Friday, August 29, 2008

dog days continue

Sally (on the left) and Harry (on the right) alert me to all the action on the street...except for when they're napping...
Another story: The first week when the university's back in session is always nuts. Just inject 18,000 students, plus employees, into the neighborhood all at once. Make most of them from rural places, not used to more than one stop light. Merge them into a small city. Yup--driving is scary, going out to eat is crowded, and well, you can imagine. This year hasn't been too bad on the late night keg party front so far, but they are doing construction in our neighborhood, so it is still noisy. Oh well.

One afternoon I'm up in my office, minding my own business, speaking to the professor on the phone. (He is barely standing up by the end of the day, so I find out what he'd like for dinner and offer to him like a lifesaving device when he comes home.) I hear my dogs bark an alarm, and then screaming on the street...and I hang up on him, rush outside.

We live on a corner, and we have a picket fence. One neighbor (you might remember her?) walks her very small furry dog alongside our fence in one direction. Another neighbor walks her 100 lb short haired shepherd mix, Blackie, in the other. Both neighbors are older women, at least past sixty and perhaps towards their seventies, active but petite. Neither was looking ahead. The dogs met at the corner, were taken by surprise, and Blackie doesn't like other dogs. Blackie, surprised, apparently attacked the little dog.

When I rushed out, Blackie and his owner were already across the street, looking stunned. Little dog's owner, clutching her dog, was keening and somewhat hysterical. I got her, and her dog, into my car and off to her vet's office, two blocks away. There was some blood, but not a lot. Mostly, I worried over the neighbor...I thought the owner suffered from, as we Southerners say, "nerves." She was--no other way to say it, not quite herself...poorly.

Then I drove down the street to check on Blackie's owner, who was also upset, but more calm. We decided she should check on the little dog and other older woman later. After that visit, she came to tell me the broken rib and some bite marks. Very upsetting for all, but from what I heard, the animal control officer probably felt, like me, that it was an accident all round.

A very good person would have checked on that that little dog's owner but by then, I was all worn out and not that person. Instead, the professor and I took an after dinner walk with our dogs. Our destination just happened to be $1 scoop night at our local ice cream shop. That very same day, I encountered 2 other loose dogs in town...and couldn't catch either.

I often wonder if everywhere is like this (everywhere I live, at least?) or if maybe other folks sometimes miss the screams on the street? Isn't it my obligation as a person to rush out and help? (then, where was everyone else?!) In the meanwhile, believe me, I'm still reading the proofs. I'm speculating about squash. (Vicki, it might be white acorn, but since we've never eaten one, how would it be in the compost?!) I'm propping up one very tired professor... Have a good Labor Day weekend, everybody. Take care.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fay's leftovers

We're getting a lot of rain here; it appears to be Hurricane Fay's leftovers. As a result, a dead tree decided to drop a limb or two yesterday, and it just glanced off of my car. I meant to label the photo "collision" but somehow I wrote "collusion." That was a weird slip! Yes, I think it's a conspiracy...that evil tree did this on the first week of term AND while I'm dealing with the book proofs! The tree needs to be taken down. I was hoping the professor would arrange to deal with it. No such luck. He's completely booked up with a short course with 8 AM lectures (yuck) and a semester-long late afternoon class. (Yes, we hate the department scheduling committee about now.) Oh, and my car isn't too damaged and is now parked on the road. We concluded that if the professor's battered Taurus wasn't also parked on the road that day? It would not just be battered, but beaten. Lucky parking, huh?....our cars do spend a lot of time resting on the street or in the driveway, since I work at home and the professor walks to work.

As for me? I don't really enjoy the detail-y aspects of proofreading. I'm observant, which may be a mixed blessing. I don't enjoy dealing with editing (it often introduces mistakes as it attempts to clarify) and it makes me defensive about what I wrote in the first place. I also find once I start being, umm, nit-picky, I can't stop. It's not a nice part of my personality. I look forward to the end of this proof business...I can say that Fiber Gathering is beginning to look like a real book, and it looks pretty good. :)

I've been distracted by a few positive things. Our new cedar chest arrived. Years ago, before we were married, my professor bought me a "hope chest," a cedar chest that I'd admired. It's handmade by the Graham Family and usually they sell their products at the Carrboro's Farmers Market. Over time, we've admitted that a knitwear designer accumulates woolens. A lot of sweaters...and those sweaters that might fit the professor? Take up 3 times the space of a normal garment. These cedar chests fairly reek of that volatile cedar oil, which dissuades moths. It also reminds, in a comforting way, of my childhood gerbils and guinea pigs, whose bedding included cedar chips, but that's another tale! Since we may well be leaving next spring,(assuming all the Canadian paperwork goes through properly) we decided to honor the good craftsmanship of the first chest, and order a second to match. I'm still learning not to walk into it, since there didn't used to be furniture there, but it's already got a few sweaters and two blankets inside. It'll be full soon!

The garden's squish plants that volunteered are revealing their secrets. It looks like we have one potential butternut squash...the weeds are mostly lemon balm that is taking over my yard in a very fragrant way. The other squash confuses us. It seems to turn darker green as it grows, and it is circular, with ridges. What do you think? Acorn? Kabocha? Pumpkin? How long will these take to mature? Squash gardeners, please advise in the comments...

Last, but not least, you should know that all your comments made this week's beginning (with the 6 AM grouchy professor wake-up) much more bearable. Thanks for all your kind words about my storytelling...and about that little boy. Although I love knitting, lately my hands hurt from all the projects I am working on...and it's not much of a living. Some day, I hope to be able to sell a book or two of essays, a novel or stories. Fiction or non-fiction, I really like writing. It's just hard to sell the stories, so for now, I am fitting it in when I can. Thanks for reading and for giving me an excuse to keep spinning yarns, woolly or otherwise!

Friday, August 22, 2008

lost and found

The UPS man came this morning with my proofs for Fiber Gathering. I won't lie, I'm so excited that I can barely focus on the pages, let alone proofread it! I'm hoping I calm down enough to start reading carefully, but in the meanwhile, a few other things happened this week. Interesting things...stories for you.

I was walking to the library after dinner to return a few books. (I love walking to the library!) I called my best friend, Dr. Anne, to chat. She was coming home from the hospital and discovered a blue jay flopping around in her driveway and on her rural road. It was clearly injured, so she tried to help it. Scooped up (no touching a bird) into a box with a clean towel, it rested while she contacted the Vermont Institute of Natural Science for some advice. Dr. Anne saves lives! We said goodbye. I looked up.

In front of me, a little African boy of about 5 was running up the sidewalk and up the street. His face was tear-streaked. Two white women on the other side of the road ignored him as he raced past cars. A white girl, perhaps 10, was biking nearby, circling and looking worried. I asked her what was happening...she said he was running away, and "He don't speak English. He speak African." I tried to explain that there was no such thing as just "African," but then just focused on the little boy. We have a strong refugee resettlement program in town, but in a place that isn't used to non-English speakers, the transition is rough.

I saw an older sister peek her head around the corner, watching him run. I called out..but no good answer. I watched this little boy race up the hill, two blocks away now. I popped out my phone again, called the professor and said I might be a bit late coming's why. All of a sudden, the little boy turned, blocks away, and looked at me. I stood still. I tried to look kind and calm. Slowly now, slowly, he started coming back in my direction, not running exactly, but a fast trot sort of walk.

He came close to me, and I touched him gently on the back. We walked together towards where I'd seen the sister and the girl on a bike. I tried English...small tilt of the head upwards, but no response. I tried French--just another head tilt from a scared little boy, with more tears, no words. After another two blocks, we came to a family that looked remarkably like his. Two women with African headscarves, two other children. At the street corner, I reached out without thinking and took his hand. His hand fit perfectly in mine, no fight left. We crossed the street.

His family looked so relieved, asking how I'd caught him. They had only a little English, and explained his older sister left and he just took off after her...they asked me about my telephone, and said "police, police?" I smiled and said no. I gestured to my library book, went off to the library. It takes a village, I guess. All I could think of was how that kid trusted me, some strange white woman. We automatically took hands. We crossed the street.

The blue jay hit its head but will probably make it. He's an "inpatient" at the rehabilitation center.

Lastly, there's a short video you might want to see. Rabbi Laszlo Berkowits, my childhood rabbi, is a close family friend who diapered us and fed us, played soccer with us, and taught us about life. Uncle Larry is a Holocaust survivor. He's been interviewed by the Washington Post. Check it out here. Knowledge of the worst might just help us love and protect one another, I think. Be a witness for good.

Have a good weekend! Tell me what you think about all this in the comments while I'm off proofreading, ok? I love hearing what you have to say.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In which she does actually write about knitting...

There are definitely full days in which I work on knitting, designing, and writing about knitting. Yet, I cannot blog about specifics because, well, if I do, I can't sell the design or article elsewhere. By publishing it here, I've used "first rights" to the piece myself. So, on this blog it looks like I never do any knitting! It's all dog, garden, food, spinning, book #1 with no all sounds like blather! It's no wonder that some people think I'm making it up...

Today, I am proud to say that one of my articles has come out online in a great new British online magazine, filled with patterns and interesting articles. Wander over right away to The Inside Loop and check it out!

The photo is one of an endless number of swatches I work on every year. I create these things, I pitch ideas--and sometimes, they even sell. Alas, this one didn't, so I am using it as a bit of eye candy.

I'm pretty busy lately--the professor is going back to school, with loads of early morning meetings. The dogs and I walk him to the university every morning just to be sure he makes it there. At some horrible early hour, an absentminded professor might could get lost! (think 7:30 AM meetings, ugh!)

Ms. Sally the dog is having a little training every day to work on her barking urges. I've realized that if she doesn't spend her time racing from window to window and barking, she might avoid some future injuries. It's been just over a week since her accident; we're making good progress on the better behavior front...every time she starts the neurotic bark chase routine, I have her "come" to me. It's beginning to work. She's high-strung but she's smart.

Finally, there's this book thing. I'm expecting the proofs for Fiber Gathering any day now. I've been told that's when I drop everything to read it carefully to be sure there are no mistakes anywhere-that it's perfect!! I can't wait to see it all--and then go cross eyed with all that proofing. Meanwhile, I'm busy on book #2, which has me designing and writing up a storm. Lord willin' and the crick don't rise, that one will be out in fall 2009.

There's a lot going on behind this curtain over here...please be patient (gosh it's so hard for me!) and you'll see it all, promise. In the meanwhile...don't forget to check out The Inside Loop. Lots of sock patterns there, a couple of cardigans, even some crochet-- just waiting for you to click on over!

Monday, August 18, 2008

our farm makes headlines!

Still knitting, stuck on second sleeve island here when it comes to my latest design, when I got this exciting news! The professor's family farm/vacation home made the news on a big blog. Here's a link to my sister-in-law's post about our family's favorite summer getaway.

Click here to read about the farm!

Whenever I think of running away, I think about moving to the farm. (more photos at that link) I am jealous of Ilana's proximity..she can get there in just about three hours' drive, ours is more like a two day drive! No worries though, we've already got the plane tickets for our October visit. I'm hoping to pick some apples...

Friday, August 15, 2008

plumb tuckered out

You may have noticed a recurring theme here. I keep wishing I could just sit quietly and catch up. Just Rest. This week was no exception. Since part of my writing work is doing a lot of knitting/designing, this lack of time to sit, think and knit has been a real problem. Yesterday I tried to set up shop outside. It seemed ideal weather. I had a big cup of coffee. (a special treat.) I had my computer plugged in and ready. I had the knitting--whoa, actual knitting on a knitting blog--which is a design that has been going way too slowly. It needed a jumpstart.

I even had the all important ceiling fan to keep the mosquitoes from getting too bad. I was ready. Yup. Ready. So, there were some mosquitoes, so I coated myself with bug repellant goop and got right back to things. knitting things. Taking notes. Email. Then the dogs wanted to go in. *Go out. Go in.* Repeat between **. Chase things in the garden (not allowed.) Bark excessively until a neighbor yelled at them. Whoops...but it was 2:30 in the afternoon...a perfectly acceptable time to have a bark session, in our opinion, but...well, after I went to get the shovel to get rid of the dead mouse one of the dogs found? Yeah, it wasn't an ideal set up. Maybe two hours after this experiment started, we were all back inside. I was tired. Oh well.

I've been tagged lately for two lovely honors. One is from June. Here it is:

6 quirky things about myself.

The tag rules are as follows:1. Link to the person who “tagged” you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know your entry is up.

Here are 6 quirky things:

1) I'm extremely sensitive to medicine. Way too sensitive sometimes.
2) Sometimes I have to be practically crawling with boredom to be very creative at my work.
3) I sometimes enjoy anticipating things more than the actual event itself.
4) I get very tired from social events lately. It's like being social is a muscle, and mine's gone flabby.
5) My favorite holiday is Shabbat. (Jewish Sabbath.) It's my official day off. Happens every Friday night to Saturday night, and is truly my favorite time of week. Just wish I lived in a place where I could have a community to enjoy it with me.
6) I am ok with breaking chain letters and's a rule I can break without fear of imprisonment. Therefore, I am not following rules #4-6 right now. Too tired.

OK, second honor--really, it's been a busy week here in cyberspace, and obviously, I am clueless and missed it!
Here is what I am supposed to do:1. Put the logo on your blog
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs
Thank you so much, Where Fiber Meets Mud, for tagging me for this one! If I knew how to stick it in my sidebar, I would. (hints in the comments are welcome...I am feeling sluggish on the technology front too)
OK, here's for the other thing. My best friend has been urging me to "let some things go" so I can feel more caught up in my life. She's right. So, I'm skipping #3. I recommend instead that if you have a blog and either of these meme/tag things interest you? Go right ahead and steal them from me. Go on, I dare ya.
Then, leave me a wee note in the comments so I can read what you have to say. I like reading what you have to say, believe me. It's one of my favorite procrastination techniques when I'm trying to get actual writing done. Oh right, to get on that. It does seem time to break for lunch first, though, right? Looking forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Green River

Thanks for all your sympathy! We are fine here today, if a little's likely going to take me a long time get Sally's panicked screams out of my head, but she is back to normal--except she's avoiding that window near the heating register. That's a good thing.

OK, here's a happy tranquil post instead. I've been pretty busy days overstuffed with cooking for guests, working, and many unexpected social events. (noticed all that longing for the couch and a book?!) The professor had to do some convincing to get me out into the country. He's doing some field work (collecting butterflies and moths to study) on the Green River as part of a grant for the EPA. Every week, he takes his students "out into the field" and they spend all day in the car and on the river. He's found some very pretty sites along the way.

So, when the professor was asked by an email correspondent, a British butterfly enthusiast and his family, whether he would show them a few things on their vacation, he said sure. Then he put me in the car (with my knitting), insisting it would only be a few hours out. We had to leave at 9 in the morning, so I rushed to the farmer's market beforehand, and ended up with 25 lbs of organically grown paste tomatoes...when the tomatoes are ripe for sauce? They're ripe NOW. I left the tomatoes on the counter and off we went.

The weather was perfect. We're having a very odd streak of New England summer in Kentucky. Lower humidity, highs around 85 (29C) and lows around 60(15C). A lot of driving, river wading, and a few stops for barbeque and ice cream made it a special day out. We drove over a trestle bridge, took walks, and enjoyed dappled sunlight.

The British family had a very smart and interesting wife (a foster care nurse and gardening enthusiast) and two little boys, ages 8 and 10. Nothing is more fun than a couple of butterfly nets and some playing in the water. Catching minnows, building "dams" with pebbles were the most important things to do!
The best moment was when we crossed a river ford. The Roachville Ford is not on the map. The road ends at one side of the river, and on the other side, sort of diagonally to the right, it starts up again. You couldn't cross it when the water's too high, and the locals keep it to themselves. The professor stopped at the edge of the river, rushed back to the British family's rental car, and said, "Follow me! You'll be ok. We're driving through the river." ...And the little boys say:
"WOW! Do we need to roll up the windows?!"

Even perfect sunshine, river, and ice cream days out can last too long, and I was tired and grumpy by 5 pm, when we finally got home. Then, I faced those 25 lbs of tomatoes. We didn't even have enough freezer containers for that much sauce! All ended well...16 cups of tomato puree for winter and some "sundried" tomatoes, done in my dehydrator on the back porch...and one very very tired Joanne.

Monday, August 11, 2008

may this never happen to you

I'd been planning to post with photos from my big weekend adventures; I was so busy...but this morning's experience trumps all.

The professor and the dogs were doing their normal morning routines. Sally was chasing something from window to window inside. She runs from one window to the next, barking at bunnies, white pick up trucks, cats, and other dogs who get walked earlier than she does every morning. As it was 6:45, I was still in bed, just about to get up when:

The most ear-piercing, horrible screaming...The professor yells for me. He's on the floor with Sally, her hind leg pinched into one of our large square metal antique heating registers. What's worse is that the entire heavy register has been pulled out of the floor and she's completely attached. She'd jumped on it the wrong way somehow, and her foot is stuck inside of the metal. (note, it's hard to imagine how this could happen, the register is usually safe for barefeet, babies, etc.)

Sally is so scared that she's had every kind of accident on the professor and in the front hall. Harry the dog is desperate to help her. I try to help--but have to get a muzzle because she is so panicked that she's nipping. The screams she makes are agonizing. We try to imagine getting her to the vet while attached to a huge heating register. I get vaseline, and put it around her foot...and somehow, finally, she changes her position...and springs free.

The humans spent a lot of time cleaning up. Sally hides in her crate. Harry hides in my bed--and his paws are covered with, ummm, accident...all over the sheets. Dead silence and nervous exhaustion rule. The vet suggests we coax everyone out on a short walk to make sure the dogs are ok. Sally prances her way through the walk--and doesn't favor her pinched foot, but is hysterically afraid of the area of the house where this happened. The professor says, after a mile, "I think I'm hungry now. Maybe I could actually consider breakfast."

We are now quiet here. No barking. Everyone tries to recuperate and it's only nine in the morning. I will offer more weekend details sometime soon. Please (and this is my prayer for the day), keep every paw (and foot) safe.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Last night, the professor mentioned my reward system at dinner, and I spent the day thinking on it. I am happiest when I have something to look forward to. It could be a trip, a celebration, or even a dinner with friends. I spent much of last week (filled with great visits with family) looking forward to resting after the visits were over. My anticipation is probably at least 50% and possibly 80% of my enjoyment!

As an retrospect, this is probably why I liked letter writing and long distance relationships so much back when I had boyfriends, but that's long ago--and another matter!

random photo captions: Sally loves taking care of her sheep toy, and her health and wellbeing these days is another joy for me.

This morning I went off to have a routine blood test. When I was ill as a kid, my mother made me story books. I got awarded stickers for each blood test or medical procedure I endured. I still don't like them, so I promised myself a trip to the library as a reward. I needed to check out a book or two for article research, but came home with a sack full of cookbooks and DVDs. A mini-celebration of minute blood test bravery...a lot of fun reading about food to follow!

Some of the rewards are surprises--like the lilies that sprung up in my yard out of nowhere, or the volunteer squash and tomatoes. I even have a kale plant that never dies, no matter how many times I eat ALL its leaves! These little unexpected rewards are positive motivators. They keep me hopeful and engaged with the world, even when disheartened by things in the news.

My neighborhood's little lost chihuahua has his own webpage at the shelter now here. (Do you want to adopt a charming chihuahua?) EDIT: This following info is apparently not true--just a rumor of llama fleece-but there isn't any to be had-sorry about that!
My uncle had a great weekend getaway and found a llama farm with a lot of fiber
stashed away in a barn. If you're a spinner near Northhampton, MA and are
willing to check out some unknown quantity of llama fleeces, contact these folks. (link removed.)

In other random good news...I saw the first layout for Fiber Gathering and I'm so excited by it! I think it's beautiful! (as this is my husband's photography and my publisher's layout and graphics, it's ok to boast about this, right?!) Other upcoming excitement: I'm off to hear our governor speak tonight at an open forum, and I hope to see a bit of activism--perhaps we'll get to talk about mountaintop removal mining, which is destroying the eastern part of our state.

On Sunday, the Kentucky Museum Spinners begin meeting again. (Locals, it's from 1-4, y'all come now, y'hear?!) There's a new spinning group forming out at Enchanted yarn and fiber, our new local yarn shop, too. I'm going to see two different friends this week to share a meal or two. Finally, when I'm done posting this blog entry about rewards, I will get up off the back porch, get my dogs to stop digging in the woodpile and come inside, to cool down in the air conditioning. Ahhh...

So, what are you anticipating? Something great coming up to look forward to?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Dog days begin

We've hit the dog days of August. It's a phrase as old as the Greeks, but in my mind, it's synonymous with the hot humid weather of August in the Southern U.S. I was daydreaming and reading at our dining room table this morning when I saw a loose dog racing its way down our street. Our street is busy--I rushed into action. Out the door with a leash, down the steps, across the street and there I was, embracing a chihuahua. A male one, un-neutered,no tags, collar or leash. My husband the professor noticed me, committing adultery there with another dog out there on the street, because before I knew it, he'd met me by the car. He handed me my purse, the keys, some water for the dog. Off I went to our amazing animal shelter for help. They know me there, I am a dog magnet...the lost dogs literally follow me around. The professor and I lost count somewhere around the 20th dog we dropped off. Many, if not all, have been sent home--either with their repentant owners or to new homes. Some of the dogs I've caught have been sent to other places in the USA, where the shelters are not quite so full with the dog overpopulation problem that we have here. Due to my strange power to attract dogs, (what can I say, it's my superpower?) maybe I help cut down on the serious overpopulation we have here. (I hope this dog is neutered before he goes home!)

I took advantage of the sunny weather to shoot some garden photos. First, you may remember that the professor is not a great fan of squash. (or, as it is known around our house...yucky squish.) However, back when my professor put the stinky compost in our garden, he also seemed to put some volunteer plants in! Within days we had two or three squash and tomatoes plants. The professor wanted to pull up the squash but I'm not one to quash volunteerism, and it is food and food is expensive just now. So, may I introduce a squash blossom or two? I've never actually grown squash before, and we have no idea what sort will immerge from these plants. It's like a plant surprise. I am enjoying it. We may be sorry later when they stat to fruit, but for now? I enjoy anticipation.

Our yard is verdant and the flowers get lost out there in the deep green weeds. I now use weeds to offer us privacy from the neighbors. I used to cut it down, but have since discovered that I like it better when I don't know what the neighbors are up to. Here are just a few of the flowers in our deep dense garden. I have no idea what this one is, but it's a volunteer. Can anyone identify this?

Then we have our lilies--again, no idea what kind, but they are so cheery! One of the advantages of living in an older house is appreciating all the plantings that were done before we arrived. We add to them, we nurture what's here as we can--and we enjoy the generations of flowers! We seem to have lost many of our orange tiger lilies this year, maybe from last year's drought?..but the pink ones are coming up stronger than ever.
The hitchhiker seeds are doing their evolutionary best to spread; I shot a photo of what I was wearing after I shot these few photos. The dogs bring them inside on collars and fur for me to pull off every day!

The professor loves heirloom seed varieties and plants with whimsy. This year, he's planted one named "Jack and the Beanstalk." It's a runner bean, just beginning to flower. It may be too hot for it to produce beans but in the meanwhile? We are climbing to the sky. Just a bit farther above the back porch, and away to the sun....(or to get the goose that laid the golden egg?)
I'm off to sit on the couch, drink something cool, knit and maybe read the afternoon away. Yesterday I fed my parents breakfast and they left us as they continued their vacation. Then I put up some food, making 2 quarts of Everlasting slaw (thanks for that recipe, Deb!) and roasting a few pounds of tomatoes into tomato garlic sauce for my freezer. Today, it's the dog days of summer, high time to lounge a bit, eat leftovers and look outside to watch the heat rise off the pavement.
Want to take a guess about my squash and flower varieties? Go for it in the comments!