swans of the garden

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in food and garden, projects

at the start of the memorial day weekend, i was pretty far behind on getting my garden in the ground. where normally i’d have it planted some time near mother’s day, this year, i traveled most of april and may, making it impossible to plant until now. on sunday evening i finally got out there to dig around; my goal was to turn this bare, ugly duckling into a swan by the end of the  long weekend.

the chard i planted back in april was slow to get started, but once the ground warmed up and the sun got stronger in may, it took off. by the end of last week, it was getting mighty crowded in there, so my first task was to get the greens all thinned out and weeded.

MUCH better—now each plant has room to spread out a bit and is not competing for water with a bunch of other little plants. most of the thinned seedlings were stunted and those i discarded, but the ones that were strong and bigger than three inches, i transplanted across the walkway in the facing bed.

with any luck, they will take well and soon fill out both beds with a mix of green, red, and yellow foliage—my kind of cutting garden, haha.

by the time i got all that squared away it was getting dark, so i didn’t have time for much more. but the next morning i got up early and got right outside to tackle to big chores before the real heat set in—a scorcher was in the making.

we are really struggling with dry weather this summer—normally may is wet and chilly, but not this year. even when we get a “storm” it usually amounts to a lot of wind and ruckus, with just a smattering of rain. just on the other side of the ohio and new york borders there has been plenty, but we are in some sort of dry bermuda triangle here, especially in town where we live. when i dig down below the top inch or so, it’s all dusty-dry dirt underneath. david has been watering daily, but we could really use a week straight of steady rain . . .

that said, with the warm, sunny weather we’ve had all month, we can see visible differences in the plant height from one day to the next.

above are the potatoes we planted a couple weeks ago, the way they looked on sunday morning

and here they are on monday—taller and more branched, for sure.

another good thing i saw on sunday evening while inspecting the perimeter of the vegetable plot—

ripe berries, mmm. there were just a few that night; they were not quite red enough to pick and it was hard to see them with the camera

but i came back a couple of mornings later and was rewarded not only with enough berries to make a breakfast from them, but every one of them untouched by critters as well—a first, i think (but our victory probably won’t last long).

mmm, tasty when sliced into yogurt; i feel so lucky to have them, i don’t even care what they taste like. they are a bit sour, but warmed by the sun they are very juicy. if we could leave them on the plants longer, they might sugar up but our crawly friends would eat them first.

anyway . . . my main goal for monday morning was to get all the fruit-producing plants in the ground—tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc. but first, i needed to move the numerous rogue potato plants that had sprung up all over the area where these needed to go.

i don’t know how this happened; i thought we’d scoured the old potato patch for every last root, but apparently, a few remained in the ground. when david tilled the earth a few weeks ago, he must have chopped them up and turned them under, because about two dozen or more sprouted in the last few days.

i thought, why not try to transplant them and see what happens—what have i got to lose? if they don’t take, we’ll know soon and i can plant beets in their place instead.

so now we have a whole ‘nuther potato patch at the back of the garden, near the onions and garlic. i planted green beans nearby too, as part of the companion planting plan.

after those were settled in, i worked on planting eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. by now it was getting good and hot—it was due to hit the mid-90s in the afternoon, so i planned to knock off for a few hours at that time to rest and get out of the sun.

i managed to get all the fruit transplants in the ground by about 2pm; all that remains were the leaf and flower plants.

i watered everything down well and headed inside to eat something and shower—i was covered from head to foot with a dry, dusty layer of dirt, courtesy of the wind and lots of digging.

in the evening, i came back out to plant green beans, squash, more chard, beets, and some flowers to ward off insects—marigolds and nasturtiums. i put radish seeds in between the potatoes and squash as well and basil in between the tomatoes.

i would have liked to get some corn in there, just to try it, but there wasn’t room after all. haha, unless those potato transplants don’t take; maybe i could put the corn there.

now it’s looking more like our garden (i’ve gone out there several times today just to look at it, haha). i love this next phase, when the plants grow and fill in, before the hard summer heat gets to them.

next we have to get our newspaper and straw mulch down, but i need the seeds to germinate first so we don’t cover them up. probably a week or so before we can do it. but it will be especially important this year if this dry weather continues—the mulch really helps to keep the ground damp and cool around the roots.

another thing i noticed on monday as i was putting those potato transplants in—garlic scapes had begun to appear.

i love that they look like swan necks, so graceful. these begin to appear on locavore menus and in farmers markets right about now and will be available for a very short window through june (click here to read more about scopes)

last year they came in a few at a time for a week or two in our garlic patch and we chopped them to scramble with eggs or added them to spring soup with chick peas, escarole, and green peas. but today i picked a whole basketful at once, one from nearly every plant—i’m thinking i might make a pesto (see link above for recipe) or search for other ideas. then again, that spring soup sounds amazing doesn’t it? and we haven’t eaten it since last year . . . hmm maybe i have enough here for several options.

who knows, the way things are progressing out there, we might be eating other fresh greens sooner than we think. i’m looking forward to being home all summer this year to take full advantage of it.

a few great things

Posted on 16 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events

our visit with erica, candy, and buddy extended to sunday, which was a bit more leisurely, since we didn’t have to go anywhere first thing in the day. beckie came over in the morning to share our breakfast and knit for a little while while we all chatted. buddy helped by cleaning up our bowls.

i worked on a secret project, but candy swatched for a vest with one of her new briar rose yarns and beckie worked on the jackie jacket she’s been knitting in fourth of july.

after beckie left, we soaked candy’s sky ladder wrap so i could show her how to block it using blocking wires.

once we had it all pinned out, they started packing up to leave; i will hand off the finished shawl to erica at TNNA in a few weeks.

when buddy saw bags piling up near the door, he took up residence nearby to be certain he would not be left behind, as on the previous day (not that he seemed to mind being left with david all that much).

since it was such a nice day, i decided it was a good time to photograph the things i bought home from the wool show. i picked up several felted critters from the kirkwood farm booth—these are now living in the guest room on the third floor. last year’s batch, which was supposed to go there too, has somehow never left my study; i just enjoy looking across the room at them now and then when i knit. i will admit that i cannot part with the elephant either . . .

in the knitting notions booth i found a gorgeous turned bowl of mixed woods with the simplest of carved designs on the outside

you can used it for yarn if you like but i’ve placed it on the credenza in my study; it might end up filled with shells or stones or pine cones—or yarn; i’m not sure.

it’s a lovely size and shape and so light; a pleasure to handle.

from the briar rose booth, i came home with two skeins of yarn—one that i promised chris i wouldn’t show on the blog because the yarn base is not available and it cannot be replicated. and the other is this

a skein of the new stella merino/silk lace blend in a wonderful blend of colors that looks like black watch plaid fabric. stella and bella are the newest additions to the briar rose yarn family—bella is 100 percent merino. they are identical in diameter and yards per ounce—about 275—but due to their springiness and tighter twist, they feel and behave like a heftier yarn (a plus if you love the look of very fine lace fabric, but don’t have the patience for very fine yarn). i hadn’t seen these in person before and had imagined something much thinner and more slippery, but not so; i think i’m going to like working with this yarn a lot. the silk in the stella gives it a bit more intensity and crunch, while the all-merino version is slightly softer in look and feel. i’m thinking that a pretty half-hex or crescent shawlette would be just the thing to show off this yarn.

i was very glad to see fred maier at the show once again; fred makes lovely little  wood boxes, furniture, skirting tables, and frames from reclaimed woods. i’ve been collecting his small boxes one at a time and this year was smitten by this chestnut one, with grain waving across its lid.

then i saw this

and immediately texted david the photo. it has a kind of modernist rustic look that we like and the journey of the walnut from which it is built is equally appealing. it’s perfect for our stair hall, providing a place to sit and take our boots off (or it will be perfect someday, when we finally renovate that hallway and make a place to tuck the bikes out of sight). for now, we will enjoy it wherever we can fit it.

that was my big purchase of the day and the last photo i have for this post.

i spent the rest of sunday taking a nap and working in the garden—it was time i finally got out there to do the bulk of the planting. i have a great big garden post about all that coming up in a day or two—see you then.

a day for showing off

Posted on 17 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events

the best way to kick off summer around here has to be a trip to our regional sheep and wool—the great lakes fiber show, which is held every year over memorial day weekend. it’s a small event, but a good one, with a genuine flavor of the area in which we live.

the great lakes region is chock full of fiber producers—someone once told me that ohio has the largest output of alpaca fiber east of the rocky mountains; i’m not sure if that’s still the case, but it has to be close. it is also the biggest wool-producing state east of the mississippi river. in other words it is a knitter’s paradise, heh (i didn’t know all that when we moved here, so go figure).

candy, erica, and i got up early saturday and leaving buddy in david’s capable hands, we drove out to wooster  loaded with patterns to deliver to the knitting notions booth and the briar rose booth, where i had volunteered to help out during the day.

as we zoomed through the buildings on our first pass to get the patterns delivered, we couldn’t help stopping to say hello to kathy from kirkwood farms and get an early look at her delightful booth filled with felted critters; it’s one of my fair favorites for stocking up on gifts for kids and new moms. oh and i might have purchased a couple to put in the guest room upstairs (i’ll show you my fair takeaways in the next post).

in addition to fiber producers, our area is home to a wealth of artisans who work in every imaginable related discipline, from dyeing and weaving to woodworking, pottery, and felting.


being mamas themselves, chris and catherine had each prepared a little gift for erica—an adorable hat from chris in nate’s sock yarn and from catherine, a little baby sweater in (i think!) classic merino sport and one in her organic cotton.

i love that catherine’s cardigan is a pretty, gray/lavender; the bulk of the gifts erica has received are boy-oriented and she thinks it will be a boy, but just in case, it’s nice to have a couple of girlier items, too.

can i just interject to say—look how baby knitspot has grown! i almost fell over when erica told me that the baby is already fifteen inches long. she looks great though, doesn’t she?

chris’s booth was hopping all day long and the hours just flew by—i know i saw more than a few readers there and was thrilled that so many stopped by to say hi, look at yarn, and ask for help picking out something to go with a pattern. i just love helping someone find the right yarn and color.

things really quieted down after 3 pm, so i took the opportunity to fit in a spin around the show floor before it was time to leave for the day. gorgeous fleeces at several booths gave me pause, but considering i have not yet spun the ones i purchased one, two, and three years ago, i was careful not to get sucked in (but there was one that i’m still drooling over . . .)

instead, i focused on enjoying fleeces on the hoof, by spending some time touring through the sheep barns and the alpaca tents outside. it was a hot, hot day out in the sun, believe me, but the animal and retail barns were surprisingly cooler.

these border leicesters are sitting pretty while a devoted friend watches over them. thesis a popular breed in our region and a whole barn is devoted just to them.

here are a pair that got sheared during the show—probably a good thing considering the heat this weekend.

hats off to the faithful dogs who stood guard, but made no startling noises that would upset the hushed atmosphere inside the barn.

the brown one was pretty shy but this spotted one was quite amenable to being photographed.

in the building at the end, a little dorset lamb was being sheared—she’s about three months old, despite being the size of many adult sheep of different breeds. yes, she’s big, but then again, look what she could grow into

at first glance he looks like he belongs in the cattle family, not in the sheep barn, haha. or maybe he wants to be a pony when he grows up?

he says y-u-u-up.

judging starts early and goes on all day and throughout the weekend. when i walked through, i believe they were looking at tunis ewes.

i spent a little more time walking around and wanted to ask a ton of questions, but the farmers seemed busy and i felt shy about bothering them. so i went to hunt down candy and erica instead—i suddenly realized i hadn’t seen much of them all day—hopefully a good sign.

turns out, they were done shopping and had found a nice place to sit and put their feet up out of the sun, with some company to chat with to boot. have i mentioned that people in ohio are super friendly?

we had a dinner date with chris’s family at the south market bistro, our favorite after-show place to eat. with an hour to kill, we decided that we should go ahead and settle in at our table with our knitting and a local beer or two.

it was a terrific meal—so good that i totally forgot to take pictures.

since i skipped dessert at the restaurant and erica had just a wee bit of ice cream, we thought it prudent to top off at the dalton dariette on the way home—a fiber show tradition and one of the few times i give in to ice cream (which agrees with my mouth, but not so much with my stomach). soft ice cream, mmmm.

we got home in time to sit around chatting and knitting a little, catching up with david at the end of the day. he and buddy had a nice quiet day at home—a little hot though.

he seems to like the felted dog bone and ball i bought for him to keep at our house (i just couldn’t resist). haha, the bone is a little too big for him to toss around, but i love that he’s using it as a body pillow instead.

tomorrow, we’ll tell you all about the other cool finds (just a few, mostly non-wooly ones) we brought home, won’t we  buddy?

tis the season

Posted on 18 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, food and garden

with weekend guests arriving today, i set out early to prepare a few things ahead of time—the better to spend time with them instead of in the kitchen. i had it in my head all week that what we needed for memorial day weekend was a strawberry rhubarb pie; berries are just coming into season here and my friend susan gifted me a beautiful bunch of rhubarb.

i can’t even remember the last time i made this pie filling; it may have been when i was still a youngster, living with my parents. i know it’s easy to put together, but i wanted to be sure of what i remember to be the ingredients, so i had a look around my cookbook shelf and found a recipe i liked in this book (which is a very good baking book, BTW).

first i steamed the rhubarb in syrup as directed. i hulled and cut the berries while that cooked and rolled out the pie crust, too.

i couldn’t help myself.

ever since i can remember i have wanted to put together a lattice pie crust, but i never have. when i opened the book and saw yet another illustration showing how to do it, i said, that’s it—what better opportunity than when baking a jewel-tone pie?? luckily, the one crust i had originally planned rendered plenty of leftovers to accomplish the work.

i think this method is very clever—you assemble to whole thing on a plate or flat metal pan, then refrigerate. when you are ready to put it on the pie, you can slide or flip it right over without damaging it. brilliant. and it only took a few minutes, i swear.

once i had the two crusts rolled, i stuck them back in the fridge. it’s hot here today for one thing, but also, i wanted to bake the pie closer to dinner time, so it would be very fresh. at this point i was just getting all the parts ready.

once the rhubarb was out of the skillet, i added a couple more ingredients to thicken the juices into a sauce, then mixed it with the fruits.

mmmm, at this point, it tasted great—just what i wanted. this filling has a fresh, summery taste—not sour at all, but not too sweet (i dislike it when strawberries get cloyingly sweet). i love the juxtaposition of strawberries and rhubarb; they keep each other from being too much themselves.

once all these parts were together, i went back to work at my desk for a few more hours until afternoon. i took a short nap at the height of the heat, then got back to work in the kitchen.

i got the pie crust out of the fridge and filled it, then flipped the lattice from the plate to the top of the pie—after several hours in the fridge it stiffens up, making this very easy to do.

into the oven it goes for  a total of about forty-five minutes and whatever magic happens in there, the result is worth the heat and the wait.

it comes out a ruby jewel, mmm.

now we wait—by the time dessert rolls around, it should be just right for eating; the crust still crisp and the filling cooled, with maybe a hint of warmth still in it. perfect with ice cream—ooops, we might have to get some.

mmmm, the perfect way to kick of the weekend.

we’re probably on our way to the wool show as you read this, with a day full of friends, fun, and our favorite pastime. check back in a couple of days for a review of the show.