Wednesday, April 18, 2018

More April snows

The projected winter storm hit as projected, and was significant enough to get elevated to Blizzard status and cancel church services.  Unhappily for my sugar consumption, I'd made treats for our fellowship time after church and had an abundance of salted nut bars and chocolate molasses chews.  Willpower for opened treats in the house is not my strong suit.  Some yet survive in the freezer, though!

I took before/during/after pictures of our weather, and my tablet is refusing to upload them.  I'm giving myself 30 minutes to work on the upload, and you will know I was successful if this post has weekend photos in it. 

Today's winter storm got downgraded to a winter weather advisory.  School districts less than 30 miles from us are either closed or closing shortly, so I wouldn't be suprised if it got upgraded to a storm again.  It's currently snowing at a calm, deliberate pace.  And Filia is at work, 17 miles of country roads away.

So much for Minnesota weather.

In other news, I'm plotting to abandon Facebook and use a simpler platform called MeWe that has the delightful features of letting me choose what I want to see and in which order, and also no ads.  The only drawback is that lots of my friends aren't there yet.

Knitting-wise, I'm back to the counterpane.  A Hap for Harriet is completed and blocking behind me.  A sample knit is in the mail to me.  I've a pattern proposal to submit, and some new yarns to figure out what to do with.  Plenty of activity there, in other words.

New Felted Clogs

A Hap for Me, In Progress
Gardening isn't going so well.  Last April, I was busily cracking my shin on a wheelchair, bike riding, cleaning the yard, making nettle soup, and other such outdoor activities.  This April, the nettles aren't even up yet and cleaning the yard has involved shoveling snow.  I am debating whether to repot my tomatoes, or not.  Vir's tobacco seedlings haven't, with one exception, bothered to emerge from the soil yet.  My decision to direct-seed kale may not have been a good one.  The seeds aren't in the ground yet, at least!  But warmer weather is in the forecast, so perhaps there will be time to garden before the first frost.  To give you an idea -- to qualify for crop insurance in MN, corn can be planted no earlier than April 11th, and soybeans by April 21st.  It's the 18th.  Farm tractors still have snowplows attached to them, not plows, harrows, and seeders.  Fieldwork does not usually include bulldozing the snow off the field.  And oh, it's going to be muddy when the thaw hits.

Morning, April 13th

Morning, April 14th.

Morning, April 15th

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Between the April Snows

We're having a fun April.  I left Minnesota last Tuesday in the midst of a winter storm, arrived home the day before several inches of snow fell, and a winter storm is supposed to hit this weekend.  After an inch of rain.  Meanwhile, my tomatoes and other seedlings survived my absence and are looking lovely.  Except for the 6 peppers which haven't bothered to sprout yet. 

There's not much photographic evidence that I took a trip to Dallas.  I thought about making sure that I had photos of me and all the people whom I now have more than a virtual acquaintance with ... and decided against it.  I didn't want to focus on orchestrating photos -- so I didn't!  Other people have that gene, and I was part of at least 2 group photos, one of which is on Ravlery.  That leaves you with the following assortment

The Airplane.  A Study in White

The Mustangs of Las Colinas

The Intriguing Dishcloth
Trust a knitter to get a picture of a variation of Grandmother's Favorite Dishcloth, and totally skip getting a picture of her hostess!  Regardless, I had a delightful time.  I saw Cheryl for the first time in a decade or more, met all my co-workers at Dallas Afterschool, spent time with a wonderful assortment of knitters, including several Master Hand Knitting Committee members I'd not met before, and had a bit of time for knitting around the edges.  (My traveling knitting ended up being the counterpane AND a scarf.  Good things, too.  The scarf was in a splitty gray yarn and made for Very Bad Airplane Knitting, so I worked on the counterpane ... until the cable separated a bit from the needle (on a fixed circular), when I switched back to the scarf, until the vendor hall opened on Friday ...  three more squares done, and I'm about halfway through the scarf now. 

It was a delightful trip. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Maundy Thursday

I'm really terrible about writing a marketable blog post, paying careful attention to titles and tags and photos and first lines -- but if you've read more than two posts of mine, you knew that already.

One test knit is completed and mailed off; the second ought to get finished tonight, blocked tomorrow, dried on Saturday, and mailed off on Monday. On Tuesday, I'm going to need some traveling knitting, and I am dithering about what I ought to start.  The Counterpane is a great standby project -- but white cotton on a cone is not an ideal traveling companion.  If I keep dithering, though, maybe that's what I'll end up with. Socks are a possibility, but I don't have enough of any one color in my stash to make a hard-wearing pair (and that counts using a contrasting color for tops, toes, and heels.  Tune in two weeks from now to find out what I ended up with.

Since it's verboten to publish pictures of test knits ahead of their time, here's a photo of "Minnesota Morning Sunshine on Hard Water Deposits from Tea Kettle."
Minnesota Morning Sunshine on Hard Water Deposits from Tea Kettle
I'm pleased to say I'm doing a MUCH better job using my tea in a timely fashion than I used to do.  This morning I used up the last of the black tea in the house, leaving me with my Sunday Puer Mini-Tuo Cha, a few tablespoons of a herbal blend, and a jar or two of mint leaves from last summer.  Well, not the LAST of the black tea in the house ... but the last of the black tea that had been in the house the previous morning.  I visited our local tea shop yesterday and came home with a nice stash.

Spring does seem to be happening outside.  We had a delightful lot of snow just after my last blog post, but the sidewalks are already clear (even the ones we didn't shovel) and the remaining snow piles are merrily melting. My tomatoes are putting out their first sets of true leaves, and all my peppers except for 6 California Wonders and one Jalapeno are up.  I hope they survive my travels.

Vanity Fair ended much sooner than I thought it did.  I think that means the book was much more coherent the second time through, and I could follow who was who, and doing what where.  I cast about for another audiobook (being in the midst of test knits) and thought that perhaps I could use Thackeray as my 'read 3 books by the same author' author.  After a VERY slow start (which I will probably find not so slow if ever I listen to the book again), I am now enjoying The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., A Colonel in the Service of Her Majesty Queen Anne.  And after that shall come The Virginians.  For my paper book reading, I WAS working on Timothy Keller's book on prayer. Upon reaching the chapter where he looks at what Augustine, Luther, and Calvin said on prayer, I quickly detoured myself to  read Letter 130, "the only writing wholly devoted to the subject of prayer which he (Augustine) produced."  The sentences are not easy, but the words are ... and I'm thinking how fun it would be to work through the letter in Latin.  I do great with bunny trails.

My new harp has developed an annoying buzz from the sharping lever on the E above middle C, and the little wrench I have to tighten the screw simply does not get enough purchase on the offending loose screw to fix it.  Happily, most songs don't call for lever changes from E-flat to E, or E to E-sharp in the middle of a song, so I simply tune the string as needed.  That fixes the buzz, but it doesn't fix the... woof?  twang?  bark? of the adjacent F which is more pronounced with the sharping lever on.  A trip back to the maker may be in order one of these days.

A test knit calls.  Until April!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Another week flies by

I'm up to 21 squares completed on the counterpane. With the advent of two test knits, a forthcoming traveling project, and travel to Dallas just around the corner, that number may not go up much for a while.  Happily, so long as I knit 3 more squares this year, I've met my goal for the year.

Filia had an outpatient procedure with anesthesia done on Friday.  I took the counterpane along as my project to work on in the waiting room. I've learned that I get very little done in pre-op, and nothing in post-op, so my plan was to start seaming squares.  I did, and also managed to get red popsicle drippings on the counterpane in post-op.  Argh.  At least it's white, and there are such things as bleach pens. 

Spring is around the corner (but snow is in the forecast for tonight)/  I've got little Jiffy Pellet Pots sitting on top of the pellet stove (how appropriate!) with parsley, thyme, tomato, and pepper seeds.  The peppers will take their sweet time in sprouting, but everything else has jumped above-ground.  The parsley was helped by hanging out in a damp paper towel for a week or two before I put it in the ground.  My new garden plant for the year is going to be the humble Turnip.  And Vir discovered that the Calendula I planted last year, and dried petals from, is also called a Marigold, and that he has been buying pills that contain calendula extract .... so I think the bunnies and Vir are going to be competing to eat the flowers this year.  Vir reaches over the fences better.

The end of last week saw as many editing hours as I could squeeze in, and this morning had even more edits calling for my attention.  I think I'm done for a while, until summer comes and it's time to switch hats and start editing curriculum.  Time will tell.

Progress on Vanity Fair is going slowly.  Now that I've two test knits, I expect it will pick up, once I can wrest myself away from the computer and spend some time with them.  With the warmer weather, walks will also be competing for my attention.  I think I saw two Pileated Woodpeckers on yesterday's walk!  Canis loves walks, but his back legs don't always like walking (or holding him up, for that matter).  I'm hoping a wee bit that regular exercise will help, but the truth is he's getting to be an old dog with some neurodegenerative stuff going on, and exercise doesn't reverse the clock.  It sure gives him lots of good smells to check out, though!

The tea kettle is again shedding nice thick flakes of hard water, making it 6 weeks for things to build up to the proper 'shedding' thickness.  One flake this afternoon was shaped rather like Australia -- 3" across by 1.5" tall, until I dropped it in the sink and it cracked, making Queensland, NWS, and Victoria their own island. 

Thursday, March 08, 2018

More winter

Several years ago, when Bible Study was on Tuesday evenings, the general weather pattern was "If it's Tuesday, we're under a tornado watch."  This year it's "If it's Monday, there's a winter storm."  Around half of our studies this year have been postponed due to weather.  But we're in March now, and March storms have lots of accumulation (since the snow is fluffy, as a rule, rather than small crystalline structures that sting) which melts quickly.  Theoretically.  Monday's storm was more slush than fluffy, and Tuesday's drive to the Cities was an interesting trek.  Not white-knuckled, thankfully, but definitely affected by the road conditions, or lack thereof. 

Knitting.  It's been counterpane, counterpane, and more counterpane.  I'm at 19 squares today, and will start #20 in a bit.  I need to figure out what I'm going to knit in Dallas next month, since white cotton on a cone makes for bad traveling knitting.  Filius has been wearing a vest I designed back in 2012 or so, and I'm going to get the pattern hashed out in multiple sizes to submit somewhere.  And I came across a lovely gansey for him in some of my editing work, so I'll need to order some yarn for that.  But near-black is not good traveling knitting, either.  I think it'll be socks or a scarf. 

Editing.  I'm in a lull between edits at the moment.  Perfect for spending some time developing a template for patterns from Carolyn Vance Designs.  Except I'd rather find something to dust.  Maybe clean the caster wheels under the piano?  Surely they need cleaning.  One of my goals for this year is to self-publish 6 patterns.  If I spend an hour a week on the template, it'll get done and then I can move on to picking a pattern to stick in the template, and then pop it up on Ravelry.  I just have to quit procrastinating. (Is 'quit procrastinating' a separate to-do list item from 'work on template'?)  I think I'll give myself a pep talk about it while working on the counterpane. 

I finished reading Liturgy of the Ordinary, by Tish Harrison Warren, this week.  It's a fairly easy read (unlike Out of the Ashes), but full of good things to think about.  I hope to come back to it in a year or two after some thoughts have marinated.  My next book will be Tim Keller's book on Prayer, by my mom has to finish it first.  Vanity Fair on audiobook is moving along nicely. 

The pellet stove is behaving itself nicely.  It doesn't keep the downstairs as warm as the hot-water-in-the-radiators does, but it much cozier for gathering around.  The blower doesn't SOUND that loud - but I've have to double the volume on the audiobook to hear it over the blower.  I love the sound of silence when the stove is off.    

Until next week...

Thursday, March 01, 2018

In which the Pellet Stove is again functional

My last post ended on a note of hopefulness that was not to be.  Despite repeated applications of PB Blaster, and the purchase of a vise, and much prying and pounding and the best attempts of anyone who wanted to give it a shot, the auger and auger motor are still stuck together. So - given that we were not sure if the motor would have survived the separation attempts - we ordered a shiny new auger and guaranteed-to-still-work new motor. 

The items arrived promptly (Thanks, Vicky!) and once I got some caulk for the hopper (since I'd had to remove the hopper to get the auger out), I was all set to put things back together.  Filius and Filia chipped in with assistance, and things got put back together.  I turned the stove on and the motor worked, and the auger turned, and ... the auger was a lot harder to turn than it was when last it worked, and the motor didn't behave quite the same as it did when last it worked.  Had I forgotten to add some lubricant somewhere that needed it?  I emailed the stove tech help line and got a prompt answer:  No. 

And so, I added some pellets and started up the stove.  After a few weeks of silence, hearing the hum of the motor was odd.  But it WORKED!  And although the room blower didn't kick on, another email to the tech help line resulted in a troubleshooting step which solved the problem (THAT's what those two wires are for!) and we've  got a functional stove once again. 

The test knits had to dry on their own, though. They were delightfully fuzzy and a total change from my cotton counterpane yarn.  I might need to design a shrug or cowl or something with the same yarn -- it would be like wearing a cozy insulating cloud, minus the damp clamminess.  If the cowl was dry.  If it was damp and clammy, then it would be JUST like wearing a cloud.

I've two pairs of glove and a pair of mittens in my mending pile.  All of them have holes in the thumb, and all the holes arrived within 24 hours of each other.  They belong to three different people.  What are the odds of that?  (And they were made and/or last mended in three different years, I think.) 

This week has held editing and lots of harp playing for me.  And a bit of knitting.

Also, some Sudoku problem-solving.  My mom gives me a page-a-day Sudoku calendar, and I keep up with it throughout the year.  She came across one which stumped her, and popped it (in black) onto a nifty dry-erase Sudoku board she has.  I tackled it (in blue) and came up with the sticking point, which was solved by the X-Wing method.  I snapped a picture of it after erasing some of the 2s which the X-Wing showed to be impossible, and circled the 5 which I was able to place as a result of the extraneous deletions.  And from there, the puzzle behaved itself.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Plague Strikes (and other sundry matters)

By and large, we're a pretty healthy family. If kidney stones are crossed off from the list of Things Requiring Medical Attention NOW, I think we'd have to go back into pre-blog history for a time that illness necessitated a trip to the doctor.  And that week, Filia had bronchitis, my mom had bronchitis, two had bronchitis, and the rest of us just had a cough that was taking 6+ weeks to depart. 

So, when Filius commented on Monday that he wasn't feeling well, it was time to mention hydration and lots of rest.  By the end of Tuesday, he was feeling better, but still possessed of a cough and no energy.  I should have mentioned a home remedy (because I'm the only one that likes them, but the mere MENTION of them helps everyone else feel MUCH better. No thanks, mom -- I feel better already!) but I didn't.  And this morning, he's feeling better yet - and has a temp 5 degrees lower than yesterday.  I wonder if anyone else will succumb? 

The counterpane is moving along nicely.  I'm up to 12 completed squares, and am half done with the next.  To balance out my cotton knitting, I have some alpaca and wool on the way for a few test knits. 

Friday - after I wrote Friday's blog post - I got an e-mail saying my harp was ready for pick-up.  Happy dance!!!  Saturday, Filius (before the plague) chauffered me out to Red Wing and we packed my new harp into the van.  We are getting along together wonderfully, and I am looking forward to playing in church on Sunday.

My book-reading seems to ebb and flow, just like the rest of life.  Currently, it's flowing.  I'm working on Gabe Lyons' The Next Christian (which my mom just finished) and will dive into Liturgy of the Ordinary after that (once mom finishes it.  Isn't there something wrong when one adds a book to one's mom's book order, and she starts reading it before even telling you that it arrived?).  And then comes a book by Tim Keller on Prayer, which was in the same order and which mom will probably snag before me as well.  The current audiobook is Vanity Fair.  It should last me through quite a few Counterpane blocks. 

The auger on our pellet stove jammed, the very day the furnace was to be cleaned so we could use it for a secondary heat source with confidence.  What lovely timing!  (Except, the furnace guy didn't come, and we ended up getting it cleaned a few days later.)  Vir and I dismantled the pellet stove, and the auger and motor are still firmly stuck together, but sitting on the kitchen counter surrounded by Eau d' PB Blaster (which is like Liquid Wrench, but not helping).  I hope we can get the parts apart, and then put everything back together, in time to have the stove up and running for drying test knits later next week!