ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
2017-06-20 09:50 pm
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Merry Midsummer's Eve

The fireflies are dancing in the garden. So much happened today! Chrono picked parsley. It will get chopped and frozen into ice cubes and bagged later in the freezer, ready to drop into winter soups. The last of the strawberries were picked. Those will go into salads. Last week's batch of strawberries got sliced and dried for winter. I checked on those, gave them a little extra heat, and plopped them into a jar. The lettuce I planted in seed trays at the end of January is full and almost ready to bolt. A colander-full resides in the fridge.

Parsley harvest

I got up early to pick fresh mulberries for my husband's yogurt. I got about a cup, just standing in the driveway. The mulberries are winding down. I think if I can find one more container for the freezer, I will pick the last batch tomorrow. Huge quantities of ripe juicy black raspberries greeted us when we got home from the Midsummer Fantasy Renaissance Fest. I am thinking of turning those into syrup. For now, they can live in the freezer. Red raspberries are in their first production year. They come in small quantities and get eaten for lunch. There aren't many. Peas, OMG, peas. It is the first time I have gotten a yield big enough to make anything with. The no-dig technique is in its third year. It is starting to make a difference. I shelled peas for the first time since I was a kid. We froze a small container of peapods for winter. The rest got shelled and went into chicken ala king. I thinned carrots as well today. Four nice size carrots came in for dinner as well.

Black raspberry

White lavender, Chrono talked with the bees about letting her have some to dry for stuffing her Hamza's. She spent the evening tying it into bundles. The bees love it so much. We left it outside until they went home to their hives. I added dirt to my potatoes that were exposed to sunlight. Sunlight causes them to become green. They produce a toxin and become inedible. I think that patch will be only fit for seed potatoes for next year. So I did a bit of hilling today.

Red raspberry

Internet has been very spotty. The post office had issues yesterday. We lost power Sunday. The bank server was down today. Horrible storms had come through Sunday night. Today was a good day to be outside doing things, nice and still cool. I cooked the hollyhocks. I also did a second batch of coreopsis. The hollyhock color looks like driftwood. The coreopsis turned out close to the same color as last week. I think there are only enough flowers for one more batch. I checked my dye books. It says that my barberry should give me turquoise if used in conjunction with indigo. This I MUST try. I need to prune soon anyway.

Hollyhock on wool

As I checked up on things in the garden, I weeded. The rhubarb looked healthy. Not too much slug damage. So I picked more, chopped it and froze a container. So pleased with my yields. I have a good hot compost pile going. The only thing having a hard time is basil. The weather hasn't turned hot yet. Anyone ever try epsom salt around tomatoes? I saw that in the Farmers Almanac. I am wondering if that really helps or if its an old wives tale.

More weeding to do, maybe tomorrow. We got groceries and have to make food to take for the next werkend at faire. We leave on Friday. It's a ten hour drive regardless of what the map program says. I need to unpack and repack. Sigh. I feel like a giant hamster on a wheel. Now if folks would come out to the faire, have a good time, and buy a souvenir, life would be very good indeed.
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
2017-06-14 09:49 am
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Dye Season

Of course everything got ripe all at once. Mulberries to pick, strawsberries, black raspberries and even a few red raspberries. The Dyer's Coreopsis came early this year. We have a show to prepare for. So much to do!

Coreopsis (gold) and Oregano (dark brown)
Presoak Natural Dyebaths

Oregano dyebath

Coreopsis and oregano

And from last year's crop out of my freezer, Dahlias because I need to see which mordant I like best. The Blue Vitriol (copper sulphate) wins. Those are just starting to bloom.
Black Dahlia

Black Dahlia Dye

Not enough yarn, never enough yarn to play with. Next up will be Black Hollyhocks. This one is a mystery. Wild Color shows a rose tone range while Harvesting Color shows a mint green. I am curious as all get out. I am still collecting blossoms to get a nice strong color.



Stayed Tuned!
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
2017-06-06 12:44 am
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A quick lesson in math

In the US, it is recommended that women eat 2000 calories a day and men, 2500 for a healthy diet. Correct me if I'm wrong. Gardening alone cannot provide you with enough food to fill this need. Note that nutrition is not what we are talking about. I picked a lot of food today. Shall we look at it from a calorie intake perspective?

There was a half pound of rhubarb, three quarters of a pound of mulberries, a quarter of a pound of strawberries, and a handful, .04 # of black raspberries. According to the USDA website, the rhubarb would give me about 47 calories (kcal), the mulberries about 146 calories, the strawberries about 36 calories and the raspberries a whole 9.45 calories. If I ate it all, it totals a whooping 238 calories. So when Marjory Wildcraft (Grow Network) talks at Mother Earth News symposiums, she recommends that people try to grow more food, not all their own food. Half is a good goal if you are a serious person with a bit of land. Here's how she figures:

Egg production with six hens yields 250 eggs per hen, 63 calories an egg for a total of 1500 eggs or 94,500 calories a year.

With rabbits, 1 buck and three does as breeding stock, assuming you butcher at an age of 4 months, you end up with 85 rabbits a year. Most meat rabbits weigh 6 pounds. After removing fur and other non-edibles, you have about 2 pounds of meat each. One pound of rabbit meat is about 893 calories. That would supply the bulk of your necessary calories, coming in at 151,810 annual calories. Side note: I heard that American-based rabbit stock is like white-meat on a chicken and European breed stock is closer to dark meat. Let me know if that's true. We cooked rabbit this week and it turned out really good. We managed three or four meals for three people out of it by turning it into soup. It was easier to cook than chicken.

Using a biointensive gardening method, 200 square feet can net you another 118,690 calories annually, assuming you plant stuff in every vacancy as you harvest so that production is continual. Things like potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, squash, strawberries and sweet potatoes. And you need a compost to replenish your soil or else your production will go way down.

All these thing have a certain minimum amount of land associated with each in order to produce this amount. It equals half of what you need to live a healthy life. Now multiply by the number of people in your household. You get the idea. It takes a lot to feed the human race. Marjory is doing another free food summit with amazing speakers, live online June 12th to the 18th with an encore on the 19th. Visit her website -somewhere in there is a signup via email. We do need to take responsibility for growing more of our own food, but probably not all of it. Personally, my goal is to become more of a localvore with the exception of chocolate and some sugar!

ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
2017-06-04 09:14 pm
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Over 30 species of plants

The back edge (north) is only five feet wide. The front edge (south) is about 16 feet wide. The length is only 17 feet long (west, edge of driveway). It's pretty compact for all those plants. Roughly, about 100 square feet after you take out the area the paths occupy.

The terrace in the back has scarlet runner beans (1) that will slowly crawl up it. They are a perennial. In front of them are sunflowers (2) and black hollyhocks (3). Along the driveway, I left one sunchoke (4) to become an anti-deer pillar. Also along the driveway is an accidental rhubarb (5) that got transplanted with a hollyhock. That hollyhock protects two different species of asparagus, Jersey Supreme (6) and another type from Grow Pittsburgh (7). Throughout the garden are garlic chives (8). Although they are considered an annual here, they reseed readily.

Western front yard

Stepping around to the other side of the trellis, skirret (9) looks like a bush. I have three of them in this garden that I grew from seed. They are a type of perennial parsnip. They have octopus roots. Much sweeter than parsnips and less fibery too, the roots are a devil to clean before cooking. Soaking them in water and scrubbing with a toothbrush helps. Pollinators love the flowers. Some people dig up the whole bush to harvest. Having it along a swale makes it easy to get in from the sides and just thin out a few roots. Roots can be replanted for the following year.


Somehow I managed to get the blue potatoes (10) planted in a very small spot next to the skirret. I don't expect a large yield. The compost pile wintered in this spot so you never know. The soil may be especially fertile here. It really helped to excavate the old stepping stones. I didn't know they were there until I tried to plant those potatoes.

From the other side of the trellis

I did manage to grow one lovage (11) plant from seed which is also a perennial. It is along with the hollyhock, just not very big yet. Difficult to see. Thyme (12) accidentally got dug up when the lovage got put in so it was moved to a sunnier, more accessible spot up front.

I planted snow peas (13) along the driveway edge. Out of an entire row of beets (14), only two came up. Radishes (15) did better. They are flowering now. I hope they reseed. Up toward the front, I broadcast a lot of carrot (16) seed. There are German butterball potatoes (17) in that bed. The Vermont Cranberry Beans were a crop failure. I had a purple shasta daisy (18) reseed. I am not fond of it and may move it to a pot for someone else to love. There is also oregano (19) and a coreopsis (20) bush in that section. Coreopsis is blooming very early this year.

The onion bed

In another section, closer to the front, is the onion bed. One row of potato onions (21) and one of yellow rock onions (22). The second skirret, a tiny marigold (23), and a small Blue Cherokee Tomato (24) from Wolf Silver Oak. Kohlrabi were eaten by something. They did not survive.

The very front of the garden has a small, second year peach (25) tree that the squirrels planted. Around it is the garlic patch (26), a couple of leeks (27), orange mint (28), more Blue Cherokee Tomatoes, Shingiku (Japanese Edible Chrysanthemum) (29), a Winter savory bush (30), calendula (31), and dill (32) along with the ever present coreopsis dye plants. Somehow a lettuce (33) is hiding amongst the garlic. And of course a yellow flowering sedum (34) as ground cover. Columbine (35) is everywhere as well as violets (36). Along the very front edge, by the peach tree is some mossy creeping thyme (37). It had survived from back when this whole area was in the shade. Sadly, the sugar maple died. Its bark was coming off and it housed a huge carpenter ant colony. When it was removed, I planted corepsis and dragon's blood in its place along the curb and sidewalk.

And in the early spring, you will find tulips (38) and daffodils (39) along the walk.

New design in progress
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
2017-05-30 10:36 pm
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Still in the process of taking on Bavmorda with only a handful of acorns

The refinance fell through. Some of the bills are paid. Some are not. Aide applications - some assistance has come through, some has been applied for, some more applications are on my desk. The medical bills have been catalogued and are in a pile. The cupboard is dangerously empty. The food aide, Produce for the People, happens the first Tuesday of each month. We'll see what, if anything we can eat. Too many food allergies here. Mostly just wishing for a pickup in sales. I don't like asking anyone for help. I really don't. I worked a whole day for another firm and got a whopping $45 for my efforts. There is something fundamentally wrong in America today.

The neighbor says we are feeding 5 deer now. He's not happy about it either. I've taken to picking barely pink strawberries so the deer don't get them. So far, there are 12 strawberries. So much for growing all your own food. I think the township owes me a deer. I fed it after all. Vension in strawberry wine. I like that idea.

Saving Strawberries

Slugs, bugs, and ants are devouring what's left. So what we grow is only the truly prolific or invasive. Slugs are eating the rhubarb. Something else et the watermelon. But black raspberries are everywhere. Mulberry branches are weighted down with fruit. Sunflowers are coming up in bizarre places. So go with the flow. There should be lambs quarters next week. There are a few radishes and a few of this and that. I harvested a whopping 2 ounces of salad greens that I planted at the end of January. Really big harvest there.

Eventually there will be potatoes, onions, and garlic. Not sure about tomatoes. Never sure about tomatoes. You'd think that if nightshade likes it here, tomatoes would too. But must we only ever have cherry tomatoes? I need something big enough to can. Squirrel planted an acorn under one of my blue Cherokees. No more tomato but now two oak trees. Not a fair trade.

I harvested honeysuckle for mead making. Aparently its considered an invasive species. The neighbor let it grow all over his lilacs. I took some blooms off his hands. Now I just need 2 pounds of honey. Recipe: https://www.jaysbrewing.com/2013/05/09/easy-honeysuckle-wine/


Toni sent us oranges again from her boss' yard in Hollywood. He has trees of fruit everywhere. There is nothing like a chemical free, straight from the tree, fully ripe orange. I dried some of the peels after washing them well. Chrono made marmalade. We are storing it for future use.

Present from a friend

Orange Marmalade

Tonight Chrono made roast rabbit in the crockpot. Apparently, according to The Joy of Cooking, American-based meat rabbits are like white-meat chicken and European-based rabbits are like dark meat. All I can say is that it was very tasty. I could get used to rabbit. We get ours from a local farmer in Eighty-Four, PA. Thinking about raising my own but that involves building cages.

Tomorrow is another day. Stock will be going back on etsy after the Great Lakes Fiber festival. One container at a time. Lots of stuff to unpack first. Dyebaths tomorrow. The color of the day will be purple.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
2017-05-24 04:38 pm
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ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
2017-05-22 12:18 am
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But, but, I didn't plant that there!

The weather has turned warm. Storms have come through with water. Lots of things are growing. I have radishes growing where there should be Brussel Sprouts. I have dill growing 50 ft away from where it was planted. Sunchokes came up in a shade garden. I have carrots growing in between bricks on my back porch. And columbine between the front porch steps. My critters have replanted the entire yard. I think I have madder growing in a potted planter along with beets. Beet seeds get eaten probably by mice. I have to put them in a planter. Lamb's ear took over the front yard. Not sure whether oregano or the lamb's ear will win. Coltsfoot is coming in well too and the comfrey owns an entire corner of the yard.

Still no sign of beans. Chrono hilled the potatoes. They got big in a hurry. No luck with zucchini at all. Butternuts went into the 2 sisters garden since beans won't grow. The other pot of honey butternut needs a home where they won't cross polinate. One elderberry has flowers for the first time. So do the red raspberries. Need to pick and dry leaves for tea. Still waiting for more strawberries to ripen. Birds and deer are eating a lot of those. I need to get out and put strings up for the peas.

Swiss chard was eaten for lunch. There really isn't much food yet coming from the garden. The cupboards are very bare. I feel like old Mother Hubbard. I worked all weekend. First setting up a tent for a friend, then a brand ambassador job, then selling fiber arts supplies, then tearing down a booth and packing it up. Tonight I worked on carding fleece to sell. Tomorrow off to the bank to make the car payment. More applications to file and paperwork for the house refinance. I get to find out why a dye test must be done, what a dye test is in the first place, what that has to do with a tax certificate, and why they sent me to Kennedy Twp when that isn't where I live. Think I'll have a chat with Macieko. He is a very helpful person for a tax collector.

Some days I am just grateful for toilet paper.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
2017-05-13 08:40 pm
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Bean Experiment Results

Cranberry beans -slimy and fuzzy

Fuzzy and stinky - Cranberry
Bean experiment - Failure

Low's Heirloom - End of the line
Low'Heirloom - Failure

Jacob's Cattle - Maybe?
Jacob's Cattle - No growth but not rotten

Yellow Bush Beans - Given time, think they will all germinate. Planted!
Success at last

Now if I can find the three yard long beans and scarlett runners, those will get started too. Picked up organic marigolds at the Farmer's Market. They gave us a deal. Think it was a low turnout. It's been cold and wet. So we are going for a companion planting of beans, potatoes, radishes, and marigolds. Each scares away a bug that likes the others. Too many beds with bean failures. Four out of five potato types are in the ground, not counting sweet potatoes. Since the weather is turning hot this week, the sweet potato slips are going in the ground. They are not just rooting, they are growing tubers. Still have red cloud late potatoes to find a home for.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
2017-05-12 06:16 pm
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I'd love to tell you how wonderful my life is. I'd love to show you magazine quality photos to make you wish you were me. I can't manage that. That'd be too big of a whopper for even the most accomplished liar. I'd like it if you visited my webpage https://UrsulasYarn.etsy.com or even https://www.UrsulasAlcove.etsy.com I should have even more stuff out later today. And as always, if you saw it at a show but don't see it on the webpage, give me a hollar.

The old webpage is being taken down. The email is changing too. You can give me that hollar at UrsulasAlcove@gmail.com Hopefully I will get the hang of Google's menu soon. The business is being streamlined, cutting back outdated services and adjusting for our older equipment. The phone number is a landline which will be going away as well as the UrsulasAlcove web domain.

Today was a day of applications and disappointments. Verizon does not serve our area with FIOS nor will their HSI work without the additional landline cost. Comcast is still giving our equipment fits. So we are searching for an affordable service provider, not that I don't enjoy the public library, but it is a bit of a walk. Other disappointments include no financial help with medications, a grid-locked state government that may delay any property-tax rebates until they pass a state budget, and not enough sales to pay the bills. No actual productive business time was achieved in what seems like weeks. All-in-all a bit of a bummer. Add in a cold overcast day and it is a perfect recipe for depression. I keep thinking of Willow.

Madmartigan: [He and Willow have entered a fortress empty, save for petrified beings] Why did I *listen* to you, Peck? "Everything will be all right once we get to Tir Asleen". Well, the only army around here is the one that will ride across this valley and wipe us out!
Willow: But Cherlindrea said we'd be safe here!
Madmartigan: Safe? Look at these people! This place is cursed, Peck. It's falling apart. Open your eyes. And it...
[Steps in a pile of troll dung]
Madmartigan: Troll dung!

Here's hoping for better days! Let's take on Bavmorda tomorrow. It'll be fun.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
2017-05-09 10:44 pm
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More germination stuff

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)
2017-05-05 11:49 pm
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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.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
2017-05-04 12:34 am
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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)
2017-05-01 10:59 pm
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There is no such thing as a typical day.

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)
2017-04-23 12:39 am

So many things

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)
2017-04-16 01:30 am
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Gardening or Farming?

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)
2017-04-14 01:59 am
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Garden Log

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)
2017-04-11 11:43 pm
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Re-arranging the plants

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)
2017-04-10 11:32 pm
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We'll call it Rosemary

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!)
2017-04-06 11:36 pm
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Work it baby!

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)
2017-04-02 01:10 am
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As the Season Turns

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