Sunday, April 26, 2009

Broken Bones Kind of Hurt Me

I broke my dang arm. Darn it! Right arm too and I'm right handed.

I fell down the stairs at work and in order to stop a major face plant into the sidewalk I used my hands.
Unfortunately most of the force of the fall went up my arm and blew out the elbow.


So I went home to elevate it and do ice. I didn't think it was broken. I thought it was just pulled and strained. Either way I could tell from the pain that this was one of those 6+ week injuries--insert appropriate exclamatory swear word here--#$%^!!!

The next day I kept my schedule to go out of town with the family (see the bee journal ( for details) and when I returned I decided that it was best that I know for sure whether it was broken or not. That way if I used the arm I wouldn't make it worse.

A couple x-rays later and it was confirmed. Even the possibility of a need for surgery to fix it. For now it's a sling and Tylenol 3....

I have pretty big plans this spring and starting beekeeping next month is one of them.
Photo - Mom, Dad, cousin Ross and the dry high ground where the hives will go.

A bright spot in all of this is that I started on this journey to beekeeping alone. But I'm not alone any longer. Even before the arm incident my family were stepping in and taking interest in my new hobby. Dad has even attended bee meetings with me.

Best of all, yesterday he told my sister that "we" were keeping "our" hives on my cousin's property.

"We" sounds so much nicer than I.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Update on Tom Cat - He's Recovering Nicely

His nose didn't feel right. It was much too dry. I knew something wasn't right there but I thought it best to observe him to see what was happening rather than poke and prod. I knew he'd been through trauma and he'd need time to recover.

A couple days later it became evident what was going on with his nose. The skin was dry feeling becuase it was dead. This dry skin began to peel away, leaving his wet and shiny black nose underneath. I recognized the symptom - it was frost bite on his nose.

Then after having a long nap all afternoon and cleaning himself he got up to leave and I noticed this stamp sized patch of skin sitting on the cat bed. It ws the top layer of his skin, covered in fur. It was dried and I could tell he'd peeled it off himself.... but from where?

I searched his body all over looking, looking, feeling him everywhere. He tolerated this, but I could find no stamp sized bald patch anywhere on his body. (Sorry I know this is kind of gross). So I left him alone. But my mind kept turning it over and over. There HAD to be a stamp sized patch of him that was bare of fur and flesh.

Then I realized there was one spot I had not checked, underneath his legs - his hocks... the part of the leg from behind the paw to the elbow. Sure enough, that whole length of his legs on both sides was very pink and red - freshly healed over with no infection, but all the outer skin and fur was completely gone.

I was thinking what was this? What would make the outer layer of his skin come off? A friction burn? Frostbite? I may never know, but at least the wounds were healing very nicely on their own.

I am left wondering if maybe wherever he got himself shut inside that he could not move well enough to keep himself warm - maybe he had to sit the whole time so his hocks were always on the ground. That may account for the frostbite on the nose - becuase he was unable to tuck his face into his own fur like when a cat curls up to sleep. It's all guesswork. I wish I had CSI around, they'd figure this out in only one episode!

All things considered, I'm now a firm believer that Tom is a miracle cat. He's eating more each day and gaining weight. He's also sleeping more restfully and not jerking awake every few seconds like he did when he first came home.

Thanks so much for all your prayers. They were certainly answered!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Celebrate Easter! Christ is Risen & we have EGGS!

I started the hobby of decorating eggs when I was still a teenager (that means it was a LONG time ago).
The craft is called Eggeury and the decorated eggs are very similar to Faberge eggs.
The only difference is that the Faberge eggs were made of enamel, gold, crystal, etc., whereas the eggs in the craft eggeury are real.

So I will answer your question right now: YES, these ARE real eggs!

When I sold my eggs at art and craft shows we would have to answer that question about 500 times a day.
I even made up big posters that said, "Yes, these are REAL eggs!" just so I could save my voice from going hoarse.
But people would still ask it anyway.
We would smile because we knew they were asking because they were shocked and thinking out loud, "You can do that to a real egg?"

Yes you can, and much much more.
No one really knows when eggeruy started or who invented it but most countries have some type of egg decoration as a craft and many countries have a tradition of giving eggs as gifts.
The hobby started for me when my mother brought home a library book on decorating eggs ( ).
At the time I was under 10 years old--and I don't remember much of this but my sister told me I carved door openings in a chicken egg and put a paper rose inside.
Then a few years passed and when I was looking for a craft to get involved in I remembered this book and went to the library and charged out that same book and took it home.
This time I actually read the book instead of just looking at the pictures.
From there I launched into my efforts to carve egg shells.
Unfortunately, early on all I had to work with were chicken eggs and they are quite thin and fragile. I used razor blades and a heck of a lot of determination.
The family ate a lot of scrambled eggs in those days as I practised but believe it or not I was quite successful in carving chicken eggs and then decorating them.
Soon we found sources for goose eggs (turkey eggs too but their shell is very similar to chicken eggs).
I used my trusty razor blades and completed several eggs - most of them sold many years ago but this is a photo of one, complete with a working drawer.
It's painted with blue enamel model airplane paint.
This was the way the author did her eggs in her book and at that time I just copied her.
Later, I dropped doing the painting because I just loved the perfect beauty of the natural shell.
People would always ask, "Where do you get the eggs from?" Usually someone with them would elbow them in the side laughing and say, "From geese!"
We got our eggs from Plattsville where there was a very large goose farm run by a Mennonite community.
I would buy the eggs after candling--this meant that the eggs were "Dudds" which would never hatch.
Candling is the process of shining a bright light behind the egg to see if it had a chick growing inside.
That way you'd save space in your incubator because there was no point wasting time incubating an egg that would never hatch.
I paid a good price for these candled eggs.
I would then bring them home (usually 100 or 200 at a time) and then I'd spend days, drilling holes in each end and then blowing the contents out, scrubbing them clean and drying them.
I did not collect eggs in the wild. Not only is that illegal, it's also immoral. I only worked with candled
Doing eggeury in Canada proved to be a difficult hobby because there was no one else in Canada that did it too so there were no craft shops that sold the supplies that I needed.
With research, letter writing and word of mouth I learned about sources for supplies in the USA and I was able to get the metal hinges and parts that I was not able to get in Canada.
But we were pretty resourceful and I learned to find parts by turning things like candle holders into egg stands and so on.
Later I bought a dremel tool and I carved the egg shells with that. Then years after that eggers started using air compressor drills that ran much much faster.
After that the craft really took off because we were suddenly able to carve the most delicate filigree cuts.
The drill is a dentist drill (sounds like it too) and runs at hundreds of thousands of revolutions per second. With a diamond bit, I could cut an egg shell like a knife through butter.
(See the difference if you compare the Swan egg cut with a dremel with a high degree of difficulty compared to the Rabbit Egg cut with fine and fancy scrolls).
It would take me anywhere from 4 hours to a 100 hours to complete an egg. In time I got faster and yes I certainly broke many while working on them. Initially, I would cry and get very angry, but I was learning to be tenacious and I kept at it.
Soon the tears dried up and if there was a crack, it just became a challenge to fix it. Yes, I could put Humpty together again!
The Ostrich egg shell is very thick - like pottery and very strong. The surface of the shell is shiny and smooth with lots of little pores.
The black egg is an Emu egg. The emu is a flightless bird, from Australia, that is very similar to the Ostrich although much smaller. Underneath the black outside of the shell is a gorgeous turquoise colour.
I've seen some beautiful aboriginal carvings done on emu eggs which display the turquoise underneath.
I would carve doors on many of the eggs and then glue hinges on them so that the doors were fully functional.
Then I would put glue along the edges and apply pearls, gold trim or even a bread dough rose trellis. Design ideas were unlimited which is probably why I loved this craft.
The heart egg is made by cutting two goose eggs at the 2 o'clock position and then joining them together with glue.
The inside was lined with red velvet, to make a jewelry box.
Finally, the blue egg is a Robin's egg - found on the ground with no nest in sight. It has tiny hinges so that the doors open and close. Inside is a finch egg, given to me by a friend that raised birds and on top sits a ceramic chick.
Of course my favourite time of year is Easter. It's a joyous time, a time to celebrate and have fun. I hope you have a great Easter!!! What are your plans this year?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How to 'Full' Spun Yarn

After you finish spinning your roving it needs to be 'fulled'.

Okay, this one really scared me.

The directions went like this: Plunge the wool into hot soapy water and then pound it with a plunger.

This followed by, then plunge the skein into cold water to rinse it and then back into hot water again.

Then plunge it into cold water again.

Then take the skein and wring it in the washer (or wrap in a towel and squeeze the water out).

Finally, take your skein and SMACK it against a countertop!!!

Whack it on purpose I thought? The answer: YES!!!

And then hang your skein to dry.

These were instructions for the roving that I had just finished spinning for hours and hours so that I could felt it--I mean full it--on purpose.

I can't tell you how hard it was to obey these instructions. It just went against the grain and everything I'd been told.

With my wool, fresh off the sheep, I soaked the fleece and then carefully washed it, being sure to never run water over the fibre or to agitate the wool--all so I wouldn't felt it.

And now I'm being given directions to do exactly that!

If you're looking for a really good book on spinning, you might want to consider Judith MacKenzie-McCuin's new book, "The Intentional Spinner".

This is where she gives all the directions on how to work with the most popular fibres for spinning, as well as some of the more unusual and expensive fibres.

Her advice for the after spinning care for worsted spun sheep's wool and alpaca yarn is to 'full' it by following the above process.

Why? Because when the yarn is first spun the fibres are tightly packed and the yarn isn't very soft. Fulling relaxes the fibres and brings the fluffiness and softness back into the fibre. And, believe it or not, the fulling process actually makes the fibre stronger because it becomes more cohesive.

Notice from the photo the outside edges of this fulled ball of yarn how the soft fluffy fibres are standing out? That's what makes the yarn feel nicer on the skin.

I was really concerned about doing this fulling thing. I'd invested a lot of time and money on my fibre and I was worried that the skein would felt itself into a solid mushy mash once I took a plunger to it.

But I trusted the author's advice and decided that I would go ahead and follow it despite my misgivings.

And guess what? It didn't wreck my yarn.

In fact it did exactly what the author said it'd do and that is soften the yarn and make it more touchable.

And it didn't make the skein stick together in a mushy mess.


I am also happy to announce that I have now spun a 2 ply alpaca roving at 20 WPI.

I've worked hard on slowing myself down and trying to make a finer yarn and it looks like I'm getting there one bobbin at a time.

My plans for this alpaca yarn, is to make a shawl for my Mother.

At first I had plans to make the Highland Triangle Shawl as shown in the photo taken from the knitting book, Folk Shawls.

It's on Amazon at:

Now that I feel I've got a finer yarn I'm thinking I might switch plans and try to knit this shawl from the book Knitted Lace from Estonia.

This is the best lace knitting book I've seen so far. It's on Amazon at:
It probably won't knit up fast, and it will mean a lot of chart work--in other words, this shawl won't be a sleep-along while I knit.

Monday, April 6, 2009


A couple weekends ago I went back to the Ziraldo's Farm ( to help with their alpaca halter training again.

Baby Evangeline was old enough to be with the older babies so she had been taken away from her mother and put with the other babies a week or so ago.

She did cry for a few days but then she settled in with her new friends.

We ushered them into a shed where Debbie and I put their halters on. I noticed right away how calm they were, especially Pumpkin.

They were learning the routine and becoming less nervous as a result.

I was most impressed with Pumpkin's progress. Not once did she lie down and refuse to move. She was very well behaved and walked along willingly.

Last time Pumpkin was quite the drama queen, throwing herself to the ground and rolling over. She even went so far as to stick her legs up in the air.
Baby Evangeline (the small white female) was a real sweetie and she walked along very well, taking everything in stride.

As we walked by the paddock the female alpacas came to the fence to greet us.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tom Cat visits Dr. Kirby

I do try to avoid vet bills. I'm sure you know that awful feeling... do I take him or do I wait a few more days? If I don't take him and he really should go then.... And around and around it goes.

(All photos taken after Tom returned).
With fostering and taking in strays I've learned a lot about caring for animals so when Tom came home Thursday last week after being missing for 17 days my plan was to observe him, love on him and fatten him back up.

But he wouldn't eat. The only thing that he wanted was milk. (I do know that cats shouldn't have milk but Tom obviously was raised on milk put out by some kind neighbour and he craves it, asks for it and won't stop meowing until he gets some). So I give in and give him a little dish in the morning.

I tried tempting him with salmon, with chicken--his favourites. He would put his mouth to the food but would not take it. Very strange. I worried that he might have a blockage in his mouth or throat or a tooth problem.

That's why on Saturday I packed Tom up in a cat carrier and took him to see the vet, Dr. Kirby. He gave Tom a needle and pills to help boost his appetite. He had no fever and we couldn't find any other body type issues. So Tom came home (no problem getting him in the cat carrier when LEAVING the vet's office). The vet said to wait until Wednesday and if his appetite didn't improve by then, we might look at doing some blood work to see if something else was going on. I agreed.

We figured that Tom was pretty shaken up from his experience. We don't know what happened to him during the time he was missing but I was very suspicious that he had been accidentally locked in a shed or garage with the owner then away on spring break vacation--I noticed he disappeared on a garbage day and reappeared after another garbage day.

His orange collar is very loose, indicating a really great weight loss. Still when weighed at the vet's office he was 13 lbs. Tom was a little bit obese after staying indoors all winter. Maybe that helped save him.

The vet said that Tom was an emotional cat. I swear this guy is a cat whisperer. Cats love him. And he gets them. He really does. This was the first time he'd met Tom and he nailed the personality pretty easily. Tom is emotional.
Years ago if I would rearrange his cat bed outside by winterizing it, he would get really upset and disappear for 3 days. Back then he was still pretty wild and didn't understand that I was changing the bed over to give him winter protection. I knew he was sensitive and got his feelings hurt really easily. But after a couple years with me doing this change-over he understood what I was doing. So he was a smart cat too, and he could learn new things.
Then there was that terrible day about 4 years ago when I brought Sweet Pea's broken dead body home. She'd been hit by a car and I was hysterical. I laid her body down on the ground in the back yard so that I could go in the house to get the phone.

I remember vaguely that Tom was there, and that tiny, tiny, warning voice that said, "Don't put the body down so that Tom can see it". But I was out of my mind with grief and my ears were deaf. I laid the body down. And Tom saw it. Then he disappeared.

He did not come home. After a few days we put up posters in the subdivision and I visited the local Animal Care to see if he was there. He was not to be found. The roads didn't show any more bodies which was a huge relief. But where was he.

We determined that Tom was freaked out or confused after seeing Sweet Pea's body. I think his confusion was because he saw me lay the body down--he could only have concluded that I did that to her.

Three months went by, then my neighbour Mary called very excited (God bless that woman!) and said she had seen Tom and that he was under her porch. I raced right over. I used a flashlight to shine in the dark and there he was in the back corner of her porch. I could see him clearly. But he would not come to me.

Nevertheless, I went home elated. He was alive. We knew he was eating because both Mary and I put food out for him. He was alive! And time would heal all wounds, wouldn't it?

A couple weeks after that night, I was coming into the back yard on my bike when guess who I nearly ran over? Yes, Tom. He started to run away but I called to him gently and then talked to him. He stood his ground. I got off my bike slowly so as not to scare him away and I put my hand out to him. He stuck his head up to be scratched. The sad past was set aside and we were together again at long last.

Since that night Tom had never been gone from home for more than one night. He was older and neutered, and content. He didn't need to go out and prove himself in the subdivision any more.

Since he came home, I notice his sleep is uneasy for the first while and that he shakes and jerks a bit. I think it's stress, like post traumatic stress syndrome. I'm releaved to see that he does settle into a good deep sleep after a while.

The cats are used to sleeping on pillows. This came about because my neice and nephew, myself too, would find the cat's claws would hurt the skin when they would sleep on our lap because they would nead our flesh. Tom has six toes and claws on his front paws and he's a deep neader (ouch!). So we put the cats on pillows to protect our flesh and the cats love the soft warm comfort.

Tom has taken to sleeping on my Taos Chunky Vest. I know it's warm and comforting so I won't take it away.
His purr is really deep and loud--loud, large and very, very soothing. It keeps us both calm and I'm forever grateful to have the chance to hear it again. :)

Friday, April 3, 2009

MIRACLE!!!!!! Tom Returns!!!!

I was sick and ended up being home on Thursday. I slept the whole day, accompanied by my cats who would snuggle up to me in bed. Finally at 10:30 p.m. I got up.
Tigger lead the way to the front door. He wanted out. I opened the big door and then I heard it. That special beautiful and unique meow that I knew to be Tom's voice.
I flipped on the outside light and there he was in bold and beautiful black and white.

He came right into the house and I just laughed and cried. He was alive!
All the cats came to greet him and sniff him over.
There certainly is something to be said for prayers. They seem to really work. Seventeen days is a long time to be gone.

Tom has lost a lot of weight, at least 1/3 of his mass is gone. His orange collar is so loose around his neck you'd think someone loosened it.
I can feel the bumps of his spine down his back. He's pretty dirty too, and in the next few hours after being home he began to clean himself.

He wasn't starving when he came home, which isn't a total surprise since many of the neighbours put out food for stray cats (I'm one of them).
He's not eating as much as he should, so I'm not sure if he has other health issues happening. He's also sneezing a bit, and I've seen this before. It's a cat cold as a result of stress. I'll be watching him very closely just to be sure he's okay.
I guess I'll never know what happened to him or why he was gone so long. I just wish he could tell me. But either way, we've had a miracle here and we're very grateful to have him home.
Thanks for your prayers and good wishes!