Let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him. (Oswalt Chambers)

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Backyard Leaves, Done, Blocked, and Packed

Post 5 of 5 for the Backyard Leaves Scarf Contest.
Leave a comment on this post within seven days of post date and you will be entered into a drawing for the completed scarf.

Complete list of rules and procedures is here. (No reason to read them unless you are interested.)

The pattern is Backyard Leaves from Scarf Style, designed by Annie Modesitt.

The yarn is Andean Silk from Knitpicks, color Lettuce.

Previous Backyard Leaves posts:

Backyard Leaves scarf around my neck, outdoors under the blooming apple treeIt's done, it's washed, and it's as blocked as it can be and still have moderately puffy leaves.

Photographer Bob was concerned that the length of the scarf isn't obvious in this picture and someone might not realize they are getting a six foot scarf.

Actually the finished scarf is right on gauge. It's approximately 78 inches long and about 5 inches wide, just like the pattern says.

(Note to anyone planning to knit this with Knitpicks Andean Silk, I used 4 skeins and had a total of 2 yards left when done.)

We won't dwell on the joining seam in the middle of the back. It rates a C - not awful enough to ruin the scarf, not pretty enough to show with pride.

I think there's a good reason the pattern doesn't tell you how to do the seam. There isn't a good way to do it. I ended up picking up edge stitches on two needles and doing a three needle bind off. Then I forced myself to leave it alone, because it wasn't going to get any better.

Backyard Leave scarf sitting in the box ready to be mailed to the contest winnerNow the scarf is ready to send to the drawing winner.

This is your last chance to leave a comment and get in the drawing. It's perfectly fine to comment again if you've commented on a different scarf post. The thought was that faithful readers could have five chances, one for each scarf post.

Don't be shy.

As mentioned last week, the drawing will be held as soon as I recover from the flights back from Idaho. Estimated date to declare winner is May 11.

For those who need a comment prompt, here's a question: If you were to make this scarf, would you make it 78 inches long as the pattern calls for?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Peek-A-Boo Bluebird and Sydney Anne

Five bluebird eggs in the nestboxSometimes nature just doesn't cooperate with my photography.

The bluebird nest box hole faces southeast and is almost always shaded. That's a very good thing for the bluebirds, but not for the photographer.

It's impossible to get a good picture of mom bluebird peeking out of the hole without popping a flash in her face, which I refuse to do.

We've come to a very fragile understanding that she doesn't have to fly out of the box everytime I walk by with the dogs. She pops up, peeks out the hole, and ducks back down in the nest until we're gone.

If you use your imagination, you can see her peeking out the hole at me. See that light shadowy spot? She's there, she really is.

Five bluebird eggs in the nestboxWhen I monitored bluebird trails at work, we were taught to knock on the nest box before opening it to give the adult birds a chance to fly out. It's a good habit and I always do it, but with this peeking mom I know when she's in the box and when she's out.

As part of our fragile understanding, I never knock on the box - or open it - when I know she's on the nest.

When she was out the other day, I took the opportunity to get a picture of her five beautiful blue eggs.

My wonderful granddaughter Sydney Anne at two weeksHere's a picture of granddaughter Sydney Anne at two weeks.

She'll be four weeks old when I get to meet her in person next Tuesday. There couldn't be a better Mother's Day gift than a new granddaughter to love.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Knitting Log for April 27

Opal UNI-Solid red and Opal Tutti Fruiti Now that the Backyard Leaves scarf is done, I'm thinking about socks for daughter Heather's birthday. She asked for red and yarn doesn't get any redder than this. It's Opal UNI-Solid red, soon to be knit in a pretty lace pattern.

If I knew which lace pattern, the socks would be started. I need to spend some time in my stitch treasuries to finalize the sock design.

The multi colored skein is Opal Tutti Fruiti, and it's for me. I think I'll knit them up in a horizontal type lace pattern, but not until Heather's socks are done.

Two things on the needles at once seems to be my limit for peace of mind. When I get three or more projects going, it feels like I'm not making progress on any of them. Then I end up picking one thing to work on. When the other projects get set aside, I frequently have the urge to leave them aside, never to be finished.

The Lavold Silky Tweed sweater is in set-aside status right now and I'm struggling with going back to it.

Last time I saw Lavold, I was shoving it in a bag after just completing a well executed neckline ribbing that wouldn't fit over my head. But it's coming out of hiding soon. Frogging that neckline will be the first order of business.

After all, I can't just pack that sweater away forever. You're all anxious to see it again. Right? If you don't see it soon, you'll know that I'm a weak person who just knits for fun and gives up easily when things get a little nasty.

Peer pressure. Some days it's just what I need to push me toward the right knitting bag.

Two Cozy in Cables Vests and a pair of socks for CICFriend Sherry knits for CIC. Lately we've been taking turns sending in a box containing our joint efforts.

It's Sherry's turn to go to the Post Office, so tonight when I see her at church she will get a bag with these two Cozy in Cables vests and one little pair of socks knit in John's Basketweave Ribbing pattern.

Writing the Cozy in Cables Vest Pattern has been very rewarding. Even though it cut into my knitting time and I was only able to complete two vests instead of four, several knitters have used the pattern for their CIC knitting.

The pattern was noticed by the Dulaan Project, a group that knits for the homeless children of Mongolia. Some of those knitters are also knitting Cozy in Cables.

It's my hope that it will be used for charity knitting for years to come. A piece of my heart goes with every little vest knit. May the children of the world be warm and feel a little of our love when they wear their Cozy in Cables vests.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Spring Again - No Harm Done

Apple blossoms after the snow with no harm doneSnow is gone, spring is back.

It is totally amazing that the temperature never dipped below the freezing point so all the plants are looking greener than ever - no frost burn on their leaves, no harm to the flowers.

Once the snow melted, the apple blossoms continued blooming just like they'd never been covered with snow. And all the plants were happy for the nice watering when the snow melted.

Fish Hatchery with swan nest and swan coupleWhen it warmed up on Monday, I grabbed Glory and we took a walk at the fish hatchery to check on the nesting swans. I'm hoping to see cygnets before leaving for Idaho next Tuesday.

Since I don't know when the eggs were laid, I don't know when they're due to hatch. Mute swans incubate for 36 to 38 days, so it's possible I'm going to miss the big event.

This picture shows the wonderful paths going between the ponds at the fish hatchery. As I've mentioned before, it's a great place to walk and they allow dogs on leash.

Three of the ponds have a Mute Swan nest. This is the pond where I can get closest to take pictures. All my pictures have been of this nest, but I'm watching all three.

This is also the only pond where we can get close enough to put the swans in a hissy fit. This time it was the female on the nest who got riled. She stood up to threaten us, hissing, and I could see her eggs. I could also see her seven foot wing span. Very impressive. We quickly walked on down the path. Didn't want to upset her too much.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Snowy Spring

Front yard full of snow taken out the front windowThis was the view out the front window this morning. Actually not too bad considering the amount of snow that has come out of sky the last twenty-four hours.

It started snowing and blowing yesterday morning and snowed all day. The ground was so warm that the snow kept melting until the sun went down. By the time I went to bed last night I knew I'd be wearing boots to church this morning.

Living in Michigan we are well aware that a late spring snow can happen, although most of us Michiganders would prefer it not happen.

The average last frost date for SW Michigan is the middle of May. That's the average date. Anyone who plants their annuals before Memorial Day takes the chance of losing them all to a frosty night.

Pansies just keep blooming, snow and allThese pansies don't care if there's snow.

I planted them last fall and they spent the winter under a pile of snow. Now that it's spring, they're they're not going to be deterred by a little more snow.

Apple blossoms covered with snowIn the back yard, the apple trees are ready to bloom on the next warm, sunny day. It obviously won't be this day.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Backyard Leaves, Ready to Finish

Post 4 of 5 for the Backyard Leaves Scarf Contest.
Leave a comment on this post within seven days of post date and you will be entered into a drawing for the completed scarf.

Complete list of rules and procedures is here. (No reason to read them unless you are interested.)

The pattern is Backyard Leaves from Scarf Style, designed by Annie Modesitt.

The yarn is Andean Silk from Knitpicks, color Lettuce.

Previous Backyard Leaves posts:

Half of Backyard Leaves Scarf with knitting completedThe two halves of the scarf are knit and I'm ready to sew it together, weave in the ends, wash and block it, and pack it up for the contest winner.

The top of the picture is the end that gets sewn to the other half of the scarf. The bottom end is a beautiful way to end the two leaves.

The scarf ends are not shown in the pattern book and I can't imagine why not. The way the scarf ends is one of the outstanding features of the pattern.

Detail on end of Backyard Leaves ScarfHere's some detail of the scarf end.

The ingenious slip stitch edging goes all the way to the two leaf tips where it ends with a slip 2 as if to knit 2 together, knit 1, pass slipped stitches over.

There will be one more contest post at the end of this week when the scarf is totally complete. Contest entry comments can collect while I'm on a wonderful trip to Idaho May 3 - May 10. (There's still a 7 day cutoff)

As soon as I recover from the trip home, I'll have Bob do the drawing and post the winner of the scarf. Estimated date to declare winner is May 11.

This contest has been fun for me. I've enjoyed getting the comments and visiting new blogs from the comment links. I've also enjoyed the knitting, knowing that this scarf will go to some unknown visitor to Stitches of Violet.

For those who need a comment prompt, here's a question: It is interesting and unexpected that only approximately 5% of Stitches of Violet visitors leave a comment to enter the contest. Any thoughts on why the number is so low?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Spring Wildflowers

Entrance to Kalamazoo Nature Center in late AprilThis was the week SW Michigan turned green.

The grass is ready for the first mowing. Some ambitious people have already mowed.

The leaves on the trees and bushes have started to unfurl except for a few stubborn late-leafers like the oak trees.

This picture was taken at the entrance area of the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Yesterday my friend Luanne and I spent almost two hours in the Nature Center's Beech/Maple forest enjoying the spring wildflowers.

It was a beautiful, sunny 60 degree afternoon at the peak of the woodland wildflower bloom.

Hillside covered with wildflowersBy the middle of May there will be no sunlight in this woods. The woodland wildflowers have a very short time window to flower, gather some sunshine and energy, and reproduce.

Right now, the end of April, there are acres and acres of delicate woodland wildflowers blooming. We had a great amateur naturalist time identifying them with our Newcomb's Wildflower Guides.

Wild violets and spring beauty Wild blue-purple violets are my favorite flower. There is no way to reproduce their rich, royal color in a picture.

At the Nature Center, the violets are mixed in with all the other wildflowers instead of having a patch of their own. In this picture a clump of violets is growing with Spring Beauty.

Spring Beauty is very common in SW Michigan. It will even grow sparsely in an Oak forest, like the one we have across the street from our house. Every spring I have a few Spring Beauty pop up in the yard where, no doubt, the birds have dropped the seed.

Picture Blue Eyed Mary and spring beautyThis is Blue-eyed Mary growing with Spring Beauty at the Nature Center.

During our walk we saw a naturalist sitting on a hillside in the middle of a large patch of Blue-eyed Mary. She told us she was doing research on Blue-eyed Mary pollination. Her job for the day was to sit there and record the insects that visited the blooms.

I want a job like that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Cozy In Cables Toddler Vest Pattern

Cozy In Cables Vest in blue lopi This pattern was written with warmth, durability, and ease of knitting as the three main considerations. Hopefully you will also find it to be cute and fun to knit.

Vest is knit in the round from the bottom up.

No seams. No sewing required.

The back and front are the same.

Yarn: 150 yards of bulky weight wool. Vest in picture was knit with Reynold's Lopi.

Needles: Size 10.5, 24 inch circular.

Other needs:
cable needle
2 stitch markers
A second circular of same or smaller size OR a large stitch holder
tapestry needle for weaving in ends

Gauge: 3 stitches per inch. 4 rows per inch. (Approximate gauge is OK for CIC. It will fit some child who needs it.)

Finished Size: Toddler size 2 - 4. 24 to 26 inches at chest, 13 to 14 inches in length.

k - knit
p - purl
C4F - cable 4 to the front. Put 2 stitches on a cable needle and hold in front of work (toward you). Knit the next two stitches, then knit the two stitches off the cable needle.
C4B - cable 4 to the back. Put 2 stitches on a cable needle and hold in back of work (away from you). Knit the next two stitches, then knit the two stitches off the cable needle.
k2tog - knit two stitches together
RS - right side
WS - wrong side

Body of vest from ribbing to underarm
Cast on 74 stitches, loosely.

Join and place marker (left side marker).

k1, p1 ribbing for 37 stitches.
Place marker. (right side marker)

Continue k1, p1 ribbing in the round for 2 inches.
End at the left side marker.

Work circular Cozy In Cables pattern for approximately 4 inches, ending at the left side marker after Row 4. (Total length, ~6 inches.)

Circular Cozy In Cables Pattern:
Round 1: (k6, p2, k4, p2, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p2, k4, p2, k6) twice, once across front and once across back.
Round 2: (k6, p2, C4B, p2, k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, k, p2, C4F, p2, k6) twice.
Round 3: (k6, p2, k4, p2, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p2, k4, p2, k6) twice.
Round 4: (k6, p2, k4, p2, k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, k, p2, k4, p2, k6) twice.

Work the following rounds to provide the under arm garter stitch.

Round 1 Front: k6, p2, k4, p2, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p2, k4, p2, p6
Round 1 Back: p6, p2, k4, p2, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p2, k4, p2, p6
Round 2 Front: p6, p2, C4B, p2, k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, k, p2, C4F, p2, k6
Round 2 Back: k6, p2, C4B, p2, k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, k, p2, C4F, p2, k6
Round 3 Front: k6, p2, k4, p2, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p2, k4, p2, p6
Round 3 Back: p6, p2, k4, p2, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p2, k4, p2, p6
Round 4 Front: p6, p2, k4, p2, k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, k, p2, k4, p2, k6
Round 4 Back: k6, p2, k4, p2, k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, k, p2, k4, p2, k6

Work the following round to create the arm openings, purling the stitches that are being bound off.

k6, p2, k4, p2, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p2, k4, p2, p3, bind off 6, p3, p2, k4, p2, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p2, k4, p2, p3, bind off 6

Markers are no longer needed.
Put back flap on holder or slip onto a second circular needle.

Front Flap
Work across front flap: p2, p2, C4B, p2, k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, k, p2, C4F, p2, k3
Note: The row actually starts with a p3, but the first stitch has already been purled as part of the preceding bind off.

Work the following flap rows until flap measures 4 to 5 inches, ending after Row 2.

Flap Rows:
WS Row 1: k5, p4, k2, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k2, p4, k5
RS Row 2: k3, p2, k4, p2, k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, k, p2, k4, p2, k3
WS Row 3: k5, p4, k2, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k2, p4, k5
RS Row 4: k3, p2, C4B, p2, k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, k, p2, C4F, p2, k3

Note: On the front flap only, the last three stitches of Row 1 of the flap rows will result in a double purl row on the garter stitch arm edge. While not perfection, this is the best of several alternatives and is not noticeable in the finished vest.

Garter Neck Edge
WS Row 1: k6, k2tog, k15, k2tog, k6
Note: The k2tog keeps the top of the cable from spreading.
Rows 2 - 5: knit
Leave stitches on needle. Do not bind off.
Cut yarn, leaving 5 feet of yarn attached to vest for later use in binding off.

Back Flap
Join yarn to work right side row.
RS Row 1: k3, p2, C4B, p2, k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, k, p2, C4F, p2, k3
Work the flap rows until flap measures 4 to 5 inches, ending after Row 2.

Work Back Garter Neck Edge same as Front Garter Neck Edge.

Shoulder Seam and Bindoff
With wrong sides together, bind off 4 stitches on the first shoulder using 3 needle bind off.
Without breaking yarn, bind off VERY LOOSELY across the neck edge closest to you, stopping with 5 stitches remaining on needle.

Turn vest and bind off 4 stitches on the second shoulder using 3 needle bind off.
Without breaking yarn, bind off VERY LOOSELY across the neck edge closest to you and weave yarn into first shoulder bind off.

Turn vest again and finish binding off the first edge weaving yarn into second shoulder bind off.

Make sure the neck opening will pull over your head before you cut and weave in the ends.

Wash the vest in mild soap (I use baby shampoo) and cool water.
Lay out flat to block and dry.

Copyright Marguerite Byrne, 2005.
Send comments and corrections to knittingviolet@gmail.com

Monday, April 18, 2005

Three Thank Yous

Pappy and Glory playing and romping togetherPappy Update
Thanks to everyone for their prayers, positive thoughts and get well wishes for Pappy.

After three days of Deramaxx he's bouncing around like a youngster. We hope it was a onetime muscle pull and not something chronic.

He does have a large scar across the back of his neck where the problem started. Still, we've had him for over two years and it hasn't been a problem before now.

Cozy In Cables Vest in blue lopi Cozy In Cables, Vest 1
Thank you to everyone who left a suggestion for naming this vest pattern. All the suggestions were better than anything I could think up.

I'm officially naming the vest Cozy In Cables, suggested by Lisa. It's the perfect name for several reasons: We're knitting vests in bulky weight wool to keep the orphans warm and cozy, it has cables, and Cozy In Cables has the same acronym as CIC, Children in Common.

Thanks Lisa and everyone else who made a suggestion.

My test vest is almost finished and, if life goes smoothly, I plan to have the pattern posted by Wednesday.

Wood tick on my hand Outdoor Updates
Thank you to everyone who has sent an email or left a comment about enjoying the nature pictures and posts on Stitches of Violet.

Here are some brief updates on what's going on in the yard.

It's very dry and we have a burning ban that only a complete fool would ignore. Dry leaves make for easy raking, but I come in covered with dust.

This dryness is atypical. April in Michigan is normally a month of rain, mud, and an occasional tornado.

Another unusual thing is the large amount of wood ticks this year. We're finding them on our clothing, on our skin, on the dogs, and just about everywhere as they crawl around looking for a place to attach themselves.

They're flat, hard, and difficult to kill. I read once that they hate water so I delight in flushing them into the septic system. That's where this one ended up about one minute after I took this picture.

The bluebirds have five eggs now and incubation has begun. Estimated hatch date is May 1.

There are tree swallows sitting on the second nest box of the pair. No nest yet, but they buzzed my head when I walked out there this morning so I think they're serious about claiming it.

Looks like we have a fox den out in the dog walking field. It has three good sized holes that one of my little dogs could climb - or fall - into. No plans to disrupt the fox family, but I wish they had built their home elsewhere.

This morning I spotted an Eastern hognose snake and was able to identify it pronto. I'm learning.

Haven't seen the mink in a week or so. Soon the grass will be too long to see anything.

It's interesting and a little disappointing to see my hit counts cut in half since spring arrived and I've been intermingling nature posts along with the knitting posts. I hope it's only because blog readers are working more outside and have less time at their computer. I know that's true for me.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Backyard Leaves, Two Thirds Done

Post 3 of 5 for the Backyard Leaves Scarf Contest.
Leave a comment on this post within seven days of post date and you will be entered into a drawing for the completed scarf.

Complete list of rules and procedures is here. (No reason to read them unless you are interested.)

The pattern is Backyard Leaves from Scarf Style, designed by Annie Modesitt.

The yarn is Andean Silk from Knitpicks, color Lettuce.

Previous Backyard Leaves posts:

Two sections of Backyard Leaves Scarf with 8 pattern repeats completed The Andean Silk is a joy to knit. I'm using an Addi Turbo 7. The yarn slides on and off the needles so smoothly even the double decreases are easy to knit.

It has very fine little hairs that occasionally fluff out. Maybe the silk? I thought the yarn must be a super dog hair magnet before I figured out the little hairs were part of the yarn.

It's time to confess that I'm not knitting this from the chart. I wrote out the pattern rows line by line.

Normally I have no problem working from a chart, but I wasn't comfortable doing it for this stitch pattern.

The chart symbols are small and similar in appearance. My eyes are 60+ years old and sitting behind trifocals. Even if I enlarged the chart, there is still the challenge of knowing what a symbol means. My eyes would be continuously jumping from the chart to the key and back.

Some of the chart symbols mean one thing on a right side row and another thing on a wrong side row. This could only lead to the moment when I would discover a wrong leaning decrease about twenty rows back, and the thought of frogging this stitch pattern makes me shudder.

So I have the rows written out on a piece of notebook paper and I am carefully keeping track of where I am by making little pencil marks as I knit along. It's a comfortable way to knit for me.

Only three more pattern repeats on each piece and then I get the fun of knitting the leaf tips on the scarf ends. I'm looking forward to that.

For those who need a comment prompt, here's a question: How long does it normally take you to go from new project excitement to the "I just want to get it done" stage?

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Why Didn't You Tell Me?

Not only did I spell "cygnet" wrong, the misspelling was in the title of the post in big black letters for the whole online world to see.

The Signets Are Coming

I'm not a great speller. I try to compensate by using spell check (which didn't see anything wrong with me writing about a seal used officially to give personal authority to a document in lieu of signature), the online Merriam Webster Dictionary, and other sources.

It was the other sources that led me astray on this one. I quickly Googled "swan signet" and got enough hits so I thought I had the spelling right.

Guess that just proves I'm not the only one who can't spell "cygnet". It also proves that just because I find a spelling in Google I can't assume it's correct.

I know I have many readers who must have winced when they saw "cygnet" spelled "signet".

Why didn't you gently tell me? It would have been kind.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Will The Real Friday Please Stand Up

This is the first day this week I haven't had multiple places to go. I was looking forward to staying home and alternating between being outdoors, in the kitchen, and knitting.

This was the list for my peaceful day at home:
  • Knit a pattern repeat on Backyard Leaves
  • Finish writing up Cozy Cables CIC Vest pattern
  • Start second Cozy Cables CIC Vest
  • Go for walk at fish hatchery and check on swans
  • Clean kitchen
  • Make bean and ham soup
  • Rake remaining leaves in front yard
  • Uncover hostas and violets next to barn (more raking)
  • Write a blog post

Instead, the day looked like this:

Pappy on a comforter on the floor after being drugged at the vetsPappy was in pain this morning. We had no idea what kind of pain. His whole body was tense, he didn't want to do stairs or jump on or off his favorite furniture, and his tail was between his legs.

I spent most of the morning being "worked in" at the vets office, then waiting for the sedative to work so they could take x-rays, and then waiting for the x-rays to be read.

The results were inconclusive. Once he relaxed the vet could isolate the pain to his right shoulder. Pappy does have a large scar there from his pre-rescue life.

No bone problems showed in the x-ray and his digestive tract was clear. The vet sent him home drugged, with more pain pills and instructions to call tomorrow.

I put him to bed back in the bedroom, but his people dog instincts kicked in and he staggered out in into the room where Bob and I were sitting. I made him a bed on the floor where he wanted to be. He's been sleeping on it for over eight hours now.

Swans on the nest at the fish hatchery Since Pappy was drugged and Glory was barfing up her annual grass eating binge, I took Sunny to the fish hatchery for a nice walk to check on the swans.

Daddy swan was grumpier today. He started hissing before we ever got to the path. We didn't linger.

There may be cygnets in that nest under their mother's wings. If there are, she's not ready to show them yet. We'll be back.

The fish hatchery is a great place to walk - great paths and so much to see - incentive to visit often.

Eastern hognose snake found under the leaves next to the barn My goal is to rake up several large piles of oak leaves every day. Today I cleared out the hosta, fern, violet bed next to the barn.

Imagine my surprise when I uncovered a thick, brown spotted snake that immediately curled up and hissed at me. (I'm getting hissed at a lot this spring.)

I'm a novice at snake identification. I've been working on learning to identify the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake ever since I was assigned a biological inventory area where Massasaugas have been seen.

Most spotted snakes look alike to me. And they usually slither off so fast I don't have time to grasp the differentiating details.

I thought this might be a Massasauga so I took pictures.

Even though my naturalist friends would have been totally impressed by a Massasauga picture, I was not disappointed to discover it was only a harmless Eastern hognose snake in my backyard.

Three bluebird eggs in the nestbox After the raking was over Sunny and I took a walk in the back field to check the bluebird nest box. There's been a new egg every day for the last three days.

There will probably be two more eggs with the last egg laid on Sunday.

Fourteen days of incubation puts the estimated hatching date on Sunday, May 1, just two days before I leave for Idaho. I'm going to be missing some cute hatchling baby pictures, but I'll be taking some much cuter granddaughter Sydney baby pictures.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Cygnets Are Coming

Female swan on the vest with male swan guardingThe swans are nesting at the nearby state fish hatchery.

Glory and I approached the pond about thirty feet from the nest and daddy swan came right over to give us an escort. As we walked the path along the pond edge headed for the nest, he swam along with us.

I had tight hold of Glory's leash just in case she decided it might be fun to chase a swan. She does chase ducks on our pond. Fortunately she's a smart girl. She pretended the big swan swimming about ten feet from us just didn't exist.

After I had taken a few pictures, daddy swan decided we had lingered around his nest long enough. He started hissing. Glory and I left. I don't care to tangle with an irate swan.

But I'll be back. There are going to be cygnets soon and I'm looking forward to seeing them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

CIC Knitting

Very colorful wooden knitting lady with cat from RussiaThis little knitting lady from Russia came in the mail today from a CIC friend. Check out the cat on her right (left in the picture). So cute.

She is five inches of painted and highly lacquered wood and has chimes inside. When I picked up the box to bring it in the house, it played music for me. I couldn't imagine what it was. What a fun surprise.

I'm working on a vest pattern for CIC. If I was just knitting the vest, it would be done by now. Recording the pattern requires things to be a little tidier, so I've been frogging and trying to get it just right.

In June Karen from CIC is taking a trip to toddler orphan homes in the former Soviet Union. The CIC_Knit List is busy knitting toddler sized wool vests, sweaters, and socks for her to take and distribute.

I'm administering the vest challenge which involves setting guidelines, answering questions, encouraging the knitters, and counting the vests that get mailed to Karen.

The counting is for fun - to see how many we can get done. Once a week I publish a list of the current count, naming the knitters and telling how many vests they've knit.

Knitting for CIC is very rewarding. The knits are personally delivered to kids who are excited to get them and need them to stay warm. The orphan homes are not adequately heated.

Often the people who deliver the knits are members of the CIC_Knit List, so we get to hear about the orphan homes, the children, and how we have made some of their lives more comfortable.

I invite you to join us. Even one small pair of worsted weight wool socks will warm the feet of one more child.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Bluebird Nest is Ready for Eggs

Pair of bird nest boxes with round holesLast spring I took my retirement gift certificate to Wild Birds Unlimited and blew it on four outrageously priced nest box poles, baffles, and nest boxes.

The saleslady showed me nest boxes with slits on the top quoting statistics claiming that bluebirds will nest in slitted boxes and house sparrows won't.

Since we have a serious house sparrow problem here (the house sparrows kill bluebirds for their nest box) I was a sucker I decided to try two slitted boxes along with two traditional round hole boxes.

The boxes were mounted in pairs on opposite sides of the back field. Bluebirds won't nest close to each other. The second box of each pair is for the tree swallows. Ideally, at full occupancy, there would be one bluebird nest and one tree swallow nest in each pair of nest boxes.

The outcome didn't agree with the saleslady's statistics. The bluebirds completely shunned the slitted houses except to perch on them for their early morning poop. The tree swallows were also unimpressed and selected the second box with the standard hole, making it unavailable for bluebirds.

The final straw for the slitted boxes was when the house sparrows moved into them. That was better than the house sparrows stealing the bluebird's nest box, but I was still unimpressed.

This year I bought two new boxes with standard round holes to replace the slitted boxes. Granddaughter Kimmy and I put them up last week and threw the slitted boxes in the garbage.

Bluebird nest in second nest boxThe bluebirds have been here for several weeks. They claimed their nest box from last year while there was still three inches of snow on top of it.

Since the weather warmed, they've been busy building their nest. It is ready for eggs.

Some morning soon when I take the dogs out for a walk, I'll see the female peeking out the round hole at me and we will detour so she can finish laying her morning egg.

Last April we repeated that routine for five days, five eggs. All eggs hatched and lived to fledgling size. Then the parents repeated the process to produce four more fledglings.

I'm hoping for another productive bluebird year and for some tree swallows to move in next door.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Daffodils and Mink

Late daffodils in bloomThe daffodils in the picture normally bloom a week after the early blooming daffodils. With the very cold late spring we had this year, they're both blooming the same week.

Little welcome dots of yellow here and there and all around the property to let us know it really is spring now.

Mink hole in grassy bank by pondI'm 90% sure we have a female mink reproducing in this hole. We saw the larger male running on the bank and swimming in the pond the last week in March.

He has moved on to another female and hasn't been seen since. Male mink do that. They're a member of the weasel family, famous for weaseling out of their obligations once the mating is over.

I've seen the female swimming and entering this hole several times since the male left.

So far my dog concerns have been unfounded. The female is wild, timid, and not inclined to show herself. I've only seen her from inside the house.

For those with enough pond knowledge to wonder if I've got mink mixed up with muskrat, I don't. We have muskrats, too. They're ugly and they look like rats.

The mink is pretty and graceful and looks like a small otter.

I'd love to get a picture, but I don't think it's going to happen.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Backyard Leaves, One Third Done

Post 2 of 5 for the Backyard Leaves Scarf Contest.
Leave a comment on this post within seven days of post date and you will be entered into a drawing for the completed scarf.

Complete list of rules and procedures is here. (No reason to read them unless you are interested.)

The pattern is Backyard Leaves from Scarf Style, designed by Annie Modesitt.

The yarn is Andean Silk from Knitpicks, color Lettuce.

Previous post showing start of scarf is here.

Two sections of Backyard Leaves Scarf with 4 pattern repeats completedAfter the first eight rows to set up the alternating leaf pattern, the pattern repeat is twenty rows. This picture shows both pieces of the scarf with four of the eleven pattern repeats completed.

The row stitch count is far from constant. The longest row is 38 stitches, the shortest row is 28 stitches. The three beginning and ending stitches on each row remain in the same slip stitch pattern to provide a neat border.

So far I don't have the stitch pattern memorized, although I am able to tell immediately if I happen to get a stitch off or accidently start knitting the wrong row.

With seven more pattern repeats to knit on each piece, I'm curious if I'll learn the stitch pattern by memory before I'm done. It's not a fast knit so I don't feel the chart is slowing me down too much. If I do memorize the stitch pattern, it will be from repetition, not from conscious effort.

Detail in two pattern repeats of the Backyard Leaves scarfThe three edge stitches on each side are done in a slip stitch pattern which serves to make the edges very stable and a little tighter than the leaf part of the pattern.

The slip stitch border is what makes the scarf special. It intensifies the three dimensional look of the leaves by causing them to pop up. It also keeps the edges from rolling.

For those who need a comment prompt, here's a question: If you were knitting this scarf, would you memorize the 20 row stitch pattern so you could knit without looking at the pattern?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Going Home in Handknit Socks

John, Anne, and 2 day old Sydney waiting to be released from the hospital and all wearing Grandma B's handknit socks for the trip homeSydney Anne went home with her Dad and Mom today, all wearing socks handknit by Grandma B.

This picture was taken while they were waiting for the paperwork to be completed.

Do you think Sydney can feel the love on her feet?

Mom and Sydney have matching Fluted Banisters knit in Opal Handpainted 12. Dad has John's Basketweave Ribbing Socks knit in Opal Handpainted 14.

Grandma B. has a cold and is coughing and blowing in Michigan, 2000 miles away, but smiling at the pictures she's seeing of the new family. How did long distance grandparents ever survive before digital cameras and computers?

Sydney Anne, 2 days old and happy to be homeSydney Anne is home and looking very pleased with the life she was just born into.

We are very blessed to have such a sweet addition to our family. Thank you to all my online friends who left congratulations and good wishes on the baby announcement.

I think this is about as close to smiling as a two day old baby can manage.

Note: This post was written on April 7, the day Blogger decided to do a very needed system upgrade which made posting impossible until this morning, April 8.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Baby Announcement

About 4:00 am Monday morning I got a call from two happy people in the car on the way to the hospital. The water broke and Sydney was about to be born.

Yesterday seemed to drag on forever for Grandma 2000 miles away. Sydney wasn't very cooperative and wouldn't get in position and labor was going slow or not at all.

This morning about 8:00 am we got THE CALL.
Sydney Anne
Born April 5, 2005 at 4:26 am Pacific Time
8 pounds, 6 ounces
20.5 inches long

Everyone is happy and doing well.

I'm supposed to have a picture in my email, but I don't. I'm guessing Dad/Son John was so tired he sent it to Australia by mistake.

If it comes before I leave to pick up granddaughter Kimmy, I'll try to get it posted here. Otherwise, it may not show up until late tonight or even tomorrow - or whenever Dad wakes up enough to actually send it.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Knitting Log for April 3

Lavold Sweater
Instead of working on the scarf like I wanted to do today, I decided to get the neckline ribbing done on the Lavold Sweater. So I did. It's done.

After I joined the shoulder seams, I tried the sweater on and the neck opening appeared to be gigantic. That is why I didn't worry about the opening getting too small as I picked up stitches and worked an inch of ribbing around the neckline.

I should have worried. The neckline is too small to go over my head.

It's sitting by my knitting chair waiting to be frogged.

CIC Vests
Cabled toddler sweater for CICKaren, one of the CIC people who travels to the former Soviet Union to visit the orphanages and deliver our knitting, is leaving on trip in June. The CIC_Knit List is busy knitting wool socks and vests for her to take. I'm heading up the vest challenge, so I think I better knit a few vests myself.

I really like this toddler vest I whipped up in January, so knitting another one in this pattern will be my first April vest project. This time I'm going to write up the pattern so other knitters can knit it.

Any thoughts on a cute name for the pattern?

Granddaughter Kimmy is going to be spending some time with us during spring break next week. That vest will be perfect to work on while she's here. My other projects are all at the stage they require more knitting concentration than I want to give with such pleasant company around.

Where Are the Socks?
Still no socks on the needles. The new Six Sock Knitalong pattern is very cute but not suitable for daughter Heather's requested red birthday socks. I'll cast on some red lace socks for her after the two vests are done. Now I just need to decide which lace.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Castle Ratter

Papillons are one of the oldest breed of dog. Their history can be traced back 700 years when they were known as toy spaniels.

Marie Antoinette owned Papillons and, according to legend, she took one of the little dogs to the guillotine with her for company and comfort. (The dog was not beheaded.)

In those times, few people could afford to keep a dog that didn't earn its keep. The Papillons worked as the castle ratters.

It's important to know the history of a dog breed you are thinking of adopting, because dogs retain their breed characteristics whether their owner wants them to or not.

Sunny, our little mixed breed, has a herding instinct. Herding dogs need to have a job to be happy. If a job is not provided, they will make up their own job description and their owners may not be pleased with the duties their dog has chosen.

But I've digressed. Papillons are not herding dogs.

Pappy the Papillon out in the field hunting for rodents in the grassPapillons are hunting dogs. Our little fourteen pound Papillon Pappy is obsessed with rodents. Since we live in the country, he is never bored.

He can sense small rodents under the snow and will dive into snow banks after them. During the other seasons of the year, he is forever diving into grass clumps. Sometimes he comes out with a screaming rodent in his mouth.

I hate it when he catches something. If he's on the leash, I give the leash a hardy tug and tell him "drop it". He does. Reluctantly. Only because he has no choice.

A few weeks ago he was off leash when I saw him catch a mouse. "Drop it!" didn't work. He swallowed it whole so I wouldn't take it away from him. I had no idea that was physically possible. Even more amazing he didn't get sick, although he was a bit sluggish at his agility class that evening.

I can only conclude that as well as inheriting his breed's ability to catch rodents, he also inherited the ability to digest them.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Start of Backyard Leaves Scarf

Post 1 of 5 for the Backyard Leaves Scarf Contest.
Leave a comment on this post within seven days of post date and you will be entered into a drawing for the completed scarf.

Complete list of rules and procedures is here.

Knitpicks Andean Silk yarn in color Lettuce for knitting the Backyard Leaves Scarf I'm using four skeins of Andean Silk from Knitpicks in the color Lettuce accurately described in their catalog as:
A gorgeous green that shows off textured stitches and cables beautifully.
Andean Silk is 55% super fine alpaca, 23% silk, and 22% merino wool. Smooth to knit, very soft, and comes in center pull skeins with the yarn end sticking out so you don't have to dig around inside for it.

Backyard Leaves scarf cast on, setup rows, and one pattern repeatThe scarf is knit in two identical pieces from the center back out to the ends. The pieces are sewn together at the cast on edge.

Right away I know that SSS (Usually Second Sock Syndrome, but in this case Second Scarf Syndrome) is going to apply, so I'll be knitting both pieces at the same time. Once I get four pattern repeats done on this first piece, I'll cast on the second piece and knit four pattern repeats.

I'm very concerned about sewing the two halves together. The initial long tail cast on is 10 stitches. After four rows of partial leaf pattern, five more stitches are caston for the second leaf motif. Makes for a very untidy edge for sewing.

The pattern says:
With yarn threaded on a tapestry needle, sew CO edges of the two halves tog, aligning the "stems" at the base of each leaf.

Not very helpful. I know the yarn needs to be threaded on a tapestry needle. Then what?

Sewing together is not my knitting strength. This little seam is going to be a major challenge for my meager sewing skills.

Any helpful hints?

For those who need a comment prompt, here's a question: Do you wear scarves? Why or why not?