Friday, February 25, 2011

Stalking patterns

I hope the lady I stood behind at the grocery store didn't mind me intently staring at her skirt. I was thinking, "That would look nice knitted up. . ." so I sketched it in Paint:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Time out knitting

Every once in a while I hit a real knitting slump. Either I don't knit at all, or I try making knitted things that don't really engage my brain at all. During the next-to-last bout of this, I cast on a 72 stitch garter afghan square, and then, after knitting about 10" of it, discovered I'd made a funky something way down near the cast on, and needed a crochet hook to address it. That square, instead of merrily beginning the "eat up all the stash and make a blanket while you're at it" effort, is now languishing in a bag in time out.

Meanwhile, even though I'm being pretty good at not buying yarn, more yarn came to my house. In a bag. From a friend. Not much, and I moved the stuff I wasn't thrilled with right out of the house, but just enough to make some wee baby things. I figured, my wonderful niece deserves a little spring hat, no? And I, the dorky knitter, deserve to knit something that is soothing and repetitive, and easy enough that I don't spend my usual 30% time ripping and re-knitting. Every project I finish is usually about a 130% project.

At any rate, check this out. The amazing cuteness of the wee baby face makes up for every silly thing about the hat. I must immediately knit more things, so her cutie-fu spreads to more knitted items, no?

Monday, February 14, 2011

The other one

This Sunday was The Other Team's day. Four high school teams, a beautiful sunny day, with just enough of a hint of a breeze to promise the storms which hit last night. Unfortunately, my two favorite players had spent the week being very sick, and weren't up to their very best. They still did the frisbee trifecta of run, catch, throw, and it was a wonderful day. Good games, good parents to hang out with, and I even got some knitting done.

The kid runs fast, even when sick.

Nice bid, but not everything is completed:

The next trip down was more like it:

So cool she is.

I'm not going to be cool until this sweater gets much bigger. So far, I think the other knitting project looks like an alien chest protector:

Mix of bamboo and silk handspun (the green) and two colors of Cascade EcoWool. The body and sleeves will be chocolate, with something else along the cuffs and bottom. Some echoey pattern, probably. Anyhow, almost instant gratificaton, unlike the mitten project, which received a couple of rows' work last night.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another one suits up

On the verge of heading off for a full day of Frisbee and knitting (child and me, respectively), I felt like posting evidence that it's not going to stop any time soon:

She's not the tallest player, and she did sprain her ankle the first game out, but she's got a lot of heart and I'm sure I'll be driving her from tournament to tournament for the next few years, too.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Last of the first days of spring

One of the impressive things this weekend was how much Eric got done with his finger like this:

Just kind of hurts looking at it. But not as much as our excitement on Wednesday, when he accidentally removed the pin holding the tip of his digit in place. Whoo-ee, that was something. Fortunately he had an appointment at the hand surgeon on Thursday, and instead of re-pinning the joint, the good Dr. just had a splint ready for it. Apparently banging the hard plastic splint hurts a lot less than banging a large needle holding your joint still. Go figure.

Eric also finished stapling chicken wire to the tractor, and added a little in-out flap for the top. That should be a lot easier than dropping the box over them!

Another task Eric took on was bringing some order to the storage sheds under the deck. I've asked for this for a while, and I'm pleased with the ingenious kinds of storage. I can think of more hooks and things that would customize it even more -- this is actually going to be a pretty fun project.

Some garlic is definitely doing well so far. The leeks and onions I thought I'd planted next to it are much less robust. Drat it all. They really have to be started indoors, and I'll try to remember to do that next year.

I meant to do this digging over the course of the week, but oddly enough life got in the way, so it wasn't done. Today I got to one of the small fence-side beds, I did the dig a trench, toss it in semi double dig method of mixing in the horse poo and bedding and some blood meal. The bedding is the bulk of this stuff. If I'd done it sooner, I would have kept some more of the goodness in, instead of letting it all evaporate as ammonia, but we do what we can.

I was impressed at how lovely the soil is. Every year, it's showing improvement. And now, after being raked smooth, that part of the bed is ready to go. Into what, I'm not sure. More sunflowers? They sure were happy last year.

Whenever we work outside, at least one member of the family is happy to just hang out. Here, he was chewing an old bone, but generally he'll chew on anything available. A fruit tree, a pepper stem, the edge of a bed, a boot. . . He really enjoys cold, so being outside on the ground is better even than being on the couch inside. Although he'll do that if it's the only option for Being With The People.

So, the update on the bees is as follows. I was quite afraid of what I would find when I went back into the hives. Did I in fact kill my best queen by slopping too much paint on her (talk about feeling terrible, in fact so badly I didn't detail it on my blog), or did the feeding help the hives at all? Did I attract more bothersome ants to my smaller hive? What was going on?

So, today's warm afternoon meant a trip to buy more sugar to mix syrup for them, and I made a new cover, hopefully one that would allow me to cover the hive securely and allow room for a gallon plastic bag of syrup.

The weaker hive was still there -- this time, two frames covered by bees. This was an improvement. I got out a non-warped cardboard nuc box, and shrank the hive down into it. There were three good bee frames, with babies and nurse bees, and the nicely-marked queen, and a couple of frames of capped honey. On top of all of it I placed a nice full bag of syrup. The cover has enough room so I think the bees can get to it and also be covered. I may have to double-check. Being me, sometimes I overslash the bag and it drowns bees, sometimes I manage to keep them out of it entirely, wasting the whole effort. It works pretty well, when operator error isn't factored in.

The "good" hive was also doing very well. They're filling frames with syrup, and maybe nectar too. I saw brood, and then I saw the queen -- overly marked, sure, but walking around as though nothing was amiss. Oh, what a relief!

The top is not really going to work, at least not with a full bag of syrup. I had to tilt it and then block the opening with a large piece of bamboo. That worked for the two sides, but the front and back are open. If they're too open, the hive is vulnerable to robbing by other bees. I think a 2" tall "extension" around the hive would work best, with the top separate from that. If it were warm enough, I'd put an empty super on top, and then put the top on that. But that's 6 vertical inches of empty space to lose heat to, from the bees' perspective. I don't want to stress them any more than I have to. Back to the drawing board!

I wish we were having more weather like this for them. Unfortunately, it's a week of cold and rain predicted ahead. Oddly enough, the apricot tree, which is covered with blooms and directly in front of the hives, was deserted when I was stalking bees late in the afternoon. The Anna apple, 20' away, was just buzzing with them. Go figure.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

All done, with thumbs

We all know that we'd be up a creek without the ability to paddle without our thumbs. My mittens (Rav link) are happier with them, it turns out. Also with duplicate stitches. And blocking. And woven-in ends. All add up to mitteny happiness.

Here, perched on the overly-abundant lime tree, just to give a shot of sunny weather-type plants to anyone up to their duplicate stitches in snow:

Thumbs! And also, varied tension on stripes. Maybe over time they'll even out. Or not.

Some people are unhappy with gussetless thumbs. They don't bother me so much. It's not as though I'd like to do some kind of hand-intensive dance, such as Balinese dance, in them, but since I'm not likely to do that at any time, I figure these are good. They fit fine.

It took me much longer than I'd like to admit to figure out that the duplicate stitch went in the little in-between diamond thingies, not the fronds. Fortunately it unpicks easily. And I really don't like duplicate stitch much.

It makes an already-poppy mitten just that much nicer (unlike the obvious mistake in the photo above. Oh well.) They're done.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Of lack and increase

Four full days of over 70 degrees meant a lot of garden time this weekend. It also meant that fellow beekeepers were reporting lots of capped drone brood, queen cells, generally hives ready to split. I figured I had better get out there and give the girls a look.


Anybody home?

This hive, my "dark" hive, didn't look great. They've been bothered by ants for some time, despite my best efforts to banish the pests. I opened it up, and here's a nice frame of pollen:

But this was the edge of the brood nest. Deserted, and with a weird pattern:

Looking closely at the caps, you can see perforations:

That's the bee way of dealing with dead or diseased or pest-ridden larvae.

Looking at the bees that were in the cells, I saw a lot of tongues sticking out. I think these starved to death. . . although I just realized I forgot to do the tip/look for frass tests for Varroa.

The few remaining bees were yumming up the honey -- not much in the hive, either.

I guess you could call easy queen sighting an upside of a terribly dwindled hive.

And I had my marking kit, but not the right year color -- I decreed that red would be easiest to see, even though this year's color is white.

Being me, I managed to drop her (of course) although she seemed none the worse for the drop. I can see why keeping weeds down around hives is a great idea.

Deeper in the brood nest, they were eating larvae. This hive is either starving or reacting to a pest. Either way, it's unsustainable.

Hungry and dead:

My "better hive" was also looking a little thin:

At least there were two or three frames that looked like this:

The queen must have been on this frame for me to take the picture, but I couldn't find it in the editing program. Go figure.

I did find her -- the golden one. Then I dropped her, caught her again, then marked her with red. I hope I didn't get too much paint on her, because killing her by marking her would be so stupid as to be unforgivable. Tomorrow, both hives need compressing into one box and feeding with bags of sugar syrup. Obviously I'm not making any splits any time soon. I'll be lucky to nurse even one of these hives into survival, I'm afraid. Bummer.

But little by little, I'm climbing out of my months-long slump. Eric has been unusually helpful in the garden, despite his partial amputation via table saw. His finger is hanging in there (har har) and he helped me hoop and bird net two beds much more securely than I would have been able to do on my own:

Just like that. The sides lift up; the ends are capped with their own flat piece of the nasty plastic netting. I planted "Tacoma" peas, an afilia type, and some flowers in that bed. I also put out some iron snail bait, since they are the #2 pest in my garden for seedlings.

I also found a flat of seeds I'd sown had started sprouting, so I moved them under a wad of bird netting.

And then spent the rest of the weekend wheelbarrowing horse manure and stable sweepings back into the too-low beds.

Those are still awaiting hose lifting, blood meal applications, and general tilling, but a small bed got all three:

No birds are going to get that tiny lettuce bed, at least not until I take the Reemay off.

I planted thickly in rows, figuring I'd eat them small until they were spaced correctly, or maybe I'll transplant. It feels good to at least be making headway. I'd thought I was possibly not going to have a garden this year.

We may have apples, though. The Anna tree is looking exceptionally lovely:

And the Katy apricot is blooming almost all over. A few bees wandered over, but I'm worried about having another outbreak of brown rot. I hope the dry weather helps.

Assuming, of course, it holds. Well, always an adventure.