Bouvier des Flandres Winter 2015

My Bouvier des Flandres Kismet in her element. The colder the better too! Hope you are staying warm. 

Summer Sun by Koop

Many moons away but we can dream . . . Summer Sun by Koop featuring Yukimi Nagano on vocals. Brilliant!


The Brotherhood of the String: 2014 Men's Spring Knitting Retreat, Easton Mountain, New York.

Apologies for my tardiness in posting these photos but like many of you I hit the ground running upon my return in May and BAM! it's almost October. Enjoy.

This post is for the "Brotherhood of the String", my fellow male knitters and of our weekend together this past May 2014 at Easton Mountain in upstate New York. 

Six years ago in 2008 I set out on an adventure to the Easton Mountain Retreat Centre in Greenwhich, New York where I gathered with 32 men from across the United States and Canada who shared a passion and interest in hand knitting. That was the first Men's Spring Knitting Retreat. 
This past May 2014 I returned to Easton Mountain and it's been a long road back having to watch subsequent retreats from the side lines but I was thrilled to be able to return this year. Thank you all for a fabulous time and making me feel welcome again.

First and foremost I must acknowledge Joe Wilcox, the co-founder and coordinator of the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat. I wish to thank Joe for the hours of volunteer work he gives to organize this event and make sure that each and everyone of us attending is taken care of, acknowledged, has safe and comfortable accommodations and Joe makes sure that everyone is thanked for attending and contributing. You will never meet a nicer, gentler man with such good looking legs in your life! Joe is a beautiful human inside and out and count yourself lucky to know him. I certainly do. Thank you Joe!

This year I travelled on my own relishing some time to myself. I drove to the event from Toronto and booked an extra day ahead of the retreat start, enjoying a perfect spring day with clear sunny skies and no delays during the 6.5 hour drive. On the way to Easton Mountain I stopped at Albany airport to collect Ron, who was flying in from Oregon. Ron and I had never met before and he had put out a request for anyone travelling by car at that time to provide a ride to the retreat centre. I was happy to oblige. I enjoy meeting new people and Ron and I fell into an easy rhythm of talk about work, home life and the road we took to get here. This would be repeated over the weekend as I got to know others.

Ron was a good sport and indulged my request for him to pose for various photos, including upon arrival at Easton Mountain and in front of the retreat centre sign. 

Thursday was the most beautiful day for travelling; warm, fragrant and filled with bird song. The temperature was around 27C/ 80F - the perfect weather to enjoy a local craft brewed beer and some socializing on the porch before dinner.

We came to knit so it was not long before Ron brought out his current knitting project - an ingenious original afghan design of his, with the stripe sequences depicting both the daily temperatures and length of daylight/night hours for every day of the year he was born. Wow! We were all gobsmacked! The man's a genius. 

We enjoyed a fabulous evening as about 24 guys had already arrived ahead of the official Thursday start, including Van pictured below, who I met in 2008. Van is a fellow Canadian, a real sweetheart, sharp as a whip and like so many men attending, very talented and very generous in explaining and sharing his many skills. 

Our grand pooba Joe arrived shortly after we did, ferrying another "Brother of the String" from the train station. It was so good to give Joe a hug after all these years. I also met Chistopher for the first time, another Canadian who lives north of me. Nice to finally meet in person all these new attendees I'd been reading about since I was last at Easton.

I was also thrilled to see that Jeff had arrived. We met at the first MSKR retreat in '08. Jeff and I are cut from the same cloth in many respects and like to banter back and forth. All kidding aside, Jeff really cares about the retreat and that everyone has a good time and is looked after and we appreciate it! 

After our buffet dinner, we quickly got into the vibe and feel of the retreat, relaxing and knitting and even taking advantage of a nice soak in the hot tub before bed. Nothing like going knitting with the boys!

What I love about retreats like these is the waiting; waiting for spontaneity, for certain moments to just happen and for the cast of characters waiting in the wings to arrive to perform. I am laughing out loud writing this as this weekend did NOT disappoint. That's why one arrives early! Mr. Phil pictured below was such a treat to meet. Another Canadian attendee from Montreal, Phil is witty, intelligent, talented and very, very kind. Human kindness goes a long way and I'll leave it at that but I admire this man I met very briefly very much. Thank you Phil! You're a treasure. 

One last thing about Ron; look at the book title!!! I killed myself laughing! This is camp in it's purest form. The fact that Ron schlepped this book all the way from Portland to bring to the retreat, which, while not exclusively gay, leans heavily in our persuasion, well this was so hilarious! Love it!  

Part of what makes attending this event special are the road trips to various farms and local yarn shops that Joe Wilcox organizes so that people arriving early and who cannot check in to the retreat centre prior to 4pm have something interesting to do together.

This year Joe, with assistance from Aaron Bush, arranged for a road trip Wunsapana Farms in Altamont, New York, owned and operated by the fabulous Terri Conroy, who specializes in raising and rescuing Llamas. Terri has a beautiful farm with a stunning barn built by her brother to house more than 16 Llamas and Terri is very dedicated to the ethical treatment of livestock and a member of the Greater Apalachian Llama & Alpaca Association.

Terri also arranged for Jerry of Staghorn Valley Alpacas to visit, bringing 3 of his Alpaca herd with him plus lovely Alpaca yarn of which I purchased 2 skeins. Jerry has his Alpaca fibre spun at a mill in a neighbouring state and the organic dye methods he uses produce beautiful colours with wonderful hues and depth. Nothing like a little retail therapy!

This part of upstate New York is known locally as the "Capitol Region" and is very pretty, with many small towns dotting the countryside. Easton Mountain is about 45 minutes north of Albany and the drive there is nice and relaxing and helps one slow down and start to get into "retreat" mode if you will. Unique architecture and rolling hills abound and I spent a few hours on my own Thursday afternoon exploring the area before picking up these three gents the train station; meet Larry, Veryl and Tom.

I'm laughing as I write this as I had noooo idea the men I was about to encounter. All lovely, funny men in their own ways. Larry and Veryl are New Yorkers true and true and Tom - well, being raised in New Jersey with New York City only a bus and subway ride away, and having lived on the west coast for years and now residing in Portland, Maine, let's just say that Tom has an opinion and funny insight into just about anything you would throw his way! The man is intense! Intense! I enjoyed Tom and his humour to bits. You could always find Tom knitting and holding court in the main room! It was nice to be able to lend my Easton brothers a hand and get them to the lodge for the official start and evening meal to kick off the 2014 Men's Spring Knitting Retreat. 

The retreat unfolded as it was meant to, with many new friendships forming, many brilliant hand knits, hand spun and crochet garments and accessories to behold and much healing laughter. I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story but I do want to acknowledge Dave Sledesky and Aaron Bush, both of the capital region of New York. 

Dave Sledesky led a most excellent Rigid Heddle workshop, which I participated in and was thrilled with the outcome. All six of us who participated completed our first woven scarves. Many photos of our workshop follow. Thank you Dave!

Aaron Bush deserves recognition for his generosity in giving so much of his time to so many of us at the retreat. In addition to assisting Joe with organizing the road trips, Aaron spent much of his time freely helping people explore Spinning Wheels and with their spinning techniques. Aaron brought several wheels from his personal collection to the retreat, allowing those of us new to spinning to test drive the many various options available. Aaron was very patient in teaching those of us who were newbies how to approach and begin spinning. Thank you Aaron. 

I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story. Enjoy and I hope to see many of you at Easton in 2015!

Love Patrick. 

Enjoy the day.