A time for pie

I’m not a huge fan of sweets.

I like a bit of dark – bloody, earthy, dirty – chocolate after some, though not all, meals.

Or nut cake on holidays.

Or, occasionally, pie.

pie-apple detail

I don’t cook much – that’s N’s job – partly because though eating is a hobby of sorts of mine, most nights I’d be fine with some scrambled eggs and greens or pasta – something quick but nutritious so I can get on with other things.

I am originally from the Midwest, and some might claim that baking is my birthright because of it – like a southerner cooking up the best grits or sweet potato pie, or a Mainer creating a clambake, or a Californian making a… salad – but I credit my years of 4-H (which yes, is largely a Midwestern thing) and baking as as kid at home

My mother claimed her mother always baked a weekly cake or pie for their family growing up (we had more of fortnight treat) so I followed this tradition for several years of my 20s until I began to feel the dough on my body…

But N likes dessert and I like fruit, so a pie or two comes out of our kitchen every so often.

Living in a small town on the edge of rural areas means we can get fresh things by the peck or bushel rather than just a few pretty but pricey pounds from our old urban organic farmer’s market.

So the prescription for a peck of peaches at their peak is to prepare a perfect pie…


And apples are an appropriate answer to the age-old epicurean announcement of the arrival of autumn…


Baking takes more time than I’m often willing to give, and makes a mess larger than I’d like to clean, and I grumble during the whole process, but I do enjoy the end result.

And it helps take the edge off of the loss of daylight.


And it’s even better with coconut whipped “cream” – one of the best things my dairy-challenged self has discovered and consumed by the globs of late…

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Things with wings…

No, this isn’t about sewing menstrual pads…


I like autumn, but mourn the disappearance of my favorite winged summer things like crickets and cicadas and especially katydids and dragonflies and bats and butterflies and even the giant random things that show up on the window screens…


I’m still unpacking things from the basement boxes – I’m sure I’ll be continuing to do that into the new year…

And I found my old monarch butterfly Halloween costume.


My mother made it out of out black felt and oil paint, and I wore it with a black leotard, black tights, and black ballet shoes (after I quit ballet classes the first time). And I had a black velvet headband with black pipe cleaner antennae bent into curlicues that would flop down and poke me in the eye.

It was my best costume (much better than my gladiator made of a pillowcase tunic and tinfoil over a plastic baseball helmet and cardboard shield) and I’m glad I kept it – the wings, that is, the rest is thankfully long gone.

But I’m conflicted about keeping another winged thing…


It’s an Iceland sweater from Rowan 42.

I bought the magazine because of it, even though it scared me with all of its cables and lace – I knew it would be a large commitment for me. Then a friend whipped one up and told me that it was actually quite easy and she thought I’d like it for the coziness factor.

So feeling more confident about the whole thing, I cranked it out relatively fast for me over the first winter when N took a job out of state and I had plenty of time to concentrate and a large public library’s worth of nature program DVDs.


But when I finished, I didn’t love it on me…

Because of the goddamn wings.

But that’s the whole point of it right?

But they catch on or in door handles, hand rails, car doors, house doors, desk drawers; and dip themselves into soups, coffees, cereals, dish soap suds, the compost bowl; and drag themselves through eraser crumbs, dryer lint, almond butter on a slice of toast; and scatter my notes to self…

And if that weren’t irritating enough, it sits on me funny – lists downward from side to side, or hitches up into its own muffin top.


I even had the perfect vintage buttons (and the perfect amount, which is entirely rare) in my stash to complete it…

The yarn I used, Lamb’s Pride Bulky, has drape, but it’s dense – I should have gone up a needle size or two or used something lighter, and I made the waist ribbing less bulky than the pattern, but those are the least of its faults…

But I’ve only worn it… twice?

So do I frog, or do I find someone in need of warmth who does not mind being a winged creature?

Or do I hang onto it as a testament that I once knitted a giant warm garment during a cold time?

I love the leaf pattern though – if I frog, I might just have enough yarn along with a few leftover skeins to make a nice throw blanket in the pattern…


Filed under collecting, knitting

Beat it, beetles!

All wool aficionados know to fear the moth.

But do you also fear the Carpet Beetle?


When we first moved into the house, though I cleaned it well, the cracks in the floorboards and between the window woodwork still harbored who knows what. The bedroom was about halfway down the lists of rooms to tackle, so a few months went by with it being clean, but not the deep-clean blasting that comes with major home improvement. I innocently left a wicker laundry basket on the floor and tossed in my favorite (and expensive) merino wool underwear. Since I only do full loads of laundry, the laundry basket remained undisturbed but slowly filling until a week or so later when hanging all the freshly laundered things up to dry, I found serious, nauseating damage.

I thought the new-to-us washing machine tore them up, but that was impossible because it doesn’t have an agitator.

I thought a mouse chewed them up so I set out my sick but humane and effective electrocuting trap, but didn’t catch anyone.

Then I realized I’d seen a few dead beetle bodies on the windowsills when we first moved in…

…beetles that turned out to be of the dermestid variety – yep, corpse as well as all kinds of protein eaters, apparently very common in the area. (I haven’t encountered them before so perhaps the colder winters and higher elevation of my old city kept them at bay? Or else I was just lucky, or maybe they prefer semi-rural to urban areas…). So preventing them and their evil wool/fur/hair/silk massacres is similar to keeping out and dealing with moths – after cleaning the hell outta the place and sanding and re-finishing all the window woodwork and floors (and all the vacuuming that entails) and partially dismantling  and thoroughly cleaning the radiators and painting all the walls and ceilings I thought I’d kicked any beetle left in the house to the curb, and I’m pretty sure I did then but…

knitting project I haven’t touched since the spring threw my cavalier attitude out the window.


Luckily, it seemed to have only hit one yarn cake seen at the top of the post and not the project itself, but I really dogged a bullet because I did everything wrong: I left the project and yarn exposed in a loosely woven basket on a table a few inches beside a window with several flowering shrubs just beneath it outside, I occasionally put said basket on the floor underneath the window when it was in the way, I never plunked the whole thing in another kind of enclosure, plastic bag, etc., while it sat for months, I never tossed in a lavender sachet or anything odoriferous for masking purposes, and most importantly, I didn’t check on it.


(And ahem, note to dumbass self: naturally dyed yarn often fades when you put it in direct sunlight… this is supposed to be yellow-green, but the exposed section lost its green and the best of the yellow.)

So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the damage when I finally picked up the project again in September. But I am lucky this time – the damage is minimal and even the faded cake was mostly okay after a few yards, though I’m going to have to be very careful with the final sweater which I’m not too happy about – the lovely woad-dyed blue is very colorfast but this other stuff I’m adding in as stripes sucks… And the rest of my projects and stash are fine – unlike this WIP, I keep everything else in at least one, if not more, tightly sealed containers.

Treating for carpet beetles is the same for moths – clean the hell out of the area – then empty and wash out the filter and dust chamber of the vacuum immediately. Take anything suspected of being infested outside and shake it well – undo and re-skein it loosely, then seal up in plastic bags and freeze for a couple of weeks. Let thaw for a week and refreeze (this freeze/thaw cycle kills moth eggs and might be a bit more than necessary for carpet beetles – I think one freeze might be enough, but overkill won’t hurt anything). Then wash it all especially if moths were your munchers – moths are very messy with their webbing and copious poop, but beetles generally make clean breaks and sometimes leave bits of body behind.

(And I always leave thrifted woolens in the trunk of a hot car or outside in freezing temps for a bit before I can wash them immediately).

One of the few things that we didn’t have to fix on our house was the windows – all had been replaced in 2007. They aren’t the top-of-the-line by any means, but they aren’t the worst either (yes, there are “better” and worse vinyl options) so it was one of the few home improvement things I was happy to not have to worry about immediately. But the screens are only for half of the window. When we replaced the windows in our old house, we got the full screens (and also put in window boxes which made it nearly impossible to water them or use air conditioners while still having the top part screened to prevents bats in the bedroom – yes, I know about this from experience). And though the half screens better accommodate our new need for air conditioners, they have a maddening gap where they don’t quite meet up with the window that lets in both flying and crawling things which I hadn’t realized…

…plugging or sealing up this gap will now be a project at the top of my list… or else full-sized screen shopping?

Oh, and never use mothballs and pesticides – those do more damage than the crawly/flying fucks themselves – prevent them and then you don’t have to deal with them.

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Ghosts in the garden, sheep at the fair

Last week saw a day over 100 degrees Fahrenheit here… And it hadn’t rained in nearly a month.

The lawn, which is mostly weeds, was mostly dead, the rain barrels were empty, the well getting low, and my seedling hopes for some fall crops were scorched and disintegrated…

Except for a bit of greens and radishes we managed to save with a pack of very cheap, unused sheer big Swedish store curtains that worked as excellent covers. I love it when having something too late to return and not yet dropped off at the thrift store pays off well – a nice satisfaction and justification for my mild hording habit…


They still catch my eye at dusk – something phantasmagorical hugging the ground as the bats begin to fly about, but hopefully we’ll still be eating our own fresh things until the frost or just a bit after. The tomatoes are soldiering on despite some still lingering pests and diseases, and it’s finally the time for some of the ugliest but tastiest heirlooms.


And our tiny and woefully inadequate parsley plants attracted some munchers I don’t mind. I’m pretty sure they’re Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars, which are quite common around here, but slightly odd since I saw a kaleidoscope of Tiger Swallowtails in the yard this summer instead. I was tempted to mess with mother nature and bring them in to save them from hungry birds and watch them transform, but I don’t know what they do at this time of year – turn quickly, or sleep it out over the winter? I’d hate for someone to hatch in the basement in January and die, so I left them be and they ate every last bit of our parsley and took off (or got chomped). I’d hoped that they would do their pupating thing close by so I could watch and also make sure we don’t mow or turn them under, but they didn’t leave a forwarding address…

So with all of this scorching weather, the last thing on my mind was that it is officially wool festival season around these parts – I had no idea on that 100+ day that in less than a week, I’d be trying not to buy much of anything soft and lovely and watching wooly things on parade… but luckily I saw (and paid attention to) one of those low roadside signs (typically advertising cheap king mattress sets, or sadly fighting against a proposed pipeline) for the Garden State Sheep Breeders festival just in time.


The day was overcast and becoming cool  –  the same seasonally-appropriate weather as the festival in years past. I bought just a tiny bit of roving, though there were more than a few tiny things I’d have liked to buy, especially since I most enjoy meeting the beast (or at least seeing a picture) whom I’ll be spinning or knitting. I get more than a bit turned off at the overtly religious [sheep] breeders though – I don’t want to give someone money who might then use it to support someone or something I don’t. But I guess I prefer being an informed consumer rather than an ignorant one, so jesus fish and bible quotes on your sheep signs are an effective deterrent – I get that whole shepherd reference, but it’s so damn tiresome…

I spent more time watching the sheepdog demonstrations this year, and missed out on the lamb barbecue sandwich because I ran out of cash – always feel a little funny eating those around their living comrades and kin though…


These last few days have bright and cool, following a few inches of delicious rain – nothing like the inferno last week. I am once again awakened before dawn by the neighs and purrs of screech owls from the finally opened windows.

But I don’t want to jinx it – the air conditioners will stay in place for at least another month…


Filed under collecting, gardening, home, knitting

Bite this three times

I finished my Trilobite hat.


I haven’t left the fence I’m on about it though – I still think the top portion is a bit small, and it’s definitely a hair-smasher – but I will have to wait for winter to see if howling winds will still reach my ears through the doubled brim, and if more frequent wear will relax the superwash yarn a bit more (it’s a lovely variegated teal, despite what these pics might show, from the now defunct Schaefer Yarn Co.).

I have enough coldish weather hats, so in order for this to continue to survive as-is, it must work as a freezing weather hat.

Before finishing the brim, I soaked the top part to see if a good block would loosen it up – I had the perfect hat-shaped bowl to use so I didn’t have to take it off the needles – and then a ridiculously hot afternoon dried the whole shebang in a few hours, so I was able to resume knitting that night – and the soak relaxed it a bit, but not quite as much as I’d hoped…


But the thing that most bothers me about the hat is that the trilobites don’t look like my trilobites. I could ramble on about idyllic afternoons of my childhood spent scouring the creek behind our house for fossils, but not today.

But the ultimate fossil-hunting prize was a triolobite – most often rolly-polly stand alone little guys.


They’ve got this smug lippy carp-like expression going on, and their backs have three wide stripy bands – or you know, lobes – what they’re named for after all…


I tried to figure out the order of these vs. the clearly different order for which the pattern was written, but I got frustrated, then distracted…

But if I do end up re-knitting it for a better fit, I’ll make the center lobe much fatter somehow to look more like my guys.


(Taking picture of one’s own head when too lazy to get out the tripod or too impatient to wait until others return home, results in an increase of time wasted due to editing out 10x more image failures more often than not…

And when will I figure out the camera settings, or the editing, to render accurate color…?)



Filed under collecting, knitting

What time is it anyway…?

Things have been a bit hinky lately – perhaps it’s an annual thing, or perhaps it’s because the season is just beginning to change, or perhaps it’s all just an illusion…

My entirely ugly, but much relied upon atomic clock began reading 6:91…


It took me more than a minute to realize that that wasn’t possible, a few days to remember that it wasn’t possible several more times, and then another week to clean out the gunk from a corroded battery… It still hasn’t readjusted to reality – maybe I’m the one who needs to readjust?

Our garden yielded only one mutant vegetable – which is proof positive of the organic veg we consumed from the bitchy CSA from the last two years was in fact contaminated from the megabiopharma mere yards away.


The half basement wall went from yellow to orange then back to yellow again… I couldn’t get over the orange and teal looking too much like a southern NFL team with a sea creature mascot. N doesn’t understand why I even know the colors of teams when I despise the whole franchise, and I can’t understand it either – further proof of its evilness for invading my ignoring brain. (And let’s just ignore the fact that it’s now close to the yellow and green of a northern team with a mascot that does something with meat or boxes…)


But whatever, I am really done with painting for quite some time. And as much as my vocal cords are shorn from screaming “one coat of paint is never enough,” this time it had to be – in fact, it’s more like 3/4 of a coat with another 1/4 over the the thinnest spots – going out to buy even more paint wasn’t an option. But I primed the orange very very well, so it is good enough for a basement. And this time we were mildly ill from the fumes for a few days from the floor – I’ve been so smitten with the no-VOC paint we’ve been getting for the walls, that I forgot the low-VOC stink – nothing like the brain melting paint of just a few decades ago, but it has an odor when the other stuff really doesn’t… But now we can officially unpack every last thing…


But getting organized isn’t always the answer. Most of my fabric stash is now neatly boxed and well-labeled and shoved into a long knee wall closet – and I can’t find a damn thing, or it’s a pain in the ass to move things away to get to the thing I need… But one of my siblings sent some neat inflatable led lights that have come in very handy in the space, though they’re meant for the great outdoors.

A garden fence ornament ended up as a pile of pieces on the ground for no discernible reason.


Its hanging wire was intact – if this were the country or the city, I’d think someone shot it down, but instead, maybe a squirrel got strong and angry?

My favorite sock yarn tested my love for it…


There’s this bloated and horrid plastic filament intertwined through a good portion of it so far – it’s not the occasional rustic bit of guard hair, or people hair… probably a larger clump of the bit of nylon added for strength like a pasta clump? If so, this nylon feels like all kinds of petrochemical nastiness… which is what nylon really is, right? I’m conflicted – I like sock yarn with a bit of it in for strength, and I’ve not yet had to darn any of my socks made of superwash and a bit ‘o nylon. But I’m all preachy against plastics escaping into the environment, and I can’t stand synthetics against my skin. In theory I prefer to wear socks without the nylon too – in certain temperatures I swear I can feel the sickly unbreathability of 10% – 25%  nylon in my socks. Mohair is called “nature’s nylon” but I’ve yet to see a superwash mohair blend, or one I’d like to wear perhaps, and socks made with just wool seem to precious, and I don’t knit or wear precious socks. But perhaps thicker yarn knit up at the tiniest possible gauge could be fine…?

One of my credit cards was hacked a few months ago, and now another, and finally my debit card in the same week has been as well – from internal breaches – nothing to do with my online purchases (or entire lack thereof of late). I think I caught and updated all of my automatic payments (and again) but the uneasiness hasn’t subsided that a late bill might be headed my way. Perhaps I’ll just start burying my nickles under the bushes – bushes that still need to be cut back…

And my work work future is up for grabs again – a cyclical chaos I’d been adapting to for the last three years, and as of a few months ago, I though I had a less chaotic three years ahead, but silly me, life isn’t so kind… So I’m spinning my wheels again, but not making yarn or going any distance.

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Summer craft

We’re unpacking boxes again. Some of mine haven’t been unpacked since a very sudden move in 2008, and a few from my childhood home decades ago that were only opened to toss more things in rather than weed and remove.

I found a whiskey box with a great wad of crafty jewelry that dated c. 1980-1991. It was a time of equal-opportunity counter culture decor for me – vintage hippie beads, new age crystals, punk rock chains and pins, beads representing bleeding-heart worldliness from Africa and South America, and crafty bits from midwestern 4-H camp.


I remember making most of these things in the summertime – embroidery floss taped to my knee while I sat in the hammock or under a tree – or else they were worn more in the summer with their nautical vibe (and my winter clothes tended more goth and grunge and gender-bending…)


I made possibly hundreds of these things and gave away many.  This was also before the overpopulation of Jesusfish due to global warming melting out the rightwingedchristiandom crazies, so some of these are patterned with fish just for fishsake…


And I remember trading these beaded safety pins in elementary school – the bead colors meant something, but I’ve since forgotten (and this was before gay rainbows too, but yay for gay rainbows)!


I had a bead loom – up until recently, I think – I think I gave it to one of my siblings before the last few moves…


And I’d like to think I was one of the “cool” camp counselors, evidenced by these gifts from my campers. Plaid Maggot was the secret real name of our two-year award winning (of the camp talent show) jugband whose real name was something gentle and new age and asinine like Lunar Rhythms or Earthstrokes…

(I think another counselor reported me for my non-censoring leatherwork class, but secreting these quickly away and playing dumb actually worked out for all involved that time…)


I feel like I didn’t take full advantage of summertime crafting this year. I most like sitting outside to unravel sweaters or card wool so the sneezy bits fall on the ground rather than the rug.


But I only got in a couple of unwinding sessions so far…


But there are still a few months to go before the nasty white fluffy stuff comes back, right…?


Filed under collecting, recycling, weaving