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: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
They call it a paper alley because the city owns it and no way will they ever pave it. The hills are too steep. The neighbors up the hill would like everyone to think it belongs to them. The neighbors on the lower side of it think it all belongs to them. This has been going on since 1929. I say we split the 14' of width and call it even. Since I am one of the few who actually know where the property pins are, I will start to slowly infringe into the alley, planting as I go. It only gets afternoon sunlight. A hazelnut tree would do nicely. I think on the far side of the steps near the log. The bush is a Rose of Sharon and is not on my property. Have to watch it though. The guy with the play set, his name is Matt, he has a happy finger on the Roundup bottle. He killed all my tulips, his wife's tulips and his own landscaped trees. It was an accident. He's since learned just how potent that stuff is. He maintains the far side of my garage. Maybe there should be a deliberate little fence around the tree, to make it look intentional. I talked to him. He doesn't mind if I plant back there.

Looking at all the projects to complete

Below is pictured the lilac grove, now covered in honeysuckle. I put some locust seeds inside the mowing perimeter. Up the hill, his name is Steve. He no longer mows himself. He is trying to teach the neighbor kid to mow. No one maintains this area anymore. In general, I respect Steve. He is a self-employed artist, owning a photography studio. He has never really liked anyone from outside the area. Can you say provincial? Steve has been putting in square foot garden raised beds on the very narrow flat part of his yard, close to his house. They look very nice. He takes issue with any planting I do near my property line. He calls our house the Transient House. We've only lived here 25 years. There have been four owners before us. Steve's wife is second generation in the same house.

Looking at all the projects to complete

It is a right pain to get a mower up the hill to mow this section. Getting it up the steps is difficult. I'd love to have an arch/gateway around the stone steps with a grapevine. That would be cool. I tried sinking a post into the ground. Need an underground machete to get through the roots. Still, having a professional do it would be heavenly. A girl can dream.

So, this is the water tank I acquired. It's food grade and had glycerine in it last. I just got back from Home Depot with a couple of drill bits that might work on the six starred bolt heads. Since I don't know the size and can't bring it with me, I bought a couple different size bits and will return the ones I don't need. You can see my garage drainpipe. It used to be hooked up to the house cystern. The cystern's been filled in but the port still is connected. My dad thought it was a French drain and we had a mess on our hands. The cystern still has an outlet pipe in my basement. It leaks. That's another house repair project. I want it capped. Then the electrical lights that were hit with water spray need to be replaced, mold cleaned up, etc. Bit of a mess. Hard to clean without light. One project at a time.

Looking at all the projects to complete

Saturday we head to Ohio. Uncle Mudd is installing a Rocket Heater in a greenhouse and we volunteered to learn and help. It's a three hour drive but I really want to understand how this is done. The books are just confusing. 2018 is planned out and off to a good start.
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
Why am I so obsessed with growing? If I could not buy food for any reason, what would I eat? Right now there is not much for foraging. There are ramps, dandelions, and wild onions. Can you possibly eat enough of these to sustain an adult? So here's to the human brain and planning. Skol!

Garden Plans

Spring in the front yard

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

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

I'm sure I forgot some. The goal is to stagger planting to provide as much fresh produce as possible for our food supply for the year. Last year's yield was poor. March was a very lean month here. I am trying to remedy that. Our green veg was basil that we froze last year. I love pesto but it gets old if you eat it for every meal. We ran out of self-canned goods in January. Buying organic onions at $1.29 a pound hurts when we can grow them ourselves. We use three onions a week. It really adds up. Frozen pumpkin and Baba Ganoush is all that is left.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
There is so much work at this time of year. Internet sales traditionally increase at this time of year, so there are more packages to ship, inventory must be done, receipts logged into the computer, planning for next year, reviewing the previous year, finishing custom orders, the list goes on. The intense show schedule has left the house in shambles. Rennovation hasn't helped. The garage still needs work done to it. Until they add more beams for the ceiling, I have my warehouse stored inside the house. I am not happy about that. I am constantly banging into things, knocking things over and generally feeling like a bigger klutz than I already am.


I attacked a bookcase today. Tired of things falling off and hitting me every time I squeezed by it, I actually started looking at the accumulation there. I discovered I don't actually need maps and tourism from 2003 Arkansas, nor outdated atlases and roap maps. The box and warranty for a phone I no longer have and so much more crap went into recycling this week. I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it felt to see a clean area, even if it was only a small piece of my world. I have a lot more work to do, but it was a good start.

I finished all the custom hats needed for Christmas. It took me six hats to come up with three in the correct size for one order. This is one reason I dislike doing custom work. Without having the real head right in front of you, it takes a few iterations to get it right. Fingers crossed on this one. I'll ship as soon as they dry. I still have two more prototypes to work on and another hat for January. They can wait until after inventory.

Viking Hats

I am contemplating next year's show schedule. The van is no longer young. She has 262,000 miles or so and is now 11 years old. It is hard to decide. I enjoy travel but I know the open road too well. I like going to places I haven't been before. I am running out of places.

I have also decided to deactivate my FB page. They won't let me post links to etsy after January. That kind of defeats the purpose. I asked FB for help on migrating to a business page. No response. I currently have a personal page, using my business name. They also grabbed info on me that I never gave them. I find them a big security risk. I started a page on Ello. I also have a twitter feed and a Flickr account. Really, I think that's enough.

The best accomplishment last week was buying lights and fixtures. Our winter days are always grey here. The sun barely clears the mountains. Between the fog and general gloom, the light in my studio is very poor. It was so bad that I couldn't tell any of the colors to accurately fill a yarn order without a flashlight in broad daylight. I can now see! It is so wonderful. I replaced the CFLs with LED bulbs.

I also bottled wine that has been sitting in the basement for two years. Five gallons of mulberry melomel is now resting comfortably in the wine rack. The bottles are gone from my counter. See, I do eventually get around to it. It won't be mature for at least another year but I'm good at ignoring things.

ursulas_alcove: J is for jelly baby (pamper thyself)
I am chomping at the bit to go somewhere and do something. Just can't manage it right now. So once the first paycheck comes in and we feel a bit more carefree, here are places I want to check out in Grand Rapids:

GB Russo International Grocery http://www.gbrusso.com
Charlotte Gluten Free Bakery https://www.facebook.com/pages/Charlotte-Gluten-Free-Bakery/335071929882218
Fulton Street Farmer's Market http://fultonstreetmarket.org
Brick Road Pizza http://www.brickroadpizza.com
Fred Meijer Botanical Gardens and Sculpture Park http://www.meijergardens.org
Grand Rapids Art Museum http://www.artmuseumgr.org
For Frank Lloyd Wright fans, there is the Meyer May House. I grew up on FLW, being from Racine. I take this style of design for granted. It is not special to me. But if you come to Grand Rapids, you may want to see it.
Other things of note, Grand Rapids has an NMRA club with a building dedicated to historical railroads of the area in HO scale which meets Tuesdays grmrhs.org and another in Wyoming in multiple scales.

Just after Easter, I head back to Canonsburg to work on my house. I need to mow! It hit 82° today there. I have gardening and painting to do. But the real reason is to pack for the Ashville Viking Festival in Ashville, Ohio. The festival is April 26th and 27th. Hope to see you there!
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
Hope for Spring

Gosh, the weather was so nice today. I think it hit 60° F. After having a horrible night (because my body's a barometer), it turned out to be a good day. Thank God for aspirin. Pure sun means its time to charge the solar power packs. I got bedding hung on the clothesline. Washed sweaters and put away some of the really heavy winter clothes (and the snow shovel).

I also got to play "move the car" with the scary delivery truck across the street. It looks like they are getting a new deck for that empty house. The couple who owns it is spending way more money on it than they can possibly get from a buyer. Five bedrooms with only one bath? Please. At least they modernized it. The living room carpet was from the 40s or 50s. It was sky blue. The second floor was updated in the 1960s (pink) and the attic in the 70s (brown shag). It was bad. The whole kitchen has been redone. A small second bathroom was added to the front hall. But probably the most work was done on the foundation and basement. I know their contractor went through a lot of aggravation over them changing their mind midway through. I hope whoever buys it doesn't try to park a half dozen cars on the street like the last owner. The street is narrow and parking is only on one side. Time will tell.


I got out the hedge trimmer and started in on the bushes that I never finished last year. I manage to get everyone in the family to pitch in. The bushes are not done but we made a start. I don't have an electric trimmer, just a hand clipper so it will take a week. There are a lot of bushes. I raked up leaves as well. I dug them into the garden. My body felt like jelly when I was done.

Tonight I planted tomato and marigold seeds indoors. Still trying to figure out how to stop the deer. There were hoof prints all over my garden. They've eaten the tulips down to the ground. I decided to play Buffy the Vampire slayer. I took pointy sticks and pushed them point up into the soil amongst the tulips. Maybe it will work. A fence would really mess up the aesthetics of the house. The yard is terraced so it'd be difficult as well. I'm going to need a guard zucchini again. The tender plants survived underneath it last year. I'm thinking things with prickles like cucumbers and zucchini. The deer left the tomatoes alone last year.

Beets are sprouting

I think I will try beans in pots on the pouch. Lettuce on my cart in containers. I wonder if sunflowers will be okay along side the house? Maybe I'll plant peas behind the bushes. It means digging up the pokeweed but I need to do that anyway. Tomorrow's suppose to hit 70°. I have garbanzo beans soaking to make solar oven hummus. Lots to do while the weather holds.

hummus step 2
ursulas_alcove: Blakes 7 (kicking ass)
Blocking Lilac Shawl

Blue scarf done
Found another completed scarf in fabric tub. Yeah!
Purple Ruana complete

Buttercream shawl in progress. Design issues versus amount of yarn.
Book bag started to be stitched then dyed. Started stitching crooked. Must rip out and redo. Dye purple?
Saddlebag in progress - add brown bit, work on pockets, fit lining.
Dyed lacey shawl green to spruce it up.
Finish marine blue weaving for a bag.
Strain dandelion dyebath. Dye something.
Cook rhubarb dyebath- hook up new gas cannister.
Make a strap for the orange hat to be converted to a bag.

Already complete shawls:
English Cottage Rose
Frost On the Pumpkin
Hint of Provence
Hazelnut Mocha
Under the Lilacs
Chartreuse Rectangular Cotton

Green Lace

Assorted Sashes:
2x green
Dusty Purple

Trim down blue/purple?

Robin's Egg
Green/blue stripe

Ice blue
Wool- blue mist
Steel city blues?

Berry - if time
Muskmelon -if time
Rose/Grey if time
Dirty yellow if time

Green Book Bag
Sage leather handle
Sage the smaller
Redyed button bag
Teal nightclub bag

Brown Saddle bag
Blue bag
Purple Book Bag

Find hand carders - try bench
Tuesday's child

Buttercream Shawl
ursulas_alcove: Blakes 7 (scared)
What was I thinking? I have to fill a booth for an art show without my hats in a weeks time. Panic panic panic. Time to rustle through boxes of previously woven fabric to see what can be done. I also have to build a display. Must finish purple shawl. Must start another immediately thereafter and finish the scarf and bag in progress. Time to look at color palettes in daylight and see what's next. Gadzooks, what a challenge. Home depot on tomorrow's agenda. Flowers must be made too. Got to find the hangers in the van and something else, what was it now? (Insert chicken running around without head here, I mean self portrait)

Start of a color palette

Cottons are good for summer. Now shawls, I've a bit of a mismatch for palette. I'll work on that tomorrow. Tomorrow. It soon will be tomorrow and be our day. We'll play. . . Time for bed.
ursulas_alcove: Woodcut from Robin Hood (Spock's Raised Eyebrow)
Winter is slouching off into the distance. After spending a week in Mississippi where the season is further along, I thought it was high time to garden. Mind you, the ground was frozen this morning. At the moment, its not. I bravely attempted to level the ground to make a raised bed. I laid in some bricks with John's help, just a footprint for now. John did the moving of bricks from the lower front yard to the higher backyard. A neighbor gifted us with quite a collection. I put a cut tree limb along the edge with a drop off. I also grabbed some flat boulders for the corners on the low end. I am not using mortar for this bed. We'll see how it goes. The area in between the two raised beds is now covered with old carpeting so I don't have to try to mow or weed wack there. The rake we bought was junk. It broke into three pieces. I don't think I ever used it but I'd bought it many years ago so can't take it back.

My thoughts are to plant root vegetables in the mortared bed. I went to Sustainable Seeds and bought Detroit Dark Red Beet Seeds, Hollow Crown Parsnip Seeds, Organic Early Purple Kohlrabi, and at Whole Foods, some colorful carrot seed. I will be doing square foot gardening. In the new adjacent bed, I will try my dried heirloom beans with radishes to get rid of those icky bugs that love to munch on them. The bean seeds are old so we'll see what germinates. Sustainable Seed : http://sustainableseedco.com/

The front yard is already tilled where I dug in last fall's leaves. In one section will go potatoes. Not sure how many volunteers we'll end up with from last year. We have some baby potatoes from fall, living in dirt in the basement that will get planted. I have a large section that overgrew with crab grass or some other noxious grass that needs to be slowly dug up and pulled by hand. I have yet to locate homes for the following: Long Island Improved Brussel Sprouts, Snow's Fancy Pickling Cucumber, Beefsteak Tomatoes, Black Plum Paste Tomatoes, and Organic Rubin Lettuce. Lettuce will probably go in that weedy section with tomatoes that we'll start in pots. I have snow pea seed from previous years that could also be planted. If I get an area with a trellis, I can start peas and segway to cukes. We're going to skip squash this year. The farmer's market has some lovely ones in fall. I don't want to cross polinate the cukes with squash. It happens too easily. I have pots ready for the order from Holland Bulbs in Michigan. I'm getting some strawberry plants and some Nuit D'ete Cactus Dahlias. http://www.hollandbulbfarms.com/


12 Sep 2012 10:41 am
ursulas_alcove: robin hood woodcut (boredom)
Yesterday was very productive. I don't know that I could manage that again. I got many many things done. I did the normal mundane things that had to be done. I got some time in to run a dye bath. Wanna see?
The shawl is all fixed up. I'm in process of taking it off the loom. Maybe pictures tomorrow. Now I'm planning my next shawl. I'd spun a bunch of wool that I call Mongahela Mud, not a very flattering name. I'll have to think of a better title. I'm trying to come up with a color to make big block definitions on it. You see because I mixed so many colors to make this yarn, I have basically have a different dye lot on each ball. You can't alternate rows like you do in knitting to hide this. Instead I want to create blocks like a quilt with a dark line between them. Like I did with the Wool in the Woods shawl:
Steel City Ruana
So I'm playing with dark greens to see if I can manage it. I got wool carded yesterday and also spun some. I even got to knit night and made some progress on May's socks. (part of the Ravelry 12 for 12 socks in 2012). more on that in another missive. Today I need to focus on my backlog of special orders. Gotta get some hats done and a small loom warped.
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