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.


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Elderberry-Rose Hip Syrup


A friend very kindly picked me loads of wild rose hips.  These red-orange fruits of fall are loaded with vitamin C, lycopene and beta-carotene.  They can be dried for tea, or used fresh for syrup and jam.  (Take note – the seeds inside are covered with irritating hairs, and if the fruits are cut up, the hairs need to be removed.  The seeds and outside of the fruit are edible.)IMG_0069[1]

Late in the summer, when our elderberries were in full production (and I was still out of commission), my husband picked and froze loads of berries for me.    Adding the rose hips to my elderberry syrup seemed like a great way to boost the health-benefits of this winter-time supplement.

Here’s my updated recipe:

Elderberry Rose Hip Syrup


5 cups fresh or frozen elderberries (see prep below)

2 cups fresh unsprayed (preferably wild) rose hips (see prep below)

thumb-sized piece of ginger, skin peeled off

5 cups water

4-5 cups organic unrefined sugar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar


Step 1: Remove all stems – even the smallest ones – from the berries (see my notes on elderberries and cyanide here.  (If using frozen berries: Let the berries thaw slightly (as seen above),  then use a fork to easily knock them from the stems.  Discard all stems and leaves in the compost.  Rinse berries to remove any debris or spiders.


Step 2: Rinse the rosehips, and remove any that are soft and mushy.  With your fingers, pull off the dried brown petals from the blossom end of the hip (also called a “haw”).  Measure out two cups of whole hips (the hips will not burst when cooked, so I don’t cut them open and remove the hairs/seeds for this recipe).

Step 3: Add berries, hips, ginger, and 5 cups water to a heavy-bottomed pan.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer with the lid off, for 45 minutes.

Step 4: Strain the liquid ad berries, using a fine strainer or clean tea towel, carefully crushing the hot fruit pulp as you do so.  Discard the mashed fruit.  Measure the quantity of juice.  It should be around 5 cups.

Step 5:  Add strained juice back to the pan.  For every cup of juice, stir in 2/3-1 cup of sugar (less sugar will yield a runnier final product).  Bring mixture to a boil, and boil, stirring frequently, until mixture is reduced by one-third to one-half, and thickens to desired viscosity.

Step 6: Add balsamic vinegar (or substitute with 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar for a brighter flavor), and stir.  Ladle hot syrup into jars, and store in the refrigerator for up to six months, or process in a hot-water bath canner.

The syrup is very good over ice cream, or pound cake, or mixed with a little hot tea or brandy.



As a health supplement, the syrup is commonly taken as 1/2- 1 tsp daily in the fall and winter.  My children enjoy it in a small glass of seltzer or orange juice.

Back tomorrow with some garden work from today.  Hope you had a restful weekend.

Posted in Farming/Gardening, From my kitchen, Homemaking, Locally grown, Moderation and Economy, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October bounty

IMG_0122[1]A few images from the past week:



Picking highbush cranberries (Viburnum trilobum) back by the chicken coop.  There are many nurseries that stock this species (or group of species), but unless you acquire a variety specifically selected for eating, the fruit will be highly unpalatable.  These are from a specialty nursery and the fruit taste very much like a true cranberry (Vaccinium spp).

The birds get about half the fruit, but those we manage to pick substitute nicely for cranberries in any dish.  They also make a lovely red jelly, and dehydrate well.  If you have room, they are worth growing, especially as the plant is less fussy than true cranberries, and the fruit is ready weeks and weeks before the lingonberries.


Bacon-fat rubbed all over a chicken before roasting yields a spectacularly crispy skin.  This chicken with roasted carrots and onions fed us for three meals: One roast chicken dinner, leftovers for pot pie, and a batch of bone broth.  The garlic, carrots, rosemary, sage came from the garden.



Picking quince, which will be made into membrillo in a few days.  In the meantime, they fill the kitchen with a delightful floral – almost tropical – aroma.



Checking on the few monster “Sweet Meat” winter squashes.  Because October continues to be mild, the vines are still green and growing, so the squash are still in the garden.   Looking forward to making soup, gnocchi, and roast squash from these giant beauties.



Another blessing of the mild weather:  we continue to pick a handful or two of golden raspberries and Inca berries every day for snacks.

IMG_0086[1]Cleaning a gorgeous bag of wild rosehips picked for me by a friend.  They were made into elderberry-rosehip syrup – the recipe for which I will share later in the week.





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

On the Wheel


It has been a long, long time since I’ve used my spinning wheel.  I am struggling to regain sufficient dorsiflexion in order to walk without a limp, despite doing physical therapy exercises religiously.  We brought the wheel downstairs so I could treadle and at least gain strength, and possibly mobility as well.  (First, the little bit of lavender merino yarn had to come off the bobbin so I could start spinning the KoolAid dyed pinky-orange roving.  I will ply it later.)


George hung out with me and had a snack while I pre-drafted the roving.


Attempting to get the wheel going was tricky.  My ankle is very stiff and the muscles in that leg are weak.  I found the tension had to be let way out in order to keep treadling and draft correctly.  It means I’m dealing with a bit of overspin, but right now the spinning is for the doing and not the finished product.  IMG_0032[1] IMG_0048[1]

The wheel tends to walk across the wood floor when the wheel gets going, so I keep a little rag rug my great-grandmother made underneath to prevent this.  My ankle can hold up for about 20 minutes of spinning, and then it starts to grumble loudly, but after a short break I can return.  The plate and screws and pins don’t bother me, for which I am grateful, and with time the soft tissue will stretch out more and the range of motion will improve.

IMG_0037[1]After a number of sessions, I managed to get a small hank of fingering-weight yarn spun, and started a second.  Not sure yet if I will knit it as singles, or ply it when I get the other half spun up.

Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along today.  More from the garden later this week.


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Autumn is settling in, and we’ve put the feather comforters and extra quilts on the beds.  My ankle hasn’t healed enough to drive yet, so we spend our week keeping busy at home.  Any moment it isn’t raining, we’ve been in the garden.

Some images from our quiet week around the house.  Above: Hops, rosemary, and comfrey drying in a sunny window seat.


Collecting columbine seeds for Christmas gifts, and a few to sow around the garden.


Baking bread.  The kids can eat a loaf every single day, and I certainly don’t mind baking.  This is molasses-shredded wheat bread (my kids love shredded-wheat cereal, and we save the crushed bits in the bottom of the bag for making bread.   Tossing a half-cup into the recipe adds a nice texture, and nothing goes to waste).  Butter spread on top when the loaf is warm makes for a soft crust children enjoy.IMG_9989[1]

The Nature Table is transitioning over for autumn.  It includes whatever the kids collect: birch bark, a paper wasp nest, as well as shells and rocks discovered in children’s pockets when we go to do the laundry.


A volunteer brought the children a nest she found in our raspberry patch.  We find several every year around the yard, but the kids always get excited about them – they have an almost mystical quality because of their ephemeral nature, and each one is unique.

The perpetual calendar in the upper right is from MamaRoots, and was a birthday gift to Bea last year.  She dutifully keeps track of it for us, and it is one of the best instructional toys we’ve purchased.

IMG_0001[1]A few days in the sun, rotated a few times a day, and the hops and such have dried, and been packed into jars until we need them.

Autumn is always bittersweet – I love the baking, sticking close to home, the warm wooly things of fall.  But the garden winds down and is put to bed for the year, and the weather turns grey and rainy and chilly.  Especially this year, where I missed an entire summer laid up on the sofa with my leg, the changing of the seasons hits a little hard.  Fall is here though, and I’ve got to take the good things the season offers and be content… seems like the right time to bake some gingerbread.

Blessings on your weekend.



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The Cox’s Orange Pippin apples are ready.  We didn’t get but just a few, as the tree can be fiddly in its fruit-bearing, and I had pruned it heavily the winter before for shape, not fruit production.


Nonetheless, these are spectacular apples.  The flavor is purported to be one of the best in the world.  The first time I tried one, I was hooked.  And since they aren’t available unless you grow them yourself, we planted in a tree by the duck house.

And the color – a pumpkin orange undertone with mottling of red, yellow and pale green, and bits of russetting.  Beautiful, and not like any apple in the grocery store.  If any apple makes a case for heirloom apple trees in the home garden, it is this gem of a fruit.


George and I cut back much of the horseradish (it will die back to the ground at the first frost, anyway).  Horseradish, rhubarb, comfrey, artichoke all put out large amounts of foliage which they shed come cold weather.  These large leaves make great mulch.  Since this horseradish was overgrowing the path -and I kept snagging my crutch on it every single time I walked by – a portion of it had to go.


While I mulched a Juneberry with the horseradish leaves, George got some prime snuggle time with his favorite chicken, Nudge.  Nudge loves nothing better than a good snuggle with a gentle child.  If George doesn’t crouch down for her, she will attempt to flap up into his arms in order to be held.


IMG_9897[1]The quince are getting closer and closer to being ripe.  Still green, but beginning to turn yellow.  I am dreaming of membrillo already.

Posted in Farming/Gardening | 2 Comments

Simple Kimchi Recipe

IMG_9947[1]   Most of us have come down with the first cold of fall.  If you ask me, nothing is better for a cold than kimchi.  The spicy sourness of this traditional food eases cold symptoms and it is rich in probiotic power.  (It is also good for easing morning sickness, especially when made into soup with noodles.)

Actually, one doesn’t need an illness or excuse to make and eat kimchi.  This lightly-fermented probiotic condiment is simple to make, and is delicious on anything from pizza to scrambled eggs.   Throw some in the middle of your grilled cheese and you won’t be sorry. There are many variations, but most kimchi starts with Napa cabbage.  From there, family recipes vary quite a bit.  I arrived at my own recipe after trying many, many different recipes, combining the elements I liked from each.  I also use a hot pepper paste recommended by the owner of my local Asian market, which I prefer to recipes calling for powdered pepper blended with dried shrimp, sugar, and other ingredients.

Here’s my recipe:

Simple Kimchi

  • 2-2 1/2 lbs of Napa cabbage
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 large glass or ceramic (non-reactive) bowls
  • cold water to cover the cabbage

Prepare ahead: Chop Napa cabbage into one to one-and-a-half inch pieces, including the ribs.  Divide the cabbage between the two bowls, sprinkle each bowl with 1/4 cup kosher salt and gently massage the cabbage a few times (do NOT used iodized salt.  It will give an off flavor to the finished product).  Add cold water to each bowl until the cabbage is covered (you may need to add a plate on top to help keep the cabbage submerged.)

Let bowls of salted cabbage sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours.  Then drain the bowls and rinse cabbage thoroughly in cold water to remove the salt.

Dry the cabbage with a clean tea towel, scrunching gently.  Place the wilted cabbage in a collander and allow it to drain completely.   IMG_9955[1]   Now that the cabbage is prepared, you are ready to put the kimchi together.  (A quick note:  The pictures won’t match the recipe exactly – Our Asian market was out of daikon, so I used three large carrots this time.  Kimchi is very adaptable.  Sometimes, if I can’t find daikon, I will use two Granny Smith apples, an extra carrot, or add another 1/2 lb of cabbage.) In one of the large glass bowls, gather:

  • One small to medium white daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 6 scallions, root end and the very dark green portions removed, and finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup Korean hot pepper paste (if your brand doesn’t include sugar, add 1 tsp sugar to it)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (Golden Boy brand is very good, but if you can’t find it, ask your local Asian grocer which s/he prefers.)
  • A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated (including juice!)
  • 5-7 cloves of garlic, crushed

IMG_9949[1]   I used to use ground hot peppers, and mixed them with other ingredients, including sugar and dried shrimp.  One day, the owner of our Asian market saw me scanning the shelves and asked what I was looking for.  I told him hot pepper powder for kimchi, and he said, “You should try this instead.  It’s what all my Korean customers buy.”

IMG_9952[1]I’m very glad I tried it.  The pepper paste is delicious, spicy, sweet, salty, and makes a great kimchi.  I don’t like my kimchi super spicy, so if you do, increase the amount of paste to suit your taste.  If you are worried about using up the whole tub, it also makes a fantastic spicy rub for BBQ beef or pork.

IMG_9954[1]   The market has an overwhelming array of fish sauces.  The flavor can vary quite a bit, so if you aren’t sure which to pick, ask the grocer.  If you haven’t cooked with fish sauce before, be prepared – it smells horrendous.  But it is full of delectable umami flavor, and vital to the dish.  Flavor isn’t the only reason it is necessary, however – fish sauce is fermented, and will help jump start the fermentation of your kimchi. IMG_9962[1] IMG_9964[1]   Mix the ingredients in the bowl together until the garlic, ginger and pepper paste are thoroughly distributed.  Then, by hand (you may wish to wear a glove because the paste can make your skin burn a bit), add the cabbage and mix it into the other ingredients, scrunching it with your hand as you go. IMG_9973[1]   Put the kimchi into a fermentation vessel (or two quart jars), packing the ingredients in tightly as you go.  Amongst fermented condiments, kimchi is the most notorious for making a lot of liquid, bubbling over and escaping the vessel.  Because of this, I leave ample head space before adding the weight. IMG_9975[1]   Place the weight and lid on your vessel.  This will keep mold spores and other contaminants out.  If using a mason jar with lid and ring, leave the ring loose, so gases can escape and your jar doesn’t crack.  Place the vessel on a plate to catch any juice that bubbles over during fermentation.

IMG_9972[1]Leave the kimchi on the counter at room temperature for 24-72 hours, tasting it every day, and moving it to the fridge when it as bubbly and sour as you like.  Be aware that by the second day, a lot of liquid may have bubbled over.  This is normal, and a sign that the good bacteria are creating a health pickled food.  (Kimchi is lightly fermented, and unlike sauerkraut, is ready in days instead of weeks.  Leaving kimchi on the counter too long will result in a mushy, unpleasantly sour final product.  Once it is moved to the fridge, kimchi will still slowly ferment.  Enjoy it in the first two weeks after you make it for the best possible crunch and flavor.)

(Joining Wooly Moss Roots for her Gratitude Sunday today.  Very grateful that in the midst of feeling crummy, I can make something to help us feel better and get better.  It’s good to take care of my family after months of being unable to do so.)

More from out in the garden early in the week.

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Hop Blossoms and Dragonfly Wings


A few pictures from the last two days:

The boys helped me pick hops this afternoon, which we will dry for tea.  Usually, we pick them for brewing beer, but I’m told a few blossoms steeped in hot water with a little honey makes a very soothing bedtime tea, so we are going to try it this winter.



Baking sesame-oat and shredded-wheat spelt breads yesterday so the kids could have a snack before derby scrimmage.


My ankle swells very quickly, and I spent a lot of time with my foot propped up, reading to the children and knitting Christmas presents.  Dragonfly Wings is off the needles, but still needs to be blocked.  I enjoyed this pattern very much – it was easy and quick to knit.   Looking forward to see how it blocks up.


Before the weather gets too cold and the comfrey dies back, I have begun collecting the leaves to dry, in order to make a batch of comfrey-rosemary salve.

More soon, including a recipe for the comfrey salve.


Posted in Changing Seasons, Farming/Gardening, Knitting, Locally grown, Moderation and Economy | 2 Comments

First Day of Autumn


It has been three months since I last posted an update.  Three months ago tomorrow, I broke my leg quite badly at derby practice, and have spent the summer recovering from two subsequent reconstructive surgeries.

Hard Wear

They tell me it takes a full year to be back (as close) to normal (as the ankle can get).  In the last two weeks, I’ve finally been able to get out in the garden for a few hours each day.  While I have some complications, and still have a brace and need to use one crutch, being back in the garden has done wonders for my recovery.  It is such a gift to be able to get around outdoors – however slowly – and tend to the garden – however wild it has become.  It is so so good to get back to any measure of garden work.

A quick glimpse at our morning in the garden:  (Bea, our resident shutterbug, took all of these pictures, as I was ecstatically hobbling around the yard with a crutch in one hand and pruners in the other.):

IMG_9577[1]The last of the plums were picked today.  They are “Stanley” prune plums in the front yard.  They are ready a full month after the other plums in the yard, so we have had fresh plums throughout the summer.


IMG_9736[1]The Swiss Chard is a bit out of control in the front beds.  I allow the brightest and most vigorous plants to bolt and then let them self-sow every year.  The result has been bigger plants each year and deep bright pink or red stems in most of the plants.


The Cox’s Orange Pippin apples are beginning to blush a bit of red.  I am anxious for them to ripen!


I can never resist snacking on Cape Gooseberries (Physalis peruviana, which are also known as Inca berries).  They always ripen at the very end of summer after most fruits have peaked.  The late ripening, plus their sweet-tart exotic flavor makes them worth growing, no matter how small the crop.


September also yields a flush of tomatillos.  Much like green beans, the fruit loves to hide:  you can pick a plant through, come back five minutes later and pick another full basket worth.


When placed together, it is easy to see that the tomatillo (“De Milpa” variety), Cape Gooseberry, and ground cherry all belong to the genus Physalis.  Their papery husks keep the fruit clean, even when it falls from the plant at peak ripeness.

IMG_9747[1]While I picked tomatillos, the older children made and elaborate game for George that involved gathering beans from the “Sadie’s Horse Bean” and “Indian Runner” pole beans.  it kept them occupied for a very, very long time.

IMG_9782[1]A portion of this morning’s harvest for Birch Community Services, which included ground cherries, “Violette de Bordeaux” figs, lavender, French Tarragon, “Delicata” squash, tomatoes, summer squash, plums, “Lacinato” (aka “Dinosaur”) kale, Lemon cucumbers, chard, sage, rosemary, and tomatillos.

More soon as the garden winds down for the year, and life slowly returns to a familiar rhythm for our family.

Blessings on your week.




Posted in BCS Teaching Garden, Changing Seasons, Farming/Gardening, Locally grown, Playing/ Free Exploration | Comments Off