Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.17: So Not Done

Joining in with Ginny on a beautiful Wednesday for this week's Yarn Along.

Well, I was hoping to show you a finished Barn Sweater this week.  It ain't happenin' (to use my best bad grammar).

Nope.  Not finished.  Too many warm--and semi-warm- day outdoor activities in the past seven days.  Had I not spent approximately an hour garage saling on my way home from work Friday (found some knitting supplies for cheap and got strange looks buying them in my dusty barn clothes and rubber knee boots), 6 hours at an auction on Sunday (got some great deals there), and 4 hours helping out at the horse farm I used to work at (oh silly me, when will I learn to say "NO"?!?) I could have finished my sweater by last night.

But, no.  I spent those 11 or so hours doing outdoorsy stuff in addition to the outdoorsy stuff I needed to get done at this little place here, and knitting time was next to nil for me in the past week.

I did, however, finish one sleeve and get about 3.5" done on the other.  With 18 hours of driving coming up in the next few days--to the U.P. and back for DS2's college graduation--the Barn Sweater will be finished by Monday.  So, we will all have to wait until next week for the big I Finished It! post and pictures.

Meanwhile, here are a few pics of my great 'all for $5' garage sale knitting stuff finds.

odds and ends worth more than $5
stitch markers, stitch holders, needle point protectors,
and dishcloth yarn leftovers

vintage Leewards yarn winder
(found similar one on eBay right now for $35!!)

yarn bowl definitely worth more than $5;
and it's locally made, according to the tag still attached

Now for the this-is-as-far-as-I-got sweater pic, posed on our new hammock that was a $6 auction bargain:

How are your knitting projects coming?  How about garage sale or auction finds you've come across lately?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Garlic Experiment Update #2

Since I'm on the subject of experiments going on at this little place here, I thought some readers might be curious as to how my garlic is doing.

It's growing!  As far as I can tell, the garlic I 'planted' in plastic cups (Too Late? Time Will Tell) and stuck down in my cellar in February, then transplanted outside once the ground thawed in March (Garlic Experiment Update) is right on track as if I had properly planted it outdoors last fall.

I can't wait for harvest time to get here in late July so I can see if the garlic heads are as big this year as in a normal year.  You know--as in a year I planted them the right way: outside, in October.  I really hope they are.  Because then I will know there is an 'emergency plan' for if in future years my fall planting schedule is messed up.  Especially when dealing with seed stock that has been saved for many growing seasons.  Don't want to lose those good genetics.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Playing With Sticks

One thing I am rarely without is an experiment.  Maybe it's my inquisitive nature.  Maybe it's because I loved science when I was in school.  Maybe it's in my genes (apparently my paternal great-grandfather conducted many horticultural experiments--supposedly when my grandmother was growing up they had a tree that grew three varieties of apples and two of pears.)

Doesn't really matter why I do what I do.  What matters is that I am always coming up with things that make me say "What if I. . . "

One of my current experiments came about quite spontaneously in late winter this year.  I had pruned all the trees in my orchard as well as many of the bushes and shrubs I have around the house.  And, being winter with snowy ground that was somewhat difficult to walk over and not what I would drive over (being that the tractor was broken), I just let the cut off limbs lie where they fell until the snow melted and warmer weather arrived.

In March I noticed that not only were the buds on the maple trees growing in size, but so were the buds on my forsythias. Including the branches I had cut off the forsythia bushes.  And then my mind said "Hmm.  Wonder if I can force these branches to flower by bringing them indoors where it is warm, and putting them in water."

An experiment was born.  After all, what could it hurt to bring in a few sticks, plunk them in a vase, add water, and see what happened? At worst they would die and I'd have to put them on the brush pile, as was my original intention when I pruned them from the main plant in the first place.  At best (I thought), they would flower and I'd have a pretty 'bouquet' to bring some cheer into my dining room when it was still to early for flowers to be blooming outdoors.

So, that is what I did.  Chose a few slender sticks that had healthy looking buds on them, nipped off the cut ends to open up fresh wood again, brought them in the house, stuck them in a vase and added tepid water. Then I put the whole thing on the ledge in my dining room and waited, changing out the water every few days for good measure.

The buds swelled.  Then, slowly, they began to open right before Easter.  Success!!

But that wasn't the end of the experiment. No, my experiment expanded when, upon changing the water around the time the first blossoms opened, I noticed one particularly strong stick had what looked to be root hairs developing at the bottom. Roots!  Could my sticks grow roots, and then be transplanted outside as new forsythia bushes?

I thought it was worth a try.  Forsythia do tend to sucker from the roots to expand the plant, and they can also be propagated by 'layering', a technique where you bend the tip of a young branch over to the ground and bury it in a few inches of soil. If just burying the growing tip of a branch would cause it to grow roots, why couldn't I get my sticks to grow roots if I just kept changing the water and left them in the vase even after they were done flowering?  It was worth a shot.  Again, if it didn't work, they would just end up on the brush pile with all the other sticks and limbs I had amputated with my pruners in late winter.

Then, at Easter Breakfast at church, not only were there (greenhouse grown) daffodils in the vases that adorned the tables for breakfast, there were pussy willows.  And, as usual, once the breakfast was over, the church members were urged to take home the contents of the vases (because the family who donated the flowers/bouquets did not wish to take them back home for disposal).   And my brain said "Hmm.  Pussy willows.  Willows are what rooting compound is made from. Willows root easily from cuttings.  I wonder if I took home these two pussy willow sticks and stuck them in my vase of forsythias, would they grow roots?"  Because not only would that possibly help my forsythia sticks develop roots (the pussy willow rooting hormone being present then in the water of the vase), I might get some pussy willows out of it too.  I don't have any pussy willows on my property and would like some.

Home went the daffodils and pussy willows.  Into the vase they went, and I arranged them with the blooming forsythias to make a pretty centerpiece for our table for Easter dinner (we hosted my side of the family that day).  Afterward, the spent daffodils were plucked out (and put in the compost pile; no plant matter goes to waste!), and the vase moved out of direct sunlight for a few weeks.

Last weekend, we had beautiful weather.  I spent quite a few hours working outside, cleaning up and weeding the flowerbeds, picking up all those pruned limbs laying around, and deciding where to plant my sticks that were now sporting little roots.  I finally settled on putting them near the top tier of the retaining wall that runs along the northeast corner of the house.  

Phase one of the experiment: did they bloom?  Yes.  Success.

Phase two of the experiment: will they grow roots?  Yes, most of them.  Success.

Phase three of the experiment:  can I transplant them outside and have new bushes?  The next several months will tell.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.16: A Body

It is early on Wednesday as I'm typing this; DH had to leave for work before 6:00, but I don't leave until about 7:00, so I'm using my 'extra' hour to get ready to post this as soon as I return from work later this morning.  (I'm guessing Ginny won't have the Yarn Along link up before 7:00 a.m.)

The sky is changing from indigo to denim blue, and tiny snow flakes (yes, snow flakes--thermometer reads 28F) are falling from the blueness.  An owl just went gliding by, over my back yard. That was a surprise!  Very cool.  Although I protest getting up early just as much as the next person, I do love the pre-dawn time of day.  There are things happening then that you just can't experience at any other time.

Last week I said I was hoping to finish the main part of my Barn Sweater by today.  I'm happy to say I met that goal.  

no doubt about it; it's a sweater!

The body of the sweater is done, and I have started working on the sleeves.  I am using the full-length sleeve option in the pattern rather than the 3/4 sleeve.  Just personal preference; my arms are a tad on the long side and 3/4 sleeves usually fall just about the bend in my elbow where they feel rather funny and distracting.  So, it's full sleeve for me, and I'll push them up when I wear them if needed.

After the sleeves, all that will be left to knit is the pocket linings for the two front pockets--shown with blue stitch holders in the above pic.  My goal is to get this thing finished by the end of the month.  DH and I will be heading up to the Upper Peninsula for DS2's college graduation then, and I'm betting the mornings and evenings there will be cool enough that I'll have the chance to wear this sweater.  (On a side note, found out yesterday that he is not only graduating with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, but he kept his grades up so high all four years of college that he will graduate summa cum laude!)

almost 3" of sleeve completed so far

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.15: Barn Sweater Grows!

Wednesday is here again.  That means it's time to join Ginny's Yarn Along  and see what everyone has on their needles.

I have gotten a whole lot of knitting done in the past week.  What with DS2's canoe competition down in Ohio last weekend, there were lots of hours that I got to knit.  Riding in the car to Toledo and back while DH drove, I knit. During the oral presentations of all the teams, I listened and I knit.  And the waiting times between the races that DS2 paddled in, I knit.  Lots and lots of knitting.

Which means that the Barn Sweater has grown to more than twice the size it was for last week's yarn along!  Now when people ask me what I'm knitting, and I hold it up they say "Oh!  It's a sweater!"  and are extremely impressed.  Which is much better for the ego than when I had a wad of knitting in my lap and held it up and they cocked their heads from one side to another like a dog trying to figure out what some strange object is.  It most definitely looks like a sweater now.

the back

the front

I am all the way down to the pockets, and have only another 1/2" to go on the pocket trim.  After that I will be in the home stretch for the body portion, with only 2 more button holes to go (they are approx 3" apart; so roughly 6" of body needing to be knit).  I'm hoping to be able to do all that this week, so that next week I can announce I only have sleeves and pocket linings left to knit.

How are your knitting projects coming along?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Crocus and Canoes and the Bowels of the Washing Machine

The title kind of sums up what's been happening since I last posted.

My crocus are now up.  Seemingly kind of late this year.  I'd have to go back and look at dates I took pictures of crocus in previous years, but it just seems like it took them forever to come up and bloom this year.  The daffodils on the south side of the house are all ready in full bloom (the ones on the other sides of the house are still 3" sprouts).

This past weekend was DS2's regional Concrete Canoe competition.  DH and I traveled for that, being as it is DS2's last year on the team (since he graduates college in less than a month!!) and he's team captain, and well, because it is really cool in a nerdy way.  I confess, I sat through the oral presentations of all nine schools competing--nine technical engineering presentations--and I enjoyed them.  How nerdy is that?

So I spent two entire days amongst a few hundred engineering students and engineers, looking at displays, listening to presentations, and watching the paddlers race the concrete canoes each school had designed and built this year.  And, of course, taking lots of pictures.  Most of which, of course, cannot be shared here because they show easily recognizable faces of people who may or may not want the world reading about them on my blog.  So you get to see a tiny portion of the photos I took.

boats on display

huge, really cool kite someone was flying during race day

co-ed sprint race,
DS2's team coming in to first turn
(emergency aide boat in background)

Then, on Sunday, it was back home and tackling a large project: replacing the bearings on our washing machine.  The washer has been getting increasingly louder since DS1 and family moved in, and in recent weeks has begun making a new scary sounding noise.  Afraid that it is on it's last leg, DH and I have been washing machine shopping--and getting sticker shock.

In a last ditch effort to save both the washing machine and nearly a thousand dollars (apparently the going price for a machine of comparable size, quality, and capability), DH did a little research into the awful noise problem on our washer and determined one or both bearings were most likely shot.  So, for less than $35, he ordered a kit with new bearings and seals off eBay.  Then he set aside Sunday, April 12th, as the day we were going to disassemble the washer, replace the bearings, reassemble the washer, and pray that action cured the washing machine of it's noises and postponed its impending demise.

Let me tell you, taking apart a front loading washer is easy.  Extremely gross when you see all the gook and slime caught inside of it (on the other side of the drum, where you normally never see), but easy to disassemble.  There's a reason I used the word "bowels" in the title; yeah, it did look like the stuff bowels make.  On the more pleasant side, taking apart the washer put to rest the myth that washing machines eat socks.  Not one sock was found anywhere in the guts of my washer.  Based on that observation, I propose the new theory that washing machines liquefy socks and that is how they disappear.  Something had to create all that nasty slime.

Anyway. . .

Pulling the bearings without a special tool (which we do not own and DH didn't want to spent a large sum on purchasing), called appropriately enough a 'bearing puller', is not easy. Not in the least.  The total disassemble, pull bearings, clean all gook and slime while washer was apart giving us the chance, install new bearings, reassemble and test washer took approximately 9 hours.  Getting the old bearings off took about 7.5 hours.  I kid you not.

By the time the old bearings had finally been popped out of their position inside the washing machine, DH had amassed an interesting assortment of 'tools' in his attempts to pull the bearings.  I spotted a hitch pin for the tractor, an angle grinder, a bunch of gigantic washers, some smaller washers, a few long thick bolts, a normal size socket set, a few tractor sized sockets, assorted nuts to fit the long thick bolts, crescent wrenches, channel locks, vise grips, the old worn out front bearings from the tractor (DH replaced last fall), some cup-shaped piece of plastic that is an old part replaced on something with axles at some point, a sawzall, my 4-pound sledge hammer, a rubber mallet, DS1's steering wheel puller, a can of PB Blaster, several pair of pliers including a pair of snap-ring pliers, a flat head screwdriver, a chunk of the fire grate (for the outdoor wood boiler) that had rusted apart and was replaced about three years ago, and a 2" x 12" x 4' board that was a temporary stair tread when we were building the house at this little place here in 2002/2003. . . (Well, that explains some of the 7.5 hours; they were obviously spent running up from the basement to the garage and searching for items that might be of use in pulling those bearings!)

In other words, this was major washing machine surgery combined with some farmer-type ingenuity.  But it worked.  Once the old bearings were out, the new bearings in and new seals installed too for good measure, the washer was pretty quick and easy to reassemble.  And once reassembled, hooked back up to the water supply and plugged in, we ran it through a test rinse and spin.

It was so quiet!  I had forgotten how nearly silent that washing machine was when it was new.  Like you can literally stand next to it and practically have to have your hand on it feeling for vibration to know that it is agitating or spinning.  Success!!  I'm hoping that this 'surgery' will result in another eleven years of excellent service from my washing machine.  Because hopefully by that time, DH will be able to retire and we will be moved from this little place here to our retirement cabin (yet to be built) in the Upper Peninsula (on land yet to be purchased) and I won't need this washer any more.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.14: Barn Sweater and More

Today is a rainy Wednesday.  Now that my outdoor work is done for the morning, it's time to join Ginny and the Yarn Along.

I am still working sporadically on the Barn Sweater.  Sporadically because a lot of Spring things are going on here: the tail end of syrup making season, tending of my seedlings indoors and examining garden space outdoors to determine when the soil is ready for the earliest direct seedings (peas, beets, etc), my first chick order of the year has arrived. . . And I've been spending about half of my available crafting time working on a counted cross stitch project I had intended to have finished for DD2's graduation at the end of May.  That one, I don't think is going to make it.  It's a huge project and I can't work on it when she's around, and I can't work on it when there is too much commotion in the house because then I lose my place on the 6 page chart (yes, SIX pages of counted cross stitch chart!!)  I'm beginning to think maybe I should push it back from a graduation gift to a 'welcome to college gift' so I have a few extra months to complete it.

Anyway, I'm glad that the Barn Sweater seems to add length so quickly, because otherwise I'd be pretty discouraged with it by now.  Not it, per se, but my lack of attention to it.  Because I cannot fault the pattern one bit--it's incredibly easy to follow.

Since last week's yarn along, I have done enough to divide off for the sleeves, get a little over an inch of 'body' (after the underarm section) completed, and be on my third set of buttonholes (of seven sets).  Not bad, really, for as little time as I've given it in the past seven days.

the whole thing, so far

turned right side out, with collar folded down as it will be worn

The pictures really don't give you a true idea as to sizing.  It looks so tiny in the photos above, yet as I'm knitting it, it looks just right; like I could put it on this instant and it would be ready to wear without any blocking.

Meanwhile, remember those Rosamond socks I knit for a KAL swap last month?  Well, the recipient loved them, and also the jar of syrup I sent along with them.  She says she's never had real maple syrup before; living way down south.  She's in for a treat!

I also received the pair of Rosamond socks someone else knit for me.  To my surprise, when I opened the package, there was not only a pair of beautiful Rosamond socks in a wool/angora mix (Knit Picks Bare Hare) that is absolutely scrumptious, there was also a second pair of socks!  The second pair is in a much more utilitarian yarn (but also very comfy) that can be machine washed and are really wild and cool looking.  They are stranded socks, and now that I own a pair, I am definitely going to have to make some of these.  If I don't watch out, my pair is going to disappear; both my daughters are in lust with them.

Surprise!  Two pair of socks.

heavenly 'bunny' socks in Rosamond

 rugged, crazy, stranded socks

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.13 Barn Sweater Continues

It's a warm and sunny Wednesday here. Joining in with Ginny for the weekly Yarn Along.

I hardly knit at all in the past week.  In fact, until yesterday evening I hadn't picked up my needles once.  I spent several hours earlier in the week working on a counted cross stitch project instead.

But, when I did pick up my knitting needles, re-read the Barn Sweater instructions, and get back to knitting, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Barn Sweater flies.  It is really fast to knit.  Even with doing an 8 stitch increase every other row--in purl front-back, none the less!--I got a few inches on the sweater done in what seemed like no time.  Which was very reassuring, since I am still a little intimidated at the prospect of knitting an adult sized garment.  Perhaps I really will have this sweater finished and be able to wear it before next winter!

the section with the stockinette part (vs the garter stitch part) is how much I did in a short time yesterday

Meanwhile, still reading Ridden.  I highly recommend it to anybody who rides dressage, or thinks they might want to ride dressage.  Or even anyone who rides, if you can look past all the dressage pictures and apply the knowledge to your own riding style.  ;0)   Debating if I want to buy a copy for myself, so that I can have it to refer back to often.  Then again, I have several awesome riding books that I bought for that same purpose and usually forget to consult them regularly.  Maybe I should put it on my Christmas list.