Tuesday, May 30, 2006

sheep in a line?

Do I have all my ducks in a row? Uhh, sheep in a line? Not so much, right now. I had the pleasure of a really quiet long weekend. We had a friend over to join us for Friday night dinner, went to services in Nashville, and saw some friends as we picked up our vegetables. The rest of the weekend was spent doing very important things like yard work (an hour a morning, usually before 9:30, because it was so hot) and some serious resting. I read two books, knit a little, and even finished knitting and making up a vest. Today, perhaps, I'll put buttons on it and snap photos if I get a chance.

What I didn't accomplish was a long list of things that have to get done...including buying city dog licenses, going to the post office, getting ready two or three packages to send at the post office (reverse those last two, please), washing the muddy paw prints off the kitchen floor and other minutiae like going to the dentist. Of course, I couldn't accomplish many of these tasks on the weekend, so maybe that's good, I got some time in to rest. However, now I'm looking over the list, the husband leaves again Thursday morning (two days from now) and gee, when was I going to fit my actual workload? hmmm...and I don't even have children. The mind boggles.

Back to my original premise. For those of you who know poultry, it seems to me that getting your ducks in a row would be about as hard as uhh, herding cats. So why not change the the saying? Sheep in a line? This can be done. See above. I have proof. Someone at Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival was capable of this. No wonder why that festival is so inspiring to me! It gives me hope.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

strawberry rose

I canned 9 and a half cups of strawberry jam on Sunday. The locally grown, organic strawberries came from my favorite farmers, Sarah and Todd of Sylvanus Farm. It was my first round of preserves for the season, and I was a little rusty, but all went well. Now I have blackberry, raspberry, blueberry jams and several kinds of chutney and salsa to go! I like canning, it is such a good feeling to produce healthy, safe, inexpensive food to eat later. Plus, it tastes really good and keeps me busy when the husband is away doing research. (I can't wait for him to come home tonight! It's been a lonely few days.)

These are my baby lettuces. They are nowhere near as big as the heads of lettuce that Sylvanus Farm provided us with the last few weeks, but I'm hoping that my "late" garden will offer us lettuce when it gets warmer and Sylvanus Farm no longer is producing lettuce.
The sun is finally out again, our climbing roses loved the damp cool spell, and all is sunny and sweet.

Friday, May 19, 2006

It's so darn quiet...

Karakul. That's the breed of this lovely sheep photo. Come on, admit it. You really wanted to know, right? What the ewe's really saying is, is anybody reading this? Don't you wonder who stealing the finials off my fence? And how about that agent thing, huh? 'Cause I'm pretty excited about having an agent. That's one step closer to maybe, someday, selling a book! A friend of mine here used all these clever little signs to ask folks to leave comments on her blog when she felt things were too quiet...neat idea.

It is very quiet on the homefront. The mad butterfly scientist husband is off doing research in Florida until next week. College graduation was last weekend--congratulations to Brian and Cory! and our entire town is in recovery mode. Professors don't answer their emails, the university parking lots look empty. I know that I'll get used to this quiet--summer classes are always lighter--and in August, we'll be shocked, saying, "Now where did all these students (noise, cars, trash, etc.)come from?"

To keep myself entertained this week without any mental strain whatsoever, I've been listening to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on my Ipod while knitting up new designs. When I'm not knitting or writing, I'm reading Hamish MacBeth mysteries; the library seems to have an endless supply. I've been eating very well, too--last night it was pasta with peanut sauce and cilantro, and spinach with a sweet soy sesame sauce. The night before? Vietnamese garden rolls, filled with noodles, cabbage, carrots, bits of meat, cilantro, and green onions and mint from the garden.

OK, so I guess what I'm saying is, I'm keeping myself occupied all by my lonesome but I could do with a little input from the outside world. Feel free to drop by...oh, and Caroline, I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself. I just loved this message. Subtlety. It's a lost art. giggle.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

the finial filch

Once upon a time, there was a professor and his writer/fiber artist/teacher wife. They believed in urban renewal, walking to work and living in old houses. They lived in Kentucky, a half mile from the husband's university. Every morning the writer walks her husband to work, accompanied by their dogs, Harry and Sally. (OK, I give up, the third person thing is annoying.) Since moving to this lovely downtown area, we've dealt with all sorts of nonsense. Loose dogs, a crack house across the street (yup, that's a whole different story) and college student partying late at night. The finial filch is right up there with the crack house for most frustrating award. What's the finial filch? Observe, below, our white wooden fence. We inherited this fence when we moved it. It had two kinds of finials on it. Someone takes great pleasure in knocking off the finials. Sometimes, they leave the finial for us to replace. Lately, the filch has been stealing the finials, too. Note: Our street is not this steep, I was just having an artsy photography moment.
We've lost two finials in the last week. We think we lost the second one last night, after Shabbat dinner, when I was reading on the couch and the professor was madly trying to finish his grades. Yes, it was dark. Yes, the Sabbath had started. No, the final grades for the term were not in yet--and graduation is Saturday night. So, the dogs started barking wildly. I was tired, I did not rush up to see what they were barking at. A few minutes later, one of us got up and saw--a big round finial, right in front of the front door, had been stolen. This AM, my poor tired professor is not resting, but rather putting up new finials. Luckily, he bought a bunch at the hardware store and painted them white for this very sort of occasion. Is it an aggrieved student? A neighbor who doesn't like hyper barking at squirrels? Someone who likes vandalizing while the Sabbath candles are lit and visible through the dining room window? Or just a drunk vandal? We'll probably never know. Husband glues down the new finials as he puts them in, and today he sank two nails each into each finial. They'll have to try harder next time.

OK, try not to get too fixated on the finials. That's what I keep telling myself. It is upsetting but not nearly as bad as having our backyard destroyed. Grass is coming in nicely, by the way. You'll notice a photo of my feet in my new jaywalker socks. These were knit with Lion Brand Magic Stripes, which is slightly thicker sock yarn but the colors were perfect for me. It was cool and damp once this week, so I wore my new socks. Ahh. A positive feeling of accomplishment. To continue my sheep theme... I was rewarded for my restraint at Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. When I came home, a local shepherd called and told me that even though I'd missed his shearing, he saved me two fleeces. They are lovely. There is a
clean white Romney wool fleece--his sheep are a crossbred Romney or finer wool, which you might remember from my peacoat, here. Then, there is another fine fleece--crimpy, very soft, and 6-7 lbs. Yes, it is a wee bit, uhh, poopy, but I don't mind that. That's what washing is for! It will be lovely, I'm sure. This photo is to encourage the timid amongst you to try out raw fleeces. They are from live sheep. Live sheep can smell stinky, but the wool is still beautiful. I'm always amazed by the knitters who recoil at a little bit of manure. Where do you think that aran wool came from?!! --this is, of course, from a woman who likes barnyard odeur. I recently came across an old letter from a college friend mentioning my enthusiasm for dairy farms, so you know at least where this comes from...

Last but not least, the first of my patterns from Knit Picks has now reverted to my ownership. They had ownership of it for a year, which is now up. Check out my sweater design for
Empirical Division on my website, if you were just waiting for it to become a pdf downloadable pattern. It's live!

Friday, May 12, 2006

swatch world

I've been busy this week. First, I had to dig through the piles of laundry, mail and other dirt that accumulated in our lives while I was away. Ahh, fun. Then, back when I was less busy, I committed to knitting swatches for TNNA, a huge needlework convention in June to which I'm not even going. They apparently have this gigantic Wall of Yarn with swatches, and I thought, fun, I'll try a few new yarns. Well, let me pass on my learning experience. Pink acrylic fuzzy yarn that smells is not for me. It reminds me of a pink sleeper I had when I was in elementary school, complete with pilly bits...but at least the sleeper didn't smell floral. I'm not showing the other samples I got, I'm not sure if this is strictly confidential or anything, but my one hearty recommendation is that you try out Dalegarn Free Style if you get a chance. It holds a textured pattern in a lovely way and is sort of crunchy, probably as a result of the fact that it is a machine washable yarn. Good stuff. They sent it to me in this rich red color--heck, they had to know I would like that, right?

I practiced swatches before leaving home (I figured, gee, I might have forgotten how or something) so here's a fun photo for you. This is some cotton yarn from Portugal that I bought in Toronto once, some Red Knit Picks Twist and Blue Classic Elite Star. All scraps sitting by my computer. Yes, I had to clear off that bare spot for the photo. Desk is pretty much covered by paper and yarn at this point. This swatch is for me.

Other big news: I have signed with a really cool big time knitting literary agent. She represents many other famous knitters! I am so wowed by this that I am having a hard time concentrating on, uhh, the swatches and things. I also signed another couple of contracts with Knit Picks and I'm beginning to wonder, when will I find time to do all this and manage other stuff, like going to the bathroom? (sorry to be potty mouthed, here, but it did occur to me. I'm sure it is a relief to hear that I don't bring my knitting designs to the bathroom.)

My lovely husband didn't really have any calming words to say. He is proud of me, but my spasms of anxious excitement are only dwarfed by his. He is trying to finish up teaching this semester--final exam today and graduation tomorrow does not leave a lot of time for grading. Then, he leaves to go to research in the field for a week in May. In June, (are you sitting down?) He travels to Cincinnatti overnight (no biggee) and then in a 9 day period, he will go to Pittsburgh with me for a wedding, but he'll miss the actual wedding because he's flying to Manchester, England to give a big talk to some of his colleagues, and then he's flying from there to Gainesville, Florida, to go to another conference, give a talk, and take all his research students out to do more field research. He comes home the day before his birthday. We've heard rumors that my parents may visit right around then. Oh, and did I mention I was invited to a party in Manchester, New Hampshire in the same time period? I may be a party pooper this year, because unless time travel technology has gotten a lot better, I think I might have to stay home and knit on the couch just to keep up with everything. Whew!

I leave you with another sheep photo, of course.
This is a Leicester Longwool from the Old Gjerpen Farm. When I'm feeling hyper, it always helps to see some sheep. On Monday, I'm going to visit a local farm with Icelandic sheep. Can't see too many farm animals when you feel anxious. Those domestic animals have an ancient calming effect. Ommmm. I'm going to go buy some flour now so I can bake challah for dinner. Baking bread always seems to ground me...sounds like I'm some sort of crunchy granola hippy gyrrl, right?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Did you say sheep?

I just returned home from visiting family and from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I love this festival! I've been going for years. Here's one of the reasons why:

Beware, this is probably only the first of many sheep photos that I'll post here...I took a lot of sheep photos. I love visiting with sheep! This one is a Romney, and belongs to the Gavin Family in Michigan. Later today, I'm going out to visit with a local shepherd who kindly offers me wool each year. He raises colored Romney cross sheep, and I missed his shearing this week while I was away. He saved wool for me anyway..see? sheep people... so kind. It took all my self control not to buy up loads of fleece at this festival, but good things come to those who wait. I found out right after going to the festival about the wool waiting for me, and I even have a lead on fleece from a local flock of Icelandic sheep!

Next, here's a photo of the haul. In years past, I was really cautious about buying stuff at this festival. It's huge, something like 50,000 people attend each weekend day, and a girl on a budget could get out of hand, choosing from all the treasures available. This year, maybe I did:

That's black and blue sock yarn, green, orange, blue and brown silk yarn, a new spindle from Hatchtown, a bit of Cormo wool (thanks Elka and Liz!), some Irish linen, Muga silk from India, Yak from China, Cashmere, wool/hemp blend roving, Cormo roving, and some plastic needles for airplanes and ..I got some bamboo and linen yarns. I've already dispersed things around the house in small piles so it doesn't look like quite as big a haul. Oh, and I bought 5 or 6 great used books at a bookstore I love at Dupont Circle. Just for reference, I actually had to remove books from my suitcase so it was under 50 lbs. Yeah. I carried it, too. geez. What I do for special loot!

I saved the best for last. Caroline of Pink Tea fame was kind enough to host us at her house for a fiber traditions get together. I wasn't coordinated enough to take photos of everyone (there were 20 people there, I think?) but here are some candid shots.
This is Elizabeth speaking with Vicki. You can see Pam to the left, in the background. These ladies are so gorgeous in person; please forgive the bad photo!Standing up in the back of this photo is Roberta. She is lovely and my mother really enjoyed talking to her! Elka is in the foreground, then Dr. Laura (the real Dr. Laura!) and part of Sam. (Sorry Sam!)
Here is Vicki, speaking with Tina in the middle of the photo, and Sam. Again, I was so thrilled to meet everyone in person that I got overstimulated and forgot to actually shoot decent pictures. I was too busy talking, hugging everyone, eating pizza, helping folks learn to use spindles, and sometimes knitting to remember the camera. Oh well. Mel, Jen, Jen, Kerry, Mary, Liz, Pam, Tina, Georgina, Sam, Vicki, Laura, Robyn, Roberta, Elka, Elizabeth, Pam, Caroline and Emmy, I loved seeing all of y'all. Louise from France, it was great running into you at the festival. I'll take a picture of the yard soon--the grass is growing now, finally!
If I left someone out, forgive me. I was dazed by the incredible shawl show and tell, tiredness, and the intoxicating scent of sheep.

Monday, May 01, 2006

New and Exciting!

I've got a new pattern, featuring the photogenic baby Molly, up on Magknits !
Also, my kind web designer brother-in-law has updated my pattern page on my website..Now I look like a real professional... Here's the link:

Thank you to Ben and his company, fourth floor equipment company! I appreciate your hard work. (I know it was hard work because it takes a lot of time to get me all gussied up:)

Last but not least, I got gussied up this past weekend in the new stole for my youngest brother's wedding. Congratulations to the newest Seiff couple! They're all married now and off on the honeymoon.

Whew, that's a lot of gushing..sorry for the lack of pictures. I'm all wiped out from trying to put in all these links.