Saved for post-err-ity
Wednesday June 15th 2011, 9:03 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

So we have this birdfeeder that closes a cage over the portholes under the weight of a squirrel.

Richard wanted me to hang it where he wouldn’t hit his head on it.

We have this wooden awning pole about three or four feet away, then, that the squirrels have learned is useful for flinging themselves from to knock it sideways to give the restaurant a shakeout.

There have been some mornings where they’ve done that so many times they’ve nearly emptied the thing before I’ve even woken up. The only problem for them is, whichever one takes the risk of jumping through my twig setup for the birds to perch on then has to jump down five feet to the hard concrete to get anything–where there are six to eight others, often, fighting and snarfing fast. Quite the scrum.

So I’ve done all sorts of things to make the pole unfriendly.  The tin foil, the parchment paper, oiling the paper. All of which worked for awhile. Pam spray gets tacky-feeling rather than slippery after awhile, and the one that got a feather stuck in her tail: she’s cool with that. It’s all paw-licking good.

I started taking the feeder in at night. (My daughter-in-law’s hasn’t been as accessible to them.)

The solution was so simple it eluded me for months. I’ve waited days now to see if it would hold–so far, it has.

I put a chair not quite just under the feeder: a little forward from it, to give them some leap comfortability (not to mention cutting down on the guano effect), but definitely closer than the pole. A straightforward small jump with far less risk and effort and no rewarding the others below for encroaching on their territory.

That lands them at the bottom of the feeder, which then closes down–no swinging side-to-side, no sunflowers.

And that was all it took.

They are not willing to take the risk and the jump when there’s an easy way to get to their target. They’re not making that leap when some other could reach right up and grab the prized perch from them and beat them to it. There has been no yardful of black and gray bushytails in the morning. No stolen seed. Just one lone squirrel patiently gleaning whatever the birds above might toss towards it, cleaning up the patio for me.


Michelle says give’em about a week.

p.s. And in the oh ye of little fate department: as I was typing that, a Cooper’s hawk careened through the patio, the squirrel was late to notice but then dove under the chair, the dove got away too but a finch panicked and hit the window. It landed on its back, wings quivering in shock, inches away from the glass. The hawk didn’t pause a wingbeat but curved in, acknowledging the dove and squirrel as lost to that hunt, and artfully grabbed the finch en route without so much as brushing the window nor stopping. It all happened so fast.

I called my neighbor to let him know it was plucking away on the fence between us. Feathers flew, then the Cooper’s did.

Not the bigger meal she was aiming for flying back to her nest with, but dim sum and den some. Later!

Aunt yarn
Tuesday June 14th 2011, 11:24 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends

I wrote in my book about my friend Lisa who, when I was diagnosed with lupus, offered to trade off babysitting our preschoolers every morning so I could do swim therapy and then she would go work out, a gift of her time I could never hope to repay–when all she had to do was put her toddler in his stroller and run if it had been only about the exercise.

Her little boy David used to religiously leave a toy or some small object of his at our house to make sure he’d be able to come back.  It took us awhile to catch on to him; it was such a funny little thing to do. And he did it just about every day he came over.

My husband’s aunt lives in the hills nearby and her youngest is two years older than our oldest, so we got frequent and very welcome hand-me-downs from her.

I would come across some stray whatever and wonder, where did *this* come from?! Must be an Aunt Mary Lynn that I just don’t remember. I would check with Lisa on the phone later, or David would reclaim it quietly the next time–and stash something else behind a dresser, under a bed, or whatever hiding place appealed to him that day.

The so-called Aunt Mary Lynn objects became a regular joke between us, and when Lisa and her family found they were moving to Michigan she lamented, But who there is going to know what an Aunt Mary Lynn is?

I drove over to meet Robin at her brother’s house today and we sat and knitted awhile together. Then after a phone call or two and some time meeting two small nieces waking up from their naps as their mommy arrived, it was a good time to go pick up Kunmi.

Going to the door, Robin had her hands full; I offered to grab her knitting for her, tucked in a plastic bag and just a few steps from me.

Sure, thanks!

I had my cane in one hand, my purse and big knitting bag in the other and then hers and decided the easiest way to deal with this was simply to stick her knitting in with mine.

We went off to Green Planet Yarns in Campbell (hi Carol there!) and had a great time. Robin found just the yarn for hats for those nieces: soft baby alpaca with sparkles. In pink. It doesn’t get better than that.

I came home quite tired. “Mom? What are those red spots on your face?” Lupus rash. A little too much sun. Time to take it easy for a day or two.

Robin and Kunmi’s flight home to Maryland leaves early tomorrow morning.

And I sat down on the couch, pulled out my knitting–

–you saw this coming–

–and out tumbled Robin’s Alchemy sock yarn and half-done project in its bag.

Aunt Mary Lynn yarn. This is a first.

(Richard told me I was too tired to drive it back over there and to just mail it to her; I called her, and she reassured me she was quite happy to knit those hats with that new yarn and not to worry about it.  Robin is a dear.)

So now you know she has to come back. It’s the rule.

Robin and Kunmi
Monday June 13th 2011, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Friends,Wildlife

Robin and her knitting-group friend Kunmi, having flown out together to visit their families here, stopped by today. We were chatting, and then Kunmi glanced out the window and exclaimed, “You have goldfinches!”

We walked over into the family room with the big picture windows and the feeders just outside and I discovered a fellow enthusiast.

The birds played their part perfectly: I scooped out a little suet cake and tossed it on the box, saying that that would bring in a Bewick’s wren, and right on cue one flew down from the trees to the patio, then the dolly, then up to that box for its snack. They’re friendly, I explained, and plentiful right around here but nearly extinct on the East Coast; I treasure mine.

I described how my son Richard and Kim had given me a book for Christmas that both describes various species and lets you play their songs–right up close to my ears where I can hear! Cool! So, Friday I’d been playing the calls the book says that Cooper’s hawks make when something threatens their nest.

I looked up to see that everything had fled, gone, the patio, the feeders, the hanging cake, the box. Even the squirrels. Too funny.

But even funnier was sitting down at the computer the next morning and, not having seen either hawk since most likely their babies fledged a month or so ago, there was the adult male: right on the box, right there, looking eye-to-eye with me through the window.

For about a minute.

You know how breathtaking that is. And it was a cool morning, so midway, he fluffed up his feathers a bit; I wanted to stroke them, they looked so soft.

Hey, hey, none of that thought, and he fluttered over to the dolly and looked again from a little bit farther away. Cocked his head and looked around; there hadn’t been any prey around when he came in, it’s as if he simply wanted to make sure about those sounds he was hearing the day before. Or something.

American goldfinch, lesser goldfinch, house finch, Cassin finch, Oregon junco, plain brown California towhee vs the brilliant colors of the Eastern ones, Kunmi loved it.

In came a jay, and she exclaimed over how different it looked from the ones back home. They laughed when I said, Yes, it’s long and thin like it’s ready to hit the beach.

I told the story of the new world-leading cardiac center at Stanford that came to be because of a blue bird, I’m assuming a jay because of its willingness to hold still through all that.

A moment of kindness that changed the world of cardiology.

We went off to Coupa Cafe, where both of them found a way to treat us all; we went to Apple’s flagship store, about to be–hmm, re-shipped? There will soon be a much bigger one.  (Hey, Robin, I bet your brother already knows about it.) We meandered through some of the old areas of town and neighborhoods near Stanford, enjoying the architecture.

It’s wonderful to see the place where you live through the eyes of those who do not.

Back to their future
Sunday June 12th 2011, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Two highschoolers at church, a young woman and a young man, interviewed my husband and me a few weeks ago for a project they were working on; they seated us together and then asked each of us our memories of various events in our lives.

There was a get-together tonight at the home of one of those kids, and I happened to be talking to the dad of the other. I’d wanted for awhile to tell both sets of parents what I’d seen that day in their children–the light in their eyes. I’d never had a real conversation in private with either kid before that day, but I tell you: they were *nice* people. I was very proud of them.

The dad beamed, and as the conversation went on, he admitted that, still, for all that, his two kids fought with each other. It drove him crazy how much they fought!

I laughed and tried to reassure him of the normalcy of all that. Is there a parent out there whose kids never once fought? Kids learn as they grow how to get along with people who may disagree with them in the safety of a family setting, given comfort (no matter how much they may resist it) by the fact that if they overstep, there are limits and those limits will be enforced. And also–that someone else’s point of view is as important as their own.

I was once at the wedding of a young man whose little sister was 11 to his 29 if I remember right, and they were teasing and needling each other while their mom rolled her eyes. Siblings!

Part of being human.

And since we are only human. As part of that growing up, all kids need their basic inner goodness reflected back at them: every kid needs an adult who is not their parent thinking the world of them and expecting only the best out of them because they only have to see the best.

And I have to tell you, having a teenager think the world of you back just totally rocks.

Qiviut the old collage try
Saturday June 11th 2011, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Knit

The weatherman predicted a goodly warmth for today. We got up to 67. I got to feel, as I did the first day I worked with this, how a yarn so fine I could barely tell it was against my right hand nevertheless warmed my hand noticeably, in a way no other fiber has ever done while I knit.

I learned something this evening: qiviut can indeed be frogged. Even when you carefully wound the longtail end around each purl bump of the first row. I debated letting the curvy lengths pile up fetchingly on each other for a photoshoot as I undid, but common sense kicked in–let’s not push my luck.

Sometimes when there’s a nagging feeling as you go along, the only good thing to do is to hold it up in the mirror as if trying it on. There’s something about putting it in the context of the human body that clarifies things.

The mixture of laces wasn’t perfect. Too wide to too tight. I finally saw it. Normally I might rinse the project on the needles to set overnight to get a good idea of its post-blocking state, because that usually makes everything look better, but, again, I wasn’t about to risk any degree of felting it together.

It wasn’t by any means a waste of stitches, but rather a good bit of learning achieved in a short amount of time that I can’t wait to put to good use now. I even have an idea of how many individual stitches I can get out of my yardage–so, yes, today the ‘I’m counting’ thing was on steroids.

It all counts for good towards the end result. It’s going to be so gorgeous.

Begin the Beguine
Friday June 10th 2011, 11:20 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Robin wanted to knit her sister-in-law something, maybe a hat, or, say, fingerless gloves for walking the dog; we agreed to all meet up at Purlescence for yarn choosing.

I had shown her my qiviut project already, so I brought along a shawl I had started doing in Cascade Epiphany before putting it down to work on all the crazy-knitting I did for my family reunion.

I related to them the question I’d asked Kaye last night: “What would you say is the softest yarn in your shop?”

Kaye had thought hard a moment: “The Epiphany. That, and the Cashvera.” (The latter is heavier and part synthetic.)

The two sisters checked out both; Robin asked me questions. Yes, I’d made a hat using 70 stitches and knitting the Epiphany doubled; for a single-color hat (unlike mine), knit plain-ish, one skein should do it.

Robin’s sister-in-law, who isn’t a knitter, tried to resist being splurged on, and yet–she in a way returned the favor: she said how wonderful it surely would feel for Robin to have that yarn going between her hands as she worked with it, and it was clear she wanted for Robin to be able to enjoy that.

Can you just picture their smiles as they got in their car to go back to work? I got to see it. Purlescence now has two fewer skeins of that gorgeous royal blue.

And having paid all that attention to that yarn myself during all that, my needles had an Epiphany of their own for awhile after I got home. While they were checking out the shelves and the shop models, I’d worked out the kinks of the pattern I was putting together and had gotten past where I’d let it stump me previously.

And now I am making the leap into the unknown with the qiviut, too, from part one to part two: how will a yarn I have never used before look all dressed up in these laces? I’m finding out.

Larger-needled project and small, switching off as the hands tire of holding one or the other, a slow, lovely dance back and forth.

Begin the Beguine.

Thursday June 09th 2011, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Knit

My friend Robin, a fellow knitter, flew in from my hometown and I got to spend part of today with her. We tried to figure out how long it had been; must have been three years now, way too long. We were catching up, we had no particular agenda–till she said she’d realized she’d packed no chocolate.


I had her sample some of mine: Valrhona 71%, some Endangered Species dark with hazelnut toffee, and then we were off to the local Whole Foods, which has more choices than anywhere.

She passed on the Vosges chocolate/bacon bar. So far.

She went to her brother’s after that (I don’t get to keep her all the time) and I to KnitNight.

Where I got six carefully-knitted rows of lace done at Purlescence. Qiviut is like the finest cup of hot chocolate: you savor it slowly, a sipped stitch at a time.

Wednesday June 08th 2011, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Knit,To dye for

Lorraine, owner of Cottage Craft Angora, a small mill, wanted to know what I thought of her qiviut. No, she really wanted to know what I thought of her qiviut. Her 100%. (Picture of a Musk Ox here.)

Now, I’ve bought her Arctic Blend; one 2-ply skein, just to try it out, a 30/30/20/20 qiviut/baby alpaca/silk/merino mix, and dyed it myself, exploring.

It was exquisite. I could be satisfied with this soft stuff oh yes most definitely forever. It made a lot more of a lace scarf than I’d expected to get out of it–for, are you ready for this, ten bucks. Ten. And shipping.

My Mom and my sister Carolyn both wanted that one, out of all the rollaboard-suitcase’s-worth of knitted items I brought to the family reunion. Actually, all the women in the family who saw it did. Anyone would.

I lamented when the website said awhile ago that that blend was sold out; when more appeared just a few days ago, I selfishly ordered some quick before mentioning it to the blog now. Note that I am being very nice in telling you all about it when I can’t afford to stock up more than one color and weight to work with for right now, and I really really like the 2-ply. Haven’t tried the 3-ply. Yet. (Don’t take all the navy, okay, guys?)

Just one more skein… How’s that for a variant on the classic knitter line.

And then. The mailman rang the doorbell this afternoon. There was a skein of that Strawberry Red 100% qiviut from Canada, 44 grams’ worth, for me to go play with. Christmas!

I just happened to be wearing a blouse that matched the yarn as I opened the package; yes, I might like that color. Like, a lot. In the 100%, I would call it more a burgundy, myself.

She’d told me it was coming, actually, and I had just the pattern in mind for when it might arrive.

Ever planned on a name for a baby and when it was born it just wasn’t it? Yeah, I once had our family’s doctor stop by the hospital in New Hampshire to check on my newborn and then he stepped into my room to say, very pleased, that Michelle was doing well now–and I’ve always wondered if he just thought I was an exhausted new mom as I did a moment’s doubletake of an unspoken (Who? Oh right, right, we did change it), “Thanks!” (Duh.)

So. One look at that yarn and I threw out my plans and rewrote and re-mathed.

I doodled a bit to get a feel for gauge. I cast on. I kept the longtail long enough (and it came out exactly to the 1/2 inch) so that I could wrap it across the back of every bump as I purled the first row, an extra strand of yarn to strengthen that edge. Not my usual double-the-cast-on neck edge, though; this way left me the possibility of running a bit shy without having to start over and without risking wasting any.

A few minutes later I knit the first three stitches of a 126-stitch row wrong.

I thought about it a moment and realized, wait. Extra time with pure qiviut. This is a privilege. And not only that, after tinking I can weigh and measure exactly how much yarn that row took up to try to get a better idea of how far I can go with my 320 yards.

Zero grams. It came up zero grams. I can knit this stuff forever.

Tuesday June 07th 2011, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

I saw two of these, one in faded tones, yellows rather than vivid oranges, and the one shown on the left with the sunspot its apparent mate: Black-Headed Grosbeaks. Breathtaking up close. It’s been a year since I’ve seen any. The little house finches (like the little female on the right) were annoyed that they didn’t play the ‘fight and fall up or off and let me grab your perch’ game; just couldn’t get a rise out of them.

Dude. Let me eat my lunch while I ignore you. How else do you think this place gets its yumminess: I am the sun to the seed.

The squirrel flicked its tail side to side like a cat. Another un-intimidate-able bird: Not. Cool.

Oh yes it was.

Meantime, Michelle was trying to buy walking shoes for her trip and at the store I realized I’d been right when I’d grabbed yarn on my way out the door. I pulled my needles out of my overstuffed purse, eyeballed out the length I would need for longtailing it, and cast on.

Not something she’ll need in DC’s summer blaze, though.

p.s. Just for fun? There is someone who made a really loved Bug: those are all tiny seed beads. I’d be afraid to drive it, I mean, think what a fender bender would do, but, wow!

Happy Birthday, Richard!
Monday June 06th 2011, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family

And today we celebrate some more. Just like our family reunions last week: rather than having everything all at once and then over, we spread out the joy a bit. One of my sisters had a baby on Dad’s birthday, mine came the day after, and another’s, two days after that, all in different years.

Or like they say, a day late and a tall-or-short. Happy Birthday, Richard!

The big 8-5
Sunday June 05th 2011, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family

We all celebrated last weekend because that’s when all of us, we daughters, sons, nieces and nephew and a great nephew, several grandchildren and one great-grandchild could all make it into town at once. So he gets to hear it again: Happy Birthday, Dad!

Mirror images
Saturday June 04th 2011, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Family

I just spent an hour trying to puzzle out why this picture wouldn’t load, finally got Richard to come over, he stood over the computer, I demonstrated…

And poof. Picture. I did everything exactly the same way, the only change being the 6’8″ computer scientist standing above me.  It knows who’s the boss of it.


Gathering clouds
Friday June 03rd 2011, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit

Wow, that was fast.

The last few days I’ve felt like I really needed to be working on that white fluff project in case something happened and I found myself wishing it were done yesterday. But I was busy doing a lot of back-home-again things other than sitting down and holding still and brushed away the thought with, it only needs about three more hours of work to be long enough; if something comes up, I can do that pretty fast. Right?

I did talk myself into starting something else today, putting a hank on the back of a chair and standing there winding it up–but my hands could not be convinced. I wound up that ball, telling myself I’d leave the cloud for when I needed brainless knitting for carrying around. I saw no hurry.

But I felt one. I just could not make myself actually cast on with the new ball. The cloud was demanding to be done. Now.

I had no idea why.

We were talking to the kids tonight and I found myself asking them, Is there anything you need knit?

After a moment’s hesitation, they said, well, actually… if…

Turns out someone they know well and we all love, someone fairly young, was diagnosed just a day or two ago with metastasized cancer. They were wishing… But they wanted somehow for something to go out quickly: for immediate reassurance, for love, for the hope that it would represent coming from all of us.

And here, right here in my hands…

Some of that lace will have been knit just because, just the very first few inches of it (that stayed, because kid mohair is too hard to frog and I knew that since I’d wanted to work on it once, someday I’d want to work on it again.)  A lot of it was knit because something somehow prompted me a week ago to go find it and grab it while packing for my trip, after all its years of ziploc exile. (It was the needles that stopped it. Never knit snaggy-fibered kid mohair with very blunt tips.)

And some of that lace, now, will have been knit expressly for the loved one it’s going to. Which is why I’m glad now that I didn’t think to grab the finer-tipped needles before the trip, which would have sped up the knitting and gotten it finished before I got home.

One hug of soft airy fluff, coming up. Phyllis, this is from the leftover yarn from your shawl.

Almost done
Thursday June 02nd 2011, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Knit

Fingertip to fingertip, arms outstretched…

I turned to Rachel at KnitNight tonight and asked her if it should go way longer.

For a cloud of fluff like that? “Oh yes, definitely.”

For anyone who has my book (the usual note here of, it’s OOP but Purlescence has copies) this is five repeats of the lace in the main body of the Water Turtles pattern: cast on 51 and off you go.

Squirrel farming
Wednesday June 01st 2011, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

Groucho Marx. Look at the little guy.

I wondered why the weeds took over my green lawn in the last two years after being lawn forever before that.  Those golden rolling hills of California? They’re green in the spring before the rains stop (supposedly by now, and the weeds got tired of waiting for it to stop being so wet and turned brown anyway.)

At long last I know why we’ve been going native.

I’d seen the little thing running up a tree about a week ago with a mouthful like this, and then later doing what he again did today–he was digging and trying to plant this mouthful as if it were a nut. A weed-farming squirrel!

The quail likes the seeds from these, and I guess the squirrels do too.


Still, it does look funny with that straw beard.

(No knitting today: too much to catch up on, housewise. Quite a few home improvement projects happened in my absence and I’m trying to do likewise in return.)