Saturday, November 8, 2014

overwhelm

Been feeling a lot of overwhelm lately. At work, at home. It often leads to collapsing with Facebook... which is counterproductive, of course.

I was thinking about writing about overwhelm earlier this week, jotted down a few thoughts, but Saturday came and I had no rough draft. And I helped with a fundraiser this morning, and vacuumed this afternoon, and I'm pretty tired...

But guess what—Ann Voskamp wrote about overwhelm in her little daily Facebook post (today? Yesterday?) and I ran across it today.

Can I quote her? And here's the rest of it. (scroll way down to the bottom... there's a photo too)

Hey Soul? See that little index finger you have right there?
Here’s the deal: Whenever you feel overwhelmed today? You just point that little index finger out like an arrow. Like an arrow pointing you to that One Rock who is higher than you:
“When my heart is overwhelmed:
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Ps. 61:2....
No matter what comes at you today: 
Your heart has a rock higher than *any waves.* 

This comes from Ann Voskamp's blog A Holy Experience, which is on my blogroll. I love the way she writes. I had never heard of her when she spoke at a women's conference I attended. Her talk rocked my world. So of course I purchased and read her book One Thousand Gifts. Heartily recommended.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Failure to breathe

Sleep apnea. a•pnea = not breathing

When we sleep, we can fail to breathe.

Something happens inside, and air can't get in; carbon dioxide can't get out, and builds up in the blood.

My husband wakes me from a dream. "You're going to be late for work..." I grab my device and stare at it in disbelief. Did I shut off the alarm in my sleep?

I stumble out of the bedroom... and land in the recliner, trying to pray, trying to clear my muzzy head.

I'm told I have mild sleep apnea. It barely clears the official definition—I only stop breathing seven times an hour. Only every eight minutes or so.

How many times can you stop breathing in an hour before you never start again?

The brain and the body are trying to repair and rebuild in sleep. It doesn't go so well with inadequate oxygen. So they keep trying to snatch more sleep, while I'm at my desk, while I'm at a stop light.

Pneuma = breath; Spirit

It's so easy to fall asleep spiritually, and let the flesh block the Spirit. To neglect the word of Life, and let our own negativity build up inside.

How many of us are sleepwalking through life, going through the motions without energy, without zeal? Without the refreshing of the Spirit?

Let's breathe.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Stepping out on the water

Did you ever feel the Lord nudging you to do something, and you sort of said, "Oh, OK," but actually did little or nothing?

I've had the Spirit nudging me repeatedly about something. Sometimes I've self-analyzed: "Really? Maybe that's just coming from me..."

I have felt like I don't have time, don't have energy, can't commit to doing something like that regularly. And at other times: I will, I will—real soon now.

More recently, I actually started to try to start—yes, I mean that as convoluted as it sounds. Two days of trying to set a habit, and then... I don't even know what happened. I simply forgot.

I went to my local church's annual women's retreat last weekend. 24 hours away from the grind, at a beautiful Wisconsin resort overlooking a lake and surrounded by fall colors. The theme of the retreat was Sow - Cultivate - Reap. Two things that got to me were:
  • Daily Discipline
  • Walk on the Water
I know our speaker talked about Peter walking on the water, but the only note I jotted down was the question: "Is He calling you to walk out on the water?"

It might not have stuck, except our little three-girl worship band led us in a song called, "If You Say Go"—twice.
If You say go we will go
If You say wait we will wait
If You say step out on the water
And they say it can't be done
We'll fix our eyes on You and we will come....
Your ways are higher than our ways
And the plans that You have laid are good and true
If You call us to the fire
You will not withdraw Your hand
We'll gaze into the flames and look for You.
During the first time through I remembered what I was supposed to be doing. The thing I'd been getting nudged about. Blogging.

Yes, just blogging. And not even starting a whole other blog—just reviving this one.

For me, it feels like stepping out on the water... because it's NOT coming from me. I don't know where it's leading.

In the "Reap" session, our speaker pointed out that we often don't know what kind of harvest God is bringing. I don't have to have it all figured out before I even start.

The other day, a Christian friend took a step of deeper obedience to the Lord. It surprised me at first only because I would have thought she had long since obeyed in that area. She had, sort of... but held a bit back. She wanted to erase that tiny trace of disobedience.

My dragging my feet on blogging has been disobedience. I realized I couldn't let that day end without writing at least a first draft of a post, even if it took me the rest of the week to click "publish."

So here it is. First step.

Next, Daily Discipline...
...to be continued

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dee's No-Twist Circular Cast-On

I knit in the round a lot—and I've twisted my cast-on a lot, too. That is, when I've cast on all the required stitches and go to join the two ends, I have accidentally let the stitches twist around the needle, even though I tried to check for that. It's really frustrating when I don't realize it until I knit a round or two. And of course, the more stitches in the cast-on, the more likely this is to happen.

A few months ago, a knitter named Dee posted her solution on the "Techniques" forum in Ravelry. I didn't see it until a few weeks ago, and I wish I had sooner! "Dee's No-Twist Circular Cast-On" is simply the best way I've heard of to prevent twisting your cast-on when you join to knit in the round. You can use it with any type of cast-on, as far as I know.

Here is a link to the original forum thread on Ravelry, where this technique is discussed at length. (If you're not a member of Ravelry, I think you'd have to join to see forums. But if you're interested in this topic, and you read blogs, and you're not a member of Ravelry... the mind boggles.)

Dee has also made a YouTube video:


Dee knitted up a strip of fabric to use, but somewhere in the thread someone suggested using a ribbon that has loops along the edge, and I latched onto that idea. There are limits to my DIY-ing. I only have so much knitting time. I'm lazy. Pick an excuse, any excuse.

I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics and found a wide, stretchy ribbon with loops AND gaps along the edges. The loops will accommodate needle sizes of perhaps U.S. 8 on down, but the gaps are stretchy and could go much bigger. It's a bright lime green that will contrast with just about any yarn I might knit.

I "hang" the ribbon either before or after the first stitch, and then every ten stitches (using it also to help me count!).
As Dee says, the fabric or ribbon must remain BEHIND the cast-on. Here you can see my cast-on stitches in front of the ribbon, with a loop of green every ten stitches.

I have way too much ribbon for this project, but that's OK—it just hangs down, no big deal. I figured too much would be better than not enough. I cast on over 600 stitches for a project once, and you never know when I might do it again!

I found out the hard way that even doing this, it's still possible to twist the stitches when I join them in the round. However, it's obvious right away. I didn't have to knit a whole round before I realized it. The whole width of the ribbon twisted up and forced me to face reality.

Here's another view of the same cast-on, in case it's helpful. Another thing about my ribbon is that one side is satiny and the other side is matte, so I can tell at a glance which side I'm looking at (and therefore, whether it SHOULD be in front or in back).

I won't be surprised if this technique starts showing up in knitting reference books—it's that handy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hugelkultur: next steps

Sticks, sticks, and more sticks. I finally had time and weather to start the next step in my little Hugelkultur bed.
First I dug up some leaf mould. This has been sitting behind my shed for two years... last year I put most of the shredded leaves directly on my growing beds.

This was harder to dig out than I had expected—roots had grown horizontally through it.

It's very very matted. It kind of just sits on top of the sticks. It rained later that day, but that didn't affect the appearance of it that I could see.
I tried breaking this up with my garden fork, but it's VERY matted. The weather between now and spring should do most of that for me.

No matter. There's a whole winter of snow coming.

The idea behind hugelkultur is to mimic what happens on a forest floor, to create a similar spongy, soft garden bed. When I first heard about it, it made all kinds of sense to me because the closer you can get to how God set things up, the better. Worms will come up out of the ground to work this over, and it's already full of beneficial microorganisms.

I did put SOME of last year's leaves to the side of the shed. Maybe I should have started with those! They would have filtered down between the sticks. Ah well--I finished off with the rest of the old old mould after these pictures were taken. Besides, I have lots of other beds I can use last year's leaves on.
 
Next, a surprise... There was a dead tree in the lot next door. A large limb broke off and was just lying there. They had piled other branches that fell next to the garage.

I asked if I could have them. The neighbor and her son were like, sure. Not only that, but the son pitched them over the fence into my yard for me. Woo hoo!

Alas, her landlord sent someone to take down the rest of the tree and I didn't get any more lumber from it. However, I used the large limb and branches to start a much longer Hugelkultur bed. Any new sticks from my maple and the neighborhood are going onto this pile now.

I placed a couple of pizza boxes on the ground underneath to block the grass, but it's so long, I need about three more pizza boxes.

Below is a photo of our cat Buster on the largest tree limb, for scale. He, of course, thinks I put it there just for him to sharpen his claws on.
I've started grabbing bags of leaves off the curb when people put them out for pickup. Our county requires people to put yard waste in these large doubled paper bags for composting. Yes, the county composts them—but what do they do with the compost? They spread it over the top of the landfill. wha???

I asked over at the All Things Plants website in the Hugelkultur forum if I should put compost on top now, or wait until spring. Now, they said--to prevent any of my leaf mould from blowing away. I haven't done that yet, but I will soon.

I have a lot of work ahead of me yet with this, but I'm looking forward to having these dedicated vegetable beds!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Next year's experiment: Hugelkultur

I first heard of Hugelkultur on the podcast A Way to Garden. The link takes you to that episode's shownotes, which also list the basic steps to creating a Hugelkultur bed. (I'm capitalizing the word because it's obviously German. This idea has apparently been around for hundreds of years.)

The basic idea is to create a new bed with sheet composting—except that your base layer is WOOD. Twigs, branches, even logs. Just like in a forest.

Here's a website with some terrific diagrams.

The flaw in the forest bed logic, of course, is that you don't go trying to grow vegetables in a forest—it's a different type of plants that flourish in forest undergrowth. Nevertheless, they talked about how the sticks foster pockets of air in the bed. Plus, my main problem with starting any raised beds was trying to fill them. That could get expensive fast, if I had to purchase the soil. Wood in the bottom means perhaps not having to come up with as much soil. It's sort of the same principle as putting rocks in the bottom of a planter—and also would serve the same purpose of helping drainage.

I had no worries about where to get the wood. I live in a neighborhood full of mature trees, including the maple in my back yard. They're always shedding at least twigs, and often larger pieces. As soon as I heard this podcast, I stopped putting the fallen maple bits on the curb for pickup. I just kept adding more in the old cracked trash can I keep for the purpose.

When Gardener's Supply Company put their basic Grow Beds on sale after the spring planting season was done, I ordered one 3'x6' kit. It has 10" high walls. I figured that would make it easier for me, plus my neighbors would be less likely to object if my pile of sticks were contained.

My yard is configured with a triangular bed in the SW corner, which gets the most sun, and 2-foot-wide beds all around the rest of the perimeter. (These were already in place when I moved in, and mostly filled with perennial flowers.) This new bed is my first step toward filling the sunny third of the yard with vegetable beds that START organic. (I'm having to regenerate the existing beds, which were addicted to chemicals before I moved in.)

I set up the raised bed a mower's width away from the perimeter bed to the south and the corner bed to the west. Underneath it I mowed very short and then laid out the boxes that the raised bed came in, to block the growth of grass and weeds. Then I dumped in my collected twigs and branches.

Oops... not quite enough.

But that was July. I still had plenty of time to collect more wood. I started watching for downed branches around the neighborhood while walking the dog. I chose the largest ones, since I could only use one hand to get them home. I got a real prize one day after a storm—a piece of tree LIMB over 5 feet long and about 6" thick.


As of today, I've pretty much got all the wood I need in there. I still continue to add anything that falls off the maple, plus anything I see during walks that's irresistible. But as soon as I get over the bronchitis I'm fighting right now, I'm on to the next step.

What'll that be? Leaf mould. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Big Foot Knits--because socks aren't as simple as they sound

The more I read about the book Big Foot Knits by Andi Smith, the more I think I've GOT to get me a copy.

My feet are size 10 narrow. I didn't think at first that would qualify for this book, just going by the title.

But actually, this book is about customizing socks to your own unique feet. I've heard the author interviewed, and it sounds like she did a LOT of research regarding different shapes of feet and toes.

There are people out there who knit any old sock pattern that appeals to them and they fit just fine. But I've knit two pairs of socks (one for myself, and one for hubby), and crocheted one pair too, and they just DON'T fit.

OK, I'll grant you, the first two pairs I just blindly followed instructions. But the third pair, I tried really hard... and knit them toe-up so I could try them on along the way, and they SEEMED to fit when I was 3/4 of the way up the foot. But once I went to actually wear them, it turned out they were actually too big around. It was those darn narrow feet again.

I'm still thinking about it... We'll see if I have any crafting budget left after Stitches Midwest next weekend. ;-)