Knitting the Isle of Arran

Months ago, I wrote a bit about M and my travels in Scotland, and our time on the West Highland Way. Following our hike, we also visited the Isle of Arran, one of Scotland’s larger islands, located to the southeast.

To reach the island, we took the ferry from Adrossan to Brodick. It was a cloudy, misty day, and our views were minimal, but we could sense the ocean around us and the islands in the distance.DSC_0098

We set up our camp behind a hedge of gorse outside of Lochranza, the picturesque village situated on Loch Ranza…P1020042…and spent the day exploring a section of the Coastal Way.
DSC_0099

The island was beautiful and made me say to myself in an Anne of Green Gables sort of way, “Oh! I wish I could capture this beauty and keep it with me always!” The colors of the coastal seaweeds, lichens, and plants were incredibly bright, yet relaxing to the eye at the same time.
DSC_0110DSC_0104 DSC_0107DSC_0115

The ocean was calm, yet full of potential energy, and I was able to forget for a while that we would ever have to leave.DSC_0127DSC_0121DSC_0124


On our second day, the skies cleared, and the neighboring islands were visible across the sea. At the town of Blackwaterfoot, the ocean took on deep shade of green and blues, contrasting with the white houses, the brown seaweed, and the green grasses.DSC_0161P1020086P1020091The world felt perfect.


When we did returned to the mainland, I wanted to knit myself a tangible memory of our time by the coast. I had already purchased two skeins of Jamieson and Smith Shetland wool at Yarn Cakes in Glasgow, but I need a few more shades to capture the blues of the ocean and the sky. On my last rainy day in Edinburgh, I walked across town to Kathy’s Knits, and the proprietress helped me choose four additional colors to use in my Memory Piece. I began knitting on my flight back to the States, and completed my hat a week later. I wanted my hat to reflect the spontaneity of the coast, so I did not draw out a pattern or even think more than a few rows ahead. Just this week, as the mornings have to feel chilly, I sewed in a thin fleece lining. I am looking forward to wearing it this winter, and remembering our few, gorgeous days in the Scottish Isles.
DSC00512

Machrie Moor

Machrie_Moor_1

Two weekends ago, my family hiked Mt. VanHovenberg near Lake Placid, New York. At the peak, I celebrated the completion of a new Memory Piece.

Machrie_Moor_2

This sweater has been in progress, mentally and then physically, since April 2015, when my sister and I visited the Machrie Moor standing stones on the Isle of Arran, Scotland.

DSC_0142

The Machrie Moor standing stones have been in place for ~4000 years. M and I have been to many historic places, but I felt particularly honored to be at Machrie Moor. We spent a beautiful, windy morning touching the rocks, breathing in the wind, and warming our face with the sun. Our experience was intimate, but also shared with an unknown number of other humans. There were settlers who lived on this land before there were stones, there were workers who erected the stones, there were  worshippers who gathered at the stones, there were and are farmers who have maintained the land around the stones, and, now, there are visitors like us, trying to understand our own places in history.DSC_0144
DSC_0149c

This particular stone especially appealed to me, and I chose the yarn (Tormentil in Alice Starmore’s Hebridean 3-ply) for my sweater based on its tone and texture.DSC_0153 - Copy

The cables in my sweater represent the ridges, and the different front and back reflect the distinct sides of the stone.DSC_0155
Machrie_Moor_3

On Ravelry here.

Spring Ephemerals

Each year, I measure the arrival of spring with firsts.

The first maple trees flowering by my house…
DSC_0542

the first spicebush blooming in the forest understory…
DSC_0561

the first skunk cabbage swelling at the swamp…
IMG_20150331_183713841

the first kettle of Turkey Vultures on the wind…
IMG_20150331_184324507

the first frogs and salamaders growing in cold, dark murky ponds…
DSC_0545

and, most exciting of all, the first spring ephemeral wildflowers bursting out from the wet forest floor.
IMG_20160424_184339609

My cousin and I found marsh marigold deep in the woods at Darien Lakes State Park. At the Niagara Escarpment Preserve, there are violets, toothwort, bloodroot (my favorite), white trillium, and squirrels corn (a close second). They are like long-distance friends, in my life for a weekend visit, and then gone for far too long.

Black Mountain and Memories in Wool

DSC_0182

Two years and two seasons ago, my sister, two friends, and I visited the Vikingeskibsmuseet in Roskilde, Denmark. We arrived in time for the Ild, Vand, og Vikinger (Fire, Water, and Vikings) Festival. The weather was warm and the sun was shining, but I bought three skeins of heavy, Icelandic wool for a farmer at the festival. Two were shades of natural, undyed gray, and one, a vibrant but natural yellow, was dyed with lyng (heather).

DSC_0184
Natural dying with rejnfan (tansy).

I chose a motif inspired by Fana sweaters.
DSC_0228It has taken me a long time to finish the mittens and hat that I made with this yarn, and it may be another 6 months before they are worn, but I don’t mind. Memories of our day in Denmark are present in each stitch.
DSC_0242DSC_0233_01

Photos were taken on a beautiful March day at the summit of Black Mountain, overlooking Lake George in New York.

DSC_0244

Haystack Mountain

DSC_0147Two weeks have gone by already since our slippery trip up Haystack Mountain, near Saranac Lake.DSC_0154DSC_0159Now, the ice is melting in the North Country, and our wool sweaters will soon be packed away. I am missing winter already, despite my excitement for signs of spring – a woodcock calling out from the brush, salamanders swimming smoothly through a dark pond, bloodroot buds pushing up through the soil.

Skylight, Marcy, and a Sweater for the Mountains

This past weekend, my dad and I drove up to the Adirondacks for two days in the High Peaks. The Adirondack High Peaks are our favorite place in the world to be, and we could not have asked for a better visit.

We arrived at South Meadows, off of the ADK Loj Road, well after dark on Friday, and quietly set up camp in a small clearing below the dense spruce trees. In the morning, we stuffed our still-warm sleeping bags into our packs, and heading off toward Marcy Dam via the truck road. The sky was just begin to grow light when we reached our first stream crossing…
DSC_0003
…and the sun was striking the  mountains by the time we reached Marcy Dam.
DSC_0005

We set up our tent at a nearby campsite, and then began the ascent to Skylight. The air was crisp and the light was soft. We took our time along the way, stopping to tape my toes…
DSC_0006…appreciate the trailwork…   DSC_0013

…and, of course, look at the plants.
DSC_0015

We arrived at the peak of Skylight in time for lunch, and for plenty of knit sweater photos (Thanks, Dad).
DSC_0068

DSC_0043 DSC_0099e Knitterly details about this sweater- nine months in the making (not counting the sheep’s work)- are here on Ravelry. The body and neckline are knit from undyed, farmspun wool from the Wrinkle in Thyme farm in Maine. I love this yarn! The other colors are also undyed fiber including alpaca, camel, and wool.

Dad pointed out each of the high peaks…DSC_0058and I looked at the plants…DSC_0059 DSC_0076 DSC_0077 DSC_0085DSC_0057DSC_0101DSC_0080

I could have spent all day looking at the minature leaves, the shades of green, and the fading flowers, but there is only so much daylight in late September, and we had to continue. Leaving Skylight, we hiked over to Marcy for another hour above treeline, and then down, down, down to our camp and hot meal by the dam. We are already thinking about our next visit…DSC_0088

Summer Wildflowers

Here in Western New York, summer has only a few precious weeks left. It has been a season full of wildflowers.

In early July, I found these Canada lily (Lilium canadense) underneath an electric right-of-way line in Schoharie County, NY. They are not a flower you can walk by without stopping to admire the color. So bright!DSCN6194 DSCN6199

And these milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) were growing in a farmer’s old field, left to go wild for a few seasons.DSCN6224 DSCN6233 DSCN6236DSCN6243


In the middle of the month, my family spent a weekend in the Adirondacks, as we do every year. On Friday, my mom and I summited Noonmark- a wonderful mountain with views of the high peaks…
DSC_0275
…and we found one of my favorite plants growing there- crowberry (Empetrum nigrum).
Crowberry2

On Saturday, my dad, sister, and I climbed Esther and Whiteface Mountains. C and my mom met us at the top of Whiteface via the road. This was M’s 46th Adirondack High Peak! DSC_0286

On the way down, we passed by this wee alpine goldenrod (Solidago leiocarpa)…DSC_0277…and then almost missed the rattlesnake root (Prenanthes boottii)!
DSC00337


In late July, there were more milkweeds to be found, along with this Eastern Swallowtail slurping his lunch.DSCN6308DSCN6322      DSCN6315

Now the goldenrods are yellow across the fields, milkweeds are in seed, and I am greedily gathering their seeds to scatter in our wildflower garden and the unmowed space across the street. Next summer I hope to see one of these beautiful butterflies in our own backyard!