ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I started out digging swales. This goes back to redesigning my front yard to allow for better water storage in my soil and to prevent erosion. My original plan, based on measurements I took on the coldest day of the year. Brrr.

Garden Plans

I started implementing it, one bucket full of clay soil at a time. You can finally see progress although much more work needs to be done. This was last year's unruly garden, 2016. I had hoped to tidy it up a bit this year.

How does your garden grow?

The Unplanned Sunflowers

So some of those plants are perennials. They have to be dug up and moved. This is much easier while the soil is damp in spring and vegetation is not yet up. I moved the hollyhocks into a row. I pray I got all the sunchokes out. We'll see. And today I had to dig out the skirret and move it out of my new paths.

Work in Progress

I was surprised at how much better the roots were on the front yard skirret, planted in clay versus the herb spiral skirret, planted in coffee grounds. Although both root clusters went deep into the soil and had lots of tubers, the herb spiral skirret was very thin, and had rather useless roots. Too skinny to warrant cleaning. The skirret in the front yard, on the other hand, had some very nice thick roots and looked appetizing. Many broke off during transplanting. I dug extra deep to extract them. If I hadn't, I would have had a bumper crop in the middle of my path. After several washings, I just threw them in water into the fridge so they wouldn't dry out or get slimy.


Chronographia tackled them further with a toothbrush. Once they were clean, they went into the food processor. She made two skirret fritters, one with apple and one with carrots. Hello Yarn supplied the basic recipe. https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/helloyarn/5691749108/ It is easy to adapt to gluten free or for me, skipping the egg due to allergies. They fried up nice. The skirret was sweet to begin with. It was served with a side of yogurt and our favorite chicken, apple and gouda sausages.

Skirret Fritters

This prompted a discussion on facebook. They are a period food for many reenactors. I think they may have even been on "The Supersizers Go", a food comedy out of the UK. This is a recipe from medieval times, http://foodhistorjottings.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/elizabeth-rainbows-skirret-pie.html

The benefit of skirret over parsnips is that it is a perennial. It has multiple roots. It really would be hard to kill once established. The roots break off when the plant is dug, just like dandelions. They grow back. The yield is high. They are crunchy and can be eaten raw. Skirret has lots of nooks and crannies, making it hard to get the dirt off. A toothbrush is the best tool for the job along with lots of water.


I got my seed from Restoration Seeds. I was so afraid they wouldn't germinate. I babied those seedlings. I managed to get six plants. The two in my front yard did the best. I had two in my herb spiral and two in my hugel bed, which I call Middle Earth. https://www.restorationseeds.com/collections/seed-collections/products/perennial-vegetables-collection


I found that skirret attracts many unusual pollinators and was a great benefit to the whole garden. I've since moved one skirret to a new bed in hopes of attracting more bees there. Other youtube videos suggest that skirret is easier to propagate using the root cuttings. I will vouch for that. They really are like that dandelion whose taproot broke off. A friend, who is a master gardener, suggested not letting the skirret go to flower so that the roots would be bigger. This is not necessary and very hard to accomplish. Skirret loves to flower. I did try and noticed no difference. Skirret is like many other perennial root crops, including madder or bloodroot. It must be three years old before the roots are mature enough to harvest. This is why the potato surpassed it in popularity and skirret was forgotten. After tonight's very tasty dinner, I can say it is definitely making a comeback, at least around here!

I'm Back

21 Mar 2017 09:21 am
ursulas_alcove: Pink petal hat (Peeking flower faery)
Gulf Wars was a lot of things. It was cold for most of the week. Highs in the upper forties and low fifties. The nights were 35°F. I sold as many Viking hats as I brought. No one was inteested in anything from a later time period. Problem is, once the hats sold out, sales plummeted. Since I make them all by hand, there was not a huge quantity to start with. The number of people who braved the cold was down from previous years. Lots of people from Austin, TX who were fleeing South by Southwest. Also folks from Northshield who thought the weather was just fine. And frozen Trimarians because Florida is close by. There were some great classes. It is definitely an event I would want to just attend, even without merchanting. Early Period Living has its own village where you could just hang out everyday. Gulf Wars also has horse activities and coursing hounds as well as all the rest of the martial arts. The pagentry is stunning.


I was able to take a couple of classes with many thanks to Lady Jennette who booth sat for me. I look a lacto-fermentation class. This is food preservation by using salt and whey from cheese-making. We tasted raw salmon, raw beef, carrots-ginger, and pear. The teacher had also taught the bog coat class which she went into afterwards because we finished early. This has lead me on a quest for stitches and finishing techniques for bog coats, which I do make. I also got to take the clay pot cooking class that I missed at WW last year. I am going to try this at home. This has promise for summer outdoor cooking and in case our electric gets cut off. I was able to swap with a potter for an appropriate pot. At home, is the possibility of cooking at the fireplace inside our house. (although the wood smoke stinks up the house) Another plus was that I got to speak at length with the bread bakers at the Early Period Living clay oven. I really want to try this. It means finding firebrick. Anyone with some floating around, I will gladly take it off your hands. I want a cob oven. I helped clean up the wet textile tent. I took home copper and iron mordants to use here.

Now comes the hard part. Figuring out out which bills to pay and getting used to being hungry. The gas gets turned off next week. Attempts to apply for aid have not worked. Their system makes it look like we applied for aid and then spits us out with all the data lost. I need to make some calls. John comes home from the hospital tomorrow. I might have enough gas in one car to get him. I bent a wheel rim on the way to Gulf Wars and I need new engine seals. I can't afford repairs. My vehicle's days are numbered. Internet and phones may follow. Sales just haven't been good enough to support us. I'm working real hard to get things listed on etsy. I may try my hand at advertising. My business never really needed a marketing department before. The stress of never knowing whether things will work out is starting to wear on me. I pray that our taxes will net us a refund but am terrified they won't. Time will tell. I plan to talk to our bank next week to see if I can roll the second mortgage together with the rest of the mortgage into a fixed rate loan. Our original was a 7.5% interest, much higher than todays rates. Since the county reassessed our home to a value higher, it might be an option to lower our monthly bill. What I don't have are closing costs. And the hospital bills will follow soon. They say I can pay them $5 a month forever. You have to have $5 to start with. Currently, I have more loose change in the car's ashtray than in the bank. I do have some other irons in the fire. I will try to entice a local store into carrying my handwovens. I also just partnered with another business to carry my handwoven leg wraps. That way I can care for my husband without traveling too far. I just need to make them. That takes time. I also will be appying for property tax releif once the taxes are done. There is hope. Each month that passes is a miracle. We survived. We will find a way to get through this. Running your own business has always been a crapshoot. It is not for everyone. There is no safety net.

This leads me to some dark thoughts. America is rapidly becoming a two class system, the "haves" and the "have-nots". Most people I hung out with last week ordered everything online. If you don't support your local stores, soon you won't have any. So those without credit cards, bank accounts, and internet will no longer have anywhere to buy reasonably priced goods. This is not a pretty scenario. Michele Obama brought the food desert problem to the nation's attention. Meaning, there are no grocery stores in the inner city. Compound that with no other types of stores, clothing, shoes, etc. and America has a big problem in addition to the poverty that caused it. This is a societal problem, well above my pay grade. It's sad that our wealthy nation has been reduced to this.

Chronographia had a show that bombed. She did not break even. She learned many lessons though. Hotel room vending is not for her. She needs to be among other vendors for her own piece of mind. Also if customers are in your hotel room, you have no safe space to retreat to. And sometimes you need to separate work from private. Also the convention was not well thought out. It was called The Dark Side of the Con. Sort of a Goth theme with Voltaire doing a concert. Lots of vampires. The bad part was that no one in charge realized that having bondage merchants with colorful adult toys would attract the small children who attended. The merchants thought it was a 21 and over show. The patrons thought it was a family friendly event.

The first day of spring, we planted more seedlings. By golly, there will be more food in the yards this year if I have anything to do with it.

Update on Seedlings


8 Mar 2017 02:12 am
ursulas_alcove: Paul Darrow at his best (severely annoyed)
No posts this week. Packing and preparing for Gulf Wars as well as finishing data for tax season. More posts soon.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
A peek at the weather forcast for the rest of February indicates that our lowest low temperatures will only be 32°. Many days, the highs will be in the 60s. Never in my lifetime has this occurred.

Reworking Wine Bottle Border

I have been preoccupied with preparing garden beds. Above you see in the mandala garden, I spent time measuring distance from the tree to place wine bottles as a border. More work needs to be done to complete it. I evened out the circle because it was looking lopsided. The previous border used logs which move, especially rolling down the hill.

I did a layout with a totally new configuration for the front yard garden. It centers on the new peach tree. I am trying to reflect the mandela design to the other side of the front walkway. It will be circular but truncated by the slate sidewalk which follows a curvy path from the front door to the steps. The unruly tall plants are getting moved to the back. Hopefully I can transplant all the sunflowers that sprout as well as the hollyhocks. The hollyhocks are already in evidence since the new seedlings got started last year and never died back this winter. Parts of the ground are still frozen which is good. I am still finding sunchokes in the compost. Those are getting moved to make a privacy fence between my driveway and the neighbor's house. As a foodstuff, they disagree with me. As a fence, they have more use. The deer can't abide them either.

Garden Plans

Front Yard Garden- My design involves digging swales to accumulate water. The idea is to store it in the ground. Because of the hill, raised beds won't work. So instead, I'm lowering the paths. I should not need to water as much and I will not experience the erosion when it rains hard. Wood shavings from my woodworking friend are going into the lowered paths. The shavings compress after a lot of walking on them, almost like presser board. I have been busy moving coreopsis and digging a small section of the path by hand. I also started on a back wall with cuttings from my trimming. There deer have been munching on the tulips which are already coming up. Fencing is also on my todo list.

Spring Fever

The seedlings are coming along. Lovage and Good King Henry are no shows. I may try to sprout Good King Henry in the refrigerator. The seedlings have been going outside each day to harden off. These are all cold weather plants. There are three kinds of lettuce, arugula, swiss chard, bok choi, parsley, and leeks. With luck, I'll get a cold frame or a covered row going soon. Time is precious. Too much to do.


19 Feb 2017 09:40 am
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Looking over my garden, I was looking at gooseberries again as part of a walnut guild. And then I found honeyberries. They are in the honeysuckle family. We already have honeysuckle growing in the neighbor's lilacs, right by the walnut. So I think they might work. They produce very early, even before strawberries. They like shade. I think as a natural border under the mulberry, they would be great. Height about 4'. That area has a microclimate for spring and warms much earlier than the rest of the yard. Because the mulberry has no leaves yet, more sun gets through early morning and in the evening. You need two bushes minimum for pollination.


I was looking over gooseberries too. I finally found some species that are white. One is called Invicta.
The other is called Pixwell. When I was a kid, we always had both currants and gooseberries. Both grew well under our Butternut tree (white walnut). When I searched last year, I could only find pink or red gooseberry bushes.

Shade Mapping

And because I could really use more nitrogen fixers in the yard, I was looking at another Goumi bush. I already bought one two years ago from this business. I went there in person. I find mail order plants go through hell once the weather heats up. They cook inside postal vehicles and arrive half dead. I currently have seeds on order that had to go from Northern California via Arizona and are taking over week with Fedex. It has to do with I-80 and the Oroville Dam. The area was evacuated because the dam is about ready to collapse. Erosion under the walls is to blame as well as a lack of oversight. Oroville runs a hydroelectric power plant too. http://ediblelandscaping.com/buyPlants.php

Along the side of the house, I want an Aronia bush next to the lilac. The neighbor's fence is slowly deteriorating. I don't think she is interested in repairing it. A natural fence or hedgerow is what I'm working on. Aronia has lovely berries and is the same size as the lilac. I already have two Elderberries along there. I built stone water catches for them. The property line is way off towards the front yard. I am trying to correct it. I think one of the yew bushes is going to have to go. There is no room to squeeze through if I correct the propery line. It's a slow process.


And finally in the front yard, I want lingonberries in with my blueberries. They are companion plants. I may just take a drive into Ohio. There is a nursery called just that, Companion Plants. I need mad money first. Guess I should go work on my taxes.

ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
The soil is slowly getting tested, bed by bed. So far, my overall yard soil is high in potash (potassium), deficient in Nitrogen. We are working on that. See David the Good's survival gardening. https://youtu.be/Fp1dxOmBD00
Phospherous is low as well. Fish emulsion or a buckwheat cover crop should fix that. Fishing around here means PCBs so I am not going out to catch fish nor do I have an aquaponics setup yet. I do have a whole bag of buckwheat seed so this works. The pH varies by bed, depending on what's growing there. The blueberries need acidic soil. With the help of yew, pine, and spruce needles, the pH was successfully lowered down to 6.5. When I moved in 23 years ago, the soil was at 8.0. So yeah! Thank you neighbors for all the curbside Christmas trees. Much appreciated!

Please don't write and tell me to rotate crops. I grow perennials. You don't just go out and move trees and bushes around each year.

Blueberry Patch Soil Test

Pure Coffee Ground testing after one year:
PH 6.5 to 7.0
Nitrogen Sufficent
Potash adequate
Phospherous Sufficient

This was done on the herb spiral which had no soil added to it at all. It had a few plants (basil and fennel) added as mulch but no grass clippings. All the rest was coffee grounds from Starbucks. The coffee grounds lost volume as they decomposed. I had to add a lot more to bring the soil line back up to height. I'd say half to 3/4 was lost. I am very pleased with this bed. Free brick, free grounds, great value. The basil loves it most.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Last year we started off with 47° and then got a snowstorm. This year it was 63° and then we got a snowstorm. There is a podcast I listen to called Stuff you missed in History Class. They have done some reminders that warm weather like this in winter can end in tears. The Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888 is one tragedy that still lingers in our behavoir if you live in the Dakotas or Minnesota. We just don't trust the weather. http://www.missedinhistory.com/podcasts/the-schoolhouse-blizzard.htm

2017 Snow

Today the weather is back to 55° which is about 15° (or more) above normal. With the permafrost going away in both the arctic and antarctic, methane pockets will be added to the already nasty chemical cocktail in the atmosphere. You can read more about it here: http://m.dailykos.com/stories/1632335 I have a bad feeling about this. Summer will be unbearably hot, I fear. Wool hat sales are down. For that matter, all sales are down. Scared people don't spend money. Wonder what the learning curve is on straw hats?

I have got some happy seedlings in the front window. I planted a bowl of arugula as well. I have asperagus seed soaking to plant tomorrow. Also alfalfa sprouts are soaking for sprouting for more immediate eating. My soil testing kit is prepped and ready for tomorrow. I've been looking at cold frames. Soon. . .
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Today started out with dishes. We don't have a dishwasher. I need to wet felt at the sink so it's gotta be clean. I noticed a pile of dirty sweaters so hand laundry followed dishes. Then it was lunch time so I made pancakes. This was followed by yardwork. It hit 63° today. Second or third time in 2017 to do so. I had picked up woodshavings from Egil yesterday. I moved those out of the truck. I am not using them just yet so I made a mountain of bags along the back porch. I added my coffee grounds to the upper tier. That is the garden I will start first this year. I had to make a tiny palisade or stick fence to keep the dirt where I want it. Hills, erosion, etc. It rained on and off all day.


A new garden section was started next to the garage. I had previously dug a swale. The new hillock/garden bed needed brown paper added to it. Then I put some gardeners plastic on top, weighted down by bricks, rocks and a log. I want to kill off any weeds. Normally I don't dig but this will save water. Eventually I want a greenhouse in this location. The ground will need to be leveled before that. This garden is a halfway solution. The digging of the swale lowers the high side and builds up the lower side, slowly leveling it out.

The attic creature is running up and down right now, distracting me. I wonder if it's a racoon or a possum. It still sounds like its using the drainpipe to get up to the attic. I can't tell whether its on the outside of the pipe or the inside. Nobody has sprayed the backyard, marking territory. The deer have been busy elsewhere. Only the squirrels hang out. You don't want to know how many peanut shells I found today.

I scraped more dirt out of the old brick raised bed plot. There are so many tree roots in there. No wonder nothing really grew. That tree sucked out all the water. I will need to cut that mulberry back. It's getting too big for its own britches.


I looked over my seedlings. Eventually some will need bigger pots, like the Swiss Chard. So I set off to collect dirt out of old planters while we had a thaw. I mixed it with worm poo and water. The worms tried to escape today. One made it halfway to the back door! I checked out the vermiculture beds and topped those off with shredded paper. Three big pots with wet dirt went into the oven to sterilize. I cooked it at 250 for about an hour while I chased off to the post office and Starbucks. A couple of bills got paid. I wish I could pay them all off. I also wish I could go off grid.


In the upper tier, new ground ivy is growing. Dandelions are occupying my paths. Phlox is green and covering the strip along the driveway. Strange, strange winter. I reviewed last year's journel entries. The weather pattern is similar but 2017 is about 20° warmer than last year. Thursday will be our cold day, going down to 15°. Then back up to daytime highs in the mid-forties and fifties. Weird weird winter.

Good News!

5 Feb 2017 03:31 pm
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (drop spindle girl)
So I worked really hard. I made a lot of product. We left for the show on Friday. Got to stay in a very nice hotel for very little money. I love Martinsburg, WV. Had a nice evening with friends. Then got up at 5am to drive to the show which was still over an hour away. Pulled in and unloaded. The staff was friendly. Chronographia and I discussed logistics. The spot was only 9' by 9'. We laid out an asymmetric booth and even got both chairs in. It rocked. I had enough stuff and even had overflow to fill in holes as stuff sold. We got lots of fresh air and a break from setup for a prolonged fire drill. I can vouch that the alarm system works really well. We waited outside until the marshall did his inspection. Once the noise stopped, I went back to work.

Shawls and bags

We are still working on lighting for the booth. We got some amazing 3D printed snap-on blocks for the grid-wall. We just haven't found a clamp light that we like. Didn't matter. We took what we had. It worked. There was enough natural light too.

Better Than Bling

There were three rooms at the community center with 30 or so artists. The show started out years ago as a jewelry only event. It was because so many people are jewelers and each art show can only have so many jewelers in it. So this was a chance right before Valentines day to sell jewelry and only jewelers were invited originally. Then they opened it up to other artists, mostly in textiles. This particular area is the wealthiest county in the nation. It should be a good show, right?

Art Show Booth

In the first two hours, I met all the vendors and a lot of the staff. The art was in varying degrees of skill. Each artist felt proud to have been juried in. Displays must look good, lighting must be just so, there has to be enough volume of art to look like you are seriously producing. And it did look good. Some better than others as you would expect. Then I had a conversation with a gentleman who was quite taken aback when he found out that I was a professional artist. (Meaning that I derive my income from making art) The look on his face was one of sheer astonishment. I started asking around. Each artist had a day job. They were doing this once or twice a year to support their "hobby".

Then the overly loud Muzak started. Supposedly it was "light jazz". It was the same music that movie theaters play when reminding you to pickup popcorn and a giant soda. Then turn off your phone and enjoy the show. Eight hours of this. My husband is happy today. He can finally get a word in edge-wise. I am so horse, I can barely be heard. My voice is gone. I had to talk so loud to be heard over the music. The beat did not encourage people to browse. It was too fast. You couldn't hold a conversation long either. We gave the organizers some suggestions on what to play and how loud. We ate food we brought from home. A lot of people were jealous and wanted to know where we got it. I make meat pasties and keep them in the freezer for shows. I also had Baba Ghanoush and pita chips, carrot sticks, soda and home made cookies. I grew a lot of eggplant this year.

The organizers came around to let us know that there was a theater performance and that people would be getting out of the performance soon, so get ready for a rush of people. Yes, well, we never did figure out when the performance finished up. But the really amazing news is that almost everything you see in my pictures is still available. Email me at linda@ursulasalcove.com if you see something you like.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
A winter's day, after working far away from home, I wanted the comfort of my kitchen. I baked cookies.

Sesame cookies

Sesame Cookies adapted from a peanut butter cookie recipe

1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped candied ginger
1/3 c sesame seeds - optional

Mix together. Bake in preheated oven at 350 until golden brown. (8 to 10 minutes)
Our oven only has one coil left so its hard for me to judge.

I worked on dishes while Chronograpghia worked on dinner. We splurged and bought meat, pork chops. We had leftover cranberries from last month that needed to be used up. She made a beautiful sauce.

Cranberries come in fours, not fives

I wanted to enact some positive change upon the world so I planted. I know its really too early for that. I planted shade garden cold weather plants. Its been so warm this winter. I have a cold weather row cover. I hope to get at some old curtain rods and bend them into hoops. The new bed is ready to support life. In four weeks I could have a garden going. So far, I have mizuna, Swiss chard, red lettuce and leeks coming up.

Squeee! The seedlings are sprouting

The sweet potatoes are also doing well. They need to be started in January in order to be ready by the last frost date (May 31st). Two itty bitty potatoes survived from last years garden. I have them rooting on a window ledge. The dark glass jar worked really well. It has double the roots compared to the ones I started in clear glass jars. I also bought an organic sweet potato to root from the co-op. I cut that one in half. Both of those have started roots, but are not as robust as this guy. I expect slips to grow in February. In March, I will break them off and root the slips while the root core regrows new slips. In May, I should have healthy plants to put in the ground. Hoping for 8 to 12 plants. Based on last year's yield, that should net me about 36 small sweet potatoes plus a handful to save as seed potatoes for the following year.

Rooting Sweet Potatoes for slips

With travel bans in place, legal or not, it is doing its job of keeping Americans stuck inside America's borders. It will affect trade. Imported food supplies will become scarce. The whole thing about getting rid of NAFTA and building walls will impact a lot of our food supply from Mexico. Most of our winter foods come from South America and Mexico. Avocadoes are just one of them. Apples, grapes, and oranges are imported. Read your origin labels on the little sticker. Now think about what you won't have shorttly. Or it will have a high tariff. Now do you see why it is so important to grow your own food? Fruit trees take five years to establish. If your soil is somewhat acidic, blueberry bushes are the way to go. Ours produced the very first year.

Good luck with your planting!
ursulas_alcove: Woodcut from Robin Hood (Spock's Raised Eyebrow)
No, not really. The weather has been so screwy. This has been the second batch of sixty dgree days this month. Not normal for January. It will get cold again. Our frost date is May 31st. The last two years it did frost on Memorial Day. I have never seen green grass and green plants at this time of year before. We have also had two bouts of single degree temps or colder. However, the ground was warm when they hit so not all plants died. I picked up The Winter Garden by Eliot Coleman. He lives in Maine. It has a very cold winter climate. He has some winter gardening tips so that you can have some crops during the winter. But you have to start them earlier, in fall, say mid-October or late September. They don't grow in winter. They keep in winter. Get them growing under a cover and just harvest all winter. So my thought was to establish some early spring crops indoors under lights. As the weather hits one of these warm spurts, harden them off and get them planted under a row cover. So when we get these frosts, they are protected. Otherwise stuff has been bolting too soon as it heats up in early May. Early May has been hitting 90° temps several years running. Because I sell wool hats and yarn, I know very well when the hot weather hits my business. All sales stop. I have years of data.

And then there is Justin Rhodes. He has been influencing my thought process a lot lately. If you have never heard of him before, check out his Youtube channel. You will enjoy. He is the Chicken Ninja Master. Soon, he will be embarking on The Great American Farm Tour with a converted bus that he is learning to drive. He and his family of five will be traveling all over the US and Canada on an amazing bus, named Maple. Last year he grew 75% of his own food in 100 days! I learned a lot from him. I just don't have a budget yet. So I have plans for growing food that we ended up buying a lot of this last year. Start with a plan. Don't be too ambitious. You want to actually achieve your goals and build on that success.

Enjoying This Book

So as I was weaving today. I noticed a book on my shelf. I must have picked it up at the co-op. I found some time late this afternoon to go through it. It starts with my herb spiral. Now I started mine after watching PermaculturePA on Youtube, but the Edible Landscaping book has nice detailed plans for the herb spiral. It explains the different microclimates that are created within this structure, assuming your spiral is on flat ground. Ours is not. However, the plant placement map is still a good rule of thumb. Our rosemary hates the spiral. It refuses to thrive. It took us two years to get yarrow established but we did manage it. The thyme died again last year as did the marjoram and sage. We lost over half of the soil in the pile. It wasn't due to erosion. It was due to decomposition. Since the mound was mostly made of coffee grounds, it does a couple of things. First, coffee grounds heat up as they decompose. Combine with direct sun and bricks (heat mass) and the temperature of the bed was too hot. The second thing could have been the nitrogen. Either it wasn't in a form the plants could use, or the grounds sucked nitrogen out of the plants as they broke down. Either way, some plants didn't like the spiral. Basil did thrive and so did the skirret. The jury is still out on the chamomile and the chives. The hyssop is doing okay. We hope to build on what we have and try again this year.

Herb Spiral in Winter

One of the plants to go into our spiral will be parsley. This is one herb we did not have enough of. Justin says, since you want to eat everyday, you should plant everyday. So I may be premature, but I started a seed tray today. I picked five plants, four of which will go into the early spring garden. Parsley can live in the house until the weather settles. The grocery store had herbs in pots for sale today. I didn't buy any but that means it is time. For us, it's more a matter of how dry the house gets in winter and whether my babies survive my week at Gulf Wars. Anyway, I want at least 24 leek plants. I found two outside in pots that finally germinated after months of tending. I planted them last April. I left them to die in October. They just were not growing. I decided to rescue them from the negative temps a few weeks ago. They are hanging out in the front window, still doing well. They are Tadorna Leeks from High Mowing Seeds. My newly planted leeks will be King Richard from Botanical Interests. We'll see how those germinate.

Seed Tray #1

I picked up a seed blocking tool so that I don't need pots yet. It was developed by Eliot Coleman. It's really neat. Johnny's Seeds carries this tool. I filled one tray. If those plants outgrow their 2" cube of soil, I have 4" pots available for transplanting them. It makes cubes as shown here: https://www.johnnyseeds.com/tools-supplies/seed-starting-supplies/trays-domes-and-flats/soil-block-propagation-trays---pack-of-5-9397.html#q=Seed%2Bblock&lang=en_US&start=1
Here's hoping I can get some plants growing.

Favorite New Tool
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Not really sure what the point of having a job is. We have only the gig economy. I must pay for product each time I demonstrate it. So far I'm out $60. Eventually, they will reimburse me. Meanwhile, I can't pay the utilities because I have the priveledge of having a job. By next week, I'll be out over $100 for products I'm demonstrating. It won't be reimbursed for over two weeks. I am also out the time I use to create art. I cannot make product for the art show if I am standing at the grocery store handing out free samples. The job involves standing still, not moving, under horrible fluorescent lighting, in a refridgerator section for five hours straight. All this for $12 an hour. There is also a dress code. Jacket is not allowed. Black pants, belt, black closed toe dress shoes, white button-down blouse, hat or hairnet, provide your own table and tablecloth, and disposeable gloves. And the requirements for the job are to have a smart phone, ($85 a month), a computer and internet ($51 a month), and of course a car. All these things cost more than the job is actually paying. The job only happens a few weekends a month. So how exactly is that suppose to work? You have to already have more assets than you will receive. The incentive for abusing your body in this manner is what? Somehow the world has dupped us into believing you have no value unless you work. That belief runs very deep. So many people think its great that I am working instead of running my own business. What happened to lauding the entrepreneur? Is the American dream dead? You can't have it both ways America. You must have jobs that provide a living wage as well as the hope of having something better.
ursulas_alcove: Paul Darrow at his best (severely annoyed)
Almost three am. I did chores, paid bills, got groceries, did two sessions of job training. Called the new manager who has no communication skills at all. Guess what? She didn't respond. So now I know why no one represents this company in our area. After next weekend, I think I will pass too. There are other jobs out there. I prepared yarn orders and shipped. I started on a new section of garden. Digging is hard work. My cotton arrived today. I need to figure out just how much is backordered. I sold my vertical warping mill. I almost forgot I owned one. I have so much stuff I walk past every day, I don't even see it any more. So many things! Decluttering in process. Paying the bills with the bounty.

I am excited. I splurged and got a full sunlight spectrum LED for my plants but I think having one in a ceiling fixture might not be a bad idea. Our lighting is so bad. I have SADs so bad, I just wanted to suntan under the plant lamp. I ate chocolate instead. Sigh.

Pumpkin bread got made tonight while I added items to both websites. http://www.UrsulasYarn.etsy.com and http://www.UrsulasAlcove.etsy.com Check out the new listings!

Falling behind on production for my upcoming show. Sleep. Then back to work! No rest. Must weave. Must finish bags.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Upper Tier
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
So the planning phase, we're talking gardens here, we'll start at the top of the yard. Here we are looking down from the alley at the very top tier of my hugel terrace. There is a severely cut back walnut tree that spoils the soil. There are many things that will tolerate walnuts, such as black raspberries, currants and gooseberries. I have a goumi mitigating the effects of Juglone (the chemical that walnuts produce), as well as being a nitrogen fixer. There is a small pear tree to the left and an Asian Pear to the right inside the cage. A very small cherry is struggling in the actual garden bed. It is surrounded by garlic. In various places are black raspberries, which we groom, although, they really don't spread here. The virginia creeper and wild grapevine are also kept in check. A large hemlock overhangs the sawdust path from the neighbor's yard (left distance) and our own mulberry is the the clump of trees defining the edge of the bed in the background.

From the top

This section gets good sun spring and fall and is shaded during summer when the mulberry tree grows leaves. It tends to be on the dry side. The mulberry has been cut back, leaving half the bed with a lot more sun. The bed is the middle portion of the picture. According to the Empiress of Dirt, brassias, alliums, and curcurbits should do well with this lighting. Some of the cabbage family does not do well with the walnut. At the moment, the closest portion of the bed has one black raspberry, the tiny cherry tree, garlic, and arugula. Last year peas and tomatoes were mariginal in there. Not much grew, even weeds had a hard time. The coffee grounds were decomposing. I think the closest half of the bed will get leeks and onions, swiss chard, spinach, and mizuna. Maybe beets, parsnips, and kohlrabi as well. I'll keep the arugula as it really likes it there. If I can get good king henry or the Alexanders to grow, this may be a potential spot. At the moment, I'll use strawberries as ground cover. Eventually, maybe gooseberries. They would make a thorny fence to keep the deer away. I still haven't found the species of gooseberry we had when I was a kid. It was a white or yellow berry, not pink like the recent trend.

New Strawberry Location

On my wishlist is a row cover for this bed, leek, beet, kohlrabi and mizuna seed. Definitely some organic onion sets. We have determined that there can never be enough onions. I have some potato onions to replant but I think regular onions would be good too. I want to take Justin Rhodes' approach. You eat everyday, therefore you should plant something everyday. Eliot Coleman wrote The Four Seasons Garden as well as The Winter Garden. He has some lovely methods he's developed and sells through Johnny's Seed. I have my eye on hoops and row covers for season extension. I will be headed to the seed library in town to see what if anything they might have. In return, I have parsnip and carrot seed. I need to check my seed stash as well. I know the critters ate all my beet seed last year. I will have to try starting some indoors.

Looking up

With all the wood, I am tempted to drill holes and add mushroom plugs. Most of the logs used are Siberian elm or mulberry. Winecaps would be nice or oyster mushrooms. At a much later date, I'd like an arbor over the path for grapevine. Dreams. . .
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
The teal scarf came off the loom. A new lichen colored one got warped during the Winter Classic. It went onto the loom. I'm not sure I like it. Compositionally, it could use more contrast. Tomorrow if the sun comes out, I'll look at it objectively. I pulled yarn and weighed it for a pink Valentines' scarf. I will warp that next. More work got done on the black flatcap while watching Sherlock Holmes.

Next on the loom

Garden work got done today despite the rain. It was still warm. Mulch was added to the muddy areas of the yard ie pathways. The deer are eating the first elderberry but not the second one. I have no idea why. I put a small cage around it. Both have German hardneck garlic planted around them. The stones help hold the water from running off down the hill into the neighbor's yard. The ancient AC unit needs to be pulled. Besides being rusted solid, it doesn't work and it counts against me for property taxes. Those will be hiked next year. The county knows fracking won't last and is planning for it. Back to the AC, the controls were added later and have a thin wire that the weed wacker stripped. Currently the breaker for it is off. Wonder how much that will cost to get it yanked. I called the power company's rebate program. To get $50, I'd have to spend thousands on a new system. Guess I'll pass. I haven't used it in over fifteen years.


The neighbor's fence is falling down. It was old when we moved here 25 years ago. I figure on planting bushes to replace it. Currants would be nice. I'm leaving stepping stones for the mailman. Because of the horrible hills, we made him a path through the garden so he can cut across the lawn. I wonder what the neighbor thinks. Does she even know its her fence? Does she know how crooked it is with regard to the property line? She doesn't engage with her yard at all, except to mow it. More imponderables.

Winter bed building


2 Jan 2017 01:57 am
ursulas_alcove: Pink petal hat (Peeking flower faery)
With the help of many patrons, we managed to meet the January 1st bills. For all of you who placed orders, thank you! Because etsy takes an extra day to receive funds, some bill paying finagling will happen tomorrow. Custom orders are finished. Shipping resumes on Tuesday as the post office is closed on Monday. Inventory is still going on. Every bin and scrap of yarn must be weighed. Several things are missing outright. I suspect I will have to go on a search mission as my handspun red/blue/gold was stolen by pixies. New scarves have been laid out and planned. Many new items are being added to UrsulasYarn.etsy.com each day. The goal is to get the certified organic wool photographed, editted, and listed. https://instagram.com/p/BOvsVSfhVDs/ This effort has been hampered by weather. Currently its in the 40s and raining. More bills are coming up. The next goal is to make enough for the insurance and the car payment. Toilet paper would also be nice.

Currently on the loom, teal cotton/linen scarf. On the needles is a black flatcap. This is exciting because its so hard to come by black in the brand I use. Updating 10/2 cotton for the website this week. Hoping to get yarn on order for Arisia. The van got licensed. Hoping to raise enough money to get the necessary repairs for it.

On the domestic front, leftover cranberries were made into bread. Cleaning happens randomly as the mood takes me. Pancakes with cranberry curd and sloppy joes graced the table this week. The orders received over the last week allowed us to restock oatmeal. So yay! There is now homemade granola. We caught up on dishes today. I also did some hand laundry, wool sweaters. Theoretically, the new job will have a schedule shortly, followed by training. I'm guessing three to four weeks before I see any pay from a gig. No one runs ad campaigns right after Christmas. The most I can hope for from this new agency is about $400 to $600 a month. Certainly not enough to live on. It does offer freedom with regard to scheduling so that I can chase off to do art shows and SCA events.

Gardening continues throughout the winter because its been mild. I dug a small swale yesterday and got covered in mud. Sheet mulching along the side of the house happens with holiday cardboard boxes and cardboard found while cleaning. Coffee grounds go on top followed by sawdust. The east side of the house is a pain to mow so I am just mulching it. Bushes are too close to the property line for me to get a mower through. This way I don't have to. Eventually hoping for black current bushes, aronia, and gooseberries to become the new fence between my house and the neighbor's. One should have dreams.

It's another late night! Here's to the future. May we learn from our mistakes.

The garden on Spruce


18 Dec 2016 11:15 pm
ursulas_alcove: Woodcut from Robin Hood (Spock's Raised Eyebrow)
Today's light level was so low, we gave up trying to see anything. So no pictures. Yarn got wound and etsy updated. And then we rearranged the house. This usually happens around the holidays. So much cleaning! The sewing machine swapped places with an ancient desk in the attic. Lots of stuff was discovered in the process. Shelves and drawers emptied. Books collected for Rickert and Beagle, our local used bookstore. Vacuuming. Dusting. Heaving furniture up and down two stories. The new design is so that my hubby can have an office on the first floor instead of in the basement. The air is better. His electronics won't be right by his bed which is a plus. Then electronics and a chair were hauled out of the basement. I really dislike moving that chair! He now has an office in the sun amongst the plants with good air. Yay!

I have three pieces of equipment for business all set up next to each other, more streamlined! I still have my work cut out for me. Inventory is still ongoing. Fleece is everywhere and must be corralled. Three tubs and half of the etsy store have been inventoried. More stuff came in today from the garage. Now I just need a cutting table in my studio and better lighting. I have plans for next year. We will see if I can get my act together into more of a regular schedule. I am trying to simplify my life to be more efficient time-wise.

I also added an Instagram account. Because of the hashtags, hopefully that will let people find me. I need to improve as a business or else find a spot in the homeless community. Push has come to shove. This isn't a hobby business. If I can't pay my bills, then I lose it all. So I am highly motivated to improve. The drama of the presidential election deeply affected attendance at all fall shows. Sales were so far down, I almost didn't have gas money to get home from one show. Ouch! I am looking forward to seeing 2016 in my rearview mirror.

Hat pictures and scarves should resume soon. The green scarf is done and a teal one gets started tomorrow. As they say in Borogravia, tomorrow is a big fish! G'night.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I've been a busy beaver with daily production goals. First step of the day is getting new product photos. As I inventory, items that ought to be online get their picture taken. It must be done outside and that gets dicey as the weather worsens. I've added shuttles and fleece this week as well as some of my handspun. You can visit those at https://www.UrsulasYarn.etsy.com Later in the evening, I scan one Folkwear patterrn per day on to the https://www.UrsulasAlcove.etsy.com site. Monkeying with photoshop and writing verbage takes a bit of time.

rigid heddle

During daylight I am trying to finish off the above very old project on the 24" rigid heddle. According to Flickr, it's been on the loom seven years. In February this year I started to revitalize it with a new weft, below. It helps but the mohair is so grabby and mis-threading is frustrating to pick out. I totally get why Sarah's daughter calls her weaving business Inch-by-Inch. With such low level lighting, very little gets done. I only have natural light to work with in that room. It cuts me down to between 11 and 1 to work on it except that's when I also have to wait on my husband. He's an invalid right now. I have him getting his own breakfast but lunch is not something he can manage. Timing is everything.

Giving new life to an old warp

Then I pull together the day's orders (if there are any) and head down to the post office. Usually happens between 3:30 and 4:00. By the time I get home, I allow myself to sit and enter the tracking numbers, weave a little on the small loom, and then bundle up again and head out to get coffee grounds at Starbucks. When I get back, the coffee bricks needs to be broken up by hand and added to the compost pile or new raised bed before they freeze. Now it's after six and very dark. Dinner and dishes happen next. Then more projects as the evening progresses. We listen to hockey and knit or weave. Later, I do my write ups, snap the day's hat picture, and inventory, pulling the next days items to photograph. There never seems to be enough time.

This just finished:
lavender dreams

This just started:
Next on the Loom

New custom hat order just had a down-payment paid so yarn is on order. Looking forward to new colors in my yarn box. I've never made a hat for a professional centaur before. Portland is truly an amazing place.
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
Day 1 -30 days of hats

Day 5 of hats

Day 2 of 30 Days of Hats

This is how you wear a hat

Day 3 of 30 Hats

Day 4 The Chico

A Melon for your melon

Hats are for sale. Custom work available.
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