Friday, May 27, 2016


 Another of the native perennials I added to my garden in 2015:

Mayapple, or Podophyllum peltatum

It's a fantastic-looking plant.
To give you an idea of scale:

To see beneath those twin parasol leaves,
one must get right down to ground-level.
It's worth the effort:

The single hidden flower
experiences a microhabitat created by the leaves.

I love the illuminated leaves:


Some folks mention mayapple as edible or medicinal, but the word "toxic" also appears in descriptions of every part of this plant. I'm not even slightly tempted to eat mayapples. But this morning it occurred to me how wonderful it would be if someone would develop a way to use the toxins to safely eliminate only biting, stinging insects with no apparent redeeming value. Mosquitoes. Black flies, deer flies, horse flies. Ticks.

99.99% of the time, I think removing an organism from the world is likely to have unforeseen negative effects. I've sometimes argued vigorously against experimental efforts to control one environmental nuisance by adding another. But when it comes to mosquitoes and biting flies? Personally, I would be willing to take the chance that, once those insects were gone, their previously-unknown positive contribution would be revealed and their demise would be a matter of deep regret.

Call me reckless.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

almost wordless thursday

After a long, cold Spring, we are suddenly having August.
The past few days have been extremely hot and muggy.


Today was, of necessity, a long day of outdoor projects. My hired helper came for four hours this afternoon, and I started two hours before he arrived. I'm happy - and a little surprised - that I stayed awake long enough to do the evening chores at the regular time.

Trout Lily

Before I call it a night, I just want to share a few recent snaps.
Very green, most of them.


And one, orange :)

A tiny Eft

It's exciting to see perennials I planted last year, returning.


And it's always a special joy to see beloved native plants again.


Violets and Columbine

Some of the most interesting plants appear in the Spring.

Jack in the Pulpit

And now, goodnight, dear readers.
I hope the weather is pleasant where you are!

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Many years ago, I worked on a research project that required a couple of trips to Puerto Rico. Most of my time there was spent in Natural Resources/Forestry archives or field-checking data in the Caribbean National Forest.

But one day, I decided to take a day off and see more of the island. Puerto Rico contains a range of very diverse ecosystems, remarkable for such a small landmass.

In Ponce, the original Spanish capitol of the island, I visited the Museo de Arte. Two strong memories of the museum stay with me to this day. First memory: sitting on a stone bench by a courtyard fountain, and suddenly understanding that fountains can be more than a celebration of the beauty of water; they can be a shrine to it's life-giving value.

Second memory: walking into a dim gallery space where light emanated from one end of the room. As I walked toward it, I found it wasn't a light at all.

It was this:

Flaming June, by Frederic Lord Leighton, 1895

The painting is about four feet square, and it is powerful stuff.

It seems to glow from within.

Like a sugar maple in Autumn.

Like this yarn:

Lifting this hank from the dyepot, I was instantly transported right back to that long-ago moment in the Museo de Arte de Ponce.

Isn't it amazing the way memory works?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

remembering to knit

Ann and Kay over at Mason Dixon Knitting are hosting a sock KAL right now, lasting through the end of May. If you can use a little cheering on to finish a neglected sock WIP...or if you've been thinking of casting on for a new pair of socks...well, this is a great time to join in. There are quite a few people knitting their very first socks for this KAL!

Knitting had fallen by the wayside for me since the weather changed. I've been alternating between two states: first, shoulder to the wheel, tackling one necessary chore after another, and second, feeling so exhausted I don't want to move. It's not a good system, and it's not even effective in terms of getting things done, so this week I'm trying to be aware and to pace myself a bit more.

And knit.

I've missed he transition of knitting for a few minutes here and there during the day, or at bedtime; it's very mind-quieting and centering. So Monday night, I pulled out the WIP bag and finished these socks which had been languishing, toeless, for several weeks:

And today, thinking of making a nice pair of summer socks for the KAL, I decided to kettle-dye a hank of 50/50 merino/tencel. I started the dye process on the stove but then let it go on for hours in a 180F oven while I got on with other things.

 When Piper and I returned from errands and an hour-long (huzzah!) walk in the woods, the yarn was ready for a soak in a sudsy basin to remove any unattached dye. That's where it is now. I'll rinse it after evening chores and if it dries overnight, maybe I'll cast on a sock tomorrow.

Here's a funny thing: I want to recreate a pair of socks I made in 2009, but didn't make any notes. I can see what to do for every part except the lace stitch on the leg:


Maybe I pulled it from a Barbara Walker stitch dictionary; she published several thick volumes, and I've occasionally borrowed one from the library.

Does it look familiar to any of my knitting readers?
It looks like a repeating series of partial discs, at a diagonal.

If you click the caption, it should take you to the ravelry project page and the original image which is much sharper.

One more piece of fibery news from the MDK blog, which has been one of my favorites for many years. This week Ann and Kay are having a giveaway for a substantial amount of Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere yarn.

'Nuff said?
Good luck!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

it only comes once a year

Fagus grandifolia

"American beech"

Leaf-out is always a deeply inspiring time of year for me,
and beech leaf-out is one of my favorite miracles.

Beech is one of my favorite hardwoods anyway, at any season and at all stages of its life. I love every shade of every color in the leaves, and the cool, smooth grey of the boles and branches.

I love the way some of the leaves will remain on beeches throughout Autumn and Winter, dried and shaped by the prevailing winds until the entire tree takes on a sculptural quality. On a calm Winter's day without a breath of a breeze, the beech still appears to be in motion. It's a brilliant artistic collaboration between the trees and the wind.

And it's all beginning again, right now.
Right this minute.
Once it begins, beech leaf-out happens very quickly.


I am so glad I had the chance to see it again.

These pictures are all from a couple of young beech saplings, about ten feet tall, that I saw on my walk with Piper this morning. The black flies are terrible right now, so this was the only time I stood still for more than a few seconds; the rest of our walk was at a fairly steady pace.

It was apparently exhausting.

Well...not really. I'd like to pretend I walked so far and so fast that I wore Piper out, but in fact this Extreme Nap was the result of the big lunch she had when we got home.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

tuesday tidbits

During the recent week of rain, the amazing epimedium continued to produce masses of tiny gem-like flowers:

 The flowers are passing, but look at what the leaves are doing!


In other perennial news, the little wild ginger plant I added last summer was one of the first plants to return this year. It's leaves looked exceptionally lush against a palette of Forest Floor:

Charming, isn't it? 
One day I made a little line drawing:


Several readers have asked about Project Windowbox.
Thanks for asking! Here's an update.

The design decisions were easy, thanks to all the good advice I received here. I am very grateful! This is the kind of thing that can hang fire for years while I hem and haw. The choices made:

1) sturdy white plastic boxes
2) continuous wooden supports built across the long walls

After a long and fruitless online search, I found boxes locally - a nice surprise. I also ordered gallons of a cedar-oil-based wood preservative, because the exterior walls of the porch needed to be protected before installing the boxes.

No big deal.
My occasional hired helper and I could work together and get it done, lickety-split.

On the right:
product applied but not yet absorbed.

Then...for nearly three weeks my occasional hired helper and I experienced a baffling series of miscommunications. By the time it was straightened out, the rainy season (it really has felt like an actual season, with soup and tea and a barn coat that never quite dried out before I had to put it on again) had begun.

So, for the past two weeks we've been working as often as weather and schedules permit. Working on several now-overdue tasks.
Working hard.

Current status: most of the porch now has two coats. The gable peak has one. A third overall coat may be needed; we'll see. Either way, fingers crossed the painting will be finished by next week. We finally had a sunny day yesterday, and another today, but my helper has not been, no progress yet this week. Yes, I could crawl up that ladder and do the gable myself, but moving and setting the higher ladder is hard for me to do. So I'll wait.

Meanwhile, one more piece fell into place on Saturday, when I found a source for the potting soil recommended to me by a blogger who gardens like I can only dream of gardening. I've never been so excited about the opportunity to buy dirt. I'm really pushing the boat out on this project! 

Soon...I'll keep you posted!

I'm sure LeShodu would like to thank you for your kind birthday greetings, and especially the suggestion of "special carrots."

"'Special' is a unit of measurement, right?
Is it equivalent to a pound?
Or is it one carrot for each of my 12 years?"

Sunday, May 8, 2016

birthday girl

Today is LeShodu's birthday.
She is my foundation doe;
the Matriarch of Cloud Harvest Cashmere.
Every goat on the place is related to her.

She came here in 2010, at the age of 6:

In Spring 2011, LeShodu introduced Violet and Lily of the Valley :


Acer and Betula followed, in Spring 2012: 

Reluctantly (it was my idea), LeShodu took a year off in 2013...

...then produced Vinca and Dara in 2014. 

LeShodu was formally retired as a breeding doe in 2014.

Again, it was my idea.
LeShodu's clear preference was to continue growing her herd.

Can a Queen ever have too many Subjects?
LeShodu does not think so.

Of course, LeShodu has not retired from either brush-clearing...

...or producing very nice cashmere.

Happy 12th Birthday, LeShodu - Queen of the May!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

rainy day #4


(It's a start. Sure feels like a long time since DrawingAugust!)

Monday, May 2, 2016

murky monday

Mourning Dove

It rained yesterday.
It's raining today.


The forecast is rain for the next six days.


Chipping Sparrow

So to keep our spirits up, here are a few snaps taken way back when the sky was not grey and the air was not clammy and raw.
About two days ago. 


Thank you for helping me with "what shall I draw?"
I really appreciate it! This "poll" gadget is new to me, and last night I discovered that correcting a typo in 
my original post somehow broke the buttons on the poll. Oops. I quickly rebuilt it and posted the replacement. Fortunately I had looked at the poll results just before fixing the typo, so I jotted down those numbers to add to later counts.

Last night, tree was well ahead of the other choices, followed by leaf. But tonight bird has sailed to the front! So exciting! I was beginning to feel a little sorry for stone and landscape and boat, but now they each have one vote. And after reading Maywyn's intriguing comment, I googled and learned the trick of figure-eights and boats. Who knew?

This little poll is turning out to be fun, which is especially welcome on such a gloomy day. I'm going to leave it up til tomorrow then add the numbers and get out my sketchbook.
Thanks again!

Meanwhile, here's one more cheery bird:
Purple Pomegranate Finch
Thanks :)