Saturday, January 30, 2010

natural fibers

When I lived in Tennessee I spent a lot of my time rambling around the Smoky Mountains. She's the national park I know best, walked the most trails in, and the place that infected me with my love of homesteading. I was (still am) a hiker, and take great pleasure in five to fifteen mile walks in the woods. Back then, I was a bit of a gearhead. I liked going out into the wild with my technical daypack with its own hydration system built in. I'd have a multi tool, electric compass, and a water purifier to refill my Nagalene bottles with. I wore synthetic fabrics like polar fleece and abrasion-proof nylon with anti-insect chemicals soaked into them. I was in one of the most pristine, natural, simple places in all of creation and adorned in the modern hiker's equivalent of a space suit.

Now in my third year of homesteading I can see how much my attire has changed. Today I was standing about thirty feet above ground on a mountain of hay bales in Nelson's loft (My second-cut dealer) and noticed every single thing I was wearing was either made out of plants or ate them. Wool sweater, socks, hat, and gloves. Cotton flannel shirt and a heavy cotton canvas insulated vest. Denim jeans, leather boots, hell, even my undies were cotton. Wrapped around my neck was a scarf I knit from thick wool—another nod towards the ovine set. Everything I was wearing was a natural fiber, not because I woke up and made those conscious decisions, but because that's what felt right. And you know what? I was warm. It was 11 degrees in that barn and I was really, really warm. I find it odd and beautiful that being in the wilds of the southern mountain parks didn't open my eyes to simpler clothes—it was the domesticity of gardens and livestock that did that. My homelife made me feral. It was learning to live closer to my backyard that set me on a wilder course. Some people need to trek across Ireland to learn to appreciate a bowl of potatoes. I just needed to plant some.

Now when I need to carry water on a summer walk I fill up a quart mason jar and dump a lemon slice in it and screw on the lid. If I need to make it portable - I tie some baling twine around it and carry it that way. I don't want to be covered in plastic tubes and fabrics made by scientists. I'm not sure when, but that sort of stuff lost its appeal. I want to wear clothing that once lived in a seed, or on the back of a ram or steer. I don't see any fault in modern fabrics—it's just not who I am anymore. It's a wardrobe from a past life: one where a backpack needed hydration systems and fleece meant neon-space fluff.

With all that said: I still swear by Chacos. Which are nylon and rubber sandals made to handle rough terrain and slick creeks. There is nothing natural about them. That's okay. I'm mostly contrarian. It drives people close to me nuts.

16 Comments:

Blogger ownedbyIDI said...

I hear you on the cotton but wool makes me itch like crazy!

January 30, 2010 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger smilingcat said...

welcome home to the goodness of nature.

January 30, 2010 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

owned - there are all sorts of merinos, angoras, mohair and soft wool out there! or wear cotton under it!

January 30, 2010 at 7:52 PM  
OpenID chickadeeworkshop said...

LOL! Contrarian! Love that. And totally get it.

January 30, 2010 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger TCavanaugh said...

It amazing how nature provides the best warmth and cover man can make or buy! As for bailing twine...I even use it to tie my hair back in the barn. :)

January 30, 2010 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Sacha Joy said...

To talk about Great Smokey Mountains NP infecting you with a desire to homestead, I think it's important to understand the bittersweet history in those hills. I don't know, maybe you've already heard all about this. The park, like many of the early NPs, was created in part due to citizen support and in part thanks to the Rockefellers. And the park then forced more than 5,000 people to leave their homesteads, where many of them had farmed for over a century, including the Cherokees who had escaped the Trail of Tears (like the folks in "The Education of Little Tree") and sought refuge in the hills. The NPS no longer has the power to acquire land in this way, thankfully. I've worked as a botanist for the park service for 5 years, and I can testify, the National Park Service is American democracy both at its best AND its worst.

January 30, 2010 at 8:40 PM  
OpenID wisecutienRI said...

lol okay so heres my 5 cents worth...did you know that wool being itchy has to do with the way its spun....made a batch of donuts today and some brioch, now the fire is roaring and I'm in my most comfy chair. Mother is sitting to the right knitting socks, dad's reading the paper...feels like a sceen out of LIW's Farmer Boy.

January 30, 2010 at 9:12 PM  
OpenID thatsthelife said...

owned - are you allergic to wool? Have you tried alpaca? It's softer and even warmer than wool. Silk is the softest you can get, and silk long johns are the moooost comfortable.

January 30, 2010 at 10:12 PM  
Blogger H said...

biobees.com and backyardhive.com have good info on types of hives that are good for bees... topbar vs langstrom. Good luck with them.

January 30, 2010 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Amen for the Chacos! These are the sandals I purchased at the behest of a close friend, and they have been my "bare feet" when my feet needed a little extra...the rest, mother earth and all of her wonder can provide.

January 30, 2010 at 11:57 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

What Ryan said about Chaco's!

They are the closest thing to going barefoot there is. And where else can you buy a hiking, fishing, canoeing, wading, picture taking, bird watching, wildflower identifying, rock climbing, going out to dinner, stopping for a beer in the bar, dancing and dare I even say work foot ware! Chaco's are about the best things you can out on your feet next to wool socks :>)

January 31, 2010 at 12:26 AM  
Blogger Affi'enia said...

Neon space fluff, love it!

January 31, 2010 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger ownedbyIDI said...

Thanks for the tip and a new excuse to go yarn and sweater shopping!

January 31, 2010 at 7:37 AM  
Blogger Barb said...

The other day I was shortening up a strap on a hand-knit bag my friend knitted and felted for me. After I got the bag I needle felted a picture of a woman holding a lamb with the ewe standing beside her on the flap. I went to the mirror to see how the bag would hang before I did the final sewing. I noticed at that point that I was wearing my hand knit socks, my hand-spun/hand-knit sweater from my own sheep and angora goats and had the bag that was hand-knit and hand-embellised on my shoulder. A warm, fuzzy feeling (and not from the wool... :0) ) came over me and it felt soooo right.

Many times it is the commercial processing that causes wool to be itcy. Ownedby....ever consider spinning your own yarn? It is a great past time and is very addictive!

January 31, 2010 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

Tevas are good for me...never tried Chaco's. Love Teva's because I can clamber around on oyster shells with nary a fear of being cut, unless I do something really dumb. They seem a lil less expensive too.

January 31, 2010 at 2:10 PM  
OpenID thetinfoilhatsociety said...

Owned, I third the trying of different wools, particularly hand spun stuff. I have friends who are allergic to wool...but not the stuff I spin. It's processed differently and the natural protection of the fibers isn't stripped completely away; lanolin isn't the only thing that wool contains to protect it. The structure of the fiber itself can be damaged by commercial processing, or even careless home washing, which can make it very itchy. BTW, Woolite (tm) is NOT your friend.

Jenna, that photo makes my hands absolutely itchy with the desire to go into my back room and plunge my hands into a bag of fleece. In fact I may have to go do just that right now :)

February 1, 2010 at 3:08 PM  

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