Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Frozen Chicken Poop Doesn't Stick to Your Boots

But, at this point, that's about the only good thing I can say about winter. We've certainly had enough of it around here, and we are very ready for Spring.

The chickens hijacked the blog for the month of February. Boredom and the short days of winter conspired against us to make for some very crabby poultry. There were many demonstrations of a chickie nature, and it was much feared that the price of eggs would increase substantially, as most of the hens went on a labor strike and refused to lay eggs. I am happy to report that I wrested control back, through utter ruthless efforts to distract them with oatmeal, cabbage, and a new area to explore. The weather has also come to our aid, and the simple fact that the days are getting longer. Thank goodness.
It is so hard to get good pictures of the chickens, because they move too darn fast, believe it or not. This is Daisy, the only chicken who has figured out the "chicken IQ test" that I have been using to keep them in their new pen area (see below)

It's finally warming up around here, which is cheering us all up, after our winter's hibernation. This week, I started our first round of seeds--the plants that need to be started 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost. I have a bunch more to start in another 3 weeks or so. It's exciting! Is it dorky that I am so excited? Probably. Rich put a quick, temporary fence on the front of most of the garden area, so that we can let the chickens run around in there.
It gives them a lot more space to explore than they have had for the past few months. I've got the old chicken tractor propped against the open gateway, and that keeps them in, although daisy has figured out that sometimes she can squeeze around the tractor. Rich has a beautiful, real wooden gate that we probably will hang this weekend. And sometime in the next month or two, we plan to borrow a rototiller from a neighbor and get it ready to be a real garden. Sorry chickens.

I know it's been a long time since I written a blog entry, but we only had "little stuff" going on around here. Not the most exciting fodder to write about, if you know what I mean. Maybe I could make it all more interesting by writing in headlines? Or writing like those teasers they use for upcoming news stories?

Health news: Mathboy's biopsy was a stressful event for all of us, but the good news is that they did not find anything pathological to explain his protein problem. But this is one of those times when no news was good news. The doctor believes it must be "minimal change" syndrome, and prescribed medication to treat that, and we will continue to monitor the situation in case it is a precursor or a very early symptom of more serious kidney problems.

Mathboy got contacts this month, too. Actually, I should say that he got a contact, as it turns out he only needs correction in one eye. He's 20/20 in his left eye and 20/80 in the right eye. Oh, so that's why he's been dropping all those pop flies. He had no depth perception. Oops. I had to really persuade the eye doctor to give him a prescription, because apparently the one good eye does a fine enough job that she thought he could get by. But she hadn't seen him on a baseball field lately. So now he has one contact that he wears for sports only, and the difference in his ability to see the ball, and his confidence in his ability to catch the ball, is tremendous.

Mathboy also gets his braces off this month. We're excited to see him without metal in his mouth for the first time in 2 and 1/2 years.

Exercise news? Yeah, well, Mathboy and I have not been out running for a very long time. I have been making due with the elliptical trainer and Mathboy has been taking it easy. However, I do want to get back to running when the weather is better. In the meantime, when I recently visited Mom and Bill, I took their dog out for a walk and tried to get him into a bit of a run. Well....

Dear Readers: I outran an Australian Sheep Dog. He's a terribly out of shape Australian sheep dog, but still.... I guess I'm not that bad after all.

Sports news: A sure sign of Spring, baseball and Softball seasons are beginning. Mathboy is playing for his school this year, which means it is the first year he has not been involved with Mount Laurel Baseball since Spring, 2004, when he played T-Ball. It's the end of an era. On the other hand, Rich has volunteered to be coach for Catgirl's softball team. Yes, the crazy is strong in our family.

In home news: Rich and Sydney's new king-sized Mattress is super comfy, but ridiculously huge and very expensive. Perhaps it would have been cheaper to buy a kids' bouncy house to sleep in, and it might have been easier to get that up the stairs. It took 3 guys to wrestle our new mattress--rolled up like a giant latex stromboli--up the stairs. I couldn't watch; I was sure they were going to break something. Later, Rich mused that it must be a turning point in your life when you buy a bed that costs more than your first car did.

It was Musical Mattresses that weekend, as we moved our old queen to Mathboy's room (so we can use his room as a guest room when we have company) and his old twin to Catgirl's room (because his mattress was better than hers). Mathboy has been growing so fast that it's hard to keep up, and he needed something a little bigger.

More home news: I discover mad locksmithing skillz, replacing broken doorknobs. For the first time in 10 years, the family now has a key that will open the knob for the front door. Next up for me: channelling my inner plumber, as we have 2 sink traps that need replacing. I've done it before, so I know how to do it, but man, do I hate squeezing under the vanity.

Coming up in Kid News for March: Mathboy and Catgirl discover the hard way that being in a school play eats up all their spare time, and then some. They are going to have to clone themselves to be able to attend baseball and softball practice over the next two weeks.

Music news: Sydney spent the month of February loading all her parents' CDs into an iTunes library. Turns out that is quite a job. Mom and Bill never met a soundtrack or compilation that they didn't like, LOL. They now have been reunited with a collection spanning 20 years, and things sound good in their house again. Turn off that TV, Mom, and groove to the iPod.

Cat news: Rudolph is the only one not looking forward to Spring, because it means there will be no more fires in the fireplace for him to sleep in front of. The only good thing about Spring is that it is one step closer to Summer: the season when kids go in and out frequently and give him several chances a day to escape and play with his friends outside, the Ticks.
(If we could only teach him how to sit like a real cat, that would be awesome. And maybe he could do some vacuuming?)

And now to the best part, the Knitting news: I did a crazy thing recently. I have been knitting socks since I taught myself how in 2006. I learned how using info from Wendy Johnson, and I learned to do them toe-up, because that was the way Wendy did them. (She might do them differently now, I am not sure.) Anyway, after 4 years and maybe 25 or 30 pairs of toe-up socks, I threw caution to the wind this January and ... cast on a pair of top-down socks. I know, I know. Maybe I should have made sure you were all sitting down before I just came out and said that.

Here they are:
nemesis socks
This is the Nemesis pattern from Knitty, in the Tosca colorway of Handpainted Donegal Sock Yarn, which I bought at Woolbearers. The socks turned out great! I even did OK with the kitchenering for the toes. I used to say kitchener stitch was my nemesis (an odd coincidence with the name of this sock pattern, no?), but I'm getting better. They are very comfortable and fit great. When I wear them in boots (which is pretty much all I wore on my feet for 3 months), I can feel the sides of the heel flap where I picked up the stitches, and I don't love that. But it's not too bad.

Then Sarah came over and showed me the Socks of Insanity that she was knitting for her son, with about 100 stitches around, knit in rib on size 1 needles. I was so glad she came to visit. I hadn't seen her in ages! And sometimes it's nice to know that there are other people out there crazier than you, know what I mean?

As a bonus, Sarah brought her copy of Sock Innovation, and let me borrow it. Now that I know how to knit socks top-down, a whole new world of sock knitting has opened up to me, and I think one of the undisputed geniuses of that world is Cookie A. I'd always admired her designs, but had never made any because they are all top-down. Well, I dove right in with this pair:
kai mei socks
This is the Kai Mei pattern, and it has a very cool lace pattern that runs down and over the side of the foot. I've read that it's a "honeybee" lace pattern, but I think it looks like a heart, which was perfect for knitting in February.

I love these socks. The pattern was fun and challenging, and the yarn was very pleasant to knit, but I am kind of annoyed that the skeins did not end up matching well at all. It's Jojoland Melody, and both balls were the same colorway and dye lot, but you see how different the socks look. They are more fraternal twins than identical, I guess.

I am clearly on a pink kick lately, trying to brighten up the winter with a cheery color. I've made a hat from magenta-red Malabrigo, a pair of fingerless mitts from pink sock yarn, and I am about halfway through a shawl of pink and mango colored sock yarn that is so bright it blinds the camera, LOL.

That's enough news for today, I think. I will be back soon with more updates!

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