Friday, July 29, 2011

The Garden at the End of July...

Oops! Looks like I forgot to finish a post. How fun to look back at the mid-summer garden!

... looks a lot like a "normal" June garden. We're eating lettuce, green onions, chard, baby beets, summer squash, and broccoli. There is abundant promise.

...Zuccini and blossoms...

...yellow squash and more blossoms...

...shepherd's potatoes...

...with blossoms. Potato blossoms are very pretty, and are obviously in the nightshade family!

...squash blossoms. Someday I'm going to try fried squash blossoms.

...tomatoes, if not ripening, at least there are now green ones.

Garden view looking SSW. Onions, lettuce, beets, broccoli, leeks, squash, corn, sunflowers.

...corn with tassles!

...more potato blossoms. This time a red potato - Carmine.

...beans to come! The Royal Purple are gorgeous plants. Red stems and the lovely violet-pink blossoms! The little bean is still green - soon to turn dark purple.

This has been a great year for broccoli. Not too hot, not too cold.

Pole beans climbing up the sunflowers.

A closer look at a baby Royal Purple bean.

That was where I stopped, but I figured it is still worth sharing. The garden of 2011 isn't quite done, though long past its peak. It's not too early to look forward to next year's garden!
- Franna

I Finished the Tour de Fleece!

I started Le Tour de Fleece a couple of previous years, but didn't stick with it to the end. THIS YEAR...

...I spun a little or a lot every day the riders rode. And most days, I watched the "other" spinning - bicycles, lots of bicycles. It was an exciting Tour with many sprint finished, lead changes, accidents (boo!), and wacko fans lining the roads.

I started spinning batts from a class I took this spring, and FINISHED them all! Those are the colored skeins in the photo.

Then the next week, I started spinning my "peloton" yarn - Shetland! The white on the bobbin is fine top from Shetland sheep living in the Shetland isles via Jamieson and Smith. My other Shetland spinning isn't shown - it's bulky yarn from one of our first Shetlands - Electra. I'm making a lap blanket with two of her fleeces.

My stretch (difficult climb days) spinning was on the spindle shown above - a cashmere and silk blend. I only got a few yards spun. It's quite fine and I had a lot of "help" from the cats and dogs. They wanted to help spin that spindle - hah!

This was my favorite image from the awards ceremony - the three winners with raised, clasped hands, jubilant in their victory, and I'm sure more than a little glad the Tour was over for another year.
- Franna

Monday, July 04, 2011

Garden Bounty

Remember the photo above from mid-May?

...and this one with the baby broccoli, Brussels sprouts and leek hairs newly planted?

Here it is today - July 4th, 2011 - the 235th Birthday of the United States.

It's a bit behind the usual Western Washington garden and growing well with our recent warm weather. ...just add water!

Today, I harvested this "bounty" - our first lettuce and scallions.

The lettuce, one leaf from each of three different types of lettuce, went straight into my lunch - pastrami and mustard on Dave's Killer Good Seed bread!

Mega-flavor and crunch!!!

Below are the "shepherd's potatoes", growing in a tower made from old fencing, then lined with mulch quality fleeces, and filled with compost as the potatoes grow.

The tower below, third from the left, holds Carmine potatoes. I'm so tempted to check the bottom layer for new potatoes! It won't be long, they've got flower buds! The broccoli LOVES this weather!

...and so do the Brussels sprouts. They've grown so tall, that they fall over and I've added stakes and big rocks to prop them up! Tiny Brussels sprouts are starting to form - promises, promises!

More promises - the tomatoes are doing better than expected. They have lots of blossoms, and even...

... one little tomato! It's an heirloom variety beefsteak type - Persimmon.The corn is doing average. The rule of thumb is that corn should be "knee high by the Fourth of July". Welllll...

... with a little help the first planting of corn is knee high. The last planting is just emerged. I'm hopeful... the local corn mazes aren't up yet, either.

Beans - looking good! after a shaky start with no help from the moles. grrrrr!

One little zuccini with a big blossom! ... well behind "normal" for this area.

Carrots and Beets coming along. I can't blame the weather for these, they were planted late. Beet thinnings to come!

This goodie is one of four... count 'em... four parsnip plants that came up in 8' of row. At least there's still time to plant more parsnips.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Le Tour de Fleece - Day 1 Progress

I completed a whole batt! It took about 2 hours spinning, plying and skeining. 0.9 oz and 79 yards. The color's not quite right on my monitor, it's the center top batt in the previous post - magenta blended with white, a little grey and a bit of flash. Yeaaa! Progress!

LeTour de Fleece - Day 1

This is my chosen fiber for the 2011 Le Tour de Fleece. The idea of Le Tour is to to spin every day that the Tour de France cyclists compete, plus including challenging oneself, doing something difficult during the most difficult day of the Tour de France... you get the idea.

I've started Le Tour de Fleece the past 2 years, and haven't finished. This year I'm on the start line again! My big challenge will be to finish Le Tour. My stretch challenge will be to complete the above batts. I'll be using my Majacraft Rose, and the days I'm not at home, I'll have one of my trusty spindles with Shetland fiber. I have moorit and white in work that I take with me for demonstrations.

I took the Designer Batt class at Shepherds' Extravaganza this year - taught by Amy Wolf. These batts came from that class. The class was incredible. If you ever have the opportunity to take a class from Amy, or listen to her judge sheep or fleeces, DON'T MISS OUT!!! She is an incredible instructor and judge, always with something positive to say.

The batts are:

(Vertical from left) - Rescue batt, Gradations (dark), Gradations (light), Rainbow, Water Lilies, and horizontal - Sunset.

They're all made from Washington grown fiber :-) and include kid mohair, Romney, Gotland :-) :-) :-) , Jacob, Icelandic, Shetland, Corriedale, and some I don't remember. We got to add silk, more mohair, flash, and other assorted goodies. Amy had some examples and walked us through making shade and tint gradations, rainbow batts and rescue batts (something didn't turn out well - instead of tossing the fiber, add "things" to it!)

I think I'll start with the shade and tint gradations. I won't be alone in my spinning. My "helpers" Toby and Kat are always close by!

And just so the sheep don't feel left out... This is my favorite Gotland ewe: Gem.
Gem is 75% Gotland and 25% Finn. She has lovely, lustrous, dark grey curls, and classic Northern Shorttail conformation, plus is friendly and easy to handle. Lovely ewe!

This year, Gem gave us two beautiful 87.5% lambs. The lighter one is a ram with the tight pincurl type lamb fleece that I love. Her ewe, Crystal, has the more traditional curly fleece. Their sire is Hamish Black's (Chocolate Wool NZ) Gotland ram, Ralph.

More Le Tour and Lamb updates to come!