Wednesday, January 17, 2007

You Can See The Spring

We've had wild winds, rainstorms, icy cold nights and damp grey days. There is plenty more to come - after all it's still only mid-January. And yet, and yet, this is Ireland. You only have to look a little more closely to see that, incredibly, spring is already on its way, heralding its arrival in a dozen different ways. In the garden this morning, I found catkins on a little hazel tree.

In the flower beds, the sturdy grey-green shoots of daffodils were well up, and promising sheets of golden-yellow blooms within a month.

And down in the rose garden, there was even a single deep pink bud on the Cecile Brunner bush.

To be truthful, I think that happy and cheerful bush has continued to produce one or two blooms every month since last May, so perhaps this is an echo of last summer rather than a herald of spring, but a delightfully welcome guest nevertheless. In the first flush of summer, Cecile throws out a halo of small, pale pink blooms; in the autumn and winter she contents herself with single, deeper, and slightly larger flowers. I cut her energetic stems well back when they've finished flowering and up they come again, full of energy. She's a real trouper, unlike some of the missish and sulking standards I've inherited, which demand a great deal of attention for very little results.

We were out and about later in the day, talking to a farmer in the charmingly-named townland of Clashanimud near Innishannon, appropriately enough about daffodils.

Kieran Cronin grows daffodils for the market, following these with tulips, which make a bright show in his roadside fields. He used to send the early daffodils to America and Europe, but has found that bigger businesses, as well as the practice of importing exotica from Kenya and other sunny climes, has made it impractical. Now he contents himself with tying up bunches to sell from a roadside stall outside his farm. 'Tis backbreaking work,' he admitted as we shivered in the icy wind, 'but 'tis great to see all that mass of yellow at this time of year.' Oddly enough, he said, the weather has little to do with the blossoming time. 'They'll be out one or two days either side of February first, whether 'tis raining, hailing or snowing.'

I was delighted you liked the pictures of Tobago and so was Richard who put some more on the system for me to show you.

This scene straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean is actually known as Bloody Bay since there really were pirates here. Now it's peaceful and the only sound is the crash of the surf on the beach. That and the friendly voice offering fresh coconut juice, straight from the shell.

The birds are so colourful there that they were a constant stimulus and delight. I mean, look at these.

Some of you are probably used to humming birds (lucky you!) but we're always thrilled to see them up close. Most restaurants and hotels had feeders up, which attracted them in and thoroughly distracted us from whatever delicacies were being placed before us.

This was a white-necked Jacobin...

and this was a dear little Ruby Topaz female, building her miniscule nest in the fork of a thin branch. We discovered her at a secluded reserve within walking distance of our hotel. It was a restful and quiet place, a bit poignant because it had been an old cocoa and banana plantation which had been devastated by Hurricane Flora in the 1970s. The owner, a Mrs. Alefounder, couldn't afford to replant and wait all the necessary years to break even, so gave it to the island as a reserve for everyone to enjoy. I wondered as I sat there in the shady peace if she ever dreamed of her old life and imagined she was back there, living in the great house amid the rustling leaves.

This hummingbird's nest is so tiny you wouldn't believe it. A wedding ring would be a tight fit. She started by collecting strands of cobwebs and winding them round the twigs, and then gradually added soft moss and lichen, until it was a little bowl. The most beautiful fibre art I ever saw in creation, and she was so happy and contented and bright-eyed as she worked away tirelessly.

And the bats weren't all that were active at night. When there had been a shower of rain, the bull frogs got all happy and came out to croak at the top of their voices. DH rose instantly from bed, grabbed a torch, and headed down to the hotel gardens to find them.

All right, all right, back to the knitting. I worked away on the Shepherd's Vest, but then disaster. I decided I needed one more ball of yarn to complete it - and couldn't get the same dye lot. Now with a yarn that's meant to be a natural shade, that shouldn't be a problem, but it was. The new one was definitely yellow-tinged instead of oatmeal. Shoot! What to do now?

Here you can see the back and one front. Underneath on the right is the remaining original yarn, with the second front in progress. On the left is the new ball.

I had already made the pocket lining for the second front and attached it, so I ripped that back and re-made it in the new ball. That freed up some more of the original shade for the second front. Now I'm just going to work up the front as far as the old yarn goes and see if I can make it to the shoulder. If not, I have two options: (a) continue with the new yarn and hope for the best; (b) rip out a bit of the back, use that yarn, and re-finish the back with the new shade.

Which would you do?

Incidentally, when I was on Tobago I kept seeing people with these great clear plastic totes for their swim wear. Everybody it appeared had bought them in local shops. But when I went hunting there were none left. Pipped again! But then, slumped on a seat in utter exhaustion at Gatwick Airport, on the way home, awaiting the onward flight to Cork, what did I see in a branch of Accessorize, but some superb clear plastic totes. I think they must only be an airport thing, because I've never seen them in city branches of the chain. Bought two on the spot - £8 sterling each, but well worth it.

Here's the Shepherd's Vest all easily contained in one of them. Good, isn't it? Get thee to an airport with a branch of Accessorize.

Incidentally, after that worry over the non-matching yarn, I went briefly off the shepherd's vest. I instead seized on the chunky charcoal crop cardi (remember all the excitement over that way back in - oh, I don't know, November or something?) and started working on it again at top speed. I only have the rest of the final sleeve to finish after all, and then I will have COMPLETED A WIP. Keep you posted on that one. It would really be good to finish something just once in a while, wouldn't it? Sort of clear the way for new projects...

Speaking of which, I have AT LAST received the holiday issues of Vogue Knitting and Interweave. And about time too! The Vogue, I noticed with disquiet, was posted at Economy Rate back in early November, which doesn't speak too well for the successful speed of future issues. But it was wonderful to get them and I'm rationing myself to delightful little sessions at intervals, to make them last. Already I've seen something I want to make on almost every page! You're all used to them by now, and indeed have probably made everything already, but remember they're new to me and still exciting.

Nearly didn't get them - went into the post office on Monday to collect the backed-up mail but they told me it had gone out with Postie. Went home and waited impatiently, but no mail. Went in Tuesday and the same thing happened. Finally this morning, threatened World War Three and they held the big package of goodies until I got there and collected it. Which is how I am now treasuring Vogue and Interweave.

Oh and the very VERY best till last. Along with the knitting fix and all the inevitable bills and rubbish, came two wonderful packages. Look what the lovely Angeluna sent me!

This gorgeous little satin and brocade bag is clearly designed for only the most prestigious projects, to be hung elegantly from a beaded belt. And, I think, only Holz & Stein ebony circulars too, with probably silk and cashmere yarn. Angeluna honey, I'm going to have to live UP to this bag!

Here's another picture of it open, so you can see its lovely shape and the glorious satin lining. Even the little fastening button is a tiny green bell!

And I also got (what a fortunate womble I am) a package from my dear Dez in Louisiana. Dez and I did a swap - I sent her some of my Midwinter yarn, and she sent me - oh gosh, just feast your eyes on this bundle.

All the right sizes in bamboo circulars (a girl can never have too many circulars, you never know when you might want to start something new right away, and it isn't always a good idea to shift the current project off on to the sidelines because sure as dammit you'll forget what gauge needles you were using when you finally do get back to it - if you ever do), and round the perimeter there - yes, it is, it truly is Berrocco's Ultra Alpaca. Oooh, what shall I make with that buttery goodness?

What have you been making? What's on the needles right now? When are you expecting the spring? I know that if you live in Vermont or Whitehorse it is probably going to be almost June, whereas Dez and Angeluna never lost it in the first place, but I'm not so sure about everywhere else. Oregon? Dumfries? Iowa? Lapland? Peg, I know you're suffering icy conditions, because DH still gets the Vancouver Island birders' emails. Charity, are you still snowed in? Tell me how it is with you all.


Anonymous said...

You know, you could always overdye the vest if you don't have enough matching yarn - perhaps just a tinge of brown if you want to keep it oatmeal-y, or another color altogether. But I hope you have enough yarn since it is lovely just as it is! I'll have photos of my freshly spun Irish wool on my webpage tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Richard for the photos. Just wonderful. We have all of these hummingbirds in Texas:
Allen's Hummingbird • Anna's Hummingbird • Berylline Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird • Blue-throated Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird • Broad-tailed Hummingbird • Buff-bellied
Hummingbird • Calliope Hummingbird • Costa's Hummingbird
Green-breasted Mango • Green Violet-ear • Lucifer Hummingbird
Magnificent Hummingbird • Plain-capped Starthroat • Ruby-throated
Hummingbird • Rufous Hummingbird • Violet-crowned Hummingbird
White-eared Hummingbird.

Although my garden attracts mostly Ruby-throated and Rufous, who battle it out at the flowers and the feeders. Rufous usually wins.

For your sweater, you might think about a tea bath after it is finished.

Just loved hearing farmer Kieran Cronin speak through your words. I don't know about Dez in Louisiana (lived in New Orleans for many years, Hi, neighbor) but we are having ice and snow. And had LOTS of rain last week. Aquafers somewhat replenished, but one nearby lake is still 14 feet down. Those are our water sources, so it is worrying. But right now, it's just COLD. Internet was down all day. You can imagine, stuck at home and no internet.

Kris B said...

Found your web page a while back. The pictures are amazing. For the sweater I agree with the others I would continue on and if it doesn't look right, dye it using a natural looking color.

I'm in central Florida, it was warm today. Our winter weather is similar to a lot of other peoples spring or fall weather. We will have a couple of days of cool weather and then it will snap back to hot.

Dez Crawford said...

Jo, I am so glad the package arrived safe and sound! Another is forthcoming ... not yarn-related.

That purse is fantastic. It makes me think of the silky things owned by the mother of a girl I knew in grade school who was from Japan. Her mother had 3 or 4 maginificent kimonos which had been passed down for many generations. I especially remember a beautiful green one -- your bag reminds me of it!

We get all the hummers here, just like Angeluna (hi back!), with Rufous usually winning at the feeders.

While we don't have severe winter here in Louisiana, our typical January day is a little above freezing, and is rainy. When we get winter precipitation, it's what the weather people call "winter mix" -- snow flurries and sleet. Snow accummulation is uncommon, so we consider it a treat.

Last night and the morning the sky was spitting sleet and icy rain, but not enough to make driving worrisome.

Good excuse to wear warm woolies, though!

If I were working on that vest I would rip back the back, use the old yarn on the fronts so they match, and alternate rows of old and new yarn in the back for several rows to make it blend in.. Then I would give the whole thing a tea bath.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I started reading your posts a while back and I love your energy and your writing. I also love that you, much like me, cannot have one WIP at a time. It makes me feel good that there are others of us out in the world.

Anyway, to answer your question, I'm in New Hampshire and it is freezing cold. I'm in college and I was bundled up in several hand knit items, cursing the day for its sheer frigidity.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Just got home and it is 'misting' outside. We are better off than the southern part of the Island or the lower mainland. Love both bags. I know you will love to knit with the Berroco Ultra Alpaca - I made the beret in the Winter 2006 IK out of a skein of red Berroco UA! So nice and warm.
Have a look at Shelley's Blog (Fun Knits). Scroll down on the left and click on Knitters' Retreat. I have signed up - any cheap flights from Ireland to Comox/Campbell River?
You are away ahead of us with your spring flowers! Ours are still shivering!

Fiberjoy said...

In NW Oregon we're having 20-30+ F temps. It snowed a great deal of the day yesterday though not much accumalated, now everything is frozen with more cold and possible snow on the way.

Dez's idea for your sweater would work very well. Worth the pain and it'd look a match.

I'm so glad you posted more bird pictures! And the thought of daffodils gladens my heart. We won't see them unfold until March.

Anonymous said...

Oohhhh, those birds!! And Bloody Bay, and the bullfrog - tell Richard thanks much! And your catkin and rose pix are lovely. We don't get nearly so many hummers as Angeluna does, but we do get Rufous and Ruby-throated, and an occasional one with emerald and a flash of purple at the throat. Can't remember what that one is. What's funny is when we used to go out to refill the feeder and they'd dive-bomb us. You don't want to be dive-bombed by a hummer!

Fiberjoy mentioned our temps here in Oregon. Some areas around Portland and environs got lows of 18 or so at night. That's more the kind of temps they get regularly on the east side of the Cascade Range in winter, not here on the warmer west. Where I am on the east side of Portland by PDX, we've still got about 2" of snow, altho the top layer melted a bit Wednesday. (It fell most of Tuesday.) Still solidly covering the ground, though. However, underneath, the grass is still bright green. ;) Except for rare snow and semi-regular ice storms, our weather is generally a lot like Ireland's - we're at the same latitude. (A lot of 'soft' days. [g]) There was a rose bush budding one apt. down from me on Christmas Eve; they had to trim the hedges around New Year's; and after the Arctic air moves out of here, I'm sure the apt. groundskeepers will be mowing the grass!

Martina said...

I'm sure my DH would love to have a chat with yours! Being birders and all. Weather here in southern Ontario is finally snowy. I am quite envious of your plants! Winter has not been normal this year. We usually have snow by mid December. February is usually the worst and then in March we start getting a few brave bits of green showing. The saying is "April showers bring May flowers" and it is so true! I can hardly wait until my Daffodils make their appearance!

LornaJay said...

Well, Jedburgh is wet but not cold (again). We've really only had a handful of days that could be described as wintry, and most of the time it feels like a wretched end-of-summer day without the sunshine. Spring: I've no idea when it'll arrive!

On the needles: wooly socks again as I made the mistake of buying some 'other materials' shoes and my toes are damp and cold.

P.S. lovely to see you back, and also to see all the bright colours amongst the grey weather.

Ms. Knitingale said...

Yep, I think finish the vest with the new yarn and, if it's really noticeable, perhaps tea-dye it. Should look natural still, but hide any major differences. I can't wait to show hubby the bird pics. He adores hummingbirds and, I admit, I never saw one until I met him. Yet another thing to love about Mr. K. Up here in Seattle we're staggering under one of the strangest and worst winters in all my 16 years here. Still have snow on the ground (which is VERY odd) but the temps are starting to come back up after a week of ice. If it goes normally, it will be wet and in the 40s or so for the next couple of months, and the trees will start budding any time.

Anonymous said...

Jo, when faced witha similar problem of different dye lots I usually do as Dez has also suggested and knit alternately with the two yarns. I find it works very well in concealing the differences of shade.
Here in Montreal our extended autumn has been replaced by true winter.First a snowfall of 50 centimeters(20 in.) The the temperature tumbled to -23c(that's nearly10 below 0 f). BBRR! Pulled out my warmest woolies for a trip to the shops. I envy you your gentle(comparatively) winters and early springs.
On the needles, The Paisley Long Shawl from Fiddlesticks Knitting in Jaggerspun Zephyr in a lovely indigo shade. The Magical Earth Shawl from A Gathering of Lace also in Zephyr but this time charcoal colour. The Gym Slip Dress from the book Knit2Together. I wanted to knit this in Rowan cotton/wool but my LYS had none on hand and I wanted to get knitting this right away so I am using Rowan silk/wool. Very soft and nice to knit. I chose a pale silver gray and a darker gray for the lace insert at the waist. I always have small projects of socks, headbands or gloves on the go.

Anonymous said...

Oh those Hummingbirds are fabulous!
I'd much rather buy that dear man's Daffodils even if I paid a bit extra than ones from abroad ( far abroad that is who knows how the workers are treated).

Anonymous said...

Hummingbird story...once in Colorado in the summer, up in the mountains, I took a book and went down to the terrace to read, wearing a bright red swimsuit. Engrossed in my book, I kept shooing some mighty persistant and annoying flies. When I finally looked up, I realized they were not flies, but literally hundreds of tiny hummingbirds, come to check out the new bright red flower.

Erica said...

Thank you thank you thank you for the gorgeous pictures! I needed a little warm fix right now. This morning Iowa was downright balmy at 29 degrees Fahrenheit but the temp has since dropped and Mother Nature has started to send us more precipitation which should effectively take care of the little green buds that I noticed outside the other day. What a beautiful little purse too! - there are so many talented and creative people out there :)

Charity said...

I do like the idea of overdying the finished vest if the colour is too off. Isn't it wonderful to know all these clever knitters? :0)

The snow here has gone, and come back again while you were away! It was bitterly (-30C and worse) cold for a bit, and now we're back to normal temps. Sigh. The pictures you've shared have been much appreciated up here!

I'm trying to put together a package for you - any special requests before I send it off? :0)

Charity said...

Oh, and I second Peg's request! Any chance of a quick visit to Quadra in March? :0)

Anonymous said...

Jo, are you all right? Have been watching horrific pix on the news of hurricane-force winds in northern Europe! Can't tell whether Ireland was affected or the gales passed you by.

Susan said...

Cecile Brunner is one of my favorite rosebushes. I have the climbing one and she's taken over her part of the fence and is reaching for the elm tree.

Connie said...

In my little corner of Washington, its very snowy still. We also get this wintery fog which was very perplexing to me. I am almost finished with my Sally Melville sweater, and am casting on for a knitalong with - You should look, Jo - its right up your alley.