Fiber Day

My sheep owner friends, Joan and Dave Ellison, host a semi annual “Fiber Day” at their farm in Pelican Rapids, MN. This is one of my favorite events, so it was disappointing when it had to be cancelled in the spring of 2020, and again this fall, due to the pandemic. Fall Fiber Day would have been today. In lieu of actually attending this year, I am writing about it and sharing photos from previous events.

On Fiber Day, old and new friends are invited to come to the farm and work on their projects, try something new, dye yarn or fiber, visit with other fiber enthusiasts, and share food. Some of the attendees are also string musicians who might hold an informal jam session.

Joan Ellison

My mom met Joanie when she was the speaker at an event about 15 years ago. I was learning to spin, and was excited about this new connection to sheep and wool. The first time I went to the Ellison’s, I brought my daughter, who was about 11 at that time, to see the new lambs. Living in the city we didn’t have much opportunity to visit a farm, so this was really cool. I was enthralled. I have been back to their farm many times since and have the same response every time.

I have gotten to know many talented and interesting people at Fiber Day, which has made our recent move to the area easier. There are folks who come regularly, but always new faces too. Most bring a project to work on, but some are just observing. The die hard fiber enthusiasts stay all day, some people stop by for an hour. There is stimulating conversation, a variety of crafts going on, new things to watch or experiment with. Usually there are materials and instruction for a project to try in case you didn’t bring something of your own, or want to try something different. One time there were silk scarves to dye, often there is a felting activity.

Some fleeces from the Ellison’s sheep are sold to hand spinners. Many are sent to a mill to be made into roving and yarn, in their natural color or dyed first. Following are photos of the yarn and roving for sale at Fiber Day.

Yarn from the Ellison’s sheep
Hand dyed yarn for sale
Dyed roving from the Ellison’s sheep for sale

If the weather is nice, the back deck is crowded with people working on their project, chatting, and comparing notes with the other attendees.

Working on projects outside

Everyone brings something to share for a potluck lunch.

Taking a break from spinning to eat lunch
Needle Felting

Large pots of water are heated over an outside fire for dying. Many colors of dye are available. Wool fiber and yarn for dyeing is on hand for purchase, or you can dye something you brought with you. There are people around to help.

Dye pots on an outside fire
Wool removed from the dye pot
Roving dyed yellow and orange

I always bring my spinning wheel and a knitting project to Fiber Day. Usually I take advantage of the opportunity to use the Ellison’s “picker” and big electric drum carder. After a fleece is washed, it has to be “picked” and carded in preparation for spinning. Picking is fluffing out locks of fleece while also removing bits of hay and debris. This can be done with your fingers, but that is very labor intensive. The picker is a tool with sharp points that can accomplish the task much faster. You push the fiber in one side, swing the part with the sharp points back and forth, and the picked fiber comes out the other side. This tool is sharp and dangerous if you get your hand in the wrong place at the wrong time. One time a sharp point caught on my shirt and made a tiny rip. I was bummed because I really liked that shirt, but also lucky it was only a small rip and not a gash in my chest.

The “picker”

I own a drum carder but it is narrow and manual. The Ellison’s drum carder is wider and electric, so I often make batts for spinning when I am at Fiber Day. The wool in the photo below is the natural color. Other times I have used the drum carder to blend different types and colors of fiber.

The big drum carder for making batts from fiber

One time Joanie had an outdoor weaving project set up in the yard.

A weaving project in the yarn

Another time someone organized “human lace”. The ladies were instructed when to put their yarn over or under which other yarn. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the finished product.

Human Lace

It is not unusual for attendees to have a music jam session during Fiber Day.

Spontaneous Jam Session

Most of the photos here have only women in them, but a few men do show up. Dave Ellison is there assisting where needed, and in the music photo above. A few husbands accompany their wives, and there is an occasional man interested in the fiber activities.

On a normal day at home it is hard for me to carve out a chunk of time for my fiber related projects. At Fiber Day I have left behind my other responsibilities, and I can focus on what I really want to do. This year Joanie encouraged folks to email her with their pandemic projects so she could share them via her mailing list. That is a good alternative, but I miss being there in person. For today I will have my own Fiber Day, giving myself permission to ignore normal daily tasks.

Bricks of Fergus Falls

Some of the streets in Fergus Falls were paved with bricks until around 1960. At that time the bricks were removed in order for a gas main to be installed, after which the street was resurfaced with asphalt. The bricks were relocated to a massive pile where they were available for purchase at 1 cent each.

My uncles and dad, with “help” from my sister and I and some cousins (ages three to eight), participated in extracting bricks from the huge pile. They were loaded into the bed of a red 1960 Ford F-150 pickup truck that my grandfather had bought from a neighbor, and hauled out to the lake cottage property. The bricks were used to construct a “road” from the yard down a bank, so that vehicles and equipment could get down to the lake shore. Bricks were also used to line the floor of a boathouse my grandfather built, which was the size and look of a double garage, painted red like the cottage.

The brick road from the yard to the lake shore is still there

An earlier construction project my grandpa undertook was a tiny cabin on the lake shore. It was just big enough for two bunks with flimsy mattresses, one above the other, and a small side table and chair. From the ages of about 10 until 18, my uncles slept there to get away from the chaos of the crowded cottage. The next generation of cousins in the late 1960s and early 1970s sometimes used the beach cabin for sleeping, but more often as a fort. Mostly it was unoccupied except for spiders and mice.

A photo from the 1980s showing the boathouse and beach cabin on the shore

The main purpose for the boathouse was to store a classic old 1948 Palmer wooden racing sailboat. My grandpa had purchased the sailboat from someone in Minneapolis after it was badly damaged in a storm. He rebuilt it with white oak and applied a new coat of fiberglass. After one season on Lake Harriet the renovated sailboat lived at the lake. The boathouse also was used to store other beach-related items, including a canoe, duck boats, life jackets, paddles and yard tools. The sailboat rested on a makeshift flat trailer with wheels. There were tracks under the trailer that went on out into the lake, allowing it to be easily wheeled into the water. At that time the beach was wide enough to drive the truck between the boat house and the water, and there was plenty of space for games and lounging on the other end of the property where the dock and swimming area were located.

My mom’s younger brothers spent many happy hours on that sailboat. In later years when I was growing up the sailboat was sometimes anchored in front of the swimming beach, where it was used as a swim raft. I remember sunbathing on it, or climbing on and jumping off with my cousins.

The lake water has been rising steadily since the 1980’s. The brick road down to the lake is still there, but the boathouse and beach cabin are long gone. Most of the land where they were placed is now under water. The shoreline has receded back 25-30 feet from where it was 40 years ago. Some 20-inches of rain this summer threatens even more lake shore as water levels continue to rise.

My parents used some of the bricks leftover from the boathouse project for landscaping their yard when they lived in Edina, between 1972 and 1999. There were borders around gardens and a walking path on the side of the house.

The bricks that had been the floor of the boathouse became a beach patio after the boathouse was torn down. Over time as the water got higher, my uncle moved the bricks and used them to make a patio behind his lake house, which had been built on the south end of the property next to the cottage.

When my parents built their retirement home at the lake in 1999, my dad dug all the bricks out of the yard in Edina and brought them to the new property. The bricks were relocated a few at a time on the floor of their dodge minivan, so it would not be too heavy. You can see them now on the walk and patio in front of the house, where we live now.

Bricks from the streets of Fergus Falls on the front walk of my parents lake house

When this house is eventually sold, we may have to dig up the bricks and move them again. We may also want to cut out the ceramic tiles my mom hand made for two fireplaces, but that is another story.

Bison Fiber Part 2

I bought a bag of bison fiber blended with wool and alpaca last fall in South Dakota, at the same time as the 100% bison fiber I wrote about in a recent blog post. It was only one ounce but was more expensive due to being blended with the other fibers, and already prepared for spinning. Since it was taking some time to card the 100% bison fiber, I decided to go ahead and spin the blended fiber.

One ounce of alpaca, wool and bison fiber blended together for spinning

This combination of 50% alpaca, 25% wool and 25% bison was nice and soft, as opposed to the 100% bison fiber. It was easy to spin. Everyone asks me how long it takes to spin some yarn. I have no idea. I work on it here and there when I have a few minutes, or sometimes when I have a longer stretch of time. I have tried to keep a log, but then I have to remember to note the times and it becomes a chore instead of a relaxing break from other tasks.

Normally I make two ply yarn since it is more durable and stays twisted better. I could have split the fiber blend in two equal pieces and spun them each on a different bobbin, and then plied those two together for an ounce skein of yarn. Instead, I decided to spin the entire one ounce on one bobbin, and then find another ounce of something else to spin and then ply with it. I had a bag of really nice 100% alpaca that I measured out and started to spin, but I decided it was too dark brown compared to the bison blend, which is more gray brown. After digging around in my closet of fiber, I selected instead some grayish wool that came from a fleece my daughter received from our sheep farmer friends when she worked for them during a school break. The following photo shows the bobbin with the bison/wool/alpaca fiber, next to the sheep wool to be spun and plied with it.

Weighing out one ounce of some grayish 100% wool fiber

I did not take a photo of the 100% wool fiber in the process of being spun, but below is the result on the bobbin.

The bison blend fiber on the right is a little more brown than the 100% wool on the left.
Set up for plying

Plying together the two fibers involves spinning them together from the two bobbins back on to the spinning wheel in the opposite direction.

Plying together yarn from the two bobbins to another bobbin on the spinning wheel

Once the yarn was plied together, I wound it on to my niddy noddy. Yes, that is what it is called. See photo below. This keeps the yarn from getting all tangled up and provides a way to measure it. One round on the niddy noddy is two yards, so the total number of yards can be determined by counting the number of rounds.

Wrapped onto the niddy noddy after plying

The final two ply skein of yarn is 136 yards, and 2.3 ounces or 64 grams. Since I measured out one ounce of my own wool on a kitchen scale, the bag of bison blend must have been 1.3 ounces instead of one ounce. The resulting plied yarn is 58% wool, 14% bison, and 28% alpaca.

Completed skein of yarn before washing

It is always best to wash yarn after being spun in order to “set the twist”, so the fibers “remember” their new twisted condition. This involves filling a tub with lukewarm water, adding a squirt of dish soap, and gently pushing the yarn into the water until it is completely wet. After soaking for about 10 minutes, another bowl or tub of clean water is prepared and the yarn transferred to that. After two or three rinses in this fashion the yarn is squeezed in a clean towel and hung to dry. The key is not to use water that is too hot and not to agitate the yarn, or it will start to felt.

The yarn soaking in water with a squirt of dish soap
Drying quickly in the hot afternoon sun

Washing the yarn makes it “bloom”, or get more fluffy than when you started. This always throws me every time, even though I have spun many skeins of yarn. I think I am making a thin yarn, but by the time it is plied and washed I end up with bulky.

After washing the yarn “blooms”, looking more fluffy

I found out afterwards that hanging the damp yarn in the sun can cause fading, shrinking or felting. Oops. There is always something new to learn. This project did not involve any dye, and if there was any shrinking or felting I am not aware of it and it would be OK.

Done!

I am pleased with how this yarn turned out. Not sure what I will do with it.

Peach Sweater

When I started this blog in January, my goal was to post once a week. I had been successful until a couple of weeks ago when things got out of control. We had a series of house guests for extended visits, including our daughter, our son and his girlfriend, and my sister. We felt this was safe with windows open much of the time, people assigned to separate bathrooms, and rolls of paper towel in the kitchen and half bath. During this time I participated in a modified covid appropriate annual reunion at our family cabin, attended outdoor group meals with chairs six feet apart, endured multiple severe storms resulting in 15 inches of rain and one tornado, picked up and hauled tons of brush, went swimming and bike riding, and did other activities that did not involve writing a blog.

In my “spare” time I have been carding the bison fiber that I wrote about in my last post, and knitting another pair of socks. Today’s post is about a sweater I made years ago, using photos scanned from an old fashioned scrapbook.

Wearing the peach sweater with my 2009 haircut and glasses

The sweater project was ambitious considering my spinning experience at that time. I wanted to card and then spin enough yarn for a sweater, using a blend of wool and alpaca, and then dye it all the same color. The two fibers would take the dye differently, resulting in a slightly variegated yarn. The experience I had with dyeing involved small batches of wool or yarn. In this case I wanted to dye all of it at once, after it was spun into yarn.

The Textile Center near the University of Minnesota has a dye lab where they offer classes. The space is also available for member use, so I reserved it for a couple of hours in order to use their giant pots and other equipment. It was a fun adventure with a successful outcome.

The first step of the project was blending together some commercially prepared merino wool with some alpaca fiber using my drum carder. The fiber wraps around the drum as you push it in the bottom and turn a handle. When the drum is full you peel off a rectangle shaped batt, as seen below sitting next to the drum carder. Some people spin directly from the batt. I prefer to peel strips from the batt for spinning. My notes in the scrapbook indicate that I carded 32 batts. I don’t know how many ounces that was, but in retrospect I have never carded that much of the same thing again.

Blending professionally prepared merino wool with alpaca using my drum carder

Spinning from strips off the batts, I filled 16 bobbins worth of single ply yarn from the 32 batts. I have four bobbins, so I would have spun two batts onto each one, then combined two bobbins together into a two ply yarn. Then repeated with the other two bobbins. And then repeated all that three more times. The original 32 batts turned into eight skeins of bulky yarn.

Eight skeins of yarn from 32 batts of fiber

I picked out some Cushing dye in a color called “peach”. It reminds me of a dreamsicle.

Following is a (blurry) photo of all the yarn in one large pot with the peach dye. I dyed some other yarn green at the same time.

A very large pot to fit all eight skeins of yarn, plus a smaller batch with green dye

There was a nifty tray for draining water from the skeins of yarn.

Draining water from the yarn after dyeing is complete

Back at home I hung all the yarn on a drying rack.

Completed yarn on a drying rack

I used a pattern called “Foresta Round Cardigan” for the sweater. It is designed for bulky yarn. I must have bought it at the local yarn shop, but there is a listing on Ravelry. It says you can buy the pattern at schoolproductsyarns.com. .

Completed peach color sweater from the back

This sweater is very heavy and warm, so it comes in handy on cold Minnesota winter days. I still have some of the peach yarn left waiting for another project.

Bison Fiber Part 1

Last fall we attended the Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park in South Dakota, an annual event for maintaining the herd of 1,300 bison. As many as 20,000 spectators gather on each side of a large viewing area where the bison are herded past by cowboys and cowgirls on horses, and in vehicles. Breakfast is available in the morning while the crowds are gathering and waiting for the herding to begin.

Cowboys and Cowgirls round up the bison herd

The bison are guided into corral areas where they are staged for testing, branding and sorting. There are bleachers where you can watch as individual bison are prodded through gates and into a final pen for inspection. They were very unhappy about this, letting it be known by kicking and jumping. A cowboy style lunch is available while this is going on.

Bison waiting in a fenced area
Unhappy bison edging closer to the final inspection pen

Throughout the rest of the weekend there is an art fair, food and music, but unfortunately it rained most of the weekend. We spent one afternoon doing some sight seeing in the area. I found a yarn shop, so naturally we had to go there. I do not need any yarn or fiber, but it seemed appropriate to buy a bag of 100% bison fiber. I also bought a smaller amount of bison fiber blended with sheep wool and alpaca.

Bison fiber I bought at a yarn shop in South Dakota

I planned to blend the plain bison fiber with some wool and alpaca fiber I already had. However, when I took it out of the bag, it felt very course. I did a little research and found that bison have some very soft downy fiber next to their skin, some course outer hairs, and some parts in between. My fiber was not the downy soft stuff. Blending it with the other fibers would make the combination softer than the bison alone, but less soft than the wool and alpaca. I decided I did not want to do that, and instead I would spin the bison by itself. My bison yarn will be used for something where it is not necessary to be soft, but rather where its durable quality is a benefit.

I carded the bison fiber in my drum carder. This involves pushing it in the side and turning a crank handle so the fiber gets pulled in and wraps on to a drum with spikes. More fiber is added until it is full, and then it is peeled off. The result is a rectangle “batt” with the fibers somewhat lined up for spinning, instead of in a jumbled mess.

Pushing the bison fiber into the drum carder
Peeling the fiber off the drum carder
A batt after carding
5 batts from 4 ounces of fiber

I was able to make five batts from four ounces of fiber, which I plan to run through the drum carder one more time to make the fibers even more orderly for spinning into yarn. The texture is quite different from the sheep wool I am used to spinning, so I have no idea how it will turn out, which is part of the adventure. I will post more later after I have spun the yarn.

Tornado

Back in the days before phone weather apps we would occasionally hear the civil service siren going off with warnings about severe thunderstorms or tornados in our metro area.

Now living out in the country on a lake, I have been a bit worried that we are not within range of a civil service siren. We can check the latest weather on our phone, but if a storm comes in the night we might not be awake to notice. Early last Wednesday morning at about 4:00 am we were awakened by a loud tornado warning coming from our phones. I did not know that was a thing, but now I am very grateful for it. We looked at the radar map and saw an ominous looking cell heading our way, so we decided a trip to the basement was prudent.

I woke up our daughter who was visiting, and we headed to an area of the basement away from windows. My husband, Wayne, first looked outside and did not see anything threatening, but when he started to hear a roaring sound he made a dash for the basement stairs. The storm slammed into the house with a terrific force. We heard what sounded like things falling off shelves and breaking, high winds, branches hitting the house, and then the power went off. It was scary.

After the storm had passed we went upstairs and tried to assess the situation in the dark. It appeared that the house was fine, but there was damage on a lake facing deck. A glass top table had shattered, a pergola was trashed with the canvas top in shreds, and other outside furniture was askew or missing. Later in the daylight we could see many trees down in the yard.

Our lake facing deck after the storm

All along the east side of the lake hundreds of trees were down. About 1/3 mile from our house a clump of 3 mature basswood trees fell, with 2 of them landing on the roof of our beloved family cabin, missing the stone chimney by inches. Everyone was thankful that there was minimal damage to the roof, and the inside was intact. Dozens of other trees on the cabin property were also down. Ironically, family members had been debating for a few years about whether to have the basswood trees removed. Some argued that they were healthy trees providing shade, and cutting them down was an unnecessary expense. Others were concerned about the trees taking out the cabin if they fell in a storm. That question is now a moot point. Insurance will pay for removal of the trees and structural repair.

Basswood trees resting on the cabin roof
A plastic chair in the woods by the beach

Official reports were that straight line winds caused the damage, but everyone around here is sure it was a tornado or possibly a series of small tornadoes. Reasons for that include finding chairs on the opposite side of the house from where they started, including one stuffed deep in a lilac bush, finding a stick drilled 5 inches into the lawn, and finding half of the canvas pergola cover in the ditch on the other side of the road, shredded to bits. Normal high winds could not move these items around corners or drill sticks into the ground. Also there were many trees that were twisted or had the tops broken off in odd ways.

The tree house smashed
Many trees down
Bark twisted
More trees twisted and down
Trees broken off half way up

Wayne was busy most of the day chain sawing branches that were blocking the road and driveway, and we all picked up many tarp loads of sticks and branches from the yard. It was extremely humid and still outside. I was sweating buckets and commented that it felt like tornado weather. Sure enough, we got another tornado warning on our phone apps around 4:00 in the afternoon. That storm was south of us and heading away, so we did not need to take shelter. However it produced an F4 tornado near Ashby, Minnesota, that caused some major damage and killed one person. Several people took amazing videos that made the national news.

Our neighbor to the south had a professional tree crew cleaning up downed trees and making a massive pile of wood and brush. We are wondering if he is going to have the bonfire of the century next winter.

Our neighbor’s brush pile from storm cleanup

Two of my uncles have homes close to the family cabin. They also had a tree crew out working on storm cleanup asap, including removing the trees from the cabin. A permit was obtained for a fire on some open land near the cabin, so we were able to unload some of our brush over there. For days after the storm the main sound in the area was chain sawing.

My sister and husband, along with some good friends, were able to come up from the cities over the weekend to help with cleanup. We were also thankful that our daughter happened to be visiting and was more than willing to provide needed manual labor.

Loading brush into a trailer
Smores anyone?
Free firewood

With all the challenges of 2019 and 2020, we are very grateful for the support and love of family and friends. One day at a time.

Birds

My grandma Lu knew about all the local birds species, and here at my parents house where we live now, there are bird books and binoculars ready for use in the kitchen. Displayed on shelves are beautiful wooden birds and ducks hand carved by my grandfather and uncle.

Birds carved by my grandfather and uncle

I know many people who love bird watching. But somehow I did not get the birds gene, and even developed an aversion to them. My apprehension goes back to seventh grade when I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” at a sleepover party. I was traumatized, and for months I was sure that tree branches brushing against my bedroom window were birds pecking to get in. I have never gotten over that completely. To me birds seem like creepy miniature dinosaurs with sharp beaks and beady eyes. 

There was a bird feeder outside our den window in Minnetonka, but I did not pay much attention to it. My husband, Wayne, spent more time in that room reading the paper in the recliner, and taking over the desk. The bird feeder would sometimes be empty for months at a time until Wayne got around to filling it. Woodpeckers in Minnetonka pecked dozens of holes in our cedar siding.

One time years ago my sister was on a trip with her family near Traverse City, Michigan. While having a picnic lunch at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, aggressive seagulls swooped down and took sandwiches out of the children’s hands.

At the lake where we live now, there are multiple bird feeders in view outside the kitchen windows. We regularly have multiple kinds of woodpeckers, including red bellied, hairy, and pileated at the feeders. There are hummingbirds during the summer. An owl regularly hangs out in a tree at the edge of the yard (what kind?), and in the woods on the path to the cottage. We have had a wild turkey hen walking down the road followed by her 10 chicks in a line.

A pileated woodpecker at the feeder in front of the house

Last fall we had flocks of trumpeter swans flying low overhead, looking like small aircraft coming in for a landing on the field across the road. We see eagles regularly perched in trees near the lake, or flying past.

Trumpeter swans in the field across the road

Later in the fall we took a walk over to our family cottage. The water at the shore was frozen completely clear and still, looking like a diorama with plexiglass ice at a natural history museum. There was a section of open water, then more ice. Out in the lake, an eagle was sitting on the edge of the ice. Further south we saw two trumpeter swans. 

Water at the shore frozen over last winter
That black dot in the middle right is an eagle. There are 2 trumpeter swans barely visable to the left.

I don’t know how the birds manage all winter but we continued to see them every day regardless of weather conditions. Wayne went out in the middle of a blizzard to refill the feeders. I hope the birds appreciate that! 

Wayne refilling a bird feeder during a blizzard

My dad had placed a shelf in one of the upper corners of the front porch so the robins had a safe place for their nest, and there are usually one or two batches of nestlings raised there each summer. This summer we found a nest in the other corner of the porch, where there is only a narrow ledge. One day when I went out on the porch to sweep away spider webs, I realized the nest was piled high with birds, looking like it would tip off the ledge any second. It was not clear they were alive, so I put the broom away and used a step latter to get a better look. Without getting too close I could see they were breathing, so I backed away. A few days later it was hot out and the hanging plant near the nest desperately needed water. When Wayne reached up with the watering can, all the young birds flew out of the nest simultaneously, landing in nearby tree branches.

A heap of Baby Robins

Birds are still not my favorite part of the animal kingdom, but I have come a long way from the bird trauma days of my past, and am learning to appreciate their beauty and variety.

Outlander Inspired Tie Shawl

I decided to knit a traditional Danish Tie Shawl, after observing all the beautiful knitwear worn by characters on the TV series “Outlander”.

My tie shawl from the back

I used a pattern from the spring 2008 edition of Spin Off Magazine. A traditional tie shawl is knit in a crescent shape which allows it to cross in the front, with the ends wrapping around the sides and tying in the back.

Close up of the ends meeting in the back

The pattern is composed of alternating increase rows and straight knitted rows. The increase rows have six yarnovers, two in the middle and two on each side. I messed up one of the increase rows, but by the time I noticed I was many rows beyond and decided it was not worth ripping out the stitches and fixing the mistake. I can find the incorrect row immediately, but in the overall scheme of things, for something I will only be wearing around the house, it is not a big deal.

The completed project

My husband and I have been watching Outlander together. I had heard about it for years and we finally decided to give it a try. It is nice to find a show we both like and look forward to the next episode together. I also started reading the books that the TV production is based on, which is turning out to be a different experience. Certain aspects of the story are easier to show on the screen, but the character development and other details are more thorough in writing. I read that it is a huge challenge to condense each of the very long books (ranging in pages from 642 to 1456) into one 13 episode season, requiring major editing, cutting out plot elements, or adding story lines to make the adapted version work. The TV show has some very graphic sex and violence which I think could have been toned down. We had to fast forward past a few scenes.

If you are not familiar with Outlander, the story is about Claire, a WWII era British combat nurse. While on a second honeymoon with her husband in Scotland after the war, she accidentally time travels 200 years earlier to the same location. There is beautiful Scottish scenery, period costumes, romance, adventure and intrigue. Claire gets herself into and out of many dire situations due to her knowledge from the 20th century, her medical experience, and her inability to adapt behavior and language to the expectations of the times. She cannot explain how she knows things without people thinking she is crazy, a witch, or a spy. Amidst all the action and mayhem, I particularly notice the many knitted shawls and accessories worn by the 18th Century women.

I wear a down vest around the house most winter days. It takes the chill off while allowing free use of my arms. A tie shawl is the eighteenth century version of a down vest. On Outlander, and in real life, women wore them as a regular part of their outfit for warmth and practicality.

My 18th century down vest / tie shawl
Claire wearing a tie shawl and wristlets on Outlander
A different tie shawl and wristlets worn by Claire on Outlander
Another Outlander character wearing a knitted capelet

During one of our zoom calls with family members, we posed the question “if you could travel back in time without risk of getting the plague or being in grave danger, where and when would you want to go?” Interestingly, several of the young adult women said they were not sure there is any time or place they would want to go due to the unfair treatment of women in the past.

After some prodding and setting of conditions, times and places that were selected for time travel included an indigenous culture, the 1920’s flapper era, an ancient but advanced civilization from the Middle East, the time of the Dinosaurs, and England in the Regency era. I picked our family cabin property in the 1920’s when the cabin was brand new, and the lake was almost completely undeveloped.

People sometimes talk about the “good old days”. Maybe there are times and places in history that were better for certain parts of society, but were they better for most of the people?

My 1970’s Afghan

During high school in the 1970’s I crocheted several granny square style afghans. I recently came across a photo showing the afghan I made for my orange and yellow themed bedroom, with the coordinating curtains my mom had sewed.

My bedroom in the 1970’s

You can see the afghan on the bed in the lower left of the photo, and the flower print curtains on the windows. Our house came with sinks in each of the three bedrooms, a very unusual but practical feature. Even though I did not spend hours on my hair or makeup, it was still nice to be able to do teeth brushing and personal care privately in my room without tying up the bathroom. My color coordinated bath towel is hanging on the bar next to the vanity.

I believe I made the macrame plant holder that the spider plant is hanging in. Notice the cassette tape player on the little yellow table under the window. Occasionally I would listen to the radio, and then quickly hit “record” if a good song came on. LOL. I have no memory of the stuffed animal snake on top of the curtain rod.

That house was a lovely traditional story and a half. However it was smaller than the homes nearby, and had only one and a half baths, and a single stall garage. There was not enough room to add a second garage stall on that side of the house. When my parents sold it around 1999 the new owners removed the bedroom sinks. Later the house was bought by a developer and torn down to make room for a larger house with a modern floor plan, placed differently on the lot so it could have a bigger garage.

Following is a photo of my afghan, taken last spring when we were sorting and purging in preparation for moving. I have not had any rooms decorated with orange since those days and it was starting to come apart in several places. Even so, it is hard to part with something you spent a lot of time making.

The afghan I crocheted in the 1970’s

The afghan was not in good enough condition for donation, and I could not bring myself to throw it in the trash. I had made it, I would be adding to the landfill and wasting yarn that could be repurposed. I decided to rip out the stitches that held the granny squares together and save the sections that were still usable. I was left with a pile of the squares plus small balls of the yarn I had removed.

The remains of my afghan after ripping out the yarn holding the sections together

Some day I will be inspired to make something new with the crocheted rectangles from the afghan. Maybe pillow covers, or bags, or a smaller afghan. Suggestions?

The Gopher in the Front Yard

Last summer, when my mother was still with us, mounds of dirt were appearing in the front yard. One day when we were looking out the kitchen window my mom commented that the last time she noticed there was only one mound, but now there were two. At the time she was struggling with memory challenges, so I thought to myself “maybe”.

My husband had also been observing the dirt piles, each one next to a hole. He had been filling the holes up with the dirt, but as fast as he could fill them another mound would appear.

Later when I happened to look out the window again, I saw dirt fly up from the ground, a small head pop up and look around, and then disappear. It was just like the gopher in the movie Caddyshack.

I got this Caddyshack image from the internet, but it looks a lot like our yard

With the giant gopher holes in the yard making steady progress closer and closer to the house, we figured the gophers would be digging up in our kitchen in a day or two. Action was required.

Following is Wayne’s account of what happened next: “I drove to Fleet Farm, which as we all know, has everything you could possibly need. I found my way to the section with mouse traps. I was looking perplexed when one of the Fleet Farm workers approached. I explained to him the situation, telling him I had gophers digging up my lawn and they were heading towards the house, getting closer by the minute. 

“You have one gopher, and the trap you need is not in this section. Follow me.”

We headed to the far end of the store, near the sporting goods. 

“We may not have our larger animal traps out yet, as they are a seasonal item, but if they are not out, I will take you back to the warehouse where I know we can find them.”

The trap he was looking for was not on the show floor, so off we went through two double doors into the spacious warehouse area. We walked and walked forever, until we finally came to a big bin full of twisted wire. It turned out the twisted wire was actually individual gopher traps — the infamous “Death Klutch” DK-1!

“This is what you need,” said the Fleet Farm trap expert confidently. He showed me how to set the trap once but knew I would forget. “Just look it up on YouTube, they will show you how to set it.”

You dig a hole in the dirt mound, to get air into the tunnel below. The gopher will sense the fresh air, and return to patch up the hole. If you are lucky, he will spring the trap. The first try was unsuccessful, but the second was the charm. End of gopher. Our yard, and our living room, were saved”.

Minnesota is known as the Gopher State

Minnesota is the Gopher State. A political cartoon from 1857 is credited with giving Minnesota this nickname. In the 1850’s the legislature was considering a five million dollar loan to the railroad tycoons. Regular folks were skeptical and wondered why this was necessary and whether only a few people were benefiting. The drawing by St Paul artist R.O. Sweeney showed the rich railroad owners as gophers with human heads pulling a train with paid off lawmakers. The cartoon went “viral” as we say today and thereafter Minnesota was known as the Gopher State.

The original University of Minnesota mascot from the 1940’s

Goldy Gopher has been our University of Minnesota mascot since the 1940’s, being represented over the years by various logos with a striped tail. Actually it turns out that gophers do not have striped tails. The rodent with the striped tail is called a 13-lined ground squirrel. I guess the mascot has been depicted with the striped tail for so long that no one notices or cares that it is not accurate.

The U of M mascot since 1986