Friday, April 22, 2011

Farmday Friday!!!!

Well I delved in to the Farm files again and up I came with something I am still working on mastering.  Weaving!  A couple years ago I was lucky enough to come across a man who had a loom and a whole slew of tools and yarn he wanted to sell.  For $250 I got probably $500 or more worth of weaving stuff.  It was amazing.  I still get wowed thinking of it.  The man who sold it to me went to the same church as my co-worker.  He happened to mention he had some stuff to sell and she happened to know that I spun wool.  He gave her his number to give to me and voila!  Insta-weavingstuff.

Woven potholders for my husband for Christmas - purple = Elderberries, bright and light yellows are goldenrod and dark yellowish brown is Sumac.

Now the really cool part about all this was the loom and everything else belonged to his father.  His father had passed away recently and he, the son, had no interest in weaving.  Let me tell you, buying an entire estate lot of something like this is very gratifying.  Not because of the stuff you get but because of the story you see in what you get. 

Part of the estate was two boxes of books.  Sorting through them, I came across a publication from the local university and guess who was on the cover?  The former owner of the loom.  He was weaving on a room-sized loom and inside he had written a very nice article on how these days, nobody sees the value in things such as weaving.  We are all in so much of a hurry.  We lose the satisfaction that comes with creating something out of very base materials.  I photocopied the article then called the son so he could have the original back as a keepsake.  He was appreciative.  That was my first visit from the former owner of the loom

My second visit from my looms former owner came while I was going through many of the tools and extraneous items that came with it.  I spread everything out on the floor and cataloged what I had so I could absorb the enormity of it.  If you go here you can see some in depth pictures of what I did that day.  One thing I came across was a tiny shuttle, not more than 3" long.  It had Christmas colored yarn wrapped around it and a bit of gold thread so it could be hung as a tree ornament.  There was a tag with the cute name the former owner had come up with to sell his wares.  While looking at this I started to get teary eyed.  A song came on called "Eye to Eye" about a father-son relationship and I swear I felt the presence of the man whose things these used to be.  
A third visit from the former owner came when I sat down to my first weaving- I worked for 7 hrs straight!!
That is the important part.  Understanding the stories and the value in these things.  That is why people give me things.  They know I'll appreciate them.  A few posts back I mentioned my friend who has given me loads of canning jars and other farm stuff.  All belonging to her husband's mother who has passed on.  Another friend of mine gave me 4 suitcases full of silk, sari and cotton fabric because she knew I'd either use it or give it to someone who would. 

What I love about all of this is that it flies in the face of the 'throw away' generation.  The thinking that once something is not needed, it's as good as trash.  Call me a trash compactor if you'd like and call me a garbage disposal if you must but I believe we do disrespect to ourselves and to others when we don't recognize a gift and accept it.  The items are nice but it's the stories that come with them that are the true gift.

I never met the owner of my loom and all its trappings but I see his hand on my loom in the smooth spots he wore on it while using it.  I hang his small shuttle Christmas tree ornaments on my tree and I understand why he kept odd fabrics, cut in to strips and rolled up in to balls.  I thank him every time I churn out a new project or lose patience stringing up the warp.  Maybe it's silly, but I think he'd be happy with how his weaving story turned out.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday already?

Where do the weeks go?  Oh yes, they are slashed and burned amidst the constant tail-chasing that is spring!  Oh but what a wonderful spring!  Most years we have a week or two of cooler weather and then bam! 90 degrees.  This year we are having a wonderfully slow spring.  It gives everyone a chance to enjoy the peeking ephemerals and budding trees.  There's so much to love about spring.
 Just now the sun is peeking through my office window and warming my back.  I'm hoping I have time to go see these little beauties in person.  If you wait a week, you miss something that's blooming.  My dear sweet husband is coming home for Easter.  He's driving out and staying for a whole week.  What a wonderful thing.  We'll have to greet and get to know each other again.  We haven't seen each other since February 8th or so.  Patience.  If I ever wished for more patience I think I got my wish.  The trials of life!  If life were easy, I'd probably be bored.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Farmday Friday!!!

I remembered!  That deserves a yell.  Yaaaaaaay!!!  Working 12 hour days is not conducive to blogging.  I'd love to try writing them in advance but am struggling to stay awake when I get home.  Maybe I'll have to write five on Sundays and just delve them out during the week.  Hm.  That's a thought.

Anyway it's Friday so it's Farmday!  Let me check my Farm folder (yes, I have a Farm folder) and see what I can dredge up.  Aha!  Preserving.  I love to preserve foods.  My title bar backdrop is from a picture of some of my many canned goods from last year.  Each year I do jams, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, beets etc.  Basically, anything I can can, I do can.  Last year, doing it in 90 degree heat was not fun but hey....I got my farmgirl skirt on, got my hair pinned up and turned the AC off with the fans running and sweated through it.  In winter, it was well worth it.  But the heat didn't beat me nearly so bad as these did.......

You want tedium?  I'll give you tedium.  How 'bout picking and stripping the berries from 7 lbs of elderberries.  Holy moly it tried even my now fairly decent patience!  But the result was wonderful.  If you've never had elderberry jam, you don't know what you're missing.  It has an amazing flavor, even after cooking (it's a cooked jam vs. a freezer jam). 
Very tasty!

Look at that!  Love this picture.  Fruits of my sweat and labor.  Peaches, beets, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini...all ready for me to eat in dead of winter.  Pressure canners are awesome.  Don't be scared of them.  Get a good book and sit down near them when they hit the pressure they need to be at.  I conquered my fear of disaster that first year I did it.  The trick is understanding the relationship between your canner and your stove.  You may start at a high temp and have to take it down lower a little bit at a time.  It just depends.  Learning something new is just about paying very close attention!!

One of the other things I love to do to preserve tomatoes is roast them on a cookie sheet until they're blackened and dried out.  I clean out the seeds from Roma's, brush them with olive oil on the inside only, sprinkle some with Italian herbs or just leave 'em be, then roast them at maybe 200 degrees for a long, long, long, long time.  Check them now and again and when they've shriveled up with some blackening going on (but not too much or they cook away to nothing) you take them out, let them cool, throw them in a baggie in the freezer and voila!  'Sun' dried tomatoes on demand.  I take them out frozen, chop them up and put them in my morning omelet, my salad, you name it.  Whatever you put them in, the word is YUM salty goodness.  Remember this when you are picking tomatoes in August and need a break from canning them.  There are other options. 

IMPRESSIVE! and only half of what I ended up with last year.  I was a cannin' machine!

If you've got the canning bug but haven't ever tried it, try jams first, they're pretty easy, especially freezer jams which you just freeze, jar and all, after mixing in the pectin and heating for a short time.  I actually prefer them since I eat enough jam, longevity isn't an issue and the flavor always seems a bit better in them.  The less you cook anything, the more you preserve the flavor and freezer jams are barely cooked at all!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Vinegar Conversion

I hate the smell of vinegar.  I've always hated it.  Even as a kid when using it to melt the Paas tabs to color Easter eggs I had to hold my nose.  My husband has told a vinegar story of mine a time or two where I turned my nose up at the German potato salad he was so sure I'd love at one of our first meals out together.  Oops.  Sorry honey; vinegar gives me heartburn. 

But as he pointed out (which he is soooo good at doing) I need to get used to it because vinegar is one of those miracle things that has a million uses and on a farm - we'll probably need every single one of them.  AND we can make it ourselves.  Did you know that?  You can actually make vinegar.  It's not that hard but that's not what this post is about so maybe a Farmday Friday post coming up, I'll go in to more detail.

So finally I'm being converted.  I used to use vinegar in the laundry to help soften my water, I have really really really really hard water, so hard that if you leave some water from my faucet in an aluminum pie pan long enough it eats tiny holes in the's crazy hard.  I dumped a whole bunch in the dishwasher but there was no helping that old thing, it just needs to be replaced. 

When I got my first grown-up set of pots and pans I remember actually reading the instructions (I was so proud of them I wanted to take good care of them and still do) and was surprised to see that they recommended a little dash of vinegar in the final rinse when washing them to remove any staining etc. that won't come off with normal washing.  I still use that tip and just now I used it on a very nice copper saute pan we got my father for Christmas.  It totally removed the stains on the inside and made it nice and shiny again.  Love nice and shiny!

So here it is!  My tribute to vinegar (I'll have to tell my husband to read this) after a long horrible relationship with it.  I will continue my personal exploration of this amazing and non-toxic tool in liquid form.  Now why the heck can't they make it lavender scented?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Playin' Ketchup

Well I'm behind again!  This week was the first week of waking up at 5am to get in to work by 6am and being wiped out when I get home means I'm behind on a lot of things.  Last night was the last straw.  Ended up passing out in the tub after a nice glass of wine.  Got out, got my jammies on and passed out for another 3 hours until my husband called.  But boy, I feel pretty rested this morning!  Maybe next week it will be easier.  On with the Farmday post!

I can't believe I haven't shown you my spinning yet!  What am I thinking?  It's central to my life.  I don't feel complete without a closet full of fiber and yarn and other things to .......deep breath.......sorry folks, I'm a little obsessed.

Alpaca, Llama, Shetland, Cotton, Cat (yes you read right) and some boxes of yarn for good measure

 And here's the culprit.  My wheel that my aunt gave to me.  She wasn't using it and lo and behold it was a working wheel in very good shape!  The lovely matching bench was a Christmas present from my husband....he does gorgeous work!

A bit of Shetland which I'm spinning now.

Don't worry....there's more of this.....

 And this is what it looks like spun up.  (note the nails, can't help it, they make me happy) There's a lot of this color Shetland....I will have lots of yarn when I'm done with it!

 I also have cotton waiting around for me.  This was gathered from a friend who has a sister in Florida with a cotton bush.  They're not hard to grow.  That's my next experiment!
Had to include the everpresent Juniper.  She was pleading with me to let her outside while I was taking the photos for this post, she doesn't seem to understand that she's an inside cat.

There could be a whole other post on the other fibers, the dyeing I've been doing (v. cool!) etc but I'll save that for another post.  Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chicken Purse - Yup, you read right.

I was thinking about what to write about today and got on Amazon to do some shopping (possibly, really shouldn't spend money but have this thing about finding the perfect purse, all mine aren't quite right and if I can find it I can look forward to never ever having to purse shop again!  And this isn't it)

Product DetailsThe chicken purse.  Rubber, red, yellow and alllllll chicken. Bok bok.
This might be taking the Farmgirl thing a bit far dontcha think?  But seriously....I'm tempted.

How many are courageous enough to show off their dedication to our fine feathered egg producing friends?  But rubber?  Can't you smell that 'new rubber' smell?  Nah.  Prolly made in China and prolly not for me.  I'll keep lookin'.

Had to giggle at the petite and plus size search narrowing options on Amazon.  We're sizing purses now?  I wonder if this hen is petite or plus?

Product Details
 Then I saw this one.  Now, don't get me wrong, I know this type of thing really does it for some girls but truly not me.  That whole death thing coupled with pink hearts?  Well - I want to look at my purse and be cheered, not wonder what lurks within (stale sammich, poison ring?)

This one caught my eye, an Indiana Jones satchel.  But that flappy thing in front?  That never works for me. It gets in the way.  Product DetailsBut hey I won't take you through everything I found.  If you see a girl walkin' around with a chicken purse you'll know which one I chose!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Off To The Races!

Today our seasonal staff started and things got a little crazy.  The good part about winter is the mellow moments when you can occasionally hop on blogger, FB etc.  The bad part is the utter sedentary lifestyle I inevitably lead.  Being in charge of two people kinda changes all that.  Suddenly, I have to be organized so that they can do their job.  Fat chance.  I was very not ready for that but funny, ready or not it happened anyway so tonight will be spent making up for my lack of preparedness and working FROM HOME. 

I swore off doing this three years ago when I couldn't turn off my brain long enough to be myself.  Now here I am being forced to do it again.  Not a happy camper but hopefully it won't be much longer. Hopefully I'll find a renter soon and be gone.  Hopefully.

p.s. you really shouldn't look at all that text without some pretty pictures.....

Monday, April 4, 2011

Yesterday has its drawbacks...

Today I am fearlessly napping, drowsing, nodding off, sleeping in and doing nothing.  I really should learn Temperance.

Holy Bakin' Sunday

Sundays were supposed to be Sew-days - that skill I have yet to truly master.  But while procrastinating about what to sew today, I started baking:


And baking.....

And baking.....

To be fair, I did promise my husband that I would mail him a double batch of biscotti.  Over the years I've mailed him a wide array of baked goods; care packages, you know.  It let's him know that I'm thinking about him.  Well this one will have a little of everything.  Some dog treats, some people treats and a whole loaf of homemade sourdough that's in the oven baking right 12:45am.  Have I mentioned I love to bake?  I wonder......does thinking about sewing count towards my goal of learning it?  Probaby not eh?  Well, I'll have a happy hubby anyway, and that's a fair exchange in my book.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Soundtrack

Ever just need a day of silence?  Yesterday after driving four hours back from Springfield, IL and listening to constant noise put out by the radio, silence seems like a balm.  Today's soundtrack is like that.  Silent.  It's not the title of anything, I just think every once in a while it's necessary to remember what it's like to not need a soundtrack to your day.  To instead, listen to what's around you.  So maybe silence isn't the best description.  There are still sounds to my Sunday soundtrack. 

The tap, tap, tap of Sam's nails as he walks around the condo.  Juniper in the litterbox.  Coffee brewing.  The whirrrrr of the computer.  The footsteps of the person above me.  A far away train whistle and ambulance.  The thunk of Sam dropping his toy right behind me and then sneaking out of the room as if to say "Play with me?" 
Or the pleasurable groan  he emits as he rolls around on top of his toy or bone.

It's too bad in today's world we're always plugged in to, listening to, watching or doing something.  Sundays since time immemorial, in my family have been days of rest.  My great-grandfather would never let my brother mow his lawn on Sundays.  My family always tried to take it easy.  So here's to a no music Sunday.  To a day of listening to what's around me instead of creating more noise.  Open up your ears, settle your mind; what do you hear around you?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Farmday Friday!!!!!!

I have a love/why can't I make it! relationship with cheese.  I love to eat it, but making it has been a challenge.  When I have tried, this is what I end up with.  The stuff in the container is Ricotta (which is Italian for twice cooked, which is what you do to get it, you cook the whey left from normal cheesemaking) and the stuff in the plastic wrap is essentially cream cheese/farmers cheese I've also heard it called.
 Now in many cases, this will do fine for cheese but what I really want to make is a good, semi-hard cheese, something I can age until it gets all dry and stinky and yummy.  I bought a book on cheesemaking; I haven't cracked the cover yet.  And I probably won't until I'm ready to try, try again.
Without my own cow/goat/sheep to use the milk from to make it, it gets pretty durned expensive to keep trying over and over.  One time I said 'screw it' and just boiled the curds in the whey to see what would happen.  Well the curds solidified and that was the yummiest cheese so far.  They tasted kinda like mozzarella.

So for Farmday Friday, here are my attempts at cheeeeeeese.  Anybody else made any?