Friday, August 27, 2010

Three (French?) Hens

We picked up our little hens yesterday. Three Buff Orpingtons. Petunia, Mildred Pearce, and Georgia Brown. I don't know that there is much to say about chickens but Patrick and I are both very excited and looking foward to lots of fresh eggs in January.

Patrick built this lovely tractor for them (there is now chicken wire over the part on the left).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vintage Puzzles

I think I'm finally finished working, photographing, and listing my found stash of vintage puzzles. They're over on etsy if you're interested in that kind of thing (I know I am)!

Monday, August 23, 2010


I never thought I'd really want to learn how to dye yarns. It's silly but there are so many great options out there already that I felt like I needed some parameters somewhere. But that was before I started gardening at my own house and read about a dye plants lecture at the local Weavers and Spinners Guild. I don't spin and I didn't (I've since been very generously given one which I need to learn how to use) have a fancy harness loom but those are both things I'm interested in so I went to the lecture (back in April) and was promptly convinced to join the guild. Then I looked forward all summer to this dye workshop which was held on Saturday.

Not only was the dyeing itself a lot of fun but learning about the histories and materials behind many of the dyes was fascinating! Above, left is cochineal which is a bug which is a parasite on cacti in South America. It makes a beautiful red/pink and was monopolized by the Spanish for 300 years and second only to gold in value of products from the "New World".

In the middle is madder root. I think I may try to grow some of this in my garden next year as it was my favorite of the colors shown (surprisingly -- I thought my favorite would be indigo). We may be a bit too far north but it never hurts to try. The yarns on the left in the photo below are done with madder root. Our batch didn't work out too well so I overdyed my roving (yes, it's true that I don't spin -- but I do want to learn!) with cochineal -- photos of that to come. But I'm willing to try again, for sure. This is the dye used for the reds in real Persian rugs. Always beautiful, right?

The last of the photo mosaic at top (the photo on the right) is a thing called oak galls. These occur when a certain wasp stings an oak leave and creates a kind of cancer in the leaf that grows into one of these galls. The insect lives inside and crawls out through a hole. These can be found on the forest floor, although rarely. She said that the basket in the photo represents half of FIVE YEARS of collecting these doodads. And she's a park ranger! I don't know what color they make but it sounds like a fun treasure hunt to search for them and give them a try someday.

The thing about natural dyes, as mentioned above, is that they are not particularly reliable. But that's part of the fun, really! All we did was mordant our yarns or rovings (with potassium alum) while the lecture was given and then the dye pots were heated and we all ran, full speed ahead, at the dye. It was crazy but a whole lot of fun! I'll post photos of my dyed roving once it stops raining here (it's been raining non-stop for the past two days) and I can get a decent shot.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Excitement

Why are there so many wonderful craft books just out or about to come out right now? I can hardly stand it! I'm going to have to save all of my pennies to get at least part of these. And then I'll need materials to make things from them. . .

It's a vicious cycle.

First there's the Wee Wonderfuls book which is out already. I've been meaning to buy her patterns for Mr. and Mrs. Gnome but this book is a whole new dimension to the idea. And I have several friends with small children who will be needing Christmas gifts fairly soon. Perhaps it's justified?

(And while I'm on the subject of Hillary's wonderful-ness, how about this quilt? I'm completely obsessed with this color combo.)

Then there's Samantha's upcoming book. Eep! I purchased Maggie from her some time ago and do think she'd probably like to have a friend or perhaps a house? I can't imagine how anyone other than Samantha could draw so beautifully with a sewing machine but perhaps that is the point (for me) of the book?

And there's also Alicia Paulson's Embroidery Companion. I'm going to have to hunt around the internet for more previews of this one to see more of what's actually inside but it certainly looks promising. And I do love to embroider.

Even beyond the craft books, there are two book-books I'm very excited about due out at the end of this month.

How can I be asked to choose just a few of them??

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pickling Part Two

The pickling of the 4 beets I picked from the garden (supplemented by a few from the farmers market) and more of my cucumbers became quite a saga. I started it all on Monday, only to have the power go out about halfway through. It certainly made me miss my gas range in Brooklyn! The power stayed out for 8 hours! I've seen tornadoes in Oklahoma but that storm was quite scary, even compared. It blew down all of my garden plants and even blew a few pictures off of the walls in the house (before I closed all of the windows)!

But, luckily, I'd just finished the cucumbers (although not the "processing" as directed by my book -- the lids of the jars did pop so I'm hoping that that's good enough) and just poured the water off of my half-boiled beets and put them back in the fridge. They were finished today. I definitely could have used a few more beets but they're still pretty to look at! Fingers crossed that both of the batches are safe. . .

This enamel canning pot (even with a wire jar rack inside!) is the treasure of the junk I cleaned out of my basement earlier in the summer (the house was completely packed full when we viewed it and the sellers only took about 3/4 of the things away). It made the 3 days spent in the mildew and bugs kind of worth it. Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

An Important Lesson About Carrots

Hmm. It seems that carrots take both more than 2 months

And less than 3 months

To be of a reasonable size. Or perhaps they need somewhat less than 3 months and more sunlight than the ones planted in June were given as the parsley grew to be a monster and cast its shade over their portion of the bed. Either way, these are some monster carrots!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Selfish Buttons

Anyone who knows me in real life or reads this blog or even casually passes me on the street probably knows at least one thing about me -- I have a button obsession. I think it's because they're so compact and inexpensive (usually) and varied. Or maybe it's something else. But, any way you look at it, I almost had a heart attack when, in the course of helping my friend (the antique dealer) to clean out a house recently, I uncovered a whole bread bag packed full of buttons at the bottom of a hidden compartment in a sewing table.

My friend (both fortunately and unfortunately for me) deals in buttons so he wanted to take them but he generously gave me first pick on which ones I might want to keep.

I thought I might use this ornate one for a pincushion center.

This wooden one is my very favorite. Although I'm quite partial to that blue silk one next to it as well.

Below are a few button cards I found at a hidden gem of an antique store recently. I thought I'd include them while I'm going on about buttons so as not to wind up with a whole series of posts on buttons (I easily could).

They were quite a bargain so I had to buy two. (Did I mention that I have a problem?)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Wine Bottle Border and Finally Something Happening in the Flower Bed

We now live so far north that it seems to be quite difficult to get flowers in the growing season unless they are wild (we had 6-foot floxglove a few months ago!) or started indoors first. And I suppose that doing a better job than I've been able to do of keeping the deer and woodchuck at bay might help as well.

I always admired dahilas like the one above at the Brooklyn farmers' market. I'm so excited that my bulb worked out reasonably well. Even if the flowers from seed had a more difficult time and the volunteer roses caught some kind of disease or something and stopped blooming after about a week.

Here are the sachets I've put up in an attempt at deer control. Unfortunately, the cats find them quite appealing and keep pulling them over. You can also see my little concrete mushroom back there. Can't have a flower bed without some sort of cutesy little tchotcke. I saw little ones like this in England but had no garden or space in my luggage for a concrete thingy. I found this one here in Sullivan County! Just behind the mushroom are the most unfortunate hollyhocks. I love hollyhocks but so, apparently, to do all of my garden pests. Oops. I doubt that I'll get any flowers from these guys this year.

But at least a few of my snapdragons (started from seed) are blooming now. I think I should have thinned them a bit more to get more blooms.

And here is the wine bottle border. I don't remember where I originally saw this idea. But it certainly stuck in my head! I suspect that it was before we even thought of buying a house or having a flower bed that I saw this idea and filed it away in the back of my mind for "some day".

This whole how-to is fairly self-explanitory. All you do to "build" one of these borders is to collect wine bottles (it helps if you have European friends to save their bottles for you) -- preferably of approximately the same size/shape/color, dig a trench about the same height and width as the bottles, and then to bury them upside-down. We liked the way our border looked best when we removed the labels from the bottles (so that tiny bits wouldn't be peeking up) and buried them with only about 3 inches above ground -- it looked a too obtrusive to us with more than that -- we were going more for the look of green stones or something along those lines.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Refrigerator Pickles

An overgrown garden

yields a ton of cucumbers (these were just the ones picked in one day)

which make some lovely pickles. Very strange and interesting but good pickles. From this recipe (which seems to have a typo in that all of these ingredients fill a one-quart jar rather than a two-quart jar). We'll be making more of these ones for sure!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Another Busy Week

Monday: Basketweaving class at the Home Textile Tool Museum. Followed by

Patrick-made dinner on the porch with the mother-in-law, and my favorite game:

Tuesday: Fresh-pressed apple cider at Sonoma Falls (the apple crop in New York State is early this year so we get to have cider early too!)

Wednesday: Finally made a batch of kale chips. They're not very photogenic so I'll spare you the photo but just say, from a non-vegetable-eater, that they were fantastic!

Thursday: Sketching and swimming in the Delaware, a trip to the new saloon, and homemade pickles (more on that tomorrow).

Lots of family visiting this summer = instant staycation. And all kinds of busy fun. Back on a normal schedule on Saturday.