Works in progress

First, I wanted to reflect on my biggest work in progress: me. I've been working with a personal trainer for a few months now, and I'm really starting to see the results. I've lost 9 pounds and have dropped enough inches that I can fit back into some really nice clothes in my closet. Yay!!

I also notice other changes in my body. It's much easier for me to resist crappy food (I totally passed on free donuts today), and I eat less. My food cravings are better and better: how about a craving for a date rather than a candy bar, or some peach slices rather than ice cream? Pretty good, eh? I'm going to keep going with this and enjoy the difference it is making in my mood, too.

Over the past couple days I've added a few more projects to my Ravelry page, including a few WIPs.

I've decided that I'm not into posting photos of works in progress, so don't look for any. Unless I'm trying to get feedback on something, I see no point to document my progress in photos. I'm much more interested in documenting the end product.

I usually don't have lots of projects going on at once, but I'm not being typical lately. I've got three different projects on the needles right now: a shawl, a sweater, and a sock. (Of course I have a sock on the needles! Socks are my purse project for when I have a few moments to knit here and there.)

The shawl is the Lace Wings shawl from Alice Cooley (pattern available from Lettuce Knit in Toronto…they'll mail it to you so no airfare required!). This is a simple lace shawl created for one skein of sea silk. I've had a skein of sea silk sitting around since I bought it at Stitches Midwest 2006, and I thought it was time to use it. The pattern is very easy to remember, so it's not a difficult lace project at all. But of course, it's still lace and looks quite impressive. I haven't worked on the shawl in a week or so, though, 'cause it started to get cool and I really wanted to get a sweater going.

The sweater is the Neckdown Wrap Cardigan from Knitting Pure and Simple. I'm using Dream in Color Classy in the color Good Luck Jade. Yes, I know this combination of yarn and pattern has already been done by the Yarn Harlot. That's where I got the idea, OK? It's a brilliant combination of a simple pattern and a wonderful yarn, and she has many more years of knitting experience under her belt, so I'm taking the idea and running with it. I've been wanting a wrap sweater for ages. The last one I tried was a disaster, so I'm pleased that this one seems to be working out so far. I do think I will alter the pattern a bit and add some waist shaping, though.

I'm still intrigued by Cat Bordhi's innovative "sockitecture" techniques, so my current sock project is the Upstream socks using Austermann Step. Thanks to a day of knitting yesterday (took a day off work sick since allergies were messing me up so bad) and a couple conference calls today I'm already past the heel and into the leg.

One of the reasons I've got several things going right now is because I want to avoid starting new projects in October. So, this is going to sound totally superstitious, but I visited a palm reader at the Renaissance Faire and she said that Mercury will be retrograde in October, making it a bad time to start anything new. I recall that a few months ago when I was in the dumps with my knitting, it ended up that there was a retrograde. I'd just rather not take the chance.

I figure it will be fine finishing projects that I've already started, I just shouldn't start them. It will be a fine time for frogging projects, too, I think. So I also plan on ripping out that ill-favored wrap cardigan that I attempted a few months ago during the last retrograde.

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Almost there

Mark helped me put the new garden beds in place this weekend.

I ordered these beds from Natural Yards and I'm really pleased with them. They went together very easily and seem quite sturdy. Notice that in the corner of the bed in front a pin is sticking up? Those pins are a great feature. They slip into the corners of the beds, holding the boards in place. And they will also serve as great anchors for PVC piping that will form the frames for hoops to support fabric for row covers, shade cloth, or bird netting…to keep hungry chickens off the plants. Now all I need is some soil to fill them.

In the foreground is the big bed in which I plan to plant 2-3 blueberry bushes. If I add 3 bushes, I'll have to space them slightly closer than is typical, but I'm sure they would be OK. Going clockwise, the next bed will be for asparagus. It's a 4 foot X 6 foot bed, so I should be able fit enough plants to provide asparagus for me and a few friends. The four beds across the back are all 4 foot X 8 foot beds for rotation of various annual veggie crops. I built the one bed around the cinder block bed I had used this year, so it's already pretty full of soil. I'll plant garlic there later next month.

The cold frame I picked up through Craig's List will fit in the 4X8 beds very well, so if I can get some soil fill in them soon, I may be able to grow some cool weather greens until the bitter cold starts.

Here's another view with the Eglu in position.

I plan to move the Eglu to the other side of the blueberry bed for winter. By then I should hopefully have the soil and blueberry beds in place, and they could then provide more protection since they'll be on the north side of the Eglu. In the summer, I'll move the Eglu back to this place where the leafed out blueberry shrubs will provide more shade.

Although…I also have some grand ideas for a passive solar greenhouse with attached chicken coop for next year, too…I guess I have this whole permaculture vision thing going now. So far, I haven't found any sort of kit that will fit with my vision of a lean-to type greenhouse fitted snugly up against the garage and oriented to catch the most sun on it's south end. I may end up having to design this myself.

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Actual knitting content!

Hold on, here's some actual knitting content!!!!

I've been pretty occupied with other things lately (work, chickens, taking care of myself) and not writing much about my knitting. But, I have an actual finished object to show here, folks.

 

Ta da! Spiral Coriolis socks from the new Cat Bordhi book.

I finished them last weekend, but am just now getting around to putting this on my blog. I've added it to Ravelry already, natch.

I used Koigu KPPPM in color P400 for these socks. I'd picked up this yarn in New York during the Yarn Harlot weekend Jamie and I spent there, but I can't say exactly which store it was at. The first sock was started on August 26, 2007 and completed one week later on September 2. (I got lots of knitting time in on the Labor Day weekend holiday!) The second sock was completed September 15, 2007.

I found the new "sockitecture" techniques in Cat's book refreshing and engaging, but it was sort of a pain to have to lug the entire book along with me all the time. The patterns reference different sections of the book, which makes it difficult to make a photocopy to carry. So, I had to flip from page to page as I completed each section of my sock (see page XXX for the heel options; see page XX for the toe options; etc.)

I did learn a lot from these socks, though. I learned a very effective way to make short row wraps disappear, for example. And I was very impressed that Cat has you measure that diagonal area of your foot between the heel edge and top of foot (what is that called??). I've had problems with socks fitting me (especially short row heeled socks) because that extra wide area wasn't taken into consideration.

I loved the Koigu yarn. Not just the dying, but the feel of it. There were a few places where the skein had obviously been joined (in fact, one of those areas is visible on the cuff) and so the yarn was a bit felted there, but I could forgive them considering all the other wonderful properties of this yarn. I'd love to knit a sweater in it, but that would be quite pricey.

While Koigu seems an affordable luxury for socks, I did use up all but the smallest amount (I mean maybe a foot of yarn left over!) of it on this pair of socks. So, if you're making socks for feet larger than my 8 1/2 US foot, definitely get another skein!

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Just like jelly

I found a "softie" in the Eglu today.

 

I'm thinking this is Selma's since the other egg in the nestbox had a darker brown shell, and Maisy usually lays the eggs with the darker shells.

 

This egg was on the floor of the Eglu. It had obviously been laid on the roosting bars (which Selma has done before) and then slipped through. The contents were perfectly intact, but the membrane was a bit gritty and dirty.

While I was showing it to Mark this evening, the dogs took a keen interest in it. I made mistake of holding it out so they could sniff it and then quick as can be Sadie nipped the top off! Hannah got a lick in before Sadie moved in for final gulp and swallowed the rest. Well, I had thought of giving it to the dogs, and I guess this settled it!

It's perfectly normal for pullets to lay these soft eggs every once in a while. I'm just glad that it didn't break or get broken in such a way that the chickens would get a taste of it. Sometimes chickens get a taste for their own eggs and will eat them before collection.

Luckily, my girls don't seem so inclined. They'd rather that I bring them more fishy stuff like the salmon skin from our poached salmon. Yep, they eat just about everything!

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More eggy goodness

Shortly after I came home tonight, I let the pullets out to graze in the yard and checked the nest box. Look what I found today.

 

In the front is Selma's first egg. Hooray for Selma! Maisy's fifth egg is the dark one in the back. So, it was a two-egg day on September 12, 2007.

Maisy is producing one egg a day, and she is clearly still "calibrating the system." Out of 5 eggs, one was quite large and had a double yolk. The rest have ranged in size from small to medium.

 

Seen here from top to bottom are Maisy's first, second and third eggs. On the right at bottom is an egg from the last dozen I bought at the farmers market a couple weeks ago. That third egg was the double-yolker. Rachael and I ate them for dinner Monday night. We sauted a bunch of swiss chard in some garlic-enhanced chicken broth, then added the eggs on top, a la Barbara Kingsolver's Eggs in a Nest recipe. Yum!

I couldn't resist taking a little video of "the layers."

 

 

Maisy and Selma are now extremely focused on eating as much protein as they can get. They spent their entire time outside the run scratching for insects. I guess once they start laying they become voracious!

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Life with allergies

About two years ago, I set an appointment with my internist because I was having some problems with my ears being stuffed up, resulting in problems hearing. I had been slowly recovering from a "cold," except for this congestion in my ears. I put up with it for weeks until I got an appointment with the doctor. Her diagnosis wasn't a sinus infection, but allergies.

Allergies? Me? I'd never had allergies. But, I guess a person can develop allergies at any point, so I started on the allergy meds she prescribed. I had to use a nasal inhaler every day, and take an over the counter allergy tablet with a decongestant. It took another 3 weeks for the blockage to clear and my hearing to be fully restored. After a couple months, I stopped the meds and all seemed well.

Last spring, I started to have the same symptoms, so I began the allergy meds again. After a couple months, I thought it safe to stop. Nope. So, since early August, I've been taking this same combination of meds nearly every day.

If I don't take the allergy tablet with the decongestant, then my ears start to fill up again. Unfortunately, the decongestant stuff is now a "federally controlled substance" and I can only buy a maximum of 15 daily dosage tablets at a time. I don't mind showing my ID to get the stuff, but taking a trip to the pharmacy every 15 days is sort of annoying.

The past couple weeks have been really miserable. Even these meds seem unable to keep up with my body's production of histamines, or whatever it is that is causing my eyes to get red and irritated, my vision to get blurry, and my sinuses producing lots of gunk. I nearly choked today during a meeting with my boss because of extreme post nasal drip. And I'm tired of being tired all the time.

I really hope this allergy phase goes away. I mean, if you can develop these damn allergies [and just what am I allergic to? I've love to know!] at any time, then can they also un-develop at any time, too, right? Right?

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Sending thoughts

This evening I was invited to share thoughts and prayers for the very ill brother of one of my friends. My schedule was pretty crazy today which kept me from joining the gathering of folks in person, but I am taking some time out tonight to reflect on this terrible situation.

I'm thinking not just about her brother, but also about her. Her brother has been sick for many months now, and she has been miserable with worry and fear. It's definitely taking a toll on her and she really needs to find some peace.

I'm not so good at tender words or sentiments, and prayers are beyond my ability. So, I'm doing the best I can here and hope that others who are better at these things than me are able to provide her some sense of peace and comfort during this difficult time.

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