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.


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Ready to go!

By Christina Carson

Christina Carson is FarmRaiser’s Chief Cultivator – managing our partnerships, communications, and leading our on the ground team of Campaign Coordinators. Having been a part of the business since the beginning, she’s passionate about sharing FarmRaiser’s story with with as many people as possible!

With the school year fully in gear, it’s that time of year when students start venturing door to door in hopes of selling a variety of goods to their friends and family in order to raise a little money for their schools. Frequently, those products are highly processed foods made in far off lands with little in the way of nutrition. Thankfully, Washington schools now have access to an incredible alternative that helps schools sell fresh produce and other healthy food items made right in their own community!

FarmRaiser is a school fundraising company with the goal of completely reinventing the industry. Out with the sea of sugar and junk food – in with CSA-esque seasonal veggie selections, fresh Washington apples, dried organic blueberries, locally roasted coffee, and other amazing whole food goods! In the process of selling local and healthy products, students involved in FarmRaiser campaigns learn about the importance of what goes into their body and where it comes from. All the while supporting the local economy and exposing quality local products to new potential customers. It really is a win for everyone involved!

These locally focused fundraisers have been around for about a year and a half, hosting campaigns in Michigan. They started working in Seattle last spring and are ready to help your group raise some much needed funds in a fun and educational way! Having partnered with over 30 schools and organizations thus far, 88% of which have come back for at least one additional fundraising campaign, the FarmRaiser team is looking forward to sharing their great work with more people.

If you, or someone you know might be interested in hosting a FarmRaiser for your school or community group (or selling their products in area fundraisers!), head on over to FarmRaiser’s website. Local Campaign Coordinator, Greg Meyer, can also be contacted directly by email (greg@farmraiser.com) or phone (415.937.8942).  I can be contacted at Christina@FarmRaiser.com or by calling 231.714.9712.


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Quince flavored tequila

With Elaine Corets

Have you ever eaten quince?  Quince are in the Rosaceae family, as are apples and pears, and when ripe they are bright yellow and have a wonderful fragrance.  This fruit is a bit unusual in that it must be cooked before it can be eaten; when raw the flavor is astringent and bitter but after cooking it is delectable.


In case you’re looking for some ideas of what to do with quince, here are some of Elaine’s favorite recipes:

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Fresh quince

Quince Procurement

If your interest is peaked and you want to try some of this wonderful fruit then you’re in luck!  Local quince will be available for sale starting this week or next.

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Elaine’s Dad, Ellis,  with his quince tree.

Same deal as last year: Elaine will be selling from her home in Ballard, but she’s not sure yet know how much will be available.  The price will be the same as last year: $4/lb. She’s also open to bartering, especially for cheese, eggs and/or honey. She’s sure there will be seconds, which will be sold at a discount.

Please get in touch if you would like to get on the waiting list. You can reach Elaine at: SeattleQuince@gmail.com.

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Setting a pan of quince paste. This eaten with Manchego cheese is incredible.


Putting Your Garden to Bed

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Farewell to summer!

With shorter days, cool winds and rainy weather it’s time to put part of my garden to bed for the winter.  I am sad to let summer with its glorious brilliance go but the soil needs to rest and rebuild.  I have a few plots planted with winter herbs and vegetables and will soon plant garlic and flower bulbs so not all gardening is done but the wild exuberance of summer is over.

Here’s my list of tasks:

  • Write down in your garden journal what worked this year and what didn’t.  Did you have a special type of snap pea that grew really well and tasted great?  Was there a tomato that just didn’t live up to its vibrant name?  Is there a neighbor who planted a kind of squash you’d just love to try?  Write this all down or come next January when the seed catalogs start to awaken your garden lust they will be faded memories.
  • Clean up the beds and remove the vegetation.  If you have a super hot compost pile then you can compost your garden waste.  If you don’t then it’s probably a good idea to put potato and tomato plants, weeds with seeds and so on in the clean green container to be hauled off.  If you’ve had any kind of disease problem with your vegetables or fruit be sure to pick up and dispose of all fallen fruit and leaves.  It’s also good to rotate your crops and not plant the same thing in the same spot each year.
  • Bring in your garden tools, tomato cages and empty containers.  Clean the soil off, sharpen tools and store inside so they will last longer.  If you don’t have room inside then put them in an area where they will stay dry and out of the reach of animals. I oiled all my tools and handles one year with some old coconut oil and was really surprised in the spring to see that some animal had carefully gnawed off all the oil on the handles leaving pocked rough wood behind.
  • Plant garlic and flower bulbs.
  • Repot and bring inside any geraniums or other houseplants that have been out on summer break.  You can pot up some herbs to bring in too; oregano, chives bay and sage usually do well inside.
  • Test and amend your soil.  If you do this now you will be all set for spring.  I usually work some manure and compost into the top layers so they can break down over the winter.
  • Plant a cover crop.  A cover crop both protects your soil from punishing winter rains and builds up nutrients.
  • Sit back, have a warm cup of tea and enjoy your neat and tidy garden.

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.

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Here’s my daughter with Biggie and Smalls.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I ordered this culture on line and it works great.

Add culture, stir and let sit for twelve hours.

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It’s pretty amazing to see the transformation.

The curds are soft and almost creamy.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Making Goat’s Milk Soap

School starts back up on Thursday so for one final urban farming fling before digging back into books I made goat’s milk soap.

Here is the process:

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I purchased these at my local supermarket.

Choose the oils you want to use. I chose coconut, olive and almond.

Here are some recipes in case you don’t want to make up your own.

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Best to go with light scents as even natural oils can be strong for some people.

Next get your goat’s milk ready. If you want a scented soap, choose an essential oil. I chose orange bergamot for this batch.

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Sodium hydroxide – treat this with respect.

Saponification is a chemical reaction between a base and an acid to form a salt.  Lye or sodium hydroxide, is the base and oil or tallow is the acid.  Lye is extremely caustic and you must be very careful when using it.  Don’t breath the fumes and be sure to use eye protection and gloves.  Vinegar will neutralize the lye and is good to have on hand in case you splash some of the mixture on you.  It’s also used in cleaning up any containers that have held lye or the lye containing soap mixture.

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Eye protection is needed when working with lye.

Once you’ve chosen your ingredients you need to calculate how much lye is needed.  I used an on-line lye calculator which made the process very easy.

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Measured lye, oils and milk.

The next step is to mix the lye into the milk.   Put your container of milk into an ice bath and do the mixing very slowly.  If you do it quickly you can burn the milk as the reaction gets quite hot.  The temperature should be kept below 90 degrees.

Warning – be sure to always pour the lye into the liquid, not the liquid into the lye.  (If the liquid goes into the lye it can volcano up and could burn you.)

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Slowly add the lye to the milk.

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As you add the lye the milk turns an orange color.

If you want whiter soap, then add the lye over a 20 minute period and keep the temperature low.

Once you have mixed all the lye in and the mixture has cooled then carefully pour the milk/lye mixture into your combined oils.

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Carefully pour the lye mixture into the oils.

Stir this mixture until you reach the “trace” point.  This is where the mixture begins to resemble custard and you can see a pattern when you stir.   This can take up to an hour but can be speeded up with a stick blender.  Be careful using this as it can thicken quite quickly and be too hard to pour into your molds.  This is the time to add your essential fragrance oil.

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There are many pretty molds to choose from.

When your soap has thickened you are ready to pour it into the molds.

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Newly poured soap.

The soap needs to stay in the molds for one to two days until it’s hardened.  It will still be quite harsh at this point and can burn you so be careful.  Once you’ve taken it out of the molds it will need to cure for a minimum of two to three weeks.  To be sure it’s fully cured you can test the pH to see if it’s in the correct range between 7 to 9.5.

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Ready to lather up.

Happy 2014 Fall Equinox!

I woke up this morning with a cool breeze coming through the window and a lingering smell of baked apples from last night’s dinner permeating the house.  Today is the Fall Equinox or Mabon on the pagan calendar, and it’s the start of my favorite time of year; I love the clear light, overflowing farmer’s markets and glorious sunrises.

It’s a good time to write down what worked well in your garden, enjoy bountiful fresh meals and prepare for the cold months ahead.

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Rose hips can still be collected to dry for tea.

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It’s time to repot and bring in houseplants.

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The chickens are still laying but production will start to decrease as the days get shorter.

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Hidden garden art is slowly emerging.

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Still ruling the roost.

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The tomatoes keep coming.

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Happy Fall from Leo the garden dog.

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Money plants can be harvested for winter decor.

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Nasturtiums blooming.

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Persephone preparing for her time in Hades.