Monday, March 29, 2010

Virgin Harvest

One of the blogs I follow regularly, Dig This Chick, is challenging readers to do something they've never tried in the garden this year. It could be starting a garden, or just trying something new. Which, of course, is perfect for me. I may have mentioned (several thousand times) how much I love my garden.

This year, Richard and I decided we wanted to try and grow some storage vegetables, the sort we could store in a root cellar, if we actually had one. (The older I get, the more I wish I lived in Grandmom's old place.) So this year, our virgin harvest is in storage onions, sweet onions, and butternut squash. If we can remember (and feel ambitious) we might even get some winter crops in -- like kale, beets and carrots for our Thanksgiving feast. It's something we've talked about for two or three years, but never been able to accomplish.

And while we're at it, I'm hoping for a banner crop of peas this year. I've revamped the bed and actually remembered to innoculate them. I even got them in the ground at a reasonable time. I've never really had much luck with this crop, but I love peas, and would be SO happy if I could freeze my own for the rest of the year. I'm a bit nervous as I haven't yet seen even a small sprout. Still, I'll give it another couple of days before I get in there and see what's going on. It's like being a kid on Christmas morning but not being able to pick up the gift and shake it. Ah patience - you are a virtue.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Book Review of Plenty: One Man, One Woman & A Raucous Year Of Eating Locally

I am a sucker for a gardening book. And this book, Plenty: One Man, One Woman & A Raucous Year Of Eating Locally, by Alisa Smith & J.B. Mackinnon, looked like a repeat of Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kinsolver. But when I found it lying on the discount table for 50 cents, I decided it was worth a risk. I'm so glad I did. There is no denying that the idea behind these two books is one and the same. Plenty, too, details all the reasons we should eat locally, but the emphasis is more on knowing the land and community you are part of, verses being self-sufficient.

Both books rank high on my list, but I really appreciate the idea in Plenty of knowing your community suppliers, and supporting local businesses and farms. The authors are apartment dwellers. Yet they are able to eat only foods that have come from 100 miles or less for an entire year. They learn how to can, freeze, ferment and root celler foods in order to have what they need in the winter. And they like it. They feel more alive, more responsible, and more informed. It's not a treatice on why you should do this, but merely a record of how and why they did it.

I like to think of myself as a suburban homesteader, dispite the fact that we simply keep a respectable garden in the summer. Perhaps one day we will have the bees and the chickens and the sheep that we dream of keeping. But until then, John and Alisa encourage me to keep going. And in the meantime, I'll be finding out more about our local suppliers than I already have.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Working Weekend

We had an incredibly busy weekend. There was some fun (in fact just about all of it was enjoyable) but there was certainly some work involved. Don't you just love that sense of accomplishment?

Projects this weekend included:

1.) We purchased a new Toyota Highlander - Red outside, Tan inside - and I think I am already in love. I'm not holding it against the car that we spent the entire afternoon (the better part of 5 hours) at the dealership.

2.) The peas and carrots are planted! I'm about a week behind my schedule on this, but they are the first crops to go in, and I wanted to create a new box for the peas. They climb, and I feel that they should climb up the side of our pergola. (The shade provided wouldn't hurt either.) I tried putting them in containers all along the base of the pergola two years ago, but they we unhappy. I planted them earlier and in a different container last year. Still unhappy. I finally have a solution (I hope!) with the new box. I should get 3 furrows, 8 1/2 feet each, of peas at one time. I've planted 4 varieties (two sweet peas, and two sugar snaps). We shall see if this year we are lucky enough to get a crop.

3.) Filling the new box was my accomplishment of the weekend. I went and purchased 1/2 a cubic yard of soil and spent the morning unloading all of it and filling the new box. It took almost all of it to fill the new box. I was able to top off a few of our whiskey barrels (where we plant the carrots) with the remainder of the soil.

4.) Assembling a brand new composter! It's ridiculous to be so excited about a composter, but I love it. I am hoping it lives up to expectations.

5.) Final clean up of all the garden and yard areas to be worked/planted this spring. This included filling our new composter with much of the debris.

6.) We hung a new light fixture in the stairwell. (well, Richard did.) We've lived in the house for 6 years now, and it's been a topic of conversation for just about as long. Thanks to Etsy (and a dear friend reminding me that they do, in fact, sell light fixtures over there), we were able to purchase exactly the light we were looking for at about half what I was expecting to spend. Love Etsy.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Oh Happy Day

I've been waiting two summers for this: we finally have a composter! I wanted this specific one, a ComposTumbler, but of course it was more than I wanted to spend. But after much research and debate, I think we chose the best one for us. It's big enough that we'll be able to get what feels like a lot of compost out of it, but small enough for our postage stamp back yard. Hayes can't wait to turn (quite literally) all that garbage into dirt.

Now I just have to read the manual on "How To Make Superior Compost" and we'll be all set. To be honest, I can't wait to get started. I know; I know; I'm a garden geek. I can't help myself. I'm just so excited!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Author Appreciation Week: Maya Angelou

Our last author for Author Appreciation Week is simply amazing. Maya Angelou has written so many beautiful books and poems that it's difficult to showcase just one or two. Suffice it to say that this woman has an amazing talent and needs a place on your bookshelf. If by some fluke you have not read any of this author's work, may I recommend perhaps her best known (and loved) I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. I can't say enough about her writing.

But even more moving than her writing, is listening to her speak. If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak, you absolutely must do it. The electricity in the room is incredible and her articulation and speech are like music. In fact, I knew I had met what was to be a very good friend when I learned that both of us (not having yet met one another) had attended the same lecture Ms. Angelou was giving in the Baltimore area. She's just that powerful.

I leave you with my favorite of her poems:

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
-Maya Angelou

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Author Appreciation Week: Amanda Soule

Have you met Amanda Soule? If you haven't you are missing out. This is a woman you want to watch. Her blog is one of my daily stops. Her family life is something I often wish I had. She is all about the natural, the creative, and the family. She reminds me a lot of my sister.

Amanda has published two books: The Creative Family & Handmade Home. I have to admit I have not read them both, but her blog previews her books beautifully. You can certainly get a good feel for what you might find inside those pages. In fact, you can find all sorts of delightful things over there, including knitting and sewing patterns, reading lists, terrific crafty vendors and beautiful photographs of her family and projects. Like I said, it's a daily stop for me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Author Appreciation Week: Kate Chopin

Not all my favorite authors are still alive. I must confess, one of my favorite authors has been dead for some time now. But her work still resonates with me, deeply. And I think she is much overlooked, except, perhaps, by the feminist readers who have been pointed in her direction. I am writing, of course, about Kate Chopin.

If you are new to her work, you should start with a short story or two. She's written close to a hundred of them. I highly recommend The Story Of An Hour. It was the story by which I first discovered her. You can read it here. I think it perfectly captures the life of many women, not just in a time before women had the right to vote, but even today. And her irony is pitch perfect. My favorite novel is The Awakening. If The Story Of An Hour appeals to you, you really must read The Awakening. It's simply divine.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Author Appreciation Week: Anne Lamott

One of my very favorite authors is Anne Lamott. I had the very great privilege of hearing her speak at St. Luke's here in Indianapolis a couple years ago. (Has it really been that long?) She speaks about her faith in a frank and witty way, yet her reflections are not without weight.

My favorite of her books is most definitely Traveling Mercies. If you haven't read any of her material, I highly recommend starting with this one. I'm much more of a memoir reader than a fiction reader. Anne Lamott has written both, but in my humble opinion, her fiction does not rise to the same level as her memoir writing.

I am excited to discover that she has a new novel coming out this spring entitled Imperfect Birds. I will certainly be checking it out.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Author Appreciation Week: Jody Sparks

I may have mentioned once or twice that my sister has written a Young Adult novel. In an attempt to remind my readers of how important reading is, (and perhaps to shamelessly promote my amazing sister) I will be celebrating Author Appreciation Week here on the blog.

So today, I introduce you to an up and coming author - Jody Sparks. She is one of the wittiest people I know with a super sense of humor. If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak, I highly recommend it. And she has this fabulous blog: Sparks & Butterflies. (Don't you love that blog header? Wonder who designed it? ahem.) Even if you are not a writer, you should check it out. The stories she tells are terrific and you may even get to see a photo or two of me in her Self-Deprecating Sunday Posts. Trust me, it's worth it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Creative Groove

We've decided to go forward with the plan of moving Hayes into a new room. He is excited about it and I want to capitalize on that. As such, we are trying to work with a Grey, Black, Red color scheme. Not what I would choose, but certainly a reflection of my child. I've settled on a light grey for the walls, leaning more toward a warmer shade than cooler, with a big black stripe going along the wall about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way down. He is in love with this loft from IKEA, so that is a must (not to mention it fits the current mattress). I think we'll go with red curtains and a duvet cover - let's be real, I'll probably make them myself.

Today I started looking for red & black poster art for his room. I was really unhappy with all that I saw, none of it was exactly kid-room friendly. Then it dawned on me that I could make my own posters. As soon as the idea hit, I knew it was a good one. These three are the final copies:

I can't believe how much I like them. And Hayes loves the idea of having posters of himself in his room. And if you are as in love with that pouty pose as I am, you should check out Little Lives Photography. Elaine is amazing!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Sock Yarn Surprise

As we all know, I love knitting. And I have to be honest, I am a little obsessed with that self-patterning sock yarn. It's just so cool! I had a request from a customer to create a scarf using it, and the idea was just intriguing enough to draw me in. I'm so glad I did it.

I used a US 5 needle (I think I'd try a 7 if I did it again) and a basic 1 x 1 ribbing. I brought the yarn forward and then slipped the last stitch at the end of each row -- it's my favorite edge for a scarf. For the ruffling on the edges I used a plain garter stitch. The yarn, I am sad to say, has been discontinued, but is made by Trexx. The whole thing is about 5 feet long! I wanted the wearer to be able to wrap it around her neck a couple of times.

It was a lot of knitting, but the mindless kind you can do while watching TV (or sitting around as a note-taker during lab time). I'll have to consider one of these for myself. Love it!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Just Like That

I've written this post a hundred times or more in my head. It's hard to even know how to begin. On Monday we learned that our baby had no heartbeat. It is one of the hardest things I've ever had to hear. I've run the gamut of emotions over the last few days and fully expect to do so some more. But I've been loved and hugged and comforted by my amazing circle of friends and family. I've never been so grateful for them all.

And in the in between times, when I'm not feeling numb or overcome with grief, I am struck at how odd it is to feel so sad by the loss of a life that I never truly knew. Yes, this was my child, but it was only 7 weeks old, I didn't know it's gender, or it's smile, hadn't heard it's cry. And it's more than just the death of a dream, or even a dream deferred. It's a deeply rooted sadness, and an unexpected one. Perhaps unexpected more out of ignorance than anything else. As a sweet friend said, it probably speaks to a deeper mystery about life that we just can't comprehend.

And so it goes. We will plod along, and spring will come, and life will begin to bloom again. I take heart in that. But for now we are quietly awaiting it, trying to look toward the sun through our tears.

Sewing Challenge

I'm always up for a good challenge (ok, almost always) and here is one I am all about. One of my favorite bloggers, Rae of Made By Rae, is hosting a Spring Top Week. The idea is to make one adult top (or more if you find your ambition running high) during the week. And get this, you can start now! It's pretty loose, but she's got a flicker pool and some possible goodies to give away. Just my style.

I purchased this really cool pattern last summer that I never got around to making, so I'm a girl with a plan. If you're interested in participating in Spring Top Week, click the button on the side of the blog there and it will take you to Rae's blog with all the instructions for the challenge. Happy sewing!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Book Review: The Dogs of Bedlam Farm

A dear friend of mine (and fellow dog lover) lent me this book. I don't think I would have picked it up on my own, (even though the title is a huge draw for a person like me) but I have to admit I really, really enjoyed reading it.

The Dogs of Bedlam Farm is more than just a memoir, it's a journey - well, a glimpse into a journey - that we are asked to follow even for just a while. It's more than just a dog book too, which I tend to have a weakness for anyway. I have mentioned before, that dying dog books make me crazy and are right off my list. You can imagine my delight in reading the forward of this book where the author admits intentionally writing this book with an eye toward no dogs dying. Thank you Mr. Katz!

And if you have the time, you should wander over to the Bedlam Farm website. It was fun to see some actually photos of these animals I felt rather connected to through this reading. If you are a dog person, or a farm person for that matter, consider reading this book. It's well worth your time.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Crocheted Baby Ring Toy

I caught a lot of grief over the creation of this toy. And I'll admit, it is a wee bit phallic until all the pieces are on it. But the "Pond Friends Stacking Toy" from Lion Brand Yarn is a free pattern online, and a lot of fun when it's all done.

I always get a little frustrated in any handiwork project with all the details of finishing, and this has a lot of tiny details! This is not exactly a quick project. But it is rather satisfying in that each piece comes together fairly quickly. And I am pleased to say, that I managed to whip up this toy entirely from the stash, and that is always a good thing. Over all, I am really pleased with it. If nothing else, it'll look really cute in the nursery.