30 October 2012
I feel as if I've been fighting monsters all summer! And I'm not talking about my back.
First it was aphids. Then came spider mites. Then, then came the worst thing since grasshoppers... white... ick!
I first noticed the white slime-like stuff on an indoor tomato plant in July. I thought it was some sort of mold or bacteria. I'd bought three tomato plants and planted six more from seeds. Initially, all were inside because it was too cold outside, but also because I didn't want grasshoppers to feast upon the fruits of my labor again this year.
Daily I wiped the white stuff off the stems, but it kept coming back. I moved the tomatoes outside when it got warm enough, but also because I didn't want whatever the white stuff was to spread to my other indoor plants, especially my prized clove trees.
A couple of weeks later, I noticed the white stuff had invaded one of the hoya plants, the one that had been closest to the tomatoes. I was furious. This particular plant had belonged to The Lizard's father, who died several years ago. The plant had bloomed twice for me this year after years of nothing. The tomatoes still weren't blooming at this point, and I thought the plants I'd bought had started an epidemic on my indoor plants. Ooooh, was I ever steamed!
Wiping the slime off the branches didn't make it go away. It was time to get tough. But I didn't have any idea what I was dealing with. I looked up "white slime on garden plants" and learned lots of new things about gardening, but none of the culprits looked like what I had. By this time, I was cutting leaves off the hoya every day because it seemed to be getting worse by the minute. They also had spread to the outdoor plants, and now it seemed as if nothing would ever stop them.
I kept researching as much as I could, still not finding the proper diagnosis, until one day I noticed one tiny little dot of white moving. Um, this isn't a bacteria...
Finally, I found a magic search term that brought up the match. I looked up "white blobs on curly hoya rope leaves."
I had mealy bugs. And boy, did I ever have them bad!
The mealy bugs destroyed my dahlias and wind flowers. They spread to my peppers. I've even found them inside the watering can.
Gardening forums were very helpful once I knew what I was dealing with. If I'd been a paid member, I could have asked and probably found the answer a lot sooner. But I was a cheapskate and never paid for forum privileges.
I bought two tiny neem trees, and the cutlings came with a small bottle of neem oil, which the trees will not produce until they become more mature. Neem trees, natives of India, typically can't be left outdoors in Colorado, just like my clove trees, so they get to stay inside. The neem oil renders garden pests such as aphids, spider mites and mealy bugs unable to reproduce, but the oil has no harmful effect on praying mantises, lady bugs, bees, butterflies or humans. (or pets, of which we have none yet)
Neem oil requires some diligence and a high level of tolerance. It smells like rotten potatoes and must be reapplied to outdoor plants after a rain. It should be applied at least every three days until well after you think the infestation is gone because some of the pests have a 24-hour life cycle. Eggs hatching three days after one application will not be affected.
I also learned canola oil may be diluted with water and used to prevent infestations from taking fatal hold. But canola oil also apparently prevents plants from blooming, and it causes damage to leaves in drought-style sunshine. I learned this the hard way, along with how difficult canola oil is to remove from a wood floor if you're too scatterbrained to realize you need to put a towel down first before you spray.
The most effective treatment, in my experience, for SMALL gatherings of mealies, is isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab. This method requires much patience and diligence, too, because it must be done every day. The undersides of leaves AND containers much be checked.
I've also used an insecticide derived from chrysanthemums, but I don't know yet if that works. I also received a bit of help from the ladybugs I bought earlier this year, although they flew off before the job was done. I'll be repeating that experiment next year. Even if they fly away, releasing the ladybugs was one of the most fun things I've ever done in the garden.
Tiny little spiders with outstretched arms eat the mealy bugs, I've found, and I think wasps, do, too. Hopefully I'll have a new army come next summer to aid in this battle.
One seasoned veteran of mealy wars said the best treatment may be to throw out everything and start all over again because they nest beneath leaves, pot rims, pots, anywhere they can find. He said once you have a mealy bug infestation, you always have a mealy bug infestation because they move to the next plant when you try to eradicate them and because they overwinter. (Another lesson I learned the hard way.) If you didn't solve the problem this year, they will be back next year, regardless of how cold it gets or how much snow piles up.
As it turns out, our mealy bugs may have originated in the hoya plant. It was so badly infested, I gave it a rubbing alcohol bath, and that still didn't cure the problem. I recently took the plant outside one more time and thoroughly inspected every single leaf, pulling off leaves too curly to check.
I haven't given up yet, but even The Lizard is ready to toss the plant and start over with a new one, one that doesn't have the sentimental connection this one has.
Two years ago, my grasshopper infestation was so bad, our backyard retaining wall was covered with them, mostly in mating mode, and any given step in the backyard would relocate at least 20-30 grasshoppers. In the neighborhood, there was talk of this being biblical in proportion.
I thought grasshoppers were bad.
Now I'm thinking the scariest costume anyone could come up with this Halloween is a mealy bug.
29 October 2012
I loved the song "Crocodile Rock" while I was growing up. Susie was my youngest sister's name. (We lost her in 1991.) This fun song plays in my head now every time I see a crochet project featuring the crocodile stitch.
This snowflake is inspired by the crocodile stitch, also known as the Mermaid Stitch. (Mermaid actually sounds like a more beautiful name for a snowflake, to me, but then I wouldn't be able to tie in the old Elton John jingle.)
I began designing this snowflake back in July, using thread I'd dyed myself. I measure 50-yard hanks of thread for dyeing. I began this project with a pastel mint, sky blue and lavender colorway I still to this day love, even after all the heartache and frustration this pattern has extracted during the last four months.
I had to redo the center four times until I came up with a plan that fit the first round of scales just perfectly. The next two rounds worked up rather well, but then I ran out of thread! I had to dye more. Like the blonde I was born to be, I dyed only 50 yards again. I began working on the flake again a couple of weeks later, and I had forgotten how I'd planned to end the flake. And then I ran out of thread again.
One more batch of thread was dyed, along with 12 hanks of cotton yarn, my first attempt at yarn since I was in Brownies in 3rd grade, when we used grape juice. I got so excited about the vivid hues I'd mixed from primary shades, I didn't pick the snowflake back up again for quite a while.
By the time I decided to finish the Crocodile, I'd forgotten the second ending I'd planned. I had to rip the final three rounds back four more times before I finally came up with something that worked and looked good. This time, I had approximately 10 yards of thread left over when I finished. And then, when I was pinning the prototype snowflake, I noticed I'd made a mistake on the final round.
I decided to let it fly. I didn't want to have to undo it again. I could make the second flake perfect. (And then I ended up working regular picots into all the points on the second flake just to see what it would look like.)
In essence, you might say I was hopping and bopping doing the Mermaid Rock, the Long Drawn Out Rock, the Insufficient Thread Rock, the Airhead Rock… or better yet, the Crocodile Rock. Well, Crocodile Crocheting is something shocking when your fingers just can't keep still...
Because this snowflake pattern requires so much thread and the final project is so big and heavy, I opted to make mine into doilies instead of tree decorations. Instructions for blocking a doily are included at the end of this pattern, as well as traditional stiffening instructions.
You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!
Finished Size: 10.5 inches from point to point
Materials: Approximately 150 yards size 10 crochet thread, size 7 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water, clean spray bottle, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing; for stiffening, if desired, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, glitter, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, clear thread or fishing line
Crocodile Snowflake Instructions
Make magic ring.
Round 1: * 2 sc in ring, ch 6; repeat from * 4 times for a total of 5 petals; 2 sc in ring, ch 3, 1 tr in starting sc to form 6th petal. Don't pull magic circle too tight.
Round 2: Ch 2 (counts as 1st dc of 5/dc cluster), [yo and draw up loop through petal below, yo and draw through 2 loops on hook] 4 times, yo and draw through all 5 loops on hook, *ch 6, yo and draw up loop through next petal, yo and draw through 2 loops on hook, [yo and draw up loop through same petal, yo and draw through 2 loops on hook] 4 times, yo and draw through all 6 loops on hook (5/dc cluster made); repeat from * 4 times; ch 6; sl st in top of starting cluster.
Round 3: Ch 17 (counts as 1 trtr and ch 11), * 2 trtr in top of next 5/dc cluster, ch 11; repeat from * 4 times; 1 trtr in same cluster as starting ch 11, sl st in 6th ch of starting ch 17.
Round 4: Ch 2; working down the chains below sl st (which chains counted as starting trtr on Round 3), 11 dc around ch, 1 sc in next ch 6 sp; working up next trtr, 11 dc around trtr post, ch 3, sl st in dc just worked; * working down next trtr, 11 dc around trtr post, 1 sc in next ch 6 sp; working up next trtr, 11 dc around trtr post, ch 3, sl st in dc just worked; repeat from * around 4 times; sl st in top of starting dc; ch 1, sl st into back of crocodile scale just completed.
Round 5: Sl st into joint between 2 ch 11 sp on back side of crocodile scale, ch 13 (counts as 1 dtr and ch 8), working from right side of snowflake again, * 2 dtr in next ch 11 sp, ch 11, 2 dtr in joint between 2 ch 11 sp on back side of next crocodile scale, ch 11; repeat from * 11 times; sl st in 5th ch of starting ch 13.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.
Round 6: Ch 2; working down the chains below sl st, 9 dc around ch, * 1 sc in next ch 11 sp (which has been halved by 2 dtrs); working up next dtr, 9 dc around dtr post, ch 3, sl st in top of dc just worked; working down next dtr, 9 dc around post of dtr, 1 sc in 2nd half of ch 11 sp; working up next dtr, 9 dc around post of dtr, ch 3, sl st in dc just worked; working down next dtr, 9 dc over post of dtr; repeat from * around for a total of 11.5 scales, finishing with 9 dc around final dtr post of Round 5 to complete 12th scale; ch 3, sl st in top of dc just worked, sl st in top of starting dc; ch 1, sl st in back of crocodile scale just worked.
Round 7: Sl st into joint between 2 ch 13 sp on back side of crocodile scale; ch 12 (counts as 1 tr and ch 6), working from right side of snowflake again, * 2 tr in next ch 13 sp, ch 6, 2 tr in joint between 2 ch 13 sp on back side of next crocodile scale, ch 6; repeat from * around 23 times; sl st in 4th ch of starting ch 12.
Round 8: Ch 2; working down the chains below sl st, 7 dc around ch, * 1 sc in next ch 6 sp (which has been halved by 2 trs); working up next tr, 7 dc around tr post, ch 3, sl st in top of dc just worked; working down next tr, 7 dc around post of tr, 1 sc in 2nd half of ch 6 sp; working up next tr, 7 dc around post of tr, ch 3, sl st in dc just worked; working down next tr, 7 dc over post of tr; repeat from * around for a total of 23.5 scales, finishing with 7 dc around final tr post of Round 7 to complete 24th scale; ch 3, sl st in top of dc just worked, sl st in top of starting dc; ch 1, sl st in back of crocodile scale just worked.
Round 9: 1 sc into joint between 2 ch 6 sp on back side of crocodile scale; ch 5, working from right side of snowflake again, * 2 dc in next ch 6 sp, ch 5, 1 sc in joint between next 2 ch 6 sp, ch 5; repeat from * around 23 times; sl st in starting sc.
Round 10: Ch 1, *1 sc into 1st half of next ch 6 sp (halved by 2 dc in Round 9, NOT ch 5 sp from Round 9); working up the next dc, 5 dc around dc post, ch 3, sl st in dc just made; working down next dc, 5 dc around dc post, 1 sc in 2nd half of same ch 6 sp; repeat from * around 23 times; sl st in starting sc.
Round 11: Ch 8 (counts as 1 dc and ch 5), working behind scales, *2 tr in next sc between next 2 crocodile scales, ch 5, 2 trtr in next sc between next 2 crocodile scales, ch 5, 2 tr between next 2 crocodile scales, ch 5, 2 dc between next 2 crocodile scales, ch 5; repeat from * around 5 times, ending with 1 dc instead of 2 and omitting last ch 5 of final repeat; sl st into 3rd ch of starting ch 8.
Round 12: Ch 2; working from right side of snowflake, working down chains below sl st, 5 dc around ch, 1 sc in next Round 9 ch sp (NOT in Round 11 ch sp), 1 sc in next Round 9 ch 5 sp, 7 sc around next tr post, ch 3, sl st in top of dc just worked, ch 4, sl st in same dc, ch 3, sl st in same dc, 7 dc around post of next tr, 1 sc in next Round 9 ch 5 sp, 1 sc in next Round 9 ch 5 sp, 11 dc around next trtr post, ch 14, 1 dc in 11th ch from hook, 1 hdc in next ch, 1 sc in next ch, sl st in next ch, 11 dc around post of next trtr, 1 sc in next Round 9 ch 5 sp, 1 sc in next Round 9 ch 5 sp, 7 dc around post of next tr, ch 3, sl st in dc just worked, ch 4, sl st in same dc, ch 3, sl st in same dc, 7 dc around post of next trtr, 1 sc in next Round 9 ch 5 sp, 1 sc in next Round 9 ch 5 sp, 5 dc around post of next dc, ch 3, sl st in dc just made, 5 dc around post of next dc; repeat from * around 5 times; omitting last 5 dc of final repeat; sl st in starting dc; bind off. Weave in ends.
Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.
To shape and use as a doily, spray lightly and allow to dry thoroughly. Remove pins and gently peel from wax paper or plastic wrap.
To stiffen and use as a decoration, if using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. If using other stiffening method, dilute stiffener as desired. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter if desired. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch the snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.
26 October 2012
I didn't think I would have time to craft anything fiber in pink this week, much less write a pattern, so I pulled together a handful of pink flowers I've shot through the years and assembled a digital quilt.
And then I had an remarkably long train ride, thanks to this week's Colorado snowstorm. While standing on a packed train with a bunch of other sardines just like me, I made a few musical notes. (One passenger was knitting the most beautiful cables I'd ever seen! She did manage to get a seat, though!) I stayed up late Thursday night writing the Happy Note pattern and testing it. Then uploading photos...
This pattern means I can bring my Yellow Fridays, Teal Fridays and Pink Fridays to a close for now on a Happy Note. My fiber goal was to make it at least through Pink Fridays in October. And, thanks to our October snow, I did it. !!! Yippee!
My goal also was to raise awareness of things we as crafters can do to brighten the lives of those enduring the battle of their lives. I hope I have done that.
I hope to be able to have more special color Friday patterns when things slow down a bit on this side of the computer screen, after the holidays. Until then, I hope you will continue to enjoy the pink, teal and yellow patterns I've shared, my snowflake patterns and even the book I'm serializing on Thursdays.
Happy last Pink Friday of 2012!
You may do whatever you'd like with musical notes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!
Finished Size: 2.25 inches long from tip to tip
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 8 crochet hook, small amount of stuffing
Make magic ring.
Round 1: 6 sc in ring; do not join. Pull magic circle tight.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.
Round 2: 2 sc in each sc around for a total of 12 sc.
Rounds 3-6: 1 sc in each sc around.
Round 7: 1 sc in next sc, 1 hdc in next sc, 1 linked dc in each of next 3 sc (link by drawing up starting dc loop through previous st), 1 linked hdc in next sc, 1 sc in each of next 7 sc.
Round 8: 1 sc in next sc, 1 hdc in next hdc, dec 2 dc across next 3 dc, linking 1st dc to previous hdc, 1 hdc in next hdc, linking hdc to previous dec dc, 1 sc in each of next 2 sc, dec 2 sc across next 3 sc, 1 sc in each of next 2 sc; total of 8 st.
Round 9: 1 hdc in next sc, 1 linked dc in each of next 3 st, 1 hdc in next sc, 1 sc in each of next 3 sc. Stuff lightly.
Rounds 10-17: 1 sc in each st around. Stuff lightly.
Round 18: Dec 1 sc across next 2 st around for a total of 4 sc; sl st across opening into sc on other side of opening, ch 10.
Row 9: 1 sc in 2nd ch from hook, 3 sc in next ch, 1 hdc in next ch, dec 2 dc across next 3 ch, 1 dc in next ch, 5 dc in next ch, 1 hdc in same ch, 1 sc in same ch; sl st in top of musical note; bind off. Weave in ends.
Finish: Make a bunch. They work up quickly! Hang on last week's Pink Friday Christmas Tree, hang on a real Christmas tree, or give to someone going through chemo and bring a Happy Note into that life.