Thanksgiving meditation


Thinking ahead to next week, we’ve been reading through a stack of library books about Thanksgiving – simple children’s stories as well as historical and anthropological recountings.

Worked into our everyday conversations is the topic of thankfulness, and what the act of giving thanks looks like.  In light of these conversation with the kids, I’ve been reading some Wendell Berry in the evenings, and was particularly struck by the notion that, no matter how much we toil and struggle, somehow the success of our effort lies upon something Greater.  And so, when we reap success in life, we can see the results of our own hard work, but also reserve the lion’s share of thanks for our Provider who comes alongside us and produces the harvest.



Whatever is forseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

Wendell Berry, Walking Meditations

Posted in Changing Seasons, Faith, Learning, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Neighborhood Nature Walk


When the kids have abundant energy, and the weather is unusally dry, it’s time to bundle up and walk to Grandma and Grandpa’s.  The kids brought a basket to collect items for the nature table on their way.


We’ve been reading books about Thanksgiving, but also about late-autumn as we prepare to shift into the winter holiday.  The kids were anxious to add items to the nature table while it is still decorated for autumn.  (At the end of the month,  the table shifts over to Advent and Winter decor.)


George had more fun jumping in the leaves than collecting them.


Bea brought her whittling gear, so that she and Grandpa could make spoons when we arrived at his workshop.



Ruth, enjoying the crunch of the leaves.

More soon – crafting and good things from the kitchen!


Posted in Mothering tool kit, Nature Table, Outings, Playing/ Free Exploration | 1 Comment

Early Nights and Elf Cowls

IMG_0246[1] Although I’m originally an Air Force brat, and have lived all over, the Pacific Northwest has been my home for over a decade.  I cannot imagine living anywhere else.  There is so much to fall in love with here, especially for folks like us, who are undeterred by rain and love the outdoors.  There is one aspect of life in Portland that is rough for us:  the 4:30PM sunset this time of year. It is always a struggle to keep occupied and productive in those long dark evening hours.

The last few evenings, we have enjoyed watching Tales from the Green Valley on YouTube.  It is a BBC show in which archaeologists and historians recreate a year on a farm in 1620.  While we watched, I’ve finished a little project: IMG_0240[1]   This is the Little Green Elf Cowl pattern, using leftover Berroco Lustra (a wool/Tencel blend) given to me by a friend.  I have been thinking of knitting a few for Christmas gifts, but wanted to test-knit it first.  This pattern was a fun, easy, and satisfying.  I like the finished result – different than the average cowl pattern with its edging of diamonds. IMG_0249[1]I ended up only doing 12 repeats of the edging – not 14 as the pattern calls for – and still found it plenty loose.  Despite picking up fewer stitches for the top portion, it was almost too loose for my liking, and if I make another, the top will be done in smaller needles, or perhaps with fewer stitches. This time, I did a traditional bind-off, but it isn’t elastic enough, so next time I will use a shawl bind-off.

Joining the Yarn Along, and KCCO today.

Posted in Knitting | 4 Comments

Oregon Autumn Tart


Sometimes, an abundance of ingredients in the pantry necessitates the creation of a new recipe.  We had bag of fresh local cranberries in the fridge, a few handfuls of lingonberries from the garden, and a glut of locally-grown hazelnuts.  A perfect collection of ingredients for a truly Oregonian Autumnal tart.


Oregon Autumn Tart


1 sheet puff pastry

For the filling:

2 1/2 C fresh cranberries and lingonberries, washed 

1 1/2 C granulated or unrefined natural sugar (you can use 1 C for a more-tart dessert)

zest of one orange (I prefer to use a microplane for a very fine zest)

For the topping:

1/2 C unsalted butter, softened

1/2 C light brown sugar

1/2 C granulated sugar

2/3 C unbleached flour

pinch of salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 heaping C hazelnuts, coarsely chopped



In a large bowl, combine butter, sugars, flour, salt and nutmeg.  Using a pastry cutter or a clean hand, cut butter into other ingredients until it is in pea-sized pieces.  Then, fold in hazelnuts.  Set aside. (Can be made one day in advance and refridgerated.)


In a large skillet, combine berries, orange zest, and sugar.  Cook on medium heat, stirring often.  (As the berries pop, their juices will dissolve the sugar.)  Use the back of your spatula to crush the cranberries as the cook, and continue to simmer until mixture is thickened and all berries are beginning to cook down.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. 

While berries are cooking, roll out puff pastry to fill a jellyroll pan.  Place on parchment paper, and then in jellyroll pan.  Roll the edges of the puff pastry over and use a fork to crimp them down.

Preheat oven to 375F.  Spread cooled berry mixture evenly over the pastry with a spatula.  

Sprinkle streusel-nut topping over the berries, pressing it down gently.


Bake for 25-30 minutes until pastry is puffed and golden, berries are bubbling, and streusel topping is begins to turn golden.


Allow the tart to cool thoroughly before cutting into squares.  Serve with whipped cream if desired.

I confess, leftovers of this tart made for a pretty darn good November breakfast with a cup of coffee.

Hope you are enjoying all the good things of the season, too.




Posted in From my kitchen, Locally grown, Uncategorized | Leave a comment



The forecast for today is miserable – snow, freezing rain.  In anticipation, we finished winterizing the garden and got the garlic crop planted and mulched (weeks and weeks later than normal).   The duck house and chicken coop have been mucked and loads of fresh straw added, since the birds are not yet acclimated to the cold weather just now coming our way.  With the outdoor chores done, we can keep to the house knowing everything is taken care of outside.


I got a pot of white bean soup going first thing so I wouldn’t have to worry about dinner this afternoon.  As usual – no recipe, just using up what we have: to the soaked beans, we added 2 ham hocks, a finely chopped sauteed onion, 6 cloves of fermented garlic, La Ratte fingerling potatoes  (above) and Nantes carrots dug from the garden on Monday, and Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard plucked this morning (and cut up very finely so the kids will eat it).

I also threw in a handful of finely chopped golden raisins – they melt into the broth and add not only vitamins, but a subtle sweetness that complements the salty ham and adds complexity to the dish.  Later, Ruth will start a pot of brown rice and we’ll call that good for dinner.  Simple, nourishing, and perfect for a snowy day.


While the kids are making a Lego explosion all over the living room, we’re finishing our book on CD and I’m hoping to cast on this beauty (a lace-weight adaptation of this pattern).  It’s been a long time since I’ve knit a shawl for myself, and I am already ahead on my Christmas knitting (thanks to all the time off my feet with that broken ankle), so I thought a small project just for myself might be okay.  The yarn is Malabrigo Lace, in the colorway Archangel - found on deep clearance online (with free shipping!).  Fingers crossed it will be finished in time to wear for Thanksgiving dinner.

Posted in Farming/Gardening, From my kitchen, Knitting, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Little Mitts – Free Pattern

IMG_0224[1]   As promised, I’ve written up my very simple pattern for children’s fingerless mitts to share with you.  But more on that later in this post.  First, Ginny’s Yarn Along and the KCCO:

IMG_0222[1]  The children and I are re-listening to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Hard to believe it’s been four years since the last time we listened to it.  We are all enjoying it just as much as the first time. Bea got a new whittling book for her birthday, and we have been reading through it together.  Her grandparents also got her leather finger guards, and we have ordered a set of special carving knives to go along with her whittling knife. She loves whittling like I love knitting – it is good to see her find some handwork she really enjoys.

In between more complicated pieces, I like simple knitting projects to give my hands and mind a break.  I just finished two shawls and needed a simple knit to fill the void.

Here in the rainy Pacific Northwest, traditional mittens aren’t always the most practical – they get they get soaked and muddy.  The children wear their fingerless loves much more frequently.  This year they’ve all asked for new pairs for Christmas, so it was time to get knitting.

I love knitting these because it takes two hours to make a set – so a quick knit during busy gift-knitting season.  And using up odds and ends of yarn from previous projects is always a bonus.  Here’s the pattern:


Simple Mitts for Little Hands:


Yarn: Worsted or heavy-worsted weight yarn (such as Manos del Uruguay Maxima , or Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted).  You can get three or more pairs from one ball.

Needles: Size 7 or 8 US double-pointed needles.

Gauge:  Not crucial.  Fits ages 2-4 (ages 4-6).

Make Two:

CO 26 (28) sts.  Join in round.

Work in K1,P1 rib for 16 (18) rounds

K around for 2 (3) rounds.

Work thumb as follows:

R1: K1fb, K1fb, K around

R2, 4, and 6: K around

R3: K1fb, K2, K1fb, K around

R5: K1fb, K4, K1fb

R 7: K1fb, K6, K1fb

Small size – R8: BO 8 sts, K around.

(Larger size: R8: K around

R9: K1fb, K8, K1fb

R10: BO 10 sts, K around.)

Knit 4(6) rounds.  BO Loosely.  Weave in ends.

Copyright 2014 Angela Baker.  This pattern for personal and charity use only.

The pattern on Ravelry.




Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

A short November day…

IMG_0210[1] A few images from the garden in early November.  There are a few carrots, and oca and potatoes to dig, and still an abundance of Swiss Chard and kale.  Most everything else has been harvested, although there is still some cleanup to be done, and there will be winter pruning in two months.  Here and there, a few calendula flowers are the only thing still blooming, but they are bent down with persistent raindrops. IMG_0219[1]   Tomatillos in their skeletal husks will germinate in the spring and yield a crop next year with no help from me.                 IMG_0208[1]   Hal commented that some of the grape leaves look like topographical maps.  IMG_0200[1]   The comfrey is still going strong where they ducks haven’t eaten it back.  Most of the new perennial fruit plants (a tiny baby Saskatoon in the red cage above – Shropshire Damsons, and Chilean guavas elsewhere in the garden) have comfrey nursemaids planted next to them.  IMG_0195[1]   The persimmon tree is on the cusp of a spectacular fiery display.  Hopefully by next year, there will be a crop of Early Fuyu persimmons left hanging once the red-orange leaves fall. IMG_0180[1]

The half-high and high-bush blueberries are just beginning to turn color.  They are four years-old, so in coming years – as they grow considerably – this whole side of the house will be awash in bright red blueberry and Aronia berry leaves in November.  IMG_0203[2]   Hope you have a cozy, restful weekend.  I’ll leave you with an autumnal Waldorf verse, of which I am always reminded this time of year:

The north wind came along one day,
So strong and full of fun;
He called the leaves down from the trees
And said, “Run children run”.
They came in read and yellow dress,
In shaded green and brown,
And all the short November day
He chased them round the town.
They ran in crowds, they ran alone,
They hid behind the trees,
The north winds laughing found them there
And called “No stopping please”
But when he saw them tired out
And huddled in a heap,
He softly said, “Goodnight my dears,
Now let us go to sleep.”

Posted in Changing Seasons, Farming/Gardening | 1 Comment

Little Mitts, Little Hands


Strep throat and a chest cold swept through the family this week, so we have done little else besides snuggle and attempt to get well.  New “Triple Crown” thornless blackberries are waiting to be planted in the garden, the grapes and raspberries need to be pruned back for the winter.  However, nearly every item on this week’s “to-do” list this week has been abandoned in favor of long waits – for throat cultures at the urgent care, and antibiotics at the pharmacy.

I cannot sit still without some handwork to keep me occupied.  All of the waiting for medical appointments and snuggling with sleeping feverish children has afforded ample time to knit.  And knit, and knit.  I worked up a new, very simple children’s fingerless mitt pattern (the children always request mittens or some such for Christmas).   They are a quick knit – taking only about two hours to complete, and a great use of leftover worsted-weight yarn.

A few images from our week, although there isn’t much:


On this morning’s trudge down to the chicken run to feed the poultry, I was struck by the beauty of the half-pruned Concord grapes on the chicken coop.  We lack the showy maple trees of the Midwest, but the grapes never fail to bring some autumn color to the garden.


When George has felt like playing this week, he has been rediscovering the block basket.  In the early morning, when the other children are still asleep, he asks if he can go play blocks.


IMG_0228[1]These mitts will be a Christmas gift for George – he loves anything TARDIS blue, and a friend gave me some incredibly soft Manos del Uruguay yarn, which knit up beautifully.

I think the kinks are ironed out, and will share the finished pattern (in toddler/preschool and elementary sizes) in time for next week’s Yarn Along.  Be sure to check back this weekend for more from the garden, and next Wednesday for the fingerless mitt pattern.



Posted in Changing Seasons, Knitting, Learning, Playing/ Free Exploration | 3 Comments

Yarn Along: Annis

IMG_0143[1]Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along this week.

Knitting: I’m finishing up the Annis Shawl in Brown Sheep Nature Spun fingering weight yarn.  The yarn was purchased several years ago on clearance, but I had never found the  right pattern for it until I recently came across “Annis” on Ravelry.

Reading: Just finished re-reading How To Make A Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield.  Every time I thumb through it, I glean something new to apply to our landscape.

On a whim I snagged On Such a Full Sea, by Chang-Rae Lee from the library “Best Picks” shelf.  It is a Dystopian post-apocalyptic novel, and while I am only two chapters in, I must say that the writing is light years better than other novels I have read lately from the same genre.  The prose is absolutely gorgeous – rich and vivid, and yet not in any way combersome.  Not surprising, considering Lee has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.



The rain today is dreadful, so much of the day was dedicated to play and craft projects in the living room, reading and mathematics, and all the sibling squabbles that come from being confined indoors.

Wishing you a peaceful rest of the week.




Posted in Books and Reading, Knitting, Learning, Playing/ Free Exploration | 2 Comments

Fall Chop n Drop


Saying goodbye to the abundant tomato crop:  This year has been the best and longest tomato growing season since we started gardening in this location five years ago.  George and I spent yesterday ripping up, chopping up tomato plants, and stripping the last of the fruits from the vines.


We had quite a lot of ripe/ripening tomatoes, especially considering a volunteer had picked a much larger quantity earlier in the week.  There were also quite a lot of tomatillos (bottom right).   Most years, the tomatoes are long gone this far into October, so we are lucky to be picking any.

We do take in the green tomatoes (bottom left) since they make very good chutney, fried tomatoes, and lacto-fermented dill pickles.


As we pull up the tomato plants, I chop them into small (hand-sized) pieces and throw them right back on the beds.  As other spent plants die, they are also cut off at the ground and chopped onto the beds.  Soon, I will sprinkle coffee grounds, coffee chaff, composted poultry manure, and comfrey tea on the beds. Over our mild Oregon winter, the poultry will work through the beds, scratching the vegetable matter and helping it break down before spring.  Worms will come up to the surface and help turn the plant matter into compost.  There is no need to expend the effort to move it all to a compost bin, let it decompose, and then shovel it all back.  Letting it compost in place is a huge labor saver.

Chop and Drop is an energy-saving, soil-building concept in permaculture where biomass is accumulated through the chopping and dropping of excess vegetation.  Just as leaves and branches fall in nature, building up the soil, in the permaculture garden, the gardener accelerates that process by intentionally cutting back vegetation, and laying it on top of the beds.

In the photo above, you can see the ducks and Cookie the Buff Orpington looking for slugs and other goodies in a mass of vegetation I have just chopped and dropped around a white currant (far left) and a young Bavay’s Green Gage plum (small trunk at right).  As these materials break down, they slowly release nutrients into the soil, encourage the growth of beneficial fungi, and build soil fertility.   Keeping a cover of mulch also suppresses weeds, conserves water, and protects perennials from harsh winter weather.


In a immature system such as ours, we still bring in wood chips several times year to mulch beds and import biomass.  Hopefully, in a few years, we will be producing enough biomass here at the farmette to supple the needs of all the garden beds and the orchard.  (More on that later in the week!)

At the end of the afternoon, my foot is quite swollen, and I’m very glad the ham n split pea stew was made early in the day, so I can put my foot up and rest before supper.  There is a lot to be done in order to put the garden to bed for the winter, but I think we got a solid start to the work before the driving rain returns tomorrow.


Posted in BCS Teaching Garden, Changing Seasons, Farming/Gardening | 1 Comment