Twig Barriers and Supports

Now is the time to get out and prune so there are lots of available branches and twigs to work with.

Here is a simple barrier made by pushing vertical twigs into the soil and weaving supple branches back and forth to the desired height. This usually lasts for one to two seasons.
Here’s a slightly more complicated version made by stapling vertical twigs to the bottom board, weaving supple horizontal branches then stapling the top branches to a second board. The sides are made from PVC pipe so it’s easy to place the barrier then pick it up and move it around if needed.
Here’s a close up of the branches attached with a staple gun.
You can attache the PVC with a pipe fitting or two screws. I usually pre-drill so the screws easily go through the pipe and don’t split the wood.
Here’s another version made with just vertical twigs. These were attached with chicken wire staples that are pounded in.
To keep it stable it’s a good idea to put cross pieces at each corner.
Here’s a trellis made with four branches and three wreathes.
The bottom wreath is the biggest then each successive wreath is a little smaller until you get the height you need. Attaching them with string or wire makes the structure more stable but isn’t needed.
The top can be tied with string or wire. If you use wire it will last longer.

Eco Printing

This is something I’ve always wanted to try. I had the opportunity to gather eucalyptus on a recent visit to LA so decided to give it a go!

Arrange tannin containing leaves on alum mordanted silk
Cover with plastic wrap
Tightly role around a stick or dowel using cotton twine. The tighter the wrap the more distinct the print. Steam for two hours. Leave for 24 hours.
Here are the finished scarves. The background blue is indigo and the tan is walnut.

Mulled Wine

What do you do with more than two hundred pounds of plums? Make wine!

We couldn’t do our usual holiday open house this year so decided to bring the party to our friends. Mulled plum wine is spectacular!

We dried citrus in the dehydrator
Pounded whole cloves, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg into small pieces.
Put the dried citrus and spices into cheesecloth then tied it on the bottles.

Time to Make Orange Marmalade

Oranges are in season right now and staying inside on a cold, rainy day to make marmalade is a great way to pass the time.  Your whole house will smell wonderful!

To make marmalade follow these steps:

  1. Peel off the skin by scoring the orange with a knife so you can carefully remove it in sections.
  2. Cut the peeled juicy oranges into 4 pieces.
  3. Scrape the white pith off the inside of the peel so you are left with the orange part. Put the pith into a cheesecloth or net bag. This pith has pectin in it that will help with the gelling process.
  4. Take a sharp knife and slice the scraped peel into 1/4 inch wide strips.
  5. Put the peeled oranges, bagged pith and sliced peels into a pot and just cover with water. Let sit for 12 hours.
  6. Take out the bag of pith and measure how much orange and peel mixture you have. Add one cup of sugar for each cup of liquid.
  7. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. To test if it’s done you can put a small amount of the liquid on a cold plate. If it holds together it’s ready.
  8. Put in sterilized jars. Water bath can for 10 minutes.
Peeled oranges ready to be cut in quarters.
Here’s the pith scraped from inside the orange.
Slice into thin strips. Sliced peels.
Cooking orange, sugar, peel and water mixture.
Finished product.
It can take a few days for the marmalade to set.  It tastes great on a slice of hearty bread. 


Every year we have a holiday open house and I make homemade eggnog.  This nog will  sustain one through the dark, cold days and bring holiday cheer to any occasion.

Lots of luscious eggs.

First separate twelve egg yolks and whites then beat the yolks until thick and creamy.

Beat them well.

Next slowly add in a pound of powdered sugar and beat until well mixed.


Now comes the heavy whipping cream; you will need two quarts of this dreamy stuff.  Add it slowly and beat until thick and well, creamy.

Time for the egg whites.

Let the mixture sit for two hours then beat egg whites until almost stiff and fold them in to the nog.

Top with a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg and have a bottle of brandy or rum on hand for people to add to their cup.  To serve I use a glass punch bowl that I got at Goodwill; this time of year they have quite a selection for great prices.

(As with any raw egg product do be a good host and let people know so they can decide whether to indulge or not.  Sad to say there are some nasty bacteria that can be spread by raw eggs so people with weakened immune systems should probably steer clear.)




What’s crunchy, spicy hot and really good for you?  Kimchee!  Here’s how to make your own.  It’s much easier than you would think.

The first step is to chop your veggies and spices:

Next mix the spices together:

Mix in the veggies:

Once all is well mixed put in a jar and let sit until it’s fermented:

Once your kimchee is ready invite friends over and eat!

Here’s a recipe with more detailed instructions.

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!

Dyeing with Black Walnuts

If you’ve ever handled black walnuts you know how well they can dye your hands, countertop and many other things you may not want a deep brown color.  Dark brown yarn is lovely.

Black walnuts ready to be harvested! Black walnuts ready to be harvested!

The first step is to carefully harvest your walnuts.  I always use gloves to do this as the fruit is a bit caustic and even a little juice will stain your hands. Once you have the fruit put it in a bowl and pour boiling water over it.  Mash it a bit with a fork and let it sit for about an hour.  No mordant is needed.

Ready for the yarn. Ready for the yarn.

Put the yarn in your dye bath and leave until a shade darker than desired is reached.  Pull the yarn out and wash in clear water.  Be careful to rinse out the dye that hasn’t fixed to the wool or it may stain your body or bleed on to other clothes.

This dye can be used for basket materials, cotton or wool.

UFH 077 Some of the brown yarns are black walnut dyed.

Have fun!




What do all urban farmers in this brisk chilly climate need?  Warm knit hats!  It’s easy to make these using circular needles.  I like to use number 8 needles and usually cast on about 95 stitches to start for an adult hat.  Once the stitches are on I do a rib stitch with two knit to one purl stitch for about 8 to 10 rows; this will give the band some stretch.

A hat in process. A hat in process.

 Now it’s time to use your creativity and go crazy with patterns and color using a knit stitch.  Once you have 34 rows  start decreasing to form the top of the hat.  To decrease knit together two stitches every 10 stitches for one row then knit normally for the next.  

All finished All finished

As you get to the top of the hat knit stitches together every row then when there are a few stitches left use a darning needle to go through the remaining stitches and draw this tight.  Now tuck in your yarn ends and you are all set!

Here are some different examples. Here are some different examples.

Here’s a post from the archives!

The taste of fresh chevre is good beyond belief and when paired with fresh fall beets and pecans I feel like I’ve reached a gardener’s Valhalla.  Surprisingly it’s not that hard to make.  If you don’t have goats then check out your local farmers market.

Here’s my daughter with Biggie and Smalls.

First your goat needs to give birth.  This starts her milk flowing.

Milking a goat is way easier than milking a cow!

Next you need to learn how to milk.  This is a fairly easy thing to do but I found that I was using new muscles and I was kind of sore for a while.

Make sure your bucket is clean and your goat doesn’t kick it over. They love to do this towards the end of milking when they want to get down from the stand.

A gallon of milk is what most recipes call for.

Here’s the fresh milk in a pot on the stove.

Heat the milk to 160 degrees Fahrenheit to pasteurize it then put it in an ice water bath to cool it to 86 degrees.

I ordered this culture on line and it works great.

Add culture, stir and let sit for twelve hours.

It’s pretty amazing to see the transformation.

The curds are soft and almost creamy.

I got these molds on line as well.

Spoon the curds into chevre molds to let the whey drain off.  This takes about 24 hours.  The longer you let it drain the drier your cheese will be.

This is after about 24 hours of draining.

Once the cheese has drained take it out of the mold and cut it into the desired size.

I like doing small rounds so I can use lots of different spice mixtures.

I like to roll the cheese in herb and spice mixtures.

Ready for crackers or a luscious salad!

The first row on the left has been rolled in zahtar, an oregano based spice mix from the Middle East.  The second row in a Thai spice and the third in a Japanese mix of toasted sesame seeds and salt.