Thursday, February 27, 2014

second thoughts

"I know I said I was done with that, but it's kinda chilly today...
do you think we could stick it back onto me somehow?"

It was 2F (-17C) when I got up this morning, but since Acer has chosen to spend most of the day outside, I feel confident he is not too cold. He's actually still wearing quite a bit of his cashmere, and this morning I didn't even comb the pieces that were sticking out of his topcoat, in case he could hang onto them a little longer. Of course, he's probably rubbing them off on a fence right now.

All the goats - and the hens - get extra feed when it's really cold, partly for the extra calories but also for general encouragement. In tough weather, I'd rather have the goats waste a little more hay by playing in over-filled troughs, than have them run out of hay at any point. So it's extra grub all around.

Piper and I have extra grub too, in solidarity.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

this and that

The sky can be a phenomenal blue in New England winters. So deep. When I was little, I used to have one particular marble that was like a cloud-streaked, deep blue sky. It was my favorite "shooter." It looked a lot like this sky:

Of course even with a brilliant blue sky it's still February, offering all the weather-weariness that February typically entails. Snow, trudge. Ice, creep. Wind, duck. But what the heck, that's to be expected in this neck of the woods. I know it's coming, and that's why I try very hard not to start grumbling in December or January.
Got to pace myself!

I got mail today for the first time since the most recent storm, when some rather thoughtless person plowed a huge snowberg next to the end of my driveway. No one could get within six horizontal feet or four vertical feet of my letterbox. I had to call the Post Office and ask to have my mail held, because the intrepid and lovely rural carrier could not be expected to put on crampons and hoist an ice pick every day just to deliver my 99% Instant Recycling. 

But today, as you see, there are packages!
Oh, I do love packages in the letterbox.

Getting ready:

With the bitter weather I've been advising the goats to hang onto their cashmere for as long as they can this year, but soon I'll be spending a couple of hours every day just combing goats. Cashmere fiber is their winter undercoat - their "long johns" so to speak - and once they start to shed, it has to be combed or it will be gone with the wind.

About ten days ago, Acer began to show tufts of cashmere sticking through his topcoat, so I started spending an extra ten, then fifteen, now twenty minutes every morning, lightly combing while he eats his breakfast. Acer, like his mom, is a predominantly black goat, and in this picture, the black hairs are topcoat and the lighter "fluff" is the cashmere:

Mmmmmm. Cashmere.
I don't know why Acer is so much earlier than the others this year. I'm going to keep an eye on him, in case he needs a jacket!

Speaking of winter garments, here is the rather surprising result of my first foray into knitted hat reconstruction:

I know, it's okay, you can say it...nothing like the Harriet Vane hat, right? 

Lifelines still in the hat at this point,
just in case I decided to rip it back again!

I first went off trail when I realized there would not be enough blue yarn to finish the tam, so I inserted the brown stripes. Then I got kind of fascinated by the way the gathers were forming, and instead of continuing to make a flat platter that would become a big tam, I decided to make a loose, gathered cap on top, and make a second, solid-color tam next time.

The process of experimenting with shaping taught me quite a bit, I think. For the next Harriet Vane Tam Reconstruction attempt, I will have a better idea of how much yarn is needed, which type of increase and decrease stitches to use, and so on. I ripped out and reknit these increases twice - and the decreases three times - before I was satisfied. Although it was fun and educational...maybe next time I can do it all in one go? Place your bets!

And now it's night time. Chores done.
Piper curled up and talking in her sleep.
Time for a nice beverage and an audiobook.
Last night I was chilled to the bone and experimented: a mug of hot milk with a bit of brown sugar and a good splash of rum. I'm not absolutely sure it was good, so tonight I'd better make it again but in a much bigger mug, don't you think?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

recalling color

This is an old/new post. 

I'm borrowing a post-full of color from last March, when I put up these images as a Wordless Wednesday.
I hope if you remember them, you won't mind seeing them again. 
But then, who could mind an eyeful of such luscious color?

The original post recently began garnering a lot of anonymous nonsensical comments - hundreds per day - so I reluctantly took it down a few weeks ago. 
But now I'm glad, because it gives me a reason to put it back up today!  

P.S. Thank you so much for your comments on the previous post.
Much appreciated!
P.P.S. Because I am effectively republishing the original post, I think the original comments are going to come along too. Interesting!
P.P.P.S. This morning I ordered SEEDS!


Thursday, February 20, 2014


Drama can be so boring.

In the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot of breakdown here. I don't automatically replace or repair anything that breaks. My first response is to step back and consider whether or not I really need the item. Needs change.

Unfortunately, lately, some of the breakdown has been equipment I rely on. For example, in one day alone, the oven, the humidifier, and the goatcam went wonky.

Each of these malfunctions was a bit bizarre. In the middle of the night, I suddenly realized the oven cooling fan was running. First I thought I had left the oven on all night - which would have been bad enough! - but no, just the fan was running for no apparent reason. The only way I could stop it was to shut the power off at the breaker box. And then go back to bed.

I woke at daybreak with a splitting headache and gritty eyes.The humidifier, which is essential equipment here in the winter, was humming along as usual...but it wasn't actually putting any moisture into the air. Ugh. Groggy but determined, I investigated immediately, and somehow managed to pour a graceful arc of water directly onto the corner of my bed. The corner of the bed, mind...meaning I soaked as much inaccessible area of the bed as possible per ounce of water. I wasn't groggy for long, that's for sure!

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may recall when I bought the goatcam last year.

The camera sends live images to my laptop, and I have described it to many other livestock folk as "my best improvement of 2013." It took a little time to set it up initially, but it has been well worth the effort. A hugely valuable tool.

So when the screen suddenly went black - much like the control panel of the oven a few hours earlier - there was no question that I would have to get it working again, or replace it as soon as possible; certainly before kidding season.

It took a lot of downloading, uninstalling, reinstalling, and finally the assistance of the Best Technical Support Person EVER, but the goatcam is now working normally again - yay!

Let's focus on that success for a moment, shall we? 
Goatcam is working!!!  YAY!!! 

The humidifier is sort-of working, if I fuss with it every day. Good enough, til I can drive to the store and buy a new filter in hopes that will do the trick. And a new humidifier if it doesn't. Breathing is really important to me.

The oven...well. The repair estimate is almost $400, and replacement would be over $1100. My adventures in baking have just come to a halt.

Oh, well.
It was fun while it lasted.
Welcome back to the countertop, my dear old crockpot! And at least now I can stop thinking about getting a breadbox. My wall oven makes a very effective breadbox. Luxurious, even.

Beyond these examples of equipment failure, there is of course the weather-related stuff. I've been trying to focus only on the beauty of the snow and ice (and more snow, and more snow and more snow and ice). And the fact that I have running water, which I do not take for granted. And multiple bucket de-icers, which means I now only have to carry water once daily - a wonderful improvement, implemented just a couple of weeks ago! But there's no denying that everything has become physically more difficult, and some things are impossible. Routine chores are exhausting.

But that's okay, that's fine. A daily dose of exhaustion is probably good for me? It's the animals I feel sorry for. They all have adequate shelter and food, but they are bored. The snow has been so deep, for so long now. The toughest hens won't leave the Poultry Palace, and even the most intrepid goats won't venture out of their shelters for more than a few steps. I've waded into the paddock to break trail for the four girls several times, but even in my "path" the snow is still belly-deep on the adults, and chest-deep on the youngsters. Not fun. Not good. They won't do it, and I don't blame them one bit.

The older doe and both boys are in the little barn, and none of them - not even the bold Betula! - will go down the ramps and into their big paddock. They did it once, a few snowstorms ago, but turned right around and came back in and that's where they've been ever since. Three big healthy goats in one big stall, 24/7, for days on end. A lot of pent-up energy is gathering in Goat World, and I wish there was something I could do about it.

Speaking of goats (you'll see the connection in a second), the car has been buried for nine days now. I've tried three times to excavate and move it to a cleared space - because ironically, the long driveway has been ploughed repeatedly (ka-ching!) - but I can't shovel much these days, and some serious shoveling is required to free the Little Green Sportswagon. Hoping for the Big Thaw to help with that one, I'm afraid. And I wasn't worried about this until yesterday, when I opened my last bale of hay and discovered I don't like the look of it. Usually, this would mean a quick trip to a local fellow, just a couple of miles away, and cramming three bales into the back of my hardworking Hyundai wagon. Now I'm wondering if I could get one bale on my little plastic sled and pull it home. Sounds very jolly and little-house-on-the-prairie, but honestly? Not so much. And I don't think I could take Piper (which would probably be so much fun from her perspective that it would make the endeavor seem almost practical) because there are so many unpredictable and loose dogs along the way. I'll have to give it more thought in the morning, when I can take a better look at that last bale and decide whether or not to feed it out.

Of course, it's "morning" already - about 4am - but this is the comfortable part of morning, when I don't have to do anything but think. And blog  ;)

None of these little glitches is important in the grand scheme of things, it's more that the cumulative effect is a bit wearing. It's like the way my computer has become ominously sloooow. And the way Blogger suddenly started bouncing us all to the top of a post every time we try to "reply" at the bottom. (I've now switched to a separate page for comments, which eliminates the bounce but means I can't respond directly to a comment...which I miss.) Or the way Google Chrome is suddenly having a problem running Shockwave Flash, which means a banner across nearly every page I look at, and a lot of sidebar gadgets that are now frozen boxes. (When all else failed, I decided to try using Explorer for blogs now.) Unfortunately, in the midst of all these computer shenanigans, all the personalized font and view settings on my laptop have disappeared, and it is proving difficult to get everything back to read-able again...will carry on, though! Must have my blogs.

And if you, lovely readers and fellow bloggers, have persevered to the end of this post, I hope you have a perfect day with no glitches whatsoever!

Monday, February 17, 2014

work in progress

Sunrise this morning, through my bedroom window.

I'll just have to take my word for it.

That white spot behind the icicles?
That's the sun.
I swear.

I've not been very energetic or productive recently. It would be easy to withdraw further into a huddled sense of "waiting out" this weather. But I'm dodging that attitude by having a little knitting "wip" (work in progress) near to hand. If I feel restless or anxious or dull, I can always pick up the knitting and know that I am doing something potentially useful while listening to audiobooks or watching DVDs in the evening.

It was an old BBC episode of Lord Peter Wimsey that set me off on my current project. Do you know the stories by Dorothy L. Sayers? The wonderful actor Ian Carmichael was the Lord Peter Wimsey, I think, but this particular episode, Have His Carcase, was part of a 1987 BBC series starring Edward Petherbridge as Lord Peter and Harriet Walter as Harriet Vane.

Harriet Vane apparently favored knitwear.
Lovely 1930s knitwear.

Did you notice the hat?

Now, here's a thing about knitters. 
At least some knitters. 
At least this knitter.

I often become fascinated by knitted articles I cannot rationally justify making.

Whimsical tea cozies that will not fit my actual teapot.

Intricately-patterned mittens that could never, ever be worn to the barn.

Lacework shawls. Which I won't even link to, because we could be here all night.

I mean, really. Shawls. To say that I do not have a shawl-wearing lifestyle at the present time would be a significant understatement.

So while I deeply admire many knit designs and have saved about two thousand projects on Ravelry and Pinterest, I very rarely actually knit anything that does not have a clear purpose. Like socks. Or cotton washcloths. That sort of thing.

But the Harriet Vane hat...

it spoke to me. 

I stopped the DVD, went back and played the "hat scenes" over and over. I took a few screenshots. I did a pattern search on Ravelry for "tam," and found many, including one that I intend to knit soon. But I didn't find the exact Harriet Vane hat. I started a thread, tapping into the power of the Rav hivemind to come up with specific pattern suggestions. As a result, I looked at dozens of patterns, hundreds of project photos, learning more about this style of hat but still not finding the elements that would make it identical to Harriet's hat.

Then...I stepped back and thought about those elements. I started looking really closely at the screenshots, and trying to determine how - exactly - it was constructed. This process is called "reverse engineering," and it is not one of my strong points, knitting-wise. In fact, I don't think I've ever done it before.

Crikey, what fun!
Make a few notes!
Cast on!
See what happens!

As you can already see, I'm no longer married to the idea of an identical hat - and by the way, I don't even know who I am knitting this hat for - but I am shooting for the overall effect, and am very curious to see how close I will come.

Knitting tip! Do you see that white thread (actually dental floss) on the tapestry needle? In knitters' jargon, it's called a "lifeline." This is a handy technique to use any time there is a good possibility that you will have to rip back a section of work and start again from that point.

Ripping back is easy. Some call it "tinking" because "tink" is the reverse of "knit." Heh. All you have to do is pull the needles out (gasp) of all the "live" stitches and then gently tug away those hours of labor. I mean stitches.

The tricky thing, after ripping back, is to get the "live" stitches back onto your needles. They shrink away, those little loops. They disappear, and they become "dropped stitches" which create more drama to be dealt with before you can even pick up where you left off and start again.

BUT. Could we rewind for a moment?

If you take just a few minutes to thread a strand of string, or thin yarn, or dental floss (my favorite) through each live stitch in one row while it is still on your needles, before anything goes wonky, just in case you may need to rip back and redo a section...

well, in that case, you end up with this:

a perfect and complete row of live stitches, held safely intact by the lifeline until you can ease the needles back into place.
And then you can carry on your merry, knitterly way. Tra-la!

I put a lifeline in last night, and tonight I ripped back a few inches of new knitting because I was not satisfied with the shaping of the decrease section that was beginning to form the crown of the hat. And now, after patting myself on the back for taking the time to put in the lifeline, I will put each stitch back on the needles and begin that section again, with a slightly different approach, and we shall see what happens.

The yarn feels lovely, The stitch definition is delightful. And so far, I am having fun playing around with the magic of shaping a three-dimensional piece of fabric by means of a simple stitch. 

It's a work in progress, and sometimes that's at least as important as the end result.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

And the winner is

...In Juneau! 

(Sounds like someone who can use  a woolen hat, right?)

InJuneau said...
Oh, I LOVE that goat sticking his tongue out; what a cutie!
And that is a gorgeous hat. I love handknits from other people and would love a chance to win it.
(my Rav ID is InJuneau)
February 6, 2014 at 1:18 PM  

Congratulations, In Juneau
Email your mailing address (or PM on Ravelry) and as soon as I can get out of my currently Klondike-ish driveway, I will drive to the Post Office and send your hat north. 

Way, way north! 



scenic saturday


Monday, February 10, 2014


We've had more snow.
Some of us are happy:

Others are not so thrilled.

This morning I tried to take a picture of LeShodu.

"Shodu, will you turn this way so I can take a nice picture?"


"Please? Just one picture of your pretty face?"
and I will now press my face against this wall
until you GO AWAY!"

"Hey! You can take my picture! I'm a happy goat!"

(Unfortunately, Betula's attempt to get my attention by swiping me with his hoof is NOT acceptable. Sigh. Everyone is just a little tired of the cold and snow. They are getting restless, and this is a perfect time for experimenting with Bad Habits. Which I will be fighting in August if I let them slide now. So I can't. 
Are you listening, Bet?)

Ah well. It's mid-February. 
Time to bring out the heavy artillery against Cabin Fever.

Which in this case, is laceweight.