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Continued Cold and Snow

Posted by mrssmythe on January 15, 2018 in Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Seasons, Week in Review |

Snow and frigid temperatures continue – except for one strange day when we reached 60 degrees and all of the snow melted in a matter of hours. Lawns flooded, then froze again into shallow ice rinks the next day. Strange.

Ursa has been enjoying this winter very much.

When we go for walks, she veers off the path and plunges into the snow.

Then, she rolls around on her back. It’s almost like a bird dust bathing. This time of year, we have to work hard to get her back inside after we let her out.

Someone else who enjoys snow…Ginger!

Ginger was thrilled to find piles and piles of the stuff at a nearby park. Crews had cleared the parking area and, in so doing, had created great snowy mounds perfect for scaling. Ginger would have stayed all day if I’d let her, but the wind was biting, and I lured her back home with the promise of hot cocoa.

I also wanted to get the rest of the Christmas decorations taken down that day. Shadow wasn’t much help:

In other pet news, the chickens have been very good sports about the recent weather. At one point, our back yard hit -26 (F) overnight. We did what we could to keep them warm, and they came through very well. None of them seem to have suffered any ill effects. I think we even escaped the dreaded frost bite that can occur on their combs when the weather gets truly awful.

One funny moment, though – Pepper forgot to open the door to their run one day and the chickens weren’t able to get to their coop at sundown. They took it in stride and holed up in the barn, with Mabel – our Easter Egger – scaling a ladder to find a nice lofty spot to roost.

When Pepper discovered them, she helped Mabel down…

and sent them off to their beds.

Now, more than ever, I’m grateful CPT A made the barn alterations he did this fall. I can’t imagine what the chickens would have done without its shelter.

Meanwhile, I’ve been sheltering in the house, spending what time I can working on that sweater vest I showed you a while back. I hope to finish it in the next day or two. This past week, I cut the steeks for the neckline and armholes. It seemed a bit unnatural, taking scissors to something I’d put so much work into…

But, everything turned out all right. Here you see the neckline, mid-process. Nothing came unraveled, which is always the concern.

Now, here we are – already halfway through January. Winter is settling in with more snow on the way. Ginger and Ursa will be thrilled. CPT America – maybe not so much. He does the plowing, after all. But – as long as I have needles, yarn, and a good book, I think I’ll be fine.

From the dining room table, getting ready to pick up said needles as soon as I finish here,

Mrs. Smythe

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4

Cold, Cold, Cold

Posted by mrssmythe on January 6, 2018 in Critters, Seasons, Week in Review |

The past week has been frigid, to say the least, and Thursday we had nearly a foot of snow dumped on us. Most things shut down. Meanwhile, CPT A battled our ailing snow blower, pausing in his plowing to perform multiple repairs to its tires and drive spring…he even slogged to Home Depot at one point for shear pins. CPT A did not have a restful snow day.

I, however, spent much of the day knitting, though this is not what I was working on:

This is Ginger’s Christmas vest, which I finished at five o’clock on Christmas Eve and which she wore to services that night. She wore it unblocked (for non-knitters, this is the equivalent of sewing a garment and throwing it on without first ironing it). I would have preferred to have it debut in pristine form, but she was so excited, I let her pop it over head right away.

For anyone interested in knitting something similar, I used Nancy Lindberg’s Pullover Vest pattern – a versatile document that works for children’s vests sizes 2-12. I knit Ginger a 12 and lengthened it about an inch and a half. I think you could even use this pattern for a petite adult. The pattern gives instructions for knitting a crew neck vest, as well, and gives two different methods for construction.

Ginger loves the vest and has joined me in believing that sweater vests are wonderful garments – just the thing for keeping warm without overheating.

Now, back to the snowstorm.

Later Thursday evening (after the snow blower was put away and CPT America finally got to sit down), we had a surprise visitor: a Southern Flying Squirrel.

(The bird feeder, by the way, was yet another thing kept drift free by CPT A on Thursday).

We’d never seen one of these in person before – I suspect partly because they are nocturnal. But, as of this writing, we’ve seen him two nights in a row. It’s been a treat to observe his dainty ways (he’s a very tidy eater) and to see him glide (he makes adorable snow angels when he lands); also to note how he differs from the other squirrels we see. He has a flat, rather than fluffy, tail, and enormous eyes. I imagine the tail is for gliding, and the eyes help him to see at night.

It’s nice to have these little bright spots in days that have been incredibly cold and, at times, pretty miserable. We’ll be very happy to see more normal temperatures return.

From the dining room table, wanting to leave you with one last wintry image:

Mrs. Smythe

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Arctic Temperatures and an Accordion

Posted by mrssmythe on December 28, 2017 in Celebrations, Chickens, Critters, Garden, Mrs. Smythe, Seasons, Week in Review |

Did you have a white Christmas like we did? Wasn’t it nice?

Or, maybe it wasn’t so nice for you. Maybe you had to drive somewhere and the roads were treacherous. That’s never fun. But, if, like us, you were spending Christmas at the at the next door neighbor’s house and had only to walk across the driveway to get there, then the snow wasn’t a nuisance, it was ambiance.

The cold, however, hasn’t been quite so pleasant, and CPT A has taken the brunt of it over the past few days, being the one who lets the chickens out first thing in the morning. Today, it was well below zero when he got to the barn.

Later in the mornings, Pepper takes over, checking on the chickens to make sure their water isn’t frozen and that they’re doing alright.

So far, they’ve been doing just fine. CPT A plugged a heating bulb in for them this morning, so, while they aren’t exactly toasty, at least they’re warmer than they would be outside. Honestly, I think we get more concerned about the cold than they do.

In other bird news, I spotted this print in the snow the other morning. I think it came from either a hawk or an owl landing on something.

Sort of a grim version of a snow angel.

Kipper tries to do his own hunting in my Hugelkultur bed.

I think there must be rodents bedded down under the wood and he senses them. He really isn’t supposed to be in that area at all – technically, it’s the garden – but the snow has blurred the boundaries in the yard, and he gets away with it.

Despite the cold, I’ve been trying to spend as much time as I can outside. We do get a lot of sun and blue skies in the winter. That’s always nice. And, I’ve found that if I have the proper gear on, I can stay pretty warm despite the chill.

Kipper definitely has the proper gear. He could stay out indefinitely, I think.

He’s always the last one to come in.

And, finally, looping back to the subject of Christmas, I wanted to share this photo of Ginger who was thrilled to receive a push button accordion this year.

We’ve been really pleased with this particular model (The Mugig Accordion Solo and Ensemble Instrument), and Ginger is already at work building a repertoire of Christmas carols and folk songs. There’s a tradition of accordion playing in the family on CPT A’s side, and it’s fun to see it coming out now in the younger generation.

Looking into the coming week, we have a birthday (Pepper’s) and New Year’s to celebrate. Also, some (hopefully) warmer temperatures to look forward to. I’m hoping to squeeze in some knitting in between the celebrations, and that tree you see in the photo above – it’s getting a bit dry. Probably time to take it down. (Sigh). It will be a busy and full week, but a good one, I’m sure.

From the dining room table, hoping you’re staying warm and looking forward to the coming week as well,

Mrs. Smythe

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Snow, a Fruitcake, and Some Recent Knitting

Posted by mrssmythe on December 13, 2017 in Baking, Crafting, Critters, Week in Review |

I wonder what question the bug was asking when he carved a question mark into this oak leaf. Ginger found it today on our walk.

Maybe he was asking why the fruit you bake into a fruitcake always sinks to the bottom.

What a sad fruitcake. It tasted all right, but it had a tumultuous beginning. It started out in a springform pan, but the batter was so thin, it dripped through the seams and nearly caught fire at the bottom of my oven. By the time I figured out what was going on (the smell alerted me), the cake had been baking for about ten minutes and the kitchen was filling with smoke. I had to pull the whole thing out, transfer it to another set of pans, air out the kitchen, wait for the oven to cool, clean charred batter off of the heating element, heat the oven back up, and then finally re-bake the cake, guessing about the baking time this time because I was winging it with the pan size. Hopefully, the rest of my holiday baking will go more smoothly.

Knitting, at least, has been going well. Here’s the progress on my sweater vest. (The Valley Vest by Rosemary Drysdale).

Very pleasant knitting.

Another recent success: these “yoga socks” for Ginger:

She wears them at ballet – generally over her ballet shoes. I used Patons’ Kroy Socks yarn in the “Mexicali Stripes” colorway.

In weather news, we got our first snow on Saturday. Pepper managed to get the chickens out for their daily “walk” before things got too bad.

By Sunday morning, the yard looked like this:

Ginger pulled the sleds out of the shed and got straight to work…

…and even talked me into taking her to a nearby park for some sledding while everyone else was in school on Monday (one of the advantages to home schooling).

Now, though, rain has left us with only patchy snow, and brisk winds are keeping everything very cold. It’s a good night to hunker down with some knitting and a cup of tea…which is what I think I’ll do.

From the dining room table, hoping you have a lovely evening planned as well,

Mrs. Smythe

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Knitting, Baking, New Quarters for the Chickens, and a Birthday

Posted by mrssmythe on December 3, 2017 in Baking, Celebrations, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, libraries |

Have you started your holiday baking yet? Ginger and I began last week after she received a cookie press for her birthday. The spritz you see here were the happy result.

We used the Taste of Home Lemon-Butter Spritz Cookies recipe which made 12 dozen, though it felt like more. By the end, we were completely “spritzed” out, but the cookies were delicious, and it you’re going to spend the afternoon baking, it’s very satisfying to end up with a freezer full of cookies. (In case you’re curious, we used the Sunny Side Up Bakery Cookie Press. I think it’s available at Hobby Lobby.)

In other baking news, Ginger made these adorable mini chocolate cheesecakes for Thanksgiving dessert:

She used a recipe we found on the back of a Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate bar package. They were very simple and definitely a crowd-pleaser. I baked an apple pie and a pumpkin pie, but the cheesecakes were the first thing to go. If you’re interested, you can find the recipe we used HERE.

On the knitting front, I finally finished the Kitsap Cardigan I’d been working on.

I altered the pattern a bit – the trim and neckband were knit asymmetrically on the original, and I wasn’t a fan of that detail.

Otherwise, though, I kept everything the same. The yarn was lovely to knit with and the sweater is very cozy to wear. I really like the colors, too.

The minute the sweater was finished, I started on a birthday present for Ginger. Earlier this month, she’d requested one of the Ski Trio Hats she’d seen in a knitting catalog I’d received. Everything you need comes in one handy kit:

And, here’s the finished product –

It was a snap to knit, but be sure to get your gauge right – there’s very little room for error with the yarn. I used every scrap of remaining orange and blue for the tassels.

It will make a fine addition to Ginger’s unusual hat collection. Here you see her opening gifts on her birthday. Hard to believe she’s thirteen already!

Next up in the knitting queue – a sweater vest for me. Here’s the swatch I knit in preparation for the actual project:

I threw the mug in there to illustrate how often I am drawn to this family of colors.

The chickens are doing well – though not laying at present because our daylight time is so scarce (just over 9 hours today – they need 14-16 hours’ worth to be laying their best). CPT America cut a door into the barn so they will have extra space to stretch their legs when the weather is inclement.

It’s nice to think they’ll have somewhere warm(er) and dry when the snow starts to fly.

They still spend their nights in the Eglu coop, though. It’s much more predator-proof than the barn, and warmer, too.

And, finally, a glimpse into the interior of the Holyoke Public Library:

Have you been there yet? Isn’t it a beautiful facility? They’ve done a marvelous job merging the older sections of the building with the new addition.

I love stopping in at other Massachusetts libraries because 1). I can check out any of the books (the libraries here are all connected), and 2). a lot of them are in older buildings with beautiful architecture.

Among the books I checked out…Knitting and Tea, a promising looking volume with a tempting fruitcake recipe I decided to try out this afternoon. Stay tuned…

From the kitchen table – just now realizing I have fruitcake batter in my hair (there was a little oven “excitement” earlier this afternoon),

Mrs. Smythe

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