A Revolution of Sorts….

Whiskey barrel collection

My husband, Chaz, says that he believes “gardens should be an evolution.”  Being Scottish born, “garden” to him is the back yard, front yard, and side yards with any landscaping.  Your Basic Garden that surrounds you.  What Americans call a “garden” is a vegetable garden in Scotland.  So from the Scottish definition of a “garden”, he is referring to our surrounding landscaping.  In the example of us though, it is all combined.  I have a tendency to plant herbs next to flowers, vegetables with bulbs, and fruit trees and bushes with annuals and perinnels.  No where is there a gardening handbook or a gardening police that says you can’t plant a lovely lettuce next to a lily!!

Before shot of new area when we first saw the property in Jan 2013

We have about 20 Acres on the Michigan Alba Ranch and it is all deep woods except for a small area around the house and barns and the pond area.  Because you can’t have a tree growing up in the middle of the pond or it isn’t a pond. Once we bought this property, the first thing that started as soon as Chaz went off shore was for some of the trees to start falling….on the buildings!!!  The first one fell on the lean to roof where Chaz vintage 1970 VW bus was parked.  Over this last year, we have taken down about 180+ trees.  This is barely a dent in what needs accomplishing.  We could have it logged but than it would be about 60% gone with no fire wood left for us.  We will probably continue working on it ourselves instead.  Just this last 10 days we have had 2 maple trees fall.  Both were broke off about 10-15 feet in the air, no other trees down around them, and in a middle of a grove area.  We do wonder if those were lightning strikes with the recent storms???

Brush piles

The trees that we have cleared maybe opened up about 1 acre of land.  It was a very uneven topography, steep hills, drop offs, low bits, flooded areas and stumps everywhere.  Working with a chain saw, wheel barrow and by hand only gets you so far.  I decided to get a quote to bring in the big guys…..just for research as I didn’t think that we could afford it.  Well to say that excavation costs and operations in Michigan are different than in Colorado is an understatement.  We ended up moving the rest of the firewood out of the low old orchard area burning the huge piles of brush.

Brush Burning

It took over 3 days to burn all the brush.  After being in Colorado for 7 years, I still haven’t gotten over fear of wild fire and even lit my fire pit for a camp fire yet.  So burning the brush was major….efficient…but scarey for me.  Chaz did an excellent burning the brush and keeping everything under control, complete with having a water hose on and down at the site for fire suppression safety.  All those years working offshore and those fire and safety courses paid off!!

We had the Beckman Brothers come and with a bulldozer, loader, trucks, and excavator they made quick work of the job.  It was like big Tonka trucks playing in the sandbox.  I was fascinated and set up a chair to sit outside and watch them.  I didn’t go so far as to pop any corn, but almost.  Amazing.  I was used to watching excavators dig for WEEKS and may very little progress compared to this few days and my 1 acre doesn’t look anything like it did before.

Excavator at work

Once the excavator left, we got down to work.  We raked most of the acre by hand and seeded it.  Certain sections will be pasture in and around the orchard trees for the goats.  That was seeded with alfalfa, wheat grass and sun flower seed.  Chaz keeps saying all he can envision is this field of grass and alfalfa over 2 feet high and can’t see any of the goats….only occasionally see the grass wiggle because they are so short and the kids are even more tiny.  The other areas were seeded with regular grass seed.  Chaz had to put a fence around the entire area as the deer were trying to move in the night the excavators left!!

We have planted about 9 varieties of apple, 2 crab apples, 4 mulberries (white and red), 5 cherries (sweet and tart), 4 peaches (white and yellow), 8 plums (6 European varieties that most folks here have never heard of but are familiar to Chaz), 3 apricots, and 2 pears.  A partridge in there probably as well.  Also I have planted 9 sea berries, 10 fruiting Blue Honeysuckles, 6 Service Berries, numerous other blueberries, 10 red and white currants, a contorted mulberry, and am about to plant the last 2 trees which are a weeping mulberry.

I hope to be making loads of jams, jellys, preserves, chutneys, pies and such later on. We did have the excavator raise, fill in and level an area off the house that was eroding and steep enough that with the constant walking that I do on it, my back and knees were having some severe issues.  In that area, the bull dozer took one nice chunk dug right out of the side and Chaz is out there building the platform to set up our Snorkel Hot Tub.  We have been waiting to get this hot tub for over 5 years.  It is a red cedar tub that has a submerged underwater wood stove to heat the water.  No electrical maintenance or running.  Since we don’t have a bath tub and our house is too small to add a tub, it really is a necessity that the Doctor has told me repeatedly to soak in Magnesium flakes.  Now I will be able to and will change the water frequently enough that we don’t have to use chlorine at all since I am allergic to it.  I can’t wait.  We deserve this bit of fun.

Chaz just said to me last night, “I believe a garden should be an evolution.”  I responded that this was as about 5 weeks ago I hadn’t even thought of doing what we were doing and he responded, “No honey, this isn’t an evolution….THIS is a REVOLUTION!!”

Fibery Goodness Module Five Yarn

I have finished Module Five yarn, set the twist, photographed it and wove a circle weaving with it.  This module was supposed to focus on mastery.  Specifically mastering a spinning technique spun previously, showing several variations in small yardage skeins.  I did not find the module enjoyable because I personally hate doing small yardages, samples and other assorted test your technique stuff that many people do.  I personally find it annoying and a waste of time as I tend to want to just get on with a project and spin or weave.

Mod 5 yarn close up

Since I have been focusing a lot on Spiral techniques in this course, I decided to spin 4 variations of a spiral yarn.  In order to really show off the technique, I still followed my previous outline which was using the same commercial prepared combed top preparation of 15.5 Micron Merino wool in white.

All the photos have the basic spiral, extreme spiral, beaded spiral and super coil core spun style spiral in that order from left to right.

Module 5 yarn


I spun a basic spiral, a extreme spiral holding one ply with tighter tension to create more spiraling, a beaded spiral with a silk thread and freshwater pearls, and a super coil almost core spun version of a spiral.

Module 5 yarn






I accidentally did the super coil core spun sort in a different module but this time wanted to do it on purpose and see if I could over come the original design problem of so much twist that the yarn was coarse feeling and darker in color.  When I spun this super coil core spun sort of version this time, I did keep the softness and loftiness of the merino fiber as well as the white color and I just loved it.

I am finding that with each module I have a large amount of yarn spun up that I don’t use in the final project weaving.  I think that I will be weaving some circular and square wall hangings as I have had requests for more baby room wall art, as well as some scarves and maybe shawls.  You will find those on my shop on Etsy.com so keep an eye out for Alba Ranch’s shop and some new projects.

Columbines in the Garden

I told you that I would post some photos of the Columbines once they popped so I could see the colors.  I bought a large selection of many types at the end of the season last year on discount.  Since they were past their prime, I didn’t really have any idea what the color of many of them would be.

Double Columbine

Didn’t label them so didn’t remember WHERE they would be.  It has been like a treasure hunt in the garden watching them start to grow as I recognize the leaf and when the flowers come, such a surprise.

Double Columbine

I did manage to get a few yesterday that were not on sale unfortunately, but are definitely different colors and varieties than I have right now.

Cream Columbine

I do so love a good columbine and oddly enough even having heard that name of the flower, I had never encountered them prior to living in the mountains of Colorado on our ranch in the front range.

Blue Columbine

I have no idea why I hadn’t seen a columbine before, why no one that I know seems to grow them, or why there aren’t even MORE colors and varieties as they are so easy and fun to grow.

Double Blossom and Double Color

I have counted 5 different colors and types so far.  Sadly, my maroon purple with a white center double one from Colorado doesn’t seem to have survived the winter.

I know this was supposed to be all about Columbines, but I couldn’t help adding in one last photo of the stunning poppies that popped in the yard just a day ago.  They are such a shock of color that I can see them from all the way across the yard.  I remember last year, shortly after we moved from CO to MI, that I happened to look out our bedroom window one morning and saw this shock of color in the yard.


I had no idea what it was and hurried outside to take a closer look.  Imagine my surprise to find that we had a bunch of these growing in the bottom of one raised bed.  I have beds all over the yard, but this is the only bed they are in.  I love the centers and the vivid color.

I think that Charlie should paint some poppies, what do you think?

Fibery Goodness Module Four Yarn

Module Four Yarn.  Another spiral yarn with some added construction.

Mod 4 yarn beaded spiral

I chose freshwater pearls strung on a silk thread plied with the hand spun 15.5 micron merino single that I have used in similar construction spiral yarns.

I have never spun a yarn with beads before so it was interesting even learning how to string the beads, let alone how to spin with them as well.

Mod 4 yarn beaded Spiral



This yarn is so very pretty, elegant and super soft.  I am really pleased with it and can’t wait to make more beaded spiral yarns.

I was up late about 1:30 am spinning this yarn.  I could hear the goats starting to call me in the baby monitor as I hadn’t been out to throw them any hay that evening as I was way too immersed in spinning with these pearls.  I decided to run out quick and throw the hay, check on Bernie an expectant goat mom who was pregnatn for her first time, and come back in to string the last of the beads on and finish the spinning.  Out I went, threw the hay, checked on everyone, locked up the kids that I am starting to wean, checked on Bernie and there were no babies.  Came back inside and started to string the beads on.  Was only in for a few minutes and Bernie started to scream.  Now mind you, this goat screams all the time.

Bernie and 10 hour old twins

I don’t pay attention most times as she always screams.  But this was definitely different.  Her tail tendons and ligaments had loosened off completely and she had been super quiet which for her was an out of body experience, so the screaming I took as she was in labor.  I only had about 30 beads to string so I calmly threaded them on and put the beads up high and walked out to the barn just in time for the arrival of twin does.  One had the sack off her head and was already crying and trying to stand.  The other was stuck with the sack on her head, and Bernie standing at the other end of the pen looking at me in terror.  I am evil.  She appears to be terrified of me for some reason although I told her yesterday we WILL be friends and she gave me that wide eyed you have got to be joking look again!!  I grabbed a towel and went in the pen to get the sack off the babies head as I could hear her sucking it in and about suffocating.  Once it was off and she was breathing and crying normal like, I stepped back and Bernie ran past me to attend to her new babies. I helped her dry them off a bit more, checked and saw that I had two girls and left them alone since it was a nice warm evening and both kids were trying to stand already.  I have included a photo of Bernie with the twins at 10 hours old.

I would have finished the yarn before bed but by that time it was 2 am.  I opted to finish the spinning and setting the yarn the next morning….or should I say later that same morning.

Yes.  From merino, fresh water pearls and silk out to the barn to hay, dirt, amniotic fluid and blood.  This is my life.


Garden Photos on Alba Ranch

I have been snapping a few photos here and there of the garden over the last week as it is so in bloom.  Tulips, Lilacs, Bleeding Hearts (Grace’s plant), Choke Cherry Trees and others too numerous to mention.  All my Columbines are starting to pop and it is super exciting as I bought about 20+ of them on clearance last fall past their prime and stuck them in the ground here and there everywhere.  I am excited because now I get to see what colors they are.  Every time one opens it is a surprise as I didn’t really know what they were going to be.  Soon more of them will be open as the flower heads are just starting to open and I will get some photos for you.

Grace’s Plant aka Bleeding Heart

In the mean time, I have included a few of my favorites.  Grace’s Plant aka Bleeding Hearts are one of my all time favorites.  When I was first married to her son, Charlie, and living in Scotland newly transplanted from Michigan…..I was sometimes lonely.  I started talking gardening and plants with Grace and we both had a passion for it.  One day I remember she handed me this root thing and said “plant it and it will grow”.  I looked at it and she said “No, really.  Plant it.”  Apparently my face showed my thoughts as if I was screaming.  I did plant it, and it did grow and it was stunning.  I love the little hearts with their little bleed bit.  I had the pink with the little white bleed from Grace.  I started calling it Grace’s plant and have ever since.  When I see them I always smile and think of her.  It is hard to believe that she has been gone almost four years now.

White Bleeding Heart

For variation, I tried to grow the all white version in Scotland and it died on me.  But the pink and white one that Grace gave me thrived.  When we moved back to the USA and out to Colorado, one of the first plants that I bought at the garden center was another bleeding heart.  Even at 7500 feet above sea level, on the side of a mountain, in a high altitude desert, that pink and white bleeding heart thrived in my garden.  I would sit on my chaise lounge and look off the mountain ridge down in the valley in direct line of sight of that bleeding heart so I could see them both and talk to Grace.  I remember saying to her “See your hearts and the mountains. Aren’t they lovely?”  I again tried to grow the white one, and it died.

Once we moved back to Michigan, I dug up my pink and white bleeding heart from Colorado and drove it all the way to New Era, MI in a feed sack and pot.  I bought another pink and white form the garden center here as well as another white one.  Third time is the charm right?  The white one faded away, the leaves browned and fell off and the flowers died and it just shriveled up and disappeared.  The pink one that I brought from Colorado and the new one that I bought from the garden center were still going strong but the white one had gone and died on me again!  Imagine my surprise this spring when that white one popped up again.  Success…finally.

My Choke Cherry trees also were dug up from Colorado and drove here in a feed sack. They absolutely adore Michigan weather and climate and I am going to be making a lot of choke cherry jelly this fall.

Newly resided and roofed wood shed with winter wood started

I know that it is June and everyone is thinking of summer and warm weather, but WINTER is coming!!  For those that Homestead and live closer to the grid, we prepare all year long for winter.  Charlie has roofed and sided the woodshed in metal siding to match the garage, studios, hay barn, lean too and wood shop.  Eventually all our out buildings will be done like this and the house will have its copper roof with white stucco.  We thought the out buildings could handle being white metal siding rather than posh stucco.  What I love about this photo, is not only the great job that Charlie did re doing it, but also that our wood supply for the winter is about 25% there.  We are on our way and once we get the wood split and stacked down in the orchard I expect that we will have this years and a good share of next years wood already laid up.  Yes, that is how I like to go into a winter!