Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas! I've been absent and I have no excuse but surges (mostly down) in my mood and unbearable heat. I swear I must have insulted the weather gods by installing air conditioning, because we have had more multiple day stretches of 35C and over before Christmas than I have experienced in 19 years in Canberra. While the a/c makes daily life a lot more pleasant, I'm still loathe to turn on the oven and I actually lose my appetite when it's that hot. Also, I try not to be greedy with my a/c and only aim at 24C (I am still arguing with the thermostat) which is really too hot for me to sleep in comfortably. I'm a sleeper who likes a chilly room and lots of blankets to burrow under, not a stuffy 24C. So I haven't been sleeping and not eating much, my right leg is giving me fits (a euphemism for pain) and I've been depressed. Oh, and the garden is nearly cooked. No berries to speak of, although I do have lemons. For Christmas day I am delighted that we are having good steady rain. Not cheery, or covered in snow like parts of the US, but needed badly. Above is my Christmas tree, each ornament has a story, and it has few lights this year because 2 of my strings had died. Since I brought them with me from the States and they weren't new then, I can't complain. I'll buy some new ones for next year. The Imp has taken to chewing on the lower branches, which I don't get, but so what else is new? The angel on top was a gift from BFLb, there are many animals (especially bears) native to both the US (squirrels, cardinals) and Australia (emus and wombats). My Christmas presents to myself were sourdough starter and a lapis lazuli square spindle. My dear MIL gave me the latest Harry Potter DVD and a seafood cook book. I have a tray of mangoes so I suspect I'll make mango jam either later today or tomorrow.
This is the skein of Optim from Conjoined Creations I've been spinning and it does feel like silk. Instead of finishing the several projects I have going, I suddenly decided to knit a mohair scarf, so a feather and fan scarf in pastels is 3/4 done. I hope to use the next week to finish off at least two of the projects languishing. But my first priority for the holiday break is sleep. I am now going back to bed with the latest Kathy Reich mystery and hope I fall asleep. Christmas dinner is going to be cheese and smoked salmon on crackers, cherries and mangoes, and pavlova for dessert.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Today you get ruminations of my mind from the past few weeks. I went through a spell of severe depression that lasted a little less than a week. I cannot discern a reason but as one person put it, when the things you enjoy doing no longer give you joy, you know you're depressed. There seems no way out, you are at the bottom of a deep hole and only want someone to fill it in and leave you. I cannot deny that I still grieve for the Bear every single day. The emptiness he left in my heart still hurts. But this was a more generalized black spell when nothing felt right, I hated my job and my life and nothing seemed to be worth waiting for.

Now I feel really good and am revelling in summer in Can
berra (no, I don't like 36C but I have a/c now!), watching parrots destroy silky oaks (see right) which are in full bloom at the moment, eating beautiful cherries which are the signature fruit of December, enjoying clear dry days and cool nights. I've managed two full active days and one day of rest for my weekend, so that this week should not be a repeat of the disaster of last. I will promise to remember to take my meds every night and not be knocked out like I was on Thursday (on a day when all power was cut off due to electricity pole replacement). I spent time on Saturday tidying up the berries, which are not doing very well this year because on my neighbour's overhanging shrubbery, predation by possums, and the erratic weather. My tomatoes are doing well and the peas are done. I'll eat the last of them tonight.

I have finished the bag of long brown alpaca. That leaves one full of brown and one of white, and half a bag of black. I will be carding more white soon so I can spin it. I knit for 3 hours last night on the silk shell which I suppose makes some progress although it's hard to tell without measuring. The marker went past my fingers several times so I know the roswe of 220 stitches were going by. Tonight is the season finale of "Glee" (sob!) so it's back to DVDs and Foxtel. I have finally found a mate to go to the movies with on a regular basis and we've seen two movies ("Time Traveler's Wife" and "9") in the past fortnight. Her tastes match mine and she has a flexible schedule. If the price of growing old is getting into the movies cheap I am happy to declare my age! For the benefit of my opinion "The Time Traveler's Wife" was a very literal version of the story told in a linear fashion, without any of the personality shown in the novel. While I love seeing Eric Bana nude, read the book. "9" was another wonderful Tim Burton animated gem that was so much fun to watch and I was just marveling at how one determines camera angles for animation.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I have been going through a very bad patch of not sleeping and therefore feeling like crap the next day, and not sleeping again in a constant cycle. During this time my white noise machine died as well, but I have been making do with a fan. Apparently the only source for them in Australia is to make babies sleep, so that's where I have ordered my replacement. I finally slept through the night (mostly) night before last and finally feel halfway human again. I also managed to forget my meds one night in there but, unlike most other occasions, I could not sleep the next day to make up for some of the horrid withdrawal feelings. I don't know how people cope with FMS without drugs. Either they have much milder cases than I do, they don't work, or the are very stoic. I get to a point where I lie in one position for X minutes and then the pain of lying like that wakes me up, I turn over and sleep another X minutes, repeat ad nauseum. That's when I sleep at all and am not up at 2.30AM drinking sherry and trying to bore myself to death reading about 17th century Virginia.

There are two new books in the house that have once again inspired me to do things I don't have time for. One is Woven Shibori by Catherine Ellis. I had seen photos of the results but I couldn't imagine what "woven shibori" actually meant. I am a big fan of shibori as I have ranted in earlier posts, culminating in my purchase of a vintage shibori-decorated kimono several years ago. Because I am afraid the Imp might try climbing it, it is not on display but hidden away in a wardrobe (pity). Woven shibori means you weave the strings you will pull to make the shibori pattern into the cloth rather than gathering the cloth up with stitches afterwards. Obvious some shibori patterns are impossible to do this way, but the results in the book are mindblowing and I look forward to the day when I can try some out.

The second book is Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont (of Abby's yarns, link to the right). I wish I had had this book when I was learning to spindle spin. It explains so much and inspires so much. I love my Roberta electric spinner but I love spindle spinning too. I happen to favour Bosworth spindles, but in my first blush of love affairs with spindles I bought quite a few I really don't use. I have just commited to buy a lapis lazuli square spindle from Butterflygirl because it was beautiful. Before I could even click on it to buy it, somebody else bought it. Fortunately she was able to make a twin. I've never used a bottom whorl spindle; I like swan neck hooks, and I prefer a notch. There are some spindle makers who simply refused my requests for those last 2 features and I don't buy spindles from them. I am spinning camel down at work on a Bosworth mini; camel down is so short I can't imagine having enough control on a flyer-driven wheel.

For light reading I've finished Alan Steele's first two Coyote novels and am about to start Coyote Frontier.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

When I was growing up, my mother had a darkroom in the basement. She had several impressive cameras and was always taking pictures. The photo on my blog ID is hers because I was a very cute toddler. She shot a lot of black and white and slides too. When she died (1981) and my sister and I went through her things, we found slides but not a single black & white negative. I don't have any idea what happened to them; mildew in Florida can destroy a lot. I have a couple of prints that were mounted for entry into photo shows, and framed them to remind me. Her Kodachrome slides are just as good as they were when she shot them, some of them now older than I am. I recently acquired a slide scanner to digitize some of the hundreds of slides I have and the photo above was one of hers. What prompted me to finally get a slide scanner (aside from the price coming down) was finding a huge box of the Bear's slides, some of which supposedly go back to the 60's. The other thing is that my mother's hobby became mine in the late 70's & 80's (before my eyes got bad). I had a darkroom in the spare bathroom and printed and sold a fair number of photos. I remember going to the "serious" photography store in Ohio and X2 saying the chemical smell was awful, but to me it just reminded me of my mother and having prints drying next to the washing machine.
This is one of my photos and I should have scanned it sideways and rotated it. I shot mostly landscapes and wildflowers and my "signature" shot was the vertical slice of landscape. This was taken near Lexington, VA, and of course both slides lose something in the scanning process. Full professional scanning of hundreds of slides is beyond my budget and I'd be happy just to have access to some slides that make me happy as well as seeing what the Bear was taking pictures of before I knew him.

If the story was the weather last week, well, it's the weather again. We had an abrupt turn resulting in very cool days and nights and lots of clouds with occasional rain. My poor garden won't know what season it's in. The cool weather veggies like asparagus and peas loved it but the cucumbers look a bit bewildered. I even had to turn the heat on last night as it was 12C and one small cat is not sufficient heating.

I've been finishing off a bunch of spinning projects to free up bobbins. I bought this lovely roving, which is merino, bamboo and nylon from Fat Cat Knits, colourway called Duck pond. So I plied and wound off camel down spindle-spun, silk (the last of the spindle spun) and plied the lovely Conjoined Creations Optim. I am almost (and I mean it this time) done with the bag of brown alpaca. Another night or two flick-carding and it will be done. Then I'll drumcard some more white so I can spin enough to ply with the full bobbin already done. I've been plugging away at socks in the meantime.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I know I need more sock yarn like the proverbial hole but I spotted this on Etsy and couldn't resist. It's hand dyed superwash Blue-faced Liecester, which is one of my favourite wools. From Stash Up Yarns, thank you very much. Meanwhile I am knitting away at some wool/cotton blend socks from Bendigo Woollen Mills. They don't advertise that they sell sock yarn, so you have to hope they have it when you're there. I am also knitting the sleeveless shell out of silk/rayon blend. It's knit in the round in plain stockinette and is rather boring.

The real story here has been the weather and I am soooo glad I got air con installed. Friday we reached 39C (according to my weather station), which is somewhere over 100F. It's gotten somewhat cooler (only 32C today) but the weather gods can't decide whether to give us a thunderstorm or sun. I have gotten all my plants in the ground bar some rhubarb seedlings and mulched everything to keep them cool, damp and snail-free. I won't have any pumpkins this year because they kept disappearing and I gave up. Why rhubarb seedlings when I planted 2 rhubarb roots this spring? They weren't red! This is the second time I've planted rhubarb only to get the variety that isn't red. It tastes the same but it just isn't real rhubarb to me if it isn't red. I picked all the peas off the first planting of peas (Early Crop Massey) and had a feast last night--they were so sweet and tender. The second crop was Dwarf Blue Bantam and they didn't come up so I replanted some of the Early Crop but they are struggling in the heat. The third crop was Tendergreen and they are doing well and filling out their pods now. The asparagus has stopped for the most part. Beans doing well and I must stake the tomatoes. I will have to plant lima beans somewhere when there's room from the peas. My citrus has set fruit but I don't know yet what's what. One of the great vigorous branches it produced turned out to be from the root stock and not the grafted bits, so it got pruned off. I have pots of geraniums and portulaca and hanging baskets of nasturtiums on the back deck. Aside from lots of pruning and weeding and judiciously watering or praying for rain, it's now up to the plants to perform and produce.

Yesterday I got my new awnings installed and they look spiffy. Instead of white with green stripes (or rather grunge with green stripes), I have green with tan and brown stripes. and the side I see from inside is solid green and completely blocks the sun. The funniest bit was the reaction of the Imp when the installer took down the awning of the window she was sitting it. She nearly exploded trying to get away. Since I got an unexpected $900 dental bill (I knew I was going to get a bill but not that much) I may postpone replacing the brush screens at the front till next year.

Today is the anniversary of the shooting of JFK and probably the day a lot of kids my age suddenly entered the adult world. Killing the President of the US is such a cowardly and obscene act and I can remember that day vividly. The principal of my high school told us the news over the PA (I was in Latin class) and that was the first time I ever went to a Catholic church. I think it was Sue who took me with her to pray and light a candle. I was so shell-shocked and that day and the following ones are etched in my memory. I watched a movie last night that J gave me for my birthday because it is a musical using Beatles songs, Across the Universe. The movie clearly showed what the end of the '60's was like for kids of my age, altho J is of a different generation. It showed the hippie life, psychedelia (loved Bono as Dr Robert) and the anti-war protests, culminating in the general university strike of 1970. So much changed in American culture in that decade that many younger people take for granted today, from political activism to feminism to tie-dyed T shirts. I felt truly alive and like I was growing in every way then; we thought we were creating a revolution and I suppose in some ways we did. However, I am not the only person in my age bracket who looks at their present life with a feeling of disappointment. Sort of "Is this all there is?" after a lifetime of work. We thought the future would be different, and it is and it isn't.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I promised studio photos when I cleaned up the studio. That doesn't seem to be high on the list these days and I feel like I owe my loyal readers (whoever you are) promised content. So, at left is part of the right wall. Out of view further right are bags of alpaca, more of Robin's fleece, and a wardrobe with miscellaneous other textile stuff such as dyes, quilt fabric and a half done quilt, my sewing basket, an unwashed fleece, etc. The bookcase houses all of my craft books, and behind the doors at the bottom, boxes of magazines. I've dropped all my subscriptions except Interweave knits and Handwoven. I seriously have enough patterns and ideas. The two white bookcases have my coned yarn (weaving) stash. Most of it mill ends since shipping fibre from the states costs the earth. The black thing with the red patch is an apron from the ANU School of Art, and the white thing is the Bear's old lab coat. Between the bookcases covered with a plaid cloth is my inkle loom, which I have also neglected. It has a second warp of my hand spun and dyed English Leicester which I intend to make a tote style bag out of. In the blue plastic bag in front of the back bookcases is clean brown alpaca. Beyond the bookcases is my spinning stash (5 plastic boxes).

Turning left and taken from the opposite end of the room are my two looms. They are on a cheap door bought at the hardware store for $20, which is supported by the Bear's school desk and a filing cabinet. I was thinking I'd have room for my sewing machine but that was before the 16-shaft arrived. The 4 shaft is closest to the camera and has my sad tea towel on it. I haven't warped the other one yet, but a tea towel I bought from Laura Fry is draped over the breast beam to taunt me. Since they each cost a whopping $200, I don't feel as guilty as if they were expensive and neglected looms.

It's unfortunate that I get spurts of energy and ideas when I don't have the time to do anything with them. Plus the old fibro thing makes me so tired all the time that, given the choice, I usually take a nap instead of doing something interesting. That or do chores around the house. Today it will be ironing. When I retire and can wear T-shirts eery day instead of trying to look halfway presentable at work there will be no ironing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Life is boring. At least most of the time. I do the same things over and over and sometimes am at a loss for content here. I get up and go to work (boring), come home either directly or via some other route (shopping, dentist, etc.), cook my dinner, watch TV while knitting or spinning or carding alpaca. Repeat. Now that I've got all my veggies planted, it's wait and watch them grow. We're in a patch of heat that is beastly late in the day. My rejuvenated weather station tells me it's been over 30C every day this week. I keep the house closed up and the drapes closed all day and turn on the a/c when I got home, just until the sun goes down and then open the house up again. One of the unfortunate features of the house is that it is surrounded on the north side by paving, plus a large area in the back (east). When all that surface gets heated up, it radiates heat back at the house for some time.

I've got all my plants in, the last being pumpkins (butternut). My yellow squash plants, loving raised from seed, have simply disappeared. Even left a hole behind. I planted some new seed but I may have to live without yellow crookneck this year. Aussies don't know them. My peas, the first planting at least, have pods. The second planting is blooming, and I'm running out of stakes for the third planting. I'm eating lots of asparagus. I should have some strawberries soon if I beat the snails to them. The bramble berry plants are in bloom, and my back fence neighbours have promised to cut their shrubs back, but not till December. My citrus is a fountain of scent and is surging with new growth.

Book report: Rebels of Babylon by Owen Parry, one of his Abel Jones Civil War mysteries. This one takes place in New Orleans where Mr Jones's nose is constantly out of joint about the laxness of the Union forces, the decadence of the natives, the plight of slaves, and practically everything else about New Orleans. But then, that city wouldn't be comfortable for our righteous Methodist Welshman in the best of times, much less during the Union blockade. I started reading these novels because the Bear did, and this one was left over after the big book clear out, since I hadn't read it. I enjoy them even if Abel's pious manner can be tiring. I know I need new reading matter like the proverbial hole in the cranium, but I had a gift voucher for Borders, so I got the new Janet Evanovich, Michael Connelly, and Kathy Reichs.

My MIL sent me a clipping of Maggie Alderson's column from the SMH about tails, as in cats' tails and their expressiveness, and her own desire for a tail. I also have thought that a tail would be a wonderful method of expressing one's emotions, altho the logistics of sitting on one always bothers me. If you follow the anatomy of a cat, you'd be OK. The Imp gets into moods when she gets what I call the "windscreen wiper mode" when the tail lashes back and forth with great emphasis. Since I don't know what's going on in that brain I don't know why these spells occur or what she is trying to express. Since they can come on when she's doing nothing but standing on the basin in the ensuite, having demanded a drink straight from the tap, I remain mystified. She is getting more vocal but I can't decode "Mao!"

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I must do penance today. I mowed the lawn yesterday after a 3 week hiatus. All the rain we've gotten had made it look more like a hay field. Once I finally got the knack of starting the mower, mowing was a Herculean task. I could do one pass through the lawn and have to stop and clear grass (or more commonly clover) out from under the machine since it just couldn't push the lush growth out of the blade area. So I man-handled (I ain't no man) the mower into places where I could restart it and restarted it about 15 times. Got lots of clover for mulch. But today my back is telling me I should not have done that in one go, but really needed to do it in stages. I know one of my many flaws is being pig-headed about these things. After all these years of living in pain, it still sometimes comes as a surprise to wake up and be sore all over. Just like I used to be surprised ever month I got my period. Duh.

I also disregarded my pledge about not using the air con unless it was beastly. 86F or 28C is not really beastly in my standards, but I was so hot from my exertions that I turned it on. It felt so good especially when I had to follow my shower by blow-drying my hair. In the future there will be smart climate controls that will only heat or cool the room you are in, instead of cooling the whole house so I could turn a hair dryer on myself.

Finally, I have been neglecting the Imp. All that alpaca has resulted in no lap for many nights in a row and she's needy. Also warm nights mean no blankets to burrow under. My MIL says she's got me wrapped around her little finger (paw?) but I know she's a powderpuff under that gun metal grey exterior and she needs attention.

So it's a cool holiday morning, and I'll take a pill for pain and go back to bed. We had a late thunderstorm last night that dumped enough rain to overflow the gutters again so the yard will be soggy (that's my story and I'm sticking to it). Of course there are a million other chores I could do but most would make my back hurt even more.

Another thing I am pondering: The Happiness Project. As one of the suggestions is getting anough sleep, I cannot agree more. I am always tired and never get "enough" (whatever that is) sleep. I am still grieving but trying not to hang on to the Bear to the point of morbid obsession. I just miss him and 58 was still too early to die. Working on the things that get in the way of happiness would be a noble goal although a cure for fibromyalgia would help.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


I have been blessed with over abundance. I have started writing this entry at 1AM because I can't sleep. Being tired does not always lead to sleeping. Today I was patting myself on the back as I went to put the next to last (ha) of clean brown alpaca with its similar lot in the studio. While there, I decided to address the problem of garbage bags of alpaca springing "unexplained" holes by re-bagging them. It was then I discovered that, in addition to another bag of white, which I had expected, I had another bag and a half of brown and only half a bag of black. Alpaca has a true black unlike most wools aside from shetland, so I don't mind the relatively short staple length of the black. But all this very filthy brown! A lot more prep work on it before it's usable. This lot at least (the half bag) is long lustorous locks, with shine and a length of 4-5". I have dealt of this type of alpaca before and I haven't come to grips with carding it. It's either spin from the lock (a recipe for uneven results) or carding thru the drum carder but having to cut the longest locks. If any one would like some truly filthy brown alpaca to try their finishing techniques on, please leave me a comment. I haven't felt like knitting but I finished the brown/beige Regia cotton/wool blend socks. Started spinning a lovely hand-dyed hank of Optim from Conjoined Creations in jewel tones. Feels very much like silk and don't know how it will ply.

Other chores accomplished today included cleaning out the gutters along the driveway of tea-tree debris, which breaks down rapidly to sprout weeds, spreading snail bait to protect seedlings, cutting asparagus, going to the supermarket, fixing the remote sensor for my indoor/outdoor weather station (no mean feat), rejoicing in the return of my ill lawn mower to I can now cut the meadow which has sprouted in the back. I now have more seedlings to plant and lawn to mow. The tomatoes are doing well and the early peas are blooming and all the beans have sprouted. I have cukes and pumpkins to plant and maybe more tomatoes, altho there are 8 already, mostly not red ones but orange, black and Green Zebra (my fabourite flavour wise). There's always weeding and mulch and fertiliser. This time of year I'm flat out.

Due to giving us Melbourne Cup day off and taking Monday as leave, I have a large window to get sll this done, despite temperatures predicted for 30C and late thunderstorms. It threatened that today causing me to rush out and take in the laundry but then no precipittion followed the thunder.

I went to the movies earlier in the week and have been listening to the audio-book for The Time Traveler's Wife, in anticipation of seeing it. Altho I am pleased to see Eric Bana as the male lead, I am dubious about the transition from printed to film. The two characters have very amusing internal voices and the whimsy of that cannnot be translated easily to film. I gave up on the sci fi I was reading as it had too much physics in it and trying to follow it (whether it was real physics or make believe) msde my head hurt. Instead I am reading Owen Parry's Rebels of Babylon. I've read quite a few of his but have missed a couple. Another plug for Better World Books, since I picked up a novel that turned out to be the 3rd in a trilogy and Better World had just what I needed, and a sale of 3 books for $15. All recycled library books which I like because it's sometimes hard to hold dense paperbacks.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

This is a catch-up post just to clear my mental decks of bits and pieces. I have almost finished the bag of brown alpaca, at least the flick-carding part of it. I have given myself a few little cuts from errant passes with the carder and they of course instantly got dirty. They are not healing well, although this morning they look a bit better. I didn't card last night but knit socks. No doubt The Imp was glad to have my lap back. I think one more evening of carding and the alpaca will be done. I've found how to fix the carder (I think) so I can start carding white to spin.

I've had a bricklayer in yesterday to patch the holes outside and in. The Imp was beside herse
lf with curiosity with what was going on behind closed doors. He was not the tidiest of men (is there one that is?) and I had a major job of cleaning up bits of mortar left everywhere. It's a good thing the rug in the lounge room is not important.

I've got a quote and put in the order for new awnings out the front. I ordered a canvas cover in green with beige and brick stripes. It
cost over four times what it cost the last time to recover the awnings. I wasn't expecting that. I have a quote on replacing the brush fence screen at the front of the house. I like the screen as it gives the front some privacy. Once it's done I can clean out the hole that is supposed to be a fish pond and maybe even get it functioning. That will be the end of my renovations for now. I've spent more money than I anticipated but the exterior will be done except a bit of painting and oil sealing the deck.

We've had lovely warm and spring-like weather and I have all my vegie plants ready to go. I hope I can get them in the ground this weekend. I don't think we will have another frost even if the "official" safe date for planting tender crops out is Melbourne Cup day (1st Tues in November), as Memorial Day was in Ohio. My seedlings of cukes and melons are ready to go as well. I'm missing the heirloom tomatoes, and I especially like "Green Zebra". I stil
l have far too many tomatoes. The citrus is in full and fragrant bloom. The junior plums are covered in fruit. I have one iris in bloom but there are lots in the neighbourhood. I'm tempted to leave notes in the letter boxes of the homes of the best iris and ask for extra rhizomes the next time they divide them.

I had lunch with old friend J (I have a LOT of J's in my life, but I don't want to add names) at Old Parliament House yesterday. It was such a lovely day that we ate outside. They have a
dded a little gourmet kitchen shop with locally produced olives and over-priced eggs. They also had waratahs in red and white and I couldn't resist. They are so spectacular. In the gift shop for OPH I got kookaburra and emu Christmas tree ornaments to add to the menagerie on my tree.

Some of you who are my closest of friends and who read this blog may have been aware that, after my trip to the states last year, I was thinking of retiring back there to be near X2 and the other folks I miss. Due to a large number of things, including the parlous state of the US health system and my complicated medical conditions, I have abandoned that idea. I know what's what here. I still love Australia, while I miss many people and things American. I can only hope my various pensions leave me enough room to take a trip over there periodically. And please, you in the states, you are more than welcome to visit here. The plane trip is not that horrible and the end result is surely worth it to see this astonishing country, if not just me.

Book reports: I have finished both Out of Mao's Shadow and The Age of Homespun. They were both extremely interesting books that expanded my mind considerably and I recommend to anyone. Continuing in my China theme I have started Lost Daughters of China as my BBBB. I am halfway through Janet Evanovich's Fearless Fourteen and Stephanie is certainly fearless as always. As usual the plot is bizarre and the action never stops, nor do the laughs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What appears at left is not just a skein of handspun wool, but a very carefully designed skein of sock wool. Wool and nylon blend, tightly spun and plied. Looks damn fine if I do say so myself. I wish I had more of this wool to spin in decent colors. Whatever possessed me to pick out yellow and peach is a mystery. I got it at Bendigo several year ago and haven't a clue as to which vendor.

No knitting to report on as I have been working through the bag of brown alpaca (which annoys the Imp because it means I have no lap) and can see the end in sight. I was trapped in my studio on Friday as I had air conditioning installers taking over the house and cutting off the power. I was going to card alpaca but discovered the drums on the drum carder had bedome misaligned somewhere along the line and I couldn't figure out how to align them. Ashford's helpful staff in Cooma told me to go online and look at their website, which I couldn't do without power to the wireless router. So I was forced TO WEAVE, and weave I did, a whole 4 cm. But it is weaving and it looks so nice and listening the "loom music" of shafts and beater was a joy. I hope I don't have to wait for similar circumstances before I get back at it.

I am totally out of commission as far as doing anything productive today. The installation of the a/c revealed a hole in the outside of the house where the old furnace was. I need to find a bricklayer but I also wanted to assemble bricks for him to use and I know I had bricks. So I spent Saturday accumulating bricks from various palces around the house, which also involved cutting/pulling the vinca next to the main shed where I knew there was a pile of bricks. At the end of this exercise I was knackered. Sunday I managed to stagger to the markets for supplies. By luck or because I was too weak, I couldn't start the lawnmower so that chore remains (as does the ankle high green patch in the back yard). I did just manage to plant 3 rows of beans (Romano, Tendercrop and Gourmet's delight) before collapsing.Today my feet and hands and very sore and I am still very tired. A day of rest is called for. My peas are now all up and need some supports. I had asparagus for dinner last night and the rhunarb roots I planted are already sending up leaves. Since the rest of the week's weather forecast is for a daily increase in temeratures to end at 28C I may be ready to plant tomatoes etc. soon.

I'm reading Out of Mao's Shadow by Philip Pan which is fascinating and bizarre. Watching the Communist party deny things that everyone could see and forbid people from talking about what everyone knew is so alien to what we in the west take for granted. Now that they are battling the Internet, it's a now world that they don't seem able to conquer.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I am hoping Blogger will let me post some photos without losing them, which it often does. At left is my new front porch which replaced a very bizarre structure left by the previous owners. It had two levels, with a half-a**ed pergola overhead, was made with the wrong sort of wood, constructed poorly, and the steps were merely piles of bricks. The new porch has a handrail and only two steps and is all at one level so it makes getting large things in and out a bit easier. I was ashamed of the old one when the occupational assessment team came to the house post surgery; the bricks and no handrail were an accident waiting to happen. My back steps have also been replaced. And there is much sun because I am standing where my monster "pencil pine" or tall narrow juniper used to be. It was beginning to heave the pavers and causing a trip hazard. There is a pile of woodchips where it was. When I shift the chips to the front and assess the hole, I want to plant a deciduous shade tree (not too big) because the left window is the living room and it faces west without the shield that my street tree gives the rest of the house.

Next at right is a heap of clean brown alpaca that I washed
last night. I spent about 4 TV nights sorting out the nasty

bits and flick cardings the ends of the most promising locks. It's much shorter than the white, rarely getting over 2" in length. I have also been spinning the rest of the white batts I had made and filled up another bobbin. I have lots of white to card, and now brown as well. The brown was just as filthy as the white was; the first wash water was the same colour as the fibre. There is another 3/4 of a trashbag full to go.And lastly but never least is The Imp. She spends most evenings on my lap while I watch TV and has never interfered with fibre tasks. If I leave the comfort of my recliner and therefore remove her, this is what I am shown when I return. And do not think she wants her belly rubbed. She most adamantly does not and I have to wrestle her out of the chair so I can reclaim it.

I have spent my weekend ironing, shopping, gardening, sleeping, and yesterday suddenly was struck by a desire to work on my 4 shaft loom. I had to rethread it once more and sley the reed at the same time, but it didn't terrify me the way it used to. The studio is still a mess so no photos of that yet. My little furry assistant helped out by knocking most of what was on the table between the looms on the floor.

I mentioned before my love affair with rock. I have been watching a BBC series called "The Seven Ages of Rock" and I cannot get my head around what they are talking about. I know the Brits have a completely different view of rock than Americans do, and naturally the Brits claimed they invented it. The first show was the birth of rock and supposedly covered 1965-1969. According to this show The Who were the first real rock band, there were no American bands mentioned except for the black blues artists who influenced bands like the Stones. There was not even a passing mention of that band from Liverpool known as the Beatles. The second show was about art rock which supposedly included psychedelia altho drugs are hardly mentioned in either show. The bands covered were Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Velvet Underground, Roxy Music and early Genesis. That's it. When talking about the idea of concept albums or music being dramatic, nobody seems to remember Tommy by the previously mentioned band The Who and I distinctly remember the furor it sparked in the early 1970's. What about Sgt. Pepper? I don't know if I want to watch the rest of this series altho there are some wonderful interviews. Watching Jack Bruce describe how he came up for the opening riff for "Sunshine of your love" was worth the pain, also to find out that Ginger Baker is still alive.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A long weekend (Labor Day) and I didn't manage to post. My headaches seem to have passed, so it was probably only a minor concussion which has no care but taking Panadol. I was very tired on Saturday, did a lot on Sunday and paid for it on Monday. I am still very tired and have not slept well in ages. I'm back to the old rotisserie nights when I sleep on one side till it hurts and wakes me up, and I change position until the other side hurts, repeat ad nauseum. I was on my feet a lot on Sunday doing the weekly shopping plus a trip to the local garden centre. I got 2 early tomatoes, just because they might be all gone when I do my major garden purchase. I got lots of peat pellets into which I planted all my tender pumpkins, melons and squashes, those that I must raise from seed because they aren't available from commercial sources, such as yellow crookneck summer squash, fancy melons, etc. Altho I am not sure why I plant fancy melons because I rarely get any results. We have had rain off and on for almost a week which is very unusual, and I hope it means the summer won't be bone dry. I've bit a very large bullet and am installing ducted reverse cycle heating & cooling (a heat pump to the Americans). This is mostly because I am not sure that the furnace has another year in it, and I would really like to be able to function when we have days of 45C. In the past it meant I laid around and perspired, but I could actually continue normal activities with a/c. Plus it adds to the value of the house. Right now it's supposed to be mid spring and we are due for a frost tomorrow, so who knows what the summer will bring.

One of the things Aussies usually have to contend with in spring is swooping magpies, who are only protecting their nests. I have never been swooped and I have lots of maggies in my garden but they also come and help me garden. I'll be weeding away and look up and there's a magpie standing 6 feet away waiting for me to uncover something edible. I had to almost shoo him out of the way of the lawn mower last week (much rain equals much growth of greenery). I also noticed that the possums have eaten almost all the leaves off my climbing rose (Cecile Brunner). I don't think there will be any lasting damage but there are several small birds (wrens, silvereyes) that would like to nest in the protected depth of a rose bush and are now left in a glass house.

I did manage to take 2 computers to recycle and then had a grieving spell for another part of the Bear which has left the building. How can I feel emotional attachment to a computer? Because he lived in front of that computer for years. It had gotten so unstable that I had to delete files en masse becuase Windows crashed so frequently. I don't think anything extremely personal or work related was left and, having seen the mountains of computers at the recyclers, I don't think anybody has the time to revive a hard drive. I forgot there was an extra drive on the system and found a lot of the stuff I wanted to save there. But it took days to do all of this.

Work has been incredibly boring lately and there are many days I just want to take a nap during the day. All I am doing is catalogue the dregs of a private collection (and I do mean dregs) and do authority work. I have been changing subject headings for "handicapped" to "disabled" for weeks. There are so many different headings and so many with subdivisions that it's never ending. Yes, there is a global way of doing this but I don't have access to the software, and those that do are too busy with more important things. I used to say proudly that I love my job but not so much lately. I am also being moved to a (potentially) much noisier location without my consent or even being informed which annoys me. My boss usually keeps me in the loop but not this time.

Knitting has taken a back seat to spinning. I've plied the sock wool, and am spinning the batts of alpaca I had carded. There is so much left to wash and card that the mind reels. I'm going to have to devote evenings to picking over alpaca to wash or I will nevet get it out of plastic bags and turned into something usable. I keep finding things I could weave if I had the time which is also annoying, and another reason for wanting a/c.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The damage to my car has been repaired and I have my darling back, but ever since that seemingly minor bingle (a minor accident, one of my favourite Aussie terms), I've been getting headaches. Nothing blinding, no signs of anything wrong in my back or neck. I am seeing my GP this week so I'll ask if there is any test I need. Maybe just a very mild concussion but it takes the edge off my view of the world.

The weather here has been bizarre. We've gone from highs of 24C to a high of about 8C yesterday, gale force winds, rain, dust storms (we made US national news I hear), and snow in the mountains. Poor Floriade must have their blooms a bit tattered. My apple trees and pear tree were getting ready to bloom but I don't know that they will pop until it get warmer. It's kept me out of the garden even tho the lawn needs mowing badly. My peas are up and I am enjoying asparagus.

I was hoping to get in the studio during the enforced indoor spell but instead I have been wrestling with the Big computer to get stuff off it so I can take it to recycle this week. Since it crashes every time I do anything, this takes a while. I've also spent time shredding 15 year old bank statements and other such antique documents. I'll have lots of mulch for the garden when I'm done, but these activities took most of yesterday.

I have been spinning Robin's wool and have a bobbin full. Time to ply my blue sock wool. I have knitted one round of the fair isle vest. I got the Dover reprint of Alice Starmore's Fair Isle knitting book which gave me some ideas about what to do about steeks espicially for armholes. I've done about half the top of one of the new socks.

Music is very important to me and I am firmly still age 18 when it come to most of the music I like. X2 and I were moaning about having to buy all the Beatles albums for the third time (vinyl, 1st gen CD and now remastered). We also were enjoying Cheap Trick's live performance of Sgt Pepper. A very satisfying product, considering it has never been performed live in its full form. My tastes lay mainly in power pop and what apparently is called emo because it expresses feelings. My iPod is full of bands like the Honeydogs and Five for Fighting but I'm a big fan of Eskimo Joe and Coldplay as well. I got out the Bear's big Altec Lansing sound cancelling headphones and spent yesterday listing to music while I shredded. I am bemused when iTunes classes some of my music as pop, some as rock, and some as alternative and I don't think there's that much difference in style. It's not like I was listening to Mariah Carey or Metallica. I'm always looking for indie bands and Notlame and CDbaby are favourite hunting grounds.

The Age of Homespun is not what I was expecting. It is a response to a speech, given much after the colonial and Revolutionary days, that romanticized the days when women did spinning and weaving to clothe their families. Her method is to take an exhibit of early New England artifacts and analyze both the object and its construction and its place in the social and economic life of the people who created them. For example, an Indian made purse with porcupine quill decoration leads to a discussion of the level of skill not only of the creator of the item but of the Native Americans the new settlers came in contact with, and a discussion of how the two groups interacted on many levels. There are lots of quotations from diaries showing, for example, how women would spin or weave for each other, would buy commercially prepared (imported) cloth for their Sunday best but also wove acres of homespun for domestic use. A father left his land to his sons but his movable property to his daughters and was careful that each daughter had both linen tablecloths as well as more mundane textiles. This is a scholarly work with much research evident behind the text, but it makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in textiles.

On the light side of reading I have been going through S,M, Stirling's alternative history trilogy that begins with Island in the Sea of Time.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I was out exploring the shrubbery in the front yard and discovered that our flowering peach was in bloom. Most of the time it looks nearly dead but then it surprises me with blooms. It never should have been planted under the towering street tree, but I'm thankful it's alive and still produces blooms. The flowering quince is also in bloom; there is a red one planted way too close to the letter box and various self seeded salmon-coloured ones around the rest of the front. The juniper is gone completely now, leaving me with a pile of wood chips to move. Then I'll find out how big a hole I've got to work with. I will need a deciduous shade tree there to protect the living room windows from afternoon summer sun. I may get a new awning to match the others over the other west-facing windows. The fabric on them is probably 12 or so years old and has gotten grubby. Note: do not buy awning fabric that is chiefly white. It won't stay white. Next time it's green with white stripes instead of the reverse.

The week started off with me being hit from behind in the stop-and-go which is Parkes Way on a commuting morning. I lost the light over my number plate (license plate) abd I couldn't tell what happened underneath. So Friday I turned my dear red car over to the insurance people and am driving a rental Yaris which I loathe. For one thing, there's no place to put my left foot. It's an automatic and the supposed place for a left foot must hve been designed for a pixie so it forces my ankle into an uncomfortable position. It also doesn't like going up hills and I have a rather high one between me and the city. This should only last a week (please).

Having picked up said rental car, I went over the the ANU to get my latest addition: a 16-shaft table loom which cost me all of $200. It seems that they are upgrading their looms and selling off the old ones. Once I cleared off the door (table top) in the studio, there is barely room for the 2 table looms. Once I get rid of or stow the remaining junk, I'll post a picture. I've brought the spinning stash in from the deck and moved an old bookcase from the computer room to house coned yarn. Seeing it there makes me want to weave instantly, but of course, the garden has first priority at this time of year. I'm cutting asparagus and weeding mostly. Something has been eating my heirloom strawberries and I don't know who.

On the knitting front, I've swatched and am ready to cast on a simple shell in Ella Rae silk & viscose which is a lovely dusty rose colour. I finally got the right size needles out (altho I worry that they won't be long enough for the task) and cast on the fair-isle vest. Having finished a pair of socks for me I cast on another pair, also Regia cotton/wool blend this in the cream to light brown range.

It struck me this morning that I have been living by myself for over two years, which is longer than I ever have before. I've learned to get things done even tho not to the standard I used to have when the Bear took on some of the more labour-intensive tasks, like mowing the lawn and grocery shopping. I'm preparing to recycle the Big Computer that was his plaything leaving me with just the Macbook. I've made two major purchases now on my own, a new car and a new computer. If I can maintain strength and energy, I can continue to live like this life. Two years ago I felt completely helpless. It's now my junk that clutters the table and my dirty clothes I must wash. It's a miracle to me I'm still alive. Don't think I'm not grieving because I see him everywhere.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I can't remember whether in other years I noted the arrival in spring of the pallid cuckoo to our neighbourhood. I only know it because of its very distinctive call; I don't know that I've every seen one but they are very nondescript bird anyway. Spring is upon us in a rush. All the plum trees are in bloom and I had to mow the lawn (flat area of weeds) yesterday. The big juniper at the front door was cut down this week and I await the stump grinder before I can seriously tackle refurbishing the front. I have asparagus coming up and the citrus is looking like it's ready to come out of hibernation. The down side of all this is that after throwing myself into garden cleanup up I get totally wiped out. Even if my legs would hold me up to do more weeding, my hands hurt quite a bit. I might have to fork over some $$ to a garden maintenance person to help out so I can enjoy the good parts and not be exhausted all the time. It is actually 24C today which is quite a change in a short period of time. Now we need rain. My peas got planted before Monday's showers but more would be nice.

I'm also making progress on cleaning out the cupboards in the computer room. I unearthed yet another box of old photos and a box of old financial statements like phone bills from 1995. I want to make that room into a proper bedroom when it comes to selling the house, to make it really a 4 bedroom house and not a 2 bedroom with 2 junk rooms.

Yes, I have been paying with genealogy and love reading old documents about how one ancestor was disinherited by his father for his drinking and neglect of his family. They weren't all saints like Roger Williams.

I know this has become a weekly blog but, my dear friends, I am just so tired all the tired, if not in real pain. If my choice is to blog or to take a nap, you don't have to be very smart as to which I'll pick. Matter of fact, that sounds like a good idea right now.

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Spring has truly sprung. I just went to the garden centre (replacement rhubarb crowns, new gloves) and my car was nose-in to a clump of grevillea in full bloom. The blooms were being fed on by a pair of white-plumed honeyeaters, who not only were eating but took 2 seconds to mate every now and then. Very common bird but still nice to see them a meter away than through binoculars.

I've spent the past week in bed with a cold but am feeling OK now. It is extremely important for me to fight off a cold before it settles in my chest since my sternum reacts badly to a chest cough. I've been busy clearing weeds in the garden and am planting peas. I have 3 stalks of asparagus up which I have supplemented with some from the markets. There is a big bunch of very fragrant Earlicheer narcissus on the counter. One of The Imp's redeeming features is that she does not eat flowers like The Senior Cat did. She does, apparently, like pumpkin soup.

Of course genealogy takes a lot of time but it's fascinating research and colonial American history is a lot more interesting when these are my people I'm reading about. I'm back into the 1700's on several lines but some have brick walls. I know my grandfather existed and have birth and death dates but can't find records on him partially because I don't know where he was born. New York, I think.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I have an excuse. I've been bitten by the genealogy bug. I've been searching my little heart out, getting records in order and data input into MacFamilyTree. I've found a photocopy of my great grandparents marriage certificate from Sedgley, Staffordshire and his obituary from (I think) the New Haven (CT) newspaper. I've been trawling cemetery records and trying to find what the country names are for the various place names. I am totally astonished to find that on both sides I go back to pre-Revolutionary War settlers, and perhaps descended from Roger Williams on both sides. Therefore I am getting more interested in colonial American history. My BBBB is The Age of Homespun by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich which is a social history of material culture in colonial days. I thought it was all about weaving but so far chapter have been about Indian baskets (and the colonists relations with the natives whose land they stole) and furniture (and how property was inherited by male vs. female children). Do I have time for a new time eating hobby? No, but I've got the itch now.

There is nothing exciting to report on the knitting front: just socks our of a rather tropically coloured Regia (pink, orange and blue) cotton/wool blend. Spinning has been Robin's wool, and now sock yarn (wool & nylon) in shades of blue. I have wanted mindless knitting and neither finishing nor starting a project is mindless. Socks are.

Spring is starting to show: the willows are getting green and my daffodils are almost open. I weeded Saturday to make room for peas and we then fell into several days of exceedingly windy weather so I haven't done more. The berry bushes are all pruned and attached to their trellis (if I can only keep the possums from eating the leaves). I've got permission from the council to take down the juniper at my front door. It is heaving the paving underneath and becoming a hazard. Another not so cheap task to do on the way to tidying up the front of the house.

Social networking is all well and good and I am on so many discussion threads and other time consuming sites, but I keep thinking I could be actually doing stuff instead of nattering about how much I adored the latest Torchwood series or what I'm knitting. I'd even prefer to read (Saturnalia by Lindsey Davis) than live online because there aren't enough hours in the day to do all of that and clean, iron, vacuum, wash dishes, do laundry, get groceries, etc. And sitting for extended periods give my legs the fits.
I am trying the Ming method of pain relief and it does help but it's counter productive to stretch all my muscles and then spend hours in front of the computer, especially when work requires me to do that already. If I do too much walking around, my legs hurt; if I do too much sitting, my legs hurt. Do you see my dilemma? Hence no blog for a while.

Friday, August 07, 2009

At left is the Imp with her two newest possessions. I replaced the old scratching post that had gotten beyond repair and, wonder of wonders, she prefers scratching this post to the furniture. (The chair in the background has suffered through many cats) It has a pedestal to pose on and is all round satisfactory. The tunnel was a shot in the dark and it's the best $ I've ever spent on cat toys. She adores it: runs through it, grapples with it, pops out the holes on the side, just sits in it. It makes a wonderful taffeta-like noise as well. The catnip mice I tried at the same time were ignored.

In case you think I've stopped knitting, here is the first of D's socks. It's a Regia Kaffe Fasset colourway. I am almost finished with the ribbon shell (altho I found it on the floor this morning and I hope it just fell and was not subject to cat investigations). I am thinking about knitting a very cabeled Dawn Brocco pattern from my handspun but was worried that I hadn't enough. Today I dove into the stash and found 2 more large hanks of grey wool. The wool chosen for the jumper is similar in weight but is varying shades of grey.

Book report:
I have finished Green Thoughts and, while it was interesting in the way serious garden writing is to serious gardeners, I found her extremely opinionated in strange ways (were American stawberries full of flavour in the 1980's? Why are tree peonies given such a bad review?) and in other ways very unskilled. How many years had she grown tomatoes without knowing they had to be pruned and tied to a stake? If it's not written in one of her reference works she deems it impossible. She wants some authority to give her instructions on grafting instead of experimenting. She might have considered her extension agency, or today one would Google grafting but she sits and waits for instructions (preferably from Europe because Americans are clueless).

I have also given Spin Control by Amy King more thorough read and found descriptions of some types of spinning I haven't had described much. Core spinning and plying with commercial thread or yarn is something that might be useful in the future. I think there is not enough attention paid to basic spinning, or rather intermediate level. Very little about how different fibres behave. I'd like to have some more about control of fine fibres. The assumption is also that you spin on a standard wheel. No bobbins or electric wheels.

Next in the queue is The Age of Homespun, which fits in nicely to my family history research, where I am trying to find Clement Cornwell's (b. 1798) father. Here I was sitting in the middle of Duchess County last October for Rhinebeck unaware of the family ties there. I should have gone to the historical society. I now know there was a town named Beekman in Duchess county but there's lots of work to do to tie little pieces of information together.

I was all prepared mentally for a day of shopping, groceries, markets, off to look at lighting fixtures and fireplace inserts. My body refused to come to the party and my planned brief excursion for groceries was pulled out into lots of standing and waiting and now my right hip hurts. So today will be spent on sedentary activities (maybe some genealogy!) and tomorrow I'll go to the other side of town to look at lighting. It has also gotten very windy which always puts me on edge. The Weether Pixie should have her hair tossing around.

Friday, July 31, 2009

This fibromyalgia thing is quite unpredictable. When I feel good it is only an invitation to do more than I should which causes me to fall in a heap. I thought I was managing it well and felt good on Weds. Thurs morning I could barely move. I haven't slept well in ages due to the pain waking me up many times in the night, and then I search for a position which hurts less (and fight with the cat for the rights to that position). Even after staying in bed all day, I hurt so much that in the evening I took one of my breakthrough pills (Endone) and even it didn't knock it all out. Retracing Weds, I realize I was on my feet nearly all day (the only sitting time was eating my lunch and filing my taxes) and my right leg simply won't take that. I sincerely hope that the knee replacement solves that problem. I now can feel my left leg is relaxed and pain free, while my right is tense even while sitting. I was going to see my GP this morning but still am too sore to motivate me so I'll make an appointment to see him Tues arvo.

Because my hands hurt as well I haven't been knitting as much as I should. I am on the home stretch on the ribbon shell and am motoring down the foot of the first of D's socks. I want to start the fair isle vest but need some quiet time to establish it first. Maybe I should have a few hours watching cooking shows on Foxtel and get it going. This cooking bug (a common side effect of watching Masterchef (and Julie was the right winner)) has inspired me to make stir-fries and other more complicated dishes with my chicken breasts instead of simply grilling them. I had chicken and mushrooms in slight cream sauce last night. I am essentially a lazy chef and hate washing pots and pans (both because it's hard on my hands and I can't see where they are dirty) so I tend to cook simple things. But I am also a good cook who has been holding back because of those disabilities. So now I've added bok choy to my shopping, have finished off a bottle of oyster sauce, and have another batch of cauliflower soup for lunches. The Bear did the washing up and I miss it.

The loom is scheduled to be picked up on Sunday. I hate to say good bye to it but had I known how much kneeling it needed I never would have bought it. A Schacht Mighty Wolf is more what I need. I have spun another lot of Robin's wool and need to ply it. On the Roberta at the moment is sock yarn (superwash wool & nylon) in shades of blue.

I have finished Orson Scott Card's The Worthing Saga and have moved on to Scott Westerfeld's The Risen Empire. This is the first of a multipart, and is one of those novels told from multiple view points and from different time periods. It's not hard to follow but the jumping around sometimes is distracting and you have to keep track of where this character was the last time he/she appeared. I don't sit down and read in long periods, more likely 30 minutes here and there, so this sort of novel is more difficult and, since you don't get a chance to get swept up in narrative, there's less impetus to just keep reading. You know you'll get switched off target in a page or two anyway. My BBBB is Green Thoughts, and while it was written a while ago (1980's) the passion for gardening and organic gardening at that makes for anything but boring reading. It does arouse nostalgia for my garden in Ohio with its peonies and daylilies. Pointless to try those here, although the daylillies might make it if watered. while listening to one of my favourite podcasts To the Best of Our Knowlege earlier in the week, I hit their podcast on slavery. There was an interview with the author of A Crime So Monstrous, E. Benjamin Skinner, and with a woman who discovered that her family were slave traders in Colonial America. I sincerely hope I don't discover that in my own searches. I have found my great-great-great-great granfather in the Dutchess County NY Militia during the Revolutionary War.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My weather pixie thinks it's raining and, because it appears as it's about to that I did not go to watch the Swannies play today here in Canberra. That and the fact that my partner in Swandom is sick and decided it was too great a risk for her to go. Going to the footy alone isn't much fun, even when the heavens aren't steel grey and threatening.

The other half of the story is I am catching up from my DMIL's visit to pack up her china to take to Sydney and as part two of that visit, to put The Bear in the cemetery in a niche next to his grandfather. This visit was physically demanding (lots of time on my feet followed by a 3 hour drive each way) but emotionally draining. I haven't been sleeping well, probably because this event was looming over me. My right hip has been killing me, making sleep difficult. I think it's connected to the bad knee so I hope having the second knee replaced will end my torment, but in the meantime, I am sleepless and in pain. I thought I had prepared myself for the cemetery but I had to choose wording for the plaque and I lost it again. I have lost the fact that his mortal remains were here. I know he isn't in any way attached to them, but this is another tear in the connective tissue holding us together. My MIL wanted his chess set so I went diving in the the cupboards in the computer room and came up with first a huge box of his slides. They are all in labeled slots, but his handwritten guide did not match what was actually in the compartments. Since he kept everything, there are slides supposedly going back to 1961, but I couldn't find the early ones. A bright day and I'll try to sort some of them. While I'm sure they meant something to him (although he never looked at them in the 16 years we were married) I am not intending to keep his honeymoon snaps from 1971 with 57 photos of Hong Kong harbour. I eventually found the chess set, and it went north with the china and his genealogical jottings. I think the chess set came from that visit to Hong Kong.

I saw my rheumatologist this week, the new one who has replaced my old Dr B. She was only interested in my arthritis and I kept trying to tell her that the fibromyalgia pain was worse than the arthritis. No new advice except to rest periodically and not to do too much, but at the same time I should get exercise. She did write a script for "breakthrough pain" and my hip has caused me to use it once already. I haven't been knitting terribly much because my hands have hurt too much. Still working on D's socks and the ribbon shell.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I brought home from work what I do on my breaks. (I have software (Guardian) installed on my work computer that forces me to take a break every so often by locking the keyboard. This is so I don't completely ignore my doctor's recommendation not to sit and type all day. Actually he would have me work only 20 minutes without a break but I'm far too impatient for that.) When Guardian locks my keyboard for about 4 minutes at a time, I spin silk on a drop spindle. The unspun fibre is in the foreground and my Bosworth mini spindle is at the rear. I am not a very good spindle-spinner and have not gotten past park-and-draft which I am using on this tussah silk. Silk is very strong and no doubt would withstand actually dropping the spindle, but it is also very slippery and flyaway and subject to noils, which parking lets me deal with. I brought it home so I could ply using the cop on the spindle and what's wound on the nostepinne. A previously prepared sample is at left. Spindle spinning is very slow especially when you're used to an electric wheel but is well suited to difficult fibres. I have another Bosworth mini with camel down on it. The camel down is so short that getting a twist into it is difficult without the control of park and draft. The tussah silk is so flyaway that I sometimes am covered with whisps of coral floss, especially when I'm wearing black.

I was going to wind the yarn for my forthcoming fair isle vest today. It's a kit from Mountain Colors that I bought at the Yarn Barn last year and comes with 2 contrasting hand-dyed yarns. Skein one flew off the swift and on to the ball winder. Skein two displayed multiple ends, probably meaning it got cut somewhere and I didn't see it when I was exploring in Sue's barn of mysteries. It won't matter to the knitting but the winding off is a nightmare. It makes me wonder if string theory could be true and it does explain how the universe is put together. The Bear could have told me.

BTW I obviously did not go to Sydney this week; the cemetery had no time for us on Friday. It will now be the 24th of the month.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

This is a post to try and make it up to all you loyal (?) readers of my earthshattering prose who have been denied that pleasure for so long. I have no excuse except life got away from me and there was always something more pressing (not more important) that had to be done even if it turned out to be sleep. I did myself in a couple of times in the past 2 weeks and therefore lost a couple of days of "normal" life. So here I am with a brief summation of what's been happening here. As you can see, I finally finished Cables After Whiskey and I am very pleased with it. The sleeves are slightly short (I never remember that my arms are longer than the norm) but that keeps me from getting wet in the sink. It's not too heavy to wear to work and I've gotten quite a few compliments on it. The next project is either a cabled zip-front jacket-type thingy or a fair-isle vest. I have the yarn and pattern for the vest but the pattern is written for back and forth knitting and I want to knit it in the round and steek it (EEK!) and I'll need some thinking for that. I have the back of my ribbon shell finished and have cast on for the front. I am spinning Robin's wool (why would one thing it odd to be spinning while watching Pink videos?). I've sold the big loom and have taken it apart for transport by its new owner. I wish so much that I could have used it but the knees are just not up to it. I actually spent some time in the garden today and planted out spinach and silverbeet (Swiss chard) seedlings. (Side note, The Imp is in my lap and keeps trying to get up where she can climb up me and the Macbook has a very sensitive track pad that she keeps stepping on). The asparagus is finally manured and mulched. I have strawberry plants from Diggers to plant may tomorrow if the weather permits. We've had a very unusual winter so far with many gloomy cold days and quite a bit of rain. I did see snow on the top of Mt Ginnini yesterday but there have been days when the mountains have been invisible due to low cloud. My arthritis protests.

For BBBB, I finished reading Mother Tongues, and am reading Green Thoughts by Eleanor Perenyi, which is about gardening and feeds my desire to have a decent garden this year. I hope the forecasters are wrong about predicting we are going into an El Nino season because I had my fill of hot and dry last year. For non-boring, I am reading Orson Scott Card's The Worthing Saga and am struck once more how effortless his prose flows and how quickly he draws you into his plot.

This week DMIL is coming down from Sydney and we are taking the Bear's ashes up to the family plot to be next to his grandfather. I think he would have liked that and I couldn't think of a suitable place here. Since this is the only communication I have with his children, now they know as well as the rest of the world. The second anniversary of his death hit me much harder than the first did and I was overcome with black feelings that escaped the box I try to keep them in. I do miss him tremendously and still think he'll be there when I wake up in the morning. Nobody can ever feel another person's grief because it derives from a shared life but 58 was way too early to die. Maybe that's why I can't sell the land in Victoria: his soul is still attached to it and hasn't let go.

Otherwise life goes on. I go to work, I do grocery shopping, I do laundry, I cook and clean up the ensuing mess. The Imp is now asleep as I type but we both need to go to bed. I do have an old friend in my life who has returned to keep an eye on me and make sure I take care of myself. A side benefit from my trip to the US was many revived friendships and this one seems to be important to me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009



This is what has been keeping us occupied at the Library for the past week or so. It's a Southern Boobook owl who has taken up daily residence in trees planted in the "light wells" that give natural light to work areas below ground level. Therefore while he is sitting in the middle of a tree, he was at eye level from the ground floor of the Library. I've heard boobooks before but never seen one until we had our very own library owl.

I've been wandering around online after reading everything on Knittyspin and was very taken with Della Q's bags. However, knitting bags are something I have more than enough of. I am sewing CAW together and should hve a photo soon. I will be casting on socks for D since I finished socks for my boss. They were knit from an Opal yarn that somehow had the stripes repeat at exactly the same place in the 2 socks without my intervention. I never care about stripes matching in socks and assumed this yarn woud be the same but it wasn't.

I have been pushing hard with the cleaning out and managed to sweep all the fallen wisteria leaves out of the garage and neighbouring areas and put them down as mulch. I've also emptied the computer room filing cabinet to get it out of the house. Then when I clear out the cupboards in that room I can get my tradesman in to replace the grotty home-handy-man shelving with a proper wardrobe and then 3 of the 4 bedrooms will have BIRs (built in 'robes = closets). I'm also in the market (waiting for a sale) to replace the hanging lighting fixtures in the dining room and kitchen eat-in area. Meanwhile, all this activity has resulted in very painful leg muscles (again) so I am forced the "rest" which I am not good at.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The minute I posted the "poor me" bit I regretted it. I grew up with food on the table and clothes to wear, I got an excellent education and never suffered any abuse except emotional abuse. It took me decades to feel like I was a person worth being on this earth but now I can recognize that I have friends and family who love me. I will never complain about dancing lessons again (except how pudgy I was in a blue leotard).

My fall seems to have been worse than I thought. I landed sort of twisted with my right side coming over my left. My right knee has a lovely bruise which makes it hurt even more that it did. I haven't even past the 3 month mark that my surgeon gave me as the minimum for replacement of the right knee, but I feel like running to him and saying "Fix it!". I am exceedingly stiff all over but the knee is by far the worst. I am not going to exert myself much today and hope I can encourage healing by heat. I went out when my thermometer said it was 2C (our high yesterday was 4C) and did a massive grocery shop which will hold me over until later in the week. At least it's sunny today, which it wasn't yesterday. Let's hear it for solar gain!

I washed my sample skein of Robin's wool, and as I suspected, there was some oil and/or dirt left in the wool. When washed it bloomed quite a bit and I think will be best spun to an 8 ply or DK weight. When I remember how long the fibres are and draw them out instead of inchworm worsted spinning, they flow well, despite the odd noil, left because of the fineness of the fleece. Since I have a huge bag of this and another like it from a different sheep, I'll be spinning it for a long time. I truly view my stash (including the library) as my retirement fund. While I've drooled over lots of stuff on-line the only thing I've bought is some undyed novelty yarn to dye.

The Imp is asleep in the dining room (which faces north into the sun) but she's positioned herself in the one patch of shade. I expect she'd toast in full sun.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sometimes the grind of living with fibro and RA is just too boring and frustrating to find anything to write about. I take handfuls of pills (or forget to do so as I did last night) but I still live with pain. My right knee has been swollen and painful for a couple of weeks due to nothing I can think of. It has suddenly turned into winter with highs in the single digits and the right knee hates that. But even when I'm bundled up in woolen jumpers and my ultra warm ugg boots, I still hurt. It's a struggle to get up and go to work and I mean that literally: it's the routine of getting dressed, getting a lunch put together, driving through traffic, etc. that I find tiresome. Add on to that all the miscellaneous bits and pieces like going to the chemist or the post office or pushing unwilling trolley through the supermarket. On top of forgetting to take my meds last night, I fell on my beautiful new front porch and landed hard on my left side. I was holding an armful of stuff besides my purse and my camera, and it was cold, and I was trying to get my keys out, and make sure The Imp didn't zoom out, and I just twisted my foot in my shoe (not my ankle, thank g) and splat. Without a knee to help get me up i scrabbled around a while, until I decided a knee was necessary and used my new one. It may not have been good for it but the right one hurts far too much to try that. Now I am sore all down my left side and both hands seem to have gotten involved. I stayed home due to the lack of meds, but I couldn't sleep much because of the pain. This is just one day, one typical day, which is why I have so little to blog about. I don't mean to whine or play poor me, because it's just plain boring and I never know how to answer when someone really wants to know how my health has been. Pain, insomnia, fatigue. It was so much easier when I had the Bear, because he picked up a lot of the slack and did a lot of the more difficult things like hanging laundry and grocery shopping for me.

The only fun part of life at the moment is watching Masterchef Australia. I now know I would never ever try to run a restaurant, which at one point was a fantasy for me. I never could figure out how a chef could guess how many meals of which sort a dinner crowd would eat. But the show has revived my flagging cooking interest which had descended into a very boring (there's that word again) routine of fish and vegetables. I did make a pot of Brunswick stew which I became addicted to while being part of a Virginia family for 15 years. I didn't add game (hard to find a squirrel around here and even rabbits are hard to come by) and my made up recipe tends to be on the spicey side, with liberal amounts of pepper and hot sauce, and the corn must be white corn. I have had to resort to growing my own butter beans since they don't exist otherwise here and I bring back shoe peg corn in tins from the US. I practiced on buttermilk biscuits last night but they didn't rise enough. Too much handling, I suspect.

I am reading Augusten Burrough's Running with Scissors, and while his childhood was way wackier than mine, I recognized the undercurrent or "this is not how childhood is supposed to be". I was miserable listening to my parents fight all the time and being told "No." to every request, while simultaneously being ordered to do things I didn't want to do. Why do I have to take modern dance lessons when I want to go horseback riding? Why do we have to drive to Florida at spring break when I'd rather have braces? My college years were some of the happiest in my life because I was out of that environment. I never knew a truly loving family until I married DH2.

My left cheek is starting to hurt so I must have hit my head too. If I'd fallen on the old front porch, it probably would have fallen apart under me.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

You will only get the drivel of my brain since things have been deadly boring here at chez Swanknitter. I lost all of last week to a lurgie (ain't that a lovely bit of Aussie slang? Means bug or virus or whatever's going around). At the end of the week I was delighted to notice that my legs didn't hurt. Hurray! A cure for fibro--simply stay in bed all the time! When I said this to my GP yesterday (with heavy sarcasm), he said some people do just that. Because all activity hurts, they just retreat into being an invalid. I'd go stir crazy if I tried that. I got so frustrated when I was home recovering from my knee surgery and I couldn't go dig in the garden or even work around the house. Still, I didn't like waking up to sore legs this AM.

We have had about a week of heavy overcast skies and prediction of rain
daily (just to give lie to my pronouncement about the lovely sunny winter days here in Canberra). We haven't had a drop of rain until today. And of course it rains today because I have a very industrious tradesman replacing my front porch. No power tools in the rain please. He is also going to replace the steps to the back deck which I now know were not made to code, with the last step being 3 cm too high. I always thought what last step was a doozy but now I know why.

I have been listening to a great backlog of Bush Telegraph podcasts and there were a series from the outskirts of Lake Eyre. When we (H2 and I) were madly in love with Australia, we devoured the whole Arthur Upfield series about the half-caste detective Napoleon Bonaparte. The Boney mysteries are now viewed at worst as racist and at best dated and patronizing, but for us they gave intriguing snapshots
of life in various places like Broome, as they were in the 1930's when the mysteries were written. There was one written about the channel country and the sudden floods that could isolate vast areas of what had been desert. This year, floods in Queensland sparked what happens only about once a decade now, the flooding of Lake Eyre. It's a salt lake, 15 meters below sea level and when it floods, thousands of birds magically appear to breed. They even arrive before the water by some bird ESP so far undiscovered. I wish I could have seen it. Here's lovely shot of the lake in flood. If you Google "Lake Eyre flood birds" you'll get more info. Thus it is not strange that at least one Aboriginal group has as their totem animal the pelican, when they are hundreds of miles from the ocean.

So far I love my Macbook, and have become somewhat addicted to the trackpad. There are still a few manoeuvres that are a bit difficult, like when you are trying my move things all the way across the screen for instance, but the trackpad is very sensitive and I miss the scrolling ability when I go back to a PC. I have not been able to synch my bookkeeping files from the PC to the MAC but I may close out at the end of the fiscal year and start new.

A fibre update: I have almost finished the socks for my boss and by some sock magic, the stripes are duplicating themselves in exactly the same places even tho I didn't make any attempt to make them do so. I tried on CAW after putting the turtleneck in and found that, when the shoulder drop was figured in, the sleeves would be the right length. So the first sleeve got cast off and I'm knitting the second. Since the rest of the jumper is already constructed, all that will be left is sewing the the sleeves and doing the side seams. I am decreasing for the armholes on the back of the ribbon shell. I got one of the huge bags of processed roving, now to be called Robin's wool after the owner of the sheep it came from. I am not totally happy with my spinning so far but I will have to spin and ply a bit and wash it to see if I like the results. The loom is for sale on eBay but the only interest I've had is from somebody who wanted me to lower the price.