Friday, December 31, 2010

Back Decks

While I was weaving on a scarf for Bob last week, he was building me a new deck.  The back steps to my cottage were quite narrow (you couldn't open the door if you were standing on the steps) and in bad shape.  And then they fell apart.  So now I have a nice new deck--I wonder how long before I have dripping dye stains on it (note to self--get some plastic before the next dye run.)  Blogger is being very uncooperative today--it won't let me write beside the pictures, or continue writing below them.  I have to clean house for New Year's Eve and not fuss with the computer, so more later (perhaps my New Year's resolution will be to post more often than once a month or so . . . .)   Happy 2011!!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Hogswatch!

On Hogswatch night, children waiting for the Hogfather to bring presents will leave him a meat pie and glass of sherry, as well as turnips for his pigs.  So meat pies and sherry seem an appropriate supper when watching the movie (I didn't have any turnips so the pigs get carrots.)

We had a lovely Christmas morning going to visit my parents, where I showed that I can cook brunch for four people in a rather small microwave oven.  Over mimosas and sweet bread (and later shrimp and grits) we enjoyed memories of Christmas past.

I've enjoyed a new way of multitasking.  I enjoy spinning--it's calming and soothing, but honesty makes me admit that it could possible be . . . boring.  It involves the hands and the feet but not the mind.  I also enjoy reading--which involves the eyes and the brain.  So . . . . book on a stand, wheel at the chair, fire in the fireplace--what more could one want?  A book later I had enough alpaca to get a scarf on the loom.

So enjoying the Christmas break--is this what retirement is like?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Even in Florida!  Temps have been getting into the low 20s--which is cold for us.  And we get to see strange happenings--like water getting hard and crunchy.

And sometimes it's magical.  The stems of some of our plants froze, and as they split open the water inside froze in impossibly delicate feathery sheets.  Amazing.

And we continue to have problems with annoying little visitors.  Raccoons!

They,re destructive.  They can be viscious.  They chase my outdoor cats away from their food (and I'm glad the cats let them, because otherwise there would be big vet bills to pay).  They aren't afraid of us.  And they're rabies vectors.

But I gotta admit it--they're also darned cute!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

And yet another month

I've sort of figured it out.  Between writing lectures, writing tests, and grading, I'm on the computer 4-5 hours a day at least, so I don't feel like turning it on in the evenings.  Hence--just at a month since the last post.  But the term is over!!!!

So . . . the last month.  First of all, Azrael.  He was a birthday gift from Fate 13 years ago.  We were coming home, and the car ahead of us on the highway had just run over a cat!  Poor thing was screaming in the road.  When we rescued him, we found that it had gone *over* him--not hit him.  Scraped him, and embedded some gravel, but he wasn't hurt.  My first thought was that it had gone over his feet--they looked splayed and huge.  Turned out he's a polydactyl--has extra toes on his front feet.  Bob's Dad nicknamed him "Snowshoes."

Almost three years ago he developed a sarcoma on his back leg.  In that time we've had it removed 7 times.  Seems a bit excessive, but within a few days after the surgery he'd be back to having 100% use of the leg again, so it was worth it.  But a few days after my last post, it went really bad, and it was obvious that it couldn't be removed again (this was only a month after the last removal).  We made the heartbreaking decision to have the leg removed (the alternative was to put him down.  But he's otherwise a healthy cat).  Fortunately, he is adapting pretty well to being a "tripod".  And adapting very well to being spoiled.  It still gives us a twinge to see him hopping around--but I'm glad he's still with us.  And if you get the angle right, you can't tell that anything is missing.

Meanwhile, we finished clearning up the Howl stuff and getting it back to the museum, and spent a morning there cutting down the sugar cane for syrup making (did I remember the camera??)  We've managed a day on the lake in the kayaks.  I did indigo dyeing at the Farm Days at the museum--again, no pictures but I still have blue fingers.

Meanwhile have gotten a couple of small things made.  One of the departing professors left a bag of yarn for the textile lab students to use for samples.  I looked at it--and its alpaca!!!  Heck with the students--I got them some acrylic yarn.  Some of the alpaca went for my mitts--keeps the hands warm while reading or using the computer.  If you look closely, the pattern on the back looks like an owl.  

I  also spun some yarn to make a shawl for the woman who cooks on the woodstove at the farm--she kept the haunted trail team going with pots of homemade soup.  To make it a good working shawl, I a) made it of wool, which doesn't catch fire, b) made the long tails which now have a cord to tie behind the back to keep it all out of the way, and c) made it of natural gray--soot colored.  Like all knitted lace, it looked like an uninspired wad fresh off the needles--but with a little washing and stretching it looks quite nice!

And I've made a couple of batches of fruitcakes--more today. 

Last night we got up at 3:00 a.m. to see the meteor showers.  There were a few really nice ones--but the temps were in the 20's and a warm bed seemed inviting . . .

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Emerging again

I actually did a post in October with Zack the Zombie--but it seems to have disappeared.

Now it's the middle of November--what happened?

School started.  Two new preps--classes I haven't taught yet, so takes a lot of time to get the lectures together (nothing more boring than a teacher who reads notes).  The guy teaching the labs that go with one of my lectures quit, so I got three of them--which means teaching for almost 7 hours straight on Tuesdays.

The Howl happened.  And my volunteer coordinator bailed on me.  It was the biggest and best haunted trail ever--because it was our swan song.  We ("we" meaning Bob and I and our friends Rob and Jeff) love Halloween, love the challenge of doing the trail, and we burned out.  So we decided this is our last, and we made it a good one.  We also ran almost 1900 people through it in two nights.

Pictures will eventually get posted but for now here's one of the aftermath (celebrating in the tent afterwards and suddenly the big pile of discarded costumes looked pretty comfy.

Of course what goes up must come down--We got the trail cleared within a week, but I still have a house/barn full of trail stuff being sorted and packed.  Maybe finished by tomorrow.

Meanwhile time marches on, and veteran's day arrived, which means Bob and I (as Rosie the Riveter) were in the parade.  HUGE crowds--estimated over 25,000.

I'm finally getting back to some spinning/weaving/knitting and indulged in a new toy.  It's a yarn swift (holds skeins of yarn for winding into balls)--much fancier than it need to be to be function, but I've been eyeing this for awhile because it's so beautiful.  As long as I've had to spend so many hours teaching the labs, I thought I'd get something pretty with the paycheck.

I'm a little rusty with this writing thing now--practice will improve!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Playing Reindeer Games

We're starting to get prepared for Halloween.  A friend found one of those Christmas animated reindeer by a dumpster and knew that I would want him.  A bit of work later, and here he is (and his head still moves back and forth)

Bob has reworked a nice stack of skulls, but showing that would entail standing up and going to take a picture.  So I'll post them next time.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Somehow a month managed to slip by.  In mid-late August I was working at summer camps--for some reason, after being outside all day long in the 100+ degree weather with a bunch of kids I just didn't feel like doing much of anything in the evening--go figure.

Then, without a break, the new term started.  I really had meant to get a few lectures done in advance--but see the previous paragraph about being in the heat with kids all day; No brain left in the evening.

So what have I done in the last month (besides summer camp and teaching)

Well--I now have five squirrels. Remember this one?  Well, she grew up.

I made the skirt out of the fancy handwoven fabric (on the dressmaker dummy because it was hard to wear it it and take a picture at the same time.

And a friend saw my skeleton gloves and wanted a pair, so these have been produced.

And some other bits and pieces--now we're knee-deep in making Halloween props, so those will appear soon--hopefully in less than a month.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Silliness and Steampunk

Had a party last night to kick off the Halloween season (for those who haunt, we really should start around March but better late than never . . .)

I'm not sure everyone expected me to hand them sheets of painted aluminum foil and tell them to smash them on their faces.  But they were good sports.

This morning I did a little detail painting and put up the results.  Friends don't let friends get too close to the trees . . .


Steampunk is an art movement which can sort of be described as Victorian fantasy with an emphasis on technology.  Possible the best example would be the Time Machine from the 1960 movie of the H.G. Wells classic:

I have a fondness for Steampunk, and Bob has enable this by giving me my anniversary present early--a steampunk pendant.

You can't really see all of the details in the picture--there's a tiny gear inside, and a crystal, and a little coiled spring.  You can also see the line where it opens--I do like pretty things that are also practical.

Yep--it's a jump drive.

Friday, July 30, 2010

More new friends

I taught a tie-dye class at FSU yesterday--15 students dyeing silk scarves.  Did I think to take my camera??

When class was over I turned on my cell phone so I could call Bob--and had messages from two people with baby squirrels.  One was at the museum, and there was a time limit--if I didn't pick them up, they would be fed to the snakes (urg--I know snakes have to eat, but little squirrels?).  The other was from the Florida Wild Mammal Association.  So I rescued the two from their snakey fate, and the others I'll pick up next week (FWMA knows how to take care of them).  Then I should stop for awhile.
Here's the three I have now--the one I've had for three weeks and the two new ones.  One of the new guys is having problems--it's not easy to fall out of a tree--but I'm doing my best for him.

We're stepping up on the Halloween stuff.  Like many things in life, you can have good, cheap, or fast--pick two of the three.  If you want it good, and cheap, then you have to start working early.  Bob's been shopping at Curbies (everyone's favorite--it means that you grab stuff that's being thrown away) and we've been hitting the Good Cents store (the cheap part of Goodwill).  He brought home three tall pillars, a tall plastic candlestick, and various dolls.  The pillars and candlesticks were given a quick marbeling job, which greatly improved their appearance.  He's also hung more dolls on the fence to age.

I've been working on more frames for my wraiths.  They're not quite as impressive when they're headless and naked.  I also did a super-easy but creepy effect by painting aluminum foil and then smashing it onto my face.  I think we'll do many of these to put on trees out on the trail.

Critter du jour:  Nazgul

Nazgul started out by being a shadow just glimpsed out of the corner of your eye--something that would disappear if you looked straight at him.  Then he crept closer.  One night we saw glowing green eyes gazing at us in the dark--and that is when he earned the name Nazgul (The Dark Riders in the Lord of the Rings).  Eventually he came closer.  Now he's decided that inside the house looks pretty good. 

It's a good thing we named him before we knew him.  He looks very elegant, but he's a grabber of ankles and "helps" Bob to tie his shows and tends to trip us when we're trying to walk across the yard, thus earning his second name of "Major Silly Pants."

Picture doesn't do justice to his eyes--they really are emerald green.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Boys Day Out

Our niece Amanda and her son Dane are visiting her mother (Bob's sister Della) in Mexico Beach for a few weeks.  Bob went down Saturday to have a guys day out with Dane.

In a way this was a homage to his father.  They had planned to have a guy's day last Christmas and take Dane to the Air Force Armament museum--but we lost his father before Christmas.  So Bob and Dane had the trip.  They went to the museum, played some goofy golf, and then found a small carnival where Dane could play in a ball in the water.

They had a great day together.  Bob did make the comment that any middle-aged man having a mid-life crisis should spend a day with a 7-year-old before marrying that young trophy wife.  There is, he said, much to be said about a nice middle-aged, unfertile woman  :-)

Squirrel update

It's been about 10 days now since I got the little squirrel.  She's almost twice the size (almost an ounce now), has tiny whiskers and is starting to consider growing some fur.  In this picture she had just finished eating and promptly fell asleep.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Domesticity, Demons, and Diminutive

We had enough cold weather this past winter that the plum trees bore fruit.  We didn't eat much of it because Bob is a big fan of plum jelly so he hoarded the plums in the freezer until we had enough for a couple of batches.

I baked a loaf of bread the same day.  Bread and jelly is such a simple thing--a nursery snack--but in this day and age few people have ever had real bread with real jelly.

It reminded me of when Mom would time her bread baking so that the loaves were coming out of the oven just when Mike and I got home from school.  Poor Dad would come home a couple of hours later to a home that was still wafty with the scent of fresh bread--but not a crumb left, and a wife and two kids too full to be interested in dinner.

Starting to plan the Halloween trail now.  Yesterday I was talking to Thomas--one of the guys who does the haunted maze.  He is looking for a source of cheap mannequins to dress in robes (there will be real people mixed in with them).  "Cheap" is the operative word.  I told him that he didn't need anything realistic--the human psyche is hardwired to interpret anything even vaguely human as a person (the same hardwiring causes us to see human faces in clouds, tree bark, and any two dots and a line).  To prove my point (and I'll need some wraiths myself anyway) I knocked this together.  Amazing what a couple of old sheets can accomplish:


And it's that season again.  Got a call last night from a friend whose neighbor found a baby squirrel.  This little girl is probably about a week old and so far is doing well.  And yes--that's a quarter beside her.  Now I have to try to find a couple more so she won't be on her own.  Looks like 2 a.m. feedings for awhile.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chicken Mahal

I would like to say that Bob and I finished the new chicken coop/scratch yard this weekend.  But it reminds me of the little country boy saying "Pa and I killed a bear.  Pa done the shooting."

So . . . Bob and I finished the chicken coop this weekend.  Bob done the building.  The solid fencing around the bottom shows that we've learned something in our 20 years of having critters--pens don't have to be designed to keep animals in--they are there to keep animals out.  Chickens are easy to keep in--racoons and dogs and coyotes have to be fenced out.  Hence--Stalag Chicken.  The birds seem to approve.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hazardous Duty

Granted, my summer job is more interesting than most.  But sometimes it has it's own hazards--such as reaching for a young alligator and finding that he can move faster than I can. The bit isn't deep--but the little bugger has really sharp teeth and it was like getting stabbed with a dozen needles.

A couple of posts ago I put in a picture of our baby wrens.  Here's a photo 9 days later.  The parents are flying in with bugs about every 15 minutes from dawn to dusk.  These little guys will probably fledge within a week.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Old Shoes

There's an ad running on TV now that shows a man looking at a wrecked car, and thinking "This Subaru saved my live--I'll never forget that."  Before he leaves, he takes the knob off the gear shift as a momento.

I felt like that today.  I was doing some cleaning up, and I tossed an old pair of tennis shoes.  They're old--the outside is grungy, the lining is torn, and the soles are falling off.

But these are the shoes I was wearing the day I was bitten by the rattlesnake.  If you look closely at the tongue of the left shoe with a magnifying glass you can see a tiny hole where one of the snake's fangs pierced it.  Only the other fang got me.  Because of that shoe, I got only a half dose of venom.  Might not have saved my life, but it may have saved my foot.  I'm grateful.

But, alas--I can't see hanging onto an old shoe.  So I'll keep the memory, and the gratitude, and let the shoe go.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Silly Birds

Little Carolina wrens--will nest anywhere.  I had hung the nest bag on a plant hanger for a squirrel that I had evicted from the release cage (six months after I released him.  He'd play in the woods by day and sleep at home at night).  But I needed the cage for the next litter that had come along.  I don't think he ever slept in it, but some wrens thought it would be a good spot for a nest.  You can also see in the background where they did actually use a bird house--by building a nest on top of it!
Today I saw that the wren was carrying a bug rather than nesting material--so I sneaked a peek.  These guys are only a few days old.  With Mom bringing bugs about every 15 minutes from dawn to dusk, they'll be ready to fledge in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


The seeds that I planted in the butterfly garden have sprouted enthusiastically and are starting to bloom.

I'd like to say that it's a pleasant place to sit with a glass of iced tea and a book.  Alas--I can handle the record high heat (high 90's) but can't quite deal with the record number of biting flies.  I dash out for a five-minute admiration but that's about it. 

The poor things are growing in almost pure sand.  I did rototill in about 10 5-gallon buckets of compost when we set it up.  Border's bookstore put out their used coffee grounds for gardners, so I spread those around.  It will take awhile to have anything that resembles soil.

And we had to chase a coyote out of the yard who was eyeing our chickens.  A friend says we should call ourselves Mutual of Omaha.