Tag Archives: autumn

Autumn home and away

We finally made it back to Italy.

I17-fonte pacile

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…

I17-monte amaro

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.

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.

I17-celano golle-n & tree

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.

I17-endurance

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.

I17-interior

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.

I17-gelato

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!

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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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Woolly start to the new season

Feeling uneven from morning dental work, afternoon flu shot, a cold either minor and lingering, or just slowly beginning, catching up from some brief travel, and pressure systems changing from summery to autumny to a little summery again…

I’m usually ready to say goodbye to summer, but slightly less so this year, or maybe as usual, I’m just not willing to loose the daylight.

My favorite (and only one I attend these days) wool festival happened last weekend.

There was some sheep scratching…

And oogling…

And of course, time for the dogs…

(Can you see the dog speck right of center near the top acting as gatekeeper?)

I kept to my strict budget of $30 (including parking) and came home with $3 left – again, took the penny candy approach and bought just a little fiber here and there (seen above).

And got it in mind to finally deal with some of the fiber I’ve been sitting on for years – especially this beast of a fleece (6 pounds I think?) that I’ve threatened to send out to be processed or have made into felt, but both cost money I don’t want to spend. So in the last few sunny days of the year, I’ll be picking and fluffing so I can card a little less messily indoors this winter (or just spin from the fluff and call it rustic and make a big blanket out of the mess…?

 

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Randomly in autumn

It’s been a wonky autumn.

erratic-autumn-moon

Last week’s laundry basket held corduroy pants, thick wool socks, shorts, and a bathing suit.

I didn’t go to Rhinebeck this year and I didn’t really miss it…

My schedule has been a bit erratic, and my making stuff time has been as well, (not to mention my brain), so I’m still sticking to easy mindless things for the moment.

I helped design a functional c. 1959 living room for a museum exhibit and whipped up some pillows with a nice vintage European fabric to match a new but vintage-inspired sofa.

erratic-autumn-vintage-fabric

(I forgot to take pics of the finished pillows…)

And made another pillow for myself out of little upholstery samples.

erratic-autumn-scrappy-pillow

(I don’t give a damn about matching seams – the samples were oddly not quite the same size too – and it’s for one of the various chairs in my work room.)

I’m unraveling as fast as I can since it will soon be too cold to do it outside, though I keep doing it inside, and none of that really makes any sense, but I consider it a cool, not cold, weather activity.

erratic-autumn-perfect-brown

I thought I wanted to use this perfect purply brown for one of my current work-in-progress scarf/shawls, but I’m glad I went with the green – this ended up being more lace than light fingering.

And I’m still oddly attracted to metallic yarn.

erratic-autumn-unraveling

This was a short-sleeved sweater that I almost kept as-is, but I still can’t find the correct atmospheric conditions to wear heavier-weight wool short sleeve sweaters (and it didn’t look right with a long-sleeved shirt underneath). So I don’t know what this will be yet – it’s a sport-ish/light worsted weight and I like the muddy pink/sometimes dirty lavender color – I’m a little tempted to hold it with the brown above and make a loose-gauge drapey sweater, but I’m also seeing too many other scarf/shawls I’d like to make.

I’m back to spinning again now that the heat and humidity have gone – trying for at least 15 minutes or so a day – and now I’m getting even more good yarn for scarf/shawl things, but I seem to be unraveling and spinning far more than knitting these days…

 

 

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Garden end days

(I’m sick over this election bullshit and low maddening hum of misogyny like a high voltage wire stretching over the continent here, so let’s stick with some light “lunching ladies” garden talk for now…)

The garden broke me this year – there wasn’t a single plant (except the hot peppers) that wasn’t hit with disease, multiple diseases, and pests – even the fresh dirt in the new raised beds now harbors various evils.

garden-end-eflin-thing

There was some balance – some of the new pests attracted some new predators – but not enough, and/or not in time and I’m going to have to be even more proactive next year with using more or other organic interventions.

garden-end-mantis

The fall crops mostly failed from no rain and continued heat through September, but a few sprouts are gamely hanging on, and the poor embattled (nearly zombie) tomatoes are desperately trying to ripen their very last fruit.

garden-end-army-worm

We had a few more butternuts than last year, but not enough for the work we put into them to keep them alive, and my experiments with letting some volunteer plants grow failed miserably since they were a month or more behind and maturing at the height of pest season.

garden-end-squash

Google took new satellite images of our town and our garden can be seen from space! Near space, that is, and luckily it was captured after a fresh batch of straw in the aisles and before the plants got big, so there’s good contrast.

garden-end-satellite

The new garlic is now in, and the old garlic is already half consumed – unfortunately we’re definitely not going to make it until next year’s crop.

garden-end-canned

And the canning is finally wrapped up – just tomatoes in various consistencies, jalapeno salsa, and a tiny batch of overly sweet hot pepper jelly. The rest of the bounty is tucked away in the new chest freezer. I experimented with blanching or not with a few things, so we’ll see what worked best, and anything too mushy to eat is heartily consumed by the canine, so it’s not a total loss.

Now starts the month or two of raking and shredding leaves…

(And a heads up that I agreed to put “a subtle message” urging Americans to register to vote in my posts, so if you see it, it should be there, and please vote unless you like Trump or any of the other election-throwing candidates, then please stay home.)

 

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Closing time…

I won’t add to the legion of voices bitching about this time of year when the light is left behind and we’re slammed into darkness all too soon. I’m not adjusting quickly enough, though I never do, and I’m cranky and mad about falling asleep over my knitting most nights. I’m working more at the moment now too, so the loss feels even greater, but at least my home office has viewing windows to the wild antics in the yard.

closing-buck

The weather has been hinky too as evidenced by the laundry basket which contains woolen base layers and snot smeared gloves as well as sweaty t-shirts and cotton socks (I don’t go to a gym).

And I’m shaking my fist at the rain gods who still haven’t smiled upon us much this year.

Thankfully we packed some tomatoes when we went on vacation because those were the last tasty vine-ripened fresh bits of the garden that we enjoyed.

closing-redtoms

There was a light frost while we were away that took out the green beans, and a heavy one the night we returned, so we were forced to pick everything immediately or cover it and hope for the best.

closing-tomatoes

We opted for the acquisition nearly 20 pounds of green tomatoes which were then promptly pickled and canned. Unfortunately, the additional delicious small batch of crispy refrigerator pickles we also made are already long-consumed… I’m not as much of a fan of the squishier canned ones, but I’ll still take them shoveled onto a cheesy sandwich. The lettuces and greens turned bitter and were cooked in a massive heap with lots of garlic and oil and gamely choked down. I’m nursing the last of the borlotti beans hoping a few will mature in time, and a few carrots decided to finally (quite belatedly) show themselves, but I have little hope for them.

Now the non-work daylight is spent pulling out the dead garden plants, moving the deer-chomped yard plants to safer digs, raking and raking and raking leaves and shredding them a bit to spread and dig and dig and dig into the garden… We’ve probably got another two weeks of this nonsense that felt good at first but now seems like it’s eating up too much of the precious daylight…

But the birds are passing through or setting up their winter digs and I’m happy to hear the white-throated sparrows calling out their Sam Peabodys all over the place and the screech owls are more often purring at early dusk instead of too early dawn.

And I’m hoping that the buck who’s been showing up in the yard is the same young “Bucky” that we’ve seen from the previous year – may he make it through hunting season…

 

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Not a Roman holiday

Autumn gets me itchy for the opposing forces of nesting and travel.

Autumn is my favorite time in Italy because it is the most familiar – I spent the most time there over the years during these months – and the tourist season calms down a bit. When the leaves begin to crunch, I automatically sniff for roasting chestnuts, but alas, for most of the United States, I’ve got to settle for woodsmoke and cider, which I love too. But we decided not to go again this year for a number of reasons, and headed back north to the White Mountains, then the sea, instead.

north-dawn

Only we headed straight into the belly of American tourism, or more specifically, an army of leaf peepers. We thought we’d be ahead of them, but instead we hit at the peak – don’t get me wrong, it was a glorious multi-hued autumn bomb – but the more accessible trails were like Fiumicino airport. But luckily, we were tucked away again in our now very familiar rough and tumble-down rental cabin on the lake in near solitude, and I’m finally getting back to slightly more moderate trails.

The cabin owners left some knitted and crocheted afghans for us that we haven’t seen in the summer.

north-blanket

But I brought our big guns – vintage wool bed blankets that kept us perfectly warm sitting outside watching birds, otters, beavers, and this time, a mink, although several mornings had frost.

north-blankie

I did just a little knitting – started a gift hat that is identical in color, but hopefully sized down, to the selbu modern I made last year – and the second sock of the pair I’ve occasionally worked on since June, some sewing, and this time I also had work work, which wasn’t really unpleasant to do while away – in fact, I felt more focused.

(And was well-fueled by my favorite licorice allsorts and chocolate nonpareils snagged on the way up.)

north-candy

After a week in entirely non-internet ignorant bliss (though marred by a knife through N’s finger (I didn’t do it), a septic issue that further confirmed my certainty of never wanting to live with one, and a bizarre key issue on our way out that took half the day to not resolve and led to the elderly cabin owners having to shimmy through a window several days later) we headed further north and east to a comfortable seaside cottage near Acadia National Park.

north-acadia

We knew we’d hit crowds there, and with gorgeous weather and colors, everyone should be out, but we happily managed to have several choice trail lunch spots to ourselves and a few excursions without road noises or children screaming for ice cream in the middle of a lovely quiet forest.

We hiked, we biked, we ate a shit-ton of fried clams, chowder, and lobster rolls. The season officially ended at Columbus day, so many of the lobster pounds were closed after that much to our dismay, but the island noticeably got a bit less tourist-peopled.

I saw more sunrises in two weeks than I have for at least two years – it either comes too early or I’m not paying attention – and I shot most of them…

north-maine dawn

I’d been wanting to go to Acadia for a bit – I love moss and the juxtapositions of forest and sea and got just that – more kinds of moss than I’d ever seen before, squirrels on the beach, seaweed smells in the trees, the sounds of the surf in the pines, and chickadees and forest birds at the water’s edge.

north-teaberry

I figured we’d be annoyed with the over populated trails and cruise ships and it would be a once and done trip, but I’d come back – and definitely in the autumn…

north-rhinebeck

And Rhinebeck just happened to be on the way home… maybe more on that later…

north-frost

We left the frosty north just in time, but unfortunately, it hit at home too… more on that next time, or later…

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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…

pie-peach

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

pie-apple

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.

pie-slice

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…

NH-dragonfly

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…

winged-fly

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.

winged-monarch

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…

winged-front

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.

winged-wings

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.

winged-buttons

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…

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Half-cool sweater weather

Earlier in the month, the days turned half-cool.  It was an awesome and welcome relief after the steamy summer inferno.

These are just a handful of days in the year when you can wrap a thin wool blanket over a silky chemise and comfortably drink coffee/tea on the porch (assuming you don’t have creepy neighbors).  Or don a fingering-weight wool sweater over a sundress when seated in the shade.  These kind of days are rare, yet so many knitwear designs are inexplicably styled and photographed this way.  I suppose other parts of the country and world have climates where these kind of days are more frequent – higher altitudes and northern coasts, but here in the Mid-Atlantic/East Coast and for the lower and middle parts of the states, it’s usually hellishly half-naked hot, or full bodily-coverage cold and only about three days of pleasantry on either end.*

I also think of it in terms of sock weather or not sock weather (or tights weather or bare legs weather).  And these rare comfortable days are also perfectly described in Toni Morrison’s Sula as “too cool for ice cream.”

The return of cooler evenings also stirs up a certain muscle-memory itchiness for the dozen and more years spent in school.  The summer is ending, freedom will go away, much needs to be crammed in before it’s all over – anxiety about unfinished novels, end to swimming days, late night bonfires, and playing in the creek; dread and depression of the impending virtual lock-down for most of the day, stupid classmates, stupid teachers, and stupid homework assignments**; and a slight glimmer of excitement since one more year is starting and it’s one more year closer to being done with the whole mess, a long-awaited class or teacher might finally be on the schedule, and perhaps it will be nice to see a classmate or crush again.  Here and now in my sh*tty apartment complex, some of the ne’re do well kids from the neighboring state are appearing again to attend the better schools on this side of the river, and the school buses are making their shortcuts in the parking lot that come maddeningly close to clipping my car.

Every year around this time I want to knit a thin sweater.  I own one cheap commercially (probably also unethically) made thin cardigan that I either wear for several days straight in a row or not at all during an autumn or spring.  I know a thin sweater could take me ages to knit too, or else I’ll get a bit obsessive about it and knock it out in a few weeks, but still couldn’t reasonably finish it until the next window of half cool days.

Half cool cardigan

I’ve queued the Featherweight Cardigan, paulie, and Autumnal Cardigan but none of these is quite what I’m after, though they’re all close.  I like the top-down construction of the paulie, (and I like this one as-is, just not for what I need at the moment) but with the drapey hang of the Featherweight or Autumnal, but none of these three patterns has the gauge I’d like to use.  I’ve got a few balls of Lion Brand Sock-Ease yarn in the stash that I got on the cheap and was saving for tights or a sweater.  I’d prefer to re-create the gold/saffron of my current sweater, but this “toffee” yarn will also work with what I usually wear with it.  Part of the reason I haven’t started this yet is the math needed to re-configure or create a new pattern from scratch – I am sorely lacking in math education and natural ability, so I rarely knit garments to fit because of this – especially since I need to modify most patterns to fit my weird body anyway (except something boxy I suppose).  So I prefer items I can try on as I go rather than having to work out everything on paper beforehand.

But I also haven’t started yet because at the moment I am soooo busy with portfolio pieces and will be for a few months more, although I’m absolutely dying for a side project, a distraction, mindless knitting…

And most importantly, it is hot again and thoughts of a thin sweater are mothballed.

My legs and feet are bare once again.

*I omitted air-conditioning.  I often need sweaters in air-conditioning, and interior environments often mimic half-cool weather.  Since I half-work from home now, I can control my own thermostat, and thus no longer need the air-conditioning sweater.  And in my previous gainfully employed life, I usually left the air-conditioning sweater in the office and rarely wore it outside, so it was more of a tool rather than a wardrobe component.

**I like school, school is good, but my primary school was bad, so stupid was a reality on all fronts.

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