Sunday, September 29, 2013

almost too easy

Autumn light, clear skies, still water. 
Some days, it's hard to take a bad picture.


Friday, September 27, 2013

baktus, revisited

Following up on the pictures of the scarf progression, I'd like to encourage anyone who has not yet made a Baktus, lacy or otherwise, to give it a go! The patterns are free, and it's a very satisfying knit (or knit-and-purl, or lacy knit - your choice!) in all sorts of variations.

The basic design of this pattern is a triangle, begun at one end and gradually increasing in width until you are satisfied with the size of your half-a-scarf or until you are halfway out of yarn. Then you begin decreasing and creating the mirror image of the first half.

It's pretty neat.
And very simple.

In fact, it is simply neat.

It's the type of pattern where, as you are knitting it for the first time you think, "I'll be making this one again!"

I've made three now, all the Lacy Baktus version but each slightly different. The first was a special gift for a friend at work who was going through a tough time. As all knitters and crocheters (and hand-makers in general) know, it is a powerful thing to put good thoughts into a project, day by day, bit by bit, stitch by stitch. It is deeply comforting to the maker and - one fervently hopes - to the recipient.

This first one was knit on size US2 needles, with a skein of tightly-plied sock yarn purchased at a local fair. It worked up with a lovely drape; soft but dense, and with an almost woven look to the fabric.

And here's a picture of the early stages of Lacy Baktus 2:

I was the very lucky winner in my bloggyfriend Michaela's 2009 birthday drawing, and this very soft, very pretty, bluesy-purply merino/silk blend yarn seemed perfect for something to be worn close to the face. Hmmmm....whatever could it be??

A fun thing about knitting the same pattern multiple times: one is inclined to play. This time, instead of using tiny sock needles, I swatched with a few sizes to see what the resulting fabric would look and feel like, then settled on US8...quite a difference!

And you have already seen the third iteration (same size needles, but with a i-cord edge knitted into the bottom of the scarf this time). It was made with the yarn I dyed way back in February. Remember? Gosh, so long ago!

I am embarrassed to say, this scarf could have been finished months ago, but for some mysterious reason I set it aside when it was within about two minutes of being complete, and then sort of...didn't complete it. 'Til this week. I am shaking my head right now, can you tell? Anyway, I just want to reassure the knitters who may be reading:

You can knit a Baktus in a very short time!

And here are a couple of links that will lead to the free patterns:

Strikkelise's Baktus 

Terhi Montonen's Lacy Baktus

I think Ravelry links will work for everyone, but if not, will someone please let me know? I am often baffled by what works and what doesn't work. For example:

Why does my own blog comment box suddenly have a drop-down list? I don't know...I didn't put it there!
Why can I no longer comment on some blogs that I have commented on in the past? No idea!
Why am I now only getting email "new comment" notices for some of the comments here?
I discovered this only last week, and I do apologize if I was slow responding to any of your comments. I really enjoy hearing back from you, and now I am trying to get into the habit of checking the Comments section in the Blogger dashboard instead of relying on email notices.

So, knitters...have you knit a Baktus? or two? or ten? I'd love to see them!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

a few snaps

Seeing so much beauty and so many interesting things on even a short walk...just a few images to share!

An extremely huggable Piper, fresh from a real bath - clean water, shampoo, the works!

I don't know if you can tell, but this little fern has grown right through a hole in the Rubus leaf, reaching for the sun.

Also enjoying the sun...this fritillary is a bit tattered, but still dazzling.

Moose hoofprint, with my hoof next to it for scale. I kept Ms. Piper on the lead until we were well past the place where the moose had headed back into the woods. I don't know what an unleashed Piper would do if she saw a moose at close range - and I hope I never find out!


Monday, September 23, 2013

post-equinoctal thoughts

Light has been very much on my mind lately.

I'm considering adding a window on the only remaining bit of wall that still has room - maybe - for one more window. It would face east, and my goal is to see the first light of sunrise through the window every day. This has led to seeking out the northernmost and southernmost points at which the sun comes up throughout the year. If you feel like exploring the mechanics of sunlight in your own location, I recommend experimenting with the very helpful sun position calculator on Sun Earth Tools. Fun!

So with all this pondering about light, I thought a lot about the Autumn Equinox on Friday. There is something fantastic about the idea that twice yearly, the hours of day and night are equal. The notion of balance on such a massive scale is both thrilling and oddly comforting.

I am not so deeply attuned to the natural world as to actually sense this brief balance point of day and night. But I do notice at least a few of the millions of changes that are always going on around me, and I know that one season is tipping irretrievably into the next.

Adjustments have already been made, with more to come.

Morning chores now call for boots and a jacket, instead of crocs and a tanktop, and are often begun under a gloomy grey sky that seems to warn of coming rain. But by the time I'm putting up the buckets and heading back to the house, blue sky is sometimes peeking through the trees, and a beautiful morning has appeared after all -  just considerably later than it would have only a couple of weeks ago.

These days, even on clear, sunny, breezy mornings, the dew on plants and shrubs lingers til nearly noon. Unlike recent weeks when I hastened to finish weeding before 7 AM, gardening is now an afternoon activity. And my fingers are firmly crossed for all the vegetables still forming and growing.

The Poultry Palace "winter sun" is back; a little lamp timed to come on before dawn so the hens will have enough hours of light to continue laying, which some of them generally do. I am not obsessed with productivity - my hens will be well cared for as long as they live, regardless of production -  but having even one egg added to the larder per day makes a big difference in the menu here.

Only three hens in the Palace now, so four-egg days are a thing of the past. Time to add to the flock next Spring?

The goats are having their supper a couple of hours earlier now. It's far easier to shift the mums and kids into the barn for the night if they are headed up the ramp well before dark. I used to be able to get them moving when it was nearly dark by scooping up one of the kids and calling in a reassuring tone, "Don't worry, mamagoat - I've got your baby!" then walking toward the barn as quickly as possible to avoid being run down by the three goats who would immediately pursue the "kidnapper." Now, the goats are fed early and happily follow me to the barn at dusk.

I suppose I could still lift Tsuga if her life depended on it, but only because then I'd have the adrenalin working for me.

I bought three potted mums at the local nursery a few weeks ago, when they were budding. Now the abundant blossoms provide a warm glow by the back door even on rainy days.

Is it Autumn where you are? Or is Winter turning to Spring? I find the balance of seasons, like the balance of daylight, such a vast, marvelous once both awesome and reassuring. What do you think?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

joy in goat world

Driving past the goat pen this morning, I noticed Violet standing perfectly still, staring at something directly over her head.

It was a big clump of bittersweet. The stem had grown up a sapling, pulling it over and ultimately killing it. The goats had already eaten every leave they could reach, even by standing up on their hind legs, but now the remaining leaves were tantalizingly out of reach.

Sambucus became interested in her mum's project. Even though Violet is not very big on the concept of sharing, Bui remains perpetually optimistic. If Violet could manage to get the branch within reach, this might be a time when mum would actually move aside and let Bui have some of the treat.

Bui is very sweet.
Even at 5 months, she still has a lot of this in her nature:

And Violet is very determined.

There must be a way!
I happened to have my bow saw in the back of the car, so I got out and cut down the dead sapling, bringing the killer bittersweet along with it.

The scene two seconds later:

Sometimes it's just so easy to bring joy to others!

I hope you and yours are having a joyful Saturday.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Prediction #1:

There is a very high probability that these two gorgeous specimens will be the last of the homegrown, organic, pattypan squash for 2013.


Prediction #2:

There is an almost zero possibility that this will be the last of the coconut custard pies for 2013.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

in the clear

We've been having a stretch of dreadfully humid, stale weather. Like breathing through a damp sponge. Sweating standing still. Interspersed with powerful thunderstorms. For days and days.

Yesterday we got a break! With clear skies and fresh air. Even a bit of sunshine. I hastened through morning chores so Piper and I could head for the woods and the pond.

We had a glorious time! Piper was in non-stop Action Mode: running, exploring, sniffing, rolling ,and splashing. I took lots of ungrey, unfoggy, unmurky pictures.

Shall I go this way first?

Or shall I go that way?

Perhaps a beverage while I consider my options....

I'm delighted to see so many bees at work, both at home and in the open areas within the woodlands. I tried to get some pictures of the bees on the goldenrod yesterday. Piper helped by coming to heel while I fiddled with the camera, so the bees wouldn't fly off as she raced by.

Okay, here we are. Holding perfectly still. Looking at a bee.

Remind me why we're doing this?

This is why, Piper!

At one point, a bee I was photographing suddenly lifted off from the flower several feet in front of us, and flew straight to another flower right next to me. And directly over Piper's head.

Good girl, Piper! You are a pro!

We seem to be back to grey skies, humidity and looming rain today, but so far the air is refreshingly cool - perfect temperature for the heavier seasonal tasks that have been sidelined for the past week and more. This is a weekend when a lot must be done. So glad we got out for a purely entertaining wander yesterday. Piper does me the great favor of making walks in the woods a Priority Item, when I might otherwise think there are more important things to be done.

I would be wrong.
Here's hoping your weekend will be highlighted with moments of pure joy.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

oh, beans!

Yesterday I picked the first of the beans.


These are the heirloom pole beans from Sow True Seed, kindly sent to me by Tipper at Blind Pig and the Acorn as part of a planting project. I wrote about it here.

Since this was an experiment, I did 3 small plantings, in 2 locations, working around a stretch of very wet weather. First, on 31 May, I planted a short row of ten beans by goat barn. These seeds were presoaked to give them a headstart on germinating.

In only four days, the cotyledons began to appear. It was tremendously exciting! Really, does this sight ever get old?

The fragments of clean, dried eggshells are intended to deter nibbling animals like mice from marching through the garden in search of the salad bar. Apparently something took a nibble out of the one below anyway, but the plant rose above it!

All ten beans germinated, gradually, over a ten-day period. Every morning I went out and counted the beans.

Ha! I became a bean-counter.
Where's my calculator?
Where's my pocket protector? 

This picture was taken 30 June. The baling-twine trellis was an experiment. You may have noticed, most things here are experiments.

A second row of 10 presoaked beans went in along a 6' fence in a new (sunny!) garden spot.

That sun-blocking greenery on the other side of the fence became part of the goats' menu. The goats are excellent gardening helpers, as long as they are on the proper side of the fence.*

After 9 days, these bean plants began popping up piecemeal over several days, and on the 14th of June, I planted the remaining 20+ seeds along the same fence. These last seeds were not soaked first. To my astonishment, eight days later, they all came up simultaneously. One morning there was a perfect row of beans greeting the sun, where the day before there had been only a line pressed into the ground.

Note to self: skip the presoaking next year!

Another surprise was the luxuriant growth of the planting by the goat barn (you can see the roof in the background), in an area with patchy light:

...compared to the sparse growth of the planting along the fence, in an area chosen because it gets so much sun:

So I have learned a couple of things about how and where to plant my pole beans next year.

Meanwhile, into the kitchen with the first beans!

I wouldn't call them "stringless" exactly...

but I've never minded stringing beans, so maybe I'm not quite as lazy as the "lazy wife" these beans were named for!

But...had they grown too big? Would they be tough?

Steamed them whole...

to accompany a little leftover roast chicken.

Delicious beans!
Meaty, yet tender.
Lovely flavor.

In fact, it's a good thing I took a picture before I started eating - see the steam on the fork? - because otherwise it would have been too late and this would have been a picture of...just chicken.

Fingers crossed for a long, late harvest period. It would be very nice to put up a few packets of these tasty beans for midwinter treats, but it seems more likely every bean will be eaten up long before it can see the inside of a freezer or jar.

I'm already planning where to plant more next year.

Thanks, Tipper! And thanks, Sow True Seeds!

*The day I spent a couple of hours planting onion sets, one of the goats slipped into the garden as I was going out the gate. The goat was in and out of the garden in roughly 12 seconds, but she left a row of deep sharp hoofprints straight down the new row of onions. Little monkey.