Practical Makes

Practical projects and crafts

Month: May 2015

Summer Produce

It’s summer!  Or at least it really feels like it given that we’ve apparently had the warmest May on record.  The garden appears to be enjoying it overall though.  My squash and beans are growing really fast, and my potatoes are taller than I am in their grow bags.  Unfortunately it means an early end to some of my spring plants.  My cress bolted first, followed by the radishes (Note to self: easter egg radishes bolt super fast, I should stick to the little round red ones, they’re the only ones that worked out.) and even the broccoli gave up this week.  Amusingly enough it was the “heat tolerant” broccoli that bolted first…  It last long enough for me to get a decent head from each plant, and we’ll eat the stalks and greens in stir fry next week.  I’m planning to plant more Waltham broccoli in fall, so I have another shot at it.  And I can use the bed to grow more zucchini and yellow beans.  I already have row covers up I can use for the zucchini.  The radishes and cress will be replaced with more lettuce.

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I usually feel a little anxious about planting things, since I know I don’t always space things correctly.  So far I’m doing pretty well this year, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep that up.

I’ve also been productive with my indoor projects.  I made lots of burger buns for Memorial Day and froze a whole bunch of them.  And I’ve made Patrick two shirts.  With any luck I will also finish a dress and PJs and another Patrick shirt this weekend (it’s an AWS weekend so I’ve got an extra day!).

These are all using my Kaufmann Cape Cod seersucker.  I hope they make more, it’s great fabric, comfortable, light weight and in decent colors…

Oh, and we got our first big batch of strawberries.  The first round became jam (using the classic recipe this time) and a strawberry-rhubarb pie (using our first rhubarb harvest!).  The next round is getting frozen this weekend.  I stuck to a more reasonable volume of strawberry jam this year.

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Summer Storms

It looks like we’re really heading into summer this week. On the upside I won’t have to water the garden!  Summer is usually like that here.  It will be hot and humid and then thunderstorms will roll in during the afternoon.  I’m fine with this as long as there’s no hail or crazy wind!   And weird though it sounds I’m also ok with it being warmer.  It got cold again at the end of last week, and for whatever reason this year I’m looking forward to hot weather.  Maybe it’s because of how intense this year has been?

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So far I’m pretty happy with the garden.  I picked lots of strawberries yesterday.  I think I might try making scones with the alpine strawberries, or maybe pancakes…  For the big ones they’re either going to be pie or jam, depending on how much I have.  I really look forward to being able to say I made jam from my own fruit.  It will feel like I got all the check boxes or a full score or something.  We’ll see…

I’ve also gotten to eat a whole bunch of lettuce and cress from the garden.  The cress is bolting sadly, but I plant to fill that space with more lettuce and plant more cress again in fall.  These are two more garden success stories, starting lettuce inside worked amazingly well, my Ice Queens are even making heads this year!  And my buttercrunch is huge and beautiful.  (I love buttercrunch, it’s my favorite!)  The cress was also really good.  I mostly used it in sandwiches and sometimes a little mixed into salads, but I really liked the flavor, so it’s going into regular rotation, at least whenever the weather will cooperate.

For the rest of the salad bed, the radishes are ready to harvest (and are starting to bolt…) and there are a few carrots, but as usual, carrots remain a challenge.  Maybe I’ll just plant more lettuce?  And the cucumbers have germinated (or rather 4 out of 5 have, slot 5 refuses to cooperate even after 2 tries, so I guess cucumbers aren’t meant to grow there?).  Also given the recent comprehensive demise of the chard (and I was so looking forward to trying it!!!)  I’ve planted bush cucumbers in that spot because I really love pickles, and this year I’m going to get a decent amount.

As for the rest of that bed, the broccoli is coming along nicely, though I’m really hoping it will make nice big heads before the heat gets to them.  The Pacman broccoli plants are maybe 1/3 or 1/4 bigger than the Sun King ones, but both have heads about the same size.  Unfortunately I’ve been having to make a daily squishing of cabbage loopers (my mortal enemies).  I used to pick them up and throw them, but that took extra time and there’s always the chance they’d make it back, so now I squish them and wash my hands after.  I figure 90% of what ends up on my hands is liquified broccoli leaves…  (Note to self: pick up Bt at Johnsons today, put it on the broccoli and then actually put up row covers like a responsible person).  The eggplants are still there too.  They’re holding out with the recent cold weather, and flea beetles that have covered their leaves in tiny holes.  (Second note to self: see if Johnson’s has an organic gardening solution to flea beetles and cover the eggplants like a responsible person!).  Yeah, so as is obvious my major failing with that bed was not putting up row covers like I had planned.  Also there’s whatever killed the chard, which suddenly wilted.  It couldn’t have been cold since the eggplants next to them were fine, and I don’t know of any chard diseases, and there was no insect damage…  Some morning doves did ‘decorate’ them right before they wilted so maybe morning dove droppings are deadly to chard?

I also need to do some thinning.  My bush beans are all up and growing nicely, so I need to go out and clip one for where they all came up.  Putting in two seeds was the right choice given that they were older seeds and in a lot of places only 1 came up, but now I need to thin them.  Their neighbors the slicing tomatoes are doing ok, they aren’t as happy as the cherry tomatoes in the grow bags, but I think that has to do with the extra shade from the neighbor’s oak tree and the fact that the ones in the grow bags have the best soil ever (yay gardener’s gold!).  The Early Girl in the grow bag (my back up in case of another tomato apocalypse like last year) is also doing reasonably well, but I need to get another bag of soil to finish filling up the bag.  (Note to self #3….)  The only big gardening fail here is that I broke the growing tip on the Hartman’s Yellow trying to adjust it to keep it in the cage.  It has a big offshoot right next to it, so hopefully it will be ok?  But yeah, that was a major fail, and I was trying to be really gentle!  New rule for me: don’t touch the tomatoes!  Unless it’s a major issue, leave them alone!  Or if absolutely necessary move it incredibly slowly.

Hm…who else…the garlic is doing well.  We even had scapes for breakfast yesterday.  Getting scapes is almost better than the actual garlic.  They’re so good!  And my marigolds are blooming.  They’re more a creme than a pure white, but I still think they’re pretty.  My catnip or rather the cats’ catnip also appears to be getting established, which is a good thing.  And the potatoes are huge, they also have pretty white flowers, which I think is a good sign.  The bad part is I caught a squash vine borer on them.  So Note to Self #4, cover up the squash seedlings.  Hopefully none of them are infected, especially since they’re so small right now, but we’ll see how it goes.  Worst case scenario I’m going to be replanting in July.

On the upside, it looks like most of the basil, and more peas than I expected survived the cut worms.  And the pole beans are starting to climb too.  So I have high hopes for pesto, at least 1 meal of peas, and a summer of beans.  Oh and my container corn is growing, I lost one seedling that got shadowed by the potatoes, but the rest seem to be doing well.  I really need to thin them too.

Other than that, the peppers are doing good.  It looks like they might like a little extra fertilizer, but they look happy and are producing some nice wax peppers.  The other berries are mixed.  My currants are actually doing really well, except for the fact the deer has pruned them again for me.  The raspberries are mixed.  But I didn’t do a great job planting or weeding them so that’s probably why.  I have rhubarb, but even though I thought I got a red cultivar most of the stalks are green which weirds me out.  I should just be brave and ignore that…

So I’d say so far I’ve got more successes than not!

Ready to Go

All the plants are officially in the garden now.  Which is a nice feeling!  Actually, everything is even bigger now than in this picture which I took a little over a week ago.  The potatoes have been all hilled up and are huge.  Still no garlic scapes, hopefully soon?

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Here you can see all my nice neat rows.  This will be a fond memory during the jungles of August!

 

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May Day

Welcome to May! It’s a nice feeling, very much spring, and not quite summer yet. It’s also an excellent time of the year for projects.  Just being outside feels nice, whether it’s working in the garden, knitting outside with a good book in the sun or sewing and enjoying a breeze through the window.  It makes working on things very pleasant.

Which is good since I’ve got a long list of projects to work on!  The biggest one of course is planting the garden.  We are now officially past the last frost date (50/50 day is April 16, 90/10 day is April 29) so it’s time to get all the plants outside.  This even includes the eggplant and basil seedlings since it’s supposed to stay above 50 degrees for the next 10 days.  By the end of next week we’re even looking at highs in the 80’s and lows in the 60’s so I should enjoy the feeling of spring while it lasts.

As such, everything is going out this weekend: tomatoes and peppers (the important producers!), the ground cherry (experiment year 2!), basil (purple and green pesto this year!), zinnias (since direct seeding was hard…), eggplants (the new experiment!) and lots of seeds (bush and pole beans, zucchini, acorn squash, butternut squash, buttercup squash, cucumbers, corn and maybe some nasturtiums).  So that’s going to be my morning tomorrow.  In all likelihood Patrick will wake up and everything will be planted.  Hopefully it all goes well, I’ve been trying very hard to do everything properly and not put in more than I can handle.

I will have to wait and see how it turns out in a couple weeks when things start to get going.

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I also have some sewing and knitting projects to sort out.  I just finished my first set of spring/fall PJs.  I used a combination of KwikSew 3553 for the top and Sewaholic’s Tofinos for the bottom (short sleeves and long pants).  I’m really happy with how they turned out.  The advantage of PJs is you can use cute prints that you wouldn’t be able to get away with wearing outside the house.  The next set will be with the same patterns but using a little blue with small white flowers.

After I finish my second set of PJs I need to decide how I’m going to use all the seersucker I ordered this spring.  Kaufman had a really awesome set of seersucker plaids in bright colors, so I ordered as much as I could find since most seersucker seems to only come in pastels for some reason.  I’m planning to use it for a dress and some shirts for me and Patrick this summer.  It’s hard to beat seersucker for staying cool and it doesn’t matter if it gets wrinkled since it starts out that way!  These should all be patterns I’ve used before so sewing them should be straightforward, even if shirts are more complex.  And I like sewing shirts (despite all the buttonholes…) and dresses.  I should also finish sewing up the second black wool skirt for work.  I’ve got the lining done, I just need to cut out and sew the wool pieces.  I should also make up the couple of shirts for work that I have fabric waiting for.  But work clothes aren’t half as fun as summer clothes.

I’m not sure why it’s so fun to sew summer things, but it is.  Maybe because the fabric is light and airy and feels wonderful?

Speaking of summer sewing, I also should probably get around to figuring out how to edit my shorts pattern.  I’ve been using the Thurlow pattern from Sewaholic which is comfortable, but I don’t think the flair on the shorts works well on me. So I need to figure out if I want to edit the pattern or try a new one…  I’m thinking about trying Kwik Sew 3614 (despite the terrible picture) they’re described as “fitted shorts” which might work for me.    I will have to find a copy though.  It’s out of stock at the JoAnn’s and on Amazon.  Maybe I’ll have better luck at G-Street.  Even if it means going to G-Street. .. 🙁    This area has a class problem in some places that if they don’t think you’re “fancy” enough they’re going to ruin your day.  G-Street is one of those places, and as an engineer who lives frugally because it seems prudent, and who sews her own clothes because it’s practical and fun, I’m very much not what they think of as fancy.  Though when I buy the nice wool suiting (yay designer lengths on sale!) and know to get the good lining fabric they will at least be polite.  Maybe I can get my invisible zipper foot while I’m at it.  The fact that Bernina will only sell feet for their machines through their dealers and the fact that the only local dealer (G-Street) is both rude and is always out of stock of half of them is not a good time.  Oh!  I could bike there on my day off when it’s nice out, that makes it more appealing!  Then I’ll have my zipper foot, my pattern and maybe something cool from the remnant pile.  We’ll see…

I also have to decide what I want to knit next.  I finished my cropped cardigan so I need another big project.  My “Summer Flies” shawl is my current portable project.  I have a couple of sweaters in my queue and  I want to make my father-in-law more socks at some point.  Or I could start working on my vest again…hm… It’ll probably be the vest or the socks, spring is to new for me to want to think about sweaters right now!

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