Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snow, knitting, plans

Just a few weeks ago, walking in the local wildlife area was a crunchy delight, with wall-to-wall carpeting of crisp leaves. Now all the leaves are black and soggy, and currently under a layer of snow. Yesterday we woke to about an inch, and today we've gained another half inch or more.

It doesn't seem so long ago that we were running out of food with no access to a store (last winter). Partner was able to bring small amounts home on the train, seeing as the roads were impassable for the likes of our car, luckily. Over the past year we've increased our storage of dried and canned foods like rice, flour, milk powder, sugar, corned beef and canned salmon. We also have a bit more garden produce than last year, namely potatoes, cabbage, celeriac, and chard. Hopefully we won't be caught out like before.

I'm so ashamed of myself: I've only got Partner two things for Christmas as of yet, and if the roads stay nasty, that may just be it (this also happened last year!). I'm making him a few small things, at least. On the other hand, Franklin's gifts are mostly taken care of. I would also like to make him something; at this point I'm not sure what. Maybe a soft toy, or maybe an item of clothing, or a painting for his bedroom...

In winter plans, I want to knit myself a new scarf. Eventually. I'm about 3/4 the way through a pair of socks, and I sort of said I would knit a couple boobs for a breastfeeding support group (they use them for demonstration). I've finished one: it's bright red with a blue nipple, the only two colors of yarn I've got presently. Franklin likes it. Maybe if I don't get around to making any more, he can have it instead.

I uploaded a new video to youtube; it's of Franklin and me playing the piano:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Housekeeping for new mothers

Let me open up my bag of housekeeping/babycare tricks for you. I've got some sneaky ways of keeping tidy while keeping a baby happy.

  1. The sling is your friend. Have a tiny baby who needs you ALL THE TIME? Can't be by himself for a single second? I know the feeling. Even now, at 8 months, Franklin still enjoys his sling while I do a bit of work. Apparently, babies who ride around in some sort of carrier get lots of stimulation, feel more calm and secure, and don't cry as much.
  2. Stick to the basics. You've just given birth, for crying out loud! So long as you're not tripping over garbage or poisoning yourself with salmonella, a bit of dirt's not gonna hurt. The bathroom, kitchen, and main living area should be your cleaning priorities (though actual cleaning doesn't have to be one of your priorities--sleeping and eating and loving your baby are much higher on the list).
  3. Is your tub more brown than white? Got a slime mold waving at you every time you look in the toilet? Don't worry, we've all been there. Just before hopping in the shower, give the toilet a little brush and flush--no need for chemicals if you're doing it daily. I keep a little container of baking soda on the rim of my tub and at the end of my bath/shower, I sprinkle a little onto my damp washcloth and scrub any obvious spots. The washcloth either goes straight into the laundry basket, or I use it with a little more baking soda to wipe out the sink if needed.
  4. There comes a point when your baby is a little more independent. At about four months, Franklin could lie under his baby gym for 45 minutes a day, batting his toys around. This is an ideal time for some quick cleaning. I've found vacuuming with a baby in the carrier is hard work, so do it when he's awake but otherwise occupied. Use a slightly damp cloth to dust so it won't fly about and get into your baby's precious little nose. If you're anything like me, there'll be four months' worth of dust!
  5. There's also the baby swing/bouncer/walker. I don't actually like these much because a baby's spine and back muscles aren't strong enough to hold their body weight for long periods of time; these can put a strain on their backs. But for short periods (the longest I ever use ours is 20 minutes a day) they can be invaluable. I have a bouncer that hangs in a doorway and it moves around the house with me.
  6. Ignore everything else, but don't let the essentials pile up. Dishes and laundry are two things that become overwhelming very quickly. Try to do some every day. Enlist your husband in this if you can: mine washes dishes at night and I put them away in the morning; he also puts a load of laundry on every night and one of us puts it to dry in the morning. And put it away, too! I couldn't even count the number of times I've had to go searching for a clean pair of socks in the morning...
  7. When your baby gets mobile, the fun really begins. Franklin loves following me around while I clean. He chases the dust mop, the vacuum, the broom...then he gets distracted and I only realize he's no longer with me when I hear a thump...WAH!
So with all these sneaky tricks, I really don't have an excuse for not keeping a spotless house, do I?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Potatoes, frost, winding down, and presentable housekeeping

This weekend, Partner and I dug up half our potato crop. I'm not sure how many, but Partner estimated about 100 potatoes. Mostly small, but several were HUGE. I mean seriously big, maybe six or eight inches in diameter. I don't know how they grew so big when most were tiny. These pictured are the usual shrimps.

I love winding down the garden at the end of the year. Well, not when it's raining: today, however, after a fierce frost (which actually hardly affected our garden at all), the sun shone and with Franklin snoring away at his mid-afternoon nap, I flung on my wellies and got digging. The street at the front of our house glittered with frost so I'm not sure how it missed our back garden, but what care I for details? It's November! It frosted! Even if it didn't kill my plants--I'm pulling them up anyway!

I dug up some gladiolas and a dahlia to overwinter (note to self: there are about a dozen more each of glads and dahlias to go), made a small dent in the Planet of the Nasturtiums, and planted a few tulip bulbs I'd divided from overcrowded stocks last spring. And planted out the last of the spring cabbages. Hooray!

I need to dig up the remainder of the potatoes; I really don't want to feed the slugs, after all. I think the celeriac ought to come up too, and any beets and carrots left. A few years ago, at the end of the season, we discovered mice eating the last of our carrots. Kind of put me off them. Oddly enough, they left our beets alone. When I was a kid I thought beets tasted like dirt. As an adult, I like them; they do still taste a bit like dirt, though.

For Thanksgiving we've invited Partner's parents to stay for the week. Having a baby has led to a sharp drop in housekeeping here, and I need to seriously organize if I want to be presentable next week when they arrive. My kitchen and living room stay moderately tidy--I clean the kitchen daily when Franklin either plays with food in his high chair or naps, and he crawls around while I tidy the living room during the day. The other rooms are more difficult at present. The only babyproofed room upstairs is his own, and with no gate at the top of the stairs: not so tidy upstairs. Better get on it, quick. A babyproofed house would be dreamy.

Speaking of babyproof: Partner caught Franklin eating dog food this weekend. No doubt it will be the first of many.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Eating leaves, this year's garden recap

This week I took my camera on our walk and had an autumn photo shoot. Franklin was very happy to decamp from his stroller and play in (i.e. eat) the leaves while I snapped pictures. I knitted him a new warm hat which I love and which he loves taking off. Sigh. I need to make him some matching mittens so it stays on his head.

Though we haven't yet had a frost, I'm expecting it any day now. This morning before work I managed to prune back my climbing rose; for several years it climbed over the old wooden arch, but with arch's demise, I'm attempting training it to climb the garage walls instead--with limited success so far. Hopefully it cooperates this coming year, as its luxurious misplaced growth nearly smothered my herb bed.

Our potato harvest is a moderate success. About half of the potatoes are still in the ground though the plants are all dead now. The biggest spuds have been about tennis ball size, though the average potato is more like apricot size: not very big. I'm not sure why. Still tasty.

And dug up our first celeriac for dinner today: super yum. I started out with 24, and somehow ended up with a grand total of 12. Also not huge, but bigger than my biggest potatoes.

Some lessons I've learned this year:
  • Vegetables need space to grow big! I tried to cram in too much.
  • Carrots grown in the ground are likely to get carrot fly (and thus ruined). Next year I will probably go back to planters for carrots. Smaller, but edible, at least.
  • Runner beans should have more than one pole to keep them upright. And the more runner bean plants, the better as far as I'm concerned. Plant more next year!
  • Cabbages need to be sown in greater intervals than just 2 weeks. We had way too many all at once and lost quite a lot.
  • Spring broccoli should be staked while still small. Mine are all tumbling down; it happened last year, too--I should have learned my lesson then.
  • Don't bother with tomatoes.