Saturday, April 11, 2015

A spell of smalls

(Green grass and dirty sheep!)
Well, yes, I've actually made it back to this little neglected space. It seems as though my current life revolves around doctor appointments, blood work appointments and physical therapy sessions, so there's not so much interesting blog fodder these days, but I'm hopeful that the day will come when I can call myself a full time shepherd again, instead of a rather passive observer of my husband doing my work.

As promised, I do have a few small knitting projects to show. I had a spell of hat knitting before I went in for surgery and it would appear that my box of finished smalls is well stocked. My "finished smalls" consists of a large box full of hats, scarves, cowls, mittens and mitts that can be offered for sale, if I'm doing a fiber festival or opened for the perusal of children and grandchildren, so they may choose something they would be willing to wear. I've discovered this is the best way to insure that what I gift to my grandkids is actually liked and worn, rather than conveniently lost or stuffed in the back of their sock drawers! I consider this a double win for me because I love knitting smalls and don't feel the necessity for having a recipient in mind when I feel the urge to knit yet another hat!

Now that I'm looking at this picture, I believe that none of these hats have had a bath and a little blocking. That would certainly smooth things out a little, but I like all of them, nonetheless. Starting at the top is the Audrey hat that was part of Karen Templer's (Fringe Association) Hatalong #1. (She's planning a second Hatalong to start this week.) I used some of the Shalasdair Naturally yarn that I brought back from the Isle of Skye, Scotland last September. It's a nice, sturdy kind of yarn that will hold up well. The pattern is fun, with just enough going on to keep it from being boring. The black marled hat (Imperial Yarn Anna) can also be credited to  Karen's influence. It's the Stadium hat and it's a free pattern on her blog. I love this thick, 70% Columbia wool, 30% American cotton yarn. It has a bit of a rustic look that suits me. The multi-striped hat is from a bag of bits and pieces of handspun, naturally dyed yarn that I bought somewhere last fall (maybe Rhinebeck? - wish I could remember). I loved the colors, especially that weird pea green, and wanted to use all the colors to make something I would enjoy wearing. This was strictly and grab and knit project, no planning which colors should be used in which order. I used the same basic pattern as the Stadium hat and it worked out fine. The last hat is a little of my own Tanglewood Farm wool/alpaca blend yarn from 2 years ago, with a tiny bit of my own handspun used as the edging. I used Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns to come up with the simple hat pattern.

I confess to having several (many!) other projects still on the needles. My Hitchhiker is languishing in time out right now because I made the mistake of knitting on it at times during my hospital stay when I felt unwell. Now, I have some sort of weird mental association with feeling poorly and knitting on Hitchhiker and every time I pick it up to knit on it, I get a bad feeling! I'll just have to wait a little while till that wears off. I did knit the Nordic Wind shawl, after reading about it on the Woolful blog and their Ravelry page for the KAL. I missed getting the small batch farm lopi that was part of the KAL kit, but bought the pattern and used some unspun Icelandic I already had that came from Schoolhouse Press (I think I should get extra credit for using stash!). This shawl was a fast knit and the unspun Icelandic is enjoyable and interesting to handle. If you tug the tiniest bit too much, it drifts apart, but spit splicing was made for this stuff and it takes only an instant to be knitting on your way again with rejoined fiber. The nature of Icelandic wool is warm and insulating, yet the finished shawl is light as a feather (mine weighs 4 1/8 ounces). A quick wash and light blocking softened the wool into something I know I'll be wearing for years to come. .

Next time, I'll have a few finished sewing projects. I seem to have an overwhelming urge to sew right now. I've had great fun picking patterns and fabric, which is at least half the fun, right?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Still here

(The Purple Martins have just arrived, so spring is truly here!)
Well, it's been "interesting" (interesting in that way one tries to describe something difficult to describe).  When last I posted, I was psyching myself up for knee surgery and keeping busy with my to-do lists and the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. (I know I'm not the only woman who feels compelled to do a bit of cleaning and organizing before surgery or going on a long trip, just in case something should go awry.) I worked diligently on my list until the last few weeks before and then lost my motivation. The sheep shearer came two days before my surgery and suddenly I had a big stack of fleeces (on top of the ones from last year that had still not been processed!) and I was completely overwhelmed.

 The surgery went very well and according to the doctors and physical therapists, I was the poster child for making outstanding progress. On the fourth day after surgery, I was transferred to a rehab facility to begin intensive physical therapy and that's when things got more complicated. I was only there one day when I woke up with a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in my lung) and another clot in my leg. Within minutes after I mentioned to the nurse that I was having some difficulty breathing, I was in an ambulance being rushed back to the hospital. Honestly, I did not know how serious things were until days later. I spent two days immobilized while I was pumped full of Heparin and then Coumadin (blood thinning medications). I finally got to come home after ten days of being hospitalized for a surgery that some folks come home from after only one day. Obviously, that was not how I planned for it to go!

(Some of my beautiful flowers)

There were some bright spots. I loved the nurses and staff at St. Joseph East Hospital. They were so sweet and kind to me and so considerate of not just my physical well-being, but also my emotional state. I truly felt they went above and beyond to help me be as comfortable as possible. Secondly, thanks to loving and caring family and friends, I was surrounded with flowers that caused everyone who came into my room to comment on how lovely they were and how cheerful they made the room feel. Mike brought freshly cut daffodils from home every day, so I would not miss out on spring blossoming at the farm. Friends came to visit, bringing special treats and spending time knitting and talking. Other friends sent cards, texts and emails to let me know they were thinking of me. I feel as though I learned some valuable lessons on how true friends show their love and concern. You have no idea how much the smallest gesture means until you are on the receiving end. I feel truly blessed to have people in my life who are willing to show they care about me.

(The view I wake up to at home)
I've never been so happy to be at home and in my own bed. When Mike drove me home from the hospital, the first thing we did was drive right by the house and up to the barn, so I could see all of the girls! I'm not allowed to be in the field with the sheep quite yet, but I visit with them at the gate every day. Now that they are all shorn, the little girls look almost grown up. They still run up to me (the main reason I'm not allowed inside the gate!), but if I see them out grazing in the field, it is more difficult to tell them apart from the adults. I know I made the right decision to not have any lambs born this year, but I really miss them and hope to be able to have at least a few next year.

(Miss Midgie and the Littles playing conquer the mineral feeder!)
I hope to get back to this space much more often now. I've been knitting and before the hospital, I managed to sew a little. I have big plans to use this time of restricted activity to sew and knit without feeling guilty that I should be cleaning out the barn or turning over garden beds or working on the multitude of the physically strenuous jobs that are waiting on me. They will just have to wait.

Spring is arriving in Kentucky by fits and starts. We've had some days in the 70's already, but it's going to be cold for Easter - fairly typical weather around here. I'm enjoying watching the grass turn a little greener every day and waiting for the forsythia bushes by the barn to bloom. Our Purple Martin familes have returned and will be building their nests soon. There is evidence of life being renewed all around us.

I want to say thank you to all who have not forgotten my little blog, even though I've been very neglectful as of late. I'll be back early next week with some knitting and sewing to show.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Checking in - finally!

*(Won't be long till shearing time-I'm trying to ignore the vegetable matter)
Apparently, I decided to take a break from blogging, though it was not a conscious decision, as such.  I've considered coming to this space at least once a day and then somehow never made it. It's not that I've been particularly busy, though life on the farm never seems to be really slow. I've been thinking a lot and that takes a fair amount of energy!

The holidays are behind me and right now, it seems that they barely happened. No more shortened work weeks for Mike and I can feel what is left of January and February stretching out before me.  At the moment I have a to-do list that needs to be accomplished before mid-March. It's a long list, to be sure, but there is plenty of motivation to get things done. I'm currently scheduled for knee surgery on March 16 and will be physically out of commission from my regular life for at least a few months (no driving for 6 weeks! Is that even possible?). I don't have an accurate picture of what those months will look like, except that there will be plenty of physical therapy.

I am one of those (among many thousands) who recently read a little book titled 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up'. (Ha-evidently, I'm not alone. Amazon is currently out-of-stock!) I'll admit to some skeptical eye-rolling while reading it, but something about it has lit a fire under me. I've been on a mission to clean out, sort, purge, donate, organize and dispose of an untold amount of stuff.  It started with the decision to move my dye room out of the studio and into a storage room in the barn.  I didn't feel free to make a mess with dyeing in the studio. I was afraid of spilling dye on the tile floors (for the record, I hate tile floors-they are deadly to glass bottles and my back). In order for the move to take place, I first had to empty the storage room. If I'd known how bad that would be, I might not have suggested it in the first place! Now that it's mostly done, I can say it was a good thing. I've been forced to sort through pictures, much ephemera from both mine and Mike's past lives, thousands of photos and stuff that should have been never put in there in the first place. I told friends before the holidays that what I truly wanted for Christmas was a dumpster! (That didn't happen.) Mike moved the big commercial stainless steel sink from the studio and installed it in the barn dye room.  I've repainted the walls, scrubbed the floor, brought in shelving, moved all my dye-stuffs, undyed yarn and brought in last year's fleeces (which are also on the list to be taken to the mill before March 16). As I told my friend, Diane, I can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear because it is, after all, a room in the barn and so I'm going to feel free to make many messes in it!

Another activity that has been occupying me is sewing. Just before the holidays, I bought a new Bernina and have taken a few classes at Q-Quilt First Kentucky. It's been fun to get back into sewing.  I haven't felt a great deal of confidence and the new machine has been slightly intimidating, but I'm starting to feel more comfortable with her and ready to get started making myself some clothes. I'm a terrible clothes shopper, hate going to the mall, never know what size to order on-line, so this seems like a totally reasonable pursuit!

*(Aslan is on the job!)
Animal-wise there is nothing new around the farm. Well, except for Mike declaring all-out-war on the starlings that are determined to nest in our barn and all the farm equipment. He's gone from boarding up every opening possible, to covering the tractors and bobcat with bird netting, trying to shoot them (they are much too clever) to now having a recording of starling distress calls and hawks screaming that plays 24/7 in the barn. I worried that the other animals would be as disturbed as I am by hearing it, but they seem to pay absolutely no attention to it. Even the chickens and peacock seem oblivious (though to be fair, chickens are often oblivious). I'll let you know how this plan plays out!

*(Carson loves napping in the studio bathroom sink)
 Instagram is my new best friend. I nearly always have my phone with me while I'm feeding and I take pictures all the time. They are not beautiful pictures, but do depict every day happenings here. It's a little dose of instant gratification to post something and see what other folks are up to in their daily lives. You can follow me by clicking on the link on the sidebar and see what the animals are doing nearly every day.

*(Carson is also on the job-when he's not napping!)
On the knitting front, I have a few things that I need to take photos of before I can post. Post-surgery should allow me plenty of knitting time, so am thinking of something big I can work on start-to-finish, maybe an aran sweater. I've been enjoying keeping up with Karen Templer of Fringe Supply Co, working on the KAL for her Amanda sweater. Her sweater is gorgeous and is just the kind of sweater I know I would wear forever. Often, I have difficulty staying faithful to a big project, so we'll see how that unfolds.

So, that's a bit of a catch-up.You see, you haven't missed much by my not being here for a while! I'll try to make things a little more interesting before I'm back here again.

*Just in cast you were wondering, none of these photos have anything to do with this post.  I just thought you all might like to see a few of the usual suspects. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

The in-between

(chow time)
We've had the drabbest, wettest, foggiest kind of days this week.  I don't mind it so much when I can stay home and have a cozy fire in my little studio woodstove.  Because I have fewer numbers in the sheep flock, I can satisfy my need to bring everyone into the barn whenever I feel like it, which makes them happy and me, too.  No sloshing around out in the fields, spreading hay for sheep who would much rather be hanging out inside the barn, eating their hay from the hay racks.

(Turkey plate time!)

Thanksgiving was quite the stromash (ah, can't help but let a little Outlander slip into my speech when I have the chance!) We ended up with 20 folks around the tables. There are not so many littles anymore. Atticus is 19 months and Parker is 5 years old.  Mia is next youngest at 10 and after that it was all teenage boys (the two older girls were absent this year). I'm reminded every year of how fortunate I am to have most of my family close at hand and that they are willing to spend time here at the farm. The energy is quite different now that most of the grandchildren are getting older.  There are no worries about little boys being upstairs jumping on the beds or moving the clawfoot bathtub around! (That clawfoot bathtub business is true. A game of hide-and-seek caused the tub to get scooted just a wee bit and next thing we knew water was dripping out of the ceiling downstairs!)

(Tiny tree in the studio)
The Thanksgiving decorative (not the eating kind) turkeys have all gone back into their storage places, but very little in the way of Christmas decorations has made it out.  I'm feeling a little ambivalent about the whole thing in this in-between time.  I have put up a tiny tree in my studio with some of the wool felt ornaments I've collected over the years and am almost wishing I could do something similar in the house.  Oh well, some kind of a tree will appear in the house this weekend.  I'm not quite into the bah-humbug category, just feeling the need for simple this time around. There was a time in my life when decorating for Christmas took on epic proportions. Every room in the house had Christmas baubles. That was mostly when my boys were small and it appears that I'm over that now.  All I want are the most simple and natural decorations, with a minimum of glitter and gaudy.  My friend, Teresa, says if you can't be tacky at Christmas, whenever can you be, but I've somehow slipped into a quieter frame of mind in recent years.

Not so much going on in the knitting department either.  Still working on the Hitchhiker, though it suffered a setback when I discovered a mistake many rows down and my attempts at fixing it didn't work out well.  I ripped back at least 5 inches and that caused some minor discouragement and a time-out for the scarf.  I'm back to it now after knitting a few hats and finishing a set of fingerless mitts. My knitting ADD has reached embarrassing numbers and I'm feeling the need to frog and donate some yarn.  It has come to my attention that no matter how long I live, it is very unlikely that I will knit up all the yarn in my stash. Only if the dreaded world-wide shortage of wool happens will anyone consider that I have been wise to assemble this much yarn in one place. I am embarking on a major cleanout and donate. This mindset could have been triggered by the decision to move my dye room to my storage room in the barn. Cleaning out the storage room (that's a euphemism for the let's-just-dump-it-here-room) is an exercise that can only be described as painful. At this point, if it were legal and all the animals were safely outside, I'd be quite happy for the barn to burn down!  Problem solved. I recently read a book about tidying and organizing your stuff and the advice was to hold every item in your hand and ask yourself if it gives you joy.  Well, all I can say is I'm wishing I had a lot less stuff right now because not much of it feels like joy!

So, onward into the weekend and with Christmas approaching fast, I hope we all can find some peace and joy in the days ahead.