*note: in the process of replacing images*

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Apricots 2011


2011 (our toaster oven is filthy, ugh):

I learned last year that it's a bad idea to leave them on the tree to fully ripen - the birds and bugs get into them almost as soon as they start turning that lovely deep shade of orange. This year, I've picked them early, and they're going to ripen on the table and eaten by humans. I did leave a few on the tree for the birds though - they've done a stellar job picking off the bugs from the yard this spring.

Monday, 27 June 2011

The Weekend: Lake Murray

What I did on the weekend: bike around Lake Murray. It's open to pretty much any activity except for swimming: walking, fishing, boating, biking, barbecues, little bit of sport, walking your dog, feeding the ducks. It's not that close to the house, but it's just close enough to throw the bikes on the back of the car and spend a few hours riding the 6 mile track around, looking at ducks/bunnies/plants/trees. A bit twee, but extremely good for the soul.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Best of the Front

[from top to bottom: 1) New Zealand Flax Guardsman | 2 to 5 are unknown | 6) Mexican Palo Verde]

Most of the front yard was both successfully and unsuccessfully landscaped by the previous owners of the house. Some great choices were made in smaller plants, which have yet to fail out and bloom wonderfully at this time of year. But the drip irrigation system is cheap at best, and beneath the woodchips you can see in the background of some of the above photos is awful black anti-weed plastic, which does nothing for the soil or plants in the long run. The purple trees that run rampant across the neighbourhood should be mulching that area - instead their attempts just sit unloved above woodchips and plastic. It's so unproductive.

We're working on taking the black plastic out, and as some of the plants slowly fail out due to lack of water or just poor planting, replacing them with more appropriate vegetation. Vegetation that doesn't mind a little shade, or no water for months on end. Vegetation that wants to be here. Vegetation that's nice and close together to give a big fuck you to the non-native grasses and weeds that love to take over and squeeze them out. It's a fairly simple concept, but it's also fairly simple to get distracted by pretty flowers that aren't built for this climate too. The local garden centers should really stop stocking anything that needs excessive watering.

The Mexican Palo Verde tree (photo #6) is a great example of how wrong some people can get when it comes to landscaping their yards. Allegedly loathed across the southwest for the "mess" it makes (which might be why we could buy this at a local plant sale for less than $5), it self mulches, has lovely pretty yellow flowers and delicate fern like leaves. It needs no water, and provides shade if allowed to grow large. When a dwarf palm tree that had never been planted right failed out a few months ago, we planted this in front of our office window, and it will take care of itself while providing legitimate security for our house thanks to annoying pokey spikes on the trunk.

Most native plants have this level of genius engineering that can work for anyone if you look at it in the right direction. While I appreciate that the previous landscaping has made the whole area low maintenance to start with, I'm definitely looking forward to building it up to an area of no-maintenance so I can spend more time growing food out back. Food is good. Weeding is not.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Something Red

While scarves are not often called for in the desert, it can get cold. Usually at night, and usually while sitting stationary in front of one's glowing internet box. So one thing essential to my Southern California survival pack is a wide selection of removable warm layers. Hoodies, handwarmers and leggings rather than sweaters, gloves and socks. And in my case, I quite like hoodies with short sleeves and a little airflow. A few months ago I lined up the free V neck topper pattern on Ravelry, but it was only when I saw Lambs Pride Worsted on sale at Little Knits* last week that I decided to get cracking on making it a reality.

As of today, I've just started building the sleeves:

So far, it's a fairly simple pattern as long as you keep an eye on the stitch count, even with the introduction of "dsst", which is basically working a decrease stitch twice over the center of two other stitches.

...OK, that doesn't sound easy at all, but as with anything in the fibre based field of crafting, giving yourself a few minutes to fail nearly always ends in success. I'm not sure if I'm going to keep the neckline the same, as I like clothes super basic, but I'll see how I feel after I've finished the front part. When it comes to the yarn, for all the obvious itch factor the stitch definition and the colour depth is glorious. I'm thoroughly enjoying using it, and while I'm not a massive fan of mohair, I'm definitely intending on exploring the Brown Sheep brand a little further.

*Highly recommended simply for the discounts, the shipping speed and the skill in which they safely pack your order. Unfortunate disclaimer: nothing here is the result of payment or compensation, I just think these things are good.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Quick Links

  • Holy Scrap Hot Springs is a New Mexico blog about living off the grid, vegetables, herbs, making things. They also sell medicinal herbs and a cool temperature controlling gadget via their shop.
  • AskReddit: what free software should everyone have? Great free and opensource software recommendations. There's no need for anyone to pay for their software if they don't want to.
  • Knitting: Baby Surprise Jacket. I'm progressing pretty well with knitting, but I'm not quite *there* yet when it comes to being able to make most things, unlike with crochet. The Baby Surprise jacket is my next short term goal, and this wiki is a massive help in gauging when I can justify the $10 pattern cost.
  • FOOD: Watermelon Prosciutto! Looks ridiculously decadent. Not vegan, unfortunately, thanks to the presence of fish sauce.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Alligator Lizard (deceased)

Alligator lizard that lived under the lime tree, how many memories we have together. OK, just the one. But I will never forget the time you jumped out of debris and my startled cry of "WHOOOOOOOOOAAAA" rang out across suburbia. That was pretty funny. Thanks for the good times.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Beginnings of June 2011

[from top to bottom: 1) Salad Bush cucumbers / 2) Better Boy tomatoes / 3) Cascade variety hops, overachieving / 4) Sugar Baby Watermelon, underachieving but growing in strength every day ]

June is the month of no return: we're getting a steady, almost daily harvest of squash, and the rest of the garden is now catching up and giving something back to us. The cucumbers are flowering, the birds are busy eating all the bugs, the apricots have yet to ripen (I am so impatient for them!), the persimmons have seemingly avoided mealy bugs this year, the hops needed yet more strings to climb, the watermelon looks likely to fruit, and the tomatoes. The tomatoes are beautiful. I might not have a 100% success rate with all of my plants, but it's not half bad at the moment.