Saturday, July 12, 2008

How Does Your Garden Grow

Have you heard about this?

I feel for them. Apparently their neighbors and the city are fine with this church having grass and flowers in their front yard, but heaven forbid they should grown corn or beets up there to provide local, healthy food to their community. Last year (and even the year before) I was having the same type of discussions with members of our church. But I'm happy to say that the corn is now officially knee-high, the pumpkins are doing great, and the first zucchini, swiss chard and snap peas should be ready to deliver to the food pantry this week.

It's actually working!

I Think I'm Getting Better At This

I rigged for a storm this morning at farmer's market. Gallon jugs of water, otherwise known as 8 pound weights, were attached to each corner of the canopy with bungie cords. Another bungie cord attached the apex of the easel to the canopy strut, so it couldn't tip over. And the framed print displayed on the easel was tied to it in back. And I reconfigured my table lay-out to put everything under cover - which kept it safer, but left me sitting outside and may have reduced the chances of my display catching the eye of a potential customer. Still, I was proud that things seemed fairly stable and secure when the wind kicked up. (A hand-painted gazing globe on the other side of the market hit the ground about 10:30 and made a spectacular crash.) I still need to find a way to keep my spinner rack from tipping over and dumping cards everywhere, but I'm too lazy to bother with miniature sand bags. Maybe I'll just buy a few 2 pound bags of dry beans and knit covers for them.

But after all that, I sold very little today. The traffic was lower due to the constantly threatening weather, which probably had a lot to do with it. The baby hats certainly caught a lot of attention, with dozens of people over the course of the morning calling out variations of, "Oo, Harriet, look at the adorable little caps! Do you think this one would fit Baby Betsy?" But none of them actually had the baby in question with them, and none wanted to take a chance without a test fitting. Likewise, my shed window image (on display on the easel as an 8" x 10" print, matted and framed out to about 12" x 15") enticed a lot of strollers to stop and admire it - but no money was in danger of changing hands.

So, I made my gas money and a little more. And I built up my potential return customer base for future weeks. And I did a service to the vendor community, showing up when several vendors apparently looked at the forecast and decided to sleep in. (And it really is a little community. We all chat back and forth, watch each other's wares during restroom and snack breaks, and generally have some pretty good camaraderie going.

Speaking of which, did I tell you the rest of the story about the little old lady with the hand-knit children's cabled sweaters? I struck up a conversation with her two weeks ago and discovered she was from the cider orchard 3 miles southwest of my house. I was there with my Dad and kids once about 2 years ago for cider, and on an impulse I took the picture you see at left. So as I'm chatting with her, I pop back to my booth, grab my book, and show her this print. She was floored. It turns out that she lost her husband over the winter, and this was his bench. He used to sit on it most summer evenings after coming in from the fields, sip on a beer and contemplate the day. She says those pumpkins weren't meant as a display - he just used to put them up there to dry after washing the field mud from them. She came back to my booth twice over the course of the morning to show the print to her daughters and exclaim over how pretty "Daddy's Bench" looked. So I had another print made and gave it to her today as a modeling fee. Any time I can make someone that happy by spending a couple of bucks in printing costs (and for just showing up) - that's a good day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Scattered Storms

The forecast is for thunder and lightning today and tomorrow morning. In other words, it's supposed to storm this afternoon while I'm driving the truck (11.9 mpg, in case you forgot) all the way to Ripon to meet with a witness and do my Erin Brockovich thing; and it's also supposed to storm all during farmer's market tomorrow.
Oh, goody.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Among the Lillies

Today started like any other - find something to wear that does not require ironing or specific undergarments and some semi-coordinating sandals, let the birds out for the day, bring the bunny some fresh long grass from the edge of the field. I was headed to my vehicle to roar off, when I noticed the daylillies had begun to bloom on the bank in front of my house.

This bank would be a bear to mow, so we decided early in the game that we weren't going to do so. The first year, I bought half a dozen daylilly bubs and planted them, imagining that they would spread to cover the bank and provide a blooming, erosion resistant and maintenance free blanket over the bank. I got three blooms that year.

The next year, I got 7 or 8 blooms - but clearly this was going to take a lot more encouragement. I planted some more bulbs. The year after that, a friend was widening her driveway and needed to remove a 18" x 20' swath of daylillies from her own yard. I dug them up, cut them back, and planted as many as I could find individual spots for. It was hard to be sure, but I did my best to have a bulb every 10" or so. This is the second summer after that, and I'm really curious to see what kind of volume I get.

So I'm tromping through the open ditch below the bank with my camera, not feeling at all guilty about being a few minutes late for work. I was thinking as I stepped into 10" deep grass that with my luck, I'd step on a snake. Took some pictures, then stepped down the bank a bit and took some more pictures. And I slowly become aware that something . is . tickling . my . foot.

I like snakes - I really do. I think they're beautiful and fascinating and very pleasant to touch, and the reptile house is always on my "must-see" list at the zoo. But I learned as a fairly young kid that if you pick up a snake it will scare him, and if you aren't preventing it by holding him behind the head then he WILL bite - even if it's little pair of pinpricks with only fear behind them.

Anyway, I looked down and noticed I was stepping on the tail of a garter snake, who was frantically beating himself against my sandal and toe trying to squirm away, but who had generously declined to bite me thus far. Awfully civilized of him, all things concerned. I let out a squeek and picked up my foot, and judging by the way he took off I don't think he was injured. But it sure was exciting for a few seconds there.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More of the same

We lost power sometime last night in another summer storm, but the day is bright and sunny with a light breeze and reasonable temps. Still, I have this sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop - like I'm on hold and can't make any progress on life. I suspect this has to do with Rick being away, and the process of getting used to the rhythm of my life when he's traveling. Still, with Luc working 2nd shift and Isaac prone to spending all his off-work hours under a car in the garage, things are kind of quiet. And since we're experiencing (relative) calm at work after that big project, it's easy to slip into this relatively unproductive lull. But they say the first step towards dealing with a problem is admitting you have one, so I'm hoping that with awareness and deliberation I will crank up my productivity at home and at work over the next few days. (Also, can I just say that I haven't had any caffeine in about 4 days?)

Meanwhile, I finished the roll-brim colorwork hat I showed you earlier. I think the colorwork chart came from a project featured on The Anti-Craft website, and was originally paired with a chart for an ankh. I was worried that the hat would be too tall by the time I finished the chart, but I actually worked the first row of decreases right into the last row of the chart and I think it worked out fine.

And then, still keeping in mind Baby Scout and his need for a funky hat, I whipped out this green dragonfly number. It started the same way most of them do, with 60 stitches on size 4 needles and a 3-row seed stitch border. But then somehow I went a little further before starting the decreases, stuck in a purl row to encourage a nice corner, and then started with a fairly sharp decrease pitch (knit 3, knit 2 together for the first round). I used purl rounds between the decrease rounds to add a little more stability to the top, and added an extra round of purls and an extra round of "knit two together" at the top center. The dragonfly design was inspired by Franklin's blog; google "panopticon dragonfly" to see his original. And there it be.

So at 10:15 or so last night I was staring at my cotton stash, waiting for the next hat idea to introduce itself to me. And instead, my body informed me that it was time for bed, and my conscience reminded me that I really ought to call Tammy for dimensions and then finish a certain leaf border for a 50th anniversary prayer shawl. (My excuse is that she's been haying, and before that she was doing some massive prep for her son's graduation party, and I don't want to nag her about something she's doing as a favor anyway. But I could probably at least get a decent estimate from her, besides which I'm fairly certain that edge will be longer than the 36" or so of edging lace I have done now.) So again - with conscious determination, I intend to be more productive from here on out. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


It's a hot, sticky, grey, rainy day here; and Rick's got it even worse, since his car broke down in 100° Arkansas heat this morning and left him stranded on the highway ramp. And I'm having one of those apathetic headache-and-binge-impulse days that signal another example of why the years leading up to menopause are so much fun. So here is my happy thought for the day:

Did you notice the little ant on the fushia bloom, competing with the bee for the flower's attention? I don't understand why I never bothered with hollyhocks before. Maybe I was just too cheap? But these are all from the scavenged seedheads discarded by the Kohler gardeners, and they've been worth every penny.

P.S. I believe in sharing the wealth. Send me a SASE, Attn: Hollyhocks, and I'll send it back with some seed heads from these beauties. Then just sprinkle the seeds, keeping in mind that they won't bloom until the second year.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Chicken Psychology

Bertha is the suspicious type
. . . but Rudy feels secure about himself,
and is willing to be admired for his looks.

Drop-Stitch Cotton Beret

One skein Peaches & Creme cotton yarn
Size 6 double-pointed needles
Yarn needle

Cast on 80 stitches.
Working in round, do three rounds of seed stitch (knit 1, purl 1, repeat, with next round being purl 1, knit 1, repeat).
Knit 1 round.
Increase round: Increase 1, knit 4, repeat.
Knit (stockinette stitch) until you are about 4" from increase round.
Drop round: Knit 1, drop 1 stitch, knit 4, repeat. You are dropping the stitch that you added in the increase round. Let it unravel all the way back to the increase round, creating a gored look.
Knit 1 round.

1st decrease round: knit 6, knit two together, repeat.
2nd decrease round: knit.
3rd decrease round: knit 5, knit two together, repeat.
4th decrease round: knit.

Continue decreasing in this way until you have a round of "knit two together" without any single stitches in between. Break yarn, thread through needle, and feed yarn twice through the loops of the remaining stitches. Pull the tail tight and secure it on the private side of the hat. Weave in ends.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mad Hatter

Maybe it's because hats are as easy or involved as I choose to make them. And they pack in a bag well for car knitting and appointment knitting and red light knitting and so on. Or maybe it's because I've gotten so much happy feedback from the hats I've displayed at the farmer's market. (The baby hats are a hit, and I'm getting lots of interest on the adult ones too.)

In any case, I seem to be on a hat frenzy. I was fascinated by the stars & stripes one, and have posted the pattern as a separate item here so you don't have to wade through my drivel to get it. On the way to Green Lake on Thursday, taking Tasha back to camp, I whipped out a roll-brim model with scraps of the red, white & blue stripes yarn, which then sold before I even had a chance to photograph it solo. (It's shown here being modeled by its new owner. Pattern is simple: 60 stitches or so on size 5 dpns, knit in round for about 3 1/2" above the top of the roll, then do star decrease beginning with "knit 4, knit 2 together.")

Then I pulled a skein out of my stash that I'd picked up on clearance a while back. It's a color I think of as Tourmaline, and I decided I wanted a hat for my own self. Finished it Friday night, wore it to market Saturday morning, and was complimented on my "style" even though my bra strap was showing. The hat was not at all sweaty, and kept my hair out of my eyes better than any headband would have done. (Cast on 80 on size 5 dpns, 3 rows of seed stitch, 4 rows of stockinette, one row of "yarn over, knit two together." Repeat stockinette and eyelet rows until it's the height you want - in this case about 3 1/2" - then do a star decrease starting with "knit 6, knit 2 together.")

While at market, I got to hold little Scout, the glass-blower's baby. He's a snugly little armful, born 2 months preemie and now 9 or so weeks old and so about 10 lbs of sweetness. His mother really, really wants a funky little hat for him, but isn't into the red/white/blue thing. So I'm doing another roll-brim, this time with some Celtic-themed colorwork.

And there's another feather & fan in bright rainbow colors. And another red/white/blue stripes number using a stitch picked out of Barbara Walker, which while acceptable isn't really my favorite. (I didn't do my best work when adjusting the stitch to the crown decreases.) And another adult hat - a drop-stitch beret in Jamaican colors which Tasha looked at disdainfully and which the glass-blower raved over. Maybe I'll get a chance to photograph it and write it up tomorrow.

Life in the real world is progressing a-pace. I finally, finally closed a deal at work that had been sucking out my soul for 2 weeks. Now I just have to placate clients while I catch up on all the other things I should have been doing during that time. Tasha is back at camp for at least two weeks - without her car, which annoyed her to no end. (But Rick says she really just isn't quite ready to solo with a stick shift.) Luc finally got his report card for the college class he took during his last semester of high school, and gave me a spontaneous (public, and very out of character) high-five to celebrate his grade. And Rick flies out at 2:00 a.m. tomorrow for 12 days or so in Little Rock, where he promises he will eat lots of wonderfully fresh seafood in my honor in between slaving for his customers.

Hat for an Independent Baby (the beta version)

This hat got lots of coos and exclamations at the farmer's market - but it is very small, suitable for a newborn or baby-doll. Adjust up if you want it to fit for longer than the time it takes to photograph the baby wearing it.

Size 5 double-pointed needles
Size 8 double-pointed needles
Small amounts of Peaches & Creme worsted weight "dishcloth" cotton in 3 colors
Yarn needle

Cast on 72 stitches with larger needles, using long-tail cast-on method. (The resultant edge was still a bit tight on mine. This might be a good place for you to use even larger needles, or maybe a stretchier cast-on.) You will be casting on in color as follows: cast on 2 red, then 2 white, then 2 red . . and around to the beginning.

Switch to smaller needles. Working in the round, work 3" of two color ribbing in red and white (or colors of your choice): knit two red, purl two white, etc. All yarn carries should be on the private side of the work; when you're not purling, move the purl yarn to the back.

After 3" of ribbing, switch to blue yarn. (This might be a good time to place a marker, if you haven't done so already.) Work 4 rounds of stockinette.

Decrease set-up row: Knit 34 stitches, knit 2 together, repeat.
1st decrease row: knit 5, knit 2 together, repeat.
2nd decrease row: knit.
3rd decrease row: knit 4, knit 2 together, repeat.
4th decrease row: knit.

Continue in this fashion until you have a row of knit 2 together with no stitches in between. Break yarn, thread the tail through a yarn needle, and draw it twice through the loops of the remaining stitches. Draw tight, feed through the center of the gathered stitches, and knot on the private side of the hat.

Embroider six-strand "stars" around the crown of the hat, as shown. I found it easiest to do ten stars, lining them up on the ten decrease lines. (The purist in me wanted to do 13 stars, but placing them evenly would have been more work than I wanted to do at that point.)

Weave in ends, sit back, and contemplate your cute little hat.