Learn how to crawl: the New York City Yarn CrawlΒ is on through Sunday, September 25.

Audubon Society Meeting

Dear Kay,
We’ll start with knitting today, but we’re not going to end there.
When cranking out yet another tweed mitered square begins to tax a girl’s imagination, I go hang out with my sock. (Tweedy is going well, don’t worry. But it IS a blanket, you know.)
Part of a sock, actually. This is Sock Number 7 (I’m starting to sound like Howard Finster, who consecutively numbered each of his paintings to the point that at the bottom of a painting you’d see “#34,309.” Come bonk me on the head with a mallet if I make sock #34,309.)
Ol’ No. 7 uses that lush sock yarn, Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock. (I think. My yarn taxonomy skills are wasting away this summer, what with the relative lack of yarn shops in my life.) It’s purple all right, but a warbly purple that moves around just the way I like a color to move.
The pattern is the Child’s First Sock (Made for a Woman with Big Feet) from Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush. I bought this book at the Flagstaff, Arizona, Barnes and Noble last month, when I snuck away from the fellas to see if a person could find a sock book in Flagstaff. A person could.
What a great book. Really great patterns, including the exotic idea of a bed sock–“Here in Victorian England, we’re covering our bodies all day, every day.”
I am here to tell you that knitting a lace pattern in a sock is a very different experience from knitting a plain old ribbed sock. It’s just not the same at ALL. I’m finding myself having to Pay Attention, at a level that I tend to reserve for projects I want to wear at eye level, visible to all, available to be complimented or at least commented upon. Not for a project that’s going to live its life inside a shoe.
I’ll keep soldiering away, but the empty-headed pleasure of the plain old sock is what I really crave.
Next Topic: BIRD TALK
Apologies for not providing a proper bluebird update until now. Believe me, it’s not like I haven’t been thinking about them, or keeping my little birdwatching diary. Or taking dozens of pictures of them. It’s just that getting online is kind of tricky up here in Monteagle. Here’s how it has gone since I last reported.
Saturday, July 1:
One, two, three beaky heads poke out in the door in various permutations all morning. The mom is going to need to start taking Xanax before long; she is freaked that humans have shown up. I tell everybody not to use our kitchen door, for the duration, in hopes of giving the mom a little peace.
Dad keeps the bugs coming, cool-headed fighter pilot.
At this point, we had to return to Nashville over the past weekend for a memorial service which ended up being a tender time. It was Hubbo’s grandfather, Big Daddy, who died two years ago and who wanted his body donated to the medical school at Vanderbilt. Well, we finally bade farewell to this great person–the one whose swingy piano-playing inspired the Big Dotty piano bench cushion. (Now THAT’S a legacy, right?)
I was doing great at the Temple Cemetery until the rabbi, a young woman with a great voice, said, “And now Albert has left the circle of family . . .” I looked around the circle of family and realized that our generation is starting to look suspiciously like the Grownups in the family circle. Booooohooooo! I looked down and saw all the markers for the Beloved and Departed Relatives Previously Known as Grownups. Booooooodoublehooooooo!
Sunday, July 2:
Much fambly fun, but no bluebirds. No bluebirds? Ack!
Monday, July 3:
All weekend I worried that the babies would take off while we were gone. But upon returning on Monday, I found them sticking their actual heads out their porthole:
Yay! They didn’t leave!
They look less like pteradactyls than they did even two days ago, and their round heads look sort of like Flipper the dolphin.
They’re heavy into sunbathing, and they rest their beaks on the doorway for long periods. One of them lounges with his mouth WIDE OPEN, like some Venus flytrap.
At one point, a bug flew in, and the bird just about flipped with surprise.
The big observation yesterday is this:
At the time I took this photo of the mom on a nearby gutter, bug in mouth, ready to feed, there was another female bluebird feeding the babies. TWO MOTHERS. HUH? It turns out, after my wikiresearch, that sometimes the first batch of babies grows up enough to help with the second batch. Blended family. Or polygamists. So 21st century . . . or 19th century . . .
Tuesday, July 4
The birds? One of them sticks half his body out the door.
This one is clearly the overachiever bird–I can recognize this one because his (her?) head looks smoother than the other ones. I think I see a fourth beak today. It’s like Loch Ness in there. I really wish I could see what the deal is inside that squalid little condo.
They have figured out that the little bugs flying outside the door are Food, if they catch them. The birds are terrible at catching them, but they do try.
Wednesday, July 5
5:12 am: I am wide awake, which is unusual for me during the summer. I’m awake because I realize that my little talk today will be a disaster if I don’t find out, and soon, whether my laptop will connect to the projector in the chapel where I’m going to be blabbing about knitting. I decide that nobody has ever used a Macintosh in this place, and it won’t work, and I will be doomed to describe handknits using only words. Could there be a more grim hour than talking about knitting with nothing to show? No, there could not. There will be no answer to my question until the office here opens at 8:30.
I decide to clean out the refrigerator as a way to distract myself from dwelling on the fact that my 75-slide presentation is never going to be seen by humans. As I chuck out four jars of dead salsa, I grieve over the sad truth that my presentation will die on the vine.
The refrigerator has never been so organized. Flylady.com would admire the sorting of the jars in the door. Fruits? Right bin. Celery? Left bin. Why do I have celery? Who eats celery around here? Why didn’t I resolve the projector problem last week?
Another diversionary tactic: I dry my hair. Have I mentioned that I got a new hair dryer, a hair dryer that (GET THIS) blows IONS ONTO YOUR WET HAIR AND MAKES IT SMOOTH? Have I mentioned this? You MUST get one of these things. It’ll change your life.
Still worrying about the projector.
I check the bird situation every five minutes or so. They’re awake, but not all that busy. Dad starts bringing stuff, and the babies open up as usual with their desperate FEEDMEFEEDMEFEEDMEs. But when Dad leaves, I notice that their voices have changed. Their cheeps are lower and more expressive. When did that happen?
Why didn’t I check the projector thing last week?
8:05 am: Overachiever is doing something new.
See those little feet under there? He/she has been sticking half its body out the window for the past few minutes, still as a stone. All of a sudden, he pulls his body all the way back in, then out, then in. He gets his claws up on the edge of the doorway.
I realize that something is happening here.
8:10 am: One, two, three–JUMP! He heaves ho, and in a blink he’s gone. I can’t believe it–he’s flying, just like that. He veers right, heads up, and disappears into a tree. It’s a curving flight, not too strong, but he doesn’t wipe out or bonk into the wall.
I’m searching desperately to find him (and he’s definitely a male, bright blue).
There he is, twenty feet up on the branch of a tree. Blue back, white belly. He looks for all the world like any other bird. You wouldn’t know that a minute ago, he was a baby.
I can’t believe I get to see this. I could have been drying my hair or worrying about the projector.
8:12: Number Two is in the doorway. You can hear Dad calling to him. One, two, three–JUMP! Bonks right into the kitchen window, flapping madly, trying to perch on the edge of the window sill.
He can’t get a grip and slides to the ground. Dad swoops down to check, then swoops away. Up rises what looks like a small, drifting ballon, except that it has wings which are flapping madly. He lands on the wood fence (I see that it’s another male), where he sits perfectly still. I get a good look at him. That’s who’s been in that box all this time.
He veers over to the metal roof:
Can he be half as surprised as I am?
8:15: Number Three is not so eager. He puts his head out, but there’s no urgency in it. For fifteen minutes he stares out the window. He’s like Ferdinand the bull or Bartleby the Scrivener.
Dad comes by to exhort him.
Still no flying. Dad calls again. He cheeps in return, but doesn’t move.
8:35 am: This bird looks somehow younger than the other two. He’s up on the edge of the doorway, but his feathers look different from the other two fledglings. I realize it’s a female, smaller than her brothers. She really looks timid. One, two, three–JUMP. She immediately falls to the ground, where there’s a giant hosta. I can’t see the ground, but I see Dad swoop down. I run outside and peer around the corner of the house.
She’s under the hosta, still. I watch, and after a minute she flaps out, gaining only two feet of altitude, and bonks into the wood fence, where she settles.
There she sits. Another five minutes of sitting, fluffing up her feathers, smoothing them. Fluff/smooth. Fluff/smooth. Is she going to fly?
Up she goes, another drifting balloon of a bird, to the metal roof of our shed. It’s a terrible place for a fledgling to land, because she can’t get a grip. She scrambles her way to the peak, catches hold, and surveys the view. She’s off again, landing in a sassafras tree.
8:50: Will a fourth bird emerge from the nest? I wait, but there is no fourth bird.
What a day. What a day: I saw the bluebirds launch, the fridge is clean, and my hair is so very smooth. I don’t even care if the computer hooks up to the projector.



  1. Aww Ann! I don’t even like birds – something to do with my father making pigeons land on me for a phot op in Venice – scarred for life… But that was awe inspiring. I have been sitting on my back porch looking at these little bluebirds in a whole new light thanks to you. I am beginning to feel like Cinder – freakin – rella. Waiting for them to knit me a gown. That was great! Thank you for such a nice way to make my day.
    PS. Love the sock. I may have to be brave and start something lacy.

  2. That is just so exciting! I’ve never seen it “live” before, so it must really be a thrill. My office has a window, and I stare out enough as it is; imagine if there was a birdhouse outside? I’d never get work done.

  3. Didn’t you just start knitting socks like a month ago? This is your 7th?! Crazy.
    Did we decide to do a monthly knitting thingie at the Nashville Public Library? When is it again?

  4. A gripping tale, well told….
    I sound like I’m reviewing a novel. πŸ™‚

  5. I have loved the bird saga.

  6. Wonderful job capturing the saga of the wee bluebirdies! I’ve never been so lucky to watch any young’uns fledge (geeky technical term for birdies taking flight for the first time). Beautiful job capturing all of it!
    Mouth-wide-open birds are just hot, and trying to cool themselves. I’m sure that the temperature inside the birdhouse is good incentive to try flying for the first time!

  7. This actually made me choke up a bit (I’ve only had two hours of sleep the past two days, but still). Incredibly cool! And from what you’ve said earlier in this saga (and from the comments) you and WE were SO lucky to have seen this! Thank you so much for NOT checking on the projector sooner. Without all the worry and insomnia we might have missed it!!

  8. Thanks for sharing. And what a great picture of Dad–caught in mid-flight–encouraging baby to fly! Good luck on your presentation. And yay to having a Mac!

  9. I have absolutely loved your real-time birdie documentary. Thank you!
    I have been putting the baby pictures on our home computer for the background, and at first my family couldn’t tell what the pictures were, so I had to explain. They’ve enjoyed the updates too. Today I can’t decide which picture to use! I might have to stretch this over a few more days. πŸ™‚ My own little story-telling.

  10. Love the bluebird update! Love the sock and I’m glad you have smooth hair.

  11. What a photo of papa bird! We’ll be expecting a new book on this ya know. Thanks so much for sharing.

  12. Wow, who needs television with all this drama outside the kitchen window?

  13. I’m tearing up a bit over the bluebirds. (lack of sleep, overly hormonal, possibly just a big blubbering baby)Thank you SO MUCH for sharing the pics and the stories with us, I’ve never seen baby birds up close and personal that way.

  14. Isn’t it funny how fast the little ones grow up? This is true across the board.
    I do have one of those hairdryers and I am sure I can see the difference. Not as much frizz this summer.
    Good luck on your presentation.

  15. Just wait until that sock is finished. You’ll love patterned socks and those will be all you can knit (I bet). See what’s good about socks is that in such a small area (and relative small time commitment) you can experiment with different stitch patterns.
    And the birds are adorable. My mom has some on her porch – it is very entertaining to watch them poking their heads up, sticking their necks out, etc.

  16. AWWWWW! Bye baby birdies!
    Is the magic ion blowdryer only cool for people who have curly, un-smooth hair? My hair is staight as a stick but takes FOREVER to blow dry, so I’m always looking for a better blower. I should probably buy an army surplus jet engine, but only if it has ions! πŸ™‚

  17. I read every darn bird and was cheering for the runt by the end of the story. Who knew I’d be so attached to your birds?

  18. Three cheers for the ionic dryer! I have a T3, one of the original ionic dryers, and it has *seriously* changed my life. No more poofy hair! Dries is 3 minutes! Can also be used to speed dry caulking, swatches, and handwashables! And, with a ceramic plate flat iron (I have, and love, a HAI) there are no bad hair days!

  19. I know what you mean about looking around and discovering your generation is The Grownups. It’s terrifying.

  20. LOVE IT! Love the birdies! Go birdies go!
    Love that sock pattern too – it was so fun to make. Lace socks are unnerving the first time or two, then they get fuuuuun. You should try the Embossed Leaves socks from Winter 05 IK next time you feel like lace…it’s a super fun pattern!

  21. Oh, how awesome about the birdies!
    Hope the presentation goes well. I’ve had my own issues with Powerpoint projectors and laptops, etc.

  22. WOWzers! Better than the Discovery Channel! Find some bears, frogs, or even roleypoley’s to stalk, wouldya? I can’t bear the thought of not having any more wildlife to observe.
    Good luck with keeping that fridge thing up. It’s a neverending battle at my house. And my kid is still in utero. No celery for her.

  23. bird talk:
    AMAZING! the footage of these birds is great! the pictures of the mid-flight papa and the poofy babies are so great! this was definitely a gripping blog entry and i hope there are a few more bird talk entries yet to come…unless they decide to get the hang of flying in one day and fly off into the sunset…it’s like your own personal Winged Migration, right outside your kitchen window!
    sock talk:
    love the sock–looks verrry nice. and to make sure that such a great sock like that doesn’t go missed, do what I do:
    “hey, you want to see my new socks?”
    “look! aren’t they beautiful?”
    do this to anyone and everyone you see and you’ll feel much better about your pretty socks being stuck inside a pair of shoes. :o)

  24. How wonderful. Isn’t it great to take the time to observe nature the way that you did as a child? As adults we rarely make the time. But it’s so worth it. I hope your slideshow went well. xox, J

  25. Yea Baby Birds!

  26. I loved this entry, thanks for sharing your bird flight with us πŸ™‚

  27. Aren’t those socks fun to knit — so cute!

  28. Does the ion thing really work (even for frizzy curly girls?).
    Love the birds, love them, have my birding friends reading a knitting blog now!

  29. It’s so amazing that you got to see the baby birds’ first flights! And your pictures are fantastic!
    I have an ionic dryer, too, and I love how fast it dries my hair (which I have to admit isn’t prone to frizz anyway, so the speed is more impressive for me).
    And finally — I’m assuming your mac worked with the projector. The secret (usually) is to use the adaptor which came with your computer, but which sometimes seems to escape from the case just when you need it. (Yes, speaking from experience here….)

  30. How exciting! I have bluebird houses at my house as well. I am so glad you didn’t have a sparrow take over, that is a mess and it makes me so mad! I have had chickadees hatch out of mine as well. It is so exciting. I too am a bird nerd. good luck with your presentation.

  31. I love that a man called Big Daddy had his service officiated by a female rabbi. And the Big Daddy/Big Dotty connection is wonderful. I have had many moments lately where I realize that I am no longer sitting at the kid’s table. Scary as anything that I am the grownup.

  32. That is just so cool…

  33. Sniff sniff. I’m so proud of Skillet, and Skillet, and Skilletina. Go birds, go.

  34. Fantastic post – amazing that you captured it all, and I really enjoyed reading it.

  35. Wow, your description and pics made me feel as if I were right there to witness the whole thing! Thanks for sharing.

  36. their little box is getting poopier and poopier as the story goes. as a city dweller, i don’t know how much more animal feces this girl can handle.
    and socks? don’t they usually come in even numbers…or are we changing your name to eileen?
    the mallet is coming. or the butterfly net.

  37. Wow. The whole bird thing is incredible! To get to see those first little flights…that’s just such an amazing thing! My wild bird drama doesn’t compare to yours, but I feel compelled to share.
    This morning we were leaving our subdivision for a friend’s house when a family of ducks, yes a mom, dad, and at least 10 ducklings, walked across the street. This is weird because 1) It’s so hot down here that their feet should have been sticking to the asphalt and 2) there are no bodies of water here besides swimming pools.
    I sat at this 4-way stop like a dork wishing I had my camera and wondering if I was hallucinating as the duck family calmly hopped the curb and ambled up the sidewalk toward the elementary school. Nature! In the burbs! Who’d a thunk it!

  38. That is SO COOL … better than Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I just showed your post to my older kids. They followed the story intently (“Is the baby o.k.?” Her Ladyship fretted with every fledgling fall), and then my Eldest said, “It just reminds you that animals can care for each other, just like people. That Dad was helping his babies like Dad helped me learn to ride a bike.”
    I wonder if you’ll get a third generation of babies in that nest before you leave?

  39. forget writing knitting books…..how’s about a bird book?….with some personality! i love your human input, of nature’s miracles!

  40. Great post! I would never go for bird stories over knitting tales but this one was engrossing!

  41. As LaurieM said: A gripping tale, well told. I was gripped. Don’t you just love having a digital camera?

  42. I’m a fan of the big birds: Eagles, Hawks, Herrons, Geese and Ducks. The little ones not so much. Mom is a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan and stumble in on her watching Birds once when they were swooping at people so not a fan of the little ones.
    However your essay on these birds feeling their wings moved me. Thanks so much for sharing a sweet story of first flights.

  43. Yay birdies! *Cheers*
    And it’s FlyLady.NET, not .com. πŸ™‚

  44. The Bluebird Saga is an amazing bit of blogging. I have been thinking about your bluebirds, off and on, ever since you first posted them. Every once in a while I’ll be sitting at my desk thinking, “I wonder what the babies are doing right now?”
    I’m so glad you were able to see their flight, and record it for all of us! This story is, in a nutshell, why I read blogs.

  45. Oh, Ann, what a good story! Just the sort of thing I need to be reading. Will you tell it again next year?

  46. I think those birds might be filing for a restraining order on paparazzi soon.

  47. Loved this!! Thanks so much for sharing.

  48. Wow – the bird saga was wondrous. And the sock pic is enough to give one a tad of courage. OK, now I’m THINKING about knitting something other than two-needle socks! Google Seabury Sock and you’ll see “ole faithful”…concocted while I was in seminary.

  49. New to your blog. “Discovered” you via your book (and review in Knitter’s mag – congrats!). How funny to see this sock in today’s entry. I just bought Nancy’s book Vintage Socks this past week and decided this particular pattern would be good for a variegated toe-up on which I’m working. It’s a cotton/lycra blend on size 0s, so I was really stuck on what pattern to use cuz I only have 56 sts on the needles. Now I seem to bump into this pattern everywhere.
    Love the bird photos and story! We have a young bird (sparrow maybe?) nesting in the small space between our “Florida room” (an enclosed patio, but if you saw it, you’d think the word ‘patio’ is generous) and the great outdoors. But this small space looks into the living room window right next to my Lazy-Knitter armchair. I’ve been watching this mama feed her babies for about a week now, and listening to their peeps for even fewer days. This is such a blessed time of year, seeing the birds up close as we are.
    Happy nesting and knitting!
    Susan, a-way south of Mason-Dixon, in northern Florida. (I used to think Florida was the Deep South, til I moved to Raleigh, NC. That’s the South. Florida is… well… just north of there, really. Especially when the Snow Birds come down.)

  50. Oh My Lord! I was on the edge of my seat! Thanks for a great birdie saga. Hope your projector hook up was ok and you had fun!

  51. We just spent the last 2 weeks in Minnesota watching bird eggs turn into baby birds. We didn’t get to see them fly, though, before we had to return home. Lucky you!

  52. *sniff* *sniff* I had to get a tissue. Then another. I know we parents, this is our job, to push the babies out of the nest, but it’s just so HARD. And isn’t it true in nature that the little girls have it harder?!
    I’m sorry, I need to go lie down now — and maybe have a little nip of something.

  53. Jealous! That is so incredibly cool!
    Thank you for sharing your bluebirds with all of us πŸ™‚

  54. Love your bird docudrama! I have just been in Jackson, Wyoming and while I did not see bluebirds, I did see many hummingbirds, baby bison and baby moose.
    As for the socks, I too made the child’s first sock (I have size 5.5 feet, so not too much changing of the pattern) and the first one I made was, um, a little shorter than the second one as I paid MUCH more attention on the second sock. I have started the second sock of the bed socks w/o the heel, but I added my own heel. I have really never deviated from a pattern before…I felt so brave! And it turned out OK.
    Oh, and while in Jackson, I gave my hostess two washrags (she wants the pattern now!) and I went to the LYS there and they had Lamb’s pride bulky. I bought enough to make 2 buttonhole bags! Is this how stashes start?
    Keep us updated on any more bird activity. Better than the soaps!

  55. Oh – loved the whole story of the bluebirds. Maybe one of the babies will come back as a parent next year and entertain us all over again!
    Your sock looks beautiful. I’m going to use that pattern for my next one. Knitting lace is so much more interesting/entertaining/fun than K2P2 ribbing, even if you DO have to pay more attention to it. And there are so many ways to make sure people look down and admire them:
    “Want to see my new socks?”
    “What do you think about this lace pattern?”
    “Check out this great yarn I found for socks.”
    “Do you think I should’ve made these socks taller?”
    “I made these with size 0’s – think I could’ve gone up to 1’s?”
    “Do you like my new shoes?” (you say, as you lift your pants leg so that the socks shine forth….)
    “Want to see my air-conditioned socks?”
    “What did you do while watching tv last night? I made THESE!”

  56. The bluebird saga was riveting! And amazing pictures! Thanks so much for sharing. (Keeping fingers crossed that projector issue was resolved without difficulty…)

  57. Question: What’s that sock pattern? Looks suspiciously like Pomatomus from knitty.com — how is that pattern to work with? (I’m intimidated somewhat by the combination of lace and increases/decreases.) Super-cool bluebird saga, BTW. πŸ™‚

  58. Ann:
    I’m Kay’s other little sister, Laura. I met you at the Omaha booksigning. I, too, am a birdlover and was thrilled to see your eastern bluebirds. I’ve never seen one in person. I did see my first Mountain Bluebird while horseback riding in Estes Park, CO a couple of weeks ago and gasped so loudly I almost spooked my horse. Just wanted to say thank you for documenting the events of your beautiful new birds. I did the same thing a few years ago when I found a nest of eggs in one of my hanging plants on the front porch. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a happy ending. Big storm, swoosh; lesson of the day: don’t build on anything that swings.

  59. I love your bird stories–we have a nest of what we think are Phoebes under our deck, but don’t have the vantage point to take any photos without scaring Mamma Bird. The nest is chock-a-block full of birds that have grown so quickly that they’re currently balancing on top of their siblings’ heads to get out of the crush that is their first shared bedroom. So cute!
    I wish I could witness them leaving their nest, but the last group we had flew the coop (so to speak) so quickly, we didn’t even know it had happened until it was all over.
    Thanks for the great report on the world of the baby bluebird!

  60. Betcha didn’t know that your blog has just become a homeschooling site!
    Seriously, your bird story is enchanting. You could use your pics and publish it you know! I canm’t wait to show it to my daughter in the morning.

  61. Oh, how fantastic! What a great experience to get to see all of this up close!

  62. I have bluebirds too (I feel responsible for keeping the nesting box just so as there have been generations of bluebirds utilizing this yard for at least 35 years that I know of) but I’ve never documented every important “step” – such a great job of doing that – the North American Bluebird “society” would probably love it. BTW – just in case there ever was a 4th (ooh – I know it’s awful but it does sometimes happen) – you might want to be sure and clean the box out soon in case there’s need for another generation this year!!

  63. In all my 70 plus years, I have never had the opportunity to observe birds like you have. I have always been a city girl and the only birds I ever see are sea gulls and pidgeons. No bird houses where I have lived.
    Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. I loved reading it.

  64. Thank you for the documentary… and excellent camera work. I had to squint to find twinkletoes in the trees, but all others are crystal clear. Should we start a Knitting Birders Ring?

  65. thank you for the story of the baby bluebirds. i truly enjoyed reading of their flight adventure. I was imagining having a bird nesting box in our yard… and then I recalled all the cats all the neighbors allow to run free and who cut through my yard all the time… and well then… then I went back read your account again and lived it without all the baby bird feathers in my yard, eh? And now I can’t wait to hit the back button to find out how I wound up on your blog in the first place.


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