Sarah Jane Humke

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

On the road (again) November 29, 2011

I am currently in a Days Inn in Nashville, Tennessee sitting on my king sized bed listening to the weather report wanting to go to sleep.  I’ve driven a cargo van 12 hours today and I am completely exhausted.  However, somewhere deep inside of me I think that I was an OTR trucker in a former life.  I love road trips and find traveling alone kind of freeing.  There’s this weird  thing “out there” that says that women aren’t supposed to like to travel alone.  If we don’t travel with a significant other we are supposed to travel in groups.  I do like to travel with a group but it really isn’t essential for me to have fun.  I really enjoy traveling alone and I do get some “looks” for this and today was no exception to this.

Anyway, some of the things that I saw today as I drove from Iowa to Tennessee.

The mighty Mississippi from the Illinois side

Part of a wind turbine that I passed on the road. Yes, I am perhaps a tad obsessed with these things!)

One of the Cat plants in Moline.


This massive used book store is just down the road from my hotel here! It's seems to be in a former grocery store!


This is their craft section. It had a better knitting section than most NEW book stores!


The Haus of Yarn is right by my hotel. Alas it was closed:-(


I did pass through some snow in Kentucky. It didn't cause any issues with the roads at all.


Thanksgiving November 24, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 5:02 pm
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May you all have had as much nose-licking good food as you want this Thanksgiving!



Recalculating… November 23, 2011

So, the plan was to take approximately five and a half skeins of Red Heart Super Saver in “Hot Red” and make a “Cars” (the Disney movie) themed blanket for a Christmas gift.  I’m about halfway through the first skein of yarn and I am only this far along in the blanket:

I know it’s hanging lengthwise, but that is actually the planned width of the blanket not the length.  I think that I am going to have to add yellow stripes.  I mean, the red car has yellow flames on the side of it!  And both parents of said child graduated from Iowa State🙂  Still, this will mean more stash diving which, though much easier than before, is still a pain in the butt.  I would say screw it but then I would have this “Cars” themed fabric in my stash forever!

In better news, the scrapghan for his little sister is pretty much finished:

All I have to do is work in some ends and do some trimming of stray ends and wash it well and it is good to go!


My brother’s goats are funny creatures.

The Billy goat in particular is a creature possessed.  I never fully understood the references to “horny old billy goats” before watching this guy with his sexed-up single-mindedness.

He’s tried to head butt me a few times already (as they are constantly escaping their pen and going walkabout around the farm) but I simply grab him by the horns and steer him away from me.  It’s sort of like bullfighting only with my butt as the red cape and I don’t get to wear the bitchin outfit.  Oh, and there are no deaths involved.  At least not yet.


License to Drive November 22, 2011

Today I made it official.  I now have a valid Iowa driver’s license. This is my temporary paper license while I wait for them to send me the official plastic one with holograms.

Sorry about all the stuff blotted out. I just don't feel comfortable putting all that info onto the internet!


This was the first time that I had ever been asked to remove my glasses for the photograph.  I think that the picture turned-out ok.  I was told that I couldn’t have an open mouth smile (no teeth) and that threw me a little.  But over all, it doesn’t make me look like a crazed killer or anything so I think it ended-up ok.

I love the fact that the license has a wind turbine on it*.  I think that it’s really cool that the State of Iowa is embracing these so thoroughly.

My mom had warned me about lines and attitudes but I found neither in evidence when I went to the Franklin County Courthouse to get this bit of essential housekeeping done.  In fact, I forget how efficient and fast everything is here.  There was no real line and I was in and out in about 15 minutes.  To say that it is a different experience from either Florida or England would be a massive understatement!  In Florida I remember scheduling half a day to get my name changed on my driver’s license and it took more than that.  And England was just a lot of work and time in general.

*I learned something new writing this post about the wind farms.  I had never thought about it before, but they have names.  The one that I have photographed before on this blog that is between Iowa Falls and Hampton, Iowa is called Whispering Willow Wind Farm.


Christmas on the Cheap November 20, 2011

I know that I’m not the only person doing a seriously skimpy Christmas this year with the economy and unemployment being what they are.  But what if you need a present for some sort of gift exchange or for a person who’s given you a pressie that you feel the need to return the deed.  Don’t despair!  With a little forethought you can have a handful of Christmas presents at the ready!

Give the gift of Green

I’m not talking about cash here!  I’m talking about houseplants!  Take a pair of clippers to that overgrown pothos or that spider plant laden with pups and propagate!  Many of the most common houseplants propagate easily and quickly.  There are tons of houseplant web sites that will help you identify which houseplant you have living in your home or office and then tell you the proper way to propagate it.  If the instructions call for something kinda complex like air layering, chose a different houseplant to use.  You want instructions that say something along the lines of, “Cut off piece of plant. Stick in soil. Water. Repeat.”  Overgrown African Violets are really good for this as quite often you just have to chop-up one plant to get many, many fully formed little plants!  And really, who doesn’t like an African Violet (just don’t give folks dozens at a time as this tends to overwhelm them!).

Get Crafty

If you are a crafty person chances are you have a stash of whatever medium it is that you work in.  Quilters have fabric stashes, knitters and crocheters have yarn stashes, jewelery makers have bead stashes and scrapbook makers have paper stashes… it’s just sort of what crafters do.  So try to make a gift using only what you find in your stash.  If you are anything like me, then this should be reasonably easy to do.  And remember, it doesn’t have to be a magnum opus that you are making here, it’s a present for goodness sake!  Keep it simple and sane.  If you know someone is getting a kindle for Christmas, quilt them a cover (just make sure that they open it after the Kindle!)  Someone likes to cook?  Embroider/cross stitch inexpensive kitchen towels with their initials or something otherwise personalizing.  Knitters and crocheters can always make dish clothes and potholders.  Pet lover?  Make toys for their pets!  Kids are easy as they are usually small and fast to craft for.  Mittens are good idea for them if you live in a cold area.  Hand crafted Christmas ornaments are a staple in this area.  Just remember, you aren’t in third grade anymore, gluing cotton balls to a cut-out snowman isn’t going to cut it:-)  Try to make the ornament fit the theme of their tree if they have such a thing or personalize it to them in some way.

Get them Crafting

If you have a rather voluminous stash of whatever media you use, consider making a kit to get someone started on your craft of choice accompanied by the offer of instruction or time on your machine (if a machine is involved).  Everyone that I know has materials that they bought early in their crafting experience that they probably aren’t going to use but that a newbie might love (I’m looking at you all that bulky yarn in the corner!).  To me, this is one of the best gifts that you can give.  It’s especially great if you are going to be stuck in a house with bored, overstimulated kids.  Teaching young ones to knit or crochet (or finger crochet if they are really little!) or cross stitch or whatever it is that you do will help keep both you and their parents less snappy when the appeal of the battery operated toys wears off.  It’s amazing how quiet kids are when they are concentrating on something new!

Give the gift of time

Nearly everyone needs someone to step in and take care of things once in a while.  It doesn’t matter if they have kids, pets, houseplants or a car sooner or later nearly everyone needs a favor.  So offer it in the form of a coupon that you make yourself.  You can be as generous as you would like and it really is saving that person cash too!  Last time I checked, babysitting isn’t cheap anymore!  And I know that dog walking isn’t!  If you’re kinda handy, you can offer to change their car’s oil or whatever special skill that you have that they will need.  Mowing the lawn or shoveling the walk are good ones too!  It may seem really cheap to do this, but think about how much they would have to pay someone to do this for them and you will see that it’s really actually a pretty nice present!  This is an excellent idea for older folks as they may need more help with chores around the house and who can be particularly difficult to buy presents for.

Get cooking!

I’m a big fan of the baked good as gift.  I know that this doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone on your list as a lot of folks now have special diets that make it more complicated to cook or bake for them.  However, a plateful of cookies is always a lovely hostess gift in my opinion.  I tend to save any and all Christmas themed tins that food comes in from the year before or buy the themed plates at the super-duper everything has got to go right now clearance sales that happen in Feb.  Stick to what you do well and then make lots of it!  Go ahead and experiment on new recipes but if they blow be willing to crank out with a few batches of a tried and true food that you make really well.  Even if it isn’t particularly “festive” if it’s tasty few will complain!

Help them cook!

There are tons of ideas online for gifts like cookie mix in a jar, or soup mixes in a jar, or even brownie mix in a jar.  The dried soup mixes can be especially great if you tend to dehydrate your garden produce.  You could be giving the person something that you grew yourself! Most of these mixes require a clean jar and the ingredients and maybe some paper to write or print the baking/cooking instructions on as well.  These are nice for folks who are maybe living away from home for the first time or just don’t have a lot of time to cook.

Add to the Collection

A lot of people collect things.  Now if you have someone who collects Ferrari’s on your list this year, you have my sympathy.  However most people collect things that are a little easier to obtain.  For these folks, you just need to keep an eye out.  Garage sales, flea markets and auctions are great places to find collectables that are going for much less than they would at the antique mall or specialty shop.  You only need to keep your eyes open!

Clean your house

One of my favorite presents that I got as a small child was a box full of make-up that my cousins no longer wanted.  Mom confiscated the nail polish and lipstick before much damage had been done but I spent hours playing with my make-up box (more often as war paint than pretty lady type stuff, but that’s ok!).  Your old eye-shadows and blushes that you aren’t using anymore would be coveted by a small child of a certain age.  You would get bonus points if you have an old Caboodles case that you can put it all in!  Obviously, this is one that you want to talk to the mother of the child about before you gift it.  And don’t put nail polish in there, it’s hard to get out of the carpet!  This is only one example of having something that someone else would love to have.  Look around a little and see if there isn’t something that you have in an upstairs closet that the hipster in your life wouldn’t love.  Apparently grandpa’s cardigans are hip again!  Fondue parties are making a comeback too!  And gardeners all over the place are rediscovering canning and jamming, making that shelf-full of canning jars a hot commodity!

Give the gift of Safety

Make a winter car safety kit like I spoke about in my last post.  It’s super easy to do and other than a couple of bottles of water and snacks, you probably won’t need to buy anything too expensive if at all.  The blanket in my case is a lovely wool one that had a few moth holes in it already.  This isn’t a showcase, it’s a survival kit so who cares!  A clean, used blanket will work just as well as a brand new one.  Same goes for the gloves/hat/scarf combo and candles (I’m using half-burned Christmas candles in mine!).  Just make sure that it is all clean and together and maybe labeled so that they don’t accidentally unload it from the car when bringing in groceries:-)


Christmas shouldn’t be all about going into debt and getting stressed-out about it in the New Year.  Before you buy a present, stop and think about what that person really needs.  Often a well-thought less expensive present will trump an expensive present any day of the week!


Y’all thought that I was joking didn’t you?? November 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 5:52 pm
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This afternoon I drove this beast around the field:

While my dad loaded it with bales of cornstalks using the skid loader.

It is really not a glamorous truck at all.  In fact, at some point in its recent history it has been used as a party pad for raccoons.  They seem to have taken a liking to the seat as it appears that half of it had been eaten.  Still, it’s a legit big-rig.

I am extremely glad that I’ve driven manual cars since I was 18 or this day would have definitely ended in tears and recriminations.  As was, I never got out of the first set of gears (there was no reason to) and I backed it twice without hitting a tractor (of which there were several within easy striking distance) so I am calling the day a win.


Random Bits

My friend Tini has a new podcast out!  Go listen!

This is another print that I would love to have.  Because, you know, someone living out of a storage unit (Mind you I didn’t say in a storage unit!  That’s a whole other level!) really needs another print to frame.  Still, a girl can dream someday of having an entire floor to use as a crafting zone (Thanks Martha for putting that idea in my head!)

We’ve already had a taste of snow around here which spurred me to get my winter car kit ready.  In addition to the normal safety items that you should have in your car already (ahem) such as jumper cables, bottles of water, a first aid kit, a gas can, a flashlight and the like if you are traveling in winter weather you should also have a little(ish) kit of items in the car with you.  Not in the trunk of your car (if you have one) as there is no guarantee that you will be able to get into your trunk when you need them!  In my kit I have 2 blankets, some more water (most of my water is kept in a gallon jug in the trunk), some snacks (I went with packets of cookies that expire in April rather than energy bars because I think I would prefer to eat cookies than energy bars any day!), a handful of candles and matches to light them, a spare hat, gloves and scarf.  I also bought a cheap bag of cat litter and threw it in the trunk for icy issues.  I was tempted to put in a book or knitting project as I know myself pretty well and I know that I would be most likely to do the stupid thing of trying to leave my car in sub-zero temps to look for someone else if I was seriously bored.    I didn’t as I usually have something of that ilk with me if I am on a long trip anyway, but it isn’t a bad idea to throw a trashy paperback in there too!  I also had a small baggie of dog food in mine as my dogs may be traveling with me.  Other things that I saw suggested but didn’t put in were a small shovel to clear your tailpipe of snow and a battery cell phone charger kit (I may still put that in mine)  One thing that I don’t have yet but I will as soon as I have a usable bank account is a AAA membership.  Very, very handy to have year-round.

I really like these light bulbs.  They are very sexy and could be used so many different ways!  I know that they aren’t cheap, but I hope that other light bulb manufacturers will take the hint and start making their products more interesting.

Ok hive mind!  I need help.  I’ve been cleaning the upstairs of the house out with my mother and have come across a lot of skirts, dresses and jackets that are beautiful vintage wool and have a few moth holes in them, usually in one specific area making them unwearable but there is still tons of fabric left that could be salvaged.  I need ideas.  Sewing isn’t my strong suit (and I don’t currently have a sewing machine unless I get one of grandma’s old singers running again) but I would be willing to try it.  Is wool good for quilting?  I could really use some suggestions for what to do with these items as I just can’t bear to throw them away!

This is a great site to get your yarny inspiration going!

I’m now going to jump into the fray about the whole one space or two spaces at the end of a sentence.  I use two for a very simple reason; it was the way that I was taught to type sentences and I see nothing wrong with it.  When I was in grade school the Ackley-Geneva school district looked ahead and actually saw the future was in computers so they made my entire class take typing.  We were the first class to be required to take it and it has actually served me in good stead all these years later even though I really sucked at it then and hated walking into that classroom full of typewriters.  However, the two spaces after a sentence makes practical sense to me as well.  When I hand write letters, I leave a greater space after a sentence than I do between the words in a sentence.  Personally I don’t understand why this has become such a hot-button issue of late.  Is there a world space shortage that I am unaware of?

Shepherd Susie sums-up something that I have thought for a while now more eloquently than I ever could.

Now, if y’all will excuse me, I have to go learn how to drive a semi-truck.  Pray I don’t get stuck in the field!