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Ammi Midstokke: Knitting season arrives with misguided optimism

Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about off-the-grid living. (The Spokesman-Review)
Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about off-the-grid living. (The Spokesman-Review)
By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

Every season that comes, I sigh with relief at the end of the associated seasonal labor and optimistically plan what I will do with all my free time.

Now that my firewood is in, the defunct garden has been ignored into submission, and I’ve shop-vacuumed most of the live wasps into dust-bag death, I believe knitting season has officially begun.

Knitting season is a glorious time of the year. During knitting season, evenings are spent huddled around a small fortune of natural fibers while listening to some novel with my kid. We make Christmas gifts and peruse sweater catalogs and usually there is a pot of butternut squash on the stove, permeating the house with promise of autumnal delight.

The problem with knitting season is that it lands on a Tuesday most years, and I probably have a damn PTA meeting that night. By the time I get the stovepipe cleaned, the hoses drained, the bark raked, the burn piles ready and the broken lawn mower appropriately covered for winter (I let it air out all summer just in case sunshine heals carburetors), the snow starts falling.

This marks the beginning of snow management season, which involves far less sleigh riding than I expected.

I seem to recall several books by Laura Ingalls Wilder in which the entire family got to sit around after sundown and knit or sew each other wedding dresses by hand. This had no small part in my decision to live in a cabin in the woods. Maybe a house on the prairie is key there, and I missed the obvious.

Once the snow starts falling, there is shoveling and gear drying, and my personal favorite: layering up like a Siberian in a storm to go plow my sketchy hillside driveway. There is also ice removal on the deck, ice removal on the stairs, fires that need to be made, lit, stoked. Wood that must be hauled. The soot, bark and mud cleanup that follows the migration of tamarack logs from one pile to another pile.

This is precisely why I have been working on the same sweater for about four years now. It’s for my mom. Every birthday and Christmas, I present her with the latest addition. “For Christmas this year, I made you the armpit!” Occasionally, we have wet fall, and I can get through a beanie or half a sock before I’m outside removing my roof avalanche.

Snow removal season typically threatens to never end. Just when I think it will and I start looking at new sweaters to start but not finish, there’s a late-March dump that reminds me nature is called ‘mother’ because she’s fickle (a decidedly sexist observation).

As those last feet of snow start giving way to soil, I am so grateful for the end of the season, because it is surely more work than any other season. Now at last, I might have time to get another armpit knitted.

Then the seed catalogs start showing up. This marks the beginning of gardening season, a veritable plant crime at my house. There is lots of fanfare about spraying seedlings in the greenhouse and running irrigation hoses and devising death traps for rodents. I could save everyone, including the rodents, a lot of hardship by just going to the farmers market instead. But no, I have a vision of summer mornings with my coffee, weeding happily with the butterflies and harvesting our efforts. The latter rarely occurs, but the fantasy remains.

It really isn’t until the end of summer that I realize all my best intentions for enjoying the season of less chores has been missed. Mostly because I have camping gear to clean, coolers to scrub, paddle boards to store, bikes to tune up.

Yet every year I have the same expectation: “This summer is going to be so relaxing. I will not overcommit myself.” And every year, as fall creeps upon us with its glorious cool mornings and soft afternoon warmth, I sigh with optimism and short-term memory loss and think, “Thank goodness this busy summer is over. I can finally sit down and get some knitting done.”

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at

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