We are finally at that time of year that I can snap pics of the butterflies. This little tiny guy is one of my all time favs. He is only about 1" long and except for the brilliant orange on his wings he is entirely gray in color. But he is one smart little butterfly. The way he lights to feed makes bigger butterflys think the orange "eyespot" in the front end of him. And when they come in to attack he can fly in the opposite direction than what they think he is going to. Cause his head is really at the other end. In the pic it is obvious what end his head is at but it is not always as easy to see in real life. This is what you get with a decent lens and a close up adaptor!!
And now my dyeing has gone back to nature also. When in North Carolina I scraped a bit of boring dull green and grey lichen off some trees and brought it home. I made sure I identified it first and found that it was a very common lichen and could be harvested without harming the population. That was actually kind of obvious to me as it was everywhere in my daughter's neighborhood, in the Camp LeJeune Marine Corp base-heck probably everywhere in N. Carolina. But I only brought home 2 little baggies. As soon as I got home I stuck most of one baggie into an ammonia/water bath hoping to get the elusive purples that can come from some lichens. Never mind that none of the experts or veteran dyers had said they could get purple from this variety. But I am the crazy soul who thinks that she will be the first on the planet to mysteriously get purple out of common Hypogymnia. But after 2 weeks the liqueur was a rich brown with no tint of red or purple. So I drew some off hoping to make use of the rich brown. I threw in a small amount of yarn but it barely came out beige after 2 days What to do, what to do?? Well there is always the other method-boiling water. But I just figured I was going to get some boring color similar to the lichen itself. But ever curious I gave it a try. I threw the rest of the lichen in a large enamel pot, poured the boiling water over and set it in the garage for overnight. Shortly after DH goes out and knocks the whole thing over, comes in and tells me I have something to clean up and "WHAT THE HECK IS THAT STUFF ANYWAY"?? So I go scoop it all back up and start over-it's the best I can do at that point. The next morning I dish some up into a jar and see it is a pretty cool orange. I stick a yarn sample in and it turns that lovely shade of orange. So now I am jazzed and decant and strain a good sized amount off and run get my last bit of pre-mordanted yarn to throw in. I let it sit for about 2 hrs admiring it much of that time!! When I finally could not wait any longer I rinsed it(a little ran off) washed it and let it dry. And if I have to say so myself it is gorgeous with a capital "G"!! I threw the rest of the dye back into the pot, threw in a very small amount of ammonia as suggested by the experts whose books I now finally own a few of, and it is sitting out in the garage for a few more days of dye extraction. It is looking a little stronger and darker in color now so I should be able to get at least one more real different color out of it and then whatever happens when I dye with any exhaust left. I was so excited I had to post about it on Ravelry and even suggested a lichen swap. But I have to wait til I can get out to the Witchita Mountains and see what I might be able to collect there. Every description given of the Witchita's includes "Lichen covered granite rocks" so that does sound promising. Audry II reached a milestone this last week. She both passed the 600 mark and became a square!! My girl is growing up. She is now 18 sq's wide by 18 sq's long but I have since started in on a new row. I am trying to make her at least 4 more rows at a row a week more or less. I still love her but I sure am tired of the process and want to be done!! I also just finished a new sock for Maddy out of the new Lion Brand Sock Ease. I am finding the yarn to be quite pleasant and at the price it could be my go to yarn for quickie socks. I will post pics once I am done with the second sock in a week or so.
Another project his last week was to make some home made Feta cheese. It was pretty simple and the end results taste great but my cheese has had 2 issues I will correct in the future. First of all it is too soft. I think this is a result of using commercial milk which often does not have quite enough calcium to give a firm curd. One cheesemaker suggested using a gallons worth of reconstituted dry milk with 1 pint of cream. That would also take care of the problem of finding milk that is not ultra=pasteurized which also works against the cheese making process. And a few recipes call for using Lipase powder, an enzyme that helps sharpen up the flavor. I will probably not buy any for the time being but after I move I will get some to have on hand. I am finding cheese making to be a blast and well worth the time. Out of 1 gallon of milk I got about 24oz of cheese which will keep well until I use them as they are stored in a salt/whey brine in a jar. Other cheeses besides Feta might not last long enough to use that much and I would make smaller batches if I made them. Hard cheeses last really well if waxed and stored properly and I will wait to try my hand at that until I have those conditions to work with.
It may actually rain tonight-Yippee!! It has been a really hot miserable week-like the door from Hades had been left open. And it may still be fairly cool on Monday which I plan on taking advantage of by going out to the Witchita's to look for more lichen. God I am obsessed!! Meanwhile everyone go out and make the world more beautiful one stitch at a time...