Saturday, February 28, 2015

respect the suit

Every so often, teenage boys do something, in just enough of an amount, to convince you that it is all going to be OK. Spotty homework turn-in record, door-slamming temper tantrums, screaming matches behind the wheel, they are temporarily forgotten in the hope that the outcome of this whole parenting gig may be a positive after all.

Today was such a day.

In December, Secondo took it upon himself to volunteer as the assistant coach for Terzo's recreational basketball team. He's no angel; it's all calculated. He is trying to rack up volunteer hours for National Honor Society, failing to understand that a certain grade point average is the threshold requirement. Still, points for initiative. He has faithfully attended the vast majority of practices and games.

The coach couldn't make the last game, and asked Secondo if he would take over the coaching job for him. Secondo immediately decided that a suit was the only possible attire.

He went over plays with his father, he planned out his strategies and player rotations, he even wore his team t-shirt (which the coaches usually wear on the sidelines) as his undershirt, so as not to jinx himself.

He took some good-natured ribbing from the refs, who warned him up front that chair throwing was not allowed.

Then he coached his heart out. He gave pep talks and ran code plays. It was amazing to watch the younger boys respond, looking to him for direction. Though not so amazing really, because if there is anything that a pre-teen boy responds best to, it is a teenage boy giving him direction.

The team has been in a slump lately, but today they won. No doubt the basketball gods were smiling down on the suit. He needed this day. We needed this day. This sophomore year has been rough going, and it is days like this that help to keep a parent, and a kid, plodding along.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

no shearing for ewe

Thanks to the rams breaking into the ewe pasture, we have no idea who is bred and who isn't. Maybe no one. Maybe everyone (doubtful). But we are clueless either way.

I booked the shearer weeks ago for this Saturday, so we could get those heavy wool coats off and take a look at bellies and udders, and get pastures and pens reconfigured for new arrivals, if necessary. Plus, lambing when the ewe is not in full fleece is So. Much. Easier. For us, for the lambs, for the ewes.

But Mother Nature had other ideas.

"You're going to do what with our toasty warm wool coats?!!?"

The temps have not budged much out of the twenties almost all month—and that is the high for the day. The lows are in the single digits. As shearing day drew closer, and spring seemed ever further away, we finally caved. No way we could do it on our own timeline. The ewes would have had the shelter of the barn for the night, but even that seemed scant comfort given the brutal lows. The rams would still be out in a pasture, and though a shed is fine for them at the moment, without their wool, not so much.

Shearing date is now rescheduled for the end of March. At some point in the next few days, we will attempt an udder check and do our best with the results, whatever they may be. The sheep will get to keep what Mother Nature gave them to deal with this cold—truly, they have been barely bothered by it—and the rest of us will cope as best we can.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

snow fun

No inaugural "Six Ways to Short Row" class today. Given the forecast for snow arriving early afternoon, the shop owner and I made the call yesterday to postpone for two weeks. Thank goodness.

No Primo driving a carfull of teammates to a charity event tonight. He came home yesterday to pick up his car, and his father and I watched the developing snow with increasing dismay. His common sense prevailed. Thank goodness.

Which, once we did a first pass on plowing the driveway, left playing around with the new 100mm lens while the boys played around in the snow.

I have no idea why Secondo is terrorizing Terzo in all of these photos. 

Wait, yes I do.

Dusty does his best to break up the aggression in true English Shepherd/police dog fashion, but he doesn't get very far beyond voicing his objections. Vociferously.

It brought to mind their snow play six years ago, when Dusty was but a pup and they were quite a bit smaller... though Secondo was still terrorizing Terzo.

Maybe best to end on a nice peaceful shot of a snowy tree.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

princeton farmer's market

Today was the start of a new venue, the Princeton Farmer's Market. Held in the community room of the local library, right in the middle of town, it features an amazing line-up of farmers, bakers, beekeepers, etc. And me, plus Robin, my partner in crime business.

The new farm sign made its debut. I am a little disappointed in the new farm sign, mostly because of my inability to use a tape measure and understand just how freaking big a 2 ft x 6 ft sign is. We managed to make it work as a sort of full frontal for the table. Everyone knew where we were from as long as they could back up to read it from the other end of the room, or standing outside in the center of the adjacent plaza.

Robin and I are getting better at pulling these things together in a pleasing manner. Pleasing to us, at least.

God bless those hand-me-down grids. They came in handy yet again

Also thank the good Lord for an INSIDE event on this cold cold day. We knitted and chatted and visited with our vending neighbors, and even had a visit from my college freshman and his friend. Much warmth, and not just from wool, to combat the chill. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

unexpected holiday

What girl failed to realize that it was a federal holiday today and thus (courts being closed and all), she might have a day off from work?

This girl!

The full timers in the office forgot to tell me that they had decided to close today. Luckily I woke up this morning thinking that it might be a good idea to get confirmation either way about the office being open, clearly proof that my subconscious is looking out for me.

So what to do with an unexpected holiday, but mess around with wool all day? My parents came over yesterday, and while my father and Secondo prepared some delicious swiss steak, my mom and I experimented with the Artfelt paper that she took a class in at Vogue Knitting Live.

The idea of Artfelt is that you can produce a felt with less effort than needle or wet felting. The Artfelt product resembles interfacing, such as you would use in sewing. You lightly needlefelt the wool onto it, wet it, then wrap it in plastic, put it into pantyhose and toss it in the dryer. Once your desired level of felting is achieved, the Artfelt paper is dissolved using boiling water. 

Two of my experimental squares, ready for dunking. The Artfelt class recommended their merino combed top, and it does produce a lovely smooth product. Since Coopworth wool is the focus around here, I wanted to see how it worked. 

The answer: not too bad, but some further experimentation will be required.

I did manage to produce this lovely wool rose, which for some reason I have been dreaming about doing ever since my mother described the Artfelt product to me. I think it would make a lovely pin but the leaves are still wet, so it isn't sewn together yet.

The felting work continued with cat toys and soaps. I have a new gig starting this Thursday, at the Princeton Farmers' Market in the Princeton Library. Just once a month for three months, so it seems manageable, and I figure whatever doesn't sell there will be ready to go for Maryland at the beginning of May. 

The scent of Yardley soaps is now inextricably linked in my mind to fiber festival preparation. The soaps wrapped and ready to go into the bath...

And after some dunking and scrubbing.

Another snowstorm tomorrow means more time to get another batch done, though it is going to be hard getting them dried in time for the market on Thursday. The sun does such a good job! The oven is a poor substitute, and then it smells like soap the next few times I turn it on, not a great scent when getting ready to bake.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

six ways to short row

One knitting technique that has been exploding in use lately is short rows. Short rows create 3-D shaping in an otherwise flat knit fabric. Instead of working a row all the way from one side to the other, you stop at a set point, turn the work, and knit (or purl) back the other way; stop before the end again, turn and work the other way. These shorter (short) rows inserted in between longer rows create "puffs" of fabric, useful for cupping heels in socks or making room for busts in sweaters. 

They can also be used to create wedges. My "Going to Town Tam" design relies on short rows to make the pinwheel pattern on the top of the hat. 

More and more patterns, especially shawls, are thinking outside the box, using short row techniques to make beautiful shapes that swirl and curl around a wearer's shoulders, with creative use of colors and stitches to highlight the beauty of the yarns and designs.

When most knitters think short rows, they think "wrap and turn." But it turns out (I never can resist) that is just the tip of the iceberg. Short rows can be worked in quite a few ways, which led to a class based upon just that idea. So: "Six Ways to Short Row" will be debuting next Saturday, February 21 at Woolbearers in Mount Holly. Today was spent most productively, putting the finishing touches on the handouts and class structure.

German short row technique on the bottom, Japanese short rows right above it. Both are almost invisible. My favorite depends on the yarn and the project. In other words, it all depends, which is the point of the class. It's always good to have a range of weapons in your arsenal to be able to choose the best one for the challenge at hand.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


I am a sucker for old ephemera. Hand-written notes in margins, testaments to people's daily lives, intrigue me beyond all reason. The everyday connection to someone long gone, who found certain matters important enough to carefully note, usually in pencil, have a hold over me that I cannot explain sufficiently except to say: if they took the time to write it down, then someone should care enough to keep it.

As part of my everyday job in estate administration, I spend a lot of time going through people's personal records, parsing out what the tax man needs to know. One of the estates I am working on at the moment is from a paper hoarder (clearly, a soul sister) with no surviving family, who couldn't bring herself to throw anything out. On Tuesday, we went through her papers, tossing so much flotsam and jetsam. Cancelled checks from the 1980s? Gone. Her dog's pedigrees from the 1960s? Also tossed.

But then we came across this. And I couldn't bring myself to put it in the dumpster.

It's provenance wasn't noted. It appears to be business records from the 1930s, but the business wasn't entirely clear, nor was the owner. Perhaps a restaurant/bar of some sort?

Expences (spelled with a 'c', now an obsolete spelling) and income carefully noted, day by day. August 1933. The clams, at $1.53, cost less than the beer and liquor. Tobacco appears to be the most expensive item.

My favorite part was the helpful information included on the fly leaves in the front. Need to know how much seed to plant per acre?

Got it. How about foreign money?

Perfect. I can never keep how many pence in a shilling straight. Now I have a handy reference. Plus, that section on "Business Law in Daily Use" would have saved me a lot of time in my Contracts class in law school. Most of it is still good law today.

Not to mention how many sheep it would take to fill a freight car, knowledge that should not be lost to the sands of time, though I am not sure I will ever need it, what with the train tracks around our town now converted to a "rails-to-trails" use. On second thought, 80 to 100 per car? That would be a pretty jammed freight car. Poor sheep. Maybe we should forget all about this.

The last purchase: whisky, on June 8, 1940. No clue as to why the journal ended on that date, and why it was kept for so many years after that.