Go North, Part 1

Last Sunday my family & I pointed our van North and started driving. Our destination was Gooseberry Falls, a state park just north of Two Harbors, Minnesota which is about a half an hour drive up the North Shore of Lake Superior from Duluth. We were packed to the hilt for a week of shoulder season camping along the North Shore — tent, cots, cold weather sleeping bags, food, knitting, sweatshirts, raincoats…

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The list goes on (and on and on). I’d like to point out that the SPAM and allergy pills are for Moose. After his severe allergic reaction to black fly bites a couple years ago, I pack the meds and the SPAM (which he is not allergic to and I can shove the pills into and he’ll eat even in the throes of severe allergic distress) whenever we head out beyond the city limits with him, just in case. The rest, well, knitting, book, water bottle — check. Essentials for a week of camping!

In any case, with our van full of gear and SPAM and allergy pills we made excellent time and were crossing the state line into Minnesota by mid-morning. Did you know there are mountain in Minnesota? Complete with tunnels that go through them?

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It’s 100% true! They aren’t the bare granite peaks of the Rockies, but more like a small version of the Appalachians rising up from rock that is beyond ancient.

We left early and arrived a bit before lunch time to do some hiking around along the Gitchi-Gami, the Ojibwe name for Lake Superior…

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For those who have never visited the Great Lakes, they really are not unlike gazing across the ocean only they smell like fresh water instead of salt water.

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And no matter how many times I walk up to the edge of Lake Superior, it’s always something I have to stop and take a minute to take in; to breath in its depths, soak up its colors, and lose myself in its endless peaks and troughs. It was the perfect start to our vacation because the kids played and bounded along on the rocks and burned off their kid energy while Mr. Knitting Sarah and I had time to just be.

Moose waited patiently, tired from an afternoon frolicking in and around the Big Water, while I set up the tent and Mr. Knitting Sarah started working on gathering water and getting the kids set-up.

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And eventually, we all settled down to the classic camping tradition…

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The campfire.

We awoke from a very brisk night — it was somewhere in the mid-30s — shortly after 6am. We quickly made coffee and got moving. Getting going, of course, is the best way to get warmed up. Coffee in hand, we hopped in the car and headed up to Tettegouche State Park for a hike up to the High Falls.

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By the time we got to the trailhead, the sun was up and it was chilly, but one of those days you could feel would warm up. We hiked along serenaded by the Sapsuckers, Chickadees, Robins, and a lone Pileated Woodpecker, with the reverberating drumming of the Ruffed Grouse in our bones, a sound you feel before your ears recognize what it is.

Up, up, through the big woods and across a footbridge suspended over the Baptism River rapids…

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And for all our efforts, we were rewarded with this scene…

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On the way back to the van, I was moving slower and I used the slower pace to see all the little details…

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Warmed by the sun and the activity, we headed back toward Gooseberry Falls for lunch and then struck back out to explore more. We checked out the beach near where the Gooseberry River empties into the Big Water and spent some time viewing Northern Flickers and a Red-Necked Grebe and we found…

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SNOW! We spent a little time hanging out, looking around…

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And I soaked up the colors of the ancient rock that surrounded us.

We ended our evening with a short drive up to the Split Rock State Park and a little rocky beach…

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In a word, this place was perfect. We found a piece of wood along the shore and tossed it in the water and took turns hucking rocks at it. It’s a favorite family game to play when we’re at a rocky beach. It never gets old.

While we were sitting on the beach, Mr. Knitting Sarah noticed a bumblebee struggling in the water. We found a downed branch, extended it out over the water and it was able to grab on…

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And on his little rock, he proceeded to clear himself up and dry himself off. We found him a protected spot away from the water and the beach to get his bearings and took our leave.

We headed back to camp and made some dinner while the kiddos read about astronomy, hoping for a clear night.

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But with clouds rolling in, we opted instead for another campfire…

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Because we had a pretty good idea what the next day would bring.

 

Part Two of Go North will appear on the blog later this week, so stay tuned!

 

 

 

Surprisingly Caught-Up

The strangest thing just happened to me. I sat down at the kitchen table to maybe knit a few stitches on my current project and realized the craziest thing: I am mostly caught-up on the things I need to have done. Lessons for the morning are checked. School records are up-to-date. The projects I have going for an event Mr. Knitting Sarah is helping to put together next week are as far along as they can be. Another website project I’m helping with is coming along. I’ve read through and responded in the Ravelry groups I’m active in. Bills are paid. The dresser I needed to move up from the garage is in place and in use. The shawl I was knitting for a special commission is blocked and drying. The ironing is done. Sure, I have a couple small mending jobs that I need to do and, you know, general cleaning that is just a revolving door of tasks, but all the big deadline things are well in-hand.

How did that happen?

I suppose it’s not really a mystery. I’m not one who waits to the last minute to get things done. Ever. I pulled exactly one all-nighter in college writing a paper for my French literature class my freshman year and it was such an awful experience I vowed to never put myself in that position again. 20 years have since passed and I have held true to that promise. While it’s not really a surprise that I am ahead of schedule on things, it’s never not a shock the moment I realize it when things have been busy!

As usual, I’ve got a couple FOs to share thanks to the 16″ of snow last weekend’s snowstorm dumped on us. That much snow definitely kept us home as we spent equal parts of our time playing, digging out, and enjoying being in our cozy home. For today, though, I’ll share the WIPs because I’m so excited to have time to work on them!

First, my handspun Brillig is nearing the finish line…

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If you’ll remember that I ran short on the blue, so that little ball will mark the end of the project short of the bind-off. I am so close and I’ve been working on this steadfastly to get it to the finish line.

I also prepped some fauxlags in order to work on spinning some Three Waters Farm Shetland with long draw…

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I’ll share more on this process as I go along. It’ll be my second attempt at long draw from shetland fauxlags (I’ll be sure to share the first attempt as soon as it’s fully dried). It’s a very interesting process through which I’m learning a lot. I’m so looking forward to sharing it with you!

I’ve also got a sock on the needles…

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Mr. Knitting Sarah had to retire a couple pairs of handknit socks last week, so I really do need to hop to it once that Brillig is done.

The only other project that is still in-progress for me is the one on my Jensen wheel…

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This has been on hold while I sent the flyer and a bobbin in to Jerry Jensen himself to have a replacement flyer and spare bobbins made along with a couple other spare parts. Amazingly, I got the call a couple days ago that everything was ready to go and it should arrive by tomorrow or Monday. I’m floored & elated — it was a super fast turnaround!

And that, my friends, is what’s happening here on my wheels and needles. The thermometer is creeping up toward 60°F today & after a rough start to the week, the birds are singing. For those interested in birds, I’ve started an eBird profile and am trying to make lists or report significant (at least to me!) sightings when I see them. So if you’re interested to see what birds I’ve seen lately, you can pop over there anytime. I will say that we’ve had a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker in the yard most of this week which has presented me with the best ever views and I’ve had swans flying within view of my desk almost daily. This time of year new birds are landing almost daily, so I’m going to sign-off, grab my binoculars and a light coat, and go soak up some much appreciated vitamin D and see what I can see — just another benefit of being surprisingly caught-up!

 

 

 

Where the Birds & Bears Take You

It’s been a while since I’ve shared an outdoor adventure here. Partly because I’ve had a lot of good crafty things going on and also because our family adventure time has been a little more limited lately. When we’ve made the time for gallivanting, I’ve been more focused on being in-the-moment than snapping pictures. In any case, today I thought I’d share a couple recent jaunts with you. Brace yourselves for wintry landscapes! Because you know what? It’s still winter here!

A week or so ago we actually got about a foot of fresh snow. It was not bomb-cyclone style intensity, but it was snowing for a good 24-36 hours straight. On the evening it was meant to wind down, my hubby saw on social media that someone one street over had had black bear tracks in their yard the night before and Mr. Knitting Sarah was instantly in adventure mode. “We have to go take a walk to see if it’s out there tonight!”

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How I get talked into these things, I will never know.

For those worrying or thinking we’re those people — you know — the ones who ruin it for everyone, winding up attacked by bears or provoking bad behavior, I promise we are not. We have a lot of experience viewing wildlife in nature and have great respect for nature in all its forms. We always give animals large & small plenty of space and follow proper etiquette to keep everyone safe. We will, however, obviously go out to view wildlife when possible. But I digress. Suffice to say, on this particular evening we enjoyed a peaceful, quiet walk and once the wind was at our backs, it was easy to appreciate the beautiful snowy night. No bears nor bear tracks were spotted, but we made a wonderful memory as we marked 1 full year in our new home.

The following day, we made a trip about an hour or so north of home to one of our favorite parks.

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There’s a waterfall in there and, obviously, the falls were more treacherous than normal because the deep snow — up to my thigh in some drifted spots — made it hard to see where one boulder stopped and the next started or, more perilously, where one boulder stopped and the waterfall started. We were extremely careful and cautious, of course.

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Thankfully, in this landscape the picturesque does not require endangering oneself. It’s all around.

This day also took us to a slightly less scenic outpost…

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You see, a power plant not too far from our home is the nesting spot for a pair of Peregrine Falcons and as birders and amateur naturalists we went to see what we could see. The truth is, from this spot you cannot see a whole lot at this point because the birds spend a whole lot of time warming their four beautiful orange-y eggs.

Thankfully, there is a camera that has a live stream of the nesting site.

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You can check it out here, but be warned that it’s very, very addictive. Sure, 95% of it looks like nothing more than a bird sitting on gravel, but if you leave it on or watch long enough, you’ll hear these amazing birds calling to each other and possibly to their own little ones still in their eggs. We’ve been lucky enough to see the birds off the nest and once we even heard what have must be them circling over the nest because you could hear their constant calls come close and then fly off repeatedly. Was there a predator? Were they flying with their mate? Oh, the intrigue! Forget humans on realty television, this is so much better!

I often have the live stream open in an extra window on my desktop with the volume on very low — you can usually hear when something is amiss and then the kids and I run to the screen and toggle over to see what’s happening. Sometimes I grab screen shots when I can. This is a personal favorite…

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Because, you know, hello there Birdie!

Somwhere after the waterfall and Peregrine adventures I finished my Iron Blue from Three Waters Farm

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So I can finally finish up my handspun Brillig project one of these days. It’s a bit less overtwisted than the first skein and I believe it’s because I plied on a faster whorl, more suited to the whorl I made the singles with. Thankfully, I believe the weight will be close enough that it won’t stand out from the first skein despite being spun 6months apart. Alas, this project will need to wait just a bit longer.

You see, I’m working on a very special handspun project that has a deadline.

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It’s currently miles of moody purple handspun garter stitch soon to meet a lace border and edge. I’m loving working on it and it’s “due” in a couple of week, so I’m devoting most of my free time to this to be sure I have plenty of time to finish, wash, and block this dreamy piece.

Just in case, this all wasn’t adventure and scenic enough for you with my customary dash of fiber arts…

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We had a beautiful (and less wintry!) day yesterday as we trucked ourselves down to Necedah Wildlife Refuge. We saw nearly 40 species of birds including a pair of Red Shouldered Hawks, two separate Whooping Cranes, a Loon, Buffleheads, Purple Finches, and, well, about 35 other kinds of birds! (One of these days I swear I’m going to get a bird list going somewhere here on knittingsarah.com) Oh, and I best not forget, we also spotted this guy…

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Mr. Knitting Sarah trekked the kids into the woods to get this photo while I stayed back at the car as my hip does not love bushwacking. I do, however, get credit for spotting him. For the record, if you are ever driving down a backroad in the central forest or northwoods of Wisconsin and you see a large dark circle in a tree, you could very possibly be looking at a porcupine. You had better stop, grab your binoculars or spotting scope, and take a closer look!

Is that enough adventure for one day?

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Moose says and emphatic YES. After running most of yesterday followed by what could basically could be called an aromatherapy bath with coconut smelling shampoo, this morning Moose was super tired and had no interest in getting out of bed.

8 hours later if I just swivel my chair…

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Yup, still tired. I wonder if he’ll be up for his afternoon walk today? Poor Moose, we can’t help that you’re so tuckered out — we just go where the birds and bears take us!

Later, Dudes!

Last week the weather here warmed up and with temps in the 20s on Mr Knitting Sarah’s day off, we were excited to hit the trail. We’ve been exploring the area around where I saw the ermine from my last post — the trail is just a couple miles from our house and the more time we spend there, the more interesting things we see.  This hike took place in a lovely January… fog?

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Not pea soup fog, obviously, but definitely spooky fog conditions. We were actually surprised by how cold it felt. After coming out of weeks of subzero temps, we all felt a little nipped by the cold. We’re guessing it must have had something to do with the moisture in the air making it feel cooler than it was. Humid cold feels colder than dry cold, just let humid warm feels warmer than dry warm? That was our best guess anyway.

In any case, we struck out and as is his way now, Mr KS was on the prowl for tracks to see what kinds of creatures were about. It wasn’t long before he called us out to follow a trail into the woods…

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At first glance, we figured it was either 1) a beaver or 2) something somewhat large dragging something else. We found our pretty definitive answer by following the tracks for a little while…

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That is pretty unmistakable. And just in case you don’t see what I’m talking about…

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A close-up. Tracking is a new to our family pasttime and it’s astounding what you can learn from it. It’s a lot like birdwatching in that it teaches you a lot about the landscape, things you might not notice if you weren’t looking as carefully.

This is a hard to see image, but this is a fisher track, I believe.

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I could include one of Mr. KS’s images of the trail for better identification purposes, but I just wanted to share the size with you with my mitten as a comparison. And check out those claws! These tracks we find everywhere and while I’ve never actually seen a fisher, I’m keenly aware that they are all around me! Bobcats are the same up here — They. Are. Everywhere. including right in the city limits!

After a nice long hike through the humid cold, we settled in for some lunch and I had a little spinning time. I’m working my way up to another long draw project, but until I washed and dried the first skein and see the finished results, I didn’t want to start that — you know, so I could go into the next one a little more informed. Instead, I opted to work on something a bit simpler. I selected a braid of 75/25 BFL + Silk from Three Waters Farmto spin as singles, continuing my recent love affair with spinning singles…

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I love BFL + Silk. And I’m looking at winding this lovely off later today…

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I am very interested in seeing this one finished as well as I was a little less on top of the whole uniform weight thing with this one and the twist is a little higher than I’d like. We shall see!

I also finished up the mittens I was working on late last week and — I’ll be honest — my Fairbanks sweater pattern was upstairs and I didn’t quite feel like picking up that big project anyways, so I cast on sock #2 for my Clever Girl gradient socks from Dyeabolical

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These are just simple vanilla socks, so they are great for road trips and just all around auto-pilot knitting. I am slowly but surely working my way through my UFOs from 2017 here and this will be the 2nd to the last that I have still lingering out there. It feels good to be making steady progress on that UFO list — I’m definitely not one who handles those unfinished projects well.

Over the weekend I also got over 20oz of freshly spun & finished handspun yarns on the drying rack, but while they were drying we had another family day. This time, we opted for some tubing a couple towns over.  For those who don’t know, “tubing” is basically taking an inner tube down a snow hill. Usually it’s billed as the family/kid friendly alternative to skiing or snowboarding — you know, good for all ages. The bigger tubing hills sometimes have tow ropes, just like the beginner ski hills. We’d never done it, so we thought it would be a fun new family pasttime.

We made a day of it with lunch out and we timed it so we’d get there right when the hill opened to hopefully avoid the worst lines. Very reminiscent of when my son & I went on the fatefull lumpy Apostle Island boat tour last summer, we had the head of the tubing hill come out when the ticket booth opened and announce that since we’d had two 40°+ days and the temps had just dipped down to the teens and low 20s. It was ICY and the runs were FAST and that they’ve tried to make it as safe as they can, but if you don’t like speed today might not be the day for you to go tubing. Only the main hill would be open because those 3 runs were at least straight and at the end of the speech he added, “we’ve done our best to slow you down at the bottom of the hill.”

Okaaaaay. So I’m not exactly sure how much confidence we were supposed to be instilled with after that, but we aren’t ones to turn back when we’ve come that far. We got our tickets, grabbed tubes, and hitched a ride with the tow rope. At the top we found what could only be accurately described as 3 luge runs that you happened to ride down on in inner tubes.

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You can see here, that it really is just bumpy glare ice. The brown half circle at the bottom of the hill is a 45° bowl full of woodchips. They laid down rubber mats right at the end of the ice run, too, just for added brakes because you seriously were flying. But still… really the only way to explain this is experience is…. well, have you seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? Yeah, this was basically us:

Standing in line next to the woodchip backstop, it literally sounded like you were on an aircraft carrier while the flight deck was in use with the regular WHOOSH of the tubes nearing and then hitting the woodchip brakes. While we were there, no one breached the upper fence, but many definitely came close.

Our little family all survived (somehow), though, and it was admittedly really fun. We all did 4 runs — the line became very slow very quickly because it was hard getting around, so aside from the flying down the hill, everyone was moving pretty slowly and carefully and those 4 runs took a couple hours to complete. We headed home exhilarated, amused, and genuinely a little bit stunned that we all made it home without injury.

And so, with new and exciting memories under my belt — from tracking beavers and fishers, to spinning singles and knitting socks, to my very first luge in a tube, I wish you all a great start to week. And until next time — later, dudes!

Sidetracked, Random, and A Little All Over The Place

I logged onto my blog here this morning ready to write up a short and sweet post sharing what I’ve been working on this week. Oh, the road was paved with such good, productive intentions! As I often do, while collecting my thoughts to write the post, I got into replying to a few emails and then — long story short — I found myself diving head-first into giving my blog here a much needed makeover! Those good intentions with which I started, were plowed over. Spectacularly.

In my defense, I’ve felt for a while that I needed to address some of my menus and other bits & bobs that have become dated in relation to the content I’ve been writing since I’ve started to divide time more seriously between knitting and spinning. I felt like there were just too many menus happening all over and that there wasn’t an easy way to navigate knitting vs spinning, for those who might have those preferences. I won’t be going back and re-tagging and reorganizing all the old material — at least not today — but going forward I’ll be attempting to tag things into much neater categories so it’ll be easier for you to find the posts you’re interested in. The content won’t change, it’ll just all (hopefully) be more clearly organized in that one main menu with drop-down options across the top.

I know it’s always a pain when things change, but I did try to stick with a similar aesthetic and I do hope in the long run it’ll prove an improvement. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me with them! I’d love to hear your feedback.

But enough about website design — it’s definitely a means to an end for me! Let’s get back to the short & sweet update, shall we?

Last night I did the unthinkable. I finished all my current plying projects. I know, I know! Pick your jaws up off the floor — I can’t believe it either. I feel like it’s taken a very long time. If I hadn’t fallen down the blog makeover rabbit hole this morning, I’d have these skeined by now, but alas, you will get to peek at them on the bobbins.

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At the top, is my January Top of the Month Club from Three Waters Farm. The green bobbin on the right is my first even woolen yarn. And the other 5 bobbins are for a weaving project — the three tonal purple bobbins will be the warp and the other two, the weft. I’m hoping to have these all skeined, washed, and dried by next week to share with you as proper skeins of yarn — keep those fingers crossed, my friends!

In my knitting life, I’ve made surprisingly good time with the Snowfling Mittens I’ve working on.img_9712

This is mitten #2 — I started the lining last night and I’m already into the thumb increases. Dare I say that I might have these done, washed, and dried by the end of next week? You bet I’m daring to say it! Of course these mittens were a side-track in and of themselves as I set aside my Fairbanks Pullover to work on them. Perhaps I’ll get to pick that up again next week. I don’t know if I’m mentally prepared to knit sleeves at the moment, but you know what they say — sometimes you have to face things when you’re not prepared to face them.

And since the more I write here, the more off-track and random I feel like I’m getting, how about one more totally erratic aside for you to round things out. Ready? Here we go!

Can you see something awfully special in this photo?

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Did you find him? Let me help?

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It’s a least weasel! While out on the trail earlier this week, this fearless little weasel charged me. I’m not kidding! He was 8″ of pure moxie especially considering Moose was standing right next to me the whole time! It’s the first time I’ve seen one in the wild, and definitely the closest I’ve ever been — at one point he got with a couple feet of me! I can tell you that when on snow his camouflage is incredibly effective. I had at least a dozen photos on my phone where I thought he was in the frame only to find he wasn’t. It was like a crazy real-time magic eye picture trying to find him in the snow. Moose can confirm that — he could clearly hear the ermine and smell him, but he couldn’t see him either most of the time!

And there you go — side-tracked, random, and a little all over the place as promised today. May you have slightly more centered and orderly weekend ahead of you!