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, May 31, 2008

Chat Back for May 31

Answering questions from comments and email.

Jenny Raye wrote . . .
It was gorgeous here on Tuesday--perfect for lying on the hammock and reading a book that was overdue at the library. I had been out for an hour or so when I heard a commotion behind me. I turned around and saw a brown thrasher and a very large snake about 10 feet from my head. The thrasher was chasing the snake out of the yard by pecking at his tail and flashing her/his wings. At first I was scared, but then fascinated to watch the snake run from the bird. Granted, the bird probably has a nest nearby, but I felt like she was my personal guardian angel.

Great Story. Always nice to have a snake guard bird around.

Snakes are a major reason I have predator guards on my nest boxes. The black racers and blue racers we have in the field will climb right up an unprotected nest box pole and eat eggs or hatchlings for dinner.

The predator guards are open on the bottom and closed on the top. Anything that climbs the pole gets stopped at the top of the guard. I've had them for four seasons now and they work great. The only predator loss I've experienced was from English Sparrows. They flew in. No pole required for their nastiness.

When I monitored nest boxes on a corporate nest box trail, we slathered the poles with car grease to keep the snakes out. Several times I got so excited about looking in the nest box I rubbed against the grease and yuck! A serious laundry problem.

In response to my vague statement I will never knit another pair, Dorothy asked . . .
So, do you mean you'll never knit another pair of Monkeys, another pair with Regia silk, another pair of black, or just the combination of all three?

"Never" is probably too strong. Time has a way of dimming my miserable knitting experiences and, before I know it, I'm back to thinking I need to do something I told myself I'd never do again.

That said, it's good Dorothy asked so I can clarify and possibly remember what it is I don't want to do again.
  1. I love the Monkey pattern. I've knit it before and will knit it again.

  2. I hope to never knit Regia Silk or any other slippery sock yarn on metal needles again. There was a lot of slipping and sliding going on with the stitches.

  3. I hope to never knit black in a fine gauge again. It was difficult to see the stitches.

Harriet asked . . .
Looks like an orange in the bird picture, right? I'd like to know more about that, please.

At the end of their migration to Michigan, the Orioles are tired and will come up to the house to eat oranges. After a few weeks, they disappear into the tall treetops to build nests and we don't see them again except for an occasional orange flash in the trees.

The oranges are cut in half. Then, I turn them over and stick a knife straight into the center of the bottom so they will slip on a spindle. The orange in the picture is impaled on a hook that holds a bird feeder.

On the other side of the house, the oranges are impaled on the top of a railing.

Renna asked . . .
I wonder if it hurts a bird to pass an egg, the way it does us to 'pass' a human?

This appears to be one of those questions with no answer on the internet.

From observing nest boxes I do know it doesn't take birds very long to pop out an egg, they usually do it in the morning, and I've never seen an indication that it hurts.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbirds are about the size of Robins and are mostly found in wetlands. This is the first year we've had them consistently at the feeder. It's likely they have a nest around some of our water, but I haven't spotted it yet.

Before the male eats, he struts up and down the plank showing off his macho epaulets, feathers on his shoulders that can be concealed or revealed by sliding another group of feathers over them.

After he's done announcing his arrival, he relaxes and eats with the epaulets covered.

The female looks completely different.

The eggs from last Wednesday's nest tour were still in place and being faithfully warmed and tended as of Monday, the last time I checked. Yesterday was cold so I didn't want to open the nest boxes.

This entire spring is colder than normal and we had a light frost here last night. Where is our share of global warming? Maybe if I used some chemicals we could participate? Don't bother scolding me, I'm just kidding about the chemicals. I do have some doubts about global warming.

The Tree Swallows and Wrens are due to hatch on Friday. The Robins are due to hatch over the coming weekend, and the Bluebirds early next week. Hope the weather warms up so I can peek in and take some pictures.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mom's Socks Started

Over Memorial Day weekend I took a little break from making Twists in the Lilac Mist to start Mom's birthday socks.

She picked this yarn during a visit to the yarn store, so the socks aren't going to be much of a surprise for her. They will be the pretty colors she wanted and selected.

Pattern: Basic sock with Old Shale/Feather and Fan on the cuff

Yarn: ON Line Supersocke 100

Color: Tropic Color 927

Needles: Options 2.5mm

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch in stockinette

Friday, May 23, 2008

Twists in the Mist Progress

The sweater is being knit seamless, in the round, so it's taken a week to get to the underarm split.

Plans are to have a square neckline and short, but not too short, sleeves. I haven't decided if I'm going to use a twist stitch pattern on the sleeves or just knit them in the ribbing pattern.

So far I'm finding the Comfy yarn a pleasure to knit. Even at the tight gauge I'm using, it knits smooth and quick with no splitting.

As the picture shows, Comfy is giving good stitch definition with the twist stitch patterns.

Pattern: The twist stitch center panel is from the third Barbara Walker Treasury - Three Diamonds flanked by Braid X. The rest I'm making up as I go along.

Yarn: Knitpicks Comfy, Worsted weight. 75% Pima cotton, 25% acrylic.

Color: Lilac Mist.

Needles: Options #4

Gauge: 5.5 stitches/inch, 8 rows/inch.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Nest Tour

Our property is divided into two sections by a creek. The two acres between the creek and road hold the house and pond. It is mostly mowed.

The three acres on the back of the property grows mostly wild. We do mow paths so we can walk and enjoy nature. There are two nest boxes along the west path and two nest boxes along the east path.

Out in the weeds is an old rusty satellite dish, the big kind. It has a shelf on the back perfect for a robin's nest.

Mrs. Robin is laying an egg a day.

If she's "average", she'll lay the fourth and last egg today. The eggs will hatch the first half of the first week of June.

Walking out to the first next box on the west, I notice it's being aggressively guarded by a male Tree Swallow.

Inside are five eggs.

The Tree Swallows win the award for the most beautiful, cosy nest. They only use the whitest of feathers, arranging them so they curl up and over to protect the eggs and later the hatchlings.

Mrs. Swallow completed her laying on May 17. Estimated hatch date is May 31.

Moving on down the west path, I notice a House Wren on what we've come to call the "Bluebird Box" because it's held multiple Bluebird families for the past five years.

Time to rename the nest box. It now contains seven little light brown Wren eggs.

Mrs. Wren plopped out egg seven on May 17. The hatchlings are due May 30.

Looping around to the east path, I open the box we've named the "Wren House" after the Wren family that's used it the past several years.

This doesn't look like a Wren nest. It looks like a Bluebird nest. Especially since it contains four blue eggs. Guess we'll have to rename this nest box too.

Most of my Bluebird nests end up with five eggs, so I'm assuming the last egg will be laid today. The hatch date will be two weeks from the final egg - June 4.

Maybe the Bluebird family switched sides because their new box is closer to the water?

Mr. Bluebird took a clue from the Phoebes. Sitting on the fencepost next to the pond provides great insect gathering.

Truth in blogging statement: The bird pictures were taken at various times over the past three days as birds permitted. The egg pictures were all taken yesterday evening after learning it was going to be cold today. I don't open nest boxes when it's cold.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Knitting Log for May 20

When I ordered this Knitpicks Comfy, I planned on knitting Pattern Times Two, the Norah Gaughan cover sweater from the Spring 1997 Knitter's Magazine.

This is the same sweater I swatched with Elann Superwash Bamboo here and didn't like the results.

Pattern Times Two was written for a cotton/microfiber blend, so I expected the Comfy, a cotton/acrylic blend to be suitable. The top swatch is the result. Better than the Superwash Bamboo. Still, I found it a bit sloppy looking and not very pretty so I cast on with something completely different for the front panel.

The bottom swatch is the start of my sweater. The center panel is a twist stitch pattern from the third Barbara Walker Treasury - Three Diamonds flanked by Braid X.

Pattern: The twist stitch center panel is from the third Barbara Walker Treasury - Three Diamonds flanked by Braid X. The rest I'm making up as I go along.

Yarn: Knitpicks Comfy, Worsted weight. 75% Pima cotton, 25% acrylic.

Color: Lilac Mist.

Needles: Options #4

Gauge: 5.5 stitches/inch, 8 rows/inch.

While knitting the Comfy, I'm having fun thinking about what to do with my new yarn from Elann. All plans mentioned below are subject to change.

The cones are Soie Lin, 70% silk, 30% linen. It's likely to become a top with some but not a lot of yarn overs.

The skeins are Luna, 55% Viscose, 45% cotton, and so much prettier than I'm able to capture with the camera. It's a matte beige base with a shimmery terra cotta wrap.

This is the free Elann pattern for Luna. I'm tempted to knit it.

So tempted that I've knit and blocked the recommended swatches.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thirteenth Annual Louise Lunch

The four generations of women with the middle name Louise met for lunch in May 1996 to celebrate Mother's Day and Heather's (Louise Three) birthday. Kimmy (Louise Four) was a baby, so it was Heather's first Mother's Day as a mother.

We didn't know we were starting a family tradition, but after a few years we formalized it with the name "Louise Lunch".

This year we lunched at Ruby Tuesday in Battle Creek, home of the two youngest Louises and about 45 miles east of where I live.

I picked up Mom (Louise One) on the way East. She had on her Federer (champion Swiss tennis player) tee and asked me to post a picture of it on my blog so Cousin Jurg in Switzerland can see it.

Who can refuse a Mother's Day request from their Mother? Not me! So here it is. Hi Jurg!

Mom wears tee shirts to dance class and before last Christmas mentioned that she'd like a few more. We were all grateful to learn of something she really wanted and we've had fun filling her closet with tees.

At Louise Lunch today she collected two more tees, this one labeling her the best grandma ever and a pretty pink "Simply the Best Mom" tee from me.

I'm Louise Two.

For Mother's Day I received this very soft, pretty lavender tee because, "You like purple and flowers." Yes, I do. And I especially love them when they come with hugs and kisses from Heather (Louise Three) and Kimmy (Louise Four).

This shirt will always be worn with happy memories of the Thirteenth Annual Louise Lunch.

Daughter Heather Louise had a big birthday last week. One of those years ending in zero. We won't talk about which one.

She loved her Black Monkey Socks. Even as a non-knitter she recognized the stitch pattern as something special.

She also received an Elysian Trumpet tee. The Elysian Trumpet was hand built by her Uncle Dave to commemorate Irvin Mayfield, Sr. and all of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. President Bush has declared it a "Cultural Treasure".

Kimmy (Louise Four) isn't a mother and doesn't have a birthday until October, but she always gets a little something anyway. Isn't that what Grandmas do?

Today she got some twinkling star shaped ear studs to help fill her many ear piercings. She also got lots of hugs from Grandma, me.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Black Monkeys Finished

I ignored finishing these socks for as long as I could. The birthday lunch for recipient daughter Heather is tomorrow, so out they came last weekend and they're finally done.

The result is lovely. The Regia silk is soft and shiny. The Monkey pattern is beautiful in black.

I will never knit another pair.

Since I only had metal needles in 2.5mm I found myself tensing up while the silk yarn slipped around and occasionally off the needles.

Being black, the project was difficult to see - difficult to count stitches, difficult to count rows, and difficult to keep track of the pattern.

I'm not whining about this. Just recording the facts.

The socks were knit with love and I hope Heather likes them.

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A. in Knitty, Winter 2006.

Yarn: Regia Silk

Color: Black

Needles: Options 2.5

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pappy Gets Sheared

In Michigan it's nice to have a thick fur coat in the winter.

Not so great if a little dog wants to hunt rodents in the weeds.

By spring Pappy has an amazing amount of hair.

So, we thumb our nose at the purists who say Papillons should not get clipped short. Spring, summer, and fall Pappy has short hair.

I love the way she did his tail.

Now where are those rodents?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Rose-breasted Grosbeak

It's obvious how this bird got its common name, Rose-breasted Grosbeak. At our house we call him Mr. Rosy.

Though they're a member of the Cardinal family, they don't winter over here in SW Michigan with their Cardinal cousins. It's always a pleasure to see them return around the first of May.

Based on the maximun number of males counted at one time, this year we have at least three Rosy couples coming to the feeder and hopefully nesting nearby.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are about the same size as the Cardinals - a little smaller than a Robin. They have powerful seed eating beaks and love the black oiler sunflowers seeds we serve.

Unlike the Cardinals, they are willing and able to eat from a tube feeder. But, they also enjoy feasting on the flat surfaces.

Mrs. Rosy has a totally different look, rather like a sparrow on steroids.

I caught Mrs. Rosy glaring at her mate as he gobbled up sunflower seeds.

Is she wishing he had better manners?

Give it up, dear. You can't change them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Toddler Guernsey Gal Done

Knit at a tight gauge with lots of stitch patterning, this little sweater for CIC was not a quick project. But it was fun.

The picture in the pattern book doesn't do it justice. It was glanced at and ignored many times though the years I've had this book.

Like most all of Kathy Zimmerman patterns, it's a work of art to my eyes and I had fun knitting it.

Click on picture to see the detail better.

Pattern: Guernsey Gals by Kathy Zimmerman in Best of Knitter's Arans and Celtics.

Knitting the smallest size, about 24 inches around. Modified pattern to knit sweater in one piece. Added underarm gussets.

Yarn: Cascade 220, 100% wool worsted weight

Color: 7808 Violet

Needles: Options #6

Not the best Oriole picture I've taken this year, but surely the funniest.

Check out the legs. He appears to be double jointed. No wonder these bird have no problem weaving a nest in the highest tree tops.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Chat Back for May 10

Answering questions from comments and email.

Shirley asked . . .
Which variety are yours?

(Shirley is asking about the apple trees with the Morel Mushrooms growing underneath mentioned in this post.)

Think fungus. Fungus doesn't thrive in well tended apple orchards.

With the magic of photo cropping, I was able to show you a healthy branch full of blossoms. The majority of the branches are not so pretty.

The apple trees are very old, maybe from the farm that originally sat on this land. They have many dead and rotting branches and should be taken down. However they have an extended life expectancy because they're important to the Morels.

The apples are no variety a person familiar with sweet apples wants to eat. We don't spray or help them out, but the trees do produce apples. The apples fall to the ground. After the apples ferment, the deer come in the middle of the night to eat them causing the dogs to bark and the deer to get a bit tipsy.

Since no one is sure how Morels decide where to grow, any of these steps could be important to their environmental happiness. Except I doubt they require barking dogs.

Dorothy asked . . .
What a handsome couple - are you able to get a
photo of any of their nests?

(Dorothy is asking about the Northern Oriole nests mentioned in this post.)

A difficult assignment. If I spot one I'll be sure and get the best picture possible without a helicopter.

The Orioles build their nest way way up high hidden by the foliage in the tallest oaks.

Once the oaks leaf out I occasionally see a flash of orange in the tree tops, but it's been several years since I've spotted an oriole nest.

I've read that the young walk around on the outside of the nest before they learn to fly. Wouldn't that be something to see?

Right now the Orioles are still coming around and gobbling up the oranges. I just love seeing them so close knowing it's only for a little while.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Waffles For Brunch Done

Many thanks to Jean for this well-written, easy to follow, easy to knit toddler sweater pattern.

I'm sure I'll be using it many more times.

Pattern: Waffles for Brunch designed by Jean and posted as a knit-a-long on her blog Needles, Notes, and News.

Yarn: Lamb's Pride Bulky

Color: Deep Red

Needles: 10.5 Addi Turbo

Gauge: 3 stitches/inch, 4 rows/inch

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Apple Blossom Time and New Yarn

The old apple trees in the back yard get the deepest respect. In the spring we don't clean up the leaves under them and we don't mow under them.

In return, the shade of the apple trees provides the perfect conditions for Morel Mushrooms.

I have a fantasy that someday someone will offer us more money than we ever dreamed to buy this land just for the morel patch.

We won't mention the black flies and ticks, both of which are out in full strength looking for a blood feast this spring. A minor detail. When you live in nature, you get all of nature. It's not for the faint hearted.

Still thinking I want to knit some easy care short sleeve summer sweaters, I ordered some Comfy (75% pima cotton, 25% acrylic) from Knitpicks.

This color is Lilac Mist.

Comfy had good reviews on Ravelry. They said it was light weight, smooth, and super soft, which it is.

The day after it arrived late last week, I found Sonya's post about the Comfy sweater she knit. The killer sentence: "It was pilling by noon."


I'm pretending I didn't see that post and looking forward to knitting my Comfy as soon as I get a few other little projects done. Two CIC sweaters are only missing the last half of the last sleeve. Daughter Heather's birthday socks have been packed away with only the cuff done, and the party is a week from Saturday. I hope to have all three projects completed before the weekend is over plus the blocking on the She Said sweater and some modeled pictures.

Wednesday Wings - Northern Oriole

Many years ago in my youth these beautiful birds were known as "Baltimore Orioles". They looked so pretty in my bird book and I longed to see one in person, but it didn't happen. (Yes, I was a childhood bird nerd.)

Now I'm blessed to live in my own private bird sanctuary. Every May the Northern Orioles arrive from Central and South America to brighten up our spring and nest in the tops of our tall oak trees at the back of the property.

This (top picture) is the male, a little smaller than a robin and so brightly colored he's impossible to miss as he flies around in the still leafless oaks.

Orioles are known for their interesting nests. They weave a hanging bucket attached to a high branch that's an engineering masterpiece.

This is the female, more yellowish and not as bright as the male but equally attractive.

The Orioles aren't interested in bird seed. We lure them up by the house by setting out oranges. After their long migration trip, they can't resist the sweet fruit.

After about a week, they're rejuvenated and ready to put all their efforts and energies into nest building and raising a family. The oranges go untouched except to be hauled away by the chipmucks.

I've read that some people are able to keep the orioles coming to the feeder area by providing Welch's grape jelly. I've tried this in years past and attracted nothing but ants. Our area is so rich in other food the grape jam is unappreciated.

For those who love looking at Oriole pictures, the are two more "male with an orange" shots in last year's Oriole post.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Chat Back for May 3

Answering questions from comments and email.

Dorothy asked . . .
Wasn't there a singing group in the 60's or 70's
called the Cowslips?

Sister Carrie answered: "Cowsills. The group, of whom I was a big fan, was the Cowsills. That was their family name."

Carrie has a Master's degree in music, so she knows things like this.

Thanks Carrie. I couldn't have answered this question without your help.

After many years of taking classes Dorothy is graduating from Washington State University Summa Cum Laude (very high grade point) today, her granddaughter's third birthday.

Hope over to Missouri Star and wish her a well deserved CONGRATULATIONS!

Kate in Massachusetts asked . . .
Sometime could you do a blog post on how you knit your sleeves from the shoulder down? How many stitches do you pick up? How do you plan the sleeve decreases? Thanks!

This has been done by Barbara G. Walker, a knitting genius, in her book Knitting From the Top, a must have technical book for every knitter.

I couldn't possibly do it as well as Barbara does it.

Susan asked . . .
My sister has a bird nesting in a tree in her backyard and she posted about it on her blog. I'm hoping that you might help us identify it.

It's a Red-Breasted Nuthatch! They figured it out before I saw the message and went to look. I'm mentioning it here so all the bird loving readers can go check out It's Mr. Nuthatch to You and see the beautiful Nuthatch pictures.

We love to see the little Red-breasted Nuthatches. They migrate south to SW Michigan and stay for the winter. Then they fly back north in the spring to raise their families.

Darcy lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Maybe that's one of our winter visitors nesting in her tree.

Debi asked . . .
Do squirrel daddies help out at all?

The tired squirrel mom is an American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus).

According to Wikipedia she has no help from the daddy, she probably has three to six young, they are born helpless, blind, and deaf, and suckle from 8 to 10 weeks.

Megan asked . . .
That gansey sweater for CIC is beautiful! And, it looks like a lot of fun to knit. How did you add the underarm gussets? Are you using the instructions in the Knitted Ganseys book by Beth Brown-Reinsel?


The Guernsey Gals pattern calls for the sweater to be knit in four pieces: front, back, and two sleeves. Then sewn together.

I'm using the stitch design from the Guernsey Gals pattern and knitting the sweater in one piece like the ganseys in Beth's book. I added a small gusset under each arm, also from Beth's book.

Pattern: Guernsey Gals by Kathy Zimmerman in Best of Knitter's Arans and Celtics.

Knitting the smallest size, about 24 inches around. Modified pattern to knit sweater in one piece. Added underarm gussets.

Yarn: Cascade 220, 100% wool worsted weight

Color: 7808 Violet

Needles: Options #6