lavender sachets

Extraordinarily practical, the lavender sachet is quite misunderstood. Relegated to the spinster and her old wives tales, much like potpourri and various folk remedies. No, the lavender sachet is worthy of attention. Let us give it due respect.

sachet

Unlike the vile-smelling mothball, a known carcinogen, and your run-of-the-mill chemical-laden air freshener, lavender is both potent and benign. Like the best remedies, it has multiple purposes, and does no harm. Creatures that would seek to damage linens, yarns, good wool socks and sweaters and your favourite old books alike are repelled from the territory by a bit of dried lavender. We have had our battles with silverfish and wool moths, and lavender fended them off with elegance.

I like to sew a handful of local lavender, dreamily intoxicated as I stitch, into pretty bits of rough linen, with a touch of wool from a friend’s sheep, to make the hearts and stars loftier. I loop a ribbon through so they can be hung off door handles, drawer handles, or tucked between items on shelves, into laundry baskets or my knitting bag. Little guardians of our precious yarns and woollens. A lavender heart under a restless child’s pillow is an instant sleep remedy, too. Functional, beautiful old fashioned solutions, these lavender sachets. Send me a note if you’d like a few of your own – or if you’re in Vancouver look for them at Second Nature..

marbles

Like so many good old fashioned pastimes, playing marbles has fallen out of fashion in the last few decades, despite centuries of popularity all over the world. People in the Indus valley in the Bronze age played marbles, the Romans played marbles, the ancient Egyptians played marbles. I didn’t grow up playing marbles, but like so many good old fashioned games and skills, I’m learning along with my children.

marbles © elisa rathje 2011

There are so many ways to play marbles, with variations as rich as there are regional accents.

The way that we like to play is with an archboard, shooting marbles through in order. I think my father likes to call this ‘mousehole’ and he taught it to my children. My childhood fondness for the things was almost purely aesthetic. I could still spend long moments absorbed in the depths and beauty of a glass marble.

In our old cottage the phrase ‘losing your marbles’ does come up a lot, as there is an unfortunate slant to the floor that angles toward a gap under the stairs, just the size to take your best marble. The other day I encountered a mouse bowling a horse-chestnut towards that very spot. Mousehole! I can just imagine the games those mice are playing with our marbles, below stairs. It explains a lot, really.

fruit fly trap

Fruit that I anticipate all year has begun to come into season, and resides in the fruit bowl. Usually it is rapidly eaten, but sometimes we are plagued by fruit flies. One year the flies were particularly, er, fruitful, and we had them clear through November! Somehow they took up residence on our bathroom mirror. This initiated some research and testing, and the resulting fruit fly trap.

flytrap-1s.jpg

Begin with a jar. We like glass so we can watch the proceedings.

flytrap-2s.jpg

Curl a piece of paper over on itself to form a cone with an opening at the point roughly wide enough for a fruit fly and one or two of its closest friends to slip through. Set the cone into the jar point down, shuffling the shape until the point reaches about half way down and the edge meets the glass. Tape the edge of the curled paper shut to keep the cone in place. Close any gaps to prevent any marauding fruit flies from escaping along the edge.

flytrap-4s.jpg

Slice the paper across at a couple of centimetres above the edge of the jar.

flytrap-5s.jpg

Cut tabs around the top edge to allow folding.

flytrap-3s.jpg

Ready? Toss in something your fruit flies have been enjoying. Mine are particularly fond of overripe fruit, wine, a touch of vinegar added to help things along if you like. I had a few leftover blueberries on hand, and a splash of red wine.

flytrap-6s.jpg

Fold down and tape shut the top edge of the cone to the glass. Set the jar in fruit fly territory.

flytrap-7s.jpg

Observe. The flies find their way in, yet cannot find their way out. No, it isn’t friendly. They die. They don’t live particularly long anyway, you’re just giving them a sweet place to live out their lives. I catch and release spiders, wood bugs, mice, I can accept living with ladybirds and lacewings. Fruit flies, not so much.

Don’t forget to toss the contents before the science project gets out of control! In fact, if you add some vinegar, you’d really just be making blueberry vinegar, which might have been quite nice without the flies in it.

vegetable patch

Last minute, as usual, I’ve put together my best attempt at plant care to sustain the kitchen garden for a summer away. (It’s been madness, putting all of our belongings into storage. A trial.) The major threat to our vegetable patch is deer, though I’ve no doubt that rabbits, slugs and snails will have their share.

vegpatch © elisa rathje 2011

After long deliberation with a kind and knowledgeable gardener at the little local shop, I brought home a pair of rose arches and assembled them like poles for my netting tent. This stuff is distinctly not handmade. That would be the trouble with last minute gardening!

veg patch © elisa rathje 2011

I fear it will be merely a deterrent rather than prevention, even if the wind doesn’t put it sideways, but I’ve chanced it and planted out all of the brussels sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, artichokes, kale, cavolo nero, and dill. The earth is in excellent shape, having rested a few seasons, and very few weeds survived my partial no-dig preparations. The squash are out to fend for themselves, as are the raspberries. The garlic is entirely self sufficient, and I will plant more of it next year as protection. A few strawberries made it under the arch; I am pinning my hopes on them to send out runners under cover, so that next year we’ll have a little patch of strawberries that might escape browsing by deer with delicate tastes. If anything survives our long absence I will be so very pleased. All of this could make a gorgeous crop at the end of summer, and much of it right could be harvested through til next spring, if we are so lucky. The greenhouse holds tomatoes and a lone pepper. My self-watering plans in there have been thwarted; perhaps if I convince myself to rise at dawn I will come up with a solution.(Friends may water – best to put one or another in place. Our London garden faired beautifully with both!)

We’re off in the morning to Canada, and I will write from there about new projects, tea parties, and adventures, just as soon as I can.