The BioGeek Memoirs: Swallowtail and Ash

September 1st. I woke up this morning to the sound of geese flying over the house, honking away as they crossed just above the treetops. It is a bright blue day here in Colorado where I live, and the garden and the lawn are recovering after the extreme heat of the last two months. The robins are now gone, and there is just one bunny left in my yard. The fall plants are getting ready to bloom, the first golden leaves are appearing on the locust trees, and the end of summer is upon me.

The stonecrop is starting to bloom, the viburnum berries are turning red, and the last columbine blooms of the season are appearing in the cooler weather.

Monday was an exciting day for the cats as I had the ash tree out front pruned. The tree was damaged in an early heavy snowfall, and I wanted to make sure it was given every opportunity to flourish in the aftermath of losing several limbs.

I love that ash tree! I have it treated for ash borers every year (the emerald ash borer just arrived in my area of Colorado… not good news for ash trees!), and last year I even had it deep watered during the winter to protect it from drought damage. It puts shade onto my house, is an essential component of squirrel route one over the house, and serves as food for one of my favorite butterflies…

Swallowtails! Here they are feeding on my butterfly bush’s blooms.

Swallowtails are big butterflies! They are so big (they don’t hold still long enough for me to measure, but they are like 3-4 inches…) you can sometimes hear them flapping as they head across the yard, darting to and fro as they check out the various blooms in the area. They are much faster and more robust than your usual butterfly, so they are hard to grab a shot of if they don’t settle down onto a flower to snack on some nectar. They love my butterfly bushes, so I planted more last year hoping to lure them to the yard. I also left the stump of an ash tree that I lost a few years ago in the back yard, too.

This is what is left over from my lost ash tree in the back yard.

Okay, I am a geek for sure. I didn’t cut back the suckers from the stump so it would grow into a shrub with enticing ash leaves for swallowtails to lay eggs on. The shrub is also important shade for baby bunnies, but that is another issue. All that lawn damage around the shrub is from the bunnies eating the grass down to the dirt, and then rolling around in the dirt, and then doing a little digging on the side, but… this is a post about butterflies so I will move on.

Bunny: you should just move on… by the way, do you notice how cute I am?

Several times this summer I saw swallowtails in the ash shrub. Yay! The ash tree isn’t food for the butterflies, but rather food for the developing larvae from the eggs that the butterfly lays on the leaves. It is my hope that there were some eggs laid in there that will lead to new swallowtails in the spring next year. I haven’t seen any of the caterpillars, but something has been munching on the leaves…

Quite a few of the leaves show the evidence of an insect snacking on them!

The caterpillars become pupae eventually and then hide themselves away in a sheltered location for the winter, emerging as butterflies in the spring. It is my hope that there are some pupae tucked away in a bunny-proof location near the ground and along the cut-off trunk of the old tree where they will gradually transform into the fabulous flyers of the summer.

The guys who pruned the ash tree out front also removed a struggling maple tree from my back yard. They gave the ash shrub some side eye and offered to take it away too, but I was like… NOOOOOO… I need that for my backyard wildlife…

Did they not notice my butterfly bushes? This backyard is a whole butterfly ecosystem that I have going…

Summer is on the wane, and the swallowtails are gone along with the robins and almost all of my bunnies. Soon the leaves will fall. Asleep, hidden in the debris of summer, the butterflies are secretly transforming and biding their time until May. Sleep well, little guys. I can’t wait to see you next year.

Knitting in the garden

Yesterday¬†was a quiet day for me; I was recovering from the long days in the heat at the alpaca ranch last weekend and had entered basic slug mode. What could be better than to take some finishing tasks out to the garden swing to finish off. ūüôā

Mitts without thumbs
Why do I keep doing this? I have 5 pairs of mitts all ready to go except… the thumbs need to be finished. Ugh. Basic boring knitting. Here’s the project page for these mitts at Ravelry that also has the pattern written out in the project notes.¬†

Luckily it was a nice day. All my flowers in pots continue to bloom like champions. Both cats moved out to hang with me. I started the sprinkler on the lawn which always draws birds. There was a lot of wildlife that stopped by to entertain me. OK, since I was bored I snapped some shots. Here they are!

Spider
This orb weaver¬†spider¬†had set up shop between two of my trees! I really like these spiders with their huge elaborate webs and insect catching habits. I had one on the deck last year that spun her web every evening and then took it down in the morning. OK, I’m a geek, but I was a biology teacher so what did you expect?

Squirrel
I ate some pumpkin spice mini-muffins with my latte while I was knitting. This squirrel started barking at me from a branch above the garden swing. I guess he felt that he was entitled to the muffins too!

Cat
Yellow Boy was snoozing in the garden swing with me. When the squirrel came down the tree trunk he finally chased it off. Sometimes he can be brave.

Buterfly
I haven’t seen many of these lately but as the morning warmed up more a Swallowtail stopped by the lantana. I love these guys. Luckily Yellow Boy was busy with the squirrel and left this one alone.

By noon is was getting too hot to stay outside. My mitts were done and the wildlife was disappearing. The cats and I headed inside.

Woohoo! Time to knit the Drachenfels shawl. I’m making progress on it and hope to show it off at the end of the week.

Have a good week everyone.

The Start of August: Garden Swing, Socks, Butterfly

My exceptionally annoying rib pain has improved (love those pain killers!) and I have gotten a lot of knitting done this week. The July socks are finished!

Finished Socks
The Lacy Cable socks (by Veronik Avery) fit well and the MJ Yarns Opulent Fingering is soft and cushy. The pattern was a little hard for me to memorize, but by the second sock I was doing much better and knitting faster. 

Finished socks
The twisted garter stitch heels were really slow to knit. I’m hoping that they wear well. The toes are normal garter; the decreases are worked in the knit row so they are hidden. Here are my project notes on Ravelry.

The other progress that I’ve been making is with the new seat for the garden swing. I got the crocheting finished last week and headed right outside to get it sewn onto the frame of the ¬†garden chair.

Seat on Garden Swing
I’m just tying the crocheted seat to the frame right now to kind of stretch it into place. I’m working out an idea for a permanent crocheted attachment to the side frames. I also need to sew the tube that covers the bar at the bottom of the chair back.¬†

Cat on swing.
MacKenzie is not waiting for me to finish. He’s ready to sleep in his swing again now. Yep. I need to get that bottom stretched tighter, huh.

It is a little smaller than I wanted it to be¬†but it is growing in size as I get it stretched to the frame. I’m still thinking about how to attached it to the sides; in my mind I have an idea of how to crochet the attachment. I have a few more days to think about this because my ribs are still too sore to take on the task right now.

Butterfly
I do need to get the chair done soon. Look at what I’m missing by not being able to read outside in the garden.¬†

August is starting out right. Woohoo, August!

 

July Resolution Socks

Oh my goodness, it is almost the middle of July and I haven’t started on the New Year’s Resolution socks for the month yet. I’m still working on the seat for the swinging lawn chair and my Clove Hitch Tee from the last post, but when did the thought of having another project on the needles ever slow me down? I mean, seriously, if I’m juggling less than a dozen different UFOs I’m good. There’s only two more weeks left to the month, so this is sort of an emergency!!!

Off to the knitting book stack I sent. I have a couple of books on top that I’ve marked with socks that I like, so it was pretty easy¬†to select a pattern. The sock pattern that I picked¬†has a busy lace pattern, so I dug through the yarn stash to find a sock yarn¬†with little color variation and settled on a cashmere blend with the colorway of Fire Dragon. July, fire works, fire dragon. It was a fit. So, with no further ado, here are the socks for the month:

Close-up of knitted lace.
Isn’t this the best lace pattern? It looks like cables but there aren’t any lumpy twists; the texture is created by the lace pattern.¬†This yarn is Opulent Fingering from MJ Yarns.¬†Here are the project notes on Ravelry.

Sock Pattern
The pattern is Lacy Cable Socks from the book by Veronik Avery, Knitting 24/7. The heels and toes are done in garter stitch. That will be new…

I cast on yesterday and¬†started knitting these babies while sitting out in the shade on my deck. It was kind of a breezy day and a little overcast, so it wasn’t too hot to knit. I really like knitting outside with the flowers and visiting wildlife. Check out this visitor.

Swallowtail Butterfly.
I still have lots of bees visiting the plants, but this week there has been an invasion of these Swallowtail butterflies. The cats are in heaven chasing along on the ground under these guys!

The year is more than half gone and for once I haven’t fallen off the resolutions. Of course, when it is socks it is a little easier to keep on track. Hot weather returns Thursday so I have one more day of outdoor knitting. Yeah! With some luck I’ll be done with the first sock by then. Of course, if I had the crocheted seat done for the the swinging garden seat it would be even nicer to knit outside. Sigh. So many projects, so little time. ūüôā

Must keep working!!