Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday's Hunt v 3.02

It's time for Eden Hills' Friday's Hunt again.  This week, our prompts are:  Starts with B, Week's Favourite, and Creature.

Starts with B
Today I thought I'd share some thoughts about bark.  All trees have it, and it tends to be overlooked as one is walking in the woods.  It's just part of the scenery.  However, bark has a lot of functions - it protects the trees in numerous ways, it provides habitat for insects and thus provides food for birds. It also provides humans with some useful products, such as cork.

I'm particularly fond of birch bark.  I have a lot of birch trees in my yard, and their bark makes a lovely contrast because of its predominantly white colour.  We have three species of birch here - white birch, yellow birch and grey birch.  I'm not an expert on differentiating between these species, although I believe that the two pictures of birch bark that I show below are two different species - the second one certainly has a more yellowish-golden look to it.

Sometimes bark also provides a habitat for moss and lichen.  Here is a close up of a tree in my woods that is certainly providing a good home for a variety of lichens.  I'm no expert on lichen identification, so I can't name these for you.

Week's Favourite(s)
I finished knitting my sheep hat, and I'm really happy with it!

I also took an interesting picture of snow that had fallen onto the top of a young spruce.  I think it sort of looks like a big white starfish sitting on top of the tree!

Most of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I'm very fond of the little creatures that scuttle around in the undergrowth of the woods.  In the winter, I think they have trouble finding enough food sometimes, and they are all too often food for other creatures.  I recently took some more pictures of a vole under my bird feeder.  I'm glad to have it visiting, and I hope it keeps its tummy full as a result!  The vole is hard to photograph because it's so quick, and I'm always taking the pictures through my home office window, but I got some reasonably good ones this time!

Peeking out to see if it's safe!

Grabbing a sunflower seed.


The vole and the squirrel have a series of tunnels under the snow.  I can tell which tunnel belongs to each creature by the size of the opening, although sometimes the vole uses the squirrel tunnels (but not vice versa).

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday's Hunt v 3.01

It's a new year, and a new season of Friday's Hunt, hosted by Eden Hills.  This week, to start off the new year, our prompts are:  Starts with A, Week's Favourite, and Beginning.

Starts with A
I went for a walk in the woods and found some of nature's artwork on display.  What does this look like to you?  Perhaps an antelope?  Or is it just abstract?  To be honest, I think it looks a bit like a unicorn, but we have a long way to go before the letter U!

Week's Favourite(s)
My rabbit, Pippin, is often a favourite photographic subject of mine.  This week, he's the star of my favourite pictures.  Sometimes he runs around the home office while I'm working and this week, he felt it was necessary to check whether we're sorting the office garbage properly, since he is a strong advocate of proper recycling practice.  He hopped into the garbage basket to do an audit (bonus for "starts with A"!), and I managed to take a few quick shots of him during the inspection.

Hmmm...what do we have here?

This is a private audit.  Move along now.  Nothing to see here!

 Very well, you have passed today's inspection.

Every skein of yarn I spin has a beginning, and an end.  I showed you, in last week's Friday's Hunt, some blue-faced Leicester that I was in the process of spinning. I finished the spinning, and the yarn is now plied and skeined.  Here you can see the yarn, on the tool called a "niddy-noddy" (my talented father made me this beautiful tool!) which helps the spinner wind the yarn from the spinning wheel bobbin into a skein.  It also helps me measure how much yardage is in the skein.   

So, is this the beginning of the skein, or the end?  

Either way, I'm at the beginning of a new year that I hope will be full of the joy of spinning!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Territorial Squirrels

I've noticed that I have two squirrels who regularly come to eat the seeds that the birds drop under the tube feeder.  One squirrel is a bit more red in colour, and has a dark stripe towards the end of its tail. The other one is slightly larger and more brown in colour.  The other day, I took a great shot of them rolling around on the snow in a tussle, and then I realized the memory stick wasn't in the camera. Drat! I have not seen them in a tussle since then. One has to be ready at just the right moment for such pictures.  Today, there was a stand-off on the brush pile.

There was a lot of paw-wringing and general unrest.

This went on for about 20 minutes.  In case you're not familiar with them, squirrels make a noise that is sort of like a bird chirp, but repetitive, and almost electronic sounding at times. These two were mouthing off at each other for a long time, and I kept expecting a fight to ensue, but it didn't happen.

Eventually, there was a chase down the brush pile and a descent into the tunnels.  There are many tunnels under the snow, some made by the squirrels (I think) and others by the shrews and voles.  The squirrels did some chasing along the tunnels for a while.

Eventually, the brownish-coloured one ran off - you can see it up in the left top corner.

This left the other one to have its fill of the discarded seeds.  First, he (or she) looked around for a while, in case any other challengers were present.  These pictures have a blue cast to them - the camera has trouble with the snow - it affects the colour of my pictures.

Then, the usual feasting began!  You can see the darker tail tip on this squirrel, and the more reddish-coloured fur on its back.  This picture has less of the blue cast - it was taken with a stronger zoom setting.

 Searching for seeds.

Squirrels are dainty eaters, carefully removing the sunflower seed from its shell, and eating it bit-by-bit.  This one tends to stay close to the openings of the snow tunnels.  Smart squirrel!

I just love watching them - they really are very entertaining little animals.

I'm happy to have them here in my yard, and I'm glad to have them sharing seeds with the birds.

I'm editing this post to mention that these are American Red Squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), which are the primary species we have here in New Brunswick.  They are also called "pine squirrels" in some areas, and also chickarees, but that is a regional term that isn't used here.  We just call them "red squirrels."  They are related to, but different from, the Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii), which is present on the west coast and is also called a pine squirrel.  It looks very similar but doesn't have the white belly that the eastern species has.  The larger grey and black squirrels are a different genus (Sciurus) and species.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Very Useful Gift!

My father made me a set of thread spool wall racks for Christmas, and they are perfect!  I had first seen a spool rack on a Pinterest post and thought about how useful it would be.  I took some time to look at various designs, and discussed them with my father, explaining what I thought I needed.  At first, we had decided to do a traditional spool-holder type of rack with little dowels to hold each spool.  Then, as he progressed on planning the project, my Dad asked the question....why do you really need the dowels - wouldn't a shelf be just as effective?

I had to think about it for a minute, because almost all thread spool holders and shelves have the posts to hold the threads.  But for my purposes of storing the threads on the wall, and making use of vertical space, I really couldn't see why that would be necessary.  It was a much easier project to make shelves without having to drill and set all those dowels, and I am absolutely delighted with the resulting racks.

There are two racks - one for serger thread spools, and one for regular thread spools.

The serger rack holds up to 15 sets of four spools (since serger thread is normally bought in sets of 4).  As you can see, I've got it set up on the wall now with an assortment of serger threads.  Since it holds more than I currently have, I was also able to add a few odd spools of thread that came on cones, as well as some smaller spools of weaving cottons that I had, which are now on the top shelf.  It also holds my sewing machine and serger oil bottle just perfectly - that was not planned!  As well, I have a little friend sitting on the shelf to watch over me!

The regular spool shelf is larger because I have more spools of regular thread.  The shelves are not as tall, since the spools are shorter, and I can fit a lot more spools per shelf.  I've tried to arrange them by colour.  You can see that I'm a blue-green kind of girl!

The top two rows are holding a lot of decorative nylon threads that I use for special projects.  I've also separated out metallic threads and upholstery threads into their own little sections.  Did you notice that I found space for a little friend on that shelf too?

The larger rack sits on the wall over my sewing machine and serger, and my shelves of fabric are to the right of that.  I'm still doing some organizing in this space, but it's slowly getting there!  As you can see, there are a variety of sheep friends in the room!  The plastic stacked drawers are novelty yarns, and my beading supplies are on the bottom two shelves in the back corner, since I don't use those quite as often.

I chose the colour for the shelves - it's really a favourite colour of mine and I just love the way it ties in with other items in the crafting areas.  For example, you can see a hank of fine green linen thread that is just to the right of the spool rack that is almost the same colour.  You can also see some fabrics in the stacks that match quite closely.

On the other side of the room are 2 shelves of weaving yarn cones, my quilting books, and a shelf full of miscellaneous yarns.  The maple chest on the far left is full of all bulky weight wool yarns - the cedar lining keeps the moths away.  All the yarns in plastic bags are either 100% wool or high percentage of wool - the bags protect them from moths.  My vintage rigid heddle loom is in the lower left of the picture.

I'm also still working on organizing the area outside of the sewing room.  It has spinning and knitting books as well as my fibres and yarns of various types.  You can see my LeClerc floor loom to the right of the picture.  My table loom is out of the picture on the left.

I also have a nice antique bookshelf full of yarn and fibre in another area.  It also serves as a "roost" for my hens and roosters and a few other birds!

There is still much work to be done in my sewing - spinning - serging - weaving - felting - crafting area, but I'm really pleased with the progress so far.  The racks my father made are a wonderful addition to the space and will provide me with a lifetime of useful service!  I am very lucky to have such a talented father who can make custom spool shelves for his fibre-crazy daughter!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday's Hunt v 2.27

It's time for Friday's Hunt again, and the last Friday's Hunt for 2016.  It has been a fun meme!  I think Teresa at Eden Hills plans on starting it again for 2017, and I'll probably join since it helps keep me blogging.  When work is busy, I can't blog as often but I do try for once a week at least! This week, we have the opportunity to choose our letter of the alphabet.  As usual, we have week's favourite, and also celebrate, as our prompts.

Starts with R
R is the starting letter of a lot of good words!  Rest!  Relax!  Read!  Recuperate!  Rejuvenate! Revel!  I tried to spend time doing these things over the holidays, taking time to also reflect on the past year. For me, relaxing usually comes in the form of doing something creative with my hands, and this past week was no exception.  I did some spinning of some blue-faced Leicester fibre in lovely muted jewel tones.

I also starting making myself a new hat.  This is the Baa-ble Hat, depicting (of course) some sheep on a snowy day.  I think it's a really cute pattern and I'm making good progress on it.  I decided to do the sheep themselves in some angora blend yarn, which is giving them a lovely fluffy texture.
So, before we rush into the new year, I hope all of you take a little time for yourselves to relax and rejuvenate.

Week's Favourite
I think my favourite thing that happened in the past week was seeing the look on my mother's face when she opened the sweater that I had knitted for her as a Christmas gift.  I don't have a picture of that moment.  My mom had bought a sweater kit from Fleece Artist in 2010 but had not quite had the time to get to it, and she had never knit on circular needles before, so it was a bit overwhelming for her.  She had taken the kit out to show me this fall, and wondered if I could help her do it.  I took the kit home with me to "study the pattern" and "wind the skeins of yarn into centre-pull balls" for her (well, those were the excuses I used!). Instead, I actually knitted it as a gift.  It was the first sweater I ever made, but it came out quite well, I think.  My mother was just so stunned to see it sitting there in the box as she opened it - she had absolutely no idea.  I can't show you the look on her face, but I can show you the sweater.  It is knit in Fleece Artist blue-faced Leicester aran wool along with alpaca bouclĂ© yarn that is mixed into the body and also makes the collar and sleeve cuffs.  It is the Trina Jacket, from Fleece Artist, if anybody wants to look up the pattern!

The body is in garter stitch and the sleeves are in stockinette.  It is a fairly easy sweater and only involves some provisional cast-ons for picking up later to do the sleeves.  Otherwise, it's all just knit and purl (and counting).  I think I might make one for myself!

Marc and I celebrated our holiday with visits to my parents, to his father and stepmom, and we will be visiting Marc's mom sometime soon.  We're also hoping to see his brother's family soon but we haven't got a date for that yet.  Our time with my parents was lovely, as always.  We are a quiet family and Christmas is also quiet - which is just how I like it!  We spend time doing jigsaw puzzles and collaborating on a large crossword puzzle that is annually published by the Globe and Mail newspaper here in Canada.  Here's a picture of it - it's a full-size newspaper spread and the clues are on the front and back of another separate page.  It still needs to be finished since we didn't have time to get to it all.

In our family, we have wonderful meals together and just enjoy time to chat and relax. I've had experiences in the past with other families where Christmas is extremely busy and loud and there are so many people in the house, with the noise of TV and/or music and/or children and/or pets all at the same time, and all these conversations going made me want to go and hide somewhere! I am definitely a quiet celebrator!  Maybe it would be different if I had grown up in a large family, but for me, Christmas is for quiet relaxation and reflection!  We wish you a wonderful new year ahead...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Friday's Hunt v 2.26

Well, here it is, the final Friday's Hunt post for this round of the alphabet.  I am really pleased to have made it through the entire round, and I had a lot of fun doing my posts.  I'm looking forward to the next round!

Our host, Eden Hills, has given us these prompts for this week:  Starts with Z, Week's Favourite, and Holiday.

Starts with Z
This letter can be tricky, but I'm sharing a picture from a special guest blog photographer - my Dad! The first photograph for the letter Z is from the Metro Toronto Zoo.  It's a picture my Dad took in the late 1970s when we lived in Scarborough, Ontario.  Visiting the zoo was a favourite event for me in those days, and these adorable fennec foxes were always a treat to see!  This picture has a lovely composition, with the matching ear positions of the two front foxes, and the inquisitive little face of the one in the back.

Now that I'm older, I still adore animals, but I have mixed feelings about zoos.  The Metro Toronto Zoo is one of the ones that, in my opinion, does a really good job of providing proper enclosures for animals.  There are a lot of really awful zoos in the world these days, where animals are neglected and in very small enclosures with poor care.  I am strongly opposed to any kind of zoo that cannot properly care for and house the animals, and I'm not a big fan of "petting zoos" either, because those animals are often very stressed by all the handling and are subject to tremendous pressure on their immune systems from the constant moving around and the handling by hundreds of people every day. I believe that some well-run zoos provide a very valuable role in educating the public about animals and also do excellent work helping with the breeding and renewal of endangered species.  Biologists and other animal scientists have an excellent opportunity in zoos to study and learn more about animals, their habitats, their needs, and their illnesses.  It can help us to help them, and I believe that is ultimately a benefit to the animals and the human race as well.

Week's Favourite
It was a busy week, so I didn't take a lot of pictures this week.  My favourite of those that I did take is this one of a black-capped chickadee taking off from its perch on my bird feeder.  Wheeeee!

It's been very busy for work and with a variety of projects around here, so I didn't do any holiday decorating.  The one thing I did was get out one of my favourite holiday decor items, which is this metal reindeer.  It is supposed to have little round candles in its antler "cups" but I can't find any the right size at the moment.  One of these days!  Wishing everybody a happy holiday!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Friday's Hunt v 2.25

Here I am, doing a Friday's Hunt on Saturday again.  Friday was a very busy day, and I was helping at Marc's workplace with their inventory counts, so it wasn't a good opportunity for blogging!  None the less, I don't want to miss the penultimate hunt, so here is the week's effort!

Our prompts from Eden Hills this week are Starts with Y, Week's Favourite, and Festive.

Starts with Y
I was going to do "yarn" for Y, but today I took some pictures outside, and I had another opportunity for this letter.  I took pictures of our yew shrubs in front of the house.  They are large shrubs that are weighed down by considerable snow at the moment, and because it was a cloudy morning, you can't really see the deep green in this view.

Yews are evergreens and they produce little red berries, although not very many of them.  We have 3 of these shrubs, but I only found berries on 2 of them.  I think the yew berries also look quite festive, in a natural way, so I am using this picture for both Y and festive!

Week's Favourite
My week's favourite is this picture of Lucky Nickel.  We have had 2 brutally cold days and nights, with wind chills down to -36 Celsius (-33 Fahrenheit) and I was really worried about both Lucky Nickel and the two sheep, since my barn didn't get built this fall.  The winds were gusting to over 70 kph (over 45 mph).  However, they have all been really well and haven't seemed to suffer any ill effects.  They have the hoop house made from an arched cattle panel with tarps over it, so at least that protected them from the wind.  Still, I am glad that the temperature is headed back to "normal" levels of cold today.

I really haven't had time to do anything festive in the house this year.  I've been very busy with work projects and other things, so I haven't put up a tree at home, especially since I helped with my parents' tree, so that was my festive effort!  However, as I mentioned above, I went outside and thought that it would be nice to take some natural festive pictures, since so much of what is considered "festive" is so commercialized these days.  The yew berry above was a lovely festive shot, I though.  Here are a few more shots that had a festive air to them.

This bird feeder has a snow hat, which looks quite festive, and the sun coming through the branches in the background (it made a very brief appearance) gave a bit of a festive glow.

This was a view through the woods while the sun was trying to come out.  Again, the woods with the snow and the glow seem festive to me.

Looking back at our house through the woods seemed to be a festive scene as well.  The smoke from the wood stove chimney gives a cozy feeling, and the snow blanket on the roof is a bit like something from a children's story book or a Christmas card.  I'm glad I have a warm and cozy house, even if it isn't very festive on the inside!