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A year’s worth of garlic, part 2


I saved the largest bulb of my “harvest” to plant, and ordered some from eBay.  The kind I saved from what I planted last year is soft-neck, which is ordinary grocery store garlic, and in fact, this came from an ordinary grocery store. The kind I got on eBay is a hardneck variety, which is supposed to have a different flavor (there’s a question- how different can it be, and still be garlic?) and also it forms flower stocks and blossoms, which are called scapes.

We got some scapes in our CSA veggie box a few years ago and I had never seen them before- they’re really interesting. You could wear them as bracelets to ward off vampires- long green spirals. I sliced them for stir fry, and they had a bright, super-garlicky taste. Growing hard-neck garlic  means you get an earlier harvest, something to pick before the garlic is actually ready to dig. This helps with the year’s worth deal. Once the bulbs in the basket have either been eaten or started to sprout, there is something to pick that tastes like garlic.

Yes, I know I could just go to the grocery store.

Why bother growing my own? Honestly, carbon. How much diesel fuel is used to plow, plant and harvest garlic in California, or China?      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11613477  how much energy to ship it here?

I am okay buying olive oil, because I can’t grow that here in zone 5, but I swear, garlic grows itself.

Before the fall equinox, I loosened some soil, broke the garlic heads into individual cloves and planted them. I put them in an area where the compost pile was, so there’s plenty of humus. I’ll cover with mulch, and wait until spring. I won’t water at all until next summer, and then it will still take less water than most people use on their lawns.

Grow garlic!!!!! Seriously!

No photo on this one- better artists than I can take beautiful pictures of bare soil.

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Vanilla Vine Update


So, I built this whole elaborate trellis, and posted a tutorial, for a vanilla orchid vine that is supposed to get to 20 feet tall.

I do think having the sheetmoss-filled tower was helpful in raising the humidity around the plant.

It turns out, I could have waited a while.
The humidity tower/trellis is two feet tall. The vanilla orchid is 6 inches tall. Assuming I can keep it alive over the winter, I am going to hope it grows faster next summer. If you got here through Google, researching the care and feeding of homegrown vanilla, rest assured that you don’t need a huge trellis for your vanilla cutting right away.
If you are just a friend or relation, well, I guess you already knew I was an optimist.
We had a frost warning at around sunset last week, causing me to whine and moan and get out the dolly so I could move big flowerpots around, and whine and moan some more. That is when I brought in the vanilla, and took a quick picture, under the lovely fluorescent lighting of the kitchen.
I had picked all the ripe tomatoes I could see, and put a giant duvet cover over the trellis, so I wasn’t too worried about that.
The stress is bringing in the houseplants- tropicals that love the summer weather but can’t take the cold. I usually spray them off so fewer hitchhikers come inside with them- the occasional spider is fine, but no aphids or scale, thank you very much. I couldn’t face doing that last night. This week has been busy for DH and me, and I was hoping I could wait and move flowerpots on Sunday…
It turns out the frost alert was a false alarm, and predictions are for temps in the 70’s and 80’s. Next week,  I will have the strength to wheel flowerpots with citrus trees inside, heave them up to the sink, spray them off, mop the floor….Just thinking about it makes me tired.

I do think having the sheetmoss-filled tower was helpful in raising the humidity around the plant.

Process Sucks, Sometimes


I am obsessed with this shade of blue, aren't I?

I have posted here about cute knits and quilts, and things that came out just the way I wanted, and some things that came out surprisingly better than expected. Not today.
Back in May, I started a shawl, using a pattern from “Knitting in the Sun” The idea is, you knit one lacy end, then knit toward the middle, then knit another lacy end, knit to the middle, then graft them together.
The pattern was a stretch for me, the lace pattern was pretty complicated, but there was a nice boring part in the middle that I could do while watching TV. I figured I could get it done by the middle of June or so, since I had a fancy wedding to go to, where a bright lacy shawl would be a great accessory.
Yeah. So, process.
The first lace end was sloppy, I had to rip back a few times. I found I could not talk or even listen to conversations when I worked on it- I could only work on it during the times when the kids were out of the house and the TV was off. This slowed down my production. The second lace end was better, but not by much. There are sloppy parts, but not bad enough to rip back, so the sloppiness is forever enshrined in yarn.
So the middle, which was supposed to be a slow cruise turned into a slog. June came and went, and I found a different accessory for the wedding (Pashmina to the rescue!)
I want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with the pattern itself-just my knitting skills. I don’t do lace very well, and a pattern where I have to memorize a different set of numbers for each row just doesn’t work for me.

I would do few rows, then put it away again in its ziplock bag.With no deadline, there was no push to finish. Somewhere along the way I lost count of stitches, then discovered the error and got back on track, so the rows of eyelets are crooked, like a goat path.

Or how I imagine a goat path might be, if it were knitted into a shawl, in Cyan colored wool and silk.
In getting back on track, I added stitches, so one side is 6 stitches wider than the other, where they are supposed to meet in the middle. I found this out, not by counting, that would be too easy.

You can see where the graft, which is supposed to be invisible, is, well, visible, and where I am half a dozen stitches off.

I found this out by actually grafting them together, a process so fraught with stress, that when I do it on the toes of socks, I insist on absolute silence from my children. It took me about half n hour, and when I got to the end, and realized I had extra stitches and no way I could think of to fix them, I nearly cried. I balled the shawl up and shoved it in the ziplock bag.
I used to work at a daycare center, and one of our mantras was “Process, not product.” meaning we shouldn’t push the kids to fingerpaint masterpieces, but that we should trust that the process of scribbling, or cutting and pasting, was more valuable than the artwork they made. The trouble with this shawl is that it was 100% product oriented from the beginning- I wanted a bright blue shawl, rather than I wanted to make bright blue shawl…
I still haven’t decided what to do- I have a little yarn left, so I could go backwards, even out the stitches, rejoin. If I wear it as a scarf, under the collar of my black coat, the sloppy join wouldn’t show a whole lot.

Here is the challenge of a blog- and maybe life. Not everything I do is perfect. I get frozen by perfectionism from time to time, not wanting to take a risk because everyone will find out what a fraud I am (fraud, not frog.)But if I never take a risk, I’ll never get better. But do I always have to be getting better? What’s wrong with a little stagnation going into fall?

So anyway, I’m not sure how to fix this disaster, or if I even want to at this point. I really love the color, and the feel of the yarn, but I can’t face working on it right now. Time for another sock, maybe. What are your thoughts?

This Lid


Battered enamel, a little rust, but a lot of life left.

DH’s grandma is selling her house, and letting go of things she has had for years. I am amazed by how graceful she is at this- in the past few years,  she has given up living on her own, so she selected things to take with her to her daughter’s (my wonderful MIL’s) house. She has let go of her car, and has now made the decision to sell her house. I think we were all surprised at how fast it sold- 24 hours after it went on the market, they had an offer, and they will close in the middle of September. We went over  last week to help clean and box things, and hear stories. In the grand scheme, there isn’t that much stuff.

“Clean Sweep” is  a guilty pleasure TV show- I watch it, and think, “Well, I’m not as bad as those people!” One of my favorite people on it is Peter, the Australian guy. People on the show will be reluctant to get rid of something and they’ll say, my mother gave me that, and he’ll say, “this is not your mutha” in his Australian accent. He’s adorable.

At GGM’s house, I was talking about my guilty pleasure, and  I  picked up an enameled metal lid and said, “This is not your mutha” hoping to make people laugh, and GGM took it from me. She  said,  “One time I was cooking dinner, and my mother was there, and I had just put a pie pan on top of the pan, to cover it, and she said, “don’t you have a lid?” and I said no, and the next time she came to visit, she brought this one.”

I thought it was a cute story, and figured it was when she was first married, and just getting her house set up.

Um, no.

Great-Grandma had been in her 70’s, which meant that Great-Great- Grandma had been in her 90’s.  Moms. We never give up.

Of course, I asked if I could have the lid- it is now  on the cast iron skillet that lives on my stove top. I will use it every day, and tell the story to whomever will listen. There is a lot of stuff in my house that is clutter, but this lid is meaningful, and deserves to have a place of honor on the stove.

She’s a sad tomato


One lonely ripe tomato was all I had as of August 29.

Up until this past weekend, I had only picked one ripe tomato off the Mexican Jungle that my veggie garden has become this year.  Because of the Mexican Jungle effect, I can’t tell you the name of the variety, because the little tag got swallowed up by greenery. Let’s just say  I planted things too close together, again.

On Friday, before we left for the mountains, I picked some beautiful chocolate cherry tomatoes, and a couple of Romas, and some more of these, whose name I don’t know. There are a ton more green ones, threatening to knock over the trellises. As long as we don’t get an early freeze (average first frost date here is September 15, but last year it didn’t happen until early October) the green ones will get a chance to ripen and become salsa, and salads and tomato sauce, and maybe dried tomatoes. Nom nom nom.

The grape tomatoes ripen a deep purple, and taste great on their own, but with these, I sliced them in half and threw them in with some pasta and vinaigrette. Now I have lunch this week.

According to my journal, these are "Chocolate Cherry", started from seed by a friend. They go dark, almost army green before they go purple. They are rich and sweet and filled with jelly.

Handmade Athletic Socks


They are clean now, but you know that these socks will spend half their lives in a wad on the floor anyway.

I mentioned a while ago that the Boy had asked for white hand-knit socks. I couldn’t resist asking him if he minded adding some stripes. My brothers used to wear these striped athletic socks when we were kids. My mom usually tried to color code, one brother got red stripes and the other got blue. The Boy requested red and blue stripes, so he can channel 2 uncles.
If you are interested in learning to make socks, I have to recommend ” Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles” by Cat Bhordi.http://www.amazon.com/Socks-Soar-Two-Circular-Needles/dp/0970886950/ref=pd_sim_b_3 It is a super helpful explanation of how to construct socks. It isn’t a beginning knitting book, but if you know how to make scarves and hats, and are ready for the next step, this is a great place to start. I consider her basic ribbed sock to be the perfect sock- the ribbing helps it fit perfectly around the instep and stay up on the ankle. It is also easy to memorize, so you don’t need to bring an instruction book with you everywhere you go.
That sounds weird- I consider socks to be the ultimate portable project, and I knit riding in the car, waiting for food in a restaurant, or in the waiting room at the eye doctor. Maybe I’m a little obsessed.

Many athletic socks are just tubes, but I chose to put a turned heel on these, because they are more comfortable that way. The ribbing makes them very elastic, so they are a good fit now, as he grows they will stretch around.  I made the toe a different color so I can take it off and knit a longer foot at some point in the future. Boys grow. Girls do, too, you know. I haven’t adjusted a sock yet, but it is much easier to knit an inch of length onto a sock than to make a whole new one.  Time invested in these things is an important consideration.

My day job has started back up again, and I’ve been running around back and forth to my school functions, and kid school functions, and the blogging has gone to the back burner.  It isn’t for lack of ideas, just time. And camera batteries… Look for tomato posts, and jam posts, and posts about the theory and practice of getting rid of foundation plantings, coming to a device near you!