MuddyFingersMeg

Eat, drink, (garden, knit, quilt, think, fix, read) & be merry

2012 in partial review.

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Blueberry picking in July.  Life doesn’t get much better.

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I shook hands with Bill Ny*e!

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I gave up growing carrots because of root knot nematodes (which result in carrots like those above)

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But then I accidentally grew these.  Aren’t they gorgeous?

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We went to Red*wood National Park.  This fulfilled a childhood dream.  Amazing.

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It was the Year of the Fruit in my garden.  70+ lbs of strawberries, rivers of raspberries, and even some blueberries (but those ones at the top were picked at a PYO farm)

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Diablo cosmos stole the garden show this year.  The bees loved them, as did I.

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A childhood friend got married and had a potluck reception.  I adore potluck receptions.  YUMMY.  I made this lovely fruit salad with heart-shaped watermelon slices and edible flowers from my garden.

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I finally graduated from college!

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I did this at a county fair.  No regrets.

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I learned how to make bath bombs.  And bath salts (not the scary kind).  And body butter.  It’s been a good year in the homemade cosmetics department.

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My soybeans nodulated beautifully.  Lots o’ nitrogen fixing going on in those bumps (a non-nitrogen fixing plant shown for comparison above).

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The garden.

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Sorry for the crummy photo.  It’s dark.  Anyway, I’ve been experimenting with various terrariums.  They’re much more aesthetically appealing in real life.  Promise.

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I ruthlessly battled japanese beetles.  They loved my roses, and demolished the flowers before the buds even opened.  Sigh.

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Ellie and I did a lot of knitting.  And she developed some very expensive health problems (entirely unrelated to the knitting).  Fortunately, they seem to be under control and the medication itself is very affordable.

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We did a great deal of cooking, baking, and eating.  These cuties are homemade ice cream sandwiches made to commemorate P’s 31st birthday.  One is chocolate basil and the other is coffee chocolate.  SO GOOD.

Raptor Release

Raptor Release

We attended a raptor release this fall.  Several hawks, two bald eagles, a peregrine falcon and other rehabilitated birds were released to the skies.  A very moving event.

We also remodeled our bathroom, I started grad school, and we traveled to Mexico and the Redwoods.  But this is a start.  Cheers, friends!  I hope to be back several more times before school resumes in early January.

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Toad Lily

My wild toad lily is blooming!  The blade-like foliage and the quirky, orange-red blooms make this one of my favorite plants in the garden.  It’s in fairly heavy shade and and it’s not getting quite enough sun.  It leans waaaaaay over the sidewalk reaching for those morning rays.  So next year I’ll try and find a more dappled location where it’ll be a little happier.

 
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Berries and Bombs

Remember when the strawberry patch looked like this?

I finally did a little rejuvenation and it looks much tidier, don’t you think?

Strawberries spread aggressively by stolons and they will take over if they’re not regularly thinned.  They also don’t produce as well when they’re over crowded.  Don’t be shy when thinning, be ruthless.  They’ll fill back in… and then some.  Believe it or not, I started this patch with just four crowns two years ago.  Last year I pulled out nearly 100 extra plants and I didn’t even bother to count this year.  But it was a lot!

Now that strawberry season is over, the raspberries are coming in.  I like strawberries but I love raspberries.  My dad used to take me out to pick wild raspberries and sitting on the soft earth with the sun at my back, smelling ripe raspberries is one of the purest pleasures in life.  Most of these don’t even make it into the house.

And I made lavender bath fizzies using this recipe.  Swoon.  What’s that?  It’s summer, you say?  Well, our (only) bathroom is under construction and we can only take baths.  So these will probably be used up in no time flat.  They’re ridiculously simple, however, and I will be making more.  I suggest you do, too!

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Catch-Up

Hi Friends,

I’ve been off both school and most work for the past three weeks.  It’s been positively lovely.  I realize this is probably the last time before I retire that I can simply hang out at home without worrying about work or school.  I’ve been busy cleaning, crafting, gardening and relaxing.  Here are some snippets of what I’ve been up to.

Strawberry and Lavender.  

The strawberries have been incredible this year.  I estimate I’ve harvested 30-40 lbs so far, with more coming in each day.  I’ve made parfaits, shortcake, tarts, strawberry lemonade, dried strawberries, frozen strawberries, smoothies… the list goes on.  I’ve been pawning them off on the neighbors and anyone who happens to stop by.  It’s getting a little exhausting, truth be told, but I can’t complain.  It’s the first “bumper crop” since I started my garden here and it’s a real joy.

The lavender has also done well this year.  I snip all ripe buds each evening and dry them.  I tuck them into my drawers, between my sweaters, and set some aside to cook with during the year.  Lavender ice cream or hot chocolate anyone?

I used this strawberry tart recipe and, boy, it was good.  Bake it for a crowd, though, because it’s probably the richest dessert I’ve ever made. 

I have three strawberries patches and this is the largest.  As you can see it’s taking over the garden.  It’s due for a massive  hacking back rejuvenation, which it will receive once it finishes fruiting.

The yellow lilies are blooming.

As is the ‘Coral Cove’ rose.  When the weather heats up the fragrance wafts over most of the yard! 

This is the second nest of baby bunnies in my veggie garden this year.  I ran off the first batch, but these little guys don’t even have their eyes open yet.  I believe in dispatching with them humanely, but sometimes I melt from the cuteness and just leave them be.  I’ll regret it later, but right now it’s fun to head out and pet their fuzzy warmth.

Other garden delights are coming in, including the peas, garlic scapes, greens, and herbs.

Oodles of queen bumblebees frequent the garden and they particularly love the blooming comfrey.  One of the bees is nearly as big as my thumb.  They’re working frantically to set up their nests and then they’ll incubate their brood.  Once the first workers hatch out, the queen will stay in the nest, but the only bumblebees out right now are queens.

The Oenothera is blooming.  The tag says it’s suppose to be fragrant, but I detect nothing.  Do you have evening primroses?  Are yours fragrant? 

This morning I caught the beaded moisture on the edges of the Achemilla.  It looks like dew, but it’s actually the result of “guttation” where the water pressure builds at night and pushes out through the edges of the leaf.  Cool, eh?

Pretty blue delphinium.

I think the open mouth of the penstemon flower looks like a roaring lion, complete with dangling fangs.  

Of course, there has been a bit of knitting.  After 18 months, I finished up the cabled sampler blanket.  In the end it ate up 24 skeins totaling nearly 5.5 lbs and 2 miles of yarn.  It’s going to be so nice next winter.  Until then, it’ll look nice living on our couch.  Ellie (the cat) has already laid a claim to its’ cushy warmth.

The peach tree has grown like a weed and put on a nice crop of fruit.  The fruits are about the size of a walnut.  I’m noticing some damage which I think is from the plum curculio.  Next year I’ll be ready the bag the baby fruits.

And I’ll leave you with a sweet picture of some Siberian Iris blooms.  I hope to be back again before school starts on Monday!

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Procrastinating

Hi friends!  Classes are over and finals start on Monday.  Blogging is such a great way to avoid studying.  ha!

The garden is going gangbusters after a very early spring.  So it’s time for the annual spring-has-sprung update, complete with loads of photos.  This is the first year I’ve had a perennial garden that has “leaped” and it’s so fun to watch.

Lupine.  The flowers on this are pretty, but I really love the palmate leaves.  They look so exotic and tropical in my midwestern garden.

I’ve been trying to establish low-growing Dutch clover in our lawn to help smother annual weeds like crabgrass and to provide a nitrogen-fixing service.  It’s finally coming in thick in several places.  I know some people consider clover a weed, but I don’t.  It’s pretty, soft to walk on, and it means I don’t need to fertilize my lawn as much! 

Our shittake logs have been fruiting like crazy with all the rain.  We harvested 1+ pounds already and they’re ready to pop again.  SO YUMMY!

Forget-me-nots.  These are one of my favorite spring ephemerals.  I let them go to seed every year and they always pop up for a bright splash of spring color.

Japanese Painted Ferns.  These have been oh-so-slow to establish but they’re finally looking robust and beautiful.  Love these plants so much.

I know they can be overplayed and boring, but I do love hostas, especially the varieties with hints of blue-green.

A very early spring brings with it the near certain promise of late frost damage.  Here’s a strawberry flower (with black center) that suffered from a spring frost.  Fortunately, most of my strawberries are blooming now, so I hope we’re in the clear.  

My violas came back!  How I love these sweet, edible flowers.

I’ve always had terrible luck with spinach.  This year I bought new seed, put down some pelleted compost, and have been occasionally foliar feeding with fish emulsion.  Look at those lush leaves!  The rabbits have been sharing in the harvest, but at least I am, too!

Speaking of rabbits, Here’s the set-up to protect the peas and brassicas from rabbits and cut-worms.  So far, so good.

Beets!

Braising Mix.  YUM!

Look at that pergola!  P built it last year and this year I get to plant it.  A few divides have already gone in, but I’ve got a nice list for purchases from plant sale fundraisers to fill this out.  Corkscrew willow, russian sage, scented geraniums are on the list.  P put in some hops along the back that will be trellised up to the top.  It’s going to make a lovely space for summer dining.

And I can’t post without some knitting, can I?  Of course not!  This alpaca, woodland shawl is hot-off-the-needles and will be my graduation shawl.  I thought the leaves were fitting for a horticulture major.  😉

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Bucketlist, revisited

I’ve been thinking about my bucketlist lately.  I went back and looked it over and I was (happily) shocked to realize it’s been almost three years since I wrote that post and in that intervening time, I’ve been steadily making progress on each of those items.   A few I can (nearly) check off completely.

I was especially delighted because  I’ve added two items to my list and there is now room to put them without feeling completely overwhelmed.

– Take a botanical illustration class.  I am beyond thrilled because a quick google search reveled a wonderful botanical art school mere miles from my house!  I don’t have much historical precedent as an artist.  In fact, I withdrew from Drawing I my first time through college because I arrived near the end of the semester and hadn’t done most of the work (so unlike me!).  But I find botanical illustrations so lovely and so I’m going to give it another try.  Besides, I think drawing plants is much less intimidating than human subjects.  Plants won’t be offended if their complexion looks drab or I’ve given then a ridiculous nose or an additional thirty pounds.

– Take a class on scientific writing for children.  I’ve long held a pipe dream of writing children’s books.  I recently had a conversation with a professor who writes scientific literature for children in her “spare time.”   Doesn’t that sound like fun?  I want to write accessible books on subjects like honeybees, basic guides to mechanical systems (like bicycles), and I’d love to attempt a series of Dr. Seu*ss style  books that make the terminology of chemistry and biology funny and memorable.  Although I recognize it’s a difficult profession to break into, I’d like to give it a whirl and see what happens.  You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right?

I can’t wait to try these new endevours!  But first I must work on what’s on my to-do list tonight which includes a paper and studying for a lab midterm.  Ciao!

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Fun

So a friend saw my de*ad fish hat and wanted one with a clown fish twist.  It took some frogging, trialing, and re-knitting, but in the end I’m pretty happy with it.  I knit a full-finned tail with some heel stitch ribbing, and added a second dorsal fin.  I’m pretty happy with it overall.  (Although, heavens, you should have seen the ends!  I wove in ends for almost the entire Superbowl.)

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Wooly Wonderfulness

As promised, there’s more stitching to show.

This.  This thing of warmth and beauty.  Last time I put it on the scale, it weighed in at 3+ lbs of wooly warmth.  I really, really wanted to finish it before the end of 2011 (Happy New Year, btw!!) but the blanket is a now a behemoth and the knitting is a bit strenuous.  It wasn’t fun anymore, so I took a break and I’ll tackle those borders a little more slowly this time.  One finished, three to go.

P spoiled me with 100% silk yarn (So unbearably wonderful) for both my birthday and Christmas!  A skein of the birthday yarn was immediately slotted for a growing leaves cowl.  As much as I love all sorts of wools, even baby alpaca and merino irritate my skin, especially my neck.  Oh, I still wear them, but this silk isn’t irritating in the least.

It’s just about finished.  Once it’s done it’s headed for a brilliant blue iDye wash.  I’m hoping the straw colored yarn will come out a handsome green.  We’ll see.

For the Christmas silk, P found 10 (!) skeins of affordable orange silk from a de-stashing woman on et*sy (Isn’t he thoughtful??).  I have enough of this to make something substantial.  I think I need to knit a lovely shawl.  I couldn’t find anything on Ravelry that quite suited my fancy, so I’m going to pick up some stitch pattern books from the library and create my own.

Several months ago I finished the linen washcloth/facetowel travel set.  And then I promptly put the washcloth through the dryer.  Now I have a facecloth and mini-washcloth set.  No matter.  It’ll still get plenty of use!

A friend gave kindly me a gift certificate to my favorite LYS for my birthday.  And then the shop had a holiday 50% off sale for selected merchandise.  I promptly headed over and scooped up these three gorgeous skeins of blue, aran weight, merino wool.  After the sale and the gift certificate, each skein cost me for $1 (normal retail of $13/ea)!  I can’t decide if it wants to become a big, delicious, squishy scarf or a couple of baby sweaters.  Any thoughts?

I still have several blog posts that need to go up – a Christmas recap and my One Little Word for 2012.  We leave early Tuesday morning for a week vacation to the Yucatan, so I’ll try to squeeze them in tomorrow.  If not, I’ll see you in mid-January!

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And now for something a little different

It’s no surprise a lot of knitting goes on around here.  I love knitting because it’s so portable – a few stitches on the bus, before class, while waiting for a doctor – and soon something beautiful arises from those stolen moments.  It took me several years before I was good enough that I actually liked what I made.  Most of my early projects were “frogged” over and over because, in my opinion, they weren’t worthy of existing.

But during break I have time at home which means it’s time to set aside the knitting and pursue the crafts that aren’t as portable.  I love sewing because it’s faster and the possibilities are limitless.  Unfortunately, because I’m less practiced and almost entirely self-taught, I’m not often pleased with the results.  And unlike knitting I can’t just “rip-it, rip-it” and start over.  No sir – once the fabric is cut it’s a done deal, which makes sewing even more intimidating.  But only practice is going to improve my skills, so I’ve spent some hours in front of the machine and here’s what I’ve come up with:

I’ve made two pairs of mittens using this fabulous tutorial.

Here’s P’s pair, made from his favorite sweater that finally got too hole-y to wear.

I lined them with horse print flannel because his name means “lover of horses” which gives us no end of amusement around here.  As a side note – I took scrap pieces of the sweater and needle felted them on the wrong side of the hole-y bits and you’d never know there had been holes if you weren’t looking for them.

I put these in his Christmas stocking and he said that it was one of the best presents he’s ever received – on par with the quilt from his mom and grandma.  🙂

Here’s my pair, made from a thick, felted, thrifted sweater and lined with fabric from XL wool/cashmere pants I once found in a garage sale free pile (score!!)

I needled felted on some fall-colored leaves with green yarn for a stem.  I’m not thrilled with the needle felting job – but every little bit of practice helps, right?

You’d never know from looking at them how many times I ripped sections out to sew them again.  sigh.

I’ve been dabbling a bit in making stuffed animals.  Again, the photo hides it well, but my skills are seriously lacking.  It’s cute, but it’s not what I wanted it to be.  Alas – practice, practice.

I do love this little infant-friendly felted wool tail!

I made this little wristlet using this fantastic tutorial.  It came out so cute!  It’s the first time I’ve inserted a zipper, and I’m very pleased with the results.  This cute little bag will be going with me on vacation next week!

It even has three little pockets on the inside.  If I were to make it again, I’d probably make a pocket on the opposite side to hold my phone.

P and I bought new curtains for our front room to replace the old-lady lacy ones that came with the house.  We ended up with linen I*KEA curtains that you cut to your desired length and then use iron-on fusible web to “hem” them.  As a result we ended up with lots of long, narrow scraps of linen.  I used a few of those scraps to make… napkins!

It’s my first time doing fusible applique so I was just playing around a bit.  I cut the flower and leaves freehand and used cookie cutters to outline the rest.

You can tell from the “Minnesota” napkin that there is a reason the instructions tell you to cut out your images in reverse!  Ooops!

I used this tutorial to make this adorable little fabric basket (how did people learn to craft before the internet and people’s generous tutorials??).

I found one slight error in the tutorial – when you cut the fabric for the lining it says to cut a piece 9 1/4″ x 12″.  That was too small for my basket and I had better luck with a lining that was 10 1/4″ x 12″.  Fold along the 12″ side so the 10 1/4″ sides make the opening.

I think this will live on my nightstand to catch all the little bits that land there – earrings, hairbands, etc.

I’ve still got more knitting to show you, so I’ll be back soon!

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A Few Stitches

December was a whirlwind of knitting and crafting.  I entirely lost track of all the projects, and unfortunately, many of them slipped through my fingers without being photographed.  But they all were finished, blocked, boxed, and gifted.  Most were received with heaps of enthusiasm, which is always both gratifying and surprising.  I’m embarassed to say this, but homemade gifts were… looked down upon when I was little.  But, both times and people change and I’m happy for the opportunity to make things for people who love and use them.

P’s Sweater.  It’s an Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern (Saddle-shouldered) with Kn*itpicks Tweed (70% merino wool, 20% alpaca, 10% acrylic).  If the sleeves hadn’t been too long for me, I may very well have kept it.  It’s so soft and cozy.

P’s hat.  This fall, when I asked him if he wanted a new hat, he said yes.  I was pleasantly surprised when he asked for a hat that was red and cabled!  He typically asks for things that are plain and grey (or black).  It’s a lovely splash of excitement to his wardrobe!  It’s this hat knit up in a merino wool.

This cute little bunny is knit up in a merino wool for a friend’s baby, due in early January.  It’ll soon be gifted with the blanket below.

I do love this baby blanket.  So simple yet so beautiful.

And here is where I’ll sheepishly admit I didn’t get photos of the two mohawk hats I knit for my nephews, the two princess hats (and wands) I made for my nieces, the cute little bear hat for another niece…  I do have a few more items around the house I can still photograph, so I’ll be back for another round soon.

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