Sunday, February 28, 2010

Truck Tires and Tubers

I'd pretty much given up on growing potatoes this year since we didn't have a new garden plot for the mounds. Then I happened upon a solution that, though old news for some, was good news for me.

So, I got seed potatoes from our feed store, learned how to cut them with at least two eyes on each piece, and set them out until yesterday when we were ready to begin.

The idea is to build your first mound in an old tire, wait til the plant tops are about 8" high then add another tire, repeating the process until the mound is 4 tires high, a sight that is not all that unusual in my neighborhood. (Even so, I've hidden them behind my husband's wood shop for the refinery's eyes only.)

The first potato plants' growth is sort of stunted when more dirt is piled on and it becomes a root again, climbing upward toward the surface, sending out more roots laterally to make many more potatoes. It sounds as though the warmth of the tires aids the process.

When the top potatoes are ready, you remove the first tire to harvest that crop. Then the next tire's plants will have formed tops and be ready for harvest, etc.

So, my space problem is solved (I have enough space for a big truck tire in my back yard) and it's contained and away from my dog that lives to dig.

Don't ask me how long this will take, or if we'll have enough spring this year to really grow 4 tires worth, or if I planted the seed potatoes deep enough, or anything else, because all I know is the stuff on this one website. I'm making the rest up as I go.

Friday, February 26, 2010

When Kids Like Broccoli on the Table

They never complain about having broccoli when it bolts and the florets become...

florets! They look kind of neat in a big vase in the center of the table.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Me, Me, Me

That Time of Year, 365 day 24 photo

Late Shows, 365 day 26

365 day 30

School Pickup, 365 day 31

Stars in a Sleeve, 365 day 33

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Litmus Test

Yeah, it's this ball of yarn. Weird huh?
I bought it probably 5 years ago to make a shapeless, comfy sweater that may be very unflattering and found that I could not "get" the brioche stitch needed to knit it. Click the link and see how cute it looked in the magazine.

So, those eight balls sat in a plastic bag under my bed, mocking me every time I pull out a storage box or vacuumed.

I could've used it for something else, like a wrap sweater or vest or chunky hat and scarf; but then the brioche would have beaten me.

So, I've been knitting 7 years off and on and it's time to see what I'm made of, time to test my skill, to see if I've got what it takes and other cliches.
I started last night and think I've got it. Only I don't think I'll be able to "watch" Malcolm in the Middle while I do it. It is taking all my powers of focus to keep in pattern.
We'll see.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Seed Savers Anonymous

I harvested seeds heads a few months ago, put them in paper bags, and carefully avoided them and the mania I knew would ensue if I got started separating them, until last night.

This photo should give anyone considering saving their own seeds pause. Note the microscopic nature of the seeds, not the fact that my hands need lotion.

But it was really too late to turn back. I had a super comprehensive book and everything. So I started with the lettuce (up top) and moved to the basil (above.)

Here's the cheap DIY seed tecnique I learned with basil: Once the little pods are off the stem, roll them around in your fingers until the hull around the seeds were separated.

Then tilt the bowl slightly and blow very gently to send the hulls to the top and leave the tiny black seeds at the bottom.
From there I just pressed my fingers against them so they stuck and kind of dusted them off and dropped them in an envelope labeled with the age of the seed and type.

No, it wasn't a fancy or efficient method, but it only required a bowl, a finger, an envelope, and breath (or, in my husbands case, one third of an exhalation through his nose. You can imagine how we learned this the hard way.)

Altogether, I have corn, Empress green beans, cantaloupe, Granpa Admire's lettuce, another lettuce, basil, borage from heirlooms and pumkin seeds of dubious heritage.

I probably spent over two hours on just the lettuce and basil. And that was like 3 stems of basil.

I had a group of helpers that later turned into an intervention.

I wanted to quit, I really did. My neck was hurting and my sight failing. Besides I listened to Nashville Skyline all the way through, like five times. But, I set out to save seeds last year when I ordered them and it's now or never. I was a little obsessed.

Friday, February 19, 2010

On Becoming a Crazy Cat Lady

No one ever intends to be a crazy cat lady. It just happens, gradually.

It started with our sweet old cat, Celie that began needing lots of attention after a lifetime of requiring very little. By the time she died we were on a regular med schedule and giving fluid every other day.

Right about that time we got Spot, who was a hyper, continence-challenged puppy.
But, with a lot of running to the door at regular intervals and lots of running, period- that problem got straightened out.

Only, it was replaced by his macho need to mark while the neighbors' dog was in heat.

Outside of the house I took on the task of feeding a pitiful feral cat that limped over late each night and would eat as long as I sat on the porch steps and watched the entire time to scare off other, well-fed neighborhood cats. But if you could see how battered and scarred he is, you'd do the same.

Then my sister finds us a crying little kitten with a broken tail in sub-freezing weather. I ask what you would do in my place? Of course we kept her. After all we had a little room in our budget for another cat.

Now I find myself hurrying home to let her out of my room (we don't yet feel good about leaving her alone with our dogs,) wondering if she's bored like I wonder if the dogs are cold outside. Like I let her claw on me when I nap so she won't have to go to the cold bathroom...'s too late.

Madame Defarge Has Left the Building

Something dark and sinister came over me.
For two days, anytime I was sitting, I was weaving in ends with a purpose.
Quietly bent over in thought, seemingly oblivious to my surroundings, my hands worked in a monotonous rhythm that unnerved some.

To those around me I seemed to be a calm housewife catching up on chores, but there was an intensity about my work that may have disquieted them.

Until the guillotine came down on the last strand.

The ends are done. The Road to Golden sweater is finished and The Twinkle Hoodie is awaiting the crazy-big buttons in the mail. They look good... seriously good. It's almost like my knitwear is sending some kind of message...

Canned Good

(365 day 45 photo)

Pulled out my contraption today to try a ttv photo for 365. Only catch is that I have to be in it. That's not easy when holding two cameras with a pizza box in between that leaks light with my shrug stuffed into the cracks at the top. My neighbors probably think I'm on crack with all the weird laying on the ground and picture taking of hands and feet I do in the yard.

An easy little project was putting these baby plants (French lavender) into big cans with nail punched holes in the bottom. Our English lavender is in the ground and hardy now, so I may keep these in pots for a while. They're so fern-like and delicate...

And the loud tomato cans look really cool in the kitchen.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Corned Beef Sounds Gross

Had that cabbage in the garden so I thought I'd try an old fashioned sounding recipe from this book: Corned Beef and Cabbage. I could tell my son was grossed out when I told him what we were having for supper. I explained that the corn was referring to the salt crystals rubbed into the meat when preparing, but only after trying to convince him that we almost named him "Corned Beef."

So I sprayed the dutch oven and lined the bottom with sliced onion and celery (another big hit with the kids.)
Then I added a layer of the sliced beef.

Next came cubed potatoes, sliced carrots, and a layer of cabbage leaves.

The final layer is the broth/ allspice mixture and a bay leaf, topped with the lid and cooked for 40 minutes.

It wasn't bad, though the cabbage wasn't as tender and mild as plain old green. Using allspice was different. I think I've had that spice bottle since my wedding shower. All in all, it was a good meal, but my kids are definitely sick of potatoes and carrots. I had to force little Corned Beef to choke down three carrots and gave him a pass on the potatoes.

So, I guess tonight it's hotdogs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's That Time Again

(my 365 day 43 photo, red cabbage)

It's here. Time to plant for Spring. I was checking out my little patch of garden yesterday and was surprised by how full and cabbagey the cabbages looked. I only planted a few for a small crop, but they were the real deal. The green ones, that is, the red just look like pretty ornaments.

But they're about to be eaten and we just had our last freeze (fingers crossed here, because I hate covering plants with sheets in the cold more than getting wire coat hangers all hooked together in my closet,) so it's time to get our summer garden going.
And, like every prepared and thoughtful gardener this time of year, I'm planning out my plots on a scrap of paper or napkin in the space of time it takes to pick up the kids from school.

The plan is:
get kids,
get home,
get snack,
get paper scrap blueprint,
get a little compost from dark, scary corner of back yard,
get forceful (they just don't realize how much they like the garden yet,)
and go crazy planting.

I'm doing the no till method (no, not because I'm a slacker) so I'm just going to add some compost to my little plots and maybe some fertilizer. (Yeah, I know organic and all, but we're all tired of stepping over the triple 13 in the garage from 2 years ago that I wouldn't use. And I'm not going to waste it. Besides, after 2 years of all natural gardening, the soil is still not as rich and fertile as we'd like. There, that's my dirty little secret.)
So, I've just got to get in there and do it, because I have to make supper, walk the dogs, catch up on my Bible study, go over the budget with my husband, block a sweater, and pick camp sites to reserve. See, I'm not really a slacker.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thought I'd Lost This Cd Like the Tape Before It

Found. If I was a performer, I'd have to cover "One More Night."
If only I had the lp.

Time to Change Out the Cds in My Car

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An Uncomfortable Look Inside

(Photo from Day 28 of 365)

Recently finished a very challenging, controversial book that has me thinking about the way I talk to my husband. I have, not so fondly, referred to it at times as "THAT BOOK!" It surprised me that I could feel uncomfortable with a book about submission in marriage, the wife's role, and all those other things people rag on Christians for believing, because I do believe in them. But maybe I didn't realize what my less than perfect submission looked like to my less than perfect spouse.

The list of questions that wives ask to be "helpful" but husbands hear as, "Are you stupid?" surprised me. Since I don't believe in veiling criticism with innocent sounding questions, I didn't think I'd hear myself in any of those. But there I was in statements like:

"Are you sure we should spend money on ..." when I really meant, "No Way."

Don't misunderstand, I really don't think it's wrong to ask that question, if that's really what I want to say. But sometimes "Are you sure?" really does mean, "Are you insane?"

The other area of conviction was leading by default. I really do believe in Christian submission. But, I seemed to come out of the box with a viewpoint, purpose, and opinions and my husband is not as quick to form them. This always made following his lead difficult. He just didn't always want to direct things. He'd shrug his shoulders over a problem, I'd wait a moment, with crickets chirping in the silence, then I'd suggest a solution.

Enter THAT BOOK again and the realization that if I waited longer and talked less, his direction might come out. And it has.

It was thought provoking, for sure. But, having said that, I'm not going to run pull my kids out of the public school we prayerfully felt God wants them in just because the author homeschools and insinuates that I would not be "training up [my] child in the way they should go," (Proverbs 22:6) if I didn't.
But I was able to glean much from it and recognize that the extreme sounding nature of the book may be in response to an extremely irresponsible society.

Oh, those ego spankings, even the literary kind, they do hurt. But thank you for it, Father.

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Road to Golden

So here it is: my almost finished first fair isle sweater.

(This photo is 365 Day 32)

The armpits are now grafted together (which I did loosely as many knitters on Ravelry did so it wouldn't be too tight.) I'm going to undo the top round of the neck and use a crochet chain stitch to bind off like one raveler suggested or else pull those stitches tight with all my might because I'm not wearing another floppy necked sweater. Who am I kidding? Winter's about over, I'm probably not going to be wearing this sweater until next year anyway.

My only real problem was that I ran out of the olive green just before the end and had to cut ends off of the long strands hanging at the beginning of some rounds and (ulp!) tied them together for the last round. I know that is so tacky, but I'm not waiting a week or so for one round of green. I think it will work.

This is what I did different than the Lisa Shroyer pattern (Ha, I just realized I had my hair pulled into Princess Lea buns like the girl in the pattern):

- I used size 5 needles instead of 7's because I guess I knit loose, and I didn't have anything smaller to use on the sleeves. I can see where they puff out a bit when I switch from fair isle to the main color, but I think blocking will smooth that out.

-A few inches into this, I decided to run the colors I wasn't using up along the body, twisting them with the working colors every few rows. This looks messy, but it is better than tripling the amount of finishing I have to do. Does this mess of yarn ends not look like the work of the Devil?

...Wait I made this!

-I also did decreases on every knit round of the garter stitch neckline and added two rounds, binding off tightly, but not tight enough.

Okay, so the question now is: what dvds will I watch/listen to while I weave in these ends?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Documenting the Everyday

This one is of my mother's necklace.

I'm thirty days into the 365 project and am getting faster at composing my photos and editing. I'm also no longer cringing at the flashlight under the chin effect I sometimes get in my photos.
Each one usually leads to another idea for the next day, except the late at night up close shots of an ear or something (that just means I feel yucky and want to go to bed.)

At first, it really felt strange to have so many photos of myself on my computer. Never mind the fact that I have 15 years worth of everyone but me in albums and on discs. But, why not? At least I'm taking pictures again! Let it be about me. And if it's all going to be about ME, ME, ME, I hope it will at least capture this time in my life: my everyday moments from my perspective as well as that of my family. It has to, because I don't have time to photograph anything else right now. My camera accompanies me around the house, hangs on to me while I do errands, even rides along on a jog. It's like having a toddler again, only it won't hug me back.

All this posting on photography and I may flake out of the project next week. But even recording a month of my life was a little gift to myself (sort of like this blog.) Maybe my children will even see it as a gift to them one day. I keep thinking how great it would've been if there were blogs and digital cameras around when I was young and my mother was in her thirties. What I wouldn't give to have a record of a month of her life then.