31 August 2006

Would it be cheating..

.. to send the lamb fleeces to Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mill for cleaning and carding into roving? Even if I don't have a means to card the wool? I hope not. *smile*

I think I'll pr'bly still wash it at home, though I might just box it all up as is and send it off to them. I think I have about 3-4 lbs, but I'll have to figure out how to weigh it (if I dump it all in the mesh sack and weigh myself with the sack and then just weigh myself and subtract, that should be pretty close). I just need to figure out whether I'm willing to pay them $8.25 a pound to get it back in usable form... Considering how inexpensive the fleeces were, I'm tempted. For $33 plus shipping, though.. hrm.

In other news, I think I'm going to bring Rogue with me to the cabin this weekend and seam it up. It's getting chillier here in the evenings and that means it'll soon be sweater-wearing season! I'm also going to bring up the Blackberry Ridge Blue Willow cardigan sweater kit (with blackberry trim) my sister got me for Christmas last year and try to get it started. This one scares me a little because it's really gorgeous and I don't want to screw it up, but I also really want to wear it, and that won't happen until I finish it! I'll have to look tonight to see what needles I need for it - I think last I checked, I didn't have all the needles I'd need, but that might have changed.

Might as well be WTF Wednesday..

Conjoined squirrels. Nope, not kidding. Unfortunately, the story did not have a happy ending. :(

Here's a happier story about "George". I drive by this farm on my daily commute and we usually notice George and what he's up to.

Too bad George wasn't in the Cornell Dairy Store to fend off Cornellia's kidnappers.

Brought to you by my morning headline scan.

29 August 2006


Started spinning the rest of the superwash merino last night. It's slippery stuff and I noticed that I tend to spin thin at the start of a skein (likely because the spindle is lighter and it's easier to spin thin with a lighter spindle (or so I'm told)), so that combined with the slippery means I drop the spindle more often. I am trying to spin thicker, but that whole consistency thing is still a work in progress.

Need to clean more Clun Forest fleece, but I've been dithering on how. I still need to figure out suitable drying space and that's the sticking point at the moment. Maybe I'll run out and look for some sweater drying racks over lunch or after work. It would be cheaper to make my own, but I'm impatient and don't want to take the time to figure that out and do it properly.

Have some data work to do this afternoon*, though, so I'm not sure I can escape for lunch and still get it done. But it's for a meeting tomorrow morning, so if I don't get it done this afternoon, I'll likely do it from home tonight. Which will cut into the washing/spinning time, but since I need the day job to pay for the hobbies, it'll have to be okay.

*Which really doesn't tell you much.. let me try to elaborate.. much of what I do is count beans and format tables that contain the bean counting. I do a lot in Excel with frequency counts, in other words. This is tedious and really not something you need someone with my training to do, but it needs to be done and I'm the only one in my office**, so I get to do it. When I refer to "data work" I'm usually referring to something more involved - either querying our eccentric and quirky and non-normal (in the database structure sense of the word) data system, and/or actually creating statistical models and running analysis, usually in SPSS. The later is more in line with my background, and I find it much more interesting, but it's also not seen to be as "necessary" as the bean counting stuff, so it often has to wait until the bean counting stuff is done. And it seems that there are always more beans to count, and different ways people want them counted, so the bean counting is almost never done.

**Though there's talk of me getting a student worker for 10 hours a week. This will be good if it's someone I can train to use Excel well because then I can run the bean counts and pass them off for formatting. I get giddy thinking about how much more data work I might be able to do if this happens. Yup; there's a reason my Margi's nickname is "Data Call Girl"***.

***Someone else is "Data Slut" - because she'll purportedly do anything for data. Upon hearing this, I stated that it had to be *good* data, which meant I was christened as something appropriately more selective. *shrug*

27 August 2006

P is for Plied Yarn.

Yeah, I know I'm doing things out of order and I'm missing an "O" post, but I have the "P" post ready and don't want to wait to post it until I come up with a suitable "O" post. Sorry!

As alluded to earlier, I plied my first yarn* this evening.

First, here's a shot of the singles. Again, this is superwash merino lambswool in "steel". The singles were a little rough in spots, but it was mostly pretty consistent. The weight varies from laceweight to near fingering weight throughout the skein, but I was hoping plying it would even most of that out.

I didn't take any pictures as I wound the "bracelet" for Andean plying, mostly to spare anyone what could be interpretted as an obscene gesture. *smile* I wound it up on my hand, but by the time I was finished, there was no way it was going to slip over my wrist. I ended up just sliding it off my hand and it held together well enough that I just spun from it as if it were a center pull ball. It worked pretty well, though I did run into one rather large tangle that took a bit to work through.

As an aside, a full drop spindle's worth seemed an awful lot to try to wind around my hand. As I neared the end of the winding, I was afraid I was going to start losing loops off my thumb or the end of my middle finger. I think for smaller amounts, winding around the hand will work okay for me, but I'm going to try Rosemary's paperback-and-popsicle-stick trick next time (isn't her red yarn beautiful?!).

The hardest part was that I couldn't remember which way I "normally" spin the spindle. I'm pretty sure I spun the singles clockwise, so I plied the yarn counter-clockwise and since by the time I reached the end of the "bracelet" the yarn was more or less naturally plying in the same direction, I'm guessing that was correct. But it's something I'm going to have to remember to make note of until I learn to tell just by looking at the singles themselves.

Because of the tangle it took me a little longer than I wanted to wind the "bracelet" and ply the yarn - pr'bly about 3 to 3.5 hours total (we watched one DVD of Aeon Flux and one episode of Carnivale, which I think works out to just over 3 hours). Not the most time efficient, I'm sure, but not too bad for my first time plying!

I feel like I might have overspun the plies, but I've been warned that when plying if you don't spin it enough it will fall apart. I've also been warned that plied yarn grows when you wash it, so what might look like overspun yarn turns out to be just fine.

You can also see in this picture the vendor information and the rest of the roving I have yet to spin. I really can't recommend Ursula's Alcove enough - she's a very knowledgeable spinner and terribly friendly and helpful, especially for folks just learning. Nor can I complain *at all* about the price for this roving (especially after some of my more recent purchases!).

There's still some residual twist in the yarn - not sure if it's from overspun singles or overspun plies - so I wound it off onto my little niddy noddy and will steam it to set the twist in the next day or two.

In the end, I'm happy with the plied yarn. It's slightly thicker than I'd been aiming for, but still well within sock knitting weight. It's much softer than I thought it would end up, too, which is good. I'll pr'bly run some reinforcement yarn in the heel when I knit them, or drop down a needle size to do the heel flap so it's a more dense fabric, but otherwise, it should make lovely socks.

And since I steam set the twist on the most recent skein of Shetland singles so I could use my niddy noddy, here's a shot of those, too:

Still haven't figured out what to make with the Shetland - I have quite a bit of it, but as it's really my first handspun, I've found I've been terribly picky about what I consider suitable for it.

* Or at least, my first successfully plied yarn!

Need to figure out an "O" post..

.. and soon because I have my "P" post all figure out already! This will be somewhat of preview, more along the lines of the planning post for the "P" post.

I have about 2 ounces of of the superwash merino (in "steel", from Ursula's Alcove) spun. At least.. I think I do. I'm lacking a scale and it being Sunday, the post office is not an option, not even if they'd let me. But I think it's about half the 4 ounce bag, so that means it's a little over 50 grams, which should be enough to make one sock. My goal for this wool is to make a pair of socks, which will be my first real project/garment that I'll make from my own handspun.

But it also means, socks needing to be a little sturdier, that I need to ply the yarn (and also pr'bly knit it up a little more densely for the foot than I normally do). And while Cate showed me how, I've been nervous to try it.

So I went out in search of some additional answers - like how long is it likely to take me to ply 2 ounces of slightly-thicker-than-fingering-weight singles? - on the internet and found some useful websites. I also found a nifty new (to me) YahooGroup in which I'm looking forward to participating.

But I'm still not quite ready to jump in. Part of it is wanting to be sure that I spin enough to make this first skein long enough to finish a full sock. It just doesn't *look* like a skein's worth of yarn on the spindle. So I'm spinning up one more chunk just to be sure. Part of it is being a little nervous about how long this is likely to take. I mean, once you start Andean plying, my understanding is that you're sort of literally tied to your spindle until you finish. I'll pr'bly give it a go after dinner, but we'll see.

In other news, I picked up 4 ounces of camel for $11 at the state fair Friday, which was pretty exciting. It's a bit of a shorter staple, but should be a good introduction to the lambs wool. And it's very soft and a beautiful color. No further washing has been done with the lambs wool, but I'm sure I'll do more this week.

Oh, and Jack thinks that angora bunnies are just the funniest thing, and he agreed that we might eventually maybe be able to get one. Since he's already vetoed any form of grazing livestock, this might be my only shot at getting my own fleece-producing animal. And no, I've never, ever had a bunny, so I'll have quite a bit to learn, but I have some time to do it in.

23 August 2006

N is for trying something NEW!

So, yesterday, I got a big bag stuffed full of two lamb fleeces and I really couldn't wait to dive right in and try to wash some. I read some good web tutorials, got some advice from much more experienced friends and then just dove right in. Rather than post each picture of the process separately, and in keeping with the theme of the post, I'm trying some NEW and posting a "film loop" of the 7 photos I took during the process.

The first picture in the loop shows the supplies I started with - 2 large rubbermaid bins (at the recommendation of Jennifer as she suggested it would be easier to just transfer the fleece from one bin of hot water to another than to find someplace for it to sit while I emptied and refilled a single bin), a bottle of original scent Dawn dish detergent, a large mesh laundry bag (I looked for lingerie bags but couldn't find any at the local catch-all stores, and was too impatient to wait until we could get into town again), and, of course, my Big Bag o' Fleece(tm).

The fleece is raw and I believe not really skirted, though I could be wrong on that. There's plenty of vegetable matter and sheep poo in it, but in selecting bits to try to wash first, I tried to avoid anything that looked really nasty - and actually, those bits will pr'bly just get pitched. In the end, I pr'bly tried to wash too much at once - some of the inner bits didn't really get clean, though it appears that the lanolin is largely gone, so the detergent did it's job.

Jennifer recommended that I pre-soak the fleece before the first washing if it was really dirty. I figured a pre-soak couldn't hurt and after seeing the nasty, nasty water from the pre-soak, I'm glad I did it. Ew!

I did two washes and the water from each step got less and less dirty, so I felt pretty good about that. I also did two rinses, just to be sure and the water from the last rinse was pretty clear, so I took that as a good sign. It also helped that Meehesh, who was raised on a farm and has helped her mom wash fleece *lots* of times, was over and could help reassure me that, no, I didn't felt it, and yes, I'd done the right things.

Meehesh helped me take it out of the final rinse and held my hand (well, you know what I mean) as I put the wet fleece in the washer for the spin cycle. I used the delicates cycle and didn't let it spin all the way out - I was too nervous that it would be too much agitation! - but it came out just slightly damp and completely unfelted. Whew!

We spread out the fleece to dry on some baking racks in the bathroom and left the bathroom fan on overnight. In spreading it out, we found some bits that didn't get as clean as I'd have liked, but again, I think that's just because I tried to wash too much at once. I turned it over a bit before going to bed so that the bottom could get more air circulation. This morning, the fleece is pretty dry, though there were still a few slightly damp bits that I turned up, so it's still spread out. Again, at Jennifer's recommendation, I plan to put the clean(er) fleece in a pillow case for storage.

A couple other notes:
1. I barely made a dent in my Big Bag o' Fleece(tm) with what I washed. Guess I'll be spending a lot of time in the next week or so doing this! For the next few days, though, the fleece will have to hang out in a rubbermaid bin as we'll be busy.
2. The staple is shorter than I'd hoped - in some places it's only about an inch long - and there are some bits that are clearly unspinnable (face fleece and the like), so I'll need to sort that stuff out when I card it.
3. I will definitely need to card it. I had a romantic hope that I would be able to spin it right off the lock, but there's really no way I'll be able to do that. So I'm going to need to beg or borrow a set of wool cards in order to go any further with the process.
4. The large mesh laundry bag worked very well. I just need to not overfill it next time.
5. I need a better drying arrangment. Meehesh was telling me about her mom's drying racks, which were made of something similar to the mesh that my laundry bag is made from, stretched out on wooden dowling and stackable. The mesh laundry bag was only about $5, so I'm thinking of stopping and picking up a couple more to cut up and make into drying racks. Conveniently, I'm going to my parent's this weekend and mom sews and dad's a woodworker, so I'm sure we can put something useful together.

All in all, though, very untraumatic and surprisingly unstinky. The water was a bit yucky from the first rinse, but I guess that's to be expected. I have a lot more to process, which is a little daunting, but it's not difficult, so I'll just have to work through it.

And now I'm off to find some good combs to add to my birthday and holiday WishList!

21 August 2006

Progress of another color.

Nope, still no more scraping on the porch. Jack slept poorly last night and woke up with an achy and generally unhappy shoulder that meant he wasn't sure about trying to spend a couple hours on hands and knees to finish the scraping. No worries; our house is 90 years old, so it's pretty easy to find other things to do if I am feeling motivated.

And I was, so I decided to strip more varnish in the dining room. The main doors and such are done-enough for now, but I'd been dreading starting the 8-inch floor board, so decided I might as well stop putting it off and give it a go. And it is tedious - the taping is futzy, the quarter-round piece of trim at the bottom is annoying, it's a fair amount of time contorted on hands and knees - but it's not difficult and I got the larger piece finished (about half of the room). There are two smaller pieces, one of which might get done yet this week, and one that will wait until we're ready to re-stain it all because it requires moving a rather large cabinet/pantry to get to and since it holds all of our dishes and a fair number of our kitchen appliances, we only want to have to move it once.

While I was waiting for the strip goo to do it's magic, I got out our little Ryobi Corner Cat sander (ours is the corded version, though) and sanded the door frames and window that had already been stripped. While I was doing that, Jack came down and decided to try to clean up the kitchen side (the painted side) of the one door frame with the heat gun. Both the sanding and the heat gun paint clean up worked well and Jack got the underside bits of the door frame that I can't really reach safely, so all in all we had a fair bit done by the time we decided to stop for an early dinner (we usually eat a late-ish breakfast and an early dinner, and skip lunch, on days we're both home).

After dinner I was still feeling a bit restless and decided to attack the rest of the door frame with the heat gun. As I've mentioned, there are at least 7 coats of paint on the woodwork in the kitchen (except for the new doorway into the bathroom, which appears to only have one coat). These seem to have been applied on top of the existing varnish, so when you heat it all up with the heat gun, the varnish goes gooey and the paint more or less just peels off all in one piece. It's not quite that simple, but it's also not anywhere near as scraping-intensive as the porch has been.

And I'm happy to report that though I'm now more achy than I was, one of the three door frames in the kitchen is now completely free of the offending light teal green paint. I'd post a picture, but it's still a bit sloppy, so I want to clean it up a bit more first. It also will need a final coat of the strip goo because gooey varnish is annoying to scrape with a heat gun in one hand, but one coat will be infinitely preferable to the 6 or so it took to go through all the paint!

Tomorrow I have to head into town for a couple hours for a meeting for work and we have to run a few errands (need to get a poster frame for the crane poster I got at the bookstore clearance a few weeks ago; need to get more strip goo; need to stop and deposit a reimbursement check), so we might be less ambitious at home, but you never know.

In knitting news, I got Sensational Knitted Socks today from Zooba and have a feeling it's going to become one of my staple reference books for socks. I'm also contemplating making socks with some of my handspun, knit on a smaller than normal needle to make a more sturdy fabric. I'm a little unsure of how they'd hold up, but I think I might give it a try with some of the Shetland from Cate and see. I need to get another project on needles before we leave for the Cities since I don't want mom to see her holiday gift (even though she picked it out) until Christmas!

20 August 2006

Melancholy, but getting better..

Despite what was not a bad weekend, I find myself in a melancholy mood this evening.

Friday night at the fair was a little odd, but not terribly surprising. When you're sitting at a booth for the Child Abuse Prevention Council, it's really not very surprising when people don't want to stop and chat, I guess. I mean, no one wants anyone else to think that they might *need* information provided by such a group, and in all honesty, the booth was not really all that inviting. So I spent a couple hours hanging out with a very nice, if rather shy, 16-year-old girl and answering ocassional questions about HCWR. And knitting. I got several inches of mom's Panobo shrug finished, but, you know, since she checks in here every now and then, no pictures. Yet. *tease*

I also touched base with a couple of folks running for state office in this area. This is by far the most .. bizarre effect of being involved with the BOD for HCWR. Local candidates *remember* who I am when they meet me. It's .. odd, especially for someone who tries to stay behind the scenes. But a couple local candidates have gotten to the point where they're *people* when they talk to me, not *candidates*, which I have to admit makes me want them up there in the state legislature all the more. Knowing who they are behind their platforms and campaign materials goes a long way toward me believing that they really do believe the same sorts of things I do. I can't quite put my finger on it, but talking to one candidate about how exhausting it can be to get up and milk the cows, then run out and pick up his grand-daughter before heading out to a community parade, followed by a brief appearance at a different community on the other side of the district, and then by a stint at the county fair, only to look forward to having to milk the cows again when he gets home.. *shrug* I trust him. I trust that he really *does* want to do this because he cares about the *people* in this district. Yeah.. not sure that really gets it, but.. yeah.

Saturday was good, if ridership was lower than we'd hoped. But everyone who rode was really wonderful. Just Good Folks(tm). There were some frustrations with the map, some confusion about the sheer number of different raffles/drawings/give-aways that were happening throughout the day (there were, I think, at least 5, which is admittedly a bit of overkill), but mostly, folks seemed to enjoy themselves and enjoy the route we planned. I kept a list of the things people mentioned that could have been improved, or that were confusing, so next year we'll be able to make it an even better experience.

Today, we tried to sleep in, but there's a new 'hound somewhere in the neighborhood that starting howling at least four times between 3 and 5 a.m. Ugh. We sleep with the windows open because it's cool enough that way, but had to shut the bedroom windows at 4:30 a.m. just to try to snatch a few more hours of rest. Fortunately, we didn't have any really solid plans for the day - just a quick run up to the county fair to check things out (and pick up lawn signs for the aforementioned candidates) - so we both napped in front of a movie this afternoon. The porch didn't get scraped, but that's not such a big deal. I'm sure we'll work on it sometime this week.

In spinning news, I've been working some more on the Shetland from Cate. Now that I have some more wool coming in for my small but growing stash, I figure it's safe to spin what I have already. I still have a bit of the Shetland to spin, but that'll allow me to compare it with the merino I have coming. I also got an email this evening from my friend on the farm with the Clun-Forest sheep telling me that even though I wasn't able to make it out to help them shear, they set aside not one, but TWO(!) lamb fleeces for me!! I can't wait to get them and take my first foray into cleaning and processing raw fleece. And with two fleeces, I'm sure I'll have enough to make something really wonderful from the yarn. So in the span of about a week, I've managed to go from a small but manageable fleece stash to more fleece than I know quite what to do with (well, not really.. I already have ideas for what I'd like to eventually make with most of it)! *squee*!!

And now, after writing this post (and a few intervening emails), I'm happy to report that I'm no longer feeling melancholy. Instead, I'm rejuvenated and off to spin some Shetland and wonder about the joys(?) of cleaning my first raw fleeces.

18 August 2006

Drive by..

Still here.

Cate is once again my hero this week.*

I did get 3 lbs of merino roving (!) and I'm off work all next week, so I'm sure I'll start to spin some of it. Can't wait! I'm thinking of trying to spin it so it'll be DK-weight (I think.. I always mix up which of DK and sport weight is lighter) when plied so I can make a sweater out of it.. I even have one in mind (one of the ones from Inspired Cable Knits, but I can't recall the name at the moment), so here's to ambition!

In the meantime, I'm off to sit at the Child Abuse Prevention Network booth at the county fair tonight and to try to sell more raffle tickets for HCWR's rally raffle tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll be running around for registration and manning stops all day and then helping out where I can in the early evening for the Rally. Sunday we're going to try to finish scraping the porch so we can investigate renting a floor sander Monday or Tuesday and apply the sealant Wednesday or Thursday.

* For those interested, US News & World Report annual college rankings were released to the public today; they were released under embargo to colleges on Wednesday, but apparently US News only notified Public Relations folks of this, so those of us in IR were left in the dark unless our PR folks clued us in. Mine didn't, but an off-hand comment from Cate did, so I was able to track down the rankings and get copies, which ended up being a good thing because I've talked to two members of the press so far today already. (CRAZY! Who wants to talk to an institutional researcher for a news story?!)

15 August 2006


The prophesized summer slow down has finally arrived. This week is slow.. it's only Tuesday and it's s.l.o.w. And while this should be a great opportunity for me to work on some of those other projects I have in mind, I'm having a hard time motivating to start something new that I know I won't be able to finish before I get crushed under the boot heel of oppression caught up in the fall frenzy.

The cucumbers in my garden seem to be growing at a near-perfect rate. I'm getting one-per-day-or-two, which means I get to eat garden fresh produce every couple days without getting sick of eating cucumbers ad naseum. Here's hoping next year I can get cukes *and* tomatoes..!

I'm tempted (*a LOT*) by the roving Mary Kay is selling. I am pretty sure I can justify the Khaki and Peacock merino, but I'd really love to get one of the larger lots of either the Rambouillet or the Bio Clip(!!) Merino. However, at $2.50 an ounce.. ouch. :/

Which reminds me, I'm not going to be able to go help shear Clun Forest lambs after all. The shearer had a conflict, so they moved the shearing to this weekend instead of last weekend, and I'm committed to the motorcycle rally for HCWR all day Saturday, so there's no way I can get out there to help. Which I'm pretty sure means I won't be able to get a fleece because they have a deal with the shearer where he just takes all the fleece so they don't have to figure out selling it and I'm pretty sure they won't want to be bothered trying to keep one out for me if I'm not there. So I'm bummed, but I s'pose there's always next year.

Oh! But it appears that Stephanie, aka The Yarn Harlot, will be within striking distance September 10. She'll be at Yellow Dog Knitting in Eau Claire, WI. Who's up for a road trip?

13 August 2006

Unexpected Productivity

(a.k.a., What I Did With My Weekend)

Right then. So regular readers know that we bought a house about 15 months ago that didn't need any major work to be livable, but which could use a little TLC to be all that it can be. And despite the fact that we live on a single income while one of us works on his degree, we've made some improvements in that time which really sort of .. well, surprise me.

First, there was the windows. As a recap, our house was built in 1916; the windows had not been replaced or updated since then. We decided that we couldn't afford *not* to replace them, because the heat loss through single pane glass in a Minnesota winter can be sort of scary. So we replaced every single window in the house. That happened last October and I don't think there are pictures of before and after, but if you want to search the archives from around that time, feel free.

Second, the bushes (which are really part of the on-going and continuous "garden" project). We were planning to take the remaining stumps to the green dump next weekend when my parents could come down with dad's truck (which is also the same weekend as the HCWR Hokah Fun Run, so it was looking to be a bit of a busy weekend), but our neighbor, Jim, offered to run the stumps to the dump in his truck this weekend. He also then ran a load (with Jack) of other stuff to the regular dump. Two nagging little projects done unexpectedly earlier than planned!

Third, the porch. We have a front porch and a back patio (really, we have a lovely house and yard and it will be much lovlier by the time we're done), but both are in need of some attention. The porch, for instance, is in need of some new.. something.

That first picture is just a general shot of the paint on the floor of the porch.. not a pretty sight. The most recent paint job is a sort of orange-tan color. We think the layer under that was a more brown-tan, and before that there were coats of slate blue, baby blue, and a sort of green-tan-we-think. At some point various boards in the floor were replaced.. we didn't know until today that the original boards appear to be cedar; the replacement boards are, of course, pine. *sigh*

The second is a sample of the black mold that invaded the porch some-unknown-time-ago; it was mostly contained to the boards around the top edge of the porch, but some of it was on the undersides of the wood siding on the house. We were told when the house was inspected pre-closing that the mold was due to the lack of air circulation on the porch, and since I don't think I have a picture of the "inside" of the porch pre-de-bushing, you'll have to imagine several large evergreen bushes the length of the front of the porch and taller than the roof, and a section of lattice-work sort of strung-together to form some sort of something at the end of the porch. (We tried to figure out what it was intended to be - it's not needed as a shade block and nothing that grows on that side of the porch vines, so in the end we decided it was some sort of "privacy" screen.. maybe.) So, yeah, not much air circulation, but as you can see, we've fixed that already.

The mold just needed to be killed. A little (well, really, a half-bleach-half-water) solution cleared that up well enough.

The paint has been more troublesome. We didn't want to use anything toxic, or even anything chemical, on the porch because we weren't sure how it might effect ground-water and the like. So that left us with using a heat gun. Jack started this process last summer, with a borrowed heat gun from a friend - and he got about 9-10 boards scraped on his own before declaring that his knees and his back simply wouldn't survive doing the rest alone. This weekend, we went and bought Our Very Own Heat Gun(tm) and worked as a team to scrape away the Sins of Owners Past(tm). And we got about half the porch done..

.. but we still have about half the porch to go.

(And no, we don't make a habit of only stripping half boards, but the scraper tool we were using finally decided that holding an edge was more than we could reasonably expect to ask of it, so we had to stop at least until tomorrow* when we can get another bit-that-has-the-scrapey-bits.)

But, if you'd asked me Friday, there's no way I would have predicted such productivity this weekend, so all is good and all is well and here's to higher market value one of these days!

I have decided to take next week off work, which opens all sorts of possibilities like actually renting a floor sander and sanding the boards of the porch and going to get some water-sealant stuff and finishing the floor of the porch**. It's also possible that we'll apply the heat gun to the nasty green paint in the kitchen and finally get to the point where we'll have to figure out just what we want to do to that woodwork. Of course, there's also the possibility that we'll *gasp* take some time for a more or less Real(tm) vacation.

And lest you think I was idle when we weren't scraping paint, you'll be pleased to know that Holiday Gift #1 is more or less finished.. there's a bit of I-cord that needs to be done, but the main garment is done, ends woven in and everything.

For now, Old Time Radio is on, so I'm off to listen to 50-year-old ads and long-forgotten radio shows.

* "Tomorrow" is a generalization. Tomorrow, as in Monday, we're not likely to do much additional work as I have to work and then have a Board meeting. Tuesday is a possibility, but Wednesday I think I'm helping set something or other up at the county fair. Thursday is another possibility, as is Friday, but Saturday is right out as the aforementioned HCWR Hokah Fun Run is that day (but now that the stumps have been removed, we suspect mom and dad will choose another weekend to come visit). Sunday, however, is a likely candidate for finishing the scraping.

** The rest still needs to be done, but we've decided that instead of trying to maintain the lovely dual-colored trend of previous owners, we'll instead put siding on the *entire* house to match the siding on the addition that was built in 2001. This means we don't need to scrape and repaint a large portion of the porch walls, but that we will need to replace the columns and re-paint the "sills" eventually. For now, though, getting the floor done is enough.

09 August 2006

On that..

Cate so rocks my world. Here's for making things so *much* *HARDER* than they have to be and having someone with a clue gently nudging you toward the easy way. Not only do I have the Tables module for SPSS, I *used* it to create the data tables on which I'm trying to run the z-test for proportions. But I never use the tests of significance in the module because, quite honestly, most of what I do doesn't require it. (Yeah, yeah.. I'm one of those IR people who mostly run frequencies.. not because I *can't* do more sophistocated analysis, but because I don't have *time* to develop more sophistocated models and then teach my users not to be afraid of them. I'm working on it; I miss working my stats chops.) Fortunately, I saved my syntax (here's for getting at least *one* thing right!), so I just had to paste in the extra bit to make it do the z-test and, viola! Problem solved.

On less technical issues, knitting proceeds on Holiday Gift #1. I'm just about, maybe a little over, half way through. Sorry, no pics until after the holidays.

I'm thinking about donating the Candle Flame Shawl to the raffle to benefit Houston County Women's Resources, but I'm a little concerned it won't .. match the interests of the attendees. It's a motorcycle and classic car rally, and for some reason I just cringe at the idea of putting a hand knit shawl in there. Part of it is admittedly ego - I'd hate to put it in the raffle and have only a small handful of people think it worth spending a ticket on. (This is a different raffle than the big one for the cruise and travel packages; this one will be done on-site, day-of, and people will buy their "wing span" - length from fingertip to fingertip - in raffle tickets for a set price (we're still deciding on the price, but it will likely be less than $1 per ticket for most adults) and then drop their tickets in the box or bag or whatever for each item they want a chance at.) Part of it is realizing that I put quite a significant amount of time into it and it might be better received as a gift (it was intended as a gift, but it took too long to make) because I doubt it will bring in all that much in additional raffle ticket sales from this specific audience to justify the work that went into it. But I'm on the fence, partly because the end part of the rally is also a local community festival/gathering so there will be more people there than just the folks who ride the rally. *waffle**waffle*

08 August 2006


I've spent the better part of the afternoon trying to remember the proper way to compute a Z-test for proportions. This has not been fun. It doesn't help that the data I'm using is non-representative for gender, so the results need to be considered by gender, which just adds one too many pieces too the puzzle for me to feel like I have any hope of identifying the correct sample size to put into the silly little formula. And while there are calculators out there on the web that will compute this for me, I have a lot of these little buggers to calculate and I don't particularly feel like plugging them all into a little calculator when I *should* be able to just put the damn formula into Excel. *Should* being the operative word there.

Guess I'm making a trip to the Statistical Consulting Center tomorrow. *sigh*

06 August 2006

Okay, now it's really finished.

Sorry for the contrast on the photos - should have used a plain colored towel and not one striped in the two main colors of the wrap. I also didn't want to pull out the futon to block it flat because I was afraid the dog would decide to take a nap on it, so I stretched it across the back of the couch. It worked, but wasn't quite long enough so I had to wrap the ends around the sides a bit.

Blocking was not ideal.. the garter stitch on the ends is stretchier side to side than the lace pattern, so the ends ended up slightly wider than the body of the wrap. I also had to tension it end-to-end quite a bit so that the pooching of the lace pattern would flatten out, so there are little pointy bits on the ends that I'm not happy with. I'll need to re-wet just the ends and block just those bits again to get it to even out.

In other news, Holiday Gift #1 is progressing, but I'm finding that I have to take breaks from the mostly cotton yarn or my hands start to hurt. So I started mom's Panobo wrap. Nope, you won't get pictures - mom reads here every now and then and even though she knows what it is, I don't want to spoil her surprise when she sees it finished in person. I will tell you that I rather like the yarn - Berroco's Ultra Alpaca - because it's really very soft and light. I did have to go down a needle size to get gauge, but that's not really unusual for me.

In trying to find the right needles, though, I discovered that I appear to have two 29-inch US9 circulars. So since I need another 29-inch US7 to finish this project, I may try to trade one of the US9's for a US7. I unfortunately don't have the packaging for either - both are metal, and I'm pretty sure one is a Boye and the other is a Susan Bates Silverado. The Boye has a bend in the needle toward the join and a stiffer cable; the Silverado is a straight needle but a wonderfully relaxed cable. The joins on both are smooth.

05 August 2006

The Garage People(tm)

We have a house across the street from us that is a rental. This is not, in and of itself, anything particularly bad. The house and yard are well kept up (better than ours, lately*) and the renters who live there are not particularly loud, nor are they disrespectful of our property, so really, I shouldn't complain.

But ..

We call them The Garage People(tm) because they appear to live in their garage. And not just them - them and anywhere from four to a dozen or so of their friends. They have several chairs and at least one old car seat for folks to sit on, all arranged at the edge of the garage door facing the street. And they just.. hang out there.

We've speculated as to why they might live in the garage. We thought it might be because they don't have enough indoor furniture (or enough space) to comfortably seat all of their friends. Except that they're out there even when there are few enough of them that this should not be a concern. We thought it might be because it's cooler outside some evenings. Except that we think the house has central air conditioning. We thought it might be because they all wanted to keep the person grilling (on the relatively rare occasions that they grill) company. Except, as mentioned, they don't appear to grill with enough regularity for this to be a reason. We thought it might be so they could be closer to the beer fridge in the garage. Except I've observed that they seem to go in and out of the house for ice and other beverages regularly enough that I doubt that's it. The only possibility we've not dismissed for one reason or another is that the owner of the house won't let them smoke in the house, so they hang out in the garage so they can smoke with abandon. Which they do.

Again, they're not disruptive, nor are they loud enough for us to hear them except if we're also outside and then it's only a low conversational murmur and the occasional laugh or two. Even on the nights when they're out there until dawn (yes, nights, plural - we think they may be 3rd shift workers and are just trying to maintain a "normal" schedule for the work week), they aren't loud and you only notice they're there if you use the downstairs bathroom (which has a window that opens directly across from said garage). They don't leave a mess when they're out there, their friends park along the side of the street and never block anyone in, really, they seem to be rather nice folks. While some of their friends used to park on our side of the street when the bushes were still there, I've noticed they don't even do that now that we have a clear view of the side yard.

It's just.. odd.

A normal person would have introduced themselves to them months ago. But we didn't, so now it almost seems as though it would be presumptuous to walk over there some evening when they're gathered with friends or family or both just to say, "Howdy, neighbor." And there's also that little bit of.. privacy-protection on our part.. that bit where if we make the move to introduce ourselves, we'll have to actually *talk* to them whenever we see them and both of us are private enough (and have lived in larger cities where you really *don't* talk to your neighbors enough) that we're hesitant to breech that barrier.

Which pr'bly makes us the odd ones, I know, but c'est la vie.


*We had a Rather Large Thistle(tm) get out of hand last year. It propagated before we dealt with it, so we had a lot more thistles to deal with this year, including an entire patch that was about four feet tall by the time I even knew it was there (Jack mows the lawn and never thought to tell me about them and they live on the Other Side of the Fence(tm) that we never see unless we're mowing the lawn). I tried to poison them before they bloomed, but that was only so effective. (Actually it was quite effective on the smaller ones invading the lawn, but only caused parts of the big ones to turn slightly brown.) Tonight I donned long sleeves and not-quite-thick-enough gloves, took out three large lawn and garden trash bags and put them over the tops of the thistles (to prevent any of their little potential seed bits from getting knocked loose as I jostled the plants) and ripped the bastards out by the roots. So they're gone now, at least for now, but it was still one of those things that made me feel like a Bad Homeowner(tm).

I am Knitter; Hear me ROAR!

Heh. Or something. I managed the crochet provisional cast on the Very First Time(tm). Once I started crocheting the chain it became immediately clear which side was the bottom and what part I was supposed to knit into to create the first row.

The reason for the provisional cast on was to allow for a picot hem, which I'd also never done before. I must admit, it's a neat little trick and I rather like how it turned out.

And after the hem, there's a little bit of lace detail, worked in purl stitches with a row of yo, p2tog in the middle before the main body of the piece progresses:

All in all, I am pleased with how this one's starting, especially at the fact that I learned two new techniques in the progress.

I also got the sleeves for Rogue blocked, but I sort of cheated to do it. I just steam ironed them (except for the bias hem). I'm contemplating doing that for the body as well, but haven't decided yet.

It's much, much cooler here today and the humidity seems to have dropped substantially as well, so it's likely that I'll try to block the Candle Flame Shawl later this afternoon. I'm a little concerned that I don't have anything long enough to block it on - unblocked it's about 5 feet long and I expect it will stretch out another 2 to 2.5 feet during blocking. Even diagonal on the queen-sized futon I don't think I'll be able to block it all in one piece. Might have to sequester the dog upstairs and use the carpet on the living room floor.

04 August 2006


The Candle Flame Shawl is finished!*

I have not yet cast on for Holiday Gift #1 because it requires a provisional crochet cast-on and I've never done that before and didn't feel like attempting it at too-late-for-this-little-working-girl last night. But I have a crochet hook (don't ask about size.. I have no idea) and some smooth waste yarn (some leftover Noro Lily, actually) and will attempt to cast on tonight. Wish me luck ('cause, you know, it says to pick up and knit through the bottom of the crochet stitches and how do you tell the top from the bottom?)!

I'm still trying to figure out how I want to do mom's wrap. The pattern calls for 2 24-inch circs in the same size (a size I don't even have 1 24-inch circ in at the moment), but really only because it has you working each "sleeve" flat to the center and then doing a 3-needle bind off and seams for the arms. I'm not fond of the idea of a 3-needle bind off in the center of the back, but I'm also not fond of grafting the length of the back either. (Nor am I fond of the idea of working the bulk of the piece flat when it could just as easily be done in the round, but I can modify the pattern to make that happen.) So I'm trying to come to a decision as to how to proceed on that one. In the mean time, I'll work on Holiday Gift #1.

Did I mention I have patterns picked out for Holiday Gifts #2 thru #4 (and pr'bly #5 and #6 as well)? I have to wait until next month to order yarn, though. Oh, and I challenged the members of the Board of Directors of HCWR to sell raffle tickets by promising to make a hand knit scarf (either winter-scarf-style or lacy (goodness help me, what was I thinking?)), hat, mittens or gloves to the person who sells the most raffle tickets (with a minimum of 30 tickets sold). So yeah.. I think I'm out of the knitting slump and have lots of things to work on.

OH! And I almost forgot that I confirmed that I am getting a Clun Forest lamb fleece (I think it's a hogget - it's the first shearing of a lamb born this past spring) next weekend. *bounce* It has a shorter staple than adult Clun Forest (which is about 4-inches, I think), but not so short I won't be able to spin with it. I *so* can't wait. My first *whole fleece*!

(*Except for blocking. So there are no pictures because right now it's just a pile of string that sort of, almost, if you stretch it out, looks like it might be something you might find at the bottom of a laundry hamper.)

03 August 2006

On Time.

The only problem with getting to work an hour before I have been lately (though only about fifteen minutes before I usually do during the school year) is that the morning seems interminably long.* It has been a more or less productive morning, though I won't bore you with the details.

In other news, I've been invited out to a friend's friend's farm to help them shear their Clun Forest lambs next weekend. I'm very excited by this, even though I don't know yet if I'll be able to snag a fleece (they have an arrangement with the shearer for their fleece, so I'm not sure if they can do "outside" sales). And of course, if I do snag a fleece, there's that whole "WHAT NOW?" thing.. *chuckle* But I learn best by doing, so I see no reason to expect this to be any different.

Plans for this weekend are indeterminate. A dear friend who lives far away will be within a couple hours drive Saturday through Tuesday, but this is not a month to just decide to go for a jaunt (at $3/gallon and the need to arrange for a place to stay not only for us but for the little black pig and then the money to go out and such), so we're trying to decide if we can go. Of the concerns, what to do with Jali is really the most limiting, which usually means that one of us ends up staying home. Since said dear friend is arguably closer to Jack, I'm either facing a weekend with a couple hours car-knitting time, or a weekend mostly home alone with the pig. I'm undecided as to how I feel about either, really. *shrug*

* Well, and that I had to go to bed early last night so I didn't get nearly as much done on the Candle Flame Wrap as I wanted. I did manage to get almost finished with next-to-last pattern repeat in the car this morning, though.

01 August 2006

More motivation..


Turns out that I don't have quite all the needles I need to start either holiday project. Or rather, I do have the needles for one, but I'm using one.. it's currently tied up in the Candle Flame Shawl. And since I'm far too lazy to want to put 80 some stitches in fingering weight yarn on a holding needle or (worse) yarn, I've decided I need to just buckle down and finish it.

So far, I have about 2 and a half pattern repeats (which are 36 rows long) left, plus a couple inches of garter. And I've decided that if I *ever* do another lacework wrap, it will have shorter repeats that are easier to memorize. 36 rows is just outside my comfortable memory. I have most of it down (finally.. only took the better part of 11 and a half repeats), but the transition points I still need the pattern for. I imagine this must be similar to how Grumperina feels about Mountainash.

But, since we're hiding out upstairs so we can guiltily benefit from the dehumidifying action of the air conditioner, we're enjoying listening to Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen compliments of Audible.com and since I can't seem to multi-task on the computer while listening to audio books, it should only take another day or two to finish. And then it will get added to the needs-to-be-blocked pile with Rogue.