Saturday, July 25, 2009

Book it Forward

I surround myself with books. I lose myself in books, and I'd much rather read most of the time than watch television. I prefer to use my own imagination to bring the words on the page to life, rather than have someone else's interpretation spoon-fed to me. I read many different kinds of books. I love fiction, but I also enjoy travel writing, clever analysis (books like Freakonomics), natural history (I just read a marvelous book about hedgehogs), and a wide range of craft and farm-oriented books. Lately I have been reading books about design of animal housing, llama training, and dealing with pregnant ewes.

Books take up a lot of space. Sometimes, I go through a de-cluttering phase. I find that I have a predilection for cookbooks, which I buy because I like to read them, but then I don't use them. I find it very hard to part with cookbooks, but right now, I'm just overflowing with them. In addition, I have some fiction that I've read but which I probably won't read again.

What to do with all these books? Sometimes I donate boxes of books to charities. Sometimes, I think it might be better to give them to people who are really interested in them! So, this blog post is a "book it forward" post. I thought I'd offer some of my books to my readers, and then in turn, I'm hoping they'll offer a book to someone else, or pass along my book when they have finished with it. So, without further ado, I present to you the list of books. I will ship any of these books, free of charge, to any of my regular readers. I know who my readers are - those who comment or are in my followers list. If you ask for a book and I've never heard of you, I probably won't send it to you! I'll send them media mail, which is a cheaper (but slower) service. By the way, I have a non-smoking, "pet friendly" household, so if you are very allergic to dogs (or bottle lambs), don't ask for one!

Hope some of you might be interested in these...if you need more information on them, I have linked them to their respective Amazon pages.

Fiction! All paperbacks in excellent condition.

The Nanny Diaries - funny and light reading, now a movie!
Avoiding Prison and other Noble Vacation Goals - funny travel reading
Whiteout - a classic Ken Follett novel
Third Time Lucky - fun, light chick lit!
The Poisonwood Bible - an Oprah Book Club choice...

Cooking - hardcovers! (these are heavy and therefore I will only ship these within the continental US and Canada)
Sarah Moulton Cooks at Home
The Paris Cookbook by Patricia Wells
Jacques Pepin Celebrates (200 of his most cherished recipes!)

Cooking - smaller books!
Cooking: A Commonsense Guide
The Mushroom Feast
Riso: Undiscovered Rice Dishes of Northern Italy
Essentials: Chocolate

Read on!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I made a bootie!

A friend of mine recently had a baby, and another friend has a baby due in less than a month. I thought, since I am now vaguely competent in crochet, that I would see if I could make something for these infants. I found a pattern for "Bev's Very Easy Booties" online, and decided that I could tackle it, seeing as it said "very easy" right in the title.

I bought some variegated green cotton yarn for these booties because I think babies might get itchy feet if I used yarn from my sheep's wool. I also thought that if this little project went well, I would have yarn that worked for either gender of baby, in case any more of my friends should have the foolish idea urge to have a child.

So, here is what I did! I began with the half-double-crochet rows. I hadn't done that stitch before and had to look it up, but I think it went OK.

Then, I did the remaining rows, which are double-crochet. You can see that I have an error here on the left bottom side where I did an extra stitch (I think) but it doesn't generally hurt the overall item.

When that's complete, you fold the bootie in half and whip stitch it with a large needle.

Ta-daaaa! Finished bootie! Seriously? I mean, this thing barely fits a walnut. Is that really going to fit a baby foot? Really? No really?!

Marshmallow tried it on but she was less than impressed.

The instructions said to run a ribbon around the top. I think that sounds silly. I mean, infants try to eat their feet and whatnot. They could easily choke on a ribbon. Besides, ribbon doesn't tend to wash well, and then you'd have to take out the ribbon and re-insert it every time. What new mother has time for such nonsense. So, should I make a single chain crochet tie that goes around the top that could be made into a bow? I presume the idea is to stop the infant from removing said bootie and likely trying to eat it or throw it to some mysterious location.

Overall, I think it went OK for my first proper crochet project. Now for the second bootie...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Garden Harvest

I haven't blogged in a week! Eeek! Sorry readers, it's been a busy time. I'll try to make up for it today with lots of pictures and garden news.

Today we did a lot of work in the garden. It has been decidedly cooler for the past few days, and this morning presented the perfect opportunity to battle our way through the jungle of weeds in our vegetable garden to see what we could find. I'm afraid it's rather gotten away from us this year and the weeds have been overwhelming. I think next year I may try more drastic measures, like landscape cloth. Mulch and occasional hoeing does not work. I avoid herbicides, so physical barriers are more attractive to me.

In spite of the weeds that want world domination, we managed to harvest our garlic. This year we grew 6 varieties: Chrysalis Purple, German Extra Hardy, Siberian, Shvelisi, Broadleaf Czech and Georgian Crystal. All of these came from the Seed Savers Exchange and grew very well. They still have those varieties for ordering for this fall, so why not give one a try?! We'll let the garlic dry for a few days and then I'll braid some of it.

This is the broadleaf Czech - it is large and has purple hints to it.
Here is the German Extra Hardy garlic. Smaller bulbs but very white!The chrysalis purple variety was not very interested in staying attached to its plant when dug, so those won't be braided. It's such a rich colour though.
I noticed that our acorn squash are progressing very well and have gained weight in the past couple of weeks!
In addition, I've got some butternut squash progressing nicely, although they are still quite small.
We also managed to hack our way through the 4 foot tall redroot pigweed and velvetleaf patches to get to our rows of potatoes. We had planted 8 varieties this year, also from the Seed Savers Exchange. Today, we dug some Yellow Finn, All Blue and Red Gold. Here is today's harvest. The Red Gold were particularly productive. We only dug half rows of the Finn and blue potatoes and will pick more later. Tonight is definitely a night for fresh new potatoes on the dinner plate!
I spent some time wandering around the flower beds and looking at the progress of things. The echinacea has done exceedingly well this year. I noticed that the bees were very busy with it today.
I do love to watch the bees. If you "biggify" the picture below, you can see the bee's proboscis coming out of its mouth to take the nectar. They are so important in our garden as pollinators for our fruits and vegetables, as well as our flowers. I try to give them lots of preferred plants to encourage them to enjoy our garden and help our crops in the process.
The daylilies are still blooming. Here's a pale peach one that caught my eye today.
One of my favorite named daylilies that I have is this one - Bela Lugosi. I'd love to spin some yarn in these colours.
I took a look at the apple tree - here you can see the ducks hopefully watching for apples to fall into their path. I think they've got a while to wait.
The Stanley plum is also showing colour on its fruits now. That plum was planted last year, so this is the first year to fruit. It has about 8 plums on it, which isn't much, but it's nonetheless exciting for me!
One of my favorite clematis vines is "Avant-garde" and it is a later flowering one, so right now it is just covered in blooms. The blooms are smaller than many varieties but so pretty and there are so many of them. I need a bigger trellis for this one!
Finally, I have also been busy with spinning this week as usual. I spun a wool-soy silk-sparkle blend in rich gold, navy and turquoise tones.
I learned to Navajo ply last night at my spinning guild meeting last night. That is a plying method that allows one to keep sections of colour together in the final plied yarn. I was a bit slow at learning this technique, but it came out quite well in the end. I had deliberately spun this into a thick-and-thin style yarn to try for interesting texture in the final product.
I'm really quite pleased with how it worked out, although it's only about 80 yards, so I'm not sure how I'll use it. Maybe for trim on something in a solid colour. Or maybe I'll save it and sell it in the Etsy shop that I eventually plan to open. In any case, it's finished, and so is this blog post!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Adding Pizazz to Your Yarn

That title is the name of a class I took at the Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival last month. I kept meaning to blog about it but you know how things get in the way. The class was designed to teach us how different fibres can be added to the wool that you are spinning to create different textures and effects. We started with very "ordinary" cream and brown fleece which we spun into small skeins. Everything else was the same base material, hand carded with some additional fibre, in order to create a blend, and then spun into a small skein which could be compared to the originals.

Here is the whole set of skeins that I made. From the top, going clockwise, the fibres are:
Natural cream and brown wool skeins
Cream and brown skeins with mohair added
Cream and brown skeins with soy silk added
Cream and brown skeins with tussah silk added
Cream and brown skeins with "Flash" added
Cream and brown skeins with turquoise acrylic added
Cream and brown skeins with Ingeo (corn fibre) added

I really enjoyed seeing how all the fibres made a difference from the original yarns, and it made me more confident about spinning with some of the more unusual fibre choices on the market today. I really liked how the soy and tussah silks added sheen and an almost luminous quality to the yarn. The "flash" is a metallic thread that, to my eye, looks like it is different colors when you mix it into the cream and brown skeins. It's pretty hard to show that in a photograph, but here they are.
My favourite fibre, I think, was the Ingeo. I didn't think I would like it, but it added a lot of loft and smoothness to the yarn. Here's a close up of the brown with the Ingeo.

So, I decided today to add some of my own pizazz to my spinning. I had a turquoise single ply that I had handspun, and also a darker blue single. I decided to try a three ply yarn by plying those two singles with a commercial yarn by the name of "Featherwisp" in the "seasprite" colour. The Featherwisp is 100% nylon and has a sort of fluffy or hairy appearance, and has a tiny narrow ribbon running through it. I really like the way this yarn came out in the end. It's 2/3 handspun, and all hand plied.

Here is my "lazy kate" which is used for the plying.

Here's the start of my new yarn....
...and the end!
I set the twist in hot water and it's now outside drying. If the humidity keeps up, it might take a week!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Daylilies and Baby Bottles

The past couple of weeks have seen an explosion of blooms here in my garden. Some of the blooms are my standard favourites - monarda (bee balm), clematis (especially Avant-garde), various allium bulbs are blooming, and also my gaillardia. I thought I'd post a few pictures of some of the daylilies that I planted last year. These are new to me for this year. Before this, I'd only had the tiger lilies (the tall orange ones) and a plain yellow.

I put these in rather hurriedly last fall, so I didn't make name tags for them. Whoops. Now I'm not sure what varieties they are. None the less, I'm pleased with the blooms.

This one is a rather lovely peachy-yellow with faint orange bits.

A rather plummy-mauve bloom!
This one might be my personal favourite - I love the ruffles on the petals and the inner colour ring.
Not a daylily, but this is a bloom on my hardy Opuntia cactus, which survives very nicely in the zone 5a Iowa winter! It had about 30 blooms on it this year.

Here's a new echinacea for me this year as well. I love the deep magenta colour.

Well, in case you're wondering why baby bottles appeared in the title of this post, I thought I'd post this rather cute video of Marshmallow having her bottle. She has 4 bottles a day now, taking 7 ounces per feeding. She's really doing ever so well. She's learning to jump, very nimbly. She can nearly jump onto the bed. She sleeps on the dog's bed at night and the dog has taken to sleeping in the living room. When she wakes in the morning though, she can barely contain her energy and immediately comes over to the bed for attention, bouncing at my side as if her legs were pogo sticks. In any event, enjoy the "feeding time" show!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Marshmallow Versus the Box

Marshmallow is growing like a weed! She is putting on weight every day and is taking her bottle with great enthusiasm. I think having a bottle lamb in the house has just been one of the most unique experiences of my life to date. She follows at my heels at all times. I ended up having to put up a baby gate in our office because the dog, Stickley the greyhound, was not entirely pleased at her sniffing around him. He growled at her once, and that was enough for me. So, they don't get together any more.

Marshmallow still sleeps at the side of the bed in her own little bed and she wakes me up about 7 am (in case the alarm fails to do so!) and she wants a bottle NOW please! She does sleep through the night though. She has been out to play with the other lambs but she tends to come back through the cattle panel fencing and come to where I am in the yard, so she isn't very interested in the other lambs right now.

I thought you might enjoy this video of her taking on a box of paper for recycling that I keep next to my desk. She demonstrates proper technique of head-butting and energetic front foot kicking in assaulting the enemy box. She also shows how the box can be used as a head-rub device, if desired. Good lessons for little lambs.