Wednesday, October 26, 2005

woohoo! it's finally working!

Now that the garden has mostly been put to sleep for the winter, I have time to do the various fiber crafts that I enjoy.
- spinning on a drop spindle
- pretending the spinning wheel in the corner of the living room is something useful that I'm going to learn any minute now
- naalbinding, which is often referred to as 'single needle knitting' but I find it more like a combination of crotcheting and handsewing
- pretending that I'm working on the warp-weighted loom
- crotcheting

And on rare occassion, I've been known to embroider, cross stitch, knit and handsew.

So, okay, I have a few flaws in my hobbies.

The project on the loom is just irritating me. It's dusty and it sticks such that opening each new shed is painfully annoying. It's dusty because it's sticky. But let's move on past that for now. See that avoidance in full action? Isn't it cool?

The spinning wheel? On loan from a friend who will no doubt read this and tsk at me. I have trouble co-ordinating all of my body parts, and find it so annoying that I've been avoiding it. I don't handle a slow learning curve very well. I'm used to picking up new things very easily. Anti-V will no doubt tsk at me because she's made suggestions about the process to go about learning the wheel. And she is right... but I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Naalbinding came easily, but I grew up knitting and crotcheting all of my life. A different needle art is just different - not at all hard.

Spinning on a drop spindle! This is the one that I wanted to get to from the start of this post. I get it!

It's only taken me more then a year!

There are quite a few methods of spinning - one is called park and draft. I think of it as a beginner's technique and it's where I've been stuck for quite a while now.
You start the spindle whorl spinning, and then when it's reached it's slow-down point, you park it between body parts (knees, underarm, etc) and then use both hands to draft and spin the fiber.

A more advanced method, that is much more efficient and faster, is to spin the whorl while drafting and spinning at the same time the whorl continues to spin. I've watched more experienced (or more determined, or just more damnably co-ordinated) spinners do this with some jealousy.

And last night, I finally got it! Just somehow, completely inexplicity, my hands finally figured out what to do. All by themselves. :)


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Garden summary

One million bulbs (or so it feels like, anyway), several million annuals to pull out, herbs to cut back, mulch to cover the gardens like a warm blanket for the winter.

Before I get into the meat of the summary, I want to wax philosophical for a bit. I've really truly been enjoying the harvest season - the feeling of growing and using my own foods. I've had an abundant crop of tomatoes and green peppers, of basil, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, and peppermint. Now, I don't have the foggiest how to use the sage, rosemary, and peppermints to their best advantage, but hey.. that will come with time. I've also got an abundance of lavender (for pretty smells) and golden marguerite (for dyeing). And there will be so much more next year when other herbs are sufficiently grown. It's just so deeply satisfying to do for oneself, to create usefully.

I have to wonder.... what is it about modern life that this fills so deep a crevice in my psyche?


On with the summary then....

Starting with the shed garden (to the right of the back door):
We had Elderberry and Grape, and a few annuals in a little 6' by 2' space. The Elderberry is a large bush, and not suited to a space that's only 2' wide. So Neil moved it out to the fenceline nearest the neighbour's. And I put a few bulbs in there - tulips and anemones. My hope is that when the tulips and anemones are done, in May or thereabouts, I can add tomatoes. It will be handy having them close to the house when I need a tomato to cook with.

Moving on to the round garden on the left of the back door:
Last weekend, I pulled up all the annuals so I could get a feel for how the herbs were doing. The lemon thyme, being a low-lying plant, had been largely shaded by the explosive annuals and surrounding other herbs. So it didn't take off in quite the same way as the others.

This weekend, we moved the woad and weld because they will need space to expand if I'm going to have enough to dye with. The woad will actually need a new plant next year, because it's a biannual, and it's usefulness in dyeing is in it's first year. So I'll need to always have at least one plant in it's first year.

The wormwood got moved because it's a monster plant. Chest-high and at least 3' wide. It dominated the entire space. [pretty 'though - Neil]

So now I had a garden with big holes where the woad, weld and wormwood had been, and where the annuals had been - time for more bulbs! Again, when the tulips die back in the late spring, I can add tomatoes and green peppers.

I will probably also need to replace the pennyroyal and rosemary, because they are listed as tender perennials for this region, but I won't know until next year. An herbalist friend in the area thinks the pennyroyal might survive but the rosemary is probably toast.

We harvested lavender and rosemary and parsley from this garden. The parsley has already been dehydrated and put in the spice jars. The lavender and rosemary are in grocery bags on the table in the mudroom, waiting for me to recoup energy to deal with them.

Moving on again to the triangular and inside the driveway fenceline gardens:
We chopped back the applemint and peppermint and sage. Some which we saved, and hence harvested. Some of which we just tossed in the compost bin.

We pulled out the remains of the basil. There wasn't much left after I'd harvested it last weekend.

We split the irises and moved some of them.

And then planted yet more bulbs. :)

These are all relatively new, or recently expanded garden spaces, so the more planting the merrier right now.

Moving on once again to the former vegetable garden:
What was once a big rectangular traditional vegetable is now going to become a mix of flowers, herbs and vegetables.

This is the space where the woad, weld, wormwood and the split-off irises were moved.
And we also moved in a cherry tree that is about 3 years old, and 5' tall.

I've become a big fan of growing tomatoes and green peppers, and herbs. But the corn just hasn't taken for the past 2 years so I'm going to give up on it next year. Of course that rationale doesn't apply to the rhubarb - I'll try that again next year in yet a different space. Some things just have different, entirely irrational priorities. :)

Peas and beans are always nice, and usually reliable, but they take up so much space. I don't know what I'll do with them next year. Cucumber was nice, but I'm going to have to learn how to pickle - we didn't use the cucumber that we got this year. 6 or 7 cukes from just one plant!


Friday, October 21, 2005

blog block, and putting the garden to bed

Sorry for the delay folks, I've been suffering blog block.

In other activities this week:
I've been baking cherry and apple tarts, and yet more pumpkin pie. The hubby complimented me tonight on the tarts.

Neil and I have almost finished the porch on the back yard. I think it's really pretty, but I'm biased. It's an original design by my one and and only husband.

I harvested the last of the oregano and basil, and then promptly bought two new plants on the way home tonight to grow indoors over the winter.

I pulled up the impatients to get a feel for how the herbs were growing in the new round garden, where everything just exploded with growth this year. And wow, have I got herbs! I only wish I knew what to do with them.

Brought in the surprise new tomato plants to see if I can raise them indoors over the winter. I broke one of them off at the stem while digging it up but stuck it in the dirt anyway, and watered it deeply. And surprisingly, it seems to be recovering!

I started spinning the blue-faced Leicester that I bought at London Wul on our vacation. It's new to me, I usually stick with Icelandic fleece because Icelandic is period to the Viking Era, but I am really enjoying this fleece as well. I might be becoming a fiber addict. :)

On wednesday, I harvested the tomatoes before the first frost hit. It's very satisfying to be be supplied my own foodstuffs. I could get addicted to this gardening thing as well.

And for the past several nights, I've been making myself and Neil miserable with bad sinus reactions in the middle of the night. Neil pulled out the furnace filter and cleaned it this morning. I hope it helps.

Yes, it's been cold enough that our furnace has come on - welcome to the northern climes.

This weekend, Neil is determined to put the gardens to bed. We have dozens of new bulbs to plant, and several plants to move. And tonight we arrived home to a heaping pile of mulch - to be added to what was the vegetable garden, and will next year host a wider variety of flowers, herbs, trees, bushes, and a few vegetables.

I've got a list here of everything that I want to do to the gardens next year. It's on our home site so I can use it as a reference point, and my hubby can update it as well.

I've been promising to post a garden summary of the previous year, haven't I? Well... soon. Really.

Karen :)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Love at first bite :)

Made a pumpkin pie - crust commercial, filling straight from the raw pumpkin - for Thanksgiving dinner with my parents yesterday.

As you can see, we all loved it. :)


Saturday, October 8, 2005

gardens, pie, serenity and shooting, oh my!

The foxglove in the garden is behaving strangely. It gave me one stalk of flowers in the middle of the summer (pictured above) and then died back. I assumed this was normal, since it's the first year I've grown foxglove.

But now, 2 months later, it's growing and flowering on another stalk. I've never seen another plant do that. Fascinating. I can't wait until it's more established and starts reaching the 4 or 5 foot range that I've heard foxglove can go.


No news on the pie front yet. I've been busy this week. Although I do hope to get to the pumpkins soon. I promised my Mum that I'd bring her a pie for Thanksgiving dinner on sunday.


In the meantime, we were at the Bogenschuetzenfest today. It's an archery contest that is part of Oktoberfest every year. Now, I generally loath all things to do with Oktoberfest, but I make an exception for the Bogenschuetzenfest.

Today, it was pleasantly chilly - you know when it's definitely turning into fall, but not so cold that I couldn't spin between my times to shoot. The day went on so long that they were needing to rush the shoot to finish so the club could open for evening festing.

That's me, up to shoot. I didn't win anything but I did enjoy the shooting, the spinning and hanging with friends.

The scarf that I'm wearing in the picture, by the way, is my first weaving project off the warp-weighted loom. I took it off over a year ago, and haven't been wanting to cut it for fabric but it's perfect for an oversize scarf.


Last night, we finally got out to see the movie Serenity. Joss Whedon did a fantastic job following up on his too-soon-cancelled series Firefly.

A friend of mine went to see it a week ago and wrote me this:
oh dear
oh no

An excellent summary. :)

Sunday, October 2, 2005

my how time flies...

A week has gone flying by since my last post!

I started an elm bark dye bath two saturdays ago by soaking the elm bark. Colour is supposed to be in the pink/coral range. It's supposed to be finished by simmering for an hour and adding the wool, and simmering for another another. So... I stuck it on the stove last night and simmered it, and put a test strip in...and an hour later - nothing. No colour change at all.

For the moment, I've given up. Took the pot off the stove and back into a corner to soak some more. Any ideas?

Anti-V mentioned to me in email that perhaps I need to be soaking it in alcohol. Although the recipe I'm using is from Jenny Dean's _Wild Colour_ and she didn't mention alcohol. All the other recipes have worked so far, I'm surprised that this one hasn't.

Any clues?


I've been browsing through all the images that I've put up on the web, and quite a few of them have never made it to the blog. So here's a couple more to amuse you.

Still blooming now in our garden, I'm not sure of this one's name, except that it's an aster of some variety.

This is Ginger, being weird, and sticking her head up between the coffee table and the couch. She's returned to her normal, healthy old-lady ways after a bout with fatty liver this summer.

This is Leif, or or in this position, sometimes known as "Belly Boy". This weekend, we took him up to Neil's Mum's house, where he got to spend time with Pogo and Shelley. Now, Shelley's been spayed, but Pogo hasn't yet, being very young. Pogo has apparently gone into heat, and it was amusing watching Leif and Pogo try to get together. Leif's been neutered for so long, I'm surprised he still knew what to attempt to do.


Also, I bought 3 'pie pumpkins' with an eye to making pumpkin pie in the next few days, right from scratch. There's a recipe in the Joy of Cooking. Wish me luck, and feel free to send other recipes my way.