25 April 2009

Even Mother Nature Needs to Frog Sometimes

When we bought our current house, this was our front yard. The first pictures we ever saw of the house had huge vines growing up the front porch and into its roof (yeah, a problem, we know), but by the time we actually looked at the house, some smart person with a vested interest in selling had cut down the vines… leaving this pathetic and gnarly stump.

Last summer, the stump sprouted anew. I did not really have the energy to deal with it, except to cut the new baby vines and the branches that were small enough for my handheld garden clippers, and spray the darn thing with Roundup on a semi-regular basis until it stopped creating new shoots and tendrils.

Why is the poisoned stump in my front yard a subject for a knitting-and-sometimes-spirituality blog? Because today was the day I tackled the stump. And somewhere in the six hours it took me to remove the damn thing entirely, I had a knitting-and-spirituality-related revelation. So here goes.

It was a really beautiful day today. Amazingly so. After a sometimes-record-cold winter and a very unusually chilly and therefore protracted spring, today was a day when you could actually have hope that summer might come. I never saw a thermometer or a weather report, but there were rumors of temps in the 80s. A gorgeous, sunny day -- objectively "nice" weather, but also particularly nourishing for the spirit. I had planned to spend the day faithfully writing a sermon and doing other dutiful work things, but… that stump was calling to me, mocking me, daring me to ignore it for one more week (and watch, it’ll rain every Saturday for the next month and the darn thing will come back to life). And I just couldn’t let that stump tease me like that. After a quick trip to the hardware store, I was ready. Shovel: check. Hacksaw: check. Axe: okay, I didn’t buy an axe, and I probably should have, but the claw-side of a hammer ended up working almost as well in the end. Pretty green flower pot: check. I needed $5 more in my purchase total in order to use my $5 off coupon. That flower pot was free, dammit.

Back to the stump. I began shortly after 2:00 p.m. I dug and dug and dug, trying to get under the left-hand side of the stump, pulling up and sawing off as much of the root system as I could access. By 4:30 or so, I’d gotten this far:

Pretty respectable, I'd say. That pile of cut-off stump pieces is almost as big as the remaining stump, so that's some decent work there. I was feeling motivated, like I'd actually made some progress and I was going to use that momentum to do Great Things!

It was the next part, though, that brought my great revelation.

This second photo is from 6:30ish. I'd hacked away considerably at the stump and gotten to a corm-like structure -- not a solid piece of wood, but a giant snarl of branches that had wound around one another and grown together. And that's when I realized... I was untangling Mother Nature's mistake. I was picking apart a giant wooden knot.
I was frogging.

I think that a part of me had been feeling guilty for pulling up and killing this living thing that is, in all probability, older than I am. That's part of why I avoided dealing with it last summer, and part of why I felt the need to dedicate a huge chunk of time all at once -- rather than kill it in pieces, I needed to kill it swiftly and justly. In spite of all the Roundupping I'd done last year, this venerable bush was still trying to send up little shoots again today. It was really hanging on. And I couldn't just cut up part of it and leave the base still struggling to live in my front yard. Once I saw that I wasn't really
destroying so much as frogging, my task became so much easier to accept. Just like with frogging a knitted item that doesn't work, I was frogging this tangle of limbs so that something could grow in this space again.

Turns out, that final chunk took me nearly an hour to break open, but only about 10 minutes to disassemble once I figured out how to take it apart. It was almost a double-helix structure at its heart, spiraled around and around itself. I think Norah Gaughan would have appreciated its simplicity. There were some stubborn roots that just wouldn't give up (and a couple big'uns running under the porch, so I couldn't access them), but I managed to extract a lot of the root system before deciding it was time to let go and fill in the hole.

Right when the sun was headed down behind the trees at the end of the street (8ish), I managed to set the edging of my new flower bed, spread the dirt evenly, and plant some seeds. There will be sunflowers, marigolds, and "an assortment of wildflowers" poking their little noses up before long.Ain't creation grand?

11 April 2009

Henry II

I'm 75% done with Henry.

I know that because I have four skeins of this cashmere, and I've used three of them. I keep hoping to find a fifth skein hiding somewhere, but I've been through my entire stash in the last week doing some It's-the-End-of-Lent-and-I-Will-Do-Anything-but-Prepare-for-Holy-Week procrastination (ahem! like this post), and I didn't find any more, so that must be it.

Still, I'm quite happy with what I've got so far. I think the scarf is a good width -- I have no idea about the length, since it's scrunched up on the needles and won't be un-scrunched until it's bound off -- and I'll be happy with the final product.

I have really enjoyed working on this pattern. It's a bit tricky to get the hang of it, and for the first 5 or so rows I was really trusting that the instructions were well-written, because I didn't get it at all.

But then it clicked. And I've been speeding along. This was another case where the comments on Ravelry had me a little bit psyched out -- everyone talked about how it was so hard, and I couldn't find anything positive at all! -- but they also all agreed that it was worth it in the end. And really, this yarn was screaming out to be the Henry scarf, so I couldn't ignore that.

The texture shows up nicely on both sides of the fabric, which I really like. In the picture at right, you can see both sides -- the underside is on the left half of the picture, and the "right side" is in the right half. I like that the herringbone "weave" is so subtle, you really have to step back and let your eyes kind of blur to see it. Nice.

I got brave and started taking out the provisional cast-on a week ago or so. It takes time to remove, so I'm doing little bits at a time (that takes self-control! I really just want to spend two hours picking it out!) The cast-on really doesn't unravel, just like the designer promised! I, like everyone else who's made Henry, was nervous about that... but it's fine. And such a cool fringe on the edge.

As I've been working on this scarf, I keep thinking it might be cool to take up weaving. I know some women here who are big in the Weaver's Guild, so it'd be easy to get connected and take some lessons... but do I really need another hobby? One with, um, actual machinery? No. No, I do not. And I don't think I could love weaving like I love knitting -- not for the same reasons, anyway. I can see myself stressing far more about weaving, which is also something I do not need.

I think it's the spell of Henry. Maybe I just need to knit more things that look woven. That is, after all, what I like about this piece.

Doc just likes it as a pillow for his window seat.

And LOOK! Henry grew a tail!!!

Happy Easter, everybody.