Sunday, May 28, 2017

An Interesting May

May is to spring what October is to fall: over-the-top beautiful. (A niece of mine recently said: "Isn't it amazing to live in a world where trees turn pink for a couple of weeks every year?" Yes - it is.)

This most beautiful of months even had a most beautiful day: Thursday the 18th. The lilacs were in full bloom, flowering crab and redbud trees were miracles of pink and rose and red, creeping phlox spilled like pastel waterfalls over emerald lawns, winter cress shone like sunshine in the fields, and new-leaved maples and oaks sported every shade of green, all under a bright blue sky with just the right amount of slow-sailing, puffy white clouds. A day I wished I could package up and send to all my friends and loved ones (or, better yet, have them here to share the joy).

These glories were observed, I regret to say, not from the seat of a bicycle, but from behind the windows of a car, thanks to a surgery that happened early in the month. (Not major surgery - but even a smallish surgery, coming on top of flu, can really pack a wallop. Dang.)

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A quick look back at the last ride of April, when a lingering cough was my only lament:

Clockwise from top left: lichen, wild apple blossom,
wild plum blossom, pussytoes, baby maple leaves

A tom turkey strutting and displaying in the woods near the road

Then came May, and with it the joys of modern medicine.

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Why is surgery so depressing? Is it the after-effects of anesthesia, or simply a reaction to having one's innards pulled about by sharp tools and burned by lasers? Or a combination of the two?

And then there's the frustration caused by weakness. Knowing that wildflowers are out there blooming, and not being able to get to them, is (for me) like having really good friends in town for only a few days and not being able to see them.

One evening Mr. M drove me outside of town to a spot where I hoped this flower would be blooming:

Jacob's Ladder or Greek Valerian

The blossoms had closed up for the evening, but I was glad to have caught them before they disappeared. In all my rides, I've never seen them growing anywhere else, and they've become a favourite part of May.

We stopped by the marsh where the kingcups grow:


And on the way home caught this apple tree against the sunset:


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There was plenty of May beauty nearer at hand, too. Lilacs in the yard:


Pine buds glowing in the morning sun:


And wild columbine next to the garage:


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Two new patterns were published this month, in Love of Crochet Summer 2017:

The Sandbar Shawlette, a lacy, bead-edged, crescent-shaped shawl worked in a soft, almost flannel-like cotton yarn:

Photo copyright Love of Crochet

Below are the original swatch (upper left), and the completed project on the blocking board:


Also published was the River Rock Necklace, worked from chain-stitch and simple knots:

Photo copyright Love of Crochet

Here are the original sample (left), and the finished commissioned necklace before mailing:


These projects were worked last August and September, which seems like a lifetime ago.

Some newer commissions kept me busy in May, including a very exciting project that will debut later this year.

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Yesterday I could stand it no longer; I had to have a wildflower fix. Gingerly and with trepidation, after a month of no riding, I got back on the bike. It was probably the slowest ride I've ever taken, and certainly one of the shortest, but I ran into plenty of old friends.

Rosy wild geranium:


Tiny stitchwort:


Daisy fleabane - this one just three inches tall and almost hidden in the grass, but already blooming:


Buttercups:


Dame's Rocket, the glory of roadsides throughout late May and early June:


Black Medick, with its miniscule clover-like blossoms:


A wild berry vine in bloom:


Honeysuckle in several shades (here we have cream and rose):


Bonus photo of picturesque old shed:


Golden Alexanders, showing signs of spittlebug occupation:


And the final shot before I had to turn back - red-twig dogwood in bloom:


An uncomfortable ride, but worth it. :)

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And here we are on the cusp of June (hard to believe, isn't it?). The exuberance of early spring is past, and flowering shrubs and trees are settling into their workaday green. The beauties to come will be smaller and quieter, but worth seeking out nonetheless.

One last memory from early in May - young ash leaves glowing in the morning sun:


How was your May?

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hunting for Violets

When I was 2 (my mom used to tell me), I announced that lavender was my favourite colour.
This was in the 60s, long before the pink-and-purple tidal wave of girly paraphernalia had swamped the shores of commercialism. In my violet-starved Southern California youth, there were very few lavender clothes to be had; even our garden sported only a small pop of purple here and there from a few Johnny-Jump-Ups (violas) planted by my rose-preferring mom. On our rare visits to Disneyland I would feast my eyes on the giant beds of bluey-lavendar ageratum, bordered with vivid yellow marigolds, that lay at the entrance of Torrowland. Lavendar and yellow remain a favourite colour combo to this day, thanks to those long-ago landscape designers of the Magic Kingdom.

Eventually I grew old enough to sew my own clothes, and could finally seek out the colour I loved. By then I loved all shades of purple, though lavender continued to hold center stage (even my wedding dress was trimmed with lavender ribbon, and I wore lavender shoes underneath). The purple-and-teal boom of the late 80s brought mixed feelings - it was delightful to have so many plummy-tinted things available, but a little frustrating that what had always been "my" colour had become so common. We humans are a discontented lot.

Now I'm old enough not to care about trends. I like what I like, and if other people happen to be liking it too, great. If not, no problem. It helps that I now live in Wisconsin, which turns all kinds of delightful shades of purple* every spring.

First to come are the violets. They show up just a few days after the dandelions appear (purple and yellow again!) to delight the heart of purple-lovers everywhere for a few precious weeks.

It's violet time right now, and last Sunday I went out on my bike to find some.

*For the purists out there: "violet" is a true colour with a place on the visible spectrum of light, while "purple" is a composite colour made by combining red and blue (thanks, Wikipedia). They are not identical, but they're close enough that many use the collective terms interchangeably, as do I.

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It's a great day for a ride: sunny, mild, and as nearly windless as our part of Wisconsin can be. Today I am visiting my favourite wild-violet patches - the roadside spots where in past years they've bloomed most thickly. After months of grey-and-white winter, I'm ready for an orgy of purple.

So is Tallulah:


First unintentional bug photo of the year (bugs are always photo-bombing my wildflower photos):


The wild violets here come in all shades: medium to deep blue violet, rich reddish-purple, delicate lavender, bright white with streaks of violet at their hearts. I love them all.


It's a glorious day. The sun is warm on my back, and it feels great to be tooling around the countryside, stopping for photos whenever I like, peering into the marshes in search of watercress (no luck), and generally poking my nose into spring.

Birches shine white in the sun:


Wild honeysuckle is thinking about blossoming:


A field that has lain uncultivated for years has been unexpectedly plowed:


(What will be planted there? Enquiring minds want to know.)

Hardwood trees are shedding their blossom:


A favourite wild apple tree blushes, entertaining daring thoughts of an early bloom:


Another favourite tree, oak this time:


Iris gets parked against a handy gate...


...while prowl the verge snapping meadow anemone (A. canadensis), another of the earliest wildflowers.


What a treat to be out, both on bike and on foot, in the spring.

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Four days later it snowed. The violets in the lawn shivered and hugged themselves, trying to stay warm while melting snowflakes clung to their curled-up petals. This too is spring in Wisconsin.


And the weather has stayed chilly and rainy ever since. This weekend I took only one short ride, to look for wild plum blossom. I think I'll save that for another post.

Are there violets blooming where you are?

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Monday, April 24, 2017

While I Was Coughing

At the end of March I caught the flu. Ten days or so later, I staggered outside on wobbly legs to find that while I'd been indoors coughing and sleeping, leaves had appeared on the lilac bushes. Around the corner, in someone's shady yard, rivers of scilla flowed in impossible blue, and daffodils were beginning to open. Forsythia bushes which had lain low all winter had suddenly burst into yellow flame. It was like the bit in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy falls asleep in a whirling grey-and-white world and wakes up to glorious Technicolor.


Lovage was sprouting in the kitchen bed, and a small forest of tarragon had appeared in the doorstep planter. The chives were marching out reinforcements, ready to contest the tarragon for garden domination.


And I found a tiny clump of scilla in the bit of wasteland behind the house, in a space normally home to only daylilies, nettles, and burdock. I don't know how the scilla came there, but finding it was like stumbling on hidden treasure.



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The week before Easter, some spring storms rolled through, dropping a goodly amount of rain and turning the grass overnight from hesitant green to a vivid, flaming emerald. (Can emeralds flame? I don't know how else to describe such an intensity of greenness.) The first dandelion bloomed a few days later - and when the dandelions come, can violets be far behind? :)

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Easter Sunday was so beautifully sunny and warm that I had to take a ride, wobbly legs notwithstanding. (Wait. Is that a pun?)

I saw trees waving delicately-clad branches against the sky:


Fascinating new leaves and catkins (and a rather mysterious conelike object):


Verges glowing green:


A fencepost decorated with a barbed-wire wreath:


And red-twig dogwood caught in the act of slipping into its new spring outfit:



I was hoping for wildflowers, but didn't find any on this ride. Perhaps on the next one....

A belated Happy Easter to you all!

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Spring Already?

How was March for you?

I'd like to say that it flew by here, but in reality it felt more like a marathon of work, magazine commissions, struggles with pattern-writing, health issues, and unfinished blog posts. (It's a little scary how easy it is to fall away from blogging. And blog-reading.)

Big things have been happening on the crochet front here, but as usual (dang it) I can't talk about them until about five months from now! Stay tuned....

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Spring and the birds arrived early this year, but "spring" in Wisconsin is a relative term. For each sunny day in March, it seemed we had three damp or rainy or icy or foggy days. But the earth and the trees took full advantage of those few warm days, sending out bud and shoot and grass with quiet abandon, reminding us all that yes, it will get warmer. And the birds sing a little louder every morning, no matter what the temperature.

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One of the warm days came on a Sunday - which also happened to be the last day of winter. Of course this called for a bike ride....





Tallulah has finally exchanged her winter hat for her cycling helmet - which I take to be a sign of good weather to come.

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In other March news: the chives came up much earlier than usual! (What can I say? I get excited about fresh herbs.)

We had just finished the last of our frozen 2016 chives the day before I looked down and noticed these growing by the doorstep:


Perfect timing. I love having fresh chives on my breakfast eggs.

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That's it for my March news. What's been happening with you?

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