26 December 2009


The holiday fun got pretty intense yesterday morning (that would have been Christmas) when we (me, my cousin, and my sister-in-law) sat down to put together a half-finished puzzle.
  • 9:00 a.m. Things were still friendly. Chatting ensued as we sipped coffee with eggnog.
  • 9:03 a.m. The subject of the puzzle: a dog in front of a Christmas tree. Several key pieces were discovered in short order and put in their place.
  • 9:07 a.m. I poured myself another cup of coffee. (Ash and Traci put in several pieces behind my back.)
  • 9:08 a.m. Half the puzzle is now complete. Suspect that people are hoarding pieces to put in last.
  • 9:10 a.m. The Christmas tree is more challenging than we all thought, it is decorated with infuriating ornaments in the shape of dog bones.
  • 9:15 a.m. Still trying to put together the tree.
  • 9:21 a.m. 7 pieces left. Trying to act like a lady, but really want to "win" the puzzle.
  • 9:21 a.m. Ponder when puzzles became a competitive event.
  • 9:22 a.m. Suddenly all the pieces are getting shoved into place. Three openings left.
  • 9:22 a.m. But only two puzzle pieces left. Three openings. Two pieces...
  • 9:23 a.m. One piece missing. A mad scramble ensues as all of us dive to the floor to search for the missing piece. Nowhere to be found.
  • 9:24 a.m. Traci finds the missing piece sitting on the puzzle edge "blending into its surroundings." Puts it in place.
If you're snowed in (like we are) consider competitive puzzles as a way to end the monotony. Setting up the edges can be a bit frustrating, but the excitement only builds after that.

Featured with the puzzle pieces above is some of my own hand-spun. The leftovers from the stocking in my last post. Made from pot-dyed CVM romeldale top.

24 December 2009

make merry

The thing about the holidays : spending time with family, good food, wine, friendly arguments over past tiffs with siblings.

Posing for pictures after too much wine, presents that don't fit, presents that do fit (but you wished hadn't), sugar-crazed, greedy kids getting tangled up in the Christmas tree.

Gift cards to cheesy stores, games of pictionary, trivial pursuit and twister --all of these things are heightened when a winter snow storm looms on the horizon.

You had better make sure you have enough eggnog and wine and Christmas bread, especially when there is the very real possibility that all of your family (extended and immediate) could get snowed in with you for the holiday.

You'd better make sure the animals are tucked in for the night down at the barn: fresh hay, straw and water (with some apples saved from autumn tucked in their feeders as an early morning surprise.)

And so, in a time of big snow, I'd like to preview the ginormous stocking I made for this season. The pattern comes from Melanie Falick's Handknit Holidays; Sandy Cushman's "Funky Stockings." (May it not be filled with coal after everyone reads this post.)

I'm hoping someone takes the initiative to stuff it full of yarn and good books.

Make merry everyone! I'm happy to be back for the holidays.

11 November 2009

barn notes : it's a love shack

Barn Notes have fallen to the wayside these past two months, so I thought I'd take the time this morning to describe some of the recent events on our farm.

My mom put the rams in with the ewes about three weeks ago, which means none of us can go in with them. Our two rams, Hopps and Dutch, are extremely territorial.

Breeding season means our rams are fitted with a harness that holds a block of colored wax, this tells us which ram has bred which ewe and when. My dad was out fixing a fence over the weekend. He didn't watch his back and our chocolate-colored ram, Dutch, caught him off guard. A nice way of describing this is that my dad ended up covered in red wax. Dutch hadn't mistaken him for a ewe, rather he wanted my father out of his territory.

We all chuckled about this, because my dad wasn't injured, but it reminded me that not everything about sheep is fluffy and soft.

These are real animals and sometimes we have to take caution. A ram has the potential to cause injury, so I always try to be mindful about which fence I'm jumping over and what season it is.

Breeding season is not a good time to wander into the wrong paddock.

These mittens come from a batch of yarn that I got from Sandy of Winterwind Farm. As many of you know, Sandy also raises CVM romeldale sheep. Her yarn is wonderful. My design for these mittens was an attempt to understand how cables can weave together across the top of a mitten.

I especially like the cuffs. I bet you all will recognize the cable pattern. It seems to be a favorite of mine as of late.

27 October 2009

and then there were cables

I played hooky today and skipped class, but I think my critics should deal with me lightly. Anyone who stayed indoors today, on such a gloriously fall day, at least in my neck of the woods, would have to be labeled an idiot.

Blue skies and falling leaves. This may be our last mild day before winter. The last day when the color is still in the leaves on the trees and not down in the gutter or being swept away by a cold November wind. We've already had snow this season in Minnesota, so my irresponsible behavior can only be called sanity.

And I don't think its strange at all that I took my camera and my half-way finished pair of socks with me on my wanderings. I kept finding similarities between the color on the trees and the color in the sky with the happy stripes in my socks. One red stripe in particular at the ankle matched perfectly the hue of one fallen leaf that skittered across my path. And another stripe, this one a golden-amber color, matched perfectly the flaming bough of a friendly maple tree. All these stripes set against a background of blue-gray-green that reminds me of the sky today.

The warm autumn sky before winter.

I chose to end these socks with a cabled rib. Something about this technique reminds me of the braided trunks of the maples and oaks, or maybe the twining stems of the ivy that climbs the brick walls of the buildings that march along the side of the path where I walk. Or perhaps the bobbing seed heads of the fancy grasses that also line this path. Have you ever studied one up close? The seeds fit against the stalk in a staggered pattern that calls to mind a braid.

Any description will work I guess.

I gathered a bouquet of dried grasses and slipped the stems into the jar that holds my pencils and brushes on my desk at studio.

22 October 2009


This morning I shuffled out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen to grope around at the coffee pot only to reach up and open the cupboard door directly into my face. My nose actually. I'd misjudged the distance between the door swing and my face, and well, there you have it: I didn't need half a pot of coffee to wake up this morning.

Right there, in that moment, I tried to remind myself to slow down and watch what I'm doing. My life has been pretty busy as of late, and it's been difficult to find the time to do the things that used to be 'everyday events.'

But I have rallied, as you can see. My spinning wheel hasn't been allowed to get dusty. The fiber above comes from my mother's sheep. I pot-dyed it about a month ago, and found the time to spin up three ounces in the evenings this past week.

This should be enough for exactly one and a half socks.

I'm gonna label that progress.

12 October 2009

dreaming osmosis

I woke up to snow today, but the fragile accumulation of wet flakes on my bike seat is nothing compared to the pile of work teetering precariously on my desk at the studio. This change in the weather (wasn't it a week ago that I was sweating in my flip flops?) also calls for a change in my wardrobe.

What knitter isn't secretly pleased to pull out her woolens after a summer of lightweight cottons, even if it is at the threat of a hard frost or a blizzard?

Today I'm wearing my Koolhaas cap and I can't help but remember two years ago when I gritted my teeth over this lovely design. I had to have it, but each time I cast on and finished the ribbing something went wonky with the way I was working the stitches. Those of you Brooklyn Tweed enthusiasts (and who isn't?) will know that the pattern is based on the Seattle Public Library, designed by the architect Rem Koolhaas.

We're studying Koolhaas at school right now. Reading his essays and drooling over his work. The fact that I have knitted a half dozen Koolhass hats doesn't seem to give me an edge. And I think it should.

Some of you may wonder what cured my initial confusion over this pattern. I was enlightened by a more experienced knitter who took one look at my twisted first cap and asked me what direction I was reading the pattern from. I then realized that I was reading the pattern backwards, the way you would read a book, not a knitting chart.

Knit and learn, I guess.

As far as my Koolhaas cap goes, maybe I'll have to start wearing it to bed. Osmosis may be my only chance.

04 October 2009

barefoot in the street (not me)

This morning my friends and I woke up bright and early to meet for coffee. Talk was chipper and jovial around the wrought iron table located on the sidewalk outside the cafe under a stand of goldening trees. I ordered a Mexican mocha, and the blend of cayenne, cinnamon and cloves, combined with the crisp breeze, made my checks feel warm and rosy.

Three things made me very happy this morning. One, for the first time in a string of long days I woke up to sunshine and a dry bike seat. Two, I'd pulled out my Lady Elinor entrelac stole for the first time this season, and its intricate pattern and textures kept drawing my eyes and hands as I sat in sun. And three, blessed number three, (which reminds me why we were at this particular cafe in this particular part of the city in the first place) I congratulated myself on being smart enough not to have entered in the marathon we were there to watch.

Several of our friends were entered in this race, and it was fun to cheer on strangers and familiar faces alike, but I couldn't help but feel that all of us standing on the sidewalk were a brew of mixed feelings. Perhaps a little bit envious. (Why couldn't we be that fit and spry? ) And perhaps even more so (in my case, at least) : smug.

Boy, I thought to myself, am I glad I had the foresight nine months ago, not to sign up for this torture. As I congratulated myself for my wise prudence I happened to witness a person run by barefoot. I think we may have all gasped in unison. Barefoot in Minnesota in the first week of October!

Anyway, the reason I'm retelling this tale is because I instantly felt the need to knit a pair of socks for that poor misguided person running down the street barefoot. You can bet I had on a pair of my hand knit socks this morning.

Something that I had the foresight to knit nine months ago, as well, when I was not signing up for any marathons.

12 September 2009

a hazard on the road

I ride my bike to school every day. I guess this sounds pretty tame, maybe even a little sporty and probably smart in this era of rising gas prices and general flabbiness of the population.

But it's way out of my comfort zone. (Many swerves, wobbles and honking car horns out of it.)

My experience on a bike up until this point has been the sandy gravel roads and grassy trails of my youth. I'm used to riding barefoot in cutoffs with the wind at my back and a shriek in my throat (and, of course, with all of my young cousins keeping pace with me.)

Fast forward twenty years, and now I find that I have to contend with other moving vehicles in the inner-city on an unforgiving grid of tar and concrete. I have to protect my head with a helmet and wear practical shoes. 

No wonder I long for my banana-bike-and-ribbons-streaming-from-my-handle-bars-days, when my only concern was not getting caught up in the sandy sinkholes on the side of the road or getting tangled in branches and tree roots in the woods. The worse that could happen then was a skinned knee or a few scratches, now I have to contend with city buses and crazy people in cars. 

At the end of my first week of school, my thighs feel like mush, but I can imagine a time in the near future when I'll be road savvy and (almost) have the thighs of an elite cyclist.  Almost. 

P.S. These photos were taken along some of my old bike paths. The felted balls are a blend of wool and mohair from our sheep and goats which I carded, dyed and needle-felted into shape. 

This is just an attempt on my part to play around with color and shape and then see how the results fit into the landscape. I think they resemble strange seed pods or buds. Their color reminds me of the sprongy, shockingly-colored mushrooms that pop up all over the forest floor in the fall. 

 This experiment mirrors an installation my brother and I did last winter in our woods.  

06 September 2009

wool at the wedding

Yesterday one of my cousins got married at a local vineyard in Wisconsin. I guess I shouldn't use local as an adjective in this case. I probably should write "the only" or "one of the only," because I'm guessing Wisconsin doesn't have many vineyards. 

Anyway, I don't know about your family, but it seems like the older I get, the more bizarre my family's pre-wedding experiences become. One of my siblings (and this is usually my brother) is always getting chastised for his eclectic choice of wardrobe. He prefers colorful ties and jackets, which sometimes clash with his beard. 

But yesterday, I was the one my mother harassed. Friends, I chose a tailored sky-blue blouse, tucked under a light-weight black sweater all over the top of a button-down tweed skirt. 

The tweed skirt is a favorite of mine. From a distance it may appear to be gray, but really it's a blend of black over white wool with flecks of orange, bright yellow and orchid in its fine weave. This skirt has tiny black buttons that run down each side as it cuts to about knee level. 

My mother's main complaint was that I looked too uptight and there would be other people my age there (i.e. single men). If I insisted on wearing the skirt, at least I could undo a few of the buttons that were currently hugging my knees. (And, when I wasn't paying attention to her, she made several attempts to creep up beside me and undo the buttons herself.) 

But the skirt wasn't my worst offence, it was the flats I insisted on wearing on my feet. Copenhagen blue-suede leather, but of cheap knock-off quality that I was willing to put up with as long as they carried me through the afternoon. She said those shoes made me look like an up-tight librarian. (Which I almost was at one point in my life, but that's another story.)

Moving on, while my mother was harassing me about my shoes, my brother sat down next to me on the sofa, his eyes twinkling, to show me the bread-ties he'd devised to serve him as cuff links. 

So I didn't feel so bad about my outfit. 

We made it out of the house, but halfway to town, and not even a fraction of the distance to our final destination, we all realized that no one had a copy of the invitation (in fact some of the party may have never read it) and therefore only had a general inkling of when the wedding actually started. Was it 2:00, 2:30 or 3:00? This, of course, makes a huge difference. 

And, adding to the panic of the situation, it was discovered that my mother didn't have her cellphone. Instead she'd grabbed mine, which has only the numbers of random people in its memory, and was therefore completely obsolete in helping us attain the information we needed.

So, as we're all fighting (some berating others for leaving the invite sitting on the kitchen counter, others mocking the indifferent for not reading the invite at all) we realized that the directions to the wedding were also left behind. 

Huh, in the back of the mini van I scrunched my shoulders and looked to my lovely blue shoes for moral support. 

How it was next decided that we needed to visit a drive-through car wash is beyond my level of contemplation. But there I was, stuck in a drive-through car wash with no escape in sight, surrounded by the general uproar of my loving (and also completely crazy) family. 

My only solace was the fact that I had packed an easy knitting project (a pair of toe-up socks) to center my attention upon, AND the understanding that there would be lots of wine at the reception later on . . . this is, if we ever got there.

04 September 2009

late summer fog and reflections

My family's farm is located on top of a hill (Crosby Hill) and sits on the edge of a ridge that cuts through this part of the state. The ridge cradles a tiny creek we call Bear. This creek bubbles along the local topography, cutting through stands of pines and oaks, before joining with the St. Croix River which forms a boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

Sometimes on cool mornings - and especially during the the dramatic shift between seasons - a pervasive fog forms at the bottom of our hill. This fog has been known to settle over our pastures and creep into our gardens. The fog brings with it a heavy dew that covers everything.  
Today I got out into the garden before the sun burned the fog off and snapped some photos. 

I guess I'm in a reflective mood today. I'm thinking about all of the things that went right with the garden this season, and all of the things that could have went . . . well . . . better. 

The first problem we have with the garden closest to the house, the one where we usually plant our tomatoes and beans, is blight. (Gasp!) I've read up on blight and I know that the only way to get rid of it (while not resorting to chemicals and other invasive measures) is to plant vegetables that suffer from it in a completely different location until it runs its course through the soil. 

I did that this year. The tomatoes went in another garden, but I let down my guard and planted a few potatoes in an off-limits area. (Maybe I'll get lucky, I thought.) 

I didn't. Or perhaps it's the potatoes who had all the bad luck.

I never realized how ugly a potato suffering from blight is. No wonder people in the middle ages linked blighted veggies with leprosy and the plague. (Yuck!) But here's the deal: as long as you cut off the blighted portions of the potatoes they are still edible. But these potatoes will not weather the winter and will cause havoc in the root cellar (i.e. rot and stink to high heaven).

Luckily, we spread out the potatoes between our three gardens so we will have many to keep. But enough with the bad, other things went well. I'm thinking about the zinnias I planted for borders. They are in full bloom now and completely gorgeous. The squash are ripening. I planted a French heirloom: Potimarron, which keeps beautifully and bakes like a dream. It also freezes well, if roasted first. 

Borage, a large flowering herb with purple flowers, was suggested to attract bees. I planted some in the spring and it went wild, but it did it's intended duty. All through July and August the garden was filled with the humming activity of bees. I've never seen so many varieties: large and small, streamlined and fuzzy. All intent on gathering pollen to brew their wild honey for winter. 

Looking back, I will plant borage next spring, but I will give it more headway. It tends to dwarf the other plants that surround it. 

This afternoon we will begin to pick apples. We'll be burning the midnight oil, making apple sauce, apple butter and crab apple jelly. Not to mention our sweet corn is ready to be processed and frozen for the winter. Phew! 

The canning and preserving season has begun!

31 August 2009

chicken + leek + ginger noodle soup

Tomorrow I'm moving into my new apartment down in the cities. Today I'm making restorative chicken noodle soup to prepare for the event. 

Here's my my recipe:

one homegrown chicken (without feathers)
a pile of carrots
a big onion
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
two leeks
two bay leaves
half a bulb of garlic
a pile of celery
a few shallots
garlic chives
three giant handfuls of noodles
salt to taste
top with fresh chopped garlic chives 

Of course, I make a chicken broth first, and then dice up new veggies for my finished soup. The secret to this soup is the organic chicken, leeks, garlic and ginger. The ginger flavor is absorbed into the meat. It sweetens it somehow, and also adds a bit of a zing. Hopefully, you can find some of these ingredients in your garden. 

Trust me, this is the soup for you if you're feeling under the weather . . . or if you think you have a rough few days ahead. 

Prepare yourself a pot and "comment" me in the morning. 

30 August 2009

apple moon time

August is a month for feasting. All things that were in bloom in May are now coming into fruition. It's time for canning, jellying, baking. . . and eating. The apple trees that stand at the end of my garden are almost folding, collapsing under the weight of the fruit on their branches. 

The birds haven't discovered the fruit yet (or perhaps it isn't ripe enough) but before long they will come and it will be hard to find an apple without a few bites out of it. Not that I mind the birds taking their share, there is certainly more than enough to go around. 

Last week I tried my hand at making cold pressed apple juice. Unknown to me, an apple/sausage press made of cast iron has been resting in the corner of our barn. The press belonged to my grandmother, Arlene. We inherited it when she passed, and it has sat forgotten for years. 

Not this summer. 

My dad and I pulled it out, scrubbed it down, fixed it to a table out in the milk house, and set to work. I harvested apples from all around the yard. We have six different types, the names of which escape me. 

All I can tell you is that the tree on the far end of the yard, the one with apples the color of pomegranate seeds, has fruit that tastes like ambrosia. Sweet and spicy with a sharp tang at the end. This tasting of apples has become an art for me . . . like sampling fine wine. 

I think we used ten, five gallon buckets of apples to get seven quarts of juice. My dad said his arm felt like it was going to fall off from the effort it took to turn the crank on the fruit press. That's a lot of work for 100% pure, organic, cold-pressed apple juice. My mother and I sealed the juice in jars and set them in a hot water bath. 

Now I'll have a little bit of summer, a memory of this apple moon time, for when the months turn dark and cold. 

(That is, if I can keep myself from drinking it all right now.)

P.S. This purse is a free download from Berroco. I knit mine out of Rowan Yorkshire Tweed Aran. It took just over one ball of yarn. 

I'm going to stuff it full of apples.

25 August 2009

barn notes : hen house

In my teenage years I probably wouldn't have admitted that I lived on a small farm in East Central Minnesota close to the Wisconsin border. There were times (when I was in grade school) when summer break meant that I didn't go into town (unless it was for the carnival) for weeks at a time. 

My brother and sister and I - "we"- spent all our time playing with the neighbor kids, which included a tangle of first and second cousins who lived up and down the road. We built forts, swam in the creek, caught frogs, tamed feral kittens, swung from tree branches, ran wild, sang campfire songs, played "ghost around the house." 

The farm was our playground. I can remember climbing fences and skipping across the pasture. Scampering up trees when we saw the bull. Creating secret societies with our imaginations. Societies that included intricate forts built in the underbrush, secret handshakes, and, of course, "us against them"

The "us" was usually the girls, and the "them" was almost always the boys.

Anyway, there were always cows and cats around the farm, the occasional farm dog, but never chickens or egg-laying hens. A lot has changed since then. I couldn't imagine my parents' farm now without the chickens. 

I've become a bit of a naturalist when it comes to our chickens. There definitely is a hierarchy to chicken behavior. A pecking order, so to speak. They don't just jump off the nest and shriek for no reason. 

Here's what I've noticed. The roosters prance around and trumpet most of the morning. They toodle-dee-doo at the quality of light, passing cars and wandering humans. They toodle-dee-doo at doors and car wheels, the shadows of hawks gliding overhead and empty water buckets. 

The hens are always clucking, always pecking at the ground. Their gooble-dee-gucks start in the hen house. Whenever they lay an egg they explode off the nest with a fury of goobles. I think they're bragging, announcing their accomplishment. A warm egg in pale turquoise blue resting next to another the color of hammered copper. 

Out of the six nesting boxes built into the hen house wall one is the favorite, vied after by all. One is always filled with a rainbow of eggs, a pleasure to collect. An inspiration every day. 

Whatever the case, I can always tell what type of egg day it's going to be by the volume of noise down at the hen house. 

Sounds like we'll be having omelets tonight. 

22 August 2009


Here's the deal folks: today I mowed a path through my garden with the lawnmower. Are you disappointed? Are you concerned? 

Remember how confident I was in May?

It's August, I tried to tell myself. You always feel like raising the white flag in your garden every August, so don't blow a gasket. 

Well, I didn't exactly blow a gasket. It's just that I'm the sort of person that likes things tidy and MY GARDEN IS FULL OF WEEDS. Now, last year my garden wasn't full of weeds, because I was here all summer to take care of it. This year I was gone at school for June and July so my family had to take care of it. 

They took really good care of it. June and July were dry months, so the priority was watering, but it's August now and the nasty weeds have taken fierce root in my garden and the only thing I could think to do (save just faint in the shoulder high bramble of stinging nettle, stink weed and CREEPING CHARLIE) was pull out the lawnmower, baby!

I mowed over the lettuce patch that had turned bitter, bolted, and was chocked with weeds AND the vacant shallot bed (the shallots are curing nicely in a dry place), but I was careful to avoid my beautiful leeks and zinnias. 

Some things are still worth fighting for. 

Right now I'm thinking about my purple potatoes from Peru and my broccoli plants. I know I planted them somewhere near the end of the garden. Then there's the zucchini . . . it's gone AWOL, but I know it's somewhere amidst the tall grasses. 

These plants will need a more patient hand - not a lawnmower - and I'm prepared to give them that . . . tomorrow. 

Shesh, I'm having a beer. I think I deserve it. 

Here's something to celebrate : my finished Chevalier mittens. I thought I was going to keep them for myself, but now it turns out they're going to be a gift to a future cousin-in-law. 

Isn't the color lovely? 

Hopefully I can knit myself a pair before the cold wind blows. I will need something to cover my gnarled and blistered hands : the evidence of my garden in August.

20 August 2009

the winter wind

 The autumn wind, and the winter wind - have come and gone
And still the days, those lonely days - go on and on
And guess who sighs his lullabies - through nights that never end
My fickle friend, the summer wind

Frank Sinatra / Summer Wind lyrics

Ah, yes. The winter wind is coming. It's still August, but the realist in me hasn't forgotten what December and January are like here in Minnesota. (Not to mention March and April.) So I started a pair of mittens for myself. This pattern comes from a wonderful fiber artist in Finland. Her blog is called Made by Myself and this pattern is titled Chevalier Mittens. 

The girl has a way with cables and design. Just the header on her blog will prove my point. This particular pattern is a free download, so have at it. None of us knitters should suffer from cold hands this winter. 

One cool thing about the pattern is that when you download it you get the Finnish and the English version. I can't read Finnish, but I like studying the language. The chart with the cable pattern is the same for both the Finnish and the English version. It's nice to know knitting can break some language/culture barriers. 

(Perhaps all diplomats should take up knitting.) 

Hey! Check out the yarn I'm using for these mittens. It comes from Winterwind Farm located in Battle Lake, MN, home of our friend, Sandy, and her flock of CVM romeldale sheep and angora goats. This yarn is a blend of CVM romeldale wool and mohair. It's soft and pliant, perfect for these cable mittens.

Hopefully, I'll be sharing my finished mittens in a few days. Currently, our farm is getting more than its fair share of rain. (Remember our drought woes a little over a month ago?) Well, over the past thirty-six hours we have gotten over five inches of rain. 

Five inches! 

Nothing I can do but keep dry - stay inside and knit!

17 August 2009

special recipe

These mittens came out of nowhere. I swear it. I think all of you got a sense, especially after my last post, that I was committed to knitting socks. 

(Many many many, unfinished socks.)

But here are these mittens. 

Let me explain. 

So, I started out knitting socks. (I guess I was cheatin' on the second pair of socks - which I was cheatin' on the first pair of socks with - cause I cast on for a third pair of what I thought were socks (in tandem with the other two pairs) a few hours after I posted my last blog. 

But something happened mid-knit. My usual method for making socks is a simple toe-up wrap-and-turn trick that I adjust depending on the yarn I'm working with and the gauge I'm looking for. Well, I got past the toe (at this point I still thought I was making socks) and was happily knitting along with this bulky yarn, when, instead of fitting it over my toes to test the fit, I started pulling it over my fingers and bobbing it around happily. 

My creative u-turn didn't stop there, the next thing I quickly decided was that these new "mittens" definitely needed to be turned "inside out" so that all the lovely bumps showed instead of the neat "v" stockinette stitches. 

Before long I was deciding on the placement of the thumb. (Thank you Elizabeth Zimmerman.) And then, after three or so more inches, switching out needles ( US 7 from a US 10.5) to finish off the cuff in a tight 2 by 2 rib. 

Not to sound too mythic, but the second mitten practically leapt from my needles fully formed, like the Greek goddess Athena when she jumped out of Zeus's nose. 

Now I know I'm taking liberties. (But I just couldn't help it.)

Anyway, these mittens make me feel like a goddess. I could hardly stop slipping them on yesterday as I prepared a Sunday dinner for my family. (Not Greek, authentic Mexican.) 

The tomatoes are the first from my gardens and (just to keep with the theme above) if this humid, wet weather keeps up, they should be spilling from our ears soon. 

15 August 2009

skeletons (or unfinished socks) in my closet

You know how it goes . . . there is that one pair of really cute socks in the holiday issue of your favorite knitting magazine that you just have to knit. You sprint out to buy the yarn and the needles and then huddle in your favorite knitting chair with a cup of tea and your thumbed-over pattern to cast on. 

You quickly make progress, because the pattern is challenging and engaging. You mess up once, even twice, perhaps a half dozen times, but you rebound quickly because you just have to have these hot little numbers on your feet. 

You imagine that you will be wearing them soon. Perhaps in a cute pair of patent-leather Mary Janes. The ones that were made to show off socks like these. 

But then something happens. You didn't mean to be unfaithful, but another pattern catches your eye, and besides these socks require concentration and it's always nice to have another project handy that doesn't require concentration. The two projects complement each other and add a hefty bulge to your knitting bag. 

Yet despite your best intentions, the Ziploc with the cherry red socks gets lost in the bottom of your knitting bag. Despite the blogs you posted with optimism in the spring and all of that quoting of Shakespeare. 

The socks stay unknit. And then August comes around. 

Didn't Shakespeare say something about being unknit and undone? Didn't one of his characters rant about it? Google says no, but I, as a knitter, could easily imagine it and take the liberty of twisting his words to suit my situation.  

Anyway, the real problem here is not these unfinished socks, per say, it's the fact that I want to start a different pair of socks and that just seems wrong to me. Feels like I'm stepping out (indeed in another pair of socks) or just being plain lazy. 

Perhaps I shall knit both socks in tandem. 

But that makes me remember the adage I just imagined: she who knits two pairs of socks at the same time ends up barefoot. 

Wise words. Wise words. 

Although, it is only the middle of August and there is a lot of flip-flop weather still in store for us. I think I'll take the risk (and not even think about the tale of the cricket that cast on and quit all summer.)

10 August 2009

something to show

My morning started with a cup of coffee and a blank notebook page. The coffee was for courage and cognizance, while the notebook page was for the many "t0-do" lists that I want to complete over the course of August. 

Ever been there? 

I have so much to do. So many things that I should do and many more things that I just want to do. 

The lists go on and on. First there's the packing. I think I may have to sort through all the boxes that I've been storing in my parents sauna and actually (possibly) move them out. Turns out everyone would like to use that space again for its designed purpose. 

Next, I need to sort through my many piles of books and decide which I actually want to haul down to the cities with me and which I'd rather not carry up three flights of stairs only to sit on my bookshelf all year. 

The Jane Austen is coming. 

More that just lists today, I actually have something to show: my finished After Hours Shawl by Cynthia Josepth and Briar Rose Fibers

That's my mum as a model. We snapped these pictures in the pasture with her spring lambs. aren't they friendly? We noticed a phenomenon this year. After we separated them from their mothers, and after a few days of sad ba-baaing, the lambs became very curious and affectionate to us. 

That's Tucker standing behind my mother in the top photo. He was trying to nibble on the fringes of the shawl. 

09 August 2009

julia & julie

Things were so hectic after Shepherd's Harvest Festival this past spring, that I didn't get a chance to write a post about my mother's success in the fleece competition. 

This year we entered the fleece of a ewe named Julia. The story of my mother (Julie) and this particular ewe (Julia) has been unfolding over the course of the history of this blog. Julia, the sheep, was bottle fed as a lamb, making her one friendly critter to visit in the barn. 

You can't walk ten steps across the pasture without sensing her trotting presence behind you, or crouch to mess with anything in the barn without turning to find her fuzzy nose pressed into your ear. 

Julia has a soft, stone gray fiber that spins up beautifully and knits up well in cables and patterns. Remember the cabled Bella Mittens I made this spring? 

That was Julia. 

At Shepherd's Harvest, Julia's fleece won a first place ribbon in the pure bred class category and took second place all-around. We knew Julia's fleece was beautiful, but that's more than we expected. 

Congratulations Julia and Julie!

That's Julia grazing up above with the other sheep in the pasture. You wouldn't believe how long it took me to get her to stop pestering me and to pose prettily for that shot. Above is the basket of prize winning fiber, which was shipped off last week to a fellow fiber enthusiast. 

I'm currently spinning a batch of chocolate-brown fiber for a still-as-undecided project. Despite the fact that I'm a bit fuzzy about what I'm going to do with it, I will be posting photos of the resulting yarn soon. 

06 August 2009

boot camp

Hoorah! I survived my summer intensive intro to graduate studies in Architecture. There were moments when the stress levels were high and I thought for certain I was going to 'crack up' (to put it nicely), but I made it and now I'm back on my parent's farm for a month of frolicking in the garden, chasing chickens and playing tag with the sheep.

We're currently doing some renovations to our century-old farmhouse. My brother, who as some of you know, also studies architecture, has designed an addition to my parent's kitchen and library that includes two roots cellars below grade to store the mountains of potatoes, squash and pumpkins we will be harvesting in the fall. 

There's a reason for two. One will have a dirt floor, the other poured concrete. This will make the conditions in the cellars different, allowing for different produce to be stored there. Also some veggies and fruits (perhaps like some people you know) do not like to be kept in the same room together.  Apples are one example that comes to mind.

This image of the model my brother built shows the upper level of the addition. The boxes on the side are framed windows that hold up a running wall of bookshelves. We're just about ready to knock down the wall dividing the old part of the house from the new. Should be chaos. 

Anyway, this morning I climbed up onto some of the construction debris and posed for this photo in my favorite pair of hand knit socks. I am happy for this break. There are baskets of fiber that need spinning, books that need reading and mountains of produce from the garden that need processing. 

I'll certainly keep you posted. 

26 July 2009

barn notes: the luck of the irish

Out of all the animals on my parents' farm, I've found myself feeling empathy for one in particular: a goat who goes by the name of Irish Cream. 

Irish was born in the spring of 08' and since her introduction to our barnyard has been one bundle of trouble. We like to say she has the curiosity of a cat, but not the luck of the Irish. 

For instance, which animal do you suppose got her head stuck in the hay feeder three times last summer, culminating in my father's use of a bolt cutter and a few missing fence panels? None other than Irish. Which goat seems to always be getting chased by all of the other goats and the sheep? None other than Irish. 

Who got her head caught in something (we don't know what) a few days ago and broke her horn off? None other than Irish. 

So now Irish has only one horn. I'm hoping this actually works in her favor, and she'll be able to stick her head wherever she wants in the future and not get into trouble. I went to visit her in the barn this morning and found her in good spirits at the hay feeder. Of course she wasn't standing docilely like the other animals chewing her cud, she was up on her hindquarters searching for tidbits in the all the hard-to-reach places. 

Now you've got to admire that.

25 July 2009

dragon carrot soup

"What garden isn't out of control in July?" I asked my mother earlier today. 

"No, name me a garden that isn't out of control in July," I said a few moments later as I slathered fresh basil pesto on a Ritz cracker. 

They all are, so I won't feel bad that some of the weeds in mine are bigger than my nasturtiums, or that creeping charlie has invaded my shallot bed. (The shallots will be harvested later on today, anyway, and the creeping charlie will go with it.)

It doesn't matter if my garden has a few (albeit ginormous) weeds. This morning I pulled a weed too aggressively out in the carrot bed and I ended up toppling over into a patch of dill. As the aromatic scent of dill surrounded me, I considered the possibility that right then and right there was the best possible place in the world to be.

I think all gardeners ultimately come to this conclusion, that's why we garden so compulsively and with such joy. 

If growing things is exciting, then preparing meals with what you've tended is an even greater thrill. Today our kitchen is filled with carrot tops and bits of fragrant rosemary, sage and thyme. I'm making carrot soup with some early summer carrots, and roasted baby potatoes tossed in olive oil. These beautiful sides will be paired with our own grass-fed lamb chops marinated in red wine, rosemary and garlic. 

Are you hungry? 

After I post this, I'm going to bake a few loaves of Italian feather bread. I can't wait for dinner. This sure beats week days in the city, where I eat like a starving graduate student. 

Hope all of you are having something good for dinner and that you got the chance to take part in the process of getting it to your table. 

P.S. that's my brother with a clutch of dill, me with the bowl of pink baby potatoes, and the last is the carrots tossed in olive oil with fresh herbs just before I placed them in the oven to roast. 
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