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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.

More Baskets!

Here’s how to make another type of basket!

Starting

Starting

  • 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.
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This basket has dogwood for spokes and reeds for weaving.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Imbolc!

009Imbolc is on February 2nd this year.  It is an ancient holiday that falls half-way between the winter solstice  and the spring equinox and you may know it better as St Brigid’s Day, Groundhog’s Day or Candlemas.  This is one of my favorite days as it is noticeably lighter and you truly can start to feel spring in the air; early blooming flowers begin and chickens start to lay again.

I like to make honey cakes, cook a big dinner, that includes whatever greens I can find in the garden and if we have enough eggs, make a nice herbed omelet.  Ordering seeds, planning new garden beds and dreaming of hot summer days are other great Imbolc activities!

 

Grapevine Wreaths

It’s a wee bit early to be pruning grapes but I wanted to neaten up the front yard so trimmed off the long, ropy vines.

Using these vines to make wreaths is easy and they turn out great.

First choose the vines you want to use and trim off the side twigs.  For a more rustic look, leave the tendrils on.

First choose the vines you want to use and trim off the side twigs. For a more rustic look, leave the tendrils on.

These are my favorite pruners.

These are my favorite pruners.

Wrap the vines around and twist in the ends.  Trim off anything that sticks out.

Wrap the vines around and twist in the ends. Trim off anything that sticks out.

Here are three finished wreath.  You can use these as is or as a base for baskets.

Here are three finished wreath. You can use these as is or as a base for baskets.

Great activity for a frosty, sunny day!

Great activity for a frosty, sunny day!

 

 

 

 

Time to Make Orange Marmalade

Oranges are in season right now and staying inside on a cold, rainy day to make marmalade is a great way to pass the time.  Your whole house will smell wonderful!

Peel the oranges by scoring the orange and carefully peeling off the skin.

Peel the oranges.

Peel off the white pithy part of the orange and save this.

Remove the pith and save it.

Stack removed peels and cut into as narrow strips.

Slice into thin strips.

Slice into thin strips.

Collect up the white pith and put it into a cheesecloth bag.  Put into a pot:

  • Bagged pith,
  • Cut up oranges
  • Thinly sliced peels

Fill the pot until the orange mixture is half covered with water and juice.  Soak for 12 hours.

Soaking for 12 hours.

Take out the bag of pith, remove large pieces of orange membranes and any extra pith that might have snuck in and add one cup of sugar for each cup of oranges.  Cook until mixture thickens.  Make sure to stir continuously or this mixture will burn.

It can take a few days for the marmalade to set. Be sure to cook until it thickens or it will be runny.

Ladle into sterile jars then water bath for 10 minutes.  This tastes great on a slice of rye bread or other hearty bread.  If you want to make a quick marmalade here’s a recipe with pectin that does not need to soak.

The Portage Bay Grange

One of the lovely resident birds.

One of the lovely resident birds.

The Portage Bay Grange on Roosevelt in the University District, is a great place to learn skills, pick up high quality feed, get new chicks and meet great people interested in urban farming.

Here’s an interview with owner and founder Kevin Scott-Vandenberge.

UFH – What path led you to opening the Grange?

My wife-partner Kirsten and I, with her background in human development, and my experience having had several other small business ventures, talked for hours on end about putting our partnership into a more meaningful endeavor together, and what that would ideally look like.  We both thought that what is missing in our “frayed” society is rewarding daily experiences. We had chickens already, because we wanted that “layer” of life for our other three children. After two years of some small steps, which included site design, building coops and gardens, and selling feed out of a moving truck, we opened up this store. That has been 4 years now! Around the same time we had a baby, Berkeley, and now being able to reflect, the parallel process of parenting and growing this business has been full of joy and discovery.

There's a full range of bee keeping supplies.

Interested in bees?  The Grange is your place!

UFH – What do you like most about your business?

This is a tough question to answer, as there are many elements that I like. Personally, we created my dream job! My wife would not necessarily say the same thing. She is the only person really behind the scenes. She has to do all the hard stuff! She does the accounting, the web site, and social media. All of this has taken her from doing her real passion and that’s her music. She is, however, able to do what she does love and that’s raising ‘Bee’ (Berkeley). I love the people and the community that has evolved. I love the team that we work with. I really enjoy the interactions and the conversations that ensue. And this job allows me to be creative and physically active constantly.

Urban farmer clothing comes in a range of colors and sizes.

Urban farmer clothing comes in a range of colors and sizes.

UFH – What is your biggest success?

Growing a business from the seed of an idea to where we are now is probably the biggest success. In addition to the 4 year-old, we have a 14 year-old daughter Peyton, a 17 year-old son Kellen, and Max who is in his first year in college. When we first started talking about this dream the kids were really skeptical about how it would work out and the location. Over the years they’ve been a huge part of the operations and we’ve watched them take pride in the work they’ve done in growing this family business. I think it’s been really good for them to see this go from an idea to a real business.

I also love seeing people change their philosophy around what life is really about. Gardening, cooking and raising animals brings them back to that enriched daily experience.

Chicks are available now!

Chicks are available now!

UFH – What’s your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is educating people and making sure our staff is all on the same page with health issues. We all come with our own opinions; and in this business, a great part of knowledge comes from experience. We’re always available with valuable resources to help that process as well.

Beautiful housewares can be found.

Beautiful housewares can be found.

UFH – Do you have classes?

We have a great situation with the Portage Bay Café next door and we are able to have classes in a very comfortable spot. Coming soon is our Chick Raising class, our spring Bee Series, and some new fermenting classes too.

UFH – What are some exciting things coming up this year?

We are really excited because we just hired a great operations manager Jessica, and have a fantastic crew, Charlie (who’s our feed manager), Eric, and Meredith. We are getting into some really neat stuff that you don’t see that often:

  • We’re moving into more into hydroponics and aquaponics.
  • This year we’ll have even more seed varieties and starts.
  • We’re also working on an express pick-up so people can text in an order and pull up to the back door to easily pick it up.
  • We’re going to keep expanding our feed too. Our local chicken feed is off the charts when it comes to nutrition. 50 pounds is around 28 dollars a bag. We have great organic feeds that come to a little more about 37 dollars with tax. (UFH – This is a great price on high quality feed.)
Come visit the resident ducks and chickens.

Come visit the resident ducks and chickens.

Kevin can be reached at kevin@portagebaygrange.

Neighborhood Seed Sharing

spring plantings 002

My neighbors and I love our Swiss Chard!

It’s that time of year when the seed catalogs start pouring in.  Glossy pictures showing burgeoning beets and luscious tomatoes make me forget January rains as I dream of the harvest to come.  Just as I was about to lose myself to their siren call I got a text message from my neighbor suggesting we get a group together to share last year’s seeds and bulk buy new ones.

Buying with neighbors is a great way to both save money and do a communal growing plan.  Does one neighbor have the microclimate and skill to grow squash while another is skilled at beets?  This can make for some nice variety even with limited growing room.  It also boosts interest in taking care of each other’s gardens during the busy summer months.

Coming to your yard soon!

Coming to your yard soon!

If you want to get really fancy you can also divvy up who grows what starts.  I have a big south facing garden window and grow lights that encourage me to grow way too many tomato and basil starts.  Knowing I will be sharing these lets me go wild.

You can save seeds from some plants year to year and build up varieties that are super well suited to your particular soils and growing conditions.  How about a Columbia City carrot or a Mount Baker melon?

To get started email or call anyone in your area you think might want to join in.  To make this work you only need about four other people but getting communal things started can be a bit hard the first year.  Once you’ve got your core group together pick a night, make a big pot of soup and see if others can bring sides and dessert; you’re nearly there!  The night of the party talk about what varieties have produced well in the past, what you like to eat and who likes to grow what veggies.  Once you have a good list then look at the seed catalogs, make your selections, divide up the cost and order away.  When the seeds come in have a second party and pass out the seeds.

Happy growing!

Darn That Sock!

“Oh there’s a hole in my sock dear Liza, dear Liza…”  Wait, wrong song but the hole definitely is in my daughter’s sock;  we’ve all moved to mainly wool socks and with each pair running about eighteen dollars it’s time to darn that hole.

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Instead of using a darning mushroom I am using a handy grapefruit.

First turn the sock inside out and put something round into the sock to stretch the wool tight.  Next weave back and forth, being sure to put the needle into solid material, to create the longitudinal warp.  Pull the stitches taut but not too tight.

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Use like colored yarn to fill the hole.

Once the warp is established weave the yarn back and forth, pushing the strands together to create a tight pattern.  Once you’re done turn the sock back right side out and check your work.

I would hand wash darned socks or wash them in a cold water cycle and not put them in the dryer as the new wool may shrink differently from the old sock material.

Good luck and happy darning!

Beanie Brownies

A cold dreary day like today calls for Beanier Brownies! They are fabulously easy to make and great for people who want to cut down on dairy and boost their protein and fiber intake.

Get a mix that doesn't include transfat, (many still do) and salt free beans.

Get a mix that doesn’t include transfat, (many still do) and salt free beans.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Open the powdered brownie mix and put in a bowl.
  • Open the can of beans and add water to the existing beans and liquid to the top of the can.
  • Put the beans and water in a blender and puree.
  • Add the bean puree to the powdered mix and stir.  There is no need to add eggs, oil or anything but the beans.
  • Grease a baking pan.
  • Pour in the mixture and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Ready for the oven topped with bittersweet chocolate chips and pecans.

Ready for the oven topped with bittersweet chocolate chips and pecans.

 

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes and your healthier treat is ready!

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes; until a toothpick comes out clean.

 

All set!

Let cool then cut into squares.  Bon haricot!

I fed these to my husband and kids and asked how they liked them and if they could guess the “secret” ingredient.  They all liked the rich, chewy texture and no one guessed they had beans in them!

 

A Joyous Winter Solstice

Rising in the dark on the morning of the shortest day of the year I light the fire, grind fresh coffee and settle in with the dog to wait for the family to stir and the sun to come.

Where's my breakfast?

Where’s my breakfast?

I used to dread the dark and cold but over time this quiet part of the year with its mists, frost and cool pale light have become beautiful to me.

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Mist over Seward Park

For centuries the solstice has been a time to celebrate the return of the light and prepare for deep winter by lighting candles and sharing food with friends.  I hope this season brings you and your family joy and peace.

Here’s a recipe for spiced wine to help things along:

Glühwein, (Mulled Wine)

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 5 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 orange peel, cut into strips
  • 1 ginger root, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 cups Pinot Noir, or other light-bodied red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 4 whole cloves
  • Raisins

In a large pot, combine the sugar with 1/4 cup of water. Over high heat, stir the liquid with a wooden spoon until the sugar is completely dissolved, and then bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, and add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, orange peel and ginger. Simmer and keep stirring so it doesn’t burn.

Add the wine and spice to taste. Ladle into mugs and garnish with raisins; serve warm. Serves 6.