Thursday, July 27, 2006

Fairies' Purses Revisited

New Birds' Nest Fungus More Birds' Nest Fungi

After an interlude of handbag stitching, there is a certain logic to revisiting my Fairies' Purse fungi. Several rains have splashed all the little funiculi "coins" out of the purses, but the rough orange blobs are fresh purses sprouting all over the stick. There's even a new purse growing inside an old one. You know from the previous birds' nest fungi post where the yellow fur came from.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bib Overalls Pocket On a Patchwork Totebag

Bib Overall Pocket on patchwork tote bag

I sewed up this tote bag yesterday, after thinking about it for a couple of weeks. I had the bib from an old pair of overalls, and thought it would make a cute and useful exterior pocket. All the materials are reused. I haven't put in the lining yet, because I'm still trying to decide whether the flip side is too plain or not. I have plenty of work shirt buttons that would make an attractive decoration on the dark denim rectangles, but it might be too texture-y to be practical.

In the process of thinking about the design, I spent a little time looking at handmade handbag Web sites. This is an example of an activity greatly enhanced by my DSL connection. With dial-up, it would have taken me days to winnow through the search results and find this many nifty sites with inspiring photos and patterns. This took about an hour. In the end, I sewed the bag I originally envisioned, but I got some really interesting ideas for more projects.

Free Resources

Commercial Resources--Patterns, Hardware, and Handmade Bags

tote bag side tote bag back

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Bird's Nest Fungus (Nidulariaceae)

Bird's Nest Fungus

According to W.C. Roody's Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians, These are Crucibulum laeve, the Common Bird's Nest. Princess and the birds' nests I agree with him that "this little fungus is always a pleasure to find." These are growing on a butterfly bush stem, but I find them on rotting stuff pretty often here on Droop Mountain. One summer I uncovered a large scrap of plywood crowded with the little nests full of tiny "eggs." It looked like some miniature sea bird rookery. When it rains on these birds' nests, the peridioles (eggs) fly out, trailing their little spring-like "stems" or funiculi. The funiculi have sticky ends which adhere to larger objects, anchoring the spore-filled "eggs" to their new homes.

I've also heard these strange little basidiomycetes called "fairies' purses," with the "eggs" interpreted as tiny silver coins. You can see in the photo at left why subsequent pictures of these charming fungi will feature whisps of yellow fur.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Blogger's Block

Rhododendron at Allegheny Lodge

This weblog has been more miss than hit lately, due to upheavals in my technological life. After years of wishing, I finally bought a digital SLR camera, and it is complex enough to require much experimentation. It's also made necessary changes in the way I manage my hard drive "space," view my images, and edit them.

Just when I thought I was getting a handle on these changes, the phone company called to let me know DSL is available in my area. This was astonishing, and I expect it will enhance my computer experience eventually, but for now, it's made me reorganize my LAN, learn a lot about hardware and software firewalls (for both Linux and Macintosh), and spend hours reinstalling my Debian OS on two Pentium boxes. Soon, I'll have to change my web hosting arrangements.

These two technological upgrades ought to improve my Web presence and enhance my blogging experience eventually, but right now I feel a little overwhelmed and intimidated by the possibilities. Before, on a dial-up connection, it took about twenty minutes to upload an edited jpg file and an accompanying html file, so I had to prepare my material in advance. I wrote my html in Emacs (my text editor of choice, and the One True Religion). If I wanted to post a photo, I had to finish a roll of film, take it to the drugstore, get it back, scan the negative, and edit the image down to a quick-loading jpg file. This long process gave me several opportunities to review and edit the text, catch my habitual errors, and decide if the picture was worthwhile. Now I can upload any sort of crap as fast as I can type, and slap up any snapshot within minutes of clicking the shutter. I can review Web resources in minutes rather than hours, download podcasts and videos without planning my week around the process.

I don't usually have writer's block (or photographer's block), but this sudden wealth of possibilities has me frozen in place. I could really change the focus of my Web work, alter my pace, branch out into new content areas.... And while I've been dazed by all this, two of the bloggers I most enjoy have been musing on what blogs are, and what their blogs should be. Dave of Via Negativa recently observed:

The blogosphere has been billed as an alternative to the mainstream media, but in many ways, it's just as superficial. The emphasis remains on speed rather than accuracy, sensationalism rather than nuance, and two-sided conflicts rather than the full complexity of life as most of us experience it in our daily lives. Even for us non-political bloggers, there's a great temptation to simply post our latest snapshots, with a few accompanying sentences of breathless prose, and move on to something else. To try to see anything more fully, to observe it attentively and then take the time to describe or depict it with as much care and effort as we can muster seems almost counter-cultural. But if the bloggers I tend to read have anything in common, it might be precisely this, that they are dedicated to documenting what Barbara Brown Taylor refers to as "alternate reality."

Meanwhile, Lorianne of Hoarded Ordinaries has been examining the way her weblog has shifted its focus over the last three years.

...It's quick & easy to slap up a snapshot and say "I'm done blogging for the day"; it takes a bit more time, care, and attention to detail to craft a meaningful post that actually says something.

In my early days of photo-blogging, I justified my "quickie" photo posts by telling myself they were like postcards: although we all love to receive long, carefully-crafted letters, it's also great to get short postcards that assure us "The weather is great; wish you were here." In my mind, a frequently updated blog is more valuable than one that only occasionally posts new (albeit carefully crafted) material: in the blogosphere, frequent snacking seems to be "healthier" (and more popular with readers) than the bloggish equivalent of occasional elaborate feasts....

At a certain point, every writer asks herself, "What do I have to say that's unique to my background and expertise; what do I have to say that needs to be said?" ....these days I'm trying to watch which way the wind is blowing, trying to admit that everything, blogs included, change over time, with there inevitably being a time to be silent as well as a time to speak.

I promise that I will keep posting whether or not I figure out what my blog mission is or not. Perhaps the process will sort it out for me.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Doily Fraud--The Seamy Underbelly of Pioneer Days

Last week I was asked to judge the knitting category in Marlinton's Pioneer Days Craft Show. When I arrived in town with my evaluation forms in hand, I discovered that there were no entries. The competition is generally referred to as the "Quilt Show," so I wasn't too surprised at this turn of events. Instead, I assisted the crochet category judge, a last-minute stand-in. There were about ten crochet entries, and I think we evaluated them fairly, with one possible exception.

It seems a cotton doily we ranked in the top four was suspect. According to the quilter who organized the show, the woman who brought in the doily entered it on behalf of her neighbor, along with another doily with a "Made in China" sticker still attached. The rules state that the entry must be your own work, an explicit addition after last year's scandal, in which it was revealed that the award-winning quilt was a purchased article.

Now, it costs $2 to enter an item in the show, and the winner's financial stakes are very low--less than the cost of a doily at Wal-Mart. What would motivate doily fraud? Bragging rights are limited, because one runs the risk of coming in third in a field of two. Myself, I've never entered an item in the show because once the competition is over, the display is not watched carefully, and much that is not nailed down in Marlinton disappears during Pioneer Days. (This is not typical--the rest of the year I leave my car unlocked without qualm. I blame the huge crowds from out of town.)

What kind of person commits doily fraud? My faith in needle artists is shaken. I have also been disturbed to learn of dissent and ill-feeling among the quilters in Pocahontas County. There are, it seems, quilters who would not interact with "that quilt show" for anything on earth. It's all rather disillusioning.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Same Old Stuff

We continue with the cherry pitting obsession, but clearly, we are not alone in this.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Assassin Bugs and Bowls of Cherries

Zelus exsanguinus in a bowl of cherries

We're deep in the process of picking and pitting cherries, but this assassin bug (Zelus exsanguinus) distracted me for a few minutes. I don't see too many assassin bugs here on Droop Mountain, and they are my favorites. This subfamily (Harpactorinae) spends its time up on flowering plants and trees waiting for prey.