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Autumn Once Again

I was out picking some fruit for lunch during a break in the rain, and snapped a few photos of a portion of the backyard.   The rains have re-greened the garden very quickly.  I’m struggling to pick and roast and preserve tomatoes before the continued rains split them all.  Same with the plums. It’s not officially autumn yet, but it sure feels like it this week.  The chill in the morning when I handle garden chores is quick to remind me that the days remaining in the garden are relatively few.  The summer veggies and fruits are beginning to

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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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A Morning Indoors

Hal is at ReWild’s Nature Immersion program on Fridays.  It’s the highlight of his week.  He gets to run around outside all day, learn primitive skills, and engage in loads of imaginative play with his friends.  He comes home tired, filthy, and very, very happy. It’s not just a benefit for him:  In a house with lots of kids, sending just one kid off for the day has lots of perks.  It not only provides him with adventure apart from his siblings, but it also reduces the conflict, mess, noise, etc in the house by a significant portion.  And considering

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Pear-Quince Butter Recipe

Yesterday I spend the morning making Pear-Quince Butter.  It’s a twist on the traditional apple butter because I’m using the ingredients I have on hand.  I have an abundance of quince trees in the garden, and the fruit is now beginning to ripen up.  I also have basket full of pears right now – some from our Seckel pear tree, but most the girls picked up in Hood River this past weekend. I make membrillo out of quince every year, and also Caramel-Spice Pear Butter (sorry, the recipe is top-secret!), but with the quantity of both in my kitchen right

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Returning

I’ve always been a sporadic blogger.   Honestly, the last several months, it’s been easier to Instagram.   After a long, unintended blog break full of officiating roller derby, working in the garden, and writing for Azure Standard, the change of the seasons always draws me back here.  I have recipes and knitting patterns in the works, and hope to be back to blogging on a semi-regular basis…for a while at least…until derby and work and unschool life with four kids gets overwhelming again. Blessings on this tail end of summer.  Back tomorrow with a recipe to share.

The Garden Keeps Giving

  It’s nearly November, and yet we’re still finding fresh food in the garden every day. George helped me pick some green tomatoes so I could make a batch of lacto-fermented pickles with them. I picked the last of the quince for the year and have membrillo simmering on the stove right now.  Can’t wait until it is ready to pour into a pan and set up and finally EAT.  Nothing goes better with a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon than membrillo with cheese and smoked-paprika-spiced crackers. Bea helped me dig a few sunchoke tubers for dinner later

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Autumn Fires

  We’re slowly working on getting out the autumn decorations and switching the Nature Table over from summer to fall.  The children have been collecting items from the yard and around the neighborhood.  It seems like every time I step outside, I find someone’s little collection of goodies on the front step or back table. I think some of the nature-mindedness is due to the time of year, but some of it is due to a wilderness study we’ve started: I’m teaching a class at our homeschool co-op based on the book My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

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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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Mid-September

A few quick pictures from around our permaculture garden today: The lovage has gone to seed, so it was time to cut it back and sow the seeds around the garden.  They will germinate in the spring and add to our stock of perennial vegetables.  Their blossoms will be a strong attractant to parasatoid wasps, lacewings, and other beneficial insects. The Aromatnaya quince are nearly ripe.  A few more weeks, and they will be fragrant and ready to pick and put into sauces and pies. In May, we put in 2 female and 1 male sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides). Sea buckthorn is a

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Putting Up Plums

September is the month when the various kinds of prune plums ripen in succession.  I have so many, I scarcely know what to do with all of them.  When the Shropshire Damson starts producing next year, I will be absolutely flooded with plums at the end of summer.   We had a brief run of rain, followed by hot weather, and now more rain, and the late plums are all splitting faster than I can pick them. When jams, sauces, plum brandy are all made and still there are buckets of very ripe plums left, the solution is to dehydrate them.

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Ripening Tomatoes

After a serious drought most of the year, the rain has finally returned.  (It actually feels like Oregon again here.  So glad for the grey and the rain!) Despite the fact that we had what felt like an eternal summer, the reality is that it is now September, and the cooling temperatures and rapidly-shrinking day-lengths mean the bumper tomato harvest can only last a few more weeks. I frequently hear from folks who are frustrated to find most of their tomato fruit still hanging green and rock hard on the vines by the time temps dip into the 40’s at

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Summer’s finally here

Today was the real start of our summer – my husband has the week off work before he starts teaching summer school, the kids started swim lessons this morning, and the garden is filling in with every shade of green and splashes of color. I am looking forward to this summer so, so much.  I want to soak up every moment and appreciate every single thing that comes my way.  A year ago tomorrow, I broke my ankle very badly, and missed an entire summer because I was having surgeries and laying on the sofa, blurred by pain meds and

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Early December Nature Table

  Today it really began to feel like Christmastime in our home: Bea and I converted the nature table  from autumn to Advent. The Nativity figurines were a gift (from France!) and the conifer candle, picked up at the farmer’s market, is made from local beeswax.  The perpetual calendar is from MamaRoots. I potted up a Christmas Cactus cutting from my mother.  Hopefully, by next Christmas it will be in bloom. Ruth and I began decorating our little table-top tree.  (We always get our tree from the L’Arche benefit sale.)  The lights and star go on, and tonight or tomorrow we will string popcorn

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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

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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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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

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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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October bounty

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

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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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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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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. 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

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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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Snowy Yarn Along

  George peered out the window this morning and asked, “Where all my snow go?”  Winter’s brief visit has ended, leaving us a landscape of sodden ground and emerging daffodils. While we were snowed in for four brief days, I baked – and my voracious mob of children consumed – four loaves of bread, endless desserts, and two 9×13 dishes of oatmeal applesauce cake.  The original gluten-free recipe can be found here, but due the flurry of baking and our inability to get to a grocery, I was forced to rework the recipe around the contents of my pantry.  The

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Midwinter Sunshine

  Off the needles:   A simple pair of mitts for a gift exchange, to which I added a little needle-felted embellishment. Ruth painted a cheery sun on the card and we sewed a drawstring gift bag to round out the gift, and packaged it up.   It was sent it on its way across the country, where it will bring a fellow Grinnellian some Christmas cheer. To bring our own family a bit of sunshine in midwinter, a batch of sunny bright marmalade was in order.  I was planning on plain old orange, but when I managed to get

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Early September in the Garden/ Transitions

Well, the photo editor/uploader issues with WordPress haven’t been fixed yet, but I’m going to try and get a few images to upload for this post.  I wish the uploader would cooperate, and I could share photos of all the garden is producing – Sunchokes 10 feet fall, baskets (and bellies) full of “Fall Gold” raspberries, ducks laying pale green eggs every day, broody chickens, yarrow and salvia and dahlias splashing every corner with color… I love the transition of early September, when we are just beginning to be weary of summer, but not quite ready for the dreariness that

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