Puppies

One day a few months ago, we suddenly became a puppy house. I’ve never really been a dog person before, but these little guys have grown on me.

It’s amazing to me, although it probably shouldn’t be, how different these two puppies are. Taters is arguably the cuter of the two, but he’s dumb as a post. I think he’s trying to skate through life on his looks. Pouffles is quite a bit smarter. Taters likes sitting on laps. Pouffles likes sitting next to me. I’m sure we’ll find more things like that as time passes.

The Pit

My parents built what I think of as our family home when I was about three years old. I have vague memories of that time.

I remember stepping on the driveway when my father was troweling it, and I remember that I got in trouble for it, but it may have been a simple, “Don’t do that!” from my mother as she wiped the cement off my shoes.

I remember cleaning construction materials from the front yard and finding a snake under some plywood. It scared me. I was sure it was a rattlesnake (were there even any other kinds?) until my father picked it up for me to hold. I felt my panic ease as I felt its smooth scales run through my hands–and more importantly, as I could see no rattle.

I remember the boysenberry bushes which grew behind what was then the car port, and the sand box my father built for me there. I remember burying a wasp in the sand in that box and uncovering it the next time I played in it and wondering to myself if wasps can still sting when they’re dead. I thought that they would not be able to–and to prove it to myself, I pushed my thumb quite deliberately onto the wasp’s back end. Turns out, of course, that dead wasps can sting quite well, thank you.

I remember playing with the girl who lived a couple of houses up the hill, Andrea. She was my first friend after moving into the house. Her grandfather owned the sand and gravel pit on the other side of the creek from our houses, and her father worked with him. I remember that her father let us sit in the cab of the big dump trucks while they loaded it up with material, and how exciting that was. I remember that he drove us home that afternoon in the bucket of a big front-loader. Those were simpler times, of course, and we didn’t worry one bit about not having adequate seat belts for the ride.

When I got a bit older, I remember that there was a rumor among the neighborhood kids that we were strictly forbidden from playing at the sand pit. I don’t actually recall my parents ever explicitly warning me to stay away from the pit, but the rumor was of such strength that my knee-jerk memory is that we were to stay away from it. There was a darker rumor that someone had been playing over in the sand pit and had accidentally been covered up with sand and they didn’t find him until months later when they were digging out that part of the pit with front-loaders. We certainly didn’t want to end up like that nameless kid, so any time we ended up playing even just near the sand pit, we got a bit nervous. Even as a teenager, walking through the pit at night looking for bats, there was a little tickle at the back of my head that told me I shouldn’t be there.

By the time I was a teenager, the pit had mostly ceased active operation. I don’t really know a strict timeline, but I do know that it was kind of a big deal that they temporarily reactivated the pit in the spring of 1983 when the Wasatch Front flooded. Our house was not really in any danger from those floods, but many others were. I recall quite clearly showing up to church in jeans and T-shirt long enough to take the sacrament and then heading back to the sand pit where we were busy loading burlap bags with a few shovelfuls of sand.

Thirty-plus years later from most of these memories, I live in a house built very close to where I spent all those hours filling sand bags in 1983. Andrea’s grandpa passed away and his children took the old sand and gravel pit, and the rest of the land he had owned around it, and developed it for residential houses. They rolled out the fifth-acre and quarter-acre lots in phases, and gradually most of them have filled in with the kinds of houses you’d expect to have been built between 2000 and 2009. There are still a few lots left, mostly prime lots which command prime prices. The cul-de-sac in that part of the development is very near to the spot where we grew an acre of corn and pumpkins with Andrea’s parents, year after year. Those are the lots where I used to tube down the hill in snowy winters, where I used to build dams in the creek in the middle of the summer.

My lot doesn’t have much hill and doesn’t have a creek near it, but it is prime to me because I remember how I felt as I filled sand bags, hoping to stave off most of the water flowing through the city streets down by the hospital.

Most of my neighbors didn’t grow up around here, and they bristle a little bit if some of the old-timers remark that we “live in the pit.” Besides the fact that I enjoy the gentle ribbing that I can give the new-comers by claiming proudly that I live in the pit, I really am glad that I can live here. Even though the landscape has changed a bit from those long-ago summer days, my physical closeness to the pit helps to keep those memories alive just a bit more vividly.

Sorry for no pictures on this post. I truly wish I had some.

UPDATE: 1 picture

Continually learning

Been spinning a lot lately.  Found my spinning mojo or something.  So, a few pictures are called for.

2-ply sock yarn, 375 yards, 3.75 ounces.  Superwash BFL.  I wish I had a faster flyer because I felt like it took forever to ply it, and it’s still underplied in spots.  I also have upgraded my feelings about superwash from ‘hate’ to ‘dislike’.  Perhaps I’ll give it a spin again in the future.

The Abby Batt  (“Denny”) after plying and finishing.  I did this as a 2×2 cabled yarn, so that’s four plies.  Cabled yarns are supposed to make your stitch definition pop, so I need to find something that can be done with 90 yards of yarn that will show off the FREAKING PRETTY YARN.

I’ve never done gloves before, so I’m doing a really basic pattern, and I’m relying on the colors of the handspun to make them interesting.  I’m happy so far.

What’s on my wheel now?  Oatmeal BFL, of course.

And since today seemed that it might be the last possible time I could take a pictures of the leaves in my yard (after having missed some incredible shots… I has a sad), here are a couple of reasons I love my flowering pears so much.

First Batt

Up until now, I have mostly spun what a lot of people would call ‘roving’, although most of it is more correctly termed ‘combed top’. (Yes, the sampler I’ve been spinning is mostly carded roving or pin-drafted roving.) Another fiber prep is drum-carded batts, and I hadn’t touched one of those until recently.

My enabler convinced me that I needed to try spinning an Abby Batt, sometimes called Abby Crack. It wasn’t the cheapest stuff I’ve ever purchased, but for spinning enjoyment per dollar, it was top-notch.  Also, it’s not easy to get one of these.  I was warned by my enabler early on that a shipment of Abby Crack was on its way to one of her outlets, and I begged the store owner to sell me one (sight unseen).  It is entirely possible that none of them were ever displayed on the website because they were all sold prior to the shipment arriving at the store.

I forgot to take a picture of it before I spun it (of course), but I finished up the singles last night and was reminded to take pictures of that before I start plying. Actually, I was reminded in the nick of time, since the picture is of my plying ball.

An Abby Batt isn’t always made of the same ingredients. This particular batt is 60% merino and 40% tussah silk, and named “Denny”.  The colors in this picture are fairly true, even capturing the luster of the silk, but the photo hardly does justice to how the singles feel. They’re soft and smooth and amazingly pleasant to pet.

I’m almost sad that I’ve run out of unspun Denny, because it really was a joy to spin. I believe I now have some idea of what a decently-prepared batch of fiber feels like, both to hold in my hand and to spin.

Halloween 2009

Just a quickie post. Tried a new type of jack-o-lantern this year. Looked a lot easier when I was watching the guys on TV do it.

Still, it was fun. I’m happy with the teeth. Maybe I can actually work on the rest of the features next year.

Oh, and I grew the pumpkin in my garden. Pretty much the only thing that did well this year, but that’s what I get for planting everything on June 30.

Gotland

I could not have picked two more dissimilar wools to spin one right after the other.  Where the Southdown was a light, lofty yarn,  Gotland is much more dense and heavy.   Although each came as a two-ounce braid, I only got 55 yards out of the Gotland where I got about 133 yards from the Southdown.  The Gotland yarn has a much smoother hand to it, though, and has quite a bit of luster to it.

Seller’s notes: A longwool, similar in many respects to Wensleydale.  Slightly shorter stapled, with a good luster, good wear, and gorgeous dark heathering.  Good for laceweight.  A little bit coarser than the others.  This is a combed top.

I have Wensleydale in my stash, but I haven’t spun any yet, so I have no basis for comparison there.  I don’t know if I should have shot for some laceweight or not, but that’s not what I wanted from this wool, so I spun it for worsted weight.  Isn’t that the joy of spinning, that you can make the yarn you want?

A word on the “coarseness”.  Perhaps this is what I mean when I say dense, but I didn’t find it particularly coarse.  As top, it felt much more like hair than any of the other wools have—in fact, when it was still a braid, it kind of looked (and felt) as though some greying woman had cut off a braid from her hair and sent it in the mail.  That is, the fibers themselves feel quite smooth with little crimp.

The lack of crimp and the smoothness meant that I had to put a lot more twist into the yarn than I was used to.  I typically skate right on the edge of too little twist, and I had a couple of episodes where the single fell apart and wound into my bobbin.  It was a little tricky pulling it through the orifice to restart the spinning, since the lack of twist climbed onto the bobbin.

I’m interested in the contrast between the two yarns, and I’m thinking I may end up using them together in a garment just because I do enjoy the variation between them so much.  Here they are next to each other for comparision.  Oh, and the obligatory money shot.

I also finished plying up the Harvest roving.  I was aiming for a fingering-weight yarn, but I’m not quite where I wanted to be.  This is 4 ounces of BFL, which came out at about 480 yards of 2-ply yarn.  That’s a little lighter than I was shooting for, but if I’d done three plies, I would have only gotten about 320 yards and would have been more of a sport weight.  I’ll figure this out yet!

Also, I spun about half of it and then let it sit for a few months before I spun the rest.  There’s only a slight difference in the diameters of the singles, but it’s enough that there’s a bit of a bouclé effect to it that I wish wasn’t there.  That should mostly vanish when knit, but I’ll just have to be a bit more careful.  I know that there can be this kind of variation in the singles even when they’re spun closer together, too.

The colors are nice, though, almost exactly what I envisioned.

Southdown

I bought a sampler of four different types of wool because I’m feeling very comfortable with merino and BFL, which is the vast majority of my stash, and I wanted to expand my spinning horizons.  I started with the Southdown, with Romney, Border Leicester and Gotland waiting in the wings.  Besides being a different breed, this wool is also my first carded roving; most of my experience up until now has been with combed top.

Some notes.  First, the roving was very light and puffy which is in contrast with the compactness of most commercial top.  That makes a big difference in how it feels to draft, although to be comparing apples to apples, I really should have some of the same wool type in different preps.  Maybe commercially-prepped Southdown feels the same when drafting.

Second, this is the crimpiest wool I’ve ever spun.  That made it harder for me to control the draft, since the crimp made it kind of ‘grabby’ and sometimes a big slub would get pulled into the drafting zone.  But it also meant that I didn’t have to put as much twist into the singles to get them to become cohesive, thus preserving loft.

Third, the color in the fiber is a blend of lighter and darker fibers, and some of the very dark fibers are actually little tightly-wound coils.  Most of those got pulled out when they were drafted, but not all of them did.  I suspect that these noily bits will end up pilling or something, perhaps even adding a little scratchiness.

Fourth, there was a tiny bit of grease left in the fiber.  My hands got noticeably softer while spinning it.  I don’t like lotion, but I did like how that felt.  I think most of it got washed out when I was setting the twist, though.  There was also a bit of vegetable matter, which I tried to pull out as I found it while drafting, but I can still see some in the finished yarn.  Since that will be scratchy, I will probably want to remove as much as I can before knitting anything out of it.

Here’s what the seller wrote about the wool:  One of the softest downs breeds, while still maintaining the incredible loft of other downs breeds. Great loft, good memory, and soft enough for next-to-skin wear. No luster to speak of. From a local shepherd. This is a carded roving.

Yup.

I ended up with a three-ply worsted-weight yarn.  I got about 133 yards out of 2 ounces.

I like the slightly less-finished look to it, which is what I was aiming for.  The idea is that I’ll use this and the Gotland wool (next up to be spun) from the sampler to make a new cap for me.   The Jacob hat is a little bit scratchy, and I’d like something less so—this fits the bill nicely.

Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man

And in this case, they were put there by this man.

Yesterday became Peaches Day at our house. I planted a peach tree in my side yard about five years ago. This year is the first year that I have actually stored any of the fruit. Up until now, I’ve been pretty much able to just eat all of the peaches. But as much as I love fresh peaches, I can’t eat this many.

So we froze somewhere around 15-20 peaches and canned 17 quarts of peaches. I should have weighed them, but I always forget that until it’s too late…

They’re kinda purty.

I should mention that it was a whole-family activity. Even Alaric helped a tiny bit. The girls got into it, though, and did a huge amount of the work, picking, peeling and slicing away like little machines. It was fun.

Finished Objects, ahoy!

This was my first superwash fiber, a superwash merino. Started out like this:

I had read that superwash was “slippery”, and now I know what that means. On the other hand, it did seem a bit easier to draft because of that slipperiness.

Now, a tiny bit of backstory. When I opened the mail package which contained this fiber, my youngest daughter said that she loved it, and would I please make a scarf out of it for her? Okay, so I knew from the get-go exactly what I would be making with this fiber. Secondly, I had read that once a spinner learns how to spin tiny fiber, it’s hard to go back to spinning fatter fiber. I set out to prove to myself that I could spin fat. This is a three-ply chunky-weight yarn, so I feel satisfied that I can do what I wanted to do.

The fiber was named “Pacific Surf” by the seller, and it does call to mind both the foam and deep blue of the sea, as well as the greys of rocky shorelines. So I chose a wavy pattern for the scarf and named the result “Stone and Sea”.

Kind of nice to start the spinning with the end result in mind, and then have it turn out pretty close to what I had originally envisioned. I should get a better photo, one that shows the wavy pattern on the scarf a little better. You can best see it in this picture on the right-hand side.

In other news, I did finish the mittens mentioned in this post. And here they are, with a fairly large amount of leftover yarn. I am a bit amused by that.

And, I finished the yarn I mentioned in this post, but it has turned out to be more of a sport-weight than a fingering-weight yarn. I seem to be unable to spin fingering-weight since the one time I succeeded in it. I’ll get that yet! Anyway, here’s the yarn. It’s a 2-ply yarn, about 270 yards, 4 ounces. I am inordinately pleased at the colors.

Also, here’s a slight peek at my current spinning project. I’m not ready to show more than this yet, though.

Nectarines!

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’m glad I planted the nectarine tree last year, because they were getting ripe. Well, today we picked all of them so Elenna and I can eat them in the comfort of the kitchen without all that messy walking through the yard to pick one. Okay, that didn’t really stop me much, but Elenna’s picky.

I should have weighed them and taken more pictures, because I know for certain that at least 10 of the fruits didn’t make it to this picture (and at least 5 are already gone since this picture was taken ten minutes ago…). Next year, I’ll actually fertilize the tree, and we’ll see if we can’t get even more!

You can see the last of the green gage plums (I ate most of the rest of those myself) and the first cucumber. We were a bit late getting the garden planted this year… I still only have green tomatoes. I’ll do better next year, promise!