Wednesday, July 29, 2009


It's official: absolutely nothing is happening here. After the rush of starting the chicken coop and packing for vacation and finishing up some work, there is now nothing reaching completion.

I have neither started nor (obviously) finished my next work project. I have not painted the chicken coop

(though I am very pleased with it) and I have not moved my tools out to make way for the yet-to-be-completed interior finishing of that never ending project. I also have not secured fence building supplies, although I have made some rather ambitious (pointless?) plans to move the chickens out there next week.

I have not cleaned the house, have not finished the laundry, and have not yet finished parenting my children. I have not finished weeding the garden, but this makes sense because I never started weeding either. The toy room is an absolute disaster and I don't even know what is in there any more, although I suspect there will be a lot of "Oh, hey! I've been looking for this!" going on if I ever do get around to cleaning up in there. It is entirely possible, however, that my children will finish growing up before I finish the play room. Then I'll have to start redecorating it as an office or media room or something and I'm sure I won't finish that either.

I started this new pair of socks for Isabel,

but I have not finished this pair of socks for me.

I am almost finished with this sweet little sweater,

but even with all this nothing happening around here, I don't sit down to knit until 9:30 or 10 at night and I'm usually in no shape for seaming or placket-ing by then. Plus, I lost the instructions, which is kind of an issue. I have started an absolutely fabulous little peach lace scarf, but there are still 15 pattern repeats left to go. No finishing in sight there.

Then there is the spinning. I am NOT finished with the merino fleece (also known as The White Stuff), although I am dangerously close to chucking the rest of it in the compost so I can say I am finished.

I am also not finished with my lovely pink merino. When I do finish it, I will feel duty bound to go back and make one last effort with The White Stuff before I chuck it in the compost, so there is not really a lot of incentive to move along here.

I am still working on my Zip Vest, my Central Park Hoodie, and my make-it-up-as-you-go sweater for Nate, even if only in spirit. Mostly they are in medium range storage, in the sense that they are still in an optimistic little knitting bag that has not yet been abandoned to the back of a closet or under a bed.

At least half of my children are not dressed in a manner suitable for public appearances; one of them is wearing only a shirt, but he is potty training and can be forgiven this temporary absence of pants. All of them have at least finished breakfast today, although I cannot prove that they ate foods their pediatrician would approve of.

I would be in grave danger of never finishing this post, but I also have not finished the grocery list, and the consequences of venturing in to Wegmans without a battle plan are too horrible to contemplate. I'd better hurry though; I'm leaving the house in 15 minutes, even if it hasn't finished raining.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Shopping Day

Wednesday is usually shopping day around here, but Mom is a little overwhelmed with work and has had to postpone the weekly grocery expedition. Have no fear! Matthew is here to help! Having accompanied Mom on several hundred grocery trips, he knows just what to do.

As you can see, the cart is heaped with nutritious offerings. They have, of course, been removed from all that silly packaging they come in to allow for maximum cart stuffage. This will make perfect sense to anyone who has actually seen what Mom's shopping cart looks like just before we hit the checkout lane.

Here we see our many fine purchases laid out for inspection. An excellent selection of goods,

although some observers cannot refrain from expressing their opinions as to the severe shortage of tuna fish.

With all this unrestrained consumerism, it is only natural that the store shelves should look a little ransacked. No worries, I'm sure the excellent staff at the Mom & Pop Grocery will be happy to clear things up.

The next step is to put everything away. Great care has been taken here to arrange the goods in a logical and orderly manner, so as to facilitate easy retrieval of the needed items, all of which should be placed within arm's reach.

Shopping accomplished! We are now off-- with a clear conscience and the knowledge of a job well done -- to play trains.

Anybody want to buy a little boy?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Well, aren't I spiffy!

I'm finally organized and here are the pictures from our very relaxed vacation. There would have been more pictures, but there were some battery issues, even though an experienced packer exercised the required foresight and packed extra batteries. Apparently they were US batteries only, because they refused to work while we were in Canada.

<--- This is where we stayed on Waupoos Island, where our hosts summer their sheep. The house was built in the early 1900s and had the most marvelous combined eating/kitchen area with direct access to the front porch, so even when I was cooking or doing dishes I had lots of company. Ceilings were tall, windows were huge. Lots of light and space. Plus, there was a duck living in the basement. I nearly had a heart attack the first time I opened the basement door and saw something white go tumbling down the stairs. Intruder? Ghost? Carelessly placed volleyball? Nope. Duck butt. The path in front of the house leads to the dock, where we spent most of the week. The view off the porch included this picturesque weathered gray barn, which sits on a little spit of land jutting out into the bay. The rest of the views contained sheep. Here is the dock. A lot of us went fishing, although some of us liked the dock for spinning and reading and not fishing. Others used the time to launch an armada of driftwood boats, most of which had to be rescued with long sticks or the occasional foray in the row boat. Life jackets were a big hit and some of the smaller family members felt the need to wear them in the house too, perhaps to protect against the peril of bath-time.

<---There was a tire swing in the yard and campfires at night, complete with flaming marshmallows.

One morning in the middle of the week, our fine hostess Liz brought us a pair of orphaned lambs to bottle feed. The big one spent a lot of time butting the little one out of the way. We had to hold him back to keep him from budging in the bottle line.

The Island boasts three county "roads", two of which can be found only by careful detective work. In addition, Liz mentioned that we could use the farm lane to hike across the island to the Lake Ontario side, where the shore would be clean and rocky. The beginning of the lane was easy enough to find, but the tracks fizzled out after the second gate and the rest of the hike was all guess work. The natives kept an eye on us, but they were shy almost to the point of being feral and would not give us reliable directions. They were also very suspicious of the camera and uniformly presented their sheepy tushies to the lens. The only one we could get close to was being held in place by a nursing lamb and didn't have much of a choice. After what seemed like an eternity of thrashing through fields and dodging sheep poop (mostly; its not really a place for your best shoes), we took a wild guess as to the right path and ended up in this little piece paradise:

As promised, the shore was clean, or at least it was cleaner than the bay side of the island where lots of stringy yuckamuck washes up. It turns out that the sheep use the lake like a big water trough, so there was some "evidence" on the shore. There were tons of smooth rocks, and we spent a lot of time returning them to the water. Older family members picked up smaller rocks and held rock skipping contests. Demolition man, however, picked up rocks as big as his head and tossed them back into the depths with wild abandon. It's best not to stand too close if you go to the beach with him.

By mid-week, we were ready for a little civilization and we headed to Sand Banks Provincial Park, which is exactly what it sounds like. Giant hills of sand for climbing and a nice sandy shore for wading and castles and moats and dams. A diner lunch was included in the festivities, which was very welcome to the chief cook and bottle washer.

A few rainy afternoons left us some time for Uno tournaments and general silliness.
Back in civilization, it's as if vacation never happened and we are back to business as usual.

In knitting news, do you notice anything missing from this picture? Hmmmm . . . one front, one back, two sleeves. Now what? DOH! We'll never know, because the instructions seem to have been abandoned on the soccer field last week. Good move, mom! I'm sure I'll enjoy finishing this project up with no guidance.

On the Tour, I put in some marathon spinning time last night and this morning and churned out another 300 yards of the white stuff, just in time to take it to Dawn at the Guild meeting; Dawn has agreed to take the stuff to the Genesee Country Village for some authentic historical natural dyeing. The chosen color is indigo, and I choose to believe that it will make up for the snow-blindness I'm experiencing after watching all that whiteness fly through my hands. Amazingly, though, the bag-o-wool doesn't seem to have gotten much smaller. What cruel trick is this?
As a reward for another week of work on the bag, Today's spinning involved 8 ounces of pink merino. It is smooth and soft and drafts effortlessly. A fine reward for the toils of the week.

The chickens remain ridiculous. Their wing and tail feathers are coming in and they have been taking turns perching (and pooping, the little stinkers) on top of the feed and water jars. They scuttle around the cage and hop over each other, and one even attempted a jail break yesterday, but I think she got freaked by all the open space because she broke right back in.

On tap for tomorrow: windows and trim in the chicken coop and some chicken pictures.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bits & Pieces

1. This is where we stand with the chicken coop:

Well, not really, because since that photo was taken, we have trimmed the shingles and added a door and some trim. But it is too dark to photograph the door right now and the mosquitoes, who are twice their normal size this year and seem to be armed with hypodermic needles, drive us back indoors almost as soon as we leave the house. And it doesn't matter anyway, because this was my moment of triumph. After doubts and fears and frustrations, we got rafters and plywood and shingles (not to mention drip edge) on top of the shed. And, like a cherry on a sundae, there I am decorating the top. You can see the "movable scaffolding" -- not quite OSHA approved -- at the left of the shed. I didn't like my prospects with the ladder and decided to go with something that offered better stability and much more entertainment value (to the kids at least), like a van. From the top of the van, I was able to scramble up to the top of the shed to shingle the ridge. The problems started when it was time to come back down again. I got part way down the roof, but refused to let go of the ridge so I could slide down the rest of the way and so I was stuck. Thank goodness for husbands, mine in particular on this occasion, who will climb up and rescue damsel roofers in distress.

2. Here is what happens when Daddy goes out to mow the lawn and Mommy goes out to shingle the roof and the girls are left in charge of the boys: TA DA!! Two more lovely ladies come to tea. One of them liked his pretty dress so much that he wore it for the rest of the day, but I'm not telling who.

3. And here is what happens after a week of spinning the white stuff: Yes sir, yes sir, three bobbins full. After plying, and in combination with the test skein, this brings us to 4 skeins and about 400 yards of yarn. Quality has been variable. There is more useless shorty stuff in the bag-o-fleece than I realized, so in addition to teasing (which I learned the importance of following the test skein), I have to weed out the unspinnable bits. The result is much happier spinning, but still no antidote for the overwhelming plain vanilla aspect of spinning this much undyed fiber. Plus, after all that sorting, the yard looks like it has been invaded by a flock of micro-sheep.

To relieve the monotony (and preserve what is left of my sanity, thankyouverymuch), I am taking a small dose (3+ ounces) of not-white fiber. This will be plied tomorrow when the TDF picks up again and hopefully I will also have another heap of the white stuff ready to go for this week.

4. Below is a picture of The World's Best Jell-O. It may look like ordinary cherry flavored gelatin, but it was whipped up by a rising star in the culinary world. (No bias here; I'm sure any other 9 year old could make such a fine dessert. NOT!) She boiled and poured and mixed and chilled and the end result was a small bowl of perfection. She makes a mean popover too.

This chickens remain unbearably cute, but they are much too fast for my photography skills. Their wings are starting to get feathery, but their little butts are still fuzzy. They zip around their pen and hop over each other and kick pine shavings into their food and water dishes and are endlessly entertaining to watch. No real names for them yet, as they look too much alike, but our marketing geniuses have temporarily labeled each breed pair based in its primary characteristics: flatsos (they are black and really do look unsettlingly flat when they sleep), speedies (yellow, and fast), and peeps (I think these are the same two chicks as the speedies, but no one will admit it). Mathematically it does not work out at all: there are 8 chicks in four different styles and I think one of the breeds has been labeled twice, but at least we have not yet resorted to naming them "Yellowy" and "Cuteness" and "Fluffy". The next post really will be about vacation. Probably.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

No going back now . . .

We are on the road to hobby farm-hood. Nice Carol from the Post Office called at 6:30 this morning (yes, I knew this could happen, and at least it is light at that hour) to say the chicks were here!! We all went scrambling over to pick them up and now they are home and hopefully not about to perish from all the attention they are getting.

They seem to be doing well and enjoying the giant red heat lamp. They are also eating and drinking (and pooping. Ask me how I know . . .) and generally carrying on in a good old chicken-y way.

Everyone seemed to have chosen their favorite chicks (black for the Men, white for the girls, leaving the two Buff Orpingtons for Mama, per my original plan), but now their allegiances are shifting and I am concerned that I might have to share my Orps. Maybe it's time to start some nasty rumors about them.

Chicken coop is coming along too:

I feel like Albert %^%#$# Einstein for getting those rafters up there, although I would be glad not to do it again in the future. If the weather cooperates, we'll put a big push on to get the place (mostly) in order this weekend. The chicks won't be ready for the coop too soon, but I am ready to be done and--as I keep conveniently forgetting -- we still need time to put up the fence and implement our Maximum Security Anti-Predator Measures.

No time for more commentary; I have 13 minutes left to shower, dress, bathe an uncooperative three year old, and clip the coupons for the Wednesday Grocery Trip. I wonder if I can squeeze in a trip to the newly moved yarn shop too?

Oh, last notes: TDF spinning is coming along, although I definitely don't love this wool. Still, it was free and I supposed I can work with the "rustic" yarn I am producing. And will continue to produce day after day after day . . .

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Just a Quickie

First day back from vacation and all my hard won relaxation has been blown to bits. More like buzzed to bits with a circular saw. The day started with insomnia. Go figure. I'm really not the insomnia kind of girl, and when it does strike, I don't handle it too well. I tried to go back to sleep, but my head was full of laundry and shopping lists and rafter calculations and the sound of my son coughing at top volume and it was just no good. Got up, made shopping list, grumpussed at various family members who could not be persuaded to get in the car and go shopping with me, and off I went. And there was an audiobook in the CD player, and I could hear it because no one was talking over it, complaining that it was boring, or screaming in incomprehensible Threeyearold-ese for me to turn it off. And then there was the weather (warm and sunny and generally perfect) and then there was coffee. And grocery shopping without the assistance of a three year old. And by the end of it all I was much better.

And then I tackled The Roof. This is the same roof that I thought I would finish before we left for vacation because rain was predicted and I didn't want to leave my poor coop

to get all damp and moldy. Between the weather (yes, rain; or more appropriately, RAIN, because some of it was pretty impressive) and the packing though, the only thing I could get done was a pathetic temporary roof and a tarp over the door.

Plus, I was thoroughly baffled by the rafter calculations, which apparently are based entirely on irrational numbers.

A little R&R seemed to help and by the end of the afternoon the first part of the roof was up. The prevailing sentiment seems to be that the coop now resembles a giant gift box with a handle. This is kind of hard to argue with.

In the mean time, the building supplies in my garage are slowly disappearing. There is a pile of rafters waiting for a little fine tuning and a heap of sawdust waiting for some kind soul to clean it up. There is also a heap of sawdust on me and I'm hoping that it is not really as combustible as people say it is. Tomorrow there may actually be a roof to go with the sawdust and the gift-box/coop and it will not be a moment too soon because the chickens are due to arrive in the middle of the week.

Vacation pictures are coming in the next post, although I'll pause here to note that while others fished, I was either spinning or knitting. The end result was this:

and this:
and an awful lot of this:

whereas all my family got was this:

On a final note (yay!), I have joined the Tour de Fleece and have decided to try to turn this giant heap of fluffy goodness from the Hagreen's shearing day (Thank you, Diane!!!)

into a whole heap of fluffy yarn

just waiting to be dyed. Because, really, I didn't have enough to keep me busy this month.