Archive for April, 2012

Raised garden bed

A raised garden bed wasn’t on my original list of challenges, but gardening is a recurring theme in my hobby, for both food and textiles. I have had a sad little raised bed for years, but doesn’t really produce. As I was working through some medieval gardening books the other night, I decided it was time to raise the bed. Inspired primarily by Anne Jennings’ book “Medieval Gardens”, I purchased six pieces of 8′ long, 2 x6″ untreated pine. I cut them down to match the existing bed (which was literally a homemade bed frame of 2×6 pine, until my son outgrew it). I started to drill holes so I could screw the pieces together, but broke my only drill bit, so the rest will need to wait until I get a replacement. I will need to buy lots more dirt to fill the bed once I stack the pieces on top of each other. I should probably reinforce the various levels so they don’t slip, but haven’t found suitable corner brackets yet. I’ll see what I can find when I go looking for drill bits. As a bonus, I should have enough wood left to make a little square turf seat. Aside from having decent quality soil, the advantage of raised beds and seats is that my dog will find them too high to climb into. He was death on my plants last year because he kept sleeping on the new sprouts.


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I have been asked to bring some horse hair to l’Anse aux Meadows this summer (yes, I’m going again!!!). It is to replace strings on a Viking lyre. Coincidentally, I had been thinking about the use of horse hair for making fishing line, and checked our some internet resources today. As I was poking around, I found a note about naalbinding and weaving with hair. It turns out that horse hair can be used for weaving sieve cloths (or even chair seats), while the tufts of cow tail hair were used for naalbinding. Horse hair has turned out to be impossible to naalbind, though it might be a little easier if worked when wet. Cow tail hair appears to be much softer. After a little more searching, I found a source for both cow and horse tail in Niagara Falls New York. There are many places in China and India that sell it, and some of those have violin bow quality horsehair, the minimum shipping sizes are enormous. Even if I got some from my friend Marguerite, who is making her own paint brushes, I would have several hundred kilos of excess hair.

According to Walton, a 17th C book on the art of fishing, the preferred horse hair was white, from a stallion or gelding (mares get their tails wet with urine, which weakens the fibres). The white horsehairs were then dyed. I don’t know whether the horsehair I will buy is from a male or female (and I know some of the stuff I have collected is from a female). I don’t want to be bothered with dyeing it, and I don’t care for fishing – I just want to experiment with making a fishing line. So, unless the musician in Newfoundland has a strong preference, I’ll buy black or another colour of hair for my fishing line. I don’t seem to get much choice for the cow hair, but that’s okay.

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