Thursday, February 25, 2021

Notes on the Making of a Rope Halter

Top knot is a Fiador knot,
Bottom knot is a Matthew Walker knot,
aka the Double Overhand (which is incorrect.)

(This is a post by James Haggarty, not Laura, who knows nothing about knotting.)

When first attempting to make a rope halter, one finds dozens of written and video tutorials. Unfortunately, almost all have the same two mistakes. From the AQHA online guide to many of the university extension papers, they have left out one important step and have used an incorrect name for one of the two knots.

The Missing Instruction:

The various guides state that you find the middle of the rope, make an overhand knot and then a second overhand knot xx inches to the left. Then follow the rest of the instructions. If you do this, you may find that one of the two strands is too short to tie around the back of the horse’s head.

According to, and with which I agree, the following is an important step and will save you hours of aggravation and money.

“Fold your length of rope in half, so you have 2 pieces of rope of equal length. From the mid-point, move 3 feet (or 1 metre) to the RIGHT of the mid-point. This point is your new “middle”. And the left piece of the rope is now 6 feet longer than the right-hand side piece.

Note: For a horse-sized halter, you would move 2 feet to the right of the mid-point; so your left piece of rope is 4 feet longer.”

The Misnomer:

One cannot find other references to the double overhand knot in other tutorials. In fact, the real double overhand knot is completely different. This knot used in halters is more widely known as a Matthew Walker knot, or more specifically a two-strand Matthew Walker knot. There are many excellent tutorials and videos on the Matthew Walker knot.

And finally, although not an error, many of the instructions on making a Fiador knot are confusing. The video tutorials by the KnotGirlz on Youtube are excellent and can help clear the fog.



Monday, November 23, 2020

Heirloom Seed Companies

 I have compiled a list of heirloom seed companies (most in the US), which is likely missing some, but has most of those out there (feel free to email me with additions):

Company Name


Adaptive Seeds

Ann Arbor Seed Company

Annie's Heirloom Seeds

Appalachian Heirloom Plant Farm

Baker Creek

BBB Seeds 

Botanical Interests

Center of the Web Seed Company

Clear Creek Seeds

Crispy Farms

Cross Country Nurseries

Diane's Flower Seeds

Eden Brothers

Eden Organic Nursery Services

Experimental Farm Network


Filaree Garlic Farm

Foundroot Seeds

Fruition Seeds

Garden Hoard

Goourmet Seed International

Great Lakes Staple Seeds

Grow Organic

High Mowing Organic Seeds

Hudson Valley Seed Company

J. Hudson Seeds

Johnny's Selected Seeds

Kitazawa Seed Company

Kitchen Garden Seeds

Marianna's Heirloom Seeds

Mary's Heirloom Seeds


Michigan Heirlooms

Mountain Valley Growers

Native Seeds

Natural Gardening Company

Nature and Nurture Seeds

New England Seed Company

New Hope Seed Company

North Circle Seeds

Orchard House Heirlooms

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Plant Good Seed Company

Prairie Moon Nursery

Pueblo Seeds

Quail Seeds

Redwood Seeds

Refining Fire Chiles

Renee's Garden

Resilient Seeds

Restoration Seeds

Salt of the Earth Seeds

Sandhill Preservation Center

Sandia Seed Company

Seed Savers Exchange

Seeds Now

Seeds of Change

Seeds of Diversity

Select Seeds

Sherck Seeds

Siskiyou Seeds

Small House Farm

Snake River Seed Cooperative

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Sundial Seed Company

Sustainable Mountain Agriculture

Territorial Seed

Terroir Seeds

The Hippy Seed Company

The Kusa Seed Society

Todd's Seeds

True Love Seeds

Turtle Tree Seeds

Two Seeds in a Pod

Uprising Seeds

Victory Seeds

Wild Garden Seed

Wood Prairie Farm


Friday, August 7, 2020

Hybrid Sourdough Discard Bread Recipe

As so many are these days I began to bake bread again once the Covid quarantine started back in end of February. I used to bake bread, years and years ago, but for whatever reason, stopped. But now I am baking again, which is pretty funny because I don't even eat bread now (I eat low carb). But my husband has the metabolism of a teenage boy, and typically goes through a half a loaf of bread a day. So I bake bread or rolls several times a week, often sourdough.

I put together this recipe today because I had a fair amount of “discard” (unfed sourdough starter) in my refrigerator that I wanted to use up. Note that my starter is made with AP flour in a 1:1 ratio. The result below is a 76% hydration dough.


Sourdough Discard Bread


400g unfed sourdough starter discard cold from the fridge (note this is 200 g AP flour and 200 g water)
300 g bread flour
180 g lukewarm water (between 105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 tsp (about 12g) sea salt
1 ¼ tsp instant dry yeast (not quite 5 grams)
1 tsp sugar or honey (a little over 4 grams)
Optional: 2 TBSP of vital wheat gluten (useful if your starter is made with AP flour.)


Into a large bowl pour the discard, water, and sugar. Stir to dissolve and then add the yeast. Stir to dissolve the yeast.

Add the flour and vital wheat gluten if using it and gently mix using your hands or a spatula. This will form a rough and shaggy dough.

Add in the sea salt and gently mix until absorbed.

Let the dough rest for 20 minutes covered by a towel.

After the rest, with wet hands perform a stretch and fold around all four sides of the dough (for a total of four, rotating the bowl each time, so north, east, south, west.) The dough will seem wet and still shaggy.

Gently form the dough into a ball and let it rest for 40 minutes, covered with a towel.

Repeat the stretch and fold four times as above. Let it rest another 40 minutes.

Do this twice more, for a total of four stretch and folds. At the end of these the dough will become smooth and elastic and less sticky.

At the end of the fourth fold dump the dough onto a floured surface, and flour your hands. Gently pre-shape the dough into either a boule, a batard, or a loaf.

Let the dough rest for 20 minutes uncovered. Preheat your oven now to 475 degrees F.

Do a final shape of the dough into the shape of your choice, ensuring good surface tension. If you wish you can score the dough.

Cook in a Dutch oven, loaf pan or on a baking stone. If using a Dutch oven cover the dough for the first 30 minutes or so. Depending on your flour used and the container, the bread will take between 30 to 40 minutes to be done, and should be golden brown. One test for doneness is temperature: the interior should reach between 205 to 210 degrees F, but also note the color of the bread’s surface, if it looks light give it more time.

Let the bread cool for at least an hour or two before slicing. Enjoy!


Monday, February 25, 2019

How To Harden Off Plants

Tomato seedlings outside being hardened off 2018

Start slowly. Put the plants outside on a partly-cloudy day the first time, with not too much wind.

Make sure they’re well-watered. Leave them out for about 20 minutes the first time, and not at noon (before 11 or after 1 is ideal.) Keep an eye on them, and if they start to get droopy, bring them back in and cut back on the time the next day to 15 minutes, or 10 if need be.

If it’s windy, put them in a cardboard box so they get light but not knocked over.

Gradually every day increase the amount of sunlight by about ten to fifteen minutes. Again, keep an eye on them, don’t let them get sunburned (it will make their leaves turn brown and fall off, so to be avoided!)

Work your way up to about four hours a day, then you can leave them out at night as long as the temps are above 40 degrees.

Once the nighttime temps are above 55 degrees, they’re ready to go in the garden. If you plant them before that they won’t do well. So being patient is worth it.

If you have them in pots for more than two weeks, give them a small amount of fertilizer, at about half the strength showing on the bottle. I like to use fish emulsion; it’s gentle but gives them nitrogen, which they need.

Best of luck! 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A New Seed Saving Technique

I learned of this seed saving technique this past summer and really like how easy it makes the process.

Sometimes, when fermenting seeds, it's easy to leave them in just a bit too long, and then they sprout, which makes them useless for saving.

Here's the way I've been saving seeds this summer (I have only done this with tomato seeds, just fyi):

     1 pint mason jar
     1 cup measure
     Oxyclean washing powder (just the regular version.)

  • Squeeze the juice and seeds from a tomato into a one cup measure.
  • If the amount is less than one cup, add water to make it one cup.
  • Add 1 TBSP Oxyclean to the cup of liquid.
  • Stir gently.
  • Wait 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes stir again, then rinse the seeds in a fine mesh strainer until they no longer feel slippery.
  • Spread the seeds out onto a non-coated paper plate to dry and store as you normally would.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Hardening Off Plants

Seedlings out being hardened off.
I start seeds under grow lights in my house. Before the plants can be put in my garden, I have to put them through a process called hardening off. It's not hard, but somewhat tedious if you don't work from home as I do.

I start when the plants are about seven weeks from sowing, especially the tomatoes (the superhot peppers I grow take a lot longer to germinate, so their timetable is extended.) Ideally you want the plants to have several pairs of leaves after the first cotyledons, and be about two to three inches tall (depending on the type.)

I try to start out on a slightly cloudy day with not too much wind. If it's windy, I put the plants in a box, so they can get light but not be too knocked about too much (or knocked over if I have them in cups, as shown at left.)

I begin with well-watered plants set outside to get 20 minutes of sunlight at about 11 am or 1 pm. Keep an eye on the plants the first time, if they start to get droopy, bring them in sooner. The next day I increase the time by five to ten minutes, depending on the time of day and the intensity of the sunlight. I also begin letting them get wind on them by the third time out.

This is not an exact thing, you have to wing it somewhat, depending on the variables and how the plants look. Pay attention to browning of leaves and droopiness. If need be, scale back. Better to take a bit longer than give a plant sunburn.

By the end of a week of this, your plants should be able to spend the night outdoors, as long as the temps don't drop below about 40 degrees F. Keep increasing the time in the sunlight until you've hit between three and four hours, and from that point onward, you should be able to leave them out all day and night.

Before transplanting the seedlings into your garden, it's helpful to know how warm the soil is. Not everyone wants to invest in a soil thermometer, but a good rule of thumb is to not put plants in the garden if the evening temperatures are still below 55 degrees F. That should mean your soil temperature is at 60 degrees F or above.

You can plant seedlings before that soil temp, but it could stunt their growth, and will certainly slow it. Better to wait a bit to be sure they get a good start.

Good luck!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Using Winter Sowing to Start Seeds

Winter Sowing
Yellow onions in their winter sowing jug.
This is the first year I am using a seed starting technique called Winter Sowing. It's pretty simple, and allows you to start seeds without using grow lights, heat mats, or a greenhouse or cold frame.

You start out with simple plastic jugs, like milk, water, or even cat litter jugs. (Note, I'll take more photos of this process, but wanted to describe it today for a friend.)

It's pretty easy. You need a clean, empty plastic jug, some soil (not seed starting mix, but actual potting soil), scissors, duct tape, a Sharpie or wax pencil, and some seeds.

1. Cut the clean plastic jug almost in half, leaving a hinge on the backside so you can flop the top open.

2. Using a drill or a nail, put some holes in the bottom so the soil will drain. Not big ones, but about eight or ten holes.

3. Wet down your soil in a bucket. I do this before I use it so it doesn't have any dry pockets later.

4. Add about four inches of the pre-moistened soil so it's filled almost to the cut.

Winter sowing techniques
Jugs seen from above.
5. Plant your seeds as the packets instruct with regards to depth and spacing.

6. Mist the top of the soil so some water trickles down and ensures the seeds are nicely wet (but don't flood them!)

7. Close the hinged piece and duct tape it all around the cut.

8. Use a Sharpie or wax pencil (I prefer wax pencils, as they don't bleed or fade) to note the seed sown and the date you're sowing them.

9. If you're using a large jug (like a cat litter jug) put several small strips of duct tape across the open top of the jug, so some water gets in when it rains but not too much cold air gets in.

10. Place the jugs in an area that gets full sun, (but not too windy) and wait. Check about once a week or so and when the seeds are ready, they'll sprout!

When it's sunny as spring advances, you'll want to open the tops and let the seedlings get some full sun, but be sure to close them up again at night.

And prepare to be amazed at how easy it is to start seeds without expensive setups, just some old jugs and some soil.

This blog post lists seeds that work well with Winter Sowing.

In another post I'll describe how to separate seedlings for transplanting which might have grown together very thickly without damaging their roots.