A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

My Photo
Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

C is for Chocolate

Yes, chocolate is probably my very favorite-ist food of all... I will proudly and loudly admit it. However, my tastes have refined over the years, and I am pretty dialed in to strictly rich, dark chocolate these days. Skip the chocolate mixed with other stuff like caramel, or diluted with milk, of all things. I go for the premium, 70% or better cacao stuff.

The best Christmas present we got this past season was five pounds of Dagoba hot chocolate mix, which I purchased from the Sundance Catalog (sometimes the best presents ARE the ones we get for ourselves). There have only been a few treasured chocolate-sipping moments so far this winter, but they have included my DH Glenn, and my lovely DD Nikki, usually on Saturday mornings, but also on Christmas Day, so sipping chocolate, or mixing it with home-brewed espresso, is really the epitome of relaxing to me. I will happily savor my chocolate mix all the way through winter.

Dagoba is probably my favorite artisanal brand of chocolate. It is organic, and I strive to eat mainly organic foods; they also do not include genetically modified foods, thank you very much. The makers have developed some really unique blends, including Mon Cherri, with dried cherries (Glenn's favorite), Xocolatl (with chiles and cinnamon, my personal favorite, and it also comes in baking powder form), and Lavender, which is unlike anything else in this world. The company strives to offer only fair-traded products, and their chocolates are readily available here on the West Coast, but they are building an extensive online store, in case you cannot find them where you live. You can even buy "broken bars" at a discount; this is kind of like "hurt books", for those, like Sylvia, who would prefer to rescue something that might otherwise go to waste. And, the makers declare "Chocolate is sacred", so they obviously share my worldview.

My other favorite that is locally available is the Endangered Species company... maybe it is just because of the cute little animal collectible cards that they package with the bars, or the paintings of animals that grace the wrappers (remember, I was the one who posted "A is for Animals" a month ago). However, the Endangered Species dark chocolate/mint bar received very high ratings in a recent Prevention magazine survey of best chocolates around, as did Newman's Organics Dark Chocolate (their version of chocolate and orange is another fave). And, at least 10% of their sales goes to raise awareness about the plight of endangered species around the world, including offering fair-trade, shade grown chocolate, and putting profits back into groups purchasing land and protecting animal habitat, so do some good while eating something good is my motto!

OK, I will stop... I am sure many of you have already started digging through your pockets for change to make a chocolate run, and I don't want to do too much damage...

Some of you may have noticed that I let this Monday slide right by without a Product Review... yes, that's right, nothing, zip, nada for this week. I am just too overwhelmed with change and the resultant paperwork, but will be back in fine form next Monday. Happy snacking!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Little Knitting, Please

First of all, thanks to those dear friends who commented or emailed encouragement to me... I have been drooping over the weekend, but face change more resiliently than ever, and have also had glimmers of things I could do if I had a little extra time this week.

Knitting has helped a bit, but knitting shopping was actually the best therapy I could come up with this weekend. I headed in to Grass Valley early yesterday morning to get my hair trimmed up and do the weekly shopping, and had decided that I wanted to make myself a set of Mrs. Beetons.... why, you might ask? Well, since focusing on treating my ailing hands, I have been pretty faithfully wearing my therapuetic gloves to knit, and have slept better on the nights I wore them - more sleep and less of hands falling asleep and bothering me with tingling.

My chiropractor gave me some exercises to do, and knitting friends recommended several good ideas, including Margene's suggestion of using the Ergocise site. I have added a B6 supplement, and have tried rotating needle-size in my projects, so the Ruffled Shawl has been languishing a bit while I made a worsted-weight hat for myself. I addressed ergonomics at my work computer this summer by getting a ball chair to use faithfully, and have one on order for my home office, but awoke Saturday morning with the thought that keeping my hands warm while on the computer, driving, etc., needed additional attention, which could only be remedied by purchasing suitable yarn and making a pair of wrist warmers.

I stopped by Fibers, which has been in Grass Valley for only two years, and came somewhat close to the called-for yarns. The colors are gentle and gorgeous, and off I went to Beads Galore, the local bead shop, for matching beads.

This photo makes the yarns I chose look darker and a little redder than they really are... the Kidsilk haze is actually a softer shade of rose. The beads were a close match, and I even finally had the lightbulb go on this afternoon while reading the directions for threading beads onto yarn! The Big Eye is a beading needle with a long enough eye so that the nearly-blind, such as myself, can still get the thread through. The instructions explain how to use bead thread as an auxiliary thread to slide the beads from the needle on over to your yarn... Brenda does a great job explaining. As an aside, Brenda is also the captain of Team Wales, another of the many Knitting Olympics teams that have sprung up in response to Stephanie's challenge.

That was not the only shopping, though. I also decided to pick up a kit that Fibers had put together to make a little scarf/shawl gift for my friend, Lee, who has fought so hard in the negotiations for our children's center. I wound up the balls of Berrocco Metallic FX in shiny gold and Softwist in creamy white, and look forward to making this up, but didn't have the needles I thought I did at home, so will have to wait a few days to start.

I had finished my cabled hat on Friday night, only to decide that I didn't like the ribbing I had started it with. Have you ever decided you would pick apart the cast-on edge and re-work something? Well, don't. It was very slow-going and I finally decided where I wanted the new edge to be, cut the yarn, and raveled forward, putting the stitches on a circular needle as I went, and then binding them off this evening ... this must be some sort of heretical, backwards action, but it worked. I forgot to take my hat with me shopping, though, and don't have the ribbon to weave through my cables to finish it off.

While doing all this picking/unraveling, I had some time to ponder a discussion I had with the Fibers shop owner, another former teacher, who came to the yarn shop after the demand for German teachers diminished a few years back. We both have knitted for over 30 years and she was telling me how excited her co-owner's young adult daughter has become about knitting and how she wants to become a knitwear designer. It seems like many of the young, new knitters do. Some of the designs are truly innovative, but often they are clever ideas that I have seen in previous decades of watching fashions (or even from previous centuries). There is a stronger interest and concern about copyrights than I remember in the past, partly as these new designers try to protect and market their work. However, I have the opinion that there is really very little "new under the sun" in the world of knitting, and that we are merely rediscovering and reapplying techniques and stitches that our foremothers used in centuries past. My take on this subject is that if you see a pattern you want to make and someone else is offering it for sale, and you don't want to bother to sit down with pen and calculator, or Sweater Wizard, and make a design from your own measurements, by all means, support the person who did do that work and buy their pattern.

However, you could also take the leap into designing yourself, armed with the works of such knitting luminaries as Elizabeth Zimmerman and Barbara Walker, and figure out how to make the calculations yourself for the type of sleeves, necklines, openings, etc. you want. You could easily begin to mimic the ideas of the classic designers, a neckline here, pocket there, etc, which is how the department stores create knock-off lines from the runway fashions each seasons. Is this copyright infringement, or mere flattery?

I learned these skills as a teenager, and they especially served me well when trying to adapt some yarn I stumbled upon at a thrift store or sale into a garment idea I had. Now, I do a mixture of making other peoples' designs, and seeing something I like and making it. The hat I just finished is my interpretation of some made-up hats I saw at a yarn shop earlier this month. The "innovation" of using ribbon threaded between a row of the cables seemed just a copying of earlier hats that children wore when I was growing up, with I-cord or drawstring to snug them up a bit around the base... although the "designer" of a pattern I saw for sale might claim that s/he was the first one to think of this. I would love to kick off a raucous discussion over what is true design, and what amounts to copyright infringement, so feel free to express your opinions.

My parting shot tonight....these delightful little stitch markers are the handiwork of Jenn, the Knit Wit Momma, who offered to make some Valentine ones for me to send to my Better Pal (who better not be looking), and then threw in a set for me, too... what a sweetie! Jenn's mom owns a yarn shop in Roseville, and she has been knitting lots of small items, but is just starting her first sweater for herself, so drop by with words of encouragement.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

A Low Point

Several of my e-friends in Blogland have been communicating with me about the problems unfolding over the course of the month with my child care center. I may have even mentioned here that we have been working since last April to have a larger non-profit, our regional child care resource and referral agency, assume management, primarily because they have the ability to tap into state preschool funding for the children in our county, which we cannot attain independently.

This transition has been scheduled since the fall to take place at the start of the new year, however, we began to get inklings in early December that, while I was ready on my part as an administrator, their side was lagging behind. When I gave the required notice to state licensing, they had no record of an application from the other agency; other indicators surfaced over the month of December, but we tried to hold on to our faith that everything would work out well, under the terms of the agreements already in place. We all showed up to work on January 3rd for this new employer, but things quickly went awry.

The new agency had already arranged in early December to begin receiving our funding, and with most of our old bills paid off, we suddenly were facing a cash shortage. There were many other issues, and my stress level and lack of sleep at nights climbed together. I worked closely with the "old" Board of Directors, who will be holding the two licenses for a few months yet, to make sure we could remain open.

This week finally brought written employment offers for the staff, and I have chosen not to accept mine. I had stated from the beginning of January that I would continue to serve as Director until the license transfer process could be completed, no matter whether I agreed with the wages offered or not, so that everything remained legal, but that I also have a big obligation to our town's medical clinic to help them through an upcoming audit in early February, and our essential annual demographic reporting, which must be submitted by February 15.

In our tiny town, agencies often have to collaborate in order to get such important services, and to maintain them, and I have been a good student over the years, both of problem-solving and of collaboration. Therefore, a more heirarchical style of management, with no discussions or sense of helping other agencies out came as a bit of a shock to me when I learned yesterday from our current Board Chairman that the new agency has refused to make an accomodation... something along the lines of "making other arrangements" and "no longer needing your services" has been passed along indirectly to me, but the jist of it is that I will be out of a job by Wednesday.

I am feeling sad mainly for the children I will miss, and my staff, who I am afraid are getting steamrolled over the top of, but I realized as this process unfolded that one of the deepest lessons I learned last year, when going through school closure with Pliocene Ridge High where I had taught for eight years, was that I was capable of moving through something very sad, something that didn't turn out the way I had planned, and going on to recreate a new life that I loved even more. This thought gives me hope, and allows me to move with little resistance, towards the next thing that is going to unfold.

I will continue to take post-grad classes, aimed at teaching Human Development at the college level, and still plan to teach a Humanities course each semester through our local community college, Lassen College... I also will have some of my own time back, to return to learning how to use the circular sock machine, train the burros, create a dyer's garden this coming spring. I am pleased to find that even in middle age, I am much more courageous and resilient than many of those around me. I am also relieved that I am choosing integrity as the higher value, as I am always the one claiming it is important to me, and I sure better "practice what I preach".

Friends have written in the past few weeks giving encouragement and wondering what I would decide. To those, especially Margene, Eva, and Sallee, I cannot tell you how grateful I am to know you care. Each of you has helped me to keep my focus on what truly matters, when it was the political issues, and when it was the personal. Friends are such a wonderful thing, and I am also happy to be resilient enough to keep making new ones.... my "F" will be about friendship.

I have pictures, yarn shopping, and gifts to post about, but that will have to wait until tomorrow... right now, I am heading off to put my feet up and read about "nourishment", something I really could use after all of this depletion. The cycle continues....

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Poor Little Hurt Books

Beryl, the list mom, newsletter editor and web guru for our Foothill Fibers Guild, sent around a notice the other day, informing us about Interweave Press' annual Hurt Book Sale, so promptly at 10 AM yesterday morning, I brought up their site and thought to adopt one or two "hurt" books, keeping them from languishing somewhere in a warehouse, and saving myself at least 50%. Lucky for me, I was busy trying to bring up data for a report I am writing, so could switch between one painfully slow-loading screen and another. Even with a T1 line, it took me an hour to wade through their very slow-moving site (there must have been a lot of fiber junkies looking for a cheap fix yesterday), and process my purchase of three books.

It was probably worth the suffering, though, as there are only 45 books left tonight, as I list this link for you... you can still get several beading titles, Dogs in Knits, Hip to Crochet and several others.

What did I order? I fell for A Dyer's Garden, dreaming of planting some herbs for natural dyeing, something I have dabbled in over the years. I was passionate about dyeing yarn a few decades ago, after taking a natural dyeing class that led to a Navajo weaving class, where I employed some of my own handspun, hand-dyed yarns in a sample weaving on a loom that my girlfriend and I built, our first exercize in carpentry. How empowering!

I also ordered Felted Knits, on the promise of being able to learn to finetune my felting processes to more accurately get the size I was hoping for, and to learn to add needlefelted embellishments to my felt projects... those of you who are regular readers will recall that my more rebellious side is deeply in love with the idea of deliberately throwing something made from wool into hot, agitating water in order to turn it into something different.

Not wanting to be gluttonous, and also getting totally fed up with how long it took the Interweave site to move from sale page to sale page (there were originally 15 pages with at least ten titles apiece), I only ordered one more book, Lacy Knitting of Mary Schiffmann. This sounds like the sort of title that makes Interweave Press such a wonderful resource for fiber artists; the stories and designs of an obscure but master lace knitter... should make for happy winter reading.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Product Review: Cuzco


Yarn name: Cuzco
Weight: Super Bulky/Polar
Manufacture: Peruvian Collection
Size: 43 yds/50 gm ball
Fibers: 100% alpaca
MSRP $4.60 a ball through Elann

I can't believe that I am actually writing a Product Review for a yarn that I don't have a finished object to show, but I did knit with this yarn this weekend and absolutely loved it. It has a curly, boucle texture, but without the usual boucle "wirey" feel. It is so soft and lush that I kept thinking of smooth, creamy things to eat, like ice cream, or cheesecake, or cream pies, when imagining how I would describe it to you. It is very light and fluffy, almost the opposite of most polar weight yarns, which tend to produce dense, weighty fabrics. This would make up into a very quick sweater, shrug or shawl that would be a joy to wear. I experimented with the yarn I bought last fall, thinking to make a specific hat pattern, and discovered that the yarn would work well for large-needle openwork, garter, or stockinette, or even ribbing, but not for the cables I wanted to use... they got lost in the texture of the yarn. Right now, Elann does not have very much of this yarn in stock, but they have offered it continuously for the past six-eight months, so it is worth checking and grabbing some next time they have it in a color you like.

My parting gift to you is the following mountain sunset...

Sunset near Donner Pass

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mountain Child

A Special Anniversary

Today is my oldest child's 27th birthday, so I wanted to share a little about Cody.

When Cody was born twenty-seven years ago, he arrived at home, after 27 hours of labor, with the assistance of a wonderful midwife and my bestest friend, Laura. For some reason, he needed to cry a whole bunch the first eight weeks or so of his life, but has possessed a generally sunny disposition ever since.

Cody at three months old, being held by my mother, Claire. He was my parents' first grandchild, and luckily for my father, arrived about seven years before he began to develop Alzheimers. Cody is the only one of five grandchildren who actually remembers what a fun and loving Grandpa my father was. Cody got to be the only child for four and a half years, and was very close to both his dad and me... among other adventures during that time period, we lived on a goat farm for a brief span milking 100 goats on the evening shift together, and I worked at the Northern California Renaissance Faire for a season, camping the long weekends during the Faire and exploring the North Coast on our time off.

Cody at preschool in Sacramento, where he attended the "older kids" school while I worked at the infant center and was pregnant with his sis, Nikki.

Sweet smile

On his fifth birthday

I rode everywhere on a bicycle, pulling Cody in a trailer behind, and his father was a bicycle messenger, so it is little wonder that he took to wheels as soon as humanly possible. He is most likely a kinesthetic learner, and although a gifted student going through school, was also involved in a variety of sports, excelling at basketball, golf and snowboarding by high school.

Busting a move at age five

This interest in sports led to his attending Sierra Nevada College following high school graduation, where he majored in Business, through their specialized Ski Resort Management program, completing three years before deciding to quit school in order to better support himself. I have never been very well-off financially, and didn't even have a job with health benefits until Cody, the oldest, entered college, so he and my other children have had to work their own way through school, with limited financial help from us.

Cody has turned into a wonderful adult: he is gregarious, polite, humorous, loveable, a hard worker, kind, and the person his friends come to when they need to know they have a friend. He inspired me when he was hospitalized nine months ago after a serious accident, by thanking everyone who assisted him, and taking the time to look at their name tags or ask their names, and then address each one by name... the hospitality industry is sure good training for life.

His usual, happy-go-lucky self

Cody decided to return to college when his lil' sis announced she would be transferring to Chico in order to continue working towards her Bachelors degree in Human Development. They have been sharing an apartment since August, and are the best of friends and a huge amount of fun to be with. He has sustained her through leaving home and moving to a far more urbanized area, and she has encouraged him when he has gotten homesick for Lake Tahoe, where he lived the past eight years, as well as helped him get focused on what he wants to study and work towards next in life.

This is a "serious" self-portrait Cody took a few months ago. It is always sobering to be redefining yourself, and I have shared with him what it has been like for me, and have tried to be there for him when his courage falters.

The two of us on a lift at Alpine Meadows last year. I am really grateful to be so close to this wonderful son of mine.

Other Matters

Jenn tagged me with this interesting meme, which I decided to give a try (although Sallee also tagged me with another one while I was sick, that I will wait to post till next week):

4 jobs you have had in your life

High school teacher
Outdoor guide for youth program for eight summers till 2005
Goat milker for only five weeks; it killed my hands to milk 50 goats a night
Mom, for going on 27 years

4 movies you could watch over & over
Pirates of the Caribbean
Something's Eating Gilbert Grape
Shakespeare in Love
Star Wars

4 places you have lived

Forest City, CA
Talent, OR
Lake Tahoe, CA
Sacramento, CA (yup, I started out as a big city girl)

4 TV shows you love to watch
King of the Hill

4 places you have been on vacation
Death Valley
Niagra Falls and western New York
Yosemite - both the Valley and backpacking in the high country
Seaside and Cannon Beach, OR

4 websites you visit daily
Yahoo.com (and associated lists I am on)
my own (vain, huh?)

4 of your favorite foods
dark chocolate
basil pesto
fresh squeezed orange juice
chicken apple sausage

4 places you would rather be right nowa warm beach
Salt Lake City, visiting my brother in law, Margene, and the slopes for killer boarding
my other house, in snowy Forest City, with the woodstove going
On a $10,000 shopping spree won from my local radio station and spent at a wool festival

4 bloggers you are tagging

For those of you wondering where my weekly Product Review is, is has been postponed until tomorrow, in honor of writing about Cody on his birthday... and will feature something alpaca, so come back by. In the more-than-I-needed-to-know department, I am actually trying to figure out what Bloglines is, and how it can help me be a better Blogger (grin).

Friday, January 20, 2006

B is for Blogging

I have been blogging for just a bit over a year now, although I let my first anniversary go by unannounced. Blogging is a mixed bag for me: I am chatty and it gives me an outlet, I am a productive knitter and lead a curious life, so I have some good material to post, and I greatly enjoy the diversity of people I have met by surfing my way through other peoples' blogs.

Are there downsides? Well, sometimes I feel a little left out when I get too busy to pay as regular visits as I would like. Sometimes, the knit-blogging world can seem like a competitive grrl-pit, with knitters trying to out-do each other working their way through the "latest", while I am more the type to go with knitterly challenges, even if they are classics and not fads. Sometimes there is controversy, even about relatively harmless items, such as fun fur yarn (hey, the preteens I taught the past two years just loved them!).

But, isn't that pretty much how the rest of life goes? There's your inner circle of family and friends, who you have a strong affinity with (my kids call this their "top 8" on their MySpace sites), and these are the people whose blogs you can't wait to check for what's new. Then, there are the neighbors and acquaintances that you like, but just aren't in sync with, so you don't ever quite get around to taking that hike, having that cup of coffee together, or developing the closeness you might otherwise have.

And, of course, there are the random blogs you stumble upon, much like the person you have a great conversation with on the train, or while waiting in line to pick up a prescription, and then never see again.

Blogging has also given me a support group of like-minded crafters, a great highlight for a person living in a rural place. My dear friend Mary, who I spent almost every day with back when our two 26-year olds were learning to walk, moved to a very small town before I did. She said that one of the most important things she learned was that there were interesting things and similarities in people who still had a life view far different than hers, and these people became friends in small towns out of necessity, where in the large city of Sacramento where we met, people tended to gravitate towards those like them, without benefitting from this broadening of one's outlook. Blogging works in much the same way, allowing us to find our similarities and put aside our concerns about differences.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Who's the Creative One?

As you have probably noticed, I have been silent the past few days, but what you cannot realize from the written word is that I also lost my voice midway through this cold I have been suffering under. I awoke yesterday morning unable to speak above a whisper, and actually had to have my husband call my office for me. I had been staying home in the morning anyway to visit my chiropracter, who lives up the road from me, but she left a croaky message for my on the answering machine, saying she was too ill to see anyone. My boss at the Clinic has the same cold, as does the high school daughter of one of our nurses (who also lost her voice). One of my employees at the child care center had called in sick on Monday, and missed Tuesday. Several of the children (of course) are ill... it doesn't really help much to know that their "immune systems are gaining experience". That last bit is a direct quote from the pediatrician featured on the instructional videos at our Red Cross health class last Sunday, where I learned that preschoolers and infants, on average, suffer from 6-8 colds per year and 1-2 bouts of diarrhea!

My immune system could use a rest about now, as this is my third cold for the season, and normally I manage to doctor myself through any early symptoms and avoid "real" (as in lying around in bed) illness. Not so this time. I spent most of yesterday laid up, too exhausted even to KNIT (I can hardly believe it myself). I did get in a few rows on the Ruffled Shawl, which is only a row or two shy of the required 325 stitches now, and awaiting some attention later this evening. The next step is to make short row "points", which will become the foundation for the "ruffles".

I managed to muster enough energy to clean up a bit and head out in the pouring rain/slush in the late afternoon, with DH as chauffeur for myself and one of the child care center's long-time supporters, Chris, to attend a meeting of the board from the agency taking over our management. Although last night's meeting did not appear productive on the surface, something broke up the logjam reigning for the past week, and now forward progress is being made. I will be better able to take stock of my life situation by next Tuesday, which made me feel more lighthearted today, even though I still felt lightheaded from my cold. I worked a few hours only at each job, loafed around on the couch this afternoon (I am a terrible napper) and managed to make it to the post office to send off my second care package to my Better Pal, who I certainly hope feels better than I do. I think I am a tiny bit better, and now can speak in a croak instead of a whisper, but am hoping for good health to return quickly, as there is now SNOW in the Sierras, and I had hoped to go snowboarding on Saturday. At this point, I might be content with just sitting on the deck looking at the snow and sun!

My husband, on the other hand, has NOT been sick, and has been on a creative binge, inspired by an article in this month's issue of Old House Journal, titled "Common Colors Used Uncommonly Well". The subtitle, A Basic Guide to the decoration of Arts & Crafts interiors, more accurately reflects the content and photos featured. I was quite surprised at his interest in this article, as I have always been the one favoring Arts & Crafts decor and objects, even to the point of writing an article about the Arts & Crafts movement several years ago while in grad school.

Glenn repainted the mantle in our family room two days ago, with some paint graining that it is difficult to capture in this view from the couch. Then, following the color schemes popular during the Arts and Crafts Movement, painted the wall of the chimney a light olive green this afternoon. To the left side of the fireplace, two of the slates are standing up, to give us an idea what that color would look like as baseboard paint. The grandfather clock to the left was our gift to ourselves to celebrate our fifth anniversary, back in 1999.

Olive, I learned was a very ancient and common color for decorative interiors, because the paint did not required white lead, which was very expensive. Olive also covered well, was resistant to fading, and was stable in various paint formulas. The article also points out that the olive color scheme and the heavy use of wood in the Arts & Crafts movement depended on the contrast of needlework accessories such as pillows, table runners, sideboard scarves, and shawls draped over the chair or settee... get out your knitting needles! Olive looks very good together with the deep burgundy red of the mantle, which matches the drapes already in this room, and I am going to be on the lookout for a nice turkey-red carpet.

For the curious, I will further point out that our house was built in 1852, and that this is the original wood fireplace, now outfitted with a propane fireplace which puts out tons of BTUs of heat, since the brick chimney has been blocked off. On the other side of the wall is the coal fireplace, much narrower and with an ornate, original grate. The two fireplaces shared one chimney, but we would never dare to have a fire in them again, as that chimney really cannot be rebuilt without tearing apart our walls, and surely no longer is intact... cracks in the mortar over the years and all. Glenn installed a simple propane jet in the coal fireplace just after Christmas, hidden behind the grate, to heat the parlor and our bedroom. The house is laid out in a cruciform (cross) shape, and heat going around curves and through halls and doorways is all but dissipated by this shape, hence the requirement for two furnaces. We are cozier than we have ever been, but still feel the wind blowing in the fiercer storms, and recognize that living in an old house not only has character, but builds yours.

You may have noticed that I am sporting a jazzy new ski button up there at the top; I am opting for Margene's alternative Olympic knitalong... not being of a very competitive nature, nor caring that much whether I sit around and watch the Olympics on television (as I told Margene, I would much rather go out and play in the snow than watch others doing it). I was excited to learn today that Jayson Hale, cousin of two of my former students, who grew up with my kids, made the U.S. Olympic snowboard team, so just might have to watch a few of those events, while peacefully and processfully, knitting. We come from a pretty small place, around 3,500 people in the whole county, and it's exciting when someone local gets as far as the Olympics!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Product Review: Knitting Around


Yarn name: Knitting Around, by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Manufacture:Schoolhouse Press
MSRP: $28.00 (hardcover only)

I know you are wondering why I am writing a Product Review about a book published 15 years ago, but I know that there are a lot of new knitters who aren't familiar yet with the amazing work of Elizabeth Zimmermann. This book is subtitled: Knitting Without A License, which is exactly what EZ gives us permission to do.

She started out much the same way as many of the young web-based designers offering us cute patterns from their websites lately (except for the electronic part). Many of her first designs were based on flat pieces sewn together and were sold to the illustrious publications of post-war US, including Bernat and McCalls Needlework and Crafts. However, she came from an English family of knitters, and learned about circulars from a dear aunt, then decided to start adapting many conventional designs to circular, seamless styles in much the same way traditional garments had been made in wool-oriented parts of the world for centuries. This helped the designs towards completion much faster. Over the years, EZ published many books, including Knitting Without Tears, and Knitters Almanac, as well as putting out a public TV program in the 1980s and follow-up videos, which enabled knitters to have an instructor right in their own living room. She started Schoolhouse Press (now owned by her daughter Meg Swanson), which continues to be a prominent source of knitting supplies, books exploring the cultural connections in knitting from around the world, and offers their own lines of yarn.

I discovered her books while working as a school library aide back in 1988, and went through my own knitting renaissance. I taught myself to knit continental-style, so that I could do two-stranded colorwork, carrying a different color in each hand. I pulled out a really complex Aran patterned poncho left over from the last time ponchoes were in vogue (it had been too elaborate to finish before the style fell away, but the Unger Rygia yarn was too good to give up on), followed EZ's "exposition" as she calls it (meaning a general schematic of how to get the correct shape, allowing you design freedom along the way) and turned the panels into a tomten jacket, with garter stitch yokes and sleeves, figuring out how to add in some extra Peace Fleece yarn to have enough to finish and adding ribbing to make a zipper placket down the front, but just couldn't bring myself to cut into the cables to put in an "afterthought pocket", another of EZ's "unventions" (she claimed that she wasn't really inventing, but merely rediscovering design elements that knitters preceding her had used). I promise to take pictures on the next sunny day, as I still have this rugged coat, and am still considering whether to put those pockets on the sides, so that I will wear this coat more often. Elizabeth and Meg established a summer Knitters Camp, much like summer camp for big grrls, which I used to wish I could afford to fly across the country to attend. I greatly enjoyed subscribing to Knitters Review for many years, and rushed out to buy The Opinionated Knitter, a collection of past newsletters and designs published last year.

All of that aside, the main reason why I decided to write a Product Review on this particular one of her books is the wonderful watercolor paintings and family stories that are interspersed among the patterns. I bought my copy just recently, so that I could make a PiR2 Shawl, a variation on the circular Pi design that EZ designed many years back. This design starts with the same circular shaping for the back and then creates triangles on each front side which drape across the shoulders more like a ruana.

I had never purchased the book before, as it has always been in print in the expensive hardback format, but am enjoying the stories so much, with pictures from her childhood, her days as an art student, and her courtship with her German husband, as well as those of her young children modeling mother-made knitwear, and later designs done in collaboration with her daughter and featuring glamorous teenaged grandchildren as models. How wonderful to live that long!

The writing is pithy, entertaining, and almost as if Elizabeth, who passed away in 1999, was amongst us blogging today. Shelob asked me which was my favorite so far, and I have to say that her descriptions of ski outings in the Alps back in the 1930s really reminded me of my mother's stories of skiing at Sugarbowl while in high school, and my own adventures backcountry skiing when in my late teens and early 20s. So far, this account has been my favorite.

Visit Margene's blog for pictorial inspiration to get you out skiing, snowshoeing, or snowboarding; I love winter! We get to wear more wool, and go out and play in the snow.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Spinning Saturday and Other Passages

Just after Thanksgiving, I joined the Foothill Fiber Guild in Nevada City, which is closest to me geographically. This weekend was my first chance to make it to the monthly Spinning Saturday program, held at the local library. There is a four-hour open period during which guild members and the public can bring their spinning or other fiber crafts and visit with and learn from each other. I brought knitting, and pretty much kept it a secret that I ever used to spin, since I am not particularly proud of my past spinning attempts and don't expect to resurrect my wheel. It was great fun to watch someone else make their first successful attempt on the wheel, and even a bit inspiring to watch people turning out such nice yarn from commercially carded roving, as I had always hand-carded with somewhat lumpy results.

There were also several guild members working on a fledgling inkle project that Sara has put together for a display the guild will be doing at the Conference of Northern California Weavers in May down in Modessto.

Sara, on the right, demonstrates the inkle pattern that the guild members will be displaying at CNCH in May (I can't remember the name of the woman on left - too many new people at once (: You can see a closer detail of Sara's partially completed band on her blog.

A close up of another band.

I had a very pleasant time knitting, talking, and listening, and learned random but useful things, including Jan's experience of using glass gallon jars painted black and placed in her coldframe during summer to dye yarn (she uses a strip of tape down the side to create a window to peer in and see how the dyeing is coming along, but hadn't gotten around to solar cooking yet), and how to make a spindle while recycling those AOL CDs you keep getting in the mail. I developed a cold Friday, and suffered a bit throughout the day, but hung in there till I was too chilly, sitting near the door, and took off to head over to Chico, as Nikki and I had a training to attend today (yes, I know it is Sunday, but there simply is no rest for the wicked, I guess).

My son Cody and I had an early dinner together, while Nikki made a slow drive through the snow from Downieville west, then the rain, which ended at dusk. My DH spent the weekend at our house in Forest City, giving a class and then a tour at the museum, while a foot of snow accumulated; I think we are finally getting a bit of real winter here in the Sierras (although I guess the flooding a few weeks ago should count too). Nikki is sicker than I am, so we both lounged around and turned in early in order to make it through today's child care health and safety training, during which I was able to knit quite a bit on my Ruffled Shawl.

Today also marks the 11th anniversary of the death of my own mother. I pondered this gap in my life while driving back home, and realized that the thing I was most grateful to have acquired from my mother was the strong sense of family I have. My mother was there for us through various crises, and even when I didn't want to admit to needing help as an adult, I always knew if things got really tough, I could go to her and ask for help and it would be there. That was someting important for me to apply in my own mothering, and I am extremely lucky to be so close to my children, and to have been able to give back through them.

My mother didn't like to knit, but made socks during WWII and made sure I got knitting lessons when I expressed an interest at age five. She did love to play the piano, and my fondest memories from early childhood were when she would sit down and play late in the afternoon, to entertain us and "settle us down" during that rambunctious and anxious period just before dinner and my dad coming home from work. She didn't do this daily, but it worked every time, because she was very good and lively, playing jazz piano by reading chords. I also started piano lessons at age five, but the musical training, while useful throughout my life, didn't inspire the same passion, and didn't stick with me. She always admired the things I made, and later the patience I had as a mother when my children were young. It was very hard to go forward without her the first year or two.

Hugs to all of you mothers out there.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Not My Week

When I am excited about attending a long meeting, simply to get in some "quality" knitting time and some respite from my daily grind, you know things are out of whack. Without boring you all with the gruesome details, things truly went from bad to worse last Friday and haven't recovered yet. I am really open to considering all options to redefine my life, as the things I thought I had planned around work and weekday are all upended. I am still going to work at two jobs, but a great deal of uncertainty surrounds one, so I will have to try to hang in there, minus much real knitting time, and plus many crises to solve and handle, and hope things ease up... why, I was even accosted at the gas station down in Oroville while coming home Saturday, by someone who insisted I had cut him off in line, even though 3/4th of the lines were going the same direction as I was, and he was on the wrong side of the pumps! Why me?!

While helping to plan for improved rural mental health services today, I was able to knit some more on the Ruffled Shawl, and have set aside part of Saturday for some further progress as well. It is now somewhere around the 250-stitch mark, with 322 total before finishing off with the ruffles, and I am really liking it! My copy of Knitting Workshop arrived, so that I could begin to ponder designs for my Anniversary Pi Shawl if I weren't so busy admiring the watercolors and pencil sketches and biographical photos and stories from Elizabeth Zimmerman's prolific and artistic life ... what an inspiration! Eventually (and it better be soon, as cast on date is Jan 22nd!) I will settle down and plan out my shawl.

My spinning guild newsletter also arrived in today's mail, and the guild will be presenting a two-day intermediate to advanced knitting class taught by designer Joan Schrouder; unfortunately, its a Tues-Wed class, and I will be working. The problem with not having had either job long enough to earn any leave time.....

At least I have Spinning Saturday to look forward to, as well as hobnobbing with filmgoers at the soon-to-be-world-famous Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in downtown Nevada City this weekend. I don't have the time to spend viewing the films (at least not if I want to hang out with the spinners and knit:), but am going to try to fit in Saturday morning cartoons! If you live nearby, there is probably still half a chance of getting tickets, but Internet ticket sales are already closed, and many of the time slots sold out last year. You heard it here first.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Product Review: Sensuale


Yarn name: Sensuale
Weight: Heavy worsted
Manufacture: Sullivans
Size: approx. 80 yds (label does not list)/50 gm ball
Fibers: 40% polyamide/60% acrylic
MSRP $10.00 for three balls at my local Ben Franklin store

I don't normally review a yarn when I cannot find a source for purchasing it online, however, this yarn was so perfect for the project that I wanted to make, and such a treat to work with that I had to include it. I was browsing through my local Ben Franklin last week, looking for yarn to make a teddy bear for our grandbaby, Mia, who turns one in a few days. My requirements were that it be extremely soft, and that it be hand washable. The color also had to be "beary" perfect for a teddy! While my pattern called for a different heavy worsted yarn, this one jumped out at me; it was fluffy like feathers, but also thick and substantial. It knitted up very easily, sliding through my fingers, but not off the needles, and had the right density to hold up to stuffing the bear shown below.

However, it would also make a lovely scarf of any simple design, or a chemocap, or, possibly a stole or "fake mink" cape in similar colors.

This bear is about 12 inches high, so quite substantial in a child's arms, yet so soft, warm and cuddly. The colorway is "very beary", with variations like those seen in real bears. The pattern is available on the Berroco website, and was designed for their Chinchilla yarn, however I liked Sensuale better for the color match. This bear works up very quickly, so would be great for a last-minute gift (bet someone is wishing I would have put this post up a month ago).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

How Backlogged are You?

I woke up to a sunlit day at home, after musing on just how backlogged in projects I was while driving back from Chico last evening. I had spent a wonderful day with Nikki and Cody, knitted a bit on the Ruffled Shawl and done a lot of shopping while we waited for Cody's glasses to be made at the Lenscrafters located in the Chico mall.

There are three child-sized birthdays coming up in the next week or so, and Nikki helped me pick out cute outfits for grandbaby Mia, turning one on January 11th and Eliane, who has been with the Children's Center since its inception, turning 3, with a party her mama (my co-worker) is throwing on Friday. I also found Ani and her cousin Karlee, who turns 8 on the 15th, and is also a Children's Center regular, some cool toys. Karlee will be getting the Pet Doctor Barbie (I guess Barbie has to work for a living in these enlightened times), as she trustingly whispered in Santa's ear that all she wanted for Christmas was Barbies this year (a new turn of direction on her part), and unfortunately, Santa was the only one who heard. Barbie the veterinarian has her own exam table with battery-lit xray showing a hamburger inside a dog when you press a button, so of course in the usual wacky sense of humor that accompanies my family everywhere, that is the one we selected.

I also found a teddy bear complete with dramatic costumes for Ani, and stuffing to finish my knitted teddy bear for Mia, and managed to stop by Heartstrings, where the owner actually recognized me (I don't think too many customers come in to the yarn shop accompanied by an entourage that includes young men over six feet tall, and I have been by several times with my sons). I bought a longer ebony circular needle, as my Ruffled Shawl is actually past the halfway point and now has over 200 stitches; ample justification, as well as preparation for the upcoming and larger PiR2 shawl to be started once this one is finished. I located something special for my Better Pal and a way cute calendar for myself, featuring vintage knitting ads and unusual knitted art by Debbie New. I came home tired, but able to get another small chunk of shawl knitted last night.

My first steps in sorting out my backlog this morning were to cart all the birthday gifts to be wrapped upstairs. This only led to distraction, as I had left balls of yarn scattered everywhere last week, when interrupted to accompany my DH and a friend to dinner... I had been winding three different yarns into one ball (three times over) for some braided scarves to sell at the crafts co-op shop, and never did get back to them all week.

Yes, I am seriously backlogged. In fact, to the point of ADD, I think, as I jumped from thing to thing all day trying valiently to feel like I had caught up somewhere in my life. I was able to get my assignments done for my online orientation. I was able to do five loads of laundry. I was able, finally, to copy all of my Product Reviews to date onto a separate blog, to be made public as soon as I can adequately make a button (another source of distraction and frustation this evening, during which time I almost burnt the beets cooking to accompany dinner, and was extremely thankful that Glenn was the one cooking the game hens and rice). I was even able to finish knitting the little bear (photos to follow once the embroidery details are completed tomorrow). However, those balls of yarn waiting to be wound together are still scattered about, along with a pile of yarn I pulled out, hoping to determine what to use amongst my wool leftovers to make the Entrelac Tote featured on Knitpicks, a pattern that arrived with my alpaca order for my Pi Shawl, which will replace a felted bag I sold at the crafts co-op on Christmas Eve.

The real highlight of the day, and the source of centering and calm, was the several hours during the early afternoon that we spent out walking with our burros, Rose and Assteroid. These two are a good pair together, adventurous, adequately trained (although not yet bombproof, as evidenced by Assteroid's fear of my neighbor's wooden bear cutouts on his field; even though I went up and touched one and knocked on it, he continued to shy away and couldn't quite believe me that it wasn't a real and dangerous bear - convincing me that real bears have certainly walked by their fences at night) and loving hiking companions. In my long hours away from home, I have sorely missed the companionship of the animals, and felt very heartened to also get the chance after we returned home to picket those two out for some green (ish) grass while I spent 45 minutes having some one-on-one time with April, our shyest and least tamed burro. She still has a long way to go to be able to walk on a lead with them, but was willing to spend a lot of time close by me, walking over the property, getting ear rubs and head scratches, and eating apple slices from my hands. We have come a very long way together from her first days here as a wild critter. She has a cautious and quiet nature, and has very slowly come to feeling affection toward me, and every positive step is a very big gain in my eyes.

Glenn and Rose walking through the winter forest.

Through all of this sorting process, I forced myself to examine just how backlogged I really was... the animals were doing a little better than I had thought, there is a realistic possibility that I can build a work schedule that includes my second online class, but the knitting is still seriously overwhelming. I made a list of those projects that are in the committed stage, and placed time estimates beside them, just to see if I would live long enough. To qualify as "committed", they had to be either on the needles already or specifically purchased and still strongly desired... just hanging around in the wings didn't count. Here is what I came up with:

Teddy bear - about 1-2 more hours to finish
Purse order - 2-3 days of knitting, then felting
Red Hat shawl - probably 2 weeks of evenings to finish (although I am not sure yet how complicated the ruffled edging will be)
Pi Shawl - expect to cast on January 22nd and spend a month on this
Nikki's top - 3 hours to remake a sleeve, then another hour to assemble, when I can face re-doing (probably sometime when spring shows a sign and reminds me she could be wearing it)
Entrelac tote - don't know how long this will take, but it looks like fun and uses up leftovers, and repopulates the craft shop
Amy's yoga mat bag - 2 to 3 days of knitting when the other felted items are done
Pink Versatile Shawl - languishing this past week, needs about 5 hours to complete
Booties for shop - four pair at 2 hours each
Bohus Cardi - this kit hasn't arrived yet, and is on backorder, but will take quite awhile
Elsebeth Lavold tank - I have some lovely turquoise viscose/rayon yarn waiting for the hint of warmer weather and don't feel particularly guilty that there are several items crowding out the start of this one... I will love working on the design this spring.

Actually, it helps my peace of mind to realize that this list isn't as unrealistic as it seems... while compiling my list of Product Reviews, I realized that I have worked my way through a huge pile of yarn... What the heck, I just might make up a hat or two for Bad Rad Beanies before getting to the list. Do you think I have ADD? What is your backlog looking like?

Friday, January 06, 2006

A is for Animals

Anne suggested a great, fun blog tradition for 2006, that of coming up with a post for every letter of the alphabet over the course of the year, on the average of once every two weeks. I decided that my alphabet would reflect those things that are most important to me, so the first letter in the alphabet is for animals. I have always been an animal person, from back when I was a girl and developed good communications with almost every dog I ever met:)

I have lived with dogs, cats, parakeets, finches, chickens (several dozen birds over the years), goats (lived on a goat farm and milked 50 a night at one point), rabbits, fish, a turtle, a rat, and most recently, five burros. I truly value the difference between us as species, and the benefits of making room for other species than humans in my world.

Many blog readers have commented to me "where are the burros?" as they are mentioned in my tag line, even though most of my blogging is about knitting. However, I spend a part of every day with them, at least feeding and loving on them, and admire their stalwart yet careful natures, their affection, the way they love to have their ears rubbed, and their unique braying communication with me.

We got our first burro, Rose, in December 2003, with the intention of getting a second and taking pack trips in the backcountry near our home. We learned about April in February 2004. She had been pulled off the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge a few weeks before, where a herd was removed from an area that was both overcrowded and too near a highway. She went to live with my friends Ginny and Dave, who operate the Hole in The Head Gang Animal Rescue in Artois, California, in order to be tamed enough to have routine medical care before being adopted out.

In the meantime, fellow donkey list members put me in touch with Mac, who had lived with Rita for twenty years, but recently become too ill to care for her and her companion animal, Louise (yes, animals can have companion animals just like us humans, providing the same comfort and friendship). Rita was 22, and Louise was 25. Louise is a BLM-adopted burro, and was older when captured, perhaps 9 or 10, and never has fully bonded with any humans, but she is firmly attached to Rita. Rita is well-trained to packing, riding and driving a cart.

Yep, I could ride a donkey, if I didn't have so much fun walking with them. This is Rita and I, March 2004

Rita and Louise had gotten settled in pretty well with Rose when it was time to bring April to live with us. Ginny had discovered that she was pregnant, and we had suddenly grown a large herd (not unlike acquiring yarn stash, dear knitter-readers). Ginny felt she would have at least a month to get used to being with us before the baby arrived, and delivered her to our house in early May 2004.

Here are the three gossips, Rose, Louise, and Rita (l. to r.) checking out new arrival, the very pregnant April. Readers of donkey language will note the submissive but suspicious lowered head on April, and the alert, curious, upright ears of the other three.

We did get to spend a bit of time with April, but she was very timid. She would come up for carrots, and accepted us as providers of food. Early in the morning on May 18, 2004, I went out to feed and discovered a tiny burro standing next to her... even knowing she was pregnant, I was almost dumbfounded as it was much sooner than the experts had predicted... hence the name Assteroid, he must have fallen from the sky:)

Newborn baby Assteroid and mama April, May 2004

I look forward to the spring, when we can get out and hike and pack with the animals, and I can move some of them up to the high country with me. In the meantime, I dislike the fact that the long hours I need to work these days takes me away from time shared with them.

The affection we share with our burros is very special.

As I work my way through the alphabet, look for entries on Fridays; B is for Blogging!

Last Minute Note: When I went to Anne's website for her link, I discovered that I hadn't been around frequently enough, as she has set up an alphabet ring with 100 participants! It is too late to join, but not too late to check out the creativity this inspires in the coming year. Bloggers are so cool.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Greetings in a Small Town

It is now a few days past the New Year celebrations, but the mood is still festive here in the small town of Downieville, where I work. The mountains surrounding us, and the two rivers flowing through make for a narrow, pedestrian-oirented town, and so everyone walks to and from their errands, and to the post office daily to get their mail. The county courthouse is located here, adding to the pool of friends to meet on the day's rounds.

I realized today that we are all in the habit of greeting each other with a "Happy New Year" when passing on the sidewalks, for at least the first week of each new year. Perhaps it is that the sun was finally showing for the first time in two weeks, but the greetings were flying fast and furious, particularly during the noontime, when I walked to the bank and post office, and picked up a cup of homemade soup at the grocery. I must have been greeted by at least a dozen acquaintances, also receiving greetings in return as they passed down the streets. Does this happen in other towns? I suspect it is more common where people already know each other, and where they walk past each other.

However, greeting in the new year is also a symbolic gesture of hope, as we continue to arise in deep darkness, and finish our days as dusk is descending. It is a reminder that the sun has truly turned around and the daylight is gaining minutes over the darkness with each passing day. Every time we shout out a "Happy New Year" to a friend or neighbor, we are reaffirming that new life is returning to the cold earth, and that spring will come again, and that we have the optimistic spirit to believe in new beginnings for ourselves as well.

My new beginning has been to start the online orientation for a post-graduate program in early childhood education that I will be taking over the next year and a half through Pacific Oaks College. I have taken several college courses online already, as well as a few from Barnes & Noble University, a shawl class through Needlecraft University (they are offering a Bohus sweater class in January), and most recently, the Shetland Lace Workshop from the EZasPi list. I feel pretty adept at online learning, but must of course prove it to the college by completing this first course over the next two weeks. In February, I will begin my first "real" course, titled Writing Our Stories (sounds like me, eh? :)... which looks at the importance of documentation along with the importance of each teacher understanding their own stories in preparation for helping others develop theirs. I am looking forward to it, and hope to teach early childhood classes to adults along the road I am taking.

The other new beginning has given me more trepidation... we are merging our center's operations with our regional Resource and Referral Agency, who will take over the fiscal responsibilities, allowing us to concentrate on caring for the children and educating them without financial worries (or at least that is the optimistic premise). Things weren't really ready, but the new year turned anyway, so I am spending the week "working out the bugs" and sleeping restlessly as I process my worry and attention to detail. Keep good thoughts for me.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Product Review: Chinchilla


Yarn name: Chinchilla
Weight: Heavy worsted
Manufacture: Berroco
Size: Worsted: 77 yds/50 gm (1.75 oz) ball
Fibers: 100% rayon
MSRP: $7.00 per skein

First of all, even though this is the second Berroco Product Review in a row, I am not getting a cut from them. Actually, since I have collected vintage knitting pattern books over the years, I am well aware that Berroco is one of the U.S.'s oldest fashion yarn firms, and Vintage Knits is a great place to see some of those old patterns, as well as to get the yardage equivalents for the Berroco yarns no longer in existence.

That said, this yarn first caught my attention in the Patternworks catalog a few years back, as they would send you a free Chemocare cap pattern with every order, if you requested it. What a great idea! When I met Chinchilla in person, I could understand why it would be a favored choice for these caps, as it is so very gentle.

This yarn is entirely rayon, which means it is a natural fiber, along with wool, cotton and silk. Of course, there is more processing involved in making cellulose from rayon than handspinning some wool in the grease, but there certainly is a special place for this yarn, particularly for those with allergies to wool, or skin sensitivities such as those undergoing chemotherapy and losing their hair. Although it is classified as a heavy worsted weight yarn, it will not be a very stiff sweater or scarf, because of the crushability of the chenille, and it is not overly "furry" like some of the eyelash types.

This is a little keyhole scarf I made last year from Chinchilla, very soothing and non-irritating around the neck.

Monday, January 02, 2006

How Was Your New Year's Eve?

Our's was pretty quiet this year, as mudslides blocked the main highway, and flooding threatened Downieville Saturday morning. We made a preliminary scouting run about midday and discovered that we could get from our main house in Camptonville to the secondary road leading to Forest City, where we had planned to spend the weekend at our house there. However, our friends weren't able to join us.

That was ok in the end, as we were tired after wandering around checking out the storm's effects all afternoon.

That tiny speck at the top of the photo is Glenn, trenching to divert some of the water off the road beside our house.

This is a seasonal creek flowing beside our Forest City house, only the culvert got plugged during the storm and the water was flowing over the top and across the road into our neighbor's yard. Glenn was able to unplug the culvert, and the water level dropped a bit over New Year's Eve to flow back through properly.

This road leads back down to Main Street from our house, and will be 4WD only in the coming season... and impassable until spring, as the road body is heavy clay and the water cut some very deep gullies in it. Luckily, the main road, School Street, remains passable, until the snows get too deep, then we snowshoe in until spring. For the past six years, we have spent most of the winter in Camptonville, but hiked in and out for 13 winters before that.

Rex is capturing one of the cascades filling up Oregon Creek, the creek that runs through Forest City. The north and south branches of the creek come together at the bottom of our tiny town, then the creek continues to fill for twenty miles until it meets the Middle Yuba River, where there is a popular swimming area, which was flooded this weekend.

Things could have been much worse than what we had found. When we came in at dark, I decided to check the weather forecast and my email, and found this photo, sent out by my friend, Nancy, who had been moving all her guests to the upstairs rooms, as water was seeping into their downstairs ones. The back yard of the inn across the river bridge from her was awash as well. The grocery store had been pumping water out of their basement all day, and there were places where side streets were damaged by water, as well as a section of Highway 49 near Camp Yuba where the road had been reduced to one lane.

photo courtesy Nancy Carnahan, owner of the Riverside Inn in Downieville

Our dear friends Don and Jacie live only about 100 yards further down the road beside the levee, just out of sight in this photo, and we were expecting to go over for a New Years Day brunch. I decided to call first, and the water had dropped significantly (like more than five feet overnight), but they had spent Saturday sandbagging seep holes in the levee, as well as where the beach near them had disappeared under the river, and the band expected to play locally for New Years Eve hadn't made it up.

We did have a lovely brunch together, along with Mike and Nancy (from the motel) and Mike and Debby, and a walk along the river to check out the debris washed up, and the receding waters... although it was raining lightly and snowed a bit yesterday afternoon. It continues to rain tonight.

We lost electricity in the midafternoon, and headed back to Camptonville (they are only 20 miles apart), to make sure things were under control there. We had a romantic candlelit evening and slept late today.

We still needed to tend to the errands in Nevada City we couldn't take care of earlier in the weekend, now that the slides had been cleared and got our shopping done and a trip to get some yarn as well.

In the quiet this afternoon, after the power came back on, I got busy making up this fuzzy little bear from a pattern I printed off the Berroco website. I get their weekly newsletter "Knit Bits" by email, and this bear, dubbed the Harry Bear, was accompanied by a Harry Potter scarf pattern. I will finish off the bear and stuff, then embroider a nose and eyes with black perle cotton, but skip the miniature scarf, as the bear will get sent off to grandbaby Mia, in honor of her first birthday later this month. The yarn called for is Berroco Chinchilla, but my local Ben Franklin only had a few non-bearlike colors, so I selected something obscure I found on sale today at Ben Franklin: Sullivans Sensuale... being washable as well as cuddly made it an appropriate choice for a toddler.

It has been a different kind of New Year's Eve weekend, and it's back to work tomorrow. I hope that the weather subsides a bit and that the year to come will be peaceful and prosperous for all... no, I didn't get a Product Review together, what with no power, but will have it up tomorrow evening. Blessings of the New Year!