Friday, April 27, 2007

Back again, very tired, but with a healthy-feeling, countrified tiredness much to be preferred to the sort that London engenders.

The potatoes have been safely interred. I had hoped to follow them with the first seeds, but Wednesday – the designated day – was wet. The soil was still cold and clammy yesterday morning, so it was the right decision, although a disappointment. May sowings catch up fast on April ones, anyway.

I whiled away the time on Wednesday by making nettle soup. Our own crop of nettles was inadequate, but our neighbour has lots, so I helped myself. The result was mildly interesting and not unpleasant.

I got the soil largely ready for the unsown seeds. I have always wanted to try raised beds, but I always thought I had to get a Man In to make them, or at least order a kit from the ads in the back of Kitchen Garden magazine. Neither procedure would my husband approve. Then when we were in London last time, I read an excellent vegetable gardening book of Alexander’s – can’t remember the title – the man grows his vegetables in Vermont.

And that gave me the idea that I could cobble together a raised bed by myself, using some of the wood which is piled up in the byre for firewood. If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

Here’s the result. The idea is that it can be cultivated without ever stepping on it, so the soil doesn’t get compacted and doesn’t need digging. Also there’s greater depth of soil. If results are good, I’ll cobble together another one in the autumn.

Anyway, knitting…

I finished the body of Ketki’s gansey, as hoped, and the whole project instantly sprang back to life. I have knit the first shoulder strap, not without a struggle, and am cantering down the right arm. The gusset has already been reduced away.

The seven-stitch broken rib pattern from the body appears on the shoulder strap, and will continue down the otherwise-plain sleeve, flanked by the reversed st st pennants from the main pattern. So far so good.

I took a lot of uncharacteristic trouble at the beginning to set the pattern so that the result would be symmetrical. I'm pleased with the result, which you can scarcely discern in these pictures. Thinking sometimes pays off.

It has all become so much fun that I found myself wondering whether I could get Obama elected by knitting Theo a cashmere gansey, instead of a cashmere Koigu sweater. On that subject – there is an interesting article about Maie Landau in the new VK, waiting here when we got back yesterday. She says herself of cashmere Koigu, “The colours are duller, more matte.” So I’m not imagining it.

I like Brown-Reinsel’s snakes-and-ladders pattern. And I like the look of's Mongolian cashmere. Does anyone have any experience of it?

Much more to say, but I can wait. The choice of the April calendar picture is going to be a tough call.


  1. Anonymous9:44 AM

    Jean, those raise beds look great! Good job! I'll have to try that.
    The gansey is wonderful too.
    Also, your April pictures, hard to choose just one though.

  2. Raised beds really do make a big difference. Yours look lovely

    To make them, we measured out the width to ensure that the middle of the bed was easily within arm's reach. We then ordered up the lengths of wood from the builders merchant and had it delivered to the house. All we then needed to do was nail and bracket them together.

  3. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Jean!! - Mel Bartholomew's webstie

    Do check out this site!! About 10 yrs ago I came across his book, "Square Foot Gardening" and the rest is history!!! Four lettuces in one square foot; 16 onions in one square foot! I have been square foot, raised bedded gardening ever since ...

    Now comes the season of being torn: Knit or Garden! Alleluia! Elizabeth the Lurker par excellence

  4. Anonymous1:20 PM

    My vote for the April calendar picture is "the beginning of Spring" or "Spring is on its way" photo. I suppose you could say that about the lamb photo as well but I prefer the daffodil and the trees and the house in the distance. Hard to choose.

    I am just back from a week in New Hampshire and Connecticut where the plants etc. seem to be a month behind us here in Dublin. The flowers and trees here are in full bloom. Wonderful weather.

  5. Anonymous2:01 PM

    You will have to redesign your calendar to have two pictures for each month because I can't imagine anyone eliminating one of those pictures!!! Wonderful job on the raised bed and on the sweater as well.
    Ron from Mexico (who is in Canada for the spring)

  6. Anonymous3:04 PM

    Glad you're back, Jean, I missed you!

    I like the Spring photo with the daffodils and house in the background too. Regarding Janet's comment about Spring here in the northern US being behind you all in Ireland and the UK, I've found that to be consistently the case. I've traveled to either Ireland or the UK in March several times now since 2000 and both places have always been ahead of us, certainly ahead of North Dakota but also the Northeast. I love the daffodils that are so plentiful everywhere in Ireland and the UK in March!

  7. Lovely to see the gansey progressing - the shoulder strap pattern works beautifully. And I agree, difficult to choose between the April pictures.

  8. Anonymous8:24 PM

    Nettle soup? What a huge surprise. What about the stinging part? Are these non-stinging ones?

  9. This is my thrid try to post with my Blogger account. I sure hope the other posts don't come rolling in from cyberspace!

    I just wanted to agree with the person who recommended Square Foot Gardening, and add to that suggestion Lasagna gardening. If you Google Lasagna gardening you should come up with some sites, and there is also a great book by that name that explains the process quite well. It would suit your raised bed. I am planning to try it myself this spring.

  10. Anonymous3:31 AM

    Hooray for successful planning!
    Besides raised beds, have you tried deep mulching with straw? It keeps most weeds down beautifully.