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Fresh Elderberry Syrup

One of my favorite fall activities is harvesting elderberries to make elderberry syrup. I have two black elders (Sambucus nigra) and one blue elder (S. nigra ssp. cerulea), and most years can harvest 40 lbs or more of fruit from these three shrubs.   Most of the fruit can be reached from the ground, but I have a pole-pruner to help me access the large clusters up high. We had a heavy rain which washed all of the forest-fire ash off, so it seemed like a good time to harvest the second round of fruit. I let the poultry out of their

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Parkrose Market

I have had much time to blog the last several days, I’m working on stocking our Etsy store (Parkrose Market) with salves and balms and knitted things.  Trying to juggle all of my obligations at the moment is proving challenging, and I’m dropping a few balls here and there.  But, I’m still making progress and being anything less than busy doesn’t come naturally to me. I grow all of the herbs here (with the exception of myrrh), dry them in our solar dehydrator, and then infuse them into organic unrefined coconut oil and organic olive oil.  We use only local beeswax

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Herbal Salves

  The past few weeks, I’ve been working on batches of healing salves, both for custom orders and to stock our soon-to-open Etsy store.  We grow the herbs with all organic methods (of course!), and dry them in a solar dehydrator, utilizing only the energy of the sun. Other ingredients in the salves include local beeswax from natural beekeepers, and organic oils. The herbs (such as calendula, above) are infused into organic coconut oil and organic olive oil by sun-infusion or by simmering in a double boiler for 6-8 hours.  Don’t the blossoms turn the oil a lovely sunny shade? All

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Eve of Autumn

Today we said goodbye to summer and anticipate the impending arrival of autumn.  It has been warm and sunny during the day, but the crispness of fall has definitely made itself felt in the air. We’ve been pulling out pants (only to discover George has outgrown every pair that fit this spring) and mittens and vests and rain jackets.  The kitchen has been really chilly in the mornings, and it gives me an excuse to bake:  I’ve made bread two days in a row, and have plans to get up before the children to bake banana bread for breakfast tomorrow.

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Plant Sale

  Every year, I give away dozen and dozens of plants to the volunteers who harvest here and to the folks who take our free garden workshops through Birch Community Services.  As our permaculture food forest becomes more mature and more productive, I have recently been able to expand our nursery stock and offer some plants for sale to the general public. (A Note:  Everything we grow here is produced using all organic methods – no fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers of any kind.    One of the ethics of permaculture is “share the surplus”, and in keeping with that

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Tuesday Evening

The garden always starts to look a little more wild and unkempt than normal this time of year.  Some plants are past their prime and looking scraggly.  Some have spilled over their boundaries to scramble over paths and up tomato cages.  Some (like the mile-high lettuce in the center-background) are allowed to bolt so I can save the seeds or are permitted to self-sow about the garden. After dinner, George helped me pick some tomatoes and plums and summer squash for a delivery in the morning.  He got a thrill out of being hoisted up to help reach the first

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Solar Dehydrator

A friend recently gave me her well-loved solar dehydrator.  I have been chomping at the bit to try it out, and yesterday picked a bunch of herbs (that will eventually go into salves) and set to drying them. I spent some time in the evening gathering calendula blossoms and comfrey (shown here), broad-leaf plantain, raspberry leaves, rosemary, lavender, and costmary.  The calendula blossoms come in an array of peaches, yellows, oranges since I let them freely self-sow around the garden and express their natural genetic diversity. I have two electric dehydrators and make a lot of dried fruit and herbs

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Healing Salve Recipe

‘Tis the Season to make Christmas gifts, and Bea and I started yesterday morning, making another, larger batch of comfrey-rosemary salve.  (Joining the KCCO today.) Comfrey, also known as knit-bone, is touted as having strong healing properties.   I have used it daily on my broken ankle once the stitches healed (don’t use the salve on open wounds), but it is also commonly used on bruises and other injuries.  It is a soothing salve to rub onto bumps, bruises, sore muscles, etc – all of which are common place in a house with 3 roller derby girls and very active, energetic kids.

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A short November day…

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.   Tomatillos in their skeletal husks will germinate in the spring and yield a crop next year with no help from me.        

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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

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Homebodies

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

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Pippins

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

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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.

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Early Summer Evening

    Walking the gardens in the evening is one of my favorite rituals.  It gives me a chance to take assessment of the various beds, dead-head flowers, pull weeds, prune as necessary.  The front yard perennial bed is beginning to fill in.  Late in the winter, several plants were damaged/destroyed when heavy tree rounds were accidentally dumped in my yard.  Slowly, new perennials are filling in the gaps.  Columbine, Sea Kale (Crambe maritima), Bee Balm, and several other new plants are beginning to establish, despite the slug onslaught. The young plum trees (a Methley and an Early Laxton), have set a

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Early June in the Permaculture Garden

  The first of the goumi berries (Eleagnus multiflora) are ripe.  I picked a handful, and my eldest promptly ate them all. We have four goumi bushes (2 of Sweet Scarlet, and 2 of Red Gem), but only two are old enough to produce any berries.  The young plants will produce a few pints of berries -which as you can see in the above photo, ripen in succession – but in the future, we should get more than enough for batches of jam and fruit leather and fresh eating.  As a bonus, the shrubs are nitrogen fixers, so I have situated them

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Hidden Corner and Weekly Harvest

Our chicken coop is a giant monstrosity we acquired four years ago for next to nothing on Craigslist.  It got a window and bright paint and sits very happily in the back of the yard. Because it is so tall, I knew it needed a vertical climber trained up the side.  I chose Concord grapes, which my grandpa always grew, and remind me of childhood visits to his garden in Indiana.  Concords have a distinct flavor, which grape enthusiasts call “foxy.”  My kids aren’t especially fond of the flavor, but I love them. (There are plenty of other grape varieties

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Late May in the Garden Part I

It has been a long, long time since I’ve done a garden update.  Many things have changed as a succession of new plants have been added, and ten yards of wood chips spread about.   Nitrogen fixers and annual veggies have given way to a maturing system full of edible perennials and low-maintenance food cultivation.  So, let’s take a quick tour of the front yard and shade gardens, shall we? I consider the front beds adjacent to the street to be my “good neighbor” beds.  I try to keep them as aesthetically pleasing as possible, and let them serve as

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Late June in the Garden Part One

Some images from our front-yard permaculture garden, as we slowly transition more and more beds to perennial crops (as time and budget permit). Oh yeah, it’s a jungle.  I still think it’s more beautiful than any monoculture lawn, don’t you? Planting beneficial, useful, and edible plants doesn’t mean sacrificing beauty and blooms in your landscape. All of this was lawn four years ago (plus the neighbor’s hedge).  Of course, it’s all in transition, but as the trees and shrubs mature, it will continue to move from scraggly to ever-more beautiful and diverse and productive.  (But always look a bit wild,

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Care of the Raspberry Patch

The raspberries have yet to drop all their leaves, but with plenty of rain in the forecast, now was the time to get the patches cleaned up for winter.  What better way to do it than in the last blush of sunshine before the return of fall rains? We have two raspberry patches.  The one above is for the children of volunteers to snack on.  It resides in the side yard, next to a strawberry bed that serves the same purpose. The other, larger patch is in front of the chicken coop in the backyard (half shown here).  It is

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