Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Chip, Shred, Mulch

Mike & worked like beavers on the garden this weekend. "Like beavers" is here defined as "chewing through an enormous quantity of wood." We had a huge stack of leaves, brushy debris & tree branches that were cleared out of the overgrown flowerbeds, blown down by winter storms, etc. Mike planned to haul it all out to the dome site for burning, but then secured the loan of Cliff's chipper/shredder instead. So we chipped. And shredded. And threw it all in the garden for mulch. Then it rained Sunday night & part of Monday. Now we have a nice layer of nitrogen-enhancing wet organic material that will decompose right in the garden. Go compost! Looking forward to some yummy veggies this summer.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

F is for Fool

The Fool, Rider-Waite TarotStrangely, the Fool has come up in exactly the same position in the last three readings I have done... position 4 in the Celtic cross & staff, which is "what is behind you". The Fool is all about leaping off the cliff of your comfortable world and the risky beginnings of rewarding journeys into unknown realms. Gosh, do you think it might apply to me, and the cross-country move to a strange city that we undertook last year?
The Rookie, Baseball TarotThere are, of course, a bazillion different versions of the Tarot. I use the hoary old Rider-Waite, mostly because the images are so familiar, but I love the images on Boo's Baseball Tarot (the perfect deck for a sports nut, BTW -- baseball clichés blended seamlessly with tarot archetypes.) In that deck, the Fool is renamed the Rookie. A long-haired youth leaps off the bench, grabbing a bat, while the catcher and ump look expectantly towards him. Perfect! "Hey kid, I'm putting you in!" "Me, Coach?" The Fool is getting off the bench and into the game.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Dyeing to Try It

A little while back, I picked up a one-pound cone of undyed sock wool on eBay, home of ridiculous & impulsive bargains for knitters. Then I had to figure out what to do with said yarn. The short term answer was, "Stick it in the stash bin until a project comes along for it."

A few weeks after that, Jen told me about the Six Sox Knitalong, which I promptly joined. I came in too late for the February sock, but I'm looking forward to the April pattern. The shopping list tells us to get something in "a nice spring color", so I figured it was time to try my hand at yarn dyeing.

Winding upFirst I had to skein the yarn in 50-gr. hanks. Hmm, how am I going to do this? I have a ball-winder, but nothing that will make skeins. I asked Mike if he could make something up for me. We started talking about a board-and-two-pegs arrangement, but then I mused, "What I really need is a niddy noddy." Once he got done laughing at the name, he said he had some PVC out in the garage that he could use. He disappeared for half an hour or so & came back with a butt-ugly but perfectly utilitarian niddy, which I put to immediate use. I skeined up the yarn much faster than I could probably have done with the chair-back arrangement I thought I was going to have to use.

The world's only niddy with an odometer.  Really.Then, because I am married to Mike and Mike is That Guy, he decided he was going to improve the B.U.B.P.U. niddy by installing some kind of counting device on it. (He was probably sick of listening to me chant "Twenty-one, two, three, four, twenty-two, two, three, four, twenty-three..." as I wound the yarn.) He disappeared into the garage again & returned this time with a doohickey that looks like it was scrounged off of an old odometer. He added a bolt that works as a thumb lever, zip-tied it to the B.U.B.P.U.N.'s main shaft, and voilá, I now have a counter to keep track of how much I have wound.

In the meantime, I inventoried the Kool-Aid in the pantry. I have been wanting to try my hand at Kool-Aid dyeing for a while, and the fruity colors seemed like just the thing for a pretty spring sock. I found a few envelopes of Cherry, which the kids don't seem to like much, so... PINK SOCKS it is!

Ding, fries are doneDyeing with Kool-Aid is actually super-easy, although I did manage to goof up a few things. The nice part is it's all food-safe, so you don't have to use special pans & tools; you just use what's in the kitchen. I nuked the yarn for a few two-minute rounds & got a nice saturated pinky-red color.
Washing after the dye bath...Some of the color came out in the wash, but it still kept a nice cherry pink color. I had a few uneven spots, and actually put the first skein back in the dye bath for another round, but it turned out mostly even after that.
... and the final rinseA cool-water rinse follows. Mike got another laugh from my squeezing-the-water-out technique: I roll the skein in an old towel & then sit on it for a few moments. Gets it pretty dry, really.
The drying rack, which is an odd shape because it fits inside the clothes dryer.Here they are drying on the rack. If you can't see the uneven spots, I'm not gonna point them out. I think it makes them look fine anyway. If I wanted a perfect dye job, I would have bought commercially-dyed yarn.

Can't wait to see the Six Sox pattern on April 1st!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

E is for Emerge

CatkinsSpring is just around the corner, and we are starting to see those best-loved harbingers, the daffodil & the pussy willow. We have a largish willow just behind the house, and its fuzzy white blooms enchanted me last year as I was house-shopping -- I wouldn't swear that they didn't influence our purchase somewhat.

Early elmOur elm seems to be the first one in the neighborhood to bud. You can see that the poor tree was cruelly topped a decade or so back, but it seems to have grown back a nice round crown that will fill in beautifully once the leaves unfold. Of course, E could also here stand for Evil, since I will be sneezing my fool head off in a few weeks because of this monster.