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Friday, March 29, 2013

Growing Dome Report: Early Spring 2013

Early spring in Northern New Mexico is not pretty. Everything still looks dead and three years ago when we first moved here, this SoCal gal wondered if any of the plants, trees, or grass would ever come back.

Looking north toward the cabin and Growing Dome

Temps are still as low as 3 degrees with highs in the 30's or 40's. The wind howls and it sounds like the roof is going to be ripped off. It's times like these that I remind myself that summer will be in the temperate 70's and 80's and not over 100F for weeks like at our old home.

The Growing Dome is the place to be during times like these. With the sun shining it's in the 70's and 80's which makes it cozy to sit in the Adirondack chair, read, listen to the wind, and watch stuff grow.

Below is the eastern side of the dome. I planted most of this stuff in late September. We ate lettuce, radishes, carrots, chard and kale throughout the winter.

Cast of characters here: kale, onions, rainbow chard, carrots and broccoli rabe.

Here are some closeups:

Broccoli Rabe

Carrots, rainbow chard, and red stalk celery

The radishes look as pretty as their picture.
I just bought a Meyer lemon tree. In the background are some EarthBoxes. Box 1: spearmint, Box 2: rosemary in the back and cilantro sprouting in the front, Box 3 (which you will just have to imagine): lemon thyme in the back, basil in the front. The rosemary and lemon thyme are a year old now.

The west side of the dome has been my lettuce garden and it's almost done and I have to wash off the aphids before we eat the leaves. I know, "Yuck!" But there's some protein there, I guess. I've been keeping the aphids in check with insecticidal soap which works if I keep at it.

Some of the sugar snap peas are ready to pick.

And I have one last crop of snap peas waiting in the wings. These were planted late February.

Pretty soon it will be time to plant the warm season crops: beans, tomatoes, cukes are number one on the list. Yay!

And here's another Yay!  We will be adding some raised beds where the south lawn is, so I can grow more stuff outside! We don't need that much lawn and why not have a potager (kitchen garden) just outside your house?

Happy Spring, everyone!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Quilty Pleasures: ThreadBear Has a Website!

I have previously written about my local quilt shop, ThreadBear in Las Vegas, NM, but when their new website went live a couple weeks ago, I just had to do another post about them. Why? They are a small business in a small town and we all know that supporting small businesses makes our communities stronger. I hope you will visit the shop (where I teach quilting classes now and then) and if you aren't close, check out the cool stuff they have on their website. Click this link to see what they have.

When we moved to Northern New Mexico just a little over three years ago, I knew I was going to miss Recreational Shopping. You know, that hop into the car, drive a few miles, hop out and wander around where you really aren't looking for anything in particular, but the "isn't it nice to be out and about" kind of shopping?

Yeah, that kind of shopping. Nowadays, a shopping trip is a 50 or 100 or 200 mile one or two day expedition. It's important to have a list and to get everything on the list, so there is little aimless meandering. It's like those old westerns where we ride the buckboard into town with Paw to get supplies and want to linger over the ribbon counter at the general store. "C'mon, Sarah, it's time to go back to the ranch, now." And we hop into the wagon and ride back home.

Luckily, ThreadBear, the fabric and yarn shop in Las Vegas, NM, is close enough so I can visit every one or two weeks, wander around, see what's new, talk to Ann and Michael, ThreadBear's owners, and fondle the goods. I love to fondle fabric; it's good for the soul.

Here are Ann and Michael, standing in front of their comfy sitting area, where the knitters meet each week and hapless males recline while their wives shop.

The store is on the historic plaza in Old Town Las Vegas, just catty corner from the Plaza Hotel, where a bunch of film people will be staying in the next few months. Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep will be filming as will Seth Macfarlane. The tv show Longmire is filming again, too.

I love the bright, colorful fabric at ThreadBear. All my fave designers are here: Amy Butler, Malka Dubrawski and Kaffe Fassett. Fabric heaven, right here.

Alexander Henry fabric is everywhere. That's Paseo de los Muertos in turquoise on the top shelf along with other Hispanic designs. The bottom shelf holds something more sedate from the store's art nouveau collection.

The traditionalist isn't left out: they have my favorite 30's fabrics, plus Civil War, Victorian, Mid-Century Modern repros. One corner is all southwest style fabrics, another of my favorites.

 Each week the website features Our Favorite Fabric, where Ann and Michael each choose something they like, offer 20 percent off, and write about it. This week Michael has chosen one of my faves, Midnight Pastoral, by Alexander Henry.

Michael's fabric descriptions are almost literary, a peek into the origins of a particular fabric, connecting the fabric to other works of art and to history and showing, in this case, how the fabric plays with tradition and then socks you in the eye.

Ann writes about Botanica Journal by Jason Yenter. Her descriptions appeal to my love of color, design, and that question, "How can I use this fabric?" She also alludes to her fabric hoarding tendencies, which makes us sisters from another mister.

Here's Ann's gardening apron, Apple Cobbler by Mary Mulari Designs, an apron with the Botanica fabric.

A couple weeks ago I ordered some Favorite Fabric on sale and could have had it mailed it to me. Instead I picked it up, ready to go, the next time I went to the store. That's a good reason to visit, don't you think?

And don't forget the yarn! I am an inexpert knitter who once spent two years knitting a 12 hour afghan, but there is a vibrant knitting underground here in Las Vegas. Here's a shout out to the Thursday Afternoon Knitters, the cool kids on the block!

I've only touched on the basics here, so visit the website to see all the stuff ThreadBear has to offer. I haven't even mentioned the precuts and novelty prints, their batiks and their classes.

Just so you know, ThreadBear hasn't paid me to do this post; I just like their store!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day! An Immigrant Family

It must have been hard to pack all your worldly belongings into a parcel:

To leave this:

To endure this:

And find this:

But it was worth it: Grandchildren of immigrants, The Crowley Girls-Nancy, Kay,
 Mary Lou, Jeannie

And a prosperous family:

Mary and Bart Crowley, Children of immigrants, and the Crowley Girls, my grandparents, aunts, and mom

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

International Quilting Day: My Favorite Quilt

In the 12 or so years since I began quilting in our daughter's bedroom after she went off to college, I've made and given away more quilts than I can remember. Note to new quilters: take a photo of each quilt you make and put it in a safe place so when you are old and senile, you have it right there.

My favorite quilt, though, is one I kept and hangs on the living room wall. Why do I love it?

1. It's the first quilt I made where I didn't have a clue how it would look at the end.
2. My brain was so engaged in making this quilt that I even dreamed about it.
3. Looking at it is always a new experience. And not because I am old and senile, but because there are surprises, like that fabric in the bottom right,  different from the rest of the border.

 Thanks, Pattie Prothero, for inspiring me to start this most rewarding occupation.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hoop House Raising in Northern New Mexico

Yesterday was a brilliant, warm 70 degree day and the wind wasn't blowing: a perfect day for a hoop house raising. We convened at Veronica's house where she had coffee and snacks ready to fuel the crew of about 20 volunteers who came to help. Just like in many Northern New Mexico homes, Veronica has both a wood cook stove and a conventional one. The wood stove keeps the house toasty warm and and it makes sense with wood free and plentiful around here.

Hoop houses will be springing up like wild flowers in the next few months around here because our livestock and growers' group has learned that growing veggies in Northern New Mexico can be a very sustainable way to make a living.

Last year Del Jimenez, Agriculture Specialist, Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project (RAIPAP) at New Mexico State University gave a lecture to the group and offered his services as a consultant for this project. Because our group was started with a grant from Heifer International, recipients must follow the Heifer guidelines, including 40 hours of training before they can receive a gift. Veronica has received some bred heifers and is in the process of repaying the group with 5 bred heifers from what has been born so far. Her repayment for the hoop house is its cost, repaid within 5 years. If all goes well, she should be able to make her repayment in a year or so, no problem.

Her dad constructed the frame using PVC pipe, rebar and locally milled lumber. By using lumber from someone nearby who harvests their trees to make boards, it keeps the costs down. In the background are Veronica's chickens. She sells their eggs to family, friends, and the local natural foods grocery store. The whole ranch is in the process of becoming organically certified.

The group's job was to get the large sheet of heavy plastic over the frame and to stretch it tight. Others armed with staple guns tacked the plastic to the wood while we supplied the hands necessary to get it nicely stretched with no wrinkles.

 Here is the plastic being draped over the hoop house "bones."

Veronica's dad tacks the plastic to one side of the frame before we stretch it. I don't know how old her dad is, but he was everywhere at once and you can tell he loves every minute of this project. It made me miss my dad.

Once this side was tacked down, it was time to stretch. We had a line of people on one long side, pulling hard to ensure the plastic was stretched taut as a drum. If the plastic isn't stretched tightly, the crazy Northern New Mexico wind would cause it to flap about and start ripping. There is Veronica, with the sunglasses and gorgeous gray hair.

The group did a quality job and a hoop house is born!

Inside, the hoop house is big! I think the dimensions are 36 long by 20 wide. Someone correct me if I am wrong in the comments, okay?

There is still a lot of work for Veronica to do. Building raised beds, assembling the irrigation and misting systems, and planting the first seeds for her mixed baby lettuce are just some of the tasks still ahead.

But there is a big market for locally grown produce, and Los de Mora Local Growers' Cooperative is on its way to becoming a market force in Northern New Mexico.

As a thank you, we feasted on pizza with green chile garnish, chicken wings, salad, and wine after our labors, and had fun meeting new friends and chatting with our neighbors.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I Won Some "Color Me Retro" Fabric!

Last week was lucky because I entered a fabric giveaway and I won! That doesn't happen too often. Only once before, in fact.

But I just felt lucky and I really wanted some of this fabric. So I entered and the rest is good luck history.

The package came from Tactile Fabrics, who sponsored the giveaway at Jeni Baker's blog, In Color Order.  So what does "Color Me Retro" look like?

You probably can't tell, but Tactile Fabrics sent fourteen fat quarters and I can't wait to do something with them just as soon as I bring in the skiploader to shovel out the layers of project detritus in the sewing room.

Color Me Retro is designed by Jeni Baker and makes me think of lying on a Southern California beach. These fabrics would make an excellent beach or picnic quilt.

Anyway, thanks to Jennifer at Tactile Fabrics and Jeni at In Color Order for the fabric. I will put it to good use.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Coyote Creek Traffic

Yesterday I took a trip to ThreadBear, my local quilt shop in Las Vegas, New Mexico. I'd already been there Monday for our Modern Quilt meet-up, soon to be guild, but I had a quilt to quilt and so the Bernina spent the night there and we met up again the next day.

I will write more about ThreadBear soon, because their brand new website is up and running. They are now selling their neato fabric online as well as in their shop on The Plaza in Las Vegas. I love their fabrics, especially their Hispanic looking stuff, and want ThreadBear to stay alive and well in Las Vegas for a long, long time.

But here is what I want to show you today:

As I was driving on the dirt road which takes me to the highway, I saw some hulking forms on the road. Whoops! Cows are out, but they weren't mine, thank goodness.

As soon as they saw my truck, the bovine escapees hightailed it to the side of the road which I thought was extremely polite.

Some of these cows were extremely preggo and there were babies, too, so they stayed pretty close to home,  the field beyond this broken gate, I think.

Seven hours later as I drove back home, they were still out, but that's how it goes in Northern New Mexico. Eventually someone will fix that gate but it doesn't have to be right now.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cheese Blintzes

It's feeling springlike here at the Nickel and Dime, and even though I realize Mom Nature may have a few more snowstorms hiding under her skirts, I am hopeful that warmer weather is just around the corner.

My symbol for hope is this springy breakfast I made today. Right up front you should know these blintzes are not made from scratch like my dad's were.

These were from the frozen food section at a supermarket in Santa Fe and a decent second choice if you don't have any home made blintzes stockpiled in your freezer. I bought some raspberry pecan jam while we were in Texas last week so that's what is on top.

Happy Almost Springtime!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Quilty Pleasures-Quiltcon Part 2: Best in Show in Detail

The previous post had a pic of Victoria Findlay Wolfe's Best in Show Quilt, "Double Edged Love," but here it is again as a reference point.

I like how design and color play around with the Wedding Ring Quilt design. Sometimes the rings disappear and sometimes they are strongly linked. Sometimes there is darkness and other times the colors are bright and happy. Whether the artist was going for these ideas or not, that's what this viewer felt while I was looking at it.

Lisa Sipes was the long arm quilter and I would have been cross-eyed after working on this quilt! Her intricate attention to detail is amazing.

Straight line quilting, teensy pebbles and grids are the predominant designs Lisa used. The hand quilting adds even more interest. My handler would have said, "Step away from the quilt."

Distance between the squares might be around a quarter to a half inch or so. Look at that triple line of stitching. I would have been screaming insanely right around now if I were sewing.

I've been following Victoria's blog, Bumble Beans, for several years now and admire her commitment to the idea that it's okay to play around while designing quilts.

I have just discovered Lisa Sipes and her blog That Crazy Quilty Girl. Her most recent post discusses the controversy surrounding the idea of modern quilting and how should we conduct ourselves when we see a piece we don't like. In addition, she shows some of the quilts she has made herself or has quilted for others. Her work is amazing and she's just a kid!