unaspenser: (mine goes to 11)
( Feb. 14th, 2011 08:15 am)
It's that time of year when I start chattering about my garden on a a regular basis. :) 

On Saturday as part of the Year of Idaho Food there was a seed exchange at the local Basque cultural center.  I went to a similar event last year at the farmer's market and got some fantastic seeds, some of which I tried and some of which I saved for this year's planting.  This year I brought mostly squash seeds to share, including my new favorite plant Kabocha.  It's a Japanese winter squash that is best after it's been stored for several months.  It's like a new and improved pumpkin that is perfect around Thanksgiving/Christmas and makes fantastic pies (among other things).  Its flesh is more orange, creamier, and sweeter than pumpkin, and the fruit is pretty and kind of stripey.  The best thing I brought home (along with lots of flowers and local varieties of beans, lettuce, cukes, squash, etc) was a full dried choircero pepper.  Choriceros are used to give chorizo sausage its unique flavor, and they're not easy to get your hands on.  The choriceros grown in Boise are mostly descended from the seeds one man brought over from the Basque country about a hundred years ago and they've been cultivated and shared since, probably leading to our own local variety.  The pepper smelled so good, so sweet and smoky, that I'm definitely going to cook with the flesh after I remove the seeds.  I love Idaho.

It's been unseasonably warm lately so I took the time to get out in the garden and prune our grape vines.  One vine is probably as old as the house (built in 1930) and it's fairly subdued.  The other is newer and a different variety (both are seedless white grapes) with almost a piney taste to the fruit.  It's very aggressive and had managed to climb at least 12 feet up into a nearby tree since I pruned it last spring.  I chopped it back fairly hard as it's so leafy and viney that the fruit hardly gets any sun.  A lady who met Arlen on craigslist last summer and came over to talk urban farming and to look at a freezer we were selling got to try some of our raisins from the older vine.  Apparently they were so good that she came over to beg cuttings this weekend to plant herself!  Luckily it was just after I'd pruned so we loaded her up with as much as she'd take.  Nice to share the love.

I also pruned the raspberry canes and the rose bushes and had fun pulling out the dead stuff from last year and checking out what's coming back to life.  The strawberries, herbs, and perennial flowers are all showing signs of life.  This will only be the second season for my garden (before that it was weedy yard) and the battle with weeds and grass is neverending.  The whole plot needs to be hoed/rototilled/weed blanketed/lasagna gardened but probably I will just dig out the spots as I plant them and try to remove anything that isn't what I'm trying to grow.  Hard since I've already planted so many perennials.  I guess the first thing I need to do is chuck all the chickens in there to do a good clean-up.  They are loving the mild weather and scratching around the base of the fences, trees, and walls when we let them out to graze.  I know they'd do lovely work in the garden.
unaspenser: (sacred fire)
( Sep. 22nd, 2010 09:17 am)
Life has been so busy lately that I keep forgetting to write, or I assume people will be bored with all my Diane-centered chatter.  Whatever, it's my blog!

First I should say that the Treasure Valley Celtic Festival and Highland Games went well, the dance I wrote looked great, and people really seemed to have a good time.  There's a video on facebook, though I'm not sure if it's up on our fan page yet.  We start dance classes back on Monday the 27th, so if you're interested, give us a try!  There will be lots of new students, and we are gearing up for our St. Andrew's ball and dinner in November.

That same day, Saturday, was Worldwide Spin in Public Day, so I brought my drop spindle and cranked out some of the corriedale cross that was my very first handpainted roving.  Needless to say, I'm so addicted.  I also carded some of the fleece I'm working on, and now that I've made a few mods to my wheel (added some leather bushings to the crank shaft to keep the footman from moving when I treadle and wiggling the wheel, which causes the drive band to move around) it is much smoother to spin, though it doesn't keep its momentum as long.  I will continue to play around with it.  Need to take some pictures to share.

I got another order for a bonnet last week, which is perfect because I'm just about done with the ones for Mark & Margaret Lethbridge (a pair of bagpipers who are giving me some publicity on their links page).  Anyway, this necessitated a yarn order from Knit Picks (I like using their yarns because it makes it easy to let people pick their own colors.), so I bought myself a new size 0 circular needle (couldn't justify getting 1s as well, since I have perfectly functional set of bamboo DPNs even if they are starting to get bent from use and the finish is a bit sticky requiring them to be periodically waxed... 0s will make better socks anyway, less of the dreaded waffle-foot) so I can finally try some of the patterns from my Toe-Up Two at a Time book.  I plan to use that lovely yarn I won a couple weeks ago and posted about here.  I also bought some of their ridiculously cheap Peruvian Highland roving $2.69 for 3 ounces.  There is a sale on Wilton's Icing Dyes at Joann Fabrics right now (1.49 for half an ounce), so I will get some of those to hand-paint the roving.  I'm planning on making a fractal-spun two-ply for a pair of pretty winter knee socks.  Maybe they'll be ready in time for winter 2011!

The visit from my grandma and her husband went really well.  I always enjoy my grandma's stories and her ribald sense of humor, which shocks Arlen every time.  Grandma told us about when they came to Idaho from Kansas when she was 8 or 9 and they got their first house with running water and electricity, and what a novelty that was.  She was thrilled to be able to go to the bathroom indoors.  Her husband, Jim, is a real interesting character, and I loved most watching Grandma's face as she listened to him B.S. on and on.  Such a combination of affection and annoyance.  Don't you just love family?  Three days of their visit was plenty, but we were sad to see them go.

Anyway, life rolls on as usual.  Today is the equinox, Arlen's built a Sukka in the yard, and we'll try to do something special to mark the day, I'm sure.  Time to finish reaping the bounty of summer and to start pulling inward for the darker times of the year.

unaspenser: (two gals)
( Sep. 9th, 2010 09:12 am)
First of all, I'm rather excited about Diana Gabaldon's graphic novel, The Exile.  Now you can see some of the pages on its amazon page.  Beautiful art, and it should be a fantastic story.  So grateful that a friend pre-ordered it for me in exchange for a lace shawlette I knitted.  I am constantly cash-poor, but always willing to barter for knitwear.

Sadly, that strategy doesn't work with my student loan providers or utilities.  I am in a constant state of money anxiety these days, which always makes my stomach unhappy.  We are getting by, and every day that passes is a day closer to Arlen's visa coming through, but it is not a fun time for us.  There is no spare cash for going out with friends or buying treats at the store.  It's a good thing we're both so inventive and resourceful.  We eat well courtesy of our garden/chickens/home cooking/thrifty shopping, but it still sucks to have to scrimp and save, and I'd really love a new wardrobe, a bunch of nice jewelry, and a house/car.  Is that really so much to ask?

On the upside, we continue to be resourceful in other ways as well.  Arlen has decided to jump on the knitting bandwagon, and his first project for himself was a knitted kippah/yarmulke for synagogue.  He's been doing some serious studies into Judaism, and the kippah he had didn't really fit well, and had a tendency to slide away and escape.  I've been cranking out finished objects lately (and starting many more projects), which I've been squirreling away to become birthday/holiday gifts for friends and family.  If there's one thing I have to give, it's knitwear.  At least I'm good at it, and I have a sizable stash (though not nearly sizable enough).

I'm loving my sheep to sweater project.  The sheep fleece I bought is all washed, and I am painstakingly flicking the tiny locks into rolags and spinning them on my new old spinning wheel.  It has a wobble, but it doesn't seem to impact the quality of the yarn, and I've almost filled my first bobbin!  I've got about a month until the very first Trailing of the Sheep Fiber Festival in Sun Valley.  I am planning on entering the max allowed 3 skeins in the animal fiber, traditional spun category.  My hope is that I will win first prize for at least one of them (heh) and there is a cash prize for that.  If I win, I'd use the winnings to purchase a fleece or some other spinning related bribe for myself.  They apparently give special consideration to yarn that's been hand-prepared, so I'm hoping to be a shoo-in, especially with all the documentation I've done of my process so far.

I'm trying to find other venues to market my designs.  I'm rather wet behind the ears in this aspect, still, but my next goal is to submit a pattern to the independent designers project through www.knitpicks.com. 

I guess that's enough chatter for now.  Life goes on, things keep moving.
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