Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hand Dyeing Fiber for Doll Hair

I got another special order for four colors of doll hair that I hand dye using Cotswold sheep curls or mohair curls from Angora goats. Here's a mini version of one of my processes including a few photos on  how I hand dyed one of the colors of blond for this special order of hand dyed Cotswold sheep curls.

First I soak my already washed and processed white sheep curls in a white vinegar and water solution in a tub in the sink until they are saturated.  This helps the dye to be colorfast.

Then I  heat up my dye pot with water, a little more white vinegar and whatever color of  fiber dye I'm going to use.  When it is nice and hot I add the sheep curls making sure they are covered with the dye solution.  I like to use a vegetable steamer to put the curls in when I'm dyeing small amounts because it makes it easy to lift them out and drain them before cooling them off.

After I take them out of the dye pot I cool them off for a bit before putting them through the final rinse to rinse off any excess dye.
Draining and Cooling off to Room Temperature

Continued Cooling Off Process

Final Rinse to Remove any Excess Dye

Once I have completed the final rinse I put them in my washing machine and spin the excess water out using only the spin cycle.  It is important not to agitate the fiber during the hand dyeing process or you may end up wit a blob of felted curls!

If it is nice weather outside, I dry the fiber on a net drying table I have set up outside.  If it is rainy or stormy weather outside then I use a Hamilton Beach electric sweater dryer that came from Bed bath and Beyond a couple of years ago.  It has four trays....perfect for drying these four colors!

 I usually start out with my lightest color to hand dye and continue to the darkest.  Here is a photo of the four colors I completed for this particular special order.  I also hand dye a wide variety of other colors for spinning and felting projects and create special sampler packages so people can experiment with lots of different fibers in smaller quantities.  I'll be getting out my dye pots to do a large variety of colors in a month or so after I purchase more fleeces from spring shearing.  Meanwhile, I carry white year around for making Santa Beards and other spinning and felting projects.

Hand Dyed Fiber for Doll Hair
These fibers can be purchased in my La Tea Da Designs Etsy Shop

Monday, March 26, 2012

Patio Garden Potato Planter

I love experimenting with new gardening ideas.  The other day when I was at Lowe's I saw these Potato Planter Bags made by Ferry-Morse and picked up a couple of them.  I usually plant potatoes in raised straw bale beds but this looks so easy and they are portable!  The planters are reusable and store flat at the end of the season...of course if you have a green house they can be used year around!

Yams and Sweet Potatoes
 The directions say to fold the bag down to about 12" high and fill 2/3 full with soil.  I used some fantastic composted alpaca manure mixed with other organic soil.  Then plant 3-4 potatoes about half way down in the soil.  Water well.  Once the plants are growing, unfold the bag and place additional soil around the plants.  Continue this process as the plant grows until the bag is completely unfolded.  Keep the soil moist but not soaking or you will rot the potatoes!  Harvest the potatoes a few at a time after blooms have faded using the convenient opening on the side of the bag with the Velcro flap.  No digging!

I planted yams in one and sweet potatoes in the other don't actually have to plant whole potatoes.  I have had great success over and over from buying organic potatoes from our local health food store and cutting them in chunks making sure there is an eye in each piece and then planting the piece with the eye in it in the soil.  It sprouts from the eye of the potato.  My potatoes have always been healthy and taste fantastic.

By the way, sweet potatoes are:  High in vitamin A and fiber, and low in glycemic index, sweet potatoes won't raise blood sugar at the same level as a regular potato.

Chicken Soup on a Chilly Day!

One of my other creative ventures in life is making Homemade Soup!  I create One-of-a-Kind Soups...never make the same soup twice!  Some might be similar but I always create something just a little different.  I don't measure anything either...well except a little of this and a little of that...a pinch of this and a dash of that...whatever inspires me at the moment.

Today's Soup Creation


First I boiled the bones from a whole baked chicken to create my chicken broth base.  I had used part of the chicken for another meal and saved the breasts to dice up for this soup.  I added some organic Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Pasta, some organic peas and chopped organic kale...last but not least my favorite spices - pink salt from the Andes and Organic No-Salt Seasoning that I purchase at Costco.  It is a blend of 21 organic spices and ingredients from around the world.  It gives soups and other creations a little Pizazz! Bon Appetite!

Friday, March 23, 2012

How to Make Straw Bale Raised Bed Gardens

For those friends of mine that have asked me how we make our Straw Bale Raised Bed Gardens, here are some photos and how we do it:

This raised garden bed is made with 8 straw bales.  Sometimes we use 6 and sometimes we use 10 depending on the space where we are locating them. We line them up so it is easy to reach into the center of the bed from each side.  It makes it easier to pick our vegetables and also maintain weed prevention when it isn't too wide.

This photo shows the straw bales set in position on the shade cloth with the first load of alpaca manure in it.

First we lay weed cloth on the ground and then place the straw bales where we want them.  If we are using a wheel barrow to haul and dump alpaca, chicken and horse manure inside, then we keep one end open to make it easy to wheel into it.  The first load of manure in this garden was a wheel barrow full of alpaca manure.  the next load was a wheel barrow full of chicken manure. We spread it out with a rake and then dumped a few used tea bags, vegetable cuttings and egg shells.  We only use loose tea left overs or tea bags that are made of paper in our composting.  We put left over vegetable cuttings in our garden beds as well.

This shows the alpaca manure and the first load of chicken manure plus tea bags, egg shells and vegetable cuttings
We layer alfalfa hay alternately with horse manure, alpaca, and chicken manure because it gives extra protein in the compost and makes a very rich soil to plant vegetables in.  We make sure to water each layer thoroughly so there is plenty of moisture to help it compost rapidly.
If you are fortunate to have a tractor like we are, then it makes it so much easier to fill the bed with manure
This is layering more manure on top of the layer of alfalfa hay.

Once the raised beds are completely full we use a shovel to dig holes in the garden and bury vegetable cuttings and let them compost making sure that we water the bed periodically to help it compost more rapidly.  We also dig or stir the dirt as it is composting to make sure it gets mixed together and fully composts.  It usually takes about 14 days to compost these beds.

The bed is completely filled with the various layers of manure and alfalfa hay, raked & well watered.
When we were first using llama and alpaca manure we didn't bother to compost it because we could plant directly into it without it burning the plants like un-composted chicken, cow and horse manure does...However we used to feed our llamas, alpacas and horses Orchard Grass Hay - so there was no problem.  Last year we switched to feeding our horses and alpacas Bermuda Grass Hay and it has to be composted now or we end up with our own hay field in our raised beds! we have our own nice hay crop to feed them with and a lot of work to do to re build those gardens once we get the hay out of them!

We cut heavy duty plastic and cover the bed to hold in the moisture and allow it to heat up so it will compost quickly.  We remove the plastic every few days and stir up the soil so it can blend and compost thoroughly.  We have such high winds sometimes here in the High Desert that we need to make sure we keep the plastic secured so some of our wood from our wood pile comes in handy to hold it in place.
 The photo below shows a 6 Straw Bale Raised Garden Bed that we made in the early fall of 2011 and composted.  We grew some late squash in it that was quite tasty.  We recently planted some garlic in it which is already beginning to come up.  We also planted sugar peas which are peeking through just barely and a couple of different kinds of squash.  I'll be adding some Nasturtiums to give it a little more color plus Nasturtiums are eatable flowers that are great in salads!

After this planting we will amend the soil so it will stay rich and healthy and provide super healthy veggies!

Sometimes we add earth worms but most of the time they just appear on their own!  We will have quite a few more raised beds this year.  We plan to do some canning and some food dehydration as well as freezing some of our vegetables and fruit this year.  So when it is time to do that, I might blog a little about food preservation.
This is "Stormy" one of our outside "Watch Cats"  I guess he thinks he's doing his job keeping the birds out of the garden!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Great Country Breakfast!

 Farm Fresh Eggs

My friend Collette, invited me to buy her yummy organic veggie basket from the Wrightwood Food Coop last Friday so I could check out what they have to offer every couple of weeks...there were so many yummy things in the basket plus I got to choose some extras!  There were other vendors there as well so I picked up a bunch of Swiss Chard and Mustard Greens etc.  I love omelets with spinach and other fresh steamed veggies in them so I thought I'd steam the mustard greens and fix a little different country breakfast this time...WOW!  Who ever heard of mustard greens with breakfast! ...Delish!  So here's a few photos of the steps in this country breakfast beginning with going out collecting fresh eggs from our wonderful laying hens.

 These are a few of our "girls" plus one of our roosters eating their own country breakfast!

 We get quite a variety of color- even a few blue/green colored eggs.

We also get a variety of sizes! I can't even close the lid on this egg carton!

Interesting Information About Eggs!

  • To test an egg for freshness, put it in a bowl full of water. If it sinks, it's fresh; if it stands on its nose, it is about 2-3 weeks old; if it bobs to the top, throw it out.
  • Can't remember if an egg is fresh or hard-boiled? Just spin the egg. If it wobbles, it's raw. If it spins easily, it's hard-boiled.
  • Eggs contain all the essential protein, minerals and vitamins, except Vitamin C.
  • Egg yolks are one of the few foods that naturally contain Vitamin D.
  • Eggs contain choline, which is necessary for healthy cell membranes in the body. Choline stimulates brain development and function, and helps in preserving memory.
  • Eggs contain lutein which helps prevent age-related cataracts. Eggs contain more lutein than spinach and other green vegetables. 

 Check out the color of these fresh country egg yolks from our wonderful laying hens!

 Turkey bacon is the best ever and I do pat the excess grease off before serving.

 And here are those yummy mustard greens steamed and ready to serve.


 WALLAH!  Breakfast is served!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My New Blog - Marti's Muses & Marvels

 It's All Because of Della Solara - My All Time Friend and Confidant!

And so Della...I finally took heed to your nudge and have started this blog.  It has taken me awhile.  I started two other blogs a couple of years ago: One for our Golden Browne Llamas Ranch which I have a few posts on from when we had llamas.  Now we have alpacas.  One for my fiber art business La Tea Da Designs Blog

I plan to continue to post on my fiber art La Tea Da Designs Blog and have also added a La Tea Da Designs page to this blog that describes a little about what I create.

I get really inspired reading other people's blogs so my intention is for others to get inspired reading this blog.  I think one of our greatest purposes in life is to heal ourselves and bring healing to others and most of all find inner peace. Writing and journaling are part of my spiritual journey and blogging is a great way for me to express part of my journey.

There is so much going on in my life these days, I almost don't quite know where to begin with this blog.

I'm in a season of "planting"...been tilling the soil and preparing it for a long time with taking all kinds of seminars and continuing education in 2011. I'm really into organic gardening too...seems to go right along with the other parts of my life.  I planted over 150 pots with seeds to grow seedlings to later transplant into our raised garden beds after the last frost...unless we are able to get our gardens covered with frost cloth contraptions...that's another project on the "Honey Do" list. Meanwhile here are a few seeds that have recently sprouted!

We also recently started a new High Desert Manifesting Your Dreams Meetup that meets in our home on the second and fourth Tuesday nights of each month.  This group is for a limited number of very committed people that are interested in spiritual growth and want to discover the desires of their hearts so they can manifest their dreams and make a significant difference in this world during these challenging times.  We are being prepared for "The Shift" that is happening in our universe.  There is definitely a great awakening happening spiritually and things seem to be speeding up.

We plan to do some really awesome workshops and seminars later on this year as well....we (my husband John and I) have decided to expand our Holistic Healing and Energy Healing business at Browne Hypnosis Center and Akashic Record Readings.

Plus I'm paring down some things in my Etsy shop to make way for new creations in my La Tea Da Designs Fiber Art Business. I think is is good to keep things moving so they don't get stagnant in all aspects of my life.  Over the years I've found that my journey in life parallels spiritually, physically and emotionally and there are lots of "messages" and "learnings" along the way.  If I don't get the "message" or the "learning" one way there's always another and it is usually more in my face as time goes on!

Meanwhile, there is lots to do  in maintaining our Healing Ranch - with all the animals - alpacas, horses, chickens, kitties and golden retriever, gardening and seemingly never ending remodeling etc.

Coming Attractions:

I spent pretty much the whole day today building another straw bale raised bed garden for these wonderful seedlings to be transplanted in.  I love being able to plant and pick my own organic vegetables without having to stoop and bend over.  Besides, I can get so much more production out of a smaller space with the deep layer of enriched soil that I use to fill the straw bale garden beds.  I'll post photos and a How to Build  a Straw Bale Raised Garden Bed later this week.

And now, I plan to do some more work on a Faroe shawl I've been knitting for several weeks...I'll post photos of it as well when it is complete.  I posted this photo on my Facebook page when I first started it.  It is almost finished.  It takes 5 rows to make one inch and it takes me a little over 1/2 hour to knit each row because I'm using fingering weight yarn and very small circular needles.  I have a lot of hours tied up in making this shawl and it has been a joy and very relaxing to work on.  I knit most of it riding in the car when we are traveling or running errands...remember the movie "Driving Miss Daisy"?...well John and I joke about him "Driving Ms. Marti"! :)  I work on lots of creative projects - knit or crocheted in the car and sometimes a few needle felted creations! (I use a thick foam cushion on my lap so I don't stick myself with one of those barbed needles!)