Thursday, January 1, 2015

Two-Oh-One-Five

Here's to a new year!   While 2014 held its challenges (don't they all?) here are a few things that caught my attention.

While this isn't a year in review per se, I am posting some of my favorite iPad photos of 2014.  The blogger app is horrendous, so I'm uploading these photos from the iPad and adding commentary from my trusty laptop.  Here's to hoping this is seamless, unlike most things iPad and blogger related:

My old orchids -  they never let me down.  Right now, my three orchids in the kitchen window have grown four flower shoots.  Hopefully in a few weeks, we'll have abundant blooms.  Did you know orchids like cold windowsills?  This is proof.
A pretty snowy early late March morning.  (I checked the date stamp on this photo, and it was March 28).  At this point in the game, it was like winter will never end.  Never End.  But it did, sometime in April...
Ah yes, proof that spring sprang.  Lovely apple blooms.  Photo taken May 20.
A summer sunset.
I knit a lot in 2014.  This is my Rowan Kidsilk Haze Reversible Cabled-Rib Shawl.  I don't think we could throw another descriptor in that sentence if we tried.  I have wanted to knit this scarf since 1999.  To think that was 15 years ago scares the hell out of me!
Another pretty sunset.
And a view over the barn.  The sky was so beautiful with pastel clouds and sky.
A double rainbow for your viewing pleasure.
And the other half.  Maybe one day, I'll figure out if my digital camera has a wide-angle feature.  Or maybe not.  I'll just keep taking potato-quality pictures with the iPad.

More scenery.  Enough already!  Been there, done that!
Big Tessie and Big BobCat.  Odin is afraid of Tessie, so BobCat has learned if he takes the bottom bunk, Odin leaves him alone.  He's a smart cat...
I called this my Halloween Face sunset.
Odin shows poor Bob undying affection, much to BobCat's dismay.  Here, he's resigned to his fate.  And Odin doesn't even want to look me in the face...la la la la...pretend she's not there...la la la la...
Ohhh, pretty fuzzy mohair wool, with matching alpaca skeins.  I think this is going to be vacation wool.  I plan on making my version of Purl Soho's Amazing Seed Stitch Wrap, but at a fraction of the cost.  I'm pretty sure this is going to end up in my suitcase.  I don't know if I'm looking forward to a vacation, or looking forward to knitting this up.  I hoarded a lot of wool in 2014.  It's almost shameful.  I have a huge Rubbermaid bin full of future projects.  I won't even make any knitting resolutions for 2015, because my 2014 resolutions crashed and burned, just like 2013, and 2012 and...forget about it...I'm just going to knit, and that will be that.
Odin's first selfie!  I found this on the iPad and had a good laugh.
We went to a Christmas fair and I picked up these mitts because I couldn't resist them.  Sewn by a local craftswoman, these gloves are made from a beautiful felted fair-isle Shetland sweater found in a thrift shop.  They have a polar fleece liner, and are super-warm.  My favorite mitts.  The chopping board likewise is made by a local woodworker.  Apparently this is Eric's chopping board.

Eric surprised me this year by returning from an overseas trip and proudly proclaiming that he learned how to make risotto.  (Eric doesn't even know how I take my tea, which should give you an inkling about Eric's cooking abilities.)  One of our Swiss friends is a Cordon Bleu master-chef, and a remarkable pedagogue.  He taught Eric how to make a mushroom risotto that is out of this world.  Eric now goes into Italian grocery stores and compares bottles of truffle oil, and could probably write a treatise on carnaroli versus arborio rice.  Yes, Eric has turned into a foodie!  A man after my own heart!  Last night, he made a lobster tail risotto with saffron and asparagus that was my most memorable meal of 2014. Wow.  We ended 2014 on a culinary high note.
We had little snow in December 2014.  In fact, the above field was completely bare as of this morning, but since then, we've had a little "snow event" as Environment Canada now conveniently calls anything from a flurry to a freeze-the-balls-off-a-brass-monkey blizzard.  I'm good with the milder temps compared to last year, and fine with the fact that we have a dusting of snow as opposed to snow banks that are metres high.

On that note, we turn the page on 2014, and welcome 2015 with open arms.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunsets and Other Stories

It's mid-December.  I haven't downloaded any photos since July, so emptying the card on the digital camera is sure to provide a lot of surprises.  I finally hit 10,000 photos with our trusty Canon.  I better get busy and try to redeem myself by posting a few of them.

Without further ado:

The sun is so pretty in the morning.  A bit of fog, bright blue skies, and corn in the field this year.  It was a good summer.
Obviously, I take a lot of sunset photos.  Sometimes, we have people over and the sun puts on a show.  We usher our guests to the living room window and make them watch the sun go down.  Maybe we're not normal.
Clearly, we are not normal.   Now that we've cleared that up, I look at this photo and remember trying to capture the luminosity and how the golden light bathed the air.  I failed.
The day-glo effect evaded me here, too.  Maybe it is time for some photography lessons.  Or maybe, 10,000 photographs later, I should read the manual?
We had a lady-bug invasion this fall.  Unbelievable.  We have a few days in fall where they typically congregate, but this year, we had a bumper crop of them, and for weeks on end.  It's months later and we still have them all over the inside of the house.  You just need to turn on a lamp, and they appear as if by magic.
Nothing strikes fear in my heart like a hole in the house.  (You don't say?)  Here, we changed out a kitchen window.  The three kitchen windows and sliding glass door all date from the early 90's.   These are the only windows that haven't been changed in the 12 years we've been in this renovation purgatory.  One down, three to go.  Eric was only confident changing out one at a time, and one was all he had time for this summer.  Observe the beam directly above this window.  We weren't sure if it was held in place by fear, a common feature in so many things we've found over the years.  We removed some drywall, found a metal plate that supports the transverse I-beam and decided it was good enough.

We've learned a bit about what is ideal in our climate over the past few years in this house, so we custom-ordered a triple-pane, argon-filled window.  While I'm not happy with the argon, (it's a question of when, and not if, it will fail), I do admit the triple glazing should be standard.  All our other windows are double-pane argon-filled, and while they're acceptable, if we were to do this again, we'd go triple pane all the way.
 Oh look!  Pretty clouds that match the tree line!
 More pretty clouds!
Oh!  I could write a saga about this young bat and how it caused me to lose two nights' sleep.  I'm not prone to fits of flailing and screaming, but this tiny thing nearly did me in.  Only AFTER the fact did we learn that our friend Isa used to volunteer at a bat rehab centre and handles these little beasts like you and I handle kitties and puppies.  I tried my best to capture it in a Tupperware container, and successfully caught it, only to close the lid on those TINY LITTLE hooks they have on the tips of their wings.  The little bat squealed (I didn't know they could do that) and flailed, and I screamed like a little girl and let it loose again.  Of course the designated bat-relocator (that would be Eric) was traveling, so I had to deal with this little bat on my own.   Every plan I had failed, and while I managed to get the bat out of the house, he was back within 10 minutes.  Of course, all of my hysteria was regaled to Eric long-distance who confidently stated that he would "handle" things upon his return.  When Eric finally came home, he donned his overalls with aplomb, a hefty pair of leather gloves with trepidation, and got up on a step ladder to within inches of it.  Then he matter-of-factly stated that he, (and I quote), "Don't have as much courage as I thought I had".   Defeated, he stepped down from the ladder and called a neighbour.  Thus the little bat was caught in a sheet and relocated to a forest about a mile away.  Insert bat mobile joke here.
Phew.  We're back on track again.  Another gorgeous evening.  Wispy cirrus clouds and lots of contrails.
 We had a lot of rainfall, but no torrential downpours, save for this occasion.
I think this one's my favorite.  Savouring the end of another glorious day in paradise.  It never gets old.

And here we are, months later, with memories of summer fading as the snow and cold sets in again for another round of winter.  So far, so good.  A fair amount of snow but with bearable temperatures.

Eric is still plugging away on the drywall upstairs.  My knitting needles are humming as I try to stay ahead of the avalanche of wool I've managed to procure this past year.  (Let's just say I went ballistic in the yarn-hoarding department).

Hopefully, within a few weeks, I will regale you with more tales from the farm, more accomplishments in the knitting department, and a few pet photos to round things out.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Purple Haze

This summer, I've been going through a purple knitting phase.

Behold:
The lovely (and finished!) Hypotenuse shawl, knit in Rowan Felted Tweed, was one of the most fun knits I've done in a long time.  This thing flew of the needles.  Sadly, the colour (Horizon) is discontinued, but Rowan still maintains an admirable selection of other colours to chose from.  Although this colour doesn't qualify as purple per se, it has blue and purple and gray undertones.  It's gorgeous, and if someone can snag this shade in a close-out, I'm sure they won't be disappointed.

I've started a pair of toe-up, magic loop socks in Rowan Fine Art, colourway Tawny.  I think my sock-knitting days might be ruined, because the feel of this yarn puts my ample sock wool collection to shame. This sock is still in its infancy and might be frogged yet.  I need to lay my hands on a pair of fixed circulars, because my interchangeable Hiya Hiya 2.75mm bamboos aren't cutting it.  I was shown a super quick toe-up cast on method that is so easy I won't even feel bad for restarting.  My knitting neighbour has been trying to convert me to magic loop sock knitting for a while now, and I have a feeling she will finally assimilate me.  There is a pair of Addi Lace fixed circs with my name on them, just waiting for me to pick them up.  I'll report back.

The two skeins of Kidsilk Haze in a purple called Ultra is but the tip of the wooly iceberg.  Sadly, it's hard to get this colour to represent correctly on the screen.  It's not called Ultra for nothing.  I have seven skeins of this gorgeousness, and will soon cast on Lily Chin's Reversible Cabled-Rib shawl.  I've had my eyes on this pattern since Vogue Knitting published it in their 1999/2000 magazine.  Spurred on by Kelly's breathtaking blog post about hers, I succumbed to the temptation that is KSH.

The variegated skein of Rowan Kidsilk Haze Stripe will become Rowan's Belle cardigan, designed by Lisa Richardson.  I started the back two days ago, and it's growing quite quickly, despite the teeny 3.25mm needles.  I bought four 50g skeins for good measure, and the cardi will only require three.  I think the remaining skein will become Churchmouse Yarn's Bias 'Before-and-After' Scarf, a simple, easy and effective pattern that will use up any dribs and drabs of yarn leftover from the cardi.  Getting to use up every last little bit of KSH would make my heart sing.  (No, it doesn't take much to make me happy).

Kidsilk Haze from Rowan is referred to as KSH by addicts die-hard knitters.  It's the crack equivalent of the wool world, and isn't nicknamed Kidsilk Crack for nothing.  Knitting with KSH is an ethereal experience. 

Onward I forge!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Overdue Overview

Well then, boys and girls, gather 'round for yet another bi-yearly installment of The Shim Farm News.

Part of my silence over the past few months was due to our horrific winter.  We had the, and I truly mean THE hardest, longest and coldest winter in decades.  It snowed from mid-November well into April.  We broke all kinds of records, most of them negative.  Winter got old quickly, and every post I started sounded too whiny, too "been there, done that" for my taste.  Sometimes it's best to just shut the hell up and knit like my life depended on it.

And so I did.

The above picture was taken on February 27.  That's a lot of snow, and Mother Nature wasn't done messing with us by a long-shot.

Remember the frame around the master bedroom door?  Well I'll be damned, but that bad-boy is finally complete.  After painstakingly varnishing the BC fir frame, Eric installed the Sadev hardware, and we put up a temporary plywood door.  With the price of custom-cut glass being in the "mega-ouch" territory, Eric made a plywood template so we could be sure about our dimensions.  We're dealing with some pretty tight tolerances here, so we wanted to make 110% sure we were on the right track, pun wholly intended.

Here is the mounting of the rail and hardware:
 
 And frame post-varnishing, I present to you, our fabulous plywood door:
I tore our formidable plastic sheet of a door off so fast that Eric's head spun.  You can see Dinaroo peaking his little face through on the side.  He's learned how to open it, but I jury-rigged a stopper on one side that's preventing him from fully opening it.

Right now, with on-going renovations upstairs, the plywood door is staying until we're finished.

It's ironic that I called our upstairs renovations "The Knotty Pine Purge".  Low and behold - what are we putting up?

You guessed it!  More knotty pine!

The only difference is the insulation, hardeeharhar.   We're going to be staining this a translucent white, and we've got our paint lady on the job, finding the best finish for the job.  Here's another angle, because I don't tire of seeing it:
In keeping with our modus operandi, we've got about a 1/8" gap between the boards because we didn't want to butt the boards up against each other.  Keeps us on our toes during the installation, dontchaknow.  Why do simple when you can do complicated?

Here's a "during" shot from 2009:
And yet another beauty-shot:
Seriously.  I could break my own arm, patting us on our backs.  Unless I see the photos, I can't fathom what we went through to get this far.  I think I've suppressed most of the work.

And because knotty pine and plywood doors aren't enough, here's some drywall for your (and my) enjoyment:
A still-life, so you can tell we don't live like Bob Vila and Martha Stewart:

That faded orange plastic drywall handle might be the best $5 Eric has ever spent.  Stabila levels are the way to go, same goes for Olfa box cutters, FatMax measuring tapes, and pretty much anything Dewalt.  Our favorite Lee Valley tool, the "Wood is Good" motivator (and constant denominator) will be gold-plated when our renovations are done.  I'll have it inscribed for Eric (To Bob.  Thanks for fixing our condemned hovel home sweet home.  Love, Martha), and we'll have a nice show-case built so we can worship it in all its glory.

Clearly, a certain amount of insanity rules this roost.  It has to.

And here we are, early July.  The corn is planted and growing.  Lots of rain, lots of sun and high, high temperatures.  Lots of arguments about air conditioning - rather - lack thereof.  (I'm getting Eric on it, trust me.  Threats have been made.  Ultimatums have been thrown around.  I might even have raised my voice an octave or four and thrown my arms to the skies.  A girl can live with plywood floors, but this cloying and oppressive heat and bayou-like humidity?  So help me dog, there's no way I'm putting up with it.  One. More. Season).  Winter is bad enough.  I'd like to enjoy what little summer we have.  Even if that means closing the windows and cranking the AC?  Why, yes, yes it does!

Eric took a week off at the end of June, and it was so hot that all of his projects fell by the wayside.  It was too hot to work indoors, which was the back-up plan in case of rain.  At the end of the week, zero was accomplished, but sometimes, you need the down-time, too.  (To muse about things like air-conditioning, hmmm?)  Time to kick back and relax without stressing about the house and garden.  There'll be next week for that.  Mistress Ann will get the whip out again.

As it is, Eric is in Japan right now, hopefully he'll get home before super-Typhoon Neoguri derails his flight.  I got a cryptic email from him a while ago:  Hello from Planet Japan.  I went to a place called the Jet-Lag and I got stickers.  It is hot and humid here too. I wished he could see my face, because I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.  (WTH?  Stickers?  I can't wait to hear all about this!)

Right now, we're being pommeled with high winds and tons of rain as a much-needed cold front pushes through our area.   The coming few days should give us a bit of relief.

I'll do my darnedest to get up another disjointed post about pets and knitting and baking in short order.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Dreaded Mid-January Year-End Review

I've been procrastinating about this post for the past few days.  I guess you could say 2013 was one of those years.  I'm not sure I want to look back, but for the sake of posterity, I'm slapping up a few photos:
Two fat cats, our lovely plywood floor and some knitting.  I'm happy to report my Rowan Soumak shawl is finally off the needles, and I have but 30 piddly ends left to sew in.  Hopefully by the time the weekend rolls around, I should have it blocked and photographed.  If the cats let me have it, that is.

Oh, fall was so pretty.  The light is gorgeous, and makes the barn look like this:
I've mentioned I love fall, haven't I?  This is what it looks like outside now:
No.  I take that back.  We've had a bit of a thaw, and now all of Odin's poopsicles are in clear view.  It's only white and pristine for a few days.  (Damn this infernal winter to hell).  December was vicious in many parts of North America, and January with that ridiculous "polar vortex" hasn't been a treat, either.  We've had some of the coldest weather in recent memory, but we've managed to stay warm.  Taking two weeks off in December helped, too.  Not having to leave the house during winter is a dream of mine.  Friends always joke and say they need a crowbar to get me out of the house, and it's not far from the truth.  If I don't have to go out, I won't go out.  Simple as that.

This cats looks how I feel.  A bit overstuffed and skeptical at this time of year.  This was a greeting card that became a gift tag, and it's been going back-and-forth between my friend's house and mine since 2008.  It never ceases to put a smile on my face.
It's anarchy in our house, I tell you.  This cat scratching post never got quite finished, a common malady in our house.  But Dindin loves playing with it.  It stands to reason that we have scenes like this, too:
BobCat in Odin's crate.  Wonderful.  Everyone in this house is screwed up a bit, I think.  (It might be a prerequisite, come to think of it).
Here we have Odin on Tessie's favorite bed.  And we have Capucine, who needs to sit INSIDE of things:
Capu is a real card.  She needs to sit in this drawer.  Likewise, BobCat and Odin have their issues, too:
Isn't it amazing how pets love to explore a new space?  I made some more room for our ever-increasing bottle collection, and both were happy to lend a helping hand. 
Odin is in his leggy phase.  I love this phase.  He's so disproportionate and goofy it's adorable.  This boy is going to get big.  He's close to 30 lbs. already and just over 4 months old.
Aaaand yet another for good measure.  In due time, Tessie will be able to have her bed back again.
Odin met the horses - and goat - next door.  He's quite fascinated by them.  If you look closely, you can see the foal on the right side looking at him.  The foal wasn't quite sure of Odin, but tentatively made his way over to us.
I was worried that Odin, considering he's a southern dog, wouldn't like the snow.  I wasn't worried for long.  He loves the snow, and buries his head in it, sniffing out bunnies and mice.  He also knows how to keep warm:
His favorite spot is right beside the wood stove.  Hmmm, just like me, come to think of it.
Yet another project on (and off!) the needles.  One strand of Rowan Cocoon and one strand of Kidsilk Haze held together.  THIS is the way to knit.  I haven't quite decided if I should redo my cast-off edge or not.  Sitting by the fire, dog at my feet, sun setting behind me, I think this was the closest to knitting-heaven I've ever gotten.  I also frogged and re-knit this project and it wasn't even a chore.

Awww.  Poor old Schatzie.  I never thought when we adopted a 20 year-old cat she'd last 8 more years.   It's amazing just how much we miss them, even Schatzie, the ancient thorn in my side. Godspeed, little Schatzie.
This photo, taken last March, is one of the last few I have of Cooper.  Here he is, coming back from his early morning tour of the grounds. Godspeed, my dear boy.   I still miss him more than words can say.
An early spring sunset.  Come this time of year, we're hoping for a quick thaw and an early spring.
We had a lot of rain last year.  Some amazing storms blew through the area.
Mid-May, we had a really hard frost.  These were my grapes.  Needless to say, it wasn't a stellar year.  I keep threatening to tear yet another row of grapes out, and I might make it a reality in 2014.  Even our oak and ash trees were frost-bitten.
Wow, was it ever mucky outside.  I hope spring 2014 isn't a repeat.  I think Odin might need rubber booties if it is.
Our wheat.  It got lodged during a really strong downpour.  The plants in the front are Jerusalem artichokes.  Be forewarned, should you ever plant these, you'll never get rid of them.  Ever.  Plowing them under makes them duplicate as if by magic, too.
Again, we had some memorable sunsets.
And yet another.
And yet another.  That reminds me, we keep meaning to get lightning rods for the house.   We had an estimate for some gorgeous red glass-ball rods.  I'll have to rattle Eric's cage.  These lightning rods are on the little barn directly beside the house.
Our friend Isa painted this beautiful painting for us.  It puts a smile on my face every time I come down the stairs and look at it.  It's bright, it's perfect, and we love it.  Note Bob and Tessie snuggling on the sofa.
This is the view right out of our western living room window.   This was one of those perfect summer days.
A perfect early fall sunrise.
And the equivalent, a matching early fall sunset.

Onward we forge.  Here's to 2014.
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