Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garden News Part Two

First, I want to explain all of the straw bales in the last post. We had been trying to come up with a compost system for the whole last year and nothing was coming together. I saw a system described in Eliot Coleman's "Four Season Harvest" based on straw bales that end up being part of the compost in a few years. We had priced the bales at $5 at the nurseries and ended up being at the right place at the right time to find a farmer who sold them for $2. We hadn't thought far enough ahead of the situation to realize we only needed half of the bales to start with so ended up with half of them in the garage. That's OK for now because the cats love them. Cats? Cats???? We haven't given a cat the time of day for 40 some years but Ken wanted some barn cats and happened to mention it to the goat folks and pretty soon somebody showed up with cats. I liked them immediately because they matched the dogs in color so we kept them. Juniper tried herding them for a week or two but has resigned herself to their wild ways.
The garlic that we replanted last fall, after learning that garlic pretty much likes to be planted in the fall, was ready to dig last week so Ken dug it up for us and Kei Chi and I braided it three days later. So authentic!! Now we just have to get used to using fresh garlic instead of those handy jars of pre-chopped stuff. The asparagus spouts are getting bigger and bigger and are starting to look like asparagus for gerbils instead of asparagus for crickets. Next year for people we hope. The cucumbers are planted along a chicken wire support and just starting to bloom as I got them in so late. Next year, I'll try something similar for the peas which were going gangbusters until a really hard rain just washed most of them up out of the dirt. The tomatillos we planted for fun and for salsa and they are just pretty, like little lanterns hanging on the plants. Inside the bonnets they are about the size of small cherry tomatoes so I guess they grow until they fill them up. I may put some more photos up on Picasa where I don't have to explain and you don't have to "listen."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Garden News

I've been very negligent about garden posts because the weather, rain, rain, more rain and mud, had me pretty depressed for some time. Ken kept telling me to accept what I couldn't do anything about but it took me quite a while to get into that state of mind. We had gotten a really early start and perhaps bit off more than we could chew: an enclosure around the septic tanks, a second herb bed, sodding around both of those beds plus the front yard, setting up our tiny greenhouse, making a compost pile, building an asparagus bed and building a second raised bed for carrots and celeriac. May was gorgeous and we were getting lots done and then it was time to get all those lovely hardened off plants plus all the seeds into the ground and it wouldn't stop raining. By about the middle of June we had had 5 inches of rain and counting. The green bean seeds and the lima bean seeds rotted in the ground and when I reseeded them it started to rain again. I got the viney stuff in very late in June and had to reseed most of it plus the okra. Today, the middle of July, things finally feel like they are coming together. We have green beans and limas and most of the squash up, and although the rows aren't full we will get all that we need. I'll put more current photos in the next post.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Birthday Present for Kate

Birthdays are such fun!! I made this fabric book with the theme of Insomnia for my sister's birthday. Parts of the collages were made in Photoshop and printed onto fabric. Other parts were printed first and sewed onto the substate later. This is the first time I've printed onto fabric although I've had the materials to do it for a while. It was so wonderful that I vowed again not to always be afraid to try something new.
The idea for the pieced spiral on the front cover was "borrowed" from a photo I had saved for years from a quilt magazine. The photo was so small I couldn't tell how the spiral developed so I scanned it into Photoshop at a 600 dpi resolution and then zoomed in on it to see how it worked. It goes together very slowly and I kept getting confused and thinking I had messed it up. I'm definitely going to make more of those. Got a whole quilt planned for them.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Paducah AQS Quilt Show - The Second Year (For Me)

My friend, Jean, invited me along on her annual excursion to the Paducah quilt show again this year. I think I remember Jean saying that the first year she went had the most exquisite quilts and that other years haven't lived up to it. If so, I think it must just be the wonder of it all the first time you see it. Because I wasn't as blown away by the quilts as last year.
Again my favorite quilts were the smaller wall hanging size. They seem more innovative, less repetitive than the bed size ones. The first one is "To Market" by Mary Diamond. I included it here because I know how much Kate is going to like it. The second, my favorite, is "Incommunicado" by Esterita Austin. Not only is it beautifully done but the theme made me laugh out loud. How often have you found yourself with absolutely nothing to say at the most inappropriate times? I have no information on the third quilt but love the colors and the motion of the quilting lines.
Most of my fabrics I got at the enormous Hancocks of Paducah; a bit of it from show vendors. I had just finished Kate's birthday book (next post) and had used a lot of black and white and was still in the mood for that. The other pile is mostly stuff I will use for landscape quilts. Whether I'm quilting or stamping, that seems to be one of my favorite themes.
Jean and I also set ourselves a challenge to make a Paducah quilt ala Judith Montano's cottage quilts. So we took one morning and traipsed around Paducah's "lower town" taking pictures of houses, yard sculptures and whatever else caught our interest. Lower town is an inner city area of lovely houses that the city bought up as they were starting to go to seed. They resold them, mostly to artists, on the condition that they renovate them and run studios or galleries out of them. This wasn't supposed to be a tourist ad for Paducah but I have to add that there are also some delightful restaurants in the quaint little downtown area.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Starting Seed #2

Our seed starting went exceptionally well. I lost most of the celeriac I started because I forgot to water it one weekend we were leaving. However, these four trays of asparagus, tomatoes, peppers, basil, dill and artichokes have been under the lights in the basement or in sunny windows in the breezeway for weeks now. Early this week they expanded to six trays as we repotted and split the tomatoes that had been started in tiny plastic pots. We had to hang another plant light and find another table for them. We still need to split and repot multiple tomatillos of out their tiny starting cells, but then in a week or two it will be time to start hardening them off. We've been told that is a crucial time to do it right, but Ken has done it many times before with "store bought" tomato plants so I'm confident he'll do a great job.
For most of these plants, we have almost twice as many as we plan to use. That may take care of hardening off mistakes. Otherwise, we are going to see if the new Ashland community garden program can use the extras for some of their participants.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Starting Seeds in the Basement #1

On March 8, we put one asparagus seed in each of 16 peat pots. The seeds were a year old with a 70% germination rate for 2009. Since we had made no effort to take care of the seeds properly, I lobbied to use 2 seeds per pot but Ken thought we would possibly get more out of our 32 seeds this way. They started emerging March 19 but for one reason or another we weren't ready with the lights. Those were hung and ready to go late Monday, the 22nd, so we left it for the next morning. The early emergers are probably leggier than they should be at this stage so I blow hard on them when I'm checking on them to strengthen them up as Steve Solomon suggests. (Actually he suggests a fan but they are so tiny.)
As of this morning we have 11 of the 16 up which is 69% germination. I know lots of things can still happen to them, but it is so exciting that we are going to have asparagus started from seed. In a year or two, anyway.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Late Birthday Weekend

Because of all of the snow and otherwise unreliable weather, Pam and I had not had a chance to celebrate our birthdays which fall about a month apart. So this past weekend, after both birthdays were over, we got to spend some time together. I got a plethora of goodies including some doll scaled fabric pieces and Maggie Taylor's "Landscape of Dreams" (gasp, swoon). Last year we had decided to get some ball jointed dolls to craft for - sewing, jewelry making, furniture making, whatever. The first thing you do with the dolls is make up their faces with paints, pastels and watercolor pencils, called doing a faceup. I had enjoyed doing mine and Pam needed to tackle the job during the weekend. She was quite apprehensive and when she was finished doing a beautiful faceup on her doll, revealed that it had made her really nervous. Want to guess who wears makeup all the time and who knows nothing about the process? Funny, huh? For her birthday, I had sewed two outfits - the sporty striped tights and turtleneck with the brown skirt to match an outfit for my doll, the smaller one, and also a Victorian blouse, skirt, underskirt and jacket in black. She loves the steampunk scene and that was what I was aiming for. It will give her a chance to do all of the fancy jewelry and trims that make it steampunk.
One of the things that is coming to light in this experience is how differently we approach things. I know I've talked before about how her background in graphic arts makes some aspects of our paper arts (color, design, balance) second nature to her while I struggle with them. The way we go about dressing the dolls is even further apart. I love taking patterns, which I have a ton of, that fit other dolls and making them fit these dolls and sewing by hand or machine to make the clothes. Pam, as it turns out, does not like sewing - although she seems willing to give it a try. Her approach to doll dressing is to take an old luggage tag or a pair of gloves and turn it into a belt or legwarmers and a tank top with a clip, clip here and a stitch, stitch there. We made the sweater and legwarmers in the middle picture out of a pair of socks. As we have found many times before, our totally different approaches seem to complement each other.
Ken treated us to going to see "Alice" in 3D. We both loved the costumes and hope to use some of the ideas for springboards for doll clothes but the whimsical wordplay of the original Alice was in short supply in this version of a favorite story.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Food For Thought

In the spirit of getting back to why I started this blog, to share the art and craft of what I and my friends are working on, I wanted to post the pages of a gorgeous fabric and paper book my sister Kate made for my bithday. I was surprised to get a handmade gift at all this year since she had been working on a quilted wall hanging for her sister-in-law. We share an interest in good food and she had quotes she wanted to use and some new techniques to try. The second page is a paint to paint transfer of a magazine image and is quite lovely but my favorite is her collage to accompany the food for thought quote from Walt Kelly. I hope this wonderful gift inspires me to get back to paper/fabric experiments.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Winter on the Funny Farm

I'm not sure how these pictures inform what a winter this has been. We didn't get as much snow as Washington DC or even Pittsburgh. I can't seem to get photos of snow laden trees as the wind clears them too quickly. But you can see that the wind shaped our icicles so that they go south at the bottom and swirled snow up onto the covered deck where the firewood is stored. Some of the snow had to be shoveled because the plow was being serviced at the tractor dealer across the street when the first snow hit. It took Ken a few shots to learn how to use the plow but he has gotten much quicker with it. The day I tromped out to get the pictures of the field and treeline, the snow was at least 15 inches deep in places although there were places I got surprised by it being only 6 or 7 inches deep.
The plastic cup of ice has been sitting in the garage since Valentine's Day when we went to Mansfield to see Avatar. I guess when the ice in the cup changes its shape we'll know it's been above 32 degrees.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Not With a Bang...

I've been away from here for a while. On October 1, I sat myself down to produce the ornaments that would get me through the sales season of 2009. Thankfully, I had made some prototypes sometime earlier in the year because leaving only a month to do my production work was crazy. But even then was a little soon for the garden work; we ended up taking huge bags of produce to the local Salvation Army. I continued to make the ornaments through November and most of December, but it was obvious I hadn't done enough. So because it was my last year of production and I had run out of all of the new ornaments, I offered to make anything that was ordered by January 15. That turned out to be 98 ornaments and I finished them this morning, February 7 at 11:03. Which I recorded on this little clock that I've used for the last 20 or so years to measure out my life in little clay hands, and feet and noses. Well, maybe, it's the second clock I've had.
As I worked, I found that I had lost my patience for sitting such long hours and realized that it wasn't a second too soon to be moving on. There was actually quite a bit of whimpering and whining as the jobs seemed to multiply like the fishes and the loaves. And there is still a tentative order for a gingerbread house lingering in the back of my mind. But this morning I feel free to choose how to spend the next 24 hours. And then it's time to start working on my income taxes!!!