It goes on

Life, that is. The past few days have been sad and unsettling, but we’ve been going through the motions. Although Mark had only known Mouf for half as long as I, he has been saddened by her death, too. He came home from work early on Wednesday and joined me to go to the animal clinic to settle things. The doctor and staff were very kind and brought her into a room so we could say goodbye to her, and he was teary, too.

We discussed the arrangements with the vet. Here in Chicago, as in many other cities and towns, it’s not legal to bury a pet at home in your backyard. All we could do was send her out for cremation. However, we asked the doctor and staff to do one last thing with Mouf before she was sent away. Bear with me and I’ll explain.

Such coincidence, such serendipity had been in the air this past week. Last Monday I had visited the main library branch downtown to check out a few books on my way home from work. I wanted a few books on knitting lace; I’ve been trying to be a bit smarter about my book purchases and reviewing books before I buy them. While in the knitting section of the stacks, I looked at the other books available. And, I saw a title that caught my eye, Knitting with Dog Hair. I had to check out something this strange title, and added the book to my pile.

Now, this isn’t the first time I’d heard about the concept of knitting with pet hair. But, I hadn’t really had much of an interest in it, except as sort of an oddity or indication of the extremes people will go to looking for materials to knit with. I thumbed through the book on the way home, and the next night as I attempted to brush out Mouf I set aside a little pile of her hair for a later decision on what to do with it. Usually, I add her hair to the compost pile along with any other organic item I no longer want in the house. This time, I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to do.

So on Wednesday afternoon while I was sitting at home stunned and unable to work, I picked up the book again and started reading it. And I knew what I wanted to do later that afternoon when Mark and I went to the animal clinic. We asked the vet if they would shave Mouf’s hair before they sent her for cremation, and explained that I wanted it made into yarn that I could knit into something as a remembrance. The vet was intrigued and readily agreed, but I didn’t want to stay and wait while they shaved her.

I picked up her hair yesterday morning. It had been put in a plastic bag (a no-no, per the book), so I emptied it onto a drying a screen and spread the hair out to air and dry it before I place it into a paper bag with the hair combed out of her earlier this week. I’m doing this so I can save something of her to be close to me, but it is upsetting to see her hair off of her body. I see it on the screen and it looks like her, but not her. Seeing her hair makes me cry.

The dogs are acting upset, too. While they were never bosom buddies with Mouf, she was part of the household and their routine. Dogs really need routine and this is unsettling to them. When I came home from work Thursday, it was obvious to me that Sadie especially was acting oddly. She was pacing around, pointing her muzzle upwards towards the places Mouf would sometimes perch, and sniffing and looking. She was anxious and would jump right into my lap when I sat down and lay her head on my shoulder. Sadie was also very restless in bed, so neither of us got much sleep Thursday night.

When I returned from my trip to animal clinic Friday, I set down the empty carrier on the floor to let the dogs sniff it and confirm there was no Mouf inside. After I spread Mouf’s hair out to dry, Sadie cautiously approached the table with the hair and sniffed at it. Perhaps having the hair out upsets her, too, as it smells like Mouf but it isn’t. What for me is an upsetting visual cue is for her a confusing olfactory one.

Whatever it may be that is upsetting the dogs (our high emotions, the lack of Mouf’s presence, etc.), there was an amazing snarl fest in the living room last night. I had never witnessed the girls getting into such an intense and prolonged tussle. They may occasionally snarl or snap at each other over a toy or bone, but this was not a fight about a bone and it did not stop within seconds. A firm No had no effect and I had to collar them both and physically separate them. Even while I had her collared and separated, Sadie tryed to lunge at Hannah a couple more times. I had to order them to lay down and stay for several minutes. As with most dog “fights” it appears there are no injuries to either Hannah or Sadie. But they avoided looking at each other the rest of the evening, and the undercurrent of tension is still palpable.

…On the needles…
I finished Soleil at the end of my vacation-at-home week and blocked it. I am not happy with it and contemplating frogging it. It is not as form-fitting as it should be. That life line was left in place until the very end, and it saved me at least 4 times. I had to rip back above the neck shaping several times, as I tried to follow some of the pattern changes suggested by the designer.

I did learn a lot about my knitting during the process of working on Soleil, at least. One of the most important lessons was that my gauge is differs a lot depending on whether I knit Continental or English. In Continental, my gauge is looser, and as Soleil is worked on in the round and is mostly knit stitches, I did quite a bit of Continental knitting. I knew my stitch and row gauges were a bit off, but had decided to proceed anyway, so I have no one to blame but myself.

This difference in gauge became really apparent to me after I had finished Soleil and worked on a gauge swatch for my current project, W. I made a very large swatch with both styles and when I measured them there was quite a difference. My English knitting is fairly consistent, so I’m knitting W strictly with this style.

Picking W as my next project came about when I visited Arcadia during my vacation week. I had gone in to get the sisters opinion about my gauge swatch for Lily, and to peruse the yarn selections to see if I wanted to spend the gift certifcate Adrienne had given me for my b-day. (Well, OF COURSE there was yarn I wanted to buy!) I saw a tank top hanging up that looked really stunning, especially when I examined it more closely and could see that it had been knit sideways. I asked for the pattern and was told that it was the Spring issue of Knitty. Huh! I had looked at that pattern when Knitty came out and was not impressed with it. I think the photos did not do it justice, as the stitch work wasn’t that visible. Plus, I didn’t care for the yarn colors used in the photos. What a difference it made seeing it in person. I HAD to try it, and so I bought the same yarn that Kathy had used to make the tank top, Filatura di Crosa’s Malva, although in a different color.

Let me just say that I burned through that generous gift certificate and much, much more that day. I always like to check their bargain bin of yarn, and came away with a big bag full of two or three skeins of this and that, as well as enough balls of a cotton yarn to make another camisole or tank top. Oh, and that swatch for Lily was just fine, although I haven’t started the pattern yet.

…In the garden…
We are officially breaking records with our rain deficit in Chicago. During my week off, I spent the first two days attending to my garden beds and they really needed it. I did lots of deadheading, dug up the garlic, finally laid soaker hoses in the veggie beds, chipped up a large pile of lilac and tree trimmings, and mulched the veggie beds with the resulting chippings. On closer examination, the few green tomatoes on the vines had blossom end rot (BER) so I pulled them off and discarded them. BER is caused by poor water uptake, which may be due to calcium deficiency. In this case, I think it had more to do with the inherent unevenness of overhand watering that I was forced to do since the soaker hoses weren’t in place. As usual, I had amended the bed with homemade compost and added some dried blood, bonemeal, and kelp meal to the planting holes of all my veggies, so I don’t think it’s calcium deficiency.

The garlic looks fine, however. It’s now drying on a large screen in the basement. I turned over the soil and planted some alfalfa where the garlic had been planted so the soil will be friable and conditioned when I put the fall crop of garlic in place. I picked a few yellow wax beans and pulled some baby beets, too. I have at least two small eggplants forming now, and the peppers and pole beans are finally setting flower. Regular watering really helps! Now if only the cucumber and cucamelon plants will show some action…

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