Monday, January 26, 2015

Seed Swap Surprise

We went to the annual Venersborg Schoolhouse,, seed swap Sunday. It was great to get out and share seeds and stories with a growing community but had no idea that I was going to be interviewed for our local newspaper. 

Seed swap, giveaway promotes food diversity

Annual event introduces lesser-known nutrition sources to gardens of the adventurous


By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

BATTLE GROUND — With still months to go until peak gardening season, a group of about 60 people packed into the historic Venersborg Schoolhouse on Sunday afternoon to get their hands on some lesser-known seeds for their gardens.
The annual seed swap and giveaway, started several years ago by Kristine White of Battle Ground, included tubers that would grow into 6-foot-tall lilies, indigo seeds and "more types of basil than I knew existed," White said.
For many, the seed swap provides a chance to grow food that's not typically sold in grocery stores, and to foster crop diversity, said Deanna Tworivers of Vancouver.
Seated in one corner of the schoolhouse, Tworivers chatted with guests about the seed library she keeps with several hundred varieties of heirloom seeds. A friend of hers started the seed library years ago, but handed it over to her for safekeeping once he got too busy to keep it going.
"It's my job to share it and add to it," she said. All of her seeds are free, and include seeds for veggies, herbs, flowers and root vegetables.
On Sunday afternoon, Tworivers was sharing a couple of new additions to the library: Glass Gem seeds, a variety of Indian corn that can be popped or ground into cornmeal, and Anasazi beans, which hail from the Southwestern U.S. and date back at least 1,000 years, she said.
She and her husband, Eric Tworivers, bought the new seeds last year and grew them for the first time at their west Vancouver home. They got a decent crop from the corn and the beans, with enough seeds left over to share.
The couple live not far from Clark College on a quarter-acre lot that includes their home. They've packed their yard full of fruit trees, berries, grapes and several types of vegetables. Eric Tworivers teaches classes on food preservation and puts his skills to work at home by canning, pickling, drying and freezing the produce they grow.
In the winter, Deanna Tworivers said, she can crack open a jar of tomato soup made from their homegrown heirloom tomatoes, and "it tastes like summertime."
She said that the produce sold to grocery stores by mainstream farmers has a longer shelf life, and "that makes sense." But, she added, people who shop at the grocery store might be missing out on good, nutritious food with a shorter shelf life that could be grown in a garden at home.
"What we want to do is continue to have diversity in our food," she said.
Brush Prairie couple Jahnavi Hastings and Noah Seely were on the hunt for dill Sunday afternoon so they could make their own pickles.
"We did pickles for the first time last year," Hastings said, but not with their own dill. "I'm looking forward to trying it out."
And the couple brought plenty of seeds to share.
"We brought some peas and tomato and tobacco seeds, and painted-mountain corn and horse radish crowns," Hastings said. They left with several small envelopes with herb and flower seeds, many of them perennials.
"We did find some stuff we don't have," she said.
They live on a 1-acre property and said they were motivated to grow their own food because it costs less, and it's more environmentally and socially conscious.
And, "the food you grow yourself tastes about 10 times better than what you buy at the store," Seely said.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


All my life, until this winter, I have used commercially prepared tooth cleaning products. From tooth powder in the '50s the  and 60s to the "brightening and whitening" national brands.  I have tried them all. Some are as advertised but at what cost - read the ingredients. Some "natural" brands have been better but are very expensive.

This fall I came across a very simple recipe and decided to try making our own toothpaste. One of the main ingredients is coconut oil. I have not jumped on the coconut oil band wagon because it is not local to where I live. Coconuts trees do not grow naturally in the Pacific NW, but I decided to give it a try for the sake of our dental health.

The recipe is:

6 tbls organic coconut oil
6 tbls baking soda
Stevia to taste (the baking soda tastes very salty)
Peppermint essential oil for taste and antibacterial properties

First blend the dry ingredients and then add the coconut oil, stirring briskly. Then add the Peppermint essential oil (you can use other essential oils) to taste and stir until evenly combined. We like quite a bit of peppermint.

We store this on the bathroom counter in a 1/4 pint canning jar. For the two of us this jar will last a little over a month.

Homemade toothpaste

Since using our homemade toothpaste I have no more bleeding of gums and less plaque build up (some plaque has come off during flossing to my surprise). This is a very soothing and gentle cleaning paste with good over all results.

Yesterday was time to mix a new batch but by evening I was too tired to make it. I am recovering from a broken shoulder and kneecap with just returning to work so evenings are very slow.

 In desperation we used commercial toothpaste and it was horrible. "I was hit immediately with a metallic smell and taste. It made we wonder if we were experiencing an electrical fire in our bathroom. It was an industrial smell", my husband said. I seem to have experienced an allergic reaction. I had trouble swallowing and breathing for a couple of hours after use. 

We will not do that again. From now on homemade will be the only toothpaste we use.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Getting Ready For Spring

Deep in midwinter this gardener is toasting her toes by the fireside, browsing through seed catalogs, contemplating spreadsheets, planting plans and taking a class on “Designing Elegant, Edible Gardens” while my broken shoulder and kneecap continue to heal.

If years past I have sketched our potential garden spots, made little maps of where I hope to put plants and plant seeds but it has never been particularly serious or official. This year I hope to get “organized”, make and follow a plan of seed starting, permaculture, and rotation of food crops.

I have come across some good tools and will share them with you here.

A very useful, easy to read, printable chart to help you get things going.

First and last frost dates are very important. To go to your country of choice, try inserting the name in the above address ie:

Excellent record keeping and great, informative writing.

A good video series on seed starting.

Make your garden plan.

The amount of information available can be overwhelming, but I think these will help you plan and grow a successful food garden matter where you live. Keep cozy and enjoy making your practical plan.

Saturday, January 3, 2015


I realize I have not written anything for months.

Summer and fall were filled with work and many challenges.

 We, Husband Master Food Preserver Eric Tworivers and myself, taught 20 on location food preservation classes from jelly and jam to jerky. 
Pinot Noir Jelly at Woven Wineworks

Green beans at the Homestead Supply Store

Our first year garden grew well and we managed to save seeds from heirloom tomatoes, Glass Gem corn and Anasazi Beans. 
Corn patch

Anasazi Beans

Glass Gem Corn

Heirloom tomato

I did battle with a tribe of raccoons – the same family that made a gaping hole in our roof in 2013 – saved our dog from injury and acquired a colorful set of bruises.

As to the roof, it is replaced. An estimated 3 day job became 8 days. The yard looked like a war zone but we entered a very windy fall and winter with a snug roof and repaired chimney. 


Our day jobs, we are both musicians and music teachers, have kept us busy as well. Combined we teach over 50 private students every week, host 2 open mics weekly and play out as often as we can. You can find some of our music at    

In December I fell at work – at the day job – and broke my right knee cap and shoulder. Seems to be healing well but am reduced to left hand only typing for several more weeks.

The seed catalogs are beginning to arrive and seed swap time is approaching. Time for inventory and planning.

The Battle Ground Village Outdoor Market is beginning to stir (husband is the Market Manager) and we are associated with a new farm store. Spring holds many promises and new adventures.

Happy 2015.