ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
Home from Pennsic safe and sound. The van still needs work. Pennsic was adequate but not enough sales to fix the van. The monthly bills were met, mostly, but the hospital bill is not. The upstairs bathroom is broken. I need glasses and dental work. More work is needed on the house and the other car. Working two jobs later this week with hope that this burden will be shorter. Somehow $50 still doesn't equal $5,000 no matter how I wish. Disparity reigns. Still, during Pennsic takedown, many people found they had food stuffs that wouldn't survive the trip home. I was given so many things, potatoes, apples, sweet potatoes, onions, cheese, lemons, and oranges. So I am thinking preservation for winter. Apple butter could happen. Probably also pie.

Welcome to the Jungle

The garden needs a lot of attention. Paths are overgrown. Potatoes look good, squash, tomatoes, skirret as well. Some newer sections have a very wet clay base a few inches down and a dry, hot top. Those areas are dead. I will be doing a raised bed with a cold frame top for winter over the top of these areas. The compost pile is in good shape. It will provide the dirt for the raised bed. I still need to address the oregano-dwelling wasps. Add that to the ToDo list. I think sun-dried tomatoes could also happen later this week. I am pouring over canning books looking at how much I need. With sun today, I am baking beans in the solar oven. Lots of domesticity.

Front Yard after Pennsic

New seed for winter gardening with thanks to my patrons at Pennsic and online:
Planning a Winter Garden

It is good to be home. Thank you all for your patronage!
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Planted High Mowing brand sugar snap peas along the driveway as well as beets today. Flipped the compost pile. Wet compost is heavy. Worked for four hours at Whole Foods. Walked to the library. And wound yarn. Lots of standing. Not bad for an old broad. Also planning displays for Pennsic, packing list, a couple of totes packed. Tried on clothes at Goodwill. I am officially a size 16 once again. I needed black pants for the work uniform. The size 20s I had were too big.

Not bad for some extra cash, food demonstrator
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I will be headed to Pennsic on Saturday. Tomorrow I am working and Friday packing. Things will be kinda quiet for a few days.

40/2 Linen is backordered until the end of August. Irish lace yarn is backordered until January 1st. Mercerized cotton is a long story. The manufacturer has upped the minimum buy to 20 cones (500 g) of each color. That equates to $500 per color. Typically I sell 40 colors and three different thicknesses. That makes restocking a $60,000 proposition. As you can imagine that's not going to happen. My inventory turns are nowhere near that high. What I plan to do is buy natural colored cotton and dye it. That's still about $1500 a year. Yes we live in interesting times. I'll do my best to have something interesting to buy. I may even give Turkey red, a natural period dye a try.

Safe journeys and hopefully we'll see each other soon!
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
I spent the morning harvesting. I started with the potato onions. They are called potato onions because they grow in clumps like potatoes. Supposedly they are the oldest known breed of cultivated onion, going back several thousand years. The ones I planted in the Kuiper Belt were very small. The soil back there needs work. Probably more water and sun as well. The mulberry tree needs some trimming back to allow more light in.

Austrian Crescent Potatoes and Potato Onions

Then on to the front yard to examine the potato bed. What were thought to be a late season German Butterball potato turned out to be Austrian Crescents, which are an early potato. Yes, they need to be dug up. No the soil isn't loose. These guys ended up turning green from exposure to the sun, rendering them toxic for human consumption. I will use them as seed potatoes for next year. I thought some of the carrots might be ready as well. No. They were wide but only an inch long. I got the back portion of the bed done. The sun got too hot to do more and the honeybees arrived to do their work.

More onions were planted in the next bed. They were laying on top of the soil, begging to come in from the sun. I planted both potato onions as well as yellow rock onions. The yellow rock onions went to seed. I wasn't happy about that. They were supposed to be regular cooking onions. I may have harvested two onions out of the couple pounds I purchased. All the rest were potato onions. Mostly in clumps of three. Usually they are in 5 or 7. The better quality soil and direct sunlight gave me a usable size. Still somewhat small compared to store-bought onions.

Magic Beans

Green beans were from a very old seed packet from Ferry Morse. They were not an heirloom. Called yard long beans, this is my second year growing them. 2002 seed germinated last year giving me a basis to continue. They are hanging out in Middle Earth with the raspberry bushes. There are not many, maybee three plants. They seem to be growing fine. They like the trellis. The Purple Queen beans are growing in the SE mandala with the rhubarb. They are a small bush bean.The rhubarb had fresh, young and tender shoots which I also picked.

Purple Queen and "yard-long" beans

More rhubarb, still looking good

With the potatoes already dug up, I headed to the backyard where I had planted the rest of the Austrian Crescent potatoes. Sad, isn't it?

Martian Death Ray wipes out garden bed

After some digging, I determined the top soil to be dry and hot. An inch down was pure wet clay. The potatoes had been steamed by the water and hot sun. They were very squishy. This was my Martian death ray. It is turning the squash plants yellow. Too much water in the clay. Next round it will get a mixing of sand and compost to loosen it up. Or else I'm just going to dig up the clay and starts working cob.
ursulas_alcove: Pink petal hat (Peeking flower faery)
As part of a community food program, I am given unique food challenges each month. Last month I ended up with four bags of turnips. No one really wanted them. So many people gave me theirs. They didn't have a clue what to do with them. Turnips have always been peasant food, long before potatoes were a thing. Personally, I still think of them as pig food. I don't have a pig nor the space to get one, even a tiny pig.

June was Turnip month

I found a period recipe for turnip wine. That's one way to preserve them. I already did a post on this. It's coming along. I think it'll be good for cooking. Another is to make slaw or pickle them. Since we have an abundant supply of dill, we have now had a month of daily coleslaw. I am really done with eating this but its still good on those hot days when you don't really want to cook. One turnip started growing in the fridge despite all the anti-growth chemicals they spray on supermarket food. Yup. Planted it for seed.

More turnips from June

July's food challenge is Mangoes. Most people have no clue what to do with them. When they found out we knew what to make with them, they gave us more. First, these are not ripe yet. Second, unripe mangoes contain natural turpentine. A bit of poking on youtube gave us some good recipes. Here's one for Kulfi (an ice cream pop) Condensed milk works too. https://youtu.be/VUQ5yG_NFrI
Chutney is another thing to do. We'll probably make both. There are 13 mangoes.

July is Mango month

Then on to granola. 91 batches of granola are made each year for our 3 person household. That's a lot of granola! Here's the basic recipe. Ingredients can be changed up for a different flavor. Substitions are recommended. If you are traveling and want to turn your granola into bars, I've also included a recipe but with 91 batches, very few go the extra bit of work to become bars.

This is for a 9x13" baking dish:

Mix dry ingredients:
3 cups quick oats
1 cup rice crisps (unless you want a very dense granola)
1 cup (ish) chopped nuts
1/4 cup flour
pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or other spice

Mix liquid ingredients:
1/2 cup maple syrup and/or honey and/or agave and/or corn syrup
generous 1/3 cup canola oil OR substitute part/all with nut butter
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)

Spread dry ingredients evenly in your baking dish and pour the liquid ingredients over all. You will end up having to mush in the liquids to make sure everything is more-or less coated. Bake at 325 degrees for an hour, stirring and turning-over every fifteen minutes.

Adding chopped fruit:
Since the high sugar content and lack of liquid in dried fruit leads to easy burning, I recommend chopping it to size just after putting the granola in the oven, and putting it in the mixing cup used for the liquid ingredients with a little bit more sugar syrup over it. Place that on top of/near the oven to gently heat. Add the sticky chopped fruit for the last fifteen minutes of cook time.

Granola is made 91 times a year

Once complete the baking dish can also now be reused for:

Granola Bars Syrup

1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c butter or margarine
1/3 c honey
5 c. granola
1/2 c whole flour

Stir together granola and flour. In a saucepan combine brown sugar, butter, and honey. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Pour brown sugar mixture over granola mix. Stir until well-coated. Press into a greased 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Cool; cut into bars.

The cupboard is woefully empty for this time of year

Food pantry needs a lot more work before winter. So far only black raspberry jelly and marmalade. The applesauce came from the food program. I've not read the ingredients yet. I am allergic to cinnamon so we'll see.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Who knew I had so many? I need more wool. I've got:

onion skins
lemon balm
blood root
black raspberry
yellow dock
russian tarragon
carrot tops
tomato vines
and even the forsythia will give a color. India Flint uses rose leaves but I've not tried that yet. Come fall, I may try the neighbor's oak leaves. I'm sure there is more. Many of these plants give a different shade in spring than they do in fall. The joy is in experimenting. Some are more colorfast than others. I wonder about the horseradish . . .

And this link turned up http://pioneerthinking.com/natural-dyes
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
First no rain, then lotsa rain. Gardening, food preparation, cleaning, shopping for missing ingredients, and dyeing filled my week. Since the pipes need repair, no hose for us to use. We lugged water every evening to water the five upper tiers of garden, herb spiral, potted plants, four beds in the mandela, and porch plants. The front yard garden has a swale system and was well worth the effort of digging. It did not require any water as you can see.

Growth Explosion

The last week in June, we pulled in a couple of pounds of garlic. I found two more stragglers today. For us, that was a pretty good haul. Currently they are in a brown paper bag because the fruit flies were after them. Normally, they need to dry out a bit before being used or stored. Chronographia made hummus with some in the solar oven as well as roasting some with olive oil.

German Hardneck Garlic

It looks like the peas are almost done. Rhubarb continues to look good and produce. I made waffles this week with a rhubarb compote. Delicious! The Purple Queen beans are coming along nicely in front of the mandela. Skirret reseeded in that patch. I was rather surprised. I had a hard time growing it from seed. Now that we have plants, they seem to have acclimatized. The skirret wants to be a bushy border along a fence or maybe part of an Elizabethan knotwork garden. Pollinators love it. It is as tall as our baby peach tree.

Radishes joined the cabbage, turnips, and carrots from the food bank to make a tasty coleslaw. Tonight we had nettles with lamb's quarters and sauted onions in a ricotta cheese sauce over baked potatoes. Our potatoes are not ready to harvest yet. The Austrian Crescent were the early potatoes. Unfortunately, they were in the Martian deathray section of the garden. I have hopes we can recover something for next year's seed.

The basil and parsley seed from The Seed Guy sprouted and is doing well in the herb spiral. The hyssop is blooming purple but it tastes like French tarragon. It started branching as soon as it was trimmed. It grows bigger and bushier with each cutting. And more skirret that needs to be moved to a better location. We finally found rosemary at the food co-op. The quest was worth it. White yarrow is hiding in the back and doing well. Lettuce is hiding in the shade of the iris. Chives are still growing but not abundantly. Thai basil reseeded from last year. Here is this year's herb spiral.


The window box is a weird assortment this year. The catnip lives there year round but we managed a volunteer tomato and pumpkins as well. This is still the yellow finch's favorite place to perch. He has given up fighting his reflection and sits on top the open window. The second story box has a sunflower in it, making it hard to open the window.


Trimming and weeding are daily chores, giving me an excuse to get out and stretch. Today I pulled a lot of creeping charley, violets, and grass from the front. The butternut is taking over.

Squash takes over blueberry patch

The bees have been in the clover in the grass as well as the borage. The bunny loves the white clover too. He lets us get pretty close. He is itchy and stopped to scratch. No fear.

My new lawnmower

Meanwhile, I have been winding hemp yarn into balls and labelling it. Also skeining wool for dyebathes. Indigo is finished. Hoping the yarn will dry. It turned rainy this weekend. Cooler too. Nothing wants to dry out. Thread weight yarn has been mordanted. Now for the next round, madder. Getting ready for that on Monday. Bookkeeping is up next. Sales tax to file in several states.

ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
Front yard - Dye plants and Food
More polyculture

A narrow swathe of heat and dying plants while those around them are fine. I've since added a burlap shade cloth. We'll see if it helps. Mulch didn't.
Martian Death Ray wipes out garden bed

Dye Experiments with Barbary trimmings

Barberry in dye pot

Barberry Dye

Thanks to good friends for seeds, madder among the beets
Madder hiding in the beets
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I did some calculations today. I weighed all our meals today to figure out how much we typically eat in a day. I had heard all kinds of numbers floating around the internet, like 5 pounds per person per day. Nope. We each eat around a half pound per meal. Breakfast here was less, but if you add in a snack later on, its about the same thing. So each person eats a pound and a half of food per day. Not worrying about calories or balanced diet. Just simply a pound and a half. Times three people. 4.5 lbs per day. 365 days per year is about 1650 pounds. Last year our garden yield was 100 pounds, about 1/16th of our food. Hoping to do better this year! We have a ways to go yet. It's our third year of "no till" polyculture. Fifth year is supposed to be the charm.

Rhubarb did well this year as did mulberries and black raspberries. We finally had enough strawberries to actually weigh. There will be more potatoes this year, onions, parsnips, tomatoes, and various squash. No eggplants, but lots of skirret. A lot of the sweet potato slips died. Two or three remain. Enough for stock to start slips for next year but not for food. There is also more Swiss Chard. With luck, I hope to start a winter garden in fall. Lots of greens and carrots. Radishes too. More peas.

The onion bed

There are one or two beans all over the garden. I think there is enough for seed but maybe not for food. Scarlet runner beans, being the exception. They should be a perennial. We have 6 plants on a trellis. Corn is mariginal as are melons. Don't have high hopes. The cukes are blooming at 6" high. Very weird. Radishes exist randomly in many beds. I tried to use them as protection for other crops. I am putting carrot seed in as I harvest plants. We finally discovered what buckwheat plants look like. We've had them for years from our parrot seed mix. Never knew. It's a good cover crop after a bed is through. Easy to mulch. The rabbits ate everything in the cabbage family, cauliflower, some chard and bok choi.

Hanging basket- Rainbow beets and madder are doing well. Started the tail end of store-bought celery growing in a pot outside. Got a couple of meals off it already. Wish I had more. The others didn't take. I have a citrus tree growing in my pot of dahlias. That's gotta get moved. The pot is too shallow. Zucchini in a pot was a crop failure. I got one nettle to grow out of a whole seed packet. That's also in a hanging basket. I put all the extra tomato plants in planters, where ever there was a space. That will be good if we have early frosts because the pots can get moved indoors. They are still little.

Black Raspberry Syrup

Preservation- We have already dried raspberry leaves for winter tea and oregano. Parsley has bee frozen into cubes. Catnip has been cut once so far and dried. I still need to harvest yarrow leaves for winter colds. Some books suggest grinding up comfrey with water and a little flour to make a paste to freeze for sprains. I need to try this. Easy medicine. I will have to look over the lemon balm too. I made orange wine this year from organic oranges at a co-op sale. Also orange marmalade from some Valencia oranges picked at a friend's house in CA. Honeysuckle mead, and turnip wine from the food pantry turnips. And while cool this week, black raspberry jelly. I dried sweet woodruff to make May wine for next year.

Sweet Woodruff

There is an area in the garden that looks like a heat ray killed everything in that section. Dead marigolds, potatoes and beans. Not sure what happened but it is the sunniest part of the yard. It hit the ends of two garden beds. I would never have guessed. I was thinking of a greenhouse there. Maybe one with optional shade cloth for summer. Hmm. Plan for next year. Also talked to one of the farmers at the market. He suggested shopping for meat rabbits at the county fair, buying from 4H kids but asking a lot of questions about age and breeding. Sounds good to me. I will do a separate update on the herb spiral.

So we wait now to see what the total yield is, weighing everything we harvest. We have less than a twelfth of an acre of land. Trying to maximize production.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Kind of a bizarre week. We got home safely from the renfaire. The gate count was way down. I am re-evaluating my business. Amazon bought Whole Foods. The weather is more severe these days. We missed a tornado while we were away. Politics and the 24/7 news cycle is trying to scare everyone to death, false reports of Russia starting WWIII. What do all these things have to do with each other?

They are screwing with my business. I am still trying to recover from 2008. Let's start with that. It was the start of the "Great Recession". I had too much inventory and bad sales that year which set me on a bad financial business path. I borrowed money from my business credit card firm because the local bank would not cut me a loan. Then Capital One hiked everyone's interest rate to 18% who had used their "special check". They were sued because of this. We won. I got a check for $5.00. I still have an interest rate of 18%. I have called them many times trying to negotiate this rate down. Nope. This is nail number one and I did it to myself. Never, ever trust a bank. They are not your friend.

Books used to comprise about 60% of my business profit. Now we move onto Amazon. Since everyone started shopping online, the book industry is dead. Yes, books are coming back, however, not soon enough. E-books first. I lost several suppliers. Some just quit and retired. Some were eaten by other businesses who then destroyed the product line. It is very difficult for me to requalify with new suppliers and have minimum orders with three companies when I used to buy from one. A minimum order is usually around $250; however some suppliers require a first time buy of $1000. Yeah, it sucks. And no, many of them only have one title I want to buy. Then we move on to customers who buy books. I can't compete with Amazon's prices. Publishers charge anywhere from 60% to 80% of the cover price to retailers. So my profit on a book is not very high. Thirdly, gas prices went high and shipping costs went up. You get the idea. This really hurt my business too. So that's nail number 2. I zigged when I should have zagged.

Now we get to a couple of factors that have the same impact. Wage gap. With the average person's disposable income shrinking, there is less money available in the marketplace. Then climate change. Storms are becoming more frequent and severe. More likelihood that an event will get rained out or a flash flood will block off the roads to a site. Then there is the 24/7 scare-the-heck out of everyone so they stayed glued to your tv channel people. Results, less cash is spent at a show and attendance is down. It still costs me the same amount of money to get there but I have fewer sales. More shows are becoming marginal. End result is that I travel less because it lowers my costs.

Secondary climate change impact: With hotter summers and milder winters, socks are not selling. Wool is not selling. Hats are debatable. As they are hand made and take a lot of time, I don't know what my maximum sales could have been. I can only physically make 100 per year. So I have no upper end metric to compare to.

So I am going to have to think about this real hard. I don't know if I even have a product people still want. It is very likely that I saturated my market or that my market is too narrow or possibly too broad. I need to reinvent myself. Businesses go through cycles just like everything else. Hopefully I can learn a thing or two yet. I will still be around. My product selection may be reduced for a bit while I figure this one out.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
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!)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Japanese Iris

Monarch caterpillars like parsley too

Rose season gets earlier every year



More roses

Trellis in progress

Mandela and Japanese Maple
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
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)
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.


12 May 2017 06:16 pm
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
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)
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.
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