Apron Protoytpes

utility apron

Prototype for a hard- wearing, quarter-length, utility apron.

Not a good photo, but, in the meantime, here’s the first prototype of the Utility Apron. Great for gardeners, market vendors, crafters, cooks, putterers of all stripes. Plenty of pockets to hold cell phones, cash, sunglasses, plant labels, writing implements, tools of all kinds, ….it’s like a handbag/tote that you wear! Crafted from 100% cotton fabric made in the USA. Durable, hard-wearing, handmade with attention to detail.

Coming soon at Stonewell Cottage

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What just happened? Good call, Andrew!

Still jittery from what just happened and experiencing ambivalence with a capital A. Warning to readers:(especially PETA empathizers and Buddhists) in the telling, there’s bloodshed involved so click away from this site if you feel your karma will be compromised.( I’m feeling that mine might have been.)

An hour or so ago, I was at the ironing board, pressing a new apron prototype, when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the dark profile of an animal heading towards the back of the house. I rushed into the bedroom where Andrew was reading and shouted “Andrew. Animal, fisher or raccoon, heading around the back”. He bounded out of bed and hovered by the window and said “I see it. It’s heading down towards the pond”. Well, it seemed like that was the end of that. No further conversation. We each resumed our activities. Ten or fifteen minutes later, Andrew dashed through the room, heading for the back door, and grabbing for a flashlight while he struggles with his boots, he says “I heard something, something in the back”. I immediately don my boots and head out through the front door, thinking that whatever he heard will be spooked by his presence and come back around the front, to be spooked by me. He’s heading towards the chicken coop. I make a cursory surveillance, and, finding nothing, head towards the chicken coop to join Andrew. There we are, with a flashlight. Andrew articulates his hunch: “I heard something coming from the chicken coop..I heard the chickens”. There we are, at the door to the chicken coop. I say “I’m going in”. He says ” No, we need a brighter torch.” (He’s English). Me: “Goddamn it. F__K the torch. I’ll use the light in the henhouse”! We open the door to the henhouse and scan the place with the feeble flashlight. Nothing seems amiss until eagle-eyed Andrew notices something.  Andrew: ” What’s that? I see fur…there, up there, above the doorway”. Me: “What????? Show me”. (he shows me) I freak out. Me: “I’m going in”, as I grab a four foot long wooden spike.  Andrew: “No. Don’t be an ass….we need a better torch”. Me: “F__K that, I’m going in”. I do and behold what is clearly a raccoon, that has chewed its way in through the hardware cloth and is now comfortably ensconced on a 2″ x 4″ between a pair of studs, enjoying the warmth, looking adorable, and just biding its time for the right moment to kill chickens, ducks and turkeys. I jab at it with the long, sturdy, 2″ x 2″ spike. It shrieks and grabs hold of the weapon that I’m attacking it with. I’m shocked by its strength. I’m pumped up on adrenaline and thinking that I can dislodge it from its newly found comfort zone and send it on its way. Not a chance. Not gonna happen. This creature is fierce. Shockingly fierce. Andrew has, almost without my noticing, gone off and returned with a blazingly bright light. He takes over and thrusts a wooden spike into its throat. The creature  screams and screams but doesn’t give up the fight. This is awful. I’m shaking and nearly in tears but the adreneline seems to keep me in the moment.  Andrew is a powerful ,man…5’11”,190 lbs, and incredibly strong and fit. He himself is shocked by the power of this predatory creature. He says “Get the gun”. Me: “Okay, where is it?”….I’m running towards the house, I hear him directing me. His voice becomes fainter and fainter, I just need to get the gun…..I’m overwhelmed. I find the gun, handle it with care and fear, as I run and pass it to Andrew. After some struggle, with the raccoon, seemingly, knowingly, pushing its powerful arms against the barrel of the gun, Andrew fires and kills it.We’re splattered with blood.

We shove it out the door of the chicken coop. The chickens and ducks and turkeys have gone mad during this episode and, once the evil deed is done, they seem to settle back onto their perches.

Andrew goes back to his reading. I serve myself a glass of wine and post this incident. Confused, sad….in some ways. Glad and satisfied, in other ways. Our flock is intact and safe.

The Ultimate-ish Gardening Apron; Free Giveaway!

Producing a useful gardening apron is high on my list of things to do. I want to expand my apron offerings on Stonewell Cottage, to include the Ultimate Garden Apron. Many years back I had someone make a few artist/ craft aprons for me that were patterned on a sort of short, waitress style design. They were cute. When I moved to the country and actually tried using them for gardening, I discovered that they simply don’t function well. For the past couple of days I’ve googled gardening aprons and have found quite a variety, but surprisingly few will actually do the job they need to do. They look great on the real-life models who are standing erect and in a garden environment, tools nicely featured in generous pockets, and the more stylish ones are downright adorable and chic, not dissimilar to the ones I created years ago, but they just won’t do the job that I want my garden apron to do.

Here are my thoughts, based on real-life gardening work, and the criteria I will apply to designing the perfect gardening apron.

  • Firstly, the apron must have a slit through the front. Of course you want plenty of pockets for tools, seeds, etc..and these must be included, however, they will be positively useless if you cannot access those pockets in a crouched position. Its akin to keeping your tools in your front pockets…you simple can’t get to them, or worse, they’re jabbing you in the solar-plexis.
  • The apron needs to be more like a toolbelt, but not exactly. I have something like that and it presents problems for me. This takes me to the part that I think might be a hard sell because it seems so weird. I garden in a close fitting long-sleeved T shirt and sturdy jeans (baggy clothes catch on things, like rose thorns). In the classic crouched weeding or planting position, the T shirt rides up and the pants down, exposing a crescent of my lower back that gets sunburned. My garden apron idea is to have the apron tied on in the opposite way that it would normally be worn. In other words, a back panel would cover the lower back, preventing sunburn, the tie would be in the front, in my case, enfolded in belly fat, and the utility pockets would hang accessibly from the sides of ones outer hips, where they can be readily accessed.
  • The majority of people are right handed and so the narrow pocket for a writing implement might be on the right, but a similar pocket could be on the left, for lefties, or equally serviceable for plant markers. The heavier hand tools; the trowels and cultivators, would best be located as close to the vertical hipline as possible, so they work in harmony with gravity and our most durable and padded anatomical parts. (Sorry supermodels…talk to me about doing a padded couture version just for you!).

So I want your input and experience….pros, cons, all of it. There could be a bibbed version of the Ultimate Garden Apron. I suppose a bibbed version would provide additional storage for small items, but I think the pockets on the bib would have to be placed somewhere mid-chest and they would have to hang freely for easy accessibility, which means they can’t be very deep, otherwise they would block your field of vision. (Sometimes bibs can ride up and choke you a bit).

Oh, I forgot to mention…..my ultimate gardening apron must be durable and good-looking. I’m planning my apron around 100% cotton ticking fabrics, made in the USA.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a contest / giveaway. Totally subjective (but nepotism and familiarity free).  You MUST comment. Include details regarding what you want a Garden Apron to do for you. Based upon the seriousness and depth of you comments, I will select a winner, and he or she will receive one of my Ultimate Gardening Aprons within a months time.

Deadline for Comments is: April 1, 2014!!! I look forward to hearing from you!

Seeds, Glorious Seeds!

Today, our order of seeds from Fedco arrived. A box load of optimism, an engine for self-reliance and sustainability, and the hope and prayer that we will, yet again, have the health and strength and spirit to do right by these tiny capsules of life, flavor, nutrition, beauty and artistry. This year I’ve ordered 38 packets of vegetable seeds and 30 packets of flower seeds. On the order sheet, which the ‘packer’, who is also a co-owner, (as Fedco is a cooperatively owned entity) checks off and signs, there was this handwritten note: ” Just saw your address and it made me smile! I am from Chester, CT! (the next town over from us). I’ve lived in Maine now since 1984. I hope your gardens do well! :). It was signed and she provided her maiden name as well as the name she now uses. So sweet.

Nothing could sum up the reason that I buy from this company better than that. Such a lovely, kind and thoughtful touch.

It’s still a bit too early to start propagating seeds in the unheated greenhouse, with the wildly fluctuating daytime/nighttime temperatures, but we’ve started the onions and leeks, and they’re going great guns in the Oak Room, thriving, along with the 46 baby chicks with whom they share the space. I will get around to taking photos; eventually. In the meanwhile, with so much more to do before Spring arrives, I direct my attention to my Stonewell Cottage business, garden design projects for clients, and the renovation of our own gardens in preparation for a major fundraising event that we’ll be hosting in June.

Happy garden planning to you!

Flower Seeds: Self-Sowers

images of perennial border with annual poppies

Annual poppies enhance the cottage garden effect in a sunny perennial border,

Today I received a bulk order of my favorite flower seeds; all 72,300 of them. These are considered self-sowers. While these are mostly annuals, biennials or short-lived perennials, once these plants become established in the garden, they will continue to cast their seeds about, ensuring that they reappear each year, albeit in unpredictable places. These include Shirley poppies, foxgloves, Sweet William, Bachelor Buttons, Cosmos sulpherus, Nigella damascena and Columbines.

The annual poppies, of which there are many varieties including papaver rhoeas, papaver nudicaule, escholzia (the yellow, orange and cream colored California poppies), along with Bachelor’s Buttons, Nigella damascena, (aka Love-in-a-Mist) and Sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus) enjoy full sun. But one must be able to tolerate the somewhat scruffy look of the spent flower stalks in the garden as the plants need to produce seedpods, mature and then cast their seeds in order for them to multiply.

image of foxgloves behind perennials

Foxgloves provide a nice transition between a perennial border and a woodland.

The foxgloves and columbines thrive in a bit of shade, making them perfect candidates for creating a naturalistic transition between a sunny perennial border and the edge of a woodland, which is how we use them. Here, they’re shown with salvia, nepeta, agastache and a few self-sown Shirley poppies.

As we gear up for Spring, you might want to consider ordering some of these seeds,  to cast about the gardens and create a relaxed, cottage-garden/wildflower look. They’re usually inexpensive; geez, for $3.95 I got 44,000 seeds. If only 1% decide to germinate I will still enjoy a few colorful blooms that offer the promise of future generations. Go for it!