Monday, June 18, 2012

Where do things come from?

I don't think it's just me.  I mean, with the number of books popping up, it must be a growing trend, this whole learning about food thing.  Since I've moved out to this little island in Puget Sound, I've learned about how so many of the foods I'm used to from the grocery store are just, well, different if you get them right off the farm.  Who knew there were so many different kinds of kale, and that they could be sweet and soft and yummy?  Or that fresh berries really ARE as good as they say?  Or that any number of foods exist that you simply won't find in a grocery store because they don't transport well?  Or that raw milk from a trusted source is just friggin' awesome and sooooo much better for you?  I sure didn't know.  But I'm learning!

I don't think I'll ever be a fancy cook, but give me the simples and I can Do Things.  This weekend was the official opening of Jam Season.  The first of the local June strawberries came available, and the rhubarb is just about finished at the local farmer's market, and I have this new book with some awesome jam recipes, which means I spent the weekend making jam.  This is just my second Jam Season, and I'm off to a rockin' good start.  Strawberry + Vanilla jam (where I learned what is in a vanilla pod), Rhubarb + Strawberry + Orange with a hint of cinnamon, and Rhubarb + Earl Grey + Lavender + Vanilla.  I'd never had rhubarb before, and I think the Rhubarb + Earl Grey is going to be my favorite for a while.  Tart, smooth, and oh so good on toast with goat cheese...  Nom, I say.

And I'm also learning how to bake wheat-free bread.  Did you know that gluten free bread comes in little tiny loaves that cost about twice as much as "regular" bread?  But if I make it myself, it's both tastier and cheaper, just a few cents more than regular bread.

So, this weekend, I learned more about baking bread (this is my second acceptable loaf of bread, ever), I learned that there are more flavors that can go in jam than I ever see at the grocery store, and I learned that doing all this still leaves me time to take the morning coffee grounds out to feed and smell the roses.

Next weekend, I'm going to learn how to take this raw goats milk I have access to and make yogurt.  It's apparently so much easier than one would think!  So much of this whole food thing is easy and inexpensive.  Why didn't I know about this before?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The look of "after"

Plants are in the ground, and while there's still more ivy to attack at the edges, I'm thinking this is much more like what I want to see when I look out my kitchen window:

And while this is looking a little spare at the moment, in a year or two with the native honeysuckle training along the wall and the Nandina growing tall in its container, this will be pretty awesome too.

There is still more ivy to rip out, and the mulch will come out of the household budget for next month.  But this, this is what I wanted. The local hummingbirds and bees will thank me, too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Doing that happy "kill the invasive species" dance

The joy, the satisfaction, the sheer pleasure found in destruction.  That's what I'm talking about today.  OK, so I admit that perhaps, just perhaps, I'm taking a bit too much pleasure in this annihilation of habitat.  I could have more sympathy with the mini-ecosystem I'm destroying.  But, well, why not be honest?  I don't have any sympathy here WHAT SO EVER.  And that's all there is to it. 

Let's do a bit of "before" and "after".  Not exactly after-after, since they are still ripping stuff out.  Let's say "before" and "during".  I'll post "after," well, um, after "after" is done.  Or something like that.  Nevermind, you get the idea.  Photos!



I didn't even know that wall angled down like that!  I mean, really, who knew?  And all of that has been done in under 6 hours.  I bow down to the yard guys.

As soon as they're done, I'm ready to make this small part of the world a better place:

Tune in later this week, I'll post mark the end of that nasty garden bed and show what it looks like when properly set up for a shining, happy future.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The magic of natural cottons

It's not all about travel. Or gardening. Or working.  Sometimes, though not nearly as often as I'd like, it's about weaving.  I finished weaving off some cotton towels using naturally colored cottons (not all cotton grows white, you know) this week.  The alchemy of natural cottons just makes me giddy.  It's magic, I tell you, magic!

Now, to show the towels in progress (since I've been told "Pictures or it Didn't Happen"), here's a few in-progress photos:

A transition from one towel to the next - I used the same pattern for the set of 3, but with a different weft color for each. Makes for a nice set, I think.

That's all well and good, and there is certainly a kind of magic in seeing the towels take form on the loom, but let's get serious here.  Let's see the change!

The top cloth was woven with EXACTLY the same warp and weft as the bottom cloth.  But the bottom one has been through the washer and dryer, and the top hasn't yet.  Is that not super cool or what?  I do love me some natural cottons, lemme tell ya.

Next up, a clasped weft scarf in Zephyr, and a plain-weave scarf with Zephyr for the warp and handspun singles for the weft.  Just finished measuring the warp, in fact...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Let's record this one for posterity

Everyone who gardens has a plant (or maybe several plants) they consider the bane of their existence, a menace to society, a veritable demon infestation from heck.  When I lived in North Carolina, that plant for me was wisteria.  But now that I'm in the Pacific Northwest, I have a pair of plants which I would nuke from orbit if I had the opportunity (and could avoid my precious orchard in the process).  Those plants are English Ivy and Himalayan Blackberry.

Now, Himalayan Blackberry, despite its heinous, evil nature, does at least have 6 weeks out of the year where it demonstrates its one redeeming characteristic: berries.  Those berries make excellent jam.  The thorns and 20' long canes, however, relegate it to one of the levels of hell.  It is an exercise for the English literature enthusiasts among us to determine which level is most appropriate.

English Ivy, however, has no redeeming characteristics.  None.  Not a single one. Okay, sure, it acts as excellent erosion control, assuming you want nothing else to survive in its smothering wake.  And the berries, should you allow it to grow to maturity, feed birds in the winter.  I will note, however, that other plants, plants that will not make you say words that will get your mouth washed out with soap, can do the same thing.  And so, no redeeming characteristics.

So, now that you know my thoughts on these plants, let me gloat for a moment.  You see, there is this retaining wall next to my house.  And at the top of that retaining wall is a mature mess of English Ivy.  And next week will be its LAST WEEK ON EARTH.  Pardon while I indulge in an evil chuckle.


Ahem, right.

I have some ideas regarding what might go there when this vile stuff, along with the volunteer pine trees and a rosemary bush which has been deformed and covered by said Demon From Heck, is gone.  Things like a string trellis coming up from some large containers of native honeysuckle to cover the rather ugly wall.  Perhaps a bit of catnip for the local feline population.  Perhaps a beautyberry or two.  I don't know, but whatever happens, I shall be content knowing I have made one small step towards getting this crap OUT OF MY YARD. 

I close this diatribe with two current pictures, ones which I intend to look back on next year, glass of wine in hand, and gloat.