Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Most Important Craft Lesson I Learned Today

Dressmaker’s tracing paper has a viable shelf life. That life is somewhere under 35 years, apparently.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Opening Season for Yard Work

Last year I discovered, much to my dismay, a family of voles had built a colony in our front lawn. As cute as the critters were, they were fairly destructive, and created in the lawn where the root ball from a long-gone tree was well in to the decomposition phase.

I attempted to solve the issue by putting out the welcome sign to neighborhood cats, liberally sprinkling the lawn with bobcat urine, and flooding the borrows. The problem seemed to be solved by the flooding step, but mid-winter we began seeing new vole burrows opening up a few yards from the old set. I returned to my bobcat urine approach (too cold to run the hose), and crossed my fingers when we got a nearly a foot of snow. (Voles apparently do the most damage under the protective cover of snow.)

When the snow melted, I discovered this a short distance away:
 That happened in the space of 1 week.

And a glimpse of one of the little guys:
We clearly needed to take a more hard line approach to the problem. I visited a local nursery where the cashier (who assured me she had tons of experience with voles and understood the difference between voles and moles) told us exactly what did and didn't work, laughing about the ridiculous products marketed for the purpose. (Why give them a poison peanut? They want insects!) As we got to talking more, and questioning her on what she was saying (because I know that moles eat insects, but voles prefer bulbs, grass, etc.), it turned out her “vole problem” was really a baby mole problem. I did finally get directed to someone else who showed me the only thing they had targeted for voles - a non-toxic chemical that is meant to offend them to the point that they leave.

Nice thought, but it turned out not to work AT ALL. It was time to go old-school.

I went to the hardware store and picked up a package of old-fashioned Victor wooden traps, which I baited with peanut butter studded with sunflower seeds. I set the first two up along their trail system, and placed a small plastic tub upside-down over the trap, weighting them with river rock. The voles still had access to the traps because their trail system had created a depression in the lawn, but the tub would protect birds and other creatures that might accidentally get caught in the trap. That system successfully trapped a vole within the first three hours.

A few hours later I adapted my system, placing the traps next to the burrow openings, and covering them with tubs. Within three days I had seven voles, and my vole problem was eradicated. But...

I kept finding the borrow holes re-opened in the previous winter burrow location. A week went by, and the holes would keep reopening, but the traps would be un-sprung. WTF? While the holes were clearly originally created by voles, it turns out they were being re-opened by water coming up from the ground with force.

It was finally warm enough yesterday to properly investigate the source of the problem. When we dug down we discovered that the lawn crew had trenched through our exterior sump pump drain when they installed our irrigation system. It worked anyway for 4 years, because the water wanted to travel the path of least resistance. But we think the burrowing voles caved in the soil above the broken pipe (possibly even building a nest in the pipe), clogging the outflow.

 Before we fixed the hole, we first set about unclogging the drain by running a hose fitted with a constrictor end as far down the pipe as it would go.

Not the easiest fix - and certainly awkward - but we got it done in one afternoon with less than $20 in parts.

And several cold beers.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Having a Good Fit

Taking a short break from infant knitting to develop my fit skills on the sewing side of the craft room.

Here I’m using Vogue pattern 1004 and a lovely 1" square green and white gingham fabric, to create a custom dress shell. It’s a long process, involving taking many body measurements, comparing that to the pattern measurements, and lengthening, shortening, widening, etc. as necessary to suit my own body. Once I develop a custom shell, I can apply these techniques to all Vogue patterns.

No worries. The gingham “dress” may be tried on, but will never be worn, even as a house dress. It would be an interesting “look,” though, wouldn’t it?

 Between this exercise (Vogue also has a pants shell in their pattern line), and at least two Craftsy classes I’m taking on fit, I should be well on my way to creating an amazing professional wardrobe.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Short Telegram from the Trenches

I am so over this preeclampsia bulls$%*t. Thankfully mother and babe seem to be moving toward good health, but due to the emergency C-section, I’m now a month behind on my knitting deadline, still have 75% to complete, and my stitch count is off.

Hungry? Call for take out. I’ll be in my knitting chair.