Sunday, March 30, 2008

Show and Tell

This is Teddy, aka Theodore Honorius Bearpaw, as painted by Cezanne. Teddy is my email man, and is also known as The Supreme Being, due to the fact that he is able to open doors just by looking at them. He is around 23 years old, which is a respectable age for a Supreme Being. He no longer owns his own teeth, they have retired to the choir invisible long since. Witnessing him skin and swallow mice is an act never forgotten. He also possesses the uncanny ability to sense a lap forming, and will seemingly appear out of nowhere once a lap has emerged, and levitate himself onto the fundament. Hence his fondness for email, and other activities undertaken in a sitting position.

Now, if I may direct your attention below and to the left, this hideous creature is a test swatch. It is the result of a color blunder I made by ordering online without an actual sample card. I was going for a turquoise and buckskin color combination, and happened upon a turquoiseish sample of Telemark in the Knitpicks catalogue. Too sure of myself, I ordered 5 balls of the greenish color, which is known as "tidepool". It did look turquoise in the catalogue, however, when I received it I was surprised to see that it was much more vivid in person, like a drunken auntie. I decided to knit it up with a buckskinesque mate, not in the pattern I'm intending but in something easy just to see how they work together. The answer my friends, is that they do not work together. They work together about as well as a stripper and a girl guide.

So I frogged them, starting with the brassy one, and found this, which is semi-interesting from a knitterly point of view. Perhaps this might be useful knowledge at some point very far down the line.
Moving on to other things, still knitting though, (I apologize to those of you who come here for squalid excitement and find none): I finished another pair of socks sometime last week. These are called Schoolhouse and they were made with a now extinct yarn by elann. I used almost the entire ball each time, as I cannot see any reason to make short socks, except for those to be worn in summer, which is, let's face it, only about two months of the year in these parts. Don't they look like they've just come off the legs of Charles the First? All museumy on that persian rug.
In Farm News, there is very little to report. Both of my livestock waterers are inoperative. One waits for a pump switch that is very like the kind of switch used in your dryer or refrigerator door to turn the light on or off depending on the position of the door. The other waits for a great deal of fiddling among the nether parts where the connections reside to have the element replaced and reconnected and make the thermostat either work or not work. In the meantime, I must cart pails of water to the basins to water my flock.
Farm equipment is woefully underdesigned. It's ridiculous actually. It's as if all the graduates of industrial design had been lured away by the riches that await them as plastic surgeons, no wait, that's medical practitioners. Anyway, I could go on about farm machinery and devices and their attendant lack of good, common sense design. It's all jury-rigged. For example, instead of creating a waterer that plugs into an outlet, you must wire the waterer directly into electrical cable. Seems logical? Try repairing something that is marretted and electrical taped together then mashed into a receptacle box in minus 30 degree weather. No can do. Why not just provide a plug that can commingle with an outlet (on a GFI of course) like the rest of the world does? Huh? Please, if anyone out there is an up and coming industrial designer, please I beg of you, do some Brauning or Boseing or whatever high design you choose to our poor farm equipment. And please, don't forget that not all people who operate or who wish to operate equipment are 6 foot 4 Viking males. Some of us are petite women, and the deadman switch on tractors needs to take into account our smaller frames. In addition to chains, I have to carry around a 50 lb cement block on the back of my yard tractor so I can get enough traction to move the thing in snow, because I'm not husky. Even with that, I still can get stuck going up hills, because the snowthrower on the front is so diabolically heavy that only an offensive lineman can make the thing go uphill naturally in the snow. (I've tried being offensive, but no amount of c*cks*ckery or bad personal hygiene seems to work).
On the weather front, we have almost no snow, and this witch is predicting a dry dry summer. Some wag in town was loudly predicting storms here, I quote, March 30, 31 and April 12. I believe that the reason people like to predict the weather is that they believe in some twisted way that it means they control it, humans having a propensity for the control of all things. I pooh poohed this to my informant, and had an eye cocked in my direction with that warning look prevalent among the superstitious, when they give you the look that says .... but what if there is a hell, what then? So naturally I'm eager to see these storms called down upon us like a judgement from the all-knowing. Oh, speaking of which, here's the Supreme Being, and he's hungry.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lazy Hazy days of Winter

Time: 6:45 a.m. Temp: -2 C.

What's a girl and boy to do on a wintery morning? Why, nap of course!
We've got the fire lit, the beds are cozy, there's music playing somewhere, the canaries and budgies are singing, there's a skiff of snow on the hills from last night -- let's get comfy and fill the air with ZZZZZZs.

I've ordered some trees and bulbs from . I ordered Green Giant poplars a few years ago and had great results, so I'm going to try the Chief Okanese and Tower poplars, in addition to more Green Giants. Whereas one tree in a city yard is overwhelmingly visible, one tree on 120 acres disappears, thus many trees must be/can be planted. I've probably planted over 200 trees since I've moved here 6 years ago. Many were claimed by drought in the first 3 years though. I have about 18 acres of boreal forest here, 3 in the front near the house, and the rest out in the northwest pasture. That's our park where the dogs and I walk.

We have a magpie nursery right outside this window, and judging by their chattering they are seriously dating in preparation for nesting. There are probably 6 couples in the little wood that is the west side of my front yard. You can tell where the foxes, coyotes and owls are by the chatter of a magpie. The dogs have learned this, and are always eager to find the birds that will lead them to more interesting hunters.

But we are resting now.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Suja Socks

These socks are called "Suja" after my friend Susanne who lives near Haliburton. The colors remind me of old-timey courier de bois or Algonquin sashes, something north country.

I'm going to use these colors in a jacket I'm designing that references First Nations' buckskins.

This yarn was by OnLine, from my now extinct LYS. It's a superwash sock yarn, and it wears and washes really well for those sockmakers among us. I knit up almost the whole 100 gm skein, in my usual toe-up, single long circular method (the only way to do it, it's so much easier than dpns). I like to use up all the yarn, so my socks are longer than most, but hey it keeps your legs warmer in winter, doesn't it?
The books on the left just came in-- you see I have a book addiction. Every spring I have the compulsion to find out something new, and now with internet book stores, it's all too easy to browse and buy before you've even had breakfast. One of my favorite sites is which is a Canadian book clearance house. Nevertheless, I purchased these from Amazon. I'm particularly interested in the cob house building book. It's a hefty read, there appears to be a huge amount of information in this book, plus some good color photographs, and many pencil sketches. I'm eager to try this method of building-- I think I'll start small with a henhouse or maybe a garden structure or greenhouse. I want to see how a cob building will feel here in midwinter, before I commit to building a cabin in the woods.
The appeal of building something that blends into the landscape, and for really really little money, with materials that are truly eco friendly and at this point somewhat experimental, is huge. Plus it lends itself to building in remote locations, and I have a great site on the property for a cabin that is not too easily accessible by car. Great for painting or birdwatching.
Here's to spring and all the new beginnings!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sunday walk

The weather has remained warm, it's plus 11 and sunny. It has been like this for two weeks, and the snow is now the consistency of the crushed ice you get in snow cones. They call it rotten snow, though I forget who actually calls it that. Possibly avalanche experts.

On our walk we found the remains of a coyote lunch. We think it was grouse.

We've noticed that absolutely nothing of the bird remains except a few feathers, the coyotes eat ALL the bird, including the beak and claws.

On Saturday, Daytona used his skill in opening gates, practising on the chain lock that holds the gate between the male llama corral and the females' pasture and barn. His prowess let the male llamas in with the females and babies. We're now pretty sure that no open females remain, they are all bred. So much for geographical birth control. We will look forward to more babies, about the end of February 2009. Llama gestation is 11 months, 3 weeks.

Here is that devilishly handsome man Kuzko, who is not likely one of the fathers (he's just not lucky that way). But one day.... one day.... we hope to have his progeny, since he has the most unusual coat. It's thick and woolly like sheep's wool, not so much like llama wool. I'm going to shear him this year and try out his fleece and see what it spins into. He was donated to me by an orphanage down the road. Someone had the good intention of giving him to a childrens' home in the country. Unfortunately, within about a week, the children tired of him, and so did the farmer who was taking care of him, so he and his friend Pacha were brought here. We have our own orphanage, for unwanted animals, and we've taken in about 20 llamas so far. All of my llamas have names, and they all have distinct personalities. In temperament they are similar to cats: they're curious, friendly once they trust you, quite happy to hang out, very social with each other. Pacha helped me build bookshelves in the barn -- he watched every move I made and wasn't phased by the electric sander. He stood behind me with his head over my shoulder to watch.
When a baby is born, the whole clan comes over to greet it and the aunties and uncles are wonderful babysitters. The babies form friendships with their siblings and play lots of games, "king of the castle" being a real favorite. We'll probably have our first baby in April this year. We'll keep you posted.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Fort Edmonton

If you're ever in Edmonton, Alberta, you have to visit Fort Edmonton. It's a park on the Fort Saskatchewan river with a reconstructed 19th century Fort. There is also a town leading up to the fort, composed of historical buildings that have been moved onto the riverbank location, and a steam locomotive with period passenger cars that take you from the station, past the farms and to the fort. The buildings are functional, and inhabited by people re-enacting
the time period.
Fort Edmonton is open during the summer.
You can see more at
It's an excellent website with a lot of photographs, definitely worth a click.

I took these are pictures in Rowand House, the Governor's building inside the Fort.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Frankly, my dear

An article in the NY Times reported that researchers in behavioral economics at MIT conducted tests with students to see what effect options had on behavior. They found that subjects were willing to pay rather than see options close. Apparently, it was not so much to maintain future flexibility as it was to avoid the loss of seeing options permanently cut off. In other words, according to their experiment, people are willing to pay to avoid the immediate feeling of loss of options. They postulate that it is the feeling or emotion associated with loss that people try to avoid, not the loss itself.

So the next time you procrastinate on making a decision, ask yourself, are you procrastinating because you fear the outcome, or because you fear the feeling of loss you will have when you close one door and choose another? And by "keeping your options open" what are you gaining? Just the feeling of not losing them? Is that sufficient justification for not making a choice?

Sometimes choosing to say no is a way to step forward.

“We may work more hours at our jobs,” Dr. Ariely writes in his book, “without realizing that the childhood of our sons and daughters is slipping away. Sometimes these doors close too slowly for us to see them vanishing."