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    Monday
    Aug292011

    We Climb A Mountain (Again)

    Yesterday our friend Sheldon and the husband and I went up to Mt. Aeneas, in the Jewel Basin hiking area right across from our house. Mt. Aeneas is a popular hike. We did it last summer, and we wanted to get up there again before they close the road after Labor Day for construction. 

    We began our hike around 4 p.m. in an attempt to avoid the worst of the heat. It was still pretty hot. Once we got about halfway there, we stopped seeing other hikers, most of whom had gone up earlier. We had the whole summit to ourselves. That was really nice. Usually it's crowded.

    This is a marker pounded into a rock on the summit, just in case you aren't sure where you are.

    I took some panorama shots, but there is a fire burning to the south and so it was pretty hazy up there.

    The husband is very intrepid and likes to try new ways to get off the mountain, some of which do not include following a trail. We decided to hike along the top of the ridge. If you look at this next picture, you will see Aeneas in the background (that high point), and coming towards the foreground is the ridge we came along. There is a trail about 2/3 of the way along, and then the trail sort of just disappears. At one point, we (Sheldon and I, at least, because the husband appears to be part mountain goat) were scootching along (very sharp) rocks on our butts to get down the ridge. It was a bit challenging but I never felt like we were in danger. We just had to go slowly. I was glad I had my ski pole with me for leverage (I have learned not to hike without it). 

    Eventually, led by the sherpa the husband, we got down the ridge and back to one of the real trails. Here's the view looking back up. 

    It was actually pretty cool and I said to Sheldon that people pay big bucks to go to national parks and do what we had just spent the last hour doing. Would we go that way again? Maybe not. But it was an adventure. 

    We got back to the truck just as the sun was setting in the west. All in all it was a great afternoon. 

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    Knitting? . . . ah, knitting. It's still going, albeit slowly. DD#2 tried out for and made the junior varsity cheerleading team, so my life has been upended in new and interesting ways. One of her good friends, who lives around the corner, also made the team. Her parents and the husband and I have been trying to share transportation duties. The problem is that the other girl's parents have jobs with schedules that don't always allow them to drive, and there are two smaller kids at home. In some ways it's good, because I either drive very early in the morning (they have to be there by 6 a.m. three days a week), or in the evening (the other two days), so I get a lot of work done during the day. However, when I drive in the evening my knitting time suffers, although I AM teaching a knitting class tonight at Camas Creek, called "How To Read a Knitting Pattern." 

    When the kids were little I had a parenting book, and one of the things I remember clearly from that book is a sage piece of advice. The book's author said that one of the challenges of parenting little kids was that they were constantly growing out of one schedule and into another, and that it was important to remember that each stage wouldn't last forever, no matter how awful it might be at the time. I would add that that piece of advice applies as they get older, too. DD#2 grew out of her elementary school schedule and into her high school schedule and the husband and I just have to roll with it. 

    This blog may go away for a while, too. I have mixed feelings about that, but I am not writing about knitting and that was the purpose of this blog. It may remain with more infrequent postings that are aimed mostly at reassuring my mother that I didn't fall off a mountain while hiking. 

    ********************************************************

    I am still really enjoying my new line of work. I get better at it every day and every day is completely different. My account managers have been wonderful to work with. I still sort of pinch myself every day that a) I have a job in a field that everyone said I would never find a job in and b) that I like it so much. 

    I do want to post again this week with pics of the garden, because we have had a few interesting surprises. Stay tuned. 

    Friday
    Aug122011

    Settled

    It's been an eventful couple of weeks. The good news is that I found a transcriptionist position, and I couldn't have landed a better one if I had been asked to design it myself. 

    There seem to be a number of MT jobs out there, but finding a company who will hire newbies and who will hire newbies for something other than 2nd or 3rd shift is the hard part. I was not looking forward to working later afternoons and evenings, because my brain tends to be winding down just when I would need it the most. I did receive an offer from one company to work a Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift. But you know what?—I've worked for myself for so long that I just didn't want to be an employee tied to a shift. 

    Last Monday, just when I had resigned myself to accepting that position, I received an invitation to do another round of testing with a different company. I went ahead and completed the test and submitted it, and Tuesday morning they sent me an invitation to become an independent contractor with their company. Being an IC means that I get to decide when I want to work. I do have to fulfill a work quota, but when and how I get that done is up to me. 

    By Wednesday I was up and rolling. I received my account specs and login information, and when I logged in for the first time, I realized that account I was working on was for an oncology practice. You have no idea how much I was hoping to get an oncology account. I have the background (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), and while I liked most of the different kinds of reports I typed during my coursework (except psychiatry), oncology remains my favorite specialty. 

    I have a phenomenal account manager who has been great about helping me get started. Working almost doesn't feel like work because it's so much fun. Cancer treatments have changed a lot in the past 20 years and I am learning a tremendous amount. 

    So I've had a much better week this week, and I think it's mostly due to finally having the uncertainty of the past two months out of the way. I feel like I am getting my routine back (it helps that school starts soon for the girls). I even feel like knitting, and that's a bonus. 

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    We've had a good 10 days of really hot weather, punctuated by a few good rainstorms. The garden looks wonderful. So far we haven't been overrun with zucchini, although that may change in the next few days. We've had blueberries and a few raspberries, some beans, and now we've got collards and arugula and another crop of lettuce. The sunflowers are taller than the husband (and he is 6'4"). 

    We did have a thunderstorm the other night, with lightning, and now we have a fire up on the mountain above our house. I drove down the road and took a picture for you. I also labelled where the fire is in relation to where we went hiking a few weeks ago. 

    DNRC has been flying helicopters with water drops over the fire during daylight hours since last night, but it seems to me that they are having a hard time getting a handle on this one. There are a lot of dead, brown trees up in those woods, and they want to burn despite the amount of moisture we've had this year. And it's going to be hot and dry until the middle of the week, when temps are supposed to cool off some. 

    I am almost ready for fall. Not quite, though. I need a few more weeks. Sometime this week I need to pickle the beets from the garden.  

     

    Wednesday
    Jul272011

    Foraging

    Before I get to the main part of this post, let me just be up front and say that any discussions of knitting are going to be few and far between for the next couple of weeks. First, this is the time of year I mentally refer to as "dead time," because for as long as I have been in this business. NOTHING happens in August. NOTHING—no orders, no forum discussions in Ravelry, NOTHING. Second, there isn't much knitting happening here, although the afghan is on the needles and I am working on it when I have time. Third, it's just too darn hot to think about knitting right now.

    I do have a few more patterns to release, but they are fall patterns and I want to wait until people are thinking about fall knitting.

    Okay, now that I have lowered the bar, let's talk about what HAS been happening. The husband and I have entered foraging mode. Foraging is when we find out who around here has orchards they don't pick, or orchards they've abandoned, and we get permission to go pick. Last year we got more apples than we knew what to do with using this method. On Saturday night we took ladders to an abandoned orchard and picked a bucket of sour cherries and a couple of gallons of sweet cherries. That same orchard has an apple tree that is just loaded, and I am hoping it's a tree full of Yellow Transparents or Lodi or some other great pie apple. I usually buy my pie apples but I'd be more than happy to pick them myself this year. We'll know in another couple of weeks. 

    The sour cherries became pies yesterday, although—in a spectacular display of what the husband calls "doing many things badly at the same time" and I call "multitasking"—I managed to leave the sugar out of one pie (not good) and burn another one (also not good). The pie that survived my cooking debacle was pronounced "excellent" by quality control (I didn't eat any). 

    Last night, DD#1 helped me can 17 pints of sweet cherries for cherry sauce—a very versatile sauce that can be used in cherry crisp, poured over ice cream, or used as a topping for cheescake. 

    [The only problem with this time of the year is that an abundance of food means that abundance of food has to be processed. The husband has been great about helping with that—he picked and hulled all the strawberries and got them into the freezer, he's picked and frozen all the peas, and he was so fascinated by the cherry pitter that he pitted most of the cherries for me. But the actual canning (and pie-making) is usually done by me. Fortunately, I have a big kitchen.]

    Sunday night, I was struck with the notion that we should go huckleberry picking. Do you know of huckleberries? They are a major part of cuisine here in the northwest. Huckleberries are sort of akin to blueberries (I was once caught in the crossfire of a heated discussion of the huckleberry's righful place on the botanical spectrum and I don't really want to be subject to that again, so let's just say that they are "sort of akin to blueberries" and leave it at that).  I can tell you, though, that they don't really taste like blueberries, and once you've had huckleberries you're kind of spoiled. I would rather have huckleberries than just about anything else for dessert, even chocolate (but I would happily take both together). 

    Huckleberries, alas, have not been successfully domesticated, as have blueberries. Huckleberries demand some sort of strange combination of light, shade, soil, charcoal, water, dryness, and phases of the moon to make them happy. They like areas that have been clearcut or burnt over, I know that much. I know how to find them in the woods—what combination of signs to look for to find them (kind of like hunting morels in the spring), but it's always a crapshoot and that is part of the charm. It's also part of the charm that it's entirely possible to run into bears while picking huckleberries because bears are not stupid and they like them as much as we do. That's why I take the husband with me. 

    On Sunday night, the husband and DD#1 and I headed out to the woods to some spots I thought would be good for picking. Alas, DD#1 forgot to take her allergy meds, and by the time we got to the huckleberries, she was miserable. We headed back. We found some loaded bushes close to home, though, so we sent her on home and stayed until dark to pick. As we walked home along the edge of our property, I thought to check the few bushes that I knew were there and have been since the day we bought this place. They were full of berries. The husband said that was sort of like hiking 3 miles to shoot a deer, then hauling it home and finding one standing in the yard. 

    I went out to that spot again yesterday morning and picked it clean. I was delighted to discover that—because the husband cleared this area out two years ago to make it more wildfire-resistant—there are hundreds of little baby huckleberry plants growing in there. We have our own little huckleberry thicket right on our property, and in another year or two we should be able to pick a couple of gallons without leaving the yard! It's not exactly a cultivated plot, but I'll take it! 

    Then the husband joined me and we spent two hours in the woods in a spot where all we had to do was sit down and pick whatever was within arm's reach, like a couple of lazy grizzly bears. We went out again last night and tried to find more, but we had to bushwhack through some heavy brush, and while the husband finds that energizing, I do not. I told him we could go out again later in the week when the berries a little higher up will be ripening. We can do that for the next couple of weeks, although the further it gets into August, the higher up in altitude we have to go to find ripe berries. 

    So we have four gallons of huckleberries in our fridge, and when you consider that a gallon of huckleberries typically sells for about $40 a gallon, that is not a bad day's work. I'm going to make them into jam today. The husband says he expects the jam to have the same life expectancy here at our house as that of deer jerky, which is usually gone within a week of bringing it home from the processor. I pointed out that we are well within our rights to declare that only the people who pick get to partake. In huckleberries, as in love and war, all's fair. 

    **************************************

    The transcription job search is moving along, but more slowly than I would like. I had hoped to be working by now. I've had interest from a couple of companies, but nothing definite. Last week I bought a Windows computer. Those of you who know me know that there are VERY FEW things that could make me work on a Windows machine. Entering a field that is fairly hostile to Macs is one of them. Even though I have a Mac that can be (and has been) booted into Windows, I decided that the easier thing would be to buy a Windows machine and another desk and devote the Windows machine solely to transcription work. I think that's a good solution. I spent a few hours Saturday going through the training for one company that uses a specific program, but I haven't heard back from them yet. That's the thing about this job search—a lot of companies pre-screen by making applicants take fairly extensive proficiency exams, presumably to weed out those who aren't competent or can't learn new software. But it's time-consuming and it comes with no guarantee of a job. 

    I also prefer to work as an independent contractor rather than an employee. I don't need or want benefits—because I had cancer 17 years ago, I have to stay on the health insurance policy I am on or I run the risk of forever after being uninsurable (yes, I know, companies aren't going to be allowed to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, but there is nothing that says they can't charge exhorbitant premiums to cover you). And IC positions are usually more flexible in terms of time. But I would take an employee position in order to get some experience. 

     

    Tuesday
    Jul262011

    It's Always in the Last Place You Look

    I have some yarn. I want to make an afghan. I apologize to those of you who would like me to design more complicated items like sweaters instead of large rectangles, but at the moment this is what I need, knitting-wise. I want to do some colorwork and it's easier for me with a simple piece of fabric. 

    I've had about 60 ideas for this afghan, and along the way, I discarded 59 of them for various reasons (such as, "It might not bother me to knit 40 squares from the center out on dpns with a complicated pattern, but other people might not find that enticing"). I finally sat down yesterday with 6 freshly-wound balls of yarn and the intention of starting an afghan made up of squares featuring different kinds of color and texture stitches. Wouldn't you know it?—I started working the stitch pattern for the first square and decided that it would make a wonderful afghan all on its own. The stitch pattern looks so unprepossessing in the Barbara Walker book (one of the limitations of B&W photography, and this pattern wasn't on the Walker Treasury Project website). It's a slip-stitch pattern with some garter stitches thrown in. I couldn't have asked for anything better. I love serendipity, but I wish she wouldn't take so darn long to show up. 

    So I spent almost a week trying and discarding ideas, and the one I finally settled on came out of nowhere. It looks really lovely knit up in the colors I picked. I'm doing it in Berroco Vintage Chunky. I do love that Vintage yarn. 

    *******************************************

    The husband and our friend Sheldon and I went on a hike this past Saturday. Sheldon is on the fire department with us and he likes to hike. Last year we went to Mount Aeneas, up in the Jewel Basin. We could have done that hike again (finally, now that the snow has melted), but I decided that we should do the hike up to Strawberry Lake. You can see Strawberry Mountain from our front yard. We live right across the street from the road that leads 3 miles up to the trailhead. The husband has done that hike a number of times, including when he's gone elk hunting, but I had never been up there. 

    It's a 3.5 mile hike from the trailhead, which is a 3 mile drive from our house. We went up around 11 a.m. and I was surprised to see how many people were already up there, including people on horseback as well as mountain bikes (and the trail isn't that wide). The climb begins with a pretty steeply vertical section through the woods. I didn't count the number of switchbacks, but I am sure there are many. The trail levels out near the top.

    When you reach the top, you are rewarded with this (I have no idea who those two guys are):

    Just in case the trip up here isn't enough hiking for you, there is a sign here that points the way to other places. It would have been possible (although it would have taken several hours) for us to have headed south from Strawberry Lake along the ridge of the mountain range and ended up at Mount Aeneas. 

    The husband, ever on the lookout for wildlife, got out his binoculars. He didn't see anything, though. 

    This is a much closer view of Strawberry Mountain than what I see from my front yard. Do you know why it's called Strawberry Mountain?

    We spent about an hour up at the lake. Sheldon did some fishing, the husband and I ate trail mix and hard boiled eggs, and we visited with other hikers who came through. Soon, though, it was time to head home. I got to be in the lead on the way down, and I stopped and took this picture. The husband and I stood here and located our house down below us. It is on the bottom middle right of the pic, just beneath a large swath of green which is the meadow behind our property.

    The husband and Sheldon on the trail.

     

    All in all, a wonderful day. We like hiking here because the views are almost as lovely as those in the park and there is a lot less traffic on the trails. Sheldon wants to do another hike this weekend, a little bit further north of us. The husband suggested that we hike up that other trail, come over to Strawberry Lake from the north, then come down the Strawberry Lake trail. That's a bit more involved because we have to position multiple vehicles in the proper spots, but it would be a fun hike. And a couple other friends from the fire department have said that they'd like to join us. We need to do this now, because all too soon this area is going to be snowed in for another 9 months (we're already hearing predictions of another big snow winter like we had this past winter). 

     

    Friday
    Jul222011

    Ebb and Flow–New Pattern

    A couple of months ago, I received some sample skeins of yarn from Abuelita Yarns. One of them was Abuelita Merino Lace. It worked up into a wonderfully soft and elegant scarf, which I am calling Ebb and Flow because of the way the lace pattern undulates through the fabric. As an added bonus, the lace pattern biases naturally, forming slightly scalloped  points at the ends of the scarf. 

    I'll be putting the pattern up for sale on Ravelry and Patternfish later today. 

    This is a beautiful yarn, and I look forward to more offerings from that company. 

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    More gratuitous garden pictures:

    A colander full of strawberries (sorry for the blurriness). We've picked about this much every day for a week now. Most of them have gone into the freezer awaiting their transformation into strawberry jam for the husband. 

    A cluster of grapes (kind of hard to see in the middle of the picture). I do hope these grapes survive and produce. They seem to be doing well so far.

    One of DD#2's sunflowers. This happens to be the overachiever of the bunch. I need to remember to save seed from this plant for next year, if I can keep the dumb birds from eating them. Might be time for a scarecrow. 

    And my favorite—one of my cauliflowers. This is almost ready to eat.

     

    We had some really hot weather followed by a couple of days of cool and rainy (while the rest of you are sweltering). Now it's going to get hot again. I like the contrast.

     

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