Perfect Autumn Days!

Autumn Display
With the changing of the seasons, the decor on top of the china cabinet has changed!  White pumpkins from the farm stand in California.  Oak leaves from the oak trees outside my apartment.  An Autumn themed oil painting and a fall leaves watercolor by me.

Halloween Mouse
For whimsey, a beeswax mouse on a small ironstone platter of seed corn and oak leaves!

Gamble Oak in October
The oak trees outside my apartment are glowing gold!  It fills the apartment with wonderful reflected light!

Changing Leaves
I love the mix of color on some of the branches.

Acorns and Oak Leaves
Especially when paired with deep brown acorns!

Golden Leaves and Acorns
I don't know what it is about acorns that I love so much.  I remember picking up pocketfuls as a child.  I still do!  There are so many this year!


Autumn in South Dakota & Nebraska

Our last night in SD, we stopped in the town of Winner, SD.  We had a difficult time finding a hotel room (and were lucky to grab a room when they received a cancelation) as we had forgotten that it was the opening weekend of Pheasant Season! Entering the restaurant, we had a good giggle at the sea of orange hats!  (pardon the blurry picture!)

Everywhere in town, there were signs welcoming the hunters to the "Rooster Rush".  We even had to try some "Ring Neck Ale" in honor of it!

Autumn Color in South Dakota

After a night in Winner, we woke to gloomy, grey, drippy skies.  The moisture brought out the colors in the landscape and we loved the russet and ochre colors of the grasslands punctuated by the myriad shades of greens left in the trees!  In some places the green had lightened to the point where it almost looked like spring rather than autumn!   

Autumn Color in South Dakota
In the dry western prairies, trees only grow where there is water, so while the broad hill tops are grassland, every little gully seems to have trees.

Autumn Color in South Dakota
We loved all these little gullies of color!  I wish the pictures did them justice.

Red Wing Blackbirds over a sunflower field

Eventually, we turned south to the LaCreek National Wildlife Refuge for a little bit of birdwatching. South of the refuge, the sunflower fields were filled with enormous flocks of redwing blackbirds and vesper sparrows. Such fun to watch them!

Being on the prairie makes me want to get out my oil paints again, as I love the barns and grain elevators.  This one is in the small town of Merriman, Nebraska.

Bluffs east of Crawford, Nebraska
These lovely buttes are east of the town of Crawford, Nebraska, where my Uncle Jake and Aunt Olive used to have a grocery store, way back when!  We were so busy looking at the buttes, that we missed the turn into town.  We'll have to search out the store location (which was later purchased by another cousin of my Dads's) on a different trip.

Bluffs south of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska
South of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, we turned onto highway 88 and saw these lovely buttes, known as Hogback Ridge, in the setting sun.  Gorgeous!


Palisade State Park, South Dakota

Palisade State Park
Our Family Reunion/60th Anniversary Celebration was held at Palisade State Park in South Dakota, north of Sioux Falls.  I had never been there, but among the early photos of my Dad, there is one marked Palisades on the back, so I was looking forward to seeing the area in addition to spending time with all the relatives!  Just after sunrise one morning, I took a walk along Split Rock Creek.  It was gorgeous!  This photo is taken from the bridge shown below.

Palisade Bridge
Red granite walls line the creek.  It has a lovely sheen and reflective quality compared to all the red sandstone that I'm so used to seeing in the southwest!

Palisade Foot Path
The path was lovely too.  Mossy verges, canopies of trees and a well packed path made walking very pleasant.  In spots, a little agility was needed where there were rock steps to negotiate!

A Spot of Blue
While most of the landscape had gone to shades of brown, gold, rust and green, there was an occasional spot of color!  This lone blue flower (chicory, I believe) really stood out!

Circular Moss
The moss made beautiful patterns on the fallen trees.

Still Pool
I loved the still pools of water along the creek.

Moss on fallen tree
Everywhere I went, I noticed the wonderful moss.

In one spot, I found a bright clump of mushrooms!

Lush Moss
And a little further along, a whole tree trunk covered in a carpet of lush moss!

The Palisade
I walked as far along the left side of the creek as I could.  So lovely!

Rock and Tree
The return path climbed up between the rocks, where I found this tree limb grabbing hold of the rock wall as it grew over it!

Autumn Road
Most of the oak trees here had already lost their leaves, revealing their wonderful shapes.

Creek in Palisade State Park
This small creek flows into Split Rock Creek.  All the water here moved along so peacefully and gently.    It was a delightful early morning walk!

The reunion was fabulous and as always, such a pleasure to see all the cousins and Aunts and Uncles again!


The Road Less Traveled

Volcanic Core
On my way to Colorado, I usually turn north at Kayenta and head up the well traveled and winding road through Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods.  There is a straighter alternate route that heads east of Kayenta and then turns north to Bluff, Utah, which I've been wanting to try for some time.  Today was the day.  Just a couple of miles east of Kayenta, this spire of ancient volcanic core rises up out of a sandy sage brush flat.  Such a contrast to the red petrified sand dune hills in the distance.

East of Kayenta
Just past the core, the road rises to the top of a small hill.  Turning and looking back at the core provides a vastly different perspective! Such a spiky landscape, both in the rock formations and in the yucca dotting the landscape here.   My usual route takes me between the distant ridges of rock and around the right-most spire of rock in this photo before heading north to Monument Valley.

Monument Valley from the east
After the turn north towards Bluff, I looked off to the west and saw this distant view of Monument Valley.  While this route doesn't have quite the impact that driving through Monument Valley does, it has it's own Colorado Plateau beauty.  The vistas here are so amazingly vast and the sky seems unbelievably endless.  It's also incredibly isolated.    This truly is the road less traveled ~ in over 30 miles, I only passed one car!   At one time, Kayenta was considered the most remote post office in the continental United States.  Driving east of Kayenta on these isolated roads, one can understand why!

Today's journey ends with a brief stop in Colorado.  Tomorrow the road leads on towards Nebraska and South Dakota with my Mom and daughter!  How nice it will be to have traveling companions for a change!


First Snow

San Francisco Peaks
Ready or not, here comes the snow!  The San Francisco Peaks above Flagstaff received their first real dusting of snow last night.  It sure is beautiful.

First Snow on the Peaks
I'd love to see autumn linger a bit longer though.  I've been loving the changing colors around town and the sunny but crisp days that are perfect for walking.  Hopefully after tonights hard freeze, we'll get back to more Indian Summer weather for a while!



3 Ripple Swatches
I've been looking up patterns for ripple afghans and making swatches!  There is enough yarn to make a decent sized afghan and I'd really like for this to be a project that gets finished this autumn/winter season.

Ripple Swatch
The first ripple swatch I tried is from Crochet Cabana.  It crocheted up quickly, and was quite easy, but I don't like the holes occurring in the valleys.  If they also occurred at the peaks, I'd probably be happier with it.  As it is, I thought it comes out looking a bit messy.

Attic 24 Swatch
The second swatch was made by following instructions from Attic 24.  It crochets up very quickly and has a nice soft feel to it.  It makes efficient use of the yarn as well.

Traditional Ripple Swatch
The third swatch is a pretty traditional ripple afghan stitch from Caron.  It is my favorite as far as looks go. And I love the texture of the ribs.  But the swatch feels awfully stiff, and it takes much more time to crochet all those rows and it uses more yarn.  If I did choose this one, I'd use a larger needle size, just to soften the feel of it and use 6 stitches on the slopes rather than 4.  Using half double crochet stitches instead of a single crochet might also help it go faster.  Guess I need to make another swatch!

Which would you choose?

I'm really leaning towards the Attic 24 ripple as I think it would make the most use of the yarn I have and the overall feel of it would be cozier.  

p.s. I'm still working on finishing the Cream/White Crazy Quilt.  There was a lot of hand stitching to sew the lace down and to tack the flannel batting to the front.  It's taking me much longer than I thought it would!


Sketches from the Trip

Tuolumne Meadows sketch
While on my trip, I managed to do three small sketches.  This one of Tuolumne Meadows is my favorite of the three.

Half Dome sketch
At Half Dome, I sat and sketched as the light was fading.  I was distracted watching the California Ground Squirrels foraging in front of me!  As I was leaving, a bear meandered through the meadow off to my left!  I wish I had thought to sketch him!

Mariposa Grove sketch
While waiting for the tram tour to begin, I sketched these sequoia along the road.  I ran out of time to finish, so this one isn't quite as complete as I would have liked.  Regardless, I love being able to capture my impressions of a place.


Autumn in the Air

Sequoia Produce
Autumn is in the air no matter where one looks right now.  From the charming farm stand I stopped at in California...

Sequoia Cones
to the forest floor in the Sierra, where the cones seem to be dropping from the trees.  I loved this vignette of old cones vs new ones.

For the first time since I've lived in Flagstaff, the oak trees here are loaded with ripening acorns.  There are no pristine leaves here this autumn; they got pretty beat up in the massive hailstorm we had a few weeks ago.  It won't affect them as they change to beautiful shades of golden ochre in the coming weeks though!

Nana's Eggs
The woman at the farm stand told me I "had" to look at the eggs they'd just gotten because they were so pretty.  They were!  And since I was going to buy eggs when I got home anyway, I bought a dozen.  So pretty, one almost hates to crack them open!

Autumn in White
Some white pumpkins came home with me too!  Love that there are still bits of vine attached!

Shades of Grey
This lovely soft wool from my mother's weaving stash is begging to made into an afghan.  There is lots of it and I think  a ripple afghan is in the works!


Mono Lake

South Tufa beach
When my travel plans went awry, I wasn't sure a visit to Mono Lake would still happen.  I'm so glad it did!  Views of the lake from afar were lovely, though nothing extraordinary.  It wasn't until walking down the path at South Tufa through the rabbitbrush and greasewood and coming out upon this scene, that the true beauty of Mono Lake became apparent.

The Tufa towers were created when fresh water flowing underground, rose up through the salt water of Mono Lake, at which point the interaction of salt and fresh water caused the minerals to precipitate out leaving these towers behind.  All of these were created underwater at a time when the lake level was much higher than it is now.

California Gull
Birds love Mono Lake and in particular, the California Gulls, who also nest on one of the islands in the lake.

Grackle eating Alkalie Flies
There were large flocks of grackles too, iridescent in the morning sun.

Alkalie Flies
Mono Lake has a small but unique eco-system.  No fish live in the lake as it is too salty; 2 1/2 times as salty as the ocean!  Instead the eco-system is based on just a handful of things. The algae, which the alkali flies and brine shrimp live on and the birds which eat the alkali flies and brine shrimp.  The black band along the beach is not sand, but rather masses of the alkali flies.  They don't swarm at humans or bite at all.  In places, they mound up as in the above photo.

It was so fun to watch the gulls eating.  They put their head down low and ran at the water, following the shoreline with beaks open, catching alkali flies and brine shrimp.  The alkali flies would part right in front of the gull as though the gull were a vacuum cleaner sucking them up.  The grackles would do the same thing!  Their beaks would come up full!

Tufa Towers
I was lucky to have the area to myself for nearly an hour.  The grand expanse of peace and quiet, but for the birds and lapping of the water, was a healing balm after having been sick for two days.  

Looking out across the water, there were hundreds of ducks and grebes all across the lake.  I can imagine what it must be like when thousands of birds stop here during migration!

Caterpillar Greasewood in bloom
The beauty continued on the walk back to the car.  The rabbit brush was nearly done blooming, but the greasewood was covered with these pink blossoms!

Birds in Flight
Just as I left, the grackles took flight.