Poking around

November has been a nice month, weather-wise. After a sopping-wet October we got some sun and a few rainless days–time to do all the things we should have been doing a month earlier. Plant bulbs. Put the gardens to bed. Take walks.


When the sun’s shining it’s time to be outdoors, getting as much free vitamin D as possible. Snooping through the outbuildings is a good way to pass the time. Who knew we had a rabbit hutch?


I love rusty hardware.


Anyone know what this is for? I didn’t. Answer: it’s an enormous dipstick for measuring the level of fuel oil in our tank.


The days are short here in the winter. This is my shadow at 1:30 pm.


Paddock fences. How I love our paddock fences.


My husband thinks he can save this henhouse. I’m not so sure. It’s already bowing and warping more than when we bought the place 1.5 years ago, and it lost half a panel in a summer windstorm. Clucking at the neighbor’s chickens might be as close as we get to livestock.


Did I say it rains? I think I won’t check the blackberry patch just now.


These adorable berries grow on a woody vine that’s climbing our old lady hawthorn tree. The berries are bittersweet-colored in autumn and darken to nearly-red in winter. I should figure out what this is. They look like tiny rosehips, but I don’t think the vine flowers.


The witch’s rock is drowned. The little hawthorn beside it sprung up this summer, and makes me so happy.


Haws are the berries on hawthorn trees. As for the thorns …

Thanksgiving (leftovers) socks

Well lookie here, I’m doing two new-socks posts in a row. I must be really scared of beginning the gansey’s sleeves.


These are made of the leftovers from the Rivendell, Hubris, and Pumpkin socks. 60 sts around the foot, increasing to 64 just before the short-row heel. The stripes are eight rows deep.


Not much else to say. Love this yarn (Scheepjes Invicta Extra). Love these socks.



Kells socks


I finished a pair of socks. Kells socks are made with KnitPicks Hawthorne. It’s my first pair with this yarn, and I’m happy with it. Comes in lots of gorgeous multi- and kettle-dyed colors, is reasonably priced, and has a nylon content, so the socks should wear well. It’s a twisty two-ply yarn, similar to Claudia Handpaints and Cherry Tree Hill. It knit up very nicely–not splitty at all–so if it holds its color in the wash (and they’re in the wash RIGHT NOW), I’ll declare it an all-around winner.


The cable is a basic five-strand braid. I crossed cables every third row, for a six-row repeat. A single purl-stitch gutter at either side. And I knit them on size 0 needles. My old favorite needles have changed over the years, so I can’t buy new ones. I decided to make the change to KnitPicks … and they don’t make 2.25mm needles in the length I want. So down to 2mm it was. I don’t think there’s any difference in the finished product.


Toe-up, Turkish cast on of 14sts, 60 sts around the foot, increase to 62 just before the short-row heel.

A sense of place

Oooohhhhh kay. The US election is over. We’ve had a couple days to adjust. I am one of those who voted for the losing side, and who blithely assumed that side would win. The result blindsided me. I was in deep, deep denial when I went to bed on Tuesday. Wednesday was A Bad Day. I cried every time I went online and began to read about it. My daughter’s school had a Veteran’s Day program, and we all said the Pledge of Allegiance, and I meant to say it–because I mean the parts about it that are under my control–but my words died on the last line. My body literally, involuntarily didn’t push them out.

This surprises me. I didn’t know I cared that much. There are times you’re consciously aware of your emotional state, and times you aren’t … and knowing that those times you aren’t in control exist is, I think, a valuable thing for a writer.

Everyone has their own particular fears. Most of us could list one or two of them if we were asked. But there have been times in my life when I was caught off guard by fears, and completely unable to understand why I fell apart when confronted by them. You learn a lot about yourself when you stumble upon these fears. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said, we are like tea bags. You don’t know how strong you are until someone throws you in hot water.

There are also, I’ve found, subconscious attachments to places. Places you’ve lived. Places you’ve visited. Even places you’ve only heard about.

Whether ancestral connection to certain pieces of ground “matters” is a contentious and highly political subject, and I won’t go there, only share some of my own observations.

First, when I was a teenager, my mother (from southern Indiana) commented that while she liked to hang out in the woods in northern Indiana, it wasn’t the same. Her own familiar ones were her favorite. This idea stuck with me, and it’s haunted me in the past fifteen months of living very much away from my familiar Eastern Deciduous forest. Everything out here’s different. Birds. Trees. Insects. Looking at old pictures of the woods around our old place puts a lump in my throat. Even though our new woods is about a thousand times wilder and more mysterious. Even though it, too, conjures up a lot of delicious feelings.

Second, I’m of largely Northern European extraction. 40% Germanic and 30% British Isles. I grew up on British literature, so it’s no surprise that going to England was an amazing experience for me. It felt like being in a fairy tale.

Going to the Germanic parts of Europe, though? Bizarre, and a thousand times more poignant. Sitting in bars and hotels in Munich and Zurich, I felt profoundly at home. I belonged there. Those were my people. And I hated it.

Flying over the Netherlands when making a connection at the Amsterdam airport? Seeing the green, green, oh-so-emerald-green fields and the dykes and mist? That turned some kind of primitive crank in the very deepest parts of my soul. I almost wept, just looking out the airplane window. And friends, I have never entertained a romantic notion about wanting to visit the Netherlands, not for a New York minute. The feeling just came. Something about the green–the damp–the brume–the humane order of the whole landscape.

I’m not working toward a conclusion here. I’m only sharing some emotional truths, in hopes that you’ll find them useful in your writing, or in your experience of literature.

One last thought: there are places that feel like home the minute you set foot on them. The Brambles feels that way to me. It’s a foreign land, but it’s my foreign land. But there are also places you don’t choose, but that work their way into your heart all the same. Our previous house feels that way to me, now that we’ve left it. I didn’t want to live there, but it was economically expedient. We did a renovation and made it ours. We had a baby there. We lived there for 5.5 years (and that’s the second-longest I’ve ever lived at the same address in my life). That house was thrust upon me, more than anything, and making the Right Choice to stop my then-fiance from selling it, and telling him that I’d just move in, felt like a moment of heroic good sense. My heart sank when I told him. But it was the right thing to do …

And now I miss it. I genuinely came to love that house. We lived there. We lived well there. And I’ll love it, always.

Wordjoy: obscure measurements

Howdy howdy, it’s about time for another Wordjoy, don’t you think? Let’s delve into some of my favorite words: old-fashioned measurements.

This one began for me a long time ago when Merrian-Webster’s Word of the Day was scruple, meaning the smallest possible amount of something. More formally, one scruple equals twenty grains. Three scruples make a dram. Here’s where it gets complicated: eight drams make an ounce of volume, but sixteen drams make an ounce of weight. Does that make sense?

On to volumes generally, and cask measurements specifically. Now, there isn’t one single system of cask measurements, but here are two of them:

The largest is one tun, which equalled anywhere from 208 to 256 gallons (its size was reduced over time for various reasons, including divisibility and preferred systems of measurement) One tun equalled two butts, one butt equalled two hogsheads, 2/3s of a hogshead equalled one barrel, one barrel equalled two kilderkins, one kilderkin equalled two firkins, one firkin equalled two pins, and one pin equalled 4.5 gallons. If we now calculate backward, we find a tun volume of 216 gallons, which is somewhere in the neighborhood we want.

In an alternative system the largest is again the tun. Half a ton is called either a butt (as before) or a pipe. One third of a tun is called a tertian or puncheon, and one quarter of a tun (or half a butt) is, as before, is a hogshead. One sixth of a tun is a tierce, one eighth of a tun is a barrel, and one fourteenth of a tun is a rundlet.

I’d like to note that, in my list of newest (to me) new words, I also have stiver, which, like scruple, means the smallest possible amount of something. I’d also like to note that I have blemmyae down twice … but that’s a word for another week.

Pumpkin socks

Oh, my. The DDoS attack is ongoing, here on the West Coast anyway, and I can’t get to Twitter and Pinterest. People are coming out of the woodwork on other social media sites, like this one. Thanks so much to everyone who has stopped by to comment and follow this morning! I’m so embarrassed that I haven’t updated here in so long!

As it so happens, I finished a knitting project yesterday: a pair of bright orange pumpkin socks for Socktober. These were a break in the middle of the Seaman’s Iron gansey. I needed a bright color, you know?




Scheepjes Invicta Extra sock yarn. Other specs are the same as my Hubris socks.