Can it really be true?  This boy, who was born when I was just seventeen, is now seventeen himself.  It's a little bit surreal and I've been trying to find the right words all week, but I can't.  I love this boy beyond words.

As our family does for every birthday, we celebrated with a long birthday week{end}.  Apple pie {made by Cole and Luke}, fried chicken, and chocolate cake were consumed in mass quantities, balanced by a lot of time outside enjoying the last few days of true summer.

Best wishes to all of you celebrating this end of summer weekend~

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Another Kind of Wool

Remember yesterday when I promised to show you the finished sweater today?  Well, I can't.  Not because it isn't finished, (it's FINISHED!) but because it's 95 degrees outside.  It's so humid that my lens fogged up when I went outside to take photos.

Instead I thought I'd show you the sheep skinned rug I picked up at the flea market last weekend.  When I found it hiding under a pile of kid sized sleeping bags,  I did one of those gasps people do in movies when they've discovered gold or treasure or something!  It seemed to be in great shape, except for a few surface stains and a musty smell from being in the flea market barn.  I took it home, laid it on the kitchen floor and looked at it for a while, trying to figure out how to get it clean.  I found lots of info on the web, but it was all so conflicting.  My biggest concerns were felting the wool and ruining the soft leather backing.  I went to Facebook, and as I'd hoped, lots of you were experienced in washing sheep skins.  Here's what I did, in case you're interested...

First, I filled up the tub with luke warm water and a few drops of soap.  I let the rug soak for 30 minutes.  The water was really dirty, so I drained the tub, rolled up the rug and gave it a good stomping to squeeze the water out.  I filled up the tub again and let it soak again.  The rug is about 4 feet x 6 feet and really heavy when wet, making it hard to move around.  I decided that the best way to get it rinsed properly was to put it in the washing machine.  I ended up spinning and rinsing a few times in the washer and then hung it out on the line for a few days.  

I guess it was a success, because I found Luke sleeping on it when I woke up this morning!  Not bad, for a $5 flea market find. 

Sweater photos?  Maybe tomorrow. 
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The Finished Sweater... well, almost

I finished it, I really did.  Sunday night, around 11:30 I sewed on the last button and held it up to give it one more glance over, making sure I didn't miss any loose ends.  I smiled and went to bed with the satisfaction of finally finishing Cole's sweater.  Monday morning, after breakfast, I told Cole that his sweater was done, and he immediately wanted to try it on.  It fit perfect, except for the sleeves.  Apparently, his arms have grown an inch or two since first taking his measurements, because the sleeves were way too short.  With a heavy sigh, I snipped a stitch, ripped out the row, and began knitting again.

I will be finished tonight.

I will be adding an extra two inches, because this sweater had better fit for a long, long time.

I will be modifying the pattern to include a provisional cast on, so that this bottom up sweater can be tried on before finishing, you know, to avoid all this mess in the future!

Tomorrow, I will show you a finished sweater.

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Knitting the Yoke

I stayed up late last night, after everyone had gone to sleep, to finish knitting the yoke.

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The Orange Sweater Update

... and the sleeves are joined to the body!  I just may finish by Sunday after all.

p.s. Please don't mention that I messed up when dyeing the sleeve yarn to match the body yarn, because I just can't bring myself to dye or knit with any more orange right now.   I figure if Cole flails his arms enough, no one will even notice!
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Summer Projects

I don't know about you, but we've been feeling a shift in the air and it's given us a new sense of urgency to finish {ahem, start} some lingering projects.  With the air finally cooling down, I'm hoping that we can do some serious work up north at the homestead.  I'd really like to be able to move up there right away in the spring.  Oh, how I dream of chickens and sheep, and giant gardens...

We were able to rent a trailer and get all of the reclaimed wood up to the land.  As soon as the wood from the playhouse {aka. chicken coop} was unloaded, Luke set to putting it all back together!  We had to cut the posts off to fit it on the trailer, so we'll have to replace them, but for the weekend, it was the perfect place to lay out blankets and watch the Perseid meteor shower.  It's quickly becoming one of our favorite traditions.

Cole and Luke dug a new hole and moved the fire pit.  It was down by the woods, in the low lands, where all the mosquitoes like to hang out.  Now, it's up near the area where our house will be built and the bugs are much less bothersome.

At home, we've been doing some much needed work, too.  Burning sticks from the tree that fell in May, sharpening tools, and weeding the little bit of garden I've planted this year.  My garden is finally starting to do something!  I have a few tomatoes on some heirloom plants that Mike picked up from a friend, earlier this summer.  He can't remember what they were called, but the fruit are long and narrow.  I really hope they ripen before the first frost.  I haven't had a fresh tomato yet this year!

And of course, knitting.  I have so much to say about this sweater, so I'll leave it for another day.  Except that I'm really tired of knitting with orange and I'm going to finish this sweater by the end of the week, if it kills me.  {Joining in with Ginny}

I hope you all had a wonderful week, do you have any projects you're trying to finish up?

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Heading North

We're heading up north today, with a trailer full of reclaimed wood and a few yards of yarn, to knit these tiny little acorns.
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Natural Plant Dyes: Beet, Carrot Top, Black Eyed Susan

Left: Beet Root,  Right: Carrot Tops

Black Eyed Susan

Now that my sore hands have recovered from last week's adventure, I'm back in the fiber groove!  Here's what I've had in the dye pot this week:

Purchased at the farmer's market, last week.  I trimmed all the leaves off, and then quartered the root.
I've heard it creates a nice pink color, but mine turned out a lovely, soft sage green.  I may get some ph strips and play around with water levels to see if that makes a difference.

Carrot Tops:
Left overs from carrots I bought at the farmers market.  They smell delicious when cooking on the stove, too.  No surprise there with the color, it turned a nice greenish yellow.  Jake brought home a few apples he picked on his way home from the river and they were just about the same color!  Oh, the harmony in nature...

Black Eyed Susans:
This batch was a disaster.  I left the dye bath, in a sealed jar, on the counter for way to long.  When I opened it, it smelled like rancid water and fermented flowers (which may be the absolute worst smell in the world).  I should have gotten rid of it right away, but I really wanted to see what would happen!  I took it all outside by the road, dumped it into a pot and added the yarn.  I left it for a few days in the sun, until Mike stared asking what that awful smell was outside.

I washed the yarn in soap.

I washed the yarn in vinegar.

I washed the yarn in baking soda.

The smell was not coming out.  The yarn was a tangled mess by then, so I hung it in a tree.  Maybe the fresh air would get rid of the smell, like it does with wool longies?  Nope.  A bonus, though, the olive green color is light fast.  It hasn't faded a bit.  However, the birds won't go anywhere near it.  I'm giving it a week to refresh itself and then I'll throw it away for good.

I also ordered yarn from Quince and Co. for the first time.  It's bare Osprey from their limited edition collection. (which just means that the spinning mill messed up gauge and they're selling it for a discount)  Osprey is 100% wool, in their aran weight, but it feels more like bulky weight.  Either way it's wonderfully soft and squishy and I can't wait to play with it.  I'm thinking thick, chunky cables would be really fun with this yarn!

What fiber projects have you been working on this week?

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Summer Music

One of my favorite parts about summer are all the free summer music concerts!  Last night we took a much needed break and traveled into Minneapolis for a picnic and the summer concert series at Loring Park.  They featured one of my new favorite artists, Charlie Parr (I wish I could remember the washboard player's name.  He was amazing!), along with the Roe Family Singers, who were pretty amazing too!  I've become a bit of a groupie, actually.  It's the third time I've seen Charlie live this year!  The boys... well, they don't enjoy the folk music as much as Mike and I do.  The air planes, taking off from the near by air port, and the giant dandelion fountain were a hug hit with the little guys, though!

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The Final Haul



{still smoldering}

 {a random tree frog Jake found under a pile of rock}

{trying to figure out how to get the whole playhouse to fit in one last trip}

{the roof was left behind}

It was satisfying to see all the people salvaging what they could off this house, which was destined for a colossal bon fire Saturday morning.  Among us were metal scrappers and random families, excited to be picking up almost brand new appliances for just a few dollars.  Everyone we talked to had the same response to the fate of this home...  shock, disgust, sadness, disbelief.  That so many valuable resources would be wasted, to be replaced by concrete roads and 15 more homes.  Not to mention the thousands of mature trees that would be removed from this area of land.

If we had more time and a truck of our own, we could have saved so much more.  All in all, though, we ended up removing a sliding glass door, a 6 foot picture window with a half round top, enough wood to build a chicken coop and probably a small out building on our homestead.

This whole experience has only made us more certain that creating a homestead and living as close to the earth as possible, is exactly the right thing for our family.

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More Deconstruction

So, let me tell you how day three of deconstruction went...  

First, the boys and I dropped Mike off at work.  Morning kisses and hugs all around, and well wishes for the day.  

I looked up how much it would cost to rent a truck and trailer for the day, so that we could haul all of the building materials away from the salvage house in one big load.... um, it's really expensive.  We opted to take Mike's brother up on his offer to help make trips back and forth.

I quick ran into the grocery store to pick up food for a picnic lunch, and on the way out the door,  I noticed a half folded fortune laying on the ground. {you know, from a fortune cookie}  It was the second random fortune I found this week.  I picked it up, folded it open, and...

...it did.  

When we arrived at the salvage house, we were the only demo crew.  It was just as quiet and peaceful as it can be in the country, and a pleasure to be working in the warm morning sun. 

Cole rocked out with the drill like a pro, removing screws from the floor boards.  Jake pulled out the last of the wooden fencing and Luke drank lots of "lemolaid". 

(photo by Jake)

Around lunch time, we ate our picnic in the shade and watched the wildlife around the wooded property.  A Red-tailed Hawk, flying so close to the ground that we could see the detail in it's wings.  Also, a pair of wild turkey hens made their way up the driveway to see what we were all about.

We worked until the drill ran out of battery and then decided to run a few errands before we had to pick up Mike and return to load all of the wood onto the trailer.  While sitting at a stop sign, jammin' along to Charlie Parr, and minding our own business, this happened....

A woman came straight off the highway and ran right into the back of us.  We're all just fine, if not a little frazzled, and the other driver, too, but our Mighty Honda is not faring as well.  The insurance company says it will likely be totaled, due to the age and miles.  I really loved this car.  It was reliable, dependable, had great gas mileage and we could fit A LOT of stuff in it.  The tow truck will be picking it up tomorrow for inspection. {deep sigh}  

In case you didn't notice, it's a little ironic that I took the photo of my found fortune on the roof of my now smashed in vehicle.  It's a good thing I'm not a superstitious kind of woman.  Oh, my.

Somehow, we had to get off the highway.  With our ancient pre paid cell phone that I keep in the glove box for emergencies, I called Mike.  He came to our rescue.  In a borrowed car, of course, because we only have the one vehicle.

I won't bore you with all of the details of trying to get a rental, last minute, on a Thursday night, but it was something to tell the grand kids about for sure.  

It seems we've come full circle today and are now the proud renters of a cargo van.  It just so happens that this cargo van came at a steep discount, due to many said boring details, and with this rather large cargo van, we were able to go and pick up almost all of our salvaged lumber, after all.  

I'm really hoping that we can completely finish this job tomorrow and that the day is uneventful.

This weekend, all I'm going to do is knit.

Also, I'm not picking up anymore fortunes, ever. 

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Monday night we got a call from Mike's brother, that he knew of a house, not to far away, available for salvaging.  A split level home and all the land around it had been purchased by a developer and was going to be used as a training space for the local police and fire department.  The owners told us to go ahead and remove anything we wanted before Saturday, when the firemen would return to burn the house down.  Mike and I traveled alone the first day, thinking we would just take out the sliding glass door, and be on our way.  However, when we got to the house, I realized that we could salvage so much more.  There was decking and floor trusses, for out buildings, and a whole play house that could be remade into a chicken coop.  Windows, fencing, gutters, down spouts for our rain barrels, and more!  Mike sort of looked at me like I'd lost my mind, wondering how on earth we were going to do all of this work, as he didn't have any more time off from work this week.  I decided it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, so we did what we could and I would just have to finish up on my own.  Jake, reluctantly, agreed to be my assistant for a couple days, and help me with the really hard, physical labor.  The little guys joined along, too, for moral support.  It really wasn't a safe place for them to help, but they had a great time exploring in the woods and pretending the house was haunted!

Today it rained, so we weren't able to make it out, but my arms were so sore and bruised that I really didn't mind.  We did get almost everything apart yesterday, though.  I have a few more decking boards to remove tomorrow, and then all we have to do is load everything onto a trailer!

I'll be back tomorrow with an update on our progress...

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