Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Summer Gardens

Rain fell during the night making the first morning of July cooler. The air is full of humidity but I won't have to water the garden today or tomorrow. As I walked this morning, the sky cleared and I discovered a row of hollyhocks I didn't know existed. What a bright surprise. Four or five years ago a neighborhood church had hollyhocks all over the property. Then they chopped down the flowers and replaced them with traditional landscaping. Today I found the row of several colors tucked behind evergreen bushes along the church parking lot.

Hollyhocks were the favorite flower of my Great Grandmother Charlotte Jane. Charlotte came to Nebraska as a young bride in 1888. She loved to garden. After a broken hip didn't mend well, she fashioned a crutch from an old broomstick. According to family story, she propped herself up on the crutch in her garden and continued hoeing. She also used the crutch to shoo chickens out of her garden. There were years when she fed her family of eight children from the garden, the chicken house, and a milk cow on the farm. She was tougher than I, that's for sure.

My garden is growing. I am using cayenne pepper to keep bunnies and squirrels from the parsley and an organic liquid fence (very stinky) spray around the zinnias. I didn't want to spray anything edible with the spray. The cucumber leaves are now big and rough enough to repel the critters. And what is this? The first tomatoes are setting on the plants. I look forward to the first garden tomato ripened by the sun.

I am happy to be back linking with Kat and the Unravelers. I finished this little baby sweater. If you are looking for a fingering weight pullover, I recommend this pattern. Today I'll give it a wash and then weave in a few ends. I knit the six month size but shortened the body just a bit. Fingers crossed it isn't too small by late Fall when an August baby needs a sweater.

I am dipping my toe into spindle spinning. I love the idea of learning a very old craft. Charlotte's mother, Elizabeth Jane, was a spinner, a knitter, and a quilter. Sarah's posts about her gorgeous proficient spinning are my inspiration. As she wrote in answer to my questions, spinning is probably easiest to learn with an "in person" teacher. She is right but for now I am making do with the internet and a book. My goal is to spend 30-45 minutes each afternoon with the spindle and roving. These first little bits are very uneven and I am clumsy. Yesterday I thought I might have figured it out for about five seconds. My mantra is: I am not making yarn, I'm learning to spin. Learning anything is a process. Physical coordination is not a strength for me but creating new pathways is good for my brain. I have no idea whether I will stick with this but for now I am giving it a "whirl."

I finished reading Emily Dickinson's Gardening Life. This beautiful book, a revision of the earlier edition, is full of photos of the Dickinson museum grounds. McDowell wove Dickinson's poems into text arranged by seasons. She included lots of botanical information. The well written book is another window into Dickinson's poems and life. I enjoyed it. As I read, I couldn't help but think of young black girls growing up in slavery during Dickinson's lifetime. Women with few or no opportunities. Poets and writers lost to us forever.

I have just begun Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell. The opening chapter was lovely. This book is a natural history of the curlew, an endangered species, and the story of one woman's 500 hundred mile walk to learn more about this bird. More later.

Happy first of July. 


  1. I love your finding of the unexpected hollyhocks! They were my grandmother's favorite flower and she had them in many colors. I have lovely memories of making hollyhock dolls with the blossoms (turn them upside down and stick a stick through for arms) and playing with them along the paths I made for them in the garden. I always wanted a dress that felt like I was wearing a hollyhock.

    My SiL who is a physician and three years older than I am always reminds me that her patients that set mental and physical challenges for themselves every day do much better. It sounds like learning to spin is just that kind of thing. (And who knows, you might even end up with some yarn.)

  2. The baby sweater is so cute. Congrats on the adorable finish.

  3. There's a house that I go by every day on my run or walk that has a bunch of dark (black?) Hollyhocks. They're really stunning and even interesting to look like before they open.

    I think your learning-to-spin plan is excellent, as is your attitude toward the first bits of yarn you're spinning. Remember that you are teaching your muscles a whole new set of movements, and like anything else, it will take some time before they learn and memorize those movements. I expect that within a few days, you'll start to see that it feels more natural and your yarn looks more consistent. My bit of advice for you today is to keep these first yarns you're spinning! In the future, when you really get the hang of it, it will be really useful to have them to compare.

  4. Does cayenne really keep the bunnies away? Sarah’s spinning has caught my interest too

  5. I think it is cool that you are trying spinning. A number of years ago a friend gave me a spindle and some roving she had bought at MDSW. I never got around to trying it and actually ended up giving it back to that friend. I knid of decided I didn't need one more I'll be curious to see where you go with this. Fun! The baby sweater is just darling.

  6. My mom loved hollyhocks (as did her mother). Although I used to seem them everywhere, I don't anymore. A few years ago, they were eaten ragged by Japanese beetles, and I think gardeners just gave them up around here. (The beetles are now under control here, so maybe it's time to try again.) I've never had trouble with bunnies eating my zinnias -- until this year! I may need to find some of your stinky spray. . .

  7. learning to spin!?! That is exciting. Learning is fun but causes me a brain ache while I process. That is what happens when I sketch :) We just bought non toxic stuff to get rid of cabbage worms, let's see if it works!!

  8. wow, your garden is GROWING! we have lots of rabbits and deer and the only thing we can do is net/fence ... or plant things they don't like to eat (or plant them WAY high for the rabbits). kudos on learning to spin! (that Sarah is a tempter for sure!)

  9. Your garden looks so lovely! (we tried the liquid fence, but oh boy... you are right about the smell!) I am cheering your spinning on! You are doing amazingly! :)