Saturday, January 24, 2015

Another Lamb's Lace Cardi

I liked it so much, I made it again!  That's right.  The same pattern and the same yarn, but this time I went with a cheery green.

Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton is full of loft and a joy to knit with. It seems to wear well, too.

Once again, I was impressed by the pattern and the way it incorporates all of the components so seamlessly (it is seamless, too!).

 Plus, thanks to the heavy worsted weight yarn, this project was on and off of my needles so quickly.

Thanks to Paul for taking the pictures.

Here are links to my previous version, Ravelry project page and the pattern.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Puppy Picking Day

Over the past 3 weeks we have been treated to text messages that include pictures of developing puppies in anticipation of this day: puppy picking day! This morning we once again traveled the back-roads of Winona County to visit some adorably fresh-eyed, wrinkly-skinned puppies.  Today was the day to choose a dog that will hopefully be our companion for the next 12+ years.  A dog we will train, socialize, exercise, snuggle, tend to, play with, watch over, and so much more. Thankfully we went into today confident that any puppy from this litter would be a great choice, which helped take some of the pressure off of us to make the "right" choice. Which one of these guys guys will join our family?  

At 3 weeks old, it is a bit early to know much about their personalities. They were all curious and friendly.  We watched them walk around, wrestle with each other and tire each other out.  At this age, it doesn't take much activity for them to get tuckered out. Without a lot of information about their personality, it was hard to make an informed choice. Although they were all charming, we ended up going with Side Splotch!  

We really liked the coloring of Side Splotch and think he is going to be very handsome when he grows up. He is also the largest of the litter, so we may have selected the alpha.  We are well aware that no matter which puppy we chose from this litter, he will need a lot of training, guidance and exercise to be able to live peacefully with Fanny, the chickens and us. We have high hopes for his life.  Paul sums up his plans for this dog as "legendary".

Side Splotch, the placeholder name, is already getting a bit outdated, since his side splotch is filling in.  We are working on a new name.

After we formally announced our pick to the breeder, the two brothers in the pen with our puppy immediately moved over to him and laid on top of him.  I think they are telling us he is not ready to go home yet!

We are looking forward to getting him home, but he has another month with his mom and siblings before he makes that transition.

The two older pups that have yet to be picked up were there to remind us that our snuggle bug will soon be older and BRIMMING with enthusiasm.

Once again we left feeling that Piper, our pup's mom, is an amazing dog.  We hope she passed on some of that awesomeness to our little guy!

In 4 short weeks our house will once again be home to a dog!

It was a good day.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Little, furry, happy news!

For more than a decade, Paul and I have shared our lives and home with dogs. After we lost Jack two years ago and Tchazo a year ago, we knew we needed to allow some time to heal. We were also curious what it was like to live as adults without the responsibility and schedule demands caring for a dog involves. I have to admit, it was freeing not to have to incorporate feeding and walking schedules into logistics when making plans with family and friends or running errands. It was nice to be able to travel without the extra cost involved in dog care or logistics and limitations involved in bringing them along. The amount and variety of body fluids I was required to attend to was dramatically reduced in the last year, which is a major bonus in my book. Without vet costs and dog food budgets, we had a little more money in our pockets. Our house stays cleaner for longer. Nobody distracts me when I sit down to read a book, other than a cat who wants to warm my lap.

After nearly a year of reaping the benefits of dog-free living, I can tell you something: those things aren't that important to me.  Do you know what is important?  Loving a dog and being loved back with mutual admiration and loyalty. Being a teacher and a learner in a dog/human relationship. Going on adventures to new and to familiar places and sharing that experience with a dog.  Being greeted with excitement each time you walk in the door of your house. Finding a common ground of communication between species. Putting play time at the center and adult seriousness aside on a regular basis. Having a purpose and motivation to be outdoors everyday. Watching your dog learn and explore the world with boundless energy and enthusiasm. 

Paul and I have been inching closer and closer to being ready to start the adventure of raising a puppy again. So, with that in mind, in late October we went to see a man about a dog.

Blaze was the potential mama to our future pup.  She was exactly the dog we want: friendly, well-mannered, playful, athletic, smart and knows how to pose for the camera.  Seriously! She was running all around, smelling things, getting petted by everyone and the minute I took my camera out she came and sat by me perfectly still while I snapped a few pictures and then she was off again!

We also got to meet the potential puppy's potential papa (tongue twister!) and puppies from another litter he had sired.  Is your heart melting?  Ours were!

It is a testament to our strength that we didn't claim one of these pups as our own that very day!

After our visit, we felt really good about this breeder and the dam and sire of the litter to come. Blaze was expected to come into season and if the breeding was successful, we were in line to have the option to put down a deposit on one of her puppies. Unfortunately, we found out about 2 weeks ago that the breeding was not successful.

At that point, we decided the best thing to do was to go see another man about another dog.  This man and his dog were about 2.5 hours away in a very picturesque part of the state.  If we hadn't been on a schedule I would have wanted to stop to take pictures so many times! Instead I snapped a few from the car window.

When we arrived we met Piper.  Piper's litter had been due on December 25.  We visited on December 28.  Amazingly enough for us, Piper was late and had given birth in the wee hours of the morning of our visit.

The litter was so freshly born that I was the one who discovered that she had 8 puppies and not the 7 they had thought.  When I got there, Piper was patient with me and allowed me to round them up out of the blanket tunnels they had crawled into and nestle them in next to her.  I counted their bums while they nursed and there were 8! Apparently she had another one after her owner went to bed.

Piper seemed to be a great mom, cleaning them up, nursing them and watching over them.

Piper and Romeo, the sire of the litter are both German Shorthaired Pointers.  Piper's black and white coloring is less typical of the breed standard.  Romeo, has the more typical liver (brown) and roan/ticking (spotted) coloring.  As a result, the litter is a mix with some pups being black and white and some pups being brown and white. We didn't get to meet Romeo since he was out of town on business (his business is participating in field trials to prove how fancy he is).

We knew we wanted a male brown/white pup, which meant these two little guys met our criteria.

How cool to be able to hold your potential future pup at less than 12 hours old!

They haven't been named so we are distinguishing between the two by calling them "forehead stripe" and "side splotch".

We were there for about 2 hours talking about their dogs and training strategies and hunting vs co-existing with backyard chickens.  All the way home from the visit Paul and I talked about what this change would mean for us.  Reminiscing about Jack and Tchazo's lives. Worrying about how much work it will be to train a dog with this much energy (me!).  Talking about the division of duties we might imagine and who would be the one responsible for burning off that energy everyday (Paul!).

And then we got home and kept talking about it and kept freaking out about the enormity of the commitment (me). And talking about how confident we are about the challenge (Paul).  And then, I just decided to take it one step at a time, one joy at a time and one challenge at a time. I feel ready to do it if I think smaller when it comes to the challenges and bigger when it comes to what this addition means to our joy in life.

So with that, we texted the man about a dog and we toasted to the decision (with kombucha, because sometimes that is how we roll).

In 2 weeks, we will go visit again and choose between forehead stripe and side splotch.  Then, 4 weeks after that, our pup will come home and rock our world! Be prepared for puppy pictures...lots and lots of puppy pictures!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy New Year!

2015! As Crafternoon tradition dictates, I welcomed the first day of the new year with friends, knitting, tea and great food. Although not well documented, I assure you the year was properly greeted with a potluck brunch that favored the sweet over the savory.  After the sugar-filled month of December, I think savory was what we were all craving.

This year I made beaded stitch markers as a gift to Crafternoon attendees. We usually have a mix of crafts, but this time everyone who came was a knitter so I hope the stitch markers bring a little sparkle to their notion bags. Inspiration credit goes to Jamie who, years ago, made me a set of beaded stitch markers that inspired this beadworking session of my own.

I am making a sweater for Paul, which marks the second such occasion in the 12 years we have been together.  Between the holiday driving time and crafting gatherings, it has been coming along quickly! 

With 2015, came a surprise.  Another of our chickens started laying! We are supplementing light in the coop but doing so conservatively.  A timer prompts the light to go on at 3am and off at 4pm, giving them about 13 hours of light.  That amount of light is a bit shy of what is recommended to force laying. With that choice, we thought it unlikely that the other hens would start laying until the spring. Surprise! The addition happened this week and so far we have had 2 days where we have gotten 2 eggs.

I am thinking it is Camilla that has started laying because I am still holding out hope that Petunia will lay blue/green eggs. So far we can tell the difference between the eggs from the 2 layers due to slight differences in color, size and shape of the egg shells. As they settle into their rhythm, it is a rare day where we don't get an egg. With our newly acquired riches, I think it is time we start delving into the egg book Paul got for his birthday!

I hope this year provides you with happy surprises, good food and people to share it all with.
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