Monday, May 27, 2013

Last Words - MSKR 2013

This year's retreat seems to have had a more profound and lasting impact on some of the certainly has for me.


I've done self-realization workshops and trainings for decades now, and when one of them has an impact on me whereby it shifts my whole being, the result is very difficult to describe.  It's experiential and looks different for each of us, but has some core characteristics that are the same.  Certainly, most of the guys at the retreat felt a closeness and intimacy that isn't present in everyday life.  And most of the guys would also probably say they changed somehow over the course of the four days of the retreat, although how that change exhibits itself for each might be different.

One man's experience, which I think is extremely well conveyed is Van's.  He comes closest to describing the experience of the retreat this year, and mostly because of how well he conveys feeling in his written word.

My one hope is that I can continue to draw on the feelings of the retreat in my day-to-day life.

I've posted the last of the random photos I took during the weekend at the bottom of this post to help me when I need to recall my time there.

Current Knitting

I was able to finish the newborn baby outfit for my sister, so she could give it as a baby shower gift.

Well, almost.  Turns out the shower was the Sunday of the retreat, so she had to give a bit of a raincheck to the mother-to-be.

I still love how the outfit turned out.  The cap is just a simple roll-brimmed cap with a little umbilical cord knotted at the top, and the booties might fit the newborn for a day...they're so tiny.  Hope my sister and the recipient enjoy them.

Final Photos of MSKR 2013

Brady and Aaron in the well-lit library

Chad, John and Kyle

Jeff telling Kirk he has no pulse and John enjoying it

Matthew and Jack

Ray working on an uncharacteristically colored project - pink!

Tom, Matthew and Alasdair

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Shepherding in my Dreams

As a knitter or spinner or other fiber-crafter, did you ever day-dream about what it would be like to raise sheep?

Nice Place to Visit 

As part of the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat, we got the opportunity to visit Ensign Brook Farm...a working sheep farm with some prize winning Romney's, Merinos and even a Wensleydale.  Karin and her family are enthusiastic sheep farmers and are significantly involved in the farming community in her area.

The road trip to the farm was great, and getting a sense about all that it takes to raise sheep, I have to admit, I think it would a lot more fun to intern at a sheep farm for a few months than it would be to have my own sheep farm.  I'll have to keep that in mind when I'm retired.

Until then, here are some of the photos from our trip.

Han, Ray and Van evaluating the sheep in the pen 
Glorious barn on a glorious day
Brady, Bill and Han enjoying a farm day
Handsome Danny enjoying the day
Farmer Jack who usually enjoys a penthouse view
Jeff, Bill, John and Alasdair taking turns feeding sheep
John, Jay and Karin admiring the newest lamb
Kyle trying to replicate the famous Alpaca head bump with a  Romney
Kyle having his face eaten as he auditions for Blacksheep II
Kyle photographing Ray and John
Beautiful little lamb (whose name is NOT Mary)
Veryl, Michael and Jaye
Ray, Danny, Kirk, John and Alasdair
The guys learning about sheep farming
Ron looking quite comfortable in a farm environment
Loved this big headed beauty
Steve and Tim taking in the sheep
Tim and Christopher capturing the moment
Van, Aaron, Tony, Michael and Veryl overseeing the sheep pen
Van, happy to be out on the farm
Guys feeling downy-soft Wensleydale fleece
Karin wrangling the farms two rams
The well-worn sheep path

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Retreat To Joy

Forty-Four men gathered again at Easton Mountain in Greenwich, NY for four days this past weekend and left with a feeling of community, love and joy.

The Perfect Ingredients

Take away any one of the wide and varied components of the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat, and it would be a less amazing event.

Primarily, the men who attend make it amazing.  They are some of the most supportive, loving and generous men I know.  And although we're all exceptionally different in many ways, we all want only to revel in the passion of fiber pursuits and even more so, the community of guys who is there.  One of the biggest, most intimate groups I've ever been a part of.

Easton Mountain is a beautifully serene place and along with the staff and volunteers, an incredible space and tone is created which fosters the magic each year.

Generous fiber vendors make us feel incredibly grateful by supporting us with donations of their work.  I'd like to publicly thank the generous folks who contribute to our success (please feel free to patronize their businesses, because they are AWESOME!):

Finally, the folks who help pull this event together. In addition to the work I do to prepare for the retreat and the facilitation whilst there, there are many who contribute through promoting the retreat, nominating scholarship guys, judging scholarship nominations, preparing and leading workshops, arranging road trips, and on and on and on...they truly set the scene for a great event.

There may just be some other component...the god-particle if you will...that sparks life into these awesome men and makes it magical each and every year.

Retreat Photos
I'll start with a few photos of the venue and some of the guys knitting or other things.

Back home at Easton Mountain
The main lodge with the infamous porch to your left.
Guys knitting and drying dyed yarn on the porch

What happens inside the big room

More porch knitting

The view of the main room from the porch

The view looking out from the porch

Jeff giving me the "enough with the porch" look

Ray bringing in some alpaca/romney roving to sell (gorgeous!)

Some of the MSKR 2013 in-room Twats
A great way to start the knitting day - salute to the sun (or at least a lace sun substitute)

Monday, May 13, 2013


This is the week of the sixth annual Men's Spring Knitting Retreat at Easton Mountain in Greenwich, New York, and I don't get exciting about anything else as much as I do this.

In Preparation

Formally, the retreat begins on Thursday afternoon, and technically, I work on aspects of the retreat all year long.  But this week, I'll be staying at Easton Mountain (starting this evening), and since I had to pack up all the retreat materials yesterday, I figured it was time to start the blow-by-blow coverage.

So, this year, we have 46 guys attending, which is the largest one we've had in New York so far (I think 43 was the most we have had attend up until this year).  WonderMike may have had more guys at his retreat, but I'm not sure.  I think I'm the only knitter who's going to be at Easton this early, but we have about six guys who are arriving on Tuesday and another 14 guys arriving on Wednesday.  Easton is a great place to schedule a "personal retreat" and I'm looking forward to just kicking back and relaxing for a couple of days beforehand.

So, yesterday, I packed for two weeks in NY (work and retreat) and loaded the car with all the boxes I hadn't already carted up to NY.  This morning, I drove to work and I'm just about to head over to Easton to start the process.


Current Knitting

I finished the Newborn Vertebrae open-front cardigan for my sister's co-worker's shower.  It was a great little, well-written.  I highly recommend this clever little baby-knit.  Here's a front and back view:

It still needs a bit of blocking, and I have a couple other things to knit as part of the "gift."

Readers' Comments/Questions

Seanna Lea writes,  " I love the baby sweater as well. Are you using a sock yarn for it?"

Yes, I liked the color and it's superwash.  It's a superwash merino/tencel blend dyed by Girl on the Rocks.  It was great yarn.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Use Your Words

There must be an explanation, but it seems as if every other day, I am extremely well-spoken and the words flow out of me with beauty and grace.  And then on the alternate days, I struggle for words in a way that would make some think I had dementia.

I Blame Monstanto GMO's

Actually, I have no idea why this is, and it's occurred for most of my adult life, but I have learned that to be pretty successful, I only have to be well-spoken half the time and try to stay as quiet as possible on the other days.

Current Knitting

I told you I had finished the Icelandic Wool pullover and I would show photos when I was reunited with my camera.  Here you go.

My sister has also asked me to make her a gift for a baby shower she has to go to in a few weeks, so I found this great little newborn open-front cardigan designed by Kelly Brooker call Newborn Vertebrae.

The newborn version is a free download on Ravelry, but I appreciated the clever simplicity of her design (and it's very well written) so much, that I purchased the pattern in multiple yarn gauges and sizes (it was only $4).  So far I've finished all the raglan shaping for the arms and I'm working my way down the back.

It should knit up pretty quickly.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Time for Clarity

How many times have you gotten e-mails or text messages that refer to something so vaguely, you have no idea what the writer is trying to express?  Or worse yet, the writer expresses a result, with no rationale for what caused it.

Lesson Learned

When I first started managing projects, I had a project team member (let's call him Harvey) who used to come into my office, and say things like:
"The client is so pissed, she's going to go directly to the president."
"The entire process has blown up!"
"I don't think this one is even salvageable."
Of course, it required me to ask a follow-up question to find out what was causing these tremendously awful scenarios.  And when I did, I'd get another oblique description of how awful "it" was.  Often, it took three or more questions, before I would find out what the problem was.

And when I did, it was usually something VERY minor.  Suffice it to say, I hated Harvey.

Then, a co-worker/friend, Peter, taught me something very important.  Ass-hats like Harvey were relishing the attention that their fire-alarms would set off.  And he demonstrated how he responded to people like.

He told me to pretend to be Harvey and come into his office with a typical Harvey scenario.  So I did. I walked into his office (with his back to me while he typed something) and I blurted out, "The entire contract is at risk if we don't pacify the main client immediately."  Peter continued to type without responding in any way.  I continued..."She's so pissed, she's going to the president!".  Peter continued to type without reply.  I persisted, "Peter, didn't you hear me, the client is going ballistic!"  Peter went on typing.

Peter then explained, that eventually Harvey would tell you what really happened, especially when he got no reaction to his yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater.  Peter said, I shouldn't  respond until there was something to respond to.

He was right...I tried it the very next time and it worked like a charm!  He only tried doing it one more time before stopping the behavior altogether.

Current Knitting

I was finally able to finish the Icelandic wool pullover...i'll post photos when I'm home (where the photos are).