Saturday, June 24, 2006

Potential aquarium excitement? My panda cory catfish have been exhibiting some of the behaviors associated with breeding! For the past two days, they have been very active- chasing each other around the bottom of the tank, scooting up and down the walls of the tank together. The water quality is fine, the other fish aren't doing anything unusual, and I don't think anything in the tank has changed that would stress them out. All the fish seem healthy, and the cories have grown quite a bit since I got them. They're now about 1-1.25 inches long, which is their adult size. I haven't seen them in the "T-position" that corydoras catfish assume during mating, but they're sticking closer together than they have in the past.

I haven't seen any eggs on the glass or plants, but I'll keep looking!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I spent yesterday afternoon finishing the first two pieces off the log cabin warp. As I suspected in my post last week, I overenthusiastically overshot the length I needed for a placemat when I was weaving merrily along last week. Since I didn’t feel like reverse-weaving five inches (like I said, oops), I decided to make mats to put on top of our dressers in the bedroom.

So here’s one of the two completed pieces, off the loom but not wet finished yet. The size here is 14” x 27”.

As you can see, they’re pretty floppy-looking. After they had a trip through the laundry machines (hot wash with a load of sheets and towels, cold rinse, hot dry) and a steam press, they look like…..actual fabric!

The dimensions shrank up to 11” x 21” and they have a more stable feel. The log cabin pattern is also much more obvious. The top is the fabric straight off the loom, the bottom is after washing.

These are woven with 5/2 pearl cotton, sett at 12 ends per inch and 12(ish) picks per inch. I had some issues with beating too hard in the beginning. I think this yarn might do better at a closer sett, maybe 14 epi. Wait, I’ll be right back…I just measured the wraps per inch of the yarn, and it’s 28, so yes, 14 epi is about right for plain weave.

Though the fabric shrank up nicely in the wash, it seems just a bit loose to me. It feels wonderful, though, very smooth and drapey and light.

Garden update: The lilies have started blooming. These didn’t bloom at all last year, maybe because they were too shaded by the invasive, exotic, blackberry bushes that are bent on taking over my yard, the island, and the continent.

I also found some more garden volunteers, this time in the planter boxes. The petunias that Emma picked out last year evidently were happy, and set some seeds. All four planters have seedling petunias in them, which are just about to bloom!

This is very cool. I’ve never grown petunias from seed before. It’ll be interesting to see what the flowers look like- if they take after their solid or stripey parent.

Lastly, this is what happens when Emma spends the morning swimming and playing at the lake, then helps in the garden a bit, then is overtired enough to refuse a nap. After the crying and hysterics, I got her to sit down and said she could watch a music dvd to calm down a bit. I decided that even if I was reinforcing the lesson that hysterics make Mama let her do what she wants, it was worth it for a little peace and quiet. Five minutes into the songs, I looked up from crocheting and found that my daughter had melted.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I have a few pictures I've wanted to post for almost a month, but due to the fact that they were taken with a (gasp) FILM camera and I hadn't gotten them developed yet, I'm slow.

I used the film camera because it has a better telephoto lens than my digital camera. Boy, am I spoiled by digital! Aside from the fact that there's no instant gratification, I was acutely conscious that I only had 36 exposures, unlike with the digital camera where you can take pictures willy-nilly and just delete the ones that don't turn out well. I also had a moment of embarassment when I went to take the first picture, and was honestly confused that there was no viewscreen on the back of the camera! I had forgotten you could hold the camera to your eye and look though the viewfinder. Luckily, only Emma was there to see me laughing hysterically at myself.

Anyway, the first four were taken at American Camp and Jakle's Lagoon, where I love to hike and "look at things." When my dad was here in May, we went to American Camp and I saw some butterflies. The day after he left, I went back with the big camera and Emma and I spent a lovely couple hours following butterflies around.

This is an Island Marble (Euchloe ausonides insulanus) butterfly. I was particularly excited to see this one, because not only was it a new species for my Life List, this subspecies has been petitioned for listing as an Endangered Species. It was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered here on the island in 1998, and American Camp supports the largest remaining population of this subspecies. The feds have to decide by November if it will be listed.

We also saw an Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon), another new one for my Life List:

Most of the wildflowers are nearly done, but Howell's brodiaea (Triteleia grandiflora var. howellii) was all over the place, very pretty.

We also spent some time watching the eagles feeding their two chicks above the beach at Jakle's Lagoon. There's another nest with a single chick at American Camp, less than a mile away, so this is a good area for eagles.

This is the Jakle's Lagoon nest, with an adult on the lookout. The other adult and two babies are out of sight inside the nest, which is the big pile of sticks to the right of the adult. I had Emma in the backpack when we walked this stretch of beach, and she kept whispering in my ear "Quiet Mama, quiet. Don't wake up the baby eagles!" She's well trained in wildlife-viewing protocols. Not to worry, though, we were very quiet and slow, and the adults didn't get agitated at all when we passed. I expect they're used to activity, though, since they chose to nest on a fairly heavily visited beach.

Lastly, here are a couple shots of the Rufous Hummingbirds that have been visiting my feeder all spring. I've seen as many as three females/juveniles at one time:

And two males:

This picture doesn't show it, but when the male is turned just right his throat feathers catch the light and are brilliant red.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Not a fibery post today, but a flowery one. My yard is so pretty right now, I had to share what's blooming.

First, there's the shrub rose. This was a pretty scrawny trailing bunch of sticks when we moved into the house. It was probably planted the summer before we moved in. Now, two years later, it's about four feet tall and three feet across. Lovely and full and absolutely covered with buds. It's a multifloral type, and each branch ends with a big spray of about 15 or so 3" flowers rather than a single larger flower. I'll have to make sure and get a picture when the big sprays of flowers start opening.

Next is the lavender. Only two species blooming so far, the Lavandula dentata 'Goodwin Creek Gray':

and a Lavandula stoechas cultivar that I don't know the name of, but which is pretty just the same. This was the earliest blooming lavender in the garden.

In bud and yet to bloom are "Munstead," "Jean Davis," "Walvera," and "Grosso" varieties of lavender. I've enjoyed the lavender so much that I started a little lavender nursery so I can take plants with me when we move to La Grande. Not all of these are for me- I'll just take one plant of each variety. A friend said she wished she had a couple lavender plants so I started some for her as well, for a surprise gift.

The fuchsia pots that I planted last year made it through the winter (though they did go dormant and lose all their leaves) and have greened up nicely this spring. The first flower bud just started opening on Monday.

I planted these myself last year, because I didn't want to spend $56 on two baskets of fuchsias. Since they overwintered, that means I am getting $112 worth of fuchsia baskets for $15! This makes me feel perhaps smugger than is strictly necessary.

I planted two new hanging pots this year, again for a total of $15, with Bacopa in them. These started out with three 1" starts in them. That was six weeks ago.

Bacopa grows fast! This plant is nice because it doesn't need to be deadheaded, it just keeps blooming and blooming and blooming....

Next is the Geum borisii that's in the backyard. Nice little mounding plant, with flower stems that get about a foot tall. These have also been blooming for at least six weeks. They'll make a lovely punch of color next to the "Grosso" lavender when it comes into bloom in a week or so. Beautiful clear orange.

I also have some volunteer sunflowers that came up under the bird feeders this year. Thanks birdies! Not blooming yet, but growing like crazy. There are also some feathery-looking plants on the right and in front, that I'm letting grow. I'm not sure what it is- it looks sort of like a cosmos plant, but I wouldn't think cosmos would be in a birdseed mix. It'll be a surprise.

Lastly, Emma and I had a harvest day yesterday. We got some lavender and mint ready to dry. This is "Goodwin Creek Gray" lavender, not quite as fragrant as the "Grosso" but still very nice in tea or a lemon cake.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Look what came to live at my house yesterday!

A 18" two-harness table loom! A friend recently bought a Baby Wolf loom, and had to get rid of one of her other looms in order to make room (I suspect her husband may have had something to do with this...) so she asked if she could give it to me. Ummm... let me think...

It's only two harnesses, so it won't do a whole lot more than my rigid heddle loom, but it sure is easier to use, and it does have the option of different setts (spacing of the warp threads), which the rigid heddle lacks. It came with a 12-dent reed and about 200 string heddles. The reed is changable (yay!), so it will accomodate lots of different size yarns.

I had intended to work on the daffodil crochet piece (and ONLY the daffodils) this week with the goal of completing the project by Sunday night, but needless to say, when this loom showed up at my house, I was immediately distracted.

I measured up a three yard log cabin warp (the long-awaited placemat project that I've been thinking about for more than two years), sleyed the reed, threaded the heddles, wound the warp onto the back beam, tied the beginning to the front beam, wove the header, and wove about 6 inches of the log cabin fabric last night. All that took about 6 1/2 hours, split between Emma's afternoon nap and after she went to bed.

I wove about another foot today, and really need to measure what I've done so far. In my excitement, I may have overshot what I need for the first placemat. (oops)

This is the first "fancy" weaving I've done. Some warp-striped placemats were my first project on the rigid heddle loom, but that doesn't really count. The log cabin pattern is neat, because it's just regular over-under-over-under plain tabby weave, but you place the thread colors in such a way that they supposedly create the basketweave look- the "log cabins."

You know what? It really works!!! It's like magic, plain weave producing this intricate pattern.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Interesting factoid for the day:

The Oregon Trail passed right through La Grande, Oregon. It is now called B Avenue.

For some reason, I find it very cool that I will be living in an Oregon Trail town. Pioneers and "west" and all that.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Since I seem to be on a spinning kick at the moment, as well as in the ongoing housecleaning grind (to keep the house neat in the apparently vain hope that someone, ANYONE, will come look at it and want to buy it) I decided to do a little closet-diving and reorganized my fiber closet yesterday. It wasn’t really too messy, but I knew there was weird hand-me-down acrylic yarn in there that I was never going to use, which might as well go to the thrift store. I weeded a bit, managed to consolidate three boxes into two, and tidied things up.

The secondary purpose of this project was to find something to spin, since I finished the purple fiber. I found some very yummy alpaca that was a gift from a friend about three years ago. She works at a local alpaca farm, and this bag of raw fiber was left behind when the previous owners sold the farm to the people who run it now.

Alpaca isn’t greasy like sheep’s wool, so I’m not even washing it first. I spent about three hours yesterday afternoon carding, and I have to tell you, this stuff is fabulous!

I have a total of 14.2 oz (400 g) of this fiber, and I’ve carded six batts so far, each about 20 grams. After it’s sent through the carder three times it looks lovely. I can’t wait to spin this. I’m thinking (what else…) a laceweight two-ply for a knitted lace something-or-other. Perhaps a square Shetland style shawl- never made one of those, so maybe it’s time. (But no starting another knitted lace project until after I finish the sea urchin shawl!)

This fiber doesn’t have any coarse guard hair in it, the staple length is about 4”, and it has a nice gentle crimp. Handling it is like trying to manipulate smoke. You can’t even really feel the fiber, it’s so soft.

And the COLOR. This is undyed fiber, straight off the alpaca’s back. It’s deep, sooty, velvety, warm black.

It’s very hard to photograph black fiber, and this doesn’t really do it justice. Even without the flash, I still got some reflection. The brownish tint that shows on the right hand side isn’t really there.

I got a quarter of the fiber carded yesterday; hopefully I can do the rest this weekend. I’m still plugging away at the daffodil filet crochet piece, and that will be my project to work on tonight. I’ve made it up to row 76 (of 138), but an unfortunate incident involving Emma, a glass of water, and my chart means that I have to print the chart again before doing any more on that project. I’ve decided that I will finish the daffodil piece before picking up the sea urchin shawl again. The daffodils and the shawl are both “long haul” projects, and I do better with only one of those active at once. I would like to have the shawl finished for the County Fair in August, though. There. August 13. I’ve publicly committed to a deadline. (Or perhaps I should be committed….)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I finally finished spinning the latest batch of Ashland Bay colonial top, which I started in March then didn’t work on at all for more than a month.

This is 1120 yards and 15 oz /430 g of puffy, squishy, delicious two-ply. It’s about 11 wpi. I made a conscious effort while I was spinning the singles to make them a bit thicker than my default yarn and not put too much twist in, so that the two-ply would be soft and lofty. I spun this worsted, though, so it’s not quite as lofty as a woolen-spun yarn would be. I’m going to use this for weaving and I wanted a yarn that would hold up as warp. It seems to be a good compromise between soft and strong.

I love this color, too. The official Ashland Bay name is “Burgundy,” but it looks nothing like what I picture as burgundy. It’s an almost perfect plummy eggplant color, which my camera refuses to capture, shot through with red and yellow and green and blue. Multicolor rovings make such a lively yarn!

I'll close there for now, before Blogger crashes again and I get kicked out. I couldn't access my blog all day yesterday, and most of this morning. Darn it, I had yarn pictures to post!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

My African violet started blooming again yesterday.

This is the first time it's bloomed in more than a year. When I was in Maine for a month last spring after my mom's accident, it got very dehydrated, wilted, limp, and completely hopeless-looking. It lost more than half its leaves and all its buds, and though the remaining leaves recovered within a week of when I returned home and it grew new leaves, it wouldn't bloom.

It needed a quiet rest period, a time out, a break. I can't help but feel that this flower is a hopeful triumph.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I've spent the past two evenings plying up all the warp for this year's Sheep-to-Shawl. This is the Romney lamb/baby alpaca blend that I started spinning at the end of April- the rest of the spinners finally got their singles done, and I was able to ply.

This is 1475 yards of somewhat uneven yummy softness. Perhaps it was the alpaca, but it seemed like the singles were more uneven than they have been in the past. Too much twist was the biggest problem. But, I know it will be fine once it's woven up. I'm going to spinning today (in about 10 minutes) and will deliver it to the weaver so she can start warping. We're using it undyed again this year.

Emma and I went for a walk yesterday, on the trail behind the lab where I work. Along the way, we came across a big patch of salmonberries.