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


Monday, July 31, 2006

Spinning Success Story

I have mentioned a bit that I bought a lovely Greensleeves spindle at Estes Park and have been trying to learn to spin since then... however, it wasn't until last Thursday on my early morning walk that it crossed my mind that my lack of success was possibly due to being left-handed. I recalled that the woman who sold me the spindle had said "just reverse the motions" so I unwound all the yarn and leader and rewound the opposite direction... not what I needed, I still couldn't get the right amount of twist to hold my yarn together. I planned to purchase a heavier practice spindle and a variety of fibers and see if one of my fellow guild members could help me out.

Then, I met Lisa at Lambtown. She had a display of $5.00 oak spindles, not fancy but very functional in her hands, as well as some very lovely choices in hand-dyed rovings. I picked up a spindle to buy, and then noticed that she was holding her wool in her right hand and pushing the spindle with the left, opposite of what most people do, but exactly what I had been trying to master!

Lisa, my spinning angel who corrected my errors and got me producing a real yarn. This is a really terrible photograph, but lying on the table are several of her beautiful rovings.

Lisa then showed me and helped me with the spindle, in a two-person version of "park and draft" until I was producing several yards of real, actual yarn that held together. Lisa caught on to what mistakes I had been making and I went around gathering up some wonderful other fibers to try out. I also met Connie Delaney, from Salmon, Idaho, and bought her book, Spindle Spinning: From Novice to Expert. Connie has also spent a lot of time coming up with a calculation system that allows you to figure out what to do with your handspun; check out her patterns, which do the math for you based on the wraps per inch you get with your handspun yarn. Plus, she was the judge for the spinning contests I wrote about yesterday and has a wicked sense of humor.

I headed home with my booty and started spinning. I began with this beautiful hand-painted Blue-faced Leicester roving, aptly named "Sangria", in love with the colors.

By Sunday, I had my spindle about 2/3rds full, and decided to take it off and try my hand at plying. I followed the instructions in Connie's very handy little book, and turned out a respectable but tiny skein of yarn, washed it and hung it to dry overnight.

Proud parent .... my first skein!

Here are some of the tidbits I got from my private lesson with Lisa:

1. She showed me how to use the hook on the top of the high whorl to put a spin on the first chunk of fleece and turn it into a leader; take it off the hook, tie or wrap around your spindle shaft and you are good to go.
2. A left-handed (legged, too) person like me needs to roll the spindle down the left leg to spin, producing a clockwise spin, and up to ply, producing a counter-clockwise spin.
3. Make sure the yarn comes up directly behind the hook in a straight line to keep the spindle spinning in balance.
4. Keep tension on your thread while winding on to the spindle.
5. When you quit a spinning session, allow the yarn near the hook to double back on itself (it will look plied) to hold your tension while stored; you can wrap this bit around the hook a time or two for insurance.
6. She encouraged me to "park and draft", meaning stopping the spindle between my legs and drafting the rest of the twist up the fibers, rather than get flustered, allow the spindle to reverse its spin, etc.
7. Stop and breathe periodically!
8. Fan out and draw out the roving before beginning to draft to allow the fibers room to "stretch".
9. If the twist runs too far up into the fibers, stop the spindle, untwist and draw out, then add more twist to the new, thinner section.

Those of you who already spin might find these suggestions simplistic or redundant, but they made all the difference to me, and now I can honestly say I have been spinning successfully.

Lastly, here's my small fiber haul, enough to get me trying several fibers:

The bagged selection in front, dubbed "Pink Dawn Variety Pack" is from The Dizzy Ewe, and contains an ounce each of (R to L) 'Rose' Merino & Silk, 'Red' Merino and Tencel, 'Pinedale Merino', 'Pink' Solid Merino and 'Rose Quartz' Merino, an obvious color pak with my name on it.. Ruth puts together pleasing combos like this at the very reasonable price of $12 (write if you want to know how to reach her). In back, the darker beige is CVM cross Merino lambswool, and the larger light beige and honey colored blend is alpaca roving (I can aspire to greatness, can't I?).

One final note - if you didn't follow Bakerina and the Blogathon over the weekend, head over to her site and check out the amazing stats; $97,000 raised for various charities in the 24 hour period by over 285 bloggers. You still have a chance to pledge in support of her efforts for Heifer International. Way to go, grrl.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


I had been debating for the past six weeks, since going to Estes Park, whether I would brave the heat to make it to Lambtown.. after all, it is the closest fiber festival to my home, kinda in my own backyard, so I really should attend.

However, with the temps in the 115 range last weekend, it was looking doubtful. Then, the heat wave finally broke, and the Lambtown website was promoting that the fair would open at noon on Friday, for the first year (this was the 20th year!). Since I had also been putting off the trip to Sacramento to get a certified copy of my birth certificate (suffice it to say that 2003 laws to protect us from identity theft have made appearing in person to buy one much more practical, and look to see if you have yours stashed somewhere), I jumped at the chance to go and shop for spinning fibers!

Unfortunately, although the organizers had wanted the fair to be open an extra day, they didn't get everyone else in on the program, and most of the animals hadn't arrived, and only about 2/3rds of the vendors... it was enough to keep me entertained for the afternoon, and the temperatures stayed below 100... almost balmy after the previous week and a half.

In order to get spinning fibers, first you must have animals:

Look at the lovely, curly wool on this sweetie!

My favorite breed, the Shetland... they have so much personality.

All of the vendors were housed in a building with huge fans circulating the air... although the light was not all that good:

Got wheels? This big pile was awaiting fancier display by the Carolina Homespun staff, who also consider this their "backyard" fiber fair. They had the space of about three booths , and over the course of the afternoon, put lots and lots on display.

One advantage of the mostly empty vendor building (of shoppers, anyway), was that I got to browse comfortably, without elbowing from competing buyers, and to have some lovely conversations... of course there were disadvantages as well. Renee, of Ren-Con Ranch and my guild, wasn't going to set up until Saturday morning, so we couldn't connect, and I also missed seeing Robin Lynde of Meridian Road Jacobs, who I had camped with last year at Black Sheep Gathering. Darn!

I came upon a wonderful deal - an oak spindle for $5 that came with my own private spinning lesson from Lisa, who I noticed was spinning left-handed! Tomorrow's post will contain the saga of my spinning learning curve and exquisite fiber purchases...

After my bag was loaded to capacity with new treasures, I came upon the spinning competition, about to start. There are six parts, including something called the Triathalon that includes spinning blindfolded for a stretch, then with gloves, and a third way that the contestant I asked couldn't remember. I sat through two of them while working on my Lily of the Valley shawl... This photo is of the long thread competition in progress. The six competitors were given 10 grams of the same prepared Cormo/Angora rabbit crimson roving, and their task was to spin the longest thread over the course of 20 minutes.

Annie, the only spindle entrant, got extra points, and also managed to produce 28 yards; she came in second.

She needed to climb up on a chair for the strategic spinning contest, which provided each contestant with a "mystery" fiber to produce the most, as well as best use, of over a 30 minute period. Annie was adding slubs to hers at very regular intervals; she is my idol.

Annie's dog must attend these events regularly, and knew there would be a wait!

I am hoping to return next year, weather permitting, and to also visit the Dixon fairgrounds September 23rd for the Scottish Games. The weekend before that, from September 15-17, will mark the 9th annual California Wool & Fiber Festival, a part of the Mendocino County Fair & Apple Show, in Boonville. A few vendors told me that this festival, and the Redway one October 1 and 2 at the Mateel Community Center, are both on the small side, but well worth attending if you are nearby, or want to take a fall vacation through the California North Coast and redwoods.

Myself, I will probably have to content myself with waiting until October to go over to the Yolo Wool Mill-In, at the mill in Woodland, about 70 miles from here. Keep ya posted!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sunrise Saturday Sky

While my Saturday dawned with a much less dramatic sky than Margene's, we were extremely grateful to have a day in the high 80s, a big drop from the 11-day heat wave of 100+ temperatures. This led to catching up around Slate Range Camp, including filling up the trash cans, washing and hanging things to dry, watering, and a run to drop off recycling, all things that it was far too hot to tackle last weekend.

I had a delightful afternoon at Lambtown yesterday, and promise a post full on photos tomorrow.

Friday, July 28, 2006

An Update on Trekking Sock V2.0

My second pair of Trekking socks is progressing nicely, especially since I have decided that I want to make them shorter than Mim designed the pattern. I like to have ankle length socks in this hot climate for summer hiking, so made a 3 1/2 inch leg, instead of the more usual 7, and started the heel flap last night, but was too tired to make it all the way through the heel.

It appears that the heat wave has finally broken, but that means the temp. yesterday was 98 instead of over 100, so the sock, DD and a little bitty friend of ours spent part of the afternoon here:

Jackson Hole, North Yuba river

Anabel pretended to be sleeping. Perhaps she was bored by the sock.

Here's a close up, showing off the nice cuff rib pattern.

Now, I am off to get ready to run an errand in Sacramento, then head to Dixon for Lambtown, which opens today at noon. I won't be taking any classes, but will be eyeing the sheep and the fiber. I promise you photos. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Nice Neighbors

I have always been an isolated fiber artist, with no pals to dye yarn, or shop the sales or travel to festivals with me. When I started blogging, I found like-minded souls, but noticed there was also a definite dearth of fiber bloggers in my northern California region. I felt a bit deprived, reading blogs and learning that those is SF, SLC and Boston actually could both read each others' blogs and meet to KIP.

Slowly, I have managed to "collect" a short list of lovely, near-neighbor bloggers (diversion - it just struck me - did the word "neighbor" derive from being close enough to hear their horses neigh?). While these blog neighbors might not be that close, I could manage to drive to meet them in less than a day, and have met one several times. Let me introduce you to some of my neighbors:

I found the first knit bloggers less than 100 miles away from me about a year and a half ago. Lynette lived in Folsom and Jenn in Quincy at the time (she has since relocated to Placerville). Both are fellow members of the California Knit Bloggers. I got to share hiking stories with Lynette last summer, since we love some of the same favorite Sierra spots, and then follow the story of her wedding, pregnancy and birth of their lovely little daughter, Karalyn, whose name is blended from hers and husband Karl's. Lynette's knitting has focused on babies recently, but she also just started a Leaf Lace Shawl and a lacy poncho.

Jenn and I both love Quincy and the beautiful Indian Valley, where Greenville is located. She has three lovely children, and her oldest daughter helps her make beaded stitch markers, some of which went to one of my secret swap buddies earlier this year. Jenn's mama happens to own a yarn shop (how lucky, most of you are saying!), Filati Fine Yarns, in Rocklin. I drove by it a few times while attending computer training down there this spring, but unfortunately started too early and finished too late to get a visit in. Jenn and I are both participating in Trek Along and the Knit Sock Kit Swap this summer. If you get a chance, drop by and give her a few words of encouragement, as she is just facing some scary health challenges.

Last fall, a local fiber blogger found me! Sara Lamb is well-known to some in the fiber world as a great teacher. She does workshops at several conferences a year, and lives in Nevada City where she is also deeply involved in the Foothill Fiber Guild. Back in November, she left a comment inviting me to the next guild meeting, where they were featuring a slide show about WARP, Weave a Real Peace, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering women and communities-in-need around the world through textile arts (description taken from their publications). It was a great event and I signed on as a guild member, mainly attending Spinning Saturdays, and getting to know a whole new group of spinners, weavers and knitters, almost entirely blogless, but living only about 25 miles from me!

Sara started blogging to help promote an enduring interest in weaving, and has offered such diverse and fascinating pieces as a tutorial on inkle weaving, and another (this week) on making your own hammered copper shawl pins. She also spent a huge amount of creative time on preparing for her son's recent wedding, including weaving and sewing him a vest, making all the table runners for the rehearsal dinner (and later to be used by the happy couple in entertaining at their home in Colorado), and even lovely sachets for the bridal party. Such talent! Sara will be teaching a Silk Cut Pile workshop at SOAR this fall, in Lake Tahoe (also less than 100 miles from me!) but the class is already full.... let me know if you plan to attend the public part and want to meet up.

In the past month I found two more near-neighbors, also Foothill Fiber guild members, but living on the opposite side of the Sierras - Sharon and Amy. Amy lives in Reno, where she is the head of something important (oops, I forgot and can't locate it for you) at University of Reno. You have to go and take a look at the awesome needle-felted chair she made recently, her latest post.

Sharon lives an hour north of Reno, and has Shetland sheep and a llama! She also does a lot of natural dyeing, always interesting to read about, and has some great photos of the beautiful high mountain desert where she lives. These ladies are both also members of the Carson Sierra Spinners and Weavers guild, but we will get to meet in two weeks, when we all help our guild at their booth at the Nevada County Fair.

If you are not familiar with any of these bloggers, go and pay a visit. I think you will find something you like in my neighbors. I also want to point out the button at the top - please go and sign on to support Bakerina in the Blogathon this coming weekend. She will be heroically blogging away for 24 hours straight, raising money for Heifer International one of my favorite charities, and needs our help and encouragement. I got to spend two days with Bakerina while at Estes Park last month, and was one of the recipients of her magnificent cooking, and mustering up support is my small way of saying "thank you" for all the love she poured over our group.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Trekking Socks Finished

Yes, rumors are true; I have finished my Trekking Socks

Now, to borrow briefly from Carole, for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

Good: They are done, they fit my feet and I really love the color!

Bad: You probably can't tell from the photo, and it certainly won't show when my feet are encased in hiking shoes, but halfway down the second foot, I noticed that I had one less rib! Somehow, when I had finished with the heel, I didn't get the ribbing pattern going over the same amount of stitches.

Ugly: No, I didn't bother to rip; the ugly part is that I decided I just don't care... so what, etc. Maybe it's the heat (which will be triple digits for a record-breaking 11th day in a row). Maybe it's the demoralizing search for a job, or the even more demoralizing attempt to assist my two oldest relocate to Grass Valley, where there is a rental housing shortage, and a depressingly impossible set of expectations amongst the landlords we have met to date (as in, having lived here already for six months to a year - how you gonna ever get out of that tent?).

When I took stock and looked at the half-finished foot on the needles and the finished sock in my other hand, I realized it would be easier to live with the hardly visible mis-matched ribbing than it would to live with ripping so much out and re-doing. I was also ready to go on the the next pair, which are in Trekking Color #18, and made their first appearance here in Saturday's post. Oh, and don't look too closely at the toes, either. I do know how to Kitchener, and really don't have the fear and dread of it that other people mention, but just did a cruddy job this time. Well, there's another sock on the needles already and another chance to get it right.

In other news, I wanted to share a photo of this lovely packet that came yesterday from Jean Franklin, of my Foothill Fibers Guild:

Jean sells Ashford wheels and when she read on our Guild Yahoo list that I wanted to repair mine, emailed back and forth with me (which included pictures and diagrams but no circles and arrows), till we figured out exactly what replacement parts I needed, rounded them up and sent them off in the mail. That would be wonderful enough of her, but she also included FIBER!! From her own Shetland sheep to boot! I can see that she and I will have to have a conversation about sheep coming to live here at Slate Range Camp in the (near?) future. I fully intend to spin that lovely, soft stuff up right away.

Another Guild member, Amy, has promised to review my spindling technique and give me tips and pointers to get me on the road to success in early August, when we both will be working at the Guild booth at the Nevada County Fair. The fair dates are August 9-13, and this year's theme is "Wild About Ewe" - if you have a chance to attend, it is a true county fair set in the pines surrounded by our green foothills, with lots of livestock, music on various small stages, rides, Treat Street (a whole lane full of fair food booths), and buildings with great garden and textiles exhibits!

A final photo - this one of a lovely Saturday sky on a Tuesday.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Saturday Sky, Overheated and New, New, New

Saturday Sky on Sunday - yes, I do feel like I have been lost in a time-warp the past few days, resulting in no new posts. The temperatures decided to climb rather than fall, and everyone has gotten a little cranky as a result. While we were barely tolerating the high 90s, the triple-digit temps (109 in Grass Valley yesterday afternoon - luckily it wasn't my car with the thermometer, or I might have perished at the realization) are simply pinning us down to the house near the cooler, or the air-conditioned car. Today's sky is a reflection of the way that such heat waves bring cloud build-up, and sometimes dry lightening, to our mountains. While the clouds look pretty, I tend to get a bit uneasy and pray that this batch won't develop into thunderheads.

There were some inevitable things I simply had to do at the end of the week, including a lot of family business at home on Thursday, leaving me no other computer time afterwards, and a fast trip to Chico, since it was time to bite the bullet and re-up for another two years of cell service. I have a four-line family plan, and had hoped to dump my present carrier, but unfortunately adding DH last summer, when he finally decided he needed a phone of his own, got him out of sync with the rest of us ... the good news was the other three of us got new phones.

Trying to decide, Cody checks out the features on the phone Nikki later chose.

DD followed me back home late Friday afternoon, but first we had to stop at a big box bookstore to get iced coffee drinks to fortify us. That is where I picked up a copy of Knitting (on the left in the photo above) - the English magazine with such a unique title. It was quite a bit of fun to find a knitting magazine I hadn't discovered before, and that it had an article about teaching children to knit, as well as some great information about fashion/knitwear design (quite the well-developed industry in UK, perhaps because they seldom have heat waves).

Also on display is my new phone.... yes, there really is that trendy side of me that just had to have the pink Razr. I am still searching for a suitable ringtone (maybe a donkey braying), and have to find some time to get started putting music on it. I am really not much of a gadget person, hating to spend perfectly good money that could go to books or yarn, so I have never gotten around to getting an MP3 player (although youngest son got one of the earliest on the market for a BD present several years back) or an IPod, but now that a mobile phone has become "almost a necessity" (I do remember doing just fine 89% of the time without one), why not in pink, and why not with music?!

The phone is partially obscuring A Handspindle Treasury, which arrived in Friday's mail, and traveled back and forth to Chico, unopened, since there really wasn't any reading time. I still have only had the chance to thumb through and get oriented, as this Interweave Press publication includes the best of the articles they have featured on spindle spinning over the past twenty years, and there are some great gems of wisdom in here. The best gem for me was realizing that it was spindle spinning and not wheel spinning that has gotten me interested in spinning once again. I am all about carrying handwork around with me, making more time to visit with people while doing a piece that doesn't need full concentration, such as knitting a sock or spinning on the high whorl (once I get the hang of it). The process of spindling is identical to wheel spinning in so many ways and yet different in the ability to be mobile. Perhaps it is my aging body, but I have tended to shy away from sitting at any kind of apparatus in a cramped position for hours, and don't regret that I no longer weave and rarely spend a whole day at the sewing machine any longer. Different tools for different stages of life...

The book to the right is a very cute book, Kids Knitting, that is written to the level of a mid-elementary aged child, and has great kid-oriented patterns, such as bean bags (and you were wondering what to do with all those gauge swatches!), hats, toys, the ever-recommended "first project scarf", and even socks. Why did I pick up this book yesterday, when DD and I ventured out into the heat to Grass Valley to search for rentals for her and two of the three DSs? I have been knitting since I was five and my kids are all too old for the instructional style... but I submitted an application for a job as "handwork teacher" at one of our local public charter schools, and am hoping for at least an interview, so I can talk them into hiring me to teach knitting and other crafts to elementary students! Please, please think good thoughts about this being a good match, both for me and for the school. It feels like a better match than teaching at the county jail, where I visited the classrooms last week (intimidating, even though I know I didn't commit any crimes).

This final photo, taken at one of the Chico parking lots, is for Carole - the other new thing is the beginning of a second pair of Trekking socks, using Mim's Simple Trekking Socks pattern. Somewhere in the chaos between teaching Thursday night, getting the burros ready for the farrier, and assisting him with hoof-trimming Friday morning, then dashing around Chico, I managed to finish the first pair, and cast on another, in color #18 (a light lavender and blue fleck). I figured, what the heck? Summer is still young, and there's lots more trekking to be done! There will be photos of the finished socks later in the week, when I can manage to have clean enough feet to put on brand-new, hand-made socks... that are wool and hot!

There will also be other catching up to do, as I had planned a nice, chatty post about how there are finally a few other fiber bloggers within a 75-mile distance of me, but that will have to wait, as well as doing a Local Meal post for Liz. I have been eating local food, but I wouldn't call much of it a meal --- too hot to work in the kitchen.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Wednesday Hodge Podge

Summer around Slate Range Camp

Today's post will be a jumble of a variety of things going on over the past few days. DH is working as a line archaelogist (as in "fire line") at the large fire complex in San Bernardino (SoCal), so I am trying to keep up with tending the home fires, and boy, it's been pretty hot here. Hovering around 100, and even though "it's a dry heat", it can feel like a blast furnace around midday. Successfully coping with such heat involves a siesta mentality, long derided by those in cooler climates as being a slacker. Let me tell you, no slacker I know gets up around 5 AM in order to put in a few hours of chores in the cool of the day, before cleaning up and going to work. There really hasn't been any "cool of the evening" around here until well after dark! I am hoping for some relief soon.

Yesterday morning, I repaired some animal fencing, watered, washed a load of laundry and hung it to dry, fed and then moved the animals around, so that an unused pasture was re-occupied by Rita and the teenaged Assteroid, and also cut herbs to dry, all before 7:45, when the sun was suddenly hitting every place I still need to do some work. This morning it was more watering and more fence repair (I am afraid to turn on the hot wire and have it short out and start a fire), with three or four more mornings of repair work needed to really get things secure around the old Camp. However, it is a bit cloudy overhead, and cooler, so I am hoping the day won't have to hit the 100 mark again.

Freshly-cut lavender... there are also bunches of peppermint and rosemary drying.

The peach jam was made on Sunday morning... it's yummy. Mim has a great jam tutorial on her new blog site (she moved over to Word Press), if this gets you hankering to try making some of your own.

Update on Rita

Sylvia asked for a new photo of Rita, as she was concerned to know how Rita is coping with the loss of her long-time burro companion Louise, who died a few weeks ago. She is still a bit lonely and needy, and here takes advantage of special rations. I am pulling her out from everyone else at breakfast several days a week to bolster her nutritionally, as she looks too bony to me the past several months.

Here is a photo of Rita two years ago, more vital and leading a pack string of animals on an EARs Club outing in Forest City. EARS stands for Equuis Assinus Recreationus Society, just in case you were wondering.

The farrier is coming to trim feet tomorrow, and Rita will be seeing the vet soon, and quite possibly an equine dentist to float her teeth, all efforts to maximize her late middle aged years ... she is now 24 years old!

Lily of the Valley Shawl

I am absolutely loving working on this shawl... I had my doubts about using such large needles, in fact dropped down from a size 15 as recommended to a size 11 (you can see my trusty Denise interchangeables in the photo below). I am still a bit concerned that large, loose loops (say that three times, fast!) could get caught on something while wearing this, but I did opt for a medium-sized version, which will help to contain the abundance of fabric.

The top border and first repeat of my Lily of the Valley Shawl

The pattern is such that I very quickly started to see it develop; each step has a "cue" from the previous row, and the trickiest part is making six sets of bobbles for each of the panels over the course of an 18-row repeat. What this means to the knitter is that on six of the eighteen rows, you will be increasing five stitches out of one, not too difficult if you remember to add a bit of give as you make each increase. The second part of the process, decreasing back down, is a bit more interesting. The directions in the Spin-off article suggest three methods, the first two I considered and abandoned were either to purl five together (yeah, right! I could imagine dropped stitches, but it might work for you), or to use a crochet hook to slip the five off and do some passing over manuever (now why would I do that when I am already holding a knitting needle in each hand - do they know people with three hands?). My method has been to slip the first four, knit the fifth and then one by one pass them over it. This method might be a tad bit slower, but gets my bobble all nice and neatly lined up - at least it is more often than not, now that I have done this 60 times.... it takes me awhile.

What is amazing me is how rapidly this project is going, starting from a knitted cast-on of 176 stitches and steadily decreasing in triangular fashion. I like to work with a mid-range of needles between say about sizes 3 and 8 or 9 best, so I am thinking already that I want to experiment with how laceweight and smaller needles work in this pattern, as well as how fingering, which I am using, looks if I drop down to size 8. Right now though, I feel part of a grand, international tradition, since my fabric looks like that created by the German knitters, working from the notes made in South Africa by a refugee who grew up in Estonia, Edith Haller. Isn't it wonderful the connections that we get from knitting?!

As a side note, while you are over visiting the Interweave Press site to check out that issue of Spin-Off, print the free instructions to make your own Charkha spinning wheel from a cigar box, not that you need another project or anything. I think I would have more fun building the wheel than trying to spin fine cotton thread with it, but who knows what heights of greatness I might aspire to next?!

Knit Sock Kit Swap

This is the cute little bag I made for my Swap buddie in the Knit Sock Kit Swap (check out my sidebar, if you are wondering what this is). I included Mim's Trekking Socks pattern, some lovely Trekking yarn, a card made by one of the other members in our crafts co-op, showing a calico sheep, and a small bundle of freshly-cut lavender from the garden. Not shown is a large bar of Endangered Species chocolate, some sandal candles (they float!), a Soap Rock, and some sock-shaped point protectors. I am hoping she loves using it as much as I did making the bag and assembling the kit.

This has been a post of this and that, fraught with battles on my end with the computer line, Blogger, and Firefox, all conspiring against me at some point. But remember, "Who loves ya, baby?"

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

O is for Oasis

Our inner backyard is in the shade most of the hot summer afternoon, providing us with a cool oasis while the Mediterranean climate pins us down until evening.

I build up a collection of potted plants each season to keep us company. This year, we are featuring geraniums, a pepper plant, glads which haven't flowered yet, a strawberry pot, basil, cilantro, sweet william, pansies, and a creeping geranium.

I can sit in my knitting chair in the relatively cool shade, while the sun beats down behind me on the front lawn, breathing in the aroma of my jasmine, partially in view on the right side of the photo. Heaven is right outside my bedroom door.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Kids' Fishing Day

Those of us who love the wild and who work with the young often think about passing along a sense of protecting the places we treasure to the next generation. There are lots of ways to instill a love of nature in the very young, but the best one I have found over the years is to put them in a beautiful spot and let them have a good time.

This weekend, our local Fish and Game Commission collaborated with two of the surrounding Forest Service Ranger Districts to host the Annual Kids' Free Fishing Day at Packer Lake, with just such a goal in mind. Local fishing experts were on hand to check out loaner equipment for the morning and give casting lessons. The Forest Service sent a handful of employees (including DH, whose job is High Country Ranger, covering the area where the lake and two dozen others are, called Lakes Basin and adjacent to the Sierra Buttes) to set up displays on fish, amphibians, plants, animals and other natural wonders. The kids were there by the dozens, having a terrific time. This post is pretty heavy on photos, but the scenery is worth it!

Here a very young boy and his grandma enjoy fishing lakeside.

Packer Lake was full of fisherpeople.

A mother teaching her toddler son the basics.

Mason is very proud of the fish her dad, Brandon, helped her catch, but she doesn't want to hold it!

There were nature craft activities, such as pressing plaster casts of animal tracks into clay rounds to take home.

A popular stop was at the fish printing tables, where fabric paints and free t-shirts and tank tops were ready for imprinting with your design.

Under that paint is a real fish, used for fish-printing.

Lifting the shirt off the fish reveals a fish print.

Several completed fish shirts. Some crafters added the date, the lake's name, a caption, or even "family reunion".

MY FO of the weekend - a fish print tank top! I like that my fish is going after bugs...

An idyllic way to spend a summer day.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

This Saturday's sky was taken at Packer Lake, where several osprey were competing with the kids attending Kids Fishing Day, an annual event to promote fishing for trout in our local lakes. I kept trying, hoping to be able to show you the distinctive wing bands on the undersides, important to identifying these birds, although sitting at lake edge and listening to three of them communicating with each other made me realize that their call is just as distinctive.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thursday Posing as Sunday

Since DH has Wednesdays and Thursdays off this summer, and works the weekends, I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to schedule my work week to have time off with him. It looks a lot like a workaholic's weekend, but we did fit some nice things in, nonetheless.

First, I had the morning off yesterday, which allowed us to have a late "Friday night", sleep in and chat over morning coffee, and have a slow start to the day. My evening activity was getting started on the Lily of the Valley shawl featured in Spin-Off Spring 2004, which I found at Estes Park Wool Mart. This shawl has been on my list since Susan featured the book, in German, that Interweave Press published after this initial article. The shawl does not look to be too difficult, in fact may well fall quickly into the intuitive category, however the traditional technique used was that of very large needles (size 15 is recommended, although I decided 11s would work fine for my style of knitting) and fine thread - I am using Textiles A Manos cotton/rayon fingering weight.

Yesterday, even though it was DH's "Saturday", I did have a meeting to attend an hour and a half away, and conned convinced him into coming with me... initially we intended to camp, but decided to take the back roads over a seasonal mountain pass home to our high country house, so we could spend the night there.

This is the season irreverently known in our neck of the woods as "construction season" (the joke is 'there are four seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction'), and between his leisurely day-off driving style (I finally had to remind him that this wasn't a sight-seeing trip for me, and I had to get a move on) and stopping three separate times in a 40 mile stretch for road work, I was a trifle late arriving; lucky for me so was another of the board members. Our meeting took a few hours, then we headed to Sierraville for an early Mexican food dinner. Stuffed to the gills, we took Highway 89 to the Henness Pass road, where the traffic greatly diminished, and of course I have mountain photos for you:

We weren't sure of the name of this large mountain meadow that parallels the road, but there are many such meadows in the high Sierras, all in bloom right now!

There are two major fire complexes going here in California, one in Stanislaus county (central) and one in San Bernardino (south - where DS Rex and his Forest Service helitack crew are working), so the sky grew hazier as we traveled west.

This is Meadow Lake, one of my all-time favorites... it has been a private fishing resort for the past several years, but a short walk from the main road, so we went in to take a few photos. Looking south, you can see a hazy view of English meadow and Mountain.

The historic Meadow Lake Lodge, now a private residence, but once a road house on the route to the Comstock mines.

The cabin of my dreams, so that I could spend the entire summer in the high country at Meadow Lake! The donkeys would love it...

Further to the west, we stopped at Keystone Gap - even hazier.

The total distance was about 25 miles of back roads, allowing us to spend a relaxing evening at our original home in Forest City, where no dogs currently live and there is virtually no traffic - talk about quiet! We reveled in it, and I finished up a Feather and Fan washcloth to put in the shop tomorrow, and the top edging of the shawl (now to dive into the famous Lily of the Valley pattern).

Some of you may be wondering why I didn't take my Trekking sock on this lovely trek; we are having a bit of time apart. My hands were craving time with larger needles, and my sanguine nature wanted to see something finished, and something new started, both at the same time. The sock and I will be able to spend quality time together over the weekend, and may even fit in a wildflower hike, as although we saw some flowers at Meadow Lake, not the profusion that is in full bloom at some of the other secret spots I know and love.

I spent a little time peering at my mail and a tiny handful of blogs, but the computer up there is a family discard, and the line is slower than any of you can possibly imagine, so going online is more about a quick news update and checking to make sure there are no crises needing attention, with real catch-up time now, while I am waiting for my evening students to show up - yes my "Sunday" afternoon reverted to the real work week, needing to clean up and get to Grass Valley by mid-afternoon to check with the school staff for messages and drop off paperwork, and then teach an adult ed class. Poor DH was left to fend for himself...

I did have a late lunch at a local coffeehouse while perusing the new Knitpicks catalog; too bad I bought all those Addi Turbos last month at four times the price! Their new line of needles has great promise and I am eager to hear from people who are trying them out.

I also want to ask you to drop by Laurie's blog and offer your condolences; it appears that she lost her lovely Wool Peddler's Shawl while hustling to the SLC airport to catch a flight to Boston for a teacherly training... Margene made a mad dash yesterday evening to peer in her car windows and make sure it wasn't left on the seat or caught in the door.... only we knitters can understand the sorrow this loss would cause in one of our own.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

N is for Nevada

I can't really say exactly why, but I just love Nevada. We live less than two hours from Reno, and it is often the springboard for great adventures throughout the state. I love visiting the desert and the high mountains both. I love touring across the empty lands and staring up into the big, huge, blue skies.

I love the Wild West history and lore:

Goldfield Hotel side view Posted by HelloThe abandoned Goldfield hotel

I love being able to see mustangs in the wild:

A small band outside Virginia City

I love the crazy events they put on over there, like Hot August Nights:

 Posted by Picasa

I have driven across Nevada in a blizzard and snowboarded on the slopes. It's cold, it's hot, there's blowing sand, there's snakes and bugs and still I find it all very beautiful.

A storm descending upon Lake Tahoe

Frequent viewers might recognize one or two of these photos, for they are among the best in my collection of Nevada shots, more of which will follow in the future, I'm sure!