Junk walk

Even living next to a junk yard has benefits.

20111002-100759.jpg

20111002-100832.jpg

20111002-100819.jpg

20111002-100845.jpg


Canning the Sun

Yesterday, I preserved myself a bit more summer.

Well, late summer. Harvest time, to be exact.

It was a busy morning, but it ended well, with five pints of applesauce (apples from my mom’s Lodi tree), five pints of pickled green beans (from my garden, improvised recipe, have no idea if they’ll taste any good), one pint of garlic dill pickle spears (garden cukes, unfortunately failed to seal so they’ll be early eaters from the fridge) and a half-pint of pickled jalapeƱos.

sun for winter
The pints of August

Whew. It was a bit of a learning experience, but I think I did pretty well for my first water-bath canning run. Now I have a bunch of jars of stewed and pickled sunshine, waiting for the shorter days when I can pull them out and think of how clever I was.

Also loving the rampant rudbeckia and zealous zinnias, seen in the corner.


It must be August

Because the beans, man, they are producing like it’s the end of days. And I, well I just don’t quite know how I’m going to keep up…

Just now, while the munchkin is napping, I thought “I should probably go pick a few beans” because I haven’t picked the bush beans since the day before yesterday, and at that time I started to notice a few wee ones on the Purple Rattlesnake pole beans. It took about five minutes to fill a 4L basket. I glanced at the lone broccoli plant and saw the green bunches leaning towards blooms so snipped off the little florets for tonight’s dinner. And of course a few Swiss Chard leaves from the thriving 8′ row for my lunch. The cukes I’ve been keeping up with and seem to be between blasts anyways, so I just got the one little mutant that was loitering on the bush, but I did spot 4 or 5 more that are at least double the size they were yesterday and will surely need to be culled tomorrow. The four golden cherry tomatoes didn’t make it back to the house for the photo op. Not sure why. I know I picked them, nestled them in my palm… oh yeah, because they are like CANDY. Mmmm, sweet sweet vegetable (I know, fruit, but it’s not as impressive sounding) candy.

Broccoli and Swiss Chard and Beans, Oh My!

Now the fun part comes; processing the beans. Fortunately freezing beans is pretty quick and easy, the most time-consuming part is trimming them. It’s just that between having to test a website migration, do laundry, research chicken-keeping and, oh yeah, care for a toddler, my free moments are few and fleeting.

But when I think of January, with snow feet deep all around and the days supposedly getting longer but it’s hard to tell, when I’ll be going bonkers because it takes 10 minutes to put on enough clothes to take out the compost, I know I’ll be so glad I scurried now so that I can open the freezer, dump a bag into a steamer and taste the sunshine of August again.


Burning Question.

Husband takes toddler on a run to the store, giving me a 45 minute “break”.

Multiple choice question:
Do I
a) sit back with a glass of wine and that clever book I’ve been wanting to read
b) take a nice relaxing bath
c) call a friend I haven’t seen or talked to for too long for an interruption-free chat
d) plant a shrub, clean the bathroom sink, and write a blog post.

I don’t think I have to tell you the answer to that one…

shrub
The Shrubbery pt. 1: Burning Bush.

But man, I do love me some shiny porcelain.


Mutant Clover

Ah the country life.

First it was rain, making puddles in the future garden, motivating me to stay inside and unpack after the move.

Then it cleared up and just as I was getting caught up on the laundry (it turns out I really enjoy hanging laundry outside – it’s all peaceful and zen and sh*t), the black flies arrived.
Oh the black flies, the little black flies

Thankfully they don’t last long here, but just as they moved onto their next stage of existence, the rain. The rain came back. And so here we are with the puddles and the grey and the going stir crazy indoors waiting to get out and get the garden established.

So to the clover. We’ve got clover in the “lawn” (hah!), and if there’s one thing this kind of weather does it’s make me look at the little things. So today I bring you clover. Well, just the odd clover. We all know what regular clover looks like, right? Green, three leaves, sometimes with patterns, sometimes plain. Google it if you’re not sure.
Instead I present to you the oddities:

Variegated clover

Nibbled Clover

Albino Clover

Undecided Clover

I know, the Nibbled Clover isn’t really different clover, but I do find it entertaining that all the leaves on one plant will be nibbled around the edges while the one next door is left entirely unmolested.

And in case you were wondering, yes, it is difficult to get good sharp photos in mediocre light with a kicking, 20-something-pound toddler strapped to one’s back.


New Year Bunnies

Once again, Chinese New Year is here, which means another set of CNY prints. This being the Year of the Rabbit, the cards feature a wee family of the critters.

I started several weeks ago with this very loose little sketch,

mulled it over in my head for a while and came up with this as the final product:

Cute, sure, but I have to say that It would have been more complex if I’d been able to take more time for it. As it was I chose the ease and speed of lino (well, Speedcut block to be precise) printing again, and a simple design, just not feeling up to anything more labour-intensive.

When I started this series my goal was to use it to spur myself to learn more print techniques and develop as an artist. I definitely did that in the Year of the Ox, and though I wasn’t terribly challenged by the Year of the Tiger print, it did at least push what I’d done in that particular medium.

This year, however, I felt like it would have to be enough just to get it done. Heck, I even managed it more or less on time. But I sincerely hope that by next CNY I’ll be feeling a little more in control of my time, a little less overwhelmed by just getting through each day, let alone trying to be a better artist.

So here’s hoping for a peaceful bunny of a year, with time to recover from the Tiger.


Surprise!

This is it, the Baby Surprise Jacket.

The real surprise, to me at least, was that I actually managed to complete this in a reasonable amount of time, and it still fits him a month and a half later!

The pattern is great fun: just enough variety to keep one awake while knitting, but with simple enough technique that even a relative beginner could do it with a little bravery and concentration. And of course the surprise bit, knitting up this wobbly warped thing that turns into a jacket with two easy seams. The only modification I made was the addition of a very simple straight collar, just enough to keep drafts off the munchkin’s chubby little neck.

For me, the number of seams in a garment is inversely proportional to my delight in knitting it, so the only thing that could have made me happier with it would have been making it with one yarn so as to avoid all the ends to weave in. Of course the upside of that is the satisfaction of using up all those great little skeinlets of yummy yarns.

The jacket itself is genius: the full arms are easy to pull on over long sleeve shirts and short enough that they stay out of the way of busy, grabby little hands. I only got four buttons sewn on on of the six I made holes for, but it seems like it would be fine with any button arrangement one chose to use.

I love this jacket and am sure I’ll have to make another in the toddler size for next winter.

Coming soon: more finished objects, and this year’s Chinese New Year prints!


Stealth Knitting

I’m going to start this post with an apology for the grotty images: the grey rainy day isn’t providing good lighting, and nap time is no time for turning on lights or using the flash. So there you go. Dim, off-colour photos.

But at least I’ve been knitting! It hasn’t been easy. Somehow it seems that although he can sleep through the industrial sewing machine going overhead, the shush of yarn sliding over bamboo needles is just too much racket for the little one, and I’m seldom able to knit more than a couple of rows while he naps. Which leaves furtive knitting in the dark evenings while he’s properly asleep. And I’m exhausted.

So, I’ve chosen simple projects.

#1: Baby Surprise Jacket in orphaned balls of tweedy wool, because he needs a nice wooly sweater/jacket and I’ve been wanting to make one of these for ages, even before I knew Max would ever exist.

BSJ
Baby Surprise Jacket for Max

#2: Mid-weather hat in leftover sock yarn, because he needs something between the super-wooly one and the light cotton ones.

Mmm, stripy pooly sock yarn.

#3: Then I cast on for Pebble vest, because I’m a masochist and was afraid I was making too much progress on the BSJ and hat and might actually end up with a free moment at some point. And it’s super cute and way more attainable than Cobblestone.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wrangle a small boy who thinks he can stand on his own.


Getting started, and the tricky bit.

It seems insane, but we’re doing the 401 Richmond holiday craft show again.
Why insane?
It’s a little over a month away.
I haven’t started making things for it yet.

OK, that’s not entirely true. Last week I bought some fabric, and today I made a prototype (as fugly as all my prototypes, more an exercise in finding the many faults in a preliminary pattern than creating anything useable).
I pulled out the large and small quantities of materials I hope to use to make the stock, and stacked it up in a hopeful kind of way on my desk, like so:

This morning I scribbled out a couple of patterns

which will hopefully be the basis for some fairly easy to make but still funky, useful and attractive purses & pouches.

So I have begun, it just doesn’t quite feel like it yet.

Because before I can really get going, I need to figure out how many of which items I’m going to make out of which materials. This is the tricky bit, because if I do it right we could theoretically have a good show and sell lots, and if I do it wrong it could be an utter failure and I’ll have lots of Christmas presents (of things people didn’t want to buy – how great is that) but no income (or self-esteem, but who’s counting…). So, you know, no pressure or anything.

And it really is the trickiest part for me; I’m OK at making plans out of chaos, but I’m much better at the following part. I feel all wobbly and unsure and doubtful when making the plan, and keep second-guessing myself. Once it’s made I can zip along full steam like nobody’s business, but I’m just not so good with the whole “big picture” thing. I’m more of a details person.

So here’s hoping I’m somehow aware enough of the current trends, and other people’s taste in general to put together a collection that will sell like hot-cakes and leave us with empty bins at the end of the show.

And enough money in my pocket to get people Christmas presents that aren’t just craft show rejects.


Carrots!

Being the end of the growing season, more or less, and having the time to do it, the OH and I took the chance to clean up our community garden plot.

This involved ripping out the pole beans, massacring the out-of-control sage plant and harvesting the rest of the carrots. And here they are!

A few weeks ago I pulled some of the carrots and cooked and smushed them to make little frozen cubes of food for a certain someone who had just started on solids.

So that means things like this for lunch:

which of course results in this sort of thing:

Because eating is FUN, in case you weren’t sure…