Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sublimate Already


Once again, I find myself under the gun, trying to post something for March.  The digital camera holds no clues, but the iPad does.  The above photo was taken March 16th.  We've had warmer temperatures during the day, but no serious thaw.  Snow sublimates slowly.  (That alliteration is music to my ears, for so many reasons).  Sublimation is the transition of a solid changing to gas without passing through a liquid phase.  Kudos to Wiki for helping me explain that.  Basically, anyone who has hung something wet outside during freezing temperatures can attest to it (eventually) drying, thanks to sublimation.  That's the best analogy my gray matter can come up with, and I'm running with it.

Sublimation is our best friend during the spring.  With the ground still frozen, we'd rather see the snow disappear slowly than melt in a furious rush causing flooding.  We're on track for a great maple syrup season, which means plus temps in the day, and freezing temps at night.  That's when the sap flows best.
Good ol' Tessie.  She never misses an opportunity to help me block my knitting.  Here, my Swingboat in Rowan's Tumble is being unceremoniously flattened by Tessie's heft.  I forgot this scarf at my LYS, and when I returned to pick it up, someone approached me and offered me a tidy sum of money for it.  Since this was Christmas wool, I had to buy more and knit a replacement.  A fun project even the second time around.
Odin is the biggest pain in the ass, ever.  He's pure hound (there's not a stitch of Labrador in him), and always, always, always goes after the cats which makes me crazy.  BobCat is the main object of his affections, as evidenced here once again.  Poor Bob.  Sometimes, he claws Din's collar and clobbers him good.  Serves you right, Odie.
Here I am, installed at the kitchen table trying to finish my Longing.  Thanks to my dear friend Elaine who again sewed my sleeves in, I now need to hunker down and finish a few seams and sew in a few ends.  I will never attempt a dark sweater in the depths of winter, ever again.  I'll still get some mileage out of this sweater this spring though, have no fear.
Can you see Moby Dick?  Well...I thought it looked like Moby Dick.  We spend a lot of time looking at the fire.  Probably some time in May, we'll stop using our wood stove, and I'll get used to the hearth around the wood stove being clean again.  This year, we need to look at getting a replacement, since this stove has seen finer days.  We've got a few models in mind, so I'll keep you posted on our findings.

Eric is going to be furious at me for posting the above photo.  I called this colour "Divorce Court Green", because if he actually thought of using this colour, I'd high-tail it outta here so fast his head would spin.  I have never had such a violent and instantaneous visceral reaction to a colour - ever - in my life.  I hated this colour so much and was so furious that even now, just thinking of it gets my hackles up.

Of course I needed to take a photo for posterity.  Eric is going to defend himself by saying it was just a test - ha!  Stay tuned for the final approved colour.  It's going to be bold!
And just to prove my point that we are still working upstairs, here's a photo of our unfinished knee-wall.  The joints have been done and the wall has been primed, and now we're waiting for the pine boards to be delivered so we can finish the angled part of the wall/ceiling.

Slowly but surely, we're plugging away.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

50 Shades of White

I don't want to turn the page to March without posting at least one post to remind me just how interesting this February has been.  Most everything coming out of my mouth these days is a semi-rant or semi-whine, so apologies in advance to those with sensibilities where their love for winter is concerned.

Oh February!  The shortest, longest, cruelest month.  It's been viciously cold since what feels like forever.   It was -22C (-6F) this morning, again.  I never thought I'd say it, but this year I actually find myself getting used to the cold.  I made my quarterly trek to Costco today and picked up another 100 lbs of cat litter, and I might or might not have been vocal about my discontent as I pushed my cart to my car.

You haven't lived until you've pushed a full shopping cart through snow or slush.  To those people who say, "oh, look, pretty snow", I have news for you.   Pretty wore off sometime in January.  Pretty wore off when we opened our latest Hydro bill ($493 for 63 days of bitter cold hell, in case you're interested).  Remember, we don't even heat with hydro, we heat primarily with wood.  Pretty wore off when I got my car stuck in a snowbank during a whiteout with a -30C windchill in the fiercest, coldest windstorm I have ever experienced.  Pretty wore off when I needed air in a front tire.  It was -26C that morning, and you haven't had winter fun until you've fumbled with a tire and air hose at -26C and watched the innards of your tire pressure gauge fly out over the vast frozen tundra of the parking lot, just because it was TOO COLD for even the gauge to function normally.

Cold is the common denominator of every equation these days.  It takes forever to get dressed in the morning, adding layer after layer after layer.  We have different hats, gloves, coats and boots for different snow conditions and temperatures.  We even have a selection of different shovels to chose from, depending on what version of the white crap has fallen.  The car seats - they've been frozen for months now, and they're hard as rock.  Cold has permeated the house, and the novelty of winter and fond memories of the first snow has been filed deep into the recesses of our gray matter.

Oh, it's all just so much fun, fun, fun!  I know, I know, let's do this FOR A FEW MONTHS MORE!  WHEEEE!!!  Cue the sound of crazy spinning wheels!

Let's just say we're due for a nice, long thaw, preferably one that lasts all summer.  We know Mother Nature isn't done messing with us until at least some time in April, if we're lucky.  The cats are stir-crazy,  housebound and clingy, Odin poops balancing on two alternating legs (he's getting quite agile at it), and we're both board-certified lunatics as well, weather notwithstanding.

I've been knitting on two interminable black projects (why oh why do I do this to myself?) and just the other day, my prime February occupation of playing Freecell (I swear I need therapy) kicked in.  I was good until last week, when I told myself I'll play one game, just for old time's sake.  Well, my serotonin levels must have gone up a few notches, because I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time shuffling virtual cards from one column to another.  Thus Seasonal Affective Disorder has been officially diagnosed.  This year, I think there are millions and millions of us suffering from it.  It's been a hard one, and we're all in the same boat.

Eric flew to Vancouver and London for close to a week this month, and I asked him what impressed him the most about the sudden change in climate, and his answer surprised me.  He said it was the colour of the surroundings.  I'd never thought about it until he mentioned it, but everything outside is drab and gray and dirty.  Snow doesn't stay white for very long.  Everything on the horizon is bare and lifeless.  I haven't even heard a bird chirp in months now.  It's little things like that we take for granted the rest of the year, the greenery and life and sounds of seasons that aren't winter.

On a different note, we have quite a few Snowy Owls around.  They are fabulous birds, huge as anything, and love to sit on light standards and hydro poles, so they are easy to observe if you're looking out for them.  I had one fly alongside my car the other day, and their little heads are round and their wingspans huge.  A formidable bird and a pleasure to watch.

Eric is also busy tackling the drywall upstairs.  We might actually end up with a finished house after all...

And a 12-year dream has finally been fulfilled.  We installed a central vacuum the other day, and little Miss Whiny February actually has a smile on her face as she pushes the vacuum around the house.  (Have I mentioned just how much cats and dogs shed in winter?)

So, with February counting down, I wish everyone warmth and patience and pretty sunsets.






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.
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