Taxied! (That’s for Afton)
Saturday July 31st 2010, 9:50 am
Filed under: Family,Life

I remember my mom once mentioning to me, while trying to read a  book to one of my then-small children, that it had gotten hard for her to read the pages that were in black print against a dark background.

I didn’t want my young mom to sound old.

Last night my niece started opening Cat in the Hat to read to her little girl and my husband immediately chimed in that I used to  read that to my kids while I was driving them around: I would chirp “ding!” to tell them when to turn the pages they were holding in the back seat.

The mom grinned: I was on.

I’m out of practice. About a third of the way into it I had to glance at the book Jana was holding to prompt the next lines out of me–but I still remembered how to make the story jump up and down on that ball along with the Cat.

That black print on dark blue background on one page, though–how the generations ease forward. But we had a fine time, and the little one was totally cool with it when I went, oops, I think I skipped a line, while bouncing right to the next.

Speaking of our story. The owner here likes wildlife too; I think it is safe to say not quite in the same way. I might want to argue that he’s practicing the ultimate anti-Darwin: nonsurvival of the biggest and fittest. There’s a black bear in the living room, a massive elk head and a moose’s across from it glaring it down upstairs, and in one room, big as day, a mountain lion.

Now I gotta tell you, what surprised me is, that lion is bigger than that bear. Here, kitty kitty! But if looks could kill, that bear would have our heads. It looks a lot fiercer. They sure caught him on a bad day.

On the other hand, if one of those bears were to try to come crashing through this cabin… I’d switch sides in the argument fast.

One nephew, a teenager last I saw him, is a grown man who walked in the door and exclaimed “Whoa!” at the first sight of me. Short auburn hair? Young mom? Not quite the same anymore. It’s always a shock. And back at him; it was so good to see him and all of us and to start to catch up.  Been too long.

The generations take a few more steps towards the future, we swap stories together on our pasts, shared and newly shared, we dance and there is great joy.

A news flash from the bear-ometric press? sure
Friday July 30th 2010, 1:23 pm
Filed under: Spinning

I can now tell you definitely that black bears are–well, wait a minute here.

I once spun yak hair–not soft yak undercoat–and made a doormat. A small doormat; the fibers about ripped the skin off my hands and jammed in my wheel and I didn’t get very far out of a project I’d started out of sheer curiosity over the novelty of it.

Black bear fur?  The animal’s right there, and we’re all yakking away.

More later.

Thursday July 29th 2010, 9:14 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

I apparently have been ignoring people I didn’t know I was; my apologies. My husband set up a Twitter account a year ago to post my progress from the hospital to his family–and he used my spindyeknit moniker to set it up.  So if you wanted to follow me on Twitter but never got a response, well, hey, you’re reading this; you found me!

(p.s. And thank you, everybody, for looking out for Natalie with us.)

The news we’d hoped for
Wednesday July 28th 2010, 8:46 pm
Filed under: Friends

Kelli’s and Ellen’s emails gave me the heads-up that I hadn’t told the end of the story.

Natalie was given a colonoscopy in the hospital and we were all worried she would be diagnosed with Crohn’s. Biopsies were taken, cultures started.

The diagnosis, at last, was salmonella. She had a good old-fashioned case of severe food poisoning. Which is awful, but…! Temporary, and now cured. What a relief.

Second hat, first and then second skein
Tuesday July 27th 2010, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift

I made a second green hat. I had a second skein. Small children do sometimes lose favorite objects. (I could wish his hat is one, at least!) It’s easier to offer a replacement in advance to the Tree Guy for his little boy if it’s already ready to go, so, there you go.

Meantime, Nina came home from a trip to Europe and asked me over today, and when I got there, she described an open-air market where one of the vendors was selling yarn she’d dyed and I think she said raised the sheep, too.  Cool.  Finnsheep. Anyway, she’d bought a bunch of skeins (seeing as how she’s become a fanatical knitter too now) and she asked me to pick out my favorite.

Then when I did, she handed me the second skein of it to make sure I’d have enough for whatever.

I tell you. I was swooning over these colors. Here, let me turn them over for you.  Gorgeous.

Brick it on
Monday July 26th 2010, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

My hydrangea has been filling out nicely and has six heads of flowers now.

I wondered where the little plastic plant tag that came with it had gone off to. Huh. I had carefully kept it there in the ground so I could buy more of the same variety if it flourished as I’d hoped. (E., this is the one you gave me last year and it is the perfect plant in the perfect spot.)

The brick o’doom? There were two like that made of a calcium base that John had bought for his forge he’d turned the old grill into.  They’re lightweight, and lately the squirrels have been pushing them around: I put them back in their places in the circle, I wake up the next morning and this one’s two feet over that-a-way and that one’s sideways over there, and they’re a little more gnawed on. Wonder Bread! Grows strong bodies twelve ways!

Remember this? That was just the start. For three Wednesdays, I found some odd small lightweight thing stuck in the same place in the yard, in front of the barbecue grill and that circle of bricks. Each time it had not been there the day before. Some creature out there had developed a fetish for stashing its treasures in that one spot. (Oh. Wait. Remember the squirrel with the whipped cream? That’s where she’d eaten most of the thing, before she finished it off in the spot where I took the picture. Ah, maybeee…?)

And then last Wednesday it didn’t happen. I was actually disappointed.

My squirrels must have gotten wind of that, because on Saturday I found the missing hydrangea plant tag–it had been carefully deposited in that spot and a brick moved over towards it.

So am I expected to light up the grill and fire up an offering to the squirrel gods with it, or what?

Um, frog-get-able
Sunday July 25th 2010, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Knit

I went to bed last night with a new project started.

I’m going to bed tonight with my new project frogged.  Looking at that last bit of strand unstrung, there was a sense of, free at last!

If I can’t get myself to knit on it all day long, if I have to lecture myself to keep going rather than feeling a sense of joy as I bring something never done before into the world, there’s a reason for it. I’ve learned what I needed to learn from it, I know now what that baby alpaca/silk is supposed to come out looking like, and tomorrow, it will.

New beginnings are wonderful things. I can’t wait!

Boxing day
Saturday July 24th 2010, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I didn’t blog this a few days ago; I wanted to see if I would see it again.

I did. Its gait was just slightly funny and there’s still one feather a bit cock-eyed near the tip, but it clearly was doing okay, flying and eating like a good bird should.

I was sitting at my knitting perch earlier in the week when there was such a loud smash behind my head that I was sure that whatever that was, it could not have survived. There’s a certain time in the early evening when the floor-to-ceiling windows here mirror the trees too well; I tend to turn on the outside light hoping to cut down on the effect.

I went looking for it. It had to be on the ground.

It was. It was a finch on its back and I was sure it was dead. I went outside to look, and its feet were quivering, its beak opening and closing repeatedly in a way that to me, as a human, felt as if it were crying for its mama. I projected love at it as best as I humanly could, wishing I could offer comfort.

It didn’t need me making it more miserable, though, so I didn’t get very close. I went back inside, saying a prayer that whatever might be, it might not be in pain. Or too much, if I could at least ask that.

About a half hour later, I saw it was up on its feet and doing the bird version of breathing heavily, rocking slightly back and forth at birdspeed. A few back feathers looked bent askew, but she was up.  It was more than I’d hoped for.  I went out and carefully, not too close, rolled some sunflower seeds right to her.

She ignored them. Too soon.

About an hour later she was still there and I began to wonder if I should try to do something. The local wildlife rescue center is in walking distance. But she was having none of me, and tried to flutter away this time (I was glad she could–this was progress.)

Best leave her alone.

The effort seemed to have exhausted her, though. More time passed. It was dusk now, and she was still there on my patio and I didn’t want the neighbors’ cats to get her. I remembered something a birder friend had once taught me: I didn’t have a plastic laundry basket like she did, but I could riff on the idea.  I found a box that Costco sells pairs of gallons of milk in. I punched out the handleholds in the cardboard, enlarging one a bit. I put it down over the finch–the fact that she let me… Poor thing… with the larger opening right in front of her. Now she could fly or walk out when she wanted but she had shelter if she needed it.

It had been a long time since she’d eaten by then, so I slid some more sunflowers in there from underneath, on a piece of paper, in case she’d changed her mind.

And then I let her have her space and her own time.

It was darker in the box then out there past that gap. Maybe that was the motivation she needed to get back to the safety of the trees, hard as it had to have been to do.

After awhile, then, she flew.

Wonderful, too, is that I got to see what was clearly my finch back at my patio yesterday, eating food I’d set out for all.  Having cared about her personally, out of all the finches out there in the world, and for her, a part of her will always belong to me.

It was so good to see her flitting out and about again.

Think pink
Friday July 23rd 2010, 7:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit

So. I was doodling with this pink silk/cashmere stuff. How to take a six-row pattern and make it into 34 rows long before good sense yells Stop! Nobody’s going to want to keep track of–no, just no. Keep it simple, okay?

Although, it IS really pretty and I like how it worked out. *I* want to knit it again. So maybe. Hmm.

Meantime, Michelle was talking to her friend Natalie, she of the recent hospital bout.

I was having an online conversation with Chan:

The pink is blocking. It’s silky and it’s pretty. Michelle is on the phone with Natalie right now.

(Does she like pink?)

Michelle beats around the bush for me.

“Medium colors.”

(But does she like…pink? –pointing at the thing on the floor drying.

Ah. Michelle tries again.

A big grin erupts as she stands there holding the phone, then a triumphant, “Hypothetically she likes pink!” And then a moment later, “She likes pink scarves!”

Gee, I wonder what happens next?

Tree stitches for a hat
Thursday July 22nd 2010, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Friends,My Garden,Wildlife

That green hat? Now I can say it.

We had a tree come up near the house, oh, about ten years ago, a nice little tree. I’m an East Coast person who grew up in the woods (just enough grass at the front there to be, you know, proper, although we loved the wild violets that popped up all over and let them be in all their delightful little purpley glory).

I like all the green I can get around here.

But it became not so nice. Our patio started to buckle and we sure didn’t want it to do that to the house, too. I read up on it and it was apparently an ailanthus, an alien species that doesn’t support the local wildlife and a fast grower because it hogs all the water–and its roots reaching under the shed to the other side looked like they were tangling with the neighbor’s tall and much-loved redwood that overlaps onto our property.

I pointed that out to the neighbors and promised them.  The young tree had to go.

I waited for nesting season to be over, just in case, although I’d never seen the birds or squirrels stay in it for long.  Too open. Too vulnerable.  They clearly preferred other types.  Curious.

The guy I called for a quote came last week with his little boy in tow, an absolutely adorable preschooler who shyly shook my hand too like his daddy, who was beaming proudly, as well he should.

After they left, I went through my stash: years of knitting lace and fingering weights for book material (did you SEE last week when the cheapest new copy of Wrapped was listed at $96.07?!) meant there was nothing really there in the way of little boys and hat material. Purlescence was having a big sale Saturday, though, and surely I could find something good.

Right. Finding good yarn at Purlescence. Difficult, I know.

And so that Jo Sharp merino/silk/cashmere went home with me and a very soft hat got made for an unbelievably small amount of money. Two balls five bucks. It took me just one.

Guess who came along with his daddy for a few moments this morning on his way to preschool? Did I mention he’d already melted my heart? And how much he looks like David, my sort-of-other-son from way back when?  (The oldest child of the Tara’s Redwood Burl Shawl story.)  But then the little boy’s face lit up and he waved hi at me with a smile when he saw me, not quite so shy this time–and I went right back inside and got his hat.

Chris, if he should ever lose that and be heartbroken, you let me know and on a day’s notice for the knitting, I’ll sneak you a spare. (I know, it doesn’t work with baby blankets either, the kids can always tell. But if he’ll let me, I’ve got the yarn, I can knit him another.)

And if you live in the Bay Area of northern California and you want a good tree service, I thoroughly recommend Chris’s.

Oh, and? The barbecue grill got moved over a bit during all the goings-on. Later, I got to see a gray squirrel give it a quick glance from a planter, take a flying leap, and… miss! It landed on its feet but I think it stubbed its nose, poor thing.  Then it got up on the lower bar and posed a moment in triumph, as if to declare, Tadaah!  I *meant* to do that.

And here I’d been just waiting for one of them to leap for the missing tree.

A fix-ation on the issue
Wednesday July 21st 2010, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Non-Knitting

Michelle picked Natalie up from the hospital today. She’s out.  Yay!

Meantime, replacement to fix this broken dishwasher doorhandle: $23 plus shipping (they sent us the full assembly beyond this part; we were pleased).

Time to take the door apart, remove the broken piece,  replace it and put it all back together: under fifteen minutes. The new handle is better designed.

Time for the $133 electronic panel to arrive next: I’ll know after I place the order. So much for that. But it’ll be even faster to swap out, he says, and it’s quite satisfying to be doing it ourselves.  (We’ll reserve true elation for when the darn thing works.)

Meantime, it’s funny how having something you can’t fix right now makes it feel imperative to work on something you can make do absolutely whatsoever you say–or you will frog its little loops into oblivion, so there.  I am master of the yarniverse. I doodled with some silk/cashmere in a whole new tangent and really really like what it’s turning into, even if it doesn’t look like much yet.

Now, pardon me, our local parts place closed down. PartSelect here I come again. (And if you need a new silverware tray? You want Mending Shed for that.

Twirled twiglet
Tuesday July 20th 2010, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Friends,My Garden

Update Monday evening: appendicitis ruled out. Tests ongoing in the hospital. Thank you all on Natalie’s behalf–I well know how important the prayers and the Thinking Good Thoughts are (which to me are the same in God’s eyes–the point of this life is to learn to care for one another the best we know how in whatever way we know.)

Meantime, in the silly-stuff department, as it’s been growing I’ve been doodling a bit with my double-stemmed avocado treelet, the one with the darker leaves.  Any good spinner knows the point of plying a yarn is to add strength and balance, and I wanted to keep those stems growing together rather than splitting apart.  They intrigue me. I’ve never had a plant come up twins before.

When I first started bending them gently around each other, they would untwist themselves and come back apart by the end of the day, but now, a little more height, a little more dancing to the Twist.

The larger-leaved sprout is a few weeks older but is still sitting in water and the color difference is actually more pronounced in real life–I’m assuming it’s because the young’uns are happily digging in the dirt.

Both pits came from the same bag of Hass fruit. The Hass itself, the most widely grown avocado in the world now, was from a sprouted seed allowed to grow into a tree that was nearly cut down because it wasn’t taking grafts from the Fuerte variety (good thing!) The children of the man who sprouted it got him to relent, Rudolph Hass’s tree was left standing, and the rest became history.

A favor being returned
Monday July 19th 2010, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

As we anxiously wait to hear more.

Let me start off with this link from two years ago to tell Natalie’s mom she’s not alone. My daughter was in school at BYU at the time; her daughter’s on an internship here, the same distance away from home.

Michelle is very protective of me re germ exposure and my impulse to jump in the car with her wasn’t worth the time the argument was going to take if I pursued it.  But I thanked her as she walked out the door.

She stopped in her tracks and shot back in her worry, Mom! To do anything else would be unthinkable and immoral!

Well, yes, of course, and she saw that clearly and dropped everything during a heavy day at her job; that’s why I was so proud of her.

She had met Natalie at a church young adults party. Natalie asked if she might have a ride home to where she was staying for the summer, and it turned out to be right in our immediate neighborhood anyway, so it went from sure, glad to help, to, oh cool! They were friends on the spot.

That made it so Natalie had someone in a town she didn’t know that she knew she could turn to.

Good thing.  Last night there was a call; she had a fever. The older woman whose house she was staying at was out of town.  We knew Natalie had no car, and a bike gets you nowhere when you’re at 102.  So when she said she had no aspirin or anything, did we, would we mind terribly? It was an of course and oh honey and I heard Michelle on the phone insisting that she call her any time in the night or day if she needed any help as she rummaged through our medicine cabinet before dashing over.  We found the meds. We sent along a new pillow for her, too, trying to make her comfortable.

We all had a feeling that wasn’t the end of it. I told Michelle last night not to worry about the car today, just assume it was hers if Natalie needed her.  We all said she was welcome to spend the night here, as a matter of fact we’d rather that than having her be sick and alone… But she did not.

The call came this afternoon and the very sound in her voice got Michelle’s instant attention. I know from an experience of mine at about that age how hard it is to go off to see some doctor you’ve never heard of in a town you don’t know, but it had gotten to the point that she knew she had to. Michelle was out the door in a flash, stopping only long enough to make that protest of but of COURSE!

Urgent Care took one look at her and said, Stanford ER. Go. We think it’s appendicitis.

Shirley, meantime, the woman she’d been staying with, came home from visiting her grandchildren and is now off at the hospital to be there for her–where I dearly wish I were, too.

I owe that.  But I am so grateful to her and Michelle, too, who took up the cause on all three mothers’ behalf as well as Natalie’s from the start.

Bird’s eye viewed
Sunday July 18th 2010, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

I hesitate a moment to let the chickadee grab a last sunflower, the goldfinch, too.

I open the glass door.

The chickadees are always the last to leave and the first to come back. Also the most likely to fly right up by me while I’m at work and then veer off at the last second; they are as close to fearless as Darwin will allow. Upside down and hammering at the suet like a woodpecker, testing out the prickly elephant leaf for a toehold, flitting fast but never, ever hitting the glass, they’re my favorites.

Those and the Bewick’s, the little wren flipping itself around by the tail like a living helicopter.  A juvenile Bewick’s! Cool! I guess we’re raising them right!

The jays, though–they’ve completely disappeared. It surprised me when I realized how long it had been since I’d seen one.  Huh.  I guess the Cooper’s hawk showed them who was bossiest; they clearly nested a few backyards away this year, and the young seem to have imprinted somewhere else–not like the last few years, where the parents yelled at me for jaywalking if I went out my own back door. They kept it up at dark o’clock, too, screaming at only they knew what and off and on through the night.

Michelle slept better this spring.  My mother will recognize this phrase: joy and raptor.

I stand on a chair and pour the seed mix into the feeder.  Forget what the bags say: finches do not thistle while they work; nyjer, and safflower, too, stays put.  Back to the usual.

I love seeing the juvenile finches with their long skinny teenager look trying to land like a kid with a learner’s permit, their wings flapping furiously an inch above the patio,  sweeping them slightly backwards like a stickshift on a hill, then a hoppity-hoppity-hopp-phew-I-stopped! at last.

Lovebeads of millet in there too for the sun flower child, the dove mourning peacefully.

Looking up, I see a waiting line above me on the telephone wires and over there on that one tree, every top branch beperched.

It’ll be a moment before the squirrels come back; the finches and titmice, the towhees and occasional warbler or cowbird will have the patio to themselves a little longer because I stamped my foot at the squabbling furrytails. That’s one more peanut for dove, one less sunflower for squirrelkind.

I put the lid back on the Squirrelbuster–heads above me turn a little at the sound–scoot the chair back under the picnic table, and go to the sliding glass door.

They wait to hear that latch click. (I’ve experimented to see if they would take longer to come back if I don’t click it. It’s true, they do wait for that–but only so long, dinner’s ready!)


Time for LaughIn. Flock it to me flock it to me flock it to me flock it to me.

Saturday July 17th 2010, 6:22 pm
Filed under: Family,LYS

(Top picture added Sunday–one ball merino/silk/cashmere and I wish I’d bought the dark blue too. Done.)

I managed to sneak in, after a bit of family negotiations on the car/scheduling thing, a few minutes at Purlescence. Got back later than I’d wanted (the shop’s clock had stopped. I didn’t notice right away. I actually had a good excuse.)  I grabbed my purse and ran inside, grabbed the kid, jumped in the other car to run an errand with her–saving some gas mileage with the Prius rather than my doddering minivan–then she drove home so I could jump out and she could take off again: you know, the normal family your-car-my-car-goes here-goes there errand-y stuff.

She was off on her merry way for the evening before I realized that, wait: she’s got her dad’s car. And his keys.

And my car keys, accidentally left behind when I swapped seats with her.

That new 75% off Silk Road $2.50 ball of yarn from their sale with a specific intent and deadline in mind. It is sitting in my driveway, ignored and unknittable,  and I can’t do a thing about it right now.  AAA Emergency Roadside probably wouldn’t be amused.

Well, huh. I wonder if I could find some other yarn around here to play with in the meantime.

(Added later: where there’s a will, there’s a spare set. Silkroad in the key of Jo Sharp. There you go.)