Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

WIP’s and FO’s September 27, 2011

I’ve not given a lot of space here to my knitting and crocheting projects of late as other aspects of my life have taken-up a great deal of my time.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ve not been working on anything.  On the contrary, I worked on an afghan right up until the movers packed my yarns!  I decided to call it complete at that point and it ended-up making a splendid blanket for a twin-sized bed.

I made this scrapghan a little differently in that each yarn did 2 complete rows before being changed to the next color rather than stopping and starting wherever I felt like.  This blanket stayed in the UK.

I’m also (still) working on Althea by my lovely friend Marleen van der Vorst.  I’ve been working on this since before Knit Nation, but it has been mostly a project for when I am waiting for something or someone.  So all summer long is got lugged around in my purse getting a few rows knitted before being rudely shoved back into my bag.  Luckily this shawl is at a point where it is pretty easy to stop and start it as there is a huge section that has a very simple couple of rows repeat.

Yes, I took a picture on the dog with the flash. She didn't mind...

Now most of my yarn is somewhere in a container somewhere in the Universe (I don’t really know where all my stuff is at this moment) which means that my sock yarn blanket is on a necessary hiatus.  However, right before I packed-up The Old Chapel I decided to take part in a magic ball “swap” on Ravelry.  I made and mailed the magic ball that I made off right before the moving insanity really took hold.  I wish that I had taken photos of all the stuff that I put in it and what it looked like when done, but I forgot.  However the first full day that I was home I had a package delivered with my magic ball!  It was a lot of fun to unwrap and see all the yarns and goodies that my magic ball-er sent me!  This is how it came wrapped:

And inside the fabric was this:

There were 12 different kinds of yarn in it with oodles of fun goodies inside including a little notebook with repurposed gift cards for the covers, a beautiful handmade stitchmarker and a bar of shampoo.  It was a very nice thing to get to welcome me home.

Obviously, once the blanket reaches these shores the new yarns will be incorporated into it!


Random bits September 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 2:25 pm
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This morning I took my mom to the airport for the start of her Nordic journey.  I hadn’t been to the Waterloo, IA airport in many years and was surprised at just how nice it was for a very little airport.  At the Delta counter (they seem to be the only airline that was serving the airport) there were plenty of ladies helping folks check-in on the machines and to check their baggage.  Mom had some issues with her booking since the different legs of it were made at different times but the women took care of it with a minimum of fuss and all was well.

And I didn’t hit any deer on the way back home in mom’s car (even though I saw lots!).

Today I was able to take the dogs (minus Meara, she didn’t want to go) across the road to the corn field where they were chopping yesterday for a good walk.  Mal didn’t do a full-on spaz, but he still wore himself out pretty well.

My friend Tini has started a podcast called Twinneedle which I totally suggest checking out.  It’s only on its first episode, but I have to say that the sound quality is much better than some podcasts that I’ve heard that are on their 100th episode.  Tini sounds great and I hope that she keeps it up!


Corn Chopping September 24, 2011

So I arrive just as the very first part of the harvest is beginning which is corn chopping.  Corn chopping, unlike corn harvesting, uses the entire plant except for the roots.  Rather than cutting the stalks down and removing the corn kernels from the plant, corn chopping cuts up the entire plant into small bits, sort of like a confetti maker.  And it doesn’t use a combine, it uses a chopper like this:

I admit, it does look a lot like a combine if you aren’t used to the two pieces of equipment.  But you can tell a chopper by a couple of things.  First off, there isn’t a big grain holding bin on the back, just the chute that spits out the chopped-up corn.  Secondly, the chopper is a lot smaller.

A combine would usually have a few more rows of teeth in the front and would be generally just bigger.  Here’s a video of one in operation to give you an idea of what it looks like running.

This is a view of the back of the chopper where you can clearly see the chute where the chopped corn gets jettisoned into the special wagon for it…

…which looks like this.  It is also different from a grain wagon in a few ways.  For starters, it has a lid to keep the chopped corn from blowing right out.  This wagon also has conveyers inside that help to move the chopped corn out.

The corn then gets pushed out into this blower…

which blows it up into the silo…

…all the way to the top and then over.  The silos are probably 5 stories tall, so it takes a lot corn to fill one.

When it’s time to use the chopped corn, it gets dumped into one of these wagons and then it’s fed to cattle.

I’ve been exceptionally careful to keep the dogs away from all the equipment as they are hard to see from the inside of a tractor.  We’ve been going out when there are breaks or when I can see where all the tractors are so that we can avoid them.  My three mutts don’t yet know how to behave on a farm, so I have to keep a pretty tight watch on them.

The jet-lag seems to be slowly leaving us.  Everybody slept until 7 this morning with no middle of the night wake-ups.  Mal is slowly figuring out that he can’t whine his way through the window out into the yard with the cats.  He still watches for them, but isn’t nearly as annoying.  Malcolm and Micheal have played a few times in the house, though we still have to watch the two of them when there is food involved as Micheal will growl and snap.  Overall, things are a little bit better today than they were yesterday.  I’m a coughing a little less, the dogs and cats are a little more settled, I got a full-nights sleep, it’s all just a little more calm.



The Exodus to Iowa

On Tuesday at around 2am GMT we awoke to get the proverbial “show on the road”.  The cats were all duly corralled and crated and the car was loaded with baggage and animals.  Driving to Heathrow at that hour of the day is quite easy which is probably a good thing as we had a car full of cats!  We get down to the Heathrow complex and the first one to get dropped-off is Malcolm.  Since he is so big, he had to go cargo in a special custom crate.  The paperwork to go back to the US was laughably easy compared to the ream of paper that I had to manage on the way into the UK.  Anyway, Malcolm’s crate was waiting for us as was promised by the shipping company with everything set-up for him.

The funnels run to little hoses that go down into his 2 water dishes attached inside.  Mal wasn’t happy about us leaving him like this and to tell the truth, I wasn’t all that in love with it myself as the lady at the desk seemed to have never shipped a live animal before and was very unsure of what was going on.

However, we still had 5 more to get checked-in so we kept on going.  At this point, it is a little after 4 am GMT.  We get over to the airport terminal and decide to park and load everyone’s crates onto trolleys and push them into the terminal.  We get a primo parking spot and took a moment to run the 2 little dogs downstairs and let them pee on the grass before making a little caravan of trolleys and rolling suitcases into the airport.  I’m glad that it was so early as it wasn’t nearly as busy as it could have been.  Had it been busy, getting into the airport would have been hell.  As it was, it was just a serious pain-in-the-butt.  So we arrived as instructed by United at around 4:30am GMT only to find the desk where we had to check-in closed.  Doh!  So, we just sort of camped-out for a bit, trying to calm the animals as much as we could in an international airport.

Finally the guy that was running the desk shows-up and issues us all the stickers and paperwork that we need and instructs us to go to desk Y at 6:30 to check the pets in.  I get my baggage, in all it’s duct-tapped glory, dropped-off and now it is time to wait.

I decided to get the security stuff going a little early, so I went over to Desk Y at 6:15.  Mind you that my flight was leaving at 7:55am.  So we get over there and I am glad that we started a little early as we had to take each pet out of their crates and they swabbed the inside of the crate with one of those wands that have a little bit of white fabric looking for explosives.  The guy doing it was nice enough, but the room wasn’t secure at all and the pets could have easily gotten away from us into the main airport.  However, no bombs were discovered (they clearly didn’t check Weezy’s butt!) and I left the pets there to go through security myself.

Once through security I discovered that the gate for my flight had already been called.  I had just enough time to find a diet coke in a WHSmith and hustled my butt down to the gate (which was a loooooong ways away [are there any close gates at Heathrow? I swear that some fold in the time/space there makes every single gate at least a mile away from security]) where I barely sat down and they started boarding.

It was a pleasant surprise to find that the 747 that I was on was sparsely populated.  I had the entire middle row of 4 seats to myself.  This is probably a good thing as the cough that I had been fighting for the past several days was kicking my ass at this point, with me hacking helplessly every few minutes.  Had the plane been full, I feel that they might have put me in a bubble or something.

The flight was uneventful, marked only by the random meals that they served us every few hours and the one truly horrid movie that they showed us (the rest were ok, there was just one humdinger of a bad one in the mix) which I didn’t catch the title of to warn you off.  My voice was mostly a horse croak by the time I was on the airplane, so the flight attendants all had a hell of a time hearing me in the cabin.

The plane landed more or less on time and I toddled-off down to immigration to get my passport stamped and then to the luggage carousel where the bags were already circling.  I then located the pets, all in a row of crates waiting for me in the over-sized luggage area.  This was great, except for the fact that I couldn’t find a porter anywhere to help me move them!  So I walk away from the 5 little pets to try to snag a porter and they all start yowling.  Weezy was the worst with her high-pitched yips making it sound as though I am murdering her a little bit more with every single step I took away from her.

Finally a porter is located and we load-up all the pets onto the big carts that he had and we go over to the CDC “desk”.  I say “desk” but really it was a door with a doorbell next to it which the porter kindly pushed for me.  Out came a rangy woman with short hair who gave all the pets a cursory look and asked me where I had flown from.  When I replied London, she waved me away stapling a slip of paper to my customs form.  When I asked her if she wanted to see their rabies vaccination stamps in their pet passports, she said that since I was from a rabies free zone it wasn’t necessary.  All of the work that I did to make sure that the dogs were all up to date on their rabies and I didn’t even have to pull-out a single piece of paperwork to get them into the US.

Retrieving my bags and pets in the luggage area took all of 20 minutes.  Unfortunately, I had figured that it would take a couple of hours given the experience that I had on the way into the UK.  Thus, when the porter rolled me through the rest of customs and out into the lovely Chicago morning I was earlyI called my brother only to find out that he was running late. The porter kindly rolled me out to the dog relief area where there was another dog playing that had just flown from Korea.  We parked my bags and all the carriers near the small fenced-in “relief” area and I got Meara and Weezy out.  My brother had said that he was about 40 minutes out, which translated to more like an hour plus by the time he got there.

The two of us got the pets loaded into the cargo van and off we went to find the United cargo terminal which had already called the farm twice.  I had been told that there would be an up to 4 hour processing time for the Malcolm cargo, but like the rest of the pets, he was through within minutes and waiting for me to come get him.  When I got there, they brought him to the loading dock on a forklift with a pallet underneath.  It was funny to see this dog being carried around on a forklift.  I took Mal out of the crate before my brother and one of the cargo guys loaded it into the van so that I could let him pee on some grass nearby.  A more grateful look has never been seen coming from Malcolm nor a longer pee.  However, his time in the crate was only coming to a middle, as it was deemed unsafe to allow him to walk around the back of the van as he could easily have fallen when turning corners or coming to a stop.

The drive home was quiet, marred only by the increasingly frequent barks of my cough.  Since it was pretty loud in the cargo van, and my voice was little more than a croak at that point and as my brother isn’t exactly loquacious at the best of times there wasn’t a lot of chatter.  Meara and Weezy sat on my lap the entire time looking out at the countryside unfolding around us and eventually falling asleep.  The cats pretty much kept quiet, too exhausted and freaked-out at this point to do much more than the occasional yowl.

We crossed the Mighty Mississippi in the afternoon.  Some day I am going to have to explore the area around there some more as it looked quite interesting.

We made it home after nightfall where mom had dinner waiting.  The dogs were happy to be out of the van and eventually the cats got settled into my brother’s basement with a full complement of cat food, water and liter to keep them happy.  All three cats hid as soon as released from their kennels, which is totally normal.  The dogs and I then went back out to the farm for the night.

One of the things that I was happy to see was the performance of the quickly improvised water dishes that we made for the pets.  On the way to the UK the airline had only required 1 water dish per crate.  United required 2, one with the water frozen in it and one that was empty for filling right before the flight.  Unfortunately, we found out that pet travel dishes are not a common thing in UK pets stores for some reason.  We were told, “order it on the internet” which didn’t help us at all as there was no time.  So, off to B&Q (a home improvement store much like Home Depot) we went and finally came up with this:

On the right is the store-bought water dish and on the left is the improvised one out of a pasta sauce container.

We used cable ties to secure an adjustable hose clamp to the side.  Our thinking was that if the clamp was too big for the container we could just adjust it down to fit.  Alas, these clamps fit the sauce containers perfectly straight off the shelf so no adjustment was needed.  If anything, I think that the rigged water bowls worked maybe a little bit better than the manufactured ones!

Things are going ok here.  The dogs have been up quite early every morning.  The first night they were up at 2am, the next 3.  Last night they allowed me to sleep until 5am.  One doesn’t think about animals having jet lag but mine have absolutely been dealing with it and thus so have I.  Hopefully someday in the near future they will allow me to sleep until 7am once again.  I think it will be heaven:-)  The dogs are also adjusting to new rules and to other animals.  There are farm cats roaming outside the house that Malcolm thinks have been sent to torment him.  Standing on the back of the couch, he whined to get at those audacious cats for an entire day and a half.  My dad isn’t terribly keen on having the dogs here, so we have to stay out of his way as much as is possible.  Weezy is absolutely baffled by the fact that someone doesn’t love her and want her on their lap!  She sort of looks at my dad with a cocked head as if to say, “What is wrong with you?!  I am adorable! Love me! Love me! Love me NOW!”  Meara rolled in stinkyness two days in a row which I then had to shower-off of her.  Today was the first day that I’ve managed to not have to bathe her.  I’ve been taking them on mini walks several times a day out into the grove and back.  The fields all around us still have their corn and beans in them so there isn’t really a wide open space that I can let Malcolm really run yet.  However, they started chopping corn in the field across the road so I think that by the weekend we will have a place for him to run.

I’m happy to be home, but it’s also been rough.  I’m looking forward to a time when I have a job and a place of my own again.  I know that transitions are always difficult and that I will get through this eventually, but it doesn’t make the here and now any more fun.


Adventures in Moving: Vet day September 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 6:20 pm
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So I knew I was going to have to do it eventually, but it was still as big of a pain in the butt as I remembered.  I had to take all 6 animals to the vet to get their health certificates for the flight.  I had to do this with the pets 3 times when we were moving here, so at least it is a blessing that I only have to take them the one time on the way home.  Still, 3 freaked-out cats and 3 now-nervous dogs makes for not such a fun visit.

However, there really wasn’t all that much to do.  No shots were needed nor chips implanted this time, they all just received a health exam with the worst part of it being that they had to get their temperatures taken.  Rectally.


Adventures in Moving: Goodbye London

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 6:05 pm

Yesterday I went into the city despite waking-up with a humdinger of a sinus infection.  I knew that it was really the last day that I would be able to do it so I drugged-up (thank you emergency kit in the suitcase!) and went.

I got there around 11am and by the time I got to the South Kensington station it was 11:30, so I decided to have lunch.  I went to my favorite place in that area which is the Kensington Creperie and had my usual.  Then I walked down the block to the V&A a wandered around for several hours.  I saw The Power of Making exhibit and was deeply unimpressed.  I felt that it was messily curated and that they chose their items to be only cutting edge and weird, not as examples of quality.  The way they had designed the space meant that there were several bottlenecks trying to maneuver through it.  It is one of the free exhibits, so that was good.  If I had to have paid for it, I would have been sorely disappointed.  I guess I just expected better of the V&A.  However, I did stumble upon a selection of Beatrix Potter’s watercolors displayed randomly in a hallway on the 2nd level.  They were breathtaking and it is a sin that they were so incongruously placed where so few would discover them.

Before I knew it it was time to go and see Jon.  At this point, the tube was a mess because the Jubilee line was all but closed which made all the other lines crazy-full.  However, I got there and got to meet Jon’s new car.  We hung-out for a few hours and then it was time for me to head back into the city to meet the hubby for dinner at St. John’s in Spitalfields.

It was there that I took the only photograph of the whole day.

They were really good.



Adventures in Moving: Day 3 September 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 2:07 pm
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6:30am Milo the insane cat wakes me up with scratching and meowing at the bedroom door.  She is definitely freaked out by this move.  Hopefully the movers will be able to clear the spare bedroom completely today so that I could open up the attic for her to go up into.  The attic is her favorite place in the world and where she feels safest.  And where I know she won’t be tempted to dart out the front door in a frenzy of fear.

9am Movers are here again.  I feel as though they will finish quite early today as they are whipping through what is left quite quickly.

10:30am Ventured out from the bedroom hole-up during the guys break.  The house feels unnaturally hollow and echo-y.  Malcolm luxuriated in being able to really stretch out and pranced about a bit to celebrate. I forget that he’s not ever seen the house empty.

11:30am Realized that one of the big problems with wrapping everything so thoroughly is that it is going to be wickedly difficult to tell what’s what at a glance and also how heavy it would be.  Also, how fragile it will be.  They are putting my massive clay pots into boxes.  Hmmm.

Noon  Now I get why people always talk about losing items during a move.  This is the first move that I’ve not packed for myself and already I am missing several things.  I’m sure it will only get worse.

12:45pm The movers are gone.  The fit the last of the items into their big truck and left.  The house seems very, very big suddenly.  Malcolm’s crate is gone, so he is a free range chicken for a while so to speak.


Tomorrow I am planning on heading into the city to see Jon of EasyKnits one more time and to kind of, I don’t know, say goodbye to London.