St. Valentine’s Day

This is a day, back many decades ago that you were excited or disappointed by the number of Valentine’s cards that were stuffed into the box you decorated in elementary school (prior to teachers insisting that every child bring a card for every other child in the class).  Not being particularly popular, my box was never stuffed very full, but I knew that I would always get a Valentine card from my Dad.

A couple of decades passed, the excitement waned as I was then a secondary educator and high school kids don’t give Valentine’s to their teachers, but I still received a card each year from my Dad.

In 1977, I was introduced to the law partner of one of my hiking buddies and I can’t say that sparks flew immediately, but we became a couple.  For Christmas that year, we went to Vermont with a ski group for my first real ski trip, having only skiied 1 day trip prior to that.  On the first day out, I fell on a bunny slope, separating my left shoulder.  Though it troubled me dressing and undressing and at night, when I was in all of my ski clothes, it was not too bothersome and I continued to ski for 4 more days, getting diagnosis and treatment on New Year’s eve after getting back home.  We went out for a drink after the ER visit then home to cheer in the New Year.  At the stroke of midnight, Jim proposed to me (with his shoes by the door in case I said no, he claims that my sking injured convinced him that I was a keeper).  Of course, the answer was yes and we began discussing when and where we would wed.  His romantic (he says practical) suggestion was Valentine’s day, saying if he ever forgot it, he would be in double trouble.

He has never forgotten, surprising me with a dozen or even two dozen roses at school, fancy dinners out with my parents watching our children, later as our kids were older, with Bed and breakfast weekends. A couple of these evenings, have been accompanied with a diamond anniversary ring and another with a heart shaped diamond heart necklace, but the first piece of jewelry, a simple band of gold hearts, placed on my left ring finger in front of our family and friends, 34 years ago today continues to be my favorite.

Blueberry Bonnet

A simple hat requiring only knit and purl skills, it is quick and can be knit with either an aran weight or double strands of sport weight yarn.   Fits a 22″ head.

200 yards sport weight yarn (the pictured hat was made with handspun merino/silk blend for the darker blue, and handspun merino for the lighter blue)

US size 9 16″ circular needle

US size 9 DPNs or second US 9 circular for closing in top

Tapestry needle

Abbreviations used:

K = Knit

SD = Seed stitch

K2tog = Knit 2 stitches together

CO = Cast on


CO 70 st holding two strands of sport weight yarn together, join in the round being careful not to twist the stitches, place marker to mark beginning of row.

Entire hat is worked with double strand.

K next 20 rows.

Join color 2 if desired and work 5 rows of SD, carry the primary color by twisting with the secondary color at the beginning of each row.

Cut secondary color.

K next 10 rows with primary color.

Decrease for top as follows:

Row 1: *K8, K2tog* repeat to end of row

Row 2, 4, 6, 8: K around

Row 3: *K7, K2tog* repeat to end of row

Row 5: *K6, K2tog* repeat to end of row

Row 7: *K5, K2tog* repeat to end of row.

Row 9: *K4, K2tog* repeat to end of row.

Row 10: *K3, K2tog* repeat to end of row.

Rows 11 and 12: *K2tog* repeat to end of row.

Cut yarn leaving a 10″ tail. Thread tail through tapestry needle and pull through remaining stitches, pull tight and secure.

Winter Brouhaha

The weather casters excitedly warned of our first major winter storm (it’s mid February already) with gale force winds, temperatures plummeting to single digits, snow.  The  snow beginning last night and continuing until Sunday morning.  It didn’t.

I awoke to snow falling, no blowing around as it is apt to do in this mountain hollow, yes we are experiencing strong wind gusts, but hey that happens most winter days and even many summer days due to our location on the south face of a mountain just east of a gap.  They did get it right about the falling temperatures however.  Today’s high of 30 was very early this morning and it is dropping like a rock into a well.  We are cozy and warm with plenty of firewood if the storm really finds us and takes out the power.  Plenty of food in the house, no need to worry.

The snow is still blowing around, but the only evidence is a light dusting on hard surfaces and mulch, maybe we will see a little on the ground before it ends, likely not, we’ve seen very little this winter.  And yet the naysayers insist there is no global warming, no climate change.  This is the strangest mountain winter that I have experienced.

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

Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family