Michael Newby

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since Apr 06, 2011
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Mount Shasta, CA Zone 8a Mediterranean climate
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Recent posts by Michael Newby

I didn't manage to get any pictures while it was new but I found my knapweed knot still hanging on to my tarp after a full winter of covering firewood in nasty blowing snow and rain.
6 years ago
Last summer while I was camped at the lab I experimented with making rough cordage out of the knapweed that is so prolific out there. I didn't process the plants other than stripping leaves and side branches then crushing the stems.  I made a simple hand twisted two ply cord that I tied around my tarp.  Pretty strong stuff, it held a knot pretty well but the fibers get brittle when they dry.  You could probably make much better cordage with better processing of the plants before making the line.
6 years ago
Thanks for the tips.  

The wool was all stored in a cedar lined closet and chest which the lady running the sale made sure to mention to me presumably to prevent moth damage.

I haven't messed with the drum carder or loom yet but I did get the wheel cleaned up and working.  Too bad my skills can barely make an over-twisted lumpy-bumpy rough yarn at this point.  I really need to find a local spinner who'll take me under their wing and show me what I need to be doing differently.  Don't get me wrong, I'm stupidly proud of my terrible yarn but it really intrigues me seeing videos of people spinning using the full arc of their arm for the motion instead of inch worming the yarn like I am now.
6 years ago
I know that Dyer's Woad is considered invasive in most states here in the US.  I've only read about the process but I guess it was a very common source of blue dye before the advent of synthetic dyes.  

All About Woad has a lot of information on using woad.

Some chunky wool dyed with woad:

The Dyer's Woad plant:

6 years ago
I am still amazed that I managed to pick up this deal...

So my wife has mentioned a few times that she thought it would be mice to learn to spin natural fibers.  This weekend what comes across my Facebook feed but a spinning wheel for sale at an estate sale.  I quickly asked if they'd hold it for me until I could make out to look at it in a couple of hours.

Being in the country the estate was over an hour away and by the time I got there I found out that many others had showed interest in the wheel.  When I reached the spinning wheel and started going over it I was quickly informed by two ladies that it was spoken for.  When I laughed and said that I was the one it was being held for I thought they might lunge at me.  I have to admit that I didn't really know what the big deal was.  I got dirty looks when I cheerfully quipped "looks like a spinning wheel to me" in response to one lady asking if I knew what I was getting there.  There were a couple of boxes of other things that came with the wheel, I have to admit that I only had a vague idea of what they were.

It wasn't until I made it home and had a little time on the internet that I realized exactly the deal I had gotten.  I drove away from that sale with an Ashford traditional wheel in good condition, a Clemes & Clemes drum carder and matching hand carders, an older model Schacht fixed heddle loom with accessories, a couple of drop spindles and nidy noddys, a lazy Kate full of bobbins, and multiple large trash bags of wool.  I did a quick estimate of what all this would have cost me to get new and came up with around $1750! And they only asked $220 for the lot!  No wonder those ladies seemed ready to fight me for it.
6 years ago
Got a bit more done on the herb garden wall, you can actually tell it's a keyhole style bed now.  A little more work and the bed will be ready for a bunch of manure and aged wood chips.  
6 years ago
Yep, I'm still around, just terrible at the regular updates thing.

I did manage to snap a few pictures this morning of how the pond is coming along.  I planted a few water lilies about a month ago and they're putting leaves out but no flowers yet.

The second pond hasn't really had much going on.  I didn't put enough effort into making the bottom of the pond into an inviting wallow area so the pigs never really concentrated their activities in one place.  I'll be trying again this summer...
6 years ago
I give this book 9 out of 10 acorns.

What a refreshing book to read on creating your own natural pond.  Too many books I've read on building ponds seem to be nothing more than a bloated brochure for a pond chemicals or equipment.  With Building Natural Ponds Robert Pavlis has made the dream of having a low-maintenance pond seem much more attainable.  The book is filled with beautiful examples of functioning natural ponds to inspire and convince you that a chemical-free pond doesn't have to be a sludge filled swamp from a horror movie.  Yes there will be maintenance but by following the guidelines in this book you can reduce the maintenance to an acceptable amount.

Building Natural Ponds begins with an overview of the ecological concepts related to ponds and why a properly built pond is a benefit to the environment around it.  I really like that Mr. Pavlis even gives a nod to permaculture here, which is rare in a lot of books out there.  The book goes from there to a few chapters regarding thing to consider during the design, planning, and building phases.  Here is where you get to dive into the fun part of dreaming of all the features you want or need and (maybe not so fun) the realities involved with making those dreams come to life.  The great thing is that these natural ponds involve a lot less in the name of complicated pumps and filtration systems and a lot more benefits to the environment around them.

The next couple of chapters deal with the specifics of plant and animal choices for a natural pond.  These are the real workhorses of the pond, what take the place of those expensive filtering systems and the expensive chemicals.  As explained in the beginning chapters, a well designed pond is a functioning ecosystem that mostly maintains itself.  The next chapter deals with what maintenance is still required to keep your natural pond in tip-top shape as well as examples of why many of the maintenance items associated with a traditional pond are not necessary with a natural pond.  The book finishes up with a couple of chapters concerning special cases such as large ponds, swimming pools, bogs, etc.

My only real complaint about this book is one that I have with many books - I really wish the whole book was in color instead of just a few pages.  I understand the choices authors and publishers have to make concerning printing full color but still, it would make the book better.  Still, I 100% recommend this book to anyone thinking about putting in a pond on their property.
6 years ago