Machrie Moor

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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.

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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.

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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
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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
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On Ravelry here.

Spring Ephemerals

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

The first maple trees flowering by my house…
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the first spicebush blooming in the forest understory…
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the first skunk cabbage swelling at the swamp…
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the first kettle of Turkey Vultures on the wind…
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the first frogs and salamaders growing in cold, dark murky ponds…
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and, most exciting of all, the first spring ephemeral wildflowers bursting out from the wet forest floor.
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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

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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).

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

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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…
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…and the sun was striking the  mountains by the time we reached Marcy Dam.
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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…
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…and, of course, look at the plants.
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We arrived at the peak of Skylight in time for lunch, and for plenty of knit sweater photos (Thanks, Dad).
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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…
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…and we found one of my favorite plants growing there- crowberry (Empetrum nigrum).
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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)!
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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!

Into the Highlands

SALLOCHY CAMPSITE TO ROWARDENNAN (2.75 miles) and KINLOCHLEVEN TO LAIRIGMOR (7 miles) On our third day on the West Highland Way, M and I decided to make our way north via foot, ferry, and bus, so that we could spend at least a day in the true Scottish Highlands. We set an alarm for the first time on our trip, and woke during that magic time when the sky is starting to lighten.DSC_0065 We packed up our things and made our way to Rowardennan to catch the 9:30 am ferry to the town of Luss, passing this amazing Juniper along the way…P1010959 P1010967 P1010969 Luss is a “conservation” village. (We would say “historic preservation” here in the US.) It is full of beautiful stone cottages, and there is a sheep pasture just on the edge of town, where a shepherd was working his collie. P1010972We bought toasted scones with butter and jam (I could not get enough of these scones!) at a small cafe with incredibly friendly staff, and then made our way to the bus station on A82. It would have been nice to spend an afternoon in the town, but we needed to catch the next ride north to Glencoe, where we connected with a second bus to Kinlochleven. (Incredibly grateful for the wonderful public transportation available to these small towns!) From Kinlochleven, we were able to get back on the Way and continue our walk toward Fort William. Here I am at the western, Glencoe side of Loch Leven.P1010973 Our guidebook claimed that Kinlochleven- a planned town built up around a now-closed aluminum smelting factory- was one of the ugliest towns in the region. M and I could not disagree more! Clearly the author has never visited any rust belt towns in the US… Kinlochleven was made up of white town houses, each with a well cared for garden. P1010976 P1010975P1010977We would have stayed the afternoon, perhaps eaten some fish and chips, but we were also eager to get back on the trail and into The Mountains. Up the Devil’s Staircase – our first real hill- and through the birch forest, there were views back to Kinlochleven…P1010986…and back toward Glencoe…P1010985 There were lovely little streams…P1010981 and there were sheep! (Cheesy photo for my benefit.)P1010996 Just before Kinlochleven passed out of sight behind us, M posed for these photos with her Hansel Half Hap (Ravelry link)…P1010989The colors of the yarn blended with last season’s dried grasses and the red-brown heather stems.

P1010990      P1010992(I knit this small version from Gudrun Johnston’s pattern just for our trip. My intention was to complete one for myself as well, but other projects got in the way. Perhaps mine will be done before next winter…) We spent the late afternoon walking west with the sun on our cheeks.P1010999e There was a gentle breeze, the air smelled fresh, and we couldn’t have been more content. We paused at the ruins of an old croft house…P1020010P1020005and then set up camp at Lairigmor – the big pass.P1020014M and I have camped together and with our dad in a lot of spectactular places. This site, however, felt special. We were alone, but for a few sheep, and the world was quiet, but a sense of history hung in the valley. It was easy to imagine armies, shepherds, and hikers passing through this land- their footsteps on the road, their voices in the air.P1020017