29 September 2006

From Socks of Doom to Sweater of Hope

There have been a couple posts lately on other blogs about charity knitting.I realize it's not something for everyone, but for me it's a nice way to help others in a very concrete way. And since I finished the Socks of Doom last night, tonight I was able to finish up the toddler sweater I'd been working on for Dulaan Project.


As I've mentioned before, it's done in romney blend yarn I got from Black Bunny Fibers, and it should fit a child up to one or two years of age. At some point, I seem to have managed to get a little off track on the raglan decreases, but not to an extent that I wasn't able to fudge it successfully. And the best part is that I have enough of the yarn left over that I should be able to make a matching hat.

You can see a slight bit of color pooling in the yoke area, but that's kind of to be expected given the decreases and it isn't excessive or distracting. What was interesting to me is that there was pooling of lighter and darker areas where the yarn took up different amounts of dye. This is only really visible in the body, but I think it adds an interesting dimension and really like the effect. A very little bit of dye seems to have rubbed off onto my needles, as well, so I'll give it a wash before packing it off to F.I.R.E.

Everyone at work loved it. Some are even talking about having babies just so I can knit them sweaters.

Pea Soup Revisited

Sean asked last week about my pea soup recipe, so, a little belatedly, here goes.

- 1lb. dried split peas
- a couple tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium to large onion
- 3 carrots
- 3 parsnips
- 6-8 cups water
- salt, pepper, thyme, sage to taste
- 2-3 bay leaves (if you're so inclined)

Okay, first of all I must insist on the extra virgin olive oil. The refined stuff has no flavor and just isn't worth the trouble. Besides, it also lacks the polyphenols that are so good for your heart.

Chop the onion into smallish pieces and sauté in the olive oil in a large pot until translucent. Wash the carrots and peel the parsnips and cut into thinnish slices and add to the onion. Add the thyme, sage and pepper and sauté a little longer, taking care not to burn, then add the water and salt to taste (NOTE: This will cook down a bit, so make it a bit less salty than you think it should be). Bring to a boil, rinse the peas in cold water (They can sometimes get little pebbles in the bag, so it's good to check for this) and add to the pot. Return to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 40 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender and soup is nicely thickened.

I know not everyone is familiar with parsnips, but I strongly encourage everyone to try them. They're like a sweeter, nuttier, somewhat starchier version of the carrot and a wonderful cold weather vegetable.

28 September 2006

El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan

The title is that of a short story by Argentine writer, Jorge Luís Borges. This has long been a favorite story of mine and quite possibly is one of the things that ultimately drew me to Buddhism, as it deals with the idea of the essentially false nature of the reality that we perceive and the multiple possibilities that reality can take the form of depending on the actions (karma) of ourselves and others.

Superficially, though, it is also a tale of intrigue, and I got to thinking about it today while finishing my second sock for Sock Wars. My target has done two pairs of socks in the time it has taken me to do one. Despite her speed, though, she is already dead and simply doesn't yet know it.


I did these in Baby Twist 100% baby alpaca yarn. Not machine washable, but certainly soft and warm. I think I'll send them regular mail, so she'll have a chance to try to kill yet again while she awaits her inevitable doom.

Speaking of Babies

I got home from a busy night at work and crashed into bed around 11AM. At about 1PM, David came in and woke me up. Tlingit, one of his girls who boards at a farm nearby had been in labor for an hour, which generally means a problem. So I got up, grabbed my things, and headed over to the farm.

Fortunately, it was only a mild malpresentation, so a quick correction of the position of the front legs and out popped an apparently healthy female cria. David's still thinking of names, and we're waiting on landlady Wendy to send us pics, as she's the only one who brought along a camera.

25 September 2006

Halfway to a Kill

The first Sock of Doom is finished, save grafting. Hopefully I can complete the second and kill my target before I get killed. She taunts me and must die.

22 September 2006

And So It Begins...Sort Of

Today is the beginning of Sock Wars. Or at least it's supposed to be. Who knew that this was going to hit Yarn Monkey's town. And so we wait.

In the meantime, maybe I can finish up the toddler sweater I'm working on for Dulaan. Only seven more raglan decrease rounds and the roll neck, then grafting the underarms.

It All Ted's Fault

Ever since Ted posted this, I've had apple pie on the brain. So yesterday I found an orchard not too far from me and bought a peck of cortlands. We're going to my parents' tomorrow, so I think there'll be a bit of pie-baking activity while we're there. The apples are so lovely that I took photos, but my camera's being uncommunicative with the computers today, so they'll have to wait until the electronics are on speaking terms again.

Oh, One More Thing...

The pea soup was yummy.

19 September 2006

The Veterinarian and the Food Analogy

Landlady Paula and I were on our way this afternoon to do some health certificates for animals from a nearby farm that Paula's taking to a show next week. Here's a little snippet of our conversation:

Paula: Herreshoff's diarrhea was kind of yellow and mucus-y. What does crypto usually look like?

Me: Well, I usually think of Cryptosporidium as causing more of a pea soup type diarrhea.

So guess what I decided to make for dinner.

17 September 2006

In Which This Author Meets a Real Author

Today didn't get particularly productive until late. It started out with a trip over the bridge into Portsmouth with my friend & knit sib Kit to meet up with fellow knit sib, Melissa. Melissa is a sci-fi author, and I just happened to pick up two of her novels at a used book place last Tuesday when I was picking up a book on meditation for one of the two meditation groups I'm going to start attending (I actually did attend the Thursday evening one this week. Somehow you never realize how hard it is to count to ten).

I've known Melissa from the glb-knit listserv for a while now, but despite living across the bridge from each other, this was the first time we had met in person. We had planned a coffee/knitting get-together back in the spring which didn't happen, but this time there was something of an ulterior motive. The reason our planned meeting didn't take place before was that Melissa's partner, Lisa, died after a long struggle with cancer. So a group of us from the listserv knit squares for a "blanket of love". It took a while for all the squares to be assembled, during which time Melissa had to undergo surgery, but the blanket arrived here Friday and we all serendipitously had our Saturday free.

The three of us had a really nice time chatting and knitting. I worked on an infant sweater I'm making for Dulaan with my most recent Black Bunny purchase, Kit worked on the Irish Hiking Scarf David commissioned her to knit up in a tweed alpaca/merino yarn he designed for his friend Jennifer (I helped come up with color names, and we'll be selling it at Rhinebeck), and Melissa finished up a sock then moved on to a t-shirt she's working on. It made for a really enjoyable afternoon, and I'm hoping we can make it a more regular occurrence.

Coming back across the bridge afterwards, we were passed by a car sporting a campaign bumper sticker for Sister Sue's husband, Phil, who is up for re-election this fall. I live in a different district, but it was exciting to see someone displaying their support and I hope he wins.

The Big Project

A month or so ago, I got 4 yards of a dark grey wool twill with plans to try to turn it into a contemporary kilt (mostly because that much tartan cloth would cost me $200-300, but there ya go). David is away at a trade show in Syracuse for a few days, so I figured it was a good opportunity to haul it out and see what I could get done for starters.

Kilts are generally made from double width (60") cloth, so the first order of business was to cut the proper length (23" of usable cloth for me) from each side, then seam the two lengths together to get an 8 yard length of cloth.


That was the easy part.

Fine tartan cloths generally have a usable selvedge that doesn't require trimming. This is likely part of the reason they're so astronomically expensive. My cloth, however, was not woven with this in mind, so the selvedges definitely needed to come off. To make the task a little easier (8 yards, remember?) and help prevent fraying at the same time, I decided to do a 2-thread overlock with the serger I got on sale a couple years ago and hadn't had a chance to use. It turned out quite nicely. I considered using the black thread I have on it, but I thought it might use too much up and just used the white that's on the machine currently.


Then I had to pin and iron the hem along the entire 8 yards.


After which I had to switch back to the regular sewing machine and sew the hem. Did I mention it's 8 yards long?


Folks, this is what 8 yards of cloth looks like:


Most of this is going to be in pleats across my tuchus. With some luck, I may manage to finish it in time to wear at Rhinebeck. If I do, however, you will not hear me ask if it makes my ass look big. I think I already know the answer.*

*That said, I have lost 14# since I started dieting 6 weeks ago, so hopefully it won't look as big as it might have.

14 September 2006

True Is It That We Have Seen Better Days

The day started with a frantic call from Val, the woman on whose farm most of our animals board. One of David's girls delivered a stillborn cria - textbook normal delivery, but the little bugger never took a breath. These things, of course, happen, and we were far more concerned for the dam and for Val's state of mind, as she really tends to take these things to heart.

I had to run a couple errands, one of which was now to stop by the local bakery to get a loaf of chocolate bread to take to Val. I'm a Southerner, after all. It's what we do when there's been a death.

So we drove up to the farm, consoled Val, looked over both baby (premature but fairly good size) and mom (looking normal) and took baby and placenta to the New Hampshire state diagnostic laboratory for post-mortem to sort out whether there was a major congenital problem or possibly an infectious agent that would be a concern for the rest of the herd. The pathologist called us with a diagnosis no more than a couple hours later: congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Its not a problem I've seen described in 'pacas before, but there's no way this baby could have lived. The pathologist also e-mailed me photos, and the lungs were extremely tiny - about half the size of the heart.

This evening was spent giving a plasma transfusion to little Herreshoff, who has been having diarrhea and fever over the past week. He's also been started on antibiotics now and the fever's responding, so hopefully he will do well and shake this off quickly.

Other Sad News

I found out tonight that former Texas governor Ann Richards passed away. She was a pistol of a woman, and I always admired the hell out of her. Texas did themselves (and ultimately the rest of the nation) a real disservice when they booted her in favor of W.

And the Good News Is...

...my main errand this morning was to sign and have notarized the paperwork to get the house in Pittsburgh transferred over completely to S. He still has a bit more to go in paying me off, but at least the end is in sight for having our financial entanglements completely unentangled.

I was a bit annoyed that I was expected to foot the expense for overnighting the paperwork back to his lawyer. I lost money selling my house in North Carolina to be with him (so I could be lied to and cheated on and ultimately dumped - all ostensibly for not being "hot" enough), I agreed to being paid a conservative estimate of the money I'd put into the house in Pittsburgh that didn't account for the appreciation in its market value, I incurred all the expenses of moving and starting over (even though he had agreed to pay half my moving expenses - but what's one more broken promise), and then they expect me to pay even more. Granted, it wasn't a huge sum, but I was kind of feeling like I'd paid enough for him already - in more ways than one.

So I thought about lodging a protest over it, but ultimately I figured I'm better off letting it go. I'm certainly better off without people like that in my life, so the sooner it's all done with the happier I'll be. And if the price of freedom is $14.40, then so be it.

12 September 2006

Blogger Bingo Bulletin

Okay, so it's official. We're sponsoring Rhinebeck Blogger Bingo. Ms. McYarnpants herself will be signing books at our booth. I am very excited, though I've asked Stitchy to keep my name on as a square only. Don't want any of those conflict of interest thingies.

We are going to be in booth 39D. Barn 39 is located back by the main sheep barns. There's a map of the fairgrounds here. Because it's not in a row with the other vendor barns, we seem to get less traffic. Or people go into fiber overload before they make it to us. Now you, gentle readers, will have a chance to rectify that.

More Murine Membranes

Here are the latest iterations of the mouse skins:


I'm quite pleased with the look of these, so it may be a primary color theme.

and keeping with the alliterative theme...

Mawling Minou*

Some actually did ask. Well, Kit sort of demanded, but she's my Rhinebeck ride, so I'm obliged to oblige.


It actually could have been much worse, and I have the scars to prove it. I had just finished closing a minor laceration on a cat who was quite frightened. He'd been essentially paralyzed with fear during the entire visit (despite getting good drugs) and finally exploded without warning. I'm generally pretty fast. I've been working with 'nature, red in tooth and claw' for a long time. This time, though, I just couldn't get my hand out of the way fast enough. I'm just glad it wasn't a bite.

* That's French for 'Kitty'

10 September 2006

Kitty Claws

They are very sharp and can slice the shit out of your fingers without warning. Ask me how I know this.

09 September 2006

Wanna Play?

Stitchy McYarnpants is organizing Rhinebeck Blogger Bingo, which should be a ton of fun. I signed up right away to be both a square and a player. I also suggested to David that it might be a good thing if he were to donate swag to the prize pool. He is now in direct discussion with Ms. McYarnpants about sponsorship of the event. As decisions are made and things are finalized, I will post updates, but I hope all of y'all out in blogland will come by and visit us.

David is also a sponsor of a dinner buffet and presentation on Saturday night at Rhinebeck by Linda Cortright of Wild Fibers Magazine. Linda's going to be presenting a slideshow and talking about some of her travels to gather materials for the articles in the magazine. The most recent issue has an article on the University of Alaska's musk oxen herd, from which qiviut is harvested, as well as one on a rare sheep breed raised in Chiapas state in Mexico. Linda's a fun person, and I'm really looking forward to seeing and hearing more. The cost of the dinner is $20 and there will be door prizes. Online signup is here.

Library Acquisition

Last week brought another Amazon gift certificate, which I wasted little time in cashing in. I got home from work today just as the UPS man was delivering this:

I'd been looking at this book for a while, and while some reviews griped about Amos's writing style or about how opinionated he is, there were no substantive arguments about the technical information supplied, which is what interested me the most. I've only been able to read a little bit of it so far, but I think it's going to be a very nice reference to have around.

Assassin's Arsenal

Yarnmonkey has posted yarn and gauge requirements for the International Sock of Doom. I have a good bit of DK weight baby alpaca around, so I may be a good stash buster and use some of that. I'm a bit tempted, however, to use it as an excuse to try out Halcyon Yarn's Limbo, which also comes in nice, albeit more expensive, variegated colorways.

07 September 2006

Lost in Translation?

A good bit of today's activities (There weren't many, as I worked last night) centered around doing a bit of translation & interpreting for David. The positive aspect of this is that it's good practice for me. The negative side is that it serves as a reminder of how little I get to use my Spanish. Of course, it doesn't help when I'm talking to someone in Peru who is speaking both softly and rapidly - I often find myself hard-pressed to understand even English in such a situation - but when a language isn't used readily, it begins to deteriorate. This was brought home to me when, as a student in Spain 18+ years ago, I began forgetting common English words.

I have been speaking Spanish for over half my life now, so most of it is unlikely to fade away, but some words I was asked to translate - "inbox", "handfeel" - were never part of my vocabulary as a student to begin with. E-mail was, for all practical purposes, nonexistent in 1988, and textiles were not part of my training. Add to that the effect of regional dialects, and it becomes a tricky path to navigate. Fortunately, I thought to try changing the language for my G-mail account and found "inbox" translated as bandeja de entrada ("tray of entry"), which I shortened to bandeja for an e-mail message David wanted to send. For "handfeel", David told me that he often receives e-mails from Peru referring to it as "touch", which is a much easier translation to tacto.

Murine Prolificacy

My wrist was behaving fairly well yesterday - enough so that I was able to crank out four more mouse skins. That brings my total up to around 20. I'm hoping to get at least another 30 or so done before Rhinebeck, in hopes that all will sell so I can do some serious stash enhancement. I may even consider a new wheel.

I've kind of been looking at the Hitchhiker from The Merlin Tree. Cate, I believe, has one, and I know she enabled JoVE into buying one this year at NHS&W. Aside from being extremely portable, they're also wicked cunnin' and personalizable.

Steve Irwin

I'm not going to elegize - others can do that. To be honest, for as much as I share his enthusiasm for and love of the world around us, I found him kind of annoying. Still, it was an incredibly freakish way to die, and I feel badly for his family, particularly his 8-year-old daughter, who is old enough to grasp the enormity of what she's lost. That he didn't have a lingering, painful death is probably little consolation to her.

I think what has struck me the most, though, is how upset people are over his death. Had he not been a celebrity, would anyone have noticed? The completely bizarre circumstances might have merited mention in News of the Weird, but his fame is what has made this story.

Maybe those folks in Darfur just need to get a TV deal.

02 September 2006

A Weekend's Labor

The holiday weekend started off with a bang at the old emergency clinic. I left early to beat the holiday traffic, which the Maine Turnpike Authority had predicted would be up by 20% from last year. I beat the heaviest of it and got to work quite early to find one of my colleagues preparing to go to surgery with a patient from his volunteer position with the local marine mammal rescue.


In case you don't recognize the flippers sticking out from underneath the surgical drapes, it's a harbor seal. Remember André? This was apparently one of André's less intelligent relatives, because she had eaten this:


That's 2 kilos of rocks! They filled her entire stomach, which explains why she hadn't been eating. The spoon did not come from her stomach. We keep one sterilized for removing things, like rocks, from places they don't belong, like stomachs.

It was a rather interesting beginning to what would be an exhaustingly busy night for me. I have mentioned before that the upper limit of manageability is an average of about one case per hour over the course of a shift (15 hours for me). Last night I saw 18, 8 of which required anesthesia for various procedures, the most common of which (5 in all) was the removal of porcupine quills. I took a photo of one, but not because he as an impressive case. In fact, he was the most minor of all the quill removals (The worst required about three hours under anesthesia, and we still weren't able to find all the quills). I just took his photo because of his name. This is Franklin:


Despite how busy the night was, I actually managed to have all my paperwork squared away by about 9:30AM - only an hour-and-a-half past the nominal end of my shift. When I got home, I was pleasantly surprised to find a big envelope in the mail from Ted. It contained some photocopied recipes for what look to be some very yummy dishes.

The breakfast clafoutis will definitely give me something to do with my blueberries. David's eyes glazed over, however, when he saw the recipe for maple walnut pie. Definitely not a diet-friendly recipe, but I may be able to fit in a small sliver without too much trouble.

Holiday Plans

I am off to my parents' tomorrow for an overnight visit. In addition to being Labor Day, Monday is also my mother's birthday. Even though it's only a 2½ hour drive, I really don't see my folks very often, so it's a very convenient opportunity to make the trip, even though it means I may be fighting heinous holiday traffic on the drive home Monday.

May you all have a wonderful weekend, whether it's a holiday where you are or not.

01 September 2006

Photo Shower

It seems there's been a little bit of a photo drought around this blog of late, so hopefully this will remedy things a bit. First, I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised to hear my name mentioned on last week's Cast On. Brenda gave a little plug for my felted catnip mice, which I make & sell to support my yarn habit and which I need to be cranking out for Rhinebeck. Lately, though, I manage one before my wrist says, "You must stop now." Tonight I felted three that I've done over the past couple of weeks, which I can now add to the 13 or so waiting to be stuffed.


Theoretically, at one a day I could crank out another 50 before Rhinebeck, but let me tell ya, stuffing them with dried catnip is both time-consuming and rough on the fingers. Cats love them, though. Tolo - or Tolo Mousebane, as he'd like to be called - eats them systematically once he's decided that they're properly dead. He starts with the tail, then over a period of several days eats (and scatters all over the house) the catnip "guts", then slowly eats the rest of the skin over several months, until you find little scraps of felted mouse carcass hiding under the couch.

New Acquisitions

Our mail carrier has been very good to me this week. Monday brought me two eagerly-awaited packages. This is the Shetland 2000 yarn I got from Yarns International.


That's moorit on the left and mooskit on the right. They're undyed natural Shetland yarn produced by Jamieson & Smith, who handle about 90% of the Shetland wool clip. I also got their Shetland 2-ply jumperweight from Schoolhouse Press. The color on the left came in their older skeins, while the color on the right is in their new 25g put-up, which the EU has apparently required them to do to meet uniformity requirements.


So at some point, once the wrists are calmer, I'm going to take both of these for a test drive as possible choices for Meg Swansen's Schoolhouse Shetland Pullover.

On Wednesday, we had a substitute mail carrier (and a cute one at that!) who brought me this from Black Bunny Fibers (As I write this, Carol's stock has been completely cleared out, but keep looking, 'cause she does wonderful work).


This is a romney blend yarn in a colorway she called "Plum Jam". I watched this yarn on her site for a month and really tried so hard to resist. I've also been kind of holding out for more skeins of worsted weight merino like the one I bought a few months ago. But after a month of watching it inexplicably not being bought, I decided it must have been meant for me and bought it. It should be just enough for a toddler's sweater, so I plan on using it to make one for Dulaan. I don't know if I'll sign on for the Black Bunny Hopalong, since it'll be a while before I'll be able to pick up this particular project, but it looks like a fun time for Black Bunny aficionados.


Franklin's writing about his meditation experiences have been a much-needed push for me to look into Buddhist meditation groups in this area. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time, but life has always seemed to get in the way. This evening I was to have gone to a Buddhist meditation group that meets weekly at the Unitarian Universalist church in Portsmouth. Life, however, got in the way again.

Last night at work was pretty much non-stop all night - not overwhelming, but not relenting, either. And since I was sleep-deprived going into it (long and fairly boring story), I was not in any better shape after 15 17 hours of it. So ultimately, I decided sleep was more important than meditation, particularly since meditation requires concentration. There's another group which meets twice a month within walking distance of home, so I may try to connect with them on Monday evening.

That said, I thought I'd share a little story of the one time I experienced what Zen practitioners call kensho. It didn't occur in a zendo, there were no robes or incense or gongs, or even meditation, involved. I was barely 18 and it happened on the campus of Presbyterian College on a beautiful Spring day.

I don't remember much about the circumstances other than that I was waiting for someone and decided to lie down in the grass and watch the clouds go by. It was warm and sunny and there was a nice breeze, and I believe I was lying there for some time when it hit me. It was one of those things that you have to experience in order to understand, but for a very brief instant it felt as if I disappeared into infinity itself.

It scared the hell out of me at the time. I was raised in a mainstream Protestant church. Presbyterians just don't have religious experiences like that, especially not if they're unscheduled. It was also several years before I did any study of Buddhism, so I really had no context to understand what had happened. I did realize fairly quickly, though, that I had had a very profound and precious insight.

I suppose that one of my reasons for looking for a meditation group is the chance that I can experience that feeling again, now that I know it's something to revel in, rather than fear. I know, though, that it will never come if I try to make it happen, so I'm looking for more practical benefits from meditation - a better ability to deal with my stress, which in turn feeds my chronic pain, which sucks up a fair bit of my energy, which....

Still, one can always hope.