Wednesday, 28 March 2012

What a difference..

What a difference a day can make!  In this case,  the weather.   We've gone from summer-like weather, hot and sunny to waking up and finding the pond iced up!  The weather is much more seasonable, but the sudden cold temperatures certainly was a change.     Because of the mild weather, we had to clean up the pond and start up the pump much earlier than we've done it before.  Usually at this time of year, the pond is still frozen over.  Thankfully the icicles and frozen, slippery rocks only lasted a day.   After a cold, blustery few days, it's warm enough to hang the laundry again, but now they are calling for snow flurries by the weekend... not unexpected this time of year, but most unwelcome.

 Mister Garter Snake has been sighted again this year.  He's been seen in the greenhouse as well as around the garden.   There have been mice in the greenhouse over the winter, and there doesn't seem to be any now, so I'm guessing the snake or snakes have had some good meals.  Either way, as long as they don't hide in places where I'll find them by accident, they are welcome to the heat and humidity in there, especially if they keep the mouse population at bay.
 The first orange cabled sock is done.  I was a tad concerned that it would take a long time to finish one sock and that I'd loose interest get distracted before I got to the second one.  However, when I think about it, it was still a fairly fast knit.  It sure is cheerful and bright!  It will be the perfect pair of socks to wear on a cold, grey, wintery day; sunshine for your feet!  Now to get to work on the second one.

The guild is having an acid dye day, mainly with the idea of making self patterning sock yarns.  I was going to dye roving, (I still might) but then I got it into my noggin that it would be easier to spin the yarn first.  I have a bunch of superwash Merino mill ends, which really work better if they are carded first.  I carded them with the drum carder to make nice, fluffy batts and started spinning.  I realize now that I should have added something a bit sturdier to the superwash Merino, as it's very slippery.  While incredibly easy to spin, I started spinning during the inevitable hockey game and while watching the home team lose once again, I didn't notice that I was spinning much thinner than I wanted.  I sampled a 3 ply and it was still too thin.  I was able to spin it to a more useable diameter once I started paying attention.  I don't know if I'll just deal with the almost half bobbin of too thin yarn and try to pair it with something thicker to make a useable amount of sock yarn or if I'll just turn it into some embroidery yarns and re-card and spin more yarn.   Either way, my skein of hand spun sock yarn may not be ready for dye day and I will have to resort to more mundane resources, which luckily, were on sale this week!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Crazy Early Spring

We've had delightful, unseasonably warm weather.  It's felt like summer, day after day.  The ground has dried up, much yard work has been accomplished and some gardening.  I've gotten some of the peas planted.  Even if the weather turns cold, they'll be fine as they prefer cooler weather and are quite hardy.  The lettuces in the cold frame are starting to germinate.   With the long range forecast for a warmer than normal spring, I broke down and started many of my garden seeds a week early.  It doesn't seem like a lot, but it can mean the difference between leggy, overgrown seedlings or having to re-pot them before planting. I checked and I've enough larger pots should I need to go the second route but even getting plants in the ground a week early could make a huge difference to garden results.   I've still a few things to plant.  Curcurbits (cucumbers, squash etc) only need to be started a few weeks before plant out date, so I'll wait until my normal time for those.   

In this crazy weather, flowers which should be blooming a month from now, have graced us with their beauty.  I popped out to do some errands this morning and came back to this show in the front of the house.  So pretty.  The flower beds in the back have dried out and the sandy soil has been a hit with the chooks.  They've sunbathed in a good portion of the back beds, decimating most of the perennial flowers there.    I'll be fencing in my gardens soon enough I suppose, just to keep the chooks at bay.  Yes, it might be easier to fence the chooks, but they'd be unhappy about it for sure!

I've had a few false starts on projects lately.  I wanted to have a not quite plain pair of socks on the needles.  However the patterns I chose, turned out to need more concentration than I was willing to put into them.  First the colour I chose didn't show the pattern up and I couldn't easily follow it.  The same pattern in a different colour showed up fine, but required me to constantly think about it.  When outside, trying to keep the chickens from drinking my tea, while I was knitting, proved to be too much of a distraction to keep up with that pattern.   These pretty orange socks are using Cookie A's BFF.  I've done it before.  It's an easy 6 row pattern with only a couple of odd pattern rows at changing points.  It makes a lovely sock, pretty and useful everyday type pattern.  The only slow row is the cable row, every 6 rows.  Not so bad and suitable for dragging to meetings and knitting outside while shooing chooks from one's tea!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Friday Night Spinning and "stuff"

 I'd decided to devote my Friday night to finishing up projects, or at least finishing up a project.  Mainly, I wanted the blue merino off the wheel.  So Friday night, I hunkered down and spun blue yarn.  I filled the rest of the second bobbin  by the end of the evening.  I'd hand carded most of the roving, but I'd been finding some of the rolags were getting very neppy, so the last little bit, I simply pulled strips from the roving and pre-drafted it.  It wasn't quite as easy to spin, but there were definitely less neps.  Saturday night, during the hockey game, I plied.  I decided to use the jumbo flyer on the Minstrel.  It took the whole Leafs hockey game, the Montreal game shoot out and a bit of whatever was on next (I didn't pay attention), to fill the flyer.  I was tired of plying by then.  This morning, I wound the blue yarn onto my niddy noddy and have this gorgeous skein of 533 yards of Merino, dyed with Japanese Knotweed.

Last weekend, I dug out an old window which we found when clearing the little barn to make space for the chooks.  My sweetie cut the pieces of scrap wood and a couple of days ago, my son assembled it for me.  The new cold frame is now a fixture in the garden.  I've planted some lettuce, mesclun mix and spinach.  Hopefully we'll get some early salads out of it.   I have to be careful when propping it open for venting as one of the chooks likes to hop in and scratch around in there.  There are two more windows and enough scraps to make a second cold frame, if this one proves useful.

I think that the unseasonably warm weather has jump started our spring.  It's like everything is almost a month early already.  We have Crocuses blooming, all two of them.  The rest seem to have vanished.  If the hungry chooks didn't eat them, then our resident squirrels did.   I'll have to remind myself to plant more this fall.   The Daffodils are starting to set buds and should flower soon, if the weather doesn't cool off.   The Maple trees are flowering!  I love the look of the flowering trees.  It's one of those signs of spring I look for.  Of course, normally I don't get to spend the whole day outside in short sleeves and a sun hat, admiring the trees while doing yard work.  It's a lovely and rare treat to have a late winter, since it's not yet spring, like this!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Colours of March 2012

 We're having crazy warm weather here.  On this day last year, we had a temperature of 2C and today, we got up to 16C.  Yesterday the garden beds were dry enough to start raking, although it was still too wet to start on the grass.  Not only did the back flower bed get raked of the pine needles that fall over the winter, but twice this amount of brush from fallen branches, unwanted buckthorn and wild plum saplings got removed.  I even pruned the raspberry canes today, noting that there was a lot of winter kill, despite the mild temperatures, probably due to lack of snow cover.
  I found a partial bag of potting soil in the greenhouse, so I planted a few seeds of three kinds of onions.  I'll plant more green onions in a few weeks, so that we can harvest them successively.  The Spanish onions are a long season storage onion and the White Welsh Perennial onion is a new one for this year, being a green onion which grows back year after year and is self seeding.   It's too early to plant too much more without a cold frame, hoop house or other protection.
 With the warm weather and sunshine, the chooks have found places to dust bathe.  It's the oddest thing watching them fluff their feathers, roll in the dirt and then shake it off, like a wet dog shakes water.   I tried to tell the girls, this was where I'd planted my Dyer's Coreopsis, but they didn't seem to care.  I'll start some in pots and plant it there when they've found another, more suitable spot to dust bathe.
Checking out the fields behind our house.  You can see the pasture in the foreground is still dormant, but something at the very back is starting to green up.   I swear we have trees ready to leaf out already and that doesn't normally happen until May around here.  As long as the pear trees don't flower early, it's all good.   With a pretty much guaranteed chance of frost yet this spring, I'd rather not lose the pear crop this year.

I love the fresh, bright colour of the greens on the pine trees in the spring.  Against the blue sky, it is a most beautiful colour combination.  Later in the year, those greens will seem much darker and dull.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Snail like project speed.. or so it seems.

 It's been a quiet few days  which have felt amazingly unproductive.  I've spun more of the Woad or Dyer's Knotweed dyed fibre.  It's just another bobbin of blue, which is coming along slowly.  Slowly because I seem to have been spinning the blue yarn for a while.  It's nice yarn, but everytime I think I've about finished up the roving, I've found another bag of it.  This last lot was compacted a bit, more so from being crammed in  a ziplock bag than the dyeing process, I think.  It is slowing down the spinning process as I'm carding it all by hand.

The blue socks are done.  I found the  yarn on sale.  There was a bin with a bag of 3 different types of yarn, enough for 3 pairs of socks, on sale for the price of 1 skein of sock yarn.  While I was only after a skein of pink yarn or some Scheepjes Invicta as it's very nice to knit with, I couldn't avoid bringing home the pink, the Invicta and the bag of yarn on sale.    I thought this might have been one of those fake fair isle type colourways, but my sampling showed it was striped with a thick mottled stripe.  My sample was a 3/1 ribbing, so I just kept knitting.  There were a lot of knots in the second half of the skein, so I had a bunch of ends to stitch in.  Even if I'd tried to match these, it would't have happened because of the knots.  The colour is called "storm" - quite appropriate I think. 

The chooks are laying lots of eggs.  I think the mild winter was a factor in the girls only slowing down a bit for a couple of weeks.  They are right back at it though.    I realized that I've no idea what a standard egg size looks like anymore.  Since the old girls started laying last year, they produced these huge eggs and now my mind sees any egg smaller that that, as small!