Saturday, December 31, 2022


On Christmas night, I took a project off the needles. I can only knit in short sessions these days - no handknitting marathons in the foreseeable future - so this second Hansel Hap has been in the works all Autumn.

Before washing and blocking, I couldn't resist taking one picture of the hap in all it's rumpled disarray:

In case it looks slightly familiar, this is the second version of the hap I made for my Occasional Helper and his wife when they were expecting their first baby. You can probably guess why I made this one!

The wool was all ordered from Jamieson and Smith in Shetland again, and this time I bought the main color on a single cone instead of in multiple hanks or skeins. It's slightly more economical that way, plus saves a lot of splicing. Yarn on a cone still holds some of the oil used in processing, and I wondered if it would affect my tension, especially in a project combining oiled and washed yarns. I considered winding off the amount needed for the hap, making a hank, and washing it before knitting with it, but was told it shouldn't be necessary. And I actually forgot all about the oil until just before washing the hap, but then I remembered and it's a good thing, because it might have been a bit of a shock when, after an hour-long soak, the wash water looked like this:

Downright murky!
It took three rinses before the water was clear:

Then the hap was gently rolled up in a big towel and Moxie and I pressed as much water out of the yarn as possible before beginning the blocking process. Blocking a blanket is a lot of gentle stretching and flattening and pinning. 

First this side...

then that side...

then around a corner...

and around and around and around.

Until what initially seems like an acre of unmanageable stretchy wet wool

becomes an orderly four-foot square.

It's quite satisfying when done, but the blocker may need a little lie-down.


Saturday, December 24, 2022

weather report

After getting fairly well into the Winter rhythm of life,
this was yesterday morning:

As the day went on, the temperature topped 50F.
Rain. And wind.

Happily, the sun made a surprise appearance once or twice, which meant I could race outside and do a quick chore or two without getting thoroughly soaked except from the knees down.
This was a sunny time:

I took the opportunity to let the fire burn out completely so I could clean all the ashes out of the woodstove. Then I immediately laid another fire, because in the afternoon the temperature dropped at a rapid clip. The rain turned to snow and wind around 6PM, but we were fortunately spared the drama some places saw, and didn't lose power. So grateful. Without power, there is no water. Goats need a lot of water.

The forecast called for single digits last night - a 50-degree drop! - so I lit the propane heater for the first time this Winter, as back up for the woodstove.

It was 4F and clear when I started the chores today, Christmas Eve.
The first round of feeding and watering took nearly 2 hours, and I had to come in twice to dunk my aching fingers in a bowl of tepid water despite wearing crazy-thick, insulated, rubber-palmed gloves. Just a minute in tepid water and my hands were as good as new and ready to get back to work.
Water is a magical element, is all I'm saying.

Too cold to take photographs today, so here is a recent picture from my tiny wildlife area, which is extremely popular these days. This bird is demonstrating the tail-brace method woodpeckers use, which is why I attach suet feeder to scraps of board. I like my guests to be comfortable while they dine.

Speaking of guests, if you are celebrating holidays with loved ones I hope it will be wonderful. And if you are enjoying a quiet weekend, I hope you have everything you need for a perfect time, including running water and heat and snacks. And plenty of hay.

It's nearly 4, and I've got one more quick round of chores to do before dark, so I'd better pull my socks up and get moving.

Sunday, December 18, 2022



A real snowstorm yesterday.
The hay sled is back in service.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

recent marks made

 Something I've enjoyed and appreciated about twitter over the years, has been the constant stream of images from which to sketch. And the variety of subjects! Pebbles, flowers, the Northern Lights...always something.


Sunday, December 11, 2022

slowly upstairs, faster down

I had to provide my date of birth several times this week, and each time I thought,
"Oh, my birthday is next Tuesday! Maybe I should do something special."

The fact is, I already bought myself a birthday present months ago, and put it aside because it's for my *birthday* and it's a book, so not likely to spoil in the meantime.

Today I realized something: my birthday is not Tuesday.
My birthday is Monday. Tomorrow.

Time can really sneak up on a person.
I'll be a whole year older, one day sooner.

The up-side is, I can open my book tomorrow!

Saturday, December 3, 2022


A morning sky, November.

In November we had a lot of rain. The little yard in front of the big barn and all the direct paths between the paddocks became muddy. Every footstep, human or caprine, became a pocket to catch more water.

Then the freeze began. Hundreds of little muddy pockets became high-edged frozen craters; uncomfortable walking for anyone, booted or hooved. At least once each day, glancing out the window at the herd, I thought a goat was lame. Then I remembered the craters. The goats weren't lame, but they were walking the way a human might walk through a room full of lego.

Fortunately we also had some lovely days in November, cold and clear. Here is Campion, Azalea's brother, enjoying the Winter sun on his spine. And beard.

Campion's mama, Lily of the Valley, ditto:

Now we are back to warm weather, buckets of rain, and deep mud, and I've been dropping boards here and there to make little walkways. Most of my extensive collection of salvaged lumber has already been re-used in dozens of projects, so new(!) lumber has been sacrificed to provide footing in a couple of very wet spots. Moving a couple of gates to reroute "traffic" could help, but there isn't a lot of leeway in my fencing arrangement. A vet once described my tiny paddocks as "like a jigsaw" which is both humorous and accurate.

Anyway, dealing with the mud takes some time every day, and hooves need to be checked and trimmed more often than usual. Absolutely no one enjoys this, and it's hard on my back, but it's one of those things that Must Be Done, and is never finished. With 56 hooves on the place, I'm pretty pleased if I can just keep up with the constant rotation. A spreadsheet that automatically calculates the time since the last hoof trim for each goat has proven very helpful indeed.

How are things with you? Is it early Winter or early Summer? Is it mucky or parched? What are you doing to take any rough edges off life these days?


Thursday, November 24, 2022


 In the spirit of a holiday that has come to be associated with feasting,

I threw handfuls of unsalted peanuts out in the wildlife area today.

"You threw what now?"


"Found one! Wow, this thing is huge!"

"I'd better eat it right here instead of trying to carry it back to my nest."


"Huge peanuts are all well and good,
but have you seen the state of this suet feeder?"

I hope if you celebrate Thanksgiving Day it is a happy one.


Saturday, November 19, 2022

good eggs

Two youngsters examining a rip in my trousers. I felt thoroughly judged.

There are currently seven hens here. Ethel the Elder was briefly alone until I could find six baby chooks in the Spring. Two of them have already started to lay, although not consistently; there are usually two eggs - one from Ethel - in the nest boxes every day, and occasionally three. The more the merrier from a practical standpoint, since they are all being fed expensive organic layer feed. But now that the Cold Times seem to be very much here, I did not expect anyone else to start laying until Spring.

However! This morning there were the usual two eggs in a nest box, but it was quite exciting because one of them was this (candlestick not included):

Which means another hen has begun to lay!

Here's how we can tell:

The little one on the bottom is the new arrival - the hen is wisely starting small.

In other news, last night I finally got the camera battery and the charger in the same place! I can take pictures again! Tell you what, there are some unexpected glitches created by trying to clean and organize the entire house. For two days I couldn't find the charger, and when it finally revealed itself, the battery was gone. Especially baffling since there was no reason for either to be anywhere other than where they are always kept. But they weren't. Something similar has happened with my new solar motion-sensor light, my supply of sketchbooks, and my Winter clothes. That last one needs to be addressed today, as it is Winter.

I hope everyone is planning a lovely weekend! And I hope you all know where your seasonal clothing was nicely folded and put away six months ago. Because it feels pretty silly when you can't find your own clothes, I can tell you.


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

cold snaps

Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides

Snaps taken this morning, after chores.

Strawberries, flowering a week ago in our "second Spring"

I had to be quick, because the sun was almost up and the frost would soon disappear.


I put a de-icer in the wildlife basin a couple of days ago.

It's an experiment, as for the first time, the basin is thick glass.

I've put the underwater heating element between stones, not near the glass. 

Fingers crossed.


Wednesday, November 9, 2022


In the recent days of lovely weather, I've spent most of each day outdoors. Not just doing chores; also reading and eating and making notes about tasks that need doing before snowfall and ideas for next year's gardens. Moxie and I have often shared the chaise for a bit of knitting. Instead of knitting or reading or planning I could certainly have gone back into the house to continue my Autumn 2022 project of making the entire house more functional. It's a very slow process, working only an hour at a time, or two hours on a good day. I'm starting to see progress, and definitely don't want to lose momentum! But the clear air and blue sky and beautiful views have been too precious to waste. Especially as the daylight hours grow noticeably shorter.

Last night the temperate went down to at least 26F - that's where it was when I checked at about 2 AM. It had already dipped below freezing more than once recently, but this morning it was still below freezing during morning chores. Still...the sun came up and the sky was clear, and after chores I dragged a chaise into a sunny spot to enjoy breakfast.

When the sun was obscured by a conifer or the trunk of a hardwood, I felt cold and shifted the chaise to a sunny spot. The shade followed. It would only last a few minutes, but the difference between sunlit warmth and shade was an immediate chill. After some thought I did the sensible thing and went back into the house to put on wool socks and fetch my knitting.

By the time the chaise had been moved four times, I felt cold even in the sun. And when yesterday's knitting revealed a mysterious error in the very first section of stitches, an error that would require going back into the house for another set of needles, I surrendered, apologized to Moxie who had just gotten settled again, and went inside. Checked the forecast and lit the first fire in the woodstove.

It won't surprise me if the weather turns warm again, but tonight we'll have a fire.


Tuesday, November 8, 2022


Beginning of total lunar eclipse, this morning.

The next total lunar eclipse is expected on 14 March 2025.

 I wonder what kind of world we'll be living in then?



Friday, November 4, 2022

the rest of the (hap) story

Remember the Hap?

Here's where it started.

Below is a link to the rest of the story.

In case you ever wondered.

Better late than never?

I wrote a piece about it, and about knitting gifts, 

for the wonderful fiberfolk at MDK, here:

The Gift of Collaboration

I hope you like it.


100 years ago


Howard Carter's diary, 1922.

Saturday, 4 November: "First steps of tomb found."

A sketch from one of Harry Burton's photographs: 

Burton's photograph was taken on the spot where the sealed entrance doorway was uncovered on 5 November 1922. The view is looking up the 16-step staircase toward the top step recorded in Carter's diary on 4 November.

Harry Burton was the photographer solely responsible for documenting the excavation of Tutankhamun's tomb. Mind-boggling. Such an unimaginably massive and complicated undertaking. Glass plates. Lighting challenges. Photographing the interior, the tomb contents in situ, the individual objects after removal, the people doing the excavating, and visitors to the site. On and on. And Burton's work is just so good, it's easy to forget the conditions he was working under. Inspiring!
I've made a dozen or more drawings and paintings from Harry Burton's photographs, and I'm so grateful that his work is available to view at the Griffith Institute website as part of "the definitive archaeological record of Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun."

Here's a link in case you ever feel like poking around in an amazing archive: