Saturday, May 17, 2008

Fare Thee Well, Louie

Louie the cat, known occasionally as "Fat Louie" and "Lucifer," passed away this evening at the age of sixteen. Louie was warm, sweet-natured, loving to the point of obnoxiousness, and never to be trusted around the butter dish. He came to us roughly 15 months ago, after a child in his former family developed allergies, and immediately adopted us as his own. Although he battled with morbid obesity through much of his middle life, living with two other cats in a home with stairs seemed to suit him and he had slimmed down to a healthy weight in the last many months. Still, his previous weight and advanced age may have contributed to the apparent heart attack which took him suddenly. In his final moments, which were brief, he was surrounded by humans and felines, each doing their best to comfort him in their own way.

Louie will be buried immediately on our property near Mindy the dog. Accompanying him to the grave will be a measure of catnip and the rest of the meat loaf he enjoyed without permission on Thursday night.


Peg is one of those church ladies that worry me. She's very sweet, a retired school teacher and farm wife who lost her husband of 50 some odd years not too long ago, lives alone, and is mentally clear but doesn't take care of her blood sugar. She has had several episodes lately where she has fallen and couldn't get up but didn't think it was enough of an emergency to use her "Lifeline" necklace. She called me the other night and happened to mention that her basement had flooded and moldy air was starting to bother her lungs, but she had been forced to wait several days for someone to declog the filter on her dehumidifier. And the batteries went dead on her hearing aid and she'd waited a couple of days until someone could replace them. So even though she has a wonderful smile and an always pleasant attitude, I was a bit relieved to hear that she was moving away to an assisted living place just down the block from her son's home on the south end of the state. It will let her keep her independence but give her the help she needs while maximizing her time with her children and their children, etc.

Peg and her husband had a life time of accumulation back on the farm, but they put a deposit on a condo in town and auctioned or gave away a bunch of stuff just before he died. Still, she is now going down from a two bedroom with full basement to a one bedroom efficiency, and is taking another crack at clearing out non-essentials. And since she's seen me knitting prayer shawls at church, she asked me to come over and adopt her mother's knitting needle collection. (Awwwww.) It was very generous of her, and I don't deny that I was willing to accept the honor, so I stopped by her house on Friday night. (I tried to buy them from her - honest. She wouldn't take money. The best I could do was bring her flowers and promise to come back with a truck when she was ready to send some furniture and other things to the church rummage sale at the end of the month.)

But when I got there - oh my sweet Lord, look what she gave me!!! A full set of vintage Boyle interchangeable needles - two sets, actually, since I have both the large size kit and the small size kit. And a slew of straight needles in different styles, which I think I want to display in a crock like the one on the title bar.
And they came in these funky vintage cases!
And there are also several wicker and oak baskets which will be fabulous for displaying items at the farmer's market this summer. And three great vintage suitcases which are just dying to be stacked decoratively with glass on top for an end table, as soon as I figure out how to kill the mold inside without killing the fabric. (Any ideas? Anyone?)

Meanwhile, look! I made a needle bouquet! (She gave me the vintage mixing bowl, too.)
Thanks, Peg. I'll try to do you and your mother proud.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Keeping out of trouble

I had a church council meeting on Tuesday, at which I knew the community garden would come up. The last time we put those two topics together, my knitting was the only thing which prevented attempted reverend-cide. But the collateral damage of that earlier meeting was a woefully screwed up piece of orchid lace, which ended up being ripped back almost to where I was at the beginning of the night. This time around, it was clear to me that (a) I needed to have knitting with me, for the safety of all in attendance, and (b) it had better be something simple, just enough to occupy my hands and encourage any stray theta brain waves to keep coming.

The meeting actually wasn't that bad this time around - no raised voices, no homicidal urges, and we may have actually got something done. I know I did; I got one water bottle cover up to the point where I realized I'd forgotten to bring cotton for the top, then strung the loops on spare yarn and got a good way into a second one. I finished them both last night, except for weaving in ends and felting: My plan is to offer these water bottle covers at the farmer's market (which I am now officially committed to), so I'd like to get at least a dozen or so ready before the end of June. That sounds like a generous deadline, but there are other things in the pipeline as well. Just the same, I'm glad to have an item which is relatively fast and easy, uses mostly left-overs, and only takes as much concentration as I feel like sparing from other distractions. Next, I think I want to make one with a green bottom, a blue section with a colorwork kite (and embroidered kite string), and the white/rainbow cotton at the top. I have some bits of leftover Italian wool tape yarn - you'd recognize the name if I could think of it - which will look great as a kite tail. And then I'll do one out of that Bernat Felting, just because I love the "un-winter" colors and want to play with it.
But seriously, my main commitment remains the anniversary shawl. I hope to finish one wingtip this weekend. And we're doing a road-trip to the in laws in Missouri over the long weekend, so during the car ride I have every hope of finishing another wingtip and maybe a good long section of edging lace. I'll have to make sure I take good measurements before I leave - even though the whole thing will have a good bath when finished, there's no way I'm exposing the main section of the shawl to the dusty Missouri gravel roads and my mother-in-laws cats! (I say that in love, of course.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Kingdom for a Yurt?

There's an article in today's NYT about a couple of Buddhists, he a very high-ranking monk and she a teacher on the same path, who are living chastely (they insist) in a yurt outside of Tucson with few physical amenities, trying to carve a new path towards spiritual enlightenment. They have committed to never ever be further than 15 or so feet apart, and they eat out of the same plate, and read books together with each waiting for the other to finish before turning the page. Apparently they've been doing this for several years now.

Brother Dan has some friends that live in a yurt in Maine under somewhat similar conditions, although I'm pretty sure they're a traditional couple. I had the privilege of sharing dinner with them and their son one night, and was amazed by the tight functionality that yurt-dwelling requires. I'm an admirer of that kind of spartan living (door, bookshelf, seating, clothes storage, bed, well-disguised commode, wood stove, dining table & chairs, coat rack, and we're back to the door). But I know without much reflection at all that I could never do it. And I love Rick completely, passionately, and in a disgustingly mushy way - but never to be more than 15 feet from him for the rest of my life? No quiet knitting afternoons in front of the tube while he putters in the grease under a car? We'd kill each other.

We have this piece of land in Arkansas where we envision building our retirement home. Sunny, lightly wooded acreage in a quiet area which is still close enough to town for emergencies. In the unfinalized plans, the garage/workshop area is at least as big as the house. I envision a little patio just outside the slider door off the bedroom, with rose bushes and an outdoor shower stall for those muddy garden days. And I'm lobbying for a small out-building just across the patio, with room enough for a sink, a Franklin stove, a fat cat, some shelves, a work bench and a floor loom on the first level and a sleeping loft under a gambrel roof, a space where I could putter with hobbies and we could offer overnight guests some private sleeping quarters. And we're talking about a small boat, too - just big enough to mess about the lake, and maybe sleep on the water occasionally.

I'm not sure if this makes me a bad prospective Buddhist or a good consumer or merely predictable. But it's certainly been my "happy thought" when grey days were dragging me down.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Making Progress

I got a call from Tammy on Saturday. "Hey, are you at the church garden? Could you tell them I'm loading the tiller now and I'll be a bit late?" I managed to deduce by this that (1) we were starting the spring garden work; (2) I'd missed a message somewhere along the way about a meeting time; and (3) I was late. So I beat feet over there and arrived in plenty of time to help figure some things out and get a reasonable amount of dirt under my nails.

Discoveries and decisions:
  • The north "toe" of the garden will be a block of sweet corn, cared for communally. I may add some runner beans, so they can grow up the corn stalks for a bonus crop.
  • The south "toe" has been adopted by Susie and Sandy, who will garden it together.
  • The middle section will be split into nice even rows, rather than being broken up into plots and paths. George wants to do pumpkins for the Bridgeway House kids, and maybe some onions; Mary wants to do carrots; I want to plant swiss chard and some winter squash to take its place later in the summer; and there are a couple of other people who may want to get into the act later.
  • The purpose of the garden is to raise food for the local hungry (including the homeless women and children at Bridgeway). The food pantry only distributes twice a month, so we're talking about delivering all the produce for the "off" weeks to Bridgeway. But some church members don't have room for their own gardens and would like a tomato or two for their own table, so Deb had the excellent idea of a swap option for gardening members - for instance, take a few tomatoes, replace them with a few rolls of toilet paper.
  • I asked for rain barrel donations in church on Sunday, and 45 minutes later I had two 30 gal. barrels and two 45 gal. barrels. Garage gutters were theoretically approved last year to feed such barrels - now I just have to shepherd that theory into reality without stepping on any toes.
  • And most important: when you pull back on a tiller, it digs deeper into the soil and pulls back on you. I nearly went flying a couple of times before I figured out how to guide it with a gentle touch. Reminds me of raising children.

See how expertly Tammy does it? And her section looked a lot fluffier than mine . . .

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rather thoughtless mistakes

So I'm purring right along on the orchid lace, and getting a bit cocky about it, and decided I could safely knit in my Weight Watchers meeting and still follow the pattern chart . . . and I made a mistake. Not one of the really tricky mistakes that come from miscounting in a maze of yarn-over and slip-slip-knit and paired decreases and all. No, I messed up the section that goes "knit. purl." Huh - tricky, that.
I forgot to do the seed stitch border on one side, then tried to repair it by dropping the loops and picking them back up in the right order, except that it was on the end of a row and therefore one of the loops had to be picked up twice, sort of, and it just didn't look right, and it maybe would have blocked out but it was only two rows of 64 stitches and I've worked so hard on this for so long that I had no excuse not to fix a simple, easy mistake, and then I lost track of which pattern row I was on by the time I'd ripped it back, and - - well, you get the idea. In the end, I just put it down for the night. Maybe I'll bring it to my doctor's visit tomorrow; then again, maybe I'll bring a simple washcloth or an I-cord necklace or something else that does not stand any chance of taxing my attention level.
Meanwhile, Luc so enjoyed the sight of Rick and Tasha taking off for an evening bike ride the other day that he ran for his Nerf revolver and crawled through the bushes to ambush them. He was too slow (or else they were too fast) and he missed them completely and lost one of his Nerf projectiles in the process. However, he does have a nice little souvenir of the occasion in the form of poison ivy on both arms and lower stomach, which has so far spread to a small patch on his face and is working its way up towards his elbows. He called me from work tonight with a request for an emergency delivery of anti-itch medicine.

But at least the garden still looks good.
(Which reminds me - next time I'll give you the latest on the community garden, since there has, actually, been real progress. And some rather dramatic acrobatics involving my attempts to control a tiller.)

Very Nice, Thank You

On Mother's Day morning, Luc got up early and went to the store with Rick and Isaac for provisions, then cooked us a breakfast of freshly brewed iced tea, scrambled eggs, french toast (with french bread), and hash browns. Okay, so I could have used a little more fruit, and he used up every egg in the house. But it was a beautiful thought, and he even did some dishes as part of his prep. Very nice.

After church, since both Luc and Tasha were working and Rick was under the Celica doing something related to break lines, I had the luxury of sitting in front of the tv and knitting for several hours. (HBO's Autism, the Musical is really fabulous, by the way.) And after finishing the last of my supply of the variegated yarn, then tinking some from one side and then knitting the freed-up yarn onto the other side, I FINISHED THE "WINGS" OF THE SHAWL!! Now I just have to do the "wingtips" and edging. I'm so excited to have finished another major milestone on this project!!

Look! That's one and a half repeats of the orchid leaf lace pattern (repeated twice over 64 stitches, including a 1 stitch seam allowance on one edge and a seed stitch border on the other). The end is in sight!

Finally, something I just thought was kind of cool. Blog-fodder, if you will, presented in free-association about how the whole thing crossed my mind.

(1) Pretty white bird at the retaining pond - but (s)he's too shy to let me get close enough for a good shot. What kind of bird is that? Crane? Heron? Reminds me of an Ibis.

(2) Look, there's a blue heron over there too, just 40 feet or so from the white bird. Will (s)he let me get close? I've already got some fabulous shots of blue herons here, maybe even this one. But they're soooo pretty . . .

(3) Oops, Blue is taking off. I guess (s)he not feeling photogenic today.

(4) Rumble! Blue starts screaming at White, who starts screaming back and takes off, then Blue and White do a loop of the pond arguing back and forth before White gives up and takes off for the marsh by the highway. And I never got a decent shot!

I hope Susie sees this. As much as she likes herons, she's going to love this.