Sunday, March 22, 2009

Potatoes and soap, and gardening

Tried two new things this weekend, neither of which will be particularly exciting to those who've already tried them -- growing potatoes, and making soap. The potatoes are being grown in a trash can (with holes drained in the bottom). Got them planted on Saturday, so nothing exciting to see there yet. I've wanted to try this for a few years, though, just for fun; the idea amuses me, for some reason. Guess I'm easily amused.

Second thing: soapmaking, another thing I've wanted to try for a few years. Some friends from my local knitting group, one of whom had done this before, came over and we had a good time hanging out, knitting, and mixing stuff. I may or may not make soap again, but at least now I can say I've done it. It was NOT hard. I've made soups that were more challenging. We were very careful with the lye -- one person poured the lye while the other stirred, and we did the lye mixing outside, but, having taken adequate precautions, everything went smoothly. We made two batches, one of a plain unscented olive oil (with a bit of coconut and palm oil in it, for harder bars) and a second of a scented shampoo soap. I like shampoo bars, because you can take them on the road or camping and not worry about liquid shampoo spilling in your luggage.

We didn't get around to making any shaving soap, but I'd like to try that eventually. I bought DH some shaving soap, a mug, and a badger brush for his birthday, and he loves it; says the soap gives him a better shave than shaving lotion from a can. The shaving soap recipes I've seen all require about two tablespoons of clay per batch, which apparently gives the razor better slip or something.

Also got a bunch of gardening done, including moving a pretty big rosemary bush to its new spot next to the (regular) trash bins. I'm moving the herbs into the former flower beds behind the house, having moved the flowers to the side yard where the blueberries and strawberries were. The former herb bed will have tomatoes this year, since that's a great, sunny spot. But first I need to add more organic matter. This is one of the beds that I didn't add organic matter to when I filled it, so the topsoil gets rock hard during summer dry periods and has very few worms -- a sign that the soil really needs help. The herbs did ok in this bed (herbs seem to thrive in rough hot, dry conditions), but if I'm going to start raising veggies there, the soil needs some serious help. Will be picking up some composted manure from a friend as soon as we can figure out a good time for me to come over and get it. Oh, boy, more shoveling sh*t... Well, it's a good workout. (Ouch.) The beds to which I added sheep manure and grass clippings last year are doing very well, though -- lots of fat, happy worms.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Garden Pics -- Major Snowstorm, and Cold Frames Update

We had a snowstorm on March 1/2 -- got about 7 1/2 inches at my house. It's been a few years since we got this much snow. I was able to work from home that day, and enjoyed watching the birds at the feeder, including three different kinds of woodpecker: downy, redheaded, and hairy. I think I've seen a pileated woodpecker in the woods, but haven't seen one at our feeder yet.

The cold frames are a mixed success. The artichokes rotted out, but the leeks, onions, beets, cabbage, spinach, and lettuce I planted in the fall survived pretty well. The lettuce, chard, and beets I planted in an unprotected bed didn't fare as well.
I've started more artichoke seedlings. The plan for this winter is to keep a few in the cold frames in pots with a sandy soil mix for drainage, to see if they do better; I'll keep a couple outside covered with mulch for comparison.

Also got my cabbage, pepper, eggplant, broccoli, leek and onion seeds started inside under the grow lamps. I need to get the spinach and peas planted out, but it started raining yesterday and I didn't have time, since we were framing in the basement's utility room. The soil now needs to dry a bit before I can plant any seeds.

FO: Provincial Vest, from Interweave Knits

Finished this back in Feb. Fun to wear, but in the 35" version, the cables don't line up above the waist ribbing in the back. I figured out a way to make them work, but that was annoying.