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I find it very difficult to go out and buy a wreath when I have practically a billion trees in my yard. It seems silly to me to pay for someone else’s yard debris, you know?  This year I decided that I was going to make my own wreath. I bought a circle thingy and some wire for less than $4.00 at A.C. Moore, watched a You Tube video and set to work:

I can tell you what I did, but I can’t vouch for it until it makes it through its first snow storm without falling apart.  First I went out into the woods and cut off some pine and hemlock branches. I brought them all back to my breeze way and started securing them into little bundles with pieces of wire. I made 8 of those altogether because my base was divided into 8 sections.  I secured each of these bundles onto the base with more wire.  Then what happened was when I held the wreath vertically, all the branches really fluffed out so I secured them with even more wire.  I’m still not sure that I used enough though.

Earlier in the season, my aunt and uncle had dropped off some bayberry twigs.  I thought, why not stick those in the wreath too, so I bundled them up with some more pine twigs and secured those in there with even more wire.  When I bring out my holiday stuff for real, I think I may have a bow or 2 saved from last year that I can stick on there too for some more color.

I’ve been very intrigued lately by the idea of being a recessionista.  I know really the concept revolves more around fashion than homemaking, but I did find one article that showed ways to save  50 ways to money that were not all fashion related.  What have you seen out there – any good information?  If you get a chance, I’d love if you would share the link.

Holiday wreath for less than $4.00

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Whereas most of the leaves have fallen off the lesser trees, the mighty oaks hold onto theirs, not even surrendering to the strong gusts of autumn wind.  They surround my house like sentinels being both a treat and a curse.  Their leaves display a rainbow of the the fall palate — orange, yellow, red, and rust fringed with crispy browns.  When the sun shines, my house fills with a yellow glow and even when it is overcast the warm colors radiate in making this one of my favorite seasons.  The curses are many though — so slow to lose their leaves, yard work can never be completed until the snow melts in the spring.  Oak leaves are notorious for their long lives – they flit from the mower and are heavy to rake.   When the leaves finally give way and leave the branches bare and expose the green mossy trunks, gloomy days are are sometimes too much to bare. But for now, I will take the treat of the oak and feel cozy and protected in my house as they stand proud and strong outside all my windows watching over me and my family.

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It seems as if knitters agree – there is not much not to love about October.  After all it is the official start of the cool weather fiber season.  Of course, non-knitters also love October too — pumpkins, fall leaves, apples, Halloween – oh the fun!  So far, I’ve had an overwhelming response to my contest, but if you haven’t entered, yet, don’t worry – it doesn’t close until the 18th so go ahead and enter away!  Everyone seems to love thinking about the things they love in October (also sometimes known as Socktober and the month that contains National Rhinebeck Day).  I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I repeated this contest in March.  Can anyone think of three things to love about March except that it is one month before April when the spring Sheep and Wool Festivals start to hit?

Hey guess what?  This month is flying by so fast that I haven’t even had time to post about the spinning class that I am taking, AND it is tomorrow!  I have to get ready!!!!  I’m taking Spinning for Socks with Judith MacKenzie-McCuin.  I’m looking forward to the drive over to Rhinebeck – no highways and gorgeous foliage.  I have the audiobook of No Idle Hands to listen to in the car.  There are so many great spinning retreats and festivals this fall but a lot of them book up early and you have to plan way in advance which is not easy for a mom of 3 sporty girls and who sometimes works on weekends.  I feel very lucky to have found a class that I wanted to take that was not sold out and was not on a Saturday!  I can’t wait to go and tell you all about it.  I hope I remember my camera and remember to take photos.  I am not going to be able to go to the actual Sheep and Wool Festival this weekend, however. I have to work on Saturday and will probably just have too much stuff to do on Sunday, but I can’t wait to hear about it from all you you who will be going!

OK, I better get going as I have a very busy day today but I just wanted to let you know about another thing that happens in October that I didn’t know about, and you may not know about either. Apparently, October is the time of year for baby snails!  Look what I found last week when I was cleaning up my solar dyeing bins:

There were hundreds of these tiny, itsy, bitsy snails all in my bin, on the edge of the bin, and on the bricks near our basement door  – I just thought they were little pebbles at first but when they were clinging to the bin, I was like, oh my, what kind of weird thing do we have now.  I was very happy when I looked closer and found they were just baby snails and nothing really yucky.

Here is a close up – they are really very tiny — just a few millimeters in circumference.

And here is the oddball snail. All of the other baby snails were regular snail shape but this one had a tall conical type of shell.  Does anyone know anything about snail genetics?  I’ve probably spent way too much time looking for clues on google but haven’t found anything that fits this situation yet.

Well – enjoy another wonderful October day and don’t forget to enter my contest if you haven’t already done so!

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Hello and Happy Columbus Day! My favorite holiday! I wish all holidays could be like this one. There are no preparations, no decorations, no cards, no special foods, no presents, and no expectations. Columbus was one cool guy and I love him! I don’t care what he really did or didn’t discover because he just has one awesome holiday and that is it.

I haven’t had a blog contest in quite a while so I thought that to spice up your Columbus Day, it would be a great time to sponsor one. For this contest, all you need to do is to submit a comment on this post. Please include in your comment 3 things that you LOVE about October. The last day to enter will be Saturday, October 18 and I’ll throw the names in a hat and have a junior agent draw a winner. I’ll put together a special prize package tailored to the likings of the winner so also please include what your favorite hobby is (i.e. spinning, knitting, scrapping, eating…) if you would like something in particular. I’m also going to include a few gleanings from the OneThing CT Expo that we went to in Hartford yesterday.

Our BIG OneThing that we are going to do in our family is to sign up for CTCleanEnergyOptions. This means that we will choose one of the 2 clean energy providers that are available to us and that we will start paying them for our electricity instead of our standard electric company. All our electricity will be generated by either wind power or hydroelectric power. Now, it is a little confusing how this works – it is not like we will directly get that electricity sent to our home. I guess the best way to explain this is to post the info from their FAQ:

Q: If a customer signs up for the CTCleanEnergyOptions, does that mean that clean energy is being delivered directly to that customer’s home or business?
A: No. The clean energy that is being generated is being delivered to the electric system and this will displace an equal amount of electricity that would have been generated from traditional sources, such as nuclear, coal, oil and natural gas-fired generating plants. Once in the system, the electricity from clean sources (like the electricity produced from any generator) follows the path of least resistance and, thus, cannot be delivered to a specific location (home or business).

Ok, so I know what you are wondering – what is the catch. Well, there really is no catch except that it is a bit more expensive. But, it is not really all that much more expensive – only 8 to 9 dollars a month and I’ve already taken account of that in our budget and downgraded our Netflix account accordingly.

Quite a few towns in CT have joined the 20% by 2010 Campaign which mean they have made a pledge “to obtain at least 20 percent of the electricity for all municipal facilities from clean renewable energy sources by the year 2010.” If you live in CT, your town may also be participating. Also, for every 100 residents who join your town will get a free solar panel for municipal use.

Renewable energy programs have different names in different states so if you don’t live in Connecticut, you may still be able to do this. I’d love to hear about what your states have to offer if you know…

Just to show that there is fiber everywhere – these adorable sheep were part of an exhibit sponsored by the new Science Center of CT. They were so cute! We only caught half of the program, but I think they are Canadian Sheep (See how they are wearing earmuffs and hats?). They Told us about some great things coming up with windpower (I don’t know about you, but I think that wind turbines are graceful and beautiful) and hydrogen power. They were pretty funny actually – very expressive.

Ok, so I will leave you to think about what you love about October! Don’t forget that you can’t win if you don’t play! Here are some photos our local fair from last weekend for inspiration:

Agent B is somewhere in that band playing her trombone.

Librarysarie and I independently took photos of the same bunny!

Three of a kind!

IHA entered his hot peppers — his first fair entry ever in his 40 years of life. He won third place, but has big goals for next year.

Thanks for reading and have a great Columbus Day!

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Yesterday afternoon, I was rushing around trying to get ready for work when Agents B and J arrived home from school. I usually watch for them to get off the bus, but I was trying to eat my lunch/dinner before I had to leave in a few minutes. I heard Agent B yelling something so I went to the front door. She was saying that there was a dead, dried-up baby turtle in the driveway. So, forget eating, out I went to see.

Luckily, it turned out not to be a dead, dried-up turtle, but a very cute and very alive baby snapping turtle coated with caked-on dirt. I ran to get my camera and we had a Reptilia photo shoot.

After a bit we decided that the baby turtle was very dry and needed a bit of water. Agent J pour a little water on him and he did seem to perk up a bit.

Baby Turtle or Baby Dino?

We then decided that a driveway is not the best place for a baby turtle. There is a pond down the hill from where we live so we scooted him onto some card stock and carried him down the hill to the edge of the woods.

Sending Baby Down to the Pond

Sending Baby Down to the Pond

On the way back up the hill, we discovered the baby turtle’s sibling in the grass. This one must have already crossed the driveway and was already headed down the hill.

Baby Snapping Turtle Sibling

Baby Snapping Turtle Sibling

I love this part of living in the woods. We really never know what we are going to find in our yard. We have seen snapping turtles before and one was rather large so we also have to be very careful of what we find in our yard. Seeing these baby snappers does solve a mystery too. Now I know who was digging holes in the new grass all along my driveway earlier this summer! It does make me wonder what things we miss though. What if Agent B hadn’t gotten off the bus as that moment? What if she wasn’t so observant? The baby turtles could have crossed our yard and we never would have known. What other kinds of things go on here with out us knowing? Oh and look, here is a perfect tie-in to a photo that I have wanted to post since August!

I know you guys are not all big fans of larger-than-life insect photos so I won’t show any of the real close close-ups, but here is a ginormous insect from Crops-a-lot’s yard in Michigan that we saw on vacation…

Just Hanging Out in the Ornamental Grasses

Just Hanging Out in the Ornamental Grasses

Yes, this is a praying mantis and yes, this praying mantis is indeed larger than our baby snapping turtles! You should have seen it when it flew away! It was the size of a bat! Ok, it appears that I am not going to be able to resist the close up so you may want to close your eyes for this one.

I'm Watching You!

I'm Watching You!

Can you believe this guy was just a few inches from her front porch. I think he knows that Croppy is not a fan of biting bugs and was trying to eat them all before they had a chance to bite her.

Does it make you wonder what else is out there? What could be in your yard? What have you seen today?

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A number of you have mentioned to me, either by comment, e-mail, or in person, that the larger-than-life caterpillar photos are not your favorites. I can appreciate that so I thought I would post something from my yard a little more rollie-pollie and hugable (and a little more difficult to photograph). So now, do you think my woodchuck is cute? Maybe he needs a name?

Just for the sake of arguement, however, let me give you a couple of statistics:

Number of spicebush leaves eaten by spicebush caterpillars: About 10 to 12.

Number of milkweed leaves eaten by an entire flock of tussock caterpillars: Just a few large older yellowing leaves.

Number of garden plants eaten by woodchuck: Entire population of squash, parsley, cucumbers, pumpkin, nasturtium, and some tomatoes.

Now that everything is gone – the garden is mowed over and just a few scraggly weeds remain – I am giving in and becoming friends with my woodchuck. I will embrace him as my friend on these last few days before school starts. I need all the moral support I can get.

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Earlier this summer, my mom called one evening saying that we “had” to come up to see the caterpillars on her Milkweed plant and to come quickly before they ate the whole plant!  I was in the middle of making dinner, but since I love any excuse to get out of the kitchen I grabbed my camera and scurried up.  What I saw was this mass of caterpillars:

Granted they look pretty cute here in this photo, but in really life they were really wiggly and they made me feel a little woozy.  As you can imagine it is hard to focus and hold your camera steady when you are feeling a little woozy.  Individually, they are very cute though and sort of remind me of the designer dogs the girls have been going on about.

They were very rapidly and systematically eating the leaves off a milkweed.   I had to go home to finish making dinner, but later we all returned to see what they were up to.  What do you think the Agents thought?  Yup, you are right, Agent K had to hold some while the other 2 laughed at her antics.

I had no idea what they were so I didn’t blog about them immediately. So now, this is where the vacation part of this post starts.  On our way home, on our very last day of vacation, we were driving through the Poconos at lunchtime. I saw the Pocono Environmental Education Center on my map and thought there might be picnic tables there.  It turned out that they didn’t have any picnic tables, at least not near the parking lot, but when we went inside the building to use the facilities, there was a display with both the Milkweed Tussock Caterpillars and the Monarch Caterpillars.  The Monarch was happily munching away, but the Tussock was already in its cocoon that actually looks like a little round mass of felted brown fibers.  Very cute!  They had a little information posted on the display and the good news is that the Tussocks do not compete with the Monarchs because they like the older tougher milkweed leaves while the Monarchs like the younger fresher leaves.

Well, I better get ready to drive to field hockey practice.  Last night Agent K tells us that there are 2 mandatory field hockey parties this week.  Sometimes, I wonder if she knows me.  As Jenny can attest, the best way for me to agree to something is not to tell me that something so obviously non-mandatory is mandatory.  Also, when I asked Agent K for more details on the Saturday night party, she says, “Don’t worry, there will be seniors there.”  Ah, parties with seniors?  Surely, she doesn’t believe that is a good selling point.

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I was outside taking photos of my backyard rain forest when I caught my tomato-eater red-handed eating my weeds.   I can almost think of her as pretty and sweet and gentle when she is grazing on weeds…

It was even a little sweeter because she had her baby with her.   I know, if only they didn’t eat all the things I love to grow…

This is the first time I ever remember Connecticut having consistent rainfall all summer. Usually at some point the whole yard goes crispy, crunchy, parched.  We have had literally bucketloads of rain almost everyday.  The foliage is very lush this year.  I thought it would be interesting to compared the same view from my April photo to now.

Here is a view from my deck in April:

and the same view in August:

and a little bit of a larger view:

I can almost see the monkeys swinging from the trees, can you?

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There she is! My Spicebush Girl! I found her when I was mowing the lawn today.  I think she lost her “tails” – you know, the points at the ends of the wings that are swallowtail distinctive.  She also seems a little tired as I was mowing at the end of my driveway and had to run back to the house to find my camera and then all the way back out and she was still alit.  I bet she has some stories to tell…

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While we were away last weekend, our Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly emerged from its chrysalis. I think I saw it flirting about high among the tree branches last evening. I’m taking my camera out on periodic butterfly patrols throughout the day. I need that photograph and I miss my butterfly.

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