Saturday, November 25, 2006

and fiber?

I have largely finished the SCRAP database entry, so I have less excuse to avoid my Christmas knitting. This will not stop me, but still.

My mother's thing is sort of a surprise (she chose the yarn. She seemed bemused that I had so many types to choose from...) but complete (pics after Christmas). I took it almost altogether apart at least three times, and now the _very_ simple lacy pattern is correct all the way through.

My daughter's gloves were not intended as a Christmas present, and they were actually finished when I picked her up on Tuesday -- I had a couple of chances to try the fingerlength on her. I hope the angora blend does not pill too much, but in any case they will feel pleasant.

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Just glovely. Thank you, Ann Budd.

So it was the Wool Tour back in October (where the responsiblity for the angora gloves lies, too) and by the end of the day and the reprise of the trip to the Fiber Studio and I was Weak and Not Thinking. My father often says he would like more colorful socks. The Taos by Crystal Palace was very colorful. I bought some.

When common sense returned (as much as it ever does), I realized the Taos was softly spun singles. The tensile strength of a scarf, NOT of size 13 socks. But so beautiful.

So I spun it again (suddenly the worsted was a sockweight) and plied it with itself (suddenly a slightly less jewel-toned bulky). It still feels like a felting disaster waiting to happen (my mother handwashes things that deserve it; I have to trust) but soooo warm and soft - not merino soft, but something with more integrity. Maybe Blue-Faced Leicester.

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From 9 o'clock: the original ball of Taos, the spool of respun singles, the ball of two-ply, the sock in progress.

The only drawback is that it's 38 stitches around, makes up so fast it's dizzying, and my father may not think I have spent enough time on his present (since I like him, a certain amount of slave labor would be okay). I was able to try the initial sock on his foot and then turn the heel ("Clog-length already," my mother said approvingly. I offered a tiny pompom but we decided to go longer) while they were here for Thanksgiving; they won't be a surprise, but we agree that fitting is better than surprising.

I have a request from a dear friend for fingerless gloves for her wife. I don't think bulky will do, but I may have time to finish them before Easter. It's better than shopping.

a quick visit with the chickens.

None of them has attacked my daughter this holiday, which is good. Spike

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Spike, who is probably an Araucana

continues to be the dominant male and a loud jerk, but the incidents of sexual assault seem to be less frequent. Or the hens just don't care anymore.
Faith crows with an inhale on the end the makes him sound like a dying bagpipe, but he's not as aggressive and I like him.

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We get two or three eggs a day, and they are small but beautiful -- bright orange yolks. I can't say they taste much different to me, but others swear they are 'eggier.'
They come in brown, white, and off-white. Doug is fairly sure Buffy and Joyce lay the white ones on the shelf above the bin.

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Buffy is the one in the middle. She is a Game Hen and looks like a velociraptor.

This leaves Ms. Callendar, Dawn, and possibly Auk laying the darker ones. These three do not flock with the others, preferring a quiet life nearer the coop.

We still haven't figured out if Auk, who LOOKS like Cochin China rooster but rarely crows and is sometimes brooding on the eggs, is a hen or not.

We lost Harmony (off-white with brown checks) last month when she flew into something, we believe, and gave herself severe spinal damage. Cordelia, the Polish, whose gender we weren't sure about either, had been avoiding the rest of the flock. She managed not to get shut in with the others that same night and has not been seen since. The crows made a terrible, unusual racket at dawn the next day...

So we are down to seven.

The other day I went to MA to get the daughter. When we arrived home, Doug, as bravely as possible, said that Joyce was missing. She is one of the layers and almost as humanized as Buffy (read that as 'eagerly exploitive.') And Doug loves her neatness. She is something like a Duckwing. We had not expected such attrition. Joyce had definitely been around at 3 pm, when I stopped in at home on the way to MA. Doug said he knew I had stopped in because the dishwasher had been running and there was chicken poop in the entry way, and indeed the living room. I was surprised because I had thought I had shooed them outside again before such disgusting events could occur. As Doug left the room, shaking his headver mortality, I saw:
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Man and hen were reunited and Joyce seemed happy to get back to the coop.

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The happy man and his chicken

Thursday, November 09, 2006

There was an election

No one seems to be mentioning it, but there was an election. It went Democratic beyond my wildest dreams. I know I will soon be disappointed because they aren't far enough left, but right now, I am wandering around feeling exhilarated. It won't Change Everything. But it may help some things, and I am getting old enough that that is pretty damn good.

Meanwhile, I bought One-Skein Wonders and started something for my mother, and realized the yarn for another project was singles and soft and unsuitable. So I spun it tighter and plied it with another skein of itself, also spun tighter, and it is slightly less colorful but much more durable. And I have almost finished my daughter's gloves, thanks to Ann Budd. I had not found any good advice about gloves the last time I looked in my library, and made nearly all of the first glove before finding this. I ripped it back. It was quite glovelike, but I like the one in the pattern better.

This weekend I am going to an archaeology conference, where I plan to use my drop spindle.

Monday, October 30, 2006

How pathetic is this?

For the past couple weeks, I have been dragging the SCRAP database into the early 21st century. Really: I have been entering data from as early as 2001. No wonder that binder was overflowing. When it is doing what I want, I love Access. Things look so tidy. Now I am making personalized timesheets for the seriously hooked lab participants, which I plan to print on different colors every year, so if it ever gets this bad again it'll be easy to sort out. The timesheets have to do with getting Federal funds in return for time donated.

So I am making a fiber-in-my-possession database. I realize I am not the first to do this, but it's a new one on me. Now I HAVE to learn how to embed photographs. I can tell I am going to be carrying the files around like so many fuzzy grandchildren.

It will, unfortunately, make it entirely clear how LAME I am (no offense intended to the halt, of which I am one sometimes), because so very few entries will actually have the last line filled in: Fate. What I did with the stuff. Mostly, what I do is start something, usually a sock, and put it carefully aside until I need the needles, when I rip it back.

Daughter has the nerve to want me to finish her gloves. I am scared enough I plan to leave all the fingers unfinished, until I can put her petite digits in them. Finishing will give me something to do on Thanksgiving Day.

I am also at the -you-must-pay-attention point (narrowing the fronts and backs) of the generic vest, doing a very delightful garter-stitch shawl, perfect for the car when I can get someone else to drive. Maybe it's time to make Christmas presents. Maybe people will be lucky to get gift certificates...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Winter's coming on

The leaves that remain, mostly oaks, are becoming less brilliant every day. It is getting seriously cold. I have about 30 lbs of bulbs in my front room. I may have waited too long.

Asterix has suggested that he would be feeling EVEN better if I were to buy a small container of heavy cream and give him some of that instead of milk. Since he does not projectile v. from cream. He's doing fine, bless him. For however long.

Two eggs appeared in the henhouse yesterday, the first. Chickens hatched in mid April. Doug still thinks Cordelia is a hen and thinks they are hers. I notice changes in Buffy's and Joyce's combs and think some serious hormones are happening there. Whatever. I would be grateful if Doug would not refer to the eggs as 'our first lay.'

The saddest remark about my character is that for devious reasons I undertook to make a massive database of SCRAP volunteers and I am finding playing with Access on my own time really, really interesting.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

If you hate party politics, skip this liberal attack

From a friend's blog:
Want an extra vote?
I can't give you that, but I can give you an opportunity to affect the upcoming election. How? By spreading links to informative uncomplimentary articles about Republican candidates. The idea is that voters doing Google research will be more likely to encounter these articles. The more people play, the better it works. The more prominent your web site, the more such links on it will help. This idea had its start on DailyKos.

You can play too. Go to this link, copy the text you see there and put it in your blog

If your blood pressure is low, try reading a few of the articles

-AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

--AZ-01: Rick Renzi

--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

--CA-04: John Doolittle

--CA-11: Richard Pombo

--CA-50: Brian Bilbray

--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

--CO-05: Doug Lamborn

--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell

--CT-04: Christopher Shays

--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan

--FL-16: Joe Negron

--FL-22: Clay Shaw

--ID-01: Bill Sali

--IL-06: Peter Roskam

--IL-10: Mark Kirk

--IL-14: Dennis Hastert

--IN-02: Chris Chocola

--IN-08: John Hostettler

--IA-01: Mike Whalen

--KS-02: Jim Ryun

--KY-03: Anne Northup

--KY-04: Geoff Davis

--MD-Sen: Michael Steele

--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

--MN-06: Michele Bachmann

--MO-Sen: Jim Talent

--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

--NV-03: Jon Porter

--NH-02: Charlie Bass

--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

--NM-01: Heather Wilson

--NY-03: Peter King

--NY-20: John Sweeney

--NY-26: Tom Reynolds

--NY-29: Randy Kuhl

--NC-08: Robin Hayes

--NC-11: Charles Taylor

--OH-01: Steve Chabot

--OH-02: Jean Schmidt

--OH-15: Deborah Pryce

--OH-18: Joy Padgett

--PA-04: Melissa Hart

--PA-07: Curt Weldon

--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

--PA-10: Don Sherwood

--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

--TN-Sen: Bob Corker

--VA-Sen: George Allen

--VA-10: Frank Wolf

--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

--WA-08: Dave Reichert

Monday, October 23, 2006

I regretted missing the people

but not Rhinebeck itself. I still have an awful lot of stash. I still have an awful lot of projects. I haven't been home all weekend for about a month and a half, and it isn't getting better any sooner. Which means that my desk is still glaciated, and I still have an appalling weight of daffodil bulbs to plant, but I caught up with the laundry.

On Saturday we had the autumn meeting of the NH Archaeological Society, with about 50 people in attendance. I knew probably over half of them by sight, and apart from starting repellantly early in the morning, it was a pretty good time. I should get some kind of recognition for two board meetings in three days, right? But at least the NHAS has slides (some of them even of rocks!) and not enough took place that I needed to take notes.

Sunday I ought to have been planting bulbs but Doug and I tidied and I have had so little time at home that it was almost as pleasant as it was necessary. One of our friends had relatives visiting and we had lunch with them at the local Nice Restaurant. I wish I were sleeping better, but life could be a lot worse.

Asterix continues to be alive and vigorous. And obnoxious.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Schroedinger's cat

Yesterday, for the first EVER, Asterix did not wake up and plague me through breakfast. He was breathing but deeply asleep. I spent the workday bursting into sobs.

Many years ago now, a dear, previous cat named Pangur Ban came down with pneumonia and fell asleep in a tight doughnut on a garden path. Even though I knew she had a slow cancer, I woke her up and took her to the vet. She got antibiotics and recovered completely -- from the pneumonia. We had just moved to a suburban house, with a big yard and prey, and I hope she did enjoy it. Her death maybe 18? months later was long and nasty and ended in a vet's office. I do not wake sleeping cats over seventeen years old who have been losing weight slowly but steadily.

He was fine and mouthy when I got home and has already plagued me this morning. Ain't love a bitch?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Octoberfest '06

For more than you probably want to know about my dig last weekend in the Mt Washington Valley, go to

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

the wages of enabling

SO Doug and I spun at the Canterbury Shaker Village WOol Day, and I was spotted by one of the women who works down the hall from me. The next week she came in and asked if I knew anything about angora rabbits. A lot, I said. Within a few days I was scouting for rabbits on her behalf and last week, when I was particularly exasperated with my job, I took one of the Diak spindles down the hall and a some of Mary Pratt's Romney and taught her to spin. Poor Jean.

So today I went to pick up the red-eyed white rabbit I had met on the Wool Tour and the Spinning Bunny lady mentioned that Doug (who bought a spindle from on the Wool Tour) would want to know she had a new shipment of Forrester spindles in hand. Including ones with pyrography.

A better person would have started her Christmas shopping.

It's really beautiful and Doug already has two Forresters, anyway. Now I have one.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Wool Tour. Friends from Massachusetts, ripe for enabling. The first clear three-day weekend we have had ALL YEAR. A tidy fiber room, meaning I have a reasonable idea what I have in the fiber holdings.
We went to the Fiber Studio. The Daughter who points out accurately that she has enough stuff allowed her bestial nature to get the upper hand for just long enough to allow me to get her one small skein of Raspberry Mocha pastel, part-angora hand-dyed (fingerless gloves, I have the cuffs done already). And that was all I bought. See my restraint?

Then we went to lunch, which was delightful and took far too long because there were not enough waitresses. This left not enough time to go to more than one more site (of five) on the Wool Tour; we went to the Wool Room, so we could see our friends from the Elegant Ewe (two patterns is not very much) as well as check out Mrs. Hennessy's health. She runs the Wool Room and has been recovering from a stroke. She's doing very well, her daughter says, she certainly seemed in good shape. I found a couple of books. And some other small things, very. I got Sarah a Christmas present, which is perfect for her, perfect, and I will just say I think she will like it, but I won't tell her what is it, hey Sarah, I know something YOU don't know... anyway, at least one person will get one thing she'll like.

Then we went to Chauncey Farm, where I got Sarah the blue-shot-with-orange roving from Brimstone Hollow Farm, as she had bought one bump back on Canterbury Shaker Village Wool Day and one was not enough.

And then we went back to the Fiber Studio where I bought 4 oz of melted frozen raspberry roving and two more books... I have been wanting the Baby Bootee book for years, despite the dearth of babies in the immediate future, and the Harlot made me get the weaving book... I think it was the Harlot...well, there was still room on the bookshelves.

I hope to visit the alpacas of Mirage Farm on the way back to taking Daughter home to college this afternoon. Isn't she home now, you ask? Yes, but she explains rather sadly that Home is where you aren't, at the moment.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I have a kind of life-ADHD. It's inherited, and I found it irritating in my parents and I know my daughter finds it irritating in me. I am still about the goldfinches, and still about the fiber, and for that matter the gardening and the cats and the digging.

Right at the moment, however, I seem to be mostly about the brewing. The generations on either side of me worry that I will become alcoholic. I don't think so, and I pay attention (although I notice I've had have an empty tequila bottle next to my bed for the past month and an empty prescription container on the floor, giving me a pleasing Hunter Thompson ambience).

Although the kit wine I made was generally pretty decent (as long as I bottled it in a reasonable time,and bearing in mind that I have tried to keep my palate from becoming refined/expensive), and although I actually drink more wine, I love making beer.

It smells good. You get to make potions. You get to use yeast, which makes it more about symbiosis than cooking usually is (I used to be a a kickass breadbaker, but the gluten intolerance put an end to it. Also makes the beer somewhat problematic, though I get no detectable reaction to the dilute, chopped around proteins that survive in malted barley tea.). You get to have airlocks, kind of auditory LavaLamps that say 'Bloop' when you walk past.

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Sometimes it's _really_ glad to see you...

It smells good, and it does bona fide amazing transformations over the brewing, fermenting, and bottling periods. The ingredients are not too expensive, and they have wonderful names like Maris Otter.The hardware is not too bad after the initial ~$60 investment, though there are a satisfying number of nifty gadgets to continue bleeding off unwanted cash.

I suspect some of my enjoyment in brewing plays off the same delight I find in using millenia-old technology to prproduce clothing, though the use of hops is pretty damn recent -- after the introduction of knitting to the West, barely becoming widespread before the European discovery of the New World (in other words, post-mediaeval crap). On the other hand, I haven't had much success with non-hop bittering, despite the earnest condemnations of Stephen Buhner.

My first forays into mead, the other ancient brew, were disappointing; though they smelled like honey/heaven, they tasted like a moderately dry white wine. It is quite easy and much faster to just buy a bottle of white wine, assuming you want to waste your money not buying red (this summer was the first time I really regularly appreciated the lightness of white wine on a hot evening). But then I tried some of the herb-infused meads, metheglins, which is a cool enough word to be almost worth the trouble right there. The problem with meads in general is that they take much longer to mature than beer or kit wine or even fruit wine (this is the book that started me off. Blame the SCA). Eighteen months is the minimum, and I have not been as good about recording recipes as I should be. I can't remember how much nettle and sage went into the tea after a couple of years. My more recent efforts have better records, partly thanks to Doug who has been very kind about about trying to get the details nailed down, like labels and mopping the floor. And my mead recipes tend to be in one-gallons, which seem hardly worth the trouble when after 18 months you end up with maybe ten 12-oz bottles.

Fortunately one of those bottles is enough to dispatch two adults.

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This is the current lineup in the engine room, from left to right: Try to Remember September Ale, with pumpkin, a touch of saffron and honey, ready maybe in a month; Persephone's Lament pomegranate melomel (all fruit meads are technically melomels), appearing March 2008?; multi-berry Barkshack Gingermead, ready about the same time or maybe later; Shaker Peach Wine (the peaches are from Shaker Village, though the Shakers did not imbibe socially), ready next July or so; Blueberry Melomel, about 18 months if it ever settles down; Sweetfern Metheglin, another couple of years, and 2 jugs of Dandelion Wine, due for consumption in March of 2007, practically next week and I hope it loses the edge it had the last time we racked it.

When I go to the recycling center, I drop off some beer bottles (with screw-off tops; they would need special caps) and pick up others. God bless Sam Adams; if they ever go to unscrew caps, I will have to consider buying my beer bottles empty. The sad thing is that I like brewing better than drinking and I have largely non-drinking relatives. I can't sell it and there's a limit to what the basement will hold.

Monday, September 25, 2006

I am wondering whether Blogger always loses drafts nowadays. It certainly seems to be a bad bet.

Saturday, when it rained, I spun at the Canterbury Shaker Village. It is never a big event, but there is a certain gentle interest in being the first spinners some of the visitors have ever seen. There are other visitors with much more experience, like the mother of one 18-month old and almost another (due in Dec), have spun, and woven and crocheted but haven't touched any of it since the 18-month old was born -- she hadn't ever tried a double-treadle and wasn't sure she and the baby-to-come would fit behind a Joy (they did, and she really enjoyed the double treadle). And there was the 60ish woman who had gone to farm for a sheep shearing and spinning demo fifty years earlier and never forgotten. I suggested that all of them come to the NH Sheep and Wool next spring.

Since there were very few vendors you would think I could have behaved. But the woman I taught to use a spindle at the CSV Wool Day two years ago (now demo-ing on a Great Wheel and a Joy) showed me a really soft sheepskin she had bought. I was cold and damp and now own a really rich-feeling brown sheepskin. It would go well on my car seat or my computer chair but I think I am going to make a Barbarian Vest. I have been reading a lot about the need for the invention of tailored garments (read: needles, cutting, and shaping) as modern humans suddenly developed the use of symbols (or at least started using them in a way that shows up in the archaeological record) and were able to move into colder climates (and push out the Neanderthals, who didn't seem to have used needles, at least not in Eastern Europe, at least not in the unbelievably dull book I was trying to read). Any ancient person would plotz at the feel of my sheepskin, with its supple hide and long, clean fleece. I will be using plastic sinew for sewing but I want to try some kind of appropriate technology to color the skin. Anyone know anything about how corrosive iron oxide might be?

In other fields, specifically the teardrop-shaped hummingbird garden, Doug and I got a bunch of Home Depot bulbs planted. I am delighted, because the huge order from White Flower Farm has been shipped and my back will be to the wall between now and serious winter to get them planted. Yesterday's weather was unusually unpleasant, being cold AND sweaty. After bulbs and the traditional weekend trip to the dump/recycling center, I racked the peach wine (very tasty), the dandelion wine (something of an edge on it), and the sweetfern mead (spectacular and lethal), bottled the honey/ginger beer, bottled another recently rediscoved 2004 mead, and reeling around the kitchen, brewed BarkShack Gingermead with frozen berries and canned sweet cherry juice. Mead is quite a vindictive little drink.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A couple of updates

The wine I bottled last month has improved a great deal. It's still isn't exactly amazing, but it's drinkable and I won't have to make 5 gallons of mulled wine or learn to culture vinegar.

In the Goldfinch section (see title of blog), we seem to have said farewell to the humminbirds for the year. None has been seen since Labor Day, the same time as they left last year. They were a week early this spring, and they seem to have been successful in raising young, as there were a lot more hummingbirds fighting in late August than there had been in mid-July. The downy woodpeckers, the goldfinches, and the various sparrows seem to have done all right, too.

As to the Fiber, I am knitting a little, occasionally. It may have been the weather (oppressively humid at times) or I may just not be as obsessive as I should be if I am ever to finish anything. Unfortunately I don't think any of my relatives would rather have a bottle of home-brewed whatever than a pair of socks. I was able to present my ex with a home-grown canteloupe

This week

I almost need a 12-step group; I am almost reading too much. Robin Hobb, as I should have known from her association with Steven Brust is very good. Simon Green is not good, exactly, but it's certainly amusing. Much darker than Terry Pratchett and the philosophy is thin, if any.

Apart from giving all of my hard-earned to Borders, I have been trying to get my place of work's database up to date. Sometimes I get to weed my garden, which is important, because I have way too many bulbs coming in the mail. I have just a few that I bought from the impressive selection at Home Depot; I had hoped to plant them yesterday, but I was seduced by the filthy kitchen. This only makes sense if I explain that I HAD to make the kitchen habitable by humans to make it safe for brewer's yeast. I started a batch of blueberry mead (canned blueberries; I should get to taste this in about two years) and a ginger-enhanced beer (I should get to taste this in about a month). I found out that what I had always though was a 6-gallon carboy was a 5-gallon carboy the empirical way (I drew off a gallon and put it in a jug with a dash of yeast and an airlock... it's doing FINE. The two will be reunited once they calm down a bit).

There seems to be some kind of relatively pleasant curse on me in that I rarely have a whole weekend to avoid cleaning my room or weeding the gardens. Saturday mornig Doug and I went for a walk and then it was time to go to Mass. for my ex-husband's birthday dinner. Next Sunday I am going to Mass. for a send-off to college of someone I have known since he was 18 months old, maybe less. I think there may be a couple weekends before the poultry show and then it will be OctoberFest and then the NH Archaeology Society Fall Meeting (I skipped out on the spring one) and then it will be November.

I have not been very sociable and I owe people I care about some responses to their e-mails. I intend to do better.


This morning I had to put on pajamas. I suppose I was cold most of the night, but it is my God-given right as a resident of New Hampshire to sleep with the windows open so I can hear the frogs/crickets/occasional owl/coyote, to wear nothing to bed and to complain about about the heat --

Oh. It's September?

If it were three months later, it would be my God-given right to wear sweaters all the time, up to three pairs of socks, and generally justify the Knitting Way of Life. This would continue into early May.

I have trouble with transitions.

I was going to talk about the Hopkinton Fair. We went in search of other chickens. There were, most of them silkies, a breed we are told was described by Marco Polo as a "fowl with fur." I was happy to see some outside of a book, and if the nine chickens we have were not already polluting the deck and chasing the cats I would have been tempted to buy one of those for sale. (As it is, no.) There were a few other breeds, enough to suggest that our chicken Joyce is a Duckwing, and Auk, our big black Cochin China hen... is a male. Making four out of nine, with Cordelia, Faith, and Spike (in ascending order of dominance).

(As to what we will do with four roosters: so far only Cordelia, the Polish with the silly haircut, is suffering from much bullying. He has a bald spot. I have heard stories about other breeds killing Polishes because they are gentle and philosophical. We hope not, but I am worried about the winter. Faith is missing some neck feathers and Auk has been the odd bird out since he was a chick; none of the others interacts with him much. Only Spike crows, and usually only about after we let them out of the coop. The hens still don't seem to be interested in sex, to Spike's apparent disappointment. No eggs yet.)

The fair: there weren't enough chickens. I doubt that the rabbit, sheep, or goat fancier would have been impressed with the numbers of those animals. There were some very lovely cattle

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hostingand a few pulling horses. There were some unremarkable vegetables, except for the pumpkins

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which were pretty good. I am told there were a lot of rides, and I noticed there was an great assortment of food (though not nearly enough things on sticks). I had a felafel plate and some excellent French fries, and I hope to see the barbecue first next time.

What really surpised me, given the way I behave at fiber fests, was that there was nothing I wanted to buy. There was only one pitch-man (car wax) even trying to persuade me to be interested; three different sets of Bible-based Christians (which, if you want to get theological, is dubious; wouldn't they be Biblians?) offering salvation. There was no pie contest, no handiwork contests, no homebrewing contest, no home-made jams or canned vegetable or pie contests.

So we are going to a poultry fanciers gathering in October.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Internet ate my homework

I had a lovely entry covering the past week or so. I was going to put the pictures in this morning, so after I fixed the typoes I hit "Save as Draft,' and wasn't I cross this morning to find it was gone. Never trust that command again. again.

It went something like this:

When Doug made me make a batch of dandelion wine in May, he blew some very cold embers back to life. When I moved here in 2004 I had a carboy of red wine and about six gallons of mead aging. They have been living in the the back room where the refrigerator and washer and dryer are. Sometimes I would add water to the airlocks, but it was too much trouble to do more. The first batch of mead, when I tasted it a year or more ago was very, very alcoholic and uninteresting otherwise.

I bottled the wine in August; it tasted fairly sour and awful, but whatEVER, it was out of the engine room. I picked up a beer kit and made it and even got that bottled, and it was fun. And Doug thoughtfully washed the floor as the malt made our feet stick.

So then Sarah gave us a huge load of cosmetically blemished organically-grown peaches and told me to go make wine out of them, so I did. Since then I have been rereading all my Charlie Papazian books and I decided that the next thing to do to excel as a brewer would be to take care of the zombie brews in the engine room.

This meant I had to face the mouse-infested boxes of brewgear in the basement, which turned out to be even worse than I expected. At least four mice had thought it was a good idea to squeeze into upright (and once sterile) empty wine bottles and die. I chose to recycle the bottles at the dump, rather than at home. Possibly I should have attempted to make it a feature, like the worm is the mescal bottles. But no.

Friday night I bottled three gallons of three different batches of mead, only one with any trace of a recipe, though all were labelled "Feb 7." 2003? 2004? The first batch on Friday was similar, but the second and third batches gave me some glimpse of why people thought it was worth the trouble.

On Saturday we went to the state fair, about which I will say more tomorrow. Sunday I spent cursing the rain and trying to make labels, cursing Apple, Avery, AppleWorks, and when I finally switched to a Windows machine, Word. Finally I gave up and we bottled the final, three gallon batch, which was based on a fancy herb tea, honey, and apple cider. It is quite tasty, a little sweet, but there was about 11.5 ozz that were all cloudy from being at the bottom of the carboy, so DOug and I drank them and that was all for the evening. About a wineglass -- a small wineglass-- apiece and we were totalled.

I am looking forward to making another batch. The book I use is big on long aging for meads. If the world order is going to collapse in 2012, I should be brewing for it now.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I haven't posted lately (well, you know that). I am not depressed, I don't think, but it almost feels like that. It could be the change in the seasons; though it's three weeks before the calendar says Autumn, it's been noticeably cooler and now it's also dark by 6ish pm.

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The frogs are doing fine in their puddle.

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Buffy, like the rst of the chickens, is all grown up (and pictures of them will follow). Spike is definitely a rooster, as are Faith and Cordelia, but only Spike is crowing, which he does in classic style.

I sit and have tea in the garden and the chickens come and beg for sunflower-seed handouts. This evening there was a fine atmospheric effect:
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Work is moderately dull, which means I am only getting slightly behind. The other day I went to my boss. "You know how you proofed that e-mail where I said the meeting was September 21, and you said it was October, and would rewrite it?"
"Yes," he said.
"Well, it wasn't October 21, either. It's October 19th. I'll send another one."
So I did, and went down the hall to ask the other woman in the other office if you need more than two people for something to be a cluster f*ck. We both rather thought it did.

So then the treasurer of the Bible Society came in and signed the checks and zoomed out again, and it wasn't until the treasurer for the Council of Churches (remember, they share office and staff (Me and boss) between them) came that we found the Bible Society treasurer had in fact signed the Council of Church's checks.

Other than things like that, I make database and write letters. Could be worse.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A shadow of my former self

The daughter is moved back into her dorm. As is the non-daughter of the same name, only she has no room key, so we could not take her stuff up to the third floor. Alas.
I estimate that I made between 15 and eighteen trips up and down the precipitous steps with the drizzle and the moss from the truck to the apartment.
And the truck, ah yes. When I moved them into the apt I drove Doug's car (slightly larger than mine) something like six and a half times back and forth from NoHo to Amherst; this time I drove only a couple of times. The truck was a 17-foot U-Haul and had no pickup, such that I had to floor it before it would edge away from the stoplight. I was terrified I would suddenly accelerate and take out two or three passenger cars. The only time there was any danger of that was when I was backing. I try not to back. It took me 25 minutes to get out of the driveway of the apt because the ditzes downstairs didn't realize when I asked them to move their cars, I meant OUT of the way. They thought five feet was out of the way. I should have squashed them. And it was a very noisy diesel, such that all three gears sounded like the engine was about to explode.

I have been supported through this by Grace and Dahlia, absolute bricks whom the daughter cannot understand why they speak to us. Dahlia went and got Daughter a rug because she wanted an excuse to go shopping (rug had mildewed in storage considerably). Daughter has not done badly herself, and is responsible for the failure to explode of the gas station where I refilled the tank. And she and the non-daughter worked themselves into the ground moving stuff. Good character was shown by all. I am shot to hell and will return to my home in the morning, going straight to work.

But the female chick is moved back to the correct incubator. I hope the male chick has a gentle reentry to academic life.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Well, I have been home for almost two weeks. First there was the back to the Real World lethargy, and the need to sleep all the time; then the visit from Lisa F (she is in good form and still RC) that involved LESS sleep and MORE wine than digging; the very nice birthday dinner last Saturday, mine; I have made a half-century and I only feel like it sometimes, go me; the juried crafts fair full of ceramic goodness on Sunday; and the computer hijinks. My iMac/Firefox has decided it can't read pictures at Yahoo, Amazon, or Blogger (at least not my Blogger) Works okay on the blogs of others, I think. This did not speed up my posting the rest of the dig, which I finally have, at (q. you should v.). Or setting up the photogallery at YahooPhotos.

At work, my boss installed XP Pro on my machine (formerly XP Home, but we wanted More). this has not been a smooth transition. Ha very ha.

I will try to be around more. Knitting an uninspired sock. Two skeins. Different Dyelots. And one has three cables across the instep and one has five. I have been BUSY, you know. I must have been. The house is a mess.

Friday, July 28, 2006

On the road again!

So after a week of a larger bed, the loving attentions of my cats and chickens, and two days of Access training classes, I am back to the North country later this afternoon. They have been finding things since I was there; apparently they finally got close enough to the hotspot.

If you haven't visited the dig blog at, I hope you will.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Home again, for awhile

I am back from my two weeks at field school. There are pictures and a diary on the New Hampshire Underground blog. I am still groggy and itch from the blackfly bites, but I had a wonderful time. The chickens have grown; Doug has spent time getting more of them to accept affection and being picked up. Asterix,delighted to have me home brought me a large, dead vole in the wee hours of this morning... I hope I stop waking up before dawn soon.

More as I come back in real-life focus.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


I love going places, but I hate leaving home. I want to pack _everything_. So I try to avoid packing anything. It's humid. My car is hideous. We are going to meet Dawn at the lab in two hours. As usual I cannot find my plumb bob. I will probably be home next weekend. Or I might stay up there. In any case, two (of two) waterlilies are blooming it looks like tomorrow. Otherwise, it looks like everything will keep. Doug is feeding the cats and the chickens and watering everything, since it seems to have stopped raining for who knows how long?

I will try to keep in touch, but if I don't, look at the weather in far Northern New Hampshire and hope for not too much rain and not too high temperatures.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Only natural

There is very little point to this entry, I warn you, except that I love my house (not that it wouldn't be nicer with $50K massaged into the kitchen with a toothbrush and boiled linseed oil).

Nature. Not a pretty thing, but it has its moments. On the Fourth, Doug and I found two sets of moose tracks in the driveway. Great big ones like a sandwich plate (a saucer at least) and little demitasse-saucer sized. Moose and mosling. We never see them but they're here, like Fair Folk.

Yesterday I surprised a hen turkey and about seven little tiny chicks in the same part of the driveway. They proceeded into the brush with dignity.

The chickens now come and check out the courtyard garden as soon as Doug lets them out in the morning, and if you come home from work and sit there and say "Hey chickens," very softly, Auk and Buffy and Spike and Faith rush up and ask to be given sunflower seeds out of your hand, followed more discreetly by the others. Today I grabbed Spike and put her on my lap. "Help, murder! " she screeched. "Oh. Food." And ate out of my hand.
A couple days ago Asterix got so jealous he tried to eat sunflower seeds, but they just weren't his thing. He's still jealous. Today, as I had Spike on my lap, Buffy (who also gets jealous; chickens do have expressions) fluttered onto my lap to crowd Spike. And then Joyce got crazy and flew up onto my lap, too, only there wasn't room, so she veered onto the firepit and knocked over the can of sunflower seeds. A very popular move.

I love the chickens. I also love the baby greenfrogs, about the size to sit on a fifty-cent piece (a little bigger than a dollar coin for you youths out there). There are four or five or six living in the courtyard Rubbermaid pond, and maybe thirty in the back puddle. Only there's one less than there used to be somewhere, because Cordelia was playing with a stiff little froggy corpse and eventually ate it. I guess you gotta be fast. And I guess it's good the frogs lay a lot of eggs.

Rather faint from horror after this, I went and sat in the hottub as it got darker. The hummingbird is usually around sitting on the TV antenna of an evening. No hummingbird. I did see many bright yellow goldfinches, the redwings from across the road, the rosebreasted grosbeak couple, the purple finches, the song sparrows -- and I would HEAR the hummingbird, but he wasn't in any of his usual spots. I heard him pass seven times and glimpsed him drinking from the feeder once. I found out that since there were canaille like the damn huge sparrows on his aerial, he was sitting on the porch swing about eight feet away, watching me. He was very calm about the whole thing, actually as hunkered down and relaxed as I have ever seen him, occasionally streching his wings or going for a quick trip around the house. We watched each other comfortably till the finches and the sparrows left and the cardinal couple flew in, and then the aerial was empty and the hummingbird could go sit there, as was only proper.

Monday, July 03, 2006


I think of the chickens as being quite grown up now, though Doug and Sarah assure me that they will get even taller. They live in the former toolshed at the bottom of the slope, on top of which the courtyard garden sits, so one can have tea and a pleasing chicken vista.

The other day I fed them and then staggered up the hill to the bench (I have a head cold and staggering was about all I could do last weekend). Asterix had followed me to the chicken shed and slowly followed me up the hill. The chickens had been watching him with interest -- they like to chase Mena -- and they followed him, clucking about it, up the hill. He gave them a Look and slinked under the porch. Spike and Buffy stood next to the porch for a good five minutes, looking under it (they are much too sensible to go into the dark themselves) and clucking and wondering if he would come out again.

After seeing my aunt last week and having a grand convocation of Jeffersons (all the ones extant in my family, meaning my aunt, parents, self and daughter, plus ex) last weekend, I was happy to have a glimpse of the other scion of my chromosomes, who is usually in Maryland. I was supposed to pick Sam up and meet my parents and his father in Boston, but as I was having trouble staying awake for more than two hours at a stretch they all came here, and Sam tried out my atl-latl (I tried to link to a video here, but no luck). It refrained from raining for at least 48 hours and and we had a sedate good time. The chickens are a great crowd pleaser; Buffy allowed Sam to hold her for a bit, and she ate sunflower seeds out of our hands.

After they left I took a nap.

On Sunday Sarah (I would link to her, but she needs to update. Poor dear is starting six weeks of day camp leadership today. We are hoping one week fails to have enough registrants so she can catch a break) came to visit. It still wasn't raining and I was still feeble (I mean more than usual. I am better but I think I am going to be spending most of Independence Day napping, which is okay as it is supposed to thunder) so we had a very pleasant time knitting and spinning.

While we were sitting admiring the view, Auk came up the slope to visit us, and after some indecision allowed us to give her a few sunflower hearts. In fact she liked them a lot, and seemed to wish there were more. She went back down the slope and returned with Buffy a few minutes later. Buffy was happy to eat more sunflower seeds out of our hands, and Auk decided maybe it was safe after all. They left after finishing the handful. About ten minutes later, Buffy and Auk and Faith and Spike came up the slope. Auk gave me the look I have seen in the eyes of a dog who knows I am eating Oreos. I went and got more seeds.

Spike thought this was dreadful. She may be a rooster; she spends too much of her time trying to keep the other birds in line. Buffy and Auk continued to get a bigger share eating out of my hand (the pecking hurts only when they pinch. Buffy in particular is very gentle, like a cat doing velvet paws), and then Faith tried it and nothing bad happened, and then Spike said that she, personally, had always eaten out of people's hands and any sensible chicken would. It will be interesting to see if they bring the rest of the flock with them the next time we are sitting out there.

I finished my Meilenweit socks and the '"why are you wearing a cooking-pot on your head?" "I can't hear you, I have a cooking pot on my head"'hat in the short intervals of consciousness on Friday and Saturday. Today I made great strides into a pair of fingerless gloves I am making out of a rare yarn that looks better knitted than in the skein. I finished spinning the lovely sagey green Icelandic lamb Juno gave me some of, and the packet of bright green Romney from Fantom Farm I bought at MA Sheep and Wool, and then the little package of Merino in sort of rosebush tones from year before this past one's NH Seep and Wool form the lamented, vanished Copper Moth. Then I plied these together and made a nice enough heavy worsted, which I have no idea what I will do. Socks, maybe, if there's enough.

I hope the rest of my brain and energy come back by the end of this week, as I must pack and get the last few plants on the porch planted before I go to archaeology field school for the coming two weeks.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Not much, you?

Once in a great while, I like the weather. The rest of the time I complain about the heat or the humidity. Just insert whines at random.

Last night a scarlet tanager flew through the yard; I am hoping it has a wife and they linger. It is one the first birds I can remember seeing (I think I was about six), and I do like bright red birds. One of my best birding days ever was in the Fossil Rim Wildlife park and seeing two red life birds in one day, summer tanager and a vermilion flycatcher. I must go back there sometime.

But in just under two weeks I will go to lovely Colebrook, NH, and dig, and that will be good. The database fairy is supposed to come to my job and give us a new, logical Access database, constructed by someone who understands them. And we are probably getting a new copy machine which will do both sides without my having to take the copy-on-one-side and put it (the right way up) in the paper hopper, saving hours of tedious labor, which I will spend filling up the new database. Since we keep spend a LOT of money on "Address Service," which means the Post Office lets us know when an address is dead, and then I take the name out of the list, the database is getting smaller every week.

Digging square holes will be a change for the better, believe me.

We had a family trip to lovely Northampton! to celebrate the daughteral birthday and take my aunt from Dallas around. It rained, because it rains in Northampton and Amherst. I took my parents to the garden center (they bought a daylily)and behaved badly myself(30% off peonies, I mean who wouldn't?). I went home Saturday night and the relatives appeared here on Sunday. Fortunately, it didn't rain till Sunday evening, so we had a gracious cup of tea and then I got a lot of things planted.

We are replete with young greenfrogs. The three newts of the puddle showed themselves all at once. I am someday going to finish my Meilenweit socks. That's about it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Chelonian rhapsody

I helped an old lady across the street today. At least, I think she was a lady and she was at least as old as my daughter. I saw her as I drove down the road; I had already been gulled by anamorphic perspective into braking for a really intense skid mark, so I was alert when I saw a huddled mass slow down and stop on the crest of the camber, where the sun lay warmest on the tarmac. She tucked her feet in and looked like my grandmother (neither of them were women to trifle with). "Lady," I said in my best cop voice, "you can't sit there." She ignored me for a minute and then took off, heading for under the car. Her shell was the size of a turkey platter. I picked her up. She kicked me, but was not annoyed enough to risk her dignity by trying to bite me. I put her in someone's yard, and she settled down remarking only that sand was not as warm as tarmac and that I was an interfering busybody flatlander really bad word.

i saw a jogger a bit further along. "There's really cool turtle a little way up the road." "Oooh, cool, " she said, proving the pleasantness of her face went all the way through. "A snapper?"

I had a good rest of the day, too. Work is boring, which is fine, although yesterday was the day the phone rang all day. A moderately famous NH older woman activist asked me if I knew any nice Republicans for her committee. I am sure there are nice Republicans (though my father tells me that's not how he raised me) but I don't know any for her committee.

When I got home it still wasn't raining, and I actually planted stuff, which was good because I glossed over a small trip to Hillsborough where I had intended to get groceries and bought annuals instead. Now the plants Norma gave me as hostess gifts (the pear-l jam is as tasty as it is beautiful, by the way) the weekend of NH Sheep and Turtle are happily settled and mulched, and I can hold up my head because Doug and I finally planted the poor tomatoes.

Monday, June 12, 2006

It wasn't raining

It was kind of strange yesterday; water was NOT coming out of the sky. Doug cut the lawn and built a raised-bed frame, and I ransacked the triangle flower bed, tearing out a lot of weeds I should have done more on the first time, edging it, and adding more petunias and mulch. I hope it all grows. This is the Hummingbird Garden from Audubon Nurseries, plus some other bits and pieces. I moved a very miserable azalea out of the swamp in the backyard, and a hosta from the chicken area, and it looks smashing. It took all day.

We have three newts and three frogs in the pond, but the tadpoles vanished very suddenly over the weekend I was in Northampton (the most recent one, last weekend that was. They were huge but legless when I left. It seems hard to believe they transformed so fast, and there are no signs of hundreds of baby frogs; but there are no bodies, either. Very weird.

In the meantime, before I get the pictures up, here is a fine cat story. Not sentimental.

Friday, June 09, 2006

On a happier note:

Wednesday, the day after, Ellie found an infant mouse wandering around in the basement. It was about the size of the one I had in my bra last year, but there was no cat involved. He appeared to have wandered out of his nest, as he could stumble and dash even with his eyes barely open. Mice are vermin but they are cute. When cats are chasing them I just tell the cat to take their toys ouside. This one was a BABY with a little tiny face and tiny ears... I knew we were not likely to succeed in bottle-raising him, so I fed him some banana and made a hot-water bottle (mug, full of hot water, with lid and wrapped in tea towel to prevent burns) and put an aquarium on its side with some hay in it and put the whole shebang back on the basement floor where the mouse came from. And he was not found dead the next day, or found at all, so we think his mom came back and got him.

If you even consider reading any book that has a talking dragon in it, which I am mildly suspicious of myself, definitely take a look at Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon . It and the two sequels (I advise against reading the teaser in the back of the third one, as it will be a year before the book comes out) are really good. There are relatively few female characters (though they are strong and likeable), but the most important relationship is the guy and his dragon. Unlike Anne McCaffery (which I read devotedly for many years), both are well-rounded characters who grow and change because of their relationship and their mutual experience. It’s got MORAL development! It’s got fireworks and spare but lush descriptions (meaning the settings and some of the clothes are yummy, but she doesn’t go on and on). Sometimes it's funny (on purpose).

This is the best fantasy I have read in a long time, even though it’s set in the Napoleonic Era and I hate early modern.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I notice other people are having somewhat of a blog slow-down. I blame the weather.

I spent last weekend moving Eleanor and her roomie Eleanor into the apartment they are sharing (with three other people) for the summer. I am getting better at packing the car (or maybe it was just that Doug had lent me his, so I could carry more) and moving furniture it basically more useful than playing mailing list games. I was also able to go to a really good garden center in Hadley and bought a fancy honeysuckle and a half-barrel (why would anyone want a water feature? The whole WORLD is a water feature, we're having flood warnings for about the third time in four weeks)and various small things. Now if I can get them planted before they drown....

But back to Memorial Day Weekend (when it was, if you recall, raining less). Ellie and Matt brought home a stray cat on Saturday evening. He was orange, frighteningly thin, with nastiness coming out of both ears, and the vet was out on an emergency and said he sounded stable; just keep him isolated and we could come in on Tuesday. So we set him up in the loom room and fed him. He was crazy for olive oil (I was using it on a paper towel to clean his ears) but also cat food. Ellie contemplated calling him Popeye because he was so fond of Olive Oyl... but opted for a more dignified name for an orange orphaned kitty (I had to point out it had something to do with Dickens as well Disney), so he was Oliver.

We knew he was in awful shape. Doug thought he might have had a stroke, I thought he might have been sideswiped by a car, as one side didn't work too well. But even though he had trouble walking, he would come bouncing up and stagger onto one's lap when we came to visit him, and purr very loudly and fall asleep. He wasn't neutered, but he knew a lot about people, and he was a sweetie. I wondered if someone might have dumped him when he got ill, or if he had just wandered off one day when he was delirious. At least for a while he had been loved dearly, and we could give him some of that again.

I am old and pessimistic and I was worried. Ellie is not. Both of us hoped when we took him to the vet they would fill him up with antibiotics and he would be all right, but of course we asked for FIV and FeLV tests. They did tell us he was older. It took the vet a long time to come out of the back room and I could tell at once the news was not good; he had full-blown kitty AIDS.

(This was the day NPR atarted covering the 25th anniversary of the scientific description on human AIDS, and it was a little too pat. But at least there's a vaccine for cats.)

Ellie took it hard, as she had not expected this. I had sort of expected it, since most cats don't fall over when they walk, but I took it hard too. We have only had to have one pet put to sleep, and my then-husband handled it. I am all for sensible allocation of medical resources and not prolonging anyone's agony, but I am also acutely aware of the difference between 'killing' and 'letting die.' He was having trouble walking, but he could eat and poop and purr and rub his head on us. And as Ellie said, he trusted us.

But we had cats at home who did not need to risk exposure to FIV, even though they are vaccinated. I didn't think we could drug him into remission and at least one of his ears was full of pus, which had to hurt; he was not going to get better.

So we filled him up with kitty treats and they gave him a shot of something like curare. He got all rigid, but Ellie could feel his heartbeat speed way up when they shaved his foreleg and gave him an overdose of anaesthetic. It was not the'they give him a shot and he just went to sleep' kind of death and we were somewhat miffed.

And he was dead.

And we buried him (deep) in the front yard next to Obelix, who Ellie says will like him, and they can both watch the chickens.

I am still sad.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Life has been rich

And I have to locate my camera.

Last Saturday Doug and I went to a flax-spinning workshop. We got to use a brake, a scutching stand, and two sizes of hackle. Since the actual flax stalks had been retted by someone else, it seemed like a very fast fiber prep from straw to a hank of what looked like teenaged-girl scalp. The outer bits of the straw fly all over, and the brake clacks, and then you take your handful of ratty fiber to an upright and hit it with the wooden sword. Norman Kennedy had told the teacher (Gina Gerhardt (sp?)) "Lass, you have to make the noise," so she had us making lots of noise, and the bits of outer staw fall off. Then you drag it through something very like a multi-pitch woolcomb, and then through a finer gauge one, and half of your handful (or more, depending on how well it was retted, which is to say how loose the outer bits of stem are from the inner fibers)becomes tow, and suitable for carding, and the long fibers look exactly like a dirty blond ponytail, the line flax. The actual spinning of the line flax is strange, because the staple is over a foot long. it is very possible to do spining relatively few fibers and make a fine thread, although I am more aware than ever that 200 - 500 threads per inch fabric like the ancient Egyptians made regularly was the insane.

I do not think I am going to become a wild keen linen maker, but it was interesting and I enjoyed the noise. On the other hand, i an really happy to wear linen rather than wool now that the weather has turned sticky (to say nothing of cotton, but linen really is cooler, as Juno will tell you. (though not in this post. She made a really lovely linen sleep shirt, she thought, and found herself wearing it, the envy of all who saw her, all weekend). Juno's pictures and her explanation of the party at Cate's on Saturday sums up everything I could say. Cate has a lovely house, even when you can only see bits of it because it was filled with women (mostly) and spinning wheels (and I think I saw more spindles in action at once than I ever have at once before).

The segue behaved badly, because there should have been time to say that after the flax-spinning, Doug drove us to Northampton (where I picked up Ellie last weekend and where I will be dropping her off this weekend) to Cate's house. Where Juno was wearing her linen shirt, and there were more people I knew than I have seen since Rhinebeck. It was wonderful. I hope Cate will have a keg party again when the twins are old enough to appreciate it. But Cate's family's absence did allow for considerable overnighting, and breakfast was fun as more and more people kept appearing. I think she had them on hooks in the closet.

The festival itself -- the weather was sunny and quite hot enough, somewhat of a contrast from the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool: if you weren't careful, you could have had hypothermia at NH and suntroke in MA within 14 days. I managed not to buy a Hitch-hiker (I love my Joy. I DON'T need a wheel for spinning in the car, and anyway I ususally don't have anyone else to drive. Pity.) I picked one of my daughter's dorm-mates from the college (she is spending the summer there too) and enjoyed continuing her ruination by encouraging her to buy more roving. I did succumb to Foxfire and Fantom Farm myself, and Jaeger Icelandic yarn and a skein of a mottled green that Cassie said everyone else at the party had also bought the day before. It's a really nice mottle, with bits of blue, and the yarn is part camel. I apparently believe I will get cold again someday, although it seems unlikely.

By far most of the fiber I brought home was given me. I have a pound of Damn Camel from Cate (if you can spin it, you can have it), an ounce or more of the lovely sage green Icelandic from Juno, and a batt of lovely angora-mix from Helen; so even being really scrupulous about not buying for my stash would not have saved me. Though Etherknitter kindly spun some of the blackish autumnal I am working since NHSW, while we tried to tempt her to various wheels.

A wonderful weekend. It was so good to see all those people.

Friday, May 26, 2006

When You're a Jet You're a Jet

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These are not just pushover chickies, no sir. They are TOUGH. Only, if you take them outside they don't go more than a few feet away. Which considering the hawks (and the foxes and coyotes, each of which I have only seen once here) is probably a good call. One or two of them is beginning to cluck, now, rather than cheep, and my suspicions about the palest chipmunk-colored one's maleness are not going away. They are reasonable company when one is weeding. Mascara can catch black flies in mid-air. So far they have been frightened of worms.

The woodfrog tadpoles are almost a centimeter long in the body, like oval BB's, and I am surprised at how large they are without having sprouted even back legs yet. I believe digestion gets iffy for awhile as one transforms, so maybe they are bulking up. I will certainly not lead the chickens to the backyard for a few weeks after the tadpoles leave the water, as I don't think they are as frightening as worms.

The frog, at least _a_ frog, has returned to living in the Rubbermaid in the courtyard garden. Some new-to-me kind of amphibian is singing in the woods and making a remarkable noise. Hummingbirds part our hair when we walk or sit outside. I think the sugar makes them edgy.

Ellie and I saw the bear again, at nine in the morning, walking across the driveway. I wanted to jump onto a chair and gather my skirts and shriek, but something told me this was the 'appropriate' reaction to a different animal. I am told that one of my friends kept her birdseed in a can on a screened-in porch, and a bear came and stuck its arms through the walls on one corner and tried to drag the birdseed out. Being Ann, she hit it with a broom and it ran off, accurately perceiving itself as outclassed.

I hope to see some of you at the Mass. Sheep and Wool festival on Sunday. The weather forecast is better than the one we had for NH. Tomorrow Doug and I are taking the Fiber Studio's flax workshop and then heading for MamaCate's. I am only going for the social, as I have not finished spinning anything I bought last week (two weeks).

And we are taking the smaller of our two cars. So we can't buy much.


Well, maybe a little.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


The links are not working. What is interesting is that they did work on LiveJournal.

No, what is really interesting is that it's SUNNY!!!! outside and that Dick and Deb can flush their toilets again.

Try this.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rain and rain and rain and rain

A story about the unusual kind of storm it is: Here

A link to photos:Here
Except that at the time I am posting, the captions are beshrewed. Not all of these are on manchester Road in Concord.
I am going to try to go to work now. I am happy nothing so dramatic is visible from my window.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Oh and

It is not to my hypothermiated credit that I forgot to mention the pre-soak festivities. Norma got to see her motherwort plant (affectionately referred to as 'your marijuana plant'by one of her friends last fall) happy in its new home; I hope the seedlings and lettuce she brought this spring will love long enough for the soil to dry out. MamaCate, contrary to everything she says, is not even somewhat fat. I had only seen her in winter clothes at Rhinebeck and read her moaning about sizing up Kepler (now I should make some kind of moon-crater in-joke about Copernicus, I suppose) and the fact is this mother of twins has a Girlish Figure. She and Norma and JoVe and Tigger took Doug and Cimsy (a blogless Vermonter) and me to dinner, where we ate. A lot. It was good. And since it was so friggin' cold the next day there is no doubt that Norma and I burned off our (flourless) Molten Chocolate Cakes.

You can't beat knitbloggers for a good time. Tigger got taught to spin by at least four people not her mother, and found that yes, she did like a nice wheel (I hope she and her mom will be able to apportion time on the Hitch-hiker peaceably).

I had not had a 9-year-old for a while and she made a good excuse to spend time browsing when I should have been helping Doug sell stuff. Kid has a good eye for nice roving. What she ended up persuading her mother she needed for her education as a spinner was small batts of yellow, orange, and two blues. Unfortunately for her mother, who is stuck having Tigger's best interests at heart, T was at our booth long enough to spend time with the second-to-last Diak spindle from my workshop, and it really did work better for her than the lovely walnut Maggie she had... I mean, two spindles is not very many for a third-generation fiber artist, is it? Tigger was also seen giving someone spinning lessons herself.

I taught about four more people to spin. We did have a few customers, but we also sat and talked about goats and toe-up knitting and how much we wanted a hot drink. My friend Pat of Roka Farm was vending with Doug and me. There I was stuck in an echoing barn with the roar of the rain ( sounding like harder rain than it really was, and it was quite hard enough) and an icy wind and a lot of cashmere. So I got a flyweight spindle from Carolina Homespun (which, mst unfortunately, was in the closet barn to ours) and I am really impressed with Pat's cashmere roving. She has been breeding for longer staple as well as fineness and it has really improved in the last few years.

Very, very wet

This past weekend was the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival. We
think it should be Sheep and Mud, or maybe Sheep and Turtle. Last
year it drizzled on Saturday and was kind of cold, and there was a
small lake at one end of the sheep barn, and we wore our sweaters.

This year it POURED, and they had to evacuate the sheep barn as the
water went to 15" deep in some places. By the grace of God I wore my
rainpants on Saturday, which made me part of the warmest 10% of
people there, without necessarily being toasty.

Thinking of Ice Age people, I wrapped the feet and wrists of a nine-year-old in
wool roving because I was afraid she'd turn blue with hypothermia and die while we waited for her mother to come get her. It helped a lot, she said, and I wrapped my
wrists and a number of other people's (six or so) and it really made
a difference. Sunday a smaller number of people came (I could hardly
blame them) and they were much better dressed. Long underwear and waterproof boots are key.

It was the kind of thing where you sort of enjoyed being there but it
will be more fun to look back on. I behaved more sanely than usual
and only bought maybe a pound of roving, and a Weavette for my mommy.

Today I am home; I was concerned as to whether I could get out, since
it was dicey yesterday afternoon getting in. The Hillsboro end of my
road was flooded, as was the riverside part of Henniker. The other
road they have been in the process of repaving for at least six weeks
(which is to say they tore up the pavement and have graded it a
couple times but left it. If I were living on that street I would
have sued the town even before this) and it looked like it had been
mined. There was a Jeep Wagoneer ahead of me picking its way and we
took about ten minutes to go 100 yards though the potholes.

But Doug has managed to get to 93; he said they had graded that area and the
part of the Henniker end of my road that had been in the process of
washing out when he got home (after I did). Today he refused to go
to work but his ex-wife's basement is flooding so he went there to pump it
out. He does have a fine sense of loyalty. He says the Merrimack
River area looks worse than it did in October.

We are lucky; one of my friends says his septic field has saturated
and they can't flush the toilets or shower.

And many people various places have been taken to shelters.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Last weekend

I am sadly behind. Avoiding tidying the house and avoiding getting ready for NHSheep&Wool is a full-time job. You will be happy to know my bedroom is as vile as ever. But today I unwrapped my new Dolores muscle-shirt and cleaned the kitchen.

And started a glass of wine, which is why this is taking so long to write. The chickens are well and into adolescent ugliness. The pictures below show them last weekend, May 7.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Auk and Blackie, feather-footed. I was a little sleepy.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Doug, Mascara, and Brownish

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Auk, the light chipmuck who may be a rooster, and Blackie

It is now May 11 and they are taller and halfway through the Moult into real feathers. They look like the ultimate bad hair day. The pin feathers, the falling down, the awkwardness... I must take more pictures. We are going through the Murray McMurray catalogue trying to figure out what breed they may be. Auk is probably a Blue Cochin. or a Dark Brahma? Really very little idea. I am quite taken with Mascara, a relatively small one of the ones in roughly 'chipmunk' coloring, with dramatic eyepaint. She is determined to fly onto the edge of the box at every opportunity, and like to sit on my shoulder. This can be messy. They talk a lot. Or 'squawk' might be more accurate, as well as a frequent low peeping.

Meanwhile last weekend, as well as playing with the chickens, we cleaned up the 'burn-pile' of the former owner; some of it we may burn, but not the painted, glued, or pressure-treated stuff. The landfill charged us $20, which it was probably worth to rid ourselves of the eyesore, and I must thank the patron saint of avoiding pustules (St. Roc?) that we seem to have escaped poison ivy unscathed.

And we also started a batch of dandelion wine, which is more labor-intensive than you might think. Ten minutes to pick the blossoms, and three hours to trim the green stuff off. It is much easier to trim them before they close up, as they will within an hour. We are making a double batch, as it turns out that Doug remembers really liking it. I think he must have had some of the 2000 vintage, and distance lends enchantment. Not enough to forget how much trouble it is to clean them, though. It smelled like a wet dog today in its bucket. We decanted it off the lees (in this case, some raisins and what was originally 12 cups of yellow fluff) and it's in a carboy in the back room fermenting like mad, very satisfactory.

I think this is the happiest I have ever had primroses look.
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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Cassie-envy; or Another Shot in the Culture Wars

Cassie makes socks. they zoom from her needles. This is because a) she is cool and b) along with SockBug and Norma and thousands of others, she works hard and often and knits when some of us are having a little Meg Cabot festival* or are zoned-out on red wine beyond anything but garter stitch**.

NONETHELESS, I thought, hey, you _have_ Knitting on the Road, you also could make a pair of Conwy socks.

Well, yes, but I only make toe-up socks. Nancy Bush writes cuff-down patterns.

But in America we have choices. And you have in the past made cuff-down socks. You could again.

So after several years of playing happily in the garden of figure-8 cast-ons, I decided to make a cuff-down sock, or one hopes two, and I am on the second go of the first cuff and I really hate it. First, you cast on, okay, then 'join, being careful not to twist.' I didn't twist. But I managed to make the yarn be coming to the new row in a fancy spiral, affording it all kinds of chances to hang up. With a repeat of K, P, K2, p, K, P2, I messed up which is not unusual enough even to be irritating, but it was more inevitable because I was juggling this tiny strand of loops and trying to make sure I was not inadvertantly knitting into the wrong thing and not pulling on the join and... .

After about 13 rows, I was annoyed by the fudging and concerned by the prospect of more and ripped it out. This time I remembered one trick I had used: cast on and knit the first row of ribbing and then join the sucker, which at two rows has much more character. It's less likely to fall apart and much easier not to twist, and incidentally much easier to set up a patern and count it, which was why I had only one TINY fudging to make it come out perfectly and I am now knitting with hope. Perhaps in a few inches I'll get to 'with abandon.'

But why go through all that when you could just cast on some number of toe-stitches and increase and go through the difficult time when you may have to pull it out with FAR fewer stitches (and which are all knits, no counting and cursing?)? When you can establish a pattern and rhythm peacefully with a nice solid toe that you know will fit over your own tootsie (or that of your target, if you can get them to hold still)? When you have a stretch of foot where you can decide whether this number pattern-stitches is going to work or not, and several places to adjust the numbers when you go over the ankles to make sure the entire pattern-around counts out?

Maybe I'll make the second sock toe up, once I'm familiar with the pattern. But I would never suggest that a novice knitter start with a cuff-down sock. I know lots of you have done it and done well. The starting part gives me hives.

*I really like The Princess Diaries, particularly the earlier volumes; they are nothing like the films, of which the heroine makes fun in the books. Cabot's other YA series are fun, too.

** one lousy glass and my counting gets even more abstract than usual.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A beautiful weekend

No pictures, today. But Saturday and Sunday were the Perfect Weather, not very warm (except on the South-facing deck, where it was more than warm) and no humidity. Saturday I planted a bunch of violas, and a few lupines on the hillside, and then Doug and I planted the entire Hummingbird Garden from Audubon Workshop. They sent me a catalogue and I was impressed by their prices, and then I was impressed by their packaging. It is not conservative of plastic, but the tender little plants arrived in really good shape and look like they will do well. I don't usually buy selections of plants someone else has thought out, but this could be a good one.

Later Saturday, Doug thoughtfully planted three azaleas, and I put planks along the edge of a half-realized flowerbed outside the Loom Room. This is the room that needed a little sill work? the one that ended up getting torn down and rebuilt, slightly _inside_ its old footprint so (airy laugh) the walls would be on, rather than around, the concrete slab?

There was once an above-ground swimming pool there, so one had a breathtaking view of the side of the pool out the sliding glass door. I am not a pool person, and this is NEW HAMPSHIRE, for heaven's sake, where the official frost free dates are mid-May to Mid-September. Anyway, the pool is gone, leaving a 17-foot circular pad of sand and gravel. I am hoping to stick large flat rocks into the sand and gravel and have an elegant courtyard with a fire-pit in the middle. Possibly little tufts of thyme and chamomile among the flags. Beyond the pad and the end of the deck is a potentially beautiful view, down across the seep field and farther down into a meadow bordered by a stone wall (this was made visible when we cut down the row of sumac before Easter). It's a huge improvement over the side of the pool.

Part of the removal of the pool has been the removal of a chunk of the deck. It used to run along the front of the house and around to the side where the pool was. We took a big piece of it off last year, pausing to make the timbers into a compost bin and a rather nice cedar bench (on which one sits, enjoying the firepit). But there's still framework that Doug, who is an excellent Clerk of the Works, refused to dismantle until he had some concrete footings to support the remaining bit of deck at that end.

Yesterday he dug pits and poured concrete, whicle I demolished another bit of of deck and made an easy passage across the deck to the courtyard. I do love working with crowbars and having permission to hit things with a small sledgehammer, repeatedly. We had not realized what a differenc eit would make; now you can see the courtyard from the far and of the deck, so I ties two previously unrealted places together and makes it nearly possible to walk around the house without breaking your ankle. Some work still needed there.

So after that I planted three different varieties of geranium (not pelargonium. In the pots they were little 6" mounds of interestingly divided foliage; I think they will eventually sprawl all over the place and have various colors of pink-through-blue flowers. I originally intended to put them in a messy wooded area outside my bathroom window, but after edging the flowerbed outside the loom room, which was empty, and staring at the hillside, which will probably always be a mess, I decided to get them planted sooner rather than later. If they get too floppy then I will move them.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

with chicken

Sarah has given me and Doug chicks. We have 9. They hatched last Friday, April 21, and arrived in a cardboard box in NH Monday afternoon. By the time I reached Shaker Village, many of them had been named (it's day camp this week at the village) and Sarah had bonded with the smallest, most speckled one. But there were plenty waiting to peep their way into my heart.

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I have three that look a good deal like the Aruaucanas did last spring (now living with Sarah at Shaker Village). Actually, none of them look like anything in particular; of mine, one

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has a topknot that makes her look like this. Well, with darker eyes and a weaker chin. Two have the first stirrings toward fluffy feet,

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which might be a good adaptation for New England winters. One of them looks like a penguin (and refuses to take a good picture).

Actually, they seem not to care much about my heart; it is eerie to see such a fully-equipped bunch of tiny birds. They seem to think that they are entirely ready to go out there and be chickens. They walk and eat and drink and even flap; they preen, they assault one another, and one of them was beating the daylights out of a tuft of seeds in the hay. At least two of them (probably roosters) have given me the Look that translates as "We're Onto You, Missy," or "What're YOU Lookin' At?" I have previously received this look from adult English sparrows, who can be very protective of the locations of their nests. I don't expect it from infants. But then these chicks are well past the imprinting-onto-Momma window.

I have a theory (mammal-biassed)that the more comes genetically packaged with an animal, the less the animal is likely to learn later. It suggests that these chickies are already as full of themselves as they will ever get. I hope it's enough. I hope most of them are female, I want the eggs.

The cats are pretty much ignoring the chicks, either as a clever ploy or more likely because they cannot be bothered. Chicks don't look enough like cat treats. A good omen.

(it's now a couple days later ; I was having trouble getting the pictures up. They are still very small but now they are noticeably larger very small dinosaurs. Several more of them are sprouting real feathers, mostly wingtips. Goldilocks is working on a tail.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

But choice

It was a very small party, but none the less pleasant for that. I think this may be the worst possible time of year to have a party, except possibly the week before Christmas (although then you get the seriously stressed-out coming to unwind. Well, you might.)

I think February might be a better time if you aren't going to be outside dipping yarn in the dyepots and gloriously fit, tanned bodies in the hot tub (I am sure I know some people with bodies like that. Or you can wait till dark.)--

but most years in February there's a problem with finding the driveway and getting the huskies down to bring up the guests and their stash and spinning wheels from the base camp.

It has now rained, and that is good, and it may rain more, which would still be good, but it was 35 last night just after dark and I don't know whether the salamanders were able to party or not. (For the record, it was over 80 on Friday afternoon. I know New Hampshire has bipolar weather but it's confusing.)

The house is noticeably tidier. The Loom Room, if you were keeping score-- not done yet, in that Paul the contractor and a professional gas person connected the fake-woodstove and every time they lit it, it was great, and then they closed the front of the stove and the flame went out. Every time. Still a few bugs in the system... but I do give Paul credit for REALLY TRYING to get it hooked up in time for the party. It will stay tidy much longer if it's unheated. If I can still conceal the stash in boxes behind the sofa I must not have too much, right?


I did spin yesterday for the first time in a while, and it had been too long. Because really, I should have realized that the reason the plying (not many yards) was so very odd was that I was plying clockwise just like I had been overspinning the singles. After I sorted that out I did much better.

Today we hope to sort out the chick-nursery, as they may arrive at any moment. They left Iowa yesterday.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Big Tom

I was sitting in the garden in the late afternoon sun, with a cup of tea and a book by Henry Mitchell and a cat or so, which is as close to the good life as anyone need get, when I noticed that for once I had not frightened away the turkeys in the front yard. Just to the side on the seep-field was a completely disdainful hen, who took off across the driveway to her friends, and a large, gorgeous tom. I had had a good look at him when I drove in: his head and neck were the kind of garish red and blue you might expect on a supporter of college football, his body feathers were a rich greenish brown with lots of plain brown and black and he looked _fine_.

I expected him to follow the hen across the driveway, since turkeys usually assume I am coming up fast with an axe or a shotgun. Sometimes they retreat with a deliberate but surprisingly quick turkey trot, and sometimes they lose it entirely and FLY, which makes as much fuss as you might expect when something roughly the size of a Norwegian elkhound takes to the air. Seeing them manage to stay in the air is almost as surprising as if they were Norwegian elkhounds; they don't fly as if they were any more used to it.

This guy, however, watched me pretend not to watch him, and paraded back and forth. Every time he spread his tail--a very sudden action faster than if similar to one of those push-button umbrellas--it made the same kind of noise a large fan makes, a good-sized Chinese one with strong paper glued onto decent slats. Then he would puff his double-breasted chest up and drag his wing tips and strut, making sure watchers could see all sides and wonder at the perfectly arranged pinions of his tail-fan.

It was quite impressive. After a while I quit pretending not to be watching him, and he still didn't take off. Instead he started coming a few feet closer - he was maybe 50 feet away--and displaying at me, the first time in ages anyone has bothered to flirt. SWAP! went the fan up, or down -- he deflated in between watching me and the hens -- and then I noticed that the chest puffing had a sound of its own, rather like the one you might make as your father-in-law starts to explain why it would be a good idea to invade Iran. Sort of a choked-off inhale, and probably the turkey was doing something just like that to get his chest right out there.

Asian peacocks, once the fan is up, don't drag their wings, but they do very gently shake the whole tail and quill assemblage and make a soft hissing noise like a box full of soda straws, and I had wondered if turkeys also did. I did not see or hear any shaking, but the inhales and the fan noises were not bad. I wanted to get the camera but when I came back, the whole troop was departing behind me into the woods, making an unholy racket kicking in the dead leaves.

The cats showed no inclination to go anywhere near them.