Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Town Mouse, Country Mouse

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a town mouse and she just casually mentioned the current state of things in our world. Hmmm, I never really know how to react to these sorts of conversations. See, there are times when someone really wants to interact with you and understand your perspective and then there are those times when someone doesn't REALLY want to know what you think, but they want to talk about it anyway. I sort of suck at 'divining' which time is which and generally fall back on just being totally honest about what I think. For those of you who don't know, this isn't necessarily in the handbook of 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' - if such a handbook exists. Even though I despise conflict - have an actual panic reaction to it, to be quite honest - this 'tell 'em what you really think' method is almost a sure-fired way to ensure some conflict is lurking around the corner somewhere.

You can judge someone about something they say - and convince yourself that they are totally open-minded, and then they can floor you by saying something totally crass or intolerant. Even worse, you can find yourself saying something totally crass or intolerant. There's no clean way to slice it - this thinking and communicating your thoughts and understanding of things is risky business.

So, Town Mouse and I are talking about tough times, economic strain (which, incidentally, has now surpassed strain and rolled right into oppressive paranoid suffering) and the challenges of the year. At one point, she began to talk about how much 'easier' it was for us here on the homestead, how much simpler our life was than her stressful town life. Of course, my first reflex was to get my hackles up a bit. I wanted to ask her how easy it is to haul your own water - to be entirely dependent on your own ability to farm, make a marketable product from your farm, and to try to be as self-sufficient as possible. When she casually proclaimed that ALL we have to do is cut wood and we're assured we won't freeze, I nearly passed out. All? My inner debater was shouting, ' how many cords of wood have you cut, split,and hauled across rocky ground to your house?' but I didn't.

I didn't because of many reasons but it really boils down to this:
1. I think it is safe to say that we are all on the precipice of losing SOMETHING due to the current economic situation and be it outrageously priced heating oil or at least 15 more days of working on wood hauling most of the day before we will be able to breathe a sigh of relief and feel something close to optimism for our own survival - there is no easier way for anyone.
2. I revert back to one of the books I read from both sides of the rural route to my kids over the years, Jan Brett's "Town Mouse, Country Mouse". You know that one, don't you? The one where the Town Mouse thinks the Country Mouse has the perfect life and the Country Mouse thinks the Town Mouse has the easy life and they switch and find that they'd failed to realize that BOTH lifestyles had their challenges - yeah, that one. This person meant no harm - she just needed to think for a while that this life, our life, would be so much easier than hers. I didn't feel it necessary to burst her bubble just to prove a point. I could have mentioned 6$ a bale hay for our herd and horse, I might have mentioned that gas prices are hard on us, too. I forgot to even think about talking about the price of food in rural communities.

So, Town Mice, Country Mice, it is with great respect for the strain that we are all under that I come before you to deliver what I feel is sort of a betrayal of the knitterly, kindredly, and kindly spirit. Please do not kill the messenger, though I know the message could produce fury within you as I found myself growling out loud when I finally decided that I could put this off no longer waiting for some 'good news' with which to herald it in behind. It comes to this, we have to talk.

I know some knitters have been able to remove themselves from the guilt and stress that is known as Holiday Knitting. It may be within your power or budget to just go and buy a gift for someone rather than sacrificing your precious knitting time (spinning also included and crochet while we're at it) making something for someone whom you cannot be sure will appropriately bestow your project with love, admiration, and gratitude. I wish I was there. But, as the rule in my house is pretty much that - if you want a present, it has to be something we can make, and as I do not find myself with such budget surpluses that I can fling my dollars out on the counter for gifts, and because my immediate family is comprised of a pack of freaky wool lovers who would take a handmade sweater any day over a 'fad' toy, I am, basically, OBLIGATED.

Psst, we're 2 months away. I know, I know, it doesn't seem that way. Okay, I am lying to you - we are 84 days away. Technically, that is 2 3/4 months but if Santa's own 'Official Elves' can get away with such 'fabrications of the truth', then so can I, non? But, consider this, it will maybe take you a couple of weeks to arrange your time, plan your projects, and, finally, get started on your holiday knitting. As proof that I am not the wormtongue of the knitting world, dealing us all to our doom for my own sick pleasure, I present the proof that I am merely a 'vehicle' that this information is being funneled through. I think the usual deliverers of such news like the dept. stores and retail outlets are avoiding saying so just yet in hopes that Santa's bells will not sound too much like the clang of the Wall Street alarms. I, perfectly displaying the propensity you might have to 'forget' this inevitable void that we will be sucked into wherein a pair of socks for 'A' and a scarf for 'B' and a bed for the family dog will worm their way into your holiday lovin' heart and you will be knitting with your eyes crossed into the wee hours of December, have totally de-railed myself from the reality train by working on two shawls at the same time - for me. It would seem that I am addicted to the November shame of 'gotta do nothin' but holiday knitting, stop sleeping, and try to eat only once a day to ensure I get it all done'. Part of curing the sickness is recognizing the hold it has on you, right?

By now, you know where this is going. It being the first of the month, and time for us to announce another Great Giveaway, and it being obvious that there are approximately 2.75 months or 80something days until we must slap our wares on the table, wrapped or not, and hold our breath to see how it will be received. If you're not making any handmade holiday gifts - I just want to know more about you. If you are, tell us about it( though you don't have to mention names) and, if you're really interested in playing to my voyeuristic tendencies, what's the favoritest (grammar, schmammar!)handmade gift you've ever received? Post it here in the comments and I'll draw a winner around the middle of the month. Winner will receive a skein of organic cotton and a bar of handmade soap - either for yourself or you can re-gift it and have just one holiday thought taken care of.

I have a green ole Grinch deep down in my soul and there may be some times between now and the holidays that I will say not so nice things about the whole shebang. But, for now, I'm trying to look optimistically at the space between here and there. I get all caught up in the season, for sure. I love the idea of giving, and I guess you probably already know about my affection for good food, and a good time. So, the holiday bashing and threats to Santa will have to wait. Here, I'll start:
What I'm going to make - this list includes a plethora of ridiculous notions I have that I can knit 3 sweaters, 4 pairs of socks, 3 pet beds, 6 hats, 3 shawls and a multitude of other things that I have yet to dream up in 2.75 months. Laugh, it makes it feel better when everyone else is laughing at you.
My favorite handmade gift of all time: My favorite things to have made for me generally come from my kids - be it a card, funny picture, or something made of play-dough that looks like an abstract rendition of the solar system.

jane austen cowl 016You might want to join our group on Ravelry - we'll be throwing around ideas for handmade, high quality gifties, there - and I'll be blabbing about it on the blog from time to time and posting more free patterns. For now, though, I'm going to start with this Jane Austen Cowl from Interweave Crochet Magazine. I should say a great thank you, right here, to Michelle Wiener for writing so beautifully about our little humble homestead here in Maine. We were thrilled with her article, "Where Yarn Comes From - and where it might lead" in the Fall 2008 issue. Thanks, Michelle!

jane austen cowl 005The Austen Lace Muffler I will make may seem much more 'morose' than the pink, soft and feminine one in the magazine. What can I say? In my life, I've been and English major, a journalist, a crisis counselor, and an elementary school teacher. I am now a farmer and fartist. Have I not already substantiated my inclination toward the depressive AND the absurd? I'll be using this hand-dyed ('raven' colorway) 50/50 merino silk dk wgt yarn for the 'on your neck' part and I'll work the ruffle with this handspun skein of a combo of our cotswold/silk batt combos. Whose to say Ms. Austen didn't have a perverse dark side? LOL....