Thursday, May 31, 2007

Camping out

Got some good news, bad news on the green raglan sweater front. Good news? The leaf edging is almost done. I think two more repeats will do it. And since I provisionally cast on, I'm going to end on the last wrong-side row and just knit it together. Seamless edging!

The bad news? The edging will be the right length because I'm going to rip back about 12" in length and 4-5" in width. Thing 1 told me it was too wide yesterday. Oh well. It's fairly quick knitting and I had been wondering if I'd have enough yarn for sleeves. I've also excavated the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket and packed it in a carry bag.

I should have quite a bit of knitting time this weekend, because I'm going camping with Things 2-4. Thing 1 is opting out because her friends aren't going (she did offer to go, saying, "I'll go, I'll just be miserable," which cracked me up). I'm thinking that she and her father are going to have a ball together. Shopping? Eating out? They'll probably do some of each. And no one to hire to take care of the animals. Bonus.

Things 2 & 3 are made for camping. Even with badly-timed colds, they're raring to go. We're traveling a little lighter than before, though. See what's missing?

I'm actually a bit sad, because that tiny pearls smile is one of my favorite childhood things. Onward to growth, though!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Cruelty Poll

I think it's interesting that the post about not having kids resonates with folks. Even though I made having kids a hobby, it's only for professionals and shouldn't be tried at home by most folks. In fact, I think no one who absolutely cannot imagine life without children should attempt them. It's just not worth it otherwise.

So, on the topic of why, perhaps, people might not want to have children, I give you this:

And this:

This is a beautiful, intelligent, talented 12 year old. She wants for very little in the material sense. She has opportunities denied most children on this unfortunate planet. She has experienced both the pleasure of activities in which she has natural talent and the enjoyment of working hard and mastering things at which she's not gifted. Ask her the name of a character in the Lord of the Rings, no matter how minor. Heck, ask her the name of any character's horse. She knows them all. She sings long complicated poems that she's memorized in the car. We love her to pieces.

Yet we are making the purchase of a bigger bicycle (she's growing a lot) contingent on her memorizing the times tables. Through 13. . . She claimed, this morning, while bicycling for a quick alone-with-mama trip to the bagel shop, that this was "mean."

I ask you, gentle readers, is this "mean"?

P.S. She just huffily informed us that the only horses that are named in LOTR "are memorable." So it's no big feat. Odd, that. I haven't remembered them, despite reading them all myself.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I can't even think of a title

People we know are about to adopt a toddler from Khazakstahn. A lot of the folks who know them are wondering how they're going to manage, because they seem the quintessential people who are fine without a child of their own in their lives. You know what I mean: their house is lovely and filled with meaningful mementos of their interests (all fragile), they require a lot of time alone, the noise that children make makes one of them wince, they have extensive exercise routines. . .

On the other hand, who am I to judge? I don't appreciate it when people look at my less-cared-for house and point out that the stained furniture, peeling wallpaper, and wall of noise are all a result of me having a lot of kids. I don't know why these other folks want or need a little one. I don't have to rear it. This, of course, is fortunate, as my hands are rather full these days.

So as I knit away last night for the shower today, I tried to knit in as many good wishes for them and peace with my own choices for me as I could. As the needles went around and around, I reflected on the ways I go around and around in my own head. I can at least focus on my own path, no matter how it feels like I'm just pulling a Sisyphus some days. Goodness knows, these folks are going to have enough to adjust to in the coming months without people getting in their business.

That doesn't mean I might not enjoy watching some of it. I'm not 100% evolved yet, apparently.

Sorry about the blurriness. It's KnitPicks Main Line and Crystal Palace Breeze, held doubled and knit on #8 needles. I think it's a little shallow, which is the bane of my hat-knitting existence. The book, if you don't know it, is a completely delightful paean to the wonders of and joy that is berry picking. So the hat evokes a blueberry, to me. The yarn is great to work with and I like the feel of it. Maybe if I ever get done with the green thing, I'll knit myself up a ribbed pullover out of the rest of the Main Line in stash!

Friday, May 25, 2007

The house where the crazy lives

Unless you live a much more sheltered life than probably most folks do, really obviously mentally ill people are easy to recognize. Talking to someone who's not there? Check (although in the age of cellphones, that one's not so recognizable on first glance any more). Dirty, unkempt? Check . . . deinstitutionalization and substance abuse aren't good for everyone. We all know the overt signs. Medicated schizophrenia or manic-depression are harder to catch.

And then there are people who you have to get to know before you really see the crazy. The nice-seeming fellow parents who can't stop talking about their problems, the girlfriend from high school who just keeps dating losers, the guy who has 62,467 model airplanes in his garage.

And then there's me. I look as normal as any parent of active young children might. Well, I think I look sane. Our house, on the other hand, perhaps tells a different story. Not only are there chickens and bees, and children home during school hours, here's what our entry way looks like today:

I see a blue fencing bag, a huge new snake cage (a long snake needs to stretch out), two spinning wheels, bags of snake bedding, two knitted items, a baby carrier, and a pink umbrella with horses on it. Pity those with snake phobias who walk in unsuspecting.

And our bookshelves? Here's Blue Faced Leicester and bobbins for the Babe. How new a spinner am I that I realized very late that there were ones with bigger ends for non-lace spinning?

Some partially-used bobbins:

Here I was thinking that knitting was a hobby that was slowly creeping over my entire house. Spinning seems worse. Plus, if you "spin" the way I do, there are bits and bobs of half-spun mistake wool all over the rug. It looks something like it might if I followed through on my threatened plan to adopt miniature sheep and keep them as house pets. I found this wool-strewing thing out when Things 3 & 4 were rolling around, burrito-style in a fleece blanket this morning. They were festooned.

In my out-of-the house moments, I've been pegging along on the bottom of the green sweater. The green sweater that I'm half-convinced is now way too wide for Thing 1 but I have to finish it. And sooner rather than later. I'm hoping to actually get it done some day. Yes, there is at least one if not more obvious mistakes. I'm going with the prancing pony test on this one, though.

Also, knitting this little lace pattern has me thinking about people who say, "The lace pattern was easy to memorize." Maybe it's not just that I live in Distractionland. Maybe it's that I'm not the kind of person who memorizes numerical things well. Social Security numbers? I know two, and only because they sort of rhyme, for lack of a better word. Phone numbers? A handful, but not the cell phone one that doesn't seem to have a pattern. As I knit this, I remember that the first line has matching K3tog decreases, and that rows 5 and 7 are almost identical, but I don't at all have it memorized. I just recognize it like a familiar face, but the name isn't there.

The words to "Night Fever," though? Got them!

"I got fire in my mind.
I got higher in my walkin.
And I'm glowin' in the dark;
I give you warnin'."

Crazy indeed

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Last day of Class

Not, alas, the class I'm teaching which will go on and on and on. . . but the last spinning class (until I sign up for the 3 day intensive. . . ).

And the last class was fun, fun, fun. The highlight was spinning industriously away as the instructor walked around casually tossing bouquets of fiber at us and saying, "Spin this. . . now spin this. . . and this. . ." So I took it home and knit an energized single sampler -- tube. Calling these energized is probably like calling Mt. Rushmore sculpture -- some of them are very wiggly.

From the top (I can't believe anyone but me will find this interesting, but here you go) is a Pollworth teeny bit spun from a lock, baby alpaca, adult alpaca, bamboo, cashmere, tussah (?) silk -- I knit with no air at all, so it's silk rope -- rainbow Merino, acid-dyed Merino maybe with something in it?, Merino-tencel, red-dyed carded Pollworth, something I totally don't remember (merino/silk?), carded Corriedale, plain Merino, combed Corriedale, something light green, and black Blue Faced Leicester.

It was very very very fun. I just came home delighted.

Now I'm trying to get my Ashford to work and am having tension problems but have gotten some helpful advice from the Knitty boards. On the other hand, my enabling spouse has suggested that if I want a really good wheel, I should get one. What a guy! I may yet take him up on it.

In other news, we're considering joining a local gym. I was telling myself all kinds of grumpy things about how only losers pay to exercise, since I can run anywhere and we have things like weights. . . and then we took the younger three there last night. After the older two had played an organized game of Whiffleball, then jumped in the jumpy house under supervision, while the baby had tolerated the group care room adequately, then after we'd worked out we took them to the climbing wall, where Thing 2 scampered to the top, then Thing 3, thanks to a nice employee who would belay them (the baby then yelled, "Now meeeeee!" and I told her that you had to be two to climb in a harness), and I realized the magic words:

Child Care

They offer two included hours of child care every day. This for a monthly fee which equals what I would pay a teenager for three hours a week of babysitting. So it's exercise, personal trainer time, child care, climbing and please please please exhausted children at night, all within biking distance, for the same money.

I'm sold.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

One Without Holes

But not, of course, without lumpy places. This is still my first handspun. The brown yarn is coming along, and the pieces for my Traveller came. I now have an installed drive band, but I need to do something to adjust it. The take-up isn't working correctly, and it's suddenly hard to treadle. Thank goodness class is tomorrow. I can get some expert help. Turns out that through the miracle of ribbing and stockinette, this hat fits me and all the children.

That innocent little face? Last night, Thing 1 stumbled over him and his sister on her way to put the chickens away at 9:15 or so. The chickens had already been put away, thanks to my two middle children, who had climbed out their window with a blanket, two pillows, and handfuls of library books to sleep on the lawn. They had also gathered an impressive array of weaponry, in case raccoons showed up: a couple of pitchforks, some hand sized weights, a trowel or two. . .

They hadn't counted on us carrying them in asleep before the automatic watering system kicked in.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Does it count as a sweater?

I've been practicing plying again, since I'm such a dutiful student. Also, I'm almost out of the black wool and I don't want to run out. So instead of playing with my long draw, I plied.

And then, what to do with those two bobbins of two-ply? Knit, of course. I still don't like the yarn; it's nothing like I'd buy. But it made a dandy tea cozy. Here it is keeping my Mariage Frères' "Bourbon" warm.

If I could count it as a sweater -- hey, it has ribbing and shaping -- instead of a hat, which it also resembles, I'd be a bit closer to my 12/12 goal. And I still have half a bobbin and a skein of this stuff left. Maybe I will make a hat for someone. Without spout and handle openings, though.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Practice makes. . . yarn

Well, there are benefits to obsessing about spinning while doing housework mental practice. Here are two balls -- the smaller one being more recent than the bigger one. Improvement? I think so.

Then last night I broke out the black Blue Face Leicester (say that three times quickly). It's really a gray-brown, but I'm tickled no matter what the color. Much nicer:

I'm not getting unalloyed help from the residents of the house, though. I had to chase him away and finally put the fiber up where he couldn't get it, since even sacrificing a little bit to him didn't help. He also tries to bite the yarn before it winds onto the bobbin. I ordered the final bits for my wheel, plus some fiber. I know, I know, but I'm almost out of what I got at class.

Oh, on the bee front, I think I'm making progress. That hive with the wonky comb was really preying on my mind. Then a friend from the bee group called and told me that she thought it would be easiest to get the queen and put a divider between some straight comb and the crooked comb. Keep the queen on the straight comb, which is in short supply in that hive, and the workers would raise the remaining brood in the wonky comb and then use it for honey storage, while I could concentrate on setting them up to keep straight comb coming in the other part of the hive. The queen isn't one to run around too much, so if she were happy where she was, it would work fine.

The day I planned to work on it, I'd visited two other hives and hadn't seen those queens at all. Some days I can, some I can't. Thing 2 was being a fantastic help by keeping the smoker lit. I stink at that. But she couldn't see the queen either. Then I called in my reinforcements - Thing 1. Although she grumbled, she put on the veil and gloves, walked over to the hive, looked as I raised up a bar of comb, and said, "There she is." Sure enough, there she was. So we moved her over and sealed off the other side. Fingers crossed! I'm not going to check until all the brood in the back should have hatched out, though, so I need to doublecheck how long that should be.

Meanwhile, I have some work to do both for work and on some, well, knitting.

Monday, May 14, 2007

On the Edge

So San Francisco has one edge that faces the Pacific -- the edge of the whole continent, in fact. Recent tide action has revealed some of a clipper ship that ran aground in 1878. So I took three of the Things out there with their cousins to see the ship. We hoped it would look like this:

But instead it was like this:

The kids had more fun sliding down the dunes, but I thought the prow alone was pretty neat. he beach was ridiculously cold, though. Not my idea of a fun time. Give me the bay beaches any day.

Yesterday's spinning lesson was on plying. I'm still not thrilled with the results, but I dutifully plied. I'm still working on setting up my Traditional, and I'm looking forward to learning on that. Spinning is cutting into my knitting time at home (always in short supply anyhow). I don't know how I'm going to get anything done, let alone the sweater I'm two months behind on.

But I did, while out of the house, get this much done on an edging for the green raglan. I have doubts about the fit, doubts about the suitability of this as an edging, but it's not my call at this point. My duty is to knit on, and on, on the edge and beyond.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Adventures All The Time

Last night was the bee meeting. It's a pretty loose affair, or as my power-mad self sometimes thinks, a ridiculous mess. Anyhow, there are many nice things going on. One of which is that I knit because the chaotic nature of the meeting makes me crazy. Imagine the raglan about an inch longer than the last picture. Got it? Okay.

Well, the swarm that had had rocks thrown at it seemed to not have a queen the last time I checked. Probably the suburban delinquents had gotten her. So at the meeting, I asked one or two other keepers about a place to order a queen from. Later in the meeting, a member said, "I had two queens hatch out and I only need one. Anyone need a queen?"

I raised my hand. So she reaches into her shirt pocket and draws out a small cardboard box -- maybe the size little tiny firecrackers come in -- bigger than a matchbox, but not much, and says, "Here." Heeee.

I couldn't keep her alive overnight because the temperatures were (thank the Lord) going to drop. I had to hive her that night. The hive is at my sister's house in the opposite direction from home from the bee meeting. I didn't have any clothes with me because I'd borrowed my spouse's non-beemobile car. It was 10:00. My sister was out; my brother in law wasn't answering the phone because he was either getting the boys to bed or asleep. Still, the bees command.

I talked to my sister and she told me how to sneak into the yard. All the way there, I held the box against my skin so the queen wouldn't die. It's hard to focus on your driving when you're thinking about a queen in a box.

Once there, I suited up (bees don't like being messed with at night) and crept into the yard. Right past the bedroom where my brother in law was reading. So I said, "Hi! It's me. Just putting a queen in the hive!" He cracked up.

So I did. Up the rickety ladder to the top of the shed, lifted the hive cover, irritated noises from the bees, loosened the box a little, and just hung it between the bars. Hopefully they'll feed her and chew her free. Then, because she's a virgin, just-hatched queen, she'll learn to fly near the hive, get the lay of the land, and take a mating flight. If all goes well, she'll go back to what will by then be home and lay lots of eggs and make the hive queenright.

And at 6:00 this morning, the swarm I'd started gathering yesterday was all snug in the box. I just drove up, wrapped it in a sheet, and took off. That's why I prefer morning. Yesterday when I started with them, I was, as Eddie Izzard says, "Covered in bees!" They didn't like being brushed off that branch into the box at all. And it was quite hot, and they were all over, and the kids were locked in the car that I was using as a ladder waiting to go to the lake and they were quite hot too.

This morning was much more civilized. If you ignore getting up at 5:30. Plus, the road had spectacular views of San Francisco Bay, which was, in addition to the bees, worth the price of admission. I sang all the way home.

After getting the children up and fed, assembling all of my needs in the car, we headed out to the new bees' home.
First I did the drill: "What do you if a bee gets out while we're driving?"
"We tell you."
"Do you scream?"
"What do I do?"
"Roll down the window."
"And the bee?"
"Flies out the window."
"Good. Off we go."

Set up the hive, opened the box, dumped them in the hive, and -- bees everywhere!

Folks in the suits are the homeowners. They're going to board the bees for me.

Soon they settled down in the hive quite nicely and even found a nice bed of lavender.

After we did some schoolwork, I found a bit of time to spin. Unfortunately, Thing 4 declined her nap, so it was "spinning" punctuated with "Please don't touch that. Please!" Maybe I'm getting better. Maybe not.

Well, honeycomb takes time for the bees, so I expect yarn will take time for me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

You spin me right round, baby. . .

My first spinning class was on Sunday, and it was (surprise!) horribly frustrating. I ended up renting an Ashford Joy because she didn't like the way my Babe's Fiber Garden PVC wheel was running. I have seen lovely lace spun on it, but not by me!

Since that inauspicious beginning, I've been practicing about 45 minutes each evening, and it's getting marginally easier. I'm working on both long-draw and a pretty pathetic-looking over the fold technique. Hopefully by next Sunday's class, I'll be more proficient.

Around here, things are booming. Spouse and I went out sort of for our anniversary and watched the Phillies beat the Giants. It was a good game, and due to the freakishly warm weather, a nice evening out at the park, rather than the Arctic-like conditions that usually obtain. The woman behind us prattled on indefatiguably in a rather carrying voice. Not loud, just unignorable. So, I knit. And I'm past the sleeves now!

To relieve the tedium of a Very Plain Wool Sweater, I think I'm going to do a horizontal cable bottom, and either knit the top of the sweater on to it or sew it on. I do, however, have to make myself finish the sleeves before I do that. Less knitting to flop around and around.

More bees!

This is the best hive I have going right now. They used to just be a ball of bees, but now they've drawn out a lovely bunch of comb. I need to go in there soon and spread it out a little bit. Another gratuitous shot?

This is more like what a wild hive would look like -- this is the view from below, through the screen bottom. I may have to cover it a little in the winter, but in summer it helps with ventilation. That's about 18" of combs. The smaller ones are newer. I just got a call to go and get another swarm. Yay! I'll start getting it today and then finalize the pick up early tomorrow morning. Thing 2 is out painting the last hive right now. I'll install it at a friend's house after I pick it up.

I promise pictures of my new yarn when it looks more like yarn to me. Right now it's more like interspersed roving and thread -- very much a thick-thin effect! And I'm still working so hard on my classwork when I get a free minute that my computer time is slim. If I haven't commented on your blog, it's partly because half the time right now Blogger won't let me leave comments and partly because I'm just not keeping up with reading. Thank you all for comments. I really appreciate them but also have not been responding.

I just realized I'm asking people to forgive me for just being rude. Okay, so that's what I'm asking. Sorry. Soon I'll be back to my normal self. Whoever she is!