Thursday, 30 July 2015

Caterpillar Daycare

The caterpillars are big enough that there is no concern about them eating each other.

Last night, the average length was 1cm. The white thing on the right is wet tissue used to keep the milkweed leaf fresh.

Today, I put all 5 of them in the same container with lots of fresh milkweed. The container is an old ice container from a previous fridge.

You can easily see all 5 of them. From here on in, I'll need to provide fresh milkweed daily and clean out their poop - which gets bigger and bigger as they get bigger and bigger.
When I was picking the milkweed this morning, I found another egg! There are 4 eggs as of today that will be hatching this week. The back 3 jars on the left don't appear to have eggs.
I would really love to be able to release a dozen adult monarchs this year. I will keep checking our monarch leaves for eggs.

All of this is taking place on the kitchen table.
Once the larvae get big enough to crawl off the leaves, I'll be putting them in a container that has a mesh lid where they will hang and form their chrysalises. That should be in a about a week to 10 days from now.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Peacock Feather Stole and More Cable Squares

I finished and blocked the Peacock Feathers Stole. This is half of it draped over a door.
And outside on the table on the deck.
The peacock feathers change towards the ends. The large holes are achieved by double yarnovers which, on the return row, are knit and purled into. The largest holes near the end are triple yarnovers that are knit, purled, and knit into on the return row.
When I blocked it, I used wires on the sides picking up the ends of every other set of 5 descending yarn overs.
On the ends, I pinned out each chained part.
They hold their shape after unpinning when it's dry.
I loved this photo of its shadow that I took outside.
Immediately after casting off, I got back to the cable squares. I finished a third square using the pattern from the 'Must Have' Cardigan.
Back perusing my Alice Starmore 'Fishermen's Sweaters' pattern book, I selected a couple of elements of the Inishmaan sweater.
I also knit two elements of the 'Nova Scotia' sweater.
I'm really enjoying this project and and wonder if I'll be able to part with the afghan once I put it together. However, I can certainly knit another one.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

After an Eleven year Delay

Back in 2004, I completed stitching this piece. I finally framed it today.

The original had the designer's name (Marjolein Bastin) on either side of the bench in the middle and her initials beside the pencil on the bottom. I modified it by stitching the design's title 'The Four Seasons" and my own initials down at the bottom.

This is Spring,
and Winter.
I was going to take it to a framer, then I remembered I possessed the skills to do it myself if I could find a frame to fit it. I had some foam core board that was the right size on hand, and purchased the frame on a 50% sale. A 16" x 20" frame was a perfect size.

Woo hoo! I saved myself a bunch of cash.

Looking at it again, I really like the border and that some of the elements go outside the border.

I have a stack of finished cross-stitched pieces that need to be framed. This has motivated me to get some of them done.

Found Another One

When Skip and I headed out of town on Monday, I picked four milkweed leaves that had monarch eggs on them and brought them in a house. I stuck the ends of the leaves in a glass of water to keep them fresh until we got home.

Sure enough, when we got home yesterday, the leaves were still fresh and all four eggs had hatched. I put each leaf in its own jar with a fresh milkweed leaf.

This afternoon, I was out looking for some more eggs and noticed some chew marks on one of the leaves. On closer inspection, I saw a caterpillar!
It appeared to be about the same age as the ones I already had in the house. This is the first time I've ever seen a caterpillar on my milkweed. I assume all other ones that have hatched out there have been consumed by another critter.

So now I have five larvae - each in its own jar.
I will continue my daily search for eggs and keep these little fellas well fed with fresh milkweed leaves.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Finally! Some Eggs!

For the past 8 summers I have been raising monarch butterflies from the eggs I find on the milkweed plants we have propagated in our garden.

I start looking for the eggs on the undersides of the leaves at the beginning of July and have found them up to the middle of August.

Last year, I noted that the numbers were WAY down. I also had some problems with larva cannibalism and vowed to nurture each larva in its own container until it was big enough to join others.

So far this year I hadn't found a single egg and was starting to get very worried that I may not get to rear any monarchs at all this year. The milkweed flowers have bloomed and their fragrance has been intoxicating. But with the heat wave we're currently experiencing, the monarchs finally seem to be arriving.

I found the first egg this morning. Hurray!
Then found seven more on various milkweed plants around the garden, including this one laid on top of a leaf. In my experience, that is rare. Maybe Mrs. Monarch was in a hurry or the leaf was turned over and she thought it was the back of the leaf.
Although very small, the eggs are quite easy to detect. They are white, and look like little footballs standing on end.
My goal is to get at least a dozen monarchs to the butterfly stage.
Assuming the eggs were laid recently, they will hatch within 3 - 5 days. As I will be bringing them into the house where it will be cooler, I'm hoping they'll hatch later than sooner. I bring them in to protect them from birds and insects that love to eat them and so they'll have the best chance to complete the metamorphosis to adulthood.

Skip and I are going to be taking off on another adventure tomorrow so I'm hoping to leave the stems of the leaves in water so they'll stay fresh. 

The larvae emerge by chewing their way through the egg casing. Once out, they turn around and eat the rest of the egg casing then begin dining on the leaf they're on. They'll still be very small so won't be eating vast quantities for a week or so. I think they'll be fine until we get back on Friday.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Midsummer Garden

I haven't been very productive lately so I thought I'd do a wee post about our lovely flower garden at this point in the year.

The coneflowers (echinacea) are spectacular this year - the best they've been in about 15 years. The year Skip and I got married (17 years ago), they were very robust and tall. Since then, they haven't seemed to thrive very much. But this year they're wonderul.

This plant is by our side door. Skip uses tomato cages to keep them nice and upright.
This plant is right beside the deck.
The geraniums are just reaching their peak. We bring them inside every fall, trim them back, and keep them under grow lights all winter. Then at the end of May, they get popped back in the ground. These are only 2 of several plants that we have - mostly red - Skip's favourite colour.
This bee balm (monarda or bergamot) is all that remains from a few plants we've nurtured along since we moved into this house. A friend of mine who is an avid gardner gave me some of these from his garden. In past years they've developed a powdery mildew and would look crappy as soon as they bloomed but for some reason, this plant this year is doing great. I love to rub the leaves to get the beautiful scent.
This black-eyed Susan vine (thunbergia) is a climbing plant that we plant at the base of an wire obelisk in the back yard. By the end of the season, it climbs all the way to the top - about 5 feet.
My avid gardening friend, also gave me a few of these sea holly plants that he started from seed. The insects LOVE the flowers.
Unfortunately, the blooms smell like dog pooh - which is probably why the insects love them. However, anything to promote favourable insects and pollination is OK by us.
This has been the BEST year for growing milkweed in the garden. Sadly, I haven't found a single monarch butterfly egg. I am really concerned that we may have driven them to near-extinction with herbicides, nicotinoids, bad weather, clear-cutting of their meeting place in Mexico, etc.  Usually by this time in the summer I've nurtured the larvae to pupae and they've emerged as butterflies. I had big plans to aim for a high yield this summer.

Skip and I are going to be away for a few days next week but when we get back home, I'll really do a thorough search under every milkweed leaf to see if I can find at least a few eggs to propagate.

BTW, several of these images were captured by either my iPhone or iPad mini. I never cease to be impressed with the photographic quality achieved by those devices.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Using Math and Trusting the Math

I have been knitting away on a Peacock Feathers Stole for my friend, Lorna. She purchased 2 skeins of the Araucania yarn before deciding on a specific pattern. When she chose the stole I knew it would be close.  I figured I was going to have to eliminate some pattern repeats to make it to the end of the stole before I got to the end of the yarn.

The stole is knit with a provisional cast-on from the centre to the feathery edge. Then the provisional cast-on is undone and the stitches are picked up and the rest of the stole is knit in the other direction to the other feathery edge. Each half will use one skein of yarn.

After I had knit the first few charts, I thought I'd see how far the yarn would really go.

At row 156, I weighed the remaining yarn and there were 40g left. That meant I had used 60g to that point. I needed to find out how many rows I could knit with the entire 100g skein.

In a past life, I taught basic Algebra, so I set up an equation and solved for 'x'.

I figured out there was only enough yarn for 260 rows. I needed to eliminate 44 rows to avoid running out of yarn.

In Chart 6, there are several 16 row pattern repeats. If I eliminated 3 of them, I'd eliminate 48 (16 x 3) rows of knitting, a little more than the 44 I need to eliminate.

Eliminating 48 rows on each side would reduce the length somewhat, however, I believe with a very firm blocking, it will be about 70" long.

After row 192, I thought I'd check my calculations. I had used 72g to that point.

This time, it looked like I only needed to eliminate 38 rows so eliminating the 48 rows was going to guarantee that I'd have enough yarn left.

The bind-off was crocheted, very similar to the one I did for the Haruni shawl. However, on the Haruni it was actually knitted, using the knitting needles almost like crochet hooks.

Once I had completed the bind-off, the little ball of yarn on the top right in the photo below was all that was left.
It was 4 yards long. Yay! I love math!

Doing these calculations gave me the confidence that I'd get to the end of the knitting before getting to the end of the yarn. No worries here. Thank goodness there was enough repetition in the pattern that rows could be eliminated without ruining the look of it.

Typically, the lace looks like a blob until it is blocked. But here's one little 'peacock feather' element stretched out.
I read that the YarnHarlot sometimes blocks parts of her work while it is still on the needles. I have opted to wait until the entire thing is knit before I 'block the bejeepers' out of it.

I think it is going to look very 'spiffy'. I may knit another one for myself sometime.

Thursday, 9 July 2015


I finished the 15th square today. It is the one I took apart and added a couple of rows going the other way, then reknit the border. It was a bit tricky because I was knitting half a stitch out. This is because when I picked up the stitches from the unravelled part, I was knitting the troughs, not the loops. I fudged it a bit and once the square is incorporated into the sewn afghan, it won't even show.

Here are the 15 squares.

I have also picked up the Peacock Feathers Stole project and knit a few more rows on Chart 1. I am using this yarn. I can't locate the ball band right now or the other skein but it is some type of laceweight. I hope the multicoloured yarn works for this project.
It is knit from the centre (provisional cast on) to one feathery end. Then the provisional stitches are freed and it is knit from there to the other feathery end. It's going to be a long haul but I'll plug away on it.

We are waging war on this cute, little varmint.
It is an adorable young bunny but it is wreaking havoc on our garden. It treats the garden like its personal salad bar. Skip keeps encircling key plants with cages and hardware wire but other plants get chewed to bits. Last year, Skip completed the job of running chicken wire all around the bottom of our property fences in the back to keep rabbits out.

In this photo, he has just strolled/hopped across our deck and is eyeing some greenery nearby. We have been practicing our aim with our refurbished sling shot. We tried to buy a new one while we were in NY state last week. Ironically, they are illegal in NY state. One can purchase a rifle, crossbow, or gun, but OH NO not a slingshot. Sheesh.

I don't really want the bunny killed but I'd really like to hit him with the slingshot so he gets the message that it's not all fun and games in the back yard.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Cable Motif

I knit another square yesterday. This one is the Cable Motif from the 'Baby's Motif Pullover' from Melissa Leapman's book, "Continuous Cables".

I added 5 reverse stocking stitches on each side of the cable motif and 5 rows above and below it. I also omitted the bobbles.
It looks tricky but really wasn't that difficult. I may knit this one again as well.

That's 14 squares completed. One more and I'll be half done.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Panel B

Yesterday I knit another square from the Sampler Afghan in Melissa Leapman's "Cables Untangled".
Panel B is written with a pattern repeat to make it longer.
As I wanted a square, I eliminated the repeat and did the chart as is from rows 1 to 44, adding a few rows of reverse stocking stitch before and after the charted pattern to balance the narrowness.
Add caption
The pattern starts with 38 stitches so I added one in the last row of the bottom 47-stitch garter stitch border to bring the total count up to 48 stitches which includes a 5 stitch garter stitch border on each side of the pattern.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Finger Lakes Holiday

For several years, at this time of year, Skip and I have travelled to NY state for a bit of a holiday. This year we decided to explore the lower area of central NY state, specifically Corning.

We really enjoy not having to drive through Toronto to get there. Instead we head eastward from where we live east of The Big City and cross into the US near the Ivy Lea parkway, Wellesley Island, and Alexandria Bay.

The last time I had visited Corning was about 20 years ago. It was as cute as I remembered. Skip and I enjoyed Mexican food, shopping, the museum, free shuttle bus, and lovely weather.

Here are some of the highlights of the museum:

This blown glass sculpture (2000) by Dale Chihuly is at the entrance where one obtains the tickets. I loved that it was my favourite colour.
Italian artist, Lino Tagliapietra created 18 gondola-like boats influenced by his Venetian roots.
Inspired by a sketchbook page by Albrecht Durer,
Maria Klonowska of Dusseldorf, Germany created this lynx.
Still Life with Two Plums was created in 2000 by American artists Flora C. Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick. The pieces are blown glass in a carved and painted alderwood bowl.
This photo gives you an idea of the size of it.
Photo Brandy Harold - Craft Council
This is entitled Continuous Mile (2006 - 2008) and was created by American artist, Liza Lou. It is a 'monumental sculpture' consisting of 4.5 million glossy, black glass beads woven onto a mile-long cotton rope that is coiled and stacked. The sculpture stands 3 feet high and nearly 5 feet in diamater. It took two years to make with a team of beadworkers from several townships in South Africa.
I liked this glass eggplant - or was is a plum?
A glass blower.
These are Italian glass pieces from the 19th Century.
This was a small pendant.
This is a micromosaic rendering of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice.
Photo Corning Museum of Glass website
These minute glass tiles create beautiful, textured pictures.

 The detail is impressive. Here, the winged lion, the symbol of the city of Venice, is easily seen.
The tiles are about the length of a short fingernail tip and about half the width.

This portrait is also a mosaic.
We had a nice, Mexican lunch downtown, having ridden the free shuttlebus from where we parked the car for free at the museum.

I explored the local yarn shop, Wooly Minded, but didn't find anything 'to die for' and left empty-handed.

The next day, after doing some shopping in the Elmira/Horseheads area, we made our way to Auburn, NY, through wine country between Seneca Lake and Cayuga lake and through Seneca Falls. We spent the next morning in Skaneateles, walking around the downtown and poking around the cute shops. In the Irish shop, I found a pendant of a St. Brigid's cross.
It is a 2 year late souvenir of our time spent on the Aran isle of Inisheer when we were on our Irish knitting tour in 2013. This is the St. Brigid's cross I made out of reed in our workshop lead by Mairéad Sharry.

While in Auburn, we did more shopping including the local yarn shop, All Tied Up Yarns, and I came away with a skein of Madelinetosh Merino Light in the Jade colourway.
I may use it to knit Susan Ashcroft's Hogwarts Express shawl.

The next day headed for home after breakfast. We celebrated Canada Day in the US and today are home for Independence Day. One of these years, we'll have to plan to be in the US on July 4 and find a town whose band plays an outdoor gazebo concert like we experienced about 10 years ago in Skaneateles.