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Peppers, Carrots, Herbs, Stevia (Another Garden Update)

Jalapenos (July 12)Jalapenos (July 12) Small Garden (July 12)Small Garden (July 12) Stevia Plant -- Ordered OnlineStevia Plant -- Ordered Online More on the garden. All the way to the left of the big garden I have jalapenos; they didn't fit into the pictures in the post I put up yesterday.

The jalapenos were ravaged by insects early on, so they're only now starting to actually grow. I had them under tulle floating row covers for awhile, and then starting using diatomaceous earth and pesticides to keep the bad things away from them. They're still kinda struggling, but are starting to establish themselves. (Same situation with the bell peppers, which are in the next picture down, but they seem to have recovered more quickly.)

Behind the jalapenos you can see the cantaloupes and watermelons that did fit into yesterday's pictures, and off to the right are the pumpkins and cucumbers.

I have marigolds interspersed throughout both gardens. None of them have bloomed yet so they're not all that obvious, but the ones that I put in earlier are starting to get quite large. There's a marigold plant in between the jalapenos and the cantaloupes too, but it's kinda hard to see exactly what's what in the picture.

I find garden photography so frustrating. Getting a closeup focused on one plant is one thing, but pictures of whole sections of garden end up looking confusing. Green in front of green, green behind green, green hidden and tucked behind green.. even labeled it's hard to tell what's what.

And the confusing-garden-pictures problem is nicely illustrated in the next picture. You can see the row of bell peppers, you can see the row of tomatoes to the right of it.. but then there's that left row. It has basil at the front, then a section with cilantro and oregano side by side behind the basil, and then a section of carrots. But the basil bush hides the oregano and cilantro, so I guess you'll just have to use your imagination to see them.

The original volunteer Brandywine tomato plant that sprouted up out of the top of my herb planter sometime around the end of winter is in the front of this row of tomatoes.. but you can't see it here. Perspective is so darn annoying in garden pictures!

And yes, I know, the deck is a bit of a cluttered mess. I really need to come up with some kind of decent outdoor storage solution. What am I supposed to do with not-currently-in-use plant supports, rakes, shovels, etc? It seems absurd to bring stuff like that all the way around front and into the garage when I still need them out back. We don't have a shed.

And the bottom picture is the Stevia Plant I ordered from a seller on Amazon. (It was one of those semi-Amazon purchases where you have to click the "see all buying options" rather than having a normal "add to cart" button. Not sure what's up with that, usually even things that aren't fulfilled by Amazon have a normal "add to cart" button. The seller on this one was "So Succulent Gardens.")

I decided to just buy a plant after figuring out that at least one of the seedlings I've been growing wasn't actually stevia. (The bottom one in that last stevia post turned out to be mint. This wasn't all that surprising as the mint I planted last year never sprouted.. so the seeds had to be somewhere!)

Garden Update (July 11, 2011)

Big Garden (July 11, 2011)Big Garden (July 11, 2011) Pumpkins (July 11, 2011)Pumpkins (July 11, 2011) Cabbage and Cucumbers (July 11, 2011)Cabbage and Cucumbers (July 11, 2011) Watermelon (July 11, 2011)Watermelon (July 11, 2011)
Yes, I know this garden post is overdue. I have so much trouble getting garden pictures that I like. Even growing everything in well spaced, significantly raised rows, with vine plants grown mostly up, everything just looks jumbled.

And I need so many pictures in order to give much of a real view-- especially since I have so many plants interspersed, rather than having each type of plant together.

The tomatoes are all staked to bamboo. Most of the vine plants are grown up short sections of fence, sometimes supplemented with bamboo for added stability. The cucumbers are particularly suited to growing up fences and bamboo trellises.

The pumpkins took off really fast. I ended up attaching a bit of fencing to a pole in the center, and starting them growing up that. I added some bamboo to that rig, although the only actual pumpkins I can see growing are the ones along the back fence.

The watermelons are growing up a section of fence attached to a bamboo support (vertical with a couple of diagonal pieces to keep it steady--you can see that in the bottom picture) and the cantaloupes are growing up a section of fence between 5-foot garden U-style posts I picked up at Lowes specifically for that purpose. (Like these: U-style Fence Post 5')

The main garden fence uses much shorter posts, and the cucumbers are using slightly longer ones I'd gotten from my mom. (Mostly they're using the two-foot fencing, though. I like the plant-support fencing not to reach all the way to the ground.) I'll have to invest in some more taller ones for next year, I'm very fond of the vertical growing. I also have one 6' fencepost pole that I haven't put into use yet. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to use, so I picked up a couple of different options to try. While I dug holes for the bamboo before putting in the tomatoes (bamboo doesn't hold up so well to pounding), fence-posts I put in with a sledgehammer, so I did have to make sure I wasn't using any posts that would be too tall for me to reach to pound into the ground.
(Actually, perhaps it's an Engineer Hammer. It appears to be that one, although most of the writing on the sticker is worn off, so I'm not sure. I haven't weighed it.)

I had the bush beans covered with tulle while the plants were developing, to minimize insect damage; my green bean crops last year were not good. I eventually had to remove the tulle so that the bees could pollinate, though. I'm avoiding much pesticide on the green beans for the same reason, but I am using bug-killers on most of the other plants. I have upside-down soda cases on either side of the green beans to help keep the edges off the ground.

Most of the lettuce is protected by cages. Some are regular wire garden fencing (the same stuff that's around the outside of the garden and that supports most of the vines) shaped to enclose the plants and some are modular wire storage cubes.

There's some cabbage at the back of the garden. I'm protecting that from pests mainly with a combination of Diatomaceous Earth and Dipel Dust (Although I got the Dipel locally and it's not the kind with the cayenne in it. I'll probably try the stuff with cayenne next time. Through much of last summer I was actually making jalapeno-seed "tea" to spray onto my plants to repel pests.)

The bugs have been really bad this year, so I did break down and buy some Ortho Bug-B-Gon MAX Dust and Sevin Dust. I'll definitely be buying more of the Bug-B-Gone-- that duster bottle is about a zillion times easier to get where I want it than the shaker cans that the Sevin comes in. The shaker cans aren't bad for low-to-the-ground things like my savagely-bug-attacked pepper plants, but applying it to the cucumber plants to keep away the awful bugs that cause bacterial wilt is quite awkward.

Wow, I didn't realize how long it had been since my last garden progress post! I'd taken some pictures since then, but hadn't gotten around to editing them down to the relevant parts, labeling them, and posting them. Whoops!

Gardening Gloves

Leather Gardening GlovesLeather Gardening Gloves I stopped by Lowe's a couple of days ago, and finally picked up gardening gloves. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to get a pair. True, I can't really tie bows wearing gloves, so I need to take them off to tie plants to fences and stakes, but for weeding and pruning, it was pretty silly of me not to have gloves! I'll have to make gloves eventually, but I haven't gotten to it yet, and I really needed them. So I got the most comfortable pair that seemed to fit the best.

I just have one question. Whose stupid idea was it to make gardening gloves out of white leather?! Seriously, who was smoking what when they decided that it would be a wonderful idea to make gloves meant for playing in the dirt out of white leather??

Two Free 5-Yard Assortments From FabricMart

Two Free 5-Yard AssortmentsTwo Free 5-Yard Assortments I ended up placing two orders during that time when FabricMart was sending out free 5-yard assortments with any order over $35. And this time it wasn't even dfr's fault! When that turquoise linen went on sale, I just had to get it. (Along with some of the oatmeal-colored linen with the floral print.)

Since they're free, I obviously can't complain, but the first one was three yards of a synthetic coral fabric and two yards of a strange thick black-and-lime-green houndstooth knit. It feels like one of those reversible knits that's actually two knits put together, but the back just looks like a wrong side. I think it's synthetic, but of course knits are a lot harder to pull threads off of than wovens are. The houndstooth stuff might make a cute light jacket. I'm not generally a fan of coral, but I'm thinking the coral stuff might work quite well for grocery bags.

The second assortment, however, I'm quite happy with. There's 2 3/4 yards of the black plant-based (seems like cotton) fabric, and 2 5/8 yards of a nice thick brick red-brown wool flannel. I may not be a big fan of brown in general, but I'm absolutely thrilled to have some good wool flannel! I've drooled over wool flannel before, and the stuff could make a really great lining or interlining. Not to mention the fact that my entire outlook on brown changed with that mushroom brown linen. Brown may not be such a pretty color on its own, but it's the perfect color for floral embroidery!

Mom's Linen Tunic With Silver Embroidery (And Some Book Talk)

Mom's Linen TunicMom's Linen Tunic Mom's Linen Tunic NecklineMom's Linen Tunic Neckline Mom's Linen Tunic BackMom's Linen Tunic Back

I know, I am a bad, bad blogger and I don't post enough. But I have a good excuse! I have lots of them!

You see, first I was reading. And some of that was dfr's fault, because while I was waiting for my other Borgia books to come, I started reading Black Sun Rising, the first book of the Coldfire trilogy. (The second and third books are When True Night Falls and Crown of Shadows.) That's dfr's fault because she's the one who first told me to read In Conquest Born, which is by the same author. My mom actually ended up buying Black Sun Rising for her Kindle while she was here. I'm not sure exactly why she started reading a book I was still in the middle of! My dad got started reading This Alien Shore, another C.S. Friedman book. I'm not sure why he left it here, he seemed to be enjoying it and I was already finished with that one!

The Borgia books I was waiting for were Light on Lucrezia, The Borgia Betrayal, and The Borgia Bride.
I'd already read Madonna of the Seven Hills, which comes before Light on Lucrezia, and
Poison, which comes before The Borgia Betrayal, because those were cheaper.

And then of course I couldn't put up in-progress pictures of my mom's tunic, because then she would have seen them. So really, everything that's not a good excuse is dfr's fault!

I'm actually much happier with the tunic than I am with these pictures. My camera and computer don't seem happy about the color. It's this really beautiful, deep, vibrant turquoise, and the photos just don't do it justice. I tried adjusting the color, but I couldn't get it quite right. Any adjustments that made the fabric color more accurate gave strange hues to everything else.
The actual fabric is a bit darker and much deeper than it looks in the photos-- just a really stunning color, utterly perfect for my mom.

Turquoise and silver are her colors. She already had a beautifully matching necklace with her-- and she didn't know about the tunic until she got here!
(On a related note: our house got burglarized when I was a kid. When we got home and discovered this, we found that he'd emptied my mother's jewelery box all over the bed. And of course found nothing but silver and semi-precious stones. My mom said she actually felt bad for the guy!)

My mom seems to have the same fitting problems as I do, except even more exaggerated. I'm a lot taller, but we're a similar size, so I'd cut the same size as I do for myself. The sleeves turned out to be too narrow, although I did manage to get them fitting fairly well by letting them out a bit within the seam allowance. Her shoulders are also even narrower than mine; I fixed that by taking it in a bit around the top of the sleeve cap. I didn't unpick anything there; I just took in both the top of the sleeve cap and the edge of the shoulder. The final fit seems to be fairly good, although next time I'll probably cut the upper sleeves a bit wider.

That pleat on the back is not part of the pattern. I started doing it because the pattern actually wants the back to be cut as separate pieces, and the first time I made this tunic I didn't take the seam allowance into account when I cut the it on the fold.

I'd planned on doing a decorative stitch for the hem, but I was using the silver metallic Gutermann thread (not the same as the metallic Brother embroidery thread) which fluffs up a bit too much for real decorative stitches, and my mom liked the way the regular zigzag looked, so I ended up just just a plain old zigzag hem. My no-model-name-or-number "Heavy Duty" Taiwanese Necchi had thrown a hissy fit over the metallic thread (and protested the use of top-stitching thread too,) but the BU Mira handles it wonderfully.

Some tips for using that metallic Gutermann thread:

  • Always use a top-stitching needle.
  • Thread the needle using a needle threader, don't try to just thread it normally; It's kind fluffy and frays easily, so it's really, really hard to get all of the thread through the eye.
  • Use a Thread Stand It keeps twisting to a minimum and feeds more easily.
  • Use regular thread in the bobbin, preferably in a color that matches the fabric.

Stevia Seedlings

Indoor Stevia SeedlingIndoor Stevia Seedling Outdoor Stevia SeedlingOutdoor Stevia Seedling I split up my stevia seedlings; one inside and one outside. The leaves on the outside one look a bit gnarled, but it's also significantly stouter than the indoor seedling. The indoor seedling taller, but distinctly more fragile.

The windowsill really doesn't get quite enough light. It's good for starting seeds, but not quite enough for decent growth. In the fall I'll probably put in a grow light to supplement the light so I can keep a few plants going through the winter. Herbs at least, but it would be nice to keep at least a few vegetables going.

The rest of the garden is doing more or less okay. I'm having big bug problems. The cucumber beetles are bad. And of course, so are the stink bugs. Really bad. I've been using diatomaceous earth, Dipel, and insecticidal soap, and tulle floating row covers, and they all help some.. but not quite enough. I finally bit the bullet and ordered Sevin. I'm getting some cucumber wilt. I've read that you diagnose bacterial wilt by breaking the stem and seeing if there's a milky sap inside and it'll be kinda sticky. It's not, but there's still some kind of wilt problem. And this was a strain that was supposedly disease resistant.. maybe just not to bacterial wilt, though. So I set up another fence for cucumbers, will plant some more, and will use the Sevin. I may order some more seeds too, of one of the really good disease-resistant varieties.

Silk Panel

Silk PanelSilk Panel Silk Panel Pattern CloseupSilk Panel Pattern Closeup Y'all know that "If Microsoft made cars" joke? Remember the line about accepting that every so often, it'll suddenly stop working and you'll have to close all of the windows and restart the car? The other night when I originally took the pictures of the panel, I was having trouble getting my computer to recognize when I plugged the memory-card-to-USB converter into my USB hub. Dunno what the problem was, but restarting the computer fixed it.

So anyway, here are the full panel and closeup views of the silk border print I've gotten in my last two mystery bundles. (I got a two-panel piece in each bundle. They were labeled as two yards, but each panel is actually about 42 inches, so each piece is about two and a third yards.)

It's definitely heavier than I'd think of for chiffon; I'm not totally sure what it is. Crepe de chine, maybe? Georgette? I don't have swatches of either of those in my fabric dictionary. I'll have to go through more of my old mailers to see what swatches I might have that haven't yet found their way to their respective fabric dictionary entries.

It's not too transparent, but I wouldn't call it opaque either. I do have some trouble gauging the sheerness of fabrics that are neither totally sheer nor totally opaque. Are there any guidelines so far as lighting and such for determine how sheer a fabric is? In the picture you can see the two horizontal lines from the glare off of the picture frame that's behind the panel. It recovers well from being pinned to the wall, too. At first I just pinned the selveges on the side, but it drapes too much not to add a pin in the center. The pin didn't seem to do any damage.

I don't know which way is up. Sense seems to dictate that the stripe would be at the bottom, which is certainly the most practical so far as making it into a garment; the horizontal line would be at the hem.
But it almost looks upside-down, doesn't it? Maybe that's because some of those sets of three wedge-thingies are green, yellow, and pink which gives them a traffic-light look. And the design has a kinda martini-glass shape to it. It's that stem-glass shape with a line sticking out the top. Although turn it upside down, and it looks like hanging lamps. Or suspended citrus wedges. Folding or feather fans? But then those sticks point out the top would bop the user in the face.
Why I'm turning a geometric fabric print into some kind of non-blobby Rorschach test, I'm not sure. It just seems like it needs an explanation.

Well, I'm sending one of the pieces to dfr, so maybe she'll be able to explain it. And figure out what it wants to be. She's the one with decent style/overall look visualization ability. My visualization ability is generally limited to spatial manipulations; rotating and flipping around shapes and such. Somehow things like imagining a fabric as a garment, or what a garment would look like in another fabric never come easily to me. There have been quite a few nice patterns that I never considered just because I wasn't fond of the way they looked in the fabric on the front of the envelope. I may be getting a tad better at that with practice, but my progress there is slow.

Copyright note: I watermark photos I upload because I took the photographs, and because images are so very easily swiped on the internet. I am posting these photos of the physical object (fabric) that I received in a mystery bundle, in order to better describe and comment on said bundle.
Obviously I did not design the fabric or the print, and as such, the copyright for the print does not belong to me. The selvedge identifies the copyright owner as Calamo Silk, Inc., which appears to be a custom silk manufacturing company.
(A word of caution about their site: It's a flash site. The sound can be turned off. As far as I can tell, the same is not true for the scrolling background. And by "scrolling background" I don't mean that it scrolls as you scroll down the page, I mean it continuously scrolls horizontally, right to left, underneath the text and everything. It's a grey-on-black world map, and while it's not initially as obtrusive as the sound, it actually started to make me motion sick after a little while.)

My Latest Mystery Bundle (June 2011)

Mystery Bundle -- June 2011Mystery Bundle -- June 2011 I got an order from FabricMart last week, and I still hadn't posted about the mystery bundle because I've been a bad bad blogger who hasn't kept up with posting. I was gardening and reading some zombie books. Yes, I know I've gotta put up more garden pictures too.

So anyways, here's the bundle. It's not bad, but definitely not the best bundle I've ever gotten. The two on the left are synthetics, 1 5/8 yards of a light blue polyester satin and something that's synthetic and navy blue. I'll have to see what it thinks of water; if it's water repellant, it might be useful. Then there's 1 3/8 yards of this "heirloom" cotton print, 2 1/2 yards yards of this cotton/spandex shirting, and 2 yards of the same strange silk print I got in my last mystery bundle. Generally I'm happy with any silk.. but I really have no idea what to do with this stuff! The print is strange and I didn't know what to think of two yards of the stuff, let alone four!

I'll have to do a "best of mystery bundles" post one of these days. I got some really good mystery bundle fabrics last fall, like the green silk gazar and the blue charmeuse.

How to Watermark Your Images Using GIMP

Opening the Layers/Channels/Paths/Undo Dialog in GimpOpening the Layers/Channels/Paths/Undo Dialog in Gimp There's been some talk on PR lately of images, and companies and/or people using them without permission, and it's come up that a lot of people (including dfr!) don't know how to watermark their images. The thread that prompted this post was the one started by Rebecca of Tales of a Wannabe Seamstress about pattern companies publishing blog photos on Facebook, but there have been several other threads recently on similar topics.

While someone with much photo-editing skill can probably remove most watermarks, just having it decreases the temptation to simply swipe an image because it's easy, and increases the likelihood that if someone else does use your images, they'll at least credit you.
In general, circulation of your work through comments, links, excerpts, etc., is usually positive, and inclusion on gallery and "social collection" sites like Pinterest or Wists is generally a good thing. Whenever you put something up online, you shouldn't have the expectation that it will be private, and usually visibility is what you want. But having your images simply stolen is never fun.

How to Create New Layers in GimpHow to Create New Layers in Gimp

You should consider carefully before objecting to properly attributed excerpts, even if you weren't asked. Interlinking and commenting on what other people have done is what makes the blogosphere go 'round. If someone has quoted you or shown a reasonable picture or screenshot of something you've done that could be considered fair use, and has linked to you and properly credited it, you should probably be happy rather than angry. The guideline on fair use is that their use shouldn't decrease the value of what you've published. That doesn't mean they can't criticize it, it just means that they can't include so much that your own post would become redundant to their readers. The legal criteria for fair use are outlined by United States Code Title 17, Subsection 107.

Gimp Opacity Slider and Layer Mode SelectionGimp Opacity Slider and Layer Mode Selection

How To Watermark Your Images

So, some quick instructions on watermarking. Most of what you're going to do uses the Layers/Channels/Paths/Undo dialog. It should open along with GIMP, but if it dosn't, you can access it through the "windows" menu in GIMP's top toolbar. (You can view the larger versions of images in this tutorial, and on my blog in general, by clicking on them.)
What you're going to want to do is create a new layer for the watermark.

Note that when you add text, that text is always added in a new layer, and the layer is automatically labeled by what the text says. So if you're watermarking using text only, you shouldn't need to add your new layer manually.

New layers added using the "add new layer" button (Circled in red) are by default called "New layer," "New layer #1," etc. If you right click on the layer in the layers dialog (Not in your image!) the first option is "Layer attributes," which will allow you to change the name of your layer if you wish to do so.

Once you've created a new layer, whether it's text or an image (I've created a GIMP brush for my watermark, so I can easily stamp it anywhere) you can manipulate the layer opacity and mode using the options just above the list of layers. Whatever layer is selected will be the one affected by your selections. Opacity should be fairly self explanatory: 0 is completely transparent (invisible) and 100 is completely opaque.
The layer modes contain things like overlay, darken only, lighten only, and value. They dictate how the layer shows itself. For example, if you make a layer the "darken only" mode, you'll only see the contents of that layer in places where the selected layer is darker than what is under it.

When you select Edit > Paste as > Paste as New Layer, your newly pasted layer will be a floating selection, not yet anchored to a "real" layer. You can fix this by clicking the "create new layer" button. Otherwise, if you paste anything else, that floating section will automatically anchor to the layer beneath it. I believe anchoring is the same as merging down. It's not the same as moving down, which is simply rearranging the order of the layers.

Fabric Dictionary

I got started on a fabric dictionary awhile ago, when I wanted a better way to reference fabrics than going through FabricMart mailers month-by-month. I used an OpenOffice book template, and then altered the layout to leave room to attach swatches and created a fairly organized mish-mosh list of fabric and fiber types. Some have definitions, some don't, which didn't seem too important since I was using it mainly for swatch organization.
I printed it out and got started started filling it with swatches from FabricMart mailers and the one sample issue of VogueFabrics' swatch club I'd gotten ages ago. (Vogue also has back issues at a discounted price, which is a great way of getting a whole bunch of swatches for cheap.) Then I added in more entries as I came across fabrics I had swatches of but that I hadn't yet put into the dictionary.

I have it divided up by fiber as the top category and then by whether it's woven or knit, so there are various fabric types that occur in more than one place. I have a separate section at the bottom for blends, although in my version, I generally put a fabric that's mainly one thing with just a bit of something else into the category of its main content.

Anyway, there was a question today in the Fabrics and More section on Pattern Review about having a reference so far as what fabric is what, so I figured I'd finally get around to posting this.

Since I put this together using OpenOffice, I'm not sure how it will look in other word processing programs. I saved it in both OpenOffice's native format and in Microsoft's .doc format, but I'm not sure to what extent all the formatting will hold. (Not totally sure why the .doc format version file is so much larger. I didn't make any changes between the two versions besides file type, so the size difference is a function of how it's saved--the content should all be the same.)

Feel free to print this out, adapt it, make changes, etc. I'd love feedback, so if you add anything or change anything or would like me to change anything (etc...) please let me know and/or send me a copy of your updated version!

(Okay, I think I fixed the permissions problem)

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by Dr. Radut