Monday, October 19, 2015

My Rhinebeck Weekend

After years of planning (and even more years of wishing) I finally got to go to the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, usually referred to by knitters as "Rhinebeck" because the Dutchess County Fairgrounds that hosts the festival is in Rhinebeck New York. I generally describe it to non-knitters as Woodstock for Knitters, which makes people think it must be really niche, but their average attendance over the two day run is 30,000 people, mainly women, and mainly knitters and crocheters. The festival features all sorts of fiber animals, from llamas to angora rabbits, and every use of fiber animals from lace shawls to lamb sausages. It doesn't hurt a bit that the festival takes place in the stunning Hudson River Valley where fall color is peaking and the weather is generally crisp and cool. There was actually a bit of snow there during the weekend.

Mohair Goats
Sea Colors Yarn
The raw numbers of attendees are impressive of course, but Rhinebeck's importance in knit culture is not just in the numbers. I don't think the importance of this and other regional festivals in the rising interest in single breed yarns can be overstated. The concentration of enthusiasts makes it possible for farms specializing in rare breeds, organic dyes, natural colored fibers, and other specialty products to find a ready market for their wares. Local farms sell raw fleeces, and yarns that may be spun and processed at the farm or at small regional mills. There are mule spun yarns, something that a very few mills can produce, and handspun yarns, yarns dyed in seawater or unusual fiber combinations. These are not yarns produced in commercial quantities. Some are otherwise available only online, or at one or two local yarn shops. Some of the hand dyed yarns really require selection in person as the variation from skein to skein is substantial. Without the regional festivals no one would know enough about the products to seek them out. Vendors of fiber tools find a ready market there as well. Buttons, spinning tools and processing tools are sold there. There are also classes, book signings; sheep dog and shearing demonstrations draw crowds. Vendors of buttons and project bags who generally sell mainly on Etsy have the opportunity to get their wares in front of a large group of buyers who will be able to order with confidence online after getting a hands on introduction to the products. Some yarn stores had booths. Although the stores were selling some commercially made yarns there was a big demand for their products too - not every yarn is sold at every store and this is a great opportunity to take advantage of a selection of yarns and tools not available in your area. This year there were over 260 vendors. The fact that sales were brisk can be judged by the fact that there were long lines at nearly every booth all day.

Fiber Enthusiasts
The best part for the attendees is enjoying a weekend of knit culture. There is the tradition of the "Rhinebeck Sweater" - a garment knit to debut at the festival. Because patterns go in and out of style there is usually a particular sweater that appears in many iterations and versions in any given year. There are also many one of a kind sweaters to enjoy. Knitters stop each other to compliment the wearers' lovely garments and accessories, discuss the quality and oddities of the patterns and yarn used, and make friends. I noticed a large number of shawls on display, many more than there were scarves. Cables and other textured stitches adorned many hats. There are some hats whose patterns will soon be in my library based on how great they looked "on the hoof". Knitters of all ages interact as equals over the shared obsession that will bring thousands to a fiber festival. Many make it a girls' weekend and share hotel rooms for a weekend yarn party.

I've wanted to go for years. I had not lived near enough before to make the trip feasible (although I visited with a knitter from the UK in the coffee line!), but as soon as I started planning to move to the East Coast it became a possibility to consider. A local friend and I made plans a bit over a year ago to make it happen. I did not want to try staying in the area for my first trip (hotel costs are huge), but several local yarn stores in the region sponsor bus day trips and that's what we chose to do. We took the bus from Webs, a wonderful yarn store in western Massachusetts. We drove in the day before, shopped at Webs, and down the street at Northampton Wools, a lovely shop just down the street from our chosen lunch spot. We stayed the night a few blocks away and the next day we were on the bus at 7:00 am & on the road to Rhinebeck.

My haul. That's a tote bag made of a chicken chow bag, not a bag of chicken chow!
Wanda and I had separately pored over the vendor list, visited the vendor websites, and made our list of booths to visit. Our lists were oddly similar, so we shopped in roughly the same buildings most of the time, although we did not make the same purchases. We were both mainly interested in  purchasing yarns from smaller farms and spinneries that are not widely available, and investigating commercial yarns that are not sold in our area. Once you have seen and felt a brand of yarn you have a better idea what to expect if you order on line. My purchases mostly reflected what I had intended for the weekend, including some for gifts and a sweater vest I promised to knit for Shana. Good thing I had a budget and a plan firmly in mind! I've been buying very little yarn for more than a year with an eye to buying something special at Rhinebeck.

Mohair goat - the goat obsession continues unabated

The number of booths and yarns was a bit overwhelming for a first time visitor, and Sunday I spent hours looking over pictures posted by others who attended. While the fairgrounds is not large, the booths are numerous and filled with loads of diverse products. Going back to others' pictures reinforces what I saw and extended the experience. I'll be going back to some of the pictures again for sure. My initial review - well worth the trip. We had a blast!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Feel the Bern

It's long, but if you can't get to a rally maybe you'll want to hear the whole thing. He's not getting as much media coverage as Hilary Clinton's emails, but supporters are turning out in droves.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Notes From Flyover Country

Ann's Chicken Fry House
I currently live on Cape Cod, but I was born in Ohio, moved around the south and southern plains for a while, then lived in Oklahoma City for thirty-four years. I was not my ideal place for me to live; its politics are miles from my liberal Democratic roots, and my marriage was not recognized there until the issue was forced by a Supreme Court decision. Still, there is much to love out there in the southern plains, and I miss some things a lot. I still have family there, for one thing.

I was listening today to a podcast by some people I like and respect - chefs and friends of chefs who live in Los Angeles. People who might go to (really) a special event consisting of an entire tasting menu of Okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancakes) because they are interested in the chef. I'm not mentioning the podcast because I like it and the authors. I will listen again, and it's my own fault because the theme song gives away the hipness of their tastes: a drum solo like the one prominently featured in "Birdman" last year. So hip they can't see over their own pelvises (Thank you Douglas Adams). The topic today was chain restaurants, and a remark was made that it was a revelation when traveling across America that there was nothing they could eat. That went all over me, to use the vernacular of flyover country. Granted the middle of the country is not as screamingly chic as either coast, but there is no excuse for that attitude. For one (small) thing, since moving to Massachusetts I find that it's hard to come up with some of the (food) necessities of life: decent tortillas, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, soul food, Mexican pastries, south Asian groceries, breakfast cut pork chops, grits, properly cooked hash browns or fried potatoes, chilis, properly cooked barbecue,  you get the picture. I have also dined at many fine restaurants and smaller places in the middle of the country where the food was perfectly cooked with skill and love. If the only place they went to eat was Denny's it's not the fault of the towns they passed through; it was their own fault.

I don't live there anymore, but it offended me to think that one could cut down a whole part of the country based on whether or not they were able to provide for the taste buds of a spoiled and lazy picky eater.

Proper biscuits & gravy

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Now We've Got the Place to Ourselves

Yesterday was not only Labor Day,  but also the day the tourists go home. Our little secret that September is the best month on Cape Cod has been leaked, but most tourists and summer people do leave by Labor Day. The weekend itself tends to be busy, and the traffic intense, but it's really the last of the inundation. I may have mentioned that with 220,000 year round residents, we play host to 4-5 million tourists who are here mostly in July and August. They get here via two four lane bridges, and once they are here they find only one limited access highway going north-south, and one east-west which turns to a two lane halfway down the Cape. Everything else happens on mostly two lane roads. What that means for traffic is that you don't turn left in the summer if you can avoid it, and Cape residents have developed their own traffic rules.  If you are turning right and there is someone waiting to turn left at the same road you pause to stop traffic and let them turn before you. If you are turning left or right you let the person exiting the street you are turning onto turn out in either direction. Locals turn out in front of any car no matter who has the right of way. People tend to pass left signalling cars on the shoulder. This is why I do not ride my bike on any road.

Our weekend has been busy - Shana's birthday is Wednesday so we have extended the festivities over the weekend and into the week. Yesterday Shana, Dea and I took a ride from Falmouth Harbor to Martha's Vineyard on a schooner: The Liberte. It's a beautiful ship and we went out on a beautiful day, if a windy one. Labor Day is the last day they do tours from Falmouth Harbor.
They Sail down to Annapolis after that and sail until mid October.  It was crazy rough going out because of the wind and the direction of the tides, but we loved it. Fortunately none of us are much given to seasickness. We left at 2:00, and by the time we came back the excellent clam shack at the dock which was packed with diners when we left had closed for the season. As fall wears on more and more businesses will shut down until next summer.

After our sail we picked up a pizza at Steve's Pizzeria (and more!) to take to Chappaquoit Beach for the sunset. I can recommend the pizza - not too thick on toppings and sauce, with a really good crust made with olive oil. We were hoping they might deliver, but we picked it up on our way out.  The plan was to eat it sitting on the beach and maybe even go in for a dip. Intense wind and big waves changed out minds. We sat behind my car sheltering from the wind, then I went for a walk down the beach. I was glad I had a sweatshirt with me. I always bring one no matter how warm the day is, because the sea breeze is usually quite cool. The winds had dropped a little and the waves were a tiny bit smaller after we finished out meal. Other locals gathered for the sunset and we all applauded when the sun went down.

We got home in time to watch Ohio State dominate Virginia Tech in a game that turned very one sided after Virginia Tech's game but tiny quarterback was injured. Ohio State looks good this year, and their quarterback is the size of a UPS truck.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Labor Day 2015

I my yearly Labor Day post, to remind everyone that Labor Day is not just the day the tourists leave Cape Cod and the end of summer vacation, but the day set aside to honor the American working man, in particular the American Union member. Unions are in grave danger these days, with many forces arrayed against them. Scott Walker has made a career out of union busting, as has every Republican since and including Ronald Reagan. If you like your weekend, your 40 hour week, overtime pay, labor protections for children, OSHA, NLRB protection (however ineffectual) against wage theft and other legal protections you owe it to the union movement. Don't let those gains go by the wayside.

If you want more musical inspiration, The Nation is featuring it's choice of top ten union songs here.

And a little seaside inspiration from the Head of the Meadow Beach. This is one of the Cape Cod National Seashore beaches, a national park created under John F Kennedy to preserve a beautiful part of our national heritage. I probably don't need to remind you that some people would like to see our priceless national parks sold off to private interests (but of course I WILL remind you).

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Just Thursday

My Holiday Knitathon has started. Actually I already have a few items in my gift inventory but I am getting more serious about it. Last weekend I spent two hours of car time working on a sock only to decide I hated it. This sock has now turned back into a yarn ball. No matter how fast you knit or how many hours you have put in, you can't improve a project you hate. If I hated the finished object I would not feel right giving it to someone else, so I would then own a pair of hated (but hand knit) socks. Just wouldn't do. Incidentally, this reluctance to give away imperfect or hated items leads to me wrapping up all my knitted gifts, which are nearly perfect and appealing, with deep regret.

I'm still not finished with my Must Have Cardi, but it will be done in time for Rhinebeck. I did block my Croeso Shawlette, which was knit with a gift of beautiful blue alpaca from my eldest daughter. The knitting had been finished for months, but I put off the blocking as long as possible. On the subject of this pattern: it is a free pattern, and not from a professional designer. I have read that the stitch count as printed differed from the garment in progress. I really can't say, because I mainly followed the repeats by section. The instructions for the center portion were initially confusing - the section it says to knit twice does not mean twice in a row. Once I twigged to that it went smoothly.  If you read the entire pattern before beginning and keep the picture of how the shawl is to look firmly in mind there should be no trouble. If you like free patterns you have to keep in mind that those patterns were probably not test knit or tech edited. You are the one doing that.

Mitzi is taking over more and more of the doggy responsibilities since Roxy is gone. I showered today after mowing my lawn, and as I was squeegeeing the door I was startled to see her laying on the rug outside the shower door. She's never done that before, but Roxy always did.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Still at War With Windows 10

Architectural detail, Fairhaven (I think)
If you have not already done so, be careful about "upgrading" to Windows 10. I think in the long run I will like it, but at this point in the process I am ready to throw my PC into the road and watch cars run over it. It seems that the default setting for your files is read only, if you have any access at all. I suspect that this is because of its improved function with cloud storage, but in the meantime I am suffering through trying to figure out how to get my photos from my camera and phone to the PC. My start menu disappeared altogether, my access to the Edge browser, which replaces the no longer supported Windows Explorer, was gone. The suggested fix for this was to open the start menu and do a long series of things. Hello? Lack of start menu was one of my problems! I finally was reduced to shutting it down by turning it off and getting it to reboot. The first time it just went to sleep and did not reboot. On the plus side, I did restore communication with my wireless printer, so if I could find it I can print it! Every time I try to do something (anything) a nice little chime sounds and a cute little sign appears that says "something went wrong". I have finally figured how to give Windows 10 access to my iPhone photos online, but getting them moved over is a slow process. I can't get access to any pictures after fall of 2014 so far. Fortunately I have lots you may not have already seen, or some pretty enough to see twice.
Sandy Neck

We are still enjoying summer temperatures here on the Cape, and since for many students the school year has started, tourism has slowed down and traffic is much improved. Water temperatures are the warmest they've been or will be, all year.  Abundant sharks provide news headlines every day, making a nice change from "deflategate" and Donald Trump. September is my favorite month. "R" returns to the calendar, so if you are superstitious about oysters you can put them back on the menu. On Cape we eat them year round. This weekend college football returns to keep me company while I knit.

We have another skunk under the shed (Shana saw it). The skunk guy did not credit my being able to tell skunks apart, so he thought he must have caught the only one, although I told him it did not look exactly like the one I had seen. Clearly I was right and he was wrong. I had paid him already though, so the joke is on me. Something else substantial is also hanging around, because one of my few remaining squirrels was run over and laying at the end of my driveway one night. I told Shana if it was still there in the morning I would take care of it (hoping something would carry it away before I had to commit to having a dead animal in my trash can). It was gone before we got up. I'm guessing fox, but that's far from the only option in the neighborhood. Maybe it will develop an appetite for skunk, which it should satisfy next door, where my neighbor seems to have a family member camping in the yard off and on, cooks dinner on a panini press under a spotlight outside and keeps an open compost heap. My neighbor has also moved all the unattractive things from the front and side yards into the back corner which is fully visible from my deck. *sigh*
Chatham Light

I'm nearly done with my Must Have Cardigan. All major parts are done, which means all of the cables are finished. The back and fronts are blocked. Now I have to sew up the shoulders and pick up the button band. The sleeves are both done, but not blocked yet.  The way the pattern suggests, you put on the button band, then the sleeves, then the side seams. I will have to get buttons, but I hope that will not be hard. After weeks of stalling,  I have a shawlette (Croeso) and a knit from last year's Christmas yarn, and a scarf downstairs blocking right now. Yarn for Christmas gifts has been purchased and a little shopping has been done. The less money I have available the sooner I start! Also when a craft show is in town I do try to pick up a few things for gifts while I browse around meeting the makers. I'd rather put my money directly in the hands of the makers than chain retailers. We had Wicked Etsy here for the Falmouth Food Truck Festival and I met some wonderful vendors. There were one or two I "know" from our online interactions who I hoped might attend but no such luck this time.

Provincetown Harbor

I watched the VMA's Sunday night. The main thing that stood out to me was how different the commercials and the sets are from more "adult" award shows. Brightly colored to the point of garish, and ads for "lifestyle" items quite different from those on the old people's shows. I guess "ED" is not a big issue for the MTV crowd. I was rewarded for my persistence by having witnessed several of the things blowing up Twitter the next morning, and an illusory sense of being in the know concerning the young entertainers of today. I would like to point out, however, that Kanye West seems to me to be too long in the tooth to be behaving like such a punk. His speech (as his speeches so often do) makes me wonder about his sanity and anchor to the real world. I can't fault his creativity, and think at times he plays the part of "Holy Fool", but I prefer very small doses, and maybe even second hand.

Things are quiet, and life is good.