Horti Honey's Blog of Yarn, Plants, and Life

Sarah Humke examines life through fiber tinted glasses….

Off Camera September 29, 2014

I’ve not written here for a while. Parts of this had to do with grad school. Being expected to write nearly constantly caused me to avoid it when I could. It wasn’t just this blog that has felt the inattention, but also friends who I would somewhat regularly write too via either snail or email.

Spring break meant a car trip to Florida to visit friends and to introduce a new friend to lots of old sites as well as see some new ones for me.  I finally got a chance to see the American Gothic house in SE Iowa!  Did you know that they have outfits that you can dress up in and pose in front of the house (pitchfork included!)?

It was a little windy that day!

It was a little windy that day!

Of course the obligatory knitting picture in front of it!

Of course the obligatory knitting picture in front of it!

We went to the beach (as one does) as well as a lot of museums and things like that.

She was excited to finally be in Florida!

She was excited to finally be in Florida!

We did do some educational stuff while there!

We did do some educational stuff while there!

Seeing her joy in watching the orange pickers made my trip!

My friend kind of freaked the pickers out with the camera so early in the morning until she explained that  she was just interested, not from the government!

My friend kind of freaked the pickers out with the camera so early in the morning until she explained that she was just interested, not from the government!

Orange pickers

I also had the great joy seeing something that I have had a (small) part in organizing come to fruition.  The 2014 Iowa Federation of Weavers and Spinners annual Spin-in featured Deb Robson as the speaker.  Two years ago when the organizers at my guild mentioned that they needed a speaker for the 2014 Spin-in and I just happened to mention that I knew Deb, I doubt that they expected the amazing turnout that we would get.  It was a pretty full house, which for a spinning event in the Midwest, is no small feat.  It was a great weekend and Deb’s talks were well received as well as her class on rare breed wools taught the next day.  It was great to see Deb again under less stressful circumstances.

Deb giving her rare breeds talk.

Deb giving her rare breeds talk.

Full house!

Full house!

I however have been doing all sorts of things of late not at all related to grad school and I am finally over the writing avoidance. I’ve made a (ahem) lot of jams and jellies and pickled things. A lot. And then I moved. I am not the favorite person of my friends who helped me to move right now. I now fully understand why canning has traditionally been the focus of folks more settled than I am currently as jars of food are heavy and a pain to move since they are not really stackable. However, survive it I did and I have even added to the collection as apple season is in full swing here in Iowa.

These are some of my canned goods selection before the move.

These are some of my canned goods selection before the move.

I have still been knitting. I am attempting my first full-on, adult-sized, honest to blog cardigan sweater. Cables and all. I am making it out of one of the few yarns that I have enough of in my stash to make a sweater from. I got it in England at the John Lewis New Year’s sale and it works beautifully for this pattern. If you would like to check it out, here is a link. So far, it looks like a hot mess of strings and parts but I am told that this is completely normal for this kind of construction. I’ve worked on a few socks and other things over the past few months but nothing big to tell you the truth.

The past couple of days I’ve been helping dad extract the honey that we got this year from the bee hives. It is really amazingly light honey and sweet enough just to eat up. I also decanted some previously harvested honey that is much darker into containers smaller than a five-gallon bucket. I think that this was a time that my folks were happy to have someone who owns a wealth of canning jars as we didn’t really want to load all this darker honey into the honey bears. It was a very sticky learning experience and makes me want to learn more about the bees and beekeeping (collective moan from anybody who helps me move).

The lighter honey on the left was the honey we just extracted.  The darker honey on the right is the previously extracted batch.  It's amazing how much it can vary!

The lighter honey on the left was the honey we just extracted. The darker honey on the right is the previously extracted batch. It’s amazing how much it can vary!

The bees, very busy helping to clean out the combs that we extracted as well as the extractor.  By allowing them that honey we hope that it will help them make it through the winter better.

The bees, very busy helping to clean out the combs that we extracted as well as the extractor. By allowing them that honey we hope that it will help them make it through the winter better.

In case you haven’t guessed, I am living at the farm once again, where we are gearing up for the harvest of more than apples and honey. The corn will be coming out of the fields soon and my brother and father have been trying to get things ready for the annual chaos that is harvest. Already the corn choppers have come and gone, leaving behind a massive tube of silage this year (dad decided not to put it up in the silo).

Preparing for harvest.

Preparing for harvest.

The Silage tube

The Silage tube

But really, what has mostly been going on is living a life. A life that may go through more sugar and sock yarn than is typical, but one that is typical for me. I hope that I can share more with you in the coming weeks than I have been. Lately I keep finding myself reading blogs and Ravelry again which I had stopped doing in the depths of grad school.


Already the maples are flaunting their colors.


Jimmy John’s Philosophy February 18, 2014

Today I was sitting in Jimmy John’s waiting for my sandwich reading one of the many signs that they have posted around the shop.  This one in particular caught my attention as it was made up of “I believe” statements (For full text, go here).  There was one statement in particular that caused me to pause.  It was simply, “I believe… that it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.”

For the very first time in my life, I honestly considered a tattoo.  I guess that it was a good thing  both tattoo shops I passed on my way back to campus were closed still (this was in campus town, there are lots of tattoo shops there, they generally are open at night).

You see, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to “grow-up”.  Being around so many college students it’s difficult not to consider it as they are all faced with some fairly meaningful questions that they feel that they must try to answer as they embark on their “adulthood”.  I often get asked for advice and even though I often feel ill-prepared to give it, I do have to say something.  Many times, what I advise boils down to something like this:

  • Enjoy what is in front of you right now, don’t rush ahead to the next thing.
  • Try to get out and see as much of the world and meet the people in it as you can before you settle down.
  • Don’t settle for less than what you deserve in a relationship.
  • Always write thank you notes.
  • Try to take the high road whenever possible, but always have a strategy in place in case that doesn’t work.
  • Don’t worry about age or grey hairs.  Worrying will cause you to look your age and have grey hairs!


In other areas, I have done my part and assimilated another knitter (with Elise’s help).  This is the epic ten foot plus scarf that she made whilst knitting everywhere, including in class (I am SO proud!).

Kendra with Scarf 2

I promise that normally her eyes don’t glow red.  I think it was the power of a completed project that caused that, or it could have been my camera flash!  Next I will get her on Ravelry…..


8 seconds January 16, 2014

There are days that I feel like I’m on a treadmill and then there are days that feel as though I am on an elliptical machine. In my universe, an elliptical machine is the devil.  Probably invented sometime during the Spanish inquisition by the same man who invented panty hose, SPSS, and stiletto heels.  I cannot use these machines at all.  I have tried two times and the second time I was asked to please leave the gym I was trial membershiping and not come back. I somehow fell off the elliptical  backwards and nearly took out a woman on a machine behind me. This is what happens when I am on one.  It’s like my feet and hands and the machine all work really effectively against one another in order to get me off of it as quickly as possible.  Seriously, I think I would have better luck bull riding than I do exercising on one of these machines (bull riding you only need to stay on for eight seconds!).  Anyway, that is a long winded way of saying that it’s been a little nutso of late and sometimes I feel as though I’ve gotten thrown on my ass in gym full of people.

First off, I finally finished some socks that I started over a year ago.  I worked on these socks in my Psych 230 class (that I thoroughly enjoyed despite myself) but messed-up the toes and had afterthought heels planned that I never got done.  Since I was already ripping them back, I took them all the way back to the heel spots, put in traditional heels and reknit the feet and toes(correctly).  I realized how many socks I had under my belt from the time that I started knitting this particular pair until I (ahem) finished knitting them.  It’s interesting to me how things like Kitchener stitching the toes and turning the heels has really become something kinda second nature to me now.  Anyway, these turned out really nicely and very nearly identical despite, well, everything!


I also mailed off some (very late) Christmas packages.  I know that this might sound odd, but I honestly prefer to get packages late as it extends the surprise and the number of days that you get to open packages!  I LOVE opening packages!!!!  Anyway, I thought I would share with you how I apply postage to the USPS flat rate boxes.  These two boxes are both the medium size and currently cost $12.35 to mail anywhere in the Continental United States.  I usually start off with a few higher denomination stamps, but the rest are generally valued at around $.05.  I have some as low as $.005 (yes, one-half of a cent of postage. Even the postal workers stopped at that one.) and a few in the $.30 range.   But a lot (and I mean a LOT) are in the $.03, $.04, and $.05 range.  The reason for this is simple.    There used to be a lot more stamp collectors than there are currently.  Many of them are dying or no longer collecting and their collections aren’t worth any more than the postage that the stamps are worth.  However, most people don’t want to fool around with six stamps just to mail one letter, so when sold on ebay or other websites, go for less than full face value for perfectly good postage.  Some of the stamps that I am using are from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Most are newer, a lot from the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Still, the bulk of the stamps on these packages are older than I am.  Both of them have the same general theme; Old, dead, (mostly) white men.  One went to Alabama, so it got some Civil War stamps thrown into the mix (I thought that it still fit the overall theme!).  When I was mailing off Christmas boxes that were going to be reasonably on time I used a general theme of Christmas Stamps.  It was very festive in a USPS kind of way (which, really, is kind of an awesome kind of way!).



I received an early birthday present from my roommate Elise this week.  I have been eyeing these sheets for months and when I finally made up my mind to buy them at the store, they were out.  She was there and they had them back in stock and she got them and gave them to me right away because it’s bloody freezing in my room and they seem like a good idea in January.


Anytime you can snuggle down in a bed made-up in flannel sheets covered in dogs wearing clothing and a heated mattress pad, you know that you are on the right side of any battle that the world may throw at you the next day.  Plus, bonus cute knitting project bag that the sheets came in!


Speaking of birthday presents, I made one for Elise’s birthday on Monday.  Since she saw me knitting it and had requested it specifically (and it’s cold outside) I gave it to her a few days early.  It is a “Jayne Hat” inspired by the one worn on the short-lived Sci-Fi show Firefly by one of the characters.  I used three shades of Vanna’s Choice that seemed to be there best representation of the colors on our TV screen.  The exact colors used are here in my Ravelry page as well as the actual pattern I used.  It was an easy knit and fast.  I’ve gotten used to making things out of fingering weight yarns so knitting something out of worsted felt as though it was just falling off the needles!


Another knitting project I made was a pair of thrummed mittens.  These were made in response to the news of the impending polar vortex to descend upon our little piece of heaven here in Iowa.  I actually managed to get them finished prior to the big chill actually getting here, so that was actually a new feeling for me!  Once again, knitted in worsted weight wool, these just flew.  They are far from perfect and if I made them again I would make them a little bigger (like one more completion of the thrumming round) but they work and work well at keeping my hands warm which was the whole purpose.  Details of the pattern and materials are here on my Ravelry page.  I’ve had so much fun showing them to people and then turning them inside out and explaining that they are like Uggs for your hands:-)  I know, I’m easily amused.

This was my whole outfit to take the dogs out during the worst of the polar vortex.

If I had been a good girl and updating like I should be, these would have all been a separate post.  But I am naughty and haven’t been.  Though I really need to write more here.  I am doing a lot of academic writing which I sometimes feel as though it is killing my natural writing voice.  Academic writing is extremely dry and formulaic.  I feel that it was designed for people who are not very good writers to be able to get information about their study (or whatever they want to talk about) out without exposing that they suck at writing.  I’m not saying that I am a Neil Gaiman of blogging or anything like that, but I can at least (generally) communicate what I am trying to say.  Often in academic writing, the language is very dense and obscure and there is a ham-fisted approach to using big words in order to camouflage the fact that there is little or no real results from the study (or whatever) that the author is writing about.  It seems to be elitist and it’s no wonder that people who are not in academia often misinterpret what these papers mean.  There’s a whole ethical discussion that I could get into about this (we are supposed to be doing research for the good of the state/nation/world but we often don’t put our results in a language that a lay person could read and understand) but in short it hurts my brain to write too much of it at one go.  I understand that results need to be in a format of sorts, but does is really need to be this????

Also, I start saying things like, “My personal self-efficacy belief as to my ability to maintain ownership of my animal-based fiber headcovering has quickly plummeted.”  That was in response to losing my wool hat.  Seriously.


Easier in the Rearview January 6, 2014

A true-ism that has been forcing it’s way to the front of my mind a lot lately is that things always seem easier after you’ve done them. Especially if you’ve done them a few times.  Often, it is the thought of something more than the actual thing that keeps us from doing it.  It may be the idea of failing or just plain nervousness about doing something unfamiliar, but still, it is the thought of doing it more than the actual doing it.

Take, for example, pressure canning.  The first time that you do it it is a scary, scary thing.  You are sure that you are going to blow up your house or kill everyone with your canned green beans.  Then, after you’ve done it a few times, it quickly becomes easy. Commonplace even.  Still, to the outsider, it looks scary and intimidating and they are amazed that you do it and survive.

Making jams and jellies was kind of fun by comparison.  I mean, nothing is going to blow up.  The worst things that can happen are (in a rough order of worst to least worst) you get burned by bubbling sugar laden jam/jelly/marmalade/fruit butter (hurts like a sonofabitch, but it’s not blowing a hole in your  upstairs neighbor’s floor), scorching the bottom of your pot or pan (total pita to clean and if stainless, possibly ruining a pan if not), over-boiling your pot by having a seemingly volcano-like eruption of sugar and fruit all over your stove top with burners all a blazing making it smell like a orchard burning in August, and what seems like the worst thing at the time, your preserve not setting making what you just made to be pear vanilla sauce rather than the pear vanilla jam it was supposed to be.

Knitting can be like that too.  For a long time I resisted becoming a sock knitter.  I knit lace by the yard like a  less literate Charlotte saving my own personal Wilbur.  This was all fine until you needed to travel with these projects.  Most of the time it was ok, but there were times where needles came out and caused all kinds of havoc to my gossamer webs.  There are few things more disheartening than to pull your knitting out on the plane/train/automobile only to find the needles in one area of the project bag and the knitting in another.

In the past year or so, I’ve started knitting socks with a seriousness.  Since a lot of my time is spent on the bus, small projects are a must.  Since I have the Monkey pattern memorized now, that tends to be my go-to pattern if it isn’t a self-striping yarn.  Then it’s just a type of vanilla pattern similar to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s (You can tell the kind of evolution taking place here as I no longer say that it is, in fact, her pattern as I have changed things as needed to suit my sock making needs. EZ would be proud.).  I now have the Kitchener stitch memorized (who’d have thought that would happen!) and turning heels no longer makes me stuff the poor little sock in the project bag and leave it to be moth bait for a good long time before I garner the fortitude to finish it.  I’m not saying that I am a socky guru or anything, but I do now consider myself a sock knitter.

This hasn’t been limited to my personal life either.  There are a number of things I never thought that I would be able to say or do that now are pretty natural to me.  For example, I got an A in a Statistics class this pass semester.  Never in a million years thought that I would say that, nor that I would admit to feeling reasonably comfortable using a piece of software for it that is, well, not the most user friendly piece of work I’ve encountered.

So tell me, what things have been easier in the rearview for you?


My Christmas Letter December 31, 2013

I know that this is a little late. Like most things this year, I’ve been behind on doing this. It’s been that kind of a year, you know? I realized around Christmas eve that there was no way I was going to get my Christmas cards out (again) this year let alone write a letter in each one (in my defense, I didn’t realize it was Christmas eve until that day!).

I don’t have any pictures of gap toothed children grinning up at the camera to share.  Still just me and the dogs. Everybody is doing fine.  Nothing new to report.

This spring my brother got married and I went to the Caribbean with my family.  It was nice to get away for a week to a beach with pina coladas on it. Lots of pina coladas!

The last semester has been my roughest so far this year.  Classes that conflicted with each other in my mind and a whole lot of stress made it so that I was nearly always ready to start getting crabby (which is unusual for me). I know that grad school isn’t meant to be fun, but this last semester still really, really sucked for me.

I’ve still been knitting. Since I moved to a place on a bus route, I’ve become a very public sock knitter.  So much so that I have now memorized the Kitchener stitch!  I can also nearly turn a heel without instructions too! (Tini, your assimilation is nearly complete!) I’ve gone from an avowed non-sock knitter to a decidedly sock-knitterly knitter.

I’ve also started cooking.  Well, to be more precise, canning.  I finally have a spacious kitchen that’s air conditioned and have decided to take advantage of it by making salsa’s and canned green beans, jellies, jams, and marmalades (I’m really digging on the marmalades right now).  I have canned probably 100 pints of applesauce and 30 half-pints of applebutter (it was a really good year for apples around here). Canning has been another escape for me as well as a way to make healthy(ish) food for me and my family.  Plus, once people find out that you can USE 25 pounds of apples, all of a sudden it starts showing up:-)

I promise I am still alive and doing ok.  Just really busy.  I will try to post here a little more regularly but I make no promises.  This next semester promises to be quite busy for me as well.

I hope that all of you are doing well. Leave a comment telling me your favorite moment of the year 2013. Mine would be the impromptu pickle party we had this fall before everything got nuts.  Imagine, half a dozen people with hundreds of cucumbers and gallon after gallon of vinegar.  It was a lot of fun in a really kind of old-fashioned way!




Cider Pressing December 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — hortihoney @ 10:40 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Tonight, I learned how to press cider on a very McGyver style chopper and press.  My roommate Elise’s friend Mark had built this handy little contraption to assist in wine making.  However, I think I am just going to make cider jelly/cider syrup with it (honestly, the cookbook says that if it doesn’t turn into jelly, then you’ve got yummy syrup for your pancakes. Win-win in my book!).

This was the grinder/chopper part. Inside the box there was a drum with the heads of a bunch of screws sticking out of it. The apples got thrown into it and mashed down with the little mallet thing and came out the bottom and into the bucket.


This is what the inside looked like.



Then we put the chopped/mashed up apple bits into the press.



Here is a slightly closer look. The zip ties I think are to give the bucket a little more support.



DSCN0760The part that was “pressing” was an old brake cylinder with a couple of plastic bags wrapped around it. There were some blocks of wood on top of that and then a little car jack. Below the bucket was some creative tinfoiling and a simple cutting board funneling the cider in the pitcher.

In all, we pressed about 3 gallons of cider to be turned into jelly/syrup. Keep tuned to see how it turns out!




Why I love Ag Schools July 18, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — hortihoney @ 7:27 pm
Tags: , ,

You never know exactly what you will see on any given day.

Walking out to my car today, I ran across this sight.Ag1







ag 8




I adore old tractors, so this was quite the pleasant surprise.  I think that the tractors were there preparing for a tractor ride in the area.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.