Sunday, December 28, 2014

in memory of a good rabbit

Yesterday morning my husband went out to do the chores, since the older two boys had left at 7:45 for track practice. Yes, they practice over break, and yes, the college boys join in when they are home. We were in a bit of a rush ourselves, as we had tickets to a matinee performance of La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC, my siblings and our Christmas gift to my parents.

I knew what he was going to say the minute I heard him knocking urgently on the back door. Oreo the rabbit had died.

His first day on the farm, May 2007

Oreo, a black Dutch rabbit, has been a fixture in our lives for many years, ever since 2007 when Secondo was finally judged responsible enough to have the rabbit for which he had been begging for years. We found a breeder in MA, perfect timing for a wedding we were attending over Memorial Day weekend. When the breeder handed the kit to Secondo, he immediately snuggled up against Secondo's neck. That was all it took: no other bunnies were even considered.

Meeting new children; he was always friendly

For the rest of his life, when anyone picked up Oreo, he would snuggle up right under the holder's chin. He was an affectionate and amiable bun, and so won us all over. We never imagined, before owning one, that a rabbit could have such personality and be such an engaging pet.

Keeping Primo warm at a 4-H petting zoo in 2008

As my friend Jenn pointed out when I shared the news of his passing, he was a bunny of many lives. He survived a dog attack rescue (we will never know the truth). He survived a blockage while we were on vacation, thanks to dedicated nursing by Patty. He survived not one but two bouts of fly strike, the first nastier than the second, but both life threatening.

His first 4-H rabbit show

He put up with many a rabbit show and petting zoo and costume contest, all in the name of 4-H.

4-H show 2011; slightly tubbier but in surprisingly 
good shape after his first bout of fly strike

Through it all, he continued to snuggle against our necks. He loved to be petted and would fold his ears against his back in pleasure, pulling himself up into a compact soft furry ball that your hand just ran down over, getting as much pleasure as (I assume) you gave.

February 2014, still loving to be held (even though he doesn't look it)

My husband and I knew he was slowing down considerably. For a few months now, I had suspected that this was going to be his last winter. He died on a relatively warm day, outside in his hutch, the place he most preferred to be. Oreo, devoted pet of Secondo and connoisseur of dandelion leaves, you will be missed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

love, the guest

A few quiet moments on Christmas Eve, to savor before the hectic mania of the next 24 hours begins. The last gifts are wrapped and ready under the tree, completed while listening to the beautiful strains of the lessons and carols broadcast live from Kings College, Cambridge this morning. The first notes of "Once in Royal David's City" sung by that crystal clear voice never fails to get me in the mood. Ahhh, this is when I love Christmas!

The boys have been ridiculously excited about the season this year. Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder? They have been plotting and planning their gifts for each other with great anticipation, and their presents were the first that were wrapped and placed under the tree, with ribbon yet! I have not been made privy to any of their decisions but they have been eagerly relaying to me how their gifts are the best gifts, the most thoughtful, the greatest surprises.

We are ready for love, the guest, to make its appearance.

ETA the boys (or should I say, the pets?) note to Santa:

I do love these boys.

Tuesday December 23: Delight
There is a land of pure delight.

Wednesday December 24: Love
Love, the rose, is on the way.

Monday, December 22, 2014

for the win

Not only is the principal's shawl done... It is blocked and almost dry! Just in time for her surprise party tomorrow, which unfortunately I cannot attend due to work, but Primo has offered to deliver it for me. This was the only Christmas tree knitting I did this year, and it was nice to get a tiny bit of that peaceful time with the tree in.

The pattern is the East Gables Shawl by Judy Marples. Blocking worked its usual magic and I am very, very pleased. Note the cat sneaking into the photo to try and steal the T-pins. She was locked out of the room I had it in to dry, for obvious reasons, until I went in to take the pictures and she went straight for her usual prey.

As a side note, I did love the way the yarn-overs on either side of the center spine were worked, as a lifted stitch (insert the needle from front to back in the bar between the two stitches, and knit into the front) instead of the traditional wrap. It produced a nice firm stitch instead of my usual wobbly hole. That trick has been filed away for future projects.

Please forgive the crappy iPhone photos. No time to stage this one or use the good camera! 

Sunday December 21: Ask
Good Lord, show me the way.

Monday December 22: Relate
The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

almost there

The holidays may have me on the ropes just the tiniest bit, I'll admit. I haven't started trying to stab people with candy canes or anything—yet—so the situation still remains in the relatively-stress-free zone.

On the bad side, I still have a couple more presents to purchase and more than a couple dozen to wrap.

On the good side, I don't have any reason to go into a mall. Only one more delivery has yet to arrive. The Christmas photo-newsletter-thingies are folded, stuffed and stamped as of tonight, thanks to my older sons who steadfastly maintained throughout that there was no way that we know that many people.

On the bad side, the principal's shawl is still not done. Eight more rows to go.

On the good side, I got quite a few rows done while the older boys manned a kettle for the Salvation Army tonight, though it was slightly uncomfortable standing-position knitting in a grocery store vestibule since I didn't feel right sitting down on the motorized shopping carts.

Because it has been that sort of season, I will end on the good!

Thursday December 18: Beautify
For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth, over and around us lies.

Friday December 19: Heal
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan;
ground as hard as iron, water like a stone.

Saturday December 20: Thank
Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

four hours of knitting

In case you ever wondered, four hours of knitting looks like this, before:

And after:

No wonder Norway based an entire reality television show around it. Fascinating, amirite?

This is the principal's shawl, which needs to be done by next Tuesday. The first picture is pretty accurate on color. I love Madeline Tosh Merino Light yarn so much, it's a wonder that I don't knit every darn thing with it. My last project using it was my Family Leaves Shawl, and that was way too long ago. It is a wonderfully tactile yarn, and an amazingly beautiful yarn, all of which makes it an absolute pleasure to work every stitch.

I am enjoying knitting someone else's pattern, for the first time in a while. So nice to just follow along and not be considering the next move or taking copious notes (and sometimes even pictures) on what I have just done! I have one more pattern repeat to go, which is 16 rows. I made no progress with it during knitting club tonight, because it is not a knit night friendly pattern, but hopefully I can make some progress tomorrow. Right after holiday shopping, and before the vet visit. Or maybe at the hair salon?

Tuesday December 16: Experience
Come, labor on! No time for rest, til glows the western sky,
and a glad sound comes with the setting sun.

Wednesday December 17: Become
Make me a channel of your peace.

Monday, December 15, 2014

keeping up

A quick post so I don't get too far behind in sharing my Advent words. I am keeping up with those faithfully but that's about it!

Primo came home from college on Friday. Thanks to a wonderful family I came home from the craft fair on Saturday to a clean house. We came home from tree hunting on Sunday with just about the perfect tree, but aren't they always, once you get them home and decorated?

My least favorite question this time of year: "Are you ready for Christmas?" I am doing my best to answer with a cheerful (hard through gritted teeth), "Nope!" But my stress level, at least as far as the holidays are concerned, is still remarkably low. A hat tip to the monks.

Saturday December 13: Risk
We shall overcome.

Sunday December 14: Expand
Expand thy wings, celestial dove, brood over nature's might.

Monday December 15: Focus
Will the circle be unbroken?

Friday, December 12, 2014

change in terms

I was doing laps around the house the other morning, in search of my usual prey.

"Have you seen my mug?" I asked Terzo, packing up his backpack for school.

"A businesswoman shouldn't lose her coffee cup," he said, tapping me gently on the cheek.

His descriptive startled me. Since when had I become a businesswoman, in his eyes? Not sure if it is the knitting classes or the office work, because I have always done the farm, but now I am seen as being officially in business.

Well, this businesswoman is almost ready for the last craft show of the season tomorrow. That's fifteen pairs of gloves in that basket. I think I just about have them out of my system at this point. At least I will have plenty to give away at my multiple variety of places of work.

Thursday December 11: Breathe
Breathe on me, breath of God.

Friday December 12: Act
Love consecrates the humblest acts and haloes mercy's deeds.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

simplest headband

Teaching the knitting classes in town has been a great way to meet all sorts of people. Some are already friends, some I know as a friend of a friend (it is a small town!), and some are completely new.

One woman in particular, I'll call her B., has stood out for her sheer dogged perseverance. For a few reasons, knitting has not come easy to her, but she is very eager to join in on knit night, and so she has stuck it out. The beginner's cowl project we do in the class is 24 stitches wide, and only involves the knit stitch. After three weeks of drop in visits to the shop owner and me to help her with various problems, she turned up at knit night in despair. "How do you make all these stitches fit?" she wailed. She had over 100 stitches jammed on a 10-inch needle, and no, I am not exactly sure how she got from 24 to 100, though new knitters' projects tend to grow horizontally. We recommended she start again, though she is determined to use that first piece of knitting for some purpose. We haven't quite figured out what that purpose will be yet.

To her credit, she started again. It has been my experience that most adults wouldn't: they would have made the decision long before that point that knitting was not for them, and abandoned it as a bad job.

But not B.

She bought another skein of yarn and doggedly cast on again; this was her third or fourth try, and she was happy to note that she had mastered the process of casting on. After a few weeks, and a bit more help, she called me in delight. "I have 19 inches! Am I getting close?" I assured her that she was almost there. She showed up to knit night that week, and despite difficulty with binding off, got it finished and seamed to put it around her neck in triumph. And she immediately cast on another cowl.

Two days later, I got another call. "I have a lot of nieces, and they all have long hair. I want to make them headbands for Christmas. I will pay you for the pattern. When can I meet you?"

My heart sunk. Did she understand what she was asking: the time of year, a limited skill set, such a short amount of time?

Answer: No. Any explanation I could offer about why this would be an impossible task wouldn't be understood.

So I came up with the Simplest Headband; though it may still be too much, a garter stitch alone will not have enough structure. I think it would look great in a marled or variegated yarn, but I didn't have time to knit it up. If anyone does, and would like to offer comments on how well it works, I would appreciate it! Better yet, if you are willing to take a picture, then I will add it to the Ravelry database for free, because I didn't ask her to pay for it, either.

Simplest Headband Pattern

(wyif = with yarn held in front of work)
CO 12 st.
Row 1 (RS; tail will be at right side of work): Knit.
Row 2 (WS; tail will be at left side of work): Sl2 purlwise wyif; k8; sl2 purlwise wyif.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until headband is desired length, around 15 in.
BO all st.
Seam ends together.
Weave in ends.

December 9: Encourage
There is a river that flows from deep within.

December 10: Wake Up
"Wake, awake, the night is flying," the watchmen on the heights are crying.

Monday, December 8, 2014

global advent calendar

Day 9 and still going strong! I am having tremendous fun with this, perhaps too much fun as I haven't purchased one gift yet and Christmas seems so far away that I don't even need to worry about it. Definitely more focus on the season of Advent, so if this project is measured by that yardstick, it has been a successful one so far.

If you haven't checked out the global calendar the monks are creating with everyone's pictures, make sure to visit their Advent Word page from time to time and take a look! You don't need instagram to see the photos; as the pictures are tagged, they are added onto the collage. Tremendous fun to look at mine mixed in with everyone else's and see how everyone is interpreting the word of the day. My dear friend Mrs. C., her husband, and two lovely daughters are also participating and it is even more personal, seeing what they come up with. What a wonderful way to connect this holiday season.

Keeping the age-old tradition and spirit of a reflective Advent season by taking advantage of modern technology and forms of communication: these monks are genius.

Sunday December 7: Show up
Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt.

Monday December 8: Respond
Lift high your praise resounding, for grace and joy abounding.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

many hands, light work

Last night I was on my hands and knees in the aisle of Walmart, reaching to the back of the bottom shelf to fish out the last few containers of the cheapest table salt.

Two women came around the end of the aisle, one in a wheelchair, the other pushing her, and stopped dead abreast of my shopping cart lined with salt.

"Wow," one said. "You must be planning a really big salt bath."

"No, you don't want to know," I grunted in reply, trying to keep count of the number of cans in my cart.

They stayed there, watching me check and double check the number. I felt bad moving along and leaving them stranded in the aisle.

"Do you really want to know what it's for?" I asked. They both nodded. I launched into the most abbreviated version possible, explaining that we needed salt to cure the sheepskin hides until I could get them to the tannery.

"I bet you're sorry you asked..." I said at the end.

"No!" they responded brightly. "That was very interesting! Thank you for telling us."

This morning found us ready to face those skins with the help of all the salt. I really dread this task, though it usually ends up not as bad as I imagine. Today this turned out to be especially true, since my husband was on board yet again, and even better, so was Secondo. This is a task that Primo never faced after his horrific introduction, despite the fact that we got into this business upon his urging. So when Secondo volunteered to help last night, I kept giving him opportunities to back out. "You don't have to do this, you know... This is a little rough, trust me..." He steadfastly maintained that he wanted to help.

And help he did.

Give us some credit, we didn't throw him in at the deep end. The hides were perfectly defrosted after sitting in the barn for two days; Terzo and I had picked them up on Thursday, when he had a half day of school and could keep me company on the trip down. Thanks to moderate-but-not-too-warm temps, they had defrosted just enough that my husband and I were able to get them unrolled without too much difficulty. We took care of the sometimes gruesome task of cutting off undesirable bits, though to be fair to the butcher, this was the best year ever: no legs. We put Secondo in charge of salting them down once we were done, and he did a fine job.

With the newly-repaired electricity lighting the interior of the barn on the rainy dreary day, and my husband's iPhone playing music, and everyone working away together, it even approached pleasant, or at least as pleasant as this job can be. Certainly we were done in record time, eight hides finished in under an hour.

Interestingly enough, Dusty wanted nothing to do with it. The smell, while noticeable, was not overly unpleasant to us. Dusty clearly disagreed and refused to come out of the rain into the barn the entire time we were working. This is a dog that relishes eating poop, so I take his opinion with a grain of salt, but it was surprising that he was bothered.

Now, with the exception of driving them to the tannery, which I have planned for next Friday, we are done for another year. Hurray!

Thursday December 4: Notice
Lord, all I am is known to thee:
in vain my soul would try to shun Thy presence or to flee the notice of Thine eye.

Friday December 5: Watch
While Shepherds watched their flocks by [morn], all seated on the ground...
(I couldn't resist)

Thursday, December 4, 2014


It has been a lot of yarn work and little play lately, much of which has been with yarn available in big box stores. Not too much acrylic, the vast majority wool because I have to stay loyal to the cause, but it can a bit dull nonetheless. 

Enter this gorgeous skein of Tosh Merino Light, colorway Spectrum. I can't stop admiring its beautiful goodness, in the way that any truly stunning object demands attention and admiration. The project is somewhat "for fun," or at least not work: a going away gift for my sons' high school principal, who has been so good to them. The pattern should knit up quickly and I hope to make good headway this weekend.

Yes, it is December 4 and we still have a pumpkin on our porch, where I took this picture. It goes very well with the burlap wreath I made in class two weeks ago, thankyouverymuch. I'll have to get rid of them when we put the Christmas greens up but I hate to toss a perfectly good and cheerful pumpkin. We do have our holiday lights out and for right now everyone is coexisting just fine.

Same as with the prior set of advent photos, the top one represents my attempts to master Instagram. The lurking suspicion remains that I am just not getting it, but I continue to flail away. This was not a pre-set filter but individual adjustments. Messing around too much seems to make the photo a lot grainier as a result, not so noticeable on small phone screens but very evident on the computer. The result on this one isn't necessarily bad, however, and I love how the one row of soybeans lined up perfectly perpendicular to my vantage point.

The bottom photo was taken with my iPhone and no edits so a lot crisper as a result. The cat would like to point out that she needs no stinkin' filters.

Wednesday December 3: Thrive
Thou know'st not which may thrive, the late or early sown; 
grace keeps the precious germs alive when and wherever strown.

Thursday December 4: Abide
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

mountains of mitts

I have been knitting fingerless gloves non-stop for the past two weeks or so, for several reasons:
  1. A few were ordered by people who saw my facebook posts about teaching how to knit the fingerless mitts.
  2. Once I started knitting them, they were like potato chips. I couldn't stop.
  3. I have a craft fair next weekend, last one of the season, so I figured I could sell them there.
  4. Any that don't sell—well, if you are related to me, don't be surprised if you get a set in your stocking. 

I am feeling like I am just about done with this current obsession. The finished count is 10 pairs, with one left to seam. I may make it to 15 as I have several meetings to sit through attend in the next week, which are prime knitting time for this kind of mindless project.

They weren't quite ready to sell without my new knitting tags, ordered from an etsy shop, Valerie Paperie, all the way up in northernmost North Dakota. (That fact isn't really relevant but I loved seeing how far apart we were on the map!) They arrived yesterday and I am crazy pleased.

One pair of fingerless mitts, ready to go!

In other news, the #adventword project is chugging along. I'll be posting them here from time to time for my dad to see, since he isn't on social media.

Monday December 1: remember
Deep in December, the heart will remember, and follow.

Tuesday December 2: imagine
Some glad morning when this life is over, I'll fly away.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Advent, the church season during the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is supposed to be a time of watchful waiting, of expectant reflection. My intentions every year are very good around November 28th, but the combination of holiday stress and aggravation results in those intentions falling apart by December 9 or so. My experiment last year, making a personal Advent challenge for myself of blogging daily on the prescribed word of the day, was somewhat more successful. In Type A eldest child fashion, I managed to maintain focus a little better in the context of a competition.

The writing is already on the wall this year, or should I say, not on the wall. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has noticed a *ahem* tail-off in the frequency of posts. A bloggy reflection each day is not happening; no need to set myself up for certain failure. But I did still want to participate for the grounding benefits I received last year.

This year's advent word project is run by the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, a place that holds a special place in my heart because both boys dined at this monastery during their respective pilgrimages with church. It challenges participants to post just a picture each day. That may have been the challenge last year too and I probably just wasn't paying attention and made it harder than it had to be, as I have an unfortunate tendency to do.

I think I can manage a picture and perhaps a few words via Instagram and Facebook.

There I go making it harder again. My goal is a picture. JUST A PICTURE.

Today's word was look. As of last night, I was undecided on whether to take the challenge on, just one more thing in a long list of things. Maybe I would just read the word and do a little reflecting in my head. When I opened our front door to let the dog out first thing, however, this amazing view presented itself, and the words of my favorite Advent hymn popped unbidden into my head:

People, look east: the time is near.

Sometimes life is like that: the decision is made for you. Those types of decisions are usually for the best, anyway. I am still undecided about whether or not to put it here as well every day. Too much social media sharing-ness? Maybe that decision will be made for me tomorrow.