Sunday, May 18, 2008

Old Stuff

After putting much time and sweat into the garden this weekend (report to come), I decided to play hooky for a few hours and go browse my favorite (air conditioned) antique mall. I don't do this very often since my house is already up to its gills in stuff. Do I really need more old stuff? "Antique mall" in this neck of the woods pretty much translates to overpriced thrift shop, but if you have persistence and a treasure seeking soul you can find some gems. Well, if not gems, then items that are better living with you than with their last owner.

I think I did quite well today. The little sheep will join my flock at home, but the cool little "Black Bull" Scottish Whiskey bottle will join the livestock in my office. Yes, it did come with contents intact, but I am not brave enough to drink something I found at an antique mall. Perhaps Magnusmog can give me a critique on "Willsher's Black Bull Scottish Whiskey".

The expandable carpenters ruler I bought out of pure nostalgia. As a child I was fascinated by one my Dad had. This one expands to 72 inches and has a cool brass slidey bit for an unknown purpose (the numbers are worn off there).

Most useful is the coffee mill. I have been looking for one for my vintage (no electricity) trailer. Most of the used ones you find have corroded mechanisms. I doubt this one is very old. With a bit of trial and error I have been able to adjust the mechanism for the finer grind I prefer.

I also found a hot/cold server (read ice bucket) that was too cute to pass up, and a 1947 knitting book with patterns for interesting things like "gilets" and "godets". Some of the pictures remind me of my Mom's high school and college pictures. I will probably never make the wool bathing suits (yikes), but the pattern for the "Swagger Coat" looks really interesting. The pattern for the Men's Swimming Trunks calls for 6 oz of 4-ply wool and a "bathing belt" - I wonder where you get one of those....

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mid-May update

You may have noticed that I have not said much about fiber stuff lately. Partially it has been due to inactivity, or rather over-activity in the work half of my life. And partially it has been due to my working on a not-posted-until-it-is-gifted project. I have been taking pictures of this project and will post all the details later in the summer.

There are 2 other in-process projects I can report on:

First, I am mostly done knitting a simple white summer cardigan out of some French purl cotton I bought ages ago at a Stitches West vendor booth. I am using the Summer Cardigan pattern from Knitting Pure and Simple. The plan is to have the cardi to put over a sundress I will be wearing to a wedding in July (hot for the ceremony, but air conditioned at the reception). Oddly enough, when I washed the swatch it came out noticeably whiter, which will suit the outfit perfectly. Just need to finish a sleeve, then do the button bands.

Secondly, perusing the archives I came across the pattern for a bag called "Unbiased". It calls for 11oz of recycled sari silk from Tibet. By happenstance I have 2 skeins (12oz) that I bought several years ago in a little imports store in Yachats, Oregon. I have many special memories of that trip, so a bag made from this yarn will be both a handy knitting bag and a treasured memento. For now the project is my carry-along knitting. When finished, I can use it to carry along other carry-along projects.

One more fiberish note: After a long period of resistance, I have allowed myself to be swept into the world of My spot on the waiting list came up today and I have set up my profile. An initial look-around tells me I could spend days inside. Although I don't expect to index all of my needles and fiber stash (it is enough to be a librarian by day) I do expect to find lots of tips, patterns and inspiration.

As for the garden, I finished spreading mulch in the front yard (all 60 bags of it!), trimmed back last year's bloom stalks from the Perovskia and Caryopteris, and have dug the first dozen feet of foundation trench for my rock wall. After all that work I celebrated by adding a garden ornament to the lavender bed.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Water-wise organic gardeners learn quickly that there is no such thing as too much mulch. It keeps the moisture in and the weeds out. Many desert gardeners use gravel between their plantings. I prefer cedar mulch for several reasons. As it breaks down it adds acid to the soil (something much needed in my neighborhood). It does not hold heat like gravel or reflect the heat onto the house. It holds moisture better than gravel. The cedar oils are naturally insect repellent. It is easier to change out should I change plantings. The color is warmer. And, importantly, it is far less likely to kill my back. The only down side is cedar mulch's defiance of the law of conservation of mass - it somehow disappears over time. (Yes, I know my front yard is not a closed system, but it doesn't appear to be piling up at the downwind neighbors either.)

I replenish the cedar twice a year. In the spring I add a thick layer and in the late fall I add some around the more sensitive of the plantings to give them a little insulation. This weekend was spring mulching time. I spread 40 2-cubic-feet bags of western red cedar. Since each bag had to be shifted onto a cart at Home Depot, then shifted into the truck, then shifted out of the truck, then moved to its end destination, I figure I have moved a cumulative of 320 cubic feet of cedar mulch this weekend. And I am not done. I need at least 6 more bags for the front yard, and a bunch for the back yard. Spreading mulch is labor intensive and sniffle producing, but it lends a fresh clean look to the yard. Sort of like a fresh coat of paint.

Once the mulching is done I will have no more excuses to avoid starting on the rock wall.

In other garden news the lilac has started to bloom. Lilac experts say that a heavily overgrown lilac should be pruned back to its optimum over three years. Lilacs only bloom on new wood, so an overgrown lilac won't bloom very heavily. I started the 3-year pruning process last year and it looks like I will be rewarded already with lots of almost-purple flowers. In the front yard, the first green leaves of the Salvia reptens have appeared to quench my fears that they might not come back from the winter. Each year they die all the way back to the ground, so I anxiously await the first bits of green peeking through the mulch.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Earthquake casualties

Reno has been experiencing an earthquake swarm (I didn't make that up - that's what the seismologists are calling it). We have experienced over 5000 "events" since February. Most have been below 2.0, but last week we had several 3s and 4s, with the strongest at 4.7. The folks in Mogul, about 7-8 miles west of my house have been close to the epicenter and losing a lot of sleep. We are expected to have one over 6.0, but for now they have slacked off a bit. So far I have had only 2 casualties. This lovely little wooden sheep was grazing too close to the edge of a shelf and took a dive during the 4.7er. Splintered off both of her port-side limbs. The now-legless robot fell off my desk at work. Time to get out the superglue I used on the 10.5 needle. Meanwhile I have corralled the rest of my breakable sheep into a padded paddock.

Adding to all the earthquake fun, I had a home-repair speedbump that may adjust my home renovation priorities. The outgoing sewage decided to bubble up into my backyard. Not pleasant at all. The fine employees of Jet Plumbing managed to unstop the stoppage for now, but it looks like a portion of the outgoing sewer pipe has collapsed. There may be much digging and repiping in my backyard's future. Or my neighbor's backyard. I am hoping plumbing calamity will hold off until after the summer. To earn good-house karma, I stopped at Home Depot on the way home tonight and bought 34 cubic feet of cedar mulch to begin spreading in the morning.