Monday 18 January 2010

How to read and crochet at the same time

I found this great site, Podiobooks, where you can download audiobooks for free. The good thing is that they seem to all be recent works, and there is a wide range of genres to choose from. You can donate if you like the story, and the author gets 75% of your donation. I'm listening to Weather Child, a historical fantasy set in Wellington in the 1920s. There's also LibriVox, which is older works from the public domain.

So, that's how I achieved three of my summer goals all at the same time: read, sit in the sun, and crochet. Above is my ripple blanket. I did a good amount of rippling over the Christmas break and just about doubled it in size. That makes it, oh, about a sixth of the finished size?

I also made these little ugg booties. I had to improvise the yarn as I couldn't find the suede used in the pattern (damn the pathetic yarn selection in NZ), but 2 strands of merino worked well, and the curly mohair looks even better and more sheepskin-like than the original pattern.

Here's my current WIP - the blanket's been put aside for a while. And I guess it's time to grab my MP3 player, sunscreen and hook and put a few more stitches into this baby.

Sunday 17 January 2010

How I spent my summer holiday

Once the madness of Christmas was over, the madness of gardening began. I still have my heart set on a potager garden, so I roped in Jonny to help dig up the ground. I used stakes and sticks and bits of wood to mark out the rough outline, to make sure it fits. I should have enough bricks to make the paths, but they need cleaning (I've done about half), and then we need to find out exactly how you lay a brick path - hopefully Youtube will help out there.

After several hours of digging and sweating, the reward was some homemade chocolate ice cream and fresh blueberries.

In the rest of the vege garden things are happening slowly but surely. The weather was hot for the first week of January, but it has been slowly regressing back to a more winterlike state. Yesterday we had to light the fire in the afternoon.

In the photo above are the zucchini plants at the front (green and yellow are going well, but 2 other mystery plants are sulking and not doing much). The borlotti beans don't want to climb their trellis, but they have cute little pink flowers and some red-patterned pods forming. The yellow plants at the front are pyrethrum, given to me by a neighbour.

Here are cannelini beans next to the concrete post, and further down dwarf peas with a miniature bamboo trellis.

In the glasshouse things are better - here are my Black Krim tomatoes. They need to darken up a bit more before you pick them. They grow very big and heavy and the flesh is solid and meaty, and has a great flavour. The skin tends to split, but on the plus side it's very easy to peel off (after blanching) once you have picked them. Definitely my favourite variety this year.

Here's the cucumber vine next to one of the Arctic tomatoes. I expected the Arctic to have done way better than they have - since they are supposed to like cold conditions, and I sowed them in March. But they were overtaken by the Black Krims which were sown in mid August.

The cucumbers are doing well, but I need to keep pollinating them with a paintbrush. I have a recipe (one of many good ones in the Yates Garden Fresh Cookbook) for bread and butter pickle so I'm going to save up the cucumbers for that.

This is my "picking garden" - a blowsy mix of cottagey beauties that are adorning vases all through the house. I'm enjoying watching the colours change in this little patch as new varieties poke their heads out.

At the moment I'm harvesting zucchini, tomatoes, lemons, peas, carrots, cucumbers, leeks, broccoli, rhubarb, sorrel, strawberries, and plenty of herbs. How is your garden doing this season?

Thursday 7 January 2010

Harvest and a blueberry disaster

The garden is in full swing. Here is the harvest from a couple of nights ago - cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, baby carrots, tomatoes (Black Krim and Arctic) and leeks (though they look like spring onions). I made this into a delicious vege curry just with a Pataks Korma Curry flavour sachet and a bit of cream. Too easy!

I also had a terrible accident with the blueberries. While getting the hose out to do the nightly watering, I flicked it and it brushed against one of the blueberry bushes, breaking the branch right off. Given that this branch holds about two thirds of the harvest and they've been slowly ripening since September, I'm a bit devastated.

I quickly put the branch in water, in the slight hope that it will strike roots. I've tried this before though with no luck, so I really think it will be destined for the compost heap.

At least it looks pretty in the meantime.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Handmade Christmas presents

This is what I came up with for my four young siblings this year. They're all enjoying gardening, so I found four tin watering cans and personalised each one with a name and stickers. Then I tucked a packet of seeds inside each one.

They were super excited to get those seeds in and start watering!

Close up of Anya's watering can. (To see the rest, check out my Flickr page)

For a couple more garden-themed gifts, I took some cuttings from various herb plants I had growing (I love this bit cause it's free!). I saved up some cans (also free!) and painted them white, and decorated them with ribbon. I also punched some holes in the bottom for drainage.

To finish it off, I made wooden plant labels for each herb.

Each one was decorated a bit differently.

About 4 days before Christmas I had a brilliant idea. People are always asking me for lemon recipes (usually while raiding our giant lemon tree), so I thought I could compile some of my favourites into a cookbook.

So, as well as the hustle and bustle of organising menus and work dinners and all the last minute things, I was also typing this up and copying and binding it...

Got there in the end though. Who knows, I might even make another edition next year.

This quilted mat wasn't made by me, but by my auntie many years ago.

Goal for next Christmas: start the presents early, finish them early, wrap them and put them away! I was getting really sick of thinking about them towards the end. Anyway, that's all over now. I have another week's holiday and I'm aiming to spend some quality time with the garden, a book and some crochet.


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