The roiling stones of Death Valley
Thursday August 31st 2023, 8:40 pm
Filed under: History,Life

This is so cool. And the fact that it’s a four hour drive over a terrible road inside a national park that’s not close to population centers means they’ve mostly been left alone.

Rocks move across the dried landscape there. Boulders. Nobody’s ever seen them do it, though people have certainly tried for forever, and yet they do it and they engrave their everlasting path across the desert and it was clearly a natural phenomenon.

Just how do stones play Scottish curling games of their own?

Someone finally figured it out.

Did the horse take off yet?
Wednesday August 30th 2023, 4:30 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift

I’d been kind of avoiding going back to the site of the skewering but it needed doing and not doing it was bothering me more. So.

I tried several methods and had to go back to the original. Next choice, while chain stitching those cross boards: a stitch too big or a stitch too small?

The white cashmere/cotton is the one that’s going to shrink the most, and the red part is certainly going to be stretched across whatever body will be under it, so clearly let’s go for too big, for now, even if it drives a part of my brain nuts.

After much experimenting, I finally ended up skewering the crosses downwards at the center, then finishing tacking down by skewering again with the other side of the yarn and working the two ends in underneath.

Given the old age of the building, having the doors a bit saggy for now works anyway, right?

Okay then. Barn doors: closed.

Alright, blue sky yarn, I’m ready for you. Royal Mail said yesterday that it has left the UK.

When your coffee mug isn’t big enough?
Tuesday August 29th 2023, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Life

A random question: why would you sink a narrow staircase with a sharp turn in the middle of your kitchen? (Here’s the Redfin link in case the Zillow one balks.) Okay, it was their house, they can do that, but–why, why, why, would you have cabinetry that can only be accessed via standing with your feet likely unevenly on those stairs? Not from the other side? Why would the things inside those cabinets, whatever they are, be very big and very heavy for one person to easily carry, much less while on that staircase, and it looks like they’d need to be filled (how?) and emptied and cleaned constantly. I’m assuming they’re for coffee making for a large AirBnB crowd? But what a setup.

If you tripped on the stairs would you pull boiling water over on you? Paging Agatha Christie. You do not want me in that kitchen.

I mean, I’d put melangers and ten pounds of chocolate conching away in each, and they’ve definitely got enough counter space to pour it all out afterwards. I’ve seen meat smokers like that, but certainly not inside.

The small lake is enticing, the stark black and white color scheme depressing, and. Man. That kitchen.

I do not understand.

Monday August 28th 2023, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Life

Years ago, I want to say twenty-five? There was a knitter in our town who, stepping out her front door, tripped and fell and landed on her knitting needle in her knitting bag. From the description, I’ve always assumed it was a metal straight.

The firefighters wanted to pull it out as they put her into the ambulance. She told them, Don’t you touch that!

In the ER, the x-rays showed that the needle had pierced her heart and that if they had done that at the scene she would have bled right out.

The staff also told the woman, Did you know you have breast cancer?

She did not.

Being stabbed through the heart with a knitting needle saved her life and I remember there was some later news story that showed she did survive the cancer because they had caught it early enough.

I thought of that woman today, whatever her name was–just not quite soon enough.

I had the afghan laid out on the floor and was sitting on and off it, going back and forth between chain stitches on a crochet needle and a long thick sturdy metal yarn sewing needle, try this, rip, try that, okay that’s better, working out how to add details.

At one point I realized I’d dropped the yarn needle. Not seeing where it must have gone I looked some more, then swished my hands around a bit trying to get it to appear, and finally decided it must be caught up in my skirt so I went to stand up to shake it out.

It was upright in the carpet and went straight into the lower part of my knee with my partial weight on it, going about half an inch in.

The nurse on the phone: Was the needle dirty?

Me: Well, I didn’t exactly disinfect it first, I mean, yarn…

She wince-chuckled. Yeah, alright, okay, looks like your last tetanus was two years ago.

She asked me to describe the pain. I said, well, that’s the thing: I have to rely on other ways of telling me I really messed up because I often don’t feel pain in my extremities anymore (no, not diabetic) and if I do, it’s often over after five minutes even if it sure shouldn’t be. Which is nice–but dangerous. But it doesn’t feel right and it’s a bit stiff and hard to bend or straighten all the way, it does hurt a little sometimes, yes it did bleed, and I figure tomorrow it will probably be worse.

That it likely would, she agreed, and set me up for tomorrow morning early.

Just, no secondary cancer diagnosis thankyouverymuch, that’s my one request.

Two hours later I looked at that afghan, thought horse-that-threw-you thoughts, and tried to get back down there with it and my knee went yeah no hon.

Oh. Okay then.

Poll: cat
Sunday August 27th 2023, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Life

Cats run.

Skunks amble amiably. Never seen one scared, and I think they rarely would be, so I dunno.

I was coming around the corner of the house this evening to turn on the hose when a streak of black and white raced away while I tried to figure out what I’d just seen: there are no cats that live in that direction, and if there were, it would know a dog lives in the yard it just ran towards. A big dog with opinions and a voice. They do not have a cat.

There was no bark. It must have been inside.

Even if none of the immediate neighbors has one, I’m going to have to still guess that was someone’s cat with the back paws slightly crossing mid-leap away.

Okay, typed that, thought, well, c’mon, let’s find out then, and found a video of a skunk running.

Even in that heartbeat of a glimpse the tail of the thing I saw wasn’t that poofy. So there you go. Not a pole cat.

I wonder how many people have told the owner their pet looks like a skunk.

The universe found a way to get me my answer
Saturday August 26th 2023, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Garden

I’m subscribed to a fruit growers list that every now and then throws a link to a conversation my way. Not often. Sometimes I even click on it.

Today someone had a question: he had a new fruit tree that simply wasn’t growing beyond the barest hint of green and the vendor told him to mix 4 tbl dark molasses with 4 gallons water once a week. He did, and the tree finally started leafing out months after he’d planted it.

Was that the effects of the mixture? Or just, summer?

The answers he got: blackstrap molasses has a lot of magnesium which is a key part of producing chlorophyll. Calcium, iron, potassium, B vitamins in there, they’re good for the tree and good for establishing the soil biome to support the new roots.

Also: coconut coir strips calcium and magnesium right out.

Also: that most of the people answering learned all this in the process of their or their neighbors growing a certain product that’s now legal in a few states and wanting abundant growth fast. If you’re doing it hydroponically you have to provide those nutrients.

There was bit about ‘bro science’ and ‘no but really’ back and forth.

Um, okay, then.

But that comment about coconut coir that someone just happened to throw out in an aside–that was a huge aha! moment.

My most favorite childhood Christmas present (after the bicycle with the saved-cereal-box-tops Tony the Tiger orange and black rubber handlebars that I raced down the hill and into a car with. Remember my green bike, Mom? It was the most perfect shade of shiny green any bicycle was ever made of, I loved it, sorry Dad had to spend so much of Christmas Eve night assembling it. Not that I’m digressing or anything) was a long grow lamp so I could have flowers growing in the basement. Peat starter pots were a given.

Peat, however, is a finite resource that has been disappearing rapidly and takes hundreds of years to regenerate and substitutes now abound. Park Seed sold me some made of treated cow patties. That was the first time I ever had to rip a pot apart to let the roots go free; one seedling’s never made it out despite an entire summer of being watered inside a larger pot. So after that, at the local gardening store, I bought…

…some coconut coir ones. And every Anya apricot seedling I tried in them died except for one that I rescued by peeling the pot away from it early on, since the pattern had by then established itself and nothing else had been changed.

And yet they had sold it at the gardening center so it should be okay, right?

It appears I was right. I knew it but didn’t know how to make sense of it. If that guy was right I’ve finally found my answer, but then I had already decided I would never buy them again.

Why it’s noisy here
Friday August 25th 2023, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Afton’s been making good use of her melanger of late and we got our Manoa bars from Hawaii and in two days we’re down nearly two of the four (my usual square a day limit went right out the window) and I’d almost forgotten just how good fresh chocolate can be and I can’t afford to munch theirs at the rate I want to and you can see where all this is heading, right?

Not that ours will ever taste quite like that volcanic-soil Hawaiian grown. My stars theirs are good. I wasn’t familiar with the one they’re selling for Maui relief but it turned out to be my favorite so far.

I’ll just have to make do with (pulling a bag out of the pantry.)

Cocoa butter is a remarkably stable fat, so no worries on the vintage.

And so a little bit of Wild snuck into today, too. It is cranking away over there. Picture taken right after the sugar-adding stage.

Roasting notes: 350F ten min with a stir at the halfway, didn’t seem enough, turned it down to 325 for another three and the nose says that really made a difference. This one’s going to have great flavor. (I was going to link to Dandelion‘s Wild Bolivian but they seem to be sold out at the moment.)

Now, a question: Chocolate Alchemy sells whole cacao beans or nibs but the default setting is the beans and I accidentally ended up with some. I could spend the time shelling each little one, but I just haven’t. Part of me thinks school kids would love experimenting with them, but you know they’d toss them because they’re not sweet.

What would you do?



This yarn is wild
Thursday August 24th 2023, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,LYS

And so the answer is I did both. I ordered the yarn that I knew would be exactly the right color at the right weight that I was going to have to wait for, and I drove to South San Francisco to see what Kathryn had. But mostly because I wanted to know how their trip had gone and whether they were moving.

They didn’t quite have the blue I wanted there, so, no jump-starting. They did however have a single skein of my favorite hat yarn in Jupiter with no pink overtones, exactly what I’d looked for the previous time. This one was perfect.

She was at an appointment so it was her husband that I got to talk to. Yes, they’d been considering that place and that move but it turned out that in person the lot was wetlands, so, no on that one. Yes, they are planning on moving to that area in retirement–but now, not at the moment. So my favorite yarn store continues on.

Then the mail came. With the probably once in a lifetime fox yarn. (Oh well, there *was* a sale.) They sent it pre-wound; I imagine that shipping the extra size and weight of the cone from Ukraine made it cost effective to add that labor to the sale. I do not mind one little bit.

The verdict: it is nice yarn, it is soft, it’s fairly easily breakable but not more fragile than you’d expect at that micron count–and if you breathe deep into it there’s this, this, this… I would never have been able to place the scent of it. It’s faint but it’s there. I like it.

I would describe it as equivalent to a nice cashmere.

It came in 13 days, and from Ukraine in the middle of the war that’s lightning fast.

If I knit it and wore it in the yard would it keep the raccoons and skunks away from my fruit trees?

(Edit: not skunks, they don’t climb, possums sure do, though.)


Screeching stop
Wednesday August 23rd 2023, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Right after I broke the green yarn for it, too.

The beautiful blue sky. All Colourmart had at the time was laceweight, so I had them ply it to where it matched the yardage count of the other yarns.

What I didn’t think of was how differently it would shrink on scouring: it’s a third cotton rather than fully cashmere, and after knitting the first ten or so stitches anyway, thinking I don’t mind a little variation, I ripped it out. Turns out I do mind that much variation. It was like comparing the size of Schwarzenegger’s muscles to, well, mine.

It’s very very very soft, though, everything you would want it to be–but now I knew why I’d had misgivings. They even asked me via email: was I sure I wanted it 10-plied?

It is just the color I wanted. They have more. I could ask them for a do-over with new cones and I’ve been debating all night. I would have no problem finding other things to do with the chunky stuff I ended up with.

The whole project would be back to waiting another ten days or so for the yarn to get to me, get hanked, scoured, dried, wound, and ready to go.

Oh well, that’ll give me time to stitch in the Xs and the chain on the tire.

Part of me thinks, oh, just forget it–use it as an excuse to drive to Kathryn’s shop tomorrow and look at the baby alpaca. You know you want to.

Icepacked after lunch
Tuesday August 22nd 2023, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Knit

I don’t normally get that much done in a day, but then I didn’t get that much else done in the day. At all. Because I was doing this. The thing did speed up a whole lot when I was done with seven of the strands.

An oh by the way is that I read the Washington Post quoting a 114-year-old woman yesterday saying, Anything the Lord gave you, use it!

Yes, ma’am!

Thank you for all the great ideas. I knew it wasn’t hard but it just wasn’t coming to me. The two tall rectangles on the far left need those Xs, the middle one doesn’t, the big door on the right has just a few more rows to go and then it’s ready for its set of four and I plan to do them all at once.

Just let me straighten out that wonky window a bit.

The thought occurs to me: the real one would be 114 years old.

Daydreaming of conditioners to take out the tangles
Monday August 21st 2023, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

Actually, this first picture is much cleaned up.

My sister’s been posting on FB about how much she loves her barn, how cool it is that her house came with one, about learning the history behind barns in her new town–she’s having a ball.

She has no idea how much happiness she’s creating out of the simple chore of untangling all those strands: every motion and moment feels all the more meaningful and I am loving this and her so much.

Okay, so: I have a set of two doors that are going to be 20 rows high and take up eleven stitches between them, the outer two and middle of which are white, so, the red is 20 high and 4 across per door. They each need a single long top-to-bottom criss-cross of white. There was absolutely no viable way to do that knitted into the pattern.

I’m thinking a crocheted chain quietly tacked on as unobtrusively as possible, though it does give me pause that a sewing thread against a tender strand of cashmere might cause trouble down the line. I could just attach it at top and bottom via the yarn itself, but then washing and toenails would catch at the loose parts between. My first experimenting trying to crochet it into the back as I go was instantly frogged.

A package came Saturday: a three-pack of supersoft but not expensive wool and cashmere crew socks, nice and thick.

I explained to Richard, I have some of those and learned to buy the men’s because they’ll shrink a bit but I bought them to keep in the tote the afghan will be coming in: anybody who comes near that thing with bare feet has to (cross that out) gets to put on a pair of thick cushy socks first.

He rolled his eyes and chuckled. As one does.

North and west of there
Sunday August 20th 2023, 8:18 pm
Filed under: Life

No hurricane here.

Nope, not on this side, either. Nor did we feel the 5.1 quake; that was way south of us, too.

We did get a pretty sunset out of the deal.

Alright, back to barn raising for me.

Support’em while you’ve got’em
Saturday August 19th 2023, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

Andy’s Orchard.

The stone fruits were so delayed this year that I’ve learned I have to call ahead to see what they have; it was a long drive that one time for six peaches.

Today, for the first time all season, yes, I could come pick up a full box of Kit Donnells. Alright!

Trying not to be greedy but thinking of friends who know what those are, I asked after I got there if I could actually have two?

The clerk misheard me. He cheerfully brought out three, and all the sudden everybody on my list was going to be happy. Cool! The best week of the best peach!

As I passed the “New Homes Late 2023” sign alongside Andy’s farm, I thought for the millionth time, Hang in there, Andy, hang in there–we need you.

10% of structure: accomplished
Friday August 18th 2023, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

I hung a single hank of the red yarn out to hurry up and finish drying in the sun yesterday, mindful of the scrub jay years ago that had tried to abscond with an entire pound of blue baby alpaca, standing on it and yanking yanking yanking away while doing what birds do to lighten the load just before taking flight.

I washed it out immediately. It knitted up into a heathered effect that could never be reproduced. Well poop.

So. I wound the red hank. There was a knot, which was a disappointment, and I broke it there and started a second ball so that it wouldn’t catch me by surprise later mid-row.

The two balls turned out nearly exactly the same size. That knot did me a favor. Cool. I wanted to immediately start knitting.

But there were four balls plus a pull-through strand of green and I was just about to add seven of white and two balls of red into the chaos, and I made myself stop and take the time to wind those two reds into one ball together since I was going to be knitting them together anyway.

In the end I only had time to knit a single row on the afghan last night.

Also the most finagle-y one as I counted and counted again and again to make sure I was getting the intarsia set up right.

Yesterday at the dermatologist’s she really zapped a mole on my chest after I said there will be more heart monitors in my life and that thing’s in the way.

Today I was pushing myself: Colourmart got that replacement color to me super fast, I really want to be working on that afghan, I know it feels so great when I do, why am I letting myself be distracted away. I couldn’t for over a week and now I can. So go do.

I found my motivation–the sudden thought that, I am the only person who can do this. Meaning, with this specific love, intent, needle-to-yarn gauge, vision for it, sisterhood. I am the only person who can make what this is supposed to be and mean. My cousin-in-law’s abrupt passing last week reminded that we have no promises of extra time.

It is slow going now that I’m in an intense section again. My barn graph is twelve sets of five rows.

Six are now done. 10%. And it looks glorious already. I think I should add more flowers.

Will you look at that
Thursday August 17th 2023, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Life

I did a double take: but those don’t exist yet! Right? Do they make prototypes that actually, y’know, go out on the road? Rather than just sitting there looking pretty (and immobile) in some showroom somewhere where they want to show it off?

I had to go home and search till I found one to be sure whose it was, and I found no pictures of a Tesla Cybertruck that had it painted in military camouflage colors. But that’s what it was. Not far from Google’s self-driving-vehicle headquarters. Do I detect a taunt?

It looked like nobody taller than a toddler in a carseat could possibly sit behind the driver of that thing. Elon will have to take a backseat.