More Baskets!

Here’s how to make another type of basket!



  • 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.

This basket has dogwood for spokes and reeds for weaving.


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.








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.

farms and gardens 103

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!

A weeping willow tree with perfect branches for baskets.

A weeping willow tree with perfect branches for baskets.

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

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.

Plum Crazy

So many plums!

So many plums!

With all the heat this summer the plums are ripening sooner than usual.  Yippee!

I never really understood the term “plum crazy” until this year’s banner harvest; I can’t stop picking when there is ripe, juicy fruit to be had and every possible space is covered with some plum related project.

“Are you nearly done?” asked my daughter somewhat plaintively through a fruit fly induced haze.  “Uh getting closer” I said as I stirred up a new batch of plum wine.  “So what are these projects?” you ask with trepidation.

Have you ever seen the part in Forest Gump where Bubba talks about everything you can do with shrimp?  Here’s the plum version:  “You can make plum torte, plum jam, plum sauce, frozen plums, dried plums, pickled plums, plums in brandy, plum sauce and this is only the beginning!”

Here is a lovely plum sauce made by putting plums face down on a cookie sheet covered with melted butter and a bit of sugar in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  When the skins easily come off it’s ready to go.

Caramelized plum sauce

To dry plums you can either quarter them or pit them, push them out flat and put them skin side down on a dehydrator tray.  It takes about 24 hours for them to try to the point they won’t mold.

Dried plums

Each year I make plum tortes with a recipe from the New York Times.  These tortes are super easy to make and freeze beautifully.

Easy and delicious

Easy and delicious

Here is the recipe for an absolutely wonderful blue plum conserve from my Mother’s 1946 version of the Joy of Cooking.  I use the Italian prune plums but Damson plums work equally well.  This recipe does have walnut meats and be aware that there is some concern about canning preserves made with nuts.  I have never had a problem but do want to let you know about this.

Here is the mixture before cooking.

Here is the mixture before cooking.

Blue Plum Conserve


  • 2 oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 and a 1/4 pounds of raisins
  • 9 cups sugar
  • 5 pounds blue plums
  • 1/2 pound broken walnut meats


Peel and chop the thin rind from the oranges and lemon and put it in a large bowl.  Chop up the pulp from the citrus fruits and add this and any juice to the bowl.  Next add in the raisins and the sugar.  Pit, slice and add in the plums.  Mix well then place in a large pot and cook until thick.  Be careful to stir continuously or your mixture will burn.  Add in the walnut meats.  Cook ten more minutes then put into sterile jars.  You can then water bath can your preserve if you so desire.

Here’s the finished product.

Year before last when we had an insane amount of fruit I did a plum wine.  It actually turned out to be more of a brandy and while quite strong, we liked it.

Fermented Dill Pickles

Making great pickles is easy! Here’s what you need:

Kosher or pickling salt

A few grape leaves for crunchy pickles.

Fresh cucumbers with the blossom end cut off to prevent softening.



Pack grape leaves, cucumbers, dill and garlic into clean jars and cover with brine solution.

Brine solution is made by dissolving 2 tablespoons of salt into a quart of water.

Cover and let the pickles sit until the desired level of fermentation is reached. They will be cloudy and bubbly.

It usually takes 5 to 10 days for pickles to ferment enough for a good, snappy taste. At this point you can put them in the fridge. They’ll continue to ferment but much more slowly.

Nearly done!

Seattle Farm School Tour!

This year’s Seattle Farm School tour was great! Here are some of the interesting things we saw at the places we visited. There was so much to see we didn’t make it to all the sites so next year will start earlier.


Grapes are almost ripe.

Pottery, bees and a lovely garden.

Love this use of old window to get a jump on the growing season.

This is a great way to make use of limited space.

Great name!

Solution to opening and closing the chicken coop.

Water for bees.

Lots of tomatoes.

There be dragons.

Onion flowers


Plant Dyes

How do you know if a plant might make a good dye? Rub it between your fingers and see if it stains. If it does give it a try!

To help the dye “bite” the yarn or fabric you need to use a mordant. Pickling alum is one I like to use; easy to find and non-toxic. Different mordants will give various shades so try a few!

Use the least processed, non-machine washable wool you can find. If it’s been treated it won’t take dye well.

Believe it or not this is grey from bright red day lillies!

Oregon Grape – I’ve just tried the berries but I’ve read the leaves and roots can be used for a yellow dye.

Purple from Oregon Grape with alum mordant.

Oregon Grape

Deep yellow from mature dock seeds.

Pale green from fennel


I used some alum but due to the natural tannin in the walnuts a mordant isn’t needed. The color is fairly long lasting and it’s a good idea to wear gloves!

Walnut stewing

Mulberry from Richland, WA.

Here’s wool dyed with mulberry. The different colors result from longer and shorter times in the dye bath.

Lady’s Bedstraw

Here’s the color when the roots are used.

Here’s the color produced from using the flowers with an alum mordant.

Tansy makes a nice yellow and it’s a noxious weed so no guilt in picking it!

Bracken fern

Tansy in the middle and Bracken fern on each side.

Bracken in a cast iron pot.

Garlic Braids

Right now is a good time to harvest garlic.  Braiding it then hanging it in a cool, dark place is a great way to store it for later.

how to make garlic braids

If the garlic isn’t well dried it will rot.

First dry the garlic until the leaves are limp and the outside of the bulb is getting papery.

how to make garlic braids

It’s ok to leave some of the dirt on the bulbs.

Gently brush off the dirt and trim the roots off.  Be careful not to bruise the garlic as it will spoil more quickly if damaged.

how to make garlic braids

If you’re new to braiding then getting someone to help will make a smoother braid.

Line up three bulbs with good long stalks and begin to braid.

how to make garlic braids

Make sure there is some space between the bulbs so they can continue to dry.

With each cross over add in another bulb until you have a braid that is about a foot long.  If you go longer it can be quite heavy and hard to hang.  It’s also nice to keep the braids a bit shorter to have more to give as gifts.

how to make garlic braids

Ready to hang. If you are a big garlic user then hang in your kitchen, if not put in a cool, airy place and take off heads as needed.

Here is the finished braid!

Currant Jelly

Ruby glowing tart currant jelly is one of my favorites. This year we had enough berries to make a bit of this luscious treat.


Cook berries over low heat, mashing to extract juice.


Put berry mash on a tea towel suspended over a bowl and let juice drip through for at least 8 hours. Resist the temptation to squeeze the bag as this will cloud the jelly.

Measure the juice then put the liquid and an equal amount of sugar in a pot and cook until it thickens. It’s important to stir constantly or it will quickly burn.

Cook the liquid until it reaches jell point. Here’s how to know when you’re there.

Pour into jars. Jelly will set as it cools.

Making Rose Petal Beads

Have you ever wondered where the name rosary comes from? Originally the beads were made from rose petals!

Here’s how you can make your own scented beads.

Pick lots of petals. They don’t need to be fresh but a strong scent will result in more perfumed beads.

It’s ok to collect petals over a few days.

Put petals in a blender with water and blend until they are a fine purée. The smoother the blend the smoother the final beads.

Next step is to evaporate off enough water to make a moldable clay. I used a crockpot but you can also use the oven on a very low heat. High heat destroys the odor.

Ready clay pulls away from the side and is easy to shape.

Beads will shrink to half their size. I used a nail to make the hole for stringing.

Drying beads. Turn them each day or dry them on a screen. Some got moldy on the side touching the mat.

Finished necklace! The beads smell wonderful and body heat releases more perfume. Beads may stain clothing so do be careful what you wear them with.