lovely things

Some things I am enjoying right now:

::Lilacs::

It’s a good lilac year. It was warming up a couple weeks ago, so they grew and bloomed quickly, but then it cooled down and got rainy, so they’ve been lasting longer than usual.

::Book Recommendations::

Modern Mrs. Darcy and her What Should I Read Next podcast

MMD-2016-Reading-Challenge

I’m going through a bit of a reading lull at the moment, but listening to episodes of this podcast is helping to get me enthused about reading again.

::Organization::

Bullet Journaling

I’ve always been on the lookout for the perfect planner, I’ve tried all the apps, and I have lists on bits of paper scattered all over. I think Bullet Journaling is the perfect solution for me. Sometimes I have to-do lists a mile long, but sometimes keeping a calendar seems like overkill for my relatively peaceful life. With a bullet journal I can adjust it as needed. So far I’m finding it helpful to use a page for a weekly spread, rather than daily pages. I also love having a place to keep lists of projects I want to do, and books to read, and recipes I want to try. I even keep a post-it on my current weekly page to use for listing groceries I need to buy. It’s as simple or as complicated as I need it to be, I think it’s really genius!

::Beautiful Knitting::

waiting for rain

My next new knitting project is going to be this beautiful Waiting for Rain Shawl. I have some Lakes Yarn in Fernan Merino Fingering in a pretty silver-green color. I am not allowing myself to cast on until I’m finished with two other projects first. This is highly motivating, however, and I hope to get to this within the week.

good enough

One morning last week I went out to feed the chickens, and I could feel autumn in the air. It was so exciting. Spring is my favorite season, but autumn is a close second. I have enjoyed this summer, though, and while I didn’t do much making of the sewing or knitting, or even cooking variety, I was quite happy to do some growing.

I’ve said before that I’ve not had much luck with gardening in the past, but I think I made a good decision to stick with mostly container gardening on the porch this summer. Not everything thrived, but some things did really well, and others are still hanging on. fish hookThese guys have been happy all summer, and grew like weeds. I had a spider mite infestation affect nearly everything, so with the recommendation of a lady at a local nursery I sprayed once with Captain Jack’s Deadbug, and that took care of the problem for the rest of the summer. The only other special product I used was EB Stone Organic Sure Start; whenever I brought home and re-potted a new plant, I sprinkled a little of that on the soil and then watered it in. Otherwise, I just watered regularly and things grew like magic. It’s been crazy!

succulents

I amassed a nice little succulent collection, most of which I will bring inside for the winter. I think if you’re a novice gardener, they’re a good place to start. I pretty much just watered them once a week, and didn’t lose a single one. Just be warned, they can be addicting, and whenever you’re at a nursery you’ll have to take just one more home.

fairy garden 1

Here are a my biggest succulents, and violas for the fall, and the biggest surprise of all, my fairy garden is still alive and growing.

fairy garden 2So, what didn’t work out? I had some petunias in a hanging basket, and they were hanging on but not growing a whole lot, until this last week when they decided to pack it in. I don’t know if it’s just too cold for them now that it’s in the 40s at night, or if they didn’t get enough water (the coco fiber lining didn’t hold onto the water very well), but they’ve just shriveled up. My dream of a basket spilling with petunias didn’t quite materialize.

The zinnias I planted along with a pale green sedum didn’t ever grow either, so I pulled them out once the blooms faded. Some little critter has been nibbling on that sedum, and completely devoured my opal basil. The two regular basil plants on the other side of the porch we untouched, so I don’t know what the appeal of the other plants might have been.

I might never be a master gardener, but I think my thumb got just a little greener this year. I’ve even got a couple houseplants that have been alive for more than two weeks. I still want to grow a massive vegetable garden one day, but for now I’m feeling like I did just fine, and that is good enough.

tillandsia

I decided to simplify around here a bit and re-designed this old site again. There are still some things to fix, like some font inconsistencies, and that weird Read More button on the bottom of every post. Frankly, however, I’m not sure when I’ll get to those things because it’s still summer and I spend eight hours a day in a windowless office staring at a computer screen, so I haven’t really wanted to look at my computer when I’m home. I’d rather be outside while it’s still light and warm in the evening. I hope you won’t mind too much. Yawn! I am boring myself with this site design talk, let’s move on to something I think is more interesting (although you may still find this post yawn worthy, so sorry!).

My limited success with my container gardening on the porch has sent me down a gardening rabbit-hole, and I have recently become enamored with tillandsias, also known as air plants. They’re from the bromeliad family, and don’t have roots, so they don’t require soil. In fact, they require very little care other than occasionally spraying or dunking in water. I started out picking up the little guy in the middle (aka tillandsia aeranthos) at Home Depot for $5. It stayed alive for a week, so when I saw the one just above it on another Home Depot trip, I thought it’s bulbous shape and long skinny fronds were interesting (it’s called tillandsia butzii). So it came home with me too.

tillandsias

Then I learned that Spanish moss is actually also a tillandsia (tillandsia bergerii), and decided then and there that I was officially a tillandsia collector.  I added another tillandsia aeranthos, only a much bigger version (top right), but what I really wanted was a Tillandsia xerographica (bottom right). These are big and bold, with broader leaves that curl slightly as they get longer. When I spotted this one at a local nursery, I had to splurge and add it to the collection too. It’s the size of a melon!

Now I need to figure out where I want to keep them all, and how to display them. Right now they’re on (or hanging from) the shelf above my desk, but I think they’d like a little more light, so I may put them in the bathroom where they might also benefit from the moisture of the steam when we shower. Or they might end up in the kitchen by a sunny window. And next on my list: tillandsia tectorum. There are some nice containers and terrariums for air plants at that link too.

So that is your botany lesson for today.

fairy garden

fairy garden 1

I finally made my little fairy garden this weekend. I used a poorly constructed (by me) box from scraps of wood from an old, weathered fence that fell over a few years ago. And then I thought I’d practice with my nifty 50 lens and take some artistically dreamy photos.

fairy garden2

That might not have been the best idea, since I still don’t know what I’m doing or how to capture what I want.

fairy garden 3

Well, it is a fairy’s eye view I guess.  How about an iPhone photo of the whole thing?

9390297352_3777d77985_o

Well, bad photos aside, it was a lot of fun to collect small plants and garden accessories and design a garden for the imaginary wee folk. Winston wonders when they are going to show up, so he can eat them.

winston

succulent

succulentThis succulent (and other plants) gardening thing might become an addiction. Luckily, I think it’s a pretty healthy one. I decided to go big and brought home this lovely thing a few days ago – it’s about 10 inches across. I’m reading Succulents Simplified in an attempt to learn how to best care for all these plants I keep buying, and even attempting to remember the Latin names. I believe this guy is a Dudleya Pulverulenta (aka chalk lettuce). Like always, I have a whole board dedicated to just succulents.

I love the way succulents are like sculptures. I’m enjoying the creativity of putting plants together in little arrangements that are pleasing to start with, but with patience, eventually become something lusher and richer. I think this pot needs something to creep over the edge to finish it off, some kind of sedum, probably.

succulent

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go water some plants.

green-ish thumb

I think it’s pretty obvious that I like flowers. I also like vegetables, and I love the idea of a garden. I have tried a few times to turn the back corner of our property into a vegetable garden, without success. Despite the fact that this is Southern California, the elevation (4000 feet) at which we live makes for harsh conditions in the garden.

Our last frost date is Memorial Day, so that means there are few vegetables that I can plant outdoors before June. One year, I waited patiently for that last weekend in May, and then filled my 4′ x 8′ raised bed with just as many plants as I could. And then we have several frosty nights well into June, which reduced most everything to a black, shriveled mess.

Undeterred, the next year I tried again, although I was less ambitious, and didn’t plant quite as much. Each day I faithfully watered my little vegetables, and every day it seemed like there were fewer plants. The soil itself seemed undisturbed, but a plant that I swore had been there the day before was suddenly missing. A closer inspection revealed very faint animal tracks, probably a rabbit or squirrel. Whatever it was, it made tidy work of eating my tender plants right down to the ground and letting nothing go to waste. Whatever little beast it was, it eventually ate everything.

This year, I had to move the geese out to that back garden pen, because they were beating up on my chickens, so there will be no attempt at a vegetable garden this year. Instead I’ve decided to focus on container gardening, and so far, I am enjoying much better results.

container garden

So far there has been only one casualty. I originally had a purple and white lisianthus in the middle pot, above. The day after I repotted it, the whole thing just keeled over. I have no idea why. I thought I’d try to return it, so I removed it back to the pot it came in, and it perked up a little. I don’t know if it will recover completely, but I guess it liked it’s cramped plastic pot better than my pretty, roomy, distressed terra cotta pot. I replaced it with this geranium, and I actually like this whole arrangement so much better.

geranium

I love the tiny flowers, and the silvery grey-green foliage.

I know it’s all about the porch all the time around here, but I’m so happy with how it is coming together, and it is where I spend most of my time when I am home. All my pots of herbs and flowers and succulents are what make it feel so lush and special to me, and shockingly, nearly everything seems happy and is growing.

down the porch

I got really ambitious and even added a dwarf kumquat, which will move inside this fall. I am going to try really hard to keep it alive. And the Silver Falls hanging just above is one of my favorite things. It’s just in the ugly plastic pot it came it, so I need to find something pretty to put it in. Luckily, the plant covers most of the pot, so I hardly notice it.

Pulley is hanging out in my new seating area. I want to make a cover for the cushions on the love seat, and a new slipcover for the ottoman, so I’m not going to bore you with too many pictures of that area. I hope to have a really dramatic before and after post once I get that stuff done.

side table

I found that it really started looking homey out here when I added a few things to my bright yellow side table.

Despite giving up on the raised bed for now, we do have a few nice things happening elsewhere on our property. Mr. Heylucy has been planting trees every weekend, hoping to replace some of the shade we lost when our oak trees died. We discovered that a previously unknown bush is actually an elder berry shrub. It doesn’t seem to mind our climate, and has become enormous this last year. I don’t know why we never noticed that it had berries on it before. I may have to try making some elderberry syrup later this summer, and bottle it up to treat winter colds.

elderberries1I put in a few tomatoes by the chicken pen, and they are growing and starting to bloom, so I’m hopeful that we’ll get at least enough to enjoy in salads. Someday I want a giant tomato patch so I’ll have enough to can and make sauce to last all winter. I have two big pots near the back door. I stuck a few strawberries in one, and the two little dogs thought it would be great fun to jump in and dig it all up. I haven’t even had the heart to clean up the soil they spewed all over the walk way. Nobody got any treats that night, I can tell you.

fairy garden-to-beNext up: a fairy garden in a box! Pulley says, “yay, something else for me to play with on the porch!”

sir pulleyLook at that face! I love the little water droplets on his whiskers. His favorite thing to do is bring sticks on to the porch and then chew them up and leave all the little bits for me to sweep up. It is not my favorite thing.

 

 

 

 

tiny bits

Oh man, I was so hoping to get lots of pillows made and plants planted this week, and then I got knocked out by this ridiculous cold. No one wants a play-by-play of someone else’s minor illness, so suffice it to say that I was sick enough to stay home from work for two days, and even a week later I am a snot and cough machine. Blech.

Still, I couldn’t let the week pass without trying to make a few small improvements. I have lots of containers just begging to be filled with green, so I made a good start. I’ve had succulents in the past, and they seem to survive pretty well in our environment, which can be a little harsh. At least until they are subject to extreme neglect, which has happened before (i.e. oops, I forgot to water them for the whole winter, and left them out to freeze). So I’ve been collecting a few here and there.

olive oil

We buy olive oil by the can at a Middle Eastern/Eastern European/Russian market. I loved the color of this can, and it’s been sitting and waiting to be repurposed. So I filled it with some of the succulents.

I also discovered a nursery just up the road from us that sells all sorts of native and drought tolerant plants, so we are slowly adding some trees and shrubs to the yard, but it’s still too weedy to show off just yet. In the meantime, I picked up a couple of strawberry plants and this crazy bright geranium, which just had to go in this black pot I got on sale at Target a few months ago. I love the contrast of the flowers with the black. I have never been able to photograph bright reds and pinks, so this isn’t a perfect depiction of the color, but it’s a deep, deep fuchsia, with lots of blue undertones.

porch garden 2

Another mix of succulents.

succulents

I filled up my old birdcage with lots and lots of different sorts. I’m not sure how well this is going to work in the long run, but so far everything seems happy enough. I stuck a few of the dangly (that’s a word, right?) varieties in from the outside, and I’m hoping more will make their way through the bars of the cage.

birdcage

I finished up with three of these hanging pots along the front (from Ikea), I thought the green bean plant looked nice with the lacy edge. Maybe next I’ll learn the actual names of my plants.

green bean

 

I’ve got some more pots to fill with herbs and maybe some more flowers. But now I need another nap. Pixel agrees. Or maybe he just wants some of my blueberries in that bowl.

porch bed

the porch, so far

Porch sitting season is here, and I am doing some serious porch nesting right now. I love sitting on the porch and reading, and while the rocking chair is comfy, sometimes I just want to curl up with my book on a bed, but I don’t want to go inside. Ever since we moved here I imagined the perfect vintage French daybed, piled with pillows. The problem, of course, is finding such a thing and having it not cost hundreds of dollars. After all, it is going to be left outside. So I needed something that was maybe not quite so precious. I also didn’t want to have to build something and then find a mattress or some other sort of padding. And then I remembered seeing a cot on Martha Stewart or some place similar. I liked the idea of an old, wooden army cot, but frankly, they didn’t look all that comfortable. After a little searching, I found this nice, substantial-looking number. It folds up nice and small, so I can stash it indoors during the winter. With the addition of a down comforter on top of the pad that came with the cot, it’s super comfortable and roomy, which is good, because if I’m out there laying on it, there’s a pretty good chance that there will be a dog or two on it too. porch

Next up, I plan to add lots of pillows. I’ve got lots of inspiration to work from. I have pots to fill with plants and flowers, and a bird cage I filled with succulents (more on that in another post). This is just one corner of our porch, it continues all along the front and side of the house. I’ll be rearranging things, and sharing more soon.

While the cot was all made up I took the opportunity to spread out the second quilt I’ve finished from my mother-in-law’s collection. I am feeling all accomplished and stuff. This one is a classic double wedding ring. It was pieced by hand, and like the first quilt I finished, it was nowhere near flat enough to be quilted, so I tied it too(Actually, my mom and sister did most of the tying some time ago, but I added some more ties and then a binding). Still, I’m enormously impressed with the amount of work and care that went into it. A double wedding ring is a hard pattern under any circumstances, but like the previous quilt, it’s all hand pieced.

wedding ring quiltIt’s full of so many different scrappy bits. I had a hard time picking a good fabric for the binding, but I think this tiny geometric worked well with a lot of the patterns and colors in the quilt.

wedding ring quiltPixel especially likes curling up with me on the cot, so he watched longingly from the window, while I was taking pictures. I love his short little haircut, he looks like a little boy fresh from the barber shop like this.

pixel

dogs in hats

 

I promise this isn’t going to become a pugs-in-clothes blog, but now and then I am going to be compelled to make things for Pulley to wear. I particularly have a thing for dogs in hats, as evidenced by several pins on my ‘best friends’ board (which I recommend that you peruse when you are stressed or sad, it is my cure when I’m having a bad day), also there is this board, which is not mine, but will also cheer you right up.

Back to Pulley. There is a certain sci-fi show which had a tragically short run, but if you are a knitter and watched the show, you will remember a very distinctive hat. Apparently, there are now licensing issues, so I won’t mention the name of the show or the character that wore this most excellent article of clothing. I will just let this photo of Pulley speak for itself.

pulley in a shiny hat

 

He wears it with such dignity. The pattern formula was courtesy of Stacy from Boondock Studios.

chester pulley

It’s been a rather sad/happy time in our little animal kingdom. I’ll start with the happy.

A few weeks ago, on a Friday, I came home from work and found an extra dog in our yard. A little, anxious pug stood just inside the gate, wagging his little corkscrew tail. Our neighbors up the street have a pug, and she had been to visit before when the gate was open, so I just thought it was her and went to get a leash to take our visitor home. I came inside and told Mr. HeyLucy about the dog and he volunteered to walk up the street. He soon returned, with the dog in his arms. Apparently pugs are not fans of long walks.

pulley

It turned out that all nearby pugs were present and accounted for, and he had even gone as far as the sheriff’s station to see if anyone had reported a missing dog. At this point, we started to realize just how puzzling the situation was. The little guy (it turns out he was a boy, not a girl) had a collar and the ring where a tag must have once hung was empty, but undamaged. Our property is completely fenced, and every little gap is sealed so Pixel can’t get out, so there was no place where a dog weighing twice as much could have squeezed through. Our fence along the front is only four feet, and faces the main road through town, so someone could have easily lifted him over and left him. Our neighbors on either side have taller fences, so our yard is obviously the best option if you were to need to lift an animal over a fence.

Of course we had to bring him in and feed him, and determined that we’d take him to our vet to be scanned for a microchip, since the nearest animal shelter is at least 30 miles away. Also, he was so sweet, we just couldn’t imagine putting him through the trauma of a shelter stay. Surely someone was looking for him and we’d see a Lost Dog sign on one of the bulletin boards around town.

pulley

The next morning I took him to the vet, and they found no sign of a microchip. Our town is small, and there are several notice boards where people post Lost Pet flyers. We checked every single one, and no one had put up any signs, desperately looking for a pug. I went to the diner and told all the regulars about him, which is a good way to get word out in a small town. We checked craigslist and fidofinders, and there were no lost pugs anywhere in the entire county. We kept checking for the next ten days or so, and even now, no one is looking for a pug. By about day three we figured we needed to call him something besides “hey dog,” and after extensive name testing, we settled on Pulley (Chester Pulley, to be exact, but we mostly just say Pulley).

pulley

So now, a month later, he’s microchipped and tagged and neutered, and this is his home. He defends the yard ferociously, just like the other dogs. He and Pixel have become fast friends, and wrestle and tumble all around the house. He’s somewhere between a year and 18 months old. The best we can figure, someone brought their dog out to the country to get rid of it. I can’t imagine willingly giving up any of my pets, so I think that they must have been pretty desperate to leave him behind. I hope they know that he has a good home now, and that we will take good care of him. I hope they don’t mind that I will be dressing him up and taking pictures. There’s something about a pug, I just think he needs a dapper wardrobe, and he’s so photogenic. I’m starting off small, with just a bow tie I made the other night. I never thought I was a pug person, but his aggressively happy nature and smooshy face have won me over.

pulley

Now the sad news, which I will be brief with, because it’s been pretty tough. Our beloved Bear, who was nearly twelve years old, became very sick last week. By Monday, we knew this wasn’t just a stomach bug, or something he ate (and he ate all sorts of disgusting things on a regular basis, usually small critters which he pretty much swallowed whole), and we took him to the vet. He had cancer. It was everywhere and he was suffering, so we knew we had to say good-bye.

bear & the chickens

We both held on to him, and told him what a good dog he’s been, our gentle giant, and the alpha dog of our little pack. We told him to go find Reggie, and I hope they are back together again, running and playing like they used to. He taught Winston everything he knew, and while it took him awhile to warm up to Pixel, he learned to tolerate that little puppy who adored him. Every morning, first thing, Pixel would run to find Bear in the living room, and just lick and lick his nose, wagging his whole body with joy at his big Bear.

bear & pixel

Bear was camera-shy, and always acted so goofy when I pointed the camera at him, so I don’t have tons of photos of him. He was beautiful, he was my blonde twin and I loved his velvet face. He will be missed.

bearIt’s so funny that Pulley appeared just before we had to lose Bear. He is pretty much the polar opposite, but it has helped so much to have him here. It feels a little empty when I pull up to our gate at night when I get home from work, and there is only Winston to greet me, but then I go in the house and am mauled by this funny little smooshed face, and that empty space doesn’t hurt quite as much.