Dehydrating Swiss Chard

I have a garden full of Swiss chard more than I can possibly eat at the moment so I decided to dehydrate some and thought I’d share how I did this. From what I could find out from the Internet and from some books I have, it’s best to blanch the Swiss Chard before dehydrating it. The times vary from one site to the next from around three minutes to just dipping the leaves in briefly. Since I have oxalate kidney stones boiling the swiss chard helps to remove some of the oxalate in the leaves so I timed the blanching for three minutes. I can understand why another source said to briefly dip the chard into the boiling water as the stuff kind of turns to mush and is hard to spread out. The chard doesn’t take that long to dry about four hours depending on your machine and humidity.

swiss chard
Deveining the leaves.

Pot of boiling water
Pot of boiling water ready for blanching.

blanched chard
Blanched chard, it reminds me of cooked spinach.

Excalibur dehydrator
Excalibur dehydrator.

american harvest nesco dehydrator
Nesco American Harvest dehydrator. This dehydrator is a great little dehydrator, its cheaper than the Excalibur and dries well. The drawbacks are that you have to rotate the trays more often than the Excalibur and the trays are more fussy to clean. It is quieter than the Excalibur, much quieter.

chard on Excalibur drying tray
Swiss chard on Excalibur tray. This tray takes more to fill it up than the Nesco dehydrator.

chard on american harvest tray
American Harvest tray. These trays are stackable from four to eight trays.

chard in excalibur dehydrator
Trays in Excalibur.

dried chard
Dried Swiss chard.

food saver with vacumm attachment
Food Saver with vacuum attachment for canning jar.

chard in bottle
Dried chard in vacuum sealed bottle. It should last for about a year and I’ll be using it for soups and stews.


Apple season.

I’ve been busy the last couple of weeks and part of that has been doing a lot of drying and canning. I thought I would post a few pictures of some of the jars of preserves that I have been making.

First we start with the apples.
C-grade apples

This was a bag of C-grade Macintosh apples from the farmer’s market.

Then I cut the apples and cooked them in a huge stock pot, I lost that picture it’s in the files somewhere, oh well. Then I took the apples and using my Kitchen Aid strainer attachment I ran the apples through the sieve. The strained pulp comes out into one bowl and the seeds, skin and core gets pooped out the other end into the kitchen sink or you could use another bowl.
straining applesauce with kitchen aid

waste apple parts
Waste apple parts.

Strained applesauce.

canning jars
Here’s a variety of canning jars I bought.

applesauce pressure canned
The finished applesauce, in this case I used a pressure canner and you can see some of the applesauce clinging to the top of the lids inside the jars. The two batches of applesauce I did in the waterbath canner didn’t have this problem so next time I’ll just use the waterbath canner.

This is some apple butter that I made. Apple butter is just applesauce that has some sugar and spices added to it and you cook the applesauce down until it is thick. I learned online about a trick where you cook the applesauce in a crockpot and that way you don’t have to worry about the applesauce burning overnight while you’re in bed sleeping :)

applebutter closeup
Close-up of the apple butter, it turns brown from the sugars and spices in it.

Here is a picture of some fresh kale from the garden.
fresh kale

A couple of photos of kale and beets from the garden and then a last picture showing the apple butter on the breakfast sausages, yummy!
kale beets breakfast sausage patties

kale breakfast patties with applebutter


Turning fabric into mini bolts.

I was cruising Pinterest this morning originally looking for ideas to make a portable ironing board when I had the thought of looking at some storage solutions for my quilting/sewing room and came across some references to storing fabric on comic storage boards.
comic storage boards 2

These storage boards (basically cardboard) are acid free so handy for wrapping fabric onto without having to worry about chemicals transfering to your material, at least that’s my take on it. They come in packs of 100 usually and the one pack cost me $9.95 (less in the States). I picked mine up at the local comic book store.

You take your fabric, which is already folded in half (22″) and then fold it again so the width is now around 11″ and then you roll this onto the comic storage board.

folding fabric on board

rolling fabric on board

I just used straight pins to fasten the ends.
pinned mini bolt

Stack of mini bolts.
stack of mini bolts

I’m not sure how much space I’m saving by making the mini bolts, in fact I know that I’ll have to find another spot for my fabric other than my drawer, a bookcase I guess but the advantage of having these little mini bolts is that I can now see what colours I have at a glance rather than having the material stacked in a pile in my drawers. It will save me from having to haul out the material every time I want to find a particular colour.

Material stacked in a pile in the drawer.
fabric in dresser drawer

Material in the same drawer sorted into colour gradients.
bolt in colour order

Same drawer another view.
fabric on bolt in dresser

A lot of people have these little bolts stacked into a bookshelf and they’d fit nicely. The only problem I have with that is light can degrade the fabric so I’d worry about the edges fading and I have had some fading on some of my fabric and this was fabric that was not in direct light. I think if I use a bookshelf I’ll probaby have to find a space for it in a closet or make some kind of blackout curtain to go over it.


Pinwheel Baby Quilt

This past weekend I finished a baby quilt for Jen’s baby girl that is due end of November. This is the second quilt in two months that I’ve made, unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the other one I made for Linda’s little girl, oh well. The quilt was made using a pack of Turnover pre-cuts that I had in my stash. I’ve already made another baby quilt using these same pre-cuts here but this time I wanted a different pattern so I took the triangles and cut them in half and then sewed them together with some matching white triangles to create a square.

The squares were then sewn into the larger pinwheel square and then of course those squares sewn into rows and the rows sewn together to form the main body of the quilt. I had planned on putting a border around the pinwheels but when I finished sewing the blocks together the quilt top was big enough for a little baby so I just layered the top, batting and backing together, quilted in the ditch on the diagonal and then finished off with a coral/pink binding. Very quick, a bit tricky working with the biases of the triangles but not too bad. The key is in the pinning of the triangles to keep the bias under control.

Currently I’m working on another quilt planned for my granddaughter Charlie, she is into Disney princesses so I spotted some Frozen fabric in the fabric shop so that will be my next quilt to work on. The knitting and spinning has languished but it’s about time I caught up with some sewing and sewing is so much quicker than knitting so it’s nice to get these projects out of the way.

Jen's baby girl quilt
American Jane – Snippets, for Moda.



Looking back through my blog I realize time has once again slipped away from me and there has been stuff that I could have blogged about but didn’t so I think I’ll just put up a slew of photos and leave it at that. I think most people just look at the pictures anyway without reading so here I go…

Northern Lights silk merino
Merino silk skein, “Northern Lights”

northern lights 2nd skein
Second skein on homemade niddy noddy.

pumpkin patch on bobbin
Wool fibre mixture given as a Christmas exchange gift.

pumpkin patch
Spun yarn my first attempt at an art yarn spinning from locks that were a curly mass.

knitted tie-dye baby hat
Baby hat made with rainbow coloured homespun.

kobo cover
Kobo cover made with the same yarn.

Annual fly-by of the Snowbird jets over Captain Michael VandenBos public school.

Sis's fleece - 2 ply
Skein of yarn from Sis’s fleece the difference between this one and the previous skeins is that this one is from the finer blanket fleece.

purple yarn samplers
Couple of yarn samples of some ashford bay mill ends. I took the coloured fibre (purple, orange, green, light purple, pink and yellow) and layered it on my wool combs as I don’t have a wool hackle. I pulled the wool off using a diz into a length of roving. With the remainder of short fibres on the comb I blended them on my drum carder. The darker purple skein is the blended fibre off of the drum carder.

ashford mill ends dizzed off of wool comb
Dizzed off roving showing colours.

drum carded ashford mill ends
Drum-carded shorter fibres.

green smoothie
And for some fun this was a kale, peach, yogurt and protein powder smoothie.

kale peach smoothie

kidney beans
Kidney beans grown in my garden this summer about 3 pounds and 4 ounces worth. They took up about a sixth of my garden and close as I can estimate would have cost me a whopping $5 at the grocery store – not a cash crop for sure but fun to grown and little work.


Cherries and Kale

Thought I’d post a few pictures of some recipes that I’ve just tried out for the first time. I decided to try and make some cherry pie filling this year having been inspired by some of the ladies at the Ravelry Canning forum: It’s not very hard to do and there are tutorials out there but here is the link to the recipe I used from the Utah State University Cooperative Extension, scroll down to see the cherry pie filling recipe: Cherry Pie Filling.

cherry pie filling 2
Cherry pie filling.

The thing I found interesting about the pie filling is that I’d put the filling in the jars and left the one inch headspace but the filling still boiled out but the jars still sealed. This has happened to me before most notably in my pressure canner with soup, etc. The thing that gives me pause to wonder is that instructions will have you very carefully wipe down the rim of the jars so there won’t be any food that prevents the jars from sealing. I guess my question is how can the food overflow out of the jars but the lids still seal? Another of life’s mysteries I guess.

I planted some kale and swiss chard this summer. I’ve never planted it before and was worried about how well the plants would do during our hot humid summers. Well no worries there as this has been a really cool summer and the stuff is thriving. So I went to the web and looked for a recipe that involved smoked turkey legs and kale and found this one at Culinate’s website: Collard Greens and Smoked Turkey Soup

smoked turkey and kale soup in bowl
Collard greens and smoked turkey soup.

The soup is pretty tasty given that it uses smoked turkey and the recipe uses an incredible amount of kale/swiss chard. The greens wilt down so although it seems like a ton of greens the mass does reduce.

The raspberries are coming along and slowly ripening a few each day. I went down this morning to pick a handful to put aside for jam and my two grandson’s who were visiting came down to the garden to see me. I told them to go and get the bowl of raspberries as I was weeding at the time. I was thinking they could take the bowl up to the house for me. I’d forgotten how much they love berries so turned around and there they were chopping away, lol. It’s funny how in my head I think of raspberries as something to collect and preserve so I don’t tend to think of eating them fresh. It takes a couple of little kids to show me the way. Kids will immediately go to a bush and start eating, same thing if they are in a strawberry patch, they know the good stuff.

For the last couple of years we’ve been away on holiday when the strawberries have ripened so I’ve missed out on making fresh strawberry jam. This year I was determined not to miss the season and I ended up making jars and jars of the stuff. I learned of Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which is a citrus based pectin and is activated by using calcium water. The great thing about using this pectin is that it is adjustable to your needs so you can make as big a batch of jam at one time and you can adjust the sugar to your taste. The old certo recipe calls for seven cups of sugar but using the Pomona’s pectin I only used one cup of sugar. At first you think the box of pectin is expensive but then you realize you can get 4-5 batches out of one box so the pectin works out cheaper in the end, it stores better as well. The jam is awesome and has that fresh fruit flavour of freezer jam but you store it on the shelf. The only drawback to using Pomona’s is that you have to put the jam into a water bath canner so that’s an extra step. The other drawback would be that since there is so little sugar once opened the jam should be stored in the refrigerator and used within three weeks but many others have said it lasts longer than that. The thing is the jam is so good it tends to be eaten right away anyhow.

pomona's strawberry jamStrawberry jam.


Puppy Quilt

It’s been a while since I’ve last written, I’ve been busy on vacation and with the garden, spinning and finally quilting. My grandson is having his second birthday this Saturday and it’s been a mad scramble to come up with a quilt and get it done on time. Finally tonight the last stitches were sewn into the binding and everything is now done, whew!

The quilt is made up of one layer cake and some additional yardage from the design team – Basic Grey from Moda fabrics. The fabric design is called Max & Whiskers. The quilt pattern is one I’ve done before and blogged here: Hunky Dory Quilt. I lost the pattern so had to refer back to my blog to figure out the pattern from looking at the picture I’d posted (I gave away the quilt). This is one of the reasons I blog – to keep track of projects I’ve done; there have been many times I’ve referred back to my own posts. It’s funny because there have been a couple times where I’ve searched on something and come up with my own blog. Stuff I’ve done and forgotten I’d written about, old age I guess.

When I ordered the fabric for the quilt I didn’t realize the backing fabric was directional. I had four yards that I intended to sew together in two pieces to create a 72″ x 90″ backing piece. Since the puppies needed to go lengthwise I was short material so to compensate I took some of the left over 10″ x 10″ layer cake squares, sewed them together and then sewed them to the top of the backing. It worked out really well because when the quilt is turned down you get to see more squares.

Finally the photos were taken at dusk with a flash so they look a bit off but I was to impatient to wait for morning.

puppy quilt
Twin size quilt, fabric by Basic Grey, Max & Whiskers.

closeup of puppy quilt squares
Close up of some of the puppy/kitten squares.

puppy quilt with top turned down
Quilt on double bed with top turned down.

puppy quilt backing
Additional squares added to the backing to add length.


My Garden is Blooming

I ran outside today to get some pictures of the garden while the peonies are blooming. This year I actually got the big cages around the peonies before they grew to big so they are nice and upright instead of the flowers drooping in the mud. I also took pictures of some red poppies, a little bumble bee that had expired, strawberries, lupine, columbine, nettle, red baby spinach and some kind of grass that grew from the straw I put down.

I’ve also included a couple of pictures of my new sewing machine. I have a mega quilter but it only does straight stitch and reverse. I wanted a machine that was portable so when I go on vacation or class I can carry it easily. This is a simple machine but does have some nice features and it’s made for quilters but I can use it to sew clothes as well, it’s the Husqvarna H-class 100Q.













white peony with fly








Ashford Mill Ends

In the midst of washing fleece a couple of weeks ago I ran out of Power Scour so had to order some more from the Fibre Garden. I don’t like paying money for shipping so I’m always trying to fit in a little extra to make use of the shipping costs. I also ordered a brass diz and then in a reckless mood of abandonment ordered a 1 kg bag of Ashford mill ends as well. I thought I could use it in making wool batts.

I did get a mix of fibres but not as many different coloured bits as I thought I would but still nice. I tried looking on the Internet to see if anyone had written about one of these bags but couldn’t find anything so I thought I’d post a few pictures (more than a few) to give someone else an idea of what’s in one of these bags. Each bag is different here is what I got in mine.

Ashford mill ends bag front
Bag front.

Ashford mill ends bag back
Back of the bag tells you that you might get corridale, merino, merino/silk, polwarth.

mill ends
Mill ends all in a pile.

Ashford corridale blue
Corridale, Blue (I’d call it royal blue).

Ashford corridale blueberry pie
Corridale, Blueberry Pie.

Ashford corridale honey
Corridale, Honey.

Ashford corridale indigo
Corridale, Indigo (looks black unless you hold it up to the light and then you can see the blue.)

Ashford corridale pansy
Corridale, Pansy.

Ashford corridale spearmint
Corridale, Spearmint.

Ashford corridale stripey Winter Nights
Corridale Stripey in the Winter Nights colourway.

Ashford corridale white pencil roving
Corridale pencil roving, white.

Ashford corridale white
Corridale, white.

Ashford medium natural fine merino
Extra-fine Merino, Medium Natural – this is the same colour as the other medium natural but much much softer and the other is very soft.

Ashford merino aubergine
Merino, aubergine.

Ashford merino dark natural
Merino, Dark Natural.

Ashford merino grey
Merino grey.

Ashford merino medium natural
Merino, Medium Natural.

Ashford pencil roving toffee or nutmeg
Corridale pencil roving, Nutmeg or Toffee colour.

Ashford scarlett pencil roving maybe merino
Merino pencil roving, Scarlet.

Ashford turquoise pencil roving corridale
Corridale pencil roving, Turquoise.

Ashford merino silk damson
Merino/silk, Damson.

Ashford merino silk, Cinnamon
Merino/silk, Cinnamon.

Ashford merino silk hank - cinnamon
Merino/silk, Cinnamon – 26 grams and 85 yards.

ashford mill end peppercorns
Merino/silk, Peppercorn.

merino/silk, Peppercorn – 54 grams and 164 yards.

Our spinning group on Ravelry had a silk challenge this month so the above spun hanks were a result of my spin along (SAL). I learned to spin from the fold – I took a 4-inch piece of roving and folded it over my index finger and spun from that. I really liked how the fibre unfolded and spun off the finger. I’m going to try this method when it comes to spinning up the locks of the grey BL x Wensley I just washed.

I’m not sure which fibre is which but the little coloured bits were the coarsest and the naturals were nice and soft so I’m just guessing those were merino. There were two pieces of roving in the medium natural colour that looked identical but felt different one being much softer than the other, don’t know what that was and of course I could be totally wrong about which fibres were merino but I did look up the colours online so at least they should be right.


Combing Wool

Well I’ve been busy and have finally gotten all of my raw fleece washed. I’d finished up the Shetland in the previous blog and then started in on some Polwarth and a Border Leicester x Wensley cross. We won’t go there about the Polwarth but I did take a lot of photos of the beautiful Bl x Wensley fleece I received from Vickie at Vickie’s Raspberry Hollow. This was the second fleece I’d recieved from them and it was a beauty.

I’d bought the whole fleece, the blanketed portion and the unblanketed portion. I wanted to make an Aran sweater and had no clue how much I needed so ended up buying about 7 pounds of raw fleece. I think it’s an over-kill but better safe than sorry. For the blanketed portion of the fleece I used the same method shown in the previous post about the Shetland fleece. I arranged locks in the tulle bags and cleaned them using power scour. Here’s a couple of pictures of the locks arranged in rows on the bed where they are finishing up drying. I also have a full duffle and knapsack full of just locks. I was going to take a picture of them piled on the bed but turns out I’m too lazy to take them out of the bags and then stuff them back in.

wensley in tulle with waste
Wool wrapped in tulle. That little bit of VM on the bed was all the waste there was in the blanketed portion of the fleece.

locks in a row another view
Locks on queen size bed.

locks in rows
Another perspective. This was the last of the locks and only a tiny portion of what I ended up with.

Washing and combing the unblanketed portion of the fleece.

bl x wensley fleece unblanketed in hot wash
The unblanketed portion of the fleece soaking in hot scour wash.

This section of the fleece was much dirtier than the blanketed portion, which you’d expect. There was a lot more VM as well but not too much (unlike the unmentioned Polwarth).

loading comb with fleece
Loading a comb with fleece. Note VM that has fallen out from pulling the locks apart.

loose hay and dirt
Loose hay and dirt from pulling apart the “clean” fleece.

first pass on combs
First pass on combs.

debris in comb waste
Debris collected in the combed waste.

This mass of fibre collects at the back of the comb. You have the fibre loaded in the one comb and you hold this in the one hand while making passes with the second empty comb. You’re basically transferring the wool from one comb to the other. While this is happening you are straightening out the fibres so each pass gets easier and the gnarls and chaff will get stuck and collect at the back of the comb that the wool is being transferred to. Enough passes will collect most of the VM, I found three worked for me.

second pass on combs
Second pass on the combs.

diz with mini hook
Diz with a mini hook. Outrageously expensive but very, very nice to use.

A diz usually has many holes in it. You use the size of hole according to what size of roving you want to spin from. The largest hole on this diz is for blending fibres off a hackle. The brass is nice and smooth so the fibre doesn’t get caught up on it and the metal won’t crack from having the wool tugged through it. The motion you use for pulling the fibre through the diz is to hold the wool behind the diz and pull back about 2-3 inches (depending on the fibre length), stop pull the lengthened wool through the diz, grab hold of the new roving behind the diz and pull again. You keep repeating this until all the wool on the comb is used up.

starting wool through diz
Starting the wool through the diz.

pulling wool through diz
Pulling wool fibre through diz.

wool sliver
Wool sliver from dizing off the combs.

combed bl x wensley roving
Picture of roving up against light to show how fine it is.

412 grams of combed bl x wensley
Finished combed wool in a pile, total weight after cleaning and combing was 412 grams. I started off with almost 2 pounds of raw fleece to get this amount so I lost 1/2 the fleece.

waste wool from combing
Waste wool from combing about 1/3 of a garbage bag filled. I know some might try to recomb this to get even more roving of shorter fibres but given how much wool I have (locks in duffle) I can’t be bothered. This stuff has a lot of nepps and chaff as well so not worth the effort to me.

So what I’ve learned over the last couple of weeks of washing wool is you basically get what you pay for. The unblanketed stuff is cheaper but it’s dirtier and has more vegetable matter in it. A lot of the dirt is going down the drain with the lanolin and because it’s got VM in it you have to comb it to get the stuff out so you end up losing a lot of fibre. I paid more for the blanketed portion but what I got were clean locks that I can spin from without losing any fibre to combing. I could probably drum card these as well although seeing as how long they are it’d be fiddly but I cleaned the blanketed Shetland and didn’t loose any to waste and that can definitely go on the drum carder no problem. I really think it’s worth it to spend more money per pound for a blanketed fleece because in the long run you don’t loose as much fibre and you save time, dare I even say it works out cheaper?

I have yet to spin the combed fibre but I’m hoping it’ll be as nice as I’ve heard it is otherwise why clean and comb my own because as far as I’m concerned it’s cheaper to buy roving by the pound rather than wash my own. Now having said that I guess it depends on where you get your fleece and how much it costs but labour has to figure in there as well. Anyhow it’s been interesting.