It started with the tree.

The mimosa tree, planted the first spring I lived in this house, had become a thing of beauty loved by myself and all of the neighbors. It grew with a fairly short main trunk which divided into two major branches, holding its broad umbrella canopy partly over my back yard and partly over my right-hand neighbors’ yard – one limb each. They have a two-story house, and very much enjoyed looking out of their upper windows onto its smoky pink blossoms. I spent a lot of time watching the scrappy little hummingbirds chase each other around while arguing over the best flowers. I loved the way all of its leaves closed up after dark. On warm summer evenings, I always made sure to tell it good night. It was always the last thing to wake up in the spring, and the last to go to sleep in the fall.

This year, right before Thanksgiving (that’s at the end of November for you non-USA readers), we had several days of high winds and pounding rain and general icky weather. But the house and the yard held up quite nicely and life went on.

One day, I was minding my own business when I heard a loud creeeeeeek craaaaaaack BANG! [house shake] whummmmp sound of pattering cat feet high-tailing it to parts unknown

What are you guys doing? I said as I strode purposefully down the hall. Because Moo Cow and Captain Kidd had acted guilty, so I was immediately suspicious. But as I wandered through the house, nothing seemed amiss. I looked out the front window. Everything looked OK. I looked out the back door.

alas, poor tree, I knew it well...
alas, poor tree, I knew it well…

My tree!

My beautiful, beloved mimosa had split in two, right down the trunk. Sadly I went outside to survey the damage. The limb overhanging the neighbors’ yard still stood. The part overhanging my grape arbor was down. But, thoughtfully, it had missed every major structure in the yard, including the house and back fence. My little backyard head sculpture (named Todd the weather god long ago by #1 Son) sat sadly amongst the litter of branches and seed pods, with one grape leaf clinging forlornly to its forehead. The only bit of damage appeared to be the last 2×4 slat on the arbor, which had been knocked off but not broken, and possibly a minor limb or two on the mini cherry trees.

But the mimosa…

The split started at the divide of the major branches and went nearly to the ground. It was something of a miracle that half still stood. And it was a good thing, as that half would have taken out the fence and most likely done some damage to their yard and maybe their house. It was fairly obvious the tree could not be saved.

With great sadness I contact the Yard Guy and told him that the tree would need to be removed, and he might as well do the winter clean up while he was here. We’ll come next Monday, he replied, and added That’s too bad. I always liked that tree. It was a really pretty one. We’ll clean your gutters while were there, too.

I made a mental note to check the grape vines over the weekend and see where all they’d gotten to. The grapes have a tendency to want to come in the house, and have been known to wrap themselves around #1 Son’s bedroom window and through the window screen, which is right there next to them. I wanted to show the vine the error of its ways before the Yard Guy came, and at least pull it away from the shutter.

On Thursday, my cell phone rang just as I was walking into a meeting. Since the meeting hadn’t started yet, I answered.

Hello. This is Alarm Central Monitoring. We have detected a breach in security at your house. It appears that one of your bedroom windows has been compromised. We have dispatched the Sheriff and he should arrive momentarily. (yes, they really do talk like that)

I felt an immediate surge of adrenalin and was instantly on high alert. I’m leaving now and I’ll be home in 20 minutes. The Sheriff can call me at this number. I poked my head in the door of the meeting room and said, sorry, gotta go, house being burgled and ran for the parking lot. As I ran, and drove, I wondered if the cats were OK, and the computers, and the special big plastic box, and the yarn stash (surely they would not want my yarn stash?). Oh the poor cats. Kidd would freak out and die outside in the cold. Had I really remembered to store all of the exceedingly important files off site? My house!

Half way home, my cell rang again. Hi. This is the Sheriff. I checked out your house, and everything looks OK. There’s a crew there doing some yard work. Looks like they rattled the window or something. But everything was locked up tight. I don’t think you need to hurry home. Looks OK!

Todd the weather god
Todd the weather god

Yard crew? The Yard Guy wasn’t supposed to be there until Monday. WTF? Would burglars act like a yard crew in order to throw the Sheriff off? Would the Sheriff buy it? (And, most importantly, would the burglars do some yard work while they were at it?)

I thanked the Sheriff and proceeded home. And, sure enough, there was Yard Guy and his crew. The mimosa (RIP) lay in pieces on the font lawn while a couple of guys cut it up and tossed it into a big truck. Many loud, gas-powered, testosterone-driven tools were at work, drowning out the neighborhood peace. Yard Guy was in the back of the truck, loading up tree parts. I walked over. Hi there! I wasn’t expecting you today. I shouted.

Yard Guy: We weren’t doing much today, so I decided we might as well come over and take your tree out and do your clean up. Did you know the Sheriff was here?

Me: Yeah. I am aware of that. That’s sort of why I’m here.

Yard Guy: Oh! Yeah. I rattled a back window or something, getting the grape vines off of it. Apparently your alarm went off, but I didn’t hear it. It might still be going off. Come in the back yard and I’ll show you what were were doing.

Now, gentle reader, my alarm is very loud. I have set it off a time or two myself, accidentally. Not only does it use a piercingly shrieking, air-raid siren loud alarm, but it yells at you. In English. Warning! You have entered a secured area. Leave immediately! The entire neighborhood can hear it. The fact that, standing in my back yard, I could not hear it at all – and in fact could barely hear it with my ear pressed against the window – gives you an idea of the noise being generated by the yard crew and their myriad tools.

I went inside, where the sound of the alarm was quite noticeable, and shut it off. Then went back outside to shout have a conversation with Yard Guy.

Yard Guy: I thought I sort of heard something. But nobody else could hear it, so we just ignored it. Do you want me to put that 2×4 back up on the arbor?

Me: Yes, please. That would be very nice of you.

As well as taking out the tree and mending the arbor, they also cleaned out the gutters (and repaired one that was coming loose), trimmed and pruned and edged, and got the yard ready for winter. I really do love Yard Guy and his crew. They do a wonderful job. It was just that they didn’t come when expected, and I didn’t have time to get ready for them. Unfortunate, you know.

And it didn’t end there…

Next… there is more… and maybe knitting, too.

feisty robin
feisty robin

A very happy holidy to you, gentle reader! I hope that you are warm and safe and have your loved ones tucked in around you. I wish you peace and joy and yarny goodness.

I wanted to share with you something that has greatly entertained me over the last week or so. (I’m snowed in. I’m easily entertained, trust me.)

Do you see the little robin perched on my neighbor’s back fence? This little guy discovered the Asian pear tree when the snow first started falling. Having found what must seem like a 5-start robin restaurant, he has been guarding it from all comers, and apparently even sleeping next to it. I have watched him stand off a whole little flock of robins and other birds that had designs on his tree. At one point I heard a loud chatter and scolding and peaked out the back door to see a very surprised looking falcon perched on the fence post. I doubt that the falcon wanted Asia pears, but I’m surprised he didn’t take the robin.

I love this little guy’s feistiness and attitude. It will be interesting to see if he sticks around once the snow thaws – which should be soon!

sizzling garden
sizzling garden

A week ago last Saturday, I taught a sock class at a LYS, came home and went to bed. And there I stayed for several days, fighting off some chesty, 102F fever, cold thing. Last week my world contracted to include only necessary tasks: Feeding the fur kids, drinking lots of liquids, teleconferences I could not avoid or delegate, and as much sleep as I could get between bouts of coughing. I left the house only once, and only because I had completely scraped the bottom of the cat-food barrel, the kids had not had breakfast, it was now dinner time and three pairs of eyes were glaring at me accusingly. There is only one place on the entire metro-area west-side where the only food that Kidd can (and will) eat is available. I crawled over there, figuratively speaking, and crawled home. The fur kids were pleased. I went back to bed.

Then one of those bizarre flash heat-waves that we in Portland just love hit. I was actually sort of glad because the heat has been fairly effectively baking the ick out.

The first picture shows my garden sizzling under 100F (that’s like 38C or so). Note that I am standing in the shade of the grape arbor. It was almost tolerable in the shade. In the sun, it was very, very hot.

water applied
water applied

A mere 24 hours later, this was the scene. We’re having a summer thunderstorm. I am standing under the grape arbor in an effort to stay fairly dry. The rain, not content with flooding the street out front, has been having fun knocking the petals off the roses.

You know what happens when you pull a hot frying pan off the stove and put it directly under a running faucet? Sizzle. Steam. Sizzle. That’s about what it feels like now. But I did feel a cool breeze through the window just a bit ago. And the air smells so after-rain good.

I think the rain came because I watered my lawn this morning. Not that there’s really any connection there, you know. But… it’s odd how often that happens. Just saying.

But that’s not what I wanted to chat with you about today, gentle reader.

A while back I was one of a group of people in a workshop. At one point, the moderator asked us all to close our eyes and try not to think of anything until time was called. So I closed my eyes and dutifully attempted to clear my mind and waited and waited and waited until finally I heard time. We all agreed that the wait had seemed lengthy.

Now close your eyes again, the moderator said. But this time I want you to prioritize 5 things that you need to do when you leave here.

I made it through about 3 or 4 things when I heard time. I couldn’t believe that we’d been given such a short period to do this task, when the previous period had been so long.

Well… it turned out that both had been exactly 10 seconds.

You can try this yourself, gentle reader. You will need someone to help you with timing. But it’s worth trying. Go ahead. I’ll wait right here.

Back? Isn’t it amazing? The point of the whole exercise was that time may seem very different to one who has nothing to do but wait for another, in contrast to how time seems to the one who is frantically trying to get something for the one who’s waiting. Time really is relative. Or, as Einstein said, Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.

This week, when my focus was narrowed by illness, time hung heavy through the long nights. At one point I remember thinking, why aren’t the days this long when I feel good enough to do something besides lie here and cough my lungs out? And the answer, of course, is because then I have a bazillion things that have to be done right now and I can barely keep the list of the top 5 prioritized in my brain, let alone actually take care of them.

For years I’ve had an internal dialog with myself about how I’ll have lots of time, just as soon as some future event happens: #1 Son learns how to drive so I don’t have to cart him around. This project ends. #1 Son moves out. I get past the holidays.

Of course, it never happens. I never get caught up. When one task ends – be it obligation or recreation – another two or three arise to take its place. And most of them are things I like to do, and so time just flies. I’m afraid I will have to either pare my life down to nothing or only do things I don’t like so it feels like they take longer. Neither choice seems palatable.

How do you deal with all of the forty-seven-million things that are demanding your attention?

In The Garden |Knitting by Judy @ 11:26 AM


And I say it’s all right.

Gentle reader, I promise not to foist too many gratuitous garden pictures on you. But I had to show you my wisteria. It’s on a trellis right outside my bedroom window. This morning I woke to wisteria-perfume wafting through my open window on a gentle breeze.

That and a 16 lb cat demanding breakfast.

After the long, cold, dreary, dark winter, the sun is so glorious! I don’t even mind that it was almost 100 F yesterday. (I think that’s around 37 C.) I’m usually not a heat lover, but, oh man bring it on! I’m finally warm! Today is supposed to be a bit cooler, and tomorrow absolutely perfect.

Then we go back to rain. Probably until after July 4th because I remember only rare years when I didn’t freeze to death watching the fireworks.

I’m really hoping for a decent autumn this year, though. September is usually our best month, with long balmy days and cool (but not freezing) nights. The good weather lasts most years almost to Halloween. September is so good that almost every year there is talk of shifting the school year to leave September free. I love it also because the nice warm days let my grapes ripen. They are a late-season crop in my yard, and they need the sun. Last year it rained all September and October and my grapes mildewed before they could get ripe. I was bitterly disappointed – as were my neighbors, colleagues at work, and friends, all of whom usually share the bounty. Because of the cold spring, the grapes have been slow to take off, but they are making up for it. A week ago they were leafless. Today there are flower bud sprays all over the vines.

monkeys without borders
monkeys without borders

As I mentioned, I did get a bit of knitting time in this week.

As you can see, I am up to the ankles on the toe-up monkeys that I’m knitting with the special STR colorway: Knitters Without Borders.

I’m loving the way that this yarn is knitting up. There is a very definite white stripe, but it’s narrow. I did end up with a splooch of white during the gusset increases. On this sock it’s underneath the foot, but on the companion sock it’s smack-dab on top. Oh well. Adds interest.

I tried something new on these socks, too. New for me, at any rate. I knit my standard heel. But as soon as I started the gusset increases, I also started knitting heel stitch on the sole. After having blown out the bottoms of my two favorite pairs of socks, and having several other pairs that are looking a wee bit thin, I decided to see if a little reinforcement would help. You can just see the rows of heel stitch marching up to the heel turn.

Those of you who have knit one of my free patterns (links to the right, or under the Freebies button up top) know that my heel is a bit different from most toe-up flap-and-gusset heels. I have a narrow heel, and I totally suck at am challenged by the wrap-and-turn method of doing short rows. So my standard heel is turned over 1/4 of the total stitches. Instead of doing a wrap/turn, I do M1/turn or turn/M1. The increases serve two purposes: they fill in the gaps left by the short rows, and they increase the number of stitches from the 1/4 of the total that I started with to the 1/2 of the total that is needed for the heel flap. The end result is a cozy turn that hugs my heel and doesn’t slip or bag.

monkey heel
monkey heel

But it’s also not conducive to having any sort of pattern on the sole that would require matching up with a pattern on the flap. So I usually start the flap pattern (most likely heel stitch or eye of partridge, with or without a garter border) at the same time as I start the turn. But I already had the pattern established on the sole before I got to the turn. Eek!

Yes, I know that nobody is going to look at the bottom of my heels except me. Me and whatever knitters (you know who you are) who grab the in-progress socks from my hands in order to inspect them.

I solved the matchy-matchy problem by fudging a bit where I actually did the increases. The established pattern was Sl 1, K1, Sl 1, K1, Sl 1, K1, etc. I increased through the turn so that the end result was Sl 1, M1, K1, M1, Sl 1, M1, K1, M1, etc. When I finished the turn and knit across the short rows to start the flap, I went back to: Sl 1, K1, Sl 1, K1, Sl1, K1, etc. So the original Sl1 remained Sl1. The original K1 became a Sl1. And the M1 became the K1. I had to cable a couple of stitches around to make the count come out right, and that’s how the final new Sl 1 ended up right in the middle. It doesn’t look too bad, if I do say so myself. (The sole is to the left in the pic and the flap is to the right.)

And now I must be off. I have annoying things, like bill paying, that must be done. Plus I have some real work I must attend to this weekend. I so enjoy our chats together that I didn’t want to miss out sharing with you. But now I must do other things.

So I think I’ll drive over to Woodland Woolworks. The day is just too pretty to waste.

The title of this post reminds me that I still have a pair of socks that needs darning: the Rooster Feather Socks. I managed to blow out the heel on one of them. But I think I have some of that yarn left somewhere, so they won’t end up like the poor Snake River Socks with non-matching patches on the bottoms.

The socks I am working on now – toe-up Monkeys in the Knitters Without Borders colorway – have heels reinforced on the bottom. I can be taught, although I need to be whacked with a 2×4 for it to take it sometimes takes multiple repetitions.

I’ve been sick most of this week, but mending there as well now. Enforced inactivity has afforded some knitting time but, alas, no bloggage or photography or inventions. The garden is coming alive, though, and we’ve actually had a day of hot weather. We are promised another day or two of sun before the rot sets in again. I will snap some knitting and garden shots. My wisteria is really lovely this spring.

For today, I can only offer you this link, shamelessly stolen from Sam Klein at The ZehnKatzen Times: The 50 Worst Album Covers, as determined by Newsday. Some of these are so incredibly bad that they really defy description and it’s hard to believe they were ever published. (Some may be are offensive. You have been warned.) You can vote for your fav. I got a good chuckle out of the cover showing the sneering sleazeoid who looks like he’s about to deliver some particularly bad pick-up line. The title: Can I Borrow A Feeling.

In The Garden |Knitting |Techie Talk by Judy @ 9:36 PM

strange flower
strange flower

My camellia starts blooming around Christmas, and is done by the end of February. It’s bright and cheery pink flowers always lift my spirit when I see them through my kitchen and dining room windows during the dark, gloomy winter days. Each flower stays pink through its life. Then in the end they drop off whole and the ground around the bush is littered with pink and brown globes.

This year it’s continued to bloom, and it’s just finishing up now. This year, most of the flowers did their usual thing. Except for this one. I don’t know if it was because of the warm days followed by cold and wet again. But, this one turned orange. I was so surprised when I saw it that I ran out in the rain and snapped a picture.

It’s gone now. It didn’t leave in the normal way, either. The petals dropped off one by one, and the base of the flower is still on the tree.

Very strange.

I’m about 1/2 way up the legs on the clown barf stripy socks. Stay tuned for knitting news.

In techie news, I have upgraded to WordPress 2.5. Can’t say I’m entirely pleased with the admin panels. I had to hack the life out of the new media uploader and the write panels to make them usable. But there are other things I do like about it. So the jury is out. I’m used to hacking WP. But the previous release (2.3) finally incorporated most of my changes. Now I’m back at square one. Ah well.

I’ve looked at it under IE 7, Firefox and Safari and it looks OK. Let me know if you find anything broken.

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