Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Life on Mud Lane

As I was tucking into bed last night, I first heard the wind and then the rain came.....in sheets. And I hoped that my otherwise fair-weathered flock of sheep would take cover and that the small puddles in the chicken coop would grow no bigger.  The thing about having an epic winter in Vermont, with an epic amount of snow is that you are surely in for an epic Mud Season. Let me tell you folks, there's mud everywhere----not just the obligatory ruts, holes, and dips that your car tires fall into on a dirt road. I'm talking mud that you sink into in the backyard........slippery mud that can be worse than ice causing you to do a header right into a pile of manure. Oh, and there's still a bit of ice around.....just to keep you guessing.

I drove my car through the car wash last week regardless. I just wanted to 'wash the winter away.' I knew, that in a matter of hours, the tires would be caked and the finish would be sporting a layer of brown dirt......I didn't care. It was almost like the first sign of Spring to me---the first car wash of the season!

As I arose this morning, already running late, hubby asked me to check Bentley's ears as he had been shaking his head intermittently all night long. Golden Retrievers, in my experience, struggle with ear fungal infections and Bentley is far from exempt. We have it down to a science---special wash to clean the ear and then drops. He's well-behaved about it, but he certainly doesn't enjoy it.  I gave him a cookie and let him out into the dampness which I'm sure is not helping his ear affliction. No doubt he will, along with is younger brother, bring some backyard mud into the house on his return.  My vacuum cleaner lives in the living room for now.

Before dashing out the door to work, I thought that I'd better peek in on the sheep. Out the back door and into the mud, I hurried down to the barn being careful not to get sucked into the abyss of water, sticks, and natural detritus littering the backyard.  We still have snow cover as we are in the woods and on a hill. I slowed down once I reached the barn because a sheet of ice covers the ground in front of the door and I don't want to end up on the other end of surgery. I stepped into the barn and reached for the light switch feeling triumphant that I had not fallen.  We have a Dutch door that separates the hay/grain/tools from the sheep and we usually keep the top part open.  All I heard was quiet......and then I looked......
No matter how many times I see it----whether humans or animals, new life causes me to stop in awe, take in a breath, and bask in the miracle and the wonder that it is. And it is just that.....

I love Mud Season................Namaste!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spring happenings.......even if the weather doesn't cooperate!

I had every intention of getting this blog post out yesterday (on the last day of March), but it didn't happening for a number of reasons.  I won't bore you with those........instead, I think I will provide some updates.

Ravellenic Games Update
I love Ganseys Socks
I had a feeling that my project for the Ravellenic Games was a bit of a steep challenge and it turned out to be just that.  I did not even finish one of the socks by the closing ceremonies.  I managed to finish the second sock last week during a short trip to Florida to see my parents.  I am quite pleased with how they turned out.

The embossed hearts are kind of difficult to see in this picture, but they are my favorite accent on these socks.  Oh, and they fit---another good thing!

My next sock conquest will be to finish a pair that I started well over a year ago......yes, I know, shameful!  The pattern is from Fiber Trends and it's called Railroad Rib Socks.  I started this pair right after I learned how to knit socks using the Magic Loop Method from a great instructor at Baker's Yarns in Springfield, VT.  They carry Malabrigo Sock Yarn there and I know it's the owner's favorite.  I bought a skein and casted on for these socks right then and there in class...........then I brought them home and they languished like so many things that I start.  Well, time to finish!  Here's how far I am.
Railroad Rib Sock Cuffs
I have one tiny error in the right sock right at the beginning when I messed up the ribbing pattern.....can you spot it?  My instructor said to just carry on and that the yarn will pretty much obscure it.  I figure, that part of the sock is usually hidden by my pant leg so I let it be.  So, there's a method to my madness........I picked these back up again for another reason:  they are on my favorite needle.  I really like the cables on the Chiao Goo circular needles.  They are very flexible and I don't find myself fiddling and adjusting it so much---it just knows where to live and that's important when you are knitting Magic Loop.
  I will probably make the leg part of these socks a little longer than the usual 6-7 inches because I like some extra material for coverage.

Remnants (what the shearer throws off) of Fleece
In other news.........the Spring thaw is on.........at least we hope it continues.  We've had quite some snowfall here since February and very cold temperatures.  We are kind of wintered-out.  Spring heralds the shearing of the sheep and I am glad to say that it went off without a hitch.  Here's the remnants of the fleeces:

I took the fleeces to the spinnery mill today and by June should have some sock weight and DK-weight yarn!  Shearing day is always a special day for me---it's the "harvest" of all the work that you did the rest of the year.

Pregnant Sayda
The shearer's visit yielded another piece of vital information....the confirmation that we do indeed have a pregnant ewe on the premises.  Sayda, our Bluefaced Leicester ewe is due any day now and we're keeping an eagle eye on her.  I'll be blogging about that for sure.........wow, two blog posts in a month?  Unheard of!  Here is Sayda in all of her shorn, pregnant glory.

It is difficult to tell from this angle how pregnant she really is, but she's not the easiest animal to photograph.

Well, I'm off to get some sleep now.  My vacation is over and I'm back to work tomorrow.  I'll leave you with a gratuitous pet photograph:
Bentley and Ray

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter, Valentine's Day, and the 2014 Olympics

We received about 10 inches of snow yesterday which was a sight for sore eyes around here lately.  Looks like winter again instead of just feeling like winter.  It's been pretty cold around here, but we haven't had much snow, by Vermont standards.  I think the skiers are a much happier bunch today.

I finished my Merry Socksters socks on Groundhog Day----I really wanted to finish them within the month of January, but I'm proud that I got them done.  The colorway really gets your attention and I'm wearing them right now.  I made these on one long circular needle (40 inches) using the Magic Loop Method of construction (two-at-a-time).  I did this because I am notorious for getting the knitting done for one sock on double-pointed needles and then not even starting the second sock----in the Knitting World they call this "Second-Sock Syndrome" and I think it just results from not wanting to do the same thing twice.  Rarely have I ever knitted any project a second time----it's like the novelty is gone or it's like the saying:  "Been there, done that, got the t-shirt." Anyway, I think that this was a good start for the Year of the Sock.

For my next act I thought that I would work a couple of themes.  February is upon us and one always thinks of Valentine's Day during this time (perhaps President's Day as well, but I'm going to go with the former). Valentine's Day holds a special place in my heart and not because it's a day of love, proposals, romantic dinners, and roses.  My brother was born on Valentine's Day when I was a mere 4 year-old. Red tends to be the dominating color for Valentine's Day and it's always been my favorite color.  So, to rock this first theme, I'm going to knit a pair of red socks with yarn that I received from Dirty Water DyeworksThe yarn is 75% Superwash Corriedale/25% Nylon fingering weight (434 yards) which makes it perfect for a pair of socks. The color is "Flame."  The pattern I chose is I Love Gansey by Janine LeCras which is featured in the book Sock Club:  Join the Knitting Adventure by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott.  Above is an image of the socks that I pilfered from Ravelry. What the image does not show is a line of embossed hearts running down the front and back of the leg----a GREAT Valentine-themed sock!!

The other theme that will predominate whilst I knit these socks is the Winter Olympic Games.  I've been watching the Olympics all my life and this time will be no different.  My favorite sport to watch is the Figure Skating, but I've been known to hold my breath during the Downhill Skiing as well.  Ravelry gets into the Olympics as well by sponsoring the Ravellenic Games. Briefly, the Ravellenic Games is a self-imposed throw-down whereby you challenge yourself by starting and finishing one or more projects during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.  So, in theory, you cast on your project during the Opening Ceremonies and finish during the Closing Ceremonies.  Here's the kicker:  the Olympics start tonight (February 6).....the Opening Ceremonies are tomorrow.  I don't think it's cheating to start tonight since I'll be most certainly watching the Figure Skating which is on tonight! Eighteen days to knit a pair of socks?  Can I do it?  Remains to be seen.....
Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014-The Year of the Sock

Merry Socksters
I've been collecting sock yarn for a long time now.....I don't quite know what my obsession is with it. Perhaps it's all the pretty colors that attract me.....or the fact that socks are a relatively small time-commitment project.  All those self-striping colors are the most enticing; you just want to keep knitting to see what color or pattern comes next!  Maybe I just fancy having some unusual, tricked-out socks on my feet some day. And therein lies the kicker (no pun intended)......where ARE all these socks that I imagine wearing? Not knitted that's for sure.....these wonderful sock yarns sit in a box, bag, or basket just languishing away.....waiting to become something spectacular; waiting to be free!

Sock knitting is adventurous....not something I would teach a beginner. And yet, this is the very first project my mother had to knit as a girl in wartime Germany just shortly after she learned how to knit---socks for the troops. My mom still knits socks---it's her go-to knitting and she's good at it--no pattern required! I, on the other hand, being of the variety who cherishes the written word, need directions. I like to see progress; check off a line or stitch count; see a picture of what the end-product is supposed to look like. I enjoy knitting a sock---there is a lot going on in this small, unassuming little accessory and yet, the sock yarn still piles up.....

For the longest time I suffered from SSS---known to us in the knitting world as Second Sock Syndrome. You get one sock done and the second one never gets cast on let alone completed. Cue the magic loop method---knitting two socks at the same time on one long circular needle---genius! Books have been written about this method and I actually learned the ins and outs of this technique in a class I took at Baker's Yarns in Springfield, VT. AND.....I completed a pair of socks in that class last winter. And the sock yarn stash still sits....

So a new year is upon us and with that comes the contemplation of what one wants to do differently/better. This year, I want to keep it simple----I want to personally declare 2014 The Year of the Sock. I want to dig out all those socks I started but didn't finish and well, finish them. I want to use up some of that sock yarn stash. I want to make as many PAIRS of socks as I can without getting distracted by some other project----the siren song of my existence. I can do this, right? This is not an insurmountable goal, is it? Well, I don't think so....right now.....

Okay, so here's the really embarrassing part----the first pair of socks that I want to complete for 2014 were started in March.......of 2011!! Yeah.....I dug these out two days ago on 01-01-2014 not because of my "Year of the Sock" declaration, but because the color way was, once again, calling my name from its cellophane bag enclosure. This project is leftover from the year I joined the Rockin' Sock Club of Blue Moon Fiber Arts fame. The pattern is called "Merry Socksters" by Irishgirlieknits and it's available on Ravelry. The yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock lightweight superwash merino in the color way Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.  I'm in love with this dye job---so much so that I thought it would look good in a vest......maybe in another life.

So, as the picture above illustrates, I am still knitting the cuffs of the socks, but this is progress!  Trust me......there's a picot edge-turned under hem at the beginning of these babies---so there is more knitting than the eye can see!  Updated pics, I hope, will be forthcoming.

On another note, we've been having some snow as well as some very cold temperatures here in New England. Cooper, our young Golden Retriever, loves the woodstove on days like this......
Gratuitous pet photo

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Stress and the power of crafting

Last week was stress-filled. One could argue, given the profession that I practice, that every day is stress-filled. True, I've gotten used to a higher-than-average baseline blood cortisol level---par for the course for any healthcare worker. While the day-to-day nature of the job has become 'just what I do,' interpersonally butting up against one's co-workers is something I don't go out of my way to do. But, it happened, I said something that I felt needed to be said in what I thought was a professional manner and it blew up big time.

So, more than a week out from that, I'm still not quite right. Mentally, the strain has almost dissipated, but my physical well-being suffers for a long time after such incidents. You see, I suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and stress can really do a number on that condition, enough said. It's at these times in my life that I turn, in a desperate way, to the calming force of making things with my hands. Now, let me just say that if there is a day that goes by that I don't get to do a little something crafty, I do get cranky, but that's a whole other thing. What I'm talking about here is a psychic immersion---to quiet the mind, body, and spirit----similar to that "Calgone, take me away" commercial.

About two weeks ago, I received via mail, the first installment of Yarn Knot---a "yarn tasting" of sorts available from Dirty Water Dyeworks (this proprietor had me at hello). So what exactly is Yarn Knot? It's a quarterly subscription to a variety of hand-dyed yarn blends in exclusive color ways complete with a suggested pattern. So, this first installment (which is like getting a package for your birthday!!) contained a luscious skein of 50/50 Merino/Silk blend fingering weight yarn in hues of blue----yum, I'm in love........oh, yes and the pattern is for a lovely lace shawl called the Dover Castle Shawl by Judy Marples. Now I've never been an honest-to-goodness girlie girl, so lace has never really made it that far into my wardrobe. I have to say that I'm totally smitten with this lace pattern---it's got a nice rhythm to it---not so difficult that you have to have your eyes glued to the chart every second, but engrossing enough to let you escape from the real world.

Here's the best part....the colorway is named Adrift!!  Kind of how the mind feels when it's under stress, but also, ironically, that place you want to go to when all hell is breaking loose. 

I'm sure that I will eventually give this shawl to some happy, lucky recipient because, like I said, I really don't "do lace." The process of knitting it will be a gift to me.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Grabbing hold

Hello friends & folks:
Long time, no hear from me---so I realize......and for those of you who were tuning into my podcast.......even more silence. So, here's the thing, I have placed the podcast on indefinite hiatus.......I know, so unfortunate for all of us, but my schedule just wouldn't allow for it---and if there's one thing that middle age has taught and shown me again and again it's that it is wise to know one's limitations. I work 32 hours a week outside my home, I have a small farm of animals and now a vegetable garden that need tending.......not to mention my voracious appetite for ANY craft that involves wool/fiber! Add in that I've become a gym rat and you don't have too many hours left in the day to turn on a microphone. Aside from all of these excuses, my prowess has always been the written word so to that end, I am devoting my energy to blogging not only about what I've covered before, but also other topics----which normally would be yammer.....but I might, in the future, devote a whole post to a particular topic. So come join the adventure.......

Fiber Conquests

Onward......so, whilst catching up on other folks' podcasts today, I came to the shock and realization that today, June 29th, is the first day of the Tour de Fleece.  The Tour de Fleece is a Ravelry-based spinning (yarn, not the thing you do at the gym) challenge where we spinners set a goal for ourselves (say, I'm going to spin enough yarn for a pair of mittens) and then try to meet that goal during the same time frame as the Tour de France......spinning of bicycle tires, spinning of spinning wheels, get it? Needless to say, I have failed miserably at this in years past mostly because my goal was simply out of reach. Read, Overachiever. This year, I'm going to start with a specified quantity of prepared roving in a vibrant color way which I purchased some time ago---at the Knitting & Crochet Show nearly a year ago (don't laugh, I have fiber that's way older than this). I've always wanted to  spin something from Abstract Fibers and so, here's my chance and I think this will hopefully,       fire up my passion for spinning again......

At least for now, it's something to grab hold of!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Episode 22 - January Thaw

Apologies for not getting the shownotes up for the last podcast..........I really, really did have them all typed up on my iPad and I totally lost the whole thing somehow.  And since time was of the essence, and it had already taken me two days to record the podcast, I just threw up my hands in disgust----I really will do better!  For one thing, I don't think I'll be using my laptop for recording or my iPad for blogging any longer---so long as the threat of losing material is so very real on those devices!

This past weekend it was over 40 degrees outside---our January Thaw here in Vermont.  I took Bentley and Cooper for a walk and we slogged through the slush---they didn't seem to mind.  They just like being out in the snow.  A little change up in the podcast----I'll be putting "Sleeping on the Job" on a temporary hiatus and replacing it, for now, with----dare I say it?----a Knit-Along (KAL--for those of you who enjoy acronyms).  More about the KAL later........

Fiber Conquests


I'm still working on the Sebastian Gloves by Kristin Nicholas (A Classic Elite pattern booklet---and I believe you can buy just the pattern PDF for the gloves-$6.00- at WEBS)  If you look at the picture, I'm making the mostly pink-colored ones---but I do have yarn for the others.  The yarn, of course, is Color by Kristin and it has 50% wool, 25% alpaca, 25% mohair. Nice stuff---but I'd expect no less from a designer such as Kristin Nicholas.

I took a class a one of my LYSs:  The Whippletree in Woodstock, VT.  We made the Stained Glass Hat, a Green Mountain Spinnery pattern.  I used a solid color yarn (brown) for the background and a self-striping yarn from Poems for the "windows."  The class was fun and our instructor Karen was kind and patient---always very good qualities in a teacher.  This class gave me the confidence (and the practice of holding a yarn in each hand) to pursue the construction of one of my UFOs (un-finished objects) which has been languishing and hibernating for two years:  the Norwegian Roses Cardigan from GMS.  I had to frog what I already had knitted (which was only two inches or so..........but frogging colorwork can be a bear!) because my gauge was off and now that I'm using a new technique for the colorwork, of course, my gauge is going to be different.  I really enjoy doing colorwork---takes my mind into a deep place where time stands still for just a little while......................do you know what I mean?  So, off I go....


So much to crochet, so little time..........contemplating starting yet another project in crochet...........can you say 'Start-itis?'  The Crochet Circle Vest first caught my eye on the Craftsy website whilst I was purchasing yet a few more on-line classes!!  More about that, hopefully, later down the line.  I'm thinking that I'll crochet this in some of the millspun yarn from the flock---namely the rich, dark, worsted-weight yarn from the fleeces of Dugel and Harvey.  I had quite a bit of a ball left over from knitting up the fingerless mitts for my brother----you can't let stuff like that go to waste now!  Anyway, I went on over to Ravelry and low and behold, the pattern was there as well---so I bought and downloaded that puppy straight away.  More on that later.........


The long, loving process of processing Harvey's fleece for spinning continues---I am, more or less, chipping away at it ever so slowly whenever I have a few minutes to flick-card.

What's happening in the barn and on the farm?

We are happily anticipating the arrival of Tasmania ("Tassie")---our bred BFL ewe from the state of Massachusetts.  She will be arriving on Saturday, January 19.  She'll join Sayda in sisterhood and I have no doubt that they will get along famously---BFLs are such a kind, gentle sort---unlike my Shetlands who tend to want to 'redecorate' the barn come February-March.  And, come April, hopefully, we'll have a lamb or two to boot!

The chickens are thriving---we get about 2 eggs a day.  The DH set up a light with a timer in their coop to give them a "longer" day in hopes that this will stimulate egg production/laying.  My two French Angora rabbits share half of the annex with the chickens so hopefully, that light is not keeping them up at night! :-)

Cooper after a long walk
Bentley and Cooper are loving the snow of winter and hopefully, it won't all be gone with this spring-like weather we've been having for the past couple of days.  Cooper is in full-blown adolescence and will 'pick and choose' to listen from time to time.  I feel blessed though that Puppy Kindergarten and Level I dog classes have been effective because he comes when called, and, like the instructor said, this is the most important thing that you can teach a dog to do.

Ray continues his hunter duties in the house---Doora chooses to nap frequently and chase Ray when she has the energy.  Our backyard bird feeder is a busy place---we enjoy watching the birds and know that we need to get our "fill" now before the feeders need to come down when the bears come out.


For lack of a better place and because I don't yet know what to call the segment for our KAL, I'm putting this in the Yammer for now.  Yes, Counting Sheep is having a Knit-Along (it's first---the maiden voyage!).  The pattern is the Capricloak by designer Maureen Clark.  This is a Green Mountain Spinnery pattern and it can be found for purchase (via instant PDF download or snail-mail) at their website.
The pattern requires approximately 784 yards of a bulky weight yarn.  I'll be using GMS's Capricorn yarn in the Natural Dark.  Looks like a nice, cozy project for the winter.  We'll start it on February 3rd and that will give everyone about 3 weeks to gather materials.  Should knit up fast at 3 stitches per inch.  Come and join us!