Wednesday, March 28, 2012

... and the beanstalk

I'm slightly obsessed with the seed starts lately, so I thought I'd post a couple pictures. I keep moving the trays to the best patch of sun, the warmest corner of the room, outside if the weather permits, etc. While the other plants are more moderate in their growth, decorous even, the beans are going vegetably wild. There's even a broad bean that I planted in my previous post that has sprouted.

This was one of the first trays this morning, which isn't so remarkable (note, this is the back tray from the two pictured in last week's post, which is a neat contrast if one's of a mind to compare the two).

No, what's remarkable is this:

Look at that incredible burst of vigorous root growth! I'm clearly going to need to plant these outside soon. The broad beans (bush) have several sets of true leaves, and the green beans (pole) mostly have at least two if not four true leaves.

I've moved all the bean plants to the same tray, as well as the single pumpkin that sprouted. The herbs are slower going and none of my Genovese basil has sprouted, so after I plant the beans outside, I'm going to try starting another batch of herbs in the empty tray.

Moral of this story? If you like instant gratification, plant beans!  Especially broad beans!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Green thumb

I have an intermittently green thumb, which is to say that I can usually keep things alive until I forget to water them for three weeks. I have imbibed a lot of growing theory, however, and that's good for starting seeds, at least.

This also means I have a massive stash of old seeds from back when I pooh-poohed the fact that we live in the woods and that makes growing vegetables here something of an exercise in futility. Hey, hope springs eternal. It's been unseasonably warm this spring, so I've decided to try growing some things again. It's a mixture of new seeds, seeds gleaned from previous plantings, and old seeds that may no longer be viable.

I long ago invested in lots of expensive seed starting equipment, but this year I decided to go frugal. Because really, all one needs is some seed starting mix (or sphagnum moss) and something to put it in. And I don't see the point in spending lots of money on peat pots or buying a tool to make pots out of newspaper, when there is such a thing as origami. Yes, origami.  Specifically, this design of box made with a single sheet of newspaper cut to an 8.5in square, for a finished box that's a 2in open cube.

Fill the boxes with seed starting mix on a tray and water them well, plant the seeds and label them, and wait. That's what I did on the 12th, and this is what I have today.

That's Banquo horning in on the picture.  The bean seeds were in bad shape with mold and such, but they're leaping out of the moss mixture like they're turbocharged. Some of the basil has sprouted and so has the chervil. I've noticed a little bit of mold here and there, so I'm watering less in hopes that I don't get root rot. That's killed off my seedlings in the past and I'm going to be vigilant about it.

I take the trays out on the warm and sunny days both so the warmth from the sun can stimulate the seeds to sprouting, but also so the sun can hopefully keep the mold at bay. My labeling system leaves something to be desired, but I've repaired that for the second go around.

More under the cut, including progress pictures. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Hi everyone! I, uh, disappeared for a while, yes. I do that every winter and it's a no good, very bad sort of rut into which to fall that I really do need to stop. So this is me stopping! Or rather, starting something else. Also, I will be completing the December giveaway at some point soon. It's just hit a little behind the scenes speedbump, but it will come to fruition. And I will start up the giveaways again as soon as I get a bunch of other things done.

Also, in shop news. Once a year I have a sale, and I never quite know when it's going to be or how long it's going to be until right before it happens. This time around, it's right now. March 11-18th I'm offering up two different coupon codes so everyone has a choice for what works better.

Spring Forward Sale - March 11-18
code: SpringFling11 for 11% off your entire order.
code: SpringFlingShip for free shipping to anywhere in the world.

Why start it today? Because today is the start of Daylight Savings Time, and because it's my birthday and I lost an hour to DST. Also, because I need a kick in the pants and this is as good a thing as any. I promise to have my shop fully restocked before the end of the week so the sale is worthwhile. It helps me to have a deadline and a reason. Which is to say, it's about mojo.

Yesterday in the Ravelry forums where I spend my days, especially with my NerdWars team, there was a lot of talk about losing one's mojo, that impetus and skill and enthusiasm that keeps us moving forward in whatever we've chosen to do. It was knitting mojo or crafting mojo in general but it made me think of my work mojo, which typically wanders off in October and doesn't come back again until May. I can't let my work mojo wander away that long; it's a very "no good" thing.

This winter my knitting mojo has been strong thanks to NerdWars. In fact, in response to the conversation yesterday, I knit a Mojo....

It's a little drawstring amulet bag that just happens to have arms and legs (because it tends to wander away, you know) and eyes, and in this case knitting needles and a WIP. I haven't decided what to put in it yet, but it will eventually house some symbolic little talismans for me as it keeps me company on my desk.

More after the jump....

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Balls (and a December giveaway) (and I'm not trying to be puerile, it just comes out that way sometimes)

I should probably stop pretending that these actually happen on the first of the month. I do have a giveaway for you all for December. This time it's courtesy of Sarah at Creature Comforts Craftworks.

Isn't it pretty?
Decadent - Merino/Nylon/Stellina
What you would be getting is 50g (half a skein) of her lovely merino/nylon/stellina (for that extra sparkle!) sock yarn in the colorway "Decadent". That's a little over 200yds of soft, glittery goodness. 75% superwash merino, 20% nylon, and 5% stellina.

I hope you'll go take a look at Sarah's shop to see all the other lovely things she makes as well. Her fiber is lovely, too.

To enter this giveaway I'd like everyone to take inspiration from the colorway and tell me what they do in December that's just a little decadent. Something you do to treat yourself, take a little break, get away from it all. December is stressful in a lot of ways, whether it's holidays, family, the end of the academic year, finishing projects for this year and preparing for the next, etc etc etc. In the northern hemisphere the days are getting shorter and seasonal affective disorder can start setting in. So, tell me, what's something you like to do that helps you take a little break from whatever is getting you down? And if nothing is getting you down, how do you celebrate feeling good?

To take a break from all my worries, I like to watch a fun movie and knit something easy. To celebrate feeling good, I like cranking up some music from my heedless youth and dance around like a loon... until I run out of breath in 30sec because I am ridiculously sedentary, and then I sit down again, but it's fun while it lasts!

I'll let this run through Saturday, Dec 17th and have the randomizer pick a winner on the 18th (and the group if you'd like to double your chances). So tell me, what do you do?

Meanwhile, I have been knitting some ornaments and I figured it's a timely topic for this blog. I've admired knit ornaments for a while, the kind that cover a plastic or glass ball, and so I experimented a little with some sock mini-skeins and came up with 2 super simple patterns.

One useful thing is that sometimes ornaments age in storage and look awful once they're brought out again. The white ball I covered with the Happy New Year colorway is starting to shed its frosting like the uncovered one in the picture above. It has strange discolorations and some of the finish is flaking off. Covering up makes that a non-issue.

Follow the jump for more pics and the patterns.

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's November *what*?!

I can't believe it's already November 21. I think someone's playing a joke on me and rolled my whole calendar forward a few weeks. It's not almost December! *cries*

But I have a giveaway to give away! This month the randomizer chose Connie! I've contacted via Ravelry.

Here's what I've assembled so far. I'm waiting on one little component so I can make a glow in the dark stitch marker or two. I can assure you through personal experience that it's really annoying to drop a stitch marker in the dark.

The little green packet on the lower left are some silk hankies I dyed last week just for fun. They're not something I plan to have in the shop any time soon. I love playing with hankies, but it's really just play and I figure that something a little different would help for power outage boredom. The delicates wash and lanolizing wool drops are offered up by my friend Cate of Urbbody (her home shop is Urbhome). I think the lanolizing drops are really cool, even if one isn't treating soakers, and I used a bunch of the delicates wash recently to de-smoke all my wool after a week of wood fires.

Meanwhile, I have nothing of substance to talk about today but I do have my Thanksgiving menu planned so I'll put that behind the jump.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The return to civilization (and a belated giveaway)

Um.... *taps microphone* Is this thing on?

If I flatter myself, you may have noticed my conspicuous absence at the start of this month (well, unless you follow my Twitter acct in which case I was jawing my head off). That would be because on Saturday, Oct 29th at about 3pm or a few minutes earlier, a big tree fell across our driveway taking down our power lines and a utility pole and causing the transformer to hit the ground and break open. We were without electricity and running water until Sunday, Nov 6th. The tree blocked egress until the 4th.

The tree in question:

I spent most of my time knitting or trying to knit, so that's the main inspiration for this month's very belated giveaway. This month I'm giving away an emergency preparedness kit. It's not just any emergency preparedness kit, it's a yarny preparedness kit. Inside, you will find one slightly underweight skein of this yarn - Jackrabbit 4oz in the colorway "Implausible". (I spent the whole week telling myself "this is unreal".)

As well as (not pictured) an emergency light source, some emergency calories, something to get the smell of woodsmoke out of your post-emergency FOs, an entirely facetious "pattern" to knit in the dark, and whatever else I can think to add to the box. This is a seriously plump giveaway, if I do say so myself.

I'm going to let this run a full week, through Sat Nov 19th before I let the randomizer pick a winner. To enter, just comment here with an answer to this thought exercise. How long could you survive (without food poisoning or scurvy) off only the food currently present in your home? Added limiters are 1) no electricity for things like refrigerators and freezers, and 2) no running water so all water needs to be carried in by hand from an offsite tap and heated in a pot on a propane stove if you want it hot. Remember to leave me a way to reach you if you win; a Ravelry id is enough!

Friends of the family lost power for days and ended up visiting a different friend's house each day for food and warmth. For us the reality was too much food rather than not enough. When you have a standing freezer as well as an overstuffed side by side, and over 1,000lbs of vegetables gleaned from a local farm that was scheduled for delivery to local food banks, it's a matter of spoilage and no easy way to wash dishes that cause problems. It was cold enough to make washing dishes in unheated water incredibly unpleasant, but not cold enough to keep food from spoiling.

At one point I was tempted to slather everything with barbeque sauce and throw it on the grill. The mess of it was the main deterrent. I did get reasonably good at cooking rice, however. The key was bringing the rice and water to a boil in a heavy pot on the propane burner and then covering it and letting it simmer over a lit sterno canister for about 30min. Our propane burner doesn't produce a low enough flame for cooking rice, but a can of solid fuel is just right for the slow simmer part.

More nattering about the power outage after the jump.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Down the rabbit hole (and proof I'm a huge dork)

First things first, the winners of my October giveaway are Rebecca with the Pomegranate colorway, and RightAsRain for the random drawing. I've contacted both. Thanks for playing, everyone! There were a lot of great ideas, but I had to go with the one that caused me to go "guh" involuntarily when I opened the picture.

I'll have pictures of Pomegranate to post later in the week when it's dry. Yes, I dyed it already. How could I resist that rich, succulent pomegranate? I love those things, and the sheen of the silk and the silver glitter in the yarn like droplets of juice.... Seriously delicious. I really hope the yarn is as beautiful dry as it is wet because this will be a fantastically juicy colorway.

Meanwhile, I never did post about my trip to Seattle. I went for a really quick little trip and took my nieces to a Keith Urban concert on the 29th. These aren't my concert pics. I was fooling around with my new camera which I'm still learning, and my new phone's camera, which I'm also still learning. Here's a shot of the Space Needle which I like. More after the jump.

I'm really proud of how this one came out. After 2 days of no clouds, a few started rolling in in the afternoon and it just cried out for a picture.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The White Rabbit (or a late giveaway)

I'm late, I'm late! But I promise this is worth it. I got back from Seattle on Friday and my age is showing because it took until today to recuperate. I'm going to post tomorrow with my trip shenanigans but I want to get to this month's giveaway before it's even later because I think it's AWESOME.

It has to do with this:

This is a case of the Arctic Hare base, to be specific 110sk of it.

The reason this is significant is that it is the new Arctic Hare base. For those in the "know", I use Kraemer Sterling for my Arctic Hare base. Kraemer recently decided to replace the silver fiber they were using with a silver colored polyester fiber. The price of silver has been fluctuating wildly, and going up and up for so many months that the producer of the special silver fiber could no longer guarantee it. Thus the switch to this poly fiber. This means that production of the yarn should be more timely and they can keep the price the same rather than raising it to reflect the increase in wool, silk, and silver prices.

So yes, the Arctic Hare dyed in September 2011 and earlier is all the old base with the real silver. All the Arctic Hare I will be dyeing this month and onward will have the 2% silver replaced with 2% silver colored polyester. The rest of the fiber content remains the same.

What does this mean for this giveaway? Well, I need to test it out. I have a few underweight skeins of the previous blend left, and I have this whole case of the new blend. You see where this is going, right? I need to dye up several batches to see how they compare. And then I want to give some away so people can see if it's just as beautiful as the old base. I think it will be, but there's nothing like holding it your hands and working with it.

So here's what I'm going to do. I am giving away AT LEAST 1 skein here, and 1 skein in my Rav group. They'll be about 101g, so borderline and not quite underweight but not quite the safe margin I like.

What I would like YOU to do to enter this drawing is comment here (or in my Rav group) with ONE colorway suggestion for this new base (one per location, so if you have two ideas you can double your chances by posting one here and one in my Rav group). You can describe it verbally, or you can link to a picture, etc. Give it a name, and post it any time through October 8th. On October 9th I'll draw a winner for the yarn. I haven't dyed it yet, but it will probably be in Starry Night or Frou Frou, or some other established colorway as yet undetermined. I'll be dyeing it up this week, you see.

Meanwhile, if I pick your colorway idea to dye up in next week's batches, I'll send you a skein of it once it's dyed up. What do you think? I think this is pretty nifty myself. I'm going to say at this point that I will pick at least 1 and no more than 2 of the colorway ideas I get, because I do need to cap this. But I think it's awesome nonetheless. And I'll add here that it's impossible to win more than one skein, just so we spread the wealth a little. So I'll pick the colorway idea(s) I'll use, and then pick the random drawing winners from the remaining entries.

You know you want to do it, right? Have at it, people! And here is the Rav group post if you want to double your chances.

Oh, and don't forget to leave a way to contact you if necessary, Ravelry username is sufficient if your post doesn't link back to your blog, etc.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I can't quite believe it's Thursday night already. I have so much left to do. *hyperventilates*

But one fun and quick thing I can do is announce that LadySisyphus was picked by the randomizer to receive September's food safe dye kit. Thanks for playing, everyone! Lots of fall colors in people's suggestions; autumn must be on people's minds! A drier season would be a good thing; the flooding in the region is really bad.

In random other news, I'm almost at another shop milestone and I tend to get myself little presents for those. This time around I ordered a custom hair stick from Hapagirls. I absolutely fell in love with her copper lotus and asked if she could make me a hairstick. And she did! It's so beautiful in person and it slips into my bun perfectly and holds great. I adore it and I don't think I'll take it off any time soon, even if I haven't actually reached my next milestone yet!

Here's a blurry picture of it in. Uh, please ignore the messy hair, etc.

Now I've got to run and get some more work done. I have to label all this and pack it away for the show. This is all the yarn I dyed the last few days of August and then this week, less about 40sk of yarn and also the 2 pounds of fiber I dyed last night.

In some ways I can't wait for the festival, even with everything I still have to do. Once it's here and then done I can go back to normal hours!

Hope to see some of you there this weekend!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

When in danger or in doubt.... (and a colorful giveaway)

Run in circles, scream and shout. Actually, we did none of that, although some crankpants sniping started happening.

I am, of course, referring to the recent visit from Irene. We lost power for 3.5 days, and since we have well water we were without electricity and running water for the duration. Otherwise, we came through unscathed. The gravel driveway looks a bit rough as parts of it are partially washed out, but the worst of it was fixed either by the neighbor who happens to be resurfacing right now or the county when they fixed the (dirt) road on Monday.

All in all, if I have to have some sort of storm inconvenience to handle I much prefer a power outage compared to all the horrible flooding going on in the region. I did have a small nervous breakdown on Tuesday when we were told it could last for a week, but it came back yesterday and I could get back to work.

In more cheerful things, I am up to my eyeballs in hot, wet wool since the Garden State Sheep Breeders' festival is in just over a week. And, since it's Sept 1st I have a giveaway! I am now 3 days behind schedule in my festival prep courtesy of a tropical storm, so I've decided to spread the wealth a little. Namely, I have assembled a little kit so that whoever wins this giveaway can try their hand at dyeing, too.

This is one package of concentrated gel paste food coloring in color primaries, 40g of citric acid, and one 400yd/4oz skein of 100% merino sock yarn. It's the Jackrabbit base, the really sproingy 2ply. All you need to do is add the water and the heat! And since it's food safe, you don't need to worry about special equipment.

I'm going to let this run through Wednesday the 7th, and pick someone at random on Thursday. To enter, comment to this post with what kind of colorway you'd like to make with this skein of yarn. Now I've got to race over to the Rav group. Have at it!