Friday, August 7, 2020

Garden Report: A New Found Bed is Planted

Found garden beds are ones that are not in the original Backyard Project design. They appear in the areas between two edges. This found garden bed appeared between the pergola and the gravel bed garden's east wall. It is a bonus garden bed.
It is a large bed now full of native plants and berry-producing shrubs.This leftover bit of ground was where the extra rock was dumped during the construction of the pergola.
The first task was to remove all of the weeds and debris.

The second task was to remove all of the rocks in the top few inches of soil.

 It was quite a haul from a bed only about two feet wide and 18 feet long.

'Perlite is a natural volcanic rock that pops like popcorn when blasted in a furnace. Each lightweight particle has a large irregular surface and contains many tiny closed air cells that improve the air-holding capabilities of the soil and increase the ability of water to drain through the soil.' A quote from the bag.
I added an equal amount of organic material rich topsoil and mixed the two together. With our heavy winter rains, the soil needs the help of Perlite to drain the water away otherwise the plants' roots would rot.
I spread the mix on top of the coarse, stony soil in the bed.In making a decision about what to plant in this bed, I was guided by Christopher Alexander's 'A Pattern Language.' Pattern number 245, Raised Flowers. It is about using flowers to soften edges of buildings, paths, and outdoor areas. 'Raise the flower beds so that people can ... sit by them.'  I didn't want the flowers to touch the benches because that is where people will sit and where artwork will be displayed. I needed plants that would thrive in a hot, south-facing bed of dry rocky soil. I settled on a bed of succulents and sedums. They would be a delightful surprise when noticed while sitting on the bench and their variety would beg to be examined more closely.With daughter Elizabeth, who is a succulent/tropical plant aficionado, we visited The Planted Farm  https://www.theplantedfarm.com/ in North Saanich and came home with the above selection of hardy outdoor plants. It was such fun going through Ryan and Brian's trays and trays of possible plants and making tough choices. I have been growing this collection from individual buds for nearly a year and they had proven hardy enough for our winter.




Thursday, June 11, 2020

Nana Knitting: A Hatter to the Grandson

Being a grandson's hatter has been more of a challenge than I anticipated. My first attempt was part of the first ensemble and it was obvious months before he was born this rabbit-eared hat was not going to fit even a newborn's head.

I had some deliciously soft angora leftover from a jacket and made a much bigger hat with attached earmuffs in a retro boys helmet style.

He wore the jacket home from the hospital but being a July baby it was way too hot for him to wear the matching hat that day.

Angora knit jacket

I selected a vintage pattern for this helmet with a built-in neckwarmer.

However, after enjoying a hot prairie summer, he had outgrown it long before he needed a winter hat.

The same happened to this traditional balaclava.

By this time what I was learning about knitting for babies was to make things much bigger than currently needed and work out the corresponding season.
I cast on to make a retro flying helmet to fit size 1 to 2 years.

It looked so adorable in the pattern.

Washed and blocked

Ready for embellishment


I made a hat in the pattern known as The Teabag. It was so easy - knit a rectangle then fold in half. I did add little ear flaps and made some twisted yarn ties. It was decided 'no pompoms.' They don't fit the Christopher Robin Chic style that guides all of my Nana Knitting for this grandchild.

I knit this traditional watch cap made famous by fishermen in many countries. I had to use the small ball of Croftspun Shetland yarn spun in the Seafield Mills in Keith, Scotland I had in my stash because of the family connections.  One of Osmund's dad's middle names is Keith and he has ancestral roots in the area.

You may have noticed most of the above hats are white which was part of a plan. When mother-to-be arrived for a visit she had the task of dyeing all of the hats, and the white garments I had knit.

The traditional balaclava dyed with a Bengala earth dye.

The Bengala dyed retro flying helmet with added sheepskin trim.

Another Tea Bag hat dyed with a mix of different Bengala dyes to give complex neutral colour. This hat became a favourite.

The Keith Watch Cap. The yarn did not soften after washing and felt itchy. 

My solution was to knit a soft angora inner band.
Unfortunately, with the washing and dyeing the yarn fulled and the hat became smaller which meant it didn't fit when it was needed when the weather started to get colder.

I learned a lot while making this first batch of hats for our grandson. The second batch has been more successful but still with a few more lessons learned, which I'll cover in a later post.


Monday, May 25, 2020

Garden Report: Slugs and Raccoons - Garden Companions or Pests


Pacific Banana Slug
Here on Vancouver Island our gardens are enjoying spring rain which happens mostly at night. This coincides with the emergence of slugs. The Pacific Banana Slug, the second largest slug in the world is the only native slug residing in the Pacific Northwest rainforest ecosystem. It plays a vital role in recycling litter on the forest floor converting it to rich dark soil.

The 2020 vegetable garden bed
Knowing rain was in the forecast that night, I spent the afternoon planting out some of the small plants I had grown from seed thinking I would leave the rain to water them in and save me a garden task.
The next morning I was crushed to see the rain had activated an army of waiting slugs who then proceeded to devour most of the seedlings I had planted.
In desperation, in the hope of saving the few remaining ragged plants, I erected a copper mesh forcefield around the bed. 

The jury is out on how effective copper is as a slug deterrent. Does the slime & copper combo cause the slug to experience an electric shock? I'm not sure this is true but I figure at least a copper mesh acts as a physical barrier. It would take a lot of slime to glide up and over the mesh fence and may put off some slugs.

While the large Pacific Banana Slug hangs out mostly in the forest it is the nonnative European Black Slug that is the garden pest. It crawls four times faster than the Banana and has a voracious appetite for garden vegetables.
There are many slug deterrent suggestions out there. Any that involve sprinkling the deterrent on the soil such as salt, coffee grounds, wool pellets, or beer doesn't work here on the North West Pacific Coast where rain is a regular occurrence. People have also tried making the ground difficult for the slugs to slide over by sprinkling around plants coffee grounds, eggshells, nutshells, petroleum jelly.... For every suggestion Grandma Google has articles debunking the same.

Last fall I did try putting pots of diluted beer in the garden beds. A few slugs lured by the sweet smell fell in and drowned but the beer also attracted the raccoons who couldn't resist the slug-beer combo and cleaned up both. Gardener friend, Sharon, suggested I try again only to place the beer pots away from the garden beds to lure the slugs in the opposite direction, especially since we haven't seen the raccoons this year, yet.
The raccoons are great slug eaters and rarely disturb a plant when digging for worms so I don't want to deter them.

But they do enjoy tasting a ripe apple. 
One proven way of eliminating slugs is practiced by my sister, the Garden Queen. On rainy nights she and her husband make it a date night and venture outside with flashlights/torches to handpick the slugs. This is effective and I have the brave members in my household join me on these nightly forays.
In the meantime, I am holding off on planting out my seedlings until they are a little bigger and their leaves less succulent so they have more of a chance of surviving night-time slug raids.



Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Nana Knitting: A Cobbler of New Baby Booties

Nana Knitting - 1st outfit
Included in the 1st outfit I knit as a New-Nana-To-Be was a pair of booties for a newborn. I used a Churchmouse pattern that most resembled the most successful booties my 3 cherubs had worn i.e they could not be kicked off. Churchmouse calls them Stay-on Baby Booties

I lined this first pair with the softest white rabbit fur.

After this initial success, I set up a cobbler bench and went into production.
 
The next pair got a soft, gray rabbit fur sole.

Then I worked with sheepskin. The wool was so thick I didn't think there would be much room for the foot but sewed on knowing they would be warm on a frigid cold Edmonton winter outing in the stroller/pram.

I made several sizes and varied the knitting stitch patterns to keep the knitting interesting.

The sheepskin ones got I-cord ties and longer turn-down cuffs.

The rabbit fur ones got twisted cord ties.

Osmund William Lackey
Here they are being worn by their owner, who had arrived by this time.
His parents have decided to give him privacy at this stage in his life. No images of him are put on the internet. However, I did get permission to show this much of him. I wanted to show how well the booties fit. The square box (cobbler talk for the toe area) allows plenty of room for feet to wiggle around unrestricted.

Here is another photo of Ozzie
Notice the grey rabbit fur sticking out around the join. I trimmed this off which solved the problem.
I'll write another post later about my experimenting and testing of toddler shoes but the next post will be about my work as Oz's hatter.