The UFO has landed!

 cottonblanket-finished

So yeah, I think this is the second-longest project I’ve had going, and it’s not amazing, and it wasn’t difficult, and I guess this is a great example of me going off on a tangent, getting sidetracked, distracted, moving-on-to-other-things-before-finishing-something-else-first, etc., etc., etc.  In my defense, cotton is painful to knit and I got the confidence (or my sometimes slow brain started firing up) to move past plain old garter stitch when I was halfway through it. (I still do love garter though, especially since it rhymes with farter).

I first mentioned the blanket here, as one of my publicly declared UFOs I sort of intended to finish that year, and it was also somewhat responsible for the start of my blogging.

DSCF3594 - Copy

In the beginning, I wanted a cotton blanket for summertime sofa use.  I wanted it to be reversible, and portable, so I made stripes/strips to sew together – only I didn’t pay attention to how long I made them and ended up with several (stupidly bound-off) in different lengths.  The above image shows the way it looked c. 2008, and I don’t even know when I started it, but it was around 2001, and most of it was done c. 2001-2002.

(I’m tempted to go though my actual physical photographs to see if I can find one with it visible – crumpled in on the side table in my old apartment, but that would be yet another massive distraction).

I finally started back to work on it and came up with the plans for its final design in the Adirondacks last year – we traveled a lot when we lived in our last shitty apartment – if not for these fun weekends away, I probably would’ve have been eaten alive by the ner-do-well teens that spent too much time in the parking lot.

cotton blanket

And I made a little more progress in the White Mountains last year when the power went out.

campfire knitting

Then I put it down for a year while I worked on other things, but I left it in a handy place when we moved this last time so I wouldn’t have “loosing it in the move” as an excuse not to finish it.

I worked on it in the White Mountains again this summer – this time I had a nice chunk of time since I could’t hike.

newhampshire-blanketinprogress

I forgot to bring the yarn for one too-short multicolored stripe (I actually wondered why I had the stuff, and forgot what it was for!) and just finished it in white instead, which ended up to make for a better design in the end anyway.

And then I f*cked it up – I forgot that I had planned to do the two white stripes in the center (I even had photo evidence of the plan!) and I thought about keeping it as-is, but I ripped and re-sewed instead.

newhampshire-blanketfuckup

I got back on track, though sometimes I think I prefer the mistake version…

newhampshire-blanketbackontrack

And went I home with most of the ends sewn in and only the border to do.  I don’t love that knitting on the border made it no longer reversible, and I considered sewing on the border too, but I wanted the satisfaction of running the last few laps round and round, though they were very long and painful ones.

cottonblanket-corner

 So it got a simple mitered corner.

cottonblanket-done

And it actually matches our living room again – at least the yellow walls, and the [temporary] beige linen curtains.

Though we already need wool – the cotton doesn’t cut it for more than a few degrees of chill…

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Deer john and the changing seasons…

toms&flowers

Random things of late…

Our garden is done, but the CSA is finally paying off – we completed a massive tomato and tomatillo salsa canning session last weekend.

canning-after

The deer called Doe [rhymes with  Zoe] might have had some babies, joined up with a larger family group, and has been bringing along another five or six to nibble at our backyard smorgasbord and leave an astounding number of shits – making me re-consider putting in a perimeter fence.

I found another alarming pile of poop of another kind when N moved one of our new window-unit air conditioners.  I identified it possibly as:

1. bat guano

2. squirrel turds

3. roof rat droppings…

Amazingly, all of these beasts leave remarkably similar scat.  I’m leaning toward bat though, because of the height of the window and I don’t want rats in our roof.  Perhaps a bat took up residence in or under the air-conditioner while we were on vacation?  But it didn’t stick around (at least I don’t think it’s in there still).

And I forgot to shoot the shit.

And speaking of bats, I do love them, and we’ve got plenty around here – I love watching them swoop in in the evenings and take out a sizable chunk of the even more sizable population of ‘skeeters.  Eventually we’ll get around to building some bat houses.

I found out by accident that the giant spotty crickets that I found living near our well (that I was so startled by and didn’t bother to photograph in case I was the only one who saw them and they didn’t really exist) turned out to be another Asian invasion and quite common in the area.  And now I’m wondering if they’re edible…

And we’ve finally experienced the yard in every season, and have identified all of the flora.  The last hold-out was a large Burning Bush – I suspected that it could be one, and hoped it was so because otherwise it was a somewhat boring green thing.

sunchoke-maybe

Some of the weeds I never got around to pulling ended up being lovely flowers.  I see the stuff around the roadsides here, so perhaps it’s native, or perhaps it’s an invasive beast?  I wished I’d paid more attention to what it looked like when it was coming up, so I don’t pull it out next year, unless of course it is something to be rid of… I think it’s a Sunchoke.  Anyone know if this variety is native to the Eastern states, or a nasty invader?  I haven’t gone digging for the tubers yet.

And I have another pair of socks on the needles – these might end up being a gift.

socksonatrain-window

I’ve been traveling for work a bit, and have enjoyed going by train, even though it adds another three hours to the trip.  But the leg room is astounding, the cars are nearly empty (come on Americans, use it or loose it!) and the scenery on this particular route is nice.

socksonatrain-withball

I never wrote down (or can’t find my notes) my formula for going down a needle size or two for my standard socks, so I have to go through the misery again of figuring it out.  In the meantime, I’m just using a heavier yarn and my old numbers…

Abruzzo October 2013-trail

And because of the new-to-us house and its ongoing expenses and labor (and my continued hobbled state) we decided not to go to Italy this year.  The weather turning to autumn reminds me of my boots crunching along the trail in the warm central Apennine sun, so I’m a bit bummed out about it, but hopefully we’ll be back next year.

I also decided not to go to Rhinebeck to save money too – and since we’re often in Italy when it happens, this year was good timing for it – but I got enough of a fix at the New Jersey festival a few weeks ago.

I’ll have my own personal wool festival when I can finally unpack my boxes of the stuff soon…

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In praise of N…

I’m taking most of the credit for our house fixing-upping, and since I only work work part-time at the moment, I do put in several more hours/days a week on it, but N isn’t just sitting around on his ass either (unless I am too and we’re taking a much needed break).

His work is often stealthy and surprising – like whipping up a work bench while I’m painting a room (and possibly cursing under my breath that he isn’t helping, but then I find out he he was doing something very useful and necessary).  Or taking care of some little annoying paint/patch/trim detail in the morning when he’s up at an ungodly hour and I’m still snoozing.

workbench

He’ll take out toilets and do some minor electrical tinkering – things I either really don’t want to do, or don’t feel comfortable doing.

And take care of all of the floor and ceiling trim cutting – something I’m quite capable of doing, but waste more and bitch about a lot more.

And he’s a machine when it comes to hacking out massive patches of invasive species – at the last house it was bamboo, this one is Japanese Knotweed (of which we still haven’t quite gained the upper hand).

And please, anyone who is reading – never plant bamboo and Japanese Knotweed!!!!!

And the part I find most crucial on a daily basis is that he’s the cook (again, I am capable of doing so, but I could exist most nights on scrambled eggs and some greens, or pasta-all-the-time) so he keeps it interesting and delicious (I do supply the occasional enormous pot of chili or spontaneous vegetarian concoction).

sagefritters

(sage fritters with an anchovy surprise inside)

But the most kudos go to his willingness and ability to haul my shit.  When we first got together, I was bemoaning the fact that I lived in such a small apartment crowded with too many things, and instead of telling me I should purge, he said I just needed a bigger place… though it was possibly one of the most destructively enabling statements anyone has ever tossed at me, I loved it and it was endearing and actually inspired me to get things in better order to some degree, but after three hurried moves in the last few years, things have gotten out of control again.

Our albatross has been a storage locker 5 1/2 hours away that we thought we’d only have for a few months… It turned out to be two years and a few months.

storage empty

But now it is finally empty and no longer ours!

stored sewing machines

And I found a couple more sewing machines that I thought I had

NtheHulk

And N was a total beast hauling it all out of the locker, into the truck, out of the truck, and into the house.

Don’t be fooled by the ugly 1980s cover on that chair – it has to weigh close to 200 pounds, is nearly large enough for two, and is from c. 1940 when furniture was made to last out of iron and oak.  I’ll be sewing a new cover for it eventually.

truck full

And it is a little shocking to see how much stuff* we lived perfectly fine without for two and some years…

And yes, that’s a box of rocks on the bottom…

I promise those won’t be around when and if there’s another move.

(Or else I’ll hide them better).

*In my/our defense, we had two separate households for a few years and needed double the stuff.

[edited to correct some typos]

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The head on the floor*

I’ve been working on much more of the same around the house – endless patching of uneven walls, sanding said patches, painting walls and ceilings, and sanding, sanding, sanding, floors.

endlessfloors

During a particular viciously monotonous ceiling sanding job in the largest room, I found an entertaining distraction in doodling with the shop vac in the dust on the floor.

headonthefloor

And half of the house still looks infected with a nasty pox or schmeared with calamine lotion.

wallpoxhall

wallpoxbedroom

(The original owners never properly taped and filled the wall seams and screws, among other things…)

We moved the bedroom into a smaller room that I originally thought of using as such, but I feel too maddeningly claustrophobic sleeping in there…

I’m not sure if it is even possible to be claustrophobic in one’s sleep, but I am.

The smaller room will be my studio instead – hopefully the feeling will become cozy once I cram my piles of shit in it.

nofanlightyet

A certain electrician will soon go on my shit-list if he doesn’t come and give us light soon…  And a certain former owner is already on it for wiring things in a unique way – a perfect example of unique is usually good unless it totally isn’t.

(And yes, the knotty pine is still there – I decided to stay on the fence a bit longer – I don’t quite love the shade of yellow that turned out on the walls, though it’s okay enough for now, so I’ll revisit painting the paneling in a couple years when I want to re-paint the room a deeper mustardy color, or something else entirely.)

unpacking

We’ve finally started to unpack, though everything can’t go in its place since there isn’t a place for everything yet…

tomatoORhuskcherry

(Can you tell which is which?)

And I keep doing the dumbshit thing of mistaking yellow cherry tomatoes for husk/ground cherries… a few always get mixed up in the bottom of my bag at the CSA.  A tomato surprise bite in a big bowl of sweetish coconut yogurt, bananas, almonds, and husk cherries is another unwelcome uniqueness…  but a husk cherry surprise in a tomatoey dish might be okay…

 *

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Of basil, beans, and blankets

borlotti finger

My garden (I can hardly call it my garden – it was a patch of dirt the previous owners planted tomatoes in, and I just threw some seeds in there in the spring) bore much more than I expected, especially after I entirely ignored it (let’s hope it just doesn’t have low self esteem and thrives on neglect).

And two of my favorite comfort foods did exceptionally well.

We had enough basil for multiple pesto dishes.

basil in garden

And some entirely lovely borlotti beans – but just a few plants’ worth since I threw just a few seeds in not expecting anything.

borlotti beans

(Yes, they are surrounded by lots and lots of weeds.)

Basil pesto reminds me of home – I grew up with the stuff over homemade spaghetti while the closest thing my classmates had to pasta was elbows and powdered cheese from a box.  I’m pretty sure one of my teen boyfriends (a boyfriend I had as a teen, and who himself was a teen) only hung around as long as he did for the food.  When I moved into my first few apartments, pesto was one of the first dishes I’d make so the place would immediately smell good.  And then I could sound even more pretentious and say the smell of fresh basil and garlic and boiling pasta immediately takes me back to my halcyon days as a college student in Firenze.

pesto dish

I didn’t think you could acquire new comfort foods as an adult, but borlotti beans came in to my life several years ago and nestled into that role.  I spent nearly all of my twenties as a vegetarian, so all beans wore out their welcome, but when N came around and started whipping up beans and greens with the speckled beauties, I became a fan.  And they also remind me of our semi-annual trips to Abruzzo.  Next year I hope to plant a gigantic bed of them so I can dry pounds and enjoy them through the winter.

borlotti-dried

And I finally finished knitting a [large-ish] baby blanket for a new member of the family.  His mother started it and I offered to finish it – boldly thinking I’d have it done in time for his birth in July, but at least it’s still technically summer.

babyblanket-dry

Though I was uncharacteristically monogamous with the project, and while knitting it made a mental list of all the other things I wanted to start (or finish) when I was done, I’m feeling a little itchy to knit a new blanket for us – one to snuggle under while eating some beans.

Isn’t that just cozy?

(Actually, I hate eating around textiles and prefer dining properly at the table…)

But wait, haven’t I already been knitting a blanket for over a decade….?

newhampshire-blanketinprogress

I finally got it back out to finish – it’s nearly done, but the cotton is still doing some ass-kicking to my wrists, so I’m dreaming about a new one in wool…

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Jersey [wool] baby…

NJsheep-bored

Folks are always in a tizzy about Rhinebeck and the Maryland Sheep and Wool festivals, but smack in the middle is the small and very manageable Garden State [aka New Jersey] Sheep Breeders festival.

I went several years ago and bought a large amount of  raw alpaca fiber.  I think it was before I owned a spinning wheel, and had just learned to spin on a Turkish spindle…?  And I also thought I got a really good deal, but I didn’t – though it’s in beautiful natural fawn, grey, and black colors, the fibers were shorn at a very short length, so I’m not able to spin it (at least not without experiencing anger).  I need to felt it, blend it into something else, send it out for commercial processing, or just sell/trade/gift the mess.

I thought that this year’s festival would be bigger, and I think there were a few more vendors, but as a whole it’s small and I love it – no crowds, no pushing in booths, and plenty of time and space to enjoy the animals.

NJsheep-judging

And it really is about the animals – I know those other large festivals are too in theory, but the wooly nirvana shopping frenzy is the annoying take away.  I like watching the judging, even if it’s for the meat breeds – brings me back to my 4-H youth, and I can still spot the nicest hindquarters most of the time.

There may have been fewer breeds on display this year too, but I’m not sure.

N’s favorites are the angora goats.

NJsheep-goats

And I’m a fan of the Jacob sheep.

NJsheep-JacobRam

NJsheep-Jacobs

This little one – not sure if she’s Shetland or one of the small Cheviots – was bleating her cute little head off louder than anyone in the barn.

NJsheep-bleater

It seemed she just wanted attention, or she was nervous about an approaching late summer thunderstorm, or her buddies were in the ring and she was lonely, or she knew she was in the wrong state and the others were going Jersey on her ass…

NJsheep-bleaterportrait

But she calmed down once she got to pose for snaps.

[And for those who think they have an idea of what NJ might be like, they're most likely wrong - this part of the state might as well be the Midwest, complete with more reasonable drivers and farm smells rather than malodorous chemical plants.  Actually the farms are really well-managed around here and rarely give off odors unlike the factory farms of PA].

On our last vacation, I managed just walk on by two decent-looking LYSs, and we drove right past WEBS since I knew that wool festivals were coming up. I’ve also been good about passing up sales at my favorite indie dyers and deeply discounted full lots of yarns over the last year, so I could spend a little on some fiber directly from the source.  I love so much of the beautifully dyed yarns out there at festivals though, and always kick myself for not picking up a skein or two of something gorgeous, but at nearly $30 a pop for most, I can get more [and more unique] fiber instead.  This would have been the time and place to pick up a few of those skeins though – some of the same booths at Rhinebeck are virtually impenetrable.

The fiber-bearing-animal-keeper folks around here seem to prefer Romneys and Alpacas, and I’m done with both of those for a bit – I’ve spun plenty of Romney, and though I love a “rustic” yarn, I’ve already got enough, and I don’t love knitting with it.  And the Alpaca is lovely, but the good stuff is pricey and I still have some waiting to be spun, so I’m mostly looking for different breeds to try, especially if they have a name and a face.

NJsheep-Gustave

So a few ounces of Gustav the Gotland came home with me.

NJsheep-Gotland

He lives at Cloudberry Sheep and Wool farm in central NJ and is a lovely pale to medium grey.  I’m not sure how I’ll spin him yet, or if I’ll combine some of the various breeds I’ve collected into some sort of sampler project, or make small accessories of each…

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Gettin’ wiggy…

I’m embarrassed to admit I hired a carpenter.

I really like to work with wood, I know how to use a variety of tools, and in theory, I know how to measure and cut accurately.

But I hate measuring and cutting accurately.

I hate doing anything absolutely accurately – especially in sewing and knitting – though some have accused me of being a perfectionist in other aspects of my life.  I suppose it’s true in my paid work involving information and searchability because some things really don’t have wiggle room, but in my visual life, I like the wiggle.

Unless it actually wiggles.

(And I’m not talking about jolly worms, or custard desserts, or the delicious Wigle whiskey which doesn’t actually wiggle unless you too heavily imbibe).

So when it became apparent we couldn’t live much longer with the missing balusters and five broken steps in our staircase and their various murderous wiggles and cracks that pitched us forwards and back when we least suspected it, I knew we needed professional help since I’d either waste too many lovely red oak treads trying to get them right, or they just never would be right enough.

But it’s odd to have someone working in the house with familiar sounding tools – I keep thinking N might be home and tinkering.  But then the carpenter uses something particularly loud and wicked-sounding – like something from the opening song to American Horror Story – and once again, I feel the stairs are attempting to murder me – or rather, the stairs convinced the seemingly slightly unhinged carpenter to do their bidding.

But if I did in fact live to tell the tale, our staircase is now smooth-stepping.

stairs-full

Now I just have to oil the new steps, and sand and oil the old (along with the nasty floor below them).

stairs-detail

(It also didn’t help that the carpenter told me he keeps some old oak balusters by his bed for protection…  I’m kicking myself for not coming up with a witty retort in time along the lines of: “um, most people use condoms.”  And I didn’t ask if he’d be adding some of ours with their rusty nail spikes to his collection.)

Thankfully N is an ace at measuring and cutting various trims and moldings, so we should be on our own merry way from here on out.

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