The BioGeek Memoirs: Rose

My mother was a great lover of roses. One of my earliest memories was of an ongoing battle she had with the family dog and a newly planted rose bush. My mom planted the rose bush in a garden along one side of the house. The dog dug it up. My mom replanted the rose bush, and the dog, a boxer mix, dug it up again.

My mother, not one to give up easily, spanked the dog with the rose bush and replanted it.

Not my mom’s roses, but they were bright red like these.

That bush did really well and was covered with blooms every year. I can’t remember the color for sure, but I think that they were red. Our dog was so well behaved in the garden for the rest of her life that the story of the rose bush battle took on the stuff of legend. Look at that rose bush, my sister would say. Mom once spanked the dog with that bush!!

Later in her life my mom grew tea roses in her garden that were also the stuff of legend. These shrubs were huge; at least 4 feet high and the producers of really showy blooms; people occasionally knocked on my mom’s door to ask what type of rose they were. I once asked my mom what she did to get her roses to grow and bloom so well. I expected to hear some complicated formula to produce fabulous blooms that featured bone meal, wood ashes, and who knows what else… Nope. It was a really, really easy routine. Feed the roses Miracle Gro fertilizer every week, prune them once a month, and if they didn’t respond satisfactorily rip the shrub out and go buy another one. My mom, an agent of evolution in her rose garden. Who knew her success was partly due to ruthless natural selection? That earlier incident with the dog should have tipped us off!

Now I grow roses. I feed them Miracle Gro, prune them after each blooming, protect them from early frosts, mulch them with care. They are doing well, but not as well as my mom’s did. I tell myself that is because I live in a different climate from the one where she grew her show-stopping roses, but the truth is she had quite a gift for rose growing. Anyway, here are my favorites.

The pink rose on the left is Princess Alexandra of Kent, the yellow rose is Charles Darwin, and the one on the right is Hot Cocoa. I just love the English roses for their shape and scent, but they don’t do that well in my climate. The Hot Cocoa rose is hardier and handles the heat and low humidity better. Anyway, don’t they look nice?

Wait. I have more roses!

These roses are more like the wild ones that grow in our mountains. The one on the left is a Home Run, and the one on the right is a Cinco de Mayo rose. I love these guys; simple, hard-working and favorites with the bees. They handle the climate here well and flourish in the long dry summers.

I do have more roses, but you get the idea. There are rose bushes along the driveway, at the front of the house, in all the flower beds in the back yard, and even in pots in the house. You can never have too many roses is kind of a motto of mine.

I grow the roses for myself, but I also grow them for my mom and the other rose growers in my family. My aunt grew roses too and had a huge climber that I envy to this day. For all I know rose growing has been going on for generations in my family. Every single rose shrub, each rose bloom, is a link to the past and a promise of beauty in the future. You can never go wrong with a rose.

My mom died one year early in May after a long battle with cancer. A few days after the funeral was Mother’s Day, and in her memory I planted six red floribunda roses in my front flower bed. Those roses, bright red Showbiz roses, bloomed like my mom herself was taking care of them.

One day someone knocked on my door to ask what they were.

My mom would have been so proud!!

The BioGeek Memoirs: June Bug

In 2010 my school district sent me to Baltimore, Maryland for a couple of weeks to get the training for an upcoming course that the district was offering. It was great! I met a lot of new friends, got the training that I needed, ate yummy food, and went to Washington, D.C. for the weekend. Okay, the National Mall is a little overwhelming. I only had the one day to visit as many sites as I could. The Vietnam Memorial. The World War II Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Monument (hey… the White House is right over to the right…). The National Archives. The Smithsonian Museum. THE SMITHSONIAN MUSEUM!!!

You know that I had to go into the Smithsonian.

I didn’t have a lot of time once I got into the museum, but they had an exhibit about Charles Darwin and the Evolution of Evolution. Wow. There was no way this little BioGeek and teacher of biology was going to miss that! We only had an hour but of course I raced through the exhibit getting what I could out of it and then into the giftshop for a couple of mementos.

I bought a fossil, this book, and the funny little necklace that you see on the book. The dark blob at the top of the photo is Mateo (AKA the CoalBear) coming in to grab the necklace.

Let’s take a closer look at the necklace that I had to buy as soon as I saw it.

It was a June bug!!

Oh, my goodness. I just loved June bugs when I was a kid. We would find them clinging to the side of the big elm tree in the backyard. Bright, iridescent green, big and slow moving, they were easy for us to catch and haul around. We used to tie a thread around their bodies and let them fly in a circle around us. You could sport them on your shirt as shiny and unique jewelry. They were quite the find when I was a little kid.

I don’t think that my parents were as excited about the June bugs as we were. The larvae are major pests as they mature in the ground, chomping down on any roots or organic materials that they can get their little mouthparts onto and damaging the lawn. Then there were the adult beetles. Um… my mother grew this big patch of boysenberry bushes that we harvested fruit from all summer. She would send us out with little pails to pick (and eat) the berries that she turned into endless jars of jam and countless cobblers. She loved her berries. So did the June bugs. I kind of think that’s why we could always find one in our yard on hot June days.

Mateo: June bugs are good for kitties to play with, too!

In her later years my mom grew a big patch of berries along the fence of her yard. Instead of June beetles she battled gophers in her yard; the gophers tunneled through the yard and build a minor mountain under the spreading canes of the berry plants. My eldest son became a berry picker himself and took glee in chasing the gophers with my mom, wielding a garden hose in battle as the gophers practically laughed at them. She still managed to produce several cases of berry jam each summer, but I’m pretty sure that she would have swapped the gophers for June bugs in a heartbeat.

Today I live in Colorado and there isn’t a June bug in sight. It gets too cold here in the winter to grow boysenberries and I have to resort to buying blackberries at the summer fruit stands. I still have that cobbler recipe that my mom used (it came from a flour bag in the 50’s), and every year I make blackberry cobbler and think that maybe I should make some jam, too.

Why did I have to buy the June bug necklace? After all, it has been never worn, but is still treasured.

Because the second I saw it that hot June day in Washington, D.C. I was instantly transported back to my childhood, picking boysenberries, covered in scratches and berry juice, playing with June bugs in the summer heat of a Southern California day.

Good times!

p.s. Do you feel the urge to make your own berry cobbler? I blogged about it here.

The BioGeek Memoirs: Yarrow

Hi. I bet you were looking for another animal, weren’t you? Plants need some love too, you know.

Yarrow from my garden.

Yarrow is a plant that does really well in the climate where I live; actually, it is a plant that is native to Colorado and can be found in many other biomes. It has kind of lacy leaves and produces large flat blooming clusters filled with tiny white (or colored) flowers. The plants that I have in my garden have been produced for the popular market and are nice and showy. The flowers are large, last most of the summer, and draw a lot of pollinators like bees, moths and butterflies. They mostly play nice with the other plants (okay, they have a habit over overgrowing the smaller perennials, so I have to ruthlessly weed out the plants that are out of bounds), and I like the lacy green plant as much as the flowers.

The first yarrow I ever noticed was a bunch that was planted along the curb in a busy intersection. This plant received no care, didn’t seem to get additional water beyond precipitation and splashes from the street, and looks fantastic. It was covered in huge yellow blooms that kept their color for most of the summer. Every single summer the plant put out more blooms and got bigger over the years: a perennial for sure. Hmm… what a great plant, I thought. Of course, I put some yellow yarrow in the garden.

Then I bought a spinning wheel. Then I found someone who had a flock of sheep and beautiful fleeces for sale. In just a few months I had spun my way through that first white fleece (a sheep named Bob) and had all of that yarn to dye. I took a natural dye workshop from Maggie Casey at Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins in Boulder, Colorado. What a fun (but smelly) day that was!

We made several dyes and learned how to get them to “bite” onto the yarn with mordants (think of mordants as linking chemicals that attach the dye molecule to the protein of the wool) like alum and iron. I loved the indigo dye vat that I made that day and got lots of blue yarns from it. There was a nice golden yellow from onion skins, a raspberry from brazilwood, and a sage green dye extracted from yarrow using iron nails for the mordant.

Close-up of the sock I knitted from the indigo and brazilwood dyed yarn. This sock, now more than 20 years old, was made using three shades of indigo, the raspberry (now kind of clay colored) contrast stripe is the brazilwood, and the dark grey is the natural color of another sheep named Silverheels, because of course he was. Everything is now faded, but you get the idea.

That sock, a genuine homespun, naturally dyed, hand knit item, has been my go-to boot sock for a couple of decades and was for a time my “interview” sock when asked to show a sample of my work to clients that I knitted for. Faded, but still going, it has been living in my car as part of the winter travel kit.

Back to the dyeing! Oh, boy. That yarrow was a smelly mess as we boiled the stems, leaves and flowers on the stove out on the porch. Seriously, this stuff could be medicine. Oh, wait. It can be medicine! Yarrow was known by early healers as a plant that could be used to stop bleeding and has lots of different names, some of which refer to this ability to staunch blood like nosebleed plant or woundwort. Luckily none of us were bleeding that day; we strained the vegetable matter (and nails) out of the boiled yarrow mess pot, added back in our skeins of yarn, and simmered gently until we had a nice sage green color.

That yarn became socks that I gave away to a coworker. The love for yarrow remained and I added white yarrow to my garden years later, and a couple of summers after that a wonderful purplish-pink yarrow joined the party.

This plant hangs out with my lavender.

The pink is my favorite. The plant is spreading out and taking over the whole garden that I planted it in (hang in there, lavender, you can stand up for yourself!). It blooms like crazy all summer and I keep thinking that I should cut the flowers to preserve them. I never have used the plants for dye, but I still have a lot of white yarn that would love to get some color going.

Lavender holding its own with the yarrow.

Beautiful yarrow, evoking forever the memory of that great Saturday dyeing yarn from a sheep named Bob in Maggie’s driveway. What could be better?

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.

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.

The Saturday Update: Weeks 45 and 46, 2021

It is finally getting cold, but there still haven’t been any official snowfall in our area. As of today we have set the record for the longest recorded gap in snowfall in modern recorded weather history for the state of Colorado. I have moved all the potted plants outside again and all indications are they will still be healthy and blooming on Thanksgiving. Okay, there was a little issue with the potted geraniums that I brought into the house a couple of weeks ago… I found a caterpillar on a geranium cutting in the indoor garden!

That dang caterpillar appeared on a shoot I was rooting… it had already finished off the African violets in the garden.

The cutting had rooted successfully, but with that caterpillar it was immediately tossed outside with the remains of the violets and all of the other geraniums that had come indoors for the winter. Poor geraniums. In a few days they should succumb to an overnight freeze. Life is cruel, little guys.

Yarn

I am still knitting like crazy for Frayed Knots, the community knitting group comprised mostly of Kaiser employees in my area. Last week one of the infusion centers that we knit for requested that we supply them with some PICC line covers, so I did a little search on Ravelry, found a pattern, and started knitting some of the covers along with the hats.

This week I produced 6 hats and 3 of the PICC line covers.

I have settled on a few hat patterns that are easy and should be comfortable for chemo patients. They are Barley Light, Barley, and the Sockhead patterns. The pattern for the PICC line cover, designed for one in the upper arm, is here. I am so happy to be putting the leftover and unused yarn in my stash to a good use.

Garden

Well, the garden sure took a hit this week. The African violets are toast and you already know about the geraniums. I am happy to report that the orchids, however, evidently weren’t all that tasty for the caterpillar as they seem to be unharmed.

These gorgeous bloomers are the plants that I bought this fall. Inside the garden, under the grow lights, the plants that bloomed last year are flourishing with lots of new growth, an explosion of air roots, and new stems for blooms are emerging!

The green shoot pointing upwards is a new stem for blooms. Yay!! The silvery new growths on the leaves below are a couple of new air roots. Yay! Happy plant.

A couple of other orchids are also putting out stems; one plant has three new stems on it. What is that liquid on the orchid, you ask? I sprayed Neem oil on all the plants left in the garden after the caterpillar was escorted out the door…

Books

I’m back to reading science fiction. The main character in the book I’m reading right now is a sentient space ship called Trouble Dog and of course the captain of this ship is a woman facing down the monsters in the dark of space. I just finished the first book in the series called Embers of War and I’m hooked. Luckily I get the audiobook for no additional cost so I can listen to the books at times while I’m knitting away on the hats and PICC line covers. I have to laugh a little as I knit and listen to Trouble Dog’s tale as I manage my yarn around my own little Trouble Cat…

Who, me?

That’s it. Have a great week everyone!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 44, 2021

And just like that, blue skies and warm sunny weather returned.

All the leaves are off the trees and the little wooden bear is longing for some snow, but the potted flowers are still blooming their hearts out.

Today was the last sunny day before the next cold front; sadly these flower are in their last bloom for the year. I plan to plant the snapdragons into the gardens in the back yard this coming week and the geraniums will be coming in to live with the cats over the winter.

Let’s hope the geraniums fare better than the potted palm has.

Huge flocks of geese now fly over my house each dusk. Squirrels chase each other down the back fence and over my roof; one got caught in a downspout of the rain gutter yesterday, setting off a panic with the cats. The last leaves are still sailing past my windows, but in my yard my trees are bare. Even though the flowers are confused, fall is now hard upon us.

Knitting

I’m still knitting hats like crazy for the Kaiser infusion centers. Yesterday I finished weaving in all the ends, took some pictures, and bagged each hat up with a little note telling the new owner about Frayed Knot, the group that I joined that handles the donations. Tomorrow I will drive them to the drop off location.

So far I’ve produced 4 Barley Light hats using MCN yarn, 2 Deco Beanies with superwash merino in DK weight, and three Anrheg hats using single ply merino wool. All the yarn came right out of the stash, and I have to say that it is kind of exciting to dig around and pull out yarns that have been languishing in there waiting for their purpose to arrive. All of these yarns were loved when I bought them, but somehow never used. Now their time to shine has arrived and I am on fire to produce as many as I can to help the group meet its goal (600 hats) this year.

Books

I finished this book after all!!

I was up into the wee hours of the morning finishing The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penney. I was a little worried that it had a topic that hit too close to home for me, but it was handled so well that I really came to love the book, and the eclectic cast of characters, as the chapters flew by. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I think that it is okay to say that this book drew heavily on the Covid pandemic (which is still going on and not ended as the book supposes) and created a character that argues, persuasively, that in a world that is limited in resources it is a duty for those who are a burden to society to submit to mandatory euthanasia. Um… wow. Pretty outrageous, don’t you think, but I can almost see it happening. There were hints of this in the worst of the surge last year before we had a vaccine when I heard people dismissively argue that the people who were dying from Covid were all old or had a comorbidity that contributed to their death. It was almost like… hey, they were going to die anyway, right? Why should this affect me? There were people who seemed to believe that healthy people should not be inconvenienced in any way to protect the vulnerable. There were policies enacted by leaders in positions of power that were designed to magnify the outbreak in an effort to reach herd immunity with little or no considerations for the vulnerable…

You know, if you think about it too much it is depressing. Enough of that. On to the book!

So, since this is a murder mystery, there is a murder that is associated with the charismatic individual who making this argument and who is heading up the movement. And the murder happens in Three Pines, of course. And there are a plethora of candidates that bring an array of social messages to the situation, and memorable richness to the story. Chief Inspector Gamache is on the case with his team from the Sûreté du Québec, his highly gifted neighbors, and some distinguished visitors. And a duck.

I really am glad I read it.

The Saturday Update: Week 41, 2021

Last week brought us some rain and cold weather. Seriously, it got so cold that I had to bring the potted plants into the garage to protect them from a overnight hard freeze. Most of the leaves on the maple tree are already down, but the tree finally got with the program and produced some bright red leaves.

Now, this is what I’ve been looking forward to!

Sadly, it is now too cold and windy for me to sit outside to admire that color in the yard, but every glance out a window makes me happy.

Knitting

The second Snark-O-Meter is finally off the needles. I still haven’t woven in the ends or blocked it, but look at all the great color interactions and stitch patterns in the shawl!

The patterns in the shawl really show off my yarns. I’m so glad that I jumped in and knit a second shawl. Sharon, Sharon, I want a little gold star for this!! (Who’s Sharon? That would be Sharon from Security, Casapinka’s snarky employee who developed this pattern. I’m pretty sure she won’t give me a gold star for finishing my shawl unless I send her some quality sushi first…)

Garden

I’m moving outdoor plants into the house to rebuild the indoor garden for the winter. I really kind of like doing this, but the cats are really happy to see plants come indoors. Mateo is absolutely torturing the large palm plant that was on my porch all summer; wait until he sees the geraniums!! I’m letting the geraniums get a little more outdoor sunshine but some others like the jade plants and the bougainvillea needed to come in now.

The cats are admiring the jade plants from afar…
and that goes double for the bougainvillea that is handing high over their heads in the kitchen!

I may have to rethink the bougainvillea as all of those blooms will be dropping off at some point and landing in my sink, but they make me happy so I’m going to see how it goes. Several of the year-round indoor plants are looking really nice right now so I’ve moved them into the kitchen to join the cheerful color of that bougainvillea. The best of the bunch is my oldest African violet.

Isn’t it looking nice?

Next week I will be focusing on getting most of the potted perennials into the ground outside and moving in more of the ones that can over-winter in the house like the geraniums. I suspect that there may be some leaf raking going on, too.

Books

Since I was spending so much time with plants this week I jumped into this book that I got from the library last month.

Years ago I went to a dinner at my boss’ house in Denver in an older part of town. Okay, this was a pretty swanky house compared to my own. There were back staircases for the servants, a library, breakfast and dining rooms, and a kitchen that was almost as big a my whole apartment at the time. Since this was a summer evening they held the affair outside in their gardens.

Gardens. Right. There were four different yards/gardens on this property. Rather than a large plot of grass with some nice trees and maybe a sad attempt at a veggie garden or a gold fish pond, this property was divided into discrete garden rooms with brick walls dividing them. Each area was planted differently to serve a different purpose and held tables and benches for people in each one. Okay, one actually had a pergola in it. It was cool.

That gardening concept is what this book was about. An old formal house with a series of unique connected gardens that are being restored to their original plantings by a talented gardening specialist. The books entwines the stories of three different generations of women with significant involvement in the history of the house and gardens with some clever parallel events to make it all hang together. It was a quick read, I learned a lot of new things about gardening, and I liked it.

That’s it. Have a great week everyone!

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

The Saturday Update: Weeks 39 and 40, 2021

The days are still warm, dry and sunny, but the nights are finally getting a little cooler. I spend my afternoons in the swinging garden chair on the deck, reading and knitting in the strange silence that has now descended on the garden: no more crickets, cicadas, migrating geese, or even the pit bull next door. All are now gone, and the only sounds I hear are the squirrels racing through the trees and the occasional drifting fall of leaves. The maple tree out back, usually a blaze of red color by now, is slowly turning a golden brown with a few flashes of red. Seriously? This is how you are going to finish up the year? Figures.

This is as good as it is going to get this year I guess.

The ground is covered with dead leaves as these sorry examples of autumn glory drift off the tree. We never had a freeze, and I think that these brown leaves coming down are the result.

The baby bunny of the summer has found a mate.

Over the last weekend I noticed lots of digging in the yard from the bunny, and then one night the flood lights revealed that there were two bunnies in my yard! My little guy was not all alone any more! Now my bunny, all grown up, is gone.

Next week we will finally get colder weather and perhaps some rain. There will be snow in our mountains and all of my leaves will be gone off the tree.

Summer, truly, is finally over.

Knitting

I finished the second Rock It Tee this week!

Can you see how I blended the three skeins of yarn from light to dark as I alternated them through the sweater? The lightest is at the top.

I am now down to only one knitting project left, the second Snark-O-Meter that I am rapidly finishing off with lots of cat help.

I finished up clue 4 last night and will start clue 5 today. This baby should be done in just a few more days of knitting.

Yesterday I cleaned out my little project bags, sorted yarn in the stash, and organized myself for a prolonged sweater knitting campaign. I’m tempted to start the Stephen West MKAL (Shawlography), but as I sorted I realized that I had the yarn to make several sweaters all stocked up and waiting to go. It isn’t all that cold yet, but eventually sweater weather will get here and it is time for me to switch over to sweaters and to start working my way through the stash again.

I also, through great serendipity, located a community knitting group last week that makes hats for patients going through chemo at the infusion center where I used to go to my (old, kicked to the curb) rheumatologist’s office. I know that center, located between oncology and rheumatology, as I used to sit in that waiting room every rheumatologist appointment. Why is the infusion center next to rheumatology? Because, little known fact, many rheumatology patients (along with other people struggling with autoimmune disease), receive chemo and infusions of biologic drugs. I know, only too well, what a struggle it is to control Reynaud’s Phenomenon while hooked up to an IV in air conditioning. I’m joining the knitting group and will be knitting as many little fingerless mitts and arm warmers as I can for drop off to the center along with the chemo hats.

There. Knitting plans for the rest of the year all worked out. 🙂

Garden

This is ridiculous, but all of my mental energy is focused on planting all the potted plants into the gardens (Where should I put them? This is a big decision.) and making an indoor home for the jade plants that have been outdoors all summer.

This plant tripled in size over the summer. I moved it to this large pot, but now it is… large.

I recently discovered that jade plants are poisonous for cats. Oh, no. I have had jade plants in the house for years with my cats, and never had an issue, but now that I know I’m worried about a cat/plant interaction. I have an indoor garden shelf system established to keep the plants indoors over the winter, but this pot won’t fit now. I’ve decided to use chicken wire to keep the cats away from the shelf with the smaller jades, but this one plant is going to be challenging. Ugh. I can move shelves to create more space, or I can build a cage to put over the plant, or… these are the days when I miss the greenhouse I had in my biology classroom.

Books

This is an amazing book!!

I loved, loved, loved All the Light We Cannot See, so when I saw this book was coming out I preordered it right away. When it dropped into my Kindle library I forced myself to take a break from The Murderbot Diaries to read this. Holy, Moly! Best decision ever. Cloud Cuckoo Land is a book to read and savor.

So you probably have already guessed that I am really enjoying this book. It is the tale of a ridiculous comedy written by an ancient Greek author that is preserved over time and that connects people separated by centuries who are caught up in the jaws of history. Sounds improbable when I write it down, but this works and it is really good! I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but the story moves right along at a perfect pace, going back and forth between the characters and the Greek tale in a way that links them together and brings meaning to their lives and the Greek comedy in an unforeseen manner that eerily connects to my life also. Owls are a recurring element of the stories in the book: as I read in the night it is to the sound of booming “who-who’s” from the Great Horned owls in my neighborhood. (Bunnies: make good choices tonight!!) I read on in this book that is essentially about the power and of legacy of books as I consider which of my books to leave in one of the community Little Free Libraries next week. The power of books, the legacy of lives, the preservation of who we are: a big message contained in a book that immerses you in a powerful story.

Have a good week, everyone.

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

Mateo the CoalBear: and hug a cat!

The Saturday Update: Weeks 35 and 36, 2021

The heat is hanging on and the cats and I are totally over it at this point. Yesterday we set a new heat record in my state: 99 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun is a sullen red ball in the sky and the sky is slate white with smoke from the west. The heat is unrelenting, there has been almost no rain, and fire season is still going on, and on, and on… Should summer be ending soon?

“Not yet!”, say the plants and wildlife in the yard. The cats have been busy chasing late season houseflies and the trees are abuzz with pulsing cicada sounds. There seems to be wildlife everywhere all of a sudden as the lawn and garden recover from the intense sun (but not the heat) of July and August. I even had to chase a little garter snake out of my garage yesterday! Summer is being especially tenacious, but I am seeing some hints of fall as flocks of geese fly over my house and the first leaves on the trees are turning.

The baby bunny is now hanging out in the front yard entertaining the cats as they watch from the front door. Do you see all of that debris on the sidewalk and street in the picture of the bunny? That is the mess being left by the squirrels as they harvest the Russian olives off of my neighbor’s tree. There is a really cute squirrel with an exceptionally fluffy tail digging holes under my trees to stash food for later… not nice, little squirrel!! Speaking of fluffy tails, look at what is happening to Mateo’s tail!! This kitten is getting a lot fluffier than I thought he would…

Garden

Everything that is pink is just flourishing at the moment.

My Autumn Joy Stonecrop is just covered with bees and other plants in containers on the deck have decided that they want to bloom too. Even the roses by my driveway have decided to get a last bloom in. For some crazy reason it is all of the pink plants… even the hydrangea is putting out some new blooms with pink edges. It makes me happy to see all that color coming back even if it will be drowned out by all the fall colors in the trees and shrubs in a week or two.

Knitting

I had several quiet days following my right heart catherization procedure last week (okay, I also slept a couple of days afterwards) and I ripped right through the next clue on the Snark-O-Meter. If you haven’t been keeping up with all of the snark, the Snark-O-Meter is the latest MKAL shawl by Sharon from Security (Casapinka) and I am having a blast this time.

It is getting too big to show off the fun stitches in this project in one picture so I settled for shots of each clue. The top left is clues 1 and 2, the bottom left shows clue 3, and the picture on the right is clue 4. Look at all of those great and interesting stitches and use of color!! I’m going to get a ton of use out of this shawl.

Since I finished the shawl in just a couple of days after the clue was released, and because Sharon is taking a week off to let people catch up on their knitting, and since I was admiring all things pink in the garden, I pulled out my new Rock It Tee that is being knit in a pinky/rusty colorway called Cinnasizzle. The actual yarn isn’t quite as hot pink as it appears in the pictures, but it is full of clay, pink, and rust colors that are just too fun to ignore. I’ve been binge watching Billions on Amazon Prime and knitting like crazy this last week with a nebulous thought that if I really apply myself I can get this sweater done before Sharon releases the next Snark-O-Meter clue in another week. Ha! This is clearly impossible, but that never stopped me before! To try is all. I’m below the armholes now and it is just knitting in the round for the next 15 inches or so…

Mateo is now 5 and a half months old. Isn’t he getting handsome?

I’m still waiting for my cardiologist to contact me with the next steps in the ongoing Blue-Lipped Zebra project. Things are really slammed right now in the health field as there are lots of Covid-19 patients and Covid long-haulers who need help, and my cardiologist is pretty overwhelmed with the case load at the moment. (How do I know? My pulmonologist, who is also slammed, told me. I feel so bad for them.) It is a little hard to be patient and to wait my turn, especially since some of those people who are bumping me back in the health-care line are the unvaccinated.

Last week I was mocked in public by someone for wearing a mask. Umm… retired high school teacher here. I called him out on it and he immediately stopped.

But still, it’s a little shocking that it even happened.

This is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. What a sad, horrible day that led to unpredictable outcomes that were far beyond my imagination at that time. How sad it is to reflect on all that has happened, and continues to happen, in America.

I plan to knit my way though the reflection, waiting, and sadness this week. You all be safe out there!

Have a great week everyone.

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