Wednesday March 30th 2016, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life

Woke up to the thermometer reading 38 degrees out there this morning, even colder than yesterday. We’re definitely doing the March is going out like a lion thing, and it looks like another two-frost-covers night tonight.

On the other hand, it’s been great for wearing warm handknits.

Part of a baby dress in soft Malabrigo wool is blocking, just to see how big that lace would grow to before I continue any further: I want to get the proportions right and I’m totally winging it.

And some more Spring
Tuesday March 29th 2016, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

At the base of the little trunk, those are crushed brown eggshells to add calcium to the soil over time and because the slugs and snails can’t climb over them to strip the blossoms. Which they absolutely would do.

I finally thought to bend down to see if my newest apple’s flowers had any scent to them.

Like a gardenia. Ohmygoodness. How did I miss out on this before. Dainty and demure and needing to be sought out but when you did, what a reward, sweeter even than those on the Fuji.

My neighbor whom I’d planted it for happened to arrive home just then and I called over to her and exclaimed over the flowers with her.

She’d almost missed noticing them. She was as thrilled as I was. Have I mentioned I really like having her next door?

In the back yard: the irises nearly died of the drought but seem to be trying to make up for it now. They came with the house and have ebbed and flowed with the weather patterns over the years.

I haven’t seen them blooming like this in a long time, with more to come.

Writing this, I suddenly realize I didn’t bend down to see if they, too, have any scent–but then they’re not the novelty the columnar apple is so if there were, you’d think I would know by now.

And me, I went looking–again–through the stash for yarn for a hat that a preemie in the NICU could wear. Came up empty again…almost. Maybe…but I would think that adding color, rather than adding to the endless white there would be the thing. And it absolutely has to be washable. I wistfully held a ball of pulverized pearl/bamboo blend the color of those irises, so soft, so (and she needs this) warm, discontinued (because it was too expensive to produce) and thus a rare gem for the perfect little girl I wanted to knit it for.

But so needing delicate hand washing, which just wasn’t going to happen in the hospital.

I’ll keep looking.

If you go to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
Monday March 28th 2016, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life,Wildlife

I would think red would attract attention where you really wouldn’t want it.

On the other hand, those petal pieces would be soft and thicker and maybe stronger than a lot of types of leaves. Definitely gentler to the touch than the coir bits the Bewick’s wren has been wrestling off the seed pots. Maybe they’re at different stages of construction?

At first she just flew to the stalk several times throughout the day. Almost, almost–not ready. She really got going when the threesome of amaryllis buds turned red at the top of that stalk. I marveled that they could support the chickadee’s weight and when the first two flowers finally started to open today, I thought, that’s it, she can’t possibly perch on that. A single curving petal?

Try to stop me!

(No, no, enjoy!)

She was tearing off bigger pieces at the top now. Some of my friend Kathy’s dog’s fur from last year sat below, waiting to be claimed, but this tiny chestnut-backed, the smallest of all the chickadee types, wanted her babies cushioned by my favorite flowers. I tried quite a few times to photograph her at it but she’s not one to sit around and wait for me. There are nestlings to get ready for!

Easter sweetness
Sunday March 27th 2016, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

Walking the grandkids to their car yesterday, I pointed out the stick-with-flowers tree and said, “That’s an apple.”

Parker, suddenly thrilled, did a little dance: “I LOVE apples!!!” (I like to think this helped start it all…)

Hugs all around, carseats were buckled, our son started to drive away….


Daddy stopped.

Parker had almost forgotten! He’d been saving something for us, Grampa, come here!

My husband, knowing they were in a hurry to get to their Great Grandma M’s big dinner, dashed up to see what was going on.

He needed to share: “These are for you and Gramma!”

Happy Easter!
Saturday March 26th 2016, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

The phone rang. Then the doorbell did. Surprise!

My daughter-in-law’s mom’s large family was having a reunion this weekend and Great Grandma lives maybe a mile from us. The kids didn’t tell us they were coming because the way things were scheduled they weren’t sure they could get away for a moment. But they couldn’t not come…!

Maddy was entranced by the birds. The doves ambled off to the grass as she approached the window but the finches weren’t leaving that feeder.

Parker found the tennis racquet-shaped bug zapper that was behind the toy basket because, um, we weren’t quite child-proofed just then. No harm.

Hudson showed me how to turn the tractor on so it would make tractor-y noises.

I love this last photo. Baby photo, meet In Real Life little boy. Even if it is his brother.

On Good Friday
Friday March 25th 2016, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Garden,History,Life,Politics

The Tangy Green Columnar from two angles. Most apples don’t need a pollinator but it does, and so the Yellow Transparent gave up a twig with the same stages of blooming this evening.

Meantime, in politics…

Time Magazine did a photo shoot with the Republican candidate (his unmentionable name deleted) with a Bald Eagle for their cover–it was only later that they released the footage of the eagle starting to attack him as he rears back and away. (Scroll down slightly to the GIF to skip the ad in the video.)

A video that’s a lot more fun: in the middle of a large campaign rally today, a Pine Siskin flies to Bernie Sanders’ “A future to believe in” sign and, resting on that perch, turns its head to get a good look at the candidate. At 56 seconds in, it flies  towards Bernie himself before veering upwards in no particular hurry, not having minded the sounds of the crowd in any of this. (And I have seen how they zoom away when a hawk arrives. That one was not afraid.)

I love Bernie’s delight as he stops right there to take in and appreciate what life has suddenly brought him, his laugh for the sheer joy of it.

I was pulling weeds tonight just a few feet from the patio when an Oregon junco flew in beside me. A Bewick’s wren came from the other direction and joined in.

Wild things know.

Four pounds seven ounces
Thursday March 24th 2016, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life

Thirty-one weeks, thirty-two weeks, hang in there, baby…

She made it to thirty-three weeks. When my nephew’s wife first went into labor the doctors told the parents that every day in utero was a week the baby wouldn’t have to spend in the NICU, so getting that far was a huge blessing.

I packed a not-tiny-enough outfit with an adorable pair of baby socks knitted by my friend Susan into a box last Friday (I wish I’d thought to take a picture of them) and sent it off to my sister-in-law; the new parents were supposed to be moving near her about the time labor had first unexpectedly started and I didn’t want it to get lost between the mailman and the new place.

Their daughter/her granddaughter arrived Tuesday. There is an adorable picture that is not mine to share of her looking up at her mother with wide open, soft eyes. She is a beautiful baby.

Our niece was discharged today with the surprise of a newly-arrived box to open.

The baby is doing very well, all things considered. Breathing on her own. Might be able to eat on her own soon, too.

The handknit socks. That’s what got exclaimed over. Susan had made these beautiful socks for their baby, and on the day they had to go home without her yet it helped.

Sharing more Spring
Wednesday March 23rd 2016, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Garden

See that iris in the background? This is the first time it’s bloomed in several years. We really did get a lot more rain this winter.

Dark pink buds: the Tangy Green Columnar I planted a year ago. Since I don’t really expect the bees to zip around the house to get to it from the other apples like it needs, as soon as they open I’ll snip a flowering branch from the old Yellow Transparent and put it in a glass of water next to it.

Meantime, the English Morello tart cherry continues to open up. It, too, is not quite three feet high. Someday, someday, it will be tall enough to offer cherries to the neighbors across the fence.

To Brussels with love
Tuesday March 22nd 2016, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

So I was doing my taxes, so close to that coming relief at being done–when the program choked and crashed the computer and when I rebooted, everything was gone. But I’d…hit…save….!

My macular distortion from a small tear at the back of each eye is such that focusing intensely on tiny objects like a line of numbers on a page makes them squiggly, as if someone had crumpled up a paper and not smoothed it back out yet.

Oh well. I reentered the whole thing (it did go a lot faster the second time) but with Richard home now, backing me up on reading those numbers correctly as I typed. I think this time I did manage to save most of it to the program itself before I hit that same endless spinning “Calculating…” He looked it over and went, Huh.

Tomorrow (she said, trying to tamp down the aggravation) I tackle it again. Fresh eyes.

And then I thought of the day’s news from Brussels and wondered what on earth I had to complain about. One of the Americans who was injured was a Mormon missionary from Utah who could easily be a distant cousin with that name Wells, not that it matters: every good person who aches deeply at such terrible things done to the innocent–we belong to each other from everywhere around the world no matter who we are or where we come from. We want to be the caring arms right there in person reaching out to those who are hurt, to somehow make it better by our sheer presence and will. If only.

Acts of terror only bring that love out into the open. We will always be more powerful.

Mowing them down
Monday March 21st 2016, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

A late-season cold and rainy day. (It’s supposed to hit 39 tonight.)

We really need those. (Except for that last part. Brrr.)

I went outside well towards dark with a cupful of grass seed, sprinkling everywhere I’d cleared the weeds out from. Glancing up at the trees, if they don’t see me they can’t immediately snatch it all up and maybe they won’t even notice tomorrow.

Did you just guffaw at that like we did? But still–the ground is damp, the only question is what will grow as a result so we might as well try for a few survivors.

Now the only question is how many different species of birds we will wake up to out there in the morning.

Cherry, cherry, baby
Sunday March 20th 2016, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Knit,Wildlife

The knitting. Hmm. No, if I say a single word it’ll give it away–so yeah. Later.

Meantime, the first Indian Free flower opened Feb. 23; at March 20 and after all those rains that tree is still blooming, although these last blossoms have no counterparts left on the other peaches for pollination. Such a pretty tree. So very glad I planted it. (Lemons and clamshell-protected peaches in the background.)

And the tart cherry–I counted in the neighborhood of a hundred buds today on that tiny tree.

The Cooper’s hawk swooped overhead while I was outside taking these pictures but I didn’t quite get him in any of them.

Saturday March 19th 2016, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

(Nope, still just white buds on the English Morello but I’ve got more flowers on the Stella cherry for you.)

We were the parents of two children under four years old and a third was on the way come the next spring. We had moved into our first house from a series of furnished apartments over our young marriage–we had basically nothing.

And so one crisp fall Saturday we went off to some place off thataway to buy a can of finish and not one but two cheap plain pine dressers for our little ones, a little do-it-yourself-ing ahead that would make them really ours (and a little more respectable). It took some doing to squeeze them home in our old Toyota wagon behind the two car seats.

Since I was pregnant, Richard took it upon himself to apply a finish to those on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And I’ll never forget, because the next morning, after a night of being utterly unable to sleep for the severity of a headache–and headaches for me were a rare thing–and when our two little ones were up all night anyway throwing up, and then finally Richard threw up–in the morning, after my collapsing by the side of the bed for the pain but coming to when I hit the floor, unable to stand, Richard was asking into the phone if this could be a reaction to that pungent wood finish wafting up the stairs. It was November. You don’t open the windows in New Hampshire in November.

Or, since we had eaten leftovers, the stuffing had been left out too long and too warm Thursday. Food poisoning?

The answer was a complete and total surprise: the doctor asked, Do you have a coal-burning stove?

Yes, and we had used it for the first time the day before.

The second thing he said was, since he had declared us to have carbon monoxide poisoning, Can you drive yourselves to the hospital? (There was no 911 service in that town at that time, just Sister So-and-So from church with her trusty snow-worthy Suburu wagon, ready and willing to transport anyone who needed it as her act of service of the day. I am told there is an actual ambulance now.)

Me, no way, but somehow Richard managed it. When they sampled his blood they came back wide-eyed and asked, How?!

He was taking care of his family. He had to make it. So he did.

We moved a lot of stuff around today to make way for the furniture Michelle needed to temporarily store here and now that’s all done.

There is this one old pine dresser that’s been plastered in little-kid stickers for a very long time, an art project when Mommy wasn’t looking. It hasn’t been in her room in a long time and now there’s no longer space for it anywhere at all.

And I’m torn between, we finally get to get rid of it (but let’s scrub those off first), and, there’s a bit of history to that thing that nobody else could know or would even want to know. My kids lived to stick those stickers on. And that dresser was innocent all along.

Movable parts
Friday March 18th 2016, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Wildlife

Michelle is moving and some of her stuff will have to store here for a little while. Eichler houses do not have attics nor basements. I am taking a break for a moment from getting ready for tomorrow’s input. (Your roommate gave you her piano? Cool!)

The little English Morello tart cherry tree that we planted last year, whose emerging leaves got utterly devoured again and again till I finally went out one night and discovered the pharoah’s plague of Japanese beetles swarming it–that tree. Big rootstock but the top stayed tiny, not much taller than my knees.

So I was just waiting for those bugs to come back. Meantime, the squirrels dug for them, the towhees stood near the tree and jumped backwards again and again, spraying bits of dirt out of the way and pecking at what were surely tasty shiny green/black goodies; me, I shook barbecue-grill ashes along the branches and the bottom of the trunk, figuring that was probably not the same as when I sprinkled it directly on the bugs last year and they all instantly fell off dying as the ash broke their joints. (And fertilized the tree.) But hey. A little preemptive Do Something. We all pitched in.

Tiny pops of green last week, later than the sweet cherry but not to worry–and no sign of damage. Every morning and every night I’ve checked. We’re good.

Yesterday was different, though: suddenly some of those round green buds started to turn white and tomorrow we should actually have flowers. Who knew! I had zero expectations of sour cherries this year–I expected the tree to still be in pure survival mode.

I guess it recovered better than I could see.

And for a total win, the thing is still so tiny that it fits under one of my small birdnetting tents. Easiest critter guard ever.

Season tickets to the show
Thursday March 17th 2016, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Wildlife

Looked out the window to see a black squirrel hanging upside down the trunk of the cherry tree. Wait–there isn’t even any fruit there yet, guys, c’mon! But given that the squirrels gnawed halfway through and destroyed a bunch of peaches the size of a small fingernail I chased him off and did a “And STAY out!” by baptizing the tree by sprinkling. With cinnamon. What I’d put out for the ants had gotten rained off and I hadn’t thought I at all needed to replace it yet but I was wrong.

Not a single critter has come back. That I know of.

We went out and bought birdnetting this evening, though we have not wrestled it on yet.

A few days ago a raven landed on the fence immediately behind that cherry, his mate in the neighbor’s tree just behind him, and with a my-territory-not-your-territory from me they promptly flew off; every time since then that they’ve returned to that tree just beyond the fence they have stayed behind a big limb as if to hide. But they have not come into my back yard.

Today there were a lot more cherry blossoms promising of all the goodness to come–and two side-by-side raven-sized poop jobs on my car. I washed them off fast before they could damage the paint; I’m hoping we’re not going to have to buy a car cover. I mean, hey, I didn’t even do the fake dead crow thing yet, guys!

Tonight while weeding I found a third of those critter holes (possum? Raccoon? Skunk?) dug under the fence, a new one in exactly the shape and size of the other two and immediately below where that raven had landed, i.e. as close to the trunk of that same sweet cherry as it could get.

I think what we have here is a conflict of interest.

(So I got out a long-tangled hank of Malabrigo Rios and got that pretty and exquisitely soft yarn all wound up neatly, needing to exert total control over a frustration, any frustration, and turn it into happy anticipation. It’s beautiful now and ready to dive into. It felt great.)

A substantial knit
Wednesday March 16th 2016, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee made her daughter a hat like this (thank you for the inspiration!) Alternating sections of knit and purl that make stockinette’s tendency to curl up on itself a feature rather than a bug: five-row sections of it pointing this way and then that make a warmer garment in the process, little almost-tubes of wool against the cold. It also tends to take a lot of knitting to get it to create actual length. This was the new project in my hands when the stake president stopped me.

Yarn: a heavy merino here, knit on size 4.5mm (US 7). I simply knit till the yarn was as close to gone as I dared before casting off. I found it slightly overspun, so not quite so much of the Zegna Baruffa extrafine effect, but that means it will hold up to a whole lot of wear against a coat and it is definitely soft enough.