Sunday, August 26, 2012

Round two

Today's post: Our second summer trip, a knitting project (almost done), a spinning project (done except for soaking), and a few more bits and pieces.

Our second trip of the summer was to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where my SIL has family, and where her family was kind enough to give us all a place to stay for the better part of ten days.  It's hard to go wrong with a view like this:
The kids loved it - they could pretty much do what they liked, when they liked, so they spent lots of time in the water, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, or just hanging out.
We also hiked.
And went to Lake Superior.
Lake Superior never ceases to amaze me.  It's just so...big.
And really, really cold.  Which didn't stop the girls from going in.
Brrr...  I preferred playing with rocks.
Oh!  And I learned to drive an outboard!  No photographic evidence, though.  (I know, this is not a big deal if you are a person who grew up around lakes, but I didn't.  So it was.)

It was an awesome week.  We do not get to spend enough time with Rick's brother and sister-in-law, or with our niece, so having a whole week together (and we got to have our niece out here with us for ten days before that!) was an absolute treat.  Younger Daughter and our niece get along like a house on fire, and spent three weeks together happily.  Do you ever have the sense, even as something is happening, that this is one of those things that your kids will remember later?  That's how I felt about this trip, and about having our niece here beforehand; days at the beach, going to the movies, boogie boarding (an achievement for my niece, on the list of the summer's achievements - she got really good at riding those waves!).  I always feel lucky when I recognize those moments even as they're happening, and so get to feel grateful both for the moment, and for the memory that it will be.

Younger Daughter also achieved a long-held goal this summer.  She became the proud owner of five chickens.
This is an older photo; they now have all their feathers and are, as of today, probably ready to start living in their coop full-time (until now, they've spent nights in a smaller cage with a brooder lamp on them).  I should also say that the girls did nearly all of the building work on the coop, too, working from the directions that came with it.  They're pretty proud.

As for me, I picked up a long-languishing sweater, with which I am (finally!!) almost done.  I started it last summer, when I couldn't talk about it yet.  But the pattern is out, so it's fair game, and I'm almost done with it (hooray!).  It's the India Print Henley, by Anne Hanson, in Ann Budd's new book The Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters, which I think I will have to get.  I don't have a picture of the whole sweater yet, but here's the body:
I am finishing the second sleeve now, and then it's all done except for weaving in the ends (I already did the button bands and collar).  I'm pushing it hard on the yarn (which is why I did the button bands, etc, before the sleeves, figuring if I had to go to 3/4 sleeves, that would work), but I think I'm going to make it.  The pattern is fabulous, but what's slowed me down on this sweater is the yarn - I'm knitting it from Fibranatura Flax, in a lovely lime-green color.  I know I'll love it once it's done (I already washed the body, actually, because it looked too big, and I wanted to be sure that my swatch wasn't lying to me before I knitted the rest, and it's softened up beautifully), but it is tremendously hard on my hands to knit with, and it makes all the muscles in my shoulders tighten up.  So I haven't been able to make myself do the kind of marathon knitting that I usually do at this stage of sweater development.  Today may be the day, though.  I'm sooooo close...

Last weekend, I also got through a spinning project that I have long been contemplating, with some fiber that I bought nearly two years ago at Lambtown.
Lovely, isn't it?  That's a two-ply yarn, heavy fingering weight (I think - it still needs to be washed).  One ply is spun out of 100% Bombyx Silk, dyed by Dreamy Goat Design Studio with natural dyes, and the other ply is spun out of a superfine merino/bombyx/tussah blend, also dyed by Dreamy Goat Design Studio; both were spun worsted.  I spun the 100% silk from the fold, which I guess means it's not a purely worsted-spun yarn, but it helped tremendously with drafted and control.  What you can't see in that picture is that there are shades of green and blue in among the more dominant osage orange.  I love it.  It looks antique.  There were 2.5 ounces of the bombyx, and 2 of the blend, so I had some silk left over, which is spun up in that little skein on the bottom.  I have about 400 yards of the mixed two ply, and a bit less than 100 of the pure silk two ply.  I will need to find some kind of beautiful shawl pattern that will allow me to put in the occasional row of the 100% silk, don't you think?

And that's nearly all the news that's fit to report.  Last Monday, Older Daughter started her sophomore year in high school (!!), and Younger Daughter started middle school (which is grades 6-8 here), and I took over as department chair (probably best not to talk about that, but let's just say that "congratulations" is probably a less-appropriate response than, "ooooohhhhhhh.....").  Tomorrow, classes start. 

But today, the sun is shining, I have some chicken wire to buy and make into a portable run, and a sweater to finish.  It's all good.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


OK.  It's been a while.  I kept meaning to post, but, if I am going to be completely honest, it was so nice to truly take some time away from my computer that I couldn't bring myself to sit down at it for anything more than the bare minimum work requirements (OK, that was in July; before that, I was spending so much time at my computer wrapping up several HUGE projects that I couldn't bear to be at the computer to do anything else).  Instead, I spent the month of July and early August as much outdoors as I could be, and loved every minute of it. 

I think I also have been having trouble conceptualizing a blog post that isn't just a recap of all of those lovely grade-school "What I Did With My Summer" essays.*  So instead, I think I'll just hit some of the high points - the things that felt like a challenge, or like something I've wanted to do for a while, or an achievement for someone in the family, and then throw a few additional fun photos in over the next several weeks (because I just downloaded all the pictures off the camera, and there are a LOT).  (Note added later: I realized that there is no sane way to get everything into one post, especially if I want to include some fiber content - and I do! - so I'll just have to do the second half of the summer in the next one.)

First, Younger Daughter "graduated" from her grade school.  This is a bigger deal than it might seem, since she's been going there, first to day care, then preschool, then grade school, since she was about 18 months old.  Next Monday, she starts at her brand-new middle school, and it's going to be a huge change for her.  She's ready, but it was nice to have a moment to celebrate the change.
(Her face is in shadow, but it is the only picture I have that doesn't also include OPK.)(Other Peoples' Kids.)

Very soon thereafter, we packed up and headed to Mammoth for a solid week of getting outside and getting some family time.  During that week, we took our first overnight backpacking trip as a family.  Just one night, but the big goal (from my perspective) was for the girls to want to do it again.  I knew that Rick's trail choice was dead-on when Older Daughter, pack and all, turned to me most of the way through our hike in to say with excitement, "I feel so self-sufficient!" 
We schlepped in about five miles to a string of lakes, where we set up camp.  The views were remarkable (note: not photoshopped in any way).
As were the insects (can you see that golden, sun-lit cloud in between the trees there?  yes, that's right - mosquitoes).
The next morning, we abandoned our big packs for a while, and headed up further into the mountains, following a string of lakes,
(which looked remarkably like parts of the Scottish highlands - check it out, doesn't this look like heather, even?),
to the last of the snow, where Tilly had her own achievement - stepping on the cold frozen stuff for the first time.
She wasn't quite sure what she thought of it.

Two days later, the girls and I went on a half-day horseback riding excursion (not a trivial matter for our non-saddle-trained selves, especially as we climbed - and therefore descended - 2,000 vertical feet during the ride, which requires a lot of work for a rider, if you're planning to help the horse at all).  The top was a reminder that Mammoth is, indeed, an old volcano (dormant only).
But you climb that high up, and you get rewarded by the views.

I also knitted on that trip.  My knitting mojo just isn't what I'd like it to be these days - I'm not sure why I'm feeling jammed up, so, as you'll see in the next post, I'm pulling out some old projects that I think are taking up space in my guilt-ridden back brain, and trying to move those forward.  In Mammoth, however, I started and finished two new things.
That little lovely was a test knit for Anne, who did a stunning photo shoot that puts my efforts to shame; you may want to check it out (the pattern has also been released).
The pattern is Twig and Leaf, and it comes in three sizes - this is the smallest.  It is knitted out of the (new to me) Briar Rose Stella, which is an absolute treat to work with; it's hard to go wrong with a laceweight merino/silk blend in one of Chris' stunning colorways (it even looks like she has one more skein left in this color).  This particular version is destined to go to the Briar Rose booth as a sample, so you can visit it, but I will be casting on to knit my own veryvery soon - it's fun to knit, and utterly wearable.  The only question I have is whether to knit this size, or make the medium.  So many hard choices...
I also finished up a pair of socks for myself while we were there, which I haven't had a chance to wear since coming back, as it's been hot and humid here (le sigh).
These are Clandestine Socks, and they were really great fun to knit.  This is a good travel knitting pattern because, apart from the lace edging, they're quite easy, but fun enough to keep one's attention.  I need to find the yarn label (sorry), but this is a merino/alpaca blend, if I remember correctly, by a local dyer; I picked this yarn up at a local festival about a year ago.

So, that's it for now.  There's more (believe me!), but I think I'll stop here and go work on some spinning I have on the wheel. 

*My brother once got very creative and told his teacher that he'd been to Greenland on his summer vacation.  He even had it straight that Greenland is the colder, less-populated one (as opposed to Iceland).  He apparently had lots of detail for verisimilitude - heaven knows where he got it, probably National Geographic - but the teacher did eventually check with my mom, who was rather surprised to find out where we'd gone that year...  I did not go to Greenland this summer, and I will not tell you that I did.