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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!

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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!!!

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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!

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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)

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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).

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Dear Readers,

While I may not exactly be current with all of my goals, I have already posted more often in the first three months of 2016 than I did all of last year. And I’ve been making more things! Sweaters even! And reworking and posting a pattern!

I think that making 50-100 hats and 35-50 pairs of fingerless gloves each year has been sucking the life out of my knitting. The only thing fun about production knitting is speed, otherwise it is BORING. I’m finding that it is pretty wonderful to prioritize my own projects above salable items.

It is difficult for me to find time for knitting complex projects, mostly because I don’t seem to have a lot of quiet alone time at this point in my life. Some things, like Violet’s pair of fingerless gloves (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/police-box-mittens) which require a chart for stranded colorwork…while the project is small and really not difficult, do require ongoing concentration. So those project have to be taken out on special occasions. I mostly try to find a happy medium. A little thinking.  A little more commitment.

Last weekend I attended an environmental law conference at the University of Oregon in Eugene. We’ve been going to this for the past 8-10 years. It runs Thurs-Sun with mostly 90 minute time slots during which there are 10-15 different panels and workshops available. Some are really geared toward attorneys and law students but many are accessible to a range of attendees. We learned about the hidden environmental impact of the internet (spoiler: worse than you’d ever imagine), ecology of the prison complex, anti-civ movements, corporate and government surveillance methods, youth activism, indigenous peoples and their role in the environment, and much more. This was Violet’s first time at the conference, and she particularly liked the Know Your Rights training presented by the Civil Liberties Defense Center and the keynote address by the Raging Grannies group.  Our farm brings seeds to this event, and we distributed over 1200 packages to participants at no charge.

I find that copious amounts of knitting are a requirement for events like this. With a 6 hour drive time each direction, and hours upon hours of sitting during presentations, I totally rely on knitting to keep me focused. I’m always a bit torn over which project(s) to bring because it has to be big but kind of mindless so that I can concentrate on the presentations and speakers. This time, I brought one of the Bundles of Bliss from my Etsy shop inventory and made another Bliss Wrap (and a couple of smaller items as well). Here are some photos of the more recent one, and my personal wrap that I’ve been wearing for the past several winters:

 

These wraps are super easy to make but still interesting because the yarn is just so nice. It’s really one of those “let the yarn do the work” sorts of projects.

Cast on (long tail or some stretchy method) 100 stitches with a size 10 circular needle using the bulky merino wool yarn. This will make a wrap about 22 inches wide (flat, or 44 around), although it can stretch another 10 inches or more. These measurements are from a finished wrap that has not been blocked.

Knit two rows with the bulky wool. At the beginning of the next round, switch to the mohair boucle or the bamboo handspun yarn and knit one round. Switch to a different yarn at the next round. Continue in this manner until the wrap is about 18 inches long (unless you’d like it to be shorter or longer).

I would suggest not using the mohair for more than one or two rows at a time because of the integrity of the yarn. However, I have also seen wraps made with the yarn in stripes and it does seem to hold up just fine.

If you think this may be too loose to sit around your arms or shoulders, you may reduce by knitting two stitches together every 10-12 stitches for one round. Continue knitting in the normal manner for 3-6 more rows, then cast off.

I prefer a stretchy cast off (here’s a link to a video using one method http://blog.expressionfiberarts.com/2014/04/29/how-to-easily-work-jenys-surprisingly-stretchy-bind-off/) .

If you knit the wrap to at least 14 inches, you should be able to loop it twice around your neck and pull one layer up over your head for a hood which will cover your neck and top of shoulders.

If you use a Yarnarchy Bundle of Bliss, you will have yarn left over. Quite a lot. Possibly enough for two slightly shorter wraps. If you use this to knit a throw, it should knit up to at least 35×45 if you block it.

Note: you can download a printable PDF of the pattern for free on Ravelry here:

Here are a couple of projects hot off the blocking board-both made with Yarnarchy handspun. The 6 month size baby sweater is made with one skein (100 yards) plus another 25 yards of black single ply worsted.  The purple project will be a really sweet cowl with quite a lot of buttons, but I couldn’t wait to post a photo. This project is made using about 2/3 of one of my handspun kits.

And finally….spring sale goes through the end of March!

To cure your winter blues, to encourage the coming of spring, and in celebration of all things Irish (St. Patrick’s Day on the 17th and my own birthday on the 19th!), I will offer a fantastic March sale. Green or Spring themed colorways will be offered at 10% off of the normal price during the month of March.

Happy Spring!

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