Monthly Archives: February 2013

Flower Farmer

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Flowers have started coming into the house again. Since moving here, I have this ridiculous dream that someday I will be a flower farmer. I call it ridiculous because I’m certain that it would be a tremendous amount of work, as though I didn’t already have enough to do around here. I even went so far recently as to message a woman I know who owned a flower shop if she knew anyone who would buy my flowers. There are hundreds of narcissus and snow drops here. Rows and rows of them. Immediately upon hearing her encouraging reply I realized, what was I thinking? Flowers need to be picked in the early morning and adding things to my morning routine of getting three kids out the door is not a good idea.
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So for now I simply enjoy them. And wistfully read Floret Flower Farm’s blog.
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A few months ago I ordered The Flower Farmer, which is a great book if you too are flower crazy. I learned that daffodils & narcissus shouldn’t be cut, but rather you grab them at their base and pull. You get another inch or two of stem doing that. Also you need to seer the ends to seal in the sap. So that I did.
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Another flower tip I learned many years back is that denture tablets are your best friends when it comes to cleaning vases. For vases that are too narrow to clean, just drop a denture tablet in it, fill with warm water and let sit overnight. The next morning your vase will be clean!
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Whole Foods Kitchen

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This week I started Heather’s Whole Foods Kitchen Workshop. I’ve been following her blog for years, but this is the first time I’ve splurged on her workshop. So far I think it’s worth it.
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We eat well around these parts, however maybe because it is the middle of winter, I’ve been feeling the need for a kick in the rear. Inspiration for eating healthier. We seem to get in a bit of a rut when fresh veggies aren’t as plentiful. We eat plenty of local, grass fed beef, and we’ve been indulging on our freezer stash of local pork and Scott-caught salmon, but also lots of wheat. Lots and lots of bread and bagels and cookies and crackers. Too much.
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To kick off the workshop, the littlest one and I made chai concentrate (though to be honest, I’ll go back to my standard chai recipe next time – too much cardamon made it bitter to my tongue, I think). The next day the oldest one and I made almond milk.
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I’ve been enjoying almond milk chai lattes in the afternoon, when I normally hit my afternoon lull. I’ve been drinking them iced or room temperature since I used raw almonds and raw honey and want to consume them in their raw state.
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Delicious! Are you taking Heather’s workshop too? How has your eating looked this winter?

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Fair Isle Close-Ups

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Thank you so very much for all the incredible comments about my sweater! They made my day. You know I went into dying and knitting this creation with no expectations. I figured, what was the worst that could happen? It wouldn’t fit quite right and the colors would come out a horrible mess. At least my twiddly fingers would be kept busy and I would have learned something along the way (I’d hope!). But it actually turned out into something I want to wear and something that I’m proud of. Now had I gone into it with expectations, I’m sure I would have been disappointed.
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Many of you requested close ups, so here they are. I haven’t blocked it yet as you can tell. I’m always so good at procrastinating on blocking, I just have never found a place in my house where I can leave a wet sweater laid out for days on end. However I always love the end result, everything softens up and any tension issues always seem to smooth themselves over.
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So this is my next project, this wool above. My neighbor down the street keeps sheep, mostly for meat and milk, but this year she had some of the wool spun. A few months ago on Facebook she posted that she had just gotten the yarn back from the mill and was offering it up for sale. Now at that moment I had to remember that I am a grown-up and I couldn’t just at that very second go running down the street, flailing my arms, shouting for yarn. You have to at least act like a respectable adult in these situations, so I tried my best to play it cool. I waited a few days before I called and then with all my self control I strolled down to her house with honey in hand before I raided her yarn stash. Now what to make with it is the question. I was envisioning a aran fisherman sort of sweater, but this is sport weight, most aran/fisherman style sweaters are, well, aran weight. Any knitters out there know of a worthy pattern?
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I bought this mirror the other week for our office. It has nothing to do with yarn or wool, other than it goes with today’s post’s color scheme. I’m starting to get really antsy for spring and I have an Annie’s Annual’s gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket. Her guide to having a spectacular spring planting is fueling me on. And look at this, this CA native wildflower produces blue pollen, I might have to get that for my fuzzy little ladies.

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My Naturally and Locally Dyed Fair Isle Sweater

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It’s finished! You may have remembered that last April I mused about how I dreamed of creating a fair isle sweater out of colors I dyed from plants I collected around our yard, and by gosh I did it! I started knitting the sweater last fall, but uhg, white stockinette knitting can be so easy to put aside when more colorful or cabled projects present themselves. This poor sweater got pushed aside quite often. Then I ran out of yarn. Once I refilled my stash of white, knitting again was slow going until I got to the yoke, which is when I could be seen knitting constantly. Changing colors and following the pattern was great fun. And hallelujah it fits!

I followed Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Fair Isle Yoked Sweater pattern from The Opinionated Knitter pretty much exactly, except I cast on 180 stitches for a closer fitting sweater. If you knit and you haven’t yet read one of Elizabeth’s books, you must and soon! If you aren’t yet a knitter yet always wanted to try, I also say read one of her books, she’ll give you the courage to start. I also tried my hand at hemming the arms and bottom hem as she had suggested in other sweaters, and I like the results. (Ravelry notes here)
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Every color, except one, comes from plants grown on our property or on our street. The dark brown is from walnut hulls, the orange from a mixture of red and yellow onion skins we grew, the light green from artichokes, yellows came from daffodils and fennel growing along the road down our street. The lighter browns came from purple iris’, blackberry leaves and mint, the light pink from curly dock root. The cream color within the yoke design was tinted with lichen I found by our mailbox. The only color that didn’t grow here was the dark pink in the upper part of the design, that came from avocado skins. It was a debate whether I wanted to use it or not, as it was a ‘foreign’ color, but in the end I added it in as aesthetically I knew it would benefit from it’s rich color. Plus the avocados were eaten on this property…doesn’t that count for something?
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Wearing this project is so satisfying! I’m thinking of calling this sweater Romantic Notion, because months ago when I was scheming up this sweater, it seemed like such a far away, silly, romantic notion.

A lot of people have asked me recently when I find time to knit. I knit just about every night. Once the kids get tucked into bed, Scott and I usually fall into a useless heap on the couch. Though I have such twiddly fingers that even when the rest of me is an exhausted mess, my fingers want something to do…and so they knit. My other big knitting time is while the boys do their Tae Kwon Do. Twice a week I’ve sat on the bleachers with the other moms and gabbed and knit. Perfect white stockinette knitting conditions.

Next up on the needles is another local knitting project, but this time it’s all about the wool. Wool from sheep that live just a few houses down! Eek! More on that to come!

Close up pictures of the sweater here.

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The Birds & The Bees

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Just two short weeks ago I was certain without a doubt that I had lost one of my beehives. They underwent a pretty hard period of robbing in late fall. Robbing, for those even newer to beekeeping than myself, is when other bees or in this case, yellow jackets, enter the hive to steal honey and kill the defending bees. Between the robbing and the ants that seemed to be making their home in that battered hive, I feared the worse. There was minimal activity on the monitoring board (a white board at the bottom of the hive you can pull out to view debris that has fallen – a way of seeing how active the bees are and where they are in the hive) and minimal activity at the entrance of the hive.

But with this warm sunny weather we’ve had that hive has come alive with activity. Bees are coming back with mustard, eucalyptus, manzanita, rosemary and all sorts of other pollens and nectars. Seeing that there is hope yet made me feel happy indeed.
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We’ve been disappointed in our egg production the past couple of years, so we’ve decided to bolster our chicken count. Scott went to the wood pile and crafted together a brooding box on Saturday morning and by evening we had six new chicks to keep us entertained. Four Rhode Island Reds and two Gold Sexlinks, both high egg producers.
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We’ve backed away from getting chickens that lay exotic eggs. Our cookoo maran chickens didn’t lay the dark chocolate brown eggs that was advertised, instead laying light brown eggs. And our Americanas? Well, they do lay blue eggs, but they’ve always looked like this below. Not so appetizing.
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Here’s to hoping that come summer we’ll be blessed with ample amounts of honey and eggs.

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