Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spring Pattern Shopping/Wishing Checklist

I love the anticipation of a new season and new books to tempt and inspire me, even if I can't possibly keep up with all of them!

1. I've already started shopping from my spring wish list, beginning with Knits Men Want.

One of my main OTN projects right now is Ross, a striped raglan from RYC Tweed that I'm knitting for Jeff and really enjoying working on. He will like the traditional shapes in Knits Men Want.

2. I have successfully resisted buying many magazines lately, but I did purchase the spring issue of Verena.

Though I likely won't get to it this season, I like the pattern named Fiesole, a classic sort of summer cover-up.

There are some other pretty tops that could work for me as well, like this one named Sonnet.

3. Although I always love the glossy, sensationally styled Kim Hargreaves pattern books, the only one I've bought so far is Heartfelt. The next one I want is the newest, Misty.

4. I have yet to buy a Sublime Yarn book, though many of the patterns are appealing. The one I want first is this season's #632 The Third Luxuriously Exotic Soya Cotton Book. Sarah Hatton, a contributor to the book, is a favorite designer of mine, so it's not surprising that I like it so much! I think the first pattern I would want to try is Biarritz. The local yarn shop is ordering a copy for me, so I should have it soon!

That's it for my spring pattern shopping list at the moment. Thankfully it's not a longer list as I have such a queue of patterns I love!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

More of the Same!

My blog is becoming mostly a garden diary while I'm busy getting the yard under control and plants started. After a couple of lower effort gardening years, I'm hoping to do a bit more again this year, weather and pests permitting, of course!

Some of the beds, while reasonably low maintenance, do need some weeding, edging and mulching this year to keep them in good condition. While I'm at it, I'm expanding one 'island' bed a little that I have to mow all the way around on the lawn tractor. It has been kidney bean shaped and the concave side is too hard to mow tightly up to, so I am making it convex and the bed oval shaped overall. I started a couple days ago and then today while I did some weeding, Jeff skimmed off the remaining sod. Soon, we'll till it up with the mantis, mulch heavily and then I'll add some more plants to fill in this year or next. Here's a progress shot for now. My arbor/bench is kind of rusted, so I'm not sure I can use it anymore and it's lying on the ground in the background here. So far, the Lunaria (money plant) is flowering, both white and purple varieties.

Today, Jeff burned 3 more brush piles. I think the rate of brush accumulation will slow down a bit now that we've done such a big clean up removing limbs from trees and ripping out a row of privet hedge. I am ready to go back to just one burn pile on the go!

It took awhile for the green wood to catch, but it lit up eventually!

The Riff Raff enjoyed themselves while we were getting things done.

As usual, they ran around faster than I could really line up and focus shots and I caught them in some crazy postures! At their vet visit last week, the doctor was very happy with their strong physiques. This crazy sort of playing does keep them athletic! It's good to have two dogs.

Also today, I planted 8 more flats and tended the little seedlings. Some of the milk jug plants have had the tops removed already like these Bachelor Buttons,


and Swiss Chard.

After the upcoming rain, I'll open the tops for the Acorn Squash seedlings. Each squash jug will be planted out into the garden as a 'hill'.

Some of my 15 pots of Clark's Morning Glories looking sturdy and healthy.

Here is a window box style planter thickly sown with scallions. I can't wait to be able to add them to some meals!

Speaking of meals, this past week, for a couple of dinners I made Chicken in a Mustard/Tarragon Cream Sauce served with rice pilaf and peas. This is a recipe I first tried when it was published in Everyday Food in 2003 and then regretfully forgot about until I was browsing the Martha Stewart website recently. It's so quick and delish and will go well with garden veggies this summer, so I won't forget about it again!

I altered the recipe only in that I cut up the chicken into thick slices before sauteing it and then tossed the cooked chicken in the sauce before plating.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yard Work and New Blooms (Again!)

I know it's making my posts rather redundant, but our focus was on more yard work over the weekend. There never is an end to it, but I sure hope that all this effort now allows me to slack off during the hot summer months without losing much ground.

This time, we cut back the yews and there are two more huge burn piles! I got started on Friday and put in a few hours, then Jeff and I worked together all Saturday afternoon. The result:

This is another angle with Jeff for scale. We were exhausted after this work! Keep in mind, we did it all by hand!

The Bleeding Heart plant burst into bloom over the weekend and looks really gorgeous, especially up close so you can see the detail.

Some of the fruit trees are blooming too. Here is one peach:

Another peach:

And a view looking up at a plum tree:

The smell is amazing and carries on the breezes so you can sometimes smell it even if you aren't right next to the trees!

The seedlings in the jugs and cold frame are doing well. It was cool over the weekend, so I kept the cold frame closed to keep everyone cozy inside.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Saffy, Silas and Bandit

The dogs played for hours while we burned the brush piles today. In these pictures you can get a good idea of how they like to play.

Silas pretty much has a toy the entire time and Saffy tries to get it from him. In this case, it was a tennis ball. Silas stood over her, baiting her with the toy, and she gaped at him. Looks like she's hoping he'll drop the ball into her mouth in this pic!

But it's not easy to extract a toy from Silas. Here Saffy tries a headlock/rabbit punch combo!

Perhaps threatening to bite an ear or jowl will help?

When wrestling gets tiring, there are bouts of all out chase!

Bandit is much more lethargic. He naps in his bed most of the day. He's been getting a couple of brushing sessions a day now that he's shedding like mad. There is often a static-y cloud of hair around him and it's sticking all over his bed!

He looks totally asleep here, but he was purring like an engine!

Weekend Yard Projects and April Blooms

It's that time of year for hauling mulch around to the beds and spreading it out.

The weather cooperated and we were able to burn the two brush piles. Jeff's in the picture for scale, behind the brush. At this point, the first pile was mostly burned (it started out taller than Jeff) and he soon got the second one started.

One yard project this season has been to continue our fence line. I've dug 3 fence post holes and had Jeff help attach the fence panels to the posts. I have one more post hole left to dig. Then, we have to get two more sections of fence, hinges and latches, to create a couple of gates. Here is one new corner and a gate will be hinged on the post to the left. I will eventually mulch the ground and perhaps move some pachysandra into the area as a nice ground cover around the lilacs and bird bath. I think a seat or bench would be a nice addition too.

These ruffled daffodils were planted before our time here and I just love seeing them each spring.

The forsythia is so golden with the sunlight illuminating the petals.

A plum tree is the first to bloom in our little 'orchard' of 7 trees.

I started these primroses from seed years ago and they come back each spring.

This is pachysandra that my grandmother, Jeff and I pulled up from the large patch at her house to transplant here. I like the emerald color and it is a great ground cover for a shady area and has spread vigorously. If you look closely, you can see that it's flowering now.

The Pig Squeak bloomed for the first time this year and I was so surprised. I sowed the seeds for it 7-8 years ago. The succulent leaf in the foreground is the one that goes with the flowers. I have two plants that never seem to grow and usually look like they are dying. While one specimen has finally made the effort to bloom, the other looks worse than ever!

These plants along the barn foundation aren't blooming yet, but they are growing a lot each day. On the left is a Bleeding Heart plant (since I took this pic it grew up to the 4th clapboard on the barn!) and the greens on the right are Bluebells. The green in the foreground is Sweet William. If I poke around in the mulch, I can find the Jack in the Pulpit, False Salomon Seal and Lilies of the Valley that come up here as well.

It is so fun to walk around spotting all the plants coming up including lilies, Cone flowers, Hostas, hardy geraniums, Jacob's Ladder, Columbine, Lunaria, etc...too many to post about! The pots in the cold frame are really taking off as well. Here is a tray of Clark's Morning Glories.

The newest jug sprouts include Parsley

and Acorn Squash.

It's very convenient that the lens on my compact camera fits right into the top of the jugs!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Jug Planting Tutorial

This has been one of my favorite ways to start seeds since I learned about it on the web in about 2001. There is a very comprehensive site here. But here's how I do it:

1. Using a box cutter, make a slit a little longer than the length of one side of the milk jug on the side opposite the handle.

2. Drill drainage holes in the bottom; eight for a gallon sized jug.

3. Fill the jug with a few inches of well moistened potting soil.
4. Place seeds, in this case pumpkin so they would show in the pic.

5. Cover seeds as directed on the seed packet.
6. Close cut side with duct tape.
7. Label with a Sharpie. The labels on top fade quickly, so it is best to mark the bottoms or sides.

Add new jugs to your stash through winter and spring depending on the hardiness of the seeds you are sowing. Although you can do this in summer too, it becomes hard to keep the soil from drying out in the heat.

I take pictures showing the labels when I place them out so when they fade, I have a reference as long as I haven't moved them. During winter and spring there is generally no need to add water as snow melt and rain is sufficient. As seeds start sprouting, check for moisture and cut away the tops as they grow and they will harden off as you slowly remove the tops and be ready for planting out. Depending how thickly you sow seeds, you may decide to prick out and transplant seedlings to individual pots before planting out. There aren't any rules and it's cheap, so improvise with different containers--it's a lot of fun!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Easter and Garden Update

Easter was lovely this year. I have a couple more Easter decorations like this tiny glass rabbit dish from my mother.

And, I picked out this bunny platter to mix and match with our usual dinnerware. (Picture from Williams Somoma.)

The weather was so beautiful that I wanted to be outside all weekend rather than in the kitchen cooking, so I quickly put together a tortellini dish with peas and ham in a Parmesan cream sauce which Jeff and I both like any time of year!

The Big Project over the weekend was putting up a new mailbox. The old, wobbly post was placed in a bucket and braced with bricks, a set up that predated us being here. We live on a pile of slate, so we were putting off trying to dig a hole or drive in a post for a long time. Amazingly, the metal post support went in easily...with the help of an 8 pound sledge hammer! It may be the only post that's ever gone in on the first try without hitting a slate here. (I blocked the numbers for putting on the Internet, but doesn't it look good?)

I've been planting more jugs as I collect them. Already, it is fun to peer into them everyday to look for the new growth.

The first sprouts include Swiss Chard


and Bachelor Buttons.

Directly in the garden, the peas are up. The immense amount of rain really compacted the soil that we had fluffed up so nicely with the tiller, but the peas are pushing through anyway. The Little Marvel and Early Frosty rows are doing the best so far, but the others are coming along too.

I've been continuing to cut a lot of brush and have two enormous piles to burn. In spite of the fact we had the rain, things have gotten dry and with the light breezes, it may be hard to get a good day for burning.