Spiders and garlic

Yesterday was another day spent mostly indoors, so that everyone could rest and try to get healthy again. I baked bread, made a triple batch of granola, and cooked up a huge pot of black beans.

We did some crafting with the dry black beans as well. Lots of gluey fingers, lots of beans on the floor, but lots of fun.

black bean spider craft

black bean spider craft 2Spiders are definitely popular in our house right now. There may even be a spider costume in the works for Halloween this year.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights both brought frost with them. It wasn’t a hard killing freeze, but some of the plants are definitely worse off. For the next 5 days the weather looks good: 60’s in the daytime, 40’s at night. It’s time to think about planting the garlic, and getting produce harvested and preserved in one way or another so I can start ripping out plants and putting the raised beds “to bed”. My general rule of thumb has always been to plant garlic by Columbus Day. It’s a good way to remember to get that fall crop in before the ground gets too hard. Columbus Day is October 13th this year.

garlic for planting

I’ll be pulling out my garden maps for the last 3 years this weekend to look them over. In order to figure out where the garlic will go, I have to figure out where some of my space hogging crops are going to go first (like tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers). In some ways its hard to start planning next year’s garden, when I’m still winding down on this year’s garden. I’m ready for a break, ready for a change, ready for a new season. But at the same time, I have lots of ideas fresh in my mind. If I wait until January to plan, I will have forgotten so much.

I always make a list at this time of year, titled something like “Garden Wish List 2015″ or “Ideas for 2015 Garden”. I jot down whatever I can think of that I might want to change or improve upon in next years garden. Anything from “plant more green beans” to “add some sand to each raised bed” to “don’t grow so much kale please!”. It’s extremely valuable for me in the spring to have these notes. Otherwise, I would probably keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Have you planted your garlic yet?


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Sniffles and sewing

heavy rain

Its been raining here for the last four days. (That’s the empty potato bed getting pelted above). There’s not been much of a chance to play outside or work in the garden. Instead I’ve been doing art projects with the kids, baking, and selling some unwanted stuff. I’ve even shifted the piles around in my sewing room again to try to make it usable.

We are battling another round of colds right now, so there’s not going to be too much hope of doing anything too active for the next few days, even as the weather clears. To pass the time without sitting in front of a screen all day, I’ve started a new (to me) project. It’s actually a UFO from my aunt’s stash. I found it when I was shifting piles yesterday. I’m not sure if it was originally hers, or if she acquired it from someone else or a thrift store.  Here’s a sneak peak of what I worked on this morning:

amish trapunto UFO


I’ve never done trapunto work before. I only needed to fill in two of these flower motifs to match the others that had already been done, so I just looked at what the previous sewer had done and tried to imitate it. I actually had to go back and unstitch and take out some stuffing, because I filled the petal too full the first time and the fabric puckered badly.

The next step is to iron everything out, as it has been sitting folded up for an undetermined amount of time. I am actually looking forward to finishing this little project, because it will require some machine piecing and some hand quilting, and a little creativity and ingenuity to make it work. It’s also a small project, and I can break it down into small, manageable steps.

What crafty thing are you working on right now? Does the shift in weather to colder autumn days make you want to sit down and sew or knit something cozy?


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Baby quilt: Bricks for a boy

I finished another baby quilt this summer. This was for the 2nd son of a very close family friend. I dragged my feet on this one for a long time, because I was working with a color palette that is not my regular thing. I was really worried it was going to be ugly, and I didn’t want to spend a bunch of time on a quilt to have it end up ugly.

But really, in the end, it was lovely. The grays, oranges, turquoises, and greens work well together. It has some very new fabric, and some much older bits from my stash.

I didn’t use a particular pattern, I just made it up as I went along. The piecing took a lot longer than I thought it would. It was hard to keep everything in the right place when I was sewing it together. I used little bits of masking tape stuck to end pieces to keep my rows going the right way, and to make sure I was ironing the seams the correct way. If I do another quilt like this, I will share a post about this method of using masking tape, but I didn’t take pictures this time around.

I don’t have a picture of it as completely finished quilt unfortunately, but here it is as I was laying it out for basting on the kitchen table:

boy bricks quilt orange gray turquoise


boy bricks quilt orange gray turquoise 2

And here it is on the machine (I have a Pfaff QuiltStyle):

boy bricks quilt orange gray turquoise 3

I quilted it with a simple overall meander design. There was so much going on the with the fabrics and the brick pattern that it didn’t need elaborate quilting. That, and I was short on time from procrastinating earlier in the summer. It takes 45 minutes to an hour for me to pin baste a crib quilt this size, and a little over an hour to quilt it. (If I don’t have kids interrupting me or trying to “help” me with the safety pins.)

I have 2 more quilts in the works right now, one for each of my children. I am going to make each of them their own twin quilt for their own “big kid” bed. I have most of the fabric I need. I just have to unearth the sewing machine and cutting mat from the layers and piles. The sewing room remains in a perpetual state of disarray, much like in this post over two years ago. The only difference is that there is more furniture holding even more stuff in there now, mainly because of this. Oh well.


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Just a few notes about using the multi-plant method with a soil blocker to grow onions. Eliot Coleman recommends the multi-plant method for seeding onions, so I thought I’d give it a try. My sister gifted me some onion seed for Christmas, so I had plenty to experiment with.

Early this year I seeded both yellow and white onions into 2 inch soil blocks. I put 2-4 seeds into one soil block, and then didn’t do any thinning later. This is what they looked like right before I harvested them:

onions multi block

I’m not sure if you can tell, but there’s 4 onions in that bunch above. One is enormous, one is mini, and two are a medium size.

Below is a bunch of the white ones. Only 3 in this group, and they were all a similar medium size.

onions multi block 2

I don’t really have any good data about germination rates, and I didn’t do any measuring when I harvested. But in general, I feel like planting onion from seed was a success, in that I was actually able to grow and harvest a good sized crop of onions that will pretty much last us until next year.  Being smashed in close together didn’t keep them from growing into normal sized onions. Putting 2-4 seeds per soil block works just fine, and saves space under the grow lights, so I plan to repeat that method next year.

Another bonus about growing onion from seed is that you get to start the seeds super early, in late January or early February, so it gives an impatient gardener something to do in a usually unproductive time of year.

Next year I will try to pay more attention to how many plants per block produces what size of an onion (and actually measure or weigh them!) so I can have some more concrete results to share with you.



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Welcome Fall

To mark the change in seasons yesterday, we participated in several “harvesty” activities.

First, we took a walk around our neighborhood to observe the changing landscape as fall settles in. We gathered acorns, dried grasses, and leaves- pretty much anything that caught our eyes. When we returned home, we put those found natural objects together into a fall collage (with lots and lots of glue!).

The bell peppers are finally turning yellow, orange, and red in full force, so another batch of peppers got chopped and put into the freezer. (Notice that one bell pepper weighed almost 11 ounces!)

peppers on scale

During the day, the kids helped me shell our dry beans that were ready. We had almost 4 pounds when we were finished (and there are still more in the garden to harvest!). The three varieties I grew this year are Jacob’s cattle, Black turtle, and Vermont cranberry. I was really surprised that my son stuck with the shelling until they were all done.

shelling dried beans  DSC_0445

While we were shelling, I soaked and cooked some dried beans from last year’s garden (mostly Jacob’s cattle variety).  The beans went into our dinner soup pot, along with garden carrots, onions and herbs, and a leftover ham bone. We served it with some beer bread.

beans soaking roasted tomatoes

Also on the burner yesterday was a big batch of tomato sauce (in the upper left in the photo above) we use for our homemade pizzas every Friday night. We roast tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic. Then we puree it down, add seasonings, and pressure can it. Fourteen pints this year so far, so we need to make 2 more batches to get around the 45 or so we will use for the year. (We make pizza almost every Friday night throughout the year, but not quite.)

At the last minute, and the kids were getting ready for bed, my husband made a trial batch of applesauce from about 2 dozen apples we gathered for free at a local park. It turned out well, and the apples are firm enough to withstand being made into pies and crisps, so I will go back soon and pick as many as I can. We have maybe 2 pints of applesauce left from last year, so canning applesauce, at least 30 quarts, is high on our priority list this fall. I’ll be scouting around the neighborhood, knocking on doors to see if we can pick apples that nobody wants. A lot of people in my neighborhood have beautiful, mature apple trees, but don’t use the fruit and it ends up on the ground for the deer to eat or to sit under the snow until spring.

Last fall when we were taking a walk at dusk, we noticed a fully loaded tree in someone’s front yard, so we stopped and asked if they would have any extra we could use, and they offered us the whole tree, if we would pick one box for them first. There were enough apples to take care of our applesauce needs for the year. All we had to do was ask.

I am enjoyed having a very productive harvesting and preserving day yesterday while it trickled rain outside. It was a great start to my favorite season of the year.

Hope you are finding ways to enjoy the changing of the seasons wherever you are!


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Update in the garden

Its that wonderfully overwhelming time of the gardening year where all of my hard work reaches its climax. The entire garden is bursting with produce each day now, which means that almost every day I am doing some form of picking and preserving.

This morning my son helped me pick green beans, and my daughter was my helper to wash them all.

washing green beans

I blanched and froze them for eating later this winter.

I feel like I’m keeping on top of my excess produce way better this year than I ever have before. I usually have a fair amount of stuff that is wasted before I can get to it- tomatoes rotting on the vine, green beans getting bumpy and inedible, and the like. But this year I’ve broken the task down into smaller chunks, just trying to do 1 thing a day, and its making all the difference.

Admittedly, I did 2 things today: the beans, and also a batch of basil. It was a particularly cool morning, and I woke up about an hour earlier than usual, so I had energy to tackle two projects.

The tomatoes have been soooo slow this year to ripen. I haven’t had enough to do a batch of anything yet. We’ve had a bit cooler summer than usual, but they are also getting crowded out and shaded by some sunflowers and squash plants I planted in between (probably a mistake!).

I have never been able to grow sunflowers successfully until this year, and wouldn’t you know I planted Mammoth sunflowers, some of which have grown 12 feet tall, almost above the roof of my house.


I love to see them, but its hard to walk down the pathway without getting dive bombed by a dozen bees. Actually, you have to crouch down to get around some of the huge heads flopping over.


They are beautiful, though.

Hope you are having a wonderful garden harvest right now too!




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One woman’s trash is another woman’s stash

My life has been overwhelmed for several weeks this spring with helping my aunt move. My aunt is a “professional accumulator”, especially for items like dishes, clothes, craft/art supplies, and decorative items. But also for everyday things like cleaning products, pencils, umbrellas, and scissors. Helping her sort, pack, and purge an entire 2 bedroom condo has been exhausting, both physically and emotionally.

I didn’t realize the extent of the project when I started it. I thought that I would take a load or two to a thrift store, and maybe get to choose couple things to keep for my self that I could use. This project was 10 times that scale. If I had saved up all of the stuff she was getting rid of and had a garage sale, I would have been able to net somewhere between $500-$1000. Instead, I gave away at least 50% to friends, kept about 10% for myself, and the rest went to the thrift shop.

As piles of my aunt’s stuff got loaded in my car, I picked out a few things here and there I found “useful” like an extra trowel or a whole bolt of muslin fabric. But then there were also things like a container of over 100 skeins of yarn, so I just picked out a few favorites. But after a while, just taking my favorites added up.

After my aunt left and the dust settled, this is what I was left with:

sewing room mess 2

sewing room mess

A total disaster area.

My aunt’s cast-offs have become my own clutter problem now.

I justify it to myself by saying things like: “I only took a small handful of my favorite things that I wanted. I really held back. I could have taken a lot more. I did good.” or “I’m totally going to use this stuff, as soon as my son is in school all day.” or “This is really going to save me a ton of money in the long run, even though things feel a little cramped right now.” But the fact remains that I can’t move in that room enough to use any of it.

The whole experience has given me a lot to reflect upon. The accumulation of stuff is a constant struggle for me. (It might even be genetic in my case!) I wrote about his problem over two years ago here. I was struggling back then to tame the piles, and I have twice as much stuff now as I did then.

The stuff in there is my Achilles heel. Since dealing with my aunt’s clutter, I have purged extra office supplies, clothes, toys, and gardening supplies. I can recognize that I have too many binders, or pots, or ill fitting pants. Its easy for me to part with those extras. And it feels great to do it.

But I dig my heels in when it comes to my precious craft clutter. I think I really cling to an ideal that someday I will be able to use all this stuff, to make beautiful things for myself or for gifts, or to sell. So I continue to reorganize, shift, and squeeze in more and more stuff, while my output is almost zero.

I don’t know what the resolution to this problem will be, but it does help me to write about it. I have managed to clear some floor space in the room this week, so its not dangerous for people to walk in there (thank goodness she also got rid of some shelves and storage containers for me to use!). I took out some recycling, put a few things up for sale, and put together a small box of donations. But the room is still brimming full. All I’ve mostly done is shift, sort and cram.

sewing mess 3

Do you struggle with ideals/fantasies of what you will one want to do or to have or to use? What items are your Achilles heel, the ones that you can’t help but collect more of than you could ever use or need?

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heart shaped felt play cookies

Well, it sort of looks like LOVE, doesn’t it?

I sewed 20 of these little heart-shaped felt play cookies for my son’s friends for Valentine’s Day. I really like how they turned out. They came together very easily using felt and fleece scraps I already had on hand. I really didn’t want to hand out candy, or have to go buy anything, so this is what I came up with.

Thank goodness his class size is small this year!

I cut all the shapes one day, then did the sewing on another day. It probably took about 3-4 hours total. It could have been faster if I had used a marker to make the sprinkles, or perhaps glued on sequins, instead of using thread. But I know that most of his friends have younger siblings, so I wanted it them to be drool/chew proof.

I didn’t include a card with them (most of his friends can’t read yet). I just put them in simple white mailing envelopes with the “TO:” written by me and the “FROM:” written by my son. My kids have been playing with the cookies nonstop since I made them, and I think that just putting them in and out of the envelopes over and over has been half the fun.

Happy Valentines Day everyone! I hope you enjoy a nice long 3 day weekend (and maybe get some sewing or gardening done, too!).

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