The Saturday Update: Week 29

Ugh. I’m still struggling with the heat and I’m STILL in a flare. I spent another couple days in bed, talked to my rheumatologist, and really didn’t get too much done. The nightly news is just awful (seriously, how much worse can 2020 get? Don’t ask!), Hannah has decided that all of the best toys are KNITTED, Covid-19 cases are surging in my state, and my doctor has re-emphasized that I am totally on lockdown. No visitors. None. Well, if they stay outside, keep their mask on, and stay 10 feet away maybe one of my sons can come… Sigh. My joints are not getting better, and it is still too risky for a joint injection. I have to admit to some sadness here… what good are doctors if they can’t just wave a magic wand to make you feel better??! There was, however, some good news this week.

My governor has ordered everyone to wear masks in this state. At last!! I went to the grocery store late this evening (which I am not supposed to do, but the kitten needed more food, and I absolutely needed cheesecake…), and every single person in the store had a mask on. People made obvious efforts to give each other space. Thank you, thank you, thank you, everyone!! Don’t tell my doctor you saw me, okay, and thank you so much for being kind to me.

Also, the store had some cute orchid plants for sale, but more about that later.

Knitting

I started out the week working on my Breath and Hope shawl, but as the heat outside built and my flare intensified, I just wasn’t able to keep my attention on it. I decided that I didn’t have the brain power to work on my other glove either, so Hannah and I headed up to the yarn stash to see what I could find to knit some simple, mindless projects.

I forgot all about this yarn! I bought it to use with my latest V-Neck Boxy sweater. I decided to make a simple little cowl that would be small and easy to stuff into a Hannah-proof project bag.
I decided to make a Willow cowl. I always wanted to make one, and it would be simple to do as it uses a very simple lace with no chart. My project notes are here.

I has also found a great shawl pattern, Far Away Dreams by Joji Locatelli,  that starts out with lots of simple garter stitching. I had some yarn left over from a sweater that I knitted last winter, so I dragged it out and wound it up too. Hannah helped.

Yarn to knit Far Away Dreams shawl.
Yarns to knit Far Away Dreams shawl by Joji Locatelli. The pink will be the garter stitch interior of the shawl and the lace border will be knit using the pink and the gray.
It doesn’t look all that appealing in the indoor light this evening, but this pink garter is easy, soothing knitting that I’m cranking out with a little help from Hannah.
Garden

Yeah, I’m not going outside in this heat. Poor garden. It got some water and I’m pretty sure that it’s still alive, but that’s it. Let me offer up a poorly shot photo of my new orchid. 🙂

The light for this photo is just awful, but you can sort of see it. It’s a creamy white with beautiful purple and rose highlights. 
I was taking the picture really fast because Miss Hannah was all over the new orchids. They had tissue paper and ribbons on them… “new toys,” thought Hannah. I have those ribbons off the plants now!

By the way, I did notice that my potato plant in flourishing in spite of the neglect that happened this week. Figures. It’s growing taller than the dead rose twig coming up through the plant. I think that it’s growing to just spite me now.

Books
I’m back in Outremer learning all about King Baldwin IV and the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

Footnote:

What is this flare that I am whining complaining about? A flare is a surge of symptoms in both number and severity. In my case my constant fatigue gets a lot worse, my joints and muscles become pretty painful, eczema eruptions appear, and my gastrointestinal symptoms intensify. If I walk into the hot air outside I can’t breathe. Bad scleroderma, bad!! I’m on more drugs at the moment, staying on oxygen through the day, and surviving on yogurt and simple carbs. Next week has a better forecast and I’m looking forward to eating some great green chili!!

The Saturday Update: Week 20

Twenty weeks into the year I’m now in a place that I never could have imagined a year ago.  Let’s be honest, if you read science fiction books you know all about pandemics, but who thought we’d be living that scenario now? A year ago I was facing down some very scary possible diagnoses and pressing for medical interventions to help me; I was forced to self-isolate as my doctors doubled down on my immunosuppressant drugs to get my systemic sclerosis symptoms under control. I’m tolerating the additional drugs, but my risk of infection remains high. Then I self-isolated when flu season erupted late in the fall; in spite of my best efforts I caught the flu anyway. Sigh. Who could have imagined that there would then be a pandemic, a chaotic and ineffective response by my government, and then social bullying against people who wear facemasks and who comply with public health protocols? Yep, That is happening in my community right now.  There is no place I can go that will be safe for me if other people refuse to wear masks and maintain a safe distance. I’m pretty much in stunned disbelief these days. I have no choice but to continue to self-isolate.

This is my new shirt that I plan to wear while grocery shopping, which I do carefully during the special “at-risk” shopping hour at my grocery store.

Whatever, the joke is on those rude anti-social idiots who have forced me to remain home with my yarn stash, books, and garden! I’m good.

Knitting

Look at what got done this week!!

My V-Neck Boxy sweater is ready to enter service.

I loved this color yarn so much that I bought an extra skein of yarn to use for socks, or something. I didn’t quite know what I would do with it, but I wanted options. I also bought a skein of contrasting yarn at the same time thinking that I could maybe put together a nice piece to go with the sweater. I was thinking Fair Isle armwarmers at the time, but this week I decided that this yarn wanted to be a cowl.

A Garter Snake cowl, to be specific. The cowl begins with 50 rounds of brioche, and then will move into garter stitch while the brioche forms a peak in the garter stitch background. This is going to be so perfect with my new sweater!!

I also pulled out a pair of simple socks that have been hibernating in a project bag for a few weeks while I focused on the sweater. How cute will these be?

My local yarn store got these intriguing little balls of yarn to make self-striping socks. Hey. I had to try that out!! The yarn is from Lollipop Yarn, and the sock is my own usual 64 stitch vanilla sock recipe.

Finally, I am ready to return to my latest knitted cat project. Poor Maya has been waiting and waiting for her knitted twin to arrive. Now that the sweater is off the needles I am ready to focus on that project and should get it done in the coming week.

Garden

Nothing spectacular is going on in the garden… plants are slowly adjusting to the outside, perennials are emerging from the ground, and my frost-damaged rose bushes are slowly putting out new shoots and leaves. Since I can’t go to the local nursery these days I put the seeds from old plants into cleared garden soil. I have a bag of old flowers (with their seed pods) in the garage that was given to me years ago by a cousin… I think that those seeds will end up in the back garden. Some ancient allysium seeds actually sprouted in the front rose garden so I’m hopeful about the other seeds that I just planted from old, dried flower pods. See, lots of work is going on, but not much to show off in pictures.

Except for this… Painted Lady butterflies have descended on my flowering plants. Yay!! Happy times!
Books

I tend to watch news channels during the day while I knit and quilt on my current projects. It is kind of background noise that won’t interfere with my counting of stitches or my focus while sewing a nice, straight seam. I do watch enough to become amused by the backgrounds that people have chosen for their video commentary. You know, some are in the living room and we see furniture and neutral walls with maybe some prints on them. Others choose to speak in front of a shelf with a few carefully arranged plants, pots, pictures, and some token books. Some of the backgrounds are just sadly vacant of evidence of life. Then there are the people who speak in front of a bookshelf stuffed full of books…

Oh my gosh!! I love those people!! Some of them have books that are crammed into the shelves with books on top of other books, scraps of paper marking places poking out, and the chaos of a dedicated bibliophile. Others have nice tidy bookshelves with a few pictures of family and mementos included. I ignore what these people are saying as I search the bookshelves to find books that I have too. Yes! Stacey Abrams has a copy of The Night Tiger on her shelf!! Beto O’Rourke has all of the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian on his shelf. The mayor of Dallas, Texas (Eric Johnson) has the same copy of Einstein: His Life and Universe on his shelf that is on mine! I can’t help it… I am thrilled to see evidence of my connection and shared interests with these other people. I love it!

My downstairs bookshelf. I used to have 4 bookshelves in my house, and over the last few years I’ve slowly pruned them down to just two. In the era of digital books I’ve really cut back on hardbound book buying.

This bookshelf has all of my sock knitting books and some smaller knitting books. It also has most of my science geeky books, and all of my hardbound historical novels by Sharon Kay Penman, and several science fiction books. My favorite two books in the world, Floating Worlds and Great Maria, both by Cecelia Holland, are also on this shelf. And on the bookshelf upstairs. When a book is your favorite it’s important to have several copies just in case…

My upstairs bookshelf. Do you see all of those books on the shelf above MacKnitzie? That’s my collecion of the Aubrey-Maturin books. Out of sight at the bottom of the shelf are piles of more knitting and weaving books.

So, what am I reading this week? I have settled down and am finally able to read complicated books again. I’m reading the latest historical novel by Sharon Kay Penman about the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 12th century.

King Baldwin IV and the Kingdom of Jeruselum. Hundred of pages. I’m in book heaven.
I’m also deep in the 16th century as I’m reading this book about Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell.

Both of these are huge books with lots of convoluted interactions and political maneuverings. Perfect for long spring days at home in our time.

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 19

It’s already the first week in May: how crazy is that?! The days are just kind of flying by now as the sun is getting brighter outside and I have the energy to get lots of little chores done. I’ve been cleaning: the garage, the bookshelves, the craft room, and then I weeded out gardens. I installed some solar powered lights outside and changed the knobs on some furniture. These are all small things, but boy do they make me feel good.

Look at who is now living on my bookshelf! Every time I glance over and see MacKnitzie it makes me smile.
Here’s the whole bookshelf. Doesn’t it look nice and organized now?
Knitting

Because I was up doing things the knitting suffered a little this week and there was no quilting at all. Trying to catch up I knitted pretty steadily for the last two days. This evening I finished the body of my new V-Neck Boxy and got it cast off the needles.

Here it is, just minutes after I finished casting the body off. Try to imagine it with sleeves, a neckline, and blocking. It will be just fabulous!!

I just love this color! I want the sweater to be a tiny bit longer than it is right now, but after blocking I’m pretty sure it will be the length that I’m hoping for. Tomorrow I start the sleeves…  My Ravelry notes are here.

By the way, I just have to mention this: after 6 weeks on oxygen my lips in that picture above are almost normal colored instead of the steady blue they were last winter. Things are getting better for the Blue Lipped Zebra!!

Garden

Things are happening outdoors. I’ve been watering and babying the plants that were injured in the hard freeze that we had a couple of weeks ago. I am so happy to report that every single rose bush has put out new growth and all the shrubs that I suspected were dead suddenly had leaves appear today. (Okay, there is one lilac that I have given up hope for, but everyone else is back!) Things are starting to look pretty promising outside.

I’ve been watering this shrub even though I was afraid it looked dead. Today, these appeared! Yay!  Bud burst!! In a few weeks this shrub will be covered in purple flowers.
This snapdragon plant is a happy reseeding from plants I had in another garden last year. It’s going to look great with these pansys when those blooms open.
This poinsettia from last Christmas is just pitiful at the moment. It hung out by a window in the front room after the holidays, and then I moved it outside a couple of weeks ago. It has new growth appearing to replace all of the old leaves that have dropped off, so I repotted it this week. It’s an experiment!

When I lived in the San Diego area poinsettia grew outside all year long and were huge shrubs. I’m hoping that this plant will rebound and grow to be nice and healthy before I have to bring it back inside in the fall. With luck I will have red flowers again for Christmas and the holidays.

Books

I polished off two books this week while knitting on that sweater after struggling to read for several days.

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi is set in a scenario where civilization as they know it is collapsing and the rich, powerful corporations are all scrambling to secure as much profit and security as they can in the unfolding chaos and uncertain future. There are machinations, betrayals, assassinations, and blantantly unscrupulous business practices that completely ignore the welfare of “the little people”. I put the book aside because it just wasn’t a plot I wanted to deal with at the moment, but when I went back to it this week the message turned and at the end of the book things had been put aright. People who were competent and focused on the good of their population were in power, science had saved the day, and great sacrifices were bringing a new structure to the universe. Yay! That was a message that I wanted to read after all. Feeling pretty upbeat I went back to another book that I had abandoned.

She by Pete Brassett was another book that I had set aside because it was about a serial killer. Ugh. I’m so over sociopaths! I went back, however, and found that after a rocky start the main characters were richly complicated and likable. The lead detective, Munro, had stopped bullying badgering and terrorizing his underlings, and West, his main underling and partner, stopped cringing   started being more secure and honest in her dealings with life and Munro. The story was well paced and had lots of twists and turns.; plot developments were believable, but not obvious, which was great. Even better, the serial killer was not glorified. I was racing through the book (and my sweater) after the midpoint and now that it is finished I have downloaded and started the next book in the series.

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 18

Another week. It is just crazy, but with sunny warm weather the days seem to be going a little faster. The lawns have been mowed and I am working in the gardens now clearing out the debris of last fall and planting seeds into the bare spots. I managed to get my new roses planted and am now working on clearing out the gardens in the back… so many dandelions for the bees right now, so I feel a little guilty. Luckily there are lots of other things that I can get done out there before I dig and clear those last gardens.

So the pandemic is kind of overwhelming for me right now. The news here in the US is full of people storming the governmental offices and demonstrating to be allowed to reopen the economy. I get that, but what is insane is people demanding that their lives be returned to normal. You know, no more masks! Packed beaches! I want to go to the movies and to restaurants. I want everything to be the way it was! I refuse to take a vaccine! I don’t care that we don’t have testing! This is just affecting old people anyway, and it’s just fake news, so let’s just go back to normal!!!!!

Sigh.

This was me five years ago when I was first diagnosed with scleroderma, Sjogren’s disease, and all the rest that came crashing down on me in the months that followed as all of the test results and specialists visits happened. I get it. The loss of your former life can be crushing. Get over it. To pretend something is not happening is not “living without fear”, but rather just burying your head in the sand. It is happening. Be brave. Put on your mask, make the adjustments that you need to in your life, plan for the long haul, hope for the best, and plan for the worst. We will make it, but not if we all just act selfishly.

Books
I decided to switch the order of my weekly topics because this book is so appropriate for what is happening in my world right now.

I finished The Splendid and the Vile this week. Oh, my goodness. This is the book that I needed right at this moment. Imagine blackouts, nightly bombings, fires, thousands of casualities, and a pretty darn hopeless outcome as the nation prepares for invasion. Your allies are gone, and your friends just don’t want to get involved. In the midst of almost certain disaster Churchill emerged in Great Britain as the man that they needed at that time. Hugely energetic, positive, honest, ecentric, and ruthlessly demanding of the people around him, Churchill played a long game over years navigating his nation’s way though what can only be described as desperate times. His leadership and the development of central operations that placed and maintained a wartime footing over years was just inspiring for me and a great counterpoint to the nightly news. This book unpacked the early WWII years and made the people involved in the British effort come alive. I am so glad that I read it.

Now I am again picking away at several books at once trying to settle on one to carry me through the next week. I started a book called She by Pete Brassett because I had the audible version along with the book; I also kind of like British detective books so it was appealing. Oops. A book about a serial killer. What was I thinking of? I then started a science fiction book that is the last in a series that I’ve been reading. The Last Emperox by John Scalzi is set in a scenario where civilization as they know it is collapsing and the rich, powerful corporations are all scrambling to secure as much profit and security as they can in the unfolding chaos and uncertain future. There are machinations, betrayals, assassinations, and blantantly unscrupulous business practices that completely ignore the welfare of “the little people”. What was I thinking!! This is perhaps not the best book for me to be reading at the moment. I can go back to American Dirt (desperate mom tries to escape Mexican cartel and get to America and safety… maybe not) or return to The Mirror and the Light (more political maneuvering with a unhinged leader at the helm; death and betrayal is everywhere…), or just give up and read some nice Japanese cat comic books that I have. That’s the ticket! I am going to focus on The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home for a few days!

It’s a plan!
Knitting

My needles have been busy this week. You know how it is. You can work for days and days without seeing any progress, and then suddenly it is apparent how much you have actually gotten done.

I finished up my Sweet & Tartan socks this week. I am so happy with how they came out and couldn’t be more pleased with the pop of color that the I-cord at the top gives them. I wore them for a couple of cool days this week and they really stay in place. My notes are here.

Then there is the knitted Maya cat that I am making for my son. The knitted Jonesy needs a friend, right?!

I’ve finished the back from the tip of her nose to the end of her tail. Next I will be doing her legs.

You can’t see the cat in the above knitted cat rug? Huh. Maybe I should show it to you in another format.

There, is that better? I’ve draped the knitting over MacKnitzie so you can see how much progress I’ve made. I’m well on the way to having a cat!! This pattern is Cat by Clair Garland. My notes are here.

I’ve also been knitting and knitting on my new V-Neck Boxy sweater. I am about 9 inches below the armhole now and am approaching something that might be looking a little like a sweater.

What do you think? This is V-Neck Boxy by Joji Locatelli.
Garden

Things are starting to come to life out back. I have an immense shrub by my back deck that is almost as high as the rain gutters. It is now covered in blossoms.

The shrub is absolutely covered in these scented blooms… but they don’t smell nice. I’ve actually been keeping the patio door shut to keep the scent out of the house. Later on this shrub will have nice little red berries on it. I’m pretty sure that this is a Viburnum.

Remember my very unhappy roses that I put back outside after they spent a winter being babied in the house under grow lights? They are slowly toughening up, and today I saw this:

Aww… it managed to get a bloom out. See little guy, you will be okay.

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 16

The pandemic goes on. My country continues to act in alarming and perplexing ways; not only is there zero chance that I’m ever going to be able to leave self-isolation, but I despair of getting a new kitten. My joints are very ill-behaved and I don’t think that I will be getting that injection of steroids into my hip anytime soon. I used Instacart to buy my groceries for myself this week and the shopper, who wasn’t wearing a mask, substituted my order for fried rice with steaks (?!).  I MISS MACKENZIE SOMETHING AWFUL!!! (sniff) Okay. Enough of that. On a scale of 1-10 I’m somewhere around a 2. I have food, yarn, books, and my garden. I have steak!

Knitting

I’ve been knitting like crazy all week, but I’ve been bouncing around between three projects. Check it out.

I finished the first Sweet & Tartan sock! The designer created 3 different sizes of this sock; each size has a slightly different pattern for the tartan mosaic knit. This sock is the Medium version, and you can find my Ravelry notes here. I added an I-cord topper in the bright pink to the top of the sock after I finished. What do you think: too much or the perfect balance?
This pile of knitted mess is my new V-Neck Boxy sweater. I am now below the arms and the V-neck and am knitting the body in the round. Next stop, many inches from now, will be the bottom ribbing and the bind off. This is the mindless (and boring) part of the sweater, but it is perfect knitting while listening to a book or binge watching Netflix.
As a little break I started knitting the Maya cat. The black mohair yarns will continue to cover up the purple as the halo develops. Right now I’m pretty happy with how it looks.
Garden

Are you tired of my Monster Orchid yet? It just keeps going and going; it has become the centerpiece of my living room and I feel a rush of happiness every time I glimpse it. Much smaller, and no where as showy, is this miniature orchid that I have stationed on the china hutch.

This plant also is really healthy looking and is churning out new air roots while it blooms.
Do you see the new growth emerging on the stem that holds the blooms of this orchid? Yay! I think that we are looking at the beginning of new stew offshoots that will produce more blooms. This plant is an overachiever!! Yay orchid!

There is lots of sunlight coming into my downstairs rooms now and I have moved miniature roses to collect that light. They are really putting out the new growth and are champing at the bit to be let outside. Not yet, roses, as it is still below freezing some nights, but your day is coming soon!

Books

I have to admit that I am in a mood right now. We are living in extreme times and I yearn for clear leadership and well articulated goals. Is it too much to expect long-range planning to deal with the current situation and the next several stages to come with the Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic impacts? I’ve had a somewhat less than rosy outlook about what is actually happening because…

I read this book a few years ago and it totally freaked me out!

You are looking at the reason why I bulk buy everything. This book was just gripping in its presentation of the event of the 1918 Influenza pandemic and presented many lessons. Medicine needs to be science based. The suppression of information during a disease outbreak leads to deadly outcomes, and quarantining works. Community actions and public health measures can make enormous differences in outcomes. Pandemics come in waves. Viral mutations are evolutionary events; we can take actions to lower our risks, but biology is relentless, mutations do happen, and assigning blame is pointless. Pandemic planning is all. The identification of the infected and their isolation is an absolute necessity. Some politicians in the US are calling for the country to reopen right now; their logic is that some people need to die in order to maintain our way of life. I wish I could zap this book at them right over the airways to be directly transferred into their brains…

So what am I reading while the news is filled with conflicting and overwhelming news reports?

I’m reading about another time of extreme threat and supreme leadership.
and this novel about extreme political machinations in an environment of unhinged leadership.

Both books are well written, very compelling, and validate my sense of how things should be right now in our time.

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 14

It’s been a scary, sad week, hasn’t it? I’m still home in lockdown, sewing masks and missing MacKenzie something awful. The number of Covid-19 cases are skyrocketing in the US, especially in New York. I find myself fighting tears at least once a day now. There’s nothing for it but to keep checking in on loved ones and to stay busy. Luckily I have lots to do, and I have been busy. Before I show off the week let’s just start out with something happy.

The Monster Orchid now has 13 blooms and everyone of them is still going strong. The plant responded to having its blooms staked up by turning them for maximum visual impact. Beautiful plant!! I think that it likes the light in the front room.
Knitting

I completed the knitting of the Pebble Tunic! It fits and feels wonderful. It is also not finished or blocked. Still, you can now see the sweater!

This is a wonderful, long tunic that will be a fabulous light weight and warm layering piece in the fall. I need to sew the pockets into place and to weave in the ends. I think that I will steam block it in the end.
I hate to sew pocket liners into place. They intimidate me and I struggle with the outer edges. 
I’m thinking of sewing a button into the corners to cover the inevitable mess that will be at each pocket edge as I do the finishing. I think that it will look kind of cute with the floppy pocket. What do you think about this button?

I have to be honest, though. Now that I am at the finishing part of the sweater I am in a rush to get started on my next sweater. I want to wind that yarn and cast on immediately. I have three little projects (socks and mitts) that should be finished, but last night I dug through the stash and found the yarn to cast on ANOTHER pair of socks. I don’t want to sew pockets… I want to knit, knit, knit!! Today I packed up the Pebble Tunic to hibernate for a few days while I get the yarn wound for my next project, another V-Neck Boxy.  Eventually I’ll get it done. Besides, I need feedback from all of you about those buttons!

Garden

You already saw the orchid. Seriously, the orchid is the star of the indoor gardening at the moment, but I have been attending to some of the other plants.

For reasons that I don’t understand this jade plant has been growing like a weed, much faster than the other jade plants that I have. They are all clones from one single original plant, so I really don’t quite know what is going on here. The top growth has gotten so heavy that the two largest stems have flopped over. I staked and tied one, and I’m now considering cutting most of the downed section off. I should probably repot this hot jade plant mess, don’t you think? In the meantime I’ve moved the plant under a flood (grow) light by the window to see what happens in better light.

Tomorrow I think that I’ll dig around in the garage to find a nice clay pot for this guy. Since the plant is a super grower I’m considering starting a new plant with the downed stem to see if it will grow really fast, too.

Talking about rapid growth… do you see what this weeping fig has been up to? 

My weeping fig that I have growing in in the light of the front window really put out a lot of growth over the last year. When I repotted the plant a few weeks ago I discovered that the root system was pretty small and I worried that I had damaged the plant when I pulled it out of the old pot. Nope. The plant didn’t drop any leaves and is still putting out new ones so I fertilized it this week,  pruned off a lot of lower growth, and then staked and tied up branches to encourage the two plants to take on a more tree like shape. Here’s hoping it all works out. It’s another experiment!

Books

Maybe I’ve been messing with the plants this week because of the spring sunshine. Or maybe I’ve been looking at the plants with new eyes because I read this book this week.

I read another book about science and plants this week.

I loved this book. One of the things that I learned in the few years I worked in a research lab is that science people, really memorable people who do science, are originals. They think out of the box, they have wicked senses of humor, they listen to a singular internal muse as they work, and they have a casual relationship with rules and conventional schedules. I learned to write well while working in the lab. I learned to never take anything for granted in that lab, became endlessly creative as we designed original experiments, built our equipment, and collected the data. Science follows a timetable of its own sometimes… if the data arrived at 10pm I was in the lab ready to get it. I did some crazy stuff, and some of the best, most intense relationships of my life were developed in that time. This book captures the science behind plants and Hope Jehren’s work, the craziness of securing funding, the work of building a lab, and the unique and enduring relationships that are formed in collaborative research teams. A friend recommended this book to me, and I am so glad that I read it.

Jade plant, prepare to become an experiment!

Quilting

Look! A new category. Early in the winter on impulse I bought a huge roll of batting to make quilts. I have several quilt tops all pieced together waiting for the final quilting, and I have more quilt kits that need to be sewn. Now that I am trapped in the house I have this work to keep me busy. Behold. The first quilt got done this week.

Here’s the whole quilt.
and a close-up of the cats in the focus panel.

Next up: a green quilt with roses on it.

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 12

This was quite the week, wasn’t it? I’m home in self-isolation as are many other people who read my blog. Fun times, huh! I have lots of practice with this and have been reflecting on how to share some of my insights and coping strategies in an upcoming blog. Along with all of the news and stress of the week, we also had a major snowstorm a couple of days ago.

This was kind of ridiculous! It was windy, part of my back fence is sagging, and my front porch was buried in a foot of snow.
I went out to shovel the snow the next day after things had warmed up, but after only a few minutes my most wonderful neighbor in the world came out to do it for me. I tried to stay out to shovel with him, but he wasn’t having any of that! Directed to go back indoors since I was limping and panting a little, I finally bowed to the voice of reason and went back inside. I’m making his family cookies later today!!

Here’s what else happened this week:

Knitting

I’m going to admit that I started out the week stressed and a little sad. Times are bad, my doctors have cancelled all of my medical procedures, and I was told to self-isolate like my life depended on it. Since I wasn’t quite up to tricky knitting I retreated from knitting the cat to working on the soothing and mostly mindless stockinette knitting of my new Pebble Tunic. It is growing, people!

I’m about 14″ below the armholes and a couple of inches below the openings for the pockets. The fabric is soft and yummy, and just a comforting piece of knitting in stressful times.

The colors are hard to get in a picture, but this sweater is mostly soft pink with little flashes of grey appearing through the mohair halo. So soft. So huggable. Just what I need right now as I binge watch shows on Netflix.

Garden
My monster orchid now has 9 blooms and is hanging out in the living room.

While everyone around me was loading their carts with toilet paper and spam last week I was filling mine with cheese, Bai drinks and potting soil. You know, essential items! I repotted a small weeping fig tree that I have growing in my front window and then went after the monster orchid; the blooms had made it so top heavy that the plant kept falling over and one of the leaves broke. Fine. I will repot you now even through I wanted to wait until you were done blooming. It’s kind of a risky move, but you’ve given me little choice, monster orchid!

Monster orchid: Thank you, I feel much better now.

So far the orchid and the weeping fig seem to have survived their repotting experiences. I plan to prune the fig in a few weeks if it continues to do okay. Right now it is pretty bushy looking and I am trying to produce an indoor tree.

Books

I spent the whole week reading this entertaining and mindless science fiction book. You have to absolutely suspend all scientific knowledge to make this book work, but it was still engaging enough to keep me going. I became annoyed by the libertarian theme running in the background of the story (rugged individualists escape an over-controlling socialist government and all taxation and regulation to flourish on the moon in scrappy anarchist colonies…) as the week’s events here in the United States made it apparent how central control by governmental agencies is necessary in extreme circumstances like… say… an unfolding pandemic and global economic collapse. Just saying.

But if you want to read about highly intelligent dogs in space suits, deep water ships that can fly to the moon, and racing around in tunnels on motorcycles, this book is for you.

There is another book in the series waiting for me to read it, but I think that I’m ready to shift to a couple of books that are more intellectually engaging. Waiting for me to read them are American Dirt (by Jeanine Cummins), Weather: A Novel (by Jenny Offill), and Lab Girl (by Hope Jahren).

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

And make something yummy to eat while you are at it!

The Saturday Update: Week 11

Life is suddenly getting a little intense, isn’t it? I hope that everyone is safe and that you have your plans (and food) in place to prepare for days and weeks at home. I feel that I’m about as well prepared as I can be: months of prescriptions on hand, a yarn and craft stash that can keep me occupied for months, if not years, and all the consumable goods for several weeks at home. I already am a bulk buyer who keeps a well stocked pantry, so the last minute shopping that I had to do was pretty minor. I bought some potting soil, canned goods, some meats to freeze, and the most important item on my list:

While everyone else was grabbing toilet paper and Spam, this is what went into to my cart!!

I’m not hoarding. This is essential for life! I also need coffee, but I bought a huge bag a few weeks ago, so I am set!

Knitting

I am still running around to medical facilities for testing, and even fit in a dentist appointment and a phone appointment with one of my doctors. The knitting is suffering in consequence, but the sweater, a Pebble Tunic (Joji Locatelli) is slowing growing and I am a few inches away from the pockets. Most of the knitting went into the knitted copy of my son’s kitten Jonesy. I finished the back feet this week and am ready to start the front paws.

Those back feet look just ridiculous, don’t they! Once they are sewn up and fitted into the body of the cat they will look much better.
What do you think of the color match?

I hope to get this done in the next week. I can’t wait to get the eyes in and the ears onto this cat’s head!

Garden

This week all the birds came back and we had rain after months of snow; Spring is right around the corner. My indoor miniature roses are getting tired of the indoor life and long for stronger sun, but I am suddenly getting more blooms on them.

At least the mildew that was a problem in the early winter has gone. Hang on little bushes; in a few more weeks you will be headed outside again for the summer.
The orchids continue to wow as more blooms appear. I seriously am in love with the monster orchid. I put it out on display in the living room for most of the week and then it returns to its floodlight for a few days of quality rays. So far this is working and the plant continues to bloom and look healthy.
Books

Today I finished (at long last) The Overstory by Richard Power. This is an amazing book and totally worth reading, but I want to make some caveats:

    • There are a lot of characters with intertwining stories. Their names change from time to time. The author jumps back and forth between the characters as he synchronizes the story line elements to build a complex, but compelling, conclusion. This is not a good book to read slowly over a few weeks.
    • I listened to a lot of this book while knitting, which was another mistake. It made things too slow. The jumps between characters, which is obvious in the text formatting, was confusing in the audible version. I couldn’t keep track of the names and shifting imagery the way I should of.
    • You kind of have to love nature, appreciate art, and value a complex multi-layered story to enjoy this book.
    • I am a geek, a biologist, and an outdoor educator for my state. I think that visiting a fish hatchery is a fabulous outing. I long to have a bee hive. I tend to let spiders and shrubs just do their thing with a little gentle intervention… and I also struggle with my neighbors to leave my front lawn alone; they will trim shrubs, spray for weeds, and edge the grass if I don’t keep an eye on them. These men are trying to help, and I appreciate them immensely, but that perfectly trimmed shrub just had all of its flowers clipped off…  why do men think that shrubs need to be perfect cubes? I mulch under my rose bushes and they helpfully clear out my flower beds. They also take cuttings from my plants and admire my roses. I do manage to keep the back yard the way I want: the leaves don’t get raked in the fall, and the dandelions flourish back there in the spring for the bees. By midsummer my back lawn looks great, I have bees swarming my other flowering plants, and the neighbors comment from time to time about how nice it looks. Somehow the front yard doesn’t do as well… because of all this I appreciated some of the messages in the book.

I’m glad that I read The Overstory, and the name is really meaningful once you have finished the book, but I do think that it isn’t for everyone. Me, I will never look at a tree the same way again.

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 10

This week I have been really busy with appointments and testing. I wrote about the first round of doctor’s appointments in this earlier post (The Blue-Lipped Zebra Report) where I also showed off my fabulous monster orchid in bloom and a pair of finished socks. I finished the week with an echocardiogram and two MRI tests. In the week when COVID-19 arrived in Colorado I walked into 4 different medical clinics feeling like I was walking into the lion’s den. Hopefully there will be some good results soon. Next week it just keeps going as I have two more tests scheduled; after the test results arrive I have appointments with two of my doctors again. Whew!

Knitting

Knitting took a hit this week as I spent too much time driving around completing medical tests to get much knitting done, but I did make some progress on the Pebble Tunic.

Sigh. This is the part of sweater knitting that takes out the faint of heart. I’m knitting down the body of the sweater, and even though I’ve added almost 6 inches of knitting, it feels like I’m not getting anything accomplished. In about 4 more inches I get to add the pockets. Yay! Something different.

I’m knitting the tunic holding a single ply fingering yarn with a silk-mohair lace yarn, and knitting with the two yarns is just a joy. So soft and yummy feeling. My project notes are here. I also started knitting a copy of my son’s kitten Jonesy, which is really fun and involves even more yummy mohair. Check this out.

Once again I’m using the pattern Cat by Claire Garland. If you would like to see what yarns I’m using you can check them out on my Ravelry page.
I’m going to use some embroidery to add more color to the face later (stripes and freckles) but I think that I’m doing pretty good on the color match. I can’t wait to start knitting the stripes in Jonesy’s body.
Garden

All of this medical testing is a little traumatizing: long drives to cold rooms where I battle to control my Raynaud’s while the tests are being run. Today I drove 2 hours to be trapped in an MRI machine for 90 minutes. One hand was solid blue when I got done, but as soon as I got outside into the warmth it pinked up again. After fun like that I need a little reward, don’t you think? After leaving the clinic I drove straight to the nursery and bought my African violet some little buddies. Aren’t these just the cutest?

Aren’t these the happiest guys ever? I found the little pots on the discount shelf: perfect!!

These violets are really small and were next to the miniature plants section, so I’m not sure exactly how big these plants are going to be, but they are blooming like crazy so I have high hopes for these little guys. My original African violet is the one in the background.

Books

Another sigh. I’m still reading the same book, The Overstory by Richard Powers. I’m further along with the story, and, as I anticipated, the cast of characters (all people with a relationship with a tree), have met up and are now activists trying to save the old natural growth forests in the western US. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m not going to share any more details of the plot, other than I am fascinated by the work of Dr. Patricia Westerford,  one of the characters in the book. She studies mechanisms of communication between trees, and in particular, is studying Douglas firs in one part of the book. Plants are crafty organisms that use lots of mechanisms to respond to the environment. They use hormones to control their growth, and they are able to track the hours of the day (or maybe it actually is the night) so that they bloom at the right time of the year. Of course they are communicating with each other!!

Look at these female cones on my Douglas fir tree. They are kind of goofy looking with those bracts hanging out between the cone scales. They have the only cone like that in our nearby Rocky Mountains. The needles are strange too… they have little tiny stems on them like leaves.

I have a Douglas fir growing in my backyard where I have been babying it for a few years as the honey locust tree next door is outgrowing it and putting it into shade. Poor Douglas fir. They are kind of misfits in our mountains, having no other close relative, aren’t really fir trees at all, and are notorious for pulling a lot of water from the ground. When I attended a forestry workshop in the Denver montaine watershed I was told that the only good Doug is a dead Doug… hey, Dougs need love too! Some of the trees in that forest are turned to sawdust by enomous grinding machines to both thin the forest and reduce water use; some of those thinned trees are evidently Dougs. Douglas firs are really important timber trees, which is why they are in this book, but they aren’t beloved by the biologists who are making sure Denver has enough water in the coming year. Luckily for my Doug I am hiding it from the Denver water board and giving it all the water that it wants. Sadly, it is the only one around and has no other Doug tree to talk to. I wonder if the honey locust ever chats with it?

Have a great week, everyone!! Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it!

Okay, I just had to show off the monster orchid again. I feel happy every time I see this big guy. This is why it is good to garden. 🙂

The Saturday Update: Week 9

The local news station posted on Facebook this morning that there are only 300 days until Christmas. Why do they do this? Already, I am feeling the pressure and thinking about what I need to craft/knit/weave for this year’s Christmas.  I did take out the spinning wheel this week and got organized to do some quilting. So much pressure if you are a fiber artist/crazy person…

Knitting

I had a busy knitting week. It was so busy, in fact, that I already did a little posting about what I was up to as I worked out the swatches to knit another cat to match my son’s kitten Jonesy and ended up dyeing some mohair yarn in a crockpot. If you missed it, here is that post.

Last night I took the swatches up to my son’s place to match them to the real thing: Jonesy.

They were a big hit; Jonesy thinks they are a new kick toy. They are also a good match, especially the color that I dyed to create his stripes.

I got back to work on my Pebble Tunic later on in the week. It doesn’t look like I made a lot of progress, but I have connected the front and back and am knitting down the body of the sweater making some increases as I go. It is all mindless knitting until I hit the pockets in another 10 inches of knitting or so.

This yarn is just wonderful to work with. My project notes on Ravelry are here.
I also went back to simple knitting because… well, this is embarrassing… I snipped into my thumb with my scissors. My scleroderma hands sometimes misbehave, but this is just ridiculous!! Good thing I had a knitted finger protector on hand to hold the bandage in place and add protection.
I’m also finishing up the second snowshoe sock being created at DK weight by holding a wild multicolored yarn from Western Sky Knits with a single ply inky colored MadTosh yarn. The project notes are here.

This is a bittersweet project to finish up. It is the last one that my sweet boy yarn chomped/supervised earlier this week. I’m so glad now that I let him eat all the cookies that he wanted, tolerated all his knitting help, held and babied him when I wanted to do other things, and switched him back to his favorite food for those last few weeks.

MacKenzie was always a lot of help. If you missed it, my boy left me this week and I blogged about it here.
Garden

The best part of orchid ownership has arrived: the orchids left the craft room with its grow lights and moved into the living room to strut their stuff to the general public. Okay, it is just me, but it makes me so happy to have them out on display.

The miniature orchid with its darker magenta blooms joined the rose gold orchid on the china cabinet. Do you like that funky unglazed orchid pot? I get them at my local nursery and the orchids really seem to like them.
The Monster orchid is now on my coffee table where its lovely orange/pink bloom (there are more on the way) displays well with the plum furniture and the gold walls. Happy orchid, happy me!
Books

Well, I have settled into the most amazing book ever this week. I can’t believe how much I love this book. I bought it because Melinda of Knit Potion recommended it on her blog. Oh, my goodness!! I am so glad that she pointed this incredible book out to me.

<Disclaimer: I am a life long science geek and biologist. I didn’t always love plants, but now I drive people walking along with me crazy as I stop to take a good look at vegetation. I was thrilled when a slime mold emerged in the pot of one of my jade plants this summer. I’ve gone on workshops and field trips to forests, burn zones, and learned about the forest management strategies employed to maintain Denver’s watersheds. I think that it is absolutely reasonable to marvel over the mechanics of water movement through plants and the complexity of chloroplasts…>

I’m about a third of the way through the book, and so far it is a collection of stories about the interactions and meaningful relationships of different individuals with… trees! Sounds kind of strange and boring, but no, it is not! It is magical. I am hoping that the people catch up with each other to save the forest soon…

Here it is. I did take a break from the book and watched the movie Tolkien. Would you believe it – trees feature in this movie and Tolkien tells his kids to go talk to the trees. That’s it. Never underestimate the power of communing with trees…

Before you think that this is crazy, let me share with you a little tree story from my family. Starting her life over after tumultuous times and a painful divorce, my mother bought a trailer home and began to garden again. She grew amazing roses and boatloads of blackberries. She planted a tree. A Podocarpus Macrophilia tree, to be exact. She loved the tree, fed it, babied it, and eventually hung a bird feeder in its branches. She treasured this tree and it just thrived under her care. Mowing the lawn under the tree one day she began to realize that there was something wrong: abdominal and back pain. It was cancer. Years later, facing down her coming death she selected her burial plot and made all of her final decisions in a manner that serves as a pathway to me and all others who knew her. She chose a location with a beautiful view of the hills and canyons of San Diego, under a Podocarpus Macrophilia tree. The last time I saw her grave there were wind chimes and a small bird feeder hanging from the tree.

Never discount the importance of a tree.

Have a great week, everyone!! Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.