Flowering Spring Cheer

IMG_0013Tips for healthy Daffodils (Narcissus):

  • Sun – six hours of daily sunlight. Without enough sun you will not get blooms the next year.
  • Fertilize when the flower starts to die back to help nourish the bulb. If there is a prolonged dry period after fertilizing, you may water it in lightly. Bone meal is not recommended because it can attract animals and it is incomplete nutritionally. Planted in ground in our nutrient rich clay, you may be able to skip fertilizer, but any bulbs in pots or beds filled with compost/mulch will need it for repeat blooms.
  • Allow the stem and foliage to thrive unfettered for six to eight weeks, until they die back naturally for maximum photosynthesis and chlorophyll production that nourishes the bulb for next year.

Narcissus are referred to as Daffodils or as Jonquils, reflecting the types of Narcissi historically grown on a regional basis over time.
IMG_0011 (1)
Leucojum aestivum, the Summer Snowflake, is an English native dating back to the mid-eighteenth century. Although in the right place it can create drifts, I prefer to have some close to where I’ll be passing by as they’re so delicate looking I crave a close-up view.
IMG_0050Narcissus Tête à Tête is the shortest I grow at only 6 to 7 inches – cluster of them are just so dang cute.
IMG_0019It works well with Muscari.
That I also enjoy in pots near the front steps.
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Violas make me smile, sprinkling some seed in each of my bulb pots in one of my annual late fall tasks.IMG_0104
Forget me nots are another well used heirloom flower that brightens my early spring garden. This one can become invasive in some areas My exceedingly dry summers prevent the unwanted spread.
I debated about sharing this shot. If you aren’t careful when holding your iPhone, you’ll suddenly find a slew of photos taken in “Vivid” mode. I lightened the coloration but couldn’t quite get it back to normal (and it’s been raining since). However, this rates up with my favorites so I wanted to be sure to include a shot of Dickcissel for my own records.

If you grow Paperwhites in pots – did you know that “A dilute alcohol solution limits paperwhite growth and keeps them from flopping over”? Check out the details from Cornell University’s experiment.

Love Narcissus for Spring Cheer

IMG_0105I adore spring here. When it’s not storming, it is by far the most pleasant time to be in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. Mentioned before that I’m using the blog as part garden journal, so up now is a couple of posts on delightful spring blooms.
Grabbed a few shots between our rains – some of these varieties are new to me. Above is a Tazetta Narcissi, they have multiple blooms per stem.
I was surprised the Congress (split orange wavy center) survived the rains as well as it did. 
This is most likely Red Devon.
Fortune (also yellow with orange center) is similar a strong performer, a bit larger so good in beds further away. Stormed quite a bit last night, but you can see it’s going strog this morning.
I generally prefer shorter varieties as it does seem we always have rains around bloom time and those shorter stems recover better. Sweet Love (top photo, white with light yellow center) is a one of the 12 to 14 inch varieties. Above is popular Ice Follies, one of the larger varieties that’s usually prevalent in stores.
Kedron (light orange, orange center) is a more unusual color but also showed the most signs of being beat up by the weather.
Part 2 of my flowering spring collection will be posted tomorrow, so come on back.

This post is participating in Sundays in My City at ByClaudya.com. Stop by to see what others have been up to..

Catching up – Creating Knit Scarves

Mystic done 1It’s obviously past time to update the blog with projects I’ve finished over the last few months. I’ll start off by sharing some of the knitting ones.

I have a collection of long warm scarves that I’d shared in this blog post https://ceodraiocht.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/dash-dazzle-and-flair/ . But, as our winters haven’t been as cold lately, I’d hardly been wearing them. So, decided to frog of a few (frog means to undo knitting or crochet, think rip it rip it rip it). Knitters know that with mohair blends that’s no easy feat. But, with snippers at hand, I tackled it.

Mystic done 2The triangle shape is so easy to toss over my shoulders and wear on only brisk fall winter or spring days. I’d made up the pattern – yarn over increases two, sometimes three times after the ribbing edge and stockinette stitch. The scarves are laid out here, but usually they’re worn closer to the shoulders with a knot or scarf pin.

Mystic start 2

The yarn is Kidlin Mystic, a linen and mohair blend.

Mystic blockingIn blocking, you can see the increases better. I wanted this one wider than the blue (that only had he one set of increases on each ribbing edge). I’ll do a blocking post with sources and come back and link here. 

My icy shawl doneI’d worked this blue one with yarn left over from a gift I’d made a few years back. Frogged it multiple times as I worked out what kind of pattern to go with. Did this one before the one above and didn’t keep notes. Pretty much ribbing edges, yarn over to increase along each edge and garter stitch.

My icy shawl

Both scarves were done on size 15 (10mm) circular needles.Icy shawl blockingI‘m not a perfect blocker as you can see on the increase edges, but I do enough so that the  scarves look pretty good when worn.


This heartbreaking video came into my Facebook feed buried in all the Black Friday Last Chance and Cyber Monday buy this silly crap ads. GIVING TUESDAY is coming and I wanted to share it.

Pray for Paradise “I See Fire” Ed Sheeran from Judy Abbott on Vimeo.


The Camp Fire is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. It’s also the deadliest wildfire in the United States since 1918.

Nearly 19,000 structures were destroyed, including more than 13,000 residences (with an average occupancy of 3 people per home).  Not 1,300 residences – 13,000. For many, their place of work also burned. Jobs in California are scarce – recovery will be slow and extremely difficult.

Folks not close to a disaster area may not be aware of the painstaking complexity of recovery.  The cleanup of toxic waste removal before any work can be done on any property took more than 6 months to complete after the 2015 Butte fire (that I was too near, so know a lot about) – and that was under 500 residences. All those batteries, tv’s and computers – stuff you’re not supposed to just trash – the burned waste is considered radioactive and very toxic. FEMA won’t put trailers on land that has not been toxic waste cleared; contractors cannot work there. A burned tree fell and killed a fire fighter in Yosemite this year – the dangerous tree removal also must take place to assure the safety of people working in the area. And all the infrastructure (for things like power) is burned.

The very few homes for sale near the area are all going for $50,000 to $100,000 over asking price and realtors report no rentals at all are left. 13,000 homes gone – it boggles the mind.

There is so much need.  Although, within a few days centers were buried in used items and pleaded for folks to stop sending such – even new items and toys had to be tuned away as space for people indoors is the first priority. Volunteer centers reported after 6,000 applications they had to stop taking applications. Word now is that volunteers may be needed in January and February, but not before. Money can do the most good, but for some reason people never want to do it – running off to buy things that they get angry  when their carload/trailer load of things can’t be accepted.

Local Support Non-Profits recommended in responsible media, most also have a Facebook page if you want to check them out further:

• North Valley Community Foundation: https://www.nvcf.org.

• North Valley Animal Disaster Group: https://www.nvadg.org/donate
• Caring Choices: http://www.caring-choices.org.

Larger Support Non-Profits
• American Red Cross: www.redcross.org.

• Salvation Army: give-do.salvationarmy.org.

• United Way: www.norcalunitedway.org.

If you want to know more about the animals, visit the UC Davis Veterinary Hospital page or check out the KTVU news article how to help the animals affected by California’s wildfires.

Screenshot from ABC news showing Silicon Valley size versus the fire’s size.

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If you’re looking to give anything this season, know that money donated here will go to people who are in need.



Plant Journal – Summer

I’ve been remiss posting garden pictures and really prefer not to have  a physical paper garden journal, but to have my notes readily accessible online. So, I’ll be writing a bunch of posts with the name beginning with Plant Journal. Photos are more for my record than any “ooh, let’s frame this” kind of thing.  Until I catch up, they’ll be out of seasonal order (say next one might be Spring instead of Fall).Calamint Marvellette b
This is Calamint Marvelette Blue (Calamintha nepeta, aka Clinopodium nepeta aka lesser catmint aka dwarf catmint – take your pick). It’s a 2016 Gold Medal Fleuroselect winner. Ground cover Verbena’s flower and feathery leaves are visible on the right and upper right. Calamint is a dwarf  and technically a shrub. This is its first year from seed from Park Seed. It’s advertised as “offers much brighter blue blooms than the species, which is a pale lavender” but all my blooms have been a light lavender although the spot it is growing in gets shade after 2pm (so it’s not sun bleached).  I’m beginning to wonder if Park’s seed is Marvelette or somehow crossed with the species. At first I was disappointed as the blooms are teeny and mine has more of a progression of blooms up the stem than the all-at-once effect shown in Park’s photos. Supposed to only reach 8 inches high, some of my flowering stems are about 12 inches. But, it’s a very neat mound of a tiny shrub that I’m starting to think could be quite useful.  Next season I’ll see if some of it can handle my sunnier beds.

Calendula Fiesta z
Remy’s Sample Seed shop had included Calendula Fiesta Gitana, a Fleuroselect Bronze Medal winner, as an extra in my seed order and I’ve grown it for a few seasons now. Mine’s always the yellow (orange is also available). It stays compact (under 12 inches) and neat. The pollinators love it. But, it gets pretty heat stressed by early July in my dry sunny bed and starts to look  pathetic. I’ll be adding a note to my recurring Google calendar to just rip it out once it starts to look bad as it doesn’t really recover even with additional water. But, it’s easy from seed so I’ll treat it as a spring / early summer annual. 

Calibrachoa z
Like people, plants have dominant genes. Well, for Calibrachoa – the dominant appears to be pink. I’ve only ever purchased it in Terra Cotta but this is what I have growing now. It does beautifully in the bed with afternoon shade. This one’s a ground hugger, nice and low. Could be the voles, as it’s not handling the full sun bed by July.

Coreopsis Presto b
One of my new little gems that I LOVE is Coreopsis Presto (height < 8 inches).  First year grown from seed from Park Seed again. I’ve been searching out dwarf plants as I live in Northern California and fires can be a problem. Smaller plants with more space between them = less fuel = safer here. That’s a young variegated Liriope coming through it that I’ll move once cooler weather settles in. Coreopsis usually handle my full sun beds with brilliant vigor so I plan to purchase even more seed (it’s an F1 hybrid) to start additional plants this year. Hoping they can help me out in the ‘late summer chopped everything back’ horrid looking space I endure July through September here. This variety was awarded a Fleuroselect Gold Medal.

Echinacea b
I’ve plunked these in with the summer photos – but it’s early summer. Everything was chopped down to 8 inches in July and hasn’t rebloomed. Seed for the Pow Wow Echinacea was shared with me and I don’t know if that plant comes true from saved seed (most hybrids do not). Mine has stayed under 24 inches (good) and although the petals recurve it’s not as pronounced as the species (also good in my book). My main complaint is that it didn’t rebloom. Asked another Master Gardener here and she also finds the Echinacea don’t rebloom as well as say Rudbeckia or Coreopsis. I’ll leave it but won’t be propagating more. Its color does blend beautifully with the Lychnis coronaria (aka Silene coronaria) Rose Campion. Rose Campion is a prolific re-seeder, problematic in areas with easy growing conditions, tough enough to survive and flower here (a plus). Self seeding is reliable enough that I simply yanked out and composted the tall specimens in July, just banging the seedheads about.

Hibiscus syriacus lavender
This photo is more pink where my bloom is actually lavender. I’m thrilled with the light purple as I don’t want any more pink in the garden and have been searching out white and purples. Luck was with me as Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon, will often revert to pink from seed saved from many different color cultivars. When I grew this from seed, I had trouble finding any information about growth rate. Here it flowered this it’s second summer and grew about 2 1/2 foot tall. I’ll try some of these planted in the ground next season but also keep a few more protected in pots.

It turns out I’ll need at least one additional post to note what I want to capture regarding summer growing. The vegetable garden didn’t do as well as I’d like – my main note for next year regarding veggies  is to plant more Sungold cherry tomato as that one excelled. Off to write more posts, so stay tuned. 🙂 

Maggie’s Eva’s Shawl

Eva's Shawl blockedWith our horridly hot summers here, I like to knit or crochet in the afternoons. It’s just too hot to do anything that requires moving about or intense concentration even with a/c. To boot, California tends to stay blanketed in smoke from the many fires that plague us as summer moves on. Can’t do much outdoors. So, needlework it is.

Eva's shawl
If the item is larger, a TV tray table (breakfast in bed table) will keep the fabric off you while you knit. The added bonus of summertime needlework is that blocking anything is easy. It’s so dry that if you put something sopping wet on a towel on carpet – everything’d be bone dry the next day. I make a practice of washing and blocking any item that needs it during the summer (have I mentioned we’re dry here?).

Eva's Shawl 1
Picked Wool Ease Navy Sprinkles yarn (a discontinued colorway) out of my stash with thoughts for a shawl. I found a beautiful free pattern right here on WordPress: https://milobo.wordpress.com/2008/01/24/evas-shawl-pattern/. I love this pattern!

Eva's Shawl 2
Use markers and this is a joy to work. Very simple crochet stitches with easy repeats makes this a relaxing project you don’t have to concentrate on.

Eva's unblocked
Although Wool Eases is a predominantly acrylic yarn – you can see from the top photo (blocked) to the one above (unblocked) that blocking does make a difference. Unb
locked it almost looks like a ratty old thing – blocked, ahhh – so much better!

Eva's Shawl close up
Yes, it’s for lace but I had a pretty good idea of what it’d look like in worsted. This shawl isn’t fancy but it does go perfectly with jeans and living in the mountains – exactly what I’d wanted. The only change I’d made is that I like to add a single crochet all around the outside edge. I’ll be doing this pattern up again.

Loom Knit Baby Blanket

Finishing up some charity projects lately. As much as I enjoy crocheting and knitting, I’m a tad slower than many (especially on the latter) and wanted to get these done quickly. Enter loom knit.

Those trusty plastic “even a child can do it” looms are actually great tools for doing all sorts of items. There are many beautiful wood looms and adjustable looms enabling loom knitters to also do projects from socks to intricate lace.

For me, I’m faster with fancier stitches on a crochet hook or knitting needles. I use the loom when I want a nice bulky looking (read warm) end knit. And speed, let’s not forget the speed of simple stitches on a loom.

The blanket is made quickly using an e-wrap stitch with worsted weight yarn held double. If you loom knit – you know that makes just the cuddliest, heavy warm fabric. You make wide strips that you then join together. This one is baby size at four blocks in a 2X2. I’m so in love with it that I’m planning a 9 block (3 X 3 blocks) for me cuddling in front of the TV.

IMG_4189I went for just a bit of texture, with blocks of stockinette e-wrap and purl. Did a block of 50 rows then took the fabric off the loom and placed it onto circular knitting needles, then place back on the loom reversed. This saved me from doing a bunch of purl stitches – which is not as fast as simple e-wrap.

Pattern for four block child size

I got 1 block of 50 rows per every 4 oz skein of acrylic worsted weight yarn (older skeins that didn’t have yardage – will update to yardage as I make more). The child’s blanket took 4 skeins.

IMG_4162-1Holding 2 strands of yarn cast on 36 pegs (all pegs on my green Knifty Knitter loom). For future blankets, I’ll be doing a loose chain cast on (crochet a chain and slip it on the peg). I did crochet cast on for this one and it was a mistake – didn’t find a cast off that matched it to my liking; luckily the single crochet edge masked that. You can see the difference in my crochet cast on (the loose edge) and the crochet cast off I decided to stick with after trying two other cast off methods above.

E-wrap 50 rows back and forth (do not make a circle).

Take circular crochet needles or blocking wire and gently take each stitch off the loom and onto the wires.

IMG_4161-1Place the strip back on the loom reversed.

E-wrap 50 rows going back and forth again.

Loose crochet cast off.

Make another strip.

Don’t cut yarn. I use this double strand for joining and crochet edge (although there did end up being knots joining to the remainder from the previous strip to finish the crochet edge).

IMG_4283I joined the strips with the flat slip stitch you see for joining granny blocks with a J hook. Here’s one tute from Craft Passion https://www.craftpassion.com/flat-slip-stitch-granny-join/2/ . I recommend pinning your centers to one another then pinning the sides as the edges (purl joined to stockinette) will look different and you want to keep your join even. I used stitch markers, safety pins through the loops would work. Doesn’t have to be tight, just enough that you can see you’re keeping your rows even.

IMG_4282At the end of the join, start your single crochet edge, doing 3 single crochets every time you reach a corner stitch. I used a K hook on the top and bottom and switched to the J hook for the sides. You want to crochet loosely, go up a hook if you need to. When you reach your starting point, do a slip stitch to the single crochet, pull your yarn through that loop and knot, weave in how you like.

I did find the joining strips to be a pain as I went slowly to stay even and had to pay attention in the crochet edge (again purl blocks to stockinette blocks edges look different). But, overall this is fast and easy and I just love the finished fabric.

Given that it’s 100°F and July, I’m holding my box of knits to mail at the end of September. Some places don’t have a lot of storage or they’re dusty, don’t want to mail too far in advance of when they can use it. Mailing charity knits is an exercise in math – I don’t doubt that if you could buy and ship 5 blankets from Walmart for the price of shipping your homemade one, most charities would rather get the 5 to keep more people warm. But, you can ship baby things, hats, scarves and such relatively reasonably so if there’s a non-local charity you want to support, for me this is the way to go. It always makes sense to try to accommodate local charities first for many reasons, mailing costs in the U.S. included.

This blanket and a few other items are slated to go to one of the poorest counties in the U.S. – that encompassing Native American reservations in South Dakota. My quid pro quo on that is California has a nasty habit of burning in the summer and fall. My donations may be re-directed locally should a need appear before I mail them.

I’m looking at putting together a post for hand knit / crochet donations and will link to that if you’d like more information on knitting for charity.