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Autumn has arrived

Now that the weather forecast predicts nighttime temperatures of 36 this week, I feel that I can embrace autumn and all that comes with.

And it’s October already, how did that happen?

Fall is my very favorite time of year.  Maybe it’s seeing all of our hard work come to fruition (farmer pun) and our larders and root cellars chock full of good food stored for the winter.  Maybe it’s the changing scenery and beautiful foliage.  Or perhaps it is the return of KNITTING SEASON!

Or really, craft season.  The spring and summer just aren’t the time for crafts in my world. I’m too busy, and there isn’t a pressing reason–like a holiday–to work on things.  But fall and winter….it’s more like you have to find a reason not to work on a craft project.

In a couple of weeks we leave for Barter Faire. I’ve mentioned this event in the past, but this faire is a really special time of year for my family.  We’ve been attending since 1998 and it has become an integral part of our yearly economy.  This year, I’m hoping to trade some of my handmade goods for a few gallons of honey, our winter’s supply of shallots (10 pounds), 50 pounds of storage onions, and holiday gifts.  You can find out more about the faire here: http://www.okanoganfamilyfaire.net/

In the meantime, I have lots of things to make and do.  It’s interesting how the seasons even effect my yarn making. In addition to color preferences, I also just do some of the work differently. I was considering this yesterday when hanging up the wool to dry on the garden fence.  In the summer, I hang it outdoors and it dries within 3-6 hours.  In the winter, I hang it near the woodstove and it dries within 3-6 hours.  But in fall and spring, I don’t always have a fire and it often rains or is cool outside…so dyeing and drying and blocking are planned around the weather forecast.  In the winter, dyeing is planned around cold temperatures, as our water often freezes for weeks on end.

Yesterday my yarn looked like this:

 

A few days ago, I had my first day as a Pike Place Market vendor in Seattle. While my sales were a bit low, I will say that I’ve never experienced such a warm welcome from other vendors at any other market or event. They were very nice and encouraging. I’m hoping to make it down 3-4 times a month through the end of the year, but we’ll see. I keep meeting these artists who make all of their income through Pike Place but it is difficult to imagine given my products (which appeal to a small percentage of shoppers) and the 4.5-5 hour daily drive time.  I do love the idea of being a Pike Place vendor and it is kind of crazy to imagine a day or two each week in the CITY.

I have lots more to write, but with food preservation and yarn looming…I just want to add that our farm has an Etsy shop! We are offering garlic (winter storage as well as seed) and a special seed packet listing.  All proceeds will benefit our seed distro program, which offers free heirloom, organic seed to schools, food banks, community gardens, and other organizations.  Check it out here!

PS-school is going well!

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Shameless Promotion

Just a quick post about a couple of awesome promotions.  I’m offering a couple of coupon codes for quantity purchases:

New and exciting sale! August is the perfect time to stock up on yarn for fall knitting projects. Use the coupon codes for big discounts on large quantities. $15 off purchases over $100, or $40 discount on anything over $200. These can be used with my Buy 6 Get 1 Free Promotion–you could order 6 @$20 for $120 plus a free skein…with the discount you’d be essentially getting 7 skeins of yarn for $105 (savings of $35!). Codes are STOCKUP for $15 off $100+, or STOCKUP2 for $40 off $200+. Not for use with bulk listing or club memberships please.

And…I have a few more spots in my August yarn clubs!  For $62, get your choice of an autumn themed handspun or sock yarn delivered to your door in September, October, and November. Plus a lovely pattern or two, and a coupon code for members only! Sock or Handspun

And I’ll be posting some new listings this weekend in my Etsy shop-be sure to check them out!

Jam and DamNation

Food preservation is a big part of my life. I helped the ladies in my family make jam (no water bath only paraffin, ugh) and other preserves as a kid and young adult, and I’ve been doing it independently for the past 22 years.

I love that my life is so intimately connected to the seasons and my land base.  My history with food preservation tells the story of my life: where  I live, who I live with, what I eat, what I do.  22 years ago I was making freezer jam in an apartment in Seattle with my husband and little baby.  19 years ago I was making real jam and canned salsa for the first time. Two cases of jam seemed like a lot at that time, because it was just two adults with a little toddler. My food choices were much more about prices than politics.

Over the next few years, my food preservation practices changed a great deal.  I moved to a stone cottage in the middle of the woods with no electricity or running water, and although our garden at that time was fairly wee, we had more time than money and spent many hours foraging for food. Huckleberry jam, oregon grape preserves, and more blackberries than we could eat.  We experimented with our root cellar and learned how to use it more effectively: carrots in sand work great, carrots in sawdust work well too but cedar sawdust+carrots=cedarcarrots.  As our garden grew and we relied on our foraging efforts, we could no longer ignore the difference in quality and nutrition in the food we grew/harvested vs the food we could afford to purchase in the grocery store.  This, along with a few other key observations, led us to shift more toward food choices that were political or ideological in nature, rather than merely affordable.  Unfortunately for us, our budget didn’t increase and so my savvy as a smart shopper had to grow so that we could enjoy the quality of food we felt was best.

And our ethics around lifestyle changed as well.  In those early days we had to carry each gallon of water by hand 1000 feet from the creek or spring, the value of every drop of water became apparent. We realized that, even when available, paying to store food by freezing isn’t really sustainable for us. From a purely economic standpoint, it makes more sense to preserve food in a manner which doesn’t include a monthly bill.  And as we became more connected to the world around us, we confirmed our commitment to decrease our level of consumption.  There are four hydroelectric dams within a 40 minute drive from our home. These dams are promoted as being much “cleaner” than coal, and perhaps there is something to that. But they certainly have had and continue to have a massive impact on our local environment. (*A good friend, and founding member of our farm is featured in a really lovely movie called DamNation-watch it!)  I wish that every small community or neighborhood or household was responsible for creating and maintaining their own electrical grid.  When you are connected, you are conscious. And you make decisions and choices which reflect that consciousness. When I carried that water every day, I was conscious of it’s value, my usage, and how my usage may affect the source.  When you have to haul, chop, stack, and build a fire to heat your home…you understand the value and without a lot of consideration it becomes much easier to use what you actually need rather than what you may want or desire.  Although it would be convenient, and although I could afford to store bushels of food in a freezer, I am conscious of the fact that each frozen bag of blueberries directly contributes to our dwindling salmon run.  It’s not a perfect system–some foods can be sun dried in our climate, but not many.  I’m just choosing to try for a reduction by drying fruit in a dehydrator for 6 hours instead of running a freezer for 6 months.

Over the years I’ve really been able to create more of an efficient and precise system.  I stopped making cases of plum jam, because my family just doesn’t like it as much as they do the other varieties.   Some foods are only enjoyed seasonally—aside from being nutritionally inferior, we’re just not big fans of canned vegetables, so we eat corn like crazy for one awesome month each year. (THIS IS THE MONTH!!!)  Some preferences ebb and flow–I stopped making pickled beets for a few years until we all remembered how much we enjoy them.  I found that canning at least four cases of crushed tomatoes in quarts means that we don’t have to buy canned tomato products during the year.  And that more is not necessarily better-we now consume about 75% of what we preserve each season, which means that we aren’t stuck with eating 3 year old jam all of the time.  It also seems that just when I really got into the swing of things, my family size changed.  For some years, there were always other families with little kids around so I wound up preserving more because we fed a lot of people. Then our girls grew older, and we found teen boys or young men sharing meals with us (hint-they eat a lot).  And now I’m finding that my family size is shrinking a bit, and in a few short years I’ll be putting up food just for Robert and I.  How strange.

But for now, although our needs are shrinking…I still have my hands full.  By the end of the season, I’ll have processed about:

150 pounds of tomatoes; 250 pounds of apples; 350 pounds of misc fruit (blueberries, aronia, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, plums etc) ; 40 pounds of cabbage; 100 pounds of misc vegetables; 75 pounds of mushrooms…just under 1000 pounds of food!

Protocols for food safety have changed over the years, and through my work for WSU I’ve learned new strategies. I’m trying a new (to me) sauerkraut weight system right now, and I’m excited to try water bath canning pickles at a lower temperature-perhaps I’ll finally be able to make a crunchy pickle.  I’m also learning more about substitutions in recipes.  And yesterday I tried a lovey new thing: layered two tone jam.  The bottom is a seedless blackberry jam, topped with peach and nectarine preserves.  So beautiful!

And oh yes, I’m gearing up for the fall yarn season.I have a few spots left in the Autumn Yarn Clubs-reserve your spot here and here.

 

AND I AM STARTING SCHOOL IN SEPTEMBER!!!

It’s raining.  Quite a lot. And it is cold.  Not exactly typical weather for July but I will confess that I am a great admirer of such weather.  Latitude wise, I’m at 48 which puts me a couple of degrees further south than my ancestors who were primarily of the Irish/Scot variety.  I love a good blustery day.  Even on the fourth of July.

I’m in the middle of my summer camp season at Whatcom Community College and I’m just gearing up for the final big session. I design and write curriculum for a variety of day camps and have offered these at a wide range of venues over the past 15 years. Since I love stories, my favorite type of camps are inspired by a particular series or story theme.  Through hands on activities, I create an environment where those stories come alive.  I’ve offered a Middle Earth camp where students made the lights of Mirkwood and a scale model of a hobbit home using earth, clay, wood, moss…  In King Arthur camp we learn about the middle ages by making curds and whey, create our own crest and shield, and hold a bardic competition.  Pioneer Camp is inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder and in addition to learning many new crafty and practical skills, students come away with a better appreciation for modern amenities and often some critiques on our modern lifestyle.  Last week was Camp Halfblood, inspired by Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series in which we learn about the Olympians through activities inspired by the gods.

Next week is my most popular camp, Hogwarts Satellite School.  When our oldest daughter (now 22) was 6, we read the first Harry Potter book to her and she absolutely believed that she would be getting her letter and leaving us for greater things.  I thought about this for a while. In the magical world, what about kids who lived too far away from a school to attend?  Were there homeschooled witches and wizards? So I created a program based on the premise that I was a professor who offered a short course for magical kids who lived too far from Hogwarts, providing a 3-5 day intensive so that they could continue their magical studies at home throughout the year.

Since that time, I’ve taught this course to thousands of children.  We study most of the subjects offered at Hogwarts, and we learn real magic.  We study ethnobotany and our potions aren’t sparkly fizzy drinks but real tonics, tinctures, infusions, and salves made with real herbs.  We learn the Elder Futhark, a runic alphabet. We study arithmancy and divination.  It’s pretty amazing actually.

And…I realized a fun fact a few years ago.  We had the opportunity to buy our stone cottage about 12 years ago, but we had but a short time to come up with the cash. Granted, it was a very small amount of money for a house, but a large amount of money for us.  My husband was already working full time and I was working part time to cover our expenses, so I felt that I was the best candidate to come up with that extra money.  I started booking Hogwarts camps and classes, but wasn’t entirely sure how many I’d need to teach since my income is mostly based on enrollment.  In 8 weeks I’d made over 12k teaching Hogwarts.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that we bought ourselves a little castle by teaching Hogwarts.

Since this is a yarn blog, I should probably mention it at least once. I have only two events that I typically participate in during the spring/summer.  Crafty Wonderland offers a one day show in Portland.  Urban Craft Uprising offers a two day show in Seattle.  Summer is not a good time to sell wool, and Portland has this habit of exhibiting record breaking temperatures on the day of the show.  This time around, I was hawking wool in 101 degree weather!  To be honest, I kind of expect just break even or even to lose money at these shows (with booth fee, travel, time, materials) and I mostly apply to them because I want the organizers to include me in the winter shows which are AMAZING.  However, some lucky star was shining on me in Seattle and I was the only yarn vendor at Urban Craft Uprising!  My sales were surprisingly robust. And…I also got to see and visit with a few customers who have become these dear friends that I only get to see a few times each year.

I am still not at my goal of pattern writing for the year.  I’m planning some knitting time in August though!

But for now, some photos of farm and fiber…and kids camps!

I’ve just wrapped up some yarn club memberships, and have openings for a few more.  I’ll be offering a quick sale with big savings, so act quickly! Limited to the first three customers!

sale yarnarchy

Click on the link for more information!

6 Month Sock

6 Month Handspun

12 Month Sock

12 Month Handspun

6 Month Art

(To choose a “half and half”, which means alternating months of handspun and sock yarns, just purchase the 6 or 12 option and let me know you’d like that option via Etsy message)

Spring is for growth and change.  I think I’m doing a pretty good job of celebrating that this year.  But I’m also prone to biting off more than I can chew, so we’ll have to see how this all plays out.

I’m sorting, purging, and cleaning of course. I spent three weeks with a stupid back injury from some ridiculously mundane activity and haven’t been able to do a normal spring clean and it has been DRIVING ME CRAZY.  I’m going against my nature and trying NOT to make up for lost time but rather pace myself and be content with small victories.  Ugh. Small victories suck. I want ACTION!

So, I completed cleaned and sorted my file cabinet.  Who still has tax returns from 1996? This girl did.  I also had manuals for appliances purchased 15 years ago-even if I still have the appliance, I confess that there have only been 2 times in the last TWENTY YEARS that I actually have needed to look at a manual. And yet I saved them all.  Not anymore!

One really neat thing that I found was a bunch of my writing.  For several years before I began this blog, I had another one with quite a bit more traffic.  It was….more colorful than this one.  I generally try to keep this pretty tame, but the other was full of personal information and a bit of scandalous behavior.  I wrote a lot between 2001-2006, and it was neat to see some of that work.  I also found a bunch of my old zines.  For those who aren’t familiar with the term, they are a low cost publication, often in black and white, sometimes created by an individual and other times with a group. They can be a single publication but are often published as a series.

Anyway, I found some of my old zines and it was interesting to look through them. I’ve decided to publish them as e-books here.

I’m also sorting through other areas of my home.  I have a lot of cool stuff. Not as much cool stuff as my mother, but since many of my cool things are hand-me-downs from her house, I still have some neat things.  If you like antique oddities.  She most recently gave me a box of old books-one on Eugenics from 1904 which, at quick glance, has little to do with racism and more to do with how to feed your baby so that it doesn’t have “fits”, like…bonafide daily convulsions which were apparently commonplace 112 years ago.

DSCF6419

She also gave me a complete set of first edition Foxfire books, including the one with my husband’s grandparents in it.

I love old things.

Yesterday I scored a couple of neat old things.  A vintage suitcase (the one on top) to go with my collection.  I use them in my studio to store all of my supplies (2nd photo), and I need a few more for my Pike Place Market display.

But my big score yesterday was a 1936 Figidaire.  We’re going to repaint it and have to replace the handle (right now we’re opening it with a screwdriver) but it seems to be going strong and keeping things cold at 80 years old.

 

I’ve been in this appliance quandary and am glad to have it settled.  As you may know, our household has access to about 10 amps of electricity (most U.S. homes have 200).  We seem to do just fine with this, but it does require consideration for new purchases.  It’s not as if we couldn’t have more…we could upgrade the lines and put in bigger power, but this self-imposed limit is a good thing for us.  It’s a good thing for everyone.  And since we heat with wood, cook with gas or wood, use an outdoor bath tub, and do our washing at the laundromat…the refrigerator is probably our biggest electricity draw.   In case you were wondering, our electric bill is about $15 per month. We have a small (about 3.7 cubic feet) refrigerator which we purchased new about 5 years ago and is already a piece of junk.  It’s the 3rd one we’ve owned in the past 12 years.  Supposedly, refrigerators made prior to the late 1940s rival today’s energy efficient ones and from what I’ve read…the slightly larger one (4.7 cubic feet) we’ve just purchased will use the same amount that we’re using.  And it’ll match our 1920s green and cream cookstove perfectly.

FYI, no home we visited in Europe had even an apartment sized fridge.  They were all in the 3-4 cubic foot range.  Even for families.  Even houses in rural areas.

Okay, back to more new stuff.  I PASSED MY ENTRANCE EXAMS AND WAS ACCEPTED INTO COLLEGE!  That’s really the biggest news.  I’m going back to finish my teaching degree. Because of my schedule and location, I wanted an online program with a lot of flexibility but a good reputation and accreditation.  I think this one will work. It is competency based, which may allow me to move more quickly through some courses since I have years of teaching experience.

The reason for going back to school?  Earning a degree is important to me, but looking ahead I’ve realized that I can’t keep up this level of yarn production. I may choose to partner with another spinner (if my daughters are reading this, I’m looking at YOU!) or even start over with yet another fiber business.  But, I’m thinking that it would be good for me to have a backup plan and that could be substitute teaching. While I don’t see myself working full time in a public school, the local districts need help and working a couple of days a week might pair nicely with a fiber business. Or social security.

The other idea is that it might allow me to travel.  I’m not too keen on teaching English in Asia, but I might be interested in teaching 3rd grade in Scotland for a year.

And who knows? What I’d really like to do is to design curriculum. I mean, I already do this…but am hoping that having a degree might allow me to better market myself and perhaps I could find work if I’m a certified teacher.

So yeah. Big news.

At this moment, I’ve got way too much on my plate and I’m trying to sort out which thing will have to go.  School, yarn business online with occasional events, yarn business as a Pike Place Vendor, part time health and nutrition program coordinator at Washington State University, teaching summer quarter for kids academic enrichment program (ala Hogwarts) at a local community college, Finney Farm education outreach, farming, homeschooling my soon to be 15 year old.  I can’t complain about having too many options, but I’m going to have to spend some time in the next few months sorting out my game plan, since I’m set to being school in the fall.

And finally, as a reward for getting through this long winded post, I’ll post some food porn and a recipe for MAPLE BLOSSOM FRITTERS. Which are amazing.

To make them, collect new blossoms and shake them off a bit in case they contain any little critters. Mine didn’t, but I guess it’s possible.  Make the fritter batter (simple vegan and gluten free recipe below) and dredge the blossoms in it.  Dredging is a culinary term mostly used for dry coatings, but the process is the same…you don’t need to really immerse but rather drag the blossom through the batter. I used a fork laid across the blossom as I was pulling it out to remove extra batter.  Fry in oil. I had intended to do some as savory treats with a homemade chutney or sauce but wound up coating all of the ones in this batch in powdered sugar.  Which was amazing.

4-6 cups blossoms
2 cups flour (I used half gluten free flour mix and half rice flour)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp corn starch
2 cups cold  water
vegetable oil
powdered sugar

And finally…coupon code for free shipping at www.yarnarchy.etsy.com
SPRINGSHIPPING

Persephone is here!

Spring!

I attempted to find a really compelling quote about this lovely season but nothing seemed to suit. Didn’t do justice.  It is an amazingly beautiful day, bright and glorious with an amazing soundtrack of spring-bird song, bees, hummingbirds, and so many frogs!

I think this spring is particularly full of new beginnings for me.  I was accepted as a craft vendor at Pike Place Market and will be there with baskets of yarn later this month.  With a two hour drive each way, it’s a bit of a commitment and my overhead is higher than I’d like but I’m hoping that it may develop into a dependable source of income.  While I can’t imagine it ever becoming a full-time gig, it’s important for me to expand my selling platforms.  Etsy was wonderful for the first 6 years or so but become much too big, Crafty Wonderland and Urban Craft Uprising and other events are amazing but at some point I know won’t be accepted into those shows.    I’d love to have a once or twice a week gig at Pike Place as a way to keep from being overly dependent on a particular platform.

Speaking of Crafty, I’ve been accepted into the Summer Show!

And…I think I’m going back to school to finish my teaching degree.  More on that later, but I’ve actually applied and am hoping of a start date in August or September.  It’s a pretty big deal for me. A really big deal.

Seriously folks, today is so flipping beautiful. Here are a few photos which don’t begin to do it justice:

To celebrate spring, all Etsy orders placed in April will receive bonus seed packages.  Organic, open pollinated, heirloom seeds grown by our farm. Orders of $50 or less will receive three packages (value of $10), $51-$100 will receive 5 packages (value of $16.65), and anything over $100 will receive 8 packages (value of $26.65).