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Grapevine Wreaths

It’s a wee bit early to be pruning grapes but I wanted to neaten up the front yard so trimmed off the long, ropy vines.

Using these vines to make wreaths is easy and they turn out great.

First choose the vines you want to use and trim off the side twigs. For a more rustic look, leave the tendrils on.

First choose the vines you want to use and trim off the side twigs. For a more rustic look, leave the tendrils on.

These are my favorite pruners.

These are my favorite pruners.

Wrap the vines around and twist in the ends. Trim off anything that sticks out.

Wrap the vines around and twist in the ends. Trim off anything that sticks out.

Here are three finished wreath. You can use these as is or as a base for baskets.

Here are three finished wreath. You can use these as is or as a base for baskets.

Great activity for a frosty, sunny day!

Great activity for a frosty, sunny day!

 

 

 

 

Etsy for Food Growers

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Crystal and Janelle

My co-founder and I (Crystal and Janelle – the goofballs in the selfie photo) were talking about what was going to replace the neighborhood paper route, side businesses that are neighborhood-centric. We loved the cheeky idea that folks can have a side “yard” business if they have an urban farm! It is one of our favorite ideas of building our online platform.

Crystal’s nephew asks her all the time to help him set up his own online store on Barn2Door, so he can list his chicken’s eggs for sale. We started Barn2Door a year ago; it is like Etsy for food growers – including urban and small farmers, fishers and ranchers + cute nephews. Food growers setup a store, list items for sale and can then list or promote their store in emails, on social channels and to friends.

I have an urban farm, too. It is tucked in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. I sell yard-grazed farm eggs and excess herbs and lettuce in little bags with cute labels. I list items, quantity, price and date folks can pick up their items – then leave on my porch for them to pickup. I have loved meeting new neighbors and making some money to cover the cost of chicken feed, seeds and compost. (Here is a link to my store).

Fresh eggs!

Fresh eggs!

Barn2Door charges a $10/month subscription fee (fees will not be charged until May 2016). For all sales through your ‘urban farm webstore’ you keep all the profits but will be charge a standard 3.5% credit card processing fee. Folks pay directly online then Barn2Door deposits into my (or your) account. Nice when you have a lot of things listed.

Urban Farm SignIt IS all about transparency, so you will be asked to include feed and soil inputs and Barn2Door strictly prohibits chemicals, pesticides aka RoundUp, hormones, etc. People like to know who grew their food and what’s in it. They deserve that much, don’t you think? To learn more, check out the Urban Farmer Guide to Getting Started and email hello@barn2door.com if you have questions.

And, so you can support our current sellers – including farmers, fishers and ranchers that deliver locally or ship nationally – we thought we’d give you a little gift of a coupon ($15 off your order of $15 or more from now through end of February).

Janelle Maiocco
CEO Barn2Door Inc.
206.787.2220
www.barn2door.com

Winter Salad

The sky is grey and the nights are cold so it’s time to make zesty winter salads to pick us up and keep us going until spring.  Last night I made a salad that was good enough that my family kept eating way beyond politeness.

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Easy and tasty!

Ingredients

  • Emmer or wheat berries
  • Delicata squash
  • Kale – from your garden!
  • Cranberries
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Toasted nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Salt

First cook your grain until it just has a little bite to it.  (I used a crockpot on high for a couple of hours.)  Next toast the nuts; any kind work well.  Break up the kale and massage it.  Roast the squash in a 450 degree oven with or without the skins.  Chop up the onions then make a vinaigrette with the olive oil, vinegar and garlic.  Once all the ingredients are ready just toss them together with the dressing and let it sit for a little bit to allow the flavors to blend.  Yum!!

Beanie Brownies

A cold dreary day like today calls for Beanier Brownies! They are fabulously easy to make and great for people who want to cut down on dairy and boost their protein and fiber intake.

Get a mix that doesn't include transfat, (many still do) and salt free beans.

Get a mix that doesn’t include transfat, (many still do) and salt free beans.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Open the powdered brownie mix and put in a bowl.
  • Open the can of beans and add water to the existing beans and liquid to the top of the can.
  • Put the beans and water in a blender and puree.
  • Add the bean puree to the powdered mix and stir.  There is no need to add eggs, oil or anything but the beans.
  • Grease a baking pan.
  • Pour in the mixture and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Ready for the oven topped with bittersweet chocolate chips and pecans.

Ready for the oven topped with bittersweet chocolate chips and pecans.

 

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes and your healthier treat is ready!

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes; until a toothpick comes out clean.

 

All set!

Let cool then cut into squares.  Bon haricot!

I fed these to my husband and kids and asked how they liked them and if they could guess the “secret” ingredient.  They all liked the rich, chewy texture and no one guessed they had beans in them!

 

Dogwood and Willow Baskets

It’s warming up, the weather is clearing and the basket making fever is coming!  Making baskets is pretty straight forward but you do need some patience and a more materials than you would expect.

To make a basket first make a good strong wreath out of the dogwood.  I often fasten one part with wire so the sticks will stay in place.  Once the basket gets going you can remove this wire.

This will form the top part of your basket.

This will form the top part of your basket.

Next cut three sticks of the same size and wire or tie them in place on one side of the wreath.  Carefully push these sticks down to form the downward shape of the basket and attach them to the other side as well.  This is the first part of your basket structure so bend and move them into the shape you want.  If you want to make a basket with a handle leave them long on the ends so they can be woven together.

Willow branches, clippers and wreath base.

Supllies include willow branches, clippers and wreath base.

 

Three central sticks attached to wreath with twine. The twine is removed once the basket is done.

Three central sticks attached to wreath with twine. The twine is removed once the basket is done.

Weave the willow sticks over and under the three main dogwood sticks and wrap them around the wreath to weave in again.  When you need to add in a new piece do it in the middle and not on the end.

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The leaves add color for a while but will dry and fall off eventually.

Alternate from side to side.

Alternate from side to side.

As you near the end you may need to just fill in the middle.  Once the basket is done adjust it while the sticks are flexible.

Ready to fill with eggs!

Ready to fill with eggs!

More on making baskets can be found in this earlier post.

Tuscan Crock Pot Soup

Ok, so it’s not really from Tuscany but I was having a discussion with my family about how naming something after a place makes it sound more appetizing and we thought that anything preceded by “Tuscan” sounds delectable.

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This soup is very easy to make and packed with lots of veggies and whole grains.

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Ingredients

  • Barley
  • Lentils, I like to use the small green French ones
  • Quinoa or other grain
  • Quart of canned tomatoes (or large can of store-bought)
  • Cumin powder
  • Salt
  • Onion
  • Thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Whatever other veggies you have on hand

Get out your crock pot or a soup pot and throw in a handful of barley, a couple of  handfuls of lentils and a handful of quinoa or some other grain.  Add your jar of canned tomatoes plus two jars of water.  Add a teaspoon or so of cumin or curry powder, (add more if you like more spice), thyme and a bit of salt.

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The secret to making this soup really good is to gently sautee the onion, garlic and veggies over a low heat until they are fragrant and almost caramelized.  Toss these in the pot and cook until grains are done.  Adjust seasoning and enjoy!

Stone Necklaces

This post is one of the most popular on the site. Over the years I have made necklaces from stones collected on both coasts and they remind me of the trips.

Here are step by step instructions for making necklaces from small stones.

A few tools can make the work go quickly.

To start you will need a few basic tools such as needle-nosed pliers, wire cutters and if you use overlapping jump rings, a tool for separating the pieces of wire.

You can use lovely sterling silver wire or a less expensive metal.

You will also need wire, something to string the rock on and some items to make a closure for the necklace.  (If you want to be really rustic you can just tie the ends.)

A little cooking oil makes the rocks gleam and look more beautiful.

Choose your rock.  Beaches, lakes and your very own backyard are all good places to find good stones.  Unless you have really strong neck muscles keep the rock on the small side.

With many different sizes of stones you can guess on the wire and it will fit one of your stones.

Next cut two pieces of wire; one long and one short.  Double over the long piece to make a loop and line up the shorter piece next to it.  This loop will be what you use to hang the necklace.

Almost there!

Next take thinner wire and wrap it around the pieces of wire.  Use the needle nosed pliers to crimp the wires down then trim them with the sharp ends all on one side; these will go against the rock so they won’t catch on clothing.

A toothpick can make the pulling apart of the wires easier.

Pull pieces of the wire out to make a basket to hold the stone in place.

Wiggle the rock to be sure you are fitting it well.

Wrap the wire around the rock and adjust it so the rock is held firmly in place.

Smooth down the wire around the stone.

 

Be sure to make the loop big enough to feed your cord through.

Trim all the ends of the wire next to the loop except for the really long one.

A river stone transformed.

Wrap the ends to keep them in place; adjust the wire on the rock so it looks good and finish wrapping the wire ends.

All set!

Take cord or leather and make something to string the rock on.

Enjoy!

More Baskets!

Here’s how to make another type of basket!

Starting

Starting

  • First cut slits in four of the spokes in the center of the spoke.
  • Next make a slant cut on the ends of the non-slitted spokes so it is sharp and pointed.
  • Slide the cut end spokes through the slits in the other spokes.
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This basket has dogwood for spokes and reeds for weaving.

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Next steps

  • Take a long reed, double it in half and loop it around four of the spokes.
  • Line the two ends of the reed up and put the reed on the left over the reed on the right and behind the four spokes.
  • Go around once then divide the spokes into sets of two and go around in a circle always putting the reed on the left over the right reed and behind the next set of two spokes.
  • Do this 3 or 4 times.
  • Next pull the spokes so they are one apart
  • Continue going around in the same fashion.
  • When you run out of reed you can either weave in an over under pattern with one length or double it and continue twisting as you did in the beginning.
Doing the sides.

Doing the sides.

  • When it’s time to bend the spokes use pliers and crimp the spoke lightly as each spot you want it to bend.
  • For the top loop each spoke behind the next one then trim the excess.
This basket has willow, dogwood and reeds.

This basket has weeping willow, dogwood and reeds.

I used some palm and seagrass for variety and texture.

I used some palm and seagrass for variety and texture.

Sides can be straight or flare out.

Sides can be straight or flare out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Potato Baskets

Here’s another type of basket to make.

Below on the left are some willow branches I gathered.  You can also use red dogwood, birch or any other type of flexible twigs.  Using seagrass rope, grasses and other materials provides nice contrast.

Once you have gathered your materials the first step is twisting a wreath.  This particular one is made out of red and yellow dogwood.

Once you have made your wreath base you will lay three central sticks on the wreath and tie them on with crosses.  Next you begin weaving until the basket is the size you want.  A trick to prevent the materials from breaking or cracking is to keep them wet.  The joke about underwater basket weaving is not that far off from the perfect conditions.

Here are a couple examples made with various mixed materials.    For more detailed instructions please go here and good luck!

This basket is made with red dogwood, willow, reed and moss.

This one is seagrass, grapevine, birch, sweetgrass and reed.

Fun with Cable Knitting

Cable knitting is, if possible, even more addictive than Fair Isle patterns.  Best of all it’s pretty easy to do if you have the right tools and some good patterns.  I like using cables on things like mittens and fingerless gloves as it makes them much easier to fit on a variety of hand sizes.

I like these needles for holding the stitches to be cabled.

I like these needles for holding the stitches to be cabled.

 

Cable knitting mittens help them fit better.

Cable knitting mittens help them fit better.

 

Cables are great for fingerless gloves.

Cables are great for fingerless gloves.

 

More intricate cables can be used for small bags.

More intricate cables can be used for small bags.

Here’s a fun site on the basics of cable knitting.

Do you have patterns you love?  Comment here or on Facebook and I will post them!