March 13, 2014

Shadows is here!



I love spring.*  I never used to but I think that may be because in areas where winters are gruesomely hard, like Maine, spring is kind of disgusting.  I keep remembering the smell of March in Maine and the way EVERYTHING needed cleaning, and that was even before it got covered in mud from the snowmelt.  It was great that the snow was melting (probably) but sometimes the results seemed like too much trouble.**  Some of you Midwesterners may agree/disagree.

We’ve had GENUINE SUNLIGHT the last few days.  And I’ve been getting out in the garden.



Little tiny overpotted garden.  With verifiable sunlight on the back wall.




Way beyond cute.  We must have had it at the old house–it’s common, it grows well around here–but I don’t remember it, or anyway I’m not the one looked after where it grew.***  But my predecessor at the cottage grew a lot of it.  I was kind of a scourge to begin with because I didn’t recognise it when it wasn’t in flower, it was mostly growing in inconvenient places, and the foliage dies to nothing later in the season so I’d go to dig up a blank space and discover these tiny little bulby things that had the look of something that maybe ought to be rescued.  So eventually I started plonking it in pots.  I’ve got at least three different sorts in six or eight little pots, this dark pink, the blue, and a pale pink one . . . which I only just stopped from accidentally obliterating a new little clump of–I think it must regenerate if you leave a scrap in the ground–about a fortnight ago, stuffed it in another pot . . . and, gallant creature, it’s flowering.  The bizarre thing is that I took a bunch of it up to Third House a few years ago and it disappeared.  Maybe next door’s evil terrier dug it up and ate it.

Random primrose.

Random primrose.

Primroses are a big favourite with me.  I have no idea where this one came from.  I was clearing out pots and this one had some clearly primrose leaves growing at one edge so I said, okay, fine, go for it.  Cowslips, just by the way, garden primroses’ wild cousins, which are some kind of endangered, are a weed in my garden.  Another few weeks I’ll be ankle deep in them.



I love the variety of colour in most hyacinth flowers.  That’s not just blue or purple, you know?  Speaking of ankle deep, in a week or two I will be knee deep in blooming hyacinths.  I keep buying them to force over the winter and then . . . you have these perfectly functional bulbs at the end of your fit of botanical self-indulgence and all they ask is a small corner outdoors and a bit of dirt . . . they’re frost-hardy, they’re tough, and apparently mice would rather eat other things.†  And they produce one fat fabulous heavenly smelly flower every spring.  Except that this is a very small garden and I’m running out of SPACE.  How do you reforce bulbs?  I know you can prepare your own by putting them in the fridge for a bit but after having their constitutions screwed up like that, how long do they need in the garden being normal before you can do it again?

Pots.  Lotsa pots.

Pots. Lotsa pots.

I have made reference to my pots-in-pots-in-pots gardening habits.  In the back left-hand corner there are at least four levels.  And that doesn’t count the fact that there are several pots in levels two and three.  The pink plastic bucket by the kitchen door is my compost bucket, although it goes to the town compost maker, not a hot fermenting corner of this garden.  As a compost bucket it has no holes in its bottom, so when it rains, it fills up.  Found a drowned mouse about a week ago–sorry, but YAAAAAAAAY.  Mice are vermin††–just in time to prevent the hellterror from engaging in close acquaintance.  She now checks that bucket very very carefully every time I open the door, and if nothing is better on offer she stands by the door and stares at it.

And the little square grey thing in the bottom right-hand corner is my maximum-minimum thermometer.  Love.  I am not a very comprehensive weather geek but I LOOOOVE having a max/min.  They are one of these things that for inexplicable reasons go out of fashion–at just about the time that your last one stops working–and it takes you YEARS to find a replacement.  I hope this one lives a long time.

Potting up

Potting up

Yesterday three boxes of tubers arrived, two of begonias and one of dahlias.  All of these things are frost-tender.  I spent a couple of hours in the sunshine yesterday afternoon potting them up–I potted all of them up the day the arrived!!!!!!  How utterly fantastic is that–and so of course we had a frost last night.  The indoor jungle lives.  It would have been so much easier if they’d just still been in three small, tidy cardboard boxes.

And it will probably freeze again tonight.  So I’d better get back to the cottage and schlepp a lot of grubby pots indoors again.  Feh.  Gardening.  It’s as mad as critters.

* * *

* Well.  When it stops raining I love spring.

** Except for the lilacs.  Lilacs are worth it.^

^ Lilacs would GROW.  Don’t talk to me about roses, AKA your very expensive annuals if you live in Maine.  Lilacs only rioted for a few weeks but by golly they RIOTED.  And they required zero care, as I should know, since those were my pre-gardening days, and I took my landscape as a given.  I had massive lilac hedges around my little house, but they seemed like just another feature like one bathroom and a long skinny kitchen.

*** Is it a rose?  No?  Go away and don’t bother me.^

^ Does it grow under roses?  No?  Go away and don’t bother me.  Although in my current garden it perforce grows under roses because there isn’t anywhere else.

† Tulip bulbs, for example.  Snarl.

†† They eat tulip bulbs.

Yarn Porn, continued


It turns out that I have fewer truly lascivious yarn photos than I hoped;  it’s the fault of the frelling light.  Outdoor light is fine.  Frelling frelling frelling fluorescent light is never fine and while my brain- and finger-numbingly over-specified camera probably has a fluorescent light setting it takes about twenty seconds every time you want to reset anything due to the profligate nature of both the available menus and the items on the menus, and the menus of each individual item, all of them shrouded in impenetrable and unguessable icons which you need to be at home reading the CD on your computer to decipher because of course the paper instructions that you might keep in your knapsack are a feeble pamphlet with a lot of white space that tells you how to insert the battery and turn the thing on and then suggests you read the CD.*  So there you are at a fabulous yarn show scowling at the lighting, which is a diabolical, and unpredictable, mixture of fluorescent and outdoor and even if I could find the Nasty Glaring Indoor Light button on my camera it wouldn’t be the right answer either.  So, for example, although I took photos of all of these, I can’t show you the amazing knitted layer cake complete with (knitted) candles—knitted lit knitted candles—that a local knitting society had made for their own 35th anniversary.  Nor can I show you the astonishing crochet blankets the Natural Dye Studio** had hanging on their walls, or Tilly Flop Designs’*** silly greeting cards or Injabulo’s† gorgeous buttons.  Or a number more knitted shawls††, speaking of shawls.

But we’ll do what we can.

Get.  Me.  Out.  Of.  This.  Thing.

Get. Me. Out. Of. This. Thing.

This is not a good photo, and the original photo probably wasn’t all that great before they blew it up, framed it and put glass over it.  But it’s totally worthwhile because the look on this dog’s face is priceless.††† 






I had promised Fiona to fondle every skein of pink, purple or pink-purple yarn I saw.  I was quite a while at this booth.

I love Eden Cottage yarn.  I can't afford it, but I love it.

I love Eden Cottage yarn. I can’t afford it, but I love it.

They’re one of the many little indie producers out there.  But not only is their yarn seriously smoosh-worthy but they’re nice.

I think you need to be a laird or a laird's wife or husband to get away with this.

I think you need to be a laird or a laird’s wife or husband to get away with this.

I actually looked at the pattern—being GOH at Boskone might do as a laird-substitute—and fell on the floor laughing.  Um.  No.

SPARKLY yaaaaaaaaaarn

SPARKLY yaaaaaaaaaarn


Definitely GOH garb.  Sigh.

Definitely GOH garb. Sigh.



Wild yarn.  Golly.

Wild yarn. Golly.




There.  You don’t feel cheated or short-changed do you?

* * *

* You might think that there might be a short cut menu for the stuff that ORDINARY people use and adjust the most often, but clearly this camera was not made for ordinary people.

**  Hint:  they sell the patterns.  I already knew I have to learn to crochet some time because there are a lot of crochet roses out there.  But I may have to crochet a blanket.

***  Keep Calm and Finish It for Next Christmas.  There was also one at the show I don’t see on her Etsy page, which goes, more or less:  I told you I’d have it done for your birthday, but I didn’t tell you which birthday

†† for example.  None of these photos BEGINS to do it justice.  And I have about as much chance of knitting it as I do the Unnamed Item with Roses from the first Yarn Porn instalment.  A girl can drool.

††† I am reminded of Sarahallegra’s Calantha in her bunny ears.  Oh, this is  Clearly they are a good place by the high percentage of sighthounds.

. . . I’m leaving you to look up any more web sites.  I think the labels on the rest of the photos are legible.  Anything you’re dying for that doesn’t have a visible label, post to the forum, I can probably figure it out.


We interrupt (again) . . .



SUNLIGHT!*  WE HAD SUNLIGHT TODAY!!**  I admit there have been random sightings lately, including this weekend, but today it was SUNNY when I crawled out of bed, it was SUNNY when I let Pav out in the little back courtyard to relieve any overnight build-up of pressure***, it was SUNNY when I ran outdoors with my camera because of course it would rain later, it was SUNNY when I hurtled first one and then the other shift and it was SUNNY when I went out yea verily a third time to buy a newspaper.  I admit it did start raining just as I’d got my gardening kit on and had my hand on the kitchen door to go outside . . . but I went anyway.  I just spent longer in the greenhouse (muttering) than I’d planned.


Double primroses.  They look like tiny roses.  Sue me.

Double primroses. They look like tiny roses. Sue me.


PINK tiny double (prim)roses.

PINK tiny double (prim)roses.


I adore hellebores and they do really well in this area.  I could have had a hellebore-only post.

I adore hellebores and they do really well in this area. I could have had a hellebore-only post.


P1060063 crop

Have I mentioned how much WordPress hates me?  Even with Blogmom’s templates to take the risk out I STILL can’t hang photos.  Okay, late breaking caption:  This particular clump of double whites are trying to take over the universe.  Go for it.  –And I have no idea where the italic came from.

This goofy abutilon has been flowering ALL WINTER.  It shouldn't.  But it is.  I've just given it a very good spring feed.

This goofy abutilon has been flowering ALL WINTER. It shouldn’t. But it is. I’ve just given it a very good spring feed.


Single maroon-purple hellebore.  They're all beautiful.

Single fawn-maroon-purple hellebore. They’re all beautiful.


P1060196 crop

Speckly hellebore. ::Happy sigh::

 And WHY did THIS caption become DETACHED from its photo??  No, no, don’t tell me, I’m not strong enough, it’s been a long winter.

First camellia.  Jingle Bells, as usual.  Terrific camellia, healthy, prolific and trouble free however badly I treat her.  Pity about the flowers. . . .

First camellia. Jingle Bells, as usual. Terrific camellia, healthy, prolific and trouble free however badly I treat her. Pity about the flowers. . . .



How to have a REALLY bad hair day.  Spend a few hours in the garden.  Especially if it's a garden full of evil roses and low-hanging apple tree branches.

How to have a REALLY bad hair day. Spend a few hours in the garden. Especially if it’s a garden full of evil roses and low-hanging apple tree branches.

* * *

* Crocuses will only open in sunlight.  So if you think you’re hallucinating . . . check your crocuses.

** I was so demented with joy and daylight that I moved a bumblebee by PICKING HER UP IN MY FINGERS.  I’ve seen one or two recently and am glad they haven’t all drowned.  But this one was snuggled up between the kitchen doorframe and the sill and the hellpack would get her if I didn’t tread on her and I was thinking that she was probably liking the warmth of the house so without thinking at all I picked her up and put her behind the plant pots on the kitchen window shelf.  It didn’t occur to me what I was doing till she started buzzing.  EEEEEP.  I may have put her down somewhat hastily.  But she was slow and sleepy with winter and it’s easy to be STUPID because bumblebees are, you know, fuzzy and cute.

*** She is now old enough to have the control to decide not to relieve pressure till she goes on her first hurtle later.  Yaay.  I don’t know if this is the tiny size of the space available or what;  the hellhounds stopped using the back garden too, except when things were very bad, although it took them longer, being boys, about two years.  But this is the first time I’ve had dogs with a small enclosed garden and don’t know if this is common behaviour or not.  But it’s very nice not to have a patio latrine that needs disinfecting, especially with spring and summer and sitting-outdoors thoughts in prospect.  Not that I’m very good at sitting outdoors but the thought counts for something.

Yarn Porn, Part One



No, no, said Nina, I’ve only just got here myself; I misread the bus   schedule and. . . .     TO BE CONTINUED.

A certain renowned author and GOH at 2015 Boskone is getting entirely too fond of cliffhangers!

Snork.  It wasn’t meant to be a cliffhanger.  It was ‘okay, that’s 1000 words, I can get at least a second post out of all the photos, YAAAAAAAY.’  No, I found my way out of the car park without happening across more than one or two bottomless ravines and/or person-eating tigers . . . and having stood at a total loss on the pavement outside the exit for about thirty seconds while the traffic swirled by* the very first passing pedestrian I applied to pointed over his shoulder and said, your Ancient Building—and your yarn show—is that way.

And it was.  And Nina was waiting in the entrance.**  And we spent the next three hours in a daze of colour, texture and naked desire.***

The Welcome Pigeon.  And it doesn't eat your seedlings or crap on your windscreen.

The Welcome Pigeon. And it doesn’t eat your seedlings or crap on your windscreen.



SOME DAY I am going to buy one of those amazingly long skeins of laceweight and knit a shawl on big needles so it's all, you know, lacy, without having to learn a frelling lace pattern.  But not today.

SOME DAY I am going to buy one of those amazingly long skeins of laceweight and knit a shawl on big needles so it’s all, you know, lacy, without having to learn a frelling lace pattern. But not today.

And it won’t be nearly as droolworthy as any of these.  But it’ll be a shawl.




TO BE CONTINUED.  Again.  Hey, it worked last time. . . . †

* * *

* And I’m sure I saw that stricken look of No!  Not Sainsbury’s again! on several of the drivers’ faces

** Having had a slightly fascinating time watching all the painstakingly handmade knitwear marching through the doorway.  This reminds me more than a trifle of costuming at cons.  The majority of it is pretty fabulous and you think if all that love, care, creativity and skill could be more widely applied we’d have the world’s problems sorted instanter.  Unfortunately there tend to be governments and special-interest groups in the way.

And then there’s a little of it that, ahem, isn’t fabulous.  At least not on this planet.   There were a few items in this category at the yarn show.

*** Well, I did.  Nina is made of sterner stuff, although she admitted she began to feel a trifle overwhelmed.  But she came for a project and she found a project, and she bought a pattern and took advice about suitable yarn and bought that AND THAT’S ALL SHE BOUGHT.  Gaaaaaaah.  I bought an ENTIRELY UNSUITABLE VERY LARGE BOOK OF PATTERNS for the extremely pathetic reason that I fell wildly, hopelessly in love with one of the knitted-up samples.  I have about as much chance of knitting the freller^ for myself as I do of riding dressage in the next Olympics—in fact I have a better chance at the Olympics—but maybe I can turn the book into a coffee table.  It’s big enough.^^

Now most of this is just my embarrassing lack of self-control.  But it’s also because the stall-holders were nice.  I could imagine ringing them up and saying WHAT DO I DO NOW?  I can even imagine them answering.^^^  Most of the stall-holders made a point of saying that they were happy to take phone calls and offer advice, and pressed their business cards on you, and most of these are small independents producing their own yarn and/or their own patterns.   Although there were a few franchises there, they were friendly too.  Knitting seems to be a pretty welcoming world.

However there was one stall where I would certainly have bought one and probably two patterns, both of which were really interesting and looked more clever than complicated . . . but a little complicated.  And I looked at the proprietors and thought, well, no, I can’t imagine ringing these people up and asking for advice.#  So I didn’t buy the patterns.  Sigh.  Not like I don’t have 467,912 patterns already.

^ No I’m not telling you what it is.  It’s an item of clothing and it has roses on it.

^^ Speaking of large books full of gorgeous patterns I have no hope of knitting:

I even have a Kaffe Fassett book from another, similar occasion of tragic longing.  It’s an art book, okay?  Never mind those pattern instructions in the back.

^^^ The likelihood of my being able to follow their instructions however. . . .

# Nina, by the way, in her calm, clear, rational manner, had the same reaction to them that I did.  So it’s not just me being the raging loony faction.  She also liked the patterns.  Maybe I’ll buy one on line and ask Fiona to help me.

†  I’ve also just spent fifteen minutes frelling arguing with this laptop, which may be moving toward retirement^, about posting that last photo, which it insisted was Fully Occupied Having Illicit Relations with Another Programme.  IT FRELLING ISN’T YOU FRELLING FRELLING.  I don’t want to do that any more tonight and I have no idea what it might have in mind for my next attempt at loading a photo.  The yarn porn is obviously disturbing its moral and professional values.

^ I can’t AFFORD a new computer!  I need to BUY MORE YARN!!


Wet photos and dry yarn


I was putting Pav’s harness and lead on for a hurtle late this afternoon while listening to the weather report on the radio.  Dry for the rest of the evening and overnight, said the radio.  Pav and I stepped out the door.  It was raining.

I’ve spent way too much time looking for good Hampshire-flood photos for you.  Is it because flooding, managing or trying to manage the floods and beginning in some cases to clean up after floods which may yet return is still very actively going on that the photo record of all the hoo-ha is such a mess?  You google for ‘Hampshire’ and you get Gloucestershire, Dorset, Somerset and Wales, with a little Kent and Surrey thrown in.  Not that Gloucestershire, Dorset, Somerset, Wales, Kent and Surrey haven’t been flooded too—poor old Somerset is in a bad way—but I wanted to show you Hampshire.  Anyway you can troll through here—or not.  These are all at least 2013-14—I think—although with the occasional disconcerting ‘historical’ flood photo, which may or may not be in Hampshire either.  I found a really good Hampshire flood photo gallery but before I got too happy fortunately I noticed it was from two years ago.  I don’t even remember flooding two years ago.*

Hampshire flood photos 2014

UK weather: Britain braced for more flooding

Scenes from Hampshire village of Emsworth as floods hit

Winchester residents battle against rising flood water

Basingstoke flood photos

Anyway.  It’s already too late for Short Wednesday.  Maybe we’ll have Short Thursday.


. . .  bad weather IS claustrophobic, and inside with three hellcritters, one in heat and a bit too interesting to the others is definitely a major trial.

It was a lot more histrionic than a BIT too interesting.  But she’s now OUT of heat and . . . Chaos doesn’t believe it.  Darkness, while still inspecting her carefully every time she reappears, is reverting to his previous attitude, which is, Bark!  There’s an interloper!  Bark!  Remove her at once!  Bark!  —Siiiiiiiigh.  I was HOPING that there might be some positive long-lasting effect on their relationship as a result of that hideous recent ninety-four year stretch when she was on high spectacular heat and Darkness was her slave . . . but I guess not.  Siiiiiiiigh.  Meanwhile there is an effect on her relationship with Chaos . . . he doesn’t believe she’s off heat and keeps trying to hump her.  Mind you, he’s humping the wrong end and he’s never got his—ahem—tackle out, so it’s not exactly Sex As We Know It Jim but it still must frelling stop.  Arrrrrrrgh.  The slightly funny thing, if I were in a mood to be amused which I am NOT, is that Chaos was a lot less bothered by the whole situation than Darkness was.  Darkness was out of his tiny furry mind.  Chaos was la-la-la-la Chaos, although he was happy to stop eating to keep his brother company.  ARRRRRRRGH.

We convinced our old cat to come in during severe weather and she’s now convinced that–if she’s indoors–someone should be . . .  paying attention to her anytime she’s not dozing. . . . Yowwwwwwl. Yowwwwwwl. Yowwwwwl. One critter is driving me frantic several times a day . . . I cannot even imagine three critters sharing the house with me.

Three critters keep each other company.  This is why I brought two puppies home seven years ago.  This does not always work out perfectly to plan (see:  happy to stop eating to keep his brother company) and introducing a new one to an established hierarchy is always tricky, even if you’re not bringing a girl into a household with two entire males.  But for a human prone to guilt resisting the huge mournful puppy-dog eyes is easier when your single dog is not alooooooooone every time you go out for a cup of tea with a friend.

Diane in MN

There probably is a way to adapt a bigger gauge pattern to a smaller gauge—isn’t there?—but in the first place it would require MATHS and would be beyond me and in the second place . . . I’d run out of yarn.

I do this kind of a lot because I knit tight and I substitute yarn, so getting gauge is not guaranteed for me. The arithmetic doesn’t go beyond multiplication and division, but you can find knitting calculators online that will do it for you. Here‘s a pattern conversion form that should do what you want.

Oh, cool.  Thank you.  I think.**  I like the part about how all you do is fill in the first bit and it does all the rest, but I haven’t finished my swatch yet so I don’t know what unexpected tentacles may lie in wait.  I have found the needles that make the right fabric however:  8 mm, so a whole two (or four, depending on how you’re counting) down from the recommended 10 mm.  Hmmph.  Yarn manufacturers.  They know nothing.***


Deep v neck. Less yarn. Three quarter sleeves! Less yarn! Cropped!

Perhaps a dickey?

Yes, yes!  A dickey!  What a good idea!  There will be enough left over for at least one mitten! 


Deep v neck. Less yarn. Three quarter sleeves! Less yarn! Cropped!

At this point, I’m not sure there’d be much point left to knitting a bulky-weight pullover…

Snork.  It must be hard, living a life of such strict rationality.  Not one of my challenges.


There’s a very good Lion Brand pattern for a top-down raglan-sleeved cardigan, knitted in one piece (the sleeves are knitted downwards later), which is pretty much infinitely adjustable. Cast on enough stitches to go round your neck (high- or low-line), increase at the raglan points till big enough to fit round your chest at armhole level, put sleeve stitches onto holders and join up the gaps, knit downwards till long enough. Put sleeve stitches back on needle and knit till, er, long enough. Add a button band, either knitted separately and sewn on, or picked up along the front edges, if you want buttons.

So you leave yourself a ball, or two, for the sleeves (depending on how long you want them), allow another one for button bands, and you can knit the cardi till you run out of yarn!

Yes, I was thinking I’d look for a top-down for that reason—that, in fact, I need to overcome my circular phobia and learn to love some basic top-down thingy because I am a relatively small narrow person and short waisted with it and I’m pretty sure I could learn to squeeze a basic top-down thingy out of slightly too little yarn, which would be very nice.  Do you have a link for the Lion Brand pattern?  There are a million gazillion Lion Brand patterns and I tend to lose the will to live on their site pretty quickly.  Also so many of their patterns are extra-large and up.  When it’s some ordinary person on Ravelry who has created a pattern and she’s a 48” chest and her pattern is for 46-50” this seems perfectly reasonable.  When it’s a frelling commercial yarn site, even though the patterns are free, it seems to me perverse that when you look at what they mean by ‘small’ it says 44”.  Um.  No.  That’s not small.

Now you’re going to tell me there are pattern converters for this problem too.

. . . Meanwhile.  It’s raining again/still.  What a good thing wool stays warm when it’s wet.

* * *

* I remember five-foot-of-water-in-the-cellar 2000-01 very clearly.

** But I also knit tight and . . . substitute yarn?  You mean there’s some other way to do it?  You mean some people actually USE THE RECOMMENDED YARN?  ::stops to fan herself::^  This comes up with me perhaps more than with better knitters:  for some reason easy patterns tend to assume you’re going to use cheap acrylic or acrylic-mix-but-mostly-acrylic yarn.  Noooooo.^^  You do get fancy yarns that suggest a simple pattern that will leave the effect up to the yarn, but not so much the other way around.  Or maybe I just read the wrong magazines.^^^

^ Although that may just be another frelling hot flush

^^ The hellhound blanket is acrylic but they’re allergic to wool AND I AM NOT GOING TO WASTE MERINO ON CREATURES WHO ROUTINELY CLAW UP THEIR BED TO MAKE IT FLUFFY.

^^^ And so far as I can tell it’s a publishing rule that a knitting book shall not be issued till all its recommended yarns have been discontinued.

*** Nothing in comparison to someone who has been knitting erratically for about three years and hasn’t FINISHED anything but a few leg warmers and some baby bibs.

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Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Gustave Flaubert