Monday, December 1, 2014

The BeeHive Hat Family

 And.....   The BeeHive Was Born!

It's been a long time since I've posted anything to my blog, but not because I haven't thought about it.

As a sort of test to get me going again, I decided to post an entry with my new pattern for sale on Ravelry.  I've been churning out hats during the past year or so.  I just can't seem to knit enough of them!  At the encouragement of many of my knitting friends, I decided to write up some patterns.  After all, I can't knit ALL the hats, so perhaps it's a good idea to give others the tools to knit their own.

If you buy my pattern, you will open a tool box containing 5 (FIVE!) hat patterns, all extremely popular with my customers.  You'll get:

The Rapunzel Stocking Hat:

The Grizzled Wizard Stocking Hat:

Lot's of fun, this one!

 The BeeHive Slouchy Beanie:



and The BeeHive Pointy Beanie, too:


 Plus, a BeeHive Cloche, as well (not pictured in this post).

I've worked really hard on these patterns, to make them easy to use, fun to wear, and reasonably priced.  I hope you like them as much as I do, and my kids, and my husband, and their friends, and my customers, and on and on and on...

For some reason, everybody loves this hat!  Now, you can love it if you want to, too.  Thanks for reading, and here's a link:

 The BeeHive Hat Family Pattern

Friday, November 11, 2011 - The Magic of Eleven

Needless to say, it's been quite a stretch of time since I've posted a new blog entry. Summer is just a busy, busy time! I have so much to share, so many pictures, new ideas, canning recipes, food preservation adventures, garden successes and failures, and on and on and on... but that will have to wait for future days. Days when the hours of daylight are much shorter, the wood stove is warm and cozy, and my free time increases just a bit.

For today, we celebrated Veteran's Day, this November 11th, 2011, exactly at 11:11:11 am, or! Last year, we celebrated so we figured why not 11s, too?

My husband pointed out to me this morning that 11 x 11 = 121. That's a numerical palindrome. How about 111 x 111? Well, that equals 12,321, another numerical palindrome. Try a few more digits and you will see for yourself that you can do this all the way up to 9 digits and get 12,345,678,987,654,321! We took a few moments over breakfast to work this out, using lattice multiplication, the method they teach in my kids' schools. Here's a photograph of our results:

I got curious, I admit, and tried it with 10 digits to see if it holds, and guess what? 1,111,111,111 x 1,111,111,111 = 12,345,678,900,987,654,321! So it keeps working beyond 9 digits! Hang on a sec, 'cause I'm going to go try it with 11,111,111,111 x 11,111,111,111! Please queue the Jeopardy Final Question 60-second music right now... I'll be right back.

(la la la la la la laaaa... la la la la la! -la la la la la la la la la la la laaaa... la! -la la la la la la)

Okay, I'm back. Thanks for waiting. It doesn't work. It stops with 11 digits. The product of 11,111,111,111 and 11,111,111,111 is 123,456,790,120,987,654,321. Oh well... It was important to figure that out in the moment.

The fact that it works up to 10 digits is pretty cool, though, don't you think? I think numerology could rivet me for a very long time.

Anyway, we decided to commemorate the significance of the date and time with a cake, and here's how it worked:

First, make a chocolate cake that you love:

Then, make your desired design on parchment paper and cut it out:

Next, lay the parchment on top of the cake, holding the critical points down with some sewing pins:

Then, put some powdered sugar in a strainer and tap it all over the open spaces of your design. Tap tap tap, shake shake shake...

Then, when the design is all filled in:

very carefully remove the parchment design (I cut mine in places to help with removal)... and.... viola!

It's a decorated cake without all that gacky icing. Insert candles as desired, and celebrate!

Happy to all of you!

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I interrupt this blog hiatus to share with you some sights of summer...

The view on an evening walk.

Garlic scape pickles, ready for brine and the canner.

My boys walking three dogs.

Hubbo posing in the garden.

Onions going to seed!

Me in a pile of garlic scapes.

Two buckets of manure tea steeping throughout the day.

Egyptian walking onions doing their crazy thing.

The first jar of the 2011 canning season.

Is there anything you see that you would like to know more about? I've been brewing kombucha and manure teas regularly. The Egyptian walking onions are new and exciting, and I've never pickled garlic scapes before. The extra dogs were strays we took care of until finding out they belonged at an area shelter because they were undergoing treatment for heartworms. The onion flower is new to me, too, and I'm excited to save each little seed and try to propagate my own onions this year!

Needless to say, things are busy and green around here. If you want me to write a post about any of the above, or anything else, please let me know in the comments. If not, that's okay, too. I have a lot to say about a lot of stuff, so I won't have any trouble coming up with posts. It's finding the time to write them that's tricky!

Thanks for stopping in, and I hope you are all having a fruitful summer.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I Have Some Good News....

And Some Bad News.

It's been an interesting growing season so far. I'm trying to remain positive, but there's a lurking feeling of failure as the season progresses.

During the last two weeks of March, we planted almost two pounds of sugar snap peas, on literally hundreds and hundreds of feet of newly built trellis. Hubbo and I worked very hard at this endeavor since we committed to growing peas for a 24-family CSA run by friends of ours. We spent hundreds of dollars on the trellis, not to mention the time to build it, but we figured that this was an investment in our future. After all, so many crops can be grown vertically: peas, beans, cukes, some squashes, and tomatoes.

After installing our new trellises, we paid attention to planting dates and persevered, planting in the cold, on wet ground, covered in mud and aching by the end of the day. While planting I envisioned the peas, growing dark green and thick along the fencing, full of blossoms, eventually burgeoning with peas. I imagined picking them, filling baskets and crates, working alongside my family to help provide other families with fresh, home-grown vegetables.

And then came Spring rains. At first I was happy, because the rain watered in the peas. And water on seeds buried in the ground in cold spring weather is a really good start for peas. But it rained a lot. In fact, it rained between 7.42 and 8.59 inches in April (depending on the source), when the long-term average for the month is just 3.5 inches. That's a lot of rain. More than double the average.

And then came May. As of May 24th (I can't find any more recent statistics than this) Ohio had experienced 168 percent of the average monthly rainfall. It rained 18 of the first 25 days of the month.

Well, all that rain proved to be too much for our pea crop. Most edible pod peas mature within 55 to 65 days. Which means, by my calendar, that all the trellises Hubbo and I worked so hard to build should be full of dark green plants. All those little peas poked into the ground with such hope and care should be in the peak of their maturity right now. I should be picking and picking and providing and providing... yet the plants are thin, straggling, stunted, and barely producing.

Here's what a healthy pea plant should look like right now:

That's one of a handful of shining stars in my field right now. See how that pretty plant doesn't have any neighbors crowding around it? That's because most of the plants look like this:

Here's a shot of part of a row. Notice how the plants are thin and straggly, yellowing and short.

All that rain just robbed the soil, and the peas, of nitrogen, resulting in short, yellow plants with stunted production.

I suppose that about explains the bad news from the title of this post.

The good news is that I picked some peas today and we ate them for lunch.

They were good, if small, and we ate them happily. But here is a photo of the peas that should be producing for twenty-four families.

That's four cups of peas. Four cups. Looking on the bright side, I tell myself it's four cups of peas we didn't have yesterday. But I'm feeling a bit down about the fact that the plants were intended to feed so many more people.

It's a bit too late in the season to be planting another crop, but I do plan on trying for some fall peas. I've never tried that before, so this will be the first year for it. Who knows? Maybe this experience will tip the balance back in a positive direction at season's end.

There are always things to be thankful for, which brings me to the CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, model. The CSA concept is a thing of beauty. It is a model in which families share the risks, rather than placing the entire burden on the grower(s). In addition to sharing the risks, participants also share the benefits. It's really worth investigating, if you don't already know about it. Here's a link, in case you are interested.

And this is my friend's family's CSA. The CSA we're growing for this year. What an amazing family. Most of what we can't grow ourselves, I get from The Good Shepherd's Fold.
And it's good, local food. Grass fed beef, free range chickens and eggs, honey, cheese and butter. Please check them out. It's awesome what one family can accomplish.

I'm doing my best not to take the pea crop performance personally, and to let it go, and focus on the good things happening in the garden. And I'm trying to learn from experience. Every year I learn more.

It helps to know that we're not alone in this. I could link to many reports that highlight the difficulties Ohio farmers are having this spring. One alarming statistic is that only 11% of my state's corn crop has been planted, compared to the normal 90% rate for this time of year. And as a state, we're not alone, either. Many states are experiencing such difficulties.

I try to keep things upbeat on this blog, so I hope I'm not dragging you down at this point. But things aren't looking very good for Ohio, for the country, for the world. If you consider the current economic picture alongside weather extremes, and then factor in recent natural disasters and overpopulation of our planet, the picture gets worse. Stop to consider how much of our as-yet-un-planted grain gets devoted to ethanol or to feeding cattle in order to support all the major meat-eaters of the world and it gets downright sobering.

What does all of this mean? I don't know. I know what I think but I don't really know. No one does. One thing is for sure. Weather patterns have been changing for a long time. They are no longer predictable, and as our climates change, so must our planting methods. I think we are on the brink, so to speak. We are at the tipping point. And so we are the guinea pigs. We are the ones trying to figure out what the new normal might be.

Okay, I know our fore-farmers all dealt with this in years past. But this is different. Why? Because there are so many vectors intersecting and converging at the same time that virtually everything is at a tipping point. The economy, government, real estate, banking, war, fossil fuel, population, weather, natural disasters, even technology.

We live in some crazy times, readers!

So get out there and do something in your yard, in your community. Find a CSA in your area. Buy and eat locally. Get back to basics. Stick something in the ground and see if it produces. Plan a small garden plot. Put away a little extra food, Store some water. Walk the land around you and identify the edible plants. Put your energies where they matter.... right out your front doors!

To end on a positive note, I'm posting some photos of our early harvests this year.

Onion greens, peas, and garlic scapes.

Mixed lettuces.



Lettuce bed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monsanto is the Devil

Hello, friends! I'm back! I just participated in an eight-day-72-hour-plus permaculture seminar and I even got certified! That means I have successfully completed 72 hours of permaculture design education. And I am here to tell you that it was intensely good. I learned so much and made so many great friends. I delved deeply into the concepts, into our property, and into myself.

Briefly, I would like to say that any time I refer to "our property" I mean the land Mother Earth is so graciously allowing us to use. Every time I mention "our" or "my" land, it doesn't feel right. What I really mean is the land entrusted to us, the land we are using.

Now, to the title of my post...

How does this:

Turn into this?

Here's how... Let me tell you a story about my friend. My friend is a very clever and conscientious person, committed to the local foods movement. She has made it her personal business to do everything she can to find out what seeds have been contaminated by Monsanto's "biotech" engineering. You see, Monsanto provides seeds to many, many popular seed catalog companies. And it's not obvious to the consumer. So, there is a good possibility that any of us purchasing and planting seeds could have stumbled onto a genetically modified seed without knowing it. Evil, pure evil, especially when you know the truth about Monsanto.

Now, back to my friend. She has maintained a list of the names of seeds and seed companies who are using Monsanto GMO seeds, simply by calling a lot of companies and talking to management. She's always wanted to know about summer squash, but has never been able to find out. Summer squashes as in yellow crooknecks and zucchini. So, she called up Monsanto and asked for the biotechnology department. She enthusiastically asked for the names of these summer squashes, saying she really wanted to grow them and sell them to her customers. Well, she lucked out. They happened to forward her a brochure intended for seed catalogs and greenhouses... any company in the business of selling seeds.

She shared that brochure with me, and I'm here to share it with you. Now... you might want to make sure you are sitting down reading this, and kind of brace yourselves before I give you the names. The names, in and of themselves, are disturbing. Positive, powerful names typically associated with freedom, strength, and strong values. And yet... the seeds are GMO.

Here are the green zucchini names:

Declaration II
Independence II

Judgement III

Justice III

Here are the yellow crookneck names:

Destiny III
Prelude II

And the yellow straightneck names:

Conqueror III
Liberator III

Patriot II
XPT 1832 III

And a winter squash, namely acorn:

XPT 1791 (B)

The person at Monsanto went on to say that any summer squash with a Roman numeral behind the name is a GMO seed. Let me repeat that, and please remember it when you are buying your seeds. In fact, please share the information with everyone you know:

Any summer squash with a Roman numeral behind the name is a GMO seed.

The pamphlet states the restrictions of using the seeds:

Restrictions Apply: Seeds, plants and produce improved through biotechnology are subject to government regulations. Approvals for import of transgenic virus-resistant squash fruit have not been pursued to countries other than Canada. It is a violation of national and international laws to move biotech seeds, plants and produce into nations where import is not permitted.

Grow only in the United States. Exporting seeds or plants to any other country may violate laws of these countries.

Fresh market only. Produce can only be used for fresh consumption and cannot be sold for processing. Processing operations typically mix large quantities of produce, and could create the risk of exporting the food product to a nation where it is not approved.

Sell fresh produce only in the United Sates and Canada. Produce can be sold only in the United States and Canada as fresh produce; it cannot be exported to Mexico or other nations.

Don't repackage seeds. Each package of seeds includes important legal requirements on the label. Seeds must remain in their original packaging until they are planted in the United States.

The pamphlet goes on to state the legal requirements of using the seed. These statements speak for themselves:

Legal Requirements: The rules for transgenic virus-resistant squash are shown on the label of every package. When you purchase and open the seed package, you are accepting your legal obligation to follow the rules. Living up to this commitment helps ensure the benefits continue to be available to every grower.

This is straight from the company, dear readers. Straight. From. The. Company.

And that is why

is the equivalent of this:

So, please. Arm yourselves and your friends with this information. Read your seed pouches. Don't plant GMO seeds. And even better, learn a bit about saving your own. There's been a run on seeds this planting season. What better seed to rely on than your own?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

'A' is for Alley Cropping, and Asparagus, and...

Astragalus, and Abundance, and perhaps...

Absent. Sorry to have been so scarce. It's just the time of year. There is so much to do, and so much to plant, and I have so very much on my mind. It's sometimes difficult to organize it all. I've been working on this post for close to two weeks, now, and here it finally is.

First off, the seasonal vegetable of the moment is -- drum roll, please --

Asparagus. Asparagus is the first seasonal plant available in many areas. As you can see by the photo above, our bed is just getting started. If you are fortunate enough to have an abundance of asparagus, blanching and freezing is the best way to save some for the future. And I've heard you can pickle it, believe it or not. I've not tried either of these preservation methods because I've never had enough of this wonderful vegetable. Hopefully, in a few years, we will!

Before I move on to the permaculture subject of this post, I'd like to mention another 'A' word, namely -- second drum roll, please --

Astragalus. Astragalus is something I use on a regular basis, sneaking it into my family's meals to support our immune systems and keep us well. I bought mine at a Chinese grocery. It looks like tongue depressors, don't you think? I throw one in with every soup, stew, or stock I make. I remove the soggy depressor before serving, but have infused the food with health benefits.

Astragalus works by stimulating the immune system. It has antioxidant effects that inhibit free radical production. In the body, free radicals damage cells and are linked to many health problems associated with aging. If you would like more information, google it. There is a lot of information available on the internet.

And now, for the star performer you've all been waiting on...

Alley Cropping!

Before diving in here, I have decided to put any permaculture terminology in bold type. There are a lot of new terms and concepts so this will help you (and me) to identify them. Also, please remember that I am summarizing most of the terminology specific to permaculture as it is described in the book entitled

the earth user's guide to permaculture, by Rosemary Morrow. The rest of the information presented here is based on our experiences as earth users striving to achieve permaculture goals on our homestead.

So, without further delay, let's talk Alley Cropping! I will begin this with a discussion of zones. In permaculture there are six zones:

Zone 0 is the home and office space.

Zone I is the kitchen garden.

Zone II is the orchard.

Zone III is the farming zone, whether orchard, nut trees, poultry, grain, beef, dairy, sheep, goats, or other large crops.

Zone IV is harvest forests, where trees are harvested sustainably for building, mulching, and firewood, and can include some grazing animals.

Zone V is the indigenous conservation zone providing protection for soil, water, air and indigenous plants of the region.

For now, I will focus on Zone III, or the farming zone. Alley cropping takes place in Zone III. Of course, how you use Zone III depends on your climate and other factors. Depending on where you live and how much land you use, Zone III is for growing staples such as grains and potatoes, larger scale fruit and poultry, nuts, raising market animals, or growing commercial crops. Alley cropping is also known as hedgerow cropping and is an effective technology for Zone III. It is characterized by a permanent structure of trees inter-planted with arable crops. The trees are grown in wide rows and the crops or animals are placed in between, in the 'alleys.'

Of course, how you might set this up depends on what kind of space you have, what your natural resources are, and what your goals are. Before we knew much, if anything, about permaculture, we put into action a plan to increase our area of cultivation. This area is the field across the creek and away from the house, in other words, our Zone III. Hubby started several years ago by planting an orchard of apple, pear and plum trees. He also planted blueberries and lingonberries, and later on I planted some raspberries. The place we designated as the orchard was on a sloping hill, facing mostly northwest.

We fenced in the orchard to protect it from deer in its youth. The second year, we extended the fence and planted a large garden at the foot of the hill. There we planted large crops of corn, beets, turnips, and potatoes. We also started sheet mulching with cardboard and straw, as much as possible. But it is hard to find enough cardboard and straw, much less hours in the day, to carpet your entire Zone III!

There were other parts of our field, unfenced, in which we planted large crops of oats, sunflowers, pumpkins, and radishes. This entire time, all the way through four growing seasons, our Zone III required regular mowing. We would catch the grass as much as possible and use it for mulching and composting, but the grass grew quickly, thickly and happily. In short, it was a pain in the butt.

Then last year, Hubby participated in a permaculture seminar, taught by Midwest Permaculture, an amazing team of teachers, namely Bill Wilson and Wayne Weiseman. Hubby actually got certified in the process. After an intensive, intoxicating, eight-day workshop that changed Hubby's life, we started thinking about things differently. Now we have several related and lofty goals for our Zone III. One goal is to plant more food-producing trees and perennial herbs, and vegetable crops in our orchard. Another is to heavily practice sheet mulching, or to virtually carpet the entire area of open grass with whatever mass of cardboard, kitchen scraps, compost and straw we can get our hands on. Eventually we'd like to add some chickens to the mix, and perhaps a few grazing animals in the future.

Another thing we need to do in our orchard is dig some swales. I haven't discussed swales yet, since the term begins with an 's,' but essentially it's a method of digging a trench in a strategic spot, level with the landscape. The earth from the trench is piled on the downhill side and planted. The trench then catches rainwater and holds it, causing that water to gradually seep into the ground and take care of plants below. Without the swale, water runs downhill and misses all the plants on the way. Since our orchard lies on a a sloping hill, we really need a series of swales to help maximize its success.

We don't have animals, yet, but will add chickens to our mix, soon, I hope. For now, our alleys will consist of the apples, pears, and plums already out there, plus some new trees and bushes that will be dynamic accumulators, also to be discussed in a future post. The additions to our Zone III include hazelnut, chestnut, nana beech plum, and umeboshi plum trees that Hubby planted this spring; there will also be currants and wild strawberries (Hubby's planting those as we speak); and the food crops that I will plant on top of the sheet mulching project. Some of those food crops will be planted in the 'curbs' created by digging the swales. All of this can seem sort of overwhelming, so here are the steps we're taking to try to accomplish our goals, one chunk at a time.
  1. Plant nut, fruit, and berry trees.

  2. Surround each planting with a layer of cardboard and straw.

  3. Weed around each existing orchard tree and berry bush, then surround each with a layer of cardboard and straw.

  4. Dig swales.

  5. Cover open ground with layers of kitchen scraps, cardboard, compost, and thick straw.

  6. Plant vegetables in the straw. Specifically, I plan to plant potatoes, butternut squash, a variety of annual flowers, bush beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers in the straw, as weather and resources permit.

  7. In rings surrounding each established tree, plant perennial herbs and bulbs that work well together and complement each other. This part requires some research, and depends on the specifics of your Zone III.

I know this sounds like a huge amount of work, but it's amazing what happens when you work in a team and focus your intention. Hubby has been tackling the bulk of tree and bush planting, while I focus on the market and kitchen gardens. When we can't plant because of weather, we work on fencing or sheet mulching. There is never a lack of work, that's for sure.

But, there is never lack of abundance, either. Which brings me to the last 'a' of this post, namely, abundance. It never fails... while I am tending my garden, I envision the results. It's just natural. While planting peas, I envision them climbing the trellis. I envision stir fries and a neighbor stopping by for dinner. I see pea blossoms and pods. I talk to the critters in the field, asking the rabbits, moles, and groundhogs not to eat too much. I see the kids helping me pick and eat the peas. I envision abundance. I don't know if every planter does this... it's just what happens in my brain. I mulch an apple tree and see a pot of apple sauce on a crisp autumn morning. I plant onions and picture them hanging in braids in the cellar. And so it goes.

Why am I mentioning the inner workings of my brain? Because I think that envisioning amounts to intention, which ends up manifesting the resources we need to accomplish our work. This year, already, Hubby found a free source of paper:

and our neighbor, a farmer, offered us all the round bales of straw we could hope for! They are older and deteriorating, but that makes them perfect for our needs. What an amazing gift! Last year we couldn't get our hands on enough cardboard and straw. This year we are swimming in it. Perfect for all that sheet mulching.

I never thought I could get so excited about something like cardboard. Yet... I am, and equally so about straw! Here is an example of sheet mulching in action:

As we work to accomplish our goals, the beauty of permaculture sinks in. The thing I am perhaps the most excited about at this moment is planting crops in the straw. This practice accomplishes so many goals at one time, and leaves the earth better than when you start. Here's how it goes:

  1. Laying down cardboard and straw chokes and kills the weeds.

  2. The cardboard and straw attract worms and help them to multiply.

  3. Over time, the earth underneath becomes rich and soft and crumbly... perfect for growing and nourishing crops and plants.

  4. While time is passing, use the top of the straw to plant seeds.

  5. The seeds grow, producing food in a virtually weed-free environment, thereby minimizing your work.

  6. At season's end, you have a food crop and improved soil!

  7. Beautiful!

Last year, kind of by accident, I ended up completing a successful cycle like the one above. It went like this:

  1. I planted two rows of butternut squash in the garden at the base of the orchard.

  2. I laid paper and straw in the rows, surrounding the plants.

  3. I then covered the field below with black landscaping cloth, followed by a two or three inch layer of straw.

  4. I trained the squash vines to go down the slope over the cloth.

Here's how that all worked out:

  1. My butternut squash thrived, with minimal weeding.

  2. The earth underneath the landscaping cloth cooked and softened and improved.

  3. After harvesting our bumper crop of butternuts in September, we pulled back the cloth and planted garlic there.

  4. Now the garlic is big and strong and there is barely a weed or blade of grass impeding it.

  5. Once again, beautiful!

Here's a picture of that garlic, just so you can see:

I guess that about sums it up. While we are working, the process becomes intuitive. We see what works and we communicate with the land we are using. What seems extremely complex in the beginning becomes beautiful in its simplicity.

I want to say that I intend to post as much as possible here, but time runs thin during the growing season. We could spend every waking moment in Zone III. My permaculture entries will take a lot of time to prepare, but it is my goal to continue them and learn in the process. In between, I will post other garden progress, canning adventures, recipes, and seasonal harvests from our homestead. My hope is that some of you will learn alongside me, take your own journey, define your own Zone III.

I can say this much for certain: I believe practicing permaculture may be the only solution to saving our Mother Earth. Won't you join me?

Next up? 'B' is for Biomass... I'll bet you can hardly wait!