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 the month.
The grapes, too, have set heavily, and the vines provide lush shade.
Back with more posts over the next two weeks – a little catch-up on what we’ve been doing for the past month, some new recipes and a sewing tutorial!
I’m in the process of updating our blog to better reflect our mission and focus.
WordPress has also had trouble uploading photos for a few months, and as soon as we get that ironed out, I have lots to share.
We’ll be back to regular posting soon! Â Plenty of good things going on in the garden.
After a break of just more than a month, the chickens have finally started to lay eggs again.
George is tall enough now to help me collect the eggs, and very glad to do so.
After collecting the eggs, George helped me turn shredded paper, coffee grounds, composted duck manure and straw bedding into the garden beds. Â I was pleased to see the beds teeming with earthworms. Â It won’t be too long before we’re planting in them.
Blackie McBabTalky the Black Australorp. Â She’s almost five, and doesn’t lay frequently, but the children love her.
It will be good to bake more and enjoy omelettes for breakfast again now that the girls have gotten back into their routine.
Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along today with some sunny yellow sock knitting. Â In the short, grey days of January, I often find myself picking bright, cheery yarn with which to knit. Â It adds a little sunshine to the day.
The yarn is my old standby – Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted mill end secondsÂ – an 85% wool, 15% mohair yarn which is very durable and felts nicely while you wear it – making it ideal for socks and mittensÂ and soakers. Â The colorway isÂ Prairie Goldenrod, and I bought several skeins a while back because I knew it would be good for many kinds of projects.
The kids and I have enjoyed thumbing through this book together. Â We missed our annual October camping trip because I was still recovering from my broken ankle and not able to hike. Â We are contemplating a spring camping/backpacking trip, so camping books keep coming home with us from the library.
While I work on the socks (an easy pattern on size 5’s for thick, warm socks), and the kids built with Legos, we watched this documentary on caribou. Â The kids and I have been on a bit of an Alaska/Yukon kick for a while, and we’d love to take a family trip there someday. Â I backpacked around Alaska when I was 16, but no one else in the family has been, and I’d love to show them the Tongass rainforest, the Mendenhall Glacier and climb Mt. Marathon again. Â But most of all, I’d like go birdwatching and salmon fishing with the kids. Â Maybe someday, but for now we enjoy reading books and watching documentaries on the subject and are content.
More soon, including late-winter gardening (Yes, there IS gardening to be done in January!).
Ruth finished her little needle-felted squirrel.
What it looked like a few days ago:Â natural wool for the core.
Over the top went a white front and orange body,
She’s very happy with it, and George liked it so much, he has requested she make him chipmunk for Christmas.
The past few days, I’ve been re-readingÂ The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading, and pouring over the plans inÂ Build Your Own Barrel Oven.
A barrel oven seems like a very, very cool project for an outdoor oven, but after reading the construction details and seeing how one operates, I think we will stick with our original plan to build a simple cob wood-fired bread oven next summer.
I finished a little wool soaker for a friend having a baby. Â It made for a nice break from the Christmas knitting projects, and baby garments are my favorite thing to knit.
More soon: Â this afternoon the kids and I are making pfeffernusse cookies and I hope to share our recipe later in the week.
Astrid Lindgren’sÂ The Tomten andÂ The Tomten and the Fox are two of our most-cherished winter-time books. Â I adored them as a child, and am very glad my kids love them, too.
A few years ago, Ruth made a needle-felted fox and little Tomten, and the boys still look forward to playing with them while I read the stories. Â
The TomtenÂ cares for the creatures of the forest and keeps watch over the animals of the farm. Â He is a gentle, quiet little gnome and these simple stories of his unseen interactions on the farm resonate with young children.
My children have enjoyed their little Tomten and Fox playset so much, we have begun a tradition of felting little Tomte as Christmas gifts for friends with young children.
I set out everything to begin making a few, when Ruth decided to put the materials to better use: Â crafting another friend for her own Tomten:
She wants to make it clear thatÂ he isn’t completed yet, but her little squirrel is beginning to take shape. Â He still needs color and detail, but when finished, he will make a nice little addition to the Tomten play set. Â Perhaps we can make a few more forest friends to join him, but for now, it is back to crafting a few more Tomten men.
Joining the KCCO today. Â Back tomorrow with some knitting and books.
I’ve been enjoying this bookÂ in the quiet of the early morning. Â The prayers and passages are perfect for that time of day, while I knit a few rounds of a simple pattern and contemplate the season in which we are immersed. Â
The simple knitting that has kept my hands occupied while my mind is engaged with the reflections of Christmastide has been a pair of uncomplicated red mitts.Â Â The mitts above are a pattern I have enjoyed making many times before. Â These are for a gift exchange, and will get gussied up with a bit of needle-felting before they are delivered to their recipient.
Red always seems like a good color for mittens. Â My favorite mittens as a kid were a pair of red wool ones my grandmother knit long before I was born. Â She ran out of wool before completing the last thumb, so it is a different shade – I always loved the quirkiness of that turkey red thumb against the vermillion of the rest.
The children continue to read and re-read the large stack of library books piled up in the sunroom. Â Hal, age 6, has really enjoyedÂ An Orange for Frankie. Â The pictures are lovely, and the story is one he likes to hear over and over.
We picked up two big bags of satsumas this week, and I’ve kept a bowl of them out on the table for the kids to enjoy whenever they wish – it has already been refilled a few times.
After readingÂ And Orange for Frankie, Hal and I read up on the tradition of giving citrus at the holidays – something we have in such abundance was once a cherished luxury. Â St. Nicholas brings the children each a stocking on Christmas morning, and always leaves a tangerine in the toe – in Christmases past, it would have been the most treasured part, discovered last in the end of the stocking.
We were sure to really pause and savor the satsumas we snacked on as we read An Orange for Frankie one more time. Â Hal also asked if we could makeÂ candied orange peels again – something we haven’t done in a long time. Â I think that sounds like a very good idea.
The girls wanted to share about a recent birthday gift they made for a friend: a simple needle-felting kit.
My kids – like many kids – really enjoy playing and crafting with bit of wool and yarn. Â Ruth, in particular, has enjoyed needle felting ornaments and little animals for her siblings for quite a long time. Â Ruth wanted to make a gift for her friend -who is also quite artistic – and Ruth thought she might enjoy making little wooly creations, too.
First, we found a basket at the thrift store that met with everyone’s approval. Â Then, the girls cut a block of foam from our stash of dense craft foam. Â We added a needle-felting needle (Needle-felting safety rule #1: Â Always store the needles in their block of foam!)
A visit to the Pendleton Woolen Mill StoreÂ provided the necessary collection of bright wool for decorating, while I included some balls of white and natural grey/brown spinning fiber to be used as the base over which the bright colored wool will be felted.
Very proud of my girls and their creative gift ideas. Â I’m looking forward to seeing what they have made for each other and their brothers for Christmas.
If you have Handmade Holiday projects to share, please post a link in the comments – I would love to read about what you are working on!
Today it really began to feel like Christmastime in our home:
I potted up a Christmas Cactus cutting from my mother. Â Hopefully, by next Christmas it will be in bloom.
Ruth and I began decorating our little table-top tree. Â (We always get our tree from theÂ L’ArcheÂ benefit sale.) Â The lights and star go on, and tonight or tomorrow we will string popcorn and cranberries. Â Later in the week, come the ornaments.
More soon, but now we are off to Ruth and Bea’s Holiday roller derby scrimmage.
Hope you are enjoying the beginning of the Christmas season!
Slowly, slowly, we are beginning to decorate for Christmas. Â Advent candles and readings at dinner…working with Grandpa on a new homemadeÂ Advent SpiralÂ (because we currently use a little birthday ring from my preschool years in Germany)…Christmas toys appearing in corners of the house where the boys are sure to find and play with them.
…and Christmas knitting continues in earnest. Â George is growing like a weed and needs new hats. Â While watching a documentary or two late at night, I knit up a little stocking cap for him (no pattern, just wingin’ it). Â It is a study in grey, using leftoverÂ Kilcarra of DonegalÂ tweedy yarn, andÂ Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride WorstedÂ I’ve had in my yarn dresser for years. Â George is really into wolves at the moment, and I am deliberating adding some ears to the top of the hat.
In order to get library books in time for the correct season, I place holds on them 3 or 4 weeks ahead of time. We discovered years ago that if we wait to visit the library for books right when we need them, they will all be checked out. Â Ordering well in advance is very important not only for seasonal books, but also to make sure we get homeschooling resources in a timely manner – and we have a home educator’s library card so we can place a hold on 40 items at a time.
This week, more than 20 winter books came in for us, and we have been pouring through them. Â Right now, most are Arctic and winterÂ nature books,andÂ Waldorf-y books, but a whole stack of Christmas/Nativity-themed holds should be in at the library later this week. Â With the darkness descending by 4:30 in the afternoon, we have plenty of quiet time to read through every book we’ve checked out.
Joining Ginny for her Yarn Along today.
‘Tis the Season to make Christmas gifts, and Bea and I started yesterday morning, making another, larger batch of comfrey-rosemary salve. Â (Joining the KCCO today.)
Comfrey, also known asÂ knit-bone, is touted as having strong healing properties. Â I have used it daily on my broken ankleÂ once the stitches healed (don’t use the salve on open wounds), but it is also commonly used on bruises and other injuries. Â 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.
Bea and I made this batch early in the morning before the other kids woke up. Â At ten years-old, she can work with the hot wax and oil safely (with a little supervision, of course).
We have a $0.25 pot from the thrift store that is used only for beeswax-based projects. Â Most of the jars were also from the thrift store, as well as some baby food jars given to me by a friend.
I grow loads of Russian Bocking Comfrey in my garden because it is a dynamic accumulator and sequesters all sorts of minerals in its leaves – thereby making it a great fertilizer in the garden, as well as excellent duck forage. Â It has deep tap roots (up to 12 feet deep!), which help break up our dense clay soil, and its delicate purple flowers are a favorite of bees – blooming for a long stretch.
Once you have the ingredients gathered, the salve takes only about 15 minutes to make. Â Here’s our recipe:
3/4 cup organic olive oilÂ
4 Tbsp dried comfrey leaves
3 sprigs dried rosemary (you can substitute 2 Tbsp dried lavender if you prefer)
1 Tbsp vitamin E oil
3/4 cup organic coconut oil
6 Tbsp chopped beeswax
10 drops tangerine or 4 drops patchouli oil (if using dried lavender, substitute with lavender oil)
– Infuse the dried herbs in the olive oil. Â This can be done two ways: Â either place the herbs and oil in a double boiler and heat gently over water (do not boil the oil over direct heat) for 30-45 minutes, or place dried herbs in the oil, cover and store in a dark place for 3-4 weeks. Â (Note: Do NOT use fresh herbs – the water in them will cause your oil/finish salve to mold. Â Herbs must be thoroughly dried.)
-Strain the dried herbs from the finished olive oil and discard them in the compost.
-Place the chopped beeswax, infused olive oil, coconut oil, and vitamin E oil in a pan. Â Heat on medium-low heat, stirring constantly until all ingredients are completely melted.
– Immediately remove from the heat, and stir in the tangerine oil.
– Pour into jars, and let cool with the lids off. Â Once thoroughly solidified, the salve will keep in a dark place at room temperature for 6 months or more. (Our kitchen was very cold when we made the salve, and it cooled very rapidly, resulting in cracks on the surface of the salve. Â Next time, I will wrap towels around the jars or perhaps cover them with a pot so they cool more slowly.)
Back tomorrow for the Yarn Along!
WeÂ bake breadÂ several times a week here. Â When the girls were little, we only made bread once a week. Â But now with four active, growing children, we can polish off a loaf every day – sometimes in just one meal. Â Thankfully, it is an activity I have always enjoyed – especially when the kids help. Â (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. Â But for now, we are content to warm the house on a chilly night by baking in the kitchen.)
Recently, I got together with some moms from our homeschool co-op, and a guest came to share her orange-glazed sticky bun recipe with us. Â She also shared a beautiful poem
(found in an old cookbook) about the artistry and importance of the simple act of baking bread, and I want to share it with you:
Our Daily BreadÂ by Grace Noll
An ancient rite, as old as life is old:
A woman baking bread above a flame
Its value is far greater than pure gold,
it is ageless, timeless, and the simple name
Of bread is wholesome as the summer sun
That has lit and warmed the fields that men might eat;
It is as clean as are the winds that run
Their light-food way across the waving wheat.
A loaf is only half a loaf unless
We share it, and unless we say
Our grace above it, asking God to bless
That bread that He has given day by day
O women, handle flour as you should!
It is a thing God-given, priceless, good. Â
Joining up with Ginny’s Yarn Along, and Frontier Dreams for the KCCOÂ – Pausing from the work of the day to work onÂ a warmer version of this scarfÂ for a bit this morning – more Christmas gift knitting, of course.
The kids and I are still on a seasonal/ethical eating kick, and after finishing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, we have started this book CD, and I’ve been thumbing throughÂ Edible Perennial Gardening. Â AÂ Michael Pollan book seems appropriate in this holiday season of time-honored, seasonal, traditional cooking:
With Thanksgiving just a blink away, that’s all I have to share today. Â Most of the day is devoted to cooking and prep for tomorrow – pie crusts, cornbread for the dressing, cranberry relish…food is always the epicenter of a holiday for me – a way to lavish love and appreciation on family and friends.
Wishing you a blessed and joy-filled Thanksgiving!
One of my favorite wool sweaters finally wore a hole in the elbow. Â It was from the thrift store and had quite a bit of wear when I found it, but I liked the blue-grey color, and I’m always a sucker for wool.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize there was a hole in the elbow until we were on our way out the door, and my eldest pointed it out to me. Â With no time to darn it, I sent her back into the house for a block of foam, some roving and a needle-felting needle – I’d have to mend it while we were out and about. Â Once we reached our destination, a few minutes of work and it was repaired, with a turqouise swirl and some polka dots for decoration.
A week later, and the patch has held up quite well. Â Ruth and I spent some time together planting Muscari bulbs under the Bavay’s Green GageÂ Plum, and I was glad to have my workhorse of a wool sweater on.
Muscari are one of my favorite spring flowers, and the milder weather this week has allowed us to plant many more bulbs. Â These delicate little blossoms do more than provide beauty for the gardener – all spring bulbs help suppress the growth of grass. Â Grass fights its own battle, attempting to inhibit the growth of the fruit trees that shade it out, so planting bulbs naturally aids the fruit trees which they encircle. Â
While we were kneeling in the mulch to plant, Bumblebee, our Welsh Harlequin, came over to Ruth, begging for attention. Â All the poultry know that Ruth will always drop what she’s doing to give scritches.Â
In the winter, the poultry are loose in the yard, eating slugs, slug eggs, weed seeds, adding fertility to all the garden beds. Â The trick has been how to keep them out of the beds already planted with garlic and mulched with straw (chickens relish scratching all the straw out of the beds and into the path). Â They inevitably get under or over any temporary fencing we put up. Â The solution has been to stake the fencing flat – so try as she might, Cookie can’t destroy the garlic bed with her scratching while we have our backs turned – but she can peck and find any seeds leftover in the straw. Â (In the spring, when the birds return to their run in the orchard, the fencing comes up just as the garlic is germinating.)
Joining the KCCO today. Â Back to tomorrow for the Yarn Along if I have time in the midst of Thanksgiving preparations and the girls’ derby scrimmage.
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 ofÂ giving thanks looks like. Â 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. Â And so, when we reap success in life, we can see the results of our own hard work, but also reserve the lion’s share of thanks for our Provider who comes alongside us and produces the harvest.
Whatever is forseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.
And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while weâ€™re asleep.
When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.
Wendell Berry,Â Walking Meditations
When the kids have abundant energy, and the weather is unusally dry, it’s time to bundle up and walk to Grandma and Grandpa’s. Â The kids brought a basket to collect items for the nature table on their way.
We’ve been reading books about Thanksgiving, but also about late-autumn as we prepare to shift into the winter holiday. Â The kids were anxious to add items to the nature table while it is still decorated for autumn. Â (At the end of the month, Â the table shifts over to Advent and Winter decor.)
George had more fun jumping in the leaves than collecting them.
Bea brought her whittling gear, so that she and Grandpa could make spoons when we arrived at his workshop.
Ruth, enjoying the crunch of the leaves.
More soon – crafting and good things from the kitchen!
Although I’m originally an Air Force brat, and have lived all over, the Pacific Northwest has been my home for over a decade. Â I cannot imagine living anywhere else. Â There is so much to fall in love with here, especially for folks like us, who are undeterred by rain and love the outdoors. Â There is one aspect of life in Portland that is rough for us: Â the 4:30PM sunset this time of year. It is always a struggle to keep occupied and productive in those long dark evening hours.
The last few evenings, we have enjoyed watchingÂ Tales from the Green Valley on YouTube. Â It is a BBC show in which archaeologists and historians recreate a year on a farm in 1620. Â While we watched, I’ve finished a little project: Â This is the Little Green Elf CowlÂ pattern, using leftover Berroco Lustra (a wool/Tencel blend) given to me by a friend. Â I have been thinking of knitting a few for Christmas gifts, but wanted to test-knit it first. Â This pattern was a fun, easy, and satisfying. Â I like the finished result – different than the average cowl pattern with its edging of diamonds.Â I ended up only doing 12 repeats of the edging – not 14 as the pattern calls for – and still found it plenty loose. Â Despite picking up fewer stitches for the top portion, it was almost too loose for my liking, and if I make another, the top will be done in smaller needles, or perhaps with fewer stitches. This time, I did a traditional bind-off, but it isn’t elastic enough, so next time I will use a shawl bind-off.
Sometimes, an abundance of ingredients in the pantry necessitates the creation of a new recipe. Â 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. Â A perfect collection of ingredients for a truly Oregonian Autumnal tart.
Oregon Autumn Tart
1 sheet puff pastry
For the filling:
2 1/2 C fresh cranberries and lingonberries, washedÂ
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 zest)
For the topping:
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C light brown sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
2/3 C unbleached flour
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 heaping C hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
In a large bowl, combine butter, sugars, flour, salt and nutmeg. Â Using a pastry cutter or a clean hand, cut butter into other ingredients until it is in pea-sized pieces. Â Then, fold in hazelnuts. Â Set aside. (Can be made one day in advance and refridgerated.)
In a large skillet, combine berries, orange zest, and sugar. Â Cook on medium heat, stirring often. Â (As the berries pop, their juices will dissolve the sugar.) Â Use the back of your spatula to crush the cranberries as the cook, and continue to simmer until mixture is thickened and all berries are beginning to cook down. Â Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.Â
While berries are cooking, roll out puff pastryÂ to fill a jellyroll pan. Â Place on parchment paper, and then in jellyroll pan. Â Roll the edges of the puff pastry over and use a fork to crimp them down.
Preheat oven to 375F. Â Spread cooled berry mixture evenly over the pastry with a spatula. Â
Sprinkle streusel-nut topping over the berries, pressing it down gently.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until pastry is puffed and golden, berries are bubbling, and streusel topping is begins to turn golden.
Allow the tart to cool thoroughly before cutting into squares. Â Serve with whipped cream if desired.
I confess, leftovers of this tart made for a pretty darn good November breakfast with a cup of coffee.
Hope you are enjoying all the good things of the season, too.
The forecast for today is miserable – snow, freezing rain. Â In anticipation, we finished winterizing the garden and got the garlic crop planted and mulched (weeks and weeks later than normal). Â 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. Â 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 this afternoon. Â As usual – no recipe, just using up what we have: to the soaked beans, we added 2 ham hocks, a finely chopped sauteed onion, 6 cloves of fermented garlic, La Ratte fingerling potatoes Â (above) and Nantes carrots dug from the garden on Monday, andÂ Fordhook GiantÂ Swiss Chard plucked this morning (and cut up very finely so the kids will eat it).
I also threw in a handful of finely chopped golden raisins – they melt into the broth and add not only vitamins, but a subtle sweetness that complements the salty ham and adds complexity to the dish. Â Later, Ruth will start a pot of brown rice and we’ll call that good for dinner. Â Simple, nourishing, and perfect for a snowy day.
While the kids are making a Lego explosion all over the living room, we’re finishing our book on CD and I’m hoping to cast on this beauty (a lace-weight adaptation of this pattern). Â It’s been a long time since I’ve knit a shawl for myself, and I am already ahead on my Christmas knitting (thanks to all the time off my feet with that broken ankle), so I thought a small project just for myself might be okay. Â The yarn is Malabrigo Lace, in the colorway Archangel –Â found on deep clearance online (with free shipping!). Â Fingers crossed it will be finished in time to wear for Thanksgiving dinner.
Â The children and I are re-listening toÂ Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Â Hard to believe it’s been four years since the last time we listened to it. Â We are all enjoying it just as much as the first time. Bea got a new whittling book for her birthday, and we have been reading through it together. Â Her grandparents also got her leather finger guards, and we have ordered a set of special carving knives to go along with her whittling knife. She loves whittling like I love knitting – it is good to see her find some handwork she really enjoys.
In between more complicated pieces, I like simple knitting projects to give my hands and mind a break. Â I just finished two shawls and needed a simple knit to fill the void.
Here in the rainy Pacific Northwest, traditional mittens aren’t always the most practical – they get they get soaked and muddy. Â The children wear their fingerless loves much more frequently. Â This year they’ve all asked for new pairs for Christmas, so it was time to get knitting.
I love knitting these because it takes two hours to make a set – so a quick knit during busy gift-knitting season. Â And using up odds and ends of yarn from previous projects is always a bonus. Â Here’s the pattern:
Simple Mitts for Little Hands:
Yarn: Worsted or heavy-worsted weight yarn (such as Manos del Uruguay Maxima , or Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted). You can get three or more pairs from one ball.
Needles: Size 7 or 8 US double-pointed needles.
Gauge: Not crucial. Fits ages 1-3 (ages 4-7).
CO 26 (28) sts. ÂJoin in round.
Work in K1,P1 rib for 16 (18) rounds
K around for 2 (3) rounds.
Work thumb as follows:
R1: K1fb, K1fb, K around
R2, 4, and 6: K around
R3: K1fb, K2, K1fb, K around
R5: K1fb, K4, K1fb
R 7: K1fb, K6, K1fb
Small size – R8: BO 8 sts, K around.
(Larger size: R8: K around
R9: K1fb, K8, K1fb
R10: BO 10 sts, K around.)
Knit 6(8) rounds. BO Loosely. Weave in ends.
Copyright 2014 Angela Baker. This pattern for personal and charity use only.
The pattern on Ravelry.
A few images from the garden in early November. Â There are a few carrots, and oca and potatoes to dig, and still an abundance of Swiss Chard and kale. Â Most everything else has been harvested, although there is still some cleanup to be done, and there will be winter pruning in two months. Â Here and there, a few calendula flowers are the only thing still blooming, but they are bent down with persistent raindrops. Â Tomatillos in their skeletal husks will germinate in the spring and yield a crop next year with no help from me. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Hal commented that some of the grape leaves look like topographical maps. Â Â The comfrey is still going strong where they ducks haven’t eaten it back. Â Most of the new perennial fruit plants (a tiny baby Saskatoon in the red cage above – Shropshire Damsons, and Chilean guavas elsewhere in the garden) have comfrey nursemaids planted next to them. Â Â The persimmon tree is on the cusp of a spectacular fiery display. Â Hopefully by next year, there will be a crop of Early Fuyu persimmons left hanging once the red-orange leaves fall.
The half-high and high-bush blueberries are just beginning to turn color. Â They are four years-old, so in coming years – as they grow considerably – this whole side of the house will be awash in bright red blueberry and Aronia berry leaves in November. Â Â Â Hope you have a cozy, restful weekend. Â I’ll leave you with an autumnal Waldorf verse, of which I am always reminded this time of year:
The north wind came along one day,
So strong and full of fun;
He called the leaves down from the trees
And said, â€œRun children runâ€.
They came in read and yellow dress,
In shaded green and brown,
And all the short November day
He chased them round the town.
They ran in crowds, they ran alone,
They hid behind the trees,
The north winds laughing found them there
And called â€œNo stopping pleaseâ€
But when he saw them tired out
And huddled in a heap,
He softly said, â€œGoodnight my dears,
Now let us go to sleep.â€
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. Â 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. Â 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. Â All of the waiting for medical appointments and snuggling with sleeping feverish children has afforded ample time to knit. Â And knit, and knit. Â I worked up a new, very simple children’s fingerless mitt pattern (the children always request mittens or some such for Christmas). Â They are a quick knit – taking only about two hours to complete, and a great use of leftover worsted-weight yarn.
A few images from our week, although there isn’t much:
On this morning’s trudge down to the chicken run to feed the poultry, I was struck by the beauty of the half-pruned Concord grapes on the chicken coop. Â We lack the showy maple trees of the Midwest, but the grapes never fail to bring some autumn color to the garden.
When George has felt like playing this week, he has been rediscovering the block basket. Â In the early morning, when the other children are still asleep, he asks if he can go play blocks.
I think the kinks are ironed out, and will share the finished pattern (in toddler/preschool and elementary sizes) in time for next week’sÂ Yarn Along. Â Be sure to check back this weekend for more from the garden, and next Wednesday for the fingerless mitt pattern.
Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along this week.
Knitting: I’m finishing up the Annis ShawlÂ in Brown Sheep Nature Spun fingering weight yarn. Â The yarn was purchased several years ago on clearance, but I had never found the Â right pattern for it until I recently came across “Annis” on Ravelry.
Reading: Just finished re-readingÂ How To Make A Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield. Â Every time I thumb through it, I glean something new to apply to our landscape.
On a whim I snaggedÂ On Such a Full Sea,Â by Chang-Rae Lee from the library “Best Picks” shelf. Â It is a Dystopian post-apocalyptic novel, and while I am only two chapters in, I must say that the writing is light years better than other novels I have read lately from the same genre. Â The prose is absolutely gorgeous – rich and vivid, and yet not in any way combersome. Â Not surprising, considering Lee has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
The rain today is dreadful, so much of the day was dedicated to play and craft projects in the living room, reading and mathematics, and all the sibling squabbles that come from being confined indoors.
Wishing you a peaceful rest of the week.
Saying goodbye to the abundant tomato crop: Â This year has been the best and longest tomato growing season since we started gardening in this location five years ago. Â 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. Â There were also quite a lot of tomatillos (bottom right). Â Most years, the tomatoes are long gone this far into October, so we are lucky to be picking any.
We do take in the green tomatoes (bottom left) since they make very good chutney, fried tomatoes, and lacto-fermented dill pickles.
As we pull up the tomato plants, I chop them into small (hand-sized) pieces and throw them right back on the beds. Â As other spent plants die, they are also cut off at the ground and chopped onto the beds. Â Soon, I will sprinkle coffee grounds, coffee chaff, composted poultry manure, and comfrey tea on the beds. Over our mild Oregon winter, the poultry will work through the beds, scratching the vegetable matter and helping it break down before spring. Â Worms will come up to the surface and help turn the plant matter into compost. Â There is no need to expend the effort to move it all to a compost bin, let it decompose, and then shovel it all back. Â Letting it compost in place is a huge labor saver.
Chop and DropÂ is an energy-saving, soil-building concept in permaculture where biomass is accumulated through the chopping and dropping of excess vegetation. Â Just as leaves and branches fall in nature, building up the soil, in the permaculture garden, the gardener accelerates that process by intentionally cutting back vegetation, and laying it on top of the beds.
In the photo above, you can see the ducks and Cookie the Buff Orpington looking for slugs and other goodies in a mass of vegetation I have just chopped and dropped around a white currant (far left) and a young Bavay’s Green Gage plum (small trunk at right). Â As these materials break down, they slowly release nutrients into the soil, encourage the growth of beneficial fungi, and build soil fertility. Â Â Keeping a cover of mulch also suppresses weeds, conserves water, and protects perennials from harsh winter weather.
In a immature system such as ours, we still bring in wood chips several times year to mulch beds and import biomass. Â Hopefully, in a few years, we will be producing enough biomass here at the farmette to supple the needs of all the garden beds and the orchard. Â (More on that later in the week!)
At the end of the afternoon, my foot is quite swollen, and I’m very glad the ham n split pea stew was made early in the day, so I can put my foot up and rest before supper. Â There is a lot to be done in order to put the garden to bed for the winter, but I think we got a solid start to the work before the driving rain returns tomorrow.