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