Archives for category: Nature

Peonies in the darkI was working at my dining room table, re-purposing some old garments. I had a pile of old clothing, rotary cutter, a mat… and an inspiration. I worked in silence, a simple repetitive task, when a thought popped into my head. It flew in and took root. Now I think about it a lot.

I thought about all I do to nurture my physical health. I try to eat well, get enough rest, exercise, visit the doctor to get the stamp of approval, etcetera. You know the drill. Then I thought about the other aspects of my health. My being is more than just a physical body. Am I nurturing my emotional, spiritual and mental health?

It’s never an issue when things are going well but that is not how life works. When difficult times come… and they do, it’s necessary to have developed the inner fortitude to come out the other end with psyche intact.

Lots of questions have burbled up and I’m glad to have plenty of quiet time to explore this. It’s a personal journey but I’m sharing because I suspect others may relate.

I am starting to look at mental health as a precious resource that can be squandered and lost. We must be aware of our inner life and some unnameable essence that has to be minded, topped up.

I’m struck by the number of people who are “broken” for lack of a better word. Some do terrible, desperate things. We all see them on the edge of society, some taking meds, some not and I ask myself could this be prevented? Can we teach people how to cultivate their spiritual and mental health?

If I think of my inner health as a flower in a garden. How should I tend it?

Oriental Poppy, flower

The dazzling, but delicate poppy: Beware of wind and rain!

Every flower has its own nature. A native wild flower needs very little care and before long takes over in the right conditions. Not all of us have that strength built into our constitutions!

Some of us bloom only under specific conditions, requiring lots of care and feeding.

I think I’m a pretty resilient flower in a healthy garden.

So what do I do to cultivate my inner garden? Here are a few things:

  1. Set some time every day for quiet, reflective time.
  2. Find time to be in nature.
  3. Move my body – Go for a walk, a swim, a belly dance class!
  4. Turn off the news – It just causes me stress!
  5. Be social – Quality time with like minded people is a good thing  for me.
  6. Weave, spin, knit, sew, embroider – Creating with fibre is water for my garden. I can’t go very long without or I wilt!
Ecinacea, Coneflower, bee

Echinacea, or Coneflower has medicinal properties.

Here’s a challenge! Ask yourself what you need.

Is there something in your life you are ready to let go of? Gardens have seasons and with seasons come change.

It is my hope that more people take an interest in preserving and improving their mental and spiritual health.


Peter PanOn one of the first summery days this spring I joined a small group of adventurers for Tea with Peter Pan, celebrated in a local park, under a tree and by a sculpture of Peter Pan. The sculpture is cast from the same mould as the original in Kensington Gardens in London. Incidentally, Kensington was the setting for one of J.M. Barrie’s earlier books about Peter Pan and if you examine the back of the statue you can find his signature. But I digress…

Japanese tea ceremony

Everything placed just so. Perfect, but not too perfect!

Helen and Sorlie arrived and got to the business of setting up: laying down a tarp, unpacking the travelling tea box and greeting guests. In our group of four, I was the honoured guest so was served first.

The Cleansing Ritual

English trifle

Beautifully presented in handmade tea cups & saucers. Garnished with fresh fruit & mint leaves.

Instead of the usual Japanese sweet that normally precedes the tea ceremony, Helen and Sorlie chose to serve perfect miniature servings of English Trifle. They were made from scratch (No store bought sponge, cream from a can or powdered custard!) They were beautifully presented in little tea bowls. Did I mention the girls are talented potters, too?

The tea ceremony is a formal ritual that requires years of study under the tutelage of a Tea Master. Sorlie explained as Helen “did”. Every detail, every movement, precise and beautiful. What makes it so special for me is that the ceremony invites us to slow down and really be in the moment. I felt the weight of the cup, the heat of the tea, the smell, the taste, the texture…and the sound. When I finished my tea I was supposed to make a loud slurping sound to indicate I was finished. There were too many background sounds in this city park so I just said “slurp!”

I won’t explain every detail. It’s much nicer to experience than read about. Our little tea “flash mob” came and went quickly. In less than an hour I was on my way again, feeling very peaceful, very blessed.

Is there a Secret Teatime in your future? Stay tuned, tomorrow I’ll tell you about a visit to Helen and Sorlie’s secret abode and learning to wear kimono.

You can visit Helen and Sorlie on their website:

Japanese tea ceremony, matcha

The ritual is repeated for each guest resulting in a perfect cup of tea & a perfect moment.

The first step in making slow cloth is getting the wool off the sheep. Geraldine Heffernan came out to Riverdale Farm to work her magic as part of the Spring Sheep Celebration on Saturday. She explained, in her heavy Scottish brogue, how the sheep relax when they are in certain positions. It’s all about pressure points. They certainly looked relaxed as she worked.

A good sized crowd gathered around to watch the performance. In a matter of minutes she had deftly removed a years worth of growth with nary a nick on the lamb and the coat in one piece. Geraldine’s assistant had the hard job of winding the hand cranked mechanism. It must be the only way when out back and beyond with no access to electricity. The duo switched up to electric as you will see in the second video but it wasn’t much faster.

Shearing the sheep at Riverdale Farm – click on the link to see the second video.

I was grateful to see the care she took, especially around the tail and other tender bits. We all had a laugh to see shorn sheep jumping up at the door to watch the current customer getting a “do”. I think they felt much better without their heavy coats.

Happily Shorn Supervising the sheep shearing

The fleeces are bagged individually. Each one will be processed the same way. First, skirted; which means all the really dirty bits (or as I like to say “poopy bits”) are cut off and thrown out. Occasionally a spinner will talk about “spinning in the grease” when you spin from an unprocessed fleece straight off the sheep. It’s not for everyone as there is a decidedly “sheepy” smell and it is messier but oh, the wonderful feeling of lanolin on fibre and skin. It’s silky!

When washing, care is taken not to felt the fibre while removing the dirt and excess lanolin. This can be a BIG job! Some fleeces need repeated washing. It doesn’t remove the vegetable matter so then it’s time to pick and card the fleece. It can be done with hand carders but goes a lot faster with a drum carder.

I like to create big batts of fibre that I can tear off in strips. And now it’s almost time to spin!

Sheep Shearing cartoonIt’s that time of year again. The sheep at Riverdale Farm have full winter coats that must be shorn for the summer. Sheep Shearer, Geraldine Heffernan will be working in the Lower Francey Barn at 11:30AM and 1:30PM

There will be farmer demos in the same location: Goats @ 10:30AM and horses at 12:30PM

Enjoy live demonstrations of the steps to turn fleece into yarn & fabric: from skirting and washing, picking and carding to spinning and weaving, all in the Meeting House.

Children can try their hands at lots of activities including felt making and hand sewing projects. It’s a great opportunity for families to experience an aspect of farm life and see ancient fibre techniques still in use today.

And it’s FREE! Call 416-392-6794 for more information.

The Skein

The clock read 5:09 AM. I was awake and thinking about a single skein of yarn. I’m reading your mind – you think I’m very disturbed!

This is the story. Back in December of last year my guild, the Etobicoke Handweavers and Spinners Guild had a challenge – bring a skein of yarn from your stash and choose one donated by another member. The challenge? Weave a project using that skein and ONLY yarn from my stash and present the finished project at our June meeting, the last meeting of the year.

So far so good except, as you can see, the wee skein is still a skein and the months and days have flown by. I have three weeks to do this.

As the birds woke up I pondered my stash and thought the perfect yarns to complement this skein are probably living among my hand dyed and hand spun yarns.

I’ve pulled together a selection that could work: 2 skeins of hand spun wool and mohair in a heathered pink, 2 skeins of hand spun brown Shetland wool that I over dyed with cochineal ( I also over spun it to create a bouclé yarn) and 2 skeins of commercially spun yarn dyed with logwood.

The Palette

I like this palette but will wait until tomorrow night to wind the warp ~ This evening I’m off to the Japan Foundation to enjoy “Kigami and Kami-ito: A slide lecture and paper thread-making demonstration by Hiroko Karuno”



I ventured out to High Park in hopes of seeing the cherry blossoms in full bloom. It seems mother nature did a real job on the trees this winter. The extra cold temperatures mean there are fewer blossoms, instead the trees are developing leaves. That must be survival mode.

The park was full of people enjoying the warmest day yet. We are craving sun, heat and the rebirth that comes with spring. Rather than stay with the crowds I took a path less travelled to explore the marshland along the pond.

Mama swan let me get very closeShe showed me her eggs

Before long I came upon a swans nest with mama sitting proudly upon her eggs. She let me get quite close and I stayed very still and quiet. I guess she decided I was no threat because she stood up and showed me her eggs! There were three very large greyish, blue/green eggs in the bottom of the nest.

She left her eggs to work on the nest

I thought she would sit back down but no, it was time for housework. She started foraging for choice reeds to pull into the nest. As she worked she gradually slid out of the nest entirely and swam freely in the water. It was really remarkable to see her select a perfect reed, yank it out and place it in the nest.

As she worked the daddy swan glided over. Before long he was hard at work by her side. I have to confess that I was a little worried that he might not like me being so close to the nest but I might as well have been wearing the cloak of invisibility. He took absolutely no notice of me!

Daddy swan returnsConstruction work for two

And then it was mom’s turn for a break while dad did some household chores and watched the kids (to be).

It's dads turn to stay homeOff goes mama for some R&R

I get so much inspiration from nature.