Monday, March 28, 2016

opinions invited

Your input is requested on my next project.

As you may recall, there are windows on the west and south walls of the porch. Three windows on the west wall; four on the south. Even as I was measuring for these windows, I was planning to put up windowboxes beneath them. Because they will get SUN!

Please pardon the parallax in this distorted snap - it's the best I could find at the minute. If it wasn't dark right now, I'd step outside and get a better picture.

Last Spring, the windowboxes had to be postponed. This Spring, I am very determined to Make It Happen. And now is the time, before the gardens can be worked. It's going to take time and effort and trips to buy materials and...well, as slow as I am, I had better get cracking.

Will you please help with the planning?

All along I've been picturing individual white-painted wooden boxes filled with soil, each box supported by brackets attached directly to the walls. Sweet peas growing up! Nasturtiums dangling down! Herbs in the middle! Soooo pretty!

But now that it's time to get to work, I'm - of course - thinking of other options. For example, I've been told plastic is by far the best material for gardening containers because it maintains more moisture for the plants. The non-rotting feature of plastic could be pretty useful too, considering all the water that goes into windowboxes.

Expense? Well, no matter what plastic boxes would cost, it would probably have to be cheaper than building wooden boxes and then painting them, probably with multiple coats of...I don't know, some kind of enamel, or marine paint? I haven't researched the paint yet.

(Sidenote: I have a terrible record as far as painting wood goes. Every time something is built of wood here (by me or by real carpenters) I think, "This time I will paint it. Some cheerful color. It will be so pretty!" And every single time, when the item is built, I look at it and think, "Wood is so beautiful." And I don't want to paint it. So I don't. I honestly cannot remember the last time I applied paint to unfinished wood.)

So, the first question is, the material for the boxes:

Next, do I really want seven individual boxes on wooden brackets attached to the house? There are good alternatives. For example, I could build a shelf or slatted rack the length of each wall below the windows, and put the boxes - or even pots - on the shelves. Flexible for future arrangements.
Or, I could build a tall, freestanding bench in front of each wall, and use the benches to hold the boxes. The only advantage I can think of, is that this option puts space between boxes and walls, which might prevent staining of the porch walls from rainwater splashing or draining from the boxes. The most difficult aspect would be leveling the benches at the start (leveling a lawn chair takes effort here), and annual adjustment after frost heaves.

So, the second question is the overall design:
Seven traditional boxes on wall brackets?
Two long shelves on wall brackets, holding boxes?
Two long freestanding benches, ditto?

Please feel free to weigh in on these questions! Most if not all of you have much more experience than I do with successfully growing plants. And I'll bet many if not most of you grow plants in windowboxes or planters or containers of some kind, and I'll bet they look fabulous. Please share your wisdom and ideas! Thanks!

Sambucus would like to see windowboxes on the barns.
"Just about chin-height, please!"


Friday, March 25, 2016


There are so many variations on brown.
I love browns.

Like the browns in winter beech leaves.

Or in this daylily seedpod.

Or in this stalk of Chelone obliqua.
Wild-looking, isn't it?
Worth a close look!

If you'd like to compare,
here is a post with some pictures of Chelone blooming.

And here is a post with the daylilies blooming.

And here: brand-new beech leaves and other mid-May greenery.

Soon - well, pretty soon - green will be everywhere.
I don't mind waiting.
I love the greens, I do.
But I also love the browns.

Monday, March 21, 2016

monday morning

The begonia is in glorious bloom once again!

The very white background?
Well, yes, that is snow.
Been coming down for hours.
Beyond the begonia, it looks like this:


Shall we look at the begonia again?


Saturday, March 19, 2016

rather random rambling

 Just about every day after morning chores, I comb cashmere.
Sometimes one goat, sometimes two.
Occasionally, three.
It depends on how much each goat has shed since the last combing.

The goats generally don't drop all the cashmere at once, and my thought is that several light combings will pick up more fiber - and cleaner fiber - than waiting till clumps are hanging off the goats and then trying to get all of it that's left in one huge session.

Of course it's even more labor-intensive to do it this way. But I've got a herd of animals that produce lovely fiber in tiny quantities. I don't want to lose more than can be helped.

Either my internet service or laptop has been failing to function properly; possibly both. I haven't been able to watch even tiny videoclips from peoples' blogs. YouTube and Livecams have been nearly impossible. And it's bad timing, because those baby owls grow by the hour!

Here's a screenshot from the 6th:

See the babies?

(Left-click pictures to embiggen.)

Here they are today:

Fortunately, people have been posting screenshots on twitter, as I mentioned in an earlier post. I also try the livecam link a couple of times each day, just in case. Last night it worked, briefly. Maybe my tech issues are healing themselves. Fingers crossed!

Yesterday afternoon my errands took me through several weather events. We had snow when I drove to the Post Office and library. When I came out of the library, the sun has returned. By the time I got to the grocery store, there was a harsh wind. When I came out of the store, it was hailing and Piper said, "Thank you, no," when I asked later if she wanted to walk in the woods. Today has been sunny but so cold that yesterday's hail is still on the ground.
I blame myself: early yesterday morning I dismantled one of the bucket de-icers to clean and repair it, and decided not to put it back out.
Thus guaranteeing the return of freezing weather.
Sorry, New England.

Speaking of going to the library...something I love:

InterLibrary Loan.

Central and Western Massachusetts has a wonderful regional library system. Which is nice for everyone, but especially for the thousands of people who live in villages and small towns where the Library was probably built in the 1800s and is very limited in size.

Isn't it a special luxury to have access to books without having to buy them? I love a brand-new book as much as anyone does, but I've reached a point where I don't have the urge to own them all. And probably 95% of my "reading" is audiobooks, which I download online from the same library system and listen to when I'm cooking or knitting or trying to get to sleep. When I first tried audiobooks, years ago, it actually took me a little while to learn how to listen - after all, I'd not been regularly "read to" since childhood. But now, hardly a day goes by that I don't listen to a chapter or two. Or ten.

How about you?
Do you use your local library?
Are you a book collector?
Do you enjoy audiobooks?


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

in like a lion

March did indeed come in like a lion this year.

It began with a roaring, middle-of-the-night windstorm that brought down a great many branches - but would likely have taken down entire trees had they already leafed out, so we were lucky. No injuries, no damage to buildings, no power lines down.

There was this small, localized bit of misfortune:

It's the top of a maple, that snapped and fell across the roundtop. I was able to pull it off with that line, but...

Possibly later I can buy replacement sections for the very bent frame pieces, but there's no point in moving all the hay now; it will be fed and gone soon enough. Meanwhile, I've got a tarp tied down over the many holes poked in the cover. It'll do.


We had snow for three days in the first week of March, but the sort of dusting that one can thoroughly enjoy; an end-of-season novelty, soon to be just a sparkly memory.

Of course the reality is, we've had massive snowstorms in April, and I recall once being stuck in my own driveway in May. But despite this...when the season is shifting and days are growing longer and are sometimes pleasantly warm, it is easier to perceive snow as a transient and beautifying gift. Which is why I don't think this titmouse was worried at the moment when freezing rain turned to snow yesterday:

"Snow? Let's see...a variety of seeds,
a perch all to myself,
under an overhang...
and it was 60F yesterday.
I'm good."


Scattered between all this rain and snow and wind, there have been some blue-sky-and-shirtsleeves days. Some outdoor carpentry project days.

 Some let's-muck-out-the-barn days.

And even a couple of "drag the chaise out to the Upper West Side paddock and knit for an hour after chores" days.

Yes, actual knitting.

With agreeable company.

And valuable opinions when requested.


So, here we are quite suddenly halfway into March, and it's been characteristically changeable so far.

I wonder what will happen next?


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

spinning and longears

photo from SYA Rescue website
There is a benefit auction going on this week that I thought some of my readers might find interesting.

It's for a small but very active Donkey and Mule Rescue group in New Hampshire. I found them when I was hoping to adopt a pair of mules, before I was advised that on my tiny property, the longears might be too assertive to be good companions for the goats :(

Anyway, this online auction has a variety of items, from gourmet cakes to ceramics, but one item really caught my fibery eye (at the moment this is literal, since I get a single cashmere fiber in at least one eye every morning when I'm combing):

Kromski Interlude spinning wheel package

(excerpt from the Facebook auction description)
Briefly used as a display model in a fiber arts shop. It is in pristine condition - the only yarn ever spun on this wheel is shown in the photo of the bobbin/flyer. It has a durable clear lacquer finish and includes all original accessories- 3 standard bobbins, orifice hook, oiler, and Allen key.Included: high-speed flyer (with bobbin, for a total of 4 bobbins) for spinning finer yarns and the pound of Shetland/Finn wool roving in the photo.If you choose to pick the wheel up in Springvale, ME, the donor will provide a 1 hour spinning lesson, an additional pound of fiber (lots to choose from!) and a farm tour. The farm is home to a handspinner’s flock, other assorted critters, and an awesome mule who is one of SYA’s adoption success stories! Additional guests are welcome.If you will need to have the wheel shipped, please estimate the shipping and make sure that you are comfortable with the cost before bidding. The wheel will be shipped in a custom-made cardboard shipping box that measures 25”w, 25”l, and 17”h. It will weigh approximately 24 lbs, and will be shipped from zip code 04083. The buyer will need to arrange for pickup and shipping with FedEx, UPS, or USPS. Please also note that the wheel will be disassembled for shipping. Assembly instructions will be included, and there is assembly instruction video available online. VALUE: $620.00

Dear Readers, this wheel is valued at $620, and the starting bid is $350. 
This seems like a nice opportunity for someone looking for a wheel, and since I know many of my readers are spinners - or know spinners - I thought it would be well worth sharing here. Please pass it along if possible...the auction is on til Sunday the 13th, 9PM EST.

And if by happy chance one of you should end up with this wheel, please let me know. I'd love to send you a little something in celebration ;)


Saturday, March 5, 2016

five anxious minutes

After much calling back and forth with the papa owl this evening,
the mama owl suddenly stood up, stretched her wings,
and took off.

I hoped very hard that the papa owl was nearby,
perched just out of camera range, perhaps in the nest tree.

Because it's hard not to see vulnerability here:

Within five minutes...
Mama was back.
Checking the babies, settling down to keep them warm.

And beginning another night of
watching, watching, watching
with those enormous eyes.

Now I can knit.