27 March 2010

Garden 2010

Working a ton lately, including a day shift tomorrow, so this is just a brief popping-my-head-in-to-say-hello post. I wanted to share a couple pics of the first seedlings I'm starting for this year's garden. I built a small "grow op" in the cellar with a seed tray heat mat, a fluorescent fixture with full spectrum (2800K) bulbs, and Mylar sheeting to reflect the light as evenly as possible. First up are the peas - crowder peas & butterpeas, to be specific.

032710Crowder_Peas

The butterpeas are in the background and crowder peas in front. These are both very southern crops, and lifelong favorites of mine. I tried growing both by direct sowing them last year, since our southern exposure and proximity to the ocean puts us firmly in USDA Zone 6, with the front of the house even being functionally a Zone 7 microclimate. They did okay, even with all the rain, but they just never had time to produce adequately, so I'm hoping starting them indoors & early will make a big difference. So far so good.

Next up are my brandywine tomatoes, which are just sprouting.

032710Brandywines

You may recall that I lost all my tomatoes last year to late blight, thanks to the incessant rain. I'd grown brandywines the year before and am convinced it's the ultimate fresh tomato for flavor. Buying tomatoes from the supermarket is nothing short of an act of desperation for me, so having to pull up all my plants and throw them away last year was traumatic and sad. Hopefully we won't have a repeat this year, but by getting them started now, I'm hedging my bets that I can harvest at least some if this does turn out to be another blighted year.

In the same flat as the brandywines but not yet germinated are more artichokes. Since we have a bit much sustained cold for them to overwinter here, I'm starting new seeds, which I'm remembering are a bit slow to germinate. We should have enough chill yet to come that I can set them out in near-freezing weather to fool them into thinking they've gone through a winter, as they're biennials that don't set blooms (the chokes are actually flower buds) until their second year.

I was dismayed when the artichoke seed arrived to see that the variety had been patented, information that was not provided on the website, or I wouldn't have bought them. I am generally opposed to patenting plant varieties, since a) I see it as an affrontery to nature to try to patent a living organism based on its genetics, and b) the patent means that nobody can legally propagate or collect seeds from the plant without obtaining permission from (which generally means paying a licensing fee to) the patent holder, which I find repugnant. Of course, having seeds in hand, I decided I was better off making use of them and planted them despite my ethical objections.

Hopefully they won't taste bitter as a result.

16 March 2010

Ch-ch-changes

Remember the Japanese pattern book sweater I modeled way back in this post? Well, I put it on yesterday to wear to work and as I was driving, I noticed for the umpteenth time how short the sleeves were.

031510Sleeves001

This, of course, was even after I had made adaptations to the pattern (written in one size) to fit my considerably larger Western frame. Apparently, I must be part gibbon.

Anyway, I just happened to have some leftovers of the same yarn with me, so I decided to go about lengthening the sleeves a bit. Because the sleeves were knat cuff-up, I couldn't just ravel them, and the seaming made snipping and unzipping the end a poor option. So I decided that I should just pick up stitches from the long-tail cast-on, which is exactly what I did.

031510Sleeves002

The first round after I picked up stitches might have done better as a purl round, since I ended up with a band separating two sections of garter stitch. Still, though, I think that it would have had a bit too heavy a look as a solid band of garter, and the band serves to break that up nicely and looks like a design element, too. More importantly, the sleeves are now long enough.

031510Sleeves003

I also made the neck band wider to match the waist band. As I recall, I deliberately left it a bit narrower, but I ended up feeling like the neck was a bit too open. My picking up of stitches turned out to be much less noticeable there, as it was a cast-off edge that I hadn't done as a sewn cast-off (my usual) and I did a purl round immediately after knitting up stitches. In all, a fairly quick and easy fix, and I'm pleased with the results.

Sprung

I can't believe how early spring has arrived this year. This was the scene in front of the house this morning.

07 March 2010

An Early Spring

030610Iris

When I got home this morning (by which I mean Saturday), I looked to see if the reticulated irises were peeking through the ground yet. Nada.

By the time I slept a few hours, though, and went back outside in the afternoon, they had magically appeared. This first crocus was also pushing up:

030610Crocus

The iris is always the first blossom of the spring in my beds and has come up a little earlier each year, but last year it didn't blossom until March 15. I was in India at the time, but I had David watching for it and he sent me a pic. This year, the daffodils are leafing out and already have flower buds, and my Florentine tulips are leafed out nicely, though I haven't noticed flower buds yet. The Dutch & Siberian irises and daylilies are also putting up leaves already.

The reason for the early start this year is, of course, the lack of snow cover, which is not entirely a good thign, in my book. Still, I can't change it, so I'm just going to go with it. Tomorrow is supposed to be a beautiful day, so I intend to spend it doing yardwork and cleaning out those beds.

04 March 2010

Teh Cute

I indulged myself just a wee bit with my tax refund and got a Flip UltraHD video camera - for cheap from Amazon, so I was still being all bargain-conscious. Anyway, this is one of the main reasons I wanted one. Good quality Tuck videos! This is also my first time playing around with annotations on YouTube.

I'm pretty sure this bone came from his foster mom, Shannan. Of all his toys, this one is his absolute favorite, but a couple of minutes is usually about the maximum interest he can sustain at any given time.

Josh Socks

Need a reminder of what they look like?

021210Socks

Perhaps eventually there will be a photo of them adorning Mr. Trashy One's feet, but I'm told they fit and are appropriately thick and fuzzy.

I thought a bit about what to call this pattern, since despite the similar basic concept (shaped arch), these are my own toe-up interpretation of that idea in a sea of top-down patterns. I thought that since Oliver is the pattern I bought and used as a basic template for this adaptation and since these are made in the reverse direction, maybe I should call them Revilo, but that a) sounded too much like a Harry Potter curse and b) didn't make them sound particularly appealing. Then I realized that the natural thing to do was name them for their intended recipient, Josh.

The yarn is some Kona Superwash DK that I've had for a while and hand-dyed with lemonade & orange-flavored Kool-aid. Not colors that figure at all in my personal wardrobe, but these weren't for me and Josh has a strong preference for citrus-y colors. The toes & heels just have a dark blue Schoeller-Stahl sock reinforcing yarn knit along with the Kona to make them a bit thicker and more wear-resistant, but I think that bit of contrast works really nicely.

I'm not going to share much more detail-wise at the moment. It's really not anything that a determined person couldn't figure out, but I like the way these turned out and am contemplating writing this up as a pattern for sale, or perhaps more of a tutorial on how to make your own with whatever weight yarn suits you.