Friday, October 28, 2011

Out Of Touch

Bree and Collette, sisters, born one year apart
It's time for my computer to gets its annual check-up ;)  So I will likely be out of touch for a few days till it gets back, but when I'm back on line there will be some sheep stories to share (thanks to those who have asked for them!) as well as a new soup recipe I'm sure.

We had a true, heavy killing frost last night - it coated everything with these lovely ice crystals!  A strong signal of change and promise of winter months ahead.  But truth be told, I prefer fall and winter!

A look across the ditch from our back yard
See you when we're back up and running ~

Monday, October 24, 2011

Soup, Sheep and Celebrities

Thanks for all the positive comments on last weeks soup!  I can't wait to share this second recipe with you - it was yummy, too, in an entirely different way.  Here are a few of the key ingredients ~

I had intended to make a Pasta-Sausage stew type concoction, but after working outside a lot for the past few days both Bill and I were feeling a little cold, stuffy and achey.  I didn't want something heavy and I was craving some super foods....enter kale, freshly dug garlic and bright healthy peppers to make a very quick, savory soup.  This was literally ready to eat in thirty minutes, and about ten of that was preparing the vegetables.

A recipe adapted and tweaked from one I found in an older Better Homes & Garden magazine

8 ounces fully-cooked smoked sausage, sliced (I used a delicious German sausage from a local shop that is very dense and garlicky)

1 medium onion, chopped

Minced garlic (the recipe called for 1 Tbsp.  I used the entire bulb of a small, freshly dug garlic from my neighbors garden.  This is a warm and spicy garlic!)

4 to 6 cups chicken broth

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

About 8 cups fresh kale, stems removed and leaves chopped (this would be about 12 ounces)

Heat a pot over medium high heat (I added about a tablespoon of butter to cook the sausage in)  Add sausage and saute for 5 minutes or till lightly browned.  Stir in onion and garlic, saute another 3 minutes or till softened.  Add broth and bring to a boil.

Stir in potatoes and kale.  Simmer, partially covered, for 10-12 minutes or till potatoes are tender.  Serve.

My tweaks ~  Well, as I mentioned above I used a lot more garlic than the recipe called for.  Like I said, I was feeling a little like I was catching a cold ;)  I added some diced red pepper along with the onions and garlic (and this was a small dice)  At the end, I added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to brighten it up (just cut a lemon in half and squeezed the juice in) and when I dished it up, I did a small grating of Parmesan cheese over it.  Bill ate his soup with crackers, I ate mine with the crust of a rustic white bread I had made earlier in the week.

I didn't grow the kale, it came from a dear older lady who always has small treats like this at her booth at Farmers Market.  She grows lots of fun varieties of things.  The leaves were still small and tender, I didn't even have to remove the stems!  We have had a few hard frosts (see the picture below), enough to help sweeten the kale.  This soup was exactly what we needed and we made pigs of ourselves cleaning it all up.  I hope Edna has some more kale at Farmers Market this week....

We have had about three heavy frosts now
I just included the shot above to show some of the heavy frost we have had and a few of the sheep out in it.  The rams have been working pretty hard, hopefully getting ewes bred for lambs early next spring.  I would like to start writing a bit more about the sheep side of things here at the farm, what we do and how we make decisions about them.  Is that something you would like to read?

And finally, a word about celebrities - local celebrities that I happen to know!  You have heard me speak of Angie and family at Maple Valley Off-Grid Farm right here in Michigan.  They are living off-grid and sharing their love of the Lord, the land and their family.  Well, they are going to be on the Anderson Cooper show!!! Yes, really ;)  The show will air on Tuesday, October 25 on CBS.  Locally it is on at 4 pm.  If you have a chance to check it out, or look at their blog, be sure to do so.  I hope they are well represented - they are really neat people.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A New Favorite Farm Soup

Recently, my friend Kimberly (who has a terrific blog, by the way) proposed/challenged trying a new soup each week for a month.  Well, I'd been planning to try making a winter squash type soup for some time so I decided this was just the "kick-in-pants" I needed to get started!

Vegetable peelings

Recipes for some type of squash soup are everywhere this time of year and most of them are very, very similar. If you do an online search and then read reviews of some of them, you'll often find comments about the soup being too bland and some suggest the use of potato adds to the bland-ness. Well, I think you probably need the potato to add to the thickness but what I did was to substitute a couple of carrots for some of the potato. I’m not sure how much difference it made, but it all tasted great! Then because squash speaks to me of needing autumn flavors, I just added the same set of spices that I put in my home made Tomato Soup. I read one recipe that used curry powder as the seasoning and I’ll bet that would be good, too. Something else I want to add to this next time is red pepper – either just sautéed along with the main vegetables or roasted and then added to it. For some reason, I was thinking adding sage to the seasoning would be great. You’ll notice that I added fresh pressed cider as part of the liquid and so that got me to thinking that you could include an apple or two to the sauté.

Really fresh pressed cider!  My grandsons pressing apples they picked with Aunt Mo and Uncle Chris - they had a blast!
This recipe offers itself up to so many possibilites!  I think you could add all different kinds of liquid to help flavor it.  I did the apple cider but you could try some orange juice.  And instead of maple syrup for flavoring, how about a nice rum?  just a splash....

Anyway, this came out a huge success and my husband now has a new favorite soup!  I have plenty more Butternut Squash and lots of other vegetables to throw in the mix, so I know it will be in our bowls many more times this winter.  Here it is, our version of a classic ;)

My own adaptation after studying several different blogs and recipes, using what I had on hand and seasonings we are partial to

1 whole garlic bulb, roasted

1 medium butternut sqush, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks*

1 large potato, peeled and diced (I used a freshly dug and scrubbed Kennebec potato from my brother’s garden. I’ll bet a Yukon Gold would be nice, too, or even a sweet potato)

2 large carrots, (also freshly dug and scrubbed from my brother’s garden!) cut into chunks

1 large yellow onion, chopped (you guessed it, this came from my brother’s garden, too)

1 stalk celery, including the leaves (this was from my garden)

3 Tbsp butter

3 cups water (I added half a cup cider to ours, so a total of 3 1/2 cups liquid…I happened to have on hand some that was freshly pressed by my brother-in-law and my grandsons. Yummy)

1 14-1/2 oz. Can chicken broth (I used the low sodium kind) I think you could substitute vegetable broth

1 ½ tsp kosher salt, ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper

½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp each ground allspice, ground nutmeg, ground cloves

½ cup cream, half and half or evaporated milk

Maple syrup

Crumbled feta cheese (hey, Kimberly has a great tutorial on her blog for making a Farmers Cheese that would be delicious here!)

* If you find it a hassle to peel the squash, I don’t know why it wouldn’t be just as easy to go ahead and roast your squash (or do it in the microwave, if that is how you prepare it), scoop it out of the skin and add the cooked squash to the already sautéed vegetables. In fact, now I am thinking that maybe roasting all of the vegetables and then making them into the soup would add a whole other depth of flavor to the finished product. And oh my, what about adding parsnips to the mix?!?

If you don’t already know how to roast garlic, here is the simple way I do it. Don’t peel or separate the cloves, but do take off the papery outer skin and cut just the top off the garlic bulb. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap it up in heavy duty foil. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes or till softened. Have this in the oven while you are preparing the rest of the vegetables for the soup, and let it cool a bit before you have to handle it.

In a large soup pan, Dutch oven or something similar sauté the squash, potato, carrots, onion and celery in the butter until crisp-tender. Add the water, broth, salt and pepper and spices to the vegetables then squeeze the softened garlic into the mixture. Bring it all to a boil then reduce the heat; cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or till vegetables are tender. Cool slightly.

Using an immersion blender or a food processor, blend into a thick and creamy soup (be careful, the soup is hot!).  At this point, return to the pot and add the cream or milk and maple syrup and allow to heat through. I think I only used two or three tablespoons of syrup for this amount of soup, just enough to sweeten and add that earthly flavor (we like the darker maple syrup). If you don’t want to add cream and maple syrup, don’t. The soup was fine before I added those, but then these two things just took it to the next level - over the top, at least in my opinion.

Ladle your soup into bowls or mugs and top with some crumbled feta cheese (again, a matter of preference. If you don’t like feta cheese, don’t add it!)

Oh, and I didn’t puree the soup until it was entirely thin – it certainly wasn’t runny or anything, and we definitely didn’t feel like we were eating baby food (a complaint I read about a lot of recipes) On the contrary, my husband and I just looked at each other in delight and kept eating. In fact, we finished off most of the pot for supper then each had another soup mug full before bed!  This is destined to become a regular at our table.

If you give my version a try, would you let me know how you like it?  Next up for my soup experiment is a Sausage and Pasta Stew, with lots of good things like tomatoes, peppers (I have a lot of peppers right now) and Italian sausage (made from our own lamb)  I'll certainly let you know how it goes ;)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not Just Our Yarns

Even though there is nothing that compares to knitting with yarn I have spun myself, from wool grown here at the farm from our own sheep, sometimes we do knit with commercial wool yarn (and yes, even when it is purchased yarn it is nearly always wool)  For example, this pair of purple Railroad Rib socks is made from Cascade 220 wool - a favorite (as is anything from the folks at Brown Sheep company)

Sometimes I am drawn to wildly colored yarn, like the Trekking brand I am using in this pair of socks in progress:

At least I think this is Trekking yarn.  It was a gift and now I can't find the ball band that would tell me for sure ;(  Anyway, the colorway is a perfect compliment to the bucketful of cherry tomatoes, don't you agree?  The pattern is a great one, too, called Honey Badger.  Not boring at all and works well with the colorful sock yarn. 

Sock yarns are nice for other small projects, too.

My daughter is a fantastic knitter - her skills far surpass mine and I couldn't be more proud of her!  She recently made the shawlette pictured above, it is one of Rosemary Hill's designs called Live Oak Shawlette, from one skein of Plymouth sock yarn.  Here is a closeup of the edging:

And another one of the entire shawl, looking like it is going to take flight from the tree!

I don't always like these types of yarn for lace patterns, but this subtle blend of blues worked out really nice.  She made it as a gift for someone special.

Not all of the wool yarn that I purchase is exactly commercial.  I like to buy yarn from other farmers/shepherds, and one of my favorites is a Michigan family farm, my friends Lona and Mike at Shady Side Farm.  The project below is from a few years ago, but I loved using their yarn.  I got another skein after that (actually while on a farm tour of their place!) of natural white and also one of mixed blues and greens.

The pink and grey skeins are yarn from our sheep, the speckled skein is from Shady Side Farm, fellow Michigan farmers
So even if you don't raise sheep and spin your own yarns, there are tons of great choices available to knit and crochet with.  Even though my sheep don't think I should ever use anything but the wool they provide me with!

I think Ted is sticking out his tongue at commercial yarn, LOL!
Hope you find time to enjoy some yarn of any kind today ;)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

When Cold Winds Blow

What a comfort it is to have warm, handspun wool socks to slip on our feet...

Hard working, handspun wool socks - and yes, that might just be manure on my pant leg! Why do you ask?  LOL...
On our hands....

Fingerless mitts are so nice this time of year!
On our head.....

And over our shoulders to chase away the chill....

A warm, rustic shawl in progress
Are you wearing your wool today?  The Corriedale sheep say "We are!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gradual Change

Gradually we change, just like the autumn leaves
Thank you, everyone, who sent us your kindness and prayers either via the internet, phone or in person as we let go of one piece of our lives.  We can never, ever tell you how much it meant to us!  The sale is behind us now (and let me tell you, that was a very surreal experience - at least it was for me) and while we wait on paper work and transfers, etc. we gradually adjust and move on.  Move forward, I hope!

The sheep, their pasture, third cutting hay and beyond that a beautiful red maple tree and blue October sky!
As we sat on the back porch, looking out at this lovely view that we still enjoy, I said to my husband "Why don't we just imagine that we are a newly married, newly retired, newly somthing couple just coming to this farm and the acreaage we have left and make plans for it according to how we are farming now?  What would suit our program best?"  Its rather an exciting thought! 

When he moved here fresh from college many years ago, starting his career and raising horses and a family, he needed it to be one way.  Nearly twenty years ago when he married me, retired from his business and began farming and driving horses full time, he needed it to be another way.  Then when he became disabled, we sold all of the horses, I started staying home full time and we began raising sheep full time - well, now we need things to be changed again!  We have been functioning basically as a horse farm that had sheep on it (before the horses, this barn had been a dairy...then a sheep....then a horse barn again! Some things go full circle, don't they?)  Now we need to consolidate, rejuvinate and relocate things to make it more practical and more functional for what we are doing today.   Smaller, but (hopefully) more efficient ;)

Sheep following me to pasture
Won't you follow along and see how we do?  We'd love for you to join us!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Spinning Wheel For Sale

I have decided to sell one of my spinning wheels, my lovely little Louet S-45 ~

It has been a terrific wheel, spins like a dream and is in excellent condition.  I have a good price on it, including a few extras.  You can read all about it right here.  While you are there, why not take a look at some of the spinning fibers we have available this fall?  The sample yarns shown below were spun from some of them - Pasture Land, Michigan Red Cedar (this would be wonderful to spin amidst autumns early colors!), Midnight Dances and Dawns Early Light.  We also have combed Corriedale top, from our very best white sheep.

You can find out more about the fibers at The Wool Mitten blog, the same place the spinning wheel is listed, or if you have any questions don't hesitate to email me at  If you are at all like me, the cool nights and Indian Summer days have me wanting to do nothing more than spin and knit!

Some of you have asked about this other blog, The Wool Mitten.  I have used it for a while just as a place to list fibers until we are able to completely revamp our main website.  This blog will remain our main farm blog though.  Just so you know ;)