Sunday, August 24, 2008

A rooster update, and a foray into the working world

I was going to write "The farming saga continues," but we're really having a lot of fun with it. I drive over and try to keep up with the kids as we take care of the horse, chickens and cats. Then we buy some vegetables from a little boy who has a stand at the end of the road, then come home. Later, we smile at having an excuse to leave whatever event early so that we can put the chickens to bed and make sure all is well, also checking the vegetable stand for new prizes. That little boy has a way with plants. And can you get over the price of cucumbers this year?? And this little guy is selling cukes as long as your arm for 25 cents each. We're leaving him 50 cents each and still getting a bargain. Next year, half of the garden shall be cucumbers!

Pip the evil, doesn't-know-his-own-size rooster has been getting all territorial again, though. I'm not sure my husband took it really seriously (you know that feeling that they're patting your head, even if they're not touching you?) but he went over to help with him when I had to do the animals. I grabbed my camera. Heh heh. Now, it's my back-up camera to the back-up camera, so it's not great, and I couldn't get a picture of the bird in air attacking him. You'll have to trust me. It was a thing to behold. I didn't wish my husband attacked or anything, but I felt a certain smugness when the bird did what I expected it to do. Here's a totally sucky picture of him just before the bird flew up and tagged his hand with his leg spurs.

My hubby then chased that bird all around the yard, with Pip occasionally pecking for his legs, as the opportunity came open. You'll see that he believed me enough to wear protective clothing. We've all begun to make sure we're wearing jeans before we check the animals. My oldest, who doesn't like to wear a coat in the winter, has searched through her drawers for long-sleeved clothing. You're just not as nervous about little beaks or mosquitos when you're adequately clothed. Anyway, when Pip finally darted into the bushes to get away, my husband let him and called the game over. Then the bird crowed, and hubby went crashing back into the bushes after him. We heard a squawk and a lot of branches getting broken, and now Pip pretty much stays away when my husband is there.

See how I keep saying "my husband"? That's because the bird is in no way scared of me anymore, just the crazy guy who lunges at him.

I do have some knitting. My oldest daughter got a job this year at a beading shop, one day a week. I was proud of her for taking on the responsibility, and I was really happy with the owner for being so nice to her. My kid got to make a piece of jewelry a week, and the owner was really positive and always said how much she liked her. We decided to make her a present, and I asked what her favorite colors were. She said, "Purple, and Incredible Hulk green!" Whew! What was I supposed to do with that? But I actually found some yarn I thought I could work with, and made her some fingerless hand mitts to wear while she beaded in the winter. The yarn, Ella Rae Mosaic, was bulky, and I knit these with size 6 needles, so it was really a two-day project. I liked them, and they're very comfy. Then my oldest wrote her a Thank You card, and we slid it into the gift bag, along with a jar of homemade peach jam (still warm - mmmm).

With summer closing down, though, I dropped my kid off for her last day of work last Friday, then went home with the other two kids. An hour and a half later, she calls and is crying, "Mom, she fired me. Can you come and get me?" My daughter said she couldn't find enough work to do, and didn't understand how to do custom orders, and the boss finally yelled at her and told her she could go home. So I piled the kids in the car, in the pouring rain (that's important, since my daughter was waiting outside the shop), and went to get her, not sparing the gas. I know there are two sides to every story, and my patient husband has taught me many things about talking things over calmly, and reasonably approaching a problem. But a little voice from Carrie Past kept asking, "What person fires a kid on their last day?" I did, however, bring along the gift, since things frequently turn out for the best, despite my worries. So I come into the shop and the owner smiles at me, very pleasant and happy. In retrospect, I think she was faking it. I ask where my daughter might be, and she looks blank and a bit worried. You see, she let my daughter go outside twenty minutes before, and has no idea where she is. I take that in stride, and ask what happened before I got the phone call. "Oh," she says, "she was having a hard time staying busy, and wouldn't work on a custom order, so I had to keep giving her jobs to do." Okayyyyy. Sounds fairly normal to me. "Finally I said she could go home if she couldn't find enough to do." Oh, says I. She thinks she's been fired, did you know? "No, no," says the nice owner, "She can come back. It's a misunderstanding, I'm sure." So I hand over her gift and say, "This feels weird now, but we made this for you to say thank you. I'll talk to my daughter and give you a call."

At this point, I see my daughter outside on the sidewalk, and I skedaddle. After giving her a hug, I walk her to the car, and listen on the way home to a completely different version of things, where the owner's voice kept getting louder, and she was gritting her teeth, 'til finally my daughter was scared of her. When told she could go home, my daughter thought she'd been fired and left, which I totally get. I leave when people are gritting their teeth at me and tell me to go, too. So from what I understand, my daughter didn't know how to do custom orders, couldn't find any more beads to sort, and was faking being busy. Then she got spoken to from gritted teeth from an increasingly frustrated lady, and thought she was fired. What a rotten way to end your last day at work. She probably won't want a job now 'til she's 18. And I can't even imagine the bead shop owner is going to enjoy those mitts, no matter how cushy they are.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A girl of my word

Some good friends of ours went on vacation (lucky devils) and asked us to watch their farm animals for two weeks. They have oodles of young chickens, five roosters (or so), and many hens, along with five (?) cats and a very pretty horse. Plus they have automatic feeders set up, and hay in the stable, and in general, they've made this job as easy as they can for us. All we have to do is make sure there's still food and water, and bring the little chickens into the coop at night so the raccoons don't get 'em. They're very fast, though, so, if they weren't in a fence, I'm pretty sure they could outrace a raccoon. No point testing it, though!

The story I have to tell is about one of the roosters, named Pip. He has a bad habit of chasing kids, and if you try to swat him away, he takes it as a challenge and flies at you. The first morning we were there, the kids came over and said, "Pip is attacking us!" I have a special sore spot for about anything attacking my kids, so I grabbed a near shovel and said, "Show me where he is." And by golly if he hadn't put himself right between my car and the chicken coop, which was where we had to go. He faced off with me for a minute, and none of my shooing and hand flapping was having any effect at all. Finally, he charged at me, and I had to swing the shovel, people. I mean, that beak looked pretty sharp, and he looked quite determined in his attacking of me. So I smacked him with the shovel, moving him back several feet, and then he charged me again. We went along like this a few times, til finally I yelled at him and gave him a good shove that picked him up off the ground and into the horse pen, where we both tried to decide if we were done. I don't even mind admitting that I was really, really mad. Yelling mad. Pick up a chicken and cook him for dinner kind of mad, if I had more than a passing knowledge of how to accomplish that. What I did know was that we weren't going to be able to go through this routine every morning to get to the chicken coop. Something was going to have to give.

So I called my friends on vacation - yeah, the very first day - and explained the problem. It went along the lines of "I think I'm going to have to kill your rooster" and them saying "Go ahead." Really, it was that simple. They knew that bird was a problem, and I think they were hoping that I'd take care of it for them while they were gone. After all, I'd said many, many times, "I do believe I would cook that rooster, if he were mine." And they'd laugh or say they were saving him because he made pretty little chickens. But I'd go so far as to say they encouraged me this time. And I'm not so far removed from how we get our food that I think it's wrong to kill a chicken, as long as it's quick. Quick was exactly what I wanted, too.

So I went back over there that night, armed with a determined attitude, even though I had never actually caught a chicken myself, let alone an attacking rooster. And I looked for that fowl. Really looked. Around the house, up in the trees, by the coop, in the bushes... I finally found him, among all the other roosters, making himself very small. Seriously. I looked at that bird, and he ducked his head and made a little noise. And it wasn't a challenging noise, either. So there I was, having said I was going to kill this bird, ready to do what I had to to make it happen, and he was acting like a rabbit. Rats. Or not rats, depending on whether I felt I had to do what I had set out to do. Was I a girl of my word or not??

In the end, though, I couldn't kill him. He was acting like we had reached an understanding on whether or not I could let the chickens out of their coop in the morning and put them back in at night. I haven't had any problem since, though we may need to have another discussion or two before the weeks are up. I guess I'm a girl of my word, as long as it doesn't involve smacking something not giving me a problem. Kind of anti-climactic, but a relief at the same time. My kids were grateful that my credibility was damaged, in this case, anyway - except for my middle child, who was really looking forward to having a chicken dinner.

This is a picture of Pip taken from behind a fence, which is where he is now hiding from me. He even ducks under the stairs every time I arrive, but gets braver the longer I'm there. Silly bird still doesn't know he's mortal....

Monday, August 18, 2008

I call a Mulligan!

All right, all of you exercisers out there. I've been doing the 100 pushups program, and I'm at the end of the fourth week. Of course, it's gotten progressively harder. At first, my upper arms and chest hurt. Now they're feeling strong, but my stomach is getting sharp pains as I near the end of my pushups. Why? Am I holding myself wrong? Why in the WORLD would I be getting stomach muscle pains when doing pushups? Grrr.

Anyway, the fourth week doesn't look hard on paper, but it really kind of is. I can now do 25 pushups straight, which makes me happy, but next week is supposed to be another big jump, like Week Three. Or you can redo Week Four if you need to, before going on. I say, MULLIGAN. My husband and I are redoing Week Four, and will finish the six week program a week late. Still, when you do the entire set for Week Four's third day, you are doing at least 104 pushups! Cool! Now I need a sit-ups program - even though I haven't successfully done a sit-up since my third Cesarean - and I'll be happy. I can't say that my arms have appreciably changed, though, so I don't know that this "before and after contest" will be showing pictures of huge contrasts in musculature. Maybe I could take pictures like they do in the skin-care ads, and slightly change how I'm standing, or the angle of the shot, to make my arms look more ferocious. Yeah....

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Garden Rated PG-13

My carrots in my garden are really growing. I think I'm starting to understand why thinning them might have been a good idea. The greens are very, very tall. When you push down between all of that leafage, the stems of the carrots are packed in really tight, and they're starting to look uncomfortable. So I decided to thin them out just a bit, and pulled a few roots. The carrots are alarmingly large already, and I tried to tell myself they were done. But when we sampled one, it really doesn't taste ripe. So they'll keep growing, but really, I'm thinking people who know me are going to be receiving gifts of carrots.

And I figured out that some very interesting things happen when you let your carrots grow too closely together. They twist around each other, meld together to become more than just themselves. I would even venture to say that, with so little distance between themselves, they are communicating and perhaps evolving into something more.

Aren't they pretty?

So tell me, then, if you would, what is wrong with this carrot???

I know. I, too, thought the garden was rated G, but I was wrong. This aberration was well on his way to becoming a little carrot person, and what would have happened then?? We'll go to pull them, and they'll rise up like little root soldiers, well equipped (ahem) to conquer the garden and claim it as their own. And I'll let them, because, honestly, this is just too freaky to handle. Don't you think?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Happy Birthday To Mom (sing it with me now!)

As with all birthday knitting, there has to be a story, right? I mean, cramming ten hours of knitting into a few days was going to be an accomplishment, any way I cut it. And I was actually cruising along on my mother's birthday present, making excellent time thanks to my husband, who took over all responsibilities. He appreciates handmade things, and since he wasn't working on it himself, he was contributing by letting me create without having to get up and make peanut butter sandwiches, or do dishes, or solve disputes between girls sharing a room... And I loved being able to knit and say, "Not now, dear. Mommy's working hard." Oh yeah, that was the best part.

At midnight before the last day of knitting, the actual witching hour, I was feeling great. I had probably 2 1/2 hours of knitting left before bind-off, and for me, that's plenty of time. Then I looked at the pattern again, finding my place, and my eyes traveled down a bit. And there, right there next to all my other instructions, were instructions of how to do twelve finishing rows to complete the design, before binding off. I mean, it wasn't hidden on the next page, italicized or even in small print. It was right there next to all of the other instructions I've been referring to since spring. I just couldn't believe it. At 20 to 30 minutes a row, since we were increasing constantly, I was looking at four to six hours of knitting, beyond my initial estimate. I stared at the wall for a minute, thinking, "I can't do it. It's actually not going to get done." Even after all of the stolen moments here and there, the gallons of coffee, the faking that I wasn't concerned about time, I was actually not going to make it. I explained the situation to my husband, who could tell something was up. He said, "No. You can do it. You can." And I figured, what the heck. I can at least try. If I give it to her on the needles, that's how it was going to get given, because at this point I was not going to go with a gift certificate.

And with my second wind, I knit for two-and-a-half hours, with my husband sitting beside me. If he wasn't actively cheering me on, he was at least staying up with me. Then we went to bed, I laid there staring at the wall for two hours, then got back up. I mean, who can sleep with that much knitting looming in front of you? And I knit the rest of the rows, finishing before church. My hands were a little shaky, probably from caffeine overload, but I just slowed down a wee bit and kept knitting. After all, the gift was for my mom, who not only gave birth to me, but she got me through the teen years and countless other traumas and bad decisions made by yours truly. I could give her gift a few more hours. And sleep? Pffft. I can overcome the need for sleep, short-term, anyway.

There I was, with over 400 stitches on the needles, counting carefully to make sure I'd done my last set of increases correctly. My daughters were watching Curious George, and my husband was making more coffee (good guy). Suddenly, the man in the big yellow hat started counting beans or something, 198, 199, 200, 201, 202.... frantically, I started counting out loud myself, 281, 282, 283, 284.... yikes! I wanted to laugh, but I didn't want to lose count, so I kept counting and didn't look up. And you want to talk nervous? Nervous is when you're getting down to the last bit of counting, and there are a small amount of stitches left, and you're just praying it comes out right. And it did. Hallelujah and thank the stars, at 413 stitches it was time for bind-off.

I will quickly go through the binding off part, how it was too tight, I pulled it out and redid it, it was still too tight, I cried a bit, then got on the Internet and looked for the amendment to the pattern that had to be there. Nope. Some folks had a bit of problem with the bind off, but there were no changes to the pattern. So after pulling it out twice, I sat down and just knit it like it said, thinking, "This is it. This is the way to do it, I'm doing it, and how it ends is how it ends." And all the time I'm writing my blog entry in my head, evil statements and grumblings that I was going to post to all and sundry about this terrible bind off. But just like knitting in a pocket on a sweater, when you trust the instructions and don't overthink it, it comes out fine. And so we get on to how it ends, the pictures.

Now, right here I had written: I give you (well, okay. I give my mom) the Kiri Shawl:

and normally would have inserted some pictures. But Blogger will. not. do. it. I am ready to throw the computer out the window, if it would fly through webland and smack someone at Blogger upside the head. So instead I will have to link it to my Flickr account, and you can travel and see if, if you've a mind to.

I knit it with Fino, Alpaca with a Twist, 70% baby alpaca/30% silk. It took less than a skein, even with an entire extra repeat. Due to my tight gauge this year, the shawl only came out six feet wide, which is what it was supposed to do without that extra repeat. But things worked out fine, even with the tight gauge, so I'm happy. Happy Birthday, Mom! I don't know how you made parenting look so darned easy, but you did a great job. Have a great day.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Short and Sweet

I'm in withdrawal from Blogland. Old-fashioned week was very fun, and much canning was done. I also learned two things about my television. It's very quiet without it, and I use it to calm the kids down. When they get too crazy or start fighting, I'll distract them with a movie, and I didn't have my television last week! So outside they went, which was better for us all, really, because it got me out in the garden more, and they went exploring and fairy catching. Another fortunate event, because little beetley bugs are trying to eat all of my squash, and if we could only find some fairies and talk them into protecting the garden, that would be awesome.

My nephews also came up last week, and we have had so much fun just enjoying the summer. We got out to the beach and our local lighthouse, the waterpark, dragon-egg exploring (dragons and fairies are very popular around here), and in general used the summer for what it should be used for, and enjoyed it very much.

Now, poked here and there into all of the canning, exploring, gardening and swimming, were flashes of knowledge that a birthday was coming up. It's for my mother, and it's a big birthday. I'd post which one, but I'd better get permission first, even thought it's absolutely inconceivable that this number could be true. Anyway, it is coming up, and I knew what I wanted to make her. Well, first, I wanted to make her something, and I knew what she wanted, but it was a big project. And I didn't leave myself very much time. Well, I'd started her gift months ago, then set it down in favor of more immediate concerns, like teachers' gifts and - well, you know how it goes. In fact, I finally sat down a few days ago and figured out how much knitting was left, and it translated to ten hours of knitting. That's ten straight hours, when I had to pretend I wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary, and go visiting and adventuring and all that. So I've been trying to knit at night, after putting up freezer corn and taking a swipe at the dishes.

NO, it's not done. Geez Louise, her birthday is Tuesday, so I expect I'll be done some time Tuesday morning. I did however spend a couple of hours with Johnny Depp last night, enjoying his fluid pirating skills and the occasional scene with Orlando Bloom. Not so great for concentrating on knitting, but definitely I didn't fall asleep. Besides, I'd seen it before, so I could look up at the really good spots.

Now today is the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, and my family is running a free car wash for four hours. I've washed every towel in the house, and I need to stop and buy drinks and sunscreen before we go. Then most likely friends will come for dinner, and knitting will again be a midnight endeavor. Ah, the endorphin thrill of leaving things to the last minute ...

I'll leave you with a knitting picture. Arleta made bags for Mel and I when we went to the fiber festival. These bags are made from Cottonease, the colors they no longer make. She depleted stash for us! And these bags grow and grow as needed, and will hold a lot of fiber. It was actually impossible to fill our bags. It was cool. What a sweet friend, don't you think? She didn't even have time to make one for herself, and had to listen to people compliment ours all day. (No, no. We gave credit, and she had to explain the pattern again and again. I think she liked it).

I'm off now, but I feel better for having downloaded my thoughts. Hope you're having a good week!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Old-Fashioned Week

At the beginning of summer, our family always sits down and makes a list of what we'd like to do before fall. It keeps us focused, and doesn't let the summer run right on by us. We also read to our kids every night before bed, and we've been steadily working our way through Anne of Green Gables ('til she got older and less appropriate for bedtime reading), Little House on the Prairie (oh, those exciting Indians), and Heidi. So coinciding with our list-making was the idea of living in an old-fashioned way, and boy gee whillikers, wouldn't that be fun? One of the things the kids voted for was to spend the first week in August living without electricity, playing old-fashioned games, such as marbles and - my husband's favorite - the "Seen And Not Heard" game. I made them old-fashioned dresses, started a garden, and we waited. Honestly, time slipped by, like it always does, as the summer is always so busy. When it was the first day of August, I started with my normal "Happy August!" and they reminded me of old-fashioned week. Whoops! Today? Really?

So we turned off the breakers in the basement, and the kids pitched in and spent the first night canning beans. I had more help then I could believe, and I began to understand why I really had had children. One of them was snipping ends, one was snapping to the correct size, and I was hot-packing them into jars. Oh, baby. Then we read by candlelight, the kids put on their nighties and went to bed, and my husband and I snuck down to the breaker box so we could play videogames on the t.v. We're bad, and sorry, and I'm sure it won't happen again, because the guilt wasn't worth conquering the galaxy.

What I didn't take the time to think about, but should have, was how peaceful things were going to seem this week. I laid down for a nap today, since washing dishes had made me crabby, and when I got up, I found my youngest playing with her stuffed animals. My second oldest was playing a kazoo, and my oldest was dancing in the living room in her long dress. Holy cow. I think I'm going to enjoy this week after all. I'll let you know for sure after I hang out the laundry...

Here They Are Playing Marbles

Fortunately, my spinning fits right in with this theme, so I can guiltlessly participate in the fun with the kids. I've gotten a fair amount done, but not just in the last few days, though it does seem to be all I feel like doing lately. Awaiting for washing in the tub, either before or after the kids are through with their baths, are the final amounts of the Marjoram colored wool, some purple and pink BFL, and a merino/bamboo mix that I scored at the fiber festival , but will blog about later. It's still on the spindle, but I've already begun another spinning of alpaca and French Angora. Life is good.