Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.48: Wednesday Again All Ready!

Joining Ginny very late on Yarn Along day.  I've lost all track of what day it is, with having the holiday over the weekend, and again on Monday with my in-laws.  Yesterday was my first day of work this week, so I'm finding that suddenly it's Wednesday night and I haven't done a yarn along post yet!

I finished the Tendril socks and they actually made it to their intended recipient on time!   DD2 loved them (and almost didn't want to give them away), and DD2's friend was really surprised to get a package in the mail containing those awesome hand knit socks.  As per usual with gift socks, I forgot to take a picture of them once they were completed.

After nearly a week of no knitting, and beginning to feel a bit stir crazy, I cast on last night for my next project.  It is a Knusa Shawl, as featured in the current issue of Taproot magazine.  I am knitting it in Quine and Co's chickadee in the color Delft.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.47:Sock It Up

Joining Ginny this afternoon for the weekly Yarn Along.

I am soooo close to being done with the final sock of this pair of Tendril socks.  I had thought I might finish them last night; I am to the toe decrease and only have a dozen rows or so to go.  But, alas, sleep overtook me and they shall have to wait until later today to get finished.


In addition to knitting this week, I've also started reading two books.  One non-fiction; The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp; and one horsey themed fiction: The Head and Not the Heart by Natalie Keller Reinert. I'm only a dozen or so pages into either one, so not much to report on yet.



Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Letter

It seems like Christmas cards, and their accompanying newsy letters, are becoming a thing of the past.  Each year, we receive fewer and fewer; usually from the older generation of friends and relatives.  I have to confess that last year, in all the hubbub of the holidays with three generations living here, I didn't send out any cards at all.  Not a single one.  And not a single letter, either.  I'd been sending out Christmas letters since I first got my hands on a computer and printer (my sister-in-law's, I think) in 1998.

This year, I am determined to do better than be a Christmas card no-show.  Especially after hearing from numerous people how they missed reading my 'fun' letter last year; they felt like we'd lost touch.

So, I may be a bit late--being as I'm just now printing out the letter and realizing I need to go buy more stamps--but I'm going to get a letter and card into the hands of all our dear and distant loved ones this Christmas season.

With a few changes to keep this blog as anonymous for my family as possible, here is a copy of my 2016 holiday letter:

2016
You might have noticed that this year's card is signed "DH and Kris".  If so, you might have said to yourself  "Wait, didn't their signature line used to take up half the card?  What happened to their kids?"

It's for that reason that this letter is written.  And, well, because we didn't get a letter or cards sent out in 2015, so you might be wondering what has been going on in our family for the past two years.

"What happened to their kids?" They grew up and moved out, every single one of them! (If you think you hear slightly maniacal laughter, you're probably right.)  This nest is empty!  After 26+ years of having kids at home, it's finally just DH and I.  Talk about culture shock!

So what are the kids doing now?  Well. . .

DS1, K2 and their two kids (K3 and Toad) lived with us from late September 2014 until early February 2016 when they moved into their own place about six or seven miles away. DS1 and K2 are both attending college, and both also work.  As you can imagine, that keeps them incredibly busy.  Add in a 4 year old and a 2 year old, and, well, yeah, what else is there possibly time for?  They did manage to squeeze in a wedding on May 23, 2015; it was a gorgeous day for their small outdoor wedding ceremony and reception.

DS2 graduated (summa cum laude) from (name of his college) on May 2, 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.  He had a job waiting for him with (a member of the Big Three), and he has been living in the Detroit area since leaving the U.P. (when (his member of the Big Three) doesn't have him traveling to places like Kentucky, Arizona, or Mexico, that is!)  When he's not working or on business related travel, he likes to take off into the wilderness; he's hiked and backpacked in the Adirondacks, the Smokies, and on Isle Royale since graduating college.

DD1 is working her tail off finishing up her degree in Elementary Education with a certification in Early Childhood Education. She has two semesters to go. She has been living in Grand Rapids and attending (name of her college) campus there for the past couple of years.  When not in class, she has been working at a childcare center, and this fall she took on the lead teacher position for their infant/toddler room.  (For those of you who might be wondering, yes, she and Honorary Son are still together.  Honorary Son just graduated from (name of his college) earlier this month with a Bachelor of Science in Film and Video.) 

DD2 graduated high school in May 2015 (that was a super busy month for our family--two graduations and a wedding).  She is now in her second year at (name of her college) where she is NOT studying engineering.  (name of her college) is well known as an engineering school, but they also have other programs, as she likes to point out every time anyone says "oh, what kind of engineering are you studying?" when they hear that she attends (name of her college).  DD2 is majoring in Wildlife Ecology and has also declared a minor in International Spanish.  She absolutely loves life in the U.P., and typically calls home about once a week with something exciting to share about her classes.  This past summer, she worked for the DNR at one of the state parks near home, and was able to transfer to the state park near (name of her college) when it was time to go back to school; so she had not only a memorable summer, but also was able to keep working part time for a large portion of the fall semester.  Next time you see her, ask her about manning the check station during bear hunting season! 

And that is what happened to all our kids. 

Meanwhile, DH and I are starting to get the hang of being 'just the two of us' after all these years.  He is still kept very busy working for (a member of the Big Three, different from DS2) (you should hear the ribbing that goes on at the dinner table when DS2 comes home to visit).  If he's not at work, he's typically out in the woods either cutting firewood or hunting deer, depending on the season.  He took a really nice 8-point buck with his crossbow this past October.

I'm still working with horses, although this past August I left the farm I had been working at when you last got a Christmas letter from us.  Currently I do morning feed at a local eventing barn, as well as clean stalls at the dressage farm where I have been boarding and taking lessons since April of this year.  I'd shelved my riding aspirations in the frenzied years of getting kids through high school, and now I'm more than ready to focus on achieving my riding dreams.  I might end up being the oldest rider to ever reach the Grand Prix level, but darn it, I'm gonna get there someday!

So, that's pretty much what's been happening with all us (our last name here) for the past two years.


Being as I'm rather a bit late getting cards out this year (better late than not at all, like last year, eh?) I'm guessing it after Christmas as you are reading this.  We hope your Christmas was a joyful one.   May the New Year be filled with blessings.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Not Your Typical Birthday Present

My birthday was earlier this month.  It came, and it went, on a Tuesday, without ceremony.  The kids are all grown and busy.  DH never has been much for birthdays.  And I absolutely refused to bake my own birthday cake.  So, it came, and it went.  Without cake.  Without presents, too, not counting the card and check my parents sent.

DD2 arrived home from college for Christmas Break on Friday.  One of the first things she did after walking in the door and dumping armloads of stuff onto the kitchen counters and floor, was to present me with a belated birthday gift. Something she had seen, and instantly knew I would like.

Now, it's far from your typical birthday present.  Not jewelry. Not candy.  Not clothing. Not a book or a movie.  But it is perfect.  I love what she brought me.  This girl gets me.



Yep, that is a tree made out of rocks.  It's so quirky, and natural, and cool all at the same time.  She bought it at a 'rock show' (her words) at the college's mineralogical museum.

I've been entertaining myself by trying to figure out exactly what rocks (minerals) it is made of. The base is easily identifiable as amethyst quartz.  It's the green stones that make up the leaves of the tree that have us guessing.   They all have a milky, opaque quality, and vary in shade from pale green to almost a gray-blue-green.  Are they a type of chalcedony?  Smithsonite?  Hemimorphite? Aventurine? Something else entirely?  Where is a mineralogist when you need one?

In addition to figuring out the rocks it is made from, I need to figure out where this figurine is going to 'live' at this little place here.  Somewhere I can view it often.  It reminds me of the rugged, gnarled trees that grow along the windswept cliffs that can be found in certain spots along Lake Superior.  One of my favorite places to be.  Someday, when we retire, we shall move to such a place.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.46: Halfway?

Joining Ginny a bit late today, but I made it!  It's been a busy day, and the snowstorm that arrived late morning and still swirls around us has not made my tasks or travels any easier.  So, I'm really glad to be popping in to the Yarn Along.

I managed to get quite a bit of knitting done on sock #2 in the past week.  A car trip to Grand Rapids to celebrate Honorary Son's graduation from college helped tremendously in finding knitting time.


As you can see, I was able to complete the leg and the heel.  Currently I'm about halfway through the gusset decreases.  This sock will definitely be done by Christmas; just probably not in time for DD2 to mail it to her friend, whom the pair is intended for, and have it get received by the 25th.  DD2 assures me that this is okay, as the friend has no idea that the socks even exist, and they are a birthday gift (late December) rather than a Christmas gift.

I'm glad she's okay with that, because I'm feeling a bit frazzled by all my partially done and nowhere near done things going on right now.  Like my Christmas tree, for instance.  It too is maybe halfway done.  I'd really like to finish decorating it before DD1 and DD2 arrive home from college on Friday night.   They've made and bought me too many ornaments through the years to go for the spartan look of "hey, we've got lights and maybe a dozen bulbs hung, so it's decorated, right?"  This dark picture really makes it look a whole lot more festive than it does in the daylight at the moment.


That's all for now; it's nearly time to hit the (very snowy and sometimes white-out) road so that DH and I make it to church in time for the Wednesday evening Advent service.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Facing Facts

I have been thinking a lot.  Not always coherent, organized thinking; more often it's the kind of willy nilly thoughts that crop up while in the midst of other things.  You know, those ideas or realizations you have that you can't attend to properly at the moment, so you either scribble them down, or attempt to bookmark them in your mind to come back to later when you can give them the correct amount of brain power and attention.

Here's what my thoughts boil down to:

  1. There are only two of us to get things done around this little place here (as compared to when the kids lived here and helped with tasks either mundane or monumental).
  2. I'm not as strong as I used to be.  This bugs me a lot, as I'm used to my body doing whatever I call upon it to do. The fact that I struggle to carry a 40 pound chicken waterer (a full 5 gallons), and that even carrying a full hamper of clothes up or down the stairs gets me out of breath, really really irritates me.  Not sure if this decrease in strength is due to my ongoing anemia (something else I find frustrating) or the fact that I am 45 years old, or a combination of both.
  3. DH is super busy at work.  He is, literally, doing the work of 1.5-2 people there (for the same one-man paycheck, of course.  That's the way it goes when you are salaried--no overtime, no bonus for taking on extra work).  His 'group' lost a person last summer, and that person's work was split between DH and another guy--in addition to each all ready having their own programs--with the assurance that it was only for a few months; that a replacement person would be hired in around November 1st. It's now mid-December, that 'replacement' person has not been hired, and there seems to be no actual job posting for the position.  In other words, probably ain't gonna happen any time soon.  So, DH is juggling his own work, half the work of the 'lost' person, plus doing crisis management on the half that the other guy got assigned and can't seem to keep up with.  Even when DH isn't at work, his mind is often still on work.  It's not uncommon for him to sit on the couch until 10:30 p.m. with his work laptop open analyzing data, creating reports, reading and sending emails or filling out test request forms.  He even dreams about work--probably 2-3 weekday mornings when our alarm clock goes off, he groggily asks me questions about stuff I know nothing about (this particular test, or that fuel economy data, or what transmission calibration is in this car, or what the axle ratio is, or where such and such prototype can be located) before he becomes fully awake.  Even when he's physically home, he's not really here, not fully available to work on the things that need to be done to take care of our home.
  4. Therefore, life at this little place here needs to be revamped.  We need to scale back some things, cancel some things, and really focus on what our main priorities are.

In light of that, I've decided to get rid of my flock of chickens.  They aren't laying eggs now, being the cold dark part of the year, and foreseeably won't lay any for about three months (historically, they slowly get back into production in mid to late February).  So, rather than buy and lug feed to the coop for the next several months, plus haul a waterer out in the mornings and back (to my basement to thaw) in the evenings, plus feed them and let them out in the morning and shut them in again at night in return for zero, zip, zilch eggs to eat, I'm just going to be chicken-less.  In February I'll look into getting some chicks and restart my flock.

Even after spring comes, I don't think I will get broiler chicks to raise into meat for the freezer.  That's rather a lot of work too, once they get about half grown and eat like starving teenagers (and smell just as bad).  Rather, I will purchase some ready for the freezer from a friend who has gotten into raising birds to sell.  It will help her business, and leave me free to use my somewhat lessened energy in other, more critical areas.

There are other changes to be made too, but they are still disjointed thoughts that I need to work out fully before deciding what actions to take.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.45: Making Progress

Happy Wednesday, happy Yarn Along!  I'm joining Ginny this afternoon to see what everyone is knitting and reading this week.

I am very pleased with the knitting progress I made in the past seven days. A quickie trip up north to see Mother-in-law on Sunday (hours of car knitting, yay!) really helped to get the first sock of my pair of Tendril socks finished.



I started sock #2 on Monday and as you can see, have gotten the ribbed cuff done, and am about a dozen rows into the leg.

In addition to knitting, I've done some reading.  I actually started this book, Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, a few weeks ago.  It was the 'portable' book I took to the woods with me during hunting season to read during slow times.  Portable in that it isn't a strangely sized book, and being paperback it has no dust jacket to either crinkle or reflect the sun and possibly scare off deer; it's a rather thick nearly 500 pages.  Now that regular firearm deer season is over, I retrieved the book from my hunting bag and finished it off.

If you want a gripping story that will make you cry buckets (thankfully near the end, when I was reading in the house; otherwise I surely would have scared off the deer), this is the one.  I so enjoyed this book, it sucked me in and I really  related to the storyline; I will definitely be picking up more novels by this author.  (And setting up a day to get together with my own BFF-since-8th-grade whom I haven't seen nearly often enough in the decades that have passed since high school ended and we both got busy with the demands of adult/married/parenthood life).

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My True Colors?

This November, I found myself very reluctant to give my time. I'm not sure if it's just that hunting season is always so hectic for me, trying to work in the mornings as usual, then get errands and other day time stuff done by 2:30 or 3:00 and be in the woods right around 3:00 for hunting.  Then there's the matter of dinner when we get in from hunting; this is the first year in all the years we've lived here--read all the years that I've been able to hunt, really--that there has been no one in the house who is not hunting and therefore gets dinner on the stove while I am in the woods.  Since we don't eat microwaved meals, dinner isn't a quick affair; I'd say thirty minutes is about the fastest I can conjure up a hot meal.  And, since I'm not a night owl (and my alarm goes off by 6:00 a.m.) eating dinner at 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. just doesn't work well for me.  I don't sleep well if I eat a meal only an hour or two before I go to bed.  And let's not forget that there needed to be clean up and dishes washed once we were done eating too. So much for relaxing before bedtime.

This year, hunting season just seemed so difficult.  I had too many things I needed to get done, and getting home between noon and 1:15 most weekdays didn't leave much time for putting together a meal (to be kept warm in a crock pot, or in the oven on the time cook setting) before 3:00 made me feel so rushed. I've been so tired that getting up early to put something in the crock pot prior to 7:00 a.m. to slowly cook itself all day just didn't work either. My heart just hasn't been in the woods this season.  Hunting often seemed like a monumental time suck rather than a treat.

DH often wanted to have the grandkids over on the weekend, and the topic became a dreaded one for me. It often ended in a disagreement.  DH couldn't see what the 'problem' was with having them over.  But yet, he still planned to be in the woods every morning and every mid- to late afternoon, plus watch football during the mid-day.  In my mind, that didn't leave time (or attention) for visiting with/caring for two little people.  And when I'd be hesitant to make arrangements for K3 and Toad to come over (hmm, if they spend the night, I'm not going to be able to go hunting during the only two mornings a week I don't have to work; and how am I supposed to get anything done and go hunting if we have the kids from, say noon til 4:00 on a Saturday or Sunday--especially if it's a day when DH is planning to be in the woods, and I'd like to be too, by 2:30?) and gave DH the reasons why I wasn't keen on the idea, that somehow made me the bad guy, accusing DH of not being willing to help with the 'work' part of having a two year old and a four year old in the house again.  (Well, hello, if you're still watching football and hunting, how is that giving any part of your time to give attention to little people/play with them/take care of their needs?).  The whole topic just brought a lot of tension to the house.

Which, really shocked me by the thoughts and emotions it dredged up.  I mean, all the years our children were growing up, I just did what was needed, or what seemed to me to be the proper thing for a parent to do.  I was often tired and felt like my days went from one task to another from the time my eyes popped open in the morning (be it by alarm clock or by the call of an offspring) to the time my eyes closed at night.  Now that my kids are all grown, I suddenly have a severe aversion to going back to that sort of day.  Really, really severe aversion. Almost a dread.  It has made me wonder if I actually enjoyed being a mom or not; if I subconsciously hated the decades I spent putting myself last and everyone else in my home first.  If I do resent DH, a little (or more than a little) for how much of a load I carried in raising the kids and tending the household during those years (especially the times he traveled a lot and I was, other than financially, a single parent).

Or is this a natural part of the process of going from stuffing your own wants and needs into the bottom of the to-do list of family life for decades, then once the kids are grown and gone actually being able to order your day based on what interests you or makes you happy?  This empty nest thing hasn't been in effect very long at this little place here, and I wonder if my extreme reaction this hunting season is a natural part of finally feeling like I have some breathing space and creative time, some control over my day, but then being subjected again to having a younger generation here (DS2 came for a week for hunting, DD2 was home for a week of Thanksgiving break, then of course there was Thanksgiving Day itself and all the cooking and cleaning and socializing that hosting the holiday required of me).  Not to mention the fact that DH was home every blasted day, nearly three weeks straight, because it's his vacation time that he saves up for hunting season.  Which meant when I got home from work, he was home (and wanting lunch).  Extra cooking, extra dishes to wash, a change in my daily routine, and him having his own list of projects he wanted to work on--and have me assist in.

November was tough.  I'm hoping that December isn't going to be a repeat, what with Christmas coming and all the demands (shopping, family parties I *must* attend or host) that the month usually entails.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.44: Back in Blue

I'm baaaaaccckkk!  Happily joining Ginny's Yarn Along this week after missing way too many this month.

Just writing this post feels like I've accomplished something. You don't know how I dislike it when life gets in my way and I can't do what seems to me like a simple thing (such as take a picture and write a short post to go along with it).  Honestly, November has brought so many strange (and formerly unacknowledged?) emotions to light for me.  Perhaps I will write about it in December. . . not sure, will have to give that more thought as it is fairly personal but yet probably totally relevant to a lot of readers.  So, hmmm. . .

But today, today is about yarn and knitting!

I've been working slowly on a sock (sock number one) that is supposed to be a pair finished by the middle of December.  That might, at this point, be an unrealistic goal.  I am to the gusset finally, and the slowness is all mine with absolutely nothing to do with the pattern, which is Tendril.  This is a great pattern, easy to memorize, no tricky bits, and it makes such an amazingly cool sock.  I was only two inches into this one when I knew it was probably going to replace Vanilla Latte as my favorite go-to sock pattern.  The spiral ribs are just way too cool.  Unfortunately they also seem to be hard for the camera to pick up.


I chose a skein of Knit Picks Stroll Fingering Tonal in Blue Yonder from my stash for these socks, and I couldn't be happier with the combo of yarn and pattern.  Because although this is not a self-striping yarn, the combo of spiral ribs and the color changes in the yarn is creating a subtle stripe.  I love it so much that I actually went online and ordered another skein of the exact same yarn (because I know DD2 will love these socks, that are actually supposed to be for a college friend of hers--DD2 asked in Oct if she could 'commission' me to make her friend a pair of socks in 'some sort of blue' because the friend so adored DD2's couple of pair of Mom-made socks).  So 2017 will probably find me making an identical pair for DD2's feet.

And, of course, while I was ordering that yarn, Knit Picks was having a big yarn sale, so I just couldn't resist adding a few more skeins of blue-themed yarn to my cart.  What can I say, I like blues too.


From left to right: 2 skeins Comfy fingering in Celestial, the 'replacement' skein of Blue Yonder, Blue Yonder being made into a Tendril sock, a skein of Stroll Fingering Hand Painted in Northern Lights (intended for me or possibly DD1 who likes purples) and a skein of Stroll Fingering Tonal in Cold Stream (most definitely for me).

Friday, November 25, 2016

Been Gone Too Long

I have not traveled at all in the past two weeks.  But, given my lack of posting, my blog kind of looks like I've been gone.

There is so much going on right now, some good, some not so great, some challenging, some requiring deep thought. . . and of course it's hunting season, and the holidays have started, so I feel like a hamster on a wheel going and going and going without ever really getting anywhere.

The computer is (currently) working correctly, and I'm (amazingly) the only person in the house right now, so I'm taking advantage of the opportunity (actually, supposed to be checking into a few things online . . .) to do a really quick blog post.  I wouldn't want anyone to think I'd dropped off the face of the earth because of the election results, or been in a coma or something else dramatic for more than two weeks now.

Just a whole lot going on and a computer that sometimes threatens to crash, and a hubby home on his hunting vacation (hogging the computer on crummy weather days between when he's in the tree hunting) and trying to keep up with normal life all while squeezing in my own several hours a day in the tree stand before the regular firearm season ends at the end of the month.  Oh, and one kid who also took a week of hunting vacation and has been here (and brought me some shirts to mend before he goes back home) and another kid home from college on Thanksgiving break who is trying to get three months worth of face to face conversations in before she heads back to school on Sunday morning.

I just can't juggle that much at once.

So the knitting has been very little, the riding has been intermittent, and the blogging has been nil.

I'm looking forward to everyone going back to their normal homes and daytime schedules on Monday, and hoping I'll get back to some regular blog posts.  Because I do have lots of stuff I'm wanting to write about and possibly some things to show off in pictures.

So, unless I get an unexpected chunk of free time this weekend, I'll see you next week!



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.43: Being Froggy

I am joining Ginny late on this Yarn Along Wednesday.



I didn't do much knitting in the past week.  My picture shows even less knitting than what was actually attempted.

Dad's Striped Socks are done, with tails woven in and everything!  (But I have not gotten a final picture of them yet; maybe next week?)

After finishing the weaving in of all those tails on the socks--at the moment I can't even accurately guess at how many tails, more than a dozen stripes per sock, probably, with two tails each-- I took a break for a few days.  Then I decided to work on a new dish cloth, but quickly realized that the pattern was 'written' incorrectly.  Actually, it wasn't written at all, just charted. 

The chart, however, did not read your typical knitting pattern chart way of right to left from bottom to top.  Nope, it didn't take me long to realize the author (maker?  writer?) charted the pattern to actually go from the bottom to the top but from right to left on odd rows and left to right on even rows. Slightly confusing.

Well, I thought I could make the mental adjustment to deal with that, and things would work out fine.  But after getting about 26 rows or so into the project, I saw several rows of my knitting had glaring mistakes.  Since I was trying to do easy, fun knitting while relaxing with a favorite movie (8 Seconds, what can I say?  I love of rodeo and this is a great movie), having that many mistakes in a piece that should have been simple (had it been charted right, or just written row by row) rather turned me off to the pattern.

So I ripped the whole thing out.

I chose a new pattern and started again late last night, while watching the election coverage.  But, being late and me not hardly being a night owl, I didn't get far before I put my knitting down and went to bed.  It was a better option than doing the head bob on the couch with knitting needles falling out of my hands every few minutes.  Or making a ton of mistakes on a well written pattern and having to get froggy (rip it, rip it).

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.42: Game Day Knitting

It's a rainy Wednesday again for this week's Yarn Along (actually, not just rainy, but thunderstormy).  Joining with Ginny to see what everyone is knitting and reading currently.



I did a lot of knitting over the weekend.  First was Saturday, the big rivalry football game between Michigan State and University of Michigan.  DH and I went to the local brewpub to watch the game (he just couldn't miss it, and since we don't have cable or satellite TV, he needed to go somewhere that had ESPN. . .)  Locally, there are a whole lot of State fans.  Which makes sense, I guess, as the college is pretty much just down the road.  DH is a die hard U of M fan.  Me, it makes no difference to me one way or another.  I'd have to actually care about sports before I could pick a side.  I was really there for the meal out, the beer (this brew pub has really great micro brews), and the fact that if I wasn't home I didn't have to spend three hours doing chores and other household projects while DH was away watching the game and having fun (and beer!).

Of course, I brought my knitting along.  If you are ever in a brew pub and see some lady with long brown hair sitting at a table knitting, it just might be me.  ;0)  But only if she's drinking a dark beer.  No pale stuff for me!

Anyway, I happened to be knitting on Dad's striped sock, which is being knit in the colors of Michigan State.  So, totally appropriate for that particular day.  And, I was obviously in the company of DH, who is not a particularly quiet U of M fan.  The rest of the occupants of the brew pub, with the exception of another couple sitting very quietly at the bar in their maize and blue attire, were undoubtedly State fans.  Why else would grown men wear bright green pants in public?  My green and white striped sock ensured I was treated kindly in that room of State fans, while DH was at times given the evil eye (U of M had the lead the whole game, and ended up the winner).

The next day I got in about three more hours of knitting while the Detroit Lions played football (on my TV).  Now I'm so close to the end of this sock I can almost picture myself grafting the toe.  Just two more skinny stripes to go, then it's time to do the toe decrease. I'll be glad to be finished, and get all the tails woven in.

I'm actually reading a book this week!  One that I had requested from inter-library loan finally came in.  It is When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics: Attain Remarkable Riding Rapport with Your Horse, by Beth Baumert who has been the long time technical editor for Dressage Today magazine. I've barely started the book.  Some of what I've read is a refresher of things I have known for years, and some echoes what I have recently learned from my trainer.  I think it will be a perfect companion and resource as I continue to take lessons and improve my dressage skills (so, I'll be putting it on my Christmas wish list).

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Forget Finding a Needle in a Haystack

Try finding a lost horse shoe in a pasture!

This has to be one of the least fun 'games' your horse can come up with.  Because not only is that shoe supposed to be on his foot for a very good reason (in the case of the Quarter Horse, because of his navicular, he is no longer comfortable barefoot), once it comes off, it needs to go back on fairly quickly.  And getting it back on is made faster and easier if the lost shoe can be found.

Yesterday I got to 'play' the very stressful Find My Shoe In My Pasture game with the Quarter Horse.  He surprised me by popping that game on me when I went to retrieve him from said pasture yesterday morning so that I could ride him.  The game began by me noticing his front feet did not look identical.  On the right, I could see clinches on both sides of the foot.  On the left, no clinches.  At least, I didn't think I could see clinches, but with all the mud on that foot it was hard to tell.

So I took him into the barn, where his lack of a shoe was confirmed as soon as he stepped onto the cement of the aisle way.  Right foot: "click".  Left foot: "clump".  My heart rate increased a bit as I walked him up the aisle listening to the dissonant sound of his footfalls.  How badly did he tear his foot up while taking off that shoe, I wondered.

Amazingly, not at all.  When I wiped his muddy left front foot clean and picked it up for inspection, it was a beautiful looking foot, just sans shoe.  It looked as if the shoe had miraculously released it's nails and slid gently off.  No tears, no chips, no missing chunk of hoof. Phew!  One less issue to worry about.

Now all that remained was to find the missing shoe, and contact my farrier to have it put back on the Quarter Horse's foot ASAP.  Since I'm not a newbie at finding lost shoes, I didn't panic too much.  I was mindful of the time--as I was supposed to babysit my grandkids right after lunch--and got right to the search.

I do have to admit, standing at the gate and looking at the expanse of field I potentially had to cross before finding that missing shoe was a little daunting.

Not loving the idea of searching every inch of this.


The pasture isn't particularly wide, but it is several acres in size.  That is a lot of ground to cover.  My method of shoe finding (or anything else 'lost' in a pasture such as a halter, fly mask, dropped cell phone, etc) is to walk back and forth across the short width of the pasture, trying to walk in as straight a line as possible, and scan right to left while walking.  I don't look up, but rather at the ground as I walk.  When I get to the opposite fence line I move down about eight feet (fence posts set at 8 foot distances help greatly in keeping aligned so you don't go crooked and potentially miss an area) and walk to the other fence line.  Back and forth, back and forth, slowly making my way down the length of the pasture.  Keeping an eye out for anything that doesn't look like dirt or grass, and hoping the shoe just might be clean enough and the sun bright enough to create a shine that will draw my eye.

After an hour of searching, with only thirty mintues left before I needed to leave if I were going to eat some lunch and change out of my barn clothes before it was time to meet the grandkids, I was getting rather worried about not finding the shoe.  I had only gone through about half of the pasture, and so far, there was no sign of a horse shoe.  Lots of wet mucky spots, but not one with a shoe sticking out of it.

My anxiety level rose as I kept walking that field, fence post to opposite fence post.  The minutes ticked by.  The horses watched me curiously as I got closer and closer to where they were grazing. I was almost two thirds through the pasture and still no sign of that missing shoe.  My heart was sinking.

And then. . .

I saw it!  I don't know how, because it certainly wasn't shiny, and it was barely sticking up.  In fact, it was nearly half buried in mud near the end of a several foot long skid mark in the grass.

Can you see the shoe?

Relieved, I reached down and pulled it out of the dirt.  Then I immediately texted my farrier to let him know I had a lost shoe that was now found, and a horse with a bare but non damaged hoof.  The hoof and shoe needed to be reunited just as soon as he could squeeze us into his schedule.


Just a wee bit bent, but totally fixable.


Game over.  I won, and all is again right with the world.  ;0)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.41: Not Much To Show

Happy Yarn Along Day!  I'm joining with Ginny on this sleety cold afternoon to see what everyone is knitting/crocheting and reading these days.

As for me, I don't have much to show.  Not reading anything per se--although I have several books on hold at the library that I need to pick up later today--and not as much progress as I had hoped on my knitting. I have about 1 1/2 stripes yet to go before I am done with the leg of this sock and am ready to start the heel.




Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Come On Baby Light My Fire



Heating season is officially upon us.  Yesterday evening, DH finally lit a fire in the wood boiler.  I think this is the latest we've ever fired it up; this October has been especially warm. Even on the not so warm days it's been pretty sunny so we've had a little passive solar heating keeping the house warm enough to be comfortable most of the time.  I get cold easily, so comfortable means that it was in the range of 64 degrees and above.

I think that good weather was sort of, maybe, a negative thing.  Because it allowed DH to keep putting off tasks that normally would be done by now.  Like replacing the chimney on the wood boiler; the chimney that had developed a small hole and resultant leak (and decreased function) last winter.  He finally got around to replacing it, well, yesterday afternoon, a few hours before lighting the fire.

Another task that normally is done by now is splitting and stacking the winter's worth of wood.  On the left of the boiler in the picture above, you see what is left of last year's wood that didn't get used.  To the right and behind the boiler in the picture, is the humongous pile of aged wood that we brought in from our random stacks in the woods (from where we cut and stack downed trees each winter and leave them to age and dry for two or more years) this spring and summer.  He will probably be getting the splitter out of the barn soon and tackling that pile. He has three weeks of vacation from work that he always saves for late October through Thanksgiving time--prime deer hunting time; that gives him plenty of afternoons to split wood between the morning hunt and the evening hunt.  ;0)

What matters most is that even though it's gotten cold outside, in the house it's nice and toasty, thanks to the fire going in the wood boiler.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

How To Eat Venison

I would like to thank Kat, who commented on Monday's post and posed the question "What do you like to make with the venison?".  That comment, and question, made me realize that I am again doing what I often do, which is assume everyone is like me and lives like me and knows what I know, and therefore I'm not really doing a whole lot of describing of the things I do on a regular basis and take for granted.  Like eating venison.

So thanks, Kat, for commenting on that post and asking what you did.  You inspired this post.

Once upon a time, I didn't eat venison, wasn't around people who ate venison, and when I met DH and (eventually) he offered to cook me dinner, which was venison, it seemed like a strange and exotic food.  As the years went by, and we had land available to hunt on without traveling for hours to get there, venison became a staple in our diet.  To the point that I eat more venison than I do beef (which is saying a lot, since I love beef!).  And I forget that once upon a time, like most people, I had no idea what to do with a deer's worth of meat (anywhere from 40-80 pounds of meat, usually).

We process our own deer rather than send them somewhere else to be cut into tidy packages of meat ready for the freezer.  Through the years we've experimented with different ways of cutting the meat, but have realized there are some things we just aren't fond of.  Like venison soup, made with bones.  So we don't save those anymore.  Or venison roasts, which are kind of dry since venison is a very lean meat.  So we don't cut part of the deer into roasts.  What we do end up with are five 'kinds' of meat: steaks, stew meat, jerky meat, tenderloins & backstraps, and ground venison.

The largest muscles we cut into steaks. Typically these are the large ones in the hindquarters (more specifically, the muscles you would think of as the 'butt'). The smaller ones of the hindquarters and the larger shoulder muscles of the front quarters (plus the ends of the large muscles that would make too tiny of a steak), we cut into 1" chunks for stew.   Some long, tender strips of meat, (from anywhere on the deer) are set aside to be made into jerky. The 'outer loins', or backstraps, which are the two muscles that run along the left and right sides of the spinal column, are cut into half, giving us four good sized hunks of meat.  The 'inner loins', or tenderloins (the two muscles running along the 'bottom' side of the spinal column which is inside the rib cage of the deer) are usually the first things eaten after a deer is harvested--they never make it to the freezer. Tenderloins are the most awesome cut of venison you could ever eat. And everything else gets run through the meat grinder, twice (usually a coarse grind plate the first time, and a finer plate on the second grind) and made into venison burger.

What do I do with it from there?

Well, the tenderloins are so tender, and narrow, that we just cut them into 1" wide pieces and saute up with some onions and garlic and eat for breakfast.  A little salt and pepper before they go into the pan, and then you just stir them around until the onions are soft (and the loins are still pink inside).  You don't want your loins cooked well done because that makes them tough and chewy.

The backstraps are reserved for grilling.  In our house it is sacrilege to pan fry or bake a backstrap!  Like the tenderloins, you want them to be rare to medium rare for the best flavor and texture.  A loin cooked until it is brown all the way through is like eating leather.  No matter whether we are grilling the backstrap as a whole piece of meat, or cutting it into 'filet mignon', I like to season it liberally with garlic powder and onion powder, and then a lessor amount of pepper and seasoning salt, then let the spices soak into the meat for at least 30 minutes before grilling.

The steaks we typically pan fry; seasoning first with seasoning salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder, then coating lightly with flour and pounding (with the edge of a plate) on both sides to tenderize the meat.  You can use either olive oil or lots of butter in the frying pan to fry the meat in.  Either one tastes good.

Other than that, I use the venison exactly like you would cook any similar cut of beef.  Steaks can be cut into smaller chunks and used in shish kebabs.  Or substituted for beef in the round steak and brown gravy recipe my mom gave me decades ago:

3 pounds beef round steak (or similar amount of venison steak)
1/3 cup flour
3 Tbsp shortening
salt
pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup water

Cut the meat into serving size chunks (or, if the steaks are relatively small, leave them uncut), and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Dust with the flour, then  pound meat (I use the edge of a plate). Flip the meat over, dust with the flour again, and pound at a 90 degree angle to how you pounded the first side.

In a skillet, melt the shortening over medium heat.  Add the meat, turning once to brown both side.  Mix soup, water, and onion powder in a mixing bowl, and pour over meat.  Simmer, covered, for approximately 1.5 hours.  Serve over cooked rice, noodles, or with mashed potatoes.

Stew meat can be used just like beef stew meat.  And ground venison is just like, yep, you guessed it, ground beef.  With the exception that ground venison is super lean and when you start with a pound of raw meat, you will end up with a pound of cooked meat.  A quarter-pound venison patty will still be a quarter-pound when it's cooked and served on a burger bun.  Very filling!  More bang for your buck (ha, ha, get it?  A hunting/venison pun!).

One other muscle that we eat, that I didn't mention when describing how we process our deer, is the heart.  Since it is taken out, along with all the other internal organs, during the field dressing process, I forget to include it as a cut of meat.  Here is our recipe for pickled heart, or it is also good thin sliced and sauteed up like the tenderloins.

For some other venison recipes I have posted in the past, check out this one for a soup not made with bones(!), this one using stew meat, this one for sloppy joes.  Like I said, you can substitute venison in pretty much any recipe that calls for beef.  You can use ground venison in meatloaf, in meatballs, in spaghetti or lasagna, in chili, in goulash, in Hamburger Helper, in stroganoff. . . the possibilities are endless.  We also use it to make summer sausage and hunter sticks, although those are DH's secret recipes that he is still developing--along with his perfect jerky recipe--and I'm not even privy to what all ingredients (and amounts of those ingredients) are in them, so I can't share that info (yet).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.40: Did/Didn't

Happy Wednesday!  It is a beautiful, sunny, autumn day at this little place here, with about half of the trees finally showing their fall colors.  I am joining Ginny this afternoon for this week's Yarn Along.


In the past seven days I haven't done much knitting.  I've done a lot of riding (five times!), some badly needed cleaning/purging of the mudroom closet, the big monthly grocery shopping, dug four rows of potatoes, and helped DH retrieve and process the buck he harvested on Friday night, among other things (like, say, work, cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry, etc.), but I haven't hardly knit at all.

I did finish the first of the striped socks I am making for my Dad's Christmas present.  Well, finished if you don't count the fact that I need to weave in all those ends still.


What I didn't do is knit more than the cast on and first nine rows of the second sock.  I'll have to put in more knitting time in the coming week if I want to finish this pair on schedule (the end of October).

I did finish the book I was reading last week, The Year I Met You.  I really enjoyed the story, and recommend it if you want something that is light and easy to read, yet makes you think a bit too.

I didn't start a new book yet.  I've been reading selected articles in the current issue of Dressage Today magazine instead.


Monday, October 17, 2016

A Romantic Night in Deer Season. . .

I had plans for last Friday night.  They went something like this:

DH would get home from work early enough to bow hunt in the evening (his goal). While he was out hunting, I would prepare a nice dinner of salad, lasagna and garlic bread.  Once darkness fell, and he returned from the woods, we would have an enjoyable, relaxing dinner accompanied by a bottle of Merlot I had bought just for that evening.  When dinner was over, he would help me wash the dishes, which he does about half the time now that all the kids are moved out and the dishwasher is (again) broken. After that, we could watch a DVD, or play a game, or who knows what might happen (a favorite dinner and a bottle of wine, you know). . .



How Friday night really went down:

DH came home from work early enough to go hunting.  I began dinner preparations, starting with the salad and moving on to browning the meat and boiling the noodles for the lasagna.

About the time I put the (frozen) ground beef on the stove to cook and put a pot of water on to boil for the noodles, my cell phone rang.  It was DH. How unusual, because he doesn't talk on the phone while he's hunting; normally he would text if he needed something or wanted to share with me something he'd seen in the woods.

I answered my phone in a whisper, as is the appropriate volume for talking to someone who is hunting.

"I just shot a nice eight point.  I'm coming in.  Is dinner ready?" Came DH's not quiet voice in my ear. "We'll eat, then we can go out and track him after he's had a chance to pile up."  Pile up meaning collapse and die.  Don't want to track too soon and end up chasing the injured deer around. Better to let it lay down peacefully and bleed out.

A deer!  Fresh venison!  Oh joy!  Meat for the freezer!

Unfortunately, as I had just then started the actual cooking of lasagna ingredients, dinner was an hour off yet, going by the original time table of it not being dark enough for DH to return to the house until about 7:45 p.m. There's really no way to hurry a lasagna when you're making it from scratch.

So DH returned to the house, all jittery and full of post-deer shooting adrenaline. I continued my dinner preparations while he paced the kitchen and recounted (about three times) the story of spying and shooting this buck.  As I was finishing layering the lasagna and sliding the baking dish into the oven, he decided that he just couldn't wait any longer and he was going to go track his deer for the thirty minutes remaining until dinner was ready.

Even though his shot was a little further back than he had initially thought, it was a good clean kill shot, and it only took him about fifteen minutes of following the blood trail to find his deer, laying head first against a tree and most definitely dead.  Satisfied that it wasn't going to be lost if he went in and ate dinner, he returned to the house, suddenly ravenously hungry now that the adrenaline was wearing off (and it being an hour past our usual dinner time when he's not hunting).

So we did have our nice dinner of salad, lasagna, super garlicky garlic bread (when you make your own, you can put in the perfect amount of garlic, LOL) and that wine.  Although we only had one serving each of everything, then it was out to the woods to retrieve that buck!

Being as the tractor is currently out of order (ahem, I broke it the weekend before.  Actually, the snap ring in the right front axle broke, but it happened to be me driving the tractor when that happened and the wheel fell off. . .) we hitched up the wood hauler trailer to our 4-wheeler and drove that out to get the deer.  We had to park that in the southeast corner of our woods road, and walk in about 100 yards to get the buck. Bumbling along in the pitch black darkness of the woods with just little flashlights (so as to not scare off any wildlife in residence), DH led and I followed, trying to neither trip on fallen trees or roots nor get whacked in the face by branches or brambles.  Oh what a romantic evening!

But wait, it gets even more romantic!  Once DH had brought me to where his deer lie, I got to aim my flashlight beam on the deer's nether regions and hold the buck's hind legs apart while DH got down to the business of field dressing it.  Because we'd all ready decided that with the number of downed trees we'd had to step over on our way from the woods road to the deer, there was no way we were going to drag that thing back to the trailer and haul it to the edge of the field (where the light of the full moon could be utilized) before gutting it.  That thing was too long and weighed too much for DH to pick up by himself and heft over fallen logs, and I wasn't going to be much help trying to hold a flashlight (so I didn't trip over stuff) and heft half the weight of a deer with one hand at the same time.

Once the buck was hollow inside (in other words, gutted), DH attached his drag harness to the deer and himself, and began towing the deer through the woods, with me walking beside and helping to lift the carcass whenever we came to a downed tree across our path.  Huffing and puffing,and only arguing a little, we finally made it to the waiting 4-wheeler and trailer, where we hefted the deer onto the trailer and headed back to the house.

On the ride home, sitting on the trailer beside the buck, I couldn't resist taking a few pictures.  Which, being cell phone pictures at night, mostly came out lousy.  So you don't get to see how cool the full moon actually was.  And you only get kind of spooky looking pics from my view on the trailer.

riding through the field in the dark


my silent and lifeless traveling companion

When we had the deer at the house, we had to hang it off the back deck in order to reach it with the hose to rinse out.  What with gutting it before removing it from the woods, we weren't sure what kind of debris may  have gotten into the open abdominal cavity while dragging it to the trailer.  Typically we can drive the tractor pretty close to where a deer lies and just toss it into the tractor bucket, not worrying about how much it weighs, and allow the tractor to carry it to where ever we are going to dress it.  Boy, it would have been nice to have the tractor usable.  Perhaps someone shouldn't have broken it.  Isn't this romantic?

The tractor is nice not just for the hauling of the deer, but for easier hanging.  You can just let the hydraulics lift the loader bucket (and the deer) as high as needs be.  Not so when all you've got is a couple middle aged married people, and a deer prone on a trailer maybe two feet off the ground.

Between DH and I, and a little help from an extra rope, the header on the deck, and the 4-wheeler, we did manage to hoist that buck up high enough to get his rear off the ground so that he wouldn't be sitting in the runoff water from washing his insides. (Yes, yes we did tie a rope to it's antlers, throw the rope over the header, then tie off the other end to the 4-wheeler.  I got the honor of driving the quad ever so slowly forward while DH watched to see if the rope was going to break--and hopefully catch the deer if that happened--before the leverage we'd created lifted the deer high enough to tie the original rope off to one of the posts).  Once the buck been washed, we had to lower him back onto the trailer, and drive him to the barn where the gambrel and scale are located.  At the barn, we had to hoist him again, although we didn't have to pick him up very far to be high enough to attach to the hook on the rope hanging in the barn rafters, and from there a pulley system made for easier lifting.

All said and done, DH's 8-point buck weighed in at 150 pounds, dressed. Not bad at all.

We did end up drinking that bottle of wine.  It just didn't happen until after 11 p..m., which was what time it was when we came inside the house to clean ourselves up, put away the dinner leftovers that still sat on the table, and really be done working for the night.  The bottle was barely finished and our eyes were barely still open before we crawled into bed and fell asleep.

So much for romance.  But then again, romance and deer season are kind of mutually exclusive.  You gotta feel the love in the teamwork of dressing and hanging a freshly harvested deer because that's about as close to romance as you're going to get.




Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.39: Stripes!

I'm joining Ginny this afternoon for the weekly Yarn Along.

Moving right along on my stripe-y socks for Dad's Christmas present.  Sock number one is full of stripes, and nearly ready for the toe decreases.  I predict it will be off the needles by the end of the week.  There are tons of ends to weave in once that happens, then it will be on to sock number two!


I've been taking copious notes as I go about inventing this striped sock pattern, so hopefully the second sock will turn out identical to the first.



I'm also indulging in another Cecelia Ahern book; this one is The Year I Met You.  I am liking it very much so far.  But then again, I have yet to meet a book by Cecelia Ahern that I didn't like.  They are a perfect mix of ordinary every day gritty life and innocent fancifulness, and are always easy to read.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Aubergine

Every so often, I will get a few eggplant seedlings and grow them in my garden.  Most of the family isn't too hot on eggplant, so I just grow it for me, and once every few years seems to be enough.

I love the color of eggplants.  I like how versatile they are for cooking; how, like zucchini, they don't have much taste of their own and thus take on the flavor of whatever you cook them with--spices, tomato sauce, cheese. . .

What I like most about eggplant is the name they go by on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean:   Aubergine.  It just has such a lovely sound.  Much more exotic and appealing than 'eggplant'.

This growing season has been one that I snuck some eggplant seedlings into the garden.  And, with our hot summer and then regular rains since mid-August, those seedlings grew really well.  I have harvested a few beautiful, heavy, purple veggies (or, are they fruits?   I think, like tomatoes, which they are related to, that they are technically fruit) in the last couple of weeks.

They look so lovely sitting on the counter.




They taste so good in recipes such as cheesy baked eggplant or eggplant parmigiana.  And, apparently, you can slice, blanch, and freeze them for making yummy eggplant dishes when summer is over.  I think I am going to try that with one of these, since with only DH and I home, the dishes I've cooked have only required one eggplant instead of the 2-3 I needed when the kids were younger and all at home. DH doesn't like it quite enough to eat it regularly, and I wouldn't want my pretty aubergines to go to waste!


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.38: Making It Up As I Go

Happy Yarn Along Day!  I'm joining Ginny today to see what everyone is knitting/crocheting and reading.

First, I have two finished objects to show off.  I did get DD2's Stylish Squares lapghan done in time to mail off for her birthday--which is tomorrow.  She texted me on yesterday that the package had arrived, and did it have food in it?  Since I said no, no food included (sometimes I home baked treats), she is waiting for her birthday to get here before she opens the box.  So she has no idea what is in there, and I am dying of suspense to see what her reaction will be to her new squishy, big, colorful blanket.

It did turn out pretty big; not quite as long as a twin bed, but at least six inches wider (I know, because my original intent was to use her empty bed here at home to block it on). A perfect size for her to wrap up in on cold winter U.P. nights while she studies or does homework.

In my haste to get it packaged up and sent off on it's journey to her, I didn't get any pictures of it completed.  But I do have a nice one that shows off the colors pretty accurately, so I'll share that one.



I also completed the dish cloth I was making last week for my chicken-themed kitchen.  Can you see the rooster design?


I have to confess I don't bother to block dish cloths, I just put them to use immediately after they are made.  It's not like I'm going to take the time to block them after each trip through the washing machine anyway.

Now I am working on my October sock project, which will be a Christmas present for my Dad.  I am making the pattern up as I go; using a basic ribbed sock recipe, plus my favorite heel, and adding in stripes. So far I have the cuff and roughly a quarter of the leg of one sock done.  Pretty soon I need to do some math, because I have a vision for how I want the heel area to turn out in terms of what color heel and how that is going to tie in with the stripes, but I also want to vary the widths of each pair of stripes (a stripe in the main color and a stripe in the contrast color constituting a 'pair').  So I will have to do a little figuring as to what color I need to be at (and how wide of a stripe) when I get to the part where I divide for the heel.

In the meantime, here is a picture of my progress so far:



I am using Knit Picks Comfy fingering in Douglas Fir for the main color, and Ivory for the contrast color.  Because, you see, my Dad is a Michigan State fan (MSU's colors are green and white).  When I knit him a pair of socks last year--the first I've made for him, I chose what I thought was a nice manly color that wouldn't be too wild: dark blue.  And he loved them, except, he said, why did I make him University of Michigan socks? (U of M is maize & blue);  now he wouldn't be able to wear them on game days. (Being that MSU and U of M are rivals).  So, I decided that the next pair of socks I made for him would be in MSU Spartan colors and that since they would be both green and white, they would not be tame; they would be a bit wild and garish.  Which means that I can't hardly just choose a width of stripe and repeat it throughout the entire sock. No, I need different widths of stripes, and the stripes need to extend from cuff to toe.


In the midst of this crazy custom sock making, I have started reading another Amish murder mystery: A Perfect Square by Vannetta Chapman.  It's enjoyable so far, and since I've liked all her other mysteries I've read, I expect to like this one too.



Monday, October 3, 2016

Lard Restocked

For many years, I had access to pig fat and would render it down into lard.  Lard makes great pie crusts and cookies, among other things.  But then Mother-in-law stopped raising hogs (sister-in-law took over, but only raising one or two for her son to take to the Fair as a 4-H project) and I no longer had a 'lard connection'.

It's been a few years since my supply of home rendered lard ran out.  I had gone back to using vegetable shortening (since lard at the store has preservatives in it to make it shelf stable), but we missed the texture lard brings to baked goods.

So, when DH found out that (for some reason) his mother had raised a hog this year, he requested the when she had it butchered, she please save the fat for me. Visions of luscious, flaky pie crusts danced in his head.

Guess what I was given last week.  If you said 'pig fat', you're right.  A whole plastic grocery bag full of pig fat.



Which I spent most of Saturday (with the exception of the two hours I slept in, and the other two hours I was away having a super awesome riding lesson) rendering into lard.

I ended up doing the rendering in two batches; one before my riding lesson, and one after.  The picture below shows the color difference between the cooled lard (first batch, on the left) and the hot lard as I filled jars while making the second batch (on the right).




The method I used is the same one I blogged about in this post, way back in 2012, which apparently is the last year I had pig fat from Mother-in-law.

My rendering this time yielded 10 pints (or, a gallon plus a quart) of finished lard.  With just DH and I home, and a whole lot less food being consumed, that lard ought to last a good while.  I'd say a year, at least.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.37: Moving Forward, Going Back

I'm joining Ginny this rainy, autumnal afternoon for this week's Yarn Along.


I'm nearly finished with the Stylish Squares lapghan; should be binding off tonight.  Then there will be many ends to weave in, and blocking, and it will be ready to mail off in time for DD2's birthday next week.  I know she's going to love it.  Not just because of the blue, but because last weekend her sister saw it, and immediately said "I love it!  I want it!"  Now, if Miss Purple (DD1) loves that blue lapghan, I know Miss Blue (DD2) is definitely going to love it.

(And I'm wondering if I should try to track down more of the same yarns and make an identical one for DD1, or maybe look for similar yarns in purples and make one, or just let it go and hope she forgets about it. . . .)

Also in the picture above is the beginnings of this month's dish cloth.  I found a skein of sage colored cotton in my stash, and since it perfectly matches the color of my kitchen, I decided that September's dish cloth is going to be for me.  What could be better for my chicken-themed sage-colored kitchen than a sage colored dish cloth with a rooster design? Rodney the Rooster   is a pattern I'd found on Ravelry and downloaded several years ago.  Unfortunately, when I checked today (to copy the link), it seems to no longer be available there.



Those two items are my forward progress.  Notice that I don't have DH's Decathlon stripey sock in any photos today.  That one is the 'going back' part of this post.  I decided to undo the heel flap, deal with the questionable section of yarn, and set that project aside for a while.  I had originally planned to make DH's socks in September, leaving October and November to make two other pair of socks that will be gifted at Christmas time.  October is nearly here, the yarn in the Decathlon sock isn't working right (see last week's yarn along post for a lament about that), DH has no idea I'm making him socks (and any time I've asked him in the past if he wanted me to knit him something, he's always responded apathetically), I'm tired to messing with this particular yarn, and I'd rather start my October socks instead.

Being as I need the needles in the Decathlon sock for making the socks I have planned as my October project, I have unknit the heel flap, and will put the remaining stitches on stitch holders.  Maybe if the October socks knit up quick enough (and I think they will) I'll tackle the Decathlon socks again.  Or not.  I haven't been crazy about the feel of that particular yarn ever since I cast it on back in August.  With the current problem of the thickness being inconsistent and not keeping the correct gauge, I'm pretty disillusioned with it.  It's only saving grace at the moment is the masculine color scheme, and the fact that I have no other wool fingering in manly colors to make socks for DH with.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

DNR Stories

I am blessed in that my children never stopped talking to me.  Not in that hateful middle school phase, not in the independent-don't-need-no-family-just-friends high school phase, and not even in the whole new world of college phase.  Sure, now that they are adults I don't see and talk to them on a daily basis, but when something is troubling them, or when something excites them, they will call and tell me about it.

This past summer, DD2 lived here at home while she worked her summer job at a nearby state park.  Working there made her an official DNR (Department of Natural Resources) employee.  The DNR spans the wide realm from being someone who sells day or annual passes to visitors at the state parks, to being a Conservation Officer.  There are tons of people working for the DNR who do all the tasks in between. Be it recreational, environmental, ecological, flora, fauna, nautical. . . if it's outdoors, or has to do with the outdoors (lots of lab work too) there is a DNR person doing it.

Hardly a week went by this summer when DD2 didn't share with me some interesting experience she had at work.  From counting goslings on the beach (and cleaning up goose poop), to chasing people off the beach after dark (when the beach area is closed), to finding a Luna moth in the campground shower while cleaning it, to trying to rid the dumpster area of marauding raccoons, it seemed like there was always something she wanted to tell me about.  Some of it was fun--like trying to bait and catch raccoons with her fellow summer workers, some of it was reaffirming--like the generosity of the campground hosts who gifted her several times a month with things like freshly made salsa or ice cream on a hot summer evening, some of it just made us both shake our heads--like the night a group of 10-13 year old kids staying at the campground with their parents snuck away from their campsite and tried to vandalize the DNR truck (DD2 enjoyed catching, and scaring the bejeezuz out of, them).

Typically DD2 worked the 'night' shift, going in at 4:00 in the afternoon and getting off work at 12:30 a.m.  She worked mainly in the campground not just doing office work (like selling camping permits and firewood), but also maintenance (bathroom and shower cleaning), as well as walking the campground loops several times a night dealing with noise complaints and other issues.  Also included in her tasks were to check the local boat access sites that 'belonged to' her state park.

Those boat access sites were usually deserted after dark, but not always.  One night a group of elderly people (apparently there were more than a few who were in their 70's and even 80's) thought it would be fun to go skinny dipping at one of the access sites.  Which probably wouldn't have been a big deal, and they probably wouldn't have gotten caught had one of them not nearly drowned.  The stress from the near drowning brought on a heart attack, and one of the skinny dippers never made it home.  So, there was that interesting story the next day (after wondering why, at 1:30 a.m. DD2 hadn't come home from work yet).

Another boat access site check in mid-summer yielded a drug bust that left DD2 shaking her head at the stupidity of some people.  She had been making the nightly rounds with the park ranger on duty and had been the one to notice a vehicle parked in one of the access sites.  Three hours later, she had quite a story to tell of how she had assisted in detaining two people until more rangers could arrive (the vehicle's occupants were both arrested), how much 'evidence' was collected, and how her name had been credited on the paperwork reporting the incident.  As a mom, I'm really glad I didn't know in advance how much of an issue drugs (marijuana, mostly) are in the area and that my 18 year old daughter's job as a seasonal temporary worker at the state park would regularly involve detecting campers with pot.  I'd thought it would be mostly boring tasks like cleaning pit toilets, restocking toilet paper, raking the beach area, cleaning out fire pits, and selling park passes and campsite permits.  But several times a week she came home with stories of dealing with campers in the possession of pot (which is illegal to possess in the state parks, medical marijuana card or not).

I swear, the experiences she had this summer would make an interesting book.

Even though she's back at college, those DNR experiences haven't come to an end.  She was able to get a transfer from the state park she worked at all summer to the one closest her college, so she's still on the job, although now it's weekend days instead of five nights a week.  Thankfully, drugs seem to be virtually nonexistent at her new place of employment.  I mean, DD2 is a sturdy girl and can be imposing (she's not petite, being 5' 10" tall and built like a farmhand) but as a Mom it still worries me what she might run into.

Her latest adventures she relays to me are of the animal, not illegal substance, kind.  Apparently her new state park is also a DNR hunting check station.  And September is black bear hunting season there.

Almost two weeks ago I got a very excited phone call from her on her way home from work, which she started by saying "Guess what happened at work today?  I have blood all over my hands!"  Realizing how that could be taken the wrong way, (I guess she remembered the midnight phone call I'd gotten from her back in June that started with "Hey Mom, do you want a freshly killed buck?  Should I gut it and bring it home?"  that in my groggy state of being awoken from a sound sleep made me panic that she'd hit the deer on her way home from work, rather than that one had been hit on the road leading to the state park and she recognized the opportunity for good fresh venison) she quickly assured me that it wasn't her blood.  In fact, it wasn't human blood at all, but bear blood.

The ranger on duty with her that day had had her help when hunters brought their bears to the check station.  Being as she is a Wildlife Ecology major, he thought that she might find it interesting to see what sorts of things are done to officially record a harvested game animal with the DNR.  Not only did he have her observe and fill out the paperwork, but on the second bear, he had her do the actual check and tagging of the bear, which includes pulling a premolar in order to age the animal.  Which is how she got bear blood all over her hands.

Last weekend she got to check in another bear, the biggest one--at (I believe she said) 260 pounds dressed weight--she's seen yet.  It's really cool to listen to her recall what she's seen and done.  From the elderly "lady as old as Grandma (who is 72) and just as little" to the "15 year old girl who shot her first bear!  Imagine, your first bear; at home everyone gets excited about shooting their first deer!", she is adding even more stories to that potential book.  Not to mention all great experiences and skills to put on her resume.