Saturday, May 29, 2010

She wears it well

Giving baby knits is great fun. Seeing them on the baby is almost better.

While I was changing that little model's diaper today, I realized it didn't seem that long ago that I was doing the same for this young lady.

That picture was taken during the photo shoot for the Glitter Ball homeschooler's prom. The kids looked beautiful, and apparently a good time was had by all. I sort of wish I'd knit her a little wrap, though.

Friday, May 28, 2010

If you want attention in Italy

Try pulling out a drop spindle on a train. Eric and I got to spend a week in Genoa for a conference he attended, and I managed to find things to interest and amuse me.

A Ravelry friend helped me buy yarn -- the whole "yarn museum" approach in Italy (and, I'm told, much of Europe) can feel intimidating. Thank goodness for generous people who are willing to help you talk to the shopkeepers. This store was much more yarn-filled than the one I had found on my own, and I don't think I would have discovered it without help.

Everywhere I went, I worked away on the knitting I brought with me, even though, in retrospect, three projects might have been a bit of overkill. I have enough problems knitting lace without jet lag complicating things.

On a short day trip, though, I was tired enough that even my ongoing project seemed too much for the train ride home. So I pulled out this yummy baby camel and silk I've been working on, and proceeded to go into a sort of spinning zone.

Eric said some guy did a triple take as he disembarked from the train, but it was when we were en route in our compartment that the fun began. Two delightful ladies sitting across from us chattered away in surprise. "Mi nonna" was all I caught, but the foot gestures were unmistakable. I managed, with the help of the woman next to me, to tell them that I, too, had a wheel (come un bicicleta! I tried), but that when I traveled, this was the way to go.
Then we managed to get onto how to say "crochet" in English, as it's spelled the same but sounds like the game with balls and wickets. When I pulled out my knitting, the woman asked for it and showed me, I believe, the "right" way to knit, English-style, but very fast. I told her I was faster doing it my way, but went on to show her that I could do it her way and did when I knit with two colors.

It was simply charming, but I don't think I would spin when in Italy again unless I'd done some serious work on my language skills. It's just too much of a conversation piece.

I had gotten about 600 yards of a nice steel-gray two ply lace yarn to bring home to my sister, and for me, just enough for a pair of very bright colorwork mittens. I can't wait to get to them. Eventually.

It's good to be home, and it's good to realize that even in another country, faced with what seemed like overwhelming temptation, I found I didn't need that much yarn. Maybe having a spindle and three projects wasn't overkill, in the end.

Other people's gardens

When away from my garden for a bit, I exaggerate what must be happening. All the crops must be ripe, the weeds taking over, time going by. I assuage my garden-missing by peeking into other folks' vegetable patches. Do they do things the same way? Are their tomatoes bigger than mine?

I noticed that at least one other person likes pretty lettuces, and sitting in the garden. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any closer, nor could I ask anyone much about what they were growing or if they had trouble with pests. I couldn't do much of anything I take for granted. Why not?

Here's some hints:
Hmm. Narrow streets, open-air markets, and . . .

Streetside cafes. It could be San Francisco.

It's not, though.

Eric and I just spent a week in Genoa, partly for a work conference for him, and partly for fun. I had most of the fun. Unfortunately, my Italian isn't really up snuff, so I was a genial but confused tourist much of the time.

The highlight of the trip, though, may have been a train trip down the Italian Riviera to visit another garden. Heiko and Susan picked us up in La Spezia and took us to visit their village and their land.

We were, I'm afraid, neither dressed for nor in shape for following them (and Eddie the adorable puppy) up and down their streets and lanes. I'd have loved to have spent more time with their neighbors, although seeing Mario's (I think it was Mario's) baby donkey and wild cinghiale was pretty terrific.

The village looks pretty from a distance:
Heiko made a lovely lunch for us from beans Susan had picked while he and I bounded up and down the terraces, talking and looking at the garden together. I think Eric was bemused at the amount of verbiage Heiko and I could produce, but he certainly liked the food.

We talked a tiny bit about the power of the internet to bring like-minded people together, virtually as well as literally, in this case. Gardening is intensely pleasurable to me, but connections such as this are the icing on the cake.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Coop Tour Report

The weather conspired with some well-placed publicity to make the second annual Backyard Chicken Coop Bicycle Tour (or the "Tour de Coop") a stunning success.

If you measure success by talking for almost four hours straight to a parade of people in your yard.

I had tried to get to coop #1 before mine, figuring I could be in the opening cohort of bikers and so just stop at my house. Last year, we'd all ridden together, while this year we knew we needed to split bikers into groups. However, as I rode to the first house, I passed people on bikes going the other way. Some of them had papers in their hands.

"Uh-oh," I thought, and sure enough, when I stopped long enough to grab my own map, I realized that Eric was going to be Mr. Chicken Coop and he hadn't signed up for that.

I'd worked some over the weekend to make the yard as presentable as it can be. Hadn't gotten the mulch down, nor finished the dratted brick patio, but it was cleaner than it had been. I'd even painted the coop and the storage cabinets by the patio, reducing (but not eliminating) the amount of primer-white in the yard. Put up a little teepee in front, with a sign on it, and some flowers, so folks on bikes could see this was the stop. I'd even clipped the bushes on the side so people wouldn't feel as though they needed a machete to get in back.

I'd considered making an "in" and "out" aisle for the yard, figuring there would be a need for crowd control. Eric poo-pooed that notion, so I took the path of least resistance. There were some signs up, though, that hopefully would answer some of the most frequent questions people might have -- I couldn't talk to everyone, I guessed.

Oh. My. Goodness.

By the time I got there, the first few people were leaving. I practically had to shove my way into the yard, where there was a crowd that didn't dissipate significantly for the next three and a half hours. According to the folks with the sign-up sheets, about 400 people signed up, with a few declining, and a few just picked up along the route.

It's hard to remember a lot of it. I answered lots and lots of questions about chickens, and how we rear them, and what my daily routine with them is, and why I don't have a predator-proof coop, and what we do with them when they're old, and the garden, and the bees, and the chickens' reactions to the bees, and about a thousand other things.

I generally don't mind talking to people at all.

As you can probably tell.

I did have to ask one of my children for a glass of water, and thought about taking pictures, but realized I couldn't take pictures if I was talking to people, and hugging friends who were stopping by, and answering more questions, and selling out of honey, because people asked, and finding a home for the rooster I'd taken off someone's hands for soup last week (too little for us to kill, but unfortunately old enough to crow) and talking talking talking.

Even Cat got into the act, answering lots of questions about the meat bunnies currently living in our yard. She's pretty matter-of-fact, but apparently some visitors are still shocked at the connection between dead animals and food.

They were a huge hit with the Girl Scout troop doing their own badge in Backyard Poultry.

I kind of wished the garden looked more Sweet-Peaish and less "kale going to seed," but hey, this is what one blogger called "delicious mess." I like pretty yards, but my first priority is food, so beds and irrigation come before landscaping. In a few years, when I figure out how to store the PVC pipes somewhere else, it will look nicer.

Next year, I would label plants in the garden more carefully just for this event. More visitors than I'd expected wanted to know when I'd planted some of the items. Because of my oh-so-fancy labels, I could tell them. I'd also include information about the watering system, and how the neighbors feel, and the story of the first beehive. (Partly I'm writing this down so I don't forget!) The more it would be a self-guided tour, the more I could just host.

Talk talk talk talk talk.

Out front, Eric was fielding questions about anything from rabbits as people left, to would he do it again (of course, that would necessitate him reevaluating his entire life with me), to would he watch the bikes, and telling people where to go, this side, not that side, and the neighbor yelling at him. Until yesterday, she's only yelled at me. . .

He's not what you'd call "a people person," so this was a severe stretch. Especially when I wasn't there yet. However, he rose gracefully to the situation and I only wish I could have watched him in action. However, I was talking.

Notice how close people are standing to the hives? They're on the ground behind the apricot tree. No one got bothered by them at all. I was head-buzzed a few times, and an adorable woman with really short hair had a persistent bee around her head, but she said it didn't bother her. And it didn't, it just buzzed around and around. People were remarkably cool, although I worried what kind of panic a sting would set off.

See the (sometimes unread) signs?

Signs! Right here.

A lot of people wanted to just talk. It was kind of sweet.

Access was something of a problem. Because of the beds, folks ended up sort of lining up. Some pushed past the apricot tree, but a couple of 'cots got knocked off in that process. Better pruning and me standing elsewhere might have helped.

The only negative moment in the whole day was a run-in with the woman who owns the next-door apartment complex. It's visible behind the fruit trees and hives. Apparently (and I wasn't there, since Eric was in the front) folks were laying their bikes down all over out there -- on the sidewalk, the street, and on her lawn in front of the apartments. She fussed at Eric, and then said, "I'm just going to go turn on the sprinklers." So she did, and Eric announced out back that people would want to move their bikes, and that was that. Bad karma for her.

I thought it was really sad. Here people, in record numbers, are out doing something kind of cool, on bikes, for goodness' sake, and you're ticked off because they put their bikes on your yard? It's not as though they were building firepits. Anyhow. . .

At the close of the day, I was pretty shaky. I don't know if I'd eaten, but near the end, our housemate came and told me that she was making dinner. I wanted to hug her or burst into tears, but I think I was still saying, "Yes, we do eat them. No, I don't let them out, you see, they'd destroy the garden. No, I don't notice much smell. They only take a few minutes a day, really. Oh that? That's garlic, these are onions."

Dinner was great.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sunday, busy Sunday

I'm going to be busy this Sunday, I know in advance because this article here ran in the paper yesterday. We're anticipating quite a crowd.

And tomorrow will be busy because of my "Ohmygoodnesspeopleheretheyard'samess!" reaction.

I'll post pictures and a recap afterwards.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Getting ready for the new crop

Family and friends are having babies, what seems like a lot of babies, lately. So I've taken it as an opportunity to try out some little things. And Mother's Day seems like a good time to get them posted.

Debbie Bliss' "Kaftan" pattern, which looked a whole lot nicer in the pattern (to me) than this version, knit in Jo Sharp's SoHo Summer, in a lovely light grey. The yarn gave me a different gauge, so I had to do some fiddling, and I think it's workable, but it's nowhere near what I'd hoped. Oh well, it was done, and done and sent before babykins showed up, so it's a mark in the "win" column.

A closeup of the neck. I'd like to see someone else's version and see how they dealt with the opening. Just splitting it (as the pattern indicates) can make a stretched stitch at the bottom.

A total labor of love, this set is in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in "Jungle Stripe." Made up hat pattern with seed stitch ear covers and borders, and a generous pom pom, plus generic ribbed baby socks.

I live close enough to this crew to see the moms and baby -- when he or she shows up! I can hardly wait. And that's one pleasure that the moms who were done having babies didn't convey strongly enough to me -- how much fun it is to be around other people's babies when you don't want any more.

When I finish the sweater for baby Violet, which is lacking a zipper, I'll post that one too. Three for three before the babies was probably too much to expect.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Time to catch up

Magazine photographs can inspire the home gardener. Sometimes ideas can be caught right through the page, spurring one to even greater heights of creativity and effort.

Take this one, lifted from the Martha Stewart website -- can't you almost taste the different heirloom varieties of lettuce? I wonder how many teams of gardeners have to work to get them looking so uniform?

What? It wasn't that sunny in Connecticut? Oh, ok, just kidding. Those are mine. I love pretty lettuces. Since I worked as what I call a gardener's elf, I know how much work gardening takes. At least now I get to eat the results of my work!

I meant to blog a few days ago because I don't like to do "kitchen sink" posts, but I'm afraid that's what's happening here for a bit longer. Work has me under its thumb. I'm gardening, and cooking, and cleaning, and parenting, but work is the main driver of my days. It can't last forever, though.

Out front, the artichoke is putting out new buds. Next fall it might be time to divide this beauty. I think I will have enough room, and division plus feeding might mean larger 'chokes. These have been delicious, though small.

The volunteer tomato is almost as tall as the lime tree. I haven't checked for a few days, but there were definitely flowers on it a few days ago. Only a matter of time before we finally get a peek at what kind it is!

The sunflowers had better put on a significant amount of growth, soon. The potatoes, here in the setting sun, are going to town. They're almost two feet tall, and the sunflowers are down in a ditch! Go, sunflowers, go!

Speaking of tall, the Cherokee Purples are about 18" high (that 6" square wire comes in handy for more than helping them stand up). This one is terrifically happy, and has lots of flowers already, but few megaflowers.

I harvested some honey the other day, but only because it was time to finally act on a new hive stand idea I'd gotten from another beekeeper. Lifting full supers down off of a stack as tall as I was was a bad idea for my back and shoulders. I had to disassemble both hives to do this, but a couple of 2x2s, some deck screws, pipes, and spare plywood later, I had an easy-to-ant-proof, low hive stand. I hope I don't have to get out there and pull weeds soon, but I'm afraid that's what's in my future. At least the next time I harvest, I'll be lifting up!

Quick bits: Edible Johnny Jump Up violas, the tomatillos are going gangbusters and blooming already, and I think the garlic is heading up at least enough to make increase on my planting!

Finally, there's something very wrong with the front yard apple trees. I'm seeing way too many leaves like this:

Clearly, it's time for research, perhaps a call to a master gardener, or a trip to a nursery. I'm kind of tired of these trees giving me grief. But maybe it will be something easy to clear up. Let's hope so; everything else is so nice. Thanks for indulging me in another long rambly post.