Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Joyful Colors of Winter

Just outside my front door, in my little garden space, this lovely variegated Euonymous gives me joy all seasons of the year - but just look at its pink tinged beauty in the snow!

In the front room of our little house I'm lucky to have three huge windows.  Really, these are BIG windows, especially for such an old and small house!  The space once served as a dining room and living room, with an archway in the middle, the fireplace at the far end and a door to the front yard on one side.  We always eat at the kitchen table, so in the time that I've lived here it has never been a dining room.  My desk and computer sit between two of these windows and from my seat there I can watch the sun rise and the moon set....

I'm usually there early morning or late night, and sometimes that rosy glow draws me outdoors for a better view of God's glory ~

The picket fence has seen better days!
A celery plant that I missed picking is poking its way through the snow. 

And a variegated sage plant has some leaves holding on...

If I venture farther away from the house, I think the red berries on the ornamental crabapple tree are very pretty.  So is the bright blue January sky....
That blob in the background is actually a beautiful rock, brought up from the field
Beautiful blue January sky and puffy white clouds
Moon setting in the west...
And of course, what could be more joyful than a snapping good fire to warm our hands and our hearts?   

What colors are bringing you joy this winter?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chocolate for Birthdays

Chocolate colored sheep that is!

This is "Godiva", one of our young ewes named for her rich chocolate color.  I'm sharing her picture in honor of my friend Joanne's birthday.  We  both had birthdays last week and she got to have Godiva Chocolate cheesecake for hers, so of course I had to mention Godiva the sheep to her...So here you go, my friend!

Godiva is not a Corriedale.  She is a registered CVM sheep from my friend Bonnie at Sheepy Thyme Farm.  She'll be two years old in March and should be expecting her first lamb - I can't wait!  She's bred to Derek, a grey, who always gives us interesting colors and fine fleeces on his lambs.  Godiva's father was moorit (red) and her mother was white so with all those colorful factors combined I'm hoping for something really special.  Actually, I'm hoping for a moorit type color!

So there you go, chocolate and sheep...a very fine thing for a birthday post I think.  Oh and speaking of lambs, we have one girl "making bag" (her udder is starting to fill with milk as her time for lambing gets close).  According to my notes, she should be due around the 5th of February.  It's our little "Bree" - one of the prettiest sheep on the farm.  Here's a picture of her and one of her lambs from a few years ago ~

She nearly always passes on that white stripe on the face of her lambs.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Spinning, Sparkles and Snow

I was going to write a blog post about some things we're working on around the farm, but then I was distracted by some spinning and knitting and the lovely snow.

How many inches fell where you are?  We only have about 2.5 inches but its very pretty.  It seems to have stopped for the day, but the wind is blowing things around out there.

Spinning....spinning batts....spinning challenges.  I was poking around in the fiber stash the other day and came across some pretty batts I'd carded last year at a friends house.  There wasn't alot, just a few ounces, but it was so pretty and so soft.  Corriedale, of course, both natural and dyed along with angora and just a bit of "twinkle". 

Then it just so happened that the lovely group at Ennea Collective mentioned a spinning challenge for 2012, and the first of those was spinning batts.  Well, it was just meant to be that I finish spinning these up, don't you think?  That's exactly what I did, and I loved every single minute of it.  Clean, soft, well prepared fiber, watching the colors glow and change as they slid through my hands and onto the wheel.  Sigh...delightful!  Let me show you a little bit of what I did to spin ~

In the picture above, you are actually seeing two batts but each has been divided in half giving me four lengths of fiber to spin.  In other words, sections one and three are from one batt and sections two and four are from another.  I did this for two reasons.  First to give me a more manageable amount of fiber to draft and spin and second so that I could blend the colors a bit more on the wheel.  I think you can see pretty clearly in the photo that I had more of the dyed wool in one batt than I did the other!   I spun one bobbin full in the sequence above - sections 1,2, 3 then 4.  I spun a second bobbin in the order of 2, 3, 4 then 1.  And then I plied them together.  Is that clear as mud? you even care ((grin))  Was I overthinking the process?  Maybe, but I like the end results, pictured below ~

About 364 yards, 2-ply, both spun and plied on my Louet S-17, medium whorl.  This might become mittens or a hat or a cowl, not sure yet.  Or maybe the Windchaser Shawl by Lori Law, from the same issue of Ennea.  I could spin some solid grey for the border. yarn is a little heavier than fingering, more a sport weight, so I may not have enough.  But wouldn't that be pretty?

This was such a happy project for me, thanks Ennea crew for suggesting spinning batts!

Here's another happy project, a knitting one.  At my LYS, Sip 'n Knit, we're knitting socks.  This is actually a pattern that I wrote up called Sip 'n Sock.  It's simple, really, just a basic sock with a coffee cup motif.  I wanted to do a shop sample out of a soft squishy yarn and we had been having those dreary grey days, so I grabbed two hanks of Cascade 128.  How's this for a bright sock, LOL!  I shouldn't lose these, should I?  The red is some of my yarn, leftovers from making mittens.  Looking at it now, I kind of wish I would have made the heel red as well.  I need to hurry up and finish the second sock so I'll have those to wear around the house now that the temperature has dropped into the teens!

Finally, here's what's next on the spinning wheel, another "finish-up" project of just four ounces:

This was named "Ugly Duck" by its producer, but I don't think its ugly at all!  Unique maybe ;)  Anyway, I came across this the other day, too, fiber I received in a swap and thought I just need to finish spinning it as well.  I'm pretty sure its going to remain a single.  And I think I need to check that fiber stash more often! 

I'm looking forward to spinning at Sip 'n Knit on Saturday.  Any of you reading near Ithaca Michigan, feel free to join us!  We'll be there from 10 am till about 2 pm.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Retro Recipes

I'd love to pretend and have you all think that we only eat super healthy, all produced here on the farm, good for you meals.  I would love it if you thought that ;)  Probably even better if it were true.  And while it is true most of the time, there are also those times when I just opt for fast food, deli food or comfort foods from my memories growing up.

These simple, satisfying recipes are throwbacks to my childhood.  My Mom was an excellent cook....I mean to tell you, she was really good!  She cooked at home.  But in that odd, tilted way that life has because she was such a good cook and because we ate mostly at home we always thought tv-dinners and fast food were treats!  And maybe that's okay - it would be a lot better if we all thought good home cooking was "the norm" and these others were "treats" to enjoy only occasionally, instead of the other way around!

Thursdays were Dad's payday and Mom's grocery shopping days.  I remember the routine - go to town, pick up Dad's check and go grocery shopping.  By the time there were five of us kids ages 10 and under, it got to be a rotational thing to be able to be the child who went to the store with Mom.  Anyway, I'm wandering here....what I wanted to do was share two recipes with you that are from that era for me.  You might laugh, but as kids one of our favorite tv-dinners was "Franks and Beans"  LOL!  It came in the little oven safe packet with two little hot-dogs in a rich brown baked bean mixture with a little piece of cornbread and (I think) chocolate pudding for desert.  Whew, no color in that menu and probably not much nutrition either!  But we loved it.

So here is a recipe that recreates that taste treat from long ago (okay, its probably from 30 or 40 years ago for me).  Really, you've got to try this, it's so good!  Unless of course, you are one of my healthy-choice friends who never eats processed meats and store bought beans - that's okay, just skip over this recipe then.


2 (16-oz) cans baked beans (use the most common baked bean you can find for this – in our area the brand name will usually start with a “C” or a “V” and is a kind of tomato-ey base)
1 large onion, chopped – about one cup
2/3 cup unsulphured molasses
2/3 cup catsup
8 frankfurters, cut diagonally into pieces (3 or 4 pieces per frank is good)

Butter the inside of your crockpot. Mix all of the ingredients together in the crock, making sure the franks are pushed down into the beans.   Cook on low setting for 3 or 4 hours, or till mixture is heated through and nice and thick.

To be true to our tv-dinner memories, I make a nice moist and dense cornbread to serve with this. This is one of those lick-your-spoon comfort dishes to me. It can also be made in the oven – set at 300 to 325 degrees, combine the ingredients in a well greased casserole dish and bake for one hour and a half, to two hours.

Here is another one, only this comes more from my junior and senior high school Home Economics class.  I loved Home-Ec class!!! I still remember the Home-Ec room with its sets of well supplied kitchens (our class room had four different, complete kitchens)  As I mentioned earlier, my Mom was a great cook and people often say to me "you must have learned to cook from your mom"  Not so.  I was/am a very messy child.  My Mom was extremely, obsessively neat and clean and orderly.  I think I really distressed her!  So no, I was not allowed to cook with her.  Maybe I learned some things just from being in the same household?  I don't know, but I do know that I loved those cooking lessons in Home-Ec.  We didn't just learn to cook, we learned nutrion and menu-planning and grocery shopping.

Okay, I'm wandering down memory lane again, sorry!  I really just meant to share this second recipe with you from Home-Ec class.  It wasn't one of the healthy recipes we learned, it was a home made "fast food" of the day, one that was popular with kids.  It seemed like everyone made this occasionally at that time.  Now days, I know a lot of you don't eat canned tuna and if that is the case, this is another recipe you just want to skip over.  But oh my, it makes my stomach rumble just to think about it ;)


8 slices bread, toasted (rye bread is really, really good in this dish!)
1 (6 ½-oz can) tuna, drained
1 small onion, chopped
¼ cup mayonnaise
4 slices American cheese (I prefer to use a nice slice of real cheddar)
Canned peas, drained (use your personal preference here – I use about half the can, but you can use the whole thing if you like)
1 can (10 ¾ oz) cream of mushroom soup
¼ cup milk

Arrange 4 slices of the toast in an ungreased baking dish. Mix tuna, onion and mayo; spread over the toast. Top each slice toast with 1 slice of cheese; place remaining slices of toast on top.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together and pour over all. Sprinkle with pepper. Cook, uncovered, at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes.

Even better than the tuna-melts we had as kids! The original recipe called for broccoli rather than peas, but to me peas just go hand in hand with tuna.  I have even added chopped hard boiled eggs and that's good, too.  What to eat as a side dish to this meal?  Good ol' salty potato chips!  LOL...hey, we are going unhealthy here, we might as well go all the way.  And then wash it down with a big glass of super cold white milk (now that IS healthy!)

Okay, so now we have enjoyed our 1960's throwback foods, we will return to having a farm raised, free range chicken baked with garden produced garlic for supper tonight along with redskin potatoes from my brothers garden and frozen corn from the neighbors garden.  Healthy and delicious and local or home raised.

But I still lick the spoon on those other two retro recipes ((grin)).  Do you have a favorite?


Monday, January 02, 2012

Still Looking For Snow

January 2011 Pasture, no snow
Happy 2012, Everyone!  Do you know what I keep thinking about?  That this year (this month actually), I will turn 53 years old.  LOL, that's not as bad as it sounds because I kept thinking I already was 53 ((grin)) - I guess I "gained" a year! 

It's January 2nd already and still no snow for us, unless you count the two times snow fell but we got less than an inch. 

We've had a lot of rain and we're thankful for the moisture.  But all of this wet and warm winter weather is truthfully hard on livestock.  Its hard to keep the barns clean and dry, the lanes (pathways the sheep use to go back and forth to pasture) are rutted and muddy and difficult.  I'm lucky that our sheep are able to chose whether they want to be in or out of the barn and you might be surprised to learn that they will stay outdoors on bitterly cold and snowy days, but tend to stay indoors when it's windy and rainy.  I was seriously thinking about going ahead and shearing last month, and I kinda wish I would have gotten that done.  The picture above was taken on January 4th, 2011.  Here is one taken yesterday, January 1, 2012:

Pasture, January 2012
Notice anything similar?  Right, no snow (that and the section of fence boards missing).  Am I the only one who thought we had a lot more snow last year?  Well, we did have but obviously not at the beginning of the year! 

Over the weekend, weather men were predicting a terrible storm for us and we prepared accordingly.  We were under a winter storm advisory.  I spent the morning closing up barn windows, nailing them down (jobs we usually do around the first of November!)  I had some small pieces of equipment in the big barn here that needed to go into "storage" at the Burnham barn, so I took care of that.  I changed some water tanks from the large metal stock tanks that freeze easily to the heavy black ones that are easier to break ice out of.  I bedded all of the animals with fresh straw - the chickens; the horse in his three-sided shed; the boy sheep in their lean-to and of course the ewes (expectant mamas and juevinile yearling girls)  When I finished up night chores I locked the barn doors up tight and came to the house, listening to the wind howling in the top of the pine trees.  In the house, I made sure that both Bill and I were freshly showered and all of the laundry was done up.  I drew extra water and made sure the oil lamps were ready to go.

We got nothing.  But boy, I felt good being all prepared!  There is probably a lesson in that, somewhere.

Still, its a long way till spring and I'm sure we will still see snow.  Just take a look at a few more pictures from 2011, taken in February ~

Very pretty and it sure cleans things up, doesn't it?  But, can I tell you a secret?  Other than the sloppy barnyards, I haven't minded not having to wade through snow that reaches my knees to get to the barn or try to keep the wheelchair ramp and driveway clear of ice and snow so that I can get Bill safely to the van when we need to get out.

Well, no matter where you are at...whether you have snow or winter rains or if it is warm where you matter what, I pray that January 2012 is giving you the chance to look forward from the day and that it will be a good year, come what may!