Monday, June 26, 2017

Not-red tail and the quilt, all hail!

We're rushing to get the yard stuff done before the real heat of summer hits, so we've both been out working in the yard.  Mulch, gravel, and sand delivered, and we both have lots of blisters on our hands from hoeing and raking.

Lots of blisters, and lots of bites!  I was bitten by a fire ant again.  Thankfully it was just one bite, on the top of my foot, but there was a 4" diameter of swelling around the bite.  No hives, no ER, just a super stiff and sore foot.  Poor Todd was bitten/stung over fifty times by fire ants, working in that same bed where I was bitten.  We haven't seen a nest mound, and the ants were so small that Todd didn't even see the swarm on his ankles.  Thankfully he didn't have a reaction...just pain and itching. He was standing up, weeding...and his wrists and ankles are still peppered with welts.  This is why I'm afraid to get into those beds now!

From my "safety zone," I was still able to get some good observations in.  Love all the mushrooms that are coming up.

All sorts of flies are attracted to the mulch.  These tiny grey flies are everywhere.

I thought this was a hornet at first.

I was totally fooled because of his markings.  I realized, though, that it's a type of fly that uses protective coloration to fool predators.  I think he's a kind of syphid fly, although they're normally about a quarter inch long, like this one:

This fly was about 1 1/2 inches long.  His coloring really gives him a LEG UP on the competition (bada BOOM!).

First came the ladybug larvae, and now...the ladybugs.

Ladybugs are beetles, but they look a lot different from this black beetle on our driveway!

Love seeing the wide variety of leaf hoppers.

They're so more than a quarter inch long...but have such an amazing variety of colors.  I love their "Muppet" eyes, too!

We've had a bit of a nature mystery around here.  There's a hawk that has been shrieking from dawn 'til dark almost every day for weeks.  It's maddening.  At the same time, I've been seeing a hawk that looks like a red-tailed hawk, except for the conspicuously not-red tail feathers.

He looked so much like a red-tailed hawk, though.

What a beauty!

I consulted some on-line forums and discovered that despite his size, he is a juvenile red-tailed hawk. And I was finally able to find a recording of the non-stop shrieking (fast forward to second 21).  Lord have mercy, I hope he matures quickly!  That shriek! personal observation has been that most birds defecate immediately before flying, although I can't seem to find any internet confirmation.  Still, when I saw this hawk lift his tail, I knew he was getting ready to take off...and I was right!

Finally, in crafty news...I finished my quilt!  I love it.

I think the half inch quilting makes it look kind of contemporary...and I love the texture.

Here's a picture of the whole thing, although the light is harsh and it's not a very good representation of how it actually looks.

Quilting is kind of amazing to me.  With knitting, I critique my work pretty harshly, and I'm never fully satisfied with the finished project.  But with quilting, I easily overlook the imperfections.  It's a long run-on sentence in my head:  "I picked the colors...picked the fabric...sewed each line...those margins!...did the block layout...managed to sew the top together...made the quilt sandwich...then quilted every inch of it...all of the disparate elements and little mistakes came together to make something beautiful!"  I try not to romanticize it by saying that quilting is a metaphor for life, but I have discovered that if I'm patient and don't become crushed by discouragement, little steps forward really do tend to culminate in something surprisingly good.  Hey, I'll take encouraging metaphors wherever I can find them!  :)

Have a great week!

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!