Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Stocking for Charlotte

I can finally post about the Christmas stocking I made for my granddaughter, Charlotte, who just had her first Christmas. I didn't want to mention it before Christmas because I didn't want her Mom and Dad to see it. I didn't imagine that Charlotte would be reading my blog.

I wove the fabric in an overshot pattern using 20/2 cotton for warp and tabby and 3 yarns of 20/2 and 8/2 cotton in slightly different shades of red wound together for the pattern weft. I like using slightly different shades of a color together as it gives a nice depth of color. The name was designed on graph paper and woven by pickup. I took that part out quite a few times to get it just right picking up the same threads each time and not wandering a thread or two to the side.
The back is from a red sheet I had in my rug weaving stash and the lining from a bright red silk blouse I got at the thrift store. I am really pleased with how it came out. I am contemplating making something similar for Christmas sales next year, but without the name.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Cookies

So, this is what I have been doing with my daughters and granddaughters. I frosted the tree in the upper right hand corner and the dancer in the middle of the bottom row. I love getting together with all the kids and grandkids for Christmas. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.
Photo by granddaughter Lauren

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What a Big World

Our youngest daughter, Siri, finished college at Brooklyn College, in well, Brooklyn, NY, yesterday in the Film Studies program. We are immensley proud of her and the hard work it took to do that. She's a long way from the farm and the island but maybe she has always looked out from here to the great big interesting world. Best of luck to you in all your ventures, dearest daughter.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Tree is Up

The Christmas tree is up, presents are appearing under it, the holly is up over the doors and windows to "keep out the dark" (See Susan Cooper's, The Dark is Rising). I love the lights on the tree. Being off the grid as we are and thus having to be very careful about electricity use, ours are very small LED lights. Not really bright but we can safely and with a clear conscience leave them on all night. I love getting up in the dark and seeing the tree lights.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Candy Cane Cookies

I've been wrapping presents to take to friends on San Juan island on market day Saturday and baking cookies for gifts. These candy cane cookies are made from sugar cookie dough. One half of the dough is dyed red. You roll out pencil thickness strips of each color and roll them together. I haven't made these in years. They are a lot of fun.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Loom

LinkI actually got this 16 harness table loom a couple of years ago but it was damaged and had been turned upside down in shipping so the harnesses and heddles had all come apart and so.....it has taken us until this fall to finally get it up and running. It is a Purrington table loom, an excellent design, and I am really thrilled to be able to weave on it. I got it warped up this evening and tomorrow will start playing with it. I've been weaving Christmas presents but realize that as my family reads my blog I'd better not reveal any secrets here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


It's one of those spells of cold dry weather. The temperature was down to 18 degrees F last night and never went above freezing today. Wonder what will be left in the garden when it finally thaws which isn't predicted to happen until the weekend. Oh, well, at least the pond is full. All the rain in the previous weeks is responsible for that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pasta and Pesto

We had a great meal last night with my friend, Betsy's handmade pasta, and some of our pesto out of the freezer. Good very cold night dinner.

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Yarns, New ideas

With the Thanksgiving Crafts Fair in Friday Harbor over with and the Waldron Crafts Fair as well, the pressure is off. I don't really have any serious selling opportunities for fiber arts until next May. Oh, my hats especially are in a couple of galleries in Friday Harbor and LaConner, and I will keep them supplied, but in essence our time of vacation has started. The winter garden more or less takes care of itself and I don't have to hurry up and make anything. So this is a time to think of new ideas, try out samples, read seed catalogues and weaving magazines and put our feet up and drink hot chocolate. In pursuit of that I bought a sampling of new 20/2 mercerized cotton yarns in 12 color wheel colors (I know there are only 11 in the picture, I got backordered on one of the purples). I want to explore some fancy twills in fine yarns in hopes of having some new scarves for next season. This is a good time of year even if the temperature never got above freezing today.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Early Morning Trip to Town

Joel and I both had dentist appointments yesterday so we left at first light. It was one of those cold clear winter days, very little wind. We watched the sun come up behind Orcas Island with a lovely sunrise.
Coming home that afternoon the wind had picked up from the north which in this time of year with the sun really low in the sky makes the waves a gorgeous navy blue color. We passed the mailboat on its way out.

New Product

Last spring one of my customers suggested that I should make some of the flowers I had been putting onto my hats into pins. I thought it was a good idea and I had been tossing that idea around for a while so, I did it. It took me all summer to get organized, knit a whole bunch of flowers, find good sturdy pin bases to sew on the back, and then put them all together. I had them for the annual Island Artisans Christmas Crafts Fair in Friday Harbor last weekend and now I'm working on getting them photographed and in my Etsy store. They're fun to make.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The cold is coming

It's cold and clear and more cold is predicted for this week and next. That means get the dahlias mulched, dig the last potatoes, mulch the carrots, dig the beets. The dahlias are particularly tender and the only way to get them through even a moderate winter is a good deep mulch. 'This way I can leave them in the same bed for three years until the plants are too big to work around and the deep mulch not only protects them from frost but suppresses weeds and feeds them. They don't get any further fertilizer than just the rotted down mulch.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Winter Marketing

Growing vegetables for a winter Farmers Market definitely has its moments. Digging parsnips in the pouring rain,
washing the mud off beets, running into the house and warming our fingers frequently by the stove.

Traveling to market by boat this time of year has its own challenges as well. We have missed only one winter market because of weather, but we've been out in some bumpy seas, and discovered that radar doesn't work all that well in the snow, but yesterday took the cake. It's been stormy and windy and rainy for weeks, but while we harvested yesterday the sun even came out for a brief moment and the wind was just slightly breezy. When we left the dock we could see dark clouds to the west over Vancouver Island but figured we'd get to Friday Harbor before they'd get to us. We were about 3/4 of the way there when it started to get really, really dark. It was late in the day but this darkness was coming from those clouds. You could still see light sky to the east but it quickly became black velvety dark where we were. And it started to pour with a bit of hail mixed in. Then big orange flashes of lightning appeared in the west beyond San Juan Island. We headed toward the shore as quick as our slow 6 knot boat could go on the theory that the land was a lot higher than we were and would draw any lightning (don't tell me that's not true). At this time the ferry came around a point behind us and into the channel to our left. The all lit up ferry is amazing in the dark at any time but at this point it looked like an apparition. The lightning kept getting closer, one strike hitting the water out beyond the ferry. As we got into the harbor itself, still creeping as close to shore as we dared, two huge blasts of lightning with no delay before the thunder cracked right overhead. It was so amazing and eerie that it was hard to actually be afraid. Tense, yes, wishing we could get a little more speed out of our boat, yes. But just the most amazing, beautiful, spooky experience I think I've ever had. When we got to the dock about 10 minutes later, the rain had stopped, the sky was clearing and a tiny moon and early stars could be seen in the west.

Our customers were very, very glad to have us there today and bought almost every vegetable we had brought. And we had a great story to tell.

Friday, November 20, 2009

More scarves

I finished scarf number two on my new warp. I decided when weaving it that I would use only the finer, 20/2 yarn to get stripes. This would look different, but would also let me really practice placing those threads evenly without having to stop for the heavier yarn block. My rhythm definitely improved and toward the end of the scarf I could hardly see any unevenness. Yay!!

When it was washed the yarns all came together nicely without any puckering and I only lost 1/2" in width. So there are two more on this warp left to weave.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Grey November Days

We have been besieged with wind and rain and typical grey November days. But when I go for my more or less daily walk the roadway still glows with color. There is always the greens of salal and evergreen, but the edges of the roads are strewn with rust colored needles and golden leaves. Most of the maples have lost their leaves but the willows are later to turn and their little tiny yellow leaves create a misty look in the woods.

I like to take a walk in the afternoon down to the beach and back, a little less than 2 miles to be outside and get the kinks out of my body. I am a pretty active sort but a lot of what I do involves hunching over a loom, or my knitting, or a weedy bed of vegetables and at the end of the day I find a good brisk walk reviving.

Today the water was grey. The wind was on the other side of the island so the waves weren't impressive on this beach but if you click on this picture to enlarge it you can see them coming around the end of Sandy Point. Out there it was rough. Not a day to go anywhere by boat.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Learning Curve

I just finished the first scarf on this warp of thick and thin checks. I've used two different weights of organic, naturally colored cotton yarn, a 6/2 yarn for the thick yarn and 20/2 for the thin yarn. This gives a gauzy effect to the squares.

However, for someone who weaves mainly rugs or other things that require hard beating to pack the weft in tightly, this project has quite a learning curve for me. The weft yarns have to be carefully placed in order to square the blocks and the fine yarn is particularly fussy about spacing. I find my neck getting a crick and my shoulders aching after a very short while of trying to get it right. I decided not to get too persnickety about about squarness at the beginning knowing that once I get the rhythm of the beating it will start to work out. If I get too obsessed about it and keep stopping to take it out it will just slow the process of getting the rhythm established. Weaving (or knitting or weeding) efficiently is to a great extent a matter or relaxing and getting into rhythm. Then things will start to look even. By the time I got to the end of the 72" first scarf I was beginning to get it. I think these are going to be pretty.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Know Your Farmer

I've just come home from spending several days in Seattle babysitting my youngest granddaughters, Iris and Charlotte. Here's Charlotte getting her first taste of delicata squash grown by Grandpa Joel. We took down lots of beets, carrots and winter squash that mom is going to turn into baby food.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Drying Peppers

Every winter we dry a bunch of Paprika Supreme peppers. These are a sweet paprika pepper with thin walls that therefore dry easily. We bring in any pepper that is showing any color and they turn a beautiful red in the house. They have no heat, just a good pepper taste. We hang the rack up above the wood stove. When they are dry we crumble them up in scrambled eggs, spaghetti sauces, stews, etc. They are great to have in the winter when there are no more fresh peppers in the garden.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


It's Halloween again. We don't trick or treat here on the island but there is always a big party. This year I was recruited to be a witch on a haunted trail. Before I left for the party I carved two Jack O Lanterns
and put them out at the end of the driveway for people driving by. It is dark here, no streetlights and few houses close to the road. The pumpkins looked great.
And after bewitching a bunch of children I came home to my favorite Halloween treat, roasted pumpkin seeds. I extract them from the pumpkin "guts", salt lightly, toast in the oven until they are crispy and eat them hulls and all. Yumm.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Grow Your Own

In all the years we have been growing vegetables for sale we have seen a lot of our favorite seeds disappear from the marketplace. They are replaced often by something that doesn't grow as well for us. The solution is to grow our own seed of varieties that are particularly valuable to us. Or, we find an unusual chard or kale or bean and want to see if we can develop that characteristic in a new strain. Above Joel is removing the seedpods from some overwintering purple sprouting broccoli. This seed is hard to find in this country as it grows best in Britain and in climates like ours which is similar.
Large seed operations need a lot of fancy equipment to clean and process seed but for a small bunch for our own use the old fashioned way of winnowing by pouring the seed and trash from one container to another in a stiff wind works just fine. The lighter bits of seedpods and stems blow away and the heavier seeds fall into the lower bucket.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Back to the Loom

It is so nice to be able to get back to weaving. I enjoy the rainy, grey days because I can stay inside with a clear conscience and weave. All summer I am too busy with the garden, with running back and forth to San Juan Island selling things, with summer guests to get much weaving done.

I have been having fun making up mug rugs, or potholders/coasters for Christmas sales. I sold out of most of the ones I made last spring so I needed to make more.

I just finished this roll of 30. They are woven from cotton flannel material, mostly leftover pieces from rugs. Now I need to cut them apart and hem them and put on labels and then we're ready to go.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Winter Squash

Yesterday Joel and I brought in about 500 lbs. of winter squash. Winter squash are a bit magical to me. You plant these little seeds or small plants in rows 6 feet apart in late spring. By the middle of summer they have spread out so that you can't see or walk between them and the vining sorts are trying to escape the garden or are wandering into the beds next to them. And you can't see whether or not they are setting any fruits. Until a frost comes in the fall and kills the plants. Then suddenly there they are all over the place. We really had no idea what a great crop we had this year. Above is one wheelbarrow full of maxima types squashes, Sweet Mamas, Sunshine, Nutty Delica. We had another one full of delicata types and pie pumpkins and one of acorn types. They'll be stored upstairs in Siri's old room and feed us and our customers all winter.
The long ones in the foreground are Long Pie pumpkins. Reputed to have come originally from the Azores in 1832, and grown for years in Maine, they are one of the best tasting pie pumpkins. Ready to harvest when there is an orange spot on the bottom, they turn a lovely pumpkin orange color in storage.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Summer Vacation

This is a little video that our daughter, Siri, made this summer using a Super 8 camera. Wanted to share it with you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

End of the Summer Garden

Well, a heavy frost last night did in the dahlias, and the zinnias and the zuchini, and the basil and marigolds and anything else that isn't doggone hardy.
We had row covers over the peppers and winter squash and their top leaves were frosted but the rest of the plants appear to be okay. Well that leaves us with the winter brassicas, carrots, beets, leeks, onions, celery, lettuce. I guess we'll be okay. But I will miss the flowers and so will our customers.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Fall foliage, ripe grapes,
apples on the trees,
ripe rosehips. It is definitely fall.

For the last several days we have seen and heard flocks of geese flying overhead to the south. They're so high it's hard to tell whether they are Canadian geese or snow geese, but that sound and sight is so beautiful. Last night I heard a flock go over in the middle of the night in the moonlight.

Monday, October 5, 2009

New Freezer

For the last several years we have been trying to figure out how to get a freezer that would run on our off the grid system where we don't have a lot of electricity to spare. Today we got a brand new Steca freezer reputed to be the most efficient 12 volt DC freezer available today. We hauled it over on the boat and tomorrow we'll get it set up and running.
And, as we are expecting a serious frost this evening, we picked the last of the basil to make pesto and put it in the freezer. We also picked over 100 lbs. of outdoor tomatoes to save them from the frost. Tomorrow we'll start making tomato sauce. We're running out of pantry space and sauce will concentrate them into fewer jars.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall Harvest Flowers

The flowers are nearly gone. This picture is from last week and I'm not sure what I'll find out there this morning. We had our first frost, a light one, on Monday morning and it has rained all week. The rain and clouds have kept frost away but have definitely battered the flowers. But then, it IS October. I can't complain. In spite of the lack of rain all summer we have had the best tomato crop ever.

This weekend is Artstock, San Juan Island's falls studio tour. I will be a guest artist at Kristy Gjesme's studio in Friday Harbor. Details are in the Artstock link at the right. I've been knitting and fulling a bunch more hats all week. This has been about my best year for hat sales, too. Go figure. It's a hot dry summer and I'm selling felted wool hats like hotcakes.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Back to Weaving

The days have been warm and sunny after last weekend's welcome rain and as I am now back home most of the time I am back to weaving. I've hardly touched the looms all summer. I spent yesterday out on the studio porch tearing up strips for potholders. I collect cotton flannel pillowcases from the thrift store as I can get a nice variety of colors particularly plaids which weave up nicely. Pillowcases are too small to mess with for rugs but for this they are perfect.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Altissimo Rose

I saw this rose at the county fair years ago and last year finally bought one. It is the most gorgeous large single red rose. It's a climber and I hope eventually to have it all over the back of the house.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall Bounty

I love Fall for its amazing bounty. This dry hot summer has created a bumper crop of tomatoes both outside and in our hoophouse. Here a few of the 70+ jars of salsa that Joel has put up. He's also canning chopped tomatoes for stews and spaghetti sauce.
One of our hoophouses is devoted to drying things. Here we have all our onions, bundles of grains and now dry beans. This year we tried two black beans for drying, black coco and black turtle. The black coco beans were a lot earlier, but the black turtle more productive. We'll probably need to grow both in the future as we can't depend on having the nice long growing season we did this year. We were moved to try growing beans for drying when we found out that it is almost impossible to find organic dry beans grown in this country. The last bag we bought was from China.
We also have a bumper crop of Italian prune plums this year. The wind storm last Saturday knocked most of them down but we still harvested lots off the tree. Tonight Joel is going to start canning some and then I will make plum jam. This is our division of labor in the family.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fair Fun

The San Juan County Fair was a month ago but when I was going through pictures I found this one and had to share. The goats have teats of rubber gloves filled with water. The kids had a great time "milking" them.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Albineers of BC

Saturday evening we once again joined the Albineers of BC for their fall get together at Roche Harbor. This time we left our boat in Friday Harbor and drove across the island to join the group as there just wasn't time after market to get there in the boat at 6 knots. We are very fond of our Albin and it's fun to see a bunch of them all together.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


We have these little green frogs all over the place. We find them in buckets, in plants, in vegetable boxes. A customer at the Farmers Market brought one back to us that she had found in a bouquet of flowers. We found it a nice place (we hope) in Friday Harbor. In the spring the frog chorus from the marsh behind the house can be deafening. These frogs on the window are two of several who have been there for the last month. They wait until night when moths come to the light in the windows and then they feast.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


It is finally really raining. Real, wet, measurable rain. We really haven't had more than occasional sprinkles since May. It has been so very, very dry. I can just feel all the plants soaking it up.

And the sheep chose the first rainy day to escape out onto the road. Thanks to friends parking their vehicles in driveways and at intersections we got them all rounded up and back home, everyone, sheep and us very wet.

Summer is over, the booth at Roche Harbor was closed on Monday and now I am going to sit in the house and knit.