Monday, April 25, 2016

7 Herbs I Love to Grow

I have learned my lesson.  After months of keeping finicky plants alive only to find out no one in my family likes it, our plants now have to pass a multi-use test!  Herbs, on the other hand, are just plain lovely to have around, although I like them to be multi-talented, too.  Here are my top seven (in alphabetical order), and why I grow them.

 BASIL : Honestly, I love this one just for the scent!  But then there's pesto.  If I did nothing else but make pesto, we still could grow more basil.  We also use it fresh in pasta and in marinara sauce.  Beware, it needs constant picking.  







CHIVES : Let's start with, the bees love chives.  The flowers are lovely and are constantly visited by pollinators.  As far as culinary uses, we put it in Lime Chive Butter (great on corn), as well as in mashed potatoes, breakfast casserole, and when I roast whole chicken.  





DILL :  We need it for pickles, and it can be difficult to buy a handful of dill stalks.  I also put it in potato salad.  I love the smell, too; it's very aromatic if you brush by, and it just smells like summer.  
PARSLEY : Easy to grow, very hardy, still growing around here well into the cold season.  Our corn chowder, and mac n cheese, just would not be the same without it.  And we feed it to our lizard!  



ROSEMARY : Well, rosemary is really only a two-trick pony but considering it does not take up much space, it is worth the money.  It goes in a chicken dish everyone loves and mmmmmm focaccia.  





SAGE : I've told you about my sage before.  Like many of these little green darlings, it's just so nice in the garden.  Last year, I neglected to cut it back early and had some beautiful blooms, but this year it's already got a crew cut.  But to round out my description here, we put it mostly in scallop potatoes.  YUM.  



THYME : We have lemon thyme and common culinary thyme.  This year, I pulled up the common thyme plant, which is in the way of my new garden path.  I chopped it into several pieces, and planted it in a few new places.  It's a great ground cover, aromatic, and we put it in things like mac n cheese and roasted chicken.  The lemon thyme smells wonderful to crush in your hands.

We also have grown oregano - I'm still pulling that out every year, and mint - which I like in my tea but it only gets to visit in pots.

So tell me, what is your must-have herb or garden item?  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

mid-April garden report

For several years, I have been traveling to Stitches South in mid-April, and spending my free early-spring moments getting last-minute things done for that trip, often including finishing up patterns and working out social media ads.  This year, I had decided I needed to stay home and get some long-neglected things underway, and coincidentally, the company I represent (Windy Valley Muskox) also decided not to go!  Well that was easy.  So I've had more time to do some planning for the garden and yard.  I have completely failed to make time for this the last two or three years, and by the time summer rolled around, it was much to late to catch up.

Let's just call this the 'before' picture.

First, BFJ and I came to an agreement that while we do still need the fence around the garden (we no longer have a dog, but the boys play ball nearby,) it needs some repairs.  We've had lots of warm days in March and April, and have managed to tear it apart, but having lots of snow and rain mixed in means we haven't gotten it put back together again, yet.  I've got it partially painted and hope that it will dry out enough this week to finish that step.  The rest should be easy, nailing it back together and stapling chicken wire back up.  Previously, the fence was in the brown family, with paint left over from the shed, which I thought would "blend in."  Not sure that really was charming.  Now I'm repainting it white, which will most definitely stand out, but I'm hoping for a classic nod to gardens I admire.  As I was contemplating how to make this garden better than previous years, I looked through my Pinterest board, 'potagers and lovely gardens', and stumbled on the concept of "meandering paths."  Just what I was looking for.  Something simple, doable, but will add some much-needed charm.  You might notice above that I'm in the process of working the path out, too.



Next, seed starting.  I bought all sorts of fantastic seeds last year, and had some left from previous years, but did nothing with them.  One of my little cherubs agreed to use his science fair assignment to find out if my seeds were still viable.  We counted, labeled, wrote up, and then placed ten seeds each of various kinds and "expiring" years, on wet paper towels inside Ziploc bags, to see if any of them would germinate.  From 2006, we had a sprout rate of 50%, from 2013, 80%, and from 2015, 100%.  This seemed like a good sign so we made up little newspaper pots (recycling, you know) and planted all sorts of peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, and squash.  It's been six days, we've got 6 or 7 little sprouts, but all envelopes say 10 - 14 days so I'm hopeful for an excellent set of beginners.  I'm also keeping alive the brussel sprouts I bought too soon, knowing the garden would be ready to plant at any moment...  




I'm keeping my eye on those lilacs and blueberries, and spreading mulch and pulling weeds.  As previously mentioned, lots of snow and rain have happened, and it makes one feel justified that one wasn't quite ready for spring planting, but soon.  I'll let you know.  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

spring photography : knitting, flowers

Every morning when I leave to take my son to school, I think, "Whoops, should have grabbed my camera."  And then I dash off with him, and come back to different light.  Oh Spring, you are so lovely.  

I'm working on socks, which are going to have a different toe than I first began.  I finished a shawl, Mistral, and I blocked another, Shawl 2.0.  Words later; pictures now.  








Monday, April 4, 2016

A Super Furry Animal

On the photo list for 116 in 2016, #50 super furry animal.  I met this sheep at Christmas and tracked it down again in January for a portrait.  How appropriate that s/he is eating fiber, eh?  Yes, I should know if it is a male or female.  But I don't.

116in2016 #50 super furry animals

Thursday, March 31, 2016

snowy day (a garden update of sorts) and a finished sweater

What a title, right?  Well, that's the way it is in Colorado.  We've had 70 degree days in the past two weeks, and then later (that afternoon) a blizzard comes through.  Makes it hard to work in the yard!  I know, though, that little bits of yard and garden work now will be well worth it - anything planted now, like grass seed and snap peas, will come up lush when the sun finally takes over for good.  It's a great chance to get a jump on the weeds, too, before the summer sun beats down.  

one of those March blizzards

Early this week, I spent a couple of hours cleaning up a couple of small beds and cutting back my sage, ornamental grass, and bee balm.  Wow, I guess I skipped a lot of gardening last year; my sage was a shambles.  Looking through the photos tagged "garden" makes me realize that my shed and garden fence both need some love.  April and May are the months to do that, while I'm itching to plant, but can't quite yet.  I'll let you know how that works out.  Here's a picture from a few years past, to remind myself it is worth the work:  



As for the knitting, like many of my Ravelry companions can attest, I've got too many projects on needles!  When I'm teaching, I'm often asked how many projects I've got on needles, and I can sometimes go through my project page on Ravelry and count for them...  "This one needs Finishing; this one, I'm writing; this one needs another skein of yarn; I'm not sure if I like this one..." etc.  A few months ago, I went through the "In Progress" set of my projects and marked some of them as "Hibernating" in order to feel a little less overwhelmed, and to admit to myself that I might never finish these projects.  I was reminded that I had a sweater that I'd begun in 2013 as a knit-along with a friend who was new to knitting, and a friend who likes help with sweaters.  Of course, I was far ahead for the body of the sweater.  However, once they got the hang of it and my attention shifted, they both surpassed me and I put it aside.  All it needed was sleeves!  And it would be nice to use those needles for something else.  As a bonus, between then and now, I've done a couple of sweaters with picked-up sleeves and decided to finish it that way.  


The yarn is scrumptious, and the shawl collar is cozy! But to be honest, I'm not sure I'm going to wear this color.  Ever.  And one sleeve does not match - same dye lot, but apparently different spots in the kettle.  I am thinking of overdying it, but not sure what color; I would hate to lose the cabling to dark yarn.  Have you ever dyed a finished knit??  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

photography :: spiderweb


Don't you love a good dew-covered spiderweb?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

butterfly photography

Early morning; still learning.