Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter Activities

We've had a cold winter so far, with much more snow than usual. The average depth of snow is about 2.5 to three feet, so walking anywhere in the pasture is not fun for anyone. If you want a great cardio workout, try running in deep snow!
Rather than kill ourselves with outdoor recreation (did I mention that temperatures frequently dip to minus 30?) we have been busy indoors. Besides, when it is dark by 430 pm it is difficult to get anything done outside other than feeding the animals and occasionally clearing snow. This year I made a few things as presents, here they are.

First is a pair of illusion scarves.  Illusion is the technique -- by contrasting rows of raised knitting you can knit a piece that looks like plain stripes when seen head-on, and reveals a motif when seen from an angle, like this:

or this:

I also did a piratical fair isle toque. It has 24 skull and crossbones on it, and no two are alike:

I made this little lamb out of some scrap cotton yarn:

and earlier this year I finished a cotton/linen lace sweater. I knit this out of my head after a pattern I saw but couldn't locate here.

I would also like to include some pictures from last Christmas, which didn't make it into my blog at that time. It's of an old hen I brought into the house. She was being picked on by a younger hen because she was old (any women out there identify with that?), she had big gashes in her back. I couldn't bear to leave her among them, so I brought her inside. She was about nine years old, and had laid many eggs for me in her youth and she proved to be a wonderful pet. Her name was Ginger, and she used to sit at my feet like a cat and purr. She would come running when it was dinner time, and she loved to eat spaghetti and tomatoes. One of her favorite treats was strawberries. She helped us wrap Christmas presents as you can see, and everyone got along with her, cats and dogs.  Sadly she passed on to the choir invisible last spring, but I wanted to share her sweetness.

I also want to say that chickens (at least my chickens) are not stupid nor are they mean (I have many roosters that live together in relative peace and who never lay a spur on me, but come to be petted and fed treats -- the pecking order notwithstanding is a cultural trademark that is shared by the British and the Indian caste system), though they are limited somewhat by their physiology. A chicken for example does not have binocular vision as we do, therefore it has trouble negotiating complex paths. It also can't see well in the dark. People with insufficient empathy and imagination (the two often go together) brand animals as stupid when in fact they have failed to take into account the set of potentials the animal was born with. Within a week Ginger had learned her name, as well as "dinnertime" (always an important word with those in a foreign country).  She loved to sit with old Teddy by the fire on the warm hearth.
She was a speck of brightness in a gloomy winter. She died of old age last year, and when she left we missed her sparkle. It was a pleasure to know such a cheerful little soul.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Beautiful Coyote

The weather is bad -- blowing snow, over one foot of accumulation in 24 hours, temperatures at minus 16 with a windchill of minus 29.  I have an 8 foot tall drift behind the snow fence on the north side of the yard.  It's growing at about one foot every 2 hours.
I have a lot of snow to shovel today, I think I'm snowed in. There is about a 100 yard drift that I have to get through to get my car out of the driveway for tomorrow. Unfortunately the wind hasn't stopped so I will have to get out there soon while it's still daylight and throw the snow wind and all.  Sadly my little snowthrowing tractor had a heart attack and is unable to help me-- it will require a mechanic to visit to set it right.

I love coyotes. We have a good relationship -- they have never hurt my small animals (baby llamas, cats) and they do a welcome job of keeping down the gopher population.
Last week one of my old roosters died, and I left his body in the snow, and now a small coyote clan comes by to check and see what else might be lying around.  Sometimes I give them eggs when I have too many or they are too soiled for humans.

I had the same relationship with raccoons in Toronto -- I used to leave leftovers outside my patio door for them instead of putting them in the garbage. Once I handed one a piece of pizza at the back door, which it took and then gently touched my hand with his in thanks. My trash can was never vandalized, although my neighbours' were.  I'm sure the neighbouring humans wouldn't have liked my charity, but I don't care. Raccoons were my neighbours too, and generally preferable to some of the noisy and otherwise obnoxious people that lived there.

Here is my friend, coming by to check out the food situation.

I can never understand how people who claim to love dogs can dislike these animals.  They are beautiful and intelligent, keep to themselves pretty much. They're only trying to find a meal, and when it's 40 below I can't begrudge them a snack. The mastiffs do though.  It's all competition for food, isn't it?