Clover vs. buttercups

I’ve been kind of assuming that weed that’s been steadily marching across our yard was clover, even though it had a different leaf edge (frilly vs. smooth), root structure (dense with runners vs. fibrous) and flower (yellow petals vs white/pink/red balls). A very short search on the web turned up this website, which made it clear that we are dealing not with clover, but with buttercups. Hmmm.

A little bit more searching, and I’m increasingly impressed at the scale of the problem. Apparently buttercups, with their runners and thick roots that can grow up to 25 cm deep are a nearly unstoppable force. They thrive in damp and acidic soil. (Check and check.) They crowd out all other life forms. And, to top it off, they’re poisonous and you can get bad rashes if you come in contact with them or breathe the leaves’ oil. Super.

It sounds like we have two options:

The first is to give up on the grass and go for a buttercup yard. The advantages: at this rate of growth, the yard will be all buttercup by the end of the summer, the leaves are genuinely attractive and tolerate mowing well, and buttercups appear to be the only thing that can out-compete the moss. Disadvantages: we’d miss the grass, and some sort of containment is needed to keep the buttercups from marching straight into the garden beds (which they’re also taking over).

The second option is to just start spraying immediately with highly potent broadleaf killers, and to repeat frequently until the last of the stuff is dead. (And then to stay on guard because that root structure is dense, deep, and long-lived.) Advantages: cheap, relatively easy, not too time-intensive, more-or-less effective over time. Plus, Kevin gets to use the chemical sprayer, which makes him cheerful. Disadvantages: toxic chemicals.

The third option is to try to dig it out manually, but we’d have to dig a foot down and replace all of the topsoil to be guaranteed success, and the time investment, difficulty, and expense effectively renders this a non-option.

Sounds like we have weed poison in our future?

Sun-day

We were finishing breakfast yesterday when the sun came out! Brilliant warm light! We basked for about 30 seconds, and then wonderful Kevin hopped up and headed out into the 42-degree sunshine to clean all of our windows.

It makes such a huge difference. He followed it up with weedwhacking the suddenly 10″ tall mess on the top shelf of the yard, blowing all of the sodden, caked-on sawdust off of the patio, and redistributing all of the mulch from when we had the tree stumps ground into the beds along the side of the house.

It looks awesome. He’s a good person. :-) Then he headed out with the macro lens to get photos of the dew on the flowers. (As usual, click for big. The detail he gets with the macro lens is beautiful.)

We have lots of buds on the daffodils:

I keep expecting to wake up to find a riot of flowers, but they’ve been keeping tightly curled. We still have just a few partial blooms, and those are all toppled, like the weight of all the rain and the grey made them just want to lie down. Poor despairing flowers.

It appears that something has been snacking on our primroses.

I love the orange-yellow bleed of color on these white primroses.

And the minidaffodils are still looking dainty and bright. I definitely want to plant more of these for next spring.

I went out to admire his handiwork around noon, and discovered that the sun was actually warming things up! It got up to the mid-fifties, and was so pleasant outside in a sweatshirt. We did a quick hardware store run for gardening supplies (weed and moss killers for the lawn — post on this tomorrow — plus new grass seed. We got back and spent the entire rest of the afternoon (until twilight, so after 7) moving from one project to the next. Kevin mowed the lawn (the first time this season!) and then sprayed down the entire yard (front and back, including the top shelf and most of the beds) with broadleaf killer. I put primroses and pansies in the planter by the front walk, and then finally planted the entire 90-bulb bag of sprouting tulips. One of these years I’ll do that in October, when you’re supposed to. I used the handsnips to deadhead and even out a few of the bushes, including the hydrangea by the kitchen window, and then continued on to remove all of the dead plants, branches and runners from the rock wall. I picked up a full yardwaste bin’s worth of downed birch and evergreen branches. Whew. Kevin did a round of moss killing on the driveway, and I potted cilantro for the kitchen window. The yard looks amazing from every window. It’s going to be a treat to come home and see it all week!!

Orange is so cheery

I seem to be on a green and orange kick this week.

The tulips are tomato colored, with irridescent orange edges. :-) I’m an enormous fan, and they counteract the crummy weather beautifully. Thank goodness for March tulips!

The sweater is my finished Pea Pod. I made the six month size sweater, and the 14½” hat. I love the orange shell buttons (Kevin does too!), and I expect that they’ll make me as happy next February as they do now. :-) I thought the hat as written kept looking way too short on babies’ heads, so I started the decreases at row 9 of the chart instead of row 3. I have no idea if the hat and sweater will fit at the same time – if not, at least it will be easy and quick to whip up a second hat.

And here’s the back:

This was such a great pattern, and I have fun memories of working on it – the Whistler trip, the Costa Rica trip, and sewing on the buttons right after we found out the baby’s gender: we’re having a boy! Any suggestions for boy baby knitting projects? I have a few rows left on the Baby Surprise Jacket, and then my queue is blank!

Getting closer

I’ve been steadily plugging away on the Baby Surprise Jacket, and I’m finally seeing some real progress. For a few days, my pattern seemed to be that I had to rip and reknit two rows out of every four, because I kept sailing by one of the pairs of increases. When I miss a single increase, I can make it up even a few rows later by crocheting down, but double increases make the tension far too ugly. At least I kept catching the problems quickly (I’m using the row-by-row chart, crossing off rows as I work, and counting regularly), but it’s made this project feel like more of a slog than fun. Because of the increases, each row is longer than the last, so that probably doesn’t help my sense of progress.

I took photos of the construction so far, but the light here has been horrible and they’re all yellow and flashy. Sorry. I tried retaking them, but the March clouds are just too persistent. (We are so ready for summer!)

Here’s the unfolded blob on the needles:

I’m at the point where you put the two fronts on holders and just work on the back and bottoms of the front for a while. The cast on edge is the trapezoid at the top – the top edge plus the two sloping edges at the sides. You can see diagonal lines coming in from the top corners – the decreases for the sleeves, and then slanting back out the other way – the increases for the body. Because of the increases and decreases, it’s impossible to lie this flat, so there are folds of fabric on the right and left sides.

Now, if you fold the sleeves in half (the cuffs are the sloping cast on edges) so that the seam will run across the top of the arms and shoulders, you get a jacket. Huh.

Here’s the back:

It’s a cleverly designed pattern and shape. I’m not sure if I’ll really knit this again, once might be plenty, but it certainly was a puzzle to work on until my eyes adjusted to the construction.

Project-happy

After a decent stretch of keeping things relatively low-key, I seem to be accumulating quite the project backlog all of a sudden. At the top of the list are planting veggie and flower seedlings, whipping up a bed skirt, recovering the two butterfly chairs in the family room, finishing two knitting projects (the baby surprise jacket, and my long-abandonned Sunrise Circle Jacket) and sewing buttons on two sweaters, and reseeding the front and back lawns.

Now, since I clearly have free time to burn, I keep thinking about baby quilts. :-) The leading contender is the Bento Box pattern — the piecing is quite simple, but some of the fabric combinations are spectacular. I don’t have a color scheme in mind yet, and I’m not sure whether the baby pastels or some combination of brighter/starker fabrics would be better. Just starting to ponder the possibilities.

Stealing photos from other people’s flickr sites, some notes/thoughts:

These color combinations are great. The muted blues/greens/browns are definitely what I associate most highly with this pattern, but some of the other combos are equally appealing.

Bento Box Close Up Blue Bento Box quilt bento box quilt
Bento Box Quilt Bento Box Quilt bento box top 1 quilted

I like the 3 level squares (inner, middle ring, outer) best. The four square ones are still neat but I think you lose some of the power/simplicity.

Quilt # 2364 (Sue's Quilt)

There seem to be three main ways of assembling squares:
Opposites – two colors per set of four blocks, diagonally self-mirroring:

bento-box-quilt bento box Quilt Pink Show and Tell 04

Random – you see the L’s but somehow they don’t really come together into rings:

bboxstanedglass2

Rings – the Ls come together to form a ring that really stands out and provides structure:

bento box - finished!

Each are pretty in their own way, but the rings are the ones that impress me the most. Most quilts seem to end up a mix of the random and the rings – it’s hard to find examples that are purely one or the other. Some blocks just seem to come together more successfully than others. I’ve been trying to figure out what differentiates the Ring blocks from the Random blocks — tone of the center fabric compared to the exterior/interior? Using the same fabric for at least two touching center stretches? Color? Pattern texture/density? I haven’t figured out the trick yet, but it’s definitely something to decode before deciding on fabric.

Finally, the quilting on this one is amazing:

Baby Surprise Jacket

There are some patterns that it feels like everyone must knit (this feeling has only been magnified now that people can track their projects on Ravelry, and you can see the thousands of versions of the same sweater or scarf). Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket is one of those patterns. It’s unusual in that it was published in the late 60’s (most of the bandwagon projects have been published online in the last few years).

In theory it’s a simple knit, because it’s all garter stitch. The odd part is the construction – the cardigan-style sweater is knit in one piece – you cast on along the line that runs from the cuffs of the sleeves, along the top of the arms, and across the back of the neck. You strategically decrease for a while, switch to strategically increasing, and then bind off along the line that extends down the middle on one side of the front, around the bottom of the back, and then up the other side of the front. The directions are easy to follow, but trying to envision the finished pattern as you work is truly mind-bending.

Here’s my progress at the end of the decreases:

The right and left sides are the completed sleeves. Ultimately, I’ll fold the bottom edges of the sleeves up to the top and seam them to make the shoulders and the top of the sleeves. I think I finally understand what I’m doing, but it’s very convoluted. Based on other people’s gauges and results, I think this will turn out to be a 6-9 month size – perfect for early next spring. I wasn’t entirely sure about the purple (I think I’ll probably omit it in the next two balls), but otherwise I love the yarn – a very soft washable cotton with interesting and pretty color variation.

Hope

Our yard is still more wintery and ugly than not, but there are starting to be pockets of Spring. The crocuses are blooming in front of the house.

We have a bunch over on the side as well, where they managed to grow through about 6″ of wood chips from the stump grinding in October. I was so discouraged after they were mangled last year that I didn’t bother to plant more bulbs, but seeing them persevere this year I’m thinking I’ll have to get more in the ground. They’re such cheerful things. The hydrangeas are all budding with leaves – it’s a treat to see the green nubs on those woody, dead-looking branches. Quite Secret Garden. The daffodils are starting to bud as well – I’m guessing there will be flowers by next weekend?

I was mystified when I saw flashes of yellow at the top of the rock wall yesterday. When I went up to investigate, I found my mini daffodils!

I’d been wondering why so few had come up in my planters – usually I have about a dozen and this year there are only six sprouts. I assumed that the squirrels must have dug up the bulbs (when in doubt, always blame the squirrels). I must have replanted some of them when I was transplanting irises? I really don’t remember, but it was a lovely surprise. The mini rhododendron behind them has buds that look like they’re about to burst, and when I looked out this morning, the forsythia under the pine trees had bloomed!

Between daylight savings and the natural progression, it’s suddenly light past seven in the evenings. Now we just need the weather to break out of the forties and stop raining, and I can start cleaning things up in the yard after work. The big project for the next few weeks is going to be figuring out what to do with the lawn. The winter seems to have encouraged the clover, moss and weeds. We definitely need to reseed the grass. I’m all opposed to spraying the weeds, but haven’t yet figured out a better solution than nuking all of the undesirables with chemicals, since the clover (if that is in fact what it is) has a huge network of underground runners and is impossible to pull out. Any ideas?