Holding On

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We continue to celebrate the holiday season here in {mostly}snowless Iowa. Coralee & I spent some time out at the local nature center volunteering this past Sunday. It was a very bright sunny day made all the more so by it being one of the first in a long line of foggy grey. Not a single soul visited the Center on that glorious day, sadly. Perhaps folks were still traveling or enjoying the sunshine in their own backyards? In any case, Coralee & I locked up early & explored the trails surrounding the Center. The red oaks are still clothed in their decaying summer delights, which I recently learned is called marcescence. The sun illuminated the russet leaves & caught my attention. Wind pushed the leaves against one another & played a rattling tune of sorts across the desolate corn fields & pockets of sleeping prairie grass. We stepped quickly as it was brisk & our bodies are not quite used to cold temperatures yet. We saw not a single bird nor animal. As a matter of fact, we’ve gone birding quite a few times since Christmas Day & haven’t seen many birds at all. Found some snow-filled wolf tracks in a field adjacent to my father’s prairie in NW Wisconsin, as well as some pheasant tracks upon a berm of drifted snow against his fence line. Coralee, Merritt, & Brian saw a small flock of Common Redpolls on Christmas Day (also in NW WI)–so wish I had been along on that hike.  Enjoyed a visit with the Decorah eagles yesterday as part of Brian & my 13th wedding anniversary.  Coralee & I stood directly under one of the adult eagles perched high above in the tip of a tree; s/he peered down at us a few times.  That was something.

Beyond those few signs of life, it feels like the lands & its inhabitants are holding on, hiding, waiting on Old Man Winter…I’m sure he’ll arrive eventually to Iowa. We’ve got our snowshoes & skis ready.

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Little Goddess {Yarn Along}

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I’ve had in my yarn stash for some time (close to a decade) the remnants of a few skeins of Goddess Yarns ‘Phoebe’ and “Julia.’ I lost the labels long ago & I have no idea what I knit with the yarn that is now gone from the skeins. To be honest, I could not even remember the yarn’s name until this past Monday when I received an email from none other than Norah Gaughan herself–eek!  I knew the skeins were somehow connected to Norah…I could picture her name on the labels, but that was it.  My mommy-brain was refusing t0 retrieve the rest of the information for me.  I sent an email regarding the yarn using Norah’s website contact form & received a very quick response–isn’t that cool? Goddess Yarns. Yes! I remember now. Would I be able to find more? Nope, went out of business. That’s a real drag.  This yarn is pure bliss. Baby Alpaca (Phoebe) and a Wool/Kid Mohair/Alpaca blend (Julia). Thick, but springy. Plied. Aran/Worsted weight. It is divine. I’ve honestly never felt anything like it & I’ve knit with a lot of alpaca. What to do with the small amount I had left? I suppose I did what I always do–knit a hat, I’m boring–but it turned out to be the most beautiful hat, for my very own handknit-appreciating little goddess. She truly LOVES anything I knit her. It is just awesome. She’s been wearing the hat for two days straight–to bed, to eat, whenever we leave the house, playing in the house, hikes in the woods. She wants it on all the time. I would, too, if I had a hat made of Goddess Yarns. For the repeating Sugar Plum color I used Camilla’s merino single-ply (angel-soft). Three goddesses in one, no?

June & I took a long hike/walk yesterday afternoon.  Visited Prairie Creek while we waited for Merritt to arrive home on the bus.  She pretended to be a “racer” with two gnarly sticks she found in the woods.  In the evening after her bath she put her hat back on immediately.  I needed to comb her hair.  She told me she was hiding her hair so I couldn’t comb it…this little goddess has smarts.

I’m continuing to read Leopold’s Sand County Almanac–I think this will be my third full reading.  Also started Jon Krakauer’s Eiger Dreams–bought it in college when I was really into Mt. Everest (& Krakauer) & mountaineering, but don’t think I ever actually read all the stories in the slim, but stirring book.

Joining in with Ginny.

Cut, Split, Haul, Stack, Ponder: Leopold’s ‘Good Oak’

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Coralee's interpretation in colored pencil of the Patagonia cover art.

Coralee’s interpretation in colored pencil of the Patagonia cover art.

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Cover of the current Patagonia catalog; Half Dome in watercolor & ink by Jeremy Collins.

Patagonia catalog cover; watercolor & ink by Jeremy Collins. It’s all connected.

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Inside a split.

As Brian ran our (currently)working log splitter this past Sunday afternoon, I waited a few yards away for him to toss the splits for stacking. Our splitter is very old & was not originally manufactured to be a log splitter…there’s a great story there, but I don’t know all the particulars at the moment…it’s made from a hodge-podge of old tractor (?) parts & it’s from his father, I know that much.  It seems to relish operating properly for about a week at a time, then lying dormant for up to a year before gracing us with its abilities again…& only after we spend large sums of money replacing its various body parts.  Suffice to say, Brian usually chops wood by hand.

While stacking wood & waiting to stack wood, your mind wanders. I thought a lot, a lot, about Aldo Leopold’s essay “February: Good Oak” from A Sand County Almanac. I hope my photographs here are able to impart some of what Leopold refers to in that essay. I think it’s best summed up with one of his most famous quotes:

There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.  

To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue.  

To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside. If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from…

I don’t believe, of course, that burning wood (burning anything) makes me a conservationist…many would quite possibly think it makes me the opposite.  I will say we’ve never had to fell live trees to burn wood.  A windstorm three years back has now made it likely we won’t be wanting for wood for a decade or more around here.  I also realize that most of North America was once forested.  And I live in a region of the country that was once prairie for as far as the eye could wander.  Now it’s mostly corn, if it’s summer, and if it’s winter, as it is now, it’s mostly scarred land.  I keep ruminating on that word as I travel the state of Iowa this time of year…scarred.  The rows of green corn stalks are quite beautiful to behold in the summer, I’ll admit, undulating in the wind, mimicking the prairie grasses long displaced.  But the empty, aching land is troublesome in the winter.

Brian works a few times a month at an ethanol plant.

I live in Iowa.

I read Leopold.

I stack wood.

I ponder.

The words of “Good Oak” were written over 60 years ago…the lessons will never die.

There is much to ponder in a split of a wood.

Tiny {Yarn Along}

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bird feeders at rest, humbling sky

bird feeders at rest, humbling sky

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tosh tea cakes

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tiny flora’s tidy handwarmers

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in my etsy shop

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tiny newborn cap in Suri alpaca, in my etsy shop

I did not purposefully set out to find the tiny this week. I cast on some fairly hefty Christmas gifting projects this past weekend–a sweater for June & a starfish pillow for Merritt–but the yarn I chose did not match the projects as I had hoped & thus I ended up ripping out several hours worth of knitting by Saturday evening.

I found a box on Sunday of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light mini skeins that I bought last year around this time & forgot about, evidently. The box is called ‘Tosh Tea Cakes’ & it is a kit for garland from Jimmy Beans Wool. I thought about knitting the garland, but instead found myself knitting up tiny handwarmers with the mini skeins for the shop. Handwarmers so small they will probably never sell–what newborn wears handwarmers???–but it felt right to work on something tiny.  Tiny stitches.

I recently found the most wonderful shop on Etsy for tiny paintings of foxes. Foxes wearing handknits. Foxes hanging out by a campfire. Foxes hanging out by a cabin, by a cottage. And the best part is the canvas the artist paints these tiny masterpieces upon is sized 3 inches X 3 inches & each comes with a little easel on which to display your tiny work of art. Tiny beauty.

Our feeder has been receiving a very tiny amount of birds this week.  As opposed to the very large number last week. It’s cold, but there is no snow anymore.  Tiny visitors in tiny numbers.

I found myself knitting a tiny newborn cap yesterday in the softest Suri alpaca I’ve been saving from an alpaca farm down the road that went out of business.  Suri alpaca is just so soft, perfect for those new bundles that arrive Earthside, of which I’ve personally welcomed three living.  A tiny pleasure indeed.

So why the tiny?  I really wasn’t sure & then I read Leigh’s post regarding the beginning of Advent.  Thank you, Leigh, for making my random tiny-ness make perfect sense. xoxo

Joining in with Ginny.  Hope you find some tiny pleasures, too, this month.