Oct 8
Total Lunacy
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 Historically Speaking | icon4 10 8th, 2014| icon31 Comment »

Last night, I read about the total lunar eclipse that was to take place this morning and saw that in our neck of the woods, it would start soon after 5 AM.  Since that is not long before my normal get up time, I decided to get up and watch it.  And I asked Scott if he wanted to join me.  Surprisingly, he said yes (it’s his day off and normally he would sleep in).

So, at 5:08AM, Scott and I were sitting outside, tea mugs in hand and started watching the show.  It took an hour and a quarter to go from full to eclipsed.  Up front, I will apologize at my camera’s quality, but I had to try to record it somehow.


Lovely full moon.


A bite taken out of the moon.


A bit more.


About half-way done.


By this point, Scott and I started noticing more stars.  With the full moon glowing brightly in the sky, only the brightest stars could be seen.  At this point, you could see quite a bit of the Milky Way.


And the blood moon.  I tried to get a picture of the whole, red moon, but my camera just could not get it.  Too bad.

The last time Scott and I watched a lunar eclipse was on our Honeymoon down in North Carolina.  Since that was nearly 30 years ago, it’s about time we did this again.

Jun 16
Fiber at Spring Mill
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 Historically Speaking | icon4 06 16th, 2014| icon31 Comment »

I lucked out last Sunday at Spring Mill because it was a Fiber Event weekend.  I started out over at one of the residences where a gentleman who works at Spring Mill set up some of the wheels he has restored.

restored wheels

I thought I had gotten a picture of him telling me about them, but the picture must have not taken.  That is happening more and more with my camera, but it has been used a lot and is beginning to show its age.

Also, on a table, he had this:

salesman sample wheel

This is a salesman’s sample and the older man believed it was from the 1850’s.  It did not belong to him, but to another employee of Spring Mill (and someone I happen to know from fiber festivals).  He’s going to make a couple of bobbins for it.  Isn’t it a beaut?


This lady was spinning the Shetland you see at the bottom left of the picture – raw.  Sorry, but I love my wheel too much to feed it anything but washed wool to spin.  Still, it was a nice, dual-coated Shetland in a deep black.


Under one of the shade trees in the yard was this lady quilting on a quilt.  I spoke with her for a while and she was really sweet and friendly.

In the building that is behind Scott in the picture of him yesterday is the Granny White House and inside there was several different wheels and a large loom.


One of the wheels was a very interesting specimen – one that I had read about, but never seen in person.  A Trolley Spinning Wheel!


I did a search online, and came up with a couple of articles on them.  Here’s one, and here’s another.

I wish this one had been out and working because I would have love to see it in use.

The Sheek House (Weaver’s House) was built in another location not too far from the park in the early 1800’s.  In one of the outbuildings was a loom owned by the Sheek family and when the house was dismantled and relocated and brought to Spring Mill Village, the loom was brought with it and installed in the main room of the house.


It is still in use today.  Small world side note: When I was in college, my roommate my final year was a girl named Sandy Sullivan (not my business partner, but still a good friend today).  Sandy and I do genealogical research together and have been for over 20 years.  She discovered that she descends from this same Sheek family and that her ancestors wove on that loom.  Needless to say, I brought her down to Spring Mill and took her to see her ancestor’s home as well as the loom. Cool, huh?

In another room of this house, an older gentleman was spinning on a walking wheel.

walking wheel

Before a family with children came in, he and I talked about spinning and about the different tools used.  He was as fascinated with the subject as I am.  Then a family with three children came in and I stood back.  Here he is demonstrating how the wheel works to the children.


Then he “helped” one of the girls spin on it.  She thought it was magic and he sent her home with the plied-on-itself bit of yarn she had spun.  One day, I hope she remembers this and learns how to spin for real.



Jun 10

Last night, when I got home from work and running several errands, I decided I deserved a bit of time to rest until Scott got home from work at 8:30.  I began perusing YouTube looking for the kind of documentaries I like best when I stumbled across a British documentary series called The Victorian Kitchen. Each Episode is only 1/2 an hour in length, but they are a real eye opener.  So, I decided to share them with you.

Episode 1 – Introduction

Episode 2 – Breakfast

Episode 3 – Luncheon

Episode 4 – Afternoon Tea

Episode 5 – Not on YouTube

Episode 6 – Dinner

Episode 7 – Not on YouTube

Episode 8 – The Dinner Party

Talking about the making of The Victorian Kitchen

If anyone knows where I can watch episodes 5 and 7, I’d really appreciate knowing.

Jan 10

As you all have probably guessed, I love history.  Before I married Scott, it was all about American history, especially the time period around the American Revolution.  Also, I loved studying how pioneers traveled and made their own stuff (hmmm…  Maybe this is why I love creating textiles so much).  Then I fell in love with the 1890’s, then with the Civil War, then…  You get the idea.

Scott has a degree in Medieval History, specializing in England and France and the “church,” meaning the history of the Catholic church.  We are not Catholics (I was raised Baptist, Scott was raised Church of Christ), but you really cannot study the medieval time period without a good understanding of how the Catholic church worked because they had their fingers into every pie they could and then some.

When Scott earned his degree, his maternal grandmother sent us to England and Scotland for 11 days (in 1992) and I was awakened to the same history he loves so much.  I became quite an Anglophile, in fact.  Which is why the BBS series of Tales from the Green Valley, Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, War Time Farm, and Tudor Monastery Farm have thrilled me so much.  The education from these shows are worth their watching alone, but the archeologists and historian made the shows fun, too.  I really hope they do more.  I think one done during the Georgian times would be fun – Think Jane Austin’s time period.

Well, I turned my sister-in-law (Scott’s sister) on to these shows, and she, in turn, has turned Scott and me on to the Discovery Channel’s Time Team shows.  Holy mackerel, these are fascinating!  So, if you want to mix up mystery solving with archeology with history, you really need to check these out.  They are only 45 minutes long each, so really good for relaxing before bedtime while you work on the latest knitting project (so I’ve been told *;) winking).  So, just for grins, here is the link to the very first episode.  I think they’ve been doing this for something like 20 years, so there is a lot to learn here.  And if you enjoy them as much as we have, send a thought of thanks to Scott’s sister.  She’s one in a million!


Dec 3
I’m hooked on the past
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 Historically Speaking | icon4 12 3rd, 2013| icon31 Comment »

While I have been knitting on the closer-to-being-done blanket (2 more pattern sections and one more stockinet section, then the border), I have to have something to keep my brain busy.  I have listened to all of my audio books multiple times.  So, I looked around on YouTube for other things.  Some of the things I found I have shared in the past, but, lately, I have been rewatching Tales from the Green Valley, a 12-part, BBC program showing a working farm for a whole year as if it were 1620. Every time I watch these, I learn something new.  So, I thought I’d share them with you.  There is a lot of information that would be as useful today as it was back then.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

Part Ten

Part Eleven

Part Twelve

I have become quite a fan of Ruth Goodman through these shows.  The things she knows and can do astounds the mind.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Sep 8

Well, it is official!  Okay, it happened last Thursday, but we made it official yesterday.  Granny really is one hundred years old.


Here’s the cake (one of the cakes).


Here’s her picture on the front page of the newspaper.


And here’s the birthday girl herself.


Scott and I ran late getting there.  His car decided to be sick and we had to take it in for repairs before heading south.  We ended up getting there around 2 in the afternoon, and some people had already left, but there were still plenty to visit with and see.  One of my cousins counted 187 people at one point, but more showed up later (including us).  Dad said that there were well over 200 people there all said and done.  There were some relatives I have not seen in nearly 40 years, and a favorite cousin, Annie, whom I had not seen since I left for college was there and it was sooooo good to see her!  I hate that we lost touch with one another, but it is a big family and a bigger world.  She has my email address, now, so I hope to keep in touch with her.

One thing I wanted to do while there was get a picture of Granny holding the youngest member of the family.  It is a 5 generation spread.


This sleepy little fellow in Granny’s right arm is only 2 months old, so they are almost exactly 100 year apart in age.


Lily, Granny’s great-great-granddaughter and Granny had a lot to say to one another.  I love this picture!  Lily is 9 months old here, and although she won’t have any memories of this, we can prove that she knew her great-great-grandmother.  Not too many people can say that.

In fact, not too many people can say they have been to someone’s 100th birthday party.  And it might not happened again to me in my lifetime.


There was music being played when we arrived.  My Dad is at the far left with his back to us.  He usually wears his black cowboy hat, but it was pretty warm for that.  I think it got up to 87 while we were there.


This is my oldest niece, Kim.  She looks like Mom.


I love this young lady.  We got the chance to talk and catch up with one another.

I stopped at the cemetery on the way to the farm to lay flowers on Mom’s grave and visit with her for a few minutes.  There were several people who remembered that Mom died 1 year ago.  While it was bittersweet that Mom wasn’t there, in a way I think she was there in spirit.  And there were about 200 people she loved there, so she was not forgotten.  She would have loved celebrating Granny’s milestone.

Here’s to many more, healthy and happy years, Granny!!

Jun 8

This weekend, at Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell, Indiana, was the annual Crowder Clan family reunion and campout.  Scott and I drove down for the day and got to visit with various family members, meet new members, be shocked at how much some of the children have grown, and just plain relax and have fun.


Let me introduce you to the oldest member of the clan, my paternal grandmother.  Granny will be 100 years old in September, and she still lives by herself, although there is usually someone there a couple of times a day to check up on her and keep her company.  Her mind is still very sharp, and she knows everyone.  She is the queen bee of the hive, that’s for sure.

This year, they had pirate-y things for the kids to do.


I think my little cousin, Libby, wins the prize for best display of jewelry.  Goodness, she looks like her mom, whom I held the night she first came home from the hospital as a newborn.  I was 16 at that time, and here I am playing dress-up with her daughter.  Where has the time gone?!? Libby’s Mom is one of my dad’s brother’s daughters.


One of the games set up for the kids was to “walk the plank” with blue “water” and alligators ready to get those who fall off.  This little guy is Will, and he is the son of the younger sister of the mom of the kid in the previous picture.  Did you get that straight?  There will be quiz at the end.  By the way, Will is walking the plank backwards.


There is never a dull moment in our family, and you never know what is going to happen next.  My niece, Kristina, bit off a little more than she could chew when she tried to do something to Josh and he caught her.  I love it how Kristina is hollering and Josh’s young daughter in the wagon is oblivious to it all.  The little girl in the pink is the sister to the young man walking the plank above.  Remember, the quiz?


Some of the kids brought scooters and one of my dad’s brother’s, O.D., had to try one out.  It was pretty funny, especially later coming down the hill a bit faster than he had wanted.


While I was sitting there, I finished knitting that pair of socks I showed earlier this week.  They came very close to being exact matches, but I think I got off just a wee bit on the toe decreases (it was hard to concentrate on the decreases with all of the activity going on around me), so one toe tip has a bit more white than the other, but they are close enough.


Mama Sharon admired them, so I gave them to her.  As you can tell, she was just tickled pink.  Sharon is my brother’s late wife’s mom – Lori’s mom.  Our reunions always include extended family members, so Sharon and Leroy were Crowders by proxy for the day.


What’s that we hear?  Someone is tuning up the fiddle?


And away they go!  My family is very musical and bluegrass and old gospel flows through all our veins.  That’s my dad playing the banjo, and he and the others played song after song for a couple of hours.  I took some videos of them playing and I’ll get them uploaded to YouTube in the next day or so and post them so you can hear them play, too.  It was wonderful and brought back so many memories of my childhood.  Music was a part of every get together.


We sure know how to fill a campground.  And I noticed campers from campsites nearby sitting outside their campers and tents listening to the music, too.

After the music ended and I had gotten a ride in my brother’s new pick-up truck, Scott and I decided that we would have to leave soon, and we still wanted to see the Pioneer Village.  So, out came the T-shirts and we all gathered together for the clan pictures.


Mama Sharon had my camera.  That me on the far left, crouching down slightly because I thought there was someone standing behind me and I didn’t want to block their view.  Not everyone is here as some of them had scattered to the pool or to the village or one of the caves to explore.  The rest of them will get their pictures taken tomorrow and their picture will get added to this one.


Sharon also took this one of my portion of the clan.  That’s Kayla, my brother Clinton, Kristina, Dad, Kurtis, me and Scott.  BTW, tiny Kristina and long-drink-of-water Kurtis are twins.  She got the spunk and he got the height.  The only one missing is Kim, but she had an educational opportunity that she really couldn’t turn down.  She was missed very much, though.  Of course, Mom and Lori were missed very much, too.  It seemed really odd their not being there.

After pictures were taken, Scott and I headed to the village.  Before we got into the village proper, we passed a couple with a street organ.  This was made by hand in Germany for them about 8 years ago.  I got to play it, too, and the videos from it will be uploaded to YouTube with the rest.


The organ was beautiful!!!  I enjoyed talking with the couple and asking questions.  The history of them and this organ was very interesting.

The first house Scott and I stopped at was…


…the Sheek house.


The Sheek house houses this loom.  This loom and this house once belong to ancestors of my former college roommate, and when my friend, Sandy (different Sandy that my Dyed in the Wool partners Sandy) found that out, I took her down to see it.  To know that the house and the loom that once belonged to part of her family are still in existence and use made her very happy.


Tools of the weaver’s trade.


Of course, the mill is the focus of the pioneer village.  This mill is still operational and grinds corn meal, flour and works a saw mill.


When the wheel is turning, it creaks and groans and the sound of the water splashing through it is all music to me.  I remember as a child standing and just watching that wheel go round and round as it turned the gears that were connected to it.


And speaking of gears.  When these are engaged, they run the saw in the sawmill.


This sawmill.  And, yes, it still works.


At one corner of the mill was this cool, old tree.  I had to take a picture of it because it was just too interesting to look at. And it was all leafed out!


I love old stone, mossy walls.  Unfortunately, this one had a bit of a poison ivy problem. 🙁


The scent of the nearby honeysuckle was heady, indeed.  I smelled it before I saw it.  Goodness, that perfume is one I could wear every day.

aquaduct & stream

The aqueduct and the stream that feeds it has always held fascination for me.  When I was in elementary school, I replicated this scene in miniature for a science project.  Mom helped me, and I was so proud of it and how it worked.


And look who we ran into while we were there.  Nut cases, every one of them.  🙂

I took lots more pictures, but you will have to wait until Monday to see them because they are all “B” pictures.

Okay, quiz time: How is the little boy walking the plank related to me?

Sep 24

Had Mom lived, today would have been her 67th birthday.  Happy Birthday, Mom!!

My third bit of good luck that I mentioned Friday are Mom’s travel journals.  For Christmas 1995, right after Mom and Dad sold the campground and went “full-time” as travelers, I bought Mom a blank book and told her that she could use it to record everything she saw, did, heard as well as tickets, pictures, whatever she wanted in order to be able to read them again when she was old and remember everything.  She looked at the blank book in her hands and you could see the light bulb go off.  “I can, can’t I?”  And she did.

Beginning January 1, 1996 through May 31st, 2001, she wrote nearly every day and filled six volumes of blank books.  Like with Mammaw, I replaced each book when it was full with a new one.  She quit the first time she got cancer and started going through all the chemo, surgeries and radiation.  She said she just couldn’t write about that.  Even when she went into remission and she and Dad started traveling again, her energy level and the constant pain from the chemo treatments left her with no desire to write again.  We are so lucky for the 4 and a half years she did write though.

As you can see, she included pictures, maps, brochures, cards and letters from her grandkids, everything she could think of to make these memories as complete as possible.  The further she went, the more stuff she found to include in her journals to the point they were a hybrid journal/scrapbook.

This is how thick the 6th book is.  I think there is more extra stuff than original pages in it.  Each page is like opening another present from Mom as underneath all of the extra stuff is a full, written page describing the events and experiences.  I am so sorry that she didn’t get the chance to relive this time by reading these journals in her old age.  I would have loved to sit with her and discuss her experiences with her when the time came.

On Saturday, I began transcribing Mammaw’s diaries.  The first volume has 1954 at the top of the page and 1955 at the bottom, so I an transcribing both years at once with each year in a different Word document.  It took a couple of hours, but I have both Januarys done.  Reading them as I go along is fun.  There are daily trips to a neighbors for a few weeks because that neighbor was due with a baby “anytime” and they didn’t want her to be alone when she was in labor.  There were worries about paying bills due to winter lay-offs at the factory, there were chores, visits, broken bones, basketball games, laughter and heart aches.

It was such a different time.  Someone in the area getting a new telephone and people visiting so they can call friends and family who also have phones so they can hear what they sound like.  Also, television was relatively new and people would invited friends and family over to watch a show together. At that time, baby showers happened during the week rather than on the weekend because women having a job outside of the home was the exception rather than the norm it is today.  In order to make extra money, Mammaw crocheted “chair sets” which consisted of a cover for the back and arms of a chair and sold them for $10 for 2 sets.  Also, more times than not, hair cuts were given by a neighbor rather than a barber or a beautician.  No one had the money in rural southern Indiana for extras such as that.  In fact, running out of coal and having to burn scrap lumber happened far more often than was comfortable.

I grew up hearing these stories firsthand and have read these diaries a couple of times before.  What an eye opener it will be to the generation after me who are used to computers, cell phones and ipods.  I can hardly wait to get this done so I can discuss it with them.  I’d love to hear their comments.

Aug 18

As I have already mentioned before, Conner Prairie Museum stepped forward and offered to host the Sheep to Shawl competition since the State Fair was closed on Sunday.  They gave us the Featherston barn, and all four of the youth team showed up in full, with only the adult team opting out. 

The event was to start at 11:00, only one hour later than it was to have started at the state fair.  I have to hand it to the kids and their textile coordinator, Sue Payne.  Sue had gotten the call at 1:00 AM that the state fair would be closed on Sunday, and was on the phone to everyone at 7:00 telling them to go to Conner Prairie instead.  I found out about it when I had gotten home from going to the fairgrounds, only to be turned away by locked gates.  I immediately got back in my car and headed to Conner Prairie.  The other Judge, Mindy McCain, managed to pick up the rosettes from the state fair staff, and brought them with her.  That was very lucky and we were all very thankful to Mindy for doing this.

Mindy used to compete in the Sheep to Shawl years ago when it was first formed and she wore her costume that day as a nod to all those teams who had come in between.  Isn’t she cute?  Mindy is a professional weaver and has 40 years experience behind the loom.

Let me introduce you to all four teams before we get started.  Part of our scoring for each team included their ID, presentation board/table, and their costumes.  I began on one side of the room, and Mindly on the other as soon as the teams were allowed to start.  The first team I came to were the Pirates of the Treadle.  You might remember this team from last year, but there have been some member changes as some had graduated and new ones were admitted in their place.

Of all the displays, theirs was my favorite.  Each team member had “assumed” the identity of one of the characters from the Pirates of the Carribean movie, which made it even more fun.  One of the team members is the son of a very good friend of mine, and he “played” Bootstrap Bill. 

And here are the pirates themselves all working hard.

These pirates even brought their own version of rum to help give them the stanima to make it all the way through.

The second team, I came to was The Traveling Gypsies.

I’ll admit that theirs was my least favorite display.  I had hoped that, being gypsies, theirs would have been very colorful and flambouant.  But I do like the addition of the peacock feathers.

And the Gypsies in their colorful costumes getting started.

The third team was The Legends of the Loom.

Theirs was a definite old Greek theme and the girls gave themselves names from Greek mythology and history.  And, yes, the weaver was Penelope.

Check out Penelope’s lovely costume.  They all had toga-like dresses on and they looked like they could have stepped out of a temple painting.

And the fourth team was The Majestic Spinners.

If you will look to the left of their display, you will see they included an audio/visual display of what all the teams did to prepare for the competition. 

Also, Mindy and I decided that if we were to be a part of any team, it would have been this one because they had the coolest costumes, all being dressed as princesses.  I mean, the pirates’ costumes were awesome, but, as females, we wouldn’t have been able to join their team anyway.  (Although I think I would have made a cool lady pirate – Yarrrggghhhh!!!)

Also, on each table, were two “practice” scarves woven by each team as they prepared for the big day.  These scarves were being sold via silent auction, and I got beat out at the last moment on the one I liked, woven by the Legends of the Loom.

Here is what all four teams looked like from above.  The barn had a upper floors and a couple of us were given permission to go up and get pictures from above.

This one was taken looking straight down at the Majestics’ team.  As you can see, they were working hard on their scarf.

This is Bootstrap Bill proving that sailing the open seas is only one of his talents.  One of the most fun parts of the Pirates team was the fact that at one point they were softly singing pirate songs as they worked.  I absolutely loved that!

And the Pirates’ scarf as it was being woven.  If you look closely at it, you will realize that the pattern is very reminencent of the skull and crossbones in the pirate flag.  Also, they dyed their handspun warp using indigo and cochineal which made the dark Shetland weft really pop against it.  I loved their pattern.

Nearing the end, the weavers had gotten into their zone and were paying little attention to the crowds of people wandering around them.  These next pictures were taken at the 3 hour mark, and they knew that have only an hour left to finish their scarves and get them presented to the judges.  The one above is the Gypsies scarf, and this really shows off their pattern very well.

The Legends of the Loom coming in at their 3rd hour of weaving.

And the Majestic Spinners. 

Each of these teams stayed focused and worked hard to get their scarves done.

The Pirates were the first ones to cut their scarf from the loom, but they had had troubles with broken warp threads and they needed the extra time to fix these.  When I took this picture, it reminded me of surgeons starting to work on a patient, and I asked a parent standing near me if he “thought it would live.”  The parent got a big laugh at that because that is what it looked like.  The patent survived.

The Legends of the Loom with their scarf cut off and onto the finishing table.

The Majestic Spinners with their scarf done and on the finishing table.  These young ladies were moving so fast that this is the clearest picture I could take of them as they worked.

And last, the Gypsies cutting theirs off their loom…

…and onto the finishing table.

Each team worked hard to make their scarf as presentable as they could.  The Gypsies even experimented with placing peacock feathers in theirs, but abandoned the idea and opted for their scarf to speak for itself with no added embellishments.

With the scarves off the looms and being prepared for the judges, I will stop here and tell you about the judging and name the winners tomorrow.  I am so proud of these young people and how hard thay had worked preparing for this day.  Also, how they didn’t let the change of venue rattle them.  Til tomorrow, then!

Aug 14

Yesterday was another lovely day at the Indiana State Fair.  It was warmer than Friday – 91 at one point.

As Sandy and I were leaving a little after 6:00 last night, we passed people coming in to go to the Sugarland concert that was to take place.  Some were dressed in cute little sun dresses, some in cowboy hats and boots and all were obviously looking forward to the show.

Also, at that time, the weather had begin to cloud up and there was a prediction of a possible storm coming.  I made it home with enough time to spare to take a shower and print out the judging forms for the Sheep to Shawl competition before the storm arrived and we had to shut down and unplug everything.  As Scott and I were getting ready for bed a bit after 9:00, a hard gust of wind hit our house and made it shudder.  Scott looked at me and said, “I didn’t like the feel of that,” so we turned on the weather radio and listened to the report.  A wind gust of 70 miles per hour had hit Fortville (the town nearest us) and that is what we felt.  What we did not know was that a wind gust of that same speed hit the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  What that wind gust did was horrific. Please click on the previous sentence to see a report on the tradegy that hit the Indiana State Fairgrounds last night.

Today the fairgrounds were closed.   Sandy and I did not know this until we arrived at the fairgrounds at 8:30 to begin setting up for Sheep to Shawl.  We were going to be able to set up a booth selling our tie-dyed merchandise for Sandy to man while I spent the 5 hours monitoring and judging the competition.  Needless to say, we turned around and went home.  I dropped Sandy off and I came home, just planning to spend the day washing fleeces and proof-reading on the graphic novel.

When I arrived home, Scott said that I had gotten a call to go to Conner Prairie Museum because the museum had generously offered to host the Sheep to Shawl competition for the state fairgrounds.  I’ll tell you more about the S2S tomorrow.  Right now, my heart is really very heavy about what happened last night at the fairgrounds.  Please say a few prayers for the victims and their families.  What should have been a fun night of music and entertainment turned into an evening of nightmares come true.

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