a broad margin.

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” I love a broad margin to my life.” I’ve been reacquainting myself with Thoreau this week, and this particular line from the opening paragraphs of “Sounds” in Walden (Beacon Press, 2004) was rattling around in my head as Boh and I took a nice long walk through the local preserve that surrounds the reservoir for New Home’s drinking water.

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This place is, quite literally, in the margin of the physical space I occupy here: a bit further afield from our daily walks, and in the opposite direction from campus, but part of my world all the same. For me, a broad margin suggests a willingness to review, reflect, comment, engage; in my reading and writing, the margin is the place for conversation, questioning, response. This place, not far from my door and yet far enough, seems to provide me with critical distance from (and at the same time, intimate connection to) myself.

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It might not look like fall out my bedroom window, but in these woods, autumn is everywhere. The rustling of the wind in the trees, the scent of leaves drying, the gentle crunch under my sandals: this is my favorite season.

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Our walk turned out to be more important than I realized when Boh and I set out on Friday morning. You see, after we returned, I set about my day, which included a bit of grocery shopping. I park my car on the street in my quiet neighborhood, and really relish the fact that I use it only a few times a week. It seems that sometime in the last 36 hours, someone crashed into my driver-side mirror, smashed the glass, and drove away. No note, no nothing. The damage is slight, and certainly repairable — really, I think it just the mirror that needs replacing, and I have complete coverage on my car, so it isn’t really about the cost. I’m just so disappointed that someone decided that it was okay to not take responsibility for their actions. I think our morning walk made it easier for me to take a few deep breaths and continue on with my errands.

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And so, in an effort to feel better about the universe, I decided to finally tackle the big bag o’ beets in my fridge. (How’s that for a transition?) I found a recipe in The Joy of Pickling that was intriguing: cider vinegar, cloves, all-spice, cinnamon sticks, etc. I slurped up a spoonful of the brine before I poured it over the pints of beets, and it was tasty. I’ll let you know in about three weeks, once these beet slices are appropriately pickled!

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I realize this post is becoming a bit epic, but I figured you might want to see what I’m knitting. I started a pair of toast/toasty in my Hello Yarn handspun in the Five Plum Pie colorway. I’m using 6s, and I’m hoping the fabric will be dense enough to keep my hands warm as morning and evening temperatures continue to drop.

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Also, I’m swatching for a super-exciting KAL that has been in the works for awhile now: Mick of Much-Adored, Laura of Happy Trails and I are going to knit the garter yoke cardigan. We’re beginning on the first day of fall, so I’m plotting and swatching so that I am ready to go. I’m thinking of using my Hello Yarn handspun romney in the Alpine colorway (browns, blues and greys) with some soft brown Cascade 220 heathers. I got stitch gauge (row gauge slightly off) with 7s in the Cascade 220, and now I’m thinking about the handspun. I’m thinking that I might knit the yoke with 6s and just keep trying it on to make sure the sizing is okay, because my handspun is occasionally uneven (read: thinner), and I’d like a dense, neat-looking garter stitch. That seems reasonable, right?

Thanks for indulging my Thoreauvian ramblings on this fine Saturday morning. Time for another cup of coffee and a bit more quality time with Mr. Henry David himself.

beans and a skein.

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Three more pints of dilly beans on the shelf.

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Boh, worrying about something. (What’s new?)

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166 yards of light worsted 2-ply falklands wool from 3 oz. of the silent undergrowth colorway from AVFKW. This stuff is soft, squishy, shiny, and all-around delightful.

Off to pour another cup of coffee…

dilly beans and diamonds.

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I’ve been meaning to try my hand at dilly beans every day this week, so this morning, I got right to it. I even filled up the canning pot and put it on the stove alongside the water intended for my french press. The lids have been going “ping” — a good sign — so we’ll see how these turn out once they’ve had a few weeks to pickle themselves. (I learned that head-space can be a little tricky when you’re packing something into a pint jar and then pouring boiling liquid over it…)

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And for the “diamonds” portion of the post, I present bobbin numero uno of the CMF SW Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds merino. I’d abbreviate the song title, but I’m not sure I want to generate that kind of blog traffic…

I absolutely adore how this is spinning up, and I’m interested to see what the yarn will look like when it has been plyed and finished. I’ve read that this particular roving will plump up quite nicely, and I’m aiming for a squishier, slightly thicker sock yarn than last time.

Other goings-on around here:

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The first zucchini bread of the season!

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The ribbing at the bottom of the pure and simple test-knit I’m working on!

That’s all for now! Boh and I have plans to take a long walk and stick our paws/feet in the creek, and I’m looking forward to a quiet, productive August (holy cow!) weekend.

taste-testing, peas, pesto.

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Strawberry-balsamic jam on a slice of fresh-from-the-oven homemade bread. Not a bad start to Sunday morning.

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Strawberry-rhubarb-fresh mint compote over plain, local yogurt. A mid-Sunday morning snack.

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Deb does it again — saw this recipe for pickled sugar snap peas over at smitten kitchen, and had to mix up a batch. I can start eating them this evening…

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More green in a jar. In the spirit of eating everything in my share, I chopped up the remaining garlic scapes, picked my basil stems clean, tossed a few walnuts and a generous helping of olive oil into my mini-cuisinart and began blending, adding more olive oil and some salt and pepper to taste to get it right. My new favorite sandwich, courtesy of the folks up at P’s farm, is toasted bread (in a cast-iron skillet), cheese, pesto and as many greens as you can fit into a sandwich — fried egg optional. Yum!

But where are you, you may be wondering, on that sock? Is there a chance you’ll make the KAL deadline? I don’t even want to show you what Boh looks like this morning. He’s concerned. Very concerned. He thought the weekend’s canning adventures were over, and then yesterday he watched as I left for about an hour, Border’s coupon in hand, and returned with 2 more books on pickling and preserving…

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I did get a few solid hours of work on sock number 2 in yesterday, thanks to the very last episode of Season 2 of The Wire, and some knitting podcasts. I’m in the midst of the gusset increases, and if I can turn the heel and get an inch or two of the leg done today, I just might be able to eek out a full pair before it becomes July.

i blame the strawberries.

I did not knit AT ALL yesterday, despite my KAL deadline. Boh is displeased.

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Also, I may have developed a repetitive strawberry hulling injury.

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I blame the strawberries.

I picked 7 more quarts early yesterday morning, plus a big blue colander full. I mean, I couldn’t help it. I brought the colander along just in case, and I just had to fill it. We had a lot of rain on Friday, which meant that the berries grew even more rotund and juicy. Saturday morning was cool, humid and overcast, and I had the patch to myself. If I didn’t pick a few more, those strawberries were going to overripen on the vine, and we can’t have that. No, we cannot.

Thus, my adventures in water-bath canning began. I didn’t necessarily intend to make jam from the start; I simply got home with all of my berries, looked at my overflowing freezer and the abundance crowding my countertops and realized that jam might be the way to process some of this deliciousness. I ventured out again, intending to try to scavenge a canning stock pot and rack from a thrift store, when I discovered a special on a 21 quart canning pot with its own rack at the grocery store for 24 bucks. Throw in a 12 dollar “welcome to canning” set complete with tongs, jar lifter, funnel, seal checker, and some other thing I can’t remember, a few boxes of lids and some more half-pint jars, and I was ready to go.

Adventures in water-bath canning, take 1: strawberry-balsamic jam.

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I used Eugenia Bone’s Well Preserved (which I heard about over here) as my guide, and found the instructions to be clear and logical. The book is organized by “master recipes” that require some kind of preservation technique, and then Bone provides a handful of recipes that utilize the preserved food in question. I like the layout and the emphasis on using your preserves, but I may supplement with a massive canning/pickling book to be able to look through a range of options for one particular fruit or veggie.

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I am so excited about this. In fact, as soon as all the jars were in the water bath, I mixed up a batch of no-knead bread (in its second rise right now) to properly enjoy my jam. The tough part about canning is that you have to wait another 6-8 hours for the jars to cool and the seal to set. This morning, as per Eugenia’s instructions, I tested all my seals by unscrewing the tops and picking up the jars by their lids: success! Those seals are tiiight, baby.

So, back to the tough part about jam: no instant gratification. Hence strawberry recipe #2: strawberry-rhubarb compote with mint.

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Simple, aromatic recipe. I’m planning to enjoy this over yogurt in a few minutes. Plus, it used up another pint of strawberries.

Had enough? No? Good, because I did not stop there. (Boh begged me to pick up the socks, but I ignored him.)

dipped strawberries

No recipe here — I just melted some chocolate chips, added some butter until it was runny enough for dipping, and twirled the biggest, prettiest berries in my colander in the chocolate. I laid them out on wax paper and slid the tray into the fridge to chill.

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I just couldn’t help it.