Tag Archives: nature

Rhode Island “Spring”

It’s been a busy year as we learn to be Rhode Islanders! Sorry y’all for the delay in posts, but you can see what you missed by checking on Facebook. I’ll copy some of those posts here so you can follow our transmogrification from North Carolinians to Rhode Islanders.

March 14  It’s Pi day, my engineer tells me, so I mixed crust, he opened cans, I added brandy for flavor.

Dirk w pies 3:17 Nice treat after shoveling—4 in of VERY heavy Slush! If this had stayed snow we’d be having more to move… It’s been raining the past 3 hrs., making mush. I was wet through after 40″ out there. Crocuses & snowdrops had somewhat recovered yesterday, now under snow again. Inside the house, under a grow light, vegetables for our future garden are thriving–such a lovely contrast!

Snow back yard 3:17

Seedlings 3:17

Snow again, sticky, perfect for a snow man, & school’s out.
Here are two of five little cape/shawls I’ve made from Dirk’s mother’s left-behind sock yarn left-overs. Some have gone to friends, the rest to church for their prayer shawl program.

Interfaith Vigil at Holocaust Memorial in Providence on March 5. All our Rhode Island elected senators, representatives and Governor Raimondo as well as rabbis, immans & pastors and 300 or more people from our state were there. It was a large crowd, in spite of the temperature about 10 degrees by wind chill, which had already started to thin by the time we made a united circle around the central stone, Rabbi Aaron played and sang some rousing songs, and we placed  our own small stones there to say, “Never again–we remember.” What a strange world this is, for there to be bomb threats at Jewish temples and community center/schools in Rhode Island, where Roger Williams came specifically to form a colony with religious freedom. RW is on top of this tower.

Feb. 23– Our first crocuses are in bloom six weeks later than we saw them in NC. Such a treat to see an actual sign of spring. Dirk is wearing his new argyle sweater from our own wool. This project took about 5 months, including spinning the yarn. Only the orange is commercial. I’ve started cleaning up flower beds, including stems of last year’s flower heads, now completely empty of seed. Just hung up another bird house. I need to find seed for veggies that mature in a short season. So disappointing last year that bell peppers & Cherokee red tomatoes had to be picked green and small the day the killing frost was due. Suggestions?

Maeve and Emily enjoy the daily walks Dirk takes with them. Sometimes I go (when I’m not updating my blog!) or vacuuming up pet fur. He recently met a neighbor around the corner with chickens and more eggs than she needs. He dropped off the empty egg box with some of my Almost Lost dish cloths (thanks, Katie Verna) for which she was thankful and gave him another dozen eggs! Finally I’ve found someone with chickens to whom I can give egg boxes to recycle them.

Dirk's argyle; walking dogs 2:17

Emily is slowing down, and at 12, for a Great Pyrenees, I guess it’s time. She was barking at about 1 a.m. last night, so I let her out. She slipped on the icy deck and did a belly flop, and no foot found anything to grip. She looked at me so mournfully, those sad eyes, so embarrassed… as though I had made this situation happen. I brought out a throw rug and rolled her back and forth to get it under her for traction, and she popped up and took off. She loves to patrol all around the fenced  half-acre back yard at night, just like she did in our sheep pastures in her early years. I know we have a fox–my nature camera took his picture. I’ve seen deer, turkeys, smelled skunk, and my neighbor has muskrats, mink in her wetland back yard garden area–and then the perpetual vermin, coyotes, are everywhere. No one in this neighborhood has seen fisher cats yet, thank goodness. Those cousins to hyenas or badgers are a real threat. My hosta is never eaten by deer, in contrast to my friends’ gardes–I guess the dogs keep them away, which is great!

This is an afghan I made for a friend we left behind in NC, mostly from yarn Dirk’s mother left-behind. She died in Oct., and his father boxed up all her yarn and patterns and sent them along. I used her pattern in his argyle sweater. Both the “dog patch,” and the “sheep patch” are from my homespun yarn.  There’s a pocket in the center of the yellow square the right size for a cell phone or anything else that’s small that might fall out of her recliner or wheel chair. (She was delighted with that feature 🙂 These socks are from commercial superwash wool, cozy in winter, and I’ll wear them for St. Patrick’s Day. And last but not least, this is a picture of our church in Wickford, from the side, the First Baptist Church of Wickford. It’s lovely inside also, the glass still the wavy old 200-year old windows. I wish we could fill it up Sundays… We’ve made lots of friends there.

Narragansett wavesDirk & Judy, trop storm, Pt. Judy

This is one of the special things about living in this area. Narragansett Pier is right here, with the large beach and sea wall. Here you see a snow bank pushed up after one of the storms, and the lovely breakers rolling in toward the breakwater. I can be there in ten minutes, any time I want to watch the water roll in at high tide, which is invigorating! People walk their dogs on the beach all winter, parking is free until May or so. This was one of the big reasons why we moved north, to be this close to the salt water. The lower picture was taken during a tropical storm which turned out to be only lots of wind, at Point Judith Light, where the Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. My pulmonary Doc was right–my asthma does like the salt air!

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Filed under asthma, climate, dogs, Family, gardening, Homespun yarn, knitting, Weather, wildlife, Writing

First six months without sheep; preparing to move north

When we had sheep, they kept the fences clear. Now the birds enjoy the shelter.

When we had sheep, they kept the fences clear. Now the birds enjoy the shelter.

June, 2014 to Jan., 2015

Long walk in the woods, 1 1/2 mi.

Long walk in the woods, 1 1/2 mi.

This morning I captured a chipping sparrow away from Boots and Liam, and released it to the suet block. It shook itself and flew off, thank goodness. The two rescued stray cats run between my legs, or walk under Emily, the Pyr’s stomach, and move out the door with her. If I haven’t succeeded in re-homing them before we move, they may die on RI Rt. 1, which runs right in front of our home there.

Those who keep carnivores as pets need to be prepared to deal with carcasses of helpless small creatures pets consider their rightful prey. Last week it was a possum in the garage, probably after dog food—the 20-pound bags were tossed all around but not spilled…The dogs got the poor thing. Liam the cat had slipped out at midnight when I took the dogs out for their last walk, so I left the garage door ajar. Fortunately the possum didn’t come through the doggie door into the house! Life seems so complicated sometimes. Was the possum dead, or playing possum? I waited an hour to pick it up, then left it in the hole uncovered the rest of the day, dogs inside, to be sure it wasn’t going to just walk away, which I have seen them do. Not this time. A couple days before that I opened the back door to feed the birds and found remains of a squirrel on the rug, and a mouse a couple days later.

Woke this am. to find a raccoon “treed” in the firethorn on the back deck. Two dogs in the yard provides high risk for the night visitors… Maeve, our Aussie, has killed two raccoons this past summer, and is the best-rabies-immunized dog in the neighborhood. When I called for help, hoping NC Wildlife would come and trap the raccoons and take them somewhere, the employee advised me to take in the bird seed at night to discourage their coming here, and after two weeks, that did work. They don’t move raccoons, since they might be incubating rabies. I, of all people, should know that. I did a Masters’ paper on wildlife rabies, costs to NC when it got here, and oral rabies vaccine for wild things to control rabies exposures to pets and people. Nights are quieter in the house, too, since Emily barks with great volume and enthusiasm at possums or raccoons on the deck in the night. She’s shut in, but we have doors with windows to the floor, and she keeps watch. It’s her job, in her mind, to protect us from wild things who invade her territory. She’s done a great job of it over the years, also. We’ve never had coyotes in our pasture, killing our lambs or sheep, as many of my friends have suffered. Large farms require multiple Great Pyrenees or similar guardian dogs, to keep predators out.

Jan., 2015
A New Year, and still recovering from the surgical repair of damage done in the accident last April. I guess healing always takes longer than they lead you to expect.

We’ll move to RI in the summer, so we’re going through cupboards and closets, as well as boxes in the garage, to see what we’ve stashed, and wondering why we kept these things! I’m donating a great many things to friends who will use them, or organizations who will—for example wallpaper rolls from houses dating back 45 years—perfectly fine to use on a loom to keep the threads from tangling. I’m keeping a little of each to remember, and I’ll use it in weaving in the future, also. Common Thread in Sanford is a weaving workshop with many women volunteering to spend some mornings at donated looms, making rugs, tote bags, dish towels, table runners, place mats, etc., for sale both in the shop and at craft shows far and wide. Proceeds go to womens’ support organizations, such as Interact. They also compete in the Lee County Fair, have a wall full of prize ribbons, and the prize money also goes back into the organization. My box of old wallpaper will go there, since each loom requires a roll of wallpaper, and it wears out eventually, of course.

I’m spinning up great amounts of wool that is not from my best fleeces, just to condense the amount of bulk somewhat. Yarn takes much less space than wool. I’ve started an afghan for us to keep this time, which will have sheep and Australian Shepherd dogs (in their own fur) knitted in with the design. I’m still hoping to find a Great Pyrenees dog pattern to knit in, but so far, no luck. There is no hurry with this project. If we were not moving, I’d be aiming to have it ready to compete in the Carolina FiberFest in early April, but we’ll probably be very busy then, as moving time will be getting near, so I don’t plan to enter anything this year. I will be there to watch the sheep dog herding demonstration, and sit and spin with my friends in the Twisted Threads Fiber Arts Guild circle, however.

The pasture seems so empty and still, the fences covered with stilt grass, sheltering birds over winter. Emily, the Pyr, goes out to the back pasture every day on patrol, as she always has, keeping an eye on what predators may be threatening her acres. We miss the sheep, but our arthritic joints do not. Each year it got harder to clear gutters so water could run away from the barn, to trim hooves, move hay and grain down the hill to the barn, and keep things down there relatively tidy. It was great exercise, and that we do miss. Walking the dogs a mile up the road has to do now as a substitute, and the dogs enjoy it as much as we do. Emily used to live in the pasture only, unless the sheep were up grazing in the yard, when she came, also. Now she can explore the neighborhood, on a leash of course, but she loves reading the signs night critters have left along the road and on the woods trails we walk with them. We’re wondering where in RI we’ll find the same opportunity to walk with the dogs in the woods—we’ll have time later to look, but it will be much colder in winter there.

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Filed under Aging, Birds, cats, community, Compromises, dogs, dogs and cats, Family, Friendship, gardening, Grief, Healing, Health, Homespun yarn, sheep, spinning, Weather, wildlife

Autumn Sunset near New Hill

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Winter sunset through pines

Winter sunset through pines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden light reflects off the rufous breasts of the titmouses, off the white coats of the chickadees, and lights up the goldfinches. The pine trunks reflect the gold, and the pine needles, way up in the air, illuminate all the pine cones I’ll be picking up in the yard for the next couple years. A red-breasted woodpecker and the cardinals have come out to have some nuts and sunflower seed, in spite of my sitting near-by. Gold dignifies even the wings of the huge vultures flying low overhead, coming in for their landing in tops of the golden pine trees, rustling and flapping into the branches, high above the corner of our sheep pasture. I want to hold this four o’clock sun right there, bathing the world in its blessing.

I see some golden leaves that the slippery elms and oaks still hold, sprinkling gradually down to my back deck and to last summer’s garden. The gold reflects on my rain gauge, nestled in against the pansies, empty and awaiting the next rain. It reflects across the clear-cut, far in back of our woods, lighting up the weeds and bare trunks across the creek, back-lighting which sets off the bare, lofty, oak, maple, slippery elm, and tulip poplar branches, contrasting from the dense upper story of pine, and the vast tangerine and aqua sky. The giant oak at the far west corner of the pasture still holds some golden leaves at the topmost branches, which the sheep eat as they fall, also the acorns the tree drops for them. Sheep especially enjoy the tulip poplar and sweet gum leaves, which mostly are now dry, but they still enjoy the flavor. I’m thankful that we’ve gone around the edge of the pasture, outside the fence, and cut down all the choke-cherry trees, whose yellow leaves can kill sheep. A shining trail of ice stretches out behind a plane high in the sky, and the afternoon is so quiet that I can hear it roaring its passengers right by RDU, perhaps heading north to Washington or beyond.

Maeve, our Aussie, is on guard against squirrels, (one of her favorite command words, and favorite sprints). I know she once caught one–I was a witness. I hope I’m not again such a witness.

Juncoes snuggle under the canes of my mother’s rambling rose, eating millet and thistle seed in the shelter of the thicket. Cardinals contrast in a holiday way with the green leaves still on the rose bush. The birdbath is awaiting its next visitor, either bird, or Maeve, having a drink.

My fingers are getting cold, as the sun continues to descend, taking the golden light away with it, until tomorrow.

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Filed under Birds, dogs, gardening, Life is a cycle, Satisfaction, sheep, Weather, wildlife

Terri on Kromski, Deborah on Lendrum, Regan on Majacraft, spinning

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Feb. 8, 2013

We just hosted another enjoyable weekend spinning workshop. The weather was lovely, so we had good drying weather for fleeces and dyed fiber to dry outside. One of the new spinners brought along lots of Kool-Aid to use for dying wool, and created some lovely hand-painted creations which she later spun into designer yarn on her drop spindle. Each spinner designed a colorful batt (note the yarn they’re spinning in the picture) with an assortment of fibers and colors, and some angelina to add sparkle. They went home with a small skein spun on the drop spindle, and a much larger skein they spun on various spinning wheels during the weekend, including wool, alpaca, silk, and mohair, plus a little cotton, which is short and always a challenge at the very end of the weekend, so they can use their experience to work with it effectively. I consider the weekend a success when people find something they enjoy, whether it’s a certain wheel, or dying fiber with Kool-Aid, or learning how to make a puni of the cat or dog hair they bring along, and spin it into yarn. 

This week I bundled up and mailed two projects I just finished for friends in cold places. A good friend in PA will receive the shawl, and a cousin with recent health issues will receive the afghan. I enjoy having colorful and warm wool, mohair and (white shawl trim) Great Pyrenees fur to make yarn that will be cozy for friends and family. The weather will continue to be cold for a while (Punxsutawney Phil, the Groundhog, said so during our workshop) so I’ll continue to enjoy knitting warm woolies for my special family and friends.

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Asthma related to spinning wool?

Jan. 14, 2013

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Heidi with Biden; Judy with Obama, back seat of the Honda van; Border Leicester/Blue Faced Leicester crosses, about 6 mo. old, wethers

About 4 years ago we bought 2 lambs from a neighbor with Border Leicester/Blue Faced Leicesters to add to our aging flock–not a wise choice, and we later regretted it for several reasons. It was Obama’s first election year, we had one black and one white sheep, so obviously they were named Obama and Biden.

I just found a bag of seconds I forgot I had from about 3-4 yr. ago, and had more of Obama’s hogget fleece to deal with. It’s carded in with the rest of the seconds for an afghan for a cousin in MI who had heart surgery followed by stroke and a pacemker last month. It’ll take a month at least to complete the project, and I’m glad Obama’s fleece will have been well-used in it. I’ll smile giving it to my cousin, since his sensitivities politically are opposite mine, and I wouldn’t want to let it be known to him that Obama was keeping him warm 🙂

I’ve had one virus after an other the last month, so will disappear for a while until the flu and other viruses have made their rounds without me to catch them–I hope. Came back from my Dr. check up with a rotavirus. There’s just no mercy!! And now Dirk is coming down with it.

And then the ongoing nagging comment of my doctor that my spinning is making my asthma worse. Since I don’t get a flare unless I’ve been exposed to infection, or in one case to a heavy load of dust and pollen when helping a friend clear some tall weeds from a corner of her pasture, I’m not seeing the connection. I’m getting older each year, and she made no mention of a mask when I’m carding and spinning. When I complained that masks fogged my glasses, she threw up her hands and said, “Then it’s not keeping dust out, if air comes out around it!” Logical. So stopped at the drugstore on the way home and bought a different style which does not leak around the edges. My husband will soon forget what my face looks like, since I’m wearing it nearly all the time. Hope it helps. I do most of the wool preparation outside–pulling grass out of the fleece, and later carding it after it’s washed in shampoo. Where can I find journal articles to share with my doctor to indicate relationships between wool and asthma in a home situation, rather than in industry? I don’t know that anyone does research in that. I’m listening…

Since Dirk now has my latest virus, I just came up from the barn chores. It’s 69 outside, and so muggy I’m soaked. Winter in the piedmont of NC. Want to know what summer’s like? Add about 30 degrees to the temp and keep the humidity, and you’ll have it: a hostile environment to shelter from for about 5 months of the year!

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Summer Solstice in NC

Warm steam envelopes my air-conditioned skin. Humidified air needs no machine to provide air-borne water. Peep-toads whistle over the wetlands to fireflies floating around the tomato plants. Perfumed gardenia surrounds the beauty of blooming double pink and bright purple petunias, white pansies, red snapdragons and sage, pink and white verbena with a pink and green sweet potato vine curling toward the deck over the edge. Lantana matches marigolds, but fragrances compete. Red petunia and dusty miller’s yellow blooms tower over salmon-pink verbena peeking through from behind. Lily stalks are tall and heavy with flagrant pink perfumed blossoms, sunflowers stretch for the sky bobbing under bumblebees. A chastened rose bush is half its May size, trimmed of the spent vines, blooms and hips, loved by sheep. Lush new dark red and green leaves on soft vines watered daily with dishwater, shoot out to catch hair and clothing. Neighbors’ dogs are sleeping. In full dark the whip-or-will begins to sing, its voice echoing around huge pine trunks, making location impossible. A shhhh indicates water trickling on gardens, soaker hoses making tiny sprays of water up under leaves of tomatoes, peppers, acorn squash, kale, butternut squash, chard, beets, string beans, and cucumbers. Gone are the sugar peas and spring onions of the cool spring, and the massed pansies in all my pots, thriving through a mild winter.

White smudge of magnolia bloom peers at me through the near-dark, holding its fragrance for me to get near to wrap myself in the heady perfume, sweet and musty. One bloom fills a large bowl and scents a large room.

The sundial  is completely in shadow, and points to no time passing at all. Time is suspended in this silent peep-toad stillness. Trees have lost their color, moving from green to a shadow outline against a pale blue sky, empty of planes, even the birds are asleep.

Possums and rabbits silently roam the woods. Shining my lantern toward the wetland, I see hundreds of shining eyes peering back at me.

Birds’ nests peep from forks in holly and in a bag of pine cones not used for kindling last winter. Friendly wrens keep close company, nestling on little brown splotched white eggs in a cozy bundle of leaves, like the wind blew them there, shaped the small tunnel of pine needles, twigs, leaves and bits of soft grass and left-over wool. Soon the nest will arrive in a classroom to teach and charm children.

A yellow warbler clings to a butterfly bush branch working at a bit of partly-felted wool too short to spin, dangling there just for nests. I waited and watched as she struggled with the stubborn fibers, finally tugging a mouthful free and taking off in a flash. She was back in no time, lining her nest with our soft Romney wool.

The whip-poor-will is in a tree very near me. He doesn’t know I’m here. In winter they come to search the yard for bugs, ignoring bird seed. Summer is bug-time, birds are overjoyed: blue birds, fly catchers, cardinals, chipping sparrows, titmouses, chickadees, nuthatches, orioles, grosbeaks, gold finches, robins, catbirds, even the cow birds; especially the woodpeckers, tap, tapping on the pine bark.

Night things will be out in the barn, mice, an occasional rat, and the large snakes who hide well, and thrive on the rodents. In the yard our snakes eat moles, voles. Black racers, garter snakes, rat snakes, and ordinary black snakes need to dodge my Aussie, who hasn’t learned which are poisonous. She has yet to meet a copperhead. My Great Pyrenees, Emily, is wise to the difference– knows a corn snake from a copperhead, a prudent and sophisticated analysis. Emily ignores snakes unless its aggressive and could hurt us, her, or the sheep she protects.

Coyotes are in someone else’s fields and woods tonight–no yipping pack of predators and barking neighborhood dogs, lead by my Great Pyrenees, tonight. The danger is real: my friend’s Aussie was killed by coyotes last summer. Our fences are a mere impediment–if coyotes want in, they’ll get in. Sheep pasture has sturdy fence as well as a fierce 4-footed very loud protector.

Mosquitoes are waking up and finding warm blood to feast on (mine) while I revel in the solstice evening, clear and quiet.  One mosquito bite too many and I glide toward the house. Standing by the door, I hesitate to leave this magical dusk . Rain barrel is nearly empty, flowers gulp water in 90-degree summer. No respite at night when “cool” is 79 and humid.  Rain barrel and buckets of saved rain water breed flying bird-, toad- and peep-toad meals. Flowers have the benefit of extra compost in the squirming black noodles swimming in their water.  Highest-priority watering bucket is dark with embryos, air is thick around it with freshly hatched flying blood-suckers. Fewer of them to bite and breed, after I pour the bucket along rows of vegetables.

In dry summers, a dozen empty buckets and the rain barrel sit and wait for rain.  Kitchen gray water and compost coax gardens to thrive. Hot summers yield a pale-blue twilight, as the summer sun fades in the shadows of the yellow pine and oak, revealing a carpet of stars, by its absence. Dark arrives and “too-hoo” echoes off invisible woodpecker-drilled trunks of 90-foot yellow pines.

 

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