Burning issues
Wednesday October 11th 2017, 10:26 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Wildlife

The light coming through the windows during the day was yellow with a tinge of orange. Outside looked like sunset at  2 pm. We got a reverse-911 call telling us just how bad the air quality was and to stay indoors if possible and where to find out details; the recording repeated the URL.

Your city or county probably has a reverse-911 warning system but it might only go to landlines; check, and sign up your cellphone if you can. There were people in Napa and Sonoma who didn’t get warned of the fire in the middle of the night because they had VOIP and their old landline phones didn’t work when the power company cut the electricity to keep a substation from blowing up.

My neighbor has a dead tree limb hanging off the power line just across the fence, and with the news that the fires apparently started with trees downed by the winds sparking the PG&E lines I am suddenly much more aware that yes, I do need to bother the city about that.

Meantime, the breeze made the air suddenly and startlingly visible: little swirls and twirls blowing southerly while I tried to process seeing open air moving (and did it settle downwards a bit at the end of the puff?) Later a larger swoop again paintbrushed the pointillist ash particles. And just like that, they disappeared back into the jaundiced background and held still again.

I left the door half open while filling the bird feeder and that was really dumb.

A scattering of dove wings as the hawk appeared out of nowhere and across the roof and away and wow did he move fast. The power of nature!

An evening commute thrown off by a bomb scare, to which the only rational response was an Oh come ON in the direction of the perpetrator.

Meantime, I got three pounds and 2500 yards of merino yarn wound, scoured, spun out, and drying for the morrow, and I am looking forward to working with simple wool and wood of my choosing: nature, domesticated.



October skies
Tuesday October 10th 2017, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,History,Knitting a Gift,Life,Wildlife

We are about 75 miles south of the fires raging in California’s wine country, with San Pablo Bay as a large break of water between here and there.

But the firesky sunset was intense and the clear awning over the patio glowed a deep, unfamiliar bright yellow that was both novel and startling and I could only pray for the people who went to bed in a calm night and woke up to walls of flames coming right at them, neighborhood after neighborhood. Would I have the presence of mind to grab for my hearing aids and glasses before I ran?

It is smoky and thick and smells like burning plastic outside.

Yonder Cooper’s has a tail feather coming in in the center. Like its daddy, when I needed it, there it was and it let me enjoy its presence for several minutes. It is new at that, though, and I am mindful of its skitteriness. Then it lifted to the fence and stayed a bit longer but flinched that the camera had come out while its back was turned.

The second photo was taken trying to capture it taking off. Crouch, wings out, leap! Faster than a speeding iPhone 4S!

Re the Crohn’s, today was definitely going in the right direction. Grateful for that and hoping hard.

The candy-cane-plied red and faintest beige yarn came out looking more brown the further you get from it (and when it’s wet. Which it is here.)

And… The smoke alarm just went off. Oh fun. That doesn’t mean the air is that bad…?

Six smoke alarms and a bit of teamwork later, we have new batteries and we have peace and quiet and we have a definite appreciation for how good we have it that they were not actually telling us to grab whatever we could and run.

 



Junior
Thursday September 21st 2017, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Wings all at once, a dove panicking in the wrong direction, and I looked up at the sounds in time to see the hawk doing a careful u-turn right at the window: he knew where that glass was.

But instead of further pursuit of whatever was surely flying wonky by then (I was surprised it could at all after that hard smack, and apparently so was he), he landed on the wooden box and turned to me at near eye level.

He seemed to need to know. To take the measure of just what this entity was on the other side of that window and what I might do or intend. I was big. Was this a problem.

I remembered my manners: I blinked. Exaggeratedly. More than once. Knowing that he could be entirely gone in the space of one long one.

Tomorrow is Equinox and territory must be held and held boldly. I’m pretty sure I saw him chasing a crow away over the neighbor’s yesterday, movement I looked up to almost too late to see.

This wasn’t my long-time Coopernicus visitor but it most likely was his son; raptors, like so many of us, prefer to nest around where they grew up if they can afford the price of the real estate. And so, as his father before him had done come equinox and solstice, he chose to people-watch a few minutes.

Was I a challenger? Was I a threat? Would I interfere with his meals?

The striped chest gave him away as being in his first year. Fast on the wing and short on experience. I smiled and radiated love the best I too-humanly could do, in awe that yet again, I had a wild Cooper’s hawk choosing to take the time to stand ten feet away from me and look me in the eye. (Blink. Mourning doves are universally compelled to blink back at you. A raptor holds you steady in its gaze.)

He craned his neck this way and that now: See anything land around here, lady? It hit, you know?

Yes it did and no, but given how hard it hit you will definitely be able to get it on the next fly-by. When you see a dove under the bird feeder walking backwards in circles repeatedly you know its brain is as good as mine and most likely how it got that way.

Ah, over by that tree! And he was off in a wingbeat.

His name. He needs a name. I’m quite sure this one was a male. Any suggestions?



Storms and hummingbirds and hats. Not in that order.
Monday September 11th 2017, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life,Wildlife

Started the first hat for the foster kid but the dense black was spun so differently from the blue that even though they were within 10% of each other yardage per grams-wise, in real life there was no way to have the number of stitches work: either the black would be too big for the kid’s head or the blue in the next stripe too small to squeeze into. I would have known this in a heartbeat had I seen them in person first. And this, kids, is why we support our local yarn shops (when we can get there. And it wasn’t Webs’ fault; I didn’t ask.)

Meantime, the yarn I’d ordered for the other girl was felt to have more orange than was quite ideal (per the mom, after I asked her to be honest about it) and so I ordered her the Chroma from Knitpicks as you guys recommended. I want these kids to love what they get. I really do. And I can always use another ball of superwash merino around here.

And for the kid who wanted hers chunky, I went to Imagiknit, as one does, and ordered some Malabrigo Mecha, which is probably what I should have started with in the first place.

And now on a completely random note, I always wondered if a hawk would ever bother trying to catch a hummingbird, given how much work it would be to chase such a speedy little not quite amuse-bouche. The answer is pretty much not only no, but that hummingbirds seek out hawks’ nests to nest near themselves: because jays are big predators of hummingbird nests and Cooper’s hawks are big predators of jays. More details here.

I now understand better the photo Eric of the peregrine falcon group once gifted me with, showing a hummer buzzing near the matriarch Clara’s face while she looked on, bemused.

And in other wildlife news, we had a young squirrel on the fence today, staring: too young, apparently, to have ever seen water fall out of the sky before and he didn’t quite know what to make of this concept of randomly getting wet or what he was supposed to do about it.

I remember telling my kids when they were young that in my growing up, there were warm summer rains that would clean the air on a hot muggy day and cool things down a bit. But the rain itself. Rain was supposed to be warm and inviting in the heat of July or August.

I got scoffing disbelief in response. Mom. It does not rain in summer. Two, rain is always, always cold.

And yet today, at long last, we had a hot muggy summer day–and it rained. It wasn’t quite a warm rain but it was close enough to prove the possibility. Thunder and lightning, too (a little too close) and then the rain. We had a good old East-coast deluge, briefly, so much so that I even turned the computer off, wondering if the lights would go out. We have never had the lights go out in a storm in all our years here but you never know.

It let up. I turned the computer back on. So of course then it started again, hard.

And again, it let up and then started in again.

A fourth round pounded the roof after dinner.

For a grand total of (roll the drums) .1″.

Oh California. Thank you. You tried.



Wasn’t it nice of him to invite a critter buffet
Thursday August 31st 2017, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift,Life,Wildlife

1. Found an obvious mistake made right at the beginning and that could not be fixed, frogged the whole thing, and started over with a different yarn. Same old same old pattern because it’s mistake-proof and right then I just needed that.

2. Bird netting, bird spikes, and covering bags didn’t do it this time–they got my one ripe fig last night that I was going to pick in the morning when it would be sweetest. Darn.

3. The story from a few years back is there was a young male mountain lion who followed the creek beds from the mountains to the valley across downtown and into a suburban neighborhood, where a UPS driver saw him near dawn near an elementary school and reported it immediately.

And then it vanished.

A quite-elderly golden retriever saved the day that afternoon about the time school was letting out when he announced his opinion of a cat trespassing in his territory. A little one he might ignore but this one just had no business being there.

A reporter was standing under a tree filing a story update that no, the lion still hadn’t been spotted yet. (Dude. Straight. Up…)

So this morning, again around dawn, a man across town who has fruit trees and a garden that had been being raided by raccoons in the night (and has my greatest sympathies) and who is on the board of the state’s Nature Conservancy heard noise outside and went out to try to do something about it.

There were wildly swinging branches in the redwood just over the fence, and redwoods are not flimsy things–

–and a deep growl.

Holy. Cow.

And then the lion’s cub, echoing Mommy and trying to sound fierce, too.

…Well, I guess we don’t have to worry about raccoons tonight, honey…

They’re still looking for them. Our city’s hero golden retriever has gone on to that great dog park in the sky. We’ve had lions before, but never one with young. Fish and Game is on it and the cops again guarded the children going to and from school.



And just like that, the Patronus shows up
Monday August 28th 2017, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

Took it easy today and the arm was much better off for it, thank you, everybody. And to Richard for insisting I ice it for 15 minutes when it happened, and pulled out a timer and a book to stay up that much later with me so I would do it.

So no knitting today. As I was reading I happened to look up in time to see a Cooper’s hawk swoop around the patio–but leisurely, not fast, and I noted that if this was a new one, it had learned to chase into the alcove, where its prey would be contained, rather than away from it to an easier escape like last time. Progress. Except that I didn’t see it actually chasing anything.

It wheeled back out and onto the roof of the shed, visible to all, to announce just who owned this.

I tried to memorize every feather so I would know next time if it were the same one. There was an unusual solid white spot on the left side of its chest near the wing with a little bit of a connecting zigzag to two orange stripes suddenly ending there.

I remembered to blink so as not to be a predator staring it down. It had been months since I’d been able to study one like this. My phone/camera was not in reach.

And so we quietly observed each other for a few minutes, one of us intensely grateful for that and wondering if the other could somehow feel it…

As if in response it tucked a foot up away into its feathers: completely relaxed. Wasn’t it a fine day today! And then, briefly, it preened. I could only marvel at its sense of balance.

About five minutes in, a young squirrel–pre-puberty, they do not have object permanence–forgot that it was supposed to be being scared and popped out from under the picnic table. It nosed around under the bird feeder and then hopped across the yard right below that hawk. (Hello? Look up?) It made a small leap for the fence and headed across the top of it. Exit–stage left.

Seriously?

It jumped to the top of the shed.

Seriously?!

It considered. It’s fun to make mourning doves do what you tell them to but this one seemed a bit bigger. Eh–it’s just a bird. It’s fun to scare them away. And so it hopped closer.

I kind of held my breath. Seriously?

And one last leap closer. But at that point its bravado thinned and it stood there trying to decide what it should really think about this and the fact that there was now no easy escape. It glanced over the side. The wispy baby pomegranate tree could in no way hold it and to leap past it would make it a good ten foot fall.

The hawk of course was by this point studying the squirrel in return. You don’t want to be facing the teeth and the claws: you want to be coming at it from behind. (I once watched a Cooper’s do a U-turn right above one on the ground so as to be lined up just so.)

The squirrel flinched and turned away and at that the hawk came right at it in a low swoop. All it had to do was reach and grab and lunch was served.

Except that it wasn’t actually hunting nor hungry, and one does not kill prey except for the eating.

The squirrel had the instinct to hunch down hard as the Cooper’s shadow passed so close over it.

I do believe it learned some manners.



Hey! Shoe! Shoe!
Monday August 21st 2017, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

I put away the fake crow in the dead of the night (well, 8:30 pm) so that the twice-a-month gardener doesn’t unwittingly make himself a target of the real ones’ fury tomorrow for forever to come if he were to pick it up or move it while wondering, what the heck?! I remembered. It’s gone.

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all except maybe that, we here at this fine spindyeknit blog now bring you: how to make your own felted pigeon shoes. (Scroll down the page and there’s another story about knitted and crocheted Converse shoes cum slippers, as long as we’re talking footwear.)

Not sure I have the artistic ability to transmogrify rock doves into Cooper’s hawks. I don’t wear heels, either, but surely one could make do.

Y’know, I do have some old Birkenstocks…



Getting a little crow-ded
Friday August 18th 2017, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Knit,To dye for,Wildlife

The birdnetting somehow gets moved a bit day after day–no squirrel could have done that from there (I don’t think) –and the figs have still been disappearing. And I was getting screamed at by a crow whenever I went near that tree. Although, funny how when I gave “the look” in its general direction, wherever it was, it stopped.

Research has shown that they are highly attuned to human faces.

It could see me. I couldn’t see it. But even I can hear a crow.

Hey, nice of it to remind me. (Yup, I did go back and buy a fake dead one last year but I never used it.)

After repeats of this all week long, I finally remembered at night and not in the morning when it was too late that I needed to put that bird out there.

I carried it in the shopping bag it’s been in to hide it from any glimpse through the windows, hoping it would work for the Indian Free peach and fig both even though they’re not that close. I slid it out with me between it and the tree across the fence that is where I think I’d been yelled at from, trying to block any night-vision view (it wasn’t as dark as I would have liked) and then I sprinted the heck around the corner and out of there.

So yes, I put it there myself fer cryin’ out loud, and yet it still startled me this evening when I went to water the tomatoes. Whoa! Well, good, then, so I pretended to be startled again and shied away from it every time I looked in its direction. I can play the game.

Meantime. I bought a large cone of merino/silk 50/50, steeply discounted to get rid of the last of it, in a color blend I would call bleached-out camouflage. I’d worked with that yarn before in navy and knew how nice it was. (Hey, Morgan, that’s your doubled hat.) This was a heavier and darker version of the one I played with recently and there’s a whole lot more of it.

It came yesterday and today I wound off just enough yards to make a nice cowl, tied the hank and threw it in the dyepot to see what I could talk this stuff into being.

I don’t know if I can get the other 900 grams all into one dyepot and have it come out evenly. Quite unlikely. No afghan out of this, then, no matter how practical home decor-wise, I would go nuts having to look at the blah in my hands for a month.

Such a shame. I’ll just have to splash and play and make lots of happy colors out of it. We’re talking a dozen merino/silk hats or cowls, easily.

Maybe Sapphire, next.



Baby hat
Monday August 07th 2017, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

The beta went home tonight to the family that loves it best–and I will miss watching those beautiful blue-black fins and tail swishing through the water towards my hand as I drop a speck of fish food into its tank. It had a little rock cave to hide out in with a few aquatic plants attached but when I called softly to it it would come out of there and greet me.

Who knew such a tiny thing could be so charming?

Maybe they’ll go on vacation again sometime.

And then I finished knitting this. Maybe. I had been planning to add more to it–but I really like it as is, even with that edge not blocked yet.

Shepherd’s Worsted yarn from Lorna’s Laces. The colorway was a doodle, a one-off that was in a gift bag at a post-TNNA party held at Green Planet. The pattern was a doodle, too, five repeats of a short simple lace followed by ~6″ of stockinette and then decreasing and out.



The new family
Sunday August 06th 2017, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

That one’s done and drying and a new hat is on the needles, in the bright greens I got gifted with at Green Planet in January. Those colors just cry out for dragon spikes going over the top and claws over the ears but we’ll see.

Watering the tomatoes tonight, I stumbled across mama dove, papa dove, and a small baby peeking up from the nest, old enough for gray feathers and to watch me warily, its small tail slightly curled upwards against the wall. There might have been a second small head in there but I couldn’t get close enough to see for sure without disturbing them more than I was.

Carry on, then.



So how do you like them apples?
Saturday July 15th 2017, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

The acanthus. I’ve had good luck with using the vicious stabby flower stalks as guardians of my tomatoes, going two stalks deep on every side. Two, because last year a raccoon pulled the first one away in the night, got a pawful, there was still another in its way and it never went near again. And two, to make the squirrels decide a leap is not worth the landing. With all the rain this year, some were as much as eight feet long. This is useful. (Just don’t accidentally touch them when you reach in for a tomato.)

So, brilliant me, I thought hey, let’s try threading some of those stalks through the Fuji leaves to defend the plastic clamshells. I so much want to be able to have my grandkids pick their own apples at Grandma’s again.

And it worked. For two days.

Thursday evening I came outside and stopped right there speechless.

I didn’t even know I had that many clamshells. The squirrels had presented me a museum installation of them all over the ground beneath that tree and had named it The Inbox. Still with apples inside (except two that must have bounced just right.) There will be no apples from those fruit spurs next year, either.

All I can figure is, when they couldn’t stand on a branch next to the clamshells to try to pry them open, they simply leaped straight at them until they broke off and fell out of the tree–where they still couldn’t get at them, so they tried the next one. And the next. And the next.

I had two that were wedged in too hard and those were still up there.

Uh, today, not so much. Down too, with one branch inside, one whole branch outside. They even knocked down another I didn’t know I had because the leaves had filled in around it.

There is one, count’em, one, clamshell left in that whole tree. Today.

So… What on earth do you do with a whole lot of way-underripe apples? These were supposed to be picked in September and October.



Faster faster
Saturday July 08th 2017, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

Yardage times desired length divided by time…

And so I supplemented the 900 grams of heavy dk weight with 760 grams of a matching thinner 4-ply, even if it meant waiting for the second cone to arrive. It just came.

I swatched on the 10s–that would go fast for sure.

In your dreams, honey. I scoured it in hot water, hoping it would shrink enough. A little, maybe, but, c’mon.

I swatched on the 9s. Give it up, honey.

8s are as low as I’m going. It *will* shrink, but it will also bloom out when I wash the finished afghan. But I am not pre-scouring two pounds on that niddy-noddy at once. Okay, then, we’re on.

It’s a race to see which runs out first, the yarn or me. Me. There’s probably ~2500 yards on the dk and twice that on the 4-ply, and starting a black afghan in two strands of loosely-plied yarns was probably not my smartest move–it was the fifty bucks for two pounds of cashmere (the best bargains went fast) that did me in and here we are.

I’m figuring I need to do five inches a day to totally be on the safe side, time-wise. So far, I’ve done a whopping three. Which is actually not shabby at all.

(Edited to add: got it to 4,” we’ll say five if you stretch it. Meantime, someone’s setting off illegal fireworks outside and made a skunk mad, which is good for my asthma but probably not what they intended.)



Glasses
Thursday July 06th 2017, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life,Spinning,Wildlife

Dropped my glasses off the top of my head when I stood up to answer the phone and then I stepped on them.

It was bad. There was just no putting those back on. All I could do was wait for Richard to get home from work to drive me over to For Eyes.

A dozen feet away was close enough not to be too fuzzy when a Cooper’s hawk skidded to a stop on the concrete just on the other side of the glass door. It considered me a split second as a finch on its back flailed away wildly trying to right itself (its hard thwack on that window had snatched my attention) and he grabbed it and was off.

The younger employee went, “Wow, you really stepped on them,” and given their age (I’d reused the same lightweight metal frames through several prescription changes–I bought an extra pair eight years ago so I could) she was afraid she would break them; the more experienced middle-aged guy, the one I took a tumble in front of last week, was sure he could do it and she was sure he could if anybody could and handed them over.

At this point I’ve been in there enough times that they were not surprised to see me pull out the knitting project I started today (after I did indeed add a repeat to yesterday’s.)

He was glad to see me back and looking none the worse for that fall and made a point of getting those exactly right. He totally rescued me, and was very pleased to be able to make such a difference. I can see again. I can do things again. I have my life back.

They both adored the picture of Mathias in shades and even asked to see more pictures of the baby, and I thought, I really like you guys…!

(Yarn: two strands of a dusty purple-plum cashmere laceweight, a gift from Sherry in Idaho, and two strands of a brick red merino with a touch of sparkle to it, plied together on my spinning wheel.)



And the new leaves’ red glare, the fronds bursting in air
Tuesday July 04th 2017, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Wildlife

The last rays at sundown were coming through the window right on that drying merino/silk cowl (Scrumptious 4-ply yarn by Fyberspates), showing the radiant deep purple hiding in that dark navy. I ran for the camera, but in the steps it took me to go down the hall and back the light was gone.

You can almost see it.

The mango tree has sprouted like crazy just since two weeks ago.That top branch grew from ending at that last big green leaf to seven new branches popping out–and that’s just the one cluster. From this morning to this evening, it went from looking like a solid poof from inside the house to discernibly separate branches: they are stretching up and out at two to three inches a day.

All the flower stalks that had the tiniest suggestion of buds when we left town to help when Mathias was born–it got too cold for them while nobody was home to cover the tree at night and they gradually turned black, so I think there will be no crop this year. The rest of the tree is doing fine. And who knows, it might surprise me yet.

(Cute hat and matching socks–hey, they match the mango!– from longtime online knitting friend Susan Schutz.)

 



Down in there somewhere
Sunday July 02nd 2017, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Wildlife

We are foster fish parents for a month, trusted with someone’s children’s beloved black beta in a square goldfish bowl sitting inside a plastic modern-architecture of a holder. (We have it on a shelving unit, thus the metal wires below.)

After 24 hours it’s still swimming and it’s still coming out to eat. So far so good.

Those wispy fins waving in slow curling motion against the water are so elegant.

(I confess I did feel better about my chances of doing a decent job after its owner said what happened when they tipped a little water out to be able to transport it over here. It was an easy promise to make that I won’t have to fish it out of my disposal.)