Two more and two more to go
Friday April 15th 2016, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Spinning,Wildlife

Let’s see, that’s 278, 226, 222, 224: the yardage on the four hanks aside from the finished cowl. Out of the 200g of the closeout dark brown merino/silk cobweb, I have 76g left (cone excluded). It’s the smallest amount among the three colors, so, 124g of that=950 yards finished yarn=I have roughly 575 yards left I can ply in this combination for a total of 1525 yards that knits up nicely on 4.5 or 5mm needles and then that’s all of that there can ever be.

(Yeah, the cowl probably took some out of the equation except that Colourmart nearly always sends more than the amount stated. I didn’t weigh this time before starting though so I don’t know.)

I have no idea why it’s so important to have that yarn all ready to knit up but it is and so I’m spinning it. That sense of anticipation of discovery is keeping me going on the brown yarns against the brown spinning wheel against the brown rug with the brown piano in the background. I don’t want to stop till that one cone is empty and I can declare this stage done.

Let me distract you from all that with a photo of a hawk trajectory.


How now brown cowl?
Thursday April 14th 2016, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Knit,Spinning

Two plies each medium, light, and dark brown from the cones: I’m up to 504 yards, apart from the small skein I knitted up today. Not very often do I get cobweb yarn in the mail one day and a finished project with it the next.

The pictures are right off the needles and after rinsing in preparation for blocking.

So. After I six-plied as much of last night’s two bobbins together as I could squeeze onto the third bobbin, I still had a bit of yarn left on the first two–I’d filled them too full. Happens. So I started to spin those to make a smaller skein, ran out of just the one, found a bobbin over thataway with a bit of that leftover light brown cashmere in the same state of anticipation and just added it on to where the one had run out to see what I would get.

Just about perfectly half and half.

I tried it on and loved how the lighter top rolled down to the darker bottom, rewarding my randomness.


And I can do that, too
Wednesday April 13th 2016, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Spinning

A $12 mill-end merino cone arrived from Colourmart today and it sparked one of those sudden bursts of creativity: hey! Spinning on my wheel, not even really spinning, just plying, that would be a very gentle exercise for my stomach and back and arm muscles while not being enough to raise my blood pressure like the doctor wants me to avoid. It would be just enough to strengthen and not too much. Right?

I had to test this hypothesis.

Take three cones of cobweb/laceweight, two of cashmere, one an extra fine merino in a dark cordovan brown. Ply. Ply a second bobbin. Ply the two together with the wheel going the opposite direction to balance out the twist.

It. Was. So. Soft. as it ran through my fingers. Even with the mill oils not yet washed out, and that part surprised me, just SO soft. There are cashmeres and then there are cashmeres that just melt in your hands and that merino did nothing to take away from them.

Hot hot hot soapy water. Rinsing, same.

After looking at this last picture I had to go back to check, a little concerned, and hung the hank from my hands: did I ply it evenly? Did it hang straight down with no twisting?

It did. And I get to make quite a bit more of this before I empty those cones. It’s extra work but it’s extra nice stuff and it gives me more ways to use this time well.

While on couch rest
Tuesday April 12th 2016, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

That little stick of a columnar apple that I plunked a branch with a few flowers from another variety in water next to because it needed a pollinator and the other trees were on the far side of the house?

Fifteen baby apples I counted on that thing today, and the last buds at the bottom have only just opened. Clearly it worked. (Thank you bees.) If I thin them to one per cluster is that enough? There just isn’t much to the little yearling yet–but it definitely wants to be what it was planted for.

I discovered and ordered some of this today: sheep belly wool and back tags, the trash of a shearing, compressed into gardening wonderfulness: it aerates, it absorbs water and it releases it slowly while at the same time fertilizing. “Repeals snails and slugs” I assume meant repels them. Typed the woman who found a snail INSIDE A CLAMSHELL! ogling the peach at the upper end today. The peach lived, the snail died on the spot. How did it get IN there?! How do I not let that happen again?

So, sold. Price included shipping, though they didn’t say it would.

Meantime, our friend and second cousin Jim called to ask the great favor of my mending a favorite sweater of his, something I’ve done before.

What color? I asked, so that I could start digging for various navy yarns before he got here.

He admitted to being within a minute of the house.

Sure, c’mon by!

As he started to approach the door I cautioned him to walk slowly: there were birds nesting in the azaleas, and sure enough, as he came four Bewick’s wrens dashed out to the tree overhanging the fence.

Usually it’s California Towhees in there in the spring. This year it’s my favorite wrens. Two pairs.

I didn’t want procrastination nor my lack of mobility to get in the way so we struck a deal: he was on his way by to run an errand? Cool, run the errand. Stop by here on your way back. Looking at the size of the hole, I added a warning, It’s going to show. He said that was fine, he just didn’t want the stitches to run.

I found just the right navy quickly after he left but the new stitches did show some. One could pretend the manufacturer goofed when it sewed the label on given where the hole had been.

He came back, thanked me, and I smiled, saying, glad to do it and glad I had just the yarn and hey, anytime.

Jim walked (carefully) back down the walkway–and suddenly I found myself calling after him, with a sudden catch in my throat I hadn’t expected nor wanted: Jim? Thank you. (I explained the sentence to couch rest and the concussion.) It felt wonderful to be able to do something for someone–I’d needed that. Thank you.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one
Monday April 11th 2016, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

Doctor: Saturday a week ago? So we’re nine days out. Okay, you need to let your brain heal. No exercising. Be a slug. While the muscle mass diminishes (she shrugged regretfully). Wait on the driving till you feel better. Let’s see, what can you do while you’re lying around when you don’t want to lie around…

Me, helpfully: I could knit!

That got me questions about brainpower vs knitting and I said some knitting requires full attention and some is absolutely brainless (and my current project is in between. I left that detail out.)

Doctor: Definitely brainless. Rest it.

Me: (Crud.)

So yeah, it’s been like that and will continue like that for a little while. The motivation though is that after this, my seventh concussion, not to let how things are right now become the new normal.

Later… The mailman delivered a stack of catalogs and for no real reason I always feel like I have to at least leaf through them. Or in the case of some, a fast flipflipflipflipokaydonetoss.

This one page stopped me. Blink. I looked it up online to see if what was there matched. It did.

That model’s legs and my brain: they are both a little bit inside out. (Or at least till that company figures out what everybody’s looking at.)

You can’t block the view *I’m* going to block the view!
Sunday April 10th 2016, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Our grandson Hudson is three, and in honor of his birthday we got to Skype with him last night.

His cousin Hayes was there. A three-word update: he’s perfectly fine. And adorable. And kept coming up and looking right into the camera with a face that said, Wait. Those aren’t MY grandparents! I’ve seen these people before, what are they doing in that iPad?

Hudson was goofy and giggly and happy and suddenly grabbed that big one off the couch–pillow fight!

At us. Incoming! We ducked on our end (making sure to stay in camera view.) Hudson laughed that joyful laugh that little ones live for. Here it comes! We held up our hands in front of our faces with fingers stretched wide and ducked again. And again and again until it was time for dessert there at the other grandparents’ and it was time for them to go, all of us about falling on the floor laughing.

Best. Pillow. Fight. Ever!

Made it out after all
Saturday April 09th 2016, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life,Wildlife

My English Morello cherry at the end of last summer and in today’s rain. Compare to Wednesday’s photo. That’s not camera angles, it really has grown that much in three days.

All that and cherries, too.

Over at San Jose City Hall, the peregrine falcons had four eggs. Two hatched, and as nothing happened and nothing happened the parents started to push one and then the other remaining egg away.

And then pulled them back towards them after awhile.

And pushed again. One was a maybe? It just seemed that the two that were out were it.

Six days after the first hatching, one of those two semi-rejected eggs started showing a line of white (you can see it at the 2:20 mark)–and then poof, all at once (at about 4:38), there it is! Its siblings are older and more able to be aggressive at getting food from their parents but this one just might prove to be a survivor after all.

Pretty please with cherries on top.


Two done, one to go
Friday April 08th 2016, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Knit,To dye for

I think a hand wound ball of yarn can be a work of art in itself. Hopefully one that gets unravelled quickly and happily.

Red-y or not here it comes
Thursday April 07th 2016, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Family,To dye for

From Colourmart‘s recent big mill-ends-of-the-mill-ends sale.

The cone, a vivid red on the orangey side, became this (first photo) yesterday and then this (second and third photos) today.

My problem was in not owning a dyepot big enough, if one exists, to allow 650 g of dk cashmere to float around in freely to let all the dye sift equally through everything; those three hanks I’d wound up barely all fit in there with the water at half full. And it was a big pot. (Side note: surely there are people who can hold up an increasingly heavy niddy noddy long enough to wind two thousand-plus yards onto it to make a single hank out of that much yarn; I am not one of them. I had to take breaks.)

I looked at my skeins, snapped a photo, and got my daughter’s opinion. There was a lot of difference between the skeins and within the skeins, mocking my efforts to immerse them together. “Artistic,” I told her.

Honestly, still pretty bright.

No problem. Easier to add than subtract. I repeated the process today, putting in first that which had taken up the least.

Not perfect but a lot better and a lot more even.


Note that I bought that second cone in case it turned out not quite what she was hoping for.

My daughter is knitting. And I had a chance to give her cashmere. All it needed was some prep work.

Making up for lost time
Wednesday April 06th 2016, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knit

Last year, after all this went on, you could count every individual beleaguered leaf from afar. (Speaking of which, that’s just a bit of cinnamon to get rid of some ants. No yellowing.)

In a few weeks this tree has grown from having plenty of space under its tent to being right at the bird netting on all sides and at this rate I’ll have to buy a bigger tent to protect the growing cherries.

Some problems are cause for celebration.

Oh and? I got an email from someone saying his twin daughters (they’re nine or ten) had knitted all through Conference and by chance might I have any leftover yarn? Because they were out.

I asked the dad what their favorite colors were. He got right back to me.

You know that if you want knitting to be the lifelong love it could well become for them you’ve got to give them the good stuff. Some soft acrylic, yes (take it all!) but also some cashmere blend and an angora/merino blend (an out-of-stock bright light lime green, a color they’d hoped for), washed and hanked from cones. I told the dad how to wash the natural-fiber stuff and warned the girls gently that a lot of people are allergic to angora and it’s okay if you find out you are, but I think you’ll love it (and boy did they). The fur combed from a shedding rabbit. It is nice stuff.

(It also happens to give one of my kids hives.)

They were so excited. They so much said thank you. And I couldn’t possibly have enjoyed those yarns better any other way. Can you just picture all the people those two are going to make happy over the years to come?

A wing, away, a wing, away
Tuesday April 05th 2016, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Just out for a stroll on a beautiful day…

A squirrel cowered under the picnic table. I looked at it, back up to the fence, and decided to let nature take its dinner course and eased quietly away from the windows so as not to interfere.

Coopernicus swooped in to the top of that table among the amaryllis buds and blossoms–and with the hawk now out of its sight, the squirrel popped right out from the leg of a chair and back to sniffing for full seeds on the patio amongst the pecked-out hulls.

With his tail and wings tucked in behind him that Cooper’s hawk didn’t look much bigger than that squirrel. I know he sometimes goes after them. But no–I guess squab was on the menu again tonight, not ribs, and after a full minute’s consideration the hawk turned for something on the wing, and away.

Monday April 04th 2016, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Garden

(Photo taken before flowering stage. Spikes on this one.)

What the smell of rain is. Fascinating stuff.

I finally found the correct name for the weed I’ve been yanking out for weeks: storkbill. It’s a biennial in our climate, not the perennial I’d thought all this time–all those hundreds of taproots I’ve yanked out made no real difference. And yet, it is so satisfying to hear that weed riiiiip all the way out of there, gone.

Of late the plants were getting a tacky feeling to them and the Smithsonian article explains why, and why that disappears after a rain: they produce an oil under dry conditions that inhibits seed germination, which, here, would definitely be a survival mechanism for the next generation waiting for the next winter’s downpours.

Storkbill would be a marvelous ground cover, given how fast it spreads on runners and those pretty tiny purple flowers–but the spikes! All those long vicious spikes. If someone somehow bred those out of there I would replace my lawn with them. Except, wait, they’re a favorite food of harvester ants.


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.

Not that pattern again
Saturday April 02nd 2016, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

Merino from the gifted Karin of Periwinkle Sheep.

Impromptu stitch holder to remember where the round starts courtesy of my hair.

I was sweeping safflower seed hulls around and out from under the bird feeder in the dark tonight and of course I smacked my head hard into the thing and thought, well now that was bright, wasn’t it. Like I could hardly have guessed it was there.

This time I didn’t have to fight to keep breathing, so I think no concussion. (Looking at that old day-after post, I guess I should add, So far.) My sweet husband asked me a few times if we needed to go to the doctor, because, yeah.

So far I think we’re okay. Even if the idea of a seventh concussion does–well, since I didn’t quite recover entirely from the last one, it does give one pause.

Leisure-class hummers
Friday April 01st 2016, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

There was a hummingbird dancing around my sour cherry blossoms. And then another hummer in the apple flowers, resting and eating at the same time: sometimes it hovered above a blossom but about half the time it could just perch there holding still and reach right in and drink, given the thick woody spurs the short flowers grew from, and so it did, as if it were enjoying some exotic resort on vacation. Pass the Martinelli’s.

I needed to go out and water the fruit trees for the first time this year. It made it feel like summer already.