Spring Ahead


I have not died or otherwise disappeared off the face of the earth. I simply have been engrossed in worlds other than blogging. Now my challenge is to condense nine months packed with living into one blog post.  We have gone from spring mists


to fall mists


to this


since I last wrote.  Here goes …

One reason I dropped out of the blogosphere was because Capp became terribly ill in July. Seemingly overnight, he went from a happy-go-lucky, just-turning-two-year-old lab, full of mischief and swagger, to a ball of misery who didn’t want to leave his crate.


After time at the local dog emergency clinic and with our local vet, his mystery condition was bumped up to the veterinary specialists in Portland, an hour-and-a-half from home. He almost died.


Home after tests with lots of shaved spots.

He spent three days at the Portland vet on an IV and undergoing a battery of tests. At first the fear was cancer, but it turned out that he had immune-mediated neutropenia, which was causing his white blood cells to drop to treacherously low levels. After six months on prednisone, and other drugs, he is finally back to our old Capp.


We still don’t know exactly what caused his condition. The theories are a reaction to immunizations or perhaps a tick-borne disease (although he tested negative for all the common ones). He remains on a low dose of pred and must have regular blood tests, but we are so relieved that we didn’t lose him. He has become quite popular with the wonderful vets and technicians caring for him. One tech calls him “Cute Adorable Puppy Prince,” and it has stuck. Amazingly, we had pet insurance–the first we’ve ever had for a dog–and they really came through for us, too.


Throughout Capp’s illness, Alice has remained her sweet affectionate self.

Because of Capp’s illness, we have been sticking pretty close to home. In the spring, we consolidated our vegetable beds into two fenced-in gardens. “We” meaning George–he did all the fencing and leveling.


The gardens were lush and productive this year.






We were eating our garden potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and onions well into February. I tried growing cotton this year, and it did well, but frost hit before the cotton fully developed.


Cotton blossom.

Next year, I will try hanging the bolls inside to continue to mature.



The vegetable beds. Much neater than last year.

George is getting really good at putting in trails.


We have a whole system that now reaches each corner of the property.

IMG_1743 (1)


The first set of trails were named after the grandchildren. The next will be named after the dogs.

He also is building an outdoor, wood-fired sauna–something that I became enamored with during our years in Alaska.


Preparing for the sauna.

But the biggest project this year was building a garage.




We hired contractors to do most of the work, but George did much of the prep and finish work himself (he’s still doing finish work) and oversaw everything–not an easy task. The upstairs is an open space that will be half guest room and half an area for sewing, my small loom, and my really big spinning wheels. I inaugurated the space two weeks ago with a gathering of nine great wheel spinners from around mid-coast Maine. It was wonderful.


I have fallen deep into the spinning and weaving world. Old wheels just seem to follow me home and it gives me a thrill to work on them and get them spinning again.


Amazing wood on Shaker wheel from Alfred Lake, Maine.

They fascinate me with their beautiful wood, colors, craftsmanship, and history.


This European wheel, likely from Austria, was singed by being too close to the fire.

I am planning on doing a few presentations and classes on antique wheels with another friend this year.


Canadian Bisson wheel.

We’re hoping to convince lots of spinner to rescue these lovely wheels, so that they won’t be lost to future generations.


It’s amazing how beautifully the old wheels spin. I have continued to buy local fleeces–this year Romney/Finn, Gotland, and Cormo–because I enjoy the whole process of scouring, processing, dyeing, spinning, and weaving.  It’s so satisfying to do it from start to finish.


Beautiful Cormo fleece.  I will spin with this on the great wheels

And flax, well, I’m just in love with flax.


About a third of my line flax this year, all processed and ready to spin.


Home grown and dyed flax woven into tape on an antique tape loom.

In the spring, before Capp’s illness, I took an amazing flax course at Snow Farm in western Massachusetts with Cassie Dickson–a flax guru, coverlet weaver extraordinaire, and all-around wonderful person.


The flax Cassie brought was retted in various ways so that we could compare them.

The course was for five days and covered everything–planting, processing, spinning, dyeing, and weaving.


Classmate Victoria, an amazing textile artist.   A link to her site: victoriamanganiello

I felt so fortunate to learn from Cassie, she usually teaches in the South, closer to her North Carolina home.  Here’s a link to Cassie’s site: CassieDickson.  People in other Snow Farm classes were fascinated by the flax.


Flax that we processed, spun, and dyed at class.

There was in class in welding sculptures out of all sorts of found objects, aka junk, and the instructor and one of his students kindly made us stands to keep our cups of water for flax spinning.


I treasure mine.


In the fall, weaving took the spotlight.


I wove these on my small loom in the summer.  Destined to be chair cushions.

I again traveled to western Massachusetts–this time to Vavstuga in Shelburne Falls for the introductory weaving course. What a treat. Having been–until recently–totally self-taught in weaving, I just soaked up all the years of knowledge shared through this wonderful weaving school.


A tablecloth being woven by a returning student.

The focus there is on Swedish weaving styles and looms, so it was especially timely for me because I had decided to buy a Swedish Oxaback loom. I was able to bring one home with me from Vavstuga and get right to work with it. Bliss.


Putting the first warp on my new loom.

I also really enjoyed Shelburne Falls. Every morning I went out early to the Bridge of Flowers, which spans the river right in front of the school, and chatted with the head gardener.


Every evening I walked down to the Falls, which were swollen with water after torrential downpours that we had on the second day.


I’m returning for another course in May. Can’t wait.


Current project on the loom.  Overshot with handspun and  naturally dyed wool and handspun linen tabby.

We have been rich in guests these past months, which has also kept us busy. We had family reunions in Connecticut and Massachusetts in July and both of our children, with their spouses, and the grandchildren were here for Thanksgiving. We had a big dump of snow, to the delight of the grandkids, who have never lived with snowy winters


Soap Sally, our creepy Thanksgiving snowperson, freaked out the dogs.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, so I really savored having the whole family here.  The granddaughters took to weaving like fish to water.


Our daughter returned again in December with the grandkids and, while George stayed home with the dogs, we took a two night trip to Quebec City right before Christmas.  It was magical.


And, of course, I brought home a beautiful Quebec wheel.


This post is starting to sound an awful lot like one of my mother’s holiday letters. But rather than edit it, I’m going to post it, as is. Or I may never get it done. I will try not to go so long between posts again.  I have been posting pictures on Instagram under “olddogsnewtruck.”  It’s more my speed these days.  Happy Spring.


40 thoughts on “Spring Ahead

  1. I got goosebumps when I saw your name in the email list. So glad to hear all is well now, and you’re just one busy, happy Mainer. It’s always a pleasure to hear how things are going at your place because I always learn something new or at the very least get excited about trying something. Stay in touch. I did go over to Instagram too. 🙂

    • It’s nice to know I’ve been missed! I haven’t been checking in on other people’s blogs very much, but enough to know that you are in South Carolina again this winter. Enjoy the camellias–it’s howling with snow here.

    • Oh yes, overall it’s been very good. Losing Capp at two years old would have been terribly hard, but having him pull through has made his companionship all the sweeter.

  2. So nice to see your post, Brenda. I’ve thought of you often, wondering what you were up to. I did see Fernwood’s post with you in the group at their workshop. Your enthusiasm for wheels, looms and weaving is palpable! I’m glad you’ve found something that ignites you. You could create a Weaving Museum with all your equipment and knowledge you’ve acquired. Very sweet that your grand girls have the gene. 😉
    I wish I had known that you have visited the Hilltowns twice this past year, mere minutes from me. Please let me know when you come in May and I’ll give you lunch or dinner, I owe you a meal! Plus I could give you a walking tour of woods and gardens. It would be nice to see you again.
    Your garden, trails and garage expansion is impressive. George is a man of many talents, I see!
    Glad all is well with Capp again, that must have been a harrowing experience. Thank goodness you had insurance!
    My best to you all.

    • I will take you up on your offer! I thought of you both times I was in western Mass., but wasn’t able to fit in a visit either time. I had a wonderful aftermoon with a college friend in Hadley on my way to Snow Farm, and the Vavstuga trip had to be wedged in to an already busy September. I was on their wait list and got in through a late cancellation. But this spring, I think I can fit in a visit and would love to see you again.
      This world of wheels, looms, and creating textiles feels so natural and right for me that I swear there’s some genetic memory or predisposition at work. I have spinners and weavers in my family on both sides going back for generations and many come from heavy flax producing areas. Of course, it may have been sheer drudgery for them, but it’s pure pleasure for me.
      George is a man of many, many talents. He is turning this place into our dream.

  3. Thank you for your update. I’ve left your blog on my sidebar in case you came back to blogging. I understand complete about your break. I am thrilled that Cap recovered. Sounds like you had some great vet service.

    • Hi Steve! It’s so nice to hear from you. I have sadly neglected other people’s blogs, but will catch up on you and your hounds. Hope all is going well with them (and you). Yes, we had some really dedicated vets working on Capp’s case–so good, in fact, that he loves going there. He’s the only dog we’ve ever had that loves going to the vet. But, he’s a charmer, and they adore him.

  4. So pleased to see you back Brenda with an update and what an upsetting time with poor Cap. The vets sound like life savers and what a relief Cap pulled through. What a busy and productive year it has been. How many wheels do you have now? No wonder you needed a special place to keep them. Best wishes for 2019

    • Thanks so much Pauline. I need to catch up on your blog to see what you’ve been up to! Your post today on the gigantic swells and surfers was fantastic.

      I’m up to 37 wheels. Maximum capacity. Some I will always keep, others move along to good homes. A bit like a dog rescue, only I don’t have to feed them!

  5. Brenda, I’m so glad to hear that Capp is recovered from his mysterious illness. Your spinning and weaving work is beautiful. It must be very exciting to deepen your self-taught knowledge and skills with classes.

    • Thanks Jean. Like you, I love to learn. I have always enjoyed figuring things out on my own, but few things make me happier than learning more about something I love with a really good instructor. Also, Snow Farm and Vavstuga are such beautiful places, it was a delight to be able to spend a week in each place just learning and soaking up the loveliness.

  6. Lovely to see your post, I enjoyed the photos showing the seasons, everything looking so green in spring, and then snowy white in winter, such a different world to mine! Poor Capp, he seemed such a character from the moment you got him, it would have been devastating to lose him at such a young age. I was very taken with your photo of Quebec, it looks wonderful… now there is another place to visit. Glad you managed to take home a beautiful Quebec wheel.

    • It really struck me when I started looking through photos to post, how the seasons had gone almost a full revolution since I had last posted. Capp is packed with personality, we kept telling ourselves that we were lucky to have had him, even if it had been for only two years. But we would have been devastated to have lost him so young. Let’s hope he fully recovers and has a good long life now.
      Quebec City is wonderful. It feels so European, yet is so close to home for us. We will be making many more trips up there. I hadn’t thought of going in the winter, until my daughter mentioned it. It was a bit cold but so festive–just gorgeous.

  7. Welcome back! I’ve missed your posts. So sorry Capp was so sick. Glad he is feeling better these days. I love your spinning wheels and seeing the results of your spinning. I’ve started posting things on Instagram, too. Just followed you.

    • Thanks, it’s good to be back and touch base with everyone again. Although I have a lot of blogs to catch up on, yours included. I hope you’re having a great winter–we were going to head down to Georgia for a visit in March, but have postponed it until November. I’m looking forward to spending some time on St. Simons again.

  8. Well, Brenda! I hope the enthusiasm with which you’ve been greeted encourages you to write more often–I LOVE hearing about all you’ve been doing. That whole situation with the pup must’ve been terrifying. We’re lucky to have excellent specialist vets about an hour away, too, in Burlington, and they can make all the difference. It sounds like you’ll be keeping a close eye on the Cappster from now on!

    I gasped out loud when I saw your new space with all the spinning wheels–so fabulous. You have found your arts/crafts “home” with the spinning and weaving and have embraced it so fully. I’m in awe. What class will you taking next at Vavstuga?

    Too much in your post to really do justice to but my favorite photo may be the one of your granddaughter at the loom. It seems so right . . .

    • It’s heartwarming to see that people missed my posts. I have always intended this blog to be a record for George and me to look back on but when I get busy I wonder if it’s worth the time. This warm reception back, however, reminds me of how much I enjoy this blogging community and how much I’ve missed it.
      As for the Cappster, I fear we will be overprotective parents now. He’s still not out of the woods, but we are optimistic.
      Funny, but I never imagined that I’d be so passionate about antique wheels, or spinning and weaving in retirement. I thought I might do a little weaving as a hobby, but never envisioned this! Head over heels in love with everything I’m doing now.
      I’m taking Swedish Classics in the spring. I thought of bringing one of my granddaughters to the intergenerational class, but the timing didn’t work out this year. It was wonderful to see the girls so excited about weaving. They both have very mathematical minds and loved experimenting with treadling and colors. They are excited about trying some natural dyeing this summer.

      • Yes, the support of the blogging community keeps me engaged–even when I don’t have the time to write, I try to write! I’ve wanted to take Swedish Classics–the projects look so appealing. We took Nordic Classics a couple years ago and that one is wonderful, too!

  9. How lovely to see a post from you, Brenda; so much has happened. Poor Capp! You must have been so worried but thank goodness he is recovering. I love all your weaving – it’s beautiful – and that you’re really getting deep into this craft. George is doing an amazing job with the trails and outbuildings. Fantastic. I hope you both have another fulfilling year in your wonderful place. And there are no more dog-scares!

    • It has been an eventful year, Sam, but no broken wrists over here (so far, it’s solid ice on our driveway right now, so fingers crossed). I’m glad to see that you are getting back to fighting form in time to tackle your garden. We are covered in snow but I’m already full of garden plans and itching to start scratching in the soil. Have a lovely spring and I’ll try to post more often.

  10. Lovely to hear from you and catch up on all your news. As always you have been busy and involved in so many wonderful projects! You will have a museum soon, knew that would come about! Oh, so very sorry to hear about Capp, poor guy! I’m delighted to hear he’s better!!! xxx

    • Thanks so much Dina. I see that you have a new addition to the family. What a wonderful grandmother you will make–so much curiosity and compassion to pass on to the little one. Enjoy every minute.

  11. I think that’s about how long it’s been since I looked at blogs; I’m so glad you posted in time for me to read this! Your posts always inspire a feeling of warmth and admiration in me. Happy wintering!

    • And happy spring to you! So good to hear that your vagabond spirit enjoys reading about our current stay-at-home-and-nest life. Now that I’m peeking in at blogs again, I’m really enjoying your Kenya posts. It’s a place that has always intrigued me, and I appreciate seeing it through your eyes.

  12. Lovely to see a post from you. I have been much the same with little time to spare for blogging, I was so sorry to hear about Capp, what a relief he has pulled through. It must have been such a worrying time, with him being so young it would have be the last thing you expected, Your spinning wheels look wonderful in their new location, so glad you have still had time to do some spinning too. Sarah x

    • Thank you Sarah. Capp’s illness was so unexpected that it made it much more difficult to digest. We are sadly used to losing old dogs, but it would have been such a wrenching loss to miss out on years of Capp’s life. So, now we are grateful for all this “extra” time that we have with him.

      I always have time for spinning and weaving now. They have become such a part of my life that I feel like I’ve missed something vital if I go a day without them. Funny how something can just move in take over like that.

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