Thursday, December 31, 2015

An Unusual Christmas

Things have been busy at this little place here in the past week or so.  With everyone, and I do mean everyone, home for Christmas, the house has been full.  And loud.  Lots of cooking.  Lots of dishes to wash.  A quick trip up north for an extended family Christmas with DH's mom and siblings. . . And of course I still had to work, because horse farms, unlike major US auto manufacturers (ahem, DH and DS2) and colleges (DS1, K2, DD1 and DD2), don't take a break between Christmas and New Year's.  So not much opportunity to talk here about Christmas.

Christmas Day was 'just' the nine of us.  We deviated from our normal get up early and open presents routine on Christmas morning because there was no way DS1 and K2 were going to get K3 and Toad, up, fed, dressed and still have time to open the huge mound of presents in time to make it to church. For some reason my grandkids did not inherit their father's (and especially DD1's) tendency to wake up at four a.m. on Christmas morning, preferring to sleep til more like eight or nine.

Not that any of us went overboard on shopping, it's just that with NINE people all receiving and exchanging gifts in one living room, there were a whole lot of presents. And none of us cared for the mass-chaos-nobody-knows-what-anyone else-got system of present opening that went on at our holiday gathering the Sunday previous with my parents and brother (and family) and that we knew would go on the 26th at the up north family gathering, so we'd all agreed one present would be opened at a time in order for everyone to see what everyone else had gotten (and so the gifter could know the giftee had received the correct gift). Which meant that opening presents was going to require a large block of time--if you figure each person got five or six presents, and each present would take two or three minutes to hand out, receive, open and exclaim over, well that was definitely going to take longer than waking up at eight a.m. and getting to 10:00 a.m. church on time would allow.

 picture  taken before DS1 & K2 wrapped the presents they had bought for K3 & Toad;
the room was even fuller once those were 'under' the tree

So, since we weren't opening presents first thing, and since it was late doe season in this part of Michigan, and because I still was the only person who had procured venison for our freezer, DH decided to go out hunting Christmas morning.  I was just getting out of the shower and dressed for church when he came into the house, joyfully announcing that he had got a deer!

How's that for a great Christmas present!

DH bringing in his deer from the woods
(note legs sticking out of tractor bucket)

As you can see in the picture, we did not get a white Christmas this year.  In fact, it had been in the fifties a few days earlier, rained on Christmas Eve, and rained Christmas night and the next day.

Too warm, too wet, for a Michigan December.  No wonder I found this lurking in my bedroom after church:

Yes, that is a mosquito in the picture above.  December should be one of the few months each year that we don't have to deal with mosquitoes.  Apparently we weren't not so lucky this year.

We all made it to church on time (DH waited until after church to go out and recover his deer from the woods), came back home, changed clothes, had a quick lunch (during which DH drove the tractor out and got his deer), then commenced to opening presents.

Toad and K3 opening presents, 
one at a time

There was a variety of store bought useful stuff, some homemade stuff, and a few great finds (looks like brand new) from Goodwill.  One such great find was a 1977 edition of the Moosewood Cookbook that DD2 gave to me.  

Veggie peelers and paring knives and biscuit cutters for those in their own homes/apartments this year, insulated hunting bibs for DS1 who did not have any, a cookie jar for the daughter who is becoming known among her friends and roommates as a good baker, long underwear for the southern raised K2 who had no such apparel, ratchet straps and 1/2" drive sockets and a tow strap for DS2 who recently purchased a 4WD truck, winter appropriate clothes for both K3 and Toad, meat lugs for DH (who is really getting into sausage making), a Mad Bomber hat for DD2 to keep her warm during the UP winters she'll endure at college, that sort of stuff.

We tend not to give much 'frivolous' stuff, unless you count chocolate covered cherries or micro-brewed seasonal beer as frivolous, LOL. Although the kids did all go in together and gave DH and I a surprise early present at Thanksgiving:  two tickets to the Zac Brown Band concert in Grand Rapids on Dec.11th!  (It was awesome, aside from being the first concert we'd been to since 1997 and only the fourth concert I've ever been to in my life--not counting band or choir concerts performed by my kids, it truly was a spectacular concert and a much enjoyed gift.)  I have to say, having adult children with jobs is pretty nice; concert tickets were way better than pictures cut from old Christmas cards and glued to old dial up internet offer CDs and made into ornaments like we used to get when the kids were little.  Although more than one card picture CD ornament did hang on our tree this year.  ;0)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.51: Nope

That is the answer to the cliffhanging question I left you with on last week's yarn along post.

Joining Ginny's Yarn Along today.  To refresh our memories, the question I asked at the end of my last yarn along post:

Does Kris finish the sock in time for Christmas? 

Or not?

And the answer is a big fat NOPE

I managed to get through the heel gusset when I realized that there was no way I was going to finish sock #2 in time to wrap it up for Christmas morning.  All my kids (and grandkids) were home, and I had neither the time nor the privacy to finish the sock for a Christmas morning surprise.  So I didn't.  I stuck it in my knitting bag and went to bed at a decent time on Christmas Eve.

The next day, as we were opening presents, I tossed the completed sock #1 to DD1 and told her that she was supposed to have two of them, but I was still working on the second and would have it done hopefully before she went back to school.

And that actually worked out fine.  Because she was surprised (especially at her mother throwing a sock at her head from across the room) and once the secret was out, I could sit and knit right in front of her.  Now, five days later, I've gotten a ton of knitting done, and I expect to finish off the toe tonight.

It will be nice to get this pair of Rosamond socks completed and start a totally new project in 2016.  Maybe I'll even tackle that pair of socks I've been wanting to make for DS1.  If I start them in January, I'll have all year to get a pair of men's size 13  socks done in time for Christmas!  No pressure at all.  And if I get a little burned out on them, I can set them aside for a bit, knit something else, and come back to them with lots of time.  Sounds like a plan.  :0)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Gift Cards

This Christmas seems to have brought us a prevalence of gift cards.  And, due to past discussions with DH on the subject of gift cards (years past), I couldn't help but notice this year how their reception varied.  Not only by person, but by which card was gifted.

DH doesn't like gift cards, as they can be difficult to use if you don't use the entire balance at once, and your purchase doesn't come to the exact amount of the balance of the card.  He also feels that they are sort of a cop-out on the part of the person buying them to gift.  I quote: "If you don't know me well enough to know what I'd like, you don't need to buy me a gift."

In some ways, I agree with him.  Gift cards have become so common place that I do think they have become an easy way to shop without having to actually think much about personalizing a gift.  After all, a gift is kind of a personal act between gifter and giftee.  And I have always thought it was a little silly to feel pressured to go buy a gift, any gift, for every person you know even slightly. Especially if you don't really have extra money laying around month to month after providing for your family's basic needs. Even more especially if you are spending rent/mortgage or food money in order to buy presents for every single person you know even remotely.

On the other hand, I think there are times when a gift card is a nice (and acceptable) gift.  For instance, when you want to give someone a gift, but the timing is impractical (say, nursery or garden plants, or even chickens--yes, I have received gift certificates to both seed companies and hatcheries in previous years).  Or if it is an item that wouldn't survive shipping or travel very well, not because it is alive--in the case of plants and chickens--but because it is fragile or perishable.  Or when you know someone is trying to save up money to purchase something, but that person also has trouble handling (and saving) cash.

So, for kicks, let's go through the gift cards DH and I received this Christmas, and I'll tell you the reactions (mostly unvoiced) at the time each was received.

$25 Visa gift card: totally a surprise, this one was in a card to me from two of the horses (and their owner) at work.  I in no way expected a gift from this person, especially not one of such a large amount (large because we really don't know each other hardly at all). But honestly, it was a nice gift, since one of her horses has required special medical type care for about three months straight and I'm the person who gives it five mornings a week.

$10 McDonald's Arch card: another surprise from a boarder/horse at work.  This came wrapped in a package of hand warmers (a very thoughtful gift for someone who works in an unheated environment during the coldest months of the year).  I had to get online to check the balance of the card, as none was written on it, and I'm not a frequenter of McDonalds, so not sure how I'm going to make use of this.  It might get passed on to someone else who does like McD's. . . But if you're of the mind that it's the thought that counts, it was a nice gift since a) the person who gave it certainly didn't have to--her horse has only been at the barn maybe two months and I've never met the owner in person and b) most everyone eats at McDonalds (except me) so if you are wanting to give a token gift this would fit the bill for most people.

$50 restaurant chain gift card: to DH and I, from my brother and his girlfriend.  Well, honestly, I thought it was a bit much.  They certainly didn't need to spend this much on us (and I know they fall into the category of can't afford it). And it's kind of one of those cop-out gift cards; 'don't know what they like, but surely everyone likes to eat out, so let's get them this and they can choose from six restaurants owned by this company, plus we can cross them off the to buy for list and be done shopping.'

$20 Dick's card: from the grandkids to DH.  Being as K3 and Toad most likely didn't even know this was being purchased, and they are so young still, it really isn't necessary for them to buy Grandpa a gift.  Yes, he'll put it toward something, probably new crossbow bolts, but he would have rather their parents saved that money (or even used it to make sure they paid their rent on time).

$20 Hobby Lobby gift card: from the grandkids to me.  Same thoughts as the Dick's card.  Yes, I do occasionally shop at Hobby Lobby (when I'm toting a 40% off coupon), and I will probably use this to buy fabric to make something for K3 and/or Toad.

$50 Walmart card: What do you say about this, when it is from your mother-in-law, for both you and your husband?  When you saw your brother- and sisters-in-law get new handmade quilts?  You tell yourself a) she knows I make quilts, so probably that is why she didn't make one for us, b) she would be overjoyed with a Walmart card herself--especially a $50 one, and you accept it in the spirit it was offered.  Besides, Mother-in-Law's color combinations on quilts are kind of garish, and the ones she made the others don't look much bigger than double-bed sized.

(not pictured) $50 Mastercard gift card: to DH, from my parents.  Because he doesn't write a Wish List for Christmas and give it to them, as my Mom requests, and I couldn't supply her with any ideas she thought worthy of buying (or that were easy enough to buy/as much as she wanted to spend). This is kind of my mother's passive aggressive way of making a point: you made it hard for me to buy you a gift by not telling me exactly what to buy.

So, we still stand somewhat divided on gift cards as a whole.  They are a nice surprise when you know someone wanted to do something nice for you in return for nice things you did for them.  They are nice when they are applicable to your shopping/eating habits.  They are a cop-out when they are of the 'what in the heck are we going to do with this?!?" variety.  They make you feel a little guilty when you know the person giving them shouldn't even be spending money on you in the first place.  They are kind of a pain in the rear when you don't want that money spent to go to waste, but you have to go out of your way in order to use them.  They really are a negative thing when used to prove a point, such as in the case of 'you didn't give me a shopping list, so I could only buy you a generic gift card for the amount of money I wanted to spend on you.'

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.50: Almost

What a wild Wednesday at this little place here. First of all, it's December 23rd, so I'm feeling the crush of Christmas:  not only is there still a sock to finish knitting, but soon my house will be filled up with offspring.  Lots of people, lots of cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Second of all, it's December 23rd, and the weather is way too warm: nearly sixty degrees (supposed to set another record high today), with rain, and the wind has been picking up all day.  We are supposed to be under high wind advisory tonight through about noon tomorrow. Which means, quite possibly losing power. Wouldn't be the first Christmas Eve/Christmas Day we were without electricity.

I'm joining Ginny late today for the Yarn Along.

I have finally completed sock#1 of the Rosamond socks for DD1's Christmas present.  And in the last 24 hours or so I've been knitting like mad (when I have the chance, that is) on sock #2.

It doesn't help that DD1 wears a women's 9.5 shoe. . . that means I have a whole lot of foot to knit between now and bedtime tomorrow.  Guess it goes along with being tall; the 'long' feet and all.  DD1 has an inch of height on me and I'm not exactly a short woman.

Anyway, I'm determined to finish this pair of socks.  Because I really don't want to have to wrap it up on the needles.  But if that is what must be done, that's what I'll do.

Tune in next week to find out.

Does Kris finish the sock in time for Christmas? 

Or not?

(insert suspenseful music here, LOL)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Our Little Charlie Brown Tree

Last year, we used a potted spruce bought at auction in late October as our Christmas tree.   We'd bought 8 or 9 of them, intending to use them as a screen along the road on the front of our property, but I'd snagged the best looking one to bring in the house and use for Christmas.  It worked perfectly, being small enough that it didn't take up much room in our all ready crowded living room (what with Toad's baby swing and other large items for small humans that had moved in a few month before), and it even lived and grew and thrived when we planted it back outside after the holiday was over. (Which reminds me that the weather last Christmas was also unseasonably warm).

This year, I wanted to do the same thing, but ran into a few problems with that plan.  First of all, there were no trees at the October auction that is held just a few miles away.  And October is their last auction of the year.  Second, everywhere I called to inquire about potted trees of the 3-4' variety either weren't carrying them this year, or wanted $45 each!  Third, when I grudgingly went to look at the $45 trees in the middle of last week, I didn't like a single one of them.  Well, that's not totally true, I liked a couple of the white pines, but a white pine would look kind of funky planted in our row of spruces put in last year (one of the spruces didn't make it through the summer, so now there is a gap I wanted to fill with this year's Christmas tree).

So, I gave up on the idea of a potted tree for Christmas 2015, and began combing the cut-tree lots for the shortest one I could find.  I didn't want a tree that was wide at the base; even though there is no longer a baby swing in my living room, I still need to seat 10 people, most all of whom are adults (and almost half of whom are 6 foot tall or above) in the living room for Christmas and the days immediately before and after. I also wanted a tree short enough it could be put up on a table of sorts, so the presents could go under it (also saving floor-space for seating).  Plus, I didn't want it so tall that the cat, Yarn Thief, would be tempted to climb it.

Do you know that finding a short tree is very difficult?  Apparently there isn't much of a market for them around here.  I finally brought home a very scruffy looking tree (for the grand sum of $25, but part of that goes to the local underprivileged so somehow it doesn't sound that outrageous for a scraggly tree) that was in the height range I wanted.  In fact, it was so spindly, that I could easily carry it (and toss it into the back of the pick-up truck) with one hand.

I was quite happy with my little tree, even if it did look pitiful sitting off by itself on a corner of the tree lot, segregated from the 'desirable' trees that towered seven feet and more.

That is, until I tried to put it into my tree stand at home.  It seems that my little Charlie Brown Christmas tree did not have a trunk with a big enough circumference to meet the adjustable screw-pegs that hold the tree upright and centered in the stand. Hmm.  Who would have figured?  I didn't know tree stands had a minimum trunk diameter to meet.

Oh well, I just employed a little farmer ingenuity and got some broken off garden stakes from in the barn.  Then DS1 screwed them to the trunk of our Christmas tree, making it big enough that the tree stand could 'grab' it.  Tree too skinny?  Shim it!

I put down an old table cloth (from when we had a small, round dinner table) on the floor where the tree would go, then put two wooden crates upended on top of that, then set the tree (now firmly in it's stand) on top of the crates, and tied on the tree skirt (that I made years ago from a women's wrap skirt pattern since I couldn't find a tree skirt that extended as far as I desired mine to go.)

After that, I brought up the box of lights and the box of ornaments from their storage spot in the basement.  It only took one strand of lights to wrap the tree completely.  Gotta love easy decorating!  And think of all the electricity saved versus a tree requiring three or four or more strands of lights!

Then I opened the container of non-breakable ornaments, handed it to K3 and Toad, and told them to have at it!  You should have seen the looks on those little faces when they realized they were allowed not only to touch the ornaments, but to put them where ever they wanted on Grandma's tree!  So some got laid on the branches instead of hung (Toad doesn't have the dexterity yet to hang stuff, but he went to town setting ornaments sideways on the tree limbs, picking them up and trying a different spot if they fell through).  And some branches got multiple ornaments while others got none.  But who cares?  Those kids had a ball decorating the tree, and really we're the only ones who are going to see it anyway.  Doesn't need to be perfect.

Three ornaments on one branch?
Why not?

How about seven plastic candy canes and a bell on a ribbon?
Sure, let's have some preschooler fashion!

The lower half of the tree is very full of ornaments, because of course the kids had to put on every single one from their container.  The upper half, I put carefully chosen ones on, picking out those of the right size and weight from my more breakable ornaments.

lower portion

the whole shebang

And, in case you were wondering, yes, you can pretty much see right through my Christmas tree.  But it's up, and the kids love it, and the living room is still occupiable by a crowd.  And that's all that matters.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Easy Gift for Little Girls

Earlier this year, I came across this tutorial for making cloth 'paper dolls'.  I thought it looked like a great Christmas present for both K3, who is 3 1/2, and my niece, who turned 4 at the end of September.  So I downloaded, then printed off, the templates.  And then I thought, what if I made them even simpler, using felt, because honestly, the girls won't care and felt would stick to itself, making the extra sewing of cloth to fusible interfacing and velcro unnecessary.  Quicker, cheaper, and for the same level of enjoyment at the preschool age.

So I went and bought several sheets of felt in different colors and even a few with printed designs. Then I got to cutting things out.

For each doll, I cut two of the body pattern, and sewed those together just to make the doll more substantial. I also sewed on the hair, golden blonde for K3 and a dark brown brunette for my niece.

I raided my stash of colored Sharpie markers for the appropriate colors for the eyes, and then drew on the eyes, nose and mouth of each doll.

Then it was time for the fun stuff: making the wardrobe.  Basically I just took each piece of colored felt and decided if it should be a dress, a skirt, pants, shorts, a t-shirt or a long sleeved shirt.  Then I pinned on the right paper template for that item, and cut it out--in duplicate of course, since I was making two dolls and thus needed two wardrobes.

One particularly large-printed piece of felt I used for nightgowns and slippers.

When I was done 'making' the clothes, I found and purchased a hinged plastic case of the right dimensions to store the clothes and the doll without folding any of them.  And voila! an easy gift for the little girls in my life.

the case,
full of clothes

a polka-dotted bathing suit

one of several shirt and shorts options

the whole kit and kaboodle

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.49: Not Really, But. . .

It's a cloudy, chilly Wednesday here.  Actually, it's pretty typical weather for this time of December in Michigan, but after last week's really warm spell (and a new record high of 63 degrees on Sunday!) 35 degrees and overcast sure seems damp and miserable.

So, to cheer things up around here, I'm joining with Ginny for the Yarn Along.

In the past week, I have decided that the Rosamond sock pattern is cursed.  Well, not really, but it sure seems like I am having more than my fair share of knitting troubles trying to get this pair of socks done in time for Christmas.  Last yarn along, I reported that Toad had stepped on and broken three of my dpns while they were in the sock, making me panic and have to rescue some dropped stitches as well as rustle up some more needles in that size so I could keep knitting.

Well, guess what happened this week.  I snapped a dpn while working on the Rosamond sock (still on sock #1. . .really I can finish the pair in the next eight days, really. . . ).  It was one of my original set of size 1's, the set I had to replace because of losing one and breaking another the first time I knit this pattern back in February and March.  Thankfully I have approximately eight of this size of needles now, what with the remainder of the first set, the remainder of the second set, and DH's grandma's really old rubbery plastic set I inherited last winter.  So, I kept on knitting.

And then, on Sunday, while my back was turned for two whole seconds (literally, that fast), K3 wanted to 'help' me knit and she managed to pull one of my dpns half out of the sock.  Eight stitches of lace pattern dropped about three rows.  

I had a cow.  Quietly, after my initial whirling around when I saw, in my peripheral vision, K3 grab at the sock, and then the needle slide out of the stitches, and me saying loudly "What did you do?!?" I had a cow.  I didn't want to traumatize the child, so I put on a calm but firm demeanor as I rescued my knitting from her little hands, but inside I was having a major cow while I tried desperately to pick up stitches and not mess up the pattern.  Because I knew if I couldn't get it fixed, I was going to have to rip it out, and then DD1 definitely would not be getting any Rosamond socks for Christmas this year. 

To say the air in the house was thick with tension would be an understatement.  DS1 was especially attentive to what his children were doing the rest of the night.  Grandma was off limits. Because Grandma really, really needed her space.

At that point, I decided I could only work on these socks when K3 and Toad were 1) not home, or 2) asleep.  Because if they were home, and were awake, this particular knitting project was going to have to be safely shut away in my bedroom so nothing even more drastic could happen to it.

So today I have two finished projects to show you.  A hat for my nephew, and a matching hat for his older sister, my niece.  They are what just about all my knitting time since the dropped stitches incident of Sunday has been spent on.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.48: Deja Vu

Joining Ginny for the Yarn Along today.

Last week, I mentioned that was doing a sock pattern, Rosamond, that I had done earlier this year.  It was a pattern that I had really liked at the time I was making it, in late winter, for a KAL and exchange.

the Yarn Thief had to get in the picture too
(what you can't see is the one claw she possessively stuck in the yarn)

Well, I still do like it.  Although now I'm having major deja vu.  You see (and I had forgotten until Monday evening) the last time I knit a pair of Rosamond socks, I experienced a broken knitting needle.  I luckily found a set the same size in the large box of knitting needles and crochet hooks I had recently been given by DH's mom, and was able to finish the socks.

Guess what happened on Monday night.  Yep, a broken knitting needle. Actually, not just one.  THREE broken knitting needles when Toad, messing around, ran up and tromped right in my knitting bag, which was sitting next to the couch because I had just sat down with the intent to knit on the current pair of Rosamond socks I'm making.

 Never underestimate the destructive capabilities, even accidental, of a 17 month old.

Somehow his foot managed to land with just the right amount of pressure in just the right spot (where I had my needles lined up neatly together) and snapped off all three of them.  Even dropped stitches off of the one he broke the shortest.  :0(

Thankfully, by acting quickly, I was able to salvage those dropped stitches and prevent any more from falling off my ruined needles.  Also, thankfully, I had saved the non-broken ones of the same size from the set that had been damaged in Feb. So, with a not exactly matching, but right sized, set of needles I can continue knitting these socks.  Which is good because I'm not sure where that really old and rubbery set went that I'd used on the first Rosamond socks.  At least now I have two 'full' sets of size 2.25mm needles, even though some are wooden and some are plastic.

Although I have to confess now I'm really leery of making this pattern in the future for a third pair. . .

Also on the knitting needles, albeit a much larger and hopefully harder to break pair, is a Barley hat which is part of my nephew's Christmas present.  He will be 18 months old shortly before Christmas, but he's a big stocky kid (my brother is 6' 2"), so I'm making the child size rather than the toddler size.  This is the same pattern I used to make hats for both Toad and K3 last fall, and it comes with instructions for sizes from baby all the way through adult large.  The yarn is acrylic, variegated worsted in blue from Knit Picks.

Barley hat, about half finished.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Foggy Day Pictures

Yesterday was foggy all day.  Thick, frozen fog in the morning, turning to thick warmer fog in the evening.  This little place here felt like it was nestled in a protective shroud, tucked away all by itself.  You couldn't see the house across the street, or the farm next door, and the lights of the cars on the road were barely visible as they drove by.

freezing fog to the east

freezing fog to the west

frost tipped sugar maple branches
(all ready munched short by the deer--grr!)

foxtail bushy with frost

frost-rimed pine

pine needles so heavy with frost they look like they've been dipped in paint

spruce looking Christmas-y

purple sand cherry decked out in frost

head of dill looking like a giant ice crystal

evening fog to the east

evening fog to the west

Friday, December 4, 2015

Goodbye, Mare

I think, a few times in the past six months or so, I've made a passing reference or two to the Mare, my elderly Holsteiner dressage horse.  I purchased her in Jan. 2001 as a green broke 12 yr old, a horse that had been given rudimentary under saddle training in walk and trot (and whoa) at age 4, but then not ridden again until I bought her.  Obviously, I got her as a project horse; one that I was going to train in dressage while taking lessons to further my own riding education.

Well, as often happens in life with a husband and a bunch of children, my riding time got interrupted for long periods on a pretty regular basis.  Meaning, we'd be going great, the Mare and I, and then my Mom/Wife life would get in the way and riding and training would be on the back burner for months at a time.  Some years I would ride three to five times a week for most of the year, and some years I'd be happy if I got in the saddle once a week. Add in my instructor's failing health, and we haven't had a lesson in about eight years. So her training never progressed quite as far as I'd hoped. And we never got into the show ring (in addition to time, there's the whole money aspect of showing that my Mom/Wife life didn't allow).  We did have a nice solid Second Level set of skills in several areas (such as trot, oh what an awesome trot she developed), while still sometimes struggling to get much above Training Level on other things.

This past winter, the Mare became reluctant to trot under saddle.  It was as if the gait was too difficult for her.  Being the ripe old age of 26, I figured there might be some arthritis playing a factor there.  She had been semi-retired for a couple of years (meaning I didn't ride her hard or regularly, and had made the Quarter Horse my main mount), so I decided that rather than force her to trot during rides, I would just ride her at a walk.

But then some funky things started happening in her hind end.  A weird swelling on the inside of one hock that didn't make her lame or seem to bother her at all, yet it persisted for months.  Muscles she'd always had, even during long periods of not being ridden, began to shrink.  She developed a habit of standing with her hips tilted and one hind leg smack under the center of her body.  Sometimes she lay down right in the middle of her dinner hay and would stay down for hours, this mare who had always been one to clean up every last bit of chaff she could find.

All this happened over a period of months, one thing adding to another.  And I began to see something familiar, the muscle atrophy and posture reminding me of two other elderly Holsteiner mares I had known: the Mare's mother and mother's full sister.  They both had developed hind end problems/neurological issues in their mid to late twenties that had eventually led to them being put to sleep when they were no longer able to get around.

I had the vet out in early April to check her out, and to give all my horses their Spring vaccinations.  The vet performed a few tests on the Mare, and confirmed what I had come to suspect: neurological issues coupled with muscle wasting, and enough coordination problems in her hind end that it was unsafe to continue riding her, even at a walk.

So, the Mare became officially retired.  No more riding at all, no matter how light.  The chance of her stumbling and falling with a rider was just too great.

And, having seen what her mother and her aunt had gone through at the ends of their lives (they both were at the farm I used to work at for many years), I decided I was not going to put the Mare through any of the sort of suffering they had gone through.  I would put her down before the ground became frozen/rough or icy or deep snow that the winter season brings.

All summer, she ate well, but her muscles continued to deteriorate.  Her hips showed, then her spine started to become prominent even though her front end was still robust and her weight was good.  The muscle atrophy began to move toward her front end.  Her withers started to stick out.  And, recently, her shoulders had begun to shrink.

As her body was wasting away this fall, I had noticed that her spirits weren't always as cheerful or sassy as she'd always been.  It was getting tougher for her to move around.  Life was not as enjoyable for her as it had been earlier this year.  No doubt about it, it was time for me to let her go.

So, I made an appointment with my vet to have her euthanized. Yesterday was her last day.  I had her turned out with her buddy, the Old Man, for most of the day as is her normal schedule.  Then, in mid-afternoon I brought her into the barn, gave her a good grooming, fed her an apple and lots of treats (oh, she thought she was being spoiled rotten, all the goodies and attention she was getting), then I took her back outside to one of the remaining patches of grass still growing in this cold weather and hand-grazed her until the vet arrived.

It didn't take very long to put her to sleep.  She was happy and pampered right up to the end.  As I wanted her to be: not suffering, not struggling to walk or stand.

Goodbye, Mare.  Thank you for all the rides, for all the slobbery horse kisses, even for all the frustration when you were being naughty and "Holsteiner mare-ish".  Especially thanks for all the things you taught me as I was teaching you.

May 2012, our last ride I have photos from

one last photo, 12-3-15
age 26 years, 8 months

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.47: A Familiar Pattern

Good Wednesday to you!  It's hovering at freezing here, with cloudy, almost white, skies. Snow flurries are predicted for this afternoon.  After spending four hours outside this morning, I am planning to be indoors for the rest of the day. Much crafting to do (I actually have the house to myself today, for the first time in nearly a month, so looking forward to about four hours of uninterrupted creativity!)

But first, we must join Ginny's Yarn Along!

I have been working on the never ending cross stitch again this week, but I have found a little knitting time, too.  Using the Knit Picks Comfy I pictured in last week's yarn along,  I cast on the first sock of a pair of Rosamond socks for DD1. This is the same pattern as a pair of socks I made for a KAL exchange last winter, and the pattern was easy to remember.

Honestly, I've been planning this pair of socks for DD1 ever since starting that knit-a-long last February (or was it January?).  I thought she might like the sorta lacy, slightly feminine pattern. And the purple yarn I bought in early summer specifically for her socks. It just took me this long to get around to starting them.

For being cast on Sunday afternoon (and not spending much time knitting), this sock is coming along really quick.  I am all ready through half of the pattern repeats on the leg.  Which is good, right, because I have about three weeks to get these knit, plus a few more dishcloths I want to make and two young child sized hats.  The Christmas knitting list is beginning to feel the countdown squeeze coming on.

this picture is pretty true to color;
reminds me of grape juice

this picture is blurry, but shows the pattern better

I'm sort of between books at the moment.  What are you reading and knitting these days?