Monday, 27 June 2011

Off the Needles and playing in the dirt.

The sockettes are done!  Of course footie socks are only half socks, so didn't take as long as a full pair.  It took one skein of yarn and an extra metre or two.  These are from Paton's Kroy, so are shorter skeins, but a skein with a few extra metres would mean I'd get both from one skein.  That is handy.  Luckily, I had the leftover bits  from a previous pair of socks from this colourway.  I'd bought a bag of 6 skeins from the outlet store.  While you get a bit of a deal on price, it does mean that you either have lots of socks in the same colour or you need to trade them off with someone else.

Potato flowers are so delicate and pretty.   I've got two varieties planted this year, Kenebec and another variety, either Chieftan or Russet..  Normally I plant Yukon Golds but decided to get wild this year and try something different!  The little mesh bags holding the seed potatoes weren't labelled, so once you grab a couple of bags and set them on the counter, there is no telling which was which.   I planted this row early and while I worried that the wet, cold spring, would rot the potatoes before they had a chance to grow, they are doing really well.  The other two rows were planted later and are definitely playing catch up.  It will be interesting to see whether they do indeed catch up the the earlier planted potatoes.   I wonder if there will be a difference in amounts of potatoes harvested or if we just get to enjoy an extended harvest of fresh potatoes?

Weeding seems to be an endless task this year.   It was a great year for the Maples to produce keys and those keys have decided that conditions are perfect for growing.  I'm plucking out hundreds of Maple seedlings from my gardens this year.   I swear that I pull them out for hours and by the next day, there are more growing in their place.   It feels like I am weeding the same patch over and over again. ( It kind of looks that way too and is probably fairly accurate)   The only good thing is that the spots that have a heavy straw cover have few to no weeds.  It's only where I haven't mulched yet or where it's thinner, that there are problems.    Of course you can't use the straw mulch on seeds until they've grown substantially but on planting seedlings, it's been a huge help.

The Petunias are doing well. I plant Petunias in memory of my mother, who loved them.   These are in half barrel planters.  There are regular and Wave Petunias. I'm hoping the Wave Petunias will drape down the sides of the barrel dramatically.  I've never tried them before, so it could be interesting.  Usually I just toss some Marigolds in with the Petunias as it makes a pretty colour combo, with the added bonus that I can snip off the Marigolds for dye plants.  Yep, it is a year for shaking things up in the garden!   Different varieties of potatoes and Wave Petunias?  What next?  hehehe

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Who'd 'ave thunk?

Who would have thought that this silly little sockette would be able to create such a fuss?  First I cast on a couple of extra stitches than I normally would for a stockinette sock.  It was okay, because I was going to knit the foot as a ribbed sock, but I didn't.  I used the wrong ribbing pattern and everything... so rip.. I had to rip it right back and cast on a second time.   This time I got it right, knew I was going to do plain stockinette.  I got to the heel flap and even marked down my rows so I could make sure it was right.   I turned the heel, picked up the gusset stitches and started the decreases.  Something looked wrong though and ended up ripping it back to the gusset stitches and starting them all over again...  I was wrong though.  After about an inch of knitting, I realized that the sock still looked wrong.  It was too small.   I counted the rows on the heel flap and sure enough, I'd marked down that I'd knitted more rows there than I had.  That's a new mistake for me, 'cause I've never done that one before!    Rip.... back to the heel flap.   It's all good now though.  I've added the extra few rows, turned the heel and finished the gusset.   It should be plain knitting until I get to the toe! 

Today in the garden, I ripped out the Arugula, Spinach and Radishes which were going to seed.  We've had lots of salads with the first two, but nary a radish this year.   Imagine my surprise when I dug them up and sure enough, there were finally radishes.. a few only, but enough to make a nice salad for dinner tonight.   I've still got lettuces growing, leaf lettuce mixture and romaine, which has actually headed up this year.  I've replanted Arugula and summer heat tolerant lettuces. 

Then I noticed that the first waterlily of the season has blossomed.  It's not quite fully open yet, but it's pretty.

Two winters ago, I tried winter sowing for the first time.   Of the two containers I planted, one seed germinated.  It was an Elecampane.   I grew this plant only because it is mentioned in medieval cookery books and in a few places about dyeing.   I'd never seen an Elecampane plant before and had only seen a photo of the flowers.   I planted the one lone seedling and it just sort of survived the summer.  I half expected it not to come back this spring.  It did, first with one small leaf, then two.   Today there are a number of leaves coming up as well and I have hope that I might actually get a flower head.   However, I was totally unprepared for the size of the foliage.  The leaves are huge, massive things which make me wonder if I've planted this poor plant in the wrong place.  None of the photos I've seen since show any of the elephantine leaves of this plant!  

The little pink flowers are Goutweed..  I've been trying to get rid of the nasty thing for two years now.   I swear the darned stuff in invincible!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Starting projects, pretty flowers and secret desires...

Yellow Day Lilies

I'd love to say I've finished lots of projects this week, but in reality I just started lot of projects.  I started fitting a pattern for an everyday shirt.. not done.  I started knitting a pair of footie sockettes for me, not done.  I started sewing up the new pilgrim bag, not done.  I just kept starting things with nothing being close to finished. 

I also played in the dirt.  I weeded the garden and then weeded some more.  I replanted a few seeds.  I mulched parts of the garden.  I'm using straw this year.  Ruth Stout's method uses any sort of compostable matter, leaves, spoiled hay etc.  I use leaves in the fall, but they pretty much decompose over the winter, under the heavy blanket of snow.   Straw is cheap enough to purchase, so I'm using it.  Her suggestion is 8 inches thickness to begin with, but I've been using 4-6 inches and even at 4 inches, it seems enough to keep the weeds down.  I'm shaking out the flakes of straw, so it strews randomly.  I think the criss crossing of all the little stems of straw helps deter the weeds, once it settles down.  Straw is the stems of harvested grain like oats or wheat.  There should be little to no seed heads left, which is helpful when trying not to germinate more unwanted weeds and plants.  I'd have expected the straw to start breaking down and composting faster than it does.  Perhaps that's because it lacks the green part of compost.  I'll add lots of grass clippings later in the summer.  Right now it's doing it's job at keeping the weeds down and helping hold in soil moisture.

Perennial Coreopsis 
I found a few perennials on sale.  I didn't really need any more, but 2 more Icelandic Poppies made their way home with me, a perennial Coreopsis and some Yellow Yarrow.  I really wanted Red Yarrow, but couldn't find any this year.  Really cheap Yellow Yarrow is an acceptable substitute!    I also came home with 2 more Blueberry bushes.   We currently have 4 planted.  One of the Blueberries was a replacement for one which is looking rather poorly.  The other was to replace a second sickly looking plant, but it seems to be doing okay now.  I'll plant it someplace to wait and see if this one keeps doing well.  I've heard you need several varieties to germinate Blueberries and have lucked out with finding at least 2, possibly 3 different ones.

The birds are eating all the Red Currents and Gooseberries again this year.  They're not even ripe yet and are disappearing.  Next year I will invest in some bird netting covers for the berries!  I'm hoping the blackberries and the blueberries will start to bear fruit next year and want to preserve those for our own use, rather than the wildlife, for sure!

I've been playing with my camera.  This was the only close to pretty sunset I've seen in a very long while.  I tried to capture it but it seemed like the colours kept changing, minute by minute.  It was going from purple to orange then fading out completely and back again.   Most bizarre and beautiful.



Today, this was the view out my front picture window.   The sky was moody greys and lavenders, laying heavy upon the horizon.   The neighbour was haying, trying to get it in before it rained.   It was such a serene picture.   It is also one of the few sights that sets my heart to longing.  I've always wanted enough land to hay, and a tractor, mower, baler etc.   It's one of my secret passions...

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Projects from the last couple of days

I've tried very hard to finish up the bag of Shetland roving.  I'm almost at the end and I'm starting to dislike it.  The last little bit is just ever so slightly compacted.  Stretching it out should help, but it doesn't really do much for it.  It seems to be all the shorter fibres.  I'd like to say it's a bit neppy, but there aren't really any bits and bumps in it, it just spins a bit lumpier than I'd like.   So during the last  Stanley Cup playoff game (1 more to go), I spun as much as I could bear and then switched to the pink socks.   I'd set them down and realized that if I didn't just pick them up and finish them, they'd not get done by the time they are needed, later this summer.   I thought it would take another week to finish them, but it was only 3 or 4 days.   I finished up the toe today and will graft it tomorrow when I'm not tired.   I had to knit the toe 3 times to get it close to matching the first sock - though it really didn't.  I'd left it too long to remember exactly what I did and forgot to write it down!


I finished dressing the loom yesterday.  I found one crossed thread, so fixed that and today, I started weaving.  I'll have enough weft for one of the bags but I'm not sure about the other. I should hunt down something else to use just in case I don't have enough.  It's prettier than I anticipated and I rather like it.    The two different browns blend together nicely and the blue stands out enough but isn't glaringly so.   Of course, tomorrow in the sunshine, I may get entirely different results.  It's a simple tabby.  I'm going to full it a fair bit, so I figured it wasn't worth putting a lot of effort into a pattern.  I didn't want to obscure the stripes too much either, nor did I have enough warp for a twill.  It's definitely a yarn leftovers project!

We went for a short hike at a local conservation area on Sunday.  It was supposed to be sunny, but instead was cool and cloudy until we got to the end of the trail.  At one point, I'd wished I had mitts on!  It's June for goodness sake.  One shouldn't need mitts in June!   We've had a few huge wind storms lately and there were a number of places where trees had been uprooted or broken, in dangerous areas.   There were a few places where they had to take chainsaws in to make it safer.   This was the only moment of brightness in the  whole 1 hour hike.

The buttercups were pretty.  There was a small patch of them near the end of the trail.  Other than that, there was one faded Columbine and some Dame's Rocket in a distant field.  Not much else blooming there right now.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Chook update

The wee chicks have grown.  This photo was taken last week. The white ones are meaties and almost ready to ship here.  The pretty ones are layer replacements; Plymouth Barred Rocks (dark speckled ones)  and Rhode Island Red x Columbia crosses (red).     We knew the White Rock meat birds would grow quickly, but I really don't think we were prepared for how quickly they would grow in actuality.  They are huge here and by this week they were even larger.  The White Rocks are fairly slow, due to their size and I will admit that a chicken that size, which still peeps like a little one, is a tad weird.

The little girls though are feisty beasts.   Last year's females were much more docile.  One of the red ones, probably the one who is posing for the photo, has decided for the past couple of weeks to try flying.   She's topped the short walls which were all that was needed for the White Rocks.  Tonight, when I went to shut up the coop, she was sitting on one of the walls, roosting!  Guess what my sweetie needs to build tomorrow.. yep, a new roost for the baby girls.


There are few commercial poultry processors who still do custom killing.  The one we used last year only does commercial batches now.  At one point we were looking at at least a 2 hour drive each way, or doing it ourselves.   Most places which do custom processing, fill up quickly.  Luckily we found one less than an hour drive away, which still had space. 

Yesterday morning at 6 am, we were up catching chickens.  Well, my sweetie caught them.  I manned the crates and helped load the crates into the truck.   I was going to ship 3 of my hens, 2 which are a bit aggressive to other hens and one more.  However, we made a few mistakes there.  First, we should have gone in before bed and caught them while they were roosting.  At the very least, we should have caught them first in the morning.  However we didn't think it would be an issue, so we caught all the meaties first.  By then of course, the girls were wide awake and aware that something was up.   After spending more than a few minutes chasing them around their pen, we decided that they had a reprieve 'cause we new we weren't going to catch them.  My aim was to keep the flock at a reasonable size, while having some young girls to lay over the winter while the older one's will be moulting and not really laying much at all!  Now I'm going to have a flock of 16 .. I sure hope we like eggs.

We dropped off the chooks.. no, it wasn't the nicest job to do, but they place was really clean and it was obvious that the people there knew what they were doing and how to do it efficiently. 
We came home, did some errands and I had a nap!  On Wed. I did a medieval textile demo for 400 kids and about 60 adults.   It lasted most of the day, in an auditorium, with cement floors, no A/C and not even the ceiling fans were turned on.  I was still tired from that!
My sweetie decided to make dinner for me.  It was spit roasted beef and fire roasted potatoes.  We had a salad with greens from our garden to go with it.  Yummy!

Today, we picked up the birds, freezer ready.  I wish I wasn't charging my camera battery or I could show you what, as my son calls it, "the wall of chicken" looks like.  A freezer full of chicken and right now, no place for much else!  By the way, the processor did an amazing job and so did we I think.  The smallest weighed in at 2 kilos and the 3 largest at 3.1 kilos.  The rest were nicely in between.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Dyeing with Cutch

On Sunday, I dyed yarn for the warp which had me stymied.  I found  some yellow which had previously been dyed with Yellow Bedstraw.   It was for a sampling project and is leftover.  It's pretty close in size to the Harrisville Shetland I'd wound off and I had enough of it to finish the warp and probably do the weft of at least one of the projects.  I didn't want it yellow though.  In my stash of supplies there isn't a lot which will produce brown.   I have a few Oak galls, but not enough for this quantity and they'd require crushing and soaking.  Walnuts I normally just harvest in the autumn.  There were two little bags of Cutch though and I'd never tried it before.    It was interesting researching this dye because depending on where you check, it is suggested you use a 20% - 400% dye to fibre ratio.  That is a huge range!   I ended up using 50% Cutch by weight to the yarn and then added a second skein in for an exhaust dip.  Interestingly, they are both very close in colour.  The exhaust vat dyed yarn will be weft.

First, I weighed out the yarn and had 2 skeins, weighing 100 grams each.  I then weighed out 50 grams of Cutch resin.  It was actually 53 grams but I wasn't worried about precision with this experiment.   It seemed better to err on the side of a bit more dye than less I filled a dye pot with water.  I used the outdoor hose and it was well water.  


 Both skeins of Yellow Bedstraw went into the pot to soak while the fire was started.

I decided to dye outside for several reasons.  Cutch is supposed to time to dissolve and then the colours are reputed to be be stronger, with more undertones with long soaks.   It was hot outside and I didn't want to have the stove on all day.  We have lots of scrap firewood kicking around so keeping a fire going all day, wasn't going to be an issue.

The soaked skeins came out of the pot, the water was topped up and the Cutch added.  The pot was set over the fire and cooked until the crystals dissolved.   Then the first skein - wound warp was popped in and cooked for a few hours.   Then I added the second skein and cooked the two together.   The water did get warm, but never boiled.  It simmered over the fire from just after breakfast until supper time, when the pot was removed from the fire and set to cool.

I left the pot outside all night.  After much rinsing, this is what the final colour is.  I'm quite pleased as it will look very nice with the other two colours of the warp.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Lots of little projects

The vegetable garden is planted!  There are still a few things that I've planned to do multiple sowings, like salad greens and the such, but all in all, it's done!   Well, except that pumpkins and squash, which were supposed to go into new raised beds, which haven't happened yet. Somehow painting the deck trumped making new raised beds and I've no idea how that happened.  

In between I've been waiting for the next Stanley Cup Playoff - tonight so spinning wasn't a priority.  Instead I've been embroidering - it's taking forever.  When I first started this sort of embroidery, my friend assured me it would get faster, but I don't think it has.   I'm going to extend this piece just a bit and turn it into another cuff.  I may use the same pattern for the second one, or go with different birds.  I'm not sure yet.

I've also started winding a warp.  I'm going to weave a bag or a purse, specifically a pilgrim type satchel for camping with this summer.   I thought I had enough leftover Harrisville Shetland kicking around and might actually have had enough, if I'd not decided to make an extra bit of yardage for either a second bag, or a hat or something else.  For some reason, I also thought I had a whole whack of  white in a bin, but I've not yet figure out where that might be, if indeed I have any left at all.  I found a bit of blue and a bit of brown, small partial cones; one of each.   Now I either have to scramble and ask friends if they've any leftovers I can scrounge, order some or spin something similar..  Why didn't I think this one through before I started it?

The Poppy to be is now flowering.   The big heavy flower drooped to the ground.  My sweetie mowed down most of the patch, in his good intentioned efforts to keep the Creeping Charlie at bay.

The Bachelor's Buttons are blooming a tad early.  I love the shades of blue in the garden.  So very pretty...

Bleeding Hearts are finally blooming as well.  It seems like so many plants are blooming in a weird order this year.   Even the pear trees - so late in blooming this year but because there was no risk of frost and a myriad of pollinators out and about, there are way too many fruits on both trees.   If I decide to dare the ladder, I should be up there plucking off a lot of the small fruits before they sap most of the energy from the tree and we get a huge harvest of tiny pears.   Less fruits to grow on the tree, the larger the fruit!