Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Turning Dirt

Saturday was beautiful and Sunday was overcast but not too wet so we got quite a bit of outside work done.
The bulbs are close to being done and I took out the most of the lupine/daisy mafia that had overtaken the front bed late last summer so we planted the flower beds (beds at the street and by the front door) with a mixture of various seeds. There were double pink poppies, snapdragons, "hummingbird mix", and "beneficial insect mix".

The grape buds are slowly and magically unfolding into clusters of leaves. I was happy to see that the cane that looked dead to me has started having some leaf buds. There are a couple of buds coming off really close to the ground and I'm wondering if one of those could end up becoming the new main stem since I still don't like the blighted look of the main branch. I'll let it keep doing its thing and, hopefully, the answer will become clearer.

We were not prepared for how vigorously raspberry canes produce suckers. The mother is the tall one going out of the frame. I think I'm going to try to transplant some of the others into the trellis line, since we currently only have one raspberry. At least the suckers aren't apparently impossible to kill like blackberries. I hope that's true and we won't constantly have to be beating back an invading bramble.

Some potatoes that had gone soft in the pantry started vigorously growing roots and a few leaves in the cold of the winter compost pile so I spread them out in an empty bed and threw some leaves over them. It might be fun to rig some sort of fence out of some chicken wire and try to create a potato tower. We keep meaning to get around to that experiment.

I felt so guilty about having nothing started that I bought a six pack of pea plants the other day and got the support net out and rigged up. I planted another row of seeds on the other side of the net and planted some spinach, radishes, lettuce, and carrots in that bed as well. I'm trying to start planting small amounts of things in several batches to make the harvest less "feast and famine". I've already got some little lettuce plants going in the next bed over that are a few weeks old now. Scaling it to fit a household of two instead of an entire plantation, I keep having Thomas Jefferson's advice to plant a thimbleful of lettuce seeds every week play through my head.

Our most exciting experiment was getting the bed of hull-less oats planted. Hull-less oats are a good option for a home garden because they're easier to process. Ideally we'll get some grain out of the bed to either roll for oatmeal (we'd need to buy a cereal flaker) or use as supplemental chicken feed (we could just run it through the mill on a very coarse setting). The straw should be usable as chicken bedding for the coming winter.

We did some soil tests and confirmed that last year's corn had completely drained the soil of nitrogen. After we broke up the soil a bit we worked in about 6 pounds of fish meal and about a cup of blood meal that we happened to have. We then scatter sowed the oats, lightly raked them over, and Q walked over the bed to make sure we had good soil contact. We then spread the last of a rain-abused straw bale over them to discourage the crows from seeing it as a buffet. They're supposed to germinate in 7-2o days, so we'll know in the next month or so if our experiment is off to an auspicious start.

In honor of Earth Day, the garden center was giving away Japanese maple seedlings. This is one of our favorite "useless" trees so we got one. Since we have no idea where we could possibly put it, it is currently living in a very large planter. If it survives and looks like it might actually become a tree we'll have to work it into the back yard landscaping as that develops.

All that oat planning got me in a cooking mood and we made a double batch of granola (this batch features dried cherries) and a batch of oatmeal scotchie dough this weekend. We're rationing cookies to one pan per day. I think I'm going to have to start upping the walnuts and leaving out the almonds though. We finally saw Queen of the Sun this weekend (absolutely remarkable movie) and I'm not sure I want to support the almond industry any more. Monocultures are always bad but I'm deeply concerned about what this particular one may be doing to our bee populations. I haven't been able to figure out how to find any small farms that produce almonds and manage hives on-site.

Needing yogurt for the granola got me enthused about making yogurt again. I've wanted a way to maintain the temperature more efficiently while it cultures and Q found this project in Make. (Who wants to go to the effort of making yogurt in one of those stupid machines so you can just get 6 tiny little jars in a batch?) He ordered the parts on Monday and everything works out - I get a yogurt maker and he gets an electronics project.

Mom pointed out that I've been remiss in posting bump pictures so here we are at 22 weeks. I'm glad I took early pictures so I've got proof to convince myself I use to have a relatively flat tummy. I'll probably be glad later on, when my huge belly seems like a dream from a far of time that I have proof of that too. Amazing to think I still have 4 months of incubating!

I also finished a cute spring size 12 mo. sweater this weekend that I need to get a pattern and pictures posted for.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The New Coop

After rain thwarted our building efforts and the chicks had to live in the bathroom for way to long, the new coop was finally made habitable last weekend. Q designed it based on lots of research on other people's coops and we think it ended up costing about $300. We did use almost all new materials so those costs could probably be cut way down. The layers live here now and the meat chicks live in the tractor.

The footprint is 4x6 and the bottom frame where it touches the ground is made of cedar. There are extensions on the "heavy end" (right, in the picture) that will have wheels attached so it can be lifted and rolled like a wheel barrow with handles on the other end.
It fits perfectly onto our raised beds so we have to option of using in on a bed, secured with carriage bolts to keep it from slipping.

There is an access panel to the small run that is held in place by two slide bolts. All of the hardware cloth is held on with washers and screws.
This panel on the end will completely lift up to let them into the larger run when we get that set up again. We need to make some adjustments to the door's chain pull because we hadn't accounted on the weight of the door. Smaller chain and another eyelet to help the feed should take care of the problem. We used metal channel we found at BRING to set the doors.
From this angle, the small door that leads into the coop is visible on the interior left. (It's the same chain and channel arrangement as the front.) This will allow us to lock them into just the coop area for transport or run cleaning. The interior coop area has hardware cloth between it and the small run. We're going to also have a solid panel that fits in that space to protect them during harsher weather.
Q hasn't added the latches to the back access doors yet. Currently, we have to bring the electric drill with us to check eggs each day. Eventually, it will be possible to open just one at a time.
Here's the inside after the doors are open. Their food, water, grit, and shell all reside to the back left in the photo, behind the roost. There are two nest boxes in the front right and there is a storage area built in above them. They have been very courteous about using the new nest boxes and the manure pile suggests they're using their roost at night.

We're going to be on the Eugene "Tour de Coop" this year and I think Q's looking forward to showing off his handiwork.

The young ones seem rather satisfied with their new outdoor life. I think they're about two months away from harvest. Eugene Backyard Farmer is planning on getting a shipment of meat birds in in August, so assuming this little experiment ends up working out well, we'll probably be raising another, slightly larger batch during late summer and harvesting in time for stocking up the winter freezer.

Book Sale Find

I haven't gotten around to showing of this year's "Friends of the Eugene Library" book sale find yet. Each year, volunteers spend hundreds of hours sorting thousands of books that have been donated to the library and then have a two day book sale at the fairgrounds. Last year's sale netted $80,000 for the library.
I bought a bunch of children's books (yes, I know newborns can't read but one must be prepared), including We Like Kindergarten, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. The sale's quite a deal since the kid's books are all a dollar and are in very good shape.

My splurge cost $25 (but it helps the library, right?).

A circa 1940 edition of Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery with it's original dust jacket (carefully protected in a plastic sleeve). And here's the best part...

It had an inscription
Mrs. Richards.
The "Richards" Glee Club.
New Glasgow, P.E.I.
August 25th 1940.

And the original thank you note...
It reads:
To Mrs. Richards.
We, the members of the "Richards" Glee Club wish to extend our appreciation for training us in our choruses each evening during your stay here. We wish to thank you for organizing the club, in which you showed your thoughtfulness and kindness.
Though your visit was short we have made an acquaintance that will not be forgotten. You have shown us what an excellent "Pianist and Singer" you are, and helped us to master those lovely hymns. Should the time come when with Mr. Richards you will pay a return visit to Prince Edward Island you will be assured of a welcome.
In closing we ask you to accept this small gift, not for its value but for the love that goes with it.
On behalf of the Glee Club

There's something so extra delightful about the fact that it's from a group of people on Prince Edward Island; even more proof of exactly how proud they were of their world famous author.
New Glasgow is only a few miles from L.M. Montgomery's home and when we made our pilgrimage to P.E.I. a couple years ago we drove right through it. This book somehow found it's way in the other direction and made it nearly to the Pacific from the Atlantic coast over the last seventy years.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Buds and Early Growth

Two of last year's grape vines and the new one all seem to be doing well. It looks like we lost one to some sort of fungus though - oh no, a trip to the garden store! ;)

About seven of the asparagus crowns in the front bed have stalks.

Raspberry cane

We now have seven rhubarb plants.

I realized that we need to use the rest of last year's rhubarb and strawberries before this year's crops come in...and we have tons of backyard grown eggs. This translated into vanilla custard with strawberry-rhubarb fool for breakfast this weekend.

When we came back from Colorado, the blueberries had burst into bloom.

The cherry tree

The bulbs have been having a nice succession.

We spent a bunch of the weekend working on the new chicken coop. The layers are in their new house tonight and the meat chicks are spending their first night in the tractor. I'll post chicken pics once we get the finishing touches on the coop done.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Infant Undershirt/Vest Knitting Pattern

Finally! Here's the pattern for my little baby undershirt. I'll try to remember to update the picture after I have a baby to actually model it. ;) My favorite part is there are no seams to sew at the end. The only finishing is joining the shoulders with Kitchener stitch and weaving in ends. Fast and easy.

If you make it, please post a link to a picture of your finished garment in the comments and please let me know about any mistakes in the pattern. The simplest patterns seem to be the most difficult to write out somehow. For shaping, remember that decreases on the armhole side are supposed to slant inward; decreases on the neck edge should slant outward.

Finished Measurements
  • Size 0-3 mos. (18" circumference, 6" long to armholes, armholes depth is 3")


  • Size 6 16" circular needles
  • I don't know exactly what yarn this was. (It was given to me without a label.) I think it's quite similar to Rowan Tapestry, color "Whirlpool". I had a single 50 g skein and had only a few yards left over. All you knitters know that it doesn't matter as long as the gauge is right. :)
  • 26 st x 36 rows = 4" x 4"
CO 116 st.

Join in the round. (The cleanest join is created by slipping the first CO stitch next to the last CO stitch on the right needle. Slip the last stitch over the first stitch and put it onto the left needle - they've now traded places. The first row will now start with the last stitch CO.)

Work 4 rows in seed stitch then continue in stockinette stitch until the body measures 5 1/2" from the cast on edge.

Armhole shaping (These instructions are also creating a seed stitch border around the armhole):
  • Row 1: k1, p1, k53, *p1,k1* 2 times, p1, k53, p1, k1, p1
  • Row 2: p1, k1, p1, k51, *p1,k1* 3 times, p1, k51, *p1, k1* 2 times
  • Row 3: *k1,p1* 2 times, k49, *p1,k1* 4 times, p1, k49, *p1,k1* 2 times, p1
  • Row 4: p1, *k1,p1* 2 times, k47, *p1,k1* 5 times, p1, k47, *p1,k1* 3 times
  • Row 5: cast off 2 st, *k1,p1* 2 times, ssk, k43, k2tog, *k1,p1* 2 times, k1, cast off 2, *k1,p1* 2 times, ssk, k43, k2tog, *k1,p1* 2 times, k1

Front and back neck shaping:
You now can work back and forth on one side. Place stitches for the other side on a holder (or just leave them sitting unworked on your circular needles for now).

From this point on, start each row with "Slip first stitch, work 4 stitches in seed stitch" before continuing with that row's instructions. Finish each row with "Work the last 5 stitches in seed stitch".
  • Row 1 (wrong side): Work stockinette to last 5 stitches.
  • Row 2 (right side): Ssk, work stockinette to last 7 stitches. K2tog.
  • Row 3 (wrong side): same as Row 1
  • Row 4: K7, k2tog, *p1,k1* 5 times, p1, k2tog, *p1,k1* 5 times, p1, ssk, k7.
  • Row 5: P8, 22 stitches seed stitch, p8.
  • Row 6: K6, k2tog, *p1,k1* 5 times, p1, k2tog, *p1,k1* 5 times, p1, ssk, k6.
  • Row 7: P7, 22 stitches seed stitch, p7.
  • Row 8: K5, k2tog, *p1,k1* 2 times, p1, cast off 14 stitches, *p1,k1* 2 times, p1, ssk, k5.
Shoulder and neck shaping:
There are now two sets of shoulder stitches. Work the following instructions through with one side and then finish the other side, reversing shaping. (The instructions are assuming that the first row starts just where you finished "Row 8" above - we are now on a purl row starting at the shoulder side.)

Remember to start each row with "Slip first stitch, work 4 stitches in seed stitch" before continuing with that row's instructions. Finish each row with "Work the last 5 stitches in seed stitch".
  • Row 1: P6
  • Row 2: Ssk, k4
  • Row 3: P5
  • Row 4: Ssk, k3
  • Row 5: P4
  • Row 6: Ssk, k2
  • Row 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19: P3
  • Row 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18: K3
  • Leave a long tail (for Kitchener stitch later), cut yarn, and place stitches on a holder.
Complete the "front and back" and "shoulder and neck" shaping for the other half of the stitches. At this point you will have 4 sets of 13 stitches that meet in pairs at the tops of the armholes. Join these stitches with Kitchener stitch and weave in all loose ends.


Thursday, April 14, 2011


What an inspiring life. I realized I need to move his ear closer to his eyes. Hopefully that would fix the perspective problem but I'm still pretty happy with the shading and the eyes.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sprout's First Photo Shoot

Not much one can say really. We've really got a baby in there who currently weighs 11 oz. has a heartbeat of 147 bpm and appears to be normal in every way. Yay! It's frustrating to have to wait until the end of August to meet our Sprout.