Saturday, November 04, 2017

Snowy Mendelssohn

I'm spending a quiet Saturday morning watching the snow fall outside and listening to Mendelssohn's Symphony no. 3 "Scottish". On today's to-do knitting pile is my Searchmont Meets Hudson Bay throw (which is taking on blanket status!) and my Shelter Snuggle.

Searchmont Meets Hudson Bay

Shelter Snuggle

It was worth getting up before the sun on a day I could have slept in.

How do you like to spend your Saturday mornings?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Knitting Along With EZ & Julia Child

I've been away from the blog lately with good reason. I've been knitting a lot more. There's a long story behind it all that has to do with joining a group...but I'll spare you all the details. Needless to say, there's been a big uptick in my knitting productivity lately.
Well, let me rephrase that. There will be.

See, I've got two blankets in production, a pair of mitts that really need to get finished, a pair of get the idea. Once it all gets done, it'll be great! Right now, it's a bunch of well-intentioned yarn. But I'll be able to share pictures with you later today!

While I've been knitting, I've been planning ahead. Even though I already have a large throw on the needles, I've been considering a winter project. Have you read the book, Julie & Julia? Or perhaps seen the movie? In a nutshell, a young woman decides to break up the boredom of her life by cooking every recipe of 524 recipes in Julia Child's book, "Mastering The Art of French Cooking", and blogs about it as she cooks her way through the book. Lately, I've been toying with the idea of giving the concept a knitterly twist. Could it be done? What would the best approach? The knitters out there will know the Julia Child of knitting is the brilliant Elizabeth Zimmerman, author of numerous knitting books, patterns, and more. So I've decided to knit along with EZ, as best I can, and blog about the process, the experience, and the patterns once considered ground-breaking. Mrs. Zimmerman was as well known for her wit, pithy commentary and no-holds-barred approach to knitting, and seems like someone I might have enjoyed knowing. So I'll get to know her as best I can through her books and patterns, some of which are as hard to procure as unicorn hair.

The first pattern will be her Mocassin Socks.

Stay tuned for more details and forthcoming pictures of my WIP-pile!

Friday, August 11, 2017

How To Plan For A Life Turned Upside Down

"Do your best to change the world, Do your best to be ready for changes in the world"
~Chinese proverb~

When was the last time you had a power outage that lasted for more than three hours? Has your neighborhood ever flooded or come through a landslide? Have you ever been laid off and unsure where grocery money was going to come from? Has wildfire ever threatened your home? Have you ever been suddenly thrust into an unsafe situation?

The world as we know it is different for everyone. The many ways our world can, and is, changing is staggering. So a radical change to our world as we know it can be anything to suddenly being without power for days (which happens to more people than you may realize), to a massive flood (been there, done that), to an unforeseen job loss, nearby chemical spill (which yours truly has lived through) ... you get the idea. Even in a minor power outage, we cannot pump gas, pay for anything electronically, and eating out if there's no power at home is not an option either. You will not be able to cool your home by either A/C or fan in a power outage, you won't want to be looking in the fridge every 15 min, and what about flushing the toilet? Let's not forget food shortages brought on by a massive snowstorm or being cut off without transportation after a flood or snowstorm (been there, done that too). So, the number of ways our world can change radically is staggering. But we don't have to wring our hands and moan, we can do something, lots in fact.

I am well known for having backup plans on top of backup plans. Once, it was only for childcare, but as the kids grew, having a Plan B, and Plan C, and so on, spread throughout my life. In these challenging times, we can plan for many life surprises, and not only end up in control of our lives but also change our mindset. Think about it, if you can plan for a sudden layoff, your attitude changes. Let's say one day, you and 150 of your co-workers are informed your factory is closing next month. This has happened to so many people, I can't count that high. So, how do you plan for this BEFORE it actually happens to you? Times are hard financially and you're only living two paychecks ahead of panic, so investing $200 in stocks isn't going to happen anytime soon. But let's set aside the investing, money security for a minute. Let's think about something more basic. Food.

If you're laid off and you have some food put by, your attitude towards this crisis will be different than the outlook of someone who has not planned for just such an occasion. It will still be a huge upset, but you won't have to wonder how you'll feed the spouse, two kids and the family dog. I've been there, and I can tell you that visiting a pawn shop to trade in jewelry so I can feed the kids isn't fun. So, when you go grocery shopping, make a list. If your grocery list calls for three cans of kernel corn, buy four cans. If you were going to get two pounds of ground beef, and you can afford it, get three. I know you might not be able to do this all the time, very few people can. Every time you go shopping, look realistically at your list. One week get a couple extra cans of vegetables, the next shopping trip, get a bit of extra meat. The next shopping trip, consider getting a home first-aid kit, or improving on one you may already have.

The next thing you need to do is keep track of these extras. I used to work in retail, and we had a system of rotation that is summarized by FIFO.
"First In, First Out".
If it's easier for your family, get a permanent black magic marker and write on the can or box the date you bought it. Meat can be wrapped and sealed in a freezer bag. Be sure and write the date purchased on the bag before the meat goes in. If someone in your house bakes, consider buying an extra bag of flour. (TIP: if you can freeze it for a few days before putting it in a storage container. That way you won't be unpleasantly surprised by small, black, wriggling things. We found this out the hard way)

Using this method of buying a few extras as we could, we've been able to set aside large tubs of coffee, drink crystals, peanut butter, meats of all kinds, yeast for baked goods, pasta, a variety of sauces, and the list goes on. I remember having to visit the pawn shop before the grocery store. I recall all too well that feeling of fear, depression, and hopelessness. I also remember living in Northern Ontario and being snowed in with my spouse-at-the-time being gone already for a few days. I didn't drive, but I had a toddler to feed. Again, having food stores made all the difference in my attitude and outlook.

The wisdom of food storage cannot be overstated. Everyone, regardless of income level, tax bracket, location or age should consider doing what they can to put some food by. The more, the better. Give careful thought to storage, record keeping and how all that can be achieved cheaply.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

What Do Wasps And Hot Peppers Have In Common?

Welcome back!

I hope you've had a productive and peaceful couple of weeks. It's hard to believe that we're already zipping through the first week of August. Pretty soon my youngest will be getting back on the school bus and the day-to-day focus will change. But for now, we enjoy the nights we can stay up a little later.

There's been a lot of activity around our house lately, most of it can't be witnessed in the normal way. I go out back to the garden every morning to check on things, and I might notice a large cucumber that didn't seem to be there the day before. Or the tomato that has quite suddenly turned red. This past week, while taking out one of the rare weeds in my garden, I glanced up at the back of the house to notice a grey paper wasp nest under the eaves.

I was not impressed.
Because it hangs over the stairs to the basement (my only access to the basement where we do laundry), I was even less impressed than you'd expect.
After a couple of days, a can of wasp spray was located, and I waited until full-on dark to spray the nest as best I could from the ground. It was quite nerve-wracking, but for two days, I was relieved to not see any waspish activity. Until yesterday.

So another can was purchased, and this time the woman I rent the house from climbed up on a step ladder for a better shot and sprayed the hell out of the nest. Also at full dark. Let me just add in here that I think RAID wasp spray might be my favorite wasp killer on the market right now. Normally, I try and have a live and let live attitude, except for rodents. And wasps. Neither has any place in or on my home.

The garden seems to be settling into the maturation phase. The tomatoes are all in various stages of girth-building and reddening.

I'm confident we'll have lots to can, although I think we'll be doing them all up in small batches. More on that later. My two blueberry plants started to fruit before I could plant them back in the spring, so they've been living in the containers they came home in. I'm happy to report we got about twenty fat, tasty, dark blue berries from them! The last three were snacked on just yesterday. I think it's safe to plant them into their containers now. They're not headed for the garden because I want to be able to control how they over-winter and how their soil is managed. So for this year, and next, they'll live in planters.

The two hot pepper plants have exploded with peppers.

I didn't expect much from them initially, so it's safe to say I'm quite pleased with them. The bell peppers...nothing. They have the beginnings of flowers, wonderful leaves, but nothing else. The kale has been eaten down to the stem by something that has proven to be elusive, although I know there's no slugs in the garden. Out of the five plants I put in, only one looks like it might possibly live to mature. Disappointing for obvious reasons, but I was really looking forward to making my own kale chips this fall. The cucumbers are in various stages of maturation as well. There is one that I really should harvest it's getting rather large.

 The rest of the cucumber and the zucchini are all following the large one's example. My compost bin is coming along nicely too. I worried I was overloading it with scraps and peelings, but I've also added (mostly) dry grass clippings and leaves last fall. I haven't had to stir the things yet, the layers seem to be doing pretty well so far. There's no obnoxious smell, and as I understand it, that's a good sign.

Harley (our German Shepherd cross) and I saw a yearling black bear just the other morning not more than 50 feet from our house. He was coming up from the pond, and seemed as startled to see us as we were to see him. He took off and we headed rather briskly back to the house in case he was younger than I assumed and still hanging out with his mother. We haven't seen him before, so I think he was just traveling through and got thirsty. I've kept a close eye on the compost bin and my garden. Neither has been touched. an acquaintance down the road reports his compost bin was turned over, and I wonder if it's the same bear looking to fatten up as our days get shorter. The white-tailed deer I saw before with her then brand new fawn hasn't made an appearance lately and I can't help but wonder if they were only resting in the area until the fawn grew strong enough to relocate to a less populated area. I haven't seen the rabbits lately either. I got used to watching them watch us every time I took the dog out. I'd love to see an increased owl and hawk population, but not at their expense.

My "little" update has grown a fair bit longer than I intended. I'll set this aside for now and go see if the fog has burned off enough for me to get a few photos out in the garden.

Do you have a garden? Do you have a collection of herbs on the windowsill?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Fibery Revelation

I apologize for neglecting the blog. I think I've found why there are so many months that the blog gets ignored. There have been months where I have no inspiration to prattle on about the latest in self-sufficiency, and these are usually the months that get no update. So I'll be widening the scope of the blog a little. As much as self-sufficiency still interests me, I can't justify making the blog about that and nothing else. So if you're one of the ones who follow by email, or you check in from time to time, you'll see a bit of a change around here. Nothing radical, just more about fiber arts. That way, there's something here to keep my interest!

So, update time...

The last time we visited, I told you about the Hudson Bay-type throw I was working on. I'm still working on it, but I've gotten a lot done!

And my eldest son's 'Kerbal Socks' got finished as well!

I've also got two other pairs of socks on the needles, I expect I'll be able to show those off next week.

I'm also looking forward to showing you my first efforts at dyeing wool with kool-ade! Perhaps then I'll show off the drop spindle I seem to have inherited, and share a bit about alpacas.

So, if you're a returning reader, thank you for sticking with me. If you're a new reader...welcome!

I'll see you next week with more fibery news and some new pictures as well!

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Of Sticks And Strings

After a little time away from the blog, I decided I wanted to talk about knitting this morning. There are a few reasons for that. One of them is that if I listen too closely to the news, I get depressed, and it takes me days to snap out of it. So I try to balance that out with knitting, which is therapeutic for me. So lately I've been on the hunt for a knitting podcast I could enjoy. I have found one in 'Grocery Girls'. Sisters that are in my age range, are funny and smart and generous...and they drink tea too! So I've been bingeing their podcast lately, starting from #1. I have a year's worth of episodes to go!

As part of an effort to do something different, I started a group on Ravelry called the 'HBC Knit-along'. The basic premise is that everyone finds a Hudson-Bay-inspired project and we all knit on our chosen item at the same time, checking in for support from time to time. I chose to knit a throw for my sofa, which will look like a miniature version of an iconic Hudson Bay Blanket when it's complete. Here's how far along it was as of last week.

I've also decided to commit to making blankets for our 'local' abused women's shelter in town. Simple construction; knit a bunch of strips, sew them together and repeat until the blanket is the correct width for a single bed. Then repeat.  (I thought I had a shot of one of the strips in the computer, but it turns out I don't)

I've also recently picked up sock knitting again, thanks to the enabling-ways of the Grocery Girls! Last night I dug out my eldest son's 'Kerbal Socks', made from Loops & Threads 'Woolike'. Hopefully I'll be finished these soon and I'll be able to show you a picture of the pair being modelled!

While I don't remember the exact colourways, these socks, 'To The Journey' were made on order from the same yarn. The recipient still gushes about them!

So, short of rambling on about the cardigan I think I want to start soon, that's it for my knitting news.
So tell me, dear reader, is there a knitter in your life?

Saturday, February 04, 2017

First He Came...

I found this on the web today, and I thought it was absolutely perfect since I was seeking the original poem.
I did not write this, credit is given at the end.
Obviously, a couple of these apply to me but ignore that. The point I want to make is that we should ALL stand up for each other. Because one day, it will be YOUR rights that are taken away.
It is irrelevant which country you call home, this fight belongs to ALL of us, because what happens in the U.S.A affects us ALL. 

First Trump came for the women
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a woman.
Then Trump came for the people with disabilities
And I did not speak out
Because I did not have a disability.
Then Trump came for the African Americans
And I did not speak out
Because I was not African American.

Then Trump came for the Mexicans
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Mexican.
Then Trump came for the Muslims
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Muslim.
Then Trump came for the gay, bi, and trans people
And I did not speak out
Because I was not gay, bi or trans.
Then Trump came for the Jews
And I did not speak out 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then Trump came for the journalists

And I did not speak out
Because I was not a journalist.
Then Trump came for the judges
and I did not speak out
Because I was not a judge.
And now Trump is coming for the Constitution of the United States
And if I do not speak out, what am I?

Written by Gideon Lichfield

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Thoughtful Caring Against Chaos

One of my favourite design houses for knitting is Tin Can Knits, and this year, they’re focusing more on what they call thoughtful knitting. There must be something in the air, or maybe it’s a reaction to all the negativity and chaos around us, because they aren’t alone.

After many months, I’ve stepped away from a fun crafting competition on Ravelry called Nerdopolis.
(In a nutshell, the crafter competes in a specific set of challenges for both personal points and team points, and prizes along the way. There’s more to it, but I’ll stop there so you don’t get confused, okay?) Anyway, as much fun as I was having with that, I decided to step away from it so that I could focus on more important things than just fun. There is a local shelter for abused women and their children that I want to knit for (there’s a long story behind it), as well as knitting for family and friends. Churning out little things as much as I could every month just wasn’t allowing me to do that, so something had to give. So Nerdopolis went.

I’ve cast on a throw for my sofa, not out of a selfish need (although my living room is the coldest room in the house), but more from a desire to try out a new idea. If this one goes well, I’ll reproduce it, only in double knitting, for the shelter. The throw is modeled after the historic Hudson’s Bay Blanket, and it’s even more fitting that I knit this since Canada is 150 years old this year! That’s a butt-ton of history! As I’ve knit the first few rows tonight, I’ve been thinking about all that we’ve been through as a country, all that those women and kids in that shelter have been through, what they have yet to struggle through before they’re free to feel safe outside the shelter. It’s a lot to ponder.

To make a very long story short, I know what those folks in the shelter are facing, and I want to make it a little easier on them. They deserve to know someone, even a stranger, cares. So I’ll knit for them. I’ll knit blankets for their beds, socks to keep their feet warm, and mittens, hats and scarves to cut the cold wind, even though I can’t do anything for the coldness in their abuser’s heart.

While I knit, I’ll reflect back on their struggles, their courage and their long, long road they have yet to travel. While I knit, I’ll pray to anyone listening  that the current chaos abates and that peace and common sense prevail again.
We could all use some more peace.

Now if you excuse me, I have to ponder that while I knit a blanket for someone.

Spread peace, my friend.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How To Take Back Your Power

While the world falls to hell around us, think about this today, and ponder how you can apply this wisdom at your house.

"To let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them."
Bill Mollison

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Renewed And Urgent Need

The current state of affairs in the United States has me concerned about the potential for economic collapse, so with that in mind, I've begun to examine how that might affect those of us up here in Canada, and more specifically, my own household. Now before you think I'm being selfish, I see this as a part of being self-reliant. Examine all the potential threats to the safety of my home and family, and plan acccordingly.

Because I know that preparing for something so frightening can be overwhelming, and I'm aware I'm not alone in this endeavor, I'll be documenting my efforts here. I'll share the inexpensive, the successful, the failures and the concepts that deserve further examination.

This blog has focused on things parallel to this idea before, but I feel there is a renewed and urgent need for this kind of informaton and experience.
In the short time since the presidency has changed hands, the United States has been pulled backwards, and as been said here before, when the United States catches a cold, Canada sneezes.
It behooves us all to learn how to do more, creatively, with less.

How do you think upheaval in the States might affect your household?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Food Challenge Are You Facing?

Food instability is everywhere.
I don't know what challenges you're facing this year, but up here in the north, one of ours will be to deal with the growing cost of groceries.
Not just fresh fruit and vegetables either...all groceries. It seems that the healthier a food is, the more expensive it is! So many folks reach for items with empty calories, rather than veggies. As convenient as it is to grab a box of Kraft Dinner, how many of us have the time and budget to think about making that same dish from scratch? Sure, there's less chemicals and crap in it, but how many of us reach for a brick of cheese, a little milk and a package of elbow noodles instead? Is it worth it to buy four loaves of bread and trust that it's not mostly filler, when we can make our own?

I'm fortunate to be able to make that choice.

But what about the food items we can't make? Like peanut butter? The price on that comfort food jumped a few years ago, and of course, it's never come down. Coffee is outrageous, and to counteract how much we were spending on it, I started drinking tea.
Fresh veggies are mind-blowingly expensive. I need to get off my arse and plant lettuce and spinach again, to grow inside. No, I won't be able to grow a massive head of romaine, or a large bag of spinach, but it's better than going without because we can't afford that big bag of greens.

So, what food challenges do you have to contend with this year? Any ideas how to ease the pinch?