Archive for June, 2009

local color

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

i spotted a little tinge of pink on a few tomatoes today . . . and another little gift of rich, deep purple under the eggplant canopy.

i know the garden always seems to come first in my posts lately (i try to change it up sometimes), but once that headliner photo starts the conversation, that’s what happens—it’s a lot like my life. feel free to scroll down for knitting—no one will know the difference, heh.

i cannot believe it’s already the end of june and time for real vegetables to be growing—where did this month disappear to??
at least it was a good one from TNNA at the beginning to harvesting and many FOs by then end. and more cycling in between, for change. this month i made a big effort to take time for getting out on my bike and it’s paying off—i already feel more energetic and at the same time, less anxious.

it’s a challenge though, with a busy business and the garden season in full swing. i won’t say that i make it out there every day, but i’m averaging 4-5 times per week now. next, i’d like to add back my weight raining; i always loved that and it has such great mental and physical health benefits.

i didn’t take flower photos today because the vegetable patch was offering so much eye candy. the lettuces are big and crisp and colorful right now (thanks to the cool weather with a good mix of sun and rain)—perfect for delicious caesars or other dinner salads.

some of my okra seedlings are doing really well. since i’ve never grown okra, i tried out four types by purchasing sample amounts from victory seeds. i’m really glad i did that because

you can see that the ones to the right of the photo in two rows came up well, but the area to the left has none (so far). so, two types germinated right away and are growing well, but the other two are either sluggish, or they’re not going to make an appearance.

so it was smart to try different ones. the stupid part?? (and you know there is one!) is that i didn’t label which was which, so i don’t really know which types were a success—yet. once i actually see fruit on them, i’ll be able to tell; maybe even once the leaves get bigger. the same thing happened with my greens.

comparing the seedlings to the photos on the store site i’d guess these red-veined ones are either burgundies or aunt hattie’s red. i think the green ones are emeralds, but it’s just as possible they are the dwarf green long pod.

the thing about tagging plants is that between mulching, watering, weeding, and critters, the tags always end up strewn about the garden, nowhere near the plants they belong to, or they fade to an unreadable state pretty quickly. so i get lazy about using them (then wish i hadn’t been). i gotta think up a better system . . .

tonight we’re having a quick dinner of pasta with sauteed squash and some of the tomato sauce i cooked last weekend—it’s great to have those containers of ready-made sauce all set to go; we can customize each dinner with something different, depending on what’s ripe out there.

i’ve been watching the watermelon plants all week because they are finally taking off and growing big—every day i need to re-thread a new long arm around the fence they are growing on. and today i spotted something else among the leaves

the vines are actually covered with tiny melons and a few are pushing ahead of the crowd

does anyone know if i should pinch off some of the smallest fruit to let the bigger ones grow? will it help the alpha melons be even sweeter and better? i don’t know that much about growing good melon . . .

back inside i am nursing a pepper plant that had a run-in with the hose the other day (all my fault—it’s not like the hose attacked it or anything).

and it’s so pretty there on the window sill that i just had to take a picture. i’m hoping it will take root in the water so i can put it back in the garden. normally, i wouldn’t worry about losing one of my 12 or so plants, but i had only three of this “yummy pepper” type and they are my favorite. they ended up in a very vulnerable garden spot and i lost one already to general weakness. this might be a good example of why some gardeners tend to overplant . . .

anyway, i’m really enjoying the graceful spread of its branches in this spot over my sink—it’s even opening some flowers.

speaking of my sink, i finished pompa in class yesterday and it’s off the needles and into the suds as we speak.

my 220-yard skein of fibre isle pearl bison in colorway creamberry went a very respectable distance in this project—my scarf measures about 36 inches before blocking and i’m expecting it will be somewhere around 45-48 inches after stretching by approximately 11 inches wide. we just love getting the most out of smaller skein of luxury yarn.

if i haven’t mentioned the incredible-ness of the yarn lately, let me fill you in—it’s a mix of merino, seacell, cashmere, and bison fibers (both dyed and undyed) that are hand blended into a lofty, springy, fingering weight yarn. the yarn has both a tighter twist and more air which work together to produce a knitted fabric that is squishy-soft, has wonderful stitch definition, and incredible color depth.

tomorrow i’ll show you blocking photos.

my nate sock has seen some action in the last couple of days, too; it now has a heel and part of a foot (oh, the joy of sport yarn for socks). i’m also almost done with my dark regatta sock, but i forgot to take a picture and i’m too lazy to go do it now.

last night after classes i worked on a pattern for a few hours, then went off to knit on my fruit of the vine scarf, adding several repeats of the pattern. remind you of anything?

the stitches even have little fruits, just like the watermelon vines . . .

i’ve spent too much time already talking today, but now, here’s something you’ll really like to end the post, so i must keep going a little longer.

i’ve been egging on my friend kim (sadly blogless) for over a year now to finish a certain project to no avail—she just wasn’t feelin’ excitement of the final stretch, i guess (i even offered to block it for her as an incentive).

but then chris stepped in, pleading and begging because it’s knit in briar rose heritage (now discontinued, but similar to josephine) and she wants it for the booth at sock summit.
mission accomplished—kim finished the thing up in just a few days and sent it to me for blocking, which i did yesterday between classes

it stretched out beautifully to the generous size kim was hoping for (about what the pattern states) and all the lace opened up, which only shows off the incredible colors in the yarn even more—it’s an iridescent blend of blues, greens, and plums, overdyed with black

this morning i unpinned it and took some photos on the dress form—it was very dark because of the weather, but i managed to get a few nice ones—which i needed; i don’t have many good photos of this shawl. but now i do . . .

this is a wonderful piece that can be knit up in a feather-light lace mohair for something airy and weightless, or then again, in a warm fingering yarn for a shawl you can cozy into when it’s cold.

i’ve knit three of these in various yarn weights (and types) and each one is my favorite for a different reason.

kim’s yarn is fuzzy and fairly heavy for a shawl, but that’s what makes it a great piece to take to the beach at night or to substitute as a coat in winter.

i have a moth knit in a similar yarn that is probably my most-often-worn shawl—it lays just right on my shoulders and screens out wind like nobody’s business.

the great thing about a triangle shawl pattern is that you can play with yarn, needles, and gauge to achieve all sorts of different effects—there are few limits if you are willing to take a risk.

it’s going to look specTACular on kim, isn’t it? she’ll be getting it back in plenty of time to wear at rhinebeck so we can all admire it there

this pattern is an old favorite—i first knit it for my mom about six years ago, making it up on the needles as i went along. then knit one for a friend’s wedding, three years ago this month and finally put the pattern in writing as my first online pattern offer. and the knitspot pattern shop was born.

.

we had a race to celebrate and to raise some money for a good cause. for three years, i’ve enjoyed watching a fantastic parade of moths go by in classes, blog photos, ravelry photos, and photos that come to me by email; moths on their way to engagements, weddings, christenings, fairs, friends, and family.

but i think i am most touched by this one that my friend knit—all good things in time.

spinning our road trip wheels

Monday, June 29th, 2009

before i talk about anything else, here’s the news we’re all waiting for: the lucky winner of this glorious basket of briar rose yarns and goodies goes to emily!

once again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, THANK YOU to everyone who participated in this year’s booster campaign for claudia’s ride for MS. and a special thanks to chris at briar rose fibers for providing this delicious incentive to the cause.

what a weekend, whew.
friday feels like a week ago, really. after i wrote my last post, i did indeed head outside to stretch my legs and shake off some of the friday ansty-pants that some of us are prone to.

i decided that since i wanted to spray the next day, i should collect all the produce that was ready for picking and that way, i could let the spray and fertilizer dissipate for a couple of days before i pick again (though it is an organic product made from plant roots, it’s a good idea not to eat it directly, heh)

uh, yeah, there were a few things to gather out there. i pulled up all of the rapini—i estimate about 4-5 pounds from just a 10-foot row (have i mentioned how gratifyingly prolific rapini is??)
then i picked some chard, some zen greens, and quite a bit of bok choy. i also took some more squash in because the plants are so loaded with small ones that i thought it would be a good idea to thin them out. i want a few squash to grow bigger so i can have freezer amounts.

i spent the next couple of hours cleaning and blanching everything, then packing it in bags for the freezer. i ended up with four heavy bags of rapini, two chard, and two of cubed squash, plus a HUGE bag of bok choy and another of fresh chard to eat.

and that’s just the first picking really . . . i think we have enough rapini—i’m not going to plant more. it was good to know that before i headed out to reseed on saturday. i planted more chard instead, since that’s something we like enough to eat every week—we almost can’t have too much of it. the chard i saved out for eating this week is a european variety called erbette, which is a leafy chard that has a buttery, delicate texture and flavor and i very good eating. mmm

yesterday i got the aphid situation under control out there, applied some seaweed fertilizer, and reseeded the areas where i pulled up plants.

i worked at my desk for a little while in the afternoon until david asked me to go out for a bike ride, which was really excellent—perfect weather for a very fast, hard ride to clear the head. nice. when we came back, i made a quick stir-fry

with the bok choy, squash, and peppers from the garden along with shitake mushrooms, shrimp, ginger, etc over soba noodles. that hit the spot.

i know—i haven’t mentioned knitting at all yet, but i’m getting there.

i’m making good headway on my dark regatta sock and the pattern is working out well—i think we’ve got it nailed. barbara is enjoying her test knit and even worked her first short-row toe and heel without a hitch (THANK YOU barbara!)

i admit, i’m not getting as much knitting accomplished as i wanted this weekend (for lots of good reasons) but i think i still have time to finish a scarf, at least.

this morning i was supposed to be up bright and early (however, i actually roused myself just in the nick of time, heh) to head out with my spinning class to the woolfest at lake metroparks farmpark in kirtland, OH. this event takes place each year at a working farm which is run by the lake county metroparks commission. when we purchased fleeces at the wooster show in may, jamie from wooly knob fiber mill mentioned that he could have our fleeces done if we’d pick them up at the festival—a road trip was born.

on the way up i worked on pompa and added several repeats to the length; i tried to pick it up again on the way back but opted instead to rest and talk. sometimes, you gotta . . .

we arrived at the park around 10:30 am or so, just a little ahead of a rain shower. the grounds are beautiful there; just past the gate we found ourselves walking through gardens and exhibits featuring park projects. all the way to the main barn where the fiber show was exhibited, we were able to stop and see sheep, alpacas, and lamas.

once inside, the main arena was a-buzz with vendors and attendees, many more than in previous years that i’d gone

the photos aren’t as great as they could be, but they’re passable; i used my iPhone camera for this trip because it’s so easy to slip inside my bag and use on the road.
we met up with some of our favorite vendors

linda bought some of catherine’s classic merino sport to knit up an ondule sweater. linda seems to have done a wonderful job of hiding from the camera all day, so anne marie takes her place in this picture.

we picked up our fiber from wooly knob—scary, isn’t it?? actually, the fiber susan (left) is holding is ALL hers, but the other two bags are two fleeces that are getting split amongst the rest of us, so not too bad. anne marie and i are splitting a blend of brown finn that is perfectly delectable. our stunning, blue-ribbon white coopworth fleece (below, right) which we had blended with some nylon to spin sock yarn turned out very well—we’ll be splitting that one six ways (it’s about ten pound i think).

and yet, i was coveting susan’s gray BFL (left) anyway. this was our second choice for the sock fleece and we waffled over it for some time, but decided on the white one in the end. whereby susan snapped up the gray anyway. you know—to go with the dark brown shetland fleece she bought a day earlier, hahaha.

we discovered a wonderful new-to-us fiber producer from western NY state at the longmeadow farm booth (sorry, there does not appear to be a website). sandy has some seriously beautiful fiber blends available in gorgeous colors and almost all of us succumbed. linda bought a stunning intense rose blend, while barbara opted for ocean blues, and susan for greens.

anne marie and i resisted—she’s on a fiber diet and my workspace can’t take any more until the construction is over. plus, there’s always a next time . . . in fact, sandy will be at the finger lakes fiber show in hemlock, NY in september.

we definitely took some time to watch the animals today, too

i thought this partially-shorn lama looked really interesting (ok, i thought he had a special, showy haircut, but no—just not done).

and for me, no good fair is complete without pigs—i just love ‘em.
we visited the sheep too and were completely smitten with this little finn lamb—about the size of a terrier—just adorable (hand added for scale).

but its sibling was the one that really stole the show for me, giving mama a little hoof love

in the middle of the afternoon, we headed back back to the car via the horse-drawn trolly, trying to figure, i think, how the heck we were going to spin up all that fiber.

good thing it doesn’t go bad . . .
at the end, the horses did a little posing for the camera, just like the nice lady asked them to

how could i not take a picture of that?
well, it’s late now, this post is WAY overdue, and i’ve got knitting to do—i’m going to toddle off and see if i cna stay awake to put some more inches on my scarf.
see you in a couple of days.

366 is the number

Friday, June 26th, 2009

you guys are the BEST—you deserve flowers! and i have just the ones; these freshly-blooming pink lilies are for you because the number of roger sock patterns sold through midnight last night is 366, and that’s a big number. my donation of the proceeds has been sent but stay tuned—on sunday we will draw one name from the purchaser’s pool to be awarded this beautiful prize from briar rose fibers

thank you so SO very much; this means the world to me. and it looks like claudia’s last week of fundraising for her MS bike ride has gone very well—she’s a lot closer to her goal now than she was seven days ago and she still has a few days to go. if you have a minute, stop by claudia’s blog to wish her luck on the ride this weekend.

ok, we wouldn’t be knitters against MS if we didn’t have knitting to talk about, now would we?

last night i went to debby’s house to knit for a few hours with her and susie. we watched a specTACular thunderstorm roll in over their lake and unleash its wrath over the land. sorry for sounding so biblical, but it really was that dramatic.

i worked on pompa all evening, in between gasping at the sky and lightening. unfortunately i didn’t have my camera to take pictures and i forgot about my iPhone (sorry, i’m getting there, but i’m still not a phone kinda person)

i think i’m almost to the halfway point on this scarf now; it looks like i’ll have plenty of yarn for the little accent scarf i imagined—one-skein pretties are a good thing. we all fawned over the bison pearl yarn and gave it a squishy hug—it’s so incredibly soft when it’s knit up, mmm.

i’d really like to finish some of these small projects up this weekend—i’m feeling a little scattered because my knitting is so spread out right now—i’ve got two scarves, two socks, a sweater, and a stole on the needles, plus, i’m in the middle of writing a pattern for the new secret project. that’s just a couple too many (and only the ones i remember off the top of my head; there might be one or two more i’ve forgotten).

i think i’m in good shape to get at least one of the socks done (although i’d still have a second one of each to knit, too). right now they are both at the same place—the start of the heel. above is the neutral version of the regatta sock in lorna’s laces shepherd sock, colorway pleasant prairie. i’m knitting this one according to the pattern i wrote which includes a few tweaks i made after completing the first blue sock.

someone mentioned that there appeared to be a lot more blue in the neutral mix than we could see in the skein; at first i thought maybe it was a trick of the camera, but no—it’s definitely there in the knitted fabric and i love it with the taupes and grays. i enjoy those kind of surprises that come with knitting . . .

nate’s sock is zipping right along on 2.5 mm needles (they feel huge compared to the 2 mm, hahaha) in a fun pattern that i like more and more as i go. i have no idea yet if nate himself is fond of what i’ve chosen to do for his namesake sock, but for some reason this pattern just stuck to him like a magnet in my mind. and the orange grandma’s blessing, really is perfect for showing off those stitches, too. look at colorway 9058a if you’re a fan.

so yes, i’ll finish at least one of those socks this weekend and hopefully, a scarf as well.

i also need to get back to the maze sweater

which is still at the exact place i left it off last—the knitting fairies have not visited my house for even a few minutes to add a row or two. to be fair, they probably could not figure out my pattern notes, heh.

i never meant to leave it off this long, but i’m glad i got this month’s secret project all done, too. something just had to give. now i can get back to this and write up the pattern so progress can move in a forward direction.

i’ve added one more repeat to the nightingale stole but honestly, you don’t need to see another photo—it looks almost exactly the same as it did the other day. in fact, i was thinking that for the next little bit, it MIGHT be more interesting to photograph the changes in the yarn cake as it collapses and loses shape while i plod toward the finish. like watching tomatoes ripen or something.

speaking of which, i’ve really got my work cut out for me in the garden this weekend, too.

the tomato plants are loaded with fruit—and also with aphids, ugh. we’ve had some soaking rains, alternating with hot, humid days, which have caused the plants to grow like crazy and form dark, cool canopies that are the perfect environment for buglies to thrive. i have some organic insect deterrent that usually works really well to control the problem, so this evening i’ll get out there and do some spraying. and maybe prune away some lower branches, too; there’s a lot of extra foliage down below that will not produce fruit or help keep the fruit on the upper branches cool, but is providing much-too-easy access for insects to step up onto the plants.

and my greens—WHOA. in the last few days they have gotten even taller and there’s a lot that’s ready to pick—chard, more zen greens, bok choy, and the rapini (far right) which is huge and now flowering

it’s the perfect time to cut it all down, put it up in the freezer and then reseed. in fact, i’m feeling that friday afternoon antsy feeling; i might go out when i’m done writing this, cut some of it down, and cook it up—should only take about an hour and that will be that.

i’m trying to decide if i should grow one more crop of rapini or put something else in instead. i have seeds for green beans and okra that i’m considering, too. to quell my impatience with the part of the asparagus bed that was still stubbornly devoid of life last sunday, i planted few okra seeds there and this morning, they were sprouting

wow, i just went out there to look again and now there are like a dozen more okra up out of the ground—in just a couple of hours! some of them with leaves unfolded already. really, it’s a miracle, you know?

along with—i almost fell down—the asparagus david planted ages ago. i couldn’t be more surprised; i thought the asparagus was a total loss—it wasn’t there yesterday morning when i looked. but then norma said hers was finally showing signs of life so just now i looked again and sure enough

mine are too. now i have a dilemma because i planted okra seeds in between. i can transplant those into a row i’ve emptied of greens, though, once they get a bit stronger. or just plant new okra—that might be smarter.

all the greens are way bigger than i’ve ever been able to grow them. it’s so hard to express how exciting this is for me. greens are vegetables we did not grow at home on our farm, so i don’t have much experience with them. but i love eating them. i never expected that growing them prolifically would be fraught with angst, but it makes this season especially sweet.

yesterday i picked peppers and squash and i think there will be more squash today; that means i can put bag or two of that up in the freezer as well as cook some for dinner.

over in the spinach box, the seeds i planted sunday are also sprouting today—just little threads for now, but in a week, they’ll have second leaves and be on their way. last night while i was out, david ate a big salad for dinner with shrimp and green beans on a bed of our own lettuce (i was jealous).

and there are some things that are over already, now that midsummer is past (ouch—i can’t believe i’m saying that the longest day of summer is behind us now)

i’m pretty sure this is the last handful of strawberries for this year. they were gorgeous, each and every one, but i have to admit, not all that sweet. something to work on for next year.

have a great weekend everyone; thank you all agann so much for your help in making the MS fundraiser a rousing success—our best ever. thank you.

just walk away and let it be

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

flowers popping out all over our yucca plant. our little patch of yucca has only produced flowers every other year til now (which is normal for them), so i’m thinking that these blooms belong to a propagated plant that has finally matured, and that we might now see blooms every year.

it’s always a surprise what will happen out in the yard—even after six years here, we are discovering new things about the plantings around our house. combined with our utter lack of planning for the decorative growing beds, it’s like getting a new present each season.

for instance, we always end up with a volunteer tomato plant or two and this year one chose to grow at the base of the old tree stump at the back of the vegetable garden. when i saw it come up there, i almost pulled it out, because surely it wouldn’t survive embedded in those weedy roots, right? but i left alone and it has already reached a nice little size. last year’s volunteer produced dozens of the biggest, nicest cocktail tomatoes i’ve ever seen, so who am i to judge?

and now for an orange moment—roger sock patterns continue to go out the door at a nice clip and i’m SO so impressed with the number. a big thank you to each and every person who has purchased one for MS fundraising. if you want to know more, you can find out what all the excitement is about by clicking right here
.
thank you for your concerned notes about my problem lace the other day

i left it alone for a couple of hours while we ate supper and took care of a few other things. when i finally sat back down with it, i fixed it 1-2-3, like it was nuthin’—i just needed to walk away from it and refresh my brain. i don’t even know what the problem was; as soon as i looked at it after the break, the fix was obvious and simple.
isn’t that just the way?

anyhow, i was able to knit on it for awhile more that night and it’s now more than one-third to the finish, lengthwise. i’ve used a little more than one-third of my yarn, so i don’t think yardage is going to be a problem. hehehe, well, it can’t be—i’m going to stop when i run out and that’s that.

my last two evenings have been spent on working out a design for a new secret project, which i am partially struggling with (i’m totally excited about what i’ve got going on for the main portion, but having trouble finding the right stuff for the accent areas, arrghh).

this always makes me feel like i’m getting nothing done. when an idea needs marinating, there’s almost nothing that will push things along—it just takes time. so, late at night i’ve been working on socks just to feel like i’m accomplishing something. i also have a tendency to let my eye and mind wander to new ideas that seem more exciting than plugging away at problem solving.

in the “i KNOW i shouldn’t even go there” department, i’ve had this yarn for about a year now and have kept it at the front of my queue just waiting for my idea about it to completely pull together (like i was saying—sometimes it takes a while. hmm, but convenient that this one gelled when i’m stalled on the other one, eh??).
this is catherine’s classic merino superwash sock in colorway french marigold

it has always wanted to be marigold socks, but i really didn’t know of any sts that might come close to expressing marigolds the way i visualized them in a sock. recently, i finally stumbled across what i think might be the right stitch pattern for it. and another stitch to go with it, yay.

so i did the naughty thing and wound the yarn. so far, that’s as far as i’ve allowed myself to go, but i won’t hold it against myself if tonight i fall down and knit a swatch (just a little one). it doesn’t hurt to have an extra sock on the needles, does it? but that’s it. seriously, i have other stuff to take care of.

i started my other regatta sock in the alternate colorway, a mix of neutrals

i think i’m going to like this one even more. i’m a big fan of neutral colorways, so that’s no surprise, but i also think i’m going to like the theme of this sock knit up in the dark colors—like boats sleeping in moonlight.

the needles continue to amaze me—we all know that the points are the talk of the town, but if you are a fan of very tiny needles, like these 2mm ones or smaller, i highly recommend them for their overall strength and beautiful stainless steel surface.

i like to use tiny needles now and again to work a heel or with a finer sock yarn, but everything i’ve had up to this point has either felt way too fragile (in the case of wood) or has become damaged with use

these metal ones that were my previous default for smaller-gauge knitting got scraped of their coating and bent in shape just from working two heels on them. okay, they are quite a bit less expensive, but if i go through several sets in a year, that adds up too.

i prefer having tools that will last for years—i like my stuff broken in (but not bent).

we missed spinning class on sunday because it was father’s day, so last night we all packed our wheels off to anne marie’s house for a belated class, where we were joined by sam

who otherwise would have had to come to my house, where we don’t have stuff a 7-year-old would enjoy so much (he thinks).

we had a great dinner with wine (not much, haha) and did some spinning for a couple of hours

the light was beautiful in the back yard and the deck has plenty of space for a spinning party

anne marie, linda, and i worked through a little more fiber while susan spent the whole evening on the inexplicably challenging task of winding yarn

with anne marie on call to help out where needed (poor anne marie; i don’t think she even got ten yards of yarn spun). sam “helped” too as only a boy can at times like this

the under-the-table thing?? we have no idea what’s up with that—he’s not shy.

here was one moment when he came to full attention square in his seat at the table for all to see

when the fresh blueberry pie was served. who could blame him?
after the pie we spun for just a little while longer and when the sun got low and the mosquitoes started drawing closer to the porch, we headed in to pack up and go. that was nice.