Category Archives: home

Randomly, near the end of another year

I’ve been trying to feed a few thoughts to bulk them up for a bit more substance – so I can chew on them for a bit, but all of the social and political static and noise has been throwing off my appetite.

And so it begins… #snow #backyard #greyday #monochrome #december

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The house has been up to its unpleasant hijinx again as well – the boiler finally shat the bed, and gave us a couple of cold weeks followed by a couple of long days with the plumber followed by a much thinner wallet. And then my docile old car got a whiff of the spirits and acted out unexpectedly, but at least not too extremely…

Wool thief. #ohtherocco #wooldog #iwastryingtosellthat #sweater #dogsweater

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But the silver lining that really isn’t, is that I was already in the middle of another round of selling off shit online. I’m now unburdened of a few more pounds of old art supplies and bulky thrift sweaters that would have made lovely yarn once unraveled, but that were still in perfectly good wearable shape. And I feel better about that too – yes, I feel better about getting a few extra dollars when I need them, but I sometimes feel guilty about unraveling perfectly good sweaters and usually just try do it to ones that are already damaged or misshapen. I’ll miss a few of these – more accurately, I’ll miss the cardigans and bulky pullovers that they would have been re-knit into and became my favorites, but only existed in my brain and likely would have never come close to fruition – so I can’t really miss something that never was and would likely never be, right?

Old sweater = new shawl/scarf #knitting #thriftstoresweateryarn

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But I still have plenty in the rougue’s gallery of moth-eaten and slightly felted/fulled – all are of varying degrees of unpleasant to unravel, but all will be more truly “rescued” and recycled. I started a new gradient shawl out of a striped Shetland sweater and a few others in greys and purples (it’s not really yellowy-beige as seen above) and it’s a fun little sheepy finger journey right now.

(Other things on the needles have been on them for a bit and have already shown themselves here.)

A good amount of mending has been going on in these parts too – old wool socks that refuse to give up the ghost, outdoor wear that seeks out every thorn, and our beloved wool underthings that wear like iron until they pop an inexplicable hole.

And disappointingly, one of my top wool underthings companies is going under itself. Most of my most worn t-shirts are wool – the non-sport cuts are nice enough to wear where I work and then they can do double-duty under sweaters in the winter or on the trail – I could get by with a minimalist wardrobe with them if I was in to that kind of thing (but when traveling I do). And I pretty much need a layer of sheep’s clothing over most of my body surface once it drops below 75F. And the clothes were largely made in the USA, and pretty much the only things I bought (or received) new (on sale) once a year or so. I really like another company’s wool shirts that are 100% USA wool and manufactured, but their selection is more limited and I’ve sadly had two shrink to crop tops. I am too long-trunked for crop tops.

So ’tis the season for being a little more bummed out (and broke) than usual, but at least the solstice is soon and the ho ho hoing bullshit will go away soon too…

 

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Autumn home and away

We finally made it back to Italy.

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New needy house, new needy dog, future uncertainties, and the fluctuating costs of travel kept us away for the last few years. It was all over in a flash though, and I’ve never been less interested in returning to my home country…

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But for a few brilliantly sunny days we hiked some familiar and new trails, ate some familiar and new food, and stuck much closer to the familiar little city, but in a new little house.

I like mountains. #italia #appenini #abruzzo #majellanationalpark

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We were oddly thwarted from many planned days – mountain passes closed (since just after we were there last 3 years ago!), restaurants too crowded for lunch, other places inexplicably shuttered – but we found other routes and other places and all was fine in the end.

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Even better than fine – my shredded knees kept their complaining to a minimum and I finally felt their restrictive grip released a bit for the first time in years.

(And Italy is always downright magical in terms of taking away all of my allergies and mild dairy/digestive issues…)

But there’s always one hike that flirts with going very wrong in every trip, right? One new-to-us trail that was supposed to be an easy/lazy couple hour meander suitable for infants and elderly (according to a tourist map) took a turn for the tired, sweaty, and absurd and involved mildly frightening encounters with wild boars, an unavoidable boot-sucking mud pit, and hand over hand scrambling underneath power lines.

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It all went tits up when the trail markers ceased and all signs pointed (inexplicably in english) for endurance in all directions. But the tourist map was still accurate for way finding, though it left the infants and elderly in the dust looking for their broken glasses.

And several hitchhikers joined me for a few excursions – the mantis population seemed to have exploded and grown to monstrous proportions.

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And we sought N’s ancestors and ancestral places – finally finding a house (or what was left), but not graves – most of the town was pointlessly annihilated in WWII.

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I missed visiting with a few fiber folks and buying wool, but I ate the beast from which it comes and sipped from the same fonts.

The weather was entirely perfect, the autumn in full color, and the markets still stocked with the peaks of harvests.

But autumn is still here at home – even a bit slower perhaps – and the white throated sparrows are back, and the garden is still giving us patty pans, carrots, greens, and a few last winter squash…

But we also returned to a dead boiler, yet more job rejections for me, and my need to re-enter the shitzoo that passes for public healthcare in this (currently really fucked up) country.

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So while my mountain sunshiny vitamin D high wears off, and I’m not making up work hours, I’m getting my nesting game on – clearing out (or at least organizing) the clutter, shaking out the woolens, considering baking a bit, debating yet again if one of those light alarm clocks is worth the clams, and knitting and spinning with more ferocity to keep my hands warm.

And snuggling with the beast.

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Autumn, outdoors

The going has been slow…

The yard has improved significantly this year – we’ll see what overwinters and fills out next – hopefully the new “herb hill” will never need to be mowed/wacked again. We keep picking up coreopsis plants on sale too, so I’m gaining an unintended dye garden as well.

And the redistributed cement crumbles from the former sidewalks to nowhere have oddly fruited!

Stinkhorn! #stinkhorn #fungusamongus

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And N built an enclosure for leaf compost out of the biggest pieces. The dog likes to sit in it too.

The garden is a bit of a mess – I’m out of steam for it this time of year, and yet again, I didn’t get the timing right to keep up with some decent lettuces. The tomatoes never got a second wind from their blight (a couple are okay, but they aren’t the tasty ones). And it’s possible we’ll get a few zucchini and patty pans from the second planting of squash that I was hoping was post-squash vine borer, but wasn’t, but I’m not holding my breath.

But this squash, a Zucchino Rampicante is amazing.

It’s currently hardening off like a butternut, and there’s another almost done. It seems that only one fruit can mature per vine, but the babies are good eating like a summer zucchini. And it’s a good thing because we’ve only got four little butternuts. So these two Rampicantes will make up the difference – I’ll wait for the taste test this winter before giving them the green thumbs up – hopefully they’re good, because they beat the pests and diseases the best, and are a constant source of bawdy amusement.

We do have a decent amount of spinach, and we might get some carrots, but the beets are becoming hairy carrots instead of beets – at least the greens are still good – the fall beets never do as well as the spring, so I have to read up on that.

Most of the cayennes are drying out.

And the freezer is overflowing with beans – both the bush and pole had bumper crops this year.

I neglected to pick the fennel – it was a new to me variety that made smaller bulbs, so once I noticed them, they were on their way to becoming too tough.

But maybe we’ll get some seeds. And it’s pretty and the caterpillars like it so it will stay until the bitter end.

N trash-picked the perfect glass/plexi door to make a cold frame, but I’m dubious we’ll get to it this year – the priority right now is to clear and prep a garlic bed.

(And fiber things)

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Early July

I always think of the 4th of July as mid-summer, though it technically isn’t, but it’s a time to for me to take stock and get a bit more organized (I only just switched the seasons around in my closet). I’ve got the itch to purge and sell more shit though not yet the time to shoot and list it. But some things are slowing down, and I’m sitting here with hopefully the last half a numb head I’ll have for a while.

But my eyelid is numb too and I’m just going to ramble a bit with IG pics and notes.

The garden had a later, slower start – some of it due to the weather, some it due to me, some of it due to some (unknown animal) thievery while we were away. So some things needed a second and third planting, but the cooler temps and decent rainfall made things fairly easy overall so far.

Last year’s blueberries all fruited, and though they’re still just at stand-at-the-bush eating quantities, I’m thrilled about them, though we must erect some better bird netting for next year. And the gooseberry gave up enough to actually consider recipes. A few weeks ago it started to drop underripe fruit (some sort of stress, might have been a hot spell) so I whipped up a little batch of jam with it, the only three stalks of still-young rhubarb I could safely pick, and some strawberries for sweetness.

The main load became ice pops (blended with almond milk) and are damn refreshing.

The only lettuce that germinated was buttercrunch – which is okay since it’s my favorite – but it’s getting older now and I neglected to save a good spot to start the warm-season varieties (or just more buttercrunch), so I squeezed in a covered lane next to some fennel that’s doing well at the moment too. We had some near-death and replanting and rebound with the basil which is a good thing because we never seem to have enough. And all squashes are younger than we’d like, but persevering – one butternut volunteer I let go for shits in one of the compost bins is especially bombastic and has some toddler fruits, so fingers crossed…

And then I was ignoring the beans – those are usually my failsafes, but got hit hard from slugs? this year but survived, but I thought needed more time.

But they didn’t. And a batch is already in the freezer. Lesson learned from previous years to put up what can be now, and eat up now what can’t. At least to some degree – fresh green beans are not to be ignored completely. But we had several quarts of older (larger) greens (kale and chard mostly) that languished in the freezer since we knew they’d need to be cooked down and seasoned well, and I should be out there now picking the fresh young stuff for January’s dishes. And let’s not forget the tomatoes, onions, shallots, kale, chard, beets – all of those are doing well – and the peppers (jalepeno and cayenne) had a rough start but seem to be rebounding, but the garlic had a rough time – we’ll still have a decent harvest – but we need to figure out why it wasn’t robust – perhaps the late winter heat spell followed by the cool damp start to summer was to blame.

N’s new landscaping has brought noticeably more pollinators to the yard which is lovely to see (both the bees and the new flowers) and I’m still fighting the poison ivy – it’s getting better but will still need monthly vigilance and gloves. N also got one of those motion-activated sprinklers that is hopefully pissing off the feral cats enough to stay away as well as the deer, but so far the deer don’t seem to mind (or know when it’s off).

We’ve managed to squeeze in a few beach days.

And the flaming molten lava safety cone of ketchup and mustard smeared on asphalt is a perfect beach knitting project. I still don’t know if I like it, but I am committed to finishing it, and hopefully soon.

And it should be time soon to forage for invasive wineberries here… and then to think about and plan a bit better for autumn’s plantings…

And to soon reunite with an old unfinished knit.

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[Late] spring cleaning

Spring finally slowed down, cooled down, and I’ve had a chance to line up with the season again. The house still needs a deep, very deep clean – there’s still dust from the bath reno underneath the furniture, and I don’t think it’s ever had a lift-up-the-rugs-and-wipe-down-the-walls cleaning yet. And the windows could do with some clarity and de-dogslobbering.

A couple of weeks ago I sadly had to say goodbye to the best little vacuum cleaner I ever had. When I left my first (technically second, but the other was brief) professional job out of grad school, my fellow co-workers chipped in to give me an incredibly generous gift card as a going away present. I treated myself to the vacuum cleaner, channel lock pliers, and a fancy saucepan. It merrily sucked away in my old squirrely apartment, our first house, our shitty but adequate apartment, and this house – for a lifetime of about 15 years. I even bought a few new parts for it a year or two ago.

N got the same model a few years later, but it sucks – not good vacuumy sucky, just doesn’t suck enough, suck. So I can still clean, but it doesn’t look like I did.

But the woolens come first, and all of my neck things are freshly washed and tucked in plastic bags for the season. Some of my sweaters are still needed at the office, but the others are mostly washed and tucked away now too.

Though I still have a fairly small closet by US standards, it’s bigger than my last, so the rest of the hung up woolens can stay and just be moved to the hard to reach side rather than encased and crammed into another closet on another floor that was always an avalanche when opened.

I still have some things (nostalgic and/or supplies) in boxes and tubs – I think all have been consolidated and I know what’s in them now, but I was happy to finally find a few things I thought were lost.

Those scissors were nearly new before they were packed up – in a place I thought would be memorable and handy but wasn’t – and I’m over the moon about that spool pin – it goes to my Red Eye Singer 66 that I recently turned into a hand cranked machine.

I whipped out a quick knit for a gift, and forgot to photograph it in its finished state…

But it was another Turn a Square in 2×2 charcoal and grey-green stripes.

And I finally tackled the mending pile – some things of mine, some of N’s.

I keep thinking I’m going to unravel this cashmere hoody that is one of my favorites, but is a tad too short, and I blew out one of the elbows. But I knit up a patch from leftover yarn and it’s good to go again (as long as I’m wearing a long shirt underneath it).

And lastly, it was time again to toss the stash –  I never incorporated the yarn from the errant box I found last year (hell, that was two years ago now), and I’m maddeningly missing a small niddy noddy that has few places left to be hiding.

The niddy noddy was not there, but everything was in good shape, is now entirely organized, and in a reduced number of boxes – it’s a good stash now, not too overwhelming (though it could still loose several pounds), and enough to keep me busy with enough variety for some years to come.

And now I have a raging case of startitis…

 

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The mutt and the pebble

We’ve hit the one year anniversary with Rocco, and it’s likely he’s hit, or is about to, his 5th birthday. He’s just finished a class for reactive dogs in which he was a decent, if not excellent at times, pupil except for a pop quiz with a stuffed (obviously fake) king charles spaniel.

Life with a reactive dog is challenging, limiting, expensive, and still far more stressful than I’d like, but he is improving.

We’re changing the shredded sheer curtains less often – and the last very mauled batch was last fall in the peak of fresh tomatoes ripening on the counter – he helped himself then became enraged at something outside the window and left evidence…

But the most distinct change is that he’s learned to, nay embraced with every last whisker, relax (at times).

He’s had full run of the house and sofa privileges for the last 8 months or so, so most days after his epic dawn hike with N until about 3:00 he rotates between naps on the sofa, his crate, a bit on the wood floors, and the cool stone hearth if he gets overheated. If he’s not too conked out, he’ll join me in whatever room I’m in and try to find the comfiest spot.

During my process of selling used/vintage clothes over the winter when I had things freshly cleaned, darned, and laid out to measure and whatnot, he selected a 90s jcrew rollneck as his spot.

(I let him have it – in the end it was mine I think – I know I thrifted one to sell too – I can’t find that one I think, or maybe mine is put away?)

His spot in my workroom is a 90s oversized sweater too.

I was hesitant to make another stuffed bed for him – the one in his crate has been mended and patched well over a dozen times…

But he leaves the pad beneath it alone, so I started browsing the clearance dog crate pads from time to time to add a few more comfy spots in the house and found one in his size for not too much. But he never used it, and seemed to go out of his way to avoid it. So I sat on it, laid on it, rolled around on it, and was mildly shocked over and over…

So that’s why a synthetic plush pad ends up at the remainder store and on clearance – and I should have known better.

But making a cover was easy enough, and I had leftover cotton fabric – the brown was the excess fabric I trimmed off of the office curtains, and the patterned one was a couple of yards I got to make the main sofa cushions before I decided I liked the yellow better (seen above – though the yellow isn’t such a good choice now with a partially black dog…).

And he took to it right away.

 

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Pants!*

Last Saturday was a rainy day – an entire day of persistent rain – not spitty, not a brief but dramatic downpour, not a start and stop kinda thing that tricks you into getting to work outdoors and then makes you pack it in just as you’ve started.

It was perfect timing – the garden was planted enough and I was tired of yard work and house work, and paint doesn’t dry well when it’s damp outside and I can’t open the windows to let out the fumes, right?

So I decided to fire up the sewing thing again in preparation for finally sewing a few simple summer garments this year.

But I forgot that all of the shit from the basement utility room waiting to be painted was piled up in front of my serger…

(The serger is way in the back behind the rooster towel – but luckily it’s pretty light, so it was easier to move it rather than the stuff.)

I thought I’d whip up a pair of pajama (pyjama?) pants.

In my youth, I’d made at least a half dozen or so pairs of jams-like shorts, so I figured muscle memory and deep brain reserves would take over and I’d end up with something at least functional, if not decent.

I sort of need pj pants too – my favorite couple of pairs from Ageing Army are getting a bit ragged, and I was thinking I’d rather sew a new pair than to fix the blown-out waistband on this one – amazingly the elastic is still fine though.

I didn’t have a pattern, but figured I’d trace my favorite pair that are loose but not too baggy with a perfect rise that isn’t too high or low. But then I discovered their construction is a bit odd – likely it was cut from the bottom of the pile at the sweatshop and had gotten a bit twisted, but the twist made them fit great, but made a quick pattern draft not.

So I grabbed an old silk pair that had also seen better days. (Around the turn of the last century I scored several sets of fancy silk PJs for a song at a fell-off-a-truck kind of store in my old city – they’ve all just about gone tits up now, but the tops are still largely okay since I don’t wear them as a set often, so I’ll likely sew those into something else… eventually.

I laid them out (yeah, I had to take them off first) on freezer paper to trace. I was a little dubious that the front and back crotch curves ended up a bit too similar, but I couldn’t figure out how go rogue enough to modify them.

I had some thick and soft flannel I bought a couple of years ago on impulse – it was the last of the bolt and on sale, so I think the piece was just under 2 yards and $3 – something like that – and I was planning on dyeing it and using it as a wearable (or failable) muslin.

I couldn’t remember if I’d traced it with enough of a seem allowance, or too much – I was going to mostly serge them, so I didn’t need too much. But then it was too much, and I took in the sides several times (and should have done so several more).

And I don’t really know how to use my serger yet – at least doing anything other than straightish lines – too much of a curve and I kept slicing the crotch.

I worked and worked on trying to make the fit better and the crotch correctly curved, and then stopped – I’d blown a few hours by then and PJ pants shouldn’t take more than an hour.

They fit enough and stay up, and add 75 pounds and shorten my legs to stumps and makes me into a blinding squat clown gnome stompy troll.

I was planning on leaving the bottoms un-hemmed and kept in their rough, selvage-edge state, but of course they didn’t end up quite lined up, so I had to hem them even though they were a bit shorter than I’d like already…

But I oiled up and played a bit with my zigzag machine that hasn’t sewn many miles (by me) yet for the finishing, and that was a bit of fun and should make my eventual other simple garments a little more functional (I’d like to eventually venture into some knits, but I don’t have much hope for success).

(These old socks are are also destined to become knitted washcloths after another season or two of wear.)

So in the end, are they functional? Yes.

Are they comfortable? Sort of – soft and warm, but they’re so wide they bunched up to short ruffly chicken thigh bloomer height by morning.

Are they ugly? Hell yes, but not worth the effort or the $3 or so to dye them.

Will I make another pair with the lessons learned from this? Maybe, but I’ll probably get a legitimate pattern first, and I won’t need more for another couple, three years or so.

Did I repair the black plaid ones seen above so I wouldn’t have to wear these too often? Yes.

If I ever get around to widening my patchwork flannel duvet cover will they become part of it? Probably.

And did I finally get some legitimate work done last weekend? Yes, the basement utility room got its fresh paint on Sunday.

And the freshly dyed rug.

And I can be safe in knowing I can lie on it and be camouflaged in my new fat gnome pants.

*UK variation.

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