Practical projects and crafts

Month: July 2017

Summer Rain Means Plans

So the last couple of days included a lot of rain, as in at least 4 inches of it (most of it in a couple hours). In order to deal with all that rain a lot of stuff had to happen really fast (largely because the previous owner’s drainage solution did not successfully drain since it had gotten blocked at some point).  Luckily the grown up Patrick is awesome and dug it up really fast, fixed it, re arranged it on the path he built as an alternative drain and bailed out the basement window well area.  So cleaning up involved a few towels not buckets.  Which is a massive relief, flooded basements are awful.

So everyone needed some recovery time after that.

So planning was something relaxing to do.  So there was some garden planning and food preservation planning and sewing planning…  I have the layout worked out for how I want to do the garden beds next year.  I think it’ll fix the things that didn’t work as well this year (like fights between green peppers and cucumbers…) so I’m looking forward to trying that out next year.  Also, it turns out that half of the flower bed on the property line is ours (it’s all orange day lilies on both sides).  Looking at it I knew it was ours officially, but it was all the same flowers on both sides so I thought maybe the neighbors just looked at it all as their flower bed.  Since I’m not really an orange day lily sort of person I’m glad half is ours.

I’m going to plant Cheyenne Spirit coneflowers instead.  There’s a lot to like.  They’re about the same height as the day lilies, they will fill the bed in summer, they bloom all summer without needing deadheading, they’re safe for kids, they feed the birds and while the plants live about 3-5 years, they reseed themselves in the bed.  They’re also a nice mix of colors.  So I think they’ll be great.  And that part of the yard is sunny and on a slope so I think it’ll drain pretty well.  Also, since they bloom in summer I can have tulips and daffodils mixed in too.

Also on the topic of gardens, I think I’m going to freeze and dehydrate this week’s garden produce.  Since I’ve got 18 pints of jalapenos I think freezing the next batch is a good plan, and we can freeze some beans and eggplant and dehydrate the cherry tomatoes.  The big ones are starting to ripen now so maybe next week I can can some tomatoes.  I’m going to try crushed tomatoes this year.

I also finished the tiny Patrick’s play mat with the map of the US.  I realized that I don’t have to put a binding on it (and I think it turned out nicely without one) and he enjoys it.  He likes to point at all the different shapes.  It’s also fun to tell him stories about all the different places.

Next up is Christmas stockings.  I’ve got the tiny Patrick’s all cut out and I started sewing it together.  So far so good!

Summer Weather Means Projects

Well, it’s been a week or two, so there’s been a lot of projects going on. The biggest ones are the garden projects but there’s been some knitting and sewing too.

For the garden there are the usual summer challenges related to living here (squash vine borers, cucumber beetles, etc.). If it eats vegetable plants it lives here. So the zucchini met its demise once again and the cucumbers have had a tough time, but it’s something to learn from for next year. Next time I’m going to plant the zucchini and then just pull the plant before the vine borers get going (end of June) which should be enough time to get some zucchini at least. And I’m going to plant County Fair cucumbers next year which will hopefully stand up to the beetles better (this year I tried ones the beetles aren’t supposed to like, turns out our beetles think they’re great).

Despite the challenges we’re getting lots of beans and peppers. I canned 18 pints of hot peppers. I would have also gotten 3 more quarts of pickles but my jars broke. I’m not sure if the cucumbers cooled them down too much or if they were old. It was definitely disappointing though. Still, 18 pints of hot peppers is pretty good!

We’ve also gotten a bunch of eggplants and it looks like we’re going to be getting some squash with any luck (I also planted mini-butternut squash and crookneck squash since the vine borers have a tough time with those). And maybe even some mini-pumpkins for the tiny Patrick…

It’s also time for switching over another section of the garden. I’m going to clear out the New Zealand spinach and switch it over to fall plants (scallions and beets to start, then more carrots, lettuce, radishes and mizuna). I wasn’t a fan of the New Zealand spinach, it looks like a weed to me and the fact that it’s a succulent is just weird. So the plan for next year is bush beans instead.

There should also be more cherry tomatoes and beans to pick this weekend, which should be fun.

I’m hoping to make a Christmas stocking for the tiny Patrick this weekend and maybe make some progress on his play mat.  I’ve got it assembled, I just need to make some binding tape.  I didn’t get any extra fabric for that so I’m going to look through the fabric I’ve got and see if I find anything I like.

And there’s knitting too.  I’m up to the sleeves on the tiny Patrick’s sweater so I’d like to see if I can finish it so I can start his next sweater.  I have my yarn for his Campfire sweater and for the Waffle blanket.  I think I might save the blanket for when the weather cools off a little though…

I think I’m also going to have to knit a new hat, or maybe pull out the yarn and re-knit it?  I was comparing pictures of my replacement hat to pictures of the original and while the original was shaped mostly like a square the replacement is more like a triangle, which is probably why it doesn’t stay on…  Of course if I rip it out and redo it I may be without a hat if I’m not prompt about knitting a replacement… I’ll have to think about it.

Oh and I want to make bread this weekend.  Home made bread is always the best kind.


And it’s hot, today it’s just in the 90s, but tomorrow it’ll be up near 100 (and feel like more than that courtesy of the humidity).

Of course this means it’s time to think about Christmas projects and knit sweaters. 🙂 (what can I say the AC is *cold*, especially at work!) I have two sweaters picked out for the tiny Patrick, Bowline and Campfire by TinCanKnits. I’m going to do Bowline in green and Campfire in brown I think. I’m also planning to do a new blanket. I think I’m going to use TinCanKnits Waffles pattern but expand it 2.5 times in either direction which will be about the equivalent of ~6.25 stroller blankets. It looks warm and comfy. I’m going to use Berocco Vintage Chunky in Mistletoe which I think will be a happy color.

This weekend I’m also going to see about maybe doing some canning. I’ve got 10 cucumbers waiting for me, so maybe the time for pickles is here at last… Well, I already have fridge pickles, but I really want to try canning them too. Tomatoes are coming, but aren’t ready yet, so for this weekend it’s canning pickles (hopefully!) and freezing peppers and beans. Or maybe canning peppers? There are a lot of peppers and they’re really good pickled…

Maybe I’ll make bread or waffles too. There were cookies last week after all, so I’ll have to see if I can keep up the baking!

Summer Days

So it’s now very much summer, warm humid air, weeds and the garden growing like crazy, lots of projects to do, food preservation questions to consider…  Yep, definitely summer.  I have gotten a bunch of things done though!  First, I finished the soft book from the fabric panel, which ended up turning out very nicely.  It’s cute and using the fluffy batting made it really nice and cuddly.  The tiny Patrick approves.

I also finished my 4th of July dress and it turned out great.  The pockets fit in nicely and the fit is perfect (extra yay!).  And I have officially decided that the answer is to sew the facing down under the collar (you can’t see the line of stitching that way).  I was really careful to do everything right with the facing, even grading the seam allowances and using a pinking shears (which was tricky and annoying!) and it still wouldn’t lay flat.  I think it’s just the result of the shape of my back/shoulders.  So!  It got sewn down and that’s what I’ll do in the future.  It looks fine that way.

I also started the advent calendar.  That’s been a fun project, just enough detail to be interesting without being fiddly.  I would be working on that now, but there’s a fluffy white cat sleeping on it.  Also, it looks like the dense cotton batting was the right choice for that one.  It gives it more of a tapestry type weight that I think will help it hang nicely.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to use a dowel or rings to hang it….Probably the dowel since I think that will make it straighter, the only downside is then I’ll have to store said dowel, but if I roll the advent calendar around it, that shouldn’t be too bad.

I also did my lavender packets!   I picked some lavender flowers (a nice little mini bouquet) which was enough for 3 layers in the dehydrator without crowding them.  I set it to 95 degrees for about 2 hours and they came out nice and dry.  It also made the house smell pretty nice!  Then I cut up some of the smaller bits of fabric from my grandma and made 4 little ‘pillows’ each about the size of my hand.  I thought about adding stuffing too, but I decided flat packets would do a better job at letting the scent into the surrounding area and not take up as much space in the closet/drawer/etc.  I also only used the flowers and not the stems.  The stems also have scent but a lot less and the flowers were enough to give each packet plenty of lavender.  They’re also crazy strong.  They’re sitting on our kitchen table now and you can smell them from the next room over.  So maybe that will be enough to defeat the closet that’s permeated with 50+ years of shampoo and fabric softener…

I also finished knitting the tiny Patrick’s new fall/winter hat.  I did “Bumble” by Tin Can Knits.  It’s very cute but I think the stitch work is a little open for being a nice heavy duty winter hat.  Then again a toddler probably isn’t going to be outside outside much in really cold weather so maybe this is the best way to do it?  The best part is the pompom.  I remember making one at some point (I don’t know when, like childhood sometime) and it turning out sad and not fluffy so I got a proper pompom maker (they’re like $5) and put a ton of yarn (as much as I could fit!) into it and it turned out great!  It’s super soft and fluffy.  So I’m really happy about that.  Also I did extra repeats so it covers his ears properly!

I’m still working on re-knitting the top of my Apple Pie hat.  I think I did an extra repeat the first time but didn’t write it down, so when I made my replacement I just did the recommended length.  It spent all winter sliding off my head, which was massively annoying.  So!  I cut the yarn at the top and ripped back to wear the decreases started (since there’s only 1 spot in the pattern with purl stitches and the first decrease is purl-two-together this was easier than expected…).  So I dug out the tiny ball of extra yarn and am now knitting an extra repeat before doing the decreases.  Hopefully it will stay on this time around!

The garden has also been busy.  We’ve picked lots and lots of beans so far (and I have lots more to pick today!).  These are yellow beans (my favorite) and Romano beans (Patrick’s favorite).  I think I might also plant some purple beans so we have some regular green beans around too.  Pole beans was definitely the way to go with the Romano beans, they produce so much better than the bush bean version.

We’ve also got our first round of peppers.  I don’t think the bell peppers liked their proximity to the cucumbers or the weather but we’re still getting some.  The jalapenos are doing great.  I’m hoping to freeze a bunch of those and then start pickling them.

We’ve also gotten cucumbers!  Yay!  I’ve made two jars of fridge pickles and I’ll still have plenty for cucumber sandwiches this week!  Hopefully they’ll keep going and I’ll be able to can pickles too.

We’ve gotten the first couple tomatoes (the cherry ones) too and there are lots that are almost ready.  I’m planning to dehydrate the cherry ones (I got an egg slicer to hopefully make that more manageable).  I’m also hoping if the full sized ones come through for me this year I can can small batches of crushed tomatoes.  We’ll see…

We might even get a few blackberries to try this year if I manage to beat the birds to them…   (fruit + birds is a challenge I have yet to fully resolve, bird netting has some serious downsides after all)

I also want to make jam, but I’m going to need to get the fruit to do that I think.  Our strawberries are producing enough for snacks (even with squirrel theft) but not jam and we won’t get more than a couple from the rest of the fruit for a year or three.  So jam requires a Costco or farmer’s market visit.  So we’ll see…

Oh and I cleared out the bolting lettuce (and 4 wheelbarrows of weeds from around the yard…) and planted pumpkins and yellow squash.  Hopefully those work out, that would make me happy.

Still though, plenty to do.  Next goals:

  • Finish Apple Pie hat
  • Finish Advent calendar
  • Start USA play mat
  • Start blue dress (Hawthorn again?  Something new?)
  • Start baby clothes (probably from Ottobre)
  • Start grown up Patrick shirts
  • Freeze/Can/Dry peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans
  • Plant purple beans?
  • Clear out garden bed by the shed
  • Finish attaching tomato cage tops
  • Hang reflective anti-bird tape
  • Continue cleaning/organizing the house (my room, the closet of doom, the basement, etc…)
  • Stick to goal of one slow cooker meal a week

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