Ribes — Flowering Currant

Ribes glutinosum bud

ribes glutinosum – pink flowering currant

Ribes is one of the first plants to flower, bringing the bees out of their hibernation. I planted three of these from our local Prickett’s Nursery back in September. You can see the flower buds are forming now…I took this photo last week and today I can actually see the pink of the petals showing through.

Not only a bee and bird friendly plant the ribes species are, once established, drought tolerant  and enjoy living under oaks… which pretty much are the conditions they are going to live in.

You’re looking at the glutinosum (Calif Native) variety. I picked up an aureum variety from High Country Gardens which is much slower to bud out so far.

Thank you @PermaGoddess for so much garden inspirations from Bealtaine Cottage. I believe that we may have restrictions on the more commmonly edible varieties (nigrum, rubrum), however the fruit of this species is edible as well. They will do for fulfilling my garden goal of the year, planting for the bees and the birds and Mother Nature. 

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The large leaves are the beginnings of Honesty aka Lunaria annua.  Peeking in around it are what I believe to be new growth of the Herb Robert aka Geranium robertianum. 

The large leaves are the beginnings of Honesty aka Lunaria annua.  Peeking in around it are what I believe to be new growth of the Herb Robert aka Geranium robertianum. 

Watching the garden emerge from midwinter is so fascinating. I’ve planted a few seeds and bulbs, but watching what nature provides on her own is more exciting than throwing seeds out on the ground and seeing what comes up.

Honesty was one of the seeds I brought back to the garden and gave to Dale and said…”make it grow”. He was always able make the magic happen.


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Old to new again.

lichen on almond_previewLichen growing on the old almond tree that Pa planted here at Eveton, Lush and plump with the rains.  The fence next to it fell in the heavy winds that came before the fires this year. I think this old tree was holding it up against previous onslaughts.

The tree has beautiful blossoms, but large oaks that share the land block out much of the sun and what grows under them fights for the diminishing sunlight.

I’ll prune this dear thing back a bit more and try to get some shape to it without completely overwhelming her efforts to survive. It’s her long time presence I’ve become accustomed to and her blossoms because the squirrels always get the nuts :).

Almond blossoms

almond blossoms 2007


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Elizabeth Zimmermann, my knitting guru.

I thought I’d take a moment to talk about my knitting guru, Elizabeth Zimmermann.

I recently found this little clip from one of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s knitting videos titled Knitting Workshop. She is the complete reason that I knit.

I found her book Knitting Without Tears in the mid 1970’s in a unique craft shop in Berkeley titled Straw Into Gold. Since that time I have become an avid but admittedlly traditional knitter.

Her outlook on knitting was unique. A genius engineer, she could make a flat piece of knitting make shapes all on it’s own, without knitting in pieces and sewing things together. She was want to guide you with one hand and push you out the door of independent thinking with the other.

She made you think for yourself, laugh at your failures, picking you up with a gentle guidance that is the most endearing attribute of her teaching skills.

Elizabeth’s books were written by herself admittedly because she found that most of the publications were just doing it all wrong. Frustrated with knitting magazines that insisted on taking her instructions and shoving them into the new wave box of knitting in pieces and sewing things up like a garment, Elizabeth decided to publish on her own. She started with a little 2 paged mimeograph newsletter.  This little publication titled Wool Gathering, soon developed into a little digest which is still being published today.  Schoolhouse Press, the company that evolved out of Elizabeth’s publications and love of all things knitting and wool is still alive and well today, being run by her dear daughter Meg Swansen. Meg has carried on the legacy of her mother’s wisdom and added so much more to the world of knitting in her own right. It’s a fabulous family to be a part of, and a great source for one of my favorite knitting wools Unspun Icelandic.  Do check them out and see if you don’t start “thinking for yourself” when it comes to knitting.

Now, let us all take a deep breath and forge on into the future; knitting at the ready.–Elizabeth Zimmermann

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Primitive Breeds..oh how lovely you are.

Unspun Icelandic and Shetland Yarns

I’ve learned something from the primitive breeds this last month. I’ve learned to loosen up and let go. Leave room to bloom.

All this from a simple fiber, made from a simple breed of sheep. I started working with Shetland wool the first time I washed, prepped, spun and knit my own Shetland fleece into a Stonington Shawl. What an amazing experience.

Lately though, I’ve been working with a couple of pure Shetland wool yarns that are commercially prepared, and what I saw was that this prep is not much different than my own first attempts. The 2 ply is loose and relaxed. When knit up, especially in two color work, the relaxed ply allows the Shetland fibers to open up, filling the spaces within the stitches, adding warmth while keeping the garment light and airy. This is true of the Unspun Icelandic fiber too.

Here is a photo I took comparing the fibers side by side:

Icelandic-Shetland hor-sun-labeled.25

The top is the unspun Icelandic. It’s more of a roving than a yarn as there is no twist inserted into the fiber here. Under that is my own homespun Shetland. This is an example of some of the shorter fibers I drum carded then spun with a higher twist than the 2-ply beneath it, which is my original, ‘spun from a flicked lock’ product. Much more akin to the two commercial preps below it.

Unspun Icelandic is a fascinating fiber to knit with. It is much like a spinner’s very thin pencil roving, carrying no twist at all.  The long fibers stick together and carry the undercoat along with them. Those who know Icelandic wool call this a blend of the tog and the thel fibers. When you knit with this fiber, you have to learn to loosen up, let go, no tension. Pulling unceremoniously on the fiber will cause it to drift apart and separate, so it’s loose going… relax… breathe. When the fibers do drift apart, no worry, just overlap them a few inches and carry on, a wonderful life lesson in and of itself.

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Unspun Icelandic


I’m swatching for my Elizabeth Zimmermann Icelandic Overblouse pattern. This is my first time working with this unspun. The fiber is like a very thin pencil roving, that can drift apart if you’re not a bit vigilant. I’m looking for a 4 spi gauge. Often EZ’s patterns call for using the fiber doubled, which would make me feel more confident.  I love these colors.  The “cakes” of unspun hold possibilities. You can find your own Icelandic “cakes” at Schoolhouse Press.  And her is a wonderful article on the Unspun Icelandic yarn over at Knitters Review.

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I’ve started making 3×5 documentation cards for the various samples in my rare breed sampler box. The information includes a washed lock of the breed, samples of singles, combed and carded 2 ply and 3 ply yarn samplings, along with notes on how the particular breed was to work with.   I hope to knit swatches and weave swatches of the various breeds after getting them all documented.

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