we’re growing

Posted on 8 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden

those of you who’ve been following this blog for years and years are quite familiar with my ongoing investigations of our yard, as well as our evolution as gardeners.

i’m always touched by how many readers ask about our garden; while i try not to be repetitive in sharing it, gardening is a discipline where regularity—at least of the right things—is required for success. believe me, we’ve tried a more spontaneous method and ended up with, well, spontaneous results, to put it as nicely as possible . . .

this year has been funny in some ways, especially during the spring. our flowers have been mostly spectacular, from the tulips through these gorgeous hydrangeas, though our daffodils were almost nonexistent.

despite the erratic events in the rest of our life throughout the spring, david managed to get the earth turned and the planting mounds ready on time and all the plants went into the ground mostly on time.

seeds went in later than usual, but thankfully, everything germinated very well and continued to thrive week by week.

this was taken the day that i thinned all these greens, transplanting some of the thinnings to another area.

and just the other day, after trimming off bunches of leaves for lillian to take home.

greens are my very favorite fresh garden food, so we planted a big variety of asian greens, chard, and beet greens, among other things. even the parsnips (second row back) germinated very well; we’ve had trouble growing them in previous years, but lucked out for once. i’m looking forward to harvesting parsnips in the late fall; they are hard to find in the stores where we live.

meanwhile, we’ve been eating very well from current offerings, first from the thinned seedlings (super nutritious!) and now from the hardier mature greens. above left are the chard thinnings i took out of the ground about ten days ago and the asian greens on the right. we made a huge salad with these and ate every last bite.

these are rutabaga seedlings that i thinned out and discovered are absolutely delicious both raw and cooked. i mean, REALLY delicious. i had thought they might be a bit “cabbagey” and not digestible, but they are quite the opposite—a little peppery and sweet and more delicate in texture than they appear. we can clip a few leaves at a time from each plant if we want to continue eating them.

when i thinned the scallions, i just couldn’t bear to toss out the sprouts, so i washed them up and added them at the very end of a stir fry and boy oh boy, were they just the right touch! it’s wonderful to savor these once-in-a-season delights when we can.

once the garden takes off it seems like just a moment before the plants are huge and bearing more substantial fruit.

suddenly i need to get out there every single morning to check the squash plants; i pick most of them when they are quite small and most tender because A) i prefer eating them at that stage and B) i use up more of them that way. i only need the larger ones here and there and they are difficult to give away.

it’s the same situation with all the plants—from flower to fruit in just a few days, it seems. this year we are lucky that many of the veggies that go together well are ripening at the same time.

some years, the squash is ready way before the eggplant, but this year they came in at the same time, along with peppers and a few tomatoes.

it’s really due to the circumstances around our planting—we bought our plants and got them in the ground before memorial day, but then the dog ran off and we got our seeds in kind of late. that gave the plants more time to mature. now that i know this timing works well for good eating, maybe we’ll stick to it in the future!

i picked this tomato yesterday and today, david picked a few more that are really ripe—when i look back to previous years on the blog, it looks like we are right on schedule for the first tomatoes. yay. i just wish some of our cherry types were ready.

the plants are scary big but have few flowers or fruits yet. i think they suffered bit when we had some extreme temperature changes in june. maybe the delay bodes well for keeping them healthy a bit longer into the summer.

speaking of timing, our garlic matured REALLY early this year. i wasn’t expecting it to, since we didn’t have scapes until mid june (ours often come in mid to late may). and then it seemed as if i’d just cut the last of the scapes when david said the first bulbs were ready to be pulled. but none of that matters when the results are so grand—we ended up with about ninety heads, most of which measure between three and four inches in diameter.

this is just about double what we harvested for the last two years and i’m thrilled; we always run out before winter ends. we planted a bunch of different types, but they get so jumbled that it’s the luck of the draw which ones we use at any given time. we’ll save out the biggest heads to use for seed garlic in october, as we’ve done for the past few years. i’m glad we’ve got lots this year because i like to gift some when i can.

i can’t resist a still life when i have the chance. a beautiful garden haul deserves a nice photo though, i always think. green squash is decidedly absent so far—those seeds went in last and they’re not ready yet, but they seem to be growing well and i hope we’ll have some nice dark zucchini too. it’s just as well; we have an abundance of yellow ones already.

with the garlic ready and all the other beautiful goodies available at the same time, i was hungry to make a celebration dinner this past weekend. i roasted some farm tomatoes with the garlic and sautéed them with

and we feasted on puttanesca, fresh from the garden. O.M.G., was it good. just thinking about it makes me drool all over again and dream of the leftovers we’ll eat tonight.

now don’t you for a minute think that i forgot to plant, or decided to pass on, green beans this year—i didn’t.  and anyway, barb wouldn’t let me get away with that. they went in slightly late but are catching up quickly; each day they cover the fence further, sending beautiful tendrils up into the air.

the type that i grow—mathilde or matilda—are climbers, but produce a long slender green bean with great flavor and even better, a heady scent—both the flowers and the fruit. when i open a bag of beans from the fridge, it is filled with the most wonderful (but elusive) fragrance.

last week, their deep purple flowers began to appear—green beans in the making! this visual perk is another reason i love this variety—a pretty back border for our garden and a bit of interest for passersby along our back street.

no actual beans just yet, but by the time i get back from my weekend trip to nashville, we might have some beans to pick. this variety is a fabulous producer; if kept well-picked, they will produce heavily and as long into the season as you can stand it—only a killing frost will stop them. from my single row of about twelve feet, we will pick up to twenty pounds per week at the height of production.

and finally i will show you our potato patches, which have spread to an almost unwieldy size, hopefully signaling a good potato harvest. last year we also had super healthy plants, but hardly any potatoes and some of them were not good, lacking the texture and flavor i enjoy. but we had experimented with a different planting strategy and this year we went back to good old dirt. they’ve started flowering as well; we’ll know what we’ve got in a few weeks when we burrow in to gather a few first baby potatoes.

back in april, i started working on sweet potato starts using one of the last roots form last year’s harvest—i saved the biggest one for this purpose. i’d meant to start in march, but got waylaid when cardigan joined our household. despite being late, we certainly gleaned many healthy starts from this one potato.

i’m not sure how many in all—it’s very hard to stop, once they begin springing from their mother root. i think we have at least a couple dozen plants, if not more. in fact, the last few starts are still in a jar on the counter and i need to get them in the ground. the frost usually comes pretty late in our season so we might still have time for them to mature . . .

speaking of wonder dog, i don’t mind having extras this year because we now have a third mouth to feed who happens to love sweet potatoes (which are very good for dogs)!

cardigan is already enjoying a variety of garden goodies, in fact. while initially she was very suspicious of vegetable chunks in her food, she just DEVOURS her veggies now. i cook a few small batches every week and spoon a different combination from the containers into her kibble for each meal; when i run low and they don’t appear in the quantity expected, she definitely notices and does not eat with her usual zest. i’ve created a veggie monster. funny, she does not take to fruits with the same zeal—sometimes i can get a few mashed blueberries past her lips, but that’s about it. blueberries are a start tho . . .

we don’t have our own blueberry bushes, but i’m hoping some day we can put some in. for now, we buy them from a local farm and july is the month! i’ve purchased a couple of large boxes, but because i still have some from last year in the freezer, i’m mostly baking with them

this pie looks a bit homely, but man, was it good eating. i wish you could have tasted it!

let’s catch up a bit

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden, lace/shawls, projects

hey gang! it might seem like i disappeared completely the last couple of months but i didn’t. we’ve had some big and little changes around here and i’ve been working behind the scenes a little more than usual. knitting is also happening; surprisingly more than you’d think but less than i’d like, haha. today i’m going to do a quick survey to update you on all the goings on of the last month or so and then tomorrow, i’ll do a more sedately-paced post about my knitting progress and home life (i.e., dog and garden update, hee-hee!).

our manager erica betz left her position with us in april to take a job at another company and we wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors! this was a pretty big and sudden shift for us and it all happened so fast that i needed to move over to the office to do her job, hire her replacement, and help our new manager, ellen, get situated.

and we are very excited to welcome ellen into our work family; she brings many years of knitting and textile industry experience to our company and it couldn’t be a better fit. i know you’ll enjoy getting acquainted; if you have a need to communicate with her, please use any of the same email addresses as before to make contact. you will also see ellen participating in our ravelry groups and working in the booth at our show events, so stop and say hello!

in fact you’ll have a chance this coming weekend, when we’ll be exhibiting at the great lakes fiber show in wooster, OH; our booth is in the 4-H building, which is the large one right near the parking lot. we’ll have all of our yarns, tons of samples, and boxes of patterns for you to browse and buy. we’ll also have a variety of kits for sale, which were so popular at maryland earlier this month.

the wooster show is a wonderful fiber event—big enough to draw many reputable vendors from all over the midwest region, but small enough to feel homey and allow you to visit each booth in relative relaxation. if you live within a comfortable radius, consider coming out for the show; it’s just a short drive from several surrounding states. plus there are excellent fair fries for lunch—i know that’s going to be MY lunch on at least one day. i’m very excited that our friend and knitter extraordinaire cherie will be joining us for the weekend; i’m SO looking forward to her visit in our home!

i’ll be teaching my yarn voyage class on sunday morning from 9am to 12pm, although i believe online signups have closed. i don’t know if they are taking any late signups, but if you missed it and really want to get in, you could try contacting the organizers to inquire.

once again this year our experience showing at the maryland sheep and wool was everything we’d hoped it would be and more! our booth was jammed all day on saturday and most of sunday as well, although at least that day most people were able to get in for a visit. in fact, we’ve spent much time this month figuring out what we need to reorder for the rest of our summer shows and events.

here we are before the show opened on saturday, putting the last touches on our booth setup. hannah was on hand as well, though she’s behind the camera for this photo. we had no idea at this point that the next time we’d step out of the booth would be at 6pm, haha! all good problems to have, i think.

what we love about doing these shows is getting to see old friends and getting to know new ones. our booth is the place where we can meet face to face and help shoppers personally. it’s a truly pleasant experience for one thing, but for another, i always feel better sending someone off with a project knowing that they were able to get questions answered and find just the right fit for yarn and pattern.

i was really touched by how many booth visitors asked about our doggie, cardigan—so many had read her story and showed concern for her continued health and wellness. i will do a big update about her in the next post—there is a lot to show and tell—even if i hadn’t fallen madly head over heels in love with her (which i have, haha). i mean, just look at her; she’s adorable, right? both david and i have been working with her a lot in the process of bringing her into our family, but talk about time well spent—it is a continually gratifying experience.

the whole office has been involved in preparing a special treat for our next knitspot club adventure, a delightful tumble down the rabbit hole of color, color, and more color! you know we like to change it up with our clubs to keep everyone intrigued and involved and hannah especially has put a lot of thought into making this one a unique experience.

for the first time in our club history, participants will have a choice of yarn packages. the idea here is to explore how color reflects our inner personality and how design can change and morph with a shift in color perspective. when you sign up, you will have a choice of purchasing the “mood” package or the “lifter” package—and double dippers can choose one of each if they like or lots of the same. MOOD will be represented in color as subtlety, depth, and/or shade, while LIFTER will be represented by brightness, playfulness, and light. if you love using a pop of color to accent a wardrobe of neutral basics, the LIFTER option might appealing; if you prefer to present yourself in an ombre of subtle tones, then MOOD may be your ticket. projects will be accessory pieces designed to use one or two skeins of any combination.

this photo provides the sort of inspiration i am working from to come up with design ideas for this concept club; to me, it embodies all the aspects of working with one color “camp” or the other and the combination as well. look at the beautiful depth in the decaying tree stump and then the pop of color from the frilly fungi growing within its cavern.

we are super excited to bring this club to you; it’s been in the planning for quite some time. there will be three bi-monthly  installments of yarn, patterns, and goodies to begin in september—what a way to kick off the fall season! we’ve chosen some standout dye partners to participate—hedgehog fibres, zen yarn garden, and asylum fibers. we are opening signups to our current clubbies now (those enrolled in our BNK 2017)—check your mailbox for the eBlast. general signups will open to everyone on june 4th. if this sounds like a fun ride, we’d love for you to join us!

ok, that’s it for the moment, but i’ll be back soon with another post and i hope to see you this weekend. if you can’t make it, please join us on 6/4 for our next color adventure.

winter again . . . and again

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden

happy st. patrick’s day everyone! because we’re all irish on march 17th, right? i hope you’ll enjoy the day in all the best tradition; it’s a bonus that it’s friday, too—party down.

thank you all for participating in the giveaway of in search of the world’s finest wools book the other day; i found the comments fascinating and have plenty of food for thought regarding future posts and club yarn choices (of course that last always depends on what we can actually obtain, so i can’t promise . . .). again this is a book that i highly recommend for those who enjoy a good fiber read or those who are educators in our field—how i wish i could go on a fiber trek like this.

the winner of the giveaway copy is chris H, who was emailed about the win the other day; congratulations chris!

well, after a record breakingly warm february, march has proven less than appealing; we’ve been sharing the snowy, windy weather that the northeast states have experienced and it’s driven us all back indoors.

bad for running and biking, but maybe good for knitting and eating. i worked on the lower body section of my mega cable pullover, which i’m knitting in our better breakfast fingering yarn (poppyseed shade; darker IRL than it looks here).

this is knitting up much, much faster than i expected, especially considering that i didn’t spend a ton of time; it just moves along very quickly, being mostly knits and purls with just a cable cross every 28 rounds. suddenly i’m ready to begin the neck detail, which i’ll tell you about in a minute.

most of my knitting time last weekend was grabbed in between chopping chores—it had been a while since i spent any quality time in my kitchen and i was jonesing for some of that. and sitting too much in cold weather just makes me colder; i needed to get moving somehow.

so i kept warm by making soups to restock our freezer—we were suddenly very low. i cooked four kinds in all, including this curried butternut and red pepper soup (a mashup of  few different recipes), made creamy with coconut milk—so completely vegan. the flavors are both bright and summery, but warm and embracing for the cold weather; just what the doctor ordered.

in fact, this whole soup making rampage started because i noticed our standing army of butternut squash were beginning to suffer a few casualties, maybe because the basement was not as cold as usual this winter. every week i would find another small one collapsing. i knew i had to do something with the remaining ones soon. i just got a little carried away, once i started thinking about soups i like.

one new thing i tried was making these oven baked butternut squash chips. you peel the squash and take to the seeds, then shave or thinly slice the flesh. boil for two minutes in a big pot of heavily salted water (this supposedly helps them crisp up later), then spray or brush with oil and seasoning and bake. super simple and YUMMY delicious. squashes with long thin necks work really well for making round chips, but you can make them any shape. you can also cut them thicker to make squash fries, which i highly recommend as well.

since i was already chopping stuff, i decided to keep going and cleaned up ingredients for our favorite potato and vegetable soups as well (thirteen or fourteen vegetables simmered in broth? you cannot find a better tonic for what ails you).

and then, to complete the picture, i pulled some of our summer tomatoes out of the freezer and cooked a batch of tomato soup. i am always on a quest for just the right flavor—like campbell’s but better; not like tomato sauce, which is all wrong for soup. but i never get it; what am i doing wrong? this time i tried mushroom stock and a touch of vinegar at the end, but it’s still not what i’m looking for.

anyway, by the end of the weekend i had something like thirty quarts of soup in multi-sized containers to freeze, ready for quick suppers and lunches of leftovers.

when i had a break between batches or while one of them was simmering, i swatched for the pullover’s cablework detail. i think i showed you this first version last week; i learned a lot about what i need to do and it’s almost what i was looking for, but i feel it lacks depth and dimension at the very center front.

i cast on first thing last friday morning, aiming to inject more stitches faster so i could cable sooner and create that depth i was lusting for.

this kind of task takes lots of knitting, ripping, and reknitting, but i enjoy the challenge; i rarely tire of starting over. ok yeah, i guess i’m just a terrier when i get close to obtaining the results i want. grrr.

by noon it was looking good, but the more complex part was still ahead.

it was late afternoon before i could really see what i had and even then, it was scarily contracted and rumply looking. i was nervous that A) no matter how many extra stitches i inserted, it would always pinch and B) that even if i got it to block out, it would always want to shrink back. these are both valid concerns!

i soaked it well and pinned it out, stretching pretty vigorously to get the cable shape i wanted. i did not steam it, but that would certainly help. for now i just wanted to know if i was on the right track.

and it looked good; i pinned it up on the dress form to check the way it hangs and while it’s hard to tell with no seams securing it, it seems to work. there is inset body shaping that would eliminate those folds under the bust and help support the neckline. maybe a few small tweaks, but i was ready to start charting.

here it is pinned more at the height that i actually want it to land—i’m aiming for something a bit more sexy and not so sporty, so i want the neck a little lower. not plunging, but low enough to be dressy. low enough for a bit of cami lace to show out the top. low enough to maybe even drop off the shoulder a bit if one so desired.

later today i plan to steam this swatch well, then re-soak to see how that blocked shape holds up; it should be pretty malleable with some steam, which also serves to reshape in a semi-permanent way.

the pink rubber rings at the center of my actual sweater front are placed to mark the start of the cable feature, once my chart is ready—i better get back to it now!

it’s a little chilly at my desk, which faces out a west window, but i’m raring to go. and look, it’s begun to snow yet again; a good day to have indoor activities planned. feel free to substitute indoor beer lifts, of course.

our little pal cardigan continues to make progress in our quest for bonding. last week on a fine weather day, he played in the yard several times at catching the hotdogs bits i tossed from the window.

it is so entertaining to watch him come forward when he thinks i’m going to toss one and then retreat with lightening speed to eat it and watch for more at a distance. still, it was an interaction.

while still not allowing anyone to come very near in person, i feel like we are getting close to taking him indoors. and he definitely knows me by sight, smell—i’m the hotdog person (i just need a hat).

i know—i’m becoming one of those dog people, haha. eh, sue me.

what’s up, pup?

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden


hello friends; i know it’s been far too long and i hardly deserve your attention, but i hope you’ll enjoy catching up for a bit? and holy cow, get a load of our daffodils; are they crazy-big, or what?

what a month! the last time we had a real post was when david unveiled the updated blog by telling you about our new friend. i want to update you on him first thing because i know many of you are animal lovers and were concerned about him.

during christmas week, this feral dog took up residence on our compost pile where it’s actually pretty cozy if he burrows down into the loose leaves. don’t get us wrong—we did  not WANT him sleeping out in the cold, but he seemed to prefer that over being near people and we didn’t want to scare him off to parts unknown by not letting him sleep there.

over the past eight weeks, we’ve been slowly, slowly gaining his trust by feeding and making a calm, safe place for him to hang out. he’s pretty relaxed in all ways except when humans come near. we love watching him; we’ve set up a dog cam inside the window to get a sense of his habits and eating times; you can watch a video of him on our youTube channel if you like! (it’s about five minutes long)

it took several weeks to get him to eat what i put out at all; he was so mistrustful. i even tried roasting off some plain turkey legs with carrots and sweet potatoes for him, but he wasn’t having any of that, thank you—into the freezer it went for a future time; i’m sure the day will come when he’ll be happy to have it.

as you can imagine, i’ve been secretly thinking of names for him because i love finding just the right one, haha; i decided to call him cardigan and david agreed it was a good name. i know it’s silly, but the dog is just so grampa-looking don’t you think, with that funny face of his? like a shawl-collared sweater. and if you take a look at the 7th earl of cardigan, well, he bears and uncanny resemblance.

our cardigan now feeds from a bowl much closer to the house and on good days, he allows me to get a bit closer, talk to him, and even began approaching me tentatively a few times. believe me, it’s not because i’m irresistible—he knows i bring hotdogs; what’s not to love? (thank you kade, for recommending that strategy!).

our neighbors are helping out by not feeding him randomly; we hope this will persuade him to come “home” to eat most meals. we set up a shelter crate for him but so far he’s not interested. he does roam the neighborhood throughout the day but sleeps here every night. he is generally well liked—no one has reported aggressive or annoying behavior from him, not even barking. we hope that we’ll be able to contain him within a the next week or two; after all these years, we are going to have a doggy, how about that?

i also had a birthday which went by quick, as we were still rolling out our winter 2017 ensemble collection at the time, but was lots of fun. david baked a gluten free chocolate cake that was deLISH and we went to pittsburgh for the afternoon and evening to visit the andy warhol museum.

in other new news, we are once again welcoming a new member into our human family—james and diana had another baby boy last week, jonah gray, arriving three weeks early with the spring weather.

isn’t he a sweet pea? and at eight pounds, i bet his mom is glad he WAS early, haha.

the rollout of ensemble and the start of our new bare naked knitspot 2017 club made my life crazy for a while, with plenty to do every minute between christmas and mid-february. we even produced a whole new yarn for that first shipment. saying that really makes me wonder A) about our sanity at times and B) where did we fit it all in??

but i’m SO glad we did because i just love the results—smoothie—a slow gradient fade of natural shades in a 2-ply sport weight alpaca/merino blend.

while the color range is the same for the entire batch, each skein is different and random—you never know how the colors in a particular skein will collide and play out.

some have a little contrast and are more subtle while others have more contrast and color changes. some are slightly more gray in tone and some are more chocolatey.

the club designs are an asymmetrical crescent shawl and a coordinating scarf. single dip members (full membership) can make their choice of one piece and double dip members (full membership + extra yarn) can knit one of each in the small size or a larger shawl or a stole size of the scarf. these designs are only available through the club for the next six months; you have to join to have access to them.

once the secret was out about this shipment, there were a flurry of new club signups and this yarn is flying out the door. but we still have a few spots left and will make room if you decide to join now!

and i’ll just add this—i’m almost MORE excited about the next shipment, which will go out in april. it’s a fiber i have wanted to feature in the club forever and just today while i was talking with erica about it, a new design idea popped into my head for the yarn that i can’t wait to start. i’m wiggling in my seat just thinking about it. ok, i better stop now before i give something away . . .

anyway, with all that high energy action in the late fall and winter, i had to take a little time afterward to regain my wits, knit, work on some designs, and fritter away my time (AKA swatching) a little more than usual.

i’ve been playing around with cables, some lace, and knitting on some designs for next fall and winter, but also for this summer. i know, i have my seasons all mixed up, but i’m chalking that up to the insanely changeable winter we’re having; one day it’s freezing and i want to knit cozy cardigans and the next it’s in the 70s and summer tops are my desire.

it has made me feel very erratic and scattered lately, but i’m going to organize all that progress now and write up a separate post for you to read on friday. til then!