Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The garden

Well Fall is here, and it seems like it showed up overnight.  The temps have fallen to "absolutely perfect", the monsoon rains have ended, and the humidity is approximately 0%.  The summer certainly was eventful, especially in the garden.

  Some plants had a rough start in the spring because the winds were just nonstop.  The cukes never really did get going too well, but I still managed to make 3 jars of pickles, and two plants look like they might revive a bit for Fall.  At first I thought the beans wouldn't be able to recover from the wind damage, but by late spring and early summer they were going strong and I've harvested more beans than ever before.

  We blanched a whole bunch of them last month, and will probably be able to do a second batch in a few weeks.  I only got a few beets, and the onions (planted nearby) didn't fare so well either- many of them have been rotten.  The monsoons were absolutely intense this year and one half of the garden (where the beets, cukes, and onions are planted) got flooded more than once even though the garden is higher than the surrounding area and has great drainage.  Then there was the hail with the one storm which tore up most of the leaves on the Butternut squash, zucchini, and yellow squash.

  It looks like we'll still have a pretty good harvest of Butternut squash though since the hail came after most of the veggies were big enough to handle it.

  We got a good crop of the zucchini and summer squash earlier in the season and were able to blanch and freeze enough of those to take us through winter.

 By the middle to end of the season though, the plants had just gotten too much water and the roots were rotting.  And of course the squash bugs took advantage of the weakened plants and further damaged them.  A few weeks ago I pulled up the ones that were too far gone, leaving just a few that may recover enough to give us at least a few more veggies.  Luckily tomatoes like rain and can handle some pretty tough conditions.  All the varieties we planted (yellow, pink, and 2 varieties of cherry) have done well, although they are ripening more slowly as the nights turn colder.

 The Bell peppers and mini Bell peppers are doing really well, as are the carrots, so I should be able to make at least one more big batch of my garden fresh pasta sauce (I basically throw in all the fresh veggies and herbs I can harvest and cook it low and slow all day long).

 The Japanese eggplants have just recently started producing, but they seem to be doing well.  I made a mouthwatering eggplant Parmesan the other night ;) 

The herbs and salad garden have fared quite well and I've had fresh salad every night for months now, along with plenty of fresh basil (made tons of pesto!), parsley, chives, scallions, oregano, and rosemary.

 Oh, and for the first time I got several REALLY good cantaloupe.

  Although the season is coming to a close we should have another couple of months before the first frost, so I imagine I'll be harvesting tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, salad, Swiss chard, carrots, and herbs at least until Thanksgiving.  This was my first year gardening in Arizona (I'm originally from Ohio) and while it has it's own unique challenges, I love this place and this was the most successful garden I've had.  Of course I've been saving seeds from everything I can (flowers included), so I won't even have to buy seeds next year.  Right now I'm planning on what to plant in the greenhouse.  I put the garlic in last week and some of it has already sprouted.  It takes hard work, dedication, and lots of sweat (especially when it's 115 degrees!), but nothing beats fresh herbs and veggies, grown organically and nurtured by your own hand. =)

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Knit Blue Kangaroo now available at CreativeCritters

Over the last few years I've knit several different blue kangaroos for a variety of customers, but haven't had one listed in my shop as a regular item.  Most customers learned about my blue kangaroos from my Gallery of past work.  The last knit kangaroo I created was headed all the way to Australia!  I developed my own knitting pattern for these kangaroos and have adapted it several times over as I found new ways to improve the design.  I just listed this cute kangaroo in CreativeCritters today.  I'm not sure how long she'll last- they seem to sell pretty quickly!
I used soft and silky Homespun yarn in Montana Sky Blue for the body and Waterfall for the belly.  I really love Homespun yarn because it's so soft and has such a nice texture when you knit with it.  Anyone who does a lot of knitting or crocheting knows that it's a real pleasure to work with a good quality yarn, and of course it creates a very soft and cuddly stuffed animal.

For this particular kangaroo I completely revamped my old pattern and got pretty creative as I knit.  This is one of the reasons most of the items in my shop are one of a kind creations- I always seem to end up changing how I make them, even if I start out following a pattern.  I guess it's just the artist in me- LOL. 
This particular kangaroo ended up with a lot of personality!  Sometimes these things just sort of seem to happen on their own.  I had a general idea of how I wanted her to look, but really didn't know how she would turn out until I had most of the parts sewn on.  And as always, the true personality really came out once I added her eyes, nose, and ears. 
I used gray fleece fabric for the nose, which is lightly stuffed and securely sewn on.  I used the same fleece behind the eyes, which are black plastic safety eyes, making this safe for children.  I stuffed the kangaroo softly with polyester fiberfill, with the goal of keeping her very soft and cuddly.  Adults and children will both love giving this cute stuffed animal a big hug!  I may be all grown up myself, but I still love to cuddle up with a soft stuffed animal.  I think there are some things we just never grow out of!
If you're interested in purchasing this blue kangaroo just click on any of the pictures to be taken to the listing in my shop.  And if you're looking for something in a different size or color combination, just email me at with your request.  I can also create a variety of other stuffed animals.  If fact, I'm currently working on a knit dragon right now (and this is definitely a challenging project!).
Thanks for sharing the creative cuteness once again!
~Michelle of CreativeCritters