Monday, July 14, 2014

More baby sparrows?!

Guess what we came upon the other day?
We were laying mulch, cleaning out the awnings, and preparing for the hot weather when we found a baby on the ground. We figured she fell out of the nest that was very large, and haphazardly made in the corner of an awning we were going to pull out.

We pulled out the nest, and put it in the top of one of our higher shrubs by the house, but not before taking this picture of the whole family (minus Ma and Pa). The babies were all in varying stages of life, which kind of surprised me. The one who fell had slipped through a small opening in the bottom of the nest, and had virtually no feathers coming in. Two of the four birds in this picture had healthy heads of plumage. You can kind of see one in the center. 

Luckily, the relocation of the nest went smoothly. Mother and father eagerly came back to feed the babies, but they've since flown the coop (hr). 

We dodged yet another bullet on having to raise four sparrows this summer. Our awnings make great nesting spots for these birds, but it gets to be a real pain in the butt when you want to shade your house!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Yarnbox (!)

There was a post on the knitting group on Facebook that mentioned a "yarnbox." There was multiple inquiries in the group about what exactly that was.

And then there it was. A subscription for a monthly yarn sampling of luxury yarn. $39 a month, and a little extra for speedy shipping, if you so chose.

June's Yarnbox contents - a $66 value
Each Yarnbox includes a minimum of two full sized skeins of luxury yarns, enough to finish a project every month. 

Every month, there are two free patterns to use. You can store the patterns in a yarnbox "pattern box" thingie (pretty neat!). You also get 2 "designer cards" from designers along with coupon codes to download more patterns, if you'd like.

I've only just received June's so far. July's ships out on the 20th. I've already managed to knit up the Fern Glade with the more solid green color. I've been working on finger-less mittens with the more fun, colorful yarn. 

Unblocked Fern Glade, of course. But still beautiful!
Speaking of the Fern Glade, this was a lot of fun to knit while watching the chickens in the back yard and listening to the World Cup games a few weeks ago. It takes some concentration, but not too much. I guess because of all the yarn-overs, it's considered a lace knit. I had just enough yarn for this hat. 

If you love luxury yarns, and of course surprises in the mail once a month, this subscription service is a no-brainer!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

From a few weeks ago...

Mountain laurel, Jump for Joy rose, and some other greens...
Compliments of my husband  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

First bounty

The first bounty of the season!

Two half-pint jars of raspberry jam, a giant zucchini, a yellow squash, and the (first of many) pickling cucumber.

Our neighbors have a lot of raspberries that border our mutual properties, and they've been kind enough to let us pick some to make some jam. Of course, we share what we pick. I haven't used pectic in my jams, so this is straight 1:1 raspberry to sugar jam.

My husband has given up eating the berries straight and now just demands more jam and fresh bread. 

We've got a lot more to come... still no tomatoes, but they're out there, waiting to ripen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On the needles

It's been a while since I did a knitting update. I think I'll go over the past few projects just to bore my readers, as few as they are.

Not my actual husband.
Émilien by Ariane Caron-Lacoste: I made this one for Chris in Valley Yarns Northampton, which made the whole get-up attractively affordable to knit. He chose the pattern himself, and apparently stuck the colors of the image shown here.
The sleeves were wonky as all get-out after knitting them up as per the pattern. My pattern notes show my mods, but boy, were they large. They continue to be large to this day, but notably smaller than they were. I think apart from that one mod, I didn't change much. I think I added pockets in as well, and those were improvised if I remember correctly.
I was happy with the project overall, and was grateful for the occasional striping. It was otherwise pretty boring. The buttonband was a bitch though, and I swear to you, I sewed it on about 4 times before being comfortable with the appearance. 
Chris walks to work every day, as we live literally across the street from his workplace. This cardigan (with pockets!) makes for a very comfy walk over to the pharmacy. 
Cross-stitch cowl
Cross-stitch Cowl improvised: I bought three skeins of Misti Alpaca Handpaint Chunky in this color. I couldn't help myself. It was too noms. I had intentions of doing something more clever than this with it, but the colors were just too much. I decided to improvise a large cowl that is knit in the round. It's still not done. I'm not sure it ever will be done. I plug away at it in between other larger projects, and if I need some mindless knitting.
Lister Block Cowl by Adrienne C.  My first experience with Madelinetosh. What a wonderful, wonderful yarn to
knit with. I made this one-skein cowl for my sister, since she accidentally washed her alpaca one that I made for her a year or so ago. Upgraded her to superwash, and she seems to be enjoying it. It was a nice quick project with just a small amount of luxury yarn.
There've been some small projects in between, but these are the ones that show up in my projects that I think are worth commenting on. I bought way more yarn than I knit with this winter... what else is new.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Inevitable Chicken Lady Post

For some years, I've wanted chickens. Apparently, this is common these days. My sister informs me that there are a lot of yuppies getting chickens and expensive coops in an effort to feed the family healthier foods.

I'm all for that kind of thing, even if it's a yuppie development, but I feel like I have to defend myself in getting three Rhode Island Reds this spring. 

Little House in the Suburbs was my first foray into the wonderful world of self-sufficiency about 5 years ago. We were still living in an apartment at the time. Before these fine women published their book, their blog was full of lots of information about chickens, DIY home solutions, and stuff like that. 

This spring, when I found out that the city allowed for chickens, I got my husband's support and we ordered three Rhode Island Red chickens. I painstakingly did research on which breed would be best for us, and this is where we landed.

We're awful builders. We decided to buy a coop instead of constructing one, mostly because while we'd spend a little less on materials, we were confident that the savings wouldn't make up for something we could count on through the year. We spent $250 on a decent coop with a large run.

We also splurged and bought a solar-powered, programmable automatic door for the coop. This means that we can actually go places and do stuff for a couple of days without having to worry about opening and closing the coop, which frankly is very valuable. This door came in at a whopping $250 with solar power panel, battery, and the door itself. The money is well worth it... we've already benefit from it!

The chicks came in on May 23. They were only a day old, and they were the cutest little
Chicks, Day 1
puffballs of joy. They've grown incredibly since we first got them. We've been doing things unconventionally since we got them, despite reading posts on Backyard Chickens (a great resource!) exhaustively.

We set up the brooder (or the warm, safe place) for them as chicks in the cellar. Within 2 weeks, we decided the weather was warm enough for us to put them outside with a 250W heat lamp in the coop. Technically, I guess you're not supposed to put them outside until their full feathers come in (8 weeks), but I figured they could have a little day trip out doors and then we can bring them back in.

We did this for a week or so; it worked for a while. They got too big for their brooder after a time, so we let them sleep outside in their coop with the heat lamp overnight.

My handsome husband with Peggy a few days ago
Just yesterday, we've tapered their heat lamp down to just a few hours a night. Interesting thing here is that if a light isn't on in their coop at sundown, they refuse to go in. Just last night, I heard quite the ruckus out there, all because they wanted to go into the coop, but there was no light on. I turned it on for them, and they were happy to go in after that.

It's been an interesting few weeks. Chickens are insanely entertaining to watch, even at this age. They've only gotten more entertaining as they age. We let them out for supervised free-ranging. They stick to only a small patch of land at a time, and they generally stick together during this time. Dried meal worm treats seem to control them well enough for when I want them back in the run, but they're stubborn and definitely have minds of their own. We've named them Peggy, Betty and Joan. 

I know it's been a while since I've said or done much here, but here's hoping I can add "chickens" to the list of things I can blog about.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Victorian Ginger Beer

My last post was pretty hopeful.

Not so hopeful today, but I'm still enjoying winter. There's a rather large snow storm (Pax? They name snow storms now?) that's blown in since dawn. I was up at around 4am and didn't see any snow, but I went back to bed only to wake up to at least two inches down.

I work from home, so I don't really have a "snow day" wherein I get to skip work, but my workload was light, so I set out making all sorts of things today in the house in between working.

Ginger beer "tea"
Today, I was inspired by the BBC's Victorian Farm to try some ginger beer. I don't think I've ever had real ginger beer, and this looked painfully simple to make, even in modern times.

I had ginger. I had sugar. I had lemons and water and yeast. So I made a batch. Modern recipes call for things that I surprisingly don't have laying around. Some recipes called for club soda, most recipes indicated I should store my soda in 2 liter bottles. I have neither of these.

So I made my own way. I'm using two quart jars with lids only just barely held on in place. The yeast will be gassy, so I have to be sure the gas doesn't build up too much.  I have no idea if this is going to work, but I don't see why it won't.

I read a lot of modern interpretations of ginger beer. Not really interested in having to go to the store in this snow storm, I just did what I felt was best.

  1. First, I grated my ginger. I had a bit left over in the fridge from previous meals, so this was perfect! While I grated, I heated 2 quarts of water over the stove. I used the jars to measure out the 2 quarts to be sure there'd be just enough. 
  2. Add a cup of sugar to the water and let that heat up nicely, as to dissolve all the sugar. 
  3. I broke out my lemon and squeezed about 1.5-2 tbsp. of lemon juice. I threw that into the pot of sugar water, seeds and all. Don't worry, you're going to strain it eventually.
  4. I took my heap of ginger and threw it in the pot with everything. I didn't bring the pot to boil at any point... just a low heat to keep things interesting. The ginger was a decent amount... at least 3 tbsp I'd say. 
  5. Let the ginger/sugar/lemon juice mixture steep for a while over the heat. I don't think I'd let it boil. Just heat well enough to see some steam rise gently. 
  6. While all that is heating up nicely and steeping, set aside 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast. You're going to split this in half between the quarts if you use this system, so maybe you want to split it evenly to give to each jar.
    Don't mind the flour, I was making bread at the same time!
  7. Once you have a nice gentle steam barely coming off your mixture, strain it out into your quart jars (or whatever you're using) with a fine strainer of your choice.
  8. When the temperature of the liquid in the container(s) is warm to the touch, but not too hot that you can't stand to hold your finger in it, add your yeast and stir it in well.
  9. Put in a darkish place that doesn't get too cold and let it set for a couple of days. It should be good to go after day 2, but I think I'll wait until day 3 or 4.
Just a little bit of yeast goes a long way!
Apparently ginger beer will keep only about a week in the fridge, so drink up!

I'll let you know how it comes out!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The end is in sight

This winter has been long. I feel like it's been forever since I smelled the wet leaves of fall.

Christmas passed without a hitch, which is more sad than good I think. Christmas has become a kind of ritual that I don't seem to enjoy anymore. Is that typical of getting older? Without kids, it's decidedly depressing. We bought LEDs for the tree this year, and spent a few hundred on buying LEDs for the outside display.

Still no feelings about that. The LEDs lend a coolness to the tree (and the holiday, really) that I am not fond of at all. I'd rather put the thoughts of dark, cold nights of December behind me.

New Year's went down without any emotion. My sister and her boyfriend invited us to her place in a neighboring city, and we enjoyed a quiet evening in playing games, getting tipsy, and talking about all the things you're never supposed to talk about with strangers.

The sun is starting to climb higher in the sky these afternoons, which feels like it's woken something up inside of me and all of the things outside my window. 

Sounds silly, I know, but the snow doesn't seem so obstinate now. The sun is higher, and brighter, and can stand for longer to fight off the dark and cold. Winter is letting up on its grip, and some color is starting to wake up.

Strength is coming back to us all for spring, and boy am I ready.

Monday, November 25, 2013


November, November. You've come on strong. Last night, after walking my family out to their cars after our early Thanksgiving dinner (long story), I noticed my lawn was frozen. 

The cold winds are blowing through the leafless trees again, and the squirrels are hurrying around to gather up what they can before the first real snow.

So, with all of these signs of the looming darkness of winter, just before real snows and Christmas celebrations, I wanted to share the images that really make the season more beautiful amid all of the hibernation.

Print available on Etsy

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

On the Needles: A Hat for Every Season?

I've been knitting up hats like a mad banshee. I've had a couple of requests from friends, and a couple of Christmas gifts to near strangers, just to warm their noggins in hopes of spreading some holiday cheer.

Below is an image of my handsome husband sporting the Men's Ski Hat. This was my favorite hat thus far... plenty of interesting cables to dote on, the yarn was pleasant and natural (albeit corporate), and it looks like there was a lot more work put into it than there really was.

Designed by Irina Dmitrieva
It's a great little hat if you're into cabling, but there's enough of it to overwhelm a beginner with cables. The majority of the cables are comprised of three stitches, and there aren't more than 4 stitches in a cable at any point. Nice and simple, with a great affect!

I got a little bored of the same old hats and started this cute little thing for a friend... I can't be more specific here, just in case she reads it. It's the Butterfly Hat, available for free on Ravelry. Do you get better than cute and free?

Designed by Sofiya Cremin
The picture is horrific, and I was knitting this in the summer. I apologize in advance ha ha! It was a fun knit, and it stayed interesting. It was knit in a wool/alpaca blend, so it's nice and soft. It's also pretty lavender in color, despite the misleading colors in the picture. 

Next up is a second attempt at a slouchy hat for a teenager I know. Officially it's known as the Star Crossed Slouchy Beret, and it too is available for free on Ravelry. 
Designed by Natalie Larson
I really didn't like how the color combination on this squishy and luxurious yarn came out, so I'll probably end up ripping it and finding another use for the yarn. I had made a slouchy beret using the same pattern, but Peace Fleece instead. I love it, but I didn't have enough yarn to complete it, so it's kind of wonky-looking.

The other hats I've made or am making are relatively boring and don't deserve much of a mention. I'm switching-hitting about three different projects right now, so it'll be slow-going anyhoo.