Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Finch Ruffle Shawl

I've been busy knitting up a new pattern. This is the Finch Ruffle Shawl. I love it! It turned out exactly the way I hoped.  

It's a totally feminine, silky shawl with beautifully transitioning colors, knit with two strands of Finch rayon boucle yarn together, in a gentle curve by increasing at the edges of the body. The ruffle is knit last with a single strand of the same yarn on smaller needles in short row sections along the bottom edge of the shawl so that the colors transition sideways along the bottom.

The shawl was knit with 6 skeins of Finch, rayon yarn [1350 yds total] from  in these colors: Vineyard, Deep Woods, Summer, Sandstone, Orchard,  and Elderberry.  This yarn is available in many colors.  If you need help choosing colors, feel free to email me for help and suggestions: robin at morenna dot com or convo me via my Etsy shop:

This pattern is totally flexible. Change colors as often as you wish. Mix and match whatever colors make you happy.   You can even knit it all in one yarn [try Stella, silk noil yarn at - 1350 yds for $35.]  Or you can mix and match the yarns - for example try mixing the FinchZig zag, Rayon spiral and sparrow.  Just remember that you need 4-6 colors and about 1300 yds total.   Use similar colors or bold contrasts.  Any way you do it, it'll be gorgeous.

Skill level:  Intermediate
Finished size:  60 inches wide at top.  24 inches long from top to bottom.
Needles:  Size 8 [for ruffle], size 10.5 circular needles 24” or longer [for body], size 15 [for cast on]

Here are some ways you can wear the shawl:

Photo above:   Pinned at shoulder with inside ends overlapping in front. 

Photo left:  Flipped over one shoulder - no pin needed. 

Turn the whole thing upside down with the ruffles on top and wear it like a scarf.

It's plenty big enough to wrap once around your neck so that all the colors in the ruffles shine. 

The pattern is for sale on Etsy for a whopping $1.50.   A real bargain for a gorgeous pattern. 

If you buy the yarn from me, I'll send you the pattern for free.   Just let me know when you purchase the yarn that you'd like me to send you the pattern.  [The pdf will attach easily to an Etsy convo].

Happy knitting!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pineapple Sage

Every few years I plant a pineapple sage.   I love them.   They smell good and those flowers just make me happy.

I get one bloom in the spring when I plant and then the blasted things go quiet.    They grow and grow and get huge, but no more flowers, and then BAM in September, right before the first frosts, they start blooming big time.

And for a couple of weeks, it is covered with flowers and the hummingbirds feast and all is right with the herb garden. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


It's officially fall now and the acorns are raining like confetti from the tops of the trees.  We've never seen so many and are guessing that the long rains we've had this year are the cause.

Acorns are enchanting.  I like the textures.

In fact, I like all the textures of fall -- the moss, the colored leaves, the ripened seeds on the grass, the flowers, the trees....   It's all beautiful.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fall Hive Inspection

Here are the hives all happy in their new site.   The bees took the move in stride and are busy as ever.   We did a full fall inspection early in the month and discovered some interesting things.

The 24 hour mite board check turned up 3 mites from each hive.   Also, some dysentery in the Hello Sweetie hive [probably from some fermented sugar water.]  The mite load is small enough that I don't have to treat this year. 

Both hives had tons of brood - the bottom brood box was pretty much packed full of brood. 

But no honey. 

Both hives had just barely started building any comb in the top box.   Each one had only a partial frame and no honey in it. 

No. Honey.   In Sep-freaking-tember.

I've been feeding all summer, the way they tell you to the first year of a hive.   And this is the most brood I've ever had, so that's great - but no honey is not great.   What do they think they're going to eat all winter?? 

I got on the forum and one of the more experienced beeks took some time to answer my questions and make suggestions.   He noted that I may have a 'benign predator problem' with wasps and hornets and maybe some birds.   'Benign' as in not a bear or teenage boy knocking the hives over and destroying everything, but rather something stealthy making regular small raids and keeping the bees busy doing the wrong stuff.

Which would totally explain why I've never had much brood until this year.   This whole year I kept only one small entrance open at the landing board because late summer robbing is an obvious problem here.  I turned the top entrance up [the one you see opens into the top box which holds the feeder, which the bees use through a screen, so predators can get into the top box, but can't get into the brood boxes.]   I have screened bottom boards for summer ventilation.     The one small entrance is all they have.   Both hives are trying to enlarge it.  We'll put a hardware cloth mouse guard over it soon for the winter.

Since we have a lot of birds, too, I put up some poles with those heavy tinfoil disposable cupcake tins tied to them.  [See pic in previous post.]  They make some noise and the reflection is supposed to scare birds away.  They've helped in the garden, so I put two near the bees, just in case.

The goldenrod flow is still on and a good hive can draw a whole super in a week, so I'm letting them try and feeding them heavy syrup [Michael Bush's 5:3] in hopes that they'll get busy and store some.  It should be warm enough for the next couple of weeks.  If they don't, I'll pull the top box and put on mega candy boards for the winter and keep a close eye on them.   We'll push them together, insulate and wrap the sides up tight with black geo textile for the winter and wrap the bottoms [with slider boards in] to reduce draft.

I'm hoping that the new location will deter the predators and help get them through the winter.    If so, then maybe next year I'll have big hives and a decent honey harvest.  These queens are Indiana queens, so I'm hopeful.  It'll be my fourth year.   I'm ready for big honey.

If the hives don't make it this winter, I'm going to try one more time, with Russian bees that I can get from Kelley Bee Supply in Kentucky.   I hear they're good stock for surviving Indiana winters.   

Friday, September 19, 2014

Busy as a Beehive

We decided to move the hives this fall.   They had been up on a grassy hill a few hundred feet away from the house, at the foot of another even taller hill.    It was a good place for them, but kind of inconvenient for hauling tools, etc up to them.

When we got rid of the big blue pool at the end of the garden, I realized that we had a lovely graveled area around which I could put a black- and raspberry patch and in the middle of which I could put the hives.   Much closer to the house.

We can mow all the way around it and there is a tall picnic table right there, too.  Perfect for holding extra boxes and a nice place to put the notebook when we're doing inspections and taking notes.  I decided to face the hives east with the table in front as a wind break that would force the bees up a bit out of the traffic area at the foot of the garden.    Works like a charm.   I can stand behind or next to the table and be out of their flight path, even when there's a lot of orientation going on. 

How did we move the hives?   It was easier than we feared.  We had read that it was no big deal, but we suited up all the way, including gloves [which I never wear even for inspections] I took the top blue boxes off, since they were mostly there to hide the feeders, and we ratchet strapped the hives from bottom to top around the sides.   I stuffed a little rag into the openings and duct taped it down.   We looked for other openings and taped those over, too.   Then Eric got on one side and I got on the other and we lifted the hive into a wheel barrow.   I walked along the side and held on to the strap and top in case of an accidental tip and we moved the hive down the hill, over the creek, and up the hill to the new site.   Then we repeated the process for the other hive.   

The suits were overkill.   We moved the bees at dusk and they totally ignored us.   No big deal at all.   After we moved them and got everything settled, I took the tape off the entrances and put bottom boards in for a 24 hour mite check.   It was warm that night and then it rained hard the next day.  The day after that, there were bees orienting everywhere and Lily and I did a full fall inspection.    Details on that later. 

We put the bees on that resin decking material so we could slide them together for the winter.  The base is small enough that it will be easy to wrap for the cold weather.   Hopefully the gravel will help keep things warmer during the cold months and both hives will survive the winter.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Un-Parsnips

This is not a parsnip.

It grew in a row, where I'm pretty darned sure I planted parsnips.  

I  watched them get bigger and bigger - especially this one.  And I was so happy because I was growing parsnips!   A new food to try!

And I planted a row of turnips on the other side of the bed so we could try those, too.

But when I was reading up on the best time to harvest parsnips, I noticed that the leaves on those pics did not look like the leaves on my parsnips.   And then I realized that the leaves on my parsnips looked an awful lot like the leaves on the new turnips I had planted.

Someone had obviously made a mistake somewhere along the line.   Or vandalized my planting.  

This is what I'm pretty sure happened:  Someone came along after I planted my parsnips and carefully pulled up every seed and replaced it with a turnip seed.   Yes.      

That must have been what happened. 

So I harvested my row of un-parsnips and sure enough, they are Boule d'Or turnips, just like my new row of them.   Quite lovely, if I do say so myself. 

We chopped them and roasted them with carrots, two ways.   Savory:  with garlic and olive oil.  Sweet:  with a little butter and generous amounts of brown sugar.    We roasted in the oven at about 300 for an hour and a half or so - until they were fork soft. 

I liked the sweet ones the best and will probably chop up a handful of candied ginger to roast with them next time.  Mmmmm.

Here's another recipe I just found for Turnip and Parsley Patties that sounds pretty tasty.  [Great blog, too!]  They're turnip fritters!

We'll also put some of them in pasties to freeze for winter dinners.   It's so exciting having a new veggie to try.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Late Summer Sonnet

It's late summer, the time when a gardener's heart turns to sonnets.

Yes, this is a poetry blog, too, and as you know, I am freakishly fond of sonnets. See the others here.

I can't help it. I love them.

It's ok if you don't like them though - I am no rural Shakespeare. That's for sure.

Rural Sonnet #4

Late summer bursts with color near my gates,
On roadside, hill and woods. The yellow blaze
Of daisies short and tall illuminates
The quiet edges of the woods when days
Grow hotter still and August sears. The grass
Blooms by the ironweed’s bright fuchsia knots
And bluing pools of mistflower as they mass
In lower spots beside orange touch-me-nots.
The golden rods of goldenrods sway high
Above lobelia’s lovely violet spires –
And asters’ paling pinks intensify
the almost hidden arum’s burning fires
‘Til jealous trees in autumn’s chilly nights
transform their own limbs into fiery brights.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

12 Month Gardening

We've been busy with the bees and the gardens here lately.   We've moved the hives closer to the house to a place at the end of the existing gardens where we will be putting in a berry patch.    It's so nice to have the bees closer!   Expect more details on that later this week.

What I want to talk about first is 12 month gardening.   

We grow food in our gardens for 12 months of the year.   When I posted last winter about veggies that like cold weather, one of my lovely readers cross posted it on Reddit.   I got lots of pageviews [Thank you!!] and some very interesting comments posted on reddit.  

A few people thought my list was ridiculous.   They assumed that I go out in January in the snow and plant my lettuce and radishes then.    There is a deep misunderstanding of how 12 month gardening works.  

Winter gardening is not going out in the dead of winter with your hoe and a packet of seeds and  then carving a row out of the frozen ground, then planting the seeds and expecting them to grow like they do in May.

No.   Definitely not.  

Winter gardening begins in early fall - September, here.   We prep the beds and get them planted and then cover them for the winter in hoop houses and cold frames.  This way we can harvest through the entire winter and then plant again as soon as our latitude gets enough sunshine in the spring.

It's as easy as you want it to be.   Put some straw mulch in there if you want to prevent weeds and water if it gets too warm. 

Here are some things to think about now for your winter garden:

1.  Good soil:  Fertilize with manure or something else before you plant things.   This is especially necessary if you've grown a crop in that bed already this year, as I do. 

2.  Choose appropriate winter veggies:   Don't plant corn, squash and tomatoes.   Do plant greens, radishes, fennel, carrots and other cold weather loving veg.

3.  Prepare appropriate covers:  I use a two layer system - a cold frame or hoop house on the outside with row covers or extra plastic on the inside.   It's like you being in a winter coat in a car in the sunshine.  Even when it's really cold out, you are going to be much warmer than the outside temp.   And that's warm enough for the right kind of vegetables.  

If you can get your hands on some double walled greenhouse 'glass' [it's really acrylic] or some recycled double paned windows, they'll work too.  

And remember - cold frames don't have to be very big and they can tuck up nicely on the south side of your house.   That's just enough to plant a short row of radishes and some greens.

4.  Plant early enough so that you're still getting enough light for things to grow.  Once they get so big, they'll be fine all winter in the ground.   This is where the idea for root cellars came from.   I can plant until early October.  

5.  Watering:  In cold weather, the plants aren't respiring as heavily as when it's hot, so you don't have to water unless it's really warm in there.   If it's warm enough for you to be outside working comfortably, then check the cold frame and if it's dry, sprinkle it. 

6.  Weeds:  They'll grow too, so we use a thick layer of straw between rows.  Newspapers or cardboard work just as well.

We will likely be replacing our current hoop house structure [made with pvc] with a structure made with a 16' cattle panel.   The old one was fine....until we got loads of snow and it collapsed.   The new one should be a little more collapse proof.   I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Elaeagnus [Autumn Olive] Raspberry Jam

I'm shameless.  I saved the best for last. 

As you know, I've been doing a lot of new jams this year using the abundant elaeagnus [autumn olive] berries around here.  I'm happy to say that the family has loved every single one of them.  However, this one was truly a jam home-run.

I mixed the elaeagnus with red raspberries to see if it would be anything like the cran-raspberry stuff you get at the store.  [You can make jelly out of the cran-raspberry juice at the store by using this method here.  It's fabulous!]   It worked.  

Oh. My. Sweet. Buttered. Biscuits.

This jam.  

This Jam

Come to mama.   As soon as the first jar was emptied, someone opened a second [so it's a good thing I made 2 batches of this one!]

Elaeagnus [Autumn olive] Raspberry Jam

2 cups elaeagnus [autumn olive] pulp [for directions on getting the pulp, see this post]
2 cups red raspberries [fresh or frozen]
3 tablespoons low sugar pectin
2 - 3 cups sugar 

Combine elaeagnus, apple juice concentrate and pectin in a large pot. Bring to a hard boil [one that you can't stir down.] Boil one minute, stirring constantly.   Add sugar and stir well.  Bring to hard boil again stirring constantly.  Boil one minute.   Ladle into jars and cover with clean lids and rings.  Process for canning.

This jam is very acidic and is very safe for canning.  Makes about 5 cups.

Note:  I used 3 cups of sugar and it's pretty sweet.  If you want to use less sugar, I think you might be able to try it with only 2 cups.  Taste it before you do the final boil to see if you need more sugar and add to taste.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Elaeagnus [Autumn Olive] Apple Jam

I've been experimenting with Elaeagnus [autumn olive] and other fruit in jam this year.   Since elaeagnus are a bit similar in flavor and tartness to cranberries, I knew I'd have to try an Elaeagnus Apple Jam.

It's heaven in a jar.  Everyone in the family loved it.  I'm thinking this would be a fabulous jam to use as a glaze on ham.   Or chicken.   Or those meatball thingies that you make in the slow cooker.   Yes!

To make it easier to make, I used apple juice concentrate from a can in this jam instead of fresh apples and since that stuff is pretty sweet, I cut the sugar down to 2 cups.  It's perfectly sweet-tart just like cran-apple juice.

Elaeagnus [Autumn olive] Apple Jam

2 cups elaeagnus [autumn olive] pulp [for directions on getting the pulp, see this post]
1 can apple juice concentrate
3 tablespoons low sugar pectin
2 cups sugar 

Combine elaeagnus, apple juice concentrate and pectin in a large pot. Bring to a hard boil [one that you can't stir down.] Boil one minute, stirring constantly.   Add sugar and stir well.  Bring to hard boil again stirring constantly.  Boil one minute.   Ladle into jars and cover with clean lids and rings.  Process for canning.

This jam is very acidic and is very safe for canning.  Makes about 5 cups.

If you don't want to use apple juice concentrate, you can use 2 cups of applesauce instead.   And if you want to use fresh apples, then peel and core 2 apples and cook them until soft.  Then make the jam. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Elaeagnus [Autumn Olive] Peach Jam

As I mentioned in my last post, it's elaeagnus season. [The common name is autumn olive, but there is nothing remotely olive-y about these.]  Pick them when they are dark red and softening up.  They should fall off the clusters easily when they are ripe.

This year I realized that elaeagnus are really the hoosier equivalent of cranberries in tartness and that they'd probably be pretty darn good in mixed fruit jams, just like cranberry juice is beloved in mixed fruit juices.   I decided to start there.

It's easy to find cran-apple and cran-raspberry juice mixes at the store, so I put those combinations on my Mixed Fruit Elaeagnus Jam To Make list right away.  Then I saw a recipe for Cranberry Peach Jam somewhere [sorry, can't remember where...!] and thought I should try that one, too. 

And I did.   And it was marvelous.   The elaeagnus berries have a sort of spicy undertone and the finished jam has the flavor of a gently spiced peach jam with the extra oomph of the tart elaeagnus, too.   We loved it!

I mixed the elaeagnus half and half with the other fruit - you can adjust proportions as you wish.   One thing to remember - don't skimp on the sugar with elaeagnus.  It's tart!   I have found that using equal parts sugar and elaeagnus makes for an excellent jam.  I also add in half as much sugar as extra fruit for a jam that is sweet without being candy.   Here's what I did for the Elaeagnus Peach Jam.  

Elaeagnus [Autumn olive] Peach Jam

2 cups elaeagnus [autumn olive] pulp [for directions on getting the pulp, see this post]
2 cups chopped peaches
3 tablespoons low sugar pectin
3 cups sugar 

Combine elaeagnus, peaches and pectin in a large pot. Bring to a hard boil [one that you can't stir down.] Boil one minute, stirring constantly.   Add sugar and stir well.  Bring to hard boil again stirring constantly.  Boil one minute.   Ladle into jars and cover with clean lids and rings.  Process for canning.

This jam is very acidic and is very safe for canning.  Makes about 5 cups.

Stay tuned for the recipes for Elaeagnus Apple Jam and Elaeagnus Raspberry Jam later this week.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Autumn Olive Season

Our Elaeagnus [pronounced Elly Agnus] berries are ripening all over the place.   The ones at the top of the hill ripen faster than the ones in other places and it's a good year for them so the three of us grabbed buckets and spent a happy half hour harvesting. 

Really ripe berries will just fall off the clusters into your buckets.    Those are the sweetest ones. 

Once you get the berries, you can cook them up and sieve the seeds out [see link above] and then make fabulous stuff with the pulp.    Yum!

You need to know a couple of things about these berries.

1.  They're tart!   Don't skimp on the sugar.   If you're making up your own recipes, then you need enough sugar for the grey-ish juice to turn red.   If you don't have enough sugar, you'll still see sort of a gray juice hanging around near the top.   Add just enough sugar for that to go away.   I generally use as much sugar as I have elaeagnus pulp in the recipe. 

2.  They vary on how much pectin is in them from year to year.   The first year I made jam with them, I used pectin and it made a super hard jam.   The next year I didn't use pectin and it was perfect.   Last year I made jam with no pectin and it's still runny.   This year I used less pectin than normal and got a good jam, not too hard.     You can use a greater percentage of unripe berries to increase the pectin, but then you'd better use more sugar [see #1.]

Here's last year's recipe for Elaeagnus Orange Ginger Jam.  I have a recipe with pectin and a recipe without. 

I've been experimenting this year, so stay tuned for recipes for these awesome mixed fruit jams with elaeagnus, coming up in the next week. 

[UPDATE:   Here are the links to these recipes]

Elaeagnus (Autumn Olive) Peach Jam
Elaeagnus (Autumn Olive) Apple Jam
Elaeagnus (Autumn Olive) Raspberry Jam

They are all delicious combinations and have passed the family taste test with rave reviews.   Who knew these wild berries would be so versatile?!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Our Favorite Barbeque Sauce

I love barbeque sauce.   Sweet and sticky meat is the best meat of all.   I love it.

So I was thrilled when I got a slab of ribs for cheap...well, cheaper than usual... and wanted to have it with some homemade barbeque sauce and then Claire hopped on my Pinterest food board and found this recipe for Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce.   We tried it and loved it.  

Tip, via my fabulous sister:   Wrap the ribs in foil and cook them on low in your crockpot all day.   By dinnertime, the meat will be falling off the bones and all you have to do is slather it with sauce and pop it in the broiler to caramelize the sauce a bit. To. Die. For.  Or you can serve the sauce on the side.   Or both!     The same technique works for frozen chops as well.   Easy squeezy!

I love this sauce so much that I multiplied the recipe by a lot and canned it so we'd always have it on hand.   Here is the expanded recipe.  Enough for your own pantry and gifts as well.

Robin's Favorite Barbeque Sauce

7 1/2 cups brown sugar
6 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
3 rounded tablespoons mustard powder
3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons paprika [smoked paprika is really good, too!]
3 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder  or 1 entire head of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon onion powder  or 2 onions, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients together in a large pot and bring to boil.   Ladle into clean jars; cover with lids and rings and process for canning. 

Makes 8 pints of sauce.  Perfect for giving as gifts. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Here is a pic of one of our local cattle deer.  It was very surprising to see her up between the studio and house since we don't tolerate them anywhere near the garden or house and the dog mostly keeps the deer far away from the buildings.  She munched her way across the yard and since she was making good time and it looked like she was a nursing mother, I left her alone.   Claire and I watched from the studio and Lily and Eric watched from the house, where Lily got the pics. 

She was munching on grass tops and wildflowers.   I wish deer ate ragweed and poison ivy.  Notice the ginormous ragweed she's standing behind.  I'd feel better about deer if they ate that kind of stuff instead of my flowers and veggies.
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