Friday, June 29, 2007

Ahead of Schedule

A preteen child doesn't always really know what to think about her mother, except that it's not always positive:

Edginess is just a way of life around here now:

But I think in the end, it will all come together beautifully:

Official Summer

Our annual trip to pick Ollalieberries happened yesterday. As usual, Thing 1 was a picking machine. This is rendered more wonderful by the fact that she doesn't actually like to eat berries. At all.

Between the two of us mostly (with a bit of "help" from the younger three), we picked 34 pounds of berries. Not without some casualties, mostly in the "laundry" arena:

Now those that weren't slapped into little pies are being frozen for future treats. Since we don't have electrical work planned, they shouldn't mold when the freezer is unplugged like last year's haul.

The kids wanted to go to the beach, but taking my bunch to the Pacific Coast isn't my idea of a fun time. Give me a protected bay any day. Maybe in a few years, with a rented Newfoundland, we'll make stopping by the beach a part of the berrying tradition, like Suzee and her intrepid bunch.

Oh, and I really think I'm going to finish the Green Sweater today. Hooray! If I do, pics tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Neighborhood Cranky Lady

Well, I admit I'm in a rotten mood already but I just went out front and let loose on the neighborhood boys who congregate on our steps. (Their adults aren't the overparenting type, by the way.)

I am sick and tired of them taking crap from our yard, turning the hose on without asking, dropping candy wrappers in the yard, etc. And when I said, "Look, I want you to stop doing things without ASKING first," they point at each other and say, "He did it, not me!"

I just gave a terrific lecture, titled I Do Not Care Who Did It, Do You Hear Me? I Am Sick And Tired I Do Not Come To Your House And Turn On Your Hose And Borrow Your Toys I Am Speaking To You Individually And Together.

I bet they heard "Blah blah blahblahblahblahblah."

Now I have to work and I'm still cranky. No knitting and drat it all now the baby is awake from her brief nap and the house, despite me going on numerous "pick it up" runs still looks nothing like it did before they all tumbled out of bed.

I want to go to bed.

So I can only surmise that in a few years I will be sitting on my porch, beside my spinning wheel with my cane, yelling at the whippersnappers to stay away from my flower beds.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Bts and Bobs

My plan to spend a lazy summer doing nothing but ferrying children and knitting to the lakeshore hasn't yet come to full flower.

Okay, it's probably not going to. Today was the county fair, tomorrow is berry picking, and although my course finishes this week, two more begin next week. But that course session ends with my vacation, and I was reminded today at the fair that the bees are going to begin their slowdown for winter now that the solstice is past.

So maybe there will be balance someday.

Thing 2 is back, and pretty well reintegrated into the family, if sibling bickering and strewn laundry are any measure. She had a fabulous time with the Anything You Want, Dear grandparents, and is now talking about flying to Sweden to visit my brother and his family. I told her that I should probably discuss it with him first.

Her bold nature was on display today at the fair, as she and her brother tackled midway rides that had me alternately shrieking, "Hold ON!" and tactfully looking away to take deep breaths. It was a good if hot day. When I looked at the knitted items, I couldn't figure out a type that the judges liked -- they were all over the map, and our opinions didn't match. Of course, I couldn't handle the things, but I would have given the merino/silk handspun a higher score than the novelty handspun. But that's just me, apparently. My bread won second place, so I'll probably bake again next year. It wasn't the best loaf I've ever done; just what was handy. I think I was distracted while I was baking it.

While the Things rode rides and the babe napped, I did spend a lot of time just sitting around. Did I relax and watch people snarfing down funnel cakes? I did not:

The trim for the finished arm is done, the other one should take an evening, then some ribbing around the neck, and I'll move another one out of "draft" into the "finished" column.

It may be the last wool I knit with for a little bit, though. I have visions of cotton colorwork dancing in my head.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Lessons Learned and, well, Indigo

I wonder if everyone uploads all of their pictures first and then sort of writes around them. That's what I do. I get so impatient waiting for them to load that if I get it out of the way first, I can just go on and on and on, the way I so love to do. Blah blah blah lalalala I can't hear you. . . I'm talking so much.

At any rate, I learned a bit about spinning and a bit more about me this weekend. I found out that silk top is a dream to spin. I found out that I sort of like watching the colors change as it runs through my hands and onto the bobbin, even though I don't really like things knitted from painted yarns. I discovered that with a little attention, I could spin fairly fine for me if -- and it's a fairly big if -- I was really patient and split the batt and predrafted it carefully.

But I also discovered that the hooks make lumps and the Traveller has sort of jerky uptake. Another discovery? I'm not very patient all the time. I'm especially not patient when I'm tired. Not with me, not with fiber, not with the kids. Unfortunately for the silk, that meant that I willy-nilly spun up the second bobbin and got ready to ply faster than was perhaps best. Instead of perfect yarn, with perfectly-plied twist, and matching singles, so the color changes matched up, I got "Party on a Bobbin."

The shiny? I like. The few places where the singles are the same size, instead of ranging wildly from wee-and-tight to big-and-loose? I pretty much like. The colors? I like, but more with less of the stripey. What I'm going to do with near-novelty silk (about 60-80 yards) I have no clue. Thing 1 has suggested a hat, but she doesn't actually wear them. She swears she would this one. Maybe.

On a happier note, I finally finished the indigo, which had been patiently waiting to be acidified. It soaked, it got washed, and now it's hanging outside. I prefer this view to laundry:

That pea green is a big favorite around here. I've got to figure out how to do that more often. The darker indigo is Japanese; the lighter the Guatemalan. Everything else is indigo over something.

And last night I also spun up either the madder or the fustic. I was trying for a lofty, not too warm yarn, with enough yardage that I could combine it for a wee sweater. I don't think I got there. Fluffy yes, but nothing to knit home about. Heee.

The green sweater has one sleeve all done except for the leaf trim. Just one more sleeve and a neck to go! And that would be, oh, March's sweater? Or is it April? I've so forgotten in the fun of walking around and wondering if I have enough yarn. I should probably call Michael's and see if they have one more ball of this dye lot. Ho hum. It's amazing to me that if I actually hold needles and yarn in my hands and sit for a few minutes, things get done. Another lesson to relearn apparently.

Thing 2 comes home tonight. I'm excited, and so are the younger kids. Thing 1 is reserving judgement, herself. Someday she's going to love her sister, I promise. The only trouble I anticipate is at bedtime. Although the baby's a bed hog, Thing 2's place is in jeopardy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Show and Tell

Not a lot of time or words, but here's some of what I spent my weekend doing:

From left to right, it's either Blue Faced Leicester or Merino (there were 8 of the first and one of the second).

The braid is three different dyes: yellow is fustic, the orange(which I'm calling Golden Retriever) is a mix of fustic, madder, and cochineal, and the red is all cochineal.

Next is the one I just can't keep my hands off. It's silk, painted with the three previous dyes plus some logwood gray. I'm probably not going to rush into spinning that up, because I want both my spinning and knitting skills to rise to meet it. I think it's going to make something very pretty some day.

To the right of that is some wool first dyed with a mix of fustic, madder, and cochineal, then overdyed with indigo.

The green to the right of that is fustic overdyed with indigo. Finally there is wool dyed strongly in cochineal and then dipped into indigo.

There is some plain indigo, both Japanese and Guatemalan, but it's sitting in a bag awaiting acidulation next weekend. Then I'll wash it and dry it. Then I'll show you that!

So that's fun. The colors in the picture are fairly accurate, but it's just not like looking at them. I am enjoying looking at them and I'm hoping to enjoy spinning them too. But first I'm going to have to finish that green sweater, knit "Coachella," and finish spinning the gray Norwegian top. Yeah, right!

And yesterday, I got a package from Jen! Look at this fabulous handspun! The white is merino-silk (like I'm going to knit anything beautiful enough for this!) and the green is Corriedale. She seems to think that I will be more able to actually, you know, knit using it.

I call it "green," but it's got all of these fabulous colors in it. I wonder what it will be when I'm done. Maybe a light vest? I don't know; it's yummy.

That Jen needs some honey. There's no way I'm sending her any handspun soon!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Weekend to Dye For

The three-day spinning and dyeing intensive was more dyeing than spinning, more spindle than wheel, and it was a good time for me. I conquered my utter disdain for the spindle, made some more progress on the wheel, decided that maybe I would knit a sock every so often, and had a great time dyeing some lovely fiber with natural dyes.

What I don't have is pictures. My husband has been doing yeoman's work taking care of all four Things so I could revel in fiber, so he's tired; my course has continued apace in my absence, so I have work to do; and my dear little Thing 2 is getting on an airplane to visit her grandparents tomorrow. All by herself.

I might take pictures when I come home from the airport. Now I'm going to try to sleep and not worry too much in advance.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

To my adoring fans

Thing 4 thanks everyone for their compliments on her knitting.

Remember how suave I was feeling about getting those bees yesterday? Nice and easy, I said.

Today was . . . different. Maybe it was that Spouseman stayed up until 1:00, after having watched the city planning commission quite late for work, making two beehives for me to use today. Even though I went to bed relatively early, I didn't sleep soundly until he came to bed. Maybe it was that when I woke at 12:30 or so, I remembered that I hadn't filed a grade change form for one of my students. And it was late. Or maybe it was me waking up at 5:30 to go get the bees (nicely tied up by the homeowner) and then helping finish those hives. Think the neighbors liked hearing a table saw at 7:00 am? Thing 1 was indignant: "You said you were going to take me with you to get the bees!" "You said you'd changed your mind!" "I have no memory of that."

It was all a rush, as bee mornings often are. I'm worried that the tied-up bees can't get enough air, what with the box being wood and then them being wrapped in a sheet on top of that. I'm worried about the temperature creeping up and up as the sun goes higher. It's also our homeschool Park Day, which means food, and getting everyone going in the same direction, and things like that.

So, having shifted into Turbo Hurry mode, I checked one hive body, and noticed that the plexiglass view side was much higher, high enough to make the bars hang unevenly. So I used a saw to make parallel cuts vertically in it, and then snapped off the offending high edge. Fast.

With my thumb.

Fortunately, previous ER trips for stitches have convinced me that nearly everything can be handled at home with bandaids and superglue. But it hurt, and it was enormously stupid. Thing 1 brought me actual pliers for the remaining snapping.

Then, off to my sister's house. The "bad hive" -- the one that took two queens and killed them in favor of a laying worker, meaning that the hive slowly dies off as only non-foraging males are raised -- had to be addressed. Therefore two hives for one swarm.

I'd also put another swarm in a nuc box (a small, mini-hive) on her apiary shed roof a week ago, and they deserved a real hive too. Therefore the two hives. So I got almost all of my equipment up on the roof while the children played inside and she made lunch for her gang. I'd forgotten my smoker in the morning's excitement. I figured that since swarms are pretty benign, it wouldn't be a problem. Even if it was, I was up a shed roof without one, so I might as well hope for the best. I just had to climb down to get the very last thing, but with the ladder's help, took a faster route down by pitching off of the top rung right onto my bottom. I had enough time to shriek wildly and try to call my sister before hitting. There was something in my pocket -- the pliers? The bee brush? and it hurt a lot to land on. Looking on the bright side, I missed the terra-cotta plant pot with my head by a good few inches. Lying on the ground, counting your blessings and feeling the effects of your autonomic nervous system, is a good time to make resolutions about level ground and helpers with ladders. My sister came out and held the ladder after that. She hadn't heard the fall at all, which is probably a good thing. I thought about charging her double, but since double of nothing is. . . well, you know. So sometimes it's good that there's no video about. A wise beekeeper would remember that the next time she gets cocky.

Back in the saddle, I took the week-old swarm (now a real hive) from their box and set them up in the new hive. They were wonderful -- in a week, they'd made about 4-5 full combs and started filling them with nectar, although I forgot to check for eggs. I didn't see any capped brood. They were mellow and very nice, although the bees not on the combs, but left in the bottom of the box were miffed when I upended it and thumped on the bottom to dislodge them. A cloud flew up, and more were upset when I dropped the box off of the shed side.

Next, I moved the bad hive out of the way, placed the new hive in its place (different bar dimensions; we're still experimenting) and dumped the neatly-wrapped swarm in it. They did the usual fly around in circles thing, buzzing loudly. The bees from the bad hive got carried across the yard hanging on the bizarre comb they'd constructed, and then I intended to use the bee brush to get them off. As I began, however, one of some hive's bees got into my veil. Again. And again, as I tried to get it off, I got stung right on the face. Blast. There's a vague chipmunk vibe going on in my mirror this evening. Again, glad there's no video during this episode either.

After everything had settled down, I could tell that bees were trying to return to their old home and being checked at the door by the new swarm. Maybe they'll be accepted, maybe not. The hive had dwindled strikingly. It's up to the bees, now, fortunately.

After a quick trip to provision for the park, we finally arrived. And I worked on that sweater. Two parts, together at last!

One or two more repeats of the leaf pattern would have been smart, but hopefully some blocking will even out the bulgy look. On, it looks flattering on the recipient:

Since I'm all about learning my lessons, no bows until those sleeves are done.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Spinning and Swarming

So I've been working with my wheel some every week, although not every day. I'm also at the binding off to sew together the parts stage of the green sweater. I tried to somehow graft the live stitches at the bottom of the waist to the trim, but it wasn't working well. I've decided to go to regular mattress stitch. Figuring out what to do is half the battle. But I'm so far off my 12 sweaters goal that it's becoming fairly clear that it might not happen this year, let alone any other finishing goals. . . drat these new time-sucking hobbies!

I was obviously quite spoiled by starting with the Blue Faced Leicester, because it spins like buttah -- sometimes buttah with big blobs in it, but it was lovely nonetheless. My really for practice spinning has been a pound or so of Norwegian Gray I got from Paradise Fibers' sale area.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this fiber. I think it's combed -- it's top, and it spins up as well as I can spin anything. But it's nothing I'd like against my skin. Remember those old Icelandic sweaters? Warm as anything, but scratchy? It feels like that. These skeins total 78 yards, if my warping board is measuring correctly. It's two bobbins' worth, plied. Thing 1 keeps muttering "Cloak, cloak," and maybe it would be waterproof, but I'm thinking "Oven mitt, oven mitt." We'll see how it goes when the whole bag is done. No matter what (if anything) I make out of this, the practice is doing me good.

This is nice because I'm doing a three-day spinning and dyeing intensive at the same studio I began spinning. I can hardly believe I'm getting to do this -- it's terrifically exciting and I am looking forward to showing off my new skills, such as they are.

For everyone who asked so sweetly about the camping trip, it was wonderful. Dirty, but wonderful. Here's one of my favorite images. Thing 4 talked her head off the entire weekend. People who know her kept telling me that they knew I said she talked a lot, but they'd never heard her. They did there. She also learned to knit.

Just kidding, but she probably could. At the campsite, someone asked, "Can you say XXXX?" in a fairly patronizing way. I said, "She could probably say "Hypotenuse," which she promptly did.

Our household has been fairly busy since we got back. Schoolwork, mountains of laundry, getting certified to belay the rock wall (me) so the kids can climb any time at the gym, orthodontist appointments, grocery shopping -- busy, but not always noticeable. Spring moves into summer, inexorably. I noticed that the sun was shining brightly at 6:00 this morning when I went in to get Thing 4. Yawn.

Instead of napping this afternoon, though, I retrieved a swarm all by myself -- none of my kids were there, the homeowner wasn't there, the terrified-of-bees painters even left. I borrowed their ladder, but even so, the hive was above my head significantly. I had to stand on the "don't stand here" step of the ladder, AND cut branches AND cut the main branch over my head on which the fairly large (3#?) swarm hung. I only wish I had pictures. Actually, I wish I'd had someone taking video. . .

As I cut, I realized that if I used both hands to manage the clipper and the branch, respectively, I would have no free hands to hold on to anything with, so I hung an elbow on another branch. Finally, the 2" or so branch broke under the weight of the bees as I cut away on it. Fortunately, it broke very slowly.

I had already cleared a path through the little branches with my clipper for me on the way down, so I dropped my clippers from the ladder, climbed down the ladder carrying the swarm, which swung from side to side, because it was very "loose," on this warm day today. No bees dropped off -- it was lovely. I lowered the bees into my wooden swarm-retrieving box, placed the cover over most of it, and snapped the branch, dislodging the bees. I waited there until I saw bees fanning their Nasanov glands on the edges of the box.

From then on it was just like every other hive retrieval. The homeowner came back while I was finishing up, and I asked her to "burrito-wrap" the swarm box after dark, so I could pick it up easily in the morning. (I prefer to pick up swarms in the early morning, so I don't strand workers.)

But you know, I would have LOVED to have had an audience. It was so neat, so clean, and so flipping HIGH up in the air. Sigh. The good ones never have anyone there, saying, "Wow! You're so smooth!" Just the ones where I'm tripping over my stuff.

I also decided to restructure my swarm-removal prices, so that they go up if 1) I step on a ladder, and 2) they go up again if I hit that top step. As I was swaying on that tree, I said to myself, "Getting hurt for this is just Not Worth It At All."

So now I have to hustle and make two more top-bar hives tonight, because I'm going to place this bunch where my queenless hive is, taking those bees away and shaking them out, so they can return to the new hive in their old hive place. I've tried everything else to requeen that hive. Having two hives there side-by-side (there's a box of bees waiting there for a bigger hive already) will making keeping them easier, as you can mix and match as necessary. Making new hives is going to play havoc with me going to bed early tonight before getting up at 5:30, but that's the nature of life, I suppose.