Saturday, March 31, 2012

My life with birds

This has been a day to recover from, and as I write this I'm trying simply to let it all go...

It's that window in the dining room. When will I learn? Quite honestly, I thought everything was well under control. We have gone a good long while without incident, and a more-or-less weekly inspection continually gives the green light. The birds used to have headquarters at this window until about 4 years ago when I moved them all to their current home. There was a reason for the move, a very good reason soon to be revealed. ...

When I was just about finished feeding the birds this morning I headed into the dining room to get an ear of corn from the refrigerator. They love the stuff and I figure their successful raising of so many babies is at least partially attributable to corn on the cob. It must be good feed for those tiny little crops. Turning back to the doorway into the bird's room I noticed her (or is it a he? Who knows!) hanging from a branch by her beak. They do that sometimes, feigning to be in trouble, flapping their feet in the air as if helpless. It's pretty endearing really.

She (or he, as the case may be--it requires surgery to determine a lovebird's sex for certain) didn't feel like hanging helpless as soon as she saw me come back into the room so she let go of the branch. That was the beginning of the day's travails. She didn't fly up to perch as she would normally. She flew but didn't make it all the way and ended up landing on the seed platform. Was she weak? Was she struggling? I couldn't tell. It always stops me in my tracks when I perceive--correctly or not--a problem with one of the birds. She didn't look right and I started to brace myself for a hectic and possibly painful day, or at least a bumpy patch in the road.

After impaling the cob of corn on an end of a branch of the "tree" in the bird's room I decided I'd better go get a towel with which to catch her. They don't like human hands--those that are not hand raised--and it works much better to catch them with hands covered by a towel. It also spares me physical pain because their jaws are very strong and their beaks very sharp. My skin is no match. They're not the least interested in biting me only where I have enough fortitude, but seem very often to latch on to the most vulnerable flesh. Finger tips, etc. So off to fetch the towel and when I returned I couldn't find her. "Was she on the floor?", I wondered. No. "Did she fly into the dining room and end up under some furniture?", I worried. An inspection turned up nothing. So perhaps it was all just a momentary blip in this bird's life. Maybe she'd simply become flustered about something and was thrown off her equilibrium. Whatever. She was lost in "the crowd". Oh good. That's a relief. Maybe the day was going to be OK after all. Just a false alarm.

So I went to practice the piano figuring I would check the birds more frequently than normal just to be sure. All went well and I practiced about an hour and a half. It was during the last break I took to check up on them when I saw her again, feigning to be in trouble by handing by her beak. But now I was pretty sure she wasn't faking it. No. This time when she flew up she tried to perch but her feet were paralyzed. Oh damn. Damn. Damn! I recognized the symptoms right away. "Oh crap... This hasn't happened in a while and I really thought we were over it... That damned window...", the thoughts were racing through my head. The problem when everything goes well for quite a while is that it's easy to start taking things for granted.

So I caught her--it's relatively easy to capture a bird that is ill--and placed her in my "hospital" cage, and called the vet. I was able to secure an appointment for 4:30. The timing, at least, was perfect. Something about the day was going well.

The thing about that window in the dining room is that it has many layers of paint on it. Some of the under layers of paint were put on several decades ago when paint contained lead and lead causes neurological disorders when it is ingested. Birds, being of small size with delicate systems have a much lower tolerance for it. Lead poisoning is no joke. While waiting to leave for the vets I poked around that window to see if I could uncover any recent chewing. I had covered over all the spots that caused a problem those 4 years ago--with wood putty--and they were still secure. I lifted the valance at the very top (there are no curtains in this window, just a 12" valance) and there it was: a quarter sized chipping of paint all the way down to the wood. Apparently started from a tiny crack in the paint where the joins of the wood casing come together. If there's a way to get chewing on something, these birds will find it.

I can't believe this has happened again. What's certain is they won't be allowed in the dining room again until I figure out how to remove this dangerous situation. I may end up stripping all the old paint off. I think it has to be done. No matter that I think they're over their penchant for chewing in that area I cannot take the risk again.

Thankfully there are treatments for lead poisoning, and I have had pretty good luck with them in the past. The wallet took a hit: car service to the vets, the vet bill (oooooh la la!), the medicine ($64 alone!), a taxi to get to the pharmacy (I would have taken the subway but I had the bird with me) and a taxi to get home. Beaucoup d'argent.

Well, we're all home now and settled in. The bird will need to be sequestered for the next 5 days while I administer 2 units of chelating agent (Succinor, I think) and 3 units of Baytril twice a day. The Baytril is because the lead can also weaken the immune system. Thankfully these meds can be administered orally. I once had a sick bird (not lead poisoning) that I had to inject with medicine every day for a week. I absolutely hated that.

So, keeping birds isn't always smooth sailing. Especially when they're housed in an old building like mine. I look forward to the day when I can give them some time in an outdoor aviary. Won't that be nice.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Knitting wise...

Made good progress on the Persuasion Scarf this week. Knitted every day on the subway--saw the poster I wrote about last time--to and from work. I'm almost done the first half. It's knit in 2 pieces then grafted together in the center. This allows the design to flow down both sides of the scarf when worn. Luckily I have not had to depend on the life line yet, although I keep moving it up every 6 rows--just in case.

The lace bug has really hit me this time and as of last night I have 2 more lace projects on the needles! I decided not to work on the scarf on weekends since I'm on it every day during the week. Therefore I need something else for weekend knitting, right?

I wanted to look for a lace scarf pattern suitable for a man and lo! I found one. It's called Quercus alba and it's designed by Renata Brenner who is a biologist so I feel assured that the oak leaves in this pattern are the real deal. I love oak leaves and acorns. I remember collecting some when I was a child and pressing them (the leaves) between waxed paper. The yarn I'm using is Cascade 220 (Peruvian highland wool) in color No. 9445 which is a green/orange mix but has an overall brownish look. I'm excited at the prospect of ending up with a lace scarf suitable for myself.

I'm also making a table mat based on the Brighton Lace Doily pattern which appears in Nicky Eptein's Knitting For Your Home. It is illustrated in crochet thread but I'm taking it to a funkier place. With larger needles (size 8) and a colorful lumpy-bumpy cotton, I'm hoping my resulting mat will be large enough to use as a centerpiece. I think it will. 11 rows done since last night and it doesn't look like much yet:
I wouldn't do this one, with this yarn, without a life line. Whereas I've been clear of major difficulties on the scarf, I have had to rely on this one's life line once already! Had to frog back 2 or 3 rows late last night.

This funky yarn has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side: Because the color segments are relatively short I get many different colored loops on the needles and this is quite handy when slip-knit-knit-psso'ing: the slipped stitch is usually a different color! On the minus side the lumps and bumbs can be hard to pass through the loops, but not impossible. Also, since the yarn is quite textured it takes a more careful look to see exactly what kind of stitch I have to undo--when I have to undo a stich or two--there will be more before I'm through. I'm sure.

This is a fun one and won't take too long to finish. I may afterward knit one in crochet cotton just for the record, and if I like it, I'll make a set.

With all this knitting and music making (started Suzuki book 3 for cello last week, yippee! and started Liszt's Liebestraum on the piano this week) I felt in need of a walk this afternoon. I leave this post with these few pics from my neighborhood springtime juant... enjoy... (and if you open Liebestraum in a new window and get that going, then come back to browse through these few pics while the music is going, the effect is quite nice!)...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Subway knitting... a little nod

Seeing how I do a lot of knitting on NYC's subway system, it is particularly delightful to see a small homage to subway knitters in the most recent of the MTA's (Metropolitan Transit Authority) Arts for Transit acquisitions. Their latest commission is a work by Sophie Blackall and it contains--among many other characters--the portrait of a subway knitter! Yes!!

The MTA's Art for Transit is a wonderful series of posters that are displayed in subway cars (the posters may also be purchased--see link below). I have spent many minutes wandering through the intricate lattice of many of these works. This is usually when I do not get a seat, for if I were seated I'd be knitting!

Sophie Blackall's knitter can be seen here (you can click it to enlarge it a bit) sitting between the accordianist and bassist. She sports blue hair and yellow boots. How fun!

Sophie Blackall talks about the poster in this lovely video.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fiber wise... pics for the last post...

Pics for the last post... well some pics, not all of them. Coaster pics to come... I still have to block the 2 new ones (been busy!).

But first... the weather! Wow! Spring done sprung quickly. She has set the stage well, in anticipation of her official arrival in just a few hours from now. Welcome Spring! I hope you'll give us a nice long amble into summer. The longer we wait to reach high humidity and temps the better with me. It gets very humid here in the summer. Hopefully we'll be spared too much of that this year.

The lovely weather inspired me to tidy up. This weekend and today I managed to get lots of spring cleaning done, inside the apartment and outside--in the back yard. My building rests lighter on it's foundation tonight from being rid of all that dust!

Persuasion Scarf is coming along nicely. I am, believe it or not, knitting this on the subway. Therefore I'm employing the use of life lines: Insurance. Peace of mind. I'm moving my life line up after every 8 rows, and that is working just fine. The pattern is not that complicated, nor is it difficult but the life lines ensure a certain comfort level. If you do not know what a life line is (not shown in the picture as I pulled it out to re-thread it at the top, but snapped the pic without it), it is a separate length of yarn that is threaded through the live loops currently on the needles. If I should make an un-fixable mistake past the life line all I need do is remove the knitting from the needles and undo the knitting (it's called "frogging") until I reach the life line. At that point the stitches will all be waiting for me to pick them up from the length of yarn. It's a life saver. Last time I knit lace I didn't use life lines and know now that I would have enjoyed far more peace of mind had I employed them. Live and learn.
Here's the beautiful fiber from Copper Moose, it's called "Purple Twist". Isn't it yummy!?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fiber wise... What's up...

I just noticed that I haven't written any posts since the end of February, and here we are approaching the half-way point of March! This new year is almost a quarter over. The sense of the passage of time does certainly change as one get's less young.

Oh, and speaking of time, can I just say for the record that it's high time we abolished "daylight savings time"? A misnomer if ever there was one! I found out at 11:30 pm Saturday evening--at the dance--that DST started in a few hours. I had no idea... it was completely out of my mind. And it drives me out of my mind! Really, is there any good reason to keep up this charade? I want my hour back this fall--with interest!

Yes, I was dancing at the LGBT Center. The series called Dance 208 has been ongoing for over 25 years. There's a dance every month in the winter. It used to be every 2 weeks. Saturday's dance was a tribute to the Paradise Garage, which was a club in the Village in the 70s and 80s--the disco heydays. I am not bashful to say that I love disco, and I love dancing. It is good for the soul. Paradise Garage had their own particular flavor of music and it was fabulous, though I never went there myself. (I frequented the Ice Palace on 57th Street.) An idea of Paradise Garage's sound can be had in this mix: 70's Paradise Garage Vintage Disco Mix Pt. 2. It needs to be kept in mind that this music is piped over very good sound systems and is meant for dancing, and well, like I said... it's fabulous. A bit funky and V-E-R-Y feel-good. I love this dance at the Center. Another good one coming up will be the Studio 54 anniversay dance.

On the fiber front a lot has been happening. The four coaster squares are done (pics in a day or so). I still have to pick up and make an edging and find suitable frames for them.

I don't do much lace knitting, but once in a while I get the urge for it. The urge surged this past week and I'm in the midst of knitting Persuasion Scarf which appears in the Fall 2011 issue of Spin-Off magazine. I'm not using my handspun for it. The yarn I have comes from School Products here in the city. It's not labelled and I can't remember what the fiber is, but I will investigate and find out!

I've finally taken up the 2nd of Candace Bahouth's 6 panels for her "Hunting Rug". This is a picture of the rug, but I'm only doing certain panels and haven't yet decided if I'm going to make pillows of them or what. I did the squirrel last year. Now I'm doing the rabbit. I'd also like to do the pheasant and monkey. I got the patterns from a book called Birds and Beasts in Needlepoint by Hugh Ehrman and Elizabeth Benn.

When I did the squirrel, I handpainted the canvas before beginning the stitch work. With the rabbit I'm working with a blank canvas and following the pattern from the book. It comes in handy to have a music stand about the place: it's perfect for holding the book right next to the chair (the new rocking chair!) when I needlepoint. Perfect set-up!

And I got some new fiber in the mail this morning. :)

Pics to come.

Happy crafting!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Knitwise... handspun fingering sample

I knit up this sample today using some of the yarn I am in the midst of spinning. The lovely merino in shades of blue and the gorgeous reds from Spinner's Hill. I think they look quite pretty together. I could tell from knitting this sample that the merino is too soft to try putting through the rigors of card weaving. It would fray into nothing in no time I'm afraid.

(I'll post about charting the instructions as written in the book, into graph form sometime this weekend. It makes knitting so much easier.)

The good news is that this sample is a partial answer to the question of what I will do with this yarn. I'm going to make sets of coasters! Knitting just 1 motif of the mosaic pattern ("Double Medallion") makes a square just about the right size. I will pick up around the edge and either knit or crochet a border. Then I'll find suitable frames so I can put them under glass. I'll think they'll make splendid coasters. The pattern has 2 motifs really, one that is outlined in blue, and one that fills the space in between. Knitting 2 of each will make a nice set. Handspun coasters! Yippee!
While I had the camera out I snapped a picture of what I'm doing with the tablet woven band I made in December. All I need is a few closures to attach to the end clamps and a lovely little wrist band it will be. I think I can manage to get 3 out of the length I wove...
After cutting the band I used "liquid stitch" on the cut to seal it before crimping the ribbon clamps on. It's all nice and secure.