Shutting Up the Old Crow: Knitting Meditation

The last few weeks I’ve struggled to find peace and focus. My “old crow” brain zips here and there, coming up with new ideas all the time as I try to find my center.

If I decide to work on my writing, she discovers a new knitting pattern I MUST cast on immediately. Once I cast on that gorgeous yarn, she sees a twinkle out of the corner of her eye and is off to teach a new knitting technique. I set up a new class and she remembers this quirky little story about a girl painting a mural which simply must be written down NOW! Get on it, LA!

I’m pooped!

I feel like I can’t get my feet underneath me. I want to plant my feet and yell “NOOOOOOOOO!” into the clouds.

All that does is pull my attention to the sky so she surprises me when she snatches the rug from under those planted feet. She even laughs as my butt hits the ground.

This past week, a friend visited and our conversations veered to the spiritual. As she spoke of her new meditation practice, I yearned for those moments of peace. I remembered how my mother-in-law encouraged me to start meditating after the move and how I resisted.

Now appears to be the time. I know that meditation can help me find that peace I need.

However, to trick that “old crow” brain and keep her from hijacking my serenity, I’m trying a knitting meditation.

Similar to walking meditation, I will sit with plain stockinette and nothing else. No podcast. No music. No television. Just me and the knit stitch or the purl stitch.

The piece I’ll be using for meditation is a top-down fingering weight cardigan that I recently cast on. A minimum of easily constructed increases and hundreds of knits and purls will be enough to distract that “old crow” while I focus on breathing and clearing my brain.

Each day, I plan to sit and meditate for twenty minutes.

Knitting Meditation

Want to join me? Here’s how!

Find a nice simple project, maybe a plain sock or garter-stitch shawl or a sweater which needs that huge stockinette torso finished. Basically you need to find a piece which you can knit without looking at instructions.

Commit to spending at least twenty minutes a day knitting with no other distractions.

Pick a place and time where you can be assured of no one disturbing you.

Set a timer for yourself. I use an app called “Tide” on my phone which plays the sound of waves hitting a beach for the length of my meditation. When the sound stops, the meditation is over. I know there are a ton of good free timing apps available for Android (which is what I have) or iPhone.

As you settle yourself in place, pick up your project and make a stitch, watching your fingers and the small movements of your hands. Consider how the yarn you selected creates the stitch, study how the needle pulls the yarn into place, feel how the yarn sticks or slides off the needle.

After your time is up, put away your project and get back to your day.

That’s it.

Simple, simple.

I’m looking forward to a more focused and peaceful September. How about you?

***

Play With the Housewyfe

Systems Clear the Rubble From Your Brain

House CleaningSeveral years ago, I decided to hire someone to clean my house. At the time, my days were a blur of busy as I spent my brain and my body making a growing business go. When I came home at night and collapsed into my chair after making dinner, I would think, “I need to clean the house.” Then, I would turn on the television and obsess about how I really needed to get up and vacuum while my body rejected any idea of movement. When I woke up in the morning, I would think, “I should have cleaned the house last night” as I showered. When I got to work, I would think, “When I get home, I’ll clean the house.”

The rubble of “shoulds” and “woulds” and broken promises filled the corners of my brain. It pushed thoughts of beauty and joy and creativity and fun out my ears. How could I consider being creative and having fun when I couldn’t even make the time to clean my house?

Then, I realized that I could find someone to clean the house. I was working enough to afford it. Other people did it all the time.

I asked a friend for a name of a cleaning person. She gave me Bettina’s phone number. Bettina loved to clean – I mean, looooooooooooooovvvvved it. I had to set a time limit on how long she could spend cleaning the house every other week. Otherwise, I would have come home to find her deep-cleaning every room in my house.

Sigh. I miss her so much.

Beyond my yearning for Bettina, when she started cleaning the house every other week, my life opened up.

Literally.

I could see again.

Instead of sitting and thinking I needed to vacuum or dust or clean the toilets, I could relax. My brain cleared. I bet I gained ten hours a week by hiring her and shutting up that little voice in my head that screamed “You need to get up and clean the toilets! And vacuum! And dust!!” every time I sat down to relax and recover from the stress of the day.

Freeing up my thoughts from the guilty “I need to clean” mantra allowed my brain to get creative with my business, my writing, my knitting and other parts of my household. My garden became beautiful again. I preserved fruit, making jellies and jams. I started knitting which opened up my life to designing knitting patterns and teaching knitting classes. I was able to creatively delve into the data I harvested from my business, allowing us to grow even more.

Transferring unavoidable but unpleasant (to you) duties to another person allows you to free both your body and your brain from the exhaustion of guilt.

That transference of those duties is what people mean when they recommend that you “set up a system” within your business.

The system of house cleaning is one which is easily transferred. Everyone understands (with perhaps the exception of my sixteen year old nephew) what needs to happen to clean a house. The equipment is pretty universal (mops, brooms, vacuums, dust rags, buckets, cleansers). However, my house had quirks. The stainless steel refrigerator had to be cleaned with a special cleanser which wouldn’t scratch the surface. I like doing laundry, so we removed that from the list. Bettina needed a special cleanser for the hardwood floors, so I purchased a bottle and left it on my cleaning supply shelf.

By setting up a system with Bettina, I was able to walk into a house which smelled of lemon and cedar once every other week. I relaxed without guilt and grew my business and my creativity.

Plus, networking by having someone over for cocktails is easier when you’re not worried about your dusty, dirty home.

When I invested a hundred dollars every couple of weeks, I added hours of creativity and energy to my thriving business – most probably generating somewhere around five hundred dollars in value each time she cleaned the house. (Plus, I supported another small business person. Win-win!)

Each moment you free from guilt about house cleaning (or filing or invoicing clients or putting together the cash box for the festival next weekend) is a moment you can devote to your art – which is what you sell! All the filing in the world won’t create another painting or bake your special pie.

Set up a system, transfer that duty to another person, and clear that rubble out of your brain.

You’ll be amazed at what you uncover.

***

Play With the Housewyfe

Fairy Sparkles and Dandelion Fuzz

My first beaded fingerless mitt is complete.

Beaded Fingerless Mitt

I feel like a fairy left a gift of sparkles and dandelion fuzz to wrap around my weary hands. I love how the dark gray beads glimmer dark in the sunlight and the soft blend of merino, silk and yak cuddle my hand close.

I finished the first one over the weekend and the second is almost done.

Unfinished Beaded Mitt #2

Each time I pick it up, I revel in the smooth and comfy yarn as it slips between my fingers. I don’t want the knitting to end! I know I’m going to have at least half of the skein left after finishing these mitts, so maybe, my old crow brain whispers, it doesn’t have to.

She sends pictures of a hat brim, using the same lace and bead pattern from the cuff, into my brain. She tempts me with a cowl, brushing the side of my neck with the silky comfort of the yarn. She lines the body of the hat with dots of Swarovski crystals, mixed on a thread then stranded along with the yarn to randomly pop up.

Oh, she is a temptress, that old crow.

I don’t think I can resist her, and perhaps I shouldn’t.

After all, I need a new hat.

***

Working with just a swatch gives you the freedom to play with the beads – adding different colors of beads, playing with the placement, seeing how the beads play with the yarn, watching how the different colors and types work with or against the yarn. Experimentation and exploration turns into a creative beading playdate for adults!

My bead class, “Bead All About It: Three Techniques for Adding Beads to Your Knitting,” will be on August 25th at the Knitting Diva from 10:30am-12:30pm and the cost will be $50. Beads (and several other materials you need to add beads) will be provided. Please bring fingering weight yarn and a beading crochet hook (US size 14/0.8mm or 16/0.6mm).

***

Play With the Housewyfe

Diary of a Lesbian Housewyfe: Drunk Nostalgia

Drunk NostalgiaI have a place that I like to go and remember the special moments of my life. I call it “the liquor cabinet.”

All of my liquor (NOT the wine and beer) sits on top of my refrigerator. I know I read somewhere that you should never store your liquor on top of the fridge (I don’t remember why. Maybe the heat?), but I really have no other place in my sweet, cozy home. Plus this positioning definitely keeps it out of the reach of most children and pets. A couple of cats barging full-tilt through the house have laid waste to a lot more than my scotch, but that’s my fault. What’s the point of having nice things if you never use them? I suppose they don’t get broken that way.

Precocious cats are a danger to fine china.

Each time I clamber up on my little stepladder to pull down my scotch for my weekly shot, I am assailed by memories of the past.

Steph went through a phase where her weekly cocktail was the vodka martini. (Let’s keep the groans to a minimum. She had an unfortunate experience with gin as a teenager and never recovered to embrace the classic gin martini.) We keep a bottle of vodka in the freezer and use only that for the martini. I fill the bottom of the cap of the vermouth bottle (extra-dry, please) with the vermouth and then pour it directly into the glass. A swirl around the entirety of the cone to coat the glass and then dump any remaining into the sink. Fill the glass with one to two ounces of vodka (depending on the harshness of the week) and then drop in one to three olives or pickled tomatoes speared onto a swizzle stick into the drink. Sit and sip. As I recall, after one of these, Steph would just sit. I felt so like June Cleaver fixing Ward his evening cocktail.

Grammy Loel (Steph’s maternal grandmother) visited over Christmas and New Year’s for the turn of the millenium. (I say this for 1999-2000 just like most of the people in the world. I really don’t care about the whole debate between this date and the one for 2000-2001. Chill out. It’s all over already.)

Anyway, since Grammy was coming up for the holidays, we asked her if she’d like us to buy her something special to drink for the celebration. Therefore, we have a bottle of amaretto, still mostly full.

In 1999, we spent a week in France travelling on the Canal-du-Midi. Our friend Lynda’s 50th birthday celebration carried us over the Atlantic and dropped us on a lazy canal, complete with locks to navigate (just enough work to make you feel like you deserved that bottle of wine).

On our way back to Paris (a trip which took another two weeks as we traveled to Barcelona and then up the west coast of France), we stopped at a small bed and breakfast outside Tourouve. The older couple who ran the place took pity on us and served us dinner as well as breakfast since there were no restaurants near the location. I think they also sensed the weariness pervading our bodies.

This simple dinner is one of my favorite gastronomic experiences of all time. We started with sauteed mushrooms topped with a small square of puff pastry. The husband harvested the mushrooms from the hills that very day and Steph “ooohed” and “aaaahed” about the fresh earthy flavor. For the main course, a dish they called “Swiss Steak,” which turned out to be a Rosti, a classic dish much like a large potato pancake with ham and topped with a fried egg. As I dislike eggs, I picked around the middle and blamed my lack of appetite on a cold I had been fighting since we got to France. (I was just lying a little! I really had gotten a cold. I was just, you know, almost over it.)

The old man stared at me for a moment and then took off for the kitchen, re-emerging with an unlabeled bottle filled with an amber liquid. He filled shot glasses and plopped them down in front of each of us. “This will cure you.” He stated in French and the other fellow staying at the inn translated for the stupid American. I stared at the glass and then figured that if there was anything deadly in it, the alcohol would have killed it. I sipped and then slurped down that shot of homemade calvados with relish. Our hostess followed our digestif with a real tarte tatin made with the same calvados from fresh apples plucked from the tree that day.

I definitely felt healthier.

So, a bottle of calvados from Charles de Gaulle airport sits atop my refrigerator along with two others I bought last year to compare. That trip also stored a bottle of cognac and one of Poire William, a pear brandy that could be likened to some sort of fuel, in our “cabinet.”

We broke out the Poire William during our “staycation honeymoon” with a pear champagne cocktail. Drop a tablespoon of poire william in the bottom of a champagne flute. Place a slice of pear into the glass and fill to the rim with sparkling wine. Don’t drop the pear in after the wine or that yummy champagne explodes out of the top of the glass and fizzes all over your counter. Sticky! Sit down to drink because by the end, you can’t feel your legs anymore.

Being the general recycle bin for most of our family, you will find bottles of alcohol magically appearing in our collection whenever anyone moves. For example, Grappa, Kahlua and Vermouth showed up when Jack, my mother-in-law’s companion, moved to Asheville, North Carolina a few years ago.

We are pretty darn good hostesses, so there is a bottle of Kamora (a coffee liquer similar to Kahlua) we bought when our friend Emil visited, three bottles of port (each half-empty) we received as hostess gifts and a bottle of gin we keep around for our friend MB who ONLY drinks gin martinis.

In the realm of the unusual, we have two bottles of Godiva chocolate liqueur, a full bottle of Hypnotic (I pronounce it “hypnotique.” Per the website, it’s an exquisite blend of Pure Cognac, Premium Vodka and Natural Tropical Fruit Juices), two bottles of sake and one bottle of a stone pine liqueur which tastes like a pine forest with a kick. Bottles of Cassis, Remy Red, and (horror of horrors for my sweet honey-bunny) citron vodka are reminders of our first year in our current abode when I was in love with pink drinks. Throughout the summer, a cosmopolitan graced my hand once a week, followed by club soda and Remy Red during autumn and then on to Kir Royales (sparkling wine with a splash of cassis) for the holidays.

Just so you know, I prefer prosecco for my kir royales and Veuve Cliquot for my straight champagne drinking. In case you were wondering…. Hint, hint, hint.

I walk down Memory Lane by staring at the top of my refrigerator. Each bottle holds a memory as sweet and dear to me as the liquor inside. And the best part is, when the liquor disappears, I use the bottles for homemade vinegar and syrups. (Lesbian Law #2: Reduce, reuse, recycle.)

Unless they have a screw cap. There’s no romance in a screw cap.

Don’t forget Lesbian Law#1: Never Underestimate the Power of a Lesbian Housewyfe.

I’m going to have a cocktail.

***

Our liquor cabinet grew while we had the liquor store (from 2007 to 2012) and shrank when we made the move to North Carolina. Currently, all of our wine and liquor still sits in boxes, some even supporting the desk where I sit and write each day. I did manage to get over to the ABC (that’s the name of the state-controlled liquor stores in North Carolina) and find some decent scotch, as you can see from the picture above.

Oh, and I found romance in a screw cap once we started the liquor store.

***

Help the Housewyfe Help You

As An Artist, You Are the Heart of Your Business

Your Unique Hands“When you are an artist running her own business, you are the heart of that business. Someone else can do the filing and bookkeeping and administration. The one thing you can’t hand off is what YOU do.”

I was talking to an artist at a mixer at the Asheville Area Arts Council and this line just popped out of my mouth. As I said it, I almost left my body. Tears sprang to my eyes.

Truly, artists and any other creative business owner must look to themselves to provide the product they sell. This is why these sorts of businesses are so hard to pass along in any form. The thing which makes your thing YOUR THING is what makes your business go.

Over a decade ago, I took a class on valuing the closely-held business (which is banking speak for a small privately owned business – like a small wine shop or a single artist selling her jewelry). The first thing the teacher, a silver fox business consultant, said was “The point of a business is to sell it to someone else. That is the value you hold in your business.”

My pen refused to move. I sat staring at him like he was an alien. As my wife and I had begun our business, and even as we looked to perhaps selling it, we’d never thought of it that way. We’d always said, “We are in. We’re here to run this business. We’re in it for the long haul.”

As it turns out, we were in that business for a decade. A couple of years after taking that class, we sold that business and went on to other things. That business, an internet service provider, was transferrable. We were able to sell the assets: the client base and our equipment and our systems and our lease and our relationships with our employees.

As a working artist, you are the main asset. While you can teach someone how to paint or how to knit or how to bend metal, you are the only person who can create THAT painting or donut or necklace. That’s why, when you watch Antiques Roadshow, the appraisers talk about a certain painter who worked at Rookwood Pottery or those few anonymous slaves from South Carolina who made face jugs or how Tiffany & Company (Charles Lewis Tiffany who created the jewelry company) is different than Tiffany Studios (Louis Comfort Tiffany, Charles’ son, of the amazing stained glass).

Usually, when you start a traditional business, you consider whether or not the business will go, what will happen if it doesn’t, and how to build it up. You’ll write a business plan with a year to five years of financial forcasting. As you run the business, you put systems in place which make it possible for you to teach employees and set standards of service. If someone else follows what you did, then they should be able to make the business go. At this point, you can sell your business to someone – anyone – else.

Scrubbing the PotAs an artist, the main asset of your business is non-transferable. All the systems in the world can help you teach someone to sew up a project bag or print a giclee or ship the packages at the right time, but they will do nothing to show someone how to pick THAT fabric or drop color on a canvas in THAT way or place a cable just THERE in the sweater pattern.

I’m not saying that, because you are an artist, you can’t build your business to be transferable. Within the business that you’ve created, you have assets which can be transferred to others.

  • Your list of clients are people who love art. That list has a value.
  • The equipment you use to create your art has a value.
  • If you work outside the home, your studio space or office has a lease.

I’m just saying don’t think about your art in that way. And don’t think that anyone can do what you do.

Because they can’t.

You’re in it for the long haul.

I doubt you’ve ever thought about it any other way.

***

Help the Housewyfe Help You

Tomatoes in the Mist

The last several mornings, I’ve woken up to mist or rain. I feel like I’m living in the northwest. When I step outside to walk the dog, sweat immediately begins to pour down my forehead despite the cool morning. The humidity must be somewhere around 1000%. Exertion makes it worse (think rivulets of sweat pouring down my chubby cheeks), but I must get this body back into shape.

The Garden in the Mist

However, the tomatoes like it, so I can’t complain. Even without the sun to urge them on, they are growing so fast that they can’t even hold themselves together. Cracks and splits form in their burgeoning sides and I can’t seem to eat them fast enough.

Granny Bradley Tomato

Time to preserve! Somewhere in among the boxes lies the box with my Ball preservation book. I gave away the rest of my canning supplies as I left town last October. I am utterly without canning equipment and guidance!

The lack of everything necessary for me to can left me settled firmly in the freezing camp. Years ago, my mother recommended freezing tomatoes. I could freeze them whole, she said with her years of experience, or cut them into chunks.

Frozen San Marzanos

The paste tomatoes (we have San Marzanos) are small enough to freeze whole, but I cut off the very top so I don’t have to deal with the green. Then I pop them into a labeled gallon freezer bag and into the freezer.

Cut Tomatoes on a Tray

My cracking tomatoes are the beefsteaks. Our bounty of German Striped, Cherokee Purple, Brandywines and Granny Bradleys overwhelm me with their dense flesh and juicy sweetness. Those I cut into wedges. I put the wedges on a tray lined with parchment paper and freeze them solid. Another labeled gallon freezer bag holds them for the coming winter.

Green Beans

Green beans make up my other big preservation task. After a short respite, they have resumed their need of harvest every other day. After I wash them and snap the little stem ends off, I blanche* them. After drying them in a towel, they get frozen too. I line the tray with a kitchen towel instead of parchment paper since they are a bit wetter than the tomatoes. They line up in my freezer in their quart freezer bags like good little soldiers.

Frozen Green Beans

I can see my winter filled with a wedge of tomato here and there in a pan to add sweetness, whole tomatoes tumbled into a pot for pasta sauce, or chunks swirled into broth for a soup. I love to cook frozen green beans simply by tossing them into a pan, adding a chunk of butter and popping the lid on. Then, I turn the heat on low and let the butter melt into the beans as they thaw.

Right now, though, it’s all work. I imagine future LA eating a creamy tomato soup or savoring the freshness of the green beans. How thankful she will be! Only that thought propels me into the kitchen for a few moments to cut up tomatoes or blanche green beans to freeze and preserve.

I guess that’s as good a way as any to spend a cloudy day.

*Blanching is a process where you drop the beans into boiling water until they turn a brighter green. At that point, remove them from the boiling water and plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process. Now, all set for freezing (or eating)!

***

Help the Housewyfe Help You

Lime and Purple Brioche, If You Don’t Mind

Over the past weekend, I finished the sample for my two-color Brioche class in September. The Channeled Colors Brioche Loop will be our project and I’m excited to see everyone’s version. What yarns will they choose? What colors will spring forth? I had a heck of a time picking mine, but here we go:

Channeled Colors Brioche Loop

Look at those colors! I knitted it up using HiKoo Kenzie in lime green and a bright pinky-purple, so each stitch sent a little zing of shiny through my evening knitting in front of the TV.

Kenzie is 50% merino, 25% nylon, 10% angora, 10% alpaca, and 5% silk noils. I used four skeins (two in each color) and ended up with an eleven inch wide cowl with a forty-two inch circumference. (The pattern calls for a 32” circumference and 14” width. Whoopsie!)

Fluffy Brioche Stitches

Fluffy. Brioche is always fluffy. I love how that deep texture fills my hands as I knit. The soft fuzzy Kenzie added a lightness which made the brioche feel that much more squishy. I envied the mannequin as she cuddled up.

Channeled Colors Brioche Loop Doubled

Two-color brioche in the round creates this lovely rhythm. I find it so soothing and easy to work that I barely have to glance at my knitting. Working two-color brioche flat always feels like this exercise in fiddliness to me. I love the look, but having to go back to the beginning of each row and work it again? I don’t know why it bugs me when I’m working flat and not in the round. I suppose it’s just psychological. Even though that’s what’s happening, it doesn’t feel that way since I’m working in the same direction and never have to see that I’m backtracking.

The inner workings of my weird-ass mind. Will you forgive me? Do you agree?

This brioche class will be my third class here in Asheville. I can hardly believe it! And I’ve been so busy working on the sample that I didn’t even name it something punny.

I guess that’s my next step.

***

The plain old “Brioche” class will be held at the Knitting Diva on Friday, September 8th and 22nd, with a help session on the 15th. All sessions will be from 10:30am-12:30pm. Cost is $65, plus materials. Please call the Knitting Diva at (828)247-0344 or go online to divasknitting.com to make your reservation today.

We will be casting on and knitting the Channeled Colors Brioche Loop (pattern is free on Ravelry) to learn two-color brioche knitting in the round.

Oh yes. I’ve got to come up with a better name. Just plain old “Brioche” doesn’t cut it.

***

Help the Housewyfe Help You

Diary of a Lesbian Housewyfe: Pro-“Grass”-Tination Blues

Pro-"Grass"-Tination BluesEvery year, we have a moment where the snow melts and the earth begins to smell again. Not in a bad way, simply that dirt smell we lose when the ground freezes. Just past Easter, the ski mountain closes and green grass miraculously takes the place of the snow. Crocuses show their dainty heads, then grape hyacinth in bunches of dazzling purple. Daffodils and then tulips pop up in shades of pink, red and yellow.

I am sitting on my front porch in a turquoise wicker rocker. The chair wraps around me and I lean into the firm cushion as a light breeze ruffles my womanly leg hair. On this warm and sunny day, the zephyr reveals my mountain location with its chilly touch. Aspens’ leaves rustle in the gentle wind. Poppies begin to bud under the pink canopy of the crabapple tree, and the lilacs begin their charge out of the gates. With their full unveiling next weekend, the air will take on the scent of Fruit Stripe gum (the grape flavor) when the lilacs’ odor melds with the smell of fresh run-off melting snow flowing down the many streams throughout Steamboat Springs.

Asiago, my golden kitty boy, leaps into the air, spinning like a circus performer in his attempt to catch a bee. He lands among the white puffy dandelion seedheads up to his belly in grass and I realize the awful truth.

I have to do something about my lawn.

In the past, I have been a dandy gardening housewyfe. I had a beautiful crop of veggies in Denver. I count farmers in my heritage, strong southern folk who grew their own food out of necessity. My mother spent many years creating vegetable beds out of lawns at each parsonage we inhabited. I can remember standing in one particularly scary patch she was attempting to reclaim, staring at a weed as big as me. It glowered down threateningly at my little five year old self. Mom yelled over without raising her head, “Go on! Pull it! It won’t bite.”

I stared at the weed and grasped it at the very tip-top of the stem, pulling with all of my might. I leaned back, and it leaned with me. The weed slipped through my grasp, sending me tumbling backwards onto my butt in the muddy soil. Its triumph was short-lived as my mother reached over and deftly pulled the thing from the dense Arkansas soil.

My hero!

You have to pull from the bottom.”

To her credit, she didn’t laugh in my presence. And I did eventually, kicking and screaming, learn how to weed.

I still hate it. I think every gardener does.

I know, I know. Lesbian Law #26: I will grow all of my own vegetables throughout every season possible, using only organic methods, in appreciation and emulation of Mother Earth.

That means weeding.

Sigh.

There is one week in the springtime when my yard goes from beautiful to out-of-control. Unfortunately, this week always coincides with my desire to spend more time outside on my porch, watching the neighbors drive by and the pets frolic through my yard. My beautiful view of the front yard means that I can no longer deny it.

I have to do something about my lawn.

Many gardeners tell me that “the best defense is a good offense” meaning that I should start weeding when the weeds are tiny so I won’t have to work as hard. However, none of them have managed to teach me the difference between the weed seedlings and the actual plant seedlings. I mean really. They all look the same to me.

Is that racist? Or plantist? Or just specious?

I’m a liar. I can identify the dandelions. They stare at me, happily defiant, staking out their new territory with their little paratroopers. I sigh as I watch their seeds soar through the air, spreading the scourge to my neighbor’s lawn. There was a time, about ten years ago, when I made a pact with myself that I would not allow my dandelions to spread to other yards. Lesbian Law #25: Never impose on others unless your civil rights are in danger.

With the advent of the full-time job and, well, life I suppose, I have broken this pact many times over. Right now, my dandelions are puffing their way to world domination. I have so many; I’ve been investigating dandelion wine. At least I could get drunk, and then I wouldn’t care if the lawn needs weeding.

But I object to attending 12-step programs, so I guess that’s out.

Sigh.

I have to do something about my lawn.

The columbines are weaving their way through tall grass in the little garden lining my porch, sending out blooms amid stalks of tall grass. Bunches of strawberry leaves fluffily fill the same bed as their alien feelers invade my columbine bed. The entire porch garden is a war zone as I see dandelions sprout from the midst of the strawberry patch. Soon, I will be forced to arm myself with a hand spade, a small soil fork, and a dandelion digger; pulling on my purple suede gardening gloves and heading out to do battle.

The dandelions launch their offensive by digging in so deeply I can’t reach the base of their roots with my digger. I pull dandelions raggedly, leaving an inch or two of root behind, knowing that I’ll be forced to return in the coming months. The grass I grasp in mighty handfuls and end up digging and scratching with my fork until the soil releases its hold on the roots. They come up in clumps, and I now need to replace all the soil that I just threw away with the roots.

The dandelions, thistles, and some of the grass go into the garbage.

Yep, you heard me right: the trash can. Don’t dump your weeds in the compost pile if they have already formed their seedheads. Then they just proliferate throughout your garden everywhere you fertilize with your black gold. Compost is not something to be tainted with weeds. I get enough from the wind, rodents and birds to last me a lifetime. I don’t need any appearing due to my own insertion.

Sigh.

I’ve got to do something about my lawn.

I’ve created a list, as I do every year.

This year, I’m going to mow the lawn. Correction, this year, I’m going to get the neighbor kid to mow the lawn for $10 a week.

My half-barrel planter needs to be righted and filled with beautiful flowers.

The swing built by my grandfather needs to be moved into the front yard, and the porch transformed from a repository for snow shovels to the summer haven we adore. We spend four to six hours a day on this porch on our summertime weekends, and we need that retreat…soon.

The mint bucket needs to be weeded and renewed with more varieties. (As every good gardener knows, you must isolate your mint plants or they will take over the yard, invasive and fresh smelling little stinkers! Mine are in a wash tub that I’ve filled with dirt and dubbed “the mint bucket.” I’m fully prepared for mojitos. Except for the weeding.)

Having the front haven means the eviction of the weeds from the little garden lining the porch. Meant to highlight the columbine (state plant of Colorado!), our little patch is currently filled with any columbine who can overcome the giant stalks of grass and the encroachment of the nearby strawberry patch where the neighborhood dogs enjoy napping. Each year we attempt to thwart the dogs by installing cheap edging – which generally works – but last year the edging didn’t get pulled out, and ended up wrapped around the blades of the snowblower.

Oops.

I need to weed the front porch garden, the driveway garden, the edge of the sidewalk, and the small rock garden by the street. Then, I can start on the back yard. Speaking of which….

Clouds from the south are moving north, carrying the promise of an extra day of avoidance.

Today, though, I need to make sure that the neighbor boy won’t break his ankle in the grass-disguised hole in our backyard (he’d never come back!), so I make myself start the gardening season with a quick shovel of dirt. First, I have to find my gloves. This trek, by itself, could take all afternoon. I attempt to remember where I left them and, somehow, I manage to discover their hiding place in the loft.

Whooping with triumph, I bop my way down the steep stairway and perfectly fit them onto my chubby little fingers. The old caked mud makes it hard for me to close my hand, but shaping a few fists works out the kinks. Now for the shovel.

I exit the house back onto the front porch for the shovel, and flip-flop my way around the house to rediscover the location of the “danger hole.” Since I’m actually searching for the hole, I manage to find it by catching a toe. I limp around the side of the house in my unfortunate footwear and decide that I should use the old nasty compost left by the previous owner to fill the hole. Right now, the leaves of our lilac hedge shroud this particular pile, and a respectable number of weeds have sprouted out of its top despite the dense shadow. I begin my archaology and discover the lilac protects its own as the low hanging branches diminish each shovel full of dirt.

Flip-flop, flip-flop across the back lawn. Dump the meager load of dirt into the ever-deepening hole. Flip-flop back to do battle with the lilac for my soil. Fifteen minutes later, I’m finally done. I brush the dirt off the shovel and store it in the tall plastic storage shed on my back deck. I strip off the gloves and re-enter civilization. Whew. Almost didn’t make it back.

Kettle of water to the stove, fill my small teapot with leaves and soon I settle back with my warm cup of tea on the front porch. This is my favorite part of gardening. I think unusually favorably upon my ex-brother-in-law who, searching for a compliment for my lawn, said, “I like it. It’s….organic.”

He knows Lesbian Law #1: Never underestimate the power of a lesbian housewyfe.

I’ve got to do something about my lawn.

***

Mojitos:

1 T fresh mint leaves, whole

1 oz. Light rum

1 oz. Freshly squeezed Lime juice

1 oz. Simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, heated to dissolve sugar and then cooled), or you can go traditional and use a tablespoon of superfine sugar.

Ice

Club Soda

There are tons of ways that people prepare this drink. Traditionally, you muddle (or smash) the mint and the sugar together with the lime juice. Add rum and ice and then fill the tall glass to the brim with your club soda. I make it a little easier by using simple syrup and simply bruising the leaves in the juice and syrup at the bottom of the glass with a long ice tea spoon for the first step.

At the end, everyone does the same thing – sip and relax on a hot afternoon.

***

Written in June, 2006. My views on lawn maintenance haven’t changed much (although my sweetie did purchase a riding lawnmower for our generous new lawn in North Carolina). However, the weeds in Steamboat seem playful now after tugging a thick stemmed weed almost as big as me – my adult self – out of a plot that I’ve studiously ignored most of the summer.

If you are inspired to start your own garden, I was directed to this little guide from JenReviews.com. (FYI – She contacted me and asked if we could swap sharing links, so I’m hooking you up on her behalf.)

***

Explore the Housewyfe

Old Crow Comes Out to Play

Recently, I got the itch to cast on something beaded.

Of course. Because my “old crow” mind won’t let me just settle down and work on just one thing at a time.

Beads & Yarn for Beaded Project

(Also because I’m teaching a beading technique class on the 25th and I need a little refresher for myself. Really. Not just because I get to play with SHINY BEADS!!! WAAAAHOOOO!)

After swatching a little design out, I pulled this skein out of my “very precious gift” pile. From YarnScout in Bozeman, Montana, it’s their fingering weight Sacajawea, made from 20% yak, 20% silk, and 60% merino in the Berry Stains colorway.

I’m in love. Just by touching the yarn, I know it will slide soft against my skin and be a lovely way to warm my hands during the chillier months here. If I have enough, I’m also going to make myself a hat. I think I can make it happen since I have 400 whole yards in this gorgeous hank.

Since I want these pieces to be beaded, I talked to all of you fabulous friends on the internet over the weekend and we picked the gray iridescent beads for an accent. I’m playing with the idea of adding some Swarovski crystals on the hat if I get that far (Oooooooh yes! And the Knitting Diva has them on a deep discount right now. They’re perfect for loading onto a thread and stranding alongside my main yarn for pops of sparkle in the main body of the hat).

After starting off with a rolled edge ending in a band of beads, I began a wide rib and added a bead in the middle every few rows. I wanted a simple and modern look to my mitts, even with the beads.

Then, my “old crow” mind took over and demanded a simple lace detail around each bead. Just a couple of yarnovers and a centered double decrease. I was wanting to stay simple but now….

Beaded Mitt Cuff/Swatch

I had this idea that I was creating something super simple, something that a true beginner could do. They’d need to know how to knit and purl and knit in the round, but that’s pretty normal for a beginner. I wanted them to just learn to add beads. Now, I’ve added lace.

I’m still not sure exactly where I’m going with this piece. I have a few more tweaks to make and this cuff seems to be ending up the real swatch as I play with bead placement and lace variations. Lace every other rib? Perhaps lace every other bead? Will the lace completely destroy the integrity of the ribbing?

All sorts of ideas and pitfalls are zinging around my mind as I contemplate these sweet little mitts.

Decisions, decisions. Experiment. Experiment.

***

Working with just a swatch gives you the freedom to play with the beads – adding different colors of beads, playing with the placement, seeing how the beads play with the yarn, watching how the different colors and types work with or against the yarn. Experimentation and exploration turns into a creative beading playdate for adults!

My bead class, “Bead All About It: Three Techniques for Adding Beads to Your Knitting,” will be on August 25th at the Knitting Diva from 10:30am-12:30pm and the cost will be $50. Beads (and several other materials you need to add beads) will be provided. Please bring fingering weight yarn and a beading crochet hook (US size 14/0.8mm or 16/0.6mm).

***

Explore the Housewyfe

Diary of a Lesbian Housewyfe: Perk of the Lifestyle

Perk of the LifestyleI am a housewyfe.

I am not a mother.

I know that, for many, these two concepts intertwine so synonymously that saying you are a housewyfe means that you are a full-time mother. I may look motherly, but I lost my figure to pie and cookies and homemade jam. I am most assuredly not a mother. I’m not even maternal.

As the lovely Lesbian Housewyfe, I do respect every woman’s right to choose to have a child. (Lesbian Law #27: “Breeding isn’t just for breeders.” ) However, I also thank God every day that I can’t “accidentally” have children. Lesbians work hard to have kids, and never ever will you hear a soon-to-be lesbian mother crying to her friends, wondering how this situation occurred. She knows. She was there. A doctor was there along with a sperm-filled syringe. Money changed hands. Multiple visits occurred. These women pursue the vocation of “mommy” with purpose.

That is not me. When I came out to my mother, she wailed, “I’ll never have grandchildren!”

What about my brother?”

She shot me a look that said, “Don’t depend on him for nieces and nephews.”

She knew that being a lesbian was my last out on motherhood. As a child, I didn’t play with dolls. I asked for one at Christmas one year, a little dolly that peed like a real baby. I took one look at that soggy diaper and never fed it again. That dolly went straight into the toybox and never re-emerged.

I also want to assure you that my brother did come through on the grandchildren front and my mother is now the proud “Nana” of a darling five-year-old boy.

I am, in fact, afraid of babies. I don’t run in fear, but they make me nervous, and I dislike touching them. I could break them, you know. I never know how to hold their little heads and I’m not called Grace for a very good reason. I would never be forgiven for dropping someone’s baby.

I mean, they would absolutely never speak to me again.

Also, babies unexpectedly explode.

Don’t shake your head at me! You know it’s true.

Babies alternately have poop, vomit, mucus, or drool spewing from their many orifices at any given time. I visited an old friend with a new baby who, mid-lovely-visit to a quaint gourmet market, looked at her baby and said, “Oops! Poop explosion.” She grimaced, picked the child up into her arms from the stroller and revealed the yellowy brown squishy stain rapidly rolling down the leg of his pants. She swiftly grabbed the diaper bag (babies cause extra baggage in so many ways!) and beelined it for the women’s bathroom, where I can only imagine the carnage. She didn’t return for twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes!

Twenty minutes of cleaning up poop from the child, the clothing, the fold-down diaper table, the women’s restroom!

Ewww!

That could have happened on my lap.

Another of my maternal failures is that I cannot seem to sustain conversation with a baby.

They will approach as they develop the means, and look up at me. I feel pressure to entertain. “So,” I say, “How’s it going?”

The child looks at me and thrusts forward a little chubby hand containing something slimy: keys, a toy, a little catnip mouse they found on the floor.

Unh!” They say. “Unh!”

I accept the proffered object and they smile, or not. I hand it back and they drop it on my foot. The child toddles away. I kick the object somewhere else to dry before I pick it up again. That’s actually a pretty good encounter. Children sometimes cry, in which case I grasp them under their armpits and carry them at arms length to their Mom or Dad or designated overseer.

Maybe I’m not scared. Maybe I’m just not comfortable around babies. They move rapidly, make high-pitched noises and unexpectedly spew slime. Then they look at you with these little angelic smiles that break your heart. You know what else does that? Demons in horror movies. Only they reverse the process and already have teeth.

My only defense? I treat them like adults. I get upset when they act like babies. I want to tell them to not be a child about it. I tell them to act their age. Then I realize that their age is four or two or one. I am embarrassed and make it into a joke. I tell them to be cool and try to ignore the entire conversation.

The Lesbian Housewyfe is just not a mom even though she seems maternal: baking cookies, crocheting baby afghans, puttering in the garden.

Remember Lesbian Law#1: Never Underestimate the Power of the Lesbian Housewyfe.

How do I have the time for all of these fun family activities?

No children.

***

Ironically, I post this piece as my beloved now sixteen-year-old nephew completes his visit. He began making the journey to our home for six weeks each summer when he turned ten. We love his visits and wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m even afraid this may be the last one as he begins to talk of driving and getting a job.

Of course, that may just be because he isn’t a baby anymore.

***

Explore the Housewyfe