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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Busy Days and Knit East 2019

Fall seems to be a busy time of year for me.  Work has been busy, but there have been other things going on as well.  I signed up for some exercise classes this fall, so I've been doing aquacize 2 nights a week at the local university pool.  It's a good class, although I wish that there were more dance moves like the aquacize class I used to take in Moncton.  Still, it's fun and gets me active.  Also, I'm doing line dancing on Monday evenings.  It's not country music, thank goodness, but all sorts of music types, although primarily Latin rhythms.  I'm enjoying that as well.  It's keeping me really busy though. 

Also, September and October are busy times for fibre-related events in this part of the world.  I went to Knit East this year, which is a bi-annual event that takes place in St. Andrews by the Sea, a small town in western New Brunswick.  The event occurs at the Algonquin Resort, which is a truly lovely location, and when the weather is fine, it's really enjoyable to stroll the grounds of the hotel and visit the town.  Here's my hedgehog purse (named Ruby) enjoying the sunshine in an Adirondack chair at the hotel.


It's the third time I've attended Knit East.  I usually try to make the most of the weekend by signing up for four workshops, which is really the maximum number one can take.  That meant I was in workshops Saturday and Sunday morning and afternoon.  Each workshop is 3 hours long, so it's a busy and learning-filled weekend.

On Saturday morning, I did brioche knitting with Margo Beckwith-Byrne.  I had never done brioche before, but it's not that difficult once you get into the swing of it.  Here's my single colour brioche sample, which isn't very exciting, but I can't find my 2 colour sample at the moment.

We spent time learning how brioche differs from fisherman's rib and double knit, and did a sample in 2-colour brioche as well.  I'm definitely interested in trying some brioche patterns now.

On Saturday afternoon, I took a class called Hot Sock Tricks with Lucy Neatby.  My mom actually taught Lucy's daughter many years ago, so it was fun for me to meet Lucy and learn what her daughter was doing so I could pass along the news to my mom.  Lucy is an incredible knitter when it comes to colourwork and double knitting.  Her work is just stunning.  Our sock class included some really clever tricks and useful shortcuts in sock knitting.  We did a sample toe and learned a new technique involving grafting (Kitchener stitch) as well as a host of other useful techniques.  Here's my sock toe with the grafted top (in a different colour to make it stand out).


Saturday evening is always the fashion show in which various knitted garments and accessories are modeled, and during which door prizes are awarded.  Many people enjoy going to the show, and I'm no exception to that. 

One thing I really like about the show is that they plan ahead what will be shown, so a list is distributed at the beginning, and we can take notes on which patterns we like and would want to consider knitting.  I also was happy to win a door prize - this Sakura cotton skein.


On Sunday morning, I took a class called Knitting Every Which Way with Elizabeth McCarten. I actually follow her blog so it was fun to meet her in person.  She is essentially a queen of seamless sweater knitting, and we learned an awful lot in her class - things that I will need to repeat to really get them into my head.  I don't knit a lot of sweaters, but I have good notes from the class that will help me when I do.  We made a mini knitted vest during the class that taught us the techniques, including double knit pockets and a really clever trick for inserting sleeves.  Here's my mini vest.  I want to finish the other side and see if I can use it as a photo prop for one of the rabbits! 

My last class was another one with Lucy Neatby, on the topic of steeking.  If you're not a knitter, you may not know that the term "steek" means to cut through your own knitting, which for many of us is a rather alarming task.  It's done so that we can create knitted tubes (knit in the round) and then cut them open for turning them into cardigans, or it can be used for inserting necklines and other features.  I've never steeked, but I'm a bit more confident about it now.  In that class, we also made a wee knitted sample.  Mine isn't finished yet, but I do plan on finishing it and steeking it, just for the experience. 

All the classes were great, and I learned a lot.  I also had fun shopping at the vendor marketplace.  Tiggy Winkle, one of our bunnies, was happy to inspect my yarn winnings and purchases.


All in all, a lovely weekend.  Of course, then coming back for a regular work week is challenging because all the things I would normally do on a weekend didn't get done, and it's a scramble to get caught up, especially with my exercise evening commitments.  This coming weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, so that gives me a little break.  I won't really be celebrating it, but I'll see my parents at the end of the month to celebrate both of their October birthdays.  Next weekend I'll be in Prince Edward Island for the annual Maritime Handspinner's Retreat.  So, as I said, busy days! 

Speaking of Prince Edward Island, I collaborated with the women who run Fleece and Harmony yarn store and sheep farm on a little Thanksgiving story about their sheep.  I wrote the story, and their neighbour, who is an illustrator, made some adorable illustrations for it. 


They had the book printed up, and when I was at Knit East, I was able to get a copy for myself.  They had quite a stack of copies, and when I was at the booth looking at the book sample, they mentioned to a couple of shoppers that I was the author.  That, very unexpectedly, led to those shoppers asking me to sign a book for them! 

So, I spent time later Friday evening signing the rest of the copies of the book.  Here is the finished stack of signed books!  I hope everybody who bought one enjoys the story!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Hurricane Dorian

Just about a week ago, the Maritime Provinces were hit by Hurricane Dorian, which actually sped up as it powered up the East Coast.  That was unusual, because most often, hurricanes slow down as they approach our area, and tend to reach the Maritimes with just some gusty winds and rain.  That wasn't the case this time.  Hurricane Dorian made landfall in Nova Scotia on Saturday, September 7 with wind speeds reaching 150 km/h (93 mph), essentially a category 2 hurricane.

I had left our home to go for a week's vacation with my parents in Prince Edward Island, starting on Friday, September 6, but Marc had stayed home for a couple more days because he wanted to come to the Island on his motorcycle.  The night of September 6, I slept off and on (more off than on) in our rented cottage on the Island, where I listened to sounds that made me think the roof might come off, and watched the back wall of the cottage flexing in the wind, about 1.5 inches each way, from what I could see.  It was a very scary night.  Marc was woken in the early morning hours by a tree falling on the roof of our house. 

By morning, the Maritime provinces had more than 500,000 residents without power, thousands of trees and power poles were lost, and even a construction crane collapsed in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Many cell phone towers were damaged, leaving people without service.  In addition, more than 100 mm (4 inches) of rain fell in 24 hours.  Our situation was nowhere near as dire or catastrophic as the situation in the Bahamas, but it was very challenging none the less.

Our vacation was hampered, to an extent, by the loss of power, given that we were in a cottage where the water is pumped from a well, and when the power is out, there's no water.  We did a lot of reading and walking on the beach and enjoyed some lovely times despite the inconvenience of no power.

Upon arriving home yesterday, I was able to survey the damage around our home.  It wasn't pretty.  One of my favourite shade trees in our yard lost its largest limb, which I think is a fatal loss.  I will have an arbourist come and look at it, but I don't think it can survive this kind of damage.

From a distance in a picture, it doesn't look as bad as it does when you get closer, and when you see the size of my lens cap for scale.

The trunk has more-or-less been ripped in half.  Marc started some clean up of it yesterday.

There are some sizeable logs that will be useful for the next time we lose power in the winter - they will be burned in our wood stove.

The falling limb also took out my clothesline.  I will have to have a new post installed.  The old one is laying next to the chicken coop.  Thank goodness it didn't fall ON the coop!

The clean-up of the maple will take some time.  I'm really sad to have lost such a beautiful shade tree.  It narrowly missed my new arbour, for which I am grateful. 

It also missed my raised beds. My beautiful squash vines are pretty much toast, but the root crops are all OK.  The tomatoes have suffered somewhat but I am confident I will still get some more ripe fruits from them.

The tree that fell on the house and woke Marc in the middle of the night is on the back of the house.  It is a very large big-tooth aspen tree (Populus grandidentata).


Unlike the maple, the aspen was uprooted rather than snapped.  You can see it also took a couple of smaller spruce with it.

We are fortunate to have a steel roof, so there was no roof damage.

We do, however, have a badly cracked window that will need replacing.

I feel lucky that my bird feeder poles weren't taken out.  Amazingly, the hummingbirds are still around so you can see I still have the feeders on the window of my home office.

 Removing this tree will take some care and planning to ensure that no other windows are damaged.

I am very grateful for the limited amount of damage we have in comparison to so many others who were affected by Dorian, and am also very glad that none of our animals were hurt.  At the same time, we definitely have a lot of clean up to do, and I suspect I will have to have the rest of the maple taken down by an arbourist.  It is close to our power line and we need to be very careful about that.  I sure hope that's the only hurricane for this year.




Monday, August 26, 2019

Odonates Abounding

I went to the Sackville Waterfowl Park on Sunday morning for a walk.  It is definitely a favourite spot for me to take a walk, immerse myself in nature, and enjoy some quiet time.  I also like to take the camera along to record any interesting birds, bees or butterflies, and any other critters I see.  This time, it was definitely a day for odonates, meaning dragonflies (darners, meadowhawks, etc.) and damselflies (bluets, spreadwings, and others).  I spent quite a lot of time watching them and snapping pictures when I could.  Many of them don't settle for long, so it can be really difficult to take their pictures.  I thought I'd share some of the pictures I took. It's a bit of a picture-heavy post, but they really are beautiful creatures.

There was a lot of odonate love in the air....they really do contort into amazing positions for procreation.  I believe these are familiar bluets (Enallagma civile).

See how they make a sort of sideways heart shape?  I think that's kind of cute.

This is another bluet, but I'm not sure which species.  They can be very tricky to identify because they have very similar markings.  There are tiny differences in the tail appendages but this shot isn't clear enough to show those.

This is a band-winged meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum).  It is easier to identify because of the brown tinge in the wings.

Here, just for some variety, is a tri-coloured bumble bee (Bombus ternarius) on goldenrod. 

This is another meadowhawk, but I can't identify it because there are several that look similar to this.  It is probably either the cherry-faced or white-faced meadowhawk (S. internum or S. obtrusum).  I love this picture because of the shadows of the wings - it makes it look like it has 8 wings instead of 4.

Here are a couple more bluets, but these are less acrobatic at this point.  They fly around stuck to each other like this.  Fascinating.

This is one of the big dragonfly species - a darner.  I can't tell which one because I couldn't get a side view shot of it, and the side markings are how you identify these critters.  Still, I love this shot of its eyes.  They are simply amazing to look at.

This is almost certainly a white-faced meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum).

This bluet posed nicely for me.  Probably a familiar bluet.

This is a male slender spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis).  Look at those blue eyes!

This is a spotted spreadwing (Lestes congener), which an expert helpfully identified for me.  I post many of my sightings to iNaturalist, which is a great place for citizen science.  Experts can help identify all forms of life that are posted there.  You can post pictures of plants, insects, animals and birds, even fungi and lichen!

The white-faced meadowhawks were busy ensuring the future survival of their species as well. 

They look like a two-headed creature in this shot!  Who does the driving?!

I took some other insect pictures, including this mud dauber wasp.  What a weird conformation - look at how the abdomen is connected to the thorax with such a thin strip.  I love the stripey legs!

Here's a regular ol' two-striped grasshopper, hopping in the grass.

And here, one of the strangest things I saw on my walk, is what I initially thought was an interesting fungus growing on a branch.  Turns out that it isn't fungus at all.  It's a species of aphid called the cottony alder psyllid (Psylla floccosa).  The nymph stage produces this weird-looking cottony "fluff" on alder branches.  Definitely a new find for me.  You just never know what you'll see on a walk in the park.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Polyphemus Moth

I recently had an up-close-and-personal experience with a beautiful polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) and wanted to share some of the photographs I took. As you can see, this is a very large moth, with a wingspan of about 6 inches.  It's the largest moth that I have had visit my screened porch moth lights.


Those beautiful spots on its hindwings earned it the polyphemus name, after the Greek cyclops of myth, whose name was the same.

It has marvellous antennae that look like small ferns growing out of its head.  This specimen is a male.  The female antennae are less glamorous.

As you can see, it has a 'furry' appearance on its head and body, although those are really just scales that will rub off if they are touched too much. 

The larvae of this moth eat maple, oak, willow and birch, among other deciduous tree species.  In fact, the caterpillars eat 86,000 times their own weight in about 2 months before they transform into the moth form. Amazing!

The moth uses its feet to hold on very tightly, even though one doesn't really feel the grip.  I could turn it completely upside-down. 

He is also wearing marvellously "furry" trousers.

Those eye spots on the wings help camouflage the moth and can confuse potential predators.  I hope to have more visits from this beautiful species in future, but having this nearly perfect one visit me this year was such a treat!


Friday, August 9, 2019

Moulting Blue Jay

I know I'm anthropomorphizing, but I can't help but imagine this blue jay feeling pretty embarrassed at its current condition.  Are the other birds staring at it?

Blue jays moult, just like my chickens and other birds.  Sometimes, their head and neck feathers fall out almost all at once, and they have to go more-or-less bald for a few days until the new feathers grow in.  In my area, that is most likely to happen in August.

There are other blue jays around who are not having this type of moult, so it doesn't seem to happen to all of them, and many seem to moult in a more gradual way, so you barely notice anything happening at all.  But not for this one!

I put some peanuts out to give this jay something to be excited about in the midst of its indignity. I think it was pretty happy about that.  

You can see the new feathers are coming in already, so it will only be a few days before this bird looks totally normal again.

The peanuts have lots of protein to help that process along.  Don't worry little jay, I still think you're beautiful!