30 May 2012

Night Shift

Bob and Mackenzie, the guardian dogs, work nights. They bark to let the coyotes know that this is their turf, and not to bother coming for a snack from their flock. We know the difference between the “two o’clock and all’s well” bark and the “hey, you, GET!” bark of active chase. Generally, we sleep through the barking unless there’s something really interesting going on out there. It’s nice to hear their voices letting us know that they are on duty and that nothing bad has happened outside.

During the day, Mac will usually take up a position somewhere on a hill where he can see the sheep (he seems to doze with one eye open), but Bob, the senior dog, will often go somewhere a bit further off for a good nap.

Today he curled up in a hole Mac had dug by the house (Mac has, in the past, excavated holes large enough for the cow to lie down in).

I love my dogs. They are so cool.

29 May 2012

Ready to go in the mail

Here it is, the Autumn Afghan:

The contest entry labels are on the afghan and the shawl, the projects are neatly folded in a box with the appropriate postage, thanks to Canada Post’s Ship-in-a-Click service. It’ll go in the mail tomorrow when I head into town.

Wish me luck!

Success!

The afghan is done! I will be blocking it today and hopefully have pictures for you soon.

Speaking of pictures … I inadvertently deleted several of the photogallery albums that host the pictures I use here on the blog. I’ve repaired the images for most of the recent blog posts, but if you go back in time you may find empty picture frames.

I’m attempting a restore, but no guarantees.

New pictures will be backed up better!

28 May 2012

Almost done

The leaves are done. The plain border is done. All that remains is the very outer garter stitch edging.

23 May 2012

22 May 2012

One stitch at a time

One stitch at a time, a ball of string becomes fabric.
One stitch at a time, a piece of fabric turns into a recognizable shape.
One stitch at a time, a project is completed.

Still, an afghan requires a lot of stitches.

21 May 2012

Good Infrastructure

Good infrastructure solves all kinds of problems.
If you can’t find your stuff, you need better storage (and possibly less stuff). If you are always forgetting things, you need a routine or a ritual or a list or all three (I generally need all three these days). If the sheep are always getting out, you need better fences (I really need better fences – but hey, I did put a gate up onto proper hinges today, and that was an improvement).
Our front entrance is always in chaos. The window by the front door still had the installation stickers on it … umm … five years after it was put in. Clearly window washing has never been high on our list of priorities. Ahem.
Anyway, I found myself in a bit of a cleaning and tidying mood a few days ago, so I vacuumed the rug where the dog sleeps, swept the floors, squeaked the stickers off the window, and put together a couple of pegboard frames. I saw this idea somewhere online and thought, you know, that would work perfectly for so many things!
The smaller frame is up in the fibre room now. It will hold my supported spindles (and a few other random things, like some necklaces I found hanging on a nail for some reason, a stray key, and a popsicle stick Christmas ornament one of the kids made).

The larger one is by the main door and has hooks for shopping bags, my favourite garden tool, hats, and the assortment of keys that aren’t used all the time (our regular keys are on a special key hook that fits into the light switch cover by the front door) – easy to grab on the way out the door and, having used the same thing for about fifteen years now, it’s a deeply ingrained habit to hang them there on the way in.

The pegboard was cheap – maybe four or five dollars for a piece big enough to do both frames with some left over. I painted it with  bit of white glossy paint from the basement so it would look nicer than the plain brown pressboard original. I found an assortment of pegboard hardware for about eight dollars and the frames were here already – one had broken glass, and the other just wasn’t being used for anything. The frames are thick enough to hold the pegboard out from the wall, so there’s no trouble getting the hooks in and out. If I change my mind about what needs to go where, it’s a simple thing to just pull the pegs out and reposition them. Also takes advantage of wall space – floor and shelving space is at a bit of a premium, so hanging things on the wall makes good sense.
Flexible, cheap, useful. Yep, my kind of project.

18 May 2012

Test Spinning

I’m getting ready for a big sprint with the alpaca fleece I need to get spun up (and then knitted into a shawl).
I wanted to see how well the alpaca spun up on the spindle, and it turns out that works just great. I’m happy about this as the spindle is very portable and restful and even when I don’t feel up to sitting at the wheel, I generally enjoy spinning with the supported spindle.
The next question was how to put the yarn together: 2 ply or 3 ply? I did a test skein which is mostly 3 ply with a bit of 2 ply at the end. It’s spun woolen, so it bloomed and fluffed up after washing, which is exactly what I was hoping for. There is a bit of texture to this yarn – not a lot, but there are always a few spots where it’s a bit more loosely spun or where a little tuft appears, and I think the 3 ply balances that out a little better.
The final shawl is going to have large sections of stockinette, as I’ve found that alpaca looks quite beautiful in plain knitting that lets the beauty of the fibre show through and accentuates the drape, so I’m leaning towards the 3 ply yarn as it will fill in the fabric a little more easily. If I were doing a more openwork lace, I’d want the two ply, as it is finer.
Well, it *is* a huge fleece, I suspect I can do some of each!
I’ll need to do a test knit with the yarns and see how they each look in stockinette. That’ll be the next project.
Meanwhile, here’s what we have so far:

The strands pulled out are 3 ply (on top) and 2 ply (on the bottom).
Pretty colour, eh? I love rose gray alpaca.

16 May 2012

Home made tortillas are easier than I thought

Tonight we had home made tortillas. It’s so easy, I just have to share.

I use the breadmaker though this could be done by hand. Since I have it though, well, why not?

Put about 1 cup of white flour and 1/2 cup of corn flour (or use all white, the corn flour isn’t necessary but it is nice) in the breadmaker and start the dough setting. As the little flipper goes around, pour in a couple tablespoons of oil and use a scraper to make sure the flour all gets oiled. Then pour in just enough sour milk, regular milk, or water to make a not-too-sticky-dough (if you put in too much, like I did tonight, just add more flour until it’s the right texture). Let the mixer do it’s thing and get the dough all into a good ball (or knead it by hand). Let it sit for about half an hour.

Make your taco fillings while this is all going on: I used ground turkey from our recent poultry purchase and an envelope of taco seasoning plus some grated cheese and salsa from the fridge, nothing fancy.

Divide up the ball of dough into rounds about the size of an egg then roll them out into tortillas and fry in a hot frying pan with a wee bit of oil: when there are bubbles visible, flip them, just like when you make pancakes. Stack the finished tortillas on a plate (or in a tortilla warmer, one of which happened to find it’s way to my house recently), and serve.

Voila: an easy dinner. And cheap, too: I am pretty sure that a cup and a bit of flour and a dash of oil costs a lot less than a package of premade tortilla shells (they go for at least $4 at my grocery store).

15 May 2012

Pretty green glass

Today, The Boy had a school event that took us to the far side of the city … where there is a lovely store that sells beads and gems and rocks and all kinds of neat things.
I found this pretty green glass bead in a dish, and it just begged to be made part of a supported spindle.
With a little bit of spare fibre tucked into the hole to make it fit tightly on the metal knitting needle I had with me, I was able to grant its wish:

Thrift store metal needle + four dollar bead = inexpensive yet pretty and functional fibre tool.

14 May 2012

The Long Road

The journey towards healing is a long, long road.

Yesterday, my emotional balance gradually eroded over the course of the evening and by the time it was dark outside, all the demons of my past were wide awake and screaming inside my head.

The past is over, it’s different now, you are safe in the hands of God … getting those simple messages past the wall of panic and fear that blockades my mind once the demons wake becomes a battle of epic proportions.

I fought hard yesterday, but the battle took hours, and there were casualties. My family get caught in the line of fire – my tears wake my husband, who is understandably frustrated when no amount of logic can reach past my panic … the water running in the bathroom as I try in vain to wash the memories away wakes my son, and though he wisely lets me be, I know he’s awake and worried. The exhaustion that dogs my steps so much of the time means that everyone else has to do my share of the chores, the fragility of my mental health keeps them all walking on eggshells, and on nights like this when the battle is joined, we all end up involved in the fight … though only I can see the phantasms that I think are the enemy, and the enemy isn’t even real.

It is so hard to accept that the injuries to my mind were deeper than I thought they were. It is so hard to live with an invisible illness. It is so hard to work with the illogical mess that is inside my head … unhealthy beliefs and habits have become entrenched from years of practice, and though I am trying everything I know how to do to train myself to new beliefs and new habits, it is a long and difficult road.

I declare my intention to heal myself in body, mind and spirit. I know that this will happen, in it’s own way and it’s own time. I know that my willingness to let go of the beliefs that do not serve me is key to my healing.

Today is beautiful and sunny. The birds are singing, there isn’t a cloud in the sky. It’s never too late to start again, and today, I’m going to put my feet right back on the path to healing and keep walking in the direction I know I need to go. Not just for my sake, but for those I love: I need their help, but I want to get to a place where they don’t have to carry me so much anymore.

I want to be well, for all our sakes.

11 May 2012

I love my new coffee maker.

The other morning, the coffee maker refused to work.

It’s had a good life, and it was one of those grinds-and-brews-all-at-once machines … I think we’ve had it for probably eight years or so. Anyhow, it seemed completely done, and with my inability to tolerate caffeine these days, we were looking for something a little different, something that would make it easy for us to have some leaded and some unleaded on the go.

We considered the Keurig machines, as they are pretty neat: with the reuseable capsules you can buy now, you wouldn’t have to buy the staggeringly wasteful little cup things (when you have to haul your trash to the dump, you pay attention to how much waste you generate). Still, filling those little capsules seemed likely to be a messy job, and the machines are not cheap.

Then The Reluctant Farmer noticed this at Canadian Tire: a one-cup-at-a-time coffee maker that has a little scoop filter, much like the scoop you use on an espresso maker. Just fill it with grounds and stick it in the slot, fill your mug with water and pour it in the back, then hit the on button. Voila. Coffee. Also … tea. Loose leaf or bagged. And since there are two scoops, I can take my tea leaves and set them aside for the second cup (and third and fourth – I can drink several cups of tea off the same set of leaves) without keeping the rest of the household from having a mug of coffee. Awesome.

The little pieces are super easy to clean and rinse – much easier than cleaning the full sized coffee maker, that’s for sure. And since we already have a little grinder, we still have freshly ground coffee (though I grind up enough for several days at once, still, it’s fresher than if you buy it already ground).

I have a feeling this little machine will save on power (as there’s no heated element keeping the pot warm), and will encourage me to drink more tea throughout the day. I can go from “hmm, I think I’d like a cup of tea” to full mug in about a minute, which is awesome.

And, it was on sale and cost less than half of what we’d have paid for a Keurig. Yay!

10 May 2012

Time for a giveaway!

I recently ordered some cool stuff that celebrates Just Keep Knitting: tote bags, mouse pads, pens, t-shirts, that kind of thing.

Since the box arrived the other day, I figure it’s time for a giveaway!

Here’s how it’s gonna work:

  • You need to have read Just Keep Knitting to qualify for this one! If you don’t have a copy, you can order one here, or get the ebook (immediate delivery!) here.
  • Next, you need to write a comment about the book – nothing huge, just a quick blurb so that potential readers know what you think about it. Be honest! Balanced reviews are best, really.
  • Where do you do this comment thing? Probably the very best place is Goodreads – membership there is free, and it is a great way to check out what others say about a book before you buy it or take it out from the library. I will often see a book that looks potentially interesting in the online library listings, but as I can’t just flip through it when I’m choosing books remotely, I pop over to Goodreads and check out what others have said about it before I make up my mind. It’s a great resource!
  • If you have an electronic copy of the book, leave your comment wherever you purchased it: Smashwords, the iTunes bookstore, Barnes & Noble, wherever.
  • Feel free to comment in multiple places if you can – Goodreads and Smashwords, iTunes and the Kobo store, whatever works for you.
  • After you make your comments, come back here and post a comment, letting me know where you’ve left your remarks. You get one entry for every comment you leave out there on the net.
  • If posting comments elsewhere isn’t your thing, you can leave a ‘review blurb’ here, as a comment on this blog post, and I’ll count that as an entry too.
  • *added after a late night thought* You can also talk about the book in a post on your blog … and that’ll count for three entries!

The contest will stay open until May 31: plenty of time for those who haven’t yet read the book to catch up. Winners will be selected by random draw and then contacted for a postal address so that their surprise can be sent in the mail! Be sure to leave some kind of identifying tag on your post – if you comment here anonymously, just use your initials or something in your post so that you stand out from the crowd!

Ready … set … read … then write!

09 May 2012

Other neat things seen at the auction

None of these came home with me, though I know that the double treadle CPW went to a spinner and I suspect the other two did as well. :) They were really interesting wheels, so I thought I’d post the pictures.
Here’s the double treadle CPW. Not sure about the little foot pad thingies, but it was in really good shape except for a smashed up bobbin end. Went for $550 or thereabouts.
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This one looks like what we usually call a CPW precursor, I think - screw tension, but the rest of the wheel looks very CPW like. This one was missing a whorl but had everything else. It went for around $150, if I remember rightly.
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And this one just fascinated me: flat rim, but Vizina tilt-tension mechanism. It had no flyer, just the spindle from a GW stuck in it, though the leathers were obviously meant for an ordinary flyer. I don’t recall seeing a tilt tension wheel with a flat rim before, it’s really nice looking. A bit of oil and she’d be gorgeous.
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I looked very closely and there was no hint of a maker’s mark, and it didn’t seem cobbled together at all - everything seemed to belong together. Super cool.
While I was watching the auction, I got this done:

I had to be very careful to draft sideways, rather than reaching up like I usually do, so that I didn’t accidentally bid on anything!

08 May 2012

Fun at the Auction

This past Sunday, a friend of mine invited me to go with him to a local auction – the same friend who gave me my Canadian Production Wheel.
We drove out to the auction location and wandered around looking at all the amazing horse drawn vehicles and antiques they had for sale. There was a double treadle CPW in good shape, and a flat rim that seemed to have a Vizina tilt-tensioner, but  no flyer, and a screw tension CPW-precursor type wheel that was missing a whorl. The auction pictures had included a great wheel, which I was going to pick up for a spinner friend of mine if it went at an okay price, but it didn’t seem to be there.
It was amazing to see all these neat things: there was a real Conestoga wagon, the box and gear all original. At the peak of the curved cover, it was eleven feet tall, and I had to get right up on tiptoe to even be able to peer into the back of it. Just thinking about all the families that travelled in these things, all their belongings packed in there, children and cooking utensils and food and everything, rolling along the bumpy paths to the west. And we complain if the air conditioning goes out in our minivans. Wow.

The antique tables had some neat stuff too … we weren’t sure what this was when we first saw it, but apparently it is for rounding leather to make reins:

There were lots of lovely buggies and carts and wagons, too. I think it’d be really fun to have a horse-drawn wagon that you could take down to the lakeside cottages in the summer and sell fresh vegetables and farm eggs off the back. Sort of like the ice cream truck, but healthier and with horse bells rather than that annoying electronic music. One like this would be great, don’t you think?

05 May 2012

Design Competition: progress

The afghan for the Mary Maxim design competition has been hibernating for a while – I set it aside to finish up my brother-in-law’s lap blanket, and then when I went back to competition knitting, the shawl was calling to me, so I’ve been working on that recently.
After more false starts than I can count, I finally settled on something that works: an integral i-cord edge at the top, and a very simple lace border (much like the one used on Hearts Ease) at the bottom. I’m just about at the halfway point, and I am definitely looking forward to the decreases .. it seems to go so much faster when the triangle is getting smaller.
As always, it’ll look much better after blocking, but here’s a sneak preview:

The Prism yarn is working out really well – I see that it’s listed on the Mary Maxim site now … in fact, it’s on sale!

04 May 2012

Two more lambs

Hughie:

And Henrietta:

They appeared this morning, their mama managed everything just fine on her own, as usual with Icelandic sheep. We have everyone in the barn for awhile to let mama rest up and get a chance to eat all she wants and get her strength back, she’s put all her energy into the babies and needs to recover!

Awesome little twins though, so cute and tiny. Just what we like to see!

03 May 2012

Random Acts of Fibery Kindness

I got a wonderful surprise package in the mail today … all the way from the Isle of Anglesey, in Wales!
Awhile back, a Ravelry member from Wales had posted a picture of the lovely little glass you see there, saying she’d found four of them in her local thrift store and that they were perfect for supported spinning … and would anyone like one since four was more than she needed? I waited a bit and then raised my hand, as they are very pretty glasses, and I thought, hey, that could be cool – a glass all the way from Wales.
So, the parcel was packed up … and with it a bunch of other really fun things like chocolates, lovely hand cream from Marks & Spencer, and of course a big batch of fibre to pack the glass in so it didn’t break! There’s also a really neat wooden keychain which is the image of the bridge one crosses to get onto the island – and, conveniently enough, one portion of it measures 1”, which is a measurement used quite often in spinning to determine the thickness of your yarn (wraps per inch), so it’s actually a cool WPI gauge in disguise!
My bead spindle absolutely loves spinning in this pretty dish, which sits nicely in my lap as the stem of the glass settles between my legs and I can hold it steady while I spin. It’s light and delicate and lovely and I sat and spun up a bunch of yarn this afternoon, just to enjoy it..

And it even has a cute little bird dangling from the stem! Cool, eh?
A big thank you to my Ravelry friend in Wales! :)

02 May 2012

Alpaca are adorable

In my email today are some pictures from the alpaca show we did a shearing-to-shawl demo at last month. My goodness, alpaca are adorable animals!
How could you not love that face, eh?

And here we are with the finished objects – the work of many hands besides ours, but we were the two who were still there when it all finished up, so we got to be the models.

I’m wearing the woven scarf: it has tufts of fleece tucked in at the ends which is why it looks so fuzzzy. My friend – our crochet expert – is modelling the stole which was knit in the round from a very long centre cast on, then had a newly invented crochet bind-off-border-combo attached to the outside edge. The alpaca standing with us were some of the best of show animals and they seemed happy to have their pictures taken with us!
A closer look at the shawl/stole:

And one more picture with the two finished objects and a cute alpaca:

Thanks to Connie Eidt from Northern Mystery Alpacas for the photos!