Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cold Days in the New Year

It's a frigid day at the farm--12 degrees at dawn, and only 15 now at midday. Cats are snugged tight under quilts, their sleepy faces barely poking out of colorful folds and crevices. Both Trixie and Beau are on patrol and will soon be jumping in the dog door for an early afternoon nap. Margo and Peaches stand shoulder to shoulder in the pasture, heavy feed warming their bellies. Their thick winter coats make them look like giant teddy bears with hooves. When we walk together in the pasture or around the yards, their sweet breath flies in puffs and flumes, warming my hands as I scratch and rub their faces.

I've been looking through seed catalogues, wondering what to start in my friend Jane's greenhouse. Having completed Master Gardener training in November, I've been awash with ideas for volunteer projects and plans for my little raised beds out back. My favorite seed purveyors, Territorial Seed Company and Seeds for Change, have sent their Spring offerings--so many wonderful varieties of tomatoes, peas, and eggplants! Jane and another friend, June, both Master Gardeners of many years' experience, will be directing the greenhouse efforts, and I am consulting with them before placing my orders. Forever a homegrown tomato lover, I welcome the experience of starting from seed (rather than from wilted, often diseased sets found at the local big box stores).

Starting in September, I began putting the raised beds to sleep for the winter. Turning the soil with compost added, placing a thick layer of leaves and straw on top, I hope the preparation for planting the new seedlings is adequate for their taking off and producing a bountiful table of good eats in the late Spring and Summer. I've been an enthusiastic if ignorant gardener for years, will use what I learned in the Master Gardener classes in developing more raised beds and making sure that plantings are well-spaced in the proper mix of soil.

What, in addition to tomatoes, to start?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Down the Trail with the Horse Guru

On Monday I again rode with Charles, he on the filly Margo, I on Peaches. Going beyond the confines of the farm and surrounding lanes, we climbed the big hill into the forest, Peaches in the lead. Margo followed behind, gently urged on with small bumps from Charles. When she seemed able to lead, Margo was put in front to give her experience in finding her way, learning to set her feet and balance her weight while going uphill. Both horses worked well, Peaches ever sure and competent if also forever on the lookout for the tasty bit of grass or weed which she tried to snatch in passing. I kept her bumped up to set aside the bad behavior.

Stopping to let the horses blow out halfway up, the Charles gave me more instruction in working with legs and seat, keeping a loose rein to allow the horse to choose her path while reminding her that we're working together. Concentrating on applying his suggestions, I had no time for worry about falling and was pleased that Peaches and I worked so well together.

We rode to the old homeplace at the top of the ridge, encountered a pile of old trash and let Margo take a good look at it before going on. She was interested, body tense, ears alert, eyes wide open, but didn't spook, and Peaches, as always, was mildly interested but much too experienced in the ways of the trail to do anything more than look. We also found some large mud puddles in boggy ground that had Margo arching her neck and starting to prance a bit. I rode Peaches between the puddles, and Margo, after a long look and with urging from Charles, followed with no jumping or untoward head tossing. Having her pasture pal take the lead and showing no fear gave Margo confidence she needs to deal with water.

As we left the homeplace, an ATV came down the dirt road. Happily, it was a relatively quiet vehicle, the rider respectful of our horses, and we went right up to the road, avoiding the entrance trail, both horses aware of the ATV but not overly concerned with it. As we ride more together, Margo will become more desensitized to strange objects and people, while Peaches is nearly bombproof, despite not having been ridden at all since I was injured some 4 months ago.

I'm feeling strong and much more confident, my body's healing continuing apace. As Spring comes along, we'll ride more, and someday soon I shall hope to mount Margo again.

As we made our way back to the farm, the horse guru chose to use the trail where I was hurt, and I became understandably anxious at the prospect of going down it again. All went well, Peaches in the lead and the horse guru giving me instructions about sitting back, legs extended, bumping slightly on the reins to remind the horse to take it slow. As we approached the bottom, Peaches wanted to run, knowing that we were on the way home, but I helped her slow down and stay at a quick walk, her usual pace unless she knows that food and water are coming.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

Last Sunday with riding friends gathered 'round and a beer imbibed to bolster my confidence, I clambered aboard my friend Susan's wonderful paint mare, Peaches, for the first time since being hurt in a fall last September. To the wonderment of all and with pure joy write enormous all over my face, I was able to use legs and seat to guide her where I wished, anxiety about riding again held at bay by the business of consciously using my body and getting used to being on a horse again.

The fall had left me badly injured with three big fractures in my pelvis and "subtle" fractures in both femoral cups. I was in rehab for over a month, then subject to daily physical therapy for the next 2 months in order to recover. Not a pretty process, but an effective one that I'll detail here, albeit somewhat backwards.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Dog Door 101

Since reading Merle's Door (by Ted Kerasote), I've been thinking about putting in a dog door for my dear pup, Trixie. An Irish setter/English water spaniel mix, she's a beautiful lady who takes her guard dog responsibilities on this lovely farm quite seriously. While I'm delighted that she's ever on the job, letting her in and out during the night when I'd like to sleep puts a definite crimp in my rest, so the idea of a dog door held enormous allure.

I bought a door at my local pet shop over the holidays, have just now installed it in the kitchen. And thus begins the tail, er, tale.

While Beau, the dapper young master pictured with Trixie in my profile photos, figured out the cat door, the cats having taught him all he needed to know with their concerted fleeing of the scene upon his arrival in our household, sweet Trixie never gave any doors other than the ones for people any consideration. She was too tall to squeeze through, and besides, that door is for CATS!

Having put the dog door in place, I cajoled and wheedled, treats in hand, all to no avail. Trixie understood what was expected; she simply was not about to cooperate. The very notion of a dog door--Harumph! I finally resorted to tough love, placing her food dish outside the door. After much kvetching and vocal protests, Trixie allowed me to put her paws on the door's opening, then hopped through for her dinner.

It's been two days now since the door was installed, and Trixie has learned to go in and out quite nicely. An errant deer in the garden, critters assembling near the barn, incipient mayhem aborning in all quarters---Trixie's on the job, her plumed tail flashing as she gracefully leaps through her door in pursuit of all that would threaten.

Beau, ever adaptable and gracious, makes use of both doors.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee

Remember Lewis Carroll's battling twins? The original illustrations for the book reveal nothing tweedy about them.

"Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee
agreed to have a battle,
for Tweedle Dum said Tweedle Dee
had spoilt his brand new rattle."

Or would that be "raddle"? The wooden rake for separating bunches of warp yarns during the loom dressing process could well be the term. Who knows?

I am choosing yarns for a foray into tweediest cabledom: the twists and turns of classic knitting patterns interpreted for modern tastes, with modern yarns and shapings. Working on a shrug right now, I've combined a variegated wool from Australia, all soft midtones of blues to purples to reds to golds with a black Merino 4-ply. The work goes quickly on 10.5 needles, the cables running along in streams of cascading color. Relaxing work, this is. In my wintertime house of wood fire and fiercely bubbling stews, drowsing felines draped in odd nooks, dogs ever in pursuit of tall does in the forest, I am enthralled by inwardness of growing patterns.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snow in the Mountains, Knitting by the Fire

We had maybe 2” of snow last night, and there’s much drippy rain/snow this morning. The kits and pups went pell mell outside at 5 AM, did quick toilettes and came scampering back in, wet footed (ewwwwwww, mom!) with snow flecking heads and backs. All are lounging about quite comfortably in front of the fire now, and I should imagine that no one will move anytime soon unless, of course, food calls.

My daughter Mara's coming up today for a show at Atlantic Station—it’s a sale of seasonal goodies from boutiques all around the city and outlying areas. I’ve got a bunch of felted bags to sell—my therapeutic by-the-fire projects that I’ve been doing for awhile. She’ll offload this afternoon, then head up here for the night. I’m printing tags and cards this evening, will pick up bags, tissue paper and sales books when I venture out. The show is Friday and Saturday, and if past numbers are any indication, will be well attended. There are some fine bargains available at astounding prices. I’m taking pix of bags and the show and will be posting them.

I’ve joined an online group called the Sexy Knitters Club—great fun, great projects that are done in knitalongs. Members share information on yarn sources, show photos of their work, ask questions, keep those needles flying. My impression is that most members are young women. I’m a member of, a truly eclectic gathering of all sorts of makers of things imaginative and fun. The skill levels on Craftster are wide ranging, and some of the stuff people come up with is just dumb, but most things are truly fine. It’s interesting to do “modern” knitting, as it’s not at all what we used to do when we were making things of yarn. There’s much more shaping, sophisticated finishes and techniques, and the variety of yarns available is amazing.

The pastures and yards are white, the woods very dark, and I am thankful for this fine little house with its enormous stack of firewood on the porch.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Best Bag Yet

A knitter of many years and more yarns than I can remember or even wish to remember, I've embarked recently on the designing and making of felted bags. Rectangular bags are ho hum to these hands; I want the exotic, the strange, the challenging.

And so, I have been adding bits here and there, romping amid short rows (wow, that makes a curve!) and funky snakey bits, knitted leaves and other geegaws. The results are great fun, especially when embellishments such as glass beads or felted shapes have been added.

Photos to follow as soon as I get the camera located.