Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Little girls' skirts

My mother's been clearing out some of her fabric stash over the last few months and while much of the cotton fabric is going into patchwork quilts she and my cousin are busily cutting and sewing, I used a few pieces to make adorable fun skirts for my niece's two young daughters. The pattern, called The Market Skirt, was as simple as could be and came from an online tutorial I found on the site.

The red skirt was made to the specs included in the tutorial but the blue skirt, below, was for the oldest girl and required re-sizing. It wasn't difficult and the pattern is very forgiving anyway. I haven't seen pictures of the girls in their skirts yet but am told they couldn't stop twirling around and were unwilling to take them off so it sounds like I need to go back to Mom's stash and pull out some pink and purple fabrics to make the girls skirts in their favorite colors.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First seeds up and repotted, more seeds in

Cabbage, broccoli and more all up and growing. Another flat, mostly tomatoes, started and a third (combination vegetables and flowers) going in today. May need more shoplights at this rate.

DH made paper pots. I made paper pots. DH filled paper pots with potting soil and carefully transplanted each seedling. I filled pots and transplanted but not carefully enough. So back to pot making for me.

DH prefers to separate any multiple seedlings and plant them individually in paper pots. It sometimes takes a steady hand to get the seedlings apart without breaking. I am not that patient. Besides, with 72 seedlings to a flat and sometimes almost double that with DH's careful attention to planting any multiples, someone needs to focus on pot-making and lots of them, too.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Playing with fire

Today was Activity Day, a monthly cooperative sponsored by our local homeschool group, which offers a variety of classes for the kids. This year, one offering is a class using William Gurstelle's book, "Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More Dynamite Devices", as a text.

Today was also a beautiful day. Many of the Activity Day classes opted to spend the afternoon outside including the fiber arts class I teach -- I took wool roving and the kids used cardboard to create a resist in order to wet felt small bags. While we were out on the lawn working with the hot soapy water, netting and our pool noodle (more on that another day), the Backyard Ballistics class entertained us with their Cincinnati fire kites.

On the way home, I told DH and DS about the fire kites. As we prepared dinner, DS read the relevant chapter from his copy of Gurstelle's book. As soon as dinner was over, he took an armful of newspaper, a roll of scotch tape and a box of wooden matches outside to try his hand at making fire kites. DH and I followed him. Who wants to clean up the kitchen when one could be playing with fire instead?The first one was a failure due to not getting all four corners lit at the same time. But the next one was a great success.We used a single, full-size sheet of newspaper. Folded each corner in to the middle, starting with opposite corners first. Taped the corners together and tried not to crease the paper while folding. Two were better than one at this. Turned the packet over and lit all four corners at once. This definitely required more than one worker. Stepped back and watched the paper burn till enough hot air was trapped in the fiery packet to lift it off the ground and up, up and away.Then, after the ashy remains fell back to earth, DH and DS ran over and stamped it to be sure there weren't any escaping embers.

Half a Sunday paper later, just as it was getting cold, we grew tired of the game and quit. But at the next family cook-out, DS will be ready with his new parlor trick.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jim's chulo - finished

Definitely took me longer than the two days needed to finish Chris's chulo but it's done. The celtic pattern from Alice Starmore's "Charts for Colour Knitting" (out-of-print) was a bear to knit. I'm not sure why as it wasn't particularly complicated with a 10-stitch repeat and less than 25 or so rows. Maybe it was because I was also listening to Karen Cushman's "Catherine, Called Birdy" with DS? I had read the book before but I've already learned I probably shouldn't drive and listen to audiobooks as I arrive safely but can't recall anything about the trip... Maybe it affects my knitting ability or, at least, my ability to follow a charted pattern while listening.

I washed and blocked the hat before presenting it to DH but he insists on turning up the front brim so it will stay as pictured. Also, he likes to play with his hats, turning them this way and that to make new forms, so the ear flaps will probably grow to be twice their beginning length. But it's his and one should always remember that a gift is a gift -- no give-backs, you know, and no "thou shalt do this" with it rules attached. If I tell myself this often enough I'll come to believe AND accept it. I think.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Seed-starting, take 1

We intended to start a flat of seeds last month but the ground was still covered with snow and spring seemed a LONG way off. Now it's March, Saturday was sunny while Sunday was sunny AND warm with a high of 61ºF. DH could no longer resist the urge to plant.

On Saturday, he planted 72 pods with a combination of seeds including cabbages (red, green and savoy), cauliflower, broccoli, and lavender. On Monday there were tiny cabbage seedlings pushing through and today the flat looks like this. From left to right, the flat shows sprouts of three different cabbages (Ruby Perfection, Early Jersey Wakefield and Savoy Ace), Early Snowball cauliflower, Calabrese and De Cicco broccoli, Parris Island and Jericho lettuces (romaine or cos lettuces), and a couple of bunching onions in the last two fully visible columns. With 72 cells, DH planted 6 of each variety. Nothing on the right side, out of view in this photo, had sprouted as of this morning but the flat's sitting on the landing near the woodstove and according to the thermometer resting beside it, the temp is a constant 75ºF. so the remaining sweet onions and lavender should be coming along soon.

Sunday's warmer temps encouraged him to weed a couple of beds in preparation for the real spring planting to come. Hopefully in another week, this bed will have sugar snap peas planted at the foot of the wire trellis.
He also put covers on any open cold frames. The soil temperature should rise to allow direct planting in there later this week. Some years we leave the covers on all the cold frames but this year's snows (30", 22", 9" and several lesser ones) didn't seem to melt before the next one hit so DH was worried the weight of a big snow might break the glass in the old window sashes we use for covers. Plus with the nightly temps hanging around 0ºF. and sometimes down to -9ºF. the frames weren't as helpful in prolonging the growing season as they've been in more moderate winters.
The only thing we had to winter over in a cold frame was winter rape. Immediately after taking this picture I picked some and added it to the fried rice I made for lunch. We also like it in a green salad or on sandwiches. For some reason I think egg salad sandwiches are a particularly good fit with Hanover salad as it's sometimes called.

The chickens are still pastured on the rear garden plot, planted with potatoes and pumpkins last year. Usually by this time they'd be on the front beds but, again, the snows caused us to deviate from the regular plans and it's on the ground in areas (notice background in photo below). We'll move them to the next section before the week's out and then on to the last garden area before it's time to plant in earnest. Letting them roam over the garden beds has made a huge difference in the amount of bug damage the garden suffers each summer.