Monday, May 18, 2015

Gone Quiltin'

I'm enjoying a flurry of creative projects this month, which have taken up hours of time. I'm not complaining as I find the that I am most energetic and hopeful when I am creating. I've finished 41 of the 48 squares needed for  Tayta's college quilt. I should be able to begin assembling them sometime later this week. Meanwhile, they are laid out on floor of a seldom-used-room of our house.

Besides the quilt, I have been processing my 2016 Wildflowers of Jordan calendar, which was printed last week, and I've been working on creating a line of cards which features images of flowers and other scenes around Jordan. Those will (hopefully) be in market by the end of May. Oh, yes, and Tatya and I are completing our last three weeks of high school education. It is a daily duty to stay focused on the goal!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Poppy Birthday to Me

This weekend was my birthday weekend, so Dear Husband and Tayta asked me where I would like to go for a wildflower outing. We didn't have a lot of time and cold, rainy weather was predicted for the late afternoon, so we didn't go far or plan a sit-in-the-sun picnic. I had noticed that poppies were blooming around the kingdom so I suggested that we try to find the famed field of poppies in Anjara, a village close to Ajloun. We didn't find the field, but I wasn't disappointed as we saw many poppies along the Mafraq-Jerash road, and later as we meandered through the mountain villages near Ajloun.

Horned Poppy
Glaucium alleppicum

Also along the way, Dear Husband pulled over to look for black irises in a place we had once seen them. I hadn't remembered the spot, and besides, I opined, I think they must have all bloomed by now. All the others I'd recently seen were spent. The irises were there and they were at the peak of their bloom. I told Dear Husband that I considered them my birthday bouquet from him. Turns out that he had looked for a bouquet of cut flowers for me in Mafraq, but could find nothing suitable. The natural bouquet of black irises suited me very well!

Black Iris
Iris nigricans

Crazy flower lady with her birthday black irises

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Extreme Wildflower Spotting~Desert Tulips

Two of the biggest challenges to wildflower spotting are: 

1. Knowing exactly where to find a particular wildflower
2. Getting to its location during its brief blooming period

Because my spring days are punctuated by many events and obligations, I don't often consider taking a trip to another part of the country to search for a particular wildflower. However, reading the Orchid Thief last fall, gave me pause. My wildflower spotting "adventures" were nothing compared to the globe-trotting, life-risking endeavors that orchid aficionados undertook to see or possess a rare bloom. Maybe I needed to be a little more daring in my pursuit of some of Jordan's rarer wildflowers.

Friends who live in the south of Jordan told me about a small red tulip which blooms on one particular hillside near their home--if there is enough precipitation. Since we received rain and then snow this winter, I was hopeful that the red tulips would be blooming. I sent a message to my friend and asked her to let me know when and if she saw the wild tulips begin to bloom. I was not sure that I could get myself down to see them, but I figured that I could at least inquire.

I received a text from my friend on a Tuesday. The tulips were blooming, but I'd need to come soon if I wanted to see them. As it turned out, we were schedule to head south on Saturday for our annual camping trip to Wadi Dana. The tulips were another hour and a half south of that destination. I somewhat timidly asked Dear Husband what he thought of driving to see the tulips. It would mean an early departure from Mafraq and three extra hours of driving  on our first camping day. He agreed to do it, and Tayta bought into the adventure as well. I informed them that I would double-check the tulip status on Friday, to make sure it was worth the drive.

Results of Friday's tulip-tracking inquiry: my friend said that the sheep and goats, the bane of Jordan's wildflowers, had been through that week, but she thought there were still a few left. Another friend, who went south on Friday scouted the field for us and confirmed a few remaining tulips. Tayta and I worked steadily to get all of our camping gear together on Friday night. At the 11th hour, more adventurous wildflower-loving friends decided to join with us. To bed we went for a night of restless sleep--the kind you have when you know you have to get up for an early morning flight. We were up at 4:30 am and heading out of Mafraq at 6:15am, wide awake with anticipation even before coffee.

We arrived in Ras an-Naqab about 10:30am. This is not the terrain where you would expect to find spring tulips, but I've learned the look for the unexpected.

Coke marks the spot. Our scouting friend marked the point at which we should turn south into the field with an empty Coke bottle and a stick.  

We fanned out over the field of rocks and dirt to look for the low growing tulips. Dear Husband was an awesome scout--you can see him way out in the distance, the white speck on the edge of the bluff. A couple of us remarked that the experience of searching for tulips reminded us of childhood Easter egg hunts.


We were near a rural village and so pulled on our appropriate long skirts and donned our headscarves. The wind was wild so we were challenged to keep everything in place. 

Dear Husband for the assist in the photo shoot: blocking the wind and holding back the thorny brambles so that I can get a shot.

This picture shows well the challenging  habitat of the Naqab tulip, and helps one to better appreciate it's determined beauty.

Tulip stylosa

This tulip had its leaf chewed by goats or sheep, but the beautiful flower remained.

Black Garlic
Allium aschersonianum

We also spotted some black garlic, and Dear Husband, the superstar scout of the trip,  found one and one only specimen of the this previously-unspotted-by-me desert lily. It remains nameless as I haven't located it in my field guide. I'm pretty sure it is in the genus Ornithogalum, a type of Star of Bethlehem, but I'm not able to confirm that.

Photo credits for the people pictures go to my people-loving-always-up-for-an-adventure friend. Thank you! What a great support staff I had in the field that morning!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Baby Cashmere

I put the wool needle into my sewing machine for one last cashmere project before my sewing efforts become completely dedicated to sewing squares for Tayta's college quilt.

This baby blanket was made a for a sweet baby boy, welcomed into the world just two weeks ago.

Can you guess the baby's nationality from the colors I chose? Orange was the first color I chose, and the stitching was done in orange.

Here's a hint: Color inspiration from a favorite artist...

Church at Auvers
Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh

Painter on the Road to Tarascon
Vincent Van Gough

Yes, this blanket was given to a beautiful Dutch newborn this afternoon, at his "coming out" party. Welcome to the world, little one!

Edit: When I asked my Dutch friend which Dutch artist she thought inspired my quilt, I was surprised when she replied, "Mondrain?"

But of course! 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Birthday Outing to Abila

Last Saturday was a perfect day. It really was. In celebration of Dear Husband's birthday, we planned a day trip to the countryside, once again joining our preferences for ruins, landscapes, and wildflowers, and chose the ruins of the ancient decapolis city of Abila, about an hour from our home.

(Asphodelus fistulosus)

Abila is not nearly as developed or excavated to the extent that Jerash and Um Qais (Gadara) have been, yet there is yet evidence of a large ancient city. Below is a distant view of city ruins which I took from atop another hill of ruins. We picnicked on yet a third hill of ruins.

We immediately set out exploring: Dear Husband and Tayta for ruins and maybe some Roman glass, me, for wildflowers.

I was surprised to find several stands of orchids (which Dear Husband and Tayta passed by completely!) as I didn't know this species grew in the area. Disappointingly, they were just past their prime, browning around the edges of their petals, but beautiful all the same.

Fan-Lipped Orchid
(Orchis collina)

(Adonis aestivalis)

Jagged-leafed Phlomis
(Eremostachys laciniata)

We left the main site of the ruins and drove up to the top of an adjacent hill--Dear Husband's  vision for a picnic site. We had this lovely spot, with its panoramic views, ruins, and wildflowers, all to ourselves.

Views from our picnic spot:

The main site of preserved columns at Abila

And turning slightly to the south, this spring-time view of rolling green hills, gently sculpted with stone terrace walls and olive tree groves~

Having laid out our picnic lunch, Tayta's next task was to round-up her parents, who are prone to wander around such places, her father, exploring the ruins, and her mother, searching out the dearest freshness deep down things.

Judean Bugloss
(Echium judaeum)


Oriental Garlic
(Allium orientale)

Star of Bethlehem
(Ornithogalum montanum)

She succeeded in coaxing us to sit down.

And after lunch, some more wandering and exploring:

Dense-flowered Fumitory
(Fumaria densiflora)

"I stumbled upon a land of my childhood dreams. All of a sudden, the stories of The Silver Chair became so real: here I stood at the edge of the ruined City of the Giants. This place matched what I had imagined, or perhaps, my imaginings came from what I knew..." Tayta

Purple Clover
(Trifolium purpureum)

Chaotic, abundant fields of beauty

Dear Husband reflected that visiting Abila was an ideal birthday present for him as it was his first visit to the site, a new discovery. And, he has now visited all five ancient decapolis cities in Jordan.

Happy Birthday to a very Dear Husband. May God give us more years of wandering and exploring together.