Better than salt money

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation

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Turn,and turn about

Spinning.  I like it.  Right now I have four projects going, two on the wheel, two on spindles.

Tomorrow I will have two.  I have reeled the three bobbins of 50/50 suri alpaca/bamboo “silk”, which I will ply tomorrow.  The singles are lovely.  I think I need to see about ordering a .lb or so, and making a lot of 2×2 cables.  It would make a really nice sweater, a russet sort of fiery tweed.

When that’s done I can take the 80/20 wool silk I’ve been spindling (at ridiculously fine WPI, about 80, it ought to ply out at about 30 wpi, though the silk might mean it’s closer to 36.  That puts the final yarn between lace and baby weight), and reel it it off the spindles, and then ply it up.

So then I can start new projects.

I need more bobbins, and I want a bulky flyer.  I’ve also learned I need a box to keep the fiber in my portable projects from felting in my knapsack.  The last spindle of the will is lot less consistent than the first two, because it got pretty felty.


Photos to follow.


I find myself in need of an Estsy account (I need to ask a kiltmaker some questions).

Since I intend (in fairly short order) to be selling yarn on Etsy… I need a decent name.

I don’t know that I will be limiting myself to yarns; photography I can do as a different account, but other bits of crafty stuff might be piggy-backed.

Any ideas? (I have a couple, but I don’t want to inadvertently lead people one way or another).

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Gardening, and landscape maintenance

I just did about 2 1/2 hours of it. I’m tired.  I have some blisters (one is burst, which is no big deal; better if it wasn’t a bit dirty, but it’ll be all right.  The other never got enough damage to get filled, so it will be callous by this evening).

The eradication of the japanese knotweed proceeds apace.  I spent a chunk of Friday ripping all the aboveground plant out.  I also dug up a lot of the rhizome; as well as a lot of bricks.  Yesterday I saw that I’d missed some of the rhizome which was near the ground (not a huge surprise, it was like trying to play tug of war with the Midgard Serpent.  That stuff goes deep, and ranges far).  I spotted it because it was making new shoots.  Ripped it out.  If I keep on top of it I can probably starve it to death.

Chopped up about 60 gals. of forsythia (and some prostrate juniper, and a little bit of the japanese maples; to keep them in better shape).  Then I started to put in one of the blueberries.  That’s how I got the blisters.  I wanted to dig a hole able to hold about 20 gallons.  The plant is in a 3 gallon pot, so that would give it some room to spread, and let me amend the soil to make it more acidic, thus keeping the bush in better humor.  I dug one about 10 gallons.  I did have the advantage that the peat I added didn’t contribute to having too much spoil left over; because about 20 percent of what I removed was bricks and broken concrete (As well as the hood ornament of an ’80s Chrysler).  It was trying to excavate the larger pieces which caused the blisters.

So I have some asparagus in the ground (and some more to plant) and one of the two blueberries (blueberries are not self-fertile, in fact they require cross pollination; two bushes of the same variety will not fruit).  Some mesculin, and bulbs for next spring, are going into a separate planter.  Dill seed has been tossed about.  Garlic chives have sprouted, the grape has got nine bunches of buds.  I need to order some za’atar seeds, because the one’s I had don’t seem to have been fertile.  I nipped the first buds from the basil (I need to plant more, three is not enough).  I have the season’s first oregano drying already.

Life is good.

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Spring is here

And modern practice (greenhouse seedlings) means I have already made my first harvest. There is a bunch of oregano drying in the darker portion of the downstairs hallway.  The Etrog has decided to put out new shoots (the coldish nights, and some hellacious winds beat a lot of leaves off the tree with the fruit… the fruit which has been on the tree for 10 months… and won’t be ripe for Shavuot, caused a huge loss of leaves.  I was afraid that tree might not make it, but it’s come back).

The nascent bunches of grapes number at least nine.  The amaryllis is about to bloom, there are garlic chives in all their spiky glory.  I see some California poppy sprouts (seeds from last summers attempts at guerrilla gardening which appear to have not sprouted, and are now coming up; we shall see if they are allowed to reach flowering.  There are three in the one place, and one in another.  I also put a lot out in the past couple of weeks).

The only concerns are the forsythia (rambling, and overgrowing the back) and what looks to be a pair of incursions of japanese knotweed.  Which means I am going to be having some fun trying to contain it.  That it’s growing on the far side of the fence on the property line on one side, and in an access way we don’t own on the other is a problem.  That part of the eradication effort involves Roundup bothers me a lot.

Oh well.

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Private profit, public risk

Who pays for the high cost of student loans?

We do.  Not just in the form of what it takes out of the economy directly (in the form of money which can’t be spent on other things), and indirectly (lost potential, as people who might pursue an education, and so expand the base of knowledge, or skills, which will keep things humming along) but in cold hard cash.

Student loans are only offered by a small group of companies.  The largest is Sallie Mae, which was privatised a few years back, with all the expected changes that brings about; i.e. profit became the motive, not providing service to the customer.  Example, prior to 2012 (when there was a huge online drive to get people aware) Sallie Mae had a “good faith deposit” before it would allow a “forbearance” of payment for unemployed graduates.  For 150 USD they would suspend the payment requirement.  Interest still accrued, but the loans weren’t in default.  Those “deposits” were actually a fee.  That money wasn’t applied to the loan (neither interest, nor principal), and so they got an extra $150 of profit.

These days the do apply it to the outstanding debt, but only after payment resumes, and even at that it takes six months of payments  before it’s credited(while the interest will be adding up on the outstanding principal: if you don’t have the money for that, “good faith deposit”, then you are in default, interest accrues and your credit score goes in the toilet).  What happens if a loan, made by Sallie Mae ends up in default? The gov’t (that is, us) pays for it.  This is despite Sallie Mae, in theory, being a private lender.  Under Bush they got access to gov’t guarantees.  Obama stopped that (and got some increase in the amount of direct to student lending by the Gov’t), but they are still one of the few companies the gov’t allows to service those guaranteed loans.

Which is part of why they’ve had a 3.7 billion dollar profit in the past, among other tricks they can use those federally backed loans they are servicing as collateral for debt, which they then loan out.  To add insult to injury they are still lending money as if they weren’t able to get it at the interbank loan rate; that’s on top of having seen student debt being excluded from being dischargeable under bankruptcy.

The Consumer Financial Protection Program just released a report on student loans. Among other the things the mean interest rate looks to be a bit more than 9 percent. Recent college graduates who are managing to stay current are paying disproportionately large portions of their income (25 percent, in some cases) to make the payments.  This is a directly depressing input to the economy.

To add insult to the injuries a lot of universities are getting on the action (in a move reminiscent of banks investing in payday lenders) universities have been buying shares in Sallie Mae.

<i>University endowments and teachers’ pension funds are among big investors in Sallie Mae, the private lender that has been generating enormous profits thanks to soaring student debt and the climbing cost of education, a Huffington Post review of financial documents has revealed.

The previously unreported investments mean that education professionals are able to profit twice off the same student: first by hiking the cost of tuition, then through dividends and higher valuations on their holdings in Sallie Mae, the largest student lender and loan servicer in the country, which profits by charging relatively high interest rates on its loans and not refinancing high-rate loans after students graduate and get well-paying jobs.</i>

The cost of education has outpaced the cost of inflation.  The cost of student loans is outpacing the cost of inflation, and doesn’t properly reflect the cost the lenders are paying to get the money they are lending; nor the actual risk of non-repayment they face.

It needs reform, in the worst way.

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It’s spring, or summer, or something.  Seasons on this coast are less defined than they are on the Calif. Coast (contra those who say, “Calif. doesn’t have seasons”, we do.  What we don’t have [in the densely populated parts of the state is freezing temps and snow).  Back in late March my grapes had “bud break“.  This was a bit of a problem because the nighttime temps were still falling below freezing, but the garage (in which I overwinter it, since it’s in a pot, not the ground: and since it’s self-stocked, not grafted, it’s not going in the ground.  I don’t want it to suffer from Phylloxera) doesn’t have enough light to sustain the plant.

So it was in and out, and in out, for a while.  Slowly the leaves did their thing (A lot more slowly than in Calif.).  When the temps were regularly in the 40s I moved them (and the etrog) outside, as well as the “Peruvian Daffodils” (which are a lily),  and bought some oregano, and basil.  A couple of weeks ago I put some za’atar seeds in the grape (maybe one of them has come up, more go in today when I leave for work), and some garlic chives in the etrog.

So my morning rhythm is back to what I am more used to.  I get up, walk MBF to the train, get some coffee, and examine the garden.  In the afternoon I go out and look at them again, watering as needed.  The olive in the front I check when as I come and go. It overwintered a bit hard, but they are hardy, and there is lots of nodal activity, so I suspect I’ll be training/shaping it in short order and it will again be dense.  Next winter I hope it does better (since this sort of hardship can’t be all that good for a bonsai).  I may move the pomegranate out in a little while. It’s much more a classical bonsai, and wants more sun, but also more water.  If I skip a couple of days it’s in a sad way.

I’ve been having some minor problems with scale insects.  The etrog had some, and there was what I think may have been a Parthenolecanium corni on the grape yesterday.  But Safer’s soap, and an attentive routine means I am not likely to have any serious problem with them hurting the plants.

I don’t know if the tarragon managed to overwinter.  I was afraid I’d terribly underwatered the pot (I didn’t want the roots to rot from being overwet).  I may have, for the tarragon, but the grape seems quite happy; if I’m reading the signs right (I’ll be more sure in another couple of days) it’s putting out flowers, so (for the first time in about five years) I ought to have some actual grapes off my grapevine.




A Bountiful Harvest

The fiber and whorl I ordered from Bountiful arrived yesterday.

The fiber is pretty.  It’s a bit less soft than the pure bay camel I have, but that was to be expected.  The whorl is TINY. It’s very pretty too (I like cherry).  This isn’t, per se, their doing (they didn’t make it, merely had the best price I’d seen).  But they are clever.  If you look at their website they have pages listing fiber.  Such lists are always a bit of strange pleasure, one can’t tell what they are (esp. things like, “Jacob”, as the source of some wool.  I am sure Jacob is a splendid beast, but that lets me know nothing of the condition of his wool).

With the printed catalog (all their drop spindles in one place, no need to poke about on six web pages [no, I didn’t spend much time looking in the nooks and crannies of the shop, why do you ask?] to see what they have), they included fiber samples.  Jacob, it turns out is a lovely shade of brown, not quite what I’d call chocolate; with a staple of about 5″.  Medium fine, and probably spins a very nice woolen, suitable for hats, or blending into something for a shawl.  Not suited to laceweight spinning.

It’s a very nice thing.  I am much more likely to order more fiber from them.

The whorl is nice.  It’s like changing gears on a bicycle. Not only does the flyer spin more quickly, it does so with less work.  I am now spinning as finely on the wheel as I am on a spindle.  I am quite pleased.

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On customer service.

I made a mistake in my last post, on spinning.  I mistook my niddy-noddy’s dimensions.  It’s not a 1 yd skein, but a 1.5 meter skein.  So the amount of yarn I made (and the total fiber) is a bit more than I thought.

Not 78 yds, but 117  for a grand total of 2106, when the singles are accounted for.  But my folly isn’t what I wanted to talk about.  I want to sing the praises of a fiber/spinning supply company.

I need (well, perhaps want very badly) a slightly faster set of gearing for my wheel (this will make it easier to spin thin yarns, and to balance my plies).  So I looked around and found a cherry wood whorl for about what most places wanted for a maple one.  I like cherry.  They also had a nice price on some camel/tussah top (50/50, which keeps the price down).  So I ordered the whorl, and 6 oz of fiber from Bountiful.  Since I was feeling greedy for my new toy I decided I’d opt for UPS, over Parcel Post.

Which is where the Customer Service came in.  On the web page they list Parcel post as ~$10 and UPS as ~$12.  They also say they won’t bill for shipping until the compute the price.  So I got an email, from them, asking if I really wanted to pay the extra for UPS, since the USPS was only going to cost about $6.  I sent a reply telling them that so long as I could reasonably expect it by the weekend, please sent it USPS (I happen to very much like the USPS, it is one of the underrated marvels of the world, and I use it whenever I can).  That was all within six hours of my placing the order.

This morning I got a note telling me it was packed, and on the way; telling me the whorl (a small piece of turned wood) was wrapped in brown paper, and to make sure I had remembered to make sure it was out before I discarded the box (which seems reasonable; yes, it was what I started this whole thing to get, but 6oz of camel hair/tussah might distract anyone from noticing that they’d not unpacked the wooden bit).

Kudos to them.  I will be checking back as I consider other equipment/fiber needs.