Sarah Jane Humke

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

Elf on Strike December 22, 2011

So I have started my spinning again.  I couldn’t for the first few weeks that I was here because the wheel was in transport.  Then once it got here I needed to find the rest of the bits of it as they were packed away in the bewilderingly labeled boxes.  By the time that I finally found them, it was time for Christmas knitting and crochet!


Which I am now avoiding by spinning.

I had a hard time deciding what I was going to spin but finally I settled on this:


It’s from Easyknits and it’s called Winter Berry.  It’s 80% Superfine Merino and 20% Black Diamond (Carbonized Bamboo).  I think that this was a club fiber and it is really lovely to spin.  My night-time photo doesn’t show it very well, but it’s a lovely blend of grey, a dusky blue and red.


So, you might be wondering, what is it that has me avoiding it so strongly?  It is this:

Yes, this is the “Cars” themed blanket that seems like A.) it sucks down yarn faster than a cargo van sucks down gas driving into a 30mph headwind B.) it is doomed in its current incarnation (mostly because of A.).  I started on this blanket in my usual fashion which in this case meant asking my mom how big a 3-4 year-old is.  I asked her because she’s had 2 of them and I’ve had none at this point.  After getting to see said child this week, I realized that this blanket would (in its current incarnation) be too large for him to carry.  Doh.  A shocking lack of knowledge about small children strikes again!

In completely unrelated news (other than, you know, it’s the Christmas season thus winter here in the Northern Hemisphere) it snowed last night.

This is one of those pretty, white dusting snows rather than the last one which was just confused rain.

Snow makes everything prettier, even Micheal!

The view of town.

Have a great day!


Unit November 1, 2011

Last Thursday my container arrived in Central Iowa.  I had found out the day before that it had been sitting in Cedar Rapids for several days as no one seemed to have contact information for me.  Also, it had been inspected by customs and I had a nearly $500 charge that I needed to pay before I could get at my stuff.

I didn’t take a picture of the container though I wish that I had.  It said in very big letters something like Mexicanana International on it.  I have to admit, had I been a customs person just seeing it I would have wanted to inspect it myself.  Anyway, the truck came with 4 guys to unload it into the storage unit.  Now, I have half a storage unit, the other half looks like it has grandma and grandpa’s detritus that none of the kids or grandkids wanted and is waiting to be sold off at auction or garage sale.  It’s very tidily arranged on tables or planks put across saw horses and labeled with things like, “Grandma’s telephone and sewing supplies”, or “Grandpa’s BBQ equipment”.  The tables and saw horses are precisely lined-up along the line in the concrete floor which denotes the middle of the storage space.

This is what it looked like at about 9am on Thursday morning as you entered the door.

And this is from the back of the space.

To give you perspective it’s about 30′ long by about 10′ wide and around 8′ tall where the roof meets the walls.  This was what it looked like after the guys left on Thursday from the door.

And from the back (as far back as I could get!).

And from a slightly different perspective…

I’m thankful for the movers on this end for taking the bubble wrap off of all the large plastic crates for me.  However, I had to open dozens of large boxes to get all the Deli-Cat and cat litter buckets out.  They packed them anywhere from 2 to 4 to a box as well as all the bags of wool and yarn.  Their labeling of the boxes was more than a little esoteric and creative.  More than one box labeled with “clothing” was found to contain yarn or even books.  Some of the boxes were labeled only with what was on the very top of the box, even if it comprised only a very small percentage of what the box contained. This has made finding the half a dozen things that I really wanted to get out sort of like a very bizarre Christmas where I’m battling open boxes taped very securely (I will say this for them, they didn’t skimp on tape or bubble wrap!) to find my own belongings in extremely odd groupings.  My bathroom stuff sharing a box with a tambourine and other musical instruments or a whole passel of shoes from the bedroom with kitchen equipment (that last one was labeled “dishes”).

While naked, I look as though I was trying to be a leopard for Halloween as I have that many bruises randomly marring my legs and arms.  My hands are completely unladylike as nearly every knuckle has been scraped raw.  Speaking of unladylike, the popping of my knees and creaking of my ankles as I stand or sit would make a proper lady check that the floorboards weren’t about to break.  Moving heavy boxes and furniture from 8′ in the air has really left its mark on me these past days.

While we were unloading, the guys were on the lookout for any boxes labeled “conservatory” or “pots” as all the pots were not put into the storage space as well as my shed parts and spinning wheel.  Oh and the sofa, can’t forget that!  I had driven Dad’s cargo van over and it was full when I left with a few things blocking the walking space in the storage unit for me to pick-up the next day.

The shed was a bit of an adventure as I had all the parts for it except the special plastic bolts that hold the whole thing together.  They were all carefully labeled and put into a 2.5 gallon zipper bag which ended-up getting put into a plastic crate that I thought had yarn in it.  I only found them today and had been going over plans to somehow lash the shed together without them at this point.  However, I was looking for yarn (stop laughing! It was specific yarn for a Christmas project!) and I opened this not-yarn container and voila! there they were.  I also found the yarn (I think it’s the same color as Lighting McQueen.  I’m not all that up on Disney characters.  It’s red at least!) so today was a total win in the “adventures-in-finding-stuff-in-a-solidly-packed-30′-storage-unit”.

I also built a shed today.




Where’s my stuff? October 3, 2011

So, all of my stuff was loaded into a container and left the London Thamesport on the 29th of September on the good ship (at least I hope it’s good!) Hoechst Express which is owned and operated by Hapag-Lloyd which is a German shipping company.  The ship is “expected” on the 20th of October in the Port of Chicago.  So if any of my peeps in Chicago see my container make sure the driver knows that they are headed to IOWA, not Ohio or Idaho:-)

To tell you the truth, I was a little surprised that my container was landing in the same city as I did.  I know that Chicago is a port because of the Great Lakes, but I still didn’t think of it.  I figured that my container was going to head into one of the big East Coast ports and travel by semi-truck cross-country.  Oddly enough, knowing that it is only going to be driven from Chicago makes me feel more… I don’t know, secure about it?

I wish that the Hapag-Lloyd site had a little map showing where the ship is now but I understand on many levels why they wouldn’t want that information out there:-)

I’m glad to have an idea of when my stuff is supposed to arrive.  I’ve been itching for my spinning wheel of late as well as my collection of ugly acrylic yarn to make scrapghans.  I stopped at the Hobby Lobby in Waterloo last week and had to physically restrain myself from getting some of their newest ombre and variegated yarns.  They were just so… special.  Hobby Lobby has their own brand of yarn called I Love This Yarn which is really quite nice to work with.  I now understand why some knitters are so hateful towards acrylic yarns as it does sometimes squeak when you knit with it but for crochet, I feel that it works better than wool blends.  Anyway, I have collected ombres and variegated yarns for years as they add a lot of color to my scrapghans and granny square blankets really quickly.  Hobby Lobby comes out with new colors a few times a year as well as special seasonal colorways (these can be most exciting!).  Going into this store can be a dangerous act from which my accounts usually suffer.  I was extremely restrained in that I only got 2 balls of cotton yarn and it was on clearance!  I figure that I need to start working on Christmas presents now that I am here and dish clothes are quite popular amongst my friends.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that it is interesting to me which things I am missing.  I’m also missing my shelf of books “to be read” as I’ve been doing a lot of reading of late.  I would’ve packed more books except for the fact that they weigh so much!  I wish I could have lined the inside of some of the animals crates with some books (in plastic baggies of course!) as they were well below 50lbs:-)  I’m not missing my clothes all that much…yet.  I have a feeling if I don’t have them by the time that snow flies I might be a tad antsy for some sweaters and sweatshirts.  The clothes that I packed are almost all causal, basically an assortment of long and short-sleeved tees and jeans.  But I can see it being a pain even in a few weeks as I only have one sort-of dressy outfit with me and I can’t wear the same thing to church every week!  I wish desperately that I had Mal’s normal wire crate.  The wooden one that was used to get him over here is much too big to be in my room and he really needs a place to be.  Once a dog has been crate trained they feel safer in their crates than they do roaming about and will settle down quite quickly often once they are inside it.  I miss my couch and ottoman as it is a really comfy place to sit.  I wish that I had packed more good writing paper as I hate using my fountain pens on normal paper (I know, such a snob!). Really, it’s been kind of surprising what I’ve been missing!

Anyway, go Hoechst Express go!  (Safely of course.)




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!


The Exodus to Iowa September 24, 2011

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: 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.