Friday, 10 January 2014

Fradpoles, and Preserving the Harvest (But Not Preserving the Fradpoles!)

The new year is moving along quite smoothly so far, and although we are not yet half way thru summer, autumn is definitely on the way. The days are, for the most part, sweltering hot, but are periodically punctuated with unseasonably cold ones, and no matter how hot the days get, the mornings are always cold - downright frosty even. That is a pretty good sign that we are in for an early winter.
I am pushing along on my first block for the CQJP2014 challenge, but am still a ways away from finishing. In the meantime I am keeping up with the garden, and busy preserving the excess.

Back in spring I bought some tadpoles for my pond, and all them are still going strong and seem very happy in their little water hole. Three of my little froglets have become fradpoles - tadpoles with back legs fully developed, kicking around. They are about the size of my thumb, have also got more frog-like heads, and have gone greenish. They also seem to congregate together, but not with the others. The others, however, are over half again the size of the fradpoles, but are all still fully tadpoles, and very dark colour . They were all supposed to be the same type, but I'm pretty sure there are actually two types.
The little fradpoles have also gotten very skittish (where the tadpoles are still fairly laid back), which has made them quite difficult to photograph. After around 3 dozen photos, these two are about the best I could get.

The strawberries are plodding along nicely, producing a handful of strawberries every two days or so - a great breakfast treat on my morning garden rounds.

The sunflowers are putting on a lovely show, and the birds are loving them - which is great, because that's what I grow them for.

A beautiful, old-fashioned plant, that came very near to extinction, this Dianthus Rainbow Loveliness is one I grew from seed. It has a beautiful, unusual scent, unlike any other flower I have come across - nothing at all like standard Dianthus varieties.

The early varieties of pumpkins have been harvested - Gertrude, her two smaller sisters, and two cousins.

In the kitchen, the first jar of dill pickles has been put up - yum! can't wait to get into those!

The excess zucchini is being grated, packed in brine, and put aside to ferment. This is a really fast, easy, and very nutritious way to preserve it. Come winter, it can be eaten straight out of the jar like sauerkraut, used in salads, put in soups and stews, or put in spaghetti sauce. I often do a wonderful Bread & Butter Mustard Pickle with the excess zucchini, but I still have some of that left from last year, so don't need to do any more.

Excess green beans (which includes yellow ones and purple ones), get packed in brine too. Unlike other vegetables though, salting and fermenting makes beans tougher rather than more tender. But the fermenting does add a really nice flavour, and come winter these beans are fantastic in long, slow cooked soups, stews, and casseroles - perfect for anything done in a crockpot. The slow cooking makes them very tender.

And of course, no pantry is complete without home-marinated feta :)

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Molly's Block

I finished my two seams on Molly's block today - the 2nd of the Stitching Only 2013 RR (Rose Anne's Block was the first).

When I originally saw Molly's pic of the naked block, my first thought was 'undersea', and I planned my seam treatments accordingly. However, as the saying goes, mice and men and all that... By the time it reached me, it had passed thru Rose Anne's talented hands, and no longer had that 'undersea' feeling. Rather, it had taken on a decidedly 'Orient/India' feel. What came to mind then was 'peacocks and water lilies'.

For my first seam treatment I went with the idea of peacocks in a walled garden. The peacock tails are done in fly stitch with 2 strands of thread - 1 strand of blue DMC Jewel Effects and 1 strand of brilliant green Anchor Pure Silk, threaded together. These are then embellished with green sequins, and 'lapis blue with gold core' seed beads for the tail 'eyes'. The 'body' is made from a 3-bead loop of the lapis seed beads. Behind the peacocks is the 'garden wall', in herringbone stitch done with a beautiful azure blue vintage rayon ribbon. This is tacked down and embellished with little crosses, detached chain, colonial knots, and straight stitches all done in a rich chocolate brown Rajmahal Art Silk, and bright gold beads added. In front of the peacocks is 'the garden' - a vine border in chain stitch done in the brown Rajmahal, embellished with bead flowers made from the lapis and bright gold seed beads, and single bright gold beads.

For my second seam treatment I went with the idea of 'water lilies'. Two rows of chain stitch 'waves' were laid down with two strands of fine gold metallic thread. A strand of bright gold seed beads and faux pearls was added to each trough space between the two waves. The water lilies were formed with detached chain in a rose No.8 pearl, with a straight stitch of 2 strand of fuchsia cotton floss in the centre of each. The centre of the flower is a metallic pink sequin and a bright gold seed bead, with 4 single strand gold metallic thread stamen terminating in a bright gold seed bead each. Underneath the waves, emanating from under each peak, is a feather stich spray done in a single strand of pale pink DMC Pearl Effects, and pale pink 'pearlized' seed beads.

Yes, I noticed, I seemed to have a bit of a fetish for radiating half circles on this one. I think the waves and half circles were a subconscious echoing of Rose Anne's work - a way to tie all the work together. I hope Molly likes them.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Welcome To The Jungle... and the Fairies that be there.

New Year's day has come and gone, and here we are 3 days in. I have to say though, I'm really still not feeling the blogging spirit at the moment, but figured I should put in something. I took photos of the garden on New Year's day, to keep the 'photo record' of the ever changing face of the garden going.

The Jungle...

Row 1. All the tomatoes have gone completely insane, and are three times bigger than anything I have grown previously - even though some are the same varieties. They have long ago destroyed their stakes, spilled out onto the paths, and are invading the neighbouring plots. Actually pretty much everything in the garden has gone like that. I put that down to the 4 years of work conditioning the soil with only organic composts and manures, heavy mulching including the paths, and keeping it entirely chemical & spray free.

Row 2. All you can see now of row 2 is the corn, which is doing beautifully. Above the centre of the corn you can see the sunflower plants in the back plot, which are now - no kidding- almost 10ft high!

One of the Sunflowers.

Row 2 from the opposite end. Originally I planted sweet peppers and onions in this back plot, along with some purple potatoes on one edge (the left edge from this perspective). However the plot has since sprouted much self-sown dill (yum), a couple of self-sown pumpkins of unknown variety, and self-sow tomatillos - which seem to be coming up pretty much everywhere in the garden. The middle plot, between this one and the corn, has yet more triffid-like tomato plants.

In the middle plot of tomatoes I have several Indigo Rose. This is the first time I have grown this variety, and I am quite taken with it. With the many other varieties of black tomatoes I have grown over the years, the tomato starts off green, then eventually goes black(ish). Indigo Rose however, starts off black from the get go, and is REALLY black! It is also a very prolific variety. I grew 16 different heirloom varieties this year, to get an idea of what they have to offer, and I will be choosing 6 of my favourites for a permanent place in my annual repertoire. Indigo Rose will definitely be one of them.

Tyre garden 1. The zucchinis are coming to the end of their productiveness.

Tyre garden 2, On the trellises I had planted a dozen Lemon Cucumbers, from a brand new, unopened packet. Me thinks there was a mislabelling mishap somewhere, as I now have a dozen (very closely spaced) pumpkin plants, of a variety I have never grown in my garden before, which are producing a lot of pumpkins - and no cucumbers.


Tyre garden 3.

And, of course, there is Gertrude.

And the Fairies...

Also on New Year's day, I diligently pieced the first block of the CQJP2014 challenge. As I mentioned last year, I chose Cicely  Mary Barker's flower fairies as my theme.
Normally when I crazy quilt, I just 'close my eyes and grab a piece', ending up with all sorts of wonderful, clashing colour schemes. For this project however, I am taking the unprecedented path of colour coordinating, choosing colours of the flowers. Also, I don't normally plan the embroidery/embellishing, just fossick around in my stash and see what I come up with that takes my fancy. But once again, I am doing the novel, and planning - not micro-planning, just big-picture planning. On each block I will put stumpwork and/or ribbonwork flowers of the type represented by the fairy, and at least one stumpwork beetle, dragonfly, or butterfly. That's the plan anyway.

This first block is the Lavender Fairy

Well, that's pretty much me for the day. I'm off to procrastinate some more, before I get my a-into-g and go make my Kimchi.