Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tyranny of a schedule

Schedules.  We all have them.  We use them on a small scale to organize our days, on a larger scale to organize the passing of the year.  Case in point - you know what time you have to get up tomorrow and you know when Christmas will happen.

I think schedules started as a means to avoid anarchy.  They offer some sort of organization for the masses and it provides a framework we can exist within that doesn't require too much thought from us.  I know when I have to get up tomorrow and I know when Christmas will happen.  And I plan my life around both of them.

When life becomes unbearable,  I sometimes think the schedule is the only thing keeping us out of the abyss, it's what gets the laundry done on a weekly basis, and it's what gets dinner on the table.  I have a friend who, when things get tough, sticks to a schedule with a precision that would make a drill sergeant proud.  And sometimes that is exactly what you need.  If there has been shock, or trauma of some sort, the schedule provides a sense of normalcy.

But for garden variety irritations, it sometimes pays to have a good hard look at the schedule to make sure it isn't part of the problem.  For example, I usually leave the house at 7 in the morning to get to work for about 8:30.  That's 1.5 hours each way - 3 hours a day.  I have the luxury of not having a hard and fast start time for my job - so long as I show up before noon, and work my allotted hours, it's all good.  Earlier this week I had to stay home to speak with tradesmen who are doing some work in my house so I left just before 9 instead of 7.  And I got to work at 10.  I worked until just before 6 and was home by 7.

Did you catch that - I spent an hour, a whole hour less in the car just by shifting my start time!  Amazing!  So I now have time in the morning to cruise through my garden, pull a few weeds, fold a load of laundry, prep another one and set the washer to go off later in the day.  I can think about what I'll take out of the freezer for dinner - and go get it instead of sending my son a text and hoping that he'll actually be able to find what I'm looking for.

It also leaves me more time for this.
Baby Surprise Jacket
I succumbed to the hollering from the Louet Gems skein I had and cast on for the Elizabeth Zimmermann Baby Surprise Jacket.  If it wasn't for the fact that this pattern is more than 40 years old, and is recognized as a marvel of engineering, I'd be quite convinced it was the worst sort of knitting joke going.  You see - apparently, I've done the sleeves....

Friday, 25 May 2012

And the list goes on

It's getting so you can hardly hear yourself think around here!  I have a few....ok, more than a few projects on the go and they are all clamoring for my attention.  It's been a busy week and I'm ashamed to say, I'm still recovering from the Victoria Day Weekend Gardening Marathon.  The back of my legs are still tight...after four days, I'm embarrassed enough to submit to public shaming.
But enough about me - here is what's making all the noise around here:
The Ginger Alhambra is moving along - slowly, but it is moving.  I'm really pleased with this, and adore the colour.  I admit, It is a colour that makes me look jaundiced, however the intended recipient can wear this and look like a star.

This is hollering to be a Baby Surprise Jacket.  I have the wool, the pattern and the needles...Sarah's baby isn't due until October, but the fact that I haven't started in order to finish other things surely reveals a depth of character and restraint worthy of canonization.  That being said, Chuck found my wool winder this week (and another 2 cu. ft. box of yarn about which I'm trying to maintain a dignified silence)....I'm weakening.

This has been giving me coy glances across the table every time I sit down with my computer.  Lately, it's been getting bolder and is starting to whisper sweet nothings about how fetching it would be if I were to knit it into a lacy something.  It even lured me here to have a look.

And then there is this.  This has been my darling for the past few weeks.  I have a real love/hate relationship with variegated yarns such as this.  On the one hand, I adore the blend of colours and how each and every project is so unique.  On the other, it's a real job to find a pattern that shows off the spectacular colours to their best advantage.  I tried a few things with this and finally gave up.  Nothing worked.  The colour was always wonderful, but all patterns that I tried were totally obscured.  I wound the yarn back up into a ball and let it sit in the sun with me one day to tell me about what it's dreams were.  In the magical way that only yarn has, it made it's intentions very clear.  It wanted to be a scarf.  A relatively plain scarf that would show off it's colours in all their glory, but have just enough of a pattern to keep me entertained so I would actually complete it.

We're about two months away from London 2012 and I'm thinking about this for the Summer 2012 Knitting Olympics.  Swatching is within the rules, but to swatch I need the wool.....

And lets not forget SeƱor Indigo Montoya...a.k.a. the travel knitting.  The heel is turned, the decreases are complete, it's just the length of the foot and then the toe to be done.  It's a good thing, because this is becoming increasing impatient to be a pair of socks.

I still haven't planted the pumpkin seeds...nor have I gone out to get the plants for the tea garden.  Good thing it's Friday and there is a weekend coming.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Death by Gardening

Ah summer!  For me, as for many others, the Victoria Day long weekend marks the beginning of summer and is the traditional weekend to plant out the more tender vegetables such as tomatoes and beans.  And, like many others, I spent most of it outside, digging in my garden.  This year, we were blessed with absolutely glorious weather - in fact, it was almost too hot.  It was 28C in the shade, no idea what it was in the sun.

So in preparation for this gardening marathon, I went to the garden centre last Tuesday and just about filled the back of my car.  It's a Jeep Liberty - not the biggest, but certainly big enough.

Filled the car
Come the weekend, Chuck and I managed to get the rest of the ground turned and added compost.  Most of the herbs are now planted - culinary is pretty well done, but there is still work to happen on the tea garden.
Culinary Herbs
All the beans (green and those for drying), broccoli (10), tomatoes (cherry (3), beefsteak (2) and Roma (18)), and corn are done.  It's all planted.  
Tomatoes and Broccoli

Garden, looking west
The only thing left is pumpkins, and the only reason that wasn't done is by the time the rest of the plants were in, I was such a wreck that if I bent over one more time, I think I would have fallen and just stayed there.  They'll go in sometime this week.

This weekend was also my sister-in-law's birthday and I gave her the "Almost Ovals" scarf.  I think she was really pleased with it, and I was very happy to give it.  So far Giftstash 2012 is working out well.  The next project is "Alhambra" by Anne Hansen.

My Alhambra
I made this in the winter for me and I liked it so much I'm doing another one.  I found the first time I knit this though, I had a lot of trouble with it - I regularly had the wrong number of stitches on the needle and probably knit it twice, given the amount of ripping I had to do but this time, it's pretty easy and is moving at about twice the pace of the first one I did.  Again, I'm using CashSilk Lace by SweetGeorgia Yarns.  This is a truly decadent blend of 45% cashmere (yes, 45%) and 55% silk.  The colour is 'Ginger'.  This time I know who the recipient will be - and I think it makes it more fun to knit when you know who is going to get it.

Ginger Alhambra

Thursday, 17 May 2012

One Rogue Needle

Yesterday on the way home from work I had to stop and get a few things and while I was at the cash paying for my purchases I had an almighty struggle getting my wallet out of my purse.  I'm not sure how it happened, but my wallet got snarled up with my Indigo Montoya sock a.k.a. my travel knitting.  After a bit of a struggle in which the cashier must have thought there was something clinically wrong with me, I got my wallet out, paid for everything, and went home.

Today at lunchtime, I pulled my Indigo Montoya sock out of my purse and....I was missing a needle.  I emptied my purse of EVERYTHING and it still wasn't there.  I looked in little pockets where I know it can't fit.  I even looked inside my wallet.  Drat, damnation and all kinds of other things I can't repeat here.  To add insult to injury, it wasn't the 'spare' needle that I'm actively knitting with - no of course not.  It was one that was actually holding stitches!  Drat and damnation again.

Now, despite being seriously irked by this, it wasn't the end of the world.  I knit a lot of socks so I have more than one set of 2.75mm dpns.  At last count, I think I had 4, possibly 5 sets, not to mention the smaller 2.5mm set that I have that would certainly do in a pinch.  Nobody would ever notice if I substituted one needle that was .25mm smaller in diameter.  So that's a choice of 20 to 24 needles, (only one of which was really seriously bent so not really usable) so I could very easily find another needle and finish these socks.

But none of the others are HiyaHiya stainless steel needles.  I have aluminum from a variety of manufactures, and at least two sets of bamboo needles but none of them are as nice as these.  And my favourite LYS doesn't carry them.  They were an impulse purchase in Orleans - 110km from my house, and 10km from work.  The second choice alternate yarn shop doesn't carry them either.   The third choice is never open when I'm around.  So.  Either I suck it up and go back to Orleans, or order them online.

On the way home tonight, I had pretty well decided that I was going to have to go back to Orleans.  Again - this isn't the end of the world, but I do really like these needles.  I was also going to have to book my car into the shop - there is a manufacture's recall on a piece of the rear suspension (but honestly - if it hasn't failed in 8 years, I don't think it's going to go tomorrow), I need my brakes looked at and there is this odd little rattle that has started that I only hear when I'm turning.

 I'm pleased to say, I've found the source of the rattle.  And I don't have to go to Orleans.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


The first thing I heard in the car this morning was this:"...it's a nice day to start again."  If you don't recognize it, it's part of the chorus from Billy Idol's "White Wedding".

Normally this wouldn't make much of an impression on me but I've spent the past few months engaged in some self-examination.  I'm trying to know if I'm on the right path, if some of the decisions I've made have been right and if I'm moving in a direction that is going to ultimately be meaningful - both to me and to those around me.

Today I woke up completely and totally sure that I'm doing the right thing.  I'm not going to give the game away just yet, but I have started something new to me and hope to be able to share it with you shortly.  But it involves this:

To put this in perspective, the last time I was this sure of something was when I was about five months pregnant and woke up one morning and just knew that I was carrying a boy.  I can't tell you how I knew, or what changed.  I just knew.  The way I knew my own name.  Other people kept telling me that nothing was certain and it might still be a girl, that there were always surprises.  But you may as well have told me that black was white.  It was a boy and that was that.  I knew.

And I know now.  It's a nice day to start again.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Knits, Garden, Market and Birds

Wow, there are so many things going on, it's hard to know where to start and how to organize it all.  So I'll start with the fun stuff and work my way through the list.

Knitting is moving along at a great pace!  I've finished, washed and blocked another item for Giftstash 2012.  This is a cowl called Greyhaven which was made with an incredibly soft yarn called Road to China.  The yarn is 65% Baby Alpaca, 15% Silk, 10% Camel and 10% Cashmere.  Again, I don't know who the recipient will be but I like it enough I might have trouble giving it away.  

The Indigo Montoya socks are moving along slowly.  I started working the heel flap of the second sock yesterday at Just Knitting in Carleton Place where I sit with a lovely group of ladies on Saturday afternoons to knit and chat.  Since this is the second sock, it'll move along much faster now - the end is in sight and I'll want to wear them. 

The garden is growing and establishing well now.  Beets and a variety of salad greens have been planted.  In fact, the radicchio has sprouted as has the spinach.  It's raining today so I think I'll take advantage of the weather and will plant zucchini and beans.

The 20th annual New Perth Farmer's Market was officially opened yesterday by the Perth Town Crier and filmed by his lovely partner.

I was pleased beyond words to discover that it is truly a local farmer's market.  I've been attending the markets in Ottawa for a while now and while you can't doubt that the vendors are local, you have to question some of the produce (I'm thinking of the guy who sells bananas...).  So this market yesterday had a limited assortment of greens, some rhubarb, eggs, a beef and lamb vendor, jams and jellies,  a few chickens, numerous stalls selling potted plants, and the usual assortment of handmade crafts like pottery, jewelry and wood crafts. 

Exactly what you would expect to find in early May.  Ian and I picked up some spinach, early salad greens, eggs, a pie, some fudge for Chuck (OK - we all shared it), and some wild leeks - some of which I planted so we'll see if they survive.  

And then there is the ongoing bird and chimney situation....We had a guy from a local chimney and fireplace shop come out and look at the chimney, flue and fireplaces to see what we could do, how best to close them off to the birds and what our options were for woodstoves.  I gotta admit, this guy earns his money.  One fireplace is destined to remain purely ornamental.  But in the basement fireplace, he tore down the metal sheet covering the flue, pulled out the insulation that had been stuffed into the flue and some other stuff that I'll politely call "debris" and had a look up the chimney to see if he could see light.  No light.  Not good.  But he commented that there was a lot of hay in the chimney.


Seems starlings are noted among the chimney sweep set for being persistent at trying to build nests in inappropriate places - including chimneys and they start by collecting larger pieces of grass and hay which act as a rough framework and drop them where they want to  nest.  I don't know how long this fireplace has stood idle but with the use of a four foot fish gaff, this is what Chuck took out of the bottom four feet of the flue.

The good news is we can see light.  And it might explain the musty smell in the basement.  

Thursday, 10 May 2012

What Daphne and Alfred Knew

In 1952, Daphne du Maurier wrote a story called "The Birds".

In 1963, Alfred Hitchcock released a movie by the same name.

In 2012, I am becoming increasingly aware of why something as seemingly benign as birds was the subject of both a horror/thriller novelette and movie.  In the book and movie, the people are plagued by seabirds - pretty common in coastal areas.  I am plagued by Starlings - pretty common in eastern Ontario.  

About 10 days ago, I was sitting having coffee with my husband and we could hear a rustling noise.  We have pigeons roosting under the eaves of our porch and I thought it was them so didn't really think any more about it.  A few hours later I had to go into the basement for something.  I opened the door and was immediately set upon by cawing, and flapping and claws and huge gnashing teeth and...OK - maybe not the teeth but you get the idea.  I'm not sure who was more frightened - the bird that was now flapping around my living room being chased by the dog and stalked by the cat all while Chuck tried to throw a blanket over it, or me - a statue at the top of the stairs with a death grip on the doorknob.  I know Chuck managed to get the bird outside quickly but it took me a long time to calm down.

A few days later I needed to go into the basement again.  So I carefully listened at the door, knocked and listened again.  I didn't hear anything.  I took the latch off and opened the door a crack.  Nothing.  No birds.  We're good.  I went downstairs, only to find a bird down there.  Sadly, this one was dead.  Another Starling.

Then again this morning, I was sitting with my dog Jake having a coffee when I suddenly heard a terrible commotion coming from the basement.  There was rustling and chirping and banging around.  I knew it was a bird and was willing to bet it was yet another Starling. So I got smart and decided to use the ingenuity that has put humans at the top of the food chain.  I took Jake, went outside around the house and opened the basement door.  It took about five minutes to flush it out (I know this isn't the kind of bird Jake was breed to deal with but hey - it worked) so now I'm happy and the bird is happy.

Which brings me to this:  How are all these birds getting into my basement?  

Old houses are full of surprises.  In my case, when we bought the house, the chimneys had been blocked off at the bottoms, but weren't sealed or screened at all at the top.  Careful examination of the sheet of metal blocking the basement fireplace shows that one corner has come open and is free of cobwebs.  Seems they're coming down the chimney.  That's three storeys!

We're getting the chimney's capped properly next week.  In the meantime, I'm scrubbing bird doo off the inside of my windows.

But this isn't where this story ends.  After a few weeks away, the Northern Flicker is back.  This is exactly why four and twenty blackbirds were baked in a pie.....

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Magic in a seed

I've been gardening and planting "crops" by seed for several years now and each and every year I look at the seeds that I pour out into my hand and wonder how it is that such a small thing can produce such an amount of food.  I'm thinking of carrots in particular - a tiny wisp of a seed that grows into such a root.  Amazing.

The photo above is turnips.  Nothing too fancy there - just plain ol' turnips.  The curious thing is that even though I know the seed is good, and is going to grow, I still insist on dropping a few seeds in a given location thinking that a few of them aren't going to grow.  Strange - I don't do this with larger bulb type crops such as garlic or onions.  And seed potatoes get chopped up into fairly small pieces to stretch them further.  

I think these few weeks are my favourite of the year.  In the rational part of my brain, I know that if I provide a basic set of conditions, the seed is going to grow.  But watching it happen is still magic beyond words.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Spring Surprise

This spring has been an exciting time here.  We bought this house at the end of the summer and moved in in early October so I had no idea what I would find in the spring.

There is a sad and pathetic forsythia that only had a few flowers on it, and some tulips.  There are also loads of daffodils scattered around the yard.  Some appear to have been planted by people, some look like squirrel plantings - except I've only ever seen one squirrel out here. I found rhubarb growing near the hydro pole and there are a few erratically placed echinacea plants.  And by erratically placed, I mean a clumps of them in the middle of the lawn.

But the real prize was found this morning.  Today, I found fiddleheads growing in the front garden bed as an ornamental plant!  I suppose I could leave them as ornamental plants, but to me its a food crop.
Sadly, there is an issue with the location of these plants right now.  My dog has been peeing on them for six months.  They are now at the top of the transplant list.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Baby Knitting as a Sock Enabler

So I've gone from this

to this

in 4 hours.  The decreasing and little I-cord tab at the top were finished at a friend's house during a dinner party.

Some people are going to read that and say "Wow - you did that in four hours!"

Others will say "What?  You take your knitting to dinner parties?!" (and strike me off the list of potential invitees)

I admit I do take my knitting with me most places - it comes to this friend's house all the time.  In fact, if I don't bring it, I get asked questions and I'm fidgety after dinner.  I take it to work with me as well to work on during lunch and I've been known to take it to seminars as well.

But since this only took me four hours and used only 20% of the skein of wool (Louet Gems in Aqua) I'll be making more.  The best part though, is that because I've moved forward on the baby knitting,  it's enabled me to move forward on this - guilt free.

In other news, potatoes and asparagus were planted on the weekend, the garlic and white onions are up in the garden, the rhubarb has recovered from transplant shock and the chives - which we very carefully dug up from the last house, and transplanted in the fall only to rototill into the garden a few weeks ago, have survived and are growing.