March 2009

So I am knitting this sweater:


And leaving aside the really embarassing amount of time I have spent worrying about whether it has “too much colour” for me to wear, it is going pretty well, and I am happy with it.

Except, I am knitting it one size too large. I thought I might be knitting it one size too large, and now that I am well into shaping the waist (it has shaping, or this probably wouldn’t matter at all) it is very very clear that I was right. It is a bit big. It still doesn’t really look big to me, but careful and repeated cross checking of all the measurements involved shows that look big or not, there is “a bit of ease” and then there is “too darned big”.

Where the part that is like denial comes in is not my inability to see the actual size of the sweater, but my total obliviousness to what I actually am shaped like. I know what my measurements are – I make clothes for myself, I take my measurements regularly. I just don’t seem to be able to translate those numbers into an even slightly accurate notion of how much space I take up in the world. My vision of myself seems to be a sort of an amorphous blob that, like a hamster, can squish itself through and into relatively small spaces, but sort of bubbles out again on the other side. I’m not sure that I have any clear idea of the boundary between “myself” and “other stuff”. (Come to think of it, this may explain why I bump into things so often!)

Hang on – let me take stock of my self-image a moment. I am kind of short, I have big eyes, an indistinct hamster-y sort of body, and a tendency to overcommit myself. Holy mother of purl, I think I am a shmoo!


Anyway. The appropriate thing to do at this point (about the sweater, I mean) would be to say some bad words, frog it and start knitting the right size. I don’t want to do that, but I know it is the right thing to do.

Problem is, I am not following a pattern, I am writing one. And it’s going really well: I like the proportions, the math is checking out, I’m happier with it so far than anything I’ve yet knitted “all by myself” as it were. I’m afraid if I go back to square one at this point, I will jinx it. So what I would prefer is to keep going, finish the sweater in this size, make sure it all works, and then worry about the math adjustments for other sizes, which I was going to have to do anyway.

And regardless of whether it fits me or not, the size I am knitting is pretty well in the middle range of “the sizes people tend to be”, so it seems like working out the shaping in that size is a good idea, it will be much easier to make accurate adjustments up and down from the middle than trying to make a big shapely sweater fit little people, or a sweater made for the broomstick folk fit nicely on the curvy types. So it ALSO seems like the reasonable thing to do is to keep going.

And yet. The longer I keep going, the less likely it is that I am ever going to knit this thing in my size, at least in the forseeable future.

Do I finish it, only to rip it back? Do I rip it back now, and risk screwing up my pattern? Do I finish it, grab my lantern and go wandering the earth searching for someone one size larger than I am who might like this sweater? Is there a chance that I would knit the sweater again in my size if I used different yarn the second time?

Maybe I could just eat a lot of pasta?


Ok, let’s lighten things up a bit here.  The sheep are still all ok, Momma Hen is seriously considering moving out of the house and resuming normal life as a Hen, the weather is warming up, and Vellum has discovered a few shoots of green stuff that actually seem to be attached to the ground somehow! They’re really tasty – he keeps getting this goofy, dreamy look on his face as if to say “Wow, can you imagine if this stuff was everywhere? That would be sooo cool… I could just walk around and eat whenever I wanted!”

In short, although I don’t want to speak too quickly, I think we are getting on top of this “March” thing.  Speaking of which, I fixed my calendar:


So.  The other night, (I don’t know what night, it’s all a blur – maybe a week ago Sunday?) at about 2:30 AM, Raven, who keeps later hours than I do, was going to the bathroom before bed.  Our bathroom window faces the driveway on the side of the house.  Glancing out the window he saw, in the bright moonlight, a large animal walking up the drive towards the yard.

His confused thoughts were, quickly: a)The sheep are out; b) Why would the sheep be heading back into the yard; c) That is not a sheep; d) That is a cow.  Just as he was getting to “There is a cow in the driveway”, a rather large bull came trotting along, following the cow.

Raven ran up the stairs to wake me, and I who for some not very good reason wasn’t asleep yet quickly threw on a sweater and ran outside with him to (I don’t actually know what) do something about the cows.

There were no cows.

Now, our property isn’t that big, and cattle – well – are.  It took me maybe three minutes to get down the stairs and outside, and it did not seem reasonable to either of us that in that time two cows had simply vanished.  But there continued to be no cows.  We checked in the yard.  We looked up and down the road, we scanned the surrounding fields.  (Not a lot of trees around here, and did I mention the moonlight?)

The cows continued to not be there.

At this point I might have begun to question Raven’s arguably questionable sanity, except that in the light of the flashlight I found:



cow tracks.  Very large, very fresh, very clear in my muddy spring driveway, cow tracks.  They came up the drive, they appeared (although it was dark and quite muddy) to go down the drive… and they vanished.  Rather like the cows.

Eventually, we got to sleep.  The next morning in sunlight, I could see with utter clarity that two cows had come along the (dirt) road past my mailbox, turned up the drive, grabbed some hay from the bale at the back of said drive, turned around, proceeded back to the road… and vanished.

Later that morning, a pickup came by.  They were moving very slowly, clearly looking for something.  “Have you, um, lost some cows?”  I asked.  “Why yes we have!”  So I told them what little I knew of their cows moonlight adventures.  They examined the tracks.  The one fellow in the truck was along specifically because he is a good tracker.  He agreed, unfortunately, with what I had already determined – the tracks stopped at the foot of our drive.

All day they looked for their cows.  More and more people got involved.  Every now and then a car would speed past, presumably following some lead, and then slowly crawl back, passengers hopelessly scanning fields they had already searched and searched again, when the lead turned out to be a bust.

Finally, as the sun was setting, we saw a strange parade coming up the road:  The cow and bull, ambling happily along the side of the road followed by a number of (very tired looking) guys on foot, three cars a minivan and a 4-wheeler.  Raven tried to take a picture, but he was hurrying and the light was awful:


I wouldn’t believe me either, but some desperate photoshopping on the above, and look:



The tracker had eventually managed to pick up a sign of them considerably further down the road.  They had left the road, walked up the treeline for a couple of fields, had themselves a little party by a creek, followed the creek halfway down to the lake, and were circling back along the edge of another field by the time he caught up to them.  Must have been ten, fifteen miles of tracking cows through mud.  Good times.

That’s it.  As of now, I am banishing March.  Who needs a month named afther a none-too-stable god of war anyway?  Next year I’m skipping it entirely.  Or maybe, because my brother and his daughter both have birthdays in this otherwise stupid and vindictive month, I shall re-name it.  Perhaps I could call the empty space between February and April after Persephone, that would be nice.  Either that, or after one of those Medieval Saints who were out hunting and found a stag with a glowing cross and became lifelong vegetarians, someone like that.

Honestly, I thought the Vanishing Cow Episode was an attempt on the part of the Universe to lighten the mood a little.  (It was funny – I’ll tell you later.  I don’t feel funny right now.)  Sadly, all it was was setting us up for the one-two punch.  And like suckers, we fell for it.

Thank you, by the way, for all your comments and emails, they were really really sweet and I appreciate your thoughts and support.  I have been trying to respond to everybody, but if you haven’t had an email from me please forgive, I’m kind of losing it right now.

Galahad is dead.  Tuesday morning he was fine, by Tuesday evening he just seemed a bit funny, and by Wednesday afternoon he was dead.  That is the short version.  The long version involves a whole lot more frantically attempting to save him, plus a vet who never has shown up.  Or called.  (Not Bryan’s vet.  He is wonderful.) And a couple of nervous breakdowns, and you know.  Crap.

What we think (are increasingly sure the longer everyone else stays healthy) is that he was poisoned.  Not intentionally poisoned by some asshole, I hasten to add.  If that was the case I would be hiding in the bushes with a beartrap and some arrows, or something.  Poisoned ones.  No, I mean that the only thing that changed from Tuesday morning to Wednesday afternoon is that Tuesday I opened a new package of his milk replacer stuff, prior to which we’d been using stock left over from lambing last winter.  I do not know whether he was maybe allergic to something in the new stuff, if it was different somehow, or if there is actually something wrong with the milk.  I can probably call the government and arrange to get it tested, and I think I’d better, just in case.

He had no symptoms of illness.  He was eating until late Wednesday morning, his pooper was working fine, his urine was clear (TMI, sorry) there was no fever, no congestion, his pulse was ok.  He was alert, his eyes and skin were clear.  Unfortunately, his body seemed to be shutting down, bit by bit.

You know how bad this month is being?  Here’s how bad this month is being: The GOOD news right now is that Blackie had a miscarriage.  That is good news because we didn’t actually think she was pregnant and she really oughtn’t to have been, and she’s ok and will be much healthier for not being pregnant.  Still, for that to be the good news I feel that I am not in my happy place.

I’m going back under my rock for a bit now.  Or maybe I’ll just go hide out in the barn and cry.  I can hug sheep that way, and the hens will come and visit.  They love to climb in the hay.  When I come out again, I will tell you the Vanishing Cow story.  Also there has been intense knitting happening, because that is a good thing to do when you’re stressed and under a rock.

Some of you have already heard that we had to put Bryan to sleep on Friday.  We had been hoping not to have to bring him to the vet, but he was failing a little bit each day, and Wednesday night he had what was probably a small stroke.  After that, he couldn’t really walk at all, and he was very confused.  He still recognized Raven and I, which was a mercy to us, but he didn’t seem to know where he was or what was going on.

That would have been hard on Bry, as he wouldn’t have been sure what the rules were, and he needed to follow the rules.  If there weren’t enough, he would make some up himself.

Wednesday and Thursday evenings we talked to and about Bryan, and cried and remembered.  When he was a puppy, he had a rock collection.  Every now and then he would bring a stone into the house and show it to us.  We put them on a little shelf by the back door, and when he came in or out he would always check the shelf to make sure his rocks were still there.

He traveled all over Ontario with us to SCA events, and always kept our campsites raccoon free.  He never needed a fence – when other dogs came to visit and they were playing he would always stop and bark if the other dog crossed the property line as if to say “what are you doing, you can’t go over there!?”  When Raven was working in Windsor for a year and I was in London, Bryan was one of the two people I consider responsible for keepiing me sane and getting out of myself when needed.  (Emily is the other one.)

It was scary when we got Bryan, because at the time it was the biggest responsibility we had ever taken on.  Getting a dog (or any animal) is like having a child, it is a commitment to take care of them for their life, to put them first, because unlike a child they will never develop enough responsibility to feed themselves, to grow away from you.  Animals grow towards you instead, they will always need you more.  But I am so glad that Bryan came to live with us and my only regret ever is that he couldn’t be with us forever.

He was sixteen years old.  We’re going to bury him here under the oak trees.

Goodbye, Stinky Puppy.  Thank you.