Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Green and Grey Walk

The sun shone very briefly this morning, as if to reassure us it was still up there. Then the clouds rolled in to join forces with the bitterly chilly east wind, making for a rather grey day.

But even clouds and icy wind can't change the fact that it's spring. Trees are leafy, birds are sing-y, and the marshy lake-around-the-corner is getting greener by the hour. I head out, camera in hand, to see what changes spring has wrought.

Here are two of those singing birds (species unknown):

The marsh in spring.

Up the road, the verge is carpeted with violets.

Berry bushes at the start of the trail. I'll have to come back later in the summer to see what kind of berries they are - though I'm guessing blackcaps.

I pass the abandoned outbuilding, nearly obscured by leaves...

...and soon I reach the Favourite Tree. It's looking properly spring-like and festive, decked with pale green.

I turn left, and ahead lies a fine crop of dandelions. (I wish I had seen them when they were in bloom.) For some reason this picture reminds me of the snow-covered poppy field in "The Wizard of Oz".

Into the little thicket, with new life all around.

Young leaves like lace against the grey sky.

On the other side of the thicket, the prairie restoration project has turned an intense emerald. Gone are the buff-coloured tussocks of dead grass (where did they go?), and in their place is a soft young carpet of green.

A neighbouring alfalfa field ups the green ante, with the rich brown of a freshly-plowed field behind for contrast.

Into the woods...

...which have a violet-sprinkled carpet of their own.

This rather scaley tree's cut-off branch looks just like a teapot spout.

And here are the Three Stooges of the wood: Larry, Moe and Shaggy. (Larry is the laughing one.) Although my tree knowledge is limited, I knew at once these were shagbark hickory. They couldn't be anything else, looking like that.

Young oak leaves.

Back in the fields, I see quite a few of these unidentified flowers:

They're very tall (about 15"), and the gusting wind will not allow me to get a clear picture of the entire plant. This is the best I could do:

At the other side of the field, another favourite tree. I like the way the path sweeps around it.

Look at the red-rimmed leaves on this white honeysuckle:

At the pond behind the high school, a very large tree has recently split and toppled - I think it must have been diseased.

The top branches lie on the ground, still healthy-looking and covered with leaves and berries. I don't know if the tree can survive like this.

I was planning to head straight home from here, but the broken tree is too sad a subject to end on. So I go around the corner of the pond for a look at these young birches, which are planted in several clumps of three trees each.

They've got the peeliest bark I've ever seen...

...and the prettiest.

Back at the marsh, there are dozens of blackbirds singing me home. Here are three of them:

Shortly after I reach the house, rain begins to fall - brrr. But May is just around the corner!

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Sleeping Beauty

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skein of yarn,
a project lies
dreaming, waiting for
the touch of a loving
hand, the kiss of needle or
hook - which alone can break the spell,
wake the project from enchanted sleep,
and stitch it into loveliness and life.

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This post is my paean to the beauty that sleeps in every ball of yarn.
It's also my entry in the "Something a Bit Different" category
of the 2012 Knitting and Crochet Blog Week.

To enjoy an outpouring of creativity from knitters and crocheters
all over the world, Google 3KCBWDAY5.

P.S. If you liked my poem, would you consider
nominating it for the "Creative Post" award?
(I have already nominated someone else
but would love to get in the competition myself.)
If you get a message saying the information
has already been received, that means
my name is already in the hat.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Seasonal Crochet

Today is Day 4 in the 2012 Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, and the topic du jour is "A Knitter or Crocheter for All Seasons?" Participants are asked to answer the following question: "Do you make warm woollens the whole year through in preparation for the colder months, or do you live somewhere that never feels the chill and so invest your time in beautiful homewares and delicate lace items. How does your local seasonal weather affect your craft?"

Normally my crochet follows the seasons (and in Wisconsin we experience all four of 'em). Since I post a free pattern each month, I am especially interested in offering projects that are seasonally appropriate - to the Northern Hemisphere at least. In the normal course of things I'd be working right now on flowery, heading-into-summer designs. But for the last month and a half, my crochet has been devoted almost exclusively to wintry designs. You see (she says nervously), I've been submitting patterns to crochet magazines, and crochet magazines work WAY ahead of the seasonal game. It may be April to me, but they're already thinking winter and Christmas - and those are the patterns they want to see right now.

I've never submitted anything for publication before - it's rather a nervewracking process. You send your idea off into the unknown, with no guarantee of a response, or even an acknowledgement that the magazine has received your proposal. It's almost a case of "any news is good news" - if your proposal is rejected, you hear nothing whatsoever. If it's accepted, they get in touch.

(And I can't even post pictures of the projects I've submitted, hence the photo-less post.)

So right now my crochet is in seasonal limbo. I'm finishing up May's free pattern, which is rather cheerful and spring-y but could be adapted to any time of year. Between times, I'm biting my nails and checking my e-mail way too often, hoping against hope to see something (anything!) from "Editor@______" in the in-box.

Excuse me while I just check that e-mail again.


This post is part of the 2012 Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. To see other posts on this topic, Google 3KCBWDAY4.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Local Ant Breaks with Tradition

By Mrs. Micawber
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Yarn inspector Ada Grant comes from a long line of inspectors.

"You might say inspecting is in my blood," she tells our interviewer. "But my family have always been in the food business. They were kind of shocked when I decided to go into fiber."

Yarn Inspector Ada Grant hard at work

Ada, what is your biggest challenge to date?  Not getting stepped on.

What are your likes?  Food-based yarns. No one will notice if I sample a bit of milk yarn or corn yarn, and if they do, I can always claim quality control.

What about soy?  I never eat soy. I heard it's an endocrine disruptor.

And cotton?  Are you kidding? It tastes like cotton.

How about dislikes?  Mohair. Beautiful, but it tickles.

What is the yarn in the picture?  Acrylic. It's got some long complicated brand name*, but to me, it's just acrylic. The humans say it feels like cotton - but I can spot the difference.

What if you see a flaw?  I don't actually "see" flaws. My vision isn't that great. But I have a very organic connection to the yarn - you could almost say I feel the mistakes.

So what do you do about the flaws you find?  I try to point them out by waving my antennae, but I must say the humans don't pay very much attention.

Are you married?  No.

Seeing anyone?  Well, there is a special someone back at the anthill. He brings me food sometimes.

Any plans for kids?  Not unless I make queen. But right now I'm really into my career, so I don't see any kids in the near future.

Thanks so much for taking time out to speak with us, Ada. You're welcome. It was a pleasure.

*Premier Deborah Norville Collection Serenity Garden Yarn


This post is in honor of Knitting and Crochet Blogging Week's Photography Challenge. Click here for more information.

If you'd like to see what other participating bloggers are up to, Google 3KCBWDAY2 - this unique tag will direct you to all the photography challenge posts.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Cold (but Sunny) Ride

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Northeast wind whistling down the spring road
Young goats bleating a cheerful hello
Pulling lead in an Amish paceline

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To be honest, I was not enthusiastic about riding this weekend. A touch of virus yesterday, and a biting northeast wind today, made me highly reluctant to leave the comfort of home. I am, moreover, horridly premenstrual, liable at any moment either to burst into tears or to kill someone (possibly both). I would like nothing better than to sit ALONE in a sunny room, with a good book, a pot of tea, and plenty of starchy, fatty, and salty foods within easy reach.

This rosy dream being unattainable (and also unhealthy), I choose the next option: exercise (which some would say is the better part). After all, the sun is shining, it's at least 45º out there, and I have really no excuse for staying indoors. So I squeeze myself into the requisite Lycra (which makes me feel even more bloated), top up my water bottle, and try not to wince as I wheel Iris out into the icy breeze.

Moodiness and hormones aside, it's a beautiful day. The chilly wind makes for sparkling air, and a blue, blue sky floats overhead.

The honeysuckle is just coming on: pink...

...and white.

As I approach a farm a few miles on, this flock of goats comes tearing out of their barn, running towards me and bleating happily. Though thwarted by the fence, they seem very glad to see me. (Perhaps they think I have peanuts for them.) I am interested to observe that they, like my philosophical friend Marigold, have a stump of wisdom in their yard. (But not one goat is standing upon it.)

To distract myself from the wind (it's ICY) I take a shadow shot.

A Very Large piece of farm equipment stands in a field, looking for all the world like a mechanised caterpillar behind the tractor.

A good day for the wind turbines. I notice a few of them are grey. Camouflage for cloudy days?

I've met about 5 Amish buggies so far - they're coming home from Sunday meeting. Just as I'm wondering where the meeting was this week (they take turns holding it in various homes) I top a rise and see several more buggies coming out of a long driveway below me. Most of the buggies turn towards me, but two turn the other way, and I'm able to snap a quiet photo from a distance. (The Amish in our area prefer not to be photographed.)

I find that I'm catching up to the buggies. I shift up and put on a burst of speed, hoping to pass them. (It's not often I get a chance to pass a four-wheeled vehicle.)

I do pass them. (Quiet internal gloating.) Then the road levels out, and the measured clop---clop changes to clippety-clop-clippety-clop. The driver just behind me has shaken up the reins and seems to be trying to catch me up. Vanity forbids me to be passed in turn - I am determined to stay at the front of this paceline. Just when I think my lungs will give out, I see a road crossing sign up ahead. This is where I'd planned to turn - if only I can make it that far without being overtaken. (I'm hoping the buggies don't turn with me.) We reach the crossroads; I turn right, out of the blasted wind and into blessed warmth. The Amish turn left, and the buggies and I part ways.

At the top of a short hill, I stop to admire the dandelions, which seem extra large and luxuriant this year.

Don't they look cheerful against the green grass and the blue spring sky?

I'm now on a road I've never ridden before. It leads to a beautifully sweeping, gravel-free, cambered downhill turn which I take in great style.

To my right are immense cornfields backed by pastures stretching away to a cattle-dotted horizon. (I love seeing cattle against the skyline.)

 To my left, impossibly green alfalfa fields.

Ahead, a most interesting little building stands at a corner. It's a lovingly preserved one-room schoolhouse...

...perched out here on the wide-open prairie, and taking the full force of the prairie winds. I wonder how many children have played in this schoolyard over the years.

The school pump stands in the yard - probably still working.

A mile or so down the road, I cross over a busy bovine underpass (or am I on a human overpass?) which connects the fields on either side of the road. Cattle and calves enter the tunnel here...

...cross under the road, and come out here. You can see a cow's head just coming out of the tunnel. (Or maybe it's a steer - I'm not sure. None of them seem to have appendages of any sort.)

Then they amble (or if they're calves, they gambol) up the path to the barns, which are hidden behind the trees.

The little calf is still frisking around in the distance.

After this refreshing interval, I get back on the bike, determined to make tracks for home. Although I no longer have a headwind, it's still pretty nippy, and I decide to keep the pictures to a minimum (ha ha - how we delude ourselves).

As usual, I can't resist a stand of birches...

...with their dazzlingly white branches against the deep blue of the sky.

The ground beneath the trees is starred by these white wildflowers...

...which I look up when I reach home, and find are called meadow anemone, or Canada anemone.

Just up the road, the verges are being taken over by garlic mustard, an invasive plant. The leaves are edible - Mr. M tried some the other day and said they were pretty tasty - but not enough people are eating them, it seems. They're especially abundant this year.

Riding down a road I usually ride up, I approach a favourite tree and snap it from the opposite direction. Just beyond lives the friend who supplies us with eggs.

The favourite willowy bend, taken on the fly.

And one last picture of a blackbird in a bare tree. The wind is very cold now and I'm longing to be home.

Despite the icy wind, a good ride and a beautiful afternoon.


P.S. This is my first post in the new Blogger GUI, and really it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Although some of the new features are annoying (I can't find anything - where are the helpful old tabs?) I do like the new post composition page. Only one slider bar, and all the commands are at the top or side where I can get to them easily. It could be worse.

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