Sunday, July 29, 2012

Big Achievements

The Frisbee kids worked to raise some money to help defray costs for the upcoming national tournament with a bake sale. They worked really hard today and were fantastic ambassadors for their sport.

One hen clearly was working to outdo herself. I've never had a triple yolk egg before.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Peter Pepper's got nothing on me

More jars of pickled pepper rings. Again, I sure hope Eric ends up liking these; the plants are ramping up production as we're into what passes for high summer here.

Even though it's summer, it's sweater weather! I just finished the first of three that were all on the cusp. The other two need zipper and trim, and just a zipper, respectively. I used to keep my knitting blog separate from this one, but I'm starting to realize that I'm happier with everything in one place, so I've tried to append all the posts from my old blog onto this one. If you're into spelunking, you can read much more about knitting than you might have wished once I get it all straightened out. In the mean time, here's the front view of my newly-completed Tea Leaves Cardigan.

The multi-headed sunflowers are going gangbusters. It's going to be a pretty week.

Also, I should pull my stomach in when I stand up.

Back view. Were I to make this sweater again, I'd modify it with a narrower neckline (maybe another repeat of the ruching pattern), and I'd make the body and arms wider. It fits like a dream from the back, but it doesn't button well -- lots of gaps. And those arms are very narrow for someone who is doing as many pushups as I have been lately!

Made in Miss Babs "Vlad," and very pretty in color.

Knitting is super-streaky for me. Either I'll leave it alone for months or get all happy and race through things. Maybe I'll get a zipper or two tomorrow and finish the other ones. That would really clear my mental decks. Maybe I could even make some more pickles!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Things tall and small in July

The garden is looking tall and lush, despite my benign neglect.

I'm even contemplating ripping out things like cornichons just because I'm tired of the daily search for tiny cucumbers to make into tiny pickles. Does that make me a bad gardener?

One of my worst nemeses is back -- why do I have leaf miners in my peppers? It's bad enough that they decimate spinach, beets, and chard. So far, I'm picking and destroying. I suppose if I were not heavy into the summer doldrums, I'd be monitoring leaves for eggs. Head 'em off at the pass, and all that.

One thing I finally have done something about is the bizarre, spotty, aphid infestations in my popcorn. I'm keeping a spray bottle of soap out there and hitting each colony a couple of times a day. Their activity level (and that of their attendant ants) seems to drop off dramatically. I'm also wiping the bigger clusters off, although the ones tangled in the silks are just plain nasty. I'm hoping that they will not be an issue when the ears are dry. But. . . yuck.

I can't knit lace, but the cucumber beetles have made lace of my bean plants. It doesn't seem to affect their vigor, and the pole and bush varieties in the big bed are getting ready to dry, so I'm not worried about them either. But still, I figure I ought to be out there with a cup of soapy water catching them as they fall, since they eat the just-blooming sunflowers too. I'm not.

Finally, and this one's for Granny, my hand fully spread out is 8". That makes this leaf. . . at least 32" across? Zucchini is just crazy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Unusual for this time

 Our Meditteranean climate means that we get the bulk of our rainfall during the winter months, peaking in January. The "golden hills of California" are from grasses that green up in the winter, and then get dry, very very dry, all summer.

Imagine my surprise when Eric told me this morning that it was raining, and I'd need a jacket to go and exercise. Not pouring rain, really. . . more like very wet fog, with tiny droplets sheeting down. But enough to add up to a bit of water for the plants.

Still, what's good for the plants was slightly less good for my laundry.

By the end of today, I hope it's dry. If not, I'll bring it in the house.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Harvest Monday -- here and elsewhere

This week was the annual trip down the coast to pick ollalieberries.

It's a beautiful place.

And the harvest is just lovely -- they tasted like jam on the vine.

While I'm the avid, driving force,

I did have help.

And my help isn't like a toddler's "help," unlike Denise's

The big guys helped, even though they're not thrilled about the berries themselves. My two younger girls refused to come, opting to clean the house instead. Go figure!

I don't think we'll be going back though. I do love the trip, love the memories, but the prices have gone up so far that with the long drive added on, my jars of jam are almost retail priced! Since we have many blackberry patches around town, I figure I can get my jam berries that way. Plus, if I plant ollalieberries in the difficult-to-keep-watered back bed (possibly after cutting down the branch overhead first) I'll probably get enough berries to keep us in pies. And then if we want to drive, we'll just go to the favorite beach nearby instead. And eat homegrown ollalieberry jam and peanut butter sandwiches!

In closer harvests, today, I did a quick run through the garden. Apples, strawberries, hot peppers, Padron peppers, lots and lots of kinds of cucumbers, a whack of kale, summer squash, and beans. So far today I've got two bowls of cucumbers and cucumber slices brining, while two jars of pepper rings are pickled and sealed. We ate the kale for dinner, and had strawberries with shortcake for dessert. That only leaves the zucchini and beans to process, the apples and eating cukes to consume. Look away for two days, I tell you. . .

It's churlish to complain, though. And there are lovely neighbors who will eat extra, the food bank is always happy to get whatever we can give, and it's local and fresh. We are blessed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Door(s) into Summer

My harvests are in no way overwhelming yet -- I've managed to keep up with what we're generating here (mostly beans, squash, and kale, with some hot peppers) and eat lots fresh and turn some into save-for-laters. I even used a large bag of plums from a workout buddy and made jam.

Check out my new, cool Tatler BPA-free lids. I'm still experiencing a small learning curve, since that plum jam on the left came unsealed, but I'm excited about them. Another thing that keeps me excited about gardening is my giddy, "I can't believe I grew it myself" reaction to things like that Marketmore cucumber. Seriously, I started it from a seed scant months ago, and it looks like I just snatched it up out of a market somewhere. Snort. Cracking myself up is a survival technique around here.

And out front, the first ripe tomatoes. Of course they're Sungolds. Prolific and tasty, they are the perfect "help yourself" variety. That reminds me -- I should make a sign for out there.

But the very best things? Eric made new front doors. Seriously. He glued up stock to make it thick enough, made rails and stiles, figured out how to cut molding to hold panels, got them hung, which as anyone can tell you, is the really hard part, and put on new door hardware. Doors! That close!

Now all we have to do is to decide what to paint them, and by extension the whole house. Why do I get the feeling that there is scaffolding in my future? Any how, I'm terribly proud, and a few months of house painting would probably do us good.


I'm so proud of him I could burst, and it's hard not to use these as a springboard into a different kind of harvest -- the honey-do!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Necessity, meet. . .

Well, the clothes washer was flooding the basement, and a quick check revealed that the drain pipe is clogged. No doubt years of clothes-with-pet-hair-chasers have finally sounded the call for snaking the pipe. And yet, my clothes need cleaning so I can exercise and wear jeans next week.

Divergent thinking to the rescue:

It overwhelms the bottle-funnel occasionally, but the water is not inside, not in the basement, and a lot of it is going to fruit trees and grapevines.

It's not the greywater system I'd really planned, but it works fine for now. At least until we figure out the drain and/or a better method for diverting it into the garden.

Which is looking pretty lovely right now, if I do say so myself. Harvests are just starting to feel as though I ought to get out there every single day, just in case.

In other news, someone turned seven this week and learned how to float on her back in the pool.

It's a pretty good summer so far.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Harvest Monday July 2, 2012

Every Monday, Daphne hosts a Harvest Monday roundup.

I usually forget, and haven't photographed any recent harvests, but today was a good day. Without further ado, clockwise from the zinnias, Fagioli Pavoni bush beans, Parisian Pickling cucumbers sitting next to the bizarrely-shaped Cucumbers de Bourbonne, a bowl of Tristar strawberries, squash blossoms for lunchtime fritters, a mix of yellow wax beans and rattlesnake pole beans, both picked young for refrigerator pickles, the ugliest yellow crookneck squash in the world, small white pickling cucumbers, three Persian Baby cucumbers (picked at Papa, Mama, and baby size), then spiraling in toward the middle, a mix of romaine and crisphead lettuce leaves -- I think Speckled Trout is one of them, then a yellow crookneck squash, a handful of jalapeno peppers for pickled rings, and four Marketmore slicing cucumbers.

It's going to be a busy kitchen day. The kids have helped and are helping by rearranging cabinets and refrigerator so we can make things fit. There's a dozen jars of lime marmalade ready to be made into a pair of sticky marmalade cakes, thus freeing up jam jars for plum jam -- an exercise colleague brought bags of plums -- and some chickens roasting for picking.

Makes me hungry just thinking of it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cornichon choices and chooks

Yesterday it finally happened! Our February chicks delivered egg number 1, followed by another one today. They are charmingly wee.

For next year, I need to remember that I like Parisian Pickling (the rounder one) and not Cucumber de Bourbonne (pointy, and already pickled in the picture). They both taste like pickles, but I like the shape of the fat little ones. If I don't write it down, I can imagine myself staring at the seed packets thinking, "Now, which one made good pickles?"