Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Getting There...

Last  night I got the arms joined onto my sweater. It's starting to look like something. Now I've got a repeat or two left to go of the pattern while shaping the shoulders, then graft the underarms, cut the neck steek, and add the collar. Oh, yeah, and weave in 6 million ends.

What are the bets I'm going to be able to finish in the 1.5 days left before the New Year?

Friday, 26 December 2014

An Old-Fashioned Christmas

Most people, I think, would normally call our Christmas a little old-fashioned - cutting our own tree, decorating with greens, hand-knit stockings for everyone including the critters, a creche filled with corn-husk figures...but this year was really old-school for the 25th.

The wind picked up overnight Christmas eve, and howled all night. At some point before sunrise, we lost power, and it didn't come back until 6 in the evening, despite assurances from Hydro at intervals that it would be on within the next hour or two. I'm sure a lot of people had sudden changes of plan regarding Christmas dinner. Fortunately for us, we have the well and a wood stove with an oven, and an unheated pantry, which served to keep the milk and cream cool in a pail of snow. And there's always plenty of bushes outside to use for a toilet and no neighbours visible from here...I tell you, if ever I get to buy a house in the country, the well and wood stove are going to be counted as essentials. They've earned their keep here so many times!

So life went on well enough for the day. Mom and my brother were collaborating on a pair of trigger mitts he wants made from a piece of shearling. I curled up and knitted on one of my commissions, a pair of gloves, which got finished last night:

Later all four of us sat around the table and shelled dry beans from the summer's harvest, producing two bushels of hulls, and a large bowl of beans. We stoked the stove up to heat water for breakfast and lunch dishes and for cooking dinner (it produced a beautiful rare Who roast beast), and lit the tinware chandelier above the table when it got too dark, so we could read and knit by candlelight while the roast cooked and the veg simmered. The lights came on just before dinner, so that was helpful for washing up. All in all, a nice relaxing day ;)  

With the gloves and a second commission, a super-cute pair of baby socks, finished...

I'm back to my sweater for a while. Sleeve number one is done, and I've started the second one. I'm determined to have the thing finished this year!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Bigger Than You Figure

So I'm settled at the parents' for the holidays, and yesterday Mom and I went out to cut down the tree. It proved to be a bit more of a job than planned. For starters, there's more snow than there was in Ottawa. It was about knee-high, and wet, heavy stuff. I couldn't find the good saw we usually use, so took the next-best one, and we trudged down the hill to find the tree we marked.

When we found the tree, we both looked at it, and decided that it really wasn't as good as we'd thought.  So we took our tags off it, and tramped around for a while trying to find a better one. The one we finally chose was tall enough that the cut site was a good 5 feet off the ground; a little awkward, but whatever.

At that point we found that the saw had lost a nut or something, and the blade was loose and unusable. So I stayed to mark the tree, and Mom tramped back up the hill to get another saw. The saw (not one we usually use) proved to be horrible for cutting live, damp, sticky wood. We took turns sawing, with the second person pulling on the tree to keep the sawed gap from closing and pinching the saw. By the time we were maybe 1/3 of the way through, both our arms were tired, and I said, 'Why didn't you just find something to fix the blade of the other saw so we could use it?' At which, Mom decided that was a good notion, and went back up to see about fixing the second saw. While hunting for a nut, she happened on the good saw, so brought that back. Two minutes later, the tree was down. In fact, it was so fast, that I had to suddenly back up out of the way, tripped on a shrub hidden under the snow, and ended up lying in the snow, laughing at how hard it was to get up.

It must have to do with the height it was above the ground initially, but seeing the tree on the ground, it looked a lot bigger than we expected. (This is a regular issue. We always worry it'll be too small, and wind up with a tree we need to trim before it'll fit in the room.) We hauled it back through the brush and up the hill to the house, and squeezed it through the door and into the shed to start defrosting, and found it was too tall to stand upright in the corner, so it's leaning against the attic stairs.

This afternoon we will have to take off whatever's necessary, before we haul it into the house. We did leave a big space in the living room:

But I don't think the space is as big as the tree.

Sunday, 14 December 2014


I'm supposed to be writing Christmas cards this weekend, so I can get them stamped and mailed today and they can be on their way tomorrow morning.

Finally got a few done this morning, but I don't know, I just haven't been able to get into it. On the other hand, plenty of things are getting done while I'm procrastinating on the cards...
The first of the two vests for a family friend's grandsons is done and blocked. I don't know the size of the second kid yet, or that would be started too.

I ripped the top off a hat I decided was too tall, and reknit that. That and the gloves I finished before got blocked at the same time as the vest. And since I need a little something to knit while I'm waiting for info on the next couple projects, I cast on for toe-up socks for me, in the Fleece Artist sock yarn I bought at Rhinebeck.

And yesterday while I was dithering about, I not only baked biscuits, but I did some spinning. 80/20 merino/silk I dyed a couple years back, now all spun and plied. Not sure about the colours though - it may get over-dyed.

Finishing that plying was a job. I got to about the halfway point, thought I would be able to fit it all on the bobbin, but found later that I couldn't. At that point there wasn't enough left to make starting a new bobbin worth it, though. Wound the plied yarn on manually until I got to the end of one bobbin of singles, then moved my bobbin of plied to the kate, wound the remaining singles as a center-pull ball, and used the energy from the singles to do the plying - just  unwound a length at a time, then let the ball act as the spindle, as it were, dangling and spinning, until each length was done, and could be wound on the bobbin. Worked a treat, but next time I will listen to the voice in my head that says it won't all fit on the bobbin.


Friday, 12 December 2014

Our Farm

I'm not the sort to write letters to politicians on a regular basis, but it's what I've been doing this morning. This is why:

Land Transfer from the Farm to NCC  
It's not just a cornfield - make your voice heard
In his decision in November to sever 60 acres of Central Experimental Farm fields, the Honourable John Baird, minister for the National Capital Commission, has made it clear that, unlike in other countries, a national heritage site designation offers no guaranteed protection from development and doesn't even trigger consultation with stakeholders.

While the Friends of the Farm support a new hospital, it doesn't need to result in the loss of this valuable land with national historic status and ongoing long-term research. Friends' President Eric Jones and former FCEF presidents, along with the media, historians, researchers, heritage and community advocates have written about the land transfer. These commentaries are listed and will continue to be compiled on our website atwww.friendsofthefarm.ca/60acres.

In his exploration of responses to the land transfer announcement, Peter Anderson of Carleton University noted that many see the Farm as empty fields that are "untapped, wasted" which is totally unfounded. Julie Harris, heritage specialist and co-author of the Central Experimental Farm National Historic Site Management Plan, notes that these "empty fields" are, in fact, open-air laboratories where important agricultural research continues to be conducted." It is land on which detailed scientific data has been recorded for over a century. 

For more than 125 years of cropping research at the Farm, there have been many scientificsuccess stories including 260 varieties of improved corn, many high-protein, pest-resistant soybean varieties, wheat varieties resistant to the devastating Fusarium head blight, 28 new milling oat varieties and 50 lines of hulless oats, as well as the development of new techniques and methods of cultivating, fertilizing and screening for plant diseases. As Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz pointed out this week regarding the new grain legislation, "the sector generated about $23 billion last year in grain and oilseed farm cash receipts."

It is clearly not just a cornfield. There are immense benefits to Canadians and to Canada's agriculture and food industries from such research, which depends on continuity in the field experiments using the same testing grounds year after year. Members and supporters of the Friends of the Farm are encouraged to make your views known to MPs, MPPs, city councillors and federal ministers. Help us protect the Farm in its second century.

I spent my volunteer hours at the Farm when I was doing my Hort certificate, and the longterm volunteers were already worried about resource cuts and the possibility that the Farm would be broken up for condos or something. I don't like the trend; it worries me. The data says we're going to have to make substantial increases in food production to keep up with population increase in the next 50 years, plus climate change means extreme weather is liable to make farming a lot harder in the same amount of time - like it's not hard enough already. And here we have a heritage site which has been a productive research station for over a century, in a country which may be large but has a limited amount of land you can grow crops on, (most of which coincides with where people keep building cities), and they're not only cutting resources, but also space. Really, you'd think it ought to be going in the other direction...

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Christmas Prep 2.0

Two weeks until Christmas...my Christmas knitting is done (well, it was only one pair of gloves, really).

Gaby's pile of fingerless mitts is done.

Two little vests to make left, for grandsons of a friend of my mother's, but that will go fast - plain knit mostly, with a train for one boy and a cow for the other to duplicate stitch after.

No snow yet at the parents' (although with the system coming through I imagine that will change today), but Mom and I devoted Monday to baking, with a break for tree-hunting. Because these are trees Dad planted but we don't trim or anything, they're far less symmetrical and dense than commercial ones, and it's always a job to hunt one out that looks like it'll have enough tips for the ornaments. Since we're not cutting it until we need it in a week or so, we tied cloth strips on to mark it.

The current crop of trees are taller than needed, so we usually cut partway up the trunk, leaving several rings of branches. (This year's will probably get cut in a gap about 2 rings above our ties). Another branch will take over as the new leader/trunk, and in a few years it will be on its way to looking like a tree again.

While we were out we also took a feedbag and pruners, and I got some greens cut for decoration at the apartment - white pine and cedar, red osier and stems of berries from a big 'Red Tears' berberis which had lots of berries this year. They are now occupying vases and jugs and various nooks, and the place smells like Christmas.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Trim Up The Tree With Christmas Stuff

Yes, I was watching the Grinch cartoon this week...

December's here, and it snowed last night, so I thought it was time to do a little decorating. Lights in window - check. Wreaths on doors - check. Tree hauled out and trimmed - check. Complete with feline supervisor.

My tree is a foundation of tomato cages, wrapped in grapevine, which my mother made. It's been enlarged, but there's still not enough room for all the ornaments in my collection, so I've started choosing a theme every year and rotating the ornaments that way. This year I decided to hang primarily the handmade ones. I rather like those, they have more of a story to them than generic pieces.

One of the reasons my collection is bigger than the tree is that it's been a tradition in our family that we get ornaments each year at Christmas. I have a number of dated ones of my mother's making, plus each of us kids had a 'theme' for our ornaments and our own little tree in our rooms, and we might get ornaments for the theme also. For me, there was angels and bells, and a number of them are from local craft fairs.
There are also some ornaments of my making, some from ornament exchanges, in my Pathfinder group and later in my knitting group.

The red and purple star came from a craft fair years ago, the little Red Riding Hood nut person has been on my tree ever since I can remember, and the bear-in-the-box was from one of the Pathfinders. The horse just showing at the bottom is Mom's, in crewel embroidery.

 The red crochet angel is one of three I have from my maternal grandmother's tree. The gingerbread man was my first needlepoint, back in Brownies ( I would have been about 8). I suspect the slightly lopsided red-and-white panda is about the same era.

The little mittens at the bottom were a swap at Guide Camp. Whenever you went to a camp, you brought little things to trade, known as swaps. Pins, badges, tiny crafts of all sorts. We wore our swaps pinned to our hats during  camp.
The choir mouse is another of Mom's making. There is a full choir at home, complete with a leader who stands on an empty wooden thread spool. Dated 1986 underneath, so he or she is already closing in on 30.
The dark green knit behind the mouse is a bell. Very much handmade, and I suspect the red rounds that trim it were cut from Remembrance Day poppies, since the back is flocked.

A whole assortment here. The bear is Mom's and says Mandy 1981 on the back; made for my third Christmas. The pink sweater was from the local knitting swap a few years back. Most of the others are craft fair pieces - one of Myrosia's lovely eggs, a salt dough candy cane with two mice, a crocheted angel (and a safety-pin one at top right), a felt tree and the beaded Joy round.

A few of the choices for this year are commercial, but I'd hate to leave them off. The silver bell in the photo above and the gingham-eared mouse below are certainly not handmade, but they have been part of the family since the 70's, and they have their counterparts on the big tree at home.

Now that there's a tree, I have to start getting gifts ready to pile under it (well, beside it.)