Thursday, February 26, 2009

quilts and completely gratuitous goats

I am soooooooooooooooooooo behind
cast your mind back to Feb 15 - almost two weeks ago - yes folks, that's how far behind I am
well anyway
Late on that sunday night - very late - my BFF Beryl - she whom I stayed with last October - arrived on the doorstep from Tassie via the Conference of State Quilting Guilds which had been held in Sydney.
We had 4 lovely days together during which time we did a lot of stitching:
This is Ms BJC working on a Hopscotch 'mat' after raiding my stash for a few extra butterfly fabricsIt's to be given as a 7th birthday pressie on her arrival back in the Apple Isle next week so the pressure was on.
In a bit of synergy, I was using a similar palette to sew basic brainless scrap triangles. These will be a queen sized quilt for the bed in Nadie's room up here - not that there isn't one on there already - and it's an exercise in stash reduction 'cos I have got such a lot of fabric in these colours ... was going to write "too much fabric" but can one ever have too much ? What if there's an apocalypse? or a world wide cotton blight? Quilters everywhere would be glad of my stashing habits then I tells ya.On the Tuesday, we were joined for the day by our mutual friend Corrie, seen here doing some synchronised ignoring with Sophie:
Then on Wednesday we went to Bendy and staged lightning raids on Honeysuckle Patchwork and Bendigo Pottery, followed by more retail therapy at The Village Patch in Maldon
Can't remember what we did Thursday - I suspect that there was more stitching involved but the press of trying to get ready for Nadie and Chris's engagement party up here this coming weekend has made a blur of most of the last fortnight.
and with no attempt at any kind of a segue, we have goats:
who have been very vocal about the lack of caprine gorgousness on the blog of recent times
"does this make my nose look big ???"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Daylesford fires

I was going to do a general catch up post about the last week, which has been incredibly busy, full of visitors and party preparations, but I'll leave that for tomorrow.
The bushfires are still dominating the news after over a fortnight, and I've already received emails today from friends in Melbourne unsure of whether the current blaze near Daylesford is likely to affect me and mine.
The short answer at the moment is no.
Obviously David and I did not go to dance class there last night
Daylesford is 40 odd km away and while the Gippsland and Kilmore blazes have proved that 40km is nothing to an aggressive fire front, I am well to the north of Daylesford and the hot conditions forecast for later in the week are most likely going to be driving fires southward.
I am far more concerned about my friends in and around town - Zoe and Andy from Purl's Palace, John and Kath and their puppies, who live out at Sailor's Falls not far from the current Muskvale -based fire, Robyne and Paul and the goats at Eganstown, quilting friends, SueB and Robyn C, and many others.
This is the screen shot from the DSE website at midday:

the arrow is where I am, the red dots to my north, east and south east are the fires from a fortnight ago, and the flame symbol southward is Daylesford. You can all see the horrendous red splotch to the east of Melbourne. THAT is who and what we should be most concerned about at the moment
Hopefully there will be a return to normal blogging tomorrow

Friday, February 20, 2009

by hook or by crook

okay folks, listen up
my friend Shaz leads a group of junior Girl Guides in Corowa, New South Wales.
This in and off itself is not remarkable.
Like all such groups they operate on a limited budget and, of course, at the moment any fundraising efforts are focused on bushfire relief. In fact, this bunch of 7 -10 year-olds spent last Saturday pushing shopping trolleys in the local Safeway carpark to raise over $400 for just that cause.

good kids

who want to learn to crochet so that they can make blankets for the R.S.P.C.A. animal shelter [ bless 'em ]
and this is where I'm hoping some of you will come in

they do have some yarn, and volunteer teachers, but what is seriously lacking is 3.5 and 4mm or even 4.5mm hooks. A small country town 50 km from the nearest craft store isn't likely to have 'em and in any case Shaz would prefer not to spend the money when it can be used in other, more pressing ways.

if you have a bunch of your mum's or nanna's [ or even your own ] hooks that are a suitable size for using with 8 and 12 ply yarn [DK and worsted ]
you can contact Shaz on
shadowsquiltingAThotmailDOTcom for the address

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Black Saturday

These were taken in what should have been broad daylight at about 5pm on Black Saturday
by Crazyhaberdasher who has recently moved down to Gippsland, and rather closer than was comfortable to the fires at Churchill.
Those white spots are hot ash.
The colour of that sky is ...
oh words fail me

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Just When my faith in Human Nature Has been Confirmed...

A Message for the scruffy couple at Bunnings, Kangaroo Flat at 2pm last Thursday:

Perhaps you were feeling guilty because you didn't have the necessary $5 to donate to the Bushfire Relief Sausage Sizzle
So then maybe you shouldn't have fronted up and demanded 2 snags.
You could have donated $2.50 and shared a snag between you.
If you didn't have that much, you could have still tossed your change into one of the many dedicated donation boxes in the store.

but that's not what you did

You waited until the server's back was turned and dropped a 20c and a 50c into the plastic tub to make the appropriate noise, smirked at each other in that " aren't we being clever, getting two sausages for 70c" way, then collected your ill gotten booty, made a facile remark about the great job that the Bunnings staff were doing in the heat, and left

... but it's okay because the next person [me ] gave extra
There have been some magnificent gestures from all sections of society this week. The sort of stuff that makes us proud to be Aussies ... and then there is you!

Friday, February 13, 2009

dodging the bullet

I had a rather unsettling phone call on Monday morning and it wasn't really anything that I could share with you all at the time because I didn't want to worry anyone [ specifically my daughter ] until I knew whether there was anything to worry about
which, as it happens
there isn't

you might remember a couple of weeks ago that I went up to Bendigo for the routine mammogram ... well, I got the call Monday morning informing me that there was an 'area of concern' and that I needed to go back Thursday.
My head may know that nine out of ten call backs turn out to be nothing but my heart wasn't buying it.
In the midst of all the horrific news coming out of the fires, I was sitting here, trying very hard not to obsess about my own health concerns and feeling guilty for being so self-centered in the face of all that loss.
... not a lot of sleep was had, and that's really saying something because I am one of the most chronically sleep deprived people on the planet at the best of times!
I even had to break out some pretty mind-numbing knitting for the waiting room because I kept stuffing up the current lace project, but it was better than sitting there reading ancient women's mags with articles on Brangelina and Keith-and-Nicole.
The first wait wasn't toooo long, then a short visit with a nurse practitioner for all the paperwork, and then into one of those flattering gowns and another waiting room where we all covertly eyed each other nervously. Then in for another [ much more specifically targeted and painful ] mammogram ...
and another wait
and then an ultrasound
and so on
As each woman exited the last office there was either a smile of relief or ... something else ... and we'd all look sadly at each other and hope that particular scene wouldn't be repeated for us.

and finally the news that - for me - all seems to be okay.

I can't fault the care, sensitivity and respect that was demonstrated by all the staff, but still not an experience I want to repeat.

today I'm stiff, sore, battered ... and bruised enough that you'd be forgiven for thinking I've gone three rounds with a heavyweight, but I'm okay and that, for now, is enough

If you're on my side of 50 and haven't been mashed in the last 2 years, go make an appointment

and finally
THIS was the scene directly over the road from John of God Hospital, Bendigo. A small fire compared to the others this week, but one that came within 2km of the centre of a very large rural city and took everyone completely by surprise.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


It seems bizarre to be back posting about knitting in the face of possibly 300 deaths from the fires many of which are still burning but I can only take so much horror. I seriously need a little normality in my life in the midst of the stories of loss and heartbreak

so without any intention of trivialising the past week:

you may remember that I was knitting a tinkered with version of the Posh Wedding Shrug in finer yarn/needles. The bamboo was bearable to knit with in the 46C heat, and I don't know that there are too many other yarns that I could say that of ... even cotton is unpleasant at those sort of temperatures.
Let's hear it for bamboo - not only is it the ultimate eco-friendly completely renewable resource [ and in case you didn't know: a 60' bamboo can replace itself in 2 months !!!!] but it's nice to work with, has a beautiful drape, is lovely to wear in stinking hot weather AND has in-built antibacterial and antifungal properties that reputedly survive around 50 washes.

The shrug went along quite well when it was too hot to do much else - strange really: I could knit lace but couldn't concentrate enough to do my other favourite low-energy activity - which is to read.

The picot cast-off edging took forever to do but looks good and I'll get a decent photo of the object itself when there is someone up here to model it, because a shrug that isn't on a bod is a damn hard thing to get a decent shot of, I'm here to tell you.

Since then I've also made these little mitts which are sorta kinda my Travelling Vine mittens [ free pattern link over there in the sidebar ]because it's the same lace as the shrug. The yarn weight is the same as the blue ones in the pattern but I went down a size on the needle - unintentionally - and made a few mods. There are fewer rows of wrist ribbing ... which in fact I would leave out completely next time, the lace continues over the palm, I left off the garter stitch detailing at the thumb opening and not as deep a lace band over the back of the hand seeing these are purely to look cute and pretty and not to keep the hands warm.
I was going to do the picot cast off to match the shrug along the top and around the thumb.
Well, not 'going to do' ... I DID do it ... but it rolled something shocking, so I frogged it back and did a conventional sewn down picot hem.

Did I say "a FEW mods"? I guess they're really a whole different pattern.
I may have to write this one up [ without that wrist ribbing ], before I forget what I actually did.

and NOTE TO SELF: Self, old dear, you really don't have photo worthy digits - get a shot of Nadie wearing these!

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Yesterday saw the most appalling loss of life from bushfires in the history of european settlement of this country

There are already 65 confirmed deaths and that will rise as the days go on.
Entire towns have ceased to exist

read here
and here
and the horror continues :
Monday revised toll:

Saturday, February 07, 2009

they breed 'em tough in Ballarat

not sure how coherent this post is going to be - today was the overall hottest on Victorian record - although not the hottest up here. It 'only' got to 46.2C / 115F !! ... One New Year's Eve , it got to almost 48!

I've lost track of how long this particular heatwave has gone on but we're into the third week at least. The bush is tinder dry and apparently almost identical meteorological conditions to the devastating Ash Wednesday Fires. The whole state is on tenterhooks and there have been several outbreaks of fire already though nothing close so far.

My fire plan is in place, I'm as prepared as I can be, and if it comes through, then I'll deal with it as best I can. The idea of sitting out a fire absolutely terrifies me but I'm not leaving ... and the goats will be in the bathroom if it all goes up!

Anyway, yesterday's 45C notwithstanding I still went to dance class in the morning after a coffee in town with Jeanette and then home to spend the afternoon with two hardy Ballarat knitters and their respective youngest offspring.

Ravelry friends, Jacki and Sam, arrived for lunch accompanied by young Max and Rohan - who was a bit tickled that he shared his name with one of my goats! [ although I DID explain that we spell Rowan differently because she's a girl ]
Sam commented that she's the wrong colour ... because Rohan/Rowan means little red one, or red headed child ... but even though she's a mostly white goat she WAS born with a distinctly red head, just like her namesake. Of course I completely forgot to get a photo of them together - rats! - so will have to remember that for next time.

After a light lunch, we spent a lovely, albeit hot, afternoon chatting and knitting:

This is Jacki's Clown Stripe Sock with afterthought heel: from yarn dyed by Happy Spider,

and Sam's Entrelac Cadbury's Chocolate socks using her own hand dyed yarn

Max and Rohan happily played with cars for a while and then settled in to watch a DVD

Tara emailed from Bendigo, to see if I was up for a visit, so she was duly invited to join the party, arriving just as the others were leaving and promptly going to sleep at my kitchen table while I did the run into town to get David
After she woke up again, I got to drool - at a safe distance - over her latest lot of hand dyed yarn which was about to be posted off.
Mostly sock yarn but that is alpaca laceweight there at the back in the purple. Probably a good thing that it was sooooo hot, because otherwise I would probably have wanted to roll in that alpaca.

a good day
and after everyone had gone home I got to go through the bags of yarn that Sam had collected from Ms Moggie's mum and hauled up here for me and which was the excuse for the visit.
* Marcie my sweet, there's some mohair here with your name on it!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

of this and that and quite possibly TMI

it's still hot - currently around 36C - and the closest thing to rain in the last several weeks would be the dozen drops that hit my windshield on Monday and evaporated immediately thereafter.
I was coming back from Bendigo at the time, having taken myself off to have the mammies grammed.

Cue portentious doom laden music

I will admit that I've been putting it off ... and off ... and off ... and I'm sure that I'm not alone in that ... but I promised a certain friend that I would get it done and so I have

and I have to tell you
it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I remembered

I kept waiting for that remembered agonising sensation - somewhat like having my tender bits slammed repeatedly in a car door
the eye-watering, take-your-breathe-away pain

and ...

it didn't happen
oh-kay so maybe not precisely the most pleasant five minutes of my life
but bearable

Now some of that is due to the newer style equipment
... maybe
... but equally probable would be the explanation that there is considerably more of me than there used to be.

While I am still not ... ahem ... well endowed in the chest area, at least I don't have to pay the technician a finders fee nowadays!
Stop laughing!
I'm serious!
I was once sooooo flat chested that if I'd had any less bust I would've been concave
They used to have to scrape up every spare millimetre of flesh from my armpits to my elbows just to get enough to squash between those plates.

I wasn't slogging around Bendigo in that heat and subjecting my person to medical [wo]man-handling, unless there was some sort of payoff, so I betook myself off to S*******t [ soul deadening big box craft store ] and found some Yarn Bee Down to Earth 50/50 soy/cotton blend on the throw out table for $2 a ball.
The colours in the top layer were not particularly inspiring, but some determined burrowing unearthed a good plain navy. Obviously, I scooped up all that I was able to find [ 13 balls ] plus an unlabelled one in variegated mauve/blue - which I'm pretty sure is Patons Smoothie - for $1 ... which will probably be for prem hats or bootees ... and the soy? there are several somethings in my queue that it would probably suit. We shall have to see!

I also splurged on some pure cotton sheets in cream.
The ongoing heatwave has cured me of any desire that I may have once harboured to sleep on poly cotton blend ! Non-iron or no non-iron, I needs me some cool, cool cotton.

Speaking of which
this is a wee sample made in an unidentified cotton that was part of the Beryl largesse I dragged home from Tassie last October.
It's about 2 or 3 ply [ lacweight or fingering ] with a lovely sheen to it, and I've already used it to make a couple of dozen snowflakes before Christmas.
It crochets up well but I have almost a kilo of it and that represents a lifetimes worth of snowflakes and then some, so I tried a sample of travelling vine lace on 3mm needles. I was thinking shrug or fingerless gloves but it really was too splitty for knitted lace.

Then I did another in the same stitch pattern but in Cleckheaton Bamboo [ 4ply fingering ] on 3.75 and 4mm

I'm more or less following the Posh Wedding Shrug except that this yarn is much, much finer than the recommended worsted and obviously on commensurately smaller needles than the 5.5mms of the original, so there's a bit of maths involved. Not too much... nothing the brain can't cope with in the heat. The bamboo is wonderful stuff to knit with in this weather ... far more pleasant than the pure cotton even, and it just drapes soooooowell. I'm loving it!
It doesn't really solve the problem of what to do with a huge cone of fine cotton, but the bamboo was in the stash too, so I can still feel reasonably virtuous.

and we just won't count those 14 balls from Monday, right?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Country Living Learning Curve

It's still hot
just not as hot - a mere 36C today, which seems almost bearable after the 45F we had yesterday and the day before and most of the last 2 weeks .
Most of the East Coast of Australia has had this current weather system to some degree or another
... Melbourne has had 4 or 5 days of it and it's thrown the public transport and energy sectors into complete chaos... blackouts to tens of thousands of homes and mass cancellations of trains due to the tracks buckling in the heat ... yuck

So how hot has it been in practical terms? Well, the water coming out of the cold tap in the kitchen seemed to be about blood heat, so I used the super accurate digital thermometer that I acquired for pasteurising the goat's milk to check it and it was actually hotter than bloodheat - forty-freaking-four degrees C or 113F !!!

Given that my main tank is concrete and hold 25000 gallons or 113000 litres, you'd probably think that such a huge volume of water could never heat up, and really you'd be right ... but ... from that tank it gets pumped up to another at the top of the hill and gravity fed down to the house. All those pipes are close to the surface and after a while even the ground a foot under the surface has heated up enough so the water comes out hot
To get water cold enough to drink or too put into the portable coolers that wonderful Mandie-who-saved-my-life-with-her-generosity gave me last year, it has to go into the fridge for a couple of hours.

hot with a capital H


I still prefer this arrangement to the way it was when I moved in.

Allow me to 'splain:

When I made the decision to move up here, I did my homework. I thought that I had come to terms with the implications of country living:
limited water

but there were things that didn't even cross my radar

All the water to the house is dependant on the ELECTRIC pump at the main tank and do you know what happens on super hot days when the electricity supply is overwhelmed and fails?
the pump doesn't work
I found this out the hard way about 4 weeks after I moved in, having never lived on tank water before.
Cue the first really hot spell, and the first blackout, and all of a sudden, there we were with no fans, no fridge, and not a drop, literally not one drop, of water in the house. I had to use dam water in a bucket to flush the loo and make an emergency run into town for bottled water. I couldn't explain to David what was going on and it was thoroughly and completely revolting.
On that occasion we were blacked out in 40ish degrees for about 6 hours but some nearby had no power for 20 hours.
Think about it.

I now have 4500 litres up the top of the hill, pumped up there daily or whenever a particular level is reached ... so it never goes brackish ... and when the power goes off, I can at least run a cool bath for David and have a drink.

all thanks to my eldest's Godfather, and Maz's wonderful hubby, Saint Chris who worked his bum off so we'd have reliable water when it was needed

ETA I just heard on the Weather Channel that there have been 30 heat related deaths in Adelaide alone during this current heat-wave. Mostly elderly people living alone. ' Scuse me while I go ring Ma-in-law.