Autumn on the Balcony, New Projects and Mending

Hey all. How is everyone holding up? In my patch of the world we are on our way back into a second Covid-19 lockdown, as restrictions have toughened significantly after numbers have sky rocketed. I’ll spare you the details of the incompetence of our government regarding this as you won’t have to use a lot of imagination to get an idea how it looks. It’s adding another source of despair, frustration and anxiety to everything that is going on. For the time being little has changed for my household as we kept to some form of hunkering down and distancing over the summer. Nevertheless, it is as frustrating as it is predictable. I’ve been keeping up morale by seeking out nature in quiet spots, observing the seasonal change and crafting.

Autumn Balcony

Autumn is making it’s way into the balcony garden as well as on my crafting table and I thought I would talk a bit about that here. Most flowers have come and gone. September saw one extreme late bloomer on my white lavender, the rest of it had it’s big bloom during the height of summer, but this stubborn stem saved it for a late unexpected encore. I also still (STILL!) have some brave blooms on the verbena. Those are not so much late bloomers though but rather extremely long bloomers (seriously, it started blooming in May and this plant does not stop!)

In contrast some of other plants which will be dormant in the winter are preparing for that. My oregano and lemon balm will completely die off for the winter and I’ve spotted some leaves starting to colour so I will soon harvest what is left of both to preserve and hope next year’s shoots will give us a good harvest again. I’m dragging my tail a bit with harvesting the oregano though because the colour it is turning into is just so gorgeous (and in this timeline we can use all the tiny joys). Drying my own grown herbs gives me that joy too, so I’ll just meditate on that while doing the final cutting session.

The apple tree hasn’t start colouring yet. Last year it stayed green for a long time, like lots of trees here, before turning yellow. We had a period of very stable not too cold, not too warm weather that Autumn that apparently caused this, so I’m interested to see what will happen later this year.

Harvesting season has come to an end on the balcony now but we had some late autumn joys. I had one lone tomato growing until about mid September and after that it was all done. This is a lot earlier than last year when I had still fruits growing at the end of October and start of November, which was maybe a bit ridiculous. Overall the tomato harvest hasn’t been great this year, especially compared to last year when it was really good but that is just how it goes isn’t it? We still had some eager strawberries until quite late, but that has come to an end too.

As anyone who is ardent about growing things can probably attest to at the weaning end of the growing season my mind inevitably start to wander to plans for next year and what I would change compared to this year. The strawberries have been such a success that I’m thinking of maybe adding different berries next year. I joked to my partner we could totally go for it and make our entire balcony produce red themed, with our tomatoes, strawberries, and (chili) peppers. Even our apples should come out red when they start to produce fruit! Obviously I am constrained to the space of a balcony but we’ll see what we are able to do with it next year.

During the summer we haven’t had balcony birds visiting us. I didn’t have any bird feed out for the majority of it. The last time we saw them was in May and the start of June with the excitement of the breeding season and baby birds on the balcony. However I definitely noticed a change in behaviour recently as they prepare for the colder months and in September we had the first great tit inspecting the apartment so we figured it would soon be time. There’s a pot of bird-friendly peanut butter and a feeder full of nuts and seeds out on the balcony for them now, so if any of the birds are in need they’ll hopefully find us.

Baking

You might remember that back in March, at the start of Covid-19 measures here, I mentioned I started sourdough baking (along with at least a quarter of all other humans). I thought it might be of interest to mention that we are still doing that. We started it in …eh… unique circumstances, at the peak of food hoarding and shortages. Once we are out of all this, this will hopefully make an interesting story about desperate and odd times, and nothing more than that. We are now on homemade bread pretty much at all times and have experimented loads with both with bread and sourdough beyond bread. I couldn’t have predicted that which such a particular start, bread making would become such a regular feature of my life and it would have been fine either way but it’s cool that it happened this way.

Making

My main knitting project for the past bit has been the yoke sweater I cast on in August. I’m knitting it on tiny needles and despite the ridiculous gauge, progress on it has been reasonably swift. I’m working it up in a pleasing muted orange bronze colour that I guess reflected my longing for autumn when I picked it out during a late August heatwave. I’m working my way through the yoke now, so am now at the point where I’m letting my mind wander as to what I want to knit next. My planning in this stage is not in the least hindered by mere constrains of time (and life in general), so it’s always fun to see what my mind thinks I can achieve in the span of a season.

I’ve continued learning to spin over the past two months since I first started spinning. I will likely write a post talking about it in more detail at a later point but I wanted to share the joy of finishing my first handspun skein here before I got to that. I spun this on my low whorl spindle with the toy filling wool I had hanging around. She is not perfect, of course she is not, but she is my first finished skein! She’s bulky and a thick-and-thin fest but she also has a lot going for her; twist distribution seems pretty good and she is in fact a usable recognizable skein of yarn and most importantly I learned a ton. I’m actually quite proud of my first born skein. I’ve also started a new spinning project (spinning colour this time!) and I can already see improvement in my spinning compared to this first skein.

With my sewing I’m working on some more involved projects that require a bit more focus. I’m working on a shirt dress for myself and sewing a shirt for my partner. Both of these are a bit more detailed than my usual projects so I’m taking my time with them. I’m also working on my first quilt! While it is a super simple design, it is also my first time attempting anything like this so a lot of new things to learn and I’m definitely treating it as a long term project. I’m having fun though and perhaps I’ll do a more detailed post about this at some point to share more about this project.

Mending

I always go through my knitwear around this time of the year, to see what needs patching or reinforcing to be cold weather ready. I have a few “usual suspects” that need patching every or every other year because they get worn so much. The elbow area and the utmost sleeve edge in particular are problem areas which I patch a lot. The usual suspect that befell a turn this year was a second hand orange yoke cardigan that I have frequently patched in those areas over the years, yet here she was again. My previous mend was with a woven darn, and this time I decided to do small knitted patches over the worn area encasing some of the woven darn in that patch creating a double layer. This should last some time and she is ready for wear this season once more.

Another mend that I did was stitch down the linings of my favourite retail pair of mittens. I’ve really been dragging my tail with his one as I’ve been having problems with it for at least two seasons (still wearing it though). Typically, when I actually sat down to do it stitching down the lining was a quick mend. Whenever I post about my visible mending, which I find more aesthetically pleasing, I always feel the need to point out that the overwhelming bulk of my year round mending is plain, invisible and largely boring work on things like knit tights and underwear. While the former mend category is needed and keeps these pieces in wearing condition, the latter category of repairing is a lot more instrumental in keeping pieces in my year round wardrobe going.

As I’m writing this, the dark has properly set in for the evening and a stiff wind is blowing through the clutter of trees across the parking lot. Thanks for taking the time to read and until soon!

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