After two very cold weeks things are finally starting to warm up here in West Wales so I’m turning my attention to the garden. This week has been quite productive, even if only on the planning front. I have gathered together most of my seeds for the year and made a tentative plan for where everything is going. I also have my first seedlings of the year appearing which is always a pleasing sign.
I’ve planted my first lot of potatoes this week. I usually try and get an earlier start on these by a couple of weeks but the very cold snap and the chaos of the kitchen renovation has delayed things a bit. This year I’m planting second earlies Nicola and Maris Peer. I’m growing these in potato bags again this year as I found these worked really well last year and it saves the beds for other crops. I plant 3-4 potatoes per bag depending on the size. I think most of the ones I have are 30-40 litres each and I get a reasonable crop. I’m starting them off in the polytunnel to make the most of the warmth and protection it provides. I’ve only done the first two bags for now and will try and spread out the plantings over the coming weeks to try and avoid a glut. I’m leaving my main drop potatoes for a few weeks to let things warm up a bit.
The chilli, aubergine, and basil seeds I planted back in mid-February have sprouted this week. They’ve been on the windowsill in the warmest room in the house and they’ve still taken a good month to get going. I’ve got a lot more sowing to do this week so hopefully I’ll have all of the next lot of seeds underway by the weekend.
Otherwise for me it’s a case of getting on with planning. I think I have just about worked out how to fit in everything I want to grow combining my raised beds and a few pots and planters. Last year’s winners included shallots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and chillies. Overall the new polytunnel was a huge success and really made a difference to my fruiting crops. New additions to the garden this year include trying to grow more green leafy veg and I’ve dedicated space to spinach and chard this year. I’m also going to try sweetcorn again. I wasn’t very successful in terms of the amount I grew last time this but what I did harvest had the best flavour.
That’s it for this week. I’m going to try and keep a reasonably weekly timetable for garden postings, at least while things are busy. I look forward to seeing your garden plans develop in the coming months.
Well there has been some small progress in a few areas this week, even if only small progress.
In the garden this week I’ve been continuing to tidy up and start getting things ready for spring. I’ve cleared the last two of my vegetable beds of brassicas that seemed to rally briefly and then give up. This means all my veggie beds are ready for some topping up of compost and then they’ll be ready to go. I’ve put some black barrier fabric down to help start the process of warming the soil and to prevent any weeds getting a sneaky head start while my back is turned.
I also bought some squash seeds and Jerusalem artichoke tubers this week. I’ve never tried Jerusalem artichokes before so they’re a bit of a garden and kitchen first for me. I’m not sure where I’m planting everything yet and I think I need to sit down and work out what will be going where. I think I might have got carried away with my seed buying.
I’ve finally started a bit of crafting this week. The only easily accessible project is my crewel embroidery kit so have gone back to that. Some of the stitching on the large blue leaf is sloppy and I’m thinking of ripping it out. It’s been fun to pick up again and I’m hoping I’ll be finished up in the next week or two.
We’re at the end of week four with the kitchen and we are, I think, over the worst of the rectification stage. To be fair, the builders haven’t been working solidly in that time as we’ve had to wait for bits and piece to dry out in between. So far they have taken down the dividing wall between the kitchen and dining room; rerouted all of the pipe work for the heating and plumbing; laid a new floor; dug a new drainage trench outside; fitted an outside tap; and redone all of the tanking along the back and side walls. It’s work that has added significantly to our original plans, but I’m hoping it’s really going to make a difference in the long run.
This week I think we’ll start to see some progress with the walls going back up. Once it actually looks more like a room and less like a building site I think I’ll start to feel a bit better about the whole thing.
So that’s it for this week. Hopefully there will be a bit more progress in all areas for next week’s update.
Well the kitchen project enters its third week. This week the plumbers were really busy (apparently we had the worst plumbing ever seen…) and a new concrete floor has gone down. We also have an outside tap at last so that’s going to help massively in the garden with washing off old pots and things. It should hopefully cut down on dirt being tracked into the new kitchen, too.
Ordinarily I think we’d be at the end of the project now, but with everything they have found we’re still some way off. The damp guy is coming this week to sort out the tanking of the walls, but once he’s done we should start to see some progress with the walls and ceilings going back up.
The garden is a mess. That’s my fault for not tidying it all up at the end of last year like I promised myself I would do this time last year. I never listen to myself. Anyway, I got some of my early seeds sown, some padron peppers which did really well last year and some jalapeños which struggled a bit. I have one chilli plant that I have managed to keep alive over winter so that one should have a good start this year. I’ve also started off my aubergines (Bonica) and basil so that’s a good start to the gardening year. If the weather stays dry I’ll make a start on tidying up and trying to work out if those sticks in pots are dead, or if they’ll come back to life in a few months. I’m never really sure!
Nothing to see here. I have, however, promised myself that I’m going to get on with my embroidery project this week, I just need to clamber over the furniture and fridge in the living room to get to it.
Well this is rapidly turning in to the year of no projects but I’m dipping my toe in the water of stuff to get done!
Crafting is pretty much at a complete standstill. We are mid kitchen renovation at the moment and it hasn’t gone all that well so far. We seem to be uncovering one problem after another at the moment, but I’m hopeful we’re finally at the end of the uncovering and we’re starting the ‘putting it right’ phase. Between stress, constant dust , and cramming all of our kitchen/dining room into the rest of the house in the meantime, crafting just feels too much effort at the moment. I have however, bought a box of fibre from Fellview Fibres with a manuscript theme which I am really looking forward to getting down to once this is all done.
While things are in such disarray I do at least have the time to make some plans so as we start hurtling towards spring I’m working on garden plans for this year and getting my seeds in order. It’s a bit difficult at the moment to get out in the garden as we can’t go over the kitchen floor yet, but maybe next week! In the meantime I’ve been thinking about 2022 and what worked well and what didn’t. Definite wins were:
The new polytunnel. This really made a difference to fruiting veg like chillies, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Shallots. These work really well for us, make the most of a small bed, and pickle brilliantly.
Potatoes in pots/bags. Although not super prolific, the use of bags really helped to extend the space available for growing and it was easy to succession sow to avoid too much of a glut at the same time.
The things that didn’t work so well last year:
Squash/courgettes. No idea what happened, I usually can’t move for courgettes. It want just me with this issue so maybe the unusual heatwave was too much at the wrong time, or perhaps my watering wasn’t enough.
Basil struggled despite being really successful the previous year. Again I’m not sure if this was a water issue during the heatwave.
Peas in pots. I thought these would be a definite win so I was a bit disappointed at how much they struggled.
All in all I think 2022 was pretty successful. I’m now working on planting plans for 2023. Some of the projects I wanted to work on will probably be sidelined now due to the kitchen overrun, but I’ve still got a good number of beds to work with.
That’s it for my update. Hopefully it won’t be so long next time!
OK, it’s been quite a gap on the updates. It’s been a busy few weeks and I’ve not really felt much like crafting. But this week I’ve finally done something! I mean, not much, but projects are inching forwards.
My knitting mojo has returned, at least enough to get moving with the second sock. I suffer terribly with second sock syndrome but I’m finally about two thirds of the way there now. You may remember me moaning about the size of my partners’ feet, and here I am again asking ‘Really? Does this really actually fit? Are you sure the other one is the right size?’ I’m about to turn the heel on clown sock #2 so hopefully finished by next weekend.
This year I have chosen Fellview Fibres for my advent calendar. I love how Carol turns her inspiration photos into fabulous rolags. I’ve just found time to make a start on spinning them up. This is day one ‘Winter Weekend Walk’, a blend of merino, alpaca, and silks. I love the pop of shine from the silk and the sudden softness of the alpaca. I aimed for a low twist spin with this one to keep the softness, and it is beautifully soft, but it’s quite underspun in places so I need to keep an eye on that with the remaining rolags. Next up is Golden Oak, which is a Shetland, merino, Corriedale and silk blend.
So small progress, but progress all the same. I’m hoping to finish up work this week and start my Christmas leave so I’m hoping to be a bit more productive on the crafting front. We’ve had a real cold snap this week so I think that’s it for me with the garden for this year. I’m looking forward to choosing my seeds for next year over the holidays. I definitely want to start getting some plans ready for next year. See you next week!
I don’t know where my mojo has gone but it has been missing for some time now. I can’t seem to find the motivation to cast on anything new since finishing up my Secrets and Storms shawl a few weeks ago. I think the (Ravelry link) There and Back Again Story Scarf will be a contender as I’ve been promising this one for a while.
In the meantime, since I can’t face any knitting, I’ve finally picked up my crewel project this week. I’ve done a couple of sections this week, finishing off the hills and the rabbits. I need a lot of practice but I’m really enjoying this and have started looking at my next project. I think I’ve learned quite a lot on this one, including remembering to check the instructions carefully… and regularly.
There is absolutely nothing going on in the garden now. I didn’t take appropriate care of my brassicas in the late summer/early autumn and so I have lost all those to caterpillars. There are still some root veg to use and some leeks but we’re pretty much at the end now.
That’s it I think for this week. I’ll try and make some progress on something in the next few days!
This week I have finally finished my Secrets and Storms shawl. It’s currently blocking and I’ll try and get a FO post up by the end of the week. I’m currently back to my orphaned sock projects and I’m also looking for a larger project. I’m trying to only use yarn I already have rather than be seduced by another project which needs another yarn. We’ll see how long that lasts!
The weather has been better this weekend so I managed to get in the garden today. I have managed to get my new strawberry plants in just in time. I think these will have time to settle before the autumn weather gets properly cold and frosty. I propagated these off runners from my existing plants. I’m please with how well the plants had already taken in their pots. The soil in this bed isn’t the bast, but for some reason the strawberries do really well here.
I’ve also managed to get my shallots in so that they have time to become established before the winter. After a bit of trial and error I’m sticking with Jermor this year. I found these dried and stored much better than whatever last year’s spring shallots were.
I’m slowly making my way around the garden putting things ‘to bed’ for the winter. I know it will make spring so much easier if I get this bit done before the rains get too bad. I think I’ve learned a lot in the garden this year and I’ll try and get my thoughts down in a blog post in the next week or two so that I don’t forget!
Finally this week I’ve been picking and pickling the last few bits of harvest. We now have pickled shallots, chillies, and now cucumber and shallot sandwich pickle. The pickling liquor is whatever vinegar I have to hand, plus some sugar, turmeric, and mustard seeds to taste. I’m not sure it will make it to Christmas which was the original plan.
Well it’s been a few weeks since I last posted. I’ve been doing bits and pieces but nothing really of any note, and I’ve been quite busy with the house reorganisation. Things have been plodding along very slowly, so here’s a quick update to try and inspire me to get things finished.
I’m nearly finished with my shawl and just have some garter stitch rows of the contrast colour to add. I got a bit stuck with this when I had a phase of frogging and redoing the same eight rows over and over in some kind of horrific groundhog day! I’ll finish this up this week though and I do love the colours in the contrast yarn and how they work so well with the aster stitch.
I now washed, scoured, and dried all of my mohair. I just managed to catch the tail end of the warmers days here I think. I’m hoping to make a start on sampling different ways of spinning in the next few weeks.
Very little progress has been made on my embroidery or my socks, but hopefully they’ll see some attention in the next week or so once I’ve finished my shawl.
In the garden:
Things are slowing up now in the garden. I think we’ve finally picked the last of the tomatoes. I let the padron peppers grow much larger than usual as I was interested in seeing whether these would turn red. They have (and they’re quite hot!) we’re using some of these in cooking and we’ve also pickled a few for later in the year.
I need to start putting the garden to bed for winter in the next few weeks and clear it up a bit. My shallots have arrived and I need to get those into a new bed this year. I also need to do a bit on the strawberry and wildflower beds. Hopefully it will stay dry next weekend as it’s heading towards the last opportunity for getting some jobs done!
In the home:
You may remember I started looking at having our kitchen done back in February. Well this week the company we want to use got in touch to let us know they’re ready to move on to the next stage. We’re still no where near getting done but I think we’re nearer to actually getting on the list to be done eventually! It’s such a long wait to get any work done at the moment! Anyway I’ve lost valuable crafting and reading time this week to ‘what I wish I known before I had a new kitchen’ research. I’m many hours in and I’m not sure I’m any clearer about what I actually want!
So that’s my quick update for this week. There’s not much happening but I’m hoping there might be some finisheditems and progress on other projects this week.
I’ve been wanting to get started on a breed study for a while now but, well, I can be kinda lazy and easily sidetracked. So since discovering a mohair sample pack this week in my frenzy of reorganising my stash, I thought I’d make the most of the good weather to make a start on it.
The pack is from Cwmstwrdy Fibre Farm and I picked up one of their explorer packs at Wonder Wool Wales earlier this year. The pack contains 100g of first shear kid; 150g of second shear, 250g of young adult; and 250g of adult fleece.
I was immediately struck by how soft the first two samples were. Although Anogora are supposed to be quite greasy/waxy I didn’t think these samples seemed very greasy. Despite thinking they weren’t all that dirty, I was quite surprised at the amount of dirt that came out of the adult fleece in particular.
I’m not the best fleece processor. In fact a lot of my previous attempts have resulted in less than satisfactory results. I don’t think my cleaning or my scouring has been the best. Because these are samples it offered the perfect opportunity for trying washing on a small scale. I started with several cold washes using an eco washing up liquid because I didn’t have any scouring wash. I know detergents have mixed reviews in terms of how harsh they are and previously I have used wool wash, but since my previous results weren’t great I thought I’d try something else.
I’m always amazed when I read blogs/watch videos of other peoples crafting that they always seem to have the right tool for the job. And I don’t mean specifically purchased materials, but those bits and pieces they have to hand or picked up in a thrift store that are just perfect for the task at hand. This finally happened to me when I discovered two plastic containers missing lids and two unused plastic baskets in my recent sort out. For once they were perfect fit and they make excellent fleece washing tools! I don’t have to handle the fleece too much when I get it in and out of the bath.
So anyway, I started with the adult and the kid first shear and soaked them both in several changes of cold water until they were mostly clear. The kid was pretty clean to start with, but a lot of dirt came out of the adult fleece even though it didn’t look too bad. I then scoured the fleece in fairly hot water. I’ve seen suggestions of anywhere between 45°C and 70°C for scouring mohair. In the end I plumped for a mid-way point of around 55-60°C. After three or four changes of water, staying in for twenty minutes at a time to make sure any greasy deposits didn’t resettle, I lightly squeezed the fleece and laid them out on a towel to dry in the sun.
There are some small bits of vegetable matter, but they are the cleanest and non-greasiest fleeces I think I’ve ended up with so I’m pretty pleased with how they’ve turned out. The adult fleece is now almost as super soft as the kid. I’m hoping next weekend will be as sunny so that I can finish the other two samples.
It’s been a hectic few weeks here so I’ve missed an update and still have very little to show for it. I’ve made some progress on my embroidery and some on my shawl. Unfortunately my shawl has seen one of those weeks where I have knitted and frogged the same six rows over and over again. It’s not even difficult! I do seem to be back on track now.
In other vaguely related news (and why fun stuff has been delayed for the past few weeks) we have nearly completed the spare room project so we have a space where we can work if we’re WFH at the same time. We’ve been using the dining room up until now, but with energy prices increasing we’ve decided to move into the spare room as it’s a lot warmer! If we light the log burner when it’s chilly that will heat both the downstairs living room and the bedrooms so we can hold off on the central heating
As part of this we’ve had a larger reorganisation of the house so I’ve been rearranging my stash. I’ve managed to fit it all into just two places in the house now and my stash is now categorised as:
Current (one knitting and one spinning project bag with things I’m actively working on)
Intermediate (in fabric cases on the living room bookcases. These are my ‘next up’ projects)
Long term (for those yarns and fibres I loved when I bought them but I’m waiting to see what want to be. Also: stash diving.)
Deep store. Yarn I’ve fallen out of love with/picked up on a whim/thought I could overdue/repurpose. I should get rid of this really, but I can’t quite bring myself to throw it out.
So after all of that things are neat and organised for now. Also I found sooo many needles and notions I hadn’t even realised I’d lost, as well as lovely skeins I’d forgotten about, it’s like I’ve had a day of shopping for free! One of the things I’ve discovered is this mohair pack from earlier in the year so as it is nice out this weekend I’m going to see if I can get it washed and dried ready for use.