Monthly Archives: December 2010

Making Merry

As you may have read in an earlier entry here, I took up knitting about a year ago. It wasn’t pretty at first. I made a hot mess of some ugly, difficult yarn with some tiny needles I happened to have, cussed at my mother and sister-in-law for laughing at me, and quit in a huff.

But then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And then one day in early January as I was running errands, I found myself inexorably drawn to the local yarn shop, where I picked up some beautiful dark chocolate-colored worsted yarn (yes, I am a yarn ho) and some #9 needles, all of which proved easier to manage. I started anew and quickly became addicted to the skill, and over 2010 I have been a crazy knitting fool. Lots of scarves, washcloths, caps, and fingerless gloves for starters. I found myself contributing to the return of leg warmers into fashion. And I upped the skill ante with two sweaters.

I really found my groove, though, with socks. Back in the spring my dear friend Dusty, a lifelong knitter, helped me master a few tricks (picking up stitches, knitting in the round, heel turning), and suddenly I was on a roll. There is something just plain magical about knitting socks. I think it’s the heel turn–you do a few funky decreases and slip-slips, and voila! There is a heel. So I started cranking out pairs of socks. (Sock projects are also marvelously portable, so I took them everywhere to work on them.)

This turned out to be a great idea for Christmas gifts. I found the coziest of baby alpaca sock yarn in bright, funky multicolors and went to town. Here (above) are some of the results of my two-month-long sock knitting frenzy.

Once the socks were ready, I turned to the jars of jams and butters that I had produced during this amazingly fruitful year. Dusty (she of the mystical knitting advice) also sent me a link to this marvelous blog for directions on topping and labeling jam jars. I got all crafty with my bad self, and here’s what the final product looked like.

Finally, I was especially glad to have found an excellent stash of straw baskets at a yard sale in my neighborhood a few months ago. I cleaned up a couple of the baskets and packed them full of Southern Urban Homestead goodies for my neighbors: fatlighter (seasoned sap-soaked pine my father collected last year), Mr. Pat’s sourwood honey, jam, and snuggly knitted objects.

Merry merry!

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Filed under Making things

Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree . . . Yet

When a big ole oak has an enormous gash in its side and is oozing black goo, you might suspect that it’s time for the tree to go. Since the tree in question was in the easement between the sidewalk and street in front of my house, the city sent over a service to remove it. It made me a little sad to see it leave in chunks the big truck, but it was also an opportunity.

A neighbor a few streets over has two apple trees in her front yard, right on the road, that are usually loaded with fruit every late summer/early fall. She sends out a friendly note over the neighborhood listserv inviting folks to help themselves.

I love the idea of sharing this kind of gift with one’s neighbors, so when I saw that the oak had left a nice, sunny spot rich with ground up stump matter, I ordered two dwarf apple trees to go into that little strip of earth. Three weeks before the trees were scheduled to ship, I went to work on the spot, testing the soil pH, mixing in some lime to neutralize the acid, adding in heaps of some marvelous chicken poo compost I’d been saving just for this sort of thing.

The trees arrived the week before Thanksgiving: one Gala and one Fuji — you need two trees of different varieties in order to achieve fruit. Pre-pruned (so that the newly planted tree will focus its energy in the root system), they looked like little more than twigs, about four feet high, with tiny stubs of branches off the main stem.

I followed the planting directions carefully, digging two generous holes to allow the bare roots plenty of space. I planted them about twelve feet apart. I gave  them deep waterings and piled up about eight inches of wood mulch at the base of each, taking care not to mound the mulch around the trunk, which might cause rot.

There’s little else to do now but wait a few years. Planting a fruit tree is a long-range investment. Next year, after the trees have grown a few inches and new growth has emerged, I might train the new branches to grow upward by clothes-pinning them to the main stem. In another year, I’ll do a little pruning. After a few more years of training and pruning and feeding, maybe I’ll start to see flower buds for my first crop of fruit. And maybe by the time I retire there will be enough to invite neighbors to share in.

Because that is a long time to wait, and because the trees are so little now that there is still plenty of sun between them on all that good soil the oak tree left behind, I gathered up some leftover seeds from my fall gardening and cultivated a little patch for radishes, winter salad greens, Swiss chard, and cilantro. The seeds came right up the following week, and maybe in early spring they will have wintered over and started to mature, and I will be able to invite my neighbors to pick a few greens and radishes for a salad.

Waiting for the apple trees, those few months don’t seem nearly so long.

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Filed under Community and Citizenship, Gardening