Monday, August 31, 2015

This child of mine...

It's really amazing what different personalities Emma and I have. She was practicing her flute tonight, and chose to do it on the front porch.  I did some stealth photography.

Emma practicing flute on the front porch.

When I was in junior high and playing the viola, I preferred to do my practicing in my room with the door closed so that no one could hear me.  I mean, I'm sure that my family could hear me, since the walls were just regular walls, but in my mind I was in a bubble of silence and no one could hear me make any mistakes.  That would be soooo embarrassing!

But here's Emma, quite unconcernedly playing her flute on the front porch for the whole neighborhood to hear.  She makes the occasional mistake, but just repeats the measure and carries on.

Emma practicing flute on the front porch.

It's quite enchanting.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tatting smaller and smaller

I'm still on the tatting run, and here's what I've been doing.

More tatting. Size 30, 40, and 100 threads.

The earrings are made with #30 thread, the two snowflakes on the left are made with #40 thread (from published patterns), and the two pieces on the right are made with #100 thread.

Because I am just that insane.

I think the one on the top right  will grow up to be a larger doily, but I'm designing it as I go along and I'm not really sure where it wants to go from here.  Who knows, maybe it will just stay where it is and become a Christmas tree ornament.  The one on the bottom right was the first round of a snowflake designing experiment that went badly awry; the second round didn't work out at all so I cut it off, but the first round was nice and will be used for another try.

Tatting with super fine thread is actually easier than crocheting with the same thread, I think.  You don't have to get a hook into the teeny tiny stitches with tatting, except to join in the picots which is entirely manageable.

And here's a random garden picture- the first Clark's Heavenly Blue morning glory opened today.  Isn't it beautiful!  I'm a little disappointed that the morning glories didn't take off like I had hoped they would.  I think the spot where I planted them just gets too hot.

The first Clark's Heavenly Blue morning glory

Saturday, August 29, 2015


I did up some pickles today; they're just basic dill pickles, but the veggies are all from my garden!  I ran out of cucumbers and didn't have enough to fill the jars completely, so I added a bell pepper.  I've never pickled peppers before, so we'll see how that turns out.


We've also been eating the first of the grapes.  They're a slip-skin type, with sweet pulp inside, and they're so good!


Friday, August 28, 2015


So on Monday, I picked this from the garden.

Today's harvest.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I was out of town.  On Thursday there were two colander-fulls of tomatoes to be picked, between my yard and the Tomato Annex, including the very first ripe San Marzano tomatoes from the plants I started from seed.  I was so giddy that I completely forgot to take a picture.

And this afternoon, I have this.

Six pints of home grown tomato sauce!

Six pints of gloriously rich sauce from roughly 15 pounds of mixed-variety tomatoes.

It's not the first time I've put up tomato sauce, but this IS my very first ever home-canned tomato sauce from tomatoes that I grew myself in (mostly) my own yard of my own house that I bought all by my own self.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Remedial tomato staking

Well, we got everything standing up pretty much straight again.  I added a couple more stakes set at strategic angles to provide some additional leverage to keep the heaviest plants upright, especially that one in the center of the front row.  It's a monster. 

In addition to the new stakes, I tied most of the existing stakes together to distribute the load better.  It's hard to see in this picture, but it's a web of twine on top of the plants.

Remedial staking accomplished. All laced together.

It seems pretty sturdy right now, but I guess time will tell.

The sucker that I stuck in the ground to replace the plant that just wasn't growing has well-developed fruit now.

The sucker is now bearing fruit.

And the biggest pruned, composted sucker that planted itself is now blooming.  This cracks me up.

The trimmings are blooming.

There are so many tomatoes in the Tomato Annex!

So many tomatoes!

In case you were wondering about the haziness of these pictures, well, some of that is inadvertent fuzziness because I was losing light and my phone didn't focus right.  The main part, though, is that's just what La Grande looks like these days.  There is SO much smoke from nearby wildfires.  None are close enough to threaten La Grande (the closest is about 35 miles away), and I am exceedingly aware of how lucky we are.  The entire region is blanketed with smoke, and dozens of families less than 80 miles from La Grande have lost homes.

I think this is the worst fire season for this immediate area since I've lived here.  Definitely the worst smoke I've ever seen in my town, and everything everywhere is tinder dry.  It's scary.  Please send thoughts for lots of rain but NO lightning.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cucurbitaceae, finally.

The Boston Pickling cucumbers have started to bear,

Boston Pickling cucumbers

As has the single zucchini plant (I'm not entirely a fool, I've been overwhelmed by zucchini in previous gardens and learned my lesson...).

Zucchini, finally!

And ta-da! I finally have four itty-bitty pattypan squash starting!  The female flowers have shown up!

Pattypan squash, finally!

This next picture is obviously not a squash, but I just had to show the row of direct-seeded marigolds in my tomato bed.  Marigolds make me so happy.

Marigolds make me happy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tatted teardrops

These were yesterday's efforts, made with #30 crochet cotton.

Tatted teardrops

I saw Emma eyeing them covetously, so I think these will be earrings for her.  They're too big for me to wear comfortably (I'm just not a flashy-type girl), but Emma can pull this off with style and be delighted with her conspicuousness.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Houston, we have a problem.

The biggest plant up at the Tomato Annex is being pulled over by the weight of its fruit.  See that one at the far end of the row?  Eek!  There will be remedial staking tomorrow.

Houston, we have a problem. Leaning tower of tomatoes.

However, the tomatoes are really starting to ripen well. The first Mortgage Lifters have been picked.

Mortgage Lifter tomatoes

These are more pink than red-orange like the other varieties I've gotten so far.  They have really, really good flavor, and they're nice and meaty.

Beautiful Mortgage Lifter tomatoes.

The Oregon Springs have also finally started to ripen.  I was hoping that these would start coming in earlier than the rest so I could get an early-season tomato fix, but I guess that only works if you plant them out earlier.  It's not so much that they mature faster, it's that they tolerate cool weather at the beginning of the season better and get a jump on the growing.

The flavor on these isn't anything outstanding, and they're sort of mealy.  They're actually disappointingly like a mid-winter grocery store tomato...pretty, but bland.  I won't plant these again.

Oregon Spring tomatoes

So here's today's harvest.  Emma's favorite is still the little Black Krim tomatoes, the burgundy and green ones on the right edge of the pile.  She eats them out of hand, and they rarely even make it into the house.

Hooray for tomatoes!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Tatted earrings

I made the first pair last night, the white ones with green/blue/purple beads on the top right.  Then I made the other two pairs tonight, one for me (teal) and one for Emma (white with transparent green beads).

It's a badly glare-ridden picture, sorry.  It was already dark out and I was trying to get a good picture with my task light.

Tatted earrings

The teal is #80 tatting cotton, more stash from my grandma, and the white is cheap #30 crochet thread, probably from Walmart or a thrift store.  The beads are 11/0 seed beads.  The pattern is free on the internet, here.

The quality of the thread makes a huge difference in the ease of tatting.  The white thread is fuzzy and rough, and is hard to pull through the stitches to close the rings.  The #80 thread, despite being smaller and harder to count the stitches, is infinitely easier to use since I don't have to coax it along.  It doesn't matter so much for crochet, but for tatting you really need a nice smooth thread.  I'm going to stash the Coats thread back in the closet and pull out a ball of DMC Cebelia, which is much higher quality.

I'm having so much fun!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

I do NOT need another hobby.

It all started a couple weeks ago when a friend started pinning tatting things on her Pinterest board.  Lacy, pretty tatting.  Yep, I totally blame Anne.

I tried tatting years and years ago, and never got very far.  At the time, I was more interested in crochet and cross-stitch, and found tatting non-intuitive and hard, plus it made my hands hurt.  I think I did one little motif each in shuttle tatting and needle tatting, then scurried back to crochet.

But then all those pins showed up on Pinterest, and I looked at more, and watched a ton of videos on YouTube, and then finally I had to go find the bag with my old tatting stuff in it.  I am nothing if not obsessive.

That first night I started a collar edging pattern, which may become a doily since it's curving so much.  It uses two shuttles and two colors and this time something just clicked!  I was doing it!


It still made my hands tired, but not as much as I remembered.

Emma was curious about what I was doing, so I made these two little motifs to show her how it works.  Actually, I made the first one but then saw that I made a mistake after it was done, so I had to make a second just for my own peace of mind. They are destined to get small crystals in the middle, and will be hung as suncatchers in Emma's bedroom window.


After I did those, I had a little thread left on the shuttle but not enough to make anything big, so I made two sets of earring dangles.

Two pairs of tatted earrings

Then after that, I made a butterfly for Emma.  She thought that was pretty cool, and requested a second butterfly so she could make earrings out of these, too.

Tatted butterflies

Then I started a small doily from this pattern.  Not too big, so it won't get overwhelming, plus it's a snowflake!


I got halfway through that, then Emma said she wanted to learn to tat.  She didn't want to try the shuttles, though (all that hand waving and funny finger positions!), and thought that needle tatting looked much more manageable.

So off I went to YouTube again, for a refresher course in needle tatting before I tried to teach Emma.

Needle tatted doily in progress

I landed on this series, and before I knew it, it was 1:00 in the morning and I had three of the five rounds completed.  It's not blocked yet, just lightly pressed for photographic purposes, so that's why it's a little wobbly.

The next night I sat down with Emma to show her how it works, but then the neighbor kids came home from vacation and she ditched me to go play with them.  Ah well.

I learned how to make needle tatted interlocking rings to console myself.

Tatted interlocking rings

That same night, I also watched this video on making needle tatted earrings. Emma claimed these when she came home at bedtime; they need to be blocked and stiffened, but she's already worn them once.

Tatted earrings for Emma

Since the green earrings were needle tatted, I decided to try the same pattern with shuttle tatting to see the difference between the two.  Both the green and white threads are #10 crochet cotton.

Comparing needle tatting (left) and shuttle tatting (right)

Shuttle tatting gives a firmer product, and to my eye at least, is much tidier and pleasing.  Having to draw the needle through the stitches means that the stitches in needle tatting are necessarily looser and larger.

Since the pattern was pretty easy and I had it memorized after three repetitions, I decided to venture finer than #10 thread for the first time.  And what the heck, I'll try adding beads for the first time, too!

These earrings are made with #30 crochet cotton and #11 seed beads, shuttle tatted.  Again, not blocked yet.  And again, already claimed by Emma.

Beaded tatted earrings

And here's a comparison between #10 crochet cotton and #30.  Same pattern, both shuttle tatted.

Comparing size 10 and size 30 threads

Since the #30 tatting was successful, I decided to just go for it and try some tatting cotton, size #80 thread.  This is very slightly thicker than regular sewing thread.

Tatted doily in progress, size 80 vintage thread from my grandmother.

I'm just making this design up as I go along, and so far it's a great success!  There will eventually be a fine fabric insertion in the center of the doily.  I'm using some vintage Star tatting thread that was my grandmother's, and which has been in my stash for decades.  I'm very much enjoying it.

First two rounds of the doily with size 80 vintage thread from my grandmother.

I've always been vaguely disappointed in myself that I never got the hang of tatting, and one of my bucket list items has always been to tat a large doily in very fine thread.  To know that it's within the realm of possibility is very satisfying.

Friday, August 14, 2015


The first stargazer lily opened on Tuesday, and the second one opened yesterday.

Stargazer lilies

They're so pretty!  Those two flowers perfumed the whole deck area when I was sitting out there yesterday evening.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Be careful what you wish for...

After posting pictures of the Tomato Annex yesterday, I realized that I haven't shown a full-plant picture of the tomatoes in my yard in over a month.  Go look at that picture I just linked, taken July 1,  I dare you.

Now look at this.

Tall tomatoes!


Also, there was this today on the Amish Paste plant.

Amish Paste tomatoes.

And this a little farther up on the Amish Paste plant.

Amish Paste tomatoes

And this on the Black Krim plant.

Black Krim tomatoes

And this on the Oregon Spring plant.

Oregon Spring tomatoes

And this on one of the six bell pepper plants.

Bell peppers

And five minutes after taking those pictures, this was my colander.

15 tomatoes at once!

Double the harvest I had four days ago!  We had a lovely evening in the yard after getting back from Hells Canyon.

Enjoying the evening in the yard.

Day trip to Hells Canyon

Emma and I took a day trip around the loop road over to the Hells Canyon overlook today, to do a little geocaching and just explore.

We've been here before, but not for several years and it's always worth a visit.

Hells Canyon Overlook

This canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America, deeper than the Grand Canyon by about 2,000 feet.  It's astounding.

Hells Canyon Overlook

It was pretty smoky today and visibility wasn't the greatest, but the haze lends its own beauty.

Hells Canyon Overlook

I'd never been down this particular side road farther than the overlook, but there were two more geocaches out there within striking distance for today, so away we went.  The road was rocky but not too bad, and we made it to the McGraw fire lookout.

I didn't take many pictures because I was too busy enjoying Emma's company, but not one single view was less than amazing.

On the way to the McGraw fire lookout, Hells Canyon

Saturday, August 08, 2015

I have waited eleven years for this.

Another garden update, how shocking.  I'm just enjoying the puttering and watching and green-ness so much.

Thing the first: the stargazer lilies are just about to pop.  One stalk has quite small buds, but I'm not going to complain on its first season after confinement in a plastic bag on the store shelf.

Stargazer lilies ready to pop

Thing the second: the Doone Valley thyme is establishing well and has started to creep.  I would love for this to completely fill this planter that the curly willow resides in.  It's more of a groundcover thyme than a culinary thyme, since it stays small, but it has beautiful pinky-lavender flowers.

Doone Valley thyme, off and running.

Thing the third:  My 2015 garlic harvest is complete.  Ha!  This is a scrawny clove that sprouted in my kitchen before I could use it, so I stuck it in one of the planter barrels and ignored it.  I had no real hopes for it, but lookie here- I got a little bulb of seven cloves!  I'll definitely be planting more in the fall, to harvest next year.

Garlic harvest 2015. From a clove that sprouted in my kitchen.

Thing the fourth is the main point of this post: the garden annexes.

The Tomato Annex has exploded with growth.  Four of the plants are now officially taller than me, and the others aren't far behind.

The Tomato Annex 8.8.15. Four plants are officially taller than me.

AND, today I got the first ripe tomatoes from the Tomato Annex!

First ripe tomatoes at the Tomato Annex!

These are on one of the mystery heirloom plants that I got off Freecycle in May.  I don't know the variety, but they're very vigorous plants, and have good sized tomatoes.

Thumbs up for tomatoes!

Thumbs up for tomatoes!  Yay!

Here's a shot of the sucker I stuck in the ground to replace the Oregon Spring tomato that never really grew.  Five weeks in the ground, and it's now waist-high and has itty-bitty fruits.

The six-week-old sucker.

While I was weeding this afternoon, I discovered something funny.  The north end of the Tomato Annex is still a compost pile, where I've been tossing all the weedings and prunings. 

Volunteer potato and tomatoes in the compost pile

Shortly after I planted my tomatoes, I discovered that a potato had sprouted in the compost pile; it's the bushy viney thing toward the front in that picture.  Today I discovered something more.

Potato, tomato, tomato, tomato

Those are volunteer tomato seedlings.  I'm pretty sure that those are volunteers from the seed bank in the compost pile, since they're so small.  Three little sprouts.

These, however, are not volunteers from the compost.

Tomato x5

Those five sproutlets are suckers that I pruned off my plants last weekend and tossed on the compost pile.  I dug them up to see because I couldn't believe it, and they all still have the broken-off stem end where I snapped them off the parent plant.  I didn't bury them or do anything except toss them over there.  They rooted themselves before they dried out!

I'm a little frightened at the power of this compost pile and these tomato plants.  :-P  Wonder if they'll have time to set any fruit?

In the Basil Annex, it was time to harvest again.  You may notice that there are five more plants in here now- I rooted some cuttings a couple weeks ago and stuck them in the ground.  I figured that since I'm keeping the plants trimmed and harvested, they don't need so much room between them.

So here's before:

Basil Annex

And here's after.  I think this is the sixth or seventh time I've harvested this amount from these plants.

Pile o' basil. Again.

In the Cucumber Annex, there were two cukes waiting for me.  And perhaps it wasn't the deer that were nibbling my stevia plant?  A turkey left a feather.

Cucumber Annex and turkey feather

So here's today's harvest from the garden annex.  Yum!

This looks like dinner.

I decided to just freeze the basil plain, since I don't have the other ingredients for pesto in the house right now.  I got six quarts of washed and picked leaves...

Basil before

...which became about a pint and a half of finely chopped basil and olive oil.  I put in a quart ziplock, flattened out the air, and stashed it in the freezer.  Because of the oil, it doesn't freeze super hard, so I can cut off what I need for a recipe.

Basil after

And for the best part.  I have tomatoes and cucumbers ripe at the same time.  It's SAMMICH TIME!

Oh my gosh I can't wait.

I haven't had a BCT (bacon, cucumber, and tomato) sandwich for eleven years.  The last time was in 2004, with my mom, with produce from her garden.  That trip was the last time I was with Mom in person before her car accident the following spring.  I just went back and looked through my photos from that trip and coincidentally, it has been eleven years to the day from when we had those sandwiches, on the last full day of that trip in Maine. Spooky.

BCT sandwiches are one of my favorite summer memories from days of yore.  I would run out to the garden and grab the veggies while Mom made the bacon, and we would chow down.  I remember Mom giggling when the tomato juice ran down her chin.  Making a BCT with store veggies was unthinkable.  Perhaps Farmer's Market produce would suffice, but really, there's no beating a sandwich made with produce less than 10 minutes from the garden, with the tomato still warm from the sun.

BCT sandwich. Oh yes.

Oh yes.  That's what I've been waiting for.