Friday, June 29, 2012

knitted bunny

I love small knitted toys that you can whip up in a few hours.  This was intended for a friend's new baby but my sons loved it and asked to keep it.  I know at 10 y/o and 8 y/o they won't be wanting stuffed toys much longer so how could I say no?

I knit him in Spud and Chloe's  superwash wool and organic cotton blend.  I can't wait to make more, they are a perfect little stocking stuffer or gift.
Now if I can just keep him from eating the lettuces....

You know you've gone too far....

I tend to feel very passionate about certain things (like saving the planet) and maybe carry them a little farther than most people.  This causes me to feel like I'm always on the fringe. In an attempt to fit in and not feel ostracized by "normal" people, I try to monitor myself to make sue I haven't crossed any lines.
For instance, several years ago, feeling very stressed about consumerism, I thought I would go a step further than the usual recycling and thrifting.  I started compacting. 
You may have heard of compacting, agreeing to not buy anything new for a year (with the exception of some essentials). Below are guidelines from The Compact forum.

The Compact.

We are a group of individuals committed to a 12-month flight from the consumer grid (calendar year 2012).
The Compact has several aims (more or less prioritized below):

  • To go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of disposable consumer culture and to support local businesses, farms, etc. -- a step that, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact.
  • To reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er).
  • To simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)

We've agreed to follow two principles (see exceptions etc. on our blog).

#1 Don't buy new products of any kind (from stores, web sites, etc.)
#2 Borrow, barter, or buy used.

Everyone I know seems on-board with a trip or two to a thrift shop for a shirt or a pair of jeans, but when I started buying our shoes second hand, I sort of figured I should keep that to myself.
In Tucson, because of such limited water resources, most people try to conserve water.  When we went to bathing the kids only twice a week, it wasn't that extreme.  When we stopped using soap in their bath so that we could bale the water out and use it to water plants, I thought we might have gone a little past socially-accepted.
When I killed a small portion of grass (don't get me started on the superfluousness of grass in the west!) to make a vegetable bed, no one thought I was crazy.  
When I wiped out our entire yard, (front included) for a vegetable garden, my own family tried to have me committed.

For years I have dreamed about having my own fiber producing animal, be it angora rabbit, sheep or goat.  Of course, even I realize that my yard has some limitations.  
That is why when I saw this patten featured on Fancy Tiger's Raverly page ( I thought I had died and gone to heaven. 
Cute little kitty toy pattern you say? 
And it matches the big kitty perfectly.  
But how does it match the big kitty so perfectly?
Are you ready?  
IT WAS KNIT IN THE CATS FUR!  That's right, in the cats own fur!  How completely wonderful is that?
I did some research and guess what?  You can spin all sorts of pet fur into lovely skeins of yarn for knitting!  

Now instead of cursing that hairy old dog while cleaning up clumps of this under the piano

I can dream about turning it into this!

There are even companies who will spin your animal's brushing cast-offs into balls of yarn for you.  

Bye Bye sheep

Hello Casey!  (Maybe I won't tell the neighbors)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Joys of summer

Fin, gales of laughter, just before finally loosing his two temporary front teeth.
This little fellow was a volunteer that came up in the pea pacth and I didn't see until I pulled the peas out last week.

I planted one borage plant a few years ago because it is always mentioned in British novels and I love all things BritishIt has taken over the entire garden and is indestructible, but the bees love it.  Borage Honey anyone??

My favorite heirloom tomato, Brandy wine


I just cast on for a sweet cardigan "Audrey in Unst"

So adorable, and it has the bib of Shetland lace, so I have convinced myself that it is very British (or Scottish) too.

Despite hellishly hot temperatures, and a front yard that looks like it belongs in the Sierra, the back yard seem to be doing well.  Plants packed so tightly tend to shade the roots and keep the soil from drying out as quickly.  Over crowding has it's problems too, but no matter how hard I try to keep plants generously spaced, i end up with this.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Road trips, trees and triathalons

When my husband first told me of his plans to do an out of state Triathlon this summer, my first thoughts were of road trips!  
Where I am from originally, upstate New York, road trips look like this:

Oh how I love trees!  All shapes and sizes and leaf patterns.  
Where I live in Denver there are lots of trees, hardwood trees, but as soon as I leave the city, the landscape starts to look a little barren to me.  Lovely for various reason, rugged and and very western, but not the landscapes of my dreams.  This time of year I am so homesick for lush green landscapes and thunderheads and yes rain!
 So where did my husband choose to do his marathon? 
El Dorado Kansas. 
Yes Kansas.

My sweet husband had the choice of doing a triathlon almost anywhere in the world, Hawaii?  Vancouver BC?  Vermont?
No, he choose Kansas.

As we left the Denver and drove East, this is what our landscape was.  For hours. And hours.  And more hours.

Now I mean no disrespect towards Kansas, and I love corn as much as the next guy, but what the...??? 

Luckily for us, Kansas gets much nicer as you head towards  El Dorado.
The town of El Dorado was actually very nice.  Built along a railroad line in the late 1800's it has some beautiful historical buildings, a few restaurants and even a quilting shop!  

and the state park where the triathlon was held was beautiful, with a large lake, pond and beach area, and many, many trees. 

It was a true adventure.  At the waters edge we found an abundance of life, tadpoles and water bugs, water beetles and dragon flies, cray fish and guppies. 

David was star of the day, winning the the Triathlon for his age group and coming in 4th overall!  
Turns out Kansas isn't so bad after all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Father's Day Favas (amd peas)

English Peas

Fava's and peas ready to be picked before the onslaught of 90 degree temps



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cabin get-away

After a long grueling week that included a leaking sewage pipe, flat tire, extra shift at work to pay for the repair of the leaking sewer pipe, and a whole lot of stuff in between, we finally made it up to my husband's family cabin.  A day late but wonderful just the same.
The trip took up about an hour longer than usual with stops for the bathroom and food and drugstore. 
Since I picked up a last minute shift at work on Friday,  I left all the packing and planning to my husband.  Luckily for me he had the book Watership Down on his I pod.  Road trips are so much easier with books on tape.  I highly recommend Watership Down for the whole family.  (Our last road trip we listened to The Incredible Journey, also a favorite and more suited to younger children) 
The cabin was wonderful, peaceful and most important, cool!  The temps on Saturday were in the 60's.  Denver was baking with 90 degree temps and we were enjoying cool weather and even a brief thunderstorm.  I couldn't have been happier.  Perfect weather for my knitting Marathon.

My father-in-law's wife Debbie is a wonderful cook and recently started eating vegan.  Not to fear we ate wonderful food which I wish I would have photographed.  My favorite was a potato salad with corn, black beans and chipotles.   
The boys were so excited to see their Buppah, (Grandpa) to fish (catch and release) and especially to get back to their stick fort.  Some new additions were put on to the fort this trip but since it's top secret compound I didn't want to risk revealing too much!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tart Cherry Pie

It's that time again, time to start picking our tart cherries for my personal favorite, tart cherry pie.  This year the cherries are ripe almost a full month ahead of last year.  Granted this year I wanted to avoid the worm debacle so I decided to pick when the cherries were a little less ripe. 
We planted the tree 3 years ago, and the next year got loads of tart cherries and made 2 great pies.  Last year at the end of June, I waited until the cherries were bursting.  We picked and brought them into the house and began the tedious process of hand pitting.  (I can't bring myself to purchase a cherry pitter for the one or two days a year I would use it.) At one point I looked into the bowl and noted something wriggling.  It turns my stomach to write it, but yes, it was a small worm.  I furiously split open and inspected every cherry and every cherry had one.  

To the internet for a search!  I found that it is a fruit fly maggot.  I called my husband revolted, and he insisted he didn't care, he would eat it anyway.   The lengths men will go to to prove their virility! I was horrified to think we probably ate the worm infected cherries the previous year.
I called two of my friends who both assured me that had never had a worm in their cherries.  By the end of the week I had been to both their houses, splint open their cherries and showed them their worms.   I didn't want to be alone in this mess.  They were both shocked and realized they had probably been making pies with wormy cherries all along.  
I didn't mind letting the birds have some of the cherries, but I certainly wasn't going to let them have them all.  I read on-line that if you pick early enough you will miss it's natural life-cycle of the horrid fruit fly.  
So that was what we were doing at 7:30 this morning, and indeed, though almost every single cherry had a small tell-tale indent, (you can see them on the first photo) none has an actual worm.

I used a recipe from food network that calls for 2 cups of tart cherries which you cook on the stove top until most of the fluid is evaporated.  Then you add the cup of sugar and yes corn starch. I hate the idea of corn starch, but the filling tasted fabulous!  I again used Martha's pate brisee pie crust recipe. 
tart cherry pie wth he cherry tree in background

Saturday, June 2, 2012

We are chick crazy

Java Heritage chickens on the threatened list
I swore a few weeks ago when we finally moved our new chicks outside that I would never buy baby chicks again. So much work with heat lamps and a big cardboard box in our already cramped house. 
Then I started reading and doing research on heritage meat birds.  I love the idea of eating less meat, but higher quality.  I have heard that nothing compares to fresh heritage chicken.   And unlike today's meat birds which are bred to mature so fast they frequently can't even hold up their body weight, the Heritage breeds are quite  a bit slower growing so they have time to develop strong skeletal structure and organs.  In order to be Heritage birds they have to be born of natural mating parents and be of hearty stock. Lastly they have to be from stock recognized by the American Poultry Association prior to the mid 20th century.  
Unfortunately with the industrialization of our food, these beautiful birds are dying out.  The American Livestock Breeds Conservatory has placed many of these breeds on the endangered list. 


For the last couple of weeks, I tried to find local breeders on-line but couldn't.  The best I could do was have them shipped cross country,  in groups of 25.  I was leery about shipping that far and the most I can have is 2 more birds to add to our flock. 
I love the idea of raising my own meat animals, giving them a happy life then having them make their way to our dinner table.  Part of me thinks this is so natural and sustainable, but part of me wants to go back to being a vegetarian when I see those little balls of fluff. 

This morning I dragged the kids to the Denver Urban Homesteader's Farmer's Market chicken swap meet to see if any vendors had Heritage meat birds.  The kids were vowing they would not be party to the butchering poor innocent chickens.  They kept calling me mean and insensitive to want to kill and eat a chicken.
I began lecturing them about the conditions of the meat sold in the grocery stores, (with the exception of Whole Foods) and how this was a way to ensure humane treatment of our food, all the while having my own doubts.  I called them hippocrits; they eat meat and don't care that it has died as long as they didn't have anything to do with the butchering. When we saw the chicks I secretly vowed that my husband would have to do the butchering.
We found a woman selling a variety of 3 day old Heritage chicks.  She had older 7 week chicks that would have fit right in with the 4 we have now, but they were not meat nor Heritage breeds.

With the kids begging, I purchased 2 chicks (I wish I had 3, I think 2 chicks feel more insecure) and hope that the time flies by and that soon we can be rid of the heating lamps and cardboard-box-in-the-house and start introducing them to the flock.  Of course they are simply adorable. We have one Java mottled and one Delaware, both on the endangered list.