Neck Warmers for Children

Neck warmers may not get many people excited, but I just love them. Comfortable and practical to wear – why aren’t more people just in love with this accessory?

I think that neck warmers are especially great for keeping children warm. Getting outside with little ones in the winter can take longer than the time spent outdoors. No one has time tying and tucking scarf ends and then rewrapping and restuffing them after a few minutes of snow play.

I have no set pattern for the neckwarmers that I knit for kiddos, but this latest is my favorite. Knit flat in garter stitch with slipped stitches forming an i-cord edge, this little project is easy to get on and foldable for quick adjustments. It forms a set with a Beloved bonnet.

Knitting Notes:
Yarn: Quince and Co. Lark in sage.
Needles: US-7
Completed: Winter 2021

Beloved Bonnet – the Best Modification

When I began knitting baby hats, I thought that it would be simple to create my own pattern and quickly knit up several options. When my baby arrived, I realized how tricky it was to create a hat that would fit a baby and stay in place. Most of the hats that I had excitedly knit were too big or too short or too long. After enough failures, I finally bought Tin Can Knits’ Beloved pattern for a bonnet and have knit seven since. The pattern is simple and pleasing to knit and the finished product includes icord ties, so there are no lost hats.

But, it is not perfect. Making the pattern, as written, gives too little forehead coverage. Adding and then subtracting just a few stitches across the forehead makes all the difference. I have done this using a simple make 1 stitch every other row. What would this addition best be called? A forehead dart? A one-sided gusset? A gore? A godet?

Knitting Notes:
All seven of my Beloved bonnets have been knit from Quince and Co. and they have been comfortable for the little mostly-bald recipients. I have used chickadee, finch, and lark in natural white, undyed heathered browns, river (pictured above), and sage (pictured below) with needles ranging from size 3 to 7 depending on the desired warmth. I also knit one in garter stitch that worked very well for a newborn. The yarn has pilled over time, but I don’t think this is unacceptable considering that is is worsted spun and very soft. The most recent, shown below, is lined at the forehead with angora fiber.

Canada Geese

Almost every weekday, I drive past the University at Buffalo’s North Campus. Set along Ellicott Creek and boasting “abundant green spaces” (read: lawns) UB’s campus is a perfect place to pass the time if you happen to be a Canada Goose. No matter the season, flocks of these husky brown birds graze their way across the soccer field, as efficient at keeping the turf low as any gas-powered mower. As part of New York’s resident population, these geese stay year-round rather than migrate south each autumn. Our culture’s obsession with short, neat, green grass allows for this, as humans have created and maintain abundant Canada Goose habitat. Natural predators of these birds have been discouraged or intentional removed. With abundant green spaces that are also safe, it is no surprise that the population of Canada Geese is high. Higher than it “should be”.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation describes the resident, non-migrating Canada Geese as a nuisance. The Department says, “Canada geese are a valuable natural resource that provides recreation and enjoyment to bird watchers, hunters, and the general public throughout New York State. But in recent years, flocks of local-nesting or “resident” geese have become year-round inhabitants of our parks, waterways, residential areas, and golf courses. Too often, they cause significant problems. In urban and suburban areas throughout New York State, expanses of short grass, abundant lakes and ponds, lack of natural predators, limited hunting, and supplemental feeding have created an explosion in resident goose numbers. While most people find a few geese acceptable, problems develop as local flocks grow.”

I find the last sentence in this statement incredibly strange coming from a department with the mission of environmental conservation. There is then a list of the problems that Nuisance Canada Geese cause.

The webpage goes on to say, “Based on the growing frequency and severity of complaints about geese, DEC biologists have concluded that a more acceptable number of resident geese in New York would be at or below 85,000 birds. This is far fewer than the current population estimate of more than 200,000 birds. However, this is a long-term statewide population goal. It guides our management programs and policies, including establishing hunting seasons and bag limits and allowing additional take of geese by permit.”

Coming to this page as an ecologist, I have a hard time understanding why the number of complaints is relevant for management of a native bird species. I have stepped on plenty of Canada Goose scat, been hissed at while walking and while bicycling, and had to wait in my car while a goose loitered in the lane and scolding nearby vehicles with loud honks. These interactions might not sound positive, but as a city-suburb dweller, I feel grateful for any interaction with non-human beings.

Canada Geese are abundant. Their numbers paired with their aggressive behavior do affect other marsh birds. I cannot make a case that no management is called for. Thoughtful management can be essential in spaces that other marsh birds depend on for nesting. But I will make the case that a shift in perspective is called for too. If we can learn to appreciate these geese, maybe we will something from them. Maybe the conclusion we should be reaching is not that there are too many geese but that there are too many lawns, too few protected marshlands, too much dependence on having unimpeded roads for getting from one place to another very fast.

Last year, I slowed down and took a very long time to knit a hat for a friend of mine who particularly appreciates Canada Geese. I am grateful that he shared his appreciation with me during a walk around an urban pond, encouraging me to reconsider my bias and giving me the inspiration for this hat.

Knitting Notes
Completed March 1, 2020
Jamieson and Smith Shetland 2-ply, undyed.
US-3 needles

This is the second geese-inspired hat that I have made as a gift. The first was for Snow Geese and I wrote about it here.

Little Rock City

Summer has (unofficially) arrived, and our house is heating up. The sun beats down on our south-facing windows, and the air inside is thick by noon. I have been longing for the deep hemlock shade and cool rock crevasses of Little Rock City, where we spent last weekend.

Little Rock City is just about an hour and a half from where I have lived for much of my life, but the earth is very different there than it is here on the “Huron Plateau”. My home lies in the Great Lakes watershed and my surroundings have been shaped by glaciers. Little Rock City lies in the Allegheny River watershed, south of where the ice stopped. The rocks there are conglomerate, and according to the New York State Rock City and McCarty Hill State Forest webpage, they formed as the shores of ancient Devonian sea. Over time the conglomerate rock was buried under thousands of feet of sedimentary rock, and then it was re-exposed during the Alleghanian Orogeny. The conglomerate rock also expanded and cracked. These cracks, also called joints, have weathered and widened to become pathways separating the blocks.

The pathways between the rocks are muddy and moist. The air is refreshingly cool. The rock along the cracks is lined with mosses and lichens. In one small, sunny spot an early azalea in full bloom clung to the edge – startlingly pink.

The tree canopy here, south of the glacial line, is unlike that of Buffalo’s swamps. The trees in this city are dark hemlocks and glowing yellow birches. They creep roots down the rocks like exploratory tentacles. I have always loved trees like these. Gazing up at the hemlock crowns makes me energized and relaxed all at once.

The first time that we visited Little Rock City, we discovered a new lean-to along the Finger Lakes Trail and we promised that we would come back. We returned in late August and had a grand time camping out for one night. And the same can be said for last weekend. The location of the lean-to, very close to a State Forest road, allowed us to bring a silly amount of stuff. A four-person tent, sleeping bags, extra padding and sleeping blankets, a full cooler, cast iron pans, s’mores ingredients (of course). We wanted everyone to be very comfortable and very full at all times, especially the youngest two campers. It was a success, though we all needed to take naps on Sunday afternoon, but only two of us got to do so.

Please share if you have a favorite non-campground location to camp in New York – we are always looking for new places to stay.

A Weekend Away

A woman wearing a knit hat with blue and purple flowers stands with her back to the camera. She is looking out over mountains shrouded in clouds.

When we decided to spend the last weekend of May in the Catskills, we were not expecting to need cold weather clothes. But, it began to rain as I was packing, and hats and mittens and full-body rain suits (for the toddlers) made it into our bags. It rained on and off and stayed cold through long weekend and these items got plenty of use.

My bluets hat barely came off my head all weekend. It kept me cozy in the chilly cabin and on the wet trail, and it made me feel happy just to have a new handmade something after a long time without any completed projects.

I do admit that the Harrisville Designs New England-Shetland yarn, which I love to use, never feels comfortable on my forehead. For years I have lined my hats with a polyester fleece band. This is cozy and warm and the process is simple, even for someone as unskilled at sewing as I. But, it requires me to purchase (and wear) polyester fleece. This feels inappropriate considering my enthusiasm for sustainable wool production. It makes sense to switch over to knitting an inner band with a soft yarn. If anyone has a favorite two-ply yarn made of animal fiber with enough resiliency to keep it’s shape through hundreds of put-ons and take-offs, please let me know.