Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hopes Dashed

That would be my hopes for an Olympic medal. You know that saying, "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans"? My plans were to get a lot of knitting done during the two weeks of nightly Olympic television watching, but life decided otherwise. It's probably just as well. Not long after I cast on for my Shepherd's Jacket, I read this entry on Kim's blog and thought to myself, "why don't I have enough sense to do that?" By day two of Olympic knitting, I was back to waking up at night with the carpel-tunnel symptoms. A few years ago, during a particularly graceful (!) fall, I tore the posterior cruciate ligament in one of my knees. The orthopedic surgeon told me then that he would see me soon.........because I was working on borrowed time with the carpel tunnel issue. So, between all that has happened around here in the past 10 days and the reoccurring pain, I hereby declare myself Unable to Finish the Course (sorta like Bode Miller--only not as dramatic). I'm still planning on knitting on my Shepherd's Jacket, just without the hope of a medal, though when I do finish all that garter stitch, I'm sure I will feel I deserve a medal!

Those of you who know me and my family, know that my oldest son's wife, Melanie, had a brain aneurysm almost four years ago. It was a very scary time for all of us who love her, but she made a miraculous, full recovery. Just a week or so ago, the unheard of happened and she had another aneurysm. Thankfully, this one was caught before there had been any bleeding. She had surgery last week and is now home and on the road to recovery again. Because this one was caught early, it would appear that recovery won't be such a long, arduous process this time. So, to all of you who have been sending good wishes this way, please know how very much they are appreciated.

Friday, February 19, 2010

February Friday farm scenes

At last, a ray of sunshine coming our way. Boy, have we ever had the gray, snowy days of late and it's almost shocking when the sun finally makes an appearance. This winter weary person is craving sunshine and warm temperatures enough that I can almost fool myself into thinking it feels a little like spring out there least enough to make me pull off the wool hat and work gloves while I was feeding this morning. I know better though. Just as soon as I start feeling relieved that winter is comes the snow again. (The weatherman says it may be coming back this weekend.)

Last weekend, Mike and I went to meet a Great Pyrenees who was looking for a new home. She's a beautiful dog and is going to grow up to be much bigger than our Holly. We brought her home with us and I've spent a lot of time this week trying to acclimate her to our farm and animals. At this point, I'm just not sure if she is going to work out. She and Holly have become friends and that is helping, but she's still awfully skittish. Her name is Penny and she's eleven months old and being that old is part of the problem. She's never known anything but the farm where she was born, so the transition is not as easy as it might be for a young puppy. One good thing is that her former owners will happily take her back and they do have some eight week old puppies available. I'm a fairly patient person when it comes to dealing with my animals, so I'm not quite ready to give up on her. I think she looks sad and worried and I want her to be happy here. So, we'll just have to hope she settles in and starts to think of this place as home.

Holly and Penny heading off to "work".

The weekend. How is it possible that it's here again so soon? Nothing big planned for this weekend, but that's the way I like it. Hope your weekend is the way you like it, too.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Knitting Olympics

At the last possible moment, I decided to commit to the Knitting Olympics. At the last possible moment, I settled on the Shepherd's Jacket from Peace Fleece. And after the last possible moment, when I had gone to the Yarn Harlot's website and signed myself on, I began to wonder "what was I thinking?" I must be nuts! I've been knitting steadily away on a simple, top-down cardigan using Takhi Donegal Tweed (love this yarn-it's slightly crunchy and rustic and just the sort of thing I know I will wear a lot). I only have about one and a half sleeves left to go, so why would I abandon it when I'm so close?

Remember all this? It's the yarn I spun last year for the Tour de Fleece. I've wanted to make the Peace Fleece Shepherd's Jacket for more years than I can remember and I just had the idea that committing publicly to knit on it (and try to finish it) for the next 17 days would give me the kick I needed to finally do it. So, there is a method to my madness. Part of my last moment scramble to be ready to cast on included retrieving the yarn from the big freezer that is in our garage and discovering that it had not been washed after I finished the spinning. That almost did me in, but I decided at that point I didn't have much to lose, so I quickly washed 6 or 7 of the skeins, rolled them in a towel to squeeze out as much water as I could, and then placed a few of them in the warming drawer while I went to the barn to do evening chores. By the time I got back in the house, the skeins were dry! Just before the opening ceremonies, I quickly did my gauge swatch (very unusual for me) and by some miracle, I got gauge. I was a little late casting on for the back of the sweater and at this point only have 19 1/2 inches knit. I need some serious knitting time to stay on track with this. Stay tuned---this could get interesting.
That first picture has no particular relevance to this post, except to show that I'm apparently living on the frozen tundra now. I know many others have much, much more snow and I shouldn't be complaining when it's so pretty, but this is the sixth (that's right 6th) week that no progress has been made on the construction my studio! I'm trying to be patience. I know spring will eventually happen, but right now it's a little discouraging.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sweet Hannah

(I wrote the beginning of this post several weeks ago when it first happened, but for some reason, I just couldn't make myself publish it. Sometimes I'm not sure how much of the bad or sad stuff I should put out here for public consumption. I'd hate to have anyone think we take the death of any of our animals lightly. Believe me---we don't. I suppose because my husband is a veterinarian and because I have had livestock for most of my adult life, we might have a different perspective than some people. I have learned that if I am going to experience the joy of having these animals be part of my daily life, then I also must come to grips with the fact that I am likely to outlive them. And that life does go on.)

I can't believe I'm having to write another one of these posts. A few days ago I found that our oldest Great Pyrenees, Hannah, had died during the night, apparently in her sleep. She had not been acting sick, had been her usual sweet self and it was totally unexpected. We are so sad. She was one of the sweetest dogs I have ever known. Given the choice, she would have hung out with us all the time, but seemed to know she had to make an effort to guard the sheep. She was especially wonderful with the newborn lambs and I'll miss her even more when lambing starts this year.

Living on a farm and keeping livestock makes one extremely aware of the cycle of life and death. We all know it is a fact, but most of us don't experience death in a personal way very often. Because animals usually have a much shorter life span than humans, the whole process is sped up and, as their caretakers, we witness birth and death often. As so often happens here on the farm, within a few days of each other, we had the joyous birth of a much anticipated baby llama and the very sad and unexpected death of a cherished member of our farm family. It does seem to help the grieving process to have a new life to concentrate on or be distracted with, however you choose to look at it.

So now we've come to the place where we can think about finding another guardian for our animals. Holly has been especially diligent lately, spending nearly all her time staying very close to the sheep. Most mornings I find her stretched out sleeping among the pregnant ewes. She seems to know it is all her responsibility right now. When the time comes, she will serve as a mentor for the new dog, the same way Hannah did for her when she first came to live with us. I have been putting out the word that we are looking for another dog and we have a lead on one that we will go to meet this weekend. I feel strongly that the right dog will make herself (or himself) known to us when the time is right.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Crash landing

Last weekend I was sitting by the fire with my knitting when I heard something hit the glass doors in the sunroom. When I got up to investigate, all I could see was a bird's tail feathers sticking up out of the snow......barely twitching. It was a female Cardinal and she had knocked herself out when she hit the glass. Just a few days earlier a male Cardinal had flown into the kitchen window and was dead before he hit the ground. Anyway, I stepped out into the snow and gently picked up the bird. I wasn't sure what to do. My inclination was to bring her inside by the fireplace, but then I thought about how panicked she would be (and I had a momentary vision of her flying all over the house and me trying to catch her!). I set her up on the bench by the fishpond and sat nearby to see if she was going to come out of it. Typically, female Cardinals are described as dowdy...........nothing to look at compared to their male counterparts. The longer I sat there and watched her, the more I noticed how beautiful she was in her own right. She puffed her feathers up (maybe to keep herself warm while coming out of shock?) and looked right back at me, but didn't move. I was able to slip inside and get my camera and then get really close to her. She sat there for about 10 minutes and just as I was about to give up on her, she stretched her wings and flew to the garden arbor and began eating rose hips. I guess that makes the score Windows 1 - Cardinals 1.

I went to Richmond last Thursday night to babysit for Parker (one year old grandson) and, as luck would have it, left my camera there. I'm lost without it! Since I started blogging, I never go anywhere without it, even here on the farm. The weather is once again causing road conditions to be unpleasant, so it may be later in the week before I can retrieve it. Meanwhile, I guess I will be searching through my stored pictures for some things I haven't posted before.

We have a another winter storm warning for this evening. It snowed several inches last night and is now drizzling rain, so we are really mushed up. When all this freezes tonight it will be even more difficult to get off the farm. My plan is to take care of the animals, but otherwise stay by the fire and get some knitting and spinning done. Might as well make the best of it!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Danger zone!

My kitchen has turned into a danger zone and I caused it myself. There are two things I have always wanted to try making (actually there are many more, but these two especially). A word of caution are heading into dangerous territory! Have you ever made homemade marshmallows? How about caramel corn? Well, I can now say I have and, oh my gosh, I think I've opened Pandora's box.

While Mike was gone this past weekend, I decided I would tackle the marshmallow exercise. First, I made a batch using a recipe from Martha Stewart Living. I think I made a mistake in the size pan I poured the mix into because it spread out in a thin and very sticky layer. The taste was good and I may try it again now that I've figured out a few things. The best recipe I found was one from this site. It's the egg whites that made the difference. The batch from the Smitten Kitchen recipe was light and fluffy and dee-lish!! I did pour the mixture into a smaller pan (lined with parchment paper and dusted with confectioner's sugar). I let it set up in the refrigerator overnight (except for that tiny little bit I had to taste). I dusted the top with more confectioner's sugar and then after a bit of trial and error, used my kitchen shears to cut it into neat little squares----just like real marshmallows!! I have a friend who is probably reading this and saying to herself, "Good grief, Dianne has really lost it now. Why would anyone make marshmallows from scratch?" I guess my answer would be because I can and because they are really, really, really good.

I'm pretty sure my friend will get the reasoning behind the caramel corn. Teresa and I have made a lot of trips to Chicago and getting caramel corn from Garrett's is a tradition for us. Sometimes we even take it back to our hotel, have a glass of wine and eat caramel and cheddar cheese popcorn for dinner! So, anyway.......I found a recipe here, searched the pantry to see if I had everything (minus the peanuts) and decided to try it today. The verdict: messy to make, but oh so worth it! Mike says it's the most addictive snack food he's ever had (that's a real compliment!).
So, if you're feeling like a little kitchen adventure, these two recipes would be something fun to try for the weekend. Believe me, they are worth the effort.