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!

 

 

 

To The Glen Again

I must confess something to you.

The unseasonably warm temperatures have been a bit of a downer here at Chez Knitting Sarah. Our entire family loves winter and this longest autumn ever has been wearing on us. As we watch and listen to others celebrate the mild weather, I realize this makes us very odd ducks. There’s a tiny part of me that is a little relieved that the stress on our soon-to-be-replaced 30-year-old furnace has been minimal, but nonetheless we’re longing for snow and cold that bites at our noses & takes our breath away.

It was with this in our hearts that we made the little trek to Parfrey’s Glen. This is a small, incredibly beautiful natural area that I’ve talked about at least 2 or 3 times before here.  Over the years it’s become too crowded for out tastes in the summer, but we can usually manage to find a good day in spring or fall when it’s quiet and not congested. We thought a Wednesday in mid-November might be just right and I’m delighted to say we were right as we only ran into a half dozen other souls on the trail this time around.

This place is a great geology lesson for the kids and — at least for me — a great, humbling reminder that Earth is a big, amazing place.

img_5244From the smallest details in the rocks…

img_5249To the remnants of an ancient sea, no matter where you choose to focus your attention it is an awe-inspiring spot.

The kids, well, they love balancing on downed trees…

img_5182And the excitement of the many stream crossings…

img_5245And my husband and I love to see them having so much fun and chuckling at the inevitable exclamation when someone slips and winds up a little in the drink…

img_5246And just the quiet and the stillness of it all.

We had a little picnic at the end of the trail…

img_5239Right here in this magical spot.

And when I’d finished my lunch and was waiting for everyone else…

img_5234I was reminded that the spindle is a very, very special tool.

We hiked out way out…

And at the insistence of our youngest made a stop at the Blue Spoon Cafe for some gelato. Who can refuse ice cream after a hike? We made a quick stop at Wollersheim Winery for a couple special bottles of wine and then headed home.

It was one of those days that is a great reminder of how lucky we are. That we have both the time and money to take these little day trips, to be awed by the world around us, and to play together in the quiet of the glen again — it’s a gift that not everyone in this world enjoys. I look back and I’m humbled and thankful for the beautiful day, for the awesome place, and for our time with each other. It’s this simple perspective that propels me forward and inspires me every day.

Welcome to the Brrrs

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it in the past, but at our house we call the months of September through December “The Brrrs.” Partly because, you know, SeptemBER, OctoBER, etc., but also because where we live that’s the time we start feeling a chill in the air. It’s when we wake up and think, “Brrr! It’s cold!” It’s one of our favorite times of year and the mister and I celebrated last night with a little campfire in the back yard. You know, to properly welcome The Brrrs.

We talked about how the kids are doing in school, a few scheduling things coming up, the economy, and we counted satellites as they raced overhead. It was even cool enough for my favorite knitted hat. Ahhhhhh…

I’m still, yes still, fighting off whatever has decided to hang out in my respiratory system. I’m feeling much better, my energy level is back up and for the most part I feel good, but I have a lingering cough that still sounds not great. If it’s not gone or much improved at the end of the long weekend, I’m afraid it’ll require a doctor visit. I remain optimistic that it’ll be cleared up and am trying to take heart that I’ve built some crazy tough antibodies from this one. Suffice to say, despite feeling better I’ve not been at 100% and I’m still feeling a bit behind.

We did get to go for a really lovely little hike earlier in the week though…

img_4299With the natural spring right next to a small woodland, this is a park that is great for bird watching. We saw a few warblers and a cardinal family this time through. Oh, and lots of little toads — they were awfully cute! We saw the lingering signs of summer…

img_4309As well as the first signs of the impending autumn…

img_4305I’m so happy The Brrrs are back and hiking is a little more comfortable!

And really, very little says we’re beginning to tip toward autumn & winter like the fiber arts. I managed to get a lot of plying done this week, too, but because of the whole being a little slower than normal I don’t have proper FO photos ready to go quite yet. Four skeins are washed, set, and dried though (and a cowl & shawl, too!). Weather permitting, I should have those photos and stories all set to share with you next week.

I’m currently working on plying my final bobbins of that mass of singles I had spun…

img_4311Which are becoming this 3-ply of Nest Fiber.

I’ve also been sinking a lot of time into my Feel Good Yarn Co Summer Sock Club finale…

img_4313I’m at the toe of my first in the pair and I’m planning to take just a little creative license there. I’ve got just until September 14th when the knitalong is officially over, so I’m trying very hard to really cruise through them. I’ll admit that I’m really enjoying the pattern and they are going quite a bit faster now that I’ve really got the pattern in my hands & mind.

I also have a couple spindle projects going. I’m not moving mountains with progress on them, but now that I’ve actually been up to the task of cooking again I’ve been sneaking in my moments during the ‘down moments’ of making dinner.

This spindle I’m spinning some fiber that I blended on my new-to-me blending board. I still have to share that new development with you, too, don’t I?! In any case, first I couldn’t stop myself from trying out the blending board when it arrived…

img_4312And then I really just had to see how it would spin up. I can see hours of entertainment and fun ahead of me!

I’ve also been stealing a moment here and there for this spin…

img_4314These are some rolags I got a while back from Classy Squid Fiber Co. I have 6oz of them and I’ve been hoarding them partly because I LOVE them and partly because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to finish them. One day I wanted to have a quick and easy spinning project to take with me and I just grabbed my first pack of rolags here and started. I’ll figure out where I’m going with them eventually. For now, I’m just going to enjoy spinning them.

Throw in a little weeding in the gardens and the fact that I laid fresh grass clipping just outside my front window so I get the constant sweet smell of cut grass wafting through the house and I feel as though The Brrrs are off to a grand beginning here. I’m sure summer and autumn will do their little dance back and forth for a few more weeks yet, but at our house we’re celebrating each crisp breeze, each tiny shift of the leaves changing colors, and every song of the birds that are beginning to migrate south. Welcome to The Brrrs, my friends! May you enjoy each moment as much as we do!

Reclaiming Space

As is always the case, the summer is busy and flying by. I’ve become increasingly aware that I’ve been writing little of the more personal stories here as it’s been all I could muster just to find the time and space in my mind to get the knitting & spinning news shared. As I was working on the gardens project the last couple weeks, I finally had some time to really reflect. A lot of my writing happens in my head while I’m on the trail or out for a walk with the kids and the dog or while I’m spinning or when my hubby is taking the lead with the kids, but those times have been more… cluttered the last few weeks than in the more structured moments of the school year. I’ve been struggling to find those peaceful moments where I can find some clarity.

As I dug (and dug and dug) in the gardens, I thought about the act itself and I watched as the gardens were transformed from weedy, cluttered, neglected messes to tidy little beautiful spots.

img_3798I thought about reclaiming that space and it occurred to me that the last few weeks in the garden and before that the decluttering in our house, it’s all been about reclaiming space in one way or another.  And now, in this post, I thought I would share some of those more personal moments from my last few weeks to finally organize and reclaim that space in my mind.

A few weeks back we stopped at this small park in a neighboring city…

img_3631It was a warm morning, but the mist was cool and the whole hike was just lush with greenery.

img_3628While the kids ran ahead, I lingered over wildflowers…

img_3629A little forest of echinacea…

img_3630And the rich black-eyed susans.

We moved onto a damp forest trail and there were more wonders to be seen…

img_3635And little details that it would be easy to walk right past…

img_3639I’m glad to have had the luxury of time to pause here and there.

One day, we also took a trip to the very popular Devil’s Lake.

img_3669It was beautiful as usual and the trails were wonderful, but crowded as they always are, especially in summer. We turned back a bit before reaching the top of the bluff — when it comes to being out and about hiking, hoards of people all talking and shouting back and forth tend to send us packing and this day was no different. I’m so glad people are out being active and using the park, but this kind of outdoor experience is just not for us. We’ll save a return trip for quieter seasons.

We did find a miraculous little secluded spot on the lake so that the kids could swim…

img_3686-1I could knit a few stitches, the mister could read a bit…

img_3687And Moose could bask. He much prefers swimming to rocky trails.

Somewhere in these last few weeks my daughter finished her first ever 4oz of handspun singles.

img_3548-1She was anxious to start another project, so I offered to ply them for her.

delia skeinThe resulting skein is so much fun, I think.

delia detIt’s full of texture and the essence of sheer determination that comes from an 8-year-old learning to spin. We’re going to knit it into a cowl we can share, I think.

Reflecting over these images and experiences as I weeded and dug through my final overgrown garden the other day, I couldn’t help but think about how big of a deal I had made of and how long I’d put off undertaking this garden project. I thought about all the excuses I had and all the obstacles I saw and in retrospect I really just needed a leaping off point and some direction. If it were knitting, it was like I had the yarn but couldn’t figure out what pattern to use and didn’t know where to start looking.

As I thought about all the stages of the project, what I kept coming back to was the image of my gardening genius friend, the architect of the gardening exploits rolling up in her little compact car. Each time she came over to help & direct me, all she brought with her was a trunk full of plants, a shovel, and the enthusiasm to get the job done & make it great. Every technique she taught me, every aspect of the process was so simple and basic and inexpensive. I was reminded that reclaiming space is really just about making the time and taking the time to make it happen. No elaborate tools or plans or loads of money were necessary. Time and effort, that’s the true secret to reclaiming space — in your house, in your garden, in your mind, in your life.

The Week in Yarn & Other Things

Forget the holidays, spring is the busiest time of the year at our house. Spring roughly translates to DO ALL THE THINGS. Yard clean-up from winter, finishing up school, seeking out a 100 bird day during migration, cooking some meals ahead for summer so we don’t have to heat up the house when it’s hot, spring cleaning, fishing season, spring play group — are you tired yet? And let’s not forget that this year I’m trying to get my act together and plan out the kids’ summer activities & be less disorganized in meal planning, too. All in all, that’s just a really long way to go to say that, as usual, I’ve been busy (and after writing that I kind of feel like I need a nap).

I didn’t make the time to tell any one story in particular from my week, so I thought I’d give you little snapshots of them all.

First, as I mentioned it was Mr Knitting Sarah & my wedding anniversary on Monday. As I finished up my morning’s workout, I heard my daughter loudly ‘whispering’ that my husband needed to get me some flowers.

img_3072He briefly tried to disagree, but quickly opted to pay my girl to pick this one for me and make me a card. It was the first card I ever got from him that was signed simply, “Your Husband” — for some reason it felt very ominous to me. It was pretty much awesome.

Out of no where, I decided to pick up my Knitted Patchwork project.

img_3080I’ve added a few new squares to it and I moved it to a little tub instead of smooshed in a project bag. I think maybe perhaps I’ll be more likely to pick it up and set it down more often this way and, you know, actually make some progress. I really do like it when I’m working on it, I just tend to forget about it when it’s not staring at me.

I managed to finish up the singles for this spinning project.

img_3103It’s from Spun Right Round and will eventually be a standard 3-ply.

Since I’m waiting to ply until the Akerworks Flat Pack Lazy Kate prototype arrives for the test I’m participating in, I started another spin.

img_3100And today I finished the first 2oz. This is from Dyeabolical and is the colorway named Wit Beyond Measure. It’s dyed on 100% Targhee and I’ve split it into 4 parts for a a 4-ply. The aforementioned lazy kate has room for 4 bobbins and one question I’m looking to answer is how it handles 4 bobbins from the Lendrum’s plying head. Of course this means I’m now spinning singles on my plying head. I realize I could spin them on a speedier flyer and transfer them to the big bobbins, but I’m kind of too lazy for that. Plus, this is a great exercise for me as I’m making adjustments necessary for a slightly heavier single as well as working on a flyer which I don’t usually use for singles. I’m feeling very good about how it’s been going so far.

We spent a bit of time on the trail and were hoping to get a big ‘fall out’ day with spring migrants, but alas…

img_3086This trillium was the most exciting thing we saw. My kids are very interested in the spring wildflowers and I am awfully terrible at IDing them, so every time we go out I snap a couple photos and go home to try to work out the proper name. This new challenge has been a lot of fun as we wait for the birds to show up.

A little while ago I got these very cool skeins in the mail for review.

img_3013It’s Durasport from Briggs & Little and a very hardy singles wool. I read a number of comments on Ravelry that folks like their socks that they’d made with this yarn, so I picked up Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter’s Chittery Chattery Socks pattern and cast-on.

img_3102I think they’re just they are knitting up to be just the sweetest! Do pardon the super crumpled pattern — that’s what I call “knitting in real life” and why I love being able to print copies of patterns.

I also had a little exciting stash enhancement this week.

img_3077This is called ‘Luminous Dusk’ and it’s dyed on Superfine Merino by Three Waters Farm. I wanted to share the eye candy, but also the news that Three Waters Farm is holding a Customer Appreciation Sale this weekend. Friday, May 6 through Sunday, May 8 use coupon code TWFMAY201615 to get 15% off your order. If you’ve been wanting to try your hand with this incredible fiber, now’s a great time to treat yourself!

Since the nap isn’t going to happen anytime soon, I’m off to get back to work. Have a fabulous Friday, all!

In The Badlands: “Camping”

So. On a cold, wet morning, our 13year-old camp stove finally died. We knew it was failing, but had hoped it would survive a few more trips. It did not. A lukewarm cup of coffee for both my husband and myself and warmish a cup of hot cocoa for each of the kids and that poor contraption made the short trip to the dumpster. And we headed out, reconsidering our options now that we were down both our tent and our stove. After a brief debate, we found a spot where we had internet reception on our phones and made a reservation for the final three nights of our trip at the new Cedar Pass Lodge cabins.

With warmth and showers in our future, we spent the morning in a new spot, Sheep Mountain Table in the Stronghold Unit of the Badlands National Park. Admittedly, the minimum maintenance road up to the top of the table was a little terrifying after the heavy rain the night before, but it was worth it.

IMG_8861The views were hands-down the most breath-taking in the park.

It was still quite windy and cold, so I stayed looking in awe until my hands were frozen and then we headed back toward the campground just to clean up the last of our things, have a quick picnic lunch, and another hike down into Sage Creek…

IMG_8884where my hubby & son found a fossil baculite.

Along with a few other small fossils. We reported it to the rangers and although this is a pretty common fossil to find, they still let our son fill out the paperwork locating the fossil and took his photo for their wall of fossil fame. He was pretty excited.

We did another small hike in the Yellow Mounds area…

IMG_8903before checking into the cabin…

IMG_8964 My daughter claims this still counted as ‘camping’ because we were ‘still in the middle of nowhere’. I’m not going to disagree since I got a hot shower and a cold beer out of the deal. The dog was clearly relieved to have a real bed again.

I have just two more memorable hikes to share tomorrow and I promise you will finally get the details behind this…

IMG_9009And this…

IMG_9045And I promise, it’s as funny as it looks.