Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Chickens

It's been quite a week for the chickens.

It started off with a lovely thaw.  The daytime temperatures -- all 40 degrees of them -- were positively beach-like compared to what we've seen since Thanksgiving and the birds took full advantage.

Unfortunately, the warm temperatures melted the snow and brought on the mud, which is always worst in the coop with its slower drainage and ground that is constantly being churned up by chicken feet.

Poor Mike here looks like she could use a pair of chicken boots.

And now she and Shirley (or is it LaVerne?  I can't tell them apart) look like they were pretending to be Lucy and Ethel stomping grapes.

Except that it's mud, of course, not grapes.

The birds spent a lot of time standing on top of their play house, like a little chicken convention.

This pair doesn't know from mud.  They and their three confederates continue to be indoor chickens.

That changed, for a grand total of 3.5 minutes, when I freshened up the shavings in their apartment, which, due to their complete failure to step outside and their indiscriminate bathroom habits, were in a disgraceful state.

When I toss clean shavings into the coop, the new birds panic like I'm lobbing grenades at them. Last time, they all backed into the same corner and hopped up and down and trampled each other until I went away.  This time, they headed for the opposite corner, which lets onto the exit ramp.    At this point, I may or may not have pushed the lot of them out the hatch--defenestrated them, as it were-- and followed it up by throwing more shavings at them.

Thus they experienced the glories of nature for a second time.

I don't think they cared for it all that much.

They flapped and ran for a bit and were completely stupefied to find themselves on the opposite side of the fence. They could see the mini-coop, but they couldn't figure out how to get back to it.

Eventually they found the cutout in the fence and, barely pausing to snatch up a few grains of the cracked corn I had put out to teach them to love the great outdoors, made their way back inside.

The next day it snowed. A lot.

So much that we got two snow days from school.

My birds don't do snow, but today's temperatures, which were back at a very vernal 42 degrees, were too much to resist.  So they pushed a bunch of shavings out and stood on that.  All of them in one little spot.

I guarantee that they will go no further until the ground is back to its muddy glory.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Little Encouragement

This was our sunrise some time last week.  As the temperatures plummet (again) and the snow falls fast and furious here today (we're expected to get 12-20 inches and the rumor is that even the nice folks at The Weather Channel have made their way into town to spotlight the anticipated blizzard) and Spring becomes an exercise in memory, it is good to see photographic proof that the sun is still out there.  Somewhere.

My second favorite thing about this picture (that big yellow thing in the middle is my favorite, you know) is the little pink flare that has landed smack in our fire pit and is doing its best to pretend it's an actual bonfire. Nicely done, Nature.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Double, Double Toil and Trouble

Fire burn and cauldron bubble

One mis-colored sweater take, and
 In the cauldron boil and bake

  I was, as you can see, extremely bold yesterday. I used the rest of the original jar of dye and followed the instructions as carefully as ever a person could.

  Isabel supervised and provided literary references and occasional assistance with the stirring while I dealt with laundry and squabbling boys. She thought the entire brew looked suspicious, which is what brought us to Macbeth.

 Nate was hoping it might be soup.

 We encountered a temporary setback in the form of free-range enamel, which peeled off the repaired pot, floated around the dye bath, and had to be fished out.

I was sure I would end up with black paint specks gummed to my sweater, but the paint bits (mercifully) turned out to be brittle rather than sticky once they dried. I am still shaking them out of the sweater, but at least they are coming out.

Here is the new and improved sweater.  I promise that the brownish tinge is less obvious in real life.

And here's the original, just for comparison you know.

I can see, especially in the glare of the Ott Light (or is it Ott Lite? Marketing language boggles me) that, as much as we have succeeded in removing the sweater from the jaundice category, all color issues have not been resolved. They have, however, been sufficiently masked that I can wear the sweater, possibly even outside the house.

Ah, but by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes!  Have we noticed anything else about the sweater? Let's compare the amount of chair that shows behind the "before" sweater with the amount that doesn't show behind the "after" sweater.

 Uh oh!

 This, my doves, is why we wash our swatches. The sweater is now relaxed and much softer, but also several sizes larger than anticipated. It is possible that the change is payback for the insults -and the half hour of boiling in a stinking green witch's brew-- endured by my poor sweater. Or, it could be the natural result of wetting a very sproingy yarn that has been knit into a pattern of well-documented stretchiness. All of which would have been known by me in time to adjust the pattern accordingly had I washed my swatch. Although I suppose that means I would have had to knit a swatch in the first place. But who has time for such fussiness when there are Garments of Unusual Dimensions to be fashioned?

With this winter's extended cold snap, the urge to knit sweaters is still strong and it won't be long before I cave in (again) and cast on (also again, since that's where I thought I was originally going with the handspun used above) for another Central Park Hoodie.

In the mean time, I am working on some mittens for The Games That Shall Not Be Named (also known--heaven help us--as the Ravellenic Games).  The mittens will be a lovely and warm replacement for the pair I lost in December, although they are entirely unsuited to the Olympics since I can't follow the chart and watch the competitions at the same time. But, they are moving right along and I might just pull out the emergency backup knitting to keep me company while we watch the recap at night.

And now it's time for me to make good on last week's claim that I would conquer Florida law today.  And time to make coffee, because this Florida thing is not going to happen without a little outside help.

p.s: Anyone know what this might be???  Can we say "swatch"?  Can we say "swatch that has been washed and dried and labeled with purl bumps indicating the needle sizes"?  Maybe-- just maybe-- this is proof that I am not entirely incapable of learning from experience.  I hope my knitting teacher is proud of me!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Um . . . Ew.

Sometimes, the best thing is knowing when to give up, even if temporarily.  I'm very good at that when it comes to work, for example, which is why I'm sitting here tapping away at a blog post rather than trying to make sense of sovereign immunity in the state of Florida.  Basically, my head is just not in that game and I figure my discourse on Florida law will probably go a whole lot faster, and maybe even be a whole lot better, with a fresh start on Monday morning.   Not that I haven't been known to slug it out with a stubborn statute well past quitting time, but Friday afternoon  rarely brings out my work ethic.

With knitting projects, I'm not as good at quitting.

A while ago, I bought a fleece and spun it into yarn.  It was a pleasantly springy yarn, but also one that, in spots, had a yellow tinge reminiscent of bad teeth.  In a fit of wild and unjustified optimism, I decided I could fix the problem by dyeing the yarn, possibly unleashing in the process a hitherto unsuspected genius for color.  The results were certainly unexpected.

 Not wanting to get all judgmental on my new yarn color, I chose to believe--despite what might fairly be labelled abundant evidence to the contrary--that the true beauty of the yarn could only be appreciated in the final piece and so, rather than re-dyeing immediately, I thought I would knit the stuff up and see how things went.  Also, I am somewhat resistant to admitting defeat.

The results are now in:

and I'm truly sorry that you had to see that.  The only color that I like is the gila monster-like striping on the upper left sleeve (which is realistically enhanced by the --ahem-- rustic quality of the yarn), and that's really something I like only in comparison to the rest.

The cat has issued her firm opinion on the matter. I'm truly sorry that you had to see that, too.  Truth --and my cat -- can be a nasty little bugger.

The good news is that I'm almost done knitting.  I just have to bind off the second sleeve and work the i-cord around the v-neck.  After that, it's back to the dye bath.

It can only get better, right?


Friday, January 31, 2014

The Fat Cat Sat on The Mat

No lie.


This new love of my cat's life is the  doormat we purchased to replace the filthy and disintegrating mat that I pitched when we cleaned out the mudroom.  Unlike its vastly inferior predecessor, this mat is apparently a glorious place for a cat to recline.  I found Tim rolling all over it not long after I installed it.  He rolled this way and stretched that way.  He's so happy he's even letting his udder hang out, though the rest of us are wondering if we should buy him a pair of pants to cover his bald spots.

The chickens, on the other hand, are too cold to have any attitude. Usually, we have one or two days per winter that are so cold that I don't let the birds out.  This year, though, they've spent close to two weeks confined to their quarters.

See?  Doors closed, chickens inside.

The older chickens waited out their imprisonment with reasonable stoicism (stiff upper beak, and all that), although they seem to have acquired a pet mouse, who might even be the same mouse we recently evicted from the mini-coop when we cleaned it out for the new birds. All the same, they get a little wiggy if they are confined for too long, so --regardless of the snow, which they usually don't like to get on their feet-- they plowed their way outside when it was finally warm enough (i.e., 15 or over) to let them out again.

The new chickens are another story.  When we moved them from their early home in the garage, we tried to learn from our last experience moving chickens to a coop.  That time, we opened the ramp immediately and the chickens eventually discovered the great outdoors and tried to convince us that they had no further use for indoor living.  We put a stop to their camping expedition after one of the chickens disappeared (pretty much immediately, poor thing) and this year we followed a recommendation to confine the birds to their new quarters for a few days so they would understand it was home.


It turns out that these chickens are even stupider than the last bunch.  We confined them for a few days and then held the grand opening.  They looked outside and then went back in.  We tempted them with some grain sprinkled on the ramp.  Two of them made their way out, fell off the ramp, and were totally unable to figure out where they were, where they came from, how they could get back, or whether they should even try.  I had to squeeze my way across the snow and into the little run and put them back in the coop by hand.

Since that time, they have steadfastly ignored the world outside.  Even on the nicest days, they pretend it is not there.  We have tried luring them out again, but all we get is a prolonged attempt to eat the grain off the ramp without actually stepping out the coop . . .


followed by a show of tail feathers as they return to the real world.

They are entirely citified and I think my only hope is to let the old chickens into the little run in case they can teach these bimbos a thing or two.

There has also been some knitting and some blocking, if you will pardon the lackluster photography.

First up:  an Oscilloscope Shawl.  I loved this when I first saw it published in Interweave Knits, but I tried to knit it with fingering weight yarn and, after getting mixed results anyway following the charts (my fault), I realized I wasn't going to have enough yarn to make more than a glorified handkerchief and set it aside.  This time, the project flew by with no problems and now it just needs a little blocking before I can enjoy all that graphic straight line-iness.

Next, I finally blocked my Bridgewater.

And, I finished and blocked Triinu, which is very soft and alpaca-y.

And last, the reject-o-hat.  The yarn was not springy and I should have sized the needles up, because this is the smallest hat ever.  No one can get it to stay on his or her head.  You put it on, pull it down to try and make it cover your ears, and seconds later, you feel it working its way upwards as it contracts to its original shape.  Ah well. Some day I will meet a very small person in need of a blue hat.

And now, if you will excuse me, I must go.  I was supposed to spend this morning working, but I didn't.  And that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

In Which . . .

. . . well, nothing really.

There just isn't that much worth talking about that is going on here. Thanksgiving was late, Chanukah was impossibly early, and  the relevant birthdays showed up exactly when the calendar said they would but managed to surprise me anyway.  I caught a whopper of a cold, which was an insult to my belief that good sleep, eating, and exercise habits will keep illness at bay. The cold lasted two weeks and led to the consumption of several boxes of tissues and tea and the declaration of a mandatory jammy day in which no one was permitted to get dressed and everyone was required to lounge around  watching movies all day.  It (the jammy day) was most efficacious, which sounds like a dirty swear word but isn't.

I also bought some metal lunch boxes.  During one of my more recent tidy-up-the-yarn/fiber-stuff rampages, I decided that it was vital that I find entertaining, practical, and portable storage for  some of my pointier projects--the kind that would do no end of damage to my fabric project bags.

First I swiped  Matty's Yoda lunchbox.   He used to use it to carry his Playmobil knights, but he was surprisingly willing to give it up and I suspect he objected to the genre-confusion inherent in transporting knights and horses in a space-themed container.  I, on the other hand, thought it would be perfect for my Zoom Loom, which was advertised as coming in a handy carrying case that turned out to be nothing more than a paperboard box with a handle. As if.

Doesn't that look perfect? I'm a little freaked out by the ghostly imprint of Yoda on the inside cover, though; I feel like he'll lop off my hand with his light saber if I get too close to the loom.

Belligerent Jedi notwithstanding, I was so pleased with my lunch-box-as-craft-storage discovery that I decided to add to the collection.  The hardest part was choosing exactly the right theme: whimsical? nerdy? retro-cool?  Evidently not much has changed since elementary school when your choice in lunch boxes could make or break your social standing.

The first choice was easy: who wouldn't want a sock monkey lunch box?  And how much cooler would it be if I actually stored a sock project in it? Nerdvana, right?  I wish I could claim that I was really that clever, but because I am pathetically slow in the uptake, I didn't even recognize the full potential of a sock monkey lunch box until after I had stuffed my sock project inside.  Poor me.  Then again, maybe I am super-clever, just on a sub-sub-sub-sub-sub conscious level.  That must be it, right?

Purchased lunch box #2 was a much tougher choice.  It was easy to rule out Power Puff Girls and Hello Kitty, but the final choice--Scooby Doo vs. Doctor Who--was agonizing.  Much as I love Scooby Doo and the Gang, in the end the Doctor Who box was bigger (inside and out) and blue-er enough to overcome the yucky fan-girl feeling that comes from actually purchasing it.

And so I stored my fairly recently acquired Hipstrings spindle in it, and because the blue box is so big, I could fit the wool and (you can barely see it peeking out from under all that wool) my Emile Henry spindle bowl in too.

Isn't it amazing how the blue of the spindle matches the blue of the lunch box?  There's a reason, although--true to form-- I failed to realize it until  after I had stuffed all of these goodies in: this is a Time Traveller spindle.  Get it?? A Time Traveller spindle in a Doctor Who lunch box!!! And now we have convincing proof that I am a geek and a fangirl and either I am a sub-sub-sub conscious container-to-project-theme matching genius or the Force was with me when I was hunting around Amazon.  I am not a little embarrassed by all of this, and you can read that any way you think is appropriate.

As if my lunch box adventures were not enough, I also went on a little bag making binge.  I found outstanding tutorials for making drawstring bags and those insanely cute little zipped boxes (although I forgot to take a picture of the one I made).

I'm not quite done yet; below are the next four fabric combinations.  I bought them (along with the coordinating zippers) for making the fabric boxes, but I suppose one of them might find itself becoming another drawstring bag instead.

And finally (of course), there was a little knitting that got done during all this nothing time.

First up is the finished (but not blocked) Triinu shawl that I started last year.  It doesn't look too promising right now, but I promise I will block it soon and then (hopefully) it will be magnificent.

And done, which was really the only thing I cared about in the last half of the project.

Another major project to cross off the list:  the ugly duckling afghan. As suspected, it is very brown. It is also 4 inches wider at the beginning than at the end, which has something to do with the 2 year duration of this beastie, a circular needle shortage, and somebody's failure to note even the most rudimentary details in her  project notes.

Again, however, it is done and, as you can plainly see, cat approved.

It is currently doing its appointed duty in the family room and it showed up not a moment too soon when you consider the old school nature of the winter we've been having.  And I like to think of its trapezoidal shape as a brilliant design innovation, similar to the mummy sleeping bag shape.  After all, aren't most of us wider at the top than the bottom? How clever of me to tailor my blanket to that.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Let There Be Chickens

My how they've grown!

Here they are in their new digs, which were cobbled together in a hurry when their deluxe indoor accommodations started to stink beyond what I could tolerate.  Now they live in the garage inside an old dog crate that has been wrapped in cardboard (including their old box, so they shouldn't feel too uprooted) and tootsed up with some perches that we made from scrap lumber and an old cucumber trellis.


You can see from the picture that we are, unfortunately, down to five chicks.  When last we discussed chickens, we were concerned that one of our chicks did not seem to be growing at all. Poor Tiny peeped and squirmed for most of that first weekend while we tried to get her to drink and eat, but in the end there was nothing we could do.

In the mean time, the remaining chickens are suitably ridiculous, which is why we love them.



They are on their way to becoming handsome birds, but for now they look a bit like vultures since their necks and heads have not yet feathered out.


See what I mean?

Lest you fear that I will let you escape without your dose of knitting, here is a little lovey that I made to send out with last month's baby cardigan.  This is not for the baby, however; it is for the new big sister so that she doesn't have to feel entirely left out of all the gift-showering that tends to accompany new babies.


And last, for your viewing pleasure, some natural works of art.


The first one is how, after an extremely stormy night, we started the first morning in November.  We were actually treated to three rainbows, all in the same morning, but I was driving when we spotted the other two and picture taking seemed contraindicated.

This last picture falls into the category of unintended art:


Does anyone else see the face of Bambi-- or maybe Brother Fox-- in this paint-by-numbers-ish chunk of bark? I came across it on my walk last week.  Tempted as I was to bring it home and hang it by the coop to see if it would freak out the chickens, I thought it might be better to leave it for others to enjoy, which I hope they did.