Sunday, June 29, 2008

in which I wash more fleece

Screw the 100g at a time method. 

I washed half of my remaining fleece today (about 2lbs/1 kilo). I haven't weighed it; I'm just going by a visual of what's remaining in the bag. I did it in two batches, and I used the bathtub. Yes, I'm taking a risk of clogging the drain with lanolin, but I've poured a few kettlefuls of boiling water down the drain in an effort to rinse it all out. We shall see. If I clog the drain, then I know not to do this again!

I followed the same method of filling two plastic tubs with water, but since they were in the bathtub now, I could fill them much fuller and thus wash a greater quantity of fleece. (It takes a stronger person than I to carry two 15 gallon (about 55 liter) tubs full of water out to the backyard, so in the bathtub they sat.)

Other than that, same method. Wanna see how dirty the water is?

No, the little brown bits floating around are not sheep poop, but bits of fleece that got poured out with the water. Sheep poop is green. 

And the final product:

Saturday, June 28, 2008

in which there is more evidence that gender is learned

This is a very interesting article from the New York Times about the "sworn virgins" of Albania.

In this tribal, very patriarchal society, an unmarried woman in a family which has lost all its men can take a vow to be a "sworn virgin" and assume the male role in the family. They live like men. They know they are physically women, as does everybody else, but they live as, and are respected as, full male members of society except that they don't marry.

in which I learn a new skill

I got my spinning wheel today. It's an Ashford Kiwi, a budget wheel but good quality. I bought it unfinished, which lowered the cost by 1/3 and made it even more budget-friendly. Oscar picked it up from Roxi's shop today and I've been trying to wash the fleece that I bought at Black Sheep Gathering. 

For the first time, I regret getting rid of our old top-loading washer. I know the new, front-loader is much more water efficient (even if I have my doubts about how well it works. Sometimes things seem to come out not very clean.), but it doesn't have the traditional wash-rinse-spin cycle of the top loader. With the old washer, I could put my woolen garments in on the wash cycle without actually agitating, then just let them sit there in the water for as long as I wished, drain, rinse again, and gently spin. Woolens cleaned without danger of felting, and they dried much faster!

Oh, I wish I could do that with the fleece that I bought. As it is, I am washing it by handfuls following this technique and it's tedious. I have a four pound (2 kg) fleece and it doesn't seem like a lot but remember that sheep fleece is very fluffy. An armful weighs just about four ounces (about 100 grams) This one fleece fills an entire large plastic garbage bag. I also found out, to my chagrin, that I need to examine the dirty fleece for the bits that have poop on them because that doesn't come off in the wash. I knew that washing wouldn't get rid of the bits of vegetable matter in the fleece (the worst bits are usually discarded during shearing and the rest usually comes out when the fleece is combed or carded). 

I'd wash the whole darn thing in the tub if I didn't have to worry about all that lanolin clogging up the drain. And raw fleeces contain a LOT of lanolin. How much? Almost half of the raw weight is lanolin. My four pound fleece will weigh probably weigh just a little over 2 pounds after it's been washed and dried. (The man from Philosopher's Wool in Canada wrote very eloquently of his troubles with customs. He'd drive his raw wool from Ontario to a mill in Pennsylvania to be washed and carded, and he'd have trouble because the weight of the fleeces would vary so drastically pre-and post-preparation. Plus, sheep fleeces can absorb a lot of water, so if it were a rainy or even a really humid day when he crossed into PA, his fleece weights would be even higher.  He had to go in great details to explain that he wasn't selling any of his goods in the US, and thus didn't need to declare nor pay taxes on these goods he wasn't selling.)

Thankfully, the weather is warm and sunny so the little amount of fleece that I have washed should dry pretty quickly. I guess I could always stain my new wheel while the fleece is sitting in its water bath...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

in which I wonder if the male half of the population could possibly please explain this to me?

Male readers, help me understand your half of the population.

(And, no, I'm not talking this time about the repeated visits to this blog based on Google searches for "low cut sweater pics". There's at least one visit per day, if you are curious. From all over the world! However, this is outnumbered by visits from people looking for the sheep sculptures, and for some reason, this little blog has become a top search result. Most of the searches come from either Australia or New Zealand, for some reason. Welcome, Antipodeans!)

At Black Sheep Gathering last weekend, I bought a freshly shorn Rambouillet sheep fleece. I'm not quite sure why I bought an entire fleece, because I don't know how to spin. And if I wanted to learn to spin, there was plenty of cleaned, prepared fiber to choose from. (I have to wash this fleece, and then prepare the fiber for spinning.) But the fleece did smell quite nice. It had a pleasant barnyard smell, and all the lanolin in the wool actually smells really sweet and rather floral. (I thought lanolin baby oil was scented with something, but now I think that is really just the smell of the lanolin itself.)

While researching on teh Interwebs for some information on how to prepare a fleece for washing, I found a link for a site called Sounded like a good site, so I clicked and found that it's being cybersquatted. Perhaps in the past, that domain name was actually occupied by a site dedicated to spinning fibers, but no longer. Now, it's just a list of the search terms that led to the site which are mostly fiber arts related; but one really stands out: "make my dick bigger". 

Gentlemen, how the heck are spinning and dick size related? Is "spinning" some guy phrase that us estrogen-blessed folks are not aware of? Like some sort of Mason secret handshake?

(oh, and I like how there's an option to make my homepage.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

in which I am home again

Before I tell you all that I can remember about the Black Sheep Gathering, let me shout from the rooftops that my car gets 34 mpg with freeway driving! 250 miles on only 7 gallons of gas!!!! Also, the hundred miles of I5 north of Eugene are quite possibly the most boring miles to drive, even if you do pass through the grass seed capital of the world. (Kat said the scenery was quite nice but a flat, perfectly straight road is rather dull to drive). 

Lots of sheep and goats and alpacas. Next time I take a lot of pictures of livestock, I should take detailed notes because I can't remember what all the different sheep breeds are.

Anyway, some photos:
These are Jacob sheep.

Check out those horns!

I think this is a Shetland sheep, the traditional source for all those amazing Shetland shawls.
There were fleeces for sale, but Shetland fleeces were really expensive. Part of it may have been because it's a popular sheep wool, but I think another bit is because the sheep are rather small. One sheep just doesn't yield a lot of wool compared to other breeds. 

I think this is an angora goat (not to be confused with an angora rabbit).

Angora goats are the source of mohair fiber. 

This is a pygora.

Pygoras are a cross between a pygmy goat and angora goat. This creature was amazingly friendly and curious. Pygora fiber is also extremely soft and lovely. 

And this is my favorite animal of the entire fair--a Babydoll Southdown Sheep

These little guys are great. And I mean little, about 1/3 of the size of the larger sheep breeds, even smaller than the Shetland sheep. (I swear the Babydolls could walk under a merino or Rambouillet with room to spare.) They are about as tall as my dog Kate (about two feet high at the shoulder), extremely mellow and good natured. If I ever do decide to get a miniature sheep for natural lawn care (and wool), this is the breed I'd get. 

And the final pic for today:

One very annoyed sheep, breed unknown.

Friday, June 20, 2008

as if the radish wasn't funny enough

By NutandBee

Now click the link and find her other charming items.

in which I prepare for a road trip

This weekend, I will be going down to Oregon with my friends Kat and Ickyfishy. I met them both at the weekly knit group and joyously, both have morphed from "my knitting friends" to "my friends who also happen to knit".

That being said, we are going to Eugene to attend the Black Sheep Gathering, a wool/fiber festival. I've never been to wool festival before, and I thought it might be nice. We'll be there for two days, and if it turns out to be dull, there are plenty of other things going on in Eugene (like the Olympic Track and Field trials, which made finding lodging very challenging!)

I'm just happy to be going away somewhere. I'm really a homebody, but once in awhile I get the urge to travel somewhere. 

Since the cheap gas is now $4.50 a gallon (approximately $1.15 per liter), I figure there won't be too many other travelers on the road. :)

in which my garden delivers the unexpected

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

in which I reveal that Oscar is in love

Yes, it's true. Oscar is in love...with Stray Cat Edmund. 

How much in love? Well, Edmund just loves being around people, but doesn't like the dogs (he gave Kate a lovely scratch across her nose the other day) and the other cats are giving him some grief. 

So Oscar spent the night on the couch so that Edmund would have someone to snuggle with since the other animals hang out with me. 

Sunday, June 15, 2008

sick, wrong, but incredibly cute

A knitted dissected frog

I love it. 

in which this dog person muses about cats

For someone who considers herself a "dog person", I've been engaged in a lot of feline activity lately. 

1. My neighbor across the street found a litter of kittens in his garage and asked for some guidance on caring for them. He didn't want to take them to the Humane Society because he was sure they were just going to put them down because they were feral cats. I was able to convince him that young kittens can be socialized and make good pets, that the HS has made a commitment to being a no-kill shelter, and that young kittens are usually adopted within 48 hours. I'm glad that I was able to convince him to take the kittens to the shelter, because he was going just to put an ad on Craigslist. Nothing wrong with that, except that by taking the kittens to the shelter, they would get vet care and be spayed/neutered. His wife brought them by yesterday (they didn't want to go to the shelter) and the kittens were just the cutest things. They were younger than I thought, so something must have happened to the mother. The family did a good job of caring for them and socializing them because they weren't scared of us at all. 

2. We had let Stray Cat outside the other night. Before, he always hung around the yard but this time he didn't come back. I really goofed up when I introduced Stray Cat inside. Since he'd hung around the yard, and Sasha and Maggie were cool with that, even sleeping next to each other on the cat bed outside, I thought it would be ok to let Stray Cat in the house, without having to seclude him and introduce him to the house gradually. That was a mistake. Sasha does not like Stray Cat on his turf and has taken to bullying him inside and out. Last night, I found him at a neighbor's house and brought him back. I've secluded Stray Cat in the office now, and I hope things will work out all right. Maggie and Sasha had some spats right after we got her but now they are just fine together.  I posted an ad on Craigslist under lost pets and will call the HS tomorrow to see if anyone has reported him missing. 

3. I almost forgot about Kat's cats last night. I am caring for them while she and her husband are out of town. I've been going over during the evenings, and last night almost forgot because we had to take our dog Kate to the pet emergency clinic. We were clipping her nails and clipped on too far and it bled. A lot. I've clipped the quick on a dog's nail before but I've never seen that much blood. We tried alum powder, ice, pressure...nothing stopped it. So we took her in and got her bandaged up properly.  I didn't get to Kat's house until 10pm, and her cats finally seemed happy to see me. Day 1, they were a bit anxious. Day 2, completely indifferent. Day 3? "Ohmygodyouarehere!GiveuswetfoodNOW!" 

4. Kate's fine. We took off the bandage this morning and it was soaked with dried blood but thankfully, the bleeding had finally stopped and had started to heal.

5. Oh, and the sun finally came out this weekend and it actually feels like spring/summer might make an appearance. Yay!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

in which my handknit sweater continues to surprise

I washed it several days ago and spread it out on the wire shelf in the office to dry. The yarn is a wool/silk blend and guess what? Silk really stinks when it's wet. It smelled so bad that I was sure that a cat had peed on it. Nope, that's just the way it smells. I guess that's a good thing.

Before I made the sweater, I was a good knitter and made a gauge swatch. When knitting, the number of stitches per inch will determine your final measurements, so you do a gauge swatch of approximately four inches square (10cm x 10cm) to determine, and from a section in the middle of the swatch, count how many stitches there are in the four inches and divide by four to get an accurate stitches/inch. The bigger the item, the more important an accurate stitch count is. When making something which is 48" around (like the bust of a Fat Lady Sweater), the difference between 5 stitches/inch or 5.25 stitch/inch is a couple of extra inches. 

(It mad math skillz like this that make me such a good engineer. Hah! People think that engineers must be So Good at Math, but civil engineers are not the math geniuses. C'mon, we work with geometry and concrete...just like the ancient Romans!)

I even washed the gauge swatch, and measured after it had dried. Lovely! That was a smart thing to do because after washing, my sweater actually measured the dimensions I'd calculated.

Except I didn't bother to check for the difference in length before and after washing my swatch. Most knitting patterns just say "knit until item is so many inches long".  So I did. 

Guess what. Not only does silk really stink when it's wet, it also stretches out in length. A lot. Even though the sweater was dried flat, it lengthened about 3 inches everywhere. The sleeves that once reached my knuckles? Now they hang way past the fingertips. And the low cut bosom? Let's just say the depth of that neckline wouldn't have looked out of place on the cover of one of those bodice ripper romance novels. 


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

in which Stray Cat settles in

Black Cat sitting on a white computer.
Denied the computer, I decide to write a letter the old fashioned way (note that I am actually using a fountain pen). I persevere, despite purring feline impediment.

in which I get the result of my Professional Engineering exam

1. The email notification consisted only of a .pdf attachment named "WA_Fail" so there wasn't too much need to read further.

2. I did anyway. Here's my breakdown:

Knowledge Areas Percent Correct
Breadth--Construction 63
Breadth--Geotechnical 75
Breadth--Structural 50
Breadth--Transportation 88
Breadth--Water Resources 50

Depth--Construction Module
Earthwork Construction and Layout 50
Estimating Quantities and Costs 57
Construction Operations and
Methods 67
Scheduling 57
Material Quality Control and
Production 0 (yay me! that's a single digit there, folks.)
Temporary Structures 40
Worker Health, Safety, and
Environment 67
Other topics 75

3. The sad thing is that I did better than I thought I would on the afternoon section--with the exception of Temporary Structures (which I swear was half of the afternoon questions) and Material Quality control (which is impossible to do worse). I didn't expect to do well in the Breadth Structural but I did expect to do better with the Water Resources.

October 2008 exam, here I come! Woo-hoo!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

in which I am a creature of habit

Tonight, I carried an armful of clothes into the laundry to put in the clothes hamper. I didn't bother turning on the lights because 1) my arms were full and 2) the hamper is always in the same spot.

So I dumped my armload of clothes and immediately remembered that last night I'd moved the hamper because of Stray Cat and soon realized that I had just deposited my clothes in a recently used litter box.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

And the cat came back/the very next day

Meet Stray Cat.
He needs a name.
Yesterday, I was calling him "Spike" but today I've begun calling him "Edmund" after Sir Edmund Hillary because that feline climbs on everything. (Last night Sasha got renamed "Motherf**ker" because right after I set up a brand new litter box, he got in the box and then proceeded to spray on everything that wasn't litter in the box.)

Stray Cat/Spike/Edmund is truly one of the friendliest, most loving cats I have ever met. (Oscar calls him "stupid adorable cat")

See Seamus after discovering the new cat box.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Stray Cat Strut

At least I think he's a stray. 

A few nights ago, Kate was barking furiously at something in the backyard; and when Oscar went outside to see what was going on, he'd found that she'd treed the most incredibly friendly black cat in the lilac tree. He was so happy when he saw people! He has an incredibly loud purr and a terribly kinked tail. It looks it had been badly broken in about four places and healed in a very strange S-shaped kink. 

We weren't sure if he were a stray so we just put out some food for him and went back outside. I've asked some some neighbors if anyone knows whose cat it is, and people think he's a stray. He doesn't have a collar, he is skinny but not as skinny as many stray cats I've seen. 

He came back tonight so we brought him in. He is so sweet and friendly that I want to make sure that he gets a good home. But I'm also concerned that he might be a neighbor's cat but from another street. I'll take him to the vet to have him scanned for a microchip but I doubt that he has one. I'm just assuming that someone who would go through the trouble of chipping a cat would have also had the cat fixed, which he is not. 

in which I share Seamus's new trick

Seamus, big lovable goofy dog that he is, gets upset when I sit at the computer because it means my hands are busy typing and not petting him. When I sat at the desktop computer, he learned that he could shove the keyboard tray back under the desk with one quick flick of his nose and stick his head in my lap...and dog head on lap prevented me from pulling the tray back out. Clever beast, isn't he?

Now that the office is somewhat organized and I'm using my laptop computer on my desk (instead of using Oscar's desktop computer at the computer desk), Seamus has had to figure out another way of getting my attention. He can put his head on my lap since there is no keyboard in the way but I can effectively ignore him. But now the beast has discovered that he can use his nose to press that long lever on the stem of the chair, which instantly lowers the chair seat from the highest position where I like it down to the lowest position where he can put his face in mine. I so hate that sudden elevation drop that whenever I notice him even looking behind the chair, I instantly stick out my hand to pet him. 

Dog 1. Human 0.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

in which I elicit a cry for help

I've never considered myself a women attracted to "cute" things.

So why do I love Nut and Bee's charmingly cute designs? 

In which I discover I have a high Google ranking

Yet more visits to this site based on the search words "low cut sweater pics".

Who knew that I'd become an internet celebrity? Of sorts, anyway. At first I was a bit squicked out but now I'm pretty amused. 

Not quite as funny as when Katze got the top hit for the search term "hello kitty pantyliners" but I take what I can get. :P

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

in which I make progress on the office

Nothing helps alleviating the blues like making some progress on unfinished projects. (Actually, single malt scotch is more effective but I didn't have any.)
I am now sitting at my desk for the first time since we moved in to this house nearly 18 months ago. The office is definitely not yet perfect but it is somewhat functional. I have set up my computer on the desk and am typing away, and the other computer desk is still functional and useable! I did steal the computer chair, though. The kitchen chair I was using has a seat as hard as a deadly sin and even my callipygous assets aren't enough to counter that discomfort.

While cleaning off the desk, I found a hat that I bought while in Estonia. Tallinn has a beautiful old town that dates to the late Middle Ages. All the buildings are still in use and most date from the 16th and 17th century. I think the oldest dates from the 15th century. Every weekend during the summer, there is a market fair in the main square and I bought a medieval style felt hat made from raw wool. I wore it once but didn't like it all that much because it really smelled funny, to be honest. But I never got rid of it because hey, I bought it in Estonia! After coming across the hat in the bottom archaeological layer of my desk, I decided that I could use it as a bowl to hold knitting supplies (naturally). It's shape was pretty bowl-like already but I decided to get it wet and shape it around a real bowl for a better shape.

After chucking it in the sink, I found out why the hat always smelled so funny:

I think the hat was made from really raw wool--straight-off-the-sheep fleece. Uncombed, unbrushed, and most importantly, unwashed. I suppose the little bits of straw should have tipped me off but I bought this before I learned to knit and at the time only knew that wool came from sheep. So the erstwhile hat is now cleaner--and a much lighter color--and is stretched over a colander to dry.

in which I've got the blues

I used to get the blues all the time. In fact, it was rather my default state. Now I'm a generally pretty content person, sometimes even happy and occasionally even cheerful, and don't get the blues all that often. So when they come, it's really kind of a shocker, and I seem to have lost all my defense mechanisms save one--crawl in bed and pull covers over head.

It's not a great long term solution; in fact, it's not even a good short term solution. But it's comforting. At least until Kate stepped on my face and made me realize that I really need to trim her toenails sometime soon.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

in which I am called "Toots" for the first time

First off, a special thank you to Kat and Crash and Oscar, who took my super-rotten Friday and gave it a happy ending. Salut!

The next morning, Oscar and I joined them and Kat's sister for a leisurely bike ride through five-mile drive in Pt Defiance Park. The drive is very scenic and is closed to vehicles on Saturdays It's a fairly gentle ride, but that didn't stop me from stopping to rest and/or push my bike on the hilly bits (other people called them "speed bumps". I call them "hills".) I'm a pretty fit walker but I had forgotten that cycling uses different muscles than walking so I was really feeling it. The total loop was just five miles, but Crash must have biked at least twice that because he kept doubling back to see if everything was all right.
"Hey, Toots! Everything ok?"
"Did you just call me 'Toots'?"
"I didn't mean any offense!"
"No, I'm not offended. It's just that no one's ever called me "Toots" before."

From him it was completely charming and perfectly acceptable. However, anyone except my mother who ever calls me "Baby" will be kicked. Very hard. Probably more than once.

It is one of my deep dreams to actually do a triathlon, and getting back on the bike this last weekend was a good start. All I need now is a pair of running shoes....