Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Almanac

I am a happenstance gardener, unlike my Grandpa, whose abilities are housed in his whole being because a single thumb just isn't big enough. Whole catalogs of wisdom and experience are etched in his memory as clearly as the lines on his hands. Talking to him and my Uncle Gary is like flipping through the Farmer's Almanac, except much funnier. Gary knows what fish are biting in the lake by which tree is budding out. "Old Timers say the crappie are biting when the Redbud blooms" he explains with a smile that is one half respect and one half amusement. The old timers are always right. We both subscribe to this natural science, as most gardeners do, that boils down to the fact everything is connected. Water and air temperature, moon phase, soil health, sun and shade, everything has it's place and purpose.

You would think gardening would be a simple science then wouldn't you? Basically propagating, planting, growing, and harvesting are simple, but the motions aren't enough. The difficulty of gardening is in the letting go. You plan, you toil, you hope and pray, but in the end, you have to let go because you are only a tiny part of the equation; you are not in control. Nature is in control and even though you do all the legwork to the best of your ability, you have to eventually step back and patiently wait for the outcome. Whether you are rewarded with the juiciest red tomato, or foiled by an unforeseen drought, you are the better for having trusted your instincts, listened to the wisdom of those before you, and participated in one of life's concentric circles. I am reminded of something my dad said when I was pregnant, " Don't worry about the one thing that could go wrong; recognize the miracle in the hundreds of things that go right."
I have a rocky yard so I garden in pots and small raised beds. This weekend, inspired by the surprise sunflower blooming from my compost bucket, I put some seeds in soil and will wait patiently (so not my forte, but I am working on that) to see what happens. Hopefully the pumpkins will be a reality in October despite the fact I planted them when the moon is waxing rather than waning. If nothing comes of them, I'll have learned a lesson. Either way gardening, for me, is time well spent.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kate's Cardigan

Yet another February Baby Sweater off the needles for my cousin Michelle's impending arrival. These little knits fly. In a fit of finishing up the Harry Potter series on audio book, I have been a knitting machine. I actually finished this several days ago and am also almost done with a stranded hat. I have knit so often in the past week that I have Knitter's Neck- you know what I mean. Ouch!

This cardigan is knit in the new organic cotton yarn from Knit Picks, Simply Cotton. Advertised as a sport weight, I think it is closer to fingering weight. The cotton is very soft, no splitting, and came out of a low heat dryer with out pills or too much shrinkage. I like this cotton very much, but this pattern benefits from the smooshy-ness of wool. I used size 4 needles and ended up with a 18.5 " chest circumference. The rose buttons are vintage and the hanger used in the photo belonged to my Grandmother when she was a child. Can't wait to meet you, Kate!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Old Sofa Socks

When you open your mailbox to a surprise package of Pigeonroof Studios scrappy skeins from your pal the Lady Knits, a million ideas run through your mind as to what you can do with these small amounts of awesome yarn. I needed a portable project for our road trip to Chattanooga* this past weekend and a pair of peds fit the bill. I didn't have enough of the yellow that Larkin sent to complete both feet but I remembered I had some matching brown from these socks. Voila! A quick project was born.

While sewing up the toe on the last sock I pondered what I would call these. 'Eggs on Toast' or 'Dandelion' or maybe 'Honey Bee'. I asked my husband what he thought and after a quick sideways glance (he was driving at the time) he declared they looked like an old sofa. I really could not argue. They do have that 1970's Harvest Gold vibe. I used my generic top down sock formula, casting on 60 stitches and starting the heel 4 rows after the ribbing ended.

* Trip was fantastic! Still sorting out the hundreds of pictures I took so more on this to come.
** Many many thanks for all of the Buttercup love. I was flattered silly.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Variation on a Buttercup

Pattern: Buttercup by Heidi Kirrmaier
Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light "aurelian"
Needles: US# 4 circular and DPN
I am going to sing the praises of this pattern just like the others who have finished her. Buttercup is simple and, as you can see, easy to modify. I followed Heidi's variation instructions with one or two small differences:
1.I cast the stitches on for the lace panel as I do for underarms (not on a separate needle)
2. I only did 3 a-line increases instead of 6
3. I used a 16 stitch sideways garter border on the hem and sleeves.
I love this sweater. It fits well but the next one I make will not have the extra sleeve stitches which just stick out like too much fabric rather than giving a pouf. I won't do the a-line increases at all since I ended up with too much fabric across the back since there is no waist shaping.
Overall, I highly recommend this pattern. This will be my go-to fall sweater to layer over a long sleeve tee. I also find that I have much more success with garments knit in a DK or lighter weight wool. I love all of the top down designs, but most are too bulky for my frame and the warm winters here. Knit a Buttercup today, you'll be glad you did.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Summer Reading

I've enjoyed following the lists of summer reading books you are sharing in the blogosphere. My reading includes listening to all of the Harry Potter series on audio-book while knitting or exercising and I've limited my bound book reading to these two (which at a total of 1500 pages is not as limited as it seems).
First is Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, a physically impressive work of fantasy and historical fiction written in a style reminiscent of the Romantics; full of the uncertain mix of the natural and the supernatural that I appreciate. Imagine Tolkein and Austen, relying heavily on the editorial suggestions of R.L. Stevenson and M. Shelley, co-wrote a novel that describes the real world during the Napoleonic Wars by way of two men involved in the surreal world of magic. For me, a lover of history with a soft spot for the imagined, this novel reads like a textbook that I fall asleep and dream in the middle of. I had the same experience when I read the Iliad and the Odyssey. Fabulous. At over 1000 pages in paperback, I'll be surprised if I can finish this by the end of summer or I'll have it read in a week. You know how that goes.

Next is Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht. The subtitle says it all really: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson. I am only a few chapters in but can tell this will be one of those books I refer to for the rest of my life. I find myself nodding in agreement and saying things to the book as I read suggesting I've either lost my mind, or more probably, discovered an overview of philosophy, religion, and art that expresses my jumbled thoughts on 'It All ' accurately and with humor. Regardless of your state of faith, I would suggest reading this for a fascinating history of Doubt itself and the amazing ways this distinctly human foible has created the world we live in.

So based on my summer reads, one Romantic and one with a nod towards Enlightenment, you might wonder where my beliefs fall. Squarely between the two I suspect, which I describe (with a mysterious air to hide my inability to succinctly express those beliefs) as Heatherist to those who are unlucky enough to inquire. What are you reading this summer?