Category Archives: Gardens

Holding and Held

What to say? Galen has started work on Christmas presents.  Cucumbers and zucchinis are coming in.  The chickens are getting big…soon there will be eggs. It remains to be seen whether or not we will be able to eat them. At a time of year when most other gardens, ours included, are a fiery mass of colors, our front garden is having it’s white moment. It’s calmly beautiful, though short lived.  My favorite crimson rose is about to bloom again.

I’ve barely been knitting at all.  My head is swimming with lesson plans and meal plans and sewing projects and cold weather house preparations to be made.  I’m envious of mothers that have childless periods of time in which to think and work uninterrupted.  I could be so much more effective if I had the mental and physical space to plan and prepare.

The chickens aren’t the only ones growing.  I’m keenly aware that not just one, but two of my children will be able to vote in not the current, but the next presidential election!  I have two high-schoolers this year.  Iain is actively working through the state required steps for getting his driver’s license.  This growing children thing is getting serious!

My “baby” is no longer a baby, but an extremely active, clever and mischievous young girl, perhaps the very 2ist two year old I’ve ever encountered.  Last week when she was doing something naughty and being quite cheerful about it, I told her it wasn’t funny and she looked at me and replied, “I laughin’…”

This week marked a right of passage for my oldest daughter as well.  After many months of comments like, “There are only two people in dance class who don’t have their ears pierced.  You know who they are?  Me and Galen.”  And being assured that having pierced ears makes for a loving sister, with a sunny disposition, who does her chores without complaint and always remembers to put her clothes in the hamper, etc.  We finally agreed to take her to get her ears pierced.

Not being one to take for granted that the conventional way of doing things is always the best way and feeling really uncomfortable with the idea of some random kid at the mall putting holes in my child’s body, I did my research first.  Based on what I read, I decided that a professional piercer using traditional methods (as in a needle, not a gun) was the way to go for our family.

I nervously gave her some relaxing and pain relieving herbs in the waiting room before hand. She didn’t even bat an eye.  She didn’t flinch or whimper or cry, her eyes didn’t well up…she was just totally chill.  That girl is pretty hardcore.  We’re using chamomile tea bag compresses now, in addition to regular saline rinses, to help with healing and reduce the risk of infection.  She’s pleased as punch.  I don’t think there has ever been a gift she’s liked so much.

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harvesting and a sweater for every occation

The garlic is in and at least a few blueberries made it to the freezer.  I had really hoped to make it back to the blueberry farm again by now.  We thought the tiny girl would just park herself somewhere and gorge away, blueberries being her very favorite.  But she took her task very seriously and was determined to fill her own little basket.  She went off on her own (we kept an eye on her of course).  We kept asking if she wanted to pick with one of us and she would reply, “No, I pickin’ with myself!”

It’s birthday sweater season, where my knitting project is dependent on who happens to be in the room with me.  I have one color work sweater where I feel completely certain about the color selection, but nervous about the pattern and a second one where I’m completely at ease with the pattern, but nervous about the color selection.

I actually haven’t started Iain’s sweater yet. My gauge is so horrendously off that I haven’t had the courage to face it.  Ravelry had the wrong yarn weight listed and I was silly enough not to double check with the pattern.  Every time I sit down to try and figure it out I think,”OR I could just pick up one of these sweaters I already have started and have a nice relaxing knit.  Yes, that does sound quite good.”  And I do just that.

It occurred to me that this is my last week of summer in which to accomplish anything.  Next week our schedule explodes and we are thrust into a full scale, full on, hectic autumn schedule.  Where did the summer go???

I’ve been frantically trying to get the house and our lives together, but I’m so easily sidetracked.  My ridiculous mind keeps having nagging thoughts like, “hmm, maybe we should try to paint the bathroom real quick?”  A perfect example: yesterday I sat down on the futon with a basket of fabric to sort through.  As I was cutting off scrappy ends and tossing them into a trash bag, I was acutely aware of the flat throw pillow I was leaning on.  Let’s just say that the situation escalated and Steve came home from work to find me sitting in the middle of a huge pile of stuffing and bits of random fabric, pulling apart packed together fibers and blistering my hands chopping scraps up into teeny-tiny little flecks.  These things happen, right?  I’m happy to say that we do now have three fluffy pillows to recline on at the end of our long hard days. Of course, they are now too big for their pillow cases, so there is that….

I’m sometimes alarmed by how much my life resembles an episode of I Love Lucy.

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“Chook, chook, chook, chook, chook

Good Morning, Mrs. Hen, How many chickens have you got? Madam, I’ve got ten.  Four of them are yellow, and four of them are brown and two of them are speckled red, the nicest in the town.” ~Nursery Rhyme, a favorite with a certain little someone just now.

The coop is complete and now home to eight happy hens (though we are not sure that all of them are hens, two are growing decidedly rooster-ish): Dilly, Captain, Miss Pecks-a-Lot, Monty, Juliette, Buffy, Alys and Vita.  The last two being named by me after two of my favorite gardeners.

Elijah designed the coop and Steve, Iain and Elijah built it.  My sole contribution was to interrupt them when they were making excellent progress to drastically slow them down by requesting they cut scallops in that trim piece, which looked far more charming in my head and far less like the awning of an ice cream shop.  Do I redeem myself at all by relaying that since these pictures we’ve added shutters and I ripped all of the wood for them?  Probably not.

I’m quite enjoying keeping chickens, with the notable exceptions of the pooping on my front steps and eating of my hostas.

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Lil Shepherd in the Rain

In an otherwise dry summer, I feel as though we’ve had a whole season’s worth of rain over the last week.  There were points when I was convinced that the entire house was just going to bob up and float away.  I would lie in bed at night in semi-consciousness listening to the torrent all around me and get the impression that I myself was being washed away.  In a way I kind of adored it.

I made Seraphine a Lil Shepherd vest a couple of weeks ago when I needed a break from tiny sock needles and thin fiddly sock yarn for bitty socks.  She likes the vest (I think it’s the pom-poms) and the socks, which is a huge boon for me because more and more often lately she’s been telling me that woolen items are not soft and that they “hurt”.  She’s very fickle.  There are some items that I consider rough, but she accepts without question and others that are soft as can be and she turns her nose up at them!  Very frustrating for a mama-knitter.  It seems to help for her to see me knitting them.  She always wants to know what I’m making and who it’s for.  Then there is a build up of excitement about this special bit of clothing just for her.  I think that may have been the saving grace of the vest and socks.

I just started reading A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle.  I can’t remember who recommended it?

The salad above is kale with chicken, avocado, black olives and that vegetable cheese I’ve been making (it’s similar to this, but we have our own way of doing it).  That was nice, but I’m terribly disgruntled about food in general lately and sick to death of everlasting elimination diets, which I’ve been on various variations of for the better part of 16 years now.  And I just seriously need a big long vacation from the whole darn thing.  Unfortunately, vacations from eating don’t tend to work out well.  I know there are plenty of ways to make it exciting and delicious, I’m just too everlasting busy and tired to, a) be that creative and b)  actually have the time to make it all.  And the times when I do manage to make something novel and interesting, it takes hours to create and disappears in mere moments because there are so many people digging in.  Alright, end rant.  Moving on.  Here if not in my head.

I’ve experienced a very unexpected knitting/wardrobe windfall!  I had this theory that my best bet, as my kids get older, for insuring that they quietly and happily keep wearing my knitted goods was to be as discreet about their home-made nature as possible….classic men’s wear colors, simple designs, nothing that’s going to call too much attention. In passing Iain mentioned liking brown, so I was thrilled when a shade of brown went on clearance in my favorite, go-to, everyday yarn (the color is “Doe”.  It’s now sold out in worsted, but still available in DK weight for $2.81 a ball, which is a pretty fabulous price for superwash merino!). I ordered enough for a sweater and started planning my simple, non-threatening, fingers-crossed teenager approved, palatable classic.

Imagine my surprise when a week after the yarn arrived he told me he wanted me to make him something “wild” and unlike anything he owns, with as many colors as possible!  Preferably loud, bright, attention grabbing colors!  I guess the joke is on me with that one!  That’s more than alright because the consolation prize for being way off base is that I’m getting a new autumn sweater after-all.  The full coverage warm sort of one that I had in mind, though in a different color and pattern than planned.  I never would have bought the yarn for myself, but since it’s already here…  And I also have the unique, endearing and amusing task of working up a wild and crazy sweater for my son’s seventeenth birthday.  Not a bad deal at all.

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Around the Garden~ Summer 2016

We are having a crazy year from a wildlife perspective.  Not that we don’t usually have our fair share of wildlife, but for the most part is hasn’t interfered with our gardening.  Not so this year!  I feel like something must have been thrown out of balance with our local Eco-system.  There is some kind of work going on in the woods up the road, that seems a likely cause.

The grey foxes came every evening at dusk for a while.  And now the male of the pair comes alone, presumably seeking food for his mate and kits.

We had a porcupine coming every night for a while as well.  We blamed it for an entire bed of strawberries, razed to the ground, the disappearance of all of our Swiss chard and many of our beet tops, as well as the nibbling down of our newly planted gooseberries and currents.  But the morning after one such incident we spotted a deer family around fifteen feet from the garden, so who knows?

One morning we were hearing strange sounds and discovered a young bear throwing rocks at the house!  He broke a chunk of board off the storage area under the deck.  That was the same morning that all of my daffodils disappeared.  Every last one, back yard and front.  We found nothing but large holes and a few scattered leaves.  My family is sick of me walking around mournfully, repeating the phrase, “every single daffodil…” in disbelief, again and again.  So I have tried to stop, but I am terribly sad about that one.

The following week we found most of our straw paths burrowed under, turned about and generally topsy-turvy.  We suspected a skunk, until the next morning dawned to reveal the remaining paths in disarray and the true culprits: 5 mischievous raccoons.

For the first year ever my parsley and basil did absolutely nothing.  Nothing!  And what is a summer without fresh basil I ask you?!?  Most of our sunflowers disappeared in the night, like so many other plants, and the few that survived are rounding up to knee high.  The chipmunks stole all the fruit from our fruit trees.

Most of our garden is suffering from extreme neglect.  Apart from a few optimistic bursts of productivity, we’ve really done very little with it this year.  And I think all that is happening is the same thing that always happens any time a patch of earth is left unattended; nature reclaims it.  Sometimes very rapidly!

Still there are some garden highlights; it’s been a great year for brassicas.  Our kale and collard beds are overflowing.  I wish I had planted more broccoli.  It did very well.  Our winter squash are thriving and starting to set fruit.  We’ll be pulling up our garlic this week and I’m anticipating our usual hearty harvest.  A few of our cranberry plants are completely covered in little pale green berries.  Others- the ones being shaded and starved out by weeds- less so.

Most of the front flower garden is lovely and a great comfort to me.  The peonies were magnificent this year, but you will never know it.  I was waiting until they were at their absolute peak to photograph them and that very morning Mairi Rose and Galen decided to surprise me by filling like eight jars and vases near to bursting with them!  Hence the rather bare and patchy specimens you see pictured here.

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boyish scenes and other bits

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SaveA while ago, possibly months even (?), someone wrote to me asking if I could post a picture of my on-going blanket project.  I replied that of course I could!  And then promptly forgot about the whole thing.  Better late than never?

This project is just over a year old now.  In terms of size perspective, Iain is right around 5′ 10″ and the blanket is folded under in such a way that maybe 1/2 to 2/3′s of the width is showing.  I had kind of thought that maybe it would be nice to finish it for this autumn, but I ran out of yarn ends to add to it, so I’ll have to keep completing other projects for a while to replenish my supply.

More about the blanket here.  And here is another in progress photo.  Looking back at these old posts and knowing where we are at right now, all I can think is that this has been a very hard year.

I haven’t done much reading this week, but when I do I’m back to reading Living Language as I start trying to flesh out the coming school year.

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days of pink lace

I’m still reading and enjoying The Summer Book.

I’m trying to pull myself out of a long standing food funk.  Breakfast one day last week: Cinnamon-Raisin Meatballs, broccoli from our garden and half a Japanese yam.

I’ve gotten out of the habit of making sauerkraut, even though my children love it and it’s excellent for them and good too just to have around to pad out meals.  After years of successful kraut making, we were experiencing problems with mold growth.  It was frustrating and wasteful and at some point I just gave up.  This time I used this method, packing it in a Fido Jar to ferment and it turned out beautifully.  We get our jars at our local Farmer’s Supply, but you can also find them here.

I’ve also been experimenting with making vegetable based “cheeses”.  I added some fresh herbs from the garden to the batch above.

Speaking of the garden, these purple radishes have grown amazingly this year.  I wish I could remember what variety they are!

The first pair of little toddler socks are done and seriously a more adorable, little, rosy, lacy pair of tiny ankle socks has never been seen.  I always want to nibble her toes when she wears them.  They are made of yarn leftover from this dress and bonnet.  Would you just look at her perfectly precious, tiny baby self?  Darling little love of my heart.

There are so many small projects going on all the time here, but little to no time to share them.

The chicken coop is well underway!  So far we’ve managed to use all salvaged materials.  Once we get to the siding I think we’ll be investing in some local rough-cut lumber.

Someone discovered her old Moses basket!

Do you know the trick of blocking hats and bonnets over an inflated balloon?  Just blow it up to about the size you need and balance it on a bowl.  Or, as in this case, with a very tiny bonnet, a large mug.

One of my oldest and dearest friends just found out that her fifth baby is going to be her first girl.  If that isn’t a reason to knit a pink lacy bonnet, I don’t know what is!  (you can’t tell me that there is never a reason.  I simply won’t believe you.)

This is my Flora Irene pattern again (also here and here).  I have three patterns either ready or almost ready to go out to test knitters.  But the test knitting process requires my being ever available and quick to answer questions.  And as my over-flowing inbox will attest, that is *not* in the cards at the moment.  frustrating.

Oh, have I mentioned it’s reversible?

I often get asked why I don’t talk more about chronic illness and how it effects our lives.  I guess the simple answer is that there is enough heartbreak and sorrow in the world.  And I’d rather devote my precious little time to trying to put some beauty and joy out there.

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Summer Solstice

The children found a fallen and abandoned nest in the woods, nothing very out of the ordinary about that, but this one happens to be lined with a lock of Mairi Rose’s hair!

Breakfast fixin’s from the garden: garlic scapes, onion tops, sweet thyme, mint, pineapple sage and regular sage to season our sausage patties.  Lemon balm for tea.  Once the sausages were cooked I tossed all the greens from the bottom of the basket; collards, kale and the last of the bolting spinach, in the pan with the juices, added a bit of broth, then covered them and steamed.

 

We usually have a Solstice celebration.  Last week I was thinking about how I wanted to do something special, but I never really got beyond that thought.  The day of, on my way up to put the baby down for a nap, I told them all to come up with a plan while I was away.

This is what they came up with: A picnic dinner in the garden.  Burning the Swedish Torch that Iain made a few months back.  Baking and eating strawberry-rhubarb pie (as we are not currently eating any sweetener or grains and they made up the recipe themselves, this part was kind of gross, but they seemed happy with it anyway!).  And launching rockets.  I added a sun inspired craft and our celebration was complete.

 

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Aprons

Fabric selection was limited to what I had within the house.  I dismantled my Halloween costume from last year, which started out life as a sheet.

I used this tutorial.  Because like most young women, I’ve dreamed of owning a Regency style apron since high school….roughly corresponding with the release of this version of Sense and Sensibility.  Not a coincidence.

This whole project was a hack job.  I really meant for it to be just a practice piece to make sure it fits and works well for me.  As such I gave myself permission to cut as many corners as possible.  A professional seamstress would be horrified.  Even the somewhat fastidious home sewist would be aghast.  What can I say?  Frankly, it was either fast and dirty or not at all and this is a very useful garment for me.

I should have gotten proper pictures of the back and all, but really my highest priority in the moment was to get my parsley and basil in the ground.  The straps cross in the back, which I love.  It’s comfortably supportive.  I do not like the type of apron that just goes around the neck.

I have some large patch pockets with elastic cinched tops that I plan on stitching to the skirt portion the next time I sit down at my machine.

 What have you been working on?


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June

“Things didn’t turn out the way that they were supposed to, but what can you do?  You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it” ~Yann Martel, Life of Pi

I finished Life of Pi.  While there were some aspects of it that I liked, I did not enjoy reading it. I do not enjoy gruesome violence.  And yet at the end it left me with many things to think about.  And I feel like it could inspire many deep and intriguing conversations.  I think I’ll pass it on to the teenager who has a high threshold for gore and hold it back from the one who, like me, is more sensitive to such things.

“Cake” decorating.

I love the way that rain and dew cling to lady’s mantle.  I have mixed feelings about this year’s garden.  I try to spend any time out there in the front, where most of the flowers are.  Ever changing, wild masses at a distance and pure delicate beauty up close, they are cheering.  For now anyway.  If I don’t find the strength and time to put some serious work in on them, they will quickly be over run, much like sections of our vegetable garden…

In theory a garden bed exists under this.  The back, our beloved kitchen garden, mostly makes me feel anxious and guilty.  I haven’t had the strength for it and the open land is reclaimed so quickly.  It’s over-whelming.  Steve has spearheaded a work team on weekends and occasional evenings.  Slowly, with the help of the kids, the garden is being brought back in hand.  On my own I’ll go out and try to do a bit here and there, only to be thwarted by some minor setback, throw my hands up in the air and retreat.

When she thinks we’re not watching, this one makes a beeline for the stone wall and deftly scales it, hoping to go exploring in the woods before anyone notices she’s gone.  When caught she quickly turns around, with her hands in her lap and a painted on expression of sweet innocence and declares with tellingly over-dramatic force and emotion, “I just sittin’ here!”

uh-huh.

A pair of grey foxes at dusk, as seen through my living room window.  One of the reasons I’m questioning the logic of our potential chicken venture.  

Two new holzhausen, making our front garden seem like a tiny village.

In the last two weeks I’ve knitted almost an entire adult sweater- body, button bands, collar, one full sleeve and two-thirds of a second.  If nothing else it is surely a personal record.  Ironically, this must make me sound like a lady of leisure.  If only that were true.  One of my children has been very ill, in a way that keeps us both up late into the night, every night.  I crawl into bed, desperate and weak, as the birds begin their morning serenade.  Most of the time there is not much I can do, beyond being present.  Luna moths bounce off the window screens, while we watch 60′s sitcoms as a distraction from the pain, our skin becomes polka-dotted with no-see-um bites and, in between providing all the practical care I can, I knit in an attempt to stay sharp and sane.

This summer is not shaping up to be the one I had planned.  In my mind, though I don’t mean to do it, I sometimes find that I’ve already written it off and started looking towards fall.

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