52 Forms of Fungi || #35

Dung bell, a charming name, isn't it?  These cute little guys are often associated with cow manure and grow in masses.  I thought about throwing some dog poo in the photos for effect, but when I realized that meant I would be crawling around in the grass with my camera next to dog poo, I decided against it.  These were fun and simple to make.  I might churn out some more for a small piece, which I've been working on a collection of.  Just in time for the holidays!
This structure was knitted as part of my 52 Forms of Fungi project. Check out more of the forms from this project.

A Place For Discovery

Discovery Park in Seattle is the urban nature lover's dream come true - right in the middle of town, trails to get lost on, a view of the Puget Sound, plus a beautiful forest.  I could have spent an entire day there! Here are a few photos from the time I got to indulge.
No matter where I am, I find that there is so much to be seen.  The Pacific Northwest contains some of my favorite ecosystem types so it's easy to be amazed by what's present there, but even in my own backyard I find that nature inspires me.  Always keep your eyes open… you never know what will move you.

52 Forms of Fungi || #34

In Washington, we hiked in the Snoqualmie-Mt. Baker National Forest in the North Cascades, which was pretty much heaven for me in terms of the ecosystem and diversity of fungi.  One of the most striking species we came across had a cap of deep purple that had somewhat of a shimmer to it (perhaps from moisture on the tiny hairs?).  The rich, dark color was easy to overlook in the shadows of the trees, but was truly beautiful to behold.  As I was going through my new guidebook that I mentioned in the last post, I knew as soon as I flipped to the page that this is what I had seen.  Violet cort.  I also thought it funny that this species has been on my list for a while, as I was drawn to it in earlier research.  I really had no idea how much it would impact me to see it in person, but feel fortunate to have had the opportunity.  The bottom photo shows one of the mushrooms that I observed.  The setting is vastly different, but in November in Oklahoma, you work with what you can!
This structure was knitted as part of my 52 Forms of Fungi project. Check out more of the forms from this project.

52 Forms of Fungi || #33

While in the Paxton Gate store in Portland, OR last month, I picked up a field guide to western mushrooms entitled All That the Rain Promises, and More, by David Arora. If you take a look at the cover, you'll see why it caught my eye - it depicts a trombone player in concert attire, sneaking around harvesting mushrooms before a gig.  I laughed, and then opened it up to discover that it's actually a pretty informative and user friendly guide and then decided to buy it as a souvenir.
While looking through and spotting many of what I believe to be the species I saw in the North Cascades during the same trip, I was also inspired by some of them for this series and added to my list of fungi to knit.  The first is velvety black earth tongue.  The dark color and dainty form stood out to me, since it's pretty different from most of the species I've incorporated into this project.
This structure was knitted as part of my 52 Forms of Fungi project. Check out more of the forms from this project.

Witch's Hair

 When we started planning our recent trip to Washington state, I knew that I wanted to take advantage of the landscape for at least one small installation.  Time was not abundant, so in the end it turned out to be pretty minimal.  After getting my lichen feet wet through collaborating with Sarah Hearn this spring, I've spent much of the summer planning out some new work that branches into lichen territory.  I love knitting fungi, but also find lichen to be extremely fascinating the more I learn about it.  And the more I observe it I find that I just can't help stopping to get up close and take in every one that I spot.  It's hard to pull away at times!
This piece was inspired by Witch's hair (a rather magnified version of witch's hair).  I wish I could have made it larger, but I do intend to continue exploring this species for a larger body of work that I've begun, so if you like it then stick around!
Just after I took my last photo, I heard a creak and glanced over to see a large snag tip and crash to the ground across the trail about 50 feet away.  No one was nearby, thankfully, but it was magnificent to see.  It's strange how an incident like witnessing a giant fall to the ground like that can make you feel so small, when it also brings you to realize that the giant itself is minuscule in comparison to the magnitude of the world.  Nature is so vast.  We are but one tiny component in this, yet we as humans feel that we control it all.  It's a nice reminder that the world keeps spinning, trees keep growing and falling and the Earth will continue to nurture everything on it until the end of time.  I feel refreshed and inspired with each moment that I spend in the wild.


 J and I just returned from a trip out west to celebrate our third anniversary - we spent about a week in the Seattle area staying with some friends, and spent a lot of time outdoors.  My friend Sharalee took these photos that I thought I would share since I have not had the chance to upload my own yet.  The middle one is a pretty typical scene on hikes with me!  I will share more soon about what caught my eye on our adventures.  There's nothing more soothing than immersing oneself into wild places.




52 Forms of Fungi || #32

Sarcosphaera coronaria.  A grayish rubbery (in appearance) egg shape forms only to break open and reveal a beautiful purple interior.  It's like the geode of fungi!  So beautiful.  This is another great example of a species that just stunned me with its unique features when I was researching new forms to create.  As if there's a species of fungi that doesn't have that result.
According to Wikipedia, it grows in the mountains within coniferous forests, forming underneath humus on the forest floor and often appearing after the snow begins to melt away.  It can also apparently bioaccumulate toxic chemicals such as arsenic.  I wonder if it may be cultivated for bioremediation?  It's amazing what nature can do.
I used Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine yarn for this phase, which was so graciously provided to me by Berroco.  Just a couple of phases are left to create from the stash they sent me, on top of the 20 forms left to complete the series.  Violet crown cup utilized the Steel Cut Oats and Lavender Mix color ways. No matter the gauge of Ultra Alpaca used, one of my favorite parts of this yarn (besides the softness) is the stitch definition.  I use it for so many projects!
This structure was knitted as part of my 52 Forms of Fungi project. Check out more of the forms from this project.

Harvested || Pokeweed Dye

I still have a lot to learn about native plants.  Herbaceous plants are so much harder to ID than trees - trees are easy, or maybe it's just because that's my area of expertise.  I recently started following a wildcrafting group on Facebook just to learn more about the plants that I see on a daily basis… And aside from the tree posts (which I can usually chime in on) the main thing I've learned is that THERE ARE SO MANY PLANTS THAT LOOK LIKE OTHER PLANTS!  So I have a lot of observation and studying up to do.  Fortunately, there are other plants that look NOTHING like other plants.  Take pokeweed, for instance.  The huge leaves, and pink flower stalks which eventually bear these blueberry-like (though not edible) fruits.
I picked up a book in Portland, Oregon a couple of years ago called Harvesting Color, a beautiful and informative guide to native dye plants across the US (with recipes).  I remember recognizing poke weed in the book as a plant that I had seen in people's gardens.  Now that I think about it, I'm not sure if people plant it as an ornamental or if it just shows up and they let it stay because it looks pretty.  Because let's face it, it looks really dang pretty.
Last fall around this time, J and I were on a hike in Charon's Garden in the Wichita Wildlife Refuge in this gnarly little canyon/boulderfield, and I remember glancing over to see this one majestic little pokeweed.  The first one I had observed since reading about it in the book.  Then I took some photos and continued along the trail until becoming distracted by some lichen making their home on a face of granite.
This spring, all types of plants sprang up around my new yard, some of which I knew and others which I did not.  I had started a wildflower bed on the far back lot and while I was checking obsessively every day hoping to spot some type of activity with my seeds, these large, leafy seedlings sprouted behind them and continued to grow larger and larger.  It wasn't until I started to see a pink tint transforming the base of the stems that I knew… pokeweed.  As the season wore on, I began to spot more and more of these colorful, unusual plants.  From my observation, the hummingbirds like them too.
The berries have been ripening and drying out for weeks now and I finally made myself get out and harvest some for a solar dyeing project this past weekend.  One hand holding the jar and the other in a latex glove, I stripped several handfuls of berries from over a dozen plants on my half acre, watching the pink juice dripping off of my glove and thankful to experience this craft.  100 grams of wool and an alum mordant later, I'm excited to see how the dye fixes to the yarn a few weeks from now.

All The Little Details

I never cease to be amazed by the texture in these amazing little organisms.  The cap on this little guy was only about 3-4 inches across, but check out the level of detail in the underside.  J found him when cleaning out the flower bed a few weeks back.  It's unfortunately been too warm lately to do much hiking, so sometimes inspiration from the yard must suffice.  The bottom photo is from an excursion to our favorite hiking spot in town last month.
September is here - I always sigh a bit of relief when August is gone.  The heat will gradually subside and I will take a deep breath and suddenly crisp fall air, colorful leaves and seasonal yard decorations will appear.  I live for this season.
Happy Weekend.

Solar Dyeing || #4 - Onion Skins

A while back I mentioned doing some solar dyeing demonstrations for an Earth Day event at Martin Park Nature Center in conjunction with my exhibition, Niche.  At the end of June, I finished off a couple of my dye jars and had only shared the one using red bud blossoms.  The jar shown here included 100% wool dyed with onion skins, using alum as a mordant.  As you can see, it was packed pretty tightly.  The resulting yarn showed some interesting variegation of yellow and orange-brown.
My posting schedule has been a little inactive this past month - summertime has its demands I have not been able to spend much time at the computer.  I do have a few projects to share soon, however.  Until later this week...

Harvested || Dye From Red Bud Blossoms

Back in April, I did some solar dyeing demonstrations for Earthfest at Martin Park Nature Center, in conjunction with my outdoor exhibition, Niche.  Oklahoma's state tree is eastern red bud, and they are abundant here.  Funny enough, our climate tends to be a little hard on these little trees in the summer - they often have sunscald, splits in the trunk and decay, especially when growing in full sun.  The 'Oklahoma' variety has a thicker cuticle on its leaves and tends to be a little more tolerant of heat and drought.  In any case, red bud puts on quite a show in the spring with the small purple blooms lining its branches.  We have a few fairly mature specimens in the back yard, and I decided to try a little experiment this spring.  I collected a bagful of blossoms to use in one of my demonstration jars, unsure of what the outcome would be.  Flowers can be deceptive when it comes to dyeing - I learned that when I got a lovely sage green from prairie coneflower last summer.  While I would have been delighted with a purple hue, I went into this experiment without expectations, and I was wowed by the result.  After two and a half months in the dye jar, I finished with incredibly vibrant, golden yarn.  It's beautiful!  Next year I will definitely make more, and try it out with different mordants to see the variation.
This yarn was dyed using red bud blossoms with an alum mordant and a splash of vinegar.  I boiled half of my blooms to extract color before putting water in the jar with the yarn, and added a handful of fresh flowers to the jar as well.

Black Swallowtail Larvae

I'm growing dill this year mainly to use in pickling, so I don't mind so much that the little patch of fragrant herbs are being consumed by these beautiful black swallowtail caterpillars.  At least, I won't mind until I go to make pickles, in which case… bummer.  So many of these little guys are hanging out that I'm thinking another round of seed sowing is in order so they won't run out of food-- I would love to see some black swallowtail chrysalises in the garden!  Now to figure out where that seed packet went...

52 Forms of Fungi || #31

I've always loved looking at photos of this type of fungi - the brightness of the colors and stacked/fanned out growth habit are very beautiful.  Sulfur shelf, or chicken of the woods mushroom, grows on living or dead trees, often on the main trunk.  Its presence on a living tree indicates extensive decay and increased potential for tree failure.
This is another piece which Berroco so kindly provided yarn for me to create.  Made with Ultra Alpaca, the color ways shown are Masa and Grove Mix.  I still have a few more phases left involving the lovely Berroco yarns!
This structure was knitted as part of my 52 Forms of Fungi project. Check out more of the forms from this project.

Tangled Up

J and I went hiking the other day in an area that was totally overtaken in some parts by wild grape vines.  He spotted this snake skin tangled up in some of the vines - some little dude decided that was a good spot to shed his skin.  The ants seemed to think so too.  I love the texture of it.
If you're in the US I hope you're having a wonderful Fourth of July holiday.  My initiative for the weekend - find an ice cream maker (if everyone else didn't have the same idea and buy them all up) and make use of those blackberries and strawberries ripening in my garden.  Cheers!

52 Forms of Fungi || #30

Cedar-apple rust (or hawthorne, or quince, etc) is one of the most alien looking natural wonders that I have witnessed in my area.  A multiple host disease, it passes back and forth between eastern red cedar and apple.  It affects other trees in that family here as well.  The cedar stage involves the formation of these bright orange, gelatinous tendrils coming forth from a dark brown gall-like sphere in the spring months. Red cedar doesn't seem to come to harm from it, though the other host will develop protrusions of its own on its leaves and continually defoliate.  We've had problems with hawthorne trees in the landscape due to this… they just don't do well.
The fruiting structures are fascinating, though!  I love observing them.  The first year I noticed this disease was a very prolific year for the structures, and I remember just being awestruck!
Rusts don't fall into the same group as the other things knitted for this project, but they're still in Kingdom Fungi so I think that's close enough--don't you?  If anyone has photos they have taken of cedar apple rust in its fullness, please post one on my Facebook wall and I will share it with the page!  We didn't get much rain this spring, so the ones I saw (below, at the bottom of the post) had already dried up by the next time I went out.
An added bonus: Here is what the eastern red cedar stage looks like when the fruiting structure is just starting to form!

A New Adventure

I'm not sure why it has taken me so long to post anything about this here, since this is a new endeavor that I am very excited about… but if you follow me on Instagram you've probably seen the many honeybee photos and videos.  I am now keeping bees!  The video above shows the entrance of the hive within a couple of weeks of receiving them, and the photos below depict the installation process.  My apiary consists of a Langstroth hive, with Italian bees that arrived by package.
Beekeeping has interested me for a number of years, since I worked a plot in El Jardin Allegre, a community garden in Austin, TX.  That was really the beginning of my gardening experience, and I cannot recommend enough to get involved with a community garden--- it was probably one of the most valuable things I did while living in Austin.  Over in the corner near the compost station were a few honeybee colonies, and at that time the beekeeping coordinator position was vacant.  I spent a lot of time in my post of managing the compost and was always going past the hives, surprised at how little the cared about my presence and thrilled at sightings of pollinators visiting my plot.
Fast forward a couple of years, when I first learned of Colony Collapse Disorder.  Since the beginning of my gardening days I've felt very strongly about chemical free growing, and found CCD frightful upon first hearing about it.  Aside from the effects of harmful substances making their way into colonies and emergence of difficult to control pests and diseases, the number of managed honeybee colonies in the United States has dropped drastically since the 1950's.  With the size of our lot, our interest in gardening and native plants, and a continued concern for the impacts of human actions on the environment it seemed natural to add an apiary to the family.

I knew it would be a fascinating experience, but I had no idea how much I would love this new endeavor.  Coming home to go watch the bees and inspect the garden are the highlights of my day!  I still feel very intimidated when inspecting the hive, but have learned so much through books, Facebook groups, web sites and gaining experience through attentive beekeeping practices.  I hope to share more of this journey with you over time - this is just the beginning.

A study just came out confirming that plants treated with neonicotinoids to ward off pest problems are a major factor in CCD.  These plants are sold in many of the big box garden centers, including Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart.  Check out more about this study here.

Removing the can of sugar syrup from the opened package
Placing the package inside the hive.  After a few days I opened it back up and removed the emptied package to lean against the outside of the hive.  Any bees left exited and went in the hive entrance.

Mushroom (The Journal of Wild Mushrooming) Feature

A few days ago I was excited to return from vacation to find the latest issue of Mushroom: The Journal of Wild Mushrooming in our stack of mail from the week.  Inside was a nice little feature on my 52 Forms of Fungi project!  (speaking of which, I will have a new post for the series up next week!)


 Thank you very much to Leon and the folks at Mushroom The Journal for sharing my work - it's very exciting to see in print!  I'm glad to have been made aware of this publication with its abundance of great information and interesting articles about fungi.  Interested in subscribing?  You can learn how, here!
If you found my blog through the article, welcome and thank you for following along.  Happy mushrooming!