A View from Sierra County

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

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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


Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Melt is On

This is a roaring freshest, coming off the mountainside to add to the swelling North Yuba, normally barely detectable as a dry wash the rest of the year. The river is full of rafters, kayakers, and fisher-people for opening weekend of trout season (a big event around here).

The past few days have been wonderful, warm spring days... we have gone from rains and temps in the 50s to bright sunshine and the 80s; it's a bit of a shock, but we can finally wear our spring clothes and sandals. I have even toyed with putting the wool projects aside into storage and starting on something I could wear very soon, such as this, in Rowan Calmer's Sour colorway.

I spent yesterday out and about, including getting to see the Portola quilt guild's Cabin Fever quilt show. There, I also connected with Anna, our friend whose sheep farm was featured here back in mid-March. She has gotten some of her wool back from being spun up and so I bought a nice, medium-grey skein of light worsted weight to make my own version of the Nautie featured in the spring issue of Knitty. Unfortunately, that is really the only thing in there that caught my fancy this time (well, maybe the pedicure socks, but do I really need them?). However, I was also enamored with Anna's charcoal laceweight wool and thought about switching my Mountain Peaks shawl to a yarn choice that would give me better stitch definition, especially now that I have seen a few completed on the Mountain Lacealong site - go take a look.

Yesterday afternoon, I did finally get my Mountain Stream scarf off the needles, finding a few quiet moments to turn the last corner and graft the last bit of the border together... a clever pattern that I just loved and will probably make again when fall comes along. I hope to block it this afternoon and have photos to show later in the week. My version may actually block out to a narrow stole.....

I was also able to capture a few photos of my great, new tool from Nana Sadie Rose:

My DPs, neatly and beautifully organized in my new Odessa case. I have just finished reading Wendy's chapter about knitting tools, so can feel very smug and self-satisfied to have so many lovely bamboo dps (a few sets aren't even in there yet), and a lovely way to store them.

My rolled up DPs

The one project that has seen some attention is the ruana, which has grown steadily to almost the mid-point; I may even be able to finish it while the evenings remain cool; it is growing into a rather warm mass of knitting which will be way too warm to hold onto in another month.

I have been working on expanding my writing into other formats and have some good news and some bad news. As you know, I wrote a review of Wendy's book as a Product Review a few posts back. She asked if I would submit it to Amazon, which I dutifully did, adding how much I enjoyed her Bad-Ass Knitters' Kitties' Manifesto. There were no reviews for her book yet, so I waited optimistically. Unfortunately, I totally forgot how parts of the world outside of blogland are much more "language-sensitive"; now there are several reviews up on the site, but none of them are mine. Heck!

The good news is that I have been asked to contribute to a group blog to entertain and inform others about the Eat Local Challenge. You will be hearing a bit about my efforts here, but most of my food writing will move to that site. I will be posting there about once a week.

In acknowledgement of the return of spring and outdoor living to the Sundstrom burrostead, I stopped by the fish store on the way home from work the other day and picked up two new and improved pets:

These pretty babies are Comets. Long and faithful readers may remember that two years ago, for Father's Day, I built DH a backyard water feature, right next to the place where our outdoor easy chairs are...and attempted to have a few fish in it as well as the plants and fountain. The first year, we tried feeder goldfish, who ended up attracting garter snakes. Last year, larger goldfish resisted the returning snakes but succumbed to raccoons (I know, it's the food chain in action, but geez... these are MY fish we're talking about here). This year, the newly cleaned out water garden has a wire mesh cover, partially visible, and much larger fish. Keep your fingers crossed.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Learning to Make Art

I spent some time getting oriented to my new teaching job this afternoon, with Anita, who is the administrator in charge of the various alternative education programs including Adult Education and GED. As we were reviewing her list of important things to tell me, she apologetically said that she would probably overwhelm me with details because of her "sequential" learning style. Later in the conversation, I revealed that I had to work to be organized because I was an "abstract-random". For those not familiar with education jargonese, take a moment to read this article about the Gregorc learning styles model, and how these learning styles make a difference in how of us processes information throughout our lives. I promise, there IS a relevance here to what I am about to discuss.

Driving home, I got to pondering how working in education had taught me a lot about myself, and how much being abstract-random affects the way I go about creating art. If you were to walk up my stairs and into my studio right now, it would look pretty organized, as I just spent some spring-cleaning time bonding with my stash and putting my tools in order. I even set up a countertop, actually an antique treadle sewing machine with the zigzag machine removed and in storage (I have TWO other machines, so probably won't be treadling unless electricity goes away for good), and attached my circular sock machine to the counter. This is actually deceptive though, a temporary sense of order to the usual chaotic methods I live with.

One of the issues for people who are abstract-random is that of getting easily scattered. My dearest colleague, Chgeryl, from years of teaching (she is also my neighbor at the high country house) was the only other abstract-random when we did a group exercise with our school team and several other schools at a conference about five years ago. We realized that we were the most artistic on the staff, and that our type of learning style played a rather narrow role in being educators; most people transmitting information are much more linear (sequential) and need things to be solid (concrete). Cheryl's elementary classroom, where all four of our children spent their youth, was one giant art studio, with lots of experiential learning happening. Oh, there were desks and chairs, and math with manipulatives as well as reading lessons, but there was also a kitchen and lots of cooking activities, and art materials lining almost every square inch. I set up my two rigid heddle looms for her in the hallway, and there was a huge box of yarn for students to use in practicing the weaving process. There were bottles of paint and easels, and when the school diminished in size because of lowered enrollment, she spilled over across the hall, where students learned science by planting seeds, and later sorting and drying ones from the school garden.

This is a common feature of the abstract-random mind... we jump from thing to thing, are intuitive in our ideas and understanding, and, at least for me, need to have everything in sight to "remember" that it exists, what it looks like, and where it is located. I spin a lot of pictures (and word pictures) in my mind, which in part is how I became a strong writer, doing lots of advance pre-writing.

However, when I am developing a quilt or a knitting project, I need to have all the components I am considering out in plain sight, where I can walk by them regularly, and touch and more the colors around in order to visualize what the project will develop into.. especially when I am using multiple colors of yarn or pieces of fabric. It is a bit easier when there is just one color of yarn; then, I pick up and fondle the yarn as I go by, each time imprinting into my consciousness the feel, weight, texture, and re-examining whether I am heading in the right direction with my ideas. I can usually look at a photo of an existing pattern and decide rather quickly these days if it will look good on me (after many past mistakes, both in handmade and purchased clothing), so I have often determined already what I am heading towards making. Not always, though, and sometimes that repeated imprinting is helping me to hear what the yarn wants to be. That is what it feels like when the inspiration finally strikes.

How do you go about choosing your next project? What did considering these different learning styles say to you about your own methods of creating and how you personally learn? I am finding that the more I respect this part of my individual nature, the more I nurture the artist within. I am eager to hear how other people address these issues in their work.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I is for Iris

Iris, the most noble of flowers,
graces the warm spring and early summer hours.
Fair and tall, lush in color,
A flower like no other.

A bit of doggeral I concocted when I first decided awhile back that my "I" post would be Iris. However, this year the irises haven't cooperated, as the late rains and cold and snow delayed their unfurling. I really had to search to come up with even these two lonely examples, when usually at this time of year you can find them crowding beds that look plain and lackluster the rest of the year. I was so disappointed with the turnout that I didn't even bother to enter Ann's photo contest until now! There's still time, if you haven't entered yet...

The generic purple version is anything but ordinary. There are many color variations, thanks to the diligent efforts of gardener/breeders, but the purple must be one of the oldest, at least in my area, where you often find them blooming at abandoned homesteads.

This pure white iris is blooming in front of the tiny, historic Catholic Church in North San Juan.

Irises really love to have sun on their rhizomes (no, they are not bulbs, though often thrown in the same class) and that could well be why there are so few blooming yet. They also get a little cranky when their rootlets crowd each other too much, and stop blooming. Then, it is appropriate to dig up the whole bed, trim back the excess root growth, and replant with a better spacing - and wait a few years for them to settle back in and bloom anew. This seems like a lot of trouble to some, but I have repeated the process several times over the years, and they are hardy and drought tolerant, repaying my efforts by having the good grace not to die on me. And when a mass of them bloom at once, the effect is spectacular.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Exciting News and a Product Review

The exciting news is that I received a call at 7:30 this morning, as I was struggling to get out the door, to tell me that the two people from the school district I interviewed with yesterday had selected me! I knew I had interviewed well, but I still didn't expect them to pick me, because of the math. Did I admit that I managed to get a college degree without taking any math classes? I certainly hadn't told the interviewers, but did say that this was my weakest area out of the five subjects that the GED tests... anyway, I will be starting to teach two afternoon classes a week next week.

I had to quickly rearrange my plans for the day in order to get back to Nevada City and get fingerprinted. Do you know someone who has to have fingerprint clearance for their job? Well, I have been through this many times as far back as 25 years ago, when ink and paper were used, since I have almost always worked with children. I support the concept, and think that it is pretty cool the way they can roll your fingers over a glass similar to the copy machine and your prints appear on a computer monitor, get accepted or rejected (then we try again!), and can be instantly transmitted to the Department of Justice. That said, I had never needed to go through this process in Nevada County, and was stunned to show up, form from school district in hand, and learn that there was at least an hour's wait ... and I had left my knitting in the car!

I spent my wait time with my trusty Palm, making a list of words for every remaining letter of the alphabet, so that I could be planning my post! Now before you get too envious over how together I am, let me tell you that some of those words are pretty sappy, and several won't make for good photos of any kind, so it was really more for self-entertainment.

I did also jot down my ideas for the Eat Challenge posts I will be doing; the other "job offer" I got in the past week was to join a group blog of authors writing about the Eat Local Challenge and related issues. I have committed to one original-content post a month, as well as smaller ones as I am so moved, and the blog will be up by this weekend. Us authors just voted on logos, and I will have a button up very soon too. I hope that if you are considering trying an Eat Local Challenge of your own any time this year, you will let me know and link to this blog, once it is up and running. I do intend to try to inject some humor into the subject, including the story of my first attempt at making kimchi... I just love food and want the idea of eating locally to be a fun challenge and not a scary one.

After the endless wait and the indignity of having four of my ten fingers rejected, I finally was turned loose of the sheriff's office, and headed to one of my favorite coffee shops for an early dinner of soup and cafe mexicali mocha, while I read Wendy's new book (see Product Review below) and waited to attend an already-ongoing GED prep class in Grass Valley to pick up some teaching materials. I felt inspired about the positive impact I could have when I realized that three of my former students who had dropped out before finishing high school were among the dozen or so hard at work taking practice tests. I didn't stay for the whole session, as I need to leave early tomorrow AM to take training in a brand new software to be installed at our clinic, but on the way home I had to stop and capture this sky for you:

Spring sky in the evening light

I am the luckiest person in the world to live here!

Product Review


Yarn name: Wendy Knits: My Never-ending Adventures with Yarn, by Wendy D. Johnson
Manufacture:Plume: April 2006
MSRP: $14.00

This book, just out, and probably already familiar to everyone from reading other blogs, is a totally delightful read. Why buy some other book with 20 knitting patterns, only, and miss out on Wendy's funny, entertaining, and touching stories about her cat, knitting on public transit (you'd be amazed at how rude people can be to knitters, unless you have knit on public transit yourself), and being surprise gifted by fellow bloggers (we already know that we are the kindest, most generous bloggers around). The patterns are great too, and range from a catnip mouse and felted pet bed through her own unvention of toe-up socks and some very stylish yet classic sweaters. My knitting night buddy Linda got a kick out of reading the intro to knitting with socks, which Wendy managed to avoid for the first 40 years of her knitting life.

I also learned that Wendy's knitting website gets over a million hits a month; talk about bursting my bubble and making me feel insignificant! (I know, that wasn't her intention - hey, I don't really want to try and compete). She discusses having an epiphany about trying to continually outdo herself, and then realizing there was lots of value to making simple, wearable garments as well as the most complex things possible. Also, according to Wendy, it helps your blog popularity to have a photogenic cat.

This book can be readily purchased at a discount through some of the mainstream online sources, or when you buy lots of yarn at Knitpicks and get free shipping (and probably other ways I am not aware of) so there is no excuse not to get it and have a great laugh reading it. You will then keep it around and make a few things out of it, as the patterns are versatile and timeless. You will also love her knitting manifesto, if you haven't already seen it, as well as be supporting one of the most informative knitting writers in blogland.

Monday, April 24, 2006

We Have A Winner and A Little Zen

It's very late, as I had to work, go 46 miles to my interview, then 46 miles back to Downieville for a meeting and knitting night, and finally I am home, where the lovely random number generator that Margene directed me to has picked a winner for the colorful sock yarn prize in my 300th post contest.

Drumroll please! And the winner is.... Imbrium! Check out her recent post about being marooned on Sleeve Island, and give a word of encouragement. Thanks to everyone who entered; I didn't even realize that many people read my blog!

Deni pointed out that my email address on one of my Destash items wasn't working; went and fixed that. Maybe I am trying to do too much? once again? That was the trait about myself I revealed as one of my weaknesses in my interview for the GED teaching position this afternoon. I won't know for a day or so if I got the job, but the questions were interesting, and even more insightful was realizing on the drive back to Downieville that it would be wonderful either way. A wonderful opportunity to use my teaching skills to help others if I got the chance and a wonderful way to continue to have time to blog about knitting and the Eat Local Challenge, and work with my animals if I didn't. I think this might be as close as I will ever get to zen principles in action in my life - a truly magic moment for me.

Knitting night was great fun, with Stephanie and Linda working on socks, and Earlene trying to knit a baby blanket with the assistance of Linda's tortoiseshell cat, Missy. Missy has decided that we are all really cool, and that it is especially fun to find a willing lap, get comfortable, and then attempt to chew on the yarn as it passes by. Good thing she is pretty!

Linda and I will get the lamb meat that we ordered from our sheep/wool raising friends, the Harveys, tomorrow, and Linda will even get a preview of the lovely wool that Anna has had spun up when she visits the upcoming quilt show in Portola this weekend, where Anna will have a booth featuring her wool quilt batting and her yarn. If summer ever gets here, we will have a needle-felting class at the farm to look forward to, set for June 8th. If you are anywhere near, and want to know more, give me a shout.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Spring Cleaning

Look, it really IS spring!

After spending half of the day doing Saturday errands, which included filling up with the cheapest gas we could find (ouch) and buying the most expensive load of grass hay to date (direct corollary there, no doubt), we headed home yesterday to tackle some spring cleaning, which has spilled over into today as well.

One purchase I made was a tub to store records for the children's center business that changed hands a few months back. As I moved the records from paper bags into the tub, I also moved around some other items in the room that has served us as storage for several years. The cute DH got the urge to rearrange, since he has long yearned to turn this room into a genuine guest room.

Here are the results of yesterday's labors. We bought the air bed just before Christmas, as we had slept on one at some friends' and discovered they were much more comfortable as well as easier to move around than fold-out couches. The highback chair was my great-grandmother's, reupholstered in the late 1970s by my dad. The red flowers on the floor are actual 1930s linoleum (that DH, he collects all kinds of things!). Just out of the photo on the right is a little desk I used as a girl, given to me by my great aunt. A sentimental room, all in all.

The best part is the view out the attic window of our inner yard, lush from all that rain, and the large cherry treen in full bloom. Beyond the fence is a thin dirt drive leading down to a classic 1930s cabin on our property, and beyond is donkey pasture. While trying out the chair and the view yesterday evening, I looked out just in time to see six deer sproinging their way through the pasture and sailing over fences to get away from the big, scary donkeys they had met up with, coming from the wide open spaces of the rolling hills just beyond your view here.

Cleaning has led to more items to post on the DestashAlong site, and I also have made significant progress on the ruana over the past several days. Teresa pointed out that I had said I was making it 45 feet wide; luckily that was just a typo, or I would never finish in this lifetime! Mary suggested that I try the Fibonacci sequence in my striping and I have been enjoying that; I now have about 10 inches on the first half done. Sallee asked about measurements; this pattern is from Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle, and I decided that I wanted a ruana that would hit me at the knees, rather than close to floor length as in the photo in the book (how tall IS that model? was my first thought....). Following the formula in the book, which includes calculating for 14 inches of fringe to be trimmed up to 10 inches when completed, my version will be 70 inches wide, draping over me front and back, resulting in my casting on 161 stitches on size 9 needles (keep in mind that I usually drop down one size from most people).

This project with all its varieties of yarns pretty much ties me to my knitting chair

shown here. I need to have the quilt ruler to measure out 14 inches before attaching each new yarn, the scissors to cut loose the old, and tie the fringes together before proceeding with each new stripe. A nice project for evenings at home.

Thanks for all the congratulations on my 300th post and compliments on the boots. You will all be happy to know that I have gotten to wear them quite a bit already and being rubber, they are flexible and the mud washes right off!

I sure hope that spring is blessing you and yours more than it has California this year; it has been grey and a bit rainy all weekend. I am off to a job interview tomorrow afternoon, teaching GED students, something I hadn't pictured myself doing. However, I just finished my assignments for my writing class this weekend, and can say that I have a new appreciation for inspiring others to bring out their stories through their writings. I will be writing regular posts for a new group blog that will be part of the Eat Local Challenge this spring, and so will Liz; details to follow once the site is up and running.

I will be posting the winner of the 300th post sock yarn tomorrow, and Vicki is having a contest to win a copy of Mason-Dixon Knitting, so hurry over and enter before tomorrow. I found out just after I ordered a copy and some Knitpicks yarn to dye for Dye-O-Rama, so you have better odds of winning without me in there, hee hee.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Clock Is Ticking

This is a quickie reminder that my 300th post contest ends Sunday, April 23rd, at midnight (or is that Monday, at 12 AM). You still have a chance to rifle through a few posts and find out how to enter! I was so heartened by the amount of responses I found waiting when I returned from my little jaunt; sometimes it can feel like you are blogging in a void. I had no idea some of you read my writings regularly! See what launching a contest will do... thanks for the continued support. Next week will feature more knitting, more burros (they are so excited! the grass is green and we can tether them out to munch it), and an intro to a new Eat Local group blog I will be writing for regularly! Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Spring Sojourn

Some of you might have noticed my absence the past few days, and some might not have... Monday morning we headed east in spite of the snow that was finishing up and stayed in Reno a few days. Glenn's brother, Dave has a house there, even though he is currently living and working in the Salt Lake City area, so we took advantage of having a convenient place to hang our hats while we explored some of our favorite desert country.

Reno is just on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas, and the mountains tower over the city, providing breathtaking views, when the vista isn't clogged by rapidly expanding suburbia. Dave's house is about a quarter mile from the Truckee River, which wends it's way through downtown Reno and westward to end in Lake Tahoe (I learned this trip that the worldwide collegiate kayaking competition takes place on the river in Reno, as part of the Reno River Festival next month). It might be my favorite city, as I really don't like cities as a whole, and Reno is a scale that you could walk away from in a day (this is important to me, for some bizarre reason). Spring has definitely arrived there, as the storms that have kept us down on the west side of the mountains are diminished in force by the time they cross over the mountain peaks, and lots more sun has led to lots more bloom: daffodils, flowering trees, green grass, I was almost overwhelmed with delight.

This dove is basking in spring's glow on the roof of Dave's house.

I took a vacation from the computer, the phone, work, household chores (our dear friends, Dale and Lois, who manage Sierra Skies RV Park in summer and spend winters with us, looked out after the donkeys for us), and almost even knitting! I brought along the felted vest for DH, and made slight progress in the evenings, but we spent the days being outside and exploring. I walked, did yoga, and even sat around the nearby coffee shop in the morning reading the paper; I felt very lucky to have a break.

Tuesday morning, we headed over to Virginia City, where the streets were empty when we arrived but filled with visitors by midday.

Virginia City is one of our favorite "old west" towns to visit; although there is significant commercialization to keep business afloat, what they are promoting is the history of the famous Comstock Lode silver mines, which boosted the economy during the Civil War so much that Nevada became a state and the Union could continue to finance the war.

There are many examples of brick commercial buildings, mansions built by silver tycoons, and more modest Victorian homes. I doubt there are many other little towns with such a concentration of "museums", some of which are large and extensive, and others which are merely novelties. Over the years we have been through most of the museums; the Comstock Firemen's Museum is highly enlightening (the museum lent an antique engine to the San Franciso Earthquake Centennial events last weekend) and so is the Julia Bulette Red Light museum (Julia was a well-loved prostitute, who made the local fire department her favorite charity; she was murdered for her jewels, and in tribute for her contributions to the community, was given one of the largest funerals in the town's history - we are talking Old West history here).

This visit, we spent an hour or more touring the St. Marys of the Mountains Catholic Church and museum, which is very cared for and provides a glimpse into the social structure and culture of the early days of Virginia City, as well as continues to preserve an amazing Gothic church, a landmark in the cityscape. Other great places to tour, which we have visited in the past, include the Mackey Mansion and the Fourth Ward School, which Glenn's grandma attended as a girl!

We enjoy walking up and down the streets admiring the architecture, checking the progress on the restoration of Piper's Opera House, and poking through our favorite bookstore there, Mark Twain Books. Virginia City is one of the places that can legitimately say "Mark Twain slept (and wrote) here!", and the bookstore features a huge collection of new and used western books, Mark Twain's works, and even both reprinted and modern-day maps and tourbooks of the overland western emigration routes. We have traveled over parts of the routes in Nevada, and pored over some of the books, hoping to take a four-wheel expedition one day of the Oregon Trail and/or the California route; it's much safer and more comfortable these days than back in 1849!

After lunch at one of the local restaurants, we did a little four-wheeling of our own, taking a back route out of Virginia City into the Virginia Highlands. This area has been subdivided into very private desert homes, and we thought we would drive north and see if we could find an alternate route back to Reno... this type of thinking has led us into some of our greatest adventures and Tuesday was no exception. The road was a little rough but no big deal, so we pressed on.

This desert oasis of year-round spring, cottonwood trees, and willows, hasn't leafed out yet, allowing us to catch a glimpse of a band of four Virginia Range wild horses, including the darling baby nursing. We had pulled into this area because the archaeologist husband just knew that there would be signs of prehistoric visitation; there were plenty, including flakes of obsidian, three kinds of chert, and basalt. I spotted mother and baby when we first exited the car, and shushed him long enough for the pair to remain alert, but not bolt right away, so was able to get many pictures of this band.

The lush grass and readily available water makes this spot a heavily-visited area, and even when the group decided they were uncomfortable with our presence, they only moved a few hundred yards off, not wanting to give up the yummy grass.

The Virginia Range horses live on private and non-BLM Nevada public lands to the east of Reno, and are not protected in the same way that BLM wild horses are; they have been in this area for a century or more, since the decline in the silver mines, but in recent years development has encroached seriously on their home range, putting them in conflict with humans. The link above will take you to the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association, based in Virginia City, and enlighten you further. If you have ever considered adopting a wild horse, please think of these animals, as they lack the concerted efforts towards adoption that the BLM program has built up, and the pressure is only increasing on their habitat. Currently, the nearby Carson City state prison manages a training program to gentle captured Comstock horses and train them so that they will be more adoptable.

Now, I have searched for wild horses and burros several times in recent years, with limited success. However, this time, without even thinking about the possibility until we came upon the first band of eight horses, prior to stopping at the oasis, I hit paydirt. Over the course of the afternoon, we observed 50 horses and 4 foals! As in the two occasions in recent years when I went out at night to watch for spectacular shows of shooting stars, started counting and saw over 300 each time, I felt like I was particularly blest to have the good fortune to observe these animals in the wild. It crossed my mind that most people will never have this chance and that I should take lots of photos and share them with all of you.

The stallion is in the foreground in this photo, looking a little pissed off and had already signaled to the two mares to head away from us.

A closer view shows his tense posture, particularly in the neck.

A close-up of mom and baby, taken a bit further downstream

It became obvious that it takes extra work to find these extra-special backcountry features; as we would our way north, the road got progressively worse. Luckily, DH drives off-road for a living, working for the U.S. Forest Service, and we have spent lots of time 4 wheeling over the years. This is a drop-off that he could feel confident in, but one of the few spots that really gave me pause. The green Jeep Cherokee below contains a father/son duo we met up with; the son is a Planning Commissioner for Storey County, and had been on the back roads in the past, but not on this stretch. We were following his maps and teamed up in the late afternoon to safely travel out of the backcountry as the road got more extreme. The front of our truck is perched above the drop-off that was the steepest creek crossing. I will not bore you with the gory details, but do want to mention that we passed through Lagomarsino Canyon, part of which contains a huge field of petroglyphs. If you ever have the opportunity to spend some time around Reno, contact me for more information about these extraordinary features just a few miles away from the bright lights and casinos.

The highlight of Wednesday was spending three hours at the National Auto Museum, which was built originally to house Bill Harrah's extensive private collection, and has since expanded into a highly professional and impressive museum. We headed home in the late afternoon, thankful for a break in the daily routine and our first taste of spring. Life is good.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

300th Post Contest

Happy Easter to everyone! This is also a significant personal milestone for me, as this post marks my 300th blog entry. Blogging has brought me lots of personal fulfillment, strengthened my writing skills, and given me wonderful, new friends I never would have known otherwise. I was so heartened by the response to my Friday post; it is an excellent example of how blogging allows us to connect with each other across the miles and trials of our lives. Check below for details about my 300th post contest.

First, a bit of knitting news:

As you can tell from the button over on my sidebar, I have been participating in the Mountain Lace KAL. While Mountain Peaks has been a challenge, and is currently languishing, here's the latest on Mountain Stream:

Mountain Stream only needs a top border!

Here is a close-up of the unblocked scarf; I love this pattern and will probably make it again in a different yarn, once I figure out why I can't get the top border chart right.

I have put out a call for help to my fellow KALers and to designer Susan, but HAD to keep knitting something:

These are two samples I made last night to check for gauge before starting my ruana. This pattern is in Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls book, and is a great exercise in color creativity.

Cheryl gives a very precise formula to obtain the correct number of stitches based on the length you want and the gauge you get out of these trial samples (which is good, since I am shorter than average and needed to modify the pattern so it wouldn't drag on the ground). From there, you are pretty much on your own color-blending, which I absolutely love.

I am a fan of stripes in plain knitting. Over the years, I have made a feather and fan afghan, a circular calf-length skirt, a vest, and my felted traveling bag, all in stripe variations derived as I knit, pulling from a bag full of yarn selected to meet a specific color scheme. The results are always delightful and the knitting entertaining, as I can't wait to see what will happen next.

The piece is made all at once, a 45' by 70" rectangle in the end, with waste yarn used midway along to be opened back up into the neck/front edge while finishing, so there is a LOT of plain knitting ahead. The fringe technique employed has you cutting a specific amount each time you change colors, and that avoids tying on a lot of fringe at the end, but also will relegate this project to a knitting-chair one, with quilt ruler balanced on one of the wooden arms, ready to measure each fringe, which is then tied to the previous one. I finished my calculations last night, and decided that I preferred a varying, somewhat random row sequence of 1-3-5-3-1-1-, etc., rather than a three-row sequence or something more precise. The colors blend better together that way, and keep with the tonal, light-purple-as-a-neutral, effect I am going for. I have a great collection of various types and weights to work with and got off to a flying start this morning. This is not a project that will lend itself well to pictures, so I doubt I will be posting much about it... just the same, old rectangle, slowly getting bigger, but I will share the results when they start becoming something noticeable.

If you live in California, you don't need me to tell you that it is STILL raining, and even snowing in lots of the state for Easter Sunday. A few weeks ago, I decided one sure-fire way to get it to stop, and finally become spring, was to order the rainboots I had been admiring in Smith and Hawkin's garden catalog. If I started wearing them, it would stop raining for sure:

I was happy to get to wear these great new boots yesterday and today!

300th Post Contest

I wanted to commemorate my 300th post by holding a contest all week. The prize is this lovely, spring/summer-colored Cotton Fun sock yarn by Lana Grossa. Just send me an email to knitinhiding@hotmail.com sometime before midnight next Sunday (note: modified late tonight to explain this means Sunday April 23rd), and you will be entered to win!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday is a Time for Reflection

I have a story to tell and it's not pretty. I had lunch today with a friend (I will use my own initial, B, and not give any more personal details about her to protect her privacy). On Sunday, she was badly beaten by her now-ex-fiance. I already knew about the situation, having seen her earlier in the week and I had already seen some of her fresh bruises, including a very nasty and large bruise to her chin. B is still limping from the severe bruises on her legs from being kicked. She is not a young woman, about my age, and this is the first incident of such violence in her life. I was relieved when she told me on the phone yesterday that his behavior was "unacceptable" and am praying voraciously that she can keep her courage up.

To her credit, when we walked into the deli to order soup, she told the storekeeper, who of course knows us both "It's a long story. My ex-boyfriend beat me up". The storekeeper was a lawyer until a few years back, and gave her lots of support, as well as saying to keep him away, as he would now be full of remorse and trying to apologise and woo her back. There is a very classic cycle of abusive behavior that has been well-documented by those working in the field of domestic violence. You can read some of the startling statistics here.

At the deli counter, the male half of the shopkeeping couple asked again what had happened, and this time B couldn't bring herself to say anything, just referred to his wife, "She can tell you", and while he dished up our bowls of french onion, she whispered to me "This is so embarrassing". My answer was that I understood, but to remember it wasn't her fault, and that people in the community just were concerned, as they always are for each other, and would do anything to help if they could. B told me that people had been so nice and so helpful, and that she felt so lucky. Lucky not to be hurt more seriously, in fact, since he pulled a gun on her, maybe even lucky to be alive, but not "lucky" to be loved and supported. This is a woman who has offered help and support to many others, cared for some of the disenfranchised elderly in the community, and provided valuable business services to everyone over the years. I reminded her that they were only giving back to her the love and respect she deserved, wanting to help her in a time of trouble in her own life.

It is significant that she can at least right now use the past tense, as many victims of domestic violence don't, and re-enter a vicious and escalating cycle of violence. We were having soup together to pass the time until she would need to appear in court at a restraining order hearing, and she was very fearful about seeing the man in the courtroom, even though she would be accompanied by one of our court system's Victim-Witness experts.

I offered repeatedly to stay through the hearing, and at first it seemed that she was embarrassed that more of the story would be out in public, but finally she admitted that she did not want her ex to see me there with her, and have him be angry with me as well. Now, not necessarily to my credit, I am pretty fearless around people, and my reply was "I don't care if he sees me, I just want you to feel safe". It will be hard for B to feel safe for a very long time, in fact she didn't even realize how scared she was until she tried to leave her house yesterday, only to find that she was panicking at the thought of crossing the threshold out into the world. DH and I had already offered to let her stay here, as he doesn't know where we live, and she suggested that she would leave the area for a few days to stay with other friends.

I am sharing this with you, my readers, because there is someone in your life who is presently in an abusive relationship. You may or may not already know this about them. You may have no idea what to look out for. I already knew that this man had a drinking problem; he had a DUI awhile back, and had also wrecked my friend's car last year. I also knew she was in counseling surrounding relationship issues. While I knew these facts and a few others about the man, I had no idea that he was capable of flying into a drunken rage and beating her.

She was aware that she didn't want to live with the problems of alcoholism, and thought that she had set limits to control this problem, but people cannot make other people stop drinking too much. Only the drinker can do that. It turned out that the limits B had set in her home hadn't worked; she was forced to move from her main rental house to another one in the region that she owns when her house received storm damage and discovered many hidden, empty bottles. People who can't live within societal or personal limits find ways around them.

Substance abuse is not the only cause of domestic violence. Catastrophes and natural disasters may be stressors, but they are not the "cause" either. There is no excuse for domestic violence, and that has become a mainstream cultural value in the United States in the past few decades. I know that alcoholism and "slapping around" your wife or your kids were far more accepted several decades ago; my own grandmother was such a victim and left my grandfather sometime during WWII, but never divorced. He died at age 56 of alcohol-related disease, when I was two months old, and then she finally remarried a decent, good man, who I always called "grandpa" growing up.

There are some signals that a partner is capable of violence. Check out this list from the California Alliance Against Domestic Violence. Some of the signs you might see in a friend are wariness to talk about home life, nervousness being away from their spouse, or excuses not to visit friends or go places without the partner, as well as bruises and other signs of physical abuse.

Emotional abuse is much harder to detect. I was not even aware that my first husband was emotionally abusive to me and our children until friends pointed it out; they saw the belittling remarks and attitudes on his part and the conciliatory, mollifying behaviors on mine, and intervened 18 years ago, allowing me to make my way forward towards a healing and happy life.

What can you do if you think a friend is being abused? Start by learning more about domestic violence. Find out if there is a local organization where you live. Ask trained people how to approach a friend in order to help. Be very careful not to intimidate their partner if they are still in the relationship, as the victim will bear the brunt of that person's fear and subsequent wrath, and often the violence escalates with each repeated beating.

Remember that even though this couple may seem very dysfunctional to you, they probably love each other and your friend will have to make the decision to seek help on her own. That does not mean that you have to turn a blind eye, either, though. If you witness an act of violence, call for help. In California the laws changed many years ago to allow the victim an out; if the police arrived on the scene, they could intervene and it didn't matter if the victim was afraid to file a complaint. The assailant could still be arrested and tried. B's ex was picked up in another California county over 100 miles from here. At a bail hearing this morning, he was determined to be a flight risk and a high amount of bail set. Is she safe? I wish there were a guarantee; I know I have lost some sleep worrying about this in the past few days.

This is not the first time violence has touched a friend's life. Back 25 years ago, one of my dearest friends, who I admired as one of the staunchest feminists I knoew then, appeared at my door with her baby, seeking refuge from her abusive mate. She stayed a few days, was wooed back home by apologies, but then fled across the country, with a ticket purchased over the telephone in great haste by her father, to get her away from further beatings. She didn't return to California, even for a visit, for over ten years, even though she owned land here. Another acquaintance had left her husband, who nobody suspected of being abusive, and was stabbed by him when she was retrieving some of her belongings, even while a sheriff deputy stood by downstairs. Her husband went to prison, and she went underground, changing her name and hiding her whereabouts from even her closest friends.

I wanted to take the time to share these stories with you, in the hopes that you will be able to help someone, somewhere, or take a more active involvement in domestic violence prevention in your local community. Silence and turning a blind eye is simply not an option.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

H is for Hearts

OK, corny as it sounds, I have collected heart-shaped things for many years, so I decided to share photos of some of them for this letter of the alphabet.

I am wearing this large silver heart, found at a feed store without the chain, today, and the earrings were a second-hand treasure I picked up last summer. Me? A cowgirl? Naah, not really.... I just really appreciate beautiful tooled silver.

This heart buckle was an engagement present from my DH back in 1993; from Montana Silversmiths, one of my favorite silver design companies.

These two heart buckles, both from Crumrine, another venerable western silversmith company, are waiting for belts to be woven for them, then will be up for sale.

I almost always have one of the dozen or so heart necklaces I own on...

The necklace in the center was made by my beading whiz friend Leslie, it's kind of hard to tell with the reflection from the flash, but there is a bird in the center. The one to the right features gold nuggets from the Yuba River, and the one to the left is a tiny heart my DD passed along to me.

More heart jewels, including in my favorite color, green.

Looking around the house will turn up various hearts as well...

This is a quilted wall hanging made by a guild secret pal, Peggy, a few years back, in 1850s reproduction fabrics to go with my 1852 house.

A few more hearts from my daily life - the tiny pin was a gift from a quilting friend, and there are more heart boxes floating around here.

There is even a collection of heart-shaped rocks, but they are up at the high country house, where that collection got started with a rock my DH found while out on a hike, stained by iron oxide in the middle in something approximating a heart shape... of course a treasured paperweight now.

Lastly, there's heart knitting....

One of two squares for the Warming Grace blankets... in Peace Fleece and almost ready to be mailed off tomorrow, just before the end of 40 Days for Others.

Monday, April 10, 2006

May is Eat Local Challenge Month

Have you heard about the Eat Local Challenge? Maybe you were one of the over sixty bloggers who joined Liz and Farmette and dozens of others last August, eating as much from the local food sources as possible.

Well, this year the month will be May, a bit harder in many parts of the country. No juicy summer fruits, or big, ripe tomatoes yet. If you are lucky, you can probably find enough greens, peas, asparagus, and artichokes to satisfy your tastes for variety in the veggie world.

Do you know where your food comes from? Check out Food Routes and prepare to be shocked at the distances many of your favorites travel before they leap into your grocery basket and head home with you.

If you participated in the Eat Local Challenge last year, or started exploring your local food resources outside of the Challenge, like I have been, then you may already have a pretty good idea what you can and cannot get within a 100-mile radius of your home. That is the limit I have set for myself, but I have met people who want to make their personal limit a 50-mile radius.

Personally, I want to be able to include foods from the rich resources of the Sacramento Valley to the west, such as olive oil, Butte Creek beers, Lundberg organic grains, almonds (which I eat daily, and I know the California Almond Growers love me for that; I've heard their commercials!). I feel pretty lucky that there are rich agricultural areas adjacent to my home, as well as local vendors who make artisanal foods, such as putting up our fruits into preserves, or making small-scale cheeses.

One of the greatest resources I have found online is the Locavores website, detailing many food resources in the San Francisco Bay area. This is out of my assigned range, but still encouraging to know. Sacramento and Chico both are about 75 miles away, and support similar gourmet food operations utilizing local ingredients. Oroville, only 40 miles away, is in the center of a rich orchard region, including olives, walnuts, almonds, prunes, grapes, apricots, peaches and pears, and also has a great speciality meat store that processes for locals. Grass Valley/Nevada City, 25 miles to the south of me, is also in the heart of an orchard region, and hosts several farmer's markets a week, as well as being the home for my local co-op, Briar Patch Community Market. This adds up to feeling richly blest, and that it is really no big deal to meet the challenge. I realize that others aren't quite so lucky, but with a little digging around, you might be surprised at what you will find.

How will I prepare for the Challenge? I am in training right now! I have been getting veggies from my CSA, and will have a box a week in May as well, providing me with the basis for meal planning through the Challenge. I also have a lot of my cousin's beef left in the freezer, grass-fed and raised on the family ranch about 60 miles from here. And, lamb on order from my wool-raising friend, Anna, whose ranch was featured last month. Eggs from the local feed store, about 15 miles away, although I was checking the bags of chicken feed available the last time we picked up hay for the burros, and it comes from a plant in central California, so those chickens also consume their share of oil to keep up egg production.

There are some other items that I will be shopping for over the next few weeks to add variety to the diet. I will be visiting some local farmstands to see what I can pick up that was preserved from last year's harvest, right here in our own bioregion, and suggest that anyone interested in participating in the Eat Local Challenge begin reading labels, looking for farmer's markets, and even checking out the Local Harvest website to see what is available in your state. You might be surprised! I was concerned about some of the items that I use daily, such as olive oil, cranberry juice, and flax meal. I found olive oil sources were very close to home, but cranberries aren't grown here in California (plus they are not going to be in season in May anywhere); in an ideal world, I would get those cranberries at the right season and preserve enough to get me through the year.

Some of those participating in the Eat Local Challenge last year allowed themselves waivers for certain foods that they absolutely couldn't pass up. What would be your foods? I suspect that chocolate and coffee both will weasel their way into my diet even in May, as well as some of the spices I love to cook with. However, as this growing season progresses, I will be thinking a lot more about building up supplies of fresh, locally available ingredients to keep me from buying items that were shipped long distances in the future. Those that I do have to relinquish and purchase will be precious, as we have forgotten they were in earlier times... and that will help me make lifestyle adjustments about what my real priorities are.

While I am examining my food-buying habits, I am also examining my fiber-buying habits. Fiber is a huge part of my creative life, but I have begun returning to a practice from my earlier and impoverished young adulthood; checking out the recycled market to see what I find that someone else has discarded (remember to check back at the Destash Blog frequently). Of course, finding something I can use at my local thrift store is going to prove far more valuable that utilizing oil resources to have something shipped across country. So will maximizing the trip if I go on a purchasing jaunt.

Last year, I took the train to the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon, and stocked up with a list of specific projects and needs in minds; turns out I was about 75% accurate in my needs assessment, but could have stocked up a bit better on yarn for felting orders; as a small businesswoman, I ended up making a few orders and don't have the capital this year to buy a year's worth of yarn at once, either. However, attending the Estes Park Wool Market will be a combination vacation/buying trip this year, utilizing public transportation and shared housing resources, as well as planning for upcoming sales. I have also been trying to locate resources within my 100 mile range, and I know there are local wool and alpaca producers, but will have to keep digging to find sources for other fibers. It's a lot of fun! Let me know if you want to join the Eat Local Challenge or start a Knit Local Challenge.

A Finished Object and Some Lace

I was pleased to find that a finished object finally managed to surface this weekend:

This is a shawlette I had been making as a thank-you gift for my dear friend Lee, who provided us with so much emotional and technical support as we went through our "hostile takeover" the past three months; I can truly say that the worst is over, the day-to-day stress has lightened tremendously in the past two weeks, but I never would have made it without her support. She handled many of the really unpleasant communications and was just enough removed, being on our Board of Directors rather than being a displaced child care worker, to remain calm and objective.

Back in early February, I found a shawlette kit at one of my LYS, and thought the colors would be perfect for Lee. She works in an office, and I decided that this would be a perfect "drape over your chair" piece, that would go with any outfit and add a bit of shine, as she is a unique, non-traditional person in an institutional setting.

Here's a close up showing the stitch detail: cream Berroco Softwist and gold Berroco Metallic FX. I actually loved the two materials together, and wrote a Product Review on Softwist back last month, but really did not enjoy the pattern or the large needles. This was a case where the process was a struggle, but the finished product worth it in the end. The two yarns together made a springy, compact fabric. Even though, as you can see above, the knit is dense, the shawl is light, and has a tendency to drape and stretch downward and cling to the shoulders. The pattern should have been easy, it is a variation of one the Versatile Scarf patterns I made earlier this winter; I had trouble keeping track of my holes then and did a better job on this one, but will definitely move on.

Speaking of moving on, a bit of frog hopping took place over the weekend as well. I had come to the conclusion that I had to drop down a couple of needles sizes to get the kind of stitch definition a beautiful pattern such as Mountain Peaks deserves. As a reminder, here is where I was with my Alpaca Cloud laceweight and my size five bamboos, when we last discussed this matter a week ago:

I dug around and found a size 3 circular, Susan Bates Silvalumes, and cast on, only to discover in my somewhat dim, antiquated living room, that the needle color and the yarn color were so close that it was driving me to distraction trying to find the stitches (there is also a chance that I need my eyes checked, but I don't really want to discuss that with taxes due this week, so we will save that conversation for another time). Then, I remembered that I had bought several sets of needles to sample my Bohus sweater (which I haven't gotten to, out of my love for my other ongoing lace project, Mountain Stream). I pulled out a sixteen inch size three Quicksilver, and the pattern just flew through my fingers yesterday afternoon, a sure sign to me that I was heading in the right direction. When I stopped at the end of the top chart, and pinned out my work to "admire", I was much happier with the results:

Now we're talking lace!

The earlier version on the larger needles is history, having been ripped and rewound. Many thanks are due to Sallee, who added her lace-wise eyes to the problem, consulting the Mountain Lace blog and my photo, and pointing out, sweetly, that I was using an alpaca laceweight that was working up quite a bit differently than some of the other yarns. She encouraged me to be brave and try again to see if I could get the results I wanted.

So, with all due apologies to felted vests for husbands and Bohus sweaters in favorite shades of green, I am infatuated with lace for the moment and will have to squeeze you in where I can, at least until Mountain Stream is completed. I am pleased to say that I have finished nine repeats of the pattern, so am definitely on the downhill side. The shawl will still be a slow-growing project with room for some other knitting in between, but at least I am back in love with this project and making progress.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Spring Runoff

This photo of spring runoff shows how high our river got this past week, and with more rain predicted for the next few weeks, and more runoff, at least the kayakers and rafters will be happy this spring. I thought it might be a fitting accompaniment to this recent poem:

Do you see me?
There I am, right in the middle of the photograph
I’m the rippling green of the waves of the North Yuba
Traveling smoothly over the rock
Yes, that large boulder
Sierra granite
It’s me, too
The one where the trout likes to rest
In the shade
Protected from the hot summer sun
Where the gold hides
In pockets under the rocks
I am the sparkle
When the sun hits the water
In the late afternoon light
I am the memory of it
Deep in winter
You don’t need my face recorded on film
But only to look
Deep into green pools
Of flowing water
To see me reflected back

This is a photo of the river I was writing about, though. Summer will be here soon enough.

In the meantime, this has been a slow and somewhat lazy Sunday, pinned down inside once again because of rain. I did get to play with my new food processor (how DID I live without one so long?), making saurkraut and mayonnaise... I have not yet confessed here yet, but I am a lover of kitchen gadgets, and of preserving food, so I know it will get a lot of use here. I also re-started my Mountain Peaks shawl, on needles two sizes smaller, and like it much better already; there simply was no stitch definition in the first version, still on its larger needles for comparison. This is still a challenging pattern for me, but at least the stitches aren't busy trying to leap off the needles and unravel themselves at every twist and turn this time, a sure sign I am on the right track.

The Alpaca Cloud yarn is heaven, and I was amazed while admiring it to think that it was really two extremely fine strands plied together into one laceweight yarn. News on Mountain Stream is that it is only a few rows from the halfway mark in just a week of part-time knitting.

DH's vest also got a bit of attention yesterday during my shift at the local crafts co-p; we are gearing up for tourist season, and there were some visitors around yesterday, mainly because it was the annual visit from the Banff Mountain Film Festival (which I had decided to skip this year, in favor of paying my taxes on time; they are an ouchy subject with me, done and waiting in their envelopes until the last minute to part with the huge sums both the Feds and California get from us this year). I am continuing through the last week of 40 Days for Others by making my pink squares for Warming Grace and found several cute relief motif patterns at Rhonda's site; I am going to make the butterfly and the kitty. Looks like a busy week, not to mention that I realized I better get busy and make up a few new items to put in the co-op shop this month! Happy Knitting!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Jumping for Joy

The sun was out and so were the burros this afternoon, getting tethered to eat fresh spring grass. They also got dewormed, and I began working my way through giving West Nile Virus vaccines (if you do not know much about this illness, do some research, as it is spread by mosquitoes, over 50% of the equines who contract it die, and the few humans who contract it end up very sick). We were also able to open up the doors and windows for a few hours in the late afternoon and air out the house a bit from the dreary winter doldrums.

As if a sunny day after weeks of wet weather wasn't enough, I also found some time to dig out more items to photo for the Destash Blog, which led to some cleaning and re-arranging in the room that has served as one of the main storage areas since we bought our main house in 1998. At the time we bid on this house, featured in my recent tour, we had to put up for sale the house we had been living in, and move across the road in Forest City to the house my DH had owned first, which was rented out.

Not only did the escrow on the house we sold close more than two months prior to the problematic escrow on the house we were buying, but we had to condense down into a much smaller space, with the frantic help of our college-age sons and two teens living with us and then restore the 150-year old "new" house into liveable condition over a six-month period before staying there, traveling 20 miles between the two several times a week - chaotic to say the least.

There were always things that I couldn't locate, and my FIL had joked about boxes falling off the truck when he moved some items to the newly-purchased house for us. While moving bags of yarn into my studio, I asked my husband if he wanted to move a wooden chest of his into his train room. When he said, "yes, but it's full of your stuff", I was puzzled, and then jumping for joy to open the chest and discover it packed full of missing yarn and knitting (are you sure you know where ALL of your stash is?). There had been two projects in particular that I was always looking for; one was a barn coat for my DH that I had started the summer we were married. The completed pieces and one skein of yarn had been residing in my cedar chest, but the sleeves still needed to be knitted and I couldn't locate the yarn anywhere.

This is a photo of what the jacket will look like; the pattern appeared in Vogue Knitting Winter 1994

This is how much of the jacket pattern I had completed; one shoulder seam is sewn together, one pocket pinned in place, and the other pocket and the knitted collar to which the leather one is sewn is not in the photo.

A close-up of the basketweave pattern

The missing yarn; there are several skeins more and all will spend two weeks in the freezer in case of potential moth infestation.

The other missing item was a jacket I had started for myself in about the spring of 1996. I had wanted to open my own coffee shop in a storefront building we owned on the main street of our historic town, and even though I detest intarsia overall, had decided to make another Vogue Knitting design, a cotton jacket with motifs of a teapot and cups. I made the sleeves in my usual fashion, carrying them around to meetings and other events, and even got most of the way through the back, working on the large teapot on one shoulder. The jacket was now proceeding slowly and got put aside when I changed jobs and returned to college during the 1997-98 school year. During the packing and moving the following summer, the bag containing that piece and all the rest of the yarn disappeared. I stumbled upon the completed pieces a few times and I could even clearly see the bright purple canvas project bag it lived in, but could never locate it until today.

This photo shows the back, with the teapot at the top of the right shoulder about two-thirds completed. Now, I need to re-locate those missing sleeves and get down to finishing this in time for impending spring weather (although there won't be any of that after tomorrow; more rain and snow predicted for the next week!). I do feel like some force in the universe must have shifted to lift the veil that had been hiding those projects from me, and out of gratitude, I will be listing several more items on the Destash Blog, so check out my button to the left, and give a forlorn yarn from someone elses' stash a new lease on life at your house.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Respite from Rain

The weather has been gruesome most of the past month, but we had a break today, partly cloudy with only showers (when I lived in Oregon, this was what we called a beautiful day), so we went to town to get the oil changed on the Jeep and pick up groceries (and salt blocks for the donkeys, as theirs' have melted with all the rain). We also made a stop at the local Ben Franklin to get some fabric for a project of DH's and I found this:

Normally, I would figure that the patterns wouldn't suit my interests, but thumbing through I decided I wanted to make this, even though I don't have a dog (I could get one, right?):

and this:

The tea cosy will be a gift, but has to stay a secret, so this will be the only time I mention it until next fall, unless I decide I have to whip one up for myself as well. I love the curliques on top.

This is a great feature that I wish other magazines would adopt! I know that the photo is absolutely terrible, as my camera both picked up the glare from the flash, and focused on the numbers instead of the photos... but the idea of being able to turn to the last page of one of my knitting magazines and see all the patterns in one place, with the page numbers, really works for my visually oriented and forgetful mind! I would sure have an easier time re-locating that pattern I saved for later.

This was not my intended purchase; I was wandering the aisles in the yarn section, trying to locate some acceptable pink cotton yarn for my Warming Grace square. Vicki posted information about this project the other day; Grace is Cynthia's five year old niece, who is fighting leukemia, and Cynthia's idea is to get enough 5-inch squares of either cotton or soft wool, to make a pink blankie for her to take with her to the chemo sessions she is facing. This was a cause I had to embrace right away, as my own little brother died of leukemia back in 1962, before modern medicine had developed a chance at survival. Take a look and see if you want to join in.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Product Review: Destash Blog


Yarn name: A browser's paradise
Weight: Many different weights represented, and 75 bloglines subscribers to date!
Manufacture: The power of two womens' ingenuity
Size: What's your current credit limit? You can purchase everything or just that one special find, and can get rid of your stash mistakes this way too
<Fibers: Fibers across the spectrum currently represented, as well as a few books
MSRP: Is irrelevant, as these are all good deals, with deeply discounted prices. New yarns at used prices - now, how can you go wrong?

Perhaps you already noticed the Destash Mountain button located on the left sidebar; maybe you have already paid a visit. This is one of those Blogland ideas I certainly wish I would have thought up first! Susan (yes, the famous knitwear designer, Susan) and Teri started a new blog this weekend as a forum for knitters to unload some of their stash they no longer love and adore, and acquire something new to admire, squeeze, dream about and maybe come to cherish -- better than a boyfriend exchange. Oh, and credit for the button goes to Carole, our favorite stash enabler.

I have listed a few items and will be adding more later this week. Also hoping to find something I can't live without :)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

My Two Mountain Lacealong Projects

The official cast-on for Mountain Peaks has come and gone, and even though I am not "contest" material (for many more reasons than the fact that I started way ahead of the date, eager to have my lovely alpaca gliding through my hands), I will be watching how everyone else is doing on this pattern.

For me, it is a whole new challenge. I have avoided working with laceweight like the plague, and distinctly remember how I shook my head in disbelief when Galina Alexandrovna Khmeleva told me that I could just start slowly and work my way down to finer and finer yarn and needles... I met Galina at the Black Sheep Gathering last summer and bought her book, Gossamer Webs, but was totally intimidated. I went around buying light sportweight and sock yarn, nothing finer, thank you very much!

The secret desire to create a cobweb to drape over my shoulders remained though, and I made a couple of false starts, before finally committing to the Mountain Lace KAL. The work goes slowly, with my hands trying to figure out how to scale themselves down to this thin yarn, and sometimes trying to keep from sliding the stitches right off the needles. I am working with bamboo for the shawl, to add a tiny bit of "drag". I also discovered that most of my stitch markers are too big, so luckily I remember well enough where last row's stitches are supposed to be; I am planning to get tiny enough jewelry jump rings (maybe even recycling something around her) to avoid this problem, as putting markers to outline each pattern repeat really helps.

So does threading a lifeline through, and you will notice that yellow thread in the photo below; a finely twisted wool crepe fingering weight yarn leftover from a huge care package of vintage yarns from an elderly quilt guild member who used to knit those skirt/sweater sets on size one needles (I feel awed in her presence just for that, but she is an incredibly detailed quilter as well).

Here is Mountain Peaks this morning, stretched out and pinned down in order to give me the confidence that things really are going as they are supposed to; I didn't find any glaring errors, and the potential is there that this really will block out into an elegant design. I won't be able to keep doing this though, as the shape grows, and even had to tink back a row to fix a few stitches that slid off.

Now, why is this process really going so laboriously? I think it may well have something to do with control issues; I prefer to charge through a pattern, watching it develop through my hands and into the fabric coming out below. I cannot "see" the pattern unfold without repeated stopping, pulling, tugging, etc. to get an idea of stitch definition. I am uncertain if my gauge is too loose; isn't that the way lace is supposed to be? Personally, while I believe that it is important to try new things and not get complacent, the internal stretching this knitting is requiring of me is a bit uncomfortable. I am definitely NOT in my happy place yet!

Which is why this is the tale of two lace knit projects. I realized I was a bit morose about my knitting life this past week. Slogging away on DH's vest, only to be about half-way (which translates into a whole lot more slogging before felting can bring me great joy), dabbling at one or two small projects (I actually made six washcloths last week, while visiting people or watching TV, which will be offered at the farmer's market later in summer), and not feeling the glow of satisfaction. I finally capitulated yesterday to the siren song of the lovely Garnstudio Silke-Woole that my Better Pal sent me last month, and cast on the other KAL project:

Here's Mountain Stream after one repeat from the body chart. The difference between the two knitting experiences is like night and day; Mountain Peaks is where I am learning, stretching, growing and uncomfortable, while Mountain Stream is where I am confident, soaring and satisfied in my knitting. I think they will make a good balance as projects, alternating between the two as conditions warrant. MP will require a lot of concentration, at least through the three 24-row repeats of the first chart, and will take a lot longer, so I will probably begin my ruana once MS is finished. These two types of projects will be my yin and yang to examine and grow through over the next few months, for as Margene always says, "it's the process"!