Ice Out and Critters Return – Welcome Spring!

The Critter

As soon as the ice goes out (this year it happened on April 6th) the water birds and critters return to the lake. It’s miraculous, really, that they know when it’s safe to come back out on the lake. This year we heard reports from the northern end of the lake that the loons had returned while our section of the lake was still covered by ice. BUT as soon as the ice was gone, the loons were calling from the cove. There’s nothing quite like living so close to nature. We are so grateful to be able to witness the seasonal changes, to watch the sun change its position in the sky, and to know that there are more miracles coming soon when the babies are back with their parents. It won’t be long.

Since the ice went out, we’ve seen all the weather. Beautiful blue bird skies, thick fog and days of rain. Fortunately, it seems that mud season was relatively short this year and early. I had some white knuckle trips down our road and I may have let a few four-letter words escape my lips while hoping that my car wouldn’t get stuck in the mud.

I’ve been knitting like a mad woman. I seem to want to cast on all the new projects and I am trying to stay focused on finishing some, too.

Grandma’s Favorite

I’ve got a full basket of cotton yarns that I’ve collected over the years. I am trying to knit down the stash and one of my favorite projects is dishcloths/washcloths that I’ll pop into my gift drawer and pull out as needed. These two are from deeply stashed yarn from a big box store and they’re obviously seasonal. We use them here at home and the kids like them, too. They’re great stocking stuffers or as a gift with a special bar of soap. The pattern is so simple and easy to remember which makes these dishcloths good TV knitting.

Arne & Carlos Advent Jumpers

I’m almost half-way through the collection of Advent jumpers from Arne and Carlos. I love knitting these little sweaters and they knit up so quickly. I’m using Patagonia Organic Merino yarn from Juniper Moon Farm and, I have to say, this is my favorite yarn right now. I’ve made my Humlebi Shawl in it and I’ve got the charcoal gray colorway set aside to make an Emsworth vest. Number 12 will likely be finished by the end of the day today. I like to spend Sunday knitting for fun. I also like to bake and I’ve eaten all of my granola and my baked oatmeal.

Patsy’s Traveling Sweater

The body of my Traveling Sweater is nearly done (it may, actually be done but I have to measure it again to make sure.) This has been a fun knit. Patsy is a customer who has come into the store a bunch of times to purchase Plymouth Gina yarn for the sweaters that she makes. She has a Facebook page for the sweaters because she’s knitted over 100 of them. I have loved the sweater since I first saw it and have almost bought the yarn once before. When we heard that Plymouth was discontinuing the yarn, I put aside what colors we had in the shop and the boss ordered bags of each remaining color. When they came in, I bought the yarn and cast on my sweater.

The pattern is a Knitting Plain and Simple pattern #9724, Neck Down Pullover for Women. These patterns are simple beginner patterns and are knit top down in the round with minimal seaming. The sizing is somewhat size-inclusive but they certainly could be expanded. It would be wonderful if they added full stitch counts, too. But I recommend these patterns often for customers and students knitting their first garments. I’ve chosen 10 colorways of the Gina yarn and have randomly pulled them out of the bag to knit next. I have simple knitted the whole ball and then spit-spliced the next ball and kept knitting. I had a bit of a challenge making gauge but I decided that I would use the recommended needles and knit the size larger so that it would fit comfortably. I’m thinking that I may use a folded hem rather than a rolled hem but I haven’t decided yet. I suppose I can knit the rolled hem and then sew it up if I change my mind.

I’ve got to buy one more ball of Gina so that my sleeves, at least at the shoulders, match as closely as possible to the body of the sweater. After that, random is fine.

Spring has sprung!

Gone knitting.

On the Road Again

Marblehead Light from Fort Sewell, Marblehead, MA

The past week I’ve been living “on the road” which is saying that I’m not home. This is the first road trip that I’ve taken by myself in two years. I found myself very anxious when I was leaving the house. My GPS on my car wouldn’t connect, I couldn’t get it to play my podcasts that I had hoped to listen to, nor would it play my music that “I” downloaded (with lots of help and support from my sweet husband.) Turns out that if you turn the car off and then re-start it, that it works. Phew. I was so grateful for my husband’s suggestion.

First stop was to my “oldest” friend’s house in Connecticut to celebrate the life of her son. He died on Valentine’s day in a one car crash. He was 28 years old. The memorial service or “Irish Wake” was wonderfully well put together for Scudder. He didn’t want a church funeral or, really, any formal service. So, we all ate and drank and remembered the young man who was so loved by his family and friends. His sister’s and mother’s lives will be forever changed. I was lucky to be able to spend the night at my friend’s house and chat for a few hours before heading off to Massachusetts.

Second stop was Salem, Massachusetts. My sister-in-love is house and dog sitting for my niece and her husband who are honeymooning in Italy! We haven’t been able to have a lot of girl time since I moved to Maine (we have plenty of time together with husbands and kids and other siblings but not just the two of us) so I really wanted to visit for a couple of days. And I did … and I extended my visit to a week! One of my wonderful co-workers worked for me on Thursday and I cancelled my class (I know, that’s not normal!) on Friday. Today the husbands arrive and we’ll spend the weekend celebrating my nephew who is off on an excellent adventure to Alaska for a few months.

I am knitting! I finished my Humlebi Shawl by Fiber Tales. I knit this shawl in Patagonia Organic Merino by Juniper Moon Farm. I love the oatmealy-gray yarn and the bumble bees that are knitted in around the edge are fabulous! I will block it aggressively rather than gently and I hope it’ll be an ok size for me. I used just over one skein and I’ll weigh the remaining one to figure out how much I used in total. I checked my gauge and I measured 19 sts per inch rather than 17. So, I wasn’t too far off but it probably would have been a bit better for me on a larger needle. It was a fun knit so I may consider knitting it again just to see what happens when I change the gauge to what it’s really supposed to be and I have more yarn.

Humelbi Shawl blocking close-up

I also knitted up a couple of pairs of booties for a new mom (and dad)-to-be. I knitted up the pattern that I found at the store years ago and that I really love to knit. It’s called Sue’s Baby Booties and I knit it up in Cascade Yarn’s FIxation. When I ran out of projects (daughter’s socks are at the toe and I need her foot measurement, Humelbi Shawl was finished except for blocking, and I only had Arne & Carlos’ Advent Jumpers left which take too much concentration to knit in a group) so I cast on another pair for my brother and sister-in-law’s neighbors who just had a baby girl. This pattern makes me so happy! I love all the combinations.

I have reached the toe decreases on the socks for my dear daughter. Plain vanilla socks for the first pair to see how she likes them and how they fit. Since I don’t have her feet to try them on or measure. I sent her a text to trace and measure her foot so I know how long to knit them. We used to have the same shoe size but mine are bigger these days, I guess. Anyway, I’ll put the first sock onto a holder and start on the second sock so I can continue my progress. I’m feeling successful and productive with all these small projects.

Spring in Massachusetts is a couple of weeks ahead of us here in Maine. I can’t wait to see our spring bulbs in bloom. They’re coming!!! The snow in the yard is all gone, the road has already dried up a bit from the muddy mess that it was when I left. The lake is still mostly covered with ice (it’s certainly ice-covered at our house but each end is more open than a week ago) and it’s turning grayer. I’m ready to see the water again.

Gone knitting!

I Learned Something About Loons

You know (don’t you?) that I live on a beautiful lake in Central Maine. We are very fortunate to have a thriving loon population despite the crazy boaters that have caused nests to fail (one year we had two lost eggs on the same nest).

This year, the loon pair nearest to our house had two chicks. They nested on a nesting platform that has been built by our lake association (and is in need of some work). Loons don’t walk on land well. Their legs are located farther back on their bodies than other waterfoul and their bones aren’t hollow like other birds. Loons sit low in the water and are very heavy so nesting is a challenge for them. Regardless, our pair had two eggs and hatched two chicks. We watch them like hawks … and I’m not kidding about that at all. Hawks and eagles and other animals prey on baby loons. They become “my” chicks every year. My neighbors feel the same way.

Two chicks on the adult’s back (photo cottagelife.com)

This year, we have all enjoyed watching the twins with their parents until there was only one twin. My heart was broken that we seemed to have lost one of our sweet chicks. But our local lake tour guy, and a friend of mine who sits on the lake association board of trustees with me, texted me about the “missing” chick that he hadn’t seen for five days. He reached out to another board member who just happens to be our resident nature guy and loon expert. Here’s the skinny …

Feeding the chick (photo birdsoftheworld.org)

Our loon is healthy and well and living in pseudo-captivity for the next few weeks in Massachusetts. And this is the gist of what I’ve learned. There is an organization here in Maine called Biodiversity Research Institute and they’re authorized to move loons (after they’re big enough to feed themselves but before they are able to fly) to Massachusetts to translocate loons in an effort to restore the common loon to an area where they’d disappeared. This is what’s happening to our loon. He or she is helping the loon population to grow in another place. And the BRI program has been very successful over the past several years. This is loon conservation at it’s finest! (Read about the success of the program here!)

More good news … Our remaining loon (and the loon that was translocated) has a significantly better chance of surviving to adulthood. Feeding two chicks is a huge job for the adults. Feeding one chick is a big job. This way, since loons don’t count very well, the adults will be feeding their remaining chick well and they’ll all three be healthier and more prepared calorically for their flight in the near future to the coast. Our loons will winter over in the harbors off the coast of Maine and then in the spring after ice out, our adult pair will return to the lake. The young chick will remain on the ocean for a couple of years before flying “back home” to find a mate. The translocated chick will be fed minnows for a few more weeks and when he/she is ready, will be released on a lake in Massachusetts. That baby loon will fly to the coast from it’s new home in MA. Baby loons navigate “home” based on their first flight.

I am delighted to report that our baby loon is going to be a positive helper in the future wellbeing of the common loon. This kind of program has also helped to bring back Ospreys, Eagles, and other animals. There is currently a program that is working to bring turkeys from Maine to Texas where there used to be a lot of them. (We have tons of them in Maine!)

There you have it! I was so excited that I needed to share.

Gone knitting.

Are you KIDDING me???

We have a “critter” in our yard. A groundhog. It’s been here for a couple of years. We’ve been tolerant … to a point. BUT today I went out to inspect the garden when I was looking for a photograph for my Facebook page and I saw this …

My flowers are JUST starting to grow and they’re chewed down to nubs. The little (not so little in actuality) is getting right over by the house and eating all my tender green perennials! Grrr! This makes me very angry. I have no problem with the critter eating all of the dandelion greens it wants (and there are a lot of them out there in the grass but NOT my garden plants!

And to add insult to injury … this is what I found INSIDE MY SHIRT when I got back inside …

Little F#%$er!

The ticks are out there. I didn’t even touch any plants!

I have an intarsia class to plan … I’ll be itchy for the rest of the day!

Gone knitting.

Grateful for Generators

Sunrise over Sidney, Maine 12/7/2020

It was a glorious start to the day today. We are so lucky to live here and to be able to enjoy Mother Nature’s art work every time we look out the window!

We have been without power (but we have a generator that runs the house) since the Nor’easter hit on Saturday late afternoon and into Sunday. Power blinked on and off a few times, came back on and then went off. My sweet hubby lugged the generator out of the garage and plugged it in. We were back in business.

A couple of hours passed and the power came back on. Hubby went out and covered up the generator and changed the power back over to the house but it wasn’t long before the power flickered and went out again. It’s been out ever since!

Our family around the country says that our Nor’easter has made the news. They’re worrying and here we are warm and doing all the things that we normally do. We are so fortunate!

Beautiful “bluebird” sky this afternoon

Life is Good!

IMG_8438

This is the view from my studio chair this evening. I love when the shore across the lake is all lit up in the afternoon. It really is magnificent.

Today was a good day. Good morning, good day at work, happy to be home and then this view when I looked out the window.

Our plants are blooming and most survived the winter and it feels good to be home. Here are a few pictures of the plants that I took today. I’m no photographer but I sure do love to see things grow!

Wild rose, “ever blooming” rose and yellow iris. The iris have been here forever and continue to spread all across the shore. The roses are both new. Rosa Rugosa (the wild rose) is a native plant and fully expected to live happily against the lakeshore. We shall see about my friend Janet’s gift from last year but I love these flowers. They are fragrant and low-maintenance and bloom all summer long.

How did we get so lucky?

Gone knitting.

Rough Life

My View From the Porch

My View From the Porch

I have a rough life.

Today is my “day off” and I am still sitting in my pajamas on the front porch of our little cabin with my Driftwood sweater in my lap listening to a knitting podcast and listening to the work on our new house progress. Two families of Canada Geese just swam … paddled? … by on the lake. The hummingbirds are coming and going from the feeder.

It’s an absolutely glorious day. There’s a breeze blowing and the sun is shining. Everything here is green now and the day lilies that are so plentiful in our yard are budding. Forget-me-nots and Indian Paintbrush and Daisies are all popping up because the yard is so full of construction materials and rocks and cut wood we can’t really mow the grass. The wildflowers are an extra bonus.

I have a long list of things to do today starting with making the bed and getting dressed. I’ve had a cup of coffee and eaten my yogurt with what’s left of my home-made granola (you can add just the right amount of yogurt to the greek yogurt container and no bowls to wash) and I am due for another cup of coffee before I get moving. (IF I get moving.)

Children's Mukluk Slippers

Children’s Mukluk Slippers for Laine

I’ve gotten several projects finished and have started at least one new one. Finished are my sweet Knitting Pure and Simple’s Muckluck Slipper Socks for my adorable little former student who I got so attached to. I hope she loves them and remembers me when she wears them. I want to make a pair for me because they looks so warm and toasty.

Peds for Megan

Peds for Megan

 

 

 

 

I think I already told you that I finished (and mailed) some ankle socks (peds?) to my sweet mentee for her birthday gift. She loves pink and she loves zebra print and these are a perfect blend of both. I hope they fit – I had to guess since she’s so far away. But the good news from her is that she is living with her new forever family and her adoption should be final in August. This is what I’ve been praying for for her and I am beyond thrilled. She has three sisters and parents who love her and are willing to make the commitment to her forever. I can’t wait to meet the rest of her family and hope they’ll be coming up for a visit next summer! I have another ball of yarn to make another pair of socks providing they fit. Or I’ll make them differently so they do fit! I used as a base, Susan B. Anderson’s How I Make My Socks pattern from her website. I knit only 9 rounds of ribbing and then proceeded to the heel. Next time I might choose to knit 3 or 4 rounds of ribbing to make them even shorter.

New to the needles is my shawl that’s being knitted in Manos’ Serena yarn in two colorways. I picked two similarly toned yarns one with a gray, green colorway called Horizon (9791) and the other with the same green and pinks and corals called Wildflowers (8931). These colors are all soft and pastel-shades. I chose them because they were different than all the other shawls that I have. The pattern is a free pattern that came with the yarn, Shadow Shawl. It’s a very (VERY!) simple two-row striped shawl with yarn overs at the edge and down the center of the triangle. I must admit that I have frogged it once because I realized that I had made some counting mistakes early on and had one spot where there was no “division” for several rows more than was written in the pattern and another spot where I made the same mistake but not for as long. I considered leaving it as a “design element” but decided I was not going to be happy with it. So, I’ve started again and will pay more attention to counting to FOUR!

I am making great progress on my Driftwood sweater and am praying while knitting that I have enough yarn to finish the whole sweater and make long sleeves. I’ve chosen to forgo the stripes as written in the pattern and am making it more color-blocks. I’ve had this beautiful wool from Seacolors Yarn (Washington, Maine) for several years and it’s actually been a sweater and frogged once. I’ve reached the point where the sweater is joined and will keep plugging on the body until I have very little of the orangey-coraly yarn left (I want some for the tops of the sleeves) and then I will change to the dappled greeny-yellowy yarn for the rest of the body and one sleeve. I also have a lovely shade of medium blue that will be another sleeve and the collar and button band. I am eager to see it finished. I hope that it fits!

So, there you have it. I am also working on two quilts and working in my wonderful yarn shop, Yardgoods Center, in Waterville, Maine. I work on Tuesday and Thursday and some Fridays, too. Business has been a bit slow but I absolutely love it. Yardgoods Center is a family-owned business that has been around for almost 66 years! Come visit me and I’ll help you spend your money … or give you some help with a knitting project!

Gone knitting.

 

Empty Nests

Baby birds have left the building

The baby birds have left the building.

I have been watching a nest full of baby birds this summer.

When I first arrived here in Maine, the nest was active (mom and dad were flying in and out) but I couldn’t see anything in the nest. After a few weeks, the tippety tops of baby heads were visible. In the last week or so the nest has been very full of four little birds who would huddle in the nest together and stare back at me when I peeked out from our bedroom window.

I tried on several occasions to get a decent photograph of the babies in the nest but mom and dad would dive-bomb me and I didn’t dare spend enough time to take said picture.

So, the best thing that I can do is report that the the babies have all fledged as of yesterday morning. The first baby flew into the living room window. Fortunately, not hard enough to harm him or her. Just enough to perhaps stun it for a little while – it sat on the sill for a few minutes before flying off with mom and dad. The last baby fledged (left the nest) yesterday morning. And they haven’t come back. I keep checking the nest. It’s still empty.

My statement to myself was, “The empty nest is a little bit sad” (or something like that) and I realized that it’s true in our house today. Once again  … our nest is empty and we’re a little bit sad this morning.

I was so lucky to have been a full-time stay-at-home mom and as my kids grew up and went on their ways (as they should), it was sad. They are all full-fledged (coincidence?) adults now and they’re happy and productive and I am so proud of them. I’m proud of myself, too. My job was to raise them to be decent human beings and then let them go to build a life of their own making. It’s not easy letting them go. There were (and still are) times when I can get very sad but I love it when we get to visit.

But time flies so quickly. And, today, no longer having my daughter and her boyfriend and little pup in the house, I’m a little bit sad. And I know that they are a little bit sad, too, as they start their long journey back to Chicago. It was a fun visit and we built some new memories. Double-fisted drinking, “binocularing”, sighting a family of loons with two babies, listening to the loons, hearing the osprey overhead, slapping mosquitoes, and sharing this beautiful place that we are so fortunate to enjoy.

It’s good that I can feel sadness because it means that I’ve felt joy. And I’ve had a lot of joy.

Gone knitting.

I Love Sandhill Cranes

I am my father’s daughter. He chased the elusive Pileated Woodpecker for his entire life. (I’m not sure if he ever saw one in the wild.) He also talked a lot about the Roseate Spoonbill which, as far as I know, also eluded him.

One of the (few) things that I really love about living in Florida is the birds and one of my favorites is the Sandhill Crane. They seldom are alone and almost every morning we have a pair or trio of them flying over our house. As they fly they make the most remarkable sounds. These are not little birds, they probably are four or five feet tall.

Here’s a link to a YouTube video so you can hear what we have the privilege of hearing on a regular basis. Quite a lovely sound  … thanks to Mother Nature!

Gone knitting.