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sheltered dug-in slug traps

15 May

My favourite garden accessory this year is the dug-in slug trap. It’s simple and very effective.

Over the course of a week, I had watched as one by one slugs attacked my pepper plants, leaving only the stubble of a stalk and a few discarded leaves. I really didn’t want to use slug pellets. I had put down coffee grounds (fertilising and supposed to irritate slug bellies) and ground mace (it works for human attackers!), and would spent half an hour every night after darkness settled creeping round with a flashlight pulling slugs and snails off tender leaves. Fortunately, my neighbour Angel suggested trying this and it works!

Step 1: I used a plastic picnic cup cup as I don’t mind if it gets ruined with slime and a tin of beer. I actually like Polish beer, so this seemed like a bit of a waste until I learned the slugs like it too. I also decided to make a wee umbrella using a jam jar lid wider than the mouth of the cup and three small stakes, to keep the sun off and the rain out.

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Polish tinned lager, 1 low tray, 1 plastic cup, 1 small pretty plant pot, 3 knitting needles for staking and 1 jam jar lid

As well as the dug-in trap, I laid out two traps that I could move around the garden as needed, using an old pot tray and a high, narrow plant pot. I’ve used this type of movable trap before, although I’ve always wondered whether the trek up and over the sides put them off.

Step 2: Next I dug a hole so that the rim of the cup sits just at surface level. The hole looks enormous with nothing in it, but it is probably about 3 x 2 inches.

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Be careful at this point, I’ve exposed some roots

Step 3: Insert the cup to ensure it fits. I think it’s better to be conservative in your estimates, as it’s a bit easier to dig out than fill in to get the correct size.

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Nestle the cup as close to surface-level as possible, so the slugs just slip right in

Step 4: As I mention above, I was a bit worried about rainwater diluted my beer, so I devised a cover that won’t interfere with the trap itself. After inserting the cup, I arranged three 7-inch 5mm DPNs to form a triangle that will support the jam jar lid to act as an umbrella.

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Angle them slightly inwards so that they form a buttress to hold the lid in place

Step 5: Adding the beer is much easier if you gently remove the cup (but leave the stakes where thy are), fill the cup with beer and carefully sink back into the hole. The other option is pouring beer willy-nilly at the wrong angle so that the foam threatens to sop all over your garden. Trust me.

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Careful with that beer! You don’t want to make the plants even tastier by sloshing it everywhere!

Step 6: Top with the jam jar lid and voila!

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I don’t imagine slugs like watered down beer any more than I do

You do have to be a bit diligent about removing the slugs — I’ve discovered they aren’t as interested in beer when it smells of death. It’s pretty disgusting, but worth it. I’ve been replacing the beer every few days, although once summer hits properly it’ll have to be more frequent.

Even so, it works a treat! The sheltered dug-in slug trap.

13 May 13a

A great natural solution to protecting my baby beans

If you try this technique, link to it so we can see! In the meantime, how do you protect your garden from slugs and snails?

the rejuvenated garden

13 May
13 May 13b

Radishes, runner beans, beet seedlings, strawberries, cress and the guard zebra

This year I am back to gardening with a vengeance, so I thought a little update was in order! Why did I take so much time off? The trouble with container gardening is that once the soil has been depleted there’s nowhere to move the soil. So last year I followed the old farming technique of letting my garden fallow to rejuvenate the soil.

13 May 13g

Bell peppers, a heap of seedlings of unknown origin, peas and potatoes

It’s actually much easier than you might think, mostly because it requires more patience than anything else, and it’s more effective than I could have hoped, too! I was able to bring life back to my container soil without throwing it out and starting again following these steps:

Step 1: Much to the despair of my neighbours, I let my pots transform into a tangle of weeds and beds of moss for at least one full season (here in London that means roughly February to November).

Step 2: About 14-18 weeks before I wanted to start growing, I pulled out the weeds but kept them to one side and lay down almost 30 litres of manure — and if my neighbours had a problem with the weeds, I can only imagine what they thought of this move! For me, that horsey dankness was the smell of my soil rebuilding itself.

Step 3: Over top of the manure, I layered the leaves and twigs of the weeds I’d pulled up (taking care to remove any roots) and let them dry as a sort of mulch. Those pots with moss I left alone.

Step 4: Then I let the whole thing overwinter.

13 May 13f

Tomatoes, strawberries and runner beans

The result was wonderful! When I lifted up the nests of dried twigs and leaves and rolled back the moss, the soil underneath was rich and full of goodness (not to mention full of happy invertebrates)! You can see the results best under the strawberries and lettuce below. That there is 100% revitalised container soil.

13 May 13i

Strawberries and two types of lettuce

Although I have several large plants, only a few of them have been grown by me as seeds. This year I found a whole bag full of seed packets under my sink, most of them nearly two years out of date! So I did what any cavalier gardener would do and chucked them into the soil to see what would grow. So far I’ve had the best luck with cress, radish, bean, pea and beet seedlings, which have all come up like mad. I have two pots with mixed seedlings and no idea what they might be because I, of course, neglected to keep a record. Carrots, definitely, and some herbs, but other than that I’ll just have to be patient to see what comes up.

13 May 13a

Broad bean seedlings with my new favourite garden accessory: the dug-in slug trap

In my next post, I’m going to show-and-tell my Jerry-rigged greenhouse roof as well as my dug-in slug traps. (I was so pleased with my slug traps that I drew a diagram for my secondary-school students to demonstrate how effective they are. Response: ‘Miss, no offence, but you sound a little crazy.’)

twist collective spring 2013

16 Apr

What a delight to switch on my laptop Sunday morning and discover that there was a brand new edition of Twist Collective to peruse over my birthday breakfast! Patter-wise this issue is a bit thin on the ground for me. There are a few things I find interesting, but nothing I’m gagging to knit. Article-wise, this one was fascinating. Spring and summer are difficult times to design for, but well-written articles are year-round.

To begin with the patterns, I really like the looks of Rebecca Blair’s Eliza jumper and Emmy Petersson’s Alvinda cardigan. They both take advantage of the breeziness of a simple lace pattern in a light sport-weight yarn. I also think both would be adorable converted into henleys. Don’t you think Eliza would be super-cute with a little column of buttons?

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I also enamored by Iris Wildsmith’s Galliera tam. Not only does she have the best name ever (she’s a smithy of the wild!) but she has great aesthetic.

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Finally, Michaela Moores’s Castanea is amazing! The stole is beautiful, but the giant circular shawl is spectacular. I love the yarns chosen for the sample patterns; the colours really make the stitch pattern sing.

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On to the articles: I really recommend taking a look at Robin Melanson’s feature, ‘The Error of Our Ways: A Knitter’s Guide to Fixing Mistakes‘. It offers both excellent solutions to common problems and a great pictorial guide that demonstrates clearly what these issues look like and how to fix them. I’ve always been fairly fearless when it comes to dropping down and fixing things in situ rather than ripping back six rows to sort a mistake out.

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All you really need to be able to do it without damaging your work is to follow one of the best tips she gives: learn to read your knitting. This tip is repeated in Sandi Rosner’s article on lace, but it is well worth learning how-to whatever your project. It’s a bit tricky in the first repeat of a new pattern or chart, but it saves endless heartache in the end if you sit back, spread out your work and read the stitches after every few rows/rounds. You catch errors much more quickly, plus it’s really lovely to just be able to admire the results of all that effort you’ve put into your work!

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The other article that really caught my attention is Leslie Petrovski’s essay on plant-based fibres, ‘In the Weeds‘, which gives both a historical perspective of how these fibres have developed in human hands and their advantages/disadvantages over animal fibres. It’s a very interesting read. I’ve never been particularly into plant-based yarns, as I find the inelasticity of cotton yarns difficult on my hands (and the very thought of hemp and linen gives me arthritis). As I get deeper into working with colour and knitting jumpers and cardigans, I’ve got deeper into exploring how different sheep breeds and other animal-based yarns react to different stitches and contours. Plus sweaters and cardigans designed in cotton or linen always seem to be too tunicy and mother-earthy or just somehow less agile than those designed for wools. But this has made me reconsider some of my prejudices and has made me really keen to get my hands on some linen. It might open up a whole new world for me.

Does anyone have any recommendations for plant-based yarns?

All images taken from Ravelry and the Twist Collective site.

fo: larch cardigan

11 Apr

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After a mere nine weeks, my Larch cardigan is ready to wear! This project actually started way back in the depths of last year when I contacted Lyndsey from Countess Ablaze to ask her if she could custom dye me some of her DK-weight blue-faced Leicester, Bluefaced Baron DK. We back-and-forthed over the colour for a few weeks until she hit upon the single most amazing emerald you have ever seen.

This is the emerald that makes you think of rolling hills and mythical creatures and burial sites full of untold riches. It is lush.

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I knew almost immediately that it had to be a Larch cardigan. Larch, for the uninitiated, is an Amy Christoffers design. Amy occupies a place of deep affection in my heart. She is an incredible designer. (I’ve heard several people say that it’s like Amy designs just for them, but they’re wrong. She designs just for me.) Her cardigans are exactly my aesthetic.

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I did a few small mods that others might find helpful.

  1. I tend to find long, loose cardigans gape around the small of my back (because my bum sticks out and I have little natural waist), so I spread the decrease stitches evenly rather than at the sides where they would traditionally fall (every 50 sts for the first set and then immediately above [i.e. so they’re stacked] following Amy’s row count). This seems to have worked very well.
  2. As usual, I knit my sleeves until I thought they were long enough and then added an extra inch and then added ten rows. This seems to be the only way I ever manage to get sleeves that fit. NOTE: I did NOT do this for my Acer or my Tinder and my sleeves for both projects are definitely a bit too short. I think it works rather well with the vintage feel of the Acer, but I have a good mind to hack into the Tinder and add some rows.
  3. I extended the sleeve caps and arm holes by about 6 rows. Amy’s main criticism is that her sleeves tend towards the tight side, which I noticed in my Acer. These sleeves fit perfectly. They are deep enough to be able to comfortably wear a couple of layers underneath (which is totally necessary at the moment! When will it be spring?!).
  4. Amy suggests using a double-knit BO around the shawl part of the collar, which is super stretchy but looked very unfinished and amateurish when I attempted it. I stuck to my regular BO (k2, sl 1st st over 2nd, * k1, sl 1st st on right needle over 2nd, repeat from *), but looser than normal.

I am very pleased with the result.

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On the needles now: not another Amy (I just couldn’t decide!), but my long-awaited Perfect Christmas Jumper! About time, no? Lou finished her’s years ago.

new knitty, winter 2012

17 Dec

I was so happy when I opened up ‘Hot Right Now’ on Ravelry and saw that a new Knitty was out. Ahhh, fresh patterns! As ever there is a well-rounded selection to chose from, something for everyone. Here’s a round up of my favourite patterns from the bunch. Unusually for me, my favourites leapt off the screen at me — usually I dither and umm and ahh and faff for hours trying to decide which to highlight. Not so this time!

Starting with the Earlybird Socks, there is something about the textures and use of colour this year that really struck me. These socks are a really lovely case in point. The smooth, repeated lines are so satisfying. They almost look like the deep furrows of a ploughed field when seen from up high, out an airplane window, slowly arching round. The stitch pattern is one of my favourites, too. I think it’s the one that Lou used in the cuff of her Raspberry Ripple Socks.

earlybirdALT

Kittiwake, similarly, uses a really interesting, well-defined stitch pattern that looks like it would be fun to knit up. I’m nearly finished my Acer Cardigan and am consequently on a cables-and-lace kick. Kittiwake (oddly enough, one of the words I assigned my students for their spelling test just the week before I even saw Knitty’d come out) looks not only deeply satisfying to knit, but cosy and like it would fit beautifully. Mind you, Amy Herzog. Nuff said.

kittiwakeBIGfront

Two of the other cardigans in this Knitty also had me blown over. Iounn‘s gorgeous stranded work caught my eye initially, but the cuff detail and the amazing hemline are what sealed the deal for me. I bought a beautiful ginormous hank of teal merino at the Knitting and Stitching Show this year — practically the only yarn I bought there! — and I think it, paired with a soft dove grey or a daffodilly yellow, would make for a gorgeous Iounn of my own.

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Rime’s the Reason is other other cardigan that I really liked. The name is not my favourite, but the construction is So Clever. I love the combination of buttons and zip, and the hood and in-built fingerless mitts are amazing added features — although it’s started to warm up a little here in London, last week I needed something that would keep me toasty. The zig-zaggy butterfly motif looks like it would definitely keep up knitterly interest, as would the protective hip panels.

rimeBEAUTY

Finally, as soon as I saw Lilaceous, I really wished I was getting married all over again. Or at least that this beautiful pattern had come out last year. It’s just so delicate, and so plush. It takes my breath away every time I look at it. I think I’m going to make one out of regular boldly jewelly sock-weight yarn and then another in the softest, most ethereal laceweight I can find. The description Derya wrote for it is equally lovely.

lilaceousBEAUTY

 

Honourable mentions go to rather fun mittens Caaaarbs!, the cardigan at the end of a really interesting article on Aran knitting in America, Ruth, and Argentière which has an amazing collar.

Note: All images slurped from Knitty.com itself.

cherry pecan coffee loaf

2 Dec

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I’ve been on a real quick bread kick of late, starting with what might have been the very best banana bread I’ve ever made three weeks ago. Since then, though, it’s been all about cherries. I am mad about cherry bread. Last week I made a gorgeous, if cakey, Cherry-Orange Quick Bread. This week, I thought I’d share the more substantial, cherry-chocked Cherry Pecan Coffee Loaf.

This bread is oaten and moist. The cherries give every piece a bit of zing, while the pecans and brown sugar topping add a wonderful earthiness. I used hazelnut milk, which really rounds out the flavours and also gives you a bit of added superfood. I’m not sure how easy it is to find, however, and let’s face it any milk (dairy or non) would be suitable.

ingredients:

3 cups plain flour
3/4 cup granulated golden sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 1/2 cups ready oats
2 cups milk (I used non-dairy hazelnut milk — delicious!)
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1 cup frozen cherries
1/4 cup brown sugar, for dusting
pecans for decorating

method:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees/Gas 5 and have a loaf pan greased at the ready (9 inches x 5 inches).

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk, oil and vanilla. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until almost incorporated, then add the frozen cherries.

Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and use a spatula to smooth evenly into the corners. Sprinkle the brown sugar over top, liberally. Then lightly set pecans into the surface at intervals. Bake for about 1 hour, or until golden. A tester (bamboo skewer or toothpick) should come out clean. Leave to cool for about 5-10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

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alternatives:

Any berry/nut ever! Actually, I reckon any frozen fruit would be delish: mango would be great with coconut or brazil nuts to top and raspberry with walnut would be lovely. Next on the menu might be peach and almond.

recommendations:

As with all quick breads, try to wait until the next day before cutting into it. I’ve been baking mine at night lately, which admittedly helps me resist the urge to cut straight in. I leave the loaf to cool for an hour, then wrap it in my floppy silicone baking sheet and again in the opposite direction with a clean dish towel, and leave it in the bread bin till morning.

dooooooooooooooom

26 Oct

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!

I just found moth eggs in my hand-knit sock box. And three disgusting cocoons. They’ve chewed through two socks!!! Not badly, only a couple of stitches on each. The invasion could have been much MUCH worse. But still. There are sandy little revolting eggs everywhere.

It’s an airtight box, too, and there’s no dead moth, so I have no idea how they got in. We don’t have any moths in our house. (I make weekly checks of EVERYTHING — stashes, fabric and yarn, current projects, the mattress, the sofa, our closets, the airing cupboard, the kitchen — such is my fear of moths. There is no evidence anywhere, knock wood, spit over the shoulder, etc.)

Unless one of those stinking stinkers came in from the garden managed to lay the eggs while the socks were hanging to dry in the summer? Or maybe one made it into our other sock drawer? I found two pairs of hand-knits in there that Matthew must have put away instead of returning them to the sock box after they’d been washed. Have I been felled by Trojan socks? Trojan socks!

I can’t even bring myself to take pictures. You’ll just have to imagine the horror.

I’m boiling them all now as I type. I’m going to freeze them as soon as they dry. And then line my now-disinfected sock box with lavender, cedar and insecticide.

Let this be a lesson: check your socks!!