Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Weddings and Garden Plans

We watched a bit of the RW this morning - it was very conveniently timed for those of us on the East Coast of North America. Started about 6 and left for work at 8:30. Took the car in to WalMart - again - and - again - their tire-inflater machine isn't working, so I can't get the tires changed. They are taking up a lot of room in the trunk of the car, I have to say. I want to get potting soil today and can't think where I'm going to put it!! I left the car there for an oil change and walked to work - took exactly 47 minutes. I think I'll cab back, though!
I've been looking at do-it-yourself greenhouses on the 'net. I think my reading tent with perhaps a PVC pipe roof will be fine. They seem to be using woven plastic greenhouse fabric rather than banking poly, which is what I was planning to use. Seems like it would be much more expensive. And, they seem to expect them to survive winter outdoors! I wasn't planning on that at all.
I'm planning to get some early variety potato sets today and start them in pots - finally a use for all of those big black plastic pots I get with roses and have never had the heart to throw out. I only hope that they are big enough. I'm going to do the layering thing that they do on The Beechgrove Garden. Much easier to hill up, and I can keep them in the greenhouse for a while before putting them outdoors. I'd also like to put the wee strawberry plants in the greenhouse too - they are in the tiny wheelie one on the deck today but they just aren't doing much growing yet. I think I'll keep them in pots too - there was a gardener who had set up a series of steps, with pots for strawberries - very east to net against the birds, etc. Compact and pest-free.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sore as a sunburnt neck...

I spent Easter Monday in the garden. There's so much to do that I kept getting side-tracked. I'd start raking a flowerbed, then take the rakings to the compost and stop at the raspberries and work on them for a while...and so on. But things are looking good.
The beds by the door are clear, though, disappointingly, it looks like the clematis haven't survived. Watching The Beechgrove Garden, they seem to put in really big clematis plants - so when I get more clematis I'm going to leave them in the pots and feed them well, and not put them out until they are a decent size.
I have been wondering if either of the two reading tents I've been left with (and which are taking up room in my basement) might make a reasonable plastic-covered greenhouse. The more sturdy one would be the best to try with, I suppose. I must get a roll of banking plastic and give it a go. The main worry would be wind, of course, but maybe with ingenious guy ropes...I'm thinking down to the east of the vegetable garden, there's quite good northerly shelter there from some spruce trees, and a lot of sun to be had.
Anyway, I did a bit of work in the ugly ditch as well, raking down the dead stuff to the bottom and then firing it - however it was quite dry and a bit too windy, so I stomped it out pretty quickly. There's a bit of debris left behind after the fire that can go in the Waste cart tonight, and then, with luck, the lupins will come along and beautify the area! I took down a number of young Norway maples and wild roses, though there are many more of the latter at the end I didn't get to yet.
We have had rain since Monday, so my sunburnt neck feels oddly inexplicable - though it certainly is sore. Don't think I got much of a burn anywhere else - I was quite well covered up, just didn't think about sunscreen. The sun sneaked up on me.
I think the grass has greened up considerably just since Monday. More scarifying to be done yet, but we will have rain until at least Sunday! Though I hope that will change.
Fred plans to take out the honeysuckle and the spirea at the west side of the house - he says they are too close to the foundation. Luckily they have propagated themselves - particularly the honeysuckle, which has youngsters all over the place - so I don't mind. The house will look different with them gone, though. And we have to get a new oil tank, which will have to go indoors (I hate the thought, as I greatly fear oil spills and the resultant sickening smell, but apparently indoors is more acceptable to the insurance industry). This means that the whole west side will be bare. I may have to think about doing some flower beds there - it's mainly green at the moment. Lots of trees. Perhaps a shade garden.
Easter in Halifax was great, plenty of dancing and warm weather. It was 20 degrees on Sunday! We saw a bit of Katie - took her to Talay Thai on Saturday night, and brunch on Easter Sunday. She was going to a BBQ on Friday, so we ended up going for Indian food at Curry Village just off Spring Garden Road. Nice food, and good to see quite a few East Asians in - makes me think the food must be reasonably authentic!
Emily has been driving a truck for the NDP in Toronto - driving out to the airport to pick up equipment at odd times when the crew return from a campaign stop. She was called upon (as a native Islander) to recommend a PEI restaurant where Jack could have dinner with "a journalist" - somewhere with a view. She recommended The Dunes. Turned out the "journalist" was P. Mansbridge. She couldn't tell if they actually went to The Dunes when she watched it on TV that night - apparently most of the shoot was in a moving car!
We got lawn signs for Rita Jackson last night - but the Liberals out our way have been pretty mean, they have torn down countless Conservative signs in our neighbourhood over the few weeks of the campaign. And of course they defaced our Layton sign at the last election. What a big bunch of scaredey-cats.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Almost Easter!

And we'll be off to Halifax for dancing on Friday. I'm really looking forward to it.
Last weekend was ECMAs here and we spent a lot of time in concerts and saw a lot of great groups and musicians. Best? The Once were great, and Papilio was good - we had seen them in Victoria in the summer, of course, so did get to see more than a 25-minute set then. I quite agreed with the many comments about how awful it was that there were so many drunks shouting at each other at The Pourhouse that you could barely hear the bands. Funny thing happened: the Fire Marshal came, counted, and told the staff that they were 40 over capacity - so until 40 left, nobody else could come in. Some people spent 2 hours on the stairway waiting to come in - I'll be they heard the bands better than many who were actually in the room with them.
As a result I didn't get my Dangerous Turns sock finished in time! So I'm out of competition, which is fine with me - I can get back to knitting shawls! Apparently there's a new "in-between-rounds sock awaiting my download even as I write. Must do that. I did start a really easy shawl - one of those ones with a big bit of stockinette with a lace border, perfect for car-knitting on the trip to Halifax.
We are expecting snow (15-20 cm.) tomorrow so I'm not sure how the garden will do - I doubt it will be really cold, and set back the tiny buds on the trees, etc. It will be just a touch of Sheila's Brush. It will be gone by the weekend, I hope.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring has at last come - and most snow has gone.

I got the next sock pattern - Dangerous Turns - on Friday, so did quite a bit of work on it over the weekend. It's the funniest-looking thing! It's toe-up, and also cabled, so it is very long and flat. I've noticed this with toe-ups before. You don't notice how long and flat a toe is when it's at the end of your knitting - unless perhaps it's one of those long, long size 13 ones (hi, Jeremy!). Anyway, I have a few more cabled rows and then I'll do a few rows of rib and then Jeny's Amazingly Stretchy Bind Off. I must have a little look at it on YouTube because I can't remember it. The heel on this sock is interesting too - you do a M1L and M1R on either side of the sole stitches and that forms the gusset, and then you just do short rows and that forms the heel - turn and all. Cool. And now that I've had plenty of practice on the M1's, I should be able to get back to the Thistle Shawl KAL and do a better job of it. More of that later.
Yesterday I went to Vesey's at noon and got some seeds for starting tomatoes, onions and leeks. I have to pick up some potting soil too. The Beechgrove Garden folks just sprinkled the leeks on the top of a big pot and then pricked them out from there. I could do that. The cool thing they have is a seed starter with many tiny, tiny cells - each maybe 2 cm. square. They can then move the tiny plants to bigger pots complete with the contents of the cells, so no root disturbance. I want! But I haven't seen them anywhere. Only thing that comes close are those party ice cube trays from the $$ store, but they are tiny - only a dozen or so cells per tray. I'm not sure if they are flexible enough, either. I may have to give it a try, though.
In looking at our garden on the weekend I found my white tree peony broken off - Fred thinks if I stake and tie it up, it will survive. I staked but didn't tie it yet. The other two are fine. There were a few tiny rose bushes snapped off too, as well as a cedar in the front which had lost quite a few branches. The snow just pulled them down as it melted. We found quite a few crocus - the really tiny ones, which are spreading quite well. No sign of the bigger ones in the secret garden. The daffs down by the road are poking up as well.
It's just last year we were in Ireland - we keep remembering what we were doing one year ago. Emily's birthday was more exciting last year, I think Irish breakfast in Galway, dinner at a Spanish restaurant in Dublin - but she did get to go to the NDP Policy announcement this year. Life's little compensations.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Things are coming up!

Yesterday and last night we had a lot of rain and wind with quite warm temperatures, and this morning I saw parts of the garden which have been under snow since December. I was quite shocked to see the snowfall numbers the other day on the Weather Network - they say that accumulations were slightly less than the average (so far). It certainly seemed like more. But I think the key was that it NEVER melted, new snow just piled up on old snow all winter long. But now it is almost all gone, and there are crocus and daffodils peeking up. If it gets warm enough this weekend, I want to spend some time outdoors - I have shrubs which have been beaten down and even broken, that must be dealt with. Part of the trouble is that I never did mulch the roses, for instance, because by the time it should have been done the ground was covered with snow - and it stayed covered! So my pink potentilla is looking sadly flattened, and the spirea in the bed by the driveway is quite battered too. And those are only the ones I can easily see.
On the knitting front I have finished the Zetor shawl - I was worried about running out of yarn so I knit on anxiously, and finally cast off last night with 3.5 grams of yarn left - about 25 metres. Phew! It's not yet blocked in the photo above - it will be larger and the pattern will be better-defined after that happens, probably on the weekend. We have dance tonight, and I have a meeting tomorrow night, so it will have to wait.
Because the next round of Sock Madness hasn't begun yet, I'm trying to pull out old projects and finish them, even though for me the best part of knitting is starting something new. How shallow I am! Anyway, I dug out my bamboo Clapotis, started back in January with yarn I bought in Glasgow (part of the sentimental souvenir series), and I'm finding it pretty easy after fighting with mohair for two weeks. The bamboo is quite slippery, and I have it on Knit Picks interchangeable metal needles, so I might switch to wood if I have the same size. Or, because it is so narrow, I might even dig out some bamboo straights. Many say that bamboo with bamboo is a good combo.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Winter still

So, today we are having wet snow flurries and quite a bit of wind - Fred thinks we can walk outdoors but I am not so certain. I'll have to bundle up *very* well.
Our Mac is back from the shop, with a less-than-ringing endorsement from the fixer. He's not too pleased about how slowly the hard drive is responding - but he re-loaded the OS and the programs, and we'll see how well we do. Fingers crossed. He said to back up daily, so the Time Machine is grinding away as I type.
My Sock Madness team, Minnow, still hasn't reached the cutoff number of 37, so no new pattern until they do. I'm getting lots of other knitting done in the meantime. Finished another pair of Stretch Socks, this time a pattern called Take Five, and now I'm making progress on the Zetor shawl I'm making out of Fleece Artist mohair called "Angel Hair". It *is* a lot like knitting with hair, I suppose - at least, there are plenty of fluffy bits and you can easily knit one of those, rather than the actual teeny tiny core yarn. I've managed to catch all slips so far, but constant vigilance is the watchword. I didn't weigh the ball before I started, but Ravelry seems to indicate that it was 50 grams to begin with. It's down to 30 now, so I'm less than halfway - though of course as with all shawls, it gets bigger and bigger as it goes along, so I'm keeping my scale handy and checking the weight after every chart repeat.
I bought seeds for ground cherries at Vesey's, and I checked today and they are up! And I will have a great crop of cilantro if all goes according to plan. It's almost time to start some tomato plants, I'm thinking. I may have to prick out the cilantro in order to have a flat to start them in. My F1 hybrid strawberries continue very tiny, but they are at least now putting out some true strawberry leaves - so cute!
So, it's officially a year since we arrived in Ireland for our visit. Now that the Mac is back I want to get out the photos and look at them - and re-live the trip!