Thursday, April 29, 2010

The calendar may say it's spring...

...but we're enjoying a lingering touch of winter here today. 

Compare to yesterday: think sandals, capri pants, light blouse with short sleeves, no jacket required. It was sunny and high 60s. My thoughts turned to getting the garden bed ready when I let it wander. Today I see images of shriveled, frozen tomato plants in my mind's eye if I think about a garden. I've lived here in the mountains for 17 years now. I KNOW this happens every spring and yet, somehow, I let myself fall victim to the terrible, very contagious spring fever virus each and every year. Hope springs eternal!

My little tomato seedlings are still tucked away under their grow light in a warm space and most are doing quite well. They have 6 leaves and some have even more. Last weekend I planted a few more seeds that had sprouted for Roma and Beefsteak varieties. I don't know what happened to their determination but, so far, only one Roma is showing signs of life.

Today I'm looking forward to a field trip to Cresset Farm with Kristine and Kent. I've printed out some information so I can ask questions and possibly sign up for a CSA in veggies and fruits. Until it's time to get on the field trip bus I'm going to spend some time in my craft room. Awhile back I posted tidy photos of fabric purchased for a hand quilting project. All the pre-cut squares needed to be washed. Well, now they need ironed. I'm going to tackle that first, just so I can get them stacked and make room on the table for my cutting board. I want to cut the lattice strips for the Tuscan quilt and get back to work on that. It's been over a month since I've touched it. I keep going back to the knitting - the Yggdrasil blanket is so fun to work on and really interesting to see it developing.

Off to the craft room now!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Amazing Feat or Amazing Feet?

Sam turned 1 year old on Saturday. For his first impressive feat of his 2nd year, he started walking on his own on Sunday! Here are a couple frames I pulled from the video. Sam looks pretty happy with the results. How I wish I could be there to have him walk into my arms!

 My tomato seedlings are doing very well. Three of the plants now have their second sets of leaves. 
My Beefsteak and Roma seeds and Golden Midget watermelon seeds are still sitting in their damp paper towels to sprout. I checked them this morning and no sign of activity yet. I spent some time this morning putting my notes together and saving the information on the seeds I've planted. None of my three seeds germinated for the "Matt's Wild Cherry Tomato" but, after reading the description of them again today, I'm going to try again. After I post this blog entry I'm going to set more of the Matt's seeds to soaking. I'd really like to grow them.

We've been having an amazing amount of rain the past few days. We had a real live thunderstorm last night. I hope that bodes well for the gardens this year. After last year's dreadful season, even for the most experienced in this area, it would be fun and rewarding to have a bountiful crop this year.

Becca is afraid of thunderstorms. She was quite anxious about the rain last night, even a couple hours after the thunder had stopped. We went to bed around midnight and the only way she was able to lay down was to get her head between the bed and the nightstand like she was in a protected area. There was no thunder at that point, just the sound of heavy rain on the roof and deck. She did her usual turn on the deck this morning until it started to rain again. Right away she wanted to come back inside even though she has the protected area of the deck and there was no thunder. I know several other Samoyeds and none of them are afraid of rain or storms. I wish I could know what scared Becca.

Off to soak seeds now!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Busy Week!

I just talked to Sam and sang Happy Birthday (both versions) to him. He's one year old today! Valerie called just minutes before guests started to arrive. Even though Sam's and my conversation was mostly one-sided, he didn't give me the raspberries and push the phone away this time :-) He kept pulling the phone back to himself when Valerie would think he was done and start to move it to her ear. I'm so glad I got to wish him a happy birthday and I wish I could be there to celebrate with him as I was there right after his birth.

I didn't do very well in keeping my blog updated this week. It was a busy week, none the less. I finished the cotton ribbed lace tank top I was knitting on Thursday last week:
It is finished except for determining the length of the shoulder straps and grafting the strap ends together. I think it's the cutest top. I tried it on - it doesn't seem to be my type. I had a great time knitting it, though, and I'm sure it will find a good home in the end.

This is the first project where I've used a mercerized cotton. It has a totally different feel than other cotton yarn. And the six very thin strands that make up the yarn are easily split with the point of a lace needle. It took awhile to get my stitch work fluid when I started working with it. I haven't blocked it yet. I expect the lace will really pop when it's lightly blocked.

As I said, I finished the tank top on Thursday a week ago. It was a tough evening - no knitting project! I'm not used to that experience. I was awaiting delivery of the yarn for my next project and it had been delivered when I got home from work on Friday. Yippee!! I quickly opened the box and reveled in the 55 skeins of grass green soft worsted weight cotton yarn that awaited my manipulations. This yarn is very special. The color was selected by Valerie and is being worked into a house-warming gift for her, Amol, and Sam for their arrival back in the states later this summer. I'm making them an Yggdrasil pattern blanket. Here's a photo of the blanket as it will look when completed (from the pattern image - on right) and a photo of the center of the blanket showing the roots of the tree - on left)

 The yarn is SO soft - it should make for a comfy, comforting blanket when it is done.

I also put my tomato seeds on notice that spring is here on Thursday of last week. I soaked the seeds for two hours, then put them to rest on damp paper towels in an open plastic bag to encourage them to germinate and sprout. I haven't used this technique before but got it from the tips provided by Lisa Von Saunder at where I purchased my heirloom seeds. Each day I checked the seeds to see if any had sprouted. It took until the following Tuesday before they were ready to go into the potting soil. I'm using a sterile soilless seedling mix (at Lisa's recommendation.) I also set up an area with a fluorescent light to help them get started. The light fixture didn't come with bulbs so I purchased the plant/aquarium bulbs that use the red spectrum loved by plants. I left the light on full-time for the first 2 days but am now turning it off at night. My sister is also starting seedlings with lighting and I asked her what she thought about the duration of the lights. She said she was letting them grow the way God lets them grow and turns the light off at night. It makes sense. I was able to suspend the light from the back side of the stairs going up to the loft in the craft room. Note the snazzy spacers used to raise the plant tray closer to the light. These are audio book cases from the books on tape that I purchased last spring at the Jeffco Library sale. Who knew they would come in so handy this spring in a non-bookish way?

I got the peat pots that came in the plant tray with the lid because it was a mere $2.50 more in price and I know my own faults at keeping plants sufficiently watered. This is helping to keep the humidity in the tray and the plants are not getting dry on the top. Here's a close-up of the little seedlings that are getting going. Just imagine the promise they hold for wonderful summer sustenance!

I planted 18 seeds and there are two that may not make it. The rest have developed a set of leaves and look very happy. I hope the stalks aren't growing too tall. Since the light is just inches away from them, I'm trusting that they're growing just the way God programmed them, to be healthy, robust plants.

Today I'm planning to attend a class on high-altitude gardening at a local shop - All Season Gardener. I met the owner last week, Juliane, and she's delightful. I'm hoping to pick up a few tips that will give my tomatoes an even better chance at a fruitful life. My mind keeps wandering east, as in "to Pennsylvania," where I've grown successful gardens full of all sorts of vegetables in the past. I know I can't recreate the same garden here but I do know I can grow more than I've been believing I can grow in the mountains at altitude. I just have to learn the ropes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Code lesson for Valerie

I just had an actual real-live phone conversation with my daughter! We talked about a lot of things, including how I would be in big trouble if I didn't get my blog updated within the next couple days. She was wondering how to create a link from a photo that would go to a site rather than just display a larger image of the photo. I've decided to cover that here. The easiest way is to edit the html behind the photo.

Here's an example of a photo that is inserted and no changes have been made to the html. Clicking on the photo will just display a larger copy of the same image.
This is a photo of Valerie wearing a new snood she sewed this past weekend. It's great to be able to click the photo and see a larger version but what if I wanted to use this photo as a link back to her blog? I suppose I could type the address of her blog and you could copy and paste it into your browser to get there but that's not very convenient now, is it? The easiest way to do it, if I'm taking the reader's time into consideration, would be to create a link from the photo directly to her blog.

Now I'll use the same photo and create the link to her blog. You'll need to go into the "Edit HTML" area. Find the code that displays the photo and locate the section that starts with
a href="http://...
and replace the text between the quotes with the link you want to use. I wanted to show you the whole link tag but this editor wants to turn it into a complete link. So just know there would be a "<" at the beginning of the link text. Now click on Val's photo and you can read all about her Sunday Sewing! And you can now make links from your own photos. Happy Linking :-)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Well, I hit the first big snag in my quilt top assembly last weekend. It all started out with a lot of fun. My sister, Kristine, and my niece, Stephanie, came for dinner Friday evening and we made a favorite recipe. I think I'll post it one of these days - the BEST chicken salad sandwiches! We had planned a slumber party with crafting, dinner and a movie on Friday night then something fun for breakfast and more crafting on Saturday. I was going to cut out the lattice pieces for my quilt top when I discovered that I'd done a really dumb thing when calculating my fabric needs. I'd been spot-on for the fabric I needed for the squares but had purchased exactly half as much fabric as I needed for the lattice pieces and the backing.

I made a run down to the Golden Quilt Shoppe on Sunday for more fabric. I was able to get what I needed for the backing but they were sold out of the fabric I'd originally purchased for the lattice work. I had to select a new fabric. It's not exactly the same but it's from the same collection and I think it will work as well. I was also able to get another yard of sock monkey fabric for Valerie so she can replace the cap she made for Sam, my grandson, that was lost a couple weeks ago (the cap was lost, not Sam.) Here's Sam in the original sock monkey cap - isn't he just the cutest little guy?!I also decided to get some fabric for a hand-piecing quilt top project. I found pre-cut batik squares that I really liked and bought the background fabric from a bolt. I was doing some laundry this morning and thought it a great opportunity to pre-wash the new quilt fabrics when I hit upon a dilemma... what to do about the pre-cut squares? I called my sister to ask if she'd ever heard any wisdom on whether to wash or not wash pre-cut fabric. She hadn't run into that question before, either, but we decided that the fabric had probably not been washed prior to being cut. If I want the quilt to be washable when finished, I'd better wash those little buggers, too. I never did get around to washing them today. I guess I'll get to have that fun - and the ironing of them - this Saturday. Although I do want to start my garden seeds this Saturday, too.

Here's a photo of the batik squares and background fabric. There are 28 of those little buggers in each pre-cut stack. The ironing part should be REAL fun! NOT

This next part would have definitely shocked my sister, Kristine, if I hadn't already talked to her on the phone today and told her about it. She'd be thinking "Dang - what's with my sister and all these vegetables??" I'm not a big veggie fan (unless they're breaded and deep-fried) but I've decided to make a concerted effort to get more of them into my diet. I have two absolute requirements and one requirement that's not always possible to fulfill up here in the mountains. The first one is that they be organic and the second is that they taste good to me. That has sent me on a flurry of recipe searches. The third goal is that they be as local as possible but, when the snow is still covering the rocky ground, the chances of finding local veggies are pretty impossible. The closest I was able to get at my organic store was shipped in from California for this week. If it's organic meat, then I also want it to be local and raised/ processed in a humane manner. Here's today's take for the dinner I prepared tonight:
  • leeks
  • carrots
  • rainbow chard
  • golden beets
  • Italian parsley
  • baby spinach
  • yukon gold potatoes
  • a lemon
  • an onion
  • one organic chicken - raised in Canada and processed in Boulder, CO. The label says the chickens are "free range" but the small print on the back says they're raised indoors "for their protection" but they have a door so they can go out in the sunshine and enjoy their chickenness. I'm going to do a bit more research on Maverick Farms - I'm not totally sold from their label description.

I tried three new recipes that sounded good on paper: Leek-Potato-Spinach soup, roasted golden beets and Chard with Champagne vinegar and olive oil. I sprinkled some sliced almonds on it, too, and that was a nice texture contrast. I roasted "Cynthia's Chicken" - a great recipe that's never-fail. I figured even if all the veggie recipes failed, I'd have good meat :-)

I invited my co-workers to come to dinner so there were Kris, Stephanie and myself to enjoy all the good food. Julia isn't eating regular food this week for other reasons so she didn't join us. Every recipe was a success and the dinner rolls were extra good with goat milk butter. We topped it off with angel food cake, strawberries and whipped cream for dessert, accompanied by coffee. What a pleasant evening!