Sunday, November 30, 2014

Exhausted but happy!

Been tired and under the weather.  The cats keep accosting me:  head-butting my face, sprawling across my chest, pinning down my arms, thus leading me to use my Google-Fu to research such topics such as "can cats detect illness?"  and other related queries.  There must be something wrong with me.  I'll add it to the list.  This long weekend was productive and relaxing at the same time.  I created and viewed my own British historical drama marathon and spun 4 bobbins of yarn for the yarn-eating Whippoorwill shawl, wound two balls off the bobbin of Loop striping roving for an as yet unplanned Granny Square afghan, (and decided that henceforth, all Loop roving will be for the granny square gingerbread afghan.  Did I say it was unplanned?  Maybe loosely planned is a better descriptor...)

I also have officially decided to pursue the HGA's Certificate of Excellence, Level I.  I figure it will challenge me outside of my spinning comfort zone, while doubling to hone my writing skills.  Boo-yah! Two-in-one goal!  Score!

Lastly, I've submitted some article proposals to a magazine and am waiting with great anticipation for a response.  Looking forward to 2015, the year of 2 published articles! In the meantime, I'm going to take a community college journalism course to brush up on my writing and get some insight to the business side of things.  This has been an awesome year :D

Saturday, November 29, 2014

In the interest of a side career...

Now that I'm a fancy shmancy published author, (Fall 2014 Issue of Ply), I am excited to start working on my writing so I can get more paid gigs.  This was very exciting .  My aspirations are to write everyday starting now.  Be prepared, dear readers, for an onslaught of writing.  My hope is that through daily exercise, I can hone my skills and become the author I've dreamed of.

Ever since I was a child, I knew I would be a published author.  I didn't know what I would write, but with all my heart, I know it's in there. Because I am a teacher, avid hobbyist, and cook, I always thought it would be a cookbook, crafting book, or book of poetry.  I have a flair for writing about mundane things, such as my previous entry "Ode to an Orifice Reducer."  I also authored the classic three-page short story, "Death of a Purple Pen," chronicling the death of the aforementioned favorite pen while attending High School.

Knit Purl (loosely based on the sonnet form)

Knit purl purl, knit purl purl, knit purl purl, knit.
Purl knit knit, purl knit knit, purl knit knit, purl.
Knit purl purl, knit purl purl, knit purl purl, knit.
Purl knit knit, purl knit knit, purl knit knit, purl.

Slip one, knit one, pass the slipped stitch over.
Knit two together, knit two together.
Slip one, knit one, pass the slipped stitch over.
Knit two together, knit two together.

Knit two, yarn over, knit one through back loop,
Work in pattern stitch for the next two rows.
Knit two, yarn over, knit one through back loop,
Work in pattern stitch for the next two rows.

Knit two, yarn over, purl to the last stitch.
Knit two, yarn over, purl to the last stitch.

Happy Jammy Day!

I officially declare today Jammy Day, an offshoot of Buy Nothing Day in protest of Black Friday.  Suffice to say, I will not be shopping in my jammies.  Just staying at home, watching rom-coms and dance movies, spinning the yarn I swore I would spin all this past year, and planning my homemade prezzies.  I am still happily in my jammies, and I have two new skeins of yarn, even though I haven't bought anything or left the house.  I am proud.  My Whippoorwill shawl, a.k.a. yarn eater, which started out as a Verb For Keeping Warm fiber club stash-buster, has turned into the "How can I keep dyeing  yarn to look like AVFKW so I can continue to knit this blanket shawl?"  These last 10 oz have been quite successful.  If I can get my steamer to work, I will steam, ball and get back to knitting.

Also, I fixed my drum carder belt, a cautionary tale to those who don't mind the advice to keep the belt off when not using for extended periods of time.  Had to cut out a section and re-fuse it to tighten it up.  Now I'm ready to re-card Guilia and get back on track with that program.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Due to hubby's latest schedule, I've been in bed by 8 and up at 4.  I hate it.  He hates it more.  That being said, it worked to our benefit today, as I had turkey parts for gravy in the oven, roasting lazily away, soup/stock on the stove slowly coming up to a simmer,  mirepoix for the soup, stuffing, and gravy, made pan-fried shredded Brussels sprouts with balsamic and Parmesan, and one lone sweet potato for me.  Hubby started the charcoal for our smoked turkey breast, and I soaked some apple and hickory chips for some delicious smoke flavor.  The gravy is going to be insane!  He butchered the thawed turkey last night and broke it down like this: breast and separated drumsticks for smoking, wings and misc. for soup, backbone and leftover carcass for soup/stock.  We rubbed it with a herb salt mix and olive oil, then stuffed some rosemary sprigs under the skin.  The dripping pan has some more mirepoix and rosemary to add flavor from steam underneath.

So every year, my family makes turkey soup on Thanksgiving morning with packaged turkey parts.  It's pretty simple.  Water + Turkey+Mire Poix+Rice.  Cook until rice looks like star pasta.  Even though they don't make a fancy stock or take heed of formal soup rules, we fight over the leftovers.  With a 28 pound turkey, we knew we had to come up with a game plan.  It wouldn't fit in the fridge that well, nor in the grill, or in the oven as is.  So the soup/stock is on the stove.  I will cook it for a few hours with pepper, allspice, bay leaves, and mirepoix, then strain out everything, pick out the meat, and throw in the veg/rice/shredded meat and cook it again till it's ready to serve.  So hungry.  Why does Thanksgiving have to be about dinner?  I propose Thanksgiving breakfast next year, lol.

For sides, I also made maple butternut squash with sunflower seeds and mixed dried berries, have to make some cornbread stuffing, gravy, and roasted corn pudding.  Can't wait to take pics of dinner!

Wishing you all a bountiful and lovely Thanksgiving :D

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ode to an Orifice Reducer

The reason I wrote the previous poem is because I had to clean up the crap to find my missing orifice reducer.  I was not successful. I'm sure I will find it once the new one arrives.

Ode to an Orifice Reducer

Oh orifice reducer, where hast thou gone?
Deep into the depths of the craft room,
Or lost on a voyage?

Prey to feline antics and under the fridge
Or playing peek-a-boo just beyond my field?

I long for the days we were together,
Happily supporting my wee flyer.
Whilst others jest at thy small bobbin capacity,
We managed to spin and ply myriad yarns.

Though I am in need of a replacement,
None will really take the place of you, happily
Heralding me into the time of the Jumbo Flyer,

We comfortably switched to and fro,
Crafting art yarns for display, and
Frog hair for lace.
From rough and lustrous longwool locks,
To camel silk bliss.

I will miss you orifice reducer.
Onward to send off for another like you,
Plastic and round,
Exorbitantly priced with added shipping.

Hot Mess!

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and all through the house,
A yarn-bomb went off, even catching the spouse!
(He's wearing his new llama hat today :D)

Yards of wooley stuff stuck in the bags and the bins,
The cracks and the crevices,
The frowns and the grins.

I sat on the floor to make sense of this thing,
All fleece and roving,
Some natural with bling.

On spindles, on bobbins,
All loose and together,
I racked my brain to organize this endeavor.

Here's the problem I thought,
I have too much stuff.
I need to go through it,
It can't be that tough.

But alas, I'm still here,
And it's hours later.
Grand piles still dotting
The ground-zero crater.

I want to hang up my mitts in defeat,
The fingerless ones from the test pattern, (sweet!)

How on earth did I get here?
Stockpiling the fiber?
Could it be that I was a dyed roving subscriber...

As I sit here, procrastinating and typing this poem,
I realize


Monday, November 24, 2014


I wrote a lovely post about being thankful in my new iphone blogger app while taking my scorching morning bath, but alas, have lost the thing, having temporarily switched apps to research prices on Weber Ranch grills.  I kept waiting for it to say something like, "Have you lost something?" but alas, no such luck.  In case you must know, the Weber Ranch model averages $1300.  So, here we go.  Thankful.  Take 2.

My husband, ever the thrifty carnivore, took it upon himself to rummage through the Publix frozen turkey bin, where he found lurking at the very bottom of the freezer, a 28 pound turkey that some poor slob probably had the foresight to hide, but not to purchase.  If this person is you, dear reader, my apologies that you will have to buy two turkeys instead of one to feed the onslaught of siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins that will descend upon your home this Thursday.  My husband and I will be eating your turkey this day.  And the next, and the next, and the next...

That being said, I would like to share some things I am thankful for this year:

  • Family, Friends, and Pets
You are responsible for keeping my sanity, loving and supporting me, and I thank you all for that.  We couldn't have made it to year 2 without you.

  • Big Backyard
It seems funny that a backyard can change someone's life so much.  Over the year, we have acquired scrap wood, power tools, and a few gardens, along with lots of wildlife.  We are thankful that we can barbecue without climbing out the window, that there are always animal antics for entertainment, that I have a lovely herb garden to enhance my culinary creations and can have roasted marshmallows around the firepit whenever we want.  

  • Jobs
All jobs have their issues, but we're happy to have them.  Thank you full-time work with benefits and teacher raises.  Amen and hallelujah. 

So because we have this behemoth of a turkey, I've made the executive decision to spatchcock the sucker.
Not entirely sure it will even fit in a home oven, I'm sure we'll figure it out.  There is some thought to throwing it on the Weber 22", however, it may be too big for indirect heat, hence the Weber Ranch research.  That thing is 42".  It can fit a whole pig, if you're inclined to do such.  I'm sure my husband is.  I see the Weber Ranch in our distant future.  Or a reclaimed concrete block fire pit with scavenged grates.

Well, now I'm seriously procrastinating going to work.  It's only two days, I keep telling myself.  Just get through these two days, and December will FLY by.  Signing off :D

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Extending the season, or F*#$ You Mother Nature!

Hi!  Two posts in one day may help make up for my lack of posting.  So...I've had it in my head to make a greenhousey thing and overwinter my tender plants, as well as just see what happens.  We supposedly have mild winters, though there are some weeks that range in the 0-10 degree zone overnight and into late morning.  I'm experimenting with a hoop house to help extend the season.

After pinning a gazillion greenhouses I wish I could build, I settled on the inexpensive, easy to construct, relocatable PVC pipe low tunnel.  I wish it were high tunnel, but maybe we can call it little people tunnel?  If it works out this year, I'll get proper greenhouse plastic and improve the design.  For now I have a shanty greenhouse.  It's all good.


Five 10 ft x 1/2 in PVC pipe
Gorilla tape
C-clamp things you find in the electrical conduit aisle
Exterior screws
3.5 mil plastic dropcloth 10 ft x 25 ft
2 1 x 1 8 ft long wood pieces
large binder clips

Electric drill w/ phillips head and drill bit for pilot holes
Hacksaw for PVC pipes
Scissors for plastic
Staple gun

Pretty self explanatory.  Drill the c-clamp things into the bed walls.  My beds are 4 x 4 so I did two hoops on each bed.  Then I Gorilla taped the top beam to all the hoops.  Because my beds are not parallel (in response to the path of the sun) I just cut the top beam in half and taped them separately.  I latched the crossbeam on the back bed to the hoop on the front bed just to provide extra support.  Next week I will staple the bottom of the plastic to either lathing strips or 1 x 1s, to keep the plastic from gusting up and being all drafty.  Then, theoretically, I can roll up one side or another.  Still trying to figure out if I want to attempt doors.  Maybe next week.



At the end of the rainbow

Happy November!  It's been a while since I've updated about my garden.  I think I even had a draft saved in here somewhere, but as the season has been winding down, and at the urging of my plant mentor, Steve, I've decided to contemplate the years' successes and findings.

Warning: this is prolly gonna be a little long and boring.  I'll try to make it brief and interesting, lol.

In the beginning of the season, I felt like I was at the beginning of a rainbow, and that all summer long, I'd ride the colored arch until I reached the cornucopia of plenty residing at the end.  Well, I've fallen into that woven symbol of bounty, and though it's not quite full of Thanksgiving vegetables, it's full of experience and lessons learned (and one cute pumpkin).

Plants start with soil.  The first beds I made with municipal compost, bagged garden soil, and sand.
The problem: 
I didn't realize that municipal compost is mostly wood products, and thus needs an additional source of nitrogen.  It became apparent with my dwarf nasturtium and basil plants that there are some serious deficiencies in my garden beds.   I made a bin of leaf mold, which broke down nicely, even without mulching first.  Also, the network of oak and elm roots have started invading my nice beds.  Not sure what to do about that except spade down the edges to slow their growth?

The solution:
I used the leaf mold to amend the beds, as well as a few bins of alpaca manure I procured during a farm spinning demo.  Also, I've planted rye and vetch for a living mulch over the winter.  I will weed whack it down a month before planting, and leave the roots intact to rot and keep the soil structure intact.  My plan is to soil test and add blood meal.  And I've been adding wood ash sparingly.  Also, the large areas under the trees which were bare dirt and roots that I covered in leaves is resulting in some nice humus under the mulch.  I learned you can never have too many leaves.  Planning to make at least two bins of leaf mold.  I also started a compost pile and have plans to make a plastic garbage pail one to help conserve heat during the winter.  Lastly, I might add a straw bale garden if I can get the truck running again and find a cheap, local source.

I was really happy with where I situated the garden beds and herb circle.  They received adequate sunlight, and the herb circle was happy with partial sun.

The problem:
Water was a bit of a challenge moving into the summer months.  There was a brief period of time, when faced with the reality that something was seriously amiss with the soil situation, where I neglected watering and murdered a few plants.  Sorry lavender, rosemary, peanut butter plant and peony.  :(  Earlier in the season, I only used a hose with a hand attachment.  Later on, I was able to purchase a four head adapter and connect a soaker hose for the vegetable bed.  This was very helpful, except the time I left it on for 8 hours and my water bill was astronomical.  Oops.  Then there is the outdoor sink.  It still isn't plumbed, so I'd like to find the right fittings and get it up and running for next year.
The solution:
Next year I will set up a container irrigation system.  Also, I will get a timer for the hoses so I won't have those issues.  There is a possibility I will set up some kind of rainwater collection system, however, my rented roof has no gutters, and I'm still exploring some possibilities.

Mostly, I didn't have too much issue with the temperatures.  It was hotter than a hootenanny this summer, but aside from my watering issues, nothing did so terrible due to heat or cold.  I was saddened that my tomatoes came so late in the season, but feel it has more to do with the soil issues and the fact the first frost was a little late this year.  My remedy for this is a hoop house currently under construction to extend the late and early season. I also will make a cover for my salad table.  It needs chicken wire to prevent squirrels from digging holes (wasn't the black walnut offering enough?  Gah!)  and some plastic to help insulate.  Not sure about insulating the roots.  Will think about that.

The Plant List

Edible flowers:  These did not go so well.  Though I had seeds for different edible flowers, and some did bloom, they did not take off as I had hoped.  I blame lack of nitrogen.  I will try again next year.

Herbs:  The grand prize winner.  I had copious amounts of dill, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, lemon balm, horehound, basil, parsley, sage, and a few alpine strawberries.  The strawberries died in a strange fashion, one plant after the other within a few weeks time.  Not sure why.  Lemon balm took over, and I learned I only need one lemon balm plant.  Culantro and cilantro failed.  Murdered my container banana mint, and waiting to see if the chocolate mint will spread along the back fence.  So far, it's not too happy.  The mint seeds I sowed in the alcove didn't germinate at all.  :(

I have two oakleaf hydrangeas that took hold.  Not entirely happy, but alive.  Not sure how much growth they should have while getting established.  The buttonbush and beauty berry did well.  Can't find my chickasaw plums or hazelnuts.  Also weed wacked the blueberry on accident.  I thought the container peony had died, but just found it had some growth so soaking it to rehydrate the soil and see if it's back in business. Foxglove, comfrey and daylilies came back, too.  I also have malabar spinach, kefir lime, and fig to put in the hoophouse.  Still building the soil for more perennials.

Well, truth be told we don't have grass.  We have a mixed plot of weeds.  I had gotten a push mower, but it's not capable of mowing weeds that are too tall.  The solution was a high schooler looking for work on his bike.  He mows the lawn for us now.  Wish I could call him and see if he wants to add leaf wrangler to his resume.  Next year I'm planting a shitload of white dutch clover and calling it a day.

Well, the vegetable garden did give up some bounty, but nowhere near optimal yield.  All the plants were small, even the large, indeterminate tomatoes should have been larger.  Tomatoes did not grow big, but stayed tennis ball sized or smaller.  One did not produce fruit.  We got one pumpkin.  She is the crown jewel of the harvest.  A few cucumbers, some small jalapenos, 2 golf ball sized watermelons.  All in all, a sad affair.  The saddest was the cauliflower.  It actually was growing until cabbage worms invaded when I was in NY for a week.  Hubby doesn't garden, and when I came back, they were decimated.  One is still trying to survive.  I'm going to keep it in the hoop house and see what happened.

My mind is exhausted.  I have only eaten two hershey bars today and it's 2:11.  Methinks I'll eat something now and save my tool/project review and plans for next year for another post or two.  Happy gardening!

blog template by