Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tying on a new warp

I finished the warp of brown and rust placemats yesterday and this morning tied a new warp to the old one. I do this when the pattern is exactly the same as the one on the loom. It saves quite a bit of time as compared to sleying and threading the new warp and since I am sure that all the sleying and threading errors have been found and fixed on the old warp I can wind the new one on knowing it will be correct.
Once the new warp is tied to the old one I have to gently tease the knots through the reed and the heddles. Occasionally one knot will come untied but this warp went on without a hitch. I won't get to work on it today as I have a sub job for an English teacher at the high school in Friday Harbor tomorrow and need to go over this evening in order to be there when school starts. This time of year there isn't enough daylight in the morning to make it to town by 8:00. I'm also madly finishing up a second batch of apple butter before I go. Subbing is a bit crazy as I never know more than a day or so ahead of time when I will be needed. But I love the job and the kids and organize getting there willingly.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Yesterday Joel went down to his Mom's house and harvested her hazelnuts. Here they are drying by the stove. She has a beautiful mature tree that produces lots of nuts every year. She also has an English walnut tree. Almost our nuts for cookies and such come from these two trees. One of our favorite things to do with hazelnuts is to roast them and put them on salads.
We have a few small hazelnut trees that produced a few nuts this year. We have great hopes for them in the future.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Trip to Bellingham

This last weekend was the first weekend since last April with no market so we took advantage of that and went to the mainland for the first time since Christmas. We took the pumpkins from
daughter, Jennie's Waldron garden to them and brought boxes of vegetables to be shared among several family members. it is so very nice to be able to share the season's bounty with the family.
We got to visit with all three of our granddaughters and at least talk about the newest one who is planning to join us next May.
And, of course, we went to the Bellingham Farmers market where we bought some lovely pottery from 1 Heron Pond Pottery and a couple of Bella de Boskoop apples to try. The name alone was enticing and they were really tasty. We also ran into a former San Juan Island marketer who is making gorgeous willow baskets from willow she is growing on her farm, Willow Bend Baskets. That was really neat. We haven't seen her for ages and ages.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Apple Recipes

I've had a request in the Comments for my Apple Butter recipe. So I thought I'd put it here as it would be easier for everyone to see. This recipe comes from an old canning manual of my Mom's that came with canning jars. I have several editions of them going back to 1949.

Apple Butter
Core and slice apples but do not peel. Cook until soft and run through a sieve.
16 cups apple pulp
8 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
4 tsps. cinnamon

The recipe says to boil for an hour and a half, I let it simmer on the back of the stove all day. When it is nice and thick put into pint jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Here's another family favorite from the same source. This recipe was deleted from later editions of the manuals so I make a point of passing it on. It is best made with tart apples. I use our Apple Pie apples. It is great with roast lamb or mutton or beef or pork or just on a spoon. I love this stuff.

Apple Catsup
Prepare apples as above. To each quart of applesauce add:
1 cup sugar
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried mustard
2 tsps cinnamon
1 Tbsp salt
2 chopped onions
2 cups cider vinegar

Cook until thick, the recipe says half an hour, this isn't as thick as apple butter. Put into pint or half pint jars and process for 10 minutes.

Both of these recipes are a great way to use up a bumper crop of apples and I discovered them years ago when faced with just such a dilemma.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Apple Butter

Last night I finished up a batch of apple butter. I used some leftover Crimson Gravensteins, Kings and our Apple Pie apples, made up a bunch of applesauce, added sugar and spices and left it to simmer away on the back of the wood stove all day long until it was thick and deep brown. I love being able to cook it long and slow that way. One of the virtues of a wood range. We had some from a jar that I didn't have room for in the canner on toast for breakfast this morning and it is wonderful.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fall color in the Pacific Northwest

We don't have the brilliant colored fall foliage other parts of the country have. Out fall palette is mostly shades of gold and yellow. The big leaf maple, acer macrophylla, is gorgeous right now. Up against the background of the deep dark green fir trees they veritably glow.
One of the few redder tones come from the native wild crab apple trees and the occasional seedling cherry. Here the red plant in the foreground is an ornamental amaranth.
The big leaf maple lives up to its name. Every fall the school has a largest maple leaf contest and the kids scour the island looking for the biggest leaf. This one would have been a candidate when our kids were in school.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Squash Harvest

Today we brought in the winter squash. After the cool, wet summer we had we didn't get nearly the production we usually do. And particularly the delicata, a customer favorite, did not produce well at all. I hope our customers will take to the other varieties that did a lot better. A month ago the squash patch was covered with huge green vines, so dense that you couldn't see or walk between them. Following a frost the vines have all died down revealing their bounty. As desolate as it looks I love seeing all those lovely squash finally revealed.
Chas, our personal secretary cat, naturally came out to help. On the cart, left to right, are orange Sunspot, the green ones are Bonbons, on top are Sweet Lightning and a few Thelma Sanders which look like white acorn squash. The orange ones to the right are Eastern Rise.
And in the wheelbarrow, left to right, are green Nutty Delica, striped Honeyboat Delicata, orange Sunshine, and finally green Sweet Mama.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wild Arugula

One of our most popular specialty crops is wild arugula Arugula Rustica. One of the seed catalogues we buy from says that it is the true Italian arugula. We do like it better than the common variety, it is tastier and spicier. It is a perennial rather than an annual like the garden variety and we let it seed itself all over the garden and just weed around it.
The flowers are yellow instead of white and it makes quite a big bush if you leave it alone. The bees also love the flowers so that it is providing a late nectar crop. We call it feral arugula for the way it has come to grow all over the farm. Harvesting it means hunting it out among the lilies and dahlias and beets.

We are about to take off for the last outdoor Farmers Market of the year. The weather is cloudy and it keeps threatening to rain but it isn't really cold. In two weeks we'll start the winter market, this year indoors in the high school commons.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Another good rainy day chore. Joel spent the last two days out in the hoophouse bagging up our winter onions. We have had an incredible onion crop this year partly due to the regular rains. The season may have been hard on peppers and corn but the onions loved it. We'll have onions to sell at the winter market all winter long. These are Stuttgarters and we also have a small crop of Comreds, a red winter keeper, and some red cippolinis called Red Marble. We're taking the very last of the Ailsa Craigs to market this weekend. We are really pleased by how well they have stored. Sweet onions, like Walla Wallas are notorious for not being good keepers.

Production Mode

It started raining last evening and rained all night. Our satellite internet connection doesn't work in the rain so we were off line until Joel went up on the roof this morning and wiped the water off the dish. I really don't mind that kind of weather this time of year as I just retreat to the studio and make things. The big Thanksgiving weekend crafts fair in Friday Harbor is coming right up and I need a good supply of stuff for that. Above is the roll of new rag rugs that I just finished. Today I'll cut them apart and sew up the hems. I'll try and get them on my Etsy store in the next couple of days.

Then I washed up the last of the wool rugs. These rugs benefit from a good wash after weaving. It fluffs up the wool a bit and makes them softer.
Then I started putting a warp for placemats on the loom the rag rugs had come off. These will be rag placemats woven in a log cabin design. I've got another placemat warp in greens measured off which I will tie onto the end of this one when it is finished. I also started measuring off a blue warp for potholders. These are always a good sell around Christmas as stocking stuffers.
And, while I was doing all that Joel was spinning up the wool from a gorgeous dark colored fleece. So far he's gotten enough for two rugs from it and there's still useable wool left. I probably won't get to making more wool rugs before Christmas but these will be one of the first projects for the new year.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


We have a great apple crop this year. Today Joel picked the Kings, getting 12, 40# boxes off our two trees. This is probably more than we can eat or sell, but I'll take boxes to the kids and the sheep will get their share. And we will eat apples. Tonight we had fried apples and onions and I will make apple butter and apple catsup and Joel plans on canning apple slices. We will make applesauce and apple pies and apple crisp all winter.
While Joel was up in one of the King trees this Pileated woodpecker was up in the other. They show up every fall just as these apples are getting ripe and peck holes in all the apples at the top of the trees. Since these old trees are so very tall that we never can get the apples way up at the top we don't grumble at having to share.
Meanwhile back at the house I was working on another pastel rag rug on the same warp I've been working on for a couple of weeks. This is a combination of a medium blue and pink print and a pastel plaid in similar colors. I think that so far it is the prettiest of the batch.

October Market

A little bit of October at the Farmers Market. Above you see two kinds of apples, Crimson Gravensteins, and one we call the Apple Pie apple because no one has so far been able to identify it. It is one of the 100 year old apple trees on the farm and because of its tart taste it's great for cooking. There are also Bosc pears, Sehome Italian prunes, mixed cherry tomatoes, mini peppers, and corn. We'll hold one more outdoor market at the courthouse parking lot next Saturday, take the following weekend off and go visit kids on the mainland, and then on November 1 move into the high school cafeteria for the winter market.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Last flowers, Winter's Bounty

We are expecting it to be even colder tonight than last night so I went out and picked the last of the dahlias expecting to find the plants all mush in the morning. They are such pretty flowers and such prolific producers. I leave mine in the ground under a heavy mulch in the winter and have had them come through just fine. I will need to divide them next spring as the plants are so huge I can't get between them to cut the flowers.
While I was out I took this picture of one of the last roses of the year. This is a cluster of Bonica flowers.
And as winter creeps up on us Joel and I have been busy stocking the pantry. Recently Joel canned plums and tomatoes and made plum jam and cucumber relish. Today I made barbecue sauce from some of the last of the paste tomatoes. It's in the canner bubbling away as I write.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

There's Frost on the Pumpkins

There was a light frost last night and predictions of more for tonight so we harvested a load of pumpkins that were ripe enough.
Then we put floating row covers over the rest of the pumpkins and squash patch hoping to give enough protection to let the rest of the crop mature a bit more before we take it in.
Meanwhile, in the house the cats curled up in their chairs in front of the stove, a sure sign of cooler weather. Above are Chas and Sarah. Sarah is the feline matriarch of the farm having turned 19 last spring.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's October and We Have Pumpkins

We're about to take off for market with the first pumpkins of the season. We'll haul a few over each week because they are heavy. These are a variety called Neon, always the first to mature. I love the green star around the stem but it disappears as the pumpkins mature.
And yes, this too is a pumpkin not a zucchini. It's called Long Pie, an heirloom variety originally from the Azores. It makes great pumpkin pies. As long as there is an orange spot on the bottom when you harvest it it will mature and turn bright orange in storage. We'll have them at market in time for Thanksgiving pies.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Artstock in Friday Harbor

If you are going to be on San Juan Island this weekend be sure to check out the fall studio tour, Artstock. I will be a guest artist at Kristi Gjesme's studio in Friday Harbor. If you read this blog come by and say so. Check out their website from the link to the right for more information.

Stocking up for the year

We made a special trip to Friday Harbor yesterday to buy at the local grocery store's annual case sale. Living in a place like this has taught me to buy in bulk whenever possible . I hate going to the mainland to shop and don't like big box type stores so this is our chance to stock up on the sorts of things we don't grow, or don't grow enough of, like canned tomatoes,pineapple, olives, paper towels, etc. We also buy big bags of beans and rice and flour from our local food buying club which meets once a month. When I was a kid we lived in the country and my Mom didn't drive so grocery shopping was a once a week activity. She planned each weeks menu once she got to the store and found out what was on sale. I thought this was the normal way to shop. The idea of running to the store because you ran out of something never occurred to me. When I first moved here I went to town once a month in a small plane, me the two kids and the dog for $21 round trip. Sigh. I had to learn to get enough for a month. Not only is it practical and money saving to have household food stores, but it has always given me a great sense of security. No matter what happens we can eat while we figure out what to do next. Rice and beans may get boring after a while but they will keep us on our feet.
On the way back, rounding Pt. Disney in a strong ebb tide in the pouring rain I noticed that the maple trees had turned color. Fall is definitely here. (Those are raindrops on the lens, not orbs.)