Archive for the ‘spinning and fiber’ Category

everything’s comin’ up veggies

Monday, June 16th, 2014

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well, maybe there’s room for a flower or two as well; why not?

what a week for gardening, eh? at the beginning of last week i was stressing just a little because i hadn’t gotten my seeds in over the weekend. so monday morning i got up bright and early, put on my garden clothes and headed outside to dig in the dirt instead of running.

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there was rain in the forecast for late in the day and i wanted to get some seeds in to take advantage of the free water. it actually ended up taking two separate mornings to get everything squared away, but i finally did it. the first day i got my greens planted in the small bed—five or six types of chard, pak choy, zen greens, and beets.

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and the second day i put on all the final touches—seeding in radishes everywhere to help with insect control and planting marigolds to help with the same. we also plan out the garden so that we can take advantage of good companion planting between the foods we harvest. this seems to work a treat where we live and our garden, which used to be a gravel parking lot, can use all the help we can give it.

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temperate, alternating days of brilliant sun and showers combined in a perfect recipe of success—within a couple of days everything ha sprouted and what was already in the ground was going gangbusters by this past weekend.

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i can’t get over how big everything gets in just a week at this time of year!

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the squash plants are already putting our tiny zucchini and yellow squash.

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and the tomatoes won’t be shown up so out came some tiny fruits on those

i had seen some tiny fruits not the pepper plants but was amazed at the size they’d achieved the next time i looked (about two days later)

these beans have been in the ground just seven days—funny thing though, the same type seeds are germinating at one end of the row but not the other, haha. my fingers are crossed that the back end beans will catch up.

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and then this beauty popped aug the other day—fiore di melanzana; how pretty is that.

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i did not get out there to prune the tomatoes over the weekend as i’d planned, darn it. i’ve got it on the calendar for tomorrow because i don’t want the vines to run away with themselves; it will be extremely difficult to prune them later.

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i’m so pleased that everything—even the parsnips and carrots—germinated on the first try. we’ve had issues in the past with certain things. i do think the consistently alternating rain/sun pattern of the last couple weeks has worked like magic; i don’t think we’d have been able to provide that same consistency with watering.

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the other day i was out there snapping some photos, when our bunny friend bounded straight toward me from the backyard and over the strawberry patch.

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he settled in the middle of the grassy area to eat clover and allowed me to come quite near, snapping photos.

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i think i was only about eight feet away when i got this one. i don’t think he minded at all; he seemed mostly uninterested in me. then someone slammed a car door on the street and he hopped away.

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speaking of the strawberry patch, we have had a bumper crop this year. our berry plants are finally producing well; i think i’ve picked three or four quarts in the last week.

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though very pretty, they are not so sweet and not really full-flavored, but the taste is delicate and interesting, with hint of lavender in it. i pick them every other day and wash them up for us to use however we please; david has been eating his with ice cream at night, i think.

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the very first batch i cut up and ate with yogurt (here, paired with key lime, mmm).

but by yesterday we really had quite a lot on hand and they don’t last but a day, so i decided we should have strawberry shortcake at least once. and since i did my long run yesterday morning, i felt i’d earned it, haha.

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david and i heard about this gluten free cookbook on NPR about a month ago and we ordered a copy. america’s test kitchen is one of our favorite shows; we love knowing the science behind the cookery. i figured if anyone had a chance of making a great gluten free cookbook, it would be them.

i’ve only had it a couple of weeks but i am really pleased with this book so far. while there are a few ingredients i needed to buy that i did not have in my pantry, once these were purchased i have been able to use the recipes without finding myself lacking of another exotic ingredient. the book offers a recipe for their flour blend which is recommended for each recipe (and requires a bunch of ingredients you might have to send away for), but they also make recommendations for purchasing gluten free flour, which is what i did. i may invest in making the flour blend at some point, but we don’t bake enough right now to warrant that.

the book focuses on recipes that would normally be made with wheat—lots of baked goods, both sweet and savory, but also any food that requires a starchy component. the main thing is the educational material that allows me to take the same concepts and apply them to familiar recipes that might not be in the book.

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anyway, for strawberry shortcake dessert, we usually like a sweet biscuit to soak up the strawberry juice. i have a couple of good recipes, but not gluten free. so i took a stab at their biscuit recipe.

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as with my regular recipe, it was very simple to make with a short list of ingredients. there were some clever hints included to contribute to the success of the outcome. now, i like to play with recipes, usually giving myself free rein to change things. but even i know that baking is a delicate balance of chemistry and gluten free baking even more so. that being the case, i stuck exactly to what the recipe said. i loved the way the finished dough felt, handled, and tasted; i had a good feeling about the final result.

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and i wasn’t wrong—these biscuits were absolutely scrumptious, maybe even as good as my regular recipe. they were soft and light with crispy outsides and a light, sweet flavor. david is pretty critical of our new baked goods and these passed his palate with flying colors. i am so trying more of these recipes . . .

ETA: ooops!! speaking of baking, i forgot to announce the winner of the pies and tarts book giveaway yesterday, darn it. the winner is . . . cherie w. congratulations cherie!

and thank you again to our friend nathalie for both the review copy and the giveaway copy; i love this book.

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in other news, our new shades of stone soup are beginning to arrive from the mill—we love the boxes that they arrived in; you couldn’t say it better, haha.

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our darkest shade, which we are naming river rock. and holy cow is this batch sooooffft! we’re also expecting a new brown, which hopefully will be the start of a second line of shades. as soon as david has these loaded in the shop, we’ll let you know.

i’ve mostly been knitting on a secret project i have going but guess what?

in my little bit of spare knitting time just before bed, i have apparently been getting lots done because suddenly, my comfy pedal pusher cardigan is almost done!

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i’m working on the collar and after that i have to add button bands and sew up the underarm seams. then i have to knit a couple of pockets. hopefully not more than a week of work left (i only work on this piece late at night while watching TV).

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this knit up in no time using our confection worsted in the dark chocolate shade (david picked it out for me). i knit the 40-ish inch chest and it will most likely be done with just under five skeins of yarn. of course it isn’t blocked yet or anything but i just love the way it’s turned out. it’s comfy, but not baggy; that’s really important to me. the fabric feels smooth and velvety; it’s going to be a winter favorite for me; i can tell. i’m going to knit it again in a dyed yarn, in fact.

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speaking of confection, look what anne C and sarah knit for a friend’s recent wedding—is that not gorgeous?? just two skeins of each shade for all that yumminess. wow.

this is a pattern we will publish near the end of the summer or early fall. we got some knockout photos of it the other day with our favorite kids modeling.

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yeah, kids and handknits just go together like strawberries and shortcake.

the new kid in town

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

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a brand new limited-edition yarn has landed in our online shop—the third installment in our mohair series. this is one spun with the kid fiber we purchased from john frett at pinxterbloom farm, along with the yearling for our chebris blends. cabécou means “little goat” and is the name of a tiny goat cheese from the midi-pyrénées region of southern France.

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we named our delicious version cabécou brilliant (or bright little goat) to celebrate its beautiful bounce and sheen, the result of blending three lustre fibers—romney, kid mohair, and silk.

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this yarn is a true silver gray and honestly, no photo can accurately record how shiny it is. not garishly at all, but instead a bright, burnished reflection of its own depths—which seem bottomless. sigh.

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cabécou brillant has a lot of the same character as our chèvre worsted which sold out so quickly last year, but this one is softer, brighter, lighter, and has more sheen.

it’s so new that we haven’t got any finished samples yet to show it off, but we will at our next popup shop—the michigan fiber festival (if it lasts that long). in the meantime, i’ve swatched up several types of stitch patterns to put it through its paces so i can give you a quick report.

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(wow, look at it glow—doesn’t that just beat the band?)

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the first thing i tried was a straight stockinette swatch on size 5US (3.75 mm) needles, just to get a beat on how big or small i’d need to go to achieve the optimum fabric. and i would say that for stockinette, it will perform well on a range of needles from 4US (3.5 mm) to 6US (4.0 mm).

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the fabric will be soft, airy, and relaxed with beautiful drape; a light allover haze will provide enough body and structure to support it so that it won’t stretch or sag from regular wear.

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nice as the stockinette fabric is, i really think this yarn comes into its own in a patterned fabric that has a mix of knits and purls. in the brocade swatch above, the foreground gleams in knit stitches while the background recedes in soft matte purl, giving the composition tons of depth and shadowing (swatch is worked in the motif from my crocus patch blanket, which will soon be available as a standalone pattern—in fact, we should do a kit!)

below i swatched the obstacles pattern, which has a more integrated mix of knits and purls, creating deeply textured hills and valleys that are well supported by the network of fuzzy fiber in the yarn as well as its natural springiness. the higher elevations in the fabric are further accented by a soft sheen that is almost shameless in the way it grabs one’s attention.

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david and i came up with a whole list of patterns we thought would suit this yarn well. most of our favorites fall into the categories of shawls, wraps, and blankets, but there’s no reason not to consider this yarn for a slouchy hat or lush cowl.

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with a generous 375 yards per four ounce skein, a couple of these will make a wonderfully sized wrap or small blanket; it would be a treasure as cradle me or hillflowers (and so easy, too). light as it is, it would be an absolute showstopper as a full-sized coverlet for the bed—maybe wheaten, hourglass throw, or sky ladder?

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(wow, look at those fibers catch the light; they are on fire)

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this batch is a limited edition produced from the small supply of kid mohair we were able to buy in late fall; while we are anxious to put it in our regular lineup, that will depend on if and when we can obtain the same quality fiber. we’ve been trying to catch up with john to talk about getting more but he’s a guy on the go.

in the meantime, everything we have is now listed in the shop—i hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do. now the question is, what will i be knitting with my cabécou??

 

groundbreaking

Friday, June 6th, 2014

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truly a sight for sore eyes, am i right? sigh!
but hard to believe that the berry brigade is just around the corner, waiting to march forward and unroll its riches before us week by week. where has the year gone to?

it’s been a busy week around here, between trying to get our yard in shape and keeping up with work in the office. i’ve got a couple of secret projects on the needles but plenty of public knitting to share as well. and new stuff we’ve been playing with—let’s get started.

the honeysuckle along the back fence is in bloom and i see it from the kitchen window first thing each morning.

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of course it lured me out to take a walk in the garden—it has been so nice to pick this habit back up; i missed it last year, when we didn’t have a vegetable patch.

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what i saw amazed me—pea shoots just coming up out of the earth from seeds i planted on tuesday. wow, just WOW. we had some good rain over the last few days, which must have made them very happy.

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and teeny little potatoes from spuds i planted last saturday.

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nearby, at the side of the garden is a much bigger volunteer growing from leftovers of a previous year; i thought we’d pulled them all out, but we must have missed one, haha.

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ok, i could not get a good photo of this because the camera just didn’t want to focus on the right thing but i’ve got baby bell peppers growing already; these plants went in the ground on memorial day.

but my favorite discovery of all is this sunny smile

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i thought i saw buds the last time i was out there but i wasn’t sure. now i know. and there are bees hovering about as well, making sure the pollination gets done, so we should soon see some tiny squashes. and hopefully, we’ll see them before any invaders get in there.

isn’t it amazing how fast it all takes off, once the plants are in the ground? we’ve been eating from our asparagus patch pretty regularly for the last month; we collect a few or six stalks each day and store them up until we have enough for a meal; they are so good grilled and added to eggs with mushrooms. mmm-mmmm

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the tomato plants are also growing like crazy; i can even see some improvement in the too-tiny roma tomato plants we bought, though they seem sluggish in comparison; hopefully they’ll catch up. david got the trellises up and rigged a climbing system for the plants similar to that you would use for peas. some of these tomatoes will need pruning soon, yikes.

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the climbing hydrangea is so heavy with flowers that they are literally laying on top of one another in layers. when i think of all the years we waited for it to grow to climbing height (five) and then for that first single flower to appear (another two), i can hardly believe the size and fecundity it has achieved since then.

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it bloomed this week, spewing heavy pollen dust from each of the thousands (or maybe millions) of tiny buds that make up its lace cap flower heads. it’s quite astonishing in total size, actually.

but the truly amazing thing is its thickness. we never prune it back because it always seem very full and healthy; now when it’s in full leaf, it completely obliterates the trellis that supports it, creating a nice bower over the entry to the back yard.

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well, apparently this year it has caught the eye of the robins, which normally nest up in the eaves of our front porch. a couple of weeks back when it was just starting to bud out, i saw them scoping out the back yard all week for a nesting spot. after poking around in every nook and cranny, in the end they took a fancy to the deep leafy cave at the top of the bower.

one day in a chilly, pouring-down rain, i noticed the male and female pair carting nesting material into the cozy hide hole while the squirrels scampered through the garden ferreting out the last of their nuts and acorns.

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but not directly—every time they’d approach with a load of dry grass or twigs, they would first land in the tree just outside the kitchen window in full view of all the other creatures, standing there with mouthfuls of nesting material, not doing anything at all.

then they would quick dive into the cave.

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and repeat.

it was hilarious—i’m sure the squirrels were laughing all the way to the oak tree “hey, get a load of those robins, won’tcha!” in fact, they no sooner had their nest built than the cardinals moved in for a fight. for one whole day the robins fought them off and eventually won out—now they seem to be living a more or less undisturbed life there. i can’t see the nest at all, but i’m pretty sure there are eggs; one bird is always on it and the other goes in and out with food.

hopefully the squirrels will leave them alone.

the iris are gorgeous throughout our neighborhood this year, including the small patch we have—huge, showy dark purple flowers came out and i couldn’t be happier, though none of my photos from that day were very well focused.

my autumn fern has finally opened though

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it’s a bit more brilliant than it appears here—this fern is orange, gold, and burgundy in the spring; it really stands out against all the bright green now. then toward fall it greens up and stays that way all winter. it’s nice to have one plant with a reversed color pattern.

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it kind of matches the mohair lace scarf i’ve been working on with sweet georgia silk mist in the woodland colorway. i admit this project is moving rather slowly but that’s ok with me. it’s my current traveler project; it folds up teeny tiny into a little purse sized project bag and weighs just one ounce—less than my sunglasses. i memorized the pattern during the first repeat so i can whip it out anywhere and work on it wherever. perfect.

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in contrast, the raglan cabled jacket i’m knitting in our confection worsted is much to large to bring anywhere at this point—i don’t even like to cart it up and down stairs (well ok, that might be my laziness in play). but if i keep it upstairs where we watch TV, i get lots more done on it. it’s perfect for that time of night when i’m tired but i still want something to do—i really don’t have to think or even look at it to get a few rows done. that’s my kind of late-night project.

as you can see, i’ve now got past the underarm and have joined the sleeves on.

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that means that i’m working all around the yoke as it circles my upper arms—the rows are as long as they get in this garment and yet, they still seem to fly along. that’s the beauty of worsted weight yarn. i am on my fourth skein with about half of that left; i’m thinking i just might get away with using only five total skeins, but it’s really too soon to tell.

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AND i’ve been swatching and playing with our new romney/mohair/silk blend, cabécou and can i just say? it’s stunning.

i have much to tell you about it but i need to wait til next time—david has not added it to the store yet and i want to be able to give you links for it. suffice it to say that if you’ve been waiting for us to restock the chévre worsted, this could be the answer to your prayers—only better. i’ll tell you all about it as soon as david organizes a yarn page for it.

until then, please check out the other two new things we announced this week. first, signups are open now for our rhinebeck after party, a fun followup to the wool show festivities, specifically designed for participants to kick back, play with their purchase, and do some fun investigative work into new knitting knowledge. click here to read more and to join us.

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and then, inspired by last year’s summer of cotton knitting (which really went far to soothe the frayed nerves from a house-wide summer renovation project)

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our newbie knitter sarah is hosting a cotton KAL in our ravelry mothership, kicking off with a group cast on for the summer solstice (you can PM sarah for more info).

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we’ll be stocking some deliciously cool organic color grown cottons in our online shop and featuring them in both rejuvenated designs from our back catalog as well as some new ones that are percolating in my head. and of course you can BYOY; we don’t discriminate—we just wanna have fu-un.

small, soft accessory knits make for excellent summer projects—they travel compactly and are wonderful conversation pieces, yet totally easy care enough to knit at the beach or a barbecue if you feel like it.

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and with sarah at the helm, this one promises to be tons of laughs and little stress—so please join the fun!

i think that’s it for today—hope you have a great weekend. i’m running two races (i know, crazy, but they are for good causes); one is a night glo—a 5K at 9:30 pm this evening and the other is a 10K first thing tomorrow morning. on sunday we’re having company and i’m going to cook something yummy—ciambotta, a fresh summery vegetable stew that was one of my grandma’s  specialties. and a strawberry rhubarb pie, because i’ve had a craving for too many weeks now.

pictures will be taken and shared, i promise (beckie, please make sure i do!).

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the week in gardening

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

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what a week for the garden; finally i think we are completely out of the chill and into the early summer weather. though we started out a week ago after a frosty night and spent several drizzly, cold days away—even some tornadoes and hailstorms over the weekend—bit by bit the temps crept up so that by monday we were driving home from kentucky in sunny weather (more on our lexington trip in tomorrow’s post)

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we saw the last of the tulips fade, but we’re still welcoming a new, frilly thing on a daily basis it seems. i managed to get outside between showers on the day before we left to take some photos—oh how things have matured in just that short time.

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my beloved fiddleheads finally cracked their shells and started the slow expansion of their webbed fingers and curled spines into mountain pose.

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it never gets old for me; each year i want to sink into the earth of the back planting bed to watch them rise.

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heaven help me.

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just next door the painted ferns are also unfurling, though in a slightly different way. their fiddleheads are a bit more delicate and curiously twisted.

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it’s hard to believe that leaves so large were compacted into such fine tendrils.

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and the hostas! so fresh and lush, especially in all the rain.

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speaking of rain, i seem to have caught the plants at one of the best moments possible—just close enough after a shower to have perfect beads of rain clinging to their leaves and petals, yet just past enough that the sun has lit each one like a fairy light.

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this isn’t the greatest photo but i had to take it form inside, behind the kitchen window glass. it’s our robin, caught in the act of pretending NOT to be building a nest in the hydrangea arbor. i noticed the male and female robins as soon as i woke up; while brushing my teeth i witched them gathering grasses and stuff from around the edge of the garden.

while i ground beans and filled the pot to make coffee, i saw that they were flying yup to this tee with their nesting materials, hanging out very conspicuously on that branch, then ducking quickly and covertly into the thicket of the arbor where they were actually building a hidden nest. meanwhile, the squirrels all over the yard pretended not to see this maneuver. hilarious.

i’m keeping an eye out for the robin chicks to appear; should be about two or three more weeks before they emerge, i guess.

meanwhile, for the last several weeks, david has been turning our enormous compost pit and taking out the rich, dark earth from underneath to spread over the vegetable patch. he still has to till it under before i can plant, but we’re hoping to be all ready by the middle of next week. normally i plant everything a bit earlier, but it has stayed pretty cold this year and now we have shows during these two weeks that will prevent me from planting until at least next week.

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while i was away in lexington, our local ecology center held their annual organic plant sale and david took a ride up with list in hand to procure plants for our vegetable patch. we’ve got peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, squash, herbs and all sorts of things. i’ve also got a wide variety of seeds for greens, beans, carrots, parsnips, and potatoes. i can’t wait to get out in the dirt.

this weekend we’ll be at wooster for the great lakes fiber show; stop by and see us! we’ll have lots of great stuff, including some skeins from our latest shipment of fresh breakfast blend fingering yarn. we are restocked on bakery rye, morning smoke (and just in time, too; we ran out in kentucky),  cream ‘n’ sugar, and we have an old favorite back in stock as well.

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and none too soon—the breakfast blend cubbies are mighty bare right now . . . so as soon as it’s labeled it will be listed.

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it’s late now and i’m ready for knitting, but tomorrow i’ll get back to work, updating the blog with all the knitting i’ve gotten done in the last week . . . which is quite a lot.