Dispatch from Early Spring

I may be a couple of days early, but it is definitely the early days of spring here. Our record-breaking snows of the last couple of months have started receding at an alarming pace — those of you downstream, be prepared! — and what was thigh and waist deep snow a week ago now is ankle deep or less. In fact, for the first time in quite a while, I saw a couple patches of actual ground in my backyard last night.  The birds have erupted in song and we’ve had our first Brown-Headed Cowbirds and Grackles of the year visiting our house. I even caught a glimpse of a Robin flying over our yard yesterday. Yes, it seems spring is on the way.

As it goes in these parts, however, winter to spring is not a smooth transition. Worries of too much snow on our roof have morphed into dealing with a sump pump pipe that is still frozen. While we did not have any issues with damage or flooding in our basement, I did spend a fair bit of time last week preventatively hauling water out of our sump well in 10 gallon Shop-Vac loads (thank goodness there were no stairs involved!) until we were able to rig an outdoor waterfall pump to do the heavy lifting for us until we can give the system enough time to fully thaw. It’ll be a while before we know the fate of the actual sump pump or what the blockage is, but we are hopeful it’s just a matter of letting things thaw out. In the grand scheme of things, I’m thankful that this was just an inconvenience and that we were dealing with the issues before there was actually damage to anything and that now I just have to roll the hose out and plug in the pump. You do what you have to do, but I’m happy to not have to take those multiple trips lifting 10 gallons of water (google tells me that’s about 85 lbs) anymore!

While we awake to the flurry of spring and deal with all that entails, I’ve of course caught the spring cleaning bug as well. No, I’ve not been watching Marie Kondo on Netflix (I read the book when it came out) like the rest of the world. I’m not sure if it’s normal or not, but every year I actually enjoy spring cleaning. There is something about the seasonal change that inspires a fresh, clean start in me. We’ve been in our “new” home almost 2 years now and I’ve been making some minor adjustments in functionality — a broom rack in one closet, a couple hooks in another — and trying to formulate better ways to make tidying more accessible and easier to do regularly. I’ve just, I’ve got a hankering to make things around here a bit more efficient, I suppose you could say. I don’t anticipate this lasting long, so I’m going to ride the wave and enjoy the benefits of it while I can!

But it’s not been all work and fighting the elements and tidying up around here. There has been time for play. The footing on the rotten snow is terrible for hiking, but we’ve been going out anyways. Bear likes to protest a little on the front end as he’s still not very happy about riding in the car. When we start to suit up and ask him if he wants to go on an adventure, he bolts for his crate and does this.

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Moose, for those who might not be aware, has always loved going along, no matter what we’re doing. If he could open doors, Moose would be the first one in the car every time. It’s definitely new for us to have to convince a pup to go.  Isn’t that just the case with siblings though? What one loves, the other loathes. C’est la vie!

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In any case, once we’re out of the car, Mr. Bear is a happy fellow and is proving almost as good of a trail dog as his big brother. I saw “big” with a grain of salt as this is my hand and Bear’s paw print.

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While it’s true that Bear is much fluffier so size comparisons are deceptive with these two, they are growing ever closer in size.

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They are both very happy good boys though.ee2ab9b8-dae4-492b-aa15-fd3742b8b750

And they are enjoying the last hurrahs of winter, to be sure.

When not tearing up the trails wit us, they are proving worthy spinning and knitting supervisors.

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And I’ve been working on a few things in my spare time as well.

This morning I turned the heel on sock #2 of a new pair of socks for Mr. KS.

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I’m going to try to work on this over morning coffee — I think that’s the best recipe for getting it finished in a timely manner.

I also started a new sweater!

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It is Tanis Lavallee’s French Braid Cardigan. It’s an interesting construction so far — this is actually the collar which you cast-on with a provisional cast-on, work one direction and then go back to the cast-on and work the other direction so you have live stitches on both ends. My center pick-up is a little messy, but I think it’ll block right on for me. In any case, I’m about to pick-up stitches and begin the actual raglan part of the sweater. So far, I’m really enjoying this one.

I’ve also got 2 spinning projects ready to ply!

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This is Tranquil Gleam on a BFL + Nylon base.

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And this is Common Ground on Falkland, both from Three Waters Farm and both destined to be traditional 3-plies for the Skill Builder SAL happening over in the group. I’m hoping to start plying later today as I just pulled fiber out of my stash for my next traditional 3-ply spin! I was totally inspired by a member in the group to spin a gradient and I’ve got just the perfect two colorways with which to experiment!

And with this dispatch, this little update from the wee moments of spring, I’m off! I’ve got things to tidy, dogs to play with, yarn to spin, and socks & sweaters to knit! I hope that spring is springing where you are and you are feeling inspired today, too!

Oh, Bear

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This was the last spinning I touched. It’s been a full week. You’re probably wondering, “OMG, Sarah! Are you feeling all right?!?!” The answer, quite simply is that it’s been quite a week.

About a week ago, Mr. Knitting Sarah went from being kind of sick with a cold to pretty darn sick with a cold. The worst of his cold seemed to hit Sunday night — there was a fever and a lot of restlessness which led to our Bear, tender heart that he is, spending most of the night whining. Unfortunately, Monday through Wednesday of this past week was Mr. KS’ annual work conference and it’s one where the kids and I ride along, board the dogs nearby, and spend a couple days at the indoor waterpark at the conference center where the meetings are held. It’s a wonderful treat… unless you arrive sleep deprived thanks to a puppy’s good-hearted concerns as well as pretty certain you’re going to leave sick. Then, it’s kind of exhausting.

I don’t know how, but Mr. KS went and handled his conference well (clearly he has superpowers) and the the rest of us managed to stave off the sickness until the last day and enjoy ourselves. I played some arcade games with the kiddos day one and day three, we went bowling, and ran ragged while we had the chance — sanitizing as we went, of course, to hopefully not infect the entire complex with any germs we might be carrying along. The kiddos spent one day in the waterpark while I knit.

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I started a sock for Mr. KS since it was small and easy to carry around and it felt like a nice thing to do while he was busy working. Plus, he needs some new socks.

Also, I finished up my Milliken vest on the way down, doing a 3-needle bind-off with a pen because I didn’t have the third needle.

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You would think with the load of stuff I packed that I’d have remembered a needle for this bind-off, but I did not. In any case, this beauty is washed and drying as I type, so there will be more on it soon!

By the time we hit the road home Wednesday afternoon, I was feeling the dreaded cold setting in. I was unwell enough that I didn’t touch my knitting at all on the drive (it was also a snowstorm because it seems we can only travel in snowstorms now). There was also this…

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Bear still hates the car and awkwardly sits next to or on top of Moose a lot. It’s as heartbreaking as it is hilarious. Moose, it’s clear to see, is a very patient gent. I should mention that while Bear is riding in the car he is almost always drooling profusely so Moose emerges soaked. If they sainted dogs, Moose should be first on that list.

Yesterday, among a bunch of chores, I started a new garment project…

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Lesley in this Quince & Co Osprey that’s been in my stash for a long while. I’m knitting the top-down seamless version and my goal was to get through separating the sleeves today. Let me tell you, I managed it, but it was against great odds. Thanks wholly to this guy…

 

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Oh Bear. Bear who decided that instead of letting me get some rest last night, he would whine almost through the entire night, waking me about every 30minutes to an hour. Normally, he sleeps from bedtime to 6am with no problem. I’d have gladly slept through it if I could have, but mom hearing being what it is, I woke up for every whimper. Since he did it when Mr. KS was at his sickest as well, I wonder if it was that? Some sort of intuition? Some sort of attempt to help. I have no idea. Let’s pretend that’s it because it’s at least endearing.

Suffice to say, I awoke exhausted and much worse for the wear today, but after a brief nap this morning, I did manage to get through separating the sleeves off of my Lesley.

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And Bear, well, he thinks it’s his job to find me where ever I am and whatever I’m doing, check in with me, and play with me. Or share his treats with me. And I’m going to tell myself it’s because he’s a baby and if he was sad or didn’t feel good, he’d want me to find him and play with him. Or share my treats with him. Oh, Bear.

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Now maybe tonight he can let me sleep so I have the energy to get back to spinning (and shovel the 5-8″ of snow we’re supposed to get tonight) tomorrow. Oh, Bear.

 

Spinning Toward Consistency

Two weeks ago on the nose I shared a post entitled Skill Building for Spinners. In it I shared my prep work for a spin focused on consistency as part of the Skill Builder SAL in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry Group. Of course my vacation interrupted progress on this project and you might be at home seeing my latest “Today on my wheel…” installments thinking, “Whatever happened to the consistency spin she prepped? Why is she avoiding it?” Well, I was thinking that as well. And then I had a bit of an A-HA moment when I realized that I actually have been working on that consistency spin… I just haven’t yet gotten to that particular 4oz of fiber. Let me explain.

Since the Tour de Fleece last July I’ve been spinning a lot of 2-ply worsted weight yarns on and off in between other projects as I work on a stash of yarn for a Vivid blanket project. My most recent spin before leaving on vacation I’d been working on my Jensen Tina 2 as well as a couple free-for-all spins on my Schacht Reeves. I love throwing in free-for-all, spin as you will spins into the mix with my more intentional spins — I find the practice keeps me loose and my spinning is better if I’m not always overthinking things. In any case, neither of these projects had my head or hands in the mind space of consistent lightweight singles.

Upon my return, it just didn’t feel comfortable to hop right into my Skill Builder spin on my Schacht Reeves. I’d be aiming for a 40-36wpi single as opposed to 22wpi single and to do that I knew I’d want to move to a smaller whorl to make the treadling less taxing and the process more efficient. It’s here that my A-HA moment kicked in as I examined how I spin for consistency and to a certain specification. I realized I rarely just sit down and spin a certain yarn. I settle on a certain fiber and the yarn I want to spin it into and then I work toward that in a series of spins. While I can certainly sit down and crank out whatever yarn I need or want, my preference — because it is just a more joyful, relaxing way to spin — is almost always to get to that chosen project slowly & methodically, by way multiple spins. A journey & a process, more than a one-and-done skein.

So step one to build up to my Skill Builder was, to first get settled back in with my Schacht Reeves and to focus on consistency at the yarn weight I was already synced into. I selected 4oz of Polwarth + Tussah Silk 85/15 in the Kelp colorway from Three Waters Farm to start…

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I spun with just the intention of being mindful and a focus on consistency at that same 22wpi on my medium whorl at the 14.5:1 ratio at which I’d been spinning. This will be another for my Vivid project. I’m not being super fussy about consistency on this project, but it was a good spin to kind of start me in the right direction.

For my next spin I moved on to the next faster whorl, my “fast whorl” at the 20:1 ratio and I spun to the 36-40wpi to which I’m working toward.

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This, again, is a silk blend. Since my Skill Builder spin will be a silk blend as well I wanted to work in silk blends as I work up to it. This time it’s Merino/Superwash Merino/Tussah Silk 40/40/20 as I’m not too worried about the differences in the fiber blends beyond the fact that I want to stay in that silk blend realm. The focus here was not to really push that consistency, but to get the rhythm of the lighter weight singles in my hands and in my head and to make sure the whorl felt like a good fit for the yarn I was spinning.

And now, I feel sufficiently ready to dig in to my Skill Builder spin! Unfortunately, I’ll have to do a little plying before I can get there to free up some bobbins as I’ve been a lazy about getting to my plying lately, but that won’t take too long. My Tina has rested up since the harrowing vacation and is ready to handle the plying duties. That’s next up on my to-do list and then it’ll be off to the races on my Skill Builder! That is, of course, if Bear will let me. He’s grown attached to not just one wheel…

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But two…

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I’m guessing when the Tina makes her appearance, he’ll decide she is his as well!

Tina Takes a Road Trip

Last week my family and I loaded up the aptly named Adventuremobile (also known as our van) and headed South. Mr. Knitting Sarah’s parents live in Southern Missouri and we were off to spend a week visiting with them. Knowing we had a pretty slow, relaxing week ahead of us and we had a fair bit of room in the van, along with — you know — clothes and toiletries and dog food, I packed an obscene amount of fiber, my Jensen Tina 2, a sweater knit, and a sock knit. I was planning to spin. A lot.

We figured with our puppy, Bear, the drive would take about 12 hours. Puppies require frequent bathroom breaks and poor Bear is not a huge fan of car rides. He struggled through it with a lot of TLC from the kids…

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If you’re wondering about the towel, he is a nervous drooler, so unless you want to be drenched we’ve found towels to be a necessity.

About an hour and a half from our destination, we were making plans for the following day with my husband’s brother when the tire pressure alarm went off and shortly after we felt the tire go. On a busy interstate with almost no shoulder, rather than risk someone being injured, we called in roadside assistance.

While we waited, a very kind state trooper stopped to help out and with his coverage from behind, we were able to start work on getting the spare out. Unfortunately, in order to get at the spare this had to happen…

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There is something pretty humbling about splaying your belongings out on the side of the road. I mean, my poor Tina!!! In any case, in order to avoid too many cooks in the kitchen with the tire, I hung back in the car with the kids and the dogs until I heard from the back, “Let me go get my expert.” Mr. KS and the trooper were having trouble releasing the spare from its bizarre locking system, so I was called in as the “expert” at figuring this kind of thing out. A couple minutes later the spare was free (go me!) and shortly after that a very kind gentleman with roadside assistance showed up to help finish the job.

img_5206As you can see, the tire was pretty much toast, so when we made it to my husband’s parents’ house just a couple hours late, we were feeling thankful that nothing else had gone wrong. Tina — and the rest of us — had made it safely to Southern Missouri!

As you probably have heard me say, very few plans survive contact with realty around here. Saturday morning with the car at the tire shop getting all new tires (Happy early Valentine’s Day to us!), I settled in for a few minutes of spinning. Those 15 or so minutes were the extent of my awesome spinning week though. After all my lofty goals and ambitions and the huge load of fiber I’d packed for my quiet week of spinning, I discovered that when you aren’t in your own space and you have a puppy, spinning is pretty much impossible. Between exercise and play and trying to keep the pup out of the cat food, your time is pretty much spoken for.

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He’s probably worth it.

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All right, he’s definitely worth it.

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I like the little guy. A lot.

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And this guy, too. He’s pretty majestic and awesome (in this photo he’s watching Mr. KS try to photograph an armadillo we spotted — so focused!).

 

And they are both pretty good porch sittin’ knitting buddies, too…

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We did enjoy some beautiful weather and I managed to get quite a bit of knitting done on my Weekender sweater. In fact, I am almost done with the main body and the front up to the shoulder seam as well.

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We did take the short drive over to Prairie State Park on the Missouri-Kansas border to see their bison. In addition to the bison, we saw loads of different hawk species, had a very brisk picnic (does anyone else have picnics in 30F temps? I didn’t think so!), and took a nice walk through a freshly burned area.

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It was beautiful.

And it was good practice for this guy…

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Who is slowly learning to handle being in the car with a bit of zen and slightly less drool.

As our week came to a close, it became apparent that the drive home would be a snowy one…

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And it was. It was pretty grueling through Missouri which saw much more snow than they are used to and most of Iowa, where the weather was worse, but the roads were clear. We were thankful for the flat tire we suffered on the way down which allowed/instigated us to invest in better quality tires, something we’d been putting off because they weren’t a necessary expense. Thankfully we’d saved a few pennies to be able to afford it and the investment made the snowy trip back markedly safer.  Even when things go wrong, they often work out for the better at the end of the day.

To pass the time, we listened to an audiobook as a family, I knit on my sweater, we made a playlist and sang along, and the pups…

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Well, they figured it out.

After a long day in the car, we were all happy to get home. We ate some dinner, I sat in my chair, and promptly fell asleep.

The next day, we took the pups out to one of our favorite spots where they frolicked and played…

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Happy to be back among the land of snows and marshes and trees downed by beavers…

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And skating on murky ice.

And after that nice long walk, it was nice to come home and do some spinning after that week long, puppy induced hiatus…

 

I on my Schacht Reeves…

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And Bear chose the Lendrum.

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Tina, well, she’s tired from her little adventure. And even if Tina’s road trip ended up being for naught, we made a lot of wonderful family memories, basking in the glorious and fleeting days of the puppy while Tina stood stoically idle. Sometimes that’s just the way it should to be.

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventures of Moose & Bear

It’s been a flurry of activity, even more than normal around the Knitting Sarah homestead over the past week. We had a visit from some very special out-of-town friends over the weekend which was extraordinary and wonderful — I’ll get to that recap soon. Today though, I have a different, yet also very special story to share.

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While scrolling through social media, Mr. Knitting Sarah showed me a picture. One of his co-workers has a small family farm that primarily raises pigs. They had bred their farm dogs — who work their pastures, helping protect their animals from the area wildlife — and had puppies for sale.

We’ve been flirting with the idea of a second dog for a while now and have been watching rescue and shelter ads online for the right fit. Since we have a great family dynamic with Moose and the kids, the fit was our primary concern. We would happily remain a one dog house, but we felt that both Moose and kids were at the perfect age to welcome a new addition. So we waited and we watched. And months passed. We popped into local shelters from time to time. Nothing really felt right though.

We came to adopt Moose when one of Mr. KS’s co-workers had a sister who had a small farm and had bred her beloved lab to keep her line alive. Moose had been held for a family member who then decided against taking on another dog. We felt great supporting the small farm and I’ll never forget the day he waddled out to meet us, all paws and fat belly and ears. He was and is, truly, the perfect dog for us.

Monday night, though, the picture Mr. KS showed me of a little black pup with white mittens, well, it stopped both of us. Something about this pup’s calm eyes and focus on the camera said, “I’m chill. I’d fit right in with you.” The whole similar situation of a family farm, beloved pets, etc, echoed our good experience with Moose. Mr. KS messaged his co-worker asking all the relevant info and set up a time to go meet the little guy.

At work yesterday, Mr. KS got a little more info on the pup from the owner and we became pretty optimistic that he was going to be the right fit for us. We also learned that he was ready to go home right away, so my day quickly turned into getting ready for a 7 week old puppy. Getting his food, a collar, some flea treatment (since he’d been living in the barn), a couple bones to chew on, and a vet appointment set up for him while also getting through our school day and then setting the kids loose to clean the crate up (which we have from Moose, but haven’t used in years) and do some beginning puppy-proofing. My girl, who has been asking for a puppy for at least 2 years, vacillated all day between excited chatter and tears of joy. By the time Mr. KS got home from work, my introverted self was exhausted!

And so the time came to meet the pup. I was all nerves, of course, because that is me. First we met the pup’s mama, a Newfoundland/German Shepherd mix and just about the friendliest, sweetest dog you can imagine. She actually reminded me a fair bit of Moose’s mama. And from the pasture, the pup’s dad, a Great Pyrenees gave a couple hearty woofs. We went into the barn, mama leading the way to her pups. And they we came to stall FULL OF PUPPIES. This is about the time when my heart and head exploded.

We watched the whole litter and the one we’d picked was definitely one of the most mellow, relaxed, easy-going personalities. He liked saying hi to his mama, didn’t mind being picked up, and mostly just looked ready for a nap. Yep. This was definitely our dog.

We carried him out to the car and mama followed along. We gave them a minute to say good-bye and we thanked her and promised to take good care of him. The two times I’ve been a part of this transition, it always strikes me as a kind of a heart-breaking moment. Mama dog is so stoic & pup never quite knows what’s happening, but both times I’ve felt a connection and understanding with the Mama.

He rode on my lap for the 20minute ride home. He cried a little, but mostly he just drooled excessively so that my sleeve was soaked. And then he threw up. Seeing as though this guy is 7 weeks old, just left the only home he’s known without his mama, and was with strangers in a car (which is also probably a first!), I’m not going to blame the little guy. I’m exhausted and stressed out just thinking about it!

Nevertheless, we made it home and he met Moose in the driveway. Tails wagged and, having made the acquaintance, Bear laid down in the middle of the driveway, exhausted. We carried him inside — to go up stairs is still a bit of a puzzle — and Moose gave him another sniff test…

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He looked around a bit…

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And then he basically lost all energy and kind of just went flat.

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He did eventually make it close to the dog bed…

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It seemed a little too much for him to try to get his giant paws up onto the bed, but eventually he flopped over.

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Aside from a few minutes of crying when he went into his crate, he didn’t make a peep all night. I finally went in and retrieved him at 5:30 this morning.  I was not expecting that!

This morning — as will be most days for a good long while — was all about playing and eating and training and house training. It’s kind of exhausting.

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He had another car ride to the vet where he got a clean bill of health, his first vaccines…

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And another nap.

For all that he’s been through in the last 24 hours, he’s done great though. And, under the guidance of his big brother Moose, he’s definitely going to be an asset supervising Knitting Sarah headquarters.

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And there is no doubt he’ll be providing many more stories for y’all to read. Stay tuned, The Adventures of Moose & Bear will soon start rolling in!