Just how many hats does one gal need?

16 09 2007

24 hats and counting, apparently—then add a few questionable scarves to the equation. Many years ago, in my formative teenage years, my mother taught me how to do a chain stitch, as well as single and double crochet stitches. That was the extent of my crochet education. (My younger sister, Kelley, never advanced beyond the chain stitch, but I must admit that she can make a really, really long chain stitch!) Sidebar: My Grandma Hester taught me how to use the same stitches to cover aluminum bottle caps. When we got a pile completed, she hooked them together and made dandy little trivets—now available for just 25 cents each at a yard sale near you.

So every few years, tempted by the yarn aisle at a craft store (honestly, what aisle does not tempt me?), I would buy a skein (or two or three) and attempt to make something wearable. I recall almost finishing a project (or two or three), but mostly I remember lots of half-finished unidentifiable yarn projects in a plastic bag in my closet. Fast forward to Christmas about four years ago—we were visiting my family in San Antonio, and on the drive up to see my younger sister in Dallas, I decided that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” and bought some yarn and needles. I have to do something when I’m in a car for six hours—if I’m not driving, that is. Picking up crocheting again seemed logical. I could arrive in Dallas and still be social, creative, and productive—with something tangible to show at my destination.

I decided I would attempt to make yet another (likely-never-to-be-finished) scarf. With my crochet skills a little rusty, the yarn began to curl and I couldn’t keep it straight. My mom (a.k.a. my crochet guru) said, “well, if it’s curling—make a hat!” Hmmmm…how does one make a hat? I started a chain stitch, then a single crochet, and let it weave into a circle until it began to resemble a yarmulke—since I’m not Jewish, I continued crocheting past that stage. I asked her, “How do you make it go down to form the sides of a hat—do you go tighter or looser?” Since she replied, “Yes” (a non-answer), I asked her if she had ever actually crocheted anything. That’s when I learned that although she knew chain, single, and double stitches, she had never made anything! All these years I had just assumed that the afghans, ponchos, pom-pon hats, placemats, and tissue holder covers on the couches, backs, heads, tables and toilets of friends and relatives across the country were all lovingly crafted by my mother (all of which are now available for just 25 cents each at a yard sale near you).

I just began to wing it, and I stopped at the precise moment it resembled a hat (see photo, second row, 2nd hat from left—this is my first hat). I did this without any instructions, unless you count my mother’s advice. Mom wasn’t much help past the yarmulke stage, and reading crochet pattern instructions would make my brain hurt.

Never seen a crochet pattern? Here’s just a sampling of the (it’s Greek to me) language of crochet: to shape crown: Ch 1. Rnd 1: Work 7 sc in first loop to form ring. Rnd 2: Work 2 sc in each st. 14 sts now in rnd. Rnd 3: Work [1 sc in next st, 2 sc in foll st] to end of rnd. 21 sts now in rnd. Rnd 4: Work [1 sc in next 6 sts, 2 sc in foll st] to end of rnd. 24 sts now in rnd, etc.

Now, I’m smart enough to know what the abbreviations mean, but if I have to keep reading something in order to make it (sort of like having to read an entire software manual—who really enjoys that?), it kind of zaps the joy out of creating for me.

So, I confess that I am crochet-pattern-challenged, and must do it by sight, trial, and error. If my goal is a hat, I crochet until it resembles a hat and then I stop—ditto with scarves. Something must be working with my rather crude system because here I am—24 hats and 7 scarves later. I can make a hat in about an hour and a half (pretty quick results to satisfy a creative streak). It started out with simple hats made from one kind of yarn and has evolved (as you can see in the photo) into fuzzy trim and appliqued flowers. I cannot make a simple hat—it has to be embellished now. You’ll notice several of the hats are plain—this was practice until I had the shape down pat. Then I got brazen and started adding fuzzy borders, balls, bric-a-brac, and brims.

I crochet on road trips and instead of telling someone how many miles it is from here to there, I tell them, “That’s about a 3-hat trip for me!” Making hats (too many) is something to do during winter when I can’t putter around in the garden. Some I make as gifts, but most I hoard for myself.

And for an amusing take by another blogger on what not to crochet, go to the site below. Also look at “Top Posts” on the right and see some other funny crocheted items; the “Thongs” posting is funny, particularly the responses from readers.

http://whatnottocrochet.wordpress.com/2006/05/28/tissue-box-covers/

http://whatnottocrochet.wordpress.com/2006/12/10/thongs/

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Bee’s Knees

12 09 2007

This is one my favorite garden photos. Sue grew one of the Mammoth Russian sunflowers last year and called me over to record it. I would like to claim that I saw this little bee “coming in for a landing,” bee’s knees bent for impact, but that would not be true. I was shooting madly as the afternoon light was fading. It wasn’t until I browsed the images later that I noticed this little guy in flight. I had gotten numerous other shots with the bees already in place, gathering pollen, but this was pure serendipity.

© Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos

knees-bees.jpg

I did a little research (not surprised, are you?) on the origin of “bee’s knees” and found some interesting tidbits:

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/the-bees-knees.html

And, speaking of sunflowers, here are some interesting facts:

—The scientific word for sunflower is Hellianthus, referring to the ability of the sunflower bloom to follow the sun from sunrise until sunset. The word is derived from helios, meaning sun, and anthos, meaning flower.
—Argentina is currently the largest grower of sunflowers.
—The sunflower is grown for the seeds and oil it produces.
Each mature flower yields 40% of its weight as oil.
—The tallest sunflower grown was 25 feet tall and grown in the Netherlands.
—The largest sunflower head was grown in Canada and measured 32.5 inches across its widest point.
—The shortest mature sunflower was just over 2 inches tall and grown in Oregon using a bonsai technique.
—Sunflower stems were used to fill lifejackets before the advent of modern materials. —Low-pollen sunflowers have been developed in recent years which not only helps asthma sufferers, but extend the flower’s life.
—The flower was cultivated by North American Indians for many years as a food crop.
— The sunflower is not one flower, but a cluster of more then 2000 tiny flowers growing together.
— The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas and the national flower of Russia.
— The French word for sunflower is tournesol, or literally “turn with the sun.”
—The sunflower has been around for at least 8,000 years. Archeologists believe that Native American cultivated sunflowers as early as 2300 B.C., well before corn, beans, and squash.
—There are over 2,000 varieties of sunflowers identified to date. Unfortunately, many varieties have not been located and may be extinct.





How can something this beautiful…

12 09 2007

…be so destructive? I know when I first sent this photo out to Debbi (our resident Rose Queen), she probably passed out in shock when she saw it. One must admit that they really are beautiful, despite how destructive they are. I’m happy to report that I have never seen one in my own garden (and therefore I don’t have to deal with critter elimination!).

japanese-beetles.jpg

© 2007 Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Popillia japonica is a beetle about 1.5 cm (0.6 inches) long and 1 cm (0.4 inches) wide, with shiny copper-colored elytra and a shiny green top of the thorax and head. It is not very destructive in Japan, where it is controlled by natural enemies, but in America it is a serious pest to rose bushes, grapes, crape myrtles, and other plants. These insects damage plants by eating the surface material, leaving the veins in place, producing a curious, but alarming “transparent leaf” effect on its victims.

For more photos of this insect, visit http://bugguide.net/node/view/473/bgimage

Excerpt below from The Urban Pantheist.

In 1916, America’s most densely populated state (New Jersey) became the first place in North America where a certain exotic Asian scarab beetle was found. This beautiful but destructive animal is now well-known to gardeners in the eastern states, and is becoming familiar in more places every year. Increasing amounts of regulation and use of biological controls (a bacterium and parasitic wasps) are the official weapons in use against the Japanese beetle. Still they seem to have a robust population in areas where they occur, including urban centers that have the plants the adults feed on (over 400 species documented) and grassy soil for their grubs to overwinter in. And they continue to spread, being found in San Diego for the first time in 2000, and at an airport in Montana in 2002.

Japanese beetles are often encountered in what appears to be mating groups. Females produce sex pheromones that attract many males, who compete for the opportunity to mate in large clusters. According to one researcher, relatively little mating actually occurs in these groups. Males will guard their chosen female from other males until she is ready to lay her eggs. At least while clustered, they can be easily picked off of plants.





For Indy

12 09 2007

Indy is a neighbor’s cat and often visits my garden—I suppose because of its jungle-like qualities (and the fact that birds and other critters call it home as well). He also likes to peer into the patio door and taunt our cat, Jasper. His owner has a difficult time keeping him indoors exclusively, and although I see him all over the neighborhood, he knows where his home is. Regina told me that his owner found him abandoned at a rest stop years ago and brought him home. He has some kind of heart condition, but it doesn’t seem to slow him down. I see him walking across the top of the fence and he always comes when I call his name. He’s quite affectionate and, as you can see, very willing to take time out of his day of wanderlust to pose for me.

indy-on-patio.jpg

© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

A Cat
Stately, kindly, lordly friend
Condescend
Here to sit by me, and turn
Glorious eyes that smile and burn,
Golden eyes, love’s lustrous meed,
On the golden page I read.

All your wondrous wealth of hair
Dark and fair,
Silken-shaggy, soft and bright
As the clouds and beams of night,
Pays my reverent hand’s caress
Back with friendlier gentleness.

Dogs may fawn on all and some
As they come;
You, a friend of loftier mind,
Answer friends alone in kind.
Just your foot upon my hand
Softly bids it understand.

Morning round this silent sweet
Garden-seat
Sheds its wealth of gathering light,
Thrills the gradual clouds with might,
Changes woodland, orchard, heath,
Lawn, and garden there beneath.

Fair and dim they gleamed below:
Now they glow
Deep as even your sunbright eyes,
Fair as even the wakening skies.
Can it not or can it be
Now that you give thanks to see?

— Algernon Charles Swinburne

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algernon_Charles_Swinburne





On (Blue) Dasher…

12 09 2007

This little guy (yes, I did some research*) is Pachydiplax longipennis, or a Blue Dasher. Other common names include Swift Long-winged Skimmer and Blue Pirate. Learn more about him here: http://bugguide.net/node/view/598

*This site states that females can turn bluer with age, but they start out more amber colored.

Further research has determined the grapelike clusters attached to his belly are “aquatic mites,” and the single red one, in particular, is a “locust mite,” or Eutrombidium rostratum, the most common locust mite in the U.S. and Europe. They are often seen on the body and wings of grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and mantids.

I found some wonderful photographs and information on various dragonflies here:
http://www.whatsthatbug.com/odonata.html

In-depth details on how (as well as when, where, and why) to photograph dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies can be found at a Web site I found for JPG, “The Magazine of Brave New Photography.” http://www.jpgmag.com/stories/1246

blue-dragonfly.jpg

© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos





Ah, Grasshopper…

7 09 2007

Garden observation, Sept. 7, 2007, 2:34 p.m. I was out watering the front garden and this little guy flew by me and landed in a perfect place to be photographed. I did a little research and he might be a “lesser migratory grasshopper,” or a “Russianthistle Grasshopper.”

He/she looks like this one: http://www.wygisc.uwyo.edu/grasshopper/mesa.htm

Most of the sites I researched seem to be geared toward eradicating them. I don’t plan on doing so….of course, I don’t have income-producing crops in my front yard, either.

ahgrasshopper.jpg

© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.   www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos





Mina Lobata (Spanish flag)

3 09 2007

I grew this from seed and it is an incredibly beautiful vine, blooming mid-summer to fall. The common name is “Spanish flag” or “Firecracker vine.”

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/vines/mina_lobata.html

2-spanish-flag.jpg

© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved   www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos