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Monday, October 27, 2014

My passion - show and tell

We've been lighting the wood stove every day.  It's getting cold, and the rains have started.  In the past few days, many gallons of rain have fallen onto our soggy soil and into our raging rivers.  In other words: we are housebound.
It's perfect, though, really, it is.  I am spending lots of time spinning yarn and knitting.  I am also spending way too much time in front of the computer, playing with a new photo editing program.  I've been revamping some of my pictures of sweaters I knitted and yarn I spun.  Oh, I'm having so much fun with this!  
Let me show them off to you, okay?  You don't have to be a knitter to appreciate them, so bear with me.

Here is a sweater I wore a lot, and then threw it into the washing machine, where it got wrapped around the center and stretched like crazy.  Usually, people shrink clothes in the washer, but I manage to stretch them.

Here is a sweater that gets me stopped on the street, literally.  People are forever asking me if I made it, and what pattern it is.  I think I should just wear a sign around my neck with all the info whenever I wear this thing.  Here's the front, and below is the back.

Next up is a figure-hugging cardigan-type sweater that I loved a lot when I still had boobs, meaning when I nursed a baby.  Now, it fits very differently on my boy-ish, no-more-boobs body.  Ohhh, how I loved my cleavage when I had babies!

Here is my handsome, model-worthy hunk of a husband.  Honestly, couldn't he be on the cover of a magazine?  I knitted him this sweater ten years ago, and he still wears it, although it now sports a bunch of holes.

Ahhh, and here's the shrug combined with one of my felted hats.  Did I mention that my photo editing program has a feature that erases your wrinkles?  I kid you not!  It's terrible that I used that feature on my face, because I'm always so proud of being all natural and stuff, but for these fashion-shots?  I want no wrinkles, and they shall be removed.

This picture is awfully grainy, but it can't be helped, not even with my new editing program.  It whitened my teeth though, and what more do you need, I ask?

This one was fun to knit, with wooden beads and all.  I don't wear it much, but I should.

Another one with lace.  You can tell I really love knitting lace.  My red hair, the purple sweater, and the pink one underneath it are clashing terribly, but please forgive me.  I was too lazy to retake the shot...

Ohhhh, and I love this one, the Kelmscott sweater.  As soon as I saw the pattern in a magazine, my heart rate accelerated.  I HAD to knit it for myself.  And I did.

This one I knitted when I was 14 years old.  Yep, back in Germany.  It fit me then, it fits me still.  In some ways, it helps to not have any boobs after all.

This one has a soft spot in my heart because it is made from all my own handspun yarn.  And not only that, but the white yarn is the first yarn I EVER spun, so I was extra proud of it.

Here is my most recent sweater for Steve.  I knit it when we were in Mexico.  He didn't want to wear it there.  Then we came back to this, and he happily wore it.

Here is another sweater I made when I was a teenager in Germany.  It looks kind of 80's, doesn't it?

And last, but totally not least, if you are still with me, here's a sweater I made that I live in.  A lot.

You can probably tell by now that I really love knitting.  People have asked me for years if I teach on-line knitting classes.  Although I have taught many people one-on-one how to knit (the European, fast way - not the American, slow way), I have never taught an on-line class.  I think it's time.  I welcome any suggestions on how to do this, in case anyone reads this who has experience with such a thing.  I just am not very tech-savy.  I'd rather knit.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hunting elk in Arizona, and making gallons of apple sauce

Steve was gone for six days, hunting elk in Arizona. He has never been away from home that long since having three kids, but I really encouraged him to go since he has been working so hard. We had a free airplane ticket, so he flew to meet up with his friend Bradley who lives in Flagstaff, AZ. Usually, Steve hunts with traditional wooden longbows and arrows, but Bradley used a gun. They had an amazing experience hunting and processing a huge elk, respectfully, gratefully, not drinking-beer-in-the-woods-shoot-at-everything-that-moves. It's beautiful country over there. Steve came back energized and grateful, full of male-bonding hormones, and ready to be immersed into the sweet chaos of our family yet again.

He missed Luke's birthday (the big ten!), which was okay with Luke, since we will celebrate with all his friends later on. It's fun when you have two or three parties, isn't it? On his actual birthday, we invited their best pal Alden and his Mom over, had plenty of cake and ice cream, and in the evening celebrated some more with our close friends and neighbors, who had made a huge meal, complete with chocolate cake and whipping cream. You can see Luke didn't suffer too much when his Dad was gone.

I held down the Fort by myself, and actually really liked it. I find that I am much more patient when Steve's not around. I am not as whiny either.  Yes, I have to do more and take on the chores Steve often does, like scooping huge spiders out of the sink, or feeding the pigs and locking in the ducks at night, when it's dark. It's quite a walk out to the pasture at night, and it's scary out there, what with all the monsters lurking around corners and stuff, so I took either Kai or Luke out there to do chores in the dark with me. They obliged me patiently, if not a little patronizingly. 
 “Don't worry, Mom. There's nothing out there to get us.” 

I stayed busy with homeschooling the kids, baking bread, and making lots of applesauce. How much applesauce does one family need, you ask? Lots. Lots and lots and lots. I made over four gallons, and I'm not done yet. One of our trees (the one we buried Kai's placenta under when we planted it eleven years ago) cranked out six boxes worth of apples.  My method for applesauce is simple. Wash the apples, cut them in quarters, and don't do nonsense like remove the core or peel them. No, they go in seeds, skin and all, and after putting some water in the bottom of the pot (so they won't scorch), I turn the heat on. I throw some cinnamon and allspice in (since I never seem to have nutmeg on hand) and keep it simmering for a couple of hours. The house starts smelling like Christmas. When the apples are nice and smooshy, I let them cool a little and then spoon them into my amazing applesauce-making-colander-thingy I got at a flea market a long time ago. It filters out the sweet flesh and leaves the seeds and skins inside (which then get fed to the pigs). Then I can it in a hot water bath for ten minutes, and we're done. No sugar, no honey, nothing. It's amazing, and the kids can't get enough of it. We eat it by itself, or mix it with yogurt, or put it on pork chops.

How else are we spending our days, now that the rains have started, and we light fires in the wood stove?
Kai is obsessed with teaching himself computer programming and physics.  
Lukas spends hours on his keyboard and electric guitar.  He got an amp for his birthday. Need I say more?
Eva spends her days changing her clothes one thousands times a day.
Steve is finishing up his planting projects and is gearing up for making more bows.
I try to keep our family fed, cleaned, educated and loved.  And I knit.  Lots.
What are you doing these days?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Where she talks of merry-making and medicine-making

This week has raced past in a blur. We went to the Barter Faire for three days – a gathering and camp-out of thousands of counter-culture type people in Eastern Washington. It's an intense affair for sensitive people like me, who needs a lot of personal space and quiet time to chill out by myself. There was not much opportunity to be alone, what with the all-night drum circles and constant buzzing like in a bee hive. You can buy or trade anything you want, and I mean ANYTHING. I traded a gorgeous coat for one of my wheels of Gouda, and my goat milk soap for beautiful jewelry. The kids were in heaven, running wild with their friends, dirty as pigs. We hung out with many good friends, talked for hours around the camp fire, exchanged many hugs. And by the end, both Steve and I (NOT our dust-streaked, blissful children) were very, very ready to leave. The fact that I only took one picture of the whole event proves how overstimulated I felt!

One of my friends brought Elderberry syrup she had made as a bartering item. This potent medicine was extremely popular at the Barter Faire – and no wonder! Us Europeans have used it for centuries to ward off colds and combat flu. It works!
So on the way back from the East side, we picked blue elderberries so I could make some of my own medicine. Sure enough, the next day I threw the berries into water, added cinnamon and ginger, and let it bubble on the stove. I felt like a witch! After it cooled down a little, I strained it through cheesecloth and added lots of honey. I made three and a half gallons of the stuff! We shall not get sick this winter.

Steve has been making bows for his online Etsy shop. These handmade, wooden long bows are immensely popular and immensely beautiful, so they always sell quite quickly. I keep telling him to raise his prices, but, no, he won't. Yet. You can see his shop here.

What else?  Well - it's fall, have you noticed? It's really here.  It's time for hardy soups, for walks in crunch leaves and thousands of interesting mushrooms sticking their heads through the fragrant soil.  It's time to pick up more complicated knitting, which will turn into a beautiful sweater for yours truly.  It's time for crazy tomato art.  What do you think of it?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bless your hearts!

Bless ya'll's hearts!  So many of you wrote sweet messages to me after reading my blog post from last week, the one where I poured my heart out about my grief after getting rid of the goats.  It helped to know that so many of you cried with me.  The hole in my heart hasn't gotten any smaller since last week.  In fact, every time I walk by the goat barn, it tears open a little bit more.  
But I won't talk about this right now, no, I won't.  
Instead, I will tell you what happened immediately after getting rid of my goats.  I knew that I couldn't deal with going back home to an empty, quiet, sad homestead, so after unloading the goats from the minivan and shaking out the tarp that had been pooped and peed on, I met up with the rest of my family and some dear friends, and we headed into the mountains for a backpacking adventure at Chain Lakes.
Balm for the soul, I tell you.  What with majestic Mount Baker and Shuksan looming so large... it puts all your problems into perspective.  And the huckleberries!  The huckleberries!  Our tongues and lips looked vampire-like after hiking up these alpine meadows dotted with blue berries.
The kids had a blast.  The boys got to hike with their best buddy, and Eva got to hike with one of her good friends.  Later, after setting up camp by one of the lakes, the kids fished their hearts out.  They actually caught fish in the morning and cooked them up as rain pelted down on them.  Yes, the weather turned on us.

Kai caught a fish!

You can't really tell in this picture, but it was raining hard.

The second day, we hiked out in dense fog, which was a little bit of a bummer because we couldn't see the apparently stunning view.  On the other hand, it was also incredibly mystical and magical, so it all worked out.
That night, we stayed at a campground in Glacier, made memorable by the giant marshmallows the kids got to consume after dinner.  What a brilliant move that was, sugaring them up just before bed time!

Returning home to our homestead was hard for me, because I knew there would be no goats to greet me.
So I threw myself into putting the garden to bed and harvesting a bunch of food.
Of course, there was lots and lots of garlic that needed to be cleaned up and brought into the house after being cured in the wood shed.

Then there were six full boxes of apples that Steve and the boys picked from only one of our trees.  I think there might be apple sauce in our future.

And, of course, fall and winter squash go hand-in-hand, so I borrowed my unpaid workers children for labor.  I thought they would grumble and protest, but they enthusiastically harvested squash and turned it into a race.  Go figure.  

The kiwis went bonkers this year.  Maybe it's because our mason bees live at the kiwi trellis, and they did a fabulous job pollinating.  I love these kiwis!  You pop them in your mouth, skin and all, and get an incredible boost of sweetness and vitamins.  It also makes your mouth kind of pucker after eating lots of them.

I yanked out a bunch of leftover broccoli and cauliflower that had seen better days.  I also took down the bean trellis, which still sported enough beans for a big meal of buttered green beans, with bacon, hopefully.  These beans were hiding high enough on the bean poles, so that the darned deer couldn't reach them.  Here is a box of stuff I salvaged, kind of accidentally.

Since I'm trying to be not all about work, but also play, we spent a lot of hours this week with a new hobby (for the boys, that is): Fishing.  Salmon are making their way upriver, and my kids are very motivated and show an amazing amount of patience dangling their fishing poles into various rivers.  I bring my knitting.  Eva brings her princess dresses.  You HAVE to look glamorous when fishing, you know.

What are you doing these last glorious fall days?