Saturday, July 31, 2010

I think I’m making progress on the MP3 front. I want to grab some Italian radio programs. Fortunately “podcast” in Italian seems to be “podcast”. I tried the BBC site, to see if they might be better at providing comprehensible instructions as to how to proceed. It was suggested there that right-clicking might come into it. I still haven’t managed it. I thought I had, at one point, but then couldn’t find the file anywhere on my computer. I wonder what “download” is in Italian.

FiberQat and AnnP, I think you’re right that it’s going to be a simple drag-and-drop operation once I’ve got hold of the files.

Real life is gradually resuming. Yesterday I spent with Fergus while his parents and brother Archie went to Giffnock (where that?) to see an Asperger’s specialist because Archie is said to have a mild form of that condition. I don’t like labels. They came back very pleased with the experience, however.

Fergus and I took a bus to the Camera Obscura, which I think he enjoyed, and walked home. I’m tired, still. Yesterday evening I could do no more than continue sock-knitting, but I hope to get back to Green Granite Blocks today.

It occurred to me that my blog entry for yesterday would at least show up early if anyone google’d on “Wineapple Dickinson” – but it doesn’t.


The Ravelry team have now pulled out of Knit Camp, so the final Saturday can no longer properly be described as a “Ravelry Day” although in all other respects it should be unaffected. To lose Franklin and Ravelry within a week, however, looks, in Lady Bracknell’s phrase, like carelessness.

The difficulty in that case, and I think in several others, was that no contract was in place, and when it came to the knitty-gritty of agreeing on one, the attraction couldn’t accept the organiser’s terms. On the other hand, Annie Modesitt still seems to be coming. She’s fussy about contracts, we know from her blog. I think I’m right in saying she won’t teach for Stitches events because she doesn’t like what’s on offer.

Publications have been flowing in unrecorded. I’ve got the new Rowan magazine, full of luscious things. The opening section is sweaters for both sexes, and scarves, in Cocoon and Big Wool. Very inviting. Very expensive. I knit Thomas-the-Elder a scarf in Cocoon for Christmas last year. It’s wonderful stuff to deal with, and I liked the result a lot, but I think it was the most expensive Christmas present I gave.

(Nobody notices, if you knit it.)

The new IK turned up yesterday – just as Fergus and I were setting forth. I’ve read Meg on travelling stitchery and although I didn’t learn anything, it was wonderful to find it there. I wonder if I will be able to turn back and find my own decision on the yarn with which to knit a travelling stitch jacket-or-sweater, when the fast is over.

And speaking of podcasts, the BBC Radio Four “Open Country” program this morning was about Fair Isle – and about knitting, not birds. Again, I don’t think any of us will learn anything, but it’s a good, intelligent program. I’ll leave you to figure out how to download it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Skeindalous, first of all.

My mother’s writing name, her maiden name, was Anna Mary Wells. Her Emily Dickenson book was “Dear Preceptor”, a biography of Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Since my mother was primarily a Dickinson scholar, and since Higginson’s claim to fame lies largely – although not entirely – in his friendship with Dickinson, appreciation of her genius, encouragement of her, and his role in the publication of her poetry after her death, that is what the book is largely – although not entirely – about.

Long sentence. “Dear Preceptor” was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1963 and very well received. Not a light under a bushel or anything like that.

My soapbox moment – whenever it occurred; I can’t remember either – concerned Brenda Wineapple’s book “White Heat” in 2008. That book is about Dickinson and Higginson and was billed on the dust jacket as “the first book to portray one of the most remarkable friendships in American letters…” Reviewers believed and repeated that statement. I’m still seething.

My sister and I got nowhere, complaining to the publisher and to reviewers.

I don’t know about Lyndall Gordon. Is that the new book that says ED was epileptic? If so, I had a look at it in a bookshop, found that it had “Wineapple” but not “Wells” in the bibliography, and gave it no further thought.

I can see that there’s not going to be much room for knitting, in this post. I did virtually none while we were away. I have resumed Green Granite Blocks since returning, and last night added the spots to the second rank of blocks on the right front. I am feeling rather bogged down – there’s a long, long way to go. I have also started some KF socks for Helen.

The vegetables are on the whole fine. I was very happy working among them. It's a very special sort of happiness.

The bunching onions continue to promise well.

The walking onions turned out to be healthy-looking little bulbs with vigorous roots. They are not above ground yet. We’re eating mange-tout peas (but mange-tout peas never taste as good as my father’s snow peas, from his Victory Garden in Detroit in the war years) – and salad and the first potatoes with beans and real peas to follow soon.

The summer pudding was a great success. I made another one with white currants for consumption after we left. I’m told that was just as good.

The rosa mundi is in bloom.

Helen and her family and friends trekked up to Loch Esk for a day’s fishing. Here is Mungo showing my husband the catch.
Mungo is now in CT with my sister and her husband and their new dog. We’re all eagerly looking forward to his blog reports.

Here’s another problem for you: I have taken to doing a few minutes’ brisk walk in Drummond Place Garden in the morning. It is very boring, so I have been trying to activate an MP3 player I was given for Christmas. I gather in order to grab podcasts and transfer them to the player, I need a podcast-grabbing-program. Any tips or suggestions on how to proceed? I use Windows XP.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Helen’s here. And James is back in Beijing. A new chapter opens. We’ll all go to Strathardle today, where her husband and sons will join us today or tomorrow. I’ve got the Linda Dick organic chicken which will be the centrepiece of the meal ending in summer pudding, if the gods smile on us. Who knows? – maybe the garden will provide potatoes and a vegetable.

We’ll be back in the middle of next week, if all goes according to plan. I’ll tell you all about my onions.


Anita has left a new comment (on Wednesday’s post) about Ysolda’s decision to pull out of KnitCamp, and I’ve had a message from Maureen – who has spoken to Franklin – which confirms her (Anita’s) guess, namely that there was a contractual problem. It must have been sad for him, given, as you say, Mel, what an Anglophile he is. That’s what I started out as, and then I met Scotland. We might have done the same for him, had things turned out differently.

Clearly, Franklin is not at all to blame. Nor is Dolores, even.

I’m now a member of the Knit Camp 2010 Social Group group on Ravelry (Tricia’s comment yesterday). The effect is reassuring. Did the Camp organisers but know it, the sense of being able to speak freely is much to be preferred to a forum devoted to midges and cheerfulness in which one knows that dissenting voices are being silenced.

So at the moment I am sadly hopeful, so to speak, of an interesting day with Donna Druchunas on the subject of Japanese knitting.


I finished those socks. What a relief. And knit a few more rows of the Green Granite Blocks. Now Helen and I must find some time in a busy morning to look at lace yarns and patterns.

I am tempted to start a pair of KF socks in Perthshire instead of forging ahead as I ought with that eternal sweater.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Today’s event is – Helen.

Lisa, I did write to Franklin on Tuesday when I heard the news. We have corresponded in the past – I provided him with one of the Latin words on the shawl he knit for his niece, and a bootlegged copy, I am afraid, of the Bridget Rorem lace alphabet, now available from the Schoolhouse Press. But no reply this time.

I think I may attempt a message today to the Delores Devotees group on Ravelry, along the lines suggested in your comments. It’s no use writing to the Knit Camp group which is heavily monitored and devoted to messages about KALs and protection against midges. The news of Franklin’s non-appearance was posted there by the organiser, an hour or two before she sent the emails to the paying customers. It has apparently attracted no comment at all.


My new email address (drump at btinternet dot com) has suddenly sprung to life. I’ve ensconced it in Outlook Express. Now I must go through the Outlook Express address book and see if there’s anyone who needs to know about the change. For the time being, it simply relieves me of vast quantities of advertising, the result of all my on-line Christmas shopping in years past.

So the one remaining thing to test, is adding additional computers to the system. That will have to wait until someone comes to visit with a laptop.

Yesterday’s young woman was very pleasant. She did stay to lunch, and for much of the afternoon. She is working on a kind of archive of the reminiscences of elderly art historians. It will be deposited somewhere.

I signed up for Facebook the other day, for an entirely unworthy reason. I had heard that a young woman with whom I am not acquainted often wrote about her mother, whom I know. I wondered if her posts were public. They’re not, and I am ashamed of myself and certainly don’t intend to startle the young woman by proposing myself as her friend.

But the Facebook experience is extraordinary. As soon as I had identified myself, I found a cheerful group of six or eight dear people, wanting to be my friend. A bit like dying, I imagine, and being welcomed by familiar faces on the farther shore.


I have successfully established the second rank of Green Granite Blocks for the right front.

Once I had done that, I thought I might as well finish off those blasted socks. I took unusual care to make sure I was operating on the correct, too-long, sock, and then cut off the toe and took it back. For the successful sock, I started the toe shaping as soon as the Oliver shaping was finished, with four stitches remaining between the decreases. That meant that I was able to recover the stitches for this sock at precisely the same point.

I’ll finish it off this evening, if the excitement of the day’s event allows. And THAT means I can select a KF colourway from stash for the next pair!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rachel’s younger son Joe – the Grandson, of the Grandson Sweater -- embarks on life’s third decade today. It’s the only birthday-ending-in-zero for which there is no specific card on sale, at least at John Lewis. Happy Birthday, Joe, anyhow.

Well. Franklin. Dawn’s comment yesterday says it all, a good deal more neatly than I am about to.

How could this be? He has been promised as a star turn to Knit Campers for the last seven months or so – plenty of time for a double-booking to come to light. Even Franklin doesn’t have that many overseas gigs. Passports and travel plans would have to be in hand before now. He must be in touch with lots of people – including the camp organisers themselves – who would occasionally say, See you in Stirling. Dawn’s hypothesis is the only possible explanation.

If the double-booking was made this year, surely he would honour the earlier commitment?

The substitution, Mary Jane Mucklestone, is brilliant. The organisers did well to get such a big name, and such an appropriate one, at short notice. If I were interested in learning how to photograph fabric, everything would be fine. But since I am interested in being taught how to photograph fabric by Franklin Habit, I’m out of luck and out of pocket. Similarly, Dawn, who I am sure can knit a tomten with one hand tied behind her.

Which day is your cable class, Dawn? Can we meet when I’m there for Japanese knitting on the Thursday? It will be easier for me in many ways to take only one day away from domestic responsibilities. That’s a plus.


I continue to wrestle with my new broadband connection. Specifically, to try to find my email. I tried your suggestion, Judith, but soon ran up against the now-familiar stone wall. I tried sending a message to myself as drump at btinternet dot com from Googlemail. It bounced back with the message that there is no such address at

Maybe things will settle down after a few days. I have emailed the BT help desk. Eventually I may have to phone them.

Yesterday’s event, lunch with a friend, was very pleasant. Today’s is an unusual one – a young woman with a recording machine is coming to interview my husband about his memories of the founding of the Association of Art Historians in which he was closely involved. We’ll have to offer lunch, although we hope she’ll go away. Piperade, I think, into which extra eggs can be incorporated if need be at the last moment.


What with one thing and another, I am still a couple of rows short of the top of the first rank of Green Granite Blocks on the right front.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Stop Press

Franklin has pulled out of Knit Camp.

That is my new Hub. Isn’t it nice? I’m sure the ease of yesterday's transition owed a lot to it. It already knew many of the things James struggled for hours to teach the Netgear router about my former ISP.

I’m now trying to find messages for my new address -- drump at btinternet dot com. It’s no use writing to me there because I don’t know where to go to pick up mail. Googlemail (address in sidebar) works as usual, thank goodness. And I must look into security. James said before he left that it is important to ensure that students in the flat downstairs can’t download porn on my wi-fi.


Yesterday’s event, apart from BT Total Broadband, was my husband’s appointment at the Royal Infirmary Breathlessness Dep’t. They can’t do anything for him, but say that he is not declining, or at least not rapidly, and that his resting oxygen level is good. There was a long wait, as expected, and I finished off his second sock.

The first is too long. I Kitchener’d the second in the evening and it’s just right. It won’t take long to re-knit the toe of the first one. Is this an argument against toe-up sock-knitting?

(They had a pamphlet on the rack, just in front of where I sat knitting, called “Coping With the Final Stages of Chronic Lung Disease”. I would have loved to have a look, but didn’t, so as not to worry or distress my husband. The man on the front of the pamphlet looked pale but otherwise as cheerful as any man could in his condition.*)

Today’s event is a friend coming to lunch. I’ll make soup.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the right front of Green Granite Blocks is bounding forward. I should finish the first rank of blocks this evening, and set the second.

I used my brilliant new connection last night to winkle out the information I need about Knit Camp – times and places of classes, what to bring, map of Stirling campus, train timetables. I feel better having all this together, and still think the organisers might have sent a simple email.

They have a “list of tutors” on the Ravelry Knit Camp page – it’s fairly short, and doesn’t include Franklin. I deduce that it is a list of tutors whose classes aren’t full. It does include Donna Druchunas who is going to teach me about Japanese knitting. But of course there is no way to distinguish a tutor who is below the class-minimum from one who is a few short of the maximum.


The walking onions turned up yesterday, too. The plan is to go to Strathardle on Friday, with Helen – her arrival is Thursday’s event. I’ll plant them straight away, of course.

Rachel is already overwhelmed by her husband Ed’s allotment crop – more artichokes than they can eat, marrows, courgettes, borlotti beans, mange-tout peas. Will I have anything? Well, peas, hopefully, and red currants for the summer pudding. Courgettes and the first potatoes and broad beans not far behind. Not too bad.

*see Pepys on the hanging, drawing and quartering of poor Major General Harrison.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Here I am! Full marks to BT!

The installation process has consumed blogging-time -- no worse than that. I should be back here tomorrow.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tomorrow is the day I switch ISPs, so it is safe to assume I won’t be here. (In fact, at the moment, I can’t connect today.) I haven’t yet received the box of kit from BT – which will include a wireless router they call a “hub” – but I am confident it will arrive. I am hopeful (but not confident) that I will be able to do the rest myself. I’ve already got the User Guide, from which I deduce that the hub will be pre-set to talk to BT. That should help.

If I fail, I’ll get a man in right away. This week is unusually fraught with event; that won’t help.

Since I can’t (yet) connect this morning, I can’t re-read yesterday’s comments, but you are right, Lisa, that there seem to be two Geoffrey Duttons, of almost identical age and not entirely dissimilar careers, a world apart. I faffed about for a while yesterday trying to see if they might not be the same man after all, but I agree there were two. In a few hundred years’ time, art historians will find it very hard to believe that there really were two French 19th century artists named, respectively, Manet and Monet.

(I’m connected! Hello, world! Perhaps for the last time.)

As for Kaffe, my belief, on not much evidence, is that he designs fabric, knitting patterns in that sense, and the knitty-gritty of transforming his ideas into garments is done by someone else. But having started to formulate that idea, I remembered the dramatic coat and the bat-winged ikat in “Glorious Knitting” – he must at least have wanted to achieve those shapes, even if someone else actually did it.

I think, in fact, that “Glorious Knitting” shows a certain amount of transitional discomfort on this point. “Knitting patterns” meant something slightly different then. People expected shapes and texture. That’s why they chose that – rather awful, to my taste – thing with a peplum for the cover of the first edition of “Glorious Knitting”. And why my sister-in-law said, when I showed her the book back when it was new, “It’s just colour”.

I don’t believe, in short, that the over-the-shoulder way of knitting was something he insisted on. It is interesting to learn from Judith’s comment that it is a 19th century technique. I did it for his Arabic patches sweater in “KF at the V&A” and didn’t much enjoy the process.

I've finished the ribbing for the right front of the Green Granite Blocks, somewhat slowed by skein- and butterfly-winding, and am now embarked on the pattern. Knitting only half-a-row is going to be fun.

Lisa, I’ve never attempted intarsia in the round. I’ve read about it. I know it can be done (although at the moment I can’t think how). In fact, in a situation like this, I don’t mind purling. The whole experience of a KF design is so different from other knitting anyway.
Helen's shawl

I took some pictures yesterday of the lace yarns I’ve rooted out of stash for Helen’s consideration:

Lorna’s Laces, “Helen’s Lace” (appropriately enough):

Cheery Tree Hill suri alpaca in the colourway “Martha’s Vineyard”. This was an extravagant purchase of mine at Stitches East in ’02. Memory had suggested that there was some possum yarn in the blend, but memory erred. I wonder if it would do for the Dickinson – observe the ball already wound in the middle of the pile:

James’ and Cathy’s Christmas present to me in ’08. It’s labelled “cashmere”, but Cathy says not:

Some purchases of my own made in Beijing on our one glorious visit, in ’05 perhaps. The colours are wonderfully Chinese-looking. I’d love to use them:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bless you, catdownunder, for saving me from the humiliation of a comment-less day, and even more for actually knowing Geoffrey Dutton. Did someone say something about a small world?

I had one extra advantage in my search for his garden: proving, if proof were required, that we’re going to go on needing the printed page. My husband, with a lifetime of research under his belt, said, start with the phone book, when we read the obituary with its reference to a garden “north of Blairgowrie”. We were in Strathardle at the time, and there is no possible Dutton in the current book.

But here in Edinburgh, we keep the Tayside book-but-one (and do the same for Edinburgh at the other end). And in the older book a Dutton was listed – although without “G” among the initials – for “Druinchardain, Bridge of Cally”.

Well, Google on that and you soon find that that’s Geoffrey Dutton’s address. So then all you have to do is locate Druinchardain.


The back of the Green Granite Blocks is properly finished, and I am advancing through the ribbing of the right front.

The pattern – I’ve mentioned this before – asks one to carry on, over the shoulder, and knit the fronts downwards. I don’t see the point. And I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with Kaffe. I don’t think he designs knitwear, in the ordinary sense of that phrase, although he certainly has views about possible – often dramatic – shapes.

So I left the stitches live, and am starting again from the bottom.

I got a bit anxious about the fact that I seem to have used nearly half of the amount of yarn provided for Colour A (which figures prominently in the ribbing). But a quick search of the Rowan odd-ball bag has produced a sufficiency of the right stuff, or near enough. Dye-lots don’t matter here. So that’s all right.

There is one colour whose effect I don’t like at all, as it appears on the back. When you see the colours all lying in their box ready for deployment, it looks as if it would provide an interesting accent. But in practice, I don’t think it works.

The pictures on the models in the California Patches book all seem to be arranged so that you can’t see the places where that colour appears. And there is one mysterious picture of the complete back – knit in a different colourway: Red Granite Blocks, perhaps. No comment in the text, and no discordant colour there.

I don't know what that intrusion at the bottom of the picture is -- the camera case, perhaps. But it underlines one appearance of the offending colour, and there is another upper left.

I’m about to try a substitution from the odd-ball bag.

I looked out some lace yarns for Helen’s consideration yesterday, and became thoroughly depressed at the size of the stash. It’s now eight months since the yarn-fast began, interrupted only by buying one ball of merino lace for James’s jabot – and knitting it. You wouldn’t know anything had happened, in there amongst the yarns.

My plan, roughly, is to buy! buy! buy! in November – when one needs cheering up, anyway – but to buy less than can be knit in a year, and then start another fast. We’ll see

Friday, July 16, 2010

We had a good walk, and were very lucky with the weather. There was serious rain from time to time, but it fell while we were in the car, or having coffee in a nice place in Gullane, or, at worst, walking through trees. We drove west of Edinburgh to Yellowcraig and walked perhaps five or six miles in all, along the beach and back along the dunes. All rather wonderful.

I was too tired last night, in a thoroughly nice sort of way, to get much knitting done. The back of the Green Granite Blocks is finished – indeed, I’ve gone a row too far – but not finished off.


I ordered some “walking onions” from an eBay seller yesterday – all your fault, Mary Lou. I’m going to try them in the part of the garden fully exposed to rabbits (and thus well away from the strawberries). There are plenty of rabbits about, but they are, for whatever reason, leaving me alone this year. I had hoped maybe parsnips and perpetual spinach would both be safe, and so far both of them are. Plus some spicy salad leaves. By nature? or because the rabbits have declared an amnesty? We will see whether walking onions can be added to the list.

We have occasionally bought books after learning of the author’s existence from his or her obituary, and did so again last week, Geoffrey Dutton’s “Some Branches Against the Sky”. It arrived yesterday, and has been set aside for thorough reading in Strathardle.

Dutton was Australian to begin with, and his distinction was in biomedical research, but the interest of the book to us was that it described his “natural garden” -- not the same thing as a wild garden, apparently – somewhere “north of Blairgowrie”.

The Telegraph obituary said that he kept the precise location of the garden secret, but you can’t really do that in the Age of Google, and I’m pretty sure I’ve found it, just above Bleeton Hallet on that rather scary road from the A93 to Alyth. Not in Strathardle itself, but well within our orbit. We might have known him, were we more inclined to scrub up and go about in society.

He was a writer -- a poet, indeed – as well as a scientist and a gardener. The book promises very well. His approach to gardening sounds much like my husband’s. He deplored improving the soil – it only encourages weeds. I wonder what has happened to the garden. I learn, from dipping into the book, that a natural garden can be recovered from neglect fairly easily. And its outlines would surely survive for years.

Still, you can’t grow vegetables that way. It was Mrs Duthie of Bleeton Hallet who told me, at the Games one year, that rabbits don’t like broad beans. I wouldn’t have believed a lesser expert, but she’s right. I’ve been growing them fully exposed to rabbits for a decade now.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thanks for the help with the shawl-choice. Susan, I’m saving your advice about beads and feeling, at least for the moment, inspired to try some. I think the Dickinson shawl would suit Helen-in-retro-mode. She’ll be here soon. We’ll see what she thinks.

There was a bad moment yesterday when I had an email to say that their flight today, Athens-London, had been cancelled due to yet another Greek strike. She said they’d drive home, if they had to. But then another email to say that David had found a flight for them. I trust they’re on their way.

Today is St Swithin’s Day and it’s not looking good. Not actually raining (very much) here at the moment, but we are enveloped in a haar. I am meant to be going for a walk with husband’s neice but am inclined to think we should wait for something better. I didn’t get lace yarns dug out yesterday, what with one thing and another. The forecast suggests there might not be a chance to photograph them in natural light before the end of the month.

Angel, I’m sorry to hear you’re not knitting. I like imagining that Oberlin yarn shop. I wonder if there was one in my day. I knit in high school, trying to marry Woolworth’s yarn to Vogue patterns with singular lack of success. For those four years at Oberlin, nothing at all. Then Glasgow, and everybody was knitting, and I remembered how much I had liked it. That was the real beginning.

There’s a thread on the Historic Knitting Group at the moment about Knitting 50 Years Ago, for heaven’s sake. I can’t bear to read it.

All well on the Green Granite Block front – I should finish the back today.

The haar has lifted, and it’s not raining. Not nice, but not raining. Difficult one to call.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A beautiful day yesterday; not so this morning. No hope of natural-light-on-the-doorstep for the Green Granite Blocks.

Otherwise, however, all is well. I have reached the row in which the front-of-blocks dots for the sixth rank will begin to be inserted, and indeed if all goes swimmingly, I should finish the back of the jacket tomorrow.

The computer was slow-as-molasses yesterday, but remained connected. I bought and downloaded and printed – not without difficulty -- both the Emily Dickinson shawl pattern (Ravelry link yesterday) and Anne Hanson’s “Pine and Ivy”. The latter a strong contender: the Faculty Meeting Knitter alerted me to it a while ago, but doesn’t seem to be knitting it yet.

I also flipped through a few books, feeling sort of Faroese. But Faroese usually means fingering weight, and it’s lace weight or finer we’re after here. The Dickinson one is gossamer, and I think really should wait until the yarn fast is over and it can be knit in a proper Dickinsonian grey.

The pattern disappoints by not telling me how to attach beads. It doesn’t tell me how to knit, either, so perhaps that doesn’t constitute grounds for grumbling. I’d need “273 clear glass 6/0 Japanese beads” and a 1mm crochet hook. The positions for the beads are marked on the charts. Good old Google will fill the gap, if I ever get that far.

Now I must seek out some possible yarns.

Slow cooking

I had a good time last week with my new toy. As a way of life when lots of people are about, Helen is right that cooking in the morning while the kitchen is full of breakfast and chaos is a good way to start the day. Then clean it all up and off you go.

I wished somewhat that I had bought the smaller John Lewis programmable slow cooker which I recently gave Rachel. My one seems awfully big, even for four adults. And a couple of meals were near-spoiled by, I think, being cooked for too long. I don’t really need to program it. I can come in from my vegetable-growing at what I deem the appropriate time, and turn it on.

And when Helen gets here next week, she’ll straighten me out on the whole topic.


I have been reflecting lately on the near-miracle of the fact that we can afford to eat at all. I know about agri-business and chemicals and all that. But even so the production of food seems so labour-intensive when one is actually doing it that I am astonished that anyone can do it, and harvest and package and ship the stuff, and sell it – with a generous slice for the seller – at a price anyone can afford.

And in the olden days, three thousand years ago before agri-business and chemicals were invented, how did people grow enough food to support cities? In villages and towns, people can continue to grow a lot of their own. But not in cities. Wheat, is the answer. It still supplies 20% of all calories consumed in the world, I learn from the Economist. Rice, another 20%.

Mary Lou, I will keep walking onions well away from the strawberries. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I did it. I got my MAC – Migrating Access Code, or something like that – from my current ISP and relayed it to BT and the changeover will happen next Monday and I will probably never be heard from again. I had better print out what I can, while I can, about Knit Camp. I still don’t know what I’m going to do, but it’s as well to have the options open.

We talked about this Big Change while my sister was here. She thought I could run both accounts in parallel for a while. Can you in America? I think maybe it was possible here back in the simple days of dial-up, before the need for MACs.

A good day on the Green Granite Block front, too. The sixth rank is established. I’ll attempt a photograph tomorrow, when I should be far enough forward to let the fifth rank be seen in all its glory.

Greek Helen phoned yesterday, still in Athens. They’re coming to England later this week (as you should know by now from reading Mungo’s latest blog-entry) but going first to David’s family and only next week to us. So one of the things I must do is look out lace yarns and patterns for her to choose from.

I stumbled across the Emily Dickinson shawl (Ravelry link) yesterday – I like it a lot. My mother was a Dickinson scholar of some distinction, and Helen was very fond of her. So it would make some nice connections.

It involves, however, beads, which are against my religion. On the other hand, again, several knitters whose work I admire and respect are devoted to them. Maybe it is time to move forward. Perhaps I should at least buy the pattern and have it ready for Helen’s views. I’m not sure I have any suitably Dickinsian lace yarn, though. Mine tends towards garish.

Summer pudding (& vegetable-growing)

I use Delia Smith’s recipe for summer pudding, except, as I said, that I use only red currants. And take the crusts off the bread -- I don't think DS says that specifically. My husband says, oddly, that there should be a transverse slice of bread in the middle. That’s pretty well impossible, unless you’re using a bowl the size of a mixing bowl. Maybe he retains a vague war-time memory of days when red currants and sugar had to be made to go further? He’s right that the fruit-soaked bread is the whole point.

Mary Lou, I am worried about the removal of “walking onions” from your garden. They sound fun, and I thought I might go on to them when I had mastered bunching ones. I am trying to encourage every sort of vegetable that has the slightest capacity to look after itself. I constantly buy “spring onions” and I thought having something in the garden that would do as a substitute would be a real blessing.

By the way – I set out five salsola soda plants in the end, and they seemed, in the week we were there, to be taking hold very happily. I even tasted one. Yes! It’s not so much the flavour as the delicious and unexpected crunch.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Everything seems all right this morning, connectivity-wise, but failure lately has been sudden and unprovoked, as if the machine knows that James is gone and I’m on my own. I must get back to the prob of switching ISP’s, rather neglected in recent days.

Strathardle was wet and midge-y but we had a grand time. No knitting to speak of. Cathy and Alistair and I went to see “Noises Off” at the Pitlochry Theatre.

James and Alistair went camping. I drove them up Glen Fernate along an interesting single-track road and then they skirted the south edge of Ben-y-gloe, if I’ve got it right, and walked down Glen Tilt,

to Blair Atholl, where we picked them up the next day at the Atholl Arms Hotel.

Now they’re in Cornwall, celebrating Cathy’s parents’ Golden Wedding.

Vegetables (and weeds) progress. I am becoming obsessed by the concept of bunching onions, and increasingly hopeful for my own. My vegetable-growing books aren’t terribly much help, being much more interested in the growing of onion-onions. Googling seems to suggest that we are talking about alium fistulosum, of which there are many cultivars. Not all equally hardy, perhaps.

There seems to be a nice range of interesting oriental ones. I might have a go at some of them next year, and also try the red variety of the Siberian (or Welsh) Bunching Onion, said to be the hardiest of all.

Siberian or Welsh:

Italian (cipolotto da mazzo):

For the Fishwife, these things grow like weeds – literally. They seed themselves pleasantly in odd corners of her garden. (Towards the end of her July 4 post.)

As for the rest, the mange-tout peas and the Colossal Climbing Victorian ones are coming into flower. In the background, on the dyke, you can see one of Helen's mosaics. The design is, essentially, the same as Green Granite Blocks, except that the blocks are facing the other way.

Beans are cheerful but, except for the broad beans, not making much progress.

The nematodes have expired and the slugs are back at work on the second sowings, especially the lettuce. The red currant bush, carefully netted, promises a summer-pudding's-worth of harvest again this year. (My husband insists, contrary to all authority, that summer pudding be made entirely of red currants.)

No knitting in Strathardle, but I have happily resumed the Green Granite Blocks. I should finish the 5th rank today, and accomplish some or maybe all of the setting-of-colours for the sixth. And the sixth rank is the one that doesn’t get finished, because one reaches the shoulder seam first.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Connectivity problems. Back soon, I hope.