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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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Magic Potion Kit

  We’re hunkered down at home today thanks to the weather.  All derby practices and scrimmages have been called-off on account of the wind storms and flooding in Portland.   All my big garden projects for the afternoon are similarly on hold.  But we have found plenty to keep us busy in the hosue today. Hal has a birthday party for a close friend from his ReWild Nature Immersion program, and I asked him what his friend might want for his birthday.  He replied, “Carmine’s really into Minecraft, and I think a magic potion kit would be a cool gift.

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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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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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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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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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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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Elderberry Harvest

This morning I had three brand-new hardworking volunteers helping us pick product for Birch Community Services.  We spent a good chunk of time picking hard-to-reach elderberries, which are in full production.   Fresh organically-grown elderberries go for $3-6 dollars/lb, and we picked about 25 lbs today. We also picked tomatoes, green beans, and a big flat of plums.  Sungold cherry tomatoes are my long-standing favorite.  They produce reliable, very sweet and split-resistant fruit over a long period and in great quantities. This is the first year we’ve gotten plums off a tree I grafted as a tiny little twig four

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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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Harvests

  Sharing a few shots of some of the crates of produce we’ve picked in the last two weeks.  Our gardens grow organic produce for Birch Community Services, and volunteers come twice a week to learn about gardening, harvest and do a little weeding with me.  It’s still early in the year, but there is a fair amount to pick. The herbs are loving the warm weather!  Lavender is a high-value crop, and we grow a lot of it – 6 edible varieties as well as 3 types of Spanish lavender for the bees.  This time of year, all of

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Early June Garden

After a few months on break (WordPress troubles, another surgery), I’m back to blogging. A few shots around the garden yesterday (the one above shows part of our new rain garden).   Early June is so lovely.  Everything still tidy and unfurling.         It’s shaping up to be a very good year for berries.  The kids have been picking a basket of berries to accompany every meal, and snacking on them in between. All of the apples have set very heavily this year.  I did a lot of hand-thinning after the natural fruit drop at the beginning of

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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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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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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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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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Early Harvests

  Some of the organic produce we have harvested in the past week and a half or so (thank you, volunteers for all your help!).  Slowly, slowly, the gardens are producing more and more food as soil fertility improves, perennial food plants begin producing, and the entire permaculture system matures.

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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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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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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Tzatziki

  My favorite no-cook summer recipe is Tzatziki…or maybe it’s Raita…it’s a toss up.  These similar nutritious dishes are delicious, and their subtle differences complement other foods so well that we make and enjoy both frequently.  Serve some with a handful of kalamata olives and a little block of feta and a mint iced tea and you have the perfect summer lunch. Right now there is a lot of dill in the garden, so today Tzatziki it is!  (Whip up a batch of falafels and we’ll call it “good” for dinner.) Here’s my recipe: Baker Family’s Favorite Tzatziki 3 Tbsp

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