Sweater weather, and the arugula is undeterred

Happy Halloween - the backyard on the morning of October 31
Happy Halloween – the backyard on the morning of October 31
After a wonderful mild summer, September and October were full of gorgeous weather. We had our share of temperature swings, from sunny and warm to snow on the ground Halloween morning (accompanied by howling wind appropriate to the day). I’ll blame the weather for only blogging a few times in those months, and in truth, I filled my spare time with family, yard work, baking, and starting a sweater. I suppose my minimal blogging just might also have something to do with reading a lot and watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (fear not, intrepid readers, there is NO danger of me subjecting you to video blogging).
Preparing meals is still a work in progress. I have my wee freezer mostly full of frozen ingredients, so it’s time to shop there first.  I want to make time to cook meals out of one of my freezer cookbooks and freeze a portion, so I can convert some of that bounty into quick-to-prepare meals for when I don’t feel like cooking. Stay tuned. I’ve been playing around a little with baking since there’s been a chill in the air. My most recent successes are the Oatmeal Maple Bread and Cheese Bread from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I love this bread-making method because it gives me great results with minimal time and effort. I also made some scones with Wisconsin cranberries my aunt and uncle brought me from a cranberry festival up north. I froze the rest of the cranberries so we will be enjoying more of them over the winter.
The arrival of sweater weather always makes me keen to knit sweaters, but I often haven’t had the bandwidth or time to follow through. This fall I am making Apple Cider Donut from The Rhinebeck Sweater e-book. I am using Tahki Donegal Tweed yarn recycled from a sweater knit years ago that stretched out of shape over time. It’s a lovely teal color that I am looking forward to wearing. I also purchased light gray naturally-colored wool yarn from a local farmer known more for her excellent goat cheese; her family also keeps a small flock of Jacob sheep, so it’s local yarn all the way. With that yarn, I am currently planning to make the Pumpkin Ale sweater from the same e-book, but I still need to check my gauge swatch before diving in. Spinning update: it sometimes happens before I go to bed, just for relaxing, no effort to make the yarn any certain way or for any projects.
A few hours after sun-up on October 31
A few hours after sun-up on October 31
Late fall is a good time to mull over the gardening season just past and to start daydreaming about next year. This year I had pretty good success with all the perennial crops – asparagus, berries, herbs. The ground cherries (still not sure if those are perennial around here like I used to think or if they just reseed themselves) did multiply, so I didn’t pick any and hope they will start more new plants with the fruits that fell to the ground. The new herb bed started along the northwest corner of the house looks like it’ll mostly be bee balm and violets. It had a lot of bare dirt all summer but am hoping it will fill in more next year.
I had good cherry tomatoes, zucchini, gourds, and surprise pie pumpkins. The larger tomatoes all were started too late to get ripe fruit with one special exception. On a whim I planted some very old seed of a tomato variety favored by my dad and his dad. Happily it came up, and I was able to get three tomatoes which ripened in the house after the first frost. One I used to save seeds for my garden and Dad’s, and the other two I ate without sharing.
I wrote in a previous post about how I moved our cold frame so that I could remove the fence around our oldest garden bed and set up some raised beds from recycled bricks. Turns out the new cold frame location has some problems.  It gets way more shade in the fall than is ideal and really needs some sort of fence for warmer fall days when I have it open. So far the bunnies haven’t found it on those days, but I’m sure they will. It has frequently been visited by squirrels or chipmunks who have dug many small holes in the dirt, disrupting the seeds so that most didn’t come up. I got a few sprouts of lettuce and scallions, but you can’t keep arugula down! It’s not fussed by digging critters and chilly weather. So I will have lots of arugula from the cold frame this fall. Also one of my neighbors recently had extensive utility work in the backyard, and I realized that my cold frame is exactly in the way of any trucks that may need to come into my yard should my property be so unlucky as to need similar work. All of which got me to thinking again about the garden tour I went on this summer and what I’d really like my backyard to look like.
The cold frame and small raised bed that likely need to move again
The cold frame and small raised bed that likely need to move again
2015 will be the year of figuring that out. I will be paying much closer attention to where the light is and at what times of day and year. I also need to spend time “revising” what I already have. Do some of the herbs or shrubs need to be moved? Will I replace the plum tree damaged by last winter’s harsh weather if it dies and with what? What about that ugly shed my yard came with (you know the one with the tall pretty wood fence in front of it to hide it)? It’s almost empty; can we get along without and plan something else for that part of the yard? Will the sunflower forest come back next year? Where should that cold frame be for 2016? How much should we be growing? Straw bale gardening? Dye plants?? It’s going to be fun to map out the options.

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