Friday, April 29, 2005

Another barn

Here's a picture of the back of the barn on the family farm. There aren't any animals in the barn now, but I remember when there were calves in the stalls when my uncle was still raising beef cattle. And I have vague memories of my grandfather milking the one dairy cow.

I also remember my grandfather re-roofing the barn, around 1976, I think. He cut down the cedar tree, hauled out the logs, split the cedar shakes, and then nailed the shakes onto the barn roof. I wonder how long that DIY "barn improvement" project took?

Friday, April 22, 2005


A highlight of last weekend was attending a performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah by the Seattle Symphony Chorale at Benaroya Hall. This is my sister's first year singing with the chorale. She is in the alto section.

The performance was beautiful and intense. Originally, the chorale was going to have sung in English, but when Helmuth Rilling was invited to be the guest conductor, they switched to German. He conducted the oratorio without a score.

I was moved by Mendelssohn's depiction of the suffering of the people during the time of drought and subsequent famine. In other tellings of the stories, the focus is often on the show-downs between Elijah and the king/the prophets of Baal/Jezebel/God. Mendelssohn's oratorio opens with Elijah declaring the beginning of the drought, then the overture, and then the opening chorus of the people, "Hilf, Herr! Hilf, Herr! Help, Lord!" The power and pleading of 130 voices crying out to God was overwhelming.

Me and my sister in the Grand Lobby after the concert.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Farmhouse kitchen

The center of the universe in my parents' house is the wood stove. When it's cold outside and there's a fire going, people walk in the back door and go directly to stand against the hot stove. There's nothing like being awakened by the sound of my dad (or, earlier, my grandmother or grandfather) lifting the round cast iron lid to add wood and kindling and start the fire first thing in the morning.

There's an electric part of the stove, too, including an outlet. The hot water heater is encased next to the stove. Behind the stove are shelves for drying nuts and hooks for hanging towels and socks to dry. My grandfather also installed a fan and duct system that uses the hot air from behind the stove to heat the bathroom.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Washington spring

Taken this morning before my return to So. Cal., here's the view out my mother's kitchen window looking toward the neighbors' barn. It had been unseasonably rainy the past few weeks, but this week it's predicted to be sunnier again. The farmers will be happy to have their fields dry out so they can continue their spring planting.

In the foreground, blueberry bushes. Further down the lawn, a gravenstein apple tree. Behind that, a row of marionberry bushes, and a pear tree to the left.

Beyond the fence is the very muddy pasture where a nearby farmer's cows that are about to calve have been housed while they wait to deliver.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Combined knitting

This afternoon I spent an enjoyable two hours being instructed in combined knitting by Annie Modesitt. I'd not attended a knitting class since leaving boarding school as a child. It was very satisfying. I learned a new way to pural purl—wrapping the yarn under the needle rather than over it. This method takes slightly less yarn, and therefore the stitch is slightly tighter. The effect of purling this way is that the knit stitch lies differently on the needle, as when you rip something out and put it back on the needle but "twist" a stitch by mistake and have either to put it back on the needle the "correct" way or to knit it through the back to "untwist" it. In Annie's method, knitting through the back is the "normal" way.

The reasons for combined knitting are speed and evenness of tension. I will need to make some other adjustments to the way I hold the yarn to increase my speed significantly, I think, but I'm hoping my stockinette stitch on two needles will be more even.

Although I had Annie's book, I was able more easily to see the "whole picture" through her in-person explanation rather than trying to read knitting diagrams only. And having your work immediately validated or corrected builds confidence. Also, I realized I already knew half of the technique (knitting through the back of a knit stitch that is on the needle "backwards"); I just didn't realize fully what I was doing other than fixing something.

I appreciate her philosophy of knitting—there's no wrong way!—and her encouragement to be adventuresome and intelligent about knitting. I now "get" her book, and it will be a handy reference and stimulation to try new ways of doing things.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


Things to do when one should be doing OTHER things (like TAXES and typing up church council MINUTES) but when one doesn't WANT to do the OTHER things:
  • Randomly go through Joe Morgenstern film review columns on WSJ (paid subscription required) and add DVDs to one's Netflix queue. Because if one doesn't start watching more DVDs, then one will need to cancel Netflix subscription.
  • Alternately, go through the 450 + personalized book recommendations on based on one's previous orders and the 263 books one has revealed one already owns.