The Calm After the Storm

I am so happy to say that I am in the calm after the storm. There were a number of things coming together over the last couple weeks that have kept me busy and largely away from this space. And then there was the need — introvert that I am — to spend a couple of days just in the quiet of my own mind to recharge and refuel.

A fundraising wine event Mr. Knitting Sarah was helping to put together was last week.

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And I’m happy to report that it went wonderfully. I have been working here and there as support for Mr. Knitting Sarah when he needed it on tasks for this event and it was awesome to see it all come together. And, of course, I got to enjoy a little of the food and wine at the event itself as well. Yum.

After such a big to-do, I’ve found myself turning to all the little things around me as spring seems to have sprung (at least for now) in my neck of the big woods.  img_0763

I found this Mourning Cloak butterfly in the back yard yesterday.

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And this crocus awoke as if to say, “Tidying up the yard’s not so bad now is it, Sarah?”

We’ve been slowly but surely seeing more and more migratory birds making their way north, too. Just today the White-Throated Sparrows arrived in our yard and I’ve heard all sorts of people in the area reporting Baltimore Orioles. I’ve got my jelly out, but no orioles yet. You can bet in the 75º weather the windows are open and I am listening for the oriole’s unmistakeable voice.

While the orioles are not here yet, I do, have this little dude hanging around…

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Our best guess is he’s a very confused and alone Mourning Dove baby. He seems to prefer walking to flying, he’s a little slow to react to most things (how close I was able to get for this picture is proof of that!), and we find him all over the yard doing just what he is doing in this picture, just sitting there looking a little disheveled. Yesterday was blustery and while he was sitting under a tree, you know, just hanging out and looking disheveled, a crunchy leaf from last year blew into him and he — caught off-guard, of course — attacked it with vigor. We endearingly refer to him as “our little weirdo” and marvel at the fact that he’s still alive because really it’s kind of incredible a predator hasn’t targeted him yet. I hope he remains as lucky because his little personality quirks have definitely grown on me.

In the crafting realm, I’ve not had much energy beyond stockinette stitch.

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So it’s wonderful that I have my girl’s sweater to work on. It’s Bulle by Oomieknits and I’m knitting it in Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted in the “Candy” colorway. It’s been a very restorative project through a busy time.

I’ve also been working on my long draw with my Shetland fauxlags…

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I’ve been working toward a more consistent spin, but my highest priority is spinning to a certain weight. For this bobbin I was working on a supporting long draw which I think it helping me both handle the fauxlags and spin to a more deliberate weight. The goal is to be able to spin a woolen (or at least semi-woolen) yarn that I can use for a couple hat patterns I have picked out. It’s happening in baby steps, but I am getting there!

And last, but not least, I spent some time last night with my upstairs wheel.

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I’ve got one little nestlet left to finish on bobbin #1. This is Merry Poppies from Three Waters Farm and I find myself spinning at a leisurely pace on this project. I’ve been working on it out on the deck and when I do that I’m also watching the birds and soaking up the sunshine. I have to remind myself that sometimes a leisurely pace is A-OK. It’s not about how fast can I finish, the journey is half the fun. And you know what, in the calm after the storm, there is definitely nothing wrong with a leisurely pace!

 

 

 

The Art of Standing Still

As many of you know, we are birdwatchers. One of the reasons my husband was initially drawn to our new home was the aerial view online showed that it had a very wooded lot. To birdwatchers, the cover of trees often means bird life and that was exciting for us. Upon moving in, my husband took up the job of setting up feeders for the yard — one of his first jobs was at a store that specialized in wild bird feeders and food, so he’s our resident expert. Throughout the summer we had a lot of very cool visitors to the yard and the feeder situation evolved as different species would show up.

While we do fill feeders in summer we are on the go a lot and there is an abundance of food in nature, so I’m not always super on top of the job. I try to be a little more dependable in winter because food sources aren’t as secure. Our feeders change seasonally, too. We put away the Nyjer and set out more peanuts and black oil sunflower seeds in winter. img_9087I’ve started to leave a little trail of hulled sunflower seeds on the deck rail. The cardinals, juncos, chickadees, house finches and goldfinches, pine siskins, and mourning doves love it. At one point a couple days ago, I had something like 15 or 16 doves lined up in a little row out there.  I so enjoy seeing what shows up that I’ve been spending my morning work hours at the kitchen table where this is my view…

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I love keeping watch and observing the different bird behaviors as they visit and interact with each other. The ground feeder up on the deck is a new addition — we have one out at the edge of the yard under a tree that the blue jays and juncos and squirrels (not to mention the deer that clear it out at night) love for its cracked corn and “critter feed.” This one is just hulled sunflower seeds so it’ll cater more to the chickadees and finches and cardinals.

The other huge draw in the yard is this…

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I feel a little ridiculous saying we have a heated bird bath, but… we have a heated bird bath. It’s not like a bird jacuzzi or anything, it just keeps the water warm enough to not freeze. These days it almost always looks like it’s steaming, but it really doesn’t take a lot of heat for that when it’s 15 degrees outside. Anyways, liquid water is a hot commodity for wild birds in winter, so having a water source draws in a lot of bird life. I’ve wanted a heated birdbath for years, but the old house had no outdoor electric and we didn’t have a good spot for viewing it anyway, so I never went after getting it set-up. This fall we finally splurged and I’m so happy we did! I’ve seen every single species of bird we’ve had in the yard at the water at one time or another. It’s extra upkeep and a little extravagant, but it’s such a cool feature and I feel very lucky to have it.

So you get the point — I love this new yard and I love our yard birds. For those like-minded birdwatchers, here’s a list of what I see on a daily basis at our feeders:

  • Blue Jay (pair)
  • Down Woodpecker (pair)
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (very endearing first year)
  • Cardinals (at least 4 pairs)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (pair)
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • House Finches
  • Gold Finches
  • Pine Siskins
  • Juncos
  • Chickadees
  • Mourning Doves (at least 16 individuals)

Nothing really out of the ordinary for where we live — I’m still hoping we will see some Purple Finches and Redpolls in the yard this winter as we’ve seen them out and about nearby, but we will see. You just never know and that is the beauty of birdwatching!

So I fill my feeders daily and I keep my eyes and ears open. And every time I go out to our feeders, I put a little seed in my hand and I stand very still for a few minutes. Usually there are anywhere from 1-4 chickadees hopping about, so I stand very quietly, occasionally chittering at them a little to let them know I’m standing there. I’ve had no takers yet and when I hear the blue jays coming in for the freshly filled peanuts I head for the hills, but one of these days these little guys are going to decide I’m ok and do this…

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I learned last year that chickadees are brave and sweet little souls and I’m convinced I can make friends with the ones here in our yard. Sure, my neighbors probably wonder what on Earth I’m doing standing out there like a statue in the 5 degree morning air, but it’s all good. Because as much as I do want the chickadees to learn they can eat from my hand, there’s something truly special about capturing those few moments in the crisp morning light. It’s a study in the art of standing still. To listen, to breath deep the ice cold air, to just be in the outdoors, to just be in that one moment, not thinking about the next task.

And really, that’s at the heart of much more than teaching a chickadee to eat out of your hand. It’s the heart of birdwatching. It’s at the core of knitting and spinning. Is it really any different than knitting on my hubby’s sock while I got the oil changed this morning?

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It’s the fine art of slowing down, of not thinking about the next task, of being the moment. Whether you talk to chickadees, watch the Downy woodpecker pair chase each other, spend 45minutes at the auto shop knitting — whatever the case, there is little more restorative than the fine art of standing still. So however you practice it, I encourage you to make time for it today even if your day is overscheduled. You won’t be sorry you did!

A Soft Spot for Birds

We always had bird feeders growing up, but it was a general interest for me and not something I really explored in great depth. I knew what a cardinal was and a goldfinch, but that was pretty much it. My husband, however, grew up in a family of birdwatchers — his parents talk about going to spots to watch birds on their first dates and my husband always had and used binoculars growing up. They even named him ‘Martin’ for the Purple Martin.

When I met my husband he was actually working for an optics company that specialized in outfitting birdwatchers. On one of our first dates, we went for a hike in a local arboretum and he called out a Barred Owl — the first I’d ever seen. I didn’t know if I should be more impressed by the bird or the fact that this guy I was standing with in the woods just imitated an owl call with some serious skill. I asked him where he learned to do that and he responded, “When you spend enough time alone in the woods you learn to make a lot of weird sounds” or something like that. I was pretty sure in this moment that my life was going to be interesting.

Fast forward a couple years and we’d gotten married and I was a full-fledged bird nerd. We’d taken our honeymoon to southern Texas where I accumulated an obscene amount of ‘life birds’ and just learned a ton about them. At some point in the following years, my husband got his parents a martin house for their yard as they love their bird houses and feeders. A common topic of conversation in spring is always when certain birds return for the summer and at some point we learned that it was no longer ‘the Martins are back’, but ‘the Martins and Sarahs are back’ — of course, referring to the male & female Martins. I realize I’m biased, but I think that’s the cutest, sweetest thing.

You can bet that when Erica Heusser released her Passerine Hat last November this hat simply had to be on my needles. When I saw the purple-y blue Ink colorway in Madelinetosh’s Unicorn Tails, I knew that this hat was destined to be ‘Martins and Sarahs’. There just was no question. I immediately picked up enough Ink & Silver Fox Unicorn Tails to make the hat.

And as things go, it sat for a couple months while I tended to other projects.

Thankfully at the beginning of February I had a little time and I was able to cast on. As if often the case with colorwork I plowed ahead with wild enthusiasm.img_2294I did the brim one night and started crown shaping by the next. But… my colorwork was just a little tight…

img_2295And the next morning I frogged back to the brim. This hat is what I would classify as an intermediate colorwork project as you are required to control some longer floats. It’s not what I’d call hard, but it’s definitely a skill builder for anyone new to colorwork. For those — like me — who are pretty well-versed in colorwork, it doesn’t hurt to take your time either. Obviously!

img_2297By the following day, I’d finished (again) and this time for good.

detIt was worth it as my Martins and Sarahs are now perfect in every way.

hat onAnd now I have the cutest, sweetest hat just in time for Spring migration, just in time for the Martins and Sarahs’ return.

hat flatI’m pretty sure this brings me to a new level of nerdom awesomeness. I guess when you spend a lot of time in the woods with the person you love, you learn to make some weird sounds and adorable hats.

Blooms

I had a wonderful end to the week yesterday with a couple really fun classes at Firefly Fibers. Days like yesterday remind me how much I will miss teaching. I am not kidding when I say I have the best students on Earth!

When I got home from work I took the pup out for a few rounds of fetch. I discovered that while I was away, the sun & warmth — not to mention the last few days of rain — allowed a few of our perennials to bloom. I am still waiting on our irises, plum tree, & quince tree, but I do have some blooms to share with you today.

20130504-190423.jpgA tulip that is almost open. My dear pup actually nipped the only open tulip as I was walking up to it — he’s lucky he’s cute!

20130504-190414.jpgThose hyacinths I posted a week or two ago are wide open, so open they are almost waning.

20130504-190406.jpgThe forsythia is blindingly yellow.

20130504-190354.jpgAnd my favourite, the Nanking cherry bushes. I love these dainty little blossoms. I kind of wish they would stay like this all summer.

More life is waking up every day. Today I heard chimney swifts over the house for the first time — a true sign that warm weather is here. Their chittering is an unmistakable sign of spring.  I hung my hummingbird feeder & put out the bird bath. There are bees buzzing around the blossoms and the grass is growing. The only question that is up in the air… when will I need to break out the lawnmower?

Happy Spring!

Knitting, Interrupted.

Most knitters love a good car ride, especially when someone else is driving so they can knit. This morning I awoke to the Moose who had someone managed to get under my head to become a warm, soft pillow and my husband asking 1) What on earth is the dog doing? and 2) if I would mind a long drive today. After the laughter over the dog pillow, I confirmed that  — of course not — a long drive would be grand! I had a moss stitch border to work on — perfect car knitting for me!

Normally we aren’t really bird chasers — we don’t hop in the car to see every random bird that shows up in our area, but we have been hearing about & seeing photos of a Great Grey Owl that was being seen regularly a bit shy of a 2 hour drive from our house. Great Grey Owls are very rare in these parts — usually they don’t travel this far south — and no one in the family had ever laid eyes on them. In the birding world, we call this a “life bird” — it just means a bird you haven’t seen in the wild before. When you have been birdwatching with any degree of consistency or skill for a while, it is a special day when you get to see a life bird because they just don’t happen very often. With everyone finally nearly recovered from illness, this seemed like the perfect low-key yet exciting day for us.

I threw on my favourite Lemongrass sweater & Simple Beret, tossed my knitting in my bag, grabbed a to-go cup of coffee, and we all piled in the car.

We arrived to a scene not uncommon for a rare bird. With a bird of this caliber you generally don’t have to even find the bird, just the side-road lined with cars & people standing next to spotting scopes and holding giant cameras.

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The bird was very near the road — you can just barely make out the light grey fluff above the man in the brown coat & black hat here just to the left of the center in the photograph. For the most part everyone had good etiquette — they were quiet and respectful of the animal. We stayed back because with two young kids, we didn’t want to risk noise of disruption should someone forget to whisper or stay still.

olDespite the distance, my husband did manage to get this great photo using his camera phone & our spotting scope. It is a pretty incredible bird. We stayed & watched for a good long while — you could tell immediately if the bird moved or started preening because you would hear a quiet cacophony of clicking cameras.

20130317-160534.jpg I was really proud of my kids, who were very patient & quiet despite the standing around in the bitter cold.

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My daughter needed a lift to get her view of the owl — thankfully Mr Knitting Sarah is always there to help with that.

After fr-fr-fr-freezing in the cold wind, we rewarded the kids with a trip to Buffalo Phil’s. It’s a restaurant in Wisconsin Dells where a model train delivers your food and drinks. The restaurant is also connected to an indoor amusement park — also known as heaven on earth for the kids.

20130317-160551.jpgMr Knitting Sarah was kind enough to model one of the buffalo head-dress things they give all the kids to wear. I think it’s very fetching.

20130317-160543.jpgI enjoyed a salad with three of my favourite foods: spinach, blue cheese, & bacon. I’m a big fan of the broccoli, too.

After letting the kids run wild in the play area for a while, we hopped back in the car to start back toward home. We took a brief stop to walk the pup (who patiently waited for us at each stop) at a riverwalk along the Wisconsin River. It is a pretty mighty river — at least that is how I always view it. My opinion may be a bit jaded by the time way back when when my husband thought it a good idea to attempt to kayak up it. The current is pretty strong & to kayak against it is… well, it’s a good workout. Let’s leave it at that for now.

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It is a beautiful scene though.

20130317-160615.jpgThe sand bars covered in snow are so picturesque.

20130317-160558.jpgAnd all the while between the interruptions, I clicked away on my moss stitch border using my new Quince & Co. Finch.

A perfect bird. A perfect lunch. A perfect family. A perfect yarn.

A perfect day for Knitting Sarah, interruptions & all.

Happy Sunday!

Sheldon Returns

I just snapped a couple photos of our neighborhood Cooper’s Hawk (we call him Sheldon).  I was clicking away when he zoomed through our yard, surely hunting one of our songbirds. I didn’t have time to make these very artsy – he is often in and out of our yard very quickly, so when I saw the good view I snapped a couple photos with the closest device with a camera. It’s always amazing to see nature and the whole circle of life up close… in my yard….

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Or, more incredibly… on top of my car.

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