A Meme of My Garden Went Viral. Here Are The Take-aways.

Another creator made this meme of my garden. They had to change the aspect ration of the bottom pic to fit their format, which resulted in dozens of accusation that the bottom image is photoshopped/fake.

Someone Else Meme’d My Garden. It Went Viral.

I did not intend to reboot my blog after a several year absence with a post like this. But life is full of surprises. Some welcome, and some not. It’s how we respond and adapt that makes all the difference.

This week, a documentary film company made a meme of my 14 year-old permaculture garden in Portland, Oregon, USA, using “before” and “after” images, taken more than a decade apart. It immediately went viral and was shared thousands of times across multiple social media sites.

I didn’t make this meme, and had no control of what happened to it when it was set adrift in the swirling garbage patch that is the internet. That being said, watching the descending swarm of commentors attacking a garden I have poured my heart and soul and sweat and energy into for almost a decade and a half felt like watching my baby be thrown to the wolves.

The original comparison I made a few months ago. The top image is the spring we bought our house, the bottom is early summer 2020. The garden has changed and grown even more in the last two years.

Strangers Know Your Garden Best, and They’ll Make Sure You Know It

In a matter of hours, I’d been bombarded by comments sprinkled around social media as this meme gets shared over and over:
-interested folks asking how they can learn about my garden

-other gardeners sharing their gardens which look similar

-total strangers boldly declaring the images were faked or that based on ONE picture, they were sure my garden must be overrun with snakes and mosquitoes and my water bill must be astronomical

– and hundreds of insults and offensive comments. “Looks like a foreclosure.” “I’d move if this was my neighbor.” “What a mess.” “She wouldn’t know a pretty garden if it bit her in the ass.” “Looks like shit.”

As a small-time YouTuber, but dedicated garden educator whose real life is lived in blissful anonymity, I’m not accustomed to being pelted with disgraceful behavior like this from hundreds of total strangers. Performative cruelty lobbed straight at me and my home is not a daily occurence in my life. Needless to say, it’s been a rough couple of days.

The author in her garden, seated underneath a hazelnut tree,
July 2022.

The Problem is the Solution

My heart feels a bit beat up, and my idealistic belief in humanity shaken a bit, but I wouldn’t be a permaculturist if I didn’t choose to see this experience as an option to design for a better world. In permaculture we have a saying, “The problem is the solution.” This simple phrase means that hidden in the problem are the keys to designing solutions that heal. When we break apart and examine the problem, when we reframe the “problem” as an opportunity to observe and learn, we can begin to understand and craft solutions. Pain, hardship, failure all can lead us toward solutions if we let them.

Let’s start with reframing. I don’t have a “slugs are eating my greens” problem. I have an “abundance of duck food” solution. Similarly, I don’t have a “windy spot where every plant gets windburn” problem. I have a “chance to design a windbreak and create shelter” opportunity.

The author’s daughter, Ruth, in the garden with her turkey, Frenchy Fry. July 2022.

So, what is the solution in this situation? As I kept sifting through the comments, two areas for improvement rose to the forefront for me.

The Solution is People Care

1. What can be learned when folks feel entitled to weaponize their loneliness, anger, bitterness and denigrate a stranger and her work in public? What can we do to help improve our People Care when we interact with each other?

As the parent of 4 kids, I see the solution in our youth: in the ways they’re normalizing therapy, working on healthy communication and empathy. They’re learning to set boundaries. They actively work on healing from their trauma. They’re growing into the kinds of adults who can make a better future.

Those of us who have positive relationships with kids can help encourage the permaculture ethic of People Care and promote a culture of nontoxic and empathetic interaction. You don’t have to be a parent to work on your own issues and help instill non-toxic masculinity, strong boundary setting, and compassionate communicate in kids. In fact, doing so helps you heal from the trauma we hope to never strap our kids with in the first place.

We have an opportunity here to be better people, and do better by each other going forward. When we heal the ways we think about and relate to other human beings, we are on the road to creating resilient communities.

Shifting Our Expectations of Front Yard Gardens

2. Why is it that the dominant (particularly American) mindset is that a lawn with a row of boxwoods is “pretty” and “tidy” and “good”, and a vibrant, productive garden that creates habitat for wildlife, and food and resilience for the family who lives there is seen as “ugly” and “messy” and “trashy”? We’ve been so indoctrinated we have lost sight of what truly diverse and thriving gardens look like, and boring, resource-heavy lawns have been normalized. The solution is to retrain our eyes,, our hearts, our cultural norms.

Those of us who already garden this way, should do it proudly and work to shift the culture and our expectations to see permaculture systems for what they are: a way to improve the lives of the folks who live there and increase resilience and biodiversity. We have an opportunity here to educate and a chance to expand our view of beauty so that we can become resilient people in an increasingly unstable world.

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Am I saying I expect everyone to like my way of gardening? No. Am I expecting every unique individual to love my lush, abundant permaculture garden when they’ve been conditioned their whole lives to see flat grass and shapeless blobs of ornamental shrubs as beautiful? Not by any means. In fact, permaculture is site-specific design. Every garden is tailored to the needs of the gardener and her land and climate. So, I don’t expect anyone’s garden to look just like mine.

But I do hope we can learn to do better by each other and by the planet. We are better than the worst of these comments. These folks who took their time and their energy to behave in public with performative cruelty toward a stranger not only show the rest of us how not to be, but they themselves have the opportunity to do better going forward.

The author’s eldest child, Ruth, working in the garden and hanging out with her turkey.

I don’t think I could have made it more than 20 years doing permaculture in late-stage capitalism, a warming climate, and a divisive culture if I wasn’t an idealist. I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t eternally hope for the best for people and the planet. I’m glad to be back to blogging, and while this isn’t quite the topic I had intended to relaunch my blog, I’ll take it and learn the lessons along the way.

I’ll be posting regularly here while I continue to make YouTube videos and work on writing my book. Lots more to come on permaculture design, practical resilient gardening, and community connection.

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.

Fig + 3 Citrus Jam Recipe


The dry summer and mild autumn here in Oregon have produced a pleasant surprise: the main crop of Negronne Figs have ripened!  In our cool climate, the only figs suitable to grow are those that produce a delicious breba (first) crop.  Many figs produce small, mealy breba figs that aren’t sweet and aren’t worth eating.  Some varieties – like my Desert King and Negronne figs – are prized for their sweet, abundant breba figs.  Most years the weather turns too cold for the later, main crop of figs to ripen.  However, this year the Negronne’s main crop has been producing about 10 lbs of figs per week the past three weeks.


With the unexpected abundance of figs so late in the season, I’ve been cutting and freezing and preserving them, because we cannot possibly eat them all fresh.  Truly ripe figs that have the most complex and fully-developed flavor only keep for a few days, and must be utilized quickly.  One way to use up a significant portion of the bounty is to make jam.

Figs are the sweetest fruit, with a Brix rating of 20-30, and rarely as high as 40. (A very rough, untechnical definition: Brix is a measurement of sugar content, with 1 Brix = approx 1-2% sugar by volume).  They have no acid and can by cloyingly sweet.  I find plain fig jam almost overwhelmingly sweet and like to eat it with salty cheese to cut the sweetness.

Another option is to add a highly acidic ingredient to fig jam, so that its sharpness will cut the intense sweetness of the fruit.  I’ve made fig and balsamic vinegar jam, and thoroughly enjoy it – especially over ice cream.  The flavor is sophisticated and refreshing, but not particularly kid-friendly.  This time, I had citrus in the fridge, and so chose that for the acid component of the jam.  (If you like your jam quite tart, feel free to double the lime pulp and lime zest in this recipe.)


Fig + 3 Citrus Jam

Makes 4-5 half-pint jars


4 cups of finely chopped fresh figs (I cut them into 12ths)

2 1/2 C white granulated sugar

zest of 1 lime

2 limes

zest of 1 Meyer lemon

juice of 1 Meyer lemon

zest of 1 large orange

1 large orange

1/2 tsp sea salt

Optional: 2 -3 Tbsp Grand Marnier


  1.  In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the chopped figs and sugar, stirring to combine.  Allow to macerate while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Using a microplane, zest the lemon, orange and one lime.  Juice the lemon.  Set zest aside.
  3. Remove the peel/pith from the orange.  Section out the fruit, and chop it.  Squeeze the remaining membrane and reserve the juice.  Repeat with the two limes.  (Total reserved juice = about 3 Tbsp)


4.  Prepare a hot water bath and sterilize jars, lids, and rings.  Recipe makes 4-5 half-pints.

5.  Turn heat to medium on the figs and sugar.  As it warms, stir in the citrus ingredients and 1/2 tsp salt.


6. Bring mixture to a full boil, and cook, stirring frequently to avoid scorching.  Periodically mash with the back of the spoon or a potato masher to break up the pieces of fig. In 45-60 min, jam will thicken to desired consistency.  Keep in mind, this is an old-fashioned jam without extra commercial pectin, and figs are low in pectin.  The citrus contains pectin and will set the jam, but it will be a little thinner than jams with added pectin.

7. Optional:


Immediately before pouring jam into jars, stir in 2-3 Tbsp of Grand Marnier (taste, if you want more, add another Tbsp), and stir thoroughly.  Allow to cook for 2 minutes.  (be careful, too much alcohol will thin the jam too much.)

8. Pour finished jam into hot sterilized half-pint jars, wipe rims, place lids and rings on, and process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes.  Jam will continue to thicken in the jar over the next 24 hours.





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.

Parkrose Market


I have had much time to blog the last several days, I’m working on stocking our Etsy store (Parkrose Market) with salves and balms and knitted things.  Trying to juggle all of my obligations at the moment is proving challenging, and I’m dropping a few balls here and there.  But, I’m still making progress and being anything less than busy doesn’t come naturally to me.

I grow all of the herbs here (with the exception of myrrh), dry them in our solar dehydrator, and then infuse them into organic unrefined coconut oil and organic olive oil.  We use only local beeswax from natural beekeepers (learn more about natural beekeeping here).  Right now, I’m making four kinds:


Soothe Salve has calendula and plantain, which have been used for ages as first-aid for skin conditions, rashes, bug bites.


Besides being great for medicinal purposes, calendula is a long-blooming, repeat-blooming bee-loving plant.  Even now, in late October, it is a steady source of food for our honeybees.  It also self-sows readily.


We’re a roller derby family, and in the derby world, arnica is the favorite herb for the endless succession of bruises that come with the sport.  Vervain (also called Juno’s Tears) is purported to help with inflammation.  Together, the two herbs make for good care for bumps and bruises.

(Note, if you decide to grow Arnica montana in your garden – it is toxic and absolutely should not be ingested.  And while it is a great bee-plant with lovely yellow flowers, it has a habit of spreading, so don’t put it in unless you can keep it controlled.)


Comfrey’s other name is Knit-Bone.  It is an age-old treatment for broken bones, sprains, etc – typically used as a poultice, but also in salves.  There is some dispute as to whether drinking quantities of comfrey tea can cause liver problems, so I only use it topically.  I do use comfrey salve twice a day, every day, since I broke my ankle last summer.

Comfrey is one of the best herbaceous perennial plants for the permaculture garden, orchard, or farm.  I’ve written a lot about it, and we stock sterile Russian Bocking comfrey plants for sale here.  Shoot us an email if you’re interested in growing comfrey in your garden.


At the request of several folks, I’m also making a general all-purpose balm as we head into winter, specifically geared for supporting and protecting skin.  As a farmer who doesn’t wear gloves as much as she should, this has been a big help to my dry hands.

I’ll be back later in the week with more, and will let y’all know when our Parkrose Market Etsy store is ready to open up.

Herbal Salves



The past few weeks, I’ve been working on batches of healing salves, both for custom orders and to stock our soon-to-open Etsy store.  We grow the herbs with all organic methods (of course!), and dry them in a solar dehydrator, utilizing only the energy of the sun. Other ingredients in the salves include local beeswax from natural beekeepers, and organic oils.



The herbs (such as calendula, above) are infused into organic coconut oil and organic olive oil by sun-infusion or by simmering in a double boiler for 6-8 hours.  Don’t the blossoms turn the oil a lovely sunny shade?


All of the salves are made in small batches with custom essential oil scents.  As of right now, I’m making four types of salves:

Calendula-Plantain Soothe Salve for rashes, ezcema, and dry irritated skin.

Arnica-Vervain Bruise Balm for bumps, bruises and sports injuries.

Comfrey Bone Balm for broken bones, bone bruises, sprains.

All-purpose Healing Salve with Calendula, Lavender, Plantain, Rosemary, Yarrow.


While the salves are cooling and setting up on the counter (and filling the house with the soothing scent of sweet orange oil and cedarwood), I’m off to print labels for the tins.  The rest of the day is filled with prep for homeschool co-op tomorrow, Life of Fred mathematics, and some fall clean-up garden projects.

Blessings on your weekend!

Collector’s Item

Unschooling Nature Table

Unschooling Nature Table
Hal sorting items for his “store”. Front to back: ground cherries, hollyhock seed head, grape leaves with filberts and calendula seed heads, yarrow, painted rocks…

Years ago, my kids crafted their own version of a universal child’s game:  collecting items from nature/the garden, assigning those items special qualities (fairy berries!  war paint!), and selling them in a “store”.  One child (usually the youngest) is “The Collector” and he gathers items to sell to the shop owner, who in turn, markets them to her remaining siblings and friends.  It’s kind-of the ultimate unschool nature table make-believe game.

Unschooling Nature Table
Bea sorting goodies George has brought her: amaranth leaves, lavender, nasturtium blossoms, tomatoes, hollyhock blossoms, calendula seed heads, filberts.

All of the kids getting along and playing together despite the diversity in their ages and developmental stages. It’s a rare moment, I’m cherishing it.

I managed to get a tremendous amount of yardwork done while the kids played, and enjoyed helping George, The Collector, find goodies to bring his siblings.

Unschooling Nature Table

Thimbleberry, grape, and filbert leaves all make excellent “wrapping paper” for purchased goodies.  Bea loves to wrap them up and secure them by pinning with a small twig.


We’re ramping up for our homeschool co-op to start tomorrow (I’m teaching a class based on one of my favorite childhood books, My Side of the Mountain), and have lots to prep today.  I’ve also been really busy filling plant orders for folks, and will have a post with more about that tomorrow.

Early June Garden


After a few months on break (WordPress troubles, another surgery), I’m back to blogging.

A few shots around the garden yesterday (the one above shows part of our new rain garden).   Early June is so lovely.  Everything still tidy and unfurling.

IMG_1401       IMG_1402



It’s shaping up to be a very good year for berries.  The kids have been picking a basket of berries to accompany every meal, and snacking on them in between.


All of the apples have set very heavily this year.  I did a lot of hand-thinning after the natural fruit drop at the beginning of the month.




The grapes, too, have set heavily, and the vines provide lush shade.


Back with more posts over the next two weeks – a little catch-up on what we’ve been doing for the past month, some new recipes and a sewing tutorial!




A Late November Pause


Joining up with Ginny’s Yarn Along, and Frontier Dreams for the KCCO – Pausing from the work of the day to work on a warmer version of this scarf for a bit this morning – more Christmas gift knitting, of course.

The kids and I are still on a seasonal/ethical eating kick, and after finishing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, we have started this book CD, and I’ve been thumbing through Edible Perennial Gardening.  A Michael Pollan book seems appropriate in this holiday season of time-honored, seasonal, traditional cooking:


With Thanksgiving just a blink away, that’s all I have to share today.  Most of the day is devoted to cooking and prep for tomorrow – pie crusts, cornbread for the dressing, cranberry relish…food is always the epicenter of a holiday for me – a way to lavish love and appreciation on family and friends.

Wishing you a blessed and joy-filled Thanksgiving!

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

Oregon Autumn Tart


Sometimes, an abundance of ingredients in the pantry necessitates the creation of a new recipe.  We had bag of fresh local cranberries in the fridge, a few handfuls of lingonberries from the garden, and a glut of locally-grown hazelnuts.  A perfect collection of ingredients for a truly Oregonian Autumnal tart.


Oregon Autumn Tart


1 sheet puff pastry

For the filling:

2 1/2 C fresh cranberries and lingonberries, washed 

1 1/2 C granulated or unrefined natural sugar (you can use 1 C for a more-tart dessert)

zest of one orange (I prefer to use a microplane for a very fine zest)

For the topping:

1/2 C unsalted butter, softened

1/2 C light brown sugar

1/2 C granulated sugar

2/3 C unbleached flour

pinch of salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 heaping C hazelnuts, coarsely chopped



In a large bowl, combine butter, sugars, flour, salt and nutmeg.  Using a pastry cutter or a clean hand, cut butter into other ingredients until it is in pea-sized pieces.  Then, fold in hazelnuts.  Set aside. (Can be made one day in advance and refridgerated.)


In a large skillet, combine berries, orange zest, and sugar.  Cook on medium heat, stirring often.  (As the berries pop, their juices will dissolve the sugar.)  Use the back of your spatula to crush the cranberries as the cook, and continue to simmer until mixture is thickened and all berries are beginning to cook down.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. 

While berries are cooking, roll out puff pastry to fill a jellyroll pan.  Place on parchment paper, and then in jellyroll pan.  Roll the edges of the puff pastry over and use a fork to crimp them down.

Preheat oven to 375F.  Spread cooled berry mixture evenly over the pastry with a spatula.  

Sprinkle streusel-nut topping over the berries, pressing it down gently.


Bake for 25-30 minutes until pastry is puffed and golden, berries are bubbling, and streusel topping is begins to turn golden.


Allow the tart to cool thoroughly before cutting into squares.  Serve with whipped cream if desired.

I confess, leftovers of this tart made for a pretty darn good November breakfast with a cup of coffee.

Hope you are enjoying all the good things of the season, too.






The forecast for today is miserable – snow, freezing rain.  In anticipation, we finished winterizing the garden and got the garlic crop planted and mulched (weeks and weeks later than normal).   The duck house and chicken coop have been mucked and loads of fresh straw added, since the birds are not yet acclimated to the cold weather just now coming our way.  With the outdoor chores done, we can keep to the house knowing everything is taken care of outside.


I got a pot of white bean soup going first thing so I wouldn’t have to worry about dinner this afternoon.  As usual – no recipe, just using up what we have: to the soaked beans, we added 2 ham hocks, a finely chopped sauteed onion, 6 cloves of fermented garlic, La Ratte fingerling potatoes  (above) and Nantes carrots dug from the garden on Monday, and Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard plucked this morning (and cut up very finely so the kids will eat it).

I also threw in a handful of finely chopped golden raisins – they melt into the broth and add not only vitamins, but a subtle sweetness that complements the salty ham and adds complexity to the dish.  Later, Ruth will start a pot of brown rice and we’ll call that good for dinner.  Simple, nourishing, and perfect for a snowy day.


While the kids are making a Lego explosion all over the living room, we’re finishing our book on CD and I’m hoping to cast on this beauty (a lace-weight adaptation of this pattern).  It’s been a long time since I’ve knit a shawl for myself, and I am already ahead on my Christmas knitting (thanks to all the time off my feet with that broken ankle), so I thought a small project just for myself might be okay.  The yarn is Malabrigo Lace, in the colorway Archangel – found on deep clearance online (with free shipping!).  Fingers crossed it will be finished in time to wear for Thanksgiving dinner.

Elderberry-Rose Hip Syrup


A friend very kindly picked me loads of wild rose hips.  These red-orange fruits of fall are loaded with vitamin C, lycopene and beta-carotene.  They can be dried for tea, or used fresh for syrup and jam.  (Take note – the seeds inside are covered with irritating hairs, and if the fruits are cut up, the hairs need to be removed.  The seeds and outside of the fruit are edible.)IMG_0069[1]

Late in the summer, when our elderberries were in full production (and I was still out of commission), my husband picked and froze loads of berries for me.    Adding the rose hips to my elderberry syrup seemed like a great way to boost the health-benefits of this winter-time supplement.

Here’s my updated recipe:

Elderberry Rose Hip Syrup


5 cups fresh or frozen elderberries (see prep below)

2 cups fresh unsprayed (preferably wild) rose hips (see prep below)

thumb-sized piece of ginger, skin peeled off

5 cups water

4-5 cups organic unrefined sugar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar


Step 1: Remove all stems – even the smallest ones – from the berries (see my notes on elderberries and cyanide here.  (If using frozen berries: Let the berries thaw slightly (as seen above),  then use a fork to easily knock them from the stems.  Discard all stems and leaves in the compost.  Rinse berries to remove any debris or spiders.


Step 2: Rinse the rosehips, and remove any that are soft and mushy.  With your fingers, pull off the dried brown petals from the blossom end of the hip (also called a “haw”).  Measure out two cups of whole hips (the hips will not burst when cooked, so I don’t cut them open and remove the hairs/seeds for this recipe).

Step 3: Add berries, hips, ginger, and 5 cups water to a heavy-bottomed pan.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer with the lid off, for 45 minutes.

Step 4: Strain the liquid ad berries, using a fine strainer or clean tea towel, carefully crushing the hot fruit pulp as you do so.  Discard the mashed fruit.  Measure the quantity of juice.  It should be around 5 cups.

Step 5:  Add strained juice back to the pan.  For every cup of juice, stir in 2/3-1 cup of sugar (less sugar will yield a runnier final product).  Bring mixture to a boil, and boil, stirring frequently, until mixture is reduced by one-third to one-half, and thickens to desired viscosity.

Step 6: Add balsamic vinegar (or substitute with 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar for a brighter flavor), and stir.  Ladle hot syrup into jars, and store in the refrigerator for up to six months, or process in a hot-water bath canner.

The syrup is very good over ice cream, or pound cake, or mixed with a little hot tea or brandy.



As a health supplement, the syrup is commonly taken as 1/2- 1 tsp daily in the fall and winter.  My children enjoy it in a small glass of seltzer or orange juice.

Back tomorrow with some garden work from today.  Hope you had a restful weekend.



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.



Early Harvests



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




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.


Late May in the Garden, II


Welcome back!  Today we will walk through our sunny side yard garden, and touch on a few other elements as well.  When we bought our home five years ago, the yard was all sod, weeds, a split ornamental plum, invasive bamboo.  All of those elements are gone now, and we have been adding more perennial crops and improving the garden design as time and budget allow.  One of the first plants we began to add is the highbush blueberry.   Because plants can take five or more years to establish and produce a mature harvest, we wanted to get them going as soon as possible.

Altogether, we have eleven high bush blueberries, four half-highs.  Last year, we added seven low bush blueberries, which are easily tucked in among other plants and produce smaller, but more flavorful berries.  This year, for the first time, we will get a decent harvest of blueberries!  We are certainly looking forward to increasing yields over the next several years.

Red raspberries in the side yard. They are unaffected by the fungal disease that has required me to rip up all my red raspberries in the backyard.
In the side yard, and across the path from the highbush blues, two quince trees, strawberries, marionberries and raspberries grow along the fence.

The quince trees bloom first, followed by strawberries, then raspberries, then the marionberries.  A sequential floral feast is available to the honeybees all spring.



Looking toward the backyard, the quince (trained as a bush) in the foreground screens the fairy garden and Sunchoke patch.  Around a young Ashmead’s Kernel apple, directly in front of the shed, an apple guild serves as the children’s fariy garden.  Iris, columbine, mint, dwarf English lavender, rhubarb, yarrow, peonies, borage, bee balm and a newly planted lilac are all beginning to establish themselves.  These plants all benefit the apple tree and its pollinators, and provide a playspace for the children, who tuck sea shells, stones, old wicker baskets in for the fairies.



Here is a view from the shed, looking up the little side yard path.  day lilies and horseradish line the left side of the path before the blueberries.  A rambling female fuzzy kiwi (left and top foreground) likes to send tendrils out after the apple tree, and I am constantly coaxing her back over the shed.



This year, we will get dozens and dozens of quince.  The leaves of the trees are affected a bit by rust, but it never seems to bother the fruit.

The weekend is packed with derby for me and the girls, but I will have a post up early next week.  Next will be a visit to the backyard gardens, including the bulk of the orchard space, annual beds, and a visit to my favorite and most stubbornly slow growing plant in the garden.

Blessings on your weekend.

Late May in the Garden Part I

Front yard perennial bed, a mix of edibles and beneficial flowering plants.
Front yard perennial bed, a mix of edibles and beneficial flowering plants.

It has been a long, long time since I’ve done a garden update.  Many things have changed as a succession of new plants have been added, and ten yards of wood chips spread about.   Nitrogen fixers and annual veggies have given way to a maturing system full of edible perennials and low-maintenance food cultivation.  So, let’s take a quick tour of the front yard and shade gardens, shall we?

IMG_9322[1]I consider the front beds adjacent to the street to be my “good neighbor” beds.  I try to keep them as aesthetically pleasing as possible, and let them serve as an advertisement for the beauty as well as the functionality of permaculture.  The beds are full of spring bulbs, lilacs, and a steady succession of summer flowers such as yarrow (red, above left), salvias, columbine, and many, many others.  The fact that these lovely plants all have medicinal or edible uses, or provide a benefit to edible plants here, is entirely on purpose.

In this bed, (clockwise from bottom left) yarrow, honeyberries, comfrey (background), love-in-a-mist, leeks, nasturtium, and a young peony all coexist quite happily, providing a mix of texture and color, and of course, food.

IMG_9326[1]IMG_9327[1]We have five honeyberry bushes (two early and three late), all planted last year.  This year, we will get perhaps four quarts of berries of off these edible members of the honeysuckle family.  The early varieties are nearly ripe, and it is only May!  Although they are a bit acidic, their flavor is similar to a blueberry mixed with a blackberry, and their extremely early ripening time, compact size and handsome shape make them a good plant for the small-scale permaculturist or home gardener.

IMG_9330[1]I love lush, closely packed groupings of plants of varying textures.  When these plants are collected around a fruit tree, and all somehow benefit each other, we call this grouping of plants a “guild”.  Here I have an Italian prune plum guild: Russian Bocking comfrey (dynamic accumulator and fantastic bumblebee food source), bronze fennel, which hosts beneficial insects (as do the love-in-a-mist, columbine and yarrow planted close by).  Honeyberries, pink and white currants provide additional fruit crops at varying times.  Rhubarb provides an early food crop, but its large leaves collect and funnel rain down to the base of the tree and its large roots help break up dense soil.

Perhaps you noticed the rocks hanging from the plum tree?  What are they?

IMG_9315[1]Here is a better example on another plum tree.  When fruit branches grow at a narrow angle (less than 45 degrees), they can easily split once loaded with fruit.  Some varieties are more prone to narrow branching than others.  In order to prevent damage to a tree you have spent many years caring for, it is best to help stretch young branches to a stronger angle.  One way to do this is to tie rocks to young flexible branches until they are pulled down to a wider angle.  By training the tree this way when it is young, it will not split under the weight of its own fruit in a few years.

IMG_9338[1]I am a sucker for oriental poppies.  They have a large root and attract insects, so I think they serve a purpose in the permaculture garden.  The way they lift the mood and make me smile means they deserve a space even if they have no other function.  (However, the moles in the garden have taken to digging them up and killing them.  Perhaps there are tasty grubs congregating at their roots?  I have lost three this spring.)


The front yard contains more beds with apples and lowbush blueberries, aronia berries, and high bush blueberries.  It also contains lots of annual beds, which volunteers helped me plant with tomatillos, summer squash, tomatoes, kale, beets and Cape Gooseberries this week.  But those photos are for another day, later in the summer.

On the way to the side shade garden, you must enter through a gate, over which the hops have gotten a bit rambunctious this year.  Only May, and they are sprawling up and over everything.  They emit a delicious herbal smell as you brush past them.

IMG_9347[1]The shade garden has a large collection of natives, including salal and evergreen huckleberry.  It also contains non-native edibles such as goji berry, jostaberry, lingonberries, Angelica, anise hyssop, spearmint, and white currants.

It is suddenly getting a burst of sunshine this year since our neighbor removed a large holly tree, and I am tempted to put in a sun-loving plant right where that bolt of sunlight streams in, because the salal there is not enjoying 8 hours of bright sun.

IMG_9361[1]The thimbleberries – a thornless native raspberry relative which slowly spreads by rhizomes – are absolutely alive with the buzz of honeybees and bumblebees.  While the fruit is not spectacular, it is a good addition to other jams and jellies, and the good it does the bees means it needs a place in every shady garden in the Northwest.

IMG_9354[1]We anticipate a bumper crop of elderberries in the shade garden.  The two planted here get less than four hours of sun a day, but seem perfectly content.  This enormous beast is a “York”, which has grown much taller than the catalog suggested it would.  This year we will remove the oldest trunks (technically stems) which promotes the growth of new, more productive shoots from the base of the shrub.

IMG_9357[1]Before all the flowers are pollinated, I will harvest some this week for a batch of elderflower cordial.

Hope you enjoyed the quick tour of a small part of farmette.  Please stop back later this week with an update on the orchard, back and sideyard gardens.

Blessings on the rest of your week, and hope you have the same gorgeous spring weather we have been having here in Portland.











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.




December Afternoon


Knitting a few rows on some Toasty mitts ,

IMG_9031IMG_9040Daily checks on fermenting veggies.  Jalapeno Purple kraut all finished and getting jarred up for gifts.  Plain sauerkraut coming along nicely.  It will be ready to serve with Christmas dinner. (The weight goes back on top when I’m done checking, so all cabbage is submerged below the brine.)

IMG_9024Vying for space in front of the heater vent to thaw frozen fingers and toes,


1655 1692

Enjoying the ever-rotating display of Christmas decorations the children arrange and rearrange as they play with them.

Back tomorrow with a recipe for the coming Solstice, and some more knitted gifts.

IMG_8413   Despite having taken oodles of photos and having several posts drafted, WordPress is being fickle.  Beyond fickle.  Looks like we might have to reinstall it or some such frustration.  Photos won’t load properly, won’t edit, disappear, load distorted on iPad but not on PCs…it’s a big mess I haven’t got the time to fix at the moment. As soon as things are repaired, I will be back to regular posting. Thanks, Angela




Do you ever fall in-and-out-of-love with a craft or recipe?   Do your habits and hobbies have a seasonality to them?

When a skill or hobby piques my interest, I tend to research everything on the subject, and fully submerge myself in it.  I get a little obsessed.  And then, sometimes the interest wanes (like making rag rugs).  Or sometimes it becomes cemented in the rhythm of our family life (like baking bread).  I like to knit in the winter, sew in the summer, but bake and garden all year long.

(On a side note, I think this is why project-based homeschooling appeals so much to me.  Being allowed to freely, and thoroughly explore an interest or idea is as important to kids as it is to adults.)

lactofermented shredded ginger carrots.  Recipe from Cultures for Health.  The flavor of the carrots comes through pure and delicious, the bite of ginger is the perfect complement to the saltiness of the brine and tanginess of the lactic acid.
lactofermented shredded ginger carrots. Recipe from Cultures for Health. The flavor of the carrots comes through pure and delicious, the bite of ginger is the perfect complement to the saltiness of the brine and tanginess of the lactic acid.

Right now, the obsession is a return to an old interest - fermentation.  The counter is stacked to the back with jars of veggie pickles bubbling, kombucha, kraut, Indian-spiced cauliflower, carrot-ginger slaw, plums steeping in sugar

lactofermented dill pickles.  These are half-sours, with grape leaves floating on top to keep the pickles crisp.
lactofermented dill pickles. These are half-sours, with grape leaves floating on top to keep the pickles crisp.

When I go out to the garden, my first thought is, “What can I pick to pickle?”  When I need a snack, I straight for a dish of kraut or dilly beans.

The basket of mending, countless unfinished knitting projects, this blog, the novel on the bedside table all sit neglected right now.  I’m up late at night setting up second ferments of kombucha, or shredding some root veggie, or washing out fido jars, or reading books and articles on the science of fermentation.

I suppose there are worse things to be fixated on than making healthy, delicious, vitamin-packed food, right?

WordPress has been wonky, and I’m having trouble uploading photos and editing them.  If WordPress will cooperate, I will be back later in the week!


From the Fig Tree


A cascade of very fresh, very ripe figs the kids poured out onto the kitchen table.  They are from a neighbor’s tree.  She doesn’t know the variety (they are actually her next-door neighbors, but a large portion of the immense tree overhangs her driveway, and no one family can consume the vast quantities of fruit.


The figs are pale green with a pink flesh, and very soft and sweet.  I think they may be “Desert King”, which does quite well in our climate, and typically produces a large good-quality breba crop (we have a young one in our yard, and it has exactly eight nearly-ripe fruit on it).

I’m planning on starting a small (one gallon) batch of fig wine with some this weekend.  The rest we are eating fresh, or on toast with mascarpone.  I have my eye on these quick fig recipes, though.  Numbers 6 and 8 look particularly good.

I’d also like to try Temperate Permaculture’s fig recipe.

If you’re picking figs, wear gloves, so what happened to me doesn’t happen to you.

For all things “fig”, the knowledge bank at Figs4Fun is the place to visit.

Do you have a favorite fig recipe?  A favorite variety?


I will be back with more posts over the weekend.  We will be busy with the girls’ Roller Derby practices, birthday parties to attend, Sunday Parkways, and such.  The weather promises to be perfection, so every un-scheduled moment will be spent in the garden.  So much ripening, and so much in bloom, I hope to share pictures of it all.

Permie Book + New Socks



Taking a break from a busy day to quickly join the Yarn Along.   I have a penchant for permaculture books, and something about reading up on landscape design and permaculture theory just pairs well with knitting.  This morning I finished The Resilient Farm and Homestead while casting on a pair of socks.

The book is well-written and not-t00-technical.  It is geared toward those folks with property, and/or those new to the ideas of resilience and permaculture homesteading.    While I may not have enough land for sheep and goats and a duck pond, the book still had a lot to offer, and it was nice to day dream while reading through it.



Here is the cuff of what will be stripey socks in beige, plum and dove grey, cast-on with 5s for a quick knit.  I snagged a bag of Lamb’s Pride worsted at a garage sale last weekend.  I couldn’t resist when it was such a good deal, and folks like me (with chilly feet!) can never have enough pairs of thick wool socks in the winter.

I’ve been cooking up lots of good things in the kitchen, and will be back tomorrow with one of my favorite summer recipes.

As always, looking forward to reading up on the other knitters in the Yarn Along later tonight while kiddos are in bed (and I crank out a few more inches on these socks.)


Saturday in the Garden


Most of the currants have been a dud this year, the strawberries are nearly gone, and the blueberries not-quite-ripe yet.  But the raspberries!! Oh, what a fantastic year for raspberries.  Many, many pints have been delivered to BCS, and many more wolfed down by neighborhood children flocking to our backyard.

IMG_8513Breakfast, snack, dessert – we cannot get enough of them.  The kids are especially loving them blended with plain kefir, a little honey, and ice cubes for a smoothie snack.  IMG_8514

Now that garden chores are finished for the day, we’re off to a Bonsai festival.  And then the girls have Roller Derby practice this evening, while the boys hang out with their grandma.   It’s going to be a busy day!  Hope you have a perfect summer weekend.