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.

Image via Pexels

By Maria Cannon

Gardening used to be a way of life. Even if they weren’t farmers by trade, most people had to grow their own food in order to ensure they had enough to eat throughout the year. Children learned to till, sow, harvest, and preserve as soon as they were old enough because, in many cases, their family’s life truly depended on how well the garden grew.

In the past few decades, food has become less expensive and easier to access. We certainly don’t have to grow our own food anymore, with grocery stores and fast food restaurants on every corner. We enjoy a bigger variety of food than ever, and most of it is available year-round. On top of that, urban areas are expanding, houses are getting closer together, and a lot of people don’t have land for a traditional garden. As a result, tending a garden has fallen out of fashion. 

But like the old adage says, “What is old will become new again,” and the home garden is making a comeback. Farmer’s markets are popping up in every town, and people are finding ways to grow their own fruits, veggies, and herbs instead of buying them at the local superstore. Why? As it turns out, gardening offers many amazing benefits, only one of which is healthy, delicious food.  

First, gardening is earth friendly. If you’re looking for a way to “go green,” growing your own food is a great place to start. Food you buy at the store requires more resources to grow and transport than food you grow at home. When you garden with sustainability in mind, you can reduce your water usage, fuel consumption, and overall carbon footprint since plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Moreover, a garden is the perfect place to use food scraps as compost and recycled rainwater for irrigation. Gardens also naturally attract beneficial insects like honeybees. 

Gardening builds community. Back in the day, fresh food from the garden was a valuable commodity. Everyone knew who in town grew the best tomatoes, okra, green beans, and cucumbers, and you could sell, barter, or trade your food for just about anything you needed. In the south, it’s still not uncommon for a friend, family member, or neighbor to stop by and drop off a bag of summer squash the size of footballs or more sweet, red tomatoes than you can count. While social interaction may be a simple side effect of gardening, it’s one of the pastime’s most important benefits. In rural and urban areas alike, groups are even coming together to plant and maintain community gardens in order to combat hunger and improve access to fresh, healthy food.  

On top of all that, gardening is good for you. All the digging and squatting and walking around the garden gets your heart rate up, improves dexterity in your hands, and gives you a healthy dose of Vitamin D. Because it’s physically demanding, gardening counts towards your weekly activity goals. Some studies have indicated people who garden have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke and a stronger immune response. Of course, having a variety of fresh, healthy food at your fingertips isn’t bad either. Eating food free of preservatives, pesticides, and artificial additives is known to promote good health. 

Last but definitely not least, gardening is fun. We all know hobbies are good for your mental health, and gardening is one of the most popular ways to enjoy your free time. In addition to being just plain enjoyable, all that time in the garden leads to lower levels of stress hormones, improved mood, and a sense of satisfaction. In short, gardening makes you happy, and it may even help ward off depression and lower your risk of dementia later in life. 

While growing your own food is no longer a necessity, the benefits of gardening are still numerous, and a new generation of gardeners is emerging to take advantage of them. 

Focus on Rhubarb

A rhubarb plant in its fourth year.

A rhubarb plant in its fourth year.

From being a humble plant that outlasts everything else planted in a garden, rhubarb has become fashionable; it now takes a center role in zingy cocktails, is partnered with various fruits in jams and is a favorite for desserts.

Happily it still is very easy to grow.  Find a spot in your yard that gets some good sun and won’t be disturbed then buy a plant at the nursery or get one from a neighbor dividing their abundant crop.  Be careful to get a plant that has nice ruby red stalks as some types have pale green stems that taste ok but don’t look very appetizing.  These plants do last forever and can grow really large so make sure the spot you pick has plenty of room for growth.

Don’t harvest any stalks the first year and if it looks kind of peaked then hold off for the second year as well.  By the third year you should be all set to harvest a good amount of tart stems.  When you are ready to harvest, grasp the stalk firmly and pull and twist so it breaks off at or near the crown.  Trim off the large leaf and the inch at the base.

Here are some tasty things to do with rhubarb:

Rhubarb Soda


Bubbly rhubarb soda.

To make a sparkling, spicy soda take several stalks of rhubarb and slice them up.  Put them in a pot with sugar and water and cook the mixture on low heat for 30 minutes.  The mixture should taste quite sweet.  Strain the liquid and let it cool.  Put the liquid in a bottle and add about 1/2 cup of ginger bug starter.   Let sit for three days or until desired balance of bubbles and sweetness is achieved; the longer it sits the less sweet it will become.  Refrigerate your brew at this point to slow down the fermentation.

If you want an instant soda then you can add seltzer water to the rhubarb syrup.

Rhubarb Jam

There are lots of jams you can make using rhubarb.  You can use it straight up, add ginger, mix with early strawberries or even blend it with raspberries.  Here’s a good recipe for freezer jam and here’s one to can up.



Rhubarb Crisp

This is my absolute favorite way to use rhubarb.  The crunchy sweet topping combined with the tangy fruit and a bit of whipped cream is really good.  Here’s how to make it!

Tangy Cocktails

Want to try rhubarb in a cocktail?  Here’s a recipe for a strawberry-rhubarb margarita that is refreshing and new.

What do you like to use rhubarb for?  Share your favorite recipe!