Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.8: Rosamond, and a Surprise Gift

Joining with Ginny and the Yarn Along on a beautiful sunny Wednesday today.

Still working on my Rosamond socks for the KAL I'm participating in.  Don't be afraid of the lacy pattern, it is very easy to follow and knits up incredibly quick.  So quick, in fact, that I have the first sock almost complete all ready. Just a few more inches of foot to do, then it's on to the toe and I'll be grafting the end by this weekend.  :0)

Rosamond, lovely Rosamond

For the past month and a half, I have been part of a secret scarf swap on a forum that I've been a member of for several years now.  The Forest Glade cowl that I knit was for that swap. The person I knit it for had no idea that I had her name (and color preferences) for the swap, at least not until the day it arrived on her doorstep via the USPS with my name on the return address.  The cowl turned out quite a bit longer than I had thought it would (why I didn't envision the correct length, I don't know).  I took a few pictures of it draped over the newel post on my stairs before boxing it up and sending it off.  I think I'm going to make another one, at a future date, to keep for myself as I really like how it turned out.

full length

wrapped once

wrapped twice

The Sunlight Shawl went to a lady who had initially signed up to be part of the swap, but, due to being diagnosed with cancer, had to back out right before participants were assigned who to knit for.  She had been in remission for almost two years when she received the unwelcome news that the cancer had returned.  I knit the Sunlight Shawl for her, saying prayers with every stitch.  I mailed it out late last week, and received a beautiful message from her on Monday.  I'm hoping that wearing the shawl gives her strength and comfort as she again battles for her life (she is young; still in her twenties I believe).

Participating in the swap didn't just mean I was knitting for someone else.  It also meant that someone was knitting for me!!  While my packages were being received by others on Monday, a box also arrived on my doorstep.  And inside the box, I found a wonderful wide infinity scarf/cowl in a most interesting color that appears as blue, deep blue, dark aquamarine, or gunmetal gray depending on the light; as well as a drop spindle and bit of roving! I had known when I signed up for the swap that I would get a scarf or cowl of some sort at the end.  But I never expected my secret knitter to send along a drop spindle and roving--I had mentioned on the forum earlier this year wanting to learn to spin but didn't think that with the grandkids living here I had time, money or space to invest in a spinning wheel.  So the drop spindle is just the perfect thing; I can try spinning without needing much storage space or any outlay of money!

my secret swap gifts

As far as reading this week, I've made a lot of progress on The Nourishing Homestead, but I still have over 200 pages left to read and the book is due back to the library on Friday.  Because of the number of holds on it, I won't be able to renew it and keep it another three weeks in order to read the entire book at my leisure.  I've read enough to know that I don't want to try to rush and skim through the remainder of the book in order to finish it before the library closes on Friday evening.  I've also read enough to know that I don't want to add my name to the long request list for it (I was lucky #1 on the list, so got it hot off the presses!) and wait a few months for it to come back to me.  Guess I'm just going to have to buy a copy for myself.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Practice Cake

Earlier this winter, DS1 and K2 set a wedding date for this coming May.  I was asked if I wanted to make the wedding cake. Since I always make birthday cakes and graduation open house cakes, a wedding cake seemed the logical thing to ask of me.  I of course said yes, I would love to make the wedding cake.

Then, in December, Mother-in-Law presented me with a box she had recently discovered in her attic. A box that contained DH's Grandmother's cake pans.  Most likely the selfsame pans that my own wedding cake was baked in, being as how DH's Grandmother made the cake for our wedding.

the pans!

wedding cake circa 1993

In January, K2 went to a wedding expo, where she sampled many different flavors of cake.  She came home with a couple of requests.  Could I make a strawberries and cream cake?  How about a cookies and cream cake? And maybe a white cake with fudge filling between the layers?

Me, being me, and believing anything is possible if I just do enough research and have enough practice, said of course I could make all of those things!

With the end of February looming, I decided it was time to start practicing those cakes!  For my first 'Practice Cake' project, I found a recipe for a strawberries and cream cake.  I'm more worried about getting the flavor and texture of this cake right than I am about decorating the outside of it for final presentation, so last week when I made my first attempt at the recipe (which I think will be "the" recipe, just adjusted for quantity rather than flavor) I didn't bother to make sure the layers were flat, the sides crumb-free, or even make any frosting for it.  I just took the whipped cream filling, divided it into thirds, and used the final third to top the cake with.

not beautiful, just edible and for practice

Now I have members of the household asking when I plan to make my next practice cake, and which of the two remaining requested flavors it is going to be.  :0)  And, they are wondering if I am going to make a final practice cake that is all three tiers, to be sure that I can stack three cakes on top of each other without squishing any of them.

I need to find and purchase some columns (as shown in picture of my wedding cake) before I can stack tiers.  DH's Grandmother's cake bases (white plastic disks to fit each size of pan) were in the box with the pans, but her columns seem to have disappeared sometime between 1993 and her death in 2008.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


This week saw lots of very cold temperatures at this little place here.

seriously cold weather 

The above picture was actual air temperature on a dead calm morning.  We had several days of warmer air temps, but high winds that made the wind chill equal to this reading.

Did we stay indoors, quivering in our socks, because it was rather bitterly cold outside?

No.  We bundled up, and life continued as usual. Which, for me, meant about 6 consecutive hours outside or in an unheated barn.  

Was I cold?

Not a bit.  I was dressed for the weather, with the exception of the first really cold day when I forgot to bring a scarf to cover my mouth and nose with.  That day my face felt the minus 20 Fahrenheit every time I went outside; my nose hairs froze and honestly, the cold was breathtaking--literally making it hard to breathe.  But the second and consecutive days, I wore my scarf when out in the wind.  And I was warm; even sweaty at times.

me, made anonymous for privacy (in other words, I replaced my face with a drawing),
 in my toasty warm below zero wear

The cold was breathtaking in other ways, too: it made for some gloriously sunny and clear weather. The blues of the sky, the pristine white of the snow, the sparkling trees on a frosty morning, all were so beautiful you could say they took my breath away.

One afternoon that the high temperature was exactly one degree above zero, and the wind was only barely blowing, DH and I trimmed the trees around the yard and garden. Every late winter, we trim them up so that they grow in the manner we want them to, eliminate weak branches, and cut off any that hang low enough to whack us in the head while driving the lawn mower or tractor beneath them, or scrape on the roof of the truck. We need to do this because thirteen years ago, when we bought this little place here, there were no trees on the front 2/3 of the property except those near the road frontage.  Every tree around the house, bordering the garden, lining the 'road' between front yard and front field (our access road to the garden and the south road that goes to the woods), near the barn, behind the septic mound, etc, has been planted or begun from seed since the Spring of 2002; and as young trees, need an annual pruning to train them into nice and sturdy trees.

removing lowest branches

ornamental cherry near the garden, after trimming

trimmed branches in the 'road' between front yard and front field

tracks in the packed snow;
small fir tree in left of picture is actually about 2-foot tall.

Honestly, below zero is pretty much below zero.  If you are dressed right, and are moving around, twenty below doesn't feel any different than ten below, and ten below doesn't really feel any colder than zero itself.  Dress right, and do not fear the cold; go out and enjoy it, either recreationally or checking outdoor tasks off the to-do list.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.7: It Makes Me Happy

My Wednesday can't make up it's mind if it wants to be sunny or snowy today.  It keeps switching back and forth: snow squall, a few hours of blinding sunshine, another snow squall, some more sunshine. . .  That's okay; I'll take it.  It's like the best of winter all in one day; the beautiful clear blue sky with sun shining on clean white snow, and the diffused light mingled with dancing snowflakes.

Since it is Wednesday, no matter what the weather, I'm joining with Ginny and the Yarn Along again this week.

My Sunlight Shawl for Sad People is finished. I loved working on it. I love the colors of the yarn.  I love the way it looks now that it's finished. And, I love that I secretly made it for someone else, and that someone has no idea they will shortly receive it in the mail.

Sunlight shawl

Was there anything I didn't love about it?  Well. . . I'd never made a shawl with a picot edge before.  So I had no clue what I was in for when it came time to block it.  I did not love how long it took to stretch and pin that shawl--a pin in every single picot. And readjusting every single pin in every single picot at least three times before the shawl was shaped properly (as in, symmetrically).  I'm gonna have to think twice about any picot edge patterns in the future.  And definitely buy more blocking pins.  I ran out of t-pins and ended up employing about 30 safety pins in the blocking; a few of which are a little bent now since my 'blocking board' is actually the spare bed that DD1 or DS2 use when home from college on holiday break. Safety pins were not intended for spearing things to a mattress, LOL.

another view, showing almost end to end

I've started my next project; a pair of Rosamond socks for a KAL/swap I am participating in.  The sock pattern is very lacy, which is a first for me.  Yet, it isn't at all hard to do.  I only cast on Monday evening and so far I have the cuff and three (of eight) pattern repeats on the leg done on sock #1.

a lacy leg

The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Frozen.  I really love the icy blue coloring of the yarn.

a better photo of yarn color

Still reading Ben and Penny Hewitt's Nourishing Homestead, although I'm only 22 pages further along than I was a week ago.  Need to find more reading time this week, or pray that this book doesn't have a waiting list at the library so I can renew it.  Or, perhaps I should just find little money in the budget and go buy my own copy; I can't tell you how many passages I've read in 28 pages total that I find myself saying "Right on, Ben! Preach it, brother!" which is kind of out of character for me, but I just identify so much with how and what he writes about.  Like we're long lost fraternal twins or something.

But what I get most from reading his blog and his book, is really verification of why I knit, why I grow so much of our food at this little place here, why I sew and quilt, why we heat with wood, why I choose to work outdoors in all weather with horses and the garden and making syrup, and making hay, and hunting deer and raising chickens.  It makes me happy.  That's why I do the things I do.  And that should be reason enough.

Monday, February 16, 2015

It Ain't Cheap

Eating, that is.  Eating is not cheap.  This is something that has become clearly evident since DS1 & family moved in with us last fall.  All my homegrown chickens in the freezer have been eaten (I wasn't planning to feed six people with them; only three).  My hens have not laid enough eggs this winter to keep up with our demand (mostly because DS1's dogs slaughtered all but one of my 2014 pullets, so I've older--less productive--hens left in my flock).  Deer season was a bust, with only two does put into the freezer.  Mother-in-law is no longer raising pork or beef, so our source for low-cost high-quality meat is gone.  Quite a bit of what I canned or froze from the garden last summer has also been eaten (again, wasn't planning to feed six people. . . )

Now I find myself half-way through February looking at the slightly more than half-bushel of potatoes (of three bushel harvested in October) left in the cellar and realizing that if I don't separate out some for this year's garden, all my potatoes will get eaten before it's planting time and I won't have any for seed!!  That is not acceptable, seeing as how these potatoes are adapted to the growing conditions at this little place here; having been sown, grown, saved, sown again, grown again, saved again for at least five years.

So, what do you do in a case like this?

Well, what I did was  make a list of all the veggies the garden needs to grow in 2015 (and how much of each kind I need to yield), gather my seed catalogs and open up several tabs on the computer for websites of seed suppliers I don't have printed catalogs for, and do some shopping.  $133.71 later. . . I have ordered all the seed potatoes (new varieties I don't have in the cellar; gonna try some fingerlings this year), onion & leek starts, and seeds for:

  1. corn
  2. beans
  3. peas
  4. pumpkins
  5. lettuce
  6. spinach
  7. broccoli
  8. cabbage
  9. cauliflower
  10. carrots
  11. beets
  12. tomatoes
  13. peppers
  14. zucchini
  15. winter squash (multiple varieties)
  16. pumpkins (again, multiple varieties)
  17. cucumbers
  18. watermelon
  19. rutabaga
  20. basil
  21. and flowers (beneficials to help reduce insect pests in the garden, cut flowers for enjoyment and edibles to freak DH out in his salad, lol)
that I should need to in order to produce enough food to last six people for a year.

On top of that, I will soon be working up a poultry order for our meat birds--going to raise at least 50 broilers this year, plus some turkeys, ducks and geese--as well as pullet chicks to replace my laying flock and possibly some birds (geese? ducks?  turkey?) for DD2 to raise to show and sell at the Fair this summer.  Add another $100-$200 to the 'seed' bill for those baby birds.

Plus, DH has been looking at the cost of meat in the store, and the (disappointing) quality of most of it, and has recently begun looking at the price of feeder pigs and steers locally for sale.  He's even seriously talking about a pig pen, and fencing and shelter for a couple of beef steers!!  I think this is finally going to be the year we raise some four-legged meat animals.  Add another couple hundred dollars to the 'seed' bill there, depending on how many and what type of feeder animals we buy.

Looks like DD2 will be raising a lamb to take to the Fair also, thanks to a generous offer by the family whom she is (still) doing sheep chores for.  I do believe I will talk to them about purchasing a second lamb to raise for our own table.

No, eating sure isn't cheap.  But, by growing/raising as much of our own food as possible, it can be made more affordable.  I won't get caught with my pantry/cellar/freezer down next year!  Grocery store prices for the equivalents (especially equivalent quality) are breaking my budget.  And I've got more enjoyable plans for my money than shelling it out for so-so food at the store.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.6: Not So Brainless

Happy Wednesday!  It's Yarn Along time, everyone!

Last week, I mentioned that I had decided to do the Sunlight Shawl for Sad People pattern with my colorful yarn because I needed some brainless fun knitting.

Well. . . what a way to jinx myself.  That very night, there was a mishap involving a cat (still a kitten at 5 months, but a very large, very fast, very intent on stealing my knitting, kitten), my yarn, and many dropped stitches going more than a few rows deep.  This was after a family discussion with DH, DS1, K2 and I about expectations, rent to cover what their living here costs DH and I above and beyond our normal monthly utility and grocery bills, and adult/parental (meaning DS1 & K2) responsibilities in general.  So I was not in a right state of mind to deal with picking up all those stitches, through a lace pattern and a several rows of garter stitch both, and the cat was still trying to get her two paws' worth in the mix.

I ended up ripping out the whole 41 rows that I had done to that point.  This was after three attempts to fix what the cat had messed up.  Three unsuccessful, very brain-hurting attempts.  It was emotionally easier to start over than continue trying to fix what had been ruined.


Try again.  It really is an easy, brainless knit, as long as you don't drop a whole bunch of stitches through several rows right at the yarn over part.  I'm okay at picking up stitches about six rows deep, as long as they all go in the same direction and connect to each other.  Not okay at picking up yarn overs every other row for about six rows on an increasing basis.  Thankfully, I have managed to keep the cat, aka the Yarn Thief, from causing any more disasters, although as you will see in a minute, she is still determined to take off with my yarn every chance she gets.  Currently, I have 72 rows completed.

my current knit, and my current read

a more 'true color' shot

Yarn Thief caught red-handed
 (notice open mouth on ball of yarn--right after I clicked this shot, cat and yarn were heading away at a rapid pace)

I just started reading Ben Hewitt's latest book, that his wife Penny co-authored, by the title of The Nourishing Homestead.  I've been a reader of Ben's blog for years; it's so down-to-earth and I can relate to many of the things he posts about since I do or have done a lot of them myself at this little place here.  It's too early to give an opinion on this latest book--although it does have tons of great pictures taken by Penny (I flipped through and looked)--since I only just got it from the library and have read a mere six page so far.

What are you knitting and reading this week?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Why Didn't I Do This Sooner?

just an unassuming piece of flannel. . . 

Earlier in the winter, I got the idea I wanted to make myself a few handkerchiefs out of scrap flannel.  Nothing fancy, just a few large squares with zigzagged edges to keep them from fraying.  I was just going for something I could stuff into the pocket of my Carhartt when I'm going to be working outside for hours.  Because when you're outside in the cold that long, you inevitably need to blow your nose a few times.  Kleenex and gloves don't work all that well together.  Kleenex and snowy gloves work even less well.

I figured back in the day before germophobia became the normal way of American life, with antimicrobial chemicals put into every product under the sun; even back in the day before disposable facial tissues were invented, people used cloth handkerchiefs to wipe their noses with.  So why couldn't I?

Now that I've cut and sewn a few squares of flannel, and given them a test run through several 5-hour work days out in the horse barn (sub-freezing all 5 hours for the past week; was -16F when I went to work yesterday and 14F when I left), I'm wondering what in the world took me so long.  I mean, I had the idea back in early December.  I actually made the handkerchiefs that same month while doing a few Christmas present sewing projects.  But I didn't put one in my pocket and take it with me, or blow my nose on it, until about the end of January.

Oh.  My.  Goodness!  A flannel hankie is so much better than a Kleenex!!

1.  It's soft.  Oh so soft.
2.  It doesn't stick to damp gloves.
3.  It doesn't turn to a lump of mush in the bottom of my coat pocket.  In fact, it stays handy--I never have to fish around in my pocket to find it.
4.  It seems to last longer (hold more?) than a tissue--I previously went through 3-4 tissues in one work period and now I use less than one entire handkerchief during the same time frame.
5. I can toss it into the washing machine and the dryer with the rest of my work clothes, and use it again.

Yep, I'm sold.  Flannel hankies it is.  I'm heading back to my box of scrap fabrics so I can make myself a few more.  :0)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.5: I Changed My Mind

It's a snowy Wednesday at this little place here.  Joining Ginny & the Yarn Along gang again this week.

Last week, I mentioned I was going to use this ball of yarn:

and make it into a Multnomah shawl.

Well. . .  I made a quick swatch, wasn't comfortable with the sizing on those particular needles (although I loved the way the colors came out), and I changed my mind.

hmm, this doesn't look like a square to me;
either I read the pattern gauge wrong, or this is going to require some modification.
I want an easy, fun knit, not math and thinking!

Instead, I am going to make this shawl with my lovely yarn.  I don't know; something about the name of the pattern, my current state of stress, and the cheerful colors of the yarn. . . Yeah, they go together.

Since I didn't decide until Monday that the Multnomah just wasn't what this yarn was destined for, and since I didn't find the new shawl pattern until yesterday in the late afternoon, I haven't got much to show yet.

But here's my start, anyway.

posing in today's fresh snow

indoors, about to be abducted by the yarn thief!

I am definitely liking my change of mind.  This pattern is easy peasy, exactly the brainless knitting I need right now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I Got Nothin'

I'm having a hard time blogging this year.  Not because there isn't anything going on at this little place here.  On the contrary; I feel like I'm running around like a chicken with it's head cut off (yes, they really do run--for a little bit--after you chop their heads off.  I've seen it first hand).  Most of the time days and days go by before I get a chance to sit down and think about blogging.  And then, most of what goes through my head sounds pretty negative and complaining.  Which isn't at all what I want; not the tone of this blog, not who I want to be.

Let me just say that having three generations in one house is tough.  As the eldest generation at still a pretty young age--45 & 43--DH and I are finding challenges we never thought would occur.  It's hard.  It's disappointing.  It's frustrating. I mean, we love DS1 and we love K2, but more often that not we find ourselves biting our tongues to not give unsolicited advice or to not blow our tops on the fifth or tenth occurrence of something we've addressed a few times and a few times been assured they'd be more on top of that particular thing from then on.

I'm not in the mood to raise adults.  They've both been in the military.  They've also lived in their own home between finishing military service and moving here with DH and I.  Which is probably why I get so blasted frustrated with them over the disorganization, messiness, and things I consider immature/irresponsible for someone in their mid-20's with two children.

I know I'm a perfectionist. I know I'm an overachiever.  That's why I have yet to look either the 25 yo or the almost 25 yo in the face and say "don't give me that crap.  When I was your age I had three kids, owned a home, worked, and still kept my house tidy and never ran out of milk or clean laundry.  So don't bother to cry me a river cuz I'm not buying your excuses."

But I also know I don't expect things from other people that they have not shown me in the past that they are capable of.  And I can't stand slackers.

So, lest this post go even more down in the dumps, I'll end now. I got nothin'.

Check back tomorrow for the weekly Yarn Along post.