Thursday, February 16, 2012

Apples, and Peaches, and Pears, OH MY!

Spring has arrived in my little corner of the desert, and that means that it's time to plant trees.

Last fall, I put in an order at a local nursery for some fruit trees.  They're here. Scott and I spent last Saturday getting them planted.  We have:

An "Anna" apple tree, already in bloom.

A "Dorsett" apple tree, tall and many branched.

An "Earligrande" peach tree.

A "Kefir" pear tree, beginning to bud.

A "Sugar" pear tree.

I learned a lot about fruit trees in the desert, but some of the information was universal. For example, did you know that when planting fruit trees, you need to make sure that the node of the graft is ALWAYS facing north? If you don't, the tree will try to twist itself around to make it so, and will die. Also, you shouldn't allow the trees to fruit for the first two years -- you must let them flower, but not fruit. This helps to ensure a healthy root system, and a trunk that is sturdy enough to support the weight of the fruit. 

One final thing I learned is that dogs find the branches of apple trees to be a sweet treat, so you have to watch them closely, and keep your pruning shears close by.

In other news, the rest of the garden that I planted in the fall didn't do very well. I have only 2 sickly looking spinach plants, 
 3 midget pea plants, 

some red and romaine lettuce,

 one cabbage,

  two strawberry plants, 
 and one rhubarb plant. 
I'd thought that the rhubarb had died, as all the leaves wilted and came off, however, a couple of weeks ago they started growing again, and seem to be doing quite well.
All in all, I'm a bit disappointed with the way things have gone, but I've learned a lot and hope that will enable me to do better this spring.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel

Gretchen am Spinnrade, op.2, D.118 by Franz P. Schubert
Performed by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

by Nicholas Gordon
Valentine's Day
Is a wonderful way
To make "I love you"
easy to say.

I hope you have a lovely Valentine's Day, and that you're able to spend the day with the people you love.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How's It Get That Way?

Have you ever wondered how a length of yarn gets turned into a neat little skein?

When I've finished plying yarn on my spinning wheel, I need to get it off the bobbin and put into a hank, so that I can get the spin set or twist it into a skein for storage. To do this I use my niddy noddy.
A niddy noddy has a center bar, with a smaller bar at either end which are at a 90ยบ angle from each other. Yarn is wound onto the niddy noddy by going up over one end of the top bar, then down under the end of the bottom bar, back up over the other end of the top bar, and then back down over the other end of the bottom bar. You can watch a video of this here.
This process is repeated until all of the yarn has been put onto the niddy noddy. Both ends of the yarn are then tied around the hank, so that they can be easily untied, but will still hold and keep the yarn from unwinding or tangling until you untie them. Then you take the yarn off. I do this by slipping the hank off of each of the ends.
Niddy noddies come in various sizes, and it's useful to know what size hank yours will make. Mine makes hanks of which each loop of the hank is approximately 5 1/2 feet in circumference. If you count the number of loops, multiply by 5 1/2, and then divide by 3, you get the yardage for the hank. While in this state, it is ready to have the spin set, be dyed, or wound into a ball.

If you're not yet ready to set the spin or wind it into a ball, if you hold the hank so that it is looped around your hands, you can then twist the loops, each hand moving in the opposite direction, until there is plenty of twist built up and there is only a small loop at each end of the hank where your hands were. Fold the hank in half, slide one loop inside the other, and let the hank twist around itself. When done properly, this is the best way to store your yarn as it doesn't put additional strain on the fibers.
One skein of yarn, ready to store.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What A Week

rhino virus (common cold) illustration

So, I'm still trying to recover from the micro-beastie that decided to make its home in my body.

Downside: It's been a week already, I'm not yet completely better, and I am so beyond ready to be healthy again.

Upside: Crafty goodness.

Yes, it's true. I got past the not being able to concentrate thing, and have been busy working on several projects.

First up we have the Triangular Summer Shawl. I started this last October, but after the initial cast-on and first few rows, it got set aside in favor of other projects. I don't know why. Its knit with linen/silk blend handspun, which I like. Its a pattern I've done before and like. There is no reason not to have been working on it. But I wasn't.  Having gotten a couple of things off the needles, I decided to work only on my wips, so this got picked back up. I have about 40 more rows on the shawl (each shorter than the one before, so it goes quickly), a lace edging, sewing on the lace edging, washing, blocking, and weaving in the ends.

Come to think of it, it sounds like I still have quite a lot of work to do. And here I was getting all excited about how close to finishing I was getting.

Next up is the sock I'm designing as I go. I picked up a ball of Indulgence from my lys, and loved the feel of the yarn and the color so much, I decided to cast on a sock immediately. I wasn't sure how the color repeat would go, but it turns out to be self-striping, so I knew that I could get away with some patterning without it being too busy or getting lost. I've got lace panels framing a center section of cables and ribbing. I like the way they are coming out, but am not thrilled with the short-row heel that I'd used. I think I'll do some looking around to find a heel that works better for these socks. Any suggestions? I also don't have a name for these yet, so any suggestions would be welcome.

Note to self: Make sure to write down what you've been doing, so that the second sock will actually match the first.

Finally there is the cashmere I've been spinning. I was able to pick up some incredibly soft and lovely cashmere top, and was trying to spin it for a wedding ring shawl (examples of which are Shetland and Orenburg shawls).

Truth is, it is nowhere near fine enough for that, but it is a good lace weight. The above skein is about 2 oz. (50 g), is two-ply, and is approximately 440 yards (400 meters). It is clear to me that I still have a long way to go before I'm able to ply as well as I'd like to, and before I'll be able to spin for a wedding shawl, but I have decided, overall, to be pleased with this yarn.

I still have another 2 oz. to spin and ply, and then will go in search of the perfect project. If anyone has a pattern they would like to recommend, I am open to all suggestions.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Oh Crud!

I'm so excited! I finished another project, and I can't wait to tell you about it. 

But it's a super secret project. So I can't. Yet.

Instead, I have fallen victim to the crud that is making its rounds in my little town. 

Ah, the many things one's children bring home from the cesspool we fondly refer to as school.

This is completely interfering with my ability to craft, so I'm not getting anything more done. I do try to work on things, but find I cannot concentrate on anything for more than about 5 seconds. (Sigh)

I hope your weekend is treating you better than mine, and that illness manages to skip your dwelling all together.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Darning a Sock

I had knit a pair of Jenny Socks out of Crystal Palace Yarns Panda Silk yarn. This yarn is beautiful. It is so soft, and has such lovely drape and luster.

It is not, however, a good selection for socks. The very things that make it lovely to work with, make for socks that will not stand up well to wear. And so, I ended up with a hole on the heel of one of the socks.
Rather than deal with this as I usually due (throwing it away), I decided since I have a darning egg, it was time I used it.
I gathered together the supplies I was going to need: the holey sock, left over yarn, scissors, a tapestry needle, and the aforementioned darning egg.
I turned the sock inside out, and slid the darning egg inside. I positioned it so the rounded edge was centered under the hole.
I cut off a length of yarn (I think it was about 1 1/2-2 ft.), threaded it through the tapestry needle, and began weaving it through the sock. I started both below and after the place where the yarn was broken, and, working from right to left, wove the yarn in using duplicate stitch.
When I reached the hole, I left loops for the stitches that were dropped when the yarn broke. My plan being to basically re-knit this section with the tapestry needle as I was weaving the yarn through to strengthen the area.
I continued doing this process, row by row, working the loops as I came to them,
until the hole was securely closed up. Then I turned the sock right side out to see how it looked.
It's clear that the fix wasn't perfect, but I prefer this look to the usual (and highly visible) method of darning, which entails weaving a patch across the hole.
The repair is not very noticeable when the sock is on, and would be even less visible inside a shoe.

Considering the delicate nature of this yarn, however, I think I'll keep them completely out of shoes and make them house or bed socks.

For any future repairs, I will consult one of these videos first so that my repair truly does end up invisible.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Book Review: The Misanthrope's Guide to Life (Go Away!)

Written by the authors of 2birds1blog, this book is a humorous look at human interaction, ways to avoid it, and coping strategies for when you can't. 

Misanthrope* (noun):
1. One who hates mankind; a curmudgeon; a loner.
2. The guy in your office who responded to your e-mail of baby photos with, "D-. Passing, but not college material."
3. A realist

The book opens by introducing us to the authors, giving a brief history of misanthropy throughout history, and then offers quizzes to help you determine if you are a misanthropist, and if so, what type.

We all have to deal with difficult people, but for some, the loathing runs deep. It's not just strangers that are a problem, it's any other homo sapien with a pulse. A plan is needed. One that contains multiple, creative coping strategies appropriate for any situation  a misanthrope may find themself in.

Frustrated with your coworkers? Find information about professions well suited to misanthropes, such as writer, trucker, and wilderness lady, as well as career choices to avoid. There are also tips for getting through the job interview, meetings management, surviving a conference, keeping your lunch hour to yourself, avoiding after work socialization, dealing with clingy coworkers, and more! I'm particularly fond of the section on "The Politics of Pooping: How to Get a Little Goddamn Privacy in the Ladies' Room", which offers tips like coughing and hacking to "mask all but the most volcanic sounds", timing a flush, and things to do while waiting someone out. All important coping skills.

Familial interactions got you down? Chapter 4 deals with "Sex, Love, and the Misanthrope" by offering suggestions on dealing with everything from your first encounter, to public proposals, to when a relationship goes down in flames. Who doesn't want to know how to avoid the "cuddle time", keep the wedding as small as it's possible to do while still being considered legal, and passive-aggressively end a relationship?

Chapter 5 covers parenting, with scenarios that start when the precious bundle of joy is still in utero, to finally getting them to fill the moving van. There's even a section on coping in the unlikely event that the misanthrope's child ends up in beauty pageants. I think the word "invaluable" best describes the section on getting out of going to the amusement park -- from getting someone else to take them, to convincing them the amusement park no longer exists, to alternative destinations there's something for everyone.

Other chapters on dealing with the family at holidays and keeping one's home as one's castle -- even if a moat isn't possible. For example, at Christmas: "Take the mistletoe down the minute you come in the door. You're a fully-grown adult Misanthrope, and you don't have to play 'Seven Minutes in Heaven' just because it's Christmas." Another favorite of mine offers this advice for dealing with door-to-door solicitors: "Take whatever literature they have and promise to return it with edits next week. Remember to check for mechanics and usage as well as content, always assign a grade, and try to leave helpful feedback". That should work.

Annoyed by the obnoxious strangers you have to deal with while on vacation or public transit? With chapters with suggestions for the misanthrope on vacation, in public venues, and on "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles", there is no situation that is missed. Everyone can benefit from the suggestions for dealing with other people's cell phone conversations, and the world would be a better place for it.

I found this book was well-written, funny, intelligent, and relate-able, even though by their quiz standards I don't actually qualify for the title of Misanthrope. I would recommend this book, especially to anyone dealing with difficult people, but with the caveat that it's not really appropriate for younger readers or those who cannot stand any profanity or vulgarity. Just keep in mind that the book is supposed to be funny, so not all of the suggestions should be followed. Some might, in fact, be a very bad idea or even illegal. Check your local ordinances and proceed at your own risk!

*This definition is taken from the book.