Thoughts and Memories in a Shawl

This year I did something new and joined a yarn club through Destination Yarns and Erin Lane Bags. It alternates every month, but one month I get a skein of yarn, and the next month I get a yarn bag. The fun part is that the theme for the yarn and bags are both centered around world travel and, not being much of a traveler, it’s always someplace I’ve never been. Each month there’s a clue and you get to guess where in the world you’re figuratively going before the yarn gets mailed to you. I always have a good time trying to guess, and was pretty tickled in March when I figured out the destination was Japan.

The yarn is called Mount Fuji, and its beautiful pink color is reminiscent of the cherry trees that bloom there in the spring. I was telling my husband all this when I got the yarn package out of the mailbox, and was excitedly opening it. As I was holding the soft wool in my hands, I remembered what my mom had to say about the color pink. She felt pink was the perfect color for everyone, and would tell you there is a shade of pink that will look good on anyone, no matter your skin tone, you just have to find the right pink. My mom said this so often, her friends thought her favorite color was pink, and were surprised when I told them it was actually red.

Later on that morning, I was still gushing to my husband about the yarn, and the destination. I’ve never been to Japan, but when my mom was on city council in her town of Seward, Alaska, she had the opportunity to go. Seward has a sister city in Japan – Obihiro. Every year there are student exchanges, and that particular year city council members went. My mom was so excited. Even though she didn’t travel often, she loved when she was able to, and she’d always been interested in going to places like Japan. Looking at the yarn, I remembered the stories she told about her trip, and all the fun she had, and without thinking, I said, “I’m going to make a shawl out of this for mom. She’ll love the color, and when I tell her the color is the cherry blossoms on Mount Fuji, it’ll remind her of her trip,” for a second all I thought about was what shawl pattern would be perfect for the yarn, and for her, and then I burst into tears. My mom passed away four years ago. I haven’t forgotten that, but for a moment, it had been like she was still here.

I put the yarn in a drawer, thinking I would let it sit for a while. But, you know, I couldn’t quit thinking about it. So, I pulled the hank out and wound it into a ball and set it on my work table where I could look at it. I printed off a couple of lacy shawl patterns, but realized I needed to work on my lace knitting skills before I tackle anything complicated. No big deal, I wasn’t ready to make anything with this yarn anyway, right? One morning I was poking around on Ravelry, and I saw the Reyna Shawl. It’s beautiful, and simple, a pattern that would let my mind drift as it wanted, and wouldn’t require a lot of concentration. What to do with the shawl when I finished it, though?

I couldn’t do what I wanted to do with it, and give it to my mom. It wasn’t a shawl I wanted to keep, either. Looking at it, it felt like a piece that needed to go to someone, but who? I let the thought simmer for a while with the yarn and pattern on my work table. There was a hat I was working on that I wanted to finish first, anyway. But then I did finish it, and I needed something to work on, so I picked up the pink yarn and pattern.

Casting on my first stitches, I was thinking about a conversation I’d had with my dad that morning. My aunt, his sister, is coming to visit this summer. He was working on getting the house cleaned up. The conversation felt a little surreal. In that past, it would have been my mom talking about cleaning, and planning the things they would do while my aunt was here. I remembered when I got married 16 years ago. My Aunt Kim was my maid of honor, and wore this beautiful pink dress. That shade of pink was perfect for her, and you know, I think the pink of this yarn is too. My aunt lives in North Carolina, but everything is air conditioned. I bet a shawl would be just the thing. It’s portable, not too bulky, and can be worn at work, or church, or anywhere she wants really. I could probably finish it before she gets here, and have it waiting for her. Now, the yarn holds more than one memory, more than one emotion. I hold the wool and think of my mom, and her trip, and the color pink, and my wedding day, and how the shawl will look on my aunt, and I hope it will keep her warm. I hold the yarn in my hands and let the memories roll around. I hear my mom’s voice, and see my aunt, and smile.


My Yarn Stash and Boobs

All right, this seem odd. Yarn stash and boobs are two things that aren’t really related. Generally speaking, that’s usually true, but not for this post. Stick with me for a moment and I’ll explain.

A few weeks ago my good friends were over for dinner and to hang out. We were sitting around, eating too much, drinking a little too much, and they were telling me about some friends who’d just had their first baby, and I was asked if I could make a boob beanie. I had to ask what the heck they were talking about. I hadn’t heard of such a hat, which surprised them. They said when they had their boys they were given more than one, and thought it was a standard gift for nursing moms and their babies. I pointed out my kids are a bit older, and no one I knew when I had them would have thought to give us a boob beanie.

Which made me wonder, why not? Choosing to nurse your baby wasn’t considered an odd thing to do when I had my oldest son. For the most part, I was encouraged to. So, would a boob beanie have really been that odd a gift at the time? I don’t know, but it did remind of after I’d had my son. My midwife asked me if I was going to nurse him or give him formula. I told her I was going to nurse him, and intended to until he was one. She gave me a card to carry in my purse. On the card it had Alaska Statute Sec. 29.25.080 Breast-feeding:

“A municipality may not enact an ordinance that prohibits or restricts a woman breast-feeding a child in a public or private location where the woman and child are otherwise authorized to be. In a municipal ordinance, “lewd conduct,” “lewd touching,” “immoral conduct,” “indecent conduct,” and similar terms do not include the act of a woman breast-feeding a child in a public or private location where the woman and child are otherwise authorized to be. Nothing in this section may be construed to authorize an act that is an offense under a municipal ordinance that establishes an offense with elements substantially equivalent to the elements of an offense under AS 11.61.123. This section is applicable to home rule and general law municipalities.”

When I asked her why I would need it, she said I might get hassled for feeding my baby in public. If that happened, give it to the person, and let them know it’s perfectly legal. As is stated repeatedly in the statute, there’s nothing indecent about nursing in public. At the time, I thought, of course it isn’t indecent! But you know, I remember finding nursing in public kind of stressful. I always felt like I had to make sure me and the baby were covered up, which never worked out well. He wasn’t used to have a blanket over his head at home, and sure as heck wasn’t going to put up with it just because we were somewhere else. I usually tried for a few minutes, and then gave up. A kid’s got to eat, and if anyone had a problem with it, I had the card saying it was okay. Why do people even get worked up over this?  After all, a woman’s breasts are there for a reason beyond sex. They’re there to feed the babies, and until fairly recently in human history, there really weren’t any other options.

The boob beanies really make a statement about breast feeding in public, and how it’s fine, and do it in a fun way. So, at first I said I would happily make one, and then I got to thinking about what yarn I would use, and I said no. The only yarn I could think of for the hats was this big skein of Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool yarn that I have. It’s cream colored, worsted weight, and I tend to use it for most surprise hat projects. It’s kind of scratchy though, so not the best yarn for a baby hat, and you can’t stick it in the wash. I told them I’d have to order the yarn, and they may find a hat they like on Etsy quicker. But, being a curious kind of person, I went on to see what kind of patterns were out there for nursing or boob beanies, and found there were lots of knitting and crochet options.

After a little bit of looking around, I found a crochet pattern I liked. It’s by Jennifer Holzer, and is called the Nursing Beanie. The pattern has sizes from 0-3 months, all the way up to toddler. I went on ahead and downloaded it because you never know when this kind of thing will come up again. Which then reminded me of the yarn I have on the top shelf. It’s mostly cotton yarn of various weights and colors, and after I climbed up on the ladder to look, I realized I had all kinds of yarn options for making boob beanies. I wrote my friends and told them I had the yarn after all, and would have two hats ready for them by the end of the week.

The Yarn I Found in my Stash
I bought this yarn a few years ago. I got it in a bunch of different colors, and have used it for hats, flowers, and one of the first sweaters I crocheted.
The first boob beanie in progress. This one was for 0-3 months.
The finished beanies. I made 0-3 months, and 3-6 months.

My take away from all of this was two things. First of all, before saying you don’t have the yarn for that project, check your stash. You could be surprised by all the yarn you squirreled away. Secondly, there seems to be more acceptance for women nursing in public, and that’s a good thing.



Changing It Up

I’ve been thinking about this blog for a while. I haven’t been writing about my adventures in farming, and I started to wonder why I don’t really have much to say on the subject anymore. After all, I still have ducks, chickens, and geese. I’m still learning from them every day I walk out to bring them water, feed, and have a morning chat. So what gives? I suppose it’s because my little front yard farm has become routine to me. Writing about it everyday would be like having a parenting blog and spending all my time talking about how, once again, the kids wouldn’t put their damn shoes on for school.  I don’t know how it is for the reader, but it gets boring for the writer. So, time for a change.

Besides writing about the little farm, expect to see future posts on crochet, knitting, photography, and the occasional poem. I’m passionate about crochet and knitting. I love the feel of yarn, hook, and needles. When I take them up, and begin to work, my stress and anxiety disappear for a little while. I take my current project with me wherever I go, like Linus with his blanket. It’s difficult for me to imagine a time when I didn’t crochet or knit, but I didn’t teach myself until I was in college. Crocheting was something my Grandma Shafer did, and since I’ve always thought she was a very cool lady, it was something I wanted to learn, and so I did. Last winter I taught myself to knit because it was something my mom did, and since she’s passed away, I thought it would be a way I could connect with her. I thought learning to knit would be a struggle, but so far it’s gone pretty smoothly.

I don’t know that I’m passionate about photography, but it’s something I really like to do – which kind of cracks me up. When I was in high school, I took a photography class, and got an F. The only F I ever got in school, and boy was my mom pissed at me. My dad was a bit understanding after I explained I had quit doing anything in the class because the teacher regularly made fun of my East Tennessee accent (my family had just moved to Alaska from Tennessee, needless to say I didn’t talk like any of my classmates). I swore to myself I’d never have anything to do with it again, and mostly stuck with that attitude, until my husband noticed I liked taking pictures of the chickadees and the creek by our house with my phone, and got me Canon to play around with. It’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given.

Wondering how the farm is doing, and if I’ll ever write about it again? I’m sure I will! We still have snow everywhere, but the light is getting longer. The ducks and geese should start laying any day now. When I bring them water in the morning I remind them of this fact. They tell me to be patient, they’ll lay when they lay. I tell them I haven’t had a fresh egg since October, and they say it will be just a bit longer, and then there will be so many eggs I won’t know what to do with them all.

The geese came up on the porch to say hello. I was blasting music while cleaning, and they were enjoying the tunes.


Tomorrow is the anniversary of my mom’s passing. I wish there was a better word than that. It’s not something I want to celebrate, and I don’t need the reminder of her death to jog my mind into thinking about her. I think about my mom all the time. Hell, I still kind of talk to her everyday. It’s a one sided conversation, but that’s okay. Inevitably, when I think about my mom, I also think about my brother, and that’s okay too. I guess, because of this, memories have been on my mind, but I wasn’t sure what to do with them, if anything. Until yesterday, when I was talking with friends.

One of them lives in Georgia, and she was talking about how they got snow, and a day off from school. Living in Alaska, I snorted, but then I remembered what it was like when I was a kid in Tennessee. Man, when it snowed we were excited! A day off from school, and snow ball fights! We didn’t have proper snow gear, but my mom would have us put three pair of socks over our hands and she would rubber band sandwich baggies over top to make them sort of waterproof. She’d then take the bags the newspaper came in and rubber band those over the top of our shoes. My brothers and I would go along with this for a little while, and then we’d lose the baggies and soon have water logged sock mittens and wet feet. It never mattered to us. We were busy having snowball fights and trying to build a snowman. I told my friends about this, and one of them remarked it must have been a culture shock when we moved up here. It was, but I’ve lived here long enough I don’t really remember how it felt. Everything that would have been strange then, is normal now. However, it did get me to thinking.

I remembered our first winter in Seward. That winter, we got excited every time it snowed. Seward’s pretty wet, so the snowflakes there would clump up, which was something I had never seen before. It snowed, we went to school, and my brothers learned the joys of shoveling. It didn’t matter though, we thought it was great. For the first few months, my youngest brother did the snow dance (like in Calvin and Hobbes) every night. Until we realized it wasn’t going anywhere until May, and then my mom forbid it. We also ate snow cream everyday. In Tennessee, snow cream was a treat. We only got to it once a year, maybe. Here, we ate it every day. We’d go out on the back deck with my mom’s big mixing bowl, and quickly fill it full of snow. Then we’d come in and pour in a cup of sugar, a bit of milk, and some vanilla. For a while, it was so awesome to be able to eat it whenever we wanted, but it got old after a while. Come to think of it, I haven’t had snow cream since.

I’ve never been one for hanging out in the great outdoors. So, I sometimes think Alaska is a bit wasted on me. I do like going for hikes and wandering around, and Seward was pretty awesome because the library was right down the street. I’d walk down there just about everyday, no matter the weather, in hunt of something new to read. My brother loved the great outdoors. We moved up here, and he was in heaven. Hunting, fishing, trapping – he did all of it. I remember that first winter he asked my mom for snowshoes for Christmas.

I think he was hoping for the light weight aluminum ones, but my mom got him what they had down at the Fish House. What they had were the old school ones, like you’ll see used as decoration on lodge walls. They were long and wooden, with leather and sinew bindings. If Stewart was disappointed, he never did say, and he used them all the time when he went hunting and to check his trap line. When he’d come in, it was hard to say what smelled worse the drying out leather bindings, or his feet.

I was talking to my dad yesterday, and he was telling me he was going to clean out the arctic entryway. I have to wonder if he’ll find those snowshoes tucked away in a corner.

Sometimes when someone passes away, we spend a lot of time talking about the things they did, the effect they had on everyone’s life. How they left behind big shoes to fill. At some point though, it’s good to take a minute and remember the smaller things. Like their hands as they rubber banded sandwich baggies around your sock mittens. Them telling you how much snow you had to scrape off the car for the much anticipated treat of snow cream. Their feet in big wooden snow shoes that they strapped on that first Christmas in Seward.

Planting a Garden

I have a confession to make. It’s not a big one, nothing scandalous, I’m just admitting I’m not a good gardener. I like plants of all kinds, flowers, veggies, trees, etc., and every year my husband and I talk about how we’re going to plant, and we just never do. We get caught up with whatever thing happens to be going on, and forget about it. So, when we started talking about growing things this winter, I was thinking in the back of my brain we would talk, but not do.

This year, with the help of the homeowners insurance, who said we needed to clean up our yard, we actually got a garden in. I don’t know if anything will pop up, but at least we did more than talk.

This area used to be filled with rolls of chicken wire, a lawn mower we hardly ever used, old tarps, and an ancient lawn tractor. After clearing it all out, we saw we have a bare patch of earth that just needed a bit of tilling before planting. Last night, Dave went and hoed the rows, and today the kids and I planted. I planted seeds for winter and summer squash in the row closest to the wall. The next row has zucchini, after that there are leeks, beets, carrots, spinach, lettuce, and sweet peas around the border.
The couple times we’ve put in a garden, this is where we usually do it. We weren’t going to do anything this year, but Dave’s step dad loaned us his tiller, so Dave tilled it all up, the kids took out the grass clumps, and we’re slowly going to turn this into a hoop house.
We did decide to plant potatoes this year. So, in the middle of May I got seed potatoes for Yukon Gold and Purple potatoes, and we planted them in plastic garbage cans. They are coming along quite nicely.


My youngest son loves tomatoes. It’s too cold to plant them in the ground here, so I put the seeds in some old planters we had laying around, and put them in the porch. It’s south facing, and can get quite hot during the day. I also planted some bell pepper seeds. We’ll see what comes up.

Joy in the Little Things

There are days where the world catches up to me, and leaves me feeling heavy and sad. I feel lost and alone, and hopeless, but, sometimes, I get lucky, and things remind me there is still good, I just have to look.

I was feeling that way this morning when I went outside to let out the birds, and dump a couple cartons of red worms into the various hay piles. They are supposed to be good for compost, so I figured they would like helping to breakdown the goose and duck poop. While I was standing in the woods, I saw a robin fly into the crook of a Birch, and fly out again. As I watched, she came back with a beak full of twigs, and started building more on her nest.

Here is the robin’s nest in the Birch tree, and the robin working on getting it just right with hay and twigs.


When I went to the front, I saw the woodpecker was back. He’s been a daily visitor, coming each morning to get seeds from the feeder.

The woodpecker getting seeds.

I went in the goose yard to fill their water buckets, and took a minute to check out the Big Burr Oak. My husband is convinced it’s dead because the geese stripped some of the bark. Look, the buds are swelling. I think the tree will be all right.


I checked the potatoes were growing in some big blue garbage cans, and they are starting to sprout.


When I went in the duck yard to give them their water, one of the ducks practically laid her egg on my boot. There was no fuss about it, she just mosey past, dropped her egg, and got a drink of water. When I picked it up, it still had the fluid on the outside of the egg, giving it a bit of a slimy feel. You don’t get fresher than that.

When I stepped out of the yard, I saw the flowers on the current bush. If the geese don’t eat them, we may have berries later on in the summer.

Their purple flowers make me think of lace hanging from the green leaves.

All of this reminded me there is joy in the little things. I just have to take the time to look.