Friday, March 27, 2015

fleece return

Just a little over two months after we dropped off the 2014 fleeces at Sweitzer's Fiber Mill, guess what came back today? 

A little hint: our mailman, who is easily annoyed by any amount of extra effort, was very, very annoyed.

This box weighed a ton, and was bulging at the seams, but ALL the roving was in there, vacuum packed to an amazing degree. Heather had called earlier in the week to let me know that the box was on its way, and to open up the bags and let the roving breathe as soon as it arrived.

The boys and I were greatly amused by the sound of roving taking its first gasps of air.

OK, so we are rather easily amused. But all told: this is what came out of that box!

Hats off to Heather for getting it done and back to me exactly as promised. The mill did a beautiful job and I am well pleased. Look at this grey (and my weirdly wrinkled hand), the combined fleeces of sisters Jasmine and Kevyn!

Can't wait to get working on it this weekend—right after the 4-H livestock symposium Saturday, at which the club's lambing equipment video will make its debut, and Sunday, when we will be shearing, and starting the whole process over again.

Though I am bound and determined that I will be dropping our fleeces off to Heather at Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in May, and not repeating this particular debacle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

almost to shearing

When we woke up on Saturday and the heft of Friday's snowstorm was fully apparent, we were once again very grateful that we didn't shear on February 28 as planned. So were the sheep, I'm sure.

No lambs for us this year, so there was no reason to do it early. It could wait. But now, it's time. I don't care that we are supposed to get more snow showers on Saturday. They are getting sheared on Sunday, and that's that.

Today we moved them up from the larger back pasture, where they have been for months, to a smaller pen near to the barn, so we will have an easier time getting them inside on Sunday (unless it does in fact rain/snow, in which case we will move them in on Saturday to keep them dry—must have dry sheep for shearing).

It was a nice surprise to see their dear faces when I pulled into the driveway after running errands today. They have been out of sight in the back for so long! That is Holly and her daughters Lucy and Molly, not necessarily in that order, playing the roles of the Three Fates in the Shed.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

change in status

Way way back in the distant sands of time, I was a practicing lawyer. Friends and acquaintances have gone years without knowing this, mostly by my design. Given the demanding nature of my husband's job, my career took a backseat when Primo was born, and I moved from full to part-time. When Terzo came along, I changed my status to "retired" and quit altogether. I never felt that being a lawyer was an integral part of my identity or even a particularly comfortable fit for me, so this wasn't a hard decision to make, though I fully support women who make different decisions. This issue has many shades of grey to it, and every choice is a highly personal one.

I won't deny that I was lucky to have choices. Lucky to be able to stay home with my kids (though I always had some sort of job, whether it was tutoring high school students or doing the billing for my husband's office). Lucky to have a degree to cushion me and my family, just in case.

When it was time for Primo to go to college, it was time for me to dust off that degree, in some form. My passion is knitting and fiber crafting, but those weren't going to pay THAT particular bill. So I went back to work as a paralegal, part-time, because I still have two kids at home that need my attention. For all the reasons listed above, it was not hard for me to be working in a law firm but not in lawyer capacity. I assumed that I would have to make up hours and hours of continuing legal education to be fully reinstated, and I was in no hurry to spend my time doing that.

Last week it was time to file my annual attorney registration, and I realized: I am no longer retired. The powers-that-be confirmed that I could call myself whatever I wanted, but as I was doing legal work, that exemption no longer applied.

In the time it took for me to type in my credit card number, I was reinstated as an attorney. The legal education requirement didn't apply after all, since I was on retired status; I just need to finish it by next year.

All this time, I thought I was in a different country, on a different continent even, and would require the equivalent of a passport with a lengthy application process to return. It turns out, I was just in the next room. The door was right there the whole time. In fact, I had passed through it without even knowing.

I can't get used to the feeling of it. For many years now, I have denied the professional side of me, which I walked away from willingly over ten years ago with nary a backward glance. I wandered around after my discovery in a daze, when of course nothing really changed.

So, here I am. I don't want to give up my shepherding and designing and creating. I am utterly unsure how the two fit together, or even if they can fit together, but exciting new things are happening for me in that realm, and I am adamantly opposed to giving it up.

Unlike before, I don't want to walk away from this, but I don't know, just yet, how I will stay.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

lambing essentials

It's that time of year again... for some people. We don't think any of our girls are pregnant. I am glad we kept back two rams, because we will probably breed again next year to boost the flock numbers a little. For this year, it is good. At least, that's what I keep telling myself, though if I am completely honest I am a little bummed about it.

In the meantime, for those of you who are lambing, enjoy this little video our 4-H club put together for a state-wide 4-H sheep and goat video lambing contest. The completed video had to be under three minutes in length, and educate about some aspect of sheep and goat health. They chose to talk about the equipment you need to have on hand for lambing, and worked it so every member in attendance at the last meeting had a little snippet to present.

I know I brag on these kids all the time but—they did this themselves. My sole contribution was forcing them to do it, because the club had committed and I am a big one for following through on commitments, and suggesting the word "penultimate." The president and vice-president (Secondo) came up with the focus, wrote the "script," organized the kids into an order of how they perceived the items would be needed, and filmed it. I could quibble with certain aspects, but no one can argue with the sheer impressiveness of teenagers having the knowledge and organizational skills to pull this together. The editing was done by Primo on his second day home for spring break, because he was feeling generous, and also because he is technically still a member of the club. 4-H extends through year 13, i.e., the first year of college. Thank goodness he was home to help, because he did a great job pulling it together with the music and text.

If you look closely, you can spot Secondo's feet in some of the photos of the equipment, providing incontrovertible proof that all the work was done by the kids. Albeit under slight duress, sometimes necessary for teenagers, but not necessarily a bad thing for them.

Friday, March 13, 2015


Yesterday was a run, run, run sort of day. Up early to get packed for the Princeton Farmer's Market, then drive my husband to the airport for his flight to a conference, then hustle to the market and get set up in time. Thanks to a heck of a lot of forethought about how to streamline the process, I was ready in under 30 minutes.

It is a really nice group of vendors, so a lovely place to hang out for a few hours and meet new people and catch up with returning customers. Primo biked from campus to visit for a bit, always a treat. My parents came up to lend me a hand, my mother staying with me and my father going back to my house to meet Terzo off the bus and pick up Secondo from track practice. I am very, very spoiled having my husband's practice in our home, since someone is usually always home. My father and Secondo, my cook, made a delicious mushroom risotto for us all using mushrooms from the farmers' market.

It was a good day, but such a packed-to-the-gills day that I didn't have too much energy left at the end of it.

That's Jasmine in the middle with the crazy do.
She always looks a bit helter-skelter right before shearing.
Kali is to her right, and Kevyn to her left with her head lowered,
mad at me for taking pictures instead of feeding them their morning grain.
Lucy is bringing up the rear.

Once I got boys on the bus and animals fed this morning, I was torn about how to spend a rare day all by myself in the house. I considered a ton of ambitious plans. Dye yarn? Start on a new craft project? Finish an old knitting project? Do all the laundry? Tackle the mountain of ironing? After thinking about and then rejecting a bunch of ambitious plans I ended up doing....


Well, not strictly nothing. I finished my book, Couldn't Keep It to Myself: Wally Lamb and the Women of the York Correctional Institute. (Highly, highly recommend, but be prepared to cry.)

I binge-watched "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt" from Netflix, on the big TV, which I almost never get to choose the programming for.

I worked on my re-started hat, then decided to throw practical considerations to the winds and cast on for another project altogether, mostly because it has beads and I have been itching to start it for a while now. A day by myself called for its own project.

One of the biggest reasons I was eager to start on it was to use my new yarn bowl, a Christmas gift from my brother and his family. One of those tools that is so beautiful and perfectly appropriate that it makes the whole project a joy.

I did finish a bit of non-knitting work, though not one item of clothing went into the washing machine or onto the ironing board. It was a most productive sort of day, mostly because it wasn't.

Monday, March 9, 2015

better fit through shrinking

My hat project met an unhappy setback today. I was within ten rows of being finished with it, but somehow the decreases at the crown, far from reassuring me that it was getting smaller, only seemed to emphasize that it was too big.

It wasn't just a little too big, it was a TON too big. Irreparably too big. So out it all comes, with the hope that it can be cast on again tomorrow, with a significant reduction in stitches. The basic design is definitely a keeper, it just needs a little reworking.

Erika had asked about felting it to make it smaller. Two important reasons why it wouldn't work in this case:
  1. This is cotton yarn, so no help there in the felting department. Shrinking would have been a possibility, if it weren't for...
  2. This is a hat pattern that I hope to offer to other knitters, so it's imperative that the pattern work correctly.
It was a great suggestion, though, because felting does work really well on wool/animal fiber yarns, as does the less drastic process of shrinking. Two Christmases ago, I made this hat for Primo, after he was accepted to Princeton and it seemed reasonably sure that he would go there. I never got around to sharing it at the time.

Those colors, and that chevron, are all over the campus. They even use the chevron in lieu of an arrow on the campus directional signs. The hat is double-knit, and so reversible depending on whether the wearer felt more black with a little orange or more orange with a little black.

When something is double knit, you work both sides of the hat at the same time, in alternating stitches. First stitch = knit = black = front of hat; second stitch = purl = orange = back of hat, third stitch = knit = black = front of hat... so on and so forth. In essence, you are knitting two hats, one stitch at a time, producing a double layer. The pattern is made by switching the colors from one side to the other.

I made a video (which I just re-discovered) about how I hold both yarns while double knitting to make it easier to switch back and forth. It isn't great, but it gives you an idea of how double knitting is worked.

Imagine my dismay, then, when it turned out just a wee bit too big, and fit him about as well as a bucket. 

This problem was moved to the backburner when Primo started to waffle about which college he wanted to attend, and I worried that I might have to knit an entirely different hat in another color scheme, so would address the problem at that point. He eventually did end up choosing Princeton, but it was April, and so nothing needed to be done for a while yet.

Around December of last year, when the temps dropped, he reminded me that something still needed to be done. I was loathe to reknit it, for obvious reasons. Since it just needed a little off the top, not a drastic reduction in size, I didn't put it into the washing machine to agitate. I just wet it well, put it into a laundry bag, and tossed it into the dryer with some damp clothes while keeping a close eye on it (until I became distracted and forgot). Because of the double knitting, I flipped the orange side out and repeated the process.

Voila! A slightly smaller but better fitting hat.

Just wish I had managed a better picture of it, and him, but I could barely tear him away from the texting. 

Unfortunately the best shot didn't have him or the hat in frame, though it is an excellent illustration of how he has given up shaving on a regular basis.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

almost done with it

Muddling along through the tail end of this never-ending winter, and thanking our lucky stars that we didn't shear the sheep last weekend. Poor things, they would have had a heck of a time with the bitter cold nights and multiple snow storms we have had since then. In one week!

Also thanking our lucky stars for plow trucks and snow blowers working as they are supposed to, although road crews in many surrounding towns seem to have thrown in the towel.

One person in our house is still enjoying the winter, but all by himself these days. Even the dog is less enthusiastic about going out, unless he can ride shotgun in the plow truck.

Several things are in the works knitting-wise, but nothing to share just yet.

My current obsession is the way the colors are working out in this hat pattern I am developing. Maybe it is just the fact of Color! given the monochrome palette outside. I may yet finish this hat tonight, despite a lurking suspicion that it is a hair (hahahaha) too big, and the thought of reworking the time-consuming band pattern has me somewhat in despair.

And don't say "gauge swatch" to me, please. I did one. It lied like a rug, as my father would say.

In more positive and promising news, after its postponement two weeks ago, the Six Ways to Short Row class debuted today, quite successfully I think. Six students showed up, a very nice turnout, and the store owner is asking me for more classes. I am going to rework the cable class slightly to see if that will work; hopefully it won't be too warm to contemplate a wool headband by the time it is scheduled.

Too warm for wool headbands! Still hard to imagine at the moment.