Monday, 27 January 2014

Which comes first?

It's the perennial chicken and egg situation.  Sometimes, you want to make something but don't have all the stuff you need.   Sometimes it's the opposite - you have rather a lot of stuff that needs using it up.

While I don't usually have any problems giving away surplus produce or using up leftovers, I recently experienced this situation in the wool department.  And it was my own fault.

One of my local wool shops had this yarn on special because there were only three 100 gram skeins left.

It looked lovely (just LOOK at those lush colours!) and it felt divine - so soft and silky.  So I bought all three 100 gram skeins of it because - well, just because I couldn't resist.

As you can see, it is called Misti Baby Me Boo (a baby alpaca, merino and bamboo mix) in Crazy Lace Agate.

But then the question arose . . . Now What Do I Do With It?

It turns out to be a TRICKY yarn.  After starting off a simple scarf, I began to think it looked it looked a bit 'too much.'  Truth be told, I thought it looked like a mess!

So I unravelled it and pondered some more.

I realised I would have to be very careful about how I used this yarn.  It turns out to be a rustic 'homespun' style of yarn with an unusual thick/thin ply that varies from 4 to 10 ply equivalent (fingering to aran), despite the label saying it should work up as what Americans term 'worsted' (which I understand to mean somewhere between 8 ply and 10 ply in Australian terms).

You can see the unusual thick-thin effect below, which shows a simple starting chain together with a few lengths of the yarn:

You get the idea.  It's consistently inconsistent, if you know what I mean.

After a few false starts I figured that a fancy pattern would be likely to way too 'busy', so I cast about for something that was simple and made in the round.

My eye fell on this mobius cowl, which comes from a Swedish blog called 'Odd Crochet Patterns' (the patterns are translated into English).  [Just as an aside, for a while now I have been looking at making a rug using the off-centre granny square pattern on the same blog]. 

This mobius cowl pattern is simply trebles and a fancy border.  The twist of the mobius means that there is no need to turn your work, you just continue working 'in the round'.  The pattern has good pictorial instructions on how to make the twist.  I used a 6 mm hook for the starting chain, and a 5 mm hook for the remainder.

I did my own simple border by dc-ing (sc-ing) along the edge.  The yarn's fluctuating ply created a gently wavy edge.

The properties of this yarn give the finished garment a lovely drape.

Here it is worn wrapped around twice, like a cowl . . . .

and with part of it pulled up as a hood.  The rest of the garment keeps the hood in place.

All in all, I am very pleased with the result - particularly given the trickiness of the yarn - and the simplicity of the stitching seems to showcase the loveliness of the yarn.  

Sometimes, simple is best.


Saturday, 18 January 2014

Heat wave - Part 2

I am not letting the heat wave defeat me!

It's been a hard slog keeping my garden alive.  Some plants are taking quite a battering.

The maximum temperatures have been as follows:

11 January 2014:  31.1 C
12 January 2014:  35.5 C
13 January 2014:  32.1 C
14 January 2014:  35.2 C
15 January 2014:  38.1 C
16 January 2014:  38.7 C
17 January 2014:  36.9 C
18 January 2014:  37.3 C

The forecast maximum for today, 19 January 2014, is 33 C.

(Source of data: Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology  Canberra daily observations)

My beloved camellias are scorched quite badly from the incredibly dry heat, despite being watered daily and sprayed with water every now and then (to cool them down and counteract the evaporation).  

Despite the scorching they are getting during this heat wave, I expect my camellias will survive so long as I keep the water up to them.

Camellias (a sasanqua variety) are surprisingly tough.  In 2003 when bushfires burned down
500 houses in Canberra, residents returning to their ravaged houses and gardens commented that many camellias 'came back' after the fire.   Hopefully mine will be just as resilient.

With an eye to keeping the house cooler during heat waves such as the one we are experiencing, a few years ago I planted a row of pistacia chinensis trees along the northerly side of the courtyard (where the camellias are).  While these trees are growing well, they are only a few years old and are still too small to offer any shade this year.

As you can see, the underplanting is still quite bare.  For some reason this part of the garden is very, very dry and I have struggled to find ground covers that actually survive our summer.  Part of the problem is the avenue of greedy ash trees planted along the street on this side of the house (several metres below the pistacias).  Vinca (periwinkle), hellebore and liriope are the only ground cover plants that have not died so far in this location.

Of those, only the liriope is still looking OK at the moment.  

Even tough old periwinkle is looking sadly wilted from the heat and lack of rain.

Other plants are finding the heat wave hard too.

These tough pittosporums are also scorched from the intense heat.

And the silver birches in particular have needed extra watering.   The dry north westerly winds are particularly tough on them.  This one above is the worst affected.  I hope it survives.

However some of my nandinas are still looking good (I wish I could say the same for this eponymous blogger - I'm exhausted through a lack of decent sleep, and it is showing)!

This is a Nandina 'Gulf Stream'.  It is doing well in this spot because it gets overflow watering from the camellias.

Thankfully we got a brief respite in the form of a shower yesterday afternoon, which cooled things down a bit.

From tomorrow it is forecast to be mostly slightly cooler for a few days, with 'possible showers'.  However I have learned over the last few years not to rely on the 'possible showers' actually arriving, and to water my garden anyway.

I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep when it's a bit cooler!


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Heat wave

Another heat wave is upon us.  We are expecting 34 degrees (Celsius) today, and the five days from Tuesday are all forecast to be 37 degrees or more.

I took this snap from my front step this morning at quarter to 8 this morning, and you can already see the heat haze on the mountains.

We have not had any good, soaking rain for a couple of months.

Sometimes, this gets me down.  Sometimes, even our wonderful blue sky can seem a bit relentless (or even slightly malevolent) when there has been no good rain for ages.

I am still doing my best to improve my microclimate, but obviously there is only so much I can do when there is no rain at all.  This means that I am spending rather a lot of my spare time arranging soaker hoses and sprinklers to keep my vegies and beloved ornamentals from carking it.

But I will never give up.  Sure, it's all quite time consuming, but I do find it worthwhile to maintain my garden, in so many ways.

My garden is noticeably cooler that those fashionable places with nothing but boiling hot paving and ugly spiky 'architectural' plants!   I get to sit under cool, shady trees.

This is my favourite reading spot in the garden, which is delightfully cool and shady on the hottest of days.

And sometimes plants surprise you.  Even in mid summer, some are thriving.

These hebes have rewarded a bit of watering with pretty spiky flowers.

Grey-leaved plants seem to be managing nicely too.   This sedum is getting ready for flowering.

This euphorbia seems to be doing pretty well even though it is in quite a neglected spot.

And my zucchini plants are going gang busters!

When I deep watered the patch yesterday morning I didn't see the above fruit at all.  I took this picture this morning and there it was.  What an amazingly productive plant.  I think I might have to give some away this year . . . !

And finally, finally, some tomatoes.  Nothing beats a sun warmed tomato straight off the plant.

These two are the first fruits to ripen.  Which is just as well, because tomato plants go 'on hold' during heat waves so I am not sure when the next lot will ripen.

And my beloved plums are looking really promising.

There is something tangible but incredibly hard to express about the satisfaction I get from participating in the sowing, planting and reaping cycle.  I'm trying hard not to sound too much like a 1960s hippie, but I do feel a deep connection to the earth that makes me feel more 'alive'.  So I will keep going, despite the impending heat wave, because my garden gives back in spades.