Playing ketchup
Wednesday September 21st 2016, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Knitting a Gift,Politics

Lots of waiting times today, part of what happens when you only have one car and (helpfully delayed) appointments six cities apart. And the lab. And the…

How much time?

This much, minus the half-repeat I started it with several days ago and the two hours added this evening. Cashmere, about 50g worth of tomato-colored, knitted on 3.5mm needles. About 13″x9″measured flat. Done!

Meantime, I got an email purporting to be from an organization I’m familiar with but from an email address I am not, saying that I needed to check my voter registration.

Given that there were a number of Democrats who showed up at the primary polls in Arizona to find their party affiliation scrubbed from the records–including an official from said party who likewise found herself disenfranchised despite having been on the rolls for years–yeah, not a bad idea.

But I wasn’t about to click through their links. Who knows…

So we went to California’s Secretary of State site, clicked on our county, found Voter Registration, and on that secure site found ourselves verified as registered to vote, and since it’s not the primary, party doesn’t matter so we stopped searching at that point. We can always verify at the polls.

But we felt it was worth checking.



Sheep and tar and fish oil
Saturday September 10th 2016, 10:26 pm
Filed under: History,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

Finished a quick little project from the cobweb cashmere and silk that I 9-plied on my wheel recently to a fairly thick yarn. The splittiness was a pain but it was worth every minute now, now that it’s warm and so soft and pretty and–this is important–done. (Note to self: US 7 needles.)

Interesting stuff, meantime: an art-quilt wallhanging made for a museum exhibit in Australia pieced from handknit swatches and bits. I particularly like the digitalis flowers. So graceful.

And for those who haven’t seen this article yet, a bit of Viking history, starting with a 600-year-old reused sail found insulating an old church in Norway.

And so we know they were woven not of linen but of wool, shrunken and fuzzed out to a solid surface that was then coated against the water.  They would have needed 700 sheep per sail, and their entire fleet, two million animals. There is speculating that the Vikings set forth in search not of treasure of gold so much but of pastures for their flocks.

There are lines like this one: “Not long ago, researchers found that laundering synthetic fleece floods aquatic ecosystems with tiny plastic microfibers, which made wool look even better in comparison.”

I’d never heard that before. I imagine it’s surely better if you stay away from the fluffier types that tend to shed a bit? But all the more reason to buy wool to keep warm in.

Which you will need while reading a description of sailing in a replica Viking ship in those icy waters. Enjoy.



The Bradfords
Friday August 05th 2016, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,History

Last year they had a drought and a poor crop and weren’t selling the seeds and I just had to wait.

But guess what I just got in the mail. They even came with two empty seed packets to save your own in later. If you want heritage varieties, this is definitely a heritage variety: a soft-shelled watermelon that was the best-selling one of the 1800s and considered the sweetest.

Until the arrival of the railroads induced breeding that was shipping-centric at the expense of flavor (sounds like tomatoes) and the market bottomed out for these.

Just this one family kept growing their ancestors’ variety, 170 years on their land. They got discovered. It had been thought to be extinct.

You can read their story here. And the Bradford Watermelon’s Revolutionary War history here.

They say they get an average of one watermelon per plant. How many gallons of California water to grow a single one? I’m not sure I want to know but I know I want to try. Re saving the seeds, they can cross-breed with any squash plants that might be around and although that might make for some really odd and curious future food I’m not sure I’m that adventurous. Half Bradford and half zucchini? Wait–it IS intriguing…  Baseball bat size for the win! (Yeah, but.)

I’ve got almost a year to figure out how I’m going to keep the critters from eating them.



Defensible thing to do
Thursday August 04th 2016, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Politics

Another ripe fig, and again, very very good.

On a totally different tangent, that title is both a pun and a statement.

I remember a conversation with my favorite high school teacher, Bill Cormeny, the one time I got to see him after I’d graduated from college, gotten married, and, you know, all that grown up-type stuff. He taught history, my mom was in the school’s English department and I was back visiting that day.

He found out my husband was in grad school and thoroughly approved: being married and in school? That’s the way to start out! Teaches you what’s important! Teaches you humility! Teaches you–he chuckled knowingly–poverty.

Man ain’t that the truth. I think this was when we were living on $600-something a month, rent on campus was $200 and we had been married a few years and had an infant. The memorable splurge of a year was when we bought a carton of ice cream. Many times over the years since I’ve reflected on his words and reminded myself to keep holding onto his wisdom, to not let materialism trip me up, because he was right.

That child of ours sent a link today that reminded me of that good man. I’m sure he would love to hear this little bit of new history.

Missouri’s governor with his vetoes was not obeying Missouri’s state constitutional requirement to keep the public defender’s office funded.

I wonder if he ever had to make do on a fellowship with a wife and child, if he ever learned… At least in grad school you have the relief of knowing it’s a temporary thing, but still.

After a lot of wrangling and being ignored, the head of that state office finally hit on a novel solution. The law said he could appoint any member of the bar there to take part if the poor were going unrepresented, and so he did: he ordered Governor Nixon himself to serve in a case.

I like it.



To Nice avec amour
Thursday July 14th 2016, 10:25 pm
Filed under: History

A shawl, an afghan, anything–tonight I want to knit a hug for every person in France.



Angel wings
Thursday July 07th 2016, 11:01 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Wildlife

Having woken up to the news of an utterly innocent and well-loved man in Minnesota shot dead by the cops as he reached for his driver’s license, bookended by the snipers in Dallas tonight shooting eleven cops, killing four (update: five), who were there to make sure a protest rally stayed peaceful…

Both feel like the Kent State days of my childhood. We have GOT to stop doing this, thinking like this, acting on this. I want the Peace sign to make a huge comeback in our society: offer love to one another, not warring.

On a different note.

It was almost exactly a year ago, and I remember because it was right after the Fourth of July but while most of the traffic around my husband’s office was very low because people were on vacation, when I came around a blind curve in a steep hill and saw it.

There had been a pair of red-tailed hawks soaring above the nearby buildings for as long as anyone could remember, kiting on the thermals.

One of them had been hit by a car just at the end of that blind curve where neither could have seen the other coming. It was on the shoulder, an enormous wing angled upright, being blown softly by the wind.

A day or two later, I saw a bicyclist stop and pick up its body carefully, as if to honor this huge beautiful bird for having graced our lives, and he moved it to a small depression in the hillside where a tiny stream of water sometimes runs in winter, as if in burial. Away from the hard road and back to the nature it belonged to.

I mourned, too, for the hawk that had lost its mate. I saw it from time to time, alone now, as I waited to pick Richard up in the evenings.

Yesterday morning at 8:30 I had just turned up that hill a little farther down when I saw it: those wings, that size, the brilliant white against the new light of the day. A bit of gray in its tail and shoulders and its feet tucked in. It was rising, soaring on the wind.

Rushing home to my Sibley’s guide, it was a light morph of either a ferruginous hawk.

Or of a red-tailed. So there was a hawk nest up there this year after all.

Flying free, last year’s pain a distant memory of its elders.

May we learn from the hawks.



With love from London
Wednesday July 06th 2016, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,History,Life,Lupus

Before I forget. Actually, I wasn’t there because it was held outside in the sun, but Richard went and helped flip pancakes at the Fourth of July celebration at church Monday morning. I knew the old veterans that would be stepping forward in turn to say where and when they’d served, and I knew there would probably be younger ones that might surprise me to see them in uniform, too.

But hey, lupus, and so you get this report second hand.

He told me who one of the speakers was–a young dad who’s here for grad school and because his wife grew up here.

It took me a moment as it sank in. A Brit?! On the Fourth of July?

Richard was grinning as he recounted the tale. The guy had started off by taking a good, appraising look all around and then back to his audience with, “I like what you’ve done with the place.”

And then he’d said some of the things he’d found that he liked about America.

People in the stores call him sir all the time. That would never happen back home!

You can have all the water you want at a restaurant.

He named a particular fast-food joint.

Drive-ins. Drive-ins!

(And actually, at one of those drive-ins, his little boys can come inside and watch the people slice the potatoes and then fry them up and hand them to them to eat. High entertainment for small children while still at the pace of the actual food.)



Anchorage Museum
Thursday June 16th 2016, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History,Life

We visited the Anchorage Museum, which is partly sponsored by the Smithsonian: the place was gorgeous (those long vertical strips of wood around the stairwell–so, so pretty) and a lot bigger than I expected.

There were native artifacts and history. There was a piece of oil pipeline. There were representations of native and settler homes and boats from various times. There was the obligatory taxidermied musk ox, “lovingly donated” by the family of the late hunter who had taken the trophy.

I read that and quietly guffawed at the mental image of his family dividing his estate, everyone groaning at all the living room space it would take up, the fact that shooting one was for a time highly illegal (relative to theirs I do not know, I saw no date), and trying to foist the thing on each other with someone finally going, I know! The museum!

Maybe that’s not fair of me, but it amused me.

Almost white, almost plastic-looking waterproof traditional jackets made from tanned Arctic animal intestines for easier weather days out fishing. Coats with fur turned inwards for colder ones, and sometimes, they said, a second coat would be placed over the first. Brrr.

I had resisted pulling out the iPhone, not having seen any pronouncement on cameras being used but knowing they’re usually frowned on, while feeling that my quilter mom just absolutely had to see this gorgeous quilt: it was done in the tiniest pieces of the thinnest hides–I knew she would know just how much work went into that thing. (And Bev, I thought of you, too.) It showed the influence of the Russians who had come for sealskins and converts, mixed with the natives’ own patterns.

I let a certain taller one talk me into their going back upstairs and snapping a photo of it for me.

Then there was the woolly mammoth tusk. We are talking some serious ivory here.

And there was Donna Druchunas‘s Arctic Lace book in the gift shop. I bet it flies off the shelves there, too.



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.

Cool.

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.

 

 

 



Dresdenned
Sunday April 03rd 2016, 11:03 pm
Filed under: History,Knitting a Gift,Life

The first weekend in April is the Mormon Church’s semi-annual conference time, two two-hour sessions Saturday and Sunday each, streamed live.

Two cowls.

Started the second this morning and was very nearly done with my ball of yarn when I looked down and realized at long last why it had been acting so odd in my hands: I had knitted it in a mobius strip. And not noticed. Which is fine if that’s what you’re going for, and fine even if it’s not, but to not even register that that’s what was going on–well, a, they were good talks, and b, yeah, the head smack thing. There is a little bit of concussion relapse going on after all.

But the talks! One man with a British accent, Patrick Kearon, spoke this afternoon of talking to Syrian refugees who had made that horrendous trip in those rubber boats, of what it was like to try to meet their needs and be physically present as a witness to their suffering. He declared he wasn’t speaking to the politics of what was going on, he simply wanted to speak of the individuals he’d met. He spoke of the children. He said some of these people might someday be our doctors, teachers, nurses, engineers–as some of them already were.

Re their plight, “This experience will not define them. But our response will define us.”

President Uchtdorf, who was conducting the meeting, was fighting tears as he stood afterwards and his voice choked and we knew his family had been refugees too. They had escaped East Germany with their lives, barely, his parents at separate times so as to try to avoid suspicion immediately before the wall had been built.

In an earlier session, he had described watching the lightning that came from the sky during the war that had fascinated him as a small child. A picture of Dresden flashed on the screen: a thousand years it had taken to make what it had been–and then it was gone (crumbled stones at the foot of what had once been. Breathtaking, heartbreaking.)

And then.

That beautiful old church had stood for so long.

Another photo. They decided to reclaim all its old stones that could be and now there are dark gray polka-dotting squares scattered in the lighter new stone walls as a memorial to what had been and a declaration of renewal. A new landmark church. An Easter setting in its own right.

Today’s refugees are between the rocks and the new place.



On Good Friday
Friday March 25th 2016, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Life,Politics

The Tangy Green Columnar from two angles. Most apples don’t need a pollinator but it does, and so the Yellow Transparent gave up a twig with the same stages of blooming this evening.

Meantime, in politics…

Time Magazine did a photo shoot with the Republican candidate (his unmentionable name deleted) with a Bald Eagle for their cover–it was only later that they released the footage of the eagle starting to attack him as he rears back and away. (Scroll down slightly to the GIF to skip the ad in the video.)

A video that’s a lot more fun: in the middle of a large campaign rally today, a Pine Siskin flies to Bernie Sanders’ “A future to believe in” sign and, resting on that perch, turns its head to get a good look at the candidate. At 56 seconds in, it flies  towards Bernie himself before veering upwards in no particular hurry, not having minded the sounds of the crowd in any of this. (And I have seen how they zoom away when a hawk arrives. That one was not afraid.)

I love Bernie’s delight as he stops right there to take in and appreciate what life has suddenly brought him, his laugh for the sheer joy of it.

I was pulling weeds tonight just a few feet from the patio when an Oregon junco flew in beside me. A Bewick’s wren came from the other direction and joined in.

Wild things know.



Throwing dirt
Saturday February 13th 2016, 11:48 pm
Filed under: History,Politics,Wildlife

Those leaves at upper center aren’t in front of the fence: they’re under it. That’s a skunk-size hole. I can stop feeling guilty now for cinnamoning the root-eaters over to the neighbors’ garden. Gophers beware. (Besides, how often do you get to cheer on a skunk?)

Meantime, wow, what a news day. My condolences to Justice Scalia’s family and friends.

I can talk about money being the megaphone rather than the actual speech another day.

So. About that Republican debate tonight where Rafael Eduardo Cruz was talking about his dad’s humble underwear and Trump was yelling LIAR! at Jeb when he wasn’t yelling it louder at Cruz and he almost, almost threw in the pants on fire part and you just knew he wanted to and Rubio got into a shouting match with Ted and Jeb and back to Trump… Cruz accusing Rubio of saying things in Spanish on Univision and Rubio shooting back, “You don’t speak Spanish!”

Dig a little deeper, guys, keep going–as Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian put it, Some Jerry Springer guests have more decorum, this is great fun to watch!



Enmeshed
Thursday January 28th 2016, 11:39 pm
Filed under: History,Non-Knitting,Wildlife

1. Something serious: an article on how the whole Bundy standoff thing has been affecting the fish populations at Malheur Refuge.

2. Something not serious, except that it is in that it’s trying to address a common source of landfilling: a thanks to LynnH for pointing out a (fun!) reusable replacement for the ubiquitous to-go coffee cup. Design your own colorways.

3. Something really not serious: I guess the thoroughly-overripe, starting-to-rot grapes I’d tossed in that tall plastic garden waste bin outside the kitchen smelled really good because when I got up later to see what on earth that noise was, there was a squirrel straddling the edge of the screen door and squeezed in against the glass slider while holding tight to either side of the metal mesh as it carefully climbed, clinging and releasing step by unsure step. That screen was the only thing it could get its claws into to try to reach into that utopia that its nose just knew was right there waiting to be claimed. It owned this! (Never mind that the lid was shut. He’d figure that part out later.)

It took the little animal a panicked moment to figure out how to disengage and flee from it and me.

Actually, the Bundys and that squirrel have a lot in common.



Well there you go
Saturday January 23rd 2016, 12:00 am
Filed under: History

I imagine there must be, oh, say, an Emergency Directive for Federal employees when mega storms like the one hitting the mid-Atlantic area are coming in: stay home. Don’t drive in this. (The Washington Post is counting 989 weather-related car crashes just in Virginia as of 1:00 am Saturday so far for this blizzard.)

Looking at the reports, sounds like the NSA’s employees today must have gone ED-ward, snowed-in.

(Warning: this is a topical pun. Apply externally. Do not swallow whole.)



Thank you, Harry Shoup
Sunday December 20th 2015, 11:46 pm
Filed under: History,Life

Over with the politics, on to the military…

You’ve probably heard the story before but it’s one I’d forgotten: the typo in the 1955 Sears ad that had small children thinking they were calling Santa when what they were getting was the red hotline phone at the Continental Air Defense Command at the height of the Cold War.

That phone was not expected to ring. You did not want that phone to ring.

It wasn’t the Pentagon nor the President, it was a small child. “Is this Santa Claus?”

The tension and surprise showed in the officer’s voice and the little one started crying. The colonel stopped himself and reached out like the daddy that he was.

And that is why (there’s an interview with the colonel’s kids in this link) we have NORAD tracking Santa every Christmas Eve, giving updates as the famous sleigh and reindeer travel around the world. For the magic of it.

I wonder if the person who typed up that ad ever knew what they inadvertently made happen for every child of every year since. I like to think that surely they did.

Some mistakes are just plain meant to be.