Salad on New Year’s eve…

today's harvest, arugula and red romaine

The cold frames have now been in my yard since Labor day. We harvested a really big salad for a dinner in early November for my cousin, another for our Thanksgiving dinner, a small salad for Belle on Christmas eve and today I harvested what is in the trug in the photo at right.

I have added a slideshow of the photos I took of the beds today, but I have to say that today the thermometer got in the low 60’s and we missed getting the snow that everyone else got on Christmas day. And a few days before and after Christmas, the temperatures have been really cold and extremely windy here for a few weeks. Last week we had winds that had to have been at least 40 MPH so having the veggies in cold frames was really important those days. One of the days, the lid of one of the boxes blew off and I had to go and put some weight on it to keep it in place.

chard & lettuce with some frostbite

As you can see from the photo at right, some of the lettuce and the chard have some serious frostbite on them but there is some new growth as well. This really was the only bed to have had some serious damage so far.The radicchio also looks a little rough considering, that it was really looking pretty in the early fall. But again, it has some leaves that look like they are going to recover just fine.

radicchio

The second bed contains radishes, carrots, arugula, red romaine and mache (corn salad). All of these look great and seem to be growing slowly but show no signs of any damage at all.

spinach patch

The spinach isn’t very thick but there is enough there to add to some of the lettuces along the way and add to some of the greens that I may harvest.

Turnip

I have a big turnip and within the ten or so turnip plants that I have there is a small one for each plant so during the really cold months we may be able to harvest a turnip or two.

parsley

There are two parsley plants that are doing well and look healthy, but not enough to do anything with yet but, by spring, I can probably harvest some to add to some new potatoes.

mache

The mache is doing really well. This plant is supposed to grow in the tundra and each of those clumps are a serving so when it is time to harvest those I will pull a clump out. It is not a come again crop that will replenish. Supposedly, it has a nutty flavor. This is a new vegetable for me but it is one that Eliot Coleman recommends for the winter garden.

Cabbage

The cabbage is hanging in there and beside it is a vegetable called Salsify and it also looks healthy. The cabbages haven’t started to bunch up into heads yet. Salsify is a root vegetable that is said to have the flavor of oysters but I didn’t see any hint of them yet. They look like they are doing okay in the cold.

I pulled back some of the dirt from the carrots to check their progress and they are starting to form under there. Looks like it will be a good while before we can have carrots. I think I may put those out sooner next year so that maybe by this time I will be harvesting those. Plus, I didn’t do successive plantings so when I finally do get carrots, I will have them all at once. Again, something to remember to do next year.

more radishes

You can see the small radishes that are coming in nicely and in a few weeks I would think they will be ready to eat too.  And I think

Kale seedlings

I have some Kale seedlings starting to grow amongst the spinach so I need to keep an eye on that too. Again, probably should’ve gotten those out earlier too.

All in all, I think it has been a pretty successful experiment so far. We’ll see what things look like into February and March when the weather gets really nasty before it starts to warm up for spring. In the meantime, check out the slideshow and I’ll go eat some salad. We’ll, maybe tomorrow, as a start to the  New Year.

Revealing the “bird”…

Every year, Herb has fun by pretending to have gotten me something really crazy for Christmas and telling me not to look or go into the garage. This year, for a while it was a bird that he had to go out and feed. Then he finally told me he had gotten me a potter’s wheel. A new ploy to throw me off by really telling the truth, but because that has been the previous years’ story, I didn’t believe him.

For 30 years, I have wanted a potter’s wheel and this year for Christmas, Herb was able to find a used one on Craig’s List to get me for Christmas. The photos here were taken in the pottery studio at Berea College in, probably 1978, where I was in the apprenticeship program for a couple of years. Ironically, I decided that I didn’t like doing production and became a TA for the remaining two years. I now do work that requires major productions of  printed items.

So I have had visions of pottery pieces dancing in my head for several days now. I was actually able to throw a pot on Christmas day and out of 5 balls of clay I kneaded up, only one didn’t make it off the wheel. It got two soft and wobbly and collapsed. Another made it off the wheel but was dislodged as I was trimming the bottom, so I now have some practicing to do. Looking to the web for inspiration, I first went to my college pal, Steven Sommerville’s site because he has such awesome work. And then I went to WordPress to try to find some blogs of potters that I could use as inspiration. I went to Etsy but I am not really impressed with the quality of the pots that I found there. Nothing I really want to try to emulate for now.

I want to develop my own style and I am not sure where that will take me yet. I think first I will just throw some shapes and see how it evolves. Vases, salt cellars, functional, non-functional, mugs, bowls, plates, planters.  There are just too many ideas out there. It felt good to get my hands back in the mud though. Herb said he remembers me with muddy handprints on the butt of my jeans and generally looking like a walking mudpie. I never seemed to wear an apron and my clothes were the place to wipe my dirty hands. You could tell by walking around on campus who worked in the pottery because we all had dirty clothes on. I think we were known as mud dobbers.

I’ll keep you posted but I’m definitely not taking any orders yet. And, I am trying to stay a little cleaner these days.

Matchbox Mouse

Molly Mouse in her dress

From one of the many catalogs that have come to our house this holiday season, Garnet Hill had this item in it and when I went to order it for one of my favorite little 4 year olds, they were sold out. Then I googled and found that every site that had them were also sold out. I can see why considering that they are so cute. So given my famous thought, “I could make that!”, I decided to do just that. While I didn’t document the whole process, I thought I would share how I went about putting mine together. My apologies to the original artist, but, if there had been more out there I would have purchased yours….and not spent two days in my sewing room. (which now looks like a bomb went off in there)

  1. I took the dimensions from the item at the website and went through my house looking for appropriate cardboard to make the box out of. I located some that had been a cover for a book of fabric swatches that an interior designer gave me several years ago. The cardboard is about 1/8 thick and is really sturdy and dense. Plus, it had this great pattern already on it so when I cut out the pieces to the box I made sure I positioned the pattern onto some of the sides.
  2. After cutting the sleeve part of the box, I glued it together and set it aside to dry while I worked on the bed part of the box. This box has to fit inside the sleeve so you have to account for the thickness of the cardboard in addition to making the measurements just right. Then you glue the bed part of the box together.
  3. Then onto the mouse. I had a pair of merino wool socks that had been through the dryer too many times and I could no longer wear but they had been naturally felted due to the dryer heat. Cutting them up into the parts of the mouse worked out because the knitting wouldn’t fray due to the felting.
  4. The mouse is 4 1/2 inches tall so I first drew out the proportions on a sheet of cardboard that I had cut to the 4 1/2 size. Basically, the arms and legs were just tubes with a rounded ended sewn in them for the hands and feet. The torso is a larger tube that the arms and legs were tucked into or sewn onto. The head was a head like shape, basically an oval with a pointed side. two pieces sewn together, turned inside out and stuffed with about a cotton ball size of stuffing. The torso was stuffed as well, but the legs and arms are just the sock material. And the ears are just small circles with a small pleat in them and stitched onto the head.  The eyes, nose and mouth were embroidered on.
  5. Her dress is scrap lace and fabrics. The skirt is a rectangle with elastic in the top and wrapped around her waist and a small snap is stitched in place so that it can be taken on and off. The lace slip is stitched to the mouse so it can be a nighty. And then I tied a satin ribbon around the waist for a waistband sash.
  6. Her jewels are just beads that were threaded on elastic string and small gold wire. I used initial beads for her necklace so I could give her a name.
  7. Once the box had dried, I glued watercolor paper to the top and sides of the sleeve and painted the strike plates on the sides and an illustration on the top. Mine has the alphabet on it as opposed to a fake manufacturer’s name. My little friend is 3 1/2 years old so she can practice her alphabet  reading the top.
  8. I lined the box bottom with fabric that I glued in and made a rectangle square that I stuffed and machine quilted for a small mattress and made a matching pillow. Her blanket is part of a sleeve from a sweater that I stitched satin ribbon onto one end and did a blanket stitch around the remaining three sides.
  9. Once complete, the mouse fits inside and when closed up she fits snuggly inside and can be tucked in at night to sleep in her little box
  10. I have a wooden thread spool that I might include as a pretend stool or bedside table.

I hope that my little friend will cherish this little mouse for many years to come. At $28 in the catalogs, I may have to purchase the next one. Made with love and a lot of time. Merry Christmas, Sophie.

and on the Twelfth day of Christmas…

Christmas lights

Image via Wikipedia

My True Love gave to me…12 Drummers drumming.

Drumroll please…..Lighting for your tree is the final item that I would like to address in the 12 days of Christmas series.

Last year I bit the bullet and bought 2 strands of LED lights for our tree. Then this year I bought an additional strand. They are a bit more expensive than the incandescent lights but they are supposed to last much longer AND be more energy efficient and cooler to the touch so there is less of a chance that I will set the house on fire. (which is something to think about with a 100+ year old house.) What I have found frustrating about Christmas lights is that they (incandescents) never seem to last more than one season. I have a tub of lights in the basement that no longer work and up until now I didn’t know what to do with them. They seem to be made of things that could be potentially dangerous to put in the trash so I found this site that will recycle the lights and send you a 25% coupon to purchase LED lights. So I think after the holidays, I pack up all those lights and send them in and see if I can get a couple more strands for next year.

If you haven’t purchased the LEDs and are curious about  some of the advantages, the information below came from Wikipedia and while some of it doesn’t really apply to Christmas lighting it is still interesting to note for other lighting uses in your home. LEDs have improved in recent years so that they are a warmer color which most people find more appealing than a cooler color of light.  That was the concern I had when I purchased mine for my tree. I didn’t want the lights to look like something out of a sci-fi lab, but to look warm and inviting.

Advantages

  • Efficiency: LEDs emit more light per watt than incandescent bulbs.[80] Their efficiency is not affected by shape and size, unlike Fluorescent light bulbs or tubes.
  • Color: LEDs can emit light of an intended color without using any color filters as traditional lighting methods need. This is more efficient and can lower initial costs.
  • Size: LEDs can be very small (smaller than 2 mm2[81]) and are easily populated onto printed circuit boards.
  • On/Off time: LEDs light up very quickly. A typical red indicator LED will achieve full brightness in under a microsecond.[82] LEDs used in communications devices can have even faster response times.
  • Cycling: LEDs are ideal for uses subject to frequent on-off cycling, unlike fluorescent lamps that fail faster when cycled often, or HID lamps that require a long time before restarting.
  • Dimming: LEDs can very easily be dimmed either by pulse-width modulation or lowering the forward current.
  • Cool light: In contrast to most light sources, LEDs radiate very little heat in the form of IR that can cause damage to sensitive objects or fabrics. Wasted energy is dispersed as heat through the base of the LED.
  • Slow failure: LEDs mostly fail by dimming over time, rather than the abrupt failure of incandescent bulbs.[83]
  • Lifetime: LEDs can have a relatively long useful life. One report estimates 35,000 to 50,000 hours of useful life, though time to complete failure may be longer.[84]Fluorescent tubes typically are rated at about 10,000 to 15,000 hours, depending partly on the conditions of use, and incandescent light bulbs at 1,000–2,000 hours.
  • Shock resistance: LEDs, being solid state components, are difficult to damage with external shock, unlike fluorescent and incandescent bulbs which are fragile.
  • Focus: The solid package of the LED can be designed to focus its light. Incandescent and fluorescent sources often require an external reflector to collect light and direct it in a usable manner.
  • Low toxicity: LEDs do not contain mercury, unlike fluorescent lamps.

Disadvantages

  • Fluorescent lamps are typically more efficient than LEDs (for lamps with the same CRI).
  • High initial price: LEDs are currently more expensive, price per lumen, on an initial capital cost basis, than most conventional lighting technologies. The additional expense partially stems from the relatively low lumen output and the drive circuitry and power supplies needed.
  • Temperature dependence: LED performance largely depends on the ambient temperature of the operating environment. Over-driving an LED in high ambient temperatures may result in overheating the LED package, eventually leading to device failure. Adequate heat sinking is needed to maintain long life. This is especially important in automotive, medical, and military uses where devices must operate over a wide range of temperatures, and need low failure rates.
  • Voltage sensitivity: LEDs must be supplied with the voltage above the threshold and a current below the rating. This can involve series resistors or current-regulated power supplies.[85]
  • Light quality: Most cool-white LEDs have spectra that differ significantly from a black body radiator like the sun or an incandescent light. The spike at 460 nm and dip at 500 nm can cause the color of objects to be perceived differently under cool-white LED illumination than sunlight or incandescent sources, due tometamerism,[86] red surfaces being rendered particularly badly by typical phosphor based cool-white LEDs. However, the color rendering properties of common fluorescent lamps are often inferior to what is now available in state-of-art white LEDs.
  • Area light source: LEDs do not approximate a “point source” of light, but rather a lambertian distribution. So LEDs are difficult to apply to uses needing a spherical light field. LEDs cannot provide divergence below a few degrees. In contrast, lasers can emit beams with divergences of 0.2 degrees or less.[87]
  • Blue hazard: There is a concern that blue LEDs and cool-white LEDs are now capable of exceeding safe limits of the so-called blue-light hazard as defined in eye safety specifications such as ANSI/IESNA RP-27.1–05: Recommended Practice for Photobiological Safety for Lamp and Lamp Systems.[88][89]
  • Blue pollution: Because cool-white LEDs (i.e., LEDs with high color temperature) emit proportionally more blue light than conventional outdoor light sources such as high-pressure sodium vapor lamps, the strong wavelength dependence of Rayleigh scattering means that cool-white LEDs can cause more light pollution than other light sources. The International Dark-Sky Association discourages using white light sources with correlated color temperature above 3,000 K.[90]
  • Droop: The efficiency of LEDs tends to decrease as one increases current.[91][92][93][94]

So look at the list and understand that there is a political debate going on in our country due to the incandescent bulb phase out which is to happen in 2014. Rush Limbaugh and his groupies seem to want to repeal the laws that have been put into place concerning lighting and the CFLs. Yes we are losing jobs due to switching to a more energy efficient bulb, but I don’t believe that would be the case if plants that manufacture bulbs would convert their manufacturing sites to a more energy efficient technology rather than send those jobs to China. To me, upper management and CEOs of these companies are the problem because they seem to think cheaper is better than quality and environmental impact. They can get a cheaper product from China. Republicans have displaced the problem, blaming the government  for deciding what is best for the consumer, when they should be upset that the big businesses are not making the best decisions to protect the jobs. To me, the government should look to regulating the businesses and their practices. Retrofit the manufacturing sites to the newer product, train your workers to produce the new technology and stop sending jobs to foreign countries.

From the environmental standpoint, I think we have to do something to save energy worldwide and this article about the UN proposals gives some very valid reasons. I really think we need to look at the bigger picture on the energy issue worldwide because it is all related and is going to have an impact on our food and water supplies in the end. Poorer nations are going to suffer the worst and if changing a lightbulb is a small thing that we can to do back off on our energy usage then I am all for supporting the change.

On the Eleventh day of Christmas…

100 disc cake box and spindle.

Image via Wikipedia

My True Love gave to me… Eleven Pipers Piping.

11 Pipers Piping playing bagpipes. While I am not really fond of bagpipe music, I do love my tunes. Over the past few years the music industry has drastically changed in so many ways. Both the way we purchase music and the equipment that it is listened to on. When I was in college and even as recent as when my oldest son was in college, stereo systems were all about big speakers and big boxes that took up lots of space.

Now, music can be downloaded which eliminates the plastic jewel cases that they come in at the store and the shrink wrap that they insist on wrapping them in which is better for the environment. Generally, we end up writing the music to a CD as a backup but we are starting to use a separate hard drive to back up and not using CDs. Again, less plastic.

The EPA has a great poster that shows the live cycle of a CD and DVD. According to the poster, CDs and DVDs are made from many different materials, each of which has its own separate life cycle involving energy use and waste. They include:

• Aluminum—the most abundant metal element in the Earth’s crust. Bauxite ore is the main source of aluminum and is extracted from the Earth.
• Polycarbonate—a type of plastic, which is made from crude oil and natural gas extracted from the Earth.
• Lacquer—made of acrylic, another type of plastic.
• Gold—a metal that is mined from the Earth.
• Dyes—chemicals made in a laboratory, partially from petroleum products that come from the Earth.
• Other materials such as water, glass, silver, and nickel.

Wondering what the answer could be to all this plastic, I came across a new idea of Eco-friendly CDs. They are made of 50% less plastic, but the packaging is better because it is all 100% biodegradable (alternative to traditional plastic packaging). The material options include potato starch trays, recycled board stock, and soy inks while overall reducing the carbon emissions footprint by over 85-90% compared to traditional plastic packaging. You can read more here.

Of course, the better answer is to try and eliminate as many CDs or DVDs as possible and download music and movies rather than support the plastics that the information travels on because just because something is biodegradable doesn’t mean that if it ends up in the landfill it will biodegrade.

Recycling is an option but you may have to pay the postage to rid yourself of them. The website Back Thru the Future will recycle them for the price of postage to get them there. This company also allows you to ship CDs to them and is set up to take them from individuals as well as large companies.You will be generating less trash which will help the planet and save landfill space.

Of course, you could always hang them in the yard to scare the birds away from your vegetables, they way that some people hang aluminum pie plates,but I can’t imagine you would need more than two or three. Or you could build a really cool lamp like this one. I may have to make one of these. Like I need more hobbies, right?