Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Separating the Seedlings

Memorial day has come and gone and that can only mean one thing: it's time to plant the garden. Unfortunately, our garden isn't quite ready for planting. After a week of straight rain, plus a long weekend visiting family, there hasn't been enough time quite yet to get the sod up and the dirt tilled. It is getting there though. The space in the back yard is marked off and almost half of that space is now sodless.

(Ignore the loose piece of fence there. The backyard is a work in progress.)

So far, I can say that the whole gardening from seed idea seems to be a success. I have separated most of the seedlings. I say "most" because I ran out of little pots to put them in before I even finished with the tomatoes and I started with the tomatoes. The finally tally for tomato seedlings is as follows: 4 Bloody Butcher tomatoes, 7 Abe Lincoln tomatoes, 8 Purple Cherokee tomatoes, and 7 Big Red tomatoes. That makes for 26 tomato plants if all of them survive until the garden is ready to be planted. This, of course, does not include the additional 8 purple tomatillo seedlings.

Upon seeing what we were in for, I sent my husband out to a home improvement store to try to find more little pots, which he did not find. In lieu of those, he brought home a package of blue Solo cups. He then drilled holes into the bottom of each cup and filled them with dirt for me. With these, I managed to get the eggplant seedlings, 16 total, (a mix of Shooting Stars and Black Beauty and I can't tell how many of each because I can't tell the seedlings apart) separated, as well as the 10 Romanesco broccoli seedlings and most of the 9 kohlrabi seedlings (though I may have the two mixed up, as they look very similar as seedlings). By the 19 mixed bell pepper seedlings, I was using little starter pots from last year and doubling each plant. Finally, I just ran out and left them in their original starter containers.

(The one on the right is a lone tomato seedling.)

Those plants in the smaller containers are clearly not fairing as well as the plants in the cups or the updated pots. Since returning from Michigan after Memorial day, though, all the plants grew significantly in size.

The swiss chard and blue kale seedlings, being cold weather tolerant, I planted in the front bed with the herbs from last year, spinach, raddichio, and cold weather lettuce. There are about 5 swiss chard seedlings and roughly 7 kale seedlings at present. They aren't getting quite as tall as the seedlings still under nightly porch protection but they seem to still be alive thus far. And that's something. The raddichio, however, looks like it might not sprout for the most part, due to mole interference.

Neither the lavender nor the rosemary sprouted at all. We have since purchased four nice-sized pots for the various herbs, so, unlike last year, I can bring them in when the weather turns cold. The  sage and half of the thyme seedlings went in one pot, while the rest of the thyme went in a pot with the rest of the rosemary seeds I'm really hoping at least one takes off this time. If not, I guess I'll have to go buy a starter plant from the local greenhouse. In the other two pots, I put seeds for the parsley and basil in one and seeds for oregano and lemon balm in another. Some green is starting to come up from the seeds in the herb pots but I can't tell what yet. I do know that there is no luck with the rosemary seeds yet. I gather it is not an easy herb to grow in a pot, let alone grow from seed. Time shall tell.

The lavender, as well as the other seeds, including beets, carrots, parsnips, daikon radish, zucchini, butternut squash, chamomile, red lettuce, Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, okra, two varieties of burpless cucumbers, and Early White Bush Scallop squash, will have to wait for the weekend. Hopefully the back garden is ready by then and I'll finally have time to plant the lavender and chamomile in the front somewhere.

And if all those tomato plants live, I might be looking for new homes for some of them. Twenty six tomato plants seems like a few too many for one small family garden. Also this columbine is totally out of control:

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Baby Sweater

Knitters, for the most part, tend to enjoy making baby things. For one thing, they don't require as much time to make or as much yarn. For another, they are itsy bitsy and it's just adorable. Also, we like making gifts for people who need and will use them, and there's no one who needs warm wooly things quite like a baby. So when baby showers roll around, we get out our needles and some soft and washable yarn and we make something sweet, a blanket or a hat, something the mom-to-be might like. This is all to be expected (unless of course, we get suckered into a year-long commitment to knit our little brother a blanket, in with case, we tend to attend a few baby showers knitless).

However, there's nothing quite so thrilling for a knitter as when that knitter has the opportunity to knit up baby things for herself. Now, I'm not saying I got pregnant just to make baby things, but I do have three different books soley dedicated to the making of tiny garments, 2 for knits and 1 for crochet. The crochet one is called "Baby Crochet" and I only have it because it was on clearance really cheap at Borders, back when Borders was still a thing. The two knitting ones, however, I just fell in love with upon seeing and bought for a rainy day (you know, when that rain consists of babies about to be born). The first is The Expectant Knitter and the second is What to Knit When You're Expecting.

When I first found out I was expecting myself, I pulled out both of these books and started paging through them. Then I made a list, quite an expansive list, of all the baby things I wanted to knit, including both those knits I liked from the two previously mentioned books and any patterns I have favorited on Ravelry. It was a massive, completely unattainable list, and a lot of the patterns were dependent upon whether the baby ends up being male or female.

Of course, I won't know the gender until the 18 week ultrasound, which is, incidentally, happening later this week. There is one thing that I know all babies need regardless of gender: a nice, sturdy woolen sweater. Thus, I picked out two gender-neutralish shades (a bright greeny blue and a gray) of Cascade 220 washable wool at My Sister's Yarn Shop in Green, OH, and I cast on for the Striped Boatneck Sweater from What to Knit When You're Expecting.

I made a few alterations to the pattern, however, as I much prefer to to stockinette in the round and I used a different gauge of yarn than the pattern calls for. I knit most of the body in the round bottom-up instead of flat and then separated the front and back for flat knitting once I reached the sleeve holes. It should make the making up easier when I get to that stage, since the front and back won't need sewn together. I finished the body a few weeks ago now and blocked it out to see how it will look when finished.

If it ends up being a girl, I'll probably add a little flower to the bodice or something, but overall, I think it looks rather nice for boy or girl. I had to pause in the sleeves until this weekend to knit up a requested Go Blue Bro Beanie for a (get this) paying customer. My brother-in-law, now a proud postal worker, wears his wool blend beanie all the time to keep his head warm in the winter on his mail route and a coworker of his wants a Michigan hat of his own. 

I still need to add the M in duplicate stitch, but it will be all set to go to its new owner by the next time I head to the mitten. If you want a version of your very own, I might be interested in the business. I'm thinking twenty bucks a hat seems like a fair price.

I'm hoping to start in on the next baby knit once I know the gender. In the meantime, I'll be swiss darning an M, knitting up some baby sweater sleeves, and getting the garden ready for planting. There are fun things on the horizon.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Lunch with the Kid: A Wrinkle in Time Sandwiches

One of my favorite food blogs (Food Adventures in Fiction) wrote up a recent post that I knew I needed to make as soon as I saw the headline: "Sandwiches and Hot Chocolate from a Wrinkle in Time."

My son and I read A Wrinkle in Time over last summer and finished the followup A Wind at the Door this winter. Then, his English teacher assigned Wrinkle as their first big book assignment in school. It's safe to say at this point that we are very immersed in this series. At the beginning of the novel, there is a dark and stormy night and the main characters, along with their mother and the ever-important Mrs. Whatsit, sit down to some hot chocolate and their own personalized sandwiches. The recipes in question at Food Adventures in Fiction recreate these sandwiches and a no-sugar, rather authentic hot chocolate to go with them.

So on Saturday afternoon, when the boy announced he was hungry, I popped open the webpage and showed him the possible sandwich options he might have with his hot chocolate. The Charles Wallace features an open-faced sandwich with fruit preserves (that one was out--the kid doesn't eat jelly) and the Mrs. Murry involves liverwurst (not going to happen), so the boy and I quickly settled in on the Meg Murry for me and the Mrs. Whatsit for him.

We started with the Mrs. Whatsit, which we agreed would be amended to not include celery. There were still pickles involved and so, green things on the sandwich, so I wasn't going to press my luck by forcing the issue of green things that crunch. The boy added the tuna and mayo into a small bowl and mixed it up himself. The recipe called for diced pickle so we used dill relish, which really amounts to the same thing. I spooned in the specified amount and he swirled that in too, along with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Then, while the boy did the constant stirring of the heating milk on the stove, I put together my Meg Murry sandwich, consisting of cream cheese, tomato, lettuce, onion salt, and pepper on wheat.

We negotiated that the boy's Mrs. Whatsit could be on a hamburger bun. Then, with the milk heated, I added the cocoa, vanilla, and nutmeg, while the boy stirred it in. Then, mom poured the hot chocolate equally into two waiting hot cocoa mugs. (Yes, we have mugs specifically created to house cocoa, given to us by my generous Aunt Debbie. They are fancy and larger than coffee mugs with a decorative lip at the top. They are awesome. Deal with it.)

Of course, we both agreed that hot chocolate really prefers to be topped with whipped cream, which was dully added, and then we sat down to lunch.

The really surprising thing was not that the boy ate a tuna sandwich (he loves tuna), but that he ate a tuna sandwich with relish in it and did not even seem to bat an eye. There's no way that would have happened if he hadn't been eating a Mrs. Whatsit. On my part, I'd never thought to put cream cheese on a sandwich before, and, though the onion salt was a bit much, I loved me a cream cheese sandwich. I can also assure you that a friend of mine tells me cream cheese and pickles make a quite tasty sandwich. I can't wait to try it.

The kid also proceeded to have a Mrs Whatsit with Cheese. He claims it was even better. You be the judge.