February 2008


Last friday, I declared spring.  I know, I live in Canada and it’s February, and it’s been frostbite-in-fifteen-minutes cold this past week, but I don’t care.  It’s spring, and I refuse to take seriously any further winter-like behavior.  Cooperating with me, (or humoring me) the temperature is now at zero, despite it being dark, and so everything is at melting point – which means that really big piles of snow and ice are sliding down our slippery steel roof and crashing to the ground.  It’s very exciting.

I have managed to finish the yarn-thing!  Unfortunately due to a mechanical malfunction (my washing machine is frozen) it isn’t in a particularly photograph-able condition right now.   I shall attempt to mollify or at least distract you by bowing to the demand for more cute lamb pictures.

Monster and Blackie:

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Chloe, Linton and Freyja enjoying sun on the deck (and Romulus giving ’em the old ‘hairy eyeball’):

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Early morning playtime:

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There’s been some cute stuff I haven’t been able to catch yet – Monster’s fascination with the chickens, for example.  He’s just entranced by them, and he follows them around trying to get them to play.  He had what he thought was a pretty good game of “bounce” going with Romulus the Rooster the other day.  I have no idea what Romulus thought was happening!

Chloe is in a hurry to be a ‘big’ sheep, like her mommy.  She is a sheep’s sheep, and fairly shy around people.  She is determined to eat from the trough with Blackie and Freyja.  Today is the first day she’s actually been big enough to get her head above the lip of the trough, but she’s actually been eating there all week, because she figured out how to climb in.  Oddly, Blackie doesn’t seem to mind, and just eats around her.

Linton is my big suck.  Mommy is the best, of course, but I’m his next favorite, and if I’m in the yard he’s most often stuck to me like glue, nosing me in the knee, pulling on my coat, chewing on my boots.  (Yuck!)  He loves to ‘help’ me clean out the barn.  Picture a cat chasing a rake, that’s pretty much what it’s like.  Monster is also affectionate, but I think Blackie’s been putting ideas in his head, and he wants to be ‘lead sheep’, so he doesn’t want anybody to think he’s soft, or a baby.  He is the youngest of the three, and also the largest – both tall and broad.  He’s got the darkest wool too, it looks like at least patches of him are going to stay black.  Again, just like his mother.

I have been back-and-sometimes-front-of-the-mind frantic about the TIF this month. The question was “what do you remember”, which in the context Sharon though of it was kind of a “what do you remember that has changed drastically” kind of theme, although obviously interpretation can be wide.

My problem has been that what I remember is simultaneously ‘too damn much’ and ‘nothing’. My sequential memory starts at age three, and I have spotted memories from two years before that. So you’d think there would be plenty to draw on for a project like that, right? Except that I’m a kind of introverted, even self-absorbed person, and children are the centre of the universe anyway until a certain age (Stalkermom suggests age 22) so the bulk of those memories were not presenting themselves in any useful project-oriented way. I did a lot of thinking about memory itself, and the nature of what and why we remember, and based on my own experience I did some wondering about the degree to which what we remember forms who we are versus the degree to which who we are decides what we remember. All very interesting, but almost totally digressive. (There was a developing nostalgic mood associated with all this thinking, which comes back into play later.)

Long and boring story short, I was stuck. I really thought I was going to punk out on this month’s challenge, which I did not want to do. So finally, last saturday, I thought “Ok. The only thing you’ve been doing this month other than helping take care of lambs is spin. This month, you are a spinner. Make some damn yarn.”

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making yarn, it’s fibre, it’s pretty… but it’s meant to be something else in the end, really. And there is so much fantastic fibre manipulation going on in this challenge, that just producing a ball of yarn felt kind of lame to me. I dunno. Nothing else seemed to be getting done, however, and at least dying it in the blues and tans that are this month’s color theme would be a challenge, so I began to spin.

In order to add a level of personal challenge, I made myself use “The Good Stuff”.

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Silk and merino. I’ve been saving this stuff in case Prince Phillip called and asked for sock yarn, or something. Haven’t been able to make myself touch it it’s so pretty. So I decided that I should just use it. I made a loopy yarn, and I added shiny beads. (Again with the shiny beads, what is that?)

Digression: I do not have pictures of the white spun yarn. I tried to take a picture of it, and discovered that the camera batteries were dead and the camera itself was full of cute pictures of my cat. Apparently she and Raven did a photo shoot. It looked like a bunch of loopy white string, though, I mean you’ve all seen yarn. And anyway, thanks to the cat pictures I can at least give evidence that I’ve done some work on St Brigid this month as well:

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/digression.

So Saturday and Sunday I spun the yarn, and Monday I broke out the dyepots. I believe it was at this point that the yarn started to take control of the project, although it was a subtle transfer of power and I didn’t really notice until much later that the yarn was running the show.

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What happened was I got some lovely blues, a variety of interestingly mottled shades, the occasional pink tone that you almost can’t see, but that acts as a contrast… it’s a lovely yarn, the kind of thing that I feel totally dissociated from because I can’t possibly have made that myself, it’s too pretty – but it has no tan. None. The yarn utterly rejected the idea of having tan anywhere in its length. The only brown tones in the entire skein are the copper beads I spun into it in the first place.

What, me worry? I still didn’t know that the yarn had taken over. I thought I had control. I’d already decided that since it was “just yarn” and I was feeling kind of weird about that, I would knit up a quick project – on of those mobius cowl things, I thought – which would show the yarn to advantage and make me feel like I’d done something with the project. And I have a wide selection of scraps of tans and browns right now, since almost everything I’ve dyed since before Christmas has been in those shades, so I figured I’d just grab some of that, knit the two yarns together, presto! I’m back in the color scheme.

The yarn had other ideas. By the third round of the cowl, I finally woke up and realized that I had nothing to say about this project at all. This was the yarn’s project. Hell, I thought the project was finished, I was just knitting to show the pretty colors. But the yarn had aspirations. It wasn’t finished, it was just getting started – and my tan sock yarn was not invited to the party. The cowl was frogged.

I have to say, I didn’t put up much of a fight. The yarn is pretty, it seemed to know what it was doing, and heaven knows I hadn’t had any bright ideas this month, so I caved. I agreed to obey the yarn, and see what happened. Tuesday and Wednesday I knit the yarn into what it wanted to be, which turned out to be a big rectangle. Not very exciting, although it did sort of show the colors and beads and stuff. But then the yarn went digging through my silk bin and pulled out an old blue silk shirt!

I did protest a bit at this point. I argued with the yarn. “There is still no tan!” I cried. I tried to convince it to look at a brown toned chunk of microfibre instead, but the yarn told me to shut up. I offered it some silver-shot sari silk, which it did at least consider, briefly – but then declared it too “scratchy” and picked up the blue again. And then it told me to grab the chrome, and I started to understand. As I’ve mentioned before, chrome is photosensitive and what it basically does is burn the exposed fibres. So we sun-printed the blue silk.

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Which now has tan. (Colour in that pic isn’t great, it really is a browny-tan)

Now I am applying the silk to the knitted fabric, along with some other stuff the yarn found when it was rooting and liked the look of (a blue ribbon-yarn that came from the IYS a while ago). And may I just say, thank the good people who invented freezer paper, what would we do without them? I believe that is the last step, and the yarn will then release me from my bondage. I hope so. With luck I will have a FO to post later today, but right now I have to go. The yarn is calling.

It’s not that I think the Universe is “out to get me”. On the contrary, I think overall I get along pretty well with The Great Everything. But I really must remember that the Universe has got a penchant for sarcasm. For example, if I get some pregnant sheep, and say – out loud – that I am prepared if necessary to help with the birthing, I ought to know that at the end of the day I’m going to find myself with my arm up a ewe.

Blackie went into labor some time in the wee hours of Friday morning. She had (big surprise, this is Blackie we’re talking about) a rough time, made rougher by the fact that she was quite determined I should not help. It was almost nine by the time the poor thing was exhausted enough to accept my interference, at which time I quickly established that yeah, of course, poor Blackie had a breech birth.

So there I am, having had NO sleep, nor much at all since Tuesday morning, trying to find and position the appropriate legs on a backwards sheep that Blackie is trying equally hard to eject. (Is this stuff work safe? Sorry, maybe I should have posted a TMI alert?) I did finally manage it, after a lot of effort I shall not bother to detail – go read James Herriot, that’s the way I knew what to do – and when the little monster came out, the trouble we’d both had all made sense: He’s huge! He’s got a big shaggy head, and long stilts for legs, and he’s taller than Freyja’s ram, who is older by three days and has been working very hard at growing.

Blackie and her boy:

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There was a second lamb (also breech, but not as seriously) but he didn’t make it. He was as tiny as this one is large, couldn’t even manage to stand up until quite late, and only managed it once. Stalkermom took him and tried to feed him up, but even though they have heat, it wasn’t enough for the poor sickly thing.

Here’s poor Blackie, trying hard to make him stand up:

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See how his head is about the size of her nose, while in the picture above the little monster’s head is the size of her entire muzzle? Here’s a “just born” shot, he’s still wet:

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BTW, I would like to defend my clothing choices as revealed in this picture by reminding you “no sleep” and “arm up an ewe”.

Freyja thoughtfully got the heck out of our way during the process by teaching her two about “outside”.

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“Outside” is fun, but running and climbing make you very sleepy:

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Little brothers make the best pillows.

Even as I was writing that Blackie should be due any time, Freyja’s udder swelled up to the size of a compact car, and at around 11:30 this morning, this happened:

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As I actually post twice in three days!

We’re still on LambWatch.

There may be a number of people who are politely not mentioning right now that we’ve been on LambWatch for two weeks, and am I so dumb I can’t tell that the sheep isn’t ready yet? The short answer is “yes”.

In my defense, I have never been pregnant, nor have I experienced the miracle of mammalian birth with anyone except a guinea pig I had when I was ever so much younger. You know how you can tell a guinea pig is pregnant? You go down to feed it one day and there are two extra guinea pigs hiding under it that weren’t there an hour ago, that’s how! It’s different with sheep.

The ewes were introduced to their ex-boyfriend sometime in late summer. When I arranged to pick the girls up, I was told that they were expecting “sometime in December or January”. But, when we actually did get them, it turned out that some of the flock had still been having snugglebunnies with the ram earlier that week. So inexperienced little old me had the expectation of lambing sometime between Christmas and early March. Blackie was having problems in mid December, which theoretically helped pinpoint her due date to sometime between January 15 and nowish. Theoretically. Beyond that, I trying to interpret “signs of imminent lambing” from online articles into actual things I am seeing, which as usual means everything looks like a sign until you see the real thing and say “Oh, like THAT. I get it.”

I wanted to post my “make my day” blog list. This was unexpectedly difficult, the reason being that I don’t actually read all that many blogs. I would like to read more, but at the same time I could very easily putter around on line all day doing just that – and have – and so I kind of limit myself. Basically all the blogs I read regularly “make my day” – that’s why I read them – but I wanted to make a list with more than “the usual suspects”, and not just “Yarn Harlot” is a great writer. (See how I snuck that in there anyway? I can’t NOT link to the woman!)

So anyway, here’s my “blog flog”, and thanks to everybody on it for making my mornings brighter.

First up, because it’s not a craft blog and because I only just discovered it, is The “Blog” of “Unneccessary” Quotation Marks. The very existence of this blog renews my waning faith in human grammar. Misused quotation marks are one of those things that drives me crazy. Raven tells me this site was nominated for “geek site of the year”.

This may seem like cheating, but Jodi Green makes the list twice – once for her blog, and once for her Master’s Thesis Blog. The latter is mostly “just” pictures of the dresses as they are transformed – but “just” is in perfectly proper quotation marks, as I have been finding it fascinating to watch as they are printed and over printed, and have several times found myself “rooting for” a particular dress and getting excited when I see it’s number come up. Possibly I need a life, but the site is well worth checking out!

Jen and La ARE the usual suspects, but Jenla is always a good read. Jen’s sharp wit makes her rants my favorite of anyone’s anywhere (I still occasionally giggle when I look at my rural -and completely UNlandscaped – mailbox) and there’s great knitting and animal stories to boot!

Speaking of animal stories, Jessie over at What Housework? always has some entertaining tales of the homestead – with unfailingly adorable pictures of her growing (and growing, and growing) menagerie. And if animal pictures aren’t enough (dudes, they’re REALLY CUTE) there’s a healthy compliment of knitted objects and handspun yarn to keep you happy.

The Farm Witch is rapidly becoming one of those “usual suspects” too, but with good reason. Her writing is like a wave breaking over your head; fast and strong and scattered, also refreshing and fun. And if you’re in the mood for some yarn pron, ooh baby, we’ve got what you’re looking for. The spinner in me is very much inspired by and admiring of her work, and the homesteader in me bows to her greatness! Go check out the entry from last Thanksgiving… as the stress levels rise, the yarn just keeps getting prettier!

Lee is someone I just ‘met’ recently through the Take It Further challenge, but her blog Dancing Crow became an immediate favorite. She experiments with a wide range of fibre manipulation by making fabric “postcards”, and I enjoy the double benefit of looking at the great stuff she posts PLUS the masochistic pleasure of wanting to try at least half of the techniques myself. My “to try” list has doubled in the short time I’ve been reading this blog!

Gwen over at HealingBalancePassion is another person I found through the challenge. She’s been working a visual journal that really has to be seen rather than described. The journal is worth checking out, as are her thoughts on the process of visual interpretation.

I concede my list is heavy on the eye-candy, but here’s another one: Maureen’s blog Tangled Threads is picture-heavy with gorgeously embellished quilt blocks, molded paper, and ever so much fabric layering and fancy stitchery. Head on over there to ooh and ah, but don’t drool on your keyboard!

And speaking of stitches, I have to include Sharon from In A Minute Ago. The stitchers who are reading this will know her, but many of the knitters might not. Her blog is a brilliant resource, as not only is she herself an embroiderer, seamstress and teacher, but she is tireless in seeking out interesting links to all kinds of contemporary and historical fibre information, product tests, and still more blogs full of wisdom, humor and pretty pretty pictures. Definitely somone to have on your ‘favorites’ list!

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Not feeling too bad about the start of the year. I did get my 1000 m spun, 1020 to be exact, so I guess that means it is reasonable. I got more work done on St Brigid, but it never seems to be in the same room as my camera, so I can’t prove it yet. There was somewhat more frilly underwear made than shown here, but it’s all basically the same.

There should be another corset – got a brand new pattern worked out and all assembled, but it isn’t an FO because I discovered I’m out of boning tips. I find this difficult to believe, but it seems to be the case, so as soon as I pick up some more it’ll be boned and bound.

Didn’t get anything finished on the house, but I was feeling fine about that – like I said, that goal is a lot more warm-weather oriented and I’m just hoping for an average of one thing a month. Although after the damage to the roof the other day I’m not feeling as copecetic, since now we’ve actually moved backwards.

Now it’s a lovely cloudy Candlemas, and time to start working on February! I started a pair of fingerless gloves for Raven, but other than that I haven’t dived into anything. Yesterday I cleaned out the fridge – it was an act of pure jealousy, I threw out anything that looked smarter than me. Although I was tempted to keep one container of (soup? yoghurt?) when it offered to help with the taxes…