Sunday, November 24, 2013

Afghan love

When I wake up under an afghan, it is really difficult to leave that warm cocoon. In bed or on the couch, I just want to snuggle deeper and doze on.

All my afghans are crocheted, all from acrylic yarn. Most were made when I was in my twenties, and those were left behind when I divorced. My daughter recently rescued them from disuse and delivered them today. What a great early xmas gift!

Monday, November 18, 2013

That was the weekend that was

When I wake up in the morning, it takes me a minute or so to figure out what day it is and what I'm going to be doing. Saturday that was easy - it was manure day! I wasn't sure I'd be able to get manure from my usual source, but we finally made contact Friday night, so Saturday was a go. My SO and I fetched two loads and spread one in the garden and the other in the area formerly known as the meadow but now designated as the incipient orchard.

Saturday was also leaf day. I don't have any leaves to speak of, but my neighbors do. Friday I made arrangements to be on the receiving end of one neighbor's leaves. This did not seem to entail any extra effort on their part - they pick them up with a riding mower and instead of dumping them at the edge of the street for city pickup, they dumped them on a plastic tarp and I dragged them into my backyard. Most of them went on the aforementioned incipient orchard, a few on the paths in the garden.

Then I performed the final mow of the season, picking up grass clippings and using them to cover the manure in the garden. That night it rained, which fortunately damped down the leaves so none of them blew away the next day when we had near-tornado force winds.

So Saturday was an outdoor day. Sunday was an indoor day. People will be here, in my house, in November and December, so it was time to attack the cobwebby corners and mop the acre of linoleum that stretches from family room to kitchen to mudroom to laundry. Today I did a bit more - we can now see through the patio door (beagle nose prints are particularly difficult to eradicate) and kitchen window, and at least some of the dust has been vanquished. There is more to do - there is always more to do when it comes to housework - what gets done, gets done.

Today was supposed to be fiber day, but I actually started on that last Friday night, when I blended ALL the KoolAid-dyed roving. I literally did not get off the couch for two hours, that's how engrossed I was. And sore - is there such a thing as blending shoulder? Too much repetitive movement with my right arm. Tonight I spun a few of the rolags. Interesting, to say the least. And fun.

I intended to do more fiber-oriented activities today, but there was that bit of cleaning mentioned above and some gardening to get me off the couch and into the fresh air for a while. The garlic is planted and the Brussels sprouts harvested (yes, the groundhog did not get them all). The container plants have been relocated to the garage. Just like housework, there is more to do, and again, what gets done, gets done.

The rest of the day was spent wrestling with turning a heel on a sock, the second sock of a pair, so you would think it would be easier, but no. Between the two socks, I turned a heel four times. I'm knitting this pair of socks toe-up with a short row heel that involves double wraps, and I think I am done with toe-up socks for a while. I have proved I can do them if necessary, and now am going to return to top-down for a while. Maybe then I will get more that two or three pairs knit in the course of a year.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Very little proof

When I work from home, I sit in the West Wing and rest my eyes by watching the birds in the backyard. Most of what is there are LBJs - Little Brown Jobs - sparrows and finches. Except for the juncos, no snow birds have arrived yet (although I think I hear the nasal call of a nuthatch on occasion).

Since most birds seem to favor peanut splits and black oil sunflower seeds, I decided to cut back to just those. And unshelled peanuts for the blue jays. And some niger just to get rid of it. And cracked corn. No more safflower, though - I watched too many non-cardinals fling that expensive stuff to the ground.

But then I accidentally purchased striped sunflower seeds instead of black oil, and whole corn instead of the cracked. Rather than take them back to the store, I just put up more feeders. So now there are six.

I have seen something besides the usual avian visitors, but no pics because 1) I am not fast enough, and 2) they are too fast (which helps explain the lousy quality of these photos). I swear to god, one day I saw a robin with a bright red breast and the rest of it was almost all *white*. Really! According to the Internet (which knows all), albino and semi-albino robins are not unheard of. True albino robins do not live long because they go blind. This particular one apparently was just passing through, as I have not seen it since.

An unusual LBJ I saw was a white-crowned sparrow. At least, I think that is what it was, which while not impossible, might be a bit unusual in this particular corner of Indiana. Or maybe it was a white-throated sparrow, which is more likely. Since that white crown was so eye-catching, I am sticking to the first identification. Again, he has not been back since, so cannot confirm.

Hopefully, this red-bellied woodpecker will hang around all winter.

Last Friday I watched this little guy make trip after trip between feeders and patio. He must have quite the cache somewhere close by. All day long, back and forth he went, occasionally joined by one or two other chipmunks from other corners of the yard. The squirrel baffles keep them from climbing the pole, but there is plenty of forage on the ground.

Speaking of squirrels, I see them in the nabe but not at the feeders. Not yet.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

More reds, part 2


Mystery tree

... and around the pond at work...


Virginia creeper

Mystery berries

Mystery tree

Mystery shrub

Mystery 'shroom

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I still knit. Really.

Not that long ago, it was common for me to knit ten or so pairs of socks a year. This year: two, maybe three. What am I doing instead? I'm working less (and my supervisor won't let me knit during meetings anymore), but I am also exercising more, spending time with my granddaughter, binge watching entire seasons of "The Good Wife" and "Damages", taking up new hobbies, yardening, etc. The days are just packed.

I did manage to finish a pair of socks recently, though.

  • Pattern: Diagonal Lace Socks, from Socks from the Toe Up, by Wendy Johnson
  • Yarn: Zwerger Garn Opal Surprise in colorway 4067 (would you call that "Camouflage" or "Autumn in New England"?
  • Needles: US1
  • Modifications: Abbreviated the repeat when I got to the leg to eliminate columns of double-purl stitches up each side. At least, I think that is what I did.

I've been diligently concentrating on learning to knit socks from the toe up instead of top down, thinking there would be less worry about running out of yarn. But the toe-up socks I have knit seem to use up more yarn than the top-down ones. In fact, this time I nearly ran out of yarn before the tops were a decent length.

This yarn shortage may be because usually I knit ribbed patterns that allow me to put some negative ease into the socks, whereas the toe-up patterns I chose are not ribbed and have no ease. In fact, they are a bit loose. So for my next pair, I chose a ribbed pattern. We'll see how they work out.

More reds, part 1

In my yard...

The Japanese maple 'Bloodgood' just keeps getting redder and redder.

Wentworth highbush cranberry is still turning.

Viburnum dentatum 'Chicago Lustre' has fruit and its leaves are just starting to turn.

The leaves of the chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliant') are catching up with the fruit.

Ditto the cranberry cotoneaster. The bushes look like they are on fire.

The purple leaves of the smoke tree (cotinus coggygria F. purpureus) are giving way to red.

Rhododendron 'PMJ' turn a bit red in the fall.

They are not supposed to bloom, though.

Winter lettuce mix of some sort.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Why Johnny can't read

Growing up, it was not uncommon for the kids in my family to occupy themselves while eating breakfast by reading the cereal boxes. It did not matter that we each read the same one every day. We were eating breakfast and one cannot eat breakfast without reading. Grownups read the newspaper; kids read cereal boxes.

As you can see above, there is an alarming dearth of reading material on today's cereal boxes. Reading scores are down. Dare we say there is a connection?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

File under future fun

Yesterday I went to a 2-hour soapmaking workshop, which was more like a 1.5-hour demonstration. I came away with a book (The Natural Soap Book, by Susan Miller Cavitch), some soapmaking recipes, and a couple of samples, plus a headache because the room, while high-ceilinged, was not vented. (I think the instructor was a bit cavalier about the fumes lye emits.) The batches made during the demo produce around 40 4-oz. bars of soap, enough to last me about 5 years, but there are small batch recipes to be found online. I see this as a new hobby, but one that is practiced sporadically. And sometime in the future, like after retirement.

My dad was a chemist in his working life. When I was in high school, I earned a D in chemistry, would have flunked it altogether if I did not understand how to balance equations. I think the problem for people like me is in *how* they teach chemistry and other sciences. It all seems so abstract until you do something like make soap and discover that lye is not just caustic but reactive - when mixed with water, it heats up to 200 degrees! I did not know that (even though my daughter told me it was part of a scene from "Fight Club"), and my interest in *how* that happens has been piqued. Not enough to sign up for Chemistry 101, but enough I will pay more attention to the "Chemistry in Soapmaking" chapter in my new book.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The reds of autumn

Cardinal flower 'Queen Victoria'

Hydrangea 'Limelight'

Dwarf burning bush

Chrysanthemum 'Cranberry Apple Fantasia'

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

Japanese maple 'Bloodgood'

Cranberry cotoneaster

My new wreath

Geranium 'Calliope'

Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliant', aka chokeberry

Viburnum dentatum 'Blue Muffin', aka arrowwood

Pokeweed stalk

Wentworth highbush cranberry viburnum

Lonicera sepervirens 'Alabama Crimson', aka Honeysuckle vinee

Viburnum prunifolium, aka blackhaw viburnum