ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I couldn't tell you why. I just woke up and decided I want to redo the whole front yard into an orchard. I want to get rid of the terrace wood. It leeches out arsenic. I want it gone. Not sure exactly how to do that. I figure I can cut the top layer off first and eventually work my way down. At the bottom, I want my perennial Mediterranean plants at the bottom, lavender, thyme, santolina, etc. In the middle, I want my meadow plants for the bees, monarda, coreopsis, madder, echinaccea, etc. At the top, I want berry bushes like honeyberry, currants, blueberries, etc. Behind them, I want dwarf and semi-dwarf trees, Maekawa Jiro persimmon http://ediblelandscaping.com/products/trees/PersimmonAsian/ and the Bonfire Patio Peach http://ediblelandscaping.com/products/trees/Peaches/

Terrace Garden

Attempting to Weave a Fence

The Japanese maple that the whole front was based on, is dying. It would be good to have something in the works to replace it. A trellis over the front walk with grapes hanging down, that would be lovely or maybe roses?

I only seem to have mapped one side of the front yard. This was the original plan.
Garden Plans

So I'll start by removing the thorny barberry bushes and weeds on the second tier. Then I'll put in my meadow plants which are growing everywhere. I probably need to reseal the bottom wood again. It's looking shoddy. At one time I painted every year with Thompson's water seal. This year I'm going for a blend of linseed oil and beeswax. I already bought them last year. Just didn't get around to it. It was too wet this year. And the long wet seasons are another reason to remove the wood. Chrono said she'd bonsai the juniper bushes. Should be fun. The bushes are 23 years old now. They are slow growers. It'll give us room to put more plants in. I want to pack each tier. https://permaculturemag.org/2016/03/diy-varnish-linseed-bees-wax/

Stay tuned to see how it goes. The gas company is also redoing the pipes again. So we'll see what havoc they cause.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I was the first up this morning and will probably be the last to bed. I started out writing a letter. I actually finished it before Hubby got up. There were no orders to ship today. I am working on hand washing all the wool sweaters which means all the dishes got done. Breakfast consisted of homemade granola and yogurt. With food allergies, everything is made from scratch.

Today's crisis was that we were out of acceptable cat food. The stuff we just bought went bad overrnight and had to be thrown out. Kitty was not amused but she wouldn't eat rotten food either. I started some eggs boiling. When Chrono got up, she made egg salad which kitty got some of. The rest went for Chrono's lunch and Hubby's. Chrono headed in to the studio today. She'll pick up acceptable cat food while she's in town. My goal today was to work on more inventory and start clearing the dining room. This is from a different year but you get the idea:

Dining Room?

The big desk has been void of computer for many years now. That bookcase became a garden bed last year. The mess of yarn and piles on top of the loom are constant. So the skeined and dyed yarn was wound into big balls. Then big balls get rewound into one ounce or two ounce balls, depending on the yarn thickness, and labeled. Three crates of yarn were weighed and logged into a notebook since I have yet to get at the computer to repair it. I found another keyboard in the dining room along with a mouse as I cleaned. The new keyboard still has the wrong connector. I started setting up a stable area for staging. Chronographia ran a crowd funder to get her design onto T shirts. She is cleaning up the digital design on her computer to get them printed. I am emptying off the desk and setting up wood crates to hold all the different sized T shirts and hoodies. The desk will be her packaging station to send out the pre-orders. She has all of the shipping supplies and is almost ready to go.

Staging Area

Meanwhile, all my newly wound yarn is ready to go to Gulf Wars. The Pennsic merchant application just came out too. I have a lot of paperwork to catch up on later this week as well as WI sales tax to file. Tonight I cleaned a corner in the living room. I know it doesn't sound like much, but I went through piles of papers. Moved boxes and furniture, then swept the area as clean as I could. Then I swept the dining room. I found more yarn to inventory. Old T shirts got chopped up for dust rags. Slowly, I'm making my way toward the Christmas tree. It has to come down before seed trays can go in front of the picture window. Didn't get that far today.

I'll be starting on grab bags of all those little bits of yarn that weren't enough to be a full one ounce ball but still have plenty of yardage. I also want to finish warping a loom. It's mostly warped. And then the floor loom needs the project off it and edges trimmed to sell at Gulf Wars.

Next on the loom

Tomorrow I have more yarn to wind and then must study for this weekend's gig. I have three days of handing out yogurt samples at various grocery stores around the area. They call it demo-ing or being a brand ambassador. I need to learn slogans, ingredients, potential allergens, print out time sheets and figure out which store to go to on which day. Hopefully, the kit will arrive with instructions, coupons, and supplies. I supply a table, tablecloth, waste bucket, and probably a cooler. Plus I get to wear my spiffy uniform. Come Monday, I will barely be able to walk.

Back to working in the refrigerator case at the grocery store
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
It's always a good thing to go over what worked and what didn't. Also to identify what can be improved and drool over seed catalogs, especially since tonight will be the coldest night of the year. Our low will be -1°F. We're in Zone 6. So far, it was a mild winter, more rain than snow. Then, that polar vortex split three ways so we are in for a bit of a cold snap. It will be a while before the ground is thawed enough to work again.

We've gone over what we'd like to eat more of and what we can live without. Allergies play a big role in this. Right now, none of us seem to be able to digest broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards or any dried legumes. It sucks because we love our brassicas and bean soup. Hubby's allergic to beets. I suspect the GMO beet sugar is behind his allergy but he is still having issues with organic as well. I may still grow some to exchange with other people or to use as dyestuffs. I definitely want to try the black beans as a dye.

There never seems to be enough onions, carrots or celery. So these are things I'd like to grow more of. Another thing I'd like is lettuce and assorted salad fixings. We decided that our most prolific tomatoes had very little flavor so perhaps a different variety should be tried. Our black plum tomatoes ripen so very late in the season that frost is a real threat to production. So next year we will still grow them but perhaps add some other varieties as well. We use tomatoes for sandwiches, paste, and sun-dried for winter pizzas. So we'll look at a few different varieties. I picked up sun gold and some amish paste tomato seed from the MI Gardener.

Pests took their toll in 2018. Deer slept on top of the zuchini bush one night, totally destroying it. They ate most of the strawberry plants, crowns and all. My solution to this is to plant a bed with whatever remains and keep it covered at night until the dill gets big enough to deter the deer. The ground hog chewed quite a few of the bigger tomatoes. The raccoon took out all the corn. Slugs ate the lettuce. Onions were a favorite of one of the critters. I got 3 onions out of 50 but they left the potato onions alone. There was also a skunk behind the garage as well as a huge rabbit up the hill. We hired a trapper. The raccoon chased off the ground hog once the corn was ripe. He pooped right at the mouth of the burrow. The trapper didn't get any animals so the ground hog and skunk are gone. Raccoon lives up a tree nearby. Birds ate the goumi berries. Ants farmed aphids on the elderberries. The lacinato kale did spectacular as did the collards. My neighbor was gifted those when she brought us radishes. And ground wasps moved in to the front yard garden as well as the red raspberry patch in the back. We'll have to watch to see where they move this year. Apparently they moved every year, not far, but a few yards away, traveling eastward.

Tallying up the totals all over again (because the computer died), I've learned a lot. 276 pounds of food and herbs! This does not include dye stuffs. The first real harvest took place the week ending April 21st. It was just a pound of food, consisting of rhubarb and asparagus.

The total amount collected by the end of June was only 36 pounds, by the end of July - 71 pounds cumulative, August - 110 pounds. So, summer crops yielded around 36 pounds a month. The largest harvest occurred the week ending Sept 15th with tomatoes, pumpkins and squash coming ripe all at once. In that one week alone, 47 pounds of food was harvested. I grew at least 90 varieties of plants. I lumped my small, assorted surviving lettuces as just one category even though there was three or more varieties.

The top ten producers

10. Purple Queen Beans 4 lbs.
9. Carrots 6 lbs.
8. Cucumbers 8 lbs.
7. Mulberries 9 lbs.
6. Rhubarb 10 lbs.
5. Zucchini 10 lbs.
4. Assoted Potatoes 19 lbs.
3. Butternut Squash 27 lbs.
2. Assorted Tomatoes 41 lbs.
1. Long Island Cheese Pumpkins 80 lbs.

In a normal year, these numbers would be much higher. The red currents did not produce at all. The year started out very wet. Come August, the weather switched quickly to very dry. Since I was at Pennsic, the garden took a hit. The Pennsic ground crew were very worried that cars would not be able to drive in some areas due to mud. Some were even cordoned off. That was July. August was another story entirely. It rained everywhere in PA except Canonsburg. I kid you not. Every rain system stopped at the edge of our town. Not a drop inside. It was spooky. Rain returned mid-September but it was too late for fall crops. I lost my peas. Malabar spinach started to thrive after the rain returned but cold temperatures cut it short. So that's the recap.

To increase next year's yield, I'm trying a different kind of potato, one that matures earlier. Adding space by using smart pots for the potatoes, and adding two new beds, both 2' x 12' long should do the trick. If the berry bushes thrive a little better, I hope to hit 350 pounds of food. Keep in mind, for a family of 3 adults, we would need to grow 2000 pounds to cover all our vegetable and fruit needs. We are nowhere near that. At this point in the year, we are out of almost all the cans of food we put up as well as frozen food. But we still have four pumpkins! Think there will be more pumpkin galetes in our future. (And pumpkin soup)

Christmas Dinner
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
Still going over last year's garden records. Since my computer died, I have to re-entered things into another ancient computer, configuring a new spreadsheet from scratch. Going from a Microsoft product to a MacBook. Both computers are decades old so I could also lose the second set of data too. All I want is a visual record of what came ripe when, week-by-week food totals, and totals for each crop I planted. I just finished typing in all of June. By the end of June, only 36 pounds of food had been harvested. Hopefully, July will get done tomorrow. July will take longer because more food came ripe.

What I learned so far is that my earliest 2018 harvest was claytonia. I planted it February 10th outside under the low tunnel. It was harvestable at the end of March and throughout April. We ate a lot of Claytonia salads with sorrel and lemon balm. Each year will be different, depending on weather. Since I already have Claytonia growing in the low tunnel right now, I may plant Minitina, and Mâche in February. Last year they didn't do well. I've a different bunch of seeds to try this year. Spinach should go in too. My regular garden, no tunnels, was started April 20th. I got a good yield of Cosmo Carrots and Daikons from that planting date.

Winter storm watch in effect right now. We'll see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully the arugula in the other tunnel survives Sunday night's single digit temperatures.
ursulas_alcove: Blakes 7 (intelligence)
Permaculture Zone Zero
Step One
If you listen to the experts, they will give you an idea of how to live lightly upon this earth. After listening to Joel Salatin (Polyface Farm, Staunton, VA) I have learned that step one is to get yourself out of debt. I'm working on that. It's hard. Banks hold your mortgage, credit cards, car loans, etc. Until you own your land or car outright, you are just working for the bank. All that interest! It will be the death of you. In medieval times, Christians were not allowed to charge "usary fees" ie interest. Some Islamic/Muslim banks are still that way. I also have indiginous friends who also feel that way. Sadly, the major banks I deal with do not have a moral compass. (Capital One, Bank of America, First National Bank, and American Express) Nor do hospitals, Allegheny Health Network and UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center).

It was a surprise when I opened my credit card bill today. Despite the fact that the billing cycle (number of days) was the same as last month, the interest rate hadn't changed, and I had no additional charges or penalties, my minimum monthly payment required went up, not by much, but still higher. I must admit that has me perplexed. The way in which these companies figure out a minimum payment is a mystery. I know there are federal requirements for paying down both your interest and principal, but what range is allowed between minimum and maximum? I don't know.

I keep a spreadsheet of the debt I am in. My husband and I had good paying jobs at one point. Our debt was high but our credit score stellar. Unlike other get-out-of-debt programs, I include my mortgage, credit card bills and hospital/medical bills. The cars are paid off. They need work but they are paid for. No student loans either. After my husband's stay in the hospital in Oregon in 2013, we had an outstanding total debt of $160,000. Working very hard to pay that down, but incurring two more hospital stays in between, we were able to drop that down $52,000 over five years. It's going to take us a lot longer to pay off the rest with rising interest rates. But now we live on a fixed income since he can no longer work. It is all the more frustrating when monthly bills go up instead of down.

Last year we were able to pay off the first mortgage and some of the hospital bill with help from friends. This year should see a few smaller tickets paid off, the Firestone (CFNA) bill, the last hospital bill, and our overdraft protection accounts. There are a few approaches to paying off debt. One is called the snowball effect. You pay the smallest bills off first. Then you take the same amount from those bills and apply it to the next bigger bill. Another approach is to pay off the accounts with the highest interest first. Snowball has quick, gratification rewards but the highest interest method is more cost effective in the long run. Then there is us. We cannot budget either way because our income is smaller than the bills we owe.

How does that work? How can that work? Well, I'm self-employed. If I have sales, it works just fine. I must sell enough to pay the business' bills, reinvest in product, and book shows plus make enough profit to cover my surplus household bills/expenses. If I don't have sales, I have serious food insecurity and incur late fees, have the utilities cut-off, and head into a downward spiral, culminating in loss of my house. So I have become fixated on producing my own food and follow the financial reports very closely. The government shutdown is affecting sales. I am seriously pissed off about it. There are things I can control, like how much product I list online, how many shows I book, etc. Then there are things I can't control, like climate change and political stupidity/greed. I shake my head. There's only so much boot strapping and belt tightening a gal can do.

Assuming the finances can get settled, the next credit card will not be paid off for another four years. No, interest rates are not my friend. But I console myself with the fact that if we survive, it won't be just one card paid off, but three. (Caveats are no medical care at all for five years and keeping a vehicle with 319,000 miles working.) Leaving me in my retirement years to get the Home Equity Loan paid down. So when I'm 65, I can actually start living. Doesn't that make you proud to be an American?

Step 2
Insulate your house. Lower energy costs. Use energy efficient appliances. Very hard to do while working on getting out of debt. You will still see a lot of posts in 2019 on this because our refrigerator is dying and our overhead light fixtures as well. We'll be visiting the energy efficiency of the dehumidifier this year and looking at ways to cut down on utility bills. I've another spreadsheet of those compared with average tempatures. Despite climate change, where we live, the average temperature was colder in 2018. It did reflect in our bills. 2019 goals are an energy efficient fridge with a stretch goal of energy efficient ceiling fans..

The back porch figures into heating costs. Without a roof over part of it, the picture window frame started rotting and air is blowing through the house. Not sure we can swing repairs, heck I can't even afford a ladder, but it needs to be addressed. The gutter is also falling off the garage because the wood is rotten. The garage needs to be painted and have other minor repairs as well. Soffits need wire mesh to keep bats & birds out of the garage. The house roof leaks around the chimney. I don't have a clue how to tackle this financially.

My ultimate goal would be to hire a permaculture consultant like Uncle Mud. I would want landscaping to prevent water in the basement. Rainwater collection systems installed, and a RMH in the basement for heat. You could call it a stretch goal or a pipe dream.

Once peak energy efficiency is achieved, procede to the next step.

Step 3
Work on getting your house off grid.
Not sure I'll live long enough to get this far. I have numbers on energy usage. The garage could be repaired enough to support solar panels that would cover our usage. Battery technology is getting better so maybe by then it could really be done. Energy credits for solar start to go away this year. So if we don't implement by 2020, its pretty much not going to happen. With a RMH and solar power, we could cover two of three utilities for off-grid living. Water being the third. Our water usage is already much lower than the average household. This was the first thing we tackled. A house filtration system could go a long way but there are no immediate plans. A Berkey Filter is already on my wishlist. I'll table this for future exploration. I will be trying to install rainwater collection this year. I picked up 2 food grade 55 gallon plastic drums as well as an IBC tank. So stay tuned for that. Rainwater collection is for the garden. The Borough is very firm on not allowing rainwater into the house sewage system.

So those are the goals as I approach Year 4 into my permaculture adventure. Stay tuned for updates!


14 Jan 2019 12:14 am
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
It's one chore that takes forever. Since the computer is out of commission, the old fashioned way will do- writing everything down in a spiral notebook. Anything that is ordered on etsy gets precedence. Since I ship out linen tomorrow, that got counted tonight. With Arisia coming up, hats got inventoried too. Socks have to be counted tomorrow.

Ashville Viking Fest - Day 15 of hats

Day 16 of Hats

Day 13 Bowler

chianti flatcap

Speaking of hats, seventeen or so of my hats are going to Arisia with Strange Hour Atelier. I have a great assortment of Viking hats and Chico's (ones with a brim). What I don't have are bowlers. So tonight while we watched Gosford Park, I knit the better part of a purple bowler. It should be ready in time to go. Totally out of flatcaps. I'll have to do up some of those next month.

Repetitive strain is a serious issue in hat production. To prevent that from happening, I am trying to limit myself to 4 hats a month or one per week. Which means hats will be limited to 48-52 a year. Sadly, I can't keep up with production without injury. I can easily sell 52 hats in the course of one or two events. A custom or bespoke hat may be the easist way for you to get the hat of your dreams. Contact me if you are interested.

Sales tax must be done this week too. There is never a dull moment around here. Many shows have deadlines this month as well. Off to bed! Orders to ship on the morrow.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Today I scored a victory. Brand new cinder blocks, over-bought for a landscaping project. I got seven. There are three more but they are frozen to the ground. The lady was very nice. I can take some paving stones too. I have to wait until it thaws to get them. I told her we go to the library every week (and she's right by it!) so I'll check back on a day when its warmer. So if they are gone, it was me. Yay! Free is lovely. At the moment I have 18 out of the 52 I sketched out for the new beds. Sketching on paper could be very different than reality. At this point, more is better. Tentative design for garden beds:


The trays are sterilzed. The light fixtures have been purchased. The bulbs are on their way. Didn't get as many as I wanted but its what I can afford. I sometimes use them at shows as well. Natural light is hard to come by in some places. You cannot check color without it. Very important in choosing yarn.

Setting up a grow area

Next, to look over last year's sweet potatoes and see what I can get to grow.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I found another reflector clip light in the garage! A trip to the hardware store only yielded two lights, one with an 8' cord and one with a 16' cord. Grand total with tax, $25.42. So I will have to rotate trays for equal lighting. It's a pain but I've done it before. So five lights for six trays. Because I am one light fixture short, I only needed four bulbs. That brings lighting cost down to just under $100, with shipping. Surprisingly, one of my two year old LEDs already burned out. Where do you take LED bulbs to recycle? I think maybe when they collect old computers at the fairgrounds. We'll see.

I poked at Craislist for cinderblocks since someone bought all of the ones at Construction Junction. There had been some for free last month nearby. I wrote them. We'll see if I get a response. Other people are charging too much.

That should leave me just enough to buy the Early Dark Red Norlands at the end of the month. This comes out of my paycheck, working in the refridgerator section handing out Philly Cream Cheese dip.

I just signed up for more refridgerator duty, handing out yogurt samples to all the dieters first weekend in February, three days at different stores. That should net me some cash for February needs, like the sweet potato slips and potting soil for starting plants indoors.

Then I saw this while poking around, arches. I need arches! Maybe not this one. I would love to give my blacksmith friends some work. The catalog one is powder coated so it won't rust.
If I could actually dig a hole for posts, I would just build one. Even the communitu garden's arch was above ground. It was wood attached to rebar. The wood sat on a stepping stone to prevent rot. The rebar prevented the stone from sliding downhill as well as anchoring the arch. They used zip ties. It was too dark to get a good picture. The reason for a solid post would be to hang a gate on it. Keep the deer out.

Another cheap made in China greenhouse, but I'd still like to try it. http://www.territorialseed.com/product/Walk_In_Greenhouse

Anyway, progress is being made. Today's agenda is to wash and bleach trays. Then find dark bottles to start a few sweet potato slips. Next month, I'll be planting 250 leeks and onions.

Today's high 25° F. Low 19°. The only day of winter so far this year where it didn't get above freezing. Otherwise winter has been very mild. It's going to screw with maple syrup harvest and fruit trees. These are some of our state's biggest crops. Mild winters also screw with rhubarb. It needs a winter. There is about a quarter inch of snow on the ground. Tomorrow it'll hit 32° and by next week back into the 40s. The only thing I can think of to work around mild winters with late killing frosts, is to have a greenhouse, with heaters and artificial light. Just go for Florida crops and wait for global warming to shift our climate to match. Taint right!
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
A lot of supplies for the garden are time sensitive. Many orders must be placed before February 1st in order to arrive on time for early planting. I tried to come up with a monthly list of what I need. Farming isn't cheap. I already picked up grow bags on closeout for potatoes- not nearly enough but a start. I wanted 100. I got 30. Which means I now need thirty tomato cages for the bags to support the potatoes. Domino effect.

I still need 40 more cinder blocks at $.80 each from Construction Junction. Estimate $32

Clip Light Fixtures from Ace Hardware -need 4 wide reflectors. Estimate $30
Grow Light Bulbs from Gardener's Supply -need 5 Estimate $120

Maine Potato Lady
Early Potatoes -Dark Red Norlands #5
Sweet Potato Slips 12 slips
Because of separate shipping at different times, estimated cost $50

More planting trays -Ace Hardware or order online. Ace runs behind my planting schedule. I can't always get what I want when I need it.

Seedling Start Mix -Johnny's Seeds estimate $60 for the volume I need. It must work with the soil blocker I have. Very disappointed with the mixes I was able to get in 2018. Local stores pawned off mulch as seed starter. Others had chunks of rock in them as filler. Totally ran out or didn't carry vermiculite or perlite.

Soil amendment- Trifecta from the MI Gardener would also be nice. I think seaweed may also work but is damn expensive. Garden Dreams uses seaweed and chamomile tea (to sterilize). Not sure when these must be applied. Garden Dreams uses the chamomile with the seedlings and seaweed solution as they start hardening off in April.

Goumi Bush
Gooseberry Bush
Late bearing blueberry-Elliott
2 more Ligonberries
Indiana Berry Company -https://indianaberry.com/products/1/9/Plants/Blueberries
I ordered too late last year and the plants died. I think that was in April. It was too hot when they arrived in May. Estimate $60

A spade for digging
A pitchfork for turning compost


Fruition Seeds- Indigo seed for dyeing. I may need to order sooner, depending on germination times for Indigo. http://www.fruitionseeds.com/Organic-Round-Leaf-Indigo-p/f63.htm

Companion Planting -Madder plants for dyeing. http://companionplants.com

Phipps Plant Sale $50
Assorted herbs and monarda for the bees. Mostly shopping at Always Summer Herbs

This is a stretch goal:
Class on Mushrooms $125
Wine Cap Spawn $25

Lehmann's Hardware
Pressure Cooker to prepare woodchips for mushroom spawn $45

Tomato cages and fencing structure for trellis crops - may need to setup sooner for peas and beans. Cucumbers too. Price unknown.

Irrigation valves to install into rain barrels - Need 3 Estimate $60 plus shipping
Pipes to connect rain barrels to gutter
Fabric-Tulle to cover onions and lettuce from deer. Need 14', estimate $15 from JoAnn's

Buy winter garden seed. Artic King Lettuce and Hungarian Pink Winter from Territorial Seed or Bakers Creek or Restoration Seeds or Adaptive Seeds

Hit fall sales of canning supplies for next year - Tractor Supply, Ace Hardware

The list will get longer in fall when I prepare for more permanent low tunnels for winter gardening. And I plan to update this list as I find more links.
I had amended this section with more info only to find it gone today. Most farmers will tell you that you need to spend about $2.50 per square foot. With a minimum garden size of 322 sq ft. , that's $805 and a maximum size of 2500 sq ft, $6250. I'm close to the $805 now. Do I have it to spend? No. If I actually wanted all of my yard producing, I would need additional things like a ladder, chainsaw, chipper-shredder, fencing, irrigation system, and several more fruit and nut trees. We were looking at 2 persimmons, hazelnuts, a medlar, and a Chicago Fig. The goal is still to produce 2000 lbs of food. It cannot be done with what I have. Money must be spent. Not all at once, but eventually. No one in the neighborhood even owns a chainsaw that I can borrow. Nor do we have a tool library. Pitty.
ursulas_alcove: Blakes 7 (world domination)
I dreamt I was setting up at Pennsic with Zada and 2 other women. Problem 1 - The tent had to be pitched on a wood lamnate floor (outside) along a concrete walkway. Were tent stakes permissable through the flooring? Problem 2 - It wasn't my tent. It belonged to another lady. It was a "barracks style" tent and no higher than 5'. I kept hitting my head. The other ladies were short. Problem 3 - The wasn't enough space to attach the upper ropes between our spot and the neighbors. It was narrow. We definitely needed the space. Problem 4 - One of the ladies was very pushy. She left no room for my things. Although it was a good layout, it did not look like my tent and no one would have found me. Problem 5 - The neighbors brought a beehive and placed it in our spot. It was little. I discovered it by accidently knocking it over while setting up. Two stings. Bees do not belong at Pennsic under some very close quarters. Problem 6 - No place to hang my hat display. They had also omitted to use several tent poles. Solution- I went home to get my tent and later a second time to get my hat hooks because I grabbed the wrong ones. Definitely frustrated. I looked at the setup. It looked like a jewelers tent, not mine. The only good thing was they all pitched in to help. Lesson - Never setup with other merchants or at least not that many. It won't look like your space.

I was so tired yesterday after working so hard that I fell asleep at 9:30 pm. That may not sound bad to you but my normal hours are much later. I slept for 11 hours. Hence the nightmare. Yesterday I washed and hung clothes outside on the line. It was 53° and pure sun, no clouds. None at all. Then I trimmed the hedge by hand. I took John for a walk down the driveway and to the corner. I trimmed the juniper bush out front. Then we headed to the library to return books. Stopped at the store and bought frozen veggies. I washed a double batch of dishes. I made dinner. It was a very long day.

The dieters have gotten all the salad fixings at the store. The normal display is decimated. All those with cash for good intentions got there first. Chrono made pork fried rice with leftovers for lunch. So all we needed were peas. The freezer case was pretty empty too. Picked up a frozen vegetable mix of peas, carrots, and corn for $2.50 on sale. Mixed veg and edamame were the only frozen vegetables left in the freezer case. I'm glad companies have figured out that no one likes lima beans in the mix.

I don't have any winter lettuce planted. Lettuce has a hard time in my garden. Between bad germination, slugs, voles, rabbits, etc. I have only been able to grow types of red lettuce. But even those have a hard time getting established. There are varieties that do better in winter. I'll have to look into those. Today I will check up on the arugula and the claytonia. We found Amaranth growing up the hillside and borage babies in the front yard. By adding my sprouts, I'll have salad fixings. More nutrient rich than anything you find in a store. I need to find my plastic sheeting for one of the beds. It currently has an agribon cover which is good against frost but not snow. It's suppose hit 50° but clouds are moving in. The unusual warm weather won't last. I also need to cover some swiss chard that has barely survived. The back yard, way back, has kale too, without any protection. Chrono is now allergic to brassicas so I'm the only one eating it. The celery and parsley are still doing okay without cover too. Celery was never something my parents would have ever considerd growing. Yet we used a lot of it. Wonder why?

We are still picking up coffee grounds daily. The coffee grounds are an especially welcome addition to the garden at this time of year. They warm up as they decompose. A mix of leaves and coffee grounds produce the best compost. It takes 4 months for decomposition. So grounds added in January are rich black dirt by April. I've been working in the mandala garden this week. The blueberry bed is done. The currant bed is done. The Lady's mantle bed is in progress. Leaving the rhubarb bed for next week. Hellabores will need trimming next month once they start to flower. They flower early and for a long time. I've compost piles to rake into beds too. They can wait a bit yet.

Working on new garden beds
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
The clutter was bugging me. I worked over the weekend. This necessitated going into the dreaded work cupboard. It occurred to me our stuff could be better organized. The work cupboard is a jumble of soufflé cups, spoons, plastic gloves, hairnets, etc. It's a hodge-podge of supplies leftover from various gigs. The wire shelving rack will soon be full of seedlings. I don't need stored electrical appliances under wet plant trays. The shelf spacing was wrong for proper seed tray lighting, too far apart. I had an extra shelf laying around too. It was a mess.

I started in this morning on the backlog of dirty dishes. With that accomplished, orders got prepared and shipped before the post office closed. Then to work. I took all of the things off the wire rack. I took all the supplies out of the work cupboard. I placed all of the electrical appliances in the work cupboard, cleaning each before putting them away. A toaster oven, two crockpots, a one cup hot water dispenser, the ice cream churn, and then repacked my punch bowl and cups into one box. Cupboard neat and full! Then on to work supplies. Loose napkins have been corralled and put onto the kitchen table. Soufflé cups have been neatly organized. Plastic gloves are in a ziploc to grab n go. Hairnets may get repurposed. They are not nets per se. They are white pressed fibers that look like I could strain something through them, like a coffee filter. Spoons are all in one bag. Everything fits neatly in a linen drawer.

Now onto the rack. I moved it out of the way. A filthy corner was exposed. Chronographia played Sophie Hatter (Howl's Moving Castle). All the spiders were told to git! The walls were scrubbed. The floor swept. The floor was scrubbed. The garbage emptied, etc. Then on to fixing my poor wire shelving unit.

Reconfiguring shelving for seedlings

We took out three of five shelves. The leather mallet was my dad's from when he worked at Belle Foundry in the 1950s. They made ship bells for all the ships on the Great Lakes. I think Sturgeon Bay still has the remains of a ship-building yard. Anyway, I set the shelf heights at 10" apart so that the lights are closer to the plants. We added a sixth shelf from the unit in the front window. The bigger plants needed more space to grow on that unit. You can see where the shelf used to be by the black shims on the posts. The orange and lemon trees needed the space.

Beginning to look a lot like Solstice

So now I put empty Grolsch bottles on the bottom shelf and cannining pots. The Grolsch bottles have lids to keep soil out. They can get wet or dusty without being harmed. I now have space for 7 trays of seedlings. I need four light fixtures and five grow spectrum LED bulbs. The light fixtures are not that expensive. They come from the hardware store. But the Grow lights are $19.95 each. They are down from $35 two years ago but still pricey. I plan to plant three trays of onions, one tray of leeks, one of celery, and the rest an assortment of swiss chard and other early plantables. I've had trouble starting lettuce indoors. We'll try a different seed company and see how it goes.


Now to work on my inventory and website so I can raise money to pay for this.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
You can't choose your relations, but you can choose your friends. This holiday we feel especially blessed because we are rich in the way of friendships. Though we can't be with you during the holidays, our thoughts are. Know that you all are cherished. Hugs! And enjoy the peace that Midwinter brings.

Beginning to look a lot like Solstice

Beginning to look a lot like Solstice

Also, cards and gifts are running a wee bit late. They call it 12th night for a reason.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Using up all the mini skeins; well, a lot of them anyway. Weaving uses a lot of yarn. I have no idea how many yards I wove or if it was just supposed to be a blanket. The dye is sapphire blue. You can see the difference in lighting on the effect of the color. It really is a sapphire blue, not navy. I really need new light fixtures, not just bulbs. I started this in May 2017. For me, that's pretty good. The end is in sight. I will see if the first, mostly blue and white section is long enough for a shawl. I plan to overdye the white in more blue. The natural colors I'm leaving alone. I should be able to get a 45" square lap blanket out of those.

It started like this

Then I ran out of blue yarn

And I’m almost finished
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Yes, it's that time of year. Time to review everything, accomplishments, failures, and things that just didn't get done. We were able to meet our financial goals, mostly. To be totally debt free will take another 5 years. We might get there in 2024 with luck. In the short term, it's really hard. Repairs have been few and far between because we can't afford them. We've stopped using credit cards and are no longer borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. I'll count that as a win. I've made a chart in my log book to keep me on track.

Also in my log book, I am tracking average temperatures per the gas company. In 2015, November was much warmer than 2018, 52° versus 44°F. Overall, this year has been 2° colder each month than in previous years. Global warming means that Greenland's glaciers are melting, cooling a lot of the east coast region. It's showing up in my gas bill. A woodstove is out of our price range. With leaky faucets everywhere, my water usage is up and so is the bill. I want to get back to 2100 gallons or less a month. Next month I'll be off because the toilet ran for two hours last week before I caught it. Looking for affordable rain barrels as a 2019 goal. It should help water usage in the garden during the dry season. And our electric bill seems to be totally dependant on the dehumidifier. When it's very rainy, we have no choice. It needs to run. I use the water it collects to run dye baths and to water the potted plants. But electricity, that I can't control. We did replace the freezer with an energy efficient model. That should save us $95 a year. The stove and refridgerator also need to be replaced but that is out of the question this year. Also our ceiling fans could be replaced with more energy efficient models but that too will have to wait. That covers the utility wishlist.

I have another sheet of garden expenditures. I spent way too much this year on things that didn't pan out because of timing. If you can't afford berry bushes until the end of April, they will die because the weather changed. They needed to be ordered two weeks sooner. I made a list of what I need and when I need it for 2019. Grow lights, seedling soil, early seed potatoes, grow bags, trays, etc. Most of the seed I wanted, I already bought from the MIGardener. He sells heirloom seed for 99¢ a pack. Hopefully the growing season will go smoother. With a good layout of the backyard, I now have a better handle on the available garden area. We only have 1/16th of an acre for growing on. If I can get more potatoes growing in grow bags, I can utilize some paved areas too. I also put pantry expenditures on the list. I need a pressure cooker. In fall, when canning equipment goes on sale, I pick up all my mason jar lids for the following year.

Today I educated myself on growing with phases of the moon. I have a plan of what to plant and when. We have a Proxigee on February 19th. The earth and moon will pass really close together. It's a super super-moon, 356,761 km apart. My list tells me I'll be planting celery in pots indoors and swiss chard, probably lettuce too.

I still have more work to do on my garden plans for 2019 (what is going where) but I have my goals set, number of plants, space they need, etc. In 2017, we grew 200 pounds of produce. In 2018, we grew 250 pounds of produce. In 2019, I hope to surpass 300 pounds of produce, more if our fruit trees start producing. We started drying medicinal herbs for tea this year. I hope to make more soothing oils and salves in the next year as well. The focus for 2019 is shifting to growing more of the crops we use instead of trying strange new vegetables. Turns out kale doesn't agree with us. No one likes collards except my neighbor. So more tomatoes and onions, cabbage too. Fermentation jars with weights are a stretch goal. I am tired of jury-rigging jars to keep the vegetation under the vinegar line.

I have a wishlist of appliances that need repair as well -the vacuum cleaner, sewing machine, computer, etc. The back porch roof needs to be repaired; a panel blew off. The chimney flashing is leaking in the attic; the roof is over 25 years old. All of these are goals. We may not reach them but at least we have a focus and direction to head toward. Now to have another good sit down and apply the same strategies to my business!
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
I went out to map our hill. The problem is the survey of our property is measured in the horizontal plane but the property is more vertical, topographical. So tape measurements aren't accurate to what's on paper. Part of permaculture is mapping out your property. I've done any number of shade studies on the equinoxes and solstices with a camera but never any mapping. It's hard on a hill. There has to be a better way to create more habitat and food out of our yard. The front terrace is made from pressure treated wood which is starting to give off arsenic. It's not bad levels yet but I'd rather not grow my food there. Dyestuffs are more appropriate for that area, at least in the immediate areas around the wood.

Autumn in the garden

Here's my best attempt at mapping. I sketched in some ideas for new areas as well but wasn't satisfied with them. Four feet is too hard to reach across on our hill, especially if ground hornets move in. That was the case with the bookcase garden. Also the potatoes near the bottom got too much water and near the top, no water at all. Narrowing the bed to 2 ft should help with that problem.

Mapping the Backyard

I woke up the other morning and was poking through my social media feeds. And I saw this picture. It haunted me throughout the day. But do you think I could find it agan? It resonated with my soul. I needed to find it. After wasting an hour searching, I gave up. So a big thanks to Faun for reposting it! Glad it resonated with you too. Here's the picture: https://m.facebook.com/greenrenaissance/photos/a.210721328945659/2605224736161961/?type=3&source=57&ref=m_notif¬if_t=feedback_reaction_generic

This! It's what I want. So to adapt it to my yard, I thought cinderblocks. It steps up the hill nicely, prevents erosion, and marks paths clearly. Using a two foot spacing, I can plant intensely using square foot garden methods (see The Square Foot Garden by Bartholomew). I can plant strawberries inside the cinderblock holes along the lower edge and garlic along the upper edge. I have to work the lines on contour and allow for paths to my clothesline and spacing around trees but I think it will work. Maybe some ground cherries too. So now for the cinderblock quest. I figure 52 would be good. Thirteen maximum a row, four rows is 52 blocks. It would be a good start. This will allow me to increase my growing space, look nice, and hopefully give a bigger yield than 250 pounds of food. I will have to look at ways to create low tunnels to extend the season, but I think its achievable. I may have to give up some of the openings in the cinderblocks for PVC tubing. It will help with pests as well. The tule experiment on the greens worked wonders and even kept out a groundhog.


No digging/ no tilling is involved in this project. The book case garden is going away. It's starting to fall apart. The dirt is in the right place so a rake will do to move it where I want it. Right now, the cardboard from all the empty attic boxes is going down as a barrier. It will kill off grass and weeds. I can't get a mower in there. The pitch of the hill also makes it dangerous to mow. Then I will place the cinderblocks on contour. Next, cover the paths with sawdust. The garden bed will get coffee grounds, dried leaves, compost and dirt between the two rows. I will start with two rows. Cinderblocks are 8" x 8" x 18". I'm excited to get things started. Construction Junction just got in a shipment of used blocks. With tax, they are $0.80 each. I got 2 today to start. There are strawberry plants in my currant patch that need to be moved. I am really looking forward to this project. I want wine cap mushrooms too.

The next phase is to propagate more of the fruit bushes I already have. One gooseberry bush isn't enough to make jam with. Same with the two lingonberries. I am also hoping to add some minerals to the soil for better nutrition and healthier plants. It will take a while for the new soil to create tilth. Coffee grounds take a year to break down. The Amish straw worked the best but I couldn't afford any this year. The trees need to be trimmed to let in more light. So many things to do! No chainsaw either nor a ladder. A chipper shredder would be nice too. Sigh. My goal is to someday grow 2000 pounds of organic food on this lot. I'll settle for 300 next year. I've plans for more tomatoes but we got hit with hornworm this year so I may need to give the soil a rest. Gotta look for red clover seed to fallow that spot.

Time for bed. May your dreams be filled with fresh, tasty organic produce!
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
When I was little, the day after Thanksgiving was the beginning of cookie baking season. I was hoping to find various pictures of relatives and recipes they were renown for. Each aunt had a specialty. Grandma’s specialty was Date Nut Bread. Aunt Lucille’s was Russian Teacakes. Since we really didn’t have leftovers from Thanksgiving, other than making broth, I made some Russian Teacakes in honor of Aunt Lucille who has passed on. Currently our attic, where all the pictures are, is an absolute mess. That’s a blog for another day. So pretend Aunt Lucille’s picture is here. Okay, so the little girl with the striped dress on this picture is her but not obviously how I remember her.


Russian Teacakes

Russian Teacakes

Russian Teacakes

Russian Teacakes

Now it turns out that along with recipes, my family DNA has passed down some addional traits. One of these is Celiac’s gene, HLA-DQ. While that means I only have a 30% chance of developing Celiacs, I am watching my gluten intake closely over the next year. Gluten can cause inflammation and leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut leads to a whole host of problems. In my sister, it caused thyroid issues. In me, allergies. My brother, like my dad cannot drink beer. So although I’m making a few batches of cookies, I will be working toward a detox program. That involves eating greens as half of every meal. Since the garden isn’t producing much right now, it will have to wait until spring. I can’t afford fresh salad at every meal. Nor is the variety available at organic stores right now. Detox involves dumping wheat (and some other starches), sugar, and dairy for a certain time frame. It purges bad gut bacteria. Then I must also do a parasite purge. It involves using cloves to kill off any potential parasites. Mimosa pudica seed can also be used. Parasites can have a two week cycle. Then a heavy metal detox. Certain trace minerals will help with this. I've been exposed to a lot of mercury over the years, from broken flourescents to teeth fillings. With weaving, the lint produced has chemicals especially in cotton (pesticides and herbicides) and its dyestuffs, including cadmium. It will probably be six weeks of this. It’s something I’ve been putting off. After my cousin developed diabetes and then my best friend did too, I’ve come to the conclusion I can’t wait much longer. This is going to cost a bit for supplements. It will cost more if I don’t do it. Your health is one thing to definitely be Thankful for.

Northern Homestead has some info on cookbooks for healthy eating and a great article about what they grow versus buy. https://northernhomestead.com/our-plant-based-pantry/
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
It's already Wednesday? I started cleaning the attic. Too many papers in boxes. Too much stuff. Too cluttered to work. I've a giant bag of recycling and more to go through. I put some of the fleece away. Not going to get to it. I wanted to send it to a processor but cash is going to be short this winter. Etsy sales have tanked since they redid their search algorithm. My etsy sales covered the family's food budget. It hit me unexpectedly. Time to find a budget work around. There are still a few sales but an order of magnitude less. Business is very unpredictable. Next year inflation will hit. Uncertainty due to tariffs and lousy trade deals are starting to affect my business. I thought I was in control. Boy, was that an illusion! I guess, expect the unexpected. My crystal ball needs glasses but her healthcare didn't cover it. Maybe I'll find a new crystal as I clean the attic. Think I need one.

I decided to stick with etsy as a platform regardless. I need an online presence and it does give me that. Eventually they will change the algorithm again. They want free and reduced shipping so they can be like Amazon, but at my expense. Free shipping doesn't work for my business. I do not offer high end items with shipping priced in. A one-of-a-kind hand-dyed yarn that ships first class mail and not priority should be okay but somehow isn't. It arrives quickly and the shipping is lower in price. Etsy's search algorithm is based on shipping costs. No one I spoke with is actually finding the items they searched for. I am sorry about this but it's out of my control. No one told Etsy stockholders that Amazon doesn't actually make much money. Amazon drove a lot of people out-of-business. They can also control selection and choices, which is what etsy is now doing. If you are looking for something specific, email me at ursulasalcove'at'gmail.com or convo me through etsy, ursulasyarn.etsy.com

I've been taking suggestions. I could offer a yarn club but haven't figured out how to do that on Etsy. Buy one skein a month and get a thirteenth skein free, something like that. First, I need to find out from the mill how much yarn is going up next year. They are saying some yarns have doubled in price but I don't know which yarns yet. So much is changing. It's hard to keep up. I'm not used to such a rapidly changing business landscape. Give me a bit to figure it out. The first week in January I should know more. Your suggestions are welcome.

Blue Jean Quilt

The attic has a lot of abandoned projects in it. Time to work on finishing those. This is within my control. I found some quilts and piecework projects I started long ago. I'm starting with a quilt. I need to make 80 of these squares. I've 16 made so far. The cat and I head up every morning before the household wakes up. I don't have a serger but zigzag works. I'm looking forward to seeing a completed quilt. I've an old blue acrylic blanket. I think that'll be the backing. A simple tie-type quilt should do. The rectangle measurements were based on an old Clinique box for face cleanser. So not exactly round numbers, but it made a great template. I have a lot of random spools of thread kicking around. So many people destashed sewing gear as their eyesight deteriorated with age. Before my sight goes, this is getting done. Free thread is a plus. I'm using the Kenmore because the Pfaff needs a new belt. Night and day. The Kenmore is so clunky compared to the precision of the Pfaff. I mean it works, but the feeder dogs don't do as good a job. The thread tension could use one more guide to steer it. The stitches per inch are longer. So many corners were cut from an engineering perspective. Maybe it was just 1970 instead of 1950. Expectations were different. It's not as much fun to use. But then I do prefer a stick shift to an automatic too. Maybe I'm just a snob? Follow along with my sewing progress. There is garb to make and mundane clothes too. With this much sewing, I have inquiries to make too on a new belt for the Pfaff. Hopefully my repair guy is still in business. Wish me luck!

pfaff sewing machine
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
There is this ToDo list with one item that never gets done. Today is the day I conquered it! I have wine that needs to be processed. Bottle Mango Wine has been on that list every time I write a list. Today I pulled it all together. I have two wines that I am clarifying, Orange and Honeysuckle. I cleaned all the mulberries out of the freezer and started a new batch fermenting. I bottled that Mango wine! There are only 7 bottles but it has the makings of an excellent vintage. Very tasty upon bottling. So I was thinking of calling it “Mango only pawn in game of life”. https://goo.gl/images/eTNnc4

Mango Wine

Also a long time on the list, “register as a merchant for Gulf Wars”. Done. Now to send in the check. Bills need to go out Monday anyway. And then on to cleaning the attic. That’s going to take a while. I have some quilts I started long ago and far away. The pile of scraps in a heap in the corner is getting cut and stitched. The only problem is a belt started slipping on the sewing machine. Taking it slow. My list of broken items that need repair is incredibly long, much more so than my todo list. “When funds become available” looks to be a long way off. But I have a list so that’s a start.

Pumpkin bread has been made. Pumpkin pie is in the oven. Dishes are done. Strained and bottled my homegrown echinacea tincture. Cat food has been acquired. Living room carpet has been swept with a broom. Yes, two vacuums need repair. Doing good so far on adulting.

Long Island Cheese Pumpkin

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Pie

Next on the docket:
Once the attic has a bit of workspace, then on to computer repair. My Dell Win 98 blew a power supply. It has all the business records on it. I will attempt to turn the drive into a slave on a Windows 2000 machine if I can find the Computers for Dummies book. The goal is to finish record keeping for 2018. Then move on to another machine.
ursulas_alcove: Pink petal hat (Peeking flower faery)
FaerieCon is this weekend. It's the 25th anniversary of The Dark Crystal. Wendy and Toby Froud will be there. Brian was not cleared by his doctors to fly. I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Dark Crystal. We got ours from the public library. The making of the movie is quite spectacular. It's included in the DVD. And since they did a reboot of The Dark Crystal, there will be lots of puppeteers and workshops at FaerieCon. Highly recommend attending if you are in the Baltimore area this weekend. Meet famous people; learn a new skill.

Chronographia will be vending. I will be home caretaking. However, my hats will be there. Vikings, Chico's, a petal hat and a Camoflauge witch hat are being setup as I write. Look for Strange Hours Atelier at the bottom of the escalator.

Fall Viking Hats

Chico's-I also did some in brown and gray for mundane wear.
Hats are drying before heading to FaerieCon
Hats are drying before heading to FaerieCon
Day 4 The Chico

Petal Hat
Hats are drying before heading to FaerieCon

Witch Hat in Progress
Bree's hat in progress

If you are interested in custom work please contact me to find out when I can fit you into the schedule. StrangeHours is doing the Handmade Arcade in December 2018.

2019 Shows
Arisia- Boston, MA (StrangeHours)
Convocation- Dearborn, MI (Strange Hours)
Gulf Wars-Poplarsville, MS (Ursula's Alcove)
CostumeCon- Danvers, MA (Strange Hours) http://costumecon37.com
Ashville Viking Festival- Ohio (Ursula's Alcove)
Great Lakes Fiber- Wooster, Ohio (Ursula's Alcove)

More will be added as time goes on. Already booked for SVFF and SAFF in fall. Pennsic applications come out in February. Strange Hours plans to return to FaerieCon and Leaf. Looking forward to applying to some local shows. Fingers crossed to see if I get in.
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