Knitter’s Life


When you’re in-between knitting projects & your eldest is at a Band lesson for 50 minutes & the baby is napping in the backseat of your parked* car…this works. Winding up the luxuriously-soft Mountain Girl Yarns ‘le Jardin’. The colors in this skein are a river of exquisiteness. Very excited to knit something {for me!} with this Montana treasure.

*Please do not ever attempt winding a skein while driving. I know, so silly that I feel the need to mention that…

Yarn Along {Oops, I Knit it Again}




Sanders Pumpkin Farm, 40th & final year--2014

Sanders Pumpkin Farm, 40th & final year–2014

This past week has been spent knitting my nephew (~8 months) two hats that didn’t fit, in two different styles…frustration. So I went back to the good old Wurm pattern which I’ve literally knit like 50 times. Oh, well, it’s a classic. And I swear this third cap WILL fit. My nephew is a very very very intelligent baby…read between the lines here, folks–love you, Aunt Ellie! June was kind enough to model as she apparently has the same size head as her cousin. I used Knit Picks Gloss DK for the double-knit brim–amazingly soft stuff, an excellent substitute for Debbie Bliss Cashmerino, but with a prettier sheen. Repeated the colors pumpkin, grey-brown, and the ‘Doe’ Gloss DK in the main body. Used some label-less yarn for the other two colors, not as soft, but still wool.

We went to Sanders Pumpkin Farm last Friday on a homeschool field trip (Merritt had no school in the afternoon & was thrilled to tag along). This is the farm’s last year for pumpkins–40 years!!! Quite a milestone. We will miss the annual visit, but this will hopefully spur me to get better at growing pumpkins. We only got two this year. About 30 gourd-pumpkin hybrids (accidentally) & about 30 Butternuts. Gardening is totally a crapshoot for me, but I soak in the mistakes & my garden improves the following season as a result.

No reading this week. But I acquired more books. I may have a problem.

Joining in with Ginny.

Yarn Along {Fledgling Featherweight}





I began knitting a Fledging Featherweight for Coralee this week. I’m using Quince & Co linen in the colorway Truffle (yarn from my now-frogged Kit Camisole–sad story for another day). Fledging is a Knitbot pattern I bought as part of a trio of popular Knitbot adult patterns sized down for children, fittingly called Little Knitbot. All three patterns are adorable, elegantly written, fun to knit, & require no seaming.  It’s knitting up amazingly fast considering how little time I’ve had to knit lately.

Finally picked up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society novel from the library. Still haven’t cracked the book (embarrassing). Also reading the fall Seed Savers newsletter/magazine–my favorite part of being a Seed Savers member. The stories of real people saving seeds, as well as the histories behind heirloom varieties is always fascinating to read. Rich photographs & yummy recipes, too. I harvested my fall crop of French Breakfast radishes yesterday. They’re so beautiful, I had a hard time cutting them up! I think I will only plant this variety next spring. They grew amazingly fast & the ‘finger’ shape made the root a breeze to pull. The white tips blending into the scarlet–a work of art growing in your soil! Hoping my lettuce comes ready soon, too. A couple of our chickens–our fluffy Blue Cochin named Marianne & a nameless Americana–hung nearby the garden gate while I harvested & then followed me around the yard afterwards….it’s not like we don’t feed them, beggars.

Joining in with Ginny.

This is Our Backyard






Heading up the creek.

Heading up the creek.



Village building.

Village building.





Hello. :)

Hello. :)

Tuesday of this past week was spent with a truly sweet little friend born almost exactly three weeks before June was born in 2011. Her mama & I are good friends from my teaching days. We also watched my daycare baby on this Tuesday. Coralee & I threw the morning homeschool plans out the window & ventured outside to play. We ended up in the dry creekbed for almost two hours. The girls looked for fossils & rocks & “treasure,” built their own “village” on the beautiful sand plume that showed up after the summer flooding, & explored the creek bed to their hearts’ delight. As we walked back to the house for some warm blanket snuggling & lunch, I couldn’t believe my luck–this is our backyard.

Happy Weekend Adventures!

Yarn Along {Aviatrix}

I finished up the Aviatrix cap I was knitting for an Ella Mae Knits custom order over the weekend. June kindly put her fossil collecting & sand-village building in the dry creek bed on hold yesterday morning to model for me. I lament the day when she is no longer small enough to model the baby/toddler knits or at least use her head circumference as a gauge for size selection. But that day is clearly not today, so I’ll drop the mush.

I knit size 2-4yo using Knit Picks Swish DK in Carnation and US size 5 & 7 needles (I knit rather tightly). I have a giant bag of leftover small balls of yarn I use for the double-stacked flowers, labels long gone. I do know the top flower was knit (doubled) in the beautiful, insanely-squishy Cormo/alpaca/silk blend (in the colorway Orchid) from White Barn Farm Sheep and Wool. I would love to buy all her colorways if the money tree grew in my backyard. My favorite is Jellybeans & I have been stalking the site for its return.

June’s personality took some wild swings during this photo-op, but the cap remained delightful (as knitting tends to do, right, no matter what the temperament of the being within?) & will now be sent on its way to another little lady.

I’m fixing to begin the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society thanks to Leigh (her blog is a delight–thank you, Leigh!). It’s waiting for me in the holding stacks at the library.

Happy First Day of October, my most treasured month.  Autumn Admirers Unite!

Joining in with Ginny.








Guest Blogger: Trip to UI Paleontology Collection


Working in the Repository.

Coralee has been busy since {home}school began (post-Labor Day) working on her project for the Homeschool Assistance Program’s Science & Social Studies Fair at the end of October.  She initially planned to study the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon.  Over the summer, however, her interest in the fossils Merritt and her have been collecting from our creek was greatly renewed due to some massive flooding & resulting changes in the creek bed.  Her project idea changed & I instantly invested some late-night/early-morning hours searching for local resources to shape her science curriculum during the first trimester.  I love that aspect of homeschooling–the ability to alter the coursework to match the child’s interests, while still following the standards & benchmarks.  I wish all children could experience learning in this manner.

As part of her Social Studies work, we use the New York Time’s Learning Network’s 6 Q’s About the News to keep up on current events, further critical thinking skills, broaden vocabulary & geographical knowledge…the list of benefits goes on & on.  A wonderful resource.  In the past I’ve had her choose an article herself from one of her many birding magazines & create a ‘6 Q’s’ for me to answer, but I’ve never required her to take on the task of reporter & journalist.  She wrote an article following our visit to the University of Iowa’s Paleontology Repository on Friday, September 19th.  The Collections Manager is in the process of reorganizing the entire million+ specimen collection–moving everything from the decades-old, wooden cabinets into state of the art specimen cabinets to provide better protection against dust and environmental fluctuations.  A staggering project.  I took photos (lighting was not great–no windows in the repository) while Coralee worked.  The Collections Manager is the mother of a young son herself & set up a tub of sand filled with small fossils for Merritt & June to dig through for treasures–so sweet of her.  Below the photos find Coralee’s article in full–hope you enjoy my “guest blogger.” :)




I found the backstory behind each fossil fascinating. This particular Brachiopod specimen was found by a “Junior Paleontologist” just a few miles from our home in 1943!


Coralee’s fossil on the bottom.






New cabinets.


Over the course of the last five years, my brother and I have been pulling up strange fossils from our creek bed in Benton County, Iowa with little idea as to what creatures the fossils represented. A visit to Trowbridge Hall at the University of Iowa changed my initial guesses of shells, beehives, and mushrooms to something much, much older and completely out of place on the fields and prairies of Iowa today.

Approximately 375 million years ago, during the Devonian Period, Iowa was much like the Bahamas, covered by a shallow sea. Iowa lay below the equator at this time and was absolutely swarming with life. It wasn’t until I began my 7th grade science project that I discovered all our fossils were from the Devonian. Following two weeks of research at the library and online I still could not identify the fossils with absolute certainty. I had to talk to a professional about my collection. I made a trip to Iowa City to consult with Tiffany Adrain.

Tiffany Adrain is the Collections Manager at the University of Iowa’s Paleontology Collection. Ms. Adrain started working at museums in London when she was 15 years old. As we enter the collection room, she tells us the collection has fossils from all over the world. The room is crammed with rows upon rows of floor-to-ceiling cabinets full of fossils (mostly procured from private collections). “I’ve been here for ten years and I still haven’t opened all the drawers,” she tells me with a laugh.

After introductions we get right down to business. First Ms. Adrain and I pick a fossil from my collection and hypothesize what type of Devonian creature it might represent. Then we start the fun part. Ms. Adrain opens a marked cabinet that has potential. We search for a fossil match or as close as we can manage. It isn’t as simple as it seems. The drawers are organized by scientific name, sometimes down to specific species and those are pretty tricky to figure out. Spirifera cedarensis, for example, is the scientific name for the brachiopods I found. A brachiopod is a shelled filter feeder much like a mollusk today, but not related. The word Spirifera is the genus (or group) that this shelled creature belongs to and cedarensis is the name for its species. There can be a lot of different species belonging to a genus. For about an hour we search through drawers and label most of my fossils with a genus and some with a genus and species designation.

As my visit came to a close, we packed the now-labeled fossils into my shoe boxes, signed the Paleontology Collections guest book, said our farewells, and headed for the elevator.  Weaving our way back to the North Parking Ramp, through the student-saturated campus, I had time to reflect. I’ve heard it said many times “you can have an adventure even in your own backyard”. This literally proved true for me. This adventure of mine started with a single coral fossil pulled from a creek bed six years ago this November. A fossil I thought was some sort of beehive. My visit to Tiffany Adrain and her amazing collection took me far from that creek bed to below the equator and back 500 million years. And I didn’t even leave Iowa.


Yarn Along {& Audubon}






I’ve been pouring over the latest issue of Audubon this week.  The State of the Birds Report for 2014 also came out this month & it was surely depressing in many ways, especially the list of Common Birds in Steep Decline:

Northern Pintail
American Wigeon
Cinnamon Teal
Greater Scaup
Long-tailed Duck
Scaled Quail
Northern Bobwhite
Purple Gallinule
Franklin’s Gull
Herring Gull
Black Tern
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Snowy Owl
Short-eared Owl
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Loggerhead Shrike
Horned Lark
Bank Swallow
Varied Thrush
Snow Bunting
Cape May Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Field Sparrow
Lark Bunting
Grasshopper Sparrow
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Brewer’s Blackbird
Common Grackle
Pine Siskin

Did you spot a favorite or two?  There were a few bright statistics in shorebird populations and forest-dependent species in specific areas of the country, but for the most part the Report was worrying to someone like me who loves to bird.  Declining bird populations are often a harbinger of habitat distress & even if one doesn’t bird or birdwatch or even like birds (gasp! really?!!), the state of birds can tell a lot about the future of human existence & the world our grandchildren & great-grandchildren will one day delight in without us.  I was most upset to read the Eastern Meadowlark was in steep decline & mostly due to habitat loss as a result of farming fencerow to fencerow…enough said, I suppose,  I live in Iowa where the ghosts of prairies-past whisper quite weakly nowadays.  It’s proven difficult for a patch of grass to claim a ditch anymore.  Thankfully, the Meadowlark’s decline seems to have stabilized at this low point due to efforts to conserve more grasslands (mostly outside of Iowa), but a leveling out at the bottom of the pitch doesn’t seem like a great solution.

I’ve been knitting a custom Sleigh Ride Cap in pale pink Merino wool for an Etsy order.  I use the immensely popular Justine Turner pattern Aviatrix for my Sleigh Ride Caps. {My Ravelry notes for one of the many I’ve knit.}  Yes, the pattern has a cottage license which I adhere to as written.  Seriously, Aviatrix is the BEST newborn/baby/toddler cap pattern EVER.  And the pattern is free!  Such a well-written pattern.  So well-fitting.  So cleverly-designed.  I just love it.  Highly recommend it.  I usually put a double-stacked knit flower on the right side of the cap, over the place where the chin strap fastens.  I also knit this cap without the strap for newborns–brilliant as a little “Amelia Earhart” cap for girls or an old-fashioned football helmet cap for boys.

June has been keeping track of the first maple in our yard to put on her Autumn finery & is still wearing her own Autumn finery. ;)  She was very impressed with the large red leaf she found on the ground yesterday, as evidenced by her expression in the second-to-last photo.  We also rediscovered our Purl Bee Hedgehog this week & he’s been showing up all over the house.  Another fantastic pattern.  I’m using the same yarn for the Sleigh Ride Cap as I did for Hedgie’s charming pink face & belly.

Joining in with Ginny