Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weekend Update: Cubbing from Willow Oaks

This week was spent in a haze of cold medicine and sleep, which is why there was no posting past Monday. I rallied enough by the end of the week to go cubbing yesterday morning from Willow Oaks, near Glenwood Park in Middleburg. This meet has a very oblique driveway, and to get into the driveway from the farm, I have to go to Glenwood Park and turn around so that I'm angled in the right direction. Yesterday, I had to do this twice since I got there too early (6:40 for a 7:30 meet!), having misjudged the length of the drive.

The meet was a relatively small one, with perhaps 10 riders in the first field and 8 in the second. One member rode sidesaddle. The huntsman drew down the driveway and back around to the rear of the property, where we waited for the call on top of the hill. Willow Oaks is beautiful rolling country with stone walls and reasonable coops. About half of the territory is wooded, and that portion can be very hilly.

Anyway, on the first draw we saw the hounds shoot out of the woods hot on the tail of a beautiful red fox. We had a great view as the fox ran one field over, and then we were off. It was a fun and relaxed day, perfect for cub hunting and legging up the horses. Since I rode second flight (all the better to have a calm, early-season experience for the horse-- and me), the only tricky moment came at a check on a very steep hill. There was little room to maneuver off the sandy, slick path in the woods, and Josh got a little anxious as we waited at the check for about 10 minutes. Other horses were more anxious than Joshua, though, so I suppose I have very little to complain about. Overall, a very enjoyable day. Good commeraderie with other riders and smiles all around.

As I was riding up one of the many hills of the day at a gallop yesterday, I realized what the smell of a really good run is. Wet wool. Both the wool of my horse's sheepskin saddle pad and that of my hunt coat. It was a good day.

The photo above really reminds me of September in Virginia. A beautiful clear and breezy sky, bright clean light, and the promise of winter to come-- look at the clouds in the very top of the picture!)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Handsewing: Puzzle Ball

We had a lovely weekend in the North Carolina mountains with Brian's family. The weather and days there were beautiful, but unfortunately I was sick with a terrible sinus cold the entire time (I hope no one else caught it!).

Today has been spent in bed and on the couch, trying to get well. I took my copy of Joelle Hoverson's Last-Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts with me to the mountains, and simply couldn't wait another moment to get started on a project when we got home. It's such a beautiful book! The puzzle ball seemed just about the right speed, since there is a lot of hand-finishing involved. It was hard to get a good photo of the finished product through the Day-Quil haze, but it was a fun little project. Next time I would opt for fabrics with a little more contrast between them for the inside and outside of the ball.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Foxhunt Friday: Cubbing from Mount Pleasant

Alas no foxhunting photo, but I had to share the view from the barn. Beautiful, huh? That's Crow tied to his favorite tree taking a nap before his ride. On to hunting. We met yesterday at Mount Pleasant, a farm on one of the roads that runs between 15 and 50 south of Aldie. The farm is across the road from the National Beagle Club's Institute Farm. This area of country is wide-open and picturesque. Several times during the morning's hunting we came out of woods to a sudden sweeping view of grassy valleys below.

About 15 riders made up the field. Thursday was my first time out for the season, so I had planned to hilltop (go with the second "field" or "flight" of riders, which doesn't jump but goes through gates instead), but there are few coops in this part of the territory, and I thought Josh would be up for whatever we came to, so I decided to go first flight. At first. The huntsman drew toward Landfall Farm, and we were all impressed with how closely he held the pack together as we set out (this is this huntsman's first year with our hunt).

We had a check high up on a hill and we watched hounds work through fields and a small pond before hitting the first line. Unfortunately, the check gave me time to contemplate a couple of 10-board coops that we could see at the bottom of the hill. The riders (removable horizontal boards to make the jumps level with the rest of the fence so that livestock can't escape) were up, which meant that we probably wouldn't jump them, but they were enough to scare me back into the second flight. Which was just as well. No one, first flight or second, ended up jumping anything more than some small logs in the woods, but the day was a good one for just getting out there and exposing the horse to some hounds. The weather was beautiful and the air was clear (but for the dust kicked up by hooves), and we had a very enjoyable morning. The one down point was when we ran into a couple of bulldozers in the woods near the Institute-- bulldozers are definitely one way to put hounds off of scent! The development is coming everywhere.

I hope these foxhunting entries won't be too boring to readers who don't ride, but I'm excited to have a record of my hunting days. I tried to find an online dictionary of foxhunting terms to link to explanations of some of the terms here but I couldn't find a good one, so I'll have to keep explaining in parentheses, I guess. Also, we can all hope that maybe soon I'll get better at writing about the action. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

WIP Wednesday: Brian's Quilt

Even Grady looks a little bored with this quilt, doesn't he? Maybe that's a sign that it's been sitting around too long. I began work on this simple star quilt sometime in 2004. I made about 10 blocks back in the period when I lived on the farm without tv service. Then earlier this year, I picked the project up again and pieced the entire top as a birthday gift for my husband. It's a generous lap quilt size, and after getting Brian's input on the backing fabric, I've been slowly hand quilting it with a combination of outline stitching and repeated shells. I'm getting closer and closer, and I hope to have it finished in time for his next birthday in April 2008! This is a crafting problem that I have-- it's hard to finish things.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!

It's dinosaur season. Mornings on the farm are misty and mysterious. As the days get shorter and the nights linger longer, that shape in the foggy distance could be anything, and often is a fox or a baby deer or a calf hidden in a tuft of grass by his mother.

My friend Noelle named dinosaur season one morning six autumns ago, when she and Karen and I were going out to catch horses in the field. In the pre-dawn of a 7 am meet foxhunting day the fog was so thick that we could barely see our feet, much less the horses. The horses became suddenly visible only when we were right on top of them, and then they were as surprised to see us as we were to find them. They were our dinosaurs, emerging from the eternal mist. Dinosaur season is short-- soon the nights will be even longer and the days shorter, and the hunt will meet later in the morning to account for the dark and the dropping temperatures.

For now, though, I really love my misty early mornings. So quiet and soft that they could have happened in almost any era, and yet so close and insular that they hold me in this moment. Later, as the fog burns up and we gallop through the valley, the dinosaurs are gone and the modern is visible in the forms of shiny cars and big rigs. But the mist lingers as a sort of meditation in my mind-- a beautiful way to start the day.
And here are some lovely virtual flowers for my equally lovely mother, whose birthday is today. These are the last of the summer blooms from our farm share, and the marigolds smell so good I can hardly stand it. Their scent lingers on my hands (much more pleasant than garlic-linger, don't you think?) and I wonder why someone doesn't make eau de parfum de marigold. Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you very much.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Two-day Tote

Fall has really come to Virginia, and so I wanted to make a new bag out of some tweed that I've had sitting around in my stash for far too long. This is the Lotta Jansdotter All Day Tote pattern from Simple Sewing. Aside from the slippery nature of the fabric, this tote came together pretty easily over a couple of evenings' worth of light sewing. The side media pocket is a really good idea, and a fun way to show off your interests (shown here with an issue of Hobby Farms magazine all about pack goats-- can you imagine? But oh, how I'd love to have a hobby farm all my own someday, and some regular goats. No packing required.)

And here's the charming interior fabric. Sweet deer twill and a scrap of Amy Butler lotus. I'm saving the rest of the deer twill for some fall jumpers or overalls for little ones someday-- isn't it cute?

I had it in my head to write a whole post today about tweed, and why I love it so, but this chatty post is all that will come out of my brain this afternoon, so sorry. (I guess the one about tweed would have been pretty mindless, too, but at least it might have required some actual thought.) Until tomorrow and another poetry Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I-9, Chase A Myth

Here's another lovely Dear Jane block done up in batik. I can't get enough of these fabrics, and I think it runs in the family, as my mother has a healthy stack of them as well. This quilt is turning out to be a pretty good way to show them. Something about the very traditional blocks balances out that wild tie-dyed pattern.

I also quite like the name of this block. Sometimes I feel like I am chasing myths. Definitely with the foxhunting, and also with building a home and a family with my husband. But we also make myths of our own. Stories to tell over and over.

Unfortunately I won't be making any myths (ha!) out hunting this week. Yesterday I had a little mishap involving day-old baguette and a serrated knife that landed me in the emergency room for a few stitches and a splint. So the foxhunting (and the foxhunting stories) will have to wait until next week. In the meantime, here's a little photo of me on the horse today with my everyday 'pack' of one. (If you look closely you might be able to make out my purple be-vet-rapped left pointer finger. Please excuse the very goofy hat-- I need a new rubber band for the cover.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Poetry Tuesday: Hymns as Shared Poetry

Let All Things Now Living
Words: Katherine K. Davis, born 1892
Music: “The Ash Grove”, a traditional Welsh melody

Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving
To God the creator triumphantly raise.
Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
Who still guides us on to the end of our days.
God's banners are o'er us, His light goes before us,
A pillar of fire shining forth in the night.
Till shadows have vanished and darkness is banished
As forward we travel from light into light.

His law he enforces, the stars in their courses
And sun in its orbit obediently shine;
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
The deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.
We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing;
With glad adoration a Song let us raise
Till all things now living unite in thanksgiving:
"To God in the highest, Hosanna and praise!"

This was one of the hymns that we sang at our wedding. The tune is simple, and you would probably recognize it even if you aren’t Christian. I especially like the last line of the first stanza-verse. ‘As forward we travel from light into light’—what a great way to think about our time on the earth and with the people who join us on our travels in this life. We have come from good and light, from the love of our parents. And we strive to spend our living time moving forward, in the light and to the light, in good and upstanding ways.

The lyrics written here on the page seem a little dated and patriarchal (in the traditional Christian way that God is He), but there is something transformative about singing with a group of people in a church. The slow, carrying music. The men who just mouth the words because they’re too embarrassed to sing, and the women who belt it out in the pew behind you. The little children just learning to read whose parents follow under the words with a guiding finger, and the older folks who know every word without looking at the book. Singing this poem in unison is an act of restoration and clarity, even in a room full of people who annoy you day-to-day. As long as they sing along (or pretend to), we’re all making something beautiful together.

On the anniversary of a day when so much hate was spewed on our country, it helps me to remember moments when I have felt such love.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Placemats and Pesky Puppies

Here's part of the promised batch of new sushi placemats. I had intended to give them away at a bridal shower/bachelorette party on Saturday night, but my husband took one look at them and declared them 'too nice' to give away to people who wouldn't know how much work I put into them. So I ended up giving a set to the bride and keeping the rest. I don't know what I'll do with them yet, but they're nice to have around. Also nice is having a husband who values the little things that I make and puts up with the sound of the (very loud) sewing machine through our evening television time.

The rest of the second batch (save the ones that went to the bride, in linen and this fabric a la the elephant mats).
And here's what happened when the pupster saw me paying so much attention to the placemats through the camera. He grabbed the first thing he could get his lips on and ran. I know that geraniums (or, excuse me, pelargonium) are poisonous to dogs, but I got it away from him pretty soon after this photo. Don't worry. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

G-2 Mohawk Trail

A busy day today, so just a Dear Jane block. This one was kind of tough-- so many little pieces and not really my style. Doesn't it just look like a couple of fortune cookies back to back.

The fabric has a story behind it, though. In high school, some members of our Key Club went to the state-wide convention. We were supposed to have some kind of uniting piece of clothing, and so my mom dutifully made about eleventy-billion bucket hats for us. This was the fabric on one side of my (reversible) hat. The other side was a green plaid that all the hats shared.

I love the little dandelion puff-balls here, and it was fun remembering us all in those hats as I cut out the pieces for this block from a piece of fabric with an oval missing where Mom had cut out the crown of my hat. It was kind of sad seeing this fabric again, too, because it also reminds me of our Key Club advisor, a very young teacher who had become a friend. A couple of years ago, she died suddenly. We hadn't been in touch for quite some time, but it was a very sad thing. Funny how a fabric can make you feel both happy and sad, just sitting there on the ironing board. Maybe I'm too sentimental.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Work Day

Do you ever have days where there's so much to do that you'll never finish it all, but somehow you're still calm and collected and things move steadily forward, one task accomplished after another? Today is one of those days for me. There's a certain rhythm going, of preparations, housework and making, and I'm so grateful that this day is lilting along.

On another note, I love this super-saturated photo of bridles hanging in the tack room. Some of the preparations that I'm making these days are for the foxhunting season, which began (with cubbing) on Labor Day. My horse and I will probably go out for the first time next Thursday, for a 7 am meet in the fog, and I thought I'd do a little foxhunting feature on Fridays starting next week. There aren't enough blogs out there about horses and riding-- probably because the actual riding takes so blame long. Anyway, I hope I don't bore any non-riding readers with my little hunt season diversion.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

For Supermarket Sushi Nights

We love sushi around here. So in keeping with my recent love of elephant designs, I decided to make some placemats with chopstick pockets for those nights when supermarket sushi makes its way into my shopping cart. I love the way they turned out, and I'm planning to make a few more as favors for a small sushi-themed bridal shower that I'm helping to throw this weekend. Hopefully they will go well with the bride-to-be's favorite spicy salmon rolls from this wonderful restaurant!

I also got around to another Dear Jane block during this lazy Labor Day weekend. This is G-9, Mary's Journey. I love the look of the white, kind of carved out of the batik fabric, but I'm afraid that the block itself will be too dark in its placement in the quilt. I'll probably just let it go, though, as I have yet to finish a bed-sized quilt. I can't give myself more excuses. Until tomorrow!