Monday, May 31, 2010

Thing of Beauty, and How to Perform Liposuction on a Lawn

My order arrived: four pounds of hop pellets.

Woo-HOO!! With it in hand, brewing and bottling weekend officially began. Er, I mean Memorial Day Weekend.

First up we bottled the IPA we’d brewed on May 15. Since that uses the same yeast strain as the new IPA batch (and the fermentation process in beer doesn’t usually kill the yeast), I harvested the yeast from the previous batch, put it in a laboratory flask, fed it, stoppered it with an airlock and cork, and left it overnight.

(I meant to take a photo of this because it looked really cool and science-y, but long before the light was good enough for picture-taking I was deeply entrenched in brewing and kinda forgot.)

By 7 a.m. Saturday we were already heating 6 gallons of brew water on our burner. Brew day always starts early. But most days do, around here.

In the end I used about a third of the packet of Columbus for this one batch. The other varieties are slated for remaining batches on our brew calendar for the remainder of 2010.

I discovered errata in the foundation recipe I was using—Hopfather Double IPA from Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione and published by Quarry. Unfortunately this publisher doesn’t seem to believe in proper editing/proofreading or the obvious error would have been discovered and fixed before it went to press. Nor does this publisher believe in adding an errata page to their web site. Nor do they believe in allowing customers to contact them. I say this because I attempted to bring the error to their attention but the email link on their web site was a bad address and it bounced back. I guess we’re only meant to look at the pretty pictures?? That and the paper it was printed on seems to be where they allocated the money for this project.

This time around I decided to save back some of my spent grain (which I normally rake into my garden as compost) to make spent grain bread. That’ll be on the baking calendar early this week.

The harvested yeast seems to have worked beautifully, and the batch is currently bubbling away in the fermenter.

Sunday looked to be one of those lazy catch-up days. A little of this, a little of that, lots of puttering, etc. That is, until I looked out the front window and saw the lump in our lawn. And I was instantly reminded that de-lumping the lawn had been on the calendar for Memorial Day Weekend.

I’m not exactly sure why the lump was there. I suspect that it is connected to the remains of a thorny locust that had been planted nearby. We know from the disclosure statement by our home’s previous owners that a tree had fallen on the house. By the time we bought, most signs of that tree were gone, but subtle hints remained. Like a ring of bushes that behaved like a locust where the new branches are actually thorns until they grow to a certain length. Handling those were fun (not), and killing them dead was one of my greatest challenges and greatest joys of 2009. I suspect that these bushes were actually suckers coming off a locust tree’s surviving root system, and after trying to dig out the bush stumps this spring, I can tell you that the roots didn’t look like bush roots. They were much thicker and much more involved. Ultimately I had to resort to digging down around the bush base sufficiently to handsaw the bush remains’ flat to the ground.

And I’ve seen a satellite photo of our house with a tree in the spot where those bushes were.

Knowing that, it kind of looked like a bulge that could have been created as the root ball raised up when the tree fell. Then some homeowner or tenant decided the way to solve that problem would be to encircle the bulge with landscaping edging and call it a garden feature.

Another theory is that it had nothing to do with a tree, but it was someone’s unusual idea for a landscaping feature, and the soil level naturally built up over time where they planted their garden. But I can tell you that the shape of that thing didn’t make any sense and didn’t connect join or respond to any other part of the landscaping, so if it was someone’s idea, it wasn’t a good one.

In 2008 I removed the edging that had surrounded the mound, sold the edging in our garage sale, and the mound was ultimately seeded as part of the lawn. But the lump looked odd, and the track where the edging had been was a definite ankle twisting hazard as well as a lawn mowing issue. Cut to 2010 and our insane idea for a fix: Liposuction.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t there easier ways of solving this? Sure. But they all involved waiting until fall when it is suitable weather for seeding grass, and the easiest (hiring someone) would have cost about a thousand bucks. There are many other things I would like to do with a thousand dollars other than hiring a lawn crew to flatten out my lawn a bit. Doing the liposuction method cost us our time, took maybe a few years off our lives from sheer exhaustion, and about $10 in cold beer. Plus a bad dinner out and lots of Advil, so let’s bump that up to $25.

The first step in the process involved cutting square-shaped sod plugs off the troubled area.

These were then carried to the driveway to keep out of the way while we worked. We tried to keep these in pretty much the same order in which they were removed.

Next we dug down, and removed approximately 2-3 squares yards of top soil.

This was then hoed and raked into a flattish area. Then we moved the sod back onto the bald area.

On tasks that are unusually difficult, I cannot help myself. I absolutely had to know how much those clumps weighed. I knew they were heavy, and seemed to grow heavier as the day wore on. But how much? So I brought the bathroom scale out and plunked an average-ish sized sod plug onto it. 23 lbs. And based on the number of plugs, that meant that around 4,000 pounds of sod plugs were lifted off our lawn, and moved to the driveway. Since we had to move them back, that meant we hauled 8,000 lbs of sod. Plus the wheelbarrow loads of dirt. Plus the actual slicing of the plugs...

But look at how it turned out:

Flat, man! And yet covered in grass!

Do I need to spell out to you how utterly freaking exhausted we were by the end of the day? We finished just as the thunder rolled in from an evening storm. So much for the shrimp boil I’d been invited to. So much for the garden party. Then we picked up a really bad dinner at the Chinese deli at the local Hy-Vee. And I do mean bad. On a scale of 1 to 10 with ten being best, I’d rate this as a 3.5. It didn’t give me food poisoning, but that’s the only reason I didn’t give it a lower rating. Overcooked, sitting in the warming trays far too long, flavorless and tough. And really, we were so exhausted and hungry I could have been given a plate of raw horse meat and been perfectly happy. So I do mean bad. It certainly wasn’t worth what we paid for it, and I won’t make that mistake again.

I know. I’ve ranted about HyVee in the past, but in the past I’ve at least given them credit for their ready-to-make meal selection which seems to be the predominant direction for their store. (Wait. Are you telling me that people actually... cook?) Now I’m officially taking away that nod.

Which leaves only one. My most local store has an awesome land and garden department. Awesome! Guess I’ll just have to hang around the parking lot from now on. I seem to be much happier there.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Sure-Fired Cure for Insomnia

It is one of the burdens of being an adult, that at one time or another many of us will be called upon to settle the estate of a loved one. And so it is for me—though the actual term of my task hasn’t begun yet and won’t begin for an indeterminate time because the person is alive and kicking thank-you-very-much. But knowing that this task is ahead has led me to purchase and *read* (gasp) The Executor's Guide: Settling a Loved One's Estate or Trust.

I know. Nothing against the book (which is quite informative, btw), but gawd every time I crack it open I’m nodding off in 15 minutes or less.

As for why I am reading it now when my duty is a ways off, it’s so I have some general idea of the task ahead and questions that I might stand a chance of actually getting answered by a person who readily knows them because that’s the life they are leading. (“Did I forget to mention that I’m a part owner in the International Space Station?” etc.)

Thanks to several chapters I could skip (involving minor children), I finally managed to finish it yesterday. This is good. Finishing it meant that I could choose between and begin to nibble on one of two reward chocolates I purchased at World Market this week. I ultimately decided on this:

Swell choice! And yes it is about half gone already.

Though I am glad to have one or two unusual stand-alone projects at any given time, right now I have so many that I can’t possibly make small progress on more than two or three each day. Unacceptable. Getting this off my plate frees up hours that can now be spent making more progress on programming training, Spanish, or even something truly bizarre like quilting or knitting.

The holiday weekend is looming. In my mind it already started, though I have one last client meeting before it can truly begin. I have big plans that include bottling, brewing, and even trying my hand at ranching. Yeast ranching, that is.

Next up is a batch of double IPA, which calls for roughly a thousand times more hops than any recipe I’ve used up to now. Which is a large part of the reason I have a bulk order of hops on its way. Knowing how much Centennial hops the called for, we decided to finalize our brewing schedule for the rest of 2010. We then added up the hops requirements for all the recipes, and discovered four varieties total that were going to be used in sufficient quantities to justify buying a pound rather than an ounce a piece. This recipe will be our first opportunity to try dry hopping, where additional hop pellets are added during the fermentation and conditioning phases. More supplies are needed, so a homebrew store run will officially launch our entry into the holiday.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Beginnings, and a Poo Identification

(Warning: in case you couldn’t tell by the title of this post, a photo of an animal-originated poo is included in this post. Tread carefully and accordingly.)

A few days ago I planted a row of sunflower seeds along my garage wall. I bought the seeds for two reasons. First, we had a wild hair to investigate what the addition of sunflower seeds would do to a batch of beer, and it’s pretty darn difficult to find sunflower seeds that aren’t salted. And second, the heads will be a nice addition to our bird garden over the winter. But first I needed to buy the seeds.

Sunflowers come in all sizes and purposes. Some are propagated for their appearance, while others for the seeds. We needed to find the kind with large seed heads, because we are more interested in the seeds than the petals.

I went to my local nursery and looked over their seed selection. They had a few kinds, but none of the packages were clearly marked as to the size and production of seeds. So I did what any right-minded customer would do: I asked a full-time employee. The following is a brief summary of the painful exchange that followed.

“Excuse me, what sunflower should I buy if I’m interested in the seeds?”

The employee strolled over and eyed a different area of the seed rack. “Well, a lot of people eat nasturtium blossoms...”

“No,” I said. “I’m interested in sunflowers. What sunflower is the best seed producer?”

“For birds?”

“For people.”

“Well, the problem is, the packaged seeds have been treated.”

... at this point, I began to sense that she was under the impression I wanted to eat the seeds directly from the package and not actually plant, grow, and eat the harvested seeds.

I thanked her, told her I would think about it, and let her walk away. Some help is no help. Know what I mean?

I ultimately picked up a package of Mammoth Russian, which have been around since the 1800s, and supposedly are great seed producers. When the seeds have been harvested, I can easily roast them according to these directions.

At any rate, the seedlings are starting to emerge:

This morning we discovered a rather large and unsightly animal turd (aka scat) in our backyard.
Identifying and removing this is rather important. Michael and I each had our theories (which conflicted) as to the suspect species. Ultimately I followed the clues on this website to land on a final I.D. Here is the scat with the toe of my shoe as size reference:

The first thing to look at is color. If it were white, it would mean one thing. Non-white means something else entirely.

Note that the scat is tubular and rather large. It is also a bit globular, but that could mean that the animal has diarrhea. It’s mainly tubular, so I’m going for that.

The next thing to look at is content. I can see no fur, but berry seeds are clearly visible.

It could be a coyote, but my bet is a raccoon, which tend to defecate along tree lines. That is where I found it, after all.

There are two things that are especially unfortunate about my raccoon identification. One, raccoons carry roundworm, so I needed to be especially carefully when disposing of the feces.

Second, raccoons tend to defecate in the same location over and over and over. They stack scat. The area where they do this is referred to as a latrine. And when I looked at this closer during clean-up, I could see that there are two distinct scats here. Yes, stacked. Our backyard = latrine.

So I needed to dispose of this quickly, extremely cautiously, and be ever-vigilant to ensure no more appears.

I did so using a pair of garden gloves, and two layers of plastic grocery bags.

Afterward, I dressed the area with a goodly sprinkling of bobcat urine.

As with most things in life, it’s now just “wait and see” time, for both plants and animals.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Five Minute Fix

I love, love, love home repair projects that are started and finished in five minutes. Few and far between, but delicious. Here’s my lastest five-minute fix:

A dead-ish plant that should be nearly impossible to kill. And yet...

Probable Cause:
Insane use of pot with no drain holes thus resulting in drought-tolerant plant living in a swamp.

Drill baby, drill!

I used a masonry drill bit in my electric drill to make four drain holes in the base. Didn’t even bother to take the plant out of the pot.

Half an hour later, this is how much water had drained out:


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Turtle Identification

Several people have asked me how to tell the difference between a snapping turtle and a box turtle. This is a good thing to know, because snapping turtles are extremely aggressive, quick, and can amputate a finger with a snap of their jaws.

I don’t have a photo of a box turtle, so I’ve posted this photo of a Florida Box Turtle by Jonathan Zander.

The three main identifiers (at least my main identifiers as a non-biologist) are the shell shape, head shape, and feet.

Here’s my snapper:

Note that the shell on the box turtle is highly domed, while the snapper is much flatter. The head of the snapper is also much larger, and very triangular in shape.

Now for a closer look at the feet:

They are very wide, highly webbed, and with large claws. Everything about the design of this creature screams killer. (If you don’t believe me, ask my traumatized cats.)

Snapping turtles are one of two carnivorous turtles in North America, and the most aggressive of the two. Box turtles are omnivorous, which means they eat meat too but are mostly herbivores, especially as they get older.

If you ever find a snapping turtle in your yard, leave it alone. Do not ever try to pick it up by its tail (which can injure the animal) or by the sides of the shell where they are able to kick and inflict injury with their powerful feet, and/or turn their heads to bite. (Quote from the Wikipedia page, “Snappers may stretch their necks halfway back across their own carapace to bite.”) The only safe-ish way to pick up a snapping turtle is by its shell (carapace) with one hand at the base near the tail, and with the other hand at the top over its head. Still, I would go for the safest route: Leave it alone.

In hunting for photos and behavior information, I found this lovely tidbit. Apparently snapping turtles are frequently found away from a water source when the females are looking for a place to lay their eggs. The peak months for egg laying are June and July.

Two things to note here:
1) My yard is at least a block from the nearest stream.
2) June is only a week away.

On the upside, I don’t have any soil that I would describe as sandy—aka egg-laying heaven—except for maybe my spent grain piles.

On the downside, earlier that morning I noticed that something had dug a hole in the spent grain from my IPA brewing session. Our wild yard rabbit, Barley, had been eating on that pile for a few days until we dumped our wheat/malt grain. Then he switched to the wheat. And he doesn’t dig holes. He gobbles from the top and sizes in large swaths. If not Barley, what?

So I will be looking at my yard with great suspicion now, wondering where/when and if several dozen baby snappers are going to hatch.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cat Fascination Solved

This snapping turtle is roughly a foot long from the top of his shell to the bottom. More if counting head and tail.

I guess this means I need to watch where I’m weeding from now on. That is, if I like having fingers and toes!
Whatever was out there, it must have been fascinating!

(and probably tasty, too)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Taking the Plunge

As many of my long-term readers have figured out by now, I like to learn new things. I may be crap at them, but that won’t stop me from giving them the old college try.

So that is how I have found myself, on this last cold, rainy spring day (once this rain system moves out, temps are expected to reach and stay in the upper 80s), digging through a Head First PHP & MySQL book.

I have hopes. Hopes to create a searchable database for one of our web sites. But getting there has been one disaster after another. To the extent that the very act of trying may be responsible for the demise of my laptop’s brainy bits, and my cat’s hind leg. You would think that couldn’t be connected, but can it be a coincidence that every time I feel like I’m narrowing in on the problem, some disaster befalls and I’m left to begin again at square 1 six months to a year later? It’s to a point that I’m almost afraid of what future disaster might be lurking around the corner.

At every trial there has been a wall, due mainly to all the texts I have been using being on a different system than my own. And there are a bazillion variables, so troubleshooting is a misery. In November I’d even posted my current problem to the Head First forum and exactly no one responded in the six months that followed.

Thankfully one of my fellow geek peeps at a KC club happens to be a programmer, so I told him about my difficulty logging into the correct interface. He shared two magical things with me: Use MAMP; and there is an interface to MySQL within MAMP itself. No need to use Terminal. AWESOME!

With that, and with more trial and error (had a bugger of a time figuring out where to “upload” my documents to the localhost since it seemed to be in a different place than pre-MAMP), I actually managed to create a web form, and use it to propagate a table with data. I still have so much to learn, but there is real progress being made.

The only frustrating part is that I can count on one finger the number of people who can share my excitement. Because either this is old hat (e.g. programmer peep), or so far beyond their sphere of comprehension that they are incapable of understanding even the basics of my achievement (e.g. maternal unit).

Oh well. I’ve finished chapter 2 and am mid-way through three. And the victory high-fives only require one other hand...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Promise of Things to Come

A day with actual sunshine. Perfect for:

brewing the batch of all-grain wheat from Sunday’s postponed session,

growing tomatoes (Black Krim)

and knitting.

This is the beginning of a set of curtains for the kitchen window. I’m thinking of calling them “Sam’s Victory Garden,” in honor of Sam on Foyle’s War. I’ve never seen her knit, but she’s as handy with a plumbing wrench as she is at a crime scene. She certainly seems like the scrappy kind of gal who—in a pinch—could turn bits of kitchen string into a set of curtains.

The lace pattern is Eye of the Lynx.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


One of my greatest pleasures—and one of the rarest—is a quiet, rainy day. Waking up to an overcast sky, walking the yard in a gentle drizzle, keeping the television and radio off. No catching up on a backlog of podcasts, no winnowing down our DVR recordings. No noise. Just reading and puttering in a cocoon of quiet.

Yesterday was a bit crazy. We foolishly believed the forecasts that said rain would be hit and miss in the morning but dry and sunny all afternoon. It rained all day, and hard at times. And we were brewing all-grain, which meant in and out, checking the temperature of the wort, sparging, religiously checking the recipe that was disintegrating in a puddle of rainwater on our outdoor table. Yesterday’s recipe was my attempt at converting a partial mash IPA which we had made and loved in February, to all-grain. Michael gave this batch the moniker of “Rain Maker IPA,” so the blame for the weather should really point toward him, don’t you think? By the end of the brew session we were chilled to the bone.

And today, given that the forecasts were so unanimously depressing, we decided against brewing our second May batch, which is destined to be a wheat. And it’s turning out to be less wet... So it goes. We’ll try again mid-week. I hear we might even have sun.

What to do with a found day?

Read! I finally finished See you in a Hundred Years. It’s a short book, so it’s an embarrassment that I hadn’t finished it two months ago. But I’m gonna use the tired “I’ve been kinda busy” excuse. I enjoyed it, but I really had to push my own ethics, rationale and priorities aside to appreciate their choices without judgment. Now that the book is finished, all bets are off. I even had enough time to pick out and start my next book, In the Kitchen by Monica Ali.

Repair! A few months ago we discovered that the remote to the ceiling fan in our bedroom wasn’t working. The remote is what controls fan speed, and allows the light and blades to operate independently of each other. In other words, the remote not working meant that there was no way to leave the fan on during sticky nights without also having the lights on, short of unscrewing the light bulbs. Thanks to the folks at Rensen House of Lights and Regency Ceiling Fans for arranging shipment of a new receiver. We finally carved out the time to swap out receivers this morning, and the fan is working like a dream again.

Complete! The simple crocheted potholder project is now seamed and ready to use. Now I’d love to have a second for handling my brew kettle. (Would be a major improvement over those silly silicone jobbies.) Many thanks to Emily for sharing this. It was the perfect way to practice sc!

Think! Just time to think and gently plan for the coming week is a luxury I rarely know.

Friday, May 14, 2010

“Clothing for the Emancipated Man”

If you’re asking yourself what exactly an “Emancipated Man” is, you are asking yourself the wrong question. What you should be asking yourself is what sort of acid trip the designer was on at the time they imagined up this psychedelic silk onesy with a naval-revealing scoop neckline, and why anyone would have paid anything to own such a thing (and especially not thousands of dollars).

The 1968 AP photo can be found here, within the Kansas City Star web site. It’s image 19 of 88.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


1 terrible spring-time thunderstorm + baby robin season = full morning of delight for one male house cat.

If I had known where the nest was, I would have attempted a return. Unfortunately the nest doesn’t seem to be in our yard.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Garden Hits and Misses

Sunday may have been Mother’s Day, but my mother and I celebrated it Friday with a trip to Kansas City to explore a few of the larger lawn and landscape stores there. It was an intensely crazy day, because it was pinned on the front with a crucial phone interview appointment, and then pinned on the tail-end with a last-minute invitation to a grilling party at a friend’s house. And given where I live, and where my mother lives, and where the garden stores were—and the fact that I picked up my mother and brought her back home—it was a hell of a lot of highway miles on a day when wind conditions were severe. (After my interview and before I headed out, I spent 45 fruitless minutes going to three craft stores only to discover that the 3.00 crochet hook my new crochet pattern calls for apparently only exists in theory and isn’t something I can order... More on that in a later post. And I’ve solved the underlying issue, so I am no longer looking for that hook.)

I had a short list of items I intended to buy, but ended up coming up short on the most critical things. Like pussy willow... It’s like the horticultural industry has turned its back on pussy willows... If I’d wanted a weeping pussy willow I would have been in good stead. But the old-fashioned kind? Not.

All is not lost, however. I made a few calls and finally found a nursery that has some in stock. That meant a Monday run. Out of town, of course.

Saturday was beautiful, but I spent the morning doing volunteer work.

Then had to leave an hour earlier than usual for a meeting in Kansas City because we needed to hit the homebrew shop on the way. (Turned out that I needed to purchase a 50# bag of malt. Only about a fifth of that is needed for the coming weekend, but it’s simultaneously scary and exciting that we are brewing often enough and with sufficient confidence that we are now getting our supplies in bulk. The trunk of our car smells like a grain silo. Pretty.)

So Sunday became planting day. And heavy yard work of a general nature given the pathetic state of some areas of the yard, and my plan to host a keg-tapping knit party next weekend in the area of the yard that is in the saddest state. And another buying day, to fill in the gaps that our Friday run hadn’t filled. Which meant even more work in the planting.

We ended the day exhausted to the core, but in a really good way. Some things didn’t get done—and didn’t get done on Monday because of the constant rains broken only by periods of drenching downpour—but by the end of the day today it was mostly in place. The new French pussy willow is in the ground, the mint wrangled out of its old bed and put in a pot for taming in a better bed, the remainder our our Sunday plantings mapped for future reference, cedars sprayed for bagworms, and a goodly chunk of the sunken garden weeded.

Now I’m ready for more rain—and a good long sit. Right after a long hot shower, that is.

The jeans? Well, they may just need to be burned...

Friday, May 07, 2010

New Name, Old Flame

Pouring through my recipe books recently, I ran across a familiar entry. Yet one I hadn’t made for years and never from scratch: Chicken Tettrazini. (The dish has never been my favorite, but to be fair the only iteration I had had was Tuna Tettrazini in the Tuna Helper family of box meals. It was to be expected, really.)

As soon as I read the name, I heard it in my head in a sing-song voice that was amped up on attitude. Are you hearing it now? If you are, then you are either a Maury Povich fan, or an E! Soup fan, or maybe both. I saw the clip on E!

I know!

Here’s the thing. I made the dish with the recipe out of Fannie Farmer, using a velouté sauce—and it is phe-nom-en-al. I cannot speak highly enough of my chicken tettrazini. But I am forever cursed to say it in the Soup way. “What are we having tonight?” “CHICKen Tet Tra ZEEN ee.”

So in our home, we have decided to rename it. It is now, and will forever be called Chicken Velouté with Smothered Mushrooms.

I feel so much better now.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Actual Crochet

This: me, last night, doing actual crochet while watching the DVR’d Belize special of Top Gear, Season 14.

Details on the crochet project (I know. It’s shocking for both of us.) to come.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Hidden Treasure

One of my chief complaints about our new house (but also something I am eternally grateful for) is the utter lack of bedding plants that should be here, given that the house is coming up on its 40th birthday.

There have been a few things, sure. And to be fair, we have gleefully cut down and otherwise destroyed a goodly number of them. But there we’re talking about evergreens that were no longer green, and a non-ornamental dogwood tree that leaned precariously over the driveway. (I waited to make the final decision last spring after I had a chance to see the pathetic excuse it called a bloom.) The rose bush destruction, on the other hand, few would understand. (I hate roses. There, I said it.)

So it has been a lovely surprise to discover one or two rare gems. I found one in here last year:

while doing my twice-yearly weed pulling under the cedars along a property line.

I try to limit the number of times I dive under there because the limbs are so low, I have to basically creep along on my hands and knees. And poison ivy grows there (which I am terrible at identifying) as well as catchweed bedstraw (which I am terribly allergic to - developing blisters at the slightest touch.)

So it was a shock to me, hacking through this menacing underbrush on my belly, to come nose to nose with a “bleeding heart” growing at the base of one of these trees, deep within its shade canopy. I made a mental note of it, and dove back in this spring to harvest it for the sunken garden. Of course, once it bloomed out in the open, I could see it wasn’t a bleeding heart. It was a columbine:

The rescued columbine, now living amongst violets, Solomon’s seal, and hostas.

A lovely and unusual specimen, though I had never been able to successfully grow columbine before, so I’m speaking from a highly limited experience base. I’ll forgive my mis-identification last year because of the poor viewing conditions, the similarity of the foliage, and the fact that the unopened blossoms look similar to the blooms of bleeding heart.

Judging by the maturity of the cedars, and the fact that no one in their right mind would intentionally plant something (legal) where it couldn’t be seen and enjoyed, I’m guesstimating it the original columbine was planted in the early ’80s or even earlier. Since they are known to be good self-seeders, I’m not sure if this is the original plant or an off-spring.

During one of the seasonal nursery’s close-outs in ’09, we had picked up another. We expected the worst, but it survived the winter. And this spring we were treated to this:

Columbine Aguilegia ‘Songbird Mix’

With this kind of success under our belts, we may even test a few lupines this year.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, Day Six

I stalled out on this post because it deals with a sore subject: the Ribbed Vest (rav link).

I love the yarn (Nashua Handknits Creative Focus Worsted). I love the pattern (from the February 2006 Knit ’N Style). I love the memory of its creation (numerous Buddhist Temples in South Korea, 2006).

So what’s not to love? It’s too short. Way too short for me body type. And I’m not even a long-waisted person.

I’m not judging other by their choices, but I personally prefer that my vest, sweaters—and frankly every outer garment for the upper body—extend to at least the waist. The hip is even better. If it doesn’t, it’s really no different than a bra. A highly non-supportive bra, but a bra none-the-less.

Because of the memories of how and where I made this, I don’t have the heart to frog it. But it’s certainly no better to have the most action it sees be the seasonal transfer between active closet and summer storage.

Really, I should be thinking outside the box here. Something I’ve proven I’m capable of.

If I like the vest from the waist up, then I guess I need to figure out a way to create a waist down. Since the yarn will inevitably be from a different dye lot, I should probably be thinking of making it in a different color. Perhaps even a different gauge. Maybe designing that section in such a way that would hold a belt, either a knit belt or store-bought. Then maybe adding another skein of the original colorway to the base of it, so the additional is a band rather the base...

The possibilities are endless. It’s the tasteful, attractive, sensible ones that are rare as hen’s teeth.