Sunday, 30 September 2012

A Little Ramble

Just like little kids, I think our whole class was excited for the class trip on Friday. Get to school early, don steel-toed boots, grab any other gear we wanted, and out to the parking lot for the bus! Or rather, busses. There are 60 in the class, and since someone had said a school bus takes 72, I was a little surprised to see 2 busses in the parking lot. Well, it turns out 2 was a good idea. Not only is it harder to squeeze 2 adults than 2 kids into a school-bus seat, but if you take Hort students to an orchard and a garden center, it is perhaps not surprising that a little shopping gets done along the way.

First stop: Mountain Orchard. A very fast stop, really. We had a ride out to the back of the orchard, picked a few apples, heard a talk by one of the owners about the history of the enterprise and some of the methodologies, trials and triumphs in the business, and piled back on to the wagon to return. Our co-ordinator wanted us back on the bus and on the way to the college ASAP, but gave us 5 minutes to go to the store and make any purchases we wanted. Yeah, you can imagine the bottleneck. Stampede to the store, and subsequent slowdown as two cash registers try to deal with the sudden rush. I think it was a good 15-20 minutes before everyone was back on the bus. I came back with a jug of cider, and a bag of homemade doughnuts.

Being a little late to the college meant that that felt a bit rushed too. The plan had been that we were supposed to be able to watch some of the testing for Landscape Ontario certifications, and do some networking over lunch. Well, by the time my group had been for a talk (a good one, though) by someone in LO, most of the testing stations were being cleaned up for lunch. We had a tour of the stations, minus people actually using them, and sat down to eat lunch quickly. I ate and was looking to see if there was anyone who looked likely for chatting to, getting my courage up - and our co-ordinator spoke up and said we were all to be on the bus in 5 minutes and ready to go. Off again, to our last stop of the day.

I finally thought about getting the camera out when we got turned loose at Rideau Woodland Ramble, with an hour to explore. Big day for them - apparently they were on the Regional Contact segment on the news Friday as well as having all of us show up. As a garden center, they seem to specialize in unusual trees and shrubs, and shade plants like hostas. As a ramble, there's wooded paths, a pond, some garden sculptures and seats, work in progress on a sunken garden and a wildflower meadow - all quite compact, as the property is only 7 acres.
I'm not normally much one for garden sculptures, but they do have a knack. Certainly their choices are a far cry from garden gnomes and flamingos:

And it was nice to have a little color to set off the plants. The emphasis is so much on foliage and form, tranquility and contemplation, that I rather felt glad I had just been reading a chapter on Chinese and Japanese gardens in the history of gardens I got from the library, and so was in the right frame of mind.

The parallel was further carried out by the presence of a North American version of a teahouse - a little cabin, furnished with a couple pairs of tables and chairs, one of the coffeemakers with little individual cups of different teas and coffees (Keurig?), paintings on the walls, and a back entrance facing a spot with a birdbath and some bird feeders. The chickadees were bold and active, and I stood hardly 5 feet away and tried taking pictures of them as they came in for a bathe or a sip. Alas, they were too active for a really clear photo!


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Interlock Day 1, BSJ 2

The walkway project for our hardscaping course began this week. This is what was there Tuesday morning.

Bricks missing in a couple places, some wavy spots, places where things don't fit so well...time to rip it up. The first of the three class sections started that Tuesday afternoon, and when we got to it today, it was like this.

The instructor is good about making us think, right from the start. Which is to say, he told us the different steps needed (take up bricks, clean them, and stack them appropriately), showed us where the tools were, and what we needed for safety barricades, and then basically just supervised while we organized ourselves and got to work. And it went very well. We took up at least as much as the first group had, and had fun as well. Cleaning required most of the people, and it's not exactly a mental challenge to scrape and brush mud off bricks, so we were all just standing and kneeling around piles of bricks, working away, chatting and laughing. Covered everything from the Theory of Relativity to country music. Dang, I like this group!

Cast off the Baby Surprise Jacket I was working on last night, and got the sewing up and blocking done this afternoon. There are a couple possibilities for buttons in my stash, but I'm not committing until I check Mom's button stash as well.

That is it for the baby stuff commissioned, yay! Which is excellent timing, since the pattern arrived today for a pair of socks I'm test-knitting. Not sure of the yarn I want yet, though, and need to print a hard copy, so I may do a quick pair of fingerless mitts before the socks. I need something mindless for class, and although the lace scarf I'm making is OK for that, there was an episode involving dropped stitches today (fixed now, I think) which makes me a little less eager to do that one in class.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Le Weekend

Friday counts as a good day, even if it's raining. No labs today, so we stayed dry - but a whole day of safety lectures. Employer and employee responsibility and laws, which is always good to know.

The horse sweater is blocking on my bedroom floor, so today's class knitting was on a baby surprise jacket, in scraps of worsted yarn. It should go pretty fast, especially since I fully plan to veg on the couch tonight with a movie and my knitting. That'll be a second project for the September stripe-a-long KAL.

Lots of stuff planned for the weekend. English presentation due Monday. Meeting Sunday for OVWSG Guild Sale vendors. Finish spinning the black yarn I need to complete my entrelac cushion (which I want done for the next Guild meeting). Do the laundry and baking and cleaning. Maybe some garden clean-up...we'll see what the weather's like, and how much time and ambition I have.

I did take slips off a couple tender plants (like the coleus) this week to root them, as it's been really close to freezing a couple nights. The squirrelly harvest mentality is on the air - pick everything, don't waste food, pack it away for winter, scurry around. Mom's been using her new toy, a food dryer, on the tomatoes and peppers, with good results, so I'm looking forward to trying those!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


I only have the buttonbands to go for the little horse sweater, then I get to start the next sweater. Shouldn't take too long. Perhaps I'll go out tonight and finish it up at the knit-night downtown, if I manage to get enough homework done to justify it.

The profs were very nice to us first-years yesterday, and didn't make us go out in the rain and work. It wasn't just for our sake, though. You're not really supposed to muck about in gardens in the rain, because it compacts the soil. And while one person in a home garden isn't a huge deal, 20 of us might have a bit more impact. The second-years were not so lucky. I think they were doing construction, and we saw them coming in after, soaked and muddy. But we got a lecture on 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines, and how to use the smaller gas-powered equipment safely. Completely new topic for me to learn about, seeing as I've mowed grass once in my life, and never touched any of the other stuff. Now I at least have a vague idea of where to find a carburetor...

We also picked our vegetable to research and harvest, and I get to do the Turk's Turban squash. Very pretty variety, streaked red-orange and green.

Today being sunny, we broke out the theodolites and went out to put our surveying theory into practice. Not mapping yet, but just learning how to read the thing and calculate distances and elevations from the readings. I think I've got the hang of it - at least, our group had answers within the right range for each point, and the calculations more or less make sense. The hardest part for me, actually, was being able to get the theodolite focused to take a reading. It's easier without glasses, but then I really have to adjust the focus from the average point to be able to see the lines. (There are three horizontal lines you see through the theodolite that mark the numbers you want on the measuring rod.) All in all, pretty cool.  

Monday, 17 September 2012

Horse-heads and Limericks

I took the chance when I was at the parents' last weekend to go through a stack of magazines with cross-stitch patterns, in search of an appropriate horse-head pattern to fill my aunt's request for baby sweater decoration. This one to be for a niece out West who is due about the same time as the recipient of the sheep sweater.

Would you believe, with all the little girls who love horses, that I could find nothing of an appropriate size on Rav? Or on Google? Hence the cross-stitch mags. I did find several which seemed adaptable, and it seems to be working out so far (although I think I will embroider an eye on each horse).

And after I finish that...the Western aunt, whose grand-baby gets the horse sweater, passed on the message through my mother that she would like to commission a sweater for her grand-baby (obviously the two aunts were not communicating). Well, two sweaters for an Alberta baby is certainly not overkill. I think that sews up my time nicely for the next week or two!

First proper English class today (since due to crossed wires we had nothing last week). Prof seems to be excessively fond of team-building exercises, which I consider to be about the same level as baby-shower games, although these have more purpose behind them. First assignment, due next week: group presentations, teach the class something in 10 minutes. And write the prof a business-style e-mail about it by Friday. And get acquainted with the on-line program we'll be using. Our group is doing limericks, and I get to spend a little time tonight organizing a powerpoint template, and hunting out a few samples in my collection, which ought to be fun.

Tomorrow, though, may not be so fun. Rain predicted, possibly heavy, and guess who has 4 or 5 hours of outdoor lab scheduled? Yup. I predict that dry clothes and hot beverages will be in high demand in our class by 5 pm.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

New Uniforms & New Knitting

One of the things with the Hort program that I wasn't that crazy about was that we were told for lab days we would have to wear official shirts. It's supposed to be sort of a professionalism thing / visual indication of who belongs, like wearing the company uniform. The shirts arrived at the store this week, and I picked mine up, one each of the t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, and hoodie (it was suggested we get more, but frankly, I'm cheap, and I don't care if it's got a bit of dirt on it. Labs are three consecutive days each week. I can skip washing things that long.)

I have no quarrel with the dark green for the long-sleeved stuff, but for some reason I thought we were getting more of a, er,  normal green for the t-shirts. They're little short of fluorescent - but it certainly does make it easy to see who belongs to our group. And if only they had made the lettering in something reflective, we might have been able to dispense with getting separate safety vests!

Anyway, to look at something with, I hope, slightly better taste in color - last night I finished the mitts I had been knitting in class, and blocked them.  It's a Latvian pattern, from Upitis' book, naturally.

Tomorrow we have no class - it was supposed to be Safety all day, but the prof is at the Plowing Match. I, therefore, am going to go spin in the park and socialize!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

School in Earnest

Second week of classes, so we're starting to get down and actually do things - and get homework. In small groups, we've been assigned parts of the flowerbeds on the grounds that are our job to maintain - weeding, edging, pruning, etc., with 6 hours of lab time a week devoted to that. We've got lists of plant names we will have to study, an online quiz that will come up every week, some annuals to start learning the characteristics of (growing conditions, size, cultivars...), and a log book to start for the hardscaping course. Next week we start doing some hands-on surveying, as the start of our walkway revamping project, and get assigned a vegetable in the garden. We'll each be responsible for researching our vegetable - pests, diseases, growing conditions, preparation and cooking, etc - and harvesting it over the remainder of the growing season. And we will be involved in redesigning the layout of the veg/nursery garden for next year, and the re-fencing of it. The rabbits and other wildlife are getting a little too bold about sampling the produce - heck, we saw three rabbits when went out to the garden for the class, and a few squash someone had dragged off, eaten a hole in, and left. Anyway, lots to do, and all interesting, and I'm going to be good tonight and do the logbook and read the info on the annuals for the first quiz.

On the non-school side, and rather cool, it seems KnitPicks likes my Pysanky enough to be putting them into the Spring catalog as a kit next year. So look out for your March 2013 catalog, and I should be in there! I suspect that not a lot of designing will get done in the next few months, so I'm very happy some of the previous stuff is reaping new returns.

Monday, 10 September 2012

WoolGathering Weekend

So the Hemmingford WoolGathering was a wonderful weekend, as far as I'm concerned. Some of the veteran vendors said there were less people this year than last, but not surprising considering there was rain predicted for Saturday (it held off until literally 5 minutes before closing), and it was cooler and windy (but sunny) Sunday. From the milkhouse, where we were set up, it looked like there were plenty of people visiting and enjoying themselves, most of them seemed to be in a buying mood, and lots of people I knew (plus a large handful of interesting sorts I met there) were happy to chat for a while. I've found a new source for roving and yarn, a new fiber festival in Quebec, and plans for a dye session at Sue's (our hostess) next month. I may have to do more dyeing anyway, since sales this weekend knocked out a number of my new skeins, and I now have holes in the color selection. Also I now have a lot of knitting to do to be ready for craft sales, since a bunch of that stock went as well.

It's the atmosphere at Sue's which is great. Everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves, even the animals. Sue's chickens wandered about between the people, her dog trotted here and there supervising, and the cats went about their own business. A mother duck and 6 ducklings (including one with an adorable little tuft like a crown at the back of its head) came and swam in the trough by our building while we set up, but she took her children away when the traffic started getting busy, like a responsible mother. So many people visited with their dogs - often more than one dog per person - but I never saw or heard any of them fighting or causing trouble.

Kids were everywhere too. There's a grand tree fort (in the tree center of second picture) which there were kids in all weekend. A puppet show twice a day and some craft sessions were given. And the tent for an animal adoption agency near us, with several kittens and a pair of dogs, was rarely without a few kids (and adults) playing with the critters.

In point of fact, there were only a few small things wrong with the weekend as a whole. We had no chance to see Havelock Fair, except for dropping off and picking up entries, and little time at home to do other chores. I managed to pick up a bushel or so of walnuts (but not crack them for drying), cut greenweed to be dried, and pick part of the ripe pokeberries. One or two loads of laundry got done while the water was temporarily on again Saturday, but for most of the time, the toilet was behind a tree (fun in the middle of the night, eh?), and the water was coming from the old well in buckets. Hopefully this week my parents will get that fixed - for two days it's OK, but a week of it starts to be inconvenient.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

New Yarn Going Up and Cat Antics

About half the yarn from the past week's dyeing is dry now, and I've started to do the re-skeining. That's usually the final step for a few reasons. For one, after having me dipping and rinsing and turning it on the drying rack, most of the skeins are not precisely tidy anymore. Re-skeining at a different length from the original skein, so the colors are more mixed up, I find also gives a notion of how the yarn will look in a project, and what the dominant color/effect will be. And last but not trivial, for the indigo-dyed skeins especially, I get a chance to see whether the color is going to crock (rub off) significantly.

Light's half-decent, so I got a couple skeins of sock yarn photographed this afternoon, and put the first one up on Etsy. The rest will get added gradually over the next few weeks, minus anything that sells this weekend.

This is the Foxglove colorway.

And this is Strawberry Swirl, going up tomorrow.

Longer day of class today, including 1.5 hours on study habits and student pillow top is coming along nicely. Ginger provided an extremely apt illustration by wandering into the classroom and along the tops of the desks looking for pets (and getting them) while the teacher was talking about managing distractions during studying. Who says cats don't understand English?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Horticulture Day 1

There's nothing like a series of small and pleasant surprises to make you feel like the school year has started off on the right foot. Beginning last night, actually, when I remembered to check bus schedules and found that the fastest way to school was a route I hadn't even thought of. Left home at 8:10, caught bus at 8:23, and got to school at 8:45 - even including a transfer.

The Horticulture students have a building all to themselves, and in front of the building was a friendly cat. Who later strolled into the building, and was formally introduced to us Ginger. She seems to be the boss/supervisor/mascot of the department, and has the humans well trained, since one prof told us their real job was to let the cat in and out 40 times a day. I think I'll feel right at home with that!

The full class is only about 60 students, to be divided into 3 groups for some labs and classes. And there is a good mix of ages and styles, ranging from the expected younger ones to a few greying, and from the fashionable female to the mohawked male.

We had a brief tour of the grounds after our introductory lecture (I knit during the lecture and no-one protested. One of the students in my row even offered sheep fleeces. Excellent.) I remember someone mentioning the gardens at the College to me, but had never seen them. They're really very nice, especially considering that they get used for training students, and so likely get things dug up and moved around more often than might be ideal for a nice settled look. Most plants are tagged - although the interesting ones are usually the ones missing tags, a phenomenon also observed in Botanical Gardens - and there are shade gardens and vegetable gardens, and a formal garden, annuals, patios and pergolas and walkways, all built by the students. Soon that will be me!

I knew this was a co-op program, but for some reason thought it was 2 years. Turns out, no. Four school semesters, certainly, but packed into 16 months, with co-op jammed in next summer/fall. This is very good, financially speaking - I figured I could afford one year of school and would need assistance for the second, but if we essentially get a paying job next summer, I might just be able to swing it.

So after all that, to top off the day, I got my student card done, had a successful trip to the library - and it's raining! Lovely rain that's been on for almost 5 hours now, more than we've had in a month, I think.
Really, how much better could the first day of school get?


Monday, 3 September 2012

Stripes, Etc.

Happy to report the baby hat is done, along with a pair of mitts to match (kind of).

I like stripes. I just tend to forget about the weaving-in-ends part that comes afterwards...I think it took me as long to do the ends as it did to knit a mitten.

I took pictures, put them to block, and then my aunt called, wanting to know if I could do a similar sweater to the sheep one, (not necessarily in handspun, thankfully), and maybe with horses on the yoke - it seems another cousin is expecting. I don't know why babies come in clusters, but they do - I just heard a couple friends had their second last week, and this makes 5 people I know expecting between now and February. Guess I'm concentrating on small projects for a while. Good for knitting in class, and extras are good to sell to doting grandparents at craft fairs ;)

The last of the dyeing is done, for a while. I spent yesterday and half of today fighting with the indigo, used the last of my reducing agent, but I think everything's blued that needed blue. And now I can finally put the rugs to rights and clean the spots off things, and they'll stay clean. Light's not great right now, but pictures of the finished pile coming soon.

Very glad I was doing the dyeing here though. It's less cleanup working outdoors at the parents', but when I spoke to Mom last night, she said it's so dry that the well has actually dropped below the point where the pump can get to the water. First time I can remember that happening, and they're not wasteful of it, unlike some (She said someone told her they were taking 3 showers a day to stay cool. I maybe take that in a week!) They're not too badly off - there is water in the old dug well, so they can haul up buckets for what's necessary, there's enough space and privacy to use a spot across the fence for a toilet, and there isn't any big livestock, just chickens and cats and dog. Basically like it was during the Ice Storm of '98, except for having to try and keep the garden alive (and at least there is electricity). But the farmers in the area are running dry also, and anyone with plumbing and water knowledge is busy trying to help them - it's a bit more serious when you have 60 cows who need water.  Let's hope the predicted rain materializes soon...

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Colors and Projects

Kid stuff goes fast. I re-started the baby hat yesterday afternoon (after deciding it was too big, ripping out, and casting on again with less stitches), and I'm already on the decreases on top:

I'm having super fun with the stripes, and I think I will make mittens to match. (There's a toque and mitt set category at the fair next week.) Yay for random stripes - fun and addictive. If you want to go play, it's at

When those are done, I expect I'll go back to the entrelac cushion cover, which still only has one corner done.

I did the cochineal dyeing and the walnut dyeing yesterday, so that leaves indigo to finish today and tomorrow if needed. I've got the first batch of indigo skeins dipping right now. Yesterday's cochineal took all day, almost. Always one of my favorites, and certainly not just mine, seeing as those skeins tend to disappear fastest when I have them for sale. Yes, it's expensive (over 10$ per ounce), but it's so strong you can just keep dipping lighter shades for 4-5 rounds, and doesn't take much for a bath. And you can get such a range of color out, between pH shifts and overdyeing! This is the finished skeins from yesterday (blurry but pretty), plus there's a whole shower rod of unfinished stuff (things that still need indigo today).

And speaking of indigo, time to go air the first of those. Ah, the excitement!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Start The Weekend Right

Ah, Saturday morning. Bright and sunny. I confess to a little bit of a sleep-in (to, say, 7 or 7:30 instead of 6:30) but I think I've made up for it.
Laundry: check. First load is done, second load is in the dryer.
Baking: in progress. There is a lovely lump of bread dough rising in the windowsill, two loaves worth, with a mix of white flour and stone-ground whole wheat from my aunt and uncle's . Debating whether to make filled buns out of part of it for school lunches next week.

Dyeing: in progress. My cochineal bath is just about ready, beautiful rich crimson. I'm not starting dyeing until I get the laundry out of the way, though.

And there are skeins of yarn everywhere - on the drying rack, over the bathtub, and soaking in the sink waiting for a turn in the dyepot.

My pile of school supplies is building up - I think I have everything I need now...only a couple days to go! It so looks like I'm going into construction, doesn't it?

Went for my last Friday spin-in-the-park yesterday. Only Julie and I, and neither brought spinning (it was rather wet weather, and I had errands before and after). I cast on for 2 knitting projects, though. More details tomorrow, when hopefully they look like something!