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.

 

The Saturday Update: Week 21

It was a really nice week. It was a warm and sunny week. It was a work in the garden week. It was a baking cookies week. It was, especially, a knitting week!

Knitting
I’ve made a lot of progress on the latest knitted cat project. This pattern is Cat by Claire Garland. My Ravelry notes are here.

Last night I got Maya’s ears and her eyes done. Now I have the white knitting of her tummy, neck and chin to do and then it will be time to sew her up! I have some idea of adding snippets of black yarn to make her have a longer coat, but we’ll see how that goes… I plan to start with her tail which is immensely fluffy. Do you remember Maya the cat? Here’s my first post about her.

I’m still fussing over yarns to knit a Breathe and Hope shawl by Casapinka. I finally decided to cast on with these two yarns to make a first shawl that I can use to learn the pattern. These colors are ones that I like a lot and will go with most of my wardrobe.
Here’s the problem: reading over the pattern I didn’t have a clear idea of how the yarns display in the shawl. I’m using these two yarns that I like but don’t desperately love to learn the pattern before I cast on again with the yarns that I love immensely…
These guys!! The plan is to double fade these guys as I work on down the shawl. Now that I’m working it I’m wondering if I can break the color changes by sections in the shawl. Stay tuned… I just realzed that I need to be weighing the balls of yarn while knitting the practice shawl…
I’m also making some good progress on my Garter Snake Cowl. I’m almost to the point where the garter stitch begins. My Ravelry notes are here.
Garden

Lots of weeding is going on and babying of plants that are considering whether they would like to bloom soon, or maybe just grow some more for awhile. Those darn plants! I try to convince them to do both at once but they just do whatever they want no matter how much food and fertilizer they get.

Today the first  bloom on my ice plant in the front flower bed opened. Yay! Soon there will be 5 feet of this blooming happiness along my front walk.
This snapdragon plant, a runaway from a flower bed, is now blooming like its life depends on it. Which kind of is the situation as this guy just appeared in a rocked section of the front yard. I’m watering and feeding it anyway because… well… just look at it! This one little plant is almost the size of the big tub behind it!
Finally, I am happy to report that my rose bushes, which were heavily frost damaged a few weeks ago, have all rebounded and are putting out new growth. This bush, a Home Run rose, was a big one covered with blooms all last summer. Last year’s canes are mostly lost, but there is an abundance of new growth coming up from the roots.. Yay!! I won’t be completely sure about what I have until this plant blooms, but I’m pretty sure it was not a grafted plant, so I should be getting the rose blooms that I want.

I’ve deep watered those roses every week using a big bucket and a tube to slowly siphon water over to the roots, and two weeks ago gave them a nice dose of fertilizer by the same method. Success!! Can’t wait to see the blooms.

Books

I’m still reading the treasuring The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel. It is such a rich book with precise text and reflective sequences that I am reading it slowly. Also, did I mention that there are 784 pages? Every morning I make a latte and take the book outside with me to read while I enjoy the morning traffic in the back yard. Today there was a blue jay! Did I get a picture? No. I did not. I’ll see what I can do if he come back…

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

A Little Wednesday Sunshine #3

Happiness is something that can be a little elusive these days. Are you totally tired of being home and seeing the same things all day long? Obviously it is time to make something good smelling and yummy in the kitchen.

I made bread pudding this week. I can’t tell you how wonderful and comforting this dish was; cinnamon and butter flavored heaven! The recipe is here.

I also got my latest quilt finished early this week. It is now chilling at the foot of my bed where it makes me feel happy every time I see it.

Happy colors and roses hanging out on top of my white linen comforter. See. Happiness.

Today the day started out a little gloomy with threatening rain showers. No. Just NO!! It was Earth Day and I was determined to break self-isolation to go to the local nursery to score some plants. So I did!

I bought some new little plants for my kitchen window sill greenhouse. How happy are these?

I had some ideas for putting new roses into the front flower bed and was on the hunt for small landscape roses that would bloom all summer. I hunted online, found some promising candidates, and then searched through the roses at the nursery where I found…

These guys. I actually was thinking of another color of this exact rose type for the front of the house, but once I could see the actual plants and the labels that showed a better representation of the colors and the bloom, the apricot rose won me over. The perfect purchase for Earth Day.

I loaded three of the rose bushes onto my cart, and dodging around other people (some of whom were not wearing masks… what is up with that?), I got though the check out okay and loaded everything up in the car. There were some Clorox wipes involved along the way as I handled the cart, keys, and door handles… Hey. In my case a little paranoia is a good thing. Big time paranoia is even better!

Here are the new roses hanging out with the other plants I have parked in front of my sliding glass window catching some afternoon rays. The three compact plants in the cardboard box are the new guys; everyone else is a plant that wintered indoors and is now getting ready to move out full time for the summer. Most days they are outside and only come in for the night, but today I was too lazy busy to lug them out. That blooming lantana plant at the front is especially eager to move outside…

On the way home from the nursery I decided I might as well go wild while I was out wearing my mask and gloves, so I checked out the parking lot of the grocery store.  It was almost empty, so I ventured inside, grabbed some groceries of the perishable variety, got gas for the car, and even put it through the car wash. Totally successful outing! While I was on the way home again the sun broke out and the afternoon became just beautiful. Sunshine! I can’t tell you how happy I was driving home with the sunroof open in a clean car carrying groceries and new rose plants. It felt almost normal. 🙂

As I drove up to the house I realized that the phlox in my front yard is now looking really nice.

Once I was in the house again (and all my groceries had gone through the Clorox wipe routine…), there was the monster orchid all lit up in the afternoon sunshine, glowing happily in the living room. The perfect happy lift at the end of a happy outing.

There were some orchids at the nursery that looked like the monster, but they were only half its size and only had a few blooms each. Go, Monster Orchid, Go! Clearly he is some type of orchid winner here!

Good days in a sad time continue.

Have a good week, everyone. Be safe.

Afternote: Why all the paranoia and Clorox action, you ask? I’m an immunosuppressed senior citizen with kidney and lung disease thanks to my multiple autoimmune diseases. Still, sometimes you just need roses…

Late Summer Knitting

The heat here in Colorado has been unbelievable: we hit 100°F on Monday and it is still hot. My garden, however, is recovering in the lower light intensity and flowers are starting to bloom again. Feeling pretty good about things I’ve taken to knitting outside in the garden again in the cool of the mornings and late evening.

Knitting outside can be entertaining again. My sedum is blooming now and the garden where they are planted is abuzz with a steady parade of bees. This sedum is called “Autumn Joy Stonecrop” and I’m really impressed with the blooms. So are the bees, evidently!

Today while knitting and sipping my morning latte I got my latest pair of socks done.

Easiest knitting ever! I made these socks in a simple K3P1 ribbing that makes then fit well while providing mindless easy knitting in the evenings while listening to audiobooks. My project notes are here.

The yarn I used is from Western Sky Knits and I’m really becoming a fan of this smooth sock yarn. I still have enough yarn left over for some arm warmers. I think that I’ll put an interesting lace edge on then and use some Icord, but keep that simple ribbing.  Adventures in knitting, people!

Here’s the book that I’ve been listening to while knitting.

My latest audiobook has been wonderful! Seriously, I knit way too long into the night because I had to get to the next chapter to discover what would happen next. It’s a book about family, ghosts, dreams, invisible ties, and, of course, a tiger that isn’t all it appears to be. The audio is done by the author and that made things even better. I loved it.

My potted roses are all doing well after recovering from spider mite attacks early in the summer. This pink bloom makes me especially happy. I’m still debating whether I will plant these roses into the ground or bring them inside for the winter again. There’s lots of time, right?

I do love the colors of fall, but right now I’m really enjoying the bits of pink going on in my life. There is pink in my garden right now…

All of the flowers in pots on my deck have recovered and are putting out blooms. These, I think, are verbena.
I’m knitting with pink yarn using my favorite pink stitich marker.
And the sweater being knit in the pink (and cream) yarns is finally far enough along to get checked for size. A few more inches, don’t you think? Heavens, this sweater sure needs to be blocked, doesn’t it, but I’m really pleased that it looks like it will fit okay. This is Koivua by Caitin Hunter, and my project notes are  here.

Today is the last day of high heat for awhile; a front is pushing in and tomorrow will be much cooler. Okay, it will be hot, but not blazing hot. Hopefully there will also be some rain. There’s lots of time yet for roses, knitting in the garden, and days watching bees.

Oops. A flock of geese just flew over my house at the treetops, honking like crazy. It’s like they are laughing at me. No matter what is happening right now with the weather and in my garden, autumn is coming, and the first snow is on the way.

Woohoo! Knitting weather!

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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.

MacKenzie Speaks: Another Tegna?! (The Mother of Cats is out of control…)

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Hot Cat
It is still hot here. 

The Mother of Cats and I are still staying inside every day because of the heat. You’d think that she would devote herself to helping me cope with the unacceptable weather, wouldn’t you? I mean, look at this fur! Nope. She just turned on a ceiling fan for me and went about her business. I’m not sure she really loves me… She spends more time babying her plants outside then she does me. How could I come in second to a rose? Ridiculous!!

Tea Rose
She has managed to get one of her tea roses to bloom.
Hydrangea
Her hydrangea that she bought this spring really got cooked by the heat (check out those crispy leaves…), but it has put out some new blooms too. Yep, you guessed it. She fusses over this plant more than me too!

When she isn’t outside ignoring me and feeding her plants she spends her time downstairs knitting away on new projects. She started two new ones this week, and would you believe that she started another Tegna sweater?

Swatch
She even made a swatch this time. This yarn is cotton and linen and she wasn’t sure about the gauge (whatever that is… Yellow Boy wants to know if it is a kind of bug…), so she had to try out different needle sizes.
Paw on yarn.
I helped her with that!
Cat and Knitting.
I closely supervised her work, and after a week look at what we have accomplished!
Lace detail on knitting.
Ta-da! Looking good, huh.

She took a break from the sweater over the weekend and made a sock. So cool. So perfect to sleep in my bed with me. Did she put cat nip into it and let me have it? Nope! I’ve discussed this before, but with the Mother of Cats it is always NOPE!!

Yarn
This is the yarn that she started with…
Sock.
…and here is her sock. She plans to make the second one this coming weekend.

So that was the whole week. She did go off and leave us from time to time, and there was some reading, but whatever. What is important is that she spends her time with me.

Cat and Knitting.
Tonight we are back to knitting the sweater.  Finally I am getting the attention that I deserve: grooming, petting, cookies. Lots of cookies!

I’m such a good boy. Do you see how much I am helping the Mother of Cats?

Can I have some cooking now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • I bought this cotton/linen yarn to make a cute lacy summer top but I was not able to get the gauge that I needed, and because of the lace it was going to be hard to adapt the pattern, and knitting tightly on small needles hurt my hands. Total fail. The solution? Another Tegna! I am so happy with the first one I knit and I think that this one will be a nice layering piece as fall arrives with the longer sleeves I’m going to put on it. My Ravelry notes are here.
  • Poor garden. Even though the heat goes on it is more humid now and plants are doing better. I feed everything in the hopes that roses will bloom again; so far only the tea roses in pots are responding well. That hydrangea is in a pot as I can’t decide where to plant it. I think that it is going to need shade at least part of the day. Poor thing; it really got fried in the first location I tried out. I’m wondering if it can winter indoors in the pot with a grow light on it. Hmmm…
  • The socks are another of the vanilla sock pattern Dave. I’m having fun playing with the colors. My Ravelry project notes are here.

MacKenzie Speaks: Summer is here!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

I couldn’t wait for summer to get here. Bugs, garter snakes, mornings in the swinging lawn chair, lots of late afternoons in the garden…

Hot cat
Ugh… why is it so hot?

How am I supposed to chase bugs? This is all Yellow Boy’s fault, I’m just sure of it. The Mother of Cats says that this is record-breaking heat, whatever that means. I just want it to cool off enough to whap a couple of grasshoppers. Is that too much to ask?

Cat
Why do I get blamed for EVERYTHING?

Anyway, happy summer everyone. The Mother of Cats and I will be spending as much time as we can taking it easy in the swinging lawn chair…

Cat and owner in lawn chair
Aren’t I handsome?

…and when I’m not patrolling to ensure Enemy Cat isn’t in the yard I’ll be on the lookout for moths and hopping things. Hey, summer is for cats!

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats: yesterday we set a new heat record in Denver, Colorado, and today we missed the record by a single degree; it is so bad I have to carry the cats in as they refuse to cross the hot deck. We are all outside in the mornings while I drink my latte, water the plants and do a little knitting, then it is inside for weaving, knitting, and cat naps.

Rose
Luckily the roses are loving the heat, and the tomatoes are growing like weeds.

Happy summer everyone.

Darwin’s Garden

Over the last two weeks I have had a crazy case of synchronicity going on. Several random events, totally unrelated, unsolicited, but absolutely linking to a theme of… genetics! Bet you didn’t see that one coming. If you are a total geek of the biology type (me!!) it has been a couple of fun weeks. Here’s what went down.

The Gene
One of my favorite authors published his new book. Hello summer reading!!

I’ve been spending my mornings outside in my garden swing reading and drinking a latte with the cats. It has just become the best part of the day for me. Two weeks ago the book of the mornings was this one, and I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying the narrative that weaves genes, history, evolution and personal experiences linked to the author’s genetic heritage together. A wonderful book. A topic that is close to my heart after years of teaching cells, genes and evolution to many, many students. Everyone, in my mind, should know enough genetics to navigate safely through life. While I was reading this picture arrived in my phone:

White squirrel
Yep. That is a white squirrel for sure!

I sometimes get calls from friends and neighbors who have biology tales to share. This picture came from someone who was excited about the “albino” squirrel hanging around his home. It has been running through the trees and chasing another squirrel along the fence so I told him it was probably not an albino, but a white squirrel as it seemed to have good eyesight. He didn’t understand that there is a difference, and therefore sent a picture to provide proof. We got on the phone and finally ironed it out with a little Wikipedia help and some genetics review. Now he’s waiting to see what color the pups will be. It’s an urban experiment!!

After the call I put the book away to start on a little gardening. What garden was next on my list? The one that I call Darwin’s Garden!

Overgrown Garden
That poor little rose bush that is getting swarmed by other plants is my Charles Darwin rose. 

As coincidence would have it, I had just read about Darwin in the book. Time to start weeding! Looks to me like survival of the fittest is a little out of control at the moment…

Plant
I call this Darwin’s Garden because of the rose, but also because there is a lot of natural selection going on. I move plants from other locations to this one and basically let them fight it out. The clear winner is this plant, and I have no clue what it is!! It is spreading everywhere, has tall spikes and little purple flowers that will emerge soon. When I started weeding a lot of this plant got ripped out!
Groundcover
Well, look at this. This ground cover type plant has been growing underneath the spiky plant; I don’t like it all that much, but the plant said “whatever… this is Darwin’s Garden, bitch!” I let it stay; with an attitude like that it deserves a chance. I also found snapdragons, columbines, roses, and some iris. There is a butterfly bush that is swarming some rose plants, but I decided to let them just fight it out for now. 
Johnny Jump-ups
These Johnny Jump-ups have been growing in the rock border by my driveway out front. Since they are escapees from the flower container they belong in I decided to dig them out and move them.
Rooting Hormone
I dipped the roots into this rooting hormone and then popped them into Darwin’s Garden. Let’s see if they can take on the purple spike plant! Maybe they can slap the ground cover plant while they are at it…
Flower in new location
Here they are a week later in the garden. Transplant was successful.

Here’s the next crazy coincidence: that rooting hormone is a type of auxin, which was first discovered by none other than Charles Darwin!! No wonder the transplant to Darwin’s Garden went off without a hitch. Every single one of the plants I moved made it.

Rose
This week things are looking a lot better in the garden. The Charles Darwin rose even bloomed.

Last week I worked at Camp Macusani (which is a whole other post) so the garden suffered a little. Tomorrow morning I will return to the garden swing, my book, and Darwin’s Garden. I’m thinking of moving some angelica that is out of control in there too… Maybe the purple spike plants will be blooming so I can post a picture. If anyone recognizes them, please let me know what they are… Right now I’m calling them Darwin’s Bane.

I’m finally up to the part of the book where we’re getting ready to start genetic engineering. For a biogeek with a molecular biology degree, this is heaven. I can’t wait to see what Dr. Mukherjee is going to say next.

Summer is for geeks!

 

Outdoor operations

The weather has really warmed up and stabilized this week; sun, heat and no thunderstorms; just what I needed to make my aching muscles and joints behave themselves. This week has been a good one and I took to the backyard for most of the afternoons. There’s a lot that can be accomplished outside. Let me take you on a little tour of my days.

That's right!
MacKenzie: when she says that she took operations outside what she really means is that I was forced to share the swinging garden chair with her. Does she not understand, June is for cats?!!

The shade of my locust tree covers the lawn swing and a couple of the gardens. What could be better for a person with a latte and an incredibly good book?

The City of MIrrors
The aforementioned book…

I’ve been consumed with the Justin Cronin novel, The City of Mirrors. Oh, my goodness. What a well-written, tightly-crafted book to spend the summer afternoons with. I read the first two books in this series and I wasn’t completely sure that I wanted to dive into a book of over 700 pages to learn the fate of mankind in their battle against the Zombie apocalypse, but the reviews made me take the leap and I pushed the “buy” button on my NOOK. Good decision. I keep highlighting passages that are just so wonderful I want to savor them later. I usually race through good books but this is one that I am stretching out so the experience will continue. The perfect June book.

After an hour of reading the knitting begins. Check out my progress on the Solaris shawl (by Melanie Berg).

 

Shawl
I’ve gotten through the first two color inserts in the shawl. To get a different color in the short row section I pulled off some yarn until I was at a new section. Fast, easy, simple.
Colors in ball of yarn
and I still have some great (crazy) colors in the ball to use. Project details are here.

I’ve also taken some weeding breaks. The little roses in my tea rose garden are now blooming, and I have gotten the weeds pulled out of another couple of patches. There are a lot of weeds, but everything is getting ready to bloom so I’m pretty motivated to keep at it.

Rose
The bloom on this tea rose is just great; really big for such a small plant.  This was one of those little roses that are sold at the grocery store. I put them out in the garden when they look a little worn out and they winter just fine here in the Denver area.
Mess
Here was today’s project. Do you see the rose plant in there?
Rose
Oh, there it is!!

Towards the late afternoon as things really warm up I water the flowers and gardens and head inside for food, the news and more knitting (bet that was a shock, huh!) Even the cats are ready to come in by that point. OK, they get kitty treats for coming in, but they would probably come in anyway… especially since I just watered all of their favorite plant nests. 🙂

Outdoor operations have ended for the day.

Tomorrow I am going to attack another garden!

Have a great weekend everyone!!