Friday, June 29, 2007

The first clue of the Mystery Stole was released today. I was awake at 5:30 for some reason (gah), and decided that since I couldn't sleep, I might as well get up. I checked the website, and lo and behold, the clue was there!

I haven't printed it yet, but I knit Chart A (half the first clue) directly from the computer screen, in about an hour and a half. I haven't started Chart B yet, since it crosses two pages and I want to print it and tape it together. Triangular points go so fast!

I ended up going with the US3 needles and the pearly beads. So far so good!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Panda Cory Show, now on Day 36- five full weeks!

This is the same individual I've been photographing all along, the largest of the batch. He... I keep saying "he," but that's just convenience... I have no idea if this is a "he" or "she," but "he" is nicer than saying "it"... he is ~1/2" long, and developing beautifully. As you can see, he's getting some more pigmentation. In addition to the eye band, which has been there for a couple weeks, he's getting some spots of black at the base of his tail and in the dorsal fin. For reference, here's the picture I posted of one of the adults. Hard to tell in that picture against the driftwood, but the dorsal fin is completely black.

There has been a rash of unexplained deaths this week, mostly among the younger set of fry. I'm not sure why, but I'm down to 8 babies, now. They seemed to not be eating very well, and sort of wasted away. Very sad. I also took out the rock permanently, as I think the waste and uneaten food that tended to collect in the inaccessible area behind it was degrading the water quality. So now the tank is just plain sand, and will hopefully do better. It's certainly easier to clean this way.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Yesterday I swatched for the mystery stole, since I have never knit anything with Jaggerspun Zephyr. I was pretty sure that I would end up using 3.5mm (US4) needles, but never having used the yarn, I wanted to see for myself.

Left to right, that's US3, 4, and 5, after washing and blocking. The 5's are definitely out, since the fabric I got with those was too open and loosey-goosey. I'm still waffling between the 3's and 4's. I do like the way the 3 swatch looks, but am thinking the stockinette isn't quite open enough. I'll probably end up going with the 4's. Plus, I have an Addi Lace needle in US4. Have you tried those? Very nice, though way too expensive.

The other thing I'm waffling about is which beads to use. Emma and I went to the bead store when we were off island last week, and had way too much fun. Somehow, Emma has turned into a girly girl- she gravitated right to the sparkliest pink section of beads. Then again, she spent this morning in the sandbox building roads and lakes, and is completely grubby now, so I guess there's hope for her. She's figured out how to get the best of both worlds.

I picked out three colors of beads (8/0 seed beads) to try with the yarn:

Left to right, that's pearlized, white-lined clear, and silver-lined clear. I like them all pretty well, but the white-lined clear ones have definitely been eliminated for this project. They don't seem to show up much against the fabric. I can't decide between the silvery ones, which really sparkle, and the pearly ones, which are more refined but don't pop as much.

Right now the pearly ones are marginally ahead. I'm not a very flashy person, and considered doing the stole without beads at all, but I've never knit lace with beads before, and would like to try it out.

Little tubes of beads are like candy. So many options, so many choices, so delicious to the eye. In addition to the white beads for this stole,

I was also forced (forced, I tell you) to get a variety of choices in case I do a knitted/beaded project in a dark color, maybe black or dark purple...

Midnight blue metallic iris, black-lined clear, and hematite. Yum.

These are for knitting or crochet ONLY. I really AM NOT going to take up beading as another hobby.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I enjoy my evenings after Emma goes to bed, which is usually around 8:00pm. It's "me" time, with no interruptions. Last night was very good.

Emma was bouncing off the walls, because we had had a busy day; we were both tired, and my fuse was a bit short. I was trying to read my email, so I sent her in to bug Shaun, who was reading in the bedroom. That was about 7:00pm.

I continued to read and surf around. I took this picture at around 7:15. Naia (the cat) often curls up next to me when Emma has been out of the room for a while, especially in the evening, probably because the love-mauling danger goes way down when she's not around. He was exceptionally snuggly this night, which did make it somewhat more difficult to use the mouse.

At 7:45, I realized that I hadn't heard any sounds from Emma or Shaun in a while. I untangled myself from the cat and peeked into my bedroom.

Both out cold at 7:45. Shaun is enjoying the class he's teaching, but it's full tilt activity all day, and is quite exhausting and intense. Unfortunately, he had to be at a class activity at 8:00, so I had to wake him up. I left Emma where she was.

I pulled out my wheel, put a Harry Potter dvd in the computer, and had a lovely evening to myself.

The wool is a Border Leicester/alpaca blend that we are spinning for the Sheep to Shawl warp. I spun three batts into singles, and I'm also the plyer again this year. I plied three stuffed-full bobbins of two-ply today, and have probably another bobbin left to go. This is about 2/3 of what we'll need for the practice shawl on July 10 and the real shawl at the Fair in August.

I'm enjoying spinning here. The armchair in our cottage at the Lab is a perfect, PERFECT spinning chair. It's just the right height for me, just the right depth, and wide enough that my elbows don't feel crowded but the arms are low enough that I can still put my arm up on the chair arm if I want to. I can lean back and treadle at the same time, so my back is supported. I wonder if anyone would notice if I took it home....

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Panda Cory Show is having a very successful Season 2. A month! We made it to a month! The fry are 27 and 10 days old now, and as far as I can tell, I have 15 (maybe 14) of the 18 fry still swimming about. The younger set is still pretty hard to see against the sand, so it was hard to count them, but the four older ones are definitely still alive. I know for sure I lost three of the fry because they had some sort of malformation or injury, and couldn't swim except in frantic spirals. It was kind of a relief when they expired. The rest look good- they're eating and swimming, and seem healthy. I love watching their bellies fill up when they eat.

I took the java fern and rocks out of the tank this afternoon so I could do a thorough cleaning of the sand (food and waste tends to collect behind the rocks, where I can't get at it), and took the opportunity to get a headcount and some pictures.

It's blurry because of my camera's horrible video quality, but you can see the specks of cory fry zooming around. It's so fun watching them nose around in the sand looking for bits of food.

The biggest of the lot is really looking like a fish now, with fins and everything!

He still has a bit of the finfold left, but the unpaired fins that develop from it (dorsal, adipose, anal, and caudal fins) are well developed, as are the paired pectoral and pelvic fins. His body shape has really changed, too. This guy is much deeper-bodied and shorter-tailed, relative to total length.

I tried to get a video of him nosing around in search of morsels in the sand, but this was the best I could get.

You can see how he does the typical cory pattern of "nose nose nose I FOUND SOMETHING chew chew rest rest rest nose nose nose." So very cute.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

So what am I going to be doing this summer? This:

I didn't bring a lot, but most of what I did bring is time consuming. Because that's how I get the biggest bang for my fiber buck, dontcha know. Clockwise from the top left, I have spinning, spinning, knitting, crochet, crochet, and crochet. The merino scarf you've seen before, and the ball of white thread next to it is for crocheting bookmarks like the one shown (to sell at the Fair), or possible a doily. The two balls of cotton yarn are for crocheting a potholder. (Which is already done, see below. This was not one of the time consuming projects.)

As for the rest, first there is 8 oz. of Louet 80/20 merino/silk in the colorway "Princess Blue," which is a gorgeous streaky blend of dark dark dark midnight blue wool and white silk:

(This picture makes the blue look brighter than it really is. In real life it's almost black.)

Next is 16 oz. of Ashland Bay colonial top, in the colorway "Northern Lights," which is one of their beautiful multicolored mixes. This one has black as the base color, with generous streaks of teal, royal blue, chestnut brown, emerald green, tan, gray, and just a bit of lavender.

(Again, this is brighter and more colorful in the picture than in real life.) My sister gave these two delightful bundles of fiber to me last Christmas, and it's high time I dove into them. I'm thinking laceweight 2-ply for the merino/silk, and sportweight 3-ply for the Ashland Bay. I haven't made Emma her yearly sweater yet.....

I also brought a cone of Jaggerspun Zephyr laceweight and a range of needles for swatching. Somewhat to my surprise, I found myself joining the Mystery Stole 3 over at Pink Lemon Twist. I've never done an "along" before, and I'm not entirely sure what came over me. I'm not usually a lemming. But her other designs are pretty, and I figured this was a good summer project. Not having to tax my brain to design the pattern will be nice- I can just knit it. (Me and the other 1464 knitters who have signed up so far..... )

I haven't mentioned it before, but I'm teaching an "Introduction to Crochet" class this weekend, so I've been making samples and getting my handout together. Perhaps it would have been better to start this more than three weeks before the class, but what can I say- I'm a procrastinator. I'm nervous but not too worried. I haven't taught a class since grad school (12 years) but I can crochet in my sleep.

One of the samples I made last night is this potholder:

Front and back. It's Tunisian crochet (afghan stitch), very basic. Just chain 30 stitches, work even for 26 rows, make another the same, and attach them with single crochet around the outside. I used Sugar 'n Cream cotton yarn and an H afghan hook. It took me about two hours total. These are great potholders. I have several at home that I use all the time (hence the need to make a new, unstained one for the class) and I've never gotten burned or even felt the heat of a pan. They are super thick and sturdy.

This is the first time I made one with variegated yarn, and I really like the way it turned out. Each side is a different colorway, and I especially like the way the blue/green/yellow side came out.

Because of the way the afghan stitch is worked, the colors are mixed more than in regular crochet, and it looks more shaded than color-blocky. A nice effect.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Well, we made it to Friday Harbor. The trip was pretty uneventful, though I truly hate the stress of packing and moving. Especially un-fun was the stress of packing for three months. We're basically setting up housekeeping here for the summer, but Shaun also had to bring a bunch of lab equipment, so the space in the car was limited. In addition to the aquariums and the cat, I wanted to bring my spinning wheel and some fibery things to play with during the summer, Emma has a few toys, Shaun has his bike and assorted training gear (running, swimming, biking: he's doing a triathlon in July). We did save some space by leaving the big litterbox at home and getting a smaller litter pan, and having the car-top carrier for the suitcases and non-fragile gear really made it possible to bring all our toys.

We're actually not supposed to have pets (cats or dogs) here at all, so we're being all illegal and sneaky-like. We did end up leaving Cobalt (our dog) at home, since she's too hard to hide, but we had to bring Naia (the cat) because our housesitter is allergic to cats. We're also not supposed to have anyone else but us live in the house in La Grande, according to our lease, so I guess this is our summer of sneakiness and rule-breaking.

I won't even go into all the feeling of guilt and abandonment that I feel about leaving Cobalt behind. She is doing much better, and has somewhat recovered from her troubles last spring, but she's still not her old self. I hope she doesn't have any more problems before we get home. I've never been away from her for this long, since we got her in 1994. And to abandon her when she's semi-ill.....I feel terrible. (Because she's more than a pet, she's a friend.)

Anyway, I'll move on to The Panda Cory Show. Season 2.5 started yesterday.

I had the four fry, and seven eggs that I found on June 1. When I was breaking down the tank for the move yesterday, I found seven more eggs on the java fern in the main tank. So I packed up the four big fry and the 14 eggs in their own cooler container, the adult fish in a separate one, and piled the fry tank and all the aquarium supplies in the empty tank. Tra la la, off we went to Friday Harbor. Eleven hours later, (7 1/2 hour drive (including breaks for lunch and dinner), 45 minute wait for the ferry, and 2 1/2 hour ferry ride- I love how the last 20 miles takes a third of the total trip time), we got to the island. First thing I did was to open the fish containers so they could get some air. When I opened the fry container, I saw this:

Every single egg hatched during the drive! I now have 18 panda cory fry! I'm pretty impressed by the toughness of this species. The adults recovered much faster from the trauma of the ride than the tetras did, and were actually mating about half an hour after I put them in the tank. The tetras were still looking a bit pale and stressed (different water, shock of travel, etc), and hiding under the driftwood, but the cories were, well, yeah...

It's amazing how much the older fry have grown. They are 20 days old today, and the difference between them and the day-old fry is huge.

I mean, yes, they are both pretty tiny, but what a difference three weeks makes! I put all 18 into the fry tank, and the younger ones immediately dove for cover. If I didn't know they were in there, I would have no idea. The older fry nosed around a bit, ate some of the flake food I put in, and took up their stations under the rocks and plants. The largest of the four big fry likes to hang out under the front of the rock with the java fern on it.

He seems to rest there a lot, in between trundling around the tank, sifting through the sand and looking for food particles. I just love these fish.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The scarf continues to grow. I worked on it for a couple hours last night, and am about a third of the way through the ball. I don't think it's going to be quite as long as I thought.

I'm loving the way the subtle stripes are forming.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Panda Cory Show, day 16. The fry are now solidly 3/8" long, and have filled out a lot.

Even more exciting is this picture:

If you click to enlarge, you can see the start of real fins!! There are rays in the dorsal and tail fins, and distinct fin outlines beyond the outline of the finfold.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I started a scarf yesterday, in a lattice crochet pattern.

The yarn is the laceweight I spun from the roving from Liz, and the pattern is one I made up as I went along.

Surprisingly, I think this is the first time I have crocheted with my own handspun. I had to stop and think about that, but I think it's true. I have only ever knitted and woven with handspun. I'm liking the way this is working up, and I plan to crochet until I get to the end of the ball. Based on what I have so far, that should give a scarf that is approximately 8" x 70".

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Panda Cory Show is still going strong. I'm pleased to report that the remaining four fry are now 14 days old, two full weeks. This feels like a triumph, since the oldest one of the last batch only made it to 11 days. I hadn't seen all four at the same time recently, and usually I only see one at a time, but when I fed them last night, I saw all four at once! They are so cute, the way they hop around the tank and nibble at the food particles in the sand.

See that white blob behind his head? That's a full tummy! They have really gotten the hang of this eating thing. After I feed them microworms, their stomachs turn white like that, and after I feed crushed flakes, their stomachs turn orange.

I also added seven more eggs to the tank on Friday. They are looking pretty close to hatching, probably in the next day or so.

new eggs and 14 day old fry

The adults are still spawning every couple days, so maybe at some point I'll see a juvenile cory appear in the main tank as if from nowhere. If any survive the tetra gauntlet, that is. Those guys will eat anything that moves, if it fits in their mouths!

Of course, now that I've bragged about two-week-old fry, they will probably all die. This coming weekend is going to be stressful, in any case. We're going back up to Friday Harbor for the summer so Shaun can teach a class and do research, and the fish have to come along, since we're going to be gone for close to three months. I'm a bit apprehensive about this. The adults handled the move from FH to La Grande just fine last fall, but I'm afraid the fry won't make it.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Emma and I enjoyed our first ever strawberry harvest today.

They were delicious! They're so much (SO MUCH) better than grocery store strawberries, even if they are smaller. We have lots more coming, on the six plants on our patio, and the berries that formed later seem to be getting bigger.

Picking strawberries with my mom and sister at the local u-pick place, then processing them to freeze, is one of my favorite memories from growing up. The smell of those two berries we picked today, all warm from the sun, immediately transported me back to age 14.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Emma and I went on an excursion to Catherine Creek State Park yesterday afternoon. We had fun hiking a bit, splashing in the creek, and looking at the pebbles and various critters.

In addition to the water striders, which Emma found fascinating, we saw lots of Variable Checkerspots (New for my Life List! The ones I saw looked like the "chalcedon" form/subspecies/population/variety), and several of what I think are rainbow trout juveniles. Please correct me if I'm wrong!

Speaking of fish, The Panda Cory Show has a redecorated set.

On our way back this afternoon, I picked up a handful of coarse sand from Catherine Creek (not from inside the State Park, farther downstream in a field). I've been reading up online about raising cories, and one thing most sources say is that it's better to keep fry (and adults, for that matter) on some sort of substrate. Even with cleaning, bacteria, fungi, and other nasties can build up a film on the bottom of a bare tank that can erode the cory's barbels and pectoral fins, since they are bottom-dwellers and are basically resting on it constantly.

I was going to use the gravel I have in the main tank, but decided the grain size was too big and the little babies would get down in between the grains and risk getting crushed. So I added some sand. I didn't want really fine sand, because it's a pain to clean, but at the same time I wanted smooth grains because sharp sand is too abrasive. Catherine Creek is a fairly high energy stream, so the sand is well polished.

This was taken yesterday afternoon, when the babies were 10 days old. Can you find him? The fry are much harder to see now, but I think this will be better for them. They probably feel more secure on the dark substrate, as well. They are starting to get more pigmentation, and have the eye band just like the adults now.

I also put in another rock from the main tank. I lost two of the fry on Tuesday night, and I wanted to be sure the tank had enough good bacteria to keep it healthy, so I added another rock.