Garden Update: Positivity Edition

It has been a weird and wet summer, and my garden didn’t produce much. But let’s focus on the positive, shall we?

The indigo is doing well. I’ve got two different species, apparently. I’m using one for eco printing on fabric and the other for vat dyeing — yarn probably. It will be my first indigo dye vat. This was not the plan. It’s how I’m rolling with what is.

Sweet Woodruff

My sweet woodruff is doing well. If it survives the winter, I will be good for May Wine again next year. The soapwort is alive but struggling to get established. The hops are scrappy. I have no doubt they will be dominant up the back part of the garden next year, which is great because it’s clay and nothing grows back there.

Sweet Genovese Basil

The basil and Anaheim chilis have stolen the show this year. I’ve made pesto, ingredients below:

  • Fresh basil leaves, washed
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic cloves
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • Kosher salt

I don’t have a recipe. I made it “by guess and by gosh” like my Grandma. (By guess I made it and by gosh you’d better eat it!) I don’t really care if anyone else eats it, though. More for me!

Making my own pesto allows me to eliminate ALL THE THINGS I can’t have, and make substitutions: nutritional yeast for Parmesan, sunflower and pumpkin seeds for pine nuts. My recipe is basically to keep adding things to the food processor until it looks right and tastes good. Helpful, right?

I love Anaheim chilis. I started growing them when I lived in San Diego. Bob made enchilada pie yesterday with the first batch. We’re not sure if we will dry the rest, or use them in another recipe. We probably have enough to do both. I’ll let those remaining on the plants turn red so we can dry them.

I’m thinking about next year’s garden already. Here’s my plan:

  1. A good end of season weeding in the fall. (It’s a jungle out there.)
  2. Plant some greens in the mini greenhouse again this fall. They did well last year.
  3. Let the plants that are doing well reseed themselves wherever they want. (I don’t have any hybrids right now.)
  4. Try again next year with tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and peppers from the nursery.

The thing about getting plants from the local nursery is they are not only hardier than the seedlings I grow myself, they are also better suited to our planting zone. I usually buy my seeds from Seed Savers Exchange because they’re heirloom varieties, but I’m learning they don’t all grow well here.

How is your garden this year? Are you getting much of a harvest? Are you planning next year’s garden yet?

Garden Meanderings

No finished objects this week. I haven’t been feeling well, and haven’t even been knitting very much. I’m better today, and spent the morning in the garden. I planted several soapwort plants. Also known as Bouncing Bet, I love their happy pink flowers. I used to make my own shampoo with soapwort, and that is my plan. Hopefully the critters will leave them alone. I planted them in different places, in an attempt to confuse and outsmart whatever it is that is digging up my plants. (Commence John Belushi swat team maneuvers.)

Mama Wren has been looking after her eggs in our felt caravan birdhouse. This couple was trying to make a nest in the porch eave on top of a hook, silly birds. So we moved the birdhouse over and they got the hint. I think this must be the same wrens that made a nest in the dryer vent last year.

We moved their nest, which we found out later we were not supposed to do, to a coiled recycled silk birdhouse. They did use it last year and I enjoyed hearing the babies cheeping away in there. That nest is empty now, so I’m going to clean the birdhouse out and try to find a place for it next year.

The soil along the back of the garden wall is mostly clay. I can’t get anything to grow back there, so I’ve moved some daylilies. I think they should do nicely there, and I’m seeing that others are hapazome printing with daylily flowers. I will give it a try today.

My dye plants are doing mostly ok. Only one Hopi Black Sunflower is still alive, but it has two stalks, so I’m praying for flowers and seeds for next year. The Black Hollyhocks are looking good, but still small. They are biennial and won’t flower until next year. Always a favorite, the calendula are starting to flower now. The indigo and madder are healthy but little. And I learned I can eco print with borage flowers. I love the little blue flowers, and they reseed themselves, so I have a few starting to bud now. The tansy is ready to flower and I should be able to dye with them this year.

I replanted flax in the same spot and it’s doing well. I will try processing it into linen one more time. Here’s hoping I ret it and don’t rot it, like I did last year.

I hid okra in the flax. Shock and awe!

In other news, gluten-free sourdough starter is taking over my life. I will start keeping it in the fridge during the week. I made some gluten-free sourdough muffins with it yesterday, and boy were they good with butter and marmalade! Bob is going to make sourdough pizza crust today.

Bleautiful yarn heading back home today!

You and Me Against the Slugs: Wednesday WIPs

One Blueberry Popover Day striped sock

While this sock may look like an FO (finished object) I can assure you it is a WIP (work in progress) as it is awaiting its mate. I have cast on the second sock, but I’m still on the cuff ribbing. If it were Friday, I would have posted it as an FO, because that’s how I roll.

The only other things I’ve been working on are my knitting design and dyeing for my summer yarn mystery box. These are top secret, so I can’t post pics. Today I’ll be typing up the pattern and starting the project bags. Later this afternoon I hope to get back to knitting on my Pumqueen Cardi.

I went out to the garden to check on the new plants, and so far, so good. We have so many slugs, though. Last year, the beer traps worked about 80% of the time. But as I mentioned before, not all slugs are dumb. This morning I was quoting the movie Tremors, “This one ain’t falling for it. This one ain’t dumb.” I think the dumb slugs (or beer loving slugs?) have now been excluded by natural selection. I never put out the Escar-go! because it can harm small animals. I don’t want anything like that in my garden. If I depended on my garden for food, I would take more drastic measures.

Speaking of horror, I’ve started a new-to-me folk horror series by Phil Rickman. I am liking it! I have been struggling with reading lately, so it’s good to find an author and series that I like.

We’ve been to Cleveland and back, and had a really nice stay for Peyton’s graduation weekend. While there, I stopped by Longtail Knits and picked up this beautiful shawl pin that is perfect for my Ocean Moon shawl! We also ate delicious gluten-free crepes, and I had a gluten free scone at a coffee shop. Here’s an adorable pic of Bob and his Mom!

Yes, Peas!

These are the first peas from my garden. They are delicious! I grew snap peas this year and their pods are a little more tender than the English peas.

Many of my garden plants haven’t fared well this year. Between the slugs and the groundhogs (and critters unknown) I’ve lost herbs, peppers, beans, Hopi Black Sunflowers, all of my okra starts, and my cucumber and zucchini are holding on for dear life. I picked up a few plants today that I’m hoping will be grown enough to withstand the onslaught: peppers, cilantro, basil, and dill. Everything has a cage around it.

My Blue Flax is flowering from the Spring Thaw box. 💙

Eggplant Felix Dress with a side of Kale Chips

I sewed another Felix Dress, this time in eggplant linen. It’s fully lined in the same fabric. I love a floaty linen dress in the summer. It looks great with my Ocean Moon shawl as well as my jean jacket. Pattern is Felix Dress by Grainline Studio.

I also sewed another Melba Dress, this time in charcoal jersey. I don’t think you need a photo of another plain Melba Dress. I do love wearing them, though.

I harvested all the greens from the greenhouse. It’s getting hot, and they are starting to bolt.

I tried out kale chips in the air fryer. I tossed one leaf in olive oil, pink Himalayan salt, and nutritional yeast. I left it in at 200 degrees F for 15 minutes. They came out great, except for the stems. Tear all the leafy parts off the stem first.

Wednesday WIPs: Pink Moons and Birthday Skeins

This week I’ve continued to focus on the Ocean Moon shawl, which is finished and blocking. I’ll post pics of that on Friday.

I also recast on Bob’s socks. I found the flips a little slippery, so I’m back to my Lykke Driftwood and magic loop method.

I’ve been practicing my dyeing. These skeins are inspired by an artists’ trading card I made years ago. They are 50/50 cotton and wool dyed with low impact acid dyes. The cotton content creates a heathery effect, as the wool takes up the dye but the cotton doesn’t. The three skeins shown came out as expected and are now listed in the shop.

Two skeins came out muted due to a less consistent dyebath temperature. I decided to try overdyeing them, inspired by the full lunar eclipse. (Image of lunar eclipse on right by friend Miriam Climenhaga.) I was hoping for a complex black with pops of red. Because of the cotton content in the yarn, there is no way I could get a true black with acid dyes. They are more gray, but a nice memento of seeing the Flower Moon eclipse in the sky on my birthday.

I don’t know whether to call it Flower Moon or Blood Moon. I guess it was a Full Flower Super Total Blood Moon Eclipse! It was quite a sight centered over the trees behind our house. I’m still singing “Pink Moon” to myself.

I’ve also been practicing with procion dyes for the Volunteer Sunflowers yarn mystery box, but won’t share images as they are a mystery! I’ve got a pretty good handle on procion dyes for cellulose fibers and acid dyes for protein fibers. It’s the blends I’m practicing to see if I can improve techniques there. I also want to make sure I know how to get the most vibrant colors possible for nonsuperwash yarns, as colors tend to be less vibrant than on superwash wool yarns. I’m experimenting with that, and ways to ensure the colors are well set and lightfast —all while trying to exhaust the dye baths and impact our watershed as little as possible.

I had a lovely birthday and received heartwarming cards and gifts. This is a small sample of knitting related gifts from friends. I can’t wait to start reading the Knitstrips comic book!

I also finished weeding and planting the garden. I planted less this year in hopes it won’t be such a jungle.

Today I hope to get some sewing done! What are you working on this week?

Garden Update

Madder root?

I’ve been weeding the garden in patches. Today I cleared out the snap pea patch and put in their climbing supports. While most of the deep rooted weeds and vines are gone (there are still a few) we now have hairy cress all over the place. Also some kind of ground cover. So gardening is my exercise this time of year. If I worked out and gardened, that would be it for me!

I accidentally pulled up this plant which I think is madder root. My plant ID app disagreed with me, though. I put it back in the ground, just in case. I wasn’t sure if the madder survived since the indigo overgrew it. I’m pretty sure this little guy is madder, though. Fingers crossed! I might have a little root to dye with this fall if so.

Year of Projects Update

The Elderberry plant survived the winter.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a rough week. We lost a beloved family member, Bob’s Stepfather “Poppy.” I got some tough news at work. Poor Dan Bill has a UTI and had to go to the vet. I still got some crafting done. Making things brings me joy, and helps me deal with stress.

Knitting

I’m loving the way Vertices Unite is coming out. I’m about 1/3 of the way through section two. It’s all naturally dyed merino and super soft.

Design

I’ve been working on a knitting design for my summer yarn mystery box. I told my therapist that trying to sketch ideas for designs was not working for me. She told me to try picking up the needles and yarn and start making something, so that’s what I did. And it worked! It won’t win any design awards, but it will be a nice, practical use for the yarn.

Sewing

I sewed two more pair of joggers — in speckled gray French terry and navy organic cotton fleece. Very comfy, and I should be good on joggers for a while.

This is my next sewing project, a Melba dress in this knitting print. I can’t wait to rock this.

Other than that, I’ve joined our local fiber arts guild and signed up to help, and I’m rediscovering the joys of our library system. I’m hoping to start baking and cooking again, and I needed some inspiration. And it will be time to start seeds and dig up the garden soon. I’ve planted peas and greens already!

This has been a Year Of Projects (YOP) update. You can find out more about the group here (Rav link) or here: Backstage Kath’s YOP bloggers list. You can read my updated list of projects here.

Tomato Cobbler

Cinna Knits suggested I make tomato cobbler with my plethora of tomatoes from the garden. Tomato Cobbler?! What’s that?! I had to try it. I’ve never made a savory cobbler before.

I basically followed this recipe. However, I tweaked it a lot. So here are my instructions for a vegan and gluten free version.

Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a cast iron skillet. Peel and thinly slice 1 and 1/2 yellow onions. (Because that’s all the onions I had.) Add about 1 teaspoon of salt. Sauté until transparent, or go ahead and carmelize them, which is what I did.

While the onions are carmelizing, peel and mince two large cloves of garlic. Rinse and de-stem about 3 cups of cherry tomatoes. I used Igleheart Yellow Cherry from my garden. I also had a couple of larger Cherokee Purple that needed eaten, so I cored and cut them into quarters. Four cups of tomatoes? At this time I also pulled two bunches of basil leaves off the stem and cut them into large pieces.

Once the onions are carmelized, add the minced garlic and sauté together for a minute or two. Add 3-4 tablespoons (what I refer to as “a splash”) of balsamic vinegar and stir until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Add 2 tablespoons of flour. (I used a gluten free blend from Nuts.com, similar to Bob’s Red Mill.) Stir until the flour forms a paste. Or, if you are like me, you won’t have enough liquid for that. I didn’t want to add more balsamic so I added a little water.

Add the tomatoes and basil leaves, 1 teaspoon of salt, and remove from heat. Stir well. Set aside. At this point I covered it to get a little more liquid so it was easier to combine.

I had already de-petaled a few calendula flowers, de-leaved a few fresh thyme sprigs, and cut fresh sage leaves into slivers for my biscuit dough. I love cooking from my garden!

To make the biscuits blend together 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour, 3/4 cups corn grits, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (instead of cheese), 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Work in 4 tablespoons of Earth Balance vegan butter and the calendula, thyme, and sage. Once that was crumbly, Add about 1 cup oat milk with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, instead of buttermilk. I had to mess with the dry ingredients to get the dough consistency right. If you make biscuits a lot, you get it. (Or you can follow the recipe linked above.)

Once the dough was ready, and I had given the tomato mixture another turn, I scooped up the biscuit dough and dropped it onto the cobbler, still in the cast iron skillet. I ended up with six biscuit blobs.

Bake in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the tomato mixture is bubbly. We’re having this tonight with burgers.

I have to say, it’s pretty tasty. It will be great with a bison patty.

Sorry if this is vague. This is how I cook, like my Grandma. “By guess, and by gosh… By guess I made it, and by gosh you’d better eat it!”

In other news, I have been sick twice in two weeks! This time it’s an upper respiratory infection. I was down and out for 48 hours. I’m feeling better today, but I’m trying to take it easy as I’m still fatigued. I do hope to get to some knitting this weekend. Sewing may be too strenuous.

Garden Update

Twocumbers (I have to give credit to Clara Parkes for that name.)

I cleared all of the cucumber and zucchini plants out of the garden. We couldn’t handle any more cukes or zukes. I’ve got plenty for more pickling, and Bob made a delicious vegan lasagna with zucchini sliced lengthwise instead of noodles.

I transplanted the kale, cabbage, and broccoli seedlings for fall. I hope this net keeps the cabbage moths off. I also transplanted arugula, chard, and Bibb lettuce seedlings.

In other exciting news, we have blackberries! Which are my favorite, even if the brambles jump out and scratch me.

It’s worth it.