"People from a planet without flowers
would think we must be mad with joy the whole time
to have such things about us."
~Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat

Friday, January 28, 2011

What are you guys doing in the goat house?

It was after lunch yesterday when I went outside to pull some weeds, play with the dogs and talk to the goats.
Mind you, the sun was shining, it was warm, and there was a slight breeze. One of those perfect California winter afternoons.... and where were the goats? In the pasture? Lolling in the sunshine.... faces to the sun? No, those silly goats, who have been praying for the sun to shine in the past weeks of fog and cold, were inside their goat house. The door was open. They were not being prisoners denied their rights.
They heard me as I came out to the fence....
"Hi, guys. What's up? Why aren't you outside standing in the lovely sun... eating the grass and enjoying the nice day?"
Bart came over and gave me his "Hi, Farmlady. I'm so handsome. Aren't I wonderful." look. He breathed on me and got in my face,as he always does. Then Murphy gave me the cutest look and said "Hi Farmlady. Wyd mortl dayth ." I don't know what you think about goats, but this goat is very special. It sounds like Gaelic but he could be channeling my ancient Welsh ancestors. I'm not sure. Whatever it is, he's a magic one for sure.
Freckles just posed for a minute,looking toward the entrance to the pasture....
And Brownie.... well, he didn't say a word. He just looked toward the house and back at me.
Then he spoke...
" It stinks out here. When are you going to clean this pen up?"
"Well, hello to you too, grumpy. What's the problem?"
Brownie continued... "We were glad that the Prospector cleaned out our house last week but this part.... well, the extra straw on the ground it just not working. The sun never comes here near our house and it's damp and cold."
"Brownie. The gate is open all day. You can go down the run to the pasture and it's sunny there. You don't have to stay up here."
"Well, I've been watching the sun lately and I think that it is lower right now, and the house is blocking the sun from this place."
"You're very observant, Brownie."
"Observant? Is that like being annoying? I know you think that I can be annoying Farmlady. I just..."
"No, Brownie, that's not what it means. I'm paying you a compliment. It's means to be aware of things.You are a keen, perceptive goat that notices things that other goats don't. You just get a little obsessive about things and you need to lighten up a bit. The sun is shining. It may not be shining right here, but all you have to do is walk down to the pasture and you can have all the sunshine you want. The great being that oversees the world does wonderful things for us but he expects us to help too, once in a while. The two of you, together, can make your world a beautiful, sunny place.
"Oh bother, Farmlady. That was speaking out of both sides of your mouth. You tell me I'm a smart goat that notices things that other goats don't and then you say that I need to lighten up and go where the sun shines. I would rather stand right here..."
"And complain?" I asked.
"Well....." Brownie looked away.
"I suspected that, Brownie, but let me tell you something. That sun is going to move higher in the sky soon. In fact it has already moved and pretty soon it will be shinning on the goat house and this area too. You just have to wait for another month or two."
"What? Two months, three months? That's crazy. I'm not waiting that long."
"Then you can walk down the run to the pasture. The sun is shinning there."
Brownie thought about this... then he said,
"I could do that."
"Yes, sweetie, you could."
"Farmlady?"
"Yes Brownie?"
"Do you love me?"
"Oh, Brownie, I love you so much it makes my heart ache."
"Even when I complain a lot?"
"Yes, even when you complain."
"Even when I'm OBSESSIVE.?"
"Yes, I love you, even when you worry too much."
"No... obsessive. When I'm obsessive."
"Right, sweetie. The words means worrying about things too much."
"Oh!... I do that, don't I?"
"Yes you do, but it's OK. I love you no matter how you are."
Brownie looked over at the gate and then at me....
"Do you have a carrot coin for me?"
"Yes, I do. Would you like one?"
"Yes, I would love one."
"Can you come over here and get it?"
"Do I have to?"
"Yes Brownie, you do."
"OK."


Later in the afternoon, when the sun was only on a small part of the pasture I saw Brownie and the other goats standing on some rocks, heads toward the last remaining rays of sun, with what seemed like smiles on their faces.
I guess we all need to know that we are loved, even when we are sometimes unlovable. If it works for a obsessive, insecure old goat I guess it can work for anyone.
Have a good day.....

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Honey, I don't know where your wool sweater is. Honestly."

It's more felted wool madness. I just can't get enough of this.
First I would like to show you some finished pieces so you don't think that I'm just going berserk with this new hobby and not finishing anything. This is a scarf that I knitted with two colors of the same yarn (a light and dark gray) together and a rib stitch.
I knitted two separate pieces and attached them after they were felted. The ribbed pattern still shows and gives the scarf a nice texture. I used two vintage buttons . The ends flare because I shaped them that way where I was fulling the scarf and let it dry that way.
It's a heavy scarf because I used two yarns together but the extra weight is nice and it's really warm.
Then I made a long scarf for my niece.
It was fun, quick and acrylic, so you don't felt this one. Felting can only be done with natural fibers. Scarves are great for practicing your stitches and experimenting with different yarn.
Then I made a neck scarf, also called a "scarflette", for a friend's birthday. She lives in Michigan and needs to keep her neck warm in this year's long and very cold winter. Little bear wanted to model the scarf... then she didn't want to give it back.
I used Lion's Brand Hometown USA yarn. It's 100% acrylic and super bulky which, with big needles, makes the knitting go fast and easy. Then I crocheted all the way around it with Lion's fun fur yarn and added a big red button. It's also stretchy so you don't feel like it's choking you.
I made a few other scarves for Christmas but they are gone to their new owners and I forgot to take photos of them.
So..... Now I'm working on a purse. I knitted the purse with Lion's brand Fishermen's wool. It even says on the wrapper that it's perfect for felting. I knitted it with HUGE needles (plastic-#15) and then I double crocheted the sides and around the opening at the top.

It was quite pretty this way but very loose and open, so I threw it into a mesh bag...
and machine felted it in hot soapy water for about 10 minutes. Here it is after it was shaped and dried.
Now it feels like fabric only it still has an open texture. It will need a lining. The crochet on the sides almost disappeared so I turned it inside out. I love the top though. The double crochet made ruffles.
What was it that someone said about arts and crafts?.... you don't make mistakes, just "happy accidents". For me, this process of felting is one "happy accident" after another and, each time, I learn something new. This edge is much prettier than a straight one and it gives the purse a wonderful frilly look. I only did the crocheting to sew the sides together and strengthen the piece. Who knew that it would look so pretty.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Well, look what we have here. SNAKES in the kitchen sink.
Oh, no... sorry. These are the I-cords that I knitted. They are in the process of being hand felted in the above photo. They will be the handles for the purse. My sister showed me how to knit an I-cord, in the round, and I think this will make a good strong cord to attach to the purse. The cord looked something like this before I started the felting process. This is the yarn that the purse is made out of.
This is a smaller I-cord (above) but it's the same yarn.
You dip the cord in hot soapy water and start rubbing it back and forth in you hands, like rolling out ropes of dough. Lots of pressure and turning makes those little fibers felt together until you have a strong solid rope of knitted yarn that doesn't stretch or pull apart. It's just a magical thing and finally, after your arm muscles feel like they are going to pop right out of your arms, you get this...
And when they are dry.... these.
Generally, knitted felt shrinks 15 to 20 % in width and 25 to 40% in length.  You can control this by how long you felt the item. All yarn shrinks differently, so it's a good idea to make swatches (a small knitted piece that you can felt to see how much shrinkage there will be.) with the size needles that you will be using.
I will line this purse with a cotton fabric and add some decorations.... maybe. It's all an "add as you go" process and I love it. Please feel free to offer any ideas that you might have. I'm always open to creative ideas.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I think I better stop now. I have two new pieces of clothing hanging in the laundry room that are calling my name. I bought them at the local thrift store for $3.50 and $4.00 a few days ago, felted them in the washing machine and there they hang waiting for their rebirth.
 The vest is an Eddie Bauer and the long sleeved sweater is an Old Navy. Both are really good 100% wool sweaters that , after machine felting, look like they might fit my grandchildren. They were medium sized adult  sweaters and they shrank down considerably. But , look at them. I can cut them up anyway I wish. I didn't have to knit them first (that saves yarn and time) and they were very inexpensive. Purses?, scarves? artwork? The possibilities are endless. Hmmm, I wonder what's in my husband's closet.



Monday, January 24, 2011

Carl and Cutter's Excellent Adventure - Part II

When we left the house Saturday, our neighbor was feeding his cows. We stopped to say hello while Carl and Cutter barked at the big "doggies". That's when I saw the newest addition to the herd...
Isn't she (he?) cute. I forgot to ask what the gender was and I don't know that much about cows to know. She is a relica of her mother (upper right) and the most beautiful calf I've seen lately. She was born last week. Mom and baby are doing well.
This one didn't look very hospitable so we said our goodbye's and drove on.
Back to the excellent adventure....
We left Knight's Ferry and drove out to the highway and east toward Jamestown. Twenty years ago, this was were we learned to pan for gold. At the time, we saw this huge mining operation just out of town and decided to take a tour. This was quite an experience. I had never seen an operation like this. It was called The Jamestown Mine. This part was called the Harvard Mill. (click photo to read)
It was an open pit when we took the tour and it was overwhelming and deep. Today it has water in it and I climbed through a fence that had a hole in it to take these photos. Yes, I was trespassing but with good purpose and I didn't get too close to the edge.
 It is still kind of scary and deep but it's a lot more beautiful with water in it.
Then it was on to Jamestown and my turn to hit some of the antique stores. I'm looking for vintage buttons. I need BIG ones for my felted purses and scarfs.
The prospector and the dogs took a nap in the car while I walked around and took a few pictures, asked about buttons at quite a few stores...

...and made a new friend in one of the shops. She owns TrulyMadlyVintage on etsy.com (PaperTiger08.etsy.com) , she teaches tap dancing and she makes jewelry. We got talking about felting and she is learning about it too. She showed me some of her recent felted pieces. We will be in contact with each other. It was fun to talk to someone who gets as excited as I do about learning something new.
I found some buttons and then walked back through this little park...
and the old Jail...

...Walked back to the car and found my husband and the dogs sleeping in the sunshine. The car was warm and cozy. I got in and soaked up some of the warmth. They got their nap while I got my buttons.
We drove out to the Main street and that's when the "ice cream bug" hit. You know how guys are. Once they're on their way they don't want to stop.... but I whined and so he pulled over and stopped in front of a cute store that said "ICE CREAM". I went in and got the Prospector a scoop of chocolate ice cream on a cone.and I got , yes I did.... a hot fudge sundae with whipped cream and pecans. That hasn't happen in a long time. I was shameless! I even scrapped the container to get the very last drop of fudge sauce. It was that good.
We left Jamestown and our memories of Woods Creek, and learning to pan gold for the first time with a man named Ralph (who owned the prospecting store in town). We took a short cut over to Columbia so we could avoid the traffic in Sonora and drove north on Highway 49, over New Melones Reservoir...

Through Carson Hill and into Angels Camp. 
These photos are for you Kate (Tatersmama~~~ blogger friend in Australia that is heading home to Murphys soon).
It's all waiting for you Kate. You'll be home soon.

The pups barked at the people on the street and then settled down in the back seat for the ride home. We drove north again, through San Andreas, Mokelumne Hill and into Jackson. Home at last. As soon as we turned on our road the little boys sat up and , without barking at the cows, sat quietly looking out the windows. They knew they were in their territory. They knew it was almost time for dinner and a warm sofa with Farmlady in the middle and the Prospector in his chair.
It was a fun trip but they were tired and ready for a quiet evening of thinking about their excellent adventure, their grand trip to another place, the bigger world where adventure begins and there are a thousand new smells to sniff out.
But right now, it was time to eat dinner and dream about their excellent adventure in the Mother Lode.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Carl and Cutter's Excellent Adventure

Yesterday we packed a lunch, harnessed the pups and headed on out for the day. We drove south to a town called...
The Prospector's gold club was having an "outing" there. We didn't want to spend the whole day on the river but we wanted to see Knight's Ferry. So we decided to take the dogs, have lunch on the Stanislaus River and see the longest covered bridge in the state of California. Knowing the area we figured that the hike down to the river would be a long and steep one. The Prospector's knee has been giving him trouble lately so we choose not to join the gold group and just did a day trip to see the covered bridge.
We drove across the Mokelumne River and south through San Andreas and Angels Camp. We went west to Copperopolis and took an old road south to Knight's Ferry. It took about an hour and a half with a pit stop in the middle of some ranch land below Copper' so we and the dogs could relieve ourselves. NO ONE passed us or came by while I propped myself near the car, using the edge of the open door for support. I used to be able to do this without holding on to anything in my younger days. I guess I'm getting old... Poor old knees don't hold me up like they use to.
I learned, this summer in Montana, how to sit on the side of the open car door and relieve myself. I won't go into detail but it works really well when there are Grizzly Bears (or cows watching) in the area and you might need to make a fast exit back into the car. It also keeps you from getting your shoes wet.... if you're following my drift.
Anyway, We finally got to Knight's Ferry. It's a very little town. This is just about the extent of it...
I'm sure there are some side streets but it's just a tiny town with a lot of history. We drove through it and parked in a beautiful area right on the river with picnic tables and BATHROOMS. Carl and Cutter were getting really excited. They saw other dogs and their owners. They barked their arrival and wanted out of the car. We got them hooked securely to their leashes and started walking. In the distance I could see something long and beautiful reaching across the river. It was the Covered Bridge. I had never seen something so beautiful.



The weather was lovely. Cool and kind of sunny. The fog has been really awful in the valley and some of it was still lingering around the hills to the west but the sun was trying very hard to overcome all of this. We walked on a trail that led to a huge old ruin.
This was, originally, a flour mill and then a power house.  Then, just past the old mill the entrance to the bridge ....
I think that the first time I saw a covered bridge was in the movie called The Bridges of Madison County and I was enamored of them from that moment on. They became the "romantic" movie location of my dreams.
This covered bridge lived up to all my expectations. I wanted "Clint" to be walking toward me from the other end, or Sam Elliot, or.... lucky me.... The Prospector with two cute little Corgis in toe....
This is such a romantic bridge. While we were there a photographer was taking pictures of two young people. I would guess they were having pre-natal photos taking, which is kind of different, because she was VERY pregnant and it was all about the belly, which was totally exposed. I guess I'm getting old. Maybe they were engagement or wedding pictures, I don't know, but something was kind of out of sequence. Anyway, they seemed very happy and  it was a perfect place for any kind of professional photos.
We walked across the bridge and I took a few more pictures.
Someone made steps down to the river. I thought they were beautiful.
We started up the trail. Carl and Cutter were having a grand time. They were on a mission to mark every dog spot that they came to. Everyone ahead of us had a dog too so Carl and Cutter were trying to pee on every dog fragrance they could find. They finally ran out of liquid and just pretended.
The trail got steeper and finally it was overlooking the river. What a beautiful sight. At the top someone had built a bench for the weary hikers. I thought that was a nice touch. The Prospector sat for a few minutes but said that his knee felt better when he was walking than sitting so we went up a bit further. Then we saw the trail that led down to the river's edge and we knew that we didn't want to walk down that path. Down would have been OK but coming back up would have been difficult. My husband has a doctor's appointment to see what is going on with his knee in a few weeks and he doesn't want to damage it further before then. So we turned around and headed back down the trail.
Carl and Cutter were so good. They were really enjoying the walk. This was a big adventure for them both. Carl acting like he does this everyday and Cutter bopped around like the puppy that he is. He watches to see what Carl is doing and then runs ahead to see what is next. I was taking photos most of the time but when I took Carl separately, Cutter wanted to be sure that Carl was coming behind him. He thinks that Carl needs to give him the "OK" for everything and then he goes ahead and makes his own way.
He barked a few times but only, I think, in reacting to these two little pip squeaks that were making all this noise. He was tolerating them.
We passed these huge rocks that towered over the river and us.
Ancient, weather worn sentinels that form the bedrock of the river and hold it to it's channel. So much bedrock and stone. They saw the native Indians, then the first pioneers and now us. It's kind of humbling how long they have been here.... how long they will be here. Someday my great grandchildren will take this walk and come across the same rocks. Do you suppose they will think the same thoughts... be humbled in the same way.... Feel the strength and fortitude of these huge earthlings. I can only hope. I must bring my grandchildren here. They need to see things that last longer than time. They need to know the strength of Nature.
And so we continued back down the trail to the object of my desire.... the covered bridge. Another photographer was taking pictures of another couple. The pups met up with another Corgi, who was very well trained and didn't bark at all. Oh well...
We passed the Mill Office....
And a tribute to the Native Indians that lived in this area...
We gave the pups water, had lunch, and talked to a guy, with a dog, who use to have a Corgi and loved the breed. His dog was so friendly. Ours were anxious and noisy... Always trying to control the situation.
We all got into the car and headed across another, newer bridge, finding the highway and driving East toward Jamestown and Sonora.
Tomorrow I will continue the trip and then head home. I still have more to tell you about and places to show you.This is the MOTHER LODE. There is so much history here. The weather is perfect and the days are getting longer.
I felted another piece that I knitted, today, so I'm spending the day blogging and trying to figure out what I want to do with these wonderful felted pieces.
See you tomorrow....