I was busy planting up these window boxes on the front of our house/garage when Gary pointed out that in the tree right above my head was a nest with babies in. As I was saying only yesterday I love having all the wildlife in our garden so I feel particularly honoured to have them trust us with a nest and their young.
It is an American Robin nest. American Robins are members of the Thrush family so are much bigger than the English Robin, but they do have red breasts and are very unafraid of humans so Mom Robin didn't seem to mind me working so close and carried on taking care of her family. You can click on the pictures to make them larger. In the second picture you can just see a baby beak peeking over the top of the nest on the right. We watched them for a while. Mom found them a nice big juicy worm. This certainly makes up for the wasp nest in the bird nesting box! We will keep an eye on them and hope they continue to thrive and take their inaugural flights soon!
I have been putting off mentioning our big news in case I jinx something, but at last our number has come up and we are able to apply for our Green Cards. This is something we have been waiting over three years for so we are very excited about it. We have been in a kind of limbo where I haven't been able to work, but soon I will be able to start looking. My resume will need a thorough re-writing - I have even got books out of the library to help me. Watch out job market, here I come!
We have to have medicals - they seem to be most worried about whether we have ever suffered bouts of insanity, and that we have our shots up to date. We had a whole bunch of shots done last Wednesday. This is what my arms looked like afterwards:
That was five shots altogether. Only a couple were really painful and the only reaction I got was red welts where the plasters were stuck! We have to have more to complete the Hepatitis course and we haven't even got onto the subject of TB or Hib yet. Our medicals are scheduled for tomorrow - I think we should be OK.
Knitting next! My Celeste project got frogged. I think I was knitting very loosely because the yarn was sticking on my Denise cords and it was turning out huge. I still want to knit something with the yarn but haven't decided what yet. In the meantime I have been doing a secret swap project that I can't show you until at least the end of the month, but I can show you what I made for the Crafty Threads n Yarns Keyring Kerfuffle swap.
It took me a while to get inspired for what to do for it. There are certain practicalities to be taken into account. It had to be relatively small, it had to be difficult to break and it had to feature a craft. In the end I went to our new Michaels craft store to get some ideas and found these adorable little bears. I got one and knitted a couple of outfits for her (I am not really sure if it is a boy or girl bear - but I hope I guessed right!) The dress was made vertically using short rows to get the full skirt and scalloped edge and the little duffle coat has toggles made from a tiny twig from the garden.
Next up - The garden. We and nature have been working very hard out there. Over the last couple of weeks we have been planting up hanging baskets, boxes and a bed in on and around the new deck. Nature has been busy getting the flowers to bloom and it is starting to go crazy.
There is good news and bad news about our nesting box. The good news is that there is a nest in it. The bad news is that it is a wasp nest. I think it is very clever how they build them but I am afraid it cannot stay!
Around this time of year my interest in the garden peaks sharply and then dies away just as quickly as it gets too hot, the ground too hard, and the plants just do their own thing anyway.
One flower bed had become completely infested with grass - funny how it grows perfectly happily where you don't want it but won't grow on the lawn - and mint. Never plant mint in a bed (it was the previous owners, what did it, not me!). I believe mint and convolvulus are planning world domination between them! Anyway I dug up almost everything there with the intention of dividing it into squares to make a herb garden. With one peony left I changed my mind and decided to try and do something with a bit of a Japanese flavour. The peony which fits nicely in with the theme was saved, as was the large rock already in the middle.
A layer of weed barrier, two bags of pea gravel, two bags of big beach pebbles, two bags of bark chippings, an existing pot of herbs, several rocks from elsewhere in the garden, a selection of plants from Home Depot, and a few hours of hard labour later we have a little courtyard-style garden.
Ever since I visited the Japanese garden in Seattle I have wanted to have a garden like that of my own, but a) we live in the desert b) I am far too lazy to do the amount of maintenance a garden like that would entail c) have you any idea how much a nice granite Japanese lantern costs or weighs? (100s, both $ and lbs) d) I am not arrogant enough to think that I could just go ahead and recreate something so wonderful when people study for years to accomplish it.
Anyway I bought a couple of books on the subject, and worked out what I could do. Water features, bridges, and lanterns were pretty quickly ruled out. Sand was also quickly discounted - I guess they don't have many cats in Japan! But we have a garden full of rocks so they were in, as was a gravel path. Plants were also a bit of a problem as I wanted to keep it low to the ground so no trees, and it is in full sun so we couldn't use ferns or hostas, and bamboo is quite invasive - I tend to steer clear of anything that "spreads via underground stems" since the mint incident. We already had the peony, so I added a box that maybe I can shape a little as it grows, a garlic plant that flowers a lot, an ornamental grass, some Irish moss around the stones, and some creeping thyme in the gravel.
One principle of Japanese gardens is to utilise what you already have, and we did that with the big rocks, the peony and the herb pot. Another is the arrangement and placement of stones. They must look like they grew there, not just put there, and the best arrangement is in asymmetrical triangles.
Another is to utilise the surroundings and the rose bed and next door's lilac bushes just happen to back onto it, and the patio built with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern at the front of it is not out of character because one principle for paving is that there should be no four corner joins.
I kept the plants to the centre of the bed so the focus would be there instead of the corners - I am hoping it will make it seem bigger if the edges aren't too well defined - but then the existing concrete edging might just give that away.
All in all I am pleased with it so far. The pebbles are really pretty when they are wet. Funnily enough Kaffe Fassett did one of his pieces based on beach pebbles and shells.
While I was digging the overgrown lavender and weeds out of the next bed I came a
cross this wee beasty. Imagine my surprise when I turned it over and saw this bright pink , black spotted underside. I Had to hold it very gently with a small stick as it was not very cooperative posing for pictures. It was about 2 inches long and I was convinced it was probably highly poisonous and more than likely high on a list of major pests. I couldn't find any references to it on Google with keywords "caterpillar grey pink underside black spots" but I did find a great site called Bug Guide run by the Entomology Department at Iowa State University, where you can post pictures of wee beasties and have them identified. It seems it is the caterpillar of one of the Catocala or Underwing moths which have pretty orange under wings . It doesn't seem to be a pest or anything thank goodness so I hope I left it somewhere safe where it won't be eaten by one of our resident birds.
The crab in the book. Do you think I am improving? I can see that I am going to have to go and buy new towels in more suitable animal colours!
We also did more stuff in the garden today. Gary did another coat of preservative on the deck and new picnic table. We decided the picnic table didn't look right on the deck and that it should go on the patio instead to replace the plastic table that Charlie managed to break all the legs off in one fell swoop by getting her leash wrapped round them and then running away. Luckily there was nothing on it at the time! We have a flower bed about 6 feet square that got all overgrown and infested with weeds so I dug that out completely except for one peony. My intention is to make it into a small Japanese inspired garden with some stones, shingle area, maybe an ornament such as a Japanese lantern or deer scarer, and then some plants which will be mostly herbs, the peony of course and maybe some ornamental grasses or something. Most of the plants that they recommend for Japanese gardens need dampness - mosses and ferns for instance - but we don't get much of that in the summer here in Utah so I will have to improvise. The first thing that will definitely be going down is some weed mat - so that hopefully the shingle area will remain weed free - we bought that today.
Cheryl said the pink blossom I photographed the other day was Redbud, and it certainly matches up with the description in my garden book, so if anyone asks me what is in future I will be able to tell them with confidence. At the bottom of the redbud there is a whole bunch of lily-of-the-valley coming up which I am really looking forward to seeing in bloom.
Meanwhile indoors on the windowsill we have real little leaves on the cauliflower seedlings:
I have been a little more inspired to do my knitting and other projects today. Should have something to show soon!
First of all here is the yarn I bought at Stitch DC in Georgetown: It's Claudia handpainted 100%merino fingering in "Stormy Skies". It's really pretty! I plan to make one of my 12 pairs of socks with it.
Now for some plant pictures.
These are my little cauliflowers at their vantage point on the kitchen windowsill. They grew a lot while we were away and turned green. I suppose I must soon pick out the weaker seedlings - that does seem cruel somehow!
These are some little violets in our "alpine" garden ie the bit that is covered with shingle instead of bark chippings!
I have no idea what this pretty tree is but this is the first year we have noticed it as it is in the area behind where we had cleared out last year sowas obscured by scrub oaks before.
Finally a gratuitous dog picture because Charlie was posing so nicely for her profile to be taken this time:
Tomorrow morning we are heading off with Edward for a few days in Washington DC, so this post is just to tidy up some loose ends before we go.
My Mountain Stream Scarf is blocking as I type. I have only just got round to weaving in the ends and whatnot. I knew I wouldn't have enough pins to go all the way round so I folded it in half. It's right in the middle of our bedroom floor where a suitcase should be being packed, but I can't pack til the last minute. I um and ahh about what to take too much. Having only a few minutes left to do it in certainly concentrates the mind! And besides a lot of what we are taking is still laundry. I am in the process of trying to design something for our SnB spring swap in a couple of weeks time - I showed you the yarn for that the other day, but apart from that I am having a bit of a knitting slump again. Don't know what to make next at the moment.
I couldn't believe it when I checked in on my cauli seeds. Look how they have grown!
I am panicking now as I don't know how long they should stay in the dark, and I don't want to lose them while we are away. I do have plenty more seeds so it won't be the end of the world if I do lose them but it would eb ashame after they have taken the trouble to pop up.
I don't think you have been introduced to another member of our family yet. This is Edward's Goldfish.
I don't think he has a name. He was rescued from the feeder fish tank at PetCo for 15cents and we hve had him for quite a while now. He/she normally lives in its Fairly OddParents oversize fish bowl in Edward's room, but I am afraid it will be forgotten about while we are away so have brought him down into the kitchen for the duration. That bowl is huge and heavy and I was so scared I was going to drop it on the stairs and have the poor fish swept on a tidal wave under the washing machine never to be seen again. Luckily that didn't happen and it is now getting acquainted with its new surroundings.
I don't know if I will be able to post while we are away. We are a bit mean about paying for internet access in hotels I am afraid, but we will be sure to take lots of photos to show you when we get back.
Thanks for the great advice about Edward. Keep your fingers crossed that we have a good trip!
Yesterday I decided it was time to do something with my Romanescu cauliflower seeds so while we were in Home Depot renting a ladder to clear out the gutters on our roof I popped along to the gardening section, picking up a cart on the way in anticipation of hauling back a large sack of potting compost.
It is a very long time since I did anything with seeds being a) lazy, b) nervous about getting it right, c) not really having anywhere to get in that kind of a mess, d) not having the necessary equipment, so imagine my surprise when I found these little cuties designed to overcome all my problems:
A miniature propagator complete with tidy little net bags of peat, and a lid! All I had to do was add water and three seeds to each pellet, pop the lid on:
and put it in a warm dark place. There is a major danger that I will completely forget about them, but hopefully when I go and look at them in a few days Something will have started to happen there.
Growing cauliflowers seems to be fraught with problems and there doesn't seem to be a clear straightforward way of doing it. The instructions on the packet are in Italian BTW for those of you wondering why I didn't just follow them. I have googled and come across dire warnings such as "...an induced manganese deficiency may occur if too much lime is applied..." and "Cauliflowers require a rich and deep soil that is well consolidated" and "Cauliflowers should never be allowed to run short of water". Even if they manage to survive my mishandling of them they still have to run the gauntlet of a huge selection of molds, funguses, bacteria, viruses and insects, not to mention slugs, snails and birds and even deer, all just waiting to pounce on my poor little seedlings once they are planted out there in the big bad world.
We will see what happens! I was surprised by how tiny the seeds are and there were hundreds of them so surely one or two will survive to produce something resembling the picture on the packet.
We have had the most fantastic weather this last week - it has been up to 80 degrees at times. I am sure we will pay for it with more cold and snowy weather before the month is out, but until that happens it will be appreciated. I love these warm spring days, the temperature is just right for being outside and walking or working in the garden with out getting uncomfortable and there are no annoying insects buzzing round yet. We took Charlie for a lovely long walk in one of our off-leash dog parks yesterday morning and she even laid down in the shallow part of the stream to cool off - she's not usually bothered about going in the water. It was one of our best walks with her - we took a ball and thrower and now she knows what it is like when other dogs steal your ball (Charlie is usually the villain in this scenario!) - we nearly lost it a couple of times but we ended up bringing it home, wet, muddy and slobbery though it was. We met another Boston, a year old male, and she had quite a game with him.
When we got home we saw that the catkins were out on our quaking aspens. Look at that beautiful blue sky!
Yesterday afternoon, totally illogically, we turned our backs on the beautiful weather and went and sat in the dark for two hours. We saw the movie "Premonition" starring Sandra Bullock. I can't say too much about it without giving anything away but it is a space-time continuum anomaly movie. She has a whole week with the days out of order and her husband is killed in a car crash on one of them. I enjoyed the movie and really wanted to know how it was going to be resolved. I so want to say something about the ending but I just can't! I didn't cry in this one even though there were sad bits. I think I only cry at happy bits actually.
Please visit Natalya's Print Store set up to raise funds for the Clatterbridge Cancer Campaign in memory of Rose McGill.
I have been knitting. I have been working on my Mountain Stream scarf. I haven't posted any progress pictures I am afraid. I just have to graft the last corner together and block it and it will be done and I will show you it then. The pattern was not as difficult as Pomatomus, but being all in garter stitch I had trouble at times working out which row I was on. If the pattern is based on Stockinette Stitch you at least can tell pretty quickly whether you are on a right side or wrong side row - not so garter stitch. I probably should have made it longer but I was impatient to see how the bottom corners and border were constructed.
I have also been working hard on my knitting chart maker and hope to release a new version soon. This version will have resizable grids, build your own cable stitches, and multiple charts open at a time. I am really excited about it.
Lucy left for England yesterday and arrived safely. Unfortunately the same could not be said of her luggage which was left behind in Atlanta, but thankfully it was delivered this afternoon OK. We will wait with bated breath to see how she does getting her new student visa at the American Embassy in London tomorrow. Good Luck! PS Charlie says "woof, woof woof" which translates to "read my blog"
Knitters are wonderful, kind, generous people and once again I have to say Thank You! This time to Stephani. She sent me this:
It's Elderflower syrup. I wrote about how much I missed it - I've only seen it in England before, and she sent me some. She also sent me some alpaca/wool mix yarn, in a lovely lavender shade that will make a beautiful scarf.
Thanks Stephani. It was a lovely surprise. I am going to try it with ice cream, as well as with sparkling water. I think it would be nice with champagne as well. We still have some from our anniversary last year that we will probably break open for our birthdays. (We both have a special one this year) So we will try it then, and drink to you too!
We spent some more time on the pergola in the afternoon - here is how it looks now:
We did the decorative bit on the back which we are very pleased with because we think it gives it a slight oriental look. Gary has become quite proficient with the saw, drill and screw driver and I am beginning to believe he may have a handy gene or two after all. Being an engineer's daughter I am all about accurate measurements and I'm a dab hand with a level (both vertically and horizontally) so combined I think we have been quite successful on this project so far. We still need to build steps and do something along the front edge to hide the concrete piers (ideas have ranged from fantasy - wooden planters with steps combined - to trashy - stick up a bit of trellis) The main problem is that the ground is not level. I find the best thing to do is wait til the obvious answer hits us and then do that.
I have also finished my One Skein Secret Pal project.
I redid the lid and made a lining for the box from the Paint Box yarn (instead of making another box like I said I was going to do). It looks like this:
And I made her some row markers, with lobster claw clasps:
I have put a few other bits and pieces in there as well and I have to reveal who I am this time- hope she likes everything. I will mail it all off tomorrow.
I think I have worked out who is sending my One Skein things - it will be interesting to see if I am right.
I can now get on with my Lotus Blossom Tank. I frogged what I had already done and started again based on the experiences and tips from Knit Along. I am about half way through the first repeat and will show pictures when there is something worth showing!
Today we went to see Barnyard with Kevin James and Courtney Cox. I have to confess I was a little confused right from the start. I know it's just a cartoon and we have to suspend reality just to have talking animals anyway, but I think someone should have mentioned early on in the production that boy cows do not have udders. It bothered me through the whole movie, especially when they actually showed a fully fledged bull with nose ring and horns (we only saw his face!!!) and the hero of the thing was a boy cow but was not the aforementioned bull.
There was another animal (the one who kept seeing the chickens as dinner, but managed to resist the temptation) that we could not identify at all. I also have to confess that I may have fallen asleep during a very short part of it towards the end. There were some very funny bits, but I rate it a one hanky movie for one very sad bit.
The deck is coming along very well. Yesterday we bought the surface boards and finished screwing together the frame. I will post pictures when all the foundation is hidden and there are just the nice bits on show. Next we intend to do some railings and build a pergola on top. We will plant nice stuff round it. I am thinking things that smell really nice, like honeysuckle or Jasmine (or will that attract too many stingy and bitey things) and maybe a grape vine on the pergola. Because it gets so cold in the winter and dry in the summer one has to be careful what one chooses to plant.
Edward will be back from Scout camp tomorrow. He called yesterday and said he was having a good time. He is Senior Patrol Leader so he gets to make all the big decisions and boss everyone around. Let's hope he is doing it in a nice way! When he gets home the first thing I am sure he will need is a long hot shower. Apart from an inbuilt aversion to hot water, the bathing facitlities at camp leave a lot to be desired. Then he will no doubt want to catch up on the computer games and TV he has been deprived of all week. I am looking forward to having him home!
On the knitting front, I am knitting another secret project so can't say much about it. I have already changed my mind about the pattern because the first one, although lovely, did not showcase the yarn at it's best.
I need to do an extra row of crochet around my Vogue to stop the armholes and collar from rolling, then I will model it by popular request. I think I will make that a project for this evening.
My poor Lotus Blossom Tank is not being worked on at all. I am a bit scared about it now after all the problems others are having (see the Knitalong) with gauge and sizing.
I am also sewing another secret project that is coming along well, if a little slowly - the recipient is around too much for me to work on it for very long at a time, but it has to be done soon.
Diet-wise, I am not doing too badly. I have lost 3lbs so far, and have not eaten any chocolate or had any syrupy coffees, or cakes in nearly two weeks, and haven't even really missed them. Holly, my diet-buddy, was on vacation this week so we had a sub for Power Bar and couldn't compare notes. This evening we did eat out but we just had very simply cooked halibut, salad, and a small portion of ice cream. My biggest sin was a glass of very nice New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon. It reminded me of Elderflower Presse that we used to enjoy in England but haven't seen here. I have been to water aerobics twice and power bar twice so far this week.