Emerging From the Covid Cocoon

With a year of plague-induced seclusion under our belts, we are ready to start venturing out.  We are still patiently waiting to be vaccinated, however. Just today, Maine extended vaccination availability to those under 70, so we are hoping to be jabbed before the month is out.  Although we are eager to see our family again and to savor the pleasures of eating inside a restaurant, moseying around stores, and browsing through the library, our year at home has been productive, creative, and satisfying.  And it has changed us. 

I have an even deeper appreciation of the life we have created here, shed layers of stress, embraced my reclusive nature, and have less itch to travel.  I have become far more attuned to the weather and the seasons, to the point of following the sun as it tracks across the room—morning weaving at the big loom in full southern sun,

midday weaving tapes and spinning wool as the sun hits the eastern side of the room,

and afternoons at the flax wheel, which sits in the western dormer.  It will be interesting to see what long-term behavioral changes come out of this upside-down year. 

Our weather these past three months has been as unsettled as the political scene (my fear that our democracy might not survive this year turned out to be well-founded—but we did squeak by).

We have had a few snow dumps—which make the dogs crazy with joy—

followed by melting back to bare ground. 

We had one spectacular ice storm,

some frigid patches,

warm patches,

and lots and lots of high wind. 

A December wind even blew the outdoor shower off its foundation. 

It is well-secured now. 

Christmas was quiet, but lovely. 

With the cold weather, George moved his projects indoors. 

When we had our garage built, the plan was for George to use one bay for a woodworking shop.  He finally had the time to get it fully up and running this winter. 

He made a bookcase for the bedroom,

installed an additional shelf in my loom room,

and has been working on my spinning wheels, including making a curvaceous treadle for the pendulum wheel

and fixing the wooden axle on this more-than-200-year-old bobbin winder.   

For me, winter means spinning and weaving. 

I finished a small coverlet that had been in the works for years.  It started with a lustrous Nash Island fleece that I brought home and washed two summers ago. 

I spun it last winter and spring and dyed the yarn late last summer with madder, woad, and Japanese indigo from my dye garden, and goldenrod, which grows wild here.   

The final step was picking a traditional coverlet design—pine cone blossom, also called pine burr—and the actual weaving.   

Alice approves. 

I have also been weaving more fabric for clothes,

weaving tapes,

and doing lots of spinning—wool and flax. 

I have added a few wheels to my collection, but do not have them yet.  They are being fostered with other wheel collectors until we can really start traveling again.  I am fostering several wheels for others, too, so there is going to be a lot of wheel railroading going on this spring. 

As if my wheel collecting is not enough, I discovered the world of Conder tokens recently.  A weaver posted a photo of one on Instagram and I was instantly intrigued—a graphic piece of history captured in a coin. 

The bobbin winder on this 1790s token looks very much like the one George repaired above

Because of a scarcity of small denomination coins in the late 1700s due to increasing industrialization and population growth in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, business owners, merchants, and local governments started minting their own. 

They are often intricately designed, representing local industries and trades,

anti-slavery pleas, and political satire.  I have collected a few of the textile related designs and one political one, which I will be using as weights on orifice hooks for my spinning wheels.

We are still eating food that we put by from the garden—we have enough winter squash, frozen and dehydrated vegetables and herbs, tomato sauce, carrots, and ginger to last until spring.  

In fact, we had so many pumpkins and winter squash that we donated them to a local farmer friend for her pigs.  Sadly, we had to give up on greenhouse greens this winter, because the mice kept devouring them.  We have not had any signs of mice in the greenhouse for the last six weeks, though, so I planted seeds for spring greens.  We will keep the traps well peanut-buttered, spread the minty mouse deterrent, and keep fingers crossed. 

Pruning and outside spring chores are just around the corner. 

The mourning doves are coo-cooing, foxes are barking and looking for places to den,

and I put wool on my apple branches in hopes of keeping the spring-hungry deer from nibbling the shoots.

In the meantime, we are enjoying the final month or so of hunkering-down, while planning our reemergence into society. 

29 thoughts on “Emerging From the Covid Cocoon

  1. What a treat to hear from you. 🙂 I spent the afternoon with Jack the Ripper and razor blades trying to take out two lines of machine embroidery. My mind was fried, but what did I see but your post which perked me right up. I always feel like a slacker, but I love reading about all you are busy doing. We had the absolute worst winds yesterday with -20 wind chill. It was one wicked cold, miserable day. Love your weaving. It is absolutely beautiful. Your coins are fascinating. I’ve never seen them so thanks for sharing. I also think you nailed it – this past year has changed us. My heart would love to travel abroad again, but I don’t realistically see it in my future. We have relatives in the midwest we’d like to see, but I’m guessing instead of a nonstop flight, it will be a three day car ride if we go. Your photos are wonderful, and each one tells a story. Things that were critically important a year ago are not so much now, and I suppose there’s good and bad to that, but that’s life’s journey. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed you get your shots so you can start your wheel railroad stop. 🙂

    • I feel for you–I hate ripping out stitches–hate it, hate it! It has been such a windy winter here and, yes, it was arctic-like yesterday. George said it reminded him of his days working on the North Slope in the pipeline days. I am having a wonderful time weaving, especially with my homespun. I have a couple of years worth of projects dancing in my head. As for the Conder tokens, I can’t figure out how I’ve gone all my life without hearing about them. They fascinate me. I think most of us feel that this past year has changed us, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how. This next year will be interesting. Just when we thought that we might get our vaccinations soon, we learned tonight that all teachers and day care workers will be given priority, so it looks like we will have to wait some more. Maine’s vaccine roll-out has been frustrating.

  2. Brenda, I always enjoy reading about all of your projects. Your spinning and weaving is just fascinating. I love the design and colors of the coverlet you made and the fabric you made is gorgeous. Your snow and ice pictures are beautiful but they make me really appreciate how lucky I am to live where I live. I love those coins and the story behind them.
    We’ve both been vaccinated and are really ready for a change of scenery. We have a couple of short trips coming up that I’m looking forward to. I hope you are able to go on your wheel railroading trip soon!

    • Thanks Beth. I love the snow, but this time of year I always wish we could have some time on the Georgia coast. We are planning a trip down there once we are vaccinated, whenever that may be. And, like you, we have some other short trips planned but everything remains in limbo. Still, I’m happy that we should be able to get out and about once the weather warms up.

  3. Nice to see your post and read your news, Brenda. Capp and Alice are looking well! Both you and George have dream work spaces, although yours looks cozier. 😉 Is there heat in his workshop?
    Your industry and his must keep you busy and contented. Your loom work is gorgeous.
    This pandemic isn’t so bad for introverts, I kind of like the lack of social engagements, staying home suits me well enough.
    March feels like the calm before the storm of spring activity as the garden season gets under way. It’ll be here before we know it. Take care.

    • It has been a year for us introverts, hasn’t it? George and I both have had a busy and contented winter–we are never bored. And, yes, there is heat in his workshop! I am trying to sink into these March days when the cozy last days of winter are about to explode into summer activity. Especially this year. I expect a crazy summer of catching up.

    • Good to hear from you Peggy. The winds seem to get more fierce every year we are here. I miss hearing about your travels. I imagine that staying home this year was quite a shock for your system.

      • We cancelled four trips last year, but have one planned for later this year. I still have years worth of travel to write about, but just haven’t had the motivation. Maybe this week.

  4. Hi Brenda, I always enjoy your posts, full of all your interesting projects….I think people who are passionate about their interests/hobbies have at least had time to concentrate on hobbies and projects during this long COVID year. Your weaving projects are amazing, and those dogs don’t know how lucky they are, having their own woven blankets!
    I definitely think I have changed in 2020, & like you, I’ve enjoyed time at home and appreciate my home and garden more than ever.
    It looks as if you’ve had a very cold winter…you are hardy folk!
    Best wishes for a vaccine coming your way soon.

    • Thank you Gerrie. Yes, this year was a gift in a way to those of us who never feel that there is enough time to do all the things we love. It felt like a “catch-up” time for us. How do you think the year has changed you? I can tell from your blog posts that you’ve enjoyed your time at home. I love seeing your vibrant birds and flowers in the dead of our winter.

      • Glad to read that you like our birds….when we are away from home I always notice the birds in the area. …not many as large as our birds! Yes, I have enjoyed having more time at home, and no longer feel I want to travel overseas, ….happy to stay closer to home. That is a change for me.

  5. I never know where to start, when reacting to one of your posts! SO much inspiration and beauty–you’ve both really made the best of what has been a tough year. I will admit that my favorite photos were those of the ice snow/curl on the metal roofs! It has been a banner year for snow curl here and I’ve taken a ton of photos myself–I think it is the coolest winter phenomenon of all! And the Conder tokens are fascinating, the coverlet spectacular, the dogs handsome and good-looking . . . I could go on and on. 😉

    • It’s so good to hear from you Kerry! I never feel that photos do the ice curls justice. I would love to see if you capture them better than I did. How are you doing? I really miss your blog posts and seeing your beautiful weaving and sewing. I hope your husband is doing well and that both of you have stayed well through this bizarre time. Take care.

    • George has been waiting so many years to have a shop, but we never had the room or stayed long enough in the same place, so this is extra sweet. We have been drying boards from our own cherry trees and I can’t wait to see what he makes from them. I planted a ton of bulbs last fall, Jason (you are my bulb-inspirer), and am getting anxious to see what comes up. Next post!

  6. G’day Brenda, I do love seeing your periodic posts arrive to catch us up with your creative and tranquil world. . What a wicked winter it has been for you. I just cannot imagine how it would feel to be that cold. Beautiful photos. Well done George you could both go into business with the lovely creative things you are producing. How satisfying it must be to see all your dreams coming to life. What a relief that your country is finally coming to its senses, and you will soon be able to get out and about soon. Stay safe

    • I only seem to be able to post about once a season now! I’m doing another blog documenting my antique wheels and that sucks up my blog time. We finally got appointments for our vaccinations today, so am excited about seeing our kids and grandkids. Stay safe yourself and enjoy your fall!

  7. What a beautiful cocoon you have spun for yourselves. I also love seeing your weaving — and you modeling that new top! I, too, am beginning to emerge from my winter hibernation and trying to remember how to be sociable.

    • It is going to be an adjustment to start socializing again. In fact, with all the catching up, I suspect it will be exhausting. But imagine a leisurely stroll around the grocery store, stopping to chat with strangers, lingering over the produce!

  8. Good to catch up with you, as always. It really is fascinating and inspiring seeing what you’ve been up to. I agree about this last year changing us, I also take far more notice of nature and the seasons now. Wow, that ice storm looks impressive, some of those icicles look lethal! George is so handy, how we could do with him around here. Wonderful catching up with your spinning and weaving, how creative and impressive. Loving the pups and those tokens. Here’s to you getting your vaccine and sorting all those wheels.xxx

    • The day after the ice storm it became breezy and the trees made amazing ice-on-ice tinkling sounds. Fortunately, we didn’t lose any trees or major branches. I’m getting the first vaccine in a couple of days and already planning some trips to pick up spinning wheels. I hope we all continue to take more notice of nature as we emerge into busier lives again. We’ll see!

  9. How good to hear that you feel settled, in spite of the difficult year. I am almost there, I can see what a post Covid life might look like (what I will resume doing and what I will not) although I’m not convinced we’ve reached that point quite yet – at least not in the UK. You now have a steadier hand on the tiller perhaps.
    My other half would be very envious indeed of George’s workshop! Glad to see he is making such good use of it too. It has paid handsomely for you both to have good practical activities as a distraction this past year.
    Minty mouse deterrents? I have taken several cuttings of mint this month and distributed pots of it round the greenhouse as I read it can deter aphids, which hit me big time last year. A real bonus if the same thing might also work for the mice?

    • Maine was never very hard hit by Covid, so it does feel as if we are climbing out of the hole and looking around at the world again–I can’t wait to be vaccinated. This past year seems to have shown many of us the value of our time, energy, and resources and, like you, I suspect many are deciding what they will and will not resume once things open up. George is just starting to make furniture with boards from our own trees, which is pretty exciting to me. Not sure on whether mint actually deters mice. I’ll let you know.

  10. Hi Brenda

    I am really impressed with the way you have spent your winter/covid lockdown so productively. Both of you! Your weaving is amazing. It is undoubtedly the best way to spend a time of enforced reclusiveness.

    We have been pretty close to “normal”, as there has been no community transmission of coronavirus in Canberra yet, and none much in Australia since Christmas . There was a big outbreak in Melbourne over our winter, when they were getting up to 700 transmissions a day, but with a very severe lockdown, they managed to eliminate it in the general public. Since then all the outbreaks in Australia have been controlled very quickly, with lockdowns and contact tracing, so they have never been more than about 20 per day. Everyone entering the country is put into strict quarantine before they are allowed to go home.

    The downside is that no one can leave Australia, so all travel is out of the question. But I guess that is pretty much the universal story of 2020-21.

    Can you please tell me how you have succeeded in growing so much ginger? Because of floods in Australia’s ginger growing region, the price of ginger is up to $60 a kilo. As I use it a lot, I would love to have grown an independent supply. I realise that as a root crop, it’s a slow grower, but I would love any tips you can share. I’m guessing that you grow it in a glass house, as I do think of it as a tropical crop. What time of year do you plant it? And when do you harvest it?

    We are having a lot of rain here at present. Parts of Sydney and areas further north, along the coastal rivers, are flooded. In Canberra, we’ve had consistent, persistent, but not terribly heavy rain for some days now. Great weather for slugs and snails.

    The family are all well. Ali, my eldest grandson, has started the first level of organised schooling, called preschool here, as he is 4. He is going to exactly the same preschool that my kids went to and it is a bizarre feeling to be waiting at the gate in exactly the same place to pick up the next generation from school and realise that 30 years have passed.

    Stay safe!! Keep up the great work you are doing. Your garden is wonderful.

    Love

    Kerri

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