Journey Home

We got back home to Minnesota late Friday evening after driving for three days with our small dog and a loaded down car. When we left California on Wednesday morning we did not know what to expect as far as food and lodging, or anything else, on the long journey home as the coronovirus crisis escalated.

The most direct route goes through northern Arizona and Colorado, but there were snow storm and even blizzard warnings for those areas. Last fall when we drove from California to Minnesota the GPS routed us on a series of smaller “highways” with many turns and small towns along the way. That was an adventure we did not need this time. Instead, in order to avoid the bad weather, we took a very southerly route through Tucson, and then on through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. We stayed on interstate highways where we expected there would be more services.

The short version is that yes, we were able to find gas, food and lodging the whole way home, but it was a very different experience than normal.

At the first gas stop in a rural area I cleaned my hands down with a wipe before entering the building to use the rest room. I used the facilities by hip checking the stall door open, then washed my hands thoroughly when done. I used a paper towel to get out of the room without touching the door. We needed something for lunch, so I selected a pre-made sandwich from a refrigerator case to go with fruit we had in the car. As the attendant processed the transaction, I asked her if they had any hand sanitizer. She said “no” but she had wipes, and offered for me to take one from a cannister while volunteering that she did not think the virus situation was “real”, but that it was something conjured up by “the government.” My mouth dropped open while I thought of how to respond. Finally I said “no, it is real”, and she responded with “you think so?” OMG.

The first day of driving through the deserts of California and Arizona featured heavy rain. The second day we passed through more rain with high winds, saw a rainbow, encountered sleet and snow, and later watched dust storms in the distance. Finally the last day was smooth sailing. One bonus was that gas was cheaper than we have seen for years, as low as $1.85 per gallon at one station. A strong tailwind also had us getting 43 miles per gallon.

Cheap gas

There were many truckers on the roads and gas stations were open. It was clear customers were all trying hard to not touch anything, using hips and shoulders and elbows to push through doors. One mother of two small children was having a hard time helping them wash their hands after using the rest room. She was having them sing the happy birthday song, and repeatedly telling them not to turn the water on again, not to touch the garbage can, etc. We only stopped at one gas station with a make shift take out window that was not allowing customers inside the building, not even to use the rest room.

Amazing rainbow

Fast food restaurants were open for either take out or drive through. This was not the most healthy journey. Larger truck stop gas stations were busy and had decent options for take out food. I was tempted to ask the fortune teller at one stop to let us know how long it will be before things start to get back to normal. I suspect life will never be the same.

Fortune Teller in a truck stop

Of course I had a knitting project along on the trip. I am working on a pair of socks which is good for the car since it does not take up much space, and especially while I have the dog on my lap, which is most of the time. You would think I would get more knitting done given the number of hours we were in the car. However, much of the time I was doing other things such as taking shifts driving, helping with navigation, watching beautiful scenery, reading, eating, or napping. I will write more about the sock project when it is finished.

Knitting a sock while on the trip home

Navigation using the GPS feature of a smart phone is one of the things that has changed my life for the better. I seem to have a sort of directional dyslexia so that I automatically turn the wrong direction when coming out of a restaurant bathroom or trying to reverse written directions when coming home from somewhere. Also I am hopelessly lost in any kind of amusement or nature park with intersecting paths, or inside the downtown Minneapolis skyway system. After a few minutes of walking around I have no idea where I am. I do like looking at a paper road map because you can see a bigger picture, but sometimes it does not help if you do not know where you are. I remember the days of the AAA TripTik where they made you a packet with paper directions for the entire route of a long trip, with suggestions for hotels and restaurants. My parents used to get a TripTik before heading out on a road trip. It is just short of a miracle now that I can turn on the GPS app to see exactly where I am and how to get where I want to go. Another feature that is amazing to me is being able to find hotels or restaurants or other services that are nearby or near a specific location you are headed to. We used a phone hotel app to find pet friendly lodging with no problem.

As we approached Minnesota we had to figure out where to get some provisions since we had been gone for an extended period and would be self quarantining once we got there, having returned from virus zone California. Since we would be getting home late in the evening, the best option seemed to be stocking up in South Dakota. Around dinner time we pulled into a grocery store parking lot. Wayne took the dog for a walk and then waited in the car while I went in to get food and other necessary items. I cleaned my hands with a wipe before entering the store, washed my hands again thoroughly after using the rest room, and then wiped my hands and the cart down with sanitized wipes near the carts. I could not remember what food we had left in the house, but for sure there was no fresh produce or dairy. I filled up the cart with fruit and vegetables, dairy products, eggs, and other food that seemed like it would work for meals over the next weeks. Most areas of the store were fully stocked, but interestingly the bread aisle was close to empty. We have a bread maker so had the idea of using that, but the flour was pretty cleaned out too. The bread maker uses “bread flour” but they did not have any of that, or any whole wheat flour either. I was able to buy a big bag of all purpose flour. I could not find any yeast in the regular location, but there were a few packets in the “organic” food section. I snagged a 12 pack of toilet paper. Yay! A full cart and $300 later I wheeled the provisions out to our already packed car. We moved some things around and then had to take items out of bags and shove them into any nook or cranny where there was some space. The things that needed to stay cold went in the trunk, an option when in a cold climate. When we were ready to go we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies.

Finally late in the evening on Friday we arrived home to 17 degrees and snow on the ground. We plan to self quarantine for at least two weeks. It is sooo good to be home despite it still being wintery here and having to cut short our snowbirding trip.

Still wintery at home in Minnesota

Snowbirding Part Two in California

Knowing we had been through challenges in 2019, some family in the Los Angeles area invited us to house sit for three weeks in March while they went on a trip overseas. After considering for about one minute, we said YES. That was arranged before we knew about the RV/Golf Resort reservation in Arizona for February, and way before the Coronavirus was a concern. Our host family is returning earlier than planned due to the current world health crisis, and our time here will also be shorter than planned. We will have been gone for almost two months by the time we get back home to Minnesota. The most severe months of winter will be over, although there can still be nasty weather through April. Any snow that happens after we get home will melt quickly.

The weather in Los Angeles in March has been similar to the weather in Phoenix in February, maybe even cooler, with highs in the 60’s and cooling down at night. We went from dessert landscapes in Arizona to ocean views in California. The house we are staying in is large and open, which is quite a contrast from the 400 square foot rental in Arizona.

We drove through some amazing scenery to get from Arizona to southern California, including mountains with canyons and crazy switchback roads, red rocks, boulders, forests and deserts. We had planned on doing some hiking in Joshua Tree National Park on the way through, but it was snowing there! We drove around in the park instead of hiking.

Snow in Joshua Tree National Park in California

In southern California while on a cliff walk, we saw whales spouting, sometimes two together indicating a mother and baby, on their spring migration from Baja to Alaska. We also saw small crabs, anemones and other signs of sea life in a tide pool area. There are beautiful flowers, and lush green trees and bushes everywhere.

So many pretty flowers everywhere
Beach scene at low tide
Rocky tide pool area

Last week we took a one hour ferry boat ride over to Catalina Island. We brought our ten pound Yorkie-poo dog along because it was allowed and we could not leave her alone all day. Rules for bringing her on the ferry included either wearing a muzzle or having an airline approved pet carrying bag. We bought a muzzle that she hated and looked ridiculous on her, but we also had the idea of carrying her in my backpack. That worked great and she tolerated it for the most part. Catalina Island was charming and scenic. There are two small towns, but most of the island is undeveloped. Residents and visitors get around mostly with golf carts or bicycles. We rented a golf cart for one hour, allowing us to cover more territory than on foot.

Lyla was not pleased about wearing a muzzle on the ferry
Catalina Island
Snoozing in my backpack on the way back from Catalina Island

Another day, before everything started to close down due to the Coronavirus crisis, we went to Universal Studios. This time our dog stayed at a pet day care / spa. She did not seem too traumatized when we came back to pick her up after 10 hours. I have mixed feelings about going to these touristy places with their exorbitant entrance fees and overpriced food, but the attractions are pretty amazing. You can be sitting in a seat that is wiggling around a bit or going along on a track, but with the virtual reality technology it seems like you are careening around in the air or being attacked by giant creatures. Maybe it is worth it.

Bike riding along the “The Strand” beach path and stopping at a Farmer’s Market were other fun activities we partook of before self imposed sheltering at home.

A bike ride on “The Strand”
Hermosa Beach Farmers Market

Throughout the entire trip we have been able to find a balance of doing things and taking it easy. A planned day trip down to San Diego to see relatives and friends was cancelled due to social distancing recommendations currently in place. Very disappointing but we expect to be back next year.

Southern California sunset with a rainstorm in the middle

We have loved our time in both Arizona and California. I am able to adapt and find positive aspects about many different kinds of places and situations. I am lucky to have traveled to many states and cities, rural and urban areas, State and National Parks, east and west, north and south. There are so many cool and beautiful places in our country, no way can anyone say that one place is the best.

The last part of our trip has been weird and disconcerting with the Coronavirus concerns and restrictions. Suddenly we are not able to be out and about partaking of attractions and sights, so we have been chilling at the house, which has beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. We also have been able to take daily cliff side walks along the ocean, just a few minutes from the house.

The couple we are house sitting for are returning in a few days, and soon we head for home. Who knows what challenges and delays we might encounter on the three day journey. I am ready to be at my own house.

Weaving in Arizona

My new table loom was small enough to bring on our snowbirding trip to Arizona. It was especially nice to work on this weaving project in a relaxing fashion without many other duties calling. Following are some photos showing the first step of the process, measuring out and threading the warp yarns through the slots and holes in the heddle.

Close up of warping the loom

There are four different yarns in the warp. It looks like three in the photos, but there are two different purple yarns because I ran out of the one and then finished up with another.

As in my first weaving project, I used a selection of leftover yarn from my stash. Anyone with a hobby that uses materials has a stash that keeps getting bigger no matter how many projects you complete. Buying more stash has nothing to do with what is already in your stash. I saw a joke on facebook recently that buying stash and using stash are two different hobbies. So true! I like to buy something at the local yarn shop when I travel. When I use it later, or even just look at it, I think about where I was when I bought it.

Using the entire rental house living area for warping the loom

The two purple yarns and the brownish warp yarn are commercially made. The yellow warp yarn is something I had hand spun with my spinning wheel long ago. It was always a small amount and I don’t think I ever used it for anything else. The three balls of yarn on the table are what I used for the weft (back and forth).

Warp yarns on the loom, Weft yarns on the table

For the weft I used more of the second purple yarn, plus some purplish/goldish multi color hand spun yarn, and some gold single ply commercial yarn.

Two of the yarns in this scarf have a story. I spun the purplish/goldish bulky yarn myself using a variety of different fibers that came from different sources. I don’t remember all the fibers used except that the yellow is corn fiber I bought at a fiber festival. You would think corn fiber comes from the long silky threads that you peel away when husking corn, but actually it is made from starch that is extracted from the plant fibers, broken down into sugars, fermented and separated into polymers. The polymers are then made into delicate strands. I don’t understand any of that but you can read about it at the following web site http://knittyprofessors.blogspot.com/2009/12/fiber-facts-yarn-made-from-corn.html. The thing I remember is that the corn fiber was hard to use and I eventually gave most of it away.

I used the purple/goldish yarn that included corn fiber for the cuff on some felted slippers I made a few years ago. The boot part of the slipper was knitted using some commercial yarn (not anything used in the current project), and then felted. The cuff was knitted separately and sewn on afterwards, using my hand spun yarn that is also part of the current woven scarf.

Knitted and felted slippers I made, with cuff knitted from my hand spun yarn

I bought a skein of the gold single ply yarn, shown on the table in the photos above, when I was on a girls trip to New Orleans with high school friends about five years ago. I used it to knit a shawl, but ran out before finishing the project, so I ordered more online. What I am using in this scarf is from the second skein. It is bittersweet because one of my closest friends who was on that trip passed away suddenly last summer, days after we returned from another girls trip. Now when I see the shawl or this woven scarf with the gold yarn in it, I will think about my friend as well as the trip to New Orleans.

Following are photos of the weaving in progress.

Weaving in progress

The warp yarns are threaded alternately through the slots and holes of the heddle. When you move the heddle to up or down positions, it causes one whole group of alternating yarns to go up and the other to go down, leaving a space for the weft yarn to go across between them. The result is the weft yarn woven over and under alternating warp yarns. After passing the weft yarn across, you move the heddle to the opposite position, making the weft yarn go over and under the opposite warp yarns.

The shuttle is passing between alternating warp yarns

My second weaving project was an improvement over the first, but not perfect. The sections with thicker weft yarn are wider, but I do not know how one end of the scarf ended up at an angle. There is still much to learn.

One end is crooked
Finished scarf
Another view of the final product

For my third project I would like to make something with fewer different yarns but a more complicated pattern with the weaving itself. At the moment I have no idea how that happens, but I will figure it out with help from youtube, and Torri Hanna, my mentor in Fergus Falls.

Shawl

I finished knitting a shawl. It is not as interesting as the purple and gold scarf, and there is not much of a story behind this project other than I needed some things to work on while away from home on the snowbirding trip. Knitters usually bring materials for several projects on a trip because heaven forbid if you were sitting in the car or on a plane for hours without a project.

One thing I like about knitting and weaving and spinning is that there are infinitely many fibers and yarns and colors and patterns so that there is always something new and different to make. Sometimes that makes it overwhelming to decide what to do next or which yarn or fiber to use.

The main criteria for picking out the yarn in this case was to not buy anything. Many of you know that in October of 2018 I bought the entire inventory of a small yarn shop that was going out of business. At the time I did not have a plan for what to do with it, but I figured that once in your life you get to do something crazy. I will write more about the yarn shop purchase in a separate post.

Sirdar Aura yarn for the shawl

My yarn shop inventory is for sale at Tangles to Treasures in Fergus Falls, and also available for me to use. Even though I own thousands of dollars worth of yarn, sometimes I still cannot find the right thing for a particular project. In this case it was not hard.

Torri had knit a beautiful shawl with a pattern I liked called “Among the Shadows Shawl”, so I purchased the pattern on Ravelry. The nice thing about a Shawl is you can make it work with many different types of yarn, and I had no trouble picking something out from my yarn shop inventory. It was thicker than what the pattern called for, so that if I followed the pattern exactly the Shawl would come out larger. Instead I did some math to figure out the number of stitches and rows and pattern adjustments that would result in about the same size as the original. But it doesn’t matter exactly what size it comes out to be. Which is good because often my knitting projects do not come out the way I am expecting.

Getting started on the shawl

Another thing about fiber art that keeps me interested is that there is always something new to learn. This shawl pattern had a different kind of bind off that I had never seen before. I liked it and will probably use it again.

My next knitting project is a pair of socks with thin yarn, instead of the bulky yarn used for the shawl. Socks are nice for a trip because the project does not take up much room and is very portable.

More Arizona

We are enjoying our time in Arizona and grateful we have been able to partake of this opportunity to get a break from winter. It is hard to visualize snow and cold while walking around outside without a jacket or boots, and without worrying about slipping and falling. At home I have trouble giving myself permission, or knowing how much time is OK, to spend on things that are not necessary or productive. For many years when working full time while raising kids there was zero extra time. I am still getting used to the idea that being retired, and here in this place, there is time to relax, work on knitting and weaving, participate in events at the RV Park, hike, go on interesting outings, take naps. When we get back to “normal” life in Minnesota, there will be more things requiring my time.

The RV park has live musicians scheduled to perform every Wednesday and Thursday during happy hour. Recently we listened to two Jimmy Buffet style guitar playing brothers while enjoying an amazing desert sunset on the patio area around the pool.

Sunset at the RV Park pool

We also spent some time in the Billiards room at the RV Park on a rare rainy day. I used to be good at pool back in the day, but clearly I need a lot of practice now.

Having a really bad game of pool

The Museum of the West in Scottsdale is super interesting with art and artifacts from the old west. https://scottsdalemuseumwest.org/   There is some cool street art in Old Town Scottsdale including a sculpture, “The Doors” by Donald Lipski, that looks like a kaleidoscope when you step inside.

A display of chaps at the Museum of the West
“The Doors” by Donald Lipski
Inside “The Doors”

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix was worthwhile https://dbg.org/, but we have seen some beautiful sights while hiking too.

At the Desert Botanical Garden
Out hiking

There was a cowboy theme party at the RV Park where residents came wearing fun western costumes. Another night we went to dinner at a burger joint in Apache Junction, just to the west of Gold Canyon. There was a live band playing, with locals dancing while wearing jeans, cowboy hats and cowboy boots. They were not costumes.

We met some friends from Minneapolis for brunch in Old Town Scottsdale. It is ironic that we hardly see these friends at home, but went out of our way to get together with them here. We also spent an evening with some of Wayne’s cousins. One lives in the Phoenix area, the others were visiting from North Dakota and Minnesota. Everyone we talk to at home knows someone who is here.

While staying in our rental unit we have collected cans, bottles, plastic and cardboard for recycling like we do at home, assuming there must be pickup or collection here. When I inquired at the information desk, they said that there used to be recycling collection but the service that came to pick it up “dropped” them.  WHAT? Instead I was given a list of several locations in the Mesa area where you could drop off your recycling. When we were on an outing in that direction we loaded the bags of recycling into the car to drop off while we were out. When we got to the first address, it was a community services building, but we could not see any dumpsters or containers. I went inside to ask, and was informed that they “no longer do recycling” anywhere in Mesa.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME? We tried several other options on the list we got at the RV park, but did not have any success.  

After the brunch in Scottsdale we tried another recycling drop off that Wayne found by searching on the internet, that was on the way back to Gold Canyon. When we got there it was another bust. Not ready to give up, Wayne decided to google recycling in Scottsdale. There seemed to be an option there, so we drove back 10 miles to within blocks of where we had brunch, and BINGO there were drop off dumpsters. In the end, I think we caused a larger carbon footprint by driving all over looking for a drop off place than was saved by recycling of our items.

Goldfield Ghost Town in Apache Junction was a little touristy for me, but I liked their Cowboy Commandments.

Our time in Arizona is wrapping up. Now that we have experienced this snowbirding thing, I can see why people do it. You can bet we will be back here next winter, one way or another.

Qivuit Cowl

My adventure girl daughter bought me a skein of qivuit yarn from a shop in Skagway, Alaska, when she was working there for three months in the summer of 2019. Qivuit is the fine underfur from a musk ox, which is eight times warmer than wool and softer than cashmere.

Qivuit yarn is expensive due to being very desirable but labor intensive to produce. You can’t exactly shear a musk ox like a sheep. The qivuit wool underlayer is shed each spring during molting. Fiber is collected during the molt, picked off pelts after a hunt, or gathered from objects the musk ox has brushed against.

The shop in Skagway provided a web site with a few patterns that could be made with a one ounce skein of qivuit yarn. I selected a cowl with a simple stitch pattern that could be knit without constantly looking at the directions. Cast on 141 stitches on circular needles, knit 10, purl 10. Experienced knitters will know that makes a pattern of diagonal bands of knit and purl stitches. I tend to use a lot of stitch markers to keep track of things, making it more obvious when to do something different and easier to notice of you drop a stitch.

Getting started with the qiviut cowl

It was slow going due to tiny stitches with fuzzy yarn, and I had to undo and re-knit a few sections to fix mistakes. I have had more time to knit than usual while traveling and in our rental unit in Gold Canyon, so I finally finished the cowl after starting it last fall.

The completed project

When it is bunched up on my neck, the diagonal pattern does not show very well. However I like that it results in a reversible cowl, the same inside or outside.

I would be wearing this cowl if I was back in Minnesota, but it is not needed here in Arizona. It will have to wait in my closet until next winter.

Snowbirding

Wayne and I drove from San Diego back home to Minnesota last fall. On the way we scoped out some 55+ RV Parks in Arizona, where many retired Midwestern folks go to get away from winter. Wayne’s parents used to spend a couple of months in one of these parks in Brownsville, Texas. They loved it. My parents never had any desire to leave in the winter, other than a few short trips to visit family and friends in warm places. I was not sure how I felt about the whole idea, but was willing to check it out.

Driving through Phoenix there seemed to be hundreds of retirement communities and RV Parks. We saw many that seemed like big parking lots with RV’s lined up. Thumbs down. Heading east, we happened upon one in Gold Canyon on the very eastern fringe of the metro area. This place had a small golf course, beautiful desert landscaping and green spaces, a nice pool, bistro, gym, large activities building, and views of the Superstition Mountains in the background. The landscaping and green space with mountain view made all the difference. Thumbs up, I could see myself there. At the time we had a lot on our plate so we continued on to Minnesota and got busy with what we needed to do at home.

In January after things started to settle down, we decided to call Gold Canyon RV and Golf Resort to get our name on the waiting list for a “park model” rental for the month of February. The lady on the phone confirmed that it was a long shot, but she would take our name. We were surprised when she called us back shortly after that, and now here we are in Arizona!

We left Minnesota on a cold day near the end of January with fog, icy roads, and frost coating the trees. It was beautiful, but made for scary driving. When we got to the RV & Golf Resort two days later it was 77 degrees. That only lasted a couple of days and then it was much cooler with freeze warnings, but at least there was no chance of snow. Average high temperatures for the first half of February are in the low 70’s, but it cools off rapidly as soon as the sun starts to go down.

Leaving Otter Tail County
A winter wonderland in western Minnesota

The RV resort has “streets” with small “lots” to rent for your recreational vehicle, mixed in with park model homes to rent or purchase. In the middle is a common area with a big building that has a billiard room, library, ballroom, craft rooms for sewing, woodworking and jewelry making, a laundromat, meeting rooms, a coffee shop/bistro and golf shop. Outside the building are tennis and pickle ball courts, a pool, and a patio where you can hang out and listen to musicians around a fire pit. And of course there are some obligatory shuffleboard courts. Following are photos of the main building, Wayne standing in front of our rental unit with the mountains in the background and me standing inside our “house”.

The community building
Wayne standing in front of our rental, with the Superstition mountains in the background
The kitchen and part of the living room before we got it all cluttered up

Park model homes are sort of a cross between an RV and a “tiny house”, but bigger and not meant to be towed around. The one we are renting is 400 square feet with a bedroom, full bathroom, compact but complete kitchen and a living area. It is all very cozy and nice. There is a large overhang on the side with space to park your car, and room for an outside table and chairs and grill. Some of the park model homes are bigger with extra rooms or decks on the side.

A 55+ RV and Golf Resort is a community, as opposed to just lodging. People are very friendly. Many residents are active and social with tennis, pickle ball, golf, bingo, and a plethora of other activities. There is a giant board posted with all the clubs and activities going on. Another board has a list of upcoming events such as musicians coming on site to perform, pot luck dinners, bus trips for various outings and trips, etc.

This is half of the activities board. If you can’t find something to do, that is your problem.

I am doing most of the same things I do at home, but it is warm out instead of cold and snowy. I brought some knitting projects, and my table loom with a supply of yarn. We are walking and hiking. There are yoga classes. I can work on the blog. I can do the family cabin bookkeeping from here. I can read books. I can take naps. There are many interesting outings such as the Museum of the West, with large collections of cowboy art and artifacts.

I have been trying to get rid of stuff and live smaller, so I was looking forward to seeing what it was like living in the 400 square foot space. So far I like it. There is less time spent on cleaning and maintaining. More time for things I want to do.

There are endless opportunities for hiking around here
So many different kinds of cactus

Wayne was looking at old photos on his phone the other day. What do you know but he found some that he took six years ago when driving through this area, and he happened to make a random stop at one RV Resort – THIS VERY ONE! That was long before we were ever in a position to partake of the experience. We are now thinking about buying an RV. Maybe next winter we will be back here with that. Stay tuned.

Ice Fishing

My husband, Wayne, has been an avid fisherman ever since his dad started taking him fishing as a child. Jewett Lake, where we live now, is a beautiful, clean, spring fed lake known for good fishing. Wayne likes the solitude of sitting out in the boat alone, as well as sharing the experience with a friend, or teaching a child during the annual family reunion. One of my favorite meals in the summer is fresh caught fish with baked potatoes, green beans and tomatoes from my uncle’s garden.

For those of you who do not live in a cold climate like Minnesota, it may seem unbelievable that people fish all winter by drilling a hole in the ice. After a sufficient amount of time with temperatures near zero, the ice is 15″ to 18″ thick. Four inches is safe for walking. With 15″ of ice you can drive a truck on the lake.

The ice fishing experience ranges from sitting on a bucket out in the elements with your pole, to lounging inside a specially designed recreational vehicle equipped with heat, beds, sofas, a complete kitchen, and a TV. Between those extremes are tent style shelters and a range of huts on wheels in various sizes and designs.

There are many ice fishing houses of all types out on Jewett Lake. This winter someone plowed a 2 lane “road” from the public access out to an area in front of our house, making it easier for others to tow their ice house to the same area. Some of the fancy ice houses appear to be occupied most of the time with lights on at all hours, making one wonder how much fishing is actually happening. I believe that the amount of time spent in a “man cave” ice house is not necessarily related to how many fish are being caught.

Lyla enjoys a late afternoon walk on the lake with Wayne
A few traditional ice shacks

Wayne had done a bit of ice fishing years ago with his uncle on Lake Minnetonka, west of Minneapolis, so he had an idea what was involved. Now that we are living at the lake and needing a winter activity, he decided to try it again. $600 of new equipment and a trip to the bait shop later he was ready to head out on the ice. Wayne’s very old ice auger is not working, so on a couple of mild days he tried his luck with no shelter and using a hole someone else drilled. One fish was caught, but broke the line and got away, so we have not had any fish dinners this winter.

Minnows are used for ice fishing bait
Multiple holes were left by a previous fisherman
A village on the lake
A generator is necessary for powering the TV in this deluxe rig
Last year someone shoveled a spot for ice skating

Every year there are a few people who try to go out too early or too late in the season. Ice fishing houses must be removed from the lake by the beginning to middle of March, depending on the location, or risk a fine from the DNR. Or worse, they might get stuck in snow that has melted and refrozen.

We’ll see if Wayne actually catches anything this year. I will be watching from the living room window.

My First Weaving Project

Learning to weave has been one of the skills on my bucket list. I pictured one of those ginormous looms the size of a small room.

There are many different types of looms that can make everything from a simple narrow strap to a wide fabric with a complicated pattern. After seeing Torri Hanna use a floor loom at Tangles to Treasures, I realized that was a bit ambitious for a beginner. Instead I bought a “Rigid Heddle” loom that sits on a table or stand, and can make a project as wide as 15″.

The loom I bought came with the parts in a box, like a piece of IKEA furniture.

The table loom before assembling

There is a whole new vocabulary to learn in order to put the loom together and set it up for a project. The next photo shows the assembled loom with the “warp” yarn measured out for a scarf.

The “Warp” yarn is measured out

After the warp yarn is measured out it is attached to “apron bars” (like dowels) at both ends and wound up around the back “warp beam” (a thicker dowel). The project is rolled from the back “warp beam” to the front “cloth beam” as weaving progresses until all of the warp yarn is used up, or until your project is the right length. Following is a photo of my loom all ready to begin the actual weaving.

“Warped” and ready to begin weaving

I forgot to take a photo showing my weaving in progress. Instead I have a picture of a scarf Torri was making on a rigid heddle table loom, the same thing as what I bought, so you can see what it looks like. The yarn that is woven back and forth is called the “weft”.

Torri’s project in process

My first completed scarf is about 7 or 8 inches wide. Most of the yarn I used was already in my stash, leftover from previous projects. I alternated the different yarns in a random way. The final result has a few problems, for one thing you can see where the weft yarns are too loose at the sides in some places. I learned a new technique for making fringe. Overall it turned out OK for my first try.

Yarn from my stash used for the weaving project
My first completed woven scarf
My scarf up close

There are so many options for using yarn and fiber in creative ways, and always more projects in my head. I look forward to making another scarf soon, improving on the skills I learned with the first one.

The Woodpiles of Otter Tail County

I don’t think there are any covered bridges in Otter Tail County, but there are plenty of woodpiles. My sister Betsy and I had taken photos of the massive woodpile created during a family work weekend that included splitting and stacking wood needed for the maple syrup evaporator. Later, after we found some creative woodpiles when driving around in the area, Betsy posted photos of a couple of them on Facebook. Recently, I came across more woodpiles and thought it would be a fun blog post. Betsy gets credit for the title. Enjoy The Woodpiles of Otter Tail County.

Waiting to be split for firewood
Betsy and a cousin operating the log splitter
Split wood stacked in the syrup shed

A few random wood piles seen out and about in Otter Tail County.