Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'll Bet You've Been Wondering ...

"Now why don't she write?"
The flight back home from Japan at the peak of summer with two cats and the teenage Son was hellish. Flying is not what it used to be. I feel safer flying overseas than I do here in the U.S. in spite of all of the yelling, partial disrobing and general chaos. None of this goes on in Japan. But I am home! And so thrilled to be here.
There has been so much to do that I haven't had time to do much writing.
One of the first things that had to be done was I had to have my friend Danny come and "take care of" the 13 roosters that we had running about the place. My hens were hating life and as the "boys" started up at 0'dark thirty every morning I'm sure my neighbors were hating me.
Oddly enough I had this one poor little naked chicken ... and she had been naked for a while mind you. Suddenly she has feathers again! I suspect that one of the boys" was plucking her bald ... poor thing.
The sheep are off on their yearly "conjugal visit" with my friend Ray's rams. They should be home in a week or so. I am a fair weather shepherd for sure! None of this lambing in February stuff for me ... oh no ... I lamb at the end of March.
In knitting ... I am spinning up a black fleece from 2 years ago (oh yea ... I am that far behind) to knit the Cobblestone sweater from the Fall IK for the Son. I have no idea if he will actually wear it ... but I am hopeful. I am also working on a pair of socks for the Husband and a pair of House Socks for the Daughter. Pics soon.
Hmm tried to put a picture here ... blogger not so cooperative. Maybe next time.

Down from the mountain
The nightingales last visit
Brings with it the snow.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Far and Boundless Sea

That is what I will be crossing in a week as I begin my completely unexpected move from Japan and back to Idaho. Well, not unexpected so much as a year early. Still, I am running around like mad trying to wrap up my affairs here. Last night I had dinner with my last classes of students. It was fun, but my head tells me this morning that the water glass of shoju combined with the two beers I drank was a bit over the top. I actually thought it was water ... until the third gulp ... my friends loved it.

I know that I have been remiss in posting about my trip to China with the Daughter. It was wonderful,sad, and scary. If you would like to see why real Communism (vs. the theoretical type) cannot work ... go there and see for yourself. I have truly never seen a people so beaten down and so hopeless. I also saw some of the most amazing architectural wonders on earth.

OK ... I was looking for my pictures from the Great Wall and cannot find them. This is the oldest tea house in Shanghai. It was wonderful and right by the Yu Gardens which were amazing.

I will try to find the rest of the pictures and post those in a week or so.

Peking was the most depressing for me. I truly feel that China may become a world economic power only because it is so willing to let anyone with two cents to rub together exploit their people for them. And the U.S. is right at the front of the line. Followed by Russia, France and everyone else seeking the way to cheap and unaccountable labor.
Enough on that front ... more on China soon.

In knitting I am still where I was last time on the sock. It's embarrassing, I know. I am checking daily to see if the new IK is in at the book store. I am hoping that they may have changed the format (again) back to where the pattern is all right there with the pictures. We shall see.
But the object of my desire is the pattern for the men's sweater by Jared Flood of the blog Brooklyntweed fame. It is called Cobblestone Pullover and I think this may be the sweater that my son gets for Christmas. I have some beautiful black-shot-with-silver roving from one of the lambs last year that I think I will spin up. I think it will work out nicely. Plus I have like fifty giant balls of roving that I have to get to spinning or I will be sleeping in the barn. I did send some to a friend (read poor unsuspecting cyber friend who has never met me and therefor cannot hunt me down to return them) and he seems quite pleased with his spinning results. I do love lambs wool which is so light and springy.

The moon peeking in
Having such dreams ... I cry out
The crickets answer.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Doldrums

It's true ... like the sailors of old, I have been seriously languishing here. The Daughter headed back to her job and school and as usual that was a real show stopper for me. But the weather has turned, mostly, and so my mood is a bit better. That and I am going to get to go home to Idaho for about 6 weeks. The reason is not the best ... but I am looking past that to the idea of spending some serious time with my friends and my spinning wheel and my knitting.

Here in Japan it has been cool and rainy (60-ish most days) the perfect weather for the hydrangea that are blooming everywhere. They are in the most incredible colours here ... just amazing. And then, this week, out came the sun ... and *poof!* it is in the 80's with a gazzillion percent humidity ... not too good for the hydrangea but a welcome sight for me.

On the needles I have the second of a pair of socks by Sundara called grape hyacinth after the yarn colour. These are beautiful yarns ... absolutely lovely. But as with all socks ... I am not so keen on knitting the second one. But I am plugging on. I did have to change the pattern a bit when it occurred to me that the cabling might not fit into my clogs so well. So I stopped cabling a bit early. But otherwise they are knit as written.
I ordered some other yarn this week as well. From and I can hardly wait to see it. I ordered both of the Brother Amos colourways although it is the Brimstone one that I am after. Both inspired by Brenda Dayne at Cast- On and sure to be great! Not that I need more yarn, mind you, but I could not say no.
Well enough rambling for now ... a slight breeze has come up and I think I'll be sailing off for a bit. But I will post China pictures soon ... that was quite the adventure.
The bee emerges
Drunk with nectar ... stumbles off
To drink again.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Country Roads ...

So the Daughter and I are driving around Lake Towada and she sees a sign ... "Christ's Tomb" that-a-way. And off we go into the Japanese countryside. And when we came to Shingo Village (google it for more info) this is what we found. The grave of Christ where he was buried after dying at the age of 109 and fathering seven daughters. He still has family in the local area and every year there is a festival with dances and songs in what linguists think is ancient Hebrew. How you may ask ... I don't know ... but I bet the Jesuit's were really surprised when they arrived several hundred years ago and found all of this legend already in place. It is a beautiful spot ... quite tranquil.

The way to Lake Towada winds up Oriase Gorge ... An extremely beautiful spot with wonderful trails and amazing scenery at every turn.

I had to hurry to get this post up as I am leaving with the Daughter tomorrow for Beijing. So, pictures to follow on that when we return. Bye .....

Saturday, June 2, 2007

And We'll Have Fun, Fun, Fun ...

We are back from Tokyo ... for days and days I know. The Daughter did not remember riding on the Shinkansen (the Bullet Train) when she was younger and so had a great time on the train. It is quite the cultural experience with the trolly girls and the amazing scenery whipping by. I highly recommend it and wish that the U.S. would develop something similar. It is the preferred form of travel here that's for sure. While we were in Tokyo ... but before the Daughters arrival ... we happened on a Temple festival that no one could tell us what it was about. But an amazing number of adult men were dressed in very, very short kimonos and not much else. So we dubbed it "The Naked Butt Festival". And we had huge fun!

There were parades of these men carrying huge golden shrines and dancing all around the Asakusa Temple complex.

And then later we went to the Meiji Shrine which is my favorite place in Tokyo. It is a huge park in the center of the city. But once you are in the heart of the park you would never know that you were anywhere other than in a beautiful forest. And there we saw several weddings and met some enterprising young students who were offering free guided tours in English so that they could practice the language. It was a brilliant day!

This picture shows the largest Tori Gate in Japan. And the Daughter ... of course!

The brides all looked scared to death. But I would be too with several dozen "foreign devils" snapping my picture ... not too mention the other 30 or 40 of their fellow countrymen doing the same picture snapping.

More tomorrow ... a visit to Christ's tomb and some more pictures of northern Japan.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Things Are Not Always Equal

We are well into summer here in northern Japan. You can tell by the 50 degree temps and the pouring rain. But, no complaining here as some places still have snow. As you can see, the snow walls are still about 12-15 feet high in the mountains between here and Aomori City. So a little rain I can deal with. Although at one point today I was sure that it was snowing .... but it turns out that the petals were just blowing off of the mountain cherries in the forest across from my house. Still, for a moment I was prepared for the worst.
I leave tomorrow for Tokyo. Four blissful days to myself with my friend Anna and being joined by the Daughter who is coming home for a bit of the summer. Anna went to the sumo tournament yesterday and had the time of her life she says. We watched it on the television at the Club bar ... but we never saw her ... just a bunch of very large very sweaty men. In strange skirts. With amazing hair. What more could I say?

I will try to take some pictures of the Meiji Shrine (my favorite place in Tokyo) and the kids at Harajuku which is always exciting ... but especially so at the weekend. I will try to get my Chinese visa going at the Chinese Embassy with the help of the Daughter who is studying Chinese. And I will be knitting. On a sweater that I decided at the last minute I will need on my trip to China where I believe they may actually have summer so this may not be the best idea. But it is cotton. So maybe that will help. And I will put pictures up when I get a chance ... no no really, I promise.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Golden Week

And what a Golden Week it was! These are the carp flags that fly over most if the houses here this time of year to celebrate Boy's Day (now called Children's Day). Some houses have 7 or 8 flying out front and in a stiff wind they wriggle just like live carp do ... very pretty. Also, celebrated this week was the former Emperor's birthday which is now called Green Day and several other holidays which I cannot remember off the top of my head right now.

This was one of three week long holiday celebrations that we have here. The others being Oban (celebration of the dead) and New Years. I think the Japanese do it right ... no onesies and twosies ... no, they go for the whole week. And to make it even better the cherry blossoms chose this week to bloom. No small deal after the freak blizzard we had one night last week which set them back a day or two I am sure.

So this post is a bit picture heavy but that is what this time of year is all about ... the beauty.

And then we had a huge rain storm and the petals piled up like snow ... but still amazing.

As she walks past me
A veil of cherry blossoms
Covers her dark hair.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

'Tis the Season

Here in Japan the flower viewing season is already in full swing despite the fact that there is still snow on the ground in some areas and the average daily high hovers near 50F. This little plant is the first of the season so far and is called "zazen-so" for it's resemblance to a monk sitting in meditation. The little "hut" is a beautiful red plum colour and the little golden monk sits inside shedding pollen like a mad man. The viewing of various flowers is a long standing tradition in Japan with the most famous and the most attended being the arrival of the cherry blossoms ... second only to the turning of the maple leaves in the fall. In a few weeks the cherry blossoms will arrive and the transformation is nothing short of astounding. I will head out to Hirosaki Castle for a Cherry Blossom Viewing Party with my friends ... pictures to follow. It is such a huge deal here that the head of the Japanese Meteorological Society made a public appearance this year to very publicly bow and apologize for his inaccuracy in predicting the cherry blossoms arrival this spring. Sounds silly I know but every corporation/company/office/social group/family will have a party and prime areas are booked in advance for optimum viewing. This is big business here so his mistake was not looked upon lightly.

Next on the viewing agenda is the skunk cabbages. They reach their peak on the first day of cherry blossom viewing. We will head up into the Hakkoda mountains and spend the day among them. Then down into the valley for a small cherry blossom party that evening to start things off for the 3 days of prime viewing.

On the needles I am just about to finish up a shawl that I am knitting for myself out of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in a beautiful mossy green. My only complaint with this very soft yarn is that it seems a bit hairy. I have hope that it will wash up nicely and I will put a picture of it up next week. I am also still knitting red wool socks for the Daughter for her rowing adventure. An endless task that is really starting to put me off of socks ... and so I am starting a pretty pair of socks for a friend of mine for her birthday ... no pictures till the birthday girl gets them as she is one of the few who reads this post. But I am hoping this will re-inspire me to do more socks. Maybe if I could just get away from reds .... hmmm.

And as winter has yet to leave us completely:

Making tea for you

The plum tree in the garden

Holds blossoms of snow.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Someone's Over-achieving

Found this beauty in the hen house last week. Unbelievable! Someone in the henhouse is setting new records for egg size that's for sure. Not too much other news on the farm front. Sheared the last of my lambs. I need to decide if I want to stay in the wool business or maybe just raise enough meat sheep to eat every year. Oddly enough I can buy wool cheaper than I can raise it but there is no guarantee that that will last. Ahh, decisions decisions.

On the needles are socks for Katie who is now on the men's rowing team at school and spends much of her spare time on the water and wet. So washable wool socks ... and more wool socks ... and ... well you get the picture. And I am starting a pair of Norwegian mittens ... my first foray into stranded knitting. What could possible go wrong.

On the wool front ... I was given some white Lincoln lamb's wool ... there are few things that are more beautiful. So I will wash it today and get it out to dry. No time to get much else done with it but it should still be here I get back. I have several other Lincoln lamb fleeces that are done so I am hoping to make a sweater out of them eventually. It should wear forever!

I head back to Japan on Saturday. I think it will be ok this time. Cold though after what has been the warmest March ever here. I think it might still be flurrying there. But soon it will be cherry blossom season which is amazing ... there is no other way to describe it really. And now that I have broken the code on the digital camera I will be able to post pictures. Later ....

And when I saw

That you would not come again

I barred the door

So none could enter.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Home on the Range

So, I finally have the pics of the sweater .... which did look better after blocking but which will never be an office sweater. I was a bit disappointed by that ... but it will make a great around the house sweater. In the meantime I am busy looking through all of my knitting books and patterns in the hope that I will find my next sweater project. And since I am now in Idaho I have even more patterns to choose from. Ahhhh ... it is so good to be home.

Today, I will head out to check on my lambs and see about shearing them and tomorrow I go out to help another friend of mine shear his sheep. I have cleaned out the chicken coop and done some repair work in the barn. This is definitely my kind of vacation. Next week I will get the garden cleaned up some and then wander around aimlessly looking for some more to do. If only I could order from my seed catalogs ....
The weather here has been amazing! Mostly 50's and 60's. In Japan it has decided to snow a bit. Not enough to matter, really, but I am sure it is appreciated. But here, we will have perfect shearing weather ... dry and just warm enough that you can work in a T-shirt without catching pneumonia. Now if none of the rams try to kill me all will be well. And I should have the chance to buy some beautiful fleeces ... 'cause you can never have enough wool.
Being home has been fun and a little weird. It is sad how everything has moved on without you. Your niche is filled with other people and other things. And everyone has a life that really doesn't have room for you. There is some shifting about of schedules and things to accommodate but it still seems odd. I know that when I get to move back home that things will shift to normal over time ... but for now I am a sort of guest. And yet, it is still heaven being home.
Rising before dawn,
In the dying moon's fair light
I journeyed home.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Not dead yet ...

Ok ... so the sweater is finished! (pics to follow in a day or so) I love how it turned out. The cables look great and the colour is perfect. Had the husband try it on and it hangs like a dishrag ... what happened there? So ... it has now been blocked and is drying in front of the living room heater ... oh ye gods!!! ... I hope this fixes the problem. Of course when he commented on it I acted like "Duh! It still needs to be blocked and then it will be fine!" I really really hope I don't end up eating those words.

I am leaving for a trip to the States on Saturday. Things that need to be done there are that the lambs that remain need to be sheared and the boys sent off. Shearing is a back breaking process that my friend Slick very kindly does for me. A year or so ago he helped me with a ram I had named Buck ... a creature that I can freely admit I hated with every fiber of my being and who has since caused me to come up with the idea of a new ram every year for one purpose and one purpose only ... ok, well that and food for the table. He felt the same about me and all humans near as I can tell. He would have gladly killed me and any other person stupid enough to get in the pen with him ... his own starvation not withstanding. I cannot say I miss him much. But he had an amazing fleece. Here is a before and after:

As you can see it took a while ... but I am sure he felt much better when all was said and done. And Slick and Delores have my undying friendship for being brave enough to do this for me.
I will post some shearing pics when I get home ... with the lambs it is not nearly so dramatic. But I do have to add that they really don't think much of the process overall.
On the needles now is the second sock of a pair that I started in December and then lost complete interest in. It won't take long and then I am planning on starting a pair of Norwegian mittens and possibly finishing a shawl that I started in October that was set aside in my Christmas knitting frenzy.
We are prepping for Spring here after one of the strangest winters ever ... for the first time in recorded history ( and here in Japan that is nothing to sneeze at) they have had a snowless winter in Tokyo. Here, we didn't even break the 24 inch measure ... and that in a place where we routinely get 15-18 feet. But, in another month we should see the glorious cherry blossoms and bright blue skies ... it will be beautiful! But today it is windy, which is normal, with a screaming north wind ... perhaps tomorrow will be better.
I can see the trees
Through my window ... yearning
To follow the wind.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Time flies ...

Snow! Yes we finally have a bit of snow to shovel. Just for reference, here in northern Japan, I should have had about 10 feet of snow by now with 3 feet of it still on the ground. This little bit is as good as it is going to get this year I am afraid. Instead it has been in the 40's and 50's and we have a had a good bit of rain. Not so good for snow shoeing.

The sweater is coming along famously in spite of my having had to start it over several times. I am done with the back and about halfway up the front. The cables have proven to be a piece of cake ... I am not sure why I was convinced they were so complicated. I am now planning to do some more cables since they have proven to be so much fun. And I love cables. All because of a certain sweater adventure.

My favorite sweater is a beautiful green cabled pullover that I bought next to the Hill of Tara while on vacation with my good friend Kathy. We had SO much fun. And I do have to say that Ireland is one of the most beautiful and hospitable counties I have ever been to. And the Hill of Tara is stunning. And my sweater is gorgeous. It is a dark tweedy green that has tiny little flecks of bright yellow and pink and blue mixed into the yarn. They were completely unnoticeable in the little shop where we were trying sweaters on. All I could really tell was that it was a deep green. Kathy was looking at black and at a beautiful charcoal colour. She works in the fashion industry where they can only wear black ... which I suppose is why they can so shamelessly condemn the rest of us to 70's appliance colours ... after all, it's not like THEY will have to wear them. Anyway, we had a great time and I came home (to Hawaii) with the most beautiful wool sweater I had ever seen.

I will try to post pictures of the sweater I am working on next week when I will hopefully have it finished.

My friend Brenda made a statement the other day that I thought was very true. "We could all use a little peotry every day". So in this light, and since I am here in Japan, I thought that I would end with a haiku ...

Darkness all around

But still, I think I'll sit here

Listening to the snow.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Yelling down a well .....

This blog thing is a bit like yelling down a well ... no idea if the sprites at the bottom are listening or not. But I hope it might help me organize my thoughts a bit. And provide a bit of a laugh for the poors dears swimming about below.
I have decided to start a sweater for my husband. This was not done lightly as this will be only my second one and the first one, once finished, didn't have the slightest resemblance to the picture on the pattern that I used. The front turned out longer than the back ... and the handspun yarn didn't spin up the same shade in every skein. And it was supposed to be a cowl neck ... tunic style sweater. But my daughter asked if I could make it shorter ... and since it was my first one I said "sure ... how hard can THAT be". Oh, and she didn't really like turtle neck things so could I change that too? And I thought "Sure, what could possibly go wrong"? This is how it turned out. A bit different ... but she kindly wears it. She even says she likes it. I love my children.
What prompted my thinking that I would knit another sweater is the fact that, here in Japan, buildings are not heated during non-business hours. This means that the pub we go to, Paddy's Irish Pub, is frigid for the first hour or two after opening. Believe me ... a person needs a sweater on to get through that first pint. Or the second for that matter.
I'm getting ready to cast on for the third time this evening. Somehow in the first 20 times I read the pattern I overlooked the fact that you need to cast on and work the first few inches of ribbing on smaller needles. The pattern is from KnitPicks ... called the "One For The Whole Clan" sweater by Sue Minks. Makes a great first sweater for the beginner knitter ... so I am off to a great start. Third times a charm .... wish me luck!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

... no footprints in the dust behind us ...

At the urging of several friends I have been dragged into the new century and started a blog of my own. I suppose they became somewhat tired of my living vicariously through theirs ... ah well, what are friends for if not to make us better than we would otherwise be on our own.
I am hoping to share my knitting ... and my farm experiences ... and my travel. I currently live in Japan while missing my small ranch in Idaho something fierce.
On the needles I have a shawl that I was sure I could not live without ... about 3/4 done and about to be frogged ... turns out I can do without it ... but I also think the yarn will make a beautiful sweater that I could wear more often. It is/will be knit in Lamb's Pride superwash bulky in a wonderful colour called "Northern Lights" with a border and collar in white.
Just finished is a hat for my husband that I knitted using a pattern idea from Franklin at where in spite of the fact that I read it a dozen times I was still able to leave out the spacing stitches so that instead of cables I ended up with a sort of ribbony/twining effect ... pretty but not exactly what I was going for. And although he states that 100 stitches should be plenty unless you have a "freakishly large head" the darn thing barely fits. Guess I know where that puts us ...