Day at Lake Michigan















Quickie post with some pics from our morning at Lake Michigan. Elijah was a little wary at first but he warmed up to it.

We can’t stay very long since we have to head to the fairgrounds at 4:00 to set up the booth.

More later….

Sunday fun





We had a rare but nice relaxing Sunday afternoon here in Nashville. The weather was pretty mild in comparison to what it has been so I took my NOOK outside after dinner to get some reading done.  I started Crush by Alan Jacobson which is the second inthe Karen Vail series. It falls pretty quick on the heels of the first one. It takes place in the Napa Valley where she and Robby are on vacation. They are quickly drawn into a murder investigation when a body is discovered in the area. I am about 25% in already so a fun and quick read so far.

I wasn’t alone for long however but I did get an opportunity to try out my new phone’s camera. It us not bad at all actually. It is also so easy to upload right to my social networking sites and my blog. I had fun playing with it and took some cute shots of my littlest hams. :-)

Okay gotta get some trip shopping and laundry done today.

Good Reads

Well I finished the book I was reading The 7th Victim that I told you about last week and it was quite an interesting read. Now, I admit that I saw where it was going, long before the main character did, but there was a twist I hadn’t predicted. I am excited to start the next episode in Crush. As I said before, I think, this is not the genre I usually read, but it is one of my favorite TV/Movie genres. It’s nice to have light reading sometimes in between more challenging stuff, no?

I am still listening to the The Moonstone when I can and it’s wrapping up the mystery about now in the last two hours. Being 19th century English literature, it’s much more descriptive and complex. It’s got a larger cast of characters some of which you don’t get much advantage to know very well, so I find I can’t listen to it and be doing something that requires my full concentration. I mostly listen while driving or occasionally while knitting something easy, like a simple sock.

I will be on the road next week on the way to Allegan, MI for the Michigan Fiber Festival so that will be a good chance to finish it up. I haven’t yet picked out what other book I will download for the trip. I found none of the 3 for 2 credit offerings at this week to my liking, but I do have quite a few in my wish list. I am leaning towards Christine Falls or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo gets such mixed reviews that I am not sure I even want that one. I am pretty sure I would like Christine Falls. Anyone got any feedback on either of these?

Knitting is still moving along at a snail’s pace. I have started the gusset on the second sock but that’s it. No new picture. Just scroll down and imagine that one a little longer. Winking smile

We have been labeling yarn and packing more stock in the trailer for our trip next week. We are going to Allegan, MI, as I said above and from there we will go straight to Schaumburg, IL for Stitches Midwest. We will be in booths 323-325. I’ll be blogging more from the shows. Smile

Okay parting picture for the day (can’t have a post without a picture) are these of Elijah playing on Emma’s bed among her menagerie.

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Bread 101

I have been trying to get this post written for days. One thing or another has gotten in the way, but I managed to find a few hours this afternoon, so here goes. Hope you don’t mind lots of pictures. Smile

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I was inspired to learn how to bake bread about 18 years ago. My first attempts were less than stellar, and I was intimidated by the whole thing. Yeast baking seemed like such a mysterious and unpredictable process and I would follow the directions for proofing and mixing, but just couldn’t seem to get it to work successfully. My dough would either not rise or if it did rise my loaves would be sort of, shall we say, brick-ish. I was determined to learn though and began in earnest to learn this in the way I learn any new thing, immersion. I went to the library and checked out dozens of books on the subject. I wanted in particular to be successful at not just bread, whole grain bread.

Two of the books that I read made me into a life long bread baker; Breadtime, and Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. The first was the most helpful in teaching me a method and had not heard of before; a cool rise sponge method. My lack of success before was because I was attempting to make whole wheat bread using straight dough methods which are better for white bread. Once I understood how yeast does it’s thing I better understood why my previous efforts were less than they could have been.

So what is the sponge method? If you do a search for it, you can find more info, but basically it’s where you start with all the liquid and roughly half of the flour, along with the yeast and a shot of sweetener for a boost to proof the yeast. Once you let this rise you add the rest of the flour, salt and any other ingredients like oil and sweetener if you desire. After kneading the dough it gets two bowl rises and one shaped rise before baking. That’s the pithy directions, anyway. Winking smile

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Want more details? Okay. Here’s my basic everyday whole wheat bread recipe. Oh and a note about flour, for best results use the freshest and highest gluten you can get. I have a stone mill for fresh grinding my wheat. I prefer Hard White Wheat berries over Hard Red Wheat berries, but either will work. We prefer the milder flavor and softer crust of the white wheat,which is really more golden than white. I buy mine from Honeyville Grain. Here’s my mill.

Golden Grain grinder

I bought this in 1999 and have never had a day’s trouble from it. It’s made by hand from a small business much like our own. It looks like they are still in business.


wheat in

This is my wheat bin that is in the bottom drawer of the little cabinet where my grinder is sitting in my dining room. Okay, so most of you aren’t going to go hard core and get a mill. I know. I recommend in that case King Arthur Flour if you can get it. My local Kroger carries it and I use their unbleached bread flour. It really is superior and what I like best is that it’s certified organic, grown and milled in America, and if you can’t find it local you can order online.

Anyway, back to the recipe.

3 1/4 cup. warm water

1/4 cup honey plus a tbsp. for proofing yeast

1 tbsp. active dry yeast

7 cups fresh whole wheat flour

2 1/2 – 3 cups unbleached bread flour

1/4 cup canola or other vegetable oil

1 tbsp. salt

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I like to make two big loaves so I start with 3 1/4 cups of water. I warm this until I can stick my finger in it and only hold for a count of 4. Any longer and it’s too cool, keep warming. Any warmer, it will kill the yeast, let it sit until it’s right. There is a temp you are going for if you like to use a thermometer; so if you must, it’s 105 to 115 degrees. Pour all the water except for 1/4 a cup or so into the mixing bowl. In the 1/4 cup of water add a tbsp. or so of honey and a scant tbsp. of active dry yeast. Sprinkle in the yeast and let it dissolve some then mix thoroughly until completely dissolved. Allow that to sit until the yeast has developed a good foam on top. This is “proofing” the yeast. This should take 5-7 minutes. While that is going on, add 4 cups of the whole wheat flour to the water in the mixing bowl and mix well until the gluten strands start to form. That’s the sticky, stretchy structure that allows the dough to rise as the yeast expels gas. I like to use a heavy duty mixer for this and the kneading, however I did do it all by hand for the first 2-3 years I made bread. It’s a work out but the kneading is actually kind of relaxing once you get into it. I will be honest with you though, I was pretty excited when I got my Kitchen Aid. Smile

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Okay back to the yeast. Once it’s “proofed” add it to the mixture. It should have a good head on it almost like a draft beer. Mug If it doesn’t, add a little fresh warm water. You may have not warmed it enough. If that doesn’t work, you may have killed it with water too hot, or it’s old. Try again and if it still doesn’t work, get new yeast. We will assume it worked and move on for now. Winking smile

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After adding the yeast, add another cup of whole wheat flour and mix again for a few minutes. Now it’s time to let the “sponge” rise. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or some plastic wrap and wait a couple hours. It should rise at least a couple inches, but if you get busy and it rises more that’s all the better. It won’t even hurt at this point if it rises enough to actually fall back. Ever heard of sourdough? This is a slightly like that only less fermented.

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Now you attach your dough hook if using a mixer, and add the salt, oil, and honey. Mix and add the remaining 2 cups of whole wheat flour one a at time, mixing well after each. It should start to form a soft dough ball as you continue adding flour a cup at a time. I usually start adding unbleached flour at this point and the last cup or so gets added a spoon at a time until the dough ball is well formed and the dough is cleaning the bottom of the bowl. Let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes now before you start the kneading time. This helps the dough absorb all the flour and relax the gluten. Now knead the dough for 6-8 minutes on speed 2 (on my mixer).

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Very lightly flour the counter surface and dump out the dough on it. Roll it to coat it and cover with damp towel or plastic again for another 5-10 minute rest.

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Prepare your rising bowl with a light coating of oil. I like to use a crockery bowl rather than metal, since it will hold in just the right amount of heat without being too warm. The goal is a good room temperature rise away from drafts. Knead the dough once more briefly until it feels satiny and smooth, and place it in the bowl, turning to coat leaving the smooth side up in the bowl.

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Cover again to rise until the point where it can’t rise further. You can tell when this has happened when you lightly tough the top and you finger leaves a slight depression. It it springs back immediately, let it go a it longer.

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When it is ready, carefully deflate it and gently knead to reorganize the gluten and put it back for a second bowl rise. This will usually take less time than the first since the yeast will have multiplied. Test it the same way and notice that you can smell a more noticeable yeasty, fermented smell? That’s what you want. It’s time for the final shaped rise. You can use bread pans or sometimes I like to shape baguettes or round hearth loaves and bake those on a flat jelly roll pan.

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Okay, gently roll the dough out onto a counter, no flour this time. Divide in half with a sharp knife and deflate the gases. Knead very briefly and give the balls another 5-10 minute rest while you grease the pan(s). I like to use softened butter, but lard or shortening will do also. After the dough has relaxed the gluten will be easier to coax out into a flat circle for shaping into whatever loaf shape you are making. No matter what shape you make, just remember to have the smooth even surface on the top and the seam on the bottom. Also take care not to be too rough with the dough at this point. The gluten is very well developed and if you tear it you won’t get as nice a rise.

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Once the dough is shaped, cover again and keep a closer eye on it. You want to catch the rise and get it in the oven before it hits the maximum volume. The last push in the hot oven gives the crust that nice rounded texture which make the loaf pretty and easier to slice. It should be almost doubled and slightly spring back when you touch it as in the bowl rises. When it’s almost there, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get a good serrated knife to slash the top. This allows the interior to rise a bit more in the heat without cracking the crust.

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See it rising more?

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Bake 50 minutes, or until you can hear a hollow sound when you remove from the bread and thump the bottom. I like to remove them from the pan to a cooling rack and brush with melted butter to cool. It’s best to let it cool at least 30 minutes to an hour before slicing. The crust will soften and get chewy which makes it so much easier to slice.

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Now the best part is to enjoy! My favorite way is while it’s still slightly warm and fresh to eat it with butter and maybe a little honey. Or maybe peanut butter. Or maybe one of each. Open-mouthed smile

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Happy First Birthday!


I can remember very well this time last year waiting very anxiously for this little one. I tend to go 1-2 weeks past my “due date” and it was pretty crucial that not happen this time. The baby was due on July 1 and we had a festival to leave for on the 14th, so he really needed to be “on time”.  My midwife came over for a check up on the my due date and nothing looked any closer to happening than it had over  the weekend when we thought labor was starting for about 36 hours of intermittent contractions. I was knew if labor didn’t happen very soon I would just have to cancel the show since I would need a little re-cooperation time, and two weeks was already cutting that pretty close.  I was trying so hard to hold it together, but I was not doing very well. After she left I decided to just vent my frustrations in something constructive,  so of course I went out and washed my truck. Winking smile While I was working I just gave myself over to the idea that as usual I am not in control of this and God knew best what the outcome should be. I cried out to Him that I was ready to except His timing, even if I wouldn’t necessarily be happy about it.

By the time I was done I was beginning to feel contractions again, and they were getting regular. By 11:00 I was sure of it and called Jerry and my midwife. We labored through the night and it was so quiet and calm. It was exactly the way I needed this labor to be. We walked outside in the cool night and paced the living-room and hall.

About 5:00 am I knew birth was imminent. My water broke and my midwife convinced me to get to the bedroom where she had everything set up for the birth. I told her there was no way I was getting on that bed though. The whole labor I needed to be upright. I walked, or squatted the whole night. I was very tired from being awake all night and ready to be done. I delivered him standing up and resting my hands on the bed while I think all three of them (Jerry, Heather {midwife}, and Talitha {Midwife assistant}) caught him and handed him to me. We were all so shocked when he was such a little peanut. I measured bigger than I usually do, but it was all water it seems, since he was only 6 pounds 9 ounces and 19” long. He was the second to the smallest of our 10.

We were thrilled to have our third little boy and he has truly been such  joy and a blessing to us all. Happy Birthday Elijah! We are glad you are here. Open-mouthed smile

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What a face huh?

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Birthdays, stash and dyeing

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Here’s my only purchase from the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair last weekend. I rarely buy yarn at shows but I finally bought my first Socks That Rock from Toni of The Fold who was in the booth right across the aisle from mine.

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I decided I would try one skein of Lightweight and one of Medium weight. The yellow-green one is the Lightweight in the color Lenka, and the blue-green one is the Medium weight in the color Pretty in Blue. I’ll probably make them both into socks. I’m thinking toe up socks from one of Wendy Johnson’s books, since I have them both and am in a toe up sort of mood.

I have done a bit of actual knitting, but haven’t gotten new pictures yet. I finished the left front of my Sprossling and started the right front.

In other knitting news, I am in denial about my Mystic Midsummer Wreath right now and haven’t touched it since the end of clue 1. There is this funky stitch near the end of Clue 1 that I started to suspect was wonky and since it will require either ripping back three loooong rows and re-knitting or trying to work down each of 22 repeats three rows, both of which make me want to hyperventilate, I am ignoring it altogether. It’s not that I can’t do it, but I hate fiddly, and this will be very fiddly. Annoyed

It’s time to get some more dyeing done for the late summer and fall shows. I spent today mixing up dye stocks and combining colors to do some hand paints on Monday.

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The weather looks great on Monday and since Saturday is Elijah’s first birthday we’ll probably take tomorrow off.

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These are some of my measuring cups.

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It sure looks prettier when it’s all on the yarn than it does here, huh? Laughing out loud

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Oh, I started a new book over the weekend too. It was the Free Friday download from Barnes & Noble on 5/13/2011. It’s called Four Corners of the Sky and is a good example of how these freebies can introduce you to authors who you might have otherwise missed out on. It’s not my usual genre, but I am enjoying it. Check it out!

Okay that’s it for now kids! Look for first birthday pictures and probably some more dye stuff. I promise the rest of the dye pictures will be prettier and will actually have some yarn involved. Winking smile


This n’ That Thursday

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Clue 1 was sent out yesterday for the Mystic Midsummer Wreath shawl. So, yeah, it’s crescent shaped and cast on from the bottom edge using two strands and a cabled cast on. I am making the medium size which requires me to cast on 429 stitches. Yep. 429. Gah! I swore and griped, and hated every minute, but now that we are past that, it’s all good. Smile One good side to a bottom up shawl is that of course at some part you start decreasing and it goes faster at the end. Love that part.

Oh, I told you how I got the new Simple Touch Nook, right? I needed a sleeve for protecting it in my bag. I really wanted to get another Oberon for it like my other Nook, but the only sleeve that will fit is the large sleeve, which I thought was too big for such a petite little thing. The small sleeve is evidently just a smidge to narrow. Bummer. They are saying they won’t be making a sleeve custom sized for the new Nook. Sigh. So anyway, I did find one that is in no way as lovely, but it will do for the time being.

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I also needed a new light for my little beauty since my much loved Mighty Bright light didn’t fit well for the little fella. I did a lot of looking around and decided to give the Kandle II from Amazon a try. Two thumbs up for this light. It’s light weight and stays clipped well. It does the job pretty well. It’s not perfect, since the illumination fades some towards the bottom of the screen, but it’s not too bad. The Mighty Bright was more adjustable in this respect, but it worked much better on my original Nook 3G with the heavy Oberon cover, and not on the new one with no cover. I find that I prefer using it without a cover.

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As for the battery usage; I am still using the first charge on Day 12. I have used it several hours a day and have still had the Wi-Fi on 24/7. As you can see I am at 26%. I have used it for reading and browsing for at least 24 hours I bet, which is about right on for Barnes and Noble’s claims. The 2 months on a single charge assumes 1/2 hour a day usage with Wi-Fi off, so 30 hours. With the same usage and 3G always on with my Nook 3G, I charged it about every 4 days. I usually charged it when it reached 25-30% remaining, so really could have easily gotten 5-6 days out of a charge.  I didn’t really mind that even, since it rarely inconvenienced me. Heck, I have to charge my phone every day practically.

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Check out the clarity of that screen though. Sweet!

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Remember when I showed you the room changing chaos the other day? Well here are the results. These are the best shots I could get in the bad light in this house. Annoyed 

This one is the “neater” of the two.

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This is unfortunately about as good as it gets in here. Eye rolling smile

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Two down; one more to go

I finished reading Catching Fire on Sunday afternoon and immediately started on Mockingjay.  Here are my thoughts so far. I go back and forth on how I feel about the main characters, especially Katniss. Just when I start to like her she acts in such a way as to make me regret my affections and think she’s a nit wit again. LOL! However, that plot has thickened finally and at the end of the second book I was eager to see what was going to happen next. So there’s one thing it has going for it.

The main conflict of this book in comparison with the games in the first book, is that if it’s possible to be more tragic, it is. Mainly this is because they all are supposed to have gained their “freedom” and are friends. Note “freedom” is really unknown in the realm, but they had it as good as it gets. Even the citizens of The Capitol aren’t really free, since they are in slavery to their own decadence and debauchery. For the Victors to have to go back in the arena and kill each other is beyond despicable. One thing that confused me is this concept and practice of alliances. I mean, in the end everyone has to die except one, so are these alliances remotely realistic? I can’t see getting chummy and trusting in these people who you have to kill or be killed by them. Is it just me?

Anyway, I am assuming that the Capitol stands for a totalitarian regime which, in order to maintain control, is using fear to keep it’s citizens under control. At the close of Catching Fire, all hell apparently breaks loose when Katniss’s rebellious act in the arena prompts an all out assault on the helpless citizens of district Twelve. This leads into the opening of book three, which I have only read a few chapters of, by my first and obvious thoughts are that District 13, where the seat of the Rebellion lies,  is just another form of totalitarianism. The regime plans out every minute of every day for it’s inhabitants. I haven’t read enough yet to know why they go along with it, but I am assuming they don’t feel they have any other options and their survival depends on what the “state” gives them. Hmm…sound familiar? There is certainly no freedom here either. I guess it’s still to be revealed if anyone has any ideas for whether there even is such a thing as freedom and if it’s worth the price. Stay tuned.

Okay on the knitting front, I am slowly plodding along on my Sprossling and when I have enough worthy of a picture you’ll be the first to see it here. I am also almost finished with a wool soaker for Elijah. Also, I will be starting my Mystic Midsummer Wreath on the 15th when the first clue is released.

I do have a few pictures for you today. As promised, I got the buttons on my el Air and had Joanie snap a few quick shots outside, and  do mean quick. It’s in the 90’s here and a wool sweater is not something you want to have on outside right now. Winking smile

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We have some moving going on in the house this week. Some of the girls are changing room-mates. I took a few pictures of the before/disaster for posterity. Will post hopefully greatly improved living quarters updates as they develop.


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This one I took on a whim today. It’s our wedding picture on my nightstand. We will be celebrating our 23 anniversary this September. I still see us that way in my mind, but at the same time I know we have grown up in so many ways that I barely remember those two in the picture. In love

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on to the woodshop…

Okay this is the final installment of a sneak peek at our workshops. Let’s just get right into it shall we?

We’ll start with the table saw.

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This is the bigger lathe where all the bowls, darning eggs, and nostepinnes are turned.

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These are the hand tools used with it, and no I don’t know what they all do, or even what they are called so don’t ask. Nyah-Nyah

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Here is the smaller lathe used for the small, fine turning, such as the Shawl Pins.

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Sanding and planing station

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Chop saw and jointer

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Stash, stash, and more stash. See knitter’s aren’t the only ones.

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And just for fun, this is the walnut co-sleeper that Jerry built for the baby.

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That’s it for now! We are in Wooster, OH tonight for the Great Lakes Fiber Festival so I’ll probably have some pictures from that later. We are a bit worried about the water we saw at the Fairgrounds when we were driving past this afternoon on the way to the hotel. Confused smile Hope it’s not a problem for the show this weekend. We haven’t heard anything to the contrary. Lightning No more rain okay? We had enough of that last night in Nashville. Our power was even out all night. Thankfully it came back on this morning after I left. Okay, bye for now.

Inside View

Or really more outside than in. I was playing around with the camera today after most of my packing was done for the Kentucky Sheep & Fiber Festival, and a blog post or maybe more started formulating in my mind. Why not share a little about our workshops and how gorgeous Tennessee is, especially at this time of year.

Let’s start with some pictures of property. It’s about an acre just 6 miles north of downtown Nashville. It’s an older subdivision built on farmland in the late fifties. Most of the homes are still resided in by the original owners I believe. We bought it in 1998 and we were only the third owners.

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Here’s a view down the drive, with a bonus shot of my pretty truck. Open-mouthed smile I washed it yesterday.

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The children have been studying birds so we washed and setup a bird bath for observation. It’s already had a few visitors.

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Next is a view of the backyard from the side yard looking towards the back of the property. That’s Mountain Laurel shrub on the right. I wish I had thought to get a shot of it last month when it was flowering. Maybe next year.

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These are our peach trees. It’s mostly squirrel food, Sarcastic smile but they sure look pretty while they last. We have gotten a few of them, but you have to be on your toes to catch them ripe but not nibbled.

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Moving on to the backyard, here’s a cool playhouse that Jerry built about 7 years ago which was designed by an architect friend of ours, Matt Smith, during a brief business venture with them. It was dubbed Oberon’s Tower for the King of the Fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Here’s our storage shed where we keep un-dyed yarn, extra shipping boxes, work tables, and temporarily our oldest daughter’s worldly possessions while she is living with us for a spell. Smile

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Here’s the view from near the storage shed looking back towards the house. That little white framed door with the windows, in the left side of the picture, goes under the house to our finish/glue area and dye studio space. More on that later.

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Here’s the view from outside the dye and finish studio looking back towards the Tower through the peach trees.

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I’ll leave you with my two youngest girls having a water battle. Open-mouthed smile Stay tuned for more of the workshops in the next post.

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