Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Mighty Finn

Guarding the patio

Watching over the Japanese maple

Keeping an eye on the bird bath

Helping me work

Monday, January 28, 2013

Yardening plans

Today I placed my seed orders. While doing so, I had to make a decision on the potatoes. At Seed Savers Exchange, they showed they had Carola (yay) but I would have had to call them to order it (boo). So I picked another variety that sounded similar (yay) but I would have had to call to order that as well (wth). So I selected one at Pinetree, Eva, that sounds delicious plus is a good keeper. So THAT task is completed.

Re the rest of the yard - *sigh*. I have lived in this house for about 20 years. Some plantings - the Crimson King maple tree, the burning bush, the old fashioned lilac, to name a few - have been here all along, but the rest has been my doing. And I want to undo a few things.

Number one on the list is the clematis growing on a trellis by the front porch. It is a perfectly fine clematis, BUT. The flower color is wrong, the flowering season is short, and without regular pruning, it turns into a giant tumbleweed very easily. My plan is to replace it with a clematis of the right color, with a long blooming season, and limited vertical growth: Clematis Niobe.

Then there is the bed on the south side of the house. Over the years I have planted pink this and pink that there, plus a little white and red. Now I want to clean it out. I am abandoning my original idea of filling it with drought-tolerant prairie plants in favor of edible landscaping in the form of blueberries. Specifically, Blueray blueberries. Besides providing fruit, the bushes turn scarlet in fall, so they will be pretty as well. I already have one Patriot blueberry, plan to get it a companion, then add a couple of Darrow along the back fence, and I should have blueberries all summer long. Eventually. BUT FIRST I am going to do something that is usually unheard of in my yard: prepare the soil before I buy the plants. So expect the planting to occur in the fall.

I have a few more ideas marinating in the back of my pea brain, like fruit trees and a cold frame, but I'm not committing to them at this time. We'll see how I feel once winter turns to spring.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Finished, finished again, and finished once more

The assembling of this hooded sweater gave me fits, but I finally dogged it out one Sunday morning. It literally took hours to seam and weave in the ends. Then the garment seemed too short, so I added ribbing to the bottom. Then the cuffs seemed unmatchy, so I added some ribbing there as well. And then the hood itself looked unfinished, so I added a single crochet edging to that. And then I stopped. Finally.

Pattern: Hooded Sweater by Debbie Bliss
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cotton DK, in 13019 colorway
Needles: US8 (and US7 for the ribbing and crochet hook G)
Modifications: Ribbing to bottom and cuffs, crocheted edging on hood

I try to get photos of my granddaughter actually wearing the sweaters I knit her, but she won't try them on at my house. When she gets home, though, she insists on wearing not just a sweater, but also her hat, scarf, and mittens.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Vegetable garden plans

I selected seeds and plants for this year's garden several weeks ago, but I've been letting my choices ferment a bit before placing my orders. Now that my garden consists of raised beds, I have a firm grasp of just how much square footage is available for growing food and am planning appropriately.

If I were truly anal, I would plan my meals for the year and grow exactly what I need to cook those meals. The problem with such a goal is the garden, of course, and the weather, two frequently uncooperative variables in any gardening algorithm. That said, because I could not find golden beets in my local grocery stores, I am growing them just so I can make golden beet soup.

Here is this year's list for the vegetable garden:

Vegetable Variety Source Form
Beets Burpee's Golden Seed Savers Exchange seeds
Beets Early Blood Turnip-rooted Seed Savers Exchange seeds
Broccoli Sun King Hybrid Burpee seeds
Brussels sprouts whatever buy locally 1-3 plants
Bush bean Blue Lake 274 Pinetree seeds
Carrots Danvers Half Long Burpee seeds
Corn Honey and Cream Pinetree seeds
Cucumber Burpless Beauty Burpee seeds
Kale Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch Pinetree seeds
Kale Red Russian Pinetree seeds
Kohlrabi Early White Vienna Pinetree seeds
Lettuce Pinetree Lettuce Mix Pinetree seeds
Lettuce Pinetree Winter Lettuce Mix Pinetree seeds
Onions Big Daddy Hybrid Burpee 2 bunches
Parsnip Harris Model Pinetree seeds
Peas, English English Pinetree seeds
Peas, snap Amish Seed Savers EXchange seeds
Pepper Candlelight Seed Savers Exchange seeds
Pepper Cherry Stuffer Hybrid Burpee 3 plants
Pepper Favorite sweet peppers Burpee 6 plants
Potatoes undecided undecided seed potatoes
Pumpkin Small Sugar Burpee seeds
Pumpkin Rouge Vif d'Etamps Burpee seeds
Radish French Breakfast Pinetree seeds
Rutabaga Joan Seed Savers Exchange seeds
Spinach Space Pinetree seeds
Squash Waltham Butternut Ferry Morse seeds
Sweet potatoes Vardeman me plants
Tomatoes Roma Pinetree seeds
Tomatoes Fresh Salsa hybrid Burpee 1 plant
Tomatoes Sun Gold hybrid Burpee 1 plant
Tomatoes Supersauce hybrid Burpee 1 plant
Turnip Purple Top White Globe Seed Savers Exchange seeds
Zucchini Burpee hybrid Burpee seeds

As you can see, I have not yet selected an Irish potato to grow. The variety I have favored in recent years is Carola, but it is getting hard to find so I'm looking for a new favorite. Many of the other vegetable varieties listed above are ones I have grown with varying success, others are new or new-to-me. Some veggies, like kale, I have never grown. It should be an interesting year.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Gap in time

I started this cowl ages ago. I worked on it ages ago. I finished knitting it ages ago. I blocked it only this past week. Finally.

Pattern: GAP-tastic Cowl, by Jen Geigley
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky, in colorway "Chocolate Souffle"
Needles: US13
Modifications: none

One edge is stretchier than the other. I wish I had cast on or bound off (whichever edge it is) with a more elastic method. Otherwise, a simple success.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Grandma's on it

My daughter complained about not being able to find toddler-sized mittens once xmas was over. I found one pair - a bit on the big size - at Menards. And then, being a knitting grandma, I made a pair.

Pattern: Basic Mitten Pattern, by Ann Budd
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, in colorway 340027 (denim blue)
Needles: US3
Modifications: none

Now I'm working on additions to granddaughter's hat collection.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Heard any good books lately?

A while back I read an excerpt from The Passage of Power, by Robert Caro, in the New Yorker. I found it riveting. I still remember where I was the day JFK was shot. This was back in the day when most of the mothers in our suburban village were stay-at-home moms and the elementary school day was structured such that we could go home for lunch. I had run down to the five and dime to buy some school supplies. A classmate there told me about the shooting. At first I thought he was making it up, but the store PA system was tuned to a local radio station which broadcast the news right then. I pictured JFK being shot in the arm, like the good guys on TV. Sadly, not so. Interestingly enough, though, Caro's book makes it seem that few of Kennedy's programs would have ever come into existence without Lyndon Johnson's knowledge of the inner workings of Congress to push them through, knowledge Kennedy and his staff eschewed while LBJ was VP.

Yes, I am reading the book. Or, rather, listening to it. This one falls into the category of I-am-interested-but-probably-will-not-be-able-to-slog-through. Fortunately, this one is also available from my local library on CD. Originally I pictured myself spending the winter curled up under an afghan, knitting while I listened to not only this book but all the preceding ones Caro has written on LBJ. The others were not available on audio, though, and quite frankly, 27 disks on one topic is quite enough for me.

Once upon a time, if I started a book, I finished it, no matter how dull or tortuous that might be. No more. I like reading Alain de Botton, and had high hopes for Religion for Atheists, but for some reason, it did not hold my interest. No Death, No Fear, by Thich Nhat Hanh, is another one I could not get through. World without Cancer I skimmed, as a good part of it has to do with altering public policy (good luck with THAT, Dr. Cuomo). I did read all of May Sarton's Plant Dreaming Deep and Journal of a Solitude, and also Maragert Roach's And I Shall Find Some Peace There, a title I find awkward. Is it a sign of my age that I am more interested in memoir these days?

I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey and most likely will not, but I am nearing the end of Gone Girl. About the only fiction I can tolerate these days is mystery/detective novels and certain sci-fi/fantasy. Occasionally I stumble across something good, like Steve Hamilton's The Lock Artist. I try to read Haven Kimmel, but her more recent books go right over my head.

So, what are you reading these days? Any recommendations?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Winter harvest, winter chores

After some real winter weather - cold! snow! - we are now experiencing an early January thaw. Tomorrow the prediction is for a "wintry mix" - rain AND snow. We are still behind in rainfall, so as ugly as it will be, it is welcome. A good day to snuggle into the couch, knit, and watch football.

On the inside, I harvested the Meyer lemons, all two of them. So far, the first one has been squeezed into gin and tonics and over salmon. The second one is destined to flavor some hummus I plan to make, using this recipe.

Also on the inside, I defrosted the freezer and discovered some homemade pizza dough and mozzarella I had stashed in there. The pizza dough is a King Arthur recipe, the mozzarella a batch I made that didn't seem quite right but tasted fine (if a bit salty) when used.

Next up on the indoor chore list is ordering seeds and plants for the garden. The list is made; I'm just letting it percolate a bit before making a commitment. More details later.

Monday, January 7, 2013

This time we made it

As a participant in Holidailies, I actually posted every day during the month of December. I was able to do that only because I was off work for a good part of the month. I returned to work January 2 and am very sad about it.

BUT I really like receiving a paycheck every two weeks! And I really like the benefits, which are like none I know of. The latest benefit to be added to our package is (drum roll please) four weeks of paid leave after every ten years of service. This is above and beyond the usual paid holidays and vacation. They are not making this benefit retroactive, so having just passed my fifteenth anniversary, I have to work another five years to qualify. But still, I can't help but be a little excited about this.

I'm having a difficult time readjusting to the constraints working puts on my day-to-day life. I started xmas vacation with a laundry list of to-do items, most of which involved housework I neglect most of the time, most of which never got done. I did clean the garage and defrost the freezer, but otherwise I spent my days writing, reading, exercising, baking, cooking, cheesemaking, knitting, grandma-ing, road-tripping, shopping, watching movies and TV, garden planning, etc. Were I to retire tomorrow, I think I would manage very well.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ribbed Jacket do-over

My daughter requested a second button for the Ribbed Jacket. A second button meant a second button hole. Once I started ripping back the ribbing, I just kept going. Then I added some ribbing around the bottom, to lengthen the sweater.

I'm still not completely happy with the corners, which are in reversed stockinette, but after I reknit the ribbing several times, I declared it good enough.

Finding buttons to match was another challenge. These bluish ones work only because they somewhat reflect the purple. And now I declare this sweater done, for a second time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 knitting recap

I did not knit as much this past year as I have in previous years (partly because I spent so much time watering the garden), but I was no slouch, either. I tried some new things, like dyeing yarn using KoolAid. I retried some things, like toe-up socks. My Ravelry project list shows a ton of WIPs, which I am hoping (as always) to finish. Most of them just need a button or some seaming or blocking - I don't like to count something as finished until it is usable - so maybe, just maybe, some of them will get finished in 2013.

Speaking of finishing, I was in a LYS recently, purchasing buttons for a long neglected sweater. When I mentioned that the garment had been languishing, she informed me that she offers a finishing service. The idea of hiring someone to finish my handknits just feels... wrong. And yet I would love to have someone take a quilt top I pieced together completely by hand and turn it into an honest-to-god quilt. What is your opinion?

Household: four dishcloths, kitchen curtain

Wraps: Wingspan, Honey Cowl, poodle skirt scarf, Degradee scarf, Smilla cowl, toddler scarf

Socks: plain striped, legwarmers for me, legwarmers for my daughter, basic socks, more basic socks, lace socks, toe up basic socks

Hats: Katmandu

Gloves: fingerless

Blankets: Mitered Crosses, Prairie Blanket

Sweaters: Ribbed Jacket, cardigan