Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Every morning I find a few minutes to start my day with a smile by visiting the ICanHasCheezburger site for some puppeh and kitteh humor. Here's one of the LOL puppehs I found today. I just thought it was appropriate for my blog. :-D

Friday, December 26, 2008

All Done by Christmas!

For the first time that I can remember, I managed to get all of my Christmas gifts completed by Christmas! I showed you some of the things in previous posts, but here are the rest of the items that were finished and given as gifts this year.

Shown below are a couple pairs of slippers (I was sewing them together Christmas morning!). Also shown is a little pair of mittens for my great nephew.

These half-mitts went to my SIL in California (along with the black "magic gloves" they're shown with). I hope she likes them.

This is one of Kathleen Taylor's Freebie Friday patterns (Easy Lace Fingerless Mittens). I love these fingerless mittens and wear them for most of the winter--at home and at work. The nice thing about them is if you wear just the mitt, your fingers are still free for typing or other work, but if you add them over a pair of gloves (like in the photo above), they really keep your hands warm.

And here are the last items--2 off-white dishcloths for a couple of co-workers and the blue & white variegated one for my sissy. This is Cathy Waldie's free pattern called Christmas Lace Dishcloth. She also has a pattern for a matching hand towel to knit, but I wasn't that ambitious this year. You can check out her "Wishing I Was Knitting at the Lake" blog here or click on it in the Knitting Blogs and Links section in my sidebar.

I have a goal for 2009 of trying to finish at least one old project every month. I would also like to try and get my Etsy site up and running with some knitting projects to sell. If there are any Etsy sellers reading this post, I would welcome any advice you have to share. And I also have a plan to do a confessional post about my knitting addiction sometime in the next couple weeks. I think you will be entertained (and also slightly horrified) reading about how something as harmless as knitting can take over a person's life (much like the way birding has also taken over my life!)

I hope you all have a good weekend. I'll be working now until next Wednesday to satisfy the end-of-the-year deadlines, but that means that time off I'll enjoy from January 1-4 will be extra sweet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you and yours....

....and don't forget to feed the birds!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

First Day of Winter-2008

You don't have to be crazy to live in Minnesota, but it sure helps!

December 20, 2008: ROCHESTER, MN -- The Minnesota Department of Transportation in Owatonna and Rochester advises no travel in the 11 counties of District 6, which include: Olmsted, Freeborn, Mower, Fillmore, Houston, Winona, Dodge, Steele, Rice, Goodhue, and Wabasha. This is until further notice, due to extremely poor driving conditions caused by heavy snowfall and reduced visibility.

Today dawned clear and cold, so I waited until the sun came up and then spent 10 minutes putting on all my layers to go out and fill all the birdfeeders. In case you're wondering, that's a smile on my face -- not a grimace (as it looks!)

This is turning out to be a winter like we used to have--before global warming.

This morning the weather service said we have 18" of snow on the ground. As you can see, the backyard dog is up to its tummy in snow and the pheasant (the dog was pointing at) is now completely buried in snow. (For new visitors to my blog, the dog is a metal sculpture and there's also a metal pheasant sculpture right in front of the dog--here's a link to an earlier picture of it. Rest assured, I would never leave a real dog like this in the backyard in any kind of weather!)

Happy Winter everyone! I hope you're staying warm and safe!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More Woodpeckers

Are you getting tired of woodpeckers yet? I hope not, because I have some more to share with you. Here's Mr. Hairy Woodpecker on the suet log. I was happy to see that he wasn't the least bit intimidated by the starling deterrent cage and taking advantage of the suet available in the lower holes on the log.

I was extremely surprised to see this Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker in my backyard this afternoon. Here she's sharing the suet with a starling.

Here's a better look at her underneath and you can how she got her name! I checked my field guide and determined that this is a female because her throat is white (the male would have a red throat).

Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers are a summer bird in Minnesota and I rarely see them in my yard, even in the summer. According to my field guides, the farthest north wintering range of these birds is the southern most parts of Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, so I'm not sure what this poor bird is still doing here. Here's one more look at this pretty lady.

Here are a couple pictures of my Red-Bellied Woodpecker pair enjoying seed from some different feeders. They seem to favor seed over suet. This is the male.

And here's the female, trying to get a little protection from the weather.

As you can tell from all these pictures, we're having a little snowstorm today. Actually we're in a winter storm warning until 6 PM tomorrow evening. It's been snowing since about 8 AM today and I guess we've probably gotten 5-6 inches already (on top of the 5.4" we got yesterday). The temps are dropping rapidly and the wind is starting to pick up. The weather service is predicting winds of 20-30 mph with gusts to 40 mph overnight. I'm not planning to leave the house again this weekend (except to fill the birdfeeders tomorrow morning). It's going to be a good weekend to get the last of my Christmas present projects finished!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Miscellaneous Monday

I hope you're all staying warm tonight. It's pretty darn cold here, but not as cold as some places. I'm glad I don't live in Minot, North Dakota--I saw on the news they had an air temp of -22 degrees and the windchill made it feel like -65 or something awful like that. We had a temp of -7, with a windchill of -35 when we left for work this morning; that was pretty hard to take especially since it was 43 degrees (above zero!) on Sunday morning. That little thaw resulted in our garage door becoming frozen to the ground, so there were a few anxious moments this morning as Mr. Johnson had to use the ice chipper to loosen the garage door so it would open and we could leave for work. For any of you that live (or have lived) in colder climates, you know that it's the wind that makes it feel coldest. Here's what a wind chill of -30 does to the bubbler in the heated birdbath on my deck.
I have what appears to be a little ice volcano over the bubbler. You can see that the water is completely ice free, but the air temperature is so cold that it freezes the spray of the water that's being pumped up over the rock, resulting in this covering of ice over the bubbler. The birds still come to the edge of this birdbath to drink, but they know it's too cold for bathing. Once the wind dies down, the warmth of the water should eventually melt this icy covering away.

To take my mind off the frigid weather, look what arrived in my mailbox today:
Yea!! My first seed catalog! I took a few minutes to look through it and think about the nice warm days of next May when I'll be planting my next vegetable garden.

Here are some pictures of several recently completed knitting projects.
This hat is a Christmas present going to my nephew Charlie in California. This pattern is called Ear Flap Kids Hat and can be found at Knitting Pattern Central. The pattern is for a plain hat, but I decided to knit in a little color. After I got done with the white design, I noticed it wasn't lined up exactly with the blue design, but I don't think Charlie will notice. I'll have to remember that for next time though. (In case you're wondering, my hat model is a squash!)

This next hat (entitled "A Pup Named Phil Hat") is from the toddler's clothing section of Knitting Pattern Central. It will be going to my great nephew for Christmas. You know, I've been knitting for a lot of years, but I can honestly say that I don't remember knitting anything as cute as this ever before. I can hardly wait to see how this looks on Ethan.

The rest of these aren't Christmas presents, just pictures of projects you've only seen partially completed before. Here's the shawl I made from the Noro Kureyon sock yarn. It's a small shawl, but adds a nice bit of warmth around my shoulders. I probably should have used a plain colored yarn, because I don't think you really notice the lace pattern with the color changes in the yarn. I'm also not totally happy with the edging. The points on the edge that pulled out very nicely when I blocked it are now tending to curl up. I'm thinking about adding some beads on those points around the edge to give the fabric a bit of extra weight and keep it from curling up.

Here's the other Tam O'Shanter I knitted from Angela Sixian Wu's "Three Tams" pattern. I really like how these colors turned out. The dark colored yarn is a 2-ply worsted weight wool called Regal (part of that yarn my friend Don gave to me last summer). As I was knitting with it, I thought the yarn was a little bit rough, but once I washed this hat and put in a little fabric softener, it dried so nicely (over the dinnerplate again) and is now really soft to the touch. I'll add it to my drawer of finished projects until I find the perfect giftee or silent auction to donate it to.
Top View of Tam

Bottom View of Tam

Have a good evening and stay warm! It's time for me to go sit by the fireplace and knit some more!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Backyard Woodpeckers

My posting and commenting are probably going to be somewhat sporadic from now until the end of the year due to the fact that I need to get some Christmas presents knitted up and also my workload is increasing a bit as the year-end orders start coming in to manufacturing, so if you don't hear from me regularly, that's what's going on.

Today I have some fun pictures of some woodpeckers in my backyard. Here's the Red-Bellied Woodpecker getting peanuts out of this tube feeder in spite of the starling/squirrel guard I've got over the feeder. Isn't it amazing how far he can stretch through the wire? Then he uses his tongue to get a peanut out of the feeder port. It seems like an awful lot of work to me, especially in light of the fact that I have several easily accessible suet and peanut feeders in the yard, but I guess it's just a woodpecker thing. Gives me a chuckle watching him though.

Here's a handsome Hairy Woodpecker. I felt lucky to get this picture. These guys are pretty cautious and usually don't hang around the feeders long enough for me to grab the camera and get it focused.
Those dang starlings are still hanging around. (The trap is filled with snow, so I'll have to get it thawed out sometime over the weekend and set it up again.) I filled the suet log that hangs off my deck and yesterday when I got home from work the log was almost completely emptied and there was all kinds of starling poop on the patio below. Those dirty pigs! So this morning I took the drastic measure of putting the cage over this suet log to keep the starlings out. Here's a little video I took of the Downy Woodpecker enjoying the suet in this log--and how easily he gets to it despite the starling guard. I feel bad because I think this guard will also deter some of the bigger woodpeckers (except maybe that crazy Red-Bellied!), but at least I won't have the aggravation of having mobs of starlings right outside the dining room window.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Video Post - Bluejays at my Window

For those of you who like bluejays, here are a couple of videos that I took last Sunday morning. If you've never tried a window feeder for feeding your backyard birds, now's the time to start dropping some hints for that perfect Christmas gift! It's really fun to see the birds up close!

Sorry about that ticking noise--there are 2 clocks very close by and I don't even notice them anymore, but they sure sound loud on the video.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like.......

We survived our first major storm of the winter. The winter storm warning was issued early yesterday morning and the snow flurries started coming down around 2:30 in the afternoon. Predictions were that we could possibly get anywhere from 4-10" by the end of today. Fortunately, we ended up on the lower side of the predictions and once it stopped snowing earlier today, we had a total of 5.6" at our house, and that's more than enough for me!

Here's how the backyard is looking--you can just see the top of the metal pheasant's head now (compared to seeing almost his entire body on November 30th).

The weatherman had been predicting some pretty high winds after the snow finished, but we were thankful that those predicted 30 mph gusts didn't arrive after all, so most of the snow that fell just stayed where it was instead of blowing and drifting all over the place.

When we got home from work today, Mr Johnson fired up the snowblower and after he finished clearing the driveway, it was my turn to make all my paths to the birdfeeders in the backyard.

I love playing with the snowblower! I know some of you might think this is a huge waste of gas just cutting all these paths through the backyard, but it makes it so much easier for me to get out and fill all the birdfeeders every day, plus Sophie really likes running on the paths too. These are all her tracks in the picture below--she gets off the path when I throw her frisbee.

Before I went to bed last night, I checked to see if the deer had stopped to eat some corn and I was surprised to see at least 7 in the backyard. Mr. Johnson just got back from his walk and he talked to one of the neighbors who lives up the street who mentioned that he had seen 17 deer recently eating apples in his backyard. Holy Moly! It will be interesting to see whether the number of deer in our backyard continues to increase as winter progresses. I'll keep my camera handy and post updates as they become available.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Milestone: 400th Blog Post!

When I signed in to Blogger this morning, my "Dashboard" page told me that my last post on December 4th was #399, so today's post will be #400. Can you believe it? Me either!

I don't have anything particularly inspiring to share in this 400th post, but there are a couple of cool pictures from something I recently discovered in the backyard that I've saved for the end. (Don't forget, you can click on any of these pictures to make them bigger.)

After waking up to a temperature of -3 degrees (F) this morning, temps have moderated to a balmy 9 degrees and we're getting some light snow as I'm writing this post. Weather like this really increases the bird activity at all my backyard feeders.

Here are a couple of nice pictures of the always attractive Mrs. Northern Cardinal.
It's a little breezy too!

Of course, the bluejays are all hanging out waiting for me to dispense more peanuts. They can really fluff themselves up in this cold weather.

Now that the leaves are off all the trees, look what I discovered in the big weeping willow tree in my backyard:
It's a Baltimore Oriole nest--made with plant fibers and pieces of the blue tarp that was blowing to shreds in my neighbor's backyard. Isn't it amazing that orioles can create a nest like that without any hands?

Here's a look with the 32X zoom.

One of these days when it gets a little warmer, I'll have to take a walk around the backyard and see how many other bird nests I can discover.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

iPod Fun

The Black Friday sale-priced iPod Nano I ordered on-line was delivered to my front door sometime while I was at work on Tuesday. I haven't had much time to diddle around with it yet, but did get the battery charged up. This afternoon I decided to try and download a podcast and see what that was all about. I went to the Bird Watcher's Digest website because I knew that they had podcasts available of birdy topics I would enjoy listening to. It was pretty easy, I just clicked on the "Visit Podcast Central" button and there it was: This Birding Life with host Bill Thompson, III.

I browsed the list of titles and chose the podcast titles I wanted to listen to and within minutes, I was learning all about BirdJam......

from two of its creators: Jay and Denese (complete with pictures!) Isn't this cool??

Next I listened to my friend Julie's story of Fergus the bullfrog called "Paradise Lost" from her great book "Letters from Eden."

I don't know about you, but when I was a little kid I loved it when my mom read stories to us, and that's exactly what listening to these stories was like. Somebody who knows about these things please tell me: I can download audio books to the iPod too, can't I? Then I'll really be able to maximize my knitting time!

Oh, and if any of you know of other sites with bird and/or nature podcasts I can add to my collection, would you please share them with me in the comments section? Thanks

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A New Knitting Project

Here's a new knitting project I completed this afternoon. In case you can't tell, it's a hat, but not just any old hat, this is a Tam O Shanter.
Amazingly enough, in the 40+ years I've been knitting, I've never made a Tam O Shanter. But I found this really cool pattern for Three Tams at Knitting Pattern Central. The patterns were designed by the very talented Angela Wu (see her blog here).

So I know you're looking at this picture and wondering, "how in the heck is she going to get that goofy looking thing turned into a tam?" And here's where the real magic comes in. After washing and squishing all the excess moisture out of the hat, you just stretch it over a dinner plate.

It's easy to center the plate correctly and evenly with this pattern. Isn't the top shaping beautiful?

Here's what the bottom side looks like. I love how this turned out and the really neat thing is that the contrasting colored yarn (Noro Kureyon) changes colors all by itself within the skein. Once the hat has dried, I just take out the dinner plate and it's ready to wear or more likely be given away as a gift.
I still have some of the contrasting yarn left and there should be just enough to make another tam using one of Angela's other designs. The next one will have a dark charcoal background, and I'll post photos once I get that finished too.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Night Sights

We were just finishing up supper and when I went to put my dishes by the sink, I spotted some deer (under the light) eating from the bird feeder tray in the side of my yard. I grabbed my camera and went downstairs to put on the backyard light and there were several more at that feeder tray too.
Because the weather was kind of crappy on Saturday and Sunday night (snowy and blowing) I think these little yearling deer were laying low in a sheltered and warmer spot. But tonight, things have cleared up and there is barely any wind, so these hungry critters headed out early to check for food. Fortunately I had gone out around 5:00 and put shelled corn in both of the trays.

The picture above was taken without the flash and the one shown below was with the flash (which doesn't seem to bother them). I have the trail camera mounted on a nearby pole also, but didn't have it turned on tonight (the batteries are probably frozen anyway).
There was a total of 5 young deer visiting the backyard tonight. That's the most we've ever seen at one time. There were no adult does with them and we do know that a couple of does were harvested by bowhunters in the nearby woods earlier this fall and also one large doe was hit by a car on the highway which is adjacent to our backyard.

Earlier in the summer, we did see one doe with triplets and another doe with twins, so these 5 deer may be a combination of those 2 family groups. I guess we'll never know for sure, but what I do know for sure is that I'll keep putting corn out for them to help them survive the winter and just keep hoping that they stay on this side of the road and don't attempt to cross the nearby 4-lane highway.

Did you have clear skies at your place tonight? If so, you may have noticed this celestial display. I saw it when I was putting the deer corn out and then it was mentioned on the NBC Nightly News (and on our local KTTC Weather Blog which also has a much better picture than mine).
Of course, you'll have no trouble identifying the moon and the smaller, higher planet is Jupiter, while the lower planet is Venus. How fortunate that the skies cleared tonight and we were able to see this!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Catching Up

Did you take advantage of "Black Friday" deals? I am definitely not a black Friday shopper and decided to go to work instead. I couldn't believe the numbers of people out that day and all parking spots appeared to be filled in the shopping centers I passed coming home from work. I did take advantage of one sale though and purchased (for myself) the 8-GB iPod Nano (boring black) in an e-mail offer on Friday morning and was such a good price I couldn't pass it up (free shipping too!) Now I just have to get my birdJam software and I'll be all set for birdJamming!

Since I have no other exciting things going on right now, I'll show you a few pictures that have been on my Compact Flash card for the last couple weeks.

We woke up to a winter wonderland this morning. There was about an inch of snow on the ground and it's still flurrying. I'm sure glad I went out yesterday afternoon and raked up a bunch of leaves that were still on the ground in the front yard.

This Common Grackle was hanging around my feeders last weekend--apparently he missed the memo that listed the final departure times for fall migration (and he doesn't look very happy about having to hang out with all the sparrows either!)

I have "double decker" possums in my yard this year! Whatever the deer don't eat from the ground feeders overnight, the possums usually clean up from the trays and under the other feeders. (Sorry this picture isn't very good--I was trying to hold the spotlight between my kness and snap the photo without shaking too much.)

There are lots of bluejays in my yard again now that winter is getting close. It's fun to watch them come to my stump feeder to collect the shelled peanuts in the seed blend I put out here. It's impossible for me to tell any of them apart, but apparently they know who belongs to which family and therefore, who will be allowed to dine together.

But woe to the bluejay who tries to get some seed when he's not allowed! I caught this one in mid-flight and look at the poor guy at the bottom of the picture.....patiently waiting to see when he will get his chance to eat!

I put a few nuts out for the squirrel again. Here's a fat little bushytail making off with a filbert.

And they still visit the grounding feeding tray for corn and sunflowers too. This squirrel looks like it's got a pretty luxurious fur coat to get through the winter.

Have a good week everyone!