The Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, Alaska
Wednesday June 15th 2016, 11:00 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Family,Friends,History,Life,Lupus,Wildlife

Sam, a knitter herself these days, asked us if we wanted to see the musk ox while we were there? She’d never been.

Hey, couldn’t keep her from having that experience, right? And so Saturday we went to the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer and took their walking tour of the grounds.

Domesticating a species takes 250 years, they told us, and we’ve had 50 so we’re on our way but we’re not there yet–so please don’t put your hands past the fences.

(A few days later at a different farm we would be told, as reindeer walked freely among us and looked us in the eye while licking alfalfa from our hands, that the difference between caribou and reindeer was that the reindeer had been domesticated for about 250 years. Alright, I see where that number maybe came from.)

Parents were asked to keep small children close so as not to spook the animals into thinking small creature=wolf. On the flip side, when the man who set up the farm with its first set of animals 50 years ago was approached by a small dog, the musk ox had taken their human’s small size relative to their own as meaning he was defenseless and they closed ranks in a circle around him as they do to protect their young, horns pointing outwards and ready to charge the threat on his behalf.


The white along the tops of the spines of many of them: the guide said they weren’t sure but they think that’s to reflect the sun away during the summers so they don’t overheat.

The curves in their horns? Those tell you about how old the animal is. Short and stubby, you’ve got a young’un; the next year they start to turn forward, and at I think she said four you get those iconic half loops in front. Most of theirs have their horns trimmed to protect the humans but she pointed out this one old guy over there that had the full set.

Back in the museum/gift shop, my sweet husband was the one who picked up the musk ox-topped knitting needles and asked me if I didn’t need these? Then the grampa in him wanted me to take a soft little stuffed one home. And we couldn’t come all this way without some qiviut. We just couldn’t.

We’d just been told about the musk ox playing with a fifty-pound ball given to the farm after the oil pipeline had been built, y’know, something for the animals to play with or rub their backs on or something.

They’d managed to get it rolling down the hill, and bam! Right through the fence! Oops.

So for now, mine is playing with a ball. It’s a deep red. It’s a mere ounce, because I just could not bring myself to spend that much more money on yarn when a single ounce would make me just as ecstatic.

The book? While we were out in the fields (yay sunblock and hats and I’ve been holding my breath but no major flare yet) I’d asked them if they had it and explained that Donna Druchunas, the author, had been the text editor for my own knitted lace book.

They were delighted at the connection and told me enthusiastically, Oh yes! It flies off our shelves!

I had previously wondered what on earth was holding me up that I hadn’t already bought it. Now I know. It was waiting for me to support the husbandry of the very animals Donna had written about as well as Donna herself with that purchase. It was worth the wait.




Grandma got slobbered by a reindeer
Tuesday June 14th 2016, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Life,Spinning

Yes. Yes that happened Monday. Fingerless gloves are a good and useful thing as an extra layer of sun and cold block but for feeding reindeer alfalfa pellets, maybe not so much. But we just stepped in the door and I’m only still up because one load of laundry must be done before the morning–I’ll handwash those later.

This is the one I got to feed.

I asked the guy, Don’t they have a thick undercoat to keep them warm in the winter? Is it soft? What do you do with it?

Oh they’ve lost all that right now. It is soft. We don’t do anything with it. It’s hollow so you can’t, like, do anything with the stuff so we don’t.

(The fiber artist’s mind. It boggles.)

I tried to explain that qiviut is hollow too and highly desirable stuff. (Thinking of the musk ox farm up the road we’d just gone to on Saturday–more on that later.)

He thought he was having to explain to someone who wasn’t getting it.

I told him I’m a handspinner with a spinning wheel and I assured him I could put next year’s undercoat to very good use.

You could see the realization dawning in his eyes…

Yeah. Yeah I’m getting back to those guys. When I mail them back, by way of re-introduction, the two little alfalfa pellets their little guy tossed into my sagging sweater pocket while slobbering eagerly all over my fingers. My sweater smells a bit like reindeer too.

I kinda like it.

Wednesday June 08th 2016, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

(Christmas light bulbs in the background.)

I’m told there was heat while we were gone last weekend. The mango thought so–after sitting there since February, this bud tip finally started remembering what it was there for.

And that’s that for now. The house will be sat and we are off to Alaska in the morning to see Sam and her husband. If I don’t get to the blog while we’re gone, know that we are glacier watching and moose dodging and I’m told there’s a stuffed 12 foot grizzly in the airport to show tourists what not to mess with. I will need to verify this for myself.

And this time I’ll remember my phone.

My only working camera
Tuesday June 07th 2016, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Life

Found the bottom half of one of our apples in the driveway, welcoming us back. The Yellow Transparents must be getting sweeter now.

Doing All The Laundry…

Ate five plums off the tree and the first peach of the year.

Two more days and we get to do it all again. This time I won’t forget my phone.

Sunday June 05th 2016, 7:51 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I got to meet Sherry in Idaho today! Except she wasn’t in Idaho, she came here and we got to swap family history stories. She’s a hoot.

At one point there was a bored toddler being watched over by his parents in the lobby we were meeting up in and he started whining.

I looked at her and over to him and back to her and asked: Finger puppet time?

She chuckled. I think so!

Which one of us is more spry?

She laughed. I grabbed one out of my purse, asked the mom and then gave it to her, got to watch her face light up and then his and went back over to Sherry.

Who told me a little of some of her own finger puppet-giving experiences. I’d forgotten she’d taken up the sport. It was great.

Berry the problem
Saturday June 04th 2016, 1:44 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Grabbing a quick moment on the run to say thank you everybody and the head is reasonably okay, all things considered. I was afraid of it being dangerous and it’s not. I do actually have a padded leather helmet these days, I just wasn’t wearing it at the right moment.

Meantime. One person here on dietary restrictions can eat raspberries as a particular treat and the raspberries got eaten.


My youngest walked in the door from the grocery store not too many moments after with 24 oz of fresh raspberries: it had been anticipated. There’s plenty out there, no problem.

Looking out for each other. It’s what the day is for.

Peppercorn bash
Thursday June 02nd 2016, 7:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Clearing up after dinner tonight, Mom dropped the peppermill. I sat down on the floor to to pick up the strays rolling briskly around; they were near the trash can and it seemed the easiest way to get them.

Coming back up I misjudged distances and hit my head on the bottom of the table. Which should have been nothing.

Note that about a week ago I noticed with quite a bit of satisfaction mixed with relief that I seemed to have finally gotten over that last concussion.

It’s nothing, it’s nothing, it wasn’t a hard bump, it’s all psychosomatic, I told myself as my head started to feel pressure a few minutes after Anne’s son Grant swept up those peppercorns. I have no idea what happened to the ones that had been in my hand.

A little later, I asked my husband, Where’s John?

He looked at me and said, He went home. He said goodbye.

Oh. Did I say goodbye back?

You did.


I had another question: did Anne change her shirt?

Anne overheard and moved across the room to me and said, Just different lighting.

No–did you change your shirt? Was it turquoise and navy stripes before?

No. Purple and darker purple, all day.

My brain insisted still that it had been turquoise and navy. Every time I look at the purples-striped shirt it knows this for a fact even though I know it’s wrong.

Yeah, I think we’re definitely starting concussion #8.