Sunday, February 18, 2018

Solace in the Outdoors

I have mentioned before that my oldest son is and always has been quite a naturalist.  I always love when he invites me out with him to wander the woods and hunt for reptiles and amphibians.  Spring is in the air here. Salamanders are breeding and snakes are beginning to poke their heads out of their holes and come up to bask a little.

 To find these guys, you have to put on your "snake eyes" and move slow. 

King snake

Ring neck 

Of course, for a lot people, this is NOT a fun way to spend the day.  But my son and I have done this since he was a little boy.

Spotted salamander

3 Lined salamander

I remember when I was a little, the school librarian read our class a book about a girl who sat very still in the woods and little by little animals approached her.   I always wanted to be that girl, and in many ways I was.  Or, I am.

Fire ant hill

I know when I saw Eliza Thornberry on TV, she was exactly the kind of kid I had wanted to be.  The outdoors girl who had adventures and could secretly talk to animals.
In real life, I love to watch insects at their work, or hunt up frogs in the night with a flashlight.  Many times I have pulled off the road to look at a run over snake or fox, or watch a heron stab a lizard on a tree, or a coyote lope across a field. I have chased after hedgehogs under bushes, and sat in my backyard watching as flying squirrels go from tree to tree.
Somehow there is solace in being outdoors.  And these days I need a lot of solace.

Like these daffodils.

Great banks of them were growing in the vicinity of the crumbled foundation of what was once a house some hundred years ago.  The bulbs, carried over time by soil and rain, divided and divided and divided I guess.  So, although the people are long gone, and time has moved on, the flowers proliferate each year, popping up their shoots and showing their bright faces to the early spring sun.

And somehow, that raises my spirits.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Winter Slow Zone

The big moon came up on that last night of January, and as I caught sight of it through the trees in my backyard, I felt my heart rise with joy.  I smiled at it shining down, my old constant friend.

I breathe the air, and these trees breathe with me.  I know it sounds corny, but I think it is true.  I feel it is true.  These old trees, older than me.  This old moon, older than me.  And I, temporary, move beneath them and feel grateful to share some time and air and space with them.

I made another Banff hat, a larger one with a longer band at the bottom.  This time I paid attention to color dominance (thanks Mrs. M!) when I held the yarn so my tree branches are better connected and everything is a little more even.

My second little rabbit died. She lost the use of her hind legs and could not sit up without me holding her.  The vet said she and my other little rabbit were probably holding each other up more than I realized.  Sweet girl.  Both of these rabbits had comfortable long lives.

It's foggy and wet today.  I've knitted up a few swatches to try to get gauge for a sweater I am going to try.  I'm in the winter slow zone for sure.  All I want to do is sit and knit and read and watch detective programs in my pajamas.  Drink warm drinks. Stay under covers. Hibernate.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Salamanders and A Well Loved Bunny Rabbit

It's raining here today.  The kind of day I love, rainy but not too cold.  A good day to be cozy indoors.

Unless, of course, you are a salamander hunter.  If you are an amateur naturalist, you are very excited right now because it is salamander breeding season and in the night and early hours of the morning salamanders are crossing the roads to their breeding locations.  So! If you cruise along the roads at midnight or get up very early in the morning, you will see them!!

I know this, because I am related to a young naturalist.  A few weeks ago, when it wasn't raining, he and I went salamander hunting.  We found a lot of salamanders, except for the elusive spring salamander which looks like a hotdog.
I always think I am bad luck on these trips.  He found many of those when I wasn't with him--and always seems to find the best of things when I'm not there.

As you see, my son has a much better camera than I, and his salamander pictures come out waaaay better than the one I took with my phone.

And then, there is Pippin.

We lost our little tan rabbit Pippin early this week.  She has not been well for months, and recently took a turn for the worse, so her passing was not unexpected.  These two little rabbits lived together for ten years.  The healthier of the two continued to huddle against Pippin as she died.  So sad.

We have a little boy rabbit to keep our old girl company, but he is only a pest to her right now.  When he gets calmed down, I think he will be a comfort to her.--Maybe.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

One More Hat and Snowy Days

Well, finally snow after days at a stretch of freezing temps.  I love winter!  Really, I am here in the south sort of by accident.  Not quite a fish out of my element, but almost.

We've been out of school for two days this week because of snow.  It is a strange January.  We were also out for MLK holiday and had a "snow" day last week as well.  Many kids are out with flu, and some came back late from winter break.  It feels like such a false start.  A slow start.  I don't mind.

I made another hat.  This one called Banff.  It came out a little small in the Adult S/M so I am going to make it again.  I really love this pattern!

When I ventured out today to take this picture I found many little paw prints in the snow.  These are clearly rabbit. 

I've seen him around some evenings.  Let's hope he doesn't get tangled up in the netting around my vegetables like poor little Peter Rabbit.  On the good side, when I saw him, he wasn't wearing a jacket with buttons, just his regular fur coat!

Sometimes I think he and his friends might be like the Real rabbits in the Velveteen Rabbit and they talk up to my domestic sweeties in their hutch and wonder why they never come out to play in the moonlight.

I have also wondered if I should leave the hutch open now that my old girls are in the house. There's still clean hay in there.  If I do leave it open, who might move in?  Squirrels took over the wren house, gnawing the opening wider.  Even a flying squirrel for awhile. I'd bet they'd come.  And once in a while a little mole turns up drowned in the dog water bowl--though that hasn't happened for a long time, really and I don't know that a mole climbs like that. Once a mouse was regularly visiting the hutch and I saw him and closed up his entrance with steel wool. And once a friend had a baby chipmunk sleeping in an old flower pot on his porch.
Barred owls call frequently around here, though I bet he'd not go into the hutch unless he was looking for food--but even then he might not--too cramped for his wings.
Maybe a possum, or a raccoon? 

Well, back to school tomorrow I'm sure.  And then the weekend again!  I'm still dreaming of which sweater to make--or maybe I'll just make some socks.  Just.  Haha! Like that will be so easy.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Winter Hat Craze

Finally a real winter snuck in around here.  Days on end when the temperature was below freezing!

We covered up the broccoli and brussel sprouts and brought in the fruit trees.  I brought my old lady rabbits indoors to stay.

And, of course, it was time for knitted and crocheted scarves and gloves and---HATS!

What in the world has been up with me and knitting hats?  Well, fair isle, I'd say.  I've found it quite addictive fun.  And the happy satisfaction of being able to start and finish a project in just a few days. That's a plus as well.

Not entirely happy with this first attempt.  Yarn tension was way too loose.  

These are patterns from TinCanKnits who had a fair isle KAL during November.  I didn't jump in and work a sweater--I just made these hats and am still dreaming of a sweater I might make.

A long time ago when I was about 19, a friend of mine went to live in Iceland for awhile.  He sent his mother back the most beautiful sweaters.  I remember her showing them off and saying how he had learned to knit.  Well, that was it for me! At that moment I knew I wanted to learn to knit a sweater like that.  And here I am--more than 30 years later and I'm just now getting close to really doing it at long last.

Meanwhile, I have yet another hat I'm working up while I dream.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Nature in Fall

When the weather shifts and the leaves finally start to color and fall, I always feel a little lift in my spirits.  On mornings when I step out on my front porch into the dark morning, a little bubble of happiness rises in me if there is fog.

Fall can be a show-stopper here in the woodsy south.  I try to get out and walk while the leaves are still mostly holding on, before they all fall off, turn brown and crisp leaving the woods thinned out and gray.

This year, my weekends have been the catch-up of overstuffed week-days, so I didn't get a chance to go far.  I only had an afternoon.  Mount Arabia isn't too far from the city.  The "mount" part is a huge outcropping of granite that was once used as a quarry.  It's a great place to watch meteor showers from a sleeping bag! But a terrible place to hike around under the relentless sun in summer.

It's a place where you can watch primary succession in action--the stone being worn away little by little by rain and wind so that after some thousand years there's enough wear for a little plantlet to take root in the teeniest layer of what will one day be full-out soil.  You can see these little plantlets and wonder at their life and feel your mind boggle at the idea that someday this big mass of rock could be a forest. !!  Never mind the question of how old this rock is in the first place. !!

The little mossy lichens that help hold onto the soil so more plants can grow.

This park (for it is a state park) also has woodsy hiking trails--which is what I wanted, of course--the place with leaves.  And I was not disappointed.

A lot of lucky four leaf clovers here.

We saw some white tail deer too, with white tails so long and fluffy at first I thought they had to be some sort of dogs.

Anyway, now it is Thanksgiving break, and I am hoping for cool weather--cold even.  I am happy and ready to be cozy.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pumpkins and Scones

Once again, it has been a million years (or just about) since my last post. It's all pumpkins and Halloween around here now, chaperoning Homecoming, running a pumpkin fundraiser, eating pots of homemade soup, and watching as the weather ever so gradually turns.

A free pumpkin

It is blustery today, and gray.  It's nice to be indoors with a warm oven. I tried my hand at scones.  I think they came out a little small, but the candied orange bits were great!

I winterized the rabbit hutch--which isn't much, just fixing on the removable sides made of lightweight what? Some material that is little more than cardboard.  Just heavy enough to keep out the wind.  They have on their winter coats and as the temperature drops, I'll add more piles of hay.  I think they are way better off in our mild winters than in the insufferable summer heat.  They've spent their nine years outdoors, and when I was tried bringing their elderly selves in out of the heat, it just freaked them out.  So, out again they went.

The broccoli and brussel sprouts are growing along slowly, and the lemon tree is heavy with fruit. But it's the blood orange tree that's showing off, laden with oranges beginning to color.

And, at long last, I finished my Nevis cardigan.  I was worried it wouldn't turn out, but it did, really, and it something I will actually wear.  It's just going to be awhile before I knit something with lace weight yarn again.

Here it is all coldish and gray, but of course, this it isn't really fall.  Some of my azealias are refusing to think so anyway, deciding that this is a great time to blossom.  Maybe they are taking a cue from the nearby fall blooming camellias, not wanting to be outdone.