Thursday, October 31, 2013

Not so plentiful autumn harvest

A light frost sweetens Brussels sprouts, which might explain why my resident woodchuck decided to eat not just the leaves but the sprouts as well.

But the critter did not get them all.

The sweet potatoes were a disappointment as well. This was the first time I grew them in the ground instead of containers, and they just did not produce. It could be that being decimated multiple times contributed to the lack of harvestable roots, or perhaps they did not get enough sun, thanks to the giant Brussels sprouts that overshadowed them, or maybe all that manure made the soil too rich in nitrogen. Regardless, I think I will return to using containers if for no reason other than the containers make the harvest much easier. (BTW, I grow a bush variety of sweet potato, Vardeman, which is perfect for small spaces.)

But the number one priority here is, I must-must-MUST either make the garden more secure or make my backyard habitat less hospitable to some wildlife.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


There are over 90 yarn shops between here and Boston along the route I took, and had I known about Ravelry's Trip Planner, I might have realized that BEFORE I left. Ah, just as well. I was looking for some pencil roving I had purchased a while back and found all this yarn in my closet that I had forgotten about.

Monday, October 28, 2013

My new addiction

Take some hand-dyed roving. (This is from the natural dyeing workshop I participated in, dyed with goldenrod - top - and bindweed.)

Add some other fiber (a darker green wool and some angelina - aka tinsel - in this case) and blend using a blending board (a birthday gift to myself.)

This creates rolags - fat sausages of roving with all the colors mixed together.

Spin the fiber from the rolags.

This results in single ply yarn.

Use a ball winder to wind the single ply yarn into a center-pull ball, then back to the spinning wheel to ply the yarn.

Wind the two-ply yarn on a swift to create a skein.

And - tada! - you have yarn.

What is addicting is the blending of the fibers. After taking a workshop in blending fiber, my interest was piqued until I priced drum carders. Even a pair of hand carders seemed expensive for their limited use. The Ashford blending board is more expensive than hand carders but more functional while being less than a drum carder. Plus I think the blending board will allow for more experimentation.

The only problem with the blending board is, time evaporates while in use. Quite the rabbit hole. I have to be careful when I start because it is nearly impossible to stop.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Defeated by Toledo

Where to start? A family emergency necessitated another trip to Massachusetts, and given the short notice, the cost of flying was astronomical, so I drove. In the past, I never took US24 as part of my route to the east coast, but Mapquest declares it the shortest way. When my daughter and I made this trip last August, I had assumed US24 linked up with I80/90; we were almost to Michigan before we discovered I was wrong. Coming back, the Garmin misdirected us - can't quite recall what the issue was - but my daughter figured out where we needed to go and got us there.

This time I turned on the Garmin while heading north on US24, but the maps are severely outdated and she had no knowledge of the "Fort to Port" improvements, which apparently made it look like I was traversing corn fields. Tired of the complaining, I turned her off until I neared Toledo, then turned her back on. This time I spotted a sign that directed me to take 475 north to I80/90, while the Garmin was saying to take 475 south. Not trusting her, I followed the sign, which turned out to be the long way.

On my return trip, I stopped for gas shortly before Toledo and checked Google Maps on my phone to determine just what I needed to do: take I75 south, 475 west, link up with US24. But the signage did not support my plans, I missed 475 and was on my way to Dayton before I knew it. Of course, it was dark and rainy and late, so I had no choice but to rely on the Garmin to get me home even though I knew she might not find US24 where she expected it to be.

Driving down these two-lane county highways, I had no idea where I was and there were almost no other vehicles around except for the semi on my tail. I kept my fingers crossed I would not hit a deer or get a flat tire. The road jigged and jogged, so after a while I was not certain I was even heading in the right direction. But - hallelujah! - I finally spotted a sign that said "To 24". And there it was, in all its four-lane glory.

That wasn't the only problem with the Garmin. When I left the hotel last Wednesday morning at 8am, the Garmin estimated I would be home shortly after 9pm. Of course, that assumes no stopping, but I was optimistic I could complete the drive in one day instead of the two I usually take (I could not stand the idea of one more night in a hotel). About two miles later, traffic ground to a halt on 95. An hour later, I had not made much progress. When I passed Route 2, I decided it was time to change course, so I got off at the next exit with the intention of finding 2 and heading west. The Garmin kept trying to take me back to 95, but fortunately, I was familiar enough with the area to override her directions and eventually she got with the program. Despite Toledo, I arrived home a little after midnight.

Initially, I was a bit anxious about driving all that way by myself, but actually found it easier than travelling with others. I'm one of those we-are-not-stopping-anywhere-for-anything-you-can-eat-in-the-car kind of drivers who wants to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time. That was impossible when travelling with a toddler and my SO is not like that at all, so it was quite refreshing to be able to just keep rolling. I tried to limit stops to every 200 miles or so (about three hours), and each time I stopped, I walked around a bit (1000-2000 steps) and bought gas even though the tank was still almost half full, so I would not have to make another stop too soon. I listened to Michael Pollan's new book Cooked and to the Joni Mitchell station on Pandora using my cell or just enjoyed the view - peak season for foliage.

While in Massachusetts, I stayed at an Extended Stay hotel. Instead of a room, you get a mini-apartment with a separate bedroom and a working kitchen. With the weekly rate, it was also the cheapest option for this time of year in New England. While I was perfectly comfortable there, I do have a few complaints: the free wi-fi turned out to be wi-fi lite - the high speed option required payment; the free breakfast was breakfast lite, too - granola bars, instant oatmeal, apples and oranges, not the waffles, eggs, sausage, etc. one gets at other hotels; and the building and surrounding grounds proved to be a cell phone dead zone. Otherwise, it is amazing just how little one needs to get by. My "real life" feels cluttered and burdensome in comparison.

It is good to be home, though.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday, Monday

7:45AM - Root canal: A few days before our trip to Massachusetts, I broke a molar. My dentist was able to patch it up enough for me to carry on, but once back, we started the multistep process of crowning it. Except that tooth hurt. Which explains why I wound up having a root canal. The endotontist looked too young to have finished school, much less be wielding sharp whirring tools, but he had a quiet, reassuring chairside manner (I wonder if they teach that in dental school). There was no infection in the roots, so no antibiotics, but also no offers of Vicodin (dammit).

9:15AM - Spun some mystery roving - I think it is the alpaca someone gave me when I was in Portland (Indiana, not Oregon) taking a yarn blending class.

Noon - Health assessment. My employer and insurance company urge us to participate, offering financial carrots like credit against our health insurance premiums. My BP is normal (especially considering the root canal); my weight was close to what my scale says at home, so no surprises there; I'm still 5'6", although I used to be taller; and there was a blood draw.

Early afternoon - shopping, but not the fun kind. Stopped at Target for a refill card for my cell, and looked for an autumn wreath, but the seasonal area was mostly Halloween with a little bit of xmas around the edges. Stopped at the Co-op for the usual assortment of groceries (damn! just realized I forgot the brie). Stopped at Kroger for KoolAid (see below) and again looked for a wreath; bought a new table cloth. Stopped at Good Will on the off chance they had some wreaths, but no luck.

Mid to late afternoon - Used the KoolAid to dye roving. I've dyed yarn with KoolAid, but not roving. The purpose of this task will be revealed when I show you my birthday present to myself (it's not here yet - boat docks on the West Coast in about ten days).

While waiting on the dye vats, I plied what I spun this morning - it actually looks halfway decent.

Also while waiting on the dye vats, I tried to find out how much a Dexa scan costs (a test my internist wrote a script for last February). Now that I have a higher deductible and no co-pays, I care a lot more about medical costs. My carrier's online estimator provided some estimates (and I was shocked at how varied they were), but they also suggested calling the provider to double check the quoted amounts. My preferred provider was able to verify the regular fee ($317), but they did not know what the amount negotiated by the insurance company was (according to the estimator , $47). So now I am trying to get the insurance company to confirm.

Evening - blog, clean up the kitchen, and veg. It's been a good day.


Notes on dyeing BFL roving with KoolAid
Instructions found here.
(Stupidly I ripped off the tops of some of the packages, where the name is. Note to self: don't do that again.)

one oz clumps:
Lemonade (not very evenly dyed)
Orange (also not very evenly dyed)
(Subsequent colors dyed more evenly once I got over my fear of felting the roving by over-stirring.)
Strawberry Lemonade (almost identical to Pink Lemonade)
Pink Lemonade (almost identical to Strawberry Lemonade)
Tropical Punch (indistinguishable from Cherry)

0.8 oz clumps
Cherry (indistinguishable from Tropical Punch)

Black Cherry
Blastin' Berry Cherry

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Birthday plant

Since I am a "loyal customer" or some such nonsense, every fall I receive from Arbor Farms a birthday coupon, good for one perennial of a certain (small) size. In truth, the coupon may be applied to any purchase, and usually I walk away with more than just the one plant (which is their nefarious plan all along). Last week I popped in, in search of my birthday plant.

I find it more and more difficult to find perennials I want at the local nurseries, especially at the end of the season. "Got that, got that, got one of those, got WAY too many of those," is usually what I am saying as I wander the tables. Last year I came home with several selections, but this year the only plant that spoke to me was this ironweed (sorry for the sorry photo):

It's a Veronia lettermannii 'Iron Butterfly' (named for George W. Letterman, NOT Dave Letterman) and I initially was going to squeeze it into a bed where there are already too many plants. Since it is supposed to get three feet tall and three feet wide, I changed my mind. Instead, I put it in a section of the south privacy bed where there used to be a Onondaga viburnum. Thus hatched the plan for next year: add another Wentworth highbush cranberry viburnum and move the pink asters here as well. (Another sorry photo)

These pink asters of unknown heritage have been barely surviving in the meadow for probably a decade or so. Every year I think they are a weed, but a metal plant label spares them. This year I moved them out of the meadow before mowing it down and they thrived. So they will get their own place of honor next to the new ironweed.

If I remember to move them. Yardening season is not over and I already have a long list of to-do items for next year.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Damn dog

All that rooting around in the trash and Betsy still could not find a decent movie to watch while I was gone.