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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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December Afternoon

Knitting a few rows on some Toasty mitts , Daily checks on fermenting veggies.  Jalapeno Purple kraut all finished and getting jarred up for gifts.  Plain sauerkraut coming along nicely.  It will be ready to serve with Christmas dinner. (The weight goes back on top when I’m done checking, so all cabbage is submerged below the brine.) Vying for space in front of the heater vent to thaw frozen fingers and toes, Enjoying the ever-rotating display of Christmas decorations the children arrange and rearrange as they play with them. Back tomorrow with a recipe for the coming Solstice, and some

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The Best Dilly Beans EVER

Lately I’ve been getting back to making home fermented foods, for our health and for simplicity’s sake.  I routinely make sourdough, yogurt, and buttermilk, but had gotten away from cultured vegetables (life gets busy).  But the past several weeks, I have re-discovered how much we love lacto-fermented veggies. Lacto-fermentation is the process of using beneficial bacteria (primarily Lactobacillus acidophilus and L. bifidus) to create lactic acid and ferment raw fruits and veggies into foods that are more easily digestible and have more bio-available nutrients.  The process also preserves food for many months. The garden is bursting with produce, but my

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Peonies and Raspberries

Well, I’ve been knocked down somewhat with a summer cold, and didn’t make the Yarn Along this week.  I finished a pair of socks for a friend, and hope to post photos next week. We have company visiting, and volunteers in the garden, and swim lessons and so much summer goodness and fun.  We’ve been baking and playing with the neighbor kids and cutting posies in the yard.  And stuffing ourselves full of raspberries on a daily basis. I had volunteers here this morning, and together harvested loads of organic produce for BCS – baskets full of Spanish shallots, raspberries,

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Making Butter

I made a bit batch of beef stew for dinner this weekend – enough to last for two meals.  We rarely eat beef or pork (other than a small amount of ham or bacon to flavor veggie dishes), so it was a real treat for all of us.  All day long, the kitchen was full of the aroma of leeks, smoked paprika, merlot, allspice, and cinnamon. Ruth suggested we make butter and loaf of bread to go with dinner.   I happened to have 2 cups of organic heavy cream in the fridge.  Okay, let’s make butter! To make butter take

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Tutorial: How to Waterproof Wool Diaper Covers with Lanolin

Over the weekend, I made a new batch of wool and wool/cashmere soakers from thrifted sweaters.  Some are for George, and some are for gifts, but all needed to be water-proofed, along with some knitted covers. There are many methods of lanolizing wool soakers, and this is the one a friend taught me way back when Bea was a baby.  It works really well, and doesn’t leave spots on the covers, unlike some short-cut methods I’ve tried. Why do you need to lanolize a wool cover?  On its own, wool diaper covers will be somewhat waterproof since wool naturally wicks

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Autumn Weekend

Ruth busy at her sculpture and painting for the nature table, Bea on a Core of Discovery themed camp-out with her Girl Scout Troop, George, at his favorite play-spot, saying, “Cook, cook, cook.” Casey taking Hal to the library to escape the grey and the rain for a bit. And for me – sewing projects, potting up paperwhites, and some Christmas crafting. Tonight, the kids are tucking into bed early, and I will be washing and waxing more furniture from my grandparents.  Tomorrow Thanksgiving preparations begin in earnest. Hope you had a simultaneously productive and restful weekend, as well.  Blessings

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Washing eggs in the late afternoon. Bolt, our Speckled Sussex, lays pinkish eggs with lavender speckles.  When I find one of hers in the nest box amongst the deeper browns laid by the Australorps, and blue and greens of the Auracanas, I can’t help but smile.  So utterly different than anything on a grocery store shelf, and so very beautiful. Every time I wash a batch of eggs, a certain poem runs through my head, and I chuckle to myself.  Ruth was helping me box up the clean eggs, and gave me a raised eye brow and a bit of

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15 minutes

“This day is not a sieve, losing time. With each passing minute, each passing year, there’s this deepening awareness that I am filling, gaining time. We stand on the brink of eternity.” ― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

This post originally published in  October 2009.  I’m baking a raspberry batch for homeschool co-op and a peach butter batch for the neighborhood kids/my kids today.  I make this recipe several times a month, even for breakfast, and the recipe is frequently requested, so I thought it was worth republishing. PLEASE NOTE –   I no longer make it in a 9×13 pan, but instead on a large jelly roll pan with the parchment on the bottom – I freeform a rectangle in the middle (it will not fill the entire pan).  This makes it easier to cut and serve

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Oatmeal-Honey-Molasses Bread

I let the kids sleep in, and worked on tidying up a bit since the neighbor boys are coming over this morning for a play date (Bend-a-roos and Playmobils and sofa-cushion forts are on the agenda, according to the girls).  Chickens and ducks were let out and fed a breakfast of mashed, roasted pumpkin, scratch and oatmeal.   It was too rainy and cold to do any yard chores this morning, so after poutry-duty, I got to come in and have a few minutes to get a nice breakfast going and read my book. Breakfast this morning is a new recipe

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A good, quiet morning

…reading a few chapters in Ann Voskamp’s book before the children were up… …enjoying granola in the breakfast nook after morning chores, watching chickens, ducks mucking happily around the yard  (Cran-Walnut Granola recipe at the bottom) …quilting for a neighbor’s baby, due in 2 weeks, while the children had breakfast. A welcome reprieve before tackling the general chaos of the day. Larksong’s Cranberry Walnut Granola Preheat oven to 325F, and get out two large jellyroll pans. In a large bowl, combine: 6 cups old fashioned oats 2 cups unsweetened, unsulfured coconut 1 cup wheat germ 1 heaping cup sesame seeds

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We’ve all been dreaming of them for such a long time, and now they’re finally here!!  3 fuzzy little day-old Indian Runner ducklings came home with us this past Wednesday. The duckings are just about the cutest things we’ve ever seen!!  They’re comical, inquisitive, interested in people, and love to snuggle their little heads in the crook of your arm. The little drake and two ducks will make a great slug-seek-and-destroy team, as well as provide us with up to 400 eggs/year (for the pair of females), and endless entertainment.  Besides being good egg-layers with sweet dispositions, we choose Indian

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Radical Homemakers

Things are crazy busy here at the moment, so I’ll just drop in to say that there’s an interview with me and some other ladies (including author Harriet Fasenfest) on the topic of Radical Homemakers in this month’s Metro Parent (you can read the article for free by following the link – we’re on page 22-23). Be back soon with some blogging about food justice, garden happenings, and a few recipes.

Mason Jar Cozy Giveaway!

Well, somewhere I’m going to have to find some time to knit this, because I’m going to give one away via the Salt of the Earth Urban Farm Facebook page! When we hit 100 likes, I will randomly select one of those 100 folks to win a mason jar cozy in their choice of colors.  Only 7 spots left, so click on the sidebar link, and like us on FB for a chance to win!  Thanks! (For those inclined to knit their own, here’s the free pattern!)

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