Thursday, February 26, 2009

One more

Here is the sweater I just finished that is destined to spend the rest of this year in the Christmas box. It's intended for the newest grandchild, born 6 weeks ago. Whether it ends up being a Christmas gift will depend on how quickly he grows! It could possibly end up being a "happy autumn" gift and then I'll have to hustle up something else for Christmas. I love how this sweater turned out, though I did have some issues with it. Not with the knitting. It was super easy. This is a kit from Morehouse Farm (the Classic Baby Jacket). The picture on the website and the pattern that came in the kit showed the color combination just as above---the two blues and orange. The kit arrived with a pinkish-salmon color----not going to work for a boy! I probably should have called them, but instead I just ordered a skein of orange and got on with it. The pattern says it is for a 0-12 months-not sure how that is possible! I didn't follow the written pattern completely, but instead relied on the picture on the pattern (the number of stripes, etc) and then ran out of yarn just as I was finishing the second sleeve. So, once again, I ordered two more skeins of the blues, thinking that this was probably my fault because I didn't follow the directions exactly. When that order arrived, the yarn was not the right color. Yikes! At this point the sweater had cost me nearly double. Finally, I had enough sense to send the wrong color skeins back with samples of yarn in the colors I needed, which they exchanged and returned to me pretty quickly.
This yarn is very soft and is great for baby things that won't get a lot of rough and tumble wear. I try to support small, independant yarn producers when I can and Morehouse Farm does a great job with their product. Check out their website for some cute patterns and kits. The buttons came from my local Hancock Fabric Store.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Knitting little

I love knitting little things, especially baby things. This little sweater is for the new grandbaby, Parker. It was my airplane knitting on my recent flight to Florida and back. The pattern is the garter stitch cardigan from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies by Erika Knight. I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino instead of the called for Rowan Wool Cotton. The yarn was bought before we even knew if the baby would be a boy or girl. I had seen a dark brown baby sweater trimmed in pink that I loved simply because it was not the usual pastel colors assigned baby things (not that there's anything wrong with that---it's just nice to be different sometimes). So I bought the dark brown, 1 skein of pink and 1 skein of blue. I started the sweater right away, but then got distracted (imagine that!), put it down and just recently picked it up again. I'm not totally happy with the buttons, but the trim shade of blue turned out to be difficult to match. Finally, it seemed best to just get on with it so Parker could have it before he outgrew it!

Speaking of airplane knitting----we had the grumpiest security people I've ever encountered at the Ft. Meyers, Florida airport. I thought one of the agents was going to grab a guy up in front of me because he wasn't moving fast enough. There was a large crowd going through and the agents kept yelling at us to keep our boarding passes out for inspection, take off our shoes, put things in the tubs a certain way, to not come through the metal detector until they tell us to. (I did not like having to walk barefoot on the airport floor!) Frankly, it was very intimidating and the rudeness seemed unnecessary. Maybe there was something going on that was causing them to be extra stressed, but still..... My philosophy has been that I would rather go through security and be safe rather than sorry, so I try not to complain about the indignities (I got pulled aside for a pat-down on this trip, too! Maybe I looked threatening??) Of course, my biggest fear was that they would take my knitting needles! I usually have a stamped, self-addressed, padded envelope with me, just in case, but had forgotten it this time. Boy, there is nothing glamorous about plane travel these days.

Anyway, back to knitting. I finished another little sweater that will be going into the Christmas box (I'm so proud of myself for actually doing this!) It's being blocked right now and I'll show it in a few days.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Peafowl on parade

I looked out the kitchen window a few days ago and this is what I saw. Mrs. Dandy and the kids (they are now as big or bigger than she is!) were out on the terrace checking out the koi pond. As far as I know, this is the first time they have ventured this close to the house. I'm hoping they don't make a habit of it because, as you can see, they are big birds and big birds leave big reminders of their visit everywhere they go!

Mr. Dandy is usually off by himself, though sometimes he joins the group when breakfast is being served. Not long ago Mr. Dandy seemed to think that spring was in the air and felt the need to show Mrs. Dandy and the kids just how beautifully his tail feathers were growing back. (He shed all of his tail feathers back during the fall.) The thing I find amusing about this picture is that he is strutting his stuff and his audience is completely oblivious! They are not impressed at all. Ho hum---he's at it again. It turns out that two of the surviving chicks are males (you can see their necks starting to turn that gorgeous shade of iridescent blue-green---it will take them three years to grow their first set of tail feathers). I'm hoping they are going to all be able to coexist here peacefully. And, if Mrs. Dandy manages to hatch out any eggs this year, I think we'll be looking for homes for the new chicks. We have three barns here on the farm, but we only use the one closest to the house for livestock. All of the peafowl roost in the rafters of the barn at night and I think we may have already reached optimum capacity (please refer to above comment about big birds and big reminders!).
You might have noticed that the koi pond and surroundings look a little rough. Between the ice storm and then the windstorm, everything looks a mess around here. Plus, it's that time of year when everything looks brown and bedraggled. I think I'm ready to start seeing some green around here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

There's no place like..........

home. Really. It was lovely to have a break from the routine, but I'm so happy to be back home. I missed Mike and my animals and no bed ever feels as comfortable as my own. I don't know about anyone else, but being away for a while gives me a fresh perspective on home. I almost always come back with renewed energy and enthusiasm for my "normal" life. (I know that to most people, there is nothing normal about my life!)

These girls are just biding their time now. It's time for all of us to start thinking about and planning for shearing and lambing. I like to get the barn set up and gather my supplies well ahead of time. The shearer is coming in a few weeks to do the pregnant ewes and then he'll come again a little later to do the yearlings. That's not how I usually schedule things, but the way it has to be this year. I'm anxious to see how lambing goes and hoping it is not a repeat of last year. We had 7 sets of triplets last year and it will be perfectly okay with me (not to mention the ewes themselves) if we don't have any triplets this year! The up-side of having all those triplets and having to bottle feed or supplement so many lambs is that nearly all the yearlings are very sweet and friendly because they were handled so much as babies. Every year is a different experience, so we'll see.

Here's a quote from the "mindwise" column in the March issue of Oprah magazine: "According to research at the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, the repetitive motion and focus of needlework can elicit what's known as the relaxation response - a calming meditation-like state that slows heart rate and causes blood pressure to drop. In addition, a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggests that knitting is associated with a lower risk of dementia for those 65 and older." Well, okay! That's all the validation I need to continue to do something I love.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Livin' the life.......

This is not the view I am accustomed to seeing out my windows at this time of year (and it will be back to reality soon enough).

I'm almost embarrassed to write this post. Just almost. For the next few days, I am living the life of ease. My friend, Teresa, and I flew down to Ft. Meyers Beach, Florida yesterday to spend a few days with my sweet mother-in-law, Carojean. It's like landing in paradise after the weather in Kentucky last week! Now, I love having four seasons and would really have a hard time living somewhere it was warm most all the time, but boy-oh, is it nice to have a few days of walking on the beach in just one layer of clothes! I do feel a little guilty leaving my husband at home to do all of his work and all of my barn chores, but it was with his blessing that I'm here. The sad fact is that it is very difficult for us to both be away from the farm at the same time. We don't have a farm sitter at the moment and, until we find someone who can handle all the different resident species on the farm, we are limited to traveling separately. Sometimes, in the summer, we can call on one of our children to pitch in and keep and eye on the farm, but during the winter it is just too complicated.

It is so different here it feels as though we could hardly be in the same world. We had a near perfect day. The sky was clear blue and the temperature was in the low 80's. (And at home, poor Mike was dealing with rain, rain and more rain.) I'm going to try to carry this memory with me when lambing starts and I'm cold, wet, tired and dirty!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Heavy traffic

There's been heavy traffic at the bird feeders that are just above the koi pond and outside my kitchen window (it's a view I never get tired of). Sometimes I will glance out and see 7 or 8 pairs of cardinals on the feeders and on the ground. Cardinals are very territorial and will fight each other usually, but when the weather is this cold and the ground is covered with snow, they seem to decide mainly to ignore each other. We gets lots of different kinds of birds-cardinals, chickadees, tufted titmouse, junco's, goldfinches, purple finches and several different kinds of woodpeckers. Often we'll see a dove or two feeding on the ground under the feeders. We feed only black oil sunflower seeds because all the birds will eat them and there doesn't seem to be a lot of waste. I sometimes have sunflowers sprout in the flower beds directly under the feeders, but mainly the hulls act as mulch and disappear when the perennials come up. I buy 50 lb. bags of sunflower seeds at the feed store when picking up feed for the rest of the critters around here. We go through a lot of bags of bird feed over the course of the winter. Once I start feeding, usually in late summer or early fall, I feel a real obligation to keep the feeders full. I know that the birds come to depend on that source of nourishment. It's a reasonably inexpensive source of entertainment for me and I feel as though I'm doing a good deed. Of course, it could just be that I'm easily entertained!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Snowing again......

It's snowing again here in central Kentucky and that's okay with me, as long as my power stays on! Our electricity was restored Sunday evening and I have a renewed appreciation for central heat and hot water! Holly and Teeny are apparently unaware that it is really cold out there.

That's the late, great Pauladeen's baby girl there with snow under her chin. She is growing up to be a big girl, just like her mother and, just like her mother, she is very sweet and loves to be scratched behind the ears. The animals continue on in their usual routines. Weather matters very little to them because we provide them with a steady supply of nourishment and shelter when they need it (or when we think they need it). The sheep would just as soon bed down outside in a snow storm as be in a nice, warm(ish) pen inside the barn. They don't like to be wet and cold at the same time and will seek shelter then. It's going to be quite cold here tonight. It's already down to 11 degrees and I decided they would spend the night in the barn. I sleep better knowing they are protected from the elements. It's only about six weeks before the first lambs should arrive. I checked a few of the ewe's udders last week and they are beginning to bag up. My method of checking milk bags is not the most efficient, but it's one I can pull off (usually) by myself. All of the ewes are in full fleece now and it's impossible to see under there, so I just sneak up on them from behind while they are eating and stick my hand under there. Some of them jump and run and others just look at me in a way that shows they think I'm a nuisance!

As for me, I spent most of my day trying to catch up on laundry and baking bread. One of my goals for this coming year is to learn to make really good bread and lots of different varieties. We tend to favor a more rustic whole wheat loaf, but today I made Susan's farmhouse white bread and I think I'm in love. Her recipe makes three good sized loaves of sandwich bread and is quite easy to do. I followed her directions completely (well, except for that part about waiting 40 minutes before cutting into the loaf after you take it out of the oven. I mean---come on now, is that realistic?) I can certainly recommend this recipe for beginners and the end result is good enough that even an experienced bread baker will like it. Yummy!

I'm so hopeful that I will be able to get off the farm tomorrow for Wednesday afternoon knitting. I have really missed getting together with my little group.

Stay warm wherever you are tonight.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Reporting in.........

Yes, reporting in from the land of no power! (that would be our farm) Actually, I'm not in the land of no power at the moment. Our power went out on Friday and our farm lane is still impassable. We managed to get off the farm by driving back through two of our fields and across into a neighbor's farm, across their field, through their barnyard and onto their farm road, which is relatively flat and tree-less. All I can say is thank goodness for four-wheel drive! We decided to make a break for it today and come out into civilization to wash some clothes and take a hot shower. Wow, what a luxury that is after heating pans of water on the stove for several days!

The sun is out today and the temperature is up to 50, so if we are lucky the ice on the farm road will melt off before it cools down tonight. Even with no electricity, animals have to be fed and watered. They are oblivious to the fact that there are no lights on in the barn. As long as the food shows up when it's supposed to, they are content. Speaking of food, today is the end of the grace period for food in our refrigerator. Guess that's one way to get the refrigerator cleaned out!

Doing without the things we take for granted, I can't help thinking about how hard life was for all those women who came before us.

I'll be back soon---I hope.