The Saturday Update: Week 22

I’m going to just come right out and say that things are crazy, scary, and full of grief here in America. It’s hard for me to focus because there is a sense of history that compels me to keep checking the news. Where to start? At this point I am almost beyond words. Maybe I won’t even go there. Instead, let me offer you the good moments and snippets of joy that came to me this week. The leaves are out on the tree over my garden swing, and I can finally sit outside and read listening to birdsong. Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day, and all of my neighbors were out in their front yards working; I sat in the grass and “talked” to all of them as we shared our latest news. My neighbor next door and I call to each other over the fence these days… This week I tossed her a can of baking powder and a packet of “no contact” cookies arrived on my front porch later on. Instacart delivered all of my groceries to me and I discovered that 25 pounds of rice is a lot more than I thought it was! (Feel free to PM me if you need some…) My neighbor mowed and trimmed my lawn when I wasn’t looking and I snuck over and weeded out all of the weeds in the rocks along his house two days later. (Stealth yard work! I highly recommend it.) I applied for 3 more kittens this week, and SpaceX safely launched Crew Dragon into space this afternoon. See, no matter how bad things sound in the news, there are small moments of joy everywhere.

Knitting

Do you see what got done this week?

Knitted Maya is done!!

This is my last knitted cat for awhile. Maya, my sons Maine coon cat with attitude to spare and undisputed princess status in the home, is finally knitted up. Maya is excessively fluffy… I finally just settled on creating a cat with the correct coloration (using purple with the black for fun) and hoping that time will fluff her up if we brush her. Who am I kidding… the real Maya is too fluffy for words. She does love hanging out draped across the back of my son’s chair at his desk, so this knitted Maya took to the tree for her photoshoot.

Doesn’t she look great? This pattern is Cat by Claire Garland and you can find the project notes, such as they are, here.

The rest of my knitting energy has been going to the Garter Snake Cowl. I think that I am about half way done, and you can see that I am now in the middle of the transition from brioche stitch to garter stitch as I knit up the cowl. I love how these two yarns are looking together!

Looking good!! My Ravelry notes are here.
Garden

Flowers are popping out all over and the roses are right on the verge of blooming. The catmint has just gone crazy with the blooms and the bees are working overtime right now.

See what I mean? I’m pretty sure that this is a honey bee. Yay! So happy I could help out, little guy!
Here’s another shot because, seriously, what are the chances that I will get another picture like this while using a cell phone?
Books

Sigh. Still reading The Mirror & The Light. I can’t seem to concentrate on reading at the moment with all that is going on, but has that stopped me from buying more books to read? Nope!! I just keep adding them to my Kindle with the hopeful expectation that I will snap out of my inability to read and race right through them in a few days. My book club is meeting by Zoom in a few days so I have to get Catherine House finished before Tuesday. It’s 314 pages. I probably should start it, huh. After I water the plants, prune the roses, and maybe knit awhile…

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

Here’s Some More Wednesday Sunshine

The weather is really in the Cinderella zone for me right now. Warmish, sunny days that aren’t too hot. Nice, well behaved clouds in the sky that sometimes drop a little rain with some rumbles of thunder, but nothing really scary like hail and tornados. I’ve been working outside a little every day and I’m making progress on the yards. Today I tried to grab some pictures to show the emerging life out there; a huge bumblebee and some butterflies stopped by, but they were too dodgy for me to grab a picture. My usual squirrel companion was taking a nap somewhere and nowhere in sight. Still, there is life just waiting to bust out all over in my yards. I did find this…

My catmint plant has doubled in size in the last week and is now covered in buds waiting to burst open. As soon as they do it will be a bee party out there!

This is the first year that this catmint plant will not have a cat munching on its leaves and sleeping in its shade. It’s kind of bittersweet to see the plant doing so well without the cat abuse. I have begun the hunt for a new kitten; I applied to adopt a couple of kittens this week, but it looks like it is a long shot right now as lots of other people also applied. (Okay, they are too cute for words, and I am dying that I’m not likely to get them…). There will be more kittens, and in time this plant will again have a feline companion.

Right now the bees are swarming my viburnum shrub. My next door neighbor trimmed the shrub down to a more reasonable size yesterday but there are still lots of blooms for the bees and those photo-shy butterflies.
The most exciting event of the day, however, was my tree out back had its leaves bust out overnight! Yay! Shade over my favorite reading spot is right around the corner!!

Things are definitely picking up outside. My neighbors are repairing the fences between our yards and I’m doing what I can to help. Mostly I loan tools and hand over money. ūüôā I’m hoping to get lots of weeding done before the heat arrives next month. Gosh, these windows of moderate weather are so brief here… with some luck flower beds will be weeded and sprinkled with flower seeds in the next couple of weeks.

Good days in a sad time continue.

Have a good week, everyone. Be safe.

 

MacKenzie Speaks: Busy Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat helping hold yarn.
Do you see how much help I am to the Mother of Cats? 

The weather has turned nice and the Mother of Cats and I have been busy working in the yard, knitting lots of projects, and getting yummy things cooked in the kitchen. I love hanging out in the kitchen with the Mother of Cats since she gives me extra attention, cookies, and even plates of tuna. Sometimes the Mother of Cat can be fun. Sometimes.

I have been so busy that I hardly know what to do with myself. Now that I am able to get back into the yard there is a lot for me to do. I need to inspect every corner of the yard, nap in all of my favorite places, make sure that all the other cats in the neighborhood understand that I am back (ahem… I do my business in all the right places…), and then there are the plants that I like to chomp. And bugs! The moths are back and every night I have another epic moth hunt that goes on for hours. The Mother of Cats hates the moths…

Cat munching on catmint in the garden.
The very best thing about summer is that I can get back to my catmint!! I can take naps under this plant when I’m not snacking on it. Next time I chat with all of you about the yard I’ll send some pictures of the flowers. The Mother of Cats likes the flowers, but for me, it is ALL ABOUT THE CHOMPS!!

Unfortunately, the Mother of Cats doesn’t let me stay outside as much as I would like. Always, we have to go back in before I want to. The Mother of Cats just doesn’t place my needs first like she should. She can be so MEAN to me! Okay, there are some thunderstorms in the afternoons… If she loved me she would make them go away so I could stay outside!! Why can’t the Mother of Cats understand how important the outside is?

Cat sleeping with ball of yarn.
But she does let me take care of her yarns while she is knitting in the afternoons.
Cat asleep with knitting.
This knitting is also a blanket for me while the Mother of Cats is taking a break. I kind of like this shawl. It is going to be really big when it is done. My new Blankie!!

The Mother of Cats spent a few days working on the new shawl (a What the Fade?! shawl by Andrea Mowry) and then became completely distracted and started working on some arm warmers to match the socks that she made not that long ago. I can be reasonable… I helped her knit those, too. After only two days of knitting in bed listening to an audiobook she was able to get one of the arm warmers done solely due to my devoted attention. Look at how nice it looks!!

Arm warmers in progress.
I don’t know when she will wear these as it is pretty warm these days, but you never know. For some reason she was just on fire to get these all knitted up. Here are the socks that they will match.

As you can see, I am just terrifically busy. Taking care of the Mother of Cats and the yard is kind of a full time job. Then there is my mouse. Do you remember how badly I needed a mouse? The Mother of Cats bought me a mouse (she says it is a hamster… whatever!) a few months ago and last week she moved her downstairs to be with us in the evenings while we knit.

Cat snoozing with hamster.
I love my mouse! I spend a lot of my time right by the mouse cage every evening when she wakes up for the night. She makes me happy, and the best thing ever is that she RUNS IN A WHEEL! She even has her own little cookies to eat. Miss Pitty-Pat is my best friend these days.

I can’t believe how much I have to do every day.

I am such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • My neighbors (I have the best neighbors in the world!) have been collaborating with me to spruce up our yards. Mulch has been spread on the side yard, a new flower bed started, and I’m even moving bricks to extend the patio/deck area in the back (we all had a brick swap!). Wait until MacKenzie sees the new patio umbrella I bought this weekend!
  • The downside of all this yard work is that sunshine is not kind to people with autoimmune diseases. After a week of bravely tackling yard projects in the late afternoons the flare arrived anyway and I had to hole up in bed for a few days being kind to myself. Not wanting to manipulate multiple balls of yarn with MacKenzie sleeping on my legs I switched over to the small arm warmers. The project notes for them are here. They are based on the No. 5 Union Street socks that I made earlier this spring.
  • I have several other projects going right now, but the major one is the What the Fade?! shawl that I am working on in shades of rusts. My project notes are here.
Yarns for shawl.
Check out the yarns! And no, this new shawl is NOT a blankie for MacKenzie!
  • I’m still deep in my flare, but I am knitting and listening to audiobooks like crazy and eating comfort food ; I am still in charge here, you bad boy autoimmune things!! MacKenzie isn’t happy about not being in the yard all day, but his issue is really with scleroderma, not me. Somehow he isn’t grasping the finer details of the situation… What can I expect? He is a cat. I bossy, self-centered cat who drips entitlement like none other. Seriously, I couldn’t function in a flare without this furry monster at my side. ūüôā
  • It looks like we are going to have an epic miller moth season; every time I open the door to the garage another moth flies in. Great. MacKenzie is specializing in 1am moth hunts these days…

MacKenzie Speaks: The First Week of June

 

Cat
Hi. I’m MacKenzie. The Mother of Cats has spent the day reading a book, so I’ve taken over here to share the week with you.
Living Room
She has been cleaning this week. Crazy. She kept muttering about cat hair, vacuuming, the importance of guarding against wool moths… Impossible to understand! Yellow Boy is very upset because the furniture got moved around…
MacKenzie Waiting for Blanket
and she even washed my cat blanket. Sigh. It took forever for it to dry. I know. I counted.
Flowers
She hung out new flowers on the deck…
Quilt and socks
and¬†sewed a quilt top with roses on it. It’s OK, I guess; the green highlights¬†my eyes.¬†Instead of quilting it, though, she stopped and made matching bed socks. ¬†I don’t know why she stopped quilting. I only messed with the machine a FEW times…
Cat stink eye
She said I was exhausting her. Hey. She washed my blanket. I need to lay on something!!
Cat at door
All the neighborhood children are out of school now and playing out front. She, however, won’t let me go out to play with them.
Cat asking nicely to go out.
I even asked nicely!!
MacKenzie in Cat Mint
Thank heavens I get to play in the backyard. The catmint is coming right along…
Cat in catmint
Sigh. I told Yellow Boy to stop doing that!!
Cat in grass
Well, that’s the week. Its nice and hot outside now, and the Mother of Cats is in the lawn chair reading her book and eating leftover Chinese take out. I’m in camouflage waiting for a moth. Or maybe a garter snake. If that darn squirrel comes down I’ll give him a chase that he won’t quickly forget…

June is for cats!

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The socks are Om Shanti bedsocks by Alice yu.
  • The yarn is Crazy Zauberball in the colorway 2170_Blasser Schimmer
  • The quilt is a kit I found years ago at the Great Amrican Quilt Factory called “Leading Ladies”. Fast, simple, fun.¬†Even with cats who help a little too much.
  • The book is The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin. All knitting activities are basically on hold while I finish this book.

Gardening for Cats and Bees

I just finished reading my first “Bee” book, A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson.¬†This book was a quick friendly read about bumblebee biology, ecology, and the efforts to build habitat in the United Kingdom that will support and grow wild bumblebee populations. One of the techniques that the researchers in the book utilized to detect bumblebees was to have observers sit in their garden (or some other location) for 20 minutes to tally the number of bees they saw.

I’ve been a little sad over the absence of a strawberry crop this year, and I thought that it was due to a lack of bees. As I read the book, however, I realized that many of the bees that I have seen in the past were actually bumblebees. I plant a lot of ¬†flowers that should be attracting bees, too. Late yesterday afternoon I headed out to the garden for 20 minutes with my camera to see what was actually going on out there.

Bee
Well look at that! There is steady bee traffic to some of the plants in the garden. All those hairs on the abdomen of the bee is the tip off that this is a bumblebee. Aren’t those red bands on the bee cute?

A little search of the internet led me to believe that this is a Bobmus huntii bee.¬†The bees were really targeting purple flowers yesterday afternoon. I saw them on the lavender, this catmint plant, and on the pincushion¬†flowers. I don’t know why my strawberry plants were a flop this year, but maybe is was due to a very wet and cold spring that made it hard for bees to get to them. I learned that bumblebees struggle in those conditions as they need to maintain enough heat to work their flight muscles. Who knew?!

As I was sitting out with the bees and the flowers I realized that while I have a lot of plantings that attract wildlife, I have actually¬†made my yard and garden into a habitat for cats. Check out what I’ve done for them.

Cat in catmint plant.
As you can imagine, the catmint is a big favorite with the cats. The plant is really hardy, doesn’t need a lot of water and tolerates cats building nests inside of them. Yellow Boy sleeps inside this nest with the bumblebees buzzing over his head.
Uncut grass under the tree.
I leave a little circle of grass and plants around the base of one of my trees as the cats like to sleep in the tall grass. Easy solution to cats needing shade in the summer sun. One year a visiting cousin cut all the grass thinking that she was doing me a big favor. Sigh…
Cat in grass.
The grass nest is a big hit with MacKenzie.
Cat water dish.
I bought a nice saucer for large pots at the nursery and now it is a source of water for summer kitties. I hose it out and put in fresh water each morning. 
Lavender and invisible fence wire.
This lavender draws a lot of bees. Behind the plant attached to the fence you can see a wire. The wire¬†is part of the invisible fence system that I put up to train the cats to not jump out of the yard. They trained really quickly and I haven’t activated the fence for the last 3 years. The bricks at the bottom of the fence are plugging small gaps.

Squirrels use the yard constantly and provide the cats with some quality exercise as they chase them, but I no longer put out food for squirrels. They have been raiding a neighbor’s trash and burying stuff in my planters, so they get little else from me. I used to have a bird feeder and nesting boxes in the yard,¬†and I really liked the birdsong and the activity was hours of entertainment for the cats¬†(who really never managed to catch anything, but they loved to try!). I discovered that the birds also attracted other cats (AKA enemy cats!!) so I had to stop putting out food. Even an invisible fence will not keep a cat in the yard who chasing out an invader!

Now my cats think they are dogs. They make me get up in the morning to let them out, mill around the door carrying on as soon as I come home, and are happy to go in and out all day through a cat door.  They come running in from the yard when I shake the kitty treat bag, and stay in all night (asleep!) like good boys.  I can do cat-free crafting activities during the day (like warping my loom) while they happily doze outside dreaming of bugs and garter snakes. By making the yard an appealing habitat for my kitties they stay put and are safe outside.

Crazy cat-gardening lady, huh! Some of my friends think it is strange to let my animals tunnel thought plantings, but they are just a part of my overall¬†scheme. After reading Dave Goulson’s book I also realized that this isn’t just a backyard; it is also important habitat for wildlife in the city. I will be putting in more plants with an eye to supporting bumblebees (who evidently are critical to the pollination of strawberries and tomato plants!). Later this summer my¬†butterfly plants should get going and there will be hummingbirds and butterflies for kitty entertainment. Everyone wins!

I wonder what other people are planting for cats?