knits & plants

aah, the simple life. almost.

Friday, March 31, 2006


Hey! There are really people out there reading this! People I don't already know. Hi! (waves).'s Friday, and I'm avoiding the website work. It's sunny, and I'm spending all weekend in the garden (or the greenhouse. or the hardware store.)

Since I have no real news or pictures to show... Still boiling. Still working on the sampler blanket...I thought I'd post this that came from my friend Megan. I know I'm behind the times here, but I've never done one. So here's some stuff about me. You should do it too (especially if I don't know you.) Pass it on, but send me back a copy too!

1. What time did you get up this morning? 8am...forgetting that my car
had an appt with the car doctor at 9

2. Diamonds or pearls? diamonds...anyone else thinking of Prince right now?

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Pride & Predjudice

4. What is your favorite TV show(s)? you have to get television to
have a favorite show

5. What did you have for breakfast? tea & a banana

6. What is your middle name? Anne (with an e!)

7. What is your favorite cuisine? here fishy fishy

8. What food do you dislike? cheap Chinese

9. Your favorite Potato chip? Crab chips

10. What is your favorite CD at the moment? the perennial
favorite...Everyone Deserves Music (Michael Franti, to know him is to
love him! )

11. What kind of car do you drive? Honda Accord

12. Favorite sandwich? it's a tie: grilled cheese or mozz & arugula on
a seedy baguette

13. What characteristics do you despise? passive aggressiveness

14. Favorite item of clothing? blue embroidered halter
mom calls it the "hippy dippy" dress

15. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you
go? New Zealand

16. What color is your bathroom? yecchy ivory

17. Favorite brand of clothing? If money was no object? anthropologie

18. Where would you want to retire to? right here, once I build a
solar dome for the winters

19. Favorite time of day? twilight

20. Where were you born? NJ

21. What is your favorite sport to watch? erm...

22. Who do you least expect to send this back? Allison

23. Person you expect to send it back first? Johanna

24. What laundry detergent do you use? A&H free n clear

25. Coke or Pepsi? seltzer

26. Are you a morning person or night owl? definitely nights

27. What size shoe do you wear? 7 1/2

28. Do you have pets? Lola the Abyssinian, Oscar (the Grouch) kitty,
and Murphy the three-legged wonder dog

29. Any exciting news to share with everyone? hmm. Everything that
excites me will do little for anyone else. We're going on vacation in
May, we've started making 2006 syrup, it's almost time to wake up the

30. What did you want to be when you were little? truth? I have no idea.

31.Favorite Candy Bar? some sort of honeycomb thing covered in
chocolate that they sell in Ireland.

32. What is your best childhood memory? Weekend days at Manasquan
beach. The jetty, skeeball, spending hours and hours in the surf.
Coming home gritty and sunburnt and getting into the slippery cool
water in the pool before being allowed inside.

33. What are the different jobs you have had in your life? jewelery
seller, ice cream wench, cocktail wench, convenience store cashier,
waitress, typer & filer, bar wench, career services marketeer, tiki
bar wench, book publicist, wedding & event coordinator, website
developer, marketing assistant

34. What color underwear are you wearing? stripey ones

35. Nicknames: m, mewinda, smurfy

36. Piercing? ears

37. Eye color? brown

38. Ever been to Africa? nope

39. Ever been toilet papering? yup

40. Love someone so much it made you cry? hasn't everyone? I cry over
everything. I cried last night watching the dvd where Boone dies on

41. Been in a car accident? I have a tendency to tap other cars in the read end

42. Croutons or bacon bits? croutons. bacon bits are gross.

43. Favorite day of the week. Saturday

44. Favorite restaurant? Divine's in SC. We're going to eat there
every night for a week in May

45. Favorite flower? anything but lilies

46. Favorite ice cream? Ben & Jerry's Cinnamon you can only get it at
the factory

47. Disney or Warner Brothers? ? I'm a Disney kid

48. Favorite fast food restaurant? I've only ever been to McD's...

49. What color is your bedroom carpet? blue

50. How many times did you fail your driver's test? none

51. Before this one, from whom did you get your last email? Carmelita

52. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? Gardener's Supply

53. What do you do most often when you are bored? Knit

54. Bedtime? 10-2

55. Who are you most curious about their responses to this
questionnaire? BLB

56. Last person you went to dinner with? Creed, Carmelita & Glenn

57. What are you listening to right now? David Copperfield on audiobook

58. What is your favorite color? blue

59. Lake, Ocean or river? Ocean

60. How many tattoos do you have? Two

61. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Well, my chicks came in
a cardboard box, so I'm going with the Chicken.

62. How many people are you sending this to? ten

63. Who sent this to you and what is something you didn't know about
them? Megan-I didn't know she had a second babette

64. Time you finished this email?... 4:53 pm

Sunday, March 26, 2006

It’s all fun and games until someone loses their sense of humor… (a cautionary tale)

Sunday, 8:00 pm

The Grand Weekend Plan did not go at all according to plan. In fact, it was a Murphy’s Law kind of weekend. I guess that I deserved it, really. Weekends should not be micro-managed down to the last minute. I think I incurred the wrath of the chaos fairies. Because whooboy, am I ever paying for it.

Let’s see. Friday night was good. I went to the gym, then went home, changed, and picked up Murphy. We were at the sugarhouse by 8pm. The boiling had commenced around 5pm, and we were all excited about how much sap had run. We had over 200 gallons, and the line from outside continued to trickle in all night long. We boiled all night. As in, I finally left at 4:30 in the morning, and Glenn boiled until 8. We drew 8 gallons of syrup.

After a few hours of sleep, I got up and began the Saturday Plan. I did laundry. I did the bare minimum of house chores. It was my turn to provide dinner, so I began beans and chicken…stuff that could be transported and finished at the sugar house. I did not even look at the garden stuff. No matter, that was what Sunday was for, anyway. By 4pm, I was on my way back to the sugar house, with garden stuff, knitting, dinner, and a fully-charged ipod. Life was looking good. I stopped on the way for a couple bottles of wine and some chap stick.

Glenn & Creed (each working on four hours of sleep or less) were out collecting sap. Carmelita was just beginning the boil. I settled in and we brought some wood into the shack, and cleaned the tables off. You can’t imagine how quickly things get sticky and gross in there, despite all our efforts.

There’s a funny thing that happens to boys in the sugar house. They cannot bear not to be testing, skimming, loading wood, or anything that keeps them active and involved in the boil. So, basically, when they’re there, Carmelita & I are reduced to auxiliaries. We’re there if we’re needed, but don’t have much else to do. So we cracked a bottle of wine and I taught Carmelita how to play cribbage.

Here endeth life according to the Weekend Plan.

A while later, we grilled the chicken and had dinner. Spirits were high. Carmelita and I started the second bottle of wine. The boys pretty much passed out what with the lack of sleep and full bellies, so the girls were back in charge. We’re getting pretty good at it, and things went smoothly. I am trying to lean how to split wood. I learned that you can make up a dance that involves bringing an ax down onto kindling. That was fun.

The first small calamity occurred. I was in a tank top since it was so hot, and while loading wood, the top part of my arm brushed the arch doors. I got a huge black streak, and a tiny burn underneath. Then, an hour or so later, while trying to make my way back over to where I was splitting wood, I had so step over a big pile of kindling stacked right next to the arch, where the wood gets loaded. I didn’t make it all the way over. I stepped on a piece of wood that shifted. I wobbled, And then the chaos fairies struck. On autopilot, my hand shot out to steady myself against the nearest solid object. Which was the arch. You know, the blazingly hot, wood-fired metal tank that can (and does) turn from black to red when it gets sizzling.

It was only for a split second, and for the first ten minutes, I thought it was fine. I mean it hurt, but not so bad. I grabbed some snow from outside and stuck my hand against it until the snow melted. But after half an hour, it began to hurt like hell. So what do I do? The stupidest thing I could have devised. I open the third bottle of wine, which Carmelita does not split with me, Because, you know, what better thing to have on hand when you’re looking to take your mind off your black and throbbing palm? Cold wine! It’s not unusual to have an entire bottle over the course of a long evening, but almost two bottles?? Ugh.

There was no warning when I got drunk. And dizzy. I was fine, chagrined, but fine. We took some fun pictures and grooved to the tunes. Then I was not fine. And it was not helping keep my mind off my hand, which by now was so painful that I was going through a bowl of icewater every five minutes.

Thankfully, by the time my motor skills were affected, the boys were awake again. Did I mention that while the girls were boiling, we never drew once? More on that later. Glenn was good enough to take me home, where a hot shower and an ice pack were waiting. It was 4am (again).

Needless to say (perhaps) Sunday has been an absolute loss. I haven’t had a hangover this bad in a year. I’ve gone back to bed twice. I have no appetite. And now I get to deal with my hand, which is blistered and blackened from the sooty arch. I can’t knit. I can’t open a jar. I certainly can’t handle a hoe. So no spinach. Woe is me.

Ordinarily, I’d be feeling really guilty that my lack of sense prevented me from assuming my portion of the sugaring duties, especially today, being a weekend. But no need. Because we’re screwed. Creed stayed awake boiling until 8 or 9 this morning. He finally drew, but says that instead of Grade A or even B (which we’re all personally fond of), he’s calling it Grade X. It’s sludge. Also, the boiling pan that sits on top of the arch is garbage. We killed it. It got burnt last night some time, and worse, the places where we had it repaired this winter have come undone. We’re leaking sap into the fire (hence the not drawing for hours on end) and basically it’s dead. We need a new pan. Pronto.

So here we are. Can’t say it’s been the best weekend. Eventful, yes. Happy, no. Unless we can find a pan (and some money to buy it with) we’re going to have to sell the sap. No more boiling. I feel so bad for the boys. I’m not exaggerating when I say that they’ve both put days worth of work into tapping and running line, and now we don’t even get the brief satisfaction of making our own syrup. It’s a shame. They’re so excited about sugaring. We all are. I’m sure it will work out somehow, but sheesh.

I’ve left the picture of my hand for the end, in case anyone doesn’t really want to see it. It’s ouchy. My head is also ouchy. Go me.

Friday, March 24, 2006

and then there were four

Fuck. Graargh.

I rented a beach house for 10 people. So why are there only four of us going? If anyone else drops out, I'm going to, well, I don't know, but it won't be at all pretty. I'm going to have to sell my hair (again) to pay for this.

If I know you, and you can afford $300 for a week on a beachfront house in South Carolina the week of May 6-13, let me know. You're in.


Desperately Seeking Someone

Note to self

Things to do this weekend:

1. Get to gym tonight. Get through a whole Primary Series for the first time in two years. Try to keep shirt covering belly pay attention to your breathing while doing sun salutations. Do not cheat and rest thighs on ground while in up dog.

2. Boil sap until the wee hours. Do not get drunk and fall over random platforms in the dark outside the shanty, thereby giving self matching skinned knees. Do not succumb to the temptation to eat hot dogs and drink beer. Do not aggravate husband by asking a zillion impertinent questions. Do remember to wear your long johns. Do try to get some knitting done.

3. Wake up at reasonable hour on Saturday, regardless of bed time. Get the minimum amount of housecleaning done by noon, Then stop. STOP. CEASE CLEANING.

4. Tackle wildebeest of laundry.

4. Inventory seed starting soil and get flats cleaned & disinfected. Finish scrapbook of this year's seeds. Rework last year's seed-starting schedule. Locate lost mate of gardening gloves. Clean off rolling carts and haul upstairs.

5. Make the garden plan. Avoid last year's pitfalls of creating garden schematic in Illustrator. Or at least, do not succumb to the temptation to place individual gifs of different vegetables in a to-scale garden plan, at properly calculated intervals. This is silly (and it took you fourteen hours). You are not a slave to your compulsive quirks. Well, at least you're not licking the light switches yet. Get a grip.

6. Clean out the greenhouse. Since they've now been there for six months, it's probably time to collect all the half-filled teacups, notebooks, and articles of clothing and get them out of there. Rake out the greenhouse beds and plant spinach and arugula. Mmmmmmm.

7. Buy bottle of wine.

8. Set up seedstarting operation in living room. (Where else?) Roll up wool rug and store until June when it will be safe to allow it back on the floor. Sigh over lack of heating mats and grow lights. Create signage warning visitors of carts that will be blocking access to the doors off the porch.

9. Plant seeds & consume wine. Repeat. DO NOT forget to label seed flats like last year. That was fun.

10. Head to the sugar house. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. Boil. See #2.

11. Wake up at reasonable hour on Sunday, regardless of bed time. Begin work on all the things on this list that you never got to on Saturday.

12. Watch a movie and go to bed. There's work to be done on Monday.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Report from the Bush

If there's anything that can make up for the misery of six weeks of mud season every year, it's maple sugaring. Drive around my town for ten minutes and you're certain to see at least a couple of shanties in various states of disrepair with large tanks and hoses piled around outside. But for a few weeks every spring, they're transformed into hotbeds of activity. The sugar shack becomes the community center. All day long, cars and trucks full of people fight their way through feet of sucking mud to come and go, to observe, to argue technique, to keep company, and of course, to sample maple syrup straight from the arch.

This year will be the second where we're making our own maple syrup. Our friends Creed & Carmelita have the sugar bush on their 30-acre property. Glenn has the sugaring background, and is responsible for building the shack and outfitting it with an arch and all the other stuff you need to boil sap. So it's a joint venture. This year, we're tapping 450 trees with a combination of metal sap buckets and lines that go directly from the tree into the collecting tank in the shack. It's a bit ambitious, as our arch isn't really big enough to keep up with boiling the sap, if we have a good year.

The Sugar Adventure 2006 began this weekend with the completion of tapping the trees. We collected about 150 gallons of sap over the weekend and began boiling Saturday evening. From now until the nights stop dropping below freezing, we'll be collecting sap and boiling it down every night. It's a love-hate thing. It's really exciting and fun, but you can't stop once you've begun, and you have to keep at it until mother nature calls it quits. We'll be home only to sleep for the next couple weeks. The cats will be cranky, and to borrow a term from the Yarn Harlot, the dust buffalo will be roaming the floors.

We're working out some sort of rotation to keep ahead of the game. Yesterday, the girls got to run the arch while the boys went out and collected the day's sap. Firing the arch is addictive. One of the perks of spending so much time in the sugar shack is the fact that it's so very much like a sauna. The steam is incredible. The pores say yay.

Last night, around 8pm, we drew off the first batch of syrup. You boil and boil and boil and boil and then you boil and boil and boil and boil some more. Then you take a sample and measure it for density with the little bobbing-thing. Once it's between two marks on the hydrometer, you've got syrup. We pulled maybe 2 gallons last night. Last year, we make 32 gallons, and we're hoping for double that this year.

Happy birthday to me.

Friday, March 10, 2006

...aaaand we're back! Sorry, sorry for falling off the wagon for a while. I don't even have a good reason. But I blog from work, and when there's real work to be done...I know, it's no excuse.

So. I'm prepared to say that my delusions of medalling in the Knitting Olympics were just that...delusions. To date, I'm about 80% done. I really like the blanket, though, so I didn't pitch it into the knitting abyss. It's still on the needles. I poke along.

I haven't had anywhere near the knitting time of yore though, due to my new membership at the local gym. I'm going three times a week, ready to make it four. Go me. I'm so sick of not fitting into any pants that aren't stretchy. I blame cheese. And wine. And having my mother-in-law cook lunch at work every day. Yesterday's plate du jour was shepherd's pie topped with biscuits from a can and a half inch of ground potato chips. JFC. OF course, I didn't eat it, but I only learned how to say no nicely after a year of working here. And by then, the damage was done. I'm a sucker for a grilled cheese.

Also, it's finally thawing outside, and that means sugar season! We're tapping 400 trees this year, and they're just about done. Actually, the boys do the tapping. Carmelita & I are more the boiling-type help. Woohoo. This is Creed tapping last year, but I love this photo.

I'm gearing up for the garden. I've got to find a way to get a dumptruck full of compost to come to my house for a reasonable price. The seeds are all here, except for what I couldn't get because I ordered so late. No haricot verts this year. And soybeans will be in short supply. I'll be trying a lot of peppers, which will be a challenge. Oh, and the motherlode of sunflowers.

Very soon, the house will be transformed into the seedling nursery. I really need a seedling heat mat and some grow lights. Must. not. use. the. credit. card. Perhaps I'll sell my hair instead. Suggestions welcome!