Suburban Farming on a Shoestring

With all of the concern over GMO foods and pesticide contamination, suburban farming has become a big deal these days. Our family has been growing veggies in a small plot of backyard land for several years now. This year I decided to extend our planting areas to other spots around the house. Instead of flowers, I have planted veggies.

tomatopatchHere is my tomato strip, which runs along the fence that separates us from one of our neighbors. I am experimenting with this red plastic mulch which is supposed to make the tomatoes grow faster and better. It sounds a bit like sympathetic magic to me, but there also seems to be some scientific connection, based on light waves and such.

I have planted beefsteak, Paul Rebeson, yellow grape, and green zebra tomatoes, as well as one that will be a surprise because I lost the marker and can’t remember what kind it was. If all goes well, we should be in tomato heaven.
sidetomatovinewatercress garden
This is a small spot at the front corner of our house that gets nice afternoon sun. Before I took it over for a cherry tomato vine and assorted other edibles (basil, kale, mesclun, dill) it was a patch of useless grass. I threw in some marigold seeds around the tomato plant. Bugs and other critters don’t like marigolds.

A raised bed space alongside the back stairs to my rooms gets sun all morning, and so I planted watercress, purselane, parsley, and cilantro. I never heard of purseland before I went to the Farmers’ Market this afternoon and saw a plant on sale. I like to try a new edible every year, and this is it for this year. Last year’s ground cherries didn’t fare very well.

rosemarywelcomeAn old chiminea that wound up on the front lawn and then lost it’s chimney seemed to be a good place to plant some rosemary and hang a fuschia plant. I put the chimney section aside and will probably plant some kind of vine it by the divider my daughter erected to block the part of the driveway where she puts a table and umbrella.

Folks in our neighborhood never use their front lawns, never sit on their front steps. We do. But then, again, we do a lot of things that the other folks in our neighborhood don’t do, including home-schooling.

And, for me, the best part of our front yard is this, where I often sit late in the afternoon and read, knit, listen to a book on tape, or just snooze. And from this vantage point, I can watch the hummingbirds visit my little hummingbird garden (more on that another time). In another month, the long branches of the willow and the tall grasses planted behind the swing will seclude it from the driveway and the road. This is my little piece of heaven.
readyswing

Still Knitting

I made one more try making the side-to-side sweater I posted about before.

caribbeanThis is my latest and final attempt. No matter how carefully I count and measure, it still doesn’t come out the way it’s supposed to and I wind up undoing and redoing. Like the other one, it’s wearable, and this one came out the cropped length that I wanted. Of course, I have to consider that it’s not the sweater’s fault that I don’t like the way it looks on me. It’s me.

The yarn is cotton/acrylic and is discontinued. I liked the feel of it when I saw it on sale a while ago, so I bought enough of this “Caribbean” color and of a gray and white color to make a cropped/cap sleeve sweater in each. But I’m going to use a different pattern this time.

It’s really “work in the garden” time of year, not “sit around knitting.” But I tend to do both, since I can’t seem to just sit and watch tv in the evenings. I have to do something with my hands. Thus, knitting.

Winter is for Knitting #2

mesidetoside1I found a cap-sleeve cropped sweater pattern that was knit from side to side and so I decided to follow the pattern, since it was exactly what I wanted. I made a swatch to check the gauge. I followed the directions.

It came out much larger than it was supposed to, and I had to fudge to make it fit. It’s certainly wearable, but not really what I wanted. I just don’t do well following a pattern; I do much better if I figure it out as I go along and then it fits the way I want it to. I’m going to try the side-to-side idea again, but this time I’ll do it my way.

Winter is for knitting #1.

cascadeb-horz

I saw something like this at a fiber exposition and tried to copy it. I didn’t have the pattern so I had to improvise. I started with the center panel and worked out from there. It didn’t turn out like the one I saw, but it turned out very wearable. And it keeps my core warm. It’s a Cascade Superwash acrylic and wool yarn and it’s been machine washed and dried several times already.

There’s another sweater I finished for myself but I have to take a photo of me wearing it so that you can see how it works.

Getting Ready to do a Craft Fair

ksk4

It’s been more than a dozen years since I rented a table at a craft fair. The last time was when I lived in Albany and was making and selling my own design of “shoulder shawls.”
shawls-300x206

I will have a few for sale on November 23 at St. Marks Art and Craft Fair here in East Longmeadow. (If you don’t live in nearby and see anything you might like to buy, leave a comment on this post and I will get back to you. I will let you know if I can get it to you before the holidays. Chances are, I can.

Mostly I will have is what I’m calling “fun knits for fashion-forward females,” or “fun wearables for tweens, teens, and the young at heart.” Just about every one of these items is my own design, and they are all one-of-a-kind because I make them up as I go along. If you have a young girl in your family, these make great Christmas gifts or stocking stuffers.

Recently I drafted a young neighbor to model a few of the things I will be selling. Here’s a glimpse of somethings for teens.
txtshirt1txtshirt3 These are oversized polar fleece lounge or sleep tops for girls who "love to text." The fleece pieces are crocheted around the edges and sewn together; then a bottom section is knitted onto the crochet edge. They are machine washable and dryable and look great over leggings or skinny jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt. I also have a smaller version with a different print for a younger girl.

This can be worn as a shawl, a scarf, or a head cowl. After I took the photo of it worn by my young model, I decided to add to the top section, which can be rolled, folded over, or not.
shawl-horz

I will have some fun stuff for little girls as well: leg warmers, hand warmers and some sets. As with most of my legwarmers and boot socks, they can worn right side up, upside down, with our without a decorative band, and folded up or down. Lots of choices.
kidsstrip

These are examples of some of my multi-purpose machine washable and dryable boot socks/leg warmers. You can wear them as either. Most are one-size-fits all.
bootsides
spats-horz

And, I will have an assortment of wristlets/handwarmers in a variety of sizes. They are made to keep your fingers free and hands warm for texting, driving, eating, shopping, and reading. Some have ruffles, so they are just fun to wear. And they can be pulled up to become wrist warmers if you need your hands completely free. I made a pair for a woman in a nursing home whose hands were always cold but wearing gloves all of the time was a nuisance. This is an example of a no-frills basic pair, shown as both a hand warmer and wrist warmer.
wristlet1

kidswrist-horzAbove are examples of ruffled wristlets and also an example of how you can layer a pair over thinner gloves. Lots of choices.

Finally, here are some images from the internet of examples of how to wear the kinds of knit accessories I will be selling. Hope to see you at St Mark’s Art and Craft Fair.

legwarmer sneakers-horz

Funk and Folly

Funk and folly. That’s sort of been the theme of my life over the past several months. Funk gets in the way of lively living, so I’m trying to add a “y” and move toward “funky” — a place where I’d much rather be.

Last month, I had to put my 17 year old cat down for the count; I’m never getting another pet, but the family has added an adorable kitten, Kasza, to the two other big male cats who already live here. The spunky little female now rules the kingdom. Spunky. Rhymes with Funky. So far so good.

I ran out of energy volunteering several times a week at the geriatric center. Part of it is that it’s winter, and I just want to hibernate; part of it is that I really took on too much responsibility there, and they need to be more organized. I’ll probably go back, but with a much lighter schedule.

I will be 73 next month, and I am reminded that my father passed away at age 73. Of course, my mother lasted until 94, so who knows which way I’ll go. In the meanwhile, however, I need to have some fun.

I always feel better when I’m engaged in a hands-on creative outlet, and I love playing with fabric and yarn. I had made some funky walker bags and gave them to a few of the women at the geriatric center; they really like them and I loved making my own designs and playing with the materials. I think I want to try to sell them. Thinking about an Etsy store. How about “Kalilily’s Funk and Folly” for a name? “Funk and Folly.” I think I’ll make that my official trade mark right now.

My living space is filling up with funky creations in wild colors and combinations of materials — hats, wristlets, leg warmers, boot socks. I might try a variation on a kind of overhead shawl I designed and made years ago. It might all be folly, but it’s fun folly. Fun, funky, folly.

By next winter, I should have enough stuff to do a holiday craft fair. Just for fun. I need something fun toward which to look forward.

Funk and Folly — fun stuff to wear and share.

not Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

Actually, it’s a laid-back Pioneer Valley Sunday. All I did all day was some knitting while I listened to an audio version of the second book of the Hunger Game series, Catching Fire.

I love the fact that I can download audio books free from the library, but I don’t like the fact that I have to hurry and finish listening before the allotted time. I just don’t understand, since it’s downloaded, why an audio book can’t be available to any number of borrowers at the same time and for as long as they need to finish the book.

My grandson is out in the back yard reading an oversized Calvin and Hobbes book of cartoons; his mom is out there reading some book about home schooling on her Kindle; his dad is nearby reading an actual book borrowed from the library — a biography of Frank Zappa.

My grandson takes a break from reading every once in a while to resume his imaginary globe-trotting journey that is based in a “camp” he has set up next to his “fort” in the yard– complete with globe, desk, drafting tools, and assorted mute companions — where he devises maps and plans his adventures. He has amused himself all day out there with only occasional bouts of participation by the rest of us in his continuing saga.

At some point, I unplug myself from my audio book and listen as my grandson reads aloud to us something from Calvin and Hobbes that he thinks is funny. My daughter shares a passage from the book she is reading about how important it is for kids to have time for imaginative unstructured play. I think about our neighbor’s young son whose days are taken up with competitive sports, school, karate, Pokemon, and video games. A basically nice kid, an ordinary kid, he is almost devoid of any flights of fancy or curiosity about the world around him.

Ours is not a typical or ordinary family, and our quirkiness extends way out to the west coast, where my imaginative untypical son still struggles to find a job.

I think about what the world will be like when my grandson is ready to participate fully in this society, to find work that is meaningful and satisfying. Hopefully, the Hunger Games is not prophetic, although if the Republicans had their way, it might come awfully close.

For now, we are thankful for what we have. And we hope for a future where curiosity, imagination, playfulness, and mutual support and cooperation across age levels are valued a lot more than they are today.

I’m joining the Snatchel Project

What’s a “snatchel”?

Before I get to that, let me just explain that I have in my life marched in protests carrying banners with symbols proclaiming my positions on critical issues. During the wartime 70s, I sewed a gigantic “Peace” banner and hung it from a tree limb that hung over our driveway. I believe in the power of symbols. I believe that sometimes you have to get in the faces of those who refuse to hear what you’re saying.

So, I’m joining the Snatchel Project.

First, go here to find out about the project, supported by a group that proclaims:

– We are women, we are strong, we are smart. And we have a sense of humor.
— We do not need government interference with our doctors or our healthcare.
— We do not need government probing our vaginas to help us make decisions about abortion.
— We do not need government to give us guidance about whether or not to take birth control.


So, here’s my original knitted interpretation, my contribution. I am thinking that I might just make a bunch of them and send them to the group to distribute appropriately. I will make a little card that says:

Get your pre-historic laws out of my personal private parts.

The Snatchel Project already has received considerable media coverage, as listed here.

I realize that there are lots of people who think sending uterine and yonic representations to legislators who are trying to drag us back into the Dark Ages is a waste of time.

Well, maybe it is. But for us pissed off feminist knitters, it’s a hoot.

And hey, you never know. At least it will get their uncomfortable attention. Works for me.

If you want it but it doesn’t exist,
create it.

I moved into this town two years ago after a decade of taking care of my mom. It took me about a year to get over the stress and tension of living with my (demented) mother and (set-in-his-ways) brother for several years. And then my mother passed away.

For a year after that, until now, I have been trying to find a place for myself in this larger community. I joined a gym but found it all very depressing (and expensive). I joined a quilting group, figuring that I like to sew and might enjoy it. But I didn’t for all kinds of reasons, including that I have neither the space where I live nor the design talent and experience to get into quilting. And I find it boring to quilt from a kit.

So, I did more knitting to keep me busy, but that didn’t fill my need for community connection. I tried a couple of book clubs, but they never talked about the books and I didn’t quite fit in with the memberships.

So, I joined the Jewish Community Center, mostly for the Zumba and aerobics and gym facilities, and that helped to get me out of the house. But it still wasn’t what I was hoping to find. The JCC offers some other programs that I might have taken, but they were all at night (and I don’t drive at night) and cost more than I can afford.

So, I joined up to be a Hospice volunteer, got trained, and just met my first assignment. That was a start, but not exactly to the point.

What I miss from my old life are the people with whom I worked and the groups to which I belonged in which I took some leadership. Some were peer discussion groups; some were expressive arts therapy groups. They were groups that dealt with substantive personal issues and opened doors to creative and spiritual exploration (even though I am an atheist). I always made friends with people in those groups because we had those interests in common.

So, I went on a search for a group — preferably a therapeutic group dealing with elder issues or major life transitions.

Uh uh. No such thing. Not even within a 25 mile drive.

So, I drafted a proposal to start such a group under the auspices of the Jewish Community Center, and, since I am a trained study circle facilitator, I volunteered to lead such a group.

I’ve done that before — started a group to which I wanted to belong. It has worked in the past for me, and I’m hoping it will work again.

If it doesn’t, with the SAD season starting, I’m going to find it tough to muddle on through.

Oh well, I’ll think of something……

my life as sweater metaphor

I’m not the first knitter to come up with the idea that “knitting is like life.” (Google it and you’ll see.)

Even if you’re not a knitter, you probably get the point. And if you are a knitter, you might find my experiment in intuitive, no-pattern knitting something you might like to try. (“Intuitive Knitting” will also come up in a Google search, but what you’ll find is not what this post is about.)

One of the reasons I knit is that I prefer to have a useful product as the result of my creative efforts. And I prefer to play with processes that don’t come with patterns of exact directions. I like to wing it and see what happens. Thus, the title of this post.

For this particular intuitive endeavor, I experimented with techniques I had learned from two books: “Modular Knits” and “No-Pattern Knits.” Mitered squares, triangles, and the simple garter stitch became the basis of my improvisational project.

I started out with a few skeins of Vanna’s Choice yarn that I bought on sale a while ago, although I had no specific plan for their use. I just liked the variegated color scheme.

As I expected, I ran out of the yarn and went back to Joann to get more — but the store didn’t have enough of the dye lot, so I wound up buying a few skeins of a different dye lot as well. And a complementary solid color in case I decided on a contrasting trim (which, obviously, I did).

As I continued to improvise, I discovered that not only were the two dye lots of what was supposed to be the same yarn a little different in color; they also were a little different in thickness. Connecting one with the other was a mathematical challenge (the number of stitches per inch changes with the thickness of the yarn), but I persevered.

I began by using one of the dye lots to create a mitered 12 inch by 12 inch garter stitch square that became the center of the back of the sweater. The dimensions were arbitrary; it was just a place to start. And this is what the back of the finished sweater looks like. You can see the differences in the shades of color in the variegated yarn. And because I never did figure out the stitch gauge exactly, the bottom ballooned out a little and I had to take in the extra “fabric” with my sewing machine. (Sometimes I REALLY have to improvise!)

Coordinating the two thickness of the same dye lot of yarn worked better on the long panels that I knitted as the basis for each front side of the sweater. And I made the two sides different from one another. (I find asymmetry aesthetically pleasing.)

By using the solid color yarn to pick up stitches along the sides of the variegated panels, I added to the width of the sweater so that it would fit around me. Then I picked up the stitches around the top of he square armhole and used the Norwegian technique to knit the sleeve from the top down. I added the solid color cuffs and the variegated color pockets later. The neck band was definitely an intuitive romp — garter stitches with arbitrary decreases made on the right side.

This is a photo I took of me in the sweater (with my i-phone, in a mirror; but you get the general idea). It’s oversize, so I’m wearing a hooded sweatshirt under it. It was in the lower 40s today, and I was toasty warm when I went for a walk this afternoon.

I’ve already gotten unsolicited complements on the sweater. After all, it’s the only one of its kind in the world.

I suck at canvas and paint. My efforts at quilting have yielded marginal results. But give me a few hanks of mismatched yarn and I’ll amuse myself for months, playing at coming up with something that’s uniquely mine.

Some people make lemonade out of lemons. Me? I’d try for a lemon tart.