the product pilling and being discarded after a year or two. This yarn pictured is actually pretty reasonably soft, because the wool itself is medium soft and because it’s spun to preserve a reasonable portion of the ‘soft’ factor.

ETA: after I re-read the above paragraph this morning I realized I should include how it’s spun to clear up the apparent discrepancy between saying I spin a ‘harder’ yarn and spinning to preserve its softness. I spun this particular yarn in a semi-woolen manner. Meaning, I spun it using a modified long draw (picture my arm drawing way back like I’m going to pitch a ball, only I have wool in my hand and a twisted single going into the spinning wheel as I draw back. When I bring my arm forward, that single gets taken up onto the bobbin). This is what gives the fluffy and soft aspect of the yarn. I spin from carded pin drafted roving when I do this which gives the semi-part of the semi-woolen. It’s not quite full worsted (firm and durable) and not quite true woolen (really fluffy and soft, not durable at all). As I said, my yarns have more twist in the singles to start with than a lot of commercial yarns do, so even my softer stuff will hold up better than an equivalent commercial yarn.

In older times, people weren’t so concerned about “soft” because they knew they were sacrificing durability for softness. If they put a wool item on as a warm layer, they usually had something like linen underneath. No one had time to reknit something just because they wanted another one. Things got worn until they were past mending any more. As a hand spinner, my outlook is much more closely aligned with my ancestors’ than with current standards. I want soft, yes. But in small quantities for specific uses. Otherwise, I want durability over soft.

It takes me about a week to wash and comb enough fleece to begin spinning yarn for socks. I make a 3 ply yarn when I make sock yarn, so I spin up 3 four ounce bobbins worth of singles. Then I ply them all together to make my 3 ply yarn. I lose a bit in length by doing a 3 ply because they are circling around themselves in a larger diameter than in a 2 ply, but I also get much better resistance to wear by doing so. A round yarn wears better than a flat one. You want this for socks. It takes me approximately 5 hours to spin 4 ounces of singles at the thin diameter appropriate for making a nice thin sock yarn. Before I’ve even begun to ply I’m already at 15 hours of time at the spinning wheel. Plying takes another 3-4 hours. Then I have to wash it and set the twist.

If I’m going to dye it now is the time, which takes another day for dyeing and drying. I’m now approximately 40 hours into these socks, and I haven’t even begun knitting yet!

I can knit a regular crew length sock in approximately 5 hours. So it takes me 10 hours to knit a pair for myself. 50 hours worth of work is a lot of time to invest in an item! From my 12 ounces I can knit 3 pairs of socks for myself, 2 pairs for a man, or 1 pair of kilt hose. And this is why I won’t use merino for hand spun socks. Not only does it tend to pill, but it felts VERY easily. Which is something you do NOT want in a pair of socks, because felting shrinks them too. Dorset doesn’t felt very well in my experience, at least when it’s spun true worsted (all the fibers aligned in the long ways direction).

It’s a similar process for a sweater. The average sweater requires a pound of wool. And for a woman, approximately 1200 yards of yarn. That’s only if it’s color work or plain knit. If you are doing a lot of cables like an Aran sweater, you need closer to 3 pounds of wool, and 1600 yards of yarn. Regardless of what you may have read about Aran sweaters being a traditional garment, the plain fact is that they weren’t in common use until well after the industrial revolution and most women were no longer spinning their own yarn. No one is going to invest that much time into spinning the yarn for that kind of sweater when they are knitting for their entire family.

So soft…? Only sometimes. Mostly I prefer to sacrifice a little softness in favor of durability. But then, I’m a very practical person. What about you?