It’s a process

I’ve spent this week learning new things, trying to get my garden together, making plans for our upcoming travel, and getting the first steps together for a skirt I am designing. Not a single one of these things has been a quick project. On some level, I like the processes involved in the various tasks I’ve undertaken, but on another level, I just want these things to be done.

Learning:

Since Wesley has to be at the vet so often these days with his heart conditions, I’ve started making Duck tag along so he can get practice being a better traveler. By the time Buttercup and Wesley were Duck’s age, they had traveled with us for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other long vacations, as well as for Michael’s and my wedding. They knew to eat when I offered food, to pee when I offered the box, and to sleep in the car otherwise. Duck has no such discipline. He howls for the entire half hour drive to the vet. After about ten minutes, the boy rolls over onto his back and starts to kick the top of his carrier in a desperate attempt to escape. He’s like a two-year-old having a tantrum.

At Wesley’s vet appointment, I remembered that I wanted the staff at my vet’s office to teach me to express the cats’ anal glands. It seems that every time we visit the vet, Serra and Duck have infected glands, and it costs me $32 per cat each time the vet has to do something about it. It’s a disgusting job, but someone has to do it. It’s no fun to be the learning subject either, but since he was available, Duck got volunteered for the role.

We all know by now that Duck is the most mellow cat around – nothing perturbs him. It turns out that there is one thing Duck won’t tolerate – anal gland expression. The vet tech taught me the proper technique for holding the cat down, then lifted Duck’s tail – and all hell broke loose. In a flash, sweet little Ducky turned around and chomped the crap out of my hand. Fortunately, he only made a few scratches, but it was enough to tell me that when we got around to treating Serra at home, it wouldn’t be pretty.

I taught Michael the proper technique for getting Serra secured, lifted her tail, and began to gently squeeze her swollen glands. Serra shrieked so loudly, so pitifully, that it freaked out the cats on the other side of the door. In moments, she started thrashing and scratched (or bit – we couldn’t tell which because it happened so fast) Michael’s arm. She also got a claw into his chest.

Maybe it’s worth it to pay the vet to express Serra’s glands. I only got a little fluid out, but I know it must still hurt because Serra cries when I touch her tail. Poor thing. I also need more experience with the whole procedure. Maybe I can talk the vet into letting me do an internship. Or maybe the shelter will let me. Or maybe I just need to make the decision to attend vet tech or vet school. In any event, I still have a lot to learn.

Gardening:

Somehow, whenever I work in the garden, I can be out there for hours and have very little to show for it. I guess working in the heat (not that I’m complaining – I love warm weather) can take it out of  a person. For the first part of the growing season, I was patching the holes burned in the lawn by the first owner’s dog. Now bunnies have burned holes in the front yard. I’m kind of tired of that, but I love the bunnies, so I’m at a loss.

Now I’m ripping out grass in a sunny part of the yard so I can put a vegetable garden in. I spent four hours outside a couple of days ago in an attempt to get the tomatoes planted and this rusty metal barrier of some sort removed from the lawn.

This thing is buried completely underground in some places. I just know I’m going to be digging one day and I’ll end up with a tetanus infection, so I thought it would be best to just get it out now. I worked for hours digging it out of some spots, and eventually Michael came along to help. Part of the metal barrier is still in the lawn, but I need a day when we have both the time and energy to finish. Until then, that part of the lawn is going to look terrible. Fortunately, it’s in the back, so the HOA isn’t likely to notice it and fine us. Given the travel schedule we have, I can’t guarantee that the job will even be done in a month. I can hope, but I can’t be certain. Sigh.

I managed to plant the two tomato plants I bought from the grocery store recently. I was hoping to plant my own seedlings, but when I brought them outside, they were so shocked by the sun that they turned white. Unsure if they were going to recover, I bought larger, stronger plants as an insurance policy that I will have garden-fresh tomatoes this year. I think the seedlings have recovered, but they aren’t ready to plant. Instead they live in the peat pots I planted them in, next to the planted tomatoes. When I get home from my next trip, I hope to plant some of the bean seeds and install the trellis. This is all predicated on getting the rest of the grass in my garden area up first. Again, sigh.

Travel:

I’m so done with travel now. I used to like it, but then it became an all-the-time thing and we’re only at home three weeks at a time, so now I hate it. I hate airport security, I hate sleeping in a bed that isn’t mine, and most of all, I hate the change in time zones. I’m trying to regulate my circadian rhythms, and it can’t be done so easily if the time zones keep changing.

I managed to pack today, and I have much of the laundry done. I want to get some basic house maintenance like sweeping, mopping and vacuuming done before we go. I especially want to clean out the kitten room tonight so that when I come home, maybe I can get kittens from the shelter on my way back from the airport. I’ll only be home for two weeks before our next trip, so I want to make the most out of my time with whomever I get.

Knitting:

A few weeks ago, before I went to Boston, I had a dream about a skirt. Well, not about the skirt, but I saw someone wearing a skirt that I just loved and I knew I could make it. I won’t describe it in its entirity because I am going to send you through my design process and show you what comes out of it. What I can tell you is that the skirt started with a dark blue at the top, getting lighter in tiers until it became white at the bottom. Later, I got the idea that it was going to look like waves lapping at the shore of a sandy beach, so the bottom became a tan color. I spent weeks looking for a brand of yarn that had at least four shades of an earth tone quality of blue for the water part. For the record – that’s a surprisingly tough thing to come by.

I originally wanted to use a dk weight yarn for the project because I was worried about how much the skirt would weigh. I have a lace skirt made of pure cotton, and I’ll tell you, it grows with wear. My first choice was Dalegarn Stork. They didn’t have four shades of blue at the store, but I had an idea! Sometimes, when you knit double stranded, you can mix one strand of the color you were using in a previous section of the garment with a strand of color you intend you use for the next section and get a nice transition. I chose two shades of blue and the white I had in mind originally and made a swatch.

The effect of knitting in the above manner is admittedly neat, but not what I was going for. It looks more “sailor” to me than “waves at a beach.” I had to keep looking.

After returning the kittens to the shelter today, I went by a yarn shop I haven’t visited in awhile. The woman who owns the shop got a degree in graphic design – she even knitted a tapestry as her thesis! I ran my idea by her, and as I should have suspected, she had a suggestion that I liked. Instead of four shades of blue, I’m using three, and instead of one shade of tan, I’m using two. One shade of tan will represent the wet sand where the water meets up with it, and the other shade will be the dry sand. I still have to work out the proportions and a few other details (like stitch pattern), but I’ve finally made some progress.

The yarn is Berroco Weekend, 75% acrylic and 25% cotton, worsted weight. I was against using acrylic at first, largely because I want this to be my first pattern for sale and I want my reputation to be for higher-end garments. I then came to the conclusion that anyone who wants the pattern will substitute her (or his) preferred yarn anyway, so it hardly matters. Then again, it will probably be just as hard for anyone else to find yarn in just the right shades, so they may have to stick with my choice. Additionally, the acrylic fiber is lighter than pure cotton, so maybe it won’t stretch too much.

Since I’m doing a lot of color changes, I don’t want to change the stitch I use too often. If I do that, the skirt will become too busy and complicated, no fun to make or look at. I searched my stitch dictionaries for a stitch that could represent the undulations of sand on the beach as well as the movement of the ocean water, another tall order. At the moment, without having made a swatch, I’m thinking this:

The edging it makes is uneven, just as I wanted it to be. I do worry that it is too busy, though. I have a vision of some sort of undulating lines created with increases and decreases, but maybe in a more random manner than this?

My plan at the moment is to knit a child-sized version of the skirt and see what happens. If I like it, great, I’ll make it into an adult size and produce a “Mommy and Me” pattern. If not, my niece will have a “yarn skirt” that I have no doubt she’ll treasure, and I’ll start again – but not from scratch this time. I’ll definitely update you as my vision comes together.

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