Building Community

Alpaca and Social Permaculture

I’m tackling spinning for the Yarn Along this week.   Little by little, I am working my way through a 4 oz bag of first-shearing unwashed alpaca fiber (isn’t the coppery color lovely?).  This buttery soft fiber was a gift from my sister some years ago.  She picked it up from Foothills Fiber in Hood River, OR.

Originally, I was going to put this on the wheel, but both sets of bobbins are already full of other fibers, so I’ve been working on a drop spindle.  (I have 6 or so spindles going at any one time, so progress on any one fiber is fairly slow.)

This week, we have been thumbing through Discover Nature in Winter, as well as the classic primitive/survival skill book Participating in Nature.  The children and I are looking for winter activities out-of-doors that extend beyond the garden.

I have also just begun  The Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work.  Lately, the Buddhist ideal of “right livelihood“  has really interested me.   It is similar to concepts of social and economic permaculture, in which the ideal is to take work that benefits the renewal of the land or the care of people and eschew jobs that damage the land, overuse resources, and exploit people.

Both my husband and I feel our careers (paid and unpaid) fall within this sphere.  I don’t think either of us could embrace a career that did not, and we love what we do.  I simply thought the book might be an educational read.

Okay, back to spinning while Bea does her read-aloud this morning.  Have a wonderful second half of your week!

A shared meal


A quick update after Sunday afternoon chores are done.  Spinach-parmesan puffs (above) are cooling, a pot of 3-bean soup is simmering on the stove…looking forward to bringing them to our Sunday night homegroup in a bit, where we share a meal and fellowship with friends, and dig in to our new book together.

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts. – Acts 2:46

“It’s a Girl Thing” Kits



The kits are finished!!



Many, many thanks to the nine ladies and three girls who helped sew, and the ladies who purchased fabric and undies for this project!

Together, we have blessed and changed the lives of eleven young ladies in Ethiopia in a simple, but substantial way.  Thank you!

Sewing Service – “It’s a Girl Thing”


I’ve been given permission to put up a section of a recent post from Andrea’s blog, Babe of My Heart:

Every month, I have to deal with what most girls deal with…a monthly cycle. Sorry if that’s too personal to say–but it should come as no surprise to you. I take for granted that every month I stock up on the things I need…and I can get them in any size, weight and style I would like. And not only that–I complain about my cramps. I complain that I am a bit inconvenienced and I remind my husband that he is lucky to be a boy and he doesn’t have to endure such hardship each month.

SO…let me ask you this—what do you think the women and young girls of Korah do during this time? What will it be like for the hundreds of girls who are (praise GOD!) being sponsored to leave Korah this Fall and go to a boarding school? What will they do as they try to sit in class during this time? What do the woman and girls we support in Zambia do?


Well, let me tell you what they do. They squat. They wait for their week to end. On their heavy days, some roll up newspapers and make their own tampons. Many get infections. The infections make their parents and husbands think they have STDs and they endure being left or abused. Some use a single piece of old clothing–and when it’s soiled–they rinse it and use it again…although it’s still wet—it’s some what clean.

Did you know that in Africa the dropout rate for for young girls in school is 40% when they have no sanitary supplies? BUT when they are provided them–it rises to just 8%?

What can we do about it?


Andrea, and also  Sarah at Titus Home, have put out a call, and given us a practical way to help these girls – they are encouraging ladies around the country to have sewing parties and make washable feminine products to be sent to these girls and young women in Ethiopia and Zambia.

So, if you’d like to take up the challenge, and spend a few hours in service to these young women (and make a concrete difference in their lives!), I’d like to invite you to join me

on September 25 · 9:00am – 12:00pm

at Central Bible Church

8815 NE Glisan St

Portland, OR
for a morning of sewing, to put together as many washable feminine kits as we can, to be sent to these young women October 1.

WHAT TO BRING: your sewing machines, sergers, cutting mats, scissors, rotary cutters, thread, old towels or flannel sheets (for batting). Any spare velcro, snap closures you might have.

WHAT IS PROVIDED: patterns, ALL FABRIC, a few extra sewing machines and sergers. Coffee, snacks and CHILDCARE.


Last night, I made a sample kit today using the pattern supplied by The Red Tent Project.  The kit consists of 5-6 envelopes, each with snap closures, and half with leakproof PUL, for heavy days (see above).  It also includes 4 thick, “maxi” pads (see below), which unfold for easier drying on the line,  and 8 regular pads (see 2nd picture in this post),  which can be doubled up if needed.

If you are interested in making kits, but are unable to attend on the 25th, please e-mail me at, and I will send you the pattern and instruction details, as well as shipping addresses.  Or, if you prefer, select a pattern you like from the internet.  They are requesting that you use bright or dark print fabric, and prefer foldable inserts, since thicker pads and AIO designs do not dry well on the line.


To round out the kits, we are sewing a drawstring bag for all of the pieces, and attempting to collect 2-3 pair of new undies to include, as well.  If you might like to contribute to the project by donating funds for new undies, please contact me at the above e-mail address.  Thanks!


Wednesday Harvest


A few things from this morning’s harvest.  Carrots, beets, 3 types of kale, lots and lots of chard, and buckets full of sugar snap and snow peas.


So grateful for the constant stream of Teaching Garden volunteers today.  Folks were working hard from 9:30 am straight through to 4:30pm.    We’re feeling very, very blessed.   A big thank you to all of the helping hands!

Late June Garden Update


It’s late June at Salt of the Earth Urban Farm (home of the BCS Teaching Garden)!  Finally, some warm weather (mid-upper 70’s) has settled in (the tomatoes,  summer squash and bush beans look much happier) and everything is flourishing. 


The harvest is increasing – every week, we are taking a few dozen cartons of organic snow and sugar snap peas, as well as boxes and boxes of lettuce, chard, kale, bitter greens, and a few choice boxes of herbs and strawberries to Birch Community Services.  We are still looking forward to the coming months and being able to take in more and more food to share amongst the families at BCS (loads of organic bush beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and summer squash will be coming soon!).

Here are a few shots from around the yard – mostly in the front yard –



A few shots of the front yard, here.  Can you believe just a few short months ago, it looked like this? —>


(And a day before this, it was just weeds and lawn!  Taken late-February 2010.)


Front to back in this shot – variegated land cress, beets (with a few Butternut starts peeking thru on the right and a crate of potatoes to the left), Italian kale, cardoons, salad greens, Oregon Sugar Pod II peas, California poppies and De Milpa tomatillos.


Tomatoes in the front are underplanted with beets and cosmos.  In the backyard, with nasturtiums and lettuce (the shade from the tomatoes will keep the lettuce from bolting in the July/Aug heat.).

IMG_7729Mature artichokes and cardoons take up a lot of space, but while they’re still growing, I’ve underplanted them with daisies, nasturtium and chives (winter squash, dahlias, sunflowers, fennel, and wildflowers are visible in the background.)

Not shown – I planted an herb bed in the front yard – three types of lavender (two culinary, one for sachets), three types of rosemary (I love rosemary!), tangerine sage, tricolor sage, lemon verbena,and curry plant from starts (when pinching pennies, get the 4-inch pots – they were $3 each, versus $9-10 for the next size up, and $30 for large rosemaries and lavenders in gallon pots.  They’ll grow big, too!  Be patient!)  I also transplanted in two types of thyme, oregano, Greek basil, Thai basil, and Genovese basil that I started from seed a while back (for a savings of about $15 over buying potted starts).


Much of the back isn’t so pretty yet, but here’s a shot of the linear beds near the house  -front to back – garlic; parsnips, kale, chard, carrots; peas and poppies underplanted with kale.  I didn’t take any shots of the bush bean, asparagus, potato and squash beds, which make up about 60% of the backyard.


Out back, we’re still doing the fairly miserable work of ripping up bamboo (rhizomes and all) for a future raspberry patch (to the left in this picture) and quince and pear stand (where the current volunteer hazelnut currently resides.)  The far NW corner of the yard (not pictured), which will eventually be our Zone 3 fruit orchard,  is currently overrun with weeds.  I did manage to get three apple trees and a Desert King fig planted back there, and my husband expanded the chicken run (while protecting the young trees), so the hens could make short work of the weeds and give me room to underplant the trees with red clover and more lavender.  We are still hunting for a persimmon, a dwarf apricot, and black currants to put back in that area.

More shots from out back in the coming month – the rows of bush beans and summer squash are quite small, and the limas and runner beans are barely reaching up their poles).


If you’re interested – we’re having a free hands-on workshop on  Saturday, July 17th here at the garden from 9:30-11:30 and follow up with a potluck luncheon from 11:30-12:30.  We will be doing a garden tour, discussing high-summer garden needs and prepping for a fall garden.  We will be starting seeds for fall crops (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc), possibly harvesting potatoes, and doing regular garden maintenance.   Bring your garden gloves, shovel, and a dish to share.  Children are welcome.

Contact the garden coordinator for Birch Community Services, Tiffany, at to sign up.

New Pizza Recipe


The other night we tried out a new pizza recipe from Good Eat’s guru, Alton Brown.

I really liked that the dough is made the night before and allowed to set-up in the fridge – this way, when I’m in a hurry to make dinner the next night, I can quickly take out the dough, stick the pizza stone in the oven, and quickly whip up some homemade pizza.

Overall, I was pretty happy with how the pizzas turned out (one recipe makes two medium pizzas) –

2 chief issues – my husband didn’t love the texture of the dough, and Alton called for flour on the pizza peel – I went against my instinct and trusted him on this.  Big mistake.   Using flour made the dough stick to the peel horribly, and, as you can see from the wonky shape of the pizzas, it was a real pain to slide the pizza off onto the 500F stone without destroying the pizza and losing all the toppings.  Always ALWAYS use cornmeal on the pizza peel, and you won’t have dough stick to it.


The kids had simply mozarella, parmesan and ham on their pizza, and we added red peppers on ours.  I’m looking forward to having enough basil from the garden soon to add that, and in retrospect, I should have added some kale as well, which crisps up nicely on a pizza.  But, I used what I had on hand and was in a hurry.

We are hoping to build an outdoor wood-fired bread and pizza oven this summer (not sure yet if it’ll be cob or brick), so that we can continue to bake in the heat (if it ever arrives), and would like to start our own version of Barbara Kingsolver’s tradition of homemade pizza on Fridays – using whatever fresh ingredients the garden or market provide.

Eventually, we hope that the bread/pizza oven would be a place to foster community in Parkrose – folks in our neighborhood could gather and bake bread once a week (just like an article I read in Sunset magazine about the Cully neighborhood’s bread oven).  I’d let people know that I’m going to fire up the oven every Friday at a certain time, and anyone who wants to bake can come with their dough and we can have tea and chit-chat while it bakes.

In the meantime, we’re still in search of the perfect pizza dough recipe – if you have a favorite, please share it with me!  Thanks!

Anyway,  best get out to the yard for a bit while the sun shines!

Early May Garden Update


Happenings in the garden this week so far:  Mustard greens, lettuce and kale are all getting big!  (Red Russian Kale in the foreground, with Mizuna mustard behind.)


A volunteer and I got 20 tomatoes planted this afternoon – half in front, half in the back.  (I have room for another dozen or so, but am out of cages and will have to jury-rig some bamboo supports – the cages were donated, and I’m trying do as much free and homemade as possible.)


I got 7 De Milpa tomatillos (they have beautiful purple fruit) in the ground, and am trying to find room for three more in some sunny corner.  While I planted them, I kept thinking about roasting tomatillos and making purple salsa verde with chips, or chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce  – can’t wait!


Most of the front yard beds can be seen here (I still don’t have good pictures of all of the backyard, since it’s a mess) – beets and chard and peas are really coming along.  We are harvesting lettuce every day (despite the continuing slug issues).   Pole beans and pumpkins are just beginning to peek up through the soil, and the wildflowers are germinating as well.


Baby parsnips in the backyard are putting out true leaves.  Only 90 more days or so, and they’ll be ready to eat!


The summer squash in the backyard cold frame is coming along beautifully – looks like we’ll have lot of starts to give away to any volunteers that want them!

IMG_7463On the right is a new veggie I’ve never tried before (thank you, Patty!) – variegated garden cress.  Can’t wait to get it established and try some in a salad!


The first of three potato beds out back are really going gang-busters.  I have to mulch them almost every day (cutting tall grass from the yard and quickly using up our last bale of straw).  The second bed planted will soon catch up – the leaves are 6 inches high.  And the third bed potatoes are just barely peeking leaves up through the straw.   Looks like we’ll need to run to the feedstore for another couple of bales soon!

Not pictured – 3 types of mint planted in pots buried around the garden

-bronze fennel starts and lots of chives transplanted around the garden; cilantro and lemon balm starts planted out as well

– bulb fennel, Waltham butternut and Golden Hubbard squash germinating

-  Scarlet Runner and Kentucky Wonder pole and  4 types of bush beans planted in the back, along with Christmas limas on the side yard.

-3 dozen Fordhook Giant leeks were transplanted out  in the front and side yard and another 30-odd Walla Walla Sweet onions in the side and back (wish I had room for more!)

– And many, many flower starts inter-planted amongst the tomatoes.

And -just as importantly- many, many people have stopped by and talked to me this week about our gardening project – I’ve met a half dozen new neighbors, and am connecting more with many others – the garden is building community, not only amongst volunteers, but also in our neighborhood, and that’s really encouraging to me.

As my next-door neighbor said, “It’s starting to actually look like a garden!”

Garden update


Slowly, slowly, things are taking shape in the garden.  Last Saturday, 9 volunteers came to help pot up summer squash, plant potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and continue dig up bamboo for the future raspberry bed.   And earlier, I was able to get 25 donated asparagus crowns planted.

Baby leeks, onions, basil, cilantro, parsley and thyme are all happily growing in their pots, and I put in rosemary, lavender and tarragon plants in the front yard.   I still have to figure out where to put some mint (in pots!) and add several more herbs, but it’s a good start.

More and more the yard is looking less like a disaster zone and more like a garden.   The front yard (stage one) is complete, and over the coming year, we will move on to stage two, adding grape arbors, perennial fruit bushes/vines/trees and herbs and perennial flowers.

Two large swaths of the backyard have become (for the time being) annual veggie beds, with the section sloping downhill designed with swales the catch and conserve water.  Much of the back still requires major work, however,  including finishing the chicken coop (running grapes up the side), building a shed (with trellised plants – hops and roses, most likely), finishing the small “lawn”, building a bread oven, removing the remaining bamboo to plant berry canes, and planting more fruit trees (persimmon, fig, apricot, plum), blueberry and currant bushes and maybe even some cranberries.

One side yard is 90% complete, but the other is barely begun (where the shady natives garden will grow thimbleberries, huckleberries, Oregon grape, etc).  But there has been so much progress, and we are going to be able to produce an amazing amount of food for BCS this year, I am sure.


I’ve given away twenty or so, but the remaining 50-plus tomato-lets and little tomatillos are outgrowing their pots, anxious for the frost-free weather, so they can go in the ground, and out of my living room at night.


The tulips are fading, but the peas are slowly reaching up and grabbing their supports (and the Tall Telephone peas in the backyard are twice as tall as these Oregon Sugar Pod II‘s).



A third load of mulch, and 20-odd tomato cages were delivered (we still need 15 or so more).


Baby poppies are taking hold between the lettuces and mustard greens.



And most exciting to the children – the first signs that there will be fruit this summer (Quinalt strawberries in flower, as are the other varieties and our early blueberries, and our red currant has set fruit already.)

What plans/hopes/dreams do you have for your garden this year?  If you’re in Portland, we’re always willing to help out with garden work,  just let us know (many hands make light work)!


Yesterday afternoon, with my son on my back, the girls and I potted up the first of our tomato seedlings – all 51 of them.  (The one above is a “Black Krim”, a favorite of ours for salads.)  Another 26 little tomato-lets (started a week later) will be potted up this weekend, time allowing.
(Above: Our eclectic collection of potted-up tomatoes – in sour cream and tapioca containers, large paper cups, milk jugs, juice bottles, hand-me-down pots.)
It felt wonderful to spend the afternoon in the warm sunshine, kneeling with my children on the front steps, tenderly moving each little seedling from a starting tray into its own pot.   It felt wonderful to be growing food with my children, and I am grateful for the many, many days  of gardening with them that are spread out in front of us.
One of the most important resources that a garden makes available for use, is the gardener’s own body. A garden gives the body the dignity of working in its own support. It is a way of rejoining the human race. – Wendell Berry

Why I haven’t been blogging the past week or so



We’re working on a converting our front lawn into veggie beds, and the unseasonably warm and dry weather has helped us get a jump start on sheet mulching.  Goodbye lawn, hello permaculture landscape!  While Tum Tum and I spread cardboard, straw, manure and compost, Little Hen and her Daddy were busy building cold frames out of scrap wood and old windows from the ReStore. (Firecracker was either resting inside, or resting curled up in a nest of blankets on the driveway, since she not only had strep throat, but then a head-to-toe reaction to the amoxicillin meant to cure the strep.  Poor kid. )


(Collage posters Little Hen made calling for Garden Volunteers – I wrote the words, but she went to town with the scissors, a stack of old issues of Mother Earth News and a glue stick.)

Last year we worked at Penelope’s Garden, but this year, we’ll be hosting a community-building garden of our own.   It will be years before our seedling fruit trees and berry bushes obscure many sunny patches of our yard, so we thought we’d make good use of it all and put in veggie beds to grow fresh, organic produce for families of limited means.  This weekend, a team of volunteers will help us finish installing the front yard beds and create many more in the backyard, so that the organic veggies grown here and cared for by volunteers can be delivered to the families at Birch Community Services, a local non-profit serving needy families in Portland.


We saved a little time for planting poppies and sweet pea seeds, rhubarb and asparagus crowns.  We also started tomato, artichoke, and cardoon seeds in pots in the basement.   The dry evenings allowed me to plant blueberry bushes, dozens and dozens of strawberry plants, and a red currant after dinners last week.


As Little Hen’s sign (which she hung on the front door) says -“Gardening – You want to sign up?”  If you’re interested in volunteering to grow food for needy families in the Portland area, and teaching those families to grow their own nutritious, organic produce, please e-mail me at


I’m working on setting up a little blog dedicated to the garden this year.  More on that soon.   If you have any ideas on a name  for the Birch Community Services’  educational and food producing organic garden hosted at the Baker’s house, I’d LOVE to hear them (short, sweet and whimsical is best).

Happy gardening!  The rains and cold weather are on the way, so I’m sure I’ll be posting more from indoors later this week!

Pieces of our Saturday


A morning spent baking a pecan pie thank-you.




An early afternoon spent planting hyacinths and digging earthworms with the girls.




A late afternoon of immense blessing – We have been given an enormous maple loom, made right here in Oregon.   We spent about two hours getting it dissassembled, carried up our narrow stairway, and reassembled.

It will need a good bath, a shuttle, some new pegs, but it is a beautiful, beautiful thing – an amazingly generous and precious gift.  The girls and I can’t wait to get her in working order and teach ourselves how to weave shawls and rugs and coverlets – our minds are full of anticipation and possibilities!  (Firecracker would like a superhero cape!)

And now we are off to our homeschool co-op’s end of the semester Open House.   We have been looking forward to it for weeks (Little Hen is in the theatre class, and Firecracker will be singing in the choir).   We’re so glad Grandma and Aunties and Cousin can come down and join us.

Altogether, a truly blessed Saturday – every piece.

Bartlett Harvest


Saturday,  I was blessed with the opportunity to ride with another family of volunteers out to Mosier, OR (in the beautiful Columbia Gorge) to glean pears for Birch Community Services.   The weather was very rainy, windy, and chilly, so I was grateful that the children could all stay home, snuggled up reading their latest chapter book with Daddy.


The five of us wore large canvas pear-picking bags, and picked 40-50 lbs of Bartletts off of the trees at a time and then unloaded them into large crates.  Due to the windy, rainy conditions, I didn’t get any pictures of the actual picking, but here you can see a fraction of what we picked.  The owner’s of the orchard estimated that we picked close to 2200 lbs of pears!!


You may ask, why were thousands of pounds of beautiful pears sitting unpicked, unwanted on the trees?   Well, the owners explained to me that there isn’t any profit in Bartletts – they cost $120/crate to grow,  but can only get $180/crate on the market – so by the time they pay workers to pick them, and absorb the cost of transporting them, they actually lose money on the Barletts.

The farmer makes his living growing Bosc pears for market.  So, why grow Barletts at all, then??  Bosc pears command a much higher price than Barletts, but the trees are not self-fertile, and require another pear variety for pollination.  So, for every 4 rows of Bosc pear trees planted in the orchard, the farmer must plant a whole row of Barletts in order to reap a crop.  The Barletts are generously left available for the gleaners.


After picking over 8000 pears to donate to BCS, we were allowed to harvest for ourselves as many pears as we could put up  – so I have over 150 lbs of pears sitting on my kitchen floor to ripen over the next week!  I’ll be dehydrating and canning pears and pear butter non-stop late in the week and over the next weekend.   Bring some jars and you’re welcome to join me and take home canned pears for your family, too!   I’d love to have your company!

For more on the culture and history of gleaning, check out my favorite (and oh-so-French!) documentary – Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse (The Gleaners and I).



We were recently, unexpectedly, blessed to be able to trade a family friend some homemade jam and brownies for a Kelty his son had outgrown.  Best barter we’ve ever made, if you ask me!

I love my Ergo and use it daily, but the Kelty is a much better fit for my husband.  We’ve been on two good hikes in the past week or so, and both he and Tum Tum have been quite comfortable.

More on our hikes tomorrow with Friday Nature Table sharing.

County Fair


Last week we traveled north to Ridgefield, WA for the Clark County Fair.   The kids’ aunt and uncle, niece, grandparents, and great-grandparents met us there for an afternoon full of livestock viewing, carnival rides, and ridiculously unhealthy food.




All of the kids enjoyed the hula-hooping contest, and my niece (with the white ribbon in her hair) took first place!


And of course, we had to have a little fair food – this is a deep-fried Snickers.  So deadly.




We spent a long time in the poultry barn – I kept having to bend down so Tum Tum could get a good look at the birds.   He especially liked the runner ducks in the pens outside, and had a nice little conversation with them.



I’m sure like most spinners, my favorite place is the sheep barn (well, maybe tied with the produce competition…or maybe the preserves table…so hard to choose.)  They had a nice spinning demo and information on Kool-Aid dying fiber, and lots of 4Hers had entered their fleeces for judging.


It was hard not to be envious of the gorgeous wheel the volunteer was using.   She asked Little Hen if she knew how yarn was made, and Little Hen answered, “Of course, my mama uses a ‘drop spindler’ and makes her own yarn.  Someday we’re going to get a fancy wheel like yours and then I’ll get to learn how to use it. ” I don’t think that was quite the response the woman expected.  (That girl is never short on answers.  6 year-olds can be so…confident in themselves, can’t they?)


Have you been to your local county fair?  Or state fair?  We’re hoping to make it to the Oregon State Fair one of these years.  I hear it’s a must-see.

Thanks so much for all of the comments on my giveaway.  I never expected so many!  I hope to have another giveaway soon.  Winner will be announced later this evening.  Thank you!

Garden harvest


Fridays are my days to volunteer at Penelope’s Garden.  This week’s harvest was 29 lbs delivered to Birch Community Services!!


The raspberries are all done for the year, the mint bolted in the heat, but the tomatoes and green beans are in full production!  There were even some carrots and a new patch of basil ready.   (I must admit, I couldn’t help myself and snacked on some of the tender beans while harvesting – SO delicious!)



The heat wave, followed by the cool snap in the weather caused the Walla Walla sweet onions to bolt and then fall, so that meant harvest time for them, too.  They smelled unbelievably good.

Next week it looks like lots of peppers, some patty-pans, and maybe even some cucumbers will be added to the wave of tomatoes and green beans to bring in.  Can’t wait!

What are you harvesting in your garden this week?

(Don’t forget – check out my Contest, if you haven’t yet.  Thanks!)

Some Waldorf Magic


Little Hen has been at Waldorf Art Day Camp (and thus immersed in magical-make-believe) for the past two weeks, .  Her sister misses her terribly while she’s gone (“Is it time to pick up sissy yet?  Is it time to pick up sissy yet???”), but we’ve been trying to do something special in the mornings – just Firecracker and me (and sometimes the baby in the backpack)  – a trip to the coffee shop for steamers, a visit to the craft store, a walk to the park, making brownies, that kind of thing.

So, here’s some of what my artistic 6 year-old has been creating this week of magic and sculpting –


A magic wand made from a tree limb, yarn, wire, and a piece of quartz


A fairy sculpture from wooden beads, wire, modeling beeswax, and tissue paper.


a wet-felted bumblebee, and rope and embroidery floss-sewn hive (which went straight on the nature table).

While camp has been a wonderful experience, it will be good for Little Hen to have a break next week, and for all of us to reconnect and plan some special outings and activities as a whole family.

Berry Pies


Another family at church has welcomed  their first baby.   It’s our privilege to bring them dinner tonight (and ooh and ahh over their little boy), so the girls helped me bake some Blueberry-Raspberry- Marionberry pies to take for dessert (I love living in the Northwest!).


Firecracker helped with the lattice top, and Little Hen shaped the edges (I love seeing a child’s hand in the process).


We always make some extra dough so that the girls can make their own little hand pies, dusted with sanding sugar,  for a good morning snack.


Some other yummy goodies with berries being made recently at Charming the Birds, and Imagine Childhood.

What’s your favorite summer berry recipe?

Sauvie Island Strawberries






Pictures from our weekend outing to Sauvie Island Farms.  We picked over twenty pounds of strawberries – we ate as many as we could fresh, baked a few cakes (subbing-in whole wheat for half the flour), then put enough in the freezer for two batches of jam and lots and lots of smoothies, pies, and other goodies.

There couldn’t be a better way to spend a Saturday morning – picking strawberries with friends, and anticipating all of the good things to make from the harvest.  I love these early summer weekends!

We’ll be back at Sauvie Island in July to pick raspberries and peaches.  We’d love to have you to join us!

Apricot Jam Prep


With three young children to look after, I often don’t have the time to make a batch of jam start to finish,  so for the last two years, I have made jam in stages.   Today was prep day for Apricot-Orange Jam – recipe at the end.  (The girls were nabbing and eating apricots off the counter the whole time!)


Apricots are so tender and can turn so quickly, I like to process them as soon as I get them home.  (If it must wait until the next morning, I lay them out in a single later on a clean kitchen towel, with all of the bruised or nicked ones to one side (afterall, these are still perfectly good for jam after the soft spots are discarded).)


First, enough fruit is washed and chopped to equal 8 cups  (a few “less ripe” apricots are added in because they contain more pectin, and this old-fashioned jam uses only the natural pectin in the fruit.)  and put in a freezer zipper-bag.  Then, the orange zest (I always zest with a microplane – I can’t stand big, bitter chunks of zest in my jam!), freshly-squeezed orange and lemon juices, are added to the bag.  The bag is then gently mushed a bit to distribute the juice (this keeps the fruit from browning).


All included ingredients – and the amount of sugar and pectin (if any) needed to make the batch of jam – are written on the bag, as are a few notes to remind me approximately how long to cook that batch before it sets up, etc.  Then, the bag goes in the freezer until I have time to make the jam – hopefully later this week!

Larksong’s Natural Apricot-Orange Jam

8 cups washed, chopped apricots

Zest of 1 large orange or two small juice oranges (zested with a microplane)

1/3 cup of freshly-squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

6 cups granulated sugar

Directions (this excludes the canner prep and jar sterilization, which must occur simultaneously) :

1.  Combine all ingredients except sugar ( that means everything that was frozen in the zipper bag) in a large, heavy-bottomed pan (I use my All-Clad).  Mash and cook on medium until apricots begin to steam and break down.  (At this point, depending on your preference, you could run the fruit pulp through a food-mill to remove the skins.  I think they are delicate enough to break down fine, and often keep them in.)

2.  Add sugar, and bring mixture to a boil.  Boil, stirring and scraping down sides,  for approx 25-30 minutes (candy thermometer should read 220 F), or until jam reaches the setting point (put some on a spoon, and set it in the fridge for a minute to see if it has set).

3.  Fill 9 to 11  one-half pint jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace, add lids and rings, and process in a rolling water bath for 5 min.  Store in a dark place, or jam may darken over time.

4.  Enjoy (I especially like it on a toasted English muffin with ricotta cheese)!

(If I can get the time, and find some more beautiful apricots, I hope to make and post the recipes for Apricot Brandy, Brandied-Apricot Jam, and Apricot-Lime Jam as well.)

P.S. -I am always up for a canning party.  Any Portlanders or Vancouverites, you are welcome bring your fruit and jars and we can make some serious batches of jam and salsa and enjoy each others’ company!