February Photos

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Photos: Squirrel, House Finches, and a Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared dove

Male house finch

House finch fledglings

Eurasian Collared dove


Photos: Sunflowers and a Cat

Planted by the birds

Teensy, always on hand to keep me company

Life is so rough

Monday, July 24, 2017

Journal: A Custom Quilt, a Baby Quilt, Steam Locomotives, & Wildfires

Several people, upon seeing pictures of my customer’s quilt, have asked how I go about choosing a quilting pattern or design for a quilt.
 I like to look through photos of beautiful quilting I’ve saved on my Pinterest board.  Then, if I see something I might like, and that might work on my quilt, I grab pencil and paper and rulers and sketch something similar.  If I can sketch it, I can quilt it.
Once I get a pleasing sketch, I set about transferring the idea to the quilt.  Sometimes a design needs to be marked on the quilt.  I have a number of different types of markers to choose from along with several rulers, including a long flexible one that holds its shape once bent into the curves one desires.  With this ruler, I am able to match curves throughout the quilt, and flip it over for a mirrored shape.
My quilting doesn’t look as good as the quilting featured in the photos on my Pinterest board, but I keep right on a-tryin’!
Last Tuesday, a friend asked if we ever went back and got those earbuds for Bobby.  “This inquiring mind wants to know, and you never said in your letter!” she wrote.
I did forget that part, didn’t I?  Were you all in suspense?  Yes, Larry stopped and got them last Friday after work, and we gave them to Bobby the next time we saw him.
Tuesday, as I was curling my hair, my laptop on the counter in front of me, I heard some muffled sizzling, popping sounds, and then an odd smell wafted through, sort of a chemical odor.  I thought a drop of water had landed on my new curling iron – but it was the laptop doing all that!  The fan sped up a bit, too.  Yikes.  I decided I’d better get all my data backed up, posthaste.  It had been over a month since I backed everything up.  I’d lose all my Fourth of July pictures, if this thing went down, plus a bunch of quilting stuff, and financial info, too. 
I looked online and saw that other people have had odd-smelling laptops – and most of the possible reasons and suggestions as to what it could be are somewhat alarming. 
As soon as my coiffure was coiffed, I collected the external hard drives, plugged them in, and started transferring data.  Instead of simply adding any new data, I overwrote everything, since I’d edited some older journals, patterns, photos, and so forth, and needed to update them on the externals.  It took five or six hours to complete, as there is almost a terabyte of data.
This laptop has enough RAM that data transfers don’t slow it down discernably.  While it worked, I paid bills online, started a streaming nature cam, and then went to work on my customer’s quilt.
Nothing bad or strange has happened since then with the laptop.  The smell was very much like ‘Dust-Off’, the compressed gas (or canned air) one uses on electronics.  I wonder, when I used that stuff in the fan area of my computer, did a little clump of it wind up perched on the ledge of a cliff, as it were, finally tumble off and land on a warm area (motherboard, for instance), and sizzle, fry, and disintegrate? 
A few people have asked what kind of batting I prefer.  I’m not picky about batting, though I do like wool for more definition to the quilting, a lovely drape, and a quilt that breathes in the summertime and keeps one warm in the wintertime.  But a good deal of the time I get polyester, because the price is good.  Polyester, too, drapes nicely and is lightweight.  Today’s polyester is not the yucky polyester of yesterday, all stiff and poky and getting lumpy in the wash.
100% cotton and 80/20, being 80% cotton and 20% poly, feel nice to the touch, but will make a quilt heavier.  I have many older quilts – big ones – with cotton or mostly cotton batting, and whoooeeee, are they ever heavy.  When I wash them......  aaaiiiiyiiiiiiieeeeee, I need a forklift to get them out of the washing machine!  😃 But if the quilt isn’t too awfully big, or if you want a nice, substantial, heavy quilt, it’s a fine batting.
People who make show quilts with really fancy quilting, in order to make the quilting show up, sometimes use 80/20 with a layer of medium-to-high-loft wool batting over it.  That method makes appliqué look like trapunto.  Back in the 80s when I made nursery ensembles for our babies, I tried to copy cute puffy quilts in the J. C. Penney’s catalogue – and I used two layers of high-loft poly.  Better believe, I got ‘puffy’, all right! 
As for quilting through various types of batting (and all kinds of fabric), my HQ16 has handled everything I’ve thrown at it with aplomb. 
Sometimes quilting doesn’t show up in person (‘in quilt’?) as well as in pictures, if the batting is low loft and the print of the fabric is doing competition with the quilting.  I make the quilting show up in pictures by turning off all overhead lights, leaving one on only in the far corner, and then shooting toward that light and keeping the angle low. 
In response to online group chatter about quilting, a lady wrote, “All this quilting talk is making me want to fire up Bailey15!! (her midarm quilter.)  I have stacks of unquilted tops.”
“Fire up Bailey15.”  haha  Now I have steam engines on the brain.  The historic Union Pacific Railroad’s historic No. 844 steam locomotive came through Columbus last month.
Here, listen to what has to be done to ‘fire up’ an old steam engine.  This is from the Train Orders website:

We fire up 12” Ottawa 4-4-0’s in about 2 hrs. We have to start with cold water, and use wood scraps soaked in diesel. We have an electric blower stuck into the stack. In 30 minutes or so, if the fire is hot enough, we start putting in a little oil-soaked coal. Around 50-60psi, we start the blower, and try both injectors around 80psi. We can move the engine above 90-100, pops lift at 165. And we do mix in maybe 10% pet coke if we have it, burns a little hotter. We start with about 1/3 glass of water, and it expands up to about half when hot & ready. Right now though, we have some pretty good coal from Vinita, OK, so don’t need the coke as much, but it’s dirty, and sometimes we have to stop and rod out the flues if they start getting hard to fire. 
Firing up things too fast is hard on the boiler.  Boilers don’t like uneven temperature changes. 
Suppose you’re sitting with a boiler filled with cold water to the bottom nut in the waterglass.  By cold, I mean somewhere in the 40-50 degree range generally available from groundwater sources. 
Someone else will have to describe oil firing.  Real firemen burn coal. 
Start by covering the grate with a thin bed of coal, say 4 inches thick.  In the middle of that build a small wood fire and start it with the help of some fuel oil or kerosene.  DON’T use gasoline or other flammable liquid that can flash back on you in that confined space!  Keep sprinkling coal on that fire and letting it spread to the rest of the coal on the grate.  Heat the boiler slowly.  The firebox will heat up long before the front end of the boiler, causing clicking, cracking, and popping sounds due to thermal expansion.  Keep those sounds to a minimum, and don’t force it.  In about 2 to 2 1/2 hours you should finally see the needle on the steam gauge lift off the pin at zero.  Then control your fire and blower to not raise the pressure more than 2 psi per minute.  Slower is better.  Should get you up to working pressure about 5 or 6 hours or more after starting. 
That said, there are other methods.  Starting with an empty boiler, you can remove the washout plugs at the bottom of the firebox and hook a high pressure steam source, such as another hot steam locomotive, with a rubber hose and pipe live steam into the boiler.  This will uniformly fill the boiler with saturated steam and warm the entire boiler uniformly, allowing the condensate to drain out the washout opening.  When water ceases, the boiler is hot enough to reinstall the plug, then fill the boiler with pressurized steam and turn on your injectors, which will quite nicely fill the boiler to the waterglass with 180 degree water.  Then you can build a fire and raise pressure quite quickly.  I’ve seen the C&TS use this method to have an engine ready in about 45 minutes. 
On the North Shore Scenic RR we take the engine over to a nearby power plant where they charge the boiler similarly.

See, wasn’t that fun reading?
I like the stories of old trains... seeing train restoration... watching the old steam engine go whistling through town... and taking photos of trains, new and old. 
Larry and I once had a scrumptious meal in a restored passenger car, The Southern Belle, in Heavener, Oklahoma.
Do you take note of unusual names, in particular, those names that ‘match’ (or contrast with) the person’s profession?  In our town, we have a chiropractor by the name of Dr. Jerka.
A friend had surgery in San Diego – performed by Dr. Repairs.  And her husband went to boot camp with one Donald Duck.  Really!  But that’s not all.  The lady’s name is Paula.  Her husband’s name is Paul.  Her son’s name is Paul.  You wanna make a guess as to what his in-laws’ names are?  Would you believe...  Paul and Paula?!
Brings to mind Mrs. McCave of Dr. Seuss fame who named all of her 23 sons ‘Dave’:

Speaking of funny names... here’s an excerpt from a journal of mine from July of 2000.  Columbus Auto Sales was a business we used to own, and sold in January of 2000.

One afternoon two men, one from the State Licensing Board, the other from the State Tax Bureau, came to our door wanting to talk to Larry.  The reason?  A certain Mick Pick has been selling vehicles through Columbus Auto Sales and forging Larry’s name.  Since we have not had a dealer’s license this year, and on paper all those vehicles he’s sold are in our name, we are liable for all the unpaid sales tax – thousands and thousands of dollars.  He has a pickup at a friend’s frame shop; Larry is hoping our friend can hold onto it and force Mick to fork over the money, all the paperwork, etc.  We are in danger of having liens slapped on all our property.  Lucky thing the shop has already been sold! 
When we met this man, Larry didn’t believe that was really his name, the first time he heard it:  Mick Pick.  I told Larry his middle name was probably Richard, so we could call him Mick Rick Pick.  Guess what:  We learnt by the court records that Michael Pick’s middle name was indeed Richard.  haha 
His mother doubtless thought she was naming her son a perfectly respectable name:  Michael Richard Pick.  Who would ever dream he would turn into Mick Rick Pick someday?  Methinks one Mick Rick Pick is in a Pickle.  And no wonder he turned to a life of crime, with a name like that
Trouble is, we’re in a pickle, tooHelp!!!

Addendum:  Mick Rick Pick got in all the trouble; we did not (other than time wasted in court one day).  We even wound up with $300 – a small part of the money he had previously owed us.

Wednesday night after church, I finished my customer’s quilt.  More photos here and here.  The next day, I removed all the markings, clipped wayward threads, then trimmed and removed the quilt from the frame.  After taking pictures of it, I packed it into a sturdy box, headed to the post office, and shipped it off to my customer.  She will attach the binding.
There are about 70 hours of quilting in this quilt.  Custom quilting takes a whole lot longer than quilting with pantographs!
By the way, if anyone thinks this quilt has been ‘quilted to cardboard’, as they say, it is in fact quite soft and drapes very nicely.  I’ve named it ‘Crisscross’, as a reader suggested, since those elongated hexagons do sort of make crisscrosses.  I like to have names for quilts I do, so I can find them in my files.  My customer didn’t have a name for it, and she likes this one.
It was like an oven outside that day.  The temperature was only 95°, but the heat index was 108°.  I worry about Larry... Bobby... Teddy... Caleb... Kurt... and all our other friends and relatives who work outside in the heat.
Same with vehicles.  We go driving along... I suddenly spot an oncoming car, and cry, “Oh, what’s that?!” 
It’s usually a Ferrari, a Bentley, a Porsche, a BMW, a Maserati...  Larry says I’m a ‘Rolls-Royce girl on a Gremlin budget’. 
But I like my Jeep, and hope it stays in commission for a long time.  It’s a good vehicle (but if someone gave me a brand-spankin’-new Escalade, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it).
Actually, I drove an Escalade back before we got our Yukon.  It was used, and not gently.  It was just two or three years old, but its previous owners had turned the hapless thing into a rattletrap of a log wagon.  I’m sure a new one would be in a better category, but I haven’t yet gotten the bad taste of that Escalade out of my mouth. 
Friday, I cut the rest of the blocks for the Tumbling Blocks quilt Victoria started about three and a half years ago, and sewed together one strip of blocks.  The pattern is from the ABC 3D Tumbling Blocks book by Marci Baker.
There were three more strips to do, and I still needed to cut several border strips when I threw in the towel for the night.
I ran out of fabric for the tops of the blocks, and wound up piecing together itty-bitty scrap pieces for the last eight already-small block tops.
Friday, I sewed the rest of the quilt top together – and discovered I’d made two extra Tumbling Blocks.  And wouldn’t you know, the extras were not those with the multi-pieced triangles!  I’ll make a little pillow with the extra blocks.
Before I could quilt it, I had to do something to make the block tops stop blending with the background, being cut from the very same fabric as they were.  I have no idea why I didn’t notice this was happening when Victoria was cutting and sewing it.  We were sewing at the same time, after all, though I was one room away. 
I wanted to make this little quilt turn out pretty, so that she will be encouraged to try again.  She really did a nice job of matching points in the center section.  She’s artistic and has a skillful touch, but she has a tendency to quit projects in the middle.  I think she thinks her mother will finish them for her.  ha
I pulled out my pastel Letraset Promarkers and made several samples on scraps:  Promarkers alone, Promarkers heat set, Promarkers on Bubble Jet Set 2000 (fabric medium), Promarkers on Bubble Jet heat set.  I let the samples dry, then attempted to wash out the dye.  
Promarkers are pretty much a permanent dye, but I managed to get some of the pale yellow color out of the fabric when I didn’t use the Bubble Jet Set.  With Bubble Jet Set, however, it didn’t even seem to fade.  The dye stayed put nicely, though I used plenty of detergent and scrubbed and rinsed it good and proper.
I painted each block top with Bubble Jet Set, let the quilt dry, and then chose pale pink and went to dying the patches.  Here are Before and After shots:

Larry came home earlier than usual that day – 4:30 p.m., as opposed to 7:30... 8:30... 9:30...  He intended to work on his pickup, but he was very hot and very tired, so he came in, set his alarm, and took a nap.  When the alarm went off, he reset it.  Twice.  Three times.  And then he just turned it off and slept.  He didn’t wake up until 11:30 p.m.  I kept going to look at him, make sure he was still breathing, and so forth.  Once I found he had turned from his back onto his side; so at least I knew he wasn’t paralyzed.  When he got up at 11:30, he ate supper, took a bath, and went to bed, feeling quite a lot better.
Saturday, the Red-E-Edge clamps arrived, just in time to be used on the Tumbling Blocks quilt.  I always hesitate to spend money on the HQ16 or the Bernina Artista, as I have hopes of upgrading before too long.  But I should have gotten these clamps long ago.  They’re going to make a world of difference in keeping quilt backs smooth and even.  They can be used on a larger frame, too.  If I’d have had these clamps, the Buoyant Blossoms quilt wouldn’t have a whoppyjaw backing in one spot.  Most of the time, the better the tools, the better the end product.
At the same time the clamps came, a box with four more quilts arrived from the lady for whom I quilted the last three quilts.
It was a little cooler that day – 91° with a heat index of 99°.  That’s still too hot.  I wished we were up high in the mountains somewhere beside a cool mountain stream! 
My flowerbeds look like a jungle.  I think I’ll stick a sign in the ground reading “Return to Nature, by the Ecology and Reclamation Department.  Enjoy!  Donations accepted.”
At least the birds have planted some pretty sunflowers.
That afternoon, I loaded the Tumbling Blocks quilt on my frame, found a cute ‘Duckling and Bubbles’ pantograph, taped it to the quilting table, got everything adjusted, and began quilting.
When Larry came home, he fired up the Traeger grill in order to smoke the Ono fish (also called ‘Wahoo’) that Kurt and Victoria gave us.  Kurt’s grandparents had given them several pieces that they’d gotten from some friends who’d gone fishing in Hawaii.
‘Ono’ is a Hawaiian word meaning ‘delicious’.  It usually sells for about $30 a pound.
That night, I finished quilting Victoria’s quilt and put the binding on it.  The new clamps worked like a charm, though there was a deflating moment right at first when I mistakenly thought they were too long to fit on my frame.  However, I didn’t get the quilt pulled tight enough in one place, and the poles sagged, and the fabric stretched, and I wound up with some lumpy, almost-tucks.  Taking the stitching out and trying again would doubtless result in the exact same problem, only with starts and stops to add to the mess.
I’m going to pretend I can’t see it.  The baby will not complain.
{More photos here.}
Sunday, a quilting friend from Texas had to call a repairman to unplug their air conditioner drain line.  Their heat/air unit is in the attic, and it’s HOT there in Texas, and hotter still in the attic.  Access to the attic is achieved via a ladder in the garage.  The repairman, in my friend’s words, is ‘a big ol’ boy.’  He scared the daylights out of her (and himself, she imagined) when he stepped on a board in the attic, it broke, and he fell.  She ran out into the garage, yelling, “Are you ok??”  He was, and he didn’t fall thru the ceiling, thankfully.
That reminded me (everything reminds me of something, doesn’t it?) of the Saturday night we were practicing with our special singing groups for church the next day.  I was playing the piano.  So there we were, lustily singing Heaven Came Down, when suddenly there was a splintering noise, and a leg came right down through the sanctuary ceiling.  😲
A friend who was working in the attic had missed a rafter.
Speaking of appropriate songs at appropriate times, the congregation was once singing Shall We Gather at the River when a baby at the back dropped his glass bottle, the top broke off, and a stream of milk gushed its winding way down to the front.  That was in my father’s first church in Plattsmouth.
Another quilting friend returned home after being away a couple of days, and wrote, “Did you notice I was gone?” – and that reminded me (see what I mean?) of when Caleb was quite young, and would take the trash out, or step outside for a few minutes for one reason or another.  He’d come back in all in a rush, put an anxious expression on his face, and ask, “Did you miss me??”
Hester, always the peace-loving one of the bunch but never able to pass up an opportunity, would catch her little brother by the shoulders, turn him around, and steer him toward the door again, saying, “Not yet!” 
Funny to call him her ‘little brother’.  He’s now over 6’ tall – and she’s 5’ 2”.
“How do you remember all those incidents?” someone asked.
I remember... because I write it down when it happens.  I wish I would’ve written more things down when the older children were little, or that I had it saved digitally, so I could find it.  When the younger ones were little, sometimes they would say something that reminded me of what an older sibling had said, years earlier, so I’d rush to write it down before I forgot again.
Very early Sunday morning, just a little after 4:00 a.m., I heard a phone ringing a long ways away.  Well, actually, it wasn’t a long ways away.  It was Larry’s phone, lying face down on his dresser, and it had dialed Teddy’s number, and was ringing.  Teddy didn’t answer; his voicemail came on.  He’d slept right through it, fortunately.  What in the world?
Looking the matter up online, I see that others have had similar happenings.  I’ve found several possible solutions; I hope one of them works.
We had Larry’s scrumptious waffles for lunch yesterday afternoon.  “Pancakes with windows,” Jonathan called them, when he saw a picture of Victoria’s yummy waffles the other day on Instagram.
Andrew and Hester gave us a big, beautiful picture of the mountains, printed on canvas, for our anniversary.  She asked if I knew where she’d taken the shot.
“Well, with the clouds covering the tops of the mountains, I can’t be totally sure,” I answered, “but I think it’s just west and slightly north of the town of Estes Park, heading into Rocky Mountain National Park.  Right?”
“Yes!” she replied, laughing.  “We had just driven into Rocky Mountain National Park.”
“See, ah’ve been around!!” I told her.  “Ah’ve been to Raleigh.” (à la Barney Fife)
In California, friends are being affected by nearby fires.  For a while, ash was raining down on them, but firefighters got a couple of the fires contained, and the wind shifted.  Air quality is still bad, though.  Even their poor dogs had troubles breathing when they went out.
Wondering about the fate of wild animals, I did a little research.  Here are some interesting facts about the Yellowstone Fires of 1988:

In the aftermath of a forest fire surprisingly few animals are found dead. Animals, whether feathered, furred or scaled, instinctively understand the dangers of fire. The first hint of smoke, the first whoosh of dry grass going up in flames, or the popping of wood are easily registered by wild animals at great distances, so they are rarely caught completely off guard.  They usually have plenty of time to flee. The most vulnerable, of course, are the old, the very young, and the sick or injured. Those that can flee by wing, foot, hooves, or slither, do so, while others not so fast or just too small, burrow underground and wait for the impending disaster to pass overhead.
Case in point: In 1988, Yellowstone National Park infamously went up in flames – and so much so, that for the first time in the Park’s history, the entire Park was shut down. Speculation went as wild as the fire as to what would happen to the park animals. Many anticipated a scorched landscape littered with charred carcasses.
Yet despite months of raging fire through the park, in the end the flames and smoke claimed very few animals. Surveys post-fire revealed that of 40,000 – 50,000 elk in the park, only 345 were found dead, a very small percentage of the overall population. Additionally, the survey noted that 36 mule deer, 6 black bears, 12 moose, 9 bison and 1 grizzly succumbed to the 1988 fire, and while sad, it is important to note that the vast majority of large animals survived. Rodents and other small animals had the highest mortality rates due to their small size, but still the fatality numbers were much lower than one might expect. About one hundred fish were discovered dead, but their deaths were blamed on fire retardant water contamination rather than the fire itself.
Animals, forests, and forest fires are all part of a natural healthy cycle – and in fact many plants and animals depend on naturally occurring wildfire to flourish. For example, many pine trees require the intense heat of a forest fire to open their cones and release their seeds. No fire, no new trees. The Red-Cockaded woodpecker, the Swainson’s warbler, many types of quail, foxes, bears, squirrels, and other animals depend on fire to keep undergrowth in check. Consequently, forest-dwelling plants and animals survive, and they do find ways to adapt to the changes the inevitable fires cause.

Humans have more troubles than the animals if we lose our homes to fire, isn’t that the truth? 
A little while ago, Amy sent pictures from the uptown sidewalk sale of the kids riding ponies.  No fair!  I never got to ride ponies at sidewalk sales when I was little!
Perhaps you’ll recall that a few weeks back, I gave the Tangled Star table topper to a young couple for a wedding gift.  Along with the table topper, I also gave them a set of three wooden bowls, complete with three wooden spoons and three sets of chopsticks. 
They wound up with those bowls in this way:  I wanted to get Hannah a ‘yarn bowl’ for her birthday ... but every bowl I found was higher’n a kite.  Larry said he could use his dremel to cut a curled opening in a plain wooden bowl, which would be much cheaper.  So I found three wooden bowls at an excellent price and bought them.  Before he got around to cutting the curl, the birthday came and went (he’ll be late for his own funeral one of these days) – and I found a lovely lidded yarn bowl that was affordable.

So... when I put the Tangled Stars table topper into a box, I stuck the bowls, spoons, and sticks into the box, too, wondering as I did so if it was a silly gift.  Three of them, for one thing – an odd number to give anyone.  And... chopsticks?  But... with a shrug and a grin, I tossed them in.
The bride wrote me a sweet thank-you note, exclaiming even more over the ‘unique and pretty bowls’, and the ‘really neat wooden spoons and chopsticks’ than she did over the table topper.  So I’m glad I put them into the box.
Well, I just noticed the instructions that came with those bowls:

1, do not put into the microwave oven.
2, Do not exposure
3, do not for a long time into the water (and other liquids)
4, the first time, please wash with boiling water (disinfection)
5, Do not put disinfection cabinet
6, please separate cleaning wooden bowl.
7, the bowl using environmentally friendly natural paint, it will naturally evaporate. If you are sensitive, we recommend that you use vinegar and warm water mixed with cleaning it.
Yikes.  I hope I didn’t give them something that will poison them!  And what if one isn’t sensitive to the bowl, but is sensitive to the instructions?
It’s 87° here, with a heat index of 91° – about 10° cooler than it was most days last week.  The Schwan lady came, bringing my order of all sorts of yummy frozen foods.
Now I’ve had a snack – a crisp Fuji apple and a little bottle of Dannon’s Strawberry Probiotic Dairy Drink – and it’s time to rod out the flues and fire up the HQ16!

,,,>^..^<,,,       Sarah Lynn       ,,,>^..^<,,,