ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
First Strawberries

So far, I have three beds of beans that are total failures. I don't know why. So tonight, I am running a simple test. I am checking the germination rate for each type of bean that I have left. I have been growing these heirlooms for years. I got my original seed from Renee Shepherd. I have not seen them offered by anyone in a few years. So I am hoping I just have a hungry mouse or something. Since we discovered this guy today, it seems likely that there is a food source for him. That food source may be eating mine. We noticed something was eating the strawberries too, not necessarily a bird.

New Best Friend- Garter Snake

So I selected ten beans from each jar. It's easierr to get a percentage of germination that way. If 7 out of 10 sprout, I have a rate of 70 %. There is a white speckled drying bean, a red drying bean called Low's, a Vermont cranberry bean, a yard long bean, and I think a yellow bean.

Assorted Heirloom Beans

So I took a napkin or paper towel and laid out ten beans for each type.
Checking bean germination

Then I folded the paper over the top of the beans and sprayed it with water.
Checking bean germination

I folded them and stuck them all in their own plastic bags.
Checking bean germination

In three or four days, I will either have germinating sprouts, ready for planting, or else some rotting beans for the compost pile. Time will tell. Stay tuned.
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
First Tray, Planted January 22nd
Seed Tray #1

February Planting

Great yield. Lots of parsley in the herb spiral and in porch pots. There are several lettuce, 3 or 4 mizuna, and 6 swiss chard. All planted in the ground April 18th. Celery went into a container. It was a replant from the store after we used the stalk up. Leeks went around the peach tree.

Second Tray, planted January 25th

Tray #2

January Planting

4 Bok Choi planted in ground on April 18th and doing well and at least one lettuce doing well. They camouflage easily. Lovage went into the ground by the hollyhocks. It started doing better the moment it hit real soil.

Third Tray, planted March 20th
Spring Planting

Tray 3

A couple of nasturtiums have been planted already. They are very leggy but are doing well. They tangled with the blue cherokee and uprooted a few. Three Shungiku have also been planted outside last week.

Fourth Tray, planted April 8th
Fourth Tray

Tray 4

Tray 5, planted due to poor germination on other trays. Good King Henry was in the frig in moist paper since end of March. We needed more tomatoes.

Documentation of seedlings

Happy Seedlings. Hope covering them at night this weekend will allow them to survive. Suppose to be 34°. We've had three salads from them so far.
Happy seedlings


The Long Island Cheese Pumpkin seed was from 2014. Poor germination. Just replanted five more from 2015 seed. The others are honey butternut which are tiny and regular butternut. Zucchini has been planted outside in a container. Just planted cucumbers so no germination yet.

Lessons Learned
Plant trays with items that grow at similar rates. Plant items that like cold weather early with companions that do too. So don't mix tomatoes (late) and swiss chard (early) in the same tray. And plant nasturtiums by themselves. They tangled in everything. Lost a mizuna and three blue cherokee tomatoes. Shungiku leaves make a great micro-green.


4 May 2017 12:34 am
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Yes sometimes you win. More times you lose.

Starting back at the beginning. Commision work was taken on by StrangeHours. A business "friend" wanted art-dyed T-shirts with her logo. Yes she is serious and has money. Chrono agreed to do prototypes. Biz lady sent a bunch of mens Medium Ts. Chrono advised her it would take a whole lot of sizes to take to each convention, lots of display space, grid walls, etc. Biz lady doesn't drive. She takes the train to shows since she mostly does jewelry which fits in a suitcase. Chrono advised her to try scarves because they are size independent and easy to pack. Biz lady got very agrumentative. She has a vision. Apparently she has never seen large people at conventions. She must need glasses. It goes on from there. And gets worse. Treating your partners or even vendors like subordinates and talking down to them, this is not good people skills, let alone professional. So now micro-management comes by text. Chrono texts back "we need clear contract for any future work". Now Chrono is labeled "unprofessional" and is "burning her bridges". Cutting toxic time-wasting people from your stress level is good business sense. Because it gets even worse. They were to share booth space at the Steampunk World Fair. Booth space became room-selling which sucks. Expectations were that Chrono should drive and park a loaded van for a week in Brooklyn? I think not. All of a sudden Chrono is supposed to supply biz lady with her own grid walls so there is almost no display for StrangeHour's hats. No, I really think not. So Chrono and yours truly worked very hard to ice dye shirts and scarves to really cool designs. Silk screening logos on top was time consuming and fraught with slight booboos. Professional silk screening would be so much better. Would biz lady even consider it? No. Now Chrono wasted lots of time and has no product of her own for this show. And biz lady throws a hissy fit. Yes. Too much drama today. I'm also out of dye too now. We'll see if biz lady pays up. I doubt it. Shirts and scarves are packed. Good riddance. So no show at all this weekend or next. No income.

I had a client write me about the loom he ordered. He was given tracking info. It was delivered. His neighbors appear to have stolen it. He wants to know why I haven't shipped. Yes, mercury is in retrograde along with several other planets. I want a large blanket to hide under until this is over.

I topped off the day with a trip to the bank. I scoured every pocket, car and seat cushion for change to cover the bills. I have nothing left. Nothing at all. It all went into the bank. We'll see how many overdraft charges hit. There is a slim possibility that the house can be refinanced. It would help out a lot, covering four separate bills, but our credit score must be over 700. Tomorrow I must take Hubby to the driver's license center to get a state ID. Then we shall see. Finger's crossed. Mercury, please turn around, for goodness sake. My husband is almost skin and bones. We need to fix this situation. Show sales are down across the entire US. Threatening government shutdown has people terrified. Climate change is causing more severe weather events like the flooding we had last weekend. No people=no sales I have called upon my elected representative for property tax rebate forms. Maybe it will help. Ever wonder why I never get any product of my own made? Time, time, time. . .
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I got in late last night from the Viking Festival. I woke this morning when my body no longer needed anymore sleep. I was so thirsty. I made tea. My husband needed to be bathed so I got that done. Then came breakfast, granola and yogurt. I made him get dressed by himself. He needs to learn which tasks to ask for help and which he can do alone. Next task for me was to empty the bedside commode and clean it.

Chronographia got an early start despite a bad cold or sinus infection. She has two events back-to-back, leaving on Thursday and must work on a commission as well as her own work for sale. She got her dyebath going. She is doing ice dyeing on cloth. I, on-the-other hand, got the linen and hemp skeins going. The blue turned out really nice. More of a denim than a royal blue, but I am pleased. I immersion dye on yarn which is very different from cloth dyeing. My process ate up two hours. The food situation needed to be assessed. Four eggs left and leftover spagetti. Hmmm. Waffles with apple sauce for lunch (using two eggs) and spagetti for dinner. Fortunately there is lettuce outside.

The very persistant woman from India called, representing some gas company. "You are eligible to switch and lock in lower rates. Please go get a copy of your bill. I will wait." No. I can't get a copy of the bill. I am not at home. "I'll wait." She called three times. Most certainly not from Burrell, PA as indicated by caller ID. That number is now banned on my phone. Sometimes I wonder why I have a phone.

I got a small amount of weeding done while waiting for the dyebath to finish. I transplanted some Shungiku and worked on quack grass. I got one small bed of potatoes planted before the sky opened again but I burnt a waffle because there was this submerged log and then a buried stepping stone in the middle of the potato bed. There is never a lever around when you need one.


With lunch finished and the weather pouring rain, I headed to the bank with what cash I had. There were no etsy orders today. The camera is an absolute necessity. I maxed out the credit card to get it repaired. It was ready so into Pittsburgh to get it. More errands to get something to settle Chronographia's stomach. Totally not in the budget. Stress really can screw up your life. Then picked up coffee grounds from Starbucks. They added a banana smoothie to their menu so I get banana peels to compost as well.

Just enough time left when I get home to call in a bill payment before the deadline. They apparently don't like people paying by phone. They no longer have phone numbers on the bill. I refuse to pay online. I have had my info hijacked that way one too many times. Bill paid successfully. On to making dinner. Somehow I did manage to finish knitting a hat today and go through the weekend's mail. Penguins/Caps game started. It was a sad moment for the overall game of hockey. Knocking out your opponent by injury rather than skill hurts the sport as a whole. I was very disappointed. I enjoy a well played game regardless who wins. Sigh. Dishes got done and some thread got put onto the warping board. The day is over and I still haven't started on applications for medical assistance. More hospital bills came in, this time from the rehab facility. Those are new. I wonder when I will have a total picture of all the medical bills. Got a regular credit card bill due this week. Not enough for it or food. Notice I didn't say "and". This is getting old. I really don't want rates hiking to 35%. I need to get my butt with paperwork to the bank. But I also need to make bread so we have food tomorrow. I need a clone.

If I can round up some etsy orders, that would go a long way to fixing things. My advertising money was eaten by today's bill so I think I got trapped in a viscioous circle. Can't make money because I can't advertise. I can't advertise because I have no money. Doh! It's okay. I didn't have a camera or ad ready copy and today was the ad deadline. Chronographia was too sick to pull it together. She's asleep while I go over customer service. There have been a lot of questions on etsy. I was afraid I forgot something. I was right. A regular client got neglected. Ouch. She needed an answer two weeks ago. I was a total space cadet. To be fair, there have been many other clients with questions and sample requests. But I blew it. I pulled more samples together to go out in the mail. I wrote to a few people. I had to correct etsy shipping on all my shipping profiles because they can't get it through their thick skulls that the US Virgin Islands is part of the USA, ie. same shipping rate. So I had to add it as a country. I don't have to do that with Puerto Rico. It doesn't make sense. My client there is happy. There is a big difference between $3 shipping and $17 shipping. No immediate order forthcoming but at least she is not totally pissed off at etsy anymore. Tomorrow will be another long day. I hope they get easier soon.

ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Working hard to create as much product as possible for the upcoming Ashville Viking Festival. If you have never been there, you need to go! They have been hard at work on the Viking longboat. This year the weather looks to be warm and dry. What a change! http://www.ashvillevikingfest.com/enter.htm

Ashville Viking Festival

I am focusing on hat-making, cardwoven belts and trim, and my normal yarn, long stockings, and more! Tomorrow I unpack totes to restock. I have a layout in my head for the pavillion. After yesterday's grocery run, I have a pantry to pull together food for the weekend. I think there will be cooking in my future. The weather looks clear for the next couple of days. I'm winding yarn and labeling it. I just finished sock yarn, naturally dyed in onion skins, some in dyer's coreopsis. There could be more dyeing this week. Depends on time. There will definitely be handwoven scarves and the looms that can make them.

Ashville Viking Fest - Day 15 of hats

Costumes By Loren will be there, The Amber Fox, Time Traveling Traders, Annie Laurie Cloaks, The Lost Viking Hoard, and the wonderful weaver from Yellow Springs. So many fantastic businesses in the Saxon Marketplace! Come to shop, watch jousting, have an old fashioned ice cream, and a great time. It's free. Donations for the food pantry are being taken. There will be an amazing auction of goods as well as a reenactment village, covering quite a timeline.

Ashville Viking Festival

You will find me under a period tent that I will share with Richard and Anna, who make carved cookie presses. Stop in and see our wonderous wares!
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
Why am I so obsessed with growing? If I could not buy food for any reason, what would I eat? Right now there is not much for foraging. There are ramps, dandelions, and wild onions. Can you possibly eat enough of these to sustain an adult? So here's to the human brain and planning. Skol!

Garden Plans

Spring in the front yard

Recommended amounts are based on a family size of 3 adults. I haven't included any of our fruit or berries. Many are not yet mature. Not sure if they'll yield anything this year. Basically, this is a list of my perennials, herbs, and vegetable seeds that I've started or saved. Not everything will make it; we'll see how much I can cram in this year. I want to double or triple my food production this year. I added three new beds and reworked the layout of the front garden. I don't have money for cold frames but someday I want my garden to look like this guy's https://youtu.be/4LaYF7ADezA

Acorn Squash, turned out really tiny last year
Alpine Strawberries, need to propogate more of these.
Arugula, micro green or plant great in salads. Grows in shade. Grows in winter.
Asparagus, only two plants; the seed didn't germinate. Maybe buy more from Pittsburgh Grows?
Basil, my seedlings are small yet but soon. Just basic Italian basil.
Beans, yellow
Beans, purple queen
Beans, Scarlet runner, five poles
Beans, for drying, Low's Heirloom in the potatoes
Beans for drying, VT Cranberry in the windowbox
Beans, both, foot long
Beets, Hubby is allergic but mostly they don't grow well. Planted but not holding my breath.
Bok Choi, or Chinese Cabbage, four or so seedlings were put into the ground this week. Great in stir fry.
Brussel Sprouts, four plants
Butternut Squash, just planted in a peat pot
Tiny Honey butternut Squash, just planted in a peat pot.
Catnip, grows perpetually in the window box.
Cauliflower, four plants
Carrots, loads of seed from last year. 120 plants are recommended. Think I'll stagger planting times. Direct sow. Will keep in the ground all winter.
Chocolate mint, now has a place of honor in the backyard. Love it for flavoring ice cream. Also pest control.
Comfrey. Makes great compost and also compresses for sprains. Also called knit bone.
Corn, no space this year so probably not. Sixty are recommended.
Cucumbers, maybe four. Twelve are recommended.
Eggplant, I plan on four or five of these. Baba Ganoush.
Garlic, planted German Hardneck last fall.
Garlic Chives, These grow all over. I got them at an herb class years ago. They reseed every year. Also had friends send me more because we had one bad year.
Kohlrabi, mix of green and purple. Deer walked through last night and may have trampled them.
Leeks. You can never have enough of these. I am hoping for ten or twelve this year. Also overwinters well.
Lemon Balm, grows in the backyard wherever it wants to, not necessarily in a garden bed.
Lettuce, assorted red leaf lettuces. Slugs eat the green ones so I plant red. Should plant in fall too for winter.
Long Island Cheese Pumpkins, these are a tasty winter staple. I have some in a peat pot.
Lovage, one plant out of eight germinated. I just planted it today.
Melon, Six are recommended. I just dumped seed from some bought at last year's Farmer's Market into the ground. We'll see what happens.
Mizuna, a member of the cabbage family but makes really great salads. I think I managed to put four or five plants into the ground this week, grown from seed.
Parsley, just put in 6 seedlings into the ground and in various containers. Grown from seed.
Parsnip, loads of seed from last year. Definitely planting.
Peas, I planted Snow Peas that I plant every year. Original seed from Renee Shepherd. A huge number is recommended but I think I will look at other species for variety. And yes, plant in early spring and again in fall.
Potatoes, I will have a mix this year. Last year's potatoes got shaded out by other plants. I had enough seed potatoes for two patches. Austrian Crescent, early potatoes and German butterball, late potatoes. I am hoping to add blue potatoes, Red Cloud potatoes, and a fingerling. I need both immediate and long term storing potatoes.
Onions, I saved bulbs from last year's potato onions. Planted last month. Yellow Rock onions are also in the ground. I companion planted with Swiss Chard, Kohlrabi, and Bok Choi. Now if the squirrel will only leave them there.
Oregano. Grows more prolific than dandelions in my yard.
Radishes. I have seed from year's past. I planted two rows this week. I like them sliced and put in pickle brine a day before eating. Kind of like a coleslaw.
Rhubarb. There are more plants than one family needs. I think at least 9.
Santolina or lavender cotton. Smells nice. Looks great. Attracts pollinators.
Shungiko, a Japanese chrysanthemum that is an excellant salad green.
Skirret is a perennial. I have 6 or 7 plants. Digging these up in early March was a good harvest time.
Strawberries, need more June bearers and fewer everbearers.
Spinach, will probably plant in fall.
Sorrel, authentic French, not the weed. Early season salad additive. Perennial.
Strawberries, June bearing slow growing, sweet and lovely.
Strawberries, ever-bearing, spread rapidly, not very tasty.
Sweet Potatoes, 15 slips are recommended. I might have 10 by the time the weather settles.
Tansy, lives in the backyard to deter wasps and other nuisance critters.
Thyme, doen't do well here. I have one base patch where it lives but it always looks dicey.
Tomatoes, only cherry tomatoes like it here. I have several volunteers of undetermined species coming up in my potting soil. The plants are very large already. Meanwhile, I'm going to try blue cherokee, zapotec, black plum and roma. I need to have canning tomatoes. I also like sun-dried on pizzas.
White lavender-perennial. I make lavender wands to keep away bugs. I have made a Victorian jelly with lavender before.
Winter Savory. Small perennial bush. Goes great in Italian or bean dishes.
Zucchini, had a disease last year. Looking at companion planting for better results this year. It's why I try so many different vegetables. You don't know which will be a good crop this year.

I'm sure I forgot some. The goal is to stagger planting to provide as much fresh produce as possible for our food supply for the year. Last year's yield was poor. March was a very lean month here. I am trying to remedy that. Our green veg was basil that we froze last year. I love pesto but it gets old if you eat it for every meal. We ran out of self-canned goods in January. Buying organic onions at $1.29 a pound hurts when we can grow them ourselves. We use three onions a week. It really adds up. Frozen pumpkin and Baba Ganoush is all that is left.
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
Today was watering the seedlings and transplants. Rain barrel is empty. It'll be a couple of days before we get rain. I went up and down steps a lot lugging water. I used bathwater on the new plants. I am not turning on the outside water until after the frost date. And water costs money. If you use a biodegradeable earth friendly soap, you can do this. But not on your leafy greens like lettuce. They got water from the dehumidifier.

I filled every pot I had yesterday with rhubarb. So far, no takers. The rhubarb needs a new home. I already have 9 plants. Twenty seemed a bit much. My overflow is up for grabs. Today I planted the late potatoes, German Butterballs. I also put in some scarlet runner beans and radishes. I dug out a lot of wild onions and moved some coreopsis. I planted some purple poppies and a Sierra Club Bee Friendly mix. It looked like everything we already grow, coneflowers, coreopsis, and borage. I called it quits and we went on a town run to the co-op with a detour to a camera repair shop. What a cool place! Every kind of used camera imaginable. Glad to see a place that repairs and cherishes the older equipment. America already dumps way too much used electronics on various African nations. It's quite disgusting, this disposeable habit. We were complemented at the co-op for bringing our own containers. I believe in getting as close as possible to zero waste. We buy in bulk mostly and bring containers from home. They are all marked with a Tare weight. It really reduces trash. Food packaging accounts for a large portion in people's garbage. I have a half bag on the curb for garbage collection tomorrow, compared to my neighbor's eight big bags. It is quite a contrast. Normally we only put garbage out every other week. Recylcing is another matter. We try to reduce that too, but ours does seem about equal with the neighbors'. I think it's mostly junk mail. That is about the same for the whole neighborhood.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I moved three blackberry plants to the backyard wilderness. They are an unruly bunch. If they decide to climb the mulberry tree, it won't hurt my feelings. They are quite an eyesore and very untidy. I don't have a fence to train them to. There are still three in the front yard. We'll see how long I can tolerate them. They totally knocked down my supports to train them. I cut them way back. The backyard bunch has to cope with a walnut tree and may not survive. I won't pull the frontyard ones until I know if the backyard ones survive.

The red raspberry bush I bought last year after Gulf Wars is now four bushes. I put in supports and will let all of Middle Earth become a raspberry patch. It did not produce fruit last year. The blackberries found their way into Middle Earth as well. I hope this year's crop is good. Last year's leftovers in the freezer were turned into pancake syrup last week. Quite tasty! Middle Earth gets more sun than their previous location under the driveway mulberry. Yes, we have more than one mulberry. The mulberries were cleaned out of the freezer and turned into wine in a previous post. I have three wines in carboys at the moment, rhubarb, mulberry, and orange. They had a sale at East End Food Co-op.

Fingers crossed on the elderberry bushes. Don't know if they will flower this their second year. Also waiting for the plum to be old enough to bloom. We rescued it from Big Lots where it was dying. We had to cut it below the graft to save it; so it is no longer a Santa Rosa plum. The Asian pear is just beginning to bud. No flowers yet. I have cloth ready to cover them should they bloom too early. Frost could still be a problem.

Rhubarb reappeared where I had dug it up last year. Now there are four instead of one. I already moved two and put an additional two into a container. Five plants need a home in a hurry. I have four for a friend already in buckets. I am running out of dirt and pots. Potatoes need to go where the rhubarb is. Potatoes must go in at the end of April. Beans need to get planted shortly. I need to finish my netting for the peas. And find homes for the leeks, lovage, parsley and lettuce. More of my swale pathways got finished today. And while digging I found another rhubarb and a sunchoke. Thank goodness it rained saving me from having to water the transplants.

New design in progress
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
This entry is more for me to remember. I planted about half of the seedlings. All of the Swiss Chard went into the garden. There was a lot of it. It went into three different beds. It takes up a lot of space when fully grown. Three went into the upper tier where I found more onions that the squirrel dug up. At the moment, there is arugula, the tiny cherry tree with rust spots, garlic, black raspberry, onions, bok choi, swiss chard and strawberries around the gooseberry and honeyberries.

I worked on the next tier. I made a tiny palisade edge to hold in the dirt and compost, vertical sticks with a bunch of horizontal twigs. Added coffee grounds to the existing leaves in the pile. The Goumi bush is flowering. The other trees and bushes are holding off yet. The brick square raised bed needs more chiseling to disassemble it. Meanwhile, I am scraping out the dirt to put into the herb spiral. The tansy stayed green all winter. Chocolate mint is spreading around the Asian Pear as planned. Trying out the mint for pest control. No one likes wormy pears.

The wood shavings are slowly being removed from the herb spiral and replaced with actual soil. Currently, the herb spiral just has skirret, yarrow, hyssop, and some struggling chives. Hoping to add the parsley from the seed tray soon. It's been outside, hardening off. Eventually once the weather settles, the spiral will also get basil and maybe fennel. Hoping to add some rosemary and sage this year, depending on finances. I cleared the old brussel sprout away and weeded. One Welch onion left in the whole bed. That's it. I added a sawdust path next to that bed. Think it'll become this summer's new compost pile. The comfrey is spreading, too fast for my taste. The compost heat should deter the spread. I can't burn there because it'd damage the tree branches overhead.

Spring has sprung

Back to my seed flats, I planted the mizuna in several places around the mandela garden. It did well among the rhubarb two years ago. It also went next to the French Sorrel and in the currant bush patch. Four Swiss Chard also went into the currants. I wasn't sure the currants would survive after last year. They are doing well and look much happier with the maple trimmed back. The Brood V 17 year cicadas may have had something to do with that too last year. Loads of onions in the currant patch as well as some red lettuce. I think that is physically as much as the bed will hold. The sorrel patch has space yet. The Lady's Mantel looks like is will also recover. The bok choi went in there. I still have more plants that need a home. I suspect many will end up around the Lady's Mantle.

And the rose bush that was totally frozen out and dead last year, shot up about a foot away. Its perfect! So happy. I missed that rose.

Spring has sprung

Nasturtium seed tray is still indoors. I just planted an additional tray for the seed moon tonight with lots of tomatoes. I learned a great garden hack today for avoiding leggy plants. Going to have to try this. https://youtu.be/7ut-zUNd4ek

Fourth Tray

So it looks like we are harvesting rhubarb later this week and strawberries soon thereafter. Last year our first harvest was April 22nd.
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
I worked really hard this week to get this woven. And it came off the loom today! It could be a large shawl or a throw. Its about 41" wide and over 72" long. I will measure it officially after its been blocked. I dyed wool and have another ready to be warped shortly. I have some finishing work to do on the first large shawl before starting the second. After that, I rethread the loom for leg wraps. They are not challenging or even interesting but they should help pay the bills. Hockey season is wrapping up and I want to get as much done as possible before Lord Stanley dances. I listen to games while I weave. We follow both the Blackhawks and the Penguins. Without TV, its easier to work to the radio or livesteam radio.

Shawl #053

Meanwhile, I must make Viking hats for the upcoming Viking Festival in Ashville, OH at the end of the month. One almost done. We'll see how many I can finish before repetitive stress trashes my arm. The good news is I sold all but one at Gulf Wars. The bad news is I sold all but one at Gulf Wars. Must make stock toot sweet!
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I wasn't sure (about a lot of things). The seedlings went outside in the cold. Would they live or die? I worked so hard to learn more about what each plant would like in order for them to thrive. The plants planted at the end of January were too early. There wasn't enough light for them even with grow lights. Only the Bok Choi survived. Lettuce just doesn't want to grow for me. There is also one Lovage plant for which I'm thankful. They can grow quite big so one plant should be enough. In tray number one, only five plants made it to this stage.

January Planting

The second tray planted at the end of February fared much better. Planting before heading to Gulf Wars for a week is always dicey. Chronographia also had a four day show and John was in the hospital so the seedlings were on their own with potentially a furnace drying them out. This year was unseasonably warm though. It was colder when I got to Mississippi than when I left Pennsylvania. The seedlings survived. I tried hardening them off when temperatures were between 55 and 65°. Then it would dip colder and back in they'd go. I didn't dare leave them out at night.

February Planting

I finally said, the heck with it. We haven't had frost in a long time. I mowed the grass today for goodness sake. So they've been outside at night. It's been in the low 40's. Guess what? They did even better! Perky. I planted things that like cold weather, mizuna, leeks, swiss chard, lettuce, and parsley. Tonight it dips down to 33° so they are in an unheated porch and will go back outside tomorrow. If the weather holds, they are going into the ground this week. I have a row cover for them.

We got a lot of rain this week. The rhubarb grew overnight. What was just a shoot poking out of the ground on Monday is now 6" long. I expect to harvest next week.

Our third seedling tray was just planted at the new moon in March. It has Blue Cherokee Tomatoes, basil, Shungiko, nasturtiums, and Florence fennel. These plants all like each other as companions and increased my germination rate significantly. Here's my new favorite companion planting guide
So far, only the Florence Fennel has not germinated.

It's been a long week. I have not been able to get in any dirt therapy for days now. I miss the sun. I did taxes on Wednesday. Our income can barely be called that anymore. We have fallen so far from when we both worked, two engineers pulling decent salaries. We put a kid through college without financial aide. We paid a lawyer to fight for my dad's estate. (His widow did not want to honor his will.) We had 401k's. After three market crashes and a bout of three years without work, all the money is gone. Now we are solely dependent on my business for income. There is no safety net. My husband is on social security for as long as the government allows it to exist. That is it. There are four more car payments to make and 25 house payments. The amount of money I owe on credit cards is staggering. It is killing us. This is how the wealthiest people in America are getting wealthier and there is no trickle down effect. The banks are not lending it out to middle America. The middle class is becoming a myth, just a legend of glory days gone by. It hit us first because of my husband's medical condition and various hospital stays. It will hit more and more Americans each day. A lot of them don't know it's coming. Goldman Sachs is running the country now. They were a big part of why I have no retirement funds, despite having saved all my life. Playing loose with the rules, the housing bubble, savings and loan scandel, the crash in the late 80's, yes, there have been many crashes over my working life. In the past, my business was able to get a low interest loan, which I then paid off. No longer available. I was informed by the bank that a "small" business must gross $250,000 a year to qualify. Mom and Pop businesses on Main Street don't pull in those kinds of numbers. So I used a business credit card. Then they hiked the interest rates significantly. And that was not because of missed payments. They just did it because they could. A class action lawsuit followed. I received $4.37 for all the thousands of extra dollars they got from me. And they didn't even lower the interest rate after they lost the lawsuit. I am perplexed, but mostly, I miss the lifestyle I became accustomed to. I enjoyed being middle class. Well, I can't complain too much. I did the math. I am up to $.51 an hour. For a small business owner, that's a helluva n accomplishment in America today. So now instead of TV, most nights we sit around the radio. And work on our projects to sell.

Fresh from the Loom
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.
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