Thursday, December 19, 2013

Produce, play, and pudding

This is the second ever cauliflower I've grown, and definitely the best.  I planted about twelve plants, but only two managed to survive (chickens maybe?  or possibly fatal slug attack) and the first was quite small when it started to go to seed.  This one is now softball size and still growing slowly.  We might have it for Christmas dinner.  Or I might let it carry on.
 Most of my cabbages look like this one.  No real heads, but beautiful tender leaves.  This particular one, along with about a dozen others, was self-seeded.  These volunteers have less slug damage than the transplants I put in.  I actually have one cabbage planted in spring 2012 which is still putting out mini heads;  I keep cutting them off the main stem and it still sprouts new ones. 
 Though we've had several frosts and quite a lot of wind, my roses have a few blooms.  This vibrant red rose has a couple more flowers on it, and I have a tall pink rose also flowering. 
Franklin had his first Christmas play at his nursery;  he was a Wise Man and he did well, both playing his role and singing the all songs.  All the kids had a costume and a song--there were snowflakes, elves, toys, snowmen, and the nativity.  The play was only his class, so just the 3 and 4 year olds, and they had a lot of fun preparing and learning for it.  I was very proud of him.  He's been walking around the house for the past couple weeks singing, "We WISH you a merry Christmas!" and "Jinger bells!"

Christmas will be a quiet affair at home for us again this year.  The plum pudding is made--I usually make it around Thanksgiving and let it mature in the fridge for a month.  Plum pudding is very traditional here, and I'd never had it before I'd moved over.  Partner used to buy one, but I never liked it much and usually ended up giving most of it to the birds.  Then one year I decided I would make it instead, using a recipe from The Joy of Cooking (I can't recommend this book enough--everything I've made from it is a winner).  This recipe is so much nicer than anything we ever bought, and I now eat more plum pudding than Partner does! 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Shawls, sewing, goodbyes, Thanksgiving, growing and eating

 I never showed off my alpaca shawl: 
 I've been wearing this shawl pretty much constantly for the past month, wrapped around my neck like a scarf, and it's kept me very toasty and stylish.  I liked knitting it so much I knit another purple one, for a friend of mine:
Other things newly made but not pictured:  a pair of mittens for Franklin, wool on the outside, cashmere on the inside, sewn from some scraps;  two pairs of wool trousers for Franklin, cut down from larger wool items;  and a pair of angora leggings for myself, sewn from a large pullover.  I love these leggings;  I made a similar pair last winter but they've seen a lot of action and needed replacing.  Now I just need one more pair, to wear when these new ones are in the wash.  Everything I've sewn has come from secondhand items I bought at charity shops.

We've had some big changes here at our house in November;  another chicken and our dog have both gone to the happy hunting grounds.  Rooster died in the same way as the other two, of a brief illness, and Beauty, at age 14, we took to the vet for her final journey.  It was a very sad day for us, but we know she had a good long life, more than half of it with our family;  and at her age, she was only going to get worse, not better.  We will miss her, though;  the house feels strange without her.

Since resuming my studies, I've got a lot less time to myself for personal pursuits, but it's nice to have two hours in the morning when Franklin's at nursery to study;  I find mornings a lot better for it than evenings ever were.  However, it also means my housework's suffering again--it's harder to motivate myself to clean in the afternoon when I'm tired out.  Partner's been pretty good about taking initiative on the weekends, thankfully.

Speaking of thanks, we had a nice Thanksgiving with a friend and her husband and baby.  The husband is also American, and though he's lived in the UK at least as long as I have, they've never celebrated Thanksgiving here.  She told me he was thrilled that we'd invited them.  I made most of the food, but it was really nice to not have to cook every single thing, as I usually do.  It was a little strange eating the feast at 6.30pm instead of our usual 2pm, but that certainly didn't stop anyone from overindulging;  I definitely ate more pie than was good for me--as did Franklin.  In fact, over the course of three days, Franklin ate more pie than anyone else in the house;  he loved it.

Still eating cabbage and kale from the garden, and tomatoes are very slowly ripening in the garage still;  I sowed some winter greens in pots in there too, hoping they'll sprout.  We've had some frost, though the plants near the house have mostly been unaffected, including about half the nasturtiums.  Those nasturtiums are something else!  They come back every year, and every year attempt global domination.  I've also got a couple of Brussels sprouts and one cauliflower growing well out back, most of the leeks, and the parsley and fennel.  I've tried nasturtium leaves in stew successfully, by the way.  Raw they're very peppery, but cooking makes them much milder.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Grizzly pullover, costume, my shop, study and work

 Over the spring and summer I gave up knitting and sewing for more outdoorsy pursuits.  Now I'm full speed ahead with the crafting.  Above is Franklin's newest knit pullover, which I call the Kissing Grizzlies.  I kind of copied the bear motif from a pullover we bought him, but the rest of the pattern is made up entirely by me.  This took me far too long to knit--more than a month!  But I'm so happy with it;  it's 100% wool, made with leftovers from the crocheted blanket
This is Franklin's Halloween costume, made very quickly in a few hours the day before his nursery school party.  They told us about the party two days before, so I didn't have much time--I cut down an old white shirt of mine to fit him, and made the cape from an old black shirt of Partner's and a piece of red tablecloth.  As far as I could see, Franklin was the only vampire at the party, and had the only hand made costume.  He was really excited to wear it;  he asked me before we left in the morning, "Mummy, you got my costume?"

Also making things for my etsy shop;  my goal is to make one item every week.  I make mostly cashmere baby clothing, though I make some things from wool, too.  I love cashmere;  I wear it almost exclusively in winter, and Franklin has a couple things, too:  he's got two sets of cashmere pajamas I've made, and wears a cashmere vest under his shirt every day to keep him toasty.  Lately I've made several newborn sleeping gowns out of cashmere, which have all sold quite quickly.  It's funny:  I've had my shop open for a year now, and only had three sales--until a month ago, when I suddenly had five sales within that month.  I even ran out of cashmere and had to go on a shopping spree to the local charity shops (I get my cashmere from second-hand sweaters);  I went a little overboard and spent all my profits on new materials!

I'm taking a few weeks off work now that my university classes have started up again, and I'll be going back to just two days a week instead of five.  It was really tough getting up early in the mornings to take Franklin to school, after working till 10.30pm the night before.  And my work is physical--I'm on my feet, in a kitchen;  I think those six weeks of it nearly killed me!  Now Partner's temporarily taking extra hours at his work instead of me, but at least his is a desk job.  We're trying to put aside the extra money in our savings.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Another coat! Garden recap

 I made yet another coat for Franklin.  This is the third!  First and second coats here.
 I sewed this coat from my own pattern, based loosely on a coat he already owns.  It's made of a wool/tencel blend suiting material, with a 100% cotton lining and 100% wool interlining. 
The lining and interlining are quilted together to make it a nice warm coat.  I also gave it welt pockets (I'm an expert at them now!).  It has flaws, but I'm very pleased with it;  I think it's the best coat of the three, design-wise.  I especially like the hood!
 Things are slowing down in the garden;  we've had a few sunny days and plenty of rain.  Star flowers at the moment are my blood red dahlias, above;  and my mallow, below.  This mallow is in my strawberry bed, protected from hungry chickens--they go mad for it!  It's edible to people too, but just tastes like a leaf to me.
We've finished the last of the runner beans--I managed to get one big bag in the freezer, but the way we eat veg, it'll last two meals at most!  Tomatoes are still coming, both indoors and out, but not every day.  Kale is looking and tasting fantastic, and the broccoli has put out a final effort;  there are about a dozen more turnips ready to eat, and about the same amount of leeks.

All in all, I haven't been able to produce 100% of our veg this year.  I would estimate it's been around 50%, so sadly I didn't achieve my goal yet again!  Looking back, part of it was seed failure (the carrots, beets, and onions simply failed to appear), and part of it was just bad luck:  chickens broke into newly sprouted seedbeds on more than one occasion and scratched up the lot, and quite a few of the rain-loving plants I have come to rely on struggled in the unexpectedly hot and sunny summer!  However, even though I didn't meet my goal, it's still been a successful growing year, and I've found my new methods of gardening, including polyculture and chop and drop, have paid off in both high yields and big, tasty vegetables.  It's also meant less work for me!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Window box, knitting, lack of caterpillars

 Partner made me this second window box earlier this year, in which I planted two sweet peppers and two geraniums.  I put in a layer of sticks, then newspaper, then some partly composted chicken bedding, bark dust, and leaf mould.  Definitely a good mix for growing in.  It has also benefited from twice weekly DIY compost tea feedings--very happy plants, particularly the geraniums which have flowered constantly all summer.
I knit these socks last winter, and have got them out again along with my other wool socks;  it's chilly.  These are 100% merino wool, and very cozy to wear.  I joined a new knitting group at the library (I went to a different one in a different library over summer, but had to stop once school started, due to scheduling).  I'm the youngest by about 30 years, but that doesn't bother me--I love to knit, and it's nice to share that!

At the moment I'm knitting a pullover for Franklin out of the leftovers from my crocheted blanket;  it's got grizzly bears and snowflakes.  And it's taking me ages!  Also in the works is yet another coat for him:  a hooded coat with a quilted wool lining.  It's actually nearly finished, but I have two custom orders to fulfil for my etsy shop;  as soon as they're shipped, I'll sew the lining to the shell and it'll be done. 

Still getting tomatoes and runner beans pretty much every day, though I think the beans'll be over soon.  I had one tiny pumpkin, but someone (with feathers, I suspect) broke it off the vine.  It was only about golf ball sized, so I wasn't too heartbroken.  My cabbages are also forming nice heads, and they escaped most of the caterpillar damage this year, thanks in part to my polyculture planting.  Because they weren't planted together in straight rows, but rather scattered about amongst everything, both vegetable and ornamental, the butterflies had a hard time finding them.  In previous years, caterpillars have completely defoliated whole plants.  This year, damage was strictly limited to molluscs.  One of the chickens caught a cabbage white butterfly earlier in the year;  I cheered her on. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Garden bounty, crocheting, nursery school

 My two little apple trees were planted about a year ago, and after much anticipation, produced 10 apples each.  Above is a Sparta variety, which has been slowly deepening in color over the summer to almost purple.  Below is the Loxton Fortune, not quite so big, but just as delectable.  I can confirm both are crisp and juicy;  Loxton is slightly more tart, but both have an element of sweet/tart and both are extremely tasty.
 The runner beans suddenly switched into fifth gear with production;  in spring, I piled six inches of chicken bedding (i.e. manure and straw) at the base of the fence, shoved a few inches of topsoil onto it, and planted the runner beans in that.  To begin with they struggled as it did not initially hold water well--too many air gaps--but after about a month I think the roots penetrated into the ground underneath, and the pile itself decomposed enough to provide more structure.  I think that spot will be even more productive next year, with the broken down manure and nitrogen from the beans.
 I  planted twelve big planters of tomatoes in my garage with the new transparent roof, and after a summer of sun, heat, and DIY organic fertilizer (chicken manure and nettle tea), they are producing a few handfuls of fruits every day now.  My outdoor tomatoes, of which there are about ten, are not quite so advanced.  The outdoor plants are much more vigorous with many more fruits, leaves, and branches formed.  Though it's been sunny, warm, and not too rainy, that's still not been enough to ripen the outdoor fruits.  I've had a few cherry toms ripen outside, and a small truss of bigger ones, but the rest remain stubbornly green.  Maybe I'll make green tomato relish?
 Also, though the weather's been agreeable, the summer squash just aren't playing ball for me either.  Here's the one patty pan squash I got, from all six various squash plants out there.  It's possible I may get one or two more, but I'm not too hopeful.  I console myself with the fact this one was huge (weighed in at one pound);  I julienned with onion and garlic and sauteed in butter:  tasty. 
 This potato, like the rest of my potatoes this year, was a volunteer.  It came from one plant with three others of a similar size, and the four of them also clocked up at a pound in weight.  Franklin and I enjoyed them as fries/chips over the course of a few meals.  Bonus:  unlike the smaller salad-type potatoes which the rest of my volunteers seem to be, these had virtually no potato scab on them;  while completely harmless, scab makes the skins very fragile to cook--I generally peel them if they have scab, but I'd rather not as the peels are the yummy crispy bit!
 I've been crocheting lately;  here's my new woolly blanket, made in five colors.  I used thick yarn, a nice big hook (size 7mm), and learned how to join the squares as I went along, so it only took about two weeks to make;  I think the last granny square afghan I crocheted took me about six months!  I made it for Franklin's bed, but he says he doesn't want it so it's on mine instead;  it measures approximately 5'x6.5' and is made from 100% wool.
Franklin's now attending nursery school during the week, for three hours in the mornings.  The first day he was a little overwhelmed, but it was only for an hour, and when it was time to go he cried because he wanted to stay with the rest of the kids!  The second day he excitedly ran all the way to school, barged into the classroom, sat down at a table to play with some big chunky beads, barely noticed when I left, and has been doing it every day since;  I can't believe how quickly he acclimatized. 

Franklin's still very attached to me, but has been gaining independence lately.  He's been asking for more snuggles though--to make up for it, I think.  He's a big boy at 3 and a half, and getting bigger every day.  I miss him for those three hours!  But he enjoys it, and I know it's good for him.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Climbing, blue cardigan, decorating, gardening, blueberries

Franklin showed his grandpa just how good at rock climbing he is.
I think I never showed my blue alpaca cardigan?  It's my own design and fits me really well.  I love alpaca--it's so smooth.  I also knit a shawl with some of the leftover yarn, and now I love shawls.  It was so much quicker to knit that a cardigan (1 week versus 4 weeks) and it looks more complicated than it actually was.  No photo this time, though.

Decorating the house!  The kitchen is pretty much done, with a new paint job on the walls, cupboards, trim, and dining chairs, and a few new accessories (rug and seat cushions).  The hall and stairs are also nearly finished with new paint on the walls and trim, and soon a new curtain;  and the bathroom is also nearly finished.  The most neglected room in the house, it now has new trim, new splashback, a paint job, and a new built in sink cabinet;  while it still needs a bit more work, it looks ten times better.

We had another chicken casualty last week:  Blondie passed away after a brief illness.  We don't know what it was, but it happened quickly, unlike Shirley who was unwell for several months.  And on top of it, our dog has a bad case of the fleas and is going senile (she's 14 now).  Animal woes...

Finally we're getting some red tomatoes, but I doubt we'll get many from the outdoor plants;  though they have lots of fruit, the season is coming to a close and it's not likely they have time to ripen.  The greenhouse plants have fewer fruits, but I'm confident they'll ripen eventually as there's no real risk of frost.  We've also harvested several greenhouse cucumbers, with several more growing, and all the pepper plants have little fruits forming (also in the greenhouse).  While the zuccini plants are beautiful and big leaved, the fruits are either not being pollinated, or are being eaten by something (or both);  I'm so sad.

The kale, however, is performing spectacularly, and will probably continue well into winter.  It's a tasty plant, too.  I keep planting winter lettuce seeds, and they keep getting destroyed, by both slugs and chickens:  I can't win!  I fenced the bed off, but the chickens have broken into it at least three times, and what they haven't scratched up, the slugs have mown down.  I need to rethink my winter greens strategy.
We went hiking in the Peak District with grandparents, and discovered wild blueberries.  We turned blue! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Family photos

Our new family portrait, taken by a friend at the park.  We had a fun day, walking in a nearby village:  visiting the local play parks, meeting pigs and horses, picking cherries, and wearing hats. Both Partner and I have lost weight since last summer's portrait--he's still losing it, too. 

Franklin has grown a lot over the summer, and is so heavy now!  He's always been chunky, but his wide chest and shoulders are really obvious now--not like the skinny boys on my side of the family.  He'll be starting nursery school in September, five days a week, three hours a day--if I can let him go, that is!  He's three and a half now, and is very excited about going to school, and likes to play out front on the street with the neighborhood kids.  Three of them were out yesterday, and Franklin saw them, turned to me and said, "My friends!"

 My parents visited us this month for two weeks, and did some decorating and home repairs, as well as a small amount of sightseeing.  Franklin was very comfortable with them this time, and everyone was sad to see them go. 

I plan on redecorating the entire house by the end of September (mostly this involves painting and decluttering).  I hope I can do it--I'm also working five days a week at my job, instead of the usual two, and my first week into it has left me completely exhausted.  It's not even double the hours I normally work--but waking early, running around after a toddler and taking care of chores during the day and then working a busy five hour shift on my feet in the evening is tough.  I console myself with the reminder that it's only for six weeks.  And then it's back to university I go...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Franklin's black coat, vegetables, it's hot!

Many things happening this past month;  for one, Franklin has a new black wool jacket, which I cut down from a women's coat (bought for £1).  I added welt pockets, a collar (the original was a v-neck), and faced it with leftover olive colored wool from his quilt;  it's unlined, so just a light jacket, and it's nice a big on him, so should last the rest of the year.  I hope.  He's 3,  but his 3T shirts are getting a bit too tight now. 

We briefly made a tipi on the lawn, and also made our handprints on one of our stepping stones.  Mine is yellow.  

We're eating mostly garden veg now, but not quite 100% yet.  On the menu right now:  kale, calabrese broccoli, peas, turnips, potatoes.  The strawberries have just finished, as have the cherries (I made a cherry cheesecake).  I've harvested half the garlic--it's drying out in the garage--and literally used the last of 2012's garlic cloves in our dinner yesterday.  Also drying:  oregano and sage, two very coveted herbs in winter. 

My garage tomatoes are forming fruits;  though not copious amounts, we should have plenty for eating, if not bottling.  Also very excited about my cucumber vines, producing cute little warty fruits--can't wait to eat them!  We love cucumber at this house.

Two weeks off work with Partner and Franklin was a lot of fun;   we spent our wedding anniversary in London with the inlaws, and got to sneak off by ourselves for dinner (curry at the local Indian restaurant).  While in London we also visited the Natural History Museum and Science Museum with Franklin, who loved the dinosaurs.  The only downside to our visit was the heat--the whole month of July has been sunny and hot:  unreasonably hot at 26-32C, and hasn't really rained, or even clouded over.  Last year's summer was one long rain-fest, and this summer's turning out to be a sunburn-fest!  Oh well;  better enjoy it while it lasts.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Goodbye to Shirley, things as usual in the garden

 It was a sad day at our house yesterday;  Shirley, who had not been well for several months, died in her sleep overnight.  I always count the chickens when I check on them in the morning, and noticed there were only six in the enclosure.  I found Shirley laying peacefully at the back of the hen house.  I wanted to perform an autopsy on her to ascertain a cause of death (long illness with no real external symptoms, weight loss, lethargy), but only got as far as cutting open her crop (the place in her neck where her food is stored before it goes to the gizzard) because I then discovered she already had maggots.  I couldn't deal with that, so I just buried her, with Franklin's help.   
 Here she is facing the camera, when we first got her last year.  She and the other six were all rescued ex-factory farm hens, meant for the slaughterhouse.  For the first year of her life, she had never seen the sky or rain or bugs or grass.  She'd never flown, roosted, scratched the ground, or had a dustbath.  Poor Shirley.  She died before her time, but at least we gave her a good year, of fresh air, grass, sunshine, and bugs.

 I picked this bouquet on Friday from my garden and took this photo yesterday (Wednesday).  Still looks amazing.
 Franklin found this branch, cut from our overgrown hedge at the back, and declared it an "angry birds stick" so we made it into a slingshot with rubber bands.  The design needs some work, though.  See my netted cherry tree in the background?
 Well now, who's this on our boot scraper at 11 o'clock at night?  I'd just gone to shut the chicken house door, and heard a little metallic "ping", which I immediately recognized from the boot scraper.  I thought to myself:  oh no.  It's a rat.  And I could see in the dark a small shape on it, but when I got close I found this little sweetie pie, just hanging out, in no rush.
 My main veggie patch!  It's covered in growth, as per my polyculture plans for this year.  A lot of this growth is weeds, or as we now call them:  "chicken feed."  But everything is really big, both weeds and vegetables, and when the weeds get too tall, I chop them down and let them compost/act as mulch where they fall on the bed.  I think the only thing immediately distinguishable from the general green-ness are the peas growing up the fence at the back.  And maybe those onions with flower buds not quite open.  Let me assure you, there are at least 12 different vegetables/flowers in the mayhem, and that's not counting the chicken feed.
The other side of the veg patch, with netted strawberries on the right and billowy yellow flowering broccoli all across the foreground.  I'm determined to collect seed from it this year, so I won't cut it down and replant until I get some.  The strawberries, planted last summer, have formed plenty of berries, and some are blushing up nicely.  Hoping to eat our first one tomorrow.  

We've had a run of dry, sometimes sunny weather this month, a far cry from last year's sodden June.  Actually the whole summer of 2012 was a wash-out for us, raining nearly every day with quite cool temperatures and sun only rarely.  I still got a good harvest of onions, potatoes, cabbages, peas, and garlic, though.  Speaking of garlic, after a year of eating through it, I have a few bulbs from last July's harvest, and they're still good!  The smallest cloves have shrunk and withered a little, but nearly all of them are still in good eating order--and I'm nearly ready to begin this year's garlic harvest.  Which, I might add, was completely planted from last year's harvest, too:  totally self-sufficient in garlic for a whole year!  Now if only I could say that for the rest of our vegetables. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

With photos

 Franklin painting.
 One of my dodgy trellises (I made it!), with the cold frame, planted with squash.  That straw mulch is actually chicken bedding, and I covered the plot  with about 4-6 inches of it over winter to keep the weeds down, and when I went to plant it up, I discovered the soil was very soft and full of juicy worms.  Previously it'd been dry and compacted, so I was amazed at the change, and with almost no effort on my part.  All those sticks poking up are intended as a barrier against chickens scratching.  Pecking isn't so bad, but scratching tears up my plants (I've lost a few too many to  chickens rampaging this spring).
 Roses beginning to bloom!
 My window box with cilantro, cherry tomatoes, dill, lobelia, calendula, and basil.
Cherry tree in its second year, covered in little green cherries (it's about as tall as my shoulder).  Last year I got four cherries.
 Inside my garage with new transparent roof:  lots of tomatoes and a few cucumbers, peppers, carrots, and herbs.  They're growing much more quickly than the few I planted outdoors.
 My front garden bed, with red peonies.  It was covered in weeds last year, so I sheet mulched with cardboard and a thick layer of straw.  The shrubs are all happy, and I've planted a few kale and cosmos in the gaps--they're still pretty small, though.  A few persistent weeds have forced their way through the sheet mulching, but on the whole it's been successful;  and it looks a bit less anti-social, too.
A cute miniature rose, always covered in flowers, and with the loveliest red hips.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Catching up quickly here! 

My blue cardigan is fully knitted, my rag rug is slowly coming together (hand sewing, and hard on the fingers).  Another pajama top for Franklin from a shirt of Partner's in the sewing pile (this one pink and with no sloppy shortcuts). 

I'm doing a mild purge of household stuff at the moment;  first on the list are books:  our bookshelves have gained a little space.  Partner got a Kindle around Christmas and I visit the local library several times a month, so owning books isn't quite a priority as it once was.  However, we've got a lot of books.  I've also gone through my filing cabinet and got rid of a boxful of unnecessary paperwork, and a stack of unwanted sheet music. 

Most of my seedlings and seeds are in the ground now;  the only ones left are melons and a few squash, waiting just a few more days to be sure.  My tomatoes in the garage have doubled in size, but the peppers there are still pretty small;  I ran out of big planters so the peppers are in large pots, though with the same treatment as the tomato planters:  layer of sticks, layer of newspaper, then potting soil.  I also made my first chicken manure tea;  it smells pretty bad--so it must be good, right?

The sprouting broccoli nears its finish, but the salad leaves and cilantro are growing wildly.  My cherry tree is covered in tiny green cherries:  hooray!  And the grass is growing faster than the chickens can eat it, so Partner's had to mow. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Harvesting a little, making a little

After a very late, very snowy start, spring has finally arrived here.  The daffodils have only just finished their show, the tulips bask in the sun, and my garden bounces into action.  For the past two weeks or so, purple sprouting broccoli's on the menu two or three times a week, and fresh herbs (marjoram, mint, and chives) most days.  I think next week we'll start eating (small) fresh salads, and I'm crossing my fingers for my cherry tree;  though still tiny, it's covered in blossoms--if they all become cherries I could make a pie!  Also blooming:  my two new apple trees and my strawberries.

Partner cut down another tree at the back (southern) edge of our garden which was shading part of the veg beds, and the whole area is so light and bright now;  and let's face it, we need all the sun we can get round these parts!  I've planted it up with both veg and flowers, and it has my two baby blackcurrant bushes starting to leaf up.  The wood from the tree is in two piles at the moment:  the big branches and logs are on the patio and the small, trimmed branches and twigs are in a huge pile on the lawn, soon to move onto the site of the old pond.  If you recall, we emptied the pond when the fish all died (for safety reasons--small children and ponds do not mix) and have mostly filled it in with garden trimmings and some topsoil;  in fact, I even have a few seedlings growing in it, but it's not completely filled yet.  Hopefully this'll bring it level with the surrounding area.

Today I planted out some seedling cosmo and kale in the front garden (which I sheet mulched last winter), and moved my small lavender from its planter into the ground near the driveway.  All available planters have been appropriated this year into tomato duty;  now the garage has a transparent roof, it's very like a greenhouse:  light and warm.  Every year I say I'm giving up on tomatoes, as they have always performed terribly outdoors here;  my mother in law, on the other hand, gets fantastic yields in her greenhouse, so I'm begrudgingly giving them another chance this year, in the garage.  To prepare the planters, I first put in a layer of sticks and/or small logs, then a layer of shredded newspaper, and then filled the rest with a mixture of potting compost and topsoil.  I anticipate needing to fertilize over the growing season, and plan on using chicken manure and DIY compost tea. 

My knitting has slowed a bit, now that gardening's in full swing, but I've completed the body and sleeves of the blue alpaca cardigan;  it now only needs a collar--so close!  But I don't think I'll be wearing it until autumn;  it's too warm now.  Once it's finished, however, my next project is a braided rag rug, which I've actually begun already.  And some more sewing.  I sewed another pair of jammies for Franklin out of an old t shirt of Partner's, and I have another five or so t shirts to transform.  I have a Very Large Sewing Pile (VLSP) in the corner of my bedroom, threatening to take over the rest of the house.  Time to turn it into a Reasonably Sized Sewing Pile (RSSP).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My pink cardigan! Rambling about the garden, as usual

My new knitted pink cardigan (and a photo for once, thank you Partner)!  I haven't taken it off since I finished it (except briefly for bathing).  I knitted it with a silk/merino blend yarn which I dyed myself;  it feels wonderful.  I'm now knitting another cardigan for myself, glutton for punishment that I am.  The new one is pale blue in alpaca yarn.  I've never knitted or worn alpaca till now, but I look forward to wearing it.

I took a few rosemary cuttings, sowed another load of seeds outside, and discovered the first batch have begun sprouting--always a thrill.  No idea what they are, as I just kind of scattered everything everywhere.  I wanted to try something new:  polyculture.  And I will not be weeding as such;  I'll only cut down large weeds and leave the cut tops to compost in situ, rather than in a traditional pile.  Less work, and hopefully it'll enrich the soil nicely.  I used to throw out all my weeds;  then I started composting them in a pile;  last year I began just "chopping and dropping" them which seemed to work well.

Though to tell the truth, I don't have quite so many weeds as in past years, thanks to the chickens.  Their top three foods:  dandelions, slugs, and grass.  Oh, and my cabbages when they can get them, which probably come in at number one ahead of dandelions.  Right now the chickens are hard at work making me some extra potent fertilizer, which will be distributed to piles for growing vegetables in.  Have I mentioned how much help chickens are when it comes to gardening?  I love those funny little birds. 

Last year I mentioned the possibility of raising meat ducks, but now the idea has come back to raising meat chickens from pullets.  If we can make a separate enclosure for keeping them until large enough to integrate with our egg layers;  and if the cost of pullets isn't too prohibitive, I'm very open to the idea.  I'm almost sure I could kill a chicken to eat.  Almost.

This past weekend Partner very kindly split some old fenceboards for me and I screwed together a rather rickety looking trellis, which he then assisted me to hang on the southern garage wall.  I hope to build another one this weekend;  my plan is to grow vertically up every wall and fence in the back garden:  beans, cucumber, melon, squash, peas, nasturtiums, and anything else I can manage.