Yarn Along {baby balloon pants}

It’s almost Christmas & the Baby Balloon Pants are not done…I did not properly prepare myself to knit PANTS for a one-year-old on US size 2/3 needles…good grief there are a lot of stitches.  I’ve got about 30 rounds left on the left leg, plus the cuff, before I can even begin the right.  I so want Harmon to wear these white-pine-needles-colored pants for Christmas, but I’ve got a couple other items I need to finish for Christmas as well.  Oh, the dilemmas we knitters face this time of year!  Coralee needs to start picking varieties for the heritage garden she assists with every summer so that’s about the extent of my reading right now. 

As I was snapping the photo of my MC Hammer-esque pants yesterday, Coralee was conducting a ten minute FeederWatch survey in the same room & someone decided to join her!  It will only be too soon before he can actually see out the windows himself.  He has a pair of toy binoculars he knows to put up to his eyes.  Makes this birding mama very proud, I must admit, to see him do so.  I wonder how much he already knows?  I ask him often if he hears the birds or sees the birds as we look out the window…Joining in with Ginny!

Never a dull moment…{warning: dead bird photos ahead}

I never got around to posting a Yarn Along post yesterday, sadly ūüė¶  I blame the fact that I’ve really knit nothing worth posting about (five garter stitch ridges, woo hoo!), but also because it is always just plain old nuts around the Bodeker homestead & only seems to be getting more so with each passing day.  Seriously, never a dull moment.  Can you relate?  I’ve included some snapshots of my immediate surroundings…

Hambone broth bubbling in the kitchen all morning.

Hambone broth bubbling in the kitchen all morning.  Because I need to grocery shop!  This was an Easter ham…

Knitting waiting to be knit...now smells like hambone broth!

Knitting waiting to be knit, I’m sure this knitting wants to break up with me & find a better knitting owner…and now it smells like hambone broth!

Fossil soaking on my counter; chicken scrap bucket needs emptying yesterday.

Random fossil soaking on my counter (kids!); chicken scrap bucket needed emptying yesterday.

Dishwasher's been broke for almost a year...dishes never seem to be done...it's like I own a bottomless sink...no, wait, I figured it out, I have four kids.

Dishwasher’s been broke for almost a year…dishes never seem to be done…it’s like I own a bottomless sink…no, wait, I figured it out, I have four kids.

My kitchen counter. Piles and more piles. I need to do something about this. I also spy iced coffee I probably finished 12 hours after making it & Hydrogen Peroxide for the cat's leg wound...maybe I should use it to cover some of these grey hairs sprouting all over my head.

My kitchen counter. Piles and more piles. I need to do something about this. I also spy the remnants of iced coffee I probably finished 12 hours after making it & Hydrogen peroxide for the cat’s leg wound…maybe I should use it to cover some of these grey hairs sprouting all over my head.

Diaper laundry. The laundry is never done. How do people with more than four kids ever have clean clothes???? I feel like we are just barely making it on the clean clothes front.

Diaper laundry. The laundry is never done. How do people with more than four kids ever have clean clothes???? I feel like we are just barely making it on the clean clothes front.

Now I’ll explain the dead bird.  I have a knack for spotting dead stuff on the road…no kidding!  For example, I found a dead coyote a few months ago near our home on a random backroad (I was driving around aimlessly during naptime) & so so SO wanted Brian to pick it up for me (it was a coyote!).  I love coyotes, I don’t care that they eat our chickens, which they do…we’ve obliterated/exterminated/pushed-out practically every other large predator in the Midwest, coyotes remain despite our needless war & “best” efforts…more power to these amazing creatures!  Anyway, Brian said no.  I also found a smashed (sad!) White-breasted Nuthatch three days ago…I tried to get Coralee to bring it back to our house, she refused…it was really bloody, I agree.

So, yesterday, I spotted an American Coot on our road, dead.  WEIRD!  We are at least a mile and a half from the nearest water source for waterfowl.  There is a continuing flock of American Coots in said nearest water source, but why this coot wound up dead on our road is anyone’s guess.  It has no obvious injuries, no blood, nothing.  We took it to our local County Conservation office yesterday afternoon for them to taxidermy.  Their Nature Center doesn’t have an American Coot yet in the displays so they were quite thrilled to receive our find.  I hate seeing wildlife dead on the road, makes me sad, but it’s also a reliable source of food for vultures & other carrion-eating animals/birds.  We filthy the Earth, they clean it up, unpaid, unappreciated, often run over themselves.  Thank you, wildlife!  American Coots are magnificent–really!  I never realized this until seeing one up close.  I honestly thought they were ugly & not worth my birding time…I feel poorly writing that now.  Photos below prove my newly-found respect for the American Coot & I hope you agree. ūüôā

American Coot, deceased.

American Coot in a shoe box, deceased.

You are absolutely looking at a future wildlife biologist in this photo...possibly a professional ornithologist...she's so cool! I can't believe she's my kid, how did I get so lucky????

You are absolutely looking at a future wildlife biologist in this photo…possibly a professional ornithologist…she’s so cool! I can’t believe she’s my kid, how did I get so lucky????  I am not this cool.

American Coot; these feet are insane! It's like a dinosaur!

American Coot; these feet are insane! It’s like a dinosaur!

American Coot; I never realized how beautiful these tiny, scrappy waterfowl were until now.

American Coot; I never realized how beautiful these tiny-noggin-ed, scrappy waterfowl were until now.

I’m telling ya, never a dull moment.  In a good way!

Yarn Along {woefully behind}

I wasn’t going to blog today…because I’ve barely knit a stitch on Harmon’s Wee Envelope. ¬†Baptism this Sunday. ¬†I am sick, feel like “death warmed up” as Emily Blunt’s character says in the film The Devil Wears Prada. ¬†Harmon is on his third cold (or is it his first & it just won’t quit?!!!). ¬†Crazy stuff keeps happening here this week. ¬†Raccoon in the garage (that actually turned out to be a huge cat our own farm cats were afraid of…those boys are the epitome of scaredy cats), the garage door broke (sorry, honey!), no school days, snow, mud, more snow tonight, company coming, solo parenting…did I mention I’m sick? ¬†Oh & Harmon has decided he doesn’t take naps, like, at all. ¬†Fun times! ¬†June just patted me on the back & said, “I know it’s hard being a mom.” ¬†What a sweetheart!

We’ve been birding a lot the past week, despite all the never-ending sickness, & Coralee would like me to blog about all the lifers we’ve found…hopefully this weekend or maybe next week. ¬†In the meantime, look at the awesome gift (photos below) Coralee, our artist, made for her soon-to-be-godson Harmon Hunter (we chose her & our 20yo niece as godparents/sponsors)….a homemade mobile using the plastic form from his car seat canopy! ¬†Harmon loves it. ¬†I soaked my sick self in a hot hot hot tub today while he stared at it. ¬†Kids are amazing, aren’t they?

 
  
  
¬†¬†¬†Uh oh, I hear my alarm going off…Harmon’s crying & obviously awake from my gazillionth attempt to put him down for a nap today.

 Joining in with Ginny.

Yarn Along {finished Pebble, seed savers, baby on the mend}

 I somehow managed to finish the Pebble Baby Vest I started last week in Quince & Co Lark (Honey colorway) despite Harmon’s severe cold.  I even got the vintage buttons sewed on Tuesday afternoon while Harmon napped passed out from his first set of immunizations earlier in the day.  Poor baby, he can’t catch a break this week; however, I’m happy to report he is on the mend today!  His cold symptoms are probably about 50% improved.  He just has to overcome all the drainage & coughing.  I really feel for parents who end up with a hospitalized newborn due to RSV.  Incredibly thankful we did not.

I finally finished Kingbird Highway & would like to post some of my favorite passages from the book, but that will have to happen next week. Coralee & I have been sorting out all our garden seeds from last summer, both those seeds we saved & those we just had left over, in order to place our annual order with Seed Savers (one of my favorite places to visit in Iowa).  We also use heirloom seeds as part of the work we do at the Richardson-Jakway Historic Site gardens (I serve on the site’s foundation board).  I’m excited for spring just looking at all our seed baggies & packets.

 Finished Pebble. 

Convalescing Harmon sleeping peacefully for a few hours Monday evening.

With Harmon on the mend I now need to turn my knitting attention/time to his baptismal outfit. I’m planning to use a special skein of Ginny yarn I snagged during her last Etsy stocking.  Speaking of…

Joining in with Ginny.

Yarn Along {not much doing}

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Not much knitting happened this past week, nor reading. ¬†I am *almost* finished reading Kingbird Highway. ¬†My enjoyment of this book increases with each passing chapter. ¬†Kaufman’s trip to Alaska has been my favorite section thus far. ¬†I am up to the middle chapters of Silent Spring & continue to work on the study guide for it as I go along (as part of Coralee’s homeschool curriculum). ¬†No.6 Aviatrix ravelry notes here.

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It snowed Monday evening three whole inches! ¬†I know, that’s nothing compared to the 40+ received on the East Coast this past weekend, but we’ve had very little snow this winter in Iowa. ¬†Three inches may be paltry, but it didn’t seem to stop the roads from going to pot around here…I barely got Merritt to the bus Tuesday morning as our rural road was still not plowed & my little Ford Focus is so low to the ground.

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Early morning–pardon my everything!

Here’s the reason not much doing around here…Harmon has been getting, I’m afraid to admit, colicky. ¬†Merritt had TRUE COLIC for almost a year as a baby, so I don’t want to say Harmon has colic if he’s just having a string of bad days. ¬†I’m not sure what is going on at this point. ¬†He’s definitely possibly heading that way…every evening, like clockwork, for the last week he shrieks, screams, bawls, you name it, he’s not happy & wants us to know it for over three hours. ¬†He won’t nurse during these fits at all which isn’t helping. ¬†He’s been sleeping on me for most of the night, too. ¬†He will not sleep any other way…

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Waking up is like exiting a tornado.  I know we slept, but I feel worn out & obviously he does, too.  He rubs his face on me all night & that leads to some rash flare-up by morning.

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He seems to need constant attention all day in order to be happy.  He does have some happy moments, but still no smiles.

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Not much napping &, therefore, not much knitting.

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Trying to enjoy the present with an eye to the future & fingers crossed we don’t enter true colic territory…I’ve been there, I would prefer no repeat visits!

Joining in with Ginny.

How we homeschool in the fourth trimester…

¬† My side table, pardon the tissue–real life. ¬†If you happen upon Harmon’s missing SmartWool sock, please text me!June waiting patiently for lunch while Coralee & I finish our discussion.¬†
Multi-tasking.¬†¬†Coralee discussing her reactions to chapter one of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring¬†with me in the nursing chair in my bedroom. ¬†Most of our fourth trimester days seem to be spent in this space.
  June rocked Harmon to sleep all by herself!
¬†¬†[My all-time favorite newborn outfit…I will be so sad when he outgrows it. ¬†My cousin from Oklahoma passed it down to me for Merritt in 2005, but the weather was too warm for him to ever wear it. ¬†It’s quilted & so cozysquishyyummysoft.]
Research.¬†¬†Coralee began working on her Junior Duck Stamp entry this week. ¬†Lots of art going on in our fourth trimester days because it’s plain old easy & requires little input/prep from me.
We’re focusing on art/writing, chemistry, and lit for the rest of this winter. ¬†Online Lightning Lit 8 starts next month. ¬†Silent Spring is part of her chem work but obviously falls across multiple subjects. ¬†I’ve created a study guide by utilizing various sources as well as my own work. ¬†I’ve only typed it up through chapter 3 so it’s a work in progress, but you’re welcome to it here and here¬†if you like–good for middle school+. ¬†The formatting is really wonky in the upload, if you leave a comment with your info I can email the pdfs directly.

Trickier days ahead as my daycare child starts back with us February 1st…to be continued…

Monarch Rearing Update

Last week I posted about the kids collecting 10 Monarch eggs from a milkweed patch up the road. Below is our set-up as of yesterday. We currently have 8 monarch larvae in the tank munching on common milkweed.

We modeled our set-up this year after the lead naturalist’s rearing tank at Fontana Nature Center (where Coralee & I both volunteer). It has worked out wonderfully!  [Big shout-out to my father-in-law: thank-you for the tank, it’s perfect!!!] The dead pine needles in the bottom seem to keep everything much more clean than any other bedding we’ve used in the past. Keeping the milkweed cuttings (the monarch caterpillar’s food source) in old plastic containers filled with water also cuts down considerably on milkweed harvest trips.
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After we collected the eggs off the undersides of several plants (a female monarch tends to only lay one egg per plant & she will lay about 100 eggs total–that’s a lot of milkweed!), we placed damp paper towels in the bottom of several plastic containers (one per child) & then placed the leaves with the eggs on top & sealed the container.  Yes, seal the lid.  Don’t worry about air intake–as the naturalist told us during our training last year, the leaves put off enough oxygen for the brief stint in the container (3-4 days at most).
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Close-up of a monarch egg.  The eggs are cream-colored, almost a pale yellow.  Usually found on the underside of young milkweed leaves (the top of the plant is your best bet, usually one that has not flowered yet).  The shape is more oblong than circular & sports ridges.  Better egg photos here.IMG_4924[1]
Incubation in progress.IMG_4925[1]

This is a photo of an egg not ready to hatch (see smaller leaf) & one of Merritt’s that was just about ready to hatch (see bottom of larger leaf)–notice how it has turned darker?  It hatched within a couple hours.IMG_4927[1]

This is the first larva to hatch (one of June’s).IMG_4926[1]

And now here we are today.

Several second larval instars on each leaf. IMG_4929[1]

The kids are very excited for bigger instar stages–makes photographing more interesting, too!  These guys are so tiny!
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Good description of the instar stages found on the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project’s webpage, second instar page here.

I asked the lead Fontana naturalist last year if the Monarch butterfly actually needs people to collect eggs & rear them artificially–she said no, but it’s a good education tool & doesn’t hurt.  What does the Monarch butterfly really need?  MORE HABITAT.  MORE MILKWEED.  Especially in Iowa where we live…’Roundup Ready’ cornfields do not a monarch habitat make…and continually mowing the ditches all season long doesn’t help, either.  The rural ditches are some of the best places to find milkweed in Iowa now as most fields are planted fence row to fence row here.  Planting milkweed (be sure it is a species native to your area), setting up a Monarch Waystation, or monitoring a patch of milkweed are all great ways to further the cause to save the monarch!  I recently learned there is an Iowa State University-funded project taking place in my county to plant large native prairie strips among the corn in hopes of providing viable habitat for not only pollinators, but also birds & other native wildlife.

Gives me hope that all is not lost, yet. ūüôā