Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins

December 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

There are yarn stores and then there is Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins in Boulder. Out of all of the local places I’ve gotten to know this year, I can already tell this will be one of my favorites to visit. This week I had expectations of finding a store for supplies and then figuring it out on my own in front of a holiday movie or two. Instead I hung out and knitted in the store with the help of the gang of knowledgeable ladies who work there (many have degrees in fibers). They are a jovial gang who like to tease each other regularly. Margaret has a wonderful laugh. I even made a new friend in the process who I spent the week knitting with and getting to know better.

I spent much of the week sitting around “The Table”. Situated close to the register it is the place where all knitting problems are solved. There was a constant flow of people coming in to diagnose their situations. They were told to “pull up a seat” and within minutes one of the helpful ladies who work there had established what the problem was and what they could do about it. Some were just what I would call knitting hypochondriacs who didn’t really have a problem but just needed some encouragement they were on the right track. Others had minor issues which just warranted a quick fix or the definitive shrug of “no one will notice that”. Then there were the serious cases that either had to backtrack a good bit or even start over. There was nothing to be done.

I was telling Margaret (above right) that there should be a table like this for life. You just come in, lay the problem out and within minutes you would know what you needed to do about it. While sitting at The Table might not qualify as therapy in the clinical sense, there were pearls of wisdom I walked away with nonetheless. When I was doubting my ability to take on a more complicated project Margaret said to me, “It’s like anything in life. You just have to take it one stitch at a time.” Another time when I wasn’t sure of myself in what I was doing she said “my mother always used to say when in doubt, make it happen.” Her mother was way ahead of Tim Gunn with that one.

I thought I would find a nice hobby out of this week, which I did. Knitting is incredibly relaxing and I was even able to make some beautiful things this week. (can’t spoil the gifts by showing you now) It will be fun to take on more complicated projects over time. The best part of all is I now have somewhere I can go and pull up a seat at The Table when I get in a bind, knitting or otherwise.


meet Compton my composting bin

May 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

For about $30 at McGuckin Hardware, we now have our very own countertop composting container and I decided for some reason it needed a name since it will be prominently placed on our countertop. Compton seemed like a good one for a composting container. It makes it feel a little more badass than the average composting bin…and I’m a huge late 80s – early 90s rap fan.

No, I don’t normally name countertop appliances, but it seems like Compton is going to be pulling more weight around the house than most.

For those who don’t know what in your house is compostable material, you can check your local waste mgmt or there are a number of resources online. We use Western Disposal in Boulder and here’s what they accept:

Compostables are organic materials that will naturally decompose quickly and can be used for enhancing and conditioning soil. These materials include fruit and vegetable scraps, meat and bones, coffee grounds and teabags, food-soiled or waxed cardboard, compostable containers, and plant materials.

Our compost bin they collect is actually about twice the size of the trash can…a subtle hint we should be composting, not throwing organic material out with the trash. Now that I’ve stopped to take a moment to learn more about it, it’s pretty easy and should significantly cut down on our trash.

Here’s Compton already at work on some fruit, veggies, eggshells and tea bags. The container has carbon filters built in that reduce any odor you might expect.

the archeology of landscaping

April 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

 After a week of digging around in my neighbor’s backyard we found no really interesting artifacts, no gold or dead bodies. What we found today though was exciting…at least to me. I was digging around at one of the corners of our plot and just outside about 3″ deep I found a bunch of old bricks that match the original bricks of the house. Someone at some point in time used the leftover bricks to create a garden border about 20′ long with them. It looked like at one time the backyard was probably nicely cultivated but whoever lived in it in the last 20 years just let the landscaping become completely overgrown. It makes you wonder what else you might find just below the surface.

It made me think about how nice it is in an old house when you find beautiful hardwood floors underneath a carpet you can restore. I think people often focus their attention inside but there are interesting bits of history to find outside as well. Some people might look at it as a new stockpile of original bricks, knowing you can’t buy bricks like the ones used to build the house any longer. If it were up to me I would keep the border there as another part of history of the home and try to see what else you might uncover. It’s obvious at some point that someone cared about it.

Even though there was no treasure to be had (so far), we did have fun. I even have a new little friend, Smoke, who kept coming by to see our progress.

I did have this feeling every time I was digging like there might be something so close but we might be digging in the wrong place. What if we were just inches away from something really cool and will never find out? I suppose if something wants to stay buried, it will stay buried.

The one place I’m still convinced we would be most likely to find something is in their basement. A gold miner living there for 60 years during Prohibition and the Depression? I bet there are some interesting things hidden for safekeeping. It’s too bad I’m too afraid to run into the ghosts in the basement.

what you might find in your backyard depends on who lived there

April 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I was a kid, like other kids I’m sure, there was a time I believed I could dig in the backyard and find some sort of treasure. I don’t think we have any assumptions like that now but Kelly & I were trying to imagine what we might find in their backyard this week…bottles, an old gun, pottery, dead body???

I thought it would be cool to try to learn more about what the people were like who lived in the house since that might shed some light on what we could find. Kelly shared a couple of fascinating resources she got from the previous owner. One is a book compiling all of the historical information of their house including who lived in it and what they did. The other is a book called Haunted Boulder which describes the paranormal activity that supposedly occurred in their house.

One of the documents is an article on the will of the wife of the first people who built the house. She and her husband owned a grocery and confectionary store on Pearl St. What interested me about the excerpt was looking at the “ads” next to the article.

There are all kinds of “cures and remedies” that I would imagine they probably sold in their store. I imagine we could find old bottles from some of these things, like Lichty’s Celery Nerve Compound that ensured a good night’s sleep that would lead to good health & rosy cheeks. Or Krause’s Headache capsule as a hangover cure.

My favorite “sure cure” of the time was the Krause’s Cold Cure: “the busy man of today cannot afford to lie abed a whole day and undergo the martyrdom of the sweating process.” Maybe people weren’t as tough as we thought back then or maybe a cold was a much different thing? It could be likely that we come across some of these old containers, especially given the original owner was rather sickly leading up to her death.

The next owner in 1918 was a miner named Otis Pherson who lived there for 60 years. He was a gold, silver and tungsten miner who managed the Grand Republic Mine in Salida and was known as an honest man. He was also known to be fascinated with electricity and was a “character” who often wrote letters to the Daily Camera. This is where it might not be such a far stretch to imagine some gold treasure he buried away somewhere around the house. Who knows? I’m not brave enough to venture into their crawl space to find out. Previous owners did find mining equipment in the basement.

So far we’ve found nails and a few scraps of metal here and there. I did find a ball of some sort, but I’m not sure what it is exactly. We’ll have to keep digging!

where to dig

April 19, 2011 § 2 Comments

Kelly is standing next to the door that used to be the door into the kitchen. When looking for somewhere to dig in your backyard supposedly you’re supposed to try to figure out where the “midden” was or the kitchen heap. This is often the place where the trash was thrown or buried.

Given we live in a fairly cold climate for a good part of the year we also were trying to figure out where the outhouse might have been as that was another place people would get ride of stuff.

Today we just marked off a spot of 2 yards by 2 yards and spent a good part of the time cleaning out all the weeds and vines growing. (something I’m becoming somewhat of an expert at).

We chose a spot fairly close to the kitchen but still off to the side as it was likely not somewhere there would have been a lot of foot traffic.

It’s funny how just about everyone in college thinks about becoming an archeology major at some point or other, imagining traveling to exotic locations and finding treasures & artifacts. It was probably all the Indiana Jones movies we grew up with. The truth is it is pretty backbreaking work. Luckily Kelly and I always have fun just shooting the shit. I suppose we did have a little help as well from her son and the other neighbor’s cat Smoke.

We didn’t get too far today with the actual digging but we did find a few scraps of rusted metal and some old, rusted nails (and lots of earthworms). We’re hoping to find the good stuff when we get further digging tomorrow.

you never know what might be hidden in your backyard

April 18, 2011 § 3 Comments

In May of 2008, a Boulder resident, Patrick Mahaffy, was doing a backyard renovation project and happened upon a pretty amazing find. The landscapers were digging a koi pond and found 83 tools that had been buried there that were over 13,000 years old with blood still intact on some of the weapons. The find is linked to the Clovis culture which is considered by some to be the oldest inhabitants of North America.

My neighbor Kelly had a great suggestion for one of my 52 weeks to do a backyard archeology project with her by her house. Like many of the other houses in our neighborhood in Boulder, their house is well over 100 years old. Kelly has also done some research to find out where the best spots are to look based on how people used to use their properties, especially where they got rid of trash.  (Her husband “Snoah” has also identified where all the power lines are so we don’t get electrocuted or anything.)

I also found a  “how to” on that helps you get started with all the materials you need and how to approach the dig. It seems like such a fun thing to do with your kids on the weekend. Especially if you live in places that have been there over 100 years.


  • dig site
  • map of the area
  • metric ruler
  • plant stakes (available at hardware or garden stores)
  • string
  • graph paper and pencil
  • small shovel or spade
  • spoon
  • small, soft paintbrushes
  • bowl of water and sponge
  • notebook
  • camera (optional)
  • glue (optional)
  • large box (optional)
  • toothpicks or straws (optional)


  1. Choose a site for your archaeological dig. Your own backyard might be a good spot, but only if your house is considerably oid—100 years or more. Some of the best places to dig include very old garbage piles and old farmyards. Always get permission from the owner before starting any dig.
  2. Research the history of your area. Get as detailed a map as possible. Make use of state organizations and local historical societies. Who lived there, and when? What were their culture and society like? What can you find out about the geology and soil where you will be digging? What do you expect to find?
  3. Divide the area you’ve chosen into a grid of l0-cm squares, using plant stakes and string as shown. Make a diagram of your archaeological dig site on graph paper, showing the stakes as dots and the strings as lines.
  4. Start your dig carefully, working on one or two squares at a time. Work to depths of 10-cm intervals. Use a small shovel or spade or a spoon to remove soil gently and in small amounts, taking care not to damage anything you might find. Use a small paintbrush to remove soil from the extracted artifacts. Only if they look as if they can withstand water should you clean them gently in a bowl of water, using a sponge. Do not attempt to clean coins other than by brushing them with a soft paintbrush, since scratching them or using chemicals can decrease their value.
  5. Log all your findings, keeping a careful record of where and how each item was obtained. Each specimen should be numbered and listed in a notebook very clearly so that anyone can readily identify it. You may also want to make sketches or take photographs of the objects found at the site.
  6. You may wish to repair broken items with glue. Talk to your shop or technology teacher for restoration ideas.
  7. You can re-create your dig site in an exhibit in school by using a large box, stakes and string, and your careful records. Or make a scale model of the site using toothpicks or straws for stakes, and sketches or photos of the objects.
  8. If you think that you have an important find on your hands—like gold jewelry or a human skull—the next step is to tell your parents and teacher so they can help you get the assistance of local archaeologists and historians. You could donate your treasures to a museum and become a local legend!
After our cow skull find gardening last week it will be fun to see what we dig up this week. A lot of what I’ve done so far has introduced me to local culture and this will be fun to see what local culture was like well before our time.
I think some bloody mary’s will be in order as well. Who says you can’t have fun while you’re doing archeology?

getting my xeriscaping on

April 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

A week ago I knew little about gardening much less about xeriscaping, but as a resident of Colorado it’s pretty important to learn about as you plan a garden. Xeriscaping was a term that was coined by the Denver water department and refers to landscape design that minimizes water use. It’s pretty important living in an area that’s as dry as it is here.

When I always used to think about dry climates, I would always think of muted barren desert plants, but when we lived in LA I was introduced to a whole new world of succelents that had a wide range of colors & textures. My husband planted a garden for us off our back balcony looking out over Palos Verdes & Catalina Island (and power lines).

To learn more about the xeric plants I could get locally, I paid a visit to a local nursery called Sturtz & Copeland where Todd showed me around, pointing out everything from hearty groundcover to beautiful flowering shrubs. They also offer a range of classes at the nursery that teach you how to create your own xeric garden.

Beyond the hens & chicks (2nd from the right) which are great for rocky terraces, flax, Spanish Gold Broom and Sage (left to right) are great water-saving choices that still yield beautiful flowers. On High Country Gardens’ website they have a xeric garden package you can buy for $124 that includes 22 plants that are not only beautiful to look at but smell amazing as well (except to deer and rabbits apparently). They include lavender, flowering oregano, licorice mint and lemon thyme (left to right below). The agastache rupestris (licorice mint) also has the benefit of attracting hummingbirds. Who doesn’t love those little guys?

I feel the same way about gardens as I do about furnishing a house. I like when it looks natural and lived in vs perfectly manicured & stuffy. The woman whose garden is pictured at the top of this post writes in her blog: “the scent of the garden in the morning feels like vacation”.  I love the idea of creating a natural garden half as beautiful as hers that I could enjoy walking out to in the morning.

With a xeric garden I’ll be able to do just that vs slaving away everyday watering & I’ll also find myself with a much lower water bill each month.

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