More Fair Isle Knitting

It’s cold and time to knit!  I have been playing around more with Fair Isle knitting and think it could take a lifetime to explore all the interesting colors and patterns that can be used.

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From sheep to hat!

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Another pattern

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Two contrasting colors work well.

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This is one of my favorite color combos.

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Color gradations can look good.

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Mittens are great!

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A round up!


The season of wondering what in the world to give people for the holidays is upon us.  I really enjoy making people things but it can be a challenge to figure out something that people will actually like.  This has not always been something I have been particularly good at; I remember the year everyone got neon potholders then there were the health bars filled with lots and lots of wheat germ and bran.  Here are some suggestions of things you can make that have had much better receptions!

Stone necklaces are pretty simple and low cost to make and you can put together a range from demure, made with tiny rocks, to large showy pieces with rocks studded with mica.

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These stone necklaces are quite easy to make and are popular gifts.

If you like to take pictures then note cards can be fun to make also.  You can get card making supplies at stores like Paper Source.

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Cards and a stone necklace!

Goats milk soap makes great gifts; it is easy to ship and can be made in all different colors and shapes to suit even picky people on your list.

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You can leave these a natural ivory color or use vegetable dyes to add variety.

People usually love getting homemade herb blends.

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Herb blend picture from Kalyn’s Kitchen.

If you are looking for an attractive way to package your homemade gifts putting them in baskets can be quite attractive.  If those baskets are ones you made then all the better!

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Baskets can hold other gifts or be a present just by themselves.

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A different style of basket.

Here’s how to make fingerless gloves in a snap!  Here’s how to do easy hats.

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Hat and fingerless gloves are quick and easy to make.

Probably the most popular gift I give is raspberry jam.  This could be a bit challenging to make this time of year but it can be done with frozen berries.

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A Backyard Thanksgiving

It’s almost Thanksgiving and time to search the garden and plan out a backyard menu.  This year there are beets, apples and kale ready to be harvested, a pumpkin from a neighbor and potatoes and oats in the basement.  We’ll give the plum and grape wines a try too.  I’m ordering a turkey from Smith Brothers this year and giving the chickens another year.


  • Roast turkey
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Kale salad
  • Pickled beets
  • Oat cakes with goat cheese
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Plum crisp
  • Plum wine
  • Apple cider

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    “You really want to eat turkey and not chicken!”

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Ready for roasting with fresh rosemary and garlic.

These potatoes are good mashed or roasted with fresh rosemary.

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Still a lot left to harvest.

My family loves a massaged kale salad with fresh kale, chopped apple, cider vinegar, olive oil, onion and toasted nuts. (The nuts and olive oil are not from the yard but really make the salad much tastier.)

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A zesty addition.

These zesty pickled beets can be made ahead using this recipe.

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The goat cheese is purchased this year but here’s a recipe if you want to make your own.

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I grew just enough oats this year to have some for breakfast and make some cakes.

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My neighbor grew pumpkins this year and gave me a lovely one.  I am also using some of the squash I grew, frozen goat milk and eggs from the girls.  Most pie spices and sugar cane are from warm climates so these I did not grow!   Here is an old family recipe.

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So many plums this year.

Here is how to make delightful things with plums; frozen fruit work well for most of the recipes.

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Hope this tastes good.

The wine should age longer as it still tastes pretty sweet but what’s a feast without some wine?  We may still go for some turkey and cranberries but it’s fun use as many things as possible that we have grown.

Whatever you choose to cook this year a very happy Thanksgiving to you and your family from Urban Farm Hub.

Making Applesauce

Fall is here and thats means apples.  Many of the apples grown west of the Cascades have scab or are infected with coddling moth.  The result is that apples that aren’t very appetizing to eat out of hand, but still can be used to make great applesauce.   You can also buy apples by the box at your local farmers’ market and these can be used straight or mixed with your homegrown apples.  I like to talk with the grower and see what breeds they like to make into sauce.  One of my favorite growers is Tonnemaker Family Orchard.  They have great produce, good prices and often have seconds boxes that are lower priced and great for canning.  Last week they suggested Gravenstein apples so I bought a box to mix with my own apples.

Here are directions on making your own applesauce:

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Pick out apples that are free of mold and rot. They don’t need to be pretty but they should be wholesome.

Core your apples then cut them up into about one-inch chunks and cook them over a low heat until soft.  Then put the mixture through a food mill to separate the skins from the fruit and turn it into a sauce.

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Here is a food mill I got at Fred Meyer. They can also be found sometimes at Goodwill.

If the sauce is too tart then add in a bit of brown or white sugar.  I like to put in some cinnamon as well.  Heat the sauce, while stirring constantly, to boiling and boil for one minute and pour into sterile jars.  Be careful because blobs of the hot sauce can leap out of the pot and give you a burn.

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Here it is heating up with cinnamon added at the end of cooking. Once it begins to bubble it will be ready for the jars.

Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes and you’re good to go.  Applesauce can be eaten as is or can be used in many recipes.

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I like lots of cinnamon so often add even more before I eat my sauce. My family varies on their degree of cinnamon adoration so I go light when canning it.

Grandma Fields’ Pumpkin Pie

Here is an old family pumpkin pie recipe from my husband’s aunt, Betsy Stapleton.  She makes this for special events and it’s always a favorite.  Besides it tasting good, I like that it doesn’t use evaporated milk.


Put in a frying pan:

  • One large can of pumpkin puree
  • One teaspoon ginger
  • One teaspoon salt
  • Two teaspoons cinnamon
  • One pinch nutmeg

Cook, stirring frequently, until cooked down to four cups.  Cool to room temperature.

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Thick and delicious

Add to pumpkin mixture:

  • Three well beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • One rounded tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in half a cup of milk
  • Three and a half cups of milk

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Blend well

Beat with a mixer until smooth.  Pour into two large pie tins and bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until set.

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Ready for baking.


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I wonder if I will get any pie this year?

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.

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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.

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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.

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Some of the brown yarns are black walnut dyed.

Have fun!



Bean Necklaces

Every urban farmer should have at least one bean necklace for that perfect agricultural fashion accent.  Right now is a great time to harvest those end of the season beans and get crafting.

Here’s how:

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Pick your beans while they are still soft. These are scarlet runners.

Many colorful varieties can be used and you can do patterns with solid color beans.

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Thread a darning needle with stiff thread or a flexible wire.

I like using pliers to pull the needle through the bean as it can get a little stuck at times.

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Here are necklaces made with calico beans.

Wait to either tie the ends or attach fasteners as the beans will shrink as they dry. It’s also a good idea to string on a few extras; it’s easy to take them off if you have too many.




Cool Tool to Peel Apples

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I love this tool!!

Each year I just can’t resist getting a big box of apples this time of year.

It used to take me forever to carefully peel the apples, cut them up and remove the icky bits.  Last spring I went to a rummage sale and a friend handed me a weird looking contraption. “This is exactly what you need” she said with conviction.  I dutifully bought it, put it in the basement and forgot about it until this weekend.

The Peel Away is amazing!  What was even better was that my daughter and husband both found it so intriguing that they helped me; within about an hour all the apples were processed.

Here is the loooong peel that comes off.  I wonder if this is tossed over the shoulder it will still make the initial of the person one is going to marry?

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Hope I toss an “A”.

Here is the apple peeled, cored and sliced.

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So pretty!

Once the apple is processed making sauce or putting it in a pie is a snap!  Tonight I am going to try it on asian pears….

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Ready for a pie.


Time to Plant Garlic

Growing garlic is very easy and is a great thing to plant if you have big summer plans that are going to keep you out of the garden.

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Pick bulbs with big cloves.

There are softneck and hardneck varieties of garlic; the softneck grow best in a colder climate and are easy to braid.  I usually do some of both.  You can plant large cloves from last summer’s crop or you can get untreated organic garlic at the supermarket or farmer’s market.

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Pull cloves apart.

Once you have your garlic clear out a bed, rake the soil and amend with a light dressing of compost.  Divide the bulb into individual cloves and lay them out on the soil about 6 to 8 inches apart.

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Lay out 6 to 8 inches apart.

Dig a hole, (I usually use a large spoon), about 2 inches deep and plant with the pointy end up.  Cover with soil then mulch with straw or shredded leaves.  Be sure to pull the mulch away from around the growing garlic in the spring or the darned slugs will actually chew on the stems.

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Label clearly where you have planted as it’s easy to overplant.


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.

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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.  

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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!

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Here are some different examples.