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Seeds arrived today!  I got them from my favorite seed company, High Mowing Seeds, in Vermont, and I picked up a few from Sustainable Seed Company.  I ended up at Sustainable Seed Company when looking for Organic Quinoa seeds, and they had a couple other things that interested me, that High Mowing didn’t have, like parsnips.  I got two kinds, All American and Hallow Crown.  Along with my pretty small order of 6 packets of seeds they sent a free package too!  What a nice surprise.  It’s Lolla Rosa Darky Lettuce.  It’s a loosleaf head variety that is slow to bolt.  It’s a dark Magenta color, and will look beautiful at the end of my walk with some flowers in my big green pot.  I’m excited.

In my excitement I broke out my metal trays and the soil blocker, and screwed together our seed starting shelves!  I now have 3 trays of seeds done.  There is a tray each of San Marzano Tomatoes, Moskovich Tomatoes and my favorite pepper, the Corno di Toro.  I still have 3 kinds of tomatoes and a pepper variety to start, along with some herbs.  I’m also planting a tray or two of microgreens since I’m itching for green, fresh food, and the lights will be set up anyway.

I kind of got a bit of the microgreen bug because I enjoyed some freshly cut arugula microgreens on my mac and cheese tonight and that was so yummy.  Our mac and cheese is usually a mix of pasta, cheese, butter, milk and other random goodies.  Tonight it was sauteed onions, scrambled hamburger and diced carrots, so when I threw the microgreens on top it just seemed right.

They are predicting some ridiculous amount of snow tonight.  At the park today, some parents were declaring the total was to be between 6 and 12 inches.  Maybe, maybe not, but I did need to secure the low tunnels so that they don’t become filled with snow.  I took care of the bed that has all the peas, and started to secure the other one that was empty.  Then I decided that if Iplanted the bed, before I secured it, it could sit there with snow covering it, germinating away.  That seemed more time efficient as well as less bothersome than letting the snow come, clearing off the beds and planting the seeds.  So around 6pm I dragged out the overwintered hose, filled the blue water barrels, that I neglected to fill in the fall, and planted two kinds of spinach, 2 kinds of radishes, lettuce and beets. Watered, covered, secured and was putting away the hose when the cold snowy rain started.  Now I can sit in the house tomorrow, with the woodstove keeping my seeds warm, while I cuddle up with the kids, reading, coloring, crafting and knowing that my early Spring planting has a very good start.

Spring is here whether Mother Nature is on board or not.

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I have been working on a knitting project that, while I’m excited about it, is just Knit a row, Purl a row, continue…forever.  The gauge is 6 sts to the inch, the sweater is for me, this is going to be a lot of stitches.  I figure that it would be a good time to crack open a good book.  I can read and knit, if the pattern isn’t complicated.  After learning how handy it is to read on my computer using either Kindle or Nook for PC, I was super excited.  The problem with reading while knitting is that you have to stop knitting to turn the page, and since I prop the book in my recipe book holder it takes a little effort to do this.  The problem is that it takes away from knitting.  Reading on a computer, while really not romantic, is very efficient.  I simply set my cursor on the “next” arrow and tap the mouse pad from time to time.  Easy.

I turned to my Facebook friends for a recommendation and found out my friends like very intense books.  I was recommended The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Help, TORMENT – A Novel of Dark Horror, and Sarah’s Key.  They all look good, but they also all look intense.  So when my friend Jennifer recommended The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love, I decided that was the one I’d try.  It’s a memoir of farming.  I could use some farming inspiration. It’s, of course, not just about farming, it’s also about self discovery and falling in love.  I’m finding it to be a fun combo of the three, and it’s been great fun.

After pouring over the Homegrown Whole Grains: Grow, Harvest, and Cook Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rice, Corn and More, for the past several weeks, I decided which grain I’m going to try this year.  Quinoa.  It seems that it would be amenable to growing in this area, it seems to be easy to harvest, at least on the easy end of the whole grains, and we really like it.  The fact that it’s gluten free, and the plants are edible and really pretty also weighed in on the plus side.  I have a friend who is grown oats and my dairy farm, Brookford, grows two kinds of wheat and sells the flour, so this would round out my choices rather nicely.  Quinoa is great as a cereal grain, as well as a nice side dish or base for a summer salad.  I am excited to give it a try.

I have ordered my Quinoa seeds, a pack of each of the three varieties that the site carried.  I also ordered my normal seed order from High Mowing Seeds and my tree/shrub order from the Strafford County Conservation District Plant Sale.  I’m getting Peach, Apple and Pear Trees, along with Black Currents, Elderberries, and Grapes.  Lots of fruit!  I’m excited.  Sure the only thing that’s likely to fruit at all this year, is maybe the Elderberries, but in the next couple years we will have fruit, and that’s something to look forward to.

I watched a great video of Luke from Brookford Farm talking about his farm, and how it works.  It’s the first video on the page, and I think it will be interesting to folks who live nearby, but also to others who don’t just to see how a farm ecosystem can work.  I just can’t say enough good stuff about the Mahoney’s and those that work with them on that farm.  I’m so thankful to have them in my community of  food growers.

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Today was beautiful!  The weather was so inviting.  I worked outside in my nice wool sweater and was very comfortable.  I pulled the plastic off the winter growing bed, and removed the sadly abused leeks.  The flavor of the remaining stumps is amazing and the soup I made with it for dinner tonight was superb, but they were very tattered.  I did not secure the low tunnel, as I ran out of time, or ambition, or both, in October, so I put some sand bags to hold the plastic down and hoped for the best.  If I had harvested 2-3 weeks earlier, I would have enjoyed some lovely kale, arugula and tat soi, but I didn’t, figuring I’d wait another couple weeks, and during that time some sort of critter had a salad bar.  I was surprised not to see the little fella lounging on his back, hardly able to move from the full tummy, and if my life was a cartoon, I’m sure I would have, but there was no sign of him, or his comrades, when I found the sad little stumps that were once beautiful greens.  Lesson for next year: Secure the top, making it difficult for critters to get to the food.

I harvested the leeks and ran a hoe along the length to create 4 little channels to plant seeds.  I planted Sugar Ann Snap Peas and Green Arrow Shell Peas, two rows each.  I pulled the plastic over and hope to see sprouts soon.  It was so good to feel dirt again!  It was also exciting to see what good shape the soil is in.  It was easy to plant in.

I decided on peas for that bed because they can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked, and can handle even a light frost, but under that tunnel they should do just fine.  They will like the walk to the house which will be nice.  But the most practical reason is they will be pulled around Late July/Early August, which will make for perfect time to plant that bed again, for the winter crop.  The peas will give the soil a nice nitrogen fix, and the bed should be in great shape for the winter greens.  I’m still trying to figure out planting schedules to get the most out of each piece of land, but I think this one bed will be timed well.

Dinner tonight was potato leek soup and rabbit sauteed in leeks and white wine.  If you have not tried rabbit, recently, I really can’t recommend it enough.  It is a very lovely meat.  It’s delicate and has a subtle sweet flavor.  Simmered in leeks and wine, it’s divine!

I also whipped up a little skunk themed pinafore, today.  Eowyn and Christopher are co-hosting a Skunk Zoo Party, along with the great folks at the Barrington Public Library.  Tomorrow there will be a Skunk Themed Game, winner of the Skunk Zoo Coloring contest will be announced, a  reading of the book, and a live Skunk named Stella will make an appearance.  There will be a couple copies of the Skunk Zoo given away, as well as copies on hand for purchase, part of which goes to support the Barrington Public Library.   Should be a great time.  Mama wanted Eowyn to have something special for her big day.

I used the apron pattern from Carefree Clothes for Girls.  Christopher cut out the skunk, from wool felt and I applied it to the finished top.

If you don’t have a copy of their book yet, you can get one here: Skunk Zoo

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2008 was my start on becoming more self sufficient.  Less dependent on the industrial food system, and the mall, is where I started.  I feel good about our progress.  I had my first vegetable garden this year.  We were quite successful and learned a lot.  I LOVE tomatoes fresh from the garden.  Fresh green beans taste nothing like frozen, canned, or even beans from the market.  Carrots left to be hit by a good frost (or frozen into the ground, even) are the sweetest, most delicious I’ve ever encountered.  You need to be very diligent with the squash seedlings, for it you don’t have them properly labeled you will not know what is what until they grow fruit…is that a Zucchini plant, a Pumpkin or a Butternut?  Tomatoes really need substantial supports, little bamboo sticks are not enough, even thought they are cute.  Root veggies need softer soil, with a little sand in there so they go deep and don’t just grow fat, and potato tires do not work well with hay and a rainy spring, nor do they work well with freshly fertilized soil.

garden-welcome-home

We learned more, but that was a good recap.  We also started raising a flock of chickens.  I never knew how fun those little critters are to have around.  They are very amusing, low maintenance and quite friendly.  We are up to 8-9 eggs a day, enough for our family and my parents, right from the back yard.  This year we built a coop and a makeshift run that needs to be taken to the next level in the Spring.

babyaraucanaowl1

I started my journey of putting up food.  Canning and freezing specifically.  I did a lot of borrowing of supplies, having never done this before.  I stuck to tomatoes and peaches for the most part.  I’ve had some very yummy meals made with those jars of tomatoes.  What a treat to have canned peaches with our oatmeal from time to time.  Enjoying blueberry pancakes and an occasional bowl of blueberry rice pudding with frozen berries we collected for free from the plants near our house.  I meant to pull out a bag of frozen homemade cider for Christmas, and forgot, but that’s okay, we have all winter to enjoy the 3-4 gallons we have in there.

cannedpeaches

Lots of crafting took place in 2008.  I think the items I’m most fond of are the Sweater Vest completed on the last day of the year, which is drying so has yet to be photographed.

The Lady February Sweater for me:

ladydone

The Advent Journey ornaments:

adventcollection

Mini’s Quilt:

quiltsleeping

Making the pattern and tutorial for the reversible wrap around baby/toddler dress:

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Using my craft to help others is something I tried my hand at this year, with coordinating the Knitting to Keep Warm event at my Local Yarn Store.  This is something I’d liked to do more of next year, both with coordinating events for others to get involved with, and doing things on my own to donate to those who need them.

I’ve taken cooking and baking more seriously this year.  Our life circumstances never had us eating home cooked meals, cooked by me at least.  We worked in a group home where we had a cook.  We ate out a lot.  Then we moved to the country and had a baby.  Well, 2008 was the year to learn how to cook at home.  It’s gone pretty well, and I’m looking forward to diving deeper in 2009.

We entered the year of 2 with our daughter.  She has been a lot of fun, lots of talking, puzzle making, reading and coloring.  She helps daddy make breakfast, and is a fabulous chicken farmer.  She is creative and needs little stimulation from us or her toys, to play happily, but enjoys time with her parents and likes to help with the sewing machine.

beanbagsewing

Looking back on 2008 I am pleased to say I enjoyed this year.  It has been a year of reevaluation, change and new adventures, all of which, while challenging, have definitely enriched our lives.  Thank you for being here, reading, commenting and taking the journey of 2008 with us!

2009 is ahead.  I have no idea what it will bring, but I know the direction I’m starting in and intend to be flexible on how that path is followed.  My plans include:

Having a garden again this year.  It’s being expanded to the piece of land that lies at the other end of my property.  We’ve tilled, and will be planting a large tomato crop.  We did buy a lot of tomatoes this year, and we don’t want to have to do that, so we know we need to plant more.  Lots of Roma and sauce style for sure.  Dad and Mini will be looking for the Sun Globe sweetness of those beautiful orange cherry tomatoes, and of course some nice big cutting tomatoes for sandwiches and salads.  The seed catalogs have arrived so January will be spent pouring over those and deciding what to buy again this year, and what to try for the first time.

seedcatalogs

Chickens!  We have decided, with the help of our local heirloom chicken farmers to expand our poultry focus.  We will be raising some chickens for meat purposes, along with maintaining and probably adding to our egg layers.  We enjoy eating chicken, and while we are fortunate to be able to buy chicken from local raisers, we feel the cost and experience of raising our own will make sense.  We are also going to be trying our hand at a half dozen turkeys, Narragansett breed, the old New England Turkey, to be shared with my parents, and a couple ducks.  Duck eggs are great for baking, very rich and delicious to eat on their own, and we think it would be fun to have a couple ducks wandering about, eating slugs out of our garden.  We are looking at the beautiful Blue Cayuga.

Lots of crafting!  I look forward to incorporating mini into more of my crafting now that she is able to follow directions and understand what we are doing.  She bakes and has become a fabulous egg shell puller (Husband cracks she pulls them apart), and is quite proficient with a whisk.

Clothing is a big focus in my crafting.  I don’t tend to get into a lot of crafts for crafts sake, but rather am looking for crafts that are fun to make and fun to use later.  Kitchen items like potholders, and an occasional pin cushion are about as “frivolous” as I tend to get.  Though I won’t say never.    I have plans for some exciting sewing projects, both to create from patterns and to create from scratch.  I love to see my family members enjoying comfortable clothes I’ve made.  I also enjoy being able to put on an outfit in the morning knowing that most, or all, of it was made by me.  It’s just a fun feeling.

Knitting has become my favorite crafting endeavor so there will be lots more of that.  Especially baby knitting!

The most exciting plan of 2009 is that we will be welcoming our second baby girl into this world.  I am 6 1/2 months into a very smooth sailing pregnancy, due in March!  Mini is excited to be a big sister and kisses her good night and talks to her through my belly every night.  We have not had to do a lot to prepare this time, so it seems it’s flown by.  We have most everything we need, as we kept all of mini’s clothes (all the garments I sewed and knit will have a new life) and toys, car seat, co-sleeping crib, breast pump and the like.  But the baby does need her own hand knits, so the purchases I made yesterday are, in large part, for her.

I want to focus this year on contentment.  I have found myself content far more of the time, than ever before in my life.  It’s a feeling I enjoy and one I want to foster all the more.  I’m going to be sharing my journey in that area, as well.  Contentment seems to be a mindset, one where even though there is more to have or experience, what you have is enough and you are satisfied. I want to enjoy what I have, personally, relationally and materially, rather than worrying about what else I could have.

I hope 2009 provides pleasures and contentment for my family and yours.

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Our town library has a neat little gizmo available for residents to borrow.  It determines how much electricity is used by the appliance or item that is plugged into it.  I used it to determine that leaving my toaster plugged in, not being used, for a whole year will cost a little over $55.00.  I’m going to check other times that are likely to have a great impact like computers and such, but still, saving $55.00 by unplugging the toaster when not in use, seems quite worth it.  I decided to plug a simple string of small christmas lights into the gizmo, and I determined that they will cost about $.01 an hour to run.  Seems reasonable for the amount of enjoyment derived from them.  This piece of information spurred me on to decorate the tree.

By now you may have figured out that I tend to over think things…well I don’t know if “over think” is the right term, as it seems like such a negative quality…I guess I just think a lot about things.   Well, tree decorating is not immune from this deep thought.

Do I go with the look I grew up with?  Random ornaments, collected over the years, silver garland, large multicolored lights, and topped with tinsel…

Do I go with a matchy matchy tree of big bows, and ornaments in a couple colors?

Well, I went somewhere in the middle.  I have been hanging the ornaments from the advent journey on the bare tree since I had not determined what to do with them.  I liked the look.  So I decided Red, Silver and white on the green tree would be fabulous.

tree1

I was freed up by the electrical gizmo to use the lights, so small clear lights, red garland from Ten Thousand Villages, Silver balls I bought on clearance a few years back, silver snow flake garland and ornaments collected and received as gifts, and the handmade advent journey ornaments.  I’m still figuring out the topper, but for now my husband stuck mini’s little Precious Moments angel on top, and he looks pretty cute.

Oh, yesterday, Bazzar Bizarre, lots of fun!  Very busy, lots of the same vendors as last year, but many new folks with great stuff, too.  Some food vendors, which I don’t remember from last year, and I thought it was a nice addition.  Live entertainment, a cool venue.  Yes, lots of fun.  Can’t say I really bought much, as I was trying to stay focused on Christmas Shopping, and didn’t find much for folks on my list.  I did find many things I would like to have recieved as gifts, but I did stay focussed.

Knitting while standing in line:

line-knitting

The line…We were quite far back ourselves and the line just kept going…

line

A cool lamp maker. She makes the little tiki umbrellas, by hand to then create these fabulous colorful lights.  I did buy a little kit to make mini origami stars.  I’ll show you those tomorrow.  She is very into little details, which impressed me greatly.  I couldn’t find a reason to buy the light, though did think about it for a little while.

bizarrelights

Advent

Day 9

advent9

Deuteronomy 18:15-18

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.

“This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’

“The LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well.

I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

Moses speaking to the Isrealites when reiterating the law to them.  This is cool for a couple reasons, first it is talking of Christ being the second prophet, so it’s a prophecy of Christ’s coming.  Another being that the first Moses brought the Law to the people, where Christ, the second Moses, would bring Grace and fulfil the law.    This fulfilment brings the relatioship between man and God full circle.

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What an experience!  The place was packed with veggies, meats, syrups, homemade goodies, dairy items, and People!!  I hope that the vendors find this was profitable, but it appeared to be.  Many folks carrying bags excitedly talking about what they just picked up and getting ideas on where they wanted to go next.

I was thrilled to pick up brussel sprouts, garlic, leeks and a chicken from Yellow House Farm.  I also snatched up some Kale, onions, rutabaga, Jerusalem artichokes, hamburger (which I just ran out of my freezer stash so that was good), Elk Sweet Sausage, A lovely salad combination of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, some turnips, cabbage and Baby Spinach!!

wintermarket

I keep second guessing myself and worrying that I should have bought at least another cabbage, another bag of garlic…it’s so hard to know at the moment what to take.  I don’t really have the “buying in bulk” down, even though I do utilize the co-op and was buying a fair amount of things at the end of the season.  Hopefully I’ll be better at this next year.

I bought the chicken from Yellow House Farm, not because I needed chicken…I just got my winter’s worth from Lasting Legacy Farm the other day, but rather because I want a better idea of what my chickens will taste like next year.  We are definitely raising our own chickens for meat, starting this Spring, and I know they will have a different flavor and consistency than the Cross Hens I’ve been getting from the farm this year.  I’m excited to give this new, to me, breed (Dorking) a try. (Update:  I called mom who was still in Dover and had her go back to grab some carrots, 2 more Cabbage and 2 more bags of Garlic…I feel better now!  She didn’t mind going back either, as she picked up some yogurt, carrots and cheese.  She said it was still busy with people coming and going at 1pm!)

Speaking of Carrots, I had read that letting them weather a frost improved the flavor, made them sweeter.  I don’t believe you were supposed to let the ground freeze around them…oops.  Dad helped me out and pryed a few from the Earth with a combination of brute force and a spade.  Well, the effort was worth it, and has Dad or Husband in the lovely position of unearthing the rest.  This was by far the BEST carrot I’ve ever eaten.  Carrots are a take or leave thing in my book.  Good for sweetening pasta sauce, a nice touch in a soup, maybe even the vehicle for getting some good dip to my mouth, but otherwise, hmmph.  This carrot was all the things I like about carrots and none of the things I don’t.  I ate a piece of this frozen, semi thawed, delight, as I was preparing to add it to the soup I was making.  I wanted to be sure they were edible after being frozen like that, and weren’t too punky.   No worries.  It was great and in the pot it went.

I don’t intend to freeze my carrots into the ground next year, but I will definitely let them stay out in the first frost or two, and I think I’ll plant a few more, while I’m at it.  Not only was the flavor impressive, but check out the size of this thing!

yummycarrot

The soup I made was from a book by Sally Fallon called Nourishing Traditions.  I am enjoying this book quite a bit.  There is a lot of information about food science and nutrition in the front, which is very accessible, and not try or easy to zone out while reading.  There is more of the same sort of information running through the book, in and around fabulous recipes.  I made the Root Veggie Soup.  I used Carrots, Rutabaga, Turnips, Onions and Shallots, Leeks, and I added Potatoes, but they were not called for in the recipe.  Basically just melt a good size chunk of butter, cook the onions/shallots/leeks and Garlic in that, throw in the rest of the veggies, cook covered for about 1/2 hour.  Add about 4 cups chicken stock, thyme, sea salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Boil, reduce, simmer for 1/2 hour or until all veggies are soft, then blend with a stick blender, adding a couple cups of milk, or enough to gain the consistency you enjoy.  I didn’t follow Sally’s recipe exactly, but got the main idea from her.  It was a big hit and a delight to smell while it cooked.  I served it with homemade wheat bread.  The perfect meal for the cold, clear day we had!

Don’t the veggies look delightful all mixed together, coated in yummy butter, before the stock was added!  MMMMmmmmmm!

root-soup

I did work on mom’s shawl, but honestly, it looks about the same in a picture so I won’t bother showing that.  I did get a bit better picture of my fabulous fingerless gloves, which served me well this cold November morning on my way out to the Farmer’s Market.

februarywristiesoutside

Wow, I seemed to have had a pretty productive day.  I also cut out all the squares for my quilt.  I am excited to report that it was not necessary to purchase any additional fabric for this project…that may be good, may be over indulgent, depending on how you like to look at such things.  I’m just going to decide that I have provided well, for my sewing needs, and enjoy the “free” blanket.

I used wool that is so soft and luxurious it’s hard to believe it’s wool, Cotton Velvet, Corduroy and Linen.  I’m trying to decide if the back will be the burnt orange velvet, or the deep maroon/eggplant wool.  I guess it will depend on which piece of backing will fit best on the finished front.  I toyed with the idea of throwing in a print, but nothing really called to me, so I went with all solids, but I think the textures will provide the necessary variety.  I also toyed with knitting a few squares to add even more texture, but I want the quilt now and with all the Christmas Knitting I’ve ventured to complete, that idea went the way of the print fabric idea.  I will be taking pictures as I go, on this one, so I can write up that tutorial I mentioned back when I made Mini’s quilt.

myblanket

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I finally got the garlic planted.  I think I went a bit overboard with how much space I took up for the garlic, but mom and I think we have a solution…till up more field!  We planted 2 pounds of garlic today.  I brought my camera out, but totally forgot to take any pictures.  Dad brought some sand down to till into the ground as it’s a bit dense and garlic likes a sandy, well draining soil.  After the tilling we planted them 4″ apart in rows that were 18″ apart.  I’m going to throw some mulch down in the next couple days to protect them from the really cold nights.  I love planting in the fall.  I wish gardening could be done in the cool parts of the year, rather so much needing to be done in the very warm parts.  The garlic came from High Mowing Seeds, where I bought all my seeds last year.  I’ve been pouring over their catalog in preparation for my order going in around January.  I like their seeds and their company, so I’m sticking with them.

We planted 2 types of garlic, the Red Chesnok which is a hardneck. This means they produce scapes, which I fell in love with this summer after purchasing some from Shelly at the Farmer’s Market.  They are like tough, curly, lightly garlic flavored scallions.  Great sauted and in soups!

The second kind was Silver Rose, a softneck.  No scapes with this one, but it’s supposed to store longer then hardneck and we weren’t sure what kind would grow best with our conditions so we figured we try one of each.

I’ve been working on that repossessed sweater.  The body is done, as is one sleeve and I’ve started the second sleeve.  I don’t foresee missing my goal of having it done sometime this week.  I was concerned for a little while that I wouldn’t be doing doing any knitting, as tonight while cutting meat for dinner, I took a nice chunk out of the tip of my left thumb!  Dumb.  I should not have been talking on the phone while wielding a knife.  However, the thumb is feeling pretty good and I was able to knit with no noticeable discomfort!

I found a very cute pattern online today. I’m thinking of downloading it…also thinking that if I use worsted or DK weight yarn, instead of the bulky it calls for I could make a pair for mini.  Either way, I think a pair for me in the bulky would be fun!  I don’t know why I’m still considering, and haven’t just clicked to download, since the pattern is only $1.99!

I love signs.  Yes, this is random.  I think people put funny things on signs, not just the changable signs, but even painted/printed signs.  But today while driving to the “paint your own pottery store” (a nightmare, by the way, but I’m not in the mood for a rant so I’ll leave it at that), I saw this sign…I thought the honesty and humor were worth a snapshot.

On that same strip of road is this large leveled lot that used to contain a rather large motel.  The signs for the motel are still standing, boasting such things as “Best room rates in town” and my favorite “Large spacious rooms”… i guess if you were to stay there, you wouldn’t need to worry about the walls closing in on you.  Sorry no picture for that one, too much traffic and not a great angle.

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Back in the 70′s my dad made an apple cider press, which we used annually “back in the day”.  We even took it to the local private school fund raiser to make cider to sell to raise money for the school…back before you had to pasteurize cider to sell it.  Then we stopped using it there, and it spent much of it’s time as a plant stand for a huge Asparagus fern mom had…which looked very cool, by the way.

Well, I decided this year we needed to pull it out and get it back in use.  We invited some neighborhood friends and a couple other folks from town to join us for our adventure.  I read that about 14 pounds of apples should yield about 1 gallon of cider.  We found it to yield closer to 3/4 gallon, but that was fine, and may have been because of the style press, as it might not press has hard as others.  We had a great time and the older kids got in on the action too.  The younger kids had fun playing in the remnants of the garden and climbing on the rocks.  The weather was fabulous, cool, but not cold, and quite sunny.

First we grind the apples.  This has a motor and a drum with teeth that rips the apples to pieces, and drops them into a pillow case, waiting below.

From there the pillow case is put into the press, we stack some wooden pieces on top to reduce the amount of turning we need to do, and then someone turns the handle, lowering the screw onto the wooden pieces, which presses the juice out of the apples.  There is a tray with a hole at the bottom, which catches the juice, and pours it into the bucket.

After that we pour the cider through a sieve lined with paper towels to remove any debris, and then drink!

Everyone went home it a bit of cider to enjoy.  Oh, and the Salsa I made a couple days back was a big hit for the party.  The flavors had time to mingle and it was delicious!  I have just enough ingredients to make another batch.  Yay!

My house smells delicious right now!  I’m boiling down a bunch of the apples from the cider pressing to make apple jelly.  I have read online it’s possible, so I’m giving it a try.  Between that and the pumpkin that is baking in the oven, Yankee Candle has nothing on the scents filling the living room right now!  I’m thinking I’ll make up some pumpkin bread with the baked pumpkin.  I’m not in the mood to make pie crust.  I’d rather mix ingredients and pour, at this point in the day.  But I’m excited to try this lovely “Cheese Pumpkin” that Jessica from Nippo Brook Farm brought by today.  She told of making pies this morning with these same pumpkins and that the juice was so sweet she and her boyfriend were dipping their bread in it for breakfast!

I don’t usually post as I go, but rather sit down at the end of the day, but since I’m not sure at what point my body is going to say, “no, now is time for sleep, not one more thing, I just can’t do it”, I figured I’d bring you through my day.  I hope you enjoy the journey.  Off to tend to the apples on the stove and maybe start a sewing project…

Okay, the squash is done and I love the flavor. I’m not a huge “squash” fan, in general, and pumpkins really don’t rate with me.  But this is very yummy!  I am going to puree it now, and decide what yummy treat to turn it into.  I just found out we have Vanilla Ice Cream in the freezer, which I was unaware of, so I think I’m going to go peel the apples we picked up the other day, and make an apple crisp!

I didn’t start the sewing project, instead started mittens for Mini.  Hot Pink Merino Wool!! I’m using this cool top down pattern that a knitting friend shared with me.  it’s fun.  Very similar to the toe up socks.  If the thumb goes on well, I will love this way of doing mittens.  Makes for a cleaner top, no grafting required to finish it.  I’m all for less sewing in knitting!

First mitten just needs a thumb and a few more rows of rib.  The apples have boiled down, and are hanging in cheese cloth bags for the night to fully drain the liquid out.

Some more jelly draining with the last few eggplant of the season sitting nearby.  We got a pretty hard frost last night and what looks like another coming tonight, so I brought the eggplant in.  I should have grabbed the green tomatoes too, but I covered them with a couple sheets, which is hopefully enough.  I’ll probably pick them tomorrow.

I thoroughly enjoyed a snack of Apple Crisp with vanilla ice cream.  I think it’s time to call it a day!

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I cooked up that fresh tuna I received a few days back.  I cooked some onions in oil, added fresh diced tomatoes, white wine and salt and pepper.  Cooked for about 5 minutes.  Added the tuna steaks and put the whole thing in the oven on 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.  The tuna was well done, which I was happy with, as the recipes with pink centers didn’t seem like my thing.  I made up some rice and cooked up the last of the bush green beans to accompany it.  The whole meal was a big hit with the whole family.

I made up the soup starter that Heather at Warren Farm shared on her site.  I used Carrots, Zucchini, Peppers, Onions, Kale and tomatoes in the quart jars and processed them in a Pressure Canner for 90 minutes.  This was my first time pressure canning and I didn’t like it all that much.  Too much baby sitting, as you need to keep the gauge on the right pressure, and the heat needs to go up and down to keep it there.  I’ ll do it again, and I think the extra work is probably worth the safety that comes from the pressure, but the water bath method is far easier, in my opinion.

I grew tomatillos in my garden this year.  Mostly for my mother, who wanted to try them for salsa.  My husband doesn’t like to eat anything spicy so I had no real interest in a veggie that was mostly known for use in salsa.  We have quite a few left and I thought it would be fun to give some salsa a try.  I like what I came up with.  My husband did try it, thought it was good, but too spicy…more for me (grin).

My loose recipe:

End of Summer Salsa

  • Half Dozen or so Tomatillos (maybe as many as 10)
  • 1 Med/Lg Bell Pepper
  • 2 Apples
  • 3 Small Red Onions
  • 1 Medium Red Tomato
  • A few cloves garlic minced
  • 1 Poblano Pepper
  • 1 Tbs Lemon Juice
  • Salt to taste

I just chopped it all up in a food processor, then added the lemon juice, salt and minced garlic.  The apple gives it a sweetness that I love in a salsa.

I’m calling it “End of Summer Salsa” since the ingredients are all available in fall, either because they are ending, or in the case of the apples, are just coming into season.

After processing the 7 quarts of soup starter I had enough left over that I needed to do something with it, but not enough to bother with another pressure canner session.  Solution, making soup!  I added some veggie broth to the veggies from the soup starter project, and let it simmer.  It smells fabulous!

I’m working on some smaller knitting projects for a bit.  Today I cast on for a Fisherman’s hat to dad.

Ultra Alpaca, like the Lady sweater, but in a great blue.  I used the other skein of this to make that cable baby sweater for my friends, Sara and Luke’s, baby Camden.  I think it will make a great hat for my dad, who needs a good hat in the winter to keep that head warm!  Now that I’m done all the kitchen stuff, I’m going to sit down with a bit of salsa, corn chips, a movie and some knitting.  I hope you enjoy your evening too!

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A day at home.  I love going out on the weekends.  It just seems that is what you are supposed to do, throw off all the work, and go have fun.  But really, I’m not in my 20′s anymore, I have a lot that I want to do before winter hits, so some time at home, even on the weekends is a necessity.

Something strange came over me today and I set to work, just about first thing, in the kitchen, of all places.  I have been wanting to make pizza, especially with all the veggies I have that would be great as toppings…like baby eggplant whose plants died, but the fruit was still pretty small.  I found a lovely recipe online that uses spelt flour, which is my more preferred flour of choice.  I plan on having frozen homemade pizza dough in my freezer all summer next year.  What a great way to serve up some of the yummy veggies, in a no/low fuss sort of way.

I’ve been wanting to make homemade granola since I was in California.  One of the highlights of my mornings was having a bowl of the “house” made granola with ice cold milk!  All the better when done in my own house with wholesome ingredients, and topped with raw milk from the farm.  I settled on a delightful recipe from The Food Network’s, Alton Brown. I like watching him, when I have the occasion to be somewhere with cable.  He’s down to Earth and understands the how and why behind food, so I have full confidence with his recipes.  Some of the recipes on that channel are a little gimicky, but I haven’t found that with his.

Spaghetti squash!  I have a ton.  I made some up for lunch by cooking a small one for 15 minutes in the microwave, removing the strands and tossing with butter, salt, pepper and a healthy amount of parmesean cheese.  But while working with it I thought…this doesn’t seem much different then shredded zucchini…I bet I could use this as a zucchini substitute in breads and such.  Sure enough, I went online, and found that I wasn’t the first to think this.  I’m no long bemoaning what I will do with all this Spaghetti Squash. It might even be up on my list of favorite squash, with it’s new versatility and very long storage life.  Excellent!  I’ll be planting lots next year too.

The slippers are felted and they look great.  I love felting Lamb’s Pride by Brown Sheep.  It has a lovely texture when it’s felted and I find it works very nicely with my front loading washer…which you can felt in, even though many folks will tell you that you can’t. They are still damp, but I started some of the snowflake embroidery, decided to wait until they are dry to continue, but I think I’m going to like them.  Mini already wants to put them on and saw no reason to wait for them to dry.  But wait she will.

The Garlic has arrived!  I ordered from High Mowing Seeds, as I did all my other seeds this year.  I really like that company.  I had great luck with germination, and being a first timer, I know it wasn’t because I knew what I was doing.  The folks on the phone are helpful, too.  Planting garlic in fall for a spring crop is like planting tulips.  All the work in the fall, when it’s cool and amiable for being outside, and all the benefits after the snow has melted and you are just getting going on the summer of planting, weeding and hard work.  I got to try some Garlic Scapes from my lovely farmers market friend, Shelley, this year, and I’m excited to have my own next year.  I got both a hardneck variety, that has scapes and a softneck that doesn’t, but is supposed to store better and last longer.  So they seem like a good pair.  Now to figure out what my plans are for the garden for next year, so I can find just the right spot for the garlic.  Supposedly it does lovely things like improve the flavor of, and ward off many of the insects that attack, cabbage.  So I think I’ll try to plant them near each other.

The other day my daughter was given a box of old animal figures.  All dating back more than decade…before Made in China sent chills down the spines of news reading parents.  She’s has a lot of fun playing with them, can identify all of them, and likes to make houses for them out of her wooden blocks.  We have one that we can’t figure out what animal it is.  Guesses from those we’ve asked have been Tapir, Ant Eater and prehistoric horse.  There are no other dinosaurs in the box, but I guess it’s possible it’s the lone one.  But none of those guesses have shown to be correct, when checked on Google Images.  Does anyone else have any ideas?  For now we are calling it “the strange animal”. Photo taken by my husband and daughter…She then wanted a picture taken of all her animals.  I love digital!

The long overdue pic of progress on the “Lady Sweater”.  I love this sweater, I can’t wait to wear it.  I want to make several more sweaters in this yarn, in varying colors, but I’m also very frustrated with this project.  I have made a mistake for a long chunk of a given row, realized it 3 rows later and had to rip back 4 rows to fix it, more times than I care to count…at least 5-6.  That is a lot of knitting wasted, and more importantly a lot of knitting time wasted pulling back and getting it back on the needles.  The up side is I’ve been capable of fixing it, and then continuing to move forward. This is just one side because the needles aren’t as long as I am around so the rest of the sweater was bunched behind Isabelle’s back, but you get to see the progress and the start of a beautiful sweater!

And a gratuitous Chicken Pic.  Elizabeth investigating the fall woods.

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