Monday, July 31, 2017

Caraway eyes and robber flies

It's anniversary time!  I believe this is our fourth anniversary in the South.  One year we went to the coast, and the other years to the mountains in North Carolina.  This year we'd originally planned to go to the coast, but had some unexpected expenses come up last minute that made it seem a little less than prudent.  We then thought we might head to the mountains to hike, but my still-healing ankle made me a little hesitant to try really steep inclines.  We finally settled on a simple day trip to Athens, Georgia, to see the state botanical gardens.

I love that water lilies are always in bloom on our anniversary.

We saw lots of beautiful dragonflies.  These are both in the Erythemis simplicicollis family, with the common name pondhawk.  Isn't that a great name for a dragonfly?

Another great find was this robber fly who'd captured a carpenter bee.

Also called "assassin flies," they can easily catch prey in flight and insert a neurotoxin to subdue it.

Here's a lovely grasshopper!  His striped eyes remind me of stubby caraway seeds.

Finally, we saw some aphids deliriously sucking the fluid from a lily, little legs kicking in pleasure. These guys know how to have a good time!

I was really delighted to spot a lizard that I've never seen in South Carolina:  a five-lined skink. Check out that tail!

Skinks are tiny...only about 8 inches long, and almost half of that is tail.  They can detach these tails if needed, to avoid a predator.  Scientists theorize that this is the reason for the brightly-colored hue of the tail, to direct predators to that end of the body.  The skink can lose the tail with no problem...the head, on the other hand, is indispensable.

I saw my first cotton flowers - so lovely!  I love the clasping leaves and the way the light shines through the petals.

Beautiful light all around.

Their hydrangeas aren't doing much better than ours at this time of year!

Star-shaped seed pods...

---more lovely spirals.

I spotted this bulbous fungus on a juniper fir.  It's apple cedar rust gall.

Left to its own devices, these will sprout pretty cool-looking orange fingers.  They'll dry and then send spores everywhere. It's best to remove these as soon as possible!

After our easy walk around the gardens, we gorged on steak tacos at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, then went to a local nature preserve to hike more.  A stomachful of steak and 95 degree temps do not a pleasant hike make.  We only made it a mile or two before I threw in the towel.  I truly felt like Michael Scott on his Cure For Rabies Fun Run. It was better to be at home - in air conditioning!  I did give Todd one of his anniversary cards a little early (he gets several!).  This was probably influenced by the fact that I've started watching Breaking Bad again.

I love making cards and don't do it nearly enough!

Otherwise, on the homefront, our goz are taking regular practice flights.

All except for - gulp! - a certain flipper-winged goose, who has been ominously absent from the group this week.  Maybe he's got a cozy nest at the other end of the pond...I'll continue to keep an eye out for him.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Eek! Batik!

Phew, hot and humid.  We're both going stir-crazy because it's just too hot and humid to be outside much during the day/evening, so we braved another early-morning trip to the botanical garden.  Heat index at 9 a.m.:  97 degrees.  This Midwestern girl was just not cut out to live in the South!   

Heat notwithstanding, it was another enjoyable walk.  Lots of butterflies.

Beautiful and unique leaf formations and color shades.

Beautiful light.

Some things going to seed...proof that the season is progressing.

Still, plenty of blooms abound.

We were greeted by a Gandalf-like goose.  "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

But he finally stepped aside.

The ducks took no notice of us.  All that cleaning, and now he has to find a way to get the feathers out of his nostril!

I loved seeing a garden spider, too, and one of the zig-zaggy-est webs I've ever seen.

[Look away if you're spider-averse!]

Back at home, our juvenile red-tailed hawk is still making the rounds.

I've seen another one with him - a mate?  Sibling?  Parent?  The goz have started to fly now, but I don't know how our "Flipper" is faring.  He still looks plenty plump, but I don't see how he'll be able to take to the air with those wings.

I have done zero - zip - nada in our yard in the past month.  Between the fire ants, hordes of mosquitoes, and heat/humidity, I have no interest in spending any time there right now.  Thankfully, those vinca I transplanted have really taken off like gangbusters.  Talk about effortless beauty!  Well, almost effortless.

Within the house, our cats provide plenty of entertainment.  Bosewichte loves to lay on my keyboard when I'm trying to work.

See the other lazy cat in this picture?  Here's another one.  Lazy, lazy!

I am still waiting on the batting to arrive for my Wallflower quilt, but I splurged on some really nice fabric for my next one.  It's batik, which is a little out of my comfort zone.

My next quilt is called Garden Snails, and I'm really excited to get started!  It's another whimsical quilt and exactly the opposite of the more traditional types of quilts I thought I'd be making, but I'm just going with how I feel in the moment.  This week is busy, but hopefully I'll have at least one snail square finished soon.

Have a great week!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Cat Grass Fever

It is hot, it is humid, and the insects are out!

These common skippers are out looking for pollen.  And we've got it!

Another cool moth I've seen is the hummingbird moth.  Another great mimic, their rapidly beating wings and large size make them look like a hummingbird from a distance.  They even have an unusually long proboscis that mimics the hummingbird beak!

I love to see these unusual creatures.  Of course, we have the usual fellows, too.  Dragonflies...


...and bees.

See the little grains of pollen collecting on his back?  Another possibility for pollination!

The cicadas are loud here right now.  I'm finding their discarded shells everywhere!

Someone gave me a packet of cat grass (or wheatgrass) seeds last weekend.  I planted them on a Sunday afternoon.  By Monday, they'd sprouted.

Each day I'd see at least an inch of growth.

They are definitely cat-approved!

It seems to be conducive to lounging.

I finished my quilt top!  Phew, what a job!  I sped things up a little by doing what's known as chain piecing.  Half the quilt top is made up of blocks and half of stars.  For making the stars, I needed several sets of what's known as "half square triangles" and "flying geese."  The directions are basically the same for both...draw a diagonal line down the center and sew a line 1/4" on either side. To avoid wasting thread and time, you can continue sewing your line from piece to piece.  Then flip, and do the same on the other side.  See?  It's all chained together.  Now just cut those tiny threads holding the pieces together and cut each piece on the original diagonal line.

Those tiny squares become...ta da!...half square triangles.

The geese are similarly cut.  The top triangle pictured here is the uncut "goose" with another square sewn on top. Cut down the middle...

...and iron flat.  Flying geese!

I have to say, I didn't enjoy making these stars.  The margin of error on the geese pieces was almost nonexistent.  Each needed to be cut down to 3.5" x 6.5", but mine started out that way...or smaller. Although the directions seemed foolproof, and I was sure my measurements were correct, most of my geese ended up wonky, some off by as much as 1/4".  I really sweated over putting the stars together. I just wasn't as precise on my 1/4" margins as I needed to be (my old bugaboo) and there were a lot of mistakes.  I pressed on, though, sewing the rows together...

...and voila!  The top is complete!  Although I never thought I'd use fabric with big sprawling modern flowers and sprinkles, the end result is SO cheerful.

I never realized how big a queen-sized quilt was until now.  I had to lay it out in the driveway to get a picture (which is why it has random sun splotches)!  I'm pretty nervous about quilting this.  I need to make my quilt sandwich and decide on a quilting pattern.  This will be a slow process, but hopefully I'll learn to be more confident about larger quilts if I can pull this off!

Have a great week!