Sunday, February 27, 2011

Other People's Blogs, February Edition.

History and horses all together - how can you beat that?

This month, I'd like to spotlight the Fiddler's Green Horse Farm blog, by my friends Bill and Deborah. They've been involved in living history for several years and at one time supplied horses for Civil War events. Nowadays they're mostly doing 18th century living history or cowboy events with a mounted cowboy shooting group. We've shared some great times with them over the last few years, including a road trip to Colonial Williamsburg. Locally, Mister and I help them out with 18th century horsemanship demonstrations, which is where my main blog photo is from. (Slowly but surely I'm getting used to the sidesaddle - one of these days I just might be dangerous.) I'm sitting on one of their horses, either Sonny or Cash; I can't remember. Usually if there's a photo of me on or with a horse, it's one of Bill & Deborah's critters.

If you look closely at the New Year's Day photos, you'll see me in my Clint Eastwood serape brandishing a fine pistol. I also feel the need to tell you that's a Clearwater hat. (I love that hat. I love hats in general. That's a whole 'nother blog post, which I will get around to one of these days.)

You can visit the Fiddler's Green blog here:  and enjoy taking a little trip back in time to when a horse was your best vehicle.

Till next time ----

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Driving Christine.

When my father-in-law died, we inherited his 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee. We weren't entirely sure if we wanted to keep if or not, so we let it sit in the driveway for awhile till we decided. Last month we had the brakes repaired and got all the tags & insurance & whatnot to make it legal for driving in the State of Tennessee. Mister drove it for a couple of weeks, then turned the keys over to me to try it out.

I had been a passenger in this vehicle on several occasions and never noticed anything out of the ordinary. But the first day I drove it to work, I couldn't get the key out of the ignition. I tried all the normal ways I knew of releasing keys, and finally I got it out. I opened the door a little and flipped the auto-lock, and when I opened the door all the way to get out, the car started - without the key in the ignition. (I should point out that while the Jeep has remote keyless entry, it does not have remote keyless start.)


I told Mister about this, and he said, "Huh." He'd never had anything strange happen while he was driving it. I figured I had probably done something inadvertently, it being my first time driving a car with that many bells & whistles, and just put it down to new car ignorance. Several days went by with no incidents. The remote control unlocker stopped working, and I figured it just needed a new battery. I didn't think any more of it.

Last Wednesday, I went out to get in the car to go to work, and when I opened the door, the horn started honking. Repeatedly. I remembered the remote control thingy had a PANIC button on it, which will make the lights blink and the horn honk, and I thought maybe I had pushed it by accident (even though, remember, I thought the battery had died). I pushed the PANIC button to stop the horn honking, and it just honked more. Eventually I got it to stop.

When I got to work, I thought I'd try out the remote again. I got out of the car and hit Lock. Yep, it locked. I hit Unlock; again, the doors unlocked.

And then the engine started with me standing outside the car with the key in my hand. Thankfully, all it takes to get it to stop when this happens is a tap on the brakes.

I had a violin lesson that night, an hour north of town. I called Mister and said, "Will you come switch cars with me after work? Because I'm not driving CHRISTINE anywhere till we figure out what's going on." Which is kind of disappointing, because all weirdness aside, it's a pretty good ride. It's got a great stereo and seatwarmers too.

He drove Christine home without incident. (Of course.) Yesterday, though, when he drove it to work, the electrical display started flashing "REAR LAMP FAILURE." Mister got out and checked all the taillights. There's been one little side light out all along, but everything else was working fine.

We may or may not drive Christine today on our outing. As long as Mister's driving, I'm not too concerned. But if you don't hear from me soon, send out a search party.

Till next time ----

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spinnin' wheel got to go round.

Or in my case, a drop spindle.

Now, I figure that most of you reading this know what a drop spindle is and what it does, but just in case: a drop spindle is a handy-dandy little tool for spinning fiber into yarn. It predates the spinning wheel by --- well, no one really knows. Thousands of years is probably a reasonable estimate. The spinning wheel is a relatively new piece of technology, considering the grand scheme of human history.

I've been spinning with a drop spindle for at least 15 years or so. I chose to start spinning with the spindle because it was less expensive and more portable. The plan was to eventually get a wheel, but that still hasn't happened, mostly because I don't have a place to put it. And even though a decent wheel isn't outrageously expensive, that money usually has to go to things like car repairs, surprise vet visits, medical bills. . . well, you get the picture. So, over the years, I've gathered a pretty fair collection of spindles.

A drop spindle is basically a stick with a balanced weight on it, called a whorl. The whorl can be at the top or the bottom of the spindle shaft. I've used both and lately I've really come to prefer the top whorl spindle, especially for fine fibers like alpaca, because the weight distribution allows for smoother spinning and less breakage. For heavier fibers, the bottom whorl spindle works just fine. There are even teeny-tiny little spindles for spinning cotton.

The drop spindle also gives me a personal connection to those ancient people who used this tool. (My fellow history geeks will understand this.) Several years ago, NOVA ran a program on the mummies of Urum-Chi -3000 year-old Caucasian mummies in the Chinese desert. Why were they there? Where had they come from? At the time, I had a bad case of bursitis in my knee, but when the archaeologists pulled out several stone spindle whorls, I just about jumped straight up off the sofa, and I was nearly in tears. I was overwhelmed to think that I was helping to carry on a multi-millenia-old tradition, small and insignificant as it may be.

Any spinner will tell you, though, spinning is addictive. It's mesmerizing. The wheel - or the spindle - turns, and yarn appears before your eyes. It would be magical if it weren't so easily explained by physics and science. It's a simple matter of twisting fibers together, and yet, it's so much more than that. I don't really know how to explain it. But here's a photo of my latest project:

This is a mixed fiber batt I bought for a spin-a-long. The first half of the batt is already spun and on the spindle. After I spin the second half, I'll twist the two halves together for a 2-ply yarn. And yes, I'll do that on the drop spindle, too. What I'll do with the yarn once I'm finished is anyone's guess. We'll just have to see where the knitting muse takes me.

Where is your muse taking you these days?

Till next time ----

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Oh, the huge manatee.

Well, friends, this is the first time in several days that I've been upright for longer than 30 minutes without feeling the urge to lie down RIGHT NOW. I have been the lucky recipient of the Stomach Virus from Hell, which put me out of commission for about a week. A whole week.

Now, see here - I don't get sick, at least not for more than a couple days at a time, so this has been one of those head-scratching experiences. When the trouble started early last Sunday morning, I thought it was just a case of overeating the day before. We'd had friends over during the day, then went to a party that night, so I nibbled and noshed all day. I took a couple of ginger capsules and figured that would be the end of it. Yes, folks, ginger and peppermint are two natural remedies that really do work for minor indigestion, but when I spent all day Sunday lying on the sofa, I thought maybe there was more to it than eating too much. (There usually is when the ginger doesn't work.)

I stayed home from work Monday, again lying on the sofa all day. (I'm glad we have a big DVD collection, because the offerings on daytime teevee are poor at best.) Tuesday morning I went to see the doc, and here's the funny part. I couldn't see my regular doc because she was going home sick with the stomach crud. That should have been my first clue. So I got poked and prodded and they took a sample of this and that and sent me home with a couple of scrips in case it was a bacterial thing, blahblahblah.

I made it through the whole day on Wednesday and thought I was getting better, till Wednesday night when things got worse again. And here's another funny part - Mister was doing the prep thing for That Test Guys Over 50 Have To Take, so we were certainly a pitiful pair. Thursday morning I called my doc's office back, pleading that Something Has To Be Done NOW, please, for the love of all that's holy. They finally called me back at 5:30 that evening to let me know I didn't have any nasty bacteria, just a virus, so hey, you're stuck with it till it decides to leave. Lay off the antibiotics and get you some Imodium.

Gee, thanks, Doc.

Anyhow. Friday I tried to go to work. I lasted all of an hour and a half. I just could not stay upright without feeling like I was going to hurl. I had to get home and lie down, which I did for the rest of the day.

Are you keeping score here? By this time I've taken nearly 4 whole days off work for a stomach bug. I don't think I've ever taken that much time off work for one illness in the 20+ years I've been working. I just don't take sick time unless I absolutely have to, thanks to an overgrown sense of responsibility. When people are counting on me to be there, I hate to let them down. But here's the crux of the matter: sometimes you have to take care of yourself, otherwise you're of no use to anyone else.

I've always been one of those people who would push through being sick, and most of the time that works out all right. Lately, though, I've come to realize it's not always necessary to push through. Sometimes it's necessary to lie down on the sofa all day. Maybe if I'd stayed home on Wednesday instead of pushing through, I might have got better sooner instead of worse again, although I realize there's really no way to tell. I feel like I've learned to listen to my body better, but even so, I don't always pay attention like I should, because I feel like I should be Out There Getting Stuff Done. Rawr!

Stuff will wait, though. It's flightless. It's not going anywhere. I'm fortunate to have a job that lets me stay home when I'm sick, and I know there are people in my office who have my back if I need them. Mister will pick up some of my house chores for a day or two, and the laundry --- well, like I said, it's flightless.

We don't have to buy into the Get Everything Done NOW mentality that our Insta-World has thrust upon us. Is it any wonder we're getting sicker, fatter, more stressed out? Sure, there are things that have to get done on a regular basis - I know that - but the Universe won't collapse if a meeting gets canceled, or a project deadline has to be pushed back a day or two. We owe it to ourselves to take care of us, too. If we don't take care of us, nothing will get done at all, and then we'd really be up a creek.

So listen to your body. Is it telling you to slow down? Then slow down a little. Is it telling you to cancel that dinner date and get a nap instead? Do it. Is it telling you to go ahead and have ICE CREAM for supper? Yes, you can do that too.

Till next time - y'all be nice to yourselves.