Friday, 1 August 2014

Caterpillar Update

2 1/2 weeks ago, 4 monarch butterfly eggs hatched. The larvae from the 2 eggs that hatched previously didn't thrive for some reason. Of these 4 eggs, three have made it this far in the larva stage. Interestingly, they have grown at different rates.

The fatso on the bottom is the most voracious eater (and pooper). The one above it is about 25% smaller.

I give them fresh milkweed leaves every day - the tenderest ones from the top of the plant. I often throw in another leaf to make sure they have enough to eat through the night.


They reside in this container that Scooter was given many years ago. When we have more than 3 or 4 larvae, I also use a large mayonnaise jar. When the larvae are smaller in girth than the holes in the top, I use a piece of pantihose across the top anchored by an elastic band.
This little guy seems to be injured. A week ago, I thought it was dead and almost threw it out but left it in the container just in case.
Sure enough he rallied, but is significantly smaller than the other two. He's been on the inside of the lid of the container for the last couple of days - not eating. I'm not sure why but I don't give him much of a chance of making it.The other two should make it to the chrysalis stage - probably within the next week or so. Then we'll just have to wait about a week for them to emerge as butterflies.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Faux Fair Isle Socks

I finished these socks last night.
They're the 8th pair I've knit this year.
And again, they're identical twins!
They were easy to twin except when I was finishing the toe of the second sock, I was also visiting with some family members and enthusiastically cast off and grafted the toe. I then realized the toe did not match that of the first sock so I had to pick out the woven-in tail, pick out the grafting and frogged back to before the decreases.  Once back on track I capably finished the second sock to match the first. I did a Russian join where I had to re-attach the yarn to finish the toe.

You can see a little 'fluff' on my right toe near where the join is which I will reinforce with some duplicate stitch, just to be sure.
These are for me as I wear a lot of black in the winter.

Here are the deets:
- 68 sts
- 2 x 2 ribbing for 7"
- then 1" of stocking stitch before starting the 'eye of partridge' reinforced heel flap
- stocking stitch foot
- for the toe: decreases every other round down to 32 sts (16 on each magic loop needle)
- then decreases every round to 16 sts (8 on each needle)
- graft (kitchener) the 8 sts

I immediately started another pair of socks with Lang Jawoll Color Aktion yarn from my stash. I didn't realize there were so many rich colours until I saw the yarn in natural light this morning - brown, rust, orange, white, grey, purple. There are far too many colours to do any kind of slipped-stitch pattern - my original intention and attempt. It just wouldn't show.
I started by casting on 68 sts in a tubular cast on.  After trying a 4-stitch slipped-stitch pattern and realizing it just wasn't going to be worth the trouble, I ripped it back to the 2 x 2 ribbed cuff and just switched to a 3 x 1 ribbing for the leg which I'll continue for the instep.
I have some more sewing to do which I'll try to work in over the next couple of days. I'll be using some nifty fabric I purchased on my first ever visit to the Len's Mill Store in Guelph on Tuesday. I wasn't that impressed with their selection of yarn (mostly commercial acrylic or acrylic blend) nor the prices, so instead, spent most of my time looking at fabric. They were in the middle of reorganizing that department so there really was no rhyme nor reason to it. I did, however, find two coordinating fabrics for another set of travel accouterments and I've set a deadline of this Sunday to finish the projects.  All will be revealed soon. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Sewing Blitz

I have wanted to do some sewing since I acquired some nifty fabric a few weeks ago.

I wanted to make some baggage tags for a while and have found several patterns online. I ended up making a hybrid of this tag and this one.

This is what I ended up with.
The name and address can't be seen by a casual observer but easily accessed by peeking between the two flaps.
Here's one opened up. The strap goes around the handle of the suitcase and then you tuck the tag through the loop. I made the little window the size of a business card.
I can do buttonholes fairly easily with my sewing machine.
This shows the strap through the buttonhole.
I also made a matching cosmetic bag. I used low-loft fusible batting to give it a bit of firmness
and a coordinating fabric for the interior.
The recipient is going on a river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam next month. I hope to do a similar cruise someday.

I thought the fabric was à propos.
I think I'll make another set of these for myself. ;-)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Garden in Late July

When we moved into this house 18 years ago, there was grass to the fence and a small, untended veggie garden in the corner of the back yard. Skip worked very hard the first few years to create planting beds along most of the fence in the back yard. We then filled the beds with as much perennial plant material as possible.

I took a stroll around the yard today to get some pics of the garden at this time of year.
This is a little urn I put between the two garage doors - purple salvia, geraniums and some type of cascading flower.
At the front of the house, we have hostas between the evergreens. Behind the hostas, there are low, spreading cedars which really can't be seen at this time of year.
Skip built this little fence about 15 years ago and planted more hostas and an interesting grass plant we call porcupine grass.
The white bits are actually horizontal.
In the back yard, we have a variety of plants and herbs along our new (this year) fence.
These geraniums are brought inside every fall and grow under a light stand all winter. Then they are re-planted outside in the spring. Can you tell Skip's favourite colour is red?
This odd one was a freebie a couple of years ago on Mother's Day from a local nursery.
A friend gave us a bunch of seedlings of this sea holly when we first created this garden. It grows quite tall and when in flower (the blue round groupings) the bees love it. To us humans, the flowers smell like dog pooh. To the right is bee balm (monarda or bergamot).
The garden has changed quite a bit over the years, depending on what trees and other foliage our neighbours cram against their fences, blocking the sunlight. For quite a while, we had a couple of clematis plants against our east fence. Last year, Skip planted this signature jackmanii clematis plant against the back fence where it is growing robustly.

This bed is located in the centre of the back fence so we can see the flowers from the breakfast nook window. (The bird feeder on the right has a twirling mechanism on the perch that flings squirrels off that try to empty the feeder. It is quite entertaining to watch)

The rust-coloured day lilies were from divided plants from the garden of one of my former principals. The large-leafed hostas were originally from Skip's mother's garden. In the centre is a 5' metal obelisk. The black-eyed Susan vine (thunbergia) grows to a perfect height for the wire structure. In the spring, the bleeding hearts are among our earliest flowers. The foliage (to the right of the obelisk against the fence) looks very nice until the beginning of August when it starts to turn brown. At that point, Skip cuts them down. In front is a potentilla plant that has been located here from a couple of other spots in the garden. The bugle weed flowers have come and gone. It is very invasive so I rip out about half of it after the blooming or it would choke out a lot of the other growth. Behind the horse you can see a few nasturtium blooms. They would probably be better more in front. Campanula are to the right of the horse.
Most of our plants lean towards the east as our neighbour to the west has two enormous maple trees that block all the light from about noon on.
Against the house we have a couple of narrow beds that are perfect for growing peppers because of the radiant heat from the brickwork. These yellow peppers are ready to eat. Chicken wire has been put around many of the plants to protect them from marauding rabbits.
Milkweed is at the end of its blooming stage. They are beautifully fragrant. Unfortunately, not many eggs were laid beneath the leaves of this plant. Yesterday I discovered several empty egg casings under the leaves of a much smaller plant that didn't have any blooms. There was no sign of caterpillars so I am assuming other bugs or birds got them. We still have three that are doing very well in their 'nursery' indoors.
This echinacea plant grew to over 4 feet in height the first couple of years we had it. In subsequent years as the lilacs to the east of it got bigger, there was more shade and the plants never grew that high again. Skip severely trimmed the lilacs this year in preparation for our deck rebuild so these plants are thriving again.

The bird bath is very popular with most of the birds in the area. I try to keep it clean and full of fresh water daily. The domed device in the centre is a solar-powered 'water wiggler' which creates ripples that attract the birds and also discourages the water from stagnating and attracting mosquitoes and their eggs/larvae.
Skip does 99% of the yard and garden work. In addition to the flowers and peppers, we grow rosemary, chives, basil, oregano and cilantro. Vegetable-wise we have the peppers, kale, lettuce, green onion, some beans and a couple of kinds of tomatoes. Mmm - we are looking forward to the tomatoes being ready to harvest.

For a suburban lot, it is quite wide at 65 feet. In newer subdivisions in our town, it is not unheard of for 3 and 4 bedroom houses to be on 30' and 35' lots. Most of our neighbours have swimming pools. We have never wanted one and prefer instead to enjoy a lush carpet of grass and beautiful flowers.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Withdrawal

Skip and I have taken a little trip across the border to our south to pick up some golf clubs he ordered that have just come in. In my haste to pack this morning, turn off the laundry faucets, take out the garbage and recycling, lock all the doors, water the plants, feel the caterpillars, skritch the cat, top up some bottles with water to take in the car, find the maps, etc. etc. I FORGOT MY KNITTING!!! Gasp! I didn't remember until we were about 30km from home so after I calmed myself down (I was driving) I decided to pick up some dishcloth cotton and knitting needles and knit a couple of dishcloths to tide me over. So far I've only checked and replied to email and looked at some stuff online.

Back at home, there is a finished faux fair isle sock.

The leg of its mate is done and I'm about to start the heel flap. But that will have to wait 'til I get home on Thursday.

Tomorrow we're going to explore a couple of areas of Buffalo we've never visited before. Then Skip will get dropped off at a driving range so he can try out his new clubs while I entertain myself (hit a fabric store).

Friday, 18 July 2014

Ribbed Blue-Striped Socks

I finished these last night.
I'd really like them for myself but they are man-sized so some lucky man in my life will get them for Christmas.
I knit 3 x 3 ribbing for 7.5" then an inch of stocking stitch before starting the 'eye of partridge' heel flap.
Then I just knit plain stocking stitch for the foot. It was easy to match the second sock to the first with stripes this narrow.
I immediately cast on another sock with faux fair isle black and grey yarn. As they are for me, I cast on 68 sts on 2.25mm needles. I like the tight, sturdy fabric created with needles that size. I am knitting 2 x 2 ribbing and have half the leg done already.
I don't remember where I picked up this ball of yarn but I have lots more where it came from in my stash.
As I wear a lot of black and grey in the winter, they'll probably be one of the more popular pairs that I wear.
This will be the 8th pair of socks I've knit this year. I'm sure I can crank out a pair for each month at this rate.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Sock and a Half

I've turned the heel on the second Blue-Striped Ribbed Sock, have decreased the gusset stitches and am on the home stretch on the foot with straight knitting.
I'm happy that I was able to achieve 'identical twins' by starting the second sock in the same place in the colour pattern as the first sock.
I then use the first sock as a guide as to when to start the various elements of the second sock.

That'll be one pair done for my Christmas knitting.