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Archive for the ‘Great books’ Category

I started, in January, attempting to make a pair of socks, for myself, each month.  I only made one knee high in January, but did complete February, March, April, and today I finished my favorite so far, my May socks.  This may be the last pair for this monthly challenge.  The other knitter that was doing this has stopped, so the idea isn’t as fun…besides knitting socks has taken up a lot of my less abundant knitting time, and I have sweaters to make to keep my growing girls cozy this Fall, which is just around the corner.  I figure if I look at it that way, I won’t be so focused on the oppressive heat that is descending even sooner.

Back to the socks, they were completed on the trip to bring Nellie home.  So I think they might be a bit overshadowed, in the big picture, but they are wonderfully comfortable, I love the colors and they fit perfectly.  Aaaah..  Happy feet.  The yarn is Claudia, from my favorite yarn store.  The pattern is free on Knitty, and is titled Java Socks.  What inspired me to make them was how stretchy the description indicated they were.  I find it hard to hand knit socks and have them fit properly.  These do.

We have a cow.  I waffle between excitement, and the haunting thought that I might be in over my head.  She is about as sweet and gentle as a few hundred pound animal with horns and a will, can be.  But that is the point.  She weighs a few hundred pounds, has horns and an idea of what she wants to do.

My friend Wendy and her husband John came with us with their livestock trailer.  It was perfect, Nellie was loaded up with a little convincing, but she did alright.  We chatted with her current owners, who were fabulous.  Very helpful, and were clearly happy to see her join our little homestead.  Her travel home was uneventful, and she was greeted by little people with fists full of grass.   John took the lead and brought her out of the trailer and down the driveway.

I was given some tips for working with her.  Hold her halter, or the leash close the halter, to control where her horns go.  That, and keeping her feet off mine, seem to be the greatest goals.  She responds well to a firm and kind manner.  I, on occasion, had to use my weight to get her to move where I wanted…making this one of  the few times in my life that I’m happy I’m not a little woman.  She was thrilled with the grassy spot, and happy to graze.

After grazing we wandered over to the barn ( I use this term loosely and wantingly…this barn I refer to is an 8×8 shed, and I so long for a real barn.  One where I can store straw and hay, where the cow will have a stall and the chickens can have pens…but I digress).  Once at the barn, she came in pretty easily, without the bribe of grain.  My dad and father-in-law built a fabulous ramp for her while we were gone, and it was perfect!  She was introduced to the broody Muscovy who is in a nest box on the wall.  Neither seemed interested in the other, so I’m hoping they do okay together.

Nellie was left with some water, hay and grain, the door half open so she can survey her new surroundings, as she prepares for sleep, in her new home.

I think I was pretty well prepared for her arrival, for a girl who has never really been in the company of cows.  Curling up with Keeping A Family Cow, a cup of tea, a blanket and cozy feet.  Today is a good day on the homestead.  Especially when we went out to put in the ducks and though we needed to herd them, they did herd easily into their new house!!  That was a relief.

While we were gone the rabbits had some new arrivals of their own.  Josie kindled 7, of which 5 lived.  One of the sister’s kindled 4 in the nest box, of which 2 lived, which was her first litter.  The other two seemed to have wiggled away from the group.  Her sister is due tomorrow, with her first litter.

 

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Okay, bear with me here. I have a fabulous book recommendation, but it’s title is unconventional.  I’m sure the author very much intended this to be the case, but as with many things that we really should be more comfortable with, we aren’t.

The book entitled, Holy Shit: Managing Manure To Save Mankind, is all about manure.  Gene Logsdon is a lifelong farmer, writer, and manure expert.  The book gets to the heart of local farming.  Food and Manure go hand in hand, when done well, and when they aren’t holding hands we all suffer.  The local food movement has a great root in this area, and many people are learning more than they ever thought they would about where their food comes from, how it’s raised or grown and what goes into the cycle.  I am 2 chapters away from finishing this book, and to show you how awesome I think it is, I only bought it last week, and do not find reading it conducive to knitting, which means I chose to read this instead of knitting.  The book is very informative and also super amusing.

Some of our local farms are finding that combining livestock with field veggies is beneficial in many ways.  Not only does it diversify the farm, spreading the risk of farming over more products, like if your tomatoes are hit with blight, your chickens will still be laying eggs, or your pigs will still be putting meat on the bone.  Field grown veggies, in New England is a wild ride, with all the various possible reasons for loss.  A cold snap in Spring after the buds have come on, can wipe out an Apple Crop, a summer of rain can destroy the squash crop, as the field gets too wet for the gourds and they rot on the vine, or cool rain for weeks at a time can usher in blight and make tomatoes scarce.  Raising animals isn’t without challenges, and they can have their own set of concerns, but a well managed, heritage flock or herd, can weather a great many things.

Besides the diversification, a great asset to animals on the farm is manure.  Manure is something we often take for granted, and that truth is the basis for Logsdon’s book.  Waste should not be seen as, well, waste, or something to dispose of, but rather a bi-product/value added/ benefit of raising animals.  If you raise animals you have the best source of fertility for your land.  If you do so, in conjunction with field crops, you are maximizing that fertility.

Understanding how to manage manure will give you a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the farmers that are working so hard to keep their loop closed, by not buying in fertilizers for their fields.  As a home gardener, it will give you practical insights into how you can utilize manure in your own little plot, and it might inspire you to raise some of your own manure creating critters, like chickens, or even better, rabbits.

If you are local and think raising rabbits for meat or manure would be beneficial for your garden, I’m teaching a class on how to get started with raising them for my local permaculture group on August 20 from 1-3.  You can find out more here: Rabbit Husbandry 101

As for Logsdon’s book, Holy Shit: Managing Manure To Save Mankind you can buy it in either paperback, or for the  kindle, on Amazon.

You can hear him in an interview with Robin Young on NHPR’s Here & Now.

If you live locally and want to support farms that are incorporating the principles of utilizing manure from their farms on their fields, check out Brookford Farm and New Roots Farm. I’ve had  great conversations with the farmers at both farms about their philosophies and how they are using their animals to provide consumers with nutrient dense veggies, as well as humanely raised meat…all with the biproduct of manure at the center of their operation.

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Today was one of the most peaceful days I’ve had in a while, and it was very much needed.  I think one of the keys was time spent wandering around our little farm yard.  Just checking in on everyone, with the sun shining, birds singing, ducks squawking, chickens announcing that they just laid and egg.  Today smelled sweet and fresh.  I watered the seedlings, did some actual work in my shipping room, cleaned a “long overdue for some attention” section of our barn garage…I dream of barns, by the way.

Lunch was a couple slices of some fabulous sourdough bread, brie cheese, Berry Basil Jam and Elderberry juice.  The sourdough bread was made with wheat from Brookford Farm by  Sunnyfield Brick Oven Bakery. I got to meet someone from the bakery at the Exeter Market on Saturday.  She was great fun to talk with, and I got to sample some of the bread she’s made with Brookford Farm Wheat.  I brought home a loaf of the Sourdough, though they were all delicious.  The Brie was from Sandwich Creamery and the Berry basil Jam and Elderberry Juice were made by from local and wild crafted berries from last summer.  A lovely, hearty, simple, local lunch.

During the afternoon, I started a shirt for myself.  I used a pale green linen, and added an antique doily.  It goes very nice with a skirt, that I have, that has needed a companion top for a while.  All that remains is the hemming.  I always find myself in a quandry at this point.  It’s linen, my options, as I see it are:

  • Serge the edge and leave it.
  • Serge the edge, roll it under and stitch in place.
  • Run a simple stitch line 1/4″ in from the edge and fray it.  The stitch line should keep it from fraying more than I want.

I’m really not sure, so I’ll figure that out tomorrow.  I’m working on a summer sweater, that is going to go perfectly with the top, and I’m very excited!

I finished reading  The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love.  I really enjoyed it and think it’s one I’ll read again.  It has certainly inspired me.  It reminded me of the long summer days, of falling into bed exhausted from working hard all day.  I’m even kind of looking forward to the envigorating exhaustion that is sure to come…soon.

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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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My family caught our first bad cold of the Winter. We all go it, to varying degrees. I am happy to say that herbal remedies and lots of Elderberry syrup was all it took to get through it, but the staggering of sickness had us off our game for over a week. Glad to say we are all back to being well, and were so in time for Istra’s 2nd Birthday!

Momma made the little Kitchen helper a new apron, embroidered with a little blonde girl working diligently in the kitchen! She’s happy to wear her new apron while safely standing in her Little Partners Learning Tower.   Her grandparents got together on this one. I was thrilled, because she’s had a couple mishaps with the chair she usually stands on to help, and there is no way I want to deter her, from what seems to be, an inborn passion to cook and wash dishes!

On her birthday the weather was showing all signs of the approaching Spring. Then, 2 days later, the first official day of this new Season was ushered in by a snowstorm!

The Music wall looks so cool, even covered in snow. I can’t wait for the girls to play with that this year!

The Elderberry plants and raspberry bushes in their Spring regalia.

The fence with the branches that will be a lovely trellis for cucumbers this year.

I love listening to the Ducks complain.

Not everyone on the farm complained.  The Rabbits didn’t seem to mind a bit, nor did the litter of 8 kits that are all cozily snuggled in the nest Clementine made for them.  She kindled 9 a couple days ago, but we lost one, at 1 day old.  Not uncommon, and he was pretty tiny compared to the rest.  The others seem to be doing well, and they are starting to get there orange fur.

It may be snowing, but the Arugula Microgreens are doing just fine, inside by the window.

Flowers will be blooming soon, but for now we can enjoy the bouquet from Istra’s Party.

Grammy can enjoy the felted flower her granddaughter’s made with a little help from their mom. Needle felting is such a kid friendly craft, especially with the great forms they have now. The girls made the petals and leaves and I helped with the assembly.

And while the snow came down, we read our new book. The Gardener. It’s a fabulous story told in letter form. I simply love it. I think we may do a little project with the book. It’s set during the years of the Great Depression, and while it mentions the peripheral events, it does not mention the event by name. I love that. The little girl the book follows is a real trooper, and family is so sweetly portrayed. I can’t recommend it enough.

A similar theme, but a very different book, is the The Curious Garden.  We’ve loved that one for a long time now.  It’s about a little boy, who lives in the city, but finds a small patch of Garden.  The Garden needs a Gardener, and though he’s not one, he decides to become one.  It’s sweet.  I love that the gardener is a little boy.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your first day of Spring, whether it acted like Spring, or not.

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Two Red Sweaters with White Snowflake buttons, all made by mama.  I bought the book "Phoebe's Sweater ", to make sweaters for the girls, and give them the warm woolies and the book for Christmas. 

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=wwwzooziiscom-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&m=amazon&f=ifr&md=10FE9736YVPPT7A0FBG2&asins=0578046970

I made Eowyn's first, then finished up Istra's, and I'm glad I did them in that order, since Istra's was smaller, it seemed to whip along, which is how you want things to go, when you are this close to Christmas. I used Cascade Eco+ from Spinning Yarns, of course.  It took 2 skeins for Eowyn's, but I was able to do Istra's with the rest of the yarn from Eowyn's, plus one skein.  Very economical!  I love that yarn.  I working on an adult man sweater…no more details than that before Christmas, with the same yarn, in a different color.

This is Eowyn's Sweater.  Istra's is the same, but needs 2 more buttons, to be officially done:

Christmassweater1

Christmassweater

I love these sweaters and can't wait to see them on the girls.  I found there is now an adult version, available, and I'm seriously considering making one for mama.

How is the gifting going for you?  Are you making anything this year?  I still have a couple things on the needles, and a couple more I'm thinking of adding.  A little sewing tossed in, for good measure, and possibly some preserve making and baking.  So fun! 

Once Christmas is over, I have a list of things to knit for myself!

 

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I'm not as likely to participate, as my friend Jessica, her house is different almost everytime I visit, but I do like a good "Furniture Rearranging Session".  Even if it's the same old stuff, it looks completely different when it's in, even a slightly different spot.  Today I commandeered the wardrobe that we've been using for the computer printer and various children's puzzles and games, for my kitchen.  I decided the canned goods need at least a dark place to live.  I don't have a place that is as cool as I'd like, but having the beautiful jars out in the daylight, while fun to look at, oh so fun, is not the best place for storing them, to encourage long shelf life. 

The beautiful jars of summers plenty are now housed in a dark spot.  I still have to make shelves for the wardrobe, to house all the tomatoes and a few other odds and ends.  Once that is done I'll share a picture with the full inventory.

I added to the inventory today.  I finally canned some apple cranberry chutney!  I've been procrastinating for far too long.  I'm not sure why, but I just couldn't bring myself to can one more thing.  This was bad news for the apples, some of which are too soft so heading out to the chickens, or the compost pile, as a couple went beyond soft.  Drats.  I have some apples drying, and early next week I shall find something to do with the tail end of the apples.  I've got quite enough sauce, though I may just go that route.  I'd like to try finding something more fun, and I have plenty that are frozen for pies and the like.  Time to check the canning blogs, I think.

Tonight was the Stores at Calef's Corner Soiree.  Christopher and Eowyn took their book over to sell, and autograph.  Eowyn held up pretty well for a 4 year old, who was "on" for 4 hours of talking and writing.  I'm forever amazed by my kids.  If you haven't checked out the book yet, please do.  Here is the amazon.com link…  Skunk Zoo .  It's a great book for both girls and boys. 

My camera battery died, so today is a post without pictures, but I'll update that when I get the battery charged!

 

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