Friday, October 27, 2017

Put on a hat & coat

L to R: Luna, Trixie & Emma
Finally getting cold here... the first chilly day of Fall so far this season 48F/8C. We might have frost in the garden tonight. I have covered the tomato plants with a sheet as there are still many cherry and yellow pear tomatoes on the vine. Not much seasonal leaf color but the maple leaves are starting to fall. I think the plants are really out of their natural annual rhythms; the sunshine angle and duration is autumnal but it was 76F/24C just two days ago.

Seasonal preparations are ongoing here. I made a coat for my daughter's dog, Luna. Both my dogs have furless bellies, so I got creative with the sewing machine. I suppose the dogs don't really need coats, but they seem to appreciate their warmth, even wearing them to sleep. Dogs do keep track of who gets what, so now Luna won't feel left out of the "pack" when she comes to visit.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Woodland Escape

As tensions mount over our "crazy" political & health care situations here, it had became clear I needed to plan another escape to cope with all the bad news. This has become my ideal coping option for problems beyond my "sphere of influence."

Daughter and I just returned from a one-day getaway campout at our local Klondike Park. This area had been a silica-sand quarry and there are lovely white sand beaches around the lake. This park is in the heart of our local wine country and we paid a visit to the Yellow House Winery in Defiance, MO (see on the way to the campground. The weather was cool and crisp, just like autumn should be, and some of the leaves had begun to turn color too.

I have been so excited about camping since my return from the Wyoming/South Dakota trip, and I wanted an excuse to go tenting again. My youngest has never camped, so we had a "girls" overnight escape where she got to learn setting up a tent, meal prep and campfire basics. We hiked lots, and I know I feel calmer after being out in nature and so does she. Simply disconnecting from the media, and the continuing stresses/worries associated with Presidential decisions was a relief...

Monday, September 25, 2017

Road trip

Devil's Tower, WY
After a depressing & unsuccessful search (so far) for employment, I decided to brighten my spirits with a road trip. A "bucket list" review put Mt. Rushmore first in contention, until I heard on NPR that this year is the fortieth anniversary of the movie, Close Encounters of a Third Kind. Yes, I am a total geek about that movie; who can forget the model of Devil's Tower Richard Dreyfus sculpted out of mashed potatoes, then constructed in his livingroom?

I have happily planned and executed a 3100 mile trek to Wyoming and back, with Devil's Tower my first major tourist destination. I also saw Pipestone National Monument, Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument and lots of US country-side. Of course, I incorporated a mini yarn crawl into the mix as well, visiting shops in WI and SD. (Separate yarn shop post upcoming).

Mt. Rushmore, SD
I also camped, which hasn't been on my vacation itinerary in over 20 years! I have to say that of all the experiences I had, tent camping really was wonderful. I had somehow forgotten the depth of my enjoyment at living closer to nature, seeing the stars and successfully starting a campfire. I really got my confidence back from managing to "rough it" outdoors. I intend to continue to camp and enjoy hearing the wind, and breathing the air that rustles the leaves.

Crazy Horse, SD
I continue to travel alone and find that there are some fine, sociable folks in this country willing to chat or share a meal. I had my map atlas and itinerary notebook on the passenger seat and did fine navigating the whole trip. It is enlightening to realize how little stuff it takes to be comfortable & happy exploring around this world. It's the experiences that are such a great value on their own. I'm glad I chose to see some of the sights that make our country unique. The cultural diversity that founded our nation is truly apparent and it's presence colors every monument and locale.

Lovely high plains of SD

 Landscapes of the high plains are so vast, and a pleasure to view. Very different from the Midwest rolling hills and greenery. I even saw four buffalo outside of Custer, SD. I am so impressed at how environmentally and geologically diverse our country's landscapes appear as well. Driving this distance gave me lots of time to appreciate the land, and see all the windmills that have been erected to create energy. It is encouraging to realize that many states are enterprising enough to explore alternative sources of energy, instead of fossil fuel. I did not see a single oil well on this trip. The windmills were huge in WI, MN and parts of SD. Their presence reassures me that in this year of powerful storms and heat, some local governments are embracing the importance of alternative energy in the face of climate change. I'm hoping it offset all the gasoline I consumed on this trip...

Windmill farm Lakefield, MN

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A few bags less

My Grandmothers' things
I have been indoors cleaning & clearing out while the weather has been so hot 96F/35C and humid. Whenever I get stressed I clean, sort, and scrub, usually filling one trash bag and a couple of bags for donation during this process. It always amazes me how much paper manages to stealthily clutter throughout the house. So, just like pruning in the garden I have been busy excising stuff and streamlining my home environment.

A couple decades ago my mindset about stuff used to subscribe to the philosophy, "maybe I'll need this someday," now it has changed, and radically so...  I have felt almost possessed by the urge to clear out. While I continue to be seriously sentimental, I have realized that the physical burden of am item sometimes overshadows the underlying meaning or memory of the memento.

When these periodic purge-modes take hold, they get me to shed all sorts of possessions that have been languishing in dark corners or no longer benefit my lifestyle. While it is tempting to pawn some of these things off on my kids, I realize that I am doing them no favor by just shifting junk around through households.

I have been to many estate sales that were cluttered with the detritus of a long life; so many tchotchkes, years of "Precious Moments" figurines gifted when the family couldn't decide what to give a Mom for holidays. Believe me, estate sales are littered with useless stuff that cost hard-earned cash to purchase, yet is not worth $1 for anyone to buy on the second-hand market. That theory also applies to "Beany Babies," Hummels, Christmas plates or any other collector special edition knickknack.

I buy second-hand frequently, because I look at it as an effort to reduce, reuse and recycle, but trinkets from another person's life are rarely valuable outside their family. Occasionally, I will buy something to collect, but I have learned the best collections are intensively curated, not overwhelmingly large.

Conscientiously, gathering items of interest and beauty marks us as human. Our endeavors to possess or preserve something precious is a trait even Neanderthals demonstrated, buried with their artifacts. It was only when the elite began gathering treasures that the value of stuff started to be ingrained into all levels of society.

By1884, Lt-General Augustus Pitt Rivers had collected 22,000 cultural artifacts whose donation to the University of Oxford started an era of museum acquisition and private collections of "curiosities." In the U.S., George Gustav Heye accumulated a one million piece collection of Native American artifacts, opening the Museum of the American Indian in 1916 . Even Sigmund Freud collected Middle Eastern and Etruscan art, considering it "an addiction, rivaled only by nicotine," see

While it seems I have placed myself in lofty company, all I am trying to say is collecting is universal and profoundly human, providing connection to our memories, and desires. Sometimes, though these physical/emotional links to stuff become a psychic and physical clutter; few of us would be eligible, or even invited to open our own museum. The stuff simply continues to occupy more space in our lives, add our current capacity to purchase in-store or online, and almost limitless amounts of stuff accumulate.

So, I try to keep in mind those packed estate sales, considering the stuff burden my children might face, and I happily prune out the deadwood of my possessions. Some things my kids would like now, some later, but the rest... if I don't see a need for it, well, it goes back out into the world to benefit someone else. It still seems like I have more than I need, but I'll keep weeding things and eventually, I hope to leave a tidier, curated legacy of just cool "heirloom" stuff.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Some Days it's too Hot to Garden...

Just blocked & dry
So, when it is too hot to work in the garden I have been knitting. While I was in Scotland this April, I was not only visiting new sights, but I was also on a personal international yarn crawl. I came home with 16 skeins of yarn! It wasn't all for myself, though I was tempted, my daughter received some skeins of yarn from that suitcase stash too.

I selected a wonderful lace weight yarn to knit first. I had made this purchase my first day in Edinburgh at Kathy's Knits, see . I was wandering, a bit lost with my backpack and looking for my B&B when I noticed Kathy knitting in a patch of sunlight at her basement shop doorway. I was very tired, my backpack had become much heavier the longer I walked, so I was more than happy to leave it on Kathy's stoop and shop for a few skeins of yarn. She suggested this limited edition wool, called Autumn, by , a 50% Romney/50% Shetland lambswool yarn. Its color scheme reminded me of a mossy forest having olive greens, rusty browns and mushroom-y silver shades that stripe. I purchased this 50g skein (380 yd/350 mt) whose label had a photo of Kent, the sheep whose wool produced this yarn as a memento of my wanderings. I returned to Kathy's Knits later on my trip to purchase more yarn and found this wonderful shop a calming place to chat and relax, a LYS that made me feel "at home."

The pattern I used for this shawl is Sylvia McFadden's "All About Love," see here . This pattern was fun! You initially cast on for the lace border, then complete short rows for the stockinette section. Yardage-wise, I still have approximately a quarter of the Autumn skein left after completing the pattern as written. This pattern is completed as ONE piece, which appealed to me because I do not consider myself skilled at attaching lace borders. I now have a lovely souvenir of my springtime visit to Scotland. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017


Have just picked, or rather harvested my first tomatoes of the season. The larger Roma finally got fully red and the two yellow pear tomatoes are a great size for "minis."

I am looking forward to an upcoming deluge of tomatoes from my three plants. They are loaded with green tomatoes, so I will have to be patient while they ripen, but I am pleased with my on schedule success.

There isn't any vegetable tastier than a warm, sun-ripened tomato. I shall be slicing these three up for a gourmet tasting tonight.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


The Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica) are back... I know I was all excited about being a Humane Backyard, but I checked the paperwork and insects are not listed for nonlethal resolutions to their presence. As I have said before, I do not spray anything but Neem Oil and soapy water, but with this many Japanese Beetles, I have resorted to handpicking them or knocking them off the plant into a coffee can with an inch of water before killing them. Also, I have noticed leaving a few crushed beetles around the roses does seem to discourage any surviving beetles from returning for a couple of days.

I have to admit that these bugs do creep me out with their front legs splayed like pincers, and they frequently fly in your face if you miss squishing them too. Every year they seem to target a different selection of plants; this year the Knockout roses, echinacea, butterfly bush (Buddleia) flowers, and surprisingly, only the yellow gladiolas seem to be their menu favorites. My son's poor nectarine tree is also infested, so I think this will be another year we see the fruit feeding nature instead of us.

These destructive insects emerge from the soil, where they have spent a year as white grubs underground. Historically, the Japanese beetle arrived from Japan before 1912, since then the beetle has spread west and north from New Jersey. See here

So, while these beetles are doing their best to eat through my roses, I am committed to smooshing them before they complete the egg laying portion of their life cycle. I am sure this battle will end up at best a draw, more likely, I will make little impact in their population. In my gardening notebook I will highlight the timing of my Neem oil application next year for a late June hatch. Hopefully, the spraying and my squishing efforts this summer will create a smaller population of Japanese beetles next year.