THE BEST OF ORC MANUFACTURE

We had an entertaining weekend here at String, spending most of it cleaning up the debris of a New England winter and waking up the garden for spring. Now I’m not a very good gardener. In fact I stick to plants that in more hospitable geographic areas are rated as borderline invasive, because they are about the only plants I can’t kill. I trust in my own lack of skill and the odd deep freeze winter to keep them in check.

This weekend’s chores included moving a trillium and a peony to make more room for an aggressive hosta‘s growing hegemony; shuffling some day lilies out of the way; rescuing some tulips and daffs so courteously relocated mid-lawn by squirrels; planting three ultra hardy five petal rugosa roses in some newly freed up spots; and pulling dead leaves out of the giant grass stubble (aka elephant grass, or maiden grass).

How giant is our giant grass? It gets tall enough for its early September plumes to overtop the roof of our front porch. We cut it down before the seed sets and ripens in order to keep it from colonizing the entire neighborhood. But what to do with canes ranging from 8 to 13 feet? The first year we bagged them with the rest of the yard trimmings, for the town to haul off for composting. This fall though I had an idea.

I also attempt to grow what started out as an antique variety of big scarlet speckled runner beans. While I don’t harvest enough of a crop to eat, the kids get a big kick out of our sequential years of Mendelian genetics. We plant our Magic Beans for three springs now – some are still true to their parent’s form, some now look more like French flagolets/ Then we watch to see what color flowers appear (originally all red, now a mix of 25% white/75% red), and what color/form of beans result. They grow very fast, and require strings or a trellis to climb. Last year all we could find at the garden shop were puny 4 foot tall bamboo stakes. Not near long enough. So I decided to dry my giant grass stalks and store them through the winter to furnish the scaffolding for this year’s bean trellis.

It’s not warm enough for bean planting yet (final frost date is the second week of May here), but we did build the trellis and set it up against the sunny southern face of the garage:

orctrellis-1.jpg orctrellis-2.jpg

On the whole, given the random length, lack of flexibility and fragility of the stalks, I’m amazed we were able to come up with anything at all. Yes, those are cable ties fastening the thing together. We’re nerds and proud! The structure is sort of pitiful, as if it were built by drunken orcs in World of Warcraft. I’m pretty sure that if they produced something this sad their players would be dunned a dozen experience points for failing so miserably in the attempt. But I like it. Covered in green with little flowers it will look grand. Provided it survives. Which is why we built it early. Better for it to collapse before beans attack it rather than having to disentangle them after the fact.

On the knitting front, I’m just about done with the entrelac socks. They turned out better than I expected.

moresocks-6.jpg

Still a bit motley, but the four colors of leftover self stripers ended up complementing each other, mostly because all of them had green and brown in their mix. In person what looks like bright tomato red in the on-needle sock is more muted. Also, I divided the lot of leftovers into two groups – one that was mostly speckled with few or no solid stripes, and one that had firm solid stripes and spotty bits. The finished sock clearly shows the solids in the entrelac bits worked from left to right, and the speckled yarn in the entrelac bits worked right to left. All in all quite a satisfying project for something starting with such an unpromising quantity of leftovers.


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2 responses

  1. Kate in Somerset | Reply

    I’m envious of your aggressive hosta. Here they simply provide food for slugs so I don’t grow them. Love the rugosas, though, especially the hips.

  2. I love your entrelac socks! At some point I plan to knit "FrankenSocks" with all my bits of leftover sock yarn. I’ve never tried enterlac. I would never have thought it a way to use up leftover sock bits. You Rock!

    –Kathryn

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