Changing Seasons

Autumn Once Again

clockwise from bottom left: Concord grapes, Stanley plum, Inca berries and ground cherries (Physalis), goji berries, Fall Gold raspberries.

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 fade, but so many fall foods are coming in, I am swamped with produce.

It’s always been my goal to have an even distribution of fruit crops throughout the year.   Late September is no exception.   Raspberries, grapes, late plums, apples, goji berries are all still going strong.  Physalis (Inca berries and ground cherries) are just beginning to ripen, and the quince, medlars, kiwis won’t be ready for another several weeks.

Here are a few photos from a little portion of the garden, as it appears today – lush and green, but beginning to ebb for the year:

Some of the backyard and the chicken coop.
More of the backyard and the duck house.
John Cena, the Brahma hen.
Echinacea still going strong.
Quince will be ready in a few weeks to a month.
Ruth with her favorite hen, Cookie.

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 run, so they could hunt for worms and bugs in the rain-soaked mulch.   Ducks don’t like elderberries, and the chickens will only clean up a few.  They would much rather go for the protein-rich invertebrates which abound in the shade garden.

One of the black elders makes smaller clusters than the other, but each individual berry in the umbel is larger.

All parts of the elder contain cyanogenic glycosides. The berries contain the least amount, which dissipates during cooking.   However, stems, leaves, and roots contain toxic amounts.  Elderberries need to be removed from the stems which hold them in a cluster before they can be cooked.   Even the small stems which hold the berries together in their characteristic umbel shape need to be removed before cooking.

The berries stain clothes and skin, and can be fiddly to remove from the stems.   I use a fork.  Freezing the berries first can make it easier to remove them from the stems, as well.

After the berries are de-stemmed, they are washed to remove any grit, bugs, spider webs, and dried flowers.   I then make a batch of fresh syrup, and freeze the rest in packages to make more syrup throughout the winter.   I have dried them in the past, but feel that freezing better preserves the flavor and nutrition.


I take elderberry syrup regularly during cold and flu season – straight, stirred into hot tea, or even mixed with seltzer water.  Elderberries contain very high quantities of vitamin C, and are rich in vit A, iron, B6, and potassium.  They are a nutritional powerhouse, and I feel very privileged to be able to grow them at home, where I can control how the fruit is produced.  The berries and plants are never sprayed.  The shrubs are fed with rock dust minerals, organic poultry manure,  worm castings, comfrey and compost tea.  I know that I am feeding the soil so the plant can benefit and produce for me the most nutritionally-dense berries possible.

If you’re local and interested in some of my all-organic elderberry syrup, please check out the order form HERE (details are on the form). I will be making a batch that will be ready for pickup (or delivery to Oaks Park for derby folks) on Sept 27.  Because I’ve had issues with folks ordering and not paying in the past, I’m going to take payment before I make a batch this time around.

If you have any questions about growing elders or making syrup, feel free to shoot me an email at or leave a comment below. Thanks!

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 that resolving sibling conflict normally comprises the bulk of my “parenting” lately, Friday is a day I’ve been looking forward to, as well.  I get so much accomplished on Fridays, all while having a quiet, peaceful morning.


I got a loaf of sesame-spelt bread baked early this morning.  It has 2 cups of unbleached flour, and 1 cup of spelt, so it takes longer to rise, but it gets some loft eventually.  It is much less dense than an all-spelt bread, with the nutty flavor of the spelt still coming through.



While the bread was rising, I worked on a pair of top-down mix-n-match socks I started ages ago.  I’m down to the toe on the last sock, and then I can block them!  (Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along. These are 100% wool yarn my sister-in-law gave me some time ago.  They’re leftovers from another project she did, so I’m not sure of the brand.)


While I’m knitting this morning, George has been alternating between working on a puzzle and playing with items on the nature shelf.  He loves to look at the agates and limpet shells we collected at the beach last month, and added some hazelnuts from the backyard.


It seems that everywhere you look in the kitchen, there are medlars strewn about.  The kids and I keep bringing them in as they fall from the tree.  They need to sit on the counter for a few weeks to soften and be edible.  I can’t wait to eat them:  they taste intensely of autumn to me.  (See my new video about growing and eating medlars here.)

This weekend is packed with derby.  I’m officiating four bouts, in three days, as well as a few scrimmages.  But next weekend I’m taking the weekend off to work on fall garden clean-up and transition some of the front yard garden from annuals to perennials.  The plan is to add two new pawpaw trees, another pomegranate, and a “Nikita’s Gift” persimmon amongst the shrubs and herbaceous perennials I established the last two years.  Finding derby-life balance is hard for me, especially as autumn in the garden is still a busy time, but I’m looking forward to a crazy derby weekend starting today and a permaculture weekend next weekend.

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 now, I thought I’d try mixing them together.  I’m quite happy with the result.   Here’s my recipe:

Spiced Quince-Pear Butter

5 large quince

10 pears (I used a mixture of Comice, Seckel, Barlett, and Red Anjou)

1/4 C water

6 C sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp kosher salt

Juice of two lemons

4 Tbsp brandy (optional)


  1.  Wash the fruit, peel and core it.  Cut the quince into 16ths and the Pear into 8ths (quince are harder and take longer to cook, cutting them into smaller pieces insures they will cook at the same rate).
  2. To a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch Oven, add the chopped fruit and water.  Cover, and cook on medium until all of the fruit is tender (about 30 min).
  3. After fruit is tender, remove lid and reduce head.  Here you have two options:  for a super smooth butter, process fruit in a food mill.  For a more rustic butter, mash thoroughly with a potato masher.   Measure pulp.  You should have 8 cups.

    Clockwise from far left: salt, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger.
  4. Return the pulp to the pot.  Add spices, salt, and sugar.  Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the butter cooks down to a desired thickness (depending on the heat and frequency of stirring, about 45 min to 2 hours)
    Butter halfway cooked down


  5. Halfway through cooking down the butter, Heat up the hot-water bath canner.  Place clean jars in the canner and bring them up to a boil.  Place lids and rings in a small saucepan and warm them (do NOT boil, it damages the rubber seal).

    I use a lid-rack I found at a thrift store ages ago to keep the lids from being in direct contact with the bottom of the pan.  It also makes them easy to grab when filling jars.

  6. When butter is ready, stir in lemon juice (and brandy, if desired).  Cook 2-3 minutes.
  7. Fill half-pint jars, clean top of the jar, place lids and rings on snuggly. Process 5 minutes in a hot-waterbath canner.  Remove from heat and let cool for several hours.  Makes 9-10 half pint jars.





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.

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 in the week.  Sunchokes are an easy-to-grow perennial food-crop that are ready late in the year.  They contain about 110 calories/cup and one serving contains 28% of your daily amount of iron.  They are also a good source of vitamin C and potassium.  Sunchokes also contain a lot of inulin, and while they are tasty sliced fried in ghee or bacon grease, they can cause gas in some people unless cooked for long periods of time.  The best way to prepare them that helps break down the inulin is to simmer them in the crockpot in chicken or veggie broth and then make a mash with other root veggies.


Bea found an exceptionally large sunchoke while we were digging.  She was awfully proud of it.


While I was cutting back some rhubarb plants – whose leaves are beginning to die back due to the cold night temperatures, I noticed one of the ground cherries nearby still going strong.  One quick shake and full cup of ripe fruit fell onto the ground.  We ate most, but I kept a few back in order to save the seeds.


On Monday I picked over 50 lbs of pumpkins for Birch Community Services, but today I picked just a few for our family.  These are (my absolute favorite) Burgess Buttercup on the left, and on the right a kabocha-type variety whose seeds were gifted to me, which I want to say is Confection, but that might not be correct.  I look forward to trying the one on the right and seeing how it compares to the excellent texture and flavor of Burgess Buttercup.

I’m very grateful for this late-in-the-year gifts from the garden, and look forward to a few more weeks of nourishing foods and healing herbs from the garden before it is put to bed for the winter.


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.  It is one of my favorites from childhood.  The main character, Sam, runs away from his home in New York to live in the wilderness.  Every week at co-op, we’re discussing a few chapters of the book, making crafts that correspond with the chapters, and learning a wilderness survival skill that Sam utilizes in that section of the book.

Bea is the only one of my kids taking the class, but the other children didn’t want to miss out, so each week I’m reading the assigned chapters aloud, and the whole family is learning the skills we’ll test out in class.  The hardest part so far has been reading only the assigned chapters and not reading ahead – everyone wants to know what happens next!


After reading our chapters, it was George’s turn to be my kitchen helper and we baked a Sun Cake in honor of the shrinking days now that the autumnal equinox has passed us.  (You didn’t know a four yr-old could get so much powdered sugar on the floor and counter instead of the cake but he had fun doing it.)


The cake is a basic yellow butter cake (2 8-inch rounds), with orange glaze and candied orange peel.  I would normally put orange marmalade in the middle, but my sister had just brought us back a little jar of wild huckleberry jam from her trip to Glacier National Park, so I used it instead (a very tasty substitution, if I do say so).

While George and I finished up the cake, the older kids watched a few videos on primitive methods of starting fires, including how to make tinder bundles and start a fire with flint and steel.  (They already know how to use a bow drill to start a fire thanks to a fews summers’ worth of Trackers camps.)

In our chapters we read aloud today, Sam initially fails at fire-making, only to succeed a few days later.  The kids’ assignment is to learn about making a fire without matches and then collect items with which to make a tinder bundle.  (At co-op on Friday, the students in my class will try various types of tinder bundles and methods and see if we have the same troubles Sam does, or if we can succeed in catching an ember and starting a fire.)


When the cake was done, we all went outside to collect items we thought would make good tinder.  The neighbor boys lent a hand, and the kids gathered everything from pine needles to dry leaves and an old birds’ nest.  Bea used her pocket knife to shave off bark curls, and lamented the lack of cattails in the neighborhood, from which we could gather the fluff for excellent tinder.

In honor of our fire-making adventures and the beginning of fall, this Robert Lewis Stevenson poem seemed fitting to leave you with:

Autumn Fires

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall! 

–   Robert Louis Stevenson


Eve of Autumn

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.


Speaking of mornings, The Hudson’s Golden Gem apples are ready right in time to welcome in fall.  I’ve been eating one off the tree every morning with my coffee, and Ruth and George have been enjoying them with dinner.


The young tree sits right outside our front door, planted in a polyculture with rhubarb, comfrey, clove currant, Egyptian walking onions, blood sorrel, rosemary, English lavender, bearded iris, calendula, and Oregon iris.  Around the perimeter – in an area amended with pine needles – are highbush blueberry and lowbush blueberry and red currant.  This weekend I also added a Haku Botan pomegranate – prized for being very dwarf, cold hardy, and producing double-ruffled white flowers which set into white fruit.


If you need another apple to add to the family garden, the Hudson’s Golden Gem is an excellent choice.  The fruit is yellow and heavily russeted – nothing much to look at.  But the flesh is creamy white, and very crisp, but with an exceptionally buttery quality – not grainy or gritty or mealy at all.  The flavor is a good balance of sweet and acid with undertones of butter and hazelnuts.  It’s an apple that children and adults can both enjoy very much.



To mark the shift of seasons, we had mint tea this afternoon and burnt a little myrrh in the hour or so before dinner.  In studying ancient Egypt, the children had become interested in what myrrh actually smelled like (we’d burned frankincense at Christmas before).  I had to order a few things from Mountain Rose Herbs, and included myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) and sweet myrrh (Commiphora opoponax), which have markedly different scents.  They arrived in plenty of time to test them out today.


You can’t simply light myrrh unless you want it to smell, well, burnt.  (It’s like the difference between a great cup of coffee and a scorched cup that’s sat in the pot with the burner on – they’re both coffee, but one is the right way to appreciate it, and the other is a waste of coffee.)  Instead (a video tutorial is here), light a disc of charcoal, place it in salt or sand, sprinkle it with more salt (to form a buffer layer between the charcoal and the myrrh), and then place a very small piece of resin on top.  It will slowly melt and darken, trailing up a wisp of intensely fragrant smoke as it does so.  Two tiny half-pea sized pieces were enough to fill the whole house with the soothing aroma.


While the kids drank their tea and made dragons before dinner, I finished a few pairs of children’s’ mitts.  I’m working on stocking up handmade goods to open a little Etsy store before Thanksgiving.  Something about the chill in the air, the winding down of the garden, the early-setting-sun that makes fiber-folk want to knit and spin in earnest.  So the turn of the season seems like a good time to get things finished up and get that Etsy store open.


Hope to be back later in the week with some of our unschooly activities and setting the fall Nature Table.

Blessings on your family as you settle into the rhythms of the new season.




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 very important permaculture plant, as it fixes nitrogen, is extremely hardy, and produces a nutritious fruit crop.  We chose Siberian varieties known for their smaller growing habit and less suckering than the German and other Russian varieties.   In 4 months they have grown from tiny twigs to nearly the height of my 10 yr-old.  Very excited for them to start producing their Vitamin C-rich fruit in the next year or two.  


It’s late in the year, and the bees (all kinds, not just our honeybees) are frantically collecting up nectar and pollen in preparation for winter.  We’ve been making a conscious choice to let certain plants bolt (radish, argula, mint, etc) and making second plantings and cutting back hard to encourage repeat blooms of various plants (calendula, lavender, salvia, rosemary, borage) to provide sufficient food for the bees.

While this has resulted in some parts of our permaculture garden looking a bit scraggly and even more wild than normal, it has also meant ample forage for our girls and all the native bees besides.  The children have really enjoyed identifying all the species of sweat bees, bumblebees, and syrphid flies that visit the flowers.  We’re also hoping it will make for some seriously delicious honey when we harvest in the spring.

More soon!


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.  Afterall, prune plums – with their intense sweetness and freestone habit – are perfect for drying.

The kids built a blanket fort in the living room this afternoon, and I got around to washing and halving bowls and bowls of plums to fill the dehydrator trays. (It’s cloudy and rainy, today, so I couldn’t use the solar dehydrator, but that’s okay, because it’s chilly in the house tonight, and the heat from the electric dehydrator is filling the kitchen with the delicious honey aroma of the drying fruit.)

We go through a lot of dried fruit outside the summer months.  Aside from eating them whole, prunes go into much of my winter cooking.  One of my favorite dishes is a tagine with beef or lamb and prunes, pumpkin and chickpeas with a side of couscous.  If you don’t think you like prunes, try them in a tagine and you’ll discover how great they can be.

If you have a favorite plum recipe, I’d love to hear it, because I have more plums waiting to be picked!



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 night and the vines begin to die.  So much effort is put into a crop that never matures before the season ends.  And there are only so many batches of green tomato pickles and chutney one can put up in the fall!

So, I thought I’d give you some of my tips for encouraging your tomatoes to ripen before the end of the season:


First of all, obviously not all tomatoes are red when ripe, so color is not a good indicator that your crop is ready to pick.  This variety, Indigo Rose, rapidly turns a dark purple, but isn’t ripe until the green color under the purple turns brownish-orange.  Despite being a cherry tomato, it is one of the longest-ripening tomatoes in my garden, fooling many volunteers into picking it underripe because of the early purple blush.

Knowing the characteristics of the varieties you are growing will help you determine ripeness.  Knowing the firmness/feel of a ripe tomato when you gently squeeze it is `important thing to know.  As well as knowing that most (but not all) varieties of tomato slip easily from the vine when ripe.  If you have to tug and tug to pick the fruit, it probably isn’t ripe (although I have a few heirloom beefsteaks that will hang on for dear life until they are very overripe).


Here’s another very soft, very ripe tomato, although it doesn’t look particularly ripe.  Some of my favorites have green stripes when ripe, or are completely green (Evergreen and Green Zebra come to mind).  Again, here softness and ability to slip easily off the plant are the best indictators of ripeness.

Volunteers here frequently skip over pink beefsteak varieties, thinking they are not yet ripe because they aren’t deep red.  But they will never turn deep red, and if left hanging on the vine, they will attract creatures who know  they are ripe and tasty in their pinkish hue: birds, mice, slugs, will damage them and crops will be lost.  The same goes for lemon-yellow varieties, which folks tend to overlook, waiting for an orangey indictator of ripeness which will never come.

So, now that we know how to tell if a tomato is ripe, how do we get those green tomatoes to hurry up and get in that state?

Ripening tomatoes

Tip 1:  As soon as early September hits, I snip off all of the the flower blossoms and buds from the vines.  These flowers don’t have time to turn into harvestable crops before the end of the month, and they are robbing energy from the vine that it could be putting into maturing fruit.

Removing the flower buds also signals to the plant that flowering time is over, and fall is approaching, and it should focus on ripening already-set fruit.

Ripening tomatoes

Tip 2: Remove all very small, immature fruit.  These little guys are never going to ripen into 1 lb Brandywines in two to three weeks.  Again, removing them keeps the plant from wasting energy attempting to mature them, and allows more resources to go to larger fruit that have a chance of ripening before the end of the month.

Tip 3:  Stop watering.  A shortage of water stresses the plant and encourages it to hurry up and ripen its set fruit before dying.  Now, in Oregon, that may not be an option because sometimes the rain returns in September.  But many years, September is very dry until late in the month, and the combination of lack of water and dipping night temperatures will help those beefsteaks mature.

Ceasing to water also helps prevent fungal diseases on ripening fruit (and believe me, while late blight is rare here, it will devastate your entire crop in 48 hours.  Ripening tomatoes and their vines will turn into black mush before you know what has hit you, and there is no cure.)   I lost 300 lbs of tomatoes one year to late blight (which is spread on the wind, and brought into our state by big-box store’s tomato starts cultivated in the South, where the disease is common), and I hope to never experience that again.

Tip 4: Grow more cherry tomatoes!  Some years, Oregon has cool summers, and beefsteaks are never going to be able to set and ripen many fruits in the season.  I always grow a few beefsteaks and large slicers, even knowing that many won’t produce a large crop for me if the summer is mild.  Brandywine and Mortgage Lifter are particularly prone to setting fruit late and having buckets of green tomatoes for me at the end of the season (they do make very tasty lactofermented dill pickles, though).  Small slicers such as Green Zebra and cherry tomatoes like Sungold and Chocolate Cherry are sure winners no matter the weather.


Hope that helps you, and I hope you get lots of tomatoes in the next few weeks and enjoy the tail end of summer.

I know I am beginning to anticipate fall crops like the late September glut of tomatillo and ground cherry fruit, winter squash, quince, lingonberries…

More soon, and happy gardening!











Summer’s finally here


Today was the real start of our summer – my husband has the week off work before he starts teaching summer school, the kids started swim lessons this morning, and the garden is filling in with every shade of green and splashes of color.

I am looking forward to this summer so, so much.  I want to soak up every moment and appreciate every single thing that comes my way.  A year ago tomorrow, I broke my ankle very badly, and missed an entire summer because I was having surgeries and laying on the sofa, blurred by pain meds and breakthrough pain.  This summer is going to be different.  Not sure what summer will have in store yet, but whatever it is, I am going to be thankful and take in every taste, texture, color, connection, experience that comes my way.



I picked some produce this morning,  appreciating the change of seasons as the final rhubarb and garlic scape bundles were picked, alongside the first of the summer squash and bush beans.


The abundance of sweet little currant tomatoes are beginning to turn, as are a few types of cherry tomatoes.  If we have the hot week they’ve forecast, there will be tomatoes to pick next week.


The Early Laxton plums are ripening.  Ruth and I shared the very first plum of the year.  Early Laxton lives up to its name – producing lovely little yellow plums with a red blush weeks or months before other plum varieties.  The plums have a nice honey-like flavor and a good tart plum skin to contrast with the super-sweet flesh.  They are a bit mealy, but not unpleasantly so – and something must be sacrificed to get such an early producer.


Ruth picking Costmary (Tanacetum balsamita, also known as Magdalene or Sweet Tongue) leaves in the front yard.  The plant has all sorts of traditional medicinal uses, but Ruth enjoys it for the fresh, clean scent of camphor and mint it produces, and wants to dry some leaves for future projects.


The Reliance grapes have set heavily in the front yard arbor.  Can’t wait for them to ripen.  Last year, the girls would bring me bunches of them while I was on the mend, but I couldn’t enjoy them because the medications I was on affected my sense of taste significantly.  This year, I will eat all the grape varieties we grow and enjoy them all immensely.

(I have to say, I am grateful to be able to do many ordinary things I lost the ability to experience while hurt – and one is regaining my sense of taste.  There will be many, many good things to try this summer.  And the compexity and intensity of flavor of heirloom foods in the home garden is one that cannot be surpassed anywhere.  Like the Early Laxton plum above, I am wowed every time.)


Hope your summer is kicking off to a bright and lively start.  Blessings on your week.





Early December Nature Table



Today it really began to feel like Christmastime in our home:


Bea and I converted the nature table  from autumn to Advent.


The Nativity figurines were a gift (from France!) and the conifer candle, picked up at the farmer’s market, is made from local beeswax.  The perpetual calendar is from MamaRoots.


I potted up a Christmas Cactus cutting from my mother.  Hopefully, by next Christmas it will be in bloom.


Ruth and I began decorating our little table-top tree.  (We always get our tree from the L’Arche benefit sale.)  The lights and star go on, and tonight or tomorrow we will string popcorn and cranberries.  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!



Thanksgiving meditation


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 of giving thanks looks like.  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.  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 we’re asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

Wendell Berry, Walking Meditations

A short November day…

IMG_0210[1] A few images from the garden in early November.  There are a few carrots, and oca and potatoes to dig, and still an abundance of Swiss Chard and kale.  Most everything else has been harvested, although there is still some cleanup to be done, and there will be winter pruning in two months.  Here and there, a few calendula flowers are the only thing still blooming, but they are bent down with persistent raindrops. IMG_0219[1]   Tomatillos in their skeletal husks will germinate in the spring and yield a crop next year with no help from me.                 IMG_0208[1]   Hal commented that some of the grape leaves look like topographical maps.  IMG_0200[1]   The comfrey is still going strong where they ducks haven’t eaten it back.  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.  IMG_0195[1]   The persimmon tree is on the cusp of a spectacular fiery display.  Hopefully by next year, there will be a crop of Early Fuyu persimmons left hanging once the red-orange leaves fall. IMG_0180[1]

The half-high and high-bush blueberries are just beginning to turn color.  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.  IMG_0203[2]   Hope you have a cozy, restful weekend.  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, “Run children run”.
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 “No stopping please”
But when he saw them tired out
And huddled in a heap,
He softly said, “Goodnight my dears,
Now let us go to sleep.”

Little Mitts, Little Hands


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.  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.  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.  All of the waiting for medical appointments and snuggling with sleeping feverish children has afforded ample time to knit.  And knit, and knit.  I worked up a new, very simple children’s fingerless mitt pattern (the children always request mittens or some such for Christmas).   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.  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.  In the early morning, when the other children are still asleep, he asks if he can go play blocks.


IMG_0228[1]These mitts will be a Christmas gift for George – he loves anything TARDIS blue, and a friend gave me some incredibly soft Manos del Uruguay yarn, which knit up beautifully.

I think the kinks are ironed out, and will share the finished pattern (in toddler/preschool and elementary sizes) in time for next week’s Yarn Along.  Be sure to check back this weekend for more from the garden, and next Wednesday for the fingerless mitt pattern.



Fall Chop n Drop


Saying goodbye to the abundant tomato crop:  This year has been the best and longest tomato growing season since we started gardening in this location five years ago.  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.  There were also quite a lot of tomatillos (bottom right).   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.  As other spent plants die, they are also cut off at the ground and chopped onto the beds.  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.  Worms will come up to the surface and help turn the plant matter into compost.  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.  Letting it compost in place is a huge labor saver.

Chop and Drop is an energy-saving, soil-building concept in permaculture where biomass is accumulated through the chopping and dropping of excess vegetation.  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).  As these materials break down, they slowly release nutrients into the soil, encourage the growth of beneficial fungi, and build soil fertility.   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.  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.  (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.  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.


October bounty

IMG_0122[1]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 worth growing, especially as the plant is less fussy than true cranberries, and the fruit is ready weeks and weeks before the lingonberries.


Bacon-fat rubbed all over a chicken before roasting yields a spectacularly crispy skin.  This chicken with roasted carrots and onions fed us for three meals: One roast chicken dinner, leftovers for pot pie, and a batch of bone broth.  The garlic, carrots, rosemary, sage came from the garden.



Picking quince, which will be made into membrillo in a few days.  In the meantime, they fill the kitchen with a delightful floral – almost tropical – aroma.



Checking on the few monster “Sweet Meat” winter squashes.  Because October continues to be mild, the vines are still green and growing, so the squash are still in the garden.   Looking forward to making soup, gnocchi, and roast squash from these giant beauties.



Another blessing of the mild weather:  we continue to pick a handful or two of golden raspberries and Inca berries every day for snacks.

IMG_0086[1]Cleaning a gorgeous bag of wild rosehips picked for me by a friend.  They were made into elderberry-rosehip syrup – the recipe for which I will share later in the week.







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 love shredded-wheat cereal, and we save the crushed bits in the bottom of the bag for making bread.   Tossing a half-cup into the recipe adds a nice texture, and nothing goes to waste).  Butter spread on top when the loaf is warm makes for a soft crust children enjoy.IMG_9989[1]

The Nature Table is transitioning over for autumn.  It includes whatever the kids collect: birch bark, a paper wasp nest, as well as shells and rocks discovered in children’s pockets when we go to do the laundry.


A volunteer brought the children a nest she found in our raspberry patch.  We find several every year around the yard, but the kids always get excited about them – they have an almost mystical quality because of their ephemeral nature, and each one is unique.

The perpetual calendar in the upper right is from MamaRoots, and was a birthday gift to Bea last year.  She dutifully keeps track of it for us, and it is one of the best instructional toys we’ve purchased.

IMG_0001[1]A few days in the sun, rotated a few times a day, and the hops and such have dried, and been packed into jars until we need them.

Autumn is always bittersweet – I love the baking, sticking close to home, the warm wooly things of fall.  But the garden winds down and is put to bed for the year, and the weather turns grey and rainy and chilly.  Especially this year, where I missed an entire summer laid up on the sofa with my leg, the changing of the seasons hits a little hard.  Fall is here though, and I’ve got to take the good things the season offers and be content… seems like the right time to bake some gingerbread.

Blessings on your weekend.



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.  Dragonfly Wings is off the needles, but still needs to be blocked.  I enjoyed this pattern very much – it was easy and quick to knit.   Looking forward to see how it blocks up.


Before the weather gets too cold and the comfrey dies back, I have begun collecting the leaves to dry, in order to make a batch of comfrey-rosemary salve.

More soon, including a recipe for the comfrey salve.


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.

Hard Wear

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 for my recovery.  It is such a gift to be able to get around outdoors – however slowly – and tend to the garden – however wild it has become.  It is so so good to get back to any measure of garden work.

A quick glimpse at our morning in the garden:  (Bea, our resident shutterbug, took all of these pictures, as I was ecstatically hobbling around the yard with a crutch in one hand and pruners in the other.):

IMG_9577[1]The last of the plums were picked today.  They are “Stanley” prune plums in the front yard.  They are ready a full month after the other plums in the yard, so we have had fresh plums throughout the summer.


IMG_9736[1]The Swiss Chard is a bit out of control in the front beds.  I allow the brightest and most vigorous plants to bolt and then let them self-sow every year.  The result has been bigger plants each year and deep bright pink or red stems in most of the plants.


The Cox’s Orange Pippin apples are beginning to blush a bit of red.  I am anxious for them to ripen!


I can never resist snacking on Cape Gooseberries (Physalis peruviana, which are also known as Inca berries).  They always ripen at the very end of summer after most fruits have peaked.  The late ripening, plus their sweet-tart exotic flavor makes them worth growing, no matter how small the crop.


September also yields a flush of tomatillos.  Much like green beans, the fruit loves to hide:  you can pick a plant through, come back five minutes later and pick another full basket worth.


When placed together, it is easy to see that the tomatillo (“De Milpa” variety), Cape Gooseberry, and ground cherry all belong to the genus Physalis.  Their papery husks keep the fruit clean, even when it falls from the plant at peak ripeness.

IMG_9747[1]While I picked tomatillos, the older children made and elaborate game for George that involved gathering beans from the “Sadie’s Horse Bean” and “Indian Runner” pole beans.  it kept them occupied for a very, very long time.

IMG_9782[1]A portion of this morning’s harvest for Birch Community Services, which included ground cherries, “Violette de Bordeaux” figs, lavender, French Tarragon, “Delicata” squash, tomatoes, summer squash, plums, “Lacinato” (aka “Dinosaur”) kale, Lemon cucumbers, chard, sage, rosemary, and tomatillos.

More soon as the garden winds down for the year, and life slowly returns to a familiar rhythm for our family.

Blessings on your week.




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 in the front yard which they enjoy.)



I was a bit lazy with my grape pruning last fall, and I had to thin the baby grapes this week.  Looks like we are in for a large crop, nonetheless.


Behind the chicken coop, tucked back in a corner bordering our two neighbors, is the most precious plant in my garden.  There is a volunteer burdock in the foreground (it has an edible and much-prized root, but I diligently remove flowers before they set seed, as it can become a weed quite easily.)  Russian Bocking Comfrey, black currants, a Goumi berry bush, horseradish, mint, Japanese iris all surround a small tree with glossy leaves:


This diminutive tree is an Early Fuyu persimmon.  It is the most expensive plant in my garden.  I planted the whip four years ago, and it has twice been broken by small children visiting my yard.  It is incredibly slow growing, adding less than eight inches per year.  Some day it will be a shapely 15 ft specimen loaded with delicious fruit every autumn, but for now, I baby it along, and hope it comes into production before my kids are off to college.


To round out this little update, here are some of the crates of herbs and rhubarb and such I picked for BCS this week.  Bea cut and tied all of the lavender, but we were sure to leave lots for the bees, and some for our family to use, as well.



As spring begins to roll into summer, I am trying to let the early hiccups in the garden not get me down, because so much of growing food is out of our control (moles gnawed on some of my dahlias over the winter, killing them.  Slugs have killed a half dozen summer squash seedlings when I wasn’t diligent in slug-picking.  And worst of all, gooseberry maggots in all my red, white and pink currants – after four years of no problems, this year is a total loss, and next year will require floating row covers).

Watching the kids dish huge spoonfuls of homemade rhubarb compote over ice cream, nursing an injured duck back to health, seeing the first of the tomatoes set already, picking food to share with the families at BCS…these things augment the joy inherent in tending a garden.   I think it is going to be a very good growing season.


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 resulting changes yielded a moist, chewy, delicious dessert as good or better than the original, so I thought I would share the altered recipe here:

Make-Do Oatmeal Applesauce Snack Cake

In a small sauce pan, combine:

1 C whole milk

1 1/2 C applesauce 

1 heaping C rolled oats (NOT steel-cut)

Cook together on med-low heat, until oats are cooked thoroughly.  Allow to cool to room temp.

While the oat mixture cooks, use a stand mixer with paddle attachment to cream:

1/4 C unsalted butter

1/4 C hazelnut oil (or other mild-flavored oil)

3/4 C sugar (I used natural unrefined sugar)

1/4 C maple syrup

1 C dark brown sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Add 2 large eggs (I used duck eggs), one at a time, and beating thoroughly between each addition.

In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients:

1/2 C whole wheat flour

1/2 C spelt flour (you can use an additional 1/2 C whole wheat if you don’t have spelt flour)

2 tbsp flaxseed meal

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

pinch of clove

With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Fold in cooled applesauce mixture.  Pour into a greased 9×13 casserole dish, sprinkle with natural sugar.  Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out relatively clean.  Cake will be moist and gooey.  



In the midst of cabin fever, worked on lots of craft projects.  Between outings in the snow, I accomplished a fair amount of knitting, while the kids went through a ream of construction paper.  The living room was strewn with paper snippets, duct tape, crayons, stickers, and creative energy.  Ruth was cranking out Valentine’s, Bea built a blue paper TARDIS, and Hal and George created a giant stack of doodles.

Sandra’s Slouchy Beret (above) was a fast, easy project – perfect for knitting while watching Dr. Who with the family.  It is made from scraps of yarn, and completed in a few hours.  The beret is currently blocking (a necessary step), and I’ve already cast on another quick-knit.

Sharing with Ginny’s Yarn Along today.  I hope to be back before the weekend with some gardening posts, as we redesign some beds, add perennials, and begin seed starting for the 2014 garden year!!


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 my hands on a bowl full of calamondins this week, I knew they were destined for marmalade perfection.  Calamondins are petite, seedy and extremely sour citrus.  However, jam connoisseurs (like Bea, who absolutely relishes marmalade) consider marmalade made with these little oranges to be the finest around.

Calamondins have a slightly smoky, musky – almost black currant – undertone that lends a subtle complexity to the finished jam.  The peel melts in as it cooks, providing texture and flavor, without any detracting chunkiness or bitterness.  If you are lucky enough to be able to source calamondins, the flavor is well worth the extra effort of seeding and slicing dozens of miniature oranges.  If not, you can substitute satsuma tangerines for sweeter finished product, or Meyer lemons for an extra tart marmalade.  Here is my recipe:


Calamondin Marmalade for Bea

Calamondins (see substitutions above), halved, seeded, and sliced paper thin, to equal 3 cups of pulp + peel (about 40 fruits)

2 1/4 cups water (or 3/4 cup water for every cup of citrus pulp)

White sugar


-In a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan, combine pulp and water.  On medium heat, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  (You can do this the night before and refrigerate it.)

-Prep all your canning equipment.  Bring hot water bath canner full of water up to a boil.  Sterilize jars, heat lids and rings.

-Measure pulp.  It should equal 4 cups (give or take).  In a large heavy-bottomed pot, combine sugar and pulp in a 1:1 ratio (add 1 cup of white sugar for every cup of pulp).  Bring to a boil, and cook until jelly point (22oF) is reached.  (Alternately, you use the spoon method to determine when the jam is finished.).

-Citrus is high in pectin, so be careful not to overcook, or you will have unpleasant sheets of rubbery pectin in the finished product.  Remove jam from the heat, and stir once a minute for four minutes (this distributes the peel, so it does not all float to the top of each jar).  After four to five minutes, the jam can be jarred up.

-Pour marmalade into hot sterilized jars, add lids and secure rings.  Process 1/2 pints in a hot water bath canner for five minutes.

And to bring a little cheer to your midwinter as we turn back to the sun, a few lines from one of our favorite books of poetry - A Visit To William Blake’s Inn by Nancy Willard – and its delightful Marmalade Man:

The man in the marmalade hat
bustled through all the rooms,
and calling for dusters and brooms
he trundled the guests from their beds,
badgers and hedgehogs and moles.
Winter is over, my loves, he said.
Come away from your hollows and holes.




Early September in the Garden/ Transitions

Purple "de Milpa" tomatillos.  As tasty as they are beautiful.
Purple “de Milpa” tomatillos. As tasty as they are beautiful.

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 Oregon offers the rest of the year.  The plants and bees are frantic to do their work before fall sets in, and the cooler weather and episodes of rain have re-greened every inch of the garden.  The front and backyards are bursting with tomatoes, tomatillos, summer squash, chard, kale, elderberries and ripening quince, winter squash, and apples.


Runner beans are beginning to dry.  Looking forward to a few pots of soup from 1 teepee's worth of vines.
Runner beans are beginning to dry. Looking forward to a few pots of soup from 1 teepee’s worth of vines.

The difficulties of malfunctioning WordPress haven’t been a bad thing, really.  Taking a break from blogging and my FB page has been a good thing for me – less stress, more free time with the kids.   I have learned to roller skate (never skated as a kid!) and am training with Ruth and Bea for roller derby (they play, I fall a bunch and try to learn a fraction of the skills they have acquired).  I ended up falling at skating class and jacking up my left arm, so typing is slow and one-handed at the moment (another reason to take a break from blogging).  (I am very much looking forward to getting back on skates when the splint comes off in a week or two – I may not be a good skater (yet!) but it is something I can do with my girls, good exercise, and a fantastic way to release a lot of accumulated anxieties, worries, frustrations.)

Bea picking dahlias and lavender, both of which are still producing abundantly
Bea picking dahlias and lavender, both of which are still producing abundantly

Time late at night that I would normally spend blogging or reading other blogs, I am now spending exercising and strength building for derby and working on writing projects.   I really miss reading what other blogging families are doing, and seeing other mom’s beautiful handwork and culinary creations – through them I find so many good knitting patterns, book recommendations, recipes, home-education inspiration.   However,  it is also stressful for me and a lot of feelings of inferiority well up with each blog post I view.  The more I read about lives that run so much more smoothly than my own, and view those carefully chosen images, the more I stress about dust bunnies in every corner of my house, kids with tangled hair, house projects unfinished, and piles of unfolded laundry.  When I take a break from the blogosphere, I feel more centered and enjoy my family more, because I am stressing less.  And with the start of our homeschooling year and having a kindergartener, a 3rd grader and a 5th grader, plus a very active 2 yr-old, I need less stress.

Orange beefsteaks with red cherries in the background.  Near the house, the beds are overrun with red and yellow "Brandywines" and "Mortgage Lifters".  We've been eating "Sun Gold" cherry tomatoes with nearly every meal - so delicious on omelettes or in salads.
Orange beefsteaks with red cherries in the background. Near the house, the beds are overrun with red and yellow “Brandywines” and “Mortgage Lifters”. We’ve been eating “Sun Gold” cherry tomatoes with nearly every meal – so delicious on omelettes or in salads.

So, after sharing this morning’s photos from a few hours in the garden with the kids, I’m not sure when I’ll be back.  I probably won’t be posting regularly for a while, but I will be back now and then to share some of the good things happening in our lives.

Bea picked a handful of lavender for "secret potions"
Bea picked a handful of lavender for “secret potions”
Sweat Meat winter squash vining through the kale
Sweat Meat winter squash vining through the kale
Brandywines with oca (Oxalis tuberosa) and cucumber underneath.  We're getting more big ripe beefsteaks this year than in the last three years combined.
Brandywines with oca (Oxalis tuberosa) and cucumber underneath. We’re getting more big ripe beefsteaks this year than in the last three years combined.
Rows and rows of beautiful beneficial (though inedible) mushrooms spring up in all the paths after it rains.  They breakdown the woodchips and release nutrients into the soil.
Rows and rows of beautiful beneficial (though inedible) mushrooms spring up in all the paths after it rains. They breakdown the woodchips and release nutrients into the soil.

Blessings on you this month as the seasons shift.  I hope September is as energizing for you as it has been thus far for our family.