Which color do you want?
Saturday July 17th 2021, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knit

I gave Phyl and Lee their choice of Andy’s red peaches or yellow as a thank you for driving us to the airport. (I’d waited a few weeks because the later in the season, the more flavor.) The reds were marked as cling; they opted for the yellow Santa Barbaras and I sent them off with not quite a whole case, since that seemed like a lot to them. (Then I tried one of the Sierra Rich reds and the pit came away like what was the big deal supposed to be.)

A few hours later my doorbell rang: the friend who’d watered my garden while we were away, surprising me with a small box of plums and peaches after a trip to, you guessed it, Andy’s Orchard. The first white peaches we’d tasted this year. Loved it.

On the knitting front: when I booked the trip, I wasn’t sure of the kids’ work schedules so I scheduled our flight home to arrive in the late evening. Tuesday the holiday was over, their normal life took over and we were on our own, free to play tourist and wander around for the day.

So we did. I’ve mentioned the drawbridge in Seattle.

But the other thing is that we stumbled across a yarn store, parked the car, and went in.

(Side note: it’s a good thing us good little Mormons Googled when we saw this other place as we drove by because “Skep and Skein” was NOT a yarn store. It was a tavern and none of us would have had the faintest idea what to do with each other had we walked in.)

So we drove on (wait–we’ve already been on this road, hey, Waze!) and saw another sign.

There is always room in the luggage for a souvenir skein, I told Richard as we were getting out of the car, but it was going to be tight. We walked into a charming little brick Tudor and met just the nicest owner.

Hmm… I went to see if I could find something to show her shop to you and discovered that she has the same name as my sister’s best friend growing up. Here’s the article. Our Local Yarn Shop, OLYS for short. I’m not seeing a date on when it was written–but Laurie told me that a pandemic three months after she opened had not been in her business plan.

Wow. I absorbed that a moment. And you’re still here! I pronounced in triumph.

Yes, I am! she answered happily. But she allowed as how it had been a near thing for awhile there.

Meantime, she had a steady stream of customers, some of them clearly old friends, and each time someone wanted to ask something or stepped behind me in line to be rung up I stepped out of the way and waved them forward and let her chat with them and take care of them because they were going to be in a position to come back and I wasn’t and I wanted her to have every success. I really liked this lady.

She gave her store its name from the fact that she sells yarn from sheep from local farms with the name of each animal on the skein. Which is cool–but they were in natural and muted colors, and they were lovely, but right now I needed color color color to entice my fingers to get back into really knitting again.

I came away with this Manos and a Madeline Tosh that hit just the right notes and they just barely managed not to fall out of my overstuffed purse in the airport.

I told Laurie the story of visiting my in-laws in Texas and having one of my readers here ask if she could come pick me up and take me to her knitting group night while I was in town. Sure!

And how I was absolutely gobsmacked to find us pulling up to the doorstep of the original Madeline Tosh shop. I met the owner. I got to meet her! Turns out that wasn’t her name, she’d named it in honor of her favorite aunt. I tried not to be too embarrassing in my fandom.

Anyway. So here’s the Manos in a potato-chip-munching mindless-knitting stitch that works so well with multicolors by scattering each little shot of color hither and yarn.

(Edited to answer Anne’s question for everyone: it was this yarn. My skein was a little more saturated than the one they show.)



Tree geodes
Thursday July 01st 2021, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Knit

Dani, whose cheerleading enticed the planting of my mango tree, grew up with two Alphonsos in his yard in India.

They died a few years ago and he told me his mother was devastated.

When I said in a conversation yesterday that we had to get her a new one he said an unseen seed had survived and is now growing back and she was quite happy about that–and I am, too.

That got me to go look. Here’s what you get when you do that. Mangoes come in two types, monoembryonic and polyembryonic. Polyembryonic seeds produce multiple seedlings out of one seed and all will be clones of the parent–except one, and it will be visibly weaker or stronger than the others depending on whose experiences you’re reading on the ‘net. But mostly you get to straight-up replant what you’ve already got and experiment with the outlier. Turns out citrus do that, too.

Alphonsos are monoembryonic. You know what one of the parents is, you know how good it is, but there are no guarantees.

The nearest mango tree to mine that I know of is in Fremont and I’m sure there are no bees making that grand leap across the San Francisco Bay to my yard way over here–I’m pretty darn sure my sweet little Alphonso is a virgin. Still, it apparently means that whatever could sprout from its single-plant seeds could be anything from the tree’s genetic history.

His mom’s seedling is almost old enough now to fruit and soon she’ll find out. I’m really hoping she gets a great one.

Mine tried to fruit in December, lost them to the cold, but bloomed some more and persevered and now it’s covered with them. It takes months longer for them to ripen here than in their native climate but they’re getting there.

But darn if I’m not sitting here after all these back and forth emails wondering what kind of seedlings I might get, too. To find out, I could grow one in a pot, on the patio, on wheels to pull it out from under the awning to full-on sun and back again against the house at night, you know, what I’d originally envisioned as a way of managing a tropical here before Dani insisted I must, must let it grow in the ground and allow it to become what it’s meant to be.

We were both right. It’s much more of a tree and far more prolific that way. Mangoes are deep-taproot types.

So–if I kept and planted an Alphonso seed (space-wise, one would be enough) I could do it planter-on-wheels style, and then gift the tree away once I know the fruit is good. Because by then I’ll be more than happy to give away the impossible amount of excess from my own tree as it is. Hopefully.

Since our rainy/dry seasons are reversed, I asked Dani about watering it, I mean, I’d been doing it once a week all this time so I must be doing something right? He asked his mom.

Oh okay. Twice a week for the summer it is, then. Maybe that’s part of why it took them so long to ripen.



A day that needed a pretty fruit picture
Tuesday June 22nd 2021, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Knit

Back when I was trying to decide which peach varieties to plant, my friend Constance voiced her strong opinion that Babcocks were the best-and-only to strive for. She’d grown up with one in her yard and she’d never found better.

In my childhood, we’d picked Lorings on a farm, gleaning a few weeks after the pickers had gone through–and, just a few times, Babcocks as well. So it was an easy sell.

It was hard though for me to tell starting out which spot in the yard got how much sun, having never had to pay attention before, and it turns out my Babcock didn’t get the best one. But it tries. It’s fed a few birds and critters over the years but I don’t think it’s ever gotten to the point of gaining this much color to its fruit.

But it looks like this is the year we’ll finally get to taste a homegrown Babcock. Thank you grape Koolaid.

Meantime, the two peregrine eyases were banded Friday: a boy and a girl. The video artist in the group made a compilation of the various recordings involved.

And: the slider is fixed. Now the challenge is to make sure it doesn’t bounce against the left hand side because it runs so slick and so fast after years of having to put so much oomph into it to get it to move at all. Moral of the story: fix it when it’s a $400 job, not when it’s become a $1000 one.

Also, something I didn’t know and thought I’d throw out there is that a house settling after construction can skew the glass and damage the track on a slider if not attended to early on.

They told me that and I told them, Yeah, when we added on, the contractor put in one of those upper windows–and it cracked before the remodeling job was even done.

They looked at me like, Wow!

The guy replaced it.

They said, As he should.

They left and then another guy came to give an estimate on the shed and the wood replacement. Another for that will come Friday. So will the tree guy, because they have to have the branches away from the roof. Woodwork, replacing a plate glass window that cracked in a small quake, painting (we were told when it did that that to replace the window you’d have to repaint the whole house, so, well, now we have to do that anyway), then the termites, the roof, the skylight with dry rot and hey, the flooring, the driveway and the kitchen counters so they don’t fall in when we put in a stove that doesn’t have mismeasured cabinets hanging directly over the burners, right? Maybe those last three can wait?

The wood/shed guy looked at the one spot I knew about out on that side and pushed just below there at the solid-looking wall just to see.

It’s not supposed to bend inward.

Oh fun.



Orange and fig
Sunday June 13th 2021, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

June sunlight hours and a hot day today and one of my two spring breba figs that I’ve been watching and watching and waiting and watching is suddenly rapidly browning up from its prior green. (The summer-crop ones on the tree have a long way to go still.)

It’s been protected by lengths of stabby citrus thorns but now we’re getting serious. I pulled some bird netting around the limb and hooked it onto them top and bottom like a malicious-looking velcro: can’t land on it, can’t reach to peck through it, can’t climb to it without those thorns in the way.

Can’t even leap at the fruit from the fence, because the neighbor’s raspberry overgrew the top and there’s an old rose bush below so we’ve pretty much got that covered. Go ahead. Take a stab at it. No wait, don’t.

Tomorrow’s post could be titled The Thorn Birds, but I don’t think so. I think that fig is mine.

Meantime, I spent three days this past week organizing yarn and trying constantly not to grab the nearest and prettiest and just start something on the spot because that’s way more fun than deciding whether to group by color, brand, or how much I adore it: the very act of having it in my hand made my needles crave dancing. Good.

Now I have to narrow my choices down to a single ball to start–and then go and start.



June birthdays
Sunday June 06th 2021, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

Happy Birthday to my son Richard! Who did not quite make it in time for Dad’s birthday but by waiting a day did make it so I got the obstetrician I wanted, so Dad laughed when we called to say it was a boy and told me it was okay.

One of my sisters had a daughter on his birthday two years later.

One of my sisters had a son the day before (edit, with her help: three days after) his birthday I think two years after that. All three had part of his name in theirs.

The cowl picture doesn’t have anything to do with any of that other than hey, cast that off and finish it already, willya? I was always the late one.



All the more to look forward to
Tuesday May 25th 2021, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I did not get my new hearing aids yesterday: they were supposed to have come in by then but they hadn’t.

I did not meet the termite guy today: when he wasn’t showing I finally called, explained that I was hearing impaired, and had I gotten the day right?

The woman checked: our appointment was for next Tuesday. I thanked her.

The hearing aids are now at the office and someone canceled an appointment so I’m in for tomorrow.

But I have not yet finished this cowl. So, as a potential option, I guess that one’s going to have to wait.

P.S. Today the youngest San Francisco peregrine, a female that had hatched four days after the others, soared gracefully off through that sky like she’d been doing this all her life. (Unlike the jump up/fall down/swim in the Bay/get rescued drama of her sister.)

While over at the San Jose nest, the first egg of the pair’s do-over attempt not only hatched early this morning, but by afternoon was begging to be fed. And was. Usually they consume the rest of the yolk and that tides them over till the next day, when they have a little more strength for holding their heads up with beaks open.

But this one just got right to it.



Well that’s a youthenism
Wednesday March 24th 2021, 7:08 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

There’s a new anti-viral drug that was already being studied when covid-19 came on the scene. They’re not done with the Level III studies, but so far it reduces covid viral levels to undetectable, it seems safe, and it can be taken as a pill rather than through a needle. Go Emory scientists!

There’s a silk cowl that just needs blocking now.

And at this 1919 house, where they forgot to put in the stairs (pic #3) if your sense of balance doesn’t know which way up is you’re going to have a heck of a time knocking on the door.

Note the bicycle wheels in the next picture. And the listing description: “Green energy. Construction elements: recycle materials.” I think we have a new creative euphemism.

And then we have a nice tall house in the hills that someone walked away from before it was finished, and someone’s hoping that for a huge sum of money someone else will want to take it on and finish those extra touches like railings on three floors of overlook decks way way way above the ground.

The twelve year old graying plastic wrap still on that new tub just makes it. They need this place for a movie set. Just as it is. I’m sure they do.

Any Hitchcocks needing a remake?



Colors for the win
Monday March 22nd 2021, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

I kept flipping back and forth between pictures 22 and 23 to be sure: no, the one photo is not an inversion of the other. There really must be two almost-identical spots in that house where you have to climb a ladder to find out what’s on the other side of that door above. Doors. Guys. Would a circular stairway have killed ya?

The grandkids would LOVE having a secret hiding place where the grandparents wouldn’t go!

Wait. Circular staircase. Attic. Yarn stash. Right?

And then there’s #23 and 24 of this place, which I’m linking to not because of the house but because of the quilt shown there but not quite shown enough. There, across the room from the spice rack lamp. Does anybody have any idea what that pattern is called so I can run look it up? I love the colors and if I could see it spread out a little bit more I’d love to knit it. Pick up stitches or intarsia? Panels or all at once? Copy or riff? (Riff, always.)

Given how much I’ve needed inspiration in that direction I’m glad I stumbled across that, even if whatever I make next is totally random from there.

Time to start sketching and trying and thinking about it.



Derelicted
Monday March 01st 2021, 11:24 pm
Filed under: History,Knit,Spinning

An 1829 stone mill in England, powered by the nearby stream (until it wasn’t.)

The Rowan Yarns sign someone threw out the window.

So many broken windows.

Scrolling some more… All. Those. Cones. of yarns, just left there to go down with the buildings, although it says the lovely old stone one might yet be saved.

The chatter on Ravelry, with someone checking their stashed orange yarn from Colourmart and there it was: the tag showing that it had come from that mill.

To quote them as they quoted Colourmart:

“one of our mill suppliers found this yarn in a warehouse they have taken over. They think it may be pure cashmere, but it might just be a cashmere mix (with perhaps wool or silk). It definitely feels like it has cashmere in it to us so we have shown it as 10% cashmere, we think more, but we are selling it cheap, for just a bit more than our wool price 🙂

Sounds like the Hinchcliffe’s take over of Dobroyd Mill in the 90s.”

I said to my Richard, looking at the cones left behind and the descriptions, All that cashmere!

His reaction was, All those moths by now.

And a lightbulb went off.

The tag is so faded. It was a year-end super duper one-off special quite awhile ago where I got a kilo of cobweb weight cashmere, no guesswork on the fiber on that one, for $50 postpaid. (Frankly, it’s a lifetime supply for making wedding-ring lace shawls. In black no less for my aging eyes.)

I remember I bought a second one with no tag, just their description online like the quote above–with a warning that it had some moth damage, so it was even cheaper ($25/kilo I think) and like all Colourmart cones came in its own heavy clear plastic, sealed off. I put it in the freezer on alternate days to kill any bugs, then have their eggs hatch in the thawing, and then to kill those off too. Repeat to be on the safe side.

I’m not sure, but I just might have a cone or two from that beautiful old mill, too.



The AI couldn’t get the math right
Monday February 22nd 2021, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit

The leaves are getting bigger.

Four inches. Curious. At 1/4″ a day if it keeps that up it would be six feet tall by the time it drops its leaves for the winter.

Except that it would be pruned and shaped before that point and all the side branching will take up energy, too. Still. It’s feeling pretty good right now, watching it take off like this.

That one apricot seedling I kept last year possibly got overwatered and stopped growing and I’m waiting to see if it will leaf out at all this year, so it feels all the better to have a vigorous, healthy plant. Last year I gave away the vigorous one, thinking I’d have a more dwarf variant because the other grew slower.

Until it didn’t at all.

Meantime, someone tried to teach a machine how to write knitting patterns. “And it even began to give its patterns names, including Spinches Bottom Up, Squig Dyity, and Owls Punch.”

Interweave warned its readers, Don’t swatch this at home.



Random bits
Tuesday February 02nd 2021, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

Our own comic, grandma stereotyping and inverted needles aside. You do need a few more spiders if you want to create the golden Madagascar tapestry. (More details at Wired magazine.)

The pandas in DC sledding downhill backwards on their backs in the snowstorm.

And… I actually got some knitting done today. It felt great.



Stitches for stitches
Monday February 01st 2021, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Knit

The virtual Stitches West is this weekend. Anyone signed up for any classes? I’m trying to figure out how going to the market would be any different from simply shopping online.

I need my knitting mojo back and hanging around yarn and other people who love playing with it is the best way there is.

If only… And next year it’ll be held in Sacramento after all these years of being nearby.

If you’ve participated in one of the virtual fiber fests I’d love to know what you thought of it.

Meantime, Michelle has a co-worker who’s as hearing impaired as I am and who uses a captioning service for Zoom. Which Zoom ought to have built in but they don’t. It would be amazing to have that and worth the cost and we’re looking into it, with thanks to that co-worker for the mention.



Quarantine month ten
Monday December 28th 2020, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Knit

I cast on for a hat and did one row. So now I have a carry-around project at the ready; it’s a start.

I can’t wait till we can be around friends and strangers again: all those people out there who need to be knitted for and they don’t even know it, sparking that spark.



Happy Birthsday!
Sunday December 20th 2020, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

Today my mom is 90 and our oldest grandson is 10.

Parker got a promise of one toy on the way that had gone late in the package crush out there, and one copy of Sibley’s new What It’s Like To Be A Bird. He plunked down with it and was reading it and showing us things from it by Zoom.

I asked him about loons, just so his daddy could tease me later, and he eagerly looked them up and showed me the large, detailed picture.

There was some surprise in my voice as I said, “That’s beautiful!”

For Mom, all her generations were invited to a family reunion by Zoom where we talked about our favorite memories of her.

I talked about studying her hands as a kid, fervently wishing mine could do what hers did as she knit an aran sweater for my older sister. Of her teaching me how to knit at ten on a car trip around the country and all my dropped stitches going back and forth between me in the far back of the station wagon and her in the front seat for help, and then at 16 when I picked something out of her knitting magazine and asked her to make it for me, she told me, “It’s not your turn. Go make it yourself!”

I was a teenager. I was not about to admit I didn’t remember how.

I did admit I couldn’t remember how to cast on, because there was no getting past that deficit, but after that I went in my room and tried to remember how her hands did it–surely I should know! I used to do this!–and fiddled around till I got it.

Having no idea I’d invented my own way that was completely different from hers–but that would serve my hands much better later in life in terms of arthritis and repetitive motions: I grab and drop the yarn with my right hand every single stitch. Open and close thumb and forefinger lightly, no wrist-twisting and less motioning.

If you’ve ever watched Stephanie Pearl-McPhee knit you know that any claim of my way being just as fast as anybody else’s is absolutely laughable–but against most knitters, I do a definitely respectable pace. But whatever, it’s what works for me to be able to keep going so I’m glad I didn’t ask for help way back when. I could never have known that then.

Mom never gave the slightest hint that I was doing it wrong or even that I was doing it differently because clearly it worked just fine.

Mom didn’t just teach me to knit.

She taught me to see a ball of plain string as all the things it could become–and then to narrow the choices to one, to put in the time and work to make that vision into a real thing and then to use the outcome to bless others.

She taught me that creativity requires perseverance to live up to its potential. That it both teaches and demands ever more learning. That it is worth ripping back to get it right and even that how easy that is depends on what you’re working with.

I’m thinking of her description of buying two sweaters’ worth of pure plucked angora yarn in postwar France, having no idea what that would have cost her back in the States, starting to knit my sister a sweater in the round, finding the yarn felting just from running through her hands and rustling around in her knitting bag–and then finding out she was knitting an inadvertent mobius strip. The world’s softest most incorrigible mobius strip. But she did it, she frogged it. It took her awhile. You see the little moth-eaten yellow ball at the top of this blog and the three scarves I knit out of its leftovers after boiling them in dye to kill the little monsters? That was the last of that angora, decades later. Turns out one of my sisters was allergic to her sweater.

I remember the January in high school when the school district decided to save money by turning off the heat. I had glommed onto Marian’s regretfully handed down (she loved it, she just couldn’t wear it) green angora sweater and walking around in a cloud puff of fur, marveling at how warm it was while everyone around me shivered.

Mom stormed the gates at district headquarters by phone and demanded they turn the heat back on in those schools–and they did!

To this day when joining stitches in the round, be it hat or sweater, I think, no rabbit-hair mobius strips, okay?

Mom looked around at all those gathered around their screens, her children (except one who was out of cellphone range), most of her grandchildren, some great grandchildren–Mathias waved hi uncertainly at all the strange faces and Lillian with cheerful certainty and charmed the socks off everyone for their few moments onscreen–and Mom marveled at how nice we all are. To her, to each other, to everyone. Nice, nice people.

Of course, Mom. You knit our lives together with love. You never said an unkind word about anyone. We’re still all hoping to be like you when we grow up. Happy Birthday!

And Happy Birthday, Parker! You can play some loony tunes on the piano next time we get to get together.



Splints
Saturday December 12th 2020, 8:38 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Lupus

I’ve mentioned a few times the hand splints I wear at night that gave me back the use of my hands when I was hit with an onset of what was at first assumed to be rheumatoid arthritis thirty years ago and that are still essential to my being able to knit. Custom made. But they wear out. That’s gotten hideously expensive.

There had to be something out there, there just had to be…

Flipping through the pages. Carpal tunnel. Nope. Or rather, yeah some but that’s not most of the problem, those are way too short. For broken hands. Nope. Don’t want it past the middle joints of my fingers but I do want it up to that point. For stroke. Nope nope nope.

Many Amazon search results later, I finally found some off-the-shelf ones that were what I was looking for, just about infinitely sizeable and with the functions I was going to that physical therapist for (details in the review), and my relief was so intense that I wrote the highest-praise review they could ever have asked for–but not till I’d tried them for several nights running to be sure. I’m sure.

These are better than my old ones. I did not know that was possible. That beanbag pouch!

If you knit (or even if you don’t) and have had any problems with your hands, these were $13.99 each and at the moment it says they’re almost sold out. Get a pair. You’ll be glad you did. Hopefully they’ll restock. Let’s talk them into it.

I’m still lining mine with old thin cotton socks with the heel and toe cut out, just like I did with my plastic ones for thirty years, because old habits and all that.

Edited to add, this one looks very close to it (even if the initial picture doesn’t) but I haven’t seen it in real life yet to tell for sure.

Edited 12/16: The ones I bought are being restocked now.