Monday, February 28, 2011

A New Home!

We moved houses last year. Now it's time to move websites. You can find my new blog home at

Thursday, February 24, 2011

February Projects

Winter is a good time for working on sewing and craft projects as I'm not tempted to go out and work in the garden. We still have a good snow cover. Here's what I've been up to lately.

A small project:
A winter garland to decorate our shelf.
A large project:
Sewing squares for a summer quilt for our bedroom. I've never made a bed-sized quilt before. It takes more perseverance to do the same squares repeatedly. I used blues, greens and purples from my stash for the center strips. I wasn't sure until I laid the squares out on the floor whether I was going to do them in straight rows or at an angle. I decided I like the angle better. Now I'm sewing them into long strips to put all the squares together.
Good thing there is at least another month before the garden will be calling outside. I hope to get the quilt to the point where I can work on quilting it at night.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Seeds Arrived!

Finally this week my seed order arrived. Because I ordered them from Fedco through my local Coop, they were put in as a bulk order towards the end of January. I went to pick the seeds up on Monday. Unfortunately the later order date meant I didn't get any Fortex pole beans nor any Paprika pepper seeds. I guess those will have to wait for next year. The Coop order is nice because of the discount. However, next year I'll put in an early order for anything that is limited and for my onions and peppers which I want to have early.

As soon as I got home, I laid them out and sorted them into my seed box. Then I planted the 2 varieties of peppers that came, along with the onions. Last week I'd started the peppers I hand on hand, as well as my leeks. Some of the peppers are sprouting already!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Year's Difference

Last February we put a contract on the house we now own. On February 15th we did the home inspection and I took this photo of the back garden.
This February is drastically different. I anticipate my start to the garden will be delayed this year while waiting for the snow to melt. Here's what it looked like today.
Since the forecast calls for sun and above freezing temperatures this week I decided to go out and shovel off the cold frame. I found it was easier to crawl over the surface of the snow than sink into the very deep paths of at least 30 inches.
When I found the coldframe there was 12-15 inches on top of it.
I slowly shoveled it off. I got to the last window and realized I hadn't gotten the edge.
Here's where I made my mistake. Instead of scraping across the window I went straight down on where I thought the edge of the wood was. Ooops! I broke the glass.So I covered it with some plastic and come spring we'll have to replace it with plexiglass or something.
Here is how things look on the inside of the cold frame. Green but frozen. And smelling like a fish tank. When things begin to thaw out I'll have to clean out the dead plants and see what will rebound. Here's how the garden looks now.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Recent Projects

Here are a few finished projects from the past two months. I knit this pair of socks for my dad for Christmas. He received the first sock on Christmas Eve and the second sock on New Years Eve.Some neighbors had a baby girl just before Christmas. I knit this sweater during our travels and gave it them in early January. I've seen it on the baby a few times, apparently its a good weight for going out in the car seat. I made this pair of pillow covers for my Grandma Ginny's birthday.
The back has two flaps that overlap so the pillow slips in. I decided to make the corners purple like the front.
I finally finished the curtains in our living room. I got the fabric in August and made one or two panels this fall. Other projects were more exciting and side tracked me but when we returned from Christmas I got the other two pairs done. At the end of January I finally hemmed them to be the same length.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cross-Country Skiing

We didn't get the 12 to 24 inches of snow predicted yesterday but we did get a good 8-10 inches of new snow. Last weekend I found out about some local cross country ski trails that are groomed and free to use. Best of all they are only 5 minutes down the road. This afternoon I enjoyed an hour skiing exploring the trails. It was so beautiful out with the blue sky and fresh snow and so I brought my camera along. I stopped often to take photos. Here are some of the best views from the trail.

I caught a glimpse of this farm through the trees and backed up to take this shot.
Then I skied a little further and found a better view.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Seed Starting Set Up & First Sprouts

This year I decided I wanted more room for starting seeds. I loved the seed starting light my husband made but there was no room for expansion with it. It also took up a large floor space that is hard to find a spot for in our new house.

Thanks to some generous Christmas gifts I was able to buy a new metal shelf and outfit it with three light fixtures. Right now I have one fixture on each shelf with a tray in the middle of the shelf. In future years I can purchase more fixtures and put two on each shelf and use the entire surface of the shelf for seeds. The top two shelves are being used for storage.
After getting the shelf and lights set up in front of the window in my craft room (obviously a girl's bedroom for the former owners) and my seeds sorted last week I was eager to start some seeds. My spreadsheet doesn't have me starting onions and leeks until the second week of February and with all the snow we have out there I don't want to be dealing with leggy seedlings. So I decided to take my oldest packets of lettuce and spinach seeds and start some in hopes of indoor salads in two months. I sowed thickly and they have sprouted surprisingly well for 5 year old seed.
So here are my first sprouts of 2011. They're an encouragement in the face of the foot of snow predicted for Wednesday this week.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mending Kit

One way I motivate myself to do housework and chores is to make it novel, or to make it homemade. We've had a growing pile of clothes that needed to be mended but I didn't want to sit up stairs in the craft room in the evening to do it. I decided I needed a mending kit and a basket which would allow me to be comfy by the fire while I did my mending.

I used a 1/2 yard of a neat batik fabric I'd bought in November intending to make Chinese Peasant Bags with my mom. I didn't get into it like she did, and instead decided to use the pretty fabric to make my mending more exciting.

On one side, I made two zippered pockets.
On the other, I made one zippered pocket at the top. The bottom has a pocket for scissors with velcro that goes between the scissor loops to keep them in place. It also has a velvet pincushion and a velvet spot for needles.
I sewed them together to make the inside.
For the outside, I practiced my free-motion quilting with a piece of the same fabric and some batting.

I sewed the two together with the right sides facing, then turned it right side out and top stitched the edges. I had an extra length in the front, so made a flap that folds over and buttons to close the mending kit.
Having this ready has inspired me to mend some of my husbands socks, fix a vest, and work on changing the buttons on an old wool shirt. Best of all, I know I have all the supplies I need in a portable form. Here's a view of what I put in the pockets: extra buttons, thread, measuring tape, thimble, & seam ripper. I filled the pin cushion with more pins and the needle spot with a variety of needles.
Now I'm off to sew buttons on another vest!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Seed Sorting & Sharing

I decided today to spread out all my seeds and re-organize. It seemed like a good task for the coldest day of the year. I had been keeping some of them in a small set of hardware drawers in the refrigerator, but the seed packets didn't fit well and folded in half they would get stuck when I went to open the drawers. Bigger seeds were in jars, and other packets were in plastic bags. It was time for a new system.

I spread everything out on the kitchen table. Many of the older seed packets, I re-packaged into the coin envelopes I've been using for the seeds I saved. I grouped the seeds by type and used an index card to label them, before rubber banding them together.
They all went into a plastic shoe box in alphabetical order and back in the fridge. Now when my Fedco order comes in I can easily add them to the box.

In sorting through the seeds, I made a list of seeds I have plenty of and am willing to share with others. And I noted what seems to be missing. It would have been wiser to do this before I placed my seed order. Oh well.

Here's what I'm willing to share. Most of these are seeds I saved, unless otherwise noted.

Red Kale
Purple Haze Carrots- Jungs (I have more than I can plant in a lifetime)
Habanero Hot Pepper
Amish Paste Tomato
Purple Calabash Tomato (my favorite from last year)

The following three came from overseas. The seed packs were huge.
Chinese Green Onions
Chinese Bok Choy
Red Curly Lettuce

I'm happy to send seeds to anyone who wants some as long as I have some left to share. No trades are required. If you are willing to share some of your own seeds, I'm looking for a variety of cucumber seeds, radishes, and other lettuce & greens. If you're interested, please email me ( emb03 at alum dot dartmouth dot org )

Harvest Monday 1/24/11

There are no fresh harvests from the garden this week. Last night the temperature dipped to -23 degrees Fahrenheit. Today's high was 2 degrees. There is at least two feet of snow on the garden and I haven't cleaned off the cold frame since the last snow.
We are still enjoying the produce of last year's garden. We enjoyed a pesto from the freezer last week and a Butternut Squash & Parsnip soup with one of the butternuts that was beginning to go bad. Today I made a Tomato and Bread Soup with a gallon bag of frozen tomatoes. I knew the tomatoes would give off a lot of liquid as they thawed, so I decided to cook them on the wood stove rather than the oven.
As the liquid came out, I used a turkey baster to collect it and save it for the soup. Eventually the tomatoes cooked down and softened. I put them through the food mill to take out the seeds, skins and cores. I used some of the tomato liquid to soften oven-dried cherry tomatoes as well. I roasted some sweet onion slices in the oven and then added them to the tomato mixture along with cubed dried bread. A little frozen basil and dried oregano from the garden and we had our dinner.
I've begun making preparations for this years garden. However, I'm pretty sure we will have another couple of months before we are able to harvest again. I sorted through my seeds today (more about that in another post) and took the oldest lettuce seeds and planted some under the new light set up. Maybe we'll have some indoor greens in a month or two.

You can see what other gardeners have harvested, or how they are using their harvest at Daphne's Dandelions.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day

Though I'm no longer teaching, I still get a thrill from a snow day. This morning I watched the birds fight at the feeder for the prime spots. The evening grosbeaks were there first.
But later, a large hairy woodpecker came and kept others at bay with its long beak. I watched the snow drift build up at the back door. Here it is around 11 am. And later in the afternoon. The layers are so even and interesting.
It's hard to know how much snow we got. I measured a range of 12 to 18" depending on the spot. The wind was moving so much of it around. It shaped the snow on my car to make it look like a Prius.

I did snow day things like bake pumpkin bread, and I finished my Christmas tree skirt. It was done except the binding before Christmas and since we've returned I've been working on the binding so I can put it away finished for next year. And of course I shoveled snow. I need to make sure there was a parking space for Matt when he came home. I left the snow drift at the back door for him to shovel, so photos of the garden in its deep blanket of snow will have to wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jarrahdale Pumpkin

This is one of my Jarrahdale pumpkins that has been in a cool upstairs room since I harvested it last fall. The photo above is what it looked like when we harvested it. We enjoyed one of these large pumpkins then, but two other went into this cool room. A third smaller one sat on our coffee table as decoration until December. The two that were in the cool room have begun to turn peach in color, while the one that was downstairs in warmer temperatures is still green. Here is the peach color that two of them have turned now.
This week I cut into one of the peach colored Jarrahdales. Inside the flesh was the same beautiful orange with the small cavity and large seeds. I roasted half of it face down and made puree. The puree became pumpkin gnocchi. I'll also use some to make pumpkin bread or muffins. The other half, I cubed and roasted and froze for using later in soups or risottos.
The Jarradale does provide a lot of pumpkin at once. It is a good substitute for butternut squash, some even say it is a winter squash. It will be a few months before we cut into another. I've read they can be a long keeper and I wonder how long they will last. We'll be growing these again next year.