Late last summer, Gnorman came to live in my garden. At first I was happy that he had chosen my garden to inhabit, hoping he would chase away the resident rodents who were being so destructive to the vegetable crops not to mention flower bulbs. Gnorman even brought his own little shovel to dig out the rodent holes and evict them. After awhile, though, strange events began to occur. We put in a “beach” area next to our pond, just because we could and because it gave a nice spot where you could walk right up to the edge of the pond to view the goldfish hiding under the waterlilies. I thought it would be a nice to touch to sprinkle some of those sparkly flat marbles among the gravel just because I’m one of those “oh, look! Something shiny!” kind of people. Here is how our little beach path looks.
As you can see, we also have quite a collection of large seashells around the sides of the pathways, not to mention quite a few stray plants growing in the middle. Ack! More weeding to do. My wonderful husband and his grandmother have always collected shells and pretty rocks, and the smaller items I display in a vintage glass cover for a ceiling light fixture which is placed just out of sight of this photo. This is where one of the strange events started occurring. I kept finding small shells scattered along the pathways of the garden in danger of being stepped on and broken. I would always place them back in their proper place, and the next day they would be running amok again. Then my husband would come into my quilting room and hand me a handful of the shiny flat marbles stating he had found them two or three hundred feet out in the pasture. I even found some near the trees in our orchard, a hundred feet from the garden area. Then this morning, I went outside to pull weeds, and found proof of who was moving things about in the dead of night.
The evidence is clearly sitting on the raised bed timber for all to see. You can see Gnorman in the background pretending he knows nothing about it, but I think we all can see, he’s been caught!
Believe it or not, I haven’t spent all my time lately playing in the garden. I have been quilting away like a madwoman as well, but spring fever has definitely set in here on California’s Central Coast. Things haven’t looked this lovely for years, thanks to the ton of rainfall that we’ve been blessed with this last season, continuing up to this past week when we got almost two tenths of an inch. I know it doesn’t sound like much to most folks, but when your rainfall average for an entire season is only 16 inches, every drop makes a difference. So far this season, we have received 21.09 inches. Two seasons ago, it was less than 3 inches for the entire season. Some of our neighbors who live in the more hilly areas have nearly 30 inches. As a result of all the rain, our wisteria and lilacs have never looked better. Here is a quick sampling of the eye candy.
Wisteria. Can’t you just smell the fragrance?
Rosa banksia (Lady Banks Rose) which blooms only once a year but is spectacular for a few weeks in the spring.
This photo was taken from the farthest Southwest corner of the garden looking towards the orchard which is the tree in the background that has yellowish green foilage. As you can see, all of our 60 something roses are about to explode into full bloom, the smoky orange on the right is my Laura Bush bush. You can also see a little peak of purple wildflowers left on the hill on the far side of the road. Sadly, the hills and wildflowers are just starting to dry up now that the weather is hitting the mid-80s during the day. One last photo of a red-tailed hawk I caught soaring in the skies above our home.
As far as quilting, I have been working on a quilt for the person who won the custom made quilt that I raffle off every December to benefit the youth group at our church. This December’s winner is a lady who belongs to my quilter’s anonymous group (quilt guild), so I feel pressured to get it perfect. She provided the pattern and most of the fabric. I added some fabric from my own collection because I just couldn’t resist going with the theme, which is fall leaves sewn into a very interesting Log Cabin quilt pattern. It required me to figure out how to make trapezoids, a totally new skill for me. In addition, the pattern made the quilt 58 inches square, and she wants it to be a 40 inch long by 70 inch wide wall hanging. This required a bit of a redesign once the center of the quilt was done, but I think I have met the challenge. I don’t want to post any photos just yet because she does read my blog on occasion. I probably will have to break down and send her a photo later today to see if she approves of what I’m planning to do for the last border, though I usually try to save the finished result as a surprise for the recipient. Oh, well, sometimes you can’t have it all. I guess I better get back to finishing up that border.
This is a photo of the quilt that I posted photos of my fabric choices and a story about a few weeks ago called “Heading West Once Again.” This is another quilt that I’m donating to a fundraiser for our local museum. The blocks on the top and bottom of the quilt are all embroidered blocks that I did on my Janome embroidery machine and depict icons that fit into the history as well as the present here in our rural community. Yes, we have a large herd of elk (the bottom block, second from the left) that can be seen hanging around frequently. The title of this post is also the title of the quilt in a nod to the river that runs through our community.
I really had a great time searching out appropriate embroidery patterns to use, selecting the right colors and stitching them out. We have a covey of quail that has made our property their home and they conveniently showed up outside my quilting room window so that I could study their coloration when I was selecting thread colors. It’s really funny, but the fabric I used for the embroidered blocks’ background actually says it’s “Beach Grass”, but it gives the flavor of gently rolling hills with scrubby brush which is typical of the valley we live in that runs along the river.
The fundraising dance will be held this coming Saturday, and I hope that this quilt raises a lot of money. Right now the museum only has one metal building, but the hope is to have a small “town” of various buildings complete with Western facades to recreate the original town.
In January I made a western themed quilt to auction off at a fundraiser for our rural museum that the community here has been working on for many years. See my last post, “Playing with Potholders” to view that quilt. The quilt was so popular that there was quite the bidding war, so the powers that be asked if I could make another one to auction off at their next fundraiser on March 11th. This time the fundraiser will be dinner and a dance and they are calling the event “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”. The request was to include a covered wagon in the design, so I set out to search for covered wagon fabric. It was nearly impossible to find. I was only able to find one piece of antique fabric, and it just wasn’t what I wanted. So I decided I would try an embroidered design as the centerpiece since I have an embroidery machine and digitizing software on my computer. Everything I tried came out too small. I guess I could have done applique, but I am too lazy to take that on. So I searched and searched, and I finally found the panel in the photo above at Ebay. I just love the old west look of the panel and the composition is simply charming. It came complete with the printed “border” of triangle squares and the wood look border. I don’t know the manufacturer since the selvedge only has the title “Point of View” on it.
I plan on adding some sort of additional pieced border at the top and bottom and then adding blocks that I will embroider with a covered wagon, a stagecoach, a ranch scene, a town scene that I purchased and perhaps some cattle and/or horses, then some additional borders.. I haven’t decided exactly what will look right yet, but I need to get a move on since March 11 is right around the corner.
This next photo is the fabric choices that I have to use in the rest of the quilt. You can see the covered wagon embroidery that I experimented with lying on top of the fabric I intended to use as the backdrop for the embroidery. I thought it had a nice prairie look to it. I might also design some additional detail to go into the embroidery design like mountains or something. Anyway, I was really excited to find the wagon wheel fabric right in front on our trip to town yesterday.
Time to get my creative juices flowing and get this quilt done.
Sadly, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to quilt lately because I have a lot of end of/beginning of the year responsibilities, including duties as the volunteer bookkeeper for my church, personal income tax stuff to gather for our accountant, 24 fruit trees and around 60 rosebushes to prune! I have no idea why I decided to plant so many rose bushes, but they are certainly lovely when they are in bloom. Besides, I have really been at one of those seasons that I’m sure most quilters have where you just feel dry and uninspired. So, I have tackled only a few small projects in the last couple of months.
I found the pattern and instructions for these really cute butterfly potholders above in one of my favorite quilt stores. The pattern is “Flutterby Pot Holders” by Valori Wells. Since I needed some items to add to my quilt guild’s monthly raffle basket, I decided these would be a nice addition. Besides, it gave me another opportunity to use up a few scraps out of the ever overflowing scrap bins. They were really fun and pretty easy to make. I most enjoyed the design opportunities of picking just the right fabrics. And of course, as always I learned something in the process. This time I learned the reason to clip you curves before you turn something right side out through a very small opening. I totally forgot to do that on the purple and orange butterfly, and you can see that the tail and the top of the “head” aren’t nearly as nicely defined as on the peacock butterfly. But it was so difficult to turn these right side out, that I wasn’t about to fix the mistake. We’ll just call this, not a mistake, but a variation.
The next set of potholders I decided to make were inspired by a saying I spotted in a magazine. This Sunday, our pastor is away with the youth group up at a Christian snow camp in the High Sierras, so one of our Elders will be in charge of the service. He has decided he wants to do an old fashioned Bible quiz, and asked me to figure out small prizes to give out. Why does everyone seem to think that I am the answerer of all questions? I don’t know, but I put my thinking cap on, and came up with these potholders.
Again, using scraps out of the overflowing bins, the one on the left is a raw edge applique technique that I’ve used a couple of times to make entire quilts. It’s a lot of fun to make and pretty easy. As a matter of fact, I was asked to teach the technique to the kids during our summer learn to quilt classes at our little rural Hall. At that time, instead of making an entire quilt, we thought it would be fun for the kids to make them into potholders and did it as a quilt as you go project since the applique technique really lends itself to doing that.
The things I learned doing this project is how to use my digitizing software to make the lettering curve around the design on the blue potholder. I’ve had my digitizing software for around 17 years, and I am really just now learning how to do more than simple lettering. The other thing I learned is the tool I use for joining the ends of my binding, The Binding Tool by TQM Products, doesn’t work very well on such small projects since you have to leave a 12 inch opening to manipulate your binding and trim it just the right way. The largest side of the potholder on the right was only 11 1/2 inches, so that idea was out. I used my old, far inferior way of joining binding, which involved tucking the last end into the first end which is ironed at the correct angle….very bulky, and it shows at the top right. But it looked okay, so I let it go. On the blue potholder, I learned how to adjust the tool, and got it to line up really closely. The binding, once joined, was about a 16th of an inch too long, so I took up the excess by reworking the nearest corner. I think it came out much better.
The last project I’ve gotten done recently was this quilt that I made specifically to donate for the silent auction to benefit the rural museum that some of the local residents have been working on getting up and running for many years to preserve the history of our area. So far they have one building up filled with items on display as well as a couple dozen vintage farm apparatus. When driving by quickly, the outdoor display kind of reminds me of scenes from Star Wars so bizarre looking is some of the equipment.
Anyway, here is the quilt, which I named “Riding Till the Cows Come Home” since the back it a print of cattle milling about, doing what cows do.
The learning experience on this one was adapting a pattern that I’ve used before, Labyrinth by Calico Carriage Quilt Designs, Debbie Maddy designer. I absolutely love the interwoven effect. Here is how the original pattern looks:
The bidding was hot and heavy and the quilt was the most popular item donated. Now they’ve asked me to make a quilt for the next fundraiser in March. I think I’ve created a monster. But I don’t mind because I really do love quilting. The biggest challenge is they hoped I would do one with a covered wagon somewhere on it. I looked on line and the only fabric I could find was an expensive piece of vintage fabric. I think they are just going to have to take what they get. I’m sure as soon as I’m done, a lot of fabric lines will come out with covered wagons. It always happens.
Well, we have had quite the adventure over the weekend. Kind of a long story, but here it is. We live in a very rural area on what some people might call a “Gentleman’s Ranch”. In other words, we have 17 acres to give us a buffer between the neighbors, who we love for the most part, but don’t want to live in their pocket and to know every time they have a marital spat. We also enjoy the country lifestyle, but that comes with its own set of challenges. For instance, our only choice for things like Internet service or television is to choose a satellite-based company. A couple of months ago, my wonderful husband was accosted by a TV satellite provider while we were shopping at Costco (another challenge…the nearest Costco being a 60-mile one way trip). He succumbed to their sales pitch, and shortly thereafter we had changed over from our previous provider, who we were really pretty happy with, but we had older equipment that didn’t have the latest bells and whistles. Just a week or so before the final NFL playoff games that occurred on, Sunday, we lost the channel that the playoffs were going to be shown on due to negotiation issues with our provider and the channel. This really upset dear hubby because he is a big football fan. So we shopped around among our local friends to see who had our old TV provider, and turns out our pastor did. So we invited ourselves over for football Sunday afternoon and evening. Since I am not interested at all in football, the pastor’s wife invited me to bring my sewing machine. She and her daughters have learned to quilt in the last few years, so we were going to quilt while the guys watched football. Of course we never actually did, because we didn’t want to clear the vast array of yummy snacks off the dining room/quilting table. Hey, some things DO take priority over quilting occasionally. Now the pastor and his family live at the back of beyond that makes our rural area look like a big city by comparison. One has to drive several miles up a couple of dirt “roads”, which were a bit rough, to say the least, since our normally dry area has had nearly 8 inches of rain in January, and they have had over 13 inches being up in the hills, and of course the heaviest rain day this last week happened on Sunday. Our average annual rainfall is in the 16 inch area, but we have had much less in the last few years because of the much-talked about California drought that has occurred. Since they are so far back, there is absolutely no cell phone service at their house, so we just turn our phones off to save the batteries.
Now another little detail you need to know is we raise a couple of steers every few years to provide our own organically grown, grass fed beef as well as brush control for our pasture since we live in danger of wildfires. We buy our young steers from a nearby friend named Lester who is a memer of one of the founding families of this area and grew up on and now runs the family’s cattle ranch. In fact, since he lives less than a mile away, we consider him one of our next door neighbors since that’s the way we measure these things out in the country. We’ve had these steers for less than a year, and it takes 18 months to two years to bring them up to “harvest” weight ( okay, I grew up as a city girl and can’t bring myself to talk about what really happens. I call it going to the big freezer in the sky). We always name our steers Yummy and Delicious. We are on Yummy and Delicious No. 4 at the present time. The photo below is one of our previous Yummys and is taken looking to the East towards our neighbor’s fall-painted vineyard.
We enjoyed our visit with the pastor and his family, even though evidently the wrong teams won, and headed home in the pouring rain around 7 P.M. When we got back to the valley we live in, I turned my cell phone back on and found I had two voice mails. Both of them were from a friend and neighbor that lives on the road behind us and down a mile or so. Directly behind us is an abandoned 20 acre parcel that divides our property from that road and runs all along the south side of our pasture. The first message was that she was driving East and had seen that what she thought was our pasture fence was down in the corner and our steers were standing just inside. The second message was that she was headed back home and that the steers were now on the road. Both messages were left between 4:30 and 5, so by the time we got it, it had been nearly 3 hours. It was really kind of terrifying because the road to the north of our property is a very busy highway that is separated from our property by a 7 acre empty parcel and we were very concerned that our cattle would get out on that road and someone could get killed if they ran into a 900 pound black cow on a dark, rainy night. So I immediately called in prayer support, and called over to Lester’s house to see if they would help us look for the cattle. Lester was already sound asleep, but his wife said she would go out and look around to see if she could find anything near their property, but didn’t sound encouraging, saying that they had probably bedded down somewhere for the night and it would be impossible to see them in the dark. But she said that we would probably find them nearby in the morning because they don’t tend to wander too far from their home territory. In the meantime I was in contact with the neighbor that had seen them to get more details, and she and her husband then joined us in the search. They showed us where the fence was down, which was really the fence for the property behind ours, and my husband had checked our fence and only found an area where the wire was loose, but not really down. And then we found more hoof prints across the road in the mud and then lost all track of prints or clues to where they might have gone, driving up and down and checking every property that had an open gate and a driveway that wasn’t paved. Keep in mind that it is still raining and my husband is just recovering from pneumonia. After about an hour and a half, we had to give up for the night.
After a nearly sleepless night imagining all the awful things that could happen, we were up before dawn, and hit the road again. I called the pastor and woke him up at 6 AM since he’d offered to come help. (He is still taking my calls after that, by the way, modeling forgiveness.) Lester and his wife were also out in their truck looking, and when I ran into them they said they thought they had spotted the runaways up a dirt road that leads to our immediate neighbor to the west. They were going to the main busy road to see if they could see better from that angle. I was in my passenger car and didn’t want to get stuck in the mud, so I called hubby with his 4-wheel drive truck to come drive up the muddy dirt road and check it out, and sure enough, they were in our neighbor’s pasture. There is a vacant 20 acre parcel between us and that neighbor plus some large trees, so we can’t see his pasture from our property. We didn’t actually know the neighbors over that way, so there was no one we could call on the phone to check with. Well, we know them now. The relief and thankfulness to God we felt was indescribable.
Lester went to get one of his cattle trailers, but said he had no idea how we were going to herd them into it. But we had a surprise for Lester. We have always spoiled our “boys” by offering them stale bread and excess, not quite human consumption worthy produce from our garden. And we have trained them to come get these goodies by calling, “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.” Even if they are at the far side of the pasture, they will come running to see who can get there first. They will even let us scratch their foreheads a little (but they won’t let us give them belly rubs like we used to do to our dogs). Lester absolutely scoffed at the notion, but hubby came prepared with a bucket of stale bread. He went into the pasture with it, and started offering it to the boys, calling like we always do, trying to coax them into the lane leading to the trailer. We had four people besides my husband standing by and our truck blocking one end of the lane with the trailer parked and ready at the other end. Sure enough, and to Lester’s amazement, hubby coaxed the boys out into the lane. The hardest part was getting them to go past the huge puddle in the middle of the lane, but once he accomplished that, it was a clear shot into the back of the trailer. He backed right up into the trailer and first Yummy and then Delicious followed him in. And we slammed the trailer door shut behind them. The rest of us had been following behind carrying a large beam that was laying around so that if they turned around, there was no where to go. Lester let hubby out the small walk-through door at the front side of the trailer and then the life-long cattleman said, “I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”
Here’s a photo I captured with my phone while they were following hubby like the pied piper towards the trailer. The neighbor’s horse to the right seemed very interested in the proceedings.
So now my husband is not only my Quilter’s Support Staff, he is also the Cow Whisperer. After we got them safely delivered back into their home pasture, hubby, the pastor and myself went to check out the section of fencing where it was suspected they had escaped through. They had indeed pushed the staples holding the lower hog wire part of the fence (the upper portion being barbed wire) out. They had evidently been pushing it for some time, nibbling at a buckwheat bush growing on the other side, and it finally let loose enough for them to just step through. I guess the bush on the other side of the fence is always greener, to paraphrase the old adage. The fence is now repaired and strengthened and the bush totally removed to avoid further temptation. Of course, it started raining lightly and continued until the repairs were complete, and then it broke out in blue skies. Timing is everything, which was proven by the weather first thing this morning. If this all had happened starting on Monday instead of Sunday, we would have woken up socked in by the thick fog this morning which would have prevented us from spotting our runaways from a distance like we were able to do yesterday. If it had to happen, I am grateful to God that it happened when it did instead of a day later, plus, now we know another neighbor.