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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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Tea and a Visitor

One of my kids’ favorite rituals is afternoon tea.  We used to have a high tea on Thursdays, but as the kids have grown and their needs have changed, we’ve shifted to having a casual afternoon tea any day of the week they want to sit down and have it. George inevitably wants to have tea every day, whether or not his siblings want to.  He loves getting out the china and his favorite mint tea and feeling very grown up. With our tea, we had the last of the Seckel pears from our tree, and the first of the

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Banana-Sesame-Spelt Muffin Recipe

After a long derby weekend, we had a PJ day at the Baker House today to catch up and recover a bit. The younger kids spent the bulk of the morning continuing to listen to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on book CD, while I got some more of the border for my Cassis Shawlette completed.  I started this shawl ages ago, frogged it, and just re-started it after making some changes.  So far, it’s not the most thrilling knit, but I’ve never made a shawl with this kind of construction before (border knit vertically and then body of the

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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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Fig + 3 Citrus Jam Recipe

The dry summer and mild autumn here in Oregon have produced a pleasant surprise: the main crop of Negronne Figs have ripened!  In our cool climate, the only figs suitable to grow are those that produce a delicious breba (first) crop.  Many figs produce small, mealy breba figs that aren’t sweet and aren’t worth eating.  Some varieties – like my Desert King and Negronne figs – are prized for their sweet, abundant breba figs.  Most years the weather turns too cold for the later, main crop of figs to ripen.  However, this year the Negronne’s main crop has been producing

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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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Chanterelle and Gruyere Tart Recipe

I’ve made this Chanterelle and Gruyere Tart a few times in the past few weeks.  It’s quick and easy, and uses ingredients I’ve had readily on hand in the pantry, and in the garden.    It only takes a few minutes to put together, and is packed with autumnal flavor.  If Chanterelles aren’t in season, you can substitute with any fresh, meaty mushroom, thinly sliced. Chanterelle and Gruyere Tart 1 piece storebought puff pastry, thawed in the fridge 4 oz chevre, crumbled 6 oz gruyere, shredded One heaping cup chanterelles, thinly sliced Four pieces of curly kale, stems removed, and

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End of Summer Salad

A friend from derby is recovering from a broken leg and I’m taking her tomato bisque and homemade bread for dinner and needed a salad for the side dish. The garden is bursting with tomatoes and peppers, the mint has spread everywhere, and the fall curly kale is ready to start harvesting.  I have a big block of feta in my fridge and a lot of Israeli couscous in my pantry.  And thus, this salad came together. (Note: The recipe serves four, but some of the quantities look large in the photos because I made a quadruple batch to share

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Chai-Spice Oatmeal Muffin Recipe

My youngest child, George, loves muffins.  Several mornings a week, he requests muffins for breakfast.  And he wants variety.  Sometimes I make banana-tahini muffins, sometimes blueberry with streusel topping, sometimes molasses spice muffins.   Thanks to G’s desire to be surprised with new types of muffins, I am always working up new recipes. We have a lot of chai tea mix leftover from the holidays, so I have been working up a recipe for Chai-spice muffins.  Our chai mix contains powdered milk, black tea, sugar, cinnamon, clove, cardamon, anise, and ginger.  Over the past week I’ve baked several revisions and the

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Apple Cider Vinegar Caramels Recipe

I’ve always loved making candies at the holidays – particularly nut brittles and toffees.  This year, I’m trying something different.  And I have the Portland Village School to thank for the inspiration:  Earlier this month, I had a table at that school’s craft fair.  During the last hour, the volunteers brought each of us vendors a couple of apple cider vinegar caramels to help us get through the last bit of the afternoon.  The caramels were delicious, and I loved how the ACV cut the sweetness of the soft, rich caramel.  So, I set out to come up with my

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Autumn Gifts

I’ve been busy the last few days making things for loved ones.  I have lots more to share, but am behind on uploading and editing photos.  So, for now, a few pictures of the gifts We’ve been making this week. Above:  A little indoor fairy garden as an early birthday present for Bea, who maintains the fairy garden outside in the yard, and is always sad to see it go dormant over the winter.  Now she’ll have her own little garden to tend to right in the windowsill. I have an abundance of beets, and my dad really loves beet

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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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Buttercups and Quince

Harvesting by myself in the garden this morning.  Picked 65 lbs of produce – the bulk of which was winter squash and quince.  The quince are just starting to ripen, so I didn’t pick very many, but a few were definitely ready.  Quince (Cydonia oblonga) may not be the most lovely fruit in the world – looking like a misshapen pear covered in shedding fuzz – but the aroma from this crate of fruit was nothing short of heavenly.  The scent is likened to guava and honey with overtones of vanilla and rose. These ancient pomes are a fruit worth keeping in

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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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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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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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Our Daily Bread

We bake bread several times a week here.  When the girls were little, we only made bread once a week.  But now with four active, growing children, we can polish off a loaf every day – sometimes in just one meal.  Thankfully, it is an activity I have always enjoyed – especially when the kids help.  (One day, we hope to get a wood-fired bread oven built in the backyard that would be available for the community to use when we fire it up once a week.  But for now, we are content to warm the house on a chilly night by

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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 Ingredients: 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

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Archangel

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

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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.) 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

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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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Simple Kimchi Recipe

  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

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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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Meyer Lemon

  Portland is in the midst of a rare snow storm, and all our weekend plans (derby, derby, speed skating, and more derby) have been canceled.  Instead, we have been playing in the snow and sledding and making snow ice cream. And baking.  Lots of baking.  Something about the arrival of snow, inability to do garden work, a chilly house…a few days into the cold front, and I’ve done so much baking we’ve run out of butter.  And sugar. Meyer lemons are in season right now, – a perfect opportunity to try a new lemon bar recipe.  They were delicious!

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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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