O, Happy Happy Joy Joy. Or so the song goes. Auld acquaintance and all that. And fly me to the moon while you're at it, will ya?

Wishing all of you near and far every joy and blessing in the new 365...

Fleecey cyberhugs from O'Kitten and the rest of the menagerie at the O'K Corral!


Help! Help! I Need a Pattern

Mr. O’Kitten has (repeatedly) asked me to knit him a sweater. An Irish cableknit pullover sweater. Like the above. The pattern for this one
might as well be in Greek (no chart). But I do like that the guy in the photo looks a bit like an aging Colm Meaney.

So anyway, I’m looking for an Aran cable pattern for a men’s pullover. Something kind of like the above (although maybe a bit less complicated). I can cable, and have followed cable charts before. I actually love cable, and aran patterns are so gorgeous.

Course, I’ve never actually constructed an entire sweater. But I'm very brave. And very good at following directions.

Here’s a good example of what I’d like to do. This is the sweater my grandmother made me when I was little. She was a very good knitter.

Although of course it’s a cardigan, and very small. Too bad, because otherwise it’d be perfect for Mr. O’Kitten.

I thought long and hard about trying to spin yarn for said sweater, but I just don’t think my hand-spinning skills are up to making such a great deal of yarn yet, and I think the cables would look nicer with something a tad more consistent than what I can spin. (What Mr. O’K really wanted, at first, was a Graty-llama sweater...)

But I would like to make something kind of cool for the man who got me sheep for Xmas.

So if you have any suggestions pattern-wise, I’m all ears. I don’t object to buying a pattern, but would really prefer not to splurge on an entire book. Extra points if it’s some wacky vintage Celtic pattern...of course, I have to be able to interpret the instructions so if they’re in Gaelic I’m out of luck (minus points in that case). And I’m not like Sev, I don’t specialize in reading ancient patterns written in Ye Olde English on lambskin or papyrus and then knitting them up with microscopic whalebone needles.

Thanks for any help y’all can offer the hapless O’Kitten!


Things I Got & Things I Made

Stuff I Got Today

I have the coolest Secret Pal ever. Today I got a surprise package crammed with Burt's Bees tins (I so love Burt's Bees stuff), Sin-o-Mints ("For the sinner in you"), a fantastic pair of Emily knee socks, and my first set of other-than-icky-plastic-ring-stitch markers...these have little skullies on them. They're fabulous, and it was the perfect box-o-gloomy-day-after-christmas

I'm between cameras at the moment, so please excuse the lack of some fantastic photo of all the aforementioned which should be inserted here. Just close your eyes and imagine the Secret Pally goodness of it all, will you?

Some Stuff I Made for Xmas

Okay, nothing as delectable as what I saw chez Severina's Stitch-o-Rama, but now that gifts have been exchanged I can post a few pics (see, I really was knitting [and crocheting] all this time, really):

My first granny squares, made into a wee blanket for our new niece (due in January). Modelled by Isis and Sock Monkey.

I finally finished the Pixie Hat. Though intended for the new baby,
turns out it fit the expectant mom-to-be!
(Note: Model is most definitely neither niece nor sis-in-law.)

Pair of hearts. (Warshrags, that is.)

Apple placemat and warshrag. (Oops, I think you saw this already.
Well, it reminds me I have 2 1/2 more placemats to go...)

Okay, so I was obviously very excited about the heart lace pattern.
Here it is yet again as a table runner. And, of course, with matching warshrag.

This is the hat I made that swatch for.
I love the way the Lamb's Pride worked up.



Christmas Lambs and Llamas

The sheep greeted me this morning with happy little bleats and didn't seem the least bit disappointed that we didn't have a white Christmas. (Rather, it was grey and rainy, but when you like to munch on grass and meander about doing outdoorsy sorts of things, I suppose a drizzly day is not all bad.)

The llamas, although not concerned with the weather, remain a bit vexed by the sheep. Bear in mind that llamas are rather large (Graty stands about six feet or two metres tall, and weighs well over 300 pounds). The two sheep are about knee-high and some 75-85 pounds.

Yet the llamas continue to fret in the pasture, giving me cross and puzzled looks as if to say, "Who's in our barn? What are they, big mice? Small dogs? Furry little people? Why are they here? And when, exactly, are they leaving?"

Pepper was the only one who seemed unconcerned. If anything, she looked more as though she would've enjoyed playing with the new furry creatures that appeared on the other side of the fence.

And so was Christmas spent chez O'Kitten. I hope all of y'all are having wonderful hollydays as well!


O'Kitten Becomes a Shepherdess

One of my life-long dreams came true today.

Imagine my surprise when I was awoken from a midday Christmas Eve catnap by our friends Rick and Laura from Queso Cabeza knocking at the front door.

I invited them in and we chatted for a few minutes; then, assuming they had simply "been in the neighborhood" and wanted to see 'their' llamas (Llannie had been the first llama born at Queso Cabeza, and we got Graty, Lacey, and Switzer from them as well), I asked if they wanted to check on their old friends and see Pepper.

"Sure!" they said, never giving away the real reason for their Christmas Eve drop-in.

It didn't strike me as odd that they had their trailer hitched up behind their truck. I figured they'd been out picking up some sheep or something, and as we were heading to the barn, Rick asked me to take a look in the trailer.

And there were two Icelandic sheep inside.

I was rather puzzled.

Laura informed me that two of their sheep needed a home—OUR home!

So please meet the two newest additions to the O'Kitten Corral!

Curly (at 6 ½ weeks)
b. 20 April 2006
White Icelandic

Curly (at 3 weeks)

Tiny Engebretsen
b. 13 May 2006
Moorit Gray Icelandic

Tiny, when I met him at Rick & Laura's over the summer

Tiny trotting out of the barn this evening as if he already owned the place.

I have dreamed of having sheep for as long as I can remember, and today I have become a shepherd! In fact, on our honeymoon a psychic told me that Mr. O'Kitten and I had been acquainted in several previous lifetimes. [Cue Twilight Zone theme music...] In one of them, we had sheep...Mr. O'K was a barrel-maker who crafted musical instruments on the side, and I tended to the animals and the garden and spun...

Happy hollydays to all, and to all a good night!


Feeding Time at The O'K Corral

When the sun begins to set, it's dinnertime for llamas, chickens, and felines here at the O'K Corral.

The Llamas Dine

Grandma Switzer likes oats and apples mixed in with her daily crumbles.

Lacey does not like oats or apples, but that doesn’t prevent her from trying to push Switzer out of the way to gobble up the last of her old mama's food. A little discouragement from me will usually get her over to munch on some hay instead (which she prefers to eat through the fence, rather from the hay rack).

Pepper doesn't eat llama crumbles yet. So while mom and grandma eat, she investigates and plays, nibbles hay, or looks for other interesting things to sample...

...like bungee cords...

...and cattle panel.

Sometimes she gets bored and just kushes down to wait for mama and grandma to finish eating.

Llannie loves llama crumbles, too. As you can see, hay sticks to his silky fleece as if he were made out of Velcro.

Graty at the hay rack. Look at what a wooly moose he's turned into! Since the girls have arrived, he's become too stand-offish for petting and brushing and fussing from humans. He used to sniff my hat and let me wrap my arms around his neck, but no more. He's too busy leering at the ladies.

Here's a cute wintery picture of Graty (a sweet, baby-faced, pre-hormonal Graty) and Lacey before they came to us, when they were just youngsters. Think the two of them would have a cute cria together? We've been toying with the idea of trying to breed them in the spring.

I'm sure Graty, at least, would love it.

The Chickens Dine

I usually feed the birds twice a day. They like cracked corn in addition to their Layer Crumbles, and extra pumpkins and spaghetti squash from the garden make for an extra-special treat.

They moved into the renovated henhouse earlier in the fall, and it's pretty spiffy. The reward for me has been a steady 18 or so eggs a day.

Odo the Rooster. He's from the 2005 brood, but has his very own living quarters now because last year's girls pulled every single one of his beautiful greenish-black tail feathers out. You can see they're growing back now.

That's hasn't stopped him from somehow winding up with a girl or two in his bedroom on occasion.

The Cats Dine

Isis was smaller when this picture was taken; she's nearly Emma's size now.

And here's where the feeding ritual gets a little odd...

I cook for my cats. I've been doing it since 1997, when I ended up with a stray kitten who turned out to be FIV-positive. (Fortunately she didn't infect Grey Cat; Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is most commonly passed on through inoculation--biting that breaks the skin). But she did get more frequent eye and ear infections, and I decided to try adjusting her diet to see if that would help (it did).

I wound up buying this book, and I've been preparing food for my cats ever since, using fresh meat and poultry, and some canned fish (I like salmon and mackerel, although the salt content can be high).

My little FIV+ female stayed quite healthy for seven years, until she finally succumbed to breast cancer, and, as you know, Grey Cat lived to the ripe old age of 16 with nary a health problem until old age simply got the best of him. Emma, who's been eating this way ever since I adopted her, has yet to return to the vet after the visit described in the previous post (the farm vet vaccinated her for rabies) and she remains in perfect health.

I do feed dry crunchies once a day--Wellness is my favorite, with Nutro being second on my list (and a little less expensive)--but I don't ever "free feed" (i.e. leave food out all the time, which leads to weight problems--look what happens to me if Christmas cookies and M&Ms are out all the time!) The cats get homemade "wet" food in the evenings.

I make the food in large batches and freeze it, thawing out enough for 2-3 days at a time. The cats have never had fleas, shed very little, almost never have hair balls, and no dandruff. Virtually everyone I've ever spoken to whose cat suffered from excessive dander and shedding (especially in the winter, when our houses tend to be particularly dry) fed their pet only dry food. Cats don't drink a lot of water and are mandatory carnivores, so if your cat sheds a lot in the winter or is heaving up hairballs and you feed only dry crunchies, you may want to consider adding some wet food to your cat's diet at this time of the year.

In addition, if your cat (or dog) has allergies, diabetes, frequent eye or ear infections, or other recurring health problems, Dr. Pitcairn's book is really handy and full of boatloads of useful info--even if you're not as crazy as me to actually want to COOK for your pets!

Evidence that I am truly crazy cat lady...

Girls Get "Fixed"

And one last bit of good news...Isis and Morgan finally got spayed today and are both doing well.

At 10 1/2 months, wee Morgan was way overdue (and in her third heat, poor thing, and shame on us bad, procrastinating owners) despite her still dainty 6-pound frame. And at 9 months, Isis (who thankfully never went into heat) weighed in at over 8 pounds, the big moose!

Both have cute little bare bellies (as tempting as it is to make a "shaved" joke here, I don't want the Google hits! lol) and are recuperating nicely.

More to come soon, plus Christmas pics!


Cats On Tuesday, Pt. 3

Emma Meets the Vet

Last week’s story continues, with a howling, virtually feral kitten in a cat carrier, screeching incessantly in the back of my tiny Toyota on a chilly November morning en route to the vet's office in Hoboken.

I'd been taking my cats to this particular veterinary clinic for nine years, and was friends with one of the vet techs and, by strange coincidence, one of the veterinarians and I had a mutual friend back in Georgia, where I'd grown up and she'd gone to vet school at UGA in Athens. But on that morning, neither of them were available.

Emma and I waited in the tidy little exam room, full of its strange antiseptic smells and the echoes of barks and scrabblings of other animals. I would've been frightened, too.

The yowls had subsided to the occasional hiss from the tiny tortie kitten in the crate.

Soon a vet tech appeared. Jose was tall and thin, with short dark hair and wore clean, green scrubs. I quickly explained our situation, and when he leaned in to look into the crate, Emma hissed and growled most threateningly.

He stepped back quickly and said, "I'll be right back.”

When he reappeared, he was wearing thick brown leather falconer gloves, the kind that protect your arms up above the elbows. "Okay," he continued, a bit shakily. "Let's see what we have."

No sooner was the cat carrier door opened than Emma shot out of the crate like a bottle rocket. She fired off the table and sprang from wall to wall to wall, scrambling from corner to corner of the tiny room.

Jose and I stood frozen, watching the fiery orange ball bounce from surface to surface, looking for a means of escape or, barring that, somewhere--anywhere--to hide.

Finally, the terrified little creature stopped moving for a moment to weigh her options, which she could see were very few. No escape, no place to hide. She froze about a foot away from me and looked me up and down.

"Oh, my gosh," I thought, in that kind of panicked, slow-motion way that happens in an emergency situation or a nightmare, "This demon-beast is going to climb up me like a tree."

Then I thought, "Well, at least I'm wearing overalls..."

And in an instant Emma did just that--a spring-loaded octopus with fistfuls of hypodermic needles, the wild-eyed, frenzied kitten tore right up me just like a tree and clung in terror to my shoulder (at least she didn’t climb any higher, to perch on my head with her fearsome little claws fish-hooked into my scalp).

Jose and I both remained frozen for another moment or two, with Emma panting next to my ear, firmly anchored to my left shoulder.

Jose slowly approached, reaching out with his leather gloves, and managed to get a firm hold on her, pulling her loose without damaging me (or her) in the process.

“Um, I think I’d better take her in the back,” he said. “We have to draw some blood.”

“Oh,” I replied, still a little stunned. “Okay.”

With the kitten held out in front of him at arms’ length, he turned to go, and I opened the door to the hall for him. The fight seemed to have gone out of her, and she hung there, limp and quiet.

But not for long…just moments after I shut the door behind them, I heard a loud crash, then curses and screams (both human and kitten) from across the hall. Another crash, then more yelling. Some running footsteps. More cursing, but muffled this time.

Then a long, suspenseful wait for me in the cold examining room. How could something so small cause such a ruckus?

After about fifteen mintues, one of the veterinarians returned with Jose. He didn’t look any worse for the wear, but eyed me and cautiously ventured, “Who told you that you could take in a feral kitten?”

I felt a bit defensive, but tried to remain steady. “Well, I’ve done it before. With my first cat, Grey. He hid for a few weeks, but now he’s a great cat.”

“Oh,” was all Jose had to say.

The vet stepped in. “We had to sedate her to get blood.”

I tried not to laugh. Something so tiny, getting the best of several people, to the point that it took a sedative to do something as simple as draw blood! (You go, little kitten!) But, wisely, I kept a straight face, knowing that she could’ve hurt me pretty badly too with that wild climb up my body.

“She needs to be spayed, too, if she’s old enough,” I said.

"She is--she's probably about six months old. But we don’t have any openings until tomorrow. Can you bring her back?”

Ha! I thought. Bring her back? Yeah, good luck getting that fiendess back in the carrier again.

“No, I don’t think so. I doubt I can get her back in the crate. Can you board her tonight, and spay her tomorrow?”

“Yes,” the vet conceded. “I suppose we could do that.”

“And maybe give her the vaccinations she needs while you’re at it?”


So that’s how Emma met the vet, and how five pounds of frightened kitten very nearly got the best of several hundred pounds of humans.

And by the way, as I was leaving, the vet did add, “Cats with those sort of tortiseshell markings tend to be little spitfires!”

Ah, so true.

Now Emma kneads my belly, curls up with us in bed, and is truly a lovely, loving and affectionate girl (as long as we never forget who’s in charge).

Only much later did I find out that that had been Jose’s first day as a vet tech.


In Which O'Kitten Follows Directions

On Pajama Pants

I realize I made it sound as though I wear my flannel pajama bottoms everywhere. I would like to take a moment to clarify. (Granted, there was a time back in the '80s when I wore men's boxer shorts everywhere, but who didn't?) What I was describing to you are the flannel pants I am fond of wearing in the house--my house--although I realize that it is no longer uncommon to see people wearing sweatpants, sleepwear, and even their undergarments in public. I personally choose to wear mine at home.

And I figure if I'm slouching around the house I may as well feel halfway cute while I'm doing it...sweats are SO comfy, but somehow the frump-factor just makes me feel so--well, extra-slouchy, you know?

Llama Beans

Okay, the llamas are great and everything, all cute and fleecey and whatnot, but this evening I shovelled 4 (yes, that would be FOUR) heaping wheel-barrow loads of llama beans (and yes, by that I mean poop) out of the barn and pasture...ew! (It'll go on the garden in the spring; llama beans make wonderful fertilizer.)

Isn't there an animal whose poop you DON'T have to scoop up?

Slave to the Swatch

I diligently obeyed DomiKNITrix's directions and made my first true gauge swatch.

I've never used Lamb's Pride worsted before (this is a really lovely color called Raspberry, although it doesn't look like it here), and I'm using it to make a hat. I've done the band in that crazy, fuzzy Lion's Brand Homespun (or it could be Red Heart Light & Lofty).

Anyway, I followed protocol and knit a 24-stitch-wide swatch using size 7-8-9-10-10.5 needles. The little purl bumps indicate the needle size (as per DomiKNITrix--I thought this was a brilliant idea) and the purl rows separate the different gauges.

I generally swatch since I'm still a relatively new knitter and don't have a very wide vocabulary of yarns yet. (For example, it seems very strange to me that the Lamb's Pride has so little twist to it.) I wouldn't have swatched like this for something as simple as a hat, but I made myself do the exercise because, well, the DomiKNITrix said I had to!

Well, mostly, I thought it would be good practice. And it is interesting to see the varying characters the yarn has at the different gauges. I was hoping to work the rest of the hat on 10.5s, since that would go quickly, but I think it'll look best on something smaller, possibly even 7s (7 and 10.5 are the two circular sizes I have to work with, and I don't really want a seam).


Moose and Squirrel

I've noticed that some cats are sprawly, loosely-knit cats, and some are curly and more tightly-knit.

Isis is the former, and Morgan and Emma are the latter. I can pick Isis up and she'll hang in my arms like a fuzzy doll; I carry her into bed with me and she stretches out under the covers next to me, purring and purring.

You can only pick Emma up one way--upright, like you would a small child. She has to be able to see over your shoulder, no cradling, and definitely no lying on her back! And Morgan is such a squirmy little squirrel that no sooner to you get her in your arms than she wants to hop right back down again--you know, things to do, people to see, stuff to chase.

It's the same when they sleep. Grey Cat was always a sprawler...on his back, on his belly, head lolling around, front legs stretched out like Superman...whatever. Emma sits with all four feet neatly tucked together, and sleeps with similar tidiness...curled into a tight little ball.

Isis is more of a sprawler, and sleeps soundly.

Morgan is definitely a curler...

...and always ready with one eye open.