Year of Projects 2022/23: Week Fourteen

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.

Year of Projects 2022/23: Week Six

A slow week this week on the crafting side as I was away in Hay on Wye for a few days this week. We like to head here a few times a year for a slow (if expensive) few days of eating, drinking, and trawling bookshops. For as long as I can remember Hay Castle has been under renovation so it was lovely to see it finally completed.

Back home and I finished the first section on my shawl, I’m just about to start the aster stitch section.

The garden has been doing really well but things are starting to come to an end. I picked the last of the peas and cleared the pea and bean bed. I also finished the last lot of the early potatoes (somewhat past their best now) so it’s just the Pink Fir Apple left. I need to check on when these are ready to harvest.

The cucumbers are coming to an end but the tomatoes are going crazy. They haven’t been the tastiest salad tomato, but we’ve found they roast up really well. It feels a bit extravagant in the current energy crisis to have the oven on slow roasting for hours on end, but we’ve found popping in a couple of trays when we’re roasting something else works ok. We roast them at about 150° for forty minutes and then we drain the juice off, turn the oven off and leave them to finish in the heat. They come out semi dried and just a bit sweeter and tastier than when they’re fresh. They’re great for tossing though pasta and salads.

That’s it for the week. I have another week of holiday left so that will probably be spent decluttering the spare room and decorating it. I’m amazed at how much stuff we have cleared out this week, and I’ve not even had to make any tough calls about craft supplies yet! I’m a bit ashamed at my stationery fetish to be honest, I don’t think I will ever need to buy another notebook as long as I live. Or fountain pen ink.

Year of Projects 2022/23: Week Five

The Tour’s over so I’m finally back to knitting. My cable needle inexplicably disappeared for several days (it was exactly where it should be and where I’d looked several times…) so instead of carrying on with my Ogopogo socks I cast on a new project.

I picked up this yarn earlier in the year at Wonderwool to make the Secrets and Storms Shawl (Ravelry link). I’m still a bit undecided about whether to make the large or small version. With hindsight I think maybe a darker grey or another neutral would have worked a little better for me but I love the colouring in the variegated yarn.

Not much else on the crafting side of things for me. I did manage a good haul from the garden which meant I could almost (peppers and aubergines aside) make a full meal from homegrown produce. I made a tumbet which is a Mallorcan vegetable bake made by sautéing potatoes, courgettes, aubergines and peppers and layering them with a tomato sauce before baking. I was pretty pleased to be able to make a fresh tomato sauce out of my own tomatoes, garlic, and shallots! I should probably have taken a photo of the finished thing, but I’d already eaten it by the time I thought about it!

It’s pretty rainy here so there hasn’t been much else going on in the garden. I have a few weeks leave now so I have a quick trip to Hay on Wye (again) to trawl the many bookshops and then I’ve got some home and garden projects I want to catch up on depending on what happens with the weather. I hope you all enjoy your week!

Year of Projects 22/23: Week Two

Well it’s been a busy week this week. Sadly not on the crafting front so much. Wednesday was super busy at work due to staff shortages so between that and watching things unfold in Parliament I didn’t get much spinning done that day. Thursday was my partner’s birthday (and still partly glued to what was going on in government) so we went and did brunch and had a mooch around the bookshops and delis. Friday/Saturday I tried to get in the garden where I could as things were starting to get out of control.

So I did manage to spin every day but I’m not as far through as I wanted to be. I’m about a quarter of my way through this merino/cashmere/silk blend. I’m hoping to be consistent enough for a 2-ply lace so I’m making more of an effort to spin a short forward draw. My default spin tends to be short backwards, which is quicker and easier but I now realise a lot less consistent. I’ll stick with 25g to a bobbin because I’m terrified of snapping the fibre and losing the end in the bobbin if I keep going!

The garden has been a bit overlooked due to the wet weather we’ve been having, this sudden change has been a good opportunity to get back out there. I harvested some more shallots and potatoes this week and turned some of these:

Into this:

It looks rock hard but it’s actually perfectly crispy 😂 Potato pizza is one of my greatest discoveries of lockdown.

There’s some good progress in the garden overall. I’m hoping the tomatoes will start to ripen in the next week or two. The courgettes are coming along nicely, and we’re harvesting a good crop of peas once a week. There isn’t any sign of the beans yet, and most of these were eaten earlier on in the year so I’ve only got a few surviving plants. The patty pan squash are looking healthy but not cropping yet and the rhubarb is out of control. I’m hoping to offload some of this on colleagues this week, either as fruit or a cake!

The nice thing about being in the garden is seeing a bit more wildlife including this cinnabar moth who was particularly striking:

I also have a family of slow worms living in my compost bin. I could really do with turning the heap but I really don’t want to disturb them.

That’s this week’s projects. I’m hoping to have finished the lace singles next week and to have worked on some of my other spinning projects. I’d really like to get the final skein in my sweater spin finished before the end of the tour!

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Forty Six

Only a quick update for me. Very little progress on any knitting projects. I finished blocky Boxy and love the finish of the final fabric but need to sew in a few ends ( and decide on redoing the neck).

Speedwell

I’ve made small progress on my Ogopogo sock. I have two big spinning projects I want to finish before the Tour de Fleece starts so I think spinning will become a bit of a focus for the next few months. I used to spin for hours and just don’t seem to have the staying power I used to. I know I could finish them during the Tour, but for some reason I like a fresh wheel on Day 1.

Greater Stitchwort

There’s been lots happening in the garden so I might have a separate post on that soon. This weekend I’ve been potting on lots of veggies and filling endless bags with weeds. I’m using a garden journal for keeping a log of what I’m up to. As well as space for weekly activities it also has pages of prompts to help develop your gardening skills and knowledge. One of the tasks this week has been to go out for a walk and take some photos of local wildflowers, identify them, and sketch them. I think sketching is a bit beyond me but the photos here are some examples of what is currently in bloom in the hedgerows near me.

I ‘think’ this is Cuckoo Flower but not 100%

In final news I had my eye test this week and suddenly my struggles with knitting, and reading physical books became clear when my reading prescription jumped quite significantly. I’m hoping getting new (if horrifically expensive) glasses will see me making a bit more progress once I’m not struggling so much!

Happy crafting!

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Forty Five

So I’ve been laid low with Covid for the last week and a half, hence no update last week. I’ll be honest I haven’t felt like doing much of anything so even though I had to have a few days off work all I managed was sleeping. Lots and lots of sleeping. So this week is a bit of a round up as to where I’m at.

I did mention finishing Boxy and I have finally blocked it today. I’m not the best at blocking things, and could clearly do with another set of blocking mats, but it’s good to get this ticked off. There are still some ends to weave in and a couple of bits to tidy. I’m not 100% happy with the way I picked up the stitches on the collar but I’ll wait and see how I feel about it when it’s finished.

I’ve also picked up my Ogopogo socks so one of those is now complete. I’m annoyed to have discovered the red vanilla socks I finished a couple of months ago have felted in the wash. I’m not really sure what happened there but I’m a bit gutted because a) massive man feet and b) they were such a lovely colour.

I’ve finally managed to get in the garden to get some things potted on. The first half of the polytunnel is all established, I’ve alternated root crops of carrot, beetroot, and parsnip with some taller cucumbers, tomatoes and chillis. I’ve have some peas and beans desperate to go in the ground but I need some 6ft canes as I ordered 2ft ones by mistake! I also harvested a decent crop of rhubarb today so I’m looking at things to do with that.

I need to get all of this lot sorted into place!
Hopefully the lettuce and spring onions will be harvested before the bigger plants crowd them out. I’m still experimenting with spacing.
Crumble or pie?

That’s it for this update. I hope to find time to post a bit more now that work is quieter and I’m back on my feet. The garden is now at the point where I need to keep on top of things so there will probably be a bit more of that to report on in the coming weeks.

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Thirty Eight

We’ve finally had a run of good weather which means time to get in the garden before the rains descend again! This week’s big win was constructing the new raised bed and polytunnel. This one is much taller than last year’s, about four foot as opposed to two, so I can use it for some larger crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, and chillies.

The cover really made a difference with last years herbs and chillies, but was far too small for the chilli plants. This year I’m using the smaller covered bed for soft herbs. This weekend I split up one supermarket plant each of basil, parsley, and coriander and potted them into place. I hope I’ve not done it too early and the cover will protect them from the colder nights and frost, but time will tell. There is also spring planted garlic in this bed. I find autumn planted garlic doesn’t work very well here and tends to rot before it gets going so I’m hoping the drier weather will work better.

I have three other beds in use at the moment with shallots and more garlic. It will be interesting to see how the garlic fares in a covered vs uncovered bed.

I also managed to get my first potatoes in! L-R (so I remember!) are Charlotte, Jazzy, and Ratte. I have more to plant out but I’m trying to space them out a bit to avoid a glut. I’ll have to keep an eye out for growth for another month or so and cover them up if it looks like frost might be on the way, but I tend to find they’re better protected in bags rather than in the ground.

It looks like good weather for the rest of this week so hopefully I’ll be able to get out for an hour or so each day to start getting things in order. I have to admit it doesn’t look too pretty out there at the moment!

My boxy is coming on at a glacial pace but at least I’m on to the neck and shoulder shaping now (not that you can really tell).

To round off the weekend I took a trip to visit my favourite sheep in the village! I hope you had a good weekend where you are!

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Thirty Five

What a difference a week makes. This time last week we were being battered by storms; this week it’s beautifully sunny and dry. While it’s is good for gardening it does mean the knitting/spinning has taken a bit of a back seat this week.

Continuing the sheepy theme for the garden

I made a start earlier this week on planting some early seeds. I usually just throw seeds in any old compost and hope for the best, but this time around I’m trying some woollen seed compost. I usually lose a few seedlings to collapse so I’ve also tried topping off with Vermiculite to see if that helps with damping off. So far I have sown chillies (Jalapeños), leeks (Lancelot), spring greens (Summer Jewel), and cucumber (F1 Baby). The greens are already coming up after only a few days on the windowsill.

These are quite sturdy propagators

Outside I made some progress with the raised beds. I am dismantling one of my older beds and reusing the planks to add a bit more depth to the existing ones. I’ll definitely get another year out of these, maybe two if I’m lucky. I’m replacing them slowly with some more substantial beds which can come with additional hoops for adding a polytunnel. I don’t have the space for a greenhouse, but last year this worked really well with the softer herbs like basil which don’t always work great in my garden.

Once I’d finished with some of the reorganisation I planted up a bed of spring shallots (Meloine) and some garlic (Picardy Wight). I’ve never had much luck with winter garlic so I thought I try this. I’ve sown some in an open bed and some under the polytunnel to see which works best.

It’s not all been hard work this week. There is progress on my endless stockinette sweater (honest!) and I’ve made time for some spinning. I have a better set up with my wheel now so that it’s easier for me to just jump on for an hour in the evening without it being a faff getting myself set up. I have my silk spinning class tomorrow and Tuesday so I’ll try and post something about those later in the week. I’ve also been making notes about my Down breed study so I’ll try and post an update on that too. I spin a lot of Merino and BFL and I’m finding the liveliness of the Downs a bit of a challenge!

Oh and I made the next step in the kitchen project and actually managed to get some people out to take a look at it. They’re going away to mock up some designs and get some estimates together. They’re so busy they won’t be able to do it until next year, but I suppose that gives me plenty of time to save up if I fall in love with something expensive.

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Thirty Three

I finally finished my first bobbin of singles from my 12 Days of Christmas spin. At this rate I should have a finished yarn by the summer! I’ve also been making progress on my Boxy but there still isn’t much of interest to see there either.

Fibres from Adelaide Walker

In spinning news I reactivated my School of SweetGeorgia account this week as I’ve got more time at the moment to dip into some of the workshops. I’ve been wanting to get started on a breed study as I have box of breed specific fibres in my fibre stash so I took a look at the Spinning Sheep Breeds workshop with Rachel Smith. The workshop covers four breed types: fine/medium wool, long wool, Down and Down-like breeds, and primitive breeds. There’s an overview of each breed, followed by tips on preparation methods and three or four examples of spinning fibres from each category. I’ve made a start on Down breeds because I have very little experience of these. I’ll be using a mix of commercially prepped fibre and some fleece samples I have. I also booked on to an online silk spinning workshop being run by Katie Weston of Hilltop Cloud so I’m looking forward to that at the end of this month.

Sadly this weekend the weather has been awful so there has been no activity in the garden. I have, however, made a start on chitting my potatoes. I have somehow managed to end up with all second earlies so if I’m not careful I will end up with huge glut of potatoes at the same time. I’m going to try and stagger the planting a bit if I can to try and get around this, and I might try leaving some in the ground a little longer and experiment with using them more like a maincrop. The varieties I’m using this year are Charlotte, Jazzy, and Ratte. My new raised bed arrived this week so I’m hoping the weather will clear up enough later in the week for me to get that in place but it doesn’t look great for the rest of the week so maybe it will have to be a crafting week.

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Thirty Two

Just a quick update from me this week because although I’m still sticking with crafting each day, neither of my main projects have much to show for it! My Boxy sweater is around the seven inches mark (only nine to go before that starts to get interesting!) and I’ve finished my first bobbin of my 12 Days of Christmas. I’m not actually sure why it is taking me so long, I don’t feel that it is any thinner than usual but it seems to be slow progress.

In non craft news I have started the job of getting quotes for the kitchen. One of the companies I’d like to use can’t even come out and quite for the job until well into March! Still this is all an opportunity to save up a bit more in case I fall in love with ridiculous kitchen additions I didn’t know I needed.

I’ve also managed to spend some time drawing up some planting schemes for the vegetable beds. It’s a bit tough trying to maximise use of limited space but I think I’m getting there. I’ve cleared out one of the beds ready for planting my spring shallots in the next few weeks and next weekend if it’s dry I’ll clear the potato bed so that is ready to go. I’d better get those chitting, too. Last year I had quite a bit of success with shallots, potatoes, and courgettes. My tomatoes and peppers were the usual disaster, this is the last year I’m going to attempt tomatoes I think. I’m adding some fancier squash this year and probably sticking more to root veg and brassicas which suit the climate here a bit more.

Since there is nothing to really photograph for this week I thought I’d go and take a photo of my favourite sheep in the village, but even they were hiding! So here’s one of my favourite spots to pause for breath on my run!