Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Monday, May 31, 2004  

The pink silk shawlette is finished. What fun knitting with silk is. I had no idea I would enjoy working with this so very much. It makes me glad I've got the skeins of silk I worked on last winter, both the handspun and the gold I dyed to go with it. It may just be the second thing I'll pick up next. The first thing will be the purple mohair lace - which I shall begin on today. I'm shamefully late with it, since it's a piece of work I promised to do for someone else. Fortunately the someone is a friend with a rather vast capacity to forgive.

The other exciting knitting activity on my horizon is the Lily Chin class I am taking next Sunday. It's sponsored by GotYarn in Richmond and the class is called something like Knitting every which way. It sounds like a math class to me - geometry in action, one might say. I'm enormously excited about this, not just because I'll be taking a class from one of the name brand teachers, but because I'll be hooking up with A, who's taking the Saturday morning class. We have an afternoon of play planned and will spend the night with my parents.

The last time Lily Chin taught a class in Richmond I didn't sign up, because I thought I wasn't skilled enough to take her class. Later I realized, duh, Bess, I would certainly have been a better knitter had I taken the class. Heck, I could have just sat in the corner and listened. I swore that would be the last time I sold myself short like that. Eh. Well. Everybody has a shy moment over something, now and then.

Yesterday was a lovely cool gray day - not rainy, but promising rain. Weather dot com does more than promise in it's forecast today - looks like big wads of green on the map - and that means rain. A good day to play with fiber. As well as finishing the pink silk, I spun some more bronzey green yarn on my castle wheel. I've done some minor adjustments on it and it's now a joy to spin on. It has such pretty bobbins, made even prettier when they are full of yarn.

After lunch yesterday, BD and I went down river in the boat and picked up H. Waves were a little choppy, two feet or so, out in the channel. We puttered along the shoreline on the Richmond County side, while the two of them reminisced about all the summers when the two families stayed at Naylor's Beach. Back then, the cottages were just that, little, simple, bare dwellings where cousins slept on pallets on the porch and grownups crowded 2 and 3 in the few spare bedrooms. Rent was cheap, food was simple, working folk could enjoy a week on the water, cheek by jowl with fishermen, farmers and a few retirees in year 'round homes.

Fast forward 35 years and it's all vinyl affluence, SUV's and high dollar rental property. The same size lots, mind, but every one with a satellite dish and Internet access and garages as big as the house itself. In fact, there's hardly a cottage left, just 2,500+ square feet of wall-to-wall. Well, times change, and that's for sure.

Upstream from Laurel Park, the uppermost subdivision, it greens up into farmland once again and much of that has been put into easements, national trusts and wildlife preserves. Interesting how the upper end of the county just won't develop. When you see two houses together, you can pretty much be sure that gramma and granddad live in one and the son lives next door with the grandkids.

We puttered up beneath the eagle's nest that Jen and I visited last spring. The babies ought to be hatched now, but we didn't see them, or even the top of the nest, just a cluster of sticks in a crook in the pine tree. You can't really get up close to the high ground by boat so we didn't upset the adults. We were using the binoculars, though, and we got a good view of one of them.

So now it is Monday, and a holiday, and this is a short week, and it is crowned next weekend with a knitting class and a visit with a friend. Doesn't that sound just about perfect to you?

posted by Bess | 5:32 AM


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Sunday, May 30, 2004  

Well. Isn't this cute. Today is my 500th post on LtQ.

Huh. I don't have anything special to say.

Seems a shame, seems like there ought to be some statement to make, some goal to have achieved. I do think it's impressive that I have actually kept up with a diary for 500 entries. Little pat on my back there. And I sure don't want to get into the philosophy of numbers and why we believe we should make an issue out of some, but not others. That is one of the discussions BD and I have when we don't have anything else to talk about: What are the virtues of numbers?

I spent the most glorious day of spring 2004 indoors yesterday and today, while it's a rather nice cool temperature, it's grey grey grey. Laundry may dry outside, and it may not. The D's have gone off to talk to a land owner about a property line. Later today we'll take the boat down to Hannah's place, pick her up and bring her back for dinner.

My own plans include a little exercise, a little knitting (only one repeat left on the pink silk shawl) and some serious lounging. The new SpinOff arrived yesterday and I am lusting over the white socks on the cover. I have this urge to spindle spin enough yarn for a pair of socks - and as I contemplated that I began to think about a dye project or two. So there's just enough to choose from to make the weekend interesting, but not so much to feel burdened by dooty.

I'd say that makes it a perfect weekend. Guess I'll go enjoy it.

posted by Bess | 10:18 AM


Blogger now works in conjuction with Hello and can post photos as part of your entry - you might look into that for the Pioneer blog... it's how I got my photos of knitting stuff on!

By Blogger Amie, at 9:23 PM  

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Saturday, May 29, 2004  

Well - Here are some little sketches that are supposed to be posted on the Pioneer Story chapter I entered today - only - that blog doesn't have photo capabilities. I'll have to read up on it, but I'm here at work, where the scanner is, so I'm going to just load these pictures now.

Here is a little map of the place. The thick black line on the bottom is the tar road. The next line is Jacob’s Gut. It forms the boundary of the farm, as do all the other purple lines, though they are not waterways. The dotted blue lines are the paths, out to Mossy Point and Home Point. The thicker grey lines within the farm show the old road – now abandoned but what we used till 1983. The two orange dots represent the campsite and the house site.

And here’s a sketch of how I remember the campsite.

posted by Bess | 3:00 PM


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Topsy still has a little bit of limp but she is ready to move anytime she thinks you have food in your hand, might have food in your hand, or used to have food in your hand. When I got home last night, both D's met me at the front door. LD hadn't heard about the leg in a bucket, so the whole story was told again. She was really shaggy and I had been intending to give her a good brushing so we all sat around her praising her and scratching her eyes while I brushed about a pound of yellow lab hair out of her fur. This is Topsy's favorite activity these days and even though each stroke of the brush tickled her, making her legs kick, she wagged her tail through the whole session.

Priss danced by to see what was going on, took one look at the brush and scampered back out to the barley field. Socks, a.k.a. TheNeck, had found something disgusting to roll in and wanted very much to share. She, too, likes a good session with the brush and was sure we'd admire her perfume. Later, the D's took her down to the creek for a swim, but she still had to spend the evening outside.

When I got home, Thursday, to work on pages with numbers, I found BD immersed in cleaning out the broom closet. That closet is just an empty box and everything to do with cleaning that didn't come wet, in a bottle, got tossed in there. Brooms, of course and vacuums, with all their scattering parts; crushed boxes of TallKitchenTrashCanLiners; fly swatters; 3, count 'em, 3 yardsticks; aprons. There was a nice metal dust pan but it was black and flat and always getting lost in there. Himself didn't even need to tell me what was going on. In that telepathic communication people develop after a few decades, I knew instantly that, since he couldn't put order to those pages with numbers, at least he could put order to the closet.

When I got home yesterday, he proudly flung open the door on a model of efficient tidy organization! Brooms are off the floor, a little stick-up rack holds every loose vacuum attachment, narrow shelves hold litte bags and wide shelves hold big bags. There's even a bracket for the hand-held vacuum. The only thing on the floor of that closet is the upright vacuum. It would make the folk at EasyClosets or Home Depot green with envy - and best of all, it's got that BD look. All his carpentry carries a distinctive feel to it - like a signature, and I would rather have something built by him than by anyone else.

The weather backed around last night and today dawned crsip, clear, beautiful and fresh. Something is not right. We've had a month of 90 degrees and humidity and the first day of a holiday weekend dawns perfect? And I have to go to work!?! Well! I wonder if anybody will come in at all. Who wants a book on a perfect day? Hmmm.

Ah well, off I go.

posted by Bess | 7:54 AM


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Friday, May 28, 2004  

Aha - so it’s loading the photos that took so bloomin’ long. LtQ popped up in its usual poky time frame today, now that it's scrolled away from May 19. Huh - wonder if it was because they were .bpm files instead of .jpg?

I spent the afternoon with BD deciphering columns of numbers and at the end, not only was everything accounted for, but the numbers were black instead of red. This euphoria inducing conclusion to what had loomed as a dark demon day left us in such a celebratory mood we went out to dinner. It’s amazing just how deeply intimate money can be. We’ve had a pretty comfortable approach to $ most of our married life, but now and then we’ve had to really settle accounts, and it’s amazing how difficult that can be. Oh, not the making sure we weren’t being wasteful, but the line by line, column by column bookkeeping accounting type of stuff. At the fundamental level, the “do I trust you” level, we’ve always had a completely open, free flowing relationship. It’s the “what is this withdrawal labeled ‘cash’ for?” type of thing that we’d been putting off - the ‘what’s in that cupboard?’ kind of questions that we’d avoided answering. I had just been putting off learning his business, even though I knew it couldn’t be all that complicated. And it wasn’t. Actually it was fascinating. And he was so happy to have someone to share it all with - we were pretty giddy the rest of the day.

So - I was typing away on this when I heard the most strange sort of dog howl. I went out and found Topsy lying in the old woodshed, her leg caught in the handle of a tin bucket. I’ve freed her, and she could stand briefly, so the leg isn’t broken, but she tumbled back down again. I’ll let her rest a bit, and then BD and I will both go out and see how she’s doing.

If there’s a chance I’ll post to the Pioneer Story today. Only one more repeat of the silk shawl to go.

posted by Bess | 7:35 AM


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Thursday, May 27, 2004  

Today is hump day this week because I have to work on Saturday. I have never really minded working on Saturday but it really bugs BD, so I don’t do it often. But nobody else wanted to work on the holiday weekend and we haven’t any go-away plans. Too bad it’s supposed to be a beautiful, blissfully cooler day, but Saturday is a short day at work and it gives me an opportunity to get to the gym as well. I would never drive all the way back to town just to work out.

My little town has a summer festival called RivahFest! and the library will be selling used books there. This means, of course, gathering used books from hither & yon - which means the place is becoming a junk pile. We’ve given over the meeting room for storage and sorting, and I’ve pulled mama-rank and marshaled LD & Friends to do the lifting and toting. But it’s a messy sloppy time at work.

What is it with my life? I go 5 weeks with chaos at home, and the first week it’s back to normal, the clutter just moves on down to work. The book sale will be the opening salvo of summer madness - Summer Reading Club - 6 weeks of calculated clutter, as elementary kids pour in to earn cracker jack prizes for reading library books plus weekly crafts programs and some puppet shows to boot. The needle won’t begin to move towards calm organization again till August when the vacation crowd pours in. “I live in Michigan, but can I get a library card anyway?” “My sister once had a library card here and we’re staying in Simonson this week, so can I check out books on her card?” “Can I use my Maryland library card at your library?”

Actually we do work to accommodate the rivah cottage crowd, but there are limits, and no, you can’t use your sister’s card unless you’re holding it in your hot little hand.

So - the first slow-down-calm will be after Labor Day - and please God, no hurricane this year.

Nary a stitch done yesterday, but I got to watch the ballerinas. Lawsee - it was a three county wide combined ballet schools production with all dancers being under 10 and you never saw so many Jersey and Maryland cars parked in town! Grandmas and Granddads came from miles around. If you remember the band concert in Music Man, you’ll have an idea of how it went. It’s the sort of event that holds limited appeal - but I fall well within those limits. I really dig little kids doing cutsie things. It’s that sugar water pumping through my veins.

I’m taking the afternoon off today, to help BD with some serious bookkeeping and there’s the funeral in the a.m. It’s a strangely out of order kind of day.

posted by Bess | 6:47 AM


It opens up very fast for me but I'm on broadband. I think it's your connection.

By Blogger Catherine, at 7:57 AM  

I'm with her. It opens fine for me at both home and work -- but then, at home I have cable and at the office, ADSL...

By Blogger Margaret, at 8:59 AM  

Yesterday morning I couldn't open your blog at all. Something about no longer being available. You know, one of those generic messages. Anyway, later in the day and again this morning I had no problem. I do have DSL which seems to work even if SBC is having labor relations problems.

By Blogger Larry, at 9:28 AM  

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Wednesday, May 26, 2004  

Running late this a.m. - was having the most entertaining sleep, the sort filled with intense dreams that you find yourself commenting on even while you dream them. Who wants to wake up from that?

So tell me - is this blog so dang slow to open up spiders spin webs between you and the monitor? It opens up fast enough at work, but those machines are running over t1 lines. My poky dial up on the old windows98 cluttered machine takes so long to open up the internet connection often drops. Is it my computer, is it Blogger or have I put some sort of snail code into the template? Leave me a tag, please, or a comment.

On the home front, our little community is taking a lot of personal blows. A tragic death, another shocking health crisis - everyone is holding his breath, waiting for the next one. In a place with only 10,000 people, folk who you would think of as acquaintances have more of a distant cousin place in your life, while practically-strangers still belong to you. We will close the library tomorrow so all the staff can go to the funeral. It's that sort of place.

I put together a little outline of things that ought to go into the Pioneer Story yesterday - a pleasant lunchtime activity - and suddenly realized why I'd never begun to write it down. Goodness - it spans 6 years of my life! One hopes, at least, this one hopes, to put up another segment by Friday. Tonight is the kiddie ballet recital - as entertaining as my favorite spectator sport - Little League baseball games.

I've got my castle wheel from Larry (I am still not quite sure if it's time to christen this baby, so I can't tell you it's name yet) up and running again. I'm spinning a mohair/wool blend I picked up at MSW. It's a bronzy green smoky color - I'm seeing a sweater like those loosely knit cabled things in Knitting the new Classics.

And I'm still plugging away on the lovely pink silk shawl. Progress made - that's about all I can report. Maybe I ought to shut up about it till it's done.

posted by Bess | 7:25 AM


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Tuesday, May 25, 2004  

The heatwave continues and the isolated thunderstorms are so secluded we haven't even heard one up our way. It's a rather pleasant sort of hot weather because the deep earth is still moist and cool. A week of this in July or August would have us gasping on the sidewalks.

Thus says the gal who works in A/C. LD showed up at the library at 4:30 yesterday, pooped, brown, and exhausted - and reminding me so much of his father 20 years ago, I got all mushy (inside). Loving an adult child is, if you can stretch your mind to its fullest extent, even more fun than loving the little ones. All the passion and no responsibility. I wonder if I'd have wallowed so long in the empty nest pit, if I had had any idea it would be such pure fun?

The house he's renting was full of furniture and appliances that belonged to the previous tenant. She collected it all last weekend and he emptied his refrigerator into mine, so he's dining with us this week. He's planning a monumental shopping spree, but I suspect he's waiting till GF returns to advise.

After dinner last night the three of us hopped in the boat and took a spin up Occupacia Creek. This is a quiet little stream that winds and twists deep into the county. You actually cross it on Highway 17, but by then it's just a trickle through a culvert. It's a marvelously beautiful place. Wide skirts of marsh grass billow out into each bend, aflutter with red winged black birds, skimmed by blue herons and ospreys. The blanket of cool air drawn over sun baked wheat fields squeezed the scent of fresh baked bread out across the water. Then, a sudden turn in the creek bed aimed us at a bank of honeysuckle, still fragrant with that buttered sugar perfume. Elderflower is blooming all along the banks as well and LD mused out loud about making Elderberry jelly.

Captain Priss stood at the bow, ears so filled with the wind she looked like a bat. First Mate Socks snuggled down by BD's feet and wagged her tail. Both boys wanted to see if the running light gear worked and fiddled with it so long they got their chance, as the carpet of stars spread across the night sky and true darkness came upon us.

There's something fun about making the trek from the pier back up the bank in the dusky starry darkness. The path wanders through the woods, though through far fewer woods than summers past. Last September's hurricane left its mark on the landscape. Almost all the trees to the south of the path went down - great enormous oaks, lying now like bleaching dinosaur bones. But the canopy is wide open now, letting in more starlight and making midnight trecks easier on these old eyes and wobbly ankles. There is no great loss, without some small gain.

I'm having a hard time writing the next installment of Pioneer Story. I don't have the diary and I'm obsessing over how soon it was we went to town to talk to officials. That is one of my favorite funny memories, but I want to put it in the right order. As if anybody on earth will ever care. La, I wish I could remember where I put that stupid journal!

The silk shawl knitting is going apace - every row is shorter, so, like finishing up socks or the top of a hat - the end comes upon you suddenly. It is to be completed by the weekend, ticked off the list, and tenderly wrapped in festive tissue. Purple mohair lace is next.

posted by Bess | 6:56 AM


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Monday, May 24, 2004  

It's mighty quiet out there in blogger land. I guess folk just had too many summertime distractions to post much. We certainly are awash in summertime. Days in the 90's. Mayflies. Lightening bugs. Shedding dogs.

I used to hate summertime, because it never lived up to the promise we carried home with us, along with report cards, crumpled, long forgotten sweaters, and ratty spiral notebooks, on that last day of school. I never got in trouble at school. Oh, I may or may not make good grades, but I never did so poorly the teachers didn't like me. The only teacher I remember who didn't like me was such a witch she didn't like anybody. But the good behavior demands of school were so minimal it was easy to be a success. I got into all my trouble at home, so that was the place to watch out for. And the more you were at home, the odds were, the more you'd get into trouble. 3 months of being at home every day just lurked with danger.

Huh. Funny the things that bubble up to the surface when one sits down at a keyboard. I really like being at home nowadays, but then - I'm the one in charge (of me, at least) - so there's no opportunity to fail here. Or at least, my failures are only judged by me. BD has long since learned how to cook his favorite deep fat fried grease in grease and he'll eat my dietfood if I make enough of it. And then, all my toys are at home.

Speaking of toys, I got the stash into the wardrobe. It seemed to grow exponentially between the pre-MSW sorting and the post. No Duh, of course, but as I sorted, stuffed, and finally just crammed - I sort of got the creeps about the size of my stash. It was - for lack of a better word - repugnant. I am way over my comfort limit. Big time. This is a serious enough problem that I actually made a prioritized list of things I must finish before I touch my checkbook again. No less than 10 items go out of the den - period.

Of course, first on the list is the time-sensitive pink silk shawl. It really is sliding down the hill to completion and it's so pretty I am thinking another one of them may be one of the projects at the bottom of the List-0-Death, where I have scribbled "5 other projects". I've had to fudge a few bits here and there, and there's one diamond that ended up having some stockinette stitches in it, instead of garter. Nobody would notice without me pointing it out and I just may duplicate stitch some initials there. Might be a nice touch. Or I may just ignore it. But it's a lovely, lovely thing and I simply adore knitting with silk.

This is a long week for me, for I've promised to cover for someone on Saturday. I don't mind. Working on Saturday always feels like not working at all. And I can take a comp day anytime I want to. But it will have an impact on how much I get written on the Pioneer Story. That's a lot harder to write than a regular blog entry because I have to dig so deep into the old memory pits. I'll be sure to make a note of it here, each time I update the thing.

And now. It looks like there's some time to get in a few more rows of pink silk lace.

posted by Bess | 6:47 AM


I'll be spinning some superwash merino, too, and in my early spinning days, so I'll need some extra help - let me know if you find some surefire technique that makes it easy! (ha!)

Can't wait to bring the boys for a visit - and maybe bring the wheel with me too (if they deliver it fast enough!!!)

By Blogger Amie, at 3:48 PM  

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Sunday, May 23, 2004  

The blue wardrobe is now ensconced in the den - where it is almost, but not quite, too big for the space allotted. I may still shift a little furniture around, but the main task today will be to reorganize the stash for the third time in 6 weeks.

Dogs have been banished from the house till they've quit shedding. I completely failed at putting the new mop head on the old stick, and now wish I'd popped the extra $2 for a new mop. One more lawn'n'leaf bag full of donations to the goodwill has been assembled and two more bags of just plain trash as well. I also discovered another 2 bags of yarn stuffed into one of the cubby type spaces under the eaves, along with BD's missing bag of coins. That was a happy event, for we'd looked for the stupid thing for 2 years and not found it. I'd even seen the bag, a canvas bank bag, of the kind Brinks uses to carry $$$ around. But it just looked like more fiber junk, abandoned, forgotten, gathering dust. It wasn't till I tried to move it that I realized it was a bag of money, not a pair of old canvas shorts. BD says it makes him feel like Scrooge McDuck to pick it up, but after being reunited with it yesterday, he's decided to cash it all in on a fabulous celebratory dinner out. Is this a great guy, or what!?

But all of yesterday's efforts in discovery failed to turn up the diary I kept that first summer we lived in the woods. I have, as I said, never let anybody read it, because it is too full of my own secret sugary doubtful heart. But it would be a very useful guide to an accurate chronology of what we actually did down here, that first summer. Did we visit the Building Inspector our first full day here, or did we wander through the woods first? Did the escaped convicts go missing before the rains came or after? How soon did we meet Pete Bowe? That sort of thing.

Well, I shall see what I can dredge from the old memory vaults.

I spun a little superwash merino yesterday. What a strange fiber. A little like silk, but still like wool. I tried carding two colors together - what a hoot! With no scales left on the fibers to grab onto anything, you don't really get rolags. Just a mush of fiber. It tended to spin lumpy too. I also fixed the leather bit on the castle wheel L sent me. I've experimented a bit with the angle of the treadle and softened it some. Now I can spin in two rooms - or on two different projects.

Knit a bit more on the silk shawl, too - but I was doing that at my darling H's place and after the first glass of wine I knew it would be stupid to fiddle with lace knitting.

The day lies ahead, though - with only fun things to do. Just my kind of Sunday.

posted by Bess | 6:35 AM


I don't know why my comment from yesterday came up as Anonymous. Maybe I forgot to do something. Anyway, I'm in love with your Pioneer Girl story. I know it's all going to work out but it's making me so tense! Just like a real store bought book.

By Blogger Larry, at 11:02 AM  

Ack indeed! After all that work by the MwP etc!! Praise God it wasn't more serious, though...and that you weren't hurt. I am in the midst of a term paper but when I am finished, I will reward myself with your Pioneer Story! ("Little House in the Big Woods"?) ;-)

By Blogger Margaret, at 12:28 PM  

Love the Pioneer Story, please do continue! Especially the photos, it's like you lived some fantasy life I never had the nerve to do, and of course, I married a lifelong city boy who had to adjust to suburbia. He loved nature as art, as something to live with, not so much. ;-)

By Blogger Catherine, at 6:42 PM  

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Saturday, May 22, 2004  

Thank you all, my dearies - for your concern about the house. Fortunately, this was all paper smoke, not gooey or sooty. Just a hell of a lot of it. Chokingly powerful, and, stupid me, I stayed in it too long trying to DoSomething!! I was still a little sore throaty last night but I’m just fine today. Even the upholstered stuff is okay - though I may give it another shot of Rug Doctor. Of course, I may not, too.

I am so inordinately glad it’s the weekend. I always love weekends, but this one seems more necessary and wanted and welcomed than a lot of others. OH. Well. Of course it is! I don’t have a mammoth mess to live with. Just a little mess that may even get cleaned up. BD has a pile of books he plans to donate to the library book sale in June. There is also a pile of photo albums to find a home for. I suspect another set of shelves is going to be required. Perhaps something behind the green wing chair. In the corner. Or in the other corner, where I have always wanted one of those corner cupboards you see in colonial dining rooms. Hmmm.

Anyway, it just means the place can get cleaned today before the equatorial weather shows up and I can play with toys the rest of the weekend. I’m on the downhill side of the silk shawl, so each row will be less than the one before. I remembered to get the leather bit for the new wheel - which still hasn’t a name, though I am leaning towards KittyBoy, which I will explain if that turns out to be its name. A sudden spinning project cropped up a while back and fortunately, I still have 3 empty bobbins.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting my PioneerStory. It is something I’ve put off doing for a long time and I spent the drive home last night pondering that. I suspect, in part, it’s because it is also the story of my early married life - that period of adjustment; of learning to understand what the deal here is; of compromise and of reordering one’s thoughts, one’s priorities; a period of giving up some of the hungers, to replace them with new ones. All in all I think we came out of those years quite well, but individual performances were not always stellar. What gets written becomes true - far more than what is spoken. I want to be careful that what I write is what really happened. There is a journal I kept those first months - my second longest journal. I’ve never let anyone else read it - and I am not 100% sure I can put my hands on it, though it’s supposed to be in the cedar chest. I shall see if I can dig it out and use it to keep the story line true.

For sure, it will be good for me to put this down on paper/blog. Like all those other things we ought to do, before it’s too late, I suspect it will give the most pleasure to LD - since this is also where his life began. But right up front, I beg pardon to those who are irritated by people who tell their stories as if they were speaking of someone else. I’ve always felt so much an outsider anyway, that even I am separate from me - someone I view from the edge. A Pod Person. That’s really what I am. But then - aren’t you rather different from who you were 3 decades ago?

posted by Bess | 7:11 AM


Oh, no! Not in your spanking newly painted house?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:57 AM  

Oh, honey, your house!

If I could, I'd come right down and help you scrub away the soot.

Oh, geez....

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:05 PM  

What a raw deal! I'm so sorry.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:37 PM  

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Friday, May 21, 2004  


We had accumulated a massive ammount of paper trash and BD has been stuffing it into the wood stove, waiting for an evening cool enough to light the fire. Last night was such an evening but he forgot so I lit it instead, this a.m.


The chimney had something in it and smoke billowed all about the house - so thick and heavy I couldn't breathe. It took forever to fix things, the house stinks to high heaven and I have a sore throat now.

I'm at work because at least the air here is fresh - and though I washed my hair, I can still get a faint whiff of smoke.

This is not a happy camper.

posted by Bess | 10:30 AM


This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger Bess, at 4:15 PM  

Huh? What did I miss?

By Blogger Margaret, at 8:30 AM  

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Thursday, May 20, 2004  

Whoa. A weekend in the 90’s? This sounds foreboding. When did it become July?

It is twice, in 24 hours, while perusing my fiber-related reading, that I’ve come across references to Colonial House - the PBS reenactment show. I haven’t a TV, so it’s airing passed under my radar. Having been reminded, though, I’m again prompted to write up a little memoir of my experiences, really living the colonial life back in the fading twilight of the hippie era of oh, say, 1975-81.

I had promised Annie, some time ago, that I would send her an account, but really, it is a very long, funny, silly, tragic, happy story - but mostly long, so I have never yet gotten around to putting it all down on paper. There were many years when I told the story - or at least, parts of it, but even those days have faded into the background, so deep in the memory you begin to wonder if you actually did those things, hear about doing them, or just thought they were the sort of thing you might do. But we really did - live in a tent for 2 months while BD built a little house in the woods, and cooked over a campfire till we could upgrade to a wood stove, and went to the grist mill for our flour, and pulled our water up in buckets out of an open well, read by kerosene lamps, raised a little livestock and in general, followed the pioneer lifestyle. There are even photos to prove it!

Building my Little House in the Big Woods. The only time in my adult life I weighed 120 lbs.

A year later we had built something better! He was the happiest child!

Believe it! This was an up-grade from getting our water from the spring box back in the woods.

We used solar power to heat the bath in summer.

Christmas of 1978. Hope it shows the interior - but the photos are all so dark. No electricity, you see.

What do you know - it really IS a tar paper shack!

Is this some sort of sign? One more reference and I sit down with pen in hand? I really ought to write it down before I start forgetting bits or BD begins to embroider.

The silk shawl is almost at the halfway point. It’s knit from side to side. You begin this diamond lace pattern on the side edge, increase a stitch every other row on the bottom edge, and when you get half way through your yarn you begin decreasing every other row along the bottom. Nice theory, but the halfway point still has to take into account the 20 row diamond pattern. I’m using some silk I dyed with Jen last February and I have only some 380 yards of it. This shawl is for a tiny person, so it doesn’t have to be very big, but I do want to squeeze as much shawl out of this yarn as I possibly can. As I neared the end of the first hank it looked as if I could just barely make a complete pattern. A rough measure of the yarn left came to 37 yards, a rough estimate of the amount needed to knit an entire pattern counted up to about 39 yards.

The fiber is silk. There’s no stretch or give to it. You can’t really knit tighter without changing the drape of the shawl - which nobody wants to do right down the center back, anyway! So. A little agonizing. A little thinking. A little discussion with a knitting bud via Internet, and Eureka! And the answer is:

Don’t do the increases along the bottom edge in the last pattern repeat. This makes a center panel instead of a center pattern, and the change over - the half way point - will be half way through the pattern repeat, assuring enough yarn to complete the second half, since I should only need 19.5 yards to knit half a pattern. The point of the shawl at the back gets nipped off, but that won’t matter any. And it gives a nice extra 3 inches of width to the entire garment.

I'm finding I absolutely love working with silk yarn, especially in a loosely knit lacy pattern. I’m using size 10 needles to knit it and it has the most wonderful drape. The pattern is the first one in Gathering of Lace - an Amy Detjin pattern that was also published in Knitters magazine some years ago. It’s easy but interesting and very pretty.

It is also proof of why I need a committee to accomplish anything. My brain works so much better when I’m talking it over with someone else.

So - 8 more rows and I begin the decreases. Busy knitting ought to finish it by Memorial Day. Happy happy news.

posted by Bess | 8:10 AM


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Wednesday, May 19, 2004  

Well well - here I am at the computer and I can see the rug in the living room. I would say I am winning. I am so proud of BD. Not that I had no hopes of dodging the great office clean-up project. He actually is the sort who can take on gargantuan efforts - I call them his Herculean Tasks, his Twelve Labors. For sure, had this room not been full of paper and books, I would have suggested redirecting Farmer’s Hall Creek through it instead of performing like a human crane, lifting about a thousand pounds of stuff and dropping it 20 feet away. In fact, he designed and built this house. No. He didn’t hire contractors. He came home every evening for 3 years and took up hammer, saw, shovel, block and tackle, sheetrock spackler and sandpaper - all the paraphernalia required to build a house. Sometimes he’d work part-time, especially when there was a BigProject like plumbing or wiring, and put in blocks of days on the task at hand. I used to tease him that this was his great birth experience.

I had never seen anybody tackle such a monumental project - at least, not alone, willingly, without a boss or parent hovering. My admiration for him is prodigious, for he never gave up, but stepped steadily, one foot in front of the next, for three long years. In the end, we had a house that cost so little we’d paid off the mortgage in 7 years. For a process person who almost never finishes anything, his efforts are even more astounding, because it is the sort of thing I know I could never have done.

So what is the difference between building this house and cleaning out duh cave? Well - it’s the operative word. CLEAN A word that is emotionally tied to the humiliations of childhood. Clean your room! Clean up this mess! Clean that up now! It’s the sort of word that turns a process into a punishment. It doesn’t produce anything and for Mr. Production, a clean office just doesn’t cut it in the reward category.

Still and all, he’s done a good job and will be relieved of his cleaning duties once I can get the vacuum over the living room rugs. Sounds like a fair reward. Sounds like a victory.

KnitDad complained yesterday about a sloppy rude habit clerks and functionaries have developed of asking for someone’s Social - instead of one’s Social Security Number. This is a particular bit of truncation I haven’t yet heard, but my reaction to the news of it was “How California”, which prompted further musings about how regionalism still lives in this vast country. Not just little accent issues, like folk from Baltimore saying soder for soda, which I believe is called pop in Pennsylvania. No. I am talking about whole sentences that carry completely different meanings, depending on where one is.

When I was at MSW, I noticed a strikingly beautiful woman with a familiar face. Suddenly I realized it was Anna Zilboorg. I knew she was teaching at the festival. I just thought she’d be much shorter. Every photo I’ve seen of her has been taken from above, most likely by someone standing while she was sitting. When realization dawned I stepped up to her, hand extended, and asked a confirming “You’re Anna Zilboorg, aren’t you?” Her smiling nod produced a gush of compliments - for I must tell you - I was buying her knitting books for our library years and years before I took up needles myself. She had a particular influence on one of my students who has filled a large wooden bowl that stands on her dining room table with hats from her book 45 Fine and Fanciful Hats to Knit. After I had babbled on for a bit she asked “And who are you?”

Now, my dears. I am from the south. From small town south. Heart-0-Dixie south. That question has a particular meaning where I come from, and like all the rest of the world, I take my peculiar parochialism’s and mental shortcuts with me when I travel. All this being true, you will know, if you’re southern, that the answer to such a question is “I’m Bertha Holcum’s daughter’s roommate’s sister-in-law’s daughter. You know, the younger one, Little Bertha.” Or, as in my own case, “Oh, I’m nobody. Just a fan.”

Ms. Zilboorg lives in Virginia. Southwest VA, at that, a place riddled with SmallSouthernTowns, but she wasn’t brought up here, so my blithe reply was disconcerting. A blink, a flutter and she rephrased her question to “What’s your name?” which, you are bound to see, is an entirely different bit of knowledge to be seeking.

Well, we are all local, aren’t we? I’m sure she thought “How Southern“, just like I thought “How California” when I read KnitDad. And then I thought “how comforting”. That sort of difference is fun - not divisive - not unkind - just a cute little quirk. Like talking to an Englishman.

I am knitting away on the pink silk shawl. My fingers are crossed that I will have enough yarn to complete one more pattern repeat. I want this finished the weekend after next - hmmm. That’s Memorial Day weekend. Yikes! Best be off then, to the needles. I promise - photos when it is done.

posted by Bess | 6:02 AM


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Monday, May 17, 2004  

I should have expected that the worst would be the last – and at some level, I did, so I’m not altogether surprised that we don’t have a functioning computer hooked up to the internet at home. I am even slightly glad, since I am suffering a bit with tendonitis in my hands. By Saturday night my hands hurt so badly I wondered if I could sleep. It will do me no harm to lay off a few days.

But those few days could extend into a mighty long, quiet week.

Poor BD. His office is spread out now over the entire house. The lint propagation beds are ready to be harvested. 10 years of accumulated dust mats, now little felted grey pads, are ready to be shipped out – any way we can ship them – most likely by vacuum cleaner.

I felt so wicked yesterday, a day of utter rest for me, while I read the first two volumes of the Precious Ramotswe novels – those delicious tales from the pen of Alexander McCall Smith. If you haven’t indulged, may I recommend them? They’re perfect companions on long warm afternoons, along with hammocks, tall lemonades and shady breezes.
The wickedness, though, arouse from my absolute refusal to offer to help him clean up his toys.

Our house is not so big. It’s only 7 rooms, counting the kitchen and a rather large bathroom cum laundry. Of those 7, the smallest is TheLord’s own and yet, barring the manhandling of large pieces of Victorian furniture, he has not done a lick of work on the great PutBack project. Those sweaty weekends when I was scrubbing off evidence of my benign neglect housekeeping skills, Himself was out taking walks or boating down to town or doing other things. It is his turn now.

Besides, all this stuff is his. I know neither what portion of it he wants to keep nor where it should go. I also have vast capacity to step around piles. Especially with a bedroom of such pristine cleanliness and a large blue wardrobe just begging to be filled with fiber stash. Of course, there is a limit to anyone’s tolerance to every thing. Which of us breaks first will be something of an undeclared competition. Will the victory go to BD,with the TenderHeartedOne offering to lend a hand, or will I triumph and eventually, perhaps sometime around Memorial Day weekend, step through the door after a long week and find swept floors, stacked papers and shelved books?

Where do you place your money?

Till I am restored, though, to that wee dawn ritual of coffee and blogs, I shall have to slip posts in here and there. Still knitting silk – still spinning finn.

posted by Bess | 4:50 PM


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Thursday, May 13, 2004  

There was nothing left to paint after today's efforts, so tomorrow the MwP gets to crawl into du cave. This means there will be no morning access - and no morning entry to the annals of the Queen.

I'll be back sometime over the weekend - perhaps the muse will have visited by then. Perhaps the silk will be half knit up, and the shawl will be just right. Perhaps Perhaps. What is for sure is that it will be Friday and we all know what Friday means.

posted by Bess | 8:50 PM


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I've been hanging out too much on computers and my right hand is telling me to keep it light today - and tomorrow and on into the next few days. So my posts will be brief, perhaps lacking their usual sparkle.

The birthday dinner was 100% perfect. It was a red letter day for all, including GF, who was offered a job in her field, which is not teaching. As a less than one week old college graduate in a rural community, that's about as close to 100% as it ever gets. No one had eaten filled cake in so many years, our bodies could barely absorb the sugar. I had the good sense to take only a nibble. Everybody else had to take midnight walks to deal with the reving and crashing metabolisms. I guess you gotta be a kid to eat like that.

I'm knitting a lovely little pink silk lace shawl - or perhaps large scarf - as fast as I can. It's the first shawl in Meg Swansen's A Gathering of Lace, knit from side to side. You cast on, knit ever longer rows till you've used up half your yarn, then knit ever shorter ones. I had thought I could get a summer scarf out the yarn I have, some lovely hand dyed silk I made last February when visiting Jen, but Amy Detjen, the designer, suggested using big needles and making it very cobwebby. Looks pretty good to me. Fortunately, the recipient of this item is an XS woman. Shawl or scarf, it's a great use for this type of yarn and the silk is as soft as a baby's cheek.

We slept in LD's old room last night as everything in my room is jumbled into the middle of the floor. Two more days and it's all done except the putting back. What a month. Pictures have been requested and perhaps I shall do just that - we shall see.

posted by Bess | 6:59 AM


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Wednesday, May 12, 2004  

Mercury is forming benevolent aspects to Neptune and Saturn. These cosmic influences will ensure you grow more confident and relaxed. They will begin by making an inroad into your greatest material concern. Next, they will turn their attention to your personal life. By enabling you to feel more secure and comfortable, they will help you get along much better with someone who means the world to you. And they will render you more attractive too. They will also inspire you to commence a new venture... which should prove surprisingly successful.

See why I love to read this guy’s horoscopes? It’s true too. There has been a whopping pile of tension in my material world that is about to resolve itself into the placid calm of cool water on a summer’s afternoon. Whether it is the result of Mercury (planet of communication) finally speaking up about Issues or Neptune’s creative stimulus, or Saturn’s calming influence, while lightening up on it’s tendency to strip away my confidence, or - perhaps, it is merely the fact that when I have had enough (especially worry and self doubt) I finally get off my butt and do what I knew I ought to have done right from the start - but we seem to have pushed through the cloud of frustration and floated out on that sea of understanding that makes problems, both big and little, seem so solvable.

And of course, there is a new venture I am contemplating - but it’s way too new to talk about. And it’s nice to think the planets are looking favorably at my aspirations.

It is crack-0-dawn right now - still early enough that little bugs fly into the house, attracted by the glow of the monitor. Our doors are slightly cracked open because, in ever damp Virginia, it takes a while for oil based enamel to dry. Our MwP painted the outside doors yesterday and BD is fussing about them like a Tasha Tudor old maid. He called twice yesterday, to warn me to be careful when I came home - not to step on the threshold or touch the door. Impressively, our MwP will be finished by Friday. Today they hit my bedroom and Thursday they will tackle “duh cave”. This is what, in his heavy Massachusetts accent, unsoftend by 20 years of southern influence, head painter calls BD‘s office. It is a cave, too - narrow, long, dark and wall-to-wall with books. Now and then I swipe the vacuum down the center of the floor, but I don’t try to really make a difference in there. It will be transforming, to have our MwP sweep through the place.

But then they’ll be gone. I feel a little silly to be so nostalgic about bidding house painters good-bye - but there it is. I am not always so reactionary, but I do enjoy pleasant men hanging about the house ... particularly when they are making it look so good.

Today is LD‘s birthday. He is 28. He has truly given me 28 years of joy. When I was a girl I wanted a big family and when BD proposed he said he didn’t want any children at all. I informed him that, if this was so, he didn’t want to marry me, because I wanted 7 children. Alas, it was not meant to be - and sometimes, I wonder, if, before I was born, God offered me the choice of One Perfect One or a Bunch-0-Brats. No need to wonder which I chose.

One of the traditions surrounding LD‘s birthday is to tell again The Story Of William’s Birth. It was a thrilling tale of passion and emotion and energy and fear, excitement, love, fury, terror and hatred and death, filled with thrilling delight, blissful joy and culminating in a blossoming of a life so wonderful, so valuable, and so much darn fun I ought not ever be unhappy again.

This year, though, I told the tale on Mother’s Day, sitting around LD‘s kitchen table, to him, his GF, and BD, remembering all the excitement that was that special May 12 so long ago. It was a Wednesday then, too, and I remember feeling sorry, because the old poem goes “Wednesday’s child is full of woe”.

When I was about 8 I read in one of our books the poem “Monday's Child”. I can see me now, holding the book wide open, walking into the kitchen and asking my mama what day I was born on - which was a Sunday. As if it was only a moment ago, I can remember the wheels in my brain turning - those diabolical little-sister wheels, useful only for torturing older sisters. “And what day was L born?”


Ahh sweet revenge of the middle child.

I can feel how it was to slowly turn, that book, that proof of veracity, still open in my hands, and look innocently at my sister. How did I know just what button to push?

“Look. You have only one good thing about you, while I have four.”

Such simple little words. Such subtle accuracy. Oh evil one, oh cruel thing.

“Maaaa maaaa! She has four good things and I have only one”

Yes. I can hear her wail now. I still remember how stupid I thought she was to care what a little brat like me said. Even Mama just about said those words, though she was far to kind and loving to even think of any of her children as brats.

“It’s only a book. What do you care what some poet writes?”

Which is exactly what I thought too. But I said. “See? It’s written in a book. It must be true.”

What’s a little salt between sisters, right? And any 13 year old who cares what a shrimp of an 8 year old says deserves to have her knickers twisted.

And besides, LD‘s life has exposed the lie of that stupid poem. What the heck does Mother Goose know about it?

Anyway, in honor of this happy day we will feast our darling, and his GF with his favorites - which includes a filled cake, which I must make now - so it is Ta and farewell. Go hug your sibling, thankful that, at least you were not cursed with me for a sister. And Happy Birthday to You.

posted by Bess | 6:10 AM


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Tuesday, May 11, 2004  

What I like about the new blogger:

SPELLCHECK! Which means I don't have to type my post in word and then, after cut&pasting, go back and change all the apostrophes!

What I don't like about the new blogger:

Everybody else got comments and I didn't, even though I turned it on, and added the code. So. Rats.

I'll email help desk.

Also, it is both easier to look at and looks more like Google, who owns it anyway. Got those "don't worry, you're dumb, but we'll help you" graphics. Well, since I am dumb, I'm not insulted. This is not a complaint, merely a comment. The original blogger look had the clever young computer geek look to it.

Sigh. I don't know the ad-art jargon terms for it. I just know when something looks like really smart college kids did it and when really slick marketers assembled it.

We're getting some scorchers this week. 90 degrees yesterday and more of the same predicted through Friday. It looks like we'll miss that crisp May weather that so energizes me. But it also looks like we can get in lots of swimming this month. And of course, I'm indoors most of the time anyway, so why should I care about weather at all? Rain is promised for the weekend though.

WARNING - DIET STUFF - the other fiber

I've been having the worst struggle with my diet - Things have been tough all winter, but by golly, starting in late March, with birthdays, anniversaries, and deep fat fried twinkees, all the good stuff I know has flitted out of my brain and the old bad eating habits have plunked themselves down with stubborn intransigence. It's going to be hard to go to WW tonight. I'd even consider skipping but for 3 things: My buddy - who counts on me to stick with it; The fact that it's Tuesday Night Knitters and I want to show off my MSW stash; A certain truthfulness I want to keep in front of me.

I was nervous enough in the beginning of this weight loss journey about this very issue - losing the weight, getting the compliments, gaining it back and then engendering pity. So nervous I almost didn't start. I squirm at the thought of people saying "Too bad about Bess. She lost all that weight and now look at her." It's not that people would be so unkind. No one I know would dream of saying that to my face. It's more the certain knowledge that they will be saying it, or at least thinking it. I know, because I've thought those thoughts about others. So of course others will think them, unless I buckle down.

The strange thing is, I was never hungry or unsatisfied or deprived while losing the weight. What I was, was rewarded. Losing weight is such a high. Each day you look better, your clothes fit better - or get so big you get to buy new clothes. People praise you even when they don't know what it is that has changed. You would not believe how many people would say "Wow. You've changed your hair, haven't you?"

No. I changed the face beneath the hair. In fact, I really did change my hair last Friday and nobody but my son has commented on it.

So what's going on? In addition to the lack of reward, that is.

I believe it is one BigThing, and a combination of a bunch of LittleThings.

The BigThing involves others, so it's not really my story to tell. It does involve a sense of "out of my control" and I know I both resent that, and also find it difficult to bring control back into the rest of my life when a BigThing is out of kilter.

Okay. I know this about myself. So - do I have to succumb? I think not.

And the LittleThings?

These are behavioral things. Things that, when I do them, I feel really good.

Drink enough water
Eat at least 5 fruits & vegetables
Don't lick, taste, and nibble - or - if I do, write it down - admit to it
Cut back to the one cup of coffee a day - the one you really enjoy
No mindless eating - gad! I thought I'd put a stop to that - evidently I still know how, alas.
Exercise more often - I tell myself things have kept me from the gym, but that's not really true. I have kept myself from the gym. Heck. I have a car. I have membership. I like to go. I've just given up my power, spending the time doing other things - sometimes things I didn't want to do.

Hmmm. Well. Those LittleThings aren't so tough. I did all this a year ago with relative ease. It was even fun. In fact, these are all in my control, so perhaps I ought to exert myself, no?

Well, the WW leader warned me that maintenance was a lot harder than losing. She doesn't tell people that during the meetings, because it's hard enough to lose the weight, but after you get to your goal she does.

And somewhere in here - I need to find a reward system for staying at a healthy weight - at least, till the staying there becomes the reward. This old donkey needs a carrot.

posted by Bess | 6:13 AM


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Monday, May 10, 2004  

"To err is human." So that's all right then. Your membership of the race is not in question. Nor, quite clearly, is a certain other person's. The two of you are subject to the same physical laws, the same psychological challenges and the same emotional pressures as all other people on this earth. Naturally enough then, mistakes have been made, are being made and probably will always be made. Remember please, this week that while 'to forgive is divine', to expect perfection from anyone, yourself included, is just downright daft.

Now - that is why I like to read Jonathan Cainer's horoscopes every morning. He is the least Virgo-bashing astrologer I’ve ever come across. Note how he does not say “don’t be so damned picky” nor “who do you think you are to be so critical?” And did you read between those lines . . . “yes, he’s wrong and you’re quite right in your complaints.”

And he is. And if I don’t deal with this soon I’m going to have 2 weeks without a ceiling fan and no MwT around to fix it.

I’m still dancing around my fiber stash instead of diving in. Don’t know why - other than I have to have TheTalk with BD about some issues and coming to grips with interrupting all the fun we’re having to discuss Things tends to waste about a week of my time. Thank goodness we don’t have to do this often.

As for fun, though, this weekend really did offer up a plethora of it. As I said, Mother’s Day has never been much of an event around here. Sometimes I’d go to mama’s, sometimes we’d go out to dinner, most of the time it’s warm enough that we can lounge about doing nothing, and every once in a while it falls on LD‘s birthday. This year I had to go in to work - ugh - and help with fixing our web page. Of course, things took longer than I’d expected and I didn’t get to tackling the Victorian Furniture till about 1, but that room full is now arranged, and, while not in proper order, all my books and magazines are back on the shelves in their correct section. I like to say I don’t have that many books. I lie when I do. I have a ton of them, and I’ve moved them twice in the past 2 weeks. There are 15+ feet of knitting, spinning, dyeing and gardening books in LD‘s old bedroom. There are more volumes on the above topics scattered about the house and there is a collection of turn-of-the-century novels, a small case of odds and ends, and a pile of miscellaneous items in the north dormer window. And this is just my hobby shelf. The serious tomes fill the 60+ odd feet of bookshelves in BD's office and then there are the cookbooks in the kitchen and the ready reference books in the living room - you get the picture.

We’re getting down to the wire on this house paining stuff. I got in a few licks on the porch before BD suggested we go for a swim. Now, it’s definitely a HeMan effort to swim in the Rappahannock in May. It can put a little hair on your chest even in early June, but by then the days are so hot you’re really glad for that. There was even an historic year when we went swimming on our anniversary - April 17! Two, even, 1976 and 2002. But usually I am not so bold till after mid May. We’ve had a spell, though, of some pretty hot weather, so off we went, to the swimming beach, and after a heart stopping plunge into ice berg cold, we had a refreshing time of it and were back home before by 5.

We were also invited to dinner at LD‘s house, confirming my opinion that there would be no Mother’s Day at all, were it not for girls. GF, I am sure, had chivvied him into action and there were even presents - the particular type I like - a huge bouquet of flowers picked from the yard and a block of my favorite cheddar cheese. Now, LD is a darling, and will always come help me if I need him, and never says “yeah yeah, in a minute” in answer to my plea, but a bouquet of flowers is not in his repertoire. This was purely the work of XX chromosomes and I appreciate it truly as a gift from them both.

It was a sweet evening full of laughter and story telling and the song of the peepers in LD‘s pond. He lives in the house of an old friend, long gone now, and I am sure John Allen was looking down from heaven with deep approval.

I have been fiddling with my blog template, with modest success. If I still can’t add a comments feature I shan’t worry since tagboard is back up again.

posted by Bess | 7:13 AM


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Sunday, May 09, 2004  

Rats. Tagboard is still error-ing. Now I don't get to hear all the nice comments that stroke my ego. I guess it's time I fix the other comment section in this thing.

Well. Not today. I foresee some weeks ahead when I shall have only myself to please and I'll get serious about tidying up the thing then. At least I'll dump the broken links and get a new comment aplett.

So -

I spent the yesterday in Fredericksburg, at BD's GF's college graduation. The campus of the little college (now stupidly renamed University of Mary Washington - gag me, please) nestled at the falls of the Rappahannock River, is one of the prettiest small town colleges I've ever seen. They haven't trashed it with new science buildings - though I am sure there are ambitious members of the board of governors with a lust for construction. There always are. Instead, they have moved out into the neighboring county with their big brick structures and sprawling parking lots, aimed at such specific programs as Graduate Studies and Science. The cozy liberal arts campus looks safe for the time being.

This was once one of Virginia's many Normal Schools - old Teacher's Colleges, scattered about the state, to provide wee Virginian's with teachers capable of providing a broad, well rounded, full school-year education. As a child we would drive to DC to visit my grandmother along old Route 1, which flanked the campus on the north west. It was such a lovely combination of green lawn, red bricks and white trim. It still is. And yesterday the weather was perfect for an outdoor graduation. I like these best, since, if you get tired of listening to the speakers, you can wander off. (and I did)

In addition to cheering on the success of a girl I've known and liked for nigh on to 20 years, what was fun for me was a luscious combination of huge crowds of strangers (a rare treat when you live where you know everybody, not just the clerks at WalMart, but all the customers too), a reunion with GF's family, who are long time old friends, and the joy of being surrounded by young hopefuls.

I really love earnest young folk. They are so beautiful. They make me smile and sigh and feel mushy and tender. They have energy and excitement and hopefulness and plans and ideas. I remember feeling that way myself. I still do, mind now, about many things, but not in that global way I did when I was 22 and had such wholehearted passion. Now there are things I know I don't want to do. Now I have that knowledge that comes when one fails at something. I know more about me now and am more forgiving, but this compassion comes with a bit of - hmmm - not regret - but, perhaps, resigned acceptance. These earnest younglings have none of that, and the energy they pump out is extremely fetching - even generous. I couldn't help but soak it up.

So we spent this glorious green and blue day surrounded by the young, reuniting with the old and then we topped off the afternoon with Karl's Frozen Custard. Now, my dears, there is frozen custard, and then there is Karl's Frozen Custard and if ever you are driving through or past Fredericksburg, VA, pull off 95 at the Rt. 17 exit at Falmouth, cross the river on old Route 1 and turn left onto Princess Anne St. About 6 blocks down, on the right, is the little ice cream stand and you will find there, along with a long , but very fast moving line, the absolute richest, most delicious frozen custard you've ever tasted. It is almost impossible for me to pass that treat up, no matter how tired I am nor how strictly I'm following WW. I always get chocolate in a cup and BD always gets a vanilla malted.

Once home we took the boat up Occupacia Creek. According to the charts, all the creeks 'round here are secondary to Occupacia, but once, in a blow-out spring tide, the water went so low we could see that the main channel in the bay we live on really flows out of Farmer's Hall Creek. Well - obviously the USGS guys never saw this place in a blow-out. I am a frequent, though not constant, explorer of these waters, but I still discover new things each time we take the trip upstream. Yesterday I saw, for the first time ever, an Osprey nest in a tree. These fish hawks have a decided preference for man-made structures when nest building and their bundle of sticks are almost always found on light poles, buoys, or special stands some folk put up for them. But at the bend in the creek, just before you get to the place June Baird calls the cotton patch, sloping down the edge of an oak tree, was the unmistakable shape of an Osprey nest, complete with Mama sitting low among the sticks, warming her babies-to-be. Papa sat across the way, giving his distinctive whistle of warning, but we went by fast enough that he didn’t feel the need to make a territorial circle around us.

It was still blue sky afternoon by the time we got home, though it was chilly. We met BD and friends, heading upstream in his boat, just as we got to the mouth of the creek. They dropped by later for hot coffee, on their way back downstream. The college crew was staying at his house and the old fogies made an early night of it.

Hardly a fiber in the whole day, though I knit a little on an experimental hat. Of course, experiments seem always to be full of design mistakes and this is no exception. I will play around with it and see what can be done - but since it is an experimental thing it can't really be a failure at any stage of its construction.

Today is mother's day, but this is not a particularly important holiday in our family. I have to meet with computer geeks for a while in the a.m. and shove heavy Victorian furniture around in the p.m. My one concession to Hallmark Cards will be a phone call to my own mama - and that, I should have done anyway.

The weather man promises us 90 degrees tomorrow. Mama always said "3 days of 90 degrees and you can go swimming". Hmmmm. That will be fun.

posted by Bess | 7:41 AM


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Saturday, May 08, 2004  

Off to the graduation today - no real time to report on Life-0-Bess. Be back late in the day but ugh. I have to go in to work tomorrow. Behind the scenes stuff with computer networks. You had no idea how hard your public servants work for you, did you?

I'll have words about last night's monumental storm sometime this weekend. More trees down.

posted by Bess | 6:32 AM


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Friday, May 07, 2004  

Whooee - It's Friday already. One week ago I was getting the car packed. Man - this is worse than Christmas - or perhaps I should say, "this is as good as Christmas."

But Friday it is and I have suddenly been released from any hostess duties, as plans swung 180 and turned me into a guest instead. The HouseTidy goddesses must have intervened and all we have to do is hop in the (one hopes) repaired car, with windows that now close, and toodle up to F'burg to look for crowds of people in pretty clothes gathered on green lawns.

I am taking the morning off today so as to be here when Sheryl comes. The goal is to clean and polish whatever parts of the house that are not serving as depots, then restore William's room to usefulness. Our MwP says he will continue to work outside while we have good weather and next week, when storms are predicted, he'll move back in and do my bedroom and BD's office.

The best news about all this is - I don't have to scrub the porch this spring! This massive task, essential in early summer and of great value if repeated towards August, usually takes my nails and most of the skin on my nuckles. I don't know why we seem to attract so very much dirt. I know country houses tend to need more cleaning than suburban or city houses, but ours seems to be a veritable DirtMagnet.

Huh - who wants to hear about cleaning my house?

Let us leave Cinderella to her task. I hope next week I shall be more interesting.

Where is that swiffer?

posted by Bess | 6:35 AM


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Thursday, May 06, 2004  


Here are the visuals you’ve been longing for.

Judith MacKenzie McCuin.
Look at these beautiful hands! Spinning strips of silk fabric into a yarn - what an eyelash that will make!

5 shots of Saturday’s KR Forumite luncheon on the grass.

Yours truly with the folk from Ohio Valley - don’t I look pleased with myself?

Saturday’s haul. How shocking - this was only 1/2 the purchases made!!

Selecting a fleece

Sunday’s smaller lunch gathering.

The ultimate indulgence.

So many choices. This little girl has it right - just take one of each!

Here was another special moment - Mom, daughter and daughter’s friend. Everyone a spinner. Mom had just bought something special for her daughter. The dynamics were so good, between these three women - strangers but for the fact that I completely understood every pulse in the current flowing among them.

And when I got home - MenWithTrucks full of tools, of course.

Here is an example of the results of their labor.

It may not show up in this photo, but that is moi standing in front of a wild rose which has climbed 15 feet into the trees. We call it the Kentucky Rose because I brought the slip home from a ramble through the countryside past Kentucky, ancestral home of the Overtons, who are BelovedHannah‘s paternal (not kin to us) grandparents. She’s in flux now, but the plan is to start her own slip once she buys a home.

And doesn’t this look like a nice porch to sit on with one’s spinning wheel?

posted by Bess | 6:35 AM


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Still moving slowly - well, one ought to expect it after such a blow-out grand weekend. It doesn't help, either, to have the house in turmoil. The marvelous Sheryl is coming - either today or tomorrow, and I plan to stay home so we can put the upstairs bedroom back in order together.

LD's girlfriend graduates from college this weekend and she had asked if she could bring some of her friends down for some R&R on the river. Of course, we said yes, but of course, this was back before the MwP showed up. Of course, nothing has been settled, so the status is - we may be giving a party this weekend or maybe her parents will and the friends will come later or maybe they'll all stay over at LD's and just use our place as a cabana beach house launch pad. Somehow, like the blase attitude I've had all along about this huge renovative upheaval, it all just seems as if it will work out.

I've been typing wrong or funny or something, and my right wrist is tingly, so I shan't type much more. Just a note, now, to promise photos later today - probably much later, like 4 o'clock. MSW shots and some home photos too.

posted by Bess | 6:35 AM


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Wednesday, May 05, 2004  

How could reality come back with such a thump! I'm still dizzy with reaction. Yesterday was a complete bust as far as work went - I sort of dithered and flitted and chatted away the hours till I could get back to my spinning and knitting and fiber and memories. There are still some shots left on the camera but I may just do a little garden photography before work and then get them developed this morning. I will try to get photos up soon.

This blinking emotional exhaustion is very sweet and natural, but I hope, by tomorrow or Friday I am not quite so numb.

posted by Bess | 7:44 AM


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Tuesday, May 04, 2004  


I am back. Back on earth, back home, back-to-work back.

But what a weekend. And how to begin reporting. Friday was a travel day, warm and sunny and delicious with the warmth of friends at the end. Monday was travel day with spitting rain and a chill wind because my stupid car window wouldn't roll up. I had the heat on full blast the whole way home and was so relieved to see that BD had a fire going when I got there.

But in between. Ooooo. In between was that magic that is the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

In spite of our best efforts to get there early we were actually late. J and I dashed hurriedly into the 4-H building where Judith MacKenzie McCuin was teaching the spinning with beads class. We were late enough to have missed any of her introduction about who she is and where she's from, though I have it on good authority that her classes fill up first at SOAR. We were also so late that just about everybody else had strung her beads on threads so we didn't have to be polite about letting everybody go first - we got to jump right in and start stringing. We were not so late that we missed any of the actual teaching and wow what a teacher. I can see why her classes fill up fast. She is a master at demonstrating the magic of the simple answer and thus earns my deepest respect.

We spun such neat things - feathered yarns, beaded yarns, fluffy boucles - and she taught us the coolest thing to do with that Himalayan silk! I can't wait till .... 2008, when I have paid off VISA, so I can buy some.

A goodly group of KR Forumites met at 12:30 by the main gate. Enough to fill 2 picnic blankets. We were all pretty hungry, but seeing the shoppers with their bulging bags made me a little antsy to get at the spending part of the weekend. While we were lingering over our lunches, (thank you Jen) up walked the Modesitt crew. Annie, Gerry, Hannah and Max - all in Knitting Heretic t-shirts - or son of or spouse of same. They were so cute. I really like Annie's kids - they are bright and not the least shy, but very polite.

I had intended to make a run past the auction, but C had scoped it out and reported that, though there were some beautiful wheels, the only drum carders were pretty old looking. And somehow, though I had vivid pictures of my already existing stash in my mind, the lure of beautiful fibers pulled me more strongly than the lure of equipment. This is, I am sure, because I haven't any place to put a drum carder. So it was off to the main building with my two bags of wool - for I had brought all the unprocessed Falkland Island Polwarth and the washed Corriedale fleece I bought at last year's MSW and dropped it all off at Ohio Valley Natural Fibers. They will turn it into roving for me and ship it back. Under Jen's guidance I chose them because they don't have a minimum weight - neither of my bags weighed 3 lbs.

After that it was pandemonium. I can’t remember what we did next, at least, not in chronological order. As a group we flowed in ones and twos and threes, coming together and drifting apart, till at the end of the day we gathered together at the main gate. I had a fairly good sized gym bag-cum-duffel bag thing with two handles that I could wear like a backpack. $14.00 at Walmart, and much better than any of the real backpacks I saw, which were heavy with frame. This thing held a mountain of fiber and I am slightly chagrined to admit I filled it twice over the weekend.

So - the high points were:

The Golding Spindle booth where Jen and I spun on $5,500 spinning wheels of magnificent beauty and supreme engineering. I had been afraid to try one last year - though I did buy a spindle. I think it was the same this year. These wheels are so beautiful, so stunning and obviously so expensive, I think people are intimidated a bit. But I'm mighty glad I finally spun on one. They are double treadle wheels with brass rings around the drive wheels, just like the spindles. This added weight makes them spin forever, so there is very little treadling needed and even that need only be the lightest effort. You could spin 24/7 on these things and never get tired. The 3 flyer wheel has a series of whorls you can band together, giving you an enormous range of spinning ratios - that is - it's possible to spin sewing thread or small rope on these things as well as anything in-between. They make 3 wheel designs; swans, rams heads, and a floral one that has the look of Elizabethan embroidery. If I had all the spare cash in the world - or if I can save up enough money - I would (will) order the floral carving on a 3-flyer wheel. But Thomas Golding does custom wheels too - so I might even come up with an idea of my own.

Usually when I develop a lust for something I know it and begin the purchase planning process. This, though, is truly an extravagance - this idea of owning a Golding Wheel. It's something I'm going to have to try on, wear, walk around with it, and ponder. But it's not absolutely out of the question for me. Just something I'll hold a while.

My advice, though, is to sit down and try one. It is a spinning experience you will never forget.

It was extremely crowded on Saturday and about 3:30 you could hardly walk through the mass of hot people. I grew a little weary and overwhelmed and was glad to make my way to the skein and garment competition display. I am ever amazed at the perfection of other people's spinning. I don't know how they do it. I think I spin a nice yarn, several nice ones, actually, but my goodness, these skeins are - well - perfect. That's the only word I can think of. My friend Caroline won a Blue with her hand spun socks! So beautiful and so much fun to actually know one of the winners.

This was the year of Mohair and Silk. I saw more booths with blended fibers than plain. The booths that got my $ on Saturday were:

Haltwistle Fibers - a 1 lb bump of Blue Faced Leicester - the softest of the bunch in a soft heathery grayish brown.

Misty Mountain Farm - 11 oz of fin in chocolate brown and 5 oz butterscotch. I've already begun spinning this and can't believe the joy it is to handle.

Simpler Thyme - herbal Moth Beware - full of pennyroyal

Timebertops Spinning Wheels - a lovely orifice hook in case - since I lost HeyBaby’s and never thought to go to an Ashford dealer and buying one that fits her.

Thistledown Gallery about 5 oz of angora fur - the same place I bought from last year. I really like both the quality and the friendliness of that booth. It's quite small and to the right of the main entrance, while almost everybody else is to the left - so it's easy to miss - but I really really really like this booth.

And I am guessing Persimmon Tree Farm, where I picked up the most delicious mohair blend in a colorway that looks like you're staring into a bonfire, though it's called Indian Corn.

Saturday night was spent pawing through the loot and laughing with Jen, who has taste so similar to mine that 90% of the time we end up buying the same stuff - even when we're shopping separately! And of course, sampling everything.

Sunday was very gray and spitting rain before we got to the fairgrounds, but it was quite warm. Bad weather had been predicted but it never really came - the day was warm, but not so stifling as Saturday, and nothing nasty really showed up till we were on Highway 70 headed for VA again. But the crowds were much lighter. I understand that so much purchasing went on Saturday that some vendors were selling out, so perhaps they were glad for the lighter crowds on Sunday. I know I was.

The extreme highlight of Sunday was meeting Rose’s N2Rockwells, from the KR Forums, and his darling son, D. Truth is, I fell in love with him when I saw the look on his face in all the wedding photos A showed me back in March. This is a really really reeeally good man and since I have a particular fondness for good men - for the fact of them, for their existence - I especially like it when I meet a new one.

N2R had already sampled that heart attack on a stick, the Deep Fat Fried Hostess Twinkee and confirmed the husbandly comment I overheard last year; “They’re really good”. I wondered if it were a gender thing - but I also wanted to try one. So, with 5 other people to share the sin, we trooped off to the stall and plunked down our pennies.

Gotta agree. They really are good. They taste much more like a hot cream filled doughnut - of the gooey Krispy Kreme variety. There is a photo of the bunch of us, but not on my camera. I look forward to getting a copy of that moment - the powdered sugar dusted faces, the pink tongues - yep yep I'd like a visual on that.

I also made sure I got in at least a peek of the sheep dogs trials. Those precious animals, so happy to be given work to do. And several of us made a tour through the sheep pens, petting and fondling the flirts - especially a black ram from Morehouse Merino. What a cutie.

Of course, with a mountain of fiber already one might have thought I wasn't in a shopping mood - but one would be quite wrong. The booths that were able to lure $ from my pocketbook on Sunday were:

Stone Mountain Farm - delicately dyed mohair top in scrumptious colors. The warm peachy pink that looks so good on me and is at last back in vogue, hopped right into my bag. At $14 for 8 ounces I will surprise the world with a fine spun yarn - a boucle maybe, or a lace weight knit on big needles.

Susan's Fiber Shop - where I picked up, again for $14, 850 yards of lace weight cashmere/merino from Japan. This place also had delicious spindles by a new spindle maker whose first name is Adam. I can't remember his last name, but M bought one and I'll ask her. I really would have liked one of them but was being a lot more careful with the $. The clerk there, not Susan, was awash in purple - purple dyed hair, purple clothes and purple nail polish.

Firesong Fibers - - who sold me a beautifully dyed ball of Blue Faced Leicester - hand painted in magic colors.

The Good Shepherd - a bag of silk waste to be carded into other fibers to make magical slubbed yarns

Little Barn Ltd. - 4 bags of sparkly stuff - gold, green, red and clear - I actually forget what this stuff is called, but it’s mylar or glitter or whatever. It is for carding or spinning into other fibers to make glittery yarns. I am, after all, 50% magpie.

Liberty Ridge - These folk sold me my first fibers 2 years ago when I first took up spinning. They had huge bats of carded colors of mohair/wool blends. I'm trying to break out of my earth tones rut and here was the place to do so. Piles and Heaps and Mounds of color spilled out of this booth. I'll admit, I still tend towards the warmer versions of colors, but I filled a bag with about 6 different mixes of colors - turquoise, purple, greens with pink in them, peaches. All these small bits are intended for experiments, samples, hats, and trims. And the folk at Liberty Ridge say if you send them a little sample of what you bought, they can make more. They keep recipes of their offerings and, while you'll get a different dye lot, at least you'll get the same basic colorway.

Each year I've been to MSW I've looked at, and lusted over, the yarns from Brooks Farm Fibers. They are gorgeous things. Luxury blends put up in big 500 yard hanks. Fairly priced, at $30 a skein, for hand dyed yarns they're really a bargain. And such colors. But I've never bought their yarns. Part of the problem is that I already have a mountain of yarn at home. Good yarns are easier to get than unusual fibers, so when I'm at the festival I'm more inclined to buy fiber than yarn. Then, this booth is also to the right of the fair entrance - where you might go at the end of the show, when you're broke. This time I made sure I got some of their beautiful yarn called Harmony a mohair/wool/silk blend, two skeins, one a solid and one a coordinating multi. I am really pleased with myself about this. The colors are very feminine and I intend to do a lacy cardigan type of thing with it.

I picked up some little fur covered kittens for my goddaughters and a border collie card for another friend and that about depleted the funds.

We had to linger till 5 o'clock to pick up my Alice Starmore hat, which got only a very small comment: "interesting use of fairisle" on the comment sheet. Too bad. I'd have liked more feedback. Interestingly, that hat stood out like a sore thumb, colorwise. When I scanned the whole room, full not just of entries, but of people also in clothing, my eyes immediately zinged onto that hat. And though I like the colors, and so would most people, when seeing it alone, it really clashed with all the other colors there. Now, I have some thoughts about English colors. I've bought wool fabric from England before and found that the colors didn't go with anything else I could buy in the U.S. Even though most of our yarns are manufactured in Europe, I believe the colors they send over here are "American" colors. Alice Starmore yarns are not sold through any distributor and she mostly pleases herself with the colors she chooses. She goes to great length, too, about her color choices, on her web page. Like Noro's colors, they are different. And in this case, they really clashed. It was an interesting phenomenon.

In the tired light of the end of day we rather trudged back to the car and headed home. Rain - real mean rain, held off till we were within a few miles of home. A kind indulgence from the weather gods. Everybody hauled her treasures inside and, reluctant to bid such an experience goodnight, we sat up till our heads bobbed and eyes drooped.

Good bye Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Good bye till next year.

posted by Bess | 11:44 AM


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I'm back. I'm broke. I'm blissful. I'm writing my report. It was everything and more. I'll post as soon as I can!

Oh sigh of pleasure and pure bliss.

posted by Bess | 8:42 AM