Saturday, May 31, 2014

Solstice prism for December 2014

Last year's year-long Rainbow Connection was one of the more popular swaps & it probably never would have happened if this idea had occurred to me when I was choosing blocks.  I was trying to put together a single block that had the complete ROYGBP that is the quilters rainbow & could did come up with one until after the Rainbow Connection had already begun, so I back-burnered it until a year had gone by.  This is the traditional quilt block "Northwind" with a rainbow twist.  It is also a big block; the block will be 12.5" unfinished/12" finished.  The pieces within the blocks are also big (in my version the smallest square you deal with is 4.5") but that is where the simplicity ends.

Which brings me to a caution:  this is not an easy block.  It has a lot of wide open bias edges, the sizing of the pieces is weird (all 1/8" stuff if you use the Quilters Cache version & "match this edge to that corner & never mind the extra" if you use mine) & so forth.  If you have never done an open bias to bias block before your should expect to make one just for practice because I guarantee something is going to get squished, stretched or somehow damaged making the block unswappable.  Even ordinary mistakes that can be fixed with a seam ripper are a headache in this block (because ripping a bias edge ALWAYS stretches it).  On top of all that you need to keep track of what colors you are using where because while one half of the fabric will be a background, the other half will be one each o red, orange, yellow, green, blue & purple.  I am not trying to discourage anyone from trying the block, I am saying there is a learning curve. 

To begin, I am pointing you towards directions in Quilters Cache, which are perfectly adequate, but we are making a few changes.  The block is North Wind (if this link does not work, you can go to Quilters Cache, find the list that includes blocks that begin with "N" & scroll to North Wind).  Even if you plan to use my directions, do yourself a favor & go to Quilters Cache & print these as well.  My directions are specific to our color scheme, but otherwise they are not necessarily easier. 

For our swap, instead of a straight two fabric block, one half of the block will be your background fabric, which is either black, white, black-on-black or white-on-white.  You are likely to get a mix of black or white blocks back; I will not be sorting only black to people who sent black, etc.  So far, so good. You will need five smaller pieces (for the images below I cut 5" squares) & one larger (I used a 9.5" square). 

The other half will require one scrap each of red, orange, yellow, green, blue & purple.  You will need more of one of them; all together they make the other half of the complete block.  Again, you can follow the Quilters Cache directions or you can use these-whatever works.  You will need five smaller pieces (for the images below I cut 5" squares) & one larger (I used a 9.5' square).  I don't care which color is larger; I used whatever I happened to have the most of & leftovers for the others. 

Below are the pictures/directions for making it my way.  Again, you can use the Quilters Cache way if you prefer so long as you use our colors: a single background fabric of black, black-on-black, white, OR white-on-white & one each of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.

I paired three of the 5" colors with three of the 5" backgrounds & made six 1/2-square triangles.  take one of each color combo & out the other aside (this is not a block you can make many at once, at least not at first).  Press these blocks open, either all towards or all way from the background & cut down to 4.5" square.  From the remaining background & color pieces (two 5" squares & one 9.5" square) I cut corner to corner making open bias triangles.  I put aside half of them & then laid out the pieces to make sure I had one of each color.

Divide the center part into three columns.  One column will be a 1/2-square triangle & a background triangle, one will be a 1/2-square triangle & the third (the center column) will be a 1/2-square triangle with both a background triangle & a color triangle. To make these columns, line up the right angle of the triangle piece with the corner of the 1/2-square triangle square.

If you find yourself stitching a color edge to a color edge or a background edge to a background edge STOP.  There is no such join in the entire block.  Then lay everything out & check it again.

I suggested that you press either to or away from the background (depending on whether your background is black or white).  If you did that, then you can lock the seams of the two outer columns with the center column.  Your straight edges will all square up & you will end with a piece that looks something like this.

Now it is a matter of snipping those dog ears from the center & lining up the center of your end triangle with the center of your strip of piece triangles & 1/2-sqaure triangles.  I found what worked for me was pressing a crease from the right angle to the bias edge but this can be tricky as any stretching is a bad, bad thing.

When it all goes together you might need to square it up to 12.5" unfinished, but you might just have to clip the dog-ears & be done. 

Blocks are due in-house the last Saturday in December which is December 27, 2014.  Because mail gets slower around the holidays (even if there are a lot fewer holiday cards being snail mailed, there are also a lot fewer postal employees & they take time off just like the rest of us!) I strongly suggest getting everything in the mail no later than the Friday before Christmas which will be Friday, December 19th. 

Colorful cats for October 2014

I had already thought of, written the directions & made the samples for our December 2014 Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group block, but I find that sometimes there is residue that lingers.  So, yes, that one did influence this one, just like that one was influenced by the Rainbow Connection that ran 2013 through January 2014.  Hopefully, there is enough in the mix that no one feels like they are making the exact same thing over & over again.

The block we are making is the very straightforward Puss In The Corner which is a center square with either lighter or darker borders & the same fabric in the center repeats in each of the four corners.  The block will be 8.5" unfinished/8" finished. 

You can use as few as two fabrics & they need to be a light & a dark of the same color.  I don't care which color it is (although not white or black, obviously).  You can use two different shades of pink or green or orange or red or blue or brown or even gray (if I left out a color it was an oversight, not a restriction).  It does not matter which you use for the center & corner blocks & which for the borders just so long as one is clearly lighter & the other is clearly darker & they are both indisputably the same color (no yellow corners & centers with orange borders PLEASE).  I understand it can be hard to find single color fabrics w/out some white or black so some white or black can be used but the idea is a light of one color & a dark of SAME. 

You have the option of doing something extra with the center block if you want; if you do decide to use other fabrics, they must be in that same color OR a mix of that color &/or white &/or black.  In general, these will be fabrics that read-as-solid (are the same color throughout) although some white or even a very little black would be OKay.  Please DO NOT use a fabric that is more black &/or white than whichever color you choose & DO NOT use a fabric that has more than one color (a blue with green polka dots, for example would NOT be correct, or pink with yellow flowers or anything with any different color).

Begin with a 4.5" square.  This can be a single fabric OR it can be pieced from lights, mediums & darks of your chosen single color.  You can make a traditional 4-patch or 9-patch or what-have-you so long as you end up with a 4.5" square. IF you use a third (or fourth or whatever fabric, this is where you will use it).  I am going to come back to this, later actually, so lets move on.

From your second fabric (or third or fourth, if that is what it has come to, depending on what you did for your center) you will need four strips, 2.5" by 4.5".  Please do NOT use this fabric anywhere else in the block.  In other words, if you do choose to piece a center block, this fabric should NOT be in it.  The idea is for the borders to be clearly different than the center & repeating fabrics can blur this..

From your first fabric, or one of the fabrics used in the 4.5" center, or yet another fabric that is light to the border's dark OR dark to the border's light but otherwise the same color, you will need four more 2.5" squares.  The corners should all be from the same single fabric & they should be either a light to contrast with the dark border fabric OR a dark to contrast with the light border fabric.
  • Again, the corners & the center (if it is not pieced) should be light or dark. 
  • The side borders should be whichever (dark or light) the corners are not. 
  • The fabric you use on the side pieces (those 4.5" by 2.5" that press against the edges of the enter block) should NOT be used anywhere else in the completed block. 
  • If you elect to piece the center square, you will need to find a third (or fourth or fifth) fabric that is in the same color (i.e. all shades of blue).  You can use at least some of the corner fabric in the center block; you CANNOT use your side border rectangles anywhere else in the block even if you piece the center
Now back to the centers.  You can use just one fabric, the same as your corner posts if you wish.  You can make any traditional or non-traditional 4-patch or 9-patch.  You can even go crazy with open biased edges if you like (usually I discourage this but since you will be the one adding a border to it, go for it). 

Lastly something a bit different.  You are welcome to send as many sets of five as you like (we always swap in sets of five unless you are sending a 6th block in which case you send six & get five back) but FOR THIS SWAP ONLY within each set of five you are limited to one color family & you should not repeat that color in your second, third, etc. set.  This means if you make only one set they should all be a single color (all blue or all green or all orange).  If you make two sets each set should be one color but the two sets should be different from each other (one set of blue & the other of red or one set of purple & the other of brown  or whatever just so long as set one is one color & set two is a second color....& set three is a third color).  If you send more than FIVE sets (that would be 25 blocks in five different colors) then & only then can you repeat a color you have already used. 

These blocks are due in-house the last Saturday in October, which is October 25th.  This is one of our earlier last Saturday's, making October a short swap month.  I mention this because people have been caught by surprise in the past; the last day of October is a Friday & blocks are due the Saturday BEFORE not the Saturday after (which is in fact the first day of November).

Rosebud (& I don't mean the sled) for August 2014

Every year I try to include a traditional block in the Facebook Quilt Block Swap Groups set of blocks.  Also, a garden themed block.  & a component block, which is a block where each swapper makes one part of a complete block.  This year I am trying to address all of these with just one block, our August block.

The traditional Rosebud block has been popping up all over lately.  I have no idea if it is having a revival or if I just noticed.  You can see a version of the compete Rosebud block on Quilter's Cache right here.  & because I have found sometimes these direct links go all screwy, you can go to the main Quilter's Cache page, go to Quilt Blocks Galore, select the alphabetized list that includes "R", & then select the 12" pattern "Rosebud".  Or last but not least you can type in

As you can probably guess, if the completed block is 12.5" unfinished/12" finished, then 1/4 of the block (the component we are actually swapping) makes a block that is 6.5" unfinished/6" finished.  You can follow the directions on Quilters Cache (making our color changes, described below) right up until you put the four pieces together; we are swapping the individual pieces.

You will need two fabrics:

One of them should be either a solid or read-as-solid (which means that while there might be a small pattern...or even a large one, the fabric is predominantly one color & there are no dramatic changes in from dark to light). This same fabric should be limited to the following range of colors:  pink, maroon, red, orange, gold, peach, yellow, cream OR white.  The reason I say "OR" is almost any fabric with two or more of these colors will not read as solid.  So, just one of these colors please (I am going over this because in the past year there has been a great deal of confusions about the term read-as-solid, to the point where one person submitted a rainbow plaid, which is about as far from read-as-solid as I can imagine.  So now I want to be clear).  This will be the "bud" fabric & we are aiming for traditional rose bud colors. 

The second fabric can be anything with a garden theme, a novelty fabric, or anything at all that says "garden" in a conventional sense.  A floral or leaves or trees or birds or even small repeating wheelbarrows would be acceptable; while I accept that it does have an elegant garden/park area, a small repeating Eiffel Towers- probably not.  I would encourage people to limit themselves to small scale prints, or even medium scale prints.  This is not the best place for a large, dramatic print even if it is a floral.  Also, if you are at all unsure about whether or not the print you have in mind says "garden", please do not use it.  In the event you cannot locate a floral or garden themed fabric (I recognize it is not everyone's cuppa tea), you could use a solid or read-as-solid green or a solid or read-as-solid white.  This is the background.  Yes the background will potentially be a patterned fabric.  It will be OKay, I promise. 

Let me clarify:  if you use a solid or read-as-solid white for your first fabric, please do not use the same or a different solid or read-as-solid white for your second fabric.  I know 99 people reading this are asking them selves who would do that?  I am here to tell you I have seen it done.

From the bud fabric please cut two squares, one of them a 5" square & the other a 3" square.  Pair these with the same from the background fabric & make 1/2-square triangles.  The 5" squares will become two 4.5" 1/2-square triangles (you will need one of these for each block).  The 3" squares will become two 2.5" 1/2-square triangles (you will need both for each block).  Lastly, from the background only cut one strip 6.5" x 2.5". 

I have made 1/2-square triangles before & you can find those directions here, but the technique I use is put the two squares right sides together, one of them marked with a line from corner to corner.  You can stitch 1/4" from either side of the line, cut down the line & then press the unit open.  It is possible you will need to cut the squares down.

Once you have the pieces, please be sure to lay them out & assemble them so the strip is to the left, with the background of the larger 1/2-square triangle & the bud portion of the smaller 1/2-squre triangles butt up against it (see picture below).  This way, the blocks you swap & the blocks you get back for them will all fit together consistently.  I had to rip out two of the eight blocks I made because I put them together backwards.

I realize some will be concerned about the busy background.  I made examples using eight different fabrics, including two different whites, one as the rose bud & the other as the background, a mostly solid green background, two different busy floral backgrounds in two different colorways in the hopes you can see that the strong read-as-solid bud color really will dominate. 

Four of our swap blocks will make one traditional rosebud block, 12.5" unfinished/12" finished.  As always, we swap in sets of FIVE, but you can always send more than one set.  If you do send multiple sets, please be sure no more than two are the same.  As always the blocks are due here the last Saturday of the swap month, in this case that is Saturday August 30th.  & as always we are collecting 6th blocks.  You have the option of sending a 6th block with your five swap blocks; you will get five back & the 6th will go to whichever member of the group asked for them to make a quilt to donate to in her community.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Let's blog about inspiration

I ended up doing a double shot of last month's Block Lotto linky topic, so I will try to corral everything in one post this go-round.  For May the topic is Inspiration.  Hmm.   Well.  I barely know where ideas come from & like Forrest Gump that is all I have to say about that.

Or is it?

It is almost easier to say where it doesn't come from.  Unfortunately, it never -for me, anyhow- comes from learning where other people get their inspiration.  I mean no disrespect, honest, I just find talking about it (or listening anyhow) leaves me with mixed feelings.  I guess it is because inspiration seems to arrive from to places:  ideas are either "all around" or "inside you".  I could be wrong, but is there any place else?  Don't those two kind of cover it?  I'm not saying either of these is wrong, just they are so all encompassing they could not possibly be wrong.  Sort of like saying all food originates with the sun.  Which it does.  But how will that help me with what to a plant here & now for canning next fall?

So I decided to look at a few of my creations & where I think they began.  Turns out the answer is usually "books" which is actually WORSE than the sources I biotched about because books are both all around & inside.   Also books can mean anything.  I spent most of quilting-2013 obsessed with a thing I call bird trap which was more or less a break down to common elements (in a quilt called Bird Trap) & then a build back up of a quilt I saw in a book.  On a not wholly unrelated side note I found myself winding into that again with a different picture of a different quilt in a different book (John Michael Vlach's The Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts)....& it turns out to be by Pecolia Warner again. 

Then there are the much easier inspirations from books. I have said before that I consider The Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns to be my most valuable quilting tool.  Not just for the Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group blocks although it helps there but even when I am just doodling.  Most recently the center block I sent in for the Cotton Robin was from a page in this book that I have had marked as "try this" for years. 

I also have a..let's call it a problem...with more abstract quilt ideas that begin with books.  Specifically right now I have a plastic bin full of fabrics that might do for a Thursday Next themed quilt top. WHAT!?!?!?!  You don't know who Thursday Next is?!?!?!?!?!?  Run don't walk & put your hands on a copy of The Eyre Affair RIGHT NOW. 

But the drop dead truth is these are all in my view, ideas more than inspiration.  Inspiration is somehow less conscious & more translation of unrelated whatever.  For example after years of looking at index cards & boxes of blocks of wood (you wish you had my job yes?), I have noticed my first drafts of quilts are kind of boxy.  Blocky even. 

When I go back through my weeks, it is easy to see how day after day of this:

became this:

For the record that quilt block there is supposed to be a row of books.  My brain is a big old mess.

Monday, May 26, 2014

I got the waiting blues

The deadline for the next Cotton Robin turn around is fast approaching & I am still waiting for my project to arrive.  Yes, yes it is possible it will hit my mailbox tomorrow afternoon.  Maybe not.  Back in....I want to say December but I might be wrong, the Robin Ringmaster polled everyone & said "are you sure?" & everyone said "you betcha - I have time for this over the next four to five months".  & not long after two people dropped out. 

I don' t mean to be unsympathetic.  It is more than possible two people were visited by unforeseen tragedy.  Ten, no make that fifteen years ago I would have accepted this without question.  More or less without question anyhow.  Now of course I have a ringside seat to why people drop in, drop out & generally get pissy when others do not rearrange their own lives to accommodate what is all too often a minor concern (yes there is the occasional cancer scare or stroke-both of these have actually happened but mostly it's "oh that was this month?").  I have also ranted a-plenty about students who think professors are sitting at their desks waiting like empty hand puppets for some bright young thing to walk through the door & engage them.  Aren't you glad I am not in charge of the next generation's education?

I should back up & say this year's exam season was a breeze compared to previous years.  My guess is this newish policy of linking students' current grades to whether or not their bright futures scholarships continue for the next semester/year has resulted in a much more alert classroom.  Yes, there are still breakdowns: the crying jags, the dead grandmothers, the roommates who plot against them, but the easy-going slackers who used to take the short term F until they could repeat the class are gone.  What we never realized was how much of the problem those easy going slackers were:  the calls, the meetings, the parents.  It was quite the time-drain.

So I have built up quite the head of steam & have no place to release it except the Cotton Robin.  Or the Facebook Quilt Block Swap, but I am already barely touching base with many of these people.  I have been so absent, the other group admin is now getting the fun questions like "how many inches in a yard?"  I was not meaning to stick her with this crap but I guess I don't mind someone else knowing what backstage looks like. 

Which brings us to this week-end.  I had hoped to be sorting at least SOME of the quilt blocks due this coming Saturday, but as you may have guessed almost none of them have arrived.  So I dug out an overgrown garden, moved some ginger varieties to a new location (we now have a shade garden in the front yard, not what I was going for but I could not bear to take out the volunteer oak three years ago & now it is rather grand).  We road tested a few zero-turn mowers & in the end A decided to spend the bulk of a day fixing the old one which was just fine with me; I was not looking forward to learning a whole new style of driving. 

On the other hand, a semi-pointless ride-along was probably just the thing for the mood I am in. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Emperor Constantine

What can I say, Constantine is a favorite of mine. There are so many wonderful quirky things about him & then he is a saint & then he is an emperor. Really, what's not to love? You can look up all the garden variety stuff in any world history, so let me go straight to the good bits:

Constantine had several children & named most of them for himself (except one daughter he named Helena, for his mother & another son called Crispus). Three of his sons were called Constatine, Constantius & Constans. He even named a daughter Constantina. For a man named Caesar Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus, son of Constantius Chlorus this shows a shocking lack of imagination. Or incredible self promotion. Ever since I learned this, I picture Constantine looking a lot like George Foreman. In a toga.

"Scholars debate" when he actually converted to christianity. His mother had converted many years before her death, but he held on to (& took advantage of) his pagan title until the day he died. I actually think you can make an solid argument for his being an atheist or at a minimum a major hedger of bets. While they debate, scholars like to point to the many protections he gave chirtians, certainly not the norm. Except his mother was a christian & even an emperor can have a soft spot for his mother. Finally, there is no disputing that the christians were not singled out for special treatment. He had a remarkably even hand when it came to religious tolerance. The better to tax you with, my dears.

& that was Constantine's real claim to fame. Put everyone in touch with everyone else, let them barter, let them trade & take your percentage off the top. He is looking more & more like George Foreman to you, too now, right. 

Anyhow today is Constantine's feast day.  The one I mean anyhow.  Not the Constantines that came before & after.  Not to be confused with the saints Constantius (yep more than one).  There are scores of better looks at his life than this one.  My brother recommends John Julius Norwich's Byzantium in three easy volumes.  Our boy appears mostly in the first--but he is felt all the way through.  I instead give you this

Monday, May 19, 2014

The best plant sale of the year

This past Saturday was the local IFAS extension/Master Gardener's plant sale.  & it was packed.  they open at 8am & at &7:45 I was waiting in a looooooong line of traffic to make the turn into the IFAS extension office building lot.  I have no idea if they opened early because by the time I got parked & out of the car it was after 8. 

I had planned to take pictures even though my camera was on a trip to Miami (next week it goes to Paris without me!); I have been learning the camera on my phone which s actually a nice one but my hands were full almost immediately.  I had brought sturdy bags which enabled m to carry plenty of plants but next year I am bringing a wagon!

I came home with one calendula which I immediately repotted (it had two unopened blooms & I was hoping to save one of them) & one cut-leaf coneflower.  I actually went hoping to find one of the varieties of purple coneflower but they were gone by the time I made it to the perennials section.  What I did find was a different variety of the rain lilies I am already crazy about.  I also go two lavender plants because I never can resist them & four roses: two Belinda's Dream & two Louis Philippe.  I forked over a whopping $26.  Consider if you will that roses this size cost >$15 a the local discount rose garden.  Yes I am delighted with my haul but that's not all.

The famously difficult to find UF campus IFAS bookstore had a booth where I could have easily dropped $100.  What I did buy was a book on native tree identification, an updated poisonous pasture plants guide & a small but thorough booklet on fruit plant propagation with a special focus on different kinds of grafting.  Yee-ha!

On the whole this event seemed to go smoothly.   There were two unruly people, both of them elderly men who were probably themselves overwhelmed, not that that is an excuse.  Still two cranks in a crowd of I don't know how many seems like almost nothing.  There was also a snafu as I was checking out; they kept coming up with a different plant count & I nixed it each time; all of their numbers added up to an even number & I knew I had nine plants.  In the end it was quite the headache to recreate the prices of what I had (they talked about going back to look but I knew the lavenders & one of the roses were already gone).  As I walked away from the table I could not help but notice the older lady responsible for pulling the color stakes used as price tags still had some of the tags from my plants in one hand when she started pulling them for the next sale.  Then she put them on the table & began to pile all the stakes  together.  The woman who was working with her caught my eye, smiled & shrugged.  I can see how the crowd of people no matter how happy to be there could easily fluster a person who would rather be gardening.

In all the sale runs for five hours (four actually but there are still people there even as the are wrapping up) & it is just once a year.  I have heard they made over $15K for the local Master Gardener program.  A good day.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Blogger's Quilt Festival Spring 2014: Everything's coming up roses

I have finished exactly ONE quilt since the beginning of the year so my options for the Spring 2014 Blogger's Quilt Festival were a bit limited.  Unfortunately, I have also already blogged about the quilt twice. 

The first time was for 52 Photos Project prompt A Crooked Line & the second time was for a Block Lotto linky post about color.  So without further ado here is the quilt I made as a gift to the couple who had my cow bred (so folksy, right).  He is the Dexter cattle fan (& rancher) but she has a landscaping business with a special interest in heirloom roses so my primary fabric choice was easy-peasy (it was not until afterwards that I thought about how many Einstein-themed gifts we get-they were still very gracious about it).

It may not be obvious at first glance (I think it is, but I already know) but this block is a revamp of a Block Lotto block I have taken to calling 8:56 (four to nine).   The original block pattern begins with equal parts of two fabrics & then a narrow slice is taken top to bottom & another side to side there is some flipping & voilà.  I am beyond fond of this pattern & have made several times it before & I am certain I will make it over & over again & even give this variation another roll.

In this most recent incarnation, I played with the dimensions of that center slice making it gradually wider as I worked my way out from the center.  I was mostly interested in seeing how the larger cuts actually diminished the punch of color; the highest contrast seems, to me anyhow, to be in the blocks with the most unequally sized individual pieces.  Because I varied the size of the cuts there is just that one center seam to match (except that one place where I accidentally bumped two blocks with the same size cuts up against each other WHOOPS!) so this quilt went together super-quick.  After al that cutting is done which can be exhausting.

As for the quilting:  the fabric had a vaguely geometric quality & I wanted to pick that up.  I used a wide piece of bleached white muslin so no center seam would interrupt the design (which was just a happy accident).  I made several starkly triangle "roses" in a variegated pink to yellow thread & then outlined them in dark green thread making ever larger triangles until they started bumping up against each other & then I threw in some jagged thorns in between.  I was going for a sharply angled bouquet sort of look, but I am not sure it worked. 

The quilting (& the piecing for that matter) was done on my Bernina 153 which I still love.  I have flirted with getting a new machine, but somehow they never feel right; this machine is the right size for me.  On the small side by today's standards, I can still jam a queen sized quilt through it if need be. 

This quilt finished at just over 54" x 54".  The fabrics are all cottons mostly from my scrap basket except of course for the yardage of that rose fabric.  The batting is 70% cotton/30% polyester (my preferred batting for quick free-motion quilting).  The thread was a YLI variegated & a Sulky solid dark green.

& as I said when we went to pick up our dairy cow (baby due in December fingers crossed), they took such wonderful care of her I wanted to say extra-thank you.  Because while Cow-girl is standoffish & maybe even ill-suited to the whole backyard diary thing she is MY cow & I love her

I have entered this quilt in the Home Machine Quilted category of the Blogger's Quilt Festival.  & because I adds up to 216" all around, it is also in the Small Quilts category. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What we are reading for the next year or so

Last night was our annual book club book selection.  We meet monthly most of the year but take two months off over the summer & the month of December so we are usually looking for nine titles with a good mix of fiction/non-fiction, classics/fluff (or that brass ring:  classic fluff).

This year we had no real wildcards (poems or collections or plays) but B****** & I had both heard an NPR program about a novel about RLStevenson & I have suggested Treasure Island before as a quick-read.  Merging them together seemed natural. 
Our other choices came from all over the place.  Old favorites of non-members (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), recently deceased authors in the news (The Snow Leopard), recently banned books in the news (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian).  It is not unusual for books to be proposed by different people in different years (The Light Between Oceans).  One in particular made me laugh because it was proposed by another member but until I was reading the blurb I had completely forgotten I had read it..& loved it (I will let you guess which one). 

Without further ado here are the next books.  Yes we choose through September 2015; that whole taking the summer off thing means we have been facing our big book almost immediately & we all thought maybe we would like to work up to that one instead.

Sept 2014:  Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand
October 2014:  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
November 2014:  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
January 2015:  Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
February 2015:  The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
March 2015:  The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman 
April 2015:  Under the Wide & Starry Sky by Nancy Horan AND Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
May 2015:  Art Thief by Noah Charney
June 2015:  Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Sept 2015:  The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

If you are interested you can take a wander through current & previous selections on
my kitchen-table-book-club shelf:
Marybeth's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (kitchen-table-book-club shelf)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Going to the dogwoods

One of my new year's resolutions -yes, I know it is May & hey I never said this year anyhow- was to document more of what I am doing at the herbarium.  I think I have said before, but I know it has been awhile, a herbarium is to plant specimens as a library is to books.  It houses the specimens under a system that allows retrieval, etc.  It is hard for people, even people who are my age, to contemplate a catalog that does not have any connection to computers what-so-ever, but the reality is that the wood collection at the herbarium is still on index cards; you want to see a particular family, you go to the card file that the plant was assigned to circa whenever the cards were written which was anywhere from the 1930s to the mid 1980s, pull the card, find the number which can be tricky all on its own as there is no standardized way of recording information on these cards but if you are lucky some kind soul will have written the number in the upper left hand corner, you take that number & go to the cabinets, search through hundreds of pounds of wood & pull up your specimen.  If you are lucky.

Enter me.  I am slowly but steadily recording the information on the cards in a single database (OKay that's a lie: for convenience & archival safety I use smaller databases in the same format & merge them into one periodically) so that some day it will be possible to look up some random specimen & locate it -or at least where it should be- quickly.

Yesterday I wrapped up Cornaceae.  Most of our samples in this family are actual Cornus whatever (Cornus drummundii, Cornus nuttallii, Cornus sanguinae & so forth).  & most of the Cornus themselves are Cornus florida.  Yes, yes the herbarium is in Florida, but most of these are from trees that never were.  Besides the "florida" in a botanical name means flowering & is not intended as a regional designation. 

It is impressive how unremarkable the wood alone of this favorite tree is.  Don't get me wrong, it is a nice looking wood, gentle rings, subtle shading.  After years spent in a wood collection I have developed an affinity for these things & I can tell you the dogwood is lovely in an unremarkable way.  Because that is what these are:  dogwoods.  Imagine my astonishment to learn this tree is actually listed as threatened or endangered in several of the northern states where it used to be abundant.  it is frequently listed as a "rare native".  That this was not always so is driven home by the sheer volume of specimens from all over the US. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cinnamon-girl good-bye

Before I sat down to write this I took a look through previous posts to see what I had told the world about Cinnamon-girl.  The answer is not all that much.  So let me begin with what a very nice goat she was.  She was not a super goat, she didn't do anything remarkable.  But she was a fine goat ambassador.  Ambassadress.

She came when she was called, either by name or by saying "Meheheheheh".  & she loved to make conversation: when someone talked to her she always talked back, usually in a very soothing "Mhmhmhmh" sort of way.  When she felt quiet she would rest her chin & throat against you & burp quiet grassy burps. 

Cinnamon-girl has not been doing well for a couple months.  She used to run like a marionette cut loose of her strings, but over the winter she stopped running entirely.  Most days she slept alone in the barn, just sort of drowsing until I called her to come for snack time in the backyard (she ate my brand new roses this weekend; they will grow back).  On Sunday I told A I didn't think it would be much longer.  She was stumbling a bit, but hungry & eat happily.

But today, no snack time.  I found her down at the back of the pasture.  Her legs were cycling & I while I could push her up on to her chest (& did so I could pour water into her mouth -which she could swallow).  I kept her as cool as I could, pulling her out of the sun & putting an old -t-shirt under her head so she didn't get grit in her eye.  A came home from work & did what needed to be done.

We buried her in where we have put dogs & cat,  mini-mule & even emus.  When we put her in the ground, we both realized how very thin she was although  she had been eating plenty.  She was not a young goat when we got her.  I don't have the heart to look up her papers right now, but we are know she was in her late teens/early twenties. 

Good bye Cinnamon-girl.  I will miss the way you stood on your hind legs, your front legs hanging down from the elbow eating leaves from the trees.  You always looked like Miss Gulch, if she ate leaved from trees.  Which would have improved her.