June 29, 2018

Growing of the greens

The potatoes took a long time to come up but once they did, they grew rapidly.  This is the first hilling up I did, with lots of chicken help,which really wasn't much help at all.  They kept digging in whatever dirt I was trying to push up to the potato plants, making more mess than anything else.   However I prevailed and went back yesterday to re-do the hilling.    One of the chickens partially dug up a tiny potato, so YAY!  I quickly covered it up again as it was still attached to the plant.   We'll have at least 1 potato from the 4 rows that I planted.
The raised beds are growing spectacularly.   Between this photo and today, we've had a lot of rain and some warm temperatures.   Everything in the garden has been growing dramatically overnight, after all that wet, warm weather.  The beans should be flowering any day now.  We've been eating salad every other day or sometimes every day.  The onions, leeks, turnips and carrots are looking good.  There are little green tomatoes on some of the tomato plants and the little pepper plants are just big enough that they should be starting to set flowers in the next couple of days.
I bought one slightly larger pepper plant and popped it in a larger  planter on the deck.   It has 3 early fruit that will be ready to eat soon!

The raised beds dry out more quickly, so I have to water them once in a while.  When the temperatures get stinking hot, I may have to do it every day, but luckily, it doesn't take a lot of water to keep them growing nicely!    The raised beds are also easy to weed.   I've been plucking tiny weeds out every day.  The soil is soft enough that they just pop out with little effort.  The biggest problem is that it was a really good year for Maple tree keys.  Those are the Maple seeds that float down like little helicopters.   There were hundreds falling on the deck pots and raised beds alone, not to mention that the lawn was heavily covered and looked silvery for a while.   Now I'm plucking little Maple seedlings out daily, by the dozens at times - sometimes a dozen from just one little pot!

The hot and humid, then cool and rainy, and then warmer and humid again has given rise to the start of powdery mildew on the cucurbits - well, the pumpkins and cucumbers anyway.  So far the zucchini seems fine, so I didn't bother dusting it.  In the past I've lost all the cukes and pumpkins to powdery mildew, despite using all the so called organic methods like coating the leaves with milk and spraying them with baking soda solution, and baking soda and dish soap, (and the list goes on). This time I looked up the different ways and it turns out that sulfur is recommended.  I purchased the little tin, donned my gloves and sprinkled away.  So far it seems to have done the trick.   Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate it no less a chemical than sulfur.   The sulfur has a 1 day turn around time from application to ingestion, so it can't be all that horrid.  Regardless, I really didn't want to lose the crop before they'd even had a chance to start growing.     Fingers crossed that there will be a lot of cucumbers for my lunches and pumpkin pies in the autumn.

Last night's salad: two types of red leaf lettuce, oakleaf lettuce, black seeded Simpson lettuce, romaine, spinach, kale, swiss chard, green multiplier onions and 1 tiny orange tomato which is hidden under a leaf!  YUM!

June 25, 2018

Spinning blends, flax and Kevin update

I finished up another bit of that Indigo dyed, Merino/Cashmere blend.   It weighs about 53g and I haven't counted the yardage yet.  It's pretty enough. I have to track down the other skein of this and store them together for future use.  I think the yarn would make yummy socks, but it would also make a nice cozy scarf you or if I had enough, a stellar baby sweater.  Although, I'd need a bunch more than 50 g for that last idea.

I brought some flax sliver with me to Westfield on Sunday and spun it.  It's really a finely processed flax tow and while it's much nicer than the actual tow that is sold, it is still difficult to spin finely.   This is a bit coarser than I'd been trying for, but I was also chatting away while I was spinning and it took little effort.   I was glad that I was spinning flax as a visitor came in and was excited to see it being spun.   Despite the pouring rain for most of the day, and fewer than normal visitors, it was a really fun day.

I brewed up a can and kilo batch of beer -  it's fast and easy to get the lower alcohol levels my sweetie likes.   I've done a couple of these with decent results, but I usually substitute the included yeast packet for Nottingham.  That's mainly because it has a good lower fermentation temperature and our house is cooler in the winter.  Because it was so warm outside when I brewed this, I just used the yeast packet in the kit.   Oh la la.... there was yeast coming out the top of the airlock something fierce.    The next day I had to go to town, so I picked up some hose and put together a make shift blow off tube.  I should have dipped the hose in boiling water first, because then I could set the jar of sanitizer on the table, but I only had a few minutes and didn't think about it until the only place I could set the jar was on the lid.   I dunked the whole kit and caboodle into some sanitizer ( I use Star San ), including running it through the 4 ft plastic tube, before assembling it.   Of course by the time it was all said and done, there was nary a burp of excess off gassing.  At least I'll have this in case I need it in the future.

Kevin update:  He's almost been good lately.  He's hardly gotten into any trouble at all.  It's been difficult to know whether it is Kevin or one of the ginger kitties, who also get into mischief.    Kevin does love to lounge regally on the high shelf of the kitty tree, watching over his little kingdom.

June 22, 2018

Low Immersion Dye Experiment 3

This looks like it should be a cheesecake or some other yummy dessert.  It is actually the moment after I added the dye to my low immersion experiment 3.  The fibre, 150 g of a merino/cashmere blend, was soaked in 3 litres of warm water and 125 mls of household white vinegar ( the stuff you buy at the grocery store.)     The pan is sitting on the stove, over 2 burners.

I did the math for dye amounts  ( WOF x DOS / % Dye stock )    I came up with 75 mls of dye.  I decided to use no more than that for this experiment.     I measured the dye with a syringe and drizzled it over the wet fibre.   I turned the burners on to low at this time, so that the water would start heating.

Exhausted acid dye bath is clear!
I have a chop stick that I use to gently lift the fibres to make sure the colour is penetrating.  I had to use it a bit as the fibre was quite well packed in places.  As well, most of this is not quite pencil roving, but quite thin anyway, so twisted in places and not easy for dye penetration.  I did a bit of moving and untangling the roving in a couple of places, just to make sure I didn't get white spots.     I kept the dye bath at a simmer, until the water exhausted and kept it there for a bit longer just to make sure the dyed fibre had the best chance at being colourfast.

I'd watched a couple of you tube videos about this technique and there were a number of them which showed brightly coloured water, with the commentary " Look, the dye has exhausted and we can remove it now".   This is what an exhausted acid dye bath looks like.  The water should be clear and not coloured!  If you use too much dye, the water won't exhaust and it is a waste of  dye.

It is important to let the fibres cool slowly, to avoid felting from temperature shock.  I let it cool in the pot.  The nice thing about a rectangular pan with little water, is that the whole lot cools down in only a couple of hours.  After a quick rinse to make sure there was no residual dye, and a spin in a dye dedicated salad spinner, I laid the fibre outside on a drying rack, covered with screening.  With the breezy days we've been having, it dried in no time.

June 15, 2018

Low Immersion Dyeing experiment 1

4 hours of soaking without heat - unintentionally
 I decided to play around with some low immersion dyeing techniques.  Usually, I use a 40:1 water to WOF (weight of fibre) calculation, which allows the dye to mix in evenly and give great solid colours.   With low immersion, you purposely use less water to keep the dye from moving too freely, and more vinegar to help the dye strike quickly.    It's a technique to create varigated yarns and fibre locks, in a disorganized fashion.   That just means you can't really plan where the colours will fall and will probably get some surprise colour blending.
So, I started the first batch by picking a whole lot of mohair locks.  I laid them out in the pan with about 3 litres of water and a half a cup of vinegar.   You can use vinegar or citric acid - both work just fine.  Vinegar is cheap and available locally.  I have to order citric acid in.  It's more expensive, but you use less.   Generally though it's the shipping which is over the top.  

mohair locks after heating and drying.
It started to rain just as I was getting ready to add the dye.  It was a hard, torrential downpour, with crazy winds.   It only lasted 10 minutes though so I added the dye, navy, yellow and a tiny bit of grey.  I had just added the grey, leaving some white spots when the power went out.   I'd hoped it would be just a flicker but it was about 4 hours later before I could start heating the fibre.   By then the colours had migrated over all the white fibres.

It took ages and an addition of extra vinegar to get the dye to exhaust.  I'd obviously added too much.  In the end, there was little yellow or blue but just a jumble of different greens.  Pretty for sure, but not what I'd hoped for.  At least with the power outage, it wasn't a complete failure.

I used one of the bags of level 6 project fleece and tried again.  This time there was no power failure.  The colours held quite well and I was happy enough with the final colours of the locks.   I'm worried that the locks spun together might make a muddy coloured yarn, but as locks used for novelty yarns, or adding to white they could be quite stunning.

Now I have some more ideas to play around with.  Trying this with sock yarn could be spectacular.   Maybe I'll give it a go with some sliver as well. The colours could be a little easier to play with.  I'm pretty sure you wouldn't want to use too many colours with this technique or you'd risk getting lots of muddy browns.

It's lots of fun though.  These were both acid dyes on protein fibre locks.

June 10, 2018

Jam season already....

I've spent a fair bit of time during the last week, playing outside in the dirt.    The massive 4 c yard pile of dirt has been moved into 4 raised beds, 4' x8', 1 4'x4' raised bed and the rest tilled into the second garden bed.    I have been using the square foot gardening method in the raised beds and have left a few square feet to plant with beans and lettuces in a week or two, for what will hopefully be some continual harvesting.

The 4x4 bed is up at the front of the house where it gets a bit more sun.   I call it the pumpkin bed, because that is what I usually plant in it.   They take over the rest of the garden otherwise.  Some years they do really well, others, not so much.  It does depend on the weather, the aggressiveness of the choocks, and I think maybe the enthusiasm that the township has for spraying weeds in the ditches. 

The raised beds have tomatoes, peppers,  zuchinni, turnips, carrots, beans, kale, chard and salad greens.   Two more will go in next year, behind these ones.   The second garden has my Madder patch, rhubarb, winter onions and blackberries.  These are all perennials, so a somewhat permanent placement in the garden.  The part we tilled in has potatoes planted.   That is another crop which has been weather and chicken dependent.

I tied on a warp to the previous project.   I decided that it was nice enough when all was said and done and it is so much faster to just tie on a project.    I've several others queued up for the summer though.  There is enough warp for three scarves on there.  One is for a gift, so I need to get it done.  The other two will go either in the fall guild sale pile or in the xmas present pile.

I ended up at the Lockhart farm house at Westfield last weekend.   It was a little sad in that there were musicians out and nobody came to play down my way.   I did however, borrow the enamel pot from another building and made rhubarb jam.  Well, rhubarb/red currant jam as per one of the recipes I found.    While I was looking for rhubarb recipes, I came across rhubarb jam recipes from 1828 and 1833, with indications that it was made much earlier. 

With no easy way to clean, sterilize and water bath my jam jars, I packed it into clean from home jars and took it home with me.      I set up the waterbath canner, emptied the jam into a pot and brought it up to a good boil.  Then I transferred the jam to clean, hot jars and popped them into the canner.   Because the equipment was out, the canner heated up and the weather quite cool today, I used the remaining currant juice which I'd made for the rhubarb jam and combined it with leftover apple pectin/juice/sauce from Lockhart apples to make apple red currant jelly.   Sampling was pretty yummy and I can't wait to taste it on toast!

June 02, 2018

A pretty spring hike

Today we took a break from gardening.   We went out for lunch, did some running around for small errands and stopped at a small conservation area just outside of town.  The trails are manicured.  They are an easy walk and bike trail.  The bikers were all polite, which was nice.   I've run across a couple of rude people who expect you to hear them coming up behind you and swear when you don't.   If they just ring their little bell, I know to move aside to give them room to pass!  At anyrate, it's an easy walk especially since I needed my cane, and it was oh so pretty this year.

May has been warm, with a lot of unseasonably mild weather.  It's been like summer heat and the flora has been responding appropriately.   First, leaves and early flowers had to catch up due to the lingering winter.  Now it's like they got into overdrive and haven't stopped.     This Queen Anne's Lace is about a month early.  It was in full bloom, lining both sides of the trail.   It was lush and tall and simply beautiful.   The Dame's Rocket was peeking through with splashes of pink and purple for contrast.
There were some interesting mushrooms and fungi around, including these shelf fungi.   I'd have loved to pick some and try dyeing with them.  Not only is this a conservation area, and I wouldn't pick them here, but I don't know the toxicity of this variety, so wouldn't take that risk unless I did some research.                                   I really wish I'd had my big camera with me but I've gotten out of the habit of carrying it with me, so I only had my dying phone, which doesn't focus quite the way I'm happy with.   Regardless, it is a poor photographer who blames her equipment but still, the camera focus is hit or miss so I feel pretty lucky that it decided to mainly hit for this hike.

It was a nice break from shifting dirt and scooting around on the ground, planting things.   A few places were almost fairy tale in appearance, with breaks in the sunshine and flowers which seemed to go on and on forever.   There were ducks and geese in the creek, hawks and vultures overhead and very few bugs.  I know if we were to head out there in the evening, we'd be eaten alive by monster mosquitoes this year.

One thing I noticed was the nettles.  There were nettles everywhere.   I've been dithering about trying my hand at harvesting and processing nettles to try and spin them.    I've got two patches in the garden.   I can probably call on a friend or two and harvest theirs.   If this place wasn't a conservation area, I'd get armloads and have a go at processing nettles.  Who knows, maybe I'll find another patch or two locally and armed with heavy gloves, jeans and long sleeves I'll get my chance.