Thursday, March 12, 2009

How Many Alpacas Can You Fit In A West Cork Car?

St. Patrick's Day approaches and Celtic Memory is headed for the Big Time. Been asked to demonstrate the ancient art of spinning on a float at not just one but two parades! Forget New York, forget Sydney, forget all the big boys, THIS is where it's going to be AT on Tuesday next, March 17.

Or rather THESE. Of course Macroom is one of them. Could hardly be otherwise, given that it's my local town. You might remember I took you to it last year, via a blog posting, and observed that although the parade might be small, somewhat unsophisticated, it was still a lovely heartwarming event. Well compared to the other parade, Macroom is pretty well up there in the New York category. Think tiny. Yes, a busy day for your local correspondent will start at noon in Ballinagree - the same village which hosts a spinning class in the local school every Wednesday night.

Ballinagree isn't exactly huge. You could probably seat the entire population, man, woman, and child, in a New York Starbucks and not consider the place overcrowded. But what it lacks in numerical force, it more than makes up for in heart and enthusiasm. Farmers are dusting down vintage tractors to drive proudly in the parade, housewives are baking pies and cakes for the refreshments afterwards. Children are finishing their costumes and decorating the floats.

Celtic Memory will be on one trailer, along with Deirdre (Deedledum on Ravelry), lately back from New Zealand, both of us demonstrating spinning skills on our wheels. I think I'll bring the Kromski. Nice outing for it. It can get to know other wheels. Also on board will be other members of the group, with knitting, crochet, and possibly drop spindles.

Once the Ballinagree parade has finished, and everybody has partaken generously of hot strong tea and cuts of apple cake, we pack into our various vehicles and hurry down to find parking on the outskirts of Macroom, there to repeat the exercise. They have common sense in West Cork, you see, and realised many years ago that if parade times were staggered, they would all get bigger crowds and also be able to share some of the good items (bagpipers, bands, etc. are in great demand on March 17 you understand).

It wasn't my idea to be in the parade(s) instead of enjoying the role of relaxed bystander, but the inspiration of the lady behind the Ballinagree Spinners, Nora Casey. Nora and her husband Pat run an alpaca herd (or stud, they can't agree which it should be called, one says one thing and the other says the other, so I'll put them both in for safety), and for the past few years have displayed their charming charges in both parades. This year, thought Nora, it was high time to link alpaca to finished product - hence the spinning and knitting. We'll be on one float, the alpacas on the other.

I was able to offer the contribution of a little advance publicity though, and to that end went up to their farm with DH, to get some pictures.

Here is Pat (and totally wicked and unreliable Recky the Corgi in the background) putting out some treats for the herd.

- and here is Proud Mother Of One letting King Stud know in no uncertain terms that she isn't interested today, thank you very much.

They have the most adorable faces and manners, these adopted West Corkonians, and a charming bleat, while their huge eyes, and those eyelashes -

I am rather pretty, aren't I?

We had to capture Proud Mother's offspring and take him up to a nearby stable. This was not so as to upset everybody, but to give some company to another baby alpaca who was feeling somewhat poorly and was being housed in a cosy stall with lots of nice warm straw. Alpacas are very gregarious and absolutely hate being on their own, so Pat was anxious to get Ginger up to join Snowball.

It took some doing, but we finally managed to secure the woolly little bundle, and persuade him to take a nice drive.

You just never know who you're going to find in the passenger seat of a West Cork car, do you?

Nora is confident that she will be able to lead Ginger in the parade, between the two floats. Myself, my money is on Ginger. Hope he has a global positioning device to get him home to Ballinagree when he makes a break for it.

Now to knitting matters. I got a wonderful bundle a little while ago from my friend Ana (Shenevski on Ravelry) in Bulgaria. As well as some genuine homespun yarn, acquired by her mother from an old lady in the Rhodope Mountains, she sent me two pairs of exquisite traditional slippers, along with some Martenetsi (little red and white tokens exchanged in Bulgaria on March 1 - these were the little objects I found tied to trees when I was there - that's what you do with them when March is over - lovely ancient tradition), and HOOKED NEEDLES!

Here is a pair of the slippers. Can you see that wonderful plaited detail on the back of the heel? And the glorious embroidery on the front?

I'd love to use these hooked needles for Sock Madness, now inexorably approaching (am I mad, didn't I say last year never again? And the year before? Where is your strength of character, Celtic Memory?), but am a little worried that they would take rather longer than the circular to which I am accustomed. Maybe it would be safer to try them out when the mayhem is over. Ana, they are beautiful. Thank you so much.

(An interesting footnote: I asked Ana if these came in other gauges and she said no, there is only one size for knitting socks. Isn't that refreshing? Instead of agonising over 2.25 vs 2.5mm, bamboo or aluminium, Addi or Hiya Hiya, it's a simple case of: you want to knit socks, you buy these needles. I like that very much.)

We've been having wildly changeable weather here over the past few days. The other afternoon, I looked out the window to find a blizzard in progress. The snow wasn't sticking of course - it rarely does in this part of the world - but still, snow in March?

Here are Patrick's cows snatching a mouthful of hay down in the field. Yes, it was taken through the closed window. No, I was not going to open the window. Not in that wind and snow.

Yet half an hour later, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the primroses were out in the orchard.

The plum blossom had somehow survived the battering -

- and even the leggy little narcissi were still upright. Guess they're tougher than they look.

Oh speaking of Patrick and his cows, we had such a drama this morning! DH looked out the window just after sunrise and saw a tiny calf lying in a heap in the middle of the field, with some crows advancing menacingly on it. Over at the other side by the ditch was another tiny calf, this time with several cows regarding it curiously. He immediately rang Patrick and within a few minutes our neighbour was out there with a tractor. He lifted both little creatures into the cab and headed off again. We didn't want to ring him, in case they hadn't survived, and he'd have enough to do coping with that without us aggravating it, but he telephoned us just a while ago to say that both were doing fine, having had a big feed and been tucked up in a warm straw bed. Apparently they were twins, from one cow, who had, as Patrick put it, 'got a bit irrational' after calving and decided she didn't want either of them. Gosh, I was glad DH had looked out at just the right moment!

Yarns have been dyed -

(you wouldn't believe the dodging between rain showers and clouds it took to get this sunshiny picture)

- and for those who were worried, I can confirm that Start-itis is alive and well and flourishing in West Cork. These are in Panda Silk, which will be nice and cool for the summer - I think the pattern is Diagonal Eyelet Rib or somesuch, but I can't find the original pattern anywhere - worked it from memory.

And this bids fair to become a rather nice slanted-edge wrap or stole, in turquoise mohair from Just One More Row. Hadn't intended to cast on for this at all - the original idea was to join in on Ruth's KAL for her utterly lovely Mitred Scarf which she has generously made available on her blog. However, I knew I was going to be out for the day and seized this mohair and the right circular, to get going on the aforesaid mitring. Cast on, worked the first module and then realised that of course it would never - could never - succeed. Ruth had naturally advised using sock yarn, to show off the shaping and detail. So why did Celtic Memory think that mohair would do just as well? Honestly, I shouldn't be allowed out!

However, there I was with a full day ahead of me and no way of getting home to change yarns and needle, so decided to make the best of it and create a design of my own. Casting on 4, working 4 rows, casting on another 4, and so on, makes for a very nice stepped edging, which you can stop when you get to the width you want. I'm working this in k4 p4 rib, although you'd hardly know it with the scrumbling effect of the mohair, but it does give a gently pleated effect.

Ruth's lovely scarf is a treat for another day. Yes, with the right yarn, stop rubbing salt in the wound, will you?

Dawn Brocco nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger award just recently. I was thrilled and honoured. Dawn's amazing designs for float-alone cables have always entranced me. Gosh, I must go work up one of her scarves right this minute!


Anonymous said...

Oh, my! Spinning on a float! Can there be any doubt that hilarity will ensue? Richard will get pictures, right?

Charity said...

Jo, the hooked needles and new yarn are wonderful!! This is the first year my older son is excited and believing in St. Patricks Day - I have a sneaky plan for the big day - such fun! :o)

Sarah said...

I love the way alpacas are always smiling. That baby in the car must have been wondering what was going on, but there it is, smiling away. So cute.

So my "word verification" was "sacks". That and the alpaca theme today made me curious how you got on spinning that paper sack of alpaca that Muffy the Yarnslayer was so excited about a few months back?

Anonymous said...

You always tell such interesting little stories.

tmjackson said...

That alpaca face is so cute I squealed a little. Have fun spinning in the parades, that sounds fantastic! Please also keep us updated on the hooked needles - they still puzzle me a little, but I'd love to see what you make with them.

Anonymous said...

DH and I had the joy of meeting a herd of Alpaca in Missouri last October. We just loved the way they "hummed" at us. And the eyelashes, of course.

Magaki said...

The alpacas are absolutely adorable.

Socks om needle with hooks? Seriously??? :)

Cindy/Snid said...

Thanks for sharing a bit of Irish Spring! (Manly yes, but I like it too...) Lovely, lovely.

Now, I do have have one thought about the one-size-for-socks needles as I am seeming to recall that you are usually using teeny tiny thin needles for your socks due to you being a rather loose women? (I mean it in the best of ways!) What size do these needles look like?

Good luck with the parades!

Mary Burke said...

Aren't alpacas cute! My sis and I went to an alpaca show last year - walked into a session for breeders and learned a lot of interesting things (but the sociability fact was new to me). Don't have the acreage to raise them, but happily look at those of others. Hope they enjoy marching!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post and pictures, as always. And thanks for the link to Dawn Brocco-- a real find for me. Will you be able to link us to live video of the Macroom parade again this year? I enjoyed watching last year's event and hope to be a returning virtual visitor.
Thanks again,

rho said...

pictures of parades please, Alpacas too cute - and the snow blew thru here first on its way to you and left us with 14 inches that thank God melted in a week --

Linda B said...

I was distraught when my friend Valerie stopped raising alpacas--there went my guaranteed supply of cheap fleece! And yes, they are very attractive animals.

I love how you talked all about the parades without mentioning that it's St. Patricks day-in Ireland. Surely Richard will take many pictures? I love small town parades!

Presumably Muffy won't be on the float with you? Although no doubt that would be very entertaining . . .

Rowan said...

What a great post, so many interesting and beautiful things, love the photo of the alpaca and the corgi in the car. The colours of those yarns are gorgeous too. The St Patrick's Day parades sound such fun, wish I could be there to see them.

Ruth said...

Whadda post! whadda woman!

I love those silly alpacas with their long eyelashes and funny faces.

We have St. Patrick's Day parades all over my part of NJ tomorrow, and we are going to avoid them: no parking, awful traffic jams, etc. So consider me as an onlooker to your 2 parades. I'll be the Yank singing McNamara's Band at the top of her lungs.

Anonymous said...

Yep, those Narcissus/Daffodils are pretty sturdy. We often see them still standing in an inch of snow. . . .
Those Dawn Brocco designs do look lovely! Thanks for the link.

(Oh, and in case you don't recognize SnidKnits' "Manly, yes" quotation -- it refers to an American ad for Irish Spring deodorant soap from about 30 years back. I laughed out loud; so did my husband. But he realized the ads may not be familiar to *you*.)

Rowan said...

Thanks for oyur comment Jo - the bit about the wool will be in part two:)

Else said...

Thanks. It was fun Magaki was no 10.000. Now when I`m back home again for 6 wks, I`ll send her her prize. I have study practice in Bfj. Nice to be back again.

The yarn is bought in Tallinn. It was soooo lovely. I saw a while ago you had been there as well, but from what i could see you didn`t find anything similar. I can ask my SP12 spoiler where in Tallinn she bought it.

lilymarlene said...

I think folks ought to know that the parade will be briadcast live here on 17th!!!!!
Can you spin and wave?

SunshineDreams said...

Ohh, I'm not sure which I enjoyed seeing more--those alpaca, that basket of recently dyed yarns, or all that green. Here we still have snowbanks that aren't melting as fast as one would hope (cold fronts keep marching through) and it was just so lovely to see that deep green and those flowers!

You will tell us how spinning on a float went, won't you?

So glad you posted again. I enjoy reading your blog.

Ruby Girl said...

It sounds just wonderful to be spinning while in a parade on a float. Have a great time and St. Patricks Day.

Anonymous said...

I have never tried alpacas in a car, but I know that you can fit two llamas in the back of a mini van. They're not happy when they arrive, but then again, they were kinda cranky when they got in.

Melissa said...

The parades sound lovely. I wish our American parades would get on board and showcase spinning and knitting too. I'm interested to see what St. Patrick's day is like in Ireland. Here in America we make such a big to-do about it but I wonder what true Irish people do to celebrate.

Lindy said...

Hi Jo, First and foremost - I am sooooo very glad those little calves are OK.

I love your idea to knit 4, cast on 4, etc. I will have to try that.

Your parades must be great fun. In MI - my home state, my husband and I went over to Beaver Island 2 summers ago on July 4. Being a very tiny community - all islanders - and being an Irish community they had a parade in which the entire town was involved and all the spectators were the landlubbers (like us) who had gone over to watch such a great tradition. I'll have to put those pics. on my blog and let you know when I do.


Lindy said...

PS - I almost (but not quite:) forgot: Alpacas are my very favorite. They are not just beautiful with beautiful wool but such happy critters as well. If I could afford to I would own (or is it - be owned by?) a small family (herd) of them.


Anonymous said...

One of my favourite Irish musicians is from Macroom. I'll ask him if he saw you in the parade the next time he comes to France.

Granny Sue said...

It's nice to that you're back. I missed seeing the yarns, projects and beautiful photos. Can't wait to see the parade pictures.

tia o'c said...

Hey, we have this tradition here as well, it is called Martisor (little march), it is rather a Balkanic thing, it exists in Greece as well.