Friday, 30 September 2011

Gardener's Horror Movie?

Picture this: You're driving along across the Prairies on a lovely day, admiring the miles of crops spread out around you. Wheatfields in 'amber waves of grain'. Canola in sulfur yellow blossom. And what's that green field coming up? Not corn, or soybean, it's....( duh duh dum) spearmint! And the soft green down the road is dill! Hundreds of acres of mint and dill!

Not seeing where the horror comes in? Mint (and a number of it's relatives) are very good at spreading via runners. On the ground, under the ground...most gardeners who have experience with it either put it away by itself somewhere, or put it in pots. Dill doesn't do the runners, but it reseeds very easily. At my parent's, the dill has not had to be deliberately replanted in years. Mostly the idea is to simply remove it from all but a small fraction of the garden every spring, using the removed plants for fresh dillweed, and let some of the stalks grow for dillseed in the remaining patch. Always, some of the seedheads drop seeds, and we're ready to start over the next year.

Don't worry, I don't think they're taking over the world yet. But these huge field of herbs do exist. I was talking to someone who grows them, they go for things like essential oils - and you know mint is in a lot of things as flavoring! So I suppose if I had ever thought about it, I would have realized that there must be equivalents of the picturesque fields of lavender for other herbs grown for scent and flavor. But quite frankly, the idea of hundreds of acres of mint was novel. And scary. And I shall be remembering it every time I open the toothpaste tube. I raise my toothpaste in a salute to the growers, people brave enough to wrangle and control that green tide of herbs, that we may have flavoring.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Meeting of (Creative) Minds

After the frost scare the other week, the weather has returned to bright, warm, and summery. Which made it a great day last Sunday to get out and take in a bit of the West End Studio Tour going on last weekend.

Meredith was the one who told me about it. She's been a friend of the family for eons - her son is the same age as my brother - and she not only has a lovely beading store , she has the same cooking/gardening/creative itch Mom and I have, and has been doing some fiber art in recent years. Turns out a friend of hers, Wendy , who's also a fiber artist, was taking part in the studio tour, and since Wendy has been getting into natural dyeing, and I do some natural dyeing...well, what a perfect excuse to get together, have lunch, catch up, meet Wendy (and her husband, who does metalwork), take in a few other studios, and generally make an afternoon of it! So we did.

We saw the studio of a wood-block printer, took in the works of a doll-maker, a painter, and a jewelry maker. Meredith also got to see the works of a few other artists who were in the same space as Wendy and her husband, which I didn't, because we were discussing dyes. Turns out what she and I have done is almost completely complementary - I've been doing mostly immersion dyeing on wool and a bit of cotton, whereas she has been doing eco-prints on silk and linen, and getting some stunning results. She has some photos on her blog , but they don't do the colors justice. I've been a little dubious about the eco-printing, but now I'm inspired.

We were tearing ourselves away, and I was thinking how Deb P would have enjoyed it, being as she's a printmaker artist and is part of our fleece spa spinning and dyeing group, and the one who ordered and researched the Japanese indigo we tried this year...when lo and behold, she and her husband came in. So hopefully she had as good a time talking with Wendy as I did. Meredith and I headed off after the introductions to make our other stops.

It was a lovely full afternoon, enough that although I could have caught part of my usual Sunday afternoon knitting group, I was happy enough to go home instead, have a cuppa, and let impressions percolate.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

That Voice in Your Head

You know, the one that says things like, "Maybe you should take an umbrella today" or "Better check so-and-so's plans first" or "It's a bit chilly, should I cover the tomatoes?". And then if you don't obey it, it will rain, or your plans will get otherwise messed up...

I had the felted slippers I made and was planning to use for a baby shower gift sitting in plain view for months. And a few times I looked at them and thought, "I really should measure those, they look a little big." You know where this is going, right?

I got around to measuring 3 days before the shower. 5 inches long. I dug out the pattern and checked dimensions. 3.5-4 inches long for the larger size. Why on earth had I not checked this, oh, say, when I was doing the felting? And how did I manage to get a degree in science without learning to check things like this?

Ensuing activities as follows: Hunt through baby patterns in binder, select bootie pattern. Rummage frantically in stash for yarn, maybe a bit larger than called for, as pattern was for newborn. Knit half a bootie and rip out after discovering that it was coming out almost as big as the slippers. Drop down to the needle and yarn size in the pattern (yes, people put information like needle and yarn size in patterns for a reason, apparently). Knit frantically on now properly sized booties in spare time, on work breaks, etc. Finish, photograph, and wrap booties the morning of the shower.

And now back to the regularly scheduled knitting.

Oh, and the shower was lovely. A small group, as several people came down sick and couldn't come, but good food, good company, knitting time, and a couple of cats coming out to say hello. Can't ask for better, really, and sure beats playing odd games involving clothespins or diapers and melted chocolate bars.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A Farewell

I remember one the old names for asters was 'farewell-summers'. Of a sudden, they are out in all their glory, and the bees are scrambling all over them, and over the Autumn Joy sedum, and any other flowers they can find, storing up a last bit of their harvest before the cold.

And cold it is getting. Not today, it was beautiful. But more than once the past week the wind has been decidedly chill, even on a sunny day. It was sufficiently cold to see my breath one night, so I covered the tomatoes, to be on the safe side. More covering required for the human also - my duvet has been unfolded and in use for a few nights.

I am sure that there are many nice days ahead before winter, crisp fall days with bright sun, scented with fallen apples and dried leaves. But the asters have hit the mark. Farewell summer - not good-bye, but au revoir, until we see you next year.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Weekend Fiber Fun

I managed to get to the Metcalfe market Saturday to participate in the spinning demo, thanks to a ride from Karen. Really couldn't have asked for a better time. A sunny day, not too hot. A range of vendors selling everything from soap to vegetables to tea cozies to coffee in the booths outside and inside the hall.

Karen's husband got distracted before we got to our location, and purchased us home-baked pastries from one vendor, which made a lovely snack. We found our corner, on a bit of a platform next to a bit of a cafe, so there was coffee to go with the pastries. Merilyn and Elisabeth, two of the Guild members who have booths at the market, had set up an accompanying display of fiber, with an adorable wheel, just my age.

And Merilyn left us a batch of homemade salsa and pita chips for snacking.

 Three more spinners arrived in short order, and the morning went faster than our wheels, between chatting, talking to people, and taking turns to slip off and peruse the vendors. I made one sole purchase, a jar of Merilyn's ground cherry chutney, which I had sampled last year.

Home to the parents' Saturday night, and Sunday was wash day. I got probably a couple sheep's worth of fleece washed and spread to dry. Kiki was obliging enough to help keep it from blowing away.

Black and grey fleece is from a neighbor, Anouk. Not sure what breed it is, but I had three fleeces from her, two grey and a black, not very fine, but decent wool. Wanting to do a couple dyebaths, I washed some white I picked out of a Jacob fleece as well. The yellow in the pic is from coreopsis I had in the freezer. I seem to lose the orange when I use the frozen flowers, but it does give a lovely gold. It was more intense on the yarn I dyed at the same time.

The other two skeins are from Japanese indigo, and buckthorn berries. Gorgeous together, no? I was so happy the japanese indigo worked this time (got the instructions, in writing, from DebP, who ordered the seeds originally, and followed it as close as I could), and I got a paler sky-blue with it on some fleece as well. The berries didn't come out as dark as I hoped, but Mom is already planning a project with the results...

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Little Things

While I've been taking the sweater in progress about and working on it, I've been squeezing a few little things in on the side.
Saw some cute scrap yarn crocheted coasters at our hostess' when we were indigo dyeing the other week, and had to try working that out - such a great use for odds and ends. Mine are a variegated handspun so they look scrappier than they are, and I crocheted two layers together back to back. Serious fun and the perfect mindless thing to do watching TV or chatting.

Then I knitted two cup cozies for a girl at work to choose from; this one, and a purple one with a braided cable wrapped around, which she chose.

And I remembered I have to get some bits done for making cards for the Guild Sale in the fall. The cards have been here all summer, and I haven't touched them. So I did a bit of entrelac with plant-dyed handspun scraps (bedstraw, nettle, and onion), and a bit of tatting.

Rather fun having such a variety. There's two cards left, so perhaps some felting is in order...

Monday, 5 September 2011

One of Those Days

Every now and then, a day turns up when it feels like there might be something to the idea of getting up on the wrong side of the bed, or the stars being misaligned, or what have you. A whole extra day off today, and I feel like nothing's been accomplished. Not that anything major has gone wrong, it's just that you do have to wonder when a whole handful of small annoyances show up in one day.

I headed for the internet this morning, to get a few things done, and my computer informed me I wasn't connected to the net. This despite the fact that it was working fine last night. It's back now, but whether it was an intermittent glitch elsewhere, or something I fixed when checking cables I don't know. Either way, it took most of the day to get it back.

The timer on my stove has decided to start ticking and won't stop except when I loosen the oven fuse. It's done the ticking thing before, but usually I can convince it to stop within a few minutes without resorting to such extreme measures. Not today, it seems.

So with the stove timer disconnected and the Internet not available, I sat down to work on Jen's sweater. Second half of the front was coming nicely, I finished the waist decreases - and came to the realization that I should have started putting the buttonholes in a few inches ago. Frogged 3/4 of that piece, added the first buttonhole, and thought perhaps something simple, in the way of instant gratification, might be nice today, and I knew just the thing.

I had suggested making a cup sleeve for one of the girls I work with, so she didn't have to get an extra cup every day, since the place she was going didn't have the little cardboard sleeves for the coffee cups. Poked through my little balls of scrap, and prepared to do a quick bit of knitting while watching a movie.
Wouldn't you know it, it took me three tries to get the right number of stitches to fit the cup. Then I misread the stitch pattern I was trying, and had to restart. And then...casting off, I was short a foot or two of yarn. Well, I put that aside, and cast on for a plain garter stitch piece, to be worked side to side and sewn into a ring for the cupholder. Because obviously anything more complicated is asking for trouble today.

I was going to put the spaghetti sauce I canned away in the storage room today, but I think it will wait till tomorrow. At this rate, it is entirely likely I would drop it, or the shelf would destabilize, or something. No sense tempting fate.  

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Saturday Dye Party

I was so ready for this weekend to arrive. Three whole days off, meaning a chance to catch up on things at home, and Saturday spent playing with fiber and eating good food with the Fleece Spa gang. I haven't had a chance this summer to go play in the dyepots as often as last year, and it was a great day for it - hot, but the predicted rain and thunder held off until night. We went picking berries and plants down the trail nearby first off, so we could get things simmering, and then move out of the heat and into the cool of the house. It's always an adventure, seeing what the results will be. Some failures, some successes, and yesterday we had both. I rather like the palette I came home with, though. I had very little in the stash to dye, so I grabbed some of the roving I had from Meredith, a coarser, tweeded wool. It dyed up pretty well, and didn't felt much in the process, so a good choice.

What's in there? Well, center is the original undyed color, for reference. Top left: berries with alum/CoT. They're probably either buckthorn or serviceberry, based on the hunting we did last year to find out what they were. Something related to wild cherry, anyway. Black berries that stain your hand purple, dyebath looks purple but rinses green, tests showed it shifts more olive with light exposure, but a definite success and a gorgeous color anyway. On Julie's cotton it was doing pretty well also, only coming out a bit greyer. Top right: red cabbage, alum/CoT, pomegranate powder added later. We were hoping to get something out of the red cabbage Deb had in the fridge, but even though the bath was a lovely purple, none of it stuck. So we added the pomegranate powder to see if it would help, and the result was as you see. Beige, a bit greeny, not very impressive, but it works well with the rest. Bottom right: Jewelweed (wild impatien) plants, alum and CoT. A lovely strong bath, we had a pretty good amount of wool in there, and the color on all of it was bright. My roving was uniformly gold, but some of the fleece dyed had peachier and yellower variegation which was gorgeous. I think I am going to have to take a run down at the parents' to where I know we used to have some jewelweed and see about more dyeing with it. Bottom left: Ice blue Kool-Aid. It and the gold are a little brighter in real life. Not precisely natural, I agree, but a pretty result. It was made up to test on some cotton Julie brought, and when it didn't want to stick to that, rather than waste it, I put my roving in.  This meant I didn't have anything left for the ivy bath which got done later, but since that came out as a pale clear yellow rather than the green described in the book, I don't feel too bad about that.
I'm looking at the colors now and thinking that colorwork of some kind is definitely called for. Mittens? Sweater with colored yoke? I've tons of the undyed roving left...and plenty of time to think about it, I suspect, before I catch up with everything else I should do first!