Saturday, August 23, 2008

What A Beautiful Evening!

After a few distant early-morning electrical storms, the cool front moved in. We had a stunningly clear blue sky, which has now mellowed into a watercolor wash of light gold in the west, moving through dark lavender to a dark slate blue in the east punctuated with the first few stars. The crickets are rioting outside, with their individual noises melding into a constant high tone like an Alvin and the Chipmunks version of Eternal Om. The dew emphasizes the scent of freshly mown hay, and the swallows are performing their regular evening show in the dim light.

I really love Wisconsin in the summer.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Oreo Breakfast

There's a lady at the farmer's market who has been back twice to talk to me about cows. I'm not a dairy person, and in the beginning the only cow photo I had on display was the Jersey heiffer shot that you've seen before. But I repeated to her a couple of my uncle's favorite comments about how rich Jersey milk was in butterfat. He likes to claim he could get the same volume and butterfat as Holstein milk by running the garden hose into a bulk tank of Jersey milk. Then we started talking about brown cows and black cows and I told her about Belted Galloways, which are often called "oreo cows" - which is when she decided I was pulling her leg.

There's a farm not far from the high school with a small herd of Belted Galloways in a field near the road. I don't know the people who live there, but the cows are fairly easy to spot and I gave her directions on where to find them. She came back the next week to say she couldn't find them, and challenged me to bring her a photo of the oreo cows this Saturday.

I went out there that afternoon, but the cows were at the back of the field and not feeling photogenic. I tried a couple of times knocking on the door of the house to get permission to walk into the field and photograph the herd up close, but nobody was home either time. I considered inviting myself quickly over the fence, but I'm not sure about the temperament of the animals - besides, I'm allergic to bees and there were several hives set up in the field. I even asked my neighbor, whose family has been in the area for generations, if she could figure out who lived there and how best to get in touch with them.

Finally, I took one last drive by there before work on Thursday morning. I'm still not a fan of my telephoto lens, but hopefully I got something that will do.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

First Day Of School

-Luc, I need to take your picture for the first day of school.
-No, Mom.
- Mom, what time is my class again? I can't find my schedule.
- Stop by my office and I'll reprint your schedule - AFTER I take your picture.

- Hey, that textbook says "Instructor" on it! You'd better exchange it for a student edition.

- No, I think I'll keep it. I'll just hold it like this so nobody notices.

And if you think that's fun, check out the nephews on the other end of the spectrum. Bret is starting first grade! (You know, they say kids grow up so quickly. But thinking back to Luc's first day of elementry school, it's been a looooooong haul.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Third Wednesday Harvest

It's the third Wednesday of the month (really. I checked.) so we met in the garden again this morning to harvest for the food bank. "We" meaning me and Tammy - I have to say that harvest is probably one of the facets of this whole program which could use a little tweaking, since often it's just me out there, frantically slashing at swiss chard before work while the clock ticks. But we have over a dozen large pumpkins starting to ripen, and I pulled a few of the largest onions. The take was rounded out by a couple of bags of squash and 3 more bags of swiss chard. Not bad.

I have to say that the swiss chard raised some eyebrows last spring. Some of the gardeners weren't sure that something so "exotic" as swiss chard would be well received at the food pantry, whose customers tend more towards basic staples. But of everything we planted the swiss chard has been the earliest and most productive by far. I'd have to go back and look at prior harvest photos to be sure, but I think one 40' row of seeds has produced at least 10 large bags of fresh, healthy vegetables to date. It's also having the good grace to continue producing through some drought, and should finish up just about when we really need the space for potato harvests and expanding squash vines.

Meanwhile, I'm technically not the person to judge when the onions are ready, but some of them looked so enormous and seemed to be crowding their siblings so I just went ahead and pulled a dozen or so. They're kind of wild and funky-looking, aren't they? I should have known better than to load them into that basket, since it's basically a glorified Easter basket and the handle wasn't nearly strong enough. It cracked, and I had to load them in the car by holding onto the bottom of the basket. It will probably still be fine for holding knitting projects and other light stuff - but don't tell Peg, okay?

We're talking more and more about how we should handle the garden next year. The food pantry is suggesting Romaine lettuce, and Tammy is sure we should have planted our corn further apart and hilled our potatoes. I know nothing about beets and am not in charge of the ones in the garden, but it seems like ours are awfully close together (and not doing anything). Same with the carrots. So, a bigger garden with more breathing room for the veggies, and maybe a designated harvest team. And maybe we'll get that irrigation system on line one of these days. But we've effectively proved the concept, and I don't think we'll have as big a battle in the future.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Baby Mittens

I had to travel to Milwaukee for a firm meeting, and Angel was kind enough to drive so that I could knit on the way. And so, we have baby mittens to go with the frog hat. I still need to embroider eyes and mouth on each frog, and now I need to embroider a couple of flies on the mittens. Anybody got a simple design for embroidered flies?

These are made from cotton, of course, so they won't be particularly warm. But I've explained this to the lady who requested them, and she's content that they'll cut the wind a bit and offer a little protection from the first chills of Fall. I'll know better when I find a baby to try them on, but to me they look about 3 - 6 month size (the same size as the hat).
Baby Mittens
Size 4 double-pointed needles
Size 6 double-pointed needles
Worsted-weight yarn of your choice. (I used Peaches 'n Creme cotton.)
Cast on 18 stitches on larger needles.
Switching to smaller needles, join stitches into circle and do "knit 1, purl 1" ribbing for 8 rows.
Using larger needles, begin stockinette stitch (knit all). Pick up four stitches evenly around first round.
Continue in stockinette stitch with larger needles for 8 rounds.
On 9th round, decrease two stitches evenly around the mitten.
Round 10: Knit 3, knit 2 together. Continue to end of round.
Round 11, 13, and 15: knit.
Round 12: Knit 2, knit 2 together. Continue to end of round.
Round 14: Knit 2, knit 1 together. Continue to end of round.
Round 16: Knit 2 together, continuing to end of round.
Break yarn and draw tail twice through remaining loops. Pull tight and secure yarn on private side of work. Weave in ends. If desired, add I-cord so mittens may be threaded through baby's jacket. Take picture and e-mail to jascott AT excel DOT net.
Let me know if you try this pattern, and how it turns out. I could see doing it with a nice soft merino for a winter baby; as a matter of fact, I may do that next. (After I finish more pirate hats, of course.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Rick buzzed into town on Friday evening, complete with large bag of laundry and and exhausted expression. He'd spent a week in Cleveland working on the generators at a women's prison and never even had time for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We got him cleaned up, rested and stocked with fresh socks and underwear. He even had a chance to go to the races with Tasha on Saturday night, and to spend a few precious hours on Sunday covered in Bondo dust out in the garage before leaving this morning for Florida. He should get to Tampa about 24 hours ahead of Fay, and is reporting back predictions of 60 - 100 m.p.h. winds. Theoretically, he's supposed to be there for two weeks straight; but if the hurricane knocks Florida back into a third world country for a few days, he's obviously going to be extended. Tasha points out that she and Luc will be in school by the time he gets back. I miss him already.
But it was a good weekend, and occasionally a productive one. I had the privilege of doing Cassie's senior pictures on Friday night, and we managed to hit the lake just as the light did some truly magnificent stuff. The moon was full, the water was calm, and the light made everything just glow. Stunning! Now I understand what the poet meant by "the wine-dark sea," a phrase that never made sense to me before.
Then Baby Stella posed for me on Sunday (all 8 pounds of her). I've been wanting to take pictures with a newborn for some time now, and I really, really love doing that stuff. It's apparent to me now that those black & white naked baby portraits are not nearly as easy as Anne Geddes makes them appear - once again, I really need to know more about light. But we got some decent shots of baby with parents and baby with grandparents and so on. (Do you see the new tattoo on her father's neck? And for a new father, he really is very good with her.) It was a pleasure to shoot the photos, and Deb thanked me with fresh cukes, tomatoes and a big container of fabulous bulgar salad. A win all around!