Friday, December 20, 2013


We don't get snow all that often here so when we do I have to rush out and document it.  This is what we woke up to this morning.  This would normally be a harvest day for Market but knowing it was supposed to snow we did all that yesterday.  As we are harvesting mainly root crops they hold really well and won't be  hurt by the extra day.  It is supposed to turn to rain any minute now so we're enjoying it while it lasts.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


When we go to England there are several typically English foods that we have to eat: Cream teas, Ribena, (black currant juice drink), draft hard cider, fish and chips, English bacon and....marmalade.  You can get English marmalade here but you have to hunt a bit for it and there are so many more brands over there.  In the olden days before terrorists plots in shampoo bottles we used to bring back a bunch of it with us.  Now I have to make my own.

I get my bitter Seville  oranges from a place in California called Ripe to You who specializes in unique citrus varieties.  My favorite recipe is one from David Lebovitz.  I've got the first part of the first batch simmering on the stove right now.  I'm all out of last year's batch so I can't wait. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hunkered Down

 Almost every winter at some point we get a NE'er.  Arctic air from the interior of Canada flows down the Fraser Canyon and swoops down upon us with its icy blast.  We rarely every manage to get snow first as this air is very, very dry so without the snow to mulch and protect plants we have been hustling around mulching vulnerable things like the dahlias.  In this climate dahlias can't survive unprotectd but a good thick mulch of leaves has brought them through winter after winter and it is much easier than digging them.  I will dig them every 3 or 4 years as the plants get so big we can't get between them to harvest the flowers.

We also through a mulch of leaves over the last of the potatoes and several layers of Remay floating row covers over some of the carrots,
 Joel dug about 175 lbs. of beets and about 50 lbs. of our yellow carrots and put them on a pit with a foot or so of dirt over them.  That will keep them fine for several months.  He harvested a bunch of cabbages and kohlrabi and rutabagas which can be kept just fine in the greenhouse which being unheated just manages to stay above freezing in this sort of weather.  We will sell them at market this month.

Joel's Mom brought us the last bud of her Graham Thomas rose today before the cold weather killed the flower.  Such a pretty thing and it reminds us that spring will be just around the corner.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Last Day of Exploration

 Before we started out again we wanted to explore the village of Haworth a bit especially the church and parsonage, now the Bronte Museum where the Bronte sisters and family lived.  Finding out that the museum wasn't open until 11:00 Siri took off to walk as far as she could across the moors to Top Withens, the accepted site of Wuthering Heights.  As it was a 4 miles hike from the village she ended up turning around before she got all the way there.  I spent the time perusing the gift shop and book store and buying two books by Anne Bronte, a Bronte sister I was unfamiliar with, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  Both of which I have really enjoyed reading.  I plan on going through all the other Bronte books this winter as it has been way too long since I read most of them.

After we left Haworth Siri navigated us to Malham Cove another one of those wonderful limestone gorges in the area.  Up on top of the gorge was this wonderful eroded limestone pavement.   She particularly wanted to see this because part of the 1992 movie of Wuthering Heights was filmed here.  I took one look at the area and realized that a scene in the next to the last Harry Potter movie had also been filmed there and I remembered that when I was watching that movie I wondered where  in the world that scene had been filmed.

In between the limestone rocks are the most lovely little plants, ferns and wildflowers taking advantage of the shelter the stones give them.  An amazing landscape.

 Then we headed north again to what is probably my favorite part of England (do I have to choose a favorite??) the Yorkshire Dales.  This is James Herriot country where the fictional (and the actual vet who wrote the books) drove over these incredible winding steep roads to visit the isolated farmhouses in the deep dales and top of the high moors.  This country is so beautiful.  I've been here twice before the first time on my very first trip and I keep coming back.

My incentive for dragging us all the way back here to North Yorkshire was a bit part to meet Pat, a woman who I had only known through her blog, The Weaver of Grass.  She writes about the life of her and her husband who she calls the Farmer on their farm near Leyburn.  The idea of meeting these people in person was such a wonderful idea.  When I emailed Pat telling her that we were coming over and suggesting we get together for lunch or something she invited us to come to the farm and spend the night.  We were delighted.  And it was such a lovely time.  We went for a walk with the Farmer around the farm in the late afternoon and Pat cooked us a delicious dinner with lots of local food and enjoyed telling us where it came from and whose farm it was raised on.  We spent the evening talking as if we had known each other for ages.  And well, we had, through our blogs.  I love the internet and the way it has opened up the world.  I am so so much richer for it.
Thank you, Pat, and the Farmer, for your hospitality and friendship and the great dinner and breakfast and all the sandwiches you made us for the train trip back to London.  It was the perfect ending for such a perfect trip.

And then the next morning we drove our heroic car that had survived all those narrow twisty roads, steep grades, all our stuff and muddy feet and Joel's driving on the "other" side of the road to York where we left it and took the train to London.  We found our hotel not far from Kings Cross station where we came in and where we would get our train out to Gatwick the next day.  None of us really wanted to go out and see any of London so we holed up in the hotel, ate the rest of Pat's sandwiches for dinner and watched an episode of Autumnwatch on the BBC.  And then we went home.  And started dreaming about going back.  I love England.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Peak District to Bronte country

  We headed into the Peak District National Park and stopped at Winnats Pass, a steep gorge surrounded by limestone cliffs.  We drove down to the bottom of the pass  and  Joel and I walked about 2/3 of the way back up through this gate into a field full of sheep.
 Siri climbed all the way back up to the top.

We headed north through the park trying again to avoid big cities, this time Sheffield and Manchester.  I had never been in this part of the country and it was so beautiful.  The fall colors were lovely all through the trip but here we often saw larch trees in their lovely golden fall color. 
 We were headed to Haworth for the night, the town the Brontes lived in.  We passed a bit of the Rochdale Canal and decided that there was still enough daylight to stop and look at the canal boats for a little bit.  We keep dreaming of renting one and exploring some of the countryside this way.
The Haworth hostel was in a big old 19th century manor house with one of the loveliest stained glass windows I think I've ever seen, pomegranates and swallows.
Photos of the stained glass window were taken by Siri Thorson.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In search of roses

 In the morning we headed north again toward the Peak District a part of England none of had seen and were eager to explore.  First, though we stopped at the Rollright Stones.

We wanted to avoid driving through the big Midlands cities like Birmingham  so we swung west toward Shrewsbury.  Joel was driving and Siri navigating and as I don't remember a lot about this stretch of the journey I have a feeling I probably fell asleep in the back seat.  Sigh.  I can sleep at

I have loved David Austin's English roses ever since I discovered them 20 or so years ago.  I have a couple of dozen of them planted around the place and am always willing to find a spot for another one.  So since we were passing though the area where they  have a 2 acre rose garden. we knew we needed to stop.  Since it was October we didn't expect to find  much in bloom but we were very pleasantly surprised.  The gardens were beautiful with an amazing lot of flowers still in bloom.  I made a list of new ones to find a spot for next spring.  And then we went to the Tea Room for a spot of tea and lunch.

That night we spent at the hostel at Hartington Hall, a wonderful old 17th century manor house that had a 13th century wall and where Bonnie Prince Charlie was reputed to have slept.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


 The night before we were to leave Bere Regis and head north was the night of the big storm and we wondered if we would indeed be able to take off in the morning.  Luckily by morning the storm had blown itself out in our area and it was a sunny day.  Along the road we did see downed trees and there were flooded patches of road here and there but in general we didn't see too much damage.  This apple tree was in an orchard that the footpath to Cadbury Castle went through.  It had obviously gone down the night before as it looked fresh was covered with apples.  The footpath system in England is wonderful.  Public right of way footpaths go everywhere, through fields, along houses, through barnyards.  Where they cross a stone wall or fence there is often a stile or a painted section of wall to indicate that you should cross there.  That's so the farmer only has one piece of fence that needs repair from being climbed over.  Gates are to be left as found, open or closed.
Cadbury Castle is an iron age hill fort that is considered by many a likely site for Camelot.  We didn't take the time to climb the hill but we did enjoy the walk through the orchard.  Here we were not only following in the footsteps of the Arthurian legends but author Jack Whyte's wonderful Camulod series about England in the 5th century after the legions left.  We drove through Glastonbury and saw the Tor in the distance but took a wrong turn at a roundabout and decided to keep on going to Bath.
 Bath has been on my list of places to see for a long, long time.  I love stories of Roman Britain, and Jane Austen's Bath adventures.  The Roman Baths are as amazing as I thought they'd be.  The water is warm and a little smelly.  You can drink a little bit of sanitized water from a fountain but I did wonder if the sanitizing process might well take out all the virtue.  After all, Jane Austen didn't drink it  sanitized.
 We spent our first  night on the road in the hostel in Stow-on-theWold.  This is one of my favorite English towns and the third time I've been here.  It has a wonderful big market square surrounded by houses made of that lovely, lovely golden Cotswold stone.  Here the final battle of the English Civil War was fought.
When I went to England the first time 20 years ago with my friend, Alicia, I took a picture of this incredible door.  When I finally got the film developed I had no idea where it was.  This was, of course, before the internet, so I couldn't just Google the places I'd been until I found it.  When Siri and I went back 3 years later I took her to Stow-on-the-Wold just to show her some of the places I'd been before and lo and behold there was my marvelous door in the church of St. Edward.  This time I went on purpose to find it again.  Tolkien must have known about this door.  To me it looks so much like his drawing of the door to Moria. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bere Regis

 I already posted a picture of the little house we rented in Bere Regis so I thought that before we move on to other parts of the country I'd show a bit  more of the village.  The streets in many English villages are so narrow, having been built long before the advent of the automobile, that people just park on both sides of the street leaving a narrow space between the cars that you have to take turns to drive through.  You just have to look ahead to see if anyone else is coming the opposite way and pull out into a vacant space to let them pass or they do likewise for you.  I don't want to here any more complaints about parking in Friday Harbor!

This view is down the hill toward our little house, one of the village pubs is there to the left. We had dinner there one night to use the wifi and my lamb burger came with arugula (rocket) on it.  I commented to the waitress that the last time I was in England (10 years ago) I didn't find arugula all over the place.  "It's trendy", she said.  As an arugula grower that's a trend I can approve of.  Interestingly all of the salads we had in Iceland also had arugula in them.
 As we walked around the village one morning I saw this neat house with one tall blank wall and one round wall.  I wonder if at one time it was part of a bigger structure.

This part of England is Thomas Hardy country and Bere Regis was featured as the town of Kingsbere in Tess of the D'Urbervilles.  The church was were the D'Urberville family was buried.  We went through and all around it one morning and had a nice talk with the Vicar.  The church dates back to Saxon times and there is a bit a wall with the remains of Saxon stonework.  From there on the church as added onto century by century until it reached it's current size in the 19th century. The walls are made up of courses of stone and small blocks of flint.  For more information and pictures look here.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The New Forest and Badbury Rings

 The New Forest is one of the places I've longed to visit in England.  I've read Edward Rutherford's The Forest, and many of Gladys Mitchell's mysteries that take place there and I wanted to see it for myself.  It is "new" in the sense that William the Conqueror named it Nova Foresta in 1086.  It was a Royal hunting forest and deer park.  Today "commoners", those who have the right of the Commons, still run their ponies, pigs and cows in the Forest along with 5 varieties of deer.
 The ponies and pigs have right of way in the towns and villages and heaths that make up the Forest.
 We stopped in Lyndhurst, in the middle of the Forest and the administrative center for the Forest, and found a small Farmers Market just ending.  There was one young woman left with pork products including bacon.  She said it came from one of the 70 pigs they have running in the forest.  The pigs eat the acorns which are poisonous to the ponies.  It was delicious.
 We also drove through a lot of very narrow single track roads on our route.  This is pretty typical,  either hedges or stone walls on either side and pullouts for when you meet another car.  The hedges actually start a foot or two above the road bed as these are really old roads and have been worn down since the hedges were originally planted.
On that same day we visited Badbury Rings a beautiful ancient hillfort.  In the back is the Beech Avenue planted  in 1835 as an anniversary present to Lady Bankes by Lord Bankes.  It's a mile long and was the main driveway to their manor of Kingston Lacey. Some of the trees are beginning to die from simple old age and are being replaced by the National Trust.

On the way back it began to rain and blow from the big storm that was brewing in southern England.  By the time we got back to Bere Regis the weather was pretty awful and we weren't sure if we could indeed leave in the morning as we had planned.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Day 2 in Dorset

There was a little local newspaper in the Dorset house that mentioned a Forage Fair on the Isle of Purbeck where we had decided to spend our second day so we went to check it out.  It was pouring down rain but the car park was full to overflowing and people were pouring out of their cars, donning their rain gear and putting up their umbrellas.  I guess the Brits don't let a little rain stop them.  People were demonstrating bronze age ore smelting techniques as seen in the picture above, sword fighting, dry stone wall techniques.  In spite of the rain it was fun.  We had a roasted deer sandwich for lunch and I talked to the RSPB person a bit about my favorite ospreys.
Then we moved on to Corfe Castle an impressive ruin on top of a tall hill.  Once it was apparently whitewashed during the reign of King John and must have been truly impressive.  Like a lot of the ruins in Britain this one was blown up during the Civil War in the 17th century.
We walked about a mile over a windswept hill to Old Harry Rocks, beautiful chalk cliffs. 

The Isle of Purbeck isn't really an island but rather a peninsula south of Poole Harbor. It's famous for the quarries that produce Purbeck marble.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Playng Catch Up

 Having spent two glorious weeks away from home wandering around foreign countries and...having two big craft fairs coming up at the end of the month I have been spending a lot of time chained to my loom since we got home.  I've finished weaving a batch of red and blue potholders which have yet to have their hems sewn up,
and am currently weaving two warps of organic colorgrown cotton tea towels in a huck lace pattern.  I hope to get 20 towels finished and ready for the fairs by Thanksgiving.  Might even make it as I wove 5 of them today.  15 more to go but if I can keep up that pace I'll make it with a couple of days to sit around and do nothing before Thanksgiving.

I'll shortly be back to blogging about the trip.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On to Dorset

 We met up with Siri at Gatwick airport in London.  She had flown in from New York via Dublin.  We picked up our car, a Vauxhall Meriva, which was our magic carpet for the next week.  When the woman at the car rental counter heard what our plans were, to drive from Dorset to North Yorkshire via the back roads, she recommended that we rent a diesel.  A little more per day but much better fuel mileage.  That little car took all 3 of us and our luggage in comfort, handled the windey roads and steep grades without complaint and got 50 mpg.  Can't complain.

Joel took a deep breath and plunged into the traffic leaving Gatwick on the...."other" side of the road.  Siri and I were very still except for an occasional quiet chant of "keep left, keep left".  He managed to get us to our little house in Bere Regis in Dorset without incident although I think he was definitely in need of that pint of cider we had with dinner.

The little house that Siri had found for us was a delight.  Formerly a corner store it had two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and a comfy sitting room and kitchen down.  We spent 4 nights there in lovely comfort.
 The idea of renting a house for a number of days was so that we could explore the surrounding countryside and have a place to come home to.  So on Friday we started exploring the Dorset coast at Lulworth Cove.  It's a quiet almost circular bay with a narrow opening to the ocean.  Above it on the hills is a long neolithic hill fort.  People have thought that the cove offered a nice sheltered haven for thousands of years.
 Nearby is Durdle Door.  Joel and Siri hiked and slid down the bank to the little beach that was covered in agates.  Me??  Well, I have a sort of gimpy knee and decided that putting it out on the first day of the trip probably wasn't too wise so I sat at the top of the hill admiring the view.

Along the trail down to the beach were these wild brassicas, ancestors of all our cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, and kale.
 Further west is the town of Lyme Regis famous for its beaches where wonderful fossils are found.  If you don't know anything about the Lyme Regis fossils or Dorset's Jurassic Coast I recommend you read Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures.  We had fantasies about finding a fossil or two on the beach but the tide was high and wind ferocious so I settled for buying this charming example at the Lyme Fossil Shop.

We also fulfilled another of our England trip requirements, a cream tea at a little shop there.  Scones, strawberry jam, Devon cream and tea. 

Then back to Bere Regis and dinner and a pint and free wi-fi at the local pub.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Journey's Start - Reykjavik

Okay, we're back.  Jet lag from following the sunset all the way back from Iceland is finally wearing off, our internet is back up after Joel climbed up the tree with the antenna and twisted the broken wire back together.  San Juan County isn't so lucky.  Last Tuesday an underwater fiber optics cable broke in 280 feet of water cutting off internet, land line phones and most cell phones.  It wasn't until Friday that a patched together network returned the internet.  Phones are still a bit wonky, I hear.  Out here in the outer islands we have had less impact other than not being able to call most numbers in the county.  We at least could call the mainland.

So I am gathering my wits to start to write a bit about our adventures.  We sat in our hotel room looking at each other and not believing that we were really and truly in Iceland.  Jet lag definitely added to the sense of unreality.  Our hotel, Center Hotel Skjalbreid was sweet.  An older building, small charming, pleasant on a great street full of neat little shops.  Here's Joel in front of the hotel.  The door was obscure enough that in the dark we kept walking right by it.
 The breakfast room was light and airy and being on the third floor had a view out over the rooftops of Reykjavik.

 We only had two days and those days are short this time of year so we spent most of the time wandering about the city enjoying the sights, the city pond with it's population of whooper swans, greylag geese and mallards, the stony waterfront, and the beautiful Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral.  And shopping for Christmas presents.  I love to bring a little piece of our adventure back to the family at home.
We did get out of the city the first night on a tour looking for the northern lights.  In spite of the fact that it was so cloudy we never saw them we have to admit we had fun driving around the countryside in the total dark while our tour guide regaled us with descriptions of the landscape and sights we couldn't see.  We could see a bank of greenhouses heated and lighted by the geothermal energy that Iceland is determined to use to produce 90% of its energy needs.  And as we drove by one of the geothermal plants we could definitely smell it.  The hot springs the water is coming from are definitely sulphuric.

The tour did deposit us at the Vatnsholt bed and breakfast hotel where we wandered around in the dark hoping the clouds would part.  The hotel dining room was open to warm us up and were serving tea, coffee, hot chocolate, beer, wine, vodka and waffles.  We did see one Icelandic pony looking over a fence wondering what was going on and enjoyed the farm dogs who wandered around visiting with the 200 or so people on the 4 buses who had suddenly appeared in their midst.  On the way back to town we were told that since we didn't see the northern lights that nights our tickets were good for 2 more years and we could try again.  Enough to entice us to go back.

 It was neat to wander around listening to everyone speak Icelandic.  Most everyone also spoke English any time we had a question.  We had dinner at a couple of nice restaurants eating local food, vegetables grown in the greenhouses and whale steaks.

And then it was get up at 3:30 AM to catch the plane to London to meet Siri and continue the adventure in England.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fly Away

Just recently two Great Blue Herons flew over the farm and landed in a tree. we are about to fly off on an adventure of our own.  We are going to spend 2 days in Iceland and then on to
England with daughter, Siri, to wander around for a week or so ending up in Yorkshire to meet a couple of farmers who I know through her blog  I promise to post pictures as soon as we are back. We are so excited.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Change of Hats

 This time of year things slow down outside on the farm.  Getting a good winter garden requires quite a bit of hustle in the middle of summer, getting the plants started, finding bare ground to plant them out in, keeping them watered and weeded.  But now, in October the Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, chard, and overwintering broccoli and cauliflowers are growing nicely, and don't need to be weeded or watered.  We just harvest before each winter market day.

So I can take off my gardening hat and put on my weaving hat.  I often tell people that I weed in the summer and weave in the winter.  Christmas craft fairs are coming up fast and my stock is, as usual, depleted from summer sales so I need to get busy.  I've made one batch of 14 rag placemats in reds and golds
 and started on a second batch on a blue and yellow green warp.  The first ones were woven with blue fabric and i just started a set with yellow.  Then more potholders, scarves, tea towels. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Seed Saving in the Fall

Fall has fallen and along with harvesting squash and beans onions, readying the garden for winter it's time we think about saving seeds from some of the plants we are growing.  We save seed for a variety of reasons.  Some seed just saves itself like the ornamental amaranth that has seeded itself all over the place.  We call it feral amaranth.  This time of year when most of the flowers are over with we can still harvest beautiful big stalks of it.  And the birds love the seeds.  So all summer we weed around as much of it as we can.
 Some seed gets saved in the process of growing the crop.  Like beans where the crop is the seeds.  We measure out enough seed to plant next year before we even start thinking about making chili.  With a crop like this once you've started growing it you don't need to buy seed again.
We also often save seed from varieties that have been deleted from seed catalogues.  For one reason or another the growers of commmercial seeds will decide to replace one variety with another.  The new variety may or may no be a better choice for our particular garden site, our micro climate.  When that happens we hope we have enough seed left to grow a seed crop so we can keep growing that particular cabbage or kale or chard.

Sometimes there is an unusual plant that crops up in a planting.  This year there's a gorgeous hot pink/purple chard that I'd love to grow more of.  Because chard is wind pollinated and we want to save seed from our regular strain I'm going to see if a friend will let me transplant the purple chard to her garden to keep it from cross pollinating with any other beet or chard.

Sunday, June 30, 2013


 The new Farmers Market building, Brickworks, is finally finished and open.  We moved our booth inside last weekend and we love it.  The building is beautiful and on a hot summer day it is cool with a great breeze and the lettuce doesn't wilt.

Our daughter, Siri, has come home for the summer and we have turned the flower side of the business over to her as she is so very good at it.  She makes beautiful bouquets.

 I love the low window sills behind our booth space and have been filling them with hats.
It's just such a beautiful space and we are so grateful to everyone who donated money and time and energy to make this project happen.  Do check out the link above for more information about the project.  And also this article from one of the neighbors