Hannah and the CoalBear: Mateo does Caturday.

Hi. I’m Mateo (AKA the CoalBear).

I’m almost 10 months old now. What do you think of my ruff?

The Mother of Cats isn’t feeling well today so I am hanging around with her on her bed. I’m helping her write on her computer right now! I’m such a good boy!

I’ve been bringing toys onto the bed so she can watch me play with them.
I chewed on the palm plant downstairs to keep up my energy.
I then helped the Mother of Cats with her knitting. I’m such a great helper!!
I groomed my sister so she would let me sleep on the cat tree with her.
I’m the best CoalBear ever!!

Happy Caturday everyone!!

May you all have an excellent day!

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

I’ve gone off my immunosuppressant drug so that I can get my Covid booster on Monday. Sigh. There was a big pressure change yesterday with a cold front that triggered some symptoms along with the predictable flare of my disease that has me back in bed for the weekend.

I’ve been in lockdown for two years and I desperately want the booster because my next round of medical appointments starts in another week. I also want to start knitting with my new-found groups, too. I want some of my life back!!

Please think of me and the other people in a situation like my own (high risk, immunosuppressed or immunocompromised, and struggling with chronic conditions that complicates their lives on the best of days) when you are out in public.

And wear your mask!

ps: I threw out the palm last night. It wasn’t a match for the CoalBear and I was afraid it would make him sick. Next up: a Boston fern.

The BioGeek Memoirs: Pill Bug

Okay, you know this little guy well. I think that I first called him a roly poly when I was a child because… if you mess with them or pick them up they roll up into a little ball. Those little rolled up bugs look a little like pills, hence the alternative name: pill bugs. I suspect that we were kind of mean to roly polies when we were kids. Poor guys.

Roly poly from my garden.

I have quite a few of these critters hanging out in my garden. They appear in the loose dirt as I pull out weeds, move stones, and dig around in my gardens. They build extensive tunnels under my bricks in the side garden and are feasting away on the leaf and mulch debris and landscape timber around my gardens. They are, essentially, decomposers and really excel at that niche in the garden ecosystem. Can they also eat leaves, roots, and other things that I want to grow in the garden? Well… yeah. They can be a problem, but I think that since I mulch pretty aggressively due to our dry climate that hasn’t been an issue for me.

Did you think that they were insects? I mean, we call them pill BUGS. Nope. They are actually a type of crustacean. As in, they are land dwelling cousins of lobsters and crayfish. They rely on gills to obtain oxygen, and they have other characteristics common to crustaceans like the hard exoskeleton, jointed appendages and two sets of antennae on their heads. (One set is not visible to the curious gardener. Bummer. I have looked.)

These isopods (that’s the name of the crustacean group that they belong to) are also called potato bugs. That is kind of my favorite because you can catch them by cutting a potato in half, scooping out most of the inside, and then putting the potato back into the garden where it will attract pill bugs for you. Easy peasy, right? Here’s a little video that shows how to catch them with a potato.

That explains why I used to take some potatoes to school with me, make a couple of potato traps in my AP Biology class, and then assigned the class the homework of catching 10 potato bugs each over the next week.

Say what?

I used the pill bugs in class to do a lab with them that helped them identify animal behaviors and to also learn some things about experimental design with live animals. Poor little guys. They became the star performers in an open-ended inquiry lab where students had to generate an hypothesis, create the test chamber, collect data, and then draw conclusions from their results.

Choice chamber made from petri dishes. There is a little door between the dishes that lets the potato dudes move between the chambers.

I know, I know… those aren’t pill bugs! I dug around in my bead collection and found these to stand in for the real things. (Um… it is winter and snowing outside…) Still, you can get the idea of how this worked. The students would set up the chambers to offer the pill bugs a choice between the two sides; the pill bugs would run around like crazy and the students would collect data that would (hopefully) reveal a clear preference in their environment. Try to imagine student teams trying to set up the chambers and then getting in 10 pill bugs, putting the lids onto the dishes without harming one of their experimental animals, and all the chaos that ensued. Shrieking. Escaped pill bugs. Ice cubes melting on lab notebooks…

The trick was to offer the isopods a clear choice: wet/dry, warm/cold, sweet/salty, or maybe covered/open conditions.

The second trick was to make sure that the isopods were being offered only one choice.

The final (and most important trick) was to figure out how to collect data and then process it. Teams struggled to come up with a data table. Once you have the data, how do you make meaning from it? Most teams decided to count the number of critters in each dish every 30 seconds and then graphed the results to show the preferences.

At the end of the lab cycle the pill bugs were all released in the landscaping right outside my classroom where they went back to their best little pill bug lives in the bark mulch and plantings along the front of the building. My principal never caught on to what my class was up to, but he did once ask me why kids from my class were frantically digging through the mulch out front. “Oh. Those kids forgot to do their homework on time,” I said as I beat a path out his office door. Poor man. He had been an English teacher before he became a principal.

So, what do pill bugs like? They like to be under cover. They also prefer damp to dry, cool is much better than warm (they will all stand on an ice cube to try to get away from the warmer dish), they avoid salt, and they prefer rotting potato to fresh potato.

I loved this lab. I always used it towards the start of the year as it was extremely helpful in establishing good practices in hypotheses, experimental designs, data presentation, dependent and independent variables, and, of course, lots of details about pill bugs and animal behavior. It was helpful in establishing norms and lab expectations in my classroom in a lower risk environment (unless you were one of the pill bugs) as other labs involved more chemicals, sharp instruments, and stressful time constraints.

All that comes back to me every time I weed the garden and the roly polies emerge, potential experimental animals, each one of them.

Pill bugs and the advancement of scientific knowledge.

I bet that you will never look at pill bugs the same again.

The BioGeek Memoirs: Cottontail Rabbit

My neighborhood is just awash with cottontail rabbits. They are just dang cute and hang around houses and gardens where they snack with absolutely no remorse on lawns, gardens and weeds alike. Okay, they can be pests, too. I used to live on a street where you had to stop the car, get out, and chase the bunnies out of the street before you could drive through. It isn’t that these bunnies have a death wish; they sense danger in the movement of the car, freeze, and do their best to look like rocks. That’s the life of a bunny: everyone wants to eat you for lunch. Your best bet is to hope to look like a rock.

Cottontail rabbits at the edge of my driveway.

Where I live there are three distinct species of cottontail rabbits: the mountain cottontail, the desert cottontail, and the eastern cottontail. Since I live on the plains of my state (Colorado) and not in the mountain or desert portions, I’m thinking that the bunnies that I know and love are the eastern cottontail. These little guys (about 2 pounds) hang out in shrubs and under decks living their best little bunny lives while raising youngsters all summer long. Yep. Things can certainly get out of hand quickly as they can have more than one litter a year.

I had a beloved cat who caught an even dozen baby bunnies in one year. We don’t talk about that in my house. We still had to chase bunnies out of the street when we wanted to drive to the grocery store.

Does this look like the face of a bunny murderer?

I became enamored with cottontail rabbits when I was working on my master’s degree as a biology teacher. I had just received a digital camera as a gift and was walking the circuit around a local pond taking pictures for a project that I was working on. I got shots of plants, birds, a muskrat swimming, an extremely cute prairie dog, and this cottontail rabbit.

Cottontail eating alfalfa.

I loved this shot of the rabbit. It quickly became a focal point of the master’s project for my degree program.

Here’s the deal: you have to have some animal (or plant) to use to anchor your biology program. All the major biology books these days carry with them a plethora of support materials (paper and online) and in the field we all refer to individual programs by the animal/plant featured on the books. When I was in the classroom the programs were referred to as the “owl”, “elephant” or “killer whale” books.  It looks like the current editions of the books I taught from are now “honeybee” and “lotus” books. Cool, huh. Anyway, I created as my master’s project an online platform to anchor my biology class. Students (and parents) could see what we were covering each week, get copies of all the worksheets, pick up their make-up work from me online, and get explanations/links to all of the standards and grading rubrics used in the course. I even had some videos and pdf documents of the lecture notes when possible. I handed out little business cards with the bunny’s photo on it to parents at teachers’ conferences. I won some grants to expand the website and eventually created online-only biology courses for my district.

Everything I did featured that wild bunny. I branded the whole thing Wild Bunny Biology. That wild bunny took me to a national conference where I presented my online website and shared tips/info/strategies on how other teachers could make their own. Eventually I began to sell some of my work products online to other biology teachers. The name of my little biology shop was called, of course, Wild Bunny Biology. Oh, yeah. I also got that master’s degree.

Dang, that cottontail rabbit was good to me!!

Today I am retired and those wild bunny teaching moments are long gone, but the wild bunnies are with me still. They cavort in the shrubs and lawn beside my favorite (outdoor) restaurant. They hang out in the landscaping of the Kaiser clinic where I go to appointments with my doctors. They are all over my neighborhood and this summer a baby bunny grew up, all alone, in my back yard where it provided daily entertainment for Hannah and the CoalBear.

Bunny watching!

And every evening it was bunny o’clock.

I never pull the dandelions because they are good for bees and bunnies! See my bunny munching on the dandelion and ignoring the rose bush?!

My summer bunny is gone now. It met up with another rabbit late in the summer and hit the road for better parts. I’m kind of hoping that it will return or drop off some offspring next summer, but only time will tell.

It’s always bunny o’clock in my yard. 🙂

The BioGeek Memoirs: Canada Goose

Canada geese hanging out in the median of a roadway.

I first fell in love with Canada geese not long after we moved to Colorado. My husband was a student at the University of Colorado, I was a employed in a research lab, and we were pretty darn short on cash. Our little boy loved to be outdoors and it was easy for me to save stale pieces of bread for him to feed to the geese at local ponds. We fed a lot of geese those first years in Colorado; I still feel a little guilty when I throw out old ends of bread even though I now know that peas, and not bread, are better food for geese. (Actually, the geese can be pests and it’s best to not feed them at all. But it is so much fun…) Over the years the kids and I interacted with geese on a regular basis. They were there at the swimming beach in the summer. There was a nesting pair at the local library. The goslings quickly learned to run to visitors for treats, and just as quickly the kids learned to never, ever, chase the goslings unless you wanted a close encounter with an angry mother goose.

These goose parents were raising their offspring in the green area of a business park near me. There is a small pond with a fountain there… prime goose habitat!

Canada geese (AKA Honkers in my household) are big water birds. Like, maybe 10 pounds or more; if one rushes at you it is an experience to remember! There is a resident population of Canada geese in Colorado where they raise their young and live their best goose life, but every fall huge numbers of new arrivals show up for the winter. Once the migrating flocks of geese arrive you see them everywhere: parks, fields, open spaces, and anywhere else they can find a good-looking patch of yummy plants. All day they graze on what they can pull up with their beaks and then, as dusk begins to fall and the afterglow of the setting sun fills the western sky, the flocks take to the air in V-shaped formations and fly to ponds and lakes for the night, honking all the way. At dawn next day the geese will once again take to the air as they move out to their grazing areas. My home is in the flight path of huge numbers of wintering geese that move between bodies of water on the west and fields to the east of me; the geese formations fill the sky like a scene from an old WWII movie and the honks call to me as they pass. I can’t help it; every time I hear the call of the Honkers and see the flights my heart lightens and I feel a surge of joy.

There’s a story about the winter geese that can explain to you why I feel like that. Here it comes.

One December long ago, in his last year of high school, one of my sons became seriously ill. We rushed him to an emergency room around midnight where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and started on antibiotics; failing to improve, he was transferred to a Kaiser hospital near dawn that morning. In stunned disbelief, we sat there as the staff at the new hospital explained to us that our son was seriously ill; he was septicemic, entering organ failure, and they were starting another antibiotic to try to stop the infection. He continued to decline throughout the day and that evening a third antibiotic was started. The CDC was called as the bacterium was antibiotic resistant and a potential superbug. We asked if he would recover. The doctor carefully told us that he was young; he still had a chance if he made it through the night.

During the night he began vomiting blood and the antibiotics were stopped.

Dawn the next morning arrived as I was standing in his room, looking out the window, watching the huge flocks of geese travel across the city of Denver on their way to their grazing areas. So many geese; they filled the sky. Proof of life on a morning when I was facing down the possibility of death.

Behind me I heard my son get up, unplug his IV pole from the wall, and turned in amazement to watch him wheel away with it towards the bathroom.  Under his own power. He had made it through the night and clearly the tide had turned.

To this day, each time a low flying flock of geese passes over my house, my heart fills with joy. At dawn on cold mornings, going into the building for work, I would stop in the parking lot and let the rush of launching flocks pass over me, breathing in deep the start of a good day. I feel unbelievably lucky each time a flock paces along the freeway beside me, and the best, most wonderful moment ever was that time a windfall of landing geese came down around my car as I drove to Starbucks.

The Honkers and me. We have a contract between us.

Proof of life.

This goose was standing watch over its mate and the nest located in shrubbery just out of the shot to the left. That man in the background is my son.

Postscripts: I wasn’t sure if I should mention this, but the goose population has grown so large that some are being harvested to feed the hungry in the Denver area. You can learn more about it here.

Introducing the BioGeek Memoirs

How many magical moments can one person have with another species? Only a few, right?

I had a baby Cottontail rabbit in my yard all summer. How magical is that?

I mean, there was that time you fed a cute chipmunk some chips at a rest stop, or the day you encountered an owl in the limbs of a tree right over your head. The squirrels that frolicked through the branches and around the trunk of that huge maple as you walked out of your doctor’s office after getting some good news. The squad of squid that left you trapped on an offshore rock in La Jolla when they positioned themselves between you and the beach, flashing rainbow color changes in unison. The time when a whole herd of deer ghosted out from the early morning mist and silently moved past the deck of your rental cabin while you were out there drinking coffee, wrapped in a blanket, waiting for your students to wake up. The day a fox trotted down the sidewalk in front of you while you were loading the car for work and vanished into the falling snow, leaving only its footprints behind. The flight of geese that swirled around your car and landed, feet extended and wings furiously back-flapping, unexpectantly dropping from the sky while you slammed on your brakes, stunned by the joy of the moment. The day a huge beaver swam across the pond while you and your children silently watched from the bank in the shadow of some shrubs, amazed by the size.

All that stuff didn’t happen to you?

Oh, yeah. Those are my memories.

A Painted Lady butterfly on a butterfly bush in my garden.

I have had a lifelong love affair with nature. I started young with bug collections and jars full of creatures that I dug up from the sands during family beach outings. As I got older I branched out and collected every pet my mother would let me keep and looked at things from the garden with my little Christmas microscope. I learned about cells, genes and DNA in college, and then became a biomedical researcher in an immunology lab. I moved on after a few years to become a biology teacher and took every opportunity that came my way to continue my interactions with wildlife and nature. Workshops in the mountains, trips to the desert, classes with wildlife specialists, and days in museum workshops. It has all been great; a life in biology, rich with meaning and wonderment.

I loved these coneflowers in my backyard so much I use this photo for my phone screen.

But the best, the very best, have been the magical, serendipitous moments that have come to me on my own, interlaced with memories and fraught with personal meaning.

Welcome to The BioGeek Memoirs.  

Hopefully I will be posting every Friday.

I have a lot of memories.

2022: New Year, New Goals

I’ve been working out ideas for goals for this new year. I have ended up with a lot of ideas, some of which will probably be abandoned, but still I thought I would share them to see what people think.

Knitting

  1. Oh, my yarn stash is totally out of control. I am going to do everything I can to get it willowed down this year, and the main strategy is to produce as many hats and PICC line covers for the Kaiser infusion centers. I am also thinking about asking my rheumatologist if she would like to have some arm warmers and fingerless mitts to gift to patients struggling with Raynaud’s. Anyway, I’m thinking that I should try to knit out at least 50 skeins of yarn this year.
  2. I have several sweaters all lined up to knit. This will be the year of sweaters!
  3. I have this Coco Knits book that I have been wanting to knit from. A few weeks ago I scored some great yarn from someone destashing – I know I was bad, but I couldn’t help myself. I got 6 skeins of worsted and 7 skeins of chunky yarn in greys and they are perfect for a couple of these sweaters.
This yarn was too nice to walk away from. The light grey is The Uncommon Thread and the dark grey is MadTosh yarn. Perfect for a Coco Knits exploration.

Weaving

Look! Another book to work my way through!

The poor loom has been languishing for some time now. In my defense I would like to plead kittens, but I have a plan where I will warp the loom in a closed room and then I should be able to weave. Time to learn some new stuff! Hey, maybe I can use up some yarn this way too.

Spinning

I think that I should spin this, right?!

I have been avoiding this impulse buy for some time now because the fiber is pretty expensive and I don’t want to ruin it. Whatever. This year I am going to spin this up and make something wonderful from the fiber like maybe a cowl and mitts.

Books

I keep buying books that are interesting that then get parked on my bookshelf.

I am going to read some of the non-fiction books that I bought with thoughts of self-improvement that weren’t read right away because I moved on to some space opera type book instead. Hey, I’ve had a tough couple of years and I needed lots of distractions. This year I will read at least 6 of these books. For sure. I promise. I read 66 books last year, so if I read 50 this year I should be able to manage 6 of these more non-fiction guys.

Quilts

I have made a lot of progress working my way through all of the quilting kits that I bought over the years, but there are still these two hanging out in the sewing room.

Aren’t these cool?!

I have put off working on these because they are pretty complicated with a couple of stacks of different colored fabric in each pack. Still, what is the worst thing that can happen? If I mess up in cutting the fabric I will just go buy some more… The Fiesta quilt is a wall hanging so I will probably start with that one as it will be easier for me to quilt.

Blogging

  1. WordPress is offering classes. I have been thinking that maybe I should take a class or two and become a little more competent.
  2. I have been thinking about starting a couple of other blogs, but finally decided to just add additional topics to this one. I’m going to start blogging about all the things in the natural world that I love and that are wrapped up in memories. I’m thinking about calling it … The Biogeek Memoirs. How geeky is that? Anyway, don’t be astonished if I start blogging about potato bugs, geese, and owls.

Goodbye 2021: Year’s End

This is the last update for the year 2021. You know, 2020 was a pretty bad year for both me and the world, but 2021 just plain outdid itself. THIS HAS BEEN A HORRIBLE YEAR!!!! Seriously, I have been reflecting on all the horribleness of the year, and it is multilayered in the just plain awfulness of it. Here is some of the angst, anger, and sadness in a nutshell.

If you aren’t wearing a mask these days, shame on you!! I have been in lockdown for two stinking years (!) and I am over all your anti-public health nonsense.

If you are one of the doctors who told me that there wasn’t anything that you could do for me (and to not come back), or that I had sleep apnea, or that I needed to exercise more, or that my tests showed that I was fine and you would just continue to monitor my symptoms… shame on you!!! I finally received credible diagnoses this fall (from new doctors) that explained my symptoms. You know, the ones that you ignored or dismissed all those times I came to get help… It is good to get diagnosed, but in this case it is also a mixed blessing as my condition cannot be reversed and management is going to be difficult. Shame. On. You!!!

If you are one of the people who believe that the election in the US was stolen and that the answer is to impede the ability of American citizens to vote, or to create a provision that allows the legislatures of some states to just overturn the results of elections, or to resort to violence… shame on you!!!!

Did you notice that the number of exclamation marks kept growing? That’s how much shame is attached to those targets. There, I got that off my chest and let’s hope that things go a little better in the coming year.

True to its rotten black heart 2021 went out in absolutely dreadful and ironic fashion. First the dreadful.

We are in an extreme drought where I live and everything is brown. The grass, the fields, the bushes and even some of the evergreen trees are now brown.

Last Thursday, December 30th, we had a high wind event in my state of Colorado as a major weather front pushed its way towards us over the Rocky Mountains. In the area around Boulder, Colorado the gusts were extreme (one was clocked at 115 mph) and the sustained winds through the day were around 75 mph. Several fires started and swept through dried fields and brush towards housing developments and towns with horrifying speed. There was nothing that could be done as subdivisions, stores, and hospitals were evacuated; the fire crews set up base in the parking lot of a mall where they could best defend themselves while waiting for a break in the wind. No joy there throughout the afternoon and early evening. There were heartbreaking scenes of burning homes by others covered in Christmas lights. People parked along the major freeway hoping to see if their home was still standing. The historic downtown area of a town I have frequented in the past was lost.

At around 3pm I realized that the worst fire was near my son’s home in northern Westminster. As the evacuation zone continued to grow to within a mile of him we started to make plans to get him and his pets out safely. It was a nightmare as firetruck after firetruck rushed north towards the fire line in the night past his windows. By midnight the winds had died down, the fire stopped its spread to the south, and my son was safe. Daylight the next day showed that the damage was just horrific. Almost 1,000 homes have been lost, thousands are displaced, and the hunt for the missing is ongoing. There is information about all of this here.

Then the storm arrived on New Year’s Eve.

In a cruel twist of irony, after failing to deliver any real snow all fall and early winter, the winter storm arrived New Year’s Eve with snow, icy roads, and bitter cold. Like, we started the day at 3 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday. Serious, serious cold after weeks of warm sunny weather. All those poor people who escaped with only the clothes on their backs in the wind/fire event now have to deal with this. Bad 2021, bad!!

And that, thankfully, was the end of the year.

I also finished my Kevat sweater in the final days of the year.

It is wet and blocking in this photo, but not finished. See the loose ends of yarn?

I did finish the sweater with the ribbing and I-cord to make nice open and clean edges. I decided to block and try on the sweater again before knitting on a little lace edging onto the bottom; if the length is exactly right there won’t be any lace added. I did do a little math, however, and I do have exactly the right number of stitches to do the lace. It’s a sign, right?

Mateo: Happy New Year

Hannah and Mateo (AKA the Coalbear) and I all wish you all a Happy New Year. May things take a turn for the better with the coming weeks and months.

And 2022, you had better behave yourself or I’ll be sending you out on a walk of shame, too. I do have to warn you, however, that I am a little concerned with how you are starting out…

Because this year we are going to learn how to cope with a million new Covid cases a day in the US, and I am going to deal with this whole broken heart thing that I have going on, and we are going to f*cking save democracy. Shape up quick 2022, because this is the tough time, and you had better show some backbone, because I expect you to fight like you really mean it for the things that are really important.

The Saturday Update: Week 51, 2021

Whew. I made it through the holidays okay and now I am on the downslide to the end of the year. The world is still brown out front; there was a tumbleweed on my front doorstep this morning (blown in from who-knows-where overnight), and the squirrels continue to run like crazed maniacs through the trees, over the roof, and through the leaves in the back yard. I never rake the leaves in the back as they are good mulch for the lawn over the winter… who knew that they also served as squirrel entertainment? The snapdragons are still blooming out front! It sure doesn’t seem like winter, but the days are short now and the Canada geese are here in their winter thousands with noisy flocks crossing the sky over my house late each afternoon, winging their way through the growing dusk towards the evening star and the lakes to the southwest.

Knitting

There was a whole lot of community knitting going on this year, and very little Christmas knitting. I did make several of these excessively cute coffee cup cozies that are designed to snazz up your morning Starbucks drink. I gifted them with a Starbucks card and a Snow Man cookie to some family and friends this year. Fast, easy, simple, and I hope they are the perfect thing on an outing this winter. I’m keeping my cozy in the car for my trips through the drive thru!

Pretty darn cute, right?

I also paused the community kitting for a couple of weeks to work on my new Kevat sweater (Caitlin Hunter) which is going to be a great addition to my winter wardrobe because… winter is awfully warm this year.

It is going to fit!!

I am pretty sure that I mentioned before that I am absolutely reckless with my swatches before I cast on sweaters. Like… what swatch? It isn’t like I haven’t knit this particular yarn on these size needles before, right? Still, there is that moment of anxiety when I take the stitches off the needles and try on the WIP to check for fit and length. Yay! Huge sigh of relief! I’m going to add a few more inches to the body and then I will make decisions about the bottom ribbing. I am so very happy with the knitted texture of the body since I used another stitch instead of the lace pattern in the sweater design. This is a win!!

Garden

Since it is the end of the year I’ve been kind of thinking over how things have been going. You know, kind of like that “How it started; How it’s going.” meme that seems to be popping up everywhere. Let me present to you now my jade plants.

That’s three years of growth on those jade plants and I do hope that someday they will bloom for me. Look at how well cared for they are!! Everything a jade needs plus the attention of cats.

Cats

It’s been a big year for the two cats. Little 3 months old Mateo (AKA the CoalBear) arrived in June to a desperately in-need-of-a-playmate Hannah.

Watching these two over the last 7 months has been a riot. At times I think it was a little much for Hannah (Mateo would not leave her tail alone!) but now, at the end of the year, they have finally settled down and are sleeping together: best buds and playmates.

That’s it. Have a great week everyone!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

Hannah and the Coalbear: Merry Christmas to all and to all a good mouse.

Hi. I’m Hannah.

Mom has gone off for the weekend and left me and the CoalBear home alone with the Christmas tree.

We actually are having a good time. The squirrels outside played for hours and hours on the back deck and in the leaves in the yard where my kitten and I could watch them. Best fun ever!! Now it is evening and the squirrels have all gone to bed for the night, but CoalBear and I are just getting started.

CoalBear is planning an assault on the Chistmas tree…
The reindeer out front is outshining himself…
and I’ve put on my party hat for the big night!

We are hoping to find some nice mice under the Christmas tree to play with, and if not a mouse, then certainly a bug or two. We hope that you all have Christmas’ that are as excellent as ours.

And remember to be loving and kind to all you meet this holiday season.

A good friend is the best present anyone can have.

Merry Mousemas, everyone!!

>^..^<

Hannah

The Saturday Update: Weeks 49 and 50, 2021

December. I can hardly believe that we are at the tail end of the year already. The weather has been engaging in sneaky trickery for the last two weeks; crisp blue days with wind, wind, wind and almost no moisture. This week was so crazy that the weather warnings for the state were for hurricane force winds, fire, snow, avalanches, and good lord, who is in charge here? We have had serious weather fronts passing through leaving damage in their wake and very little moisture on my side of the mountains.

We finally got some measurable snow which brought an end to the long streak without snow in our part of the country.

The snow that arrived a week ago was only a flash in the pan: by noon it was gone and there hasn’t been anything since. Looks like we are in for a brownish holiday season. I am grateful, however, that we have been spared the horrible tornados, heartbreaking damage and loss of life brought by these systems in other parts of the nation.

Inside the house, however, it is starting to look like Christmas!!

Last year I put up very few decorations at Christmas time because… kitten. This year I have decided to surrender to foolishness and put up most of the decorations in a careful, kitten-proofed manner. I only put plastic ornaments on the tree. The tree, usually on a little table to give it height, is on the floor. Banners and wreaths that go on the walls are far from kitten claws. The usual poinsettia and paperwhite narcissus are nowhere in sight. Wrapped presents? Don’t make me laugh… kittens love paper.

They are having a great time with the stuff that is out!

Knitting

There has been some holiday knitting going on, so it has to remain secret until after gifts are opened on the big day. I have been making a few more hats for the patients at Kaiser infusion centers in my area, but who wants to look at those guys again? Let me please show off all of the progress that has been going on with my Kevat sweater (designed by Caitlin Hunter) over the last two weeks.

Ta-daa! Isn’t it looking good?!

They are hard to see, but there are bands of lace between and below the Fair Isle colorwork on the yoke of the sweater. That’s what’s going on between the ridges of garter stitch on the yoke… it is kind of cool and I like it. Once the stitches for the arms were separated the entire body of the sweater was designed to be knit in lace. I decided that I wanted a little sturdier and warmer sweater and knit a purl dot pattern that I like from previously knit Caitlin Hunter design (Misurina) and I’m pretty happy with the slight texture it brings to the body of the sweater and how it helps break up the color in the variegated yarn. Win, total win!!

Okay, now for the ugly parts of this sweater story. I made a mistake following the charts for the lace and colorwork parts of the yoke and ended up with almost 50 TOO MANY STITCHES on the needle. This is what happens when you are too stubborn to move the stitches onto a longer needle when things get kind of cramped (it was only a few rounds before the sleeves were separated from the body of the sweater) and you are struggling with a small chart (which I could have easily enlarged…) and it is late at night. I had to put the sweater into time out for the entire weekend and then moved stitches to a longer needle to facilitate tinking back almost 6 rounds of work. I also had to recover some dropped stitches… did I mention that I had already separated the sleeves from the body when the ugly reality of my stitch count hit me…

Doesn’t it all look great now?!

This sweater is supposed to be cropped. I need to put the stitches onto a holder soon so I can try it on for fit and to decide how much longer to knit the body. Did I mention that I never do a swatch? Reckless is my middle name… Anyway, that moment when I try on the sweater is a huge milestone for me. 🙂

Should I add a bit of lace to the bottom of the sweater after the ribbing? I’m thinking of doing the ribbing, binding off in I-cord, and then picking up the stitches to knit the lace bottom to mirror the lace in the yoke.

Garden

It is a boring time in the garden. I hate to even talk about it. The snapdragons and some of the other bedding plants are still hanging on in the front gardens where they are peeking out in the gaps between the dried leaves that I heaped on them to bed them down for winter. This is kind of crazy. I don’t know if I should water them or encourage them to go to sleep by heaping on more leaves and mulch.

Inside the house the indoor garden is also a little boring. My jade plants are… huge, green and boring. They are still caged in with chicken wire to protect them from the kittens (and vice versa) and so far the kittens are leaving them alone. The orchids are also green and kind of boring. The plants are all sporting new roots and three of my 5 plants from last year are putting out shoots to bloom. That’s pretty good, but still a little boring as I am weeks and months away from blooms.

In the kitchen my hanging bougainvillea is blooming again and covered in new growth.

I wasn’t sure if the bougainvillea would survive over the winter in the house but it is doing much better than I expected. Yay!

Books

Yep. I’m reading another science fiction book that matches my knitting. Space opera is just what a frustrated knitter needs while recovering from a knitting disaster.

That’s it. Have a great week everyone!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

May you all have a wonderful holiday season.