Tag Archives: Apennines

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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Filed under gardening, hiking, home, knitting, travel

Terroir in wool

So I yammered on for a few posts about my new yarn and roving from New Mexico a few months ago here and here, but all along I’ve been thinking about the wool I acquired in Italy last autumn.

We were in Abruzzo for a few weeks in September/October 2012, on a mission to hike nearly every day in all three of the relatively new national parks: Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga, Parco Nazionale della Majella, and some regional parks and preserves including: Parco Naturale Sirente Velino, Riserva Naturale Regionale Monte Genzana e Alto Gizio, and Riserva Regionale Gole del Sagittario.  We had previously been in the area in 2008, less than a year before the devastating earthquake in the L’Aquila region, and had only a small taste of the hiking then that was later to come.  In the four years since however, more North American tourists have invaded come to the region, and though it is good for the economy, especially the areas still rebuilding, it isn’t the same immersive/escapist experience as it was before.  Now you hear the occasional loudly spoken English (I still can’t get past that someone-will-understand-me-if-I-speak-louder-rather-than-actually-learn-a-word-of-the-language habit), see flip-flops on ugly feet, pay much higher prices for apartment rentals, and stumble around overly large rolling luggage.  But I too am a North American, and a visitor, and have poor language skills, so I can’t be too much of a snob.

I first learned about Valeria and her AquiLANA yarn in a round-about way through ravelry when I posted to an Italian group seeking information about local wool producers.  She and her husband’s family raise sheep in the L’Aquila region – their business, Azienda Agrozootecnica Damiani Ovidio, can be found on Facebook.  Through another ravelry friend, we managed to communicate despite my awful Italian, (thank you Google translator) and because of her friend’s quite good English, to set up a time to meet in her town for a yarn purchase.

AquiLANA - Copy(Photo by Valeria/AquiLANA)

I would love to give more details about her wool and the company, but I’d have to commit to a serious translation session that I am too unfocused to partake in at the moment.  But to say her yarn is fabulous and it comes from these sheep off the mountains is enough for me.

But back to the area for a moment – our time hiking in the parks was simply awesome.  Some of the maps and trail markings were extremely good, some not so, and we had a hiking guidebook that should be burned due to some dangerous misinformation.  Many of the trails also had formerly been mule tracks and were best left for four-legged beasts or those very sure of foot and without any tendencies toward vertigo.  But overall, it was some of the best hiking I’ve done.

(But I’ll pack a few more emergency supplies the next time).

Abruzzo-Corno Grande

Abruzzo-castle

Abruzzo meadow

And of course eating was a nearly spiritual experience.

Can’t get any better to come down off a mountain, stop along the road, and dive into a plate of freshly grilled lamb arrosticini.

Abruzzo-lamb

I’ve purchased wool from small producers at domestic festivals before, but this was the first time the wool smacked me in the face as coming from a very specific place – it had an intense “terroir” if you will.

Laquilana montepulciano

And to make it even more local, some is dyed with Montepulciano wine for a lovely muted rose-grey (this is fingering weight).

AquiLana skeins

At first, I only wanted to buy the Montepulciano-dyed wool because I almost never knit with white/natural.  I don’t have a reason why except that I usually like color more, I fear stains (I like to drink the Montepulciano too), and some whites look really bad on me.  I guess I do have my reasons.  But after spending some time in the mountains with the fluffy clouds, bleached rocks, and flocks of sheep with their fluffy white Maremma guard dogs, I decided that I had to have the color of the land (or, ahem, lamb).

Abruzzo sheep enclosures

See?

Abruzzo sheep

So then my new stash of clear, clean, true wool went from the crisp vast mountains and valleys to the land of exhaust and grime…

AquiLANA in NYC

I have a couple of ideas about what I’d like to do with the yarn, however I’m putting pressure on myself that both items will be my own designs. But I’m also realizing that with the strange turns of my life lately, my self-diagnosed ADD, work on portfolio pieces, and the chaos of everything else, I’m absolutely itching to dive right into this yarn NOW without the bother of critical design thoughts and only the happiness and escapism in remembering the land and enjoying the wool.

Laquilana swatches

I’ve swatched some of the natural wool in aran/bulky weight and it will probably turn into a cable-knit sweater – either something classic/vintage inspired along the lines of the Beatnik Pullover, or more modern like the Roam Tunic.  I’m leaning toward classic though since I pray for the day skinny jeans disappear (and will probably take tunics with them).  Unless of course it could be a dress on its own…

New England-new pattern shadow

The wine yarn will be a shawl, and that pattern is about halfway done, but I’ve run into a few snafus that I need to work out.  I’ll test knit a version of it in recycled yarn before I use the good yarn too, so it will take some time.

The bulky/aran yarn reminds me a little of Quince & Company Osprey – it seems that it may be processed and spun in a similar fashion and has that same lovely soft, sproingy, spongy factor – and maybe even more so.  It is soft, yes, but not weakly soft – almost cottony.  I even washed one of my swatches and it got even better – I wouldn’t say that it bloomed, but the stitch definition relaxed slightly while still being entirely legible.  I’m sure the yarn will wear quite well, yet be very comfortable.

It is already my favorite sweater.

And we’ve made plans for a return trip, so perhaps I may come back with more sheepy souvenirs!

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