Friday, September 30, 2011

It's officially fall in the garden! Leaves are falling, asters are blooming, and I'm planning for next year. Somewhere in the middle of summer I fell behind on my gardening posts {as well as falling behind on wedding posts ~ we still have some great projects, recipes, and pictures to share!}

Here's the south side of the house in the peak of summer:: The July and August beds were full of bee-balm, blacked-eyed susans, coneflowers, butterfly weeds. And the grass was tinged with brown as it recovered from a dry spell. As the summer flowers faded, they've been replaced by fall beds full of sedum and asters::

It was nice to sit back and watch this garden grow, but now that I know what's growing where {for the most part}, I'm feeling a bit more confident in my plans for next year. For example, the fall beds are not looking as sharp as they should, due mainly to a lack of maintenance early in the summer ~ I should have been pinching back the asters and sedum to encourage more stocky growth. By not pinching back, we've produced quite a few leggy ladies::

Planning aside, there's still plenty of work to be done right now, and my focus has turned to leaves! As my favorite garden guru, Mike McGrath, knows this year's leaves provide the raw material for next year's mulch. Why mulch? Mulching your beds with leaves adds organic matter that will help to retain water throughout the growing season, unfortunately, because the leaves are mostly carbon, leaf mulch won't add many nutrients to your soil, so compost or manure fertilizers should be used too.

To create the mulch, you want to shred this year's leaves and add a bit of nitrogen so that they begin to decompose. If you were to add the whole leaves to your beds, they would take a long time to break down and create a soggy mess that would smother tender spring plants.

So here's what you need:
~ leaves
~ nitrogen, if you mow your grass before you rake your leaves, the grass clippings will provide plenty of nitrogen. If you don't have any grass, you can buy a nitrogen compost supplement
~ a leaf blower/mulcher {the day we bought a leaf blower we officially embraced suburban life}. When you put your leaf blower on reverse it vacuums and shreds your leaves!!
~ a storage space with plenty of airflow for your shredded leaves.

Creating the bin is super easy with a bit of chicken wire and zip ties::

I wanted to create a simple bin that was about three feet tall with a three foot diameter. This requires a three by ten foot piece of chicken wire, and lucky for us, that exact size is sold in many hardware stores. Shown here with our 200+ pack of zip ties, because we love us some zip ties:: To create the bin, unroll and flatten your wire, then attach the two short sides with a few zip ties. If it's a bit wobbly when you stand it up and/or if you live in a particularly windy area, you can secure it with a few tent stakes or fence posts {sold right next to the wire in our hardware store}. I skipped the posts and used some branches that were pruned from our trees.

In our little yard, I found a nice hidden space for my bin in our "woodland corner" {the little area filled with spruces, ferns, and other shade-loving plants}.
It's so perfectly hidden, yet still very accessible.

Once your bin is built, shred your leaves and grass, and fill the bin! You'll want to keep your leaves moist, and turn it every once in a while throughout the winter, and by spring you should have some nice, dark brown mulch. Now that the mulch pile is built, it's time to start thinking about a compost pile, but the two should not be combined ~ the one winter season of leaf decay for your mulch pile is not enough time to turn kitchen scraps into compost, particularly if you continue to add fresh material to the pile. So two piles are needed, and you can always add leaves from the mulch pile to the compost.

Monday, September 26, 2011

First ~ I'm glad you liked the hat {despite my ho-hum picture of it!}. I'm working on a second one and writing up the pattern details now.
Second ~ remember this song from Motopony, you can get the album on sale at Amazon for $5 until Sept 30! just an fyi.

And now for a moment of zen... It's been fun to watch the flowers morph into their respective reproductive unit.seeds, pods, and berries! oh my.

{butterfly weed, related to milkweed and loved by monarchs}

{poppy family, big and small}


{the yet-to-be-identified}

Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy Fall!

With this rainy weather it's shaping up to be a good weekend to cozy up with some knitting.

How about a hat?

This is the hat I made last weekend using the Icelandic wool from the PA Fiber Festival. What do you think?

I love the little star design and am working on a second version right now. The design was created by incorporating my hat decreases into a basic chevron stitch {such as this one here}. If you're interested, I can write up some detailed instructions after I finish the second hat!

I'm off to bake some apple crisp and rake the leaves*

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

And we're back!

I knit up a fun little hat to keep me warm while we frolicked along the Mendocino coast... more details will come once I get some photos.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pennsylvania Fiber Whaaa?

Dudes, there's a PA Fiber Festival. Did you know?

Our weekends have been busy driving from one bike race to another. First there was the Lancaster race, where we happened upon the Lancaster Arts Fest.

Then last weekend between the Montrose road race::

and the Pine Grover Furnace time trial::

We discovered the PA Fiber Festival {in it's 8th year!}. Who knew? Not me, obviously. We saw a sign for the festival off of US81, and stopped by after the Montrose race. Unfortunately for the venders, I think the week's floods kept many visitors away from the festival, fortunately for me, the aisles were open and it was a perfect chance to get out of the car and stretch my legs.

It was a nice little festival, much smaller than the more well-known and older New York and Maryland festivals, but definitely worth the trip if you want a chance to buy some quality fiber products and want to meet the farmers, animals, dyers, and spinners making your yarns!

I purchased a couple of skeins from Unplanned Peacock Studio ~ the yellow lace-weight and red sock-weight ~ and a couple of skeins of Icelandic wool from Hearts Ease Farm. I was hoping to take the lace with me to work on a new scarf this weekend, but I haven't been able to settle on a pattern {what you see on the needles is a failed test swatch}. So, I'm taking the wool, and am hoping to whip out a quick hat based upon that swatch... if there's anything I learned from my many visits to the bay area and northern CA, it never hurts to bring a cozy knit hat or two {particularly when camping}!

If you go, don't miss the trick mirror in the bathroom*

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesday Soundtrack Repeat!

We're leaving our green forests and flying over the mountains to arrive at a wedding by the sea this weekend. So it's only appropriate to find a song that talks about all things good... proposals from the trees to the mountains to the sea!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Holy Amaryllis Batman!!

Check out the flowers on this one:: ... and at such an odd time of year. As I mentioned back in June. This was an amaryllis that bloomed last winter. The flowers were/are beautiful and I wanted to try to keep it around for another year.

According to the care instructions I found online {here's a great resource}, I should put the plant outside for the summer to let it recharge its bulb, and then put it in a cool shady place in September to let it hibernate before forcing it again this winter. To my surprise,a new bud growing a couple of weeks ago. Apparently this particular bulb didn't check in for instructions on the internet. At that point I figured it was too late to do anything, so I just crossed my fingers that we'd get some big pretty flowers this second time around. And we did!

The huge flowers have been a nice treat, particularly during this week of grey, rainy days.

As you can see, there are no more leaves, as these flowers started to open, the leaves began to brown and get mildew on them, so I snipped them off. As a result, I think this will be the last bang for the bulb. I'll start my amaryllis-tending experiment again this winter with a new bulb {or two!}.

ps ~ the cross-stitched picture in the photo was a gift from my sister! It used to sit in Calder's bathroom in CA, and now we have it in the kitchen, a fun reminder to um, love the good sh*t?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Back to School Fun

Who doesn't want their own chalkboard? Seriously. Well, Calder for one ~ he'd take a white board any day over a chalkboard. And we'll let him keep his whiteboard in the man cave.

But me, I couldn't wait to put a big chalkboard in the craft room, especially after my success with the front door.

Even though I like the traditional slate and green colored boards, I thought they might be too dark for this project. The craft room is on the north side of our house, and it only has one window, so I decided to pick out a lighter color from Rust Oleum's selection of chalkboard paint...

What do you think? I went with the periwinkle colorway. With the first brush stroke, my stomach was in knots because it looked too purple, but now that it's up on the wall with a bit of chalk on it, I like it. I'm focusing more on its blue and grayish tones and trying to ignore the purples.

And now that I have a place to scheme, all of my crafty-whims are on the wall.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday Soundtrack

I found it! The new music I was craving... it's a good thing I have headphones, because I've listened to this song over and over {and over} again without driving everyone around me crazy.

So, listen to this, and then maybe hit replay because you won't be able to help yourself.

Band :: Motopony
Song :: King of Diamonds