Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tomato update

The growing season is so short in my part of the world. Winter is upon us. But I thought I should give you an update to my tomato saga

As it was getting colder, I knew it was time to get the plants inside, or to just reap the harvest I could, and let them go. They were doing so well! I hated to just throw them out, so decided I would take one of them in over winter, and the others would have to suffer in the cold. I just do not have the space to take them all in!

 I pulled in one pot -- well, actually, two pots -- and watched the other ones. Eventually, I did make space for the others, and took them all inside. I was moving to a new apartment, so there was additional space!!

 The little green balls that had formed grew a little, and then in the warm inside, they began to turn colour. First, a slight yellow, then orange, and finally to a bright red! It was so fun to watch it all happen! Here are some:
Now the odd thing is that some of the very tiny green balls just didn't grow much at all! They stayed as they were -- but ripened nonetheless! So I had these very tiny little red tomatoes!! They were so cute, but I was slightly disappointed that they hadn't reached their full potential. Maybe it was the sudden warm that caused them to ripen too fast.
It is so surprising how many little tomatoes I got off one plant! I was worried in the beginning that there weren't any, but then had more than I could handle. I did take that dish up for the lady that gave me the plants -- she said there was too much -- but they were coming at me left and right! No wonder gardeners are always giving away much of their produce!

 But now, the plants have decided they have done enough, and have stopped growing, and have dried up their leaves, and they are done. The remaining tomatoes are all red now, still on the plant -- I thought they would be better off there than if I picked them off -- and the season is over. There won't be anything remaining over winter. I did save some seeds and will plant them about February so they have a head start. It takes a long time for them to grow into flowering plants, and I want them all ready to go as soon as it warms up in spring. AND this time I will know to do the sex thing early on, and I should have lots more tomatoes all summer! Should is the key word.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Sex on My Balcony

[this will get your attention]

Yes, there was sex happening on MY balcony, and I don't mind admitting it. But there is a good reason for it, and I will tell you the whole story.

It all started about a couple of months ago. As you may know, since I do not subscribe to any internet service, I can access free wi-fi in the lobby of my apartment building. This is a service provided by one of the major internet and cable companies in the city. They have set up 'hot spots' throughout the downtown core, and the public libraries and other such gathering places.

So I go down and sit in the lobby at various times of the day to check on emails, and to surf the web, or to download television shows to watch later at home. Many of the residents have seen me and a few will nod a greeting or some will actually say hello to me. I have not spoken to any of them, but we now recognize each other. I am down there at all hours of the day -- or night -- and many of them wonder why I am there all the time! (No one will ask me) And no, I don't wok for the management company.

One day, a nice older lady stopped to ask me something about the managers in the building. She had seen me a few times there, and thought I knew more about them than I did. But she had a few concerns that were not being addressed, and I offered some advice. She liked to talk! We covered so many topics!

Then a few days later, she stopped again, and told me about her poor tomatoes on her balcony. She is on the north side, I am on the south. I had mentioned once that I had hoped to have a few tomatoes on the balcony, but didn't get any yet. So she suggested that I take these plants from her and put them on my balcony because they were so very unhappy on her side of the building. And what could I say?

Well, the tomatoes are very happy to be on my balcony in the full south sun. They are growing very well, and bushy, and producing lots of flowers. There were a few small tomatoes already formed, and they have turned red. I took the first four to her, and she was very happy with them. I had a couple myself. Very good!!

However, I could not see any more little green tomatoes being formed. Now, as you may know, all plants put out flowers, and need to be pollinated to produce seeds -- and fruit to cover those seeds. Since I am so high up, there are no flies or bees buzzing about to pollinate these flowers, so nothing is being formed. That is where I come in.

Research has shown me that tomatoes are self-pollinating. But results are better if they are. I made myself a little brush (I do have a bit of wool around the place!) and have gone out on the balcony, brushing each and every flower with my brush. This is to spread the pollen (a yellow powder) from flower to flower. This is what the bees do when they suck up the nectar each flower produces. They get the pollen on their legs. They also take the pollen back to their hive, and produce food from it.

I was performing the role of the bees in my little balcony garden. So that was the sex that was happening on my balcony. What were you thinking?? Good grief!! You have such dirty minds!

The results? Well, for several days and weeks following this event, I kept checking to see if any little tomatoes are forming. Nothing. I dutifully go out almost every day going from flower to flower, like a busy bee, doing my job. Nothing.

But yesterday, as I was going around from flower to flower, I did find one little green round shape where a flower was. And then another! So it WAS working after all! I was so very happy!! It's the little things in life that really get me all excited! And then, on a lower branch, I find the whole flower stem full of little tomatoes! You may not know this, but each flower stem branches out to about six stems with a flower on each end. You might find them sold in the stores as "tomatoes on the vine". And I had my own!!

Oh, this pleases me no end! Those of us working close to nature realize that sex is a necessary part of the continuation of the species. In order for us to have any food being produced, there needs to be sex first. The apple growers are finding a big problem today because there are very few bees anymore. All the farmers are saying this... there aren't any bees around to pollinate their crops; and this will be reflected in the amount of produce we find in the stores -- and of course, the prices!

Gee, I haven't posted anything in here for a long time! I have been too busy doing things to tell you about it. Gotta get down to that too one day.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Dollar Store

One of my favourite things to use for spinning is my CD spindle. It sits beside my chair and is always ready to go. I have a bit of things I am working on right now, as well as on my wheel, which is also sitting in front of my chair. I can put on a movie, or some music, and work away at whatever I want at the moment. Often, I change from one to another.

But the rubber grommet holding the CD is quite old and has dried out, and doesn't grip as well anymore. Time to get a new one! I did buy a couple some time ago, but in my recent move, I don't know where they are now. So on Sunday, I made the long trip to Lowe's Home Improvements to find a few more.

I took the bus to Sunridge Mall where they are supposed to be, but I couldn't find it. I walked and walked, and finally saw a RONA store -- way over there!. It was incredibly windy! Once in thee store, I wandered the aisles (and you know they have hundreds of aisles!) and couldn't find what I needed. I came close to some rubber washers in the plumbing section, but they weren't the right ones. I asked one of the helpful customer service people (who didn't know what I was talking about), but an older man told me it was in aisle 42 -- at the other end of the store! Again, I walked all the way down there, found a man in that section, who showed me something that was not at all what I wanted. (Doesn't anyone working there know what a grommet is??) Then another man told me they are in aisle 13 -- at the other end of the store. So I wandered all the way down there, and found nothing. I could not believe that a store supplying home repair items would not have this essential electrical gadget! Unbelieveable!!

Then on the way back to the train station, I passed through the mall, and came across Dollar World, and thought I would stop in to see if there was something in there I could use. Of course, it only carries junk, and didn't have anything like this. I looked for some yarn, and could not find any. But I did find some interesting potato chips, shaped like french fries. And then I saw some batteries, and I needed some for my camera.

Those chips were disgusting! They were kind of bitter-tasting -- the salt didn't mask that! I learned later they were very old and rancid. I couldn't not find a "best before" date on the package -- something I rarely check, but will from now on.

I got home and excitedly opened the package with the batteries, only to find they were the wrong kind. They don't work in my camera! Bummer! Who knew?!

So the next day, I took the train again back to that store (it's quite a long trip) to return these batteries. Of course, they won't take them back. He said it is opened so they can't accept them! Can you believe that?? Of course it was opened -- how was I to know they were the wrong kind?!? What a rip-off!

This is not the first time I have experienced this in these dollar stores. I have learned that they only carry junk and sell out-dated items to unsuspecting Canadians. These new-comers don't yet have the Canadian trait of fair-play and honesty. So they have no hesitation in selling useless, expired goods at far over-inflated prices!

My advice to you is never shop at any dollar store! Especially don't go to Dollar World at Sunridge Mall. Everything they sell is old, out-dated, and over-priced junk. The only people that seem to shop there are low-income, and aren't aware that they are being ripped off by these people. If anyone wants these old batteries, you can get them for cheap. Just let me know.

So I will find another store that has these grommets, and restore my spindle to its proper working condition. In the meantime, I am working on some cotton on my wheel!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Acer Update

Here is the latest scoop on the ailing ACER computer. As you know, I sent it back to headquarters, as I was told to do, to see if they can repair it while the warranty still was in effect. The darn 'puter just stopped working one day, exactly 6 months after being purchased!

So I waited and waited and waited to hear from them. Nothing. I was getting worried, and thought about contacting them in some way to see what happened. I was sure it "got lost" somewhere and I had nothing now!

But one day, there a package arrived in the mail! I recognized the size of the box, and since no one else was sending me anything, I knew what it was. I was excited to finally have my computer back again!

The package was sent to me on an ovenight service... and it took 20 days to get to me! Yes, can't depend on good service these days!

I anxiously opened it up and read the note that said they checked it all out, and it works just fine, they don't know what was wrong with it! Well, how about that?! Maybe a good shaking up in the mail system is all it needed.

I pushed the on button, and waited to see my familiar screen present itself... except it didn't. It can't boot up. There is something drastically wrong, and NOTHING appears on the screen, except a note saying it can't boot up. So I have no idea what ACER is trying to tell me... but it DOES NOT work!!

So now I am left with a useless piece of junk that I have no use for. It will not boot up, and I am NOT going to spend more money again to mail it back to them! (They didn't even reimburse me for my postage the first time sending it to them) The warranty conveniently expired while they held it. This is the second piece of junk I have bought from ACER -- okay, so I'm a slow learner!

Anyone want a matching set of bookends?? Door stops??

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

As knitters, we have a few little tricks that we use to help us along so we avoid making mistakes.

For example, to indicate which is the front or outside (public) side of a piece we are working on (because sometimes it is difficult to tell), we will pin something to one side. It could be something simple as a safety pin or can be one of those removable stitch markers that look something like a safety pin or it can be an expensive piece of jewellery, such as a brooch.

And if there are places along a row where we need to do something special or to change a technique, we use a marker to let us know “wait a minute! Something is happening here!” We often get so caught up in the smooth flowing of knitting, that we can zip right past that spot, unless we are constantly counting stitches – and who wants to do that?!

These are not crutches, but tools and should be thought of as such. They are assistants in our work, much as a house framer may use a brace until the wall can stand up on its own. They are temporary tools to assist us to do the job correctly.

One of my most favourite tool is the stitch marker. As mentioned, they are used in the body of the knitting, in the row, to show that something special – out of the usual – needs to be done here, so pay attention. It is placed ON THE NEEDLE between stitches. There are different kinds that actually are clipped TO A STITCH and serve a different function. Here will be discussed the most usual type of marker that goes between stitches.

Anything that can be hung on the needle between the stitches can be used. It needs to have some sort of circle which will be slipped over the needle. It needs to be large enough to easily go on the needle, without being tight and getting caught, and with little bulk so it doesn’t distort any stitches around it. They usually are a ring of some type with baubles and bangles attached to draw attention to itself, and to distinguish it from any other type of marker. Each marker may have a different function!

There are many markers one can purchase from any knitting shop. They can be exquisite pieces of jewellery in their own right, let alone as a knitting tool. Many knitters have made their own markers out of old jewellery pieces and can become keepsakes. Or they can be simple little rings of plastic.

As often is the case, there is never a marker to be found when you need them! Or you are knitting away from home and don’t have your toolbox with you. So we have to improvise.

Here are some examples of items that can be used at stitch markers, which you may find in your junk drawer at home (or at the bottom of your knitting bag):
Safety pins
Paper clips
Wedding band
Key rings
Rubber bands
Hair ties (for upper class knitters who won’t use rubber bands)
Binder clip
Anything that has a hole through it!

Now, these may seem quite unorthodox, but they work, and that is all that matters. Your knitting will look very “artsy” to any non-knitter, and they will not understand if you try to explain. But a knitter will recognize these things since we’ve been there too!

But I prefer to make my own out of ordinary items I have handy (other than those listed above). They are less costly, and I can customize them for my own purposes. They may have a specific function, and I can custom-make them to function in specific ways.

If you are a knitter that likes those little rings, you can make your own. Get a couple of soda straws in various colours. These come in a number of sizes and colours, so you have a wide choice. (You can pick them up for free outside any 7-11 or Macs store.) Cut very thin rings off the end of the straw with a sharp pair of scissors. They may be flattened when first cut, but if you open them up, they will return to their round shape shortly. You can keep a huge collection of these rings in all colours and all sizes, and not worry if you lose one of them!

Of course, every knitter will have some left-over yarn. These are lengths that are too precious to throw out, but yet too short to be of any use in knitting! So they can come into use as a marker. I prefer to use a finer weight yarn that is very smooth. It cannot be fuzzy at all! Mercerized cotton, silk, nylon, or acrylic (finally a use for it!) will work.

You can take a short length of any smooth contrasting yarn, and tie it into a circle just a bit larger than the needles you are using. In fact, you can wrap the yarn around the needle to use it as a guide. Tie a knot and cut the ends short. VoilĂ ! A perfectly sized ring marker at no cost!

My preferred yarn marker is a little longer because it serves me in several ways. Cut a length of about 20 cm (12 inches) or whatever length works for you in a contrasting colour to your knitting. I like to add a bit more twist to this yarn, and then fold it over on itself. The extra twist will cause it to twist up into a plied yarn, which works better for me. Sometimes I have tied a simple knot a short distance away from the folded end, but it’s not really necessary.

When you need to place a marker, simply open a loop in the folded end and slip it over the needle. Let the remainder of the length hang at the back of the knitting. And simply continue with the knitting according to the pattern. Hopefully, the working yarn crossed over the marker tail, and it was caught into the knitting.

As you work, when you come to the marker, you may want to slip the marker with the working yarn IN FRONT which will indicate that something special happens here. When you are just knitting past the marker, the working yarn can remain on the back. This comes in very handy in counting rows: in lace, for example, the pattern stitches are usually done on one row, and the next row is a plain knit (or purl) row. Which way the crossing over the marker would tell you which row you are working on without having to refer to the pattern. This is very helpful if you put your knitting down in the middle of a row, or if you are knitting in the round. Look to see if there is a float over or behind the marker tail and you will know what row you are on.

This tail will also help in counting rows where you need to do something every fifth row, for example. Let the tail be crossed with the working yarn at the back, and after five times, you know you need to do a decrease or something. So cross in front, and then continue on for four more rows crossing at the back. No need to painstakingly count rows and easily get lost.

You can also quickly count how many rows you have completed by counting the interchanges of the marker tail. For example, let the working yarn cross at the back of the marker tail five times, and then cross in front five times. Repeat this several times in your knitting, and you can easily count 5-10-15 and you will know how many rows you have completed in just a glance! 

Or if you needed to decrease 6 times every 4th row (at the arm-hole, for example) – that gets very complicated keeping track of where you are. BUT cross in front of the marker tail each time you make a decrease, and you can see in a glance when you have completed 4 rows, and when you have completed your 6 decreases.

I like these yarn markers most of all because they are so versatile and can perform so many functions all at once. I have them in all primary colours – white, black, yellow, red, green, blue – so that one of them will always contrast with my main knitting. Often I will need 2-3 colours for different things going on, and I have the right colour marker just for that spot!

So don’t think you can’t do complicated pattern knitting because you don’t have a marker! The fact is that you DO have them – you just may not be seeing them at the moment in the right light. With a little tinkering, you can make them magically appear!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

More fine yarns

Most of you know that I like to spin on a spindle and that I like to spin very find yarns. Late last year, I got myself some Merino-Silk blend fibres, and started spinning them on the spindle. Because they were so well-prepared, it just naturally wanted to be spun very fine. I had nothing to do with it!

I really enjoyed the spinning. It is beautiful fibres, very well-prepared (there were no short hairs and it was combed top) and just a joy to spin. Every moment I had, I would pick up the spindle (which sits beside me when I am at the computer) and would spin while watching a movie or TV show. I find I fall asleep if I have to sit still for only a few moments! And little by little, I collected quite a number of cops of very finely spun singles.

I wanted more fibre, since I spun it all up. I was able to get a bag of Merino-Silk-Alpaca blend, as nice as the earlier batch, and it also wanted to be spun very fine. So I acquired a number of cops of that as well!

A couple of months ago, I was all done, and had to start plying. It would be quite impossible to use the singles in any way, and plying was the only thing to do. I decided on a 2-ply. However, I could quickly see that even a 2-ply was too fine to be used in any way! I did think of doing a 3-ply, but decided I wouldn't get much yarn that way, and left it as a 2-ply.

It took me several weeks of plying. It just seems to go on and on and on! As I watched the cops empty, they didn't seem to change at all! I would ply many, many metres, and when I looked back, they were still the same as before! But little by little, and a lot of spindle twirling!!, I finally finished all those cops and I had a lot of plied yarn made. When I wound them off into skeins, I had seven skeins of very fine Merino-silk-alpaca 2-ply yarn! I washed them and hung them to dry, and twisted them into skeins. Here is a pic of one: this one is about 585 metres. I don't have a weight for it, but will try to get that one day soon.
That is a dime under the strand of 2-ply to show you relative size. You should be able to click on it to em-biggen it.

I still have no idea what I will do with it!

I am Back!

Well, the truth is I haven't really been away. I just haven't posted anything here for a very long time. I have been busy -- there are many changes around here. And one day seems to go by and then another. Things just get left for "tomorrow".

I have written several posts, in my head, but not actually in print. I did write some posts here, but left them in draft form. And I am quite certain that I did post something before, which has just vanished! That is our new technological world -- nothing lasts as you expect! 

One of the things that have changed here is that I have a new computer since the last time I posted. Well, in fact, I have gone through TWO other computers since the last post!! They just don't make them like they used to. The new computers are designed to fail in a very short time. Then you have to buy a new one -- that is the point of the whole thing. If anything lasted too long, business would fail, so we have to make sure that you have to buy new things all the time. Nothing is made to last these days.

We live in a throw-away society. I see that all the time in this apartment building -- people throw out so many things that are still in fairly good shape, but may no longer work and no one wants to spend the time -- nor the money -- to repair anything now. After all, it will cost too much to repair, so we will just buy a new one! Most of the time, these items are still in good working order, but people just can't be bothered to take them with them when they move. They simply buy another one!! Money isn't a problem for many here.

But about my computers. I had one which was getting old and it just couldn't continue to work any more. After all, it was about 5 years old, so you can't expect anything to still work as it did when it was new! I wanted a small little laptop-type of machine, mainly to be used for internet access, and not as a main computer. I found one at The Source (formerly known as Radio Shack) and the price was acceptable. It was a nice little size (about 10" screen, I think) and it had enough buttons on it to do what I needed. It had only 250 GB storage, which was enough for my purposes. I wasn't going to keep much on that machine anyway. I did have a desktop for the main work. This one was an Acer, which is a lower-end brand.

But shortly after a year was over, it just stopped working. No big bang, no explosion, no whimper -- just shut down, and wouldn't start up again! It was no more!

I looked around, and found that the prices were best at The Source again. I eventually found one that had the things I needed and told the sales guy I wanted this one. It was another Acer. He went to the back room, and brought a box saying it has a different model number, but is the same machine. When I got it home, I could see it wasn't the same! The one I looked at had more USB ports and on the side. This one had only a few and on the back, which is most inconvenient. But it had to do.

I enjoyed working with it, and it was small enough that it fit into my little briefcase, and did what I needed. I used it mostly for access to the internet, and it did that well enough.

One day, just short of 6 months after I purchased it, it suddenly got really sluggish, and then starting closing programs, and shut itself off! And I could never boot it up again. It simple stopped working! No more to be said. I tried so many times, and it just would not start up again. I took it back to the store where I bought it, but they didn't want to have anything to do with me. They only make sales; they don't do repairs. I had to take it to some repair shop, or contact Acer and let them handle it.

But I needed one urgently, so ran around looking for a replacement. I went over to Best Buy and they had a couple that looked like they would fit my purposes, but the prices were far too high. In talking to salesperson (they all tried to avoid me at all costs), I was told that I should wait for about 2 weeks  until Black Friday and I should be able to get one of them at a substantially reduced price.

So I waited. It was torture! I was able to go over to a friend's and use the computer to check on emails, and I used the computers at the library as well. When the Big Sale came around, I went back to Best Buy and looked for the big deals. No such thing!! In fact, the little machine that I quite liked 2 weeks earlier had INCREASED in price by $100! That is the way Best Buy works -- raise the prices, and then pretend to put them on sale. People are so easily duped!

So I turned around and went over to Staples, and found a nice laptop that I liked. At the cashier, when he started adding in all sorts of "extras", the price was going up and up! I said I am not paying for anything extra; I want the computer only, and nothing more. You have to watch everything they do! Suddenly, all the things that come with the machine were "extra charges". However, when I brought it home, I discovered it was so HUGE! It was much larger than I had wanted -- somehow I was anxious to make sure it had enough USB ports and other features, that I overlooked the size of the machine. And it is heavier than I like. But it was too late to take it back now, so I had to keep it. It will have to do for now.

I had been in touch with Acer tech support to see if they had a suggestion on how I could get this machine to boot up. No ideas. A few weeks later, I contacted them again, and we went through a bunch of check-points and still couldn't get it working. I was really frustrated -- obviously, he didn't speak English, and seemed to be using Google translate for our communications. I gave up!

Eventually, I had to contact them once more. I HAD to know what to do with this thing -- it still had a warranty in effect -- and he (or she; you don't know who you are speaking to from India) said I will have to send it back to the head office and they will try to repair it. I know all it needs is a new HD and O/S -- but all my files were lost forever.

So in late March, I packed it up and sent it back to Ontario to the head office. I still haven't heard anything from them since -- I guess it takes time for them to get to all those machine being returned. I was told by a tech guy here that Acer is junk. He has seen so many of them needing fixing, and there is nothing you can do with them. They are very poorly made, and aren't worth buying. That is why they are so low priced. Now I know!! We will see what Acer will do with this one; it is still covered by the new warranty. The other one I had was just over a year and the warranty had expired, so there is nothing I can do about that one. But lessons learned!

Now I have a HP -- which my tech shop tells me is very poorly made as well. He says he has seen so many of them coming in for repair as well. He thinks they are junk -- not worth buying. Well, that may be. I am not expecting this one to last much longer. I don't put anything important on it, so that when it does fail, I won't have lost anything. Just can't take chances any more!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

In with the New

I have just taken down the old calendar of 2014 and put up the new one. It is the start of a new year, a new start. The days are getting longer (really, they are!), and summer will soon be here.

What better way for a youngish single man to celebrate New Year's Eve than to do some knitting! And that is what I did. Actually, I started this on Dec 30, and completed it on the 31st.

I was looking around for something to do, and reached into a bag laying nearby, and found a ball of cotton, in black. Now I have learned many years ago, not to do anything in black! It is so very difficult to see the stitches, no matter how bright the light is. I found that only natural daylight worked the best. Even a cloudy day was better than the brightest tungsten light in the house.

One of my favourite go-to things for me to knit is a dishcloth. I have one in the kitchen that I use all the time, and needed more. My usual pattern is the basketweave, in various sizes. It is a combination of knit and purl, which makes for more interesting knitting, although doesn't require constant attention. It is my usual mindless knitting while watching a movie or a TV show.

I did this one in 3-3 design, but could have used any other combination. I kept the 3 outside stitches in garter, and that blended in well. 
As I've said, black is not easy to work with. This yarn had some thick and thin sections, which does add texture, but was much more difficult to read the knitting itself. I have done this in several colours, as you can see, and the light pastel shades are better for showing off stitch patterns. But these dishcloths do get stained very quickly, so the black may be better. I did find that a lot of the black/purple dye came out when I first washed this one, and it will continue doing so for many washes to come. As long as I don't lay the wet black dishcloth on anything white to dry, I should not have any trouble with it. I had it blocking before midnight.

To all my virtual friends, I want to wish you all the best of good things in 2015. May there be plenty of knitting in your future!