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Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

Yellow leavesWhat a sense of accomplishment! For the past few days, I’ve been knitting on my Clapotis like a maniac, trying to get it completed, and now it’s done! Honestly, I didn’t think it would ever get finished because I have a horrible track record with larger projects. To say I’m pleased with myself is an understatement. Now it just needs to be blocked. Pictures to come when I can get a really good one outside in natural light.

Today I mailed out the angel package to my extra Fall Into Autumn Dishcloth Exchange pal, and sheOrange leaves should get that in a week or so. That’s another swap down! Once I send out the scarf I made for the Ravelry Scarf Exchange (it’s blocking now) and then the final package for my SP11 pal (everything’s ready for it), I’m done with swaps for awhile. There are so many other things I want to knit, and I can’t get to any of it if I’m always making items for swaps, so I’m going to take a break.

Now that the Clapotis is finished, I can concentrate on those nightmare socks I started way back when. The first sock is done, but I might need to reknit the toe, and the second sock has it’s leg, heel flap and heel turn, but the gusset is giving me some problems. Although I have the pattern directions in front of me from “Knitting Socks on Two Circulars” by Cat Bordhi, I am completely lost and can’t figure out what the directions are telling me to do. I may need to enlist the help of my knitting friends in this one. I’m determined to master socks before I start another single project!

Holly

The boys and I went outside last weekend and had a great surprise when we saw that fall had finally snuck in, almost overnight. The fall foliage is so beautiful right now; all I have to do is peek out my front window to see all the pretty colors. 🙂

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This post is a bit overdue, because each time I found time to sit down and type something, I ended up getting involved in other things on this computer. Games, which are a complete time-waster, take up some of my time when I’m on the computer. I play Age of Empires III with two of my real life friends (games are about an hour each for us), and then when I don’t feel like playing that one, I get sucked in to spending a large chunk of time playing The Sims 2 Pets. It’s only been a couple weeks since I found out my male Sims can get abducted by aliens and come back pregnant, so I’ve been having LOTS of fun with that! 😉 Of course, that’s not all that I’ve been doing though.

Cape Henlopen

A few weeks ago, my sister and I got together for “Sister’s Day Out” and headed to the beach. We visited Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, DE (the first town in the first state!), and walked along the shoreline of the safe harbor which was built in World War II at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. Since all the tourists were gone for the season, it was a very peaceful and enjoyable walk.

Breakwater light station

Once you start walking on this stretch of beach, one of the first things you notice is the Breakwater East End Lighthouse, built in 1885 to replace the Cape Henlopen Beacon. It was operable until 1996 when it was finally deactivated from lack of necessity.Horseshoe crab

I was stunned by the amount of dead baby crabs all along the shoreline and all over the beach. Some were as tiny as 1/2″ across! We saw a lot of young dead horseshoe crabs, spider crabs, calico crabs and even blue crabs. Among all these dead crabs were broken shells and bits of seaweed, along with an occasional lost fishing line and pieces of plastic; plastic Walmart bags, garbage bags and packaging from fishing rigs and hooks, rubbery fishing lures and also plastic gallon jugs. I dare say that beaches everywhere are polluted this way, and it’s frustrating to know that people are the culprit. If people would just throw their trash away properly in the garbage cans that are provided, the beaches (and the whole world, for that matter) would be so much safer.

Atlantic ghost crab

I spy… with my little eye… an Atlantic Ghost Crab (can you find him?), and this one was about an inch across total, and FAST! They skittered quickly away when we walked near, and some went right down their ghost crab holes. And of course, I was completely fascinated by them. (Click on any of the thumbnails to enlarge them.)

World War II tower

During World War II, Cape Henlopen was home to a military base called Fort Miles. In 1941, the U.S. Army built these concrete observation towers along the coast to spot any enemy ships or submarines. If you’re interested in learning more of this interesting bit of history, you can read it here:DNREC.

Pier

The Cape Henlopen fishing pier stretches out into the Delaware Bay for a quarter mile, and many people fish and crab off the pier all year long.

While we were walking, we saw the past meet present day when the Cape May-Lewes Ferry passed the Kalmar-Nyckel beyond the rock jetty of the Breakwater East End Lighthouse.

Cape May-Lewes Ferry & Kalmar Nyckel

Kalmar NyckelThe Kalmar-Nyckel is “Delaware’s Tall Ship”, and has quite a history behind it. The original ship came from Sweden in 1683, and brought settlers that established what is now Wilmington, Delaware. The current ship is owned by the Kalmar-Nyckel Foundation, and they offer tours and sailing trips for educational purposes. Very fascinating history, and you can read all about it here:Kalmar-Nyckel: The Tall Ship of Delaware.

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Last week, we took a roadtrip to Baltimore with another family in their Yukon (I had mentioned in a previous post that it was a Suburban, but I was mistaken.). One of my DH’s friends from work followed us up, and after parking in the garage, we split up and went our separate ways. The guys went to the Ravens-Rams football game, and us gals (and my sons) went to the National Aquarium. Since this post would be extremely lengthy if I got into a play-by-play with words, I decided to make it a picture post of our adventures. Besides, I just don’t have a few hours to spend sitting here at the computer thinking of the perfect wording for this post… heh

Ravens vs. Rams

My DH on the left with Cody (back) & Corey beside him, and the heckled Rams fan on the right, D.L., with his two daughters, S. (standing) & C. Their mother (C.L.) was getting stuff out of the truck to put in the stroller, so she missed being in this picture, but I got her later.

Rams loser?

Predicting yet another loss?

Four friends

The guys walking to the stadium after we split up.

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

This is where the rest of us were headed, right after we stopped off for some lunch at Uno Chicago Grill. The glass-faced building on the right is the new Australian exhibit at the National Aquarium.

Once we got to the aquarium, we were shocked to find out that we had to check the stroller, and we were not allowed to use them. I should have taken a picture, but we had to leave the stroller in a room with a hundred (or more) other strollers, which was quite an inconvenience for us. C. (our friend’s three-year-old) is a FAST escape artist! It was not easy chasing her around, that’s for sure! I don’t know how C.L. does it day after day… just watching her chase her daughter around was wearing me out!

I took a lot of pictures of the animals and fish, but at least half of them had to be deleted. Taking good pictures in a dark aquarium through the glass tanks is not easy! And focusing on fast-moving dolphins at the dolphin show isn’t either (ALL of them were blurry)! Luckily, I got a few good shots of the slower animals.

Yellowmouth Grouper

Yellowmouth grouper

Bearded dragon

Bearded dragon in the new Australian exhibit.

Pacman frog

This pacman frog was so still, I didn’t think he was real!

Bluefaced angelfish

Bluefaced angelfish with clown triggerfish in the background.

Tuckered out

Don’t they look exhausted? Poor C.L. — chasing C. around for 3-4 hours completely wore her out! They took a rest at the end of the shark exhibit waiting for us to catch up. I was trying to get some good pictures of the sharks, but it was near impossible.

The guys were waiting for us outside the aquarium when we came out. D.L. decided he didn’t need his bag of shame even though his team lost again: Ravens 22, Rams 3.

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Insect invasion

White checkered and silver-spotted skippers on butterfly bush.This morning brought to mind a blog post I saw recently where the writer claimed she hated summer because of two reasons; one of them being bugs. In her post, she had placed a picture of a screened door with an adult praying mantis clinging to the outside of it. I can say with confidence that she would be ecstatic about that praying mantis if she knew about the bugs around our house. I know she probably has more than just that praying mantis hanging around, but seriously, Furryland has been invaded with all sorts of new and different bugs this season. And frankly, they are starting to get on our very last nerves!

First, there were these teeny, tiny gnat-like, flying bugs covering the outside of our house last spring. We noticed them when we were inside looking out the storm door, as they were all over the window. They were so small, you couldn’t even take a picture of them (I tried without success), and when you walked around the house to where they were swarming and got close enough, they would take a bite out of you. And it hurt! But you never saw them! I tell ya, they were as small as a grain of sand or sugar… very tiny. After much research, we decided they were biting midges a.k.a. no-see-ums, and DH sprayed down our house with insecticide. That took care of that!

Praying mantis

At the same time, little pantry beetles started invading (about as big as a fruit fly). They starting showing up on our counters, walls, in cabinets, on the inside of the windows, in the spaghetti, rice, macaroni, flour — inside our home! These are normal pests, so I found out, but extremely annoying. Not so exciting, so no pictures, but we ended up throwing out a lot of dry goods, and placing all the rest into air-tight plastic containers.

Carolina mantis

Around this time, we also had ants crawling in at the corner of our front door. Not regular black anthill ants, but the much smaller version of those ants. There was one steady line of them coming in from the outside to Oliver’s food dish, which we kept near the front door in order to keep him away from Misty’s food (or he’d eat hers and she would starve). These ants were difficult to eradicate! They were only a slight nuisance, but my boys had fun with them when they made a game of sucking them up with the vacuum cleaner hose. DH did something to hopefully get rid of them, and they eventually disappeared.

Grasshopper

The grasshoppers believe that Furryland is grasshopper central — definitely the place to be if you are a grasshopper! (The species above is a differential grasshopper.) Thankfully, they don’t get in the house, but the crickets do! For the past few weeks, we have been overrun with crickets, and they’re getting in, hiding under cabinets and any little crevice they can squeeze into, and chirping constantly. Yesterday, I think I heard three of them chirping in one area of our house at the same time! It’s driving my DH insane, too! Just last night, he removed the broiler pan from our oven to find one, moved both the upright freezer and the washer and dryer to get at a couple, and was crawling around on his hands and knees trying to find one that escaped after the boys went to bed. Now that was humorous!

Referring to the incessant chirping, he asked me, “Doesn’t that bother you?”

“No,” I replied, “I’m not really paying attention to it.” Honestly, I didn’t hear it because I had tuned it out. (Which happens to be a wonderfully helpful skill I learned back in my rebellious teen years!)

We’ve also had our share of moths this summer. Little tan moths fluttering all around our house both day and night. Just recently, my teen found out where they were coming from, so we disposed of the source immediately, and their numbers are finally starting to dwindle to the point that they may be disappearing. Note to self: Gathering leftover cow corn from the fields is fun after the harvest (to feed the birds in winter), but they must be stored outside; NOT in the house!Baby black widow in web

Black widow with egg sacsBlack widows — UGH! After we found the immature female on the pool cover (a few posts back), DH found a huge mature widow in the wagon under the seat (which he took to work in a baby food jar to terrorize his co-workers). Then a couple nights ago, we deflated the pool because there were wiggly red larvae on the pool toys which were sitting on the bottom of the pool. They were not mosquito larvae, but may have been red midge larvae, although I’m not sure. Whatever they were, they were gross. Hence, the reason we drained the pool. The pool toys ended up in a bucket of bleach.
Torched black widow and egg sacs.

Black widow caught in own web trying to escape.A couple nights ago, we found this lovely surprise under the steps at the back door. You think we need an exterminator? Yeah, I was thinking the same thing! Upper left is the first shot where mama widow was tending to her three egg sacs when we found her. Upper right is a shot of one of the young widows in the web with mama and eggs sacs blurred in the background. After we knocked down mama in her web with her egg sacs (left), my FIL torched her (right). That’s how we get rid of black widow egg sacs when we find them — or we just stomp on the spider itself if there are no egg sacs present. We squished the young widow with a stick before we knocked down the web. I know… I know!!! EWWWW!!!! (By the way, you can click on those pictures to see them full size, if you dare…)

Now we’re just looking forward to the red-headed fruit fly (a huge nuisance because you can’t cook or eat in the kitchen — anywhere in the house, really — without one or five of them trying to land on your food) and ladybug invasions (we can live with them… in fact, my youngest likes to treat them as pets), which are still to come this autumn.

Regardless of the bad bugs, there are wonderfully good bugs around here, too. Like butterflies. Those at the beginning of this post are white checkered and silver-spotted skippers. In my opinion, one’s yard can never have enough butterflies flitting about. Or praying mantises quietly stalking their prey (the mantis above perched on my teen’s fingers is a Chinese mantis, and the next one is a Carolina mantis), or dragonflies flying about hunting down smaller bugs at dusk.

Immature male common whitetail dragonfly

Above is an immature male common whitetail dragonfly. Below is the adult female of the same species. When the male becomes an adult, his abdomen will turn a whitish-blue color, but for now they both look quite similar, except for the patterns on their wings. Fascinating, isn’t it? I actually didn’t know these two were different when I took their pictures yesterday until I downloaded them onto the computer. I started researching them for identification, and when I found out one was male and the other was female, it made my day! Hope you enjoy them as much as I do! 🙂

Female common whitetail dragonfly

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Right now, I’m dyeing about two skeins of yarn each day that I spend time playing with colors in my kitchen. Yesterday was spent visiting opposite ends of the spectrum! My inspiration for the first one came from a bird I tried to rescue one time. It was a grackle, and its feathers had this sheen about them that shone dark blue, purple and green in the sun even though he was entirely black overall. I tried to reproduce this in a sock yarn, and I don’t think the results were too far off.

Acid dye handpainted yarn

The second yarn I dyed yesterday came out perfectly, and I’m really happy with it, as well. In fact, I love this second yarn so much, I might not be able to put it in my shop!

Acid dye handpainted yarn

Regarding knitting, I’ve been working on my Clapotis for a month now, and now I’m really feeling the urge to knit something small and quick for some instant gratification. Perhaps a washcloth for my SP11 pal, or a pair of baby bootees (doesn’t get much smaller than that), or maybe I should just finish those nightmare socks that have been on hold since I started the Clapotis. I have three projects going at once, and putting the other two off to work on the Clapotis is starting to bother me, so I’ll probably finish the socks.

Pixie received her getStitchy Handpainted Yarn Swap package last week and she seemed to like it! The yarn I dyed for her was some really soft superwash DK that I KNOW I took pictures of, but they are gone! The only thing I can think of is that I forgot to upload them to my computer from my Nikon before I deleted everything on the memory card. Oh well, you can see her loot over on her blog: Purly Girl.

Yesterday, my DH mailed the package that is being sent to my Ravelry Caffeine Swap partner too, so she should be getting that very soon, as she’s on the east coast too. I had a bit of a time finding a decent coffee mug in this town, at least one that she might like according to her questionnaire, so I hope she likes what I finally chose. So that’s another swap done for me… two down, two to go!

My Ravelry Scarf Exchange partner’s questionnaire finally made it to my inbox. This swap has got me quite anxious, as I’ve never knit anything for a swap before. (Good thing we have until December to get it done!) Now I just have to find the perfect scarf pattern for her and then the perfect yarn for the scarf, and then I can get started on it.

School starts Monday for both boys, but I don’t think they’re ready for it… what am I saying??? I’m not ready for it yet! Geesh! I was hoping to get my Clapotis done before school, but no such luck. And then Corey’s getting an insulin pump really soon, so we’ll be going to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Bee on my purple crepe myrtle.

Two springs ago, I bought a very small crepe myrtle bush and planted it, and its blossoms were gorgeous. Then winter came, and then spring, and everyone else’s crepe myrtles were in full bloom. Except mine, which was rather disappointing. It was still dormant up until mid-June, when I noticed it was sprouting new leaves among the dead branches. I pruned all the dead parts off, and here it is at the end of August, in full bloom once again. 🙂

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Last week went by entirely too fast! I’m having a hard time believing school will be starting next week. Where did last week go, anyhow? *PoOf!*

There’s lots of stuff going on right now, but mostly dyeing yarn and increasing inventory for my Etsy shop, and knitting on my Clapotis. Such an enjoyable knit, and I have pictures, finally! Progressing steadily, it is about halfway done — 500 yards down — 500 to go! If you’re interested in this pattern, you can find it HERE.

Clapotis progress

Clapotis detail

My DH is putting a package in the mail for me today for my swap partner in the getStitchy! Handpainted Yarn Swap. I can’t wait till she gets it! Also, I’ve joined three other swap-type groups, which means I must be insane. Did I just hear my conscience tell me I had too much going on already? Yeah, well, one package is in the mail, so one down, three to go!

getStitchy! Handpainted Yarn Swap — The package is in the mail!

Ravelry Caffeine Swap – Just looking for a really nice coffee mug now and then I can send off that package.

Ravelry Scarf Exchange – We haven’t even been given our swap partners yet, so I’m still waiting to see who I get and what that person would be interested in as a scarf.

Secret Pal 11 – This is the big one. We’ve been given our swap pals, and I’ve started plotting and planning the first package, but I’m not really sure what I’m going to send yet. Probably some of MY yarn, of course!

Totally unrelated to knitting or yarn, I found this little geometrid moth clinging to our screen door one day and took a photo of him from the inside of the house. See his eyes on either side of one of the wires? Neat!

Geometric geometrid

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When I finally muster enough courage and make the decision to try and sell some of my handpainted yarns, I should have plenty in stock, that’s for sure! One day last week, I handpainted three skeins all at once, in the same method and in the same colorway. I know that’s really not much, but it is the most I’ve tackled at one time so far. Just taking baby steps…

Acid dyed, handpainted yarn

Acid dyed, handpainted yarn

This is SoftSock, a very soft 75% superwash wool/25% nylon blend in fingering weight, and it’s reminiscent of Brown Sheep’s Wildfoote. At first I thought I would name the colorway Larkspur, but I’m not so sure I like that. Anyone have any ideas? What do the colors remind you of? I would love to get some input!

Hopefully, when our homeschooling starts again at the end of this month, I’ll be able to continue dyeing yarn a few days a week, but if not, I’ll just have to make up for it on the weekend. My days are going to be really structured here soon, and I’m going to have to fit in my new craft or I’ll die! (LOL — pun intended!)Wilton’s Icing Colors handpainted yarn.

Today I tried a couple of new methods for dyeing my yarn, and I’m both surprised and pleased with the results. This time I used Wilton’s Icing Colors, and using the same mix of the same colors, I got two completely different results with these different methods. Both skeins of wool turned out wonderfully and I should have more pictures of them up for you soon, but for now, here’s one of them (at right) twisted into a skein after drying on the line in the day’s 101-degree heat.Eastern Garter Snake

Eastern Garter SnakeElsewise, there hasn’t been a whole lot going on in Furryland, unless you consider the endless numbers of interesting critters we keep encountering on a regular basis. For instance, just a couple days ago, we happened upon our little friend again… the one we met back in May, only this time he was a little longer and a little more plump. (Click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.) In the image on the right, you can see that our friend has just had a nice meal. Hopefully it wasn’t a bird.

Earlier the same day, I was out in the yard walking around when something caught my eye. There was this bright red thing running around erratically on the ground, and it didn’t look like it had a purpose at all although I’m sure it did. I tried to chase it down and take some pictures of it crawling around on the ground, but this little guy (gal!) was too quick so I caught it in my son’s bug jar. We’ve been seeing them all around the neighborhood, and they’re out and about with the purpose of reproduction.

Cow Killer or Red Velvet AntThe common names for this insect includes Cow Killer and Red Velvet Ant, but did you know that this isn’t an ant at all? Nope, it’s not — it’s a wasp. And they don’t really kill cows! Here’s a link from the University of Nebraska so you can read all about them. That is, if you’re interested. Personally, I’m completely fascinated by bugs and snakes and critters of all kinds, but I think that’s enough creepiness for one post.

This last shot was taken at Seacrets in Ocean City, Maryland, just a couple weeks ago. My sister and I went there to celebrate her birthday, and while we were having dinner at a table in the sand, this little family of Mallard ducks was waddling around the tables. People started to toss food to them, and the ducklings were eating whatever they threw down… popcorn, french fries, bits of bread and God knows what else. Probably not healthy for them, but it was a nice surprise to see them, and they didn’t stick around too long before Mama duck led them in single file across the ripples of the Isle of Wight bay.

Mallard ducks

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