Monday, May 31, 2010

More Recently Completed Knitting Projects

It looks as though summer has arrived here in Minnesota and with all the fun stuff going on outside, I've been very neglectful of my blog lately. When I was downloading some pictures from my Master Naturalist field trip this past Saturday, I was surprised to find lots of other pictures on the compact flash card that I'd forgotten about. So it looks as though I'll have a few days of blog posts as long as I'm willing to take the time to sit down at the computer and get my thoughts and photos organized.

I decided tonight I would start with an easy one -- recently completed knitting projects. (Some of you may have already seen these on Ravelry or Facebook.) My first item is the "February Lady Sweater" (a free pattern download from Ravelry). This pattern was modified to fit an adult from the original Elizabeth Zimmerman baby sweater pattern. I actually made a couple of these baby sweaters (for gifts) at least 15 years ago during a Community Ed knitting class. Mine is knitted with a nice superwash merino wool from KnitPicks. Needless to say this sweater has been folded up and put in the closet until wool sweater weather returns in a few months.
I did find some really beautiful natural shell buttons at JoAnn Fabrics. The photo doesn't show it, but they have that lovely iridescence you always find with natural shell and they're also machine washable.

Back in March I showed you the Baltic Mitten I had knitted up and wanted to teach as a class at my local yarn shop. I did have that class (for only 1 student - but she enjoyed the private lesson!) After I had posted that mitten, I got an e-mail from my blogging friend Beth out in Maine. She was wondering whether I'd be willing to knit his & hers Baltic Mittens using colors from the Latvian flag. I'm always up to a knitting challenge and the 2 pairs of mittens in the top of this photo now have a new home in Maine. It's really neat for me to know that my knitting projects are keeping people warm in so many different places.
(In case anyone's interested the mittens on the bottom are also for sale and will show up in my Etsy store once the weather gets cooler - unless you're one of those people who really plan ahead and would like to buy them now for next winter!)

This is the Victorian Shoulderette (a pattern from Sivia Harding). I'm also teaching this class at my local yarn shoppe -- starting next Saturday. It was fun to knit and a good introduction to lace knitting for someone who's never tried knitting lace before and are intimidated by starting with one of the larger lace shawl patterns that are usually available.
This shawlette was knitted with Mericash3 - a lovely and soft yarn blend of 80% merino and 20% cashmere.

This is what it looked like while it was being blocked. My students will also learn how to do this as they should be able to finish their shawlette in the 3 class sessions I have planned.

My final project was this cute little doggy sweater. It's the Classic Aran Dog Sweater from a Leisure Arts pattern book called Dog Gone Cute.

This is the small size and it was a perfect fit for Lulu - a Japanese Chin who accompanies Kristen to work every day at Kristen's Knits (my local yarn shoppe). I adore Lulu! She's such a cute little dog and loves to hop up and sit on my lap while I'm teaching knitting classes.

Lulu loves looking right at the camera to have her picture taken so Kristen had her hands full convincing Lulu to stay turned around long enough for me to photograph this sweater from the back. Thanks Kristen and Lulu for your assistance with this photo shoot!

So that's all the knitting I have to show you for now. I've still got little projects going on but once again, my knitting productivity has declined while I take advantage of the beautiful summer weather and all the outdoor activities that I enjoy like birding, biking, gardening, golf, etc. I know there will be plenty of time for knitting once cold weather arrives again next fall.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Morning Birding

This morning Mr. Johnson and I attended a bird hike sponsored by the local Audubon Society to look for warblers and whatever else we could find. Our destination today was Indian Heights Park, a mostly undeveloped jewel of the Rochester parks system, as we found out this morning. This park is located at the dead end of a residential neighborhood right in the middle of suburban northwest Rochester. After parking our cars in the paved parking lot, we headed up the dirt trail. We were searching for warblers again this morning, but they were mostly absent (except for 1 female American Redstart spotted late in the hike). We did hear the Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-Throated Vireo and Eastern Wood Pewee (my FOY), in addition to the usual chickadees, cardinals, and bluejays.

Shortly up the trail, I spotted something bright yellow on a fallen down tree. "Hmmmm," I thought to myself, "I hope that's what I think it is........" I headed off-trail for a closer look at what turned out to be my first personal discovery of Chicken of the Woods (sulphur shelf) mushrooms. Charlie, another birder with our group, confirmed this ID and on the way back to the car, the mushroom you see on the top left side of this log went home with me for this evening's supper (it was delicious!) I'm thinking I may have to make a stop back here on my way home from work tomorrow to collect the rest for my freezer.

There was a huge abundance of raspberry bushes along most of the trails in this park. I also made a note to myself to return with Mr. Johnson and berry-picking buckets in a few weeks to reap some of that delicious bounty.

We did see a few downy and hairy woodpeckers, but none of the pileated woodpeckers who were responsible for creating the holes in this oak tree.

At the end of the trail, we found this scenic spot overlooking most of the eastern Rochester skyline. In this photo are Mr. Johnson, and our trip leaders, Terry (red shirt) and his wife Joyce (lite blue shirt).

This is a view of Silver Lake.

In the middle of this park is an old quarry. It wasn't a large quarry and probably wasn't used for too long. It's quite overgrown now and we did find some evidence that it's been used in the past for a teen party spot.

Another cool thing we found was this intact skull with some bones and fur nearby. After further investigation of the bones, we decided that this was probably a raccoon. Unfortunately, I didn't have a plastic bag along with me, so this skull stayed where it was (even though I really wanted to bring it home). Maybe tomorrow when I'm fetching those mushrooms.......

There were quite a few wildflowers blooming and here are some of the ones we saw.

False Solomon's Seal

Vetch and Wild Columbine

Black Snakeroot

Another look at the Black Snakeroot (with some flowers blooming)


An unidentified daisy (I should have taken pics of the leaves!)
The flowers were really small - only about a half to three-quarters of an inch across

Here's a busy bumblebee pollinating some raspberries for me!

We were almost back to the parking lot when we spotted this flower. It was one that none of us had ever seen before, but after doing some checking on the internet, I'm reasonably certain that it's a Star-of-Bethlehem. It was a beautiful little plant and I wouldn't mind finding some of these to plant in my own backyard some day.

Haven't seen many butterflies yet this year, but we also saw this pretty little Red Admiral taking advantage of the nectar in this nice dandelion (another reason to save dandelions -- a nectar source for early season butterflies!)

Glad you could come along on this birding hike with me. Even though we didn't see many birds, we saw a lot of other cool things and it just goes to show that time spent outdoors is never wasted.....especially when you keep your eyes open for the unexpected treasures nature has to offer.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Morning Birding

When I heard on the weather forecast that Friday was supposed to be a nice, sunny day, I rearranged my work schedule to have the day off. My plan was to wake up early and head out for a morning of birding in Fillmore County and hopefully check some warblers and other spring migrants off my list. It was a beautiful morning and since I had no schedule, I was able to stop and enjoy some non-bird sights during my journey.

Mammals always provide good photo opportunities because they don't move nearly as fast and are much larger and easier to capture with a camera than birds. I had to stop the car and turn around when I spotted these longhorn cattle in a small pasture. Cool, aren't they? Scroll down for closer looks..... What a beautiful animal. They're a little different than most of the cattle I see around here because they weren't the least bit curious about me and never approached the fence like most cattle would. Good thing my camera zooms!
I thought this one was so pretty -- looks like maybe a cross with White Park cattle (I'm basing that assumption on the black ears and nose). I noticed its left horn had some fuzzy stuff stuck on the end.....wonder if they use their horns to scratch their back and this was some fur??

In the field right across from the longhorns, there were some horses. It was a little chilly this morning, so you can see the steam from this horse's breath.

These horses came right up to the fence for me to pet and get a closer look at. I really like the way horses smell, don't you?

Here's another cute little mammal -- the red squirrel. It's not very often they sit still long enough for a photo, so I felt particularly lucky to get this picture.

Down at Mystery Cave State Park, this little bat (I think it's an Eastern Pipistrelle) was sleeping in a high corner outside of the visitor's center.

There were lots of spring wildflowers blooming at Forestville State Park. Flowers and plants are also much easier to photograph than birds, so I took advantage of that.

Wild Blue Phlox

Wood Anemone (Mayflower)

Wild Ginger

Virginia Bluebells

(I loved the way this picture turned out - backlit with the sun!)

And now finally, I've gotten to the birds! It was an amazing morning, filled with all kinds of birds and their beautiful songs. Thankfully, I remembered to bring my BirdJam and field guides along, and was able to identify almost every bird that I saw and heard. I spent most of the morning at Forestville State Park under the canopy of deciduous forest and along the river. It was a most perfect day for birding!

Eastern Meadowlark on a fencepost

Song Sparrow preens his feathers after taking a bath

And then interrupts his preening to sing a pretty song!

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Green Heron (and reflection!)

I love their crazy yellow feet!

Here's a listing of the birds I saw this morning in Fillmore County -- a total of 60! I was pretty happy with this total for my 5-hour birding adventure.

Hope you get a chance to enjoy some good birding adventures this weekend too!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Colorful Summer Birds

Even though it doesn't feel like spring here in Minnesota (I'm wearing a wool sweater this afternoon and the furnace is still running!), the summer birds are arriving in the backyard, and pretty much on schedule with previous years' arrivals. Last Wednesday, I was happy to see my first hummingbird show up at the nectar feeders. It was a cloudy day, so this ruby-throated hummingbird looks more like a black-chinned hummingbird.

I spotted the first Rose-Breasted Grosbeak last Friday, the 7th. Today while I was eating my lunch, Mrs. Grosbeak also showed up to dine on safflower seeds. Aren't they a handsome couple?

Here's a series of pictures I took of Mrs. Grosbeak all by herself in the crabapple tree outside the dining room window. I love this shot!

She posed so nicely for this profile shot too!

Then she noticed something a little ways up the branch......

......and stretched up to bite off a little crabapple!

Perched in the tree beyond Mrs. Grosbeak was another male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (yellow arrow is pointing at him). The first male still at the feeder wasn't very tolerant of this other guy hanging around.

Baltimore Orioles also arrived late last week. He doesn't seem to have any problems getting nectar from this hummingbird feeder.

And this afternoon, I was thrilled to spot the first Indigo Bunting in the backyard. These pictures are a little blurry, but there's really no mistaking the brilliant blue of this little bird.
I hope he decides to stay around at my feeders for the summer!

That's all Folks!!