Sunday, May 29, 2005

it was nice while it lasted.

I guess yesterday was summer?

After seeing that Sith movie (makes Spiderman look like well, a thoughtful movie with character development... which it was. Someone should write a script about a filmmaker with everything going for him but the humility to use a script doctor and another director. Seldom have so many watched one for so long spend so much and produce so little. I liked Etna the best.) with Doug and Sarah and Ellie and her boyfriend and SCRAP Matt,

I went out this morning, while everyone around was still asleep, and tried to work on the asparagus trench. I share Norma's feelings about Rototillers and I am secretly frightened of gas engines (other than cars, which I am used to and they don't usually cut off your foot). Also we couldn't persuade Sarah's mom to get her Rototiller fixed and here.

So Sarah asked Paul the contractor to do it with the larger-than-usual Bobcat he's been using to rebulid the drive way, and while he was there I got him to dig me a nice trench. I don't approve of using earth-moving vehicles either, but it was here, and Paul is enough of a gardener, apparently, to know not to caterpillar-tread on the soil he was supposed to be loosening. He cleared Sarah a 10x15 patch and me a fine 6x from-2-to-3 foot deep trench on what Ellie was sure was Opus's dandelion meadow. Opus can go to the seep field across the driveway, where I can't plant food or trees and which is sprouting an impressive crop of wild strawberries and blue-eyed grass .

So I decided my trench needed widening (as well as the removal of some watermelon-sized rocks) and went after it with a mattock . Paul had offered to lend us "The best gardening tool ever," but I showed him that I have three of different sizes and qualities already and he was horrified to find I had more tools of any kind than he did, so I scored. He already calls Sarah, Ellie, and me "the Witches of Henniker," which I think is a compliment, and he gets more upset when I suggest that Ellie wants to be the Crone instead of the Maiden (poor Sarah has to make the tea) and I don't mind. I am the Mother and don't you forget it. ( Nanny Ogg is my hero.)

I got very fond of mattocks in England, digging on my youth in the 70's mostly in Canterbury, where picking and shovelling are a large part of what archaeology is all about (along with machining off the mediaeval, but anyway). We found, as a rule, that women were better at picking and men were better at distance-shovelling and moving the wheelbarrows. Those were good days. None of this toothbrush stuff.

So I got some work done widening the asparagus trench and am wondering how many buckets of kibble-gravel I can steal from the heap outside the lab. How do you lighten soil, anyway? Not peat moss. A lack of compost, locally. Maybe sand?

As I was beginning to dig in earnest, I was being mobbed by blackflies. I went inside to get repellant and it began to thunder, so it will be another few days before the poor suffering asparagus crowns are planted. But after only one day of sun, the radishes and lettuce have sprouted.

In fiber news, SCRAP Matt (he gets the determinative because Matt is Ellie's boyfriend's name, too) tried a wheel for the first time today and is very impressed with the speed of technology, compared to that of the drop spindle. He wishes to weave himself a kilt. He does not wish to knit or crochet or naalbind. He says sooner or later he will buy a fleece and process it. I will send him the sad story of Elsie Cutch .

I have unpicked enough squares to resew them and discover all the 'extra' strips will be useful to bring the center up to 9x10 squares, instead of resting at 8x9. The quilt thinks I should go to town and get it about a yard of nice black to offset the busynesss of the center from the busyness of the gorgeous border, the fabric on which the rest of the quilt is hung. I am telling it to shut up and eat its nice blue. But I have to go into town and buy a lawn mower (see fear of gasoline engines in paragraph above)and Jo-Ann's is right there.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

No, actually I am not quilting right this minute. I am outside planting asparagus. Or azalea. Or strawberries. It's.... SUNNY!!! Kind of hot, actually.
Yesterday my parents dropped by, pulled from the tensions of (not) packing in lovely Boston, where they found an apartment with WINDOWS, a view of things other than large buildings, a good-sized patio, and about half the square footage they had intended. They were up (for them. Down for me) in Salem, NH, buying drugs (well, cheap cigarettes, but 'drugs' sounds so much more respectable). I whined until they drove the extra 40 minutes

and it stopped raining.

We sat on the porch and watched my birdfeeder. Blackflies bit my mother. Not my father, who was wearing darker colors, and not me. Hummingbirds fought. Steve, the Evening Grosbeak (in fact three Steves, possibly one was this Adam people keep fixing him up with?), Roberta and her lovely husband Darryl, the RoseBreasted Grosbeaks, Inigo the bunting, possibly his wife Emmy... all the colorful people. It was good. My mom thinks I need to get out more often.

I taught Katie, the daughter of Paul the contractor, to spin and sent her home with a borrowed Comet and a pile of Romney. Another one down, I hope.

Either Norma or Julia told me how Bloglines worked. Thank you. I think it is good. Until I get more people onto the list, I can't publish my BlogRoll. A new way to diss people you love.

Friday, May 27, 2005


Chirality is the fancy word for handedness. It's important in organic chemistry
(I think it was only one chirality of thalidomide was mutagenic --, in molecules
and also in scissors, for instance, or driving an American car in England (apart from the narrowness of the roads).
We spinners talk about it quite often, when we discuss S-spun and Z-spun yarn.
Some people have 'mixed brain dominance'(notably Charlie Brown, although as Lucy asked, "Have you ruled out stupidity?"). They may be somewhat left-handed, or not, or be ambisinistral (when I dance) and they are much worse than usual at right and left. MUCH worse. Like, I say, "Turn left," to my mother, and she turns --> because she thinks it's left. Since I also think it's that way, we work all right. Most other people end up pointing for us, or shouting "The OTHER left!" or something more expletive.

It's a very mild but very real learning disability, since most people seem to do "Right" and 'Left" as if they were clearer than 'right' and 'wrong,' which we all agree -- well, we don't but we do admit there are circumstances. People act like Right and Left were as real as North but North is the same way whichever person you are on the train, for instance, whether you face toward or away from the engine.

I can do clockwise and counterclockwise all right. I know I write with my right hand, I can't remember what handedness I spin (I mean, cf Too Much Wools's discussion of spinning, how can you tell? Both hands are important). I know I used to be near-sighted in my right eye and far-sighted in my left, which was quite handy.

Chirality is about mirror images. Not having any facility at this, I am bad at relatively simple tasks, like piecing quilts that go
l-l-l-. I have to keep looking and even if I piece two together -l, if I want to put them with another two I have keep checking I have make sure they are not upside down, say. I don't think I can show it in ASCII. "Inside out" I know they are not, because there are seams, and I know two verticals or two horizontals don't touch. And you don't get a star of one color among four blocks. This leaves out most of the wrong ways around, you would think.

Doing a Rail Fence Quilt for me is probably different that it would be for most of you. I am poor Soren K, Fear and Trembling all the way. I remember you have to make the centers of pairs match, and if you can keep certain seams in line with one another you can make quite convincing paths (please don't measure the widths of the individual strips. They vary. Square is an ideal, right? Platonic, practically. And random error is my friend, at least I hope so. We see each other quite often).

Rail Fence, in my world, works best if you make up chunks of blocks, rather than lines, and sew them together. So it seemed quite reasonable to make half of the center lengthwise, and then the other half. Within those 36 blocks, there are nine lines of four rows. I unsewed quite a lot of them because I would find elves had come in the night and put chunks in upside down.

I was sewing the last eight onto the second half and held them against the first half. Perfectly obvious they were upside down, one removes them. Then it slowly dawned on me that each half was perfect. But not the same. Chirality strikes again. I have to unpick ALL THIRTY-BLEEDING-SIX squares, the ones I have spent quite large parts of the last two days sewing together.

not HAPPY.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


It has been raining 17 days out of the last 25 and no real end is in sight. My contractor has given up working on the driveway because it's too muddy. We are glad we got Ellie's garden in before it became too muddy. The grass is going to need something really special if it ever dries out enough to be cut. All this real life nature is wet, and also cold: forties and fifties Fahrenheit (between 4 and 10 Centigrade). We are concerned the birds are going to have trouble getting enough insects to feed their babies, assuming any of them succeed in not drowning as they sit on the nest. The feeder-tree blew over the other night, resulting in a broken feeder and a lot of peeved birds who were clear that this was not the service they expected. But the list of species is insanely colorful, topped, perhaps, by my newest visitor: an Indigo Bunting. He really is this blue. I haven't noticed any females, nor any female Yellow Bellied Sapsucker; but I have more than one pair each of Evening Grosbeaks, Rosebreasted Grosbeaks, and Bluejays. At least a pair of Cardinals and Chipping Sparrows, and a bunch of Red- and White-Breasted Nuthatches, and Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, and MANY pairs of Goldfinches and Pine Siskins. And Chickadees.

In the fiber line, I continue to work on the sweater, the Beatrice socks (car), a pair of Classic Elite Pima-Tencel socks intended for the daughter's birthday (computer and moves to bedroom), and on spinning the English Rosegarden Copper Moth wool. It will surprise none of you to read that I did not get the quilt done in time for the wedding, but it really is coming along.

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I am also essaying the Shawl that Dares Not Speak Its Name Because I have Torn That Sucker Out So Many Times, this time with a "lifeline." When there is a chunk you are sure is right (you can't tell in English, but this is in the Subjunctive of Unreal or Ideal Condition), you run another thread through your stitches and then go on knitting. That way when you, I mean if you, have to pull out the 26 rows of mistakes, you still have the unblemished, innocent part intact if, I mean when, you ever want to try again. Possibly because I had so much practice, the first part of it went swimmingly. One can only hope.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Spoils from NHSheep&Wool

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Big soft yummy batts from Grafton Fibers; 'Penny Candy'-- little multi colored balls from Decadent Fibers; cellophane bags from Copper Moth.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Brain somewhere else

This was the second day in a row my tiny nearly 19-year old baby took me outside and made me work. She thinks there is nothing to do in NH. There is a certain truth to this, which is one reason I like it here, but anyway I asked if she would like a garden of her own and to my pleased surprise, she does. Vegetables, because she cooks seriously. I tried to give her a magic childhood in the suburb where we lived for most of her life, but the closest she and her brother ever got to being interested in the garden was when I would send them out to eat blueberries off the bushes.

This time, she is taking a serious interest, to the point of asking whether I would like her to mattock off some of the turf since it was supposed to be her garden. She made a decent effort; it is not her fault that my misspent adulthood has left me more of a mattock-wielder than she is ever likely to be (though like all mothers, I cherish hope). She shows promise with the shovel. Yesterday we ignored the blackflies and took off about two square meters of turf. There are rocks in New Hampshire. We have a good supply. I expressed mild surprise and she reminded me that they called it something, what was it, beginning with G? Granite State?

Today we forked it over and removed some really fine specimens, some of them about the diameter of two footballs. We broke up the clods. We emptied a bag of composted cow manure over the clay and she raked it in. Then we planted tomatoes, bell and habanero (she's a masochist) peppers, parsley, and eggplant seedlings and lettuce and radish seeds. We watered.

Then I dug the easiest hole in my career; the Fates want that cherry tree there. I was allowed to dig it round, as big as I wanted to, and quite deep, without measuring it, taking it out in 10 cm chunks, or screening the results. When I did hit rocks, I was allowed to pry them out of the side. Not like archaeology at all. Since the house site was essentially bulldozed out of the side of an esker 29 years ago, I don't have to worry about finding anything.

It's supposed to rain on and off for the next NINE days, which might drown the blackflies.

I had hoped I would come up with meaningful remarks about the NH Sheep and Wool Festival if I waited a while, but apparently not. I was actually il for about five days, including that weekend; I still have some allergy going on but not the sore throat or the complete inability to focus I had

Probably one of the nicest moments for me at the NHS&W was when someone was buying 2 oz of Baby Camel and Merino and remarked that I had taught her to spin last year to The Canterbury Shaker Village Wool Day. The ruination got hold of her. This year she is demonstrating her Great Wheel there.

Monday, May 16, 2005


It has been a fine weekend. My house doesn't look much the worse, actually. No brownies arrived to make it perfect, but no net worsening is pretty good.

Thursday night, Doug and I weighed fiber into small bags and manageable quantities. The yak was weird and in sort of silk-cocoon hankerchiefs and I wondered if it would be any good, but it was obvious that the baby Camel and Merino was a new love.

On Friday I went north into Concord and got a haircut and a dress for Kalila's wedding. Then I drove south to Manchester and Doug and I filled up our cars and drove back north to Contoocook/ Hopkinton Fairgrounds and unloaded our cars and put up our tables and put the vile wire cubes together and put small manageable bags of fiber into them, and then I drove back to Concord to find the Harlot RoadShow at the Elegant Ewe. Sometimes I think relatively few people in NH blog, because my dear friends and estimable enablers at the Elegant Ewe had never heard of Stephanie. But they were nice to her and gave us good cheese and wine and juice. After some discussion, Stephanie, Too Much Wool, Now Norma Knits, Moth Heaven, Knitting the Blues,Fiber Arts and Salamanders, and I (you're here) went down the road to the Siam Orchid, via what must pass for Concord's red light district ( a very pleasant not-too-scuzzy adult toy store that Julia, particularly, enjoyed). We discussed the needs of vegetarians and non-vegetarians for alcohol (it is not true that Sarah likes to absorb hers through her skin, though the waitress tried), and several of us discussed former husbands. Or current husbands and children. And the Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland. And we knitted vigorously when our hands were not otherwise full.

Sarah and I staggered home and collapsed. The next morning Cindy appeared out of te in-law apartment and we staggered off to Doug's (he doesn't get a link until he updates his blog) booth, Sand Hill Fibers (named after the street on which he used to live. It allows him to have a snazzy crane on his logo.) Doug is a Louet and an Ashland Bay dealer. He has snookered me into buying in as a Peace of Yarn dealer. He also hosted HandWork Products by Elaine Benfatto, Pat of Roka Farm , who is one of our friends from SCRAP adventures, and Cindy, my former Melrose neighbor (now she lives in Putney and knits and felts belt pouches). I think Doug really likes to enable other peopel in retail. Most of us sold things. None of us actually made money, but the local fiber world agreed with my feelings about the Baby Camel fluff. It is _tasty_. The guanaco, corriedale, and yak are pretty fine as well. I was very impressed with the quality and preparation of Peace of Yarn's products. It was a particular kick to sell some guanaco to Kelly from the Elegant Ewe, who has sold me far too many things including qiviut.

And as always, I was also impressed with Linda Diak's beautiful batts and Copper Moth's lovely roving (their server seems to be down this morning). And a bag of Penny Candy (little multi-colored balls of roving, for felting or rughooking or whatever). As soon as I get the software, pictures will appear.

More soon, must run out into the SUN!!!!!

Friday, May 13, 2005

House = messy

The shed is stable. The house looks a bit like one.

Daughter is making gluten-free coffee cake.
Soon, Daughter leaving for MA. Doug is at work and we go set up at the fairgrounds this afternoon. Cat is standing on the arm of my chair telling me I am unkind. Sarah preparing for Opening Day at Canterbury Shaker Village. Then she and I go party. House will not be cleaning itself unless the brownies kick in.

A swallow flew past on Wednesday. This morning, two male, one female Rose-breasted Grosbeak, pair of Evening Grosbeaks, pair of cardinals, many nuthatches of both varieties, pine siskins, chickadees, blue jays.... and a Cooper's (?) hawk.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Birds, mostly

Was my face red when I realized some of the huge number more of female than male purple finches were actually pine siskins of both genders. I think they are a new life bird for me.

But in a brighter color, the first hummingbird of the year just showed up. They told me they came back around Mothers' Day and they did!

The small storage buildings, all steel and 8x10' -- they take two people more than 8 hours to put up and they have terrible instructions.

oh, my fur and whiskers

The loom room is not going to be ready. Pox. No, really, that's what the floor has. Today I need to tidy, massively. Particularly the apartment, where I plan to put air mattresses, the thick kind with sheets. Needless to say, the outside of the house looks its worst, with sad little shingle-shreds everywhere, and piles of lumber.

I think I am having something like six people overnight this Saturday. I seem to be partying on Friday night with some of the WWWeb's most celebrated divas (divae?). Needless to say, I don't care what I am wearing, but I don't have a thing to knit. Sould I go with the lumpy but satisfactory Sock _2_ of Beatrice? Should I have bought the celery-colored cashmere and silk and made an elegant shawl? like the one i haven't been able to get past the first pattern? Continuing the endless sweater?

Life is too full. I am writing on an iMac, acquired yesterday at the Salem Apple store from Matt, after I had a pleasant Mother's Day experience with my mother, father, daughter, and ex. It is not really alien, but I haven't used its iLife suite yet. So I don't know when I will take the nerve and time to do what needs to be done to post pictures. But I will be taking them. And thank goodness I can edit my garage band recordings now. As if.


Thursday, May 05, 2005


The meeting WAS on Saturday. it started at 9:30 and I must have missed the setters up by about five minutes. They had no signs anywhere on campus, except, I hear, inside an anthro lab. I was bummed (and even more on Sunday morning, when I wasted a corresponding amount of time until finally a human appeared who told me it had been the day before). On Saturday I went and saw the Hitch-hiker's Guide movie. Read the book by all means, and then rent the cheap BBC production. It was much better than the movie, about which the best thing I can say was that it was better than the weather.

Sunday I got home in time to help Doug finish sanding the floor and we varnished a second coat of gloss. It looked really good. On Monday Paul and I steel-wooled it and and yesterday I put what I hoped would be a final coat of satin, or maybe a penultimate coat but one that would not need any sanding or steel-wooling. It has bubbled all to hell and will need serious sanding before any more varnish can be applied. I am having a little trouble retaining my equanimity. (Nor are the wall-bits and window trims done.)

I did spend Tuesday tearing out bittersweet in preparation for planting a couple of deciduous azaleas (and vacuuming the daylights out of the steel-fluff encrusted room).

Yesterday I gave Paul an obscene mount of money so he can do serious earthmoving working on the 0.2 mile long driveway, which has not really been maintained for a long time. Long enough that the drainage dtiches are entirely silted up and the four to six inches of fill in front of the house has slumped to one side. We are hoping he has enough time to make a terrace with the machine on the precipitous slope in front and to take away the badly installed chain link fence from the back yard.

On a cheerier front, Sarah's chicks arrived. They are a dozen Araucanas we hope will be hens.Image hosted by