Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Well, with all the hubbub around here since Christmas, I was beginning to feel like the weaving mojo was taking a vacation. I took pity on Gene the destroyer of all things knitted and woven, and decided to make him a scarf. A sturdy one.
I had been looking at my stash, and mohair was out, some merino and alpaca was out, mostly due to color, but it isn't really up to the abuse Gene wrecks on his wearables.
Low and behold, like Cupid with an arrow, Dona at Websters made a passing comment about the new Crazy Zauberball yarn I was looking at for socks. It was simply, wonder what it would look like woven.... Can you see the light bulb going off?

Well, it did. Sock yarn is tough (75% wool 25% nylon) and this sock yarn has long color changes that don't repeat. What an interesting warp it would make indeed. I chose the colorway Submarine. I only needed some weft and found that in lovely skein of Mountain Colors Winter Lace, colorway Wild Horse. Geez, even the name was perfect!
So Sunday I measured out the warp got it on the loom, threaded, sleyed and then
re-sleyed. 10 epi was just too open even for me and not having the grab of a mohair or fuzzy yarn, it just wasn't going to work.

I went up to 15 epi to maintain the warp patterning and got to work on weaving in earnest yesterday. I was so grateful for bifocals using that 15 dent reed I have. I've also made a mental note to avoid using it if at all possible.

The kitchen rag rug runner is almost done on the Barbara V loom. I want to try weaving some baling twine after I'm done with it. I certainly have a lot of it.
The sweater knitting is coming along, I have about 6 inches done on the front.

On farm news, we've had a little nuisance snow, the temps have been normal for this time of year. Juno got locked in the basement by accident. Gene left the door ajar, then went and closed and locked it. Last night at feeding, no Juno. I checked all the trees she usually gets stuck in, calling out in the snow storm and then back tracked to where
I had seen Buzz hanging out. Ever faithful Buzz, waiting by the basement door, and there peeking out a window, Juno. Curiosity and cats, need I say more. ;-)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Some Things You Just Can't Fix

No matter how much you would like to.

We are waiting for the official word from blood tests and biopsies, but it is a fore gone conclusion. Angel Cakes has lymphoma. Prognosis, 2-6 months maybe a little longer
if she responds to Prednisone therapy. Angel isn't a particularly old dog. She's around 10ish. In other words, one of the youngsters. I've been blindsided on this one. Well, not really. Somewhere in your head, the first time you cuddle that new puppy, you know sooner or later they are going to break your heart. And then we happily forget all about that and just get down to the joyful business of falling in love with them and living with them.

We have the opportunity to make sure we enjoy our time together. We can target all the stuff she loves to do, like goat herding ( her way) and walks with Gene. Special little treats and extra attention. We have time for some good-byes. They are our good-byes. I'm not sure animals have the capacity to know beyond a short time that it is time. Those contemplations are for another day. Today, we're all here and that's enough.

The Cranky Post 2009

Well it is apparent that 2010 is right around the corner and like most everyone, I am hoping it will be a much better year for so many people. For the most part 2009 wasn't a bad year. I had numerous blessings to count and the universe was generous to us in many many respects. But before I can truly put 2009 to bed, I need to go over some things that either bugged the crap out of me or made me very happy to see. Here goes.

1. The Party of NO. Saying No and offering up tax cuts isn't working. It's silly and childish and you really need to get over it and come to the table with constructive new ideas, for yourselves, your party and the country.

2. To the Party of Yes, find your courage. If you are the majority and you want to lead for god sakes you better find the balls to do it. No one is happy with a weak party, no matter how good your ideas may be. Maybe you should all go back and read Lyndon Johnson The Senate Years.

3. To Clothing Manufacturers: Good grief, it's almost 2010 and can you all make this the year you get together and standardize clothing sizes for women? Seems you can do it with men reasonably well, but I am tired of picking up size 10's that fit like 14's and 14's that fit like 8's. I have a few other suggestions for you too.

a. Does every pocket on every vest or jacket have to have a zipper? They are simply uncomfortable as you pass a naked cold hand into a pocket. They catch on knitted gloves and mittens and always make the pocket seem too small to be of much use. Stop putting them in sweaters too.

b. Stop putting Spandex in all my cotton tops, in fact stopping putting spandex in sweaters too. Some jeans it's okay in and I like it in yoga pants, just a little, but nothing beats 100% cotton.

c. Please, stop designing everything for the young tall slender teen with a naval ring.
I look like a frumpy old lady because most of what you make to fit me is frumpy. Simple as that. And while I'm at it, most of what you offer is so poorly made it would look frumpy on that teen too.

d. Polar fleece is a nice, but does everything now have to be made out of it. In winter when you are most likely to be wearing it, it makes static like no one's business. I really do prefer wool for all my winter gear, without zippered pockets.

4. To All Manufacturers. Please, American made. I drove myself nuts this year trying to buy American made or at least mostly American made. It was ridiculously hard. In fact it was impossible.
a. Packaging, I know you can do better.

5. To Our Government, you have to do something about trade agreements with China.
Why are we still doing so much business with a country that poisons our animals and kids? I know it's a difficult problem on so many levels but we have to start somewhere.
Maybe we could start paying them back so we aren't so beholden to them.

6. To the Philadelphia Eagles. I have always believed in second chances and I am sure football fans around the world think you guys rock for giving Michael Vick one. Myself, I just cannot find it my heart to be so generous. Thank you for making any Texas team viable to root for.

7. Pet stores that sell puppies and kittens from mills instead of adoption and featuring needy animals right from your own local shelter. YOU should be ashamed of yourselves for the pain you cause thousands of animals every year. This should be the year we take away all licenses to sell live animals as retail merchandise. That goes for pocket pets too.

8. Prisons and youth programs that are rehabilitating needy animals and the incarcerated at the same time get two thumbs up. Nursing homes that have resident pets also get my heartfelt thanks. You can add good programs that bring the disabled time with horses, dogs and cats. Library dogs for kids to read to, Dogs for the Deaf, dogs for our homecoming veterans etc. All good works.

9. Climate change. Can we straighten this mess out once and for all. Both sides seem to have tainted the science and it's criminal. Period.

10. Whatever did happen to just the news. I don't want your opinion or analysis especially offered in a factual context. Just give me the facts. I have a mind, I can use it. If you think we should all be better informed then maybe the information should be better and more precise.

11. Fiber folk and blogging, a great first year for me. Thank you so much for stopping in and commenting, reading my blog and sharing yours. It's all been wonderful.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Very Woolly Holiday

Well, I am still stuffed from two days of marathon nibbling. It seems the house miraculously fills with stuff that we love all at once. Cookies, pies, candy, cheeses, fancy crackers and that is just the tip of the ice box!

Christmas Eve brought the reading of Dylan Thomas and sadly, a candle was lit to honor the passing of Sadie's old friend and companion Rudy. We always knew you two would be together, just not so soon.

Presents have been opened and in most cases enjoyed at least a little bit amid the busy Christmas day. The turkey stuffed and unstuffed and restuffed into us! We looked like Weebles by 6:00p.m. last evening. I won't even say how the kitchen looks right now,
but no elves slipped down to make magic on THAT mess!

It certainly was a woolly Christmas for this weaver and knitter. A lovely basket of yarn, beeswax candles and local honey was a gift from special friends. The basket and everything it contained was all in lovely warm honey tones. It was just beautiful!

Gene came through with the much coveted ProWeave computer program and I had time to start playing with a bit.

There were gift certificates to the Web-sters and the local bookstore, and all sorts of fun gadgets and such for stocking stuffers. My Dad sent one of his lovely cotton twill towels to me.
My mother, who while seeming to be the most practical of people, sent a check with the very specific directions that I buy myself a piece of art that I love. I did Mom and thank you. Naked sheep! ;-)

Gene tells me his favorite gift is the coffee maker.

I'm not surprised. I've never seen anyone so in love with a beverage! I had only bought him a little coffee my last foray into town, hoping he would be low by the time Christmas rolled around. He had run out and here he is, (after getting up early yesterday morning to lend a hand with prep work and going to bed very late trying to get the Proweave up on my computer as a surprise) thinking he would have to endure my instant coffee for the day!

Peter was enjoying being snuggled in Papa, quite the treat at 5:30 ish in the morning.

The dogs got nylabones, the cats tuna, the horses all got carrots, apples and pears cut up in their buckets. The wild birds got new and additional feeders.

I finished up the back to my Dad's sweater and got started on the front. There is the beautiful gift basket and yarn.

Everyone was tired by the end of a very bountiful day. How dogs manage to sleep like this I'll never know.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ready, Set, Track!

While Christmas proper is still a bit away for those of us in North America, Santa needs to get moving to hit all the worlds time zones just right. There's lots of cheer to spread and he has to pace himself and his eight flying cohorts.
For the young and the young at heart, you can follow St. Nicks progress on his annual
global trek right here.

From our herd to yours,

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Talk About Timing!

Mother Nature and Old Man Winter came through with this lovely Solstice surprise.

Might just be a white Christmas after all.

It's warm and cozy inside though. Jack is waiting right on the other side of door, as he always does whether I'm gone for hours to town or just popping out to check on everyone and snap a picture.

Smoochie and Rodger have found the holiday spirit of sharing, at least for a little while.
Right up until Rodger decided to use Smoochie's back leg to kneed on. I woke Smooch up with the camera, his tongue is still sticking out from sleeping.

Colors of December

This has been inspired by Sue over at Life Looms Large. These aren't the colors I expected to be showing this time of year, but it is what it is. That goes for my picture taking ability too. ;-) It's not the greatest. Rather than caption each picture, I'm giving you the whole lot of them together to see. There is a snap of a lovely little critter trail through the undergrowth, a long shot of the top of my barn, complete with red fox whirligig, heavy dew on Ponderosa pines, and a lovely purple and pink sunrise, or at least what passed for sunrise yesterday. Even past 8:00 am yesterday it was a quiet, dark and dewy morning, dense with smells of damp earth, hibernating worms, cedar, fir and pine trees. Everywhere I stopped to take a picture I threw my gloves down, a jarring royal blue against the never ending backdrop of greens and rust and jewel like drops of water waiting to fall from the trees and withered blades of grass. Off to join others and descend into the earth, into what I imagine, as a never ending tangle of roots holding up my universe. All thirsty for the wet bounty above.

If I forget myself at this time of year, remove the barriers of body and preconception, I swear I can feel the earth writhe and struggle beneath my feet. A hundred million tendrils, each growing at an almost imperceptible rate, moving ever outward to lay the underground in a spiders web of infinite battles won in mere millimeters. All is silent and dormant or dead looking above, a fine slight of Mother Natures hand. While most Decembers are about sky and air and whiteness, a cold melting buffer from the grounds endless strife. This December is about earth, dark, rich and mysterious.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Frustrating Diversions for the Clumsy and Uncoordinated

Or maybe how I was lured in.....

I decided to send a good friend who is learning to spin on a spindle a special one to make her efforts if not easier, at least a little prettier to work with. While I was on my Internet jaunt looking for the perfect one to have shipped, I found myself taken with the beauty of these little works of art. I just had to have one myself. After much consultation with Cindie, the oracle on fiber, weaving and now spindles, I was steered to a couple of good makers. This one happens to be a Jenkins Turkish spindle in Beeswing Nara ( or Narra).

It fit the bill in a number of ways. Locally made in Oregon, the Jenkins use only wood from sustainable harvests (and go out of their way to make sure of that) and it was appropriate for a beginner. SCORE! It arrived Thursday and other than take it out of the box and put it together, I have done nothing but fondle it. I know that once I try to actually use it for its intended purpose, it will become an evil little piece of the devils own making. Stay tuned for updates on the coming saga.

Friday, as always was shopping day. Lots of things to do, the one more gift for Gene to get after finally having a eureka moment for something both practical and fun for him.
He is very tough to shop for.

Of course there was the stop at my favorite store for a book I had ordered long time ago, before it had even been released.

This is actually a re- release and I have drooled over the designs for a long time but could never afford the $300.00 plus price tag when I stumbled on it in the used book market. $24.95 I can do. And these mittens, they truly ARE magnificent. I also found I could do a little sock yarn. Something special with Cashmere maybe? Once I saw this color and felt it, I knew it was coming home with me. In fact like a cat who sees a bird and imagines the thing all in roasted form, I saw this yarn and knew just the sock pattern I wanted to do for it. The yarn is a hand dyed sock yarn from Pagewood Farm named Alyeska. It is merino, cashmere and nylon in color way Bird of Paradise.

The sock pattern is out of the same book by Cookie A ( Sock Innovations) that my Dad's socks came from.

I have been diligently working on the sweater with a goal of finishing in by the end of January. Might actually do it too. Size 10 needles sure go faster than size 6! The Louet
is constantly taunting me with her nakedness.

On farm news, dare I write it? I may have had a Bond visit. There were some dug out places around the tack room. No breach, but maybe my little smelly friend has decided to put Runamuck back on his excursion list.

The package for my folks finally left yesterday morning. Gene REALLY procrastinated on this one and I am sure it was sent in the nick of time. We bumped it up from Priority to Express mail, so hopefully it will all get there round about Tuesday.

Weather wise we've had nothing but the promise of snow, only to have it rain. I am so bummed. I really want a white Christmas, heck, I'd be happy with it white from the end of November to mid-March. Maybe the first of the year will bring a true winter rally.
I can always hope!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Without Further Ado

Behold! ;-)

Now, down to business. There was a lot of things to love about the triple weave. It was really a very pleasant experience. Easy to check the layers were staying separated each time I moved the temple. I could see the under side, but everything in the middle, forget it. The ginormous shed on the Louet loom made it all much easier and did a great job of freeing grabby yarn from the warp. The end feed shuttle adjusted worked nicely with the Harrisville Shetland, although it took some time to get it adjusted well. BTW, dropping a shuttle can put it out of adjustment. I sent it sailing a couple of times much to my shame and Jack's delight.

I still had some cramming at the folds, it was much better than the twill cotton blanket
and fulling the blanket certainly helped a lot. Had I made this bigger and fulled more, I suspect the fold areas would be gone.

The fishing line in selvages and folds worked beautifully. I had no help to remove them and found an easy way to get them out without rumpling up the blanket a lot. I tied a fishing line end to the deadbolt knob on the door, went to the other end of the blanket and eased the fishing line out with steady pulling pressure. The problem I had with the fishing line was them tangling with each other off the back of the loom. Must find a better way to keep them from doing that for the next blanket. Selvages were actually acceptable.

They do tend to slide around on the line, but none of the edges abraded or broke, so it was a good trade off and using a temple also helped to keep draw in and resulting frayed wool warp at bay. Speaking of temples, I want to thank Lynette over at Dust Bunnies Under My Loom, for such a good tutorial. Sharon had asked about temples
and I went over to Lynette's to get the link and read the tutorial again while I was there. I had my temple adjusted too tightly on the warp. Once I readjusted it to be easily put in place with a finger's worth of pressure, my selvages improved some more. Thank you so much Lynette for having some great resources on your blog.

I love the mohair and wool hand spun in the blanket, but it does cause a little rippling. I don't mind it, I knew it would do that and for me is a feature.

Others may not like it but it certainly could show up in future blankets. The fabric sitting there is what I am going to bind the blanket with.

So, Dawn asked if I would weave another blanket this way. Yes, in a heartbeat. In fact I have at least two more blankets in the planning stages and an overshot coverlet that is just a little spark floating around right now. I can't do the overshot in triple weave since I don't have 12 shafts (dang!) but I can do double width. And thank you Cindie
for coming up with that wonderful simple triple weave draft. It's a keeper!

A bit about the Harrisville wool itself. I never would have guessed it would soften up as nicely as it did. It's not merino and will never be merino, but it is plenty soft for me and Gene and the added durability this wool provides makes making a blanket worth while. It should last for years. It is light enough to be a summer blanket with just a sheet, assuming you are cooling off into the low 60's at night. What I like about wool as compared to cotton is the weight. I can't stand a lot of weight on me while I sleep and cotton blankets are heavy especially in a king size. I sleep with my feet thrown out even on the coldest night and hate to feel like I'm in strapped in with heavy bedding.
Wool works for me in just about most circumstances.

Some changes for the next blanket... I'm still thinking about going to 8 epi
making the blanket width say 35" on the loom and fulling a bit more. The fishing line needs reining in from twisting on itself as it hangs. Doubling and cramming the selvage edges to keep them a little nicer when weaving and also provide a bit heavier hand for the finished cloth. I am going to try some different wools for future blankets.
After the New Year I plan to get in some MacAuslands 2 or 3 ply. And look for some mohair to make an appearance in the warp.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bless His Pointy Little Head

Okay, so this isn't the blanket post, but it's coming! It's just very early and it makes Gene grumpy when I wake him up to make the bed so it will look pretty with the new blanket on it. Go figure!

Instead you get Peter, and honestly, even though I made that blanket and it's pretty darn nice, Peter I'd grab in a fire, the blanket I wouldn't. ;-)

For just a little background, Peter, who I've had for many many years now (about 13) had had his jaw shot and fractured as a young ( 5-8 weeks est.) pup. We don't know who did it or why, but the result was a lower jaw with about an inch of bone missing on the left side. This type of break is known as an unhinged break. Long ago we made the decision after consults at Texas A&M Vet School, that trying to graft bone could be risky and leave him worse off than he was. Once the old bone shards and stubborn puppy teeth were removed he did pretty well with it. The ends had healed months before he found his way into a shelter where I found him. This break is large enough to put my thumb through.

It did leave his back molars intact on both sides, but lets face it, it hasn't been something you'd volunteer to have. It hasn't stopped Peter though, he has fetched and played with toys and tennis balls using that jaw just as if it was complete and strong as Hercules. In the past few years though he has lost some front teeth and his canines. They simply had to come out. So we've been constantly monitoring how he's eating to make sure he can still handle the small kibble I feed. He can indeed and looks forward to meals with just as much gusto as the rest of the horde. He is a bit slower and more deliberate though. So I was surprised and delighted when I turned from my desk yesterday and saw him still with enough interest to want to be doing this. Note the Queen Bee watching from her throne.....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


You know what this means! :-)

Monday, December 14, 2009

As They Say on Car Talk...

"You've wasted another perfectly good hour." I pretty much wasted another perfectly good weekend. Oh, there was measurable progress on some fronts, but nothing actually got finished.

The gifts are all gathered upstairs and boxed, wrapping paper, tape, tissue, scissors, bows, tags and cards all there but nothing beyond the round up accomplished. Gene, who by trade is a jeweler and metal smith, needs to do his part for the Christmas box before it can leave, so it would have been a hurry up and wait endeavor. I can procrastinate with the best of them when I chose too.

The blanket warp is moving along enough that I can see the warp beam through the warp. It's completely possible to weave that off early this week should I light a fire under my, well, you know!

The kitchen rug was added to with about a foot or so of new weaving. I did get a fair amount of fabric ready on balls so I can sail along on it later today.

I made exactly three more heddles before I was whisked away to see something cute one of the dogs was doing and never got back to it. Oh, so easily lead astray....

A lovely homemade Parsnip & Pear soup was made for Saturday supper and it was beautiful and delicious. One of my all time favorites. Sweet and spicy. Paired with a crusty toasted ham and cheese sandwich with all the toppings and some decent table wine, we ate like kings and watched a Star Trek movie on the tube. The soup itself is simple, it's the prep work that is time consuming, dicing parsnips and carrot and ripe pears takes a bit of time and a good sharp knife.

The grey sweater was started.

I was anxious to make sure that using the smallest size and not doing the M1 increases on the side stitches would give me something close to what I need. It looks like it will. The pattern itself is fun and easy to remember with a little reminding about those last few seam stitches. The Suffolk yarn is heavenly to knit.

It's softer than the Black Welsh and very springy. It took well to the pointier lace Turbo Addi's I bought just for this project. No splitting and the smoothness of these needles is just perfect for this project. In fact, except for socks, I always use metal circular needles. I need every bit of speed I can get with knitting.

Loads of laundry, football and the dreaded clipping of doggy toenails filled out the little bits in between. Maybe I didn't waste the weekend after all. :-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Have You Any Wool?

Why, yes, I DO, about 3 bags full. Counting all the wool on the loom and the sheepskin covered weaving bench!

The lovely Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds Suffolk has arrived. A bags full for the previously mentioned Papa sweater. I might have to get it on the needles today. We'll see.
There are a lot of fibery things to work on today! I've started making the string heddles for the tapestry loom and need to complete the red ones and go on to a set in a different color. The blanket is a little over half way woven. It's in the center grey part so not very exciting to see but at the end it will get a mirrored set of stripes as the beginning did.

I have really enjoyed working on this project. It has also made me very comfortable with the location of my treadles. The order requires I treadle 1-3-5-6-4-2 and repeat, so basically every other treadle. It translates to top layer, middle layer, bottom layer, bottom layer, middle layer and finish on the top layer to start over again. I work 1-3 on the left foot and 4-6 on the right foot. The Delta loom has maintained a fantastic shed through the whole process. It does a beautiful job of separating the layers even with the sticky Harrisville Shetland. This is not to say I have been perfect, I spied a bubbly throw when it came around the beam on the bottom layer, looked fixable and a fulled wool blanket is very forgiving of little loops and imperfections.

The cabled cardigan has seen quite a bit of love this week. I am just about at the sleeve decreases for the back. I do need to get back to the hand spun fingerless mittens at some point. I was wishing I had them "on hand" earlier this week. The kitchen rug on the Barbara V loom got some work done on it too.

On farm news everyone survived the deep freeze. The horses did manage to ding up their water trough. Someone is smart enough to break the ice with a hoof, and they broke a part of the rim of the Rubber Made tub right off. It's still usable, but it won't take another hoof blast in the frigid cold and maintain integrity. Horses are hard on things. They love playing with their grain buckets during the day, and it isn't long before I am replacing one or more. They so enjoy it though. It's not uncommon to see Nick or Imp walking around with one in their mouths or kicking it like a soccer ball between them. I've tried the regular Jolly Balls, but no one likes them. It's a bucket or nothing.

The girls were not bothered by the cold at all. Thursday morning, I took a little walk up one of the small critter trails behind the barn. I thought I had spied eyes in the dark...maybe Puck. It was an out of the ordinary thing for me to head on that path and in the dark so I had five silly goats running from their paddock and hay, bleating that I was abandoning them. I find it amazing they are so watchful of my movements.
I practically broke my neck as they crowded in so close they tripped me up. The headline could have read something like, "Woman Dead in Woods, Mobbed by Gang of Goats In the Night". If there was something interesting lurking it was long gone with all the commotion.

The temperatures have finally moderated up to normal levels, it's about 27 degrees F and should be another relatively warm day. We had snow yesterday. Nuisance snow, enough to make the roads hazardous ( it did) but not enough to get excited about or plow the driveway for.

Lastly, I am going to leave you with something that gave me quite the belly laugh, in the store I might add. My Mother's birthday is New Years Eve and we all go out of our way to make sure things are birthday and not Christmas like. It means a special card MUST be procured and yesterdays drop into town was fueled by that fact. My Mom and I try to best each other with funny cards for birthdays. (Mothers Day is flowery card day). I think I have a winner here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


And if you hear Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof while you read this, that's okay. I do.

Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I watch Fiddler on the Roof. You can add Love Actually to that list too, even if I just watched it with my Mom this summer and again running on TV around Thanksgiving. A Charlie Brown Christmas CD goes in the player, along with Joan Baez's beautiful Noel CD. The Messiah, assorted Christmas carols and such all come out to fill the house with the sounds of the season. Tradition.

Certain books come out too. Every year I treat myself to a book that catches my fancy and speaks to me of the wonder or whimsy of the season. Often children's books with pictures or stories so beautiful in simplicity it makes you want to laugh and cry. This
is only a small sampling of the books gathered over the years and this years pick is Don Quixote retold by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Chris Riddell. Tradition.

Then there is the tree at Christmas and for me, one of the most enchanted of rituals.
When I was very small and Santa was on top of my ten best people list, we would all go to my Grandparents in PA for the holidays. Company would come in and out Christmas eve for treats, singing, cheer and reading until about 9:00 o'clock when I would be sent to bed. After I was tucked in, the tree came from where ever it was hidden, large and fresh and parents and grandparents set about trimming it. Lights, glass beads, ornaments so beautiful and delicate that one would think they would break if you stared at them too hard. Tinsel, garlands and the most beautiful tree skirt. It all was put together by the hands of elves and then the presents laid around in what seemed to be ever increasing circles as Santa unloaded a good portion of his sled.

At some point, my Grandfather, (who only drank at Christmas) would go outside and climb a pre-prepared ladder, fueled no doubt by Rock & Rye, and stomp on the top of the often snowy two story roof, a muffled Ho ho ho could be heard by sharp little ears waiting for reindeer. I'm sure I heard those tiny hooves though....

The morning was magical. There before me,where only a wing chair had been the night before, was tree and gifts, shimmering with expectation and stunning in all it's richness. The smells of cookies, and cakes and turkeys wafted in with their promise of delights for later in the day. The evening always found me on my Grandfather's ample lap, clutching the favored portable toy, wrapped in a blanket, lulled to sleep against his chest as he talked about things of no concern to me. The family has always trimmed the tree on Christmas Eve and it remains so today. Tradition

There is one other thing we always do at Christmas,and this is never compromised. Between tree trimmings, Christmas Day dinner prep, friends dropping by or scooting to them, midnight mass to hear my mother sing, and the almost expected run to the grocery for yet more cream or butter, we gather and read. Or in my case, at the start of this, was to be read to. From the beginning of my time, my father has ushered whoever was around on Christmas eve, (before mass and after dinner preps), in front of the fireplace with book in hand to read us A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.

Every year I was transported to Wales, to eat candy cigarettes, to imagine he-hippos, fur trappers, polar cats and men with spats of snow. The line "Would you like anything to read?" would become code in my family and always bring a smile. To this day, on Christmas Eve, I too read to whoever might be here, sometimes just Gene and I and the animals.
A dog almost always in my lap, the cat by the fireplace, the tree glittering and the spirit of all those no longer whinnying with us filling the room as we take our annual passage to a Wales not of this time and space. Tradition.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Six Dog Night

They're little you know, so we need more than the requisite three.

It has been an incredibly cold night for Southern Oregon, even by mountain standards. The thermometer is reading 0 degrees F, coldest I can remember in our almost 10 years on the Greensprings and certainly unusual for early December.
Rube, the wood boiler, is going through wood PDQ compared to his usual fill times, but the house is warm and toasty. I can't say that for the barn, even my kitties only made a half hearted effort to come and greet me at the start of my rounds. They got extra food and they have a nice little kip in amongst the hay bales. I put my ungloved hand into it and it was pleasantly warm. I would have liked to have curled up in there. Instead, I pushed bales down and loaded Bob the tractor and sat and coaxed him into starting for me. It took some well placed compliments and a few promises but Bob finally rumbled to life, billowing smoke as only a cold diesel engine can. Slowly we made our way up in the cold, very slowly, both the steering and loader hydraulics where pretty sluggish.

The horses are faring well in this deep freeze, no one is showing signs of being particularly cold and I am grateful they are all plump with fat and dense coats. They certainly have needed them these past two nights. Hay was doled out with a heavy hand, water in the big tank was broken with a large steel crowbar. Even the heated buckets had a hard time keeping the top free of ice. There was a thin layer that was easily pushed in with a nose. Someone had beat me to it. I filled the heated tank with water from the big tank and went off to check and feed the girls.

Their fleeces are deep and shiny and if you dig your fingers into it, they are roasty toasty warm. Oh, to be able to harvest them right at this point...but then I'd have very cold bare naked goats and that certainly wouldn't suit. :-)

Bob was warmed up and faster back to the barn to be parked for the day. I checked on the cats again who were just slipping back into their nest and headed to the house. I can't imagine having a big barn full of many many animals during these cold winter months. What I have is just about right. Winter requires we slow down and be more deliberate in our actions, picking up hoses so they don't freeze, double checking tanks, making sure no one is cheated of feed, getting those short haired dogs in quickly and remembering to let the house cat in before you go to bed! If you don't love your animals and the life you have with them, this is the time that will test you.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's A Start...

I feel rather foolish that while I can manage a warp and tie up of triple weave on a countermarche loom, I am somewhat flummoxed by the simplicity of a tapestry pipe loom. It became apparent that stuff would have to be removed to warp it. The wood shedding device needed the little eye screws removed to slide it out. I took the wood stand part off, tightened it up and set it aside for later use. Finally I was left with nothing more than the most basic of items. A frame and some cotton twine for warp. I decided for better or worse to sett at 6 epi and do a continuous warp 8 inches across. A piece of painters tape with inches marked out on the top of the loom was my guide. The two strings at either side held it all together while I got the warp on, since the top pipe piece rests over the threaded rod and is not actually held on in any way other than gravity. That was as far as I got.

I need to make heddles for each of the warp threads, two colors,one for each shed of a tabby weave. I also need to decide just what to weave. I think that's the hardest part. Lots of grand ideas and no skills! So, I'm simplifying or trying to simplify at least. It might be better to just do something that is nothing but has me learning the techniques, but I prefer to have it "be" something.
Some of my ideas have been to use tangrams to tell a simple story since they can represent endless shapes, another of a fox and tree in the snow, another of hanging prayer flags. Gene liked the idea of weaving a prayer flag image into the tapestry but it might be too simple. So as you can see, I am up to my eyeballs in ideas and picking one can sometimes be the biggest hurdle to a creative endeavor, at least for me!

On farm news I got my wish, the ground is completely frozen. The temps around here the last few days have really been quite cold for this time of year. It's 12 degrees F (-11c?) this morning. Yesterday we barely made it up to 25F. I was going to ride but didn't. There was ice everywhere and it makes walking hard and riding fairly dangerous. Instead I went out and did something I promised a good friend I would do.

The day before Thanksgiving my friend and I laid to rest her much loved and long time companion dog Sadie in the special area where all the loved fur kids go. I had promised to put out a Rainbow Bridge flag for Sadie and to make a stone cairn to mark her special place and it was done yesterday.

As I may be as crazy as the proverbial mad hatter, I talked with all the girls, called them to me if only just to remember how much they all loved a walk on a crisp day. Sadie came too, just as honored, loved and respected.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mission Could Be Impossible

But you know in the end, the mission does get done with much drama and hoopla in between. So, I suspect my next knitting project will follow that formula.
I am absolutely in love with a sweater pattern from Jamieson's Shetland 2 book. Hamefarin is the name of the pattern and it has everything I like about a sweater, cables and nice vertical lines, well shaped and fitted and raglan sleeves, good looking crew neck.

I am equally in love with the Rowan British Sheep Breeds yarn, so what could be better than a marriage of the two? Well, it's all about the gauge in knitting and the sweater calls for an aran/worsted weight yarn on size US 7 needles and the yarn is bulky weight and takes to a range of US10 to US11 needles. It could be a rocky marriage. I had my Nancy Kerrigan moment, whining "Why me, Why me?" so now I am biting the bullet and swatching to see if I can possibly get away with knitting a size smaller and still end up with a sweater that will have a reasonable fit and not be so dense it stands up in a corner all by itself.

I'm using US10's for this and keeping my fingers, toes and cables crossed that it works out. I have looked high and low for a similar sweater to no avail. Worse case, I'll cut a repeat from this pattern if I have to. Gene has also requested this sweater pattern and I have some wonderful Brown Sheep yarn in a beautiful deep green, just this side of teal for him. It is of course, closer in gauge.

My cabled cardigan has come out from hibernation since I finished the socks. I can knit on it without any guilt and have added about 15 rows in the last day or so. That's fast for me, probably woefully slow for just about any other knitter. My knitting piles up kind of like my weaving does. If I had as many looms as I have knitting needles I would A: Have no room in the house and B: have many many projects in process. :)

On other news, I added to my knitting library with a classic Elizabeth Zimmermann book, Knitting Workshop. I'm planning ahead for sweater modifications! Seriously, this is a fantastic book and it should have been in my library years ago when I first started knitting. A test skein of Black Welsh wool came home too. I have this earmarked for a sweater for myself, but the color I have on order for the Hamefarin sweater is not in yet, so this will do for the swatch and then get used on my own sweater.

Finally, I know where Puck goes when he's not here, at least one of the places. I was driving by Tub Springs and something small and black slunk over the side of the road into the ravine. I was so curious I pulled the car over and got out to investigate since I had just caught the color and movement in my peripheral vision. There, hunkered by a tree, hoping I wouldn't spy him was Black Cat Puck. He took one look at me and booked it into the deep woods. The hunting must be good or someone is leaving food for him, or maybe one of our neighbors on the far side of the springs feeds him, but there he was and he doesn't look to be skin and bones. So it would seem our little shadow cat has carved out a home for himself up here, for better or worse.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Yipes!!! Whoosh...

That was the sound of Dennett and I taking a walk yesterday. By late morning my work was done and there was the old man, hopeful that leash and boots would come out for a stroll.

I just couldn't disappoint. It's not like his jog is fast any more and the pace is slow enough to enjoy both checking messages and leaving them. There are very few trees along our routes that don't have some sort of pithy remark.

So off across the road we went, up a little trail that runs parallel to it.

All kinds of nifty tracks,some maybe a big dog, some fox, some I could speculate could be a large cat. But none of it concerned me much until I saw some very fresh little fox tracks. Fresh as in the snow that was kicked up was just put there as it ran off. Maybe we are the ones that startled it? As I'm looking I see another set of tracks and they too are very fresh. They even have dirt from their paw sitting in the print and it is still loose and has no frost on it, even though the sun has not hit this part of the trail.

Bear tracks, again and here we are on foot, and this has probably passed this area recently. My bet is our little fox friend tracks him hoping for left overs. So it brings us to the yipes and whoosh portion of this post. Even though Dennett was having a field day with all the good scents, we turned tail and returned to our long and safer driveway. I am much braver on horseback and without an old dog to protect. I keep wondering if this bear is ever going to find someplace to bed down for the winter. I'm curious enough to contact Fish and Wildlife and see if this might be normal early winter behavior.

So, the prayer flags are hemmed, knotted, with bells, prayer rings and tags ready to go.
Here is a few of them.

Some of you asked about prayer flags and what they are and their meaning. While a commercial site, this has a great informative piece about prayer flags here.
Come the new year I will be making some changes to the flags themselves. Watching mine weather I've decided that the silk holds up better than the cotton so instead of a silk and cotton mix in the weft, I am going to go to all silk. If I can find a well priced heavy silk blend for the warp I will go to that too. While time consuming writing all the prayers out, it is also relaxing now that I have an easy way to hold the fabric. I can enjoy the beauty of the prayers themselves. I get a lot out of making these. I'm not a religious person, but the simplicity that written thoughts and good wishes, spread by the wind to rest upon the people and things it touches seems just about perfect to me.
I'll leave you with the Metta Sutta that is written into each of the flags.

Metta Sutta

In safety and in bliss
May all creatures be of a blissful heart.
Whatever breathing beings there may be,
No matter whether they are frail or firm,
With none excepted, be they long or big
Or middle-sized, or be they short or small
Or thick, as well as those seen or unseen,
Or whether they are far or near,
Existing or yet seeking to exist,
May all creatures be of a blissful heart.
Let no one work another’s undoing
Or even slight him at all anywhere;
And never let them wish another ill
Through provocation or resentful thought.
And just as might a mother with her life
Protect the son that was her only child,
So let him then for every living thing
Maintain unbounded consciousness in being,
And let him too with love for all the world
Maintain unbounded consciousness in being
Above, below, and all round in between,
Untroubled, with no enemy or foe.
And while he stands or walks, or while he sits
Or while he lies down, free from drowsiness,
Let him resolve upon this mindfulness.
This is Divine Abiding here, they say.

That goes for bears too! ;-)