Tuesday, September 30, 2014

a few brief updates

Book Report:

Have you ever read Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca"?

One day last week when I was searching my much-appreciated online regional library for an audiobook to download, "Rebecca" popped up as a recommendation. I read it for school when I was about 13 and a few images from the story have stayed with me, but not much of the plot detail. After checking the brief sample clip to be sure the narrator would be easy to listen to (for me, the narrator can make or break any audiobook), I downloaded the novel for knitting entertainment.


I'll tell you what.
This book is a stunner.
That Daphne du Maurier really knew
how to put the words together.
And the narrator, actress Anna Massey, was brilliant.

I've listened for an hour or so each evening, while working on the second(!) orange sock. And today, while listening to the final part of the book, I mindlessly knit an extra inch
on the foot of the sock.
Hundreds and hundreds of tiny (unnecessary) stitches.

That's a pretty good book!


Weather Report:

I have not been talking or writing or thinking about Autumn yet. This is not denial. I know it's right around the corner, and I'm already working hard to prep for the season that will come after it. No, I love Autumn and will welcome it gladly, but I've had a strong feeling that we have not seen the last of Summer.

And sure enough, for the past three days we've had mid-70s. Truly Hot. It's been hard to sleep; hot and stuffy even with all the windows open.
This isn't even Indian Summer...it's just 

Not Yet Autumn.


Gardening Report:

A friend generously offered some of her perennial plants for my new border garden. I was thrilled! We had a lovely time chatting while she thinned numerous spots in her vast and varied gardens.

There is some question as to the exact identity of several of my new plants, as their blooms are for the most part gone. But they include bee balm (possibly in two colors!) and echinacea and hyssop and several other things. Now all are planted either in the new border garden or in one of the small flower-and-veg beds between the barns. 

Tansy! I'm told it produces light yellow flowers.
It took me about 5 hours to get everything in the ground and watered. Now I hope the plants will have time to develop new roots and get snugged in for a good rest, in preparation for a revival in the Spring.


Piper Report:

Piper went into fits of serious barking several times last evening. There was clearly Something In The Woods, and Piper wanted to holler at it but not chase it off. I went out twice and walked around in the dark - which Piper always finds great fun! - but couldn't see or hear the mystery critter. The goats were upset, but not all facing into the woods and staring the way they do when they sense a threat - no, they were all staring at That Dog Is Scaring Us.

I know the feeling, goats. My heart pounds when Piper barks. She rarely barks at all, and when she does, it is very sudden!

The more typical Piper: Not Barking.


and a Follow-Up:

I should add a little more about the rock and root...apparently not the best subject for a wordless post, sorry!

Here's the story behind the pictures.
I was digging a hole for one of the new perennials in untilled, hardpack soil, removing roots and stones as I went along. The "plant-end" of the root in the pictures snapped when I pulled on the stone. I might not have noticed it had it not been bright orange-pink;
probably my nemesis, oriental bittersweet.

Here's my interpretation: the root, perhaps when it was quite small, had begun growing into a tiny "fracturable" spot on the stone. As the root grew longer and wider, it forced the the stone to begin to break apart. The depth and degree to which the stone had begun to fracture was clearly associated with the progress of the root, with a wide crack on the "entry" side narrowing to a nearly invisible hairline on the opposite side. And on the non-root side of the stone (I'm running out of "sides;" but it's kind of a lumpy stone), on the other end of the stone, let's say, it is completely solid rock; there isn't even a hairline crack. I tried to show all this in the pictures by rotating the stone, but when I saw HelenB's comment about the potato, I realized a few words of explanation would have helped! I'll try to keep that in mind for the future.

Thanks for visiting and commenting...
I hope you are all having a lovely week!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

roof and sky

As I try to work through a long and growing list of prioritized pre-Winter projects,
I'm trying not to be distracted by a feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Three weeks ago I had a property inspection for my homeowner's insurance, and every day since I've checked the mail, hoping for The Letter.
The Letter will tell me if there is something about my little cottage in the woods that has shocked and alarmed someone sitting in an office in Boston.
And if so, exactly what I can do to make that person feel better.

I wish The Letter would just arrive, already. Because whatever "improvement" is required - and I hope very much it is not another list - I'd rather know now, so I can try to get it done before Winter.

My best/worst guess: something involving the roof.

So while I wait to hear the news
(as in "new shingles" vs. "new roof")
I've been thinking about - guess what? -
Roofs. Or rooves. Whichever you like.


When it comes to building,
I have favorite parts and tough parts.
One of my very favorite things is opening up a wall
to put in a window or door.

(After many years, my tiny house now has
very little wall and very much window.)

And one of the hardest things for me
is closing a roof.
When I built the screen porch years ago
(I did much of that project myself)
it was touch and go at one point
whether I could bring myself to actually put a roof on
or if I would just leave the rafters
and the view into the forest canopy.

I did put the roof on, and it made it much easier
to sleep on the porch during thunderstorms.
But the decision could have gone either way.

When the new goat barn was built this Spring,
I was reminded of building the screenporch.
And when the builders stopped for lunch,

I ran out and quickly snapped a few pictures
of a familiar view that was about to disappear.


If I have to tear up the roof on my house,
I won't see the sky during the construction process
because the ceiling will still be in place.

But if it is within reason
(cost-wise, I mean; of course it is perfectly reasonable to wish to see the sky),

maybe I will add a skylight.

Friday, September 19, 2014

AKC: actual knitting content

The History of Socks: an ongoing scarf made with leftover bits of sock yarn.

I didn't realize until I started writing this post, how many acronyms have become part of my fiber language. Since I don't know how many readers are knitters, I'll translate. These are not my own inventions - they are widely used in writing, though not necessarily in conversation.

After a long knitting hiatus, I've dusted off a few needles this week, and searched out a UFO (unfinished object) buried in the neglected yarn basket. Actually, I was expecting one UFO; this pair of socks that seemed oddly doomed, even back in 2010:

But I soon discovered this lone sock,
which I didn't even recall casting on:

Checked my project notes: sock cast on in 2012.

And...there's more.

So it's a really good thing that I've joined a special kind of KAL (knit-a-long) organized by two inspiring bloggers and podcasters - yarnsfromtheplain (link goes to Nic's podcast website) and Louise of KnitBritish, who I met in a knitting-related conversation on twitter a while ago. Coincidentally, it turns out Louise is from Lerwick, home of the Up Helly Aa festival!
Small world, this fiber world.

Specifically, this is a KAL for finishing up WIPs (work in progress) before casting on something new. The timing is important, as the unmistakable hints of Winter Coming send those of us in the northern hemisphere down the rabbit hole of pattern searches on Ravelry...
Winter! Coming!
Must cast on Hats! Mittens! Sweaters! Socks!

So clever Louise came up with a 2-month KAL, and called it:

#WIPCrackAway: a KAL to help you finish those WIPs!

And I am IN.
I decided to start with that single orange sock,
and over the past three days, there's been some progress.

Today the sock came along on Piper's very long walk.
I stopped for a while, and sat against a tree, knitting,
while Piper ran and ran and ran.

This was my view:

It took a while,
but Piper eventually decided to rest.
And by then, I was ready to walk again.
Sitting is not a longterm option for me.

Not for me, either!

So the now-bigger sock
went back in the bag.

But not for long!

Do you join KALs or other a-longs?
(This is my first one.)
Is it fun?
Does it help you stay on track with a project?
Please share your tips!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Thinking of friends in the UK tonight.

Best of luck to all the people of Scotland,
making a monumental decision.

Making history.

Whichever way your vote goes,
I hope the results will be positive,
and your friendships - within and beyond Scotland -
will be strengthened and secure.

All the best.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

plant identified

Thanks to a garden post by September Violets, a mystery is solved:

The sole survivor of the Snowplow Incident of 2013 is Chelone obliqua,
a very hardy and tolerant (but we knew that!) native wildflower.
There is apparently a white form as well, Chelone glabra,
which I would love to see!
Do you have it in your garden?
Perhaps we could trade!


Friday, September 12, 2014

this week

I ate my first homegrown watermelon, ever. 
Despite an unplanned and slightly premature harvest, it was enjoyable.

And look at this:

Have you ever seen this triadic pattern in a watermelon?
Do they all have this, and I've never noticed?

The hens enjoyed making their own abstract pattern in the rind.

This week I found an interesting new place to take Piper for a walk.

We were on our way to the pond after doing an errand,
when another driver began tailgating me on a 2-lane road.
A road where fox, turkey, bear and other animals
are very likely to cause sudden, hard braking.

So I just pulled over, parked, and we headed into the woods.

Piper loved the new spot!
So much so, she took off up a steep slope and promptly went deaf.
After I'd spent a few minutes calling -
and kicking myself for not bringing a lead -
Piper reappeared, covered nose to tail in sticky burr-like seeds.

Imagine this hair wrapped around hundreds of little burrs:

The gentle deseeding process took quite a while.
It was a thorough job, because the plant that makes those seeds
is not a plant I want growing at home.

Next time we walk in the new place,
I'll bring Piper's lead.
And my camera, so you can see the new place, too.

This week I baked the first plum cake of Autumn 2014:


In goat news:
the youngsters have all learned to dress for breakfast, just like the grownups.

Collars and ties, please; we are very formal here.

Mama Lily (above) and son Campion (below).

As the babies have grown, there have been several gradual changes in
how/where/when all the goats are fed every day.
This is the last step, and soon I'll be setting up the new barn
in a configuration that should see us through Autumn and Winter.


And finally, this just in from the Cloud Harvest Cashmere Social Club:

This week, Azalea realized she is bigger than Vinca.


Back in July, Azalea had a horn injury, resulting in a sore head.
So she began to avoid head-to-head contact.
As soon as the other goats realized Azalea would duck away
instead of pushing back in their normal play-battles,
she was at a huge disadvantage.
I was very worried this might permanently damage her sweet nature.

And Vinca, my Vinca-dinka-doo, little sleekit girl,
began picking on Azalea.

"You know, Vinca," I often told her as I ran interference,
"Azalea's head isn't going to be sore forever.
And she is already a lot bigger than you.
And she's a very nice girl. You would be wise to seek her friendship."

But did Vinca listen?
I think you know the answer.

So one evening this past week I was surprised to see Azalea
not only return Vinca's solid head-bump,
but also follow up with a Bulldozer Broadside:
pushing a surprised Vinca sideways - push, push, push - 
til she was pressed against a wall.
And then, I was happy to see, Azalea walked away.

Good for you, Azalea!

Of course, I didn't say that.
But I surely thought it!


What was your week like?
And what are you planning for the weekend?
Something fun, and in nice weather, I hope!

Piper advises, "Watch out for sticky seeds!"


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

a recommendation

If you think you might enjoy

sharing the world of a vibrant and evolving sculpture,

a creative force with the power to impress and amaze daily,

I strongly recommend planting Winter Squash.


Monday, September 8, 2014

the blues in two keys

When I was first passing through Colorado and stayed 7 years or so,
people back in New England often asked,

"So, what's it like out there?"

I'm not sure what they were asking, really.
But I thought they were asking, "How is it different from here?"

So I would mention the landscape colors.

Not that all the colors are different, of course,
but the overall landscape palette is distinctly different.
At least to my eye.

I thought of this yesterday, when Piper and I went for a walk by the pond.
Because after a night of thunderstorms,
the sky was crystalline
and drifting clouds set off
the very different blues I associate with
Colorado and Massachusetts.
In one sky.

It's easiest to see in the big picture,
so here it is again:

The lighter, brighter blue near the horizon?
The deeper blue above the cloud?

Each different. Both perfect.

What color is the sky where you live?

Friday, September 5, 2014

another surprise

By the way, this is the type of melon I recovered
after an unidentified critter had chewed through the stem.
The seed is from Seed Savers Exchange.
Their catalog is like...pie.

I planted many things for the first time this year, and sweetcorn is one example. It takes a lot of room (or so I thought before growing winter squash - hahahahahaha!) and it is a draw for wildlife I don't wish to encourage close to the house, including bear and raccoon. But this year, with my garden area enlarged a bit from last year, it seemed one block of corn would fit in the terrace garden with the 6' perimeter fence (as a slight discouragement to the wildlife), especially if I used the legendary "three sisters" method: planting pole beans, corn, and squash together, so the beans can grow up the corn stalks and the squash limits competition from other plants, sometimes known as "weeds."

Well, first of all, I won't do that planting again. Sisters they may well be, but if so, they seem very selfish and unkind sisters, taking every opportunity to elbow each other away from the buffet, and drag each other away from the window instead of simply sharing the view. Nope. From now on, the sisters will have their own rooms. I have enough drama with LeShodu, I don't need it from the vegetables.

The sweetcorn got a slow start (very cold wet weather), then grew quickly ("Why, you can watch the corn grow!"), then slowed right down (very hot dry weather) and finally produced small ears that didn't seem to fill out at all. I wondered if it was a lack of pollination due to the strange weather conditions, or if they hadn't received enough light. Or possibly they were exhausted from struggling to rise despite being throttled and pinned down by the beans. Oh well, it was an experiment and I was learning something. (Or re-learning something I should have known: vegetables are plants. Not "sisters." Plants. They compete to survive.)

This morning when I was doing my "Twister" routine (contorting my body as in the floor game, not emulating a tornado) in order to get through the winter squash rows, area, nation, I thought I might as well pick a tiny ear of corn and see if it would provide a clue to what had gone awry. Maybe insects had infiltrated and I would find an empty cob and a gaggle of disgusting worms? Ew.

Well, I'll be darned. Look at this:

Is that not the cutest and most perfect ear of corn you've ever seen?

It kind of reminded me of something...

I picked a few more ears.

Here's one for the knitters:
corn that makes its own short-row shaping!

I was so delighted by my surprising first corn harvest, I took lots of pictures.
This one is on the screenporch:

Then I carried the bowl outside to try different light,
because one does not wish
to do less than one's photographic best for one's sweetcorn.
Does one?

Five hens followed me hopefully, and every time I tried to set the bowl down - on a stone, on a stump, on the pedestal for the birdbath - they formed a tight circle around me and prepared to leap. I finally had to rest the bowl on an upright pallet, and snap quickly before they organized themselves to form a poultry pyramid, with the brilliant Jersey Black Giant mastermind on top.

I hope your day contains a lovely surprise.

And maybe a tasty one, as well.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


 Sometimes, you get a surprise that is not quite what you were hoping for.

Last night, the First Ever Melon was hanging stoutly on it's vine.
I check it daily, every time I walk by the terrace garden.
Exciting stuff!

This morning, it was gone.
I poked around through the tall vegetation outside the fence,
where that massive thistle used to be,
and found several wilted melon leaves.
As if someone had been tearing leaves off the plant, but not eating them.
Then I poked around the garden vegetation inside the fence, and found it.

But detached.

The size is fine for this type of melon, but is it ripe?
Or will it ripen off the vine?
I don't know how to tell whether a melon is ripe,
and judging from the behavior of melon-shoppers at the market,
neither does anyone else.

(And by the way, it took me three tries to figure out how to spell "whether,"
because usually I'm writing about the wethers, Acer and Betula.)
Speaking of the wethers - and also the weather, ha! -
a thunderstorm came up suddenly on Tuesday, and I had to hustle
 to move the wethers up from browsing the Lower West Side
to their shelter on the Upper West Side.

All the other goats were in three paddocks,
with the connecting gates open between
and four available shelters of various sizes.

By the time Acer and Bet were all snug and comfy,
munching hay and jawing about the time they Almost Got Rained On,
I was soaking wet.
I am always the wettest of the group after these operations.
In fact, sometimes I am the only one who gets wet.
Go figure.

Back in the house and dry clothing, I checked the goatcam.

And found...

to my surprise...

for the first time in the history of Cloud Harvest Cashmere...

NINE goats
QUIETLY resting

I hope you aren't disoriented by overlapping, distorted, wide-angle goatcam snaps.
It's an overhead view of the 10x10' east stall in the new barn. It's square, honestly.

For a person like me,
who values a Peaceable Kingdom above many things,
a moment like this is pure magic.
I hope you enjoyed it, too!