touchet crochet! … and a death in the family

I was able to finish the Glaceon toy entirely in crochet! The craft gloves I purchased seemed to help my wrists, and I also gave up some of the tightness of the gauge to help my hands relax more. It’s not perfect, but I think it turned out pretty well, and Jonah is happy with it. (except for the curling of the ear flaps, but we are fixing that with blocking tonight.)

crochet glaceon

I also crocheted Mae’s Pokemon this weekend: Mew (pattern here). It went much faster, mostly because it’s all one color, and had less pieces to assemble. I think it turned out pretty cute, and the Suncatcher eyes I used really brought the face to life.

mew crochet

My biggest motivation for finishing these toys this weekend was as a comfort and distraction for my kids, because on Friday we discovered that one of our guinea pigs (Alice, the red and black one) was very sick. We took her to the vet and she was diagnosed with some sort of mass in her abdomen (possibly an ovarian cyst or a tumor). They couldn’t tell for sure without x-rays, but either case would require an operation, and guinea pigs don’t do well under anesthetic in general. The kids were very sad, Mae especially, since it’s her guinea pig, but she wasn’t ready to put her to sleep right away, so we brought her home to see how she would do. Guinea pigs can hide their illness for a long time, but once they start showing symptoms, and not eating, they deteriorate very quickly, so we hoped she wouldn’t suffer much longer, but pass away in peace at home. During the last couple of days it was hard to watch her grow weaker, but it seemed like a very sweet time for her and her sister, cuddling almost constantly, with Tornado grooming her and comforting her, so I’m not regretting the decision. She wasn’t acting like she was in pain, so I believe that this was the best, most natural process for them, and that it might also help Tornado understand the loss of her sister. Today, Alice left our lives in peace, laying down quietly most of the morning, and eventually slipping into to her final sleep. Tornado left her alone at the end, interestingly enough, as if she knew her time was close and she was ready to let her go, and now that Alice is gone, she seems much more active, wandering around and eating and drinking more normally than she had been the last couple of days as she spent most of her time with Alice. It’s as if she feels some relief after this watching and waiting time, or maybe I’m just projecting my own emotions on her. The kids, in their turn, were amazingly sweet and brave. Before, they had not wanted to talk about her dying, and said that they didn’t want to bury her, as they have sad memories of helping to bury our dog 2 years ago and sharing stories around her grave, so I wasn’t sure if I should wait until they got home to do it, but decided that I wanted to give them one last chance to say goodbye. So I put her body in a sweet little shoe box of Mae’s, and wrote her name in gold sharpie on it, and told the kids they could write things on it for her if they wanted to. I tried to tell them that they didn’t have to do any of this, but part of what it means to be a pet owner is being brave enough to talk about and think about what you’re going to do when they die. And they really rallied, even through their tears. They got excited about decorating her shoe box, and also a rock to put on top of her grave, and put all the effort they could into helping to bury her. I wasn’t going to push them to say anything after we buried her, but Jonah asked if they could, so we all talked about what we remembered about her. Once again, Mae got teary talking about Alice and Tornado playing tug-of-war with carrots, but she was so very brave to do it anyway.

guinea pig funeral

guinea pig funerl

I really have some pretty amazing kids, who are learning some tough things about life. Pets are really great to have around, but eventually you have to say goodbye. But they are still worth it for all the joy they bring to our lives and what they can teach us about life. Thank you for the lessons you taught me, Alice, including the true merit of a dandelion, and how to die gracefully with your loved ones. Rest in peace in fields of dandelions forever, sweet little guinea pig.

alice-tornado-guinea-pigs

Dandelion Lesson

dandelion flower and greens

I rarely post anything about our guinea pigs, and they prefer it that way. They are very cute, but extremely shy and are perfectly content to be left alone to eat their days away in peace and tranquility. And I do mean EAT… about 6 hours a day they are nibbling on something. Maybe that’s why they are called “pigs”?

But I have been musing about how animals can change our perspective on the world. Dandelions in our city are considered one of the most pervasive weeds, and there are many who ravage their lawns (and our ecosystem) with weed killer to get rid of them. I’ve tried not to stoop to such measures, instead I’ve pulled them up (when I could be bothered), or mowed them short… until we got our guinea pigs.

Upon researching how to care for the guineas, we learned that they need a source of vitamin C every day, as their bodies can’t produce it on their own. We often give them a couple of leaves of kale, sometimes oranges, but their ABSOLUTE favorite thing to eat is dandelion greens. I never realized how chock full of vitamin C dandelions are, as well as a superb source of many other vitamins and herbal remedies. And the guineas really can’t get enough of them.

guinea pigs eating dandelions

So now, when I’m out on a walk, or in our own yard, and spot dandelions, I get really excited. FREE guinea pig food!!! And it’s made me more aware of how there is a purpose for everything natural in our world, and that maybe nature wouldn’t mind if we tried to help her balance things out a bit more. Instead of complaining about the dandelions, we should be eating them ourselves! If only they weren’t quite so bitter, I probably would. If we were all starving, we DEFINITELY would. And we’d be healthier for it!

Another example of our crazy Northwest US city dwelling values: blackberries are hailed as even more pervasive weeds than dandelions! Most of our neighbors can’t stand them, and get rid of them through any possible measures, as they can quickly take over a garden. But I have consciously let them take over and share the ground with part of our VERY hardy laurel bushes, because at the end of the summer, we can’t get enough of their sun-ripened goodness. The kids go out and pick them for supper practically every night for a couple of months. Judging from the flowers we have right now, we’re going to get a bumper crop this year.

blackberry vines in laurel bushes

We will also owe this bounty to our local bees, who are loving the blackberry flowers right now. You can see the green blackberries already starting to poke their way through here:

bee in blackberry flowers

This looks pretty cozy. Almost makes me want to be a bee.

bee in blackberry flower

We live in such a rich climate and society, we can hardly wrap our brains around just how spoiled and ungrateful and wasteful we can be sometimes. Food, right in our own backyards, is unwanted and despised, and the earth is poisoned just so we don’t have to look at it.

Or maybe my perspective is skewed by the fact that I’m a terrible gardener, and I don’t mind if my yard looks messy. I’m just grateful for whatever goodies nature decides to bring my way. As are my chickens.

backyard chickens

hexipuff madness

I went a little crazy designing and embroidering hexipuffs for my Beekeeper’s Quilt this week, so I wanted to add these patterns to my growing collection. Feel free to use them and customize them as desired! First off, the bees. I couldn’t decide which pattern I liked best, and the kids had differing opinions, so I did up both of them, and put them on my yummiest looking hand-painted lavender yarn puffs. These were inspired by Laura Rittenhouse’s bee photos, so there you go Laura.. your bees have now been immortalized into my quilt!

bee hexipuff pattern

Then I had to do our chickens how they looked as chicks:

hexipuff pattern chicks

Then I did one of our cockerels, how they would have looked as full grown barred rock roosters, and added him to my chicken collection. I used thinner black yarn on top of a white background to achieve the speckled look.

hexipuff patterns chickens

Then I did the guinea pigs:

guinea pigs hexipuff

and the kids:

kids hexipuff pattern

and our chocolate lab of 11 years:

hexipuff pattern dog chocolate lab puppy

and Mae really wanted me to do her hibernating wooly bear caterpillar (at least we hope it’s hibernating).

catepillar

So here are all of the hexipuffs I’ve embroidered so far:

all-embroidered

And when I tie them all together I’ll probably scatter them around like this. I’m up to 63 hexipuffs now!

beekeeper quilt hexipuffs

Here are the embroidery charts for anyone interested. Notes: I added my ideal Cleo chick pattern, with an additional medium brown shade, which I didn’t have at the time. And the larger bee should be embroidered with the hexipuff upside down if you want it to come out centered:

my babies

Too bad we couldn’t get the hens to come inside and pose on the couch as well! But I’m afraid the scene would have been not quite so peaceful.

We’ll have to content ourselves with this one instead:

And since today is my wedding anniversary, I need to give a shout out to the amazing man who embarked on this crazy journey with me 13 years ago. I’m so lucky to have married my best friend. 🙂

Independence Day – 8 weeks old

Our 2 little pullets have successfully made it through 3 nights outside now. We brought them inside last night because of all of the fireworks, so they wouldn’t get too freaked out. By the 3rd night they were actually going up the ramp by themselves at the end of the day, so they are starting to think of it as a safe home again. We still haven’t caught a rat yet. We’ve tried with peanut butter and sausages, and tonight we’re trying bananas. Maybe they are just too smart for the trap. Or maybe something else killed them. Mae suggested that it was Fluffy. Wouldn’t that be justice? Maybe they choked on her? Yesterday was so gorgeous, we brought the guinea pigs outside too and we all played in the backyard for quite awhile. Gloria and Cleo have started flying to the top of their coop to roost. Here’s some footage and photos:

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chicken wings – 10 days old

Hold the buffalo sauce, please. Yesterday, Cleo tried to fly the coop! She was about 1 inch short of the top. I had ordered a lid for the brooder and it came yesterday, apparently just in time. Their wings are growing very quickly. Fluffy’s and Gloria’s are the longest and fullest, but Penguin’s are also getting quite long. And they are all starting to get feathers on their shoulders as well. Last night I dreamed about them chirping, and was awakened to loud chirping. It totally freaked me out. When did the get so loud? Did they escape and get upstairs? But when I went to the living room I discovered it was the guinea pigs! They can sometimes chirp like birds, and this sounded just like the chicks, but twice as loud. Crazy!