There’s nothing like summer to get you all atwitter! A few things that have me worked up:
Santa Rosa plums. We planted our tree as an afterthought, an espaliered affair that hides behind our outdoor fireplace. But it gets lots of southerly sun, and it’s just above our bees so we got an unexpected bonanza this year. I followed a recipe for Santa Rose Plum Jam Conserve from local jam artisan June Taylor in The Pleasures of Slow Food. Divine! From here on out I will always leave the skins on my plum preserves because they add such twangy tart to all the sweet. (The secret: cut the pitted fruit into bite-sized chunks before cooking, so the skins aren’t too over-sized and off-putting.) Then Mr. T and I made plum ice cream. All the foodies have been blogging about David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, and rightly so. It’s full of flavors that you know will be wonderful like Pear Caramel and Guinness-Milk Chocolate. Plus all sorts of mix-ins like Buttercrunch Toffee and Candied Lemon Slices. When I brought my plum ice cream to a dinner party, someone called it the bomb. I think he liked it. (Next up: Malted Milk Ice Cream with crunched-up malt balls. Yowza!)
knitting projects. This one still needs button loops, so I don’t have modeled shots or a ravelry update yet. I’d hoped to finish it before our trip so I could wear it; instead I was still working on it on planes, trains and automobiles. It’s Ysolda’s Coraline, but I’m calling it my Smocked In Sweden sweater because I started the smocking during the long drive from Stockholm to the south. There will now always be red farm houses and purple lupine looped into that smocking. The smocking was so fun to knit that I had to remind myself to look out the window at all that gorgeousness.
I’ve always wanted to knit a gold cardigan, and after finishing that one up there, all done up in alpaca and too hot to wear anytime soon, I looked for a pattern that would work in cotton. I stumbled on this version of the knitty pattern Que Sera, and I had to flat-out copy it. All that color! All that texture! And it is the most fun pattern ever to knit while watching swimming lessons. I’m not sure the color will flatter this dishwater blonde, but I’m hoping the sweater will be stunning enough that no one will notice.
honey! Speaking of gold, look what we got. Our first honey harvest, after two seasons of keeping bees. We hadn’t planned to harvest so soon. But we don’t use foundation in our frames (you can read about that here), and sometimes without foundation, bees will build wonky comb. In this particular box, the bees built the comb in perfect rows, but diagonal to the frames. If we hadn’t been traveling, I’d have recognized it sooner, and would have cut out the errant comb or two and refastened it properly with rubber-bands. But left on their own, the colony filled the entire box this way. You can’t pull the frames from the box when the comb is attached at angles, so Chris and I had to remove several frames at a time, destroying the comb and watching honey ooze everywhere. We cut them into a big cake pan, did our best to shoo away the bees, and eventually brought it inside and used the crush-and-strain method to extract the honey. You can see a video of the method here. Basically you crush the wax to release the honey from the comb, and then strain it into a big container.
Now we have about a dozen jars of honey with a very delicate floral flavor, and lots of beeswax for crafts. Since we have two hives and a hillside of blooming lavender, there should be more by the end of the summer. Thank you, girls!
farm city. I knew about this book by Novella Carpenter, about her experiences starting a small farm on a vacant lot in a seedy part of Oakland. You might think I’d have wanted to read it, since she’s local, but I’m not so keen on books in the look-at-the-fringe-thing-I’ve-done! genre. I’ve read 168 novels in 168 days! I dressed in clothing made from trash for a year! The writing in that sort of memoir doesn’t tend to do it for me. But one day I picked up a copy at the bookstore, and was drawn in by the first line: “I have a farm on a dead-end street in the ghetto.” By the end of the first page I was won over by the writing; reading on the back flap that Carpenter “attended UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism” gave some insight into that. It’s a fun tale–despite the fact there’s enough meat-animal killing to make a vegetarian like me wince. Carpenter’s mindfulness about the process makes it readable, though, and thought-provoking. (Quirky discovery: half-way through the book I realized that Carpenter is the sister of Riana Lagarde, whose These Days in French Life flickr photos I’ve followed for a few years. Small world!)
a new blog project. I have big plans for something here in September. It’s a secret for now, but my wheels are spinning.
an anniversary. As of today, I have been married to this man for 22 years. Twenty-two years! Either we are very old, or we married very young. Or both. In the photo, it looks like he’s leading me off to a lifetime of fun. We’re still going. (Happy anniversary, Sweets.)
So you know I’m going to ask: What has you all atwitter?