Old skills, new student

First I learned to crochet.  That was 1965 at Shrine Mont, where our family gathered each year with other families who had become as close as extended family.  One of those “Aunts” taught me the skill, using cotton thread and a very tiny hook,  making simple lace edgings.  I fell in love with fiber arts at that point, getting some minimal instruction in knitting and making a sweater that didn’t fit for my first knit project, but alas, another fiber. Subsequently, I taught myself crewel, counted cross stitch and a few other non fiber related old world crafts like basketry.  Having the left handed quirk, most crafts were self taught at least until the basics were firmly ingrained, then questions to the more experienced would send me on to more challenging tasks.

The fiber art that really stuck was knitting, which has made me a “fiber snob.”  This a desire to use nice natural fiber yarns.  A side effect of this snobbery is wanting to know what is in the yarn and what you can do with it, and finally, can I make it myself.  So far I haven’t gotten  a spinning wheel, but two summers ago, I took a 2 hour class in using a drop spindle, the earliest form of spinning, sampling several fibers.  My first yarn could be sold as novelty yarn, thick and thin, fluffy and tight, many different wools spun together.  The next attempt with a lighter spindle is more consistent, though insufficient to make more than a headband.  As knitters, crocheters and spinners, we collect, trade and sell equipment until we find just the right tools to suit our personal style.  I have settled with my knitting tools with two beautiful handmade wooden sets of interchangeable circular needles, and a set of double pointed needles in the sizes I use the most also handmade wooden beauties.  Though I have one handturned crochet hook, I am less fussy about them, as I only use them now for finish work.  But spindles, I’m still experimenting with, having acquired a heavy starter spindle and having purchased three handturned lighter ones, one of which has gone on to a new home as we didn’t work well together.  The others are awaiting a new sibling that is changing hands and is in the mail to me.  The lighter two suit me well.  I have been spinning a beautiful robin’s egg blue merino top that I purchased locally from Unplanned Peacock, an independent dyer and friend.  Last night, I plied the two spindles full of near thread, making 200 yards of very fine weight yarn.  I have a newfound respect for my ancestors, who made all of their clothing by spinning, weaving or knitting, sewing their clothing from raw fiber or from hides they killed and cured.

Life changes

Upon moving to our rural area farm and reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle a long held lifestyle of recycling and organic gardening in a city was allowed to grow into a stronger commitment to life and health.  As we planned our home, we sought to make it as green as we could without being off the grid.  Our home is constructed of logs, minimally treated indoors with dilute linseed oil, plywood was avoided as much as possible, the poured concrete basement is faced with fieldstone from our land.  We insulated with cellulose and recycled denim instead of fiberglass.  Water runoff from the metal roof is captured in a cistern system that can be used for watering animals as soon as we get our fencing in order. We have planted trees in areas that would not be pastureland, dug a substantial garden that is handled organically with no weedkillers, no chemical fertilizers, included fruit trees and berry bushes and seek to grow as much of our none protein food as possible.  That which we can not yet grow, such as meat, milk, butter, cheese, and eggs, we buy locally from neighboring organic small farms.

I feel that we have made great strides in living locally and with an ear to the environment.  One area that still concerns me is garbage.  Our property has a large sinkhole that apparently had been used as a dump for years.  There were also well over 100 old tires surrounding the lower pasture in the edge of the woods.  Many loads of this garbage have been removed and hauled down to the garbage pick up center, but some of the larger pieces have been too difficult for us to remove ourselves.  Plans are being explored to enlist the aid of a local caving club interested in our sinkhole to help us remove those pieces this spring.

All vegetable scrap is composted.  All recycleables are taken to the center to be recycled, but still there are about 2 cans of “garbage” each month, that need to be hauled to the center to be compacted and hauled away to some landfill.  One of my goals has been to reduce this load further.  Each time an unwanted mailing is received, I contact the sender to cease sending, unfortunately our recycle center won’t handle business paper or glossy catalogs and magazines.  I try to buy beans, rice and flour using reuseable jars and bags at the natural food store, but items like pet food still comes in a non compostable, non recyclable bags.  I don’t want  to send it them the landfill, but also don’t want to resort to burning it as the ash from those bags is not useable on the garden. I still am trying to solve how to reduce this garbage load.

The use of freecycle and Craig’s list have helped to remove items that we don’t want but still have a useful life, but we are still struggling with reducing our impact.  Live locally and responsibly and leave Mother Earth a better place.

Triple Cable Scarf

By Fran Stafford

This scarf goes nicely with the Starcrossed slouchy beret.

  • Unplanned Peacock Twisty Aran
  • US size 11 circular or straight needles
  • Cable needle
This is an easy cable project.
K – Knit
P – Purl
CN – Cable Needle


Using long tail cast-on CO 27 stitches.  Knit first 5 rows.

Row 1, 3, 7, 9 Knit

Row 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 Purl

Row 5:  Place first *3 stitches on CN, hold to back, K 3, K3 from CN, K 3.  Repeat from * 3 times.

Row 11:  *K3, slip 3 stitches to CN, hold in front, K3, K3 from CN.  Repeat from * 3 times.

Work rows 1 through 12 until scarf is desired length, finish with 5 Knit rows.

   Copyright Fran Stafford, February 2010

Jet lag

For some reason, the two hour time change to MST did not seem to disrupt my schedule too much.  I never sleep well in a strange bed, but skiing hard each day did seem to help  that some, especially if I had taken ibuprophen to ease the aged achey muscles at night.  Meals were eaten when hungry, or when it was a  convenient time to take a break from the skiing.  As all the delays in our travels put us at the condo in the late evening, all we did was unpack, unwind from 18 hours of travel and go to bed the first night in.

The return trip lacked the delays, thank goodness, and we arrived back in Norfolk in only 12 hours 40 minutes, however at nearly 11 p.m.  That night was spent with hubby’s sis and shear exhaustion allowed for a good night’s sleep.  Sunday was a 6 hour drive home, unpacking and a normal bedtime.  For some reason, the return trip has caused serious jet lag for me.  It has been difficult to roust myself from the comfort of our own bed the last two mornings, and basic chores like light house cleaning and the laundry from the vacation seem to wear me out.  It is now afternoon and I could easily take a nap, in fact, yesterday while hubby was in PT, I did go out to the car and take a short nap.  I guess, a couple more days and I will return to normal.

Vacation end

All good things must  eventually end and this is the last eve of this adventure.  The trip has had a few quirks, maybe not as social as last year’s trip, but overall, it was a great week.  We had three snow falls, the first previously blogged about, made for difficult skiing for us easterners on the first day, the second just a couple of inches on a day we went over to Vail for the day and it was a good day of skiing with more of the group than just hubby, his sister, and me.  The third was 6 to 9 inches of dry powder last night and this morning.  What a surprise to ski when you can’t see your skis, your feet and half way up your shins with no resistance.  I had never had that experience before and it developed into much fun after a run or two when you realize that all is good and the sun came out to give some contour to the slopes.

These trips are a bit of a stretch to our retirement budget and this one more than usual as we both bought our own boots with custom orthotics in them.  They will definitely pay for themselves over the next couple of years in rental savings and for the health and safety of our feet.  I don’t think that skis are in our future since that technology seems to change yearly and renting them alone isn’t quite as expensive.  The boot fitter that we went to was a very knowledgeable and patient young man who took his time with us, and even stayed after hours one night to fit my orthotic (I have weird feet with a narrow heel, normal ball, and arch you can drive under.)

Tonight the group gathers for a potluck dinner night to help rid the 5 condos of the week’s leftovers, some social time, and instructions for the trip home so that hopefully, we don’t lose anyone else and all our luggage arrive home with us.  We will leave here at 8 a.m. mountain time and arrive back in Norfolk at 10:40 p.m. eastern time.  We have reconnected with folks we met on last year’s trip, met some new folks this year and had a tiring but fun week.

Skication cont.

I left you with us being less than enthused about our Beaver Creek skication. Things have improved greatly.  Yesterday was beautiful, sunny and most of the slopes except for the experts had been groomed.  We had a good day of skiing, though due to the altitude, we can’t quite make it a full day.

Today about half of the group took a bus to Vail, it was snowing heavily and a new accumulation of about 3 inches of dry powder had fallen.  We went straight to the top, 2 miles up and skied anything that had been groomed and wasn’t marked with a black diamond.  Ended up at the top at lunch time and ate at 2 miles high.  For the first time since arriving, we skiied with a group of comparable skills and had a great time.

This is day 3 of the trip and is the day that the elevation sickness seems to hit the hardest and though our group is faring well with only a bit of queasiness and headache, a couple of our group members are having a hard time.  We live at 2300 feet, but most of the group is from sea level, so the 8,000 foot elevation is a tough adjustment.

We have 3 more ski days and hope to make the best of it.


For the past couple of years we have treated ourselves to a skiing vacation with the ski club we belonged to prior to our retirement mountain move.  Last year we came out to Colorado and skiied Snowmass.  This year’s trip is also to Colorado to Beaver Creek.  They have had much lower than normal snowfall this year, the base is low and concerned for the season.  The weather system that tormented the country yesterday, gave them what they have been waiting for in the form of a foot of snow, but it is very sticky.  We almost didn’t get here.

Our flight from Norfolk left at 7 a.m. meaning a get up time before 4 to meet the group traveling together at the airport shortly after 5 a.m.  It was raining in Norfolk and the flight to Atlanta was bumpy and rough.  We arrived in the air over Atlanta early and were put in a holding pattern for 45 minutes and then allowed to land.  They were experiencing severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings, so there we sat for 4 hours.  Finally, our flight left for Denver, not  bad leg of the journey, until we got to the luggage carosel which did not want to feed our bags up onto the level where we could collect them. Four flights of people mostly going skiing clustered around one broken down carosel trying to get many oversized, overstuffed suitcases.  Finally all 35 of us were collected with no missing bags.  Loaded on the bus and off we head for Beaver Creek.  We weren’t even out of the airport when the trip leader realized we were 1 person short, so back to the airport, cell phone calls and 3 other trippers looking for this man, we finally set out again, group in tact.

Just as  the bus got to where the interstate started its climb into the mountains, we drove into the winter storm.  We made it through the pass before they closed it down, the bus slip slid up to the condo units we had rented and we unloaded in a foot of new sticky snow. Total travel time was 18 hours.

 It continued to snow lightly all night and until noon.  My hubby and I ventured out early to the rental shop to get our skiis and back in time to head out with his sister to try this moutain out.  I have never skiied in deep sticky snow before and it did nothing to instill my confidence in my ability.  The first run, we stuck to a green and easy blue slope, venturing to a different blue on the second run.  It took us over an hour to get down that time.  My very confident skier hubby wasn’t doing so well.  We went inside for lunch and decided to call our first day at the halfway point.

Our condo was advertised as ski in/ski out, it isn’t, the shuttle service from the village to our condo area is slow.  Hopefully the week will improve, right now, I’m not impressed.

Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family