April 7, 2011

April Snow Showers Bring ...

Yep, it snowed (and hailed) in April. Unbelievable! I was at work when it all went down so unfortunately I don't have any good pictures to share - you'll just have to take my word for it. There is little this unseasonably cold and wet weather affords us other than frustration and the desire to get the hell out of Dodge for a sunnier location. I am very jealous of my friends in Dallas, TX with their 90 F, sunny beautiful weather. But there is one good thing the continuation of winter gives me and that is an opportunity to finish my knitting project.

My tastes in hobbies changes with the seasons, just like my taste in food. In October I start getting a serious craving for apples, pumpkin bread and knitting. In April, when the temp gets up to 60 F and the sun starts to make periodic appearances, I crave asparagus, peas and getting my hands in the soil. Those spring-cravings have started, but the are stifled a bit. And my desire to knit is still in full force.

I started knitting a few years back when I won a knitting lesson at our office Christmas Party. One of my coworkers creates amazing scarves, socks and hats. She offered a lesson as a Silent Auction item. So many people bid on the item that it became a knitting party with 11 coworkers sharing a night of learning to cast-on and drinking wine. I have been hooked ever since. I started with a simple knit-stitch scarf and worked my way up to shawls, hats and now a blanket.

The blanket is a huge undertaking. It requires an obscene amount of yarn. And not the inexpensive kind; but the soft, warm really expensive stuff. Plus I wanted lots of colors which required brain power to find the right hues that go together. After hours and hours and hours of knitting, and not just at home but at my daughter's swim class, at meetings and basically everywhere I end up with 30 minutes to sit still, I'm only half way finished. If the weather had decided to behave like a normal April, the blanket would have been nicely tucked into my craft closet and hibernated until next fall. But it's still cold and I still like having half-a-blanket draped over my lap as I knit away while watching TV (and drinking a glass of wine of course.) If anyone is interested in the pattern, it's below.

The other thing the weather has caused, and not such a nice result, is that the chickens have all but stopped laying. In reading Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens, the bible of chicken raising, I gathered that hours of daylight is the most determining factor in egg laying. You can maintain laying in the fall and winter, albeit a much lower quantity, by adding a light to your coop. It doesn't have to be a heat lamp, just a 20W bulb that runs from 6am to 6pm will create enough light to keep some production going. Once we passed the equinox and regained natural 12 hours of day light, the chickens started laying many more eggs - up to five a day. It was fantastic! I started selling at work again. And then it got cold. Back down into the 30's at night and in the upper 40's to low 50's during the day. Egg production steadily dropped from five to three to one a day. That barely feeds my family let alone having extra for my parents (whom I am forever in debt for all the help on the farm, not to mention many hours to build the chicken coop).

At this point I am willing to invoke any power needed to push out the rain and cold and bring on Spring! Praying, sun dance, burning a sacred log - whatever is necessary. I'd even give up finishing my blanket until next October if only the sun would come out!

Here is the blanket pattern:
  • Yarn weight is bulky and you need about 410 yards total in 3 to 4 different colors
  • 24" circular kitting needles size 10 (or 6 mm)
  • Gage, 12 Stockinette Stitch and 15 rows = 3" square (Stockinette is purl each stitch across the row, then kit each stitch across the next row)
  • Cast on 137 stitches - I used markers after every 10 stitches to keep count
  • Rows 1-5: knit across
  • Row 6, change color: knit 2, *knit 2 together, knit 7, yarn over, knit one, yarn over, knit 7, slip 1 stitch, knit 1, bring slip stitch over knit stitch and off needle, then repeat from * until you have 2 stitches left and knit those last 2 (you still have 137 total stitches, if you care to count)
  • Row 7: knit 2, purl each across until the last 2 stitches which you knit
  • Row 8: repeat row 6 without changing colors
  • Row 9: repeat row 7
  • Continue until you finish row 11
  • Row 12, change colors: repeat row 6
  • Continue this pattern until the blanket measure the length you want (214 rows if you're counting, but who is counting really)
  • Last 5 rows, use same color as you began with: knit across
  • Bind off and weave in all yarn ends
From: Teach Me to Knit (Leisure Arts, Inc. 2002)

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