January 07, 2005


There are those who want the latest, most fancy gadgets. They think every labor-saving device is worth acquiring. They'll use a -- or even write their own -- fancy computer program to generate a schematic for a knitting design. And then there are others who do things the old-fashioned way, who will use graph paper and colored pencils to map out a knitting design. These latter figure that, while the fancy gadget might save labor, there is some time lost and frustration accrued in learning to use the thing -- and, something more lost with the loss of the hands-on process.

I'll admit that another block that I stumble over, between the middle of a knitting project and its completion, is when the knitting gets into an area requiring some major increasing or decreasing. (I echo comments made by Ryan and Janine on this topic.) Any portion that requires a lot of concentration and a tally sheet, that's the occasion that I am likely to put it aside and start something new. Often, it's a decision made on the fly, on the way somewhere, when I want to be able to knit in public. Because a new project will be small enough to be portable, and not require too much concentration (after the cast-on), that one will be a public knitting project. And so it goes -- one old project slated to become a private project dropped in favor of one new, public-knitting one.

I do use tally sheets. I don't have any fancy row counters, or spreadsheets on a PDA, for tracking how many I've accomplished in a sequence of "decrease once every third row, then twice every fourth row, for 19 rows."

But then, you knew that a woman who carried a teakettle of hot water out to the horse trough to melt the ice would be a paper-and-pencil kind of woman, didn't you?

As our cold spell has continued, the horses have, of course, drank down the water in their trough. The hose at the barn is frozen, so any water added to the trough must be carried to it and poured in. So I've graduated from one tea kettle to several 15-quart pails each morning. (This is not a complaint, or anything unusual. Have done this in years past and expect to do this in years future.)

Yesterday morning, it snowed for a good hour, and I went into a flurry of activity. First there was the carrying of the hot water. Amidst that was the realization that carrying water out to the barn daily -- through mud and muck, through the gauntlet of curious, nuzzling horses -- was a lot to ask of a housesitter. For a week. During a time when the weather forecasts promise colder and nastier weather.

The snow was sticking to the roads a short time later as I drove to the local feed store to pick up some bags of grain and this little gadget:

tankheater 001.jpg

A tank de-icer. It fits into the water trough and is thermostatically controlled. It kicks on when the water cools to 40 degrees. Prevents ice from forming.

Out of the box, it looked like this:
tankheater 003.jpg

The first words out of Scott's mouth when he saw it were: "Some assembly required."

And then the light of recognition went on. We were in the barn at the time, and he went over to a shelf and pulled down just the same gizmo. Only this one was assembled, not quite so shiny and new, and had a few cobwebs on it. "The Smiths left us one," he said. "They had one, and they left it behind when they moved."

The Smiths had even left an extension cord tacked to the beams across the barn ceiling. All we had to do was to plug the cord into the nearest electrical outlet, plug the tank de-icer into the extension cord and drop it into the tank.

Oh, these modern conveniences.

Funny how we didn't put two-and-two together before this. Why was there a bright orange extension cord across the beams of the barn? What was that gizmo there on the shelf collecting cobwebs? Why did we not figure this out during last year's ice storm? (Well, because we liked to chop ice, carry water, that's why.)

I feel better knowing that the housesitter will now only have to fill the tank perhaps once or twice while we are gone, and that neither the water nor the hose will freeze.

But I feel the loss, as well, of that pail-carrying duty.

Quite unrelated in specific event, but definitely related thematically, was this: Scott and I were quoting Henry David Thoreau's Walden to each other over dinner this evening: "I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately...." (Read over that first chapter, "Economy," and then get back to me on whether Thoreau would have bought a tank de-icer.)

Knitting-wise: I got to meet with my Master Knitter Wannabe group from Seattle Knitters Guild this afternoon. I arrived with my binder of swatches and my copy of the big Vogue book of knitting, ready to talk seriously about seaming. And we did discuss the program, among lots and lots of other things, and just generally catching up with each other after the holidays. Two of them had gone to Florida in December, interestingly enough, and had knowledge of climate and geography to pass along to me for my trip next week.

Posted by Karen at January 7, 2005 09:32 PM

Hi, Karen,
I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about Florida. I live in Miami and know the state pretty well, being a native.
Have a great trip.

Posted by: caroline at January 8, 2005 02:20 PM

Karen, I get misty eyed just imagining how your lovely farmlet must look with the snow falling. Totally in sync with you on the subject of missing the toting water chore--we do tend to lose these simple chores that keep us in touch with our lives (and also take us outdoors) in the name of efficiency.

How far along are you on the Master KNitter's process?

Posted by: Janine at January 9, 2005 04:51 PM

Loved your story about the de-icer. I've had similar experiences and was delighted that other people have those, "oh, THAT'S what that cobwebby thing is - " moments. I'll be moving to my very own first farm later this year and will take to heart the necessity of a thorough walk-through!
On another topic, your photo looks like you might be, is it possible, knitting at a horse show?

Posted by: joan at January 13, 2005 07:35 PM