Saturday, December 23, 2017

Great Falls, Montana

Visiting family for the holidays. Have gotten a couple of runs in on the River's Edge Trail (paved Rails to Trails conversion) including 13.5 miles today with temps in the single digits above zero. Lots of fresh snow in the past few days so the single-track trails in town were buried. I gave them a brief try today but post-holing for several miles isn't a lot of fun; especially when a few of those would have been into a 15 mph headwind. Unlike many parts of Duluth there are no trees to break the wind. My outbound tracks were obscured by the time I turned around today (on the eastern end of my run).

Scenes from today's run along the Missouri River:
Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea Sculpture

River's Edge Trail map
And a cute grandson photo just because:

A bee stowed away in my luggage much to G's delight
Tomorrow we are off to the mountains so the "kids" can ski, and G and I will hang out. Then possibly back to the mountains on Christmas day to explore and hike.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Ripple Hat

"Like a stone on a surface of a still river, driving the ripples on forever..."
Cry of a Tiny Babe -- Bruce Cockburn

A new hat design was born this past week. Built off of a couple of my previous designs and inspired by the recipient's memories of an afghan made by a grandmother.

Gathering supplies from my stash of fingering weight yarns
I have a rather generous supply of fingering weight yarn of all kinds of colors gathered over 20+ years of knitting. I went diving into that stash to find appropriate colors. I used some Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift in Black as my main (background) color and then collected an assortment of other bright colors and began to assemble them in "families". You can see the draft pattern underneath some of the yarn and knitting in the photos.
Draft pattern and cast-on 

First Latvian Braid completed
Latvian Braid (a 3 row pattern) has a lovely habit of severely twisting the yarns while working Row 2. By the end of the round you spend a lot of time spreading the yarns out in order to get enough free of entanglement to work the stitches. But, on row 3 it all starts to untwist, and by the end of that round there are no more tangles. Of course, I added a second braid which meant dealing with the terribly twisted yarn for yet another 2 rows!
Working on the body of the hat. Note how the two Latvian Braids are traveling in opposite directions
My pattern for a Latvian Braid has the "arrows" running towards the left (as in the lower braid). I opted to reverse Rows 2 and 3 for the second braid so the arrows would run in the opposite direction.

Working up the body of the hat. The darker toned yarns had a tendency to blend into the black yarn a bit which made for fun in low light situations. Minnesota in winter is often gray, overcast or just plain dark (we currently have about 9.5 hours of visible light, with day length of 8.5 hours).

Measuring to ensure proper size and to finalize gauge
At one point I was very concerned that I might be making this hat too big (and it may turn out I was right, you never know until someone tries it on) so I transferred all 200 stitches to a string and laid it out for measuring. This was also a good chance to check gauge (stitches to the inch). So far, so good.

Vertical stripes on the crown of the hat, following the color sequence in the body of  the hat
While running this morning I had a thought to recreate the color sequence of the ripples from the body of the hat in a vertical stripe pattern on the crown. I think the effect is rather nice, reminding me a bit of a winter sunset.

Finishing off the crown with i-cord
 I often finish off hats with an inch or so of i-cord (a knitted tube) that is then tied into a knot. I thought this was a good opportunity to bring back the gold and black from the Latvian Braid.

Inside view of a color stranded hat. 
Stranded knitting has the nice bonus of adding a little extra wool (warmth) to knitted items. Over time and use those strands start felting/fulling into the hat, adding even more warmth.

Finished, unblocked hat
After this photo was taken the hat went into a warm soapy bath for a soak. Then a warm clear water rinse and it is now currently drying on a glass head near a heating vent. 

Final measurements will be taken tomorrow after this gentle blocking. I am a bit concerned the hat may be too deep (crown to edge measurement). But fit is very individual so will wait to see what the recipient thinks. Knitting is easy to adjust (undo some stitches, rip back until the right point and reknit). If it's a matter of being just a tiny bit too large either top to bottom or circumference, the hat can be fulled to shrink it down to size. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

New Maps at Jay Cooke State Park

I was excited to see they have posted new maps at Jay Cooke State Park. Currently the Winter Map is up (trails change slightly seasonally), but as you can see in the photo, it appears there are new Summer Maps as well (tucked away until next spring).

Its nice to see official fatbike trails in the park. Even though the map indicates you can access the trail loop from the main headquarters lot it might be best to go in off of Leimer Rd to avoid wheeling/carrying a bike through the congestion that can occur on the Swinging Bridge.

Last week I got in a couple of rides at Jay Cooke on the "backside" of the park off of Hwy 23 (Spruce Loop and High Trail). May keep that up until the snow flies/they start grooming trails as it is pretty easy to get to from Duluth.

Winter Map (zoom in for details)
Fat bike trail designation
Today I was in the park for a easy run on a loop comprised of the Summer, Bearchase, Lost Lake and Silver Creek Trails. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day; perfect for a leisurely paced run including a few stops to clean debris off the trail, take in the sites and inspect the new maps. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Winter seems to have arrived!

Our first big snowstorm on October 27th. Caught a few of our trees with leaves still on. And us with our garden not cleaned up yet (or garlic planted). 

View from our front porch

Firearms deer opener resulted in a nice buck finding it's way to our larder courtesy of my brother-in-law. This guy didn't have an impressive set of antlers, but took three of us to load into the pick-up. Thankfully we have indoor cold storage available as I am not sure the bears and other varmints are bedded down yet. 

Despite a little warming, snow is still present on November 7th. And then we got more snow on Wednesday and Friday.

On October 31st I brewed my first batch of kombucha using starter tea and scoby given to me by a co-worker. On the 7th I transferred the tea into a secondary fermentation vessel and added a half pound of cranberries and apples and a few ounces of sliced ginger.
Using a siphon to transfer from primary to secondary fermentation vessel. 

Cranberries, macintosh apples and sliced ginger

fruit added to kombucha

Our flock of chickadees has returned and are busy cleaning out the feeder and scolding me if I get too close and obstruct their feeding schedule.
Black capped chickadee waiting it's turn at the feeder

In addition to chickadees I have noticed: white breasted and red breasted nuthatches; cardinals; juncos; redpolls; and an yet to be identified sparrow-like bird. 

Today I removed the fruit from my kombucha and poured it off into quart jars. I am going to leave it out another day or so as it is still a bit sweet and not too fizzy. But I like the subtle flavor already. 

cranberries, apples and some freshly formed scoby

Three quarts of cranberry - apple - ginger kombucha

Air travel + music/podcasts are great for getting a lot of knitting done. Stonecrop Stole is making good progress and the other day I added the second skein of Kauni EQ.

All this cold weather and snow has made for good fat biking. Exploring the western part of Skyline Boulevard on my Framed Wolftrax.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Recently Completed, Started, and On Hold Knitting Projects

A little less running means a little more time for knitting. With a deadline looming (baby about to arrive) it was time to finish up a sweater and hat project I have had in the works for some time:
EZ's Baby Surprise and Purl Soho's Garter Stitch Ear Flap Hat

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket

Purl Soho Garter Stitch Ear Flap Hat

Also completed the socks I started back in July at the Brandon Folk Festival:
Basic sock pattern; Three Irish Girls Adorn Luxe Sock Yarn Bali Hai color way

Redesigned, knit, redesigned and knit a hat for a friend:

Runner's Hat (Wildknits original) Sawtooth V2

Started a garter stitch stole that will be gifted to another friend who is facing some challenges:

Stonecrop (Jared Flood) Kauni EQ wool

Bottom border plus first few rows of center panel

This still leaves one project in the active, but long-term UFO, pile:
Biohazard Socks
I have made some progress on the socks. After realizing the original pattern had a heel style that does not work for my ankle/foot I ripped out the nearly completed sock; redesigned the heel using my old standard heel flap pattern and reknit that sock. I have started the second sock, but it has been set aside for the more urgent knitting projects.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Brandon Folk, Music & Art Festival/Big Bog State Recreation Area

Sometime ago I learned that Richard Thompson was going to be playing at the Brandon Folk, Music & Art Festival. I briefly toyed with the idea of attending as I have always wanted to see Richard perform live, looked at how far away Brandon was and shelved the idea. But I kept going back to their website. Greg Brown was also headlining. It has been years since I had seen him play live. But a 9 hour drive, one way?! The idea got shelved again. And then a few weeks ago, after looking at the website again and mentioning it to a friend (again), who had been pushing me to go despite the long drive, I made the decision to see if I could get the time off of work. And I could! Well then, it was off to Brandon, Manitoba for me!

I left Thursday afternoon and drove north towards Baudette, MN. Stopping at the Big Bog State Recreation Area to venture out onto the boardwalk and see what was blooming. Surprisingly the bugs were not bad out in the bog. Near the parking area and pond they weren't much fun though. Made for a quick walk and much flapping and flailing of arms!

Bog Rosemary seedpods

Bog Rosemary seedpods

As you can see I was quite enamored with the Pitcher Plants! I highly recommend making the drive to this state recreation area and walking the full length of the boardwalk. It is well worth your time.

From there I headed a bit further north to camp at Zippel Bay State Park. I had checked online prior to my trip and almost all of the campsites were open so I didn't bother making a reservation. Unfortunately I arrived after the park office was closed. The new park policy is that ALL campsites need to be reserved, either ahead of time or same-day. There was a sign on the building stating if the office was closed you could call to make a reservation or reserve online (*no cell phone coverage at this park, though there was free wifi if you stood in just the right spot next to the building). The sign indicated the reservation office was open to 11:00 pm (more limited hours in the off season). It was 8:30 pm when I arrived and when I called the reservation line I got a message indicating the office was closed. Sigh. I pulled out my iPhone and set to work trying to access the wifi and make an online reservation. Despite multiple tries the server would time out before I could make a reservation. I was able to at least determine which sites were open, so I put my reservation fee in an envelope; wrote a note explaining why I did not make a reservation as directed and went to set up camp.

This is a very lightly used state park and, for the most part, was quiet. I quickly set up camp; had a light dinner and headed to bed. Sometime around 2:00 am I woke up to a thunder storm, but quickly fell back asleep. A good thing as the birds had me awake again within a couple of hours. I did notice that due to not closing the outside vestibule flap on my tent there was some water inside. I opted to pack the tent up wet and hit the road as I still had a 5+ hour drive ahead of me to reach Brandon. I was gambling that the weather would be sunny and I could dry the tent out before setting up camp at the festival grounds.

Zippel Bay

The border crossing went well - once I figured out where the actual crossing was (the set-up is a little confusing as you encounter the US Port of Entry before the Canadian one and there is no clear signage directing you to proceed further down the road to the Canadian entry).

This part of Manitoba is agricultural. And I spent part of the drive trying to identify what the predominate crops were (canola, flax, beets?, soybeans?). Most of the towns are off the main roads and there aren't really any wayside rest areas though I did manage to find a few parks with restrooms.

I arrived in Brandon in the early afternoon; checked in with the festival organizers and got my wristbands for the weekend. Then it was off to set up camp on the "quiet" side of the festival grounds before taking a look around. The festival is held at the Keystone Centre which is located right in the middle of Brandon. The camping area was located in a grassy and tree-lined section off in one corner, with the festival just a short walk away.

Once camp was set-up I headed to the stage area to check out seating locations and set-up my tarp for that evenings shows. Greg Brown was the headliner at 10:00 pm with a variety of musicians preceding him. I was not familiar with anyone else playing at the festival but was in for a treat!

Sadly, a strong storm was heading towards Brandon, including tornado warnings. Greg Brown was able to get through 3-4 songs before the storm hit (including lightning and strong winds) and the show was canceled for the evening. There was talk of moving campers indoors to the Keystone Centre as I headed back to my campsite, but I never learned if that happened or not. There were quite heavy rains and winds, but I slept through it all, waking in the middle of the night to hear folks jamming over in the "noisy" campground once the storm broke.

Saturday dawned a bit overcast and cloudy, but the forecast was for clearing skies, strong winds and cool temps. I had a quick breakfast and coffee cooked up on my camp stove and then headed to the Brandon Hills Wildlife Management Area for a 2 hr run. I had heard that there were mountain bike trails here as well as the ski trails but the only maps were for the ski trails so I chose to start my run on those. After the initial short loop that was mowed the rest of the trails were pretty brushy. At points I was wading through waist deep grasses and shrubbery. In addition, there was poison ivy! I did my best to avoid it, and washed off after my run with soap and water, but alas, two days later I developed a rash.

I returned to the festival and spent the rest of the day listening to music, browsing the market area (great artists) and checking out the food trucks. The headliner Saturday night started at 11:00 pm! It was a great band, but after a couple of songs I headed back to my tent to sleep. This worked out as I could clearly hear the music, so didn't miss any of the concert until I fell asleep.

From L-R: Richard Thompson; Bobby Dove; Kayla Luky and Carly Dow (with stage crew in front)
"Stories' " Workshop
Sunday was a clear day, and predicted to get quite warm. I headed back to Brandon Hills WMA for my run early to try to beat the heat. This time sticking strictly to the mountain bike trails (which I had found, with the help of some bikers, the day before). They were clear of overhanging grasses, and while I noted poison ivy in the bush, was able to avoid it. But just in case I washed off with soap and water as soon as I got back to my car. I had it stuck in my head that the run was to be an hour in length; it wasn't until I got back to Brandon that I realized my run was supposed to be 1.5 hrs long. Oh well, too late to do much about it, and with a 50 miler in less then a week I wasn't worried about making up the time.

The workshops (day time concerts) were once again wonderful and I spent an enjoyable time listening to music and knitting, with occasional strolls about the festival grounds to get food, buy a CD and stretch my legs.

"Band Mashup" - Micah Erenberg Band/Sebastian Owl

Richard Thompson was the headliner at 8:00 pm. And he did not disappoint! He is as good, or better, live then in recordings and a very entertaining performer. He played a solo, all acoustic set with songs spanning his whole career, including one song from the Fairport Convention days (it's their 50th Anniversary this year). Sadly I was too shy to yell out my requests (and didn't think to send a note back with them) but was not disappointed as he played many of them. Notably he timed his performance of "Dimming of the Day" just as the sun was setting behind him and finished up with an encore performance of "Beeswing".

Richard Thompson
Monday morning I packed up and made the long drive back to Duluth, successfully navigating the border crossing this time and once again stopping at Big Bog State Recreation Area, though not at the boardwalk site. I headed to the headquarters and used the restroom and checked out the educational displays before heading for home.