Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Asparagus Fruit

These are the tiny fruit of the asparagus plant.

So cute.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Indigo Rose Tomato

Seriously, how cute are these baby tomatoes?   They are Indigo Rose tomatoes.   Eric brought them home to me when the puppy ate the containers of baby tomatoes I had grown myself.   We weren't sure how many I'd be able to save, so he got several -  whatever looked interesting.  

I can't wait to see this one ripe.   I hope it tastes as good as it looks.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Elderberry Flowers

My elderberries are flowering and they are glorious.    Glorious, I tell you.

They make me so happy.

I learned something important about elderberries this year.   They don't like mulch.  
I thought it would be a great idea to put a mushroom bed under them.   They're in just the right place, with just the right dampness and so I put a thick layer of mulch seeded with Stropharia mycelium under the elderberries and within two weeks I started noticing yellowing leaves.  

I did some research and learned that elderberries have a shallow root system and they like it that way.   I figured the mulch was making them very unhappy, so I dug it all up and carted it away to the shady side of the chicken coop.   Within two weeks, the yellowing leaves were greening up and I had buds forming.   Elderberries saved!

I also noticed a huge bush blooming near the creek in a wilder place on our property.   Lily investigated and it looks like in a year or two it will spread out the right direction and we'll be able to reach them from one of our paths.  

Finally, after 15 years of trying, I'll have elderberries here.   I can taste the jelly already.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Lily took these pics.

It has rained here a lot this year.   Rain can be a pain but it's important to know how to deal with rain.   Because all-sunshine makes a desert. And let's face it. Sometimes it rains.   A lot.

And sometimes you get hurt.   And sometimes people are jerks.   And sometimes bad stuff happens.   And sometimes it's really bad. 
I fear we are raising a generation of children who think that all difficult things can and should be avoided.    No pain, no risk, no frustration, no disappointment.   And they're trying to legislate it now.  Like you can make laws that take the risk out of real life.

I've got news for them:   Real life doesn't work that way.   If you want to be a grown up, you're going to have to accept that a full life comes with risk, injury, pain, disappointment, anger and frustration.

It is foolish to believe that these things can be eliminated from life.  The history of humanity is pretty much evidence that it can't be done.

It is a mark of maturity to learn how to deal with them well.  To cope.  To regain balance.

Pain can be a real blessing.   Work and sweat and discomfort and risk and frustration and anger can all be real blessings.  It is a powerful thing to learn how to deal with them. 

You don't need someone to rescue you from the difficult things in life.   You just need practice dealing with them and an understanding that sometimes it's messy.  Suit up and be the superhero in your own life.

Monday, June 22, 2015

White Sweet Clover

The white sweet clover is blooming now and bees are working it.   The sumac is ready to bloom, the asclepias is just starting.   I figure we have a couple more weeks of good flow here, provided it doesn't rain so much the bees can't get out to it.

Then I'm going to have to feed the bees for a while.  I'm working on a bucket system.   Stay tuned.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Bearding Bees

When it gets hot, as it has been here lately,  the bees hang out on the sides of the hive.  They like the shadier places - under the tops, on the sides, in the handles, and at the edge of the bottoms.   They hang in clusters that look like beards, which is why it's called 'bearding'.

They do this to free up space on the inside of the hive for more efficient cooling.   Bees at both entrances fan air in or out and bees on the interior walls fan the air in one direction to circulate air efficiently.    This is how they can control the inside temps so well so that the brood temps stay stable.

The number of bees on the outsides of the hives can give a clue to the strength of the hive.   These are all first season colonies. You can see that the tallest hive has quite a few bees.  It was started from a nuc.   The long hive on the left has even more bees, but the design of the long hive gives a lot more interior space for them to be, so instead of bearding, they hang out in the far left end of the hive, where there is some extra space.

The beeyard smells like honey right now.   The catalpas have been blooming and we have some just close enough that the bees are busy busy busy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Peas Don't Mind Onions

The verdict is in.    Peas and onions tolerate each other just fine as companion plants.

If you've been following the tale of the accidental pea/onion companion planting, then you know that I decided to test whether the companion planting charts [see sidebar for links] were right about peas and onions not getting along.

I planted peas in four beds.  In one bed I planted the peas within a few inches of the row of onions.

They grew.   And grew.   And grew.  Those peas are the best, tallest and most prolific peas in the garden.

Not because I planted them so very close to the onions though!   This happened to be the bed where we had last dumped the contents of the chicken coop.   It was the fabulous soil that made the difference.   I believe the onions had no effect at all, one way or the other.

I'm thinking that maybe the 'Don't-plant-peas-with-onions' myth was started by someone who just had bad luck that year and made an assumption.   That assumption got put into print and then it took on a life of its own.   It happens.   

Which is why all claims about companion plants should be taken with a large grain of salt.   It's much more important to focus on good fertile soil than it is too worry about companion plants.   Once your soil is in good shape, then your plants will fight off a lot of diseases and pests on their own and you can start to think about other things to plant with them to help marigolds with squash to help drive off the multitudes of squash bugs we have here.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

More New Colors: Blue Peacock

...And another new colorway for the summer! 

This one was the result of a collaboration with a client who wanted one of the other colorways tweaked a bit.   So I tweaked....

...and totally fell in love with the result.   Blue Peacock is one of my new favorite colorways.

Pic above: Sparrow cotton/rayon yarn, Silk Bamboo yarn, Moonbeam rayon ribbon, Stella raw silk yarn.

Pic right:  Moonbeam, large skein, rayon ribbon yarn. 

All of these yarns are on Etsy now....

Friday, June 12, 2015

New Colors: Red Oak

Every so often I get the urge to play with color in the studio and work up some more colorways.   I've got two in the works.

This is one is Red Oak.   I've been thinking about it for a long time.   Earthy reds, rust, brown and purple.   

Pic above:  superwash tencel roving, Moonbeam rayon ribbon, Nuthatch cabled yarn, Stella raw silk yarn.

Right:  Firefly yarn - superwash wool/tencel fingering weight.   My favorite yarn ever.

All of these yarns are available in my Etsy shop, right now.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

June Color and Dyeing Classes

There is still time to sign up for a class with me this month.

Saturday, June 27, 2015
9am - 5pm
Includes lunch!
White Violet Center
St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana
[just west of Terre Haute]

Morning:   Color Harmonies
Afternoon:  Dyeing protein/animal fibers

You can register for one or both classes here:

These are some of the most fun classes I teach all year!  In the morning we do a review of basic color theory, then talk about common color harmonies and learn about using color tools and then we start our own color notebooks!   It's a great time - full of laughter, learning and friendship.

In the afternoon, I take you step by step through the dyeing process so that you can learn to dye your own fibers at home.   We focus on protein/animal fibers in this class, using safe and easy-to-use acid dyes.    It's a great time and you'll go home with an armload of your own hand dyed yarns for projects. 

Details and registration information at the White Violet website here:

Come for one class or come for all day!  I hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Fixing the Rock Walls

When we moved out here 21 years ago, I turned a weird hill in the yard into terraces separated with rock walls - the rocks were pulled out of the creek.   It was a ton [or 2 or 3 or 4] of work, but the result was well worth it. 

Alas, the sheep and renegade llama did a number on them one season  and the dogs and cats over the years knocked rocks around quite a bit. 

Mostly, the problem was that in my ignorance, I backed the walls with posts and planks.   In 20 years the wood heaved forward, pushing the walls right over.

So.   This is the year to re-do them.   Lily pulled all the rocks down and removed the wood behind them.  Then she reshaped the hill behind the walls so we could fill behind each new wall with gravel.  You can see the guide string in the pic below.  There are four walls and we are almost done with the third one.  

Lily and I restacked the rock and Claire and I filled in behind each wall with gravel.    The gravel will drain well and not heave.   The walls are too short to need footers and they should stand for a very long time - provided no livestock heavier than a cat gets on them.

They really make the terrace gardens beautiful.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Onions and Peas Planted Together

According to all of the companion plant charts that I've read, peas and onions absolutely should not be planted together.  

So I was bummed when I realized that I had planted a bunch of peas right next to where I had planted some onion starts.   Since half the peas were planted away from onions, I decided to leave them and see if onions and peas really don't get along.
The top pic is peas planted with onions. They're very happy. This pic is peas alone.  Poor sad things.  [Pics taken the very same day.]

Quite a difference.    I think it has nothing to do with the onions and plenty to do with the fact that I put lots of chicken dirt on that top bed.

We'll see about fruiting in a week or so, but so far, I think the taboo against planting peas and onions is bunk. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Supers on the Hives

I put the supers on the hives.   All those colors make me absurdly happy.  I have jars of sugar water tucked in the top boxes.   They won't encourage robbing there and the bees can feed at will.  This is especially important when it rains a lot and the bees can't get out to forage.

In a few weeks, I'll check the middle boxes to see how full they are.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Bees on Asparagus Flowers

Once the asparagus got tall, it started to bloom and once it started to bloom, it started to buzz. 

There are always a few bees in the asparagus forest.   They have to work hard to get this pollen.

The pollen is dark orange and they never have much of it in the pollen baskets on their legs.

Must be good stuff though because there are always a few bees in there.

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