Thursday, March 21, 2019

And Not Just Because There's A Sheep

I always at least glance at the Google Doodle each morning.  Some are of no real interest.  Some have dinosaurs or shooting stars or flowers and bees.  Today's is amazing!

And not just because there is a post it note with a sheep and another with a big star shining on three little stars...out on the Iknitarod Trail ;-).

Go check it out and play some music!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Resting During The Heat Of The Day

The dog teams had more trouble with heat this year than cold and most mushers stopped during the heat of the day to rest.  Our freshly shorn sheep are actually enjoying the warm sun.  We've had a couple of chilly nights, but not terrible, and once the sun comes up, everyone is warm and comfy.  I glad we didn't shear the oldies though.

Hydration is important, too ;-).

Frankie lays down to sleep more than any horse I've ever known.  This is his outdoor bed.  He also sleeps in his run in stall sometimes, too, but this is where I most often see him.  Oh, and out on the hillside is another favorite.  He eat until he gets too sleepy and then just lays down.  Rough life :-).

Biscuit's "racing stripes" are from itching along the rusty gate.  That boy needs a bath, but I sure don't want to wish for rain :-o.

I've got the body basically finished (still deciding on final length and what sort of bottom edging I want) and both sleeves started, so I can almost see the lights of Nome off in the distance. Once I get finished, I'll get the official shearing post up and also some other fun pictures from before shearing.

In the meantime, enjoy sitting in the sun with everyone for a few minutes :-).

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Wherein We Finally Admit Maisie Has Been Possessed

We had our concerns after the Halloween debacle where/when she completely behaved herself out in public at the humane society fundraiser at the local Dairy Queen.  Still, Maisie is nothing if not a comedian and we decided she just had more fun making us look like fools walking around with our huge entourage of animal control experts.


As spring shearing approached, I once again got nervous about how we were going to handle her.  We don't tip her upside down like the rest of the sheep because we are still worried about her ingested ball of hay twine that we can only assume is still floating around in her rumen and could cause trouble if it got stirred around.  

Bill hates shearing her.  It takes at least two people.  She's obnoxious and fussy.  She bites, kicks, tries to knock you down (pretty much every day ;-).  She's also short and built like a rhinoceros and her belly is so close to the ground that you can't get to it without getting down on your knees.  

She spent all last year with belly wool hanging down like fuzzy dice from a rear view mirror.  Bill apologized, but said he was worried he would cut her and I could also tell that he'd had enough of her for one year.  I asked if raising her up on a shearing stand next year would help.  "It might, if she'll stand on it."

I pulled out the old shearing stand and cleaned it up and Tim made sure it was still in working order.  When we got ready to shear Maisie this year, Bill pulled it into the shearing area, next to his clippers.  We looked at each other, looked at Maisie, laughed a bit nervously, discussed how we'd get her up on there...

...and I don't know how it happened, but all of the sudden she was standing politely on the stand by herself with the white plastic chain behind her head and Bill was off and shearing.

Barely even a tail swish! :-o

At the very end, when we removed the chain so Bill could shear the last little bit where it was resting around her ears, she did eventually make a move and got away from us for a minute.  When it was all said and done though and she calmly trotted out of the barn with just barely a sassy glance over her shoulder, I still felt uneasy.

I think she's been a good demon...and honestly...that's a bit frightening :-o.

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Thank you for all the kind comments about sweet little Claire Bear.  I enjoyed scrolling back through years of blog posts trying to see if I had an actual gotcha date for her, but she was older than the blog.  Sadly, many of our beloved friends are as old or older than the blog now and we are going to have more sad days coming, but hopefully not soon.  Still, they will live on in our hearts and a bit on in the blog and for that I am thankful.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Claire Bear

Brushy was a very spooky feral cat who, years ago, would sneak up on the back porch late at night to eat cat food we'd set out for Eli.  I spent weeks trying to tame him down.  He was so hungry that he'd let me stand next to him while he ate, growling, but would never let me touch him.  

One night, instead of trying to touch his hip, I reached up and touched his head.  He immediately bumped his head up into my hand, as cats do, and from that second on was completely tame.  I took him to the vet for a check and 'tutering and when I brought him home the next day I didn't hesitate to turn him loose.  I knew he'd not run off.  

But he did...sort of.  He disappeared and then reappeared a couple days later with a small black kitten in tow.  Claire Bear was always Brushy's cat and she may have actually been one of his kittens as they had a similar body shape.  Where he was very friendly though, she preferred to be left alone and spent most of her life tucked away in the barn and most never saw her.

Oh, she'd come out and talk to us some, but if we tried to pet her or pick her up, she darted or squirmed away.  God forbid if you had to take her to the vet.  Yearly vaccinations became a farm call rather than an office visit.  She was an odd cat, but we didn't care.  She was Brushy's cat and that was enough.

And socially awkward as she was, if we left town for a couple days, she was always the very first cat to meet us at the gate when we got home.  We always had a farm sitter, so we knew it wasn't because the food bowl was empty.  She actually seemed excited and happy we were home and we knew, in her own way, Claire Bear loved us.

A couple weeks ago she started asking to come into the house.  She'd walk around the kitchen, eat some of Betsy's food and then curl up on one of the dog beds and go to sleep.  She'd lost a little weight and looked like her teeth might be causing her some trouble so I got up my nerve and took her to the vet.  

Yes, her teeth were bad, but her bigger issue was her kidneys.  She stayed in the ICU at the clinic for several days and we hoped when they sent her home that she was rehydrated and stabilized enough that she might have some good months left, but it was not to be.

Interestingly, for those last few days, Claire Bear loved to be petted, followed us around the house, slept on the bed one night, was really happy if I'd sit on the floor with her and once even crawled into my lap.  

Was she making up for lost time, both giving and receiving?  Was she just looking for some comfort because she didn't feel well?  I'm not sure.  What I do believe, as she sat watching at that gate one last time, that Claire Bear knew she was loved and knew we knew she loved us as well and I think that was important to her.

Claire Bear 

2005 - March 14, 2019

Friday, March 15, 2019

Welfare Check

When a musher gets stopped out on the trail and the GPS tracker doesn't move or moves in circles...they try to find someone in the area who can get out to them and do what's called a welfare check to make sure everyone is okay.  

One of the mushers I am following this year is Blair Braverman.  She appeared to be having trouble at a creek, or was maybe trying to get back to a cabin, or...  Her gazillion Twitter fans were all panicked.  I felt bad as well because I, too, feared the worst.  Turns out her GPS unit was  just malfunctioning and she was still on the trail.  

No such luck here.  I left "Unalakleet" in good spirits, knitting on strong.  I did my short rows, divided for the sleeves, added 8 or 9 inches to the body...started second guessing how it was going, hesitantly knit another inch or two...and stalled out.  

I needed a break anyway.  I'd knit to where my hands were sore.  Bill was in town so I was helping with shearing at Final Frontier Farm on Monday and then we sheared here Wednesday.  The Wool House Crafters met on Tuesday and I asked a couple folks for their opinion on the fabric I was getting and I think we all agreed that it was okay, but could be better.  

I ended up ripping it all back to "Unalakleet".  I figured if I was going to get stuck out on the trail making some necessary sled repairs, there'd be no better place than to hang out with fellow Iknitaroder knitski and eat sourdough pancakes ;-).  20 caught up with us there.

20:  Glad you've made it back here to Unalakleet and everything is okay.  Sounds like you've had some trouble this year.  What can you tell us about that?

TCSL: Well, the theme this year so far seems to be gauge.  Gauge too tight, gauge too loose, gauge not making sense, gauge inconsistencies due to sloppy or inattentive knitting on my part...  

20:  Why is gauge so important?

TCSL: Gauge affects how the fabric feels and how a garment fits.  If you knit it too loose it's "sleazy".  If you knit it too tight, it's feels stiff and harsh.  If your gauge doesn't work with the pattern size you've chosen, your sweater won't fit.  There are frequently gauge issues with stranded knitting versus straight stockinette as well.

20:  I thought you did some gauge samples before the race though.  Shouldn't that have helped?

TCSL:  Yes, absolutely.  My mistake was only swatching the plain knitting, not the colorful patterning as well.  I lost two days right off the bat because I didn't do that and had to restart 2-3 times.  After I finally felt like I was on the right track and finished the top section, I started down the body and all was okay for awhile and then I started knitting tighter for some reason and the fabric started feeling "off".

20:  So what are you going to do about that?

TCSL:  I did what Stella always says "Take it back out and do it right."  I unraveled it all the way back to the bottom of the yoke last night and I am going to go up a needle size which will make the stitches bigger and the fabric softer and smushy-er and I'm going to pay more attention this time.

20:  That sounds like a good plan.  So other than the sled runner issues, how have you enjoyed the trail so far?

TCSL:  Honestly, the trail this year has been one of the prettier ones.  We got all sorts of beautiful snow early on and Pip and I really enjoyed that.  I took a bunch of pictures of that and all the sheep and even did some videos that I just haven't had time to edit together.  

20:  I've noticed you've been knitting in the Wool House more this race.  What changed to encourage that?

TCSL:  I loved that cute little tan couch, but it wasn't the most comfortable sled ;-).

20:  It's been fun catching up on all the Iditarod race videos and interviews up there with you as well.  

TCSL: Yes!  I've really liked being able to run my iPad up there this year.  It's been fun to keep up with the race a little better while I'm knitting.  I've listened to some good books and podcasts as well and I like that better than trying to knit watching tv in the house.

20:  What's been your favorite? 

TCSL:  Ooh, hard to pick.  I really enjoyed Winterdance: the fine madness of running the Iditarod and Dogsong both by Gary Paulson.  I listened to Call of the Wild by Jack London as well.  I liked it...I mean it's a classic, but some of it was hard to listen to.  I'm going to look for another sled dog or Iditarod story to keep us company as we get back out on the trail.  I also have a few episodes of the Iditapod to listen to.  That's a really fun podcast.  And you know, the race isn't over so there will still be more race updates from the Iditarod Insider :-).

20:  Do you think there is any chance you could still get finished before the Red Lantern?

TCSL:  Not really.  I'd have to think we are mathematically out at this point, but I'm basically okay with that.  It's disappointing for sure, but I'd rather be disappointed by not finishing quickly than disappointed in the finished sweater.   My sheep team worked hard to get us all here and I want them to be happy and proud.  Sometimes what you learn out on the trail is more important than the race itself.  I'll come off this race a much more skilled knitter...and that will help me for next year!

Mushing on!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Keeping An Eye On The Trail

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We are all running strong now.  The sweater looks much better and I think I'm safe on the gauge.  Pip is not convinced.  She thinks it's going to be too big for her ;-).

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

After A Few Wrecks

I finally seem to have all my dogs facing the same direction and my sled upright.  Rough start, but we are mushing on.  I took several snowy pictures this morning and yesterday morning.  I'll try to get them posted tomorrow.  

Monday, March 4, 2019

Lamb Camp Question

Um...did anyone get a 2019 Lamb Camp calendar with the wrong dates inside?


Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Official Restart

Because...oh you know it...

At least I'm consistent.  I continue to "be an example to others."  Always swatch in your pattern as well as stockinette.  Straight outta the book.  Sigh...

I guess if I want to stay true to the actual race, this is fitting.  The start yesterday was just ceremonial.  The actual race starts today. 

Mushing on!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

At The Ceremonial Start

This is my seventh Iknitarod!  I always have to like to go back and count - Marcel/Woolliam, Keebler, Maisie, Baaxter, Liddy/Buddy, Baaxter and now Muffin/Biscuit/Mrs. Pepperpot.  

Each race has been different, but they've all been fun.  I've learned a lot about knitting each year.  I've learned a lot about mushing.  I've made some great new friends and we've enjoyed challenging ourselves and cheering each other on. 

I treat the Iknitarod very seriously.  Well, not like life and death seriously, but definitely seriously as in embracing the spirit of the Iditarod race itself.  I enjoy thinking about it throughout the year, planning my race.  I push myself to do something hard.  I choose my team carefully.  I get as prepared as possible.  

And on race day eve, I pack my sled.

My race map this year is the Dreyma sweater by  I took a bunch of pictures of the yarn and the color gradients (yes, there are colors if you look closely) and thought I'd already downloaded them to post here...but I haven't.  I'll include those in a future post.  

Before each Iditarod race, for a fundraiser they auction off the sleds for each musher and the winners  (IditaRiders) gets to ride in their musher's sled for the 11 mile Ceremonial Start. For the last several years I've carried a mascot in my sled throughout the race. My IknitaRider this year is that sweet little sheep I picked up off the road last summer.  

I didn't think sending a sheep to Nome wearing acrylic was a good idea, so I knit her a little wool poncho featuring some pattern colors and thereby getting to practice the increase stitch I was going to need to use for the sweater pattern.  I think she'll be toasty warm :-).

Muffin and Pepperpot came to watch the sled packing, but they won't be riding along.  The trail can be messy and dangerous (Oh, Graham, how we miss you!) and I would hate for something to go wrong.

Packed and ready...and without further ado...

This might be my favorite ravatar to date.  Like a Dreyma (dream), Biscuit and Muffin and I are at the Iknitarod, watching the Northern Lights and staring up at a bright shining star (Mrs. Pepperpot).  I have my hand on their backs to let Mrs. P. know I'm taking good care of her babies.

My project is too big, my hands are too sore.  Still, the pattern with it's bright shining star yoke is perfect and the ravatar is so sweet I just want to stand there forever...and so we once again hit the trail.  

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The Ceremonial Start begins at 2:00 p.m. EST today.  I believe you can watch live for free on .  If you enjoy that coverage and want to watch video updates throughout the race (these are so fun!), I encourage you to sign up for one of the Insider packages.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

So Here's Where We're At

First, a little catch up...

Sweet basket of spun singles.

The singles, paired up for plying.  If you notice, there are numbers on each.  That was the order I spun them.  The first five ended up too thin I thought, so for the second five I tried to spin them just a hair thicker.  I'm still not sure I did the right thing, but we are not going to dwell on that.

I'm sure they're fine.  I will re-swatch to make sure I'm still getting the gauge I thought I was getting and all will be fine.  All will be fine...all will be fine...all will be fine...

...until I hit the next problem.  The pattern I've picked (so far...all will be fine, all will be fine...) has a beautiful patterned yoke.  The designer's version was a black sweater with two grays transitioning into white.  It was like a custom Muffin and Pepperpot sweater!

I knew I was going to be tight on the gray/white portion of the project, so I did some sampling with PPPP rather than chance wasting any of Mrs. P.  I had an idea of how little black I'd need to add in to get my two grays, but when I started actually blending I was shocked.

From left to right the ratios are 1 part white to 1 part black, 2-1, 3-1, 4-1, 5-1 and 10-1.  Yeah...  My hopes that where I was tight on having enough Mrs. Pepperpot, Muffin would make up the difference were dashed.  There will be very little Muffin in the grays.

I ended up choosing the 2-1 and 10-1 for my two grays.  The trick now was how to pull that off with the small amount of white I have.  Sit down...think...what are my options...  

I did the thing I always do in these situations...and called kbdoolin ;-D.  I'm surprised she still answers the phone when she sees my number.  We discussed the design, the amounts of dark gray versus the light gray and white and how much I'd actually need of each...and in the end decided not to chance running short.  

The seven ounces of Mrs. P. might be enough, but the mathematical odds were really not in my favor.  Yarn Chicken is fun in certain situations, but once Mrs. P. is gone, it's gone, and in the middle of the Iknitarod you don't want to have to rip it all out and pick a different design using less yardage.

The solution was actually quite simple...and sweet.  

Biscuit to the rescue!

I'd been feeling bad about not including him anyway and I'd bet Mrs. Pepperpot would have wanted him in there as well.  Biscuit and Muffin blended side by side into yarn?  We've sure seen that before :-).

January 2018

The bundle of white on the right will be my white and it will be straight Mrs. Pepperpot.  I'm going to spin that first and check my yardage.  If I'm not sure I have enough then I'll pull some more from the middle pile.  If I think I'm good than I'll blend some Biscuit in with the middle bundle and add little bits of Muffin to start working on my two grays.

So...that's where we're at :-).

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Play Quietly Amongst Yourselves

I have the ten bundles of Muffin spun.  Today is plying day.  Well, I've plied a couple little bits of it as I went along because I was having my usual issues of not keeping consistent with my swatch yarn for various reasons and have had to adjust along the way.  You know, the usual issues I have that no one wants to listen to...again ;-).

In the meantime, here is a new puzzle.  I wish the entire foreground wasn't mud, but the scene behind it is nice.  Frankie sleeps laying down more than any horse I've even had or even known.  Usually he goes up into one of his stalls (Hank gave up his stall and relocated into the Del Boca Vista shed), but if it's a nice sunny day, he likes to sleep near his friends.

Hank is okay with Frankie as long as Frankie stays away from his sheep.  He's not happy about them sharing piles of hay occasionally, but if I'm there to monitor the playground he tolerates it.  While Frankie would love to be able to live right in with the sheep, he does normal horse stuff and, especially if it's cold and windy, will rip around the field like a thunderbolt and someone would end up getting hurt, even if just by accident.  

Okay, go work the puzzle and enjoy seeing the sun temporarily.  Wish me luck on the plying.  I'll try to get back with a yarn update...maybe tomorrow.  

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Don't Wake The Baba

Everyone enjoyed the sun today.  Even Blossom (aka Baba) even if she didn't enjoy the chickens bothering her ;-).

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Assembling The Team

I made this needle felted Muffin and Mrs. Pepperpot before Mrs. P was gone.  I knew I would not be able to afterwards...and I still think that's probably right.  I'm crying now as I try to type this.  

I don't think I was really that attached to Pepperpot herself.  I think I was attached to her relationship with Muffin.  Her relationship with me as she watched as we cared for her tiny lamb, continuing as her lamb grew up.  As I cared for her as she grew so feeble, while she continued to care for her little girl to the very end.

In the beginning I had big plans to knit a fancy cabled cardigan from her upcoming spring shearing.  Something very Mrs. P.  We talked about it all that first summer and into fall.  I feel she would have "got it" when it was finished and we had our picture taken "dressed alike". I truly believe some sheep know there's a connection.

In the end, I sheared her myself after Dr. Bridge left and I salvaged what I could. I carefully washed it, combed out all the mess and fiber breaks and then carded it all into batts which I piled up and set on the coffee table and just enjoyed like that all summer. 

It was a less than stellar summer all around and seeing a few of Muffin's tiny black face hairs still mixed in (click to biggify), still laying across her momma's back, was comforting.  I knew our special project was now going to be a blend of both sheep.  Muffin could help her mom still make a sweater.

I really didn't want to take on a huge Iknitarod project this year.  I miss out on a lot of the fun Iditarod coverage when I'm in a big race as well, so I planned to find an easier project for this year.  

However, once stupid spring and summer comes I have very limited time to knit.  Fall is usually a scramble as well.  If I wanted to knit this sweater yet this was going to have to be during the Iknitarod, my last bit of free not quite as busy time.  

I was still hedging on taking on such a big challenge...and then a ravatar popped into my head.  I enjoy creating those badges (scroll down the right side of the blog to see the past years) as much as the final project.  Once seen, it couldn't be unseen...and Muffin, Mrs. Pepperpot and I are off to the Iknitarod.  

I have 16 days to spin a sweater's amount of yarn.  The pattern I picked has four colors, so there will be some fiber blending as well before the last 6 ounces of white and gray are spun.  I'm starting with Muffin.  Pictured here are ten two ounce bundles.  I'm going to try to spin two of those per day, although typing this blog post has probably eaten up one of the bundles for today.  

That's okay.  I'm not panicking...yet.

And it never hurts to have 20 on the team as well ;-).

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The leaves in the basket of Mrs. Pepperpot are bay leaves, which I scatter around open wool baskets to help protect from they smell nice :-).

I'll announce the pattern and ravatar nearer the start of the race.  Stay tuned.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Thursday, February 7, 2019

An Accidental Experiment

Most sheep and/or wool folks have heard the statistic that wool can absorb 30% of it's weight in water and still feel warm, but if you are like me, you might not fully understand what that actually means.  I accidentally conducted a very scientific study last weekend.

We'd gone to eat dinner at our local Mexican restaurant.  Without opening a can of worms, there are still places in Kentucky (historically a tobacco raising state) where people can still smoke indoors.  Yes, I hate it.  Some nights are worse than others.  This was a bad night.

When we got home, I took my shirt and sweater and hung them over the porch swing to air out over night.  The next morning I picked up the sweater and noticed it felt a little damp from the foggy night air, but I would have still felt comfortable putting it on. 

When I reached for the cotton turtleneck, I quickly pulled my hand away.  It was sopping wet and COLD.  Amazingly cold.  Cold and wet enough that I no longer have any confusion about which fiber could put you in the ground and which could save your life.

One other note - the wool sweater aired out completely with no residual smoke smell.  The cotton turtleneck headed for the washer.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my cotton turtlenecks.  I'm just going to continue to pair them up with a wool sweater :-).

Wednesday, February 6, 2019


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