Tuesday, December 16, 2008

fuzzy puppy pictures

As promised, here are some pictures of a fuzzy puppy, doing the thing he does best:

IMG_3754 IMG_3738

IMG_3756 IMG_3766

Don't be fooled: he doesn't sleep nearly this well once the light goes off in our bedroom at night. Those puppy training books that claim the puppy will sleep quite contentedly in a crate overnight, if only you locate the crate in your bedroom?

They lie.

Friday, December 12, 2008

something nasty

** Warning: if you have a weak stomach, you may want to skip this post and come back tomorrow for a post concerning fuzzy puppies or fuzzy yarn or fuzzy Christmas feelings or fuzzy something.**

Two years ago, at Rhinebeck, Primo spent some time sitting on a lamb's pelt thrown over a chair in the Coopworth breed display.

"Mom, this is awesome! So comfortable! So warm! How come we don't have any of these from OUR lambs?"

I explained that I just hadn't been able to face the process just yet. You see, to get pelts, you need sheepskins. And to get sheepskins, you need to ask the butcher to save them for you, and then you need to scrape and salt them to get them ready for the tannery. Rather than deal with that, I just had the butcher toss them.

My son pointed out that this was a tremendous waste of the gift of life the animal had given us. (He was reading a book about Native American Indians at the time, and the philosophy had resonated.) He declared that he would help me with the skins, and begged me to have the butcher save the next batch for us.

Before agreeing, I had him do his research. He spoke with several people at length, and they explained how they prepared the skins in great detail. He was still gung ho, and even decided that his annual 4-H presentation would be on the topic of "how to prepare a lamb skin for tanning," complete with pictures and tanning factory tour.

He was given slight pause when the butcher noted, upon being asked to save the skins, that "it was a gory business." I urged Primo to consider the source. If a BUTCHER tells you something is gory, that is pretty significant. Primo was undeterred, however. I came home from the butcher earlier this week with a freezer's worth of meat, and four frozen pelts.

Because the freezer was full, the pelts had to be defrosted immediately. Never mind that we are crazy busy at work, and Primo had his holiday concert, and we have a new puppy that can't seem to keep straight just where he is supposed to be peeing, anyway. The weather has been unseasonably warm, which aided the defrosting process, but also meant that we had to work quickly to make sure the skins didn't rot. After 24 hours, Primo and I went out to the bicycle shed -- the only place on the farm that was protected from animals who would have an understandable interest in the skins -- and started to open up the pelts.

To set the stage, you should understand that the shed doesn't have any electricity. It was just past dusk and we were working by flashlight. You should also understand that we had never seen a raw sheepskin before. So it came as quite a shock to both of us when we unrolled the first pelt and the legs were still attached.

Primo, understandably, freaked the frack out.

At this point, Terzo came running up to the shed to give me a message. We hit the lights and luckily, he saw nothing, but was a little miffed that we were both screaming at him to get back to the house. I sent Primo back as well, then put the skin back into the bag and called my sheep friend Val, who laughed her butt off at my panic. "Oh, didn't I mention that to you? Yeah, that butcher leaves them on."

Now, how could anyone fail to mention what is, to my mind, a fairly important piece of information?

Val kindly agreed to come and cut them off for me, but told me I had to get the skins salted as soon as possible. (The salt dries them out and halts decomposition; the weather was still warm, and was working against me at this point.) I spent the whole night stewing. How was I going to deal with this? I was ready to throw the whole lot in the garbage but I was afraid that the garbagemen would never pick up our trash again. I thought about throwing them in the woods but knew that would create more problems, as it would draw local coyotes to our place and give them a taste for lamb. I thought about burying them in the back next to the pond, but it had rained for two days straight and the ground was very soggy. My long-suffering father even offered to come up and help, but for crying out loud, I am almost 40 (gulp) and I can't keep expecting my dad to bail me out of every crazy situation I get myself into. Goodness knows he already does it on enough of a regular basis.

So I took a deep breath and took care of it myself the next morning with a pair of fiskars scissors. After the inital revulsion, it wasn't really that bad. It turns out only one pelt had the legs on; it was just very bad luck that it was the first one we opened. I won't claim that there weren't other unmentionables that had to be dealt with, but I will spare you the gory details at this point.

(I should mention that my LSH did help me out. His initial reaction was along the lines of "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into," but by the end we were talking about what we would do differently the next time.)

We are very fortunate to live somewhat close to a tannery, and so rather than take a chance and dry them myself, I drove them straight there for processing. A four-hour round trip in the pouring rain was not on my schedule this close to the holidays, but I am very happy that I am no longer responsible for those darn skins. After all that, the tannery told me we were too enthusiastic with the trimming, and should be much more conservative the next time. Guess we got a little too into it.

And poor Primo seems to have recovered, though he did sleepwalk three separate times that night. I can just see him on the therapy couch decades from now, saying "I saw something nasty in the woodshed..."*

*Mrs. C. gets credit for that quote, but three points to anyone else who can name the source.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

christmas came a little early

We're at a whole 'nother level of crazy here. Presenting Holland's Jim Hawkins, aka Dusty, who arrived last night:

He is an English Shepherd, which is also Charlie's breed, at least in part.* The boys are in heaven, and Charlie is adjusting better than I thought he would. Midge, however, has decided that the puppy is her sworn enemy.

*Charlie was a rescue, so your guess is as good as ours, but he certainly looks a lot like an English Shepherd, at least in our opinion. He also has a lot of the English Shepherd behavioral traits; we understood his actions a lot better once we learned more about the breed.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

shocking news, details at 11!

If you had asked me, up until a week ago, if I had a wool/yarn stash, I would have answered with an emphatic NO. I tend not to come home from wool festivals loaded down with yarn, I don't get to yarn stores nearly as often as I would like, I don't order yarn online. I honestly thought that I was monogamously loyal to one project, buying yarn just as needed and knitting away in a dedicated matter until a particular project was complete.

So imagine my shock when I discovered this past weekend, while organizing the big closet and my son's new room, that I do indeed have a stash.

I found myself saying things like, "just pile those balls of roving over there, I'll put them away later." My LSH kept asking me what was in this cabinet or that rubbermaid tote, and the answer was, invariably, "oh, yarn." I said it in an airy, non-chalant tone to convey a lack of concern, but I found myself repeating those phrases a disturbing number of times, until, upon surveying the contents of the room, I was forced to admit that I had quite a bit of fiber in there. (I think the fact that it was previously stored in several different locations contributed to the illusion that I didn't really have that much.) Moreover, I have an entire rubbermaid tub full of UFOs now, thanks to my effort to put them all in one place.

And yet... and yet... I still feel like I don't have enough yarn. I know, it's another sign of the self-delusion. Much as I thought I avoided it all this time, I have been blindsided by a stash. Or maybe my refusal to acknowledge it is just another symptom of my denial?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

one stitch at a time

I decided to knit a simple garter stitch prayer shawl. It was supposed to be meditative and relaxing. And also dead easy, requiring no thought whatsoever.


But I picked this yarn, which, while beautiful, is a devil to knit. Did I miss the knitterly memo about boucle? What a pain! If I am not paying perfect attention, my ginormous size 15 needles catch those little bitty beautiful loops and cause all kinds of problems.

I chose the needles due to their ability to create a lacy drapey effect without the fiddly-ness of lace. (I know, I am using a very lazy speed stix approach to knitting these days. Mea culpa. Did I mention I am a little busy?) Little did I know that I would drop stitches right, left, and center, and be unable to pick them up again properly thanks to the size of the loops. I tried, but as much as I squinted and crossed my eyes to convince myself that a non-knitter would not notice those frankenstein-like jagged lines up the middle of the shawl, it didn't work.


I have frogged and frogged and frogged again. The knitting gods are laughing at me once more. I thought I picked a project that would be mindless. Instead, I find myself having to mind every single stitch or mayhem ensues. Come to think about it, maybe it's meditative after all.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Many have been commenting (and you know who you are!) about my lack of posts last month. The cause was my usual busy-ness, and then some, which made it impossible for me to even think about a post, or a blog, or normal human conversation... I knew I was coming out of the woods when I found myself composing a new post in my head last night. I guess enough had cleared off my brain's plate at that point.

I have been working non-stop on bringing the billing for my LSH's business in house. He outsourced the billing when he started his business, but it has been a long-running source of frustration which has only gotten worse with time. So he decided to add-on the integrated billing part of his record-keeping software -- except we found out too late that it wasn't so integrated, and we would have to integrate it ourselves.

And by we, I mean me.

Having a business in your house can be a blessing and a curse. The commute is great, but it can also be hard to break away. For the past two months, I have stumbled downstairs every morning, made a pot of coffee, and headed straight onto the computer to work on the integration. Apart from small breaks here and there to eat and yell at my kids to keep it down, can't you see mom's working and she doesn't have a moment to spare, I didn't do much else until I tumbled into bed at the end of the day. I am not saying this by way of complaint, just explanation. Time was at such a premium that it was hard for me to concentrate on anything else. Knitting, spinning, reading, chatting on the phone -- everything else took a backseat.

Add on to that my eldest son's desire to move to his own room. It only makes sense, seeing as how he officially entered teenager-dom at the end of October. The only room available, however, already housed my sewing machine and work cabinet, a guest bed, all of our winter clothing, and served as the main playroom and toy storage area. It is not such a simple move. The upside is that we are forced to wade through all of our upstairs junk belongings and get it weeded out reorganized. Since we were first married, LSH and I moved at least every three years. It was a great way to declutter on a regular basis. Seeing as how we have actually managed to stay put in this location for six years and counting, this process was long overdue.

Unfortunately I don't have any "before" pictures, because I was under the weather and missed the start of the project. But here is the half-way point in the large closet that is under our eaves; eventually it will be a work/craft area for me, complete with rocking chair to knit in:

room step1

To get an idea of how it looked at the start, imagine that you can't see the carpeting or the walls. Add in two bedframes, a cradle, two boxsprings, various baby chairs and playpens, several sets of luggage, a saddle (Primo's of course), a couple of plastic bins filled with outgrown clothing, five 4H board presentations, a large collection of wrapping paper, bags, boxes and bows... you get the idea. The rooms will eventually be painted and, with any luck, recarpeted, though I can't quite get my head around how the heck we clear out the rooms to get that done. Despite all the trips to the church's flea market and the local dump, we still have quite a bit up there.

As a result of all of this activity and undertaking, I have decided that there will be very little holiday knitting by me this year. I will drool over the creativity of others, I will sigh at the thought of making handknit socks for everyone on my list, but at the end of the day, I will do all my shopping online. Every so often, I manage to acknowledge my limits.