Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wildlife ....

I witnessed half a dozen robins this morning across the yard from the music room window. They were picking berries from the bush that has turned most gloriously red. Through the binoculars it was a beautiful sight and I ran to fetch the camera hoping to get a few good pics.

My camera is not an expensive piece of apparatus and there is only so much it can do, but I zoomed in a far as it would go and managed to snap one shot of one of the gorgeous birds. In the photo-processing software, I cropped down to the area surrounding the bird and then re-sized the picture. To give a tiny bit more of a focus point to the bird I slightly blurred the edges, just a tiny bit--as they were already well blurred from the zooming in. I love the colorful results.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Indian Summer ...

It was in the 80s today, forecast of 79 tomorrow; barely dipping below 60 tonight. Positively balmy. I'm sitting here at my 2nd floor desk feeling the sweet cool breeze waft in through the window. Ahhhhhh.

Outside, the surroundings are a spectacle of color. The vibrancy has deepend over the past week and I dare say we may have peaked already. It is truly a wonderland out there, just magical and I'm loving it to the hilt.

I was in NY earlier last week. It was my first trip down on public transportation (a bus), since moving here. I was absolutely astounded by the amount of energy I had the nights of my journey. I was aware of feeling tired on my drives down and back but did not realize how much of the fatigue was caused by driving. Oh my word, the difference between driving and riding is night and day. Needless to say, it was a pleasant change and I did a lot of knitting on the bus. No parking to worry about either and that felt just great.

The day after my arrival home I took a walk by myself on the trail above my house. I'd made the hike once before with my neighbors, but this was my first time alone. I took a big stick and kept in mind what everyone has told me about encountering wildlife. It was without incident. It is so perfectly peaceful up here in these hills and the trail is nice. It's good enough for logging trucks; in fact the 500 acres there is owned by a timber company. This foliage greeted me at the end of the driveway on my way up to the trail:

The beautiful trail:

I took the triangular shawl off the needles this evening so I could measure it. At 50" wide I'm more than just tempted to say that's it, so I'll start casting off and start on the edging.

The $4 scrap quilt top is finished. I changed my mind about the border and ended up with something simpler---and probably more in keeping with the character of the quilt.

I'm quite gobsmacked by this quilt. Can't believe the material cost $4! The actual quilting might be done by an outside service. I haven't made up my mind yet. Last night I laid out the bird top with it's backing and filling and basted it, having made the decision to hand quilt it. Yes, I suspect it will take me a while, hence the possibility that the scrap quilt--since it was practically free--might get sent out.

The checkered border that I had commenced working on has become two pillow fronts. Aren't they sweet?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Color, color, color ...

The leaves have started to turn. I noticed as I gazed out my office window late this afternoon that the canopy of trees makes a stained glass window over my yard. And it's only just begun. Breathtakingly beautiful.

It will be dipping to 37 degrees tonight according to the weather forecast. I'm afraid that means summer is over. I must say that it came to quite an abrupt end. Seems that just the week before last I was noticing how spectacularly beautiful the days had been for quite a stretch. Time to let go now, let nature give us her new suit of autumn color and the weather that accompanies it. I can always bring my attention to the current season. Love to death these changes from summer into fall, before long it will progress from fall into winter, glory be when it progresses from winter to spring, and finally to summer again. Isn't it just splendid!

Color in my work this week as well. Tonight I sewed the last strip onto the central panel of my new quilt. I have absolutely, all-out enjoyed sewing this quilt. It's been tremendous fun and excitement. There is so much color in it, every strip was an adventure.

I think the method I devised to ensure a good distribution of color, and to increase my chances of good effect, was quite successful. I don't see any puddles of color and overall it's a happy and fun piece. It is still--at least partly--random. Here's what I did. ...

I sorted all the colors into groups: yellows, oranges, reds, blues, greens. purples, and neutrals (of which there was a good amount).

Each strip was made of only two colors (which were picked out of their respective piles somewhat randomly, though I kept an eye on my favorites) plus neutral. I made up 6 sets of color, so there are 6 sets of strips.

Strip 1: reds and purples and neutrals
Strip 2: greens and yellows and neutrals (complements to strip 1)
Strip 3: oranges and reds and neutrals (red complements green in strip 2)
Strip 4: blues and greens and neutrals (complements to strip 3)
Strip 5: purples and oranges and neutrals (orange complements blue strip 4)
Strip 6: yellows and blues and neutrals (complements to strip 5)
repeat (yellows in strip 6 complements the purples in strip 1)

And because the strips of one color are in several hues, shades, and saturation the overall effect still looks quite random.

I cut the strips 2" wide and after sewing each stripe is 1.5" wide. 6 Strips makes a block 9" wide. I made 7 blocks giving the panel a 63" width. The strips are 72" long (they will be after I trim them down). I will add 9" or 10" of border on all 4 sides giving the finished quilt dimensions of 81" x 90".

The first border is already cut and sewn together. It will be 1" wide (it's cut to 1.5" wide, .25" seams). The middle border will be 8" and the outside border, 1" or 2". Here's the first border all rolled up. You can't see it in this pic but I arranged each strip of color in the order of the rainbow and there are no neutrals in it:


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Harvesting ...

Oh! It's so exciting!

My mother used to put up lots and lots of food in the fall time. I remember the jars of tomatoes, beans, and pickles. The root cellar full of potatoes, carrots, and beets; the attic strewn with onions, the freezer packed with corn. I also remember the few failures: Exploding jars in the water bath, less than air-tight seals; but they were few and far between. I remember, in mid-winter, the cellar-cold jars of stewed tomatoes making side dishes laced with a bit of salt and copious pepper. Oh my word! The ghost of summer past swirling over the night's dinner table. I remember the smells, textures, and the sense of bounty.

So it's with great excitement that I put up some tomato sauce and pickles these past few days. How very gratifying, and I can vouch that the sauce is scrumptious: I had the leftover bit last night with pasta. I think the pickles are going to be quite tasty too!

I don't have a proper canner yet so it was a bit of an improvisation, using my tallest pasta cooker. It worked fine for the half-pints but took some looking after with the pints. It was hard to maintain an inch of water over the pint jars and there were frequent boil overs. But the seals were accomplished and my 4 pints and 4 half pints are now sitting side-by-side with the 6 half pints of pickles.

Sometime next week I'll visit an orchard for some apples and will hopefully put up some apple chutney. Oh I love the stuff. The still somewhat abundant amount of green tomatoes in the garden will be stored as piccalilli. Oh I love the stuff! There may also be some applesauce put up before month's end.

Day 5 of the $4 scrap quilt. Working it on the Singer 66, of course!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Thrify finds ...

I didn't see any Aurora Borealis last week--disappointing. But then again, I don't know anyone who did see them, even friends who live further north, so I guess they weren't as easy to be seen as the impression I'd been left with from the news reports.

~ ~ ~

A week ago Saturday, Plymouth held it's annual town-wide yard sale. I managed to get over to Rte. 25 in the afternoon and was really surprised to see two very large flea markets spread out in various parking lots. There were several other spots in Plymouth to yard hop according to the map of the event, but I had much to do so limited myself to those two parking lots. Among a few other goodies, I picked up a large bag of beads for $5. I've sorted out the best beads into a smaller bag.

This Saturday I stopped in at Boomerang in downtown Plymouth for my routine look-see. It's my favorite thrift store, with so many good finds at great prices. It was the first time I ventured upstairs in their clothing department and I'm glad I made the climb. This huge bag of cloth scraps (shown here dumped out on my sofa) was offered for $4. Sold.

It hasn't taken me long to tackle those goodies. I spent a couple days cutting the scraps into even 2" and 1.5" strips and today I constructed the first of 5 or 6 panels which I'll connect together at the end. That will be squared up and a border attached all around. Simple design for the simple way in which I came into the fabric!

I think the pile of new scraps I've created would make great material for some fabric mache. Maybe a lamp to match the quilt!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Taking stock ...

There have been spades of activity around here lately!

Now that the labyrinth is done. Yes! ...

... and the little rabbit is done. Yes! ...

... which accompanies the squirrel I did a few years ago ...

(I'll be starting a pheasant very soon.)

... and the shawls are progressing well ...

... I've decided to turn some of my attention to the grounds on the west side of the drive, and take stock of this year's landscape progress. The east side of the drive, which used to be the site of the shed which I had torn down, is now home to my kitchen garden. A better view of the central "plaza" here; more clearly visible are the areas set aside for rhubard and strawberries, and if today's idea comes to fruition, currants too (towards the right, in an unfinished state)!

In this view, my attempt at symmetry is clearer. There will eventually be an arbor leading from the "plaza" area to the lawn/labyrinth area.

The west side of the drive consists of a wedge of ground bounded by the driveway and the stonewall which both meet at the road, a point marked by our (me and my two neighbors across the street) mailboxes. Besides the stonewall, there runs an unofficial, potentially viable idea of a field road. There are outlines of tracks accommodating four-wheeled vehicles--slight depressions in the ground--which trace up and around the humongous patch of rosa rugosa. These formations were made stronger last year at this time by the daily entrance and exit of the workers building my bird room. This faint outline of a road parallels the stone wall. It is where the lace-cap hydrangea lives for now, and just above it resides the lady slipper.

Between this trail and the driveway is the wedge which was this weekend christened my "shrub garden". It was already home to 2 lilacs, a peony, several day lilies and some irises, a white spirea, and flowering almond bush. I added a gifted buddleia--of deep, deep magenta--late last fall, thinking at the time that a miracle would be required for it's survival, and a miracle we were blessed with, as it put forth 3 blooms this summer. I also added a new hydrangea, purchased Saturday at a local nursery. I wouldn't be surprised if a beautiful, quite stunning, lavender Rose of Sharon finds it's way into this garden at some point. I saw it at the nursery. Gasp.

Obtaining the hydrangea motivated me to clean out the beds of lilies and irises and mow the rather tall grass. Here is a picture of the "wedge" with the drive in the foreground. The hint of a road will be on the right.

That is the "bush garden", and here is the new hydrangea I put in Saturday. I think the lacecap will come down to join it when it goes dormant in a month or so.

From the apex of that wedge of land to the road was the focus of this morning's gardening. The whole area had become overgrown, unmown, and shoddy. There were several types of weed--goldenrod, asters, etc.--all very pretty to look at, but after all, they have a whole field to play in so I told them I'd have to set boundaries. There are also beds of irises, another spirea, a bed of cosmos, and more daylilies in this area. They are all cleaned up now. A thicket of woody weeds, masses of goldenrod, 3 small trees, and yet more not-so-desirable shrubbery was removed from around the poor rhododendron down by the road. It is nice now to see the stone wall down in these parts and I'm thinking the area will make a beautiful, colorful flower bed.

The area from the "wedge" down closer to the road. Here, the "tractor trail" (I'll call it that) is clearly visible going up into the field.

This is the area from the rhododendron to the road.

Now I have a decision to make. Across the drive from the areas just described are 2 closely-set dying maples. This year I noticed 3 shimmering aspens, and 1 larger slippery elm taking root adjacent to the maples. Do I keep 1 or 2 of the aspens, or do I keep the elm? I think I'll have to do more research to see which would be the better choice. Here is this group of trees. (I drew circles around 2 of the aspens and a square around the elm.)

I think it's been a year of pretty good progress garden-wise, and this is turning out to be one of my more rambling posts! I leave you with pics of late summer color taken this afternoon, but first a picture of tonight's very bright moon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nasturtiums ...

And I was worried there would be only a few blossoms. Happy.

The "gardens" are coming along. Where the shed used to stand is now the center of the vegetable and herb gardens. In the spring, I'll transplant some rhubarb into one of the beds on the right and the other bed will contain strawberries. Next summer I'll focus on the area beyond the lawn (not visible in this picture) where the old hen houses are. I'm dearly hoping to have a woodland garden in that area.

For reference, this was what it looked like right after the shed had come down:

Happy. Happy!