Monday, September 15, 2014

Walking in National Arboretum's fern valley

Last week we took a afternoon walk in the U.S. National Arboretum's native woodland trails called Fern Valley. It's like a trip to the wilderness with some very nice benches and bridges and huge old trees. The floor of the valley that has a stream running through it has all kinds of plants and wild flowers. I wasn't expecting to see so many this time of year so it was a nice surprise to discover that flowers bloom in the woods even with a full canopy of leaves over head. I took the camera to capture some of the scenes and focused on flowers and small plants and the creepy orange black bug that lives on milkweed seed juice!

 Bright red cardinal flower were hiding way off in the understory but my zoom helped me capture them for the first among many colorful surprises.

 One I hadn't ever seen or heard of but fortunately we saw a sign describing this unique plant name. Doll's eye plant or white baneberry, Actaea pachypoda is the latin name and it seems it has a white flower and is related to buttercups and is recommended by growers for gardens but endangered in the wild.

 The tall green headed coneflowers were reaching out from the edge of the woods towards the sunny sky.

Jack-in-the-pulpit seed clusters bright red color was easy to find. 

 Orange flowering jewelweed was abundant along the damp creek edge and humming birds were visiting but too quick and shy for my camera to capture.

 On the common milkweed seed pods at the edge of the parking area we found a cluster of milkweed bugs who live on the seeds by burrowing a hole into the pod and sucking the juice out of the seeds. The bright orange color is a warning to predators that they are poison to the creatures who might try to eat them because they carry the milkweed's toxic chemicals in their systems. They evolved together the bug and the plant.
 I don't know this plant's name but it's bright green flowers or buds for flowers and the leaves catching a blue reflection from the sky above were very pretty along the woodland path's edge. Nettle called clear-weed perhaps? Not sure if that is what this one was but it fits most of the description in my wildflower field guide.

 Beautiful obedient plant flowers are sturdy and seen in lots of gardens blooming and feeding bees this time of year. It was in a sunny spot at the edge of the trail.

Finally the tall sunflowers were over seven feet I had to look up at them when standing next to them a few flowers were blooming at the bottom near the ground so that gave ma a chance to get the first image very golden in color. US National Arboretum is a great place to visit Friday's through Monday 8:00-5:00 but closed due to sequestration budget cuts by the Congress it's no longer open Tuesday Wednesday nor Thursday.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

100 Quilts for Kids, Sewing Day.

At DC Modern Quilt Guild we have been working up quilts to donate to kids in a homeless shelter next month. 100 Quilts for Kids began a few years back by Katie Blakesley  one of the guild's first presidents. It's a challenge to make a quilt and donate to your favorite kids charity.  Yesterday we had a sewing day meeting devoted to assembling quilt blocks, made by various members or working on a quilt you were making to donate. Many were using fabric donated to the group for this purpose. It's Denyse Schmidt's DS Studio fabric line mixed with solids and other scraps or donated fabrics. One of my favorite quilt book writers who makes pretty vintage looking fabrics in colors that are a bit vintage too.
This past month I worked on hourglass blocks that our guild treasure Heather chose and organized this year. I enjoyed the challenge of making Heather's blocks last year for the same project so I decided to join her team again. We received two fat quarters of fabrics in a bundle to make a pair of blocks and the tutorial to make them up in the block design I had never done before. It took some concentration and a new square trimming tool I didn't have but it was fun once I got going. I finished four hourglass blocks at home.

Then made up another set at the meeting Saturday with some help assembling and pressing from other members. Jessie Aller and her little Vivian did some pressing for this block you see laid out on my cutting mat and Susan assembled the first set of nine from this pair of fabrics.
While I was at lunch the blocks that were completed were laid out on the carpet at the library meeting room and assembled into a twin size top by Heather and several other quilters and was ready to go home to be backed and machine quilted over the next several weeks. It a crazy bold mix up of these funky colors but we know it is going to be some one's delight when it goes to a needy teenager.
I love all the shoes in this shot of the hourglass quilt top

Besides the quilt I worked on there were others that showed up completed and ready to donate we got see with Susan Fuller as the volunteer holder upper of the quilts for these photos. She is tall and did a great job, thank you Susan and these include several of her finished quilts!

There were a lot of groups doing various quilts with this donated DS Studio fabric and I caught a few photos of the quilt tops but not everything.

Melinda took the group fabrics and made a quilt all on her own and was binding it with a great orange-red, she had it quilted by SueZquilts the long arm quilter who is a sponsor to DC Modern Quilt Guild and it looked really sharp. Everyone was interested in the unusual mix of green, orange and purple that made up this quilt derived from one of the DS Studio prints. The best part of working on quilts for some quilters is the selection of prints colors and patterns and how they look when assembled. So even thought it is a lot of work that goes into all the quilts the chance to experiment with different fabrics that might not be your favorites is a good challenge to undertake. It was a fun meeting for charity quilting on a cool rainy autumn day, perfect weather for working inside.

Monday, September 8, 2014

quilts, birthdays, walks and what not.

Quilting by hand, little by little carefully to save myself misery. That misery always comes if one does too much hand work in one sitting and it is a lesson I learn, then forget and have to learn again.  Over Labor day weekend I got carried away and after putting a recently completed improvisational pink and neutrals top together I began quilting with a mad abandon. It was so exciting to be trying something new. The batting was new, a mix of organic cotton and bamboo fiber which is very soft and drapes very nicely, much more so than just cotton batting I have used before. The other exciting thing was trying some spiral in the design of my quilting. Up until now most of my quilting has been variations using straight lines in diagonal or grid patterns. This set me on a roll and I got carried away. I didn't check how much time I spent bent over layering the quilt then drawing on the top and quilting the spiral. So I had to hang it up for a while and ice my neck to reduce the swelling.  I was lucky it was Keith's birthday last week and we had lots of things to do besides sit and quilt because it is a kind of addiction once I get on a roll. The birthday fun gave my neck and arm which were very aggravated a chance to rest.

Being 49 and turning 50 is a big deal, kind of like hitting 30 is for a 29 year old only different and since I am beyond that and marching quickly towards my 60th I understand that Keith was feeling a little anxious about his future. We decided to do what we love doing the best together to celebrate his big day. We packed up our gear and went for a hike and picnic out in nature. I wanted him to see the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this summer and that is what he decided we should do for his big day. It was warm and we were covered in head to toe protection from the sun's harmful rays, the mosquito and tick bites, as well as the most dreaded poison ivy rashes. 

 You can see he was rather weighted down with his big zoom lens and that bag which carried essential things like lunch and water. So when we got home we were both hot and stripped off all that stuff to cool down and enjoy the delicious chocolate buttercream iced cake from Whole Foods and tall glasses of iced water with a mountain of gifts for him to  unwrap.

One special gift I gave him is a new orange patchwork coptic bound journal I made into which he may make notes on turning 50 or what ever he decides to write. I think he deserves to have a big smile for being such a great partner all these 15 years we have been together. Bookbinding is another one of those hand made projects that has to be done a little at a time to keep from aching pains. Next weekend I take these 4 hour glass quilt blocks I made to the charity sewing day at DC Modern Quilt guild's next meeting. That is where they will be assembled into a quilt for a homeless kid. This is just one of 100 quilts for Kids challenge. I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the blocks look like when they all come together in Heather's Hourglass quilt.

Friday, August 29, 2014

wild flower walk at Deep Cut Battlefield Manassas

It began as just a hike to get some exercise and enjoy an unexplored trail in the park. We suited up in long sleeve and pants with our bug proof clothes and some sun screen and big straw hats... of course we also wanted to prevent another exposure to Poison Ivy so we added some ivy block on our feet and legs under our thick socks and hiking shoes. Once we determined where to go for a new trail it was a complete surprise to discover the trail at Deep Cut is a meadow full of flowers that lead to a marshy area and on into the woods and up the hill to the high ground with a scenic view.

thistle and thoroughwort 

grasses mixed with black berry 

Both of us armed with our cameras and luckily good weather blew in after lots of rain so we had a freshly watered wilderness garden to tour. 
With all that tall grass and flowering plants on either side of the mowed trail we were glad we wore protection to keep the deer ticks at bay. This time I am happy to report it worked neither of us got a tick or a serious poison ivy out break. 
The first flower I thought I knew was rag weed turns out to be Late blooming thoroughwort. Near the thistle and bunches of tall flowering grass mixed with berry thickets growing only about 2.5 feet below the grasses. The black stems of those black berry plants were covered with the sharp thorns and I am guessing when I call them black berry. Looking in my field guide I see that Rubus has over 200 varieties that are difficult to distinguish  for experts so lets leave it at that.
late flowering thoroughwort - Eupatorium serotinum

I was in my element strolling along on a mostly empty trail stopping to admire every little plant flowering or to watch as the butterflies skipped from one bunch of flowers to the next. One of my favorites the Iron weed Vernonia noveboracensis was growing in abundance mixed with the daisy like yellow flowers we later determined are tickseed sunflowers ~ Bidens aristosa.

ironweed's violet purple color 
Along the way were more of those wild pink bean flowers and the liatris squarrosa or scaly Blazing-Star which blooms from the top flower down towards the ground. Most plants bloom from the bottom up.

wild pink bean flower and beans straight as a pin
Keith got some good shots of these black swallowtail butterflies but I couldn't get my camera trained on one and focused long enough to capture a good shot. This was the closest I got to a good one while it was visiting the tasty purple ironweed flowers. 
I saw one little patch of white asters out in the field grasses then we came to the edge of the field where I head a crow cawing as Keith approached his sign. He soon flew off into the taller trees but we heard them scolding us for a while after.

There were some orange flowers at the edge of the field along the border where trees grew in the lot next to the field. Jewelweed is a lovely delicate flower also called Spotted touch-me-not Impatients capensis, because the ripe seed pods burst open when touched.  

More to the yellow partridge pea flowering in the grasses next to narrow leaf mountain mint's white flowers and another possible wild mint or bugleweed are visible in this image. 
Then I spotted something I never saw before which on close inspection seemed to be an orchid with no leaves again just a stalk sticking up in the grass with tiny white and green flowers. Before long we were seeing them all around us standing in the grass. It's called Slender ladies' tresses or spiranthes gracilis orchidaceae. It seems the leaves die away before the flower appears just like the one we found in the forest last time we went on a walk at the unfinished railroad trail. I was impressed upon careful inspection to see that the flowers wrap around the stem blooming in a spiral along the stalk and the seed pods form there when the flowers drop off. 

Next we ventured along and discovered a marshy wet area where rainwater had collected and the park service added some board walks to make it easy to pass without getting wet. The sky cleared a bit then and looking back I got a great view at the field's edge beside the forest. In the wet area there were tall sedges growing laden full of seeds and on the other side below and growing on the trees were vines. 

 The dreaded Poison Ivy turns a lovely shade of red in the fall seen on this tree trunk below. Leaves of three leave it be!!!
Poison ivy turning red 
Not to be confused with the perfectly delightful Virginia Creeper which has five leaves and also turns a great shade of cherry red in early autumn but doesn't cause any rashes. I thought it was great that they seemed to be right side by side growing on two different trees so I could share them in this side by side comparison here for us all. Also notice how well behaved the VA creeper is staying small and low on the tree compared to the Ivy which is covering the entire tree trunk above. My hand started itching just thinking about it I better move on.
Virginia Creeper 

Next came a patch of Queen ann's lace as we turned the corner and headed off into the woods to escape the heat of the sun which was shinning more.

We enjoyed walking in the shade and things were a bit low key there after so much to see in the fields but Keith's sharp eye soon spotted a butterfly that looked like bark on a tree. This insect posed on a leaf while I took it's portrait no fluttering what so ever perhaps it thought it was hiding?

Then we came upon a tall Joe Pye Weed in bloom next to a little clearing where there was a bridge over a stream full from the rains the day before.

Sharp eyed Keith spotted a red cardinal flower way off on the edge of the stream in the grasses near the edge. I was happy to have a zoom lens to reach out and take a picture because that area was too far away in the tall growth to try and get any closer. 
Soon we were out of the woods again and in a new field with different flowers and bugs. This interesting native wasp was sipping nectar from the golden rods flowers. I was surprised how different flowers were in different fields some of the same but a few that were not in the last field.  

Keith and I on opposite sides of a Monarch butterfly visiting the yellow tickseed sunflower

a soft blue Mist flower - Eupatorium coelestinum : seen in lots of domestic gardens and flower boxes but much shorter and compacted.  

Eventually we found our way back to the parking lot and car but not before exploring the great view from the high ground held by the Confederates where a row of canon stood overlooking the low ground where men were sliced and diced by the bombs trying to assault them during the second battle of Manassas. Unfinished railroad track ran along the edge of this high ground and we followed it back to the top of the field where we began our walk. It was a spectacular wildflower experience to stumble upon, maybe some birthday luck for me as I turned 59 the day before.  

Spotted Keith took my picture as I was pointing my camera at the  butterflies