Friday, 30 May 2014

Michelle makes a shawl

This is a simple garter stitch shawl. Formed by starting with 5 stitches. Stitch markers were placed either side of the center stitch. Increases were made by yarn overs on either side of the center stitch and just inside the edge stitches. The yarn overs were closed by knitting through the back of the stitch on the next row. I spent some time looking for a simple-ish shawl to make with this yarn. I ran across the pattern for the simple garter stitch shawl ( and thought that that would be boring the best to show off the color of the yarn. I'm very proud of how the yarn turned out. I found this website ( and loved the idea of being able to do this gradient. She had done a single color. I thought I would try a second color and see if I could get the one to blend into the other. A problem that I ran into is that the Fisherman's wool skeins are larger than the Paton's used by the person in this blog. I balled up the wool and dyed the purple first and rinsed it as she did in her blog. I then let it dry and balled it again with the purple on the inside. I used more Kool Aid for the red and ended up basting the ball to see if I could get the color in further. It worked. I rinsed and dried it then redid the purple to try to close the white gap in the middle. I think it worked.
Because of how it gets balled up, you get a sort of speckled effect. There are areas where the dye can get in further than other areas. In the center of the shawl, you can see where there are intermingling speckles of the two colors. Overall I really like the effect. This makes a normal sized shawl. I'd like it to be bigger, but I'm not sure how yet. I could get more wool, dye it red and add to the bottom. I could get more wool and dye it with a gradient and have it go back to purple. I could add a different color at the bottom. I just like larger shawls.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Michelle makes pickles

I tried making pickles last fall. I followed the recipe in the Ball book for brined dill pickles. I left them brining in the basement for a few weeks and when I pulled them out, the girls and Greg loved them. Then I canned them. It completely changed the flavor and texture of the pickles. We were all sad. The girls (and Greg) both love pickles, so I had to try again. Today I made 3 kinds of pickles (brined dill, kosher dill and bread and butter), but only one jar each. I tried the brined dill pickles again, but rather than the 10 pounds of cucumbers the recipe called for, I tried it with about 1 pound. I tried dividing out the recipe to add a tenth of each item. I used 2X about 3/4 tablespoon of the Ball Mixed Pickling Spice (one for the top and one for the bottom). I added 6 cloves of garlic, which is what the original recipe called for. What? We love garlic. The jar only held about a cup and a quarter of liquid after adding the cucumbers, so I mixed a cup of water with a hearty splash of vinegar and 2.5 tablespoons of salt. I also used some wilted dill. I bought it last weekend to make pickles, but didn't get around to making them for a couple days (seriously, only 2 days) and my cucumbers went off. The dill wilted, but otherwise looked OK, so I used it anyway.
The other two batches were even easier. They were still roughly a pound of cucumbers, but I had bought pouches of spices to add. They called for 3.5 pounds of cucumbers, so I just used half of it and halved the water and vinegar. The pouches say to heat the water, vinegar and pouch (plus sugar for the bread and butter) to boiling then pour over the cucumbers in a bowl and let cool then put in the jars. You can refrigerate them at this point or process them for sealed jars.
These are two of the batches cooling, the Kosher dill on the left and the bread and butter on the right.
Left to right, brining, bread and butter and kosher dill. The goal was to get pickles we can eat soon, so I just put them in jars to put in the fridge. We like the more crisp pickles, so less processing is good. If they turn out OK, I can make some every few weeks and have a more continuous supply. Now I just need to fight the urge to try them for at least a couple weeks.

Sunday, 25 May 2014


Yesterday, I went with Janette and her friend Sara to make glass birds at the Toledo Museum of Art. We had taken similar workshops and made pumpkins, icicles and flowers. Each used different techniques to shape the glass. I didn't know how we would make the birds, but it turns out that we didn't really use any different techniques.
The people teaching the course did a demo bird to show us what to expect and then they took us one at a time through making our own. First they used the rod to dip a bit of glass out of the furnace. They brought it to us where we dipped it in up to two colors. I chose red and orange. We let it sag into the one color then flipped it into the other. Then it was into the furnace to melt the colors into the glass.
The next step was to twist up the colors some. They brought the rod to us and we gripped the end of the glass with forceps while they turned the rod. They let it cool a bit so they could get another layer of clear glass on it.
We used a shaped wood paddle to shape the glass a bit, then used another tool to make an indent for the neck and where it will be removed from the rod. This gives it a body and head. Then it's back into the furnace so it can be shaped more as the glass cools quickly enough that it is hard to shape without reheating. The next step is to use the forceps to grab a bit on the head to form the beak and pull it out and then flatten it.
After a bit more reheating it is a similar move for the tail.
Then it's a bird on a rod.
They put the bird into something to hold it so we can remove the rod. They use diamond cutters to make the attachment small then they hold it while you rap the rod with the handle of a butter knife. A torch melts the glass enough that we can use a graphite paddle to flatten the bottom so it can sit.
The birdie. It had to be put in an oven to cool slowly so I don't actually have the bird yet. Because it was hot while working on it, we didn't get a good idea of how the colors will turn out. Shawl update. I got into the pink, so I'm over half way. I'm having trouble getting the picture transferred at the moment, but I'll update about the shawl again.

Can't. Stop. Planting

I broke down today and bought some more strawberries. This gives me a third kind. Carol gave me some store bought everbearing strawberries and some wild ones. The ones I bought today are "June bearing" and had small strawberries already. I put them on the porch while we went out for family stuff. When we got back, something had eaten some of the strawberries, or at least parts of them. I suspect Chipmunks. It didn't really look like a bird had gotten to it. If it becomes a problem, I'll try bird netting, but if it is chipmunks (which we have lots of), the netting won't help.
I also bought another oregano to put in my herb garden. Oh, I don't think I updated about my herb garden. I think the last I posted, I had put down mulch and had my herbs in pots. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted it to be a proper herb garden. You know, with the plants in the ground. I asked Greg if he would be mad if the mint spread into the grass and he said no, so I did it. I put the herbs mostly in the back along the paving stones by the garage and the oregano and basil in the front. I broke down today and bought a second oregano. Basil and oregano are the herbs we use the most. I seem to have trouble with basil. I've killed one basil already this year and a second looks really sad. The third I put right into the garden by the tomatoes. There are websites out there about "companion planting" and what plants go well with others. It seems like basil and tomatoes go well together and not just in meals. I also put chive by the tomatoes and dill in with the lettuce. That was before I put the rest of the herbs into the ground so, depending on how things go, I may move some of those herbs down to the herb garden.
I had help planting the herbs. I did buy basil, dill, sage and leek seeds today. I thought that at least this way of killing basil is cheaper. I managed to shoehorn the leeks into the garden. Another issue I've been thinking about is trellises for my peas, beans and cucumbers. I saw what Carol has for trellises and like the idea, but I don't know that I need to do that, at least for this year. She used metal electrical conduit to make a frame over rebar in the ground with a netting with big openings attached to it. Looking at where my beans and peas are, I could just attach the netting to the PVC that I put in for frost covers. The beans and peas are mostly in line with those. I just need the netting and something to put in for the cucumbers. I think I'll just get more tomato cages for them for this year. That is an inexpensive way to solve it for this year. I probably only need to get one cage as one of the tomatoes could be put on the netting I put in.

Friday, 23 May 2014

A busy day and a shawl

Today was a busy day. It started out with Field Day at Valerie's school. I volunteered to help out. My station was the hurdle station. The kids came through one class at a time and we had them run in pairs. They could go over, under or zig-zag around them. It was entertaining. Unfortunately, Valerie tripped over the starting cone and was so upset about it that she could hardly finish. I do think she had a good time at the rest of the stations. I did get to see her in the sack race (at a distance) at the tug of war (her group won 4), dribbling basketballs (difficult for most of them in Kindergarten) and a game where they were tossing balls over a high rope. It appeared that any balls that were caught were taken out of play until they were gone. Afterward, we handed out popsicles to Valerie's class. It was a good morning.
I went to Panera for lunch then took some cucumber seedlings and a bean seedling to Carol's for an upcoming plant swap that I won't be able to go to. She gave me 6 wild strawberry plants and 8 non-wild strawberry plants. We have an area in our back yard that used to be filled with what may be forsythia. It was a large area that was covered. When my parents were here a while back, Dad cut them back quite a bit and we discovered that there are only 4 main shrubs, but where the branches touched the ground, they rooted. That left an area that was about 4 feet wide and probably 12 feet long that was bare ground. We put grass seed in it last weekend, but then Carol mentioned strawberries and I thought that that area would be a great place for a strawberry patch. When I got home with the plants, I finished clipping back the shrubs so that they are no more than hip high and I pulled out what I found of the secondary plants. I had to rake out the area as well. That opened up that area even more and I would love it if the strawberries took over that area. My garden is really looking like a garden
Tomatoes, basil, beans, onions and peas
Tomatoes, Cucumbers, basil and carrots
Lettuce, the taller planted as plants, the shorter as seeds), broccoli, sage (in the pot) and green onions.
The peas again, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, green onions, onions. After clearing out the forsythia and planting the strawberries, I walked to go get Valerie. I decided I was too worn out to also walk to get Cordelia, so I took the van. I spent a couple hours in the evening cutting up the pile of stuff I cut off of the forsythia and out of the herb garden. The city empties our bins on Friday morning. My two compost bins are now full again. Soon it will be time to cut back our lilacs (along with some other shrubs in the yard), so I think I'll be filling the bins most weeks for the summer. There is so much to do in our yard yet, but I'm still mostly enjoying it. I sort of wish I had more garden space, but I need to know I'll continue to be interested through the course of the summer. I was pulling some thistles from the thistle garden earlier in the week and discovered that the poison ivy in there is more widespread than I originally thought. It is time to do something about it. I have recommendations to use Roundup to get rid of it. On the half with the poison ivy, there is a half dead evergreen shrub and a shrub with thorns on it, both of which I don't care if it kills them. That goes for the ground cover in there as well.
I'm working on knitting a shawl. Following this website: I dyed a skein of Fisherman's wool with Kool Aid. My plan was to dye with purple then, rather than leaving it fade to white, dye the other end with red and have the two colors meet in the middle. The thing with the Fisherman's wool is that the skeins are quite large. I ended up with it being whiter in the middle than I had planned, but the specks of pink and purple do overlap in the middle a bit. I'm very happy with how it turned out. I'm making a plain garter stitch shawl. I'm loving how the color is turning out. For a bit I thought I might want to do something more interesting than garter stitch, but this will show off the color best. It inspired someone to try it with sock yarn already. Greg even looked suitably impressed when I showed it to him. I've done a bit more than what's shown in this picture. The rows are getting quite long already and I'm in the middle of the skein.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

A busy weekend

Friday I spent the morning rearranging the kitchen. I didn't get nearly as much accomplished as I had hoped, but it looks better. I finished the scarf/hood combo that I was working on. It just needs buttons. I'll have to get pictures.
I started mulching the flower garden this weekend. I need to get that finished. What I did start and finish this weekend was the little weed garden beside the garage. It had lots of garlic mustard and some small trees in it. When I was clearing out some of the garlic mustard last weekend, I found a few pretty ferns. I left those there.
When I took this picture, I had already cut down the small trees that were in this area. I was able to remove some of the roots of most of the trees.
I still need to cut up the trees to put them in the compost, but I don't really have a place to put them. I finished cutting up some branches I had cut out a couple weeks ago and put them in the compost bins for the city. I pulled a bunch (like almost a wheel barrow full) of thistle out of the thistle garden yesterday. I found a few pavers in the middle of the bed. I am far from being finished with the pulling of the thistle. It may be a losing battle, but I'm hoping to reduce the amount of thistle in there. The bed has many young trees (that I'll probably want to remove) and some pretty ground cover. We discovered that the two bushes that are in it close to the road aren't actually lilacs. I really should figure out what they are. We want to trim them down some. I did discover that there is poison ivy in that bed as well. I think it is all on one end of it. On that end is also a half dead evergreen shrub of some sorts and a bush that looks good but is full of thorns. That bed is mostly on the neighboring lot, which I need to remember, so I really can't do anything major to it.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Knitting and garden

I still need to get a picture of my latest sweater, so no picture of that today, but here's my current project. It's a scarf/hood combo. Here's a link to the pattern on Ravelry. I'm starting the widening (on the right) for the hood part. I've come across an unclear part in the directions. It says to knit in seed stitch for 28 inches from the end of the scallop (on the left). I'm not sure if it means from the beginning end (cast on edge) or the inside edge. I think longer would be better, and it's just a few inches difference, so I measured from the inside edge. The yarn is Paton's on needle size 8. The garden is looking great. The carrots are now up as are what I'm more confident are green onions than what had been in there. The carrots will definitely need to be thinned. My sowing wasn't very even. I even saw two cucumber sprouts today that I don't think were there yesterday. They are both in the same hill, so I hope at least one of the other hills sprouts too. I swear the onions (non-green) are growing about 2 inches a day. I've read that onions can be frozen when they're cut up. That would be useful for us. We could cut them up, put them in amounts that we normally use and throw them in the freezer. I just need to be patient. now that the garden is all planted, I want the stuff to be grown! I also want to see what won't grow (no signs of the beans yet) and will probably plant more green onions.
The lilacs are in bloom! This was taken this weekend. It rained all day today, so I didn't go back out to see if they're more open. Our crab apple is also in bloom. I'm looking forward to trying to make something with the apples. They are a larger type of crab apple than what I usually see. I'm just not sure how I'll get the apples. Most of the blossoms are high. Our front flower garden is going to be overrun in lilies. I'm not sure which kind yet, but they're a single stalk with lots of leaves off of it similar to the Easter lily that I planted in there a couple weeks ago. I'm looking forward to seeing what they are. I'd be super happy if some of them were stargazers. My wisteria is starting to show signs of life. I was starting to doubt that it was going to grow, but it has a few buds on it. I realize that I'm going to have to wait many years to see flowers, but it will be worth it. I may have to find a place to plant it. A pot probably isn't the best place for it.
Dinner tonight. It is a leek and garlic tart from this website. It was tasty, but I think it needed ham or bacon. The feta is just sprinkled on top. I think it would have been better mixed in as well. The browned feta on top was great, but the bites without feta were a bit flat.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Garden, composting and makers fair

Garden update. I had planted lettuce seeds on two different occasions and both rows are up. The girls were having fun planting the onions so we had planted the whole pack I bought. Today I counted over 40 onions. I'm not sure yet if the green onion seeds are up. There is something there that looks like it could be green onion but could also be grass as there is something else similar in other parts of the garden. I think my carrots popped up just today. One of the tomato plants is getting a flower as is one of the pepper plants. So far there is no sign of the cucumbers. The lettuce plants look OK, but don't seem to be growing very fast. I'm probably just being impatient. Between the plants and the seeds, I have lettuce taking up half of one of the gardens. I'll have to figure out what to put there after the lettuce is done. I hear it will be finished early enough to put something else there. I think the zinnia and wildflower seeds that I planted have sprouted. I spent some time today weeding the flower garden in the front yard and trying to remove some of the thistle from the thistle garden. I've almost filled one of the compost tubs, but I put lots of branches in it, so it probably won't compost quickly. I'm going to try to keep putting stuff in it for a bit. Yesterday I went to get a countertop container that the city provided for putting kitchen scraps in. They intend for people to put things in there then empty them into the compost bins that they pick up. I plan to use it for collecting and taking stuff out to my compost bin. Between broccoli and leeks last night, I've half filled it already and emptied into the compost bin. Bah, I just lost half of my post. It's the one problem I have with this computer is that if I touch the area in front of the keys just right, it selects a chunk of the post and if I'm writing at the time, deletes it. Let's see if I can remember what I wrote. I spent some time today weeding the flower garden and trying to remove thistles from the thistle garden. It's supposed to be mostly ground cover, but the thistles were thick in there last fall. I think they are annuals but are very good at seeding themselves, so I figure if I keep them from going to seed, we will have fewer thistles next summer. Today I took the girls to the Ann Arbor Mini Maker's Fair. Valerie received a flier for it yesterday. I think she enjoyed going. We did a "make and take" that taught us how to solder by making a little "robot" pin with light up LED eyes. We had to solder in the LEDs and the pin and battery case. I enjoyed making it and she loved wearing it. There was a teddy bear on a swing that was swinging with the help of a small motor with a bar under the ropes of the swing. Both girls liked that. There was also a guy there with a setup that drew on Christmas ornaments with a Sharpie. Valerie was really taken with that. She kept watching the video that showed it drawing on an ornament. He then put in an ornament so she could see it. It didn't get quite set up right, so most of the stars are missing from the NY skyline that it drew on the ornament. He let her take it home. They had a banana piano where you held a alligator clip in one hand and touch bananas to complete the circuit. Each one was set up to play a tone. Both girls tried it and both seemed a bit scared of it. I think the girls will really enjoy the fair as they get older. We had a good day today except for two snags. I made the mistake of leaving the girls alone with the sunscreen for a minute and they completely over did it and got it all over the floor. I had told Valerie just a little for her feet as we had already done the rest of both of them. Cordelia has been biting lately. Usually just Valerie for some reason. She got her good this evening on the back. I don't know why she's biting. I don't know how to stop it. Valerie has been impressing me lately with her reading. I've heard her sounding out words both in reading and in writing. She gave me the best Mother's day book today. It was set up with sentence beginnings like "I like when my mom and I" for her to fill in and a space for her to draw something. I love it!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Gardens and sweaters

Over the past week, I've seamed my sweater, knitted the button bands, tried to figure out how the collar fit on to an odd shaped neckline, tore out some of the seams, re seamed the seams and picked up stitches for the collar. I guess I didn't pay enough attention to the construction of the sweater and put it together as a raglan, which it isn't. I was confused how the collar would go on, but in talking to Greg about it, I figured out that there should have been shoulder seams with a fitted in sleeve. I changed it to that construction. It now fits better (the neckline had seemed way too big) and the neckline looks much better. I picked up the proper number of stitches for the collar and will knit the collar tonight if I get the chance. As for the garden. We planted the rest of the onion bulbs. The girls enjoy planting them and we just fitted them in kind of randomly into the rest of the garden. They'll either grow or not. I also planted another row of carrots, lettuce and green onions as well as some cucumber. I need to plant more peas and beans as I don't think the ones I planted a while back had a high survival rate. If they do grow now that the soil is warmer, I'll just have to thin them out. I think I'll get a couple more tomatoes and perhaps some celery to finish the space I have in the garden. I spent some time trying to move the dirt out of our driveway. We want to use it to improve the grading around the house, so I dumped some along the front of the house and a bit on the side. I'm not sure yet what the angle of the grading should be, so I didn't want to get carried away with it and over do it, but I expect that we will want more soil there to bring the angle away from the house some. We will need to get two more window covers for the side of the house. A week ago yesterday, I spent much of the day going through stuff (mostly in the basement) to get rid of. On Wednesday I delivered the stuff to my friend for her garage sale to benefit their Boy Scout troup. It felt nice to get the stuff out of the house. The basement looks much more spacious. I do need to spend time going through the girls' toys to weed out some of the stuff they don't play with and our clothes, but I made much progress in getting this place better sorted. Yesterday was my final Friday working. I'm going down to working Monday through Thursday except when there is something that makes me take a day off earlier in the week. I want to use it to do some crafting, but also to get some other projects done around the house. Today, I bought a two barrel tumbling composter. In our back yard, we have a chicken wire enclosure that had been used for composting. It is rather ugly and I think it would be rather inefficient. There really isn't a way to get the compost out of the bottom either. It is supposed to be mixed, but that would be tough as well. The nice thing about the composter I got is that it stays moist, can be turned for mixing and is supposed to be quicker in composting. It also looks much nicer. I hope it works well. I want it to work as I think the idea of composting is great and I assume that I'll want to add compost to my garden each year. I'm sure if I get more than I need, I'll be able to offer some to friends and family. I also did a bit of weeding today. There is one type of weed that we have in many random places in the yard. I've discovered a couple areas where some plants are growing where I don't know what they are. I'm a bit concerned that they're hostas. Neither of us care for them and we don't really want them in the yard. Someone pointed out that they could be lily of the valley. I thought that was better, but they are poisonous and have berries. I'll have to be sure to keep the girls out of them. I don't think they'll be after the greenery or flowers, but they may have to be mowed at the first sign of berries.