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.