Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival

Reading this week:

  • The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee
  • Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard
  • Fighting the Slave Hunters in Central Africa by Alfred J. Swann

Two weekends ago, as this is published, because that’s when it was, my super amazing girlfriend and I went to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival! I would have written about this earlier, but I got distracted by KitchenAid attachments.

We had been looking forward to this festival for quite some time. My super amazing girlfriend is a super amazing knitter as well as spinner and is therefore extremely dedicated to the textile arts, which this festival of course celebrates. I am more of a casual fan, because I realize that if I am ever relegated to living in a hut by necessity instead of choice knowing how to operate a loom would be a handy skill. Anyways, my super amazing girlfriend was so excited about this event that two of her friends came down from Boston to attend with us, and another knitting enthusiast friend of ours came along too. It was quite a crowd!

The day itself dawned rather gloomy and it in fact rained on us all day, though this was overall fine. The sheep didn’t seem to mind, nor did all the people attending the festival. It was quite the crowd, which meant we were shocked when we overheard a lady on a phonecall celebrating the fact it was so muddy because she thought it had driven the crowds away, maximizing her own ability to score the best deals on yarn. There were a lot of people!

The first thing we checked out when we arrived at the Sheep & Wool festival were the sheep. Our entire crowd were all fans of sheep, and how could you not be, really? They are very cute and almost tautologically fluffy. We stopped into a judging booth where they were judging sheep, which is a little unfair because all sheep are wonderful in their own way, and then wandered through all the rest of the booths filled with sheep.

Going through my camera roll the vast majority of the pictures I took were of sheep. As you can see from the picture directly above, I was far from the only one. These sheep were like rockstars man, except well I was going to say better behaved but I guess they probably also leave a mess wherever they stay for the night. They live off a much cheaper diet however, though I suppose sheep and rockstars probably have similar haircare needs.

Anyways the point I was winding up to is that my impression is that the sheep portion of the festival and the wool portion were actually pretty separate. I mean they were all mixed together and overall it is a celebration of the things you can do with hair, but there definitely seemed to be sheep people on one hand and then yarn people on the other and I am not sure how much of an overlap there is. Like, I don’t know how many of the sheep farmers that came to show off their absolutely fantastic sheep also knit, or how many knitters would know what to do if handed a freshly shorn hunk of sheep wool. Certainly a number would, like my girlfriend, who is awesome and can and has gone sheep to shawl in a very literal sense, because she is awesome (she is also going to do this in our apartment soon which I am very excited for). But I think overall the number of intermediaries between the worlds of sheep and yarn were a relatively small portion of the audience here.

Just one other observation before I move on. This observation is that it has to be weird to be a sheep at this event. Mostly what I am trying to say here is that in the above picture there are sheep pelts hung up right next to the sheep, which feels a little morbid. Like these sheep gotta be thinking “man everyone here seems to love me… but why?” and then you have your answer in the form of a sheep pelt. Rockstars don’t (I hope) have this problem.

There were other exciting sheep-related attractions at the festival besides just the sheep themselves. For example, there was a sheep dog demonstration, which was very fun to watch. The poor sheep seemed overall confused but man those dogs were excited. They had like five dogs and only typically had one at a time herd sheep. Meanwhile the others were all constantly just vibrating with excitement, which yeah, I get. Like, you’re a sheep dog, bred to do exactly this thing and now here is an opportunity to do it. So you’re like “put me in coach, I wanna herd some sheep” and herd them they did. They were good! Way better than I would have done. They seemed to have a really good time and the sheep did what they were supposed to. Go left, go right, go in figure 8s, go in the pen, go in the other pen, all because the nice lady whistled some things to the dog. It was great! The other sheep-related attraction was the lamb burgers and sandwiches we had for lunch, which if I thought the sheep pelt was morbid, look who’s talking, buddy. Very good though!

And uh, yeah. That was the sheep and wool festival. The above picture is just one of the barns full of different vendors vending different sheep-related products. There were also alpaca, lama, linen, and other fiber-based products as well. But I had a great time watching my super amazing girlfriend look at all the different yarns and stuff. I got a lapel pin out of the whole deal, which is really typically my #1 goal. And I think if I had a decent shop (I now understand the male urge for a garage) I would try to make a drum carder for less than like hundreds or thousands of dollars. Those things are pricey! Might get distracted by making fanciful KitchenAid attachments though.

Anyways the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival is a great time, way better than that piddly little one up north, you should go!

KitchenAid Attachments

Look, this post is for me. I mean they are all for me but in this post I am trying to manifest some stuff into the world. The picture up top is of my super amazing girlfriend’s KitchenAid mixer. It is one of her favorite things ever, right up there with me, Tink, and, uh, I’m struggling to come up with a third because I think everything else is so far down.

The most interesting feature I think of the KitchenAid mixers is the power takeoff. It’s got a technical name that I am unable to Google right now, but you can attach accessories to the KitchenAid and the motor in the mixer will spin ’em. I have been thinking a lot about KitchenAid accessories lately because we have recently gone through a process to get the pasta roller and cutter attachments as cheap as we could, and frankly we did pretty good. They haven’t arrived yet but already we are extremely excited to make pasta. After some I was going to say quick back-of-the-envelope calculations but in fact they were took-a-while-and-involved-a-spreadsheet calculations, I can say they’ll have paid for themselves after we make pasta only 245 times (this is 1471 servings of pasta, though my super amazing girlfriend paid for them so I personally am in the money already. By the way, since my super amazing girlfriend is the only one that reads this blog, I am in fact very excited about the attachments as you can tell, the homemade pasta will be way better, and I was just curious. Math!).

Anyways though I gotta say I am pretty disappointed with the range of potential KitchenAid attachments out there. If you do some more quick Googling you will find like, top 10 lists of best KitchenAid attachments, but these are stupid lists because there are only like 10 attachments out there. Which boggles my mind, personally. The KitchenAid has been around for a century, which is longer than like, spaceflight and, uh, waterskiing. That is ample time to have invented some really super cool attachments! I mean the ones they got are nice, but they could do better.

I will provide some historical perspective, courtesy of this CNET article I will link to several times. There have been attachments that have come and subsequently gone. When I was brainstorming possible attachments, I kept thinking of workshop equipment, because it is funny to think of a drill press powered off the KitchenAid. But they were already close actually, with both a grinder and buffing wheel in the form of a knife sharpener and silver polisher. So that’s neat!

But the point of this blog post is that I have brainstormed some KitchenAid attachments people should bring into the world. Someday I may bring them into the world, and they would not be my first kitchen invention, because one time I put together a toaster with a functioning battleshort switch, making me the only person in the world with tactical toast. The only thing stopping me right now is the fact I lack a metalworking shop, which might change someday. In the meantime, I beg any and all adventurous inventors out there to bring my dreams into reality:

Butter Churn

The first accessory I thought of was a butter churn. I couldn’t believe these didn’t exist yet, though it was likely undermined by all the different cooking websites telling me you could just make butter in a KitchenAid, no attachment needed. But I still think there is probably an opportunity to make an old-timey looking butter churn powered by like a fly wheel coming off the KitchenAid and I think it would give anyone’s kitchen a wonderful rustic charm as well as providing endless fresh butter the instant my super amazing girlfriend lets us get a cow to keep on the patio.

Taffy Puller

The KitchenAid Taffy Puller is still in my list of plausible inventions I can’t believe don’t actually already exist. I mean sure, who is pulling taffy that often in their kitchen, but my counterpoint to that is the number of new never-used KitchenAid accessories on eBay makes me think that all these attachments are niche and rarely used, so what’s one more? Plus I hear taffy is hard to pull so the sheer horsepower in the KitchenAid is going to make this a winner.

KitchenAid Rotisserie

Honestly this is another one I can’t believe doesn’t exist already. Trying to think of reasonable kitchen gadgets, there both are and aren’t a bevy of ones that spin. Like, what’s the difference between a food processor and a blender, really? In fact there is a KitchenAid food processor, but it looks kind of gangly dangling off the end there in space. But as I was thinking of spinning things, I came up with this brilliant idea, because who (besides like, a large bevy of people actually) doesn’t like meat roasted by slowly rotating it over a heat source? With that in mind, I bring you the KitchenAid rotisserie. Here is the fully-enclosed version, but you could also imagine a version that just did the rotation while the chicken was kept over a handy indoor grill.

Shop Vac

Of course, why just think about food when using a KitchenAid mixer? Hence my next brilliant idea: the KitchenAid vacuum. This would be especially handy for kitchen cleanup, when you could finally get all those little crumbs that fall between the oven and the cabinet. Oooh ooh now that I am thinking about it this could double as a vacuum sealer for food. Jeez I am so brilliant.

Backhoe

Of course, what really got me thinking about all this was that the KitchenAid power takeoff was pretty similar to those ones you find on tractors or Land Rovers. Some follow-up research led me to be very disappointed in the limited range of accessories to attach to one’s Land Rover power takeoff (winches seem to be the only real idea, which would also be great for the KitchenAid frankly), but luckily I found a backhoe attachment for a tractor. Brilliant! When I showed this picture to my super amazing girlfriend she asked “what would you do with that?” But what wouldn’t you do is the question. I mean, probably anything that didn’t involve digging, but I think this would be endless fun for the whole family as they gathered around the KitchenAid backhoe and dug up the kitchen linoleum, or something. If I had a metal shop and probably a YouTube channel and more time and also knew anything at all about hydraulics, this is the one I would build for sure.

Other Free Ideas

I got tired of expertly photoshopping all of these (my super amazing girlfriend when I showed her these pictures, reacted with a slightly exasperated “this is what you’ve been working on for hours with a look of concentration???”), but I have a bevy of other ideas. These are all free for anyone to make and implement, but you have to email me a picture and if you become rich and famous please say nice things about me.

  • Salad spinner. Gone are the days of spinning salad by hand, like it’s 1800.
  • Water pump. For uh, spraying things I guess. For watering plants from across the living room.
  • Fan. Because if you can’t stand the heat, instead of getting out of the kitchen just install your KitchenAid fan.
  • Hand mixer attachment. This is supposed to be ironic but I think you could use a drain snake-like mechanism to connect the power to a hand mixer and that could be handy for things.
  • Speaking of which, drain snake. To unclog the kitchen sink. Incredibly handy!
  • Cake decorating stand. Instead of having to spin the cake around by hand, it’ll spin it for you, cutting effort dramatically. Could also work for pizzas to ease putting on toppings, or double as a potter’s wheel.
  • Winch. This is an homage to the LandRover, but could be useful for putting things in high cabinets.
  • Combine Harvester. Like the kind you pull behind a tractor, but smaller. Useful for houseplants in the kitchen.
  • Automatic pot stirrer. When I suggested this to my super amazing girlfriend she was like “the KitchenAid is already a stirrer” so this should be easy, but in this case it is like an extension that juts out over your stove and into your pots.
  • Toothbrush. Like an spinning electric toothbrush, or the kind at the dentist. Get your teeth really clean. You’ll have to brush your teeth over the kitchen sink, obviously.
  • Honey extractor
  • Milk separator. Clearly now I am thinking about my future self-sustaining ecofarm that is off the grid but still on the electrical grid, specifically.
  • Mangle (old timey clothes wringer). See above.
  • Paint mixer. Like the kind you see at hardware stores to mix up your paint where it shakes it around real good. Clearly could also double as a cocktail shaker, and I think it would also be fantastic for un-separating non-homogenized peanut butter.
  • SodaStream. Presumably those just have a pump which pumps air? If so the pump can be run off the KitchenAid. Could also be good for inflating balloons or air mattresses/pool toys.
  • Hot Wheels set. Great for brand synergy and keeping the kids entertained while you are cooking.
  • Carding machine and spinning wheel. Ashamed I didn’t think of this before. Of course the on/off-grid farm will have sheep!

I’ll add to this list if I think of anymore. Suggestions welcome! Someone should build these. Please.

Jones on Hore

A poor scan of a picture of Rev. D.P. Jones and his wife Jessie Ann, née Harries, from his book. Originally captioned “Portrait of the author and his wife taken during the period of their mission activity.”

Reading this week:

  • Funafuti by Mrs. Edgeworth David
  • After Livingstone by the Reverend David Picton Jones

Loyal readers, to avoid the embarrassment of being late once again I need an easy entry. As you can see above, I have just finished reading After Livingstone, which is the sort of autobiography of Rev. D.P. Jones of the London Missionary Society. It is largely an anthropological-type look at the people that he lived with while a missionary with LMS, which was mostly the Mambwe and Lungu people. It was only published in 1968 by his daughter, and I think is a bit less known in the field of LMS studies. It was a pretty good read with some new tid-bits I hadn’t heard. He is a very straightforward writer but an interesting guy, and was most notably probably the first linguist (though untrained) in the LMS and published the first Mambwe-English dictionary. His book is worth a read for sure, but unfortunately I think you’ll have to buy a copy.

Anyways, in a chapter titled “Personalities,” he talks about some of the notable people he met and worked with in Central Africa not otherwise described in the book. One of those people is the popular-to-this-blog Captain Edward Hore. I hadn’t seen this description of Capt. Hore referenced elsewhere, and since Rev. Jones’ book isn’t available online as far as I can tell, please find below and enjoy the relevant excerpt. My favorite part is the one-man committee meeting; truly a man after my own heart:

“Among my fellow-laborers in the mission field one in particular stands out – Capt. Hore of the L.M.S., every inch a sailor. He could turn his hand to almost anything, but he was first and foremost a ship’s captain. His ambition was to settle at Ujiji and establish there the Marine Department, so that he could keep up communication with, and between, the various stations that would be opened up on the lake shore. Unfortunately for his plans, nearly all the missionaries of whom the party consisted at the start either died or went home to England, or returned to their old stations in South Africa. Capt. Hore and Mr. Hutley alone remained. And they were looked upon with suspicion by the Arabs and thwarted in every attempt to carry on missionary work. Eventually Capt. Hore went over to Uguha and established the Marine Department on the island of Kavala.

“He was a peculiar person in some respects and ‘gey ill’ to get on with. While he was very sincere, highly industrious, nobly conscientious, and capable of doing good work, he was withal officious and laid too great stress upon small things.

“When we were about to embark on the Morning Star he looked at our boots with a severe eye and expected us at once to change into slippers or canvas shoes. Much more was that the case when the little steamer replaced it. He then warned us, by letter beforehand, that we must bring with us a pair of light canvas shoes for use on the deck.

“His knowledge of Swahili was imperfect but nevertheless he expected the natives to understand what he said instantly, even though his expressions were atrociously ungrammatical.

“I remember he shook a man furiously one day because he did not understand what he meant by saying ‘Mekwenda mjini, eh?’ Literally it meant, ‘You have been to the village, eh?’ What he wished to say was, ‘Go to the village.’ And the poor fellow wondered what he had done amiss.

“He was very insistent that his orders should be obeyed literally and immediately. Because his servant failed to do so one day, he told him in a loud voice to go out and fetch a plateful of stones. When the man hesitated he shook him well. When at last he brought the stones the Captain apostrophized the act and ordered him to throw the stones away again. His motto evidently was, ‘Yours not to reason why: yours but to do and fly.’

“But with all his eccentricities and provoking ways he was a good man. And inside the Marine Department a good servant of the Society. He lived for that.

“One year it was arranged to hold the District Committee meetings at Kavala, and the date of holding them had to correspond with the arrival of reinforcements – the Revs. J. Harris and Bowen Rees. For weeks before the event Capt. Hore was busy making preparations. He built special huts for the various men and saw that each man should have a room of some kind for himself. Our surprise, therefore, may be imagined, when we arrived, and saw nailed over the door of one building a board with these words on: ‘Office of the Marine Department’; over another building a board bearing the name ‘Rev. J. Harris’; over a third building a board bearing the name ‘Rev. Bowen Rees’, and so on. As I was one of the senior missionaries I was to be the guest of Capt. Hore himself. We quarreled with him in almost every meeting. It was practically unavoidable, but nevertheless we retained our friendship.

“There is a unique entry in the Secretary’s book, which is read by every newcomer to this day. It happened that year that Capt. Hore was the Secretary of the District Committee and that he was the only member who was able to be present. One had gone home, one or two had died, and one (or more) was unable to come. But, nothing daunted, Capt. Hore met himself and carried on the business of committee in three different names. As he was the Secretary of the District Committee, he recorded the proceedings in the official minute-book thus: ‘Capt. Hore and the Secretary of the District Committee asked the Chief Officer of the Marine Department if he could furnish such-and-such information, and the Chief Officer of the Marine Department replied to Capt. Hore and to the Secretary of the District Committee that he would be pleased to draw up a report as soon as his duties would allow him, and would present it to the Secretary’, and other similar items.

“As another example of what might have been his eccentricity, but was not in this instance, I may mention the following incident.

“He and I were heavy smokers. In order to lessen expenses we decided to order a case of tobacco (gold leaf) from Bonded Stores. The smallest case was 80 lb., in which quantity it was sold for a shilling a pound. An order was sent by the Captain to the Mission House, and it included little else but the tobacco, for we had been able to buy provisions that year form the stock of those who had either left the country or died. When they read the order at Headquarters the various officials had a consultation together and decided at once that Capt. Hore must have lost his reason. They did not therefore send out the tobacco until they had confirmation of the order from another source.

“After years of life in Central Africa the Captain retired and tried to make a livelihood by lecturing on Central Africa and later by opening a Central Africa Exhibition. The latter contained specimens and models of innumerable things to be seen in the homes and gardens of the natives. Thereafter, having failed in both attempts to secure a permanent livelihood, he went to Tasmania and bought a fruit-farm, where he grew apples of various kinds. And there, a short time ago, he died.”

Great Falls

Reading this week:

  • Tipoo Tib, Narrated from His Own Accounts by Dr. Heinrich Brode and translated by H. Havelock
  • Rama II by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee (I am not sure either of these people have met other people, let alone a woman)

This is probably mostly an apology for whatever algorithm drives (or in my case doesn’t really) traffic to this site, but sorry it is late. This is entirely my fault, since no one else writes this blog, and really while the cause is me, the biggest victim is also me, because I do this whole project as a way to motivate myself and stuff and clearly I failed at that. So sorry, me, and also I will get my undying revenge.

This past weekend my super amazing girlfriend, another friend of mine, the friend’s dog Barley, and I risked death by visiting Great Falls National Park.

I had been to Great Falls I think just once before this past weekend. I visited because of course it was on Atlas Obscura. It is a fairly stunning place. My super amazing girlfriend and I live in Alexandria, which is on the Potomac river, and it is of course a cute little placid thing, despite George Washington’s hopes it would be the Nile of America or whatever. But you go just a little up it and suddenly there is this massive and violent torrent of water which I never would have suspected was there because I never studied geography too closely. Here is a gif of it, to complement the picture at the top:

After the gorgeous views and awe of nature in its rawest forms, I think the next most striking part of the park is how starkly they warn you that you will almost certainly die if you even think about touching the water. Their website is worth a peruse. They warn you this because it is true. Here is a Washington Post article describing the how and why of its deadliness. Basically, it is a huge volume of water flowing through a very narrow space, so the currents are extremely swift. And although the falls part of the falls, the bit in the picture and gif, look deadly, just down river is a placid-looking little part. But it is covering a irregular bottom with pits that cause roiling underwater currents of up to thirty-five knots! So people jump in for a nice little swim and get swept underwater and die.

In fact, I think it is the 11th deadliest national park. If you google “deadliest national parks” you get things like Outside Online articles listing the Grand Canyon, or Backpacker articles debunking that Outside Online article and listing Denali instead. They in turn it seems are based on this report going a little more in-depth. But they’re all wrong!

I mean maybe. None of them list Great Falls National Park because, I think, it is administratively part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The Parkway gets a whole lot of visitors per year at sites like Arlington Cemetery (well Arlington House, specifically), and while there are a lot of dead people there, not a lot of people die there. All the reports base their numbers on per capita deaths, and so the Parkway system itself gets a lot of per capitas. But if you limit it to Great Falls, it shoots up the list.

It’s hard to tell exactly how deadly Great Falls is. A sign near the first lookout claims seven people drown per year. That Washington Post article I linked to says that between 2001 and 2013, 27 people died. I found more recent articles about drownings, but none listing totals, so we’ll go with 2.25 deaths per year. The only number I could find for total visitors to the park was on the Wikipedia page, which in an uncited figure says 645,000 people visited in 2002, which is conveniently in our range for the Washington Post article. That final report I linked (here again) lists the deadliest national parks in terms of deaths per 10 million visitors, so with our numbers we have a grim 34.9 deaths per 10 million visitors. That puts it just below Big Bend National Park. If that 7 deaths a year number were true, it would handedly be the second deadliest national park, just behind North Cascades National Park.

So I am glad to report we didn’t die! In fact we had a very nice time. After the awe-inspiring falls, we walked along the canal trail, admiring the old infrastructure. The visitor center was closed, which was sad, because I remember it giving a particularly good overview of infrastructure and stuff. Always a big fan of canals, me, and my super amazing girlfriend is willing to indulge.

This is where the canal steeply drops into the Potomac. Some wonderful engineering here.

As we walked along the trail we eventually got into a slightly more rugged portion where we could admire the river going by. It was a gorgeous day and we got plenty of sun. There were a good number of people around but also plenty of space so a lovely time was had by all. The dog, Barley, seemed to enjoy the views. My super amazing girlfriend and I caught up with our dog-owning friend and we wiled away the hours. We eventually went back closer to the Visitor’s Center and enjoyed some ice cream from an ice-cream truck that had a captive audience and charged like it. A lovely day was had by all and we eventually parted ways, satisfied with our thrill-seeking scrape with death.

Serene but deadly. Like our cat.