Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Letter to My Sock-ret Pal

Dear Sock-ret Pal knitting for me, whoever and wherever you might be (grin),

Isn't this great fun? Do you want to keep yourself a secret, or do you want to let me know who you are? I don't mind either way, so you can decide okay? Whatever is easiest and most fun for you. I have tried to answer the questions below. I also have a website for my farm and you can see that by visiting Serenity Farms

I just answered a whole bunch of questions for my Feet To Prayers group and you can see them in yesterdays post. Between these two days of questions and answers, you should know a lot about me! LOL...

Here goes:
How long have you been knitting? About 35 years
Do you consider yourself a beginning, intermediate or experienced sock knitter? I think I am pretty good at sock knitting

Favorites (fiber related):
What colors do you love? I really like all colors, including brights, dark velvety tones and all naturals - the picture below is of the natural colors of my own flock of sheep that I really love:

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Do you prefer solids or variegated? Hmmm, depends on the mood ;)
What fibers do you most love to knit with? Corriedale wool, Llama and Angora rabbit. Most recently I have been taken up with Shetland. You can see examples of a few of the things I like, below:

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Photos above from top to bottom - roving made from Corriedale ewe Hannah blended with Angora bunny; Fleece and yarn from my Corriedale ewe Ainsley and bottom, raw Shetland fleece from a ewe named Peg)

Who do you consider your favorite yarn vendors? I have several friends in the fiber/yarn world and I like to support them. My friend Margaret with her glorious laceweight yarns in unbelievable colors (can’t get her to work with wool though!); my friend Eve who does an amazing job with blends and with colors are two of my very favorites. For fibers, there are probably to many to name, but Eve also has exquisite fibers and my friends at Spinderellas have to die for rovings, their Thrums. For sock yarn, I love STR (Socks That Rock) but have recently found myself in love with the Sheaffer Anne.
What projects (other than socks, of course*S*) do you most enjoy knitting? Mittens (grin) and anything lace. I am addicted to lace knitting and sock knitting, so of course lace patterned socks are a personal favorite!

Dislikes (fiber related):
What fibers can you not stand to knit with? I don’t like acrylic (okay I know, not a fiber) And do you know, I am not fond of cotton or of silk...unless the silk is in a blend with wool
To wear? I don’t have any trouble wearing natural fibers
What colors would you never wear? I really like all colors

The Tools:
Plastic or Metal? Bamboo or wood? Yes (grin). I don’t like the older aluminum needles, but I love bamboo for socks, addi turbos for most anything, and I have a set of the Denise circulars that are plastic that I like. My daughter just got a set of the Knit Picks circulars, with sharper points than Addi’s and I think they are going to be nice
Circs or Straights? DPNs or Magic Loop? I have learned the Magic Loop method and see its value, but I still think I prefer dpns
Are there any knitting accessories you don't have in your collection but would like? Hmmm, have to think about that!

The Extras:
Do you have a wish list? If so, please share the link! No
Do you like sweet, sour or salty? (or all of the above? *S*) Yes - grin Sweet or salty first of all though
Do you have any allergies your pal should know about? (Certain foods, smoke, pet hair, etc) I really hate cigarette smoke
Favorite scents? Scents you can't stand? I have a hard time with most scents, can't stand anything flowery but do okay with spicey or citrus
Do you collect anything (other than yarn and knitting toys of course)? Not really, but I enjoy anything with sheep on it
When is your birthday? (month and day is fine!) January 24
Do you spin? Yes - the picture below is of one of my favorite spinning places - my living room Dye your own yarn? Yes

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Your favorite author/band/vacation spot, anything you think will help your pal know you better... Hmmm, will think about that, too ;) I know my favorite vacation spot is my back yard with my family and critters (that is Eve the sheep below)

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Feet To Prayers Questions

I am part of THREE new sock swaps this fall! Sock-ret Pal (starts in October); Harvest Sock '06 and the Feet To Prayers Swap/KAL/PAL (prayer-a-long). I am also Knittin' Mittens ;) You can read more about any of these swaps by following the links in my sidebar. All of these swaps and knit-a-longs in an effort to use up some of the yarn stash!

I have had so much fun with some previous sock and fiber swaps I have been in (and am really looking forward to these new ones!) that I am giving a try at being hostess to a small group (The Feet To Prayers). If all goes well, we may go "public" after the first of the year - LOL! Anyway, we had questions to answer to help our Sock Sisters get to know us better and I have posted my answers here. I thought it might help whoever is knitting FOR me in the Harvest Sock '06 Swap! (Sock-ret Pal will have its own questionnaire, I understand)

Here goes:

When is your birthday? ~ End of January

Do you spin your own yarn? If so, do you also like to work with raw fleece (washing, dyeing, carding) or only from prepared fibers (roving, top, batts) ~ Yes, I spin my own yarn, using a wheel (have never mastered the drop spindle!) I do all of the above.

What small projects do you like to make? Socks, mittens, scarf, hat, baby items, wash cloths, doilies, shrugs etc ~ My very favorite thing in the world to make are socks. Lace patterns are my second favorite, so as you might guess, lace patterned socks are right at the top of the list!

What are your favorite scents? ~ I am allergic to an awful lot of scents, so don't usually purchase any. I do like citrus scents and also spicy scents (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger) Nothing flowery

Do you like stationary and cards? ~ Love them! When I was a child, a brand new notebook with blank sheets of paper or a really nice pen would keep me happy for days!

Do you like hand lotions or soaps? ~ Yes, but again, most scents bother me

Do you like to make/or use stitch markers?~ I love them AND use...don't make them myself, but my daughter does

Do you collect anything? ~ Yarn (grin) No, really, I don't collect anything though I always love things that have sheep on them

Do you have any allergies? Smoke, food, fiber, pets, etc.. ~ Some fragrances, as I said. And cigarette smoke really bother me

Do you have any hobbies? (besides knitting, of course!) ~ Gardening

Do you like scented or unscented candles? ~ Back to the scents thing - if I have a candle burning, it usually has a spicy or a citrus scent

Are there any books you are secretly wishing for? ~ No, or if there are probably to many to list!

Do you have a favorite Bible verse/story or character from the Bible? ~ My very favorite bible character is David. And Peter. Both flawed, both perfectly human but used and loved by God- made perfect by Him!
~ A scripture I love is Lamentation 3:21-26 "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Monday Morning Rain

For once, the weather man was correct in his predictions and following two glorious fall like days over the weekend, Monday morning looms grey, damp and drizzly. The wind has a subtly different sound to it than during the spring rains - not really mournful, though, and in a strange way, soothing. As if the seasons are returning in the proper way, letting me know by the changes that fall is coming and following will be winter.

I love fall and winter. I prefer cool, even cold, weather to hot. My animals prefer it, too. I like the seasons where the ground is covered with white stuff (giving the appearance of clean), no bugs, and perfect for wool.

I am, after, a sheep farmer and wool is my main crop ;)

Except for the sound of wind and rain, and my washing machine running, the house is quiet this morning. Alex is at school, Bill is asleep and Mason won’t be here to visit for a few more hours. Watching the rain and feeling the chill in the air, what would any self respecting spinner/knitter/shepherdess want to do? Why, sit down and soothe her spirit with wool and yarn, of course! The rest of this week is already stacked up against me as far as commitments, obligations and errands for other people. It is sooo tempting to give myself some attention today, to sit in my newly organized and comfy sanctuary (wool/knitting/spinning/praying/reading/soap room - see picture below):

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But I am on a mission.... Part of the reason this room IS cleaned and organized is because I am craving some order and cleanliness in my life and the house is reaping the benefit of it. I don’t have these urges often, and they don’t usually last long...but I am determined. I have a closet to finish clearing out in Alex’s new room, then I move on to my “office area” (computer/knitting/spinning/praying/reading room....are you seeing a theme for our house here?)

I want to show you my fiber stash:

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That’s it. No rooms or closets crammed full, no tubs hidden under the beds, no garbage bags doing double duty as fiber storage. I know that this is a pitifully small amount of fiber stash compared to what I read many of you have (grin) and this is to my credit as I am a compulsive buyer/hoarder of any thing that interests me, usually. But even this amount of fiber seems like A LOT to me, and each bag represented here has an accompanying project kicking around in my mind that I would like to accomplish in my lifetime. So here it is, out in the open for all to see - especially me - and to keep me motivated. Some of the white in the lower right corner of the photo I would like to dye.

Yarn/knitting projects are not so controlled. One of the things I accomplished in this recent flurry of cleaning was to separate out and bag up purchased yarns plus the pattern and accessories needed to work that particular project. Most of it is sock projects, followed closely by shawl type projects. I have SEVEN separate purchased sock yarns with patterns planned to go with them. That does not include handspun or mill spun sock yarn....there might be to much of that to count! That does not include the FOUR socks that are currently on needles! Shawl projects with either purchased yarn or my own spun yarn...that number is around four or five, with two of them actually on the needles. And then, just to tempt me more, this project shows up on the internet, the Hidcote Garden Shawl by the designer of the Icarius Shawl. Oh, how can I NOT be tempted to at least purchase this pattern and dream of one day knitting it??? I ask you...and my lavender beds ask you...how can I not???

Also on needles, two different mitten patterns. Two sweater type projects....one, the Blackberry Shrug from online Knitty magazine, is nearly finished. I just picked it up again the other day when the temperatures began to drop. It was close to completion this spring when the hot, muggy weather encouraged me to put the bulky wool work aside...now is time to finish up:

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Knit from my own Corriedale yarn and minus the bobbles (and believe me, if it were finished I would be wearing it this morning). The other sweater project, also from my own wool - yarn spun by Spinderella’s, is the Granny Smith Cardigan and it is only swatched for, not actually started. So I am going to set a goal of finishing the Blackberry this week so I can cast on for the Grannie Smith (only three months late for the KAL)

My other goal? To finish AT LEAST one pair of socks per week until all of the socks that are now on needles are complete. Did I also mention that I am currently participating in FIVE online KAL’s or Swaps AND our local fiber/knitting group is gearing to start again in a few weeks?

So you can see, that ongoing in-the-works projects ARE the downfall in my life - a real weakness. I get easily bored and easily distracted, so having multiple projects is stimulating to me...but not very satisfactory if I don’t complete them....

And finally, in yesterday’s post I asked about the pattern I am using for my richly colored Socks That Rock yarn? As I am also working on the Jaywalker sock from yarn sent by Stariel....halfway through the leg portion and LOVING the pattern...now thinking this might work for the STR! After all, Jaywalker was always said to be a good pattern for this type of yarn. Hmmmm....you may see a DIFFERENT sock in the works here in coming days - LOL - but still the completion of an already started project!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Opal, STR and Alpaca Socks

Well, no, I didn't need another project on the needles (grin) but I wanted to at least start my Jaywalker sock before the Summer Sock Party '06 officially ends. So I cast on tonight with the wonderfully soothing Opal sock yarn in watery blues and turquoise. See...here is the completed ribbing for the cuff, and all ready to start on the pattern:

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And here is the finished first half of the sock pair, knit by Stariel, on my foot:

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I don't think I showed that before, and it really, really does fit perfectly ;) This picture is also a truer representation of the color than the one I took today. What a difference the early fall sunlight makes. Anyway, thanks again to our hostess Tonya and my sock knitter from Boston, Stariel! I may have mentioned before that I am probably one of the few sockknitters who had never tried Opal yarn. I'm not a fan of self-striping yarn, but I like this one that is more random in its color than a self-stripe. Now I can see myself looking for more Opal, when this sock (and others on the needles) are finished.

Back on my birthday in January my daughter, who has long been a fan of Socks That Rock yarn (even before the current mania all over the internet!) gifted me with a skein in the Fire on the Mountain colorway (With help from Toni at The Fold with the color!) It was such a glorious thing to look at, and I took a long time trying to find a sock pattern that would suit it. After three or four attempts that just didn't work (these are quite bold - no, bright - colors) I decided I would just do a simple 3x1 rib the length of the sock. Here is a picture:

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But then, I became intrigued by the way the sock looked on the inside (3 purl x 1 knit):

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What do you think? Do you have a preference just by looking at it? I've got a little farther along to knit before I decide for sure, but I would like to finish these socks up and be wearing them soon!

And my final sock post, a wonderfully fall colored Alpaca yarn, hand dyed by my friend Maple from North Star Alpacas (the bay black yarn on the toe is also from one of Maple's Alpacas!)

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My plan is to work the heel and cuff in the bay-black yarn as well. I know the pattern doesn't show really well in the picture (the yarn is a little fuzzy) but it is kind of a wandering rib stitch that waves in and out. This particular alpaca has almost no give, bounce or memory (and yes, I know that there is some alpaca out there that has both...this one just doesn't) but the yarn itself and the colors are soooo lovely, I had to give it a try! So I wanted a rib stitch pattern or small cable that would offer some support to the yarn. I'm not sure that this is the one I want. May go back to the toe and start over with a different stitch pattern.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Where School Starts

What The Farm and The Farm Home Should Do For The Child -

(This post and the previous one (Grandma, What Do Bees Say) were written within days of each other this week, and I think speak to the same subject - what a farm can do for a child. I have a copy of a wonderful old book, published in 1919, called Farm Life. It was part of a series of books published for Sears, Roebuck & Co. It is a beautiful old thing and I treasure its wisdom and sentiments. I quote from it here and hope that you will enjoy it as well.

I have known in my heart for a very long time that this place that my husband and I live was not meant to be just for us. God has not allowed us to have it, to remain here, simply for ourselves. I always thought it might be a place to share with a larger group. But maybe His plan is for us to focus on these children that have become part of our lives - our grandchildren and now Alex. Time will tell and I only pray that I would be willing and worthy of the task!)

"Nowhere can the foundations of that education which makes for lasting benefit to humanity and to true happiness for the individual be better laid than on the farm. Here the old-fashioned virtues of obedience, orderliness, patience, promptness, cleanliness, self-control and self-reliance are essentials to success; and the child should and will be led to value them, even before his or her schooldays begin. Indeed, on the farm, helpful habits are formed of necessity and almost unconsciously - taken from a book on Farm Life, published in 1919 for Sears, Roebuck and Co.

School started up this past week here in Michigan and all across the country. Alex begins the eighth grade, going back into public school and back to classmates he attended with from kindergarten up until middle of fifth grade. That is when his mother passed away and he was taken away to live in a new place in a new school with new challenges. Some he was unable to overcome. And so he is back with us, and I am so thankful every day for the opportunity to make a difference in his young life.

When he first came back to live with us, he was full of anger (rage!), frustration, remorse, sadness and insecurity. Some of that remains. But we also see a change as he learns to cope and to care for others and himself. As he begins to heal. So much of that is because of the farm.

When he first came back to live with us, he seemed to have forgotten all he had known and learned in his early years. “I will do the chores because I have to and its what you expect from me, but I’m never going to like it and I will never be a farmer when I don’t have to” was his declaration.

And when he first came back to live with us, he began helping Bill prepare a horse for sale. He attended his first horse sale, where he was welcomed back into “the fold” by friends and family members who had known him in his youth, who knew of his life story because of us. He got to drive that horse in the sale preview with Bill. He was accepted, he was treated like a normal kid, he was given responsibilities by others as well as us. And he handled them all and began to blossom. Then Bill fell ill, and full responsibilities of the farm fell on me while he recovered. Only I was NOT alone....Along with extended family members, Alex took on that day to day responsibility with me. I needed him, the farm needed him, “Doc” (Bill) needed him and probably most of all - the animals needed him. He learned what it meant to have another living creature rely on you for food, water and care. Lambing season began, and it was the worst lambing season of my entire life (including when I was a kid on the farm!) We had triplets, we had backwards lambs, we had a terrible prolapse on a young ewe with twins during a horrific thunderstorm. We had one of our elderly ewes deliver twins and only have half of her udder working, so we supplemented those two lambs (left them with their mama so they could still be “sheep”, but brought them bottles of milk supplement throughout the day to keep their tummies full) These two lambs, plus one other, have become the start of Alex’s personal flock of sheep. Because yes, he did fall in love with farm life. With tending sheep. He learned to build fence with my Dad (Gramps as Alex calls him) This summer we saw and heard such advances as his excitement over having a clean barn, having hay and straw in the mow and even this week as he adjusted to his school schedule he was already thinking ahead to lambing season and getting up at 5 am so he would have time to check the barn before he got ready for school! How many teenage boys OFFER to get out of bed that early? LOL

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Yesterday we had people here to buy a ram. I heard Alex - the same Alex who wasn’t going to like farming, who been so socially immature that it was often difficult to take him in public - I heard that same boy tell these folks how much he loved shepherding. He told them the story of how he had gone from refusing to touch a slippery newborn lamb to helping deliver and even to bury one that was lost. He told how when he had a bad day, he could come to barn and sit amongst the lambs and watch them jump and play with the joy of life. “How can you stay mad or sad after that?” he asked.

How can you indeed.....

“I believe that the country which God made is more beautiful than the city which man made; the life out of doors and in touch with the earth is the natural life of man. I believe that work is work wherever I find it, but that work with Nature is more inspiring than work with the most intricate machinery. I believe that the dignity of labor depends not on what you do, but on how you do it; that opportunity comes to a boy on the farm as often as to a boy in the city, that life is larger and freer and happier on the farm than in the town, that my success depends not upon my location, but upon myself - not upon my dreams, but upon what I actually do; not upon luck but upon pluck. I believe in working when you work and in playing when you play and in giving and demanding a square deal in every act of life” - Edwin Osgood Grover

“Nowhere can the foundations of that education which makes for lasting benefit to humanity and to true happiness for the individual be better laid than on the farm. Here the old-fashioned values of obedience, orderliness, patience, promptness, cleanliness, self-control and self-reliance are essentials to success....Indeed on the farm, helpful habits are formed of necessity and almost unconsciously” - Ella Frances Lynch.

Grandma, What do bees say?

The Farm Is A Wonderful Kindergarten -

“Most parents would regard kindergarten as the first step in education, and it is. The word means “children’s garden” and the most wonderful children’s garden in the world is the farm kindergarten - the house, the yard, the barn and the fields“.....from Farm Life, published 1919

Mason and I have developed a new routine in recent weeks, and that is to watch the bees. The Sedums are all in full bloom, as are the garden Asters. They are FULL of bees - busy honeybees and gentler bumble bees. Every flower head has at least two bees each, sometimes four or five. Three year old Mason is fascinated by this! “Grandma, lets go see the bees!” and off we go. He pulls up his chair...”Grandma, come and sit with me”

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On my busiest day, how can I refuse to stop and watch until my heart bursts with the joy of the late summer sunshine, a garden overflowing with flowers and bees and butterflies and my three year old grandson alternately sitting quietly to listen, hands folded in his lap or kneeling down to ask the bee in a cajoling voice “Bee, what are you doing? Are you making honey?”

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Then we have to run and check on Miss Agriope, the beautiful yellow and black spider, an orb weaver who has her web suspended in our flower bed. “Grandma, spiders won’t hurt us. They catch ‘squitos and flies in their web” This is what I have told him and now he repeats it back to me every time we visit the web.

Then it is back to the sedum and the bees. He leans in close and listens. “Grandma“, he says, “What do the bees say?”

They say, I love you, Mason.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Crickets and Crows

Suddenly it is September at Serenity Farms. We can feel it in the air and see it in the morning sky.

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The hot and heavy morning sun of summer gives way to this bright, crisp light of early day and a change in the shadows. I wrap myself in a favorite wool shawl as I make the morning coffee. In spring and summer, we fall asleep to the sound of the peepers (frogs) in the woods and are wakened by the song of robins, feeling somehow like we have overslept even at daybreak because they are so busy! Now our night song is the crickets and the morning song is the harsh scolding of the crows... "Get Up! Get Up!" Not always as welcome, except that it fits with the changing of the time.

Crickets and crows; asters and goldenrod; apples, grapes and pears; cooler nights and shorter days....Welcome Fall! My favorite time of the year.