Friday, January 20, 2012

Snow Day

A week later and I still haven't finished my cold frame.  Why? We got 9 inches of snow this week.  Snow, in Seattle? PANIC!

Last weekend we got several inches overnight, and I was able to get in an awesome snowman before starting the day.

We called him Lorenzo Snomar. Unfortunately, Mr. Snomar had an accident 5 minutes after this photo was taken and imploded.  In honor of his memory, a seven-foot-tall modern art sculpture was erected in his stead.

Most of the snow melted over the next day or so, but we weren't in the clear. After a bit of dusting on Tuesday, Seattle hunkered down for "Snowpocalypse 2012."  The forecast was for at 8-16 inches of snow in some areas on Wednesday, with it all disappearing with rain on Thursday.  Boy were they wrong!

Wednesday was a doozy, with 3 inches on the ground when I woke up.  I made it in to the office, but when the snow continued throughout the morning, I decided it was safer to head home before the roads got really bad.  Luckily for me, that meant that I was home with enough light left to go sledding! And make a snow angel or four!

All in all, we got about six to seven inches of snow on Wednesday.  Not quite as bad as foretold.

After waking up to freezing rain pounding on the windows all Wednesday night, I decided not to venture out in the 1/4 inch thick ice rink, and worked from home.  Lots of people out and about later in the day, once the freezing rain turned to snow, on cross country skis, snowboards, sleds, and just walking the dog.  By noon we had gotten 3 1/2 more inches of snow.

Today it's dumping down.... but rain this time.  It's supposed to be 47 degrees by ten o'clock tonight. Oh well.  It was pretty while it lasted, and maybe I'll get to the mountains soon to play in it some more.

I managed to get a bit of knitting done while snowed in.  Of course I didn't get any pictures of my projects, but will soon. I'm even in the process of working out a new hat design. Yay creativity!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cold Frames

Writing that garden post really did me in. After that I went crazy over the weekend looking through the Territorial Seed Company catalog I got in the mail last week.  Then I went for a walk in the Picardo P-patch and got a bit itchy to start. So I came home and ordered $40 worth of seeds, hung a light over the filing cabinet in my office to start a grow area, and made plans to build a cold frame. Apparently I'm impatient. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that's not a good quality to have if you're a gardener.

It may not look like much yet, but....

I've had this lamp for years, but didn't have a good spot for it at my new apartment.  Now it'll get a timer on the plug so I can give my seeds a full 14-16 hours of light a day. There is a wee piece of plastic that make the hanger, and can move up and down the cord, so I can move the light up as my plants grow (to stay just a couple inches from the tops). And the room is upstairs, so the heat from the basement will rise, and the room has it's own thermostat, so I can keep the soil at 65. I might even wrap the area in tin foil to reflect the light and heat at the plants. I think this might be the perfect solution.

I decided to order from Territorial because I've heard good things about them (non-GMO practices, etc), and they are based out of Oregon, so the seeds should be adapted to my maritime climate.  One hopes.  I probably ordered more seeds than I needed, or will be able to grow.  It might not be $40 worth of veggies, but for this much entertainment over the next year will hopefully be worth it.

There were a handful of cold frames at the p-patch, and all of them were full of perfect, beautiful heads of lettuce or little spinach greens. Don't they know it's January? They were growing happily, and in such crude, easy to make frames, that I had to try my hand at it.  Or the carpenter boyfriend's. Same thing.

After assessing what we had on hand, we headed to The Re-Store in Ballard to buy supplies.  The Re-Store is a great place that sells reclaimed building materials.  We were able to find two single pane windows (at $4 a pane), four hinges, and two handles for under $15. Between the purchase and a sheet of plywood, some 2x1s and a box of screws at home, we were set.

After one communication error resulting in a wrong-sized piece of wood, the hassle of not having a carpenter's square, and rapidly falling sun and temps, we got all 8 pieces cut for the two cold frames (2 fronts, 2 backs, and 4 sides). It got dark before we could put them together, so I drew up the plans to double check our work. There was a mistake, of course.  We failed to account for the angled cut on top to be the size of the window, not the size of the straight cut on bottom. That means the hypotenuse is too long by half to one inch. We even talked about it while making plans!! Ugh.

Click to enlarge. Note: No scale. Seriously.
I think we can make it work during the construction phase, though, when we screw the plywood together with 2x2s. Hopefully we won't have to cut the fronts and backs to make up for it.  This was apparently not as well planned out as I thought. But we'll see! Project will be completed this weekend in the daylight.  It's supposed to snow on Sunday, so I hope we find the time on Saturday.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Stash Toss

I took advantage of taking all of the week between Christmas and New Years off and went on an organizational spree. I printed out the list of what I had in my stash and compared it to real life. Turns out my stash list wasn't very accurate. I had some new additions, both from Christmas and spree buying, that I knew weren't on there, so that wasn't a surprise.  But I had forgotten that in my first calculation a year ago that I didn't include cotton or some of my old yarn that I had stored elsewhere.  Luckily, in this stash toss I decided to donate most of that old stuff, so I didn't have to include it in this total.

                        Old total from end of 2011           Total from start of 2012
Total Yards:             16,161.7                                         16,871.2
Total Grams:            10,590.6                                          11,040.7
Number of skeins:        119.5                                              125.0

Fairly close, when you look at the numbers, but then when you realize how much I donated.... not that similar at all.

In 2011, I finished a total of 18 projects, using 3,863.5 yards of yarn, or 23.3 skeins.  By my calculations, that means that I have approximately 5 years worth of yarn.

But wait! That doesn't include all the knitting I did last year on a certain sweater that was still on the needles at the end of 2011.  I just happened to finish it over the weekend, so I can't count it for 2011 (technically, not even for 2012 until I get some pictures), but it did make a serious dent in those numbers that went unaccounted for.

The sweater took 5 skeins of yarn (850 yards/500 grams), which makes my new total....

                        Old total from end of 2011           Total from start of 2012      Total minus sweater

Total Yards:             16,161.7                                         16,871.2                         15,991.2
Total Grams:            10,590.6                                          11,040.7                         10,540.7
Number of skeins:        119.5                                              125.0                               120

.... still about 4-5 years worth of knitting. 

Sounds like I need to knit a few more sweaters in 2012 to get those numbers down.  To bad baby sweaters don't use that much yarn, because I know a couple that will be arriving in a few months.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Garden Successes and Failures and Maybe Next Years

My garden had a big transition this year, moving from pots on the porch and a raised bed, to the new territory in the yard of my rental in June.  This was both a success and a disappointment in one.  On one hand, I gained a ton of space to play with and didn’t have to spend any more money on soil, and I still had space for all of my pots.  On the other hand…. All that free soil apparently sucks.  Add that to a poor weather year, with a cool summer and not much rain, and I was lucky I harvested anything.


Tomatoes (In Seattle! Be shocked.) – I had a handful of ripe tomatoes in 2011, with a bunch of green tomatoes that I was able to ripen inside.  I’m the only fresh tomato eater in the house, so next year I might grow more, but transition to something like romas, which will be good for canning (tomato sauce and diced tomatoes).  And I can always give them away to friends with a more elegant palate.
Also, the tomato plants I started from seed grew into nice little plants.  I had five prior to the move, but it was just too much for three of them.  Two plants survived once planted outside, but were started too late to grow and fruit.

Peas – I started peas in pots at the old house and was able to move them intact to their new location.  These guys thrived.  I planted multiple times to get continued harvest and every single one was delicious. 

Romaine – I planted more romaine from seed in pots.  I got to nom on seed starts, but so did the squirrels.  They liked to knock over the pots, so I lost all of the starts from one pot, but I still (in JANUARY!) have one head of romaine growing outside. 

Cucumber - Two starts went into my poor soil, and both ended up producing cucumbers.  Sure it was only a couple each and they didn’t’ get very big, but hey, it was a terrible weather year.  I’ll take my five cukes and be happy.  

Rosemary – Rosemary starts got tossed into a large planter I inherited from a friend.  Rosemary loves Seattle weather and I have even seen hedges of the stuff.  So far this winter it’s doing really well, but we haven’t had too much rain.  The large pot might have to find a new location when we hit the January/February/March rains. 

Thyme – Peat seed starters didn’t do much for my thyme seeds, but that may be my fault.  I think I let them dry out.  But I started several seeds in a pot inside and they were awesome.  Full of flavor and the smell was amazing.  The thyme got transplanted into the same container as the rosemary but has died off a bit.  Hopefully it will come back in the spring.

Roses – I planted some miniature roses I received from the Old Retired Guy/Master Gardner/Dad in front of the gate on our fence.  I think they were doing well – until the yard service took a weed-wacker to them.  They got leveled along with all of the actual weeds in front of the fence.  We currently don’t have yard service (whether due to winter or the transition to a property management company I don’t know), so maybe they will begin to grow back from the root stock this spring. 

Acorn squash – Powdery mildew! Yuck!  The plant seemed to be growing like a rock star, and had two little squashes growing, but then powdery mildew struck the plant and it was no more.  I will have to keep a better eye on it next year if I decide to grow it again.

Zucchini – I got really excited about several small zucchinis on my plants, but most of them shriveled a died, or just failed to grow.  Lots of blossoms dropped off, too.  I’ll keep trying, because I love the stuff, but... I'm not too hopeful.

Peppers  - My two pepper starts grew a bit in height right after planting, but then stopped.  One plant grew a pepper, but it never progressed past green to yellow.  When the weather started growing cooler, I harvested and ate it green.  Maybe I’ll go with a smaller pepper next year that is better suited to a very, very short, cool growing season in Seattle….  Does that even exist?

Basil – I may have planted it late.  It might be my fault.  But I kept reading you could plant basil throughout the season, and it was recommended to start some late to harvest with your tomatoes, but not a single seed germinated in the soil.  I planted a few in small pots, which germinated, but they got blown over before growing.  Next year maybe they’ll start inside.

Sprouts – I tried the jar method.  It failed.  All I got, after multiple attempts, was moldy sprouts too small to eat. Don’t know if I have the heart to try again.

Carrots and Radishes – More proof our soil sucks.  I didn’t get to harvest a single radish or carrot this year.  Le sigh. 

 Beans – I’m not quite sure where to put beans, in successes or failures.  We planted both pole beans and bush beans en masse.  The pole beans refused to germinate.  I tired soaking over night, planting as it, and adding different fertilizers, but not a single pole bean grew.  Bush beans, on the other hand, all sprouted and grew into tiny plants.  Not all of them produced beans, however.  I’m thinking this might have been an effect of the poor soil and potentially of uneven watering.  I plan on trying a new pole bean varietal next year to see if that works.

Maybe next year

Blueberries  We planted three bare root blueberries in large pots in the spring.  Only one plant produced three (delicious) berries, but I wasn’t expecting much.  After a year or so of establishment though…. I hope for a windfall.

Strawberries – The squirrels ate all of my strawberries.  Next year I plan on using a bb gun.  Who wants squirrel stew?

Tulips – If the squirrels didn’t eat all the bulbs, I hope to have several areas abloom with tulips in the spring.  I planted upwards of 40 free red and yellow bulbs (again from the ORG/MG/Dad) in swaths around the planting edge of the yard.

Seeds – I have really high hopes of starting all (ok, maybe just some) of my plants from seed this year.  Tomatoes worked well, so I hope to try them again, and add squash and cucumber and pepper.  New veggies I want to plant include beets, broccoli, and kale.  Yum!  I plan on trying the toilet paper roll method again, and using a clear plastic lettuce mix container to hold them.  My own small cold frame! I still have some peat pellets, so maybe those will be used as well. 

Herbs – I LOVE thyme, so I will be growing more, and will try to dry some next year.  I might try mint in a pot, due to its rapidly spreading nature, and the other usual suspects: basil, cilantro, oregano.  The family has a strain of summer savory that I am fearful of trying in case it doesn’t grow and I waste the seeds, but it’ll be on the short list.  And, I would LOVE to grow lemon verbena.  The smell would keep me smiling all summer long.

I have a few other tricks up my sleeve for the new year, including buying a yard or so of mulch/garden soil to amend my beds.  I’ve been hoarding toilet paper rolls, and have started keeping milk cartons and soda bottles to make cloches and pots.  One trick I saw at the community P-patch that I want to try is filling glass bottles with water and placing between the plants to absorb heat during the day and radiate it by night.  

Here's to a fruitful 2012!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Year in Review - 2011

2011 absolutely flew by.  I feel like it went from April to July in one giant leap.  Sure, I did a bunch of fun stuff in May and June, but that just served to make the time fly by faster. Not to mention the last wisps of summer in September.  Woofta.  So here it is: 2011, just the highlights:

-Took a week long training course for work that I haven’t used and probably won’t, but it was fun.  

-Headed to California a grand total of five times for work and toured the Yosemite National Park in a scant 2 hours - and didn’t feel like I missed much.

-Moved out of the castle with my friends (and Ollie) to an apartment with the boyfriend – and made a new Friend, Ninja Cat.

-Took a whirlwind trip to Montana and hit a cousin’s wedding (the first of three!!! but I only made it to two), the grandparents/mom’s family, dad’s family farm, historic Fort Peck spillway, Glacier National Park (now THERE’S a national park!), Flathead Lake, and visited good friends in Missoula.  

-Worked another summer outside at a lake at Snoqualmie Pass.

-Spent many hours hiking with friends and family, topped off with a backpack through the Enchantments that was absolutely breathtaking.

-Gathered over 10 lbs of chanterelles at the “secret spot.”

-Saw another cousin get married in Montana.

-Chopped down my own Christmas tree (for future reference, western hemlocks may make a cute tree, but they sure don’t hold up ornaments very well).

-Broke in my new snowshoes at Mt. Rainier National Park (another national park worthy of the name).

And lastly, but the most noteworthy, I gained an adorable little family member whom I have been knitting for all year:

 Isn't my nephew cute??

I also completed 18 projects (and I’m soooooo close to finishing my sweater I’ve been working on forever).

And I spent a ridiculous amount of time in the kitchen that I failed to document.  I’m getting a bit more adventurous and have the belly to prove it.

May 2012 bring as much joy and happiness as 2011.

Happy New Year everyone!