The Saturday Update: Week 26

Week 26?! Do you realize that we are now at the halfway point for the year? I don’t know about you, but 2020 has been just horrendous so far. I do hope that it decides to straighten up and fly right for the second part of the year…

There has been a lot going on for me this week, but I think that I will just start out with the Hannah update. Hannah, who is almost certainly the last kitten that I will raise, is turning out to be the perfect mix of all the cats I have loved in the past. She is affectionate and attached to me, easy to distract and train, smart, talkative, and fearless. She ignores the plants and hasn’t gone after my knitting all week!!

She is particularly fond of little stuffed toys that she can fling around and carry from room to room in her mouth. 

Okay, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. She climbs into the refrigerator and dishwasher every time I open them.  She started climbing the screen door and curtains today. She pestered me to wake up this morning because she wanted me to turn off the oxygen machine so she could play downstairs… I’m hoping that that doesn’t turn into a thing! Still, I am so happy to have my little buddy now that it appears that Covid-19 won’t be going away any time soon in my part of the world.

Knitting

I’m making some progress on my socks! The first sock is done, and now I’m cruising through the second sock. I’m focusing on small projects that I can quickly stuff into a project bag because… kitten!!

Look at how much progress I’ve made!
I really like the way the knitted fabic looks!

I love the stripes so much that I’ve been daydreaming and trying to work out how to knit tipless gloves by adapting my usual fingerless mitt pattern to put on the half fingers. Wanting to maximize the amount of leftover yarn I dug through the stash and located the purple yarn that I’m using for the heel and toe portions of the socks. I’m pretty pleased with the look, and now I’m wondering how to incorporate the purple into the gloves. My Ravelry notes are here.

Garden

The week has been one of gloomy afternoons and thunderstorms. Luckily I haven’t had damaging wind or hail, and the roses continue to strut their stuff. My Princess Alexandra of Kent rose in particular continues to shine.

This rose is a David Austin English rose and I keep thinking that I should get some more. My neighbors and I fixed the fences this summer, so maybe those new fences should have some climbing roses planted near them. Something to think about. I really like yellow roses…
Books

I finished The Mirror & The Light this week. I hardly know what to say. This is a rich, rich book that will continue to haunt me in the weeks to come and I may need to read the entire Wolf Hall trilogy again. Maybe it is because I am entering my fourth month of isolation, and I have lots of time on my hands to reflect on things, but the richness of the characters and the subtle connections of the past to the present as the story plays out, but never really ends, are just astounding. Cromwell ponders on how images painted in the past bleed through new paint to show in the present as he remembers violent actions in his past.  Memories of his years as a soldier rise as he marches into meetings and dinners. Near the end of his life, imprisoned in the Tower of London, he recaptures that transformative moment, broken and bloodied in the street, when he abandoned his childhood to launch on the path to who he was now. At the start of this book one of the standout lines is, “if you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?” At Cromwell’s own beheading there is a sense of truth and transition again; I was dreading the end of the book, but you know what, it was actually hopeful and a befitting closure to a great life.

After a book like that, what next? Science fiction, of course! I launched right into a fun little space military opera that is a three book series and I’m happily working my way through it.

There are a number of characters who are slowly being developed and connected as the story line progresses. There was a war. One planet lost. The losers are suffering under harsh peace treaty stipulations. There is some type of rebellion brewing. I sniff corporate greed and political machinations on the horizon. Must keep reading…
Quilting

Look at this! A new category just appeared again. This week has been kind of tough on me joint-wise, and I have finally made myself admit that I need to lay off the knitting for a while. Okay, my joints are really kicking up a fuss, and my shoulder is the biggest complainer. Sigh. It’s like all of the tendons and ligaments are under attack at once, and my drugs aren’t keeping up any more. I’m already on a lot of drugs, and in the world of Covid I’m fearful of getting steroid injections into the worse joint complainers because it increases my immunosuppressive load. Scleroderma, you need to behave yourself!! Anyway, I need to lay off the knitting, so I dived into my endless stash of “projects that I want to make someday” and…. pulled out a really cute art quilt!

This is the first block of an eight block quilt. 

This is the first block to build “Calling Me Home” by McKenna Ryan. The picture is built by tracing the pattern onto little bits of fabric that are then fused together. No sewing at all until I get the whole quite top put together. I’m thinking that my shoulder can handle this…

All of these little bits of fabric, to be exact.

It’s like an adventure! All I have to do is figure out which little fabric bit goes with what. Luckily I have that picture to help guide me. This is going to be a little like building a jigsaw puzzle! I hope that Hannah behaves herself while I’m cutting all of the pieces out.

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 25

What a week this has been. I have a new kitten, we broke a heat record this week, and then there were a couple of days of cold and rain. The garden came through all of it in good shape. The kitten has already wrapped me around her little paw. The Covid-19 pandemic is calming down in my state, but the states around us are experiencing skyrocketing numbers, making me feel like we are in the eye of the storm. This is the  evening of the summer solstice; the shortest night of the year. Momentous days continue.

Knitting

During the cold days last week I struggled to stay warm, especially my arms. I cleaned out the yarn room and kept looking at the left over yarn from the Sweet & Tartan socks that I made. Gee, I really liked those yarns while knitting the socks. You know that I had to make arm warmers…

I decided to just stripe the yarns instead of making the tartan pattern using the two main colors of the socks. I added the bright pink I-cord to the socks after casting off. My Ravelry notes are here.

The pattern for these arm warmers is Armelitas  by knitcats Designs. I have to be honest: I didn’t hunt up the pattern this time but just went with the general memory of the pattern and kept making adjustments as I went. I tried to write what I did into the notes on my Ravelry page.

The finished arm warmers are a big hit with Hannah…
These arm warmers are longer then others that I have made. I can pull them up above my elbow or just let them bunch up around my wrists. Either way, these will be warm and really handy later on when I’m cold.

Do you see the knitted Maya cat that I’m holding in my arms? She was there for the picture because I’ve been working on her adding fluffy fur to her the last couple of days while listening to my audiobook.

She needs her new fur brushed out, but I’m trying to not handle it too much until I’m done so that I don’t pull too much of the mohair out. She is getting really furry, don’t you think? The original cat is extremely fluffy!!
Garden

Things are exploding into bloom all over my garden!! A couple of years ago I bought a few 6-packs of some bedding plants to put into the front flower bed along the walk up to the front door. They bloomed, and were okay, but amazingly they survived the winter and came back looking bigger and better last summer. This year they are back again looking just stupendous!! Ladies and gentlemen, let me present this year’s Dianthus and Dusty Miller combo.

Obviously these are perennial plants!

My roses are looking pretty good, too. I’m so happy that they are making such a good come back after the late hard freeze and high wind events of this spring.

My Cinco de Mayo rose is looking great. I just love this color.
The rose that is just thriving and covered with blooms is my Princess of Alexandra of Kent rose. Look at how many buds are surrounding this bloom. I usually don’t like pink roses, but this one is the perfect color.

The front roses are also blooming like champs, but how many roses can go into one post? I have to save some for next week. 🙂

Books

I am back to reading The Mirror & The Light. I’m not done yet, but I am entranced by the language and the building story. It is finally dawning on me that this book is about a great transition and upheaval in the power and social structures of England through the machinations of King Henry VIII and his right hand man, Thomas Cromwell.

I am finally at the heart of the story: Henry is the Mirror and the Light above all other princes, and Cromwell draws some power by existing in the reflected light. The corrupt practices of the medieval church are being overturned and the bible is being translated into English. The new churches will provide registries of all births, marriages, and deaths so that common people will have a recorded history. The roads will be improved as jobs are given to the needy. A comprehensive plan for the defense of England is being set in place. There is a big, over-reaching plan in motion here, and Cromwell is very aware of his limits. He feels the history of his time all around him, is burdened by ghosts everywhere he goes, and he is deliberately building the infrastructure, human and physical, that will need to be in place after his passing.  The past, present and future are continually coming together as Cromwell reflects and acts in the service of his and Henry’s vision for the nation. This is bigger, much  bigger, than I expected. I’ve been avoiding the end of the book because, well, things don’t end well for Cromwell, but now I’m kind of thinking that maybe they do…

 

Were you wondering how Hannah is doing? She follows me from room to room, and when I’m working downstairs she has found a little niche for herself on the bookshelf.

Hannah is turning into the easiest kitten ever to raise. She wants to be with me as much as she can, and just now is starting to play with toys in another room as long as she knows where I’m at. She sleeps through the night. She already has a favorite toy and rockets around the house with it in her mouth or tosses it around while she’s playing. She calls for me if she doesn’t know where I am. She is a huge chowhound and I have to be very careful when opening the refrigerator because she wants to climb in.  So far she hasn’t caused much destruction, but I have discovered that she can sever yarn with one chomp of her little kitten teeth, so knitting is happening really carefully. Luckily she naps a lot!

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

 

Return to the Garden

Spring was challenging this year. It was colder and wetter than usual, with lots of windy, stormy days. I wasn’t able to get out to work with the roses as I usually did in past years, but I did manage to pull up the worst of the weeds and dumped some Miracle Gro on the front flowers one day. Really, there was some rose neglect going on, for sure.

I guess the Miracle Go, cool days, and all that moisture was what the front flower bed needed. The miniature snapdragons came back from last year and I’m pretty sure that there are more plants than I put into the ground, so some are seedlings. The roses look better than I’ve ever seen before!
Hot Cocoa roses.

When I went shopping for the front roses I looked to see what was available and then checked the list of recommended roses for Colorado published by Colorado State University on  the nice little pdf in the above link that gave hints for successful planting.  These roses, picked to go with my house, are called Hot Cocoa. They are floribundas,  so there should be more blooms following these beauties.

The roses in the back garden were finally rescued from the overgrowth of weeds one afternoon a couple of weeks ago, and look what emerged!

The Princess Alexandra of Kent rose is producing the largest blooms that I’ve ever seen on this plant!

This rose bush, Princess Alexandra of Kent, has never looked this good before. The blooms are so big the plant is having trouble supporting them, and this rose bush never got fertilizer. It has to be the cool, wet spring.

MacKenzie and I have been working diligently in 30 minute increments to get weeds out of gardens, and the most astounding discovery has been what happened to a virtually unloved rose along the back fence. Seriously, this is a rose that “went wild” when the original grafted rose died and the roots took over. I kept cutting back the runners, pulling it out of the ground, whacking it back into a reasonable rose size, and basically losing the battle with this rose that is determined to live.

Please allow me to present the “One Rose to Rule Them All” that has taken over the back garden.

That is all one rose plant that has grown immensely in the prime rose growth conditions of the last couple of months. I have now surrendered to fate, pulled the rose all back and attached the canes to two trellises and the top of my garden swing. Clearly, this rose will be growing down the fence in the years to come.

Did you notice the rotting seat to the swinging garden chair? Ugh. It is all nasty and sagging these days and clearly needed to be replaced. This week I cut the seat off and went to work to replace it with something that will allow me to return to my garden where I can read and knit in the presence of the One Rose to Rule Them All and the other flowers that are flourishing this year.

I warped up the seat of the chair with 20 lb clothesline that was advertised as “sag-resistant” and “easy to knot” after detaching the frame of the seat from the swing.
I cut lengths of line to do the weaving and knotted each line to the frame after weaving it through the weft.

I made sure that the seat was really taut so that it wouldn’t sag when I sat in the swinging chair. I reattached the seat to the frame and then lashed on another clothesline as “warp” across the seat back and then called it quits. If I need to weave in more pieces of line I can do it later, but I’m thinking that just the warp across the back will be enough to make the swinging chair function the way I want it to.

Ta-daa! It is done, the seat is absolutely perfect (not even a little sag!), and I am back into my garden.

Did you notice the weeds? Sigh. It is endless, truly it is. I’m resolved to not overdo things and will continue to work my way through the gardens, little by little, 30 minutes at a time, and day by day my yard and the gardens are looking better.

Between weeding sessions I will be hanging out in my garden swing, knitting away, with my beautiful roses. My cat MacKenzie will be sleeping in his garden, and hopefully the dog next door will be behaving herself.

This week the heat finally arrived and we hit the 90’s. My scleroderma joints are happy with the warmer weather, I continue to flourish with the new drug changes, and I can finally knit outside again. Yippee! The lavender plants and yarrow are covered with buds, and I have lots of perennials that need to be freed from the weeds.

I am back in my garden people! Life is good.

Biology Brain

When I taught high school biology I had a sign over the door of my classroom that said “Biology is Life”. (I also had a poster with a picture of Charles Darwin and a caption that said “AP Biology: Adapt, Migrate or Die”, but that is another story…) Anyway, I thought my sign over the door was cute. And true.

This week I finally took on the task of weeding out my flower beds and getting them ready for the new year. Really, a simple and somewhat rewarding task, but for me an afternoon of rich classroom memories and an endless rush of biological trivia. It was so much fun, in fact, I thought I’d take all of you on a short trip through my garden. Ready? Here we go!

Unweeded Garden
What a disaster! This garden has several little tea roses, a beautiful English rose, and some nice perennials. Ugh. Mostly I see dandelions
Flower and Bee
Clever camera: it focused on the grass instead of the flower. (and my biology brain reminds me that the grass is a monocot and the dandelion is a dicot. Thanks bio buddy…) Oh, well. You can still make out the bee in the flower, can’t you? We think of dandelions as pests in our gardens (well, I do!), but they are actually early blooming plants and an important source of food for bees and 
Ladybug
my personal favorite (after bumblebees) the ladybug. Later on the youngsters from this beetle will help keep my aphid population on the roses under control, so that makes dandelions a good thing,
Dandelion Puff
I know that they are good for the wildlife, but I still have to get rid of these darn plants so my roses can shine. Look at this puffball of seeds (dandelions use wind as a dispersal strategy chants my brain… The seeds can survive up to 5 years and help the plant population survive fires…)
Dandelion root
and the root! I’ve been told that the root as also an adaptation to help the plant survive prairie fires. Don’t know about that one, but we all know we need to get the root out or the plant will come back. (That root is a tap root . Thanks biology brain…)
Pill Bug
Oh, wow. A pill bug! I love these guys. I would teach my AP Biology class how to make potato traps and assigned them the homework of catching 10 bugs over a weekend so they could design experiments using them in little choice chambers. The students learned how to design controlled experiments, drew conclusions about animal behavior, and the bugs had a fun outing and all the potato they could eat. It was fun, really. (Arthropods, crustaceans really, says the ever intrusive biology brain.) Over the years so many bugs were released in the flower beds at the front of the high school a robust population could be counted on to bail out any student team that forgot to do their homework.
Earthworms
Exactly the same type of thing happened at my house where yearly infusions of classroom earthworms established many happy garden occupants. (Annelids, says the brain. If you accidentally cut them with the shovel they will probably make it, but not as two new worms. ) My students loved to name and race their worms. If you put them in your hand you can feel the little bristles on their tummies (Setae! Thanks, brain.) The bristles anchor the worm as it pushes forward in the soil. Kind of like wax on cross country skies…
Rose Seeds
The English rose has a mature rose-hip with seeds in it. Look at these guys. I wonder if I can get them to sprout and grow. (…the seed is really a baby plant and the food it needs to grow. The food part of the seed is double fertilized so it has more copies of the roses’s chromosomes than the rose plant does. Roses, unlike humans, can have different chromosome numbers… shut up biology brain. Enough!!)
Finished Rose Garden
The weeding is done. You can actually see the rose plants OK now. They all came through the winter in good shape and are putting out new growth.  The largest rose is my Princess Alexandra of Kent rose, and it has started growing the first buds. All is looking good. Time to mulch, feed (plants need the elements in fertilizer to make more proteins and to copy the DNA in their cells so they can divide… yep, the brain is still going…) and get to work on the other jungles gardens.

Rich with life, details and memories, my gardens are once again growing.

Biology is life!!

FO Friday: June Socks, Joker Shawl and Roses!

I’ve been working out in the garden all week except for when the afternoon thunderstorms roll in. Then it is knitting time! I worked on the June 2015 socks all week and got them done yesterday with a few days to spare.

Socks
Ta-daa!!. These are the Petal Socks by Rachel Coopey. Here are the project notes on Ravelry. 
Sock Feet
The colorway of this yarn is called “Thunder”. That turned out to be really appropriate as I knitted the socks to the sounds of thunder, rain, and even the tornado sirens one afternoon. 

I am really happy with these socks. The pattern come with complete charts for three different sizes. I made the medium size (66 stitches on size 1.5 needles) and they fit really well (which is something that I always worry a little about in a lace sock). I used double pointed needles in the leg portion of the sock, but switched to two 16″ cable needles as soon as the sock divided to make the heel and that made the lace panel on the top of the foot much easier to manage. The yarn (Becoming Art Cielo) was kind of elastic which I think helped.

I’ve also been making some progress on my second Joker and the Thief shawl. I was not happy with the colors at one point, but I am liking it a little more now that the color pattern is easier to see.

Shawl
It is about at the halfway point now. That bright blue doesn’t stand out that much in the actual shawl. 🙂

Look what happened in the garden with all of the rain this week!  My Princess Alexandra of Kent rose is blooming! I just love this one.

Rose
This rose sometimes struggles in the dry air of Colorado, but not this year!

That it for the week. The clouds are really rolling in again for our afternoon soaking, so I think it’s time for me to fire up the knitting needles for the afternoon. Orange is the New Black, here I come!

UFO Rescue: Week 2

For the second week of rescue knitting I picked up a shawl that I had started last fall. It fell to the wayside when the weather got colder and I started working on Christmas presents and socks for the winter. Ignored and forgotten (and wearing some of my favorite stitch markers!) it  ended up getting stuffed into the back of the yarn stash closet.

Princess Shawl
UFO shawl and pattern the day I pulled it back out of the bag.

Poor thing! Hard to remember why it was abandoned in the first place.  It’s kind of a cool pattern, the lace was pretty easy to learn once I was past the edging, and I like that hand-painted pink yarn (Malabrigo Arroyo).  I only had about a foot of the shawl knitted, so this was a little bigger project than the ones I did last week, but still not too bad. I thought I should be able to make a lot of progress on it in a week.

English Rose
Princess Alexandra of Kent rose in my garden.

I took the shawl out to work on in the garden, and there it was. One of my new roses was blooming, and the color was close to that of the shawl.  The name of the rose is  “Princess Alexandra of Kent”, and the colorway of the shawl yarn is  “English rose”. Wow! Synchronicity! Obviously this UFO was meant to be rescued at exactly this moment.

Knitted Shawl
The finished shawl in my garden. I just love how international it is. The pattern is Norwegian, the yarn is  from Uruguay, the yarn colorway is “English rose”, and I’ll be wearing it here in Colorado.

I named the shawl project “Princess Alexandra of Kent Shawl” on Ravelry and got to work. I knit like crazy all week, and the shawl was finished today. Time to prune the rose and to dive back into the UFO pile to find a project for the rest of the week. I think that I’ll do a sock next…