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For seeds to grow there needs to be the right combination of light, soil temperature, nutrients and moisture.  Here in our cool Northwest climate one of the main things is waiting until the soil is really warm enough for germination to occur. Spring crops need soil temperatures in the 50’s to 60’s while summer crops need temperatures in the high 60’s.  You can raise the soil temperature some by using cloches or other methods to trap heat and warm the soil.

Seasons can vary year to year but a rough guide to use is planting by the holidays:

  • Peas by President’s Day
  • Potatoes by St. Patrick’s Day, (this one is easy to remember)
  • Corn and beans by Mother’s Day
  • Tomatoes, squash and cucumbers by Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday.  (Ok, this one is a bit esoteric – it’s June 8th.)

To get more detailed planting information a great resource is Seattle Tilth’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide.

Branch Borders

I just trimmed my redwood dogwoods to get basket making supplies and decided to use the larger branches to make a border for a flower and herb bed.

Bed without border.

Bed without border.

 

Cut all the branches to the same length with ends angled to a point.

Cut all the branches to the same length with ends angled to a point.

 

Push one end into the ground and arc the other end over.  Push the ends as deeply as they will go so they don't pop out.

Push one end into the ground and arc the other end over. Push the ends as deeply as they will go so they don’t pop out.

 

I added compost but you can also add bark or just neaten things up.

I added compost but you can also add bark or just neaten things up.

 

 

 

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.
Delicious!

Plant Prints

To imprint fabric with leaves and flowers place the plant material on your material, cover with a second layer and pound with a hammer. Let dry then flake off dried plants.

Indigo, calendula and viola flowers placed on cotton fabric.
Pound with a hammer until color comes through.
Here’s the completed print.

Dill Pickles a la Duris Farms

Each year I make a pilgrimage to Duris Farms for pickle supplies. They have it all!

Here’s my favorite recipe:

  • 1.5 pounds pickling cukes with blossom end trimmed off
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1.5 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • Large dill stem with flowers
  • 1/4 cup Duris pickling spice mix
  • Grape leaves (for crisp pickles)

Divide up garlic, dill, a couple of grape leaves and spices in clean mason jars, pack in cucumbers. Mix salt, water and vinegar over medium heat. Pour liquid over cukes in jars leaving a 1/2 inch of headroom.

If you’re going to eat soon put in fridge. If you want to save for later do a water bath canning.

Easy Plum Liqueur

So many plums, so little time.

Wash and pit two pounds of plums.

Mix three cups of vodka (750ml) with two cups sugar
Put in jar and let sit for 3 months. Enjoy!

Recipe:

– Two pounds pitted plums

– Two cups sugar

– Three cups vodka

Tallow Candles

Fat is rendered by cooking for 4 – 5 hours until the fat separates and turns light brown. It’s skimmed from the cracklings.
String is threaded through the candle mold and held taught with sticks. The rendered tallow is poured into the mold.
Once it’s hardened the candles are dipped in hot water to loosen them and pried from the mold.
Finished candles!

Pictures are from a recent visit to the Lewis and Clark National Historical Center.

Dyeing with fresh indigo is easy!

Pick indigo leaves.
Purée leaves in a blender with ice water. Very cold water makes for a better dye.
Strain liquid then add fabric.
Rinse once dipped. Animal fibers will be blue and plant fibers green. This is wool.
Cotton
Silk

Another option is massaging the leaves with salt and squeezing out the liquid. The leaf paste can also be spread on fabric for a targeted pattern.

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.

Oregano!

Oregano bunched and ready to hang to dry.

Oregano bunched and ready to hang to dry.

My family loves Italian style food so we go through a ton of the herb oregano each year. Luckily it’s very easy to grow; you can start it from seed or buy a plant at most local nurseries.  It does best in full sun and doesn’t like to be water logged but do be aware that it self seeds quite easily.

Right now is a good time to harvest oregano!  This flavorful Mediterranean herb is best harvested on a warm, dry morning right before it blooms. To harvest and dry cut it three inches above the ground then bunch it and hang it in a cool place with good air circulation.  Be careful not to make the bunches too big or the stems in the middle might rot.  Once dry I store it in the basement in mason jars and bring up just enough to last a week or so as the heat and light in the kitchen can make it lose flavor quickly.

In addition to adding oregano to the usual pizza and spaghetti sauces here are some other interesting ways to use this prolific herb.

Oregano Infused Simple Syrup 

Ingredients:

1 C. water
1 C. sugar
2 C. fresh oregano

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add the oregano to the syrup. Boil for 60 seconds and let it steep for 30 mins as the syrup cools.
  3. Pour the cooled syrup through a strainer into a glass bottle jar.
  4. Store syrup in the refrigerator.  Small amounts can be added to sparkling water or it can be used in cocktails.  I think it pairs well with vodka.

The flowers taste good and can be dried for great bouquets.

The flowers taste good and can be dried for great bouquets.

Oregano Lemon Chicken

Ingredients:

  • Four chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • Juice and zest from two lemons
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup green olives with brine
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a frying pan, add chopped garlic and chicken.  Cook until the outside of the chicken begins to brown.  Add the lemon juice, zest and olives and turn down the heat.  Cook slowly until the chicken is almost done.  Add the chopped oregano and finish cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve garnished with a fresh sprig of oregano.

Oregano Herb Butter

Finely chop 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh oregano mix with one cube softened butter. Roll into a log on wax paper then wrap in the paper, put in a plastic freezer bag and freeze until needed.  Can also be immediately but should be refrigerated if you need to store it.  This butter can be used to baste meat, season veggies or on bread.

Oregano Olive Oil Cubes

Chop fresh oregano and mix it with olive oil.  Pour it into ice cube trays and freeze it.  Once frozen put in freezer bags.  This can be used in salad dressings, to baste meats or veggies or anytime fresh tasting oregano is needed.

Baked Feta with Oregano

Take a block of feta and cover it with 4 cloves crushed garlic and 4 T fresh oregano leaves. Drizzle with 1/4 c olive oil and top with a large tomato.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until bubbly. Serve with bread or crackers.

Herb Crust for Grilled Meats

Chop fresh oregano and mix it with olive oil and other fresh herbs to taste. Cover meat to be grilled with this mixture then cook over a hot fire.  This will both add a nice flavor to the meat and keep it moist.

Do you have other favorite ways to use oregano?  I’d love to hear them!