Sunday, February 25, 2018

Five months of blooming orchids

I've had quite a few orchids blooming over the past few months.  Pretty pictures!

First up is a delightful little mini-miniature orchid named Trisetella hoeijeri, native to the cloud forest of Ecuador. The leaves are about 1.5" tall, and the flower has a 3" spread. I got the plant from Ecuagenera at the Portland orchid show in spring 2017, and in October it gave me two flowers.

Trisetella hoeijeri

Trisetella hoeijeri

Next up is Masdevallia strobelii big form (with an unknown hitchhiker) on the left and small form on the right.  These two pots are doing great on my kitchen windowsill, and in November they bloomed profusely.

When they bloomed in December 2016, the the big form (on the left) had five flowers and the small form (on the right) had seven.  This time around they had 26 and 10 flowers, respectively!  Wowza!  Added bonus, they are intensely sweetly fragrant and I could smell them all over the first floor of the house.  I look forward to watching these plants grow.

Masdevallia strobelii big form, small form and unknown hitchhiker

This is the flower of the big form, smaller and more white.

Masdevallia strobelii big form

And this is the flower of the small form, larger and more yellow.  Confusing, I know, with the big/small, small/big!  I love the sparkly glandular hairs inside the tubular flowers.


A super extra special bonus this year was this:

unknown hitchhiker Masdevallia

The big form pot has a hitchhiker!  There is a little clump of leaves that are slightly smaller and bloomed these gorgeous flowers.  Quite different from what the pot is supposed to be.  I haven't figured out what species this is yet (it might be the glandulosa x strobelii hybrid named Masd. Confetti), but I love it.  When I repot the plants next year, I'll split this out and put it in its own pot so it doesn't get overrun by the very vigorous big form.

Masdevallia strobelii big form and unknown hitchhiker

Next to bloom, in December, was this Odontocidium Wild Willie 'Pacific Bingo'. It's mildly fragrant, like lemony plastic.  Big waxy flowers, very pretty.

Odontocidium Wild Willie 'Pacific Bingo'

Then there was the Gastrochilus somai, which bloomed for about a month in November/December.  I didn't take a picture until it was almost gone by, but there were about 12 flowers on two spikes.

Gastrochilus somai

This is Dendrobium Enobi Purple 'Splash', blooming in January on a small three-flower spike.  This is such a striking flower.

Dendrobium Enobi Purple 'Splash'

Next was Odontocidium Brennan Scott Barfield ‘Mother’s Day’.  No fragrance, but lots of pretty flowers on tall spikes.

Odontocidium Brennan Scott Barfield ‘Mother’s Day’

This is a Paphiopedilum that I got in bud in December, which finally opened this week.  This cross hasn't been named yet, so it's just Paph. (Hidatsa x Nulight) '1-10' x Kaylight '2-09'.  I'm not normally a fan of this type of so-called "bulldog Paph" with the big round flowers, but this one is pretty and Emma likes it so it can stay. I do like the speckling on the dorsal.

Paph. (Hidatsa x Nulight) '1-10' x Kaylight '2-09'

I also have had a bunch of Phalaenopsis blooming. They're pretty cheap, and extra color in winter is always good.  'Nuff said.

This is a new one, no name.


This is also a new one, a pretty no-name yellow that Emma got me for Christmas.


This is a re-bloom, Phal. Liu's Triprince.  This is it's third spike for me.

Phal Liu's Triprince

Another new one last fall, Phal. Ox Surf Song.  This has been blooming since September, and the flower in the picture is somewhat old, hence the brownish tones.  Younger flowers are a lovely clear pinky-peachy-yellow.

Dtps. Ox Surf Song (older somewhat faded flower)

Another re-bloomer.  No name but pretty waxy green with purple speckles.

NOID Phal.

This is Phal. Sogo Berry x Dtps. Fuller's Cheese '3496'.  Who names an orchid "cheese"?  Weird name but very pretty.

Phal. Sogo Berry x Dtps. Fuller's Cheese '3496'

And this is Phal. Ox Lucky Boy.  Mini white phalaenopsis are so simple and pretty.

Dtps. Ox Lucky Boy

There have been at least a couple other phals in flower over the past few months, but apparently I didn't take pictures.  Oh well, I'll get them next time around.

Last up for now is this Pleurothallis niveoglobula, which has been in bloom continuously since I got it in January 2016.  It literally never stops flowering. The tiny white flowers aren't flashy but very cute.

Pleurothallis niveoglobula

Whew.  If you made it all the way through this enormous post, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Amaryllis 1-8

I have gotten seriously behind in posting pretty flower pictures this winter  I have orchids, and succulents, and amaryllis.  Let's start with amaryllis.

First to bloom was Apple Blossom #2 in November, which I got as a box kit from BiMart.  I bought one of these last year as well, but it still hasn't bloomed and I was determined that I needed an Apple Blossom.  The bulb was a little worse for the wear, but it bloomed five flowers on two scapes.  It still hasn't grown roots, and I don't know if it's too exhausted to recover.  Box kit bulbs are not top quality.  Hopefully a summer outside will build it back up.

Apple Blossom #2 amaryllis

Next up was Nyora, also in November.  This is a rebloom from last year and still very pretty.  Only two flowers this time around, and no sign of a second scape yet.

Nyora amaryllis

Next was Snow White, a new bulb this year.  I got this one on sale at a nursery in Portland, 75% off because it was mostly done blooming.  It had eight huge flowers on two scapes, but I only got to see two of them.  A lovely frilly double white.

Snow White amaryllis

The next five bulbs are also new, from a 60% off sale after Christmas.  I mean, come on.  I wasn't going to buy any amaryllis this year, but how can I pass that up?

Karoo bloomed in January, another big solid red. I apparently collect these.  I really like the reds. This one is very nice, with the pointy petals like Red Pearl.  (It's not as dark as Red Pearl, so that one still holds the title of The Best Red.)   It bloomed eight flowers on two scapes.

Karoo amaryllis

Amalfi also bloomed in January, a very pretty mini. Eight flowers on two scapes.

Amalfi amaryllis

Apple Blossom #3 came along in February.  This was a huge bulb, and had nine flowers on two scapes.  I think I may see the start of a third scape peeking out on this one.

Apple Blossom #3 amaryllis

Hot Lips opened last week, another pretty mini, with four flowers on the first scape and another scape on the way.

Hot Lips amaryllis

And lastly, Fire Dancer also opened last week. This is another mini, and it is GORGEOUS.  It's perfectly proportioned in its tiny cuteness, and I love the deep red color with the frilly edges.  Four flowers on the first scape and a second scape on the way.

Fire Dancer amaryllis

So there you go, the first eight to bloom.  I still haven't brought most of my bulbs from last year up out of the basement, so the show is later this year.

Friday, February 02, 2018

My contribution for the 13th Annual Blogger's (Silent) Poetry Reading for St. Bridget's Day.

Kuchulu spindle with cashmere/silk fiber

Yarn is a Funny Thing
by Sue Brady

A string a thing around-the-whorl
Made of fibers
More than fluff
Add the twist it’s magic

Single fiber won’t hold much
So thin wisp fine and small
Breaks alone and lonely stays
Never can advance

Together now with other fluff
Held in twist-hugged turns
Wrap together rejoice in strength
Support and hold and grow

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Santa came early

Since I had so much fun combing the Lopez Island wool, I've been all inspired to do more.  One thing I've had in my mind for a long time is to be able to efficiently comb fine fibers like merino and alpaca.  The Indigo Hound viking combs that I used on the Lopez Island wool are fabulous for medium and coarser wools, but not great for fine fibers because the tines are just too far apart.  They work, but it takes more passes and leaves more waste.

So Santa came early to my house and dropped off a set of Valkyrie extra-fine combs.

Valkrie extra-fine wool combs

I did the inaugural run with some more of the Australian merino that I used for the test skein on my Bee Hummingbird spindle.  I washed up a bunch more locks into puffy delicious puffs of puffiness.

Australian merino (17.4 micron) washed locks

I lashed on 13 grams of locks to one of the combs,

Australian merino (17.4 micron) locks on Vakyrie extra-fine combs

then combed it off with the other,

Australian merino (17.4 micron) on Vakyrie extra-fine combs after one pass

and then combed it back onto the first comb.

Australian merino (17.4 micron) on Vakyrie extra-fine combs after two passes, ready to diz

This wool is so gorgeous.  It's 17.4 micron diameter fiber, which is very fine, and it's so soft and smooth and lustrous.  This is only two passes through the combs, and it's ready to diz off into top.  These combs did an amazing job.

The next step was dizzing.  You pull a little tuft of wool through the hole in the diz, then draft and pull, draft and pull, draft and pull, each time pushing the diz back up toward the comb to pull in the next bit of fiber. The hole in the diz helps keep the diameter of the top consistent. 

Australian merino (17.4 micron) on Vakyrie extra-fine combs, dizzing off the fiber

Here's the finished nest of top- 12 grams of pure fiber bliss and 1 gram of waste fiber, in about five minutes.

Australian merino (17.4 micron) combed on Vakyrie extra-fine combs. 12g of top, 1g of waste.

Ah.  Maze.  Ing.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Half a fleece

Ta Daaa!

Lopez Island wool, all combed!

I finished combing the Lopez Island wool!

The half-fleece weighed 3.0 pounds in its raw, unwashed state.  After washing, it weighed 1.7 pounds.  The finished product is 673 grams (1.5 lb) of combed top and 109 grams (0.2 lb) of waste fiber.

I've never combed a chunk of fiber this big before, and I can't believe it only took two days to wash and three days to comb.  It's also unbelievable how well and how easily combing gets rid of ALL the vegetable matter in a fleece!  It was time well spent, and I really enjoyed it.

The finished top is just beautiful and I will very much enjoy spinning it.  The wool isn't super soft but I think it will combine very well in a sweater with some other San Juan County fiber that I was given way back in 2007 and spun in 2009.

I have a deep, deep stash.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Processing a fleece

Oh hello, remember me?  I've been playing with fiber.  There's a big pile of spun yarn that is yet to be photographed, but what I want to show tonight is this fleece that I finally got around to processing.

Lopez Island wool, half a raw fleece

This is actually half a fleece, purchased at the 2016 Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival, from a full fleece that I split with a friend.  It's from Lopez Island, Washington, and if I remember correctly it's a mixed breed dominated by Romney and Blueface Leicester, with lesser amounts of East Friesian, Coopworth, Columbia, Dorset, and North Country Cheviot genes in the flock.  It's been sitting in the closet for over a year, and this week was finally its turn to shine.

I washed it in two evenings, just in my kitchen sink in dishpan-sized batches.  It wasn't overly greasy, but the tips were pretty gunked up with hardened lanolin and dirt.

Lopez Island wool, raw

After one hot soapy soak and two hot rinses, the wool became a lovely creamy white and all the grease was out.  Some of the tips were still a little dirty and clumpy, but not too bad.  They opened right up during combing.

Lopez Island wool, washed

So here's the before and after.  Washed on top, raw on the bottom.  The lighting is wonky on this picture, but trust me, there was a big difference.  The separate shots above are pretty close to the actual color change.

Lopez Island wool, washed on top, raw on the bottom

Once the wool was clean and dry (furnace vents are wonderful for drying wool, if you can keep the cats off), my next step was combing.  You load the wool onto one comb and comb it off with the other, during which all the dirt and vegetable matter (bits of hay, etc.) falls out and the fibers are separated and aligned.

This is after two transfers from comb to comb.  Puffy and delicious.

Lopez Island wool, two passes through the combs

Then I used a diz (the round wooden thing with the holes) to draw the fiber off the comb.  The diz helps make an even-sized rope of fiber called top.  Wind up the top into a little nest, and voila!  Ready to store or spin.

Lopez Island wool, all washed and the first nest combed

That first nest was 20 grams of fiber, with 2 grams of combing waste there to the right.  The waste is all the short bits, neps, vegetable matter, dirt, and other undesirable stuff that the combs remove from the good fiber.  A combing loss of 9% is pretty good- there wasn't a lot of bad stuff to comb out of this fleece.  The finished top is pure spinning bliss.

I combed about half the fiber today, and will get to the rest over the weekend.  I love wool.

Lopez Island wool, halfway combed

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Not a bad start

I've still been spinning since Spinzilla ended two weeks ago.  I've done a load of yarn on my Hansen miniSpinner, which is still SO FABULOUS, but I also did another tiny skein on my new Jenkins Bee Hummingbird spindle.

I bought a couple bundles of very nice raw Australian merino from a farm in eastern Australia (RaniSmithDesigns on Etsy.  Highly recommended.).  For this first little trial skein I used two 1 gram bunches from Ewe #71.  The fiber thickness on this fleece was measured at 17.4 microns.  This is beautiful wool, with gorgeous luster, crimp, and softness, and hardly any vegetable matter. 

I washed the 1 gram bundles individually, in boiling water and dish soap.  Each lock lost about 0.17 gram during washing- mostly lanolin, because there was hardly any dirt.  Here's what they looked like before and after.

Australian merino locks washed vs. unwashed

I flicked them with a dog slicker to get the tips open and the shorter fibers out.  Then I spun and spun and spun, about four hours for each bundle.

0.63 gram of Australian merino on a Jenkins Bee Hummingbird spindle

This is the first spindleful done. The wool spun like a dream, it just flowed and drafted out thinner and thinner.  It was delightful.

I spun each bundle as a separate spindleful, then wound them onto storage bobbins. 

1.28 grams of Australian merino ready to ply

I didn't make a plying ball, but just plied from the bobbins.  In retrospect I'm not sure why I thought that would be a good idea, because it never has been in the past, but I guess I thought minimal handling of the singles would be better since they were so very very fine.

It was not a good idea, and made plying much more frustrating than it should have been.  The singles were fairly strong, considering, and a plying ball would have been fine. As it was, I lost 0.38 gram of singles (which equates to a fair amount of yardage!) to a massive tangle that I couldn't get undone.  Ah well, lesson learned.

Anyway, I got the rest of it safely plied.

1.28 grams of Australian merino 2-ply, 73 yards

This skein is 1.28 grams and 73 yards of 2-ply.  It's a little underplied, but I'm quite pleased with myself.

1.28 grams of Australian merino 2-ply, 73 yards

So do you want to know a secret?  One reason that I'm excited about this tiny spindle and this little test skein of ultra-cobweb weight yarn is that there's a spinning contest in New Zealand (OOPS! Sorry!) Tasmania, Australia that runs every two years.  It's called the International Longest Thread Competition and is part of the Bothwell Spin In and Fibre Festival.  The goal is to spin the longest 2-ply thread you can from 10 grams of fiber.  Entries for the 2019 competition are due in October 2018, and with the postal system being what it is, I would want to mail my entry by September 2018.

This skein is a good first attempt.  My goal is to get the yarn to half this thickness and I need to work on my plying joins.  With yarn this thin there is no margin for error.