Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas Everybody

Despite what the holly tree may tell you, I think it looks fine after the slight pruning I gave it this morning.

The holly bush reminds us to regard those things that are evergreen, including my best wishes for your continued health and happiness.

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Fine Time of Year for Pointless Handwork

What is a person to do once the garden goes dormant for the season?  I don't know about you, but this is the time of year when I return to the more obscure handicrafts.  The really pointless ones.  Like tatting.

I don't remember why, many years ago, I was so intrigued by tatting.  In the dark ages before the internet, I had to haunt many yarn, handicrafts, and book shops in a search for instructional and patterns books.  I'm left-handed.  There is no such thing as a left-handed tatting instructional book, so I had to transpose right-handed instructions in my head.  My mother thought learning to tat was going to drive me right around the  bend.

I did eventually get the hang of it and worked my way through several designs for tatted snowflakes.   For about 350 days a year, this one and its cousins live in an envelope in the box of Christmas ornaments in the attic.   Every year I'm happy to see their lacy little faces, but I don't seem to have any burning desire to make any more.

Monday, November 12, 2018

It's full of stars

Actually, grape juice is full of tartaric acid.  When you make your own grape juice and then put it in the fridge, the tartaric acid forms crystals.  They're white now, but will turn a dark purple.  I just happened to open the fridge before that happened.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Somebody thinks a lot about you!

I keep this postcard on my bulletin board.  There are some excellent books on knitting and war, but that's not what this post is about.

For today, all you need to do is think about filling in the name of your town and who you'd send this to if you had a chance.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Season Finale by the Maple Trees

This was the one sunny day during my recent week in Vermont.   I hadn't been back for the color in a number of years.  It was grand.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Little Quilts Go Out Into The World

There is great satisfaction in getting up on a Saturday morning, deciding to make a quilt, and having it all done by Sunday afternoon.  Having a large stash of fabrics and quilt batts makes this possible.  As part of a general tidy-up at the Blue Door First National Bank of Fabric and Quilt Batts, I've decided to start making regular withdrawals.  Over the last few months I've been drawing down my supply of small quilt batts, which measure in the range of 45" by 60."

I then pick one fabric for the front and a different fabric for the back, and typically a third fabric for the binding.  I'm old-fashioned in some ways, so I baste the layers together by hand, but then I do the quilting by machine.  I finish sewing the binding down by hand.  I just think it looks nicer.

This batch have been sent out into the world where I hope they'll look bright and cheerful on the backs of sofas or recliners.  They're a good size for naps or watching television.  The red one with the green back measures 36" by 45", which I understand is a good size for a wheelchair user.

Ha! Missed me by a mile!

Cox's Orange Pippen from my tree
Most adults will admit to being terrified by the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, but fewer people seem to remember the apple trees.

When I was little I knew about apple trees.  At this time of year my family would visit orchards and cider mills.  Sometimes we'd pick apples from abandoned trees growing along fence rows. 

Imagine my horror when I was very small and watching The Wizard of Oz for the first time and learning that the grown-ups had forgotten to tell me that the apple trees might be tetchy about having their apples picked!

But I'm glad to say I coped, have always liked apples, and have planted apple trees just about every place I've lived.  My apple trees are largely sweet-tempered, providing the loveliest blossoms in the spring.  At this time of year they're finishing up dropping their crop of apples, and if I happen to be walking under one of them when an apple lets go, well, I don't take it too personally.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Here I come, with a sharp knife and a clean apron

Since the brambles at the beginning of July, I've addressed peaches (60 pounds for slices and nectar,) beets (15 pounds of beets for pickles and 6 pounds of greens, because they're my favorite greens,) and tomatoes (25 pounds for crushed.)

I'm done for the season only because I've run out of cupboard space.  This is too bad, because the apples are coming in now, and a dozen jars of applesauce would be welcome over the course of the winter.

If the title of this post seems vaguely familiar to you, it's because I borrowed it from "Here I come with a sharp knife and a clear conscience," most recently seen in several of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin seafaring novels.  It would appear that he found it in Volume 8 of The Monthly Repository (published 1834,) in a description of life aboard ship.  The boatswain and his mates sang this out as incentive to get sleeping sailors out of their hammocks before being unceremoniously dumped out by having their hammocks cut down.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Brambles

This year the planets aligned and the bramble fruits were ready for picking on a weekend when the temperature wasn't absolutely sweltering.  I was out in West Union Garden's fields by 8:00 am last Saturday.  By 11 am I'd picked 15 pounds of red raspberries and an equal weight of blackberries.  I was really, really tempted by the tayberries, but decided that 30 pounds of picking was enough for one day.
The blackberries were put up in quarts in a thin syrup, while the raspberries were all pureed and put up in one quart bags and frozen, to be made up into jam over the winter, when one is looking for ways to warm up the kitchen a little.

After all the pureeing and all the washing, up my apron was ready for a good laundering.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day, 2018

If the Universe does not provide you with an antique tractor parade in a convenient location, make your own.

I've just finished sewing the binding down on this lap quilt. using fabrics from another withdrawal from the First National Bank of Fabric (and Quilt Batts)
Have a wonderful 4th.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Well this could get interesting

During my after-dinner garden tour I turned around to find this fine specimen of a skunk having a snack of sunflower seeds under the bird feeder, not six feet away from me.  I tip-toed into the house to grab my camera so that I could get this picture.  You'll understand why I didn't try to get any closer.

I made conversational noises at it with absolutely no effect.  Either it can't see or hear me, or it's too hungry to care about that big bi-pedal thing making those funny noises.  It could also be an escaped pet, as it's legal in Oregon to keep a pet skunk.

When I'm sure it's gone I'll take down the bird feeders.  Skunks are undoubtedly handsome creatures, but I just don't think I need to provide a feeding station for them.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Slightly less boring than sorting the button box, but not by much

As part of my effort to start drawing down my strategic reserve of fabrics and quilt batts I recently decided to re-organize my scrap bin.  I do this every seven or eight years, but until now I never had any clear goals in mind.

This time I had some rules.  I even wrote them up.
The 5 1/2" square rule is based on my plan to use up some small quilt batts that will make up perfectly with 108 5" squares (9 across by 12 down, quarter inch seam allowances.)

The fabrics in this picture, however, failed the "large enough to produce a 5 1/2 inch square" test, so they've been put into their own little box, on the theory that they might come in handy someday for mending (I have a real talent for tearing out the corners of my apron pockets.)

This all reminds me of a lovely book, String Too Short To Be Saved.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Hey! I'm growing here!

A foxglove and an apple tree trying to grow into the same space.

The foxglove is a carefully tended volunteer.  I thought it might like getting a little shade from the apple tree, but there has been a certain amount of bickering about hogging the sun.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


I'm a fool for just about any member of the dianthus tribe.  I'm also a little stingy with my gardening dollars, so I'd rather spend $3.00 on a packet of seed than $6.00 for a single plant.  The only problem with that strategy is that I seem to be incapable of a.) sowing less than an entire packet of seed and b.)keeping the labels up to snuff.

So my more or less nameless collection of pinks and their carnation cousins is just beginning to bloom.

This red one, below, I do know is Fenbow's Nutmeg Clove Pink.  Several years ago, for reasons I no longer recall, I decided that I would not be able to lead a happy and productive life without having a Fenbow's Nutmeg Clove Pink in my garden.   It took some time to track down seed and of course this variety turned out to be hard to grow, so the first season I ended up with only two plants.  The following season I tried propagating a few cuttings and had pretty good luck, so now I have six plants.  The Fenbow's is a nice, clear red pink, but one really grows them for their amazingly strong clove scent, which regrettably I cannot share with you via photograph.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Extrovert

A few days ago I cut a couple of tulips to bring in the house.  Though they're same color, they're different varieties, which became very apparent over the course of a few days.  And although it's a little hard to tell, the demure tulip in the background is horribly embarrassed by its wanton cousin.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Cobweb Houseleeks Have Babies!

Imagine my surprise on finding that the wooly houseleeks I bought last September and left outside all winter have whelped, or whatever it is they do.  Those tiny fuzzy things (I count seven in this picture)  to the right and below the parents are the babies.  They emerged only in the last couple of days.  No, I'm not going to name them.

Monday, March 26, 2018


One weekend I decided to keep the mid-winter doldrums at bay by making a new duvet cover.   I felt very pleased with myself for finally using a fabric I'd had for years, continuing my effort to reduce the size of my fabric stash.

The duvet cover turned out nicely and gave the bedroom a cheery fresh look, but I ended up with some long narrow strips of unbleached muslin left over.  Still feeling thrifty and motivated, I decided that rather than putting these in my scrap bin, I'd get some scraps out of the bin and see what I could do.  The first scraps I came across were from a strawberry print cotton fabric I bought in the early '90s.

This is one of my very favorite fabrics.  How could one not love tiny strawberries and tiny strawberry blossoms and leaves?  Over time, I've made three shirts out of it (two to give away, one for myself) and carefully saved all the scraps.  Over the course of a couple of weekends I pieced the scraps together to yield as many 2 1/2" squares as possible and then made up 4-patch squares with the muslin.  Fifty 4-patch squares wasn't going to get me very far, so I (virtuously) drew again from my stash for some fabric to use for alternating plain squares.  Finally I made a third withdrawal from the National Bank of Fabric for the binding fabric.  The quilt batting was cut from a full size batt that had gotten a little mouse-nibbled some years ago.

By the time I'd finished the quilt, the daffodils were blooming and the doldrums were beginning to fade, though most evenings it's still nice to have a little lap quilt.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cream Was On Sale

A few days into the new year, I polished off a gift of maple caramels.  I made them last as long as I could, which wasn't nearly long enough.    I couldn't get them out of my mind, so I bought a few packets of pre-cut candy wrapping papers and waited for cream to go on sale.

Last week during my weekly grocery shopping I came across a pint of organic heavy cream on sale for $2.99, and I was off to the races.  Well, I was off to the stove, armed with a heavy copper saucepan and a good candy thermometer.  I made a pound of caramels.  I wonder how long they'll last.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

By Her Bookmarks You Shall Know Her

The front line in the battle between print and digital books seems to shift in unpredictable ways.  Sometimes ebooks are less expensive than the print version, sometime they're more expensive.  It's a complete mystery to me.  For now, I still seem to need bookmarks.

Some of the bookmarks here go back a considerable number of years.  The embroidered cat on the blue ribbon is something I did in the 1970s when Victorian crafts were enjoying a revival.  The embroidered cat on the red ribbon is one that my mother did a few years ago.

The medieval woodcut is a souvenir of a trip to The Cloisters in the late 1980s at a time when I had very little money beyond the price of the train fare and the admission ticket.  The Union Fair blue ribbon is for a traditional fisherman's sweater that I entered in the fair in 1996.

Northern Lights and Village Book store are no longer with us, I'm afraid.

When will book marks become as quaint as steel-nibbed dip pens?  I don't know if anybody knows. But I'll have my choice collection available, should Antiques Roadshow come to town.