Category Archives: gardening

Weeding and wheeling

Oh, it’s past mid-summer, or is this mid-summer now…?

My old computer finally shat the bed, the new one took nearly a month to arrive, I’m still struggling with transferring files and software and the like, we were on vacation, the garden and yard are nuts, I finally finished a few little house things, and less screen time has been good.

Those great big balls of llama (maybe alpaca?) I flashed last fall are now yarn.

I was aiming for a rustic spin, intentionally a bit thick and thin, but overall bulky weight – I was aware that I began spinning thinner and thinner, and the more aware that I was about doing it, the more I thought I was intentionally bulking back up…

But in the end, the last few skeins were more sport to worsted…

But it doesn’t matter – I plan to knit a throw blanket and will alternate the skeins to even out the weights a bit. There’s a bit under 2,000 yards and I had planned to be able to knit on US 11 or so needles, but my “bulky” spins often work best on 9s, so we’ll see – hopefully it’s enough yarn to make something the length of toes to tits and wide enough to tuck the sides underneath for encapsulation. I love the warmth and squishiness of garter stitch like this blanket (that is slightly too narrow at times and I flirt with the idea of adding another stripe lengthwise, but instead I’ll just knit a whole new blanket or more…) but I’ll get more size out of stockinette, so I’m pretty sure I’ll just do up something ultra easy and in the round like this baby blanket again. Though I’m still tempted to add in some waves or do a modular block thing, but the clock is ticking, and I’ll need to knit this outside because it’s full of veg still – and the blanket itself will be for sunny winter day porch lounging… at least that’s the plan.

It’s been hot as balls and humid as a piehole, so my spinning has ceased for the moment – I’m down to a reasonable amount of fiber too (except for that shorn-too-short alpaca) so I want to be a bit more organized for my next spins – I’ve already grouped a few things together, but I’d like to revisit what I thought would be sweater vs. scarf/shawl amounts since I don’t seem to be finishing a single sweater…

My knitting mojo has just been off – part of that is from garden weary and damaged hands and the joint/tendon pain and swelling I seem to get every time it’s hot and humid now, and part is I want to finish some things before moving on, but I just need to put in a lot more hours of knitting and several thousands stitches to finish…

But part of that is I really just want to knit some socks – so I started another pair. It’s my last ball of my preferred yarn – everything else in the stash is too thin, so I’ll knit that stuff up doubled or maybe one day suck it up and knit it on US 0s, and I really don’t need socks (maybe they’ll end up being a gift?) but fuck it, if that’s what I want to knit to keep my fingers happy, so be it.

(Incidentally I got an email that this yarn was on sale again, but by the time I went to get it, it was all sold out, so I still haven’t bought any yarn for I don’t know how long…?) Well, that isn’t quite true, I’ve thrifted a little bit lately, but that doesn’t count.

The garden is a demanding, but tasty bitch. I need to jot up notes for next year, but the nutshell is Squash Vine Borer is hitting now, but we’ve already had a decent crop of zukes – I’m going to attempt some surgery and bury the vines today, but frankly, I’ve had my fill of the stuff for the year, though N hasn’t. The high humidity and frequent splashy rains brought in the blights the last week or so, but we’ve gotten about 50 pounds of tomatoes so far, and there’s another round ready by week’s end, so I hope I can keep things going, but at the least, we’ve got a decent amount to finish putting up. Three batches of jalapeno salsa and one of crushed toms was canned yesterday. The jalapeno plants were all started from seed, looked like utter shit for several weeks after I put them out and they were devoured by slugs? but then perhaps they were all the stronger for it and grew into these gorgeous, lusty plants. And the blueberries are coming in very well (the blackberries are very sour though, and the gooseberry was less productive this year).

And the closets are all finally done – hot, cramped, messy work I put off for a bit – all needed to be primed and primed and primed, caulked, trimmed out, some needed some shelves, and all needed many coats of paint.

Large projects that need to eventually be addressed are: installing central air, taking down trees, fixing/removing retaining wall, fencing, removing and re-installing attic insulation, some tweaks to the well equipment/set-up, and some other things I’m blanking on at the moment…

Small projects include: repair and painting around doors, scrubbing the siding; patching (painting?) some stucco, replacing some interior doors (maybe, if we can find vintage matches), improving the area underneath the deck, replacing the storm doors, of course more and more landscaping, and more things I’m blanking on…

And a medium project – sometimes large and overwhelming, sometimes a small, chip away at deal, is continuing to purge my shit. I have yet to come to any conclusions or at least stalemates on my art/crafting/collecting issues, but I’m slowing letting go of things, as well as still selling some of my vintage shit. I’ve a collection of old photos I might start to cull for cash, but it’s the only collection that fits neatly inside of a few small boxes, so it doesn’t much count…

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Hit the deck!

We finally did something for the house that wasn’t just a repair… scratch that, it was a repair/replacement, but less necessary than a boiler, or sewer, or toilet, or everything else… but it’s something we can enjoy (not that a sewer isn’t enjoyable when needed). The house finally has a balcony/deck on the back instead of a ridiculous set of rickety stairs.

From this:

To this:

And yes, no stairs now – we hotly debated the feature – but maybe they’ll come later if we [I] really can’t live without them. We do have yard access through the ground level/basement, and it is nice to not have mud tracked on the deck and not worry about the dog getting loose (fingers crossed, he’s a jumper). So it is very much an extension of our living and dining space (right off the kitchen). I’ve lost the view of the back yard from one of the office windows, but I can still see the garden out of the other, and otherwise it’s just the treetops – I’m cool with that. It stretches the length of the house, but only comes out 10 feet, so we barely lost yard space, and instead gained a good shady spot underneath where the hammock will be.

And this spring has been so wet, that I wouldn’t have been sitting out in the yard anyway, so it’s perfect timing…

The whole thing was entirely done by others – that’s a first for us too – there was going to be too much engineering/working at high-ish height/expertise beyond our ability for us to tackle it ourselves – and that was a nice change – sign some papers, permits, payments and in a couple of weeks it’s done. (Well, not 100% done as we’ve got to seal/stain/something TBD it in a few months.) But even if we had buckets of money, I think I’d still prefer to do the work we can do to houses ourselves – at least while my limbs work enough.

There’s been a bit of a shitstorm going on as well – some electrical problems, air-conditioning problems, family matters, work, and quite literally with the dog – he got massively ill and had to be hospitalized a couple of times last week – we still don’t know the whys, but the hows are slowly getting better – gave us a massive scare.

So we’re all enjoying the moments when we can – thankfully it’s been cool and dry lately (when it’s not raining…).

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Yard and garden late spring 2018 notes

This time of the year is all about the pulling and planting. Not much making stuff happens because my appendages need rest and my finger skin has extra cuts and splinters. I’m equal parts ready and willing to be outside and feeling better from the vitamin D blast, and feeling enraged and bound to all of the fecund green things out of control (and then really out of control if neglected for a day or two).

This is the fourth year battling Chinese wisteria, Japanese knotweed, lesser celandine (pretty much lost the battle with that one), garlic mustard, creeping charlie, other unknown vines and weeds, and the native poison ivy. Things are starting to get under control – everything is still coming up everywhere, but it can mostly be pinched off. I’ve moved on to the bigger things, and identified Japanese barberry (now gone), Russian olive (needs to be gone, but something needs to replace it), and a Callery pear that is well within my sites, but it’s probably too big to take down ourselves now (want to put a redbud in its place).

N made some window boxes deemed “adorable” by a passer-by (they are – just the icing on the cottage cake) and the magnolia had a bombastic bloom this year. The massive perennial planting of 2017 is coming back to life – except for  most of the hyssop…? Not sure what happened there, but a second massive perennial planting has happened…

N has also foraged some very excellent chicken of the woods mushrooms, and I finally played with the wild violets that are all over the yard. My violet syrup doesn’t taste like much – more of just a simple syrup with a slight vegetal tone – and the flowers don’t have much of an aroma, so either I needed to pick them another time, or our violets suck? But the syrup is handy for experiments in fruity popsicles that have started happening thanks to a brief hot spell (now it is cool and rainy and woolly and definitely not popsicle weather again).

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Ghost stairs. #construction #ghoststairs #ladder

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There’s also a big house project happening – one that’s almost done, but foiled by the rainy weather

And then there’s the veg.

The garden is planted and growing (the beets, carrots, and inexplicably the bok choy failed to germinate well, but so far I’ve had better luck with carrots in the fall. The new additional grow light (cheap led strips hung in between the florescents) made a lot of tomato plants happen.

Despite what I thought was a decent 2 week hardening off period, all suffered transplant shock and a bit of sun scald, but all have come back from it. I put them out slightly early too, but I’d already transplanted them once into bigger pots and there wasn’t room for even bigger pots – there were around 50 plants, and the leftovers went to the neighbors. I definitely started the squash to early, and some didn’t survive transplanting, but starting them indoors isn’t entirely necessary, but I’m trying to get ahead of the bugs. And something is eating the pepper plants, so I might have to buy a few…

And now we’ve got asparagus beetles – our little asparagus row is over half dead thanks to last year’s false spring – we’ve gotten a couple of side dish and garnish’s worth of spears, and the skinny ones left all have damage from the little fuckers – now everything out there has a pest or disease to nom it down to nothing and maybe kinda makes me think a little about how life would be easier with just a lawn. Most of the neighbors have just a lawn with a tree here and there, and maybe they are the smart, or at least relaxed and not in pain, ones…

But fuck lawns, they taste terrible.

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Autumn home and away

We finally made it back to Italy.

I17-fonte pacile

New needy house, new needy dog, future uncertainties, and the fluctuating costs of travel kept us away for the last few years. It was all over in a flash though, and I’ve never been less interested in returning to my home country…

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But for a few brilliantly sunny days we hiked some familiar and new trails, ate some familiar and new food, and stuck much closer to the familiar little city, but in a new little house.

We were oddly thwarted from many planned days – mountain passes closed (since just after we were there last 3 years ago!), restaurants too crowded for lunch, other places inexplicably shuttered – but we found other routes and other places and all was fine in the end.

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Even better than fine – my shredded knees kept their complaining to a minimum and I finally felt their restrictive grip released a bit for the first time in years.

(And Italy is always downright magical in terms of taking away all of my allergies and mild dairy/digestive issues…)

But there’s always one hike that flirts with going very wrong in every trip, right? One new-to-us trail that was supposed to be an easy/lazy couple hour meander suitable for infants and elderly (according to a tourist map) took a turn for the tired, sweaty, and absurd and involved mildly frightening encounters with wild boars, an unavoidable boot-sucking mud pit, and hand over hand scrambling underneath power lines.

I17-endurance

It all went tits up when the trail markers ceased and all signs pointed (inexplicably in english) for endurance in all directions. But the tourist map was still accurate for way finding, though it left the infants and elderly in the dust looking for their broken glasses.

And several hitchhikers joined me for a few excursions – the mantis population seemed to have exploded and grown to monstrous proportions.

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And we sought N’s ancestors and ancestral places – finally finding a house (or what was left), but not graves – most of the town was pointlessly annihilated in WWII.

I17-interior

I missed visiting with a few fiber folks and buying wool, but I ate the beast from which it comes and sipped from the same fonts.

The weather was entirely perfect, the autumn in full color, and the markets still stocked with the peaks of harvests.

But autumn is still here at home – even a bit slower perhaps – and the white throated sparrows are back, and the garden is still giving us patty pans, carrots, greens, and a few last winter squash…

But we also returned to a dead boiler, yet more job rejections for me, and my need to re-enter the shitzoo that passes for public healthcare in this (currently really fucked up) country.

I17-gelato

So while my mountain sunshiny vitamin D high wears off, and I’m not making up work hours, I’m getting my nesting game on – clearing out (or at least organizing) the clutter, shaking out the woolens, considering baking a bit, debating yet again if one of those light alarm clocks is worth the clams, and knitting and spinning with more ferocity to keep my hands warm.

And snuggling with the beast.

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Autumn, outdoors

The going has been slow…

The yard has improved significantly this year – we’ll see what overwinters and fills out next – hopefully the new “herb hill” will never need to be mowed/wacked again. We keep picking up coreopsis plants on sale too, so I’m gaining an unintended dye garden as well.

And the redistributed cement crumbles from the former sidewalks to nowhere have oddly fruited!

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Stinkhorn! #stinkhorn #fungusamongus

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And N built an enclosure for leaf compost out of the biggest pieces. The dog likes to sit in it too.

The garden is a bit of a mess – I’m out of steam for it this time of year, and yet again, I didn’t get the timing right to keep up with some decent lettuces. The tomatoes never got a second wind from their blight (a couple are okay, but they aren’t the tasty ones). And it’s possible we’ll get a few zucchini and patty pans from the second planting of squash that I was hoping was post-squash vine borer, but wasn’t, but I’m not holding my breath.

But this squash, a Zucchino Rampicante is amazing.

It’s currently hardening off like a butternut, and there’s another almost done. It seems that only one fruit can mature per vine, but the babies are good eating like a summer zucchini. And it’s a good thing because we’ve only got four little butternuts. So these two Rampicantes will make up the difference – I’ll wait for the taste test this winter before giving them the green thumbs up – hopefully they’re good, because they beat the pests and diseases the best, and are a constant source of bawdy amusement.

We do have a decent amount of spinach, and we might get some carrots, but the beets are becoming hairy carrots instead of beets – at least the greens are still good – the fall beets never do as well as the spring, so I have to read up on that.

Most of the cayennes are drying out.

And the freezer is overflowing with beans – both the bush and pole had bumper crops this year.

I neglected to pick the fennel – it was a new to me variety that made smaller bulbs, so once I noticed them, they were on their way to becoming too tough.

But maybe we’ll get some seeds. And it’s pretty and the caterpillars like it so it will stay until the bitter end.

N trash-picked the perfect glass/plexi door to make a cold frame, but I’m dubious we’ll get to it this year – the priority right now is to clear and prep a garlic bed.

(And fiber things)

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Mid August

And so it goes – much the same as it has been…

Beans must be picked every other day.

And tomatoes are expressing their juicy demands.

And I need to learn about more diseases and pests to ward off next year.

Some thrifting is still being done here and there – picked up some “vintage” yarn for more and bigger scrappy things – I’ll probably dye the one on the right since the white is actually wool, or mostly, and it’s interesting that this seemingly semi-shitty novelty yarn was once spun in Belgium and France…

And some finishing is happening – this spin will be mittens or slippers, but will go on the back burner for a bit.

(Next up for spinning is still TBD – either a shit-or-get-off-the-pot spin with raw alpaca I’ve had far too long, or a quick palate cleanser with a colorful superwash braid… either way, the wheel is freshly cleaned and oiled and swept up underneath and is ready to go.)

And of course, beach time – just a bit here and there though – and I’m finishing up this knit – hopefully by the month’s end (secretly by the end of next week).

Some upcoming travel means socks need to be on the needles, but I’ve really run out of room in my sock drawer… In theory I “need” a few more pairs that better match my work clothes, but I have none worn out enough to purge to make room, so…

I’m going to knit them anyway and have more disorder and chaos and cramming going on in my life again!

 

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Early August

This summer has been full of long days that go by quickly.

I’ve got a bit of return teen angst/summertime ennui that is somewhat satiated by lying in the direct sun in a sweaty stupor. I must need the vitamin D; I’m surprised I’m not more tan; I’m blaming reverse puberty for just about everything.

The garden is doing that- just when everything looks absolutely awesome, it shits the bed thing – squash vine borer hit hard, and despite a few surgical attempts (only 2 out of 5 lived through it) we’re down to only 2 stressed out zucchini plants – I think we’ve eaten only 4 zucchini all summer. And the tomatoes, those lycopenian bastards – all was so very well with them until we got rain and hot temps and more rain and now they’re stressed out with leaf spot or a form of blight, or something that happens every year that hits hard and fast, only this year the big harvests didn’t start before it… But they’re coming in – some better than others, and some delicious.

Much of this year’s grown and foraged fruit went into ice pops and frozen yogurt. Note to self: make ice pops with nut milk again – wineberry and chocolate almond milk was good as was gooseberry vanilla.

I’m working/knitting on finishing up one shawl/scarf exclusively at the moment – I might be on the last ball of yarn, or there might be one more and I can’t find it which might be a slight problem, but I love this one – a super soft thrift store sweater yarn – I’m tempted to troll the online auctions to find another one of these sweaters for more/another project, but I’ve got other lovelies waiting in the wings.

Rocco now has his own Instagram account – N finally realizes the joy of looking at dog pictures and he can share their dawn adventures while I’m still sleeping or getting ready for work – he’ll still make appearances on my account, but I’ve got loads more pictures of him than anything else… And he’s totally potty-trained (Rocco, not N, well N is too, but has been for some time) inside the garden now, and stays out of the beds for the most part – he’s been a pleasant companion in there lately which is a relief and a pleasure for both of us (we still have a long ways to go outside though).

And I’m nearly finished with a spin – just trying to decide on a 2 or 3 ply… might just say 3 and do it now…

 

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