Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Home Soon

Leslie is letting me use her computer, so I just wanted to let everyone know I'm doing well and will probably not post again until I'm home. I will be spinning today, Wednesday, and Thursday, then leaving Friday with the aim to be home August 6.

Looking forward to seeing my friends and family!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Did I Say Cooler? I Did Say Alpacas!

Well, yesterday (Friday) was supposed to be cooler. Instead, it was the hottest day yet. 32 C. 90F. Of course I’m relying on the posted forecast here at Howe Hall.

Took my usual stroll downtown.

Down Sackville Street to the harbor. Yes, it really is that steep.

Posted the blog, then took the ferry across the harbor to Dartmouth for the view and the breeze. Dartmouth is Halifax’s working class neighbor and the hometown of Sydney Crosby. If you don’t know who that is, you’re a) not Canadian b) so not into hockey.

Whacking big ship coming into the harbor. Everyone here keeps saying that Halifax harbor is the second best / deepest harbor in the world. They don’t tell you what the first is. New York? Hong Kong? My inner geography nerd must find out.

Halifax skyline from Dartmouth.

World Peace Pavilion on the Dartmouth waterfront.

The World Peace Pavilion is closed. Insert ironic comment here.

McDonald Bridge with ferry from Dartmouth. Wouldn't that be a cool commute -- a ten minute boat ride to work?

Atlantic Seaside Farms

After going to and fro on the ferry, I got in the car for a drive out to Rose Bay, near Lunenburg. I was going to Atlantic Seaside Farms, where they raise Suri Alpacas.

The most direct route to the south shore or anywhere around the Northwest Arm from Dalhousie goes through the hateful Armdale Rotary, which is under major construction.

Oona and Christopher at the farm were extremely generous with their time and fiber. They took time out of a very busy day to show me around and explain alpacas. Although I knew I liked alpaca yarn, that was about it. Christopher gave me so much information that my head was spinning by the time I left. Therefore any mistakes here are mine. There are two kinds of alpaca: Huacaya and Suri.

The brown alpaca here is Huacaya. This is the “wooly” looking, curly-haired type of alpaca most people are used to seeing. Note: Alpacas do not produce wool. Their fiber is actually hair.

These two are Suri. Their hair falls in much straighter locks and is known for its luster. The guy in front has been sheared, but the other one still has his full coat.

Suri alpaca are relatively rare – they make up a very small percentage of the alpaca population. Oona and Christopher have up to 90 alpaca at a time, mostly Suri. They shear the animals, then process the wool at their own facility, The Rumour Mill. When I arrived they were in the process of moving the mill as the old building had too much static electricity. Christopher showed me some fiber at the old mill and explained how he blends Suri and Huacaya hair, along with other fibers. Alpaca also dyes extremely well, although the natural colors are beautiful, ranging from pure white through cream, tan, brown, to jet black. A high quality animal can have its fleece reserved for years; one of the alpaca at the farm has its fleece spoken for through the next eight shearings.

As you can imagine, with all that hair alpacas don’t do well in such extreme heat. I about had heat stroke just looking at them. Oona said they had managed to shear about half of the herd by now, but she was hosing down a group of the others to help them cool off.

It is shearing and breeding season (did I mention they were busy?). Here is a cria (baby) that was born the day before I arrived. Aaaaw. His mama was doing the keep-away-from-my-baby thing. Oona says that alpaca don’t spit as much as llamas, but I wasn’t getting any closer to check.

Christopher showed me some finished alpaca garments. There were sweaters, baby sweaters, and incredible blankets. Alpaca is warm, but it breathes more than wool. It is incredibly soft, which is one reason I want to knit with it. Christopher told me that Marrie Berkelaar at Double Whale Designs in Lunenburg weaves for them and suggested that I stop in and talk to her. So it was off to Lunenburg.

Marrie was very nice and showed me around her shop. She has two looms and she explained how they work. She also showed me her book of patterns; all the varied patterns can be done with combinations of just four harnesses on the loom (the parts that raise and lower the heddles, which hold the warp threads). Marrie has some beautiful work. Even on such a hot day I was tempted by her shawls and coats.

Lighthouse Route

Since my dorm was hot and I wasn’t in a hurry to go anywhere, I took the Lighthouse Route back to Halifax. This is a series of smaller roads that hug the coastline. I had been avoiding it because it is supposed to be packed with tourists at this time of year. I don’t know if it was the heat or what, but it was not that busy. It certainly was breathtaking. I had been avoiding the village of Peggy’s Cove as a tourist trap, but I was really hungry so I stopped there for supper. It really is beautiful, with rocky outcroppings going down to the sea, which shone in that evening light that is so hard to capture.

I ate at the Sou’Wester, which was a standard tourist restaurant, but really wasn’t that crowded. The food was so so, but the atmosphere, view, and service was great. My waiter was this guy with a surfer dude voice who I think found it amusing that I was not the usual stressed tourist family but was happy alone with my book. He said at one point “You look really relaxed!” I said “I really am!” It wasn’t busy, as I said, so he told me to stay and finish my book if I wanted, no one was going to need my table. That guy knows how to get a big tip.

Must spin and head out for the day.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Not Much?

Warning: Lots of Photos!

Also, it's really hot in this Internet cafe, so I might not mess with fixing Blogger's messed up formating.

After typing up the blog entry to post later, I moved on to spinning.

Howe Hall has the perfect spinning chairs. Think they’d mind if I took one home? Don’t worry Dalhousie people. I will not really take your chair. I’m not about to lug a chair out to my car when I got enough strange looks lugging the spinning wheel in. Did I mention I have to walk through the dining hall each time to get to my part of the dorm?

About ¼ of the wool top prior to spinning.

I love the colors in this. And there's 225 grams of it, so I think I might use it for my "final project" if the yarn turns out okay. I'll be spinning on it for a while since there's so much of it.

I took my daily stroll down (literally) Coburg Road with all the other commuters and Dal students wearing iPods. Passed a bunch of Victorian houses and shady trees.

If you cut through the shady (therefore cool) Public Gardens and take Sackville Street past the CBC building, then it’s mostly downhill and shady all the way to Argyle Street where I post the blog and where I ate lunch (lots of restaurants frequented by locals, so not quite so pricy as the tourist places). Remember to hang onto a toonie for the bus ride back to Dal.

After lunch I took FRED up to the Citadel.

Parade ground of the Citadel from the walls.

Citadel signal mast.

Yes, I even found knitting at the Citadel. I think for early Canadian women that knitting was like breathing. Either that or the interpreters really want something to do to keep busy.

Looking toward the mouth of Halifax Harbor from the walls of the Citadel.

George's Island from the walls.

Next, FRED took me to Pier 21, which has been called “Canada’s Ellis Island.” Between 1928 and 1971 more than one million immigrants moved through here. I know that seems less than went through Ellis Island, but remember that Canada has about one tenth the population of the US.

Many English and Eastern European immigrants came through Pier 21. It also saw heavy use during World War II when almost all of the troop ships leaving for Europe left from here. After the war many war brides and then refugees from communist countries arrived.

Pier 21 is basically a big shed or warehouse.

View from Pier 21 (George's Island).

Leaving their ship, immigrants would pass through these doors.

Mock up of the Immigration Department processing area. It was really much larger.

Many immigrants boarded the train for other parts of Canada right from Pier 21.

I was going to take FRED back to Barrington Street to catch the bus back up to Howe Hall (hiking down is one thing, climbing back up is another). But it was around the time of FRED’s last run, so I decided to stroll via the Harbourwalk instead.

Beep beep. I’ve seen a few Smart Cars around. But the most popular car seems to be the new Mustang convertible. I think young Nova Scotians could keep Ford going on their purchases alone.

Figureheads #3-5.

Figureheads #6-8. They’re everywhere. I guess it’s like the cows in Chicago. (It was cows in Chicago, wasn’t it?)

Time for a Break

All this walking and touring gave me very sore feet and was tired. I realized at the Citadel I was starting to think it looked the same as any other historical site. (It doesn’t – the views are spectacular and there are guys in kilts everywhere.) So yesterday (Thursday) I declared a moratorium on sightseeing. No pictures since it was just devoted to relaxing and recovering. I went to a bookstore (a la Barnes and Noble), hung out at the mall, and watched the newest Harry Potter movie. After supper I sat outside in a purple (they’re not afraid of violent purple here in Nova Scotia) Adirondack chair and knitted for a while before returning to the dorm and reading in bed. Today (Friday) is supposed to be cooler and it might even rain tomorrow. Whoo-hoo!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Guidebooks Lied

According to my guidebook, the average high temperature for July in Halifax is 23 C, or 73 F. So I’m expecting rain, some sun, mostly comfortable temps. Wrong. It’s hot. Yesterday the waitress at lunch told me it was supposed to get up to 30 degrees. I had to tell her I didn’t know what that meant, but that it was hot. Looking at my little cheater card that I now see that 30 C is about 86 F.

Before you send me protests, I am aware of two things:

1. 86 F does not sound that bad to those of you who have been suffering temperatures in the 90s or even 100s. This is true. However, did I mention my dorm room is not very well air-conditioned? And I have no control over the thermostat?
2. Yes, I am aware that the guidebook listed the average temperature, and as a teacher I am aware of the definition of average. However, the title got your attention, didn’t it?

Before I finish whining, the Canadian dollar is now up to 96 cents US. This might be good news for you Canadians (economics is not my strong suit, so if it’s not, I apologize), but for American tourists it’s a bummer.

Moving On
Okay, “waaaaaah” session over. I really do like Halifax. It’s a city, with all the conveniences that entails, but not too big of one. Size-wise the downtown reminds me of Indy a bit, although older and perhaps not as clean (not filthy, but we really do have a clean city). The hills and older buildings remind me a little of Edinburgh, but just a little. Halifax has its own unique charms.

I’m starting to get my days a little mixed up. Is it Monday? Tuesday? Wednesday? I already blogged about Monday’s daytrips, so I’m on to Monday’s spinning and Tuesday’s doings.

Monday night I finished spinning the Dorset, plied it, and skeined it.

Getting better, but as I plied I could see that I was not all that consistent in thickness. Of course, by Monday night I was hot and tired, so I wasn’t in the best state for spinning.

I used my Lazy Kate for plying. This is a box with rods for the bobbins, which allows you to ply directly from the bobbins, instead of winding the yarn into a ball and pulling yarn from both ends.

I had no niddy-noddy or skein winder, so the keyboard tray worked just fine to wind the yarn into a skein.



Did I mention yesterday (Tuesday) was hot? I did laundry in the morning at the dorm, then shopped at the Dalhousie bookstore (clothing, not books!) and walked down to Spring Garden Road, where I caught FRED. FRED is a bus (Free Rides Everywhere Downtown). I love FRED. He’s free and takes you up all the hills you don’t want to hike.

He took me a two blocks from the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where I had lunch at the Cheapside Café, then wandered the museum for most of the afternoon. No pictures allowed, so you can check out their website if you want. The most interesting part was the Maud Lewis gallery, but the Treasures of Ancient Egypt exhibit wasn’t bad either. My one complaint (I seem to have a lot this post, don’t I?) was that the gift shop didn’t have much in the way of museum catalogues or postcards from the collection. If you don’t allow pictures, shouldn’t there be more of that kind of thing available?

After supper I returned to the dorm to spin. I got started on it earlier in the evening, so I seemed to do better. I spun the Blue Faced Leicester from Gaspereaux Valley Fibres. There was less of it, so it didn’t take very long.

This looks pretty good. I can still see the inconsistencies when I look at it, but I’m a perfectionist and control freak. (I can hear you all thinking, “really?” I can hear the sarcasm. I know you’re out there.)

I finished spinning around seven and decided to go outside to cool off. It was nice outside, so I went over to hang out at the Student Union (knitting) and then wandered around the campus a while.

The designer of Dalhousie’s library obviously subscribes to the same school of design as IU’s. That would be the Let’s Make the Library the Ugliest Building on Campus School of Design.

Most of the other buildings look like this.

Or this.

I have decided to get things done in the dorm room in the mornings, when it’s cool, and spend the evenings elsewhere. Then I can come in around dark and lie under the air conditioning vent, which is conveniently over my bed. So this Wednesday morning I’ve typed up the blog and I’m off to spin before I begin the day. I’ll post later today at the Internet café.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I'm Running Out of Cute Titles

Yesterday afternoon started out cloudy, but turned very sunny and warm. I went to Gaspereau Valley Fibres just outside of Wolfville (about an hour northwest of Halifax) to stock up on spinning supplies for this week of practice. I met the owner, Brenda, coming from the barn with a basket of fleece to prepare. Inside the wool shop, I was helped by a very nice lady named Jali.

The haul (left to right): Blue Faced Leicester, a bag of dyed wool top, dyed merino (mostly brown but with green, purple and pink bits), and a baby camel/tussah silk blend that scares me just to look at. I’m saving the camel/tussah for the actual workshop next week.

On the way back to Halifax I thought I’d stop at Grand Pre at the National Historic Site, since it was just down the road from Wolfville. This is a site commemorating the Acadian culture and exile. The Acadians (for my American readers) were French settlers living in Nova Scotia after the British took over the area. After decades of living as neutrals, they were rounded up and deported in 1755. Those that survived wound up all over the world, including Louisiana, where the word "‘Cadian" evolved into "Cajun". A few managed to escape the roundup, and some eventually made it back to Nova Scotia from afar. Longfellow wrote a famous poem about it called Evangeline. Although Evangeline is a fictional character, she has come to represent the exile.
I happened to stumble across Acadian Day, with free admission and cultural activities.

Model of the dikes the Acadians used to reclaim coastal swampland.

Acadian dancers.

Memorial chapel and gardens.

Evangeline statue.

Back in Halifax, I checked into the dorm at Dalhousie University. Does this take me back about two decades! Hauling my suitcase and spinning wheel up to the second floor reminded me of my age, however. Also, I had forgotten how empty a dorm room is! I have a double, though, so I’ve already spread out my stuff and settled in for the week, with room to practice my spinning in the evenings.

Lunenburg and Mahone Bay
This morning I drove down the coast to Lunenburg, a town settled by mostly German immigrants. It was a fun place to walk around.

Figurehead #1.

Fishermen's Memorial, Lunenburg.

Psalm 107:23

There are some pillars with blank spaces left for future names.

Figurehead #2.

This one's for the Queen Bee and Princess Sage.

This one's for Lacy.

Then it was on to Mahone Bay for lunch. This is a pretty town with lots of artisans and craftspeople. Not too packed with tourists – at least on a mostly-cloudy Monday. I was surprised to find (gasp) that it had a yarn store. No more Fleece Artist purchases, though.

My favorite Canadian road sign. Although it makes me smile (is it calling all puzzled people?), it means that a visitor information centre is near, which means helpful people, maps, and clean washrooms.

Spinning practice tonight.