Saturday, July 27, 2013

Back to Reality

Last week was the week of our much-anticipated camping trip to New Hampshire. I had a vague idea what to expect, but never having been to New Hampshire I was eager to see it for myself. We had reservations at Terrace Pines, in the Lakes District of New Hampshire. I would recommend the campground, with reservations. It is on two lovely large ponds, with kayak and canoe rental available. The campground has electricity and water at each site, with sewer hookups for RV campers. As a tent camper, I would have liked our site to be a little bigger, secluded, and more wooded. Still, the campground is spotlessly maintained and in spite of the large number of children around during the day it quiets down early and is very restful at night. It is not one of those campgrounds that attracts a large number of loud party people. Our campsite was at a little remove from the neighbors on one side, with the site on the other side empty until the night before we left, so we were able to feel cozy and private.

All the same, I don't think we will stay at Terrace Pines next time we camp in New Hampshire. As it happens, most of the attractions we ended up visiting and the ones we want to make time for on our next trip were in the southern part of the White Mountains and points north. I think we will choose a campground more in that direction when we return. And we will return. New Hampshire is beautiful, and the skiing operations have really bought into making the state a year round draw. I don't ski or snowmobile, but the areas devoted to those winter sports have really invested in drawing tourists in the summer as well. There were a lot of family attractions with outdoor activities and tours for a full range of abilities. New Hampshire weather being what it is (Mount Washington is shrouded with fog 60% of the time), you do need to be a little flexible in your plans, but there are plenty of options.  If you are easily bored you will not run out of things to do.

The Kancamagus Highway is a beautiful attraction. You could easily spend an entire vacation on this 34.5 stretch  of road. There are campgrounds, hiking trails, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, rapids, and swimming holes a-plenty. I doubt you would run out of things to do if you never left the area. We were overcome with its beauty and variety. One day we went back to the campground early as we had seen as much natural beauty as we could absorb.

We also visited Woodstock and Conway to shop and look around. Woodstock is very pretty, and the Woodstock Inn would be a wonderful place to stay. We had lunch at the Woodstock Inn and found the food and the house made beers exceptional. Conway has an outlet mall of remarkable diversity if you are a vacation shopper. We confined ourselves to shopping at the L.L. Bean and Eastern Mountain Sports outlets, as we needed a few bits of equipment (you may read that as "we went shopping for toys"). I got a nice pair of hiking shoes at a reasonable price at L.L. Bean. My old standby boots are 30 years old, and it was nice to have a lighter and cooler pair of hikers for summer. I'll also be wearing these at work; I have worn out a pair of cross trainers on the job. Although both towns have plenty of attractions and shopping we found the prices very high and did little other shopping. If you go to Conway you should go to Zeb's Country Store. It's a lot of fun, and a good place to get some non-foolish souvenirs and gifts like candy and handmade soap.

We had our share of vacation misadventures, which I will note on a later post. For now I will just say that we found New Hampshire stunningly beautiful, delightfully cool, and worthy of a second and third look.  As with any road trip, I also got most of a gift sock completed - it's the holiday knitting part of the year, after all!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mid July Weather Mayhem

Before, May 2 2013
Well, not actual mayhem, but pretty far from what I am used to. This week and last we have had rain and rain and rain. Mainland Massachusetts has received crazy amounts of rain and severe storms. Here on Cape Cod we have not had that much, but enough so that I have only watered once for just a little while. I had planted some kale seed and wanted to improve the chances of germination, otherwise I would have let well enough alone. The Oklahoma July I was used to consisted of heat, and more heat, sometimes with no measurable rain at all. It's not nearly so hot here, but the humidity is off the charts. It actually makes my rather straight hair bushy and wavy.

After, July 11, 2013

We have as much lettuce as we and our friends can eat. I have a nice snack of snap peas everyday and plenty still make it into the house. Carrots are making, but we are still a good month out from harvest. Haricots Verts are nearly ready, and purple  bush beans will hit the menu before the weekend is over. So far our herbs are keeping up with our requirements. This is saying a lot because I love parsley.  No tomatoes yet. I am getting some blossom drop on my Beefsteak, so will try a little fertilizer, although there is plenty of compost and cow manure in Tomato Land. It may be the damp conditions and warmish nights are working against me. Lemon Girl has set a few, but they are smallish still, and the cherry tomato plant has one spray of fruit and one of flowers. I know my garden is generally a little behind some others I have seen

around here, so I am being patient. Cucumbers are setting fruit well. All things being equal we should be overrun with cukes in a few weeks. My basil still sucks. I am going to move some from the patio to the garden as soon as we have the second set of leaves to see if they will do better there.  The before and after pictures are May 2 and July 11 of this year. Quite a difference, I'd say!

 We are doing great for pollinators, which I was a little concerned about. I don't see many of Jill's honey bees, but we have loads of bumble bees, solitary bees, and tiny wasps. I think having so many flowers surrounding the bed has helped attract our insects. Oddly enough, the only flower that seems not to be attracting bees like crazy is Monarda (bee balm).

Bumble bee on cucumber blossom waiting for its wings to dry
Tonight we are going to see Melissa Etheridge at the Cape Cod Melody Tent. It's a terrific venue - rotating stage in a tent: a nice smaller venue. I don't care for big concerts at all. The acoustics are seldom good enough to enjoy the music or even make out the lyrics, and I find big crowds tiring. A smaller venue is exponentially better for me. The Melody Tent gets a lot of great acts, but we are limiting ourselves to one per season. We'll be camping in Ossipee New Hampshire the last week of this month, so I think our summer is shaping up to have plenty of entertainment, if not fine weather and beach days.

They are always looking at me hoping for treats
This week I have four dogs.  Mitzi has moved here from my father-in-law's house, as his condition is deteriorating. We still have the Amazing Roxanne, of course, and two dogs visiting for a few days. Peyton Manning the Chihuahua is mixing it up with the rest of the pack, and Sparky is staying in the basement out of the traffic pattern, as befits his elderly (23yrs) state and poor state of health. We call Sparky Keith Richards after his advanced state of decrepitude and the sad state of his hair. I think having the extra dogs here is helping Mitzi settle in, as all the other dogs have stayed here before and know the routine. The best dog teacher is another dog. She is a barker, and coming from a pretty isolated house set far back from a quiet road to one on a rather busy street she needs to adjust to the activity level outside. The other dogs let her know when something is worth barking about. I take the three younger dogs out for a daily walk to get Mitzi used to the neighborhood and prevent squabbling. It's the high point in their day. Little Peyton does not know how to walk on a leash, which is a common failing with tiny dogs, but he is learning to stay on the left and not wrap himself around my legs. His leash is one of the retractable kind, which I find to be less than useless.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

A Crafter's Bucket List

Matched set of Fish Hats
As a girl I learned the basics of knitting, crochet, embroidery, cooking (including jam!) and sewing. I also learned to lay asphalt tile (does anyone use it anymore?), "cut-in" paint, and float concrete. I learned some of the basics of gardening, at least the flowery kind. Although both of my grandfathers had big veggie gardens at various times I never learned anything about growing veggies. My paternal grandmother tried to teach me to tat, but I didn't get the hang of it. I learned these things in the 50's and 60's and thought I had a good overview of crafts. My Irish grandmother crocheted with pearl cotton and did needlepoint and I was pretty sure I did not want to do either of those.

Mailbox Garden Year Two Early Spring
Then came the Internet. I started out small. There was a time before Knitty when you could sail around the knitters' webring in one sitting. Bonne Marie Burns and Wendy Johnson were my heros. Now you really have to pick and choose. I don't get around to every crafty blog I like very often, but the inspiration to be found there is astonishing.

Crafts I have not yet tried but want to:

Tatting - maybe I could do it now.
Spinning - probably drop spindle, as a wheel is an investment
Fimo Clay - Buttons are my particular interest
Needle felting - I will try this on a holiday gift this year
Quilting - God help me, I'd like to try a crazy quilt
Laurel Closeup

Things I have done before but want to take up again:

Sewing is starting to look appealing again
Sourdough baking

Things I will never do but love to look at:

Furniture building

There are a few little projects that I can't categorize. I made a little sign for my garden, and will be stenciling a line of poetry on a sheet of plywood as a piece of garden art. I have my plywood painted, but have to see if I have any stencils.  I want to make a little fairy door to tuck into the bottom of a tree for whimsey. I am on the lookout for a louvre door or shutter that I can turn into a magazine rack.

Too many possibilities!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

No Idle Hands

Bird life at Bournes Pond
This week marks my yearly change from knitting for myself to knitting for gifts. I hate deadline knitting - the only way to avoid the rush is to start early. Last week I finished a baby gift for a member of my knitting group. This week I will finish the last of the "selfish" projects, a nice pair of plain socks for myself. I will not have these socks on my feet until fall, but by the time it is cool enough to wear them I will be deep into holiday knitting. I actually have yarn purchased and patterns chosen for most of my gift knitting. For the ones not yet queued up I will select from stash and my library of books and patterns. In a way, my christmas shopping is largely finished already!

This week I have a few days off in a row, with a couple of non-knitting projects planned. They will be garden decor items for the new veggie and sunny flower garden, and I think maybe Shana will enjoy doing them with me. I had thought to do them outside, but since paint and wood are involved I think maybe the forecast of all rain all the time all week is not going to suit us. We have had thunderstorms every day for a week. The temperatures have been cool, which has made the humidity less oppressive and the lettuce willing to last a little longer (although the basil is less happy about it and may have to be started over once the weather dries up a bit). This will not last. Temperatures are rising.  I am resorting to wearing shorts to work like the men. Jeans are out of the question for the duration, and some days even my khakis are just too hot to be thought of.

Today's project is a simple rhubarb syrup to add to lemonade (about even parts rhubarb, sugar and water, boiled down to a light syrup). I want to plant some rhubarb, but since it is a large and long lived plant I want to be sure we will enjoy using it before I devote a lot of space to it. I know I like rhubarb, having grown up with it, but Shana is not familiar with it. I want to ease her into the rhubarb love gently. I picked up a few stalks at Coonamessett Farm yesterday, just enough for my experiment. I did pop the remaining leaves with a bit of stem into the ground - we are having thunderstorms every day, so it is just possible it will grow for me. I'd love to have some around to add to an apple or pear pie, or to make some rhubarb applesauce.

Swan family life
Canning is in the near future at The Little House. If we get a decent yield from our cucumber plants Shana wants to make some pickles. She made her first batch a few years ago and they were very good. After my last jar of marmalade I think I will be making my own soon. I had not purchased any for many years. The most recent jar surprised me with how little peel and little flavor it had. It was not a bargain brand, and it just was not good enough. I don't think it would be too difficult to freeze up citrus peels until I have enough for a batch of good marmalade. I am also feeling a nostalgic craving for watermelon pickle, which is very easy to make. I am lucky enough to have been exposed to a fair amount of home canning and jam making when I was young. I know it is something we will be able to do, and do well.