Aug 26, 2013

Biolite Campstove Review

So, what business does a fiber enthusiast, who only (mostly) ever writes about textiles, have reviewing a camp stove? Well, simply put, I love this little thing!! I also think it is being marketed to the wrong crowd. The Biolite camp stove is not necessarily the end-all for the packing-light backpacker who doesn't want to carry fuel and wants to charge a USB port device while off grid in the wilderness. Those folks can "MacGyver" a heat source from an old beer can and a couple of tablespoons of Heet. (If you don't believe me Google the phrase, "build your own open jet alcohol stove" or better yet make yourself a "Fancy Feast" cat tin stove here.) 
No, I think the Biolite Camp stove should be marketed to the middle-aged, crafty fiber addict who wants to simmer-dye a big vat of wool during a heat wave in northern Wisconsin. You know, the average, everyday wool-fiend who lives within the city limits of a small north woods town, has a wee bit of yard debris to dispose of (properly), doesn't have air conditioning, and finds herself dealing with a rare "heat event" on a sultry 99+ degree Fahrenheit day. (You know you've reached your boiling point when you yell at the love of your life for using the toaster.) Enter sanity and a simple outdoor camp stove.
So, what does this thing burn off of?  The stuff we don't want to put in the garbage. (It would be wrong.) The twigs that are everywhere in our yards and, for those of us who don't have acreage or compost space these twigs add up quickly! Look around urbanites. I assure you, there is no shortage of twigage! In less than 10 minutes I collected enough to totally cook a large dinner and fully charge my IPod.
So, with regard to practicality. You may hear complaints about how the Biolite Camp stove has to be constantly refueled. Not so I say! Below I have done a little Macgyvering of my own with an old tomato cage frame. By cutting off a portion and bending a portion...Voila! The perfect kettle stand. Now I can build a larger, longer lasting fire with bigger twigs, refuel without lifting the pot away and, keep my hands free for stirring and adding twigs. 

Things happen quickly and you do want to keep a steady flame so, think of cooking with the Biolite like you would playing a game of chess - stay a few moves ahead. I have all my cooking equipment at-the-ready before I ever light up. Then I just load the little stove with a few twigs and light up a small wad of paper napkin dipped in Vaseline to get things crackling.

Here's where it gets fun. This little stove has a nice built-in fan that charges itself from the heat of your fire. This charge is so efficient that it actually builds up more energy than is needed to perpetuate the fan so, plug in your favorite USB device and grab up some free energy while you're cooking away your yard waste. Also, the fan makes for a very hot flame that doesn't smoke (once it gets going) so, you'll end up with a great fuel source for cooking and only a wee bit of ash to dispose of when all is said and done.

Above: The Treadler Multi-tasking! I'm cooking about 3 lbs. of ground beef without further heating the inside of my house during this heat wave, turning my yard debris into a teaspoon of ash (don't have to pay to dispose of that in the landfill) cooking on a virtually smoke-free wood fire, and charging my IPod all at the same time!  I believe this to be justification for purchasing an additional 10 lbs. of wool...maybe even a nice silk roving.
But wait, Oh no, I'm losing my heat source...
Whew, it's only too easy to add a few sprigs and...

 ...I'm ready to cook another batch of meat for later use.

I have to add, if the weather weren't so dad-blasted hot I think I would also want to express how lovely the fire is and how cool to the touch the outer canister remains, even when producing quite the cooking flame. I can see enjoying this for its own sake some cool, autumn evening  right atop the patio table or on a day outing excursion. (Don't suppose I'll have trouble finding twigs in the local park do you?) 
I think of all the folks who buy little urban fire rings for their back yards. This is so very fuel efficient - you can enjoy an adult sized heat source utilizing Barbie doll sized tinder. (Think of a Brussels sprout in Barbie's hands, it becomes a large cabbage - same here with twigs) And, as it is totally self-contained, and on a tri-pod leg system this little camp stove  leaves no scorched terrain behind. You could have a cozy fire just about anywhere that an open flame is allowed - I'm thinking lakeside while late-night fishing.
Anyway, I'm planning on continuing many of my fiber-dying adventures that would otherwise be put on hold were it not for this efficient outdoor heat source. I'm not about to simmer wool in a dye bath in my dwelling quarters right now - no matter how strong my fiber urges. By utilizing the cheap and easy tomato cage stand I can prop a big kettle 3-4 inches above the Biolite and crank up a strong bit of heat while clearing the yard for Claxton to mow. I'll have an ulterior motive for clearing his path. (He need not know of this.)
I'm taking it group camping soon. I'll enjoy maintaining my IPod while out in the woods and off the grid. It will be nice to have music and Podcasts to enjoy at night over a 5-day excursion.
I'm kind of curious about their grill attachment. I can't speak to it but here's the link to their site and some work underway with their other eco-friendly efforts: Interesting.

Jul 22, 2013


When a person lives in NW Wisconsin they can become mighty attached to wool-related study activities, as a matter of practicality. After all, wool is quite the warm and cozy fiber. But, even up here next to Lake Superior, for about 4-6 weeks, summer arrives in earnest - and, sometimes the breeze isn't off the lake! It can get sultry and we who do NOT have air conditioning become somewhat testy. We hunker down, keep all the lights off at night and don't use the toaster. That is when the woolen craft pursuits suffer due to the discomfort of it all. Thusly, The Treadler is forced to identify alternative recreational entertainment when the wee, little brain still wants to be fed information to ponder and play upon.

So, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to start roasting coffee! Wait until it's real-good and hot outside then go spend some quality time roasting stuff in the garage. I'm a genius.

But, I really am a genius. I rationalize, "Here's a practical hobby that won't fade away. After all,  I can't remember a morning I've ever begun without a steaming cup of this caffeinated, magical elixir, even in the swelter of a 10 day stretch of actual summer."

Certainly, if I master this interest then, I shall have freshly roasted coffee at my immediate disposal for the remainder of my days here on earth! As luck would have it I came across this website: Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting where I found this video. Then I went to a thrift store and purchased this "sweet" baby:

Apparently all you need to initiate an entirely new odyssey for yourself is an old-timey hot air popper from the 1980's. I guess they still sell them brand-spankin'-new hither and yon, if you don't like thrift stores.
If you wish to try this please do watch the  video before dashing out to nab just any old air popper. Some of these devices lend themselves less well to this unintended use of the machine. (Some of them have the potential to create an electric silo explosion - "coffee del fuego" - not my term but, I find it fun to quote - Sweet Maria).

Even if you have no interest in coffee half the fun of this site is watching all the videos and reading all the coffee information shared. I even learned that slurping whilst test-sipping (a.k.a.cupping) makes a huge difference in distinguishing flavors. Truly! Me and Claxton have started slurping everything. It's an excellent way to really distinguish flavors in any beverage you drink! We see it as a great excuse to partake in a myriad of different beverages! Say, "Golum" after you slurp and the liquid will splash over all your taste buds at once! Now you're a real lady!

For one such as I, who primarily drinks coffee for medicinal purposes, the idea of enjoying a wealth of flavors as I sip (slurp) was a great pleasure to ponder!

Naturally, I ordered my green coffee beans straight away. And, as a new enthusiast, ( a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing) I should like to start correcting people and point out that coffee beans are actually coffee seeds. Don't feel badly. We all just call them "beans". I throw this out for when one wishes to impress upon one's  constituents how knowledgeable one is on the subject.

That having been said imagine how annoying I'll be a year from now.

The above is a lovely sample package from the aforementioned website. I have 4 varieties of beans, from 4 different continents to slurp and then "Golum" upon.

To the right is a photo of the whirring of the beans inside the popper, inside my garage and, on top of a mesh grate I created for air flow.

I'll admit it, there's a knack to all this that I haven't nearly mastered yet. I've accidently roasted a batch of the best coffee I've had in a long, long time using the Aeropress brew/steep system that I bought in combination with the all-important burr grinder I "needed".

At the same time, I have also accidentally made something that tasted like grainy, earwax-poison with a dash of lemon verbena (I think this description bodes well for my slurping abilities in distinguishing flavors!). It all spells progress to me!
Well, back to the "grind" and here I speak of the drum carder. The wind is about to shift again back off of the lake and, when it does, I'll be blending a bunch of scrumptious wool for spinning, felting and classes! I've been invited  to teach another felting class for the Duluth Art Institute and, more importantly, I also just received a scholarship to head off to Madeline Island for a week-long class with Chad Alice Hagen. I enjoy sharing what I learn but, learning from others is the ultimate! Perhaps she would welcome a cup of Ethiopian roasted at a Full City +. (Impressive right?)


Mar 8, 2013

Tentacle Pouch

Well, there's something you don't see everyday. Kind of looks like a little chameleon octopus leaning up against a tissue box. Eh? (I'm so proud.) It's certainly nice and "matchy". 

Guess we lose an hour of fiber time this weekend. We may be "springing forward" but, winter is still good and handy right outside the door (and me with only 8 lbs of white wool left). Best start dying some more fibers. I wonder if we've got any colorful cereal boxes around this place.

Feb 10, 2013

Inspired by a Nose Hankie Box

(or: What Cabin Fever Looks Like When You're The Treadler)

Ah, February in northwoods and this weekend we're enjoying gusty breezes off of Lake Superior with pounding flecks of snow. It's pretty, (pretty dang cold), and it's very white out there, too white.

I need some color.

Guess I can't look to nature to inspire me over to the dye pot in a fervent attempt to capture some fantastic color combinations onto wool. No brilliant display of autumn leaves, nor woodsy mosses nestled against blue pine needles and tiny, purple wildflower blossoms to gaze upon. Just white. And, this wool is already white. Where's the challenge in that?

But, hey, Claxton sure did pick out a lovely hankie box at the grocery store! (You have cabin fever your way, I'll have it mine, which right now means attempting to spin a yarn that matches this hankie box.)

Thus far in the process I'm fairly happy with the dye job and am starting to think it does pay to take copious dye notes and double check weights and measures. Did you know 2 nickels weigh 10 grams? That's straight out of my winter diary!

Preparing the dyed fiber for spinning: I decided to draft out some of the roving and see what it looked like:

Then I ran another portion of the roving gently through the drum carder which blended the colors a bit:
Here they are side-by-side:
I'll spin them each up seperately into little skeins of yarn and then take more pictures for further comparison. Why? Because the wind is howling, our "blustery mix" is now a "severe weather warning", Claxton's upstairs fighting with the vaporizer and I think it's too early in the day to start drinking. 

Jan 11, 2013

Unfinished Projects

Hard to fall apart when you haven't been put together yet. The photo at left illustrates how far I've gotten with my first ever attempt to make a doll out of cloth...5 years ago. It might be, just maybe, possibly, time to decide whether to move forward with this project, throw it away or, my personal favorite, bury her back in the pile from whence she came.

I think I'll further examine those options (you know, rather than actually running the risk of doing something with this). If I figure out where I left off and what my next step is and then pursue it the thing might not turn out the way I picture it in my mind. I'd not enjoy replacing that picture with a less fortunate reality.

As it is I can look at these assorted parts and think, "Ah, what potential I have here for an awesome doll!" 

Sometimes I don't think that. Sometimes I just enjoy contemplating, "Whoever the children pay to empty this house out after I'm gone might find it kind of creepy that I have a lunch bag of muslin body parts tucked in between old weaving magazines and a phone book collection." (It will toughen their resolve for when they discover the bag of dog hair I've been asked to spin.)

Then there's the option of throwing the cloth doll project away. If I do that when I'm already fairly happy with the progress made only 5 short years ago...well, it would be like saying, "I never, ever plan to make a cloth doll." and, I'm just not ready to say that!

So, as anyone can see, I'm duty-bound to do nothing. And, since I'm tired of thinking about this all together, I should tuck it completely out of sight.

There. Problem solved. While I'm on a roll I should figure out where I can tuck a half-warped floor loom out of sight. (I'm getting tired of imagining how great those waffle towels are going to look someday.)