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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Mushroom Cultivation- Winecaps

Yes, there is still gardening to do in February! Today, we were planting morel mushroom spawn under the apple trees, and this afternoon, I started prepping to plant the yummy Winecap mushroom around the garden. Here’s a video I made all about Stropharia, and some tips for success in cultivating this delicious gourmet mushroom in your garden. If you havent had a chance, dont forget to subscribe to my youtube channel! Fungi Perfecti Paul Stamets Mycelium Running  

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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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.

January Garden Slumber

This is what gardening looks like in Western Oregon in January. I’m trying to finish shoveling a giant pile of mulch off my driveway.  I’m down the last couple of yards, and even though it was 38 degrees and raining out, today was the day when I had room in my schedule to work on it.  So, I got to work. Most of the garden is asleep in January, but I still make the rounds of all my perennials every week to check on them.  Each one gets a visual inspection for weather/rodent damage, disease, state of dormancy, etc. The

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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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Rooting Up

No rain this afternoon, so it was time to take cuttings and root up a few perennials I hadn’t gotten to in the past few weeks.  Today I was rooting goumi (Eleagnus multiflora) and silverberry (Eleagnus commutata), both of which are excellent nitrogen-fixing semi-evergreen shrubs that also produce edible fruit.  Goumis produce copious amounts of tasty red fruit the size of a blueberry or larger, and I have three becaue the children enjoy the fruit so much.  Silverberries produce smaller fruit which are gold with silver speckles.  I don’t find the diminutive fruit worth harvesting for us to eat, but the chickens

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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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Fall Fruit, Fall Projects

Enjoying some of the last of the fall fruit coming from the garden this week: George helped me pick quince, which we turned into membrillo. Ground cherries (Physalis spp.) that didn’t get eaten straight off the plants went into a tart with plums.  The tartness of the ground cherries melded very well with sweetness of prune plums. George picking an apple for an afternoon snack. Our newest apple tree, a little Liberty, produced exactly one apple this year.  Next year there will be lots of Liberty apples, and even more for many, many years thereafter, but this year that one fruit felt very special,

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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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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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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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A long day of jury duty called for a little after-dinner plum-picking therapy… And a handful of Fall Gold raspberries for dessert. Back in a few days when I’m out of the courtroom and once again in overalls playing in the dirt.

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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Produce Picked

So, I haven’t been blogging much lately.  We’ve been in summer overdrive – husband job-hunting (he starts his new job Monday!), ferrying kids to summer camps, derby derby and more derby, sewing and knitting like crazy in preparation for opening my Etsy store this fall, and most of all: harvesting produce twice a week with volunteers in our garden. Before I start back to regular posting, I wanted to share some pictures of the harvests over the past couple of weeks.  We’ve had all sorts of new volunteers helping, most of whom have almost no previous garden experience.  It’s been

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