Thursday, 29 July 2010

Garden update and some spinning

Yesterday it poured down rain. There was a wild thunderstorm which left the dog staying very close to me and the cat hiding away. I don't know how much rain we got, but an awful lot. I had to drain water from the planters, the pond is full and the dye pots which I've neglected to put away have 5 inches of water in them, while the canning jar I use to make Indigo stock has 2.5 inches of water. The tomatoes were battered down a bit, but part of that is my fault for thinking they'd be normal tomatoes and using only 4 foot high twirly sticks to stake them with. The garden seems happy for all the rain though...

The garlic has all been harvested. I did that on Monday and managed to bring it inside before the rain, so it's safe and drying. However I set it in the sunroom, which is also my studio and had to move it back outside today because of the rather overwhelming garlic smell. I didn't weigh the garlic, but I'm guessing there are a couple of kilos here.

The scarlet runner beans which I so carefully timed planting so that they would bloom in two weeks, are blooming now! They have been for almost a week now. So much for planning my harvesting! What a beautiful colour though. More of these will be planted next year. I'd never grown pole beans before but I'm sure harvesting would be easier than the crouching down to get the bush beans.

Sugar Pie pumpkins. These are supposed to be small, dense, sweet pumpkins for eating rather than jack-o-lanterns. In all the other times I've planted pumpkins, I've gotten one or two fruits per plant. Sigh, we're going to be eating pumpkin forever! They are already a bit bigger than expected and it turns out there are a goodly number of them. Good thing my guys like pumpkin pie... a lot!

I wish there were a few more of these. There are tomatoes and a fair number of them, but for the wildness of the plants, one would think there would be more fruit. Of course the bees only started visiting the garden in the past couple of weeks, which might have been a factor. I've no idea what colour or variety these will be. They are from a mixed packet of heritage seeds. I know they aren't Brandywine, since the only variety listed in the packet which had potato leaves was that one. The rest are going to be a wait and see, to find out if they are red, pink, yellow, orange, purple or white fruits!
The Ruth Stott compost garden method has worked better than we expected save perhaps that is is likely a little nitrogen heavy. That would be why the incredible growth of greenery there this year with tomatoes 6 feet tall and pumpkins threatening world domination. There was more than the suggested spacing between plants, but it's a bit of a wild affair. To the right of the knotweed are the cucumbers, corn and zuchinni. The cukes are about as wild, although with lots of baby fruit right now and the corn at least looks healthy with the start of a few little cobs. The other garden looks a little sad in comparison but after yesterdays rain the leeks look like we'll actually get a harvest!

I did some spinning too. This is some commercially dyed red superwash. It was spun to be sock yarn. It's very pretty, very soft and I managed to tangle the rest of the singles so I don't know if I'll ever get the rest ready to ply! It was my own fault and I'm a tad ticked off with myself because it took the better part of a week to spin the 107gms of roving. It's a gorgeous colour. If I spin the purple up and take a little more care when plying, I can always use the red as toes and heels I guess.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Colours of July

Sue from Life Looms Large has called for the colours of July. It's been a hot and muggy month, with a lot of rain. Most of the garden flowers are gone, since there are mainly early blooming varieties planted. I will start rectifying that very soon. There are a few left though.
There are a couple of Hollyhocks hidden away. This one was a beautiful pink with a purple Clematis behind it. I'll have to move them though because they are growing where the chook pen will soon be.

This Rudebekia was a lovely surprise. It's not the Rudbekia Goldsturm that I've always grown before but it will do. I'm still looking for the Goldsturm variety, which I didn't find the the garden centres this year. It blooms toward the end of the summer.
This is the wind farm in Port Burwell on the north shore of Lake Erie . It was taken from the pier across the small bay. Those wind turbines are huge though. There is a road which winds through some of them and they are pretty impressive. The rain the other night was really heavy. It eased off in the early evening and as the sun was starting to set, a small patch of cloud cleared away creating the most incredible natural lighting I've seen in ages. The wheat field started to glow and the greens were so bright. It was just amazing.

An old log fixture by the side of the Port Burwell Pier. My thoughts are that it was an old mooring post. It was pretty and the silty waters reflected many subtle colours.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Quiet on the homefront

Because this morning, at 6 am, we caught and bundled all our male chooks into boxes and took them to the abattoir. The 3 top roosters in the pecking order crowed from day break until just about dark. They crowed when we had them in the boxes and started up again as we parked the truck to unload them. While I will admit, it is much nicer to hear a rooster crow than the neighbour we had in the city, who screamed at her kids and her youngest had no idea how to speak in anything other than a loud, screechy scream, a rooster crowing non-stop does get a bit tiresome.

The girls seem happy enough sans boys, with much more space to play in. They've been dust bathing and even got down of their perches to do whatever chooks do in their spare time. They are only a few weeks away from laying eggs. They are starting to get combs and wattles which happens as they start to mature. We are looking forward to the fresh eggs. I'm also looking forward to doing barn chores without needing the large feed scoop to push nosey, pushy roos out of the way as I fill the feeder.

The zucchini are starting to ripen more than one at a time. I'd like there to be a few more than this because a few in the freezer would be good. The cucumber didn't make it to dinner time. I rinsed it off, dried it vigorously to remove the prickles and ate it within moments of having picked it. yummmmmmmmmmmm.

The final project for the course work is done! The scarf is off the loom. The fringe is twisted. It's been lightly wet finished, the ends have been trimmed off and it's been sort of blocked.. It's okay. Not one of my favourite projects, but it's soft enough and looks okay. So now I need to print everything out, do the write up for the final project, redo one short exercise I decided I'm not happy with and put it into binders and ship it out.. Yay! Then it will be a few months to do some fun stuff before I try to do it all again.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Freezing Herbs

The Basil has been trying to go to seed. I've been picking off the flower buds but the plants seem determined to go to seed. It's too early in the season to lose the Basil plants, so today I took a large mixing bowl out and vigourously pruned the poor Basil plants. I nipped the plants back to about half their size and ended up filling most of the bowl with lovely, sweet smelling Basil leaves.
After rinsing the leaves, checking for bugs and stray bits of plant which didn't belong, I chucked all the leaves into the food processor. I added 2 or 3 scant tablespoons of olive oil and pulsed until the leaves were roughly chopped.
I stuck the whole mass into ice cube trays. Of course, I couldn't figure out where the real ice cube trays were packed so had to use the only one I could find, which was this bar cube mould. I've never gotten this mould to make proper ice cubes, so it was a tad of a gamble. I stuck the Basil filled mould in the freezer. Reminder to self, maybe think about unpacking the rest of the kitchen stuff! A few hours later, I took it out and lo and behold, the little Basil sticks popped right out easily. They went into a labelled freezer bag, so that I can just use a piece in whatever I might need basil during the winter.
Alternately, you are also supposed to be able to chop the herbs finely, pack ice cube trays with the fresh herbs and cover with water before freezing. If I get another Basil harvest this summer, I'll try this method for comparison to see which I prefer. Apparently these methods are good for freezing Parsley, Cilantro and Mint as well. I dry my Sage, Oregano, Savoury and Thyme, though it doesn't look like there will be much Oregano to dry this year unfortunately.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Of Harvesting, Frogs, Weaving

A few days ago, I meandered by the zucchini plants and found a zucchini big enough to eat. I planted yellow ones this year. I check the plants every morning to see how things are progressing since zucchini can grow from small, tender, delightfully edible bits to enormous, tough things which would feed half a city overnight. We should have a couple more tomorrow.

We ate beans. There is nothing like fresh beans straight from the garden. Currently there are only small beans in the garden and no harvested ones to photograph because we ate them... yum....

Yesterday I started digging up the garlic. The leaves are starting to dye back, despite the immense quantities of rain... we had 3.8 cm on Thursday night alone, according to a neighbour, not to mention all the other rainy days we've had. At least lots of sunshine and warmth in between. So this bunch is hanging to dry and I'll get to the rest in a day or two. This stuff is pretty yummy though. Of course I planted the two varieties side by side and neglected to write down, which one went in which row, so I've no idea what we're eating and how to determine which might taste better. They look pretty much the same.

For the first time since April and that darned course, I was able to warp up the loom. The warp is handspun Romney in a natural colour - and the weft is handspun Romney lamb dyed with indigo. Obviously I cold have gotten darker on the Indigo dyeing without a problem as the contrast could do to be bumped up a little. However, in real-life it's really pretty and the subtleness is rather nice. It's soft... I may keep this one for myself. It's supposed to be the final project for my course. Then I can pack it all up and ship it out for marking... phew....

We have a little man-made pond/water feature. It's very pretty and I love the sound of the running water. It's full of water lilies, some floating fern-like things which provide oxygen apparently, iris and a few others. The sound of the running water is very relaxing. However the pond needs to have a pump running 24/7. It's tends to use way more hydro than we'd like so had decided that we'd empty it out and get rid of it. And then we heard it... this weird croaking sound. Every once in a while but fairly regularly. I'd heard it last year and it was more of a croak with a squeak and my sweetie said it was just the cranky pump, another reason to get rid of it. However this year when I checked the noise out more carefully, this is what I saw... It makes it a lot more difficult to get rid of a water feature when wild-life has taken up residence.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

It's stinking hot but I was busy anyway...

I finally got around to the last dye vat I need for homework! I wanted blue because the final project will have to have some natural dyed element as well, so this morning I worked up an Indigo vat. I dragged the whole thing outside and it was warm enough that the stainless pot I was using actually warmed up in the sunshine! I used the recipe from The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use by J.N. Liles. He has lots of Indigo recipes for different methods. This was just a standard chemically reduced vat, using an indigo stock solution.
The vat is ready for it's first dip. It reduced pretty quickly and I ended up adding the second half of the indigo stock I'd made up. It was more than I needed, but I didn't like how yellow it got, so quickly.I tried to get a picture of the yellowy-green yarn coming out of the vat, but I really wasn't fast enough, considering I had to take the camera from my neck to avoid it dropping in the vat while I was removing yarn! This is moments after though, when I'd just tossed it on the chair arm and grabbed the camera.Three dips later. I was a tad worried because my daughter called when I was just about to pull the yarn out of the vat and it sat for 10 minutes so or longer, but it seems fine. I didn't want it any darker than this or it wouldn't have the right contrast with the other yarn I'm using. I'm sure there is still viable indigo in the vat, but I've nothing else to dye right now! It will be paired with a brown yarn.

I wasn't sure when my garlic would be ready to harvest, so I dug up one plant. It's close but still needs a bit of time to fill out the cloves a bit more I think. My cousin is harvesting his this week! You can't let it go too long or the paper skins split but not long enough and you get smaller heads and cloves. It's drying in a shaded area because I read someplace it can get sunburned!

I was stuck in a waiting room last night. I brought a ball of sock yarn and some needles to keep me busy, knowing full well that I was just going to sample the colour of the new yarn and likely rip it out when I got home. It was really inexpensive and wondered what it really looked like. Well, it took over 3 hours of waiting and I got almost to the heel flap! Way too much work to rip it back These socks will be a reality whether I like the colourway or not - it's not bad :)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Sewing and Spinning and garden stuff

I'd started this shirt for my sweetie ages ago but didn't get past cutting it out and doing the blackwork. It didn't take long to sew it together, but the hand finishing on cuffs, collar and plackets did take a while. I had the wrist and neck ties all ready to go and managed to forget to sew them when I was assembling the shirt, so that still needs to be done. I'm not thrilled with the blackwork pattern. It's based on a 16th c pattern, but just didn't like the way it stitched out. Because of that, I only did the cuffs and collar. I had wanted to do a strip down the sleeves and on either side of the neck placket, but didn't like the pattern enough for that much work. Back to the drawing board I guess.

The Romney lamb fleece is almost done. I've a bag of short bits and stained bits left that aren't worth working with. The last two bobbins I plied together gave me a skein of 262 yds and last night I got the last salvageable locks carded into rolags. I need to do a dye vat -for one of the last homework assignments and for my final project, but it's been so hot here that I've not been certain that I wanted to hang out over a hot stove for an afternoon.

The garden loves this weather though! I hope we get some rain soon because I've had to do a bit of spot watering. The yellow zuchinni are starting to grow nicely and with any luck I'll have some to harvest in a few days. There are 2 other plants, so I daresay I'll have enough summer squash for fresh use, the freezer and most of my friends. The tomatoes are starting to set fruit and the beans are flowering! That means fresh beans in a few days.. yummy!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Canada Day Weekend

I was working on my homework when I ran out of my homemade hang tags for skein labels. I'd been using business card stock for my blanks and the packet disappeared. Honestly, I looked everywhere and it just vanished, which was odd because I'd just cleaned and organized the desk and office area.. sigh,(please note the mild panic setting in here).. So all of a sudden, without a way to label my skeins, all homework screeched to a halt. I know that I'd end up with a bunch of unlabelled skeins and no idea which was which.. so until I could run out and buy more, it put things on hold. Of course the next day I popped out to the store and they were out of the original colourway, so I've got a slightly different coloured tags for the last few, which is only mildly irksome. However the skeins are almost all done and labelled, so that's okay. I really needed that sort of excitement just before a holiday weekend, at 9pm in the evening.

This weekend I should have been at Trillium Wars. I wanted to go, but my daughter decided to move and asked for help. How could I say no? Of course there is the chicken issue, which will be resolved next year. We'll either have the fast growing White Rock X chickens which only need to run on 7 or 8 weeks max, or we'll start them earlier! None of this waiting around to make sure the meat chooks don't wilt in the heat!

To make up for not going to Trilliums, my sweetie dragged me out to the Aberfoyle Antique Market. Yes, kicking and screaming I'm sure.. but really, it's a fun day out, perusing antique and collectible stalls. I decided I needed a few dust collectors... Okay, I did check out a couple of antique spinning wheels - both too much money for the condition of the wheels, a couple of cupboards for fibre stash storage and some skein winders, none of which really rocked my boat in the end. There was a really nice....nice...nice walnut bed frame but way outside my budget. (That tends to be the issue with me and antiques, I best like the ones I can't afford!) In the end, I settled for a few dust collectors - a lovely little weaving shuttle, a hand carved grain scoop and two little vintage kitchen tools. Grand total spent? $28

In my spare time, I spun this nice hank of yarn.. 183 yards of Romney lamb. It's super soft and yummy. I carded a basket full of rolags and spun it with a long draw. I may need to dye it though because it's white: a white just screaming to be coloured. What is it going to be? I am not yet sure, but I just wanted to make sure that all that sampling hadn't really taken the fun out of spinning. I guess not since there is another basket full of rolags waiting for me, one bobbin already spun and another started so I can ply them together for another hank of the same yarn!