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Spending a day with basket master Peter Greer at his Golden Bay, New Zealand studio was a wonderful experience. He’s an amazing craftsman and an excellent teacher.

He grows his own willow near his studio.

Once cut the willow is sorted by putting it in barrels and pulling it out and bundling it by height. He soaks the dried willow then wraps it in wet material to keep it flexible.

Here’s a hand peeling tool to strip bark from boiled willow.

To get started choose eight pieces of the same diameter and length.

Peter showing us how to start the base.

Make a cut in the middle of four pieces and feed the other four through.

Weave over and under four sticks at a time to start the base.

Once you’ve gone around twice with four start weaving over and under two.

Once you’ve done a few rounds of over two go to over and under individual pieces until you reach the desired base size. Let this dry and set for a few hours.

To begin the upright weaving cut the rod right next to the base and use an awl to open a space.

Dipping the pointed ends for upright weaving in soap helps them slip in more easily.

Bend the rod over the awl tip to correctly position it.

Gently bend all the rods up right into a birdcage shape and tie a string to hold them st the top.

Set a heavy weight on the base to hold it in place. Use a 3 rod wale to stabilize the base.

Here’s how to do this weave.

A French weave is used for the body of the basket.

Putting down the border is next

Here’s a video by Hanna Van Aelst on how to do these.

Last comes the handle. Insert a thick rod then wrap and tie it off.

Finished basket

Contact info

Here are some of Peter’s lovely baskets.

Once you’re done, you can pack up your basket and head out for a picnic in the glorious NZ countryside!

Visiting my daughter in NZ we went to a fall harvest market. A bit odd as it was spring when I left Seattle!

Love the idea of a cup library.

Train station in the background.

Lots of seafood.

Visiting my daughter in NZ we went to a fall harvest market. A bit odd as it was spring when I left Seattle!

Love the idea of a cup library.

Train station in the background.

Lots of seafood.

Walking on a beach with friends in Otaki, New Zealand I mentioned I was interested in basket weaving. “Oh the man who made the baskets in Lord of the Rings is just up the street” said one of them. So off we went!

Mr. Douglas welcomed us in and shared tips for good baskets:

  • Don’t hurry your work; a well-made basket can last 40 years.
  • Use the cleaver tool to tighten the weave.
  • To test a willow variety for suitability. Hold it by the narrow tip and twist in a circle.
  • Good tools make good work.

How to grow willow in a small place.

Mr Douglas in his workshop.

Recommended tools – Felco sécateurs #8

Opinel knife

Cleaver to be sure the weave is tight.

A bodkin for making holes to feed strands through.

Soaking trough for dried willow.

Finished products

Walking on a beach with friends in Otaki, New Zealand I mentioned I was interested in basket weaving. “Oh the man who made the baskets in Lord of the Rings is just up the street” said one of them. So off we went!

Mr. Douglas welcomed us in and shared tips for good baskets:

  • Don’t hurry your work; a well-made basket can last 40 years.
  • Use the cleaver tool to tighten the weave.
  • To test a willow variety for suitability. Hold it by the narrow tip and twist in a circle.
  • Good tools make good work.

How to grow willow in a small place.

Mr Douglas in his workshop.

Recommended tools – Felco sécateurs #8

Opinel knife

Cleaver to be sure the weave is tight.

A bodkin for making holes to feed strands through.

Soaking trough for dried willow.

Finished products

Flowering Rhubarb!

rhubabb2.jpgBy Garrett Okrasinski

Last year I planted a new rhubarb plant and excitingly awaited for it to grown large enough to make my favorite strawberry rhubarb pie. However, I was upset to hear that rhubarb take at least a year until it is large enough and producing beautiful stalks for consumption. So patiently I tended my rhubarb last spring and summer. This spring I was so excited to see it coming back and starting to send out beautiful green leafs, knowing this is my year for rhubarb!

It you are lucky enough to notice a young leaf before it emerges, it is one of the coolest things! Tightly bound up, a tinder green leave almost looks like a brain! Rhubarb is an exciting and rewarding plant to watch grow (especially if you have been anxiously awaiting to harvest it for over a year!!).

Today, I noticed my rhubarb had a tall stalk leading to an odd looking bud. Last year, I did not notice my rhubarb had any buds or flowers. Concerned, I first took a picture and then did some research on why in March my rhubarb could be flowering.

rhubarbRhubarb can flower for multiple reasons including; maturity of the plant, stress (lack of nutrients in the soil), variety of plant, or heat.

Due to the age of my plant and the warm winter and spring we are experiencing, I deducted that the heat was causing my rhubarb to flower. Flower heads are common on rhubarb plants during the spring but need to be cut out immediately. If left, the plant sends it energy to producing the flower instead of growing big juicy stalks.

So what is all this rain doing to your garden loving heart?  Are you just itching to get out and plant something?  Well here are some ways to calm that itch through indoor seed starting, using Reemay floating row cover and setting up some plastic covered hoop beds.

Now is a good time for cold season starts and, if you are patient, warm season crops like tomatoes.  To start seeds indoors you need pots with good drainage, clean soil to plant in and a good strong light source.  This can be a south or west facing window or better yet, a grow light of some sort.  I also like to use a seed mat and a mini-greenhouse to get faster germination.

Kale seedlings

Kale seedlings

Once your seedlings are a few inches high you can start planting out the cold hardy ones like collards, sweet peas, kale and so on.  The tomatoes, squash and other heat lovers need to stay inside until temperatures warm.  I like to use Reemay to both protect the plants from frost and from the crows in my neighborhood that just love to eat juicy little seedlings.  Reemay can also be used over newly planted cold season seeds, onion sets or potatoes.  Because the Reemay is so light weight I usually weight it down with soil or rocks. You can also use metal pins if you have them.

Using large binder clips keeps the Reemay from blowing away.

Using large binder clips keeps the Reemay from blowing away.

If you want to create an environment that is drier and warmer than what you can make with Reemay the next step is to do hooped beds.  I like to use one inch pvc pipe either bent over and put in to pipe brackets screwed to the outside of the bed or pushed deep into the ground.  This creates a warm place for your plants that really can help them to thrive.  One problem with these covered beds though is the issue of watering.  You either need to set up an irrigation system, remove the cover on a warmer rainy day or hand water.

Plastic covered hoops over a raised bed with irrigation.

Plastic covered hoops over a raised bed with irrigation.

Here’s a peek under one covered bed. The chives and peas are flourishing. I do hope the dog doesn’t figure out how to take the cover off; he loves to eat peas!

Grow peas, grow!

Grow peas, grow!

Good luck to you and let me know how it goes with getting a jump on the garden season!

Chive Flower Vinegar

Chives in full bloom.

Chives in full bloom.

Chive flower vinegar is delicious and easy to make!

  • Pick fresh chive flowers.
  • Pack a clean jar two-thirds full with the flowers.
  • Add white vinegar.

Let sit for two weeks in a cool, dark place then strain and enjoy!

Someone just commented that they like making a chive butter too.  What do you like doing with this versatile herb?

New Roots is a flourishing urban farm with much to offer.

Tended plots

Education

Group area

Papaya

Lime

Guava

Chickens!

California Citrus!

I’m visiting my family in Southern California and there is glorious citrus everywhere.

Young fruit and blossoms

Citrus themed apron to get in the right frame of mind.

Slicing for threaded garlands.

A garland ready for drying.

Sliced and salted for preserved citrus.

Salted citrus in lemon juice brine with bay leaves and pepper corns. This will be ready in 3-4 weeks when the rind softens.

Here’s a NYT recipe for preserved lemons.