Monday, June 19, 2017

Matchstick quilt & a fort I built

I don't know if we're quite into the dog days of summer, but Borga is certainly enjoying our hot weather!

It's definitely the cat days of summer, at least!  Tabitha loves to explore outside...carefully supervised, of course.

Bosewichte, meanwhile, does the usual...cries to go outside, gets outside, eats grass, throws up, repeat...and sleeps wherever he can find a comfortable place.  The thing about running a business is that you always have lots of spare boxes for cats to nap on!

Our friendly wild creatures have been making regular appearances too.  I just caught a glimpse of this mama deer leading one of her fawns on a foraging run...

...but this little guy was too slow and got left behind!  He bleated in our driveway for a minute or two before tearing into the woods.

Anoles are everywhere right now.  I'm almost positive that one is living in our outside ferns.  They usually are pretty skittish, but this dapper fellow was polite enough to pose for me!

I love their tiny scaled hands.

I caught a very quick shot of this red-tailed hawk just outside of my office window this week.  We haven't had one around for a while so I'm happy to see this one, although he was unsuccessful at his attempt to skim a squirrel from a tree trunk.

Meanwhile, those deer haven't gotten into our hostas yet.  They're starting to spike...

...and flower.

Pollen rests on the slipper-shaped anthers, but it's hard to see unless you get really close!

Meanwhile, I've been working away on indoor projects.  First - and finally - I have some knitting completed!  I'm knitting a sweater.  It's got a wide garter stitch neck and panel going down the front.

Mine is about halfway done.

I'm not moving very quickly with it, because I've really done a number on my hands, tensioning the yarn incorrectly for years.  Portuguese knitting helps, but I still have a very bad habit of curling my fingers and clutching the needles much too tightly.  To force myself out of these habits, I wear thumb braces and finger splints to keep my fingers STRAIGHT.  It looks ridiculous, and sometimes I only get a row or two done a night, but I'm determined to break these bad habits.

I've also been working slowly on my latest quilt.  Once I finished piecing the squares, I had to decide whether to make the stars "match..."

...or be more willy-nilly.  Willy-nilly won out!

I added sashing and sewed the top together.  Then I made my quilt sandwich and draped it over a chair to keep it tidy while I debated quilting finishing styles.

By the way, a draped quilt makes a great fort for an intrepid cat!

I watched a Craftsy class called "Creative Quilting With Your Walking Foot."  I practiced making somewhat tidy rows, grids, and gentle curves.

In the end, I decided to go with matchstick quilting.  First, you sew even 1" lines across your quilt, then bisect them.  These lines are still at the 1" width...and no pesky marking or measuring!  There's an adjustable bar that slides into my walking foot, and all I have to do is line that bar up with the last stitch line.

This, too, is going a bit slow.  My right shoulder has been plaguing me for a couple of months.  I was convinced I'd hurt it at the gym.  I'd modify my workouts, but the pain didn't go away.  I knew my quilting table wasn't quite ergonomically correct, being 4 - 6" too tall, but I realized my puzzle table is also several inches too tall and that I have to lift up and over almost fourteen inches when I print labels for work...which I do daily, many times.  What I have is a repetitive stress injury.  I promptly switched to my left hand, from mopping to hoeing to computer mouse to pouring water from a pitcher.  It's definitely helping, but the pain won't go away until I adjust my work stations.  That should be happening soon, I hope!

Have a great week!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Dragging wings and insect things

Looks like gardenia season is nearly over, but I love the desiccated blooms nearly as much as the young ones.  They remind me of aged ivory parchment paper.

Thankfully, we have lots of new growth to fill in the gap.  Our "Jurassic ferns" are doing nicely in their new location.

Hostas are starting to spike.

The young lantana buds remind me of field clovers from home.

Our beautyberry bushes are sporting tiny purple flowers that are attracting lots of insects.

Trees are setting up their seeds, too.

It's hard to stay inside when all the tiny insects are on the move!  I love this iridescent fly.  Such beautiful colors!

The same goes for this pair of mating Japanese beetles.

I know they're destructive...can't you just hear him chewing?...

...but I can't help enjoying their lovely appearance.  Even relatively monochromatic insects have a beauty in the various shades of color.

These striped leaf hoppers are the same that we had in Indiana.  I'm glad to see them here!

I'm seeing assassin bug nymphs everywhere right now.

You can see their pale, immature rostrums, but just barely.  Soon he'll be able to deliver a pretty powerful bite!

I found a dead adult on one of our screens recently.  Check out the mature rostrum on this guy!

I have, unfortunately, been unable to be outside as much lately.  I was weeding in the yard a couple of weekends ago and was repeatedly bitten by a mystery insect that caused me to break out in head-to-toe hives and necessitated a trip to the ER because of my swollen throat/tongue.

Mystery insect unknown, but from a description of the circumstances, Todd's allergist thinks that it was probably fire ants.  There are two types here in South Carolina:  the native (Solinopsis geminata) and the imported (Solinopsis invicta).  The imported fire ants are the ones you've heard about that stowed away on some transport from South America and have spread like wildfire here in the United States.  They are quick, aggressive, and their bites leave a tell-tale pustule on the welt.  The native fire ants have a much smaller range and leave a welt with no pustule.  I was bitten/stung once or twice on the hand by a native fire ant two years ago.  My hand turned red and swelled, but no hives.  This time, though, I received 8 bites/stings.  But maybe it wasn't an ant at all.  I have an EpiPen now, but I still get anxious when I'm out by tall plants for very long, and I just won't crawl around on the ground to weed again.  Even staying upright, I'm still an insect magnet.  I was outside for about 2 hours this weekend and came in with TWENTY mosquito bites!  Ugh!  I'm mixing up an essential oils-based repellent this week.

I can't stay inside, though, when I see our "goz" coming.

They come right over to me... me the usual forthright look.

Their baby fuzz is nearly gone!

One gosling has a very noticeable problem.  When he walks, his wings drag the ground instead of tucking neatly away.

I read up on this problem.  I found that it wouldn't do any good to call a local wildlife rescue group. The nearest one is 45 minutes away and most groups - even relatively close ones - won't come out for a single goose, which is considered a bit of a nuisance bird anyway.  I read that it could be a back sprain or a birth defect. One nature blogger mentioned a very similar problem, and reported that the goose in question did eventually seem to improve on his own and was able to fly when the time came.  The fact is, this goose is fat and thriving on our pond.  It never freezes over, and there's plenty to eat.  If winter comes and he is still here, alone, and needs care, that will be another conversation.  I would love to rush in and feed him all winter, but that would make him dependent upon us.  I'm not sure that it's the wisest thing to do.  I'm going to watch and wait.

Have a great week!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Deer-ly beloved...

Rain at last!  After a week of stifling 90 degree temps plus high humidity, the recent rain has been so refreshing.  I'm not the only one to think so, either!  This spotted leopard slug (Limax maximus, or literally, the 'biggest slug') was out feasting early one morning.

Slugs are pests, but I like them.  "The homing instinct is strongly developed in this species, which, after its nocturnal rambles or foraging expeditions, usually returns to the particular crevice or chink in which it has established itself." (Wikipedia).  Just like me!  :)  

I caught sight of a mother deer and her two fawns after supper recently.  The babies were so young that they were still spotted, but they were still able to streak across the yard like two tiny bullets!

Fawns tend to keep their spots until they're about 3 months old.  Such sweet faces for the future devourers of our hostas!  

Lots of southern toads out tiny.  This one is perched on half of an acorn, to give you an idea of size!

The heat and humidity after a rain always brings out the mushrooms.  I love to see them pushing through the mulch.

More flowers are blooming too.  The lantana bush is about four feet high.  It will eventually reach eight!

Daisies are opening up...

...and our front garden is mysteriously full of calla lilies.

This kind of weather brings a lot of work, too.  All helleborus flower stalks must be trimmed down, and their ground-level leaves snipped.  We have thousands of them now.  A SEA of stalks.

Bosewichte loves to help.

Borga is all smiles, too, once she gets outside.

It's not so bad, trimming all those helleborus.  I get to see all sorts of interesting creatures, like this fancifully-named Cloudless Sulpher caterpillar. Its Latin name is Phoebis sennae, so named for Apollo's sister Phoebe, the goddess of brightness and radiance.  I think the name fits, don't you?  

[If you are spider-sensitive, skip the next two pictures!]

I also see quite a variety of spiders.  This nearly translucent crab spider perches on a flower stalk and uses those long front legs to grasp its prey.

This tiny female wolf spider carries her egg sac with her wherever she goes. There are around 100 eggs in that little sac!

Away from the yard, I've been plugging away at my latest quilt.  I hope to have some pictures soon. Have a great week!