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Episode 64 — What Day Is It?

In which we discuss Ellen’s travels to Sweden for World Water Week (there was no wave pool or water slides), apple trees, quick visits with New York daughters, winning state fair entries, squid knitting, and have a short visit with Dr. Yarn and an essay on “Why We Farm.”

Hitting Restart

Dear Ellen,

My participation in this blog of late seems to be limited only to putting up new episodes of the podcast.  While that in and of itself is a healthy contribution, it seems I’ve not written anything about antics on the farm or within our family for way to long.  As time drags out it is becoming apparent that the massive “catch up” blog post is becoming more and more overwhelming.  So much so that I’ll never do it.  Therefore I am declaring a restart!  I will provide below a photo montage of many things that are happening or have happened in the last three months without much care about chronology or detail.  Once that’s done, then that’s it…the past is behind me.  And maybe my next post will be more manageable!

Love, Jan

2-imag0352.jpg I made gorgeous yarn.

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It became Swagger, an almost published design.

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1-marie-knits-001.jpgMarie not only modeled for me, but she also got bitten by the knitting bug.  (So proud!)

1-img_0690.JPGI designed the perfect gauntlets with which to feed chickens.

1-fiber-factor.jpgI entered designs in the Fiber Factor competition, but will have to try again next year.

1-imag0435-001.jpg Dorito took up tweeting as doritothealpaca.  He seems unable to use capital letters because of his two-toedness.

1-imag0431.jpg The other alpaca are unimpressed.  (Fun to peek over your mom!)

1-imag0392.jpg We got our farm name established legally…and physically.

1-imag0202-001.jpg I scored an amazing quilt at the Bart Township Mud Sale.  (For cheap!)

1-imag0381.jpgCharlie (Allen and Libby’s dog) met the gang…they were alert, but when they figured out that she’d run off if they challenged her, they went back to grazing.

1-imag0488.jpgWe toured a robotic dairy farm where cows choose when to be milked (and queue up nicely for it) and go to the self-service back scratchers whenever they like.

1-imag0528.jpgI finished the second version of my Entrelac Capelet pattern…minus the closure as I can’t seem to lay my hands on that stupid clasp!

1-dsc06547.JPGDale built the gang a little mountain so they can play king of the hill.  (Amelia is hoping neither of the boys will put the other’s eye out.)

6-_sc06481.JPGWe had a visitor to the farm from a 5th grade class in Illinois.  She liked the chickens but could not figure out how to lay an egg.

1-dsc06507-002.JPGNew babies came home to live with us for eight weeks.  Then they’ll live with our frozen food.  Very cute now…good thing they won’t stay cute long and that there are so many I won’t be able to name them. (I did help the the one on his back regain his footing…at a day old he couldn’t handle it himself.)

1-_sc06471-001.JPGWe made a boomerang trip to help mom celebrate her 90th birthday.

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We are thrilled to see everything on the farm wake up with the arrival of spring.

1-imag0419-1.jpgExcept for Ruby that is.

And with that, that’s it!

Touch and Go

Dear Ellen,

1-dsc05939.JPGI’m just about recovered from the fantastic time we had at Rhinebeck and now need to get packed for my next trip.  I’m not complaining, not one bit!  I’m really just relieved that I was able to have several down days between the two…not sure I could have gone straight from one to the next as the fibromyalgia cum compression fracture had my back screaming and my body aching the first part of this week.  Before I get out the suitcase (didn’t need one for Rhinebeck since I drove there), I thought I’d throw up a few of my own Rhinebeck photos and some others.  Here’s my version of the sheepy photo op.

1-rhinebeck.jpgI had a great time in Jane Woodhouse’s class on natural dyeing.  It was helpful to me to walk through the entire process — a quick review of everything needed to get started.  Saves me all that book reading, you know.  It will be a bit before I put it to use…maybe even the new year as the end of the year seems pretty full already!

1-dsc05865.JPGThe fall colors were stunning…my favorite foliage picture is this one with the contrast of the black and golden yellow in this maple.  Our little maple we planted this past spring is decked out in a gorgeous crimson.  I’d love to plant one like this right next to it.

1-dsc05910.JPGThe podcaster meetup was great fun…you’re right — we need to come up with our own uniform for such events.  I am liking the idea of slacks and twin sets with pearls and penny loafers.  What do you think?

1-dsc05889.JPGFleece acquisition was so much better with the likes of experts like Deb, you and Erica.  I would have done it on my own, but would have been crossing my fingers while faking my way through picking out the ideal fleece!

1-dsc05915.JPGHeidi and I were walking along when I “squee’ed” — she thought I was reacting to a gorgeous sweater that had just gone by, but I had actually just made a Stephen West sighting.  He was, as always, so gracious and sweet and pasted a smile on his face while grudgingly smiled broadly while posing for a photo with me.

1-dsc05944.JPGHere are my Flat Feet socks that I finished at the cabins.  My project page has a photo that shows the sock blank in the background of one of the socks in progress.  This blank was pre-dyed, but I do have another in natural.  I expect it will benefit from some of what I learned this last week!

Gotta go finish publishing Episode 4…then on to packing!

Love, Jan

Autumn in the North Woods…

Dear Jan,

I dashed north on Friday to teach a silk hanky knitting workshop near Ely, MN.  The workshop went well – of course, it did, with Karen J as co-creator and co-teacher.  We had participants make their own little container of hand scrub, we provided silk history and silk poems, and we demonstrated our favorite ways of working with hankies, or mawata. I hope to post more on that once I get my patterns for a couple of little silk headbands cleaned up and ready for publication.

That fall has come to the north woods is absolutely undeniable.

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The foliage was intense in color, the air was brisk and the stars were brilliant in the night sky.

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It is traditional that this weekend up north is the first that I have to scrape the frost from my car.

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The cold didn’t scare away the walleye.  Paul Bunyan caught this one in Rush City.

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An extra joy was that I came home in time to spend some time with Jenny and admire her Bohus-in-progress.  The Green Mist is ethereal, every bit as beautiful as the fall foliage.

But back to work for now.  I hope you are getting enough time to appreciate the autumn while you are in the midst of wedding prep for A & L!

Love,

Ellen

Lazy Hazy Days of Summer

Dear Ellen,

In further efforts to catch up with blog posting, I give you July…and August…and a bit of September.  My next post will be filled with knitterly goodness as opposed to being a recap of “What I Did During My Summer Vacation.”

Love, Jan

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Fourth of July was celebrated at the ball park with a loss for the Lancaster Barnstormers.

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But there were some great fireworks!

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Much Nature was Admired.

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New York City was wandered about to include Central Park (with it’s Manhattan cityscape and unfortunate goat being devoured by eagles, hopefully not fiber goats), Union Square (in whose locale I discoverd a wedding dress made of teaspoons), a funky bar (where the art immortalizes sheep eating lamb carpaccio) and the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (where I ate one of the best ice cream cones I have ever had!!).

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Vegan food of such delight was consumed at my lovely niece’s culinary school.  So nice to be there in your company as well as that of my daughter and my other niece.  And who knew?…vegan was pretty darned tasty!  (But I was hungry within several hours…note visit to BGIS above.)

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August brought the annual pig roast at Mark and Cheryl’s where much enjoyment was had!

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More natural beauty.

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Visits galore (including Bambi Galore, get it?  Heh!)

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And our sad farewell to the best dog ever.

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September has brought happier times with a visit to Ohio (where you can attend the Jug Fest and watch barges on the Ohio River with Mom and her companion or have a stare-down with Glenda, the kitty in the sidetable drawer.

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And Allen has transferred from duty in Bahrain and has made it home!  He and his fiancee joined me in perusing the SOLANCO (Southern Lancaster County) Fair where we saw animal friends enjoying fair food.  They love it here, which is good as his next duty station is only about an hour away.  That really helps as they can base out of the farm to look for their next home and are close at hand for wedding planning.

Phew!  I’m tired…that was a full summer!

Love, Jan

Where is Ellen now?

Dear Jan,

This last month seems to see me logging a fair amount of travel to all sorts of places.  Can you figure out the most recent?  Here are some hints.

Crazy good berries and cherries.  The strawberries didn’t even make it into the picture before they made it into our mouths, and there is barely more than color left of the raspberries.

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Kites, flown by handsome men.

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Insanely lush flowers, including more colors of hydrangea, often on the same bush, than I have ever seen.

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Time enough to actually finish a project.  Here is my Glitter Train wrister project out of MadelineTosh Light,  pattern by Susanna Hansson.

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Got it figured out?  If not, look just above my index finger in the wrister photo.

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Yep, there is little else that looks like the Oregon Coast, where Wilson and I are vacationing with his family.  We are so fortunate.

Love,

Ellen

P.S.  A bit of saturation editing on the last photo as the weather was getting a bit murky, but zero retouching of the first four, it is just that dang beautiful.

Remember Me???

Dear Ellen,

Sorry it has been so long since I’ve posted.  As you know, I’ve been a tad busy.  So, here’s your quick catch up!

All the way back in April (as you obviously know) I had a wonderful, wonderful time visiting your workplace and meeting and speaking so many of your colleagues and co-workers.  So many good memories and ideas from that visit!  The Navy let me hang around for a few more days so I could do some outreach for them — speaking to a number of groups in academia and youth development.  (My favorite was the time I spent with about 60 3rd-8th graders talking about women in technology.  Ten year-olds really keep you on your toes!!) 

susannas-beaded-mitts.JPGIt was great that the trip included Yarnover weekend.  Vendors, classes with Chris Bylsma, Mary Scott Huff and Susanna Hansson, and of course, time with you meant for fantastic fun!  (For our readers, no, the picture on the lower left is not one of us.)  I loved the chance to visit StephenBe’s and to enjoy the sensory overload that is his world.

dsc04536.JPGAnd then, right after I returned to the DC area, I had the chance to take a class with Brenda Dayne of the Cast-On podcast.  She is as lovely as you would expect from her podcast.  I thoroughly enjoyed having the chance to get to know her a bit — witty, smart, funny and engaging.  She’d fit right in to any group that you and I put together, that’s for sure.

dsc04587.JPGThe class project was the Mrs. Beeton wristers.  I went against recommendations on my accent yarn choice (purchased at Yarnover!), but I’m very happy with it.  Future versions should include a modification to accomodate the lack of elasticity in the Seduce (rayon, linen, silk and nylon blend).  The minor problem is that without the “sproing” the knitted ruffle works up to a depth that is a bit too long.  It hides the inner ruffle knitted out of the main yarn, a superwash merino sock yarn.  I do love the contrast in texture though…even more so than for the versions of Mrs. Beeton worked with the recommended yarn types.  The simple fix will be to modify the ruffle pattern to lose just a few rows and that will be very easy.

may-20121.JPGThings are definitely popping up all over the farm these days. That gazebo I mentioned is firmly situated across from the house — bedding plants to come.  And I’ve got fairy ring mushrooms, knock out roses, peas, melons, corn, wildflowers, onions and spinach coming along very nicely!

may-2012.JPGOur tenants are doing well too.  I thought the chickadee had abandoned her nest in the birdhouse and opened it to make sure.  Surprise!  She was right there.  I quickly snapped a picture and closed it back up.  She didn’t twitch a bit and the next day was still sitting her clutch.  I was relieved I hadn’t frightened her by the rude intrusion.  The eggs above our front windows have hatched (see the tail sticking out?) and the babies are making a mess of things.  (That’s okay, we know how to use a scrub brush.)  And the purple finch who nested in the holly bush just outside our back door has laid a nice little trio of beautiful blue eggs with little black speckles.  I caught this photo while she was out taking advantage of the bird feeders.

dsc04573.JPGI’ve put some time in at the spinning wheel and now have 3 very full bobbins of alpaca/tussah silk singles.  I’ll be doing some trial plying of these to see how I want to finish them.  I’m hoping two-ply will yield a heavy sock weight or light DK. 

briar-rose.JPGThe alpaca fleece that I ordered from Morro Fleece Works arrived this past Saturday and it is incredibly lush!  I was so glad I had an extra bobbin at the ready and on Sunday I sat down and spun up about 4 1/2 ounces.  Like buttah!  The roving drafted like an absolute dream — the closest to the zen of spinning that I think I’ve experienced.  It’s a semi-worsted spin with a lot of energy.  I want to test out how a highly spun and highly plied alpaca behaves in a fabric.  I love this color and this fleece so much that I’d really like to use it for the Knitmore SPAKAL, but am smart enough to know I need to figure out the lack of elasticity issue before I knit an entire sweater out of it!  (By the way, I’m seriously considering Mishke by Julie Weisenberger.  Yes, she seems to have both of our attentions!

dsc04527.JPGBefore I say goodbye, I want to share the helmet liner I knit for my trusted assistant.  He is heading off to Afghanistan for a year to command an Air Force communications squadron over there.  I wanted him to stay warm, a small token of my appreciation for all the hard work he did for me over the last few years.  He loved it…can you see the smile?  His last day is tomorrow.  We’ll all be sorry to see him go.  Good luck, Mike!

That’s it — next post will be sooner and shorter.  I promise!

Love, Jan

A Fungus Among Us

Dear Ellen,

december-2011-1.jpgChristmas on the farm has been wonderful.  I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have liked –it seemed like the time just flew by.  We did have a number of day trips during the week, so I’m sure that was a good deal of it.  We did do plenty of wandering about the farm.  Several of the dead trees have started producing a prodigious amount of fungi.  I guess to be accurate, the trees are only playing host to the organism, but still I’m impressed.

dsc04036.JPGWe got out solar power panels completed and laid in some pea gravel underneath.  We think we’ll also close off the sides and ends so we can use it to store all-weather gear like shovels and the wheelbarrow and such.  We’re producing more than we use already (okay, so the sun and the solar panels are producing it, not us actually), so from here on out we can say goodbye to the electric bill.  I’ll figure it out for sure, but I believe we are now carbon footprint negative on the farm.

dsc04060-2.JPGOne of the day trips that I made was back to DC where I sat with about 20 Navy women for Secretary Clinton’s unveiling of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.  She gave a very stirring speech and kindly pointed out that we were in the audience.  We had great seats, 6 rows back from the podium.  If you haven’t checked out the plan, I highly recommend it.  If we want a better world, we really need to encourage more women to be involved in making the decisions about it.

dsc04071.JPGWe also traveled to New York to see the girls and share a meal with them.  This, of course, was the scene of the great Marshall Chess Club caper.  I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of Jenny while we were with her.  She was, as always, a delight to be with.  She even got Dale to try some vegan food after we pulled off the heist.

dsc04062.JPGWith great relief I finished knitting Marie’s Christmas socks just in time to block them and take them on the trip so they could find their way under their tree.  Socks for Heidi were there too.

dsc04073.JPGOn Christmas Eve we made the trek to State College to take Dale’s mom to dinner and share gifts with her.  She got the Foggy Coast cardigan I’ve been working on…and seemed to like it very much.  It fit her great!

dsc04066.JPGdsc04086.JPGTwo of our Santa surrogates (you and Chris) evidently thought we needed a little more of the birds and the bees.  Chris gave us this awesome birdhouse…the copper roof goes so well with our porch roof.  We put it in the side garden right next to the turret.  And you (of course you know this, but someone else might be interested) gave us this very cozy bee house.  We’ll place it out in the treeline where we get some great wildflowers and hopefully we’ll get a little colony going there.

jan-spins-1.jpgDale was a VERY nice Santa too.  He got me some very nice things (like the tee shirt I’m wearing while I type this — “Think Globally.  Act within local variable scope.”  Show it to your favorite programmer.  he will probably love it as much as me.) and I was very, very content.  Then he told me to close my eyes.  When I was allowed to open them a Kromski Sonata was sitting in front of me.  Talk about a surprise!  Picture me (the one without a single wheel spinning lesson) spending the rest of the day figuring it out.  I used pencil roving to do the bobbin full of the purpley-greenish-blue single.  I realize this is the “slice and bake” of spinning, but it gave me a good shot at getting used to treadling.  Then I played with two scraps of roving that a friend had given me when she was trying to get me to try spindling.  The yellow worked out very nicely.  The maroon was thicker, but still pretty even.  It was very sticky and I couldn’t get it to draft for anything.  Can certain dyes affect the slickness of the fiber?  I noticed when spindling the fiber optic fiber that the dark blue was more troublesome than the other colors in that braid.  Of course, I have no clue what the fiber was — may not have been a new spinner’s friend.

imag0052.jpgSo we had a great Christmas.  Especially Ruby who got many extra treats and then snoozed under the tree.  I trust yours was wonderful as well…and that you are enjoying the family and friends who have come to Minneapolis for the holidays.  Wish them all well for me too!

Love, Jan

Mmm, mmm, hao!

Dear Jan,

The food in China is hun hao (very good)!  It may be my favorite reason to visit the country.

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One of the memorable meals was in a very fancy restaurant high about The Bund, Shanghai’s waterfront along the Huangpu River.  Taste was remarkable, presentation incredible.

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The view outside, despite a light rain, was pretty incredible, too.  If you think of China as ancient, you haven’t visited Shanghai, that’s for sure.

chinese-knitting-december-20111.jpgI had the pleasure of getting into some smaller, more local restaurants in Beijing.  Of course, you can’t do Beijing without trying the Peking duck, but the duck’s webbing isn’t bad, either!  Other dishes from this restaurant included black cloud fungus, cumin lamb, and wonderful, juicy and savory dumplings.

chinese-knitting-december-20112.JPGWe also visited a hot pot restaurant (cook right in the middle of the table – so many flavors!) and a 3-story noodle house.  The Chinese know how to do noodles, let me tell you.

Perhaps you’d like to see some of the Peking duck or noodles in action?

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I must apologize to the vegetarians (who are among my favorite readers of this blog), who may have cringed at all the graphic meat shots above. I assure you, I had my eye out for places you could visit, too.  But it is a big country and I just didn’t have time to sample everything, so no reviews from this restaurant.

I’m still suffering from a tremendous case of jet lag (worst I’ve ever had, but at least I  got 25 holiday gifts wrapped between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m. this morning).  Regardless, the food was worth it.

I hope you are getting ready to have some great food with your family for the holidays!

Love,

Ellen

(Jet)lagging behind on posting…

Dear Jan,

Oh, my, have I been hit hard by jet lag.  I didn’t fight it at all on Monday and Tuesday, just sleeping when my body demanded it, but I need to nudge back towards a regular schedule so fought hard to stay up until at least 8:30 last night.  I got on the treadmill, set it for a slow 1.5 mph, and plodded along.  Holding onto the handrails, I could actually let my eyes close and nearly nod off, but the walking kept me barely awake until finally I let myself go to bed.

It was a good move – though I woke a couple of times, I managed to sleep clear until 5:30 or so and felt much better today. Not clear-headed enough to write much about my trip, so I’ll pass off a few yarny pictures until I am alert enough to write a proper post.

While in Tokyo, I visited Okadaya, a large sewing and craft store.  I was so proud to find it, navigating the Tokyo subway and then some alleys to find the building.  I was guided by a photo tour I found on Ravelry.

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Best things in the store – the needle felted amigurumi!  So adorable.  Some of them seem to have come home with me. img_9247.JPG

There were lots of knitting samples, including this lovely scarf of a silk and kid mohair yarn.

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There is no question that if I’d had room in my suitcase, I would have taken home this wheel o’ Noro pencil roving.

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One of the nice things about being a tourist is that you can pretend to take pictures of the attractions while actually taking pictures of the great knits that people are wearing.  These are all in Beijing.

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My own knitting for the trip was a fine gauge sock.  I cast on as we left Seattle at the start of the trip and finished it (except for the Kitchener toe, saving that for after a try on) as we landed in Minneapolis coming home.  Please excuse the photo-that-shows-no-detail-a-all – I am considering submitting the pattern for publication and so don’t want to give it away.

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And I am glad to be home, with my husband, and my kidden,… and my bed!

Love,

Ellen