Sunday, December 31, 2006

I guess I should probably start coming down from the Urchin high. (But it's just so pretty!) I neglected to mention in that last post that it was my 300th post!

I haven't done much of anything fibery in the past couple days, though I did start a knitted doily out of the froghair silk I spun at the end of October.

I'm up to round 28 of 86, but I've been bogged down there for the past two days. This pattern is written out line-by-line, and I find it excruciating to knit lace from anything other than a chart. I may have to take a time out and chart the whole pattern for myself. I'm also debating whether I should frog the whole thing and start over on smaller needles.

During the last stages of the Urchin , I spun up the rest of the 80:20 merino:silk that I have been spinning forever (the bottomless bag o' fiber) into a beautiful yarn that is, shockingly, NOT laceweight. I finally got around to washing it today. It's very yummy and soft, but I don't know what it's going to become yet. Perhaps weft in something.

This is 415 yards and 7.7 oz. of ~12 wpi two-ply. I love the sheen that silk gives a yarn.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Urchin, Part 3

Is it possible that I love the Urchin Shawl more today than the first time I looked at it completely pinned out and blocking? I think so.

We finally got out to take some pictures of the Urchin "in the wild" today. Please excuse the dorky expression- it was very sunny. This was the first time I'd really worn the shawl, and I love the way it fits. That sounds like a silly thing to say about a shawl, where "fit" is not something that's usually considered, but it really does fit me perfectly. It snuggles around my shoulders, is just the right length, and the half-circle shape after it's folded puts enough fabric in the front and sides to keep it from sliding backwards like a triangular shawl can.

(What, you don't wear jeans and hiking boots with floaty lace shawls?)

I folded it not quite in half, so that both layers of the edging are visible when it's worn. The fabric is so very light that I had a hard time keeping it still enough to get the picture; it wanted to shiver and float on the breeze.

Blocking this was a transformation, not just with the pattern but also the yarn itself. It now displays a sheen, luster, drape, and silkiness that just wasn't apparent before when it was a matte lace blob.

Have I mentioned that I love this project?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Urchin, Part 2

Ta Da!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Click to see the detail.)

The dyeing turned out just as I had hoped (though these pictures were taken at 8:00pm and look a little muddy). The pattern turned out just as I had pictured when I first sat down to begin charting. The size is right on target for what I estimated when I decided how many rows to chart. It looks like a sea urchin, and the edging works with the body.

I can't believe I made this.

I love how the Print o' the Wave pattern in the edging looks like seaweed.

Resident three-year-old for scale:

The specs:
  • 298 g /~10.5 oz (~3750 meters/~4125 yards) Ornaghi Filati Merino Oro yarn, 40+ wraps per inch
  • 1 24" US 2 Addi Turbo circular for the body, a US 2 double point for the edging
  • 84" diameter while blocking, I expect it to relax a bit when the pins are removed
  • original pattern
Random trivia about this project:
  • There are 314,004 stitches in this shawl.
  • It took approximately 200 hours to knit, probably another 20 or so to chart.
  • There are 2.34 miles of yarn in this shawl.
  • The edging alone consumed a full skein of yarn plus a bit.
I may have to post more pictures of this after it's released from the pins, so be warned. You have my permission to ignore that post if you're sick of hearing about the shawl! I'm just so very proud of myself!

Happy happy joy joy, HAPPY happy JOY, happy happy joy joy, happy happy JOY!

Urchin, Part 1

I would like to show you this:

Do you KNOW what that means??!! The knitting on the urchin shawl is DONE!!!

I finished the knitting at 11:30 last night (The number of stitches worked out even! Not too few, not too many!), and grafted it this afternoon. Grafting lace, in pattern, requires concentration. There was no way I was going to tackle that last night at 11:30. I'm pleased with the way the graft turned out, though. I knit a little tab of waste yarn for the provisional cast on, and that made it easier to graft in pattern, since all I had to do was follow the path of the waste yarn. Still not something to do while watching TV, though.

I grafted the whole seam before taking out the waste yarn, and it was really cool to take it out and see that the stitches were all joined together. The finished graft is nearly invisible.

So then I had a finished lace blob!

It measured 60" across, unblocked. But I wasn't quite done yet. I still wanted to dye it. That, however, required some samples and practice.

When we were on our way back from Friday Harbor last week, I stopped at Weaving Works in Seattle to get some Jacquard acid dyes. With great trepidation, I filled up my big dye kettle (obtained yesterday at Safeway, since the thrift store here in town didn't have any large kettles) with water and some vinegar, and started dyeing. Shaun asked me "Do you know what you're doing?" and I replied "Sort of..."

Clockwise from the top, these are Vermillion, Purple/Vermillion, Sapphire, and the exhaust from the shawl bath. I didn't want to use up a lot of the shawl yarn for samples, so I used some of the Rambouillet x Cormo fleece I was working on ages ago. I still have a pillowcase full of scoured but not carded wool, so I mainly dyed that, with a mini-skein of the shawl yarn in the dyebath with it to see how the blue shawl yarn took up the color. I'll have great fun spinning wool I dyed myself, so multitasking seemed like a good idea. It also made the math easier.

I knew I wanted the shawl to be a light warm purple with a hint of red, so I tried the Vermillion dye first. I figured since the yarn was already blue, overdying it with red would make purple. The red was so strong, though, that it overpowered the light blue. Even if I had used a lower depth of shade, it would have been too red. So next I tried the Purple dye, with just a smidge of Vermillion. That gave me the color I wanted, but it was way too dark (I was working with about a 1% depth of shade). I figured that if I took the depth of shade down to 0.3%, it would be just right. (Then I dyed a pot of Sapphire wool, just to practice once more. Also to see what the Sapphire dye looks like. It is glorious.)

Next step, the shawl. Eek!

A swim in an Orvus bath to get out a year's worth of grimies and thoroughly wet the fibers while the dyepot heats, then......

I ended up pulling the shawl out of the bath before it was totally exhausted because it looked like it was getting too dark, so I threw in some more Ramb x Cormo to soak up the last bit of dye. I'm glad I did this, because the shawl turned out just the right color.

Stay tuned! More in "Urchin, Part 2".

Thursday, December 21, 2006

We finally got our Christmas tree up yesterday. This year, for the first time, we cut our own. The Forest Service here sells $5 permits to cut Christmas trees in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, so we got ourselves a permit and ventured out to the woods. After a hairy ride up a Forest Service side road, that required us to use our spiffy new tire chains in order to get unstuck from the slippery ice patch and back down the road, we located our tree off the main Forest Service road.

I feel somewhat better about having this tree than other Christmas trees I have had in the past. This tree was not grown on an intensively managed monoculture plantation, where excessive chemical fertilizer/pesticide use is the norm (you'd be appalled at how polluting a Christmas tree farm is to the soil and nearby streams), and trucked halfway across the state. This tree was naturally seeded, grew without chemicals, and was in water in our house about thirty minutes after it was cut. Without a doubt, the freshest tree I've ever had. We cut it from a thicket of small trees, and hopefully the space opened up by removing it will help the other trees. It's somewhat Charlie Brownish, but I like it.

I'll close with a shot of the most excellent soup I made for dinner last night. Emma requested chicken noodle soup, and since Shaun was at the gym (Shaun doesn't do soup), I made some, sort of. No noodles in the house, so I made chicken rice soup instead. Judging from the speed with which it disappeared, it was a hit.

Chicken Rice Soup

1 1/2 C broth (I actually used some of the delicious turkey stock I made after Thanksgiving and tucked away in the freezer)
1 large carrot, in 1/2" cubes or smaller
1 chicken breast, in 1/2" cubes or smaller
1 C frozen peas
3/4 C uncooked rice
1 T dried parsley, left over from the fresh bunch I got for Thanksgiving and dried myself
a strip of lemon rind (remove before serving)
a piece of fresh ginger, about 1 cubic inch (remove before serving)
water as needed

Combine everything except water, bring to a boil, and simmer until rice and chicken are cooked (~15 minutes), adding water as necessary.

The lemon and ginger were impulse additions, but added a lovely layer of flavor that was almost floral, but subtle enough not to overpower the other flavors. The starch from the rice gave the broth a nice consistency.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

We're back in La Grande, and I've gotten back to daily work on the urchin shawl. However, with 65.5 repeats of the edging done, I face this:

Yep, ran out of yarn. Luckily, I planned ahead two weeks ago, and have this waiting in the wings:

Too bad about this running into the beginning of another skein, but I can always use the leftover yarn for another project. There will be plenty for a stole. The new skein is a different dyelot, but it's pretty close and I planned from the start to overdye the whole thing anyway, so hopefully it won't be a problem. (We're leaving aside for now the whole issue of me being able to entrust this project, that I've worked on for so long and to which I am so attached, to a dyepot. Scary scary. I've never dyed anything before, except some roving at a Guild meeting three years ago. Oh, yes, there will be sampling with the leftover yarn.)

On the other hand, did you SEE how few stitches are left on the circular needle????!!! I only have 14.5 repeats left to do!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Chevron Shawl pattern is finally ready for it's debut! Remember this project from January 2006?

Handspun and handknit, I really enjoyed making it. I wear it quite a bit, and love it. Lacy enough to be pretty, sturdy enough to be practical. I finally got around to doing the final edits on the writeup, and am pleased (and a little scared) to offer my first pattern for sale.

It requires 950 yards of sportweight yarn (about 15 wpi) and is knit on US5 needles. I used handspun, but any DK to sportweight yarn that gives about 5 stitches and 7 rows to the inch would work fine since fit is not much of an issue with a shawl. This is a fairly straightforward pattern, and I think it would be a good introduction to lacy knitting. Techniques used include reading a chart, provisional cast-on, knit-on edging and i-cord. After blocking, it measures 80" x 40".

5 pages, 307 KB Adobe PDF file, available for immediate download after payment.

(Note: Ravelry membership not required for purchase.)

The Chevron Shawl

Friday, December 15, 2006

Today I was tagged by Maryellen, for the 6-weird-things meme, so here you go!

THE RULES:Each player of this game starts with the 6 weird things about you. People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says you are tagged in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

1) I don't usually like to sit on couches, especially for knitting. I'd rather be in my own little nest of a chair, preferably MY chair.

2) I actually like the scratchiness of clothesline-dried towels, sheets, and clothes, and never use fabric softener. Mmmm, crunchy towels.....

3) I like cottage cheese with ketchup.

4) I can't stand it if bath towels get the slightest bit musty from not drying properly after being used. How anyone can leave a towel bunched up haphazardly on the bar so it's still damp the next day is beyond me.

5) I read my favorite books over and over and over and over and over, and consider the characters to be friends that I am visiting. (Menolly of Dragonsong pops immediately to mind.)

6) I must read before going to sleep at night. Even if it's 3:00 in the morning and I'm exhausted, I still need to read a couple pages.

So there are six of the many weird things about me. Who to tag? Gack, I'm terrible at this. How about we just say if you want to share six weird things, you're tagged.

(Someone should do a blog study of how the progress of memes across the internet comes to a screeching halt when I get tagged.)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Continuing in the quest to visit all my favorite places on San Juan Island at least once in the space of a week, Emma and I went to British Camp and Lakedale yesterday. It was drizzly and windy, so we didn't see many birds on Garrison Bay (British Camp). Lakedale on the other hand, being more sheltered, was playing host to two families of Trumpeter Swans, about 30 Canada geese, and a mixed flock of about 200 American coots, hooded mergansers, and American wigeons.

We went over to a friend's house last night for dinner, and I managed to complete two repeats of the edging on the urchin shawl while the kids were playing and the other grownups were talking about triathlon training. Unfortunately, that's the first time I've worked on it in two days. I'll have to pick up the pace once we get back to La Grande!

I'm eager to get home and finish the shawl and continue on the huck weaving. I only got the reed partially sleyed (warping front to back this time) before we left, and am hoping that the cat is leaving the warp chain alone! I left everything securely tied, but forgot to close the loom room door, and last night I had a dream that the cat was playing with the warp and had completely snarled it up.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, just been traveling again. Shaun finished up his teaching for the quarter last week, and the next day we went up to Friday Harbor to pack up the last bit of stuff from Shaun's lab and woodshop to take to La Grande. And I finally have my plants again! (But sadly, the three phalaenopsis orchids didn't survive the plantsitter.) Nothing like moving in dribs and drabs over the course of four months.....

I've made tremendous progress on the urchin shawl, though it's still not very photogenic. That's probably another reason I haven't been posting much. Singlemindedly working on one large project that doesn't change much day to day doesn't make for very interesting blog posts. I'm now 7/10 of the way around the edging, and only have 24 repeats left!! I've been trying to do two repeats per day, but haven't been able to keep up with that goal very well since we've been here in Friday Harbor.

Emma and I went to the Textile Guild's holiday party last Saturday (we didn't plan the trip around this, but it was good timing nonetheless!) and it was so great to see everyone again. I think my fiber friends are what I miss the most about Friday Harbor. We had the usual White Elephant gift exchange and lookie what I got:

I'm not quite sure how I ended up with this instead of the tacky little knickknacks most of the other people got. I'm working through it cover to cover, and it's stuffed with good information. It reads a lot like a textbook, but is written with Alden Amos' quirky style so it's not too terribly dry.

Emma and I went hiking at Jakle's Lagoon today, which as you may remember, is my favorite walk on the island. It was cloudy/sunny, breezy, and chilly. We had a little picnic on the beach (a very NARROW beach because the tide was so high) and looked at birds. We walked about two miles, all told, and Emma spent most of it running, so I'm hoping for an early and fuss-less bedtime tonight.

We came across this log during our walk that was covered with Witches Butter fungus (Tremella mesenterica). Very pretty.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I've started another weaving project, as a change of pace from knitting and to generate some thank-you/Christmas gifts for people who helped us out during our transition from Friday Harbor to La Grande. I'm going to make huck lace stoles, three of them, out of some lovely 18/2 Jaggerspun superfine merino I got off Ebay. This will be the finest-gauge yarn I've ever woven (5040 ypp), and my most ambitious weaving project to date. I'm anxious to see how they look when finished.

I finished measuring the warp today, all 7 1/2 yards and 425 ends of it. Whew. I really like the warping reel, and feel like I am getting more even tension than I ever did on my warping board, but the whirling reel makes me feel ever so slightly motion sick. I could only wind about a hundred ends before I had to take a break and let my head recover. But the warp is done now, safely tied and chained, just waiting for me to count heddles and dress the loom. Doesn't it look scrumptious?!

Other news from around the house includes another installment from "Adventures in Toddlerland." Emma has been clamoring for her own pair of scissors for a while now, and last time we were in the grocery store she started up again when we went past the school supplies. I've been talking to her about how scissors are only for big kids, and how they're a lot of responsibility, and how they are not toys, and are only for use on her coloring paper. She seemed like she was paying attention and absorbing the lecture, so I gave in that day and got her a pair of blunt kid's scissors. When we got home, I gave her the paper-only lecture again, and she spent a happy evening making confetti. I was happy- she was improving her motor skills; she was happy- she was making a mom-sanctioned mess. All was well. (You can tell where this is going, right?)

The next day, however, saw this:

See that paler patch on Naia's side? Yep, she gave the cat a haircut while I was in the bathroom. She also cut off a chunk of her own hair, though that's not visible and I only noticed because she left the chunk on the bed next to the cat. Luckily, no blood was drawn and except for a rather silly looking cat, it's all OK.

The scissors, however, have gone to a high shelf for a couple weeks.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I took yesterday off from the urchin shawl. Poor little Emma has been wearing socks on her hands when she plays outside in the snow, because she outgrew her old mittens and her neglectful mom hasn't gotten around to making her new ones. Poor girl. I almost bought her a pair at the store the other day, but couldn't bring myself to pay $10.00 for what were essentially the same as this:

-Brown Sheep Naturespun Worsted, color Blue Knight
-US #3 (3.25mm) needles (Addi circs); smaller that I would ordinarily use for this yarn, but I wanted them dense
-original pattern

I knit these in just under three hours, out of some of the leftovers from the sweater I made my dad three years ago. Three hours and 1.1 ounces of yarn, and I haven't done this before now why???!!! At least she finally has warm hands.

Bad Mommy.

I actually didn't completely take the day off from the shawl. After finishing the mittens (and redeeming my mom-conscience) I did one edging repeat, bringing the total so far to 35. Almost halfway!!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Psst! Have you heard? The fiber bloggers are taking over the world! Well, let's make the people at a MLA convention think so, anyway...

See, there's this guy doing a study on blogs, and how information moves across them, and he needs data points. Wouldn't it be cool to be part of the massive tidal wave of fiber bloggers who flood this guy's computer? All you have to do is write a post linking to his post, then ping Technorati, and you're done.

Pass it on!

(I don't ordinarily pass on chain letters, but what the hey, it's research, and I was a grad student once. Sorry if this post annoys you.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I was watching Tivo-ed shows last night, and was excited to see that the guest on the most recent Knitty Gritty was none other than Cat Bordhi! This is exciting for me because I actually know Cat Bordhi. She lives in Friday Harbor, where I lived until three months ago.

Cat's first book (Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles) was what got me back into knitting big time when we moved to Friday Harbor in 2001, after a fairly long hiatus (during college and grad school) of doing just cross-stitch, hardanger, and crochet. It was all socks all the time for at least a year after I got that book. I made every pair in the book before continuing the sock adventure with my own designs.

Furthermore, I was actually in our local yarn store (Island Wools) a couple years ago when she came in, all excited, to show the owner this cool new technique she had just worked out- seamless Moebius knitting, which was the topic of the Knitty Gritty episode.

Last summer at the San Juan County Fair, she was watching the speed-knitting contest (I placed second :-) hee hee!) and told me I was one of the fastest throwing-style knitters she'd ever seen. (Which I can't believe is true, but it was nice of her to say, though I can get the speed up there if it's plain knitting- I rely heavily on the muscle memory of my hands.)

So there you have it, my association with celebrity. And here's my very first pair of socks ever, from 2001. (Aside: they've held up pretty well considering they've been worn and machine washed/dried nearly every week for five years!) I was so excited when I finished the first one that I kept exclaiming to Shaun "It's shaped like a FOOT!"

Monday, November 27, 2006

Whee!!! Snow!!!

We got about two inches last night, and the whole town is sparkly white now. Gotta go, Emma and I are going out for a walk!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Getting there.....

As you can see, the edging is progressing. I have 24 repeats done, putting me 3/10 of the way around. This WILL be done by the end of the year!

From what I can tell in its unblocked state, I like how the edging is knitting up and how the design works in the body. However, I'm a little worried about (and I'll whisper this so as not to jinx it) running out of yarn.....

I must confess to being more than a bit nervous about finishing this. When I started designing this project last January, I had a picture in my mind of how it was going to look when finished. I just hope the real thing lives up to that image.

Monday, November 20, 2006

We went for a little exploration trip yesterday, to the Phillips Lake area about an hour south of La Grande. We just wanted to see what it was like, and to find a trail or somewhere we could walk a bit. We found a very pretty trail that goes along the Powder River downstream of the lake and dam, which was just the right length for Emma to walk the whole way (about two miles).

It was a little chilly, but not too bad, and Emma was glad to see there was some snow on the ground. I saw an American dipper, the first I've seen in Oregon, which was neat. It was lovely in an early-winter sort of way, with cloudy skies, dark water, and lots of interesting dried vegetation.

Though teasels are non-native, invasive, and very prickly to walk through, they do have beautiful architectural seed heads. The lichens were also prominant, most noticeably these two...

Letharia columbiana

Letharia vulpina

....which were all over the pines and tamaracks. Yes, they really are THAT shockingly chartreuse. Quite stunning, and not something I had ever seen until moving to the West.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Oh. Oops.

Remember how I said there were going to be 40 repeats of the edging pattern around the urchin shawl? Well, it's really 80. I forgot that it takes TWO rows of edging to nibble up one stitch of the body. You only join the edging to the shawl on the right side rows.

Ah well. I have five repeats done already, I plan to do two more tonight. They're like candy after those long rounds of the body.

Friday, November 17, 2006

What the.......

When we looked outside this morning, there was a large flock of pink plastic flamingos in our front yard. Huh? What on earth is going on? Is this our neighbors' way of telling us they don't like us? That they do like us? Some sort of weird Oregon "welcome to the neighborhood" ritual? Or just a driveby flamingo-ing?

Turns out, according to the note taped to our front door, we've been "flocked." The Chemistry Club on campus uses this as a method to raise money to attend a scientific conference later in the year. In order to get the flamingos removed from our yard, we have to make a donation to the Club. We then get to specify who gets "flocked" next.

In a way this is funny, but I'm not sure I'm OK with front yard avian extortion.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

LOOK!!!!!!!!! It's a finished shawl body!!!!!

I finished at about 5:00 this afternoon, after doing three rounds last night (2.5 hours) and five today (4 hours). I now have 1440 stitches on the needle. Whew!

All that's left is to knit the edging, a total of forty repeats. I figure that each repeat will take about 50 minutes, based on the number of stitches. (Though it was totally unplanned, I love that the number of stitches in one edging repeat is 1440, exactly the same as the total stitches in the final round of the body. I don't know why this pleases me so, but it does.)

As far as finished size goes, I think I'm right on target (possibly slightly larger). By holding the center and edge of the shawl, I can easily stretch it to 35 inches, which was the target radius of the body. The edging should be about 5 inches, giving a finished diameter of 80 inches.

I can't wait to get a few edging repeats knit on so I can actually see how my pattern is turning out! I've been going on faith since round 100, (last February!), when I had it off the needles to do a test stretch.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I'm still going on the shawl, and am now up to round 282. This is very exciting, because it means that I'm now LESS THAN TEN ROUNDS from finishing the body of the shawl!!! I'm in single digits! I'm loving how each round now puts me nearly a full percentage point closer to completion (there are a LOT of stitches now- 1400 on the last round). I also finished the second skein of yarn a couple rounds ago, which means I've knit 2750 yards so far!

However, a slowly growing lace blob does not an interesting blog photo make. I didn't feel like spinning last night after finishing my two rounds, so I pulled out the little Loomette frame loom that came in with all the stuff for my big loom. I've never tried one of these types of looms before, though I made potholder after potholder out of jersey loops when I was a kid. (And incidentally, I noticed when I was at Dad's house last summer that several of those are still in use! Not bad for probably 25- to 30-year-old potholders!)

Anyway, the Loomette is pretty cool. You take one continuous strand of yarn, and by winding it around the pins a certain way into three layers, then needleweaving a fourth layer, you create a self contained little piece of fabric with selvedges on all four sides.

I just made plain weave squares last night, but you can also make lots of different patterns. There's a great website, eLoomaNation, that has pdf's of lots of old pattern books for this type loom. Each square takes about 10 minutes to make.

I used some coned yarn that I've had around for a while to make these. It's 100% wool, but kind of weird. It's a singles yarn, just one ply, with flecks of lighter fiber spun in. It's also somewhat scratchy and stiff, and it seems to be almost felted. Not a great yarn, but the three pound cone was free, and it's a pretty color. You can see in the picture above how the squares looked after coming off the loom (4" square) and after washing (3.5" square). I was amazed at how the yarn changed with a soapy wash and a bit of fulling. There must have been spinning oil in there, because it bloomed and softened considerably. It also lost a bit of excess dye.

I took two of the squares and pulled up one thread in each direction, from the center, to make this little gathered flower.

I think with some beading and a pin back, this would be a cute embellishment to go on a felted bag or hat.

(edited to make the link work- thanks Leigh!)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Making great progress on the shawl- I'm up to round 274! This two-row-a-day thing is really working (though I've exceeded that goal recently, and have done ten rounds in three days!) Only 18 rounds left...

Other random thoughts: I love having a clothesline again. I had one in North Carolina, but the past five years in Washington, I didn't. There's really nothing that compares to line-dried sheets.

Haven't used a dryer since the last laundromat visit on Sept. 24, before the movers brought our washing machine, and am loving it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Well, what do I see here?

SNOW! This is the closest we've come yet this fall to getting the white stuff at our new home in Oregon. The tops of the hills all around have a dusting this morning, though down in the town we just had rain. This hill is the beginning of the Blue Mountains (west of town), pretty much behind our house.

After taking Shaun to work this morning so we could have the car and go grocery shopping later, Emma and I decided to drive around a bit and see the pretty scenery. We drove up a dirt road we haven't explored yet, and it was indeed very pretty.

This road is off one of my favorite bird routes that I discovered the first week we were here. On the way back to town, I saw a new bird for my list- Snow Buntings! This is the second new species I've seen this week; I also saw a Northern Shrike on Nov. 4. The bird list is now up to 396!

Monday, November 06, 2006

This year was Emma's first "real" Halloween where she went trick-or-treating and everything, so we got a pumpkin and did the whole carving thing. She had a blast, especially pulling the seeds out of the inside and then roasting them in the oven. (And eating them.)

However, every year that I've had a jack-o-lantern for Halloween I've felt guilty for getting a pumpkin, carving it, and then just having it sit on the step until it goes bad. Pumpkins are food, after all, and it seemed like a waste. (I feel somewhat the same way about Christmas trees, but that's a story for another time...) This year, I decided to do something about it.

In addition to our jack-o-lantern, I also bought three of the little pie pumpkins from the grocery store. On November 1, I spent the better part of the day baking pumpkin and pureeing it to put in the freezer.

I now have 12-pies-worth of pumpkin in the freezer, (in two-cup portions), one baked pie (which I made yesterday), and a dish of roasted seeds. I also made a batch of orange-cranberry relish to put in the freezer, because cranberries were on sale at the grocery store last week.

The three pie pumpkins made six cups of puree (three pies), and the jack-o-lantern made 20 cups of puree (ten pies) . The jack-o-lantern had much paler flesh and lost more water after baking than the pie pumpkins, and it'll be interesting how the flavor differs. The pie I made yesterday was from the Jack-o-Lantern, and while it was good, it didn't have quite as much flavor as the canned pumpkin that I'm used to. The texture was the same as commercial pumpkin, though, which I was glad to see. I'm thinking that a bit more spices next time will compensate for the blander pumpkin. I'm hopeful that the pie pumpkins will have a stronger pumpkin flavor.

Overall, I'm pleased with this experiment, my first time making pie from a raw pumpkin. Using the pie pumpkins was ridiculously easy. Cut in half, bake cut-side down at 350 F for an hour, slip the meat from the skins, whiz in the food processor, freeze. The jack-o-lantern was slightly more problematic, since it had to be cut up, baked in batches, and wanted to dry out in the oven so had to be covered. Because it was bigger and had to drain longer, it also was much more of an undertaking. But I now have enough filling for an entire winter's worth (and then some) of Shaun's favorite pie, and I don't have to buy canned pumpkin anymore! Not that it's expensive, but it's so much more satisfying to have done it myself.....