All the Things

I finished reading Owls in the Family to the kids over the weekend.  I think this must have been one of my favorite read alouds in quite some time.  It’s based on the true childhood experiences of the author, Farley Mowat. (He is one of my older boys’ favorite authors.  Owls in the Family is one of the few books he wrote for younger kids.)

I did indeed dye yarn with pokeweed.  The berry picking part was unpleasant, and it took me close to an hour to pick enough of them.  I thought to myself, “Well, this will certainly be a one-time thing.”

But then my yarn turned out like this (the one on the left–on the right is yarn dyed with goldenrod) and I started having new thoughts:  “I need to pick more berries so I can dye more yarn!”

Later this week, I’ll try marigolds.

Larkspur spent her saved birthday money to purchase a cage for her new gerbils last month.  What a disgusting, messy nightmare that wire, multi-level cage was!  I share this only in case you are considering rodent pets.  I bought a nice big aquarium for them and now when they kick their bedding it hits the glass rather than the floor.  I told Larkspur that we can save the wire gerbil cage for bird rescue.

Small Things-0055

Because sometimes we find ourselves with an injured bird and they need a safe place to stay until we can get them to the real bird rehabilitators.  Gabe plucked this little goldfinch from the water on a kayaking trip last week.  Sadly, it didn’t make it.

Sunday afternoon, while I was working in the kitchen, Silas set himself up with a craft.  He told me he was making felt balls.  I’m not sure how the vanilla extract came into play, but it did smell nice.  I’ll ask Silas if he can put together a little tutorial for us.

I experienced the magic of turning a giant basket of fresh tomatoes into a tiny pile of cooked tomatoes on Sunday afternoon.  Beatrix asked, “Hey!  Why are you boiling tomatoes?”  I replied, “To make tomato sauce for dinner, silly!”  “Oh,” she said.  “I was wondering if tomatoes might make red dye.”  I’ve only been messing around with yarn and natural dyes for the past couple of weeks and it seems that my kids have forgotten that I do sometimes actually cook food in the kitchen.

The honeybees are in the Japanese knotweed, our last real flow of the year, thanks to this invasive plant that we have a love-hate relationship with.  I sure hope our bees are making themselves lots of honey for winter.


  1. gorgeous yarn, and thanks for the owl book idea! buying it.

  2. I have really enjoyed following your dyeing efforts! Can you please tell me how you dyed using Popke Berries? Did you use white vinegar as your mordant?

  3. Really like your sweet way to write your little world … thank you for sharing…

  4. love your dyeing and the vibrant colors you seem to obtain, I think you are a natural!! My friend does natural dyeing and I’m lucky to receive a skein every Christmas of her talents.

  5. Oh wow the shade of your yarn is beautiful, so deep and bold! I can’t wait to see it worked up into something (?) and then perhaps as you say the time picking the berries will be worth it 🙂 I’m really enjoying seeing your natural yan dying experiments – i would love to have a go myself soon. jenny xx

  6. Oh, your yarn turned out beautifully! The pokeweed color is so lovely I might just have to learn how to dye yarn.
    Love that shot of Seth, and the tomato story cracked me up. 🙂

  7. Hillary F says:

    I’ve always thought that all parts of pokeweed are poisonous, even through simple skin contact (and especially through ingestion). Maybe your dying process will reduce the toxicity of the berries enough for safe use of the yarn? I do hope so, as it produced such a lovely color!

    • It does make a pretty color! From what I understand, the berries themselves aren’t very poisonous, but the seeds, roots, stems, and leaves are. I’ve actually read that you can eat the berries cooked. I am guessing that cooking the berries to extract the dye, which is then strained before being used to dye the yarn, leaves you with something that isn’t poisonous at all. I definitely don’t think there is any toxicity associated with yarn dyed by poke. There’s a lot of information out there on using it to dye yarn and fabric, and no mention of toxicity concerns.

  8. Thanks for sharing photos of your daily life. They are beautiful, inspiring and real. I especially love how your yarn turned out. I think I might need to turn my attention back to yarn in the coming month. Perhaps after I get a start on that quilt I have waiting in the wings. 🙂

  9. I can see why you would be tempted to dye with the pokeweed again…. that color is gorgeous!

  10. A true depiction of summer in a large family! It brought back so many memories…thank you to you and your family for all of the adventures relived. Beautiful photos and a beautiful family! The dyeing!! Smiles about doing more pokeberries-hint: clip the flower head of berries and bag them and freeze them. Take out the bags later and drop them on the floor, the berries fall off the stems and you don’t have to touch them! They cook up and creat that same beautiful color.

  11. I love the picture of the kitty on the bookshelf!

  12. Your yarn turned out beautifully! I also have an aquarium for my hamster, which she loves – way easier to clean that the one you described!

  13. The yarn dyed from the pokeweed and the goldenrod is gorgeous. Can’t wait to see your other experiments. I loved reading Farley Mowat’s books when I was growing up. There are so many great kids books. So many fun adventures with your kids as they grow up. It’s a crazy time, but a good time.

  14. Oh, I love the contrast of the goldenrod and pokeberry yarns together, they are both beautiful.

    • Susan Kuhlman says:

      Another good book for kids is Night of the Twister by Ivy Rukman. It always flew off my classroom shelves and was destroyed by the end of the year. Also the Hatchet series by Gary Paulson. Winterdance is his book about running the Iditarod for adults and it will make you laugh outloud. I always followed the Iditarod with my students using their educational activities. A great event for home schoolers since it comes at the end of the winter when life is a bit dull. Each student was given the name of a musher to follow with updated postings on the internet several times a day. We were even able to stream the finish when it happened during the school day. There are great rules for mushers to follow such as they have to carry a gun so to kill nasty moose that try to attack them. But then the musher must dress out the moose and inform the next stop so the meat can be recovered. Finally, I just bought a set of the Boxcar Children books for my granddaughters. I love Farley Mowat’s books and have laughed at the idea of a dog with goggles and an owl practicing flying on the back of a convertible. Thanks for the opportunity for me to share my favorite children’s books.

  15. so pretty and vivid!!! some nice things. take care… the Good Lord loves you!

  16. Ginny, where to you purchase your undyed yarn?

  17. The pokeweed dyed yarn is so very lovely. Please post your “recipe”and where you purchased your undyed yarn, I think I might like to try it. I spy a hefty stand of poke berry out my window that could be put to good use! Also when you can,keep us posted on how colorfast things turn out to be. I love all the projects your family seems to continually create. You are all such a talented,creative bunch! Carry on!

    • Susan Kuhlman says:

      My seventh graders were spellbound by my reading Cold River by William Judson to them. It is full of information on survival in the woods and the use of cooperation. No one who reads it will ever forget it.

      • Hello Susan,

        I would like to read Cold River with my consultant 9th graders. I noticed your post and thought I would try to connect. Are there any activities that your students enjoyed while reading this book?

        I hope you get my message! 🙂
        Malone Central School District
        Malone, NY

    • Emily Taylor says:

      Please, please post your recipe for the pokeweed dye! That blasted plant is growing along the side of my house and I didn’t know what it was until you posted your pictures. Now it has a purpose and I hate it a little less.

    • I like wool2dyefor for undyed yarn!

  18. Oh my goodness! I can see why you would consider picking more pokeweed for yarn – it turned out gorgeous!! I should start to research this. We have a lot of pokeweed near us too and my kids would love to see yarn transform….my oldest would also love to help with the process! Beautiful pictures as always 🙂

  19. Ikkinlala says:

    Owls in the Family was one of my favourite books when I was younger – it’s so nice to see people still enjoy it (especially outside of Canada as I don’t think it’s as well known elsewhere).

    Your yarn is gorgeous!

  20. Your yarn……..I’m speechless!!!!!!! Sooooo beautiful!! And I love the tomato story! 😀

  21. Beautiful yarn, Ginny! I’m actually hating my current skein of yarn because it does not want to do anything at all with my needles….maybe I need beautiful yarn like yours. 🙂
    Cook? In the kitchen? Why would anyone do that when they can dye yarn?

  22. Andrea G in Morgan Hill, CA says:

    I remember reading an inspiring book about wolves by Farley Mowat many years ago. It had a catchy title I can’t remember. I’m glad you are reading another book by him.

  23. Oh my, that dyed yarn has turned out gorgeous! It looks good enough to eat! 😉

  24. The pokeweed yarn came out so beautifully. I think aquariums for rodent pets are the best way to go. I had one for my gerbils when I was a kid too. My mother was able to buy leaky fishtanks from a pet store that sold them at a discounted rate for people who wanted to use them for non-wet pets. 🙂

  25. Your gorgeous yarn dying results make me want to try it too!! That rich red colour is amazing , I can see it as gloves and hats and shawls and socks ….. Gorgeous!

    We don’t live on a homestead or have any children (my husband has 1 grown-up son) but I find you and your blog/pictures inspiring

    Thank you

  26. Oh that yarn….wow, Ginny!! It’s breathtaking! I feel the need to go find pokeberries, now! 😉

  27. wonderful!! love it

  28. As a former gerbil owner (I was a little older than Larkspur) I can tell you that tanks are the way to go! Gerbils are burrow-building animals and they like a good 5 inches of bedding in their tank to make burrows to sleep in. I also found the food dish rather irrelevant since they tend to bury it anyway. Just stick a handful of food in and they’ll put it where they want it. The other good thing about tanks is you can wire their wheel to the mesh cover to keep it up a bit and out of the way of their digging but still let them have a wheel. Other favorite gerbil things in my experience are plumbing pipe connectors from the hardware store to use as hidey-holes and toilet paper and paper towel rolls to chew on. Also, I’d stick to aspen or paper-based bedding as often the oils in pine and cedar can irritate their little feet and noses (yes, even gerbils can have skin allergies).

  29. Michele F. says:

    I love the yarn colors! <3

  30. the colors form the poke and goldenrod are gorgeous! I want to dye wool now! another thing to add to my ever growing list. Our bees are putting on so much honey for themselves this winter. I hope thats not a sign of things to come.

  31. Oh my word that beautiful purple color! But pokeweed is called pokeweed for a reason. I see the dilemma. (And laughing at the kids being surprised you were actually cooking something instead of dyeing!)

  32. The pokeweed yarn is gorgeous. Wow.

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