Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wonder if it's doing okay without me

I've been away from the garden since Tuesday, and I'm wondering how it's faring. Are the peas filling out the pods? Is the red kale ready to eat? Have the birds stopped beheading the baby snow peas?

I'm thousands of miles away, and having a great time. Today we went to Carnton Plantation for a reenactment (on the anniversary) of the Battle of Franklin, an utterly brutal Civil War battle. Approximately 10,000 soldiers were killed or injured. The house still has bloodstains on the floor from the wounded hospitalized there. It was cold and breezy, and the reenactment didn't have the same flavor. As Denise pointed out, no one was screaming in pain or calling for their mothers. I wonder if our boys would stop playing shoot'em up through the house if they had any sense of the reality of war? Tomorrow, I'm taking the kids to a house in the town that experienced heavy fighting also.

On the brighter side, there were some neat features in the gardens.

A beautiful log pergola type thing.

And a fascinating espaliered pear tree arch. This gives me ideas!

There were also a couple of beds of hardy greens, but not that many.

Away or at home, I hope you're all enjoying your gardens in some way.

Knitting while Traveling

A big family Thanksgiving isn't the only way to go, but every few years I like to get together with all of my cousins, or at least as many as will get together at the old farm place, and Thanksgiving is a fine time to do it. So I'm in Tennessee right now.

I brought an early Christmas present to my mom. This was started back in 2006, and put in time out for some mistakes I couldn't fix then. Denise suggested that I neither fix them, nor even find them, but bind the piece off and call it good. After I knit that edging, then pinned it out for blocking, I found the mistakes. . . but it's okay. After three years, my memory sort of softens.

She said she'd put on a nice blouse and model it for me tomorrow.

A stop at Bliss Yarns in Brentwood to meet up with some absolutely lovely Ravelers led to these two skeins of local alpaca coming home with me. I love that the name of the animal is on the label. These come from Teardrop. Teardrop has a nice gray coat.

These are going to become either Brünnhilde or Ceangaltas Mittens from Knitting New Mittens and Gloves. Is it only coincidence that they almost perfectly match the Araucania Nature Wool in this sweater?

Yes, this sweater now has only a start to a sleeve. . . I took the plunge and ripped it out after discovering (through the magic of counting) that I had cast on approximately half the stitches of the entire body for the sleeve. No wonder it got too big. My arm isn't half of the circumference of my waist; it's nearly a third. I hope this one works well. It's going to be my "flight home knitting," but I'm going to switch to a longer cable for easier magic looping.

I also discovered that the lovely orange/yellow raglan cable sweater I made for a little one has a tiny mistake in it -- right in the front. I was gazing at my littlest daughter wearing it and thinking how nice it is to see my kids wearing sweaters I make, and saw a miscounted stitch right on the front of the sweater.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunshine on a cloudy day

Our mail carrier is, like so much of our neighborhood, a real treasure. He never ever wears anything but shorts with his uniform. I suppose he doesn't get cold. He's unfailingly cheerful, stops to talk to the children, is interested in gardening, gardens himself, and is just generally a dear. I look forward to his visits and am always vaguely disquieted when a Different Mail Carrier brings our mail.

Yesterday was a gray, cold day. We've finally turned on our heat stove, to prevent the children from scampering from bed to bath all day long. Yet, up drove Shane, in shorts as usual. I saw him hand Tor a box from his mail truck and drive on. Tor scampered in, "A package from mama!"

I didn't remember ordering any new yarn, so I couldn't think of what it might be. But there, nestled inside, was a jar of pure summer:

Ribbit had sent, as threatened, a jar of chunky peach and red pepper sauce. I can't wait to broil up some chicken and serve it with wild rice. If I really loved my extended family I'd somehow work it into our shared Thanksgiving dinner, but family fealty only goes so far.

Thanks Ribbit! I can hardly wait to taste it.

In other news, I did the "really last" harvest out of my hives and bottled that honey up directly in sale jars. 42 pounds of ready-to-go honey. I've sold some, but not as much as I'd hoped, but two jars paid for a haircut for one of my kids. Our hairdresser travels to our house, and she's just great. I cut kids' hair myself for a long time, but I don't do well with even ends on very straight hair, and the teenager has a certain cut she wants that I won't even try. Bridget does a great job, loves the kids, and loves honey and eggs! I'm going to explore bartering in the future, too.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Color of Good Eats

I don't know whether or not to apologize to those of you who are dealing with snow and freezes. My current biggest scourge is winter weeds. . . the garden is chugging along nicely.

A favorite lunch for me these days is either rice or another grain, like quinoa, with a steamed rosette of tat soi on top, dressed with a drop or two of sesame oil, fish sauce, and soy sauce. So yummy. . . and those rosettes are really beautiful.

In just a day or two, we should be able to make our own Meyer lemon salad dressing. The little tree is loaded with lemons, ironically enough on low branches that I plan to hack off once they're harvested. It's time for this wee tree to stand off the ground.

Granny, this one's for you.

Despite woeful neglect, the fall bearing "Fall Gold" rasperries are blooming right on schedule. They're a pretty golden color also. I need to weed them, rub off the little caterpillars that want to eat them, and get them up on their wires. Last season's bearing canes should probably be cut off, too. Wonder if that will get done?

Even without fruit, the teensy persimmon tree is providing a harvest of sorts -- I can look out from my computer, where I'm grading less-than-beautiful student prose, and see exquisitely lovely leaves. Maybe next year there will be fruit.

Dinner tonight was full of homegrown goodness -- butternut squash ravioli, kale with garlic, homemade (but not homegrown) bread, homemade/homegrown pesto sauce on
homemade noodles, and homemade with foraged apples applesauce. All we need now is a wheat field and a cow. . .

I hope all of you are enjoying something from your gardens.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stuffed full!

My computer is, anyway, so full that it won't let me upload any photos until I make some room, and there's just no more room to make. I don't care for this imposed de-cluttering, though if some external force would impose the same sternness regarding my house, I bet it'd be a lot cleaner. Anyway, until the new space-maker arrives, hopefully Tuesday, I'm photoless.

Until then, look forward to pictures of what people do to entertain chickens (who need entertaining, right?) and our---mostly Kevin's---crazy huge White King Bolete harvest. Yum.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Watering System

Heather asked for an overview of the watering "system." So, a little tutorial on the easy-peasy, hardware store-parts irrigation method I'm trying with the new garden.

Currently, the source is the pressurized water from the city. This should hopefully be a temporary situation, since we're harvesting rainwater. At least I'd like to be dependent on non-gray or -rainwater for much less of the year.

The pinkish hose then runs out to the master pipe for the whole garden.

It took me some time to get that to stop dripping. I had to buy aftermarket rubber rings. I think it's done the trick. We dug a ditch, starting at this point, and running along the middle of the new beds, and over to the existing ones, where a ditch then ran the length of those, in between them.

At the corner of each bed, about 1.5' from the center pipe, we laid a cross connection. That led to feeder pipes and then up to the stand pipes with valves. We got good at glueing up elbows and ts and cross pieces. The valves are simple ball valves, but I can adjust the flow using those. We tried to get them sitting right at the top edge of the bed.

But, as you can see, a couple were too tall. I may take the time to lower that -- some time. They're just that much more vulnerable to breakage sitting up like that. In the picture above, you can see the remnants of the drip system installed by professionals with an automated timer and everything. It never, ever worked well.

One drawback to this post-hoc construction is beds like these.

This year, I may just have to remove those cross-pieces and deal with the slope. On the bed closest to the chicken coop, there's a double spigot so we can theoretically have water all the time to the coop. So far, I haven't left the pressure on, regulating it instead from the house, so I don't know how that would work. We did do our best, but I haven't felt up to testing it yet.

In the future, I'd like to have it set on a timer, so that I could leave it for a week or so and rest assured that each hose would deliver water to each bed. I'd also like to install a pressurizing water pump so we could use those rain totes to water with, even going so far as to put the recycled bath water in them because it would be used so quickly. This will take not only time but money.

When our children make it big as rock stars, though, you can bet I'll get that rainwater system working really well!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Front yard squash

All of the vines got pulled out of the front yard this weekend.

One pull and I was hooked -- I ran around like an avenging angel, tugging vines and leaves away from the apple trees, across the lemon tree, over the rosemary bush. Turns out there were a few surprises out there. I did the fingernail trick and they were all tough enough, so that was a nice outcome.

From left to right, Marina di Chioggia, Triamble, Butternut, Triamble, Lakota, Triamble. I haven't weighed these babies yet. I still don't know how the Triamble taste -- the ravioli that the last one was supposed to star in stuck to the table, and we ended up having takeout pub pies that night. I may have thrown just the tiniest fit, also.

The first Marina di Chioggia (a different one than the one in the picture) I baked, though, on the night before Halloween, worked up into the smoothest pumpkin pies I've ever made from homemade squash. Like butter it was.

The other half of that squash is in the freezer, waiting for a less-dramatic try at ravioli again.