Sunday, July 31, 2011

This is my 1,999th post. In which I welcome a new follower!

Mostly vegetables again today.

But I can tell you that I’ve reached round 84 of the Mourning Shawl border, and ordered Bridget Rorem’s lace-lettering sample scarf from the Schoolhouse. I don’t need it – I’ve got the original article in Piecework. But apparently there are two lace alphabets with the scarf – I’d like to see the other one. And it’s possible that either numbers or upside-down letters are included. Or both. I can work them out for myself, and often have, but it’s nice to have one’s work done for one. And fun to expect something in the post.


Speaking of which: last winter I ordered some sea kale, of which I had pretty well despaired, but it turned up yesterday – three plants, looking surprisingly well considering that they had spent most of the week with the GPO. They couldn’t be delivered on Thursday because we weren’t here.

I ordered some the winter before, but the thongs (that’s what they’re called) arrived in February when the ground was rock-hard. I heeled them in in a bucketful of soil which the moles had kindly thrown up, but they had turned to mush by the time it would have been possible to plant them.

Sea kale was a Victorian delicacy. I don’t know why it has fallen from favour – maybe I’m about to find out. Molly Keane mentions it in “Time after Time” as something that the middle sister, May, nourishes in her beloved kitchen garden. I can’t find the passage where she triumphantly brings it to the table – Molly Keane clearly loved and understood food.

The other thing I’ve got is a Seedbed Roll.

They were launched on the (British) amateur world two years ago – seeds sandwiched between a “grow mat” and a plastic cover with slits in it which the little plants lift on their shoulders causing the slits to open out. Commercial growers are said to use them.

I had one in Ought Nine, with carrots, ruby chard, and beetroot. It failed utterly because there was a spring drought that year (as often) and it needs attentive watering because of the plastic cover. There was not much sign of seedbed rolls in Ten, but they have reappeared this year in smaller versions. I’ve got the “summer salad” one not so much because I want a glut of lettuce in late September as to see whether I can make it work. We’ll be on hand for the attentive watering bit for most of August.

I wondered whether the plastic cover would be adequate protection from rabbits, so I will put part of the roll out there in the unprotected bit. It can be cut to size.

From the Master Herbalist and elsewhere, if you’re interested.

Non-knit, non-vegetable

Another thing I had despaired of that turned up yesterday (in a sense) was a hundred-year-old postcard of the Meikleour Beech Hedge, rather choice, which I recently bought on eBay. I was just revving myself up to start the tedious process of complaining that it had never arrived, when I had an email from James, in Cheltenham, to say that he’s got it. Apparently it came addressed to “James” rather than “Jean”, and I forwarded it. That was a relief.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Miscellaneous knit-related

We tried the Games 2011 Aran Sweater on Fergus.

The sleeves are a bit short. I do that on purpose with children’s sweaters, on the same principle as fishermen’s ganseys -- they used to have shortish sleeves, in the days when they were worn by actual fishermen actually fishing. I’ve overdone it a bit this time, perhaps.

I’ve reached round 80 of the Mourning Shawl border. The decades feel particularly significant. There are 102 pattern rounds, plus another four in which more stitches are eliminated and what I think are called break holes introduced. So I’m making progress.

I approach the next topic with diffidence, because I find it uniquely horrible. Not like Oklahoma City, not like anything, except a horror novel. But there was a letter in the Telegraph earlier this week saying that the madman in Oslo complained about knitting being taught to boys because it feminised them.

I didn’t feel like trailing back through earlier pages to find the source. The letter went on to expound the tradition of men knitting in terms familiar to all of us. But what I thought was, what very good news, that boys – and, presumably, girls -- are taught to knit in Norway, especially now that Shetland has dropped the subject from the primary school curriculum.


We in Edinburgh are a bit cross about today’s festivities. Our tourist attractions shut, our streets blocked, a huge bill for extra policing, and it’s a “private event” so we’re not even allowed to stand there looking at them and doffing our cloth caps – the time of the ceremony has been kept secret. I suspect I could find it on-line if I were clever enough.


Catdownunder, please tell your father how much I appreciate his sympathy.

Kristie, I strongly suspect you’re right about plants just not bothering to carry on, when the weather is too cold. March and April were very dry, and unseasonably warm. May and June, wet and preternaturally cold (even for Scotland). July has struggled.

Alexander over there on Loch Fyne is feeling pretty demoralised too, despite his 12 raised beds and west-coast climate and abundant manure (a friend’s horse used to live in their stable). His idea is to grow things that actually want to grow, like the raspberries I showed you yesterday.

It’s a thought. The one person I can trust not to read this blog is my husband, so I can tell you that I have arranged with one of my children to be given a small vegetable cage for my birthday next month. In it, I hope to grow brassicas (starting with the Brussels sprouts you saw yesterday) safe from the deer which come down in the winter. Kale and cabbage, perhaps, next year. Such things flourish in Scotland. I could perfectly well go out and buy one for myself – my husband would grumble, but not for long. It’s more fun this way.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Here’s the news from central Perthshire:

Garden pests

Runner beans are not immune from rabbits, as courgettes and broad beans are, but they’re not a top favourite either. Two of the six in my tepee have suffered; the other four are doing rather well. The first flowers are open. (In southern England, the quantity of the runner bean harvest begins to get embarrassing, this time of year. I’m doing well to have a crop in September.)

Rabbits don’t even look at Good King Henry. I expected that.

When I did my day-trip on July 16, the Summer Pudding bush was laden with fruit. I was anxious that it might be a bit over-ripe when we got back. I needn’t have worried. By July 24 birds had got underneath the netting and stripped the bush clean. I was able to buy red currants from a local grower who doesn’t grow under plastic and we had our pudding, but it was a disappointment. The birds are at work on the white currants – in previous years, they have left those untouched.

Other results

The mange-tout peas are on stream, and rather tasty. They are one of the three vegetables I can actually grow. All the rest of this fine talk is piffle before the wind. (The other two vegetables are broad beans and potatoes. Fortunately we love all three.)

I am much afflicted – perhaps all vegetable-growers are – with things that come up and Then Just Sit There. This is a picture of a row of Swiss chard. It looks perfectly cheerful, but this represents three months’ growth and we’ve only got about six weeks to go. The same has happened, this year, with beetroot – I tried four different varieties; radishes; perpetual spinach.

Bought-in plants, on the other hand, have done surprisingly well. Maybe that’s the answer? Rachel's husband Ed, in south London, buys in a lot of plug plants. It would restrict one's choice of varieties, but that's a fair trade-off if it results in an actual crop. Here are Brussels sprouts and (in the background) cabbages of some sort. And a bought-in lettuce, in front. The surprising thing, apart from the fact that they are growing, is that there are no cabbage white caterpillars yet. Speaking of pests.

Here is my fruit hedge. The idea is a row of black currants, white currants, and gooseberries to the left – gooseberries, so far, a total failure – and a row of autumn raspberries to the right. I sprinkle wild flower seed in the gap in between. The raspberries, as you see, are ambitious to take over the world. They are not allowed to spread in any other direction, but I have let them overrun the wildflower section.

And here are my artichokes, surrounded by their Stout mulch. They are growing, although not much. All they have got to do this year is get big enough and strong enough to get through the winter.

As for knitting, I had a lovely time with the Japanese shirt while we were away, and back here, last night, I reached round 77 of the Mourning Shawl border.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I’ve just started row 75, of the Mourning Shawl border. Here’s a pic, looking very much like the last one, but this time showing a non-Fleegle corner (the larger marker) with the un-mitered pattern sweeping around:

And here is a picture of Joe on his 21st birthday:

When I was in that bookshop on Friday I bought a copy of Woolcraft. Last night, I got Rutt out in order to date it (1936/7 – I knew I could rely on him) and found that I had stashed this cartoon there, from the New Yorker, of course:

We’re off to Strathardle today, back at the end of the week as my husband has a dental appt on Friday. It will be a more strenuous going-to-Strathardle than usual, because instead of packing up and leaving at noon and lunching in Milnathort, we are going to go to Mass and lunch here. Doesn’t sound like much, but it will make a big difference, especially when you are as old and inefficient as I am. I got a lot of the preliminary work done yesterday, and, insh’Allah, today will end with me reunited with my vegetables.

I’ll take some pictures, this time. My little artichoke plants are still there – not growing much, but alive and well. If I should succeed with artichokes, most delicious of vegetables, I will have to think of putting in an avocado tree.

Thank you for the news on wild garlic, Woolly Bits. I ordered some “wild garlic ransoms bulbs” from an eBay supplier yesterday, and will keep you posted. I am greatly enamoured of eBay suppliers for things like that, these days.


Somewhere, Hat, I have a Phildar book of children’s patterns.The same one? I will have to see if I can find it. Maybe schematics came from France?

Rachel, I sympathise with your struggles with EZ (comment Friday). The Baby Surprise is tough. The difficulty is keeping those decreases-and-then increases in line. It helps to make the centre stitch a knit stitch – purl it on wrong-side rows. And then just follow blindly. I’ve knit it half a dozen times, and am always astonished.

But I think to get to grips with EZ and enjoy her, the best approach is through a basic Elizabeth’s-Percentage-System grown-up sweater.

The basic “Seamless Yoke Sweater” is in her book Knitting Without Tears. Meg walked us through the whole project a while ago, in four articles for Knitter’s published over a year, and has returned to it in VK recently. There are a couple of seamless-yoke sweaters among the Schoolhouse Press patterns – it looks to me as if Cully’s “Cabled Yoke Sweater and Hat” might be a good one to start with.

I enjoy reading EZ, and have profited enormously from her genius. But I find her personality rather rebarbative. She’s so good, and knows it. She can be forgiven: it must have been very trying to be so clever, and so right, in the days when editors insisted on patterns knit flat (not in the round) and line-by-line instructions instead of general principles which would set knitters free. But it’s Meg I’d far rather go hiking with.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I’ve reached round 73 – another set of decreases done. Mild excitement. The interesting thing about this arrangement is that the borders will look continuous, with the decreases hidden in the pattern, instead of having those mitred lines at the four corners.

The answer to the question, when did schematics come in? seems to be, in the early 80’s. I found a sequence of new-issue VK’s, the first to be sold in the UK, I think after a 15-year gap, but that’s by-the-way. It had started up again in the US a few years earlier. Spring 1983 has no schematics, Fall 1983 a few, Spring 1984 has them with every pattern.

Yesterday afternoon I was in a bookshop with my husband, feeling sleepy and bored. They had a book of Pam Dawson’s – ’83 I think, but I should have made notes. It had schematics with every pattern, labelled “The Pattern Pieces”.


I spent a while yesterday looking up the Latin names of the weeds with which I primarily battle in Strathardle, so that I could then look them up in my new book. In the course of this activity, I came across It has a certain horrifying charm, although no subcontinental recipes for Fat Hen or Good King Henry.

I was reminded of Evelyn Waugh’s take on the subject, in “Officers and Gentlemen”, the second volume in his WWII trilogy. When the hero is training with some commandos on the fictional Hebridean island of Mugg, a Dr Glendening-Rees is invited to the island to teach the men how to live off the land.

“He rose when he saw Guy, and advanced towards him carrying a dripping mass of weed; a tall wild man, hatless and clothed in a suit of roughly dressed leather; his grey beard spread in the wind like a baroque prophet’s; the few exposed portions of his skin were as worn and leathery as his trousers…

‘I was just getting my lunch before making myself known. Can I offer you some?’

He held out the seaweed.”

He sets off the next day with a group of reluctant men. The chapter is concerned with other matters. The expedition is mentioned again only in the final sentence: “…the sappers themselves, emaciated and unshaven, presently lurched in carrying Dr Glendening-Rees on a wattle hurdle.”

Dr G-R claims that “the young roots of the heather” are nice with olive oil, but my encyclopedia doesn’t confirm that and I think Waugh may have made it up.

One weed I really would like to establish is wild garlic. I planted some seeds this year, in a pot where I could keep a close eye on them, but nothing came up

Friday, July 22, 2011

Annie, let’s do lunch at Knit Nation Twenty Twelve – depending a bit on our class schedules, of course.

Shandy, I am out of the loop when it comes to projects for giving every Olympic athlete an embroidered postcard. I expect the subject will be covered in the next episode of the documentary I mentioned yesterday.

Devoted link-followers will remember the one my brother-in-law sent me the other day when “tricoter” came up on his French word-a-day feed. The writer was taught the basics in a French LYS, warned that the habit could get expensive, and sent away with needles and yarn. That’s all you need to know, to enjoy this one.

“Knit, Swirl”: having done a couple of successful EZ’s (is there any other sort?) in the last couple of years – the Adult Surprise, and Round-the-Bend – I feel confident about re-jigging a pattern as long as there’s a schematic. I’m wearing Round-the-Bend quite a bit now that summer is here, and like it. That’s relevant, because I knit it in a much finer yarn than the Zimmermanns had in mind. Plural, because it was published as Meg’s pattern.

Having thought that thot last night, I began to wonder, when? and how? did schematics come in? There was no such thing when I was starting to knit in the late 40’s and, after a gap, the mid-50’s. Although designers must have used them.

Could I work it out by looking at certain pivotal books? My off-the-cuff feeling is that first we had Mary Thomas Knitting Book (pre-war), then a spate of Encyclopedias of Knitting and earnest grey books called Family Knitting or a variation thereof, then a gap, then Thompson’s ground-breaking guernsey book in 1969. Then EZ herself – “Knitting Without Tears” was 1971. Then another gap, then Kaffe. No schematics in “Glorious Knitting” (1985), although schematics would be sort of irrelevant to Kaffe.

I could go back through all those piles of magazines which threaten the stability of our bedroom floor. VK vanished in the late 60’s and then reappeared – when exactly? And did the re-born magazine have schematics from the beginning?


I’ve reached round 70 of the Mourning Shawl border. I am now settled back into the saddle and more or less resigned to the snail-like progress of lace knitting. I think I worked out at the beginning that I get one percentage point for my sidebar for every two rounds knit. I’m not going to do the arithmetic again, whatever. That seems plausible, and I can take stock when the borders are finished.

The centre should feel much faster, when I finally get there. My ambition for today is to reach the next decrease round, 72.


The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America turned up as hoped, and promises very well, although I haven’t got past the chenopodia. Chenopodium album (it says) is “the best wild species” of this genus, with a “very fine spinach flavour”. Good King Henry is “excellent raw or cooked”. The composition of the leaves is similar to ch. album – does that mean, they taste the same? I feel we have still to get to grips with the bitterness of the plants I grow.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Today is Joe Ogden’s 21st birthday – he’s second from the left in the Grandchildren pic in the sidebar, between his sister Hellie and his cousin Greek Fergus. Happy Birthday, Joe.

I’m sorry about yesterday’s meltdown. If there was any particular cause, it was the news in Cotton & Cloud’s blog that there won’t be a Knit Nation next year because of the Olympics. I can live with the disappointment of not going, but the withdrawal of hope was a harder blow.

So I have decided not to believe it. Once the organisers have recovered from the joy and exhaustion of this year’s clearly successful event, they’ll rally and start thinking about next year. Have it a bit earlier? Have it in Birmingham? And I have my Plan.

But speaking of the Olympics, don’t miss the mock documentary called Twenty Twelve, on BBC2 on Tuesdays. It has already been broadcast on BBC4. I’m sure Helen C.K.S. has seen it. We saw the first episode last night, and it was very, very funny.

Mourning shawl

I’ve reached round 68.

As for the shaping, I don’t think it’s going to ruffle. “Violent” was perhaps too violent a word for the decrease rounds. You start with 171 stitches per border and knit 102 rows, including three – I’m just coming up to the second of them – on which 10 stitches are decreased on each border. 141 stitches. At the very end, after a couple of plain rows, there is another row with YO’s every other stitch in which another 12 stitches go.

Knitting is forgiving stuff – one of EZ’s memorable lines. And lace knitting, especially so.

I felt glum enough yesterday that I briefly considered casting on the Koigu Toreador jacket. I got the book down – “Knits from a Painter’s Palette” – and began, instead, to wonder if I really want to fiddle with all those little squares, each with its end to be darned in. (There was a time when everyone except me was knitting the Oriental Jacket. OJ, we called it.)

I’ve got an advance order with Amazon for McIver’s “Knit, Swirl”, due here in Britain at the end of next month. Maybe there’ll be something Koigu-worthy there.


I’m hoping today’s post will bring me the Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America. Amazon claims to have dispatched it. I have every hope, from the sample pages I’ve seen, that there will be something about the taste of the chenopodia.

We’ve decided to go to Strathardle on Sunday, to await the Greeks, due on Tuesday. I am ready to go the whole hog and try a chicken curry with Good King Henry. “Whole hog” because I’m trusting GKH not to spoil the entire meal. One can always just not eat a raita, which was where I started. And in fact it got eaten all up.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Very little indeed to report this morning – and the weather is grim.

I have reached round 65 of the shawl border. An oddity of its construction is that it doesn’t decrease gently and constantly at the corners, like every other Shetland shawl I have ever knit. It has a few, fairly violent, decrease rows. I have done only one so far, but another looms at 72. Will I reach it before we go back to Strathardle?

No reply from Plimoth after all, about the taste of Good King Henry.

I give up. I’ll post this so that you can know I am alive, and go have my bath.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Another new follower! Hugs!

Knit Nation 2011

In other respects, I’m not feeling entirely cheerful.

Several bloggers have already written about Knit Nation, but the first report I saw was my dear Cotton and Cloud – lots of nice pics from the market, each linked through to the vendor’s website. Helen C.K.S., if you’re there – a particularly nice pic of Jeanette, clearly much happier writing and designing than she was running Edinburgh’s best LYS.

My lack of cheerfulness stems from the news, somewhere in that blog, that there probably won’t be a Knit Nation next year because of the bl**dy Olympics.

There is no reason at all why I should be free-er next year than this, to abscond from domestic responsibilities and turn up. But one needs to live in hope – and in fact, I had a plan. In the summer of 2013 I will turn 80 – how on earth did that come about? Older than C. was when she died in March. I may not make it.

I know perfectly well that none of us may make it to next Tuesday. (I’ve been reading Horace lately, hence the question the other day about the gender of “Hadria”.) But I still feel less than cheerful. I was bored by the Olympics in 1948 and have remained unswervingly so ever since, but now I have a real grudge.

Mourning shawl

I’ve reached round 63. Here’s a pic

illustrating both the tedium and Fleegle’s system. No matter how much I snug things up at the turn, there is a difference between this corner and the other three. A line of faggoting, sort of. But a less discordant difference than wrapping-and-turning (I did that for a shawl once) or leaving the corner open and sewing it up later.

The safety pin is to remind me which side I’m doing, and also, I think I remember, to secure a stitch-drop which will have to be attended to later. The pictured colour, needless to say, is absurd. It's not pink, it's electric red.

I spent some time in Sharon Miller’s great book yesterday. I won’t add more rows to the centre pattern; I’ll take in two stitches at a time from the sides, every other pass. Sharon says that three-for-two (which I think is what that will amount to) is a common ratio. The centre is the best bit of this shawl, making up for the tedium of the borders.

I will put C’s initials in the lower right-hand corner of the centre, viewed one way, and our niece’s in the equivalent spot, viewed the other. (Turning lace lettering upside down is not as simple as you might think, but Rorem gives a good exposition of the principles in the original Piecework article and I’ve done it before.) In the middle, “2011”, orientated towards C’s initials. That’s the idea.


Greek Helen rang up yesterday. They are driving home from Athens this year, and have got as far as the south of France where they are staying with Helen’s oldest friend. It was good to hear from her, and we’ll see them next week, insh’Allah.

Monday, July 18, 2011

St Swithin's Day came and went last Friday without my noticing. It was hot and sunny all day, as I remember. The weather has deteriorated markedly since, and remains "unsettled". I will have to add St Swithin to Sturtevant and the Oxford Latin Dictionary in my little list of the unreliable.

Work continues on the Mourning Shawl.

To recapitulate: this is “Granny Cheyne’s Shetland Shawl” from Margaret Stove’s new book, “Wrapped in Lace”. It is based on an antique shawl which was brought to her to be restored. The original was knitted by a Mrs Cheyne (no further name) who arrived in New Zealand from Shetland in 1874. The yarn was handspun from a New Zealand fleece.

I am knitting it for our niece, daughter of my husband’s sister who died in March. The niece’s initials, and her mother’s, and “2011” will be knit into the centre with the Rorem alphabet.

The shawl is knit in the traditional Shetland way: edging, four borders, central square. I am knitting the borders all at once in garter stitch, using Fleegle’s trick. I am currently a bit more than half-way through that part – row 59 of 102. It seems painfully, agonizingly slow after a few weeks out in the real world.

The lace, at the moment, is terribly easy, making it harder to concentrate.

I am beginning to fret about the centre. The whole idea of knitting the borders in one is to knit the centre back and forth taking in a stitch at the end of each row, leaving only one edge to be Kitchener’d at the end.

The centre is knitted on 120 stitches, and is itself 190 rows long. That’s not going to work. Can I add a whole extra 50 rows to the centre, so as to use up 120 stitches on each side? And what happens to the centre pattern if I do? It is fairly complex and needs to come out right top and bottom.

This needs some thought.

Which will of course involve Sharon Miller’s books, which reminds me that she announced a few weeks ago that they were closing the website and retiring because of problems with Mike’s health. Shock! Horror! For the moment they have decided to continue after all. Apart from worrying about the Millers, I worried about stash reduction. The whole idea of cutting back is that the world is full of wonderful yarns and I can order them from anywhere any time.

But the Heirloom Knitting yarns are unique. Perhaps I should lay in a stock of gossamer cashmere.


I saw Mr Hussain yesterday, who says that Good King Henry leaves are indeed bathua. His English is excellent but not native – I need to have a supplementary word with his wife who is Edinburgh born and bred. But I feel we’re getting somewhere.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I had a grand time.

The new Good King Henry plants are installed, two under plastic sawn-off water bottles, two fully exposed to the rabbits for experimental purposes. I did the same sort of thing with the runner beans – you will remember that Robin Lane Fox wrote in the Financial Times earlier this year that runner beans are of no interest to wildlife. He was thinking of the badgers who emerge from the river bank in Oxford to devastate allotments, but I have tried runner beans in the unprotected part of my garden to see how rabbits react.

So far, so good, but the beans, too, have been started under plastic water-bottles. It makes them hard to weed – the bottles fill up with chickweed. So yesterday I took three of the six bottles off entirely. (They are growing up a six-legged teepee.)

Rabbits abound, but so far they haven’t penetrated my ill-protected sanctuary where the lettuce and peas and brassicas are. And they have left a whole row of perpetual spinach in the unprotected part. Perhaps they are just growing it on a bit.

I consulted my books, and was horrified to discover that Sturtevant’s “Edible Plants of the World” doesn’t mention, under chenopodium album or chenopodium bonus-henricus, the fact that under the name of “bathua” it is widely eaten on the subcontinent. Rather diminishing my faith in Sturtevant.

(And in the evening, pursuing an entirely different train of thought, I discovered that the Oxford Latin Dictionary lists "Hadria" -- the Adriatic sea -- as a feminine noun. It's not. That rather diminished my faith in the Oxford Latin Dictionary. You really can't trust anybody.)

None of my books had much to say on the taste of GKH. Hessayon says that the leaves are “succulent”. Simons, I think it was, compares the taste to spinach beet. Bob Flowerdew, in an article on unusual vegetables in the April issue of Kitchen Garden magazine, says that the shoots, eaten as asparagus, aren’t too bad. None of that would prepare one for the actual bitterness of the stuff.

Poking around in Amazon to provide you with those links, I found – indeed, Amazon suggested – the Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America, which sounds fascinating. I have ordered it, and will consult it on this question the moment it shows up. It was written by a Frenchman who lived off the land in the US for some years.

Not much knitting: I have successfully resumed the Mourning Shawl.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A new follower! Welcome! We’re more or less stuck at 250 readers a day – not exactly the-world-by-storm, but more than enough to save Sodom.

It has been week of major FO’s, just as hoped.

I now can’t find the errant stitch in the Aran sweater – no doubt it will reveal itself to the judges. So I have had to declare it Finished without further ado.

And last night I finished the pink Araucania – three years in the making. I LOVE it, although I haven’t tried it on yet (or blocked it). Ron’s contribution – as recently as February of this year, according to my notes – was to steer me towards EZ’s “golf shirt”, October in the Almanac. Hence the placket and collar.

The pattern, generated from the Sweater Wizard, was aiming for something like Ketki’s Calcutta Cup sweater

but the more emphatic collar has transformed it. And the yarn and the drape are lovely. If, as is often the case, Games Day is less than sizzling hot, I'll wear it then.

And today I shall return to the Electric Red Mourning Shawl. I rejoice in anticipation that laying it aside for Games knitting (the Aran sweater) hasn’t reduced it to permanent or semi-permanent UFO’dom, as happened to the KF jacket last year. It is being knit, you will remember, on the Fleegle system for knitting garter stitch in the round. I know exactly where I am in the pattern, without looking it up – but can I figure out where I am in Fleegle?


Silence from Plimoth. I might add that my new Good King Henry plants are so large and healthy-looking that I allowed myself to nibble half a leaf. Not bland. If anything, it tasted worse than the GKH I am already growing. The new plants come from Lincolnshire which is sort of nice, as one of GKH’s folk names is “Lincolnshire spinach.”

Thank you for the recipe, Knitlass. “Sensational” seems a much more apposite adjective for GKH than “bland”. (I tried to leave a comment about gents socks on your blog, and found myself in an endless cycle of Blogger password and word-identification, and eventually gave up.)

I had thought we were planning to go to Strathardle in the next few days to get things squared away for the Greek party and to enjoy being there on our own. But either I misunderstood my husband or he has changed his mind, so tomorrow I plan to leave him with sandwiches and make a day-return mercy dash to get the new GKH plants planted and see how everybody is getting on.

So no blog.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My brother-in-law sent me a link to this French Word-a-Day site when “tricoter” came up as the word. It’s mildly amusing to press on through the author’s description of buying needles and yarn on impulse, and letting the shop-keeper teach her the first steps. “Be careful”, the shop-keeper said, when she made the purchase, “this could get expensive”.

Well, here we are at a day when nobody extra is here and we have nothing scheduled to do. It feels like a long time since that happened. And the sun is shining again. We had a good time at lunch yesterday with our old friends.

My husband in the middle.

Nipping down to Tesco first thing worked well – except that I forgot Mr Salmond’s odd law that bottles of Alcoholic Liquor can’t be sold in Scotland between 10 pm and 10 am. I either had to offer our friends water, or go out again later in the morning.

Thank you very much for all the kind words about the Aran sweater. Even my husband, not given to random words of praise, said yesterday that it looked pretty good. I’m glad I did it, certainly. You can’t really see the design fault in yesterday’s photograph – it would look better if I had done the sleeves with moss st for the underarm extras, to match the sides of the body. But I was tired of moss st.

I’ll keep you posted about its fate. The Games are on the 4th Saturday of August, as ever – this year, the 27th. I promise a pic of the show bench with the other entries. I hope for a pic of the appropriately-sized boy wearing it. It blocked pretty closely to Vicki Square’s Child:large. Will it fit the smallest of Greek Helen’s boys? Or go to Loch Fyne? It would get more wear in the latter venue, but it can be cold on Mt Pelion.

I had a pleasant session later with the pink Araucania, sewing in sleeves. It’s slow work, but not unpleasant or stressful as tidying the inside of the cut sleeve seams of the Aran was. I sort of gradually segue’d from trying to do it as the Berroco video would have it, to working an edge-to-edge, stitch-to-stitch overcast. I like it better that way. Will I take out the first sleeve and try again?

An abundance of rhetorical questions this morning.

Good King Henry

Ann T (comment yesterday): Where is Zone 4? Are you sure you mean GKH and not Fat Hen? What does it taste like? My GKH doesn’t seed itself at all. I don’t think I know Fat Hen (chenopodium album, the Indian and Pakistani and Bangladeshi “bathua”) which is said to be a rampant weed as you describe. The Hussains are away on holiday this week, so I haven’t had Mr Hussain’s pronouncement yet as to whether GKH leaves taste like bathua.

I got four new GKH plants yesterday, ordered on eBay from Candlesby Herbs. They arrived bushy-tailed, so to speak, and beautifully packed. I left enthusiastic feedback and then wrote to him, sending the NYTimes link, and asking whether he knew of a “bland” cultivar of GKH. He replied:

“I have not heard of a 'bland' cultivar of Good King Henry, but then 'bland' is a rather subjective term; and I would not be in the least surprised if the American form of 'bland' might seem 'tasteful' to our senses - if my experience of USA food is typical !”

A new complication: taste-words are indeed difficult.

I also wrote to Plimoth – I’m afraid the spelling irritates me – asking them to try to describe the taste of their GKH. I suggested lettuce and grass as points of comparison, thinking of blandness. I haven’t heard from them yet, but they must be set up to answer earnest schoolchildren doing projects. They have a separate email address for food questions.

But Ann, if you could try to say how yours tastes, we’d be getting somewhere. How do you cook it? Let me recommend some bathua recipes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Feeling sort of sad, that Franklin’s on his way to London and I’m not.

However, the sun is shining this morning, and the Aran sweater is finished. I discovered an errant stitch as I was laying it out, so I can’t officially declare it Finished until it’s dry and the stitch secured. I’m pleased with it, except for the design fault I mentioned yesterday.

Not much progress yesterday with the pink Araucania. I got the shoulders i-corded together and some pinning done, is all. Actual sewing should begin today.

Before that, however, today’s actual excitement: some old friends are coming to lunch. They will get Jamie Oliver’s tray-baked salmon with olives, green beans, anchovies and tomatoes (from “The Naked Chef”) which is probably what they had last time, three years ago. Easy to cook, easy to eat.

But I’ve got to flutter about, including rushing down to Tesco’s where fruit and vegetables are fresher than on Broughton Street.

Good King Henry

If I ever get back to the USofA (unlikely, now) I’ll have to go to Plimoth (the link in the NYTimes article is wrong) and have a look at their GKH. I think the quickest and easiest test would be to taste a leaf, and see if it really is bland.

But is it still there? Reading the article again with more care – you’re right, of course, Tamar that the gardener says she didn’t save seed, but bought it from catalogues every year – it sounds as if it may be based on research-done-by-email rather than an actual visit, and also as if GKH may not be there any more: “Ms Wall grew Good King Henry for years”.

I had always understood that GKH fell out of favour as true spinach came in (just as the article says) but that it happened because spinach tasted better. I have a Dover reprint of a wonderful book called Sturtevant’s Edible Plants of the World. I’ll have another look at the chenopodia when we’re next in Strathardle (where the book lives).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I have just heard from CT about a Michigan woman who is about to be busted for growing vegetables in her front garden. That’s what my sister and brother-in-law do in Old Saybrook, without harassment. They have some grass, though. The Michigan woman has only rather astringent-looking raised beds.

Sorry about yesterday – it was necessary to get to Leith early with James for that final fitting of the Montrose jacket. All went well. He is a bit worried about whether it won’t be too hot to dance in, being rather close-fitted. We all await pictures of him in his grandeur on St Andrew’s Night. He has now gone south, and is missed.

But knitting has gone forward by leaps and bounds. I have finished the Aran sweater. I think I’ll block it, since most things look better after blocking. So no pic until tomorrow. It’s pretty good – it was a design fault of mine, to put moss st at the side edges of the body and reverse st st under the sleeve arms. But one that can be lived with. I’ve got a usable sweater for a little boy, and I’ve got a Games entry.

So the next thing was to get back to that pink Araucania sweater that has been lying around Strathardle for at least two years. There were a few more rows of knitting to do, and I did them last night. There won’t be much other finishing, since it was knit in the round and the neck and collar are done.

But there will be sleeves to set in. I got out the reference I tend to turn to first, Vogue Knitting: the book. It wasn’t much help. Much about fit and pinning – then it just said, sew.

But there’s always Google. I found this brilliant YouTube video this morning from the Berroco design team, and now I’m rarin’ to go. I’ll have to do the shoulder seams first, and have i-cord in mind for them since the collar and neck placket are EZ-inspired (thanks to you, Ron, if you’re there).

So I can contemplate the happy prospect of two major FO’s within a week! There’s many a slip, however…

And the self-knitting KF socks are coming on well, too. A few rows were done at Kinloch Anderson yesterday morning, a few more as I waited to take my husband home from his podiatry appt in the afternoon. Previously, he has felt able to get himself home after I drove him down there. If he can’t do that any more, how will London be possible? If he would only give up London, we could get a cat.

James had to take his kilt along to be fitted for the jacket, but of course wasn’t wearing hose. The sight of his socks, although utterly decent, reminded me that it’s been rather a long time since I knit any for him. For the moment, at least, he has replaced my husband at the top of the mental next-sock list.

Good King Henry

The plant kingdom is full of confusion. I am grateful for your suggestion, Tamar, that British and American GKH might actually be different, one bland as the NYTimes said, one bitter. But wouldn’t they be classed as separate species? Maybe nobody has noticed until now. Wikipedia says there is a separate chenopodium species on Cyprus. I think it more likely that the NYTimes reporter wasn’t personally acquainted with the subject, and his source was slightly confused or carelessly reported. She speaks of "saving seed" every year -- but GKH is an extremely hardy perennial. And it was she who apparently told the reporter that GKH is "bland".

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Again, a need for speed, and little to report. I’ve started recovering the neck stitches for the Aran sweater and hope actually to start knitting the neck today.

James is still with us – his family went south from Pitlochry on Thursday, and he will travel down tomorrow. We spent yesterday afternoon, all three of us, in various graveyards in what developed into pouring rain – James is interested in family history and wants to know, in particular, where Mileses came from. He has traced them back through the 20th and 19th centuries, in a remorseless succession of Jameses and Alexanders.

This weekend he has found two stones he hadn’t previously seen – a great-great-grandmother, and an Alexander Miles at the beginning of the 19th century, son of a so-far-mysterious Charles Miles who seems to have started it all, at least as far as residence in Edinburgh and Leith is concerned.

I wondered if it wasn’t sort of spooky, seeing his own name on a stone, but apparently not.

We went back to Kinloch Anderson on Friday for a fitting of the Montrose jacket to be worn eventually with last year’s jabot. A final – final, we hope – fitting is scheduled for tomorrow morning before he catches the train south.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Don’t miss Liz Lovick on Fair Isle.


Yes, Annie, Andy Murray’s kilt was knitted (yesterday's post) – it was plain blue, though, not tartan.

I don’t know how Good King Henry got its name, Julie. The New York Times article – link yesterday – speculated on the subject but didn’t get anywhere. We saw an interesting television program recently about Linnaeus and the naming of plants. “Good King Henry” must have been very common to acquire its unusual Latin name, chenopodium bonus henricus, instead of having the second element be descriptive of the plant.

That’s interesting about quinoa, too. I am about to order some more Good King Henry’s. I’m going to try them fully exposed to the rabbits – I suspect they’ll leave it alone.

I’m short of time this morning, and there’s not much knitting to report – I hope to finish the tedious tidying of the Aran sweater’s sleeve seams today, and get to work knitting the neck.

So I’ll say a bit about the Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

We used to go quite regularly, 35 years ago. “Stay Six Days, See Six Plays” was the slogan then as now, but in those days the programme was meatier: Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Middleton. They also made a point of producing new Scottish writing. I don’t mean that the whole thing was utterly highbrow, but it was higher than it is now. The only thing of much substance this summer is Bridie’s “Dr Angelus”, and that doesn’t open until August.

It seems to cost more, too. I can’t substantiate that with figures, but in those days it was a possible family outing. Now, it distinctly involves sucking the breath in through the teeth.

And it is very striking, how geriatric the audience is these days. I suspect these three comments are in some respects interrelated.

Cathy and I and various children saw Alan Ayckbourn’s “Henceforward”, which wasn’t very good – Ayckbourn’s fault, not Pitlochry’s – and “My Fair Lady”, which was simply brilliant. Is it the greatest of the mid-20th-century musicals?

And Alistair got to work backstage for three days as “work experience”. He had a great time.

Friday, July 08, 2011

We had a good time.

There is little to report on the knitting front. Except that, a week ago today, as I was walking along the street in Alyth on my way to the shop where they take in yarn for the charity knitters, I passed a knitted Andy Murray in a shop window. It was Wimbledon semi-final day. He was about a foot high, wearing a kilt, holding a tennis racket of course, with his initials on his shoes.

I didn’t have my camera with me. We were back in Alyth on Tuesday – I knew he wouldn’t be in the window any more, but I thought maybe they would get him out from under the counter for me to photograph. The shop was shut that day for “staff training”. I rattled the door to no avail.

Nor can Google find him. You’d think there might have been a picture in the Blairgowrie Advertiser.


We had a week of glorious weather, followed on Wednesday and yesterday with a tremendous downpour. Things are beginning to move, after that long, cold June. The runner beans definitely twine counter-clockwise.

Erin, that was a most interesting article in the New York Times about Good King Henry. Many thanks for the link. There were two distinct oddities in the story – one, that the plant is apparently grown from seed every year. Mine is an utterly hardy perennial. I tried seed once and failed. My current stock started with one plant, bought at the Farmer's Market in Blairgowrie, which I have cautiously divided.

The other, is the statement that it fell out of general favour because it is bland. Mine has a strong bitter taste. Plants are affected by different soils and climes, but that seems an extraordinary difference. The NYTimes picture matches my plants, and so does the Latin name, chenopodium bonus henricus.

And the big news is, that cooking it like the sub-continental vegetable bathua was a great success.

Alexander and Ketki came over at the weekend. I made a lamb korma in the slow cooker, with the unauthorised addition of a tin of cocoanut milk, and served it with a bathua raita. One of those rare meals where things go right. Alexander said that the spices I was using would overwhelm any vegetable, I might as well use asparagus, but he was wrong. Good King Henry stood up and answered back.

A few days later I tried the spiced potatoes (same link). They, too, were delicious although in that case I may not have put in enough GKH due to running out. The deliciousness may have been entirely due to the spices. I will have to give some thought to increasing my stock.