lovely things

Some things I am enjoying right now:

::Lilacs::

It’s a good lilac year. It was warming up a couple weeks ago, so they grew and bloomed quickly, but then it cooled down and got rainy, so they’ve been lasting longer than usual.

::Book Recommendations::

Modern Mrs. Darcy and her What Should I Read Next podcast

MMD-2016-Reading-Challenge

I’m going through a bit of a reading lull at the moment, but listening to episodes of this podcast is helping to get me enthused about reading again.

::Organization::

Bullet Journaling

I’ve always been on the lookout for the perfect planner, I’ve tried all the apps, and I have lists on bits of paper scattered all over. I think Bullet Journaling is the perfect solution for me. Sometimes I have to-do lists a mile long, but sometimes keeping a calendar seems like overkill for my relatively peaceful life. With a bullet journal I can adjust it as needed. So far I’m finding it helpful to use a page for a weekly spread, rather than daily pages. I also love having a place to keep lists of projects I want to do, and books to read, and recipes I want to try. I even keep a post-it on my current weekly page to use for listing groceries I need to buy. It’s as simple or as complicated as I need it to be, I think it’s really genius!

::Beautiful Knitting::

waiting for rain

My next new knitting project is going to be this beautiful Waiting for Rain Shawl. I have some Lakes Yarn in Fernan Merino Fingering in a pretty silver-green color. I am not allowing myself to cast on until I’m finished with two other projects first. This is highly motivating, however, and I hope to get to this within the week.

tillandsia

I decided to simplify around here a bit and re-designed this old site again. There are still some things to fix, like some font inconsistencies, and that weird Read More button on the bottom of every post. Frankly, however, I’m not sure when I’ll get to those things because it’s still summer and I spend eight hours a day in a windowless office staring at a computer screen, so I haven’t really wanted to look at my computer when I’m home. I’d rather be outside while it’s still light and warm in the evening. I hope you won’t mind too much. Yawn! I am boring myself with this site design talk, let’s move on to something I think is more interesting (although you may still find this post yawn worthy, so sorry!).

My limited success with my container gardening on the porch has sent me down a gardening rabbit-hole, and I have recently become enamored with tillandsias, also known as air plants. They’re from the bromeliad family, and don’t have roots, so they don’t require soil. In fact, they require very little care other than occasionally spraying or dunking in water. I started out picking up the little guy in the middle (aka tillandsia aeranthos) at Home Depot for $5. It stayed alive for a week, so when I saw the one just above it on another Home Depot trip, I thought it’s bulbous shape and long skinny fronds were interesting (it’s called tillandsia butzii). So it came home with me too.

tillandsias

Then I learned that Spanish moss is actually also a tillandsia (tillandsia bergerii), and decided then and there that I was officially a tillandsia collector.  I added another tillandsia aeranthos, only a much bigger version (top right), but what I really wanted was a Tillandsia xerographica (bottom right). These are big and bold, with broader leaves that curl slightly as they get longer. When I spotted this one at a local nursery, I had to splurge and add it to the collection too. It’s the size of a melon!

Now I need to figure out where I want to keep them all, and how to display them. Right now they’re on (or hanging from) the shelf above my desk, but I think they’d like a little more light, so I may put them in the bathroom where they might also benefit from the moisture of the steam when we shower. Or they might end up in the kitchen by a sunny window. And next on my list: tillandsia tectorum. There are some nice containers and terrariums for air plants at that link too.

So that is your botany lesson for today.

fairy garden

fairy garden 1

I finally made my little fairy garden this weekend. I used a poorly constructed (by me) box from scraps of wood from an old, weathered fence that fell over a few years ago. And then I thought I’d practice with my nifty 50 lens and take some artistically dreamy photos.

fairy garden2

That might not have been the best idea, since I still don’t know what I’m doing or how to capture what I want.

fairy garden 3

Well, it is a fairy’s eye view I guess.  How about an iPhone photo of the whole thing?

9390297352_3777d77985_o

Well, bad photos aside, it was a lot of fun to collect small plants and garden accessories and design a garden for the imaginary wee folk. Winston wonders when they are going to show up, so he can eat them.

winston

succulent

succulentThis succulent (and other plants) gardening thing might become an addiction. Luckily, I think it’s a pretty healthy one. I decided to go big and brought home this lovely thing a few days ago – it’s about 10 inches across. I’m reading Succulents Simplified in an attempt to learn how to best care for all these plants I keep buying, and even attempting to remember the Latin names. I believe this guy is a Dudleya Pulverulenta (aka chalk lettuce). Like always, I have a whole board dedicated to just succulents.

I love the way succulents are like sculptures. I’m enjoying the creativity of putting plants together in little arrangements that are pleasing to start with, but with patience, eventually become something lusher and richer. I think this pot needs something to creep over the edge to finish it off, some kind of sedum, probably.

succulent

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go water some plants.

green-ish thumb

I think it’s pretty obvious that I like flowers. I also like vegetables, and I love the idea of a garden. I have tried a few times to turn the back corner of our property into a vegetable garden, without success. Despite the fact that this is Southern California, the elevation (4000 feet) at which we live makes for harsh conditions in the garden.

Our last frost date is Memorial Day, so that means there are few vegetables that I can plant outdoors before June. One year, I waited patiently for that last weekend in May, and then filled my 4′ x 8′ raised bed with just as many plants as I could. And then we have several frosty nights well into June, which reduced most everything to a black, shriveled mess.

Undeterred, the next year I tried again, although I was less ambitious, and didn’t plant quite as much. Each day I faithfully watered my little vegetables, and every day it seemed like there were fewer plants. The soil itself seemed undisturbed, but a plant that I swore had been there the day before was suddenly missing. A closer inspection revealed very faint animal tracks, probably a rabbit or squirrel. Whatever it was, it made tidy work of eating my tender plants right down to the ground and letting nothing go to waste. Whatever little beast it was, it eventually ate everything.

This year, I had to move the geese out to that back garden pen, because they were beating up on my chickens, so there will be no attempt at a vegetable garden this year. Instead I’ve decided to focus on container gardening, and so far, I am enjoying much better results.

container garden

So far there has been only one casualty. I originally had a purple and white lisianthus in the middle pot, above. The day after I repotted it, the whole thing just keeled over. I have no idea why. I thought I’d try to return it, so I removed it back to the pot it came in, and it perked up a little. I don’t know if it will recover completely, but I guess it liked it’s cramped plastic pot better than my pretty, roomy, distressed terra cotta pot. I replaced it with this geranium, and I actually like this whole arrangement so much better.

geranium

I love the tiny flowers, and the silvery grey-green foliage.

I know it’s all about the porch all the time around here, but I’m so happy with how it is coming together, and it is where I spend most of my time when I am home. All my pots of herbs and flowers and succulents are what make it feel so lush and special to me, and shockingly, nearly everything seems happy and is growing.

down the porch

I got really ambitious and even added a dwarf kumquat, which will move inside this fall. I am going to try really hard to keep it alive. And the Silver Falls hanging just above is one of my favorite things. It’s just in the ugly plastic pot it came it, so I need to find something pretty to put it in. Luckily, the plant covers most of the pot, so I hardly notice it.

Pulley is hanging out in my new seating area. I want to make a cover for the cushions on the love seat, and a new slipcover for the ottoman, so I’m not going to bore you with too many pictures of that area. I hope to have a really dramatic before and after post once I get that stuff done.

side table

I found that it really started looking homey out here when I added a few things to my bright yellow side table.

Despite giving up on the raised bed for now, we do have a few nice things happening elsewhere on our property. Mr. Heylucy has been planting trees every weekend, hoping to replace some of the shade we lost when our oak trees died. We discovered that a previously unknown bush is actually an elder berry shrub. It doesn’t seem to mind our climate, and has become enormous this last year. I don’t know why we never noticed that it had berries on it before. I may have to try making some elderberry syrup later this summer, and bottle it up to treat winter colds.

elderberries1I put in a few tomatoes by the chicken pen, and they are growing and starting to bloom, so I’m hopeful that we’ll get at least enough to enjoy in salads. Someday I want a giant tomato patch so I’ll have enough to can and make sauce to last all winter. I have two big pots near the back door. I stuck a few strawberries in one, and the two little dogs thought it would be great fun to jump in and dig it all up. I haven’t even had the heart to clean up the soil they spewed all over the walk way. Nobody got any treats that night, I can tell you.

fairy garden-to-beNext up: a fairy garden in a box! Pulley says, “yay, something else for me to play with on the porch!”

sir pulleyLook at that face! I love the little water droplets on his whiskers. His favorite thing to do is bring sticks on to the porch and then chew them up and leave all the little bits for me to sweep up. It is not my favorite thing.

 

 

 

 

just in case…

…you didn't know, it's peony season!

image from flic.kr
I hope you are able to enjoy some peonies in your life, but do hurry, they will be all gone way too soon!

image from flic.kr
I look forward to them all year long.

image from flic.kr

a simple thing

I had so much creative ADD this weekend, I just kept flitting from one project to another. There were hexi-puffs and leather bracelets and a trip to the thrift store where $9 worth of treasures were bought. I sawed down some boards to make a background for food photos, and made some fabric napkins out of a blouse from the aforementioned thrifted treasures. And then there was all the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and errand-running that I also squeezed in. I'm getting tired again just thinking about it all! I need some longer weekends to do everything I want to do. Anyway, there will be more on all those things as I finish them (except not the laundry or cleaning, that was all very boring, and it's never done, anyway). 

image from www.flickr.com
I did manage to finish a very little porch project, however. After my succulent in a teacup, which still looks as good as the day I planted it, I had a hankering for more succulents to dress up the dining table out there. I found this perfect little tin planter at my favorite nursery, and picked out some pink, green, and white succulents to fill it up. I probably could have squeezed in another plant or two, but I can live with a little space between plants for now. I'd write up a tutorial, except it would be very short: get a container, get some cactus mix, and get some plants, arrange the plants pleasingly in the container, adding cactus mix as necessary. 

image from www.flickr.com
Isn't it so photogenic? I could become a crazy succulent aficionado, I think. They are weirdly addicting. It's a simple little thing, but so pleasing to look at.

image from www.flickr.com

the porch, summer 2011, so far

One of the best places to spend a summer evening is on our porch. This is just a corner, but it's coming along nicely. I have a few projects planned for the coming months, like sanding and repainting that chair 🙂 Our house is little, so I want to use more of the porch, it's really like having an extra room or two. Yesterday I took a lunch hour trip to the nursery and picked up just a few little plants. The largest pot was already planted with mint, sage, and a lemon scented geranium.

image from www.flickr.com

We have lots of bits of wood around the yard from our oak trees that all died and had to be cut down. One log in particular caught my eye the other day. It was completely hollow in the middle. A squirrel had used it as a hiding place recently, driving the dogs crazy, since they couldn't reach inside to get it out. I put it outside the fence to allow the little bugger a chance to escape with his life, and wouldn't you know it, he was still there the next day. We have a few grey squirrels and some of their homlier brown cousins living in various trees in the yard. They're cute, but they torment and tease the dogs, and eat my tulips, so I am not a huge fan. I didn't feel too bad about turning one of their little hideouts into a planter for my porch. 

image from www.flickr.comMost of the bark was already off, to I just pulled off the remaining bits and gave it a quick sanding to smooth away some of the roughness. Then I just popped a little pot of lemon thyme in it. I love it!

image from www.flickr.com

I've also been cleaning out our shed, and found that little green basketweave California pottery piece. I like the contrast with the golden oregano.

image from www.flickr.com

The other pot has a rue plant that I hope will fill out and blossom soon. I also added a little straw flower for some color, and a succulent in a broken teacup to my bright yellow table.

image from www.flickr.com
image from www.flickr.com
I like the mismatched look of all the different pots and plants. My next woodshop project will involve a planter for more succulents to sit atop the table on the other side of the porch. I hope it works out so I can show you that soon!

spring and inspiration

I've enjoyed the cold winter weather these past few months. Handknits and boots and sweaters are nice. But spring is my favorite time of year. I can't get enough of spring flowers, and I love the green hillsides, the buds on the lilacs and Easter and my birthday. The longer days boost my energy, and I want to soak up as much fresh air and sunshine as possible, despite spending eight of those sunny hours indoors at work five days a week. 

I'm still loving the daffodils in our yard, and picked an enormous bunch today. With each new type that blooms, I declare a new favorite. Today I love the little apricot ones (center left).

image from www.flickr.com

Of course I can't forget the tiny grape hyacinth and snow drops with their green-dotted bells.

image from www.flickr.com
We don't have any ranunculas in our yard, but Trader Joe's was well-stocked the other day, so I brought these peach beauties home for just $4.

image from www.flickr.com
What are your favorite spring flowers?

While in Spokane, I got to spend a fun day browsing antique shops and malls with my sister-in-law (her excellent finds are here). I showed you the elephant pitcher I couldn't resist as we were checking out of our last stop, but that's hardly all I brought home. 

I also couldn't resist this tiny pink dress, not with it's $5 price tag (actually, the shop owner quoted me $6 and then lowered it as I got ready to pay). 

image from www.flickr.com

I've been wanting to start designing some knitwear patterns, and one of my first ideas is a sweet little baby cardigan. The details on this dress are providing all sorts of inspiration, and I am thinking I will document the design process here as I figure it all out. I hope you don't mind. 

I love this round, smocked yoke:

image from www.flickr.com
And the miniscule embroidered pocket:

image from www.flickr.com
I have a couple things to finish up, but once my needles are free, I have the perfect pink yarn and a head full of ideas to turn into a sweater.

I'm also enjoying playing around with the video camera on my phone, and I so loved the lodgepole pines surrounding my brother's house in Spokane. I'm still figuring out all the editing, but I rather like this brief glimpse of the wind bending the trees.

 Did you catch that brief glimpse of my nephew and his chip bag kite? I will have to tell you more about that, but in the meantime, here he is with his "smile for the camera" smile, curved lips just like a smiley face. He is the funnest 7-year-old I know, and I miss him already.

image from www.flickr.com

the good news

While last Saturday may have made me feel like a failure as a farmer, things are not all bad around here. Despite the  fact that the chickens continue to think my vegetable garden is their own personal dust bath spa, a few things are growing quite nicely. I harvested my first radish this week.

Radish

This is a salad rose radish, they are, obviously, a long variety. This one was about six inches. I left it for Mr. HeyLucy to eat, because radishes are one of his favorites. He pronounced it delicious and very spicy. The chickens did a bit of damage to my radish section, so there are only three others there. They grow so quickly, I'm thinking of filling in a few squares with more radish seeds, so we can enjoy a few more harvests. I'll also be adding some chicken wire covers to the garden, and hopefully that will keep those rascals at bay.

I also discovered that what was burning my plants was actually a freakishly late frost (we had frost until June 22!), so I lost my beans, a couple cucumbers, and the cinnamon basil. I thought that three of my four tomatoes were goners, but only one actually died, and the other three are looking good. My red grape tomato is huge, and there are even a few tomatoes ripening. The other two tomato plants have a ways to go, but I'm hoping we'll still get a few by the end of Summer.

Tomatoe

Here's the whole garden, it looks pretty nice:

Garden

The sorrel is doing really well, I've trimmed it a couple times to share with friends, and I'm going to try and make some sorrel soup this week. I'm not sure if my peas are going to do much more than they're doing now. They're the four right front boxes. As you can see, they have no interest in climbing the poles I've rigged for them, but there are quite a few pods. It may be getting too hot for them, so once the pods are ripe, I think I'll harvest and pull them out and replace them with something else.

Here's what I'm discovering: when it comes to gardening, you can read and study and plan all you want, but the only way to really learn how to garden is to…garden. I know, that's so deep, but if you want to plant a garden, and you have even a little bit of space, I say go for it! You'll never be more ready than you are now, and some things will not work, and some things will be amazing. I think it helps to be out there in the dirt, as much as possible, too, and even just pulling a weed here and there is progress. It's so easy for me to look at my big garden area, where I want to plant berries and fruit trees and make about 8 more boxes and get overwhelmed, but I just keep reminding myself to be patient and just do a little at a time, and eventually I'll have my little Eden out there. 

Enough about the garden, remember how I started making a sleeve for my laptop? I finished it and used it while traveling last week. It worked out just great.

Laptopcase 

My laptop is my primary computer, so it's a big 17" one. I don't travel much with it, sand I have a case, but it's heavy and ugly, and it wasn't very practical. So I got myself a little rolling carry on bag, and filled it with a bunch of stuff, leaving room for the computer on the top. So much easier!

Laptopcase2 

And it's cute!

One last thing, back to the garden. I decided to have some pretty yogurt for breakfast this morning. I picked a sprig of lavender and a sprig of mint, and added them to my Greek yogurt and raspberries. There's also a sprinkle of raw sugar for sweetness. It's quite tasty (I'm eating it right now!) and it smells so good.

Yogurt