Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Northern Arizona road trip Part 2: the elf cottage, condors, the Grand Canyon, and a night sky

My husband Eric & I went wandering around northern Arizona on Saturday. I started the story yesterday, talking about seeing a condor and its nest at the Navajo bridge. http://tangibledaydreams.blogspot.com/2017/05/northern-az-roadtrip-part-1-navajo.html

So, after marveling at the condor and the view of the Colorado River, we headed westward along 89A, skirting the southern border of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Vermilion Cliffs is one of the national monuments that President Trump has put up on the chopping block to have its monument status reviewed, and I wanted to see what was at stake for myself. For the record, it was a gorgeous drive, and I wish we had been in a sturdier vehicle so we could take more of the interior roads. But, I digress.

So, soon after leaving the bridge, we came to Marble Canyon, and a strange little view. On a whim, we turned off into a dirt parking lot, and found the ruins of this strange little house.
There was an outbuilding too, also built right up against one of the huge boulders strewn about.
There were no signs posted saying to keep out, so I wandered right in. Eric took a picture of me taking a picture.

I felt like I was in a magic fort, squirreled away from the world. I could see setting my blankets on the ledges on my left, and curling up, protected from the elements.

I wandered around the main house, too. The roof was missing, save for some remaining beams, but there were still wood frames around the door and windows. The front window gazed out onto the road.

So, what was this place? There was a sign, up against another boulder, but I'm not sure that it is quite right. The original text is missing, and instead someone had scrawled:
"Point of Interest: Elves live in the house behind you. They consume soley pickles and weed. (The elves R us)"

Well....not exactly. Internet to the rescue. This was the home of the Ziegfeld Follies dancer Blanche Russell, back in the prohibition era. Her husband Bill was diagnosed with tuberculosis, so they decided to move to the southwest climate for heath reasons. On their way, their car broke down in this spot one night. When they woke up, Blanche loved the spot so much that they just bought the land, and built the house. They started selling food and such to travelers, and ended up running a restaurant and trading post for a decade. You can read more about the story here: https://frametoframe.ca/2014/10/blanche-russells-rock-houses-marble-canyon-arizona/ and here: http://theproperfunction.com/the-cliff-dwellers/.

I love the story about the elves, but I think I like the real one better.

Anyway, back to our own travels. After leaving Blanche's place, we drove to the western edge of the Vermilion cliffs, and up to the condor viewing station. This is where the endangered California Condors have been being released back into the wild. It was a gorgeous drive!

This road was dirt, but very well maintained, and our car handled it with no issues. When we came to the release site, there were in fact several condors to be seen soaring above the cliffs!
I'm presuming that, just like at the cliffs by the Navajo Bridge, the droppings on the cliff face indicate possible nesting sites. Knowing that we were down to under 30 birds total in the 80's, it was amazing to see the birds living wild and free here, and making their slow comeback.
Also? Condors are BIG. I hadn't appreciated just how big they were, until I measured my wingspan against theirs, at this sign posted at the viewing spot. Just wow.
When we were done with marveling at the condors, we drove through the Kaibab National Forest, and to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. There were meadows flanking the roadway, and they were filled with herds grazing. They were quite back from the road in the late afternoon sun, but when we drove back after dark they were right up at the road side. It made for some tricky driving, making sure to spot them before there was trouble, but we got through with nobody hurt.

At the Canyon, we got down to the reason that we had actually made the trip. I've been weaving ruanas for the Etsy shop, and I thought that it might be a fun idea to take some product photos, showing the garments as they'd be worn. Eric manned the camera for these shots, while I modeled.

And then, business done, we just enjoyed the views!

We watched the sun down, and then made our way back through the deer and back to Flagstaff.

Well, with one more stop. Just north of Flagstaff is the Wupatki National Monument, which we know from past trips is very, very dark at night. And so, we turned off the highway into the monument a little ways, just far enough to get away from the lights of the passing cars. And, I made my first stab at night sky photography:
Not bad for a first try!! I put the camera on a tripod, and set the focus by hand. I set it to f4.8 for 10 seconds, with the ISO cranked up to 12800. Next time, I'll do more reading ahead of time, and make sure I use the remote trigger on the camera. And there will be a next time. Because this shot really, really tickles me!

So, all in all, a most excellent adventure!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Northern AZ roadtrip part 1: The Navajo Bridge, and a condor nest


My husband Eric & I were on walkabout yesterday, wandering around the northern part of Arizona. We started in Flagstaff and headed north, first driving through the Navajo reservation.
We turned, and then headed to the Navajo Bridge across the Colorado River.

It gives an incredible bird's eye view of the river below!

There is both a foot bridge, and a larger bridge for motor vehicles. We walked across, and perused the visitor station. Of course I had to look at the Navajo rug loom on display, with an eye toward figuring out how to set up the warp.

And I also had a look at the plaques that were around telling the history of the ferry that was in place before the bridge was built.

I particularly appreciated seeing both of the wives, Permelia and Samantha, recognized by name, and their multiple marriage matter of factly recognized instead of glossed over. No invisible women here.

On our way back across the bridge to the car, I thought I saw someone sitting on the structure underneath the car bridge. On closer look though, it was a huge, huge bird! Yes, I had spotted a California Condor!!
Back in 1987, there were only 27 of these birds left in the world. They were removed from the wild, and a captive breeding program was started. In the late 90's, the results began to be released back into the wild. As of last year, the population had rebounded to 446: 276 in the wild, and 170 in captivity. 83 of those are in the Arizona/Utah area.

There was another couple also watching Mr. 54 here, who let me know that he and his mate evidently had a nest on the cliffs upstream, visible from the bridge. So I began to scan the cliffs...

Ah ha! The droppings gave it away.
Condors lay their single egg in cavities, right on the floor or in a loose pile of debris. I tried blowing up the picture and lightening the shadows, to see if I had caught the egg in the picture...
I don't see it, but I think that black blob back in the cave is probably the mother condor at work. Wow. Just wow. I'm crossing my fingers that this nest produces a live chick!

I'll write another entry about the rest of our day's travels tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Purple Ruanas: The beginning!

Each of my weaving projects starts something like this. I've got a spiral notebook, and each new project gets a fresh new page for me to do the planning on. I know a lot of folks have moved to using computerized forms for this, but my brain seems to like the old school method of thinking with a pencil in hand. You can see from the note I left myself on the right that my thought processes in planning end up captured on the page. Then, when I'm planning future projects, I can go back and use this as a foundation to build from.

This particular project? When I had posted pictures of my last blue-green ruana project on Facebook, a gentleman very enthusiastically requested that I make another batch in purple and black. I love that kind of enthusiasm! I love knowing that my work is going to go to someone who really wants and appreciates it. Purple it is!! I worked with him, and we chose black, grey, and four different purples in 3/2 cotton for the warp. I'll blend the colors across the width of the warp in a gradation from dark to light.
So, around and around the horizontal warping mill it goes! I do a lot of cutting and tying here as I change from one color to the next. My thread order is decided here. It takes some extra time (sometimes I'm making knots every third thread), but I like the result. I know some folks just measure out blocks of color in this step and mix it up when they put it on the loom, but I got awful tangles when I tried it that way. This slips onto the loom nice and smoothly, with each thread in its place.
And here's the warp all measured, and ready to go onto the loom!

This project is going to be tricky to photograph, it seems. Purple. Purple is a pain to get correctly in the camera and on the screen. The camera just doesn't want to capture it. My new camera seems to be better at it than my old one, though. My older one would have read this entirely as blue. Trust me though. This is purple, purple, purple! Nice and rich and royal.

Next up will be getting this onto the loom, but that is going to wait for a few days. My husband Eric & I are headed out of town this weekend for some two-time in the northern part of Arizona. I'm thinking of bringing my finished ruanas with me, and doing some product photography for the Etsy shop. Maybe in front of the Grand Canyon. Or in the pine woods up on the mountains. Or.... We'll see where we end up! It will be an adventure.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Shawls and Ruanas

I've been busily taking pictures and listing a couple of months' worth of hand woven shawls and ruanas in the Etsy shop today. I'm feeling all accomplished, and wanted to take a moment to bask. They don't look half bad when you get them all together, do they? The Etsy shop is here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/tangibledaydreams

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Blue green gradated handwoven ruana fabric

Fresh off the loom, and through the wet finishing process! I love love how this fabric softens up in that first wash. I put it through the washing machine on hot, with high agitation, and then toss it in the dryer for a full cycle. Any shrinking or bleeding it is going to do is going to be done, and the whole thing just becomes so lovely to the touch.

Next up: ironing, and snipping stray threads, and looking for any skipped weaving threads to fix. Then I'll get to the sewing part. This is going to be 3 ruanas, which are a poncho like garment. I'm trying to decide if I keep one of these beauties for myself. I know I have one of my ruanas I've kept already, and I do wear it regularly. But, that was one of my stripy hand dyed ones. This is a new design. Shouldn't I keep one to test out? Maybe? Truth is, I'm just so pleased with the way the fabric turned out that I want one. 

The details: 3/2 Valley mercerized cotton for the warp, in three greens and three blues, sett at 12 ends per inch. The weft is 10/2 Valley mercerized cotton, in dark blue, blue-green, and black for the different garments. The weave is plain weave.