Friday, November 28, 2014

Splitting wood

My husband bought himself this wood splitter recently and this is the first time we've used it.  Earlier in the year we had to have four trees taken down.  Two were lightning strike trees and were dead, one was growing out of the trunk of a bigger tree and one was a cedar tree that overhung our deck and dripped super sticky sap everywhere.  We had to move the tree rounds from where they dropped, over to our woodpile and they've been sitting there waiting for us to get to them.  Up till now, my husband and son have used a maul and huge hammer (I'm sure it has a proper name too) to split the wood which is hard work and jarring on your arms and back.  The new log splitter works wonderfully, even I had fun using it.  We've got through nearly all the tree rounds and have three beautiful new log piles which will provide us with firewood for next winter.  





Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!



Lake Alpine is beginning to freeze, there is a crust of ice around the waterline on the shady side of the lake.  Usually by now there is a lot more ice than this!  


The water makes strange patterns as it freezes.


Where the rain has collected in the rocks, it is frozen solid.



As we scrambled on the rocks, we startled this bald eagle which had been sitting in a tree above us.  It screeched crossly and circled round to a different tree.



We found these ice crystals growing in the mud.




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Christmas Trees


I've been working on some more embroidered Christmas trees over the last couple of days.  They are going frustratingly slowly since there are so many other things going on too!  It's Thanksgiving tomorrow so I am preparing for that.  We are in the mountains for a few days over Thanksgiving.  It is beautiful up here and very quiet.  It is unseasonably warm during the day but cold at night with frosty mornings.   The wood stove keeps us toasty in the evenings.  Hopefully I'll get some of these finished up tonight!





My shop has been busy this month which is exciting.  I enjoy packing up the orders and seeing all the different places they are from.




Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Polar Bear Pincushion

This is what I've been working on (in between everything else) the last couple of days.  One of the places I'd love to visit, one day, is Alaska and there are two things I'd love to see there..... wild polar bears and the Northern Lights.  In preparation for making this pincushion, I spent a morning looking at photos of polar bears on the internet and sketching them.  What awesome creatures they are!  





After sketching and deciding on the orientation of the bear on the pincushion, I choose the colors and cut everything out.  I usually make two of each new design.  I like to keep my animals looking realistic but as I was thinking about this bear, it was as if he kept nudging me asking for a garland of flowers.  At first I ignored him but he persisted and so that is how this polar bear has ended up wearing a garland of pretty, colorful flowers to brighten up his dark and cold Arctic day!  



I use a rotary cutter for cutting the sidebands.  It's much faster and more accurate than scissors.  I use some small and extremely sharp scissors for cutting out shapes.  




You can find this polar bear pincushion listed in my Etsy shop.

 








Monday, November 17, 2014

Feels Like Fall, Smells Like Fall, Tastes Like Fall

It's Thanksgiving next week.  It hardly seems any time since we were swimming in the mountain lakes.  Those same lakes are probably starting to freeze over by now.  In my neck of the woods it is really feeling like Fall.  The skies are still blue and our day time temperatures are still warm but the nights are colder and this morning when I drove my daughter to school at 7.30am, I could smell woodsmoke.  

I took pictures on my walk this morning.  Everywhere looked so lovely and I was blown away that even with our terrible drought, the trees have the energy to put on such a show.  They make me think of fireworks.  I haven't edited any of these photos!







I've had a very productive morning and am going to sit and do some sewing now.   I made cranberry sauce this morning which made the house smell festive.  The recipe I use is from "Bon Appetit" magazine.  It is sweet, tangy and spicy.  I've made enough for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I'll probably make some more while I can get the cranberries.  


Here's the recipe,

1 and 1/2 cups of sugar
3/4 apple cider (juice)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 12oz bag of cranberries
1 pear or apple
1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
pinch of salt


Dissolve the sugar in the apple cider and vinegar.  Add everything else and boil for about 20 minutes until thickened.  Use a splatter guard if you have one because exploding cranberries make a mess!  While this is boiling, sterilize some jars in a 250f oven.  I always put the ladle and funnel in to sterilize too.  When the sauce has thickened ladle it into the hot jars and put on the lids.  Be sure to lick the ladle when it has cooled down, yum.   







Friday, November 14, 2014

A Custom Pincushion

This is what I've been working on for the last couple of days, a custom cat pincushion.  It's fun doing special things like this!






Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Bird Watching Day

Last Sunday my daughter and I drove over the hills to the Los Banos area in the Central Valley of California.  There is a network of managed wetlands which, this time of year, is usually populated by migrating birds.  We had been wondering how our prolonged drought was affecting these wetlands.  The Central Valley used to have vast areas of wetland but over the years these have been drained for agricultural use.  

We visited Merced Wildlife Refuge and the San Luis area.  Before going, I had read on their website that they were receiving 50% or less of their usual water allotment.  Obviously this has a major impact on how much land can be flooded for the incoming birds.  Still I was unprepared for seeing how much land is dry this year compared to previous years.  



This is what greeted us.  This would normally be under a few inches of water as far as you can see.  It should look like this....


This is a different part of the Reserve which is flooded this year.  Here there are white pelicans, egrets and lots of shoveler and coot.  Below is an incoming pelican.



This is a beautiful ibis flying.  Sometimes they just look black, but catch them in the light and they are spectacular.  




These are lesser sandhill cranes.  This area has the largest gathering of cranes in the Pacific Flyway, approximately 20,000!  We didn't see any of their dancing behavior but enjoyed listening to them and watching skeins of them flying in.  




We also visited the Visitors Center at San Luis which was informative.  We chatted to a Ranger and drove their auto trail.  You can read a little more about the Reserve here.  We definitely noticed less variety of ducks this year and fewer cranes (but the cranes may just have been in other fields).  We also didn't see the number of snow geese that we usually see.  It was still an awesome day out though, filled with amazing birds and in our whole day there we probably only saw two other cars on the auto trails!