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Archive for the ‘Nature’


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!

A Finch of a Different Color…

Dear Jan,

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I’m not sure if this is a house finch or a purple finch.  We usually get house finches, but that bill looks pretty conical and the coloring went all the way down the bird’s back.

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I am sure this is Rambioullet fiber, dyed by the expert hand of Erica at DesigKnits.  A different color combination than you might expect for this time of year, but it is tickling my fancy.

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Our Ostara eggs didn’t need dye this year.  They are a different color right from the get-go.

Whatever color your springtime celebration comes in, I hope it is joyous.

Love,

Ellen

Finch Me…I must be dreaming.

Dear Jan,

I’m not sure if I’m dreaming or if I’m having a nightmare.  This morning the thermometer read 9 degrees.  Those are Farenheit degrees, just to be clear.  Wind chill tonight is predicted to be double digits below zero.

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And yet this little guy insists that spring is virtually here, proclaiming he is too sexy for his winter feathers, and it is time to show off his bright yellow dating wardrobe.

I am not too sexy for my new cowl, Massive, pattern for which is Decibella by Gale Zucker and yarn for which is by Classic Elite and me (Waterlily, cable plyed 4 strands of this Aran weight yarn into one super-bulky yarn).  In this weather, it is good to look hot warm.

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Someone else may feel sexy in another recent FO, Impossible Dreams.  Stats: pattern - Seedling Dreams by Amy Beth Mays, yarns are Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted (gray, 100% wool) and Frog Tree Merino Melange (pink, 100% merino wool).  I knit the medium, and while it fits, it just barely does.  I don’t do much pink, either, so I’m thinking this is likely to be a charity hat.

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And I have yet one more FO to share.  This is my Fiber Fusion class project, knit out of various handspun yarns and one skein of fat and funky art yarn. Mostly knit on size 13’s, but I accidentally picked up an 11 and did most of one sleeve so I just repeated that on the other.  The yarns include my handspun Nora (a TargheeX sheep whose fleece I bought at the 2011 Shepherd’s Harvest), samples of handspun Shetland, Black Welsh Mountain and Wensleydale, and a Steven Be Exclusive Handspun, created by Ruby Slippers Studio out of wool, alpaca, fabric, metallic thread, polyester, acrylic, nylon, sequins, mohair, silver, glitz, angeline, and rubber butterflies.  Because glitz AND sequins weren’t quite enough.

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The process was and the result is exhilarating.  I explained the process in a prior blog post.  The result is going to be in a showing of Steven’s work at Third Place Gallery in Minneapolis which opens this weekend.  (Yes, I do work well to a deadline.)

I could use the sweater at home to wrap up in and keep warm this weekend - we won’t see anything like real spring temperatures for quite sometime.

I won’t be the only one happy for their arrival.

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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

I am a Craftsman

Dear Ellen,

1-dsc04677.JPGI always love getting mail.  And when it arrives bearing proof that I am a craftsman, it is even more welcome.  Say hello to one of the newest members of the  Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen.  The best part is the free admission to the Guild shows!

dsc04671.JPGAlso say hello to Baby Chicka.  She is one of the fledglings from the chickadee nest that is in the birdhouse by the side garden.  Over the course of the afternoon she went from “drunken Sailor” to proficient aeronaut in her flying skills.  Very bold, she landed on the porch to check out my knitting.  (Okay, landing would be stretching it…it was really a controlled crash.)

dsc04678.JPGAnd say goodbye to this fine spinach and these spring onions.  By the time you read this they will already be in my belly.  So satisfying to eat from one’s own garden!

Love, Jan

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

Things I Like…

Dear Ellen,

Although I did not have a 3 lb. mile chocolate rabbit for Easter, the day was filled with many of my favorite things.

april-2012.jpgAs you’ve likely noted, I’ve been on a birdwatching bent of late, and I was treated to a good deal of entertainment by our feathered friends.  The cardinal was particularly stunning. 

fooling-around.JPGI finished up the fronts to Fooling Around on April Fool’s Day.  I decided to get them and the back to blocking while I work on the sleeves.  I’m hoping to have this sweater ready in time for Yarnover.  If I keep having to tink and rip, that may be a problem.  It’s really not a difficult pattern, but I seem to be knitting with half a brain as of late.

dsc04484.JPGA recent addition to my repertoire is roasted seaweed.  I have really become fond of kale chips and when I tried these I realized they were easily as tasty, just as healthy, and completely free of risk that I might be making kale charcoal.  (Yes, the curse of the burnt rolls seems to extend to kale chips, at least in my case.)  At 60 calories in an entire package, these fit in my diet plans very nicely.  They are a bit high in sodium, but my blood pressure is low, my consumption of water is high, and I don’t eat a whole package in one seating.

And my favoritest thing of all?  Well, you could have guessed it, I’m sure.

dsc04478.JPGLove, Jan

Nuts! No Bunnies for Easter.

collages3.jpg…but plenty of squirrels.  I hope you notice that we are a full service squirrel restaurant, ensuring plenty to drink with those dry seeds.  I have now installed new squirrel baffles, we’ll see if they’re actually baffled by them.

Finished, Almost Finished and Just Begun

Dear Ellen,

dsc04464.JPGI finished up two projects this weekend.  Pipeliner’s Journey only required weaving in of ends and some final photos.  Dale was my photographer and he usually shoots about 12 shots for every one that meets my peculiar demands that both the project and the model be shown off to their best advantage.  I should have let him keep shooting!  I do suppose it’s fair to say that it is a valid representation of both subjects.

dsc04459.JPGI also finished the i-cord edging and added a two button and loop closure on Ann’s Big Heart.   Alison’s shawl patterns are quite nice as they really do stay put on your shoulders and have a feminine, but not overly frilly look (you know I don’t do well with too girly stuff).  I added the closure as I expect Ann may be wearing this in situations where she may be leaning back against pillows and that could be a challenge for even the most shoulder hugging of shawls.  The other shawls in Wrapped In Comfort are longer– again, I thought this more suitable a length for the purpose.  I wore it for a while while working around the house in just a tee-shirt.  It was the perfect bit of warmth to keep me comfortable.

dsc04467.JPGAnd I have one more project nearing completion.  All I have to do is sew on one last sleeve, finish the side seam, add the crotch snaps, sew on shoulder buttons, add a short ribbed collar and complete some simple backstitched line embroidery on the front.  I’m very pleased with how this came out, it’s for the son of one of my former assistants.  The baby was born in January, but this is the 6-12 month size, so I am confident it will reach him in plenty of time for a lot of wear.  It’s made out of Debbie Bliss Eco Baby,  a predominantly cotton yarn as they live in Hawaii — and ergo the name, Aloha Onesie.  It’s based on the Ducky Onesie pattern in the Vintage Baby Knits book.

march-20123.jpgThe farm kept us busy this weekend.  Our flowering plants are coming along quite nicely and as usual I enjoyed the birds at our feeders.  However, we are now on the hunt for some way to prevent the squirrels from devastating the sunflower seed supply that doesn’t obliterate the possibility for good photos.  A cage around the feeders would work, but the obscuration of view kind of defeats the purpose.  Dale is evaluating the possibility of inverted pie pans.  I am contacting Navy friends to find a supply of discarded rat guards.

dsc04438.JPGI am pleased to report that my raised beds are now populated with brussels sprouts, early cabbage, romaine lettuce, various leaf lettuces, butter lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli and early tomatoes.  We’ll see how many are around after a week of exposure — I’m mostly concerned about the deer, not the temperatures.  These have all been hardened outside for the last two weeks, so the weather should not be a problem.

dsc04447.JPGIf all the deer were willing to leave exchanges, I’d likely be less phased by the prospect of sharing our bounty with them.  We found this little down payment from the buck that lives in our woods.  Dale spent another hour searching for its mate.  (The other antler, not a doe — besides, this guy is polygamist, he’s got three does!)  I had a notion that I’d like to make buttons and toggles from any antlers we might find, but now that we have one, I don’t know if I can bear carving it up.

I’ve got 24 minutes before I’m expected to be ready to pile into the car and head back to Alexandria…at least we are almost down to less than 3 months before I will be here full time.  I can hardly wait!!

Love, Jan

Jeepers Peepers

Dear Ellen,

march-20122.JPGNature was in full roar at the farm this weekend.  At least it was as loud as a roar.  The birds were flitting about in pairs cheeping and peeping and tweeting all over the place.  And at night the peepers joined in with their songs.  It was delightful!

march-20121.JPGWe spent some time on flora while the fauna was cavorting.  Dale finished building two raised beds for me and got a load of mushroom mulch to mix in with the topsoil in the boxes and to spread over the rest of the garden.  Man, oh man, that stuff is rich!  I expect good results from it — of course, I’ll have to get some plants and seeds in there first!

march-2012.JPGI did get violas and primroses planted here and there around the house.  They joined in with the rhododendrons, crocuses and daffodils to add some lovely color.  Spring is definitely here.

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And doesn’t Dale look great in Manly?  He’s very pleased with the outcome — he even said he kind of wish winter would have one last go so he could wear it a bit.  At least it will be waiting for next fall!

Love, Jan