Archive for the ‘Sheep’ Category

Welcome 2015!

January 1, 2015

Hello again! It has been far too long since I have reached out to the world. Adjusting to my mostly nocturnal lifestyle has been rough, and I have, for the most part, been a pretty good hermit.

I won’t bore you with the minutia of the last few months. A few highlights, though, are probably in order:

  • Work goes well. It is nice to have a reasonably steady income again.
  • The ducklings were successfully raised by their respective mothers and have been freezer-trained, along with 22 Cornish cross chicks. It is nice to have home-grown meat in the freezer and pantry again. I have spent quite a bit of time getting comfortable with my pressure canner, so there is an assortment of tasty meals ready when I’m hungry & don’t feel like cooking at the moment.
  • I was able to travel up to Friend’s Thanksgiving with Daughter’s friends this year. I feel very blessed to be included in the festivities.
  • Kid the Younger successfully applied to join German to his master’s degree program. The process included an interview in German. His grades for the 1st part of the year were a B and 2 A’s. I am one proud mama!
  • Kid the Elder and his wife are looking at moving to a warmer climate in the next couple of months. We all hope it will be a positive move for them.
  • Mom came through her knee replacement like a trooper. She worked really hard at her PT and has come out stronger and with better range of motion than before. It was hard at first, since I was working full-time, running the farm and taking care of her. I ran on very little sleep for a couple of weeks, but we all survived.
  • I made a decision not to breed the sheep or goats this fall. Originally my plan was to see how long I could keep milking the goats, but taking care of Mom after her surgery kind of interfered with that plan.

The last few months have presented some challenges as well.

  • The pump that brings water into the house decided to die. I had been unhappy with the results of having it rebuilt by one of the big pump companies in town a few years ago since it had continued to leak despite several call-backs. So I chose one of the other companies available, and that seems to have done the trick (fingers crossed!). I was prepared to have to replace the pump, but they encouraged me to rebuild it instead.
  • Had a couple of plumbing leaks that needed professional attention. I had hoped that it was just one under the house, but there was another within the wall between the laundry and bathroom. Since I had to tear the laundry room apart to gain access for the plumber, I am totally redoing the room as I put it slowly back together. I have scrubbed it down and am working on painting the walls & cabinet a soft yellow. I am also getting rid of the food that no longer fits my life style, so when I refill the cupboards they will only contain good foods.
  • We had a major wind storm a couple of weeks back, and I came home to find the roof of the front porch had partially collapsed. I had to take about 2/3’s of it off to be able to get in the front door, breaking a kitchen window in the process. I also managed to tweak my back and left shoulder, but they are settling back down. The broken window has been boarded up and will be replaced when the weather is a bit better.
  • My car will be needing an emergency trip to the mechanic next week. I went out to let it warm up before heading to work Monday night and it wouldn’t start. Luckily, Mom was able to come get me and has lent me her car for the next few days. I was hoping it was just an old battery giving out on me, but it appears to be more than that. I know that it has needed a major tune-up for some time but other things keep coming up (see above). Hoping it isn’t too bad.

I’m probably forgetting a few things, but we’ll talk again soon I hope. Here’s hoping that 2015 brings only good things to all of us. Much peace and happiness to all of you!

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Living Frugally

January 20, 2014

fru·gal

: careful about spending money or using things when you do not need to : using money or supplies in a very careful way

: simple and plain

(according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

From a very young age, my mother called me frugal. I always hated the word as a child, equating it in my mind with being cheap. I am not cheap! It was only over time that I came to appreciate the label for what it truly is. And mom was right, I am frugal. I spend money on good things but I am not wasteful, and I am a simple, plain woman. I don’t use makeup (except on very special, rare occasions), I don’t fuss over haircuts or clothing, I can count how many pairs of shoes I own on one hand (to Daughter’s great despair). I save things for future use, I use things up, I re-purpose things. I always have, even as a child.

It wasn’t behavior that I was taught. My parents were well-to-do, and my dad spent money like there was no tomorrow. No one picked up a dinner tab if he was at the table (I almost had to come to blows with him when I wanted it to be my treat, even if he had agreed before dinner). I saved my allowance for special purchases, hidden between the pages of books in my room that my sister pilfered on a regular basis.

Being frugal is very helpful now.  While I am sometimes at a loss to figure out how the electric or phone bills will be paid when there is no money coming in, I am resourceful and they do get paid. The house is reasonably warm, and I eat well. The universe provides what I truly need, if not the things that I would like. I am grateful, happy even, living my frugal life.

Two things this week make my point very well. Kid the Younger, Fiancée and Roommate came over for the weekend last week. While it meant giving up going to my spinning group and seeing friends, those were easy sacrifices. I pulled a chicken out of the freezer and mom & I planned a feast. Main course covered, she did sides and I cruised the web for a new dessert to try out using what I had on hand. Came up with a Pineapple-Banana Cake which will definitely get more play around here! Pineapple from the pantry, eggs from the chickens, bananas from the freezer. It is not overly sweet, which I really like, and it lasts for days (not that it really had a chance to). The glaze is pineapple juice and powdered sugar. Mom and I discussed some possible modifications to the recipe to change it up a bit.

pineapple banana cake finished  Ready to roast

This is the chicken before it went in the oven (forgot to take an after picture, oops). Very simple roast chicken, salt & pepper, fresh rosemary from mom’s garden, a couple of leftover lemons in the cavity. We ate a lot of it that night, and I left several slices for mom. I made several meals off the meat over the next few days, and then the carcass was used to make soup which will feed me for several days also. The pantry supplied all the spices and goodies I need to make a filling soup: a can of chicken meat, one of tomatoes, potatoes from the Free Potato Day, carrots from the fridge, onions. Simple, plain fare, but filling and satisfying.

My other example isn’t pretty, at least to start with. I love my hand-knit socks, but I am not easy on them. I tend to wear just socks on my feet in the house during the cold months. I should use slippers to save wear and tear on them, but I don’t. Sadly, this is the result. Sock repair reason to fix I have worn huge holes into the feet of both socks. I don’t know how to darn holes (it’s on my list of things to figure out). Yet the legs and heels of the socks are fine, and I have the leftover yarn (there’s that frugal thing again). So I cut off the toes of both socks, picked up stitches, and am in the process of reknitting the toes. Faster than knitting the socks all over. I’ll have to weave in a couple of ends (no biggie), and my socks will be useful again. As an added bonus, it has freed my mind from the fear that has been keeping me from completing my vest which has stalled out over the idea of cutting the steek. Yay!

Sock repair ready to pick upSock repair stitches picked up

Up until today the weather has been lovely. Today, we are a foggy, cold mess. I am thankful that there is little need to be outside today, other than chores this afternoon. No lambs or kids yet, though bellies are swelling. I finally sealed up the hole that Myrtle was getting out through. Fencing is always a challenge with a thinking goat. She’s still looking for a new way to escape, silly girl.

November is Over?

November 30, 2013

Where does the time go? I have every intention of posting at least weekly, then I turn around and a month has gone by. It’s not that I don’t think about it. I compose wonderful blog posts in my head, as I’m driving or when I’m getting ready for bed, but somehow they just stay in my mind. Good intentions don’t count for much, do they? Oh well, it is what it is.

Not that there’s much to share with anyone these days. I’m still looking for work (I am so tired of hearing that I’m either over-qualified or don’t have the necessary skills for the jobs I apply for!).  Finances are becoming very challenging as a result, but I am working hard to stay positive that things will work out in the long run. It’s hard to do some days, but so far I am managing for the most part.

I did the “30 Days of Thankfulness” thing again this year. Especially when times are hard, I find that it is helpful to make myself recognize that I have a lot to be thankful for.  Some days have been a struggle, but I do know that I am very lucky in many, many ways.

  • Day 1 – I am thankful that my back is stronger than it was this time last year. I wish it was stronger, so I could get more things done, but I am thankful for the improvements that have happened.
  • Day 2 – I am thankful for all the “extra” kids in my life, and that they choose to include me as a spare mom even though we are not related by blood. I love them all!
  • Day 3 – I am thankful that I have the skills and ability to feed and clothe myself, and I am thankful that I live in a time and place where I can choose to let others do the necessary work.
  • Day 4 – I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, when so many do not. It may not be the house of my dreams, but it keeps me warm and dry.
  • Day 5 – I am thankful that I am an optimist by nature. Some days that trait comes in really helpful in my efforts to keep moving forward.
  • Day 6 – I am thankful for my Mom’s good health.
  • Day 7 – I am thankful for old treasures rediscovered as I worked in my bedroom, and the strength to let some stuff go.
  • Day 8 – I am thankful that I know that the depression lies.
  • Day 9 – I am thankful for my spinning group. I always come away from our meetings feeling inspired and appreciated, which is a really good combination.
  • Day 10 – I am thankful for my friends, both the ones that I see and talk to often, and the ones that I see rarely (or have never met in real life). I am blessed to have so many people who truly care about me!
  • Day 11 – I am thankful for my supportive sisters.
  • Day 12 – I am thankful for the animals that share my life and let me share theirs. They help me retain some semblance of sanity, and help to keep me fed and clothed.
  • Day 13 – I am thankful that, as dysfunctional as my family may be, we would never qualify to be on Dr. Phil.
  • Day 14 – I am thankful that I am able to string more than three words together at a time, usually with all the words correctly spelled and with proper punctuation. I recognize that these are not skills that all possess.
  • Day 15 – I am thankful that I am still young at heart (even if my body doesn’t always agree).
  • Day 16 – I am thankful for friends that can make me laugh, and good food shared with them.
  • Day 17 – I am thankful for snow up in the mountains (where it belongs), and sunshine while I do chores.
  • Day 18 – I am thankful for nights of peaceful slumber and sweet dreams.
  • Day 19 – I am thankful for rainbows, especially on dark, dreary days like this.
  • Day 20 – I am thankful for my children. They have brought me so much love and happiness, and have taught me so much. I am very proud of all 3 of them!
  • Day 21 – I am thankful for the sun on my back as I scythe cut grass to feed the sheep.
  • Day 22 – I am thankful for my ability to teach others to knit and spin. Love spreading the addiction!
  • Day 23 – I am thankful that Daughter’s friends have continued her traditional “Friends Thanksgiving”. I wish I could be there this year.
  • Day 24 – I am thankful for my wood stove, which warms the house so well on these cold days.
  • Day 25 – I am thankful for the apple trees I am growing from sprouted seeds found in an apple this summer. They make me smile at possibilities.
  • Day 26 – I am thankful that I am able to distract myself when things aren’t going well.
  • Day 27 – I am thankful that my pantry is still well enough stocked that I can have a normal Thanksgiving tomorrow. Pies are in the oven now.
  • Day 28 – I am thankful for the loved ones sharing Thanksgiving with me, and for those that aren’t.
  • Day 29 – I am thankful that I was able to totally avoid the idiot that didn’t even see my van when he pulled his car out from the stop sign. Damn my cloaking device, and thank goodness for good reflexes and working brakes!
  • Day 30 – I am thankful for the potential that the future holds. Fingers crossed that all the new changes are positive ones.

I also took part in NaNoWriMo again this year. I had a hard time getting going with the story that insisted it wanted to be written this year, and for most of the month I was way behind. But I managed to catch up last night, and finished this morning. I will admit that it is a pile of random words, not a cohesive story by any stretch of the imagination. I bounced from chapter to chapter, character to character, never really getting to the point at all. But since the point of NaNo is to get 50,000 words on the page, I can say I managed that. Not pretty words, though I do think I got some nice descriptions going from time to time. I don’t know if it appeals to me enough to go back in later and edit it. I do enjoy the exercise though, and think it’s something that everyone should try at least once. And I can proudly say that Kid the Elder blew it out of the water, writing over 100,000 words this month (his top 8 days alone added up to over 50K!).

Thanksgiving was nice, but quiet. It was me & Mom, Kid the Elder & his wife, and her dad & brother. We do it at Mom’s house, but we do most of the cooking. I did the turkey (home-grown, 21 pounder), stuffing, gravy, rolls and pies (peach and pumpkin). I decided on the rolls last second on Wednesday night and threw together a dough that sat out covered on the washer overnight. They were spectacular, light and fluffy, with just a hint of a sourdough flavor, which I think could only have gotten better if I’d had more time. For the pie crusts, I used Erica‘s suggestion to use a different alcohol in the traditional vodka pie crust. Why had this never occurred to me before?? I can’t use vodka in anything, since I am massively allergic to it (I know, I’m weird!) So, since I had bourbon on hand from the bourbon apple butter I made this summer, I used that. Wonderful! It wasn’t identifiable as bourbon, but it added a very subtle spicy note to the crust, and the crusts were very flaky. I’m thinking of possibilities now; tequila for a key lime pie maybe, or a spiced rum maybe for a pear pie. I didn’t get any pictures of the feast before we started, but none of us walked away from the table hungry. Mom did a chopped Brussels sprouts saute, Kid the Elder made mashed potatoes enhanced with my oven roasted garlic, and DIL’s dad brought his baked beans. I always cook at my house and transport things to Mom’s when they are done. She doesn’t care for the smell of roasting turkey (I come by my weird honestly), so when it’s done cooking I whip up the gravy and drive on over. Luckily, she lives just a few miles away, and even though I totally forgot the stuffing at home and had to call Kid the Elder to bring it over, the turkey was still warm when we finally ate an hour later than originally planned. It works for us. She isn’t stuck with all of the mess, and neither am I. Kid the Younger is working a new job and didn’t make it home for this holiday. In fact he had to work on Thanksgiving day. Am I the only one who hates the idea of Black Friday spreading in to Thursday? I doubt that I am, but I’m afraid that the big box stores really don’t care what we think, and they offer enough good deals that folks think they can’t afford to miss, that the idea of having one day dedicate to spending time with your family is a goner. I used to love getting up really early on Black Friday and having my shopping list all ready to go. But when they moved the start times back to midnight or earlier I gave up. I didn’t even look at the ads this year.

I’ll leave you with an old picture of Maggie. I lost her this week (listeriosis). She’s not the only one that’s gone. It’s been a rough month.Maggie close up

Stocking Up

September 16, 2013

It’s been a while since I did any substantial amount of canning, and I seem to be making up for lost time.  Last count was over 50 1/2-pint jars, and I’m not done yet.

It started when I saw a flyer at the feed store, announcing that they would be having a box produce sale early this month. The timing was perfect, since I would have a little disposable income from judging at State Fair (more about that later).  I came home with a 25 pound bag of onions and a box each of Gravenstein apples, peaches, and Roma tomatoes.

The onions are amazing, probably the freshest I’ve ever bought. I caramelized about a dozen of them in one batch. I love having them in the freezer. I store them in small bags, then use them in soups & stews, or add them in to all sorts of other dishes. I’ll do the rest once I catch up with all the canning.

I discovered a wonderful new (to me) blog, http://localkitchenblog.com/. She has a lot of great jam recipes and most are pretty low in sugar, which I really appreciate. Several of the creations coming out of my kitchen right now are either directly from her site, or inspired by things there.

First up was a handful of the apples. The pulp became Bourbon Apple Butter, and the drained juice became Apple Jelly with Lemon and Lavender. I still want to make applesauce, but the apples will hold for a little while, and the soft fruit was demanding attention. The tomatoes were easy, just peeled and put up in quart jars with a bit of citric acid.

On to the peaches. From the Local Kitchen site, I settled on a Peach Jam with Caramelized Onions and Basil. This is more of a savory jam, and I think it will be fantastic on pork or chicken. I’ve made one batch, but I think another is a good idea. I also made a simple Peach Butter, and on the recommendation of my friend Brenda, the pits and skins were made into Peach Pit Jelly. I’m still waiting for that to actually gel, but all the sites say to give it up to 2 weeks before adding more pectin. It’s a very subtle taste, and very pretty.

Then the feed store sent out an e-mail saying that any produce left on Sunday was half price. I was really hoping for another box of the apples but they were all gone. Instead, I came home with a box of Bartlett pears. Luckily, Tien Chu mentioned that she was going to be making a Pear-Lavender Jam and she generously shared the recipe with me. My first attempt could have been a fiasco, because I turned on the burner and sat down at the computer. I completely forgot about the pot on the stove until I smelled burning sugar. Oops! It turned into one of my best “mistakes” ever! The lavender got lost under the caramel, but it was tasty enough that yesterday I recreated it, using ginger instead. I also made 2 successful batches of the Pear-Lavender.

jelly collage

To top it all off, I came home from a massage on Saturday with 2 more boxes of peaches. I chopped up most of the first box this morning and let them macerate with some lime juice and a bit of sugar before cooking them long enough to soften them up enough for the food mill. Now the pulp is cooking down, and it will become Peach Jam with Lime and Balsamic Vinegar (I’m inventing this as I go). And yes, the color in this picture is accurate. These are some of the reddest peaches I’ve seen in a while, and very tasty. A peach pie is definitely a possibility…

peach puree

So what about State Fair, you ask? It was a fun experience. Mom came along, since she had never been to the State Fair before. We drove over in the morning, checked in to the hotel and dropped off our luggage, then headed to the Fairgrounds. After a quick lunch, we strolled the grounds, checking out the entries and the commercial booths. We spent a lot of time looking at the orchid exhibit (we have a hard time believing that they are really easy to grow). We were headed over to spend a little time watching the horse show, but got distracted by the big cats and a wonderful reptile exhibit, and then by the birds of prey show. Then it was time for me to report for duty. For their first show, the Angora breeders did themselves proud. Several of the classes put me through my paces, and I tried to incorporate the things I’ve learned as an exhibitor (even if you’ve made up your mind everyone deserves a look, find something positive to say about every animal, and let everyone know why you put the class the way you did) . I won’t be upset if they ask me back next year to judge again. It was a nice couple of days with my mom, and a good introduction to the State Fair for her.

Last week I delivered 4 sheep to their new home, 3 of mine and an extra from another local breeder. Meridoc, Manny and Nelson are now enjoying life on the coast with their new owner. It’s always fun seeing the looks I get with a van full of sheep. I even had a Highway Patrol man following me for a while, and when he pulled around me he paused long enough to catch my eye and wave. It surprises me more how many people don’t notice the sheep staring out the windows. The trip also allowed me to have a quick overnight visit with Kid the Younger and see the new apartment, and to treat him and the roomies to dinner out.

I wish I could say that I’m totally ready for Oregon Flock & Fiber in 2 weeks, but I’ve been distracted by the fruit. Oh well, hopefully I’ll get my act together this week.

Paying Attention to the Little Details

August 26, 2013

We all get caught up in the day-to-day banality of our lives and let the little details slip by unnoticed. It’s one of the things about spending time with little kids that I miss, their ability to be completely absorbed by some minor aspect of life, and it’s something I try to do at least occasionally. I had the opportunity to be reminded about this a couple of times in the last week, and I’m glad I slowed down enough to pay attention.

The first detail caught my eye as I rounded the front corner of the house, headed to turning on the hose so I could fill water troughs. The mound of dirt got my attention first, then I noticed the hole. That is my daughter-in-law’s hand for scale. After much reflection, I think a neighbor dog must have done the damage. The cats don’t normally dig like that to go after a rodent, and I have seen no evidence of anything living in or near the hole. Guess I’d better fill it in before I twist an ankle in it.new hole

 My spinning wheel (a Schacht Matchless) has been having some issues lately. That led to my 2nd little detail. I needed a screwdriver to work with, and grabbed this little brass one that Sweetie’s dad had given me several years ago. I have always enjoyed using it, but never really paid attention to it until this week. screwdriver There was a little noise when I used it, a slight rattle. Instead of ignoring it (as I must have in the past), I investigated. And I love what I found. Not one, not two screwdriver2, not three, screwdriver4 but four screwdrivers,  screwdriver4all nestled together like one of those Russian dolls. I love it! The biggest is about 6 inches long, and the tiny little one is just over an inch. I’ve always loved good tools, and this one just moved up a notch in my favorites list. And with its help and a little TLC, the Matchless is back to behaving beautifully, and I am finishing up the last of the Merlin blend yarn that I started during the Tour de Fleece.

I have gotten a few farm chores done also, including shearing three sheep. Manny and Meriadoc went from shaggy boys to nearly naked. I love their colors, but I still need to really look at their fleeces and assess the quality. I did discover that I messed up when I banded Meriadoc and only caught one of his testicles. This would explain some of his behaviors (very pushy with his pen mates, and occasionally head bashing wood panels). He has never shown any inclination towards being aggressive towards people, so if he stays here I will probably leave things as they are.Manny yearling face onMeriadoc yearling face onManny and Meriadoc shorn

I also sheared the old lady of the flock, Bridget. At 13 years old this spring, she has earned the right to retire, especially since she gave me such a nice replacement ewe lamb this year. I think she looks pretty good for such an aged sheep, and she is now doing “Ashe duty” and getting some grain as a reward. Bridget after shearing 2013

Speaking of Ashe, she is doing well. I am trying to hold her weight steady where it is now (don’t want her getting too fat), and she and Bridget have full run of the barn pen.  She is fairly mobile, even if she does look funny getting around. I hope that she will regain some more flexibility in her front legs, for comforts sake, but she seems content. As I’ve said all along, as long as she is willing to keep up the fight, so am I. Her lamb, Navid, is doing well also, and is a friendly little guy, always ready for a chin scritch.

Navid face on

I am getting ready for State Fair later this week. My mom has never been, and since I will be judging the Angora goats in their inaugural showing this year we are going to make the trip over the mountains together. I have booked a hotel room so that we can relax a bit after seeing all there is to see. Should be fun; I always enjoyed taking the kids to the Fair as an “end of summer” treat. Then next month, we will be enjoying the circus. Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey are coming to our local fairgrounds, so Kid the Younger and Fiancee are coming over to go with mom & me.

No word on my missing shawl yet, but the response I have gotten online has been wonderful. My picture has been shared all over the world, so whoever took it will not be able to wear it in public without being spotted. I have made peace with the fact that it is gone, and will dig out the book so I can make myself another one (in a different color so I don’t get accosted wearing it out!). Someone shared how a shawl of theirs made it home 6 months after being taken, so I won’t give up hope, I just won’t waste any energy thinking nasty thoughts about the person who took it. I prefer to fill my life with positive thoughts and actions. Not always possible, but I try.

 

Over Fair

August 5, 2013

I enjoy going to and showing at our county fair. Most years I actually show at ours and the next county over, but this year money is a bit tighter and I confined myself to just my home county (I will go visit the other one). It it an enormous amount of work getting everything in and set up, but I am very passionate about sharing my animals and my crafts with the public. When we are not showing or taking care of the beasties, we are usually in the sheep barn spinning. I am usually one of the first people in the barn in the morning and almost always the last one out at night.

This year, my friend Correy brought in some brand new lambs, born the day before fair started. Her rams escaped 5 months ago and 2 of her ewes had babies as a result. They were absolutely adorable, and a crowd favorite for sure. I hadn’t used up all the pens assigned to me, so they were at the end of that row, close to where we were sitting. It was fun watching “Lamb TV” all week. My sheep did fine in the show (we had Romeldale classes finally), and I got plenty of spinning done. The cheese I wanted to enter didn’t happen, but there is always next year.

Unfortunately, my fair experience this week was marred on Saturday night by some heartless person. I had brought in a few of my hand-knit shawls to display in the barn. While I was talking to folks, someone helped themselves to my big red Neibling. I could not have missed the theft by more than 5 minutes. I am hoping that it was grabbed by a little kid and I will get it back as soon as the parents realize, but I know that this is not terribly likely. I filed a police report immediately and told them the value ($1,000. One cop said “That’s a lot of yarn”, to which I replied “No, that’s a lot of time and talent”). I have posted the picture on Facebook, Craigslist and Ravelry (I figure the more eyes looking the better). I am heart-sick, more over the fact that someone would take it than over the loss of the shawl. I can knit another one, and from my notes on Ravelry I even know about how long it will take.  Of the 3 shawls, it was the one I could most afford (emotionally) to lose. But it also is the shawl that I wear most often and that I have gotten the most compliments on. I will not let this experience ruin my trust in the basic good nature of most people, but I am not likely to bring my hand-knits back for display in public again, and that is sad because I love sharing what I do. So please, keep your eyes open, on the off-chance that it shows up in your neck of the woods and can be brought home where it belongs.Neibling

Su-su-summer-Time

July 23, 2013

Anyone else remember that song? Sorry if I planted it in your ear…

Summer so far has been dry and hot, prime conditions for fires especially when we get thunderstorms. The local firefighters are getting more of a workout than I’d like, but are doing a great job.

I finished up the Tour de Fleece in good shape. I accomplished most of the goals I set, and my final counts were over 2 pounds and 1.7 miles of yarn created. I’m still working on the final 2 goals that didn’t get done (spinning the silk cap on the Golding spindle and the moorit Romeldale/alpaca/camel down/silk blend, which has been much slower coming together than I had hoped). The blend is turning out very pretty; the different shades of brown really add a lot of depth to the overall color.   And since I added in spinning up one of the braids that I dyed before Fiber Market Day, I would definitely put this year’s Tour in the Win column. Here’s the final picture I posted on Ravelry, summing up my Tour. Day 23 collage

Last week, Mom finally made the decision to let her old Bull Terrier Ruth cross the Rainbow Bridge. She had been going downhill for a while, but it is always a tough decision to make. Since 1978, Mom has owned 4 Bullies. Ruth was the oldest at 14 years, 7 months. She was born the day after my Dad passed away, and was the last remaining dog from her breeder. This is an older picture of her, but this is how I will always see her. She was a great dog and her passing will leave a big hole. Ruth

Our County Fair starts in a week. I have entered 2 of the yearling ewes, 2 of the ewe lambs and 2 of the ram lambs. I am also hoping to get a mozzarella finished up later this week to take in on Saturday. I hate that we have to do things like that so far in advance (fair doesn’t start until Wednesday).  It means a special trip, and things aren’t as fresh during fair as they possibly could be. Not as big a deal for art work and things like cheese, but flowers and baked goods suffer. Oh well, at least we finally managed to get a separate class for the Romeldales. I decided not to enter the goat girls, which turned out to be a very good decision since the goat barn was filled to capacity about 2 weeks before entries closed. If they have nice udders after they freshen next year I will consider showing them again, but there didn’t seem to be much point this time around. Myrtle unfortunately can’t be shown, since I can’t register her even as a grade goat (she is half Nigerian Dwarf, and grade goats have to be from only standard breeds).

I made the decision not to enter the other local fair this year. I just can’t justify the added expense on my very limited budget this year. I will go and visit a time or 2. It was a hard decision to make. I enjoy the fairs, and I like showing at them.

My biggest news this summer is that I was contacted about judging Angora goats at the State Fair. Of course I said yes! I mailed back the contract this morning. Angoras haven’t been shown at the State Fair before, so they will be showing for ribbons only (no premium money this year). Mom has never been to the State Fair before, so I’m trying to talk her into going with me. My judging gig doesn’t start until 5 pm, so we could make a day of it. I think everyone should visit their State Fair at least once!

Going on Tour

June 30, 2013

Once again, I’m taking part in Ravelry’s Tour de Fleece. For those of you that don’t know about it, the Tour de Fleece is an opportunity for spinners to concentrate on their craft while the Tour de France is going on. You set your own goals, hopefully set yourself some challenges along the way (on the days the riders are mountain climbing), share pictures of your accomplishments, and have a chance at winning some lovely prizes. This year, I have offered up a prize from my Etsy shop.

My goals are pretty ambitious this year.

  1. I want to spin enough lace weight yarn from Merlin’s fleece for a spectacular lace shawl (pattern to still be determined). Merlin Day 1
  2. Blend the rest of his fleece with camel, alpaca, and silk (all shades of brown) and spin it up for a sweater. I still need to figure out the percentages, but I figure I will have at least 1 1/2 pounds of this.
  3. I am blending another fleece with the last of my own kid mohair and angora from a friend (69.4% CVM/14.4% mohair/16.2% angora). I’ve made the first pass through the carder with this, and plan on at least 2 more passes to blend the colors and fibers as completely as possible. There is a pound of this. It is amazing how much room it takes up at this stage. Here you can see the fibers filling the tote (wool at the bottom, kid mohair top left, bunny top right. Once I get the batts finished, I will twist them as I normally do and they will fill a single plastic shopping bag, as will the finished yarn. Air takes up a lot of space! romeldale bunny goat kid fluff
  4. I am finishing up a blue & purple roving I dyed a while back on my Golding spindle. Half is already spun up. Golding Day 1
  5. The other spindle project is a pink and purple silk cap, also dyed quite some time ago. It has been hanging around in my vendor booth for too long.
  6. For my challenge days, I want to create and spin a couple of art batts. I don’t get the appeal of art yarns, but I figure this will be a chance to stretch my boundaries and infuse a little more color into my Tour, which is pretty focused on natural colors.
  7. I am also hoping to make some head way on the gossamer merino/silk which has languished on the elec-spinner for way too long. It requires a lot of concentration to maintain the grist of this yarn, since a few extra fibers make such a huge difference when you’re only using about 20.

If I get done with all of those, I also have 7 alpaca fleeces that I am spinning on commission. There isn’t a huge rush on those, but they will be paying for my firewood this fall, so that is good incentive to get them finished! I’m still not positive how this woman found me (she was given my e-mail address by a yarn shop a few hundred miles away, in a city I’ve never visited), but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I enjoy commission spinning, once I can help my customer figure out exactly what they want in the way of yarn. Many knitters have no real understanding of the yarns that they work with, and it can be challenging to help them understand the possibilities when you are starting with raw fiber. Alpaca is a lovely fiber, but it has little to no memory, which can make knitting with it problematic. I will be trading out some of her fiber for wool, to give the yarn some recall, and we have discussed adding a bit of silk too. I would love to be able to make a living just spinning.

What else is happening, you ask? Well, Kid the Younger is now a college graduate! I am so incredibly proud of his accomplishment. He will be going on to graduate school, but this is a major step. His fiancée has been a huge support for him, and gifted him with a dozen bacon roses and a jar full of “life advice” from several friends and family members, which he read aloud at his graduation party. Many were funny and heart-felt, and he choked up when he got to the one I included from his big sister, “Dance Like No One is Watching”.

Black Sheep Gathering was the following weekend, and despite being slower than normal coming out of my annual depressive state (which has ended about the first of June normally, but has drug on a lot longer this year) I managed to attend. If I hadn’t been the contact person for the Spinner’s Lead I might have bailed on the whole idea, but not showing up wasn’t really an option. Over all, I’m glad I went. I had the opportunity to speak with a couple of friends that are also going through things this spring, and I think that helped all of us to feel better. The Spinner’s Lead was a rousing success, and I need to write up an article about it for the next issue of the Black Sheep Newsletter this week. A couple of us will be revising the rules slightly for the future, to try to encourage more people to take part.

I need to get to work figuring out my entries for Fairs this summer. I’m still not entirely out of my funk, which makes planning for the summer a bit of a challenge, but I know that I will enjoy it when it happens. Sometimes getting out of my own way is the biggest challenge of all!

One Step Closer To Being Ready For The Zombie Apocalypse

May 15, 2013

Just kidding, I’m not getting ready for the Zombie Apocalypse. But I do enjoy making myself as self-sufficient as I can, and yesterday I took another step in that direction.

It somehow seemed appropriate that I take the occasion of the 4th anniversary of Sweetie’s passing to play in the kitchen with the goat milk that I have been collecting from Myrtle. And while he would not have appreciated the mess I made, he would have found a great deal of joy in how much I was enjoying myself as I experimented with making not 1, but 2 kinds of cheese.

I have been following Leigh’s adventures with her goats and homestead for quite some time, so earlier I had checked out her archives for the info I needed, as well as doing a little additional research online. Can’t have too much education when starting a new project! I had been scooping the cream off the milk in the fridge and putting it in a jar in the freezer, and Saturday morning, the jar was finally full enough to try my hand at making butter.

Butter starting to come together It was a warm day, and once it solidified it was too warm to stay cohesive until I could take a picture of it. A little time in the fridge though, and I had butter! I find the taste difference between cow’s milk and my goat milk more noticeable in the butter than in the liquid milk. Not objectionable, just different. I was already aware that it wouldn’t be the standard “butter yellow” that we are used to in store-bought butter, but that doesn’t bother me in the least. Used on something (like the fresh corn on the cob I shared at Mom’s for dinner that evening) it is very tasty. First butter Enjoying first butter

Yesterday morning, I got up ready to dive into cheese making. I had read several things that indicated that mozzarella might not be the easiest cheese to start with, but I laughed in the face of danger. I’m not ready to do hard cheeses yet, and I’m not a huge fan of chevre, so mozzarella it was.

Just added milk to citric acid I added my gallon of milk to the citric acid in a pot set in a sink full of hot water.

Starting to coagulate with just citric acid It started to coagulate almost immediately, which was fun to see. Once it was up to 90 degrees, I added in the rennet. From what I had read, I thought it would take a while before I would see clear whey, but after just 5 minutes I was ready to proceed

five minutes after rennet was added I cut the curds and let them sit for a while before scooping them into a colander to drain. I added 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the curd, but I think next time I will add more (it seems a bit bland to me)

Then comes the really fun part – stretching! I had put a pot of water on the stove earlier to heat up, and found out that on low, the front left burner kept the water at the perfect temperature (140-150 degrees). I had bought a brand new pair of insulated rubber gloves for this step, because that’s a little warmer than I’m comfortable with. I dropped about half of the curds into the hot water, breaking them up with my fingers so the heat could get into everything. You work the cheese, lifting it up out of the water and back down as it cools. The transformation is very cool, at least to my cooking geek. When you start, the curd is kind of grainy looking, but after a short while it gets glossy and workable, kind of like taffy. Couldn’t really get pictures of that part, since I was home alone, but this is what I ended up with: First mozzarella done Isn’t it beautiful?!

And while I was working on stretching the mozzarella, I had put the whey on to try my hand at making ricotta too. I had read mixed reviews about how well that process worked but figured I had nothing to lose.Starting to heat the whey for ricotta I didn’t measure the whey, but judging on where it was hitting on the pot I figure there was about 3/4 of a gallon. I heated it slowly, working it slowly up to 200 degrees. Not seeing any changes by the time it had reached 180, I chickened out and added 2 tablespoons of vinegar (next time, I will trust the process and try it without). At about 190 degrees, I finally started seeing something happen

Ricotta curd

This got drained and salted also Ricotta done Plus, I now have whey in the fridge to play with.

Finally results: 14.9 ounces of mozzarella, 5.4 ounces of ricotta, and a half-gallon of whey. I used some whey in a brine that the mozzarella sat in for a couple of hours. The ricotta is wonderful, very tangy and smooth. The mozzarella is very firm (I hesitate to use the word tough, though that was my first thought). It shreds very nicely and melts beautifully (yes, I tested it on a piece of french bread set under the broiler. Yum!) I am now researching how best to use the whey.

I’m not getting a ton of milk out of Myrtle, but next year I will hopefully be milking all 3 of the does. My goal is to make hard cheeses like the daughter of one of my friends used to (before she got married), and to try my hand at Camembert. For now, I will be satisfied playing with a gallon at a time. I started a Dairy Journal, so that I can keep notes on what I did and how it worked.

I am also slowly working on getting the garden back up and running. I’ve weeded 2 beds completely, and rescued the rhubarb at the end of a third bed (I thought it had died off, but it was just buried under grass. Freed from that and with a top-dressing of alpaca poo, it has made a very happy recovery). My back only allows so much digging, but I’ve got peas, beets, spinach and chard in the ground. Hopefully, they will produce something before summer gets here. The sheep and goats are very happy to deal with the weeds I’m pulling from the beds, which haven’t been really worked in 5 years. I get my garden back, and they get snacks; it’s a win-win situation!

Dealing With Death

April 24, 2013

Not the cheeriest of titles, I know. But this time of year, that is where my mind goes. Tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of my beautiful Daughter’s passing, and in less than a month it will be the 4th anniversary of Sweetie’s passing also. For most folks, spring marks the beginning of things. For me, it marks ends. The passage of time has not made it easier, and I am a mess a lot of the time though I do a decent job of hiding it from most folks.

It is also an unfortunate fact that, as a farmer, I have to deal with death more often than most people do. It is simply a part of the life that I have chosen. I know that some people don’t want to think about the more unpleasant parts of my life style, and it won’t hurt my feelings if you choose not to read this post. I promise to get back to happier subjects next time.

Some years are worse than others. A few years ago, I grew to dread going out to feed, as it seemed that more often than not there would be a dead animal to deal with. Lambs dropped like flies, it seemed, and ewes too.

Inesh after Malcolm napping in a sunbeam  at KelliesThe first picture is Inesh just after I sheared him before breeding season a couple of  years ago. He is the father of all of last year’s lambs. Next is Malcolm as a lamb, then Merlin.

Since November, I have lost him and my other big ram, Kirk. They had been fussing with each other for a while, and I can only surmise that they caused each other some internal damage since they died within a week of each other. This month, I lost both Merlin (last year’s bottle lamb) and his twin Malcolm. Fine in the morning, dead when I went to feed in the afternoon. In reviewing my books, I have had problems with all of their mother’s lambs.

So, what does one do with a dead animal? I have always chosen to treat them with respect. Used to be, they would go into the ground here, with a pile of rocks on top to keep them from being too attractive to the neighborhood dogs. We have quite the graveyard in the back, including Kid the Younger’s horse (thanks to a good-hearted acquaintance with a backhoe).  My back, however, no longer makes it easy for me to dig that big a hole. So now I take a drive out to federal land and lay them to rest there. It is a solemn undertaking. No radio, my thoughts centered on the animal in the back of the van, words said in thanks to all they have given me. Their body goes back to nature, and I am always amazed at how quickly that happens. Within a month or less, there is little left but bones and fiber.

Most areas do not have an easy, inexpensive way to deal with animals that have passed. There used to be a rendering plant locally, but it closed due to new neighbors complaining about the smells (which were there before they built their fancy houses). The landfill does not knowingly take livestock. Some friends compost or burn dead animals, some donate them to zoos or places that keep large cats or wolves. It is a fact that all of us have to face, that none living survive forever. I am glad that I am able to honor my animals contributions to my life respectfully. I just hope that I don’t have to do it again soon.

On to happier subjects. Fiber Market Day went well and several of the bar code towels went to new homes. Last week, I did a new-to-me show, sharing a booth with Laura at the Small Farm Journal Fair. It is interesting how different things sell at different shows. I sold several of the silk scarves I’d dyed a few years ago, as well as some batts and finished items. We did a lot of demo-ing, and I took Myrtle and Naveed as pr animals. It was a fun show, but being on for 4 days straight was almost more than my poor introvert brain could handle. In addition, on the last day of the show I spent the morning at another venue teaching beginning drop spinning. Sunday I spent recuperating, so exhausted I could barely follow the tv show I was trying to watch.

I took advantage of the fact that I would be gone for most of the day during the show to wean the lambs (that way I miss most of the drama and noise). Naveed was the last to get weaned since he was at the show with me. When we got home, Myrtle joined the other 2 goats in with the wethers, while Naveed went back in the main pen with Ashe and the other lambs. Starting Sunday morning, I have been transitioning Myrtle to a milk goat. It is so nice to have fresh milk for my morning coffee! It has been slow going making the switch, but she gave me 8 ounces yesterday morning and 6 in the evening (as compared to 4 ounces each time the day before). I’ve got a jar of milk in the fridge that I am letting sit for a while to see if I can separate the cream off and make a little butter. Wish me luck! Making cheese will probably have to wait for next year, when I will hopefully be milking all 3 of the goats. All in all, I am very happy with my progress so far. Myrtle has a nice little udder for a first timer, and I am keeping my fingers crossed for Clara and Cloe.

Ashe is doing well, working really hard at getting up. I opened up the barn now that it’s just her and the lambs, and she gets herself outside to enjoy the sun. She still can’t straighten her front legs all the way, so she looks strange, but she can get herself a drink of water on her own and her spirit is unbelievable. She is putting on weight and eating like a horse. Even if she never recovers completely she is an inspiration, and she will be auntie to the lambs as long as she chooses to stick around.

Next up on my to-do list is getting all the stuff I didn’t sell listed on Etsy, so keep checking back there if you are interested in any of the bar code towels, batts or hand-dyed top & yarn.