Now, where did I leave that?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Progress, Not Perfection?

First, the successes: Claudia says my plying is much more balanced:

So that's great, and I feel good about it. However....once I get the hang of the spinning & plying, I may be destined to knit only rectangles forever. My sock is a disaster. Helpful folks on Ravelry got me right through the heel flap and turning the heel. I learned about slipping stitches and ssk and even found a great video to help with the latter. And when I saw that heel start to take on a cup shape, I was thrilled! "Hey! I'm getting this! I'm knitting a heel, by golly!" I foolishly thought to myself. Then came the gusset, and 'pick up and knit the chain selvedge stitches'.
  Ya know what I learned? That when you throw a sock in utter frustration and despair, it sort of just flops. There's no satisfying-yet-accusatory THWACK like I got when I threw Getting Started Knitting Socks. No, my misbegotten sock just laid there, double-pointed needles askew, like a dead fish used as a voodoo doll. I thought I knew what I was doing (okay, I hoped I knew what I was doing), but when the directions went on to say "you should have 54 stitches total" and I had 60, and it was a twisted mess, and the needle holding the reserved stitches was not on the same side as in the utterly worthless book photos, I gave up. Lots of knitters have told me it's a great book, and I'm sure it is....I'm blaming the user, not the author.

At first I swore no more socks. I can be happy knitting pot holders and scarves and blanket squares, right? But I need to get over this. Millions of people have knit billions of socks over the ages. So, I will bring it to CountryWool on Saturday, ask where I went wrong, and then ask Claudia for the easiest sock pattern she knows (that will let me use this same yarn). And I'll try again....after all, 24 hours ago I had never knit a heel flap and turned a heel, right?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snow! Sort of....

At long last, we awoke to a gorgeously snowy morning....

However, the fat, fluffy flakes fizzled far too early....

Yeah, that was it...not even an inch coating the black walnut's bud-bedecked branches (alliteration Friday?).

But the quince was beautiful in the pre-dawn, with the porch light spotlighting it...

And Lola enjoyed the change of scenery!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wait, Wait...Not Yet!

  I'm not ready to go back to work! Four days flew by, but I loved every moment of my four day weekend, whether scrubbing the kitchen, laughing with a friend, lazing with Linda on Sunday, or immersing myself in wool most of yesterday. Totally stumped on the sock's time to start the heel and the directions are baffling me. At some point I'll try to follow them as best I can, but suspect that in a couple of weeks I'll be arriving at Countrywool pleading for assistance. Found a Ravelry group dedicated to sock knitters, with an emphasis on beginners, so I'm hoping there may be guidance there, too. One of my issues is that I have no idea what a 'slip stitch' is, or what 'with yarn in back' means, so research is needed!

  Rather than allow my woolly day to end in stress over it, I put the sock aside pending help, and started working on a felted Earth goddess. Got off to a false start and found myself looking at a blocky green wedge. Sometimes ya gotta know when to start over, so I began again, and this is where I've left off:

There's alot more to do, obviously. My imagination has a finished picture, but I was fascinated to find myself letting go of that and allowing the wool's variegated colors and texture direct me. That's so unlike the control-freak me, but a pretty cool ride!

  I wrapped up the day with some practice spinning using that dark brown Shetland I showed you previously. I wondered if I'd experience a difference between spinning that and the Romney and Merino I've been using. The Shetland I have is a shorter staple than some of what I've been using, but either I'm getting better, or it's pretty good to work with... dare I say I was actually pleased with my progress (for the most part)? There was definitely more consistency. Feels very good to see myself improving! I'll fill up the current bobbin, and move on to some plying practice. The next class is almost three weeks away, so I'll be a happy camper if I'm spinning reasonably consistent yarn, and have a solid grasp on plying. TRYING to...not lower my standards exactly, just be kinder and more accepting of my personal learning curve. That's a challenge in and of itself!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chilly Sunday Morning

We're thinking about doing some yard clean-up today, but it's a tad chilly. We'll see. Scored some Icelandic and Shetland roving yesterday at Hudson Valley Sheep and Wool Company yesterday, paying about $1.50 an ounce thanks to their February sale.

I'm curious to see how they spin compared to the romney and merino I've been using, and if I can tell the difference. Found the shop folks to be wonderfully friendly and inviting people. They told me that their local spinning group (Elmendorph Spinning Guild) had 40 people show up for their monthly meeting. What does it say that so many are returning to this ancient art? Tomorrow is my woolly day (work is closed for the holiday), when I plan to spend the entire day spinning, knitting and needle-felting in turns, but I'd happily abandon yard work for more, more, more!!

I've turned off word verification and gone to comment moderation. We'll see how it goes...

Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday Sun

The morning started like this:

Three hours later:
It's chilly, and there are snow showers forecasted for tonight, but the light is pure Spring. There are buds on the flowering quince already...
And Dottie (one of our four cats) has actually ventured out of her fleece-lined bed to bask in the sun:
  I worked hard yesterday, beginning Spring cleaning with the kitchen. Put on a CD I compiled years ago with the unlikely combination of Madonna's Like a Prayer; Age of Aquarius; a dash of Aerosmith; a little Grass Roots; Meredith Brooks' Bitch and dozens more, sang loudly (because no one could hear my terrible voice except the dogs, and they refrained from howling) and danced around while I scrubbed, polished and decluttered. It was almost fun!
I've accepted that the kitchen table is the permanent home for the spinning wheel. We don't use it all that often, and it will keep the wheel safe from Lola...

All that work deserves a reward, so today am going to visit the Hudson Valley Sheep and Wool Company for the first time, then spend the afternoon with a friend I haven't seen in many months. Rumor has it the sun will melt to rain and snow showers later, but for this moment, I can taste Spring coming, as sweet and sharp as pea shoots.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day, Part II

  Once upon a time, I met a womon with long black hair, deep gentle eyes, and a sweet smile. We worked at a womyn's festival together, became friends...and I think maybe even started to fall in love under a September Full Moon in Vermont. She loves terrible puns, cries during sappy commercials and giggles like a little girl. She has more compassion than anyone I've ever known.
  She's a MacGyver at heart, creative, brilliant. She can be profoundly serious and downright silly. She doesn't cringe from the nastiest work, and is prone to doing far more than her share. She sees what needs to be done, and does it. I've watched her on her knees in the garden as she watches a butterfly, and it takes my breath away. My heart has ached as she worried over a 3 week old kitten she thought wouldn't make it through the night. I have to check her pockets before doing laundry, because they're the pockets of a 10 year old boy...nuts, bolts, pinecones, seed packets, twist ties and notes all turn up from time to time. Our animals adore her...she is the love of their lives. She's patient, supportive, encouraging, and hasn't run away from my hormone & stress induced crazies (yet). 
  It never occurred to me that I'd meet someone like her. It NEVER occurred to me that someone like her might love me. Some miraculous confluence of events brought us together and she actually does love me. Do you know how amazing that is? At night before falling asleep I give thanks...there's no place in this Universe I'd rather be than snuggled next to her. I'm blessed...and I wish the same for you.

Valentine's Day, Part I

Yesterday was Valentine's Day. Decided to take the day off from work, and spend it with my beloved. We went to Great Barrington (Masachusetts) to wander the shops and have a Thai lunch.
On our first Valentine's Day together in 2005, Linda & I surprised each other with silly little stuffed animals, Froggy & Hedgehog (guess which one is 'me'?). They became our alter egos, travelling with us during our long-distance relationship phase, having a book written about them as another V-day gift from me to Linda, vacationing in Maine, playing in snowstorms. Of late, to protect them from the Lola-monster, they've been rather sadly neglected, tucked away on top of a cabinet. Yesterday they protested loudly, demanding that they be included in our expedition. Fair here is the day through their eyes:
An adventure means meeting friends; we found a bunch of new ones at Tom's Toys!

Ya gotta have it...and we do!

Yellow House Books had creaky floors and books tucked into every corner.

Espresso, anyone? Loved The Chef's Shop!
Especially the mini-cupcakes! These are Red Velvet & Chocolate-Stout. Yummmm...
Where the buffalo roam? TP Saddleblanket. Ride 'em, cowboy!
Lunch was at Siam Square...we had Beef Satay, Siam Fried Rice and Chicken Massaman Curry. We've all agreed not to talk about the poetic-sounding but rather yucky Ginger Moon dessert. Bleah! We think Linda & Ashling need to go back often to try everything.
Eye candy, laughter, good food, conversation...and each other. It was a good day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Night, Already?

  It's after 8pm on a Sunday night, and we're winding down (not that we've been wound up)...dinner is done, and we're getting showers in before Downton Abbey starts. It was a good weekend, although Saturday's class, "All About Your Spinning Wheel" was yet another embarrassing, humbling experience at being the remedial student, something I handle badly. I've mentioned before that I was raised with the attitude that only perfection made me worthwhile. Add to that the recent information that having my moon in Virgo pretty much curses me with the requirement to be perfect, and,'s a wonder I keep loading my wheel into the car and walking in the warm, cozy, welcoming door at CountryWool. But the thing is, I love the wool. I mean, I LOVE it. I'm in this relationship for the long haul, so I swallow my pride and keep at it. I came home after class and spent the afternoon knitting....nothing too taxing right this moment, so I could just linger by the fire with it, no pressure, just enjoying each other's company.
This is the blanket I'm knitting for Patrick. Decided to go with squares (okay, rectangles) in assorted shades of blue, and sew them together with a creamy white yarn.

This is a sock.  Well, it's the cuff and part of the leg of the sock. Wishing Linda had longer legs, because pretty soon it's going to be time to start the heel...and I haven't got a clue. But I'm using a good book, and I know where to go if I can't figure it out on my own!

And I decided I wanted to try my hand at knitting & felting a bag. I had yarn left from Lida's crocheted lap blanket I made last Winter, and decided it would be perfect. Spent alot of time on Ravelry, and found what appears to be a pretty doable pattern, even for the rectangle-knitting likes of me. I'm a little worried about getting to the seaming part, because, um, there's no directions in the pattern that I can find, but that's a couple hundred rows of knitting away!

  Today we decided it was time to plan the gardens! We gathered planting schedules and notepads, and of course the "glossy garden porn" (love that phrase, because it's so apt):

We dreamed, and planned, oohed and ahhed, debated the merits of this tomato ves. that one, talked and sketched, compiled then trimmed ordering lists, made wish lists (Red Cardinal Wigelia, Honey Berry), contemplated how best to turn one room into the perfect space for starting seeds...all while keeping our strength up with warm, spicy Cranberry Pumpkin Bread.
    (that's one of our Winter moose dishes)
It was a weekend of plans, dreams, coziness, indulgence, decadence, peace, gentleness, warmth, and laughter. How was yours?

Friday, February 10, 2012


  I just finished a book that gave me so much pleasure I had to tell you about it. In turns it managed to be informative, educational, touching, and laugh-out-loud funny. The book is Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep & Enough Wool to Save the Planet, by Catherine Friend, and it's a wonderful read, whether you are a woolly person, a back-to-the-Earth kind of person, a farmer, or someone who has even one time entertained the fantasy of what it might like to have a farm. At the risk of sounding a tad like a stalker-groupie, I'd love to know Catherine & Melissa, would love have them over for dinner. Catherine's writing feels like your good friend bustling in from the cold and sprawling in front of the fire regaling you with the latests joys and mishaps of her day.
  Friend gives us a history of sheep in the US...who knew that Thomas Jefferson was totally revved by merinos?  She also shares factoids and statistics; it saddens me to see sheep farming on the decline, although one can take hope in the increasing numbers of small sheep farmers. I'm amazed at how many people I encounter with small flocks. These facts and figures are sprinkled painlessly and with great purpose amidst the real-life stories told with emotion, humor, and blunt honesty. Whether sheepishly sharing her transformation from anti-knitter to 'fiber freak' or the pain of deciding to sell a large portion of their flock, one feels connected to Friend and her partner.
  I was put off, but only momentarily, by the essay-style of the book (a personal preference); most are only a handful of pages long. However, because of Friend's relaxed, informal style of writing, I quickly came to really appreciate the way the stories were told. Although not exactly chapters, each is obviously another stitch in the whole story, and I loved being able to grab a few minutes here and there to read one essay. It helped draw out what I otherwise would have gobbled too quickly, the difference between a decadent box of chocolates savored over several days vs. being gone by day's end.
  At the risk of sounding cliched, I laughed and I cried...and laughed again. I've already ordered another of her books, and am awaiting it eagerly. I can't recommend Sheepish enough, whether you're a sheep farmer, knitter, spinner....or just want to read the real story of real people leading a woolly life. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

If At First You Don't Succeed...

  Those who follow this blog regularly know about our chicken attempt and subsequent failure. In an eggshell, chickens poop everywhere and dig up gardens (like the meticulous flower beds of our next door neighbors). There's a reason for chicken-crossing-the-road jokes, too...because they believe the grass is always greener and bugs fatter elsewhere. Our beautiful coop wasn't easily Winter-accessible (had we enjoyed a real Winter, anyway), and wouldn't have allowed for lighting or water-thawing. With varying degrees of reluctance, we gave the flock to our chicken-keeping neighbors across the road. And almost immediately had regrets. We'd grown fond of Millie & Mama in particular, and I was disappointed in myself for abandoning this project, especially after all the work, weekends, planning and money we poured into it. After much discussion, I'm pretty happy to write that our critter count will be expanding again this Spring...a chicken redux!
  We like to learn from what went wrong, so the plan includes: a few less chickens; a smaller, less palatial coop built much closer to the house (with easy access to electricity so we can have light inside and out, and the ability to keep water from freezing); extensive fencing put in before the chickens arrive, giving half a dozen chickens close to a half-acre of ranging and foraging; outside access to the nestboxes so one doesn't have to go into the coop after being freshly showered and dressed for work; less worry and obsession while developing a personal acceptance of chicken poop as a life reality.
  I arrived home from work one day last week and heard a familiar throaty chirrrr. Sure enough, there was a trio of hens who had made their way over to our yard...and Millie bobbed her way right up to me, wanting to know if I had treats in my bags. It warmed my heart and made me laugh to see her; turns out I'd missed her silly feather-spiked head and general nosiness more than I knew.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Scenes from a Weekend

  Well, word pictures, not photos--sorry! Woolen wonders, murmered conversation over knitted creations, progress in spinning, lanolin-greased fleece becoming yarn singles. Magical yarn alchemy shared in a sun-bathed basket--who knew poinsettia's red leaves could turn wool such a lush, roll-around-in-it green? Simmering leeks, bacon and chicken warming the chill of a February night. Waking to sunlight (rarer than one might think) and steaming coffee. A drive through the mountains, warm sunlight streaming through the windows, Linda's hand in mine as Morning Has Broken sings joy into the car. The warm scent of anise and soy sauce, a dancing fire, lazy dogs and Downton Abbey. A full moon cold and bright as truth, with Venus and Jupiter pointing the way.
  Is it any wonder I have no desire to wake up to go to work tomorrow? Hope your weekend was as sweet and gentle as mine...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Annual Cyber Slam for Brighid

Apparently, for several years, many bloggers have honored Brighid, Goddess of poetry among many things, by posting poems by others or themselves. Sad to say I've not written one myself in time for today, but below is a favorite of mine. It instantly came to mind as the perfect honoring of Brighid....Blessed Be!

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

--Mary Oliver

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Different Kind of Dreaming

  Woke at 3:45 this morning & couldn't get back to sleep. Got up and worked on finishing a felted scarf/runner/wall hanging I'm giving to a friend, while watching Deadliest Catch. Despite the wee hour and nearly choking to death on coffee I inhaled rather than swallowed, I found myself inspired, ideas flowing. All I wanted was to spend the day following my felting thoughts.
  Told Linda (when lazy bones rolled out of bed a little after 6:00) we need to start playing the lottery. Then the week would like more like this: Monday--felting; Tuesday--spinning; Wednesday--knitting; and so on. Add in writing, gardening, reading, wandering in the woods, cooking and preserving.....maybe caring for a couple of angora (or PYGORA!!!!) goats along w/ the chickens...that's the life I want!