Category Archives: Botany

Oregon and a Wee Vest

Oh Oregon, beautiful state.

In early October, we travelled to McKenzie Bridge, Oregon for a friend’s wedding. It was a short vacation, especially considering the time spent in airports and cars, but it felt worthwhile. The flights went smoothly and we had excellent views of the Grand Tetons and the Cascades. Seen from above, the forests of Oregon were dark green with bright yellow bursts of autumn aspens.

In the three days we were there, we celebrated love between two good people, ate delicious food, visited with family, and walked in beautiful forests. We were able to identify most of the trees, but the forest understory plants were unknown to us. Being in a place where we did not know the flora was both fun and frustrating. Why didn’t we pack all those field guides for the west that have been gathering dust on our shelves?! (Answer: no room between all the diapers.)

The understory plant with compound leaves shown in the photo below was abundant at the wedding venue and along every trail. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even after we retuned home. Searching internet photos led me to an answer. This plant is dull Oregon grape, also known as Cascade berry (Mahonia nervosa). Hurrah.

In preparation for our trip, I knit a wee vest for my child. I improvised the pattern, with careful consideration to fit and features as well as ease of knitting. It came out perfectly and, oh goodness, does he look adorable in it. Now I see why baby knits are worthwhile even if they are only worn for a few months or even weeks.

Goldenrod

DSCN9221September has arrived and the goldenrod is glowing. I spent my morning admiring its abundance at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island.DSCN9253

Last summer I tried my hand at natural dying using goldenrod from my mother’s back garden. There was not quite enough goldenrod left in the garden by the time that I got around to picking it,and the wool came out a soft yellow. Paler than the plants blossoms. I have enjoyed looking at it for the past year, but must admit that yellow is not a color that I wear. Fortunately, G looks excellent in yellow. Someday he will receive a goldenrod vest. Someday distant…

Lupines in Wool

Route 4 through Nova Scotia does not have the vistas offered by many of the other roads in the province, but it does have lupines. In June, the verges were lined for miles with tall purple, blue, and pink inflorescence. Nothing, it seems, is more purple that a purple lupine.

DSC_0540DSC_0543

Upon returning home, I started knitting lupines. This is something that I have tried out with before without satisfactory results. It turned out that buying almost every purple available from Jamieson and Smith was essential, and I was able to design a motif that unmistakably represents a lupine in full bloom.

I have wanted to knit a sweater for my mother for a long time, and for a long time I have wanted it to be purple. This is because she once owned a purple Archie Brown & Son yoke knit of Shetland wool. She says that she bought it in 1983 while vacation in Bermuda. Sometime in the 80’s, the sweater was stored away in the basement and it remained there until my sister and I found it around 2000. There were dozens of moth holes, and I wore holes and all it for a decade before discovering darning. It now has mends, some more visible than others, as well as elbow patches, and I wear it regularly.

Shetland_SweaterThis photo was taken about two years ago, before the elbow patches.Shetland_Yoke

Using Kate Davies’ Foxglove pattern as a template, my sister and I decided to knit a lupine cardigan for our mother’s birthday. In July 2017, I shipped main color yarn to M, she knit the sleeves and shipped them back to me, and then I joined them with the body before knitting the yoke. When my mother’s birthday came in early August, I had just joined the body and sleeves. She was patient through the fall and early winter as I finished knitting the yoke, cutting the steek, and painstakingly sewing a ribbon over the steek’s raw edge.

DSC02277 DSC02272DSC02286

For those interested in knitting details, Kate Davies’ Foxglove pattern is available as part of her YOKES book. Kate Davies’ sweater sits nice and flat across her chest, but this is not the case for many other knitters. Based on Ravelry photos, I think that knitters have struggled with the yoke shaping and the neckline sits high and wide on many women. I modified the yoke, beginning with extra short rows in the back at the join of the arms with the body, and then more short rows at the top of the colorwork. I also decreased more within the yoke than is called for in the pattern. This allowed for a closer neckline that is wide enough not to scratch our mom’s neck. I cut the steek without reinforcement and then hand stitched it in place, rather than using a crochet reinforcement. The method that I used is described in Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting and works well with Shetland wool. My Ravelry project page is here.

We are all three – M, Mom, and me – very happy with this cardigan and hope it sees decades of wear.

Lunenberg

Lunenberg is one of the best-known towns in Nova Scotia, having received UNESCO world heritage site status in 2012. The town is exceptional because it represents one of the only examples of a planned town in British colonial America. 289 years after it was founded, Lunenberg still boasts small wooden clapboard houses, a strong sense of local pride, and surprisingly steep roads.

We rode to Lunenberg from Rissers Provincial Park via route 331 and the LaHave cable ferry – a first for both of us. It was cold and wet and the ferry operator allowed us to warm up in the staff cabin. DSC_0163Unfortunately, we reached the ferry before the LaHave Bakery opened for the morning, but this put us in a good position to patronize Lunenberg’s #9 café. We also, later, had one of our best meals of the trip at The Salt Shaker.

Lunenberg is an artistic town and we spent most of our day in the independent book stores, gift shops, and art galleries. In the Lunenberg Bound book shop, we bought three large and heavy tomes entitled Flora of Northeast United States and Adjacent Canada Volumes I, II, and III. I have since weighed them and they total 6 lbs 8 oz.

DSC_0171c

Later that night, looking skeptical about the wisdom of our purchase.

We did also stop into the Mariner’s Daughter, the local knitting shop, but there was no wool yarn that met my particular requirements.

A must-see in the town of Lunenberg is the Musuem of Fisheries. We began our tour of the museum on the ground floor aquarium, which ranked as the most depressing aquarium I have ever seen. Many of the tanks were drained and empty. The tanks that were inhabited were dark with scattered stones and a few sad fish or crustaceans. Fortunately, the other exhibits in the museum were more educational and enjoyable. We learned about the evolution of cod fishing, the life cycle of lobsters, the interactions of north Atlantic currents, and more. There was even a bit of fisherman’s knitwear on display!

We left the museum in late afternoon and it was time to head out of town. We detoured by The Bluenose – Nova Scotia’s pride and joy- and the small grocery store, and then we were back on the path and heading toward Graves Provincial Park for the night.DSC_0170


Graves Provincial Park is located on an island in Schnare Cove. It is connected to the mainland by a short causeway. We stayed in one of the walk-in sites and had the area to ourselves.DSC_0178DSC_0181

Risser’s Provincial Park

Leaving the general store in Petite Riviere, it was a short ride to our home for the night, Rissers Provincial Park. The wind was blowing off the ocean and there were few other campers around. We set up our tent in view of the water and then made our way across the beach to the Rissers Beach Boardwalk. The sand was soft and appealing, but it was far too cold for a swim. Seaweeds were scattered across the shore and bright lichens grew on the rough rocks. I thought about “color stories” and stranded colorwork as we strolled.

I took a phycology course in college. Phycology is the study of algae, and I found it as boring as you are imagining. The professor was kind and quietly passionate about his field. He spoke with endearing excitement about fucus, caldaphora, and dulse, but his excitement was not contagious. His soporific voice made me want to curl up in the back row and fall asleep, lovingly caressing my desk with my cheek. If I had spent more time along the Nova Scotian shore, I might have understood his appreciation of rhodophyta and chlorophyta. I would have seen the beauty of laminariales.


Past the beach, we came to the Rissers Beach boardwalk. This estuarine promenade fits in the landscape as though it grew there. It runs along one side of the calm Petite Riviere salt marsh. Lichen-covered spruce grow on the upland side of the boardwalk and shelter visitors from the open ocean winds. We lingered for the golden hour before twilight and then made our way slowly back to packaged dinner, hard cider, and a hot campfire.

DSC_0143DSC_0138DSC_0150DSC_0141

A Day of Wildflowers

G and I woke up early on the foggy morning on June 5th. We cooked oatmeal, lay our tent to dry in the sun, and admired the wild bleeding hearts growing in next to the picnic table.
DSC_0097DSC_0096DSC_0095These bright pink beauties hearts were just the start of the day’s wildflowers. The route from Louis Head, West Sable Road, was lined with lady slippers, mayflower, and starflower. We even found blooming blue-bead lilies and bluets along the fringe of route 103.DSC_0100DSC_0104

Lunch was a fried food feast at Seaside Seafood in Liverpool. After we indulged, G took a power nap right in his seat.
DSC_0106

Late in the afternoon, we came to Petite Riviere and the town’s well-stocked general store. It was here that we each bought a delicious beverage for the evening and were even ID’d, though neither of us have looked 18 in some time.

Spring Ephemerals

Each year, I measure the arrival of spring with firsts.

The first maple trees flowering by my house…
DSC_0542

the first spicebush blooming in the forest understory…
DSC_0561

the first skunk cabbage swelling at the swamp…
IMG_20150331_183713841

the first kettle of Turkey Vultures on the wind…
IMG_20150331_184324507

the first frogs and salamaders growing in cold, dark murky ponds…
DSC_0545

and, most exciting of all, the first spring ephemeral wildflowers bursting out from the wet forest floor.
IMG_20160424_184339609

My cousin and I found marsh marigold deep in the woods at Darien Lakes State Park. At the Niagara Escarpment Preserve, there are violets, toothwort, bloodroot (my favorite), white trillium, and squirrels corn (a close second). They are like long-distance friends, in my life for a weekend visit, and then gone for far too long.