A Blacksmith, A Cowboy, and A Couple Farmers

Last weekend my hubby had a day off and it was slated to be very, very hot. We weighed our options as to what we might do with the time and finally landed on visiting Old World Wisconsin. We figured it wouldn’t be too crowded so it would be a good day for it. We wouldn’t be rushed and could take our time and enjoy the experience. Last year at about this same time, the kids and I visited with a good friend and her daughter (I wrote about it here) and had a great time. My hubby hadn’t been though and with our school year start close at hand, we thought it would be a fun field trip for the kids.

Old World Wisconsin is set up in little ‘villages’, that highlight the different ethnic groups that settled in the state in the 1800s. I think its fascinating to see how different ethnicities solved the same problems of settling in a new place in their own way.

You get to see authentic houses…

img_3961And gardens…

img_3962And there are period games to try out…

img_4009

And they learned to practice penmanship with a fountain pen…

img_3974Her first sentence read something like, “My mom is amazing!” I love this kid so much.

The kids tried out these crazy bicycles…

img_3957This mom is so glad today’s bikes are… um…

img_3956Closer to the ground.

You might not be surprised to hear that while riding the trolley back to lunch I forced an unplanned stop at this farmstead.

img_4012I saw the sheep and practically leaped from the moving vehicle.

Lo and behold, this exhibit had spinning wheels.

img_2678 As the docent explained picking and carding and demonstrating spinning on this replica wheel, my daughter listened politely and only said once and in a very nice way, “I know. My mom does this at home.” I secretly hoped the lady in charge would let me spin a little, but no such luck.

img_3969She did, however, let my girl have a treadle at this Ashford Traditional that they have “because they can get parts for it easily.” Apparently not every child has it drilled into their head that a spinning wheel is precious, precious item that is never to be manhandled. My daughter was excited to treadle…

img_4008But she left Old World Wisconsin wanting to be a blacksmith. I’m good with that. I would gladly learn alongside her.

After lunch we had an ice cream treat and our girl talked us into having a look around the gift shop. Each kid picked out a craft to work on during the school year and I found… can you guess?

img_4007 I looked for fiber, but all they had was yarn. I’m good with that. It’s spun from the wool from the very sheep pictured earlier in the field. That’s pretty fantastic. I’m planning a hat for this winter. Something with pretty stitch patterning will be lovely, especially cables. I’ve flirted with the idea of attempting some natural dyeing with it, but I think I’ll most likely leave it as its. It is awfully beautiful.

As we strolled the paths of these old farmsteads, the kids ran ahead and my hubby mentioned how happy he would be in this type of setting. Simplicity. Nature. Basics. Not even the lack of running water phases him a bit. Personally, I like my running water, but I’m not sure that I’d mind so much if my reality was just that I didn’t have it. We walked along and talked about what we would do if we lived in a time like this. My hubby thinks he’d be a cowboy (his boyhood dream) or lawman. I’m guessing I’d have a little farm with a big garden and sheep so I’d have to spin and knit or weave. The kids, they’d probably not be all that different either — we’re lucky that way. I could see my daughter tending horses and maybe attempting to break some gender barriers as a blacksmith.  My son, I would guess, would be happy as a farmer with a little family of his own.

We may live in the 21st century. We may enjoy our creature comforts like everyone else. Days like this, though, we’re reminded that in our hearts, the things that make us happy are very simple. In this life, we may be a couple kids with the world at their feet and their mom & dad who find a way to make it all work in a hectic world. In another life, we may just have been a blacksmith, a cowboy, and a couple farmers. Oh, what a difference 150years makes.

Springtime in Wisconsin

I’m not positive, but I think that when normal people hear that there is a winter storm bearing down on their home they stay put. We are not normal people though and I’m beginning to suspect that Mr. Knitting Sarah views such events as a personal challenge. Instead of picking out some movies and holing up in our cozy house feeling like we can’t go anywhere, he is especially motivated to find the answer to the questions: “Where can we safely go for a fun day in terrible weather conditions?”

Earlier this week we had such an instance. The weather reports for my husband’s day off spanned anywhere from a foot of impending snow, to an ice storm, to sleet, to rain to raining ice pellets as our spot on this Earth seemed to be falling right on the line between freezing and not freezing. But… that meant that everything south of us would just be rainy… unless of course the weather system shifted south which is always possible. Alas, knowing I’d probably not be on board with his idea, my dear husband waited until 5:30am the day of to announce that we’d all be headed to the Chicago Field Museum for the day. It’s a favorite spot for the kiddos and he skillfully built it up as an opportunity for the kids to show me everything they’d learned on their last trip in October when I’d stayed home. We get in for free with our Milwaukee Public Museum membership so aside from the cost of the 6-hour round-trip drive, the inevitable incidentals, and the treacherousness of my generally grouchy demeanor when it comes to getting going unexpectedly in the early morning, it’s a relatively inexpensive day-trip for us that is a ‘WOW’ for the kids so I got cleaned up and out the door.

img_2656It was pretty worth it to get to experience this place through the wide eyes of my kids.

img_2637This cross-section of a conifer trunk from the Triassic period pretty much blew my mine…

img_2626As did the Dunkleosteus, a giant armored fish from the Late Devonian. And I’ll admit that it was pretty funny to see the reaction of the docent who, in the Carboniferous era display, asked my daughter what the giant millipede looked like. Instead of saying, “a giant millipede,” my girl chirped, “That’s an arthopleura.” Of course, she was correct.

img_2638I was surprised that Protoceratops was only about the size of a sheep. For some reason, I always envisioned them bigger. Thankfully my guide (my son) was very knowledgeable on the subject. He also wowed a docent who had a table of fossil replicas when he correctly identified a dino toe that was mixed in with teeth and claws. I never would have gotten that. I don’t know where these kids get their brains! I just try to keep up around here!

It had been many years since I last visited this museum, so it was very fun to have a refresher on so many aspects of science and culture. I had two favorite exhibits. First, Inside Ancient Egypt, simply because I have a real fascination with the culture. Most incredible, I thought, was the royal boat they had on display which belonged to  Middle Kingdom Pharaoh Sen-Wosret III.

img_2649There was not way to get a good photo, but seriously, this is a 4,000 year old boat. That’s not something you see everyday.

I also seriously loved the special exhibit, Lichens: The Coolest Things You’ve Never Heard Of. It was truly incredible. Perhaps funniest of all is that my hubby teases me from time to time because I often stop on our hikes to take photos of lichens. We agreed that I may have missed a true calling in lichenology, but as they say, hind-sight is 20-20.

img_2647For my friends who are into natural dyeing, I though this little tidbit was worth snapping a photo of and sharing. Who would think that grey lichen would produce such pretty colored yarn?

I looked, but wasn’t able to find any spinning or knitting displays, but I did find plenty of weaving.

img_2646This reminded me that to get started weaving I probably don’t need an expensive loom. If folks in Arizona & New Mexico in the 1900s can make this with little more than two sticks, and some pretty yarn, I can probably figure something simple out, too, should I want to try weaving.

Of course, with a 6-hour round-trip drive, I was able to make some excellent head-way with my Antarktis using the lovely Ancient Arts Fibre Crafts Reinvent in Kismet.

img_2657After settling in at home after our long day on the road, I was making great progress into the last repeat before the border. I should be done in no time!

It’s worth noting that despite the bad weather to the North our drive was almost entirely through rain only. The temps didn’t even dip below freezing until we were just a few miles from home. At our house, the ground was definitely covered with some slippery slush and the following day we did eventually end up getting a couple fresh inches of snow. This is spring in Wisconsin though and sometimes when the weather doesn’t cooperate you just have to get creative in how you face it.

img_2645Sometimes you just have to find your adventure farther afield.

X Marks the Spot

My family is very seasonally driven. Not unlike the Canada Geese who migrate in their long undulating Vs, we have certain places where we head certain times of year. Sometimes it’s to get a glimpse of a newly arrived migrant, sometimes it’s to take advantage of a breezy spot on a hot day, and sometimes it’s to see eagles fishing in between ice flows below a dam. And then there are times when it’s to see a stream cutting through its gorge during spring runoff. It’s for this very reason that Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve is becoming an annual event for us — I even wrote about it here almost exactly a year ago.

This year, it was a little less snow and a little more mud.

img_2512We captured video last year of our girl struggling on a trail and it’s become the quintessential video of her. In it, with boots so heavy with mud that they kept falling off, she digs in and makes her way up a steep hill equal parts frustrated with us for not helping her more and determined to make it herself. We play it back for her sometimes when she’s telling us ‘she can’t’ to remind her that ‘she can’ — she’s awfully strong and tenacious.

This year, she bee-lined for the same spot and even though it was muddier, she tamed that trail like no one’s business. On the way up it was slick, but she found a small, sturdy stick to use kind of like one would use an ice ax when ice climbing, but for mud.

img_2509As a mum, my first thought was that she’d fall on it and poke out her eye, but she handled it — and herself — with strength and confidence and agility. She trekked up and down that same trail not once, but three times.

img_2500And she was Darn Proud.

While I waited at the head of the trail, I snapped the requisite Big Blue photo…

img_2498I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, my soul is made of Big Water.

We made our way down to the beach and had a picnic. The weather was perfect for it. Warm, but not hot. Breezy, but not a gale. Perfect. Then we played for a good long while.

img_2526I combed the beach for good skipping stones…

img_2517And found one that reminded me an awful lot of friends on Martha’s Vineyard.

I built a cairn.

img_2521Because when there are rocks, it’s what I do.

img_2530And I skipped stones & we played ‘Battleship’ (where you toss driftwood into the water and then try to hit it with a rock) until my arms were sore.

As we walked back to the car, I noticed something in the sky…

img_2502And I thought to myself that sometimes X does mark the spot.

With sore arms, muddy boots, and smiles, we made our way home.

The next day, inspired & feeling like I should follow the lead of my brave daughter, I decided to finally change the footman connectors on my spinning wheel.

img_2488They were original to the wheel and — like the drive bands for Lendrums — the plastic dries out and gets stiff. I’d been worried I’d mess it up the repair, but I’m happy to report the wheel is spinning like new again and it feels incredible. Sometimes you do just have to trust yourself, be brave, and go for it.

Elated with the excellent feel of my wheel, I’ve been spinning like a madwoman.

img_2533And last night I finished up the second braid of my current spin. One more to go and then I’ll be plying. The combination of my tuned up wheel & my impatience to see this finished project has really had me spinning away. I’ve definitely been stealing all the spare moments I have for it. After finishing up braid #2, I even stayed up late last night to prep the last braid of fiber so I’d be ready to start spinning asap.

img_2534Yes, indeed. I think sometimes X does mark the spot.

Just the Glorious Stuff of Life

Sometimes you come to the end of a week and you just kind of stare and take a big, deep breath.

Phew.

At our house, the last couple weeks we’ve had a minor switch in our schedule and even though it’s not a big deal, it changes the rhythm of things and it’s an adjustment. During the week we’ve all felt a little discombobulated, kind of like when your sleep patterns are all off when Daylight Savings happens. Everyone still functions, but the timing of everything feels just a tiny bit off.

Beyond the schedule change, we haven’t had any increase in appointments that had to be kept or anything. I certainly am not as on-the-go as many parents out there, but there was a lot of… content (for lack of a better word) crammed into this past week. We started with a day trip to the Milwaukee Public Museum. They have a new traveling exhibit called Ultimate Dinosaurs that arrived earlier this month and we had to check it out as we all dig dinosaurs (see what I did there? sorry, I couldn’t resist), especially our son.

We arrived early and had a little time to burn before our movie & the exhibit, so we hopped up to the butterfly vivarium and the adjacent insect area first. As luck would have it, a young man was cleaning and feeding the insects. The kids LOVE the insects. When the kids walked up to him at the tank filled with white-eyed assassian bugs and inquired as to what he was doing, he very kindly explained his process, a little about the bugs, and then the kids got to watch him feed them.

I was as mesmerized as the kids — it was incredible! And let me just say, the bugs are appropriately named! Wowza!

The traveling exhibit was pretty awesome, too.

img_2396This was my favorite dino from the exhibit — a Rahonavis which was a bird-like theropod from Madagascar. I just love how he’s posed. He looks kind of like he’s boing-ing along like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, doesn’t he?

The kids especially loved the big kahuna of the exhibit, the Giganotosaurus…

Partly because he was so huge, but also because they had these cool screens you could aim at the fossils and ‘flesh it out.’ There were tons of great interactives, but this was by far the most impressive.

That was the flashy part of the week.

The rest of the week’s ‘content’ has involved some old parenting stand-bys like how to have patience & kindness with each other, especially in the classes I run with both kids working alongside each other. There’s also been a lot of talk regarding cleaning & responsibility and teaching the kids how to do more chores independently. This is everyone’s favorite, right? Part of a bigger educational arc that includes personal finance, budgeting, and taking care of one’s things, the kids’ room was in a desperate state so each day we’ve been tackling a new area. I opted to start this ‘life lesson’ with the kiddos by being an example. Shifting the majority of my knitting & spinning library downstairs isn’t really what I’d prefer, but in the larger sense it made sense to free up more space for their school books.

img_2404And in exchange I adopted their old, smallish bookcase for my spinning tools. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier as now I’ve got all my spinning tools within arm’s reach of my wheel. It’s excellent for me and a much better fit for the kids, so it’s definitely a win-win.

In between teaching my daughter how to do laundry (which she loves) and my son how to keep his desk clean (for which he has zero patience)…

img_2406I’ve been working on a pair of socks for my mother-in-law. A bit too long ago I promised her some socks and I’m finally getting around to making good on that promise. These are a prototype — she lives in a warmer climate, so I’m experimenting with a much shorter leg & cuff. I’m hoping to finish them up within the next few days and then send them off to her to see how she likes them. Once I know if the fit works for her, I’ll break out the other skeins I have set aside for her.

I’ve also been squeezing in some time for spinning…

img_2414I finished spinning the singles of my Three Waters Farm Top of the Month Club fiber “Light in the Trees’ on Polwarth last night. I had meant to leave my wheel untouched this week as I prep for the March 1st launch of the ‘Unexpected Combos SAL’ in the TWF Ravelry group (for which I’ll be spinning my 1+1+1 spinning project for this quarter), but on a whim I just jumped on this lone braid of fiber. I saw a fellow spinner’s version of this colorway and I just couldn’t wait. Thankfully, I should be able to get it plied before the 1st and as a bonus, I seem to have gotten my lightweight spinning skills back on this spin. That bodes exceptionally well for my plans for my upcoming spin, so I’m very happy I took this little leap.

I also noticed yesterday that poor Moose had a couple raw spots on one of his paws. I’m guessing it was brought on by homeowners having to salt sidewalks more with the fluctuating temps melting and refreezing snow & water. I cleaned and wrapped his foot yesterday just to get it on the road to healing and to keep poor Moose from licking it. And I was reminded that bandages instantly turn Moose into big baby. He follows me around and sits on top of me whenever possible when he has to wear one.

img_2412Yesterday that included smooshing himself in between my spinning seat & my wheel. As you can see, his girth kind of overflows on to my treadles. That doesn’t phase him. My fiber sometimes falls on his head. That doesn’t phase him. So long as he’s right there with me, that’s all that matters. Thankfully, he hasn’t touched him foot today and it’s looking much better so I’ve been able to leave the bandage off so far.

On a completely different and somewhat random note, I’ve been in touch with a really lovely woman at Craftsy regarding some future reviewing and even though it’ll be a little bit before I get there, she let me know that they’re having a HUGE Winter Clearance Sale this weekend — Friday thru Monday to be exact — on select yarn & knitting project kits. And she extended this link that will give you an extra 20% off existing clearance yarn prices. Oh, and then there are the requisite oooh & ahhh photos.

Ooooohhh…

indexAhhhh…

index1I’ve really enjoyed the Craftsy classes I’ve taken. With my busy schedule, they have been a godsend for learning new techniques. Their kits are pretty sweet, too, so definitely check it out!

So that’s been my random, busy, full week. Today we’ll be tackling some Lego overflow and maybe start to figure out how to clean the kiddos’ closet. I’ve also got some bathroom cleaning training scheduled for my son. I’ll no doubt be cleaning and dressing Moose’s paw just to be on the safe side. And I need to cast-on a new yarn for which I’ve finally settled on a pattern as well as ply that single I just finished spinning. These weeks, they aren’t always often glamorous, but they are always full. And that, well, that’s just the glorious stuff of life, isn’t it?

Oh, What a Week!

As so often happens in my little world, my week did not unfold according to plan. Like so many, Mr Knitting Sarah works long hours in the lead-up to and during the holidays and because our schedule can revolve around his, it does just that. Our family time is a priority so when it makes sense for the mister to change his schedule at the last minute and he winds up with two weekdays off and that he’ll work the weekend, we shift our plans accordingly. Homeschooling is flexible that way and that’s part of the reason it suits us so well as a family.

In any case, this week it just so happened that our family days coincided with some beautiful weather.

IMG_1278The first day started a little cloudy and chilly and the fish unfortunately weren’t biting, but the goldfinches and blue jays were singing all the same. We went home for some lunch and a some studying and then in the mid-afternoon with the sun out, we went out to a local park for some more fresh air. This time of year around here you just have to take advantage of beautiful weather when it presents itself.

IMG_1280My boy & I went for a nice long hike while my girl & hubby made a campfire. My girl loves to saw wood & tend a fire (no joke!) and my son… he is never happier & more at peace than when he’s walking in the woods. I’m a slow walker, so he splits his time between walking & talking with me and walking ahead of me on his own.

On the way back, we found a garter snake just off the trail and Mr Knitting Sarah managed to get a hold of him so the kids could examine him.

 IMG_1290I know some are a little freaked out by snakes, but we are fans of snakes in our house. I always view seeing them on the trail as a good omen.

And my daughter…

IMG_1303She loved this little guy. As long as he was held properly, he was very docile and content to be in her hands. She raised more than a few eyebrows as this little girl clad in bright pink showed her little friend to passing hikers. After not too much, but not too little time we released him back where we found him, occupied ourselves with a somewhat uncoordinated game of frisbee and as the sun began to get low in the sky we headed home.

The following day we headed to a new spot to fish…

IMG_1319It was sunny and beautiful.

IMG_1322And we had more luck with the actual catching of fish. We just caught and released, but it was still a very fun morning. Fishing is such a good way to teach patience and how to just be, quietly in nature.

When not gallivanting, of course I did manage to finish my Miya Shawl earlier this week.

IMG_1276As I mentioned, I finished with just enough yarn thanks to my inattentive gauge, but I got there and am totally smitten with the yarn and shawl. I hope to wash and block it later today or tomorrow.

With this finished, I started back at my Miss Grace Shawl.

IMG_1329And I have to admit, I’m kind of addicted to it. Now that it’s the center of my knitting focus, I’m able to knit away with much less of a tether to the instructions which always helps things move along more quickly. I’m really looking forward to using this piece… a fact that also helps things move along more quickly!

I also started a new pair of socks.

IMG_1330I fully intended to begin a pair for my MIL, but as I was looking for a free project bag I found I had this skein wound, waiting to be knitted. It was a skein I’d started and then frogged and since it was a gift skein that is long overdue in finding its way onto my feet, I decided to whip these up quickly first.

I haven’t touched my wheel much this week — there’s just been too much on-the-go time and my legs and back sometimes need a good rest after such days. That’ll be changing shortly, though I promise. I found out earlier this week that I’d won a coupon code to Three Waters Farm for posting and tagging photos of current TWF projects on Instagram, so I’m using the code and the promise of some fiber treats as a carrot to motivate me to spin through my current project which is proving to move a bit slowly for my attention span these days.

Well, the sun is shining once again and although I fully intend to slow down a bit after a busy week, we definitely have a full weekend ahead of us. I hope yours is beautiful, too, and that you find some time for your craft, as well!

Unrealistic Expectations

We started school yesterday. We did kind of a ‘soft launch,’ leaving the rigors of a full class load until we get a little closer to Labor Day. Beginning now with ‘school lite’ lets us get a start in on our math lessons which are much less flexible than our other subjects and it also let’s us get going with some historical biographies we’re working on as preparation for a couple scheduled field trips in September. In any case, we are on the road.

Much like any school in any location the world over, we started by going over expectations. For us, this began with our start time. With our kids at the ages they’re at, it’s much easier if we get everyone on roughly the same schedule. With one child who is an early riser and one who is much slower to get going (she likes to stay up late reading), I explained that school would start at 8am. Before the panic could really take hold of my sleepyhead who thought that timing seemed wildly unrealistic, we made a list of all the things that they needed to do to be ready for school — getting dressed, making beds, eating breakfast, etc. Then we agreed on a time for lights out at night to make sure our girl was ready when morning rolled around.

The other big first day topic was problem solving. Both kids started with almost the identical discussion on the topic in their math texts, so we put it up on our white board (which we got for a steal at a local office supply store).

IMG_0415(Don’t mind the giant pile of books — that’s just the tip of the iceberg of my life of learning and correcting for the next 9months or so)

I loved this little lesson as it really broke down how we solve problems — not just math problems, but all problems in life. Accompanied by good questions to ask while you’re in each step of the process, I am hoping to make some copies of these lists and put them in the front see-through pocket of their math binders to refer back to throughout the year. I also fully intend to make a copy for myself. So elegant in its simplicity, it reminds me that all the ‘insurmountable’ problems I face can be broken down into manageable components.

In fact, I realized that I apply the same approach to my knitting. I’ve written about it before in a slightly different light because by far the most common question I hear is, ‘How do you get so much done?’ In truth, I spend a lot of time knitting. Plain and simple. And because I spend a lot of time knitting, I’m probably pretty quick. I love the craft, too, and that certainly doesn’t hurt. This in itself does not create FOs, though. To really get across the finish line there has to be a plan otherwise I’d most likely just keep starting projects instead of ever finishing them. I have to understand the goal or time frame in which I’d like to finish, formulate a plan, and execute the plan. Just like my elementary aged kiddos are learning in their math lessons!

Sometimes – or more accurately ‘usually’ – that plan is pretty fast and loose for me, but with my latest project I’ve taken a slightly more regimented approach. With school starting and a pair of socks for the  August Summer Sock KAL that aren’t going to knit themselves, I found the need for a more structured, goal-oriented schedule to push myself a little on my current lace shawl. With that in mind, I’ve been sketching out daily goals for the 16 repeats of the main section.

IMG_0416As you can see, my planner lacks a whole lot of organization and detail. Since I’d been expecting to have a couple more weeks before we started school, I’m not quite situated on that front yet, but I’ll get there before too long. After all, for me this year is all about having better monthly plans.  In any case, at the bottom of each day of this week you’ll see ‘100D: 11-12’ or ‘100D: 14’ — those are my project goals for the day. Yesterday I slated myself to finish up repeats 11 & 12, today 12-13. I lost one day to heat & bathroom repairs, hence the original pink goals that have been crossed out. I’ve been missing by a couple rows each night as I battle some unfortunate sinus issues that have been knocking me out early and the very unpleasant reality that working with lace weight navy yarn after sundown is not as easy as it used to be, but I’ve been keeping it close.

Of course, with each repeat the shawl grows bigger…

IMG_0315The repeats above took much less time than those below.

IMG_0394If I had more sense, I’d adjust the plan accordingly, but I’m trying to push on — taking breaks with my August socks from time to time for sanity and good measure.

IMG_0413And every day I tick off at least one and a half repeats.

Although I’ll be knitting like the wind to hit that Friday finish date for this project, I’m not all that confident that it’s likely. I think by the end of the weekend is more realistic. Sometimes though, getting things finished in a timely manner is all about sticking to a plan that seems a little unrealistic. Implementing pre-planning and sheer determination is probably the most effective method for finishing any project — in knitting or in everyday life. When all is said and done, whether a goal is unrealistic or not is often (but not always) just a function of perspective, attitude, and execution. If my daughter can wake up and be ready to go on day two of school 30minutes ahead of time as is the case right now, I can probably finish this shawl by Friday. With this challenge on my mind, there is only one thing left to do: Get knitting!