Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Swoon Four

Here is my fourth Swoon block - finished a few weeks ago. It is really surprising me how fast time is passing by. This is my first "real" end-of-the-school-year experience, since Moses is finishing up Kindergarten. There is so much to do, and I mean that in a good way. Field trips, teacher gifts to make, lots of volunteering for fun things at school, and no more homework means all kinds of other fun stuff after school. And of course Father's Day to figure out. I love all these things, but it has left me with little time to sew. Tonight the hubs is out of town, so I am getting out my stack of Swoon fabrics and cutting like a mad woman as soon as I click the publish button on this post. I think this block is my favorite so far - I can't get over the gold and gray, it just looks so cool. I've decided I like the lighting of these photos; it reminds me that it took hours to make the block and I finished it just as the sun was deciding to go down. Tonight's block (if I finish it) will have to wait until tomorrow. I'm off to cut!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Things I am learning about gardening: Peas

This year I seem to be making small steps towards being a successful gardener. The two things that have helped are really good gardening books, and really good gardening friends. This year I followed my friend Jessica's advice and planted peas in February, even though I thought she was crazy. Well, sure enough, those guys popped right up in spite of the cold and we now have more peas than I know what to do with. This being my first year growing peas successfully, I didn't do much planning. I basically put most seeds in the ground hoping they will germinate and not get eaten, but never look ahead to what I will do with the full-grown plants. Apparently, this is what a bed of peas is supposed to look like:

Mine looks like this:

Not too pretty - I'll save that for next year. I jammed some cheapo tomato cages amidst the rangy plants and kind of smoosh things back where they belong as they get too out of hand. Happily, the peas don't seem to care that they aren't pretty - they are producing like gangbusters!

One of my great gardening books is a book I picked up at the second hand book shop called Country Skills - the main reason I bought it is because of the chapter about how to "put up" your harvest - she tells how each one can be best preserved, and apparently for peas, the best way is to blanch them and freeze them. I would have never known to blanch my peas before freezing them - this preserves their sweetness better than just popping them in the freezer. Today the boys helped me do a batch - after picking and shelling, we dropped the peas in boiling water for 1 minute, then into ice water to cool them off. A few paper towels to dab off the water and into the freezer they went, to be cooked later.

A few other cool gardening facts about peas: Pea plants are "nitrogen fixers," meaning that they put nitrogen into the soil rather than leach it out as most vegetable plants do. Basically they fertilize the ground as they grow, preparing the soil for a healthy crop of something else next year. If you are lucky, you can also cut down your spent pea plants leaving 2 inches above the ground, and they will come back, offering you a second crop later in the season. I'm not sure I believe I can do this with my lackluster gardening record, but I'm going to try. Then after your second crop, rather than pulling the plants out of the ground by the roots, just cut them down at dirt level, leaving the roots to add more nitrogen to the soil. They will break down over the fall and winter and you will have a nice bed of healthy soil next spring. Pretty great!

As for what to do with your peas, my all-time favorite pea recipe can be found here, courtesy of my friend and blogger/vegan cook extraordinaire Kristy. It is sweet and smokey and a sure-fire way to get your kids to eat kale, because they will definitely eat the soup. If all my new-found knowledge about peas wasn't enough to get you to plant your own next year, one bite of this soup will. Happy gardening!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Swoons 2 & 3

Here are pictures of my second and third Swoon blocks - taken in the evening light, which is why they look kind of funny. After making these I decided enough with the brown and green and bought more golden/orange fabrics. I'm hoping for a mostly yellow and gray color palette, but I'll toss in these green and brown ones to break things up a bit. I'm still using mostly Flea Market Fancy fabrics, but I can't resist adding in some other things as well.

I actually finished up a fourth Swoon last night but haven't had time to take pictures yet. We are having some bizarre rainy weather here now that it is June - my poor garden! I managed to germinate some okra seeds this year and was excited to watch them grow in our "hot dry weather," which is apparently all they need to do well. Who would have thought it would become cold and wet now that those little tropical plants are thriving in the back yard. Huh. Anyways, I'm plugging away at this quilt and very determined to actually finish it before the summer ends. Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Yesterday we got a call from my sister-in-law's dad saying he had found an abandoned turkey nest with two chicks in it. My dad and brother hurried over there and found not two, but SIX tiny baby turkeys huddled down in a hole in the middle of Bill's field. Since we recently graduated our fresh batch of chicks from their brooder to the coops, we had the perfect set-up to bring the little chicks home! They are really young - you can tell by the fact that each one still has a tiny egg tooth on the tip of its beak (those usually fall off a week or so after they hatch). And they are definitely wild. Whereas our baby chickens have been handled since the day they hatched and are pretty used to being around people, these guys have probably never even seen humans before. Whenever we go to the brooder to peek in at them, they immediately freak out and run around cheeping and crashing into each other, then all go to a separate corner and jam their heads down like little ostriches putting their heads in the proverbial sand. It reminds me of playing hide-and-seek with really young kids who think that if they just close their eyes you won't be able to find them. Here they are in their corner:

And since I already had sawdust on my camera, I figured I should take you on a mini tour of the other chickens that fill my life. This is one of Crazy White Hen's chicks - we successfully moved them from the barn attic to their own private space where they can enjoy fresh air and sunshine. She is a good mama and actually pretty trusting of the kids and me even though she is still pretty wild. She lets us get really close to her babies as long as we don't try to touch them. They are curious little guys - this one was playing peek-a-boo with me from the other side of his feeder.

And then there are our adolescent hens - these are the ones we mail-ordered a few months ago. They have passed through their ugly phase and are now little versions of the hens they will grow up to be. This year I put my foot down and insisted on naming some of them myself (I finally got tired of my animals being named after male basketball players and Lego Ninjas). This is Fiona - she's my favorite (don't tell the others). Annie and Buffy proved too difficult to photograph.

Here's Flapjack (I obviously lost the name battle on that one). I actually can't believe I just wrote an entire blog post about chickens - I used to hate chickens and thought it was just plain weird to get attached to them. But here I am - now who's the weirdo?